As I mentioned before, in Colossians 1:24-29, the apostle Paul talks about his own ministry.
In verse 24 he talks he says “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” I have commented on that verse here: Sufferings for Christ’s Sake. Now he goes on to talk about his ministry in terms of servanthood.
I have sometimes encountered resistance to the idea of the “Servant Leader.” A colleague in the ministry, many years ago, was contemptuous of the idea. If you are the leader, you are in charge — that was his point of view. If you were a servant you served at the wishes of those were in authority. To him, it was a matter of who gave orders, and who served. Yet, in the New Testament, both Jesus and the apostle Paul take a very different view. Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NRSV). It seems strange to me that my old colleague in ministry could not wrap his head around this principle from the teaching of Jesus. But, it is clear that the apostle Paul also subscribed to this view. To him, true leadership was also a form of servanthood. (more…)
Boze Herrington gives us a heart-rending account of his involvement in a prayer group (associated with the International House of Prayer) that evolved into a dangerous cult. The account centers around the death of the cult leader’s wife (Boze’s friend) Bethany. He writes: “But it is clear that when Bethany died, she was part of a community shrouded in fear and hatred, a community where those who spoke out were treated as though they didn’t exist. Their loves, desires, opinions, feelings, and whole personalities were invalidated, all in the name of God.” At The Atlantic here: The Seven Signs You’re in a Cult.
Jonathan Merritt on the public’s response to Christian leaders: “The point is that people don’t like mean people and judgmental people and power-hungry people, regardless of their religion. Most people dislike Christian jerks because they are jerks, not because they are Christian. (According to a 2013 Barna poll, about 51% of self-identified Christians are characterized by having the attitudes and actions that are “Pharisaical” as opposed to “Christlike.”)” Here: What the Pope’s popularity says about American culture. (more…)
A quote from a book I read several years ago. This is from Michael J. Gorman, professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here Dr. Gorman stresses the transformational character of justification by faith.
“For Paul, I would contend, justification means the establishment or restoration of right covenant relations, both ‘vertical’ or theological (toward God) and also, inseparably, ‘horizontal’ or social (toward others) — what Paul most frequently calls ‘pistis’ and ‘agape‘ — with the certain hope of ultimate vindication and glory, all understood in the light of, and experienced through, Christ and the Spirit.
“Or, as I have said more succinctly elsewhere:
Justification for Paul may be defined as follows: the establishment or restoration of right covenantal relations — fidelity to God and love for neighbor — with the certain hope of acquittal/vindication on the day of judgement.
“This is life indeed, both present and future, the goal of every Jew, the essential substance of the covenant, and the purpose of the divine gift of the Law and, for Paul, the purpose of the divine gifts of Christ and of the Spirit.
“The actual language of justification is drawn from four interlocking realms:
- theological, referring to the divine character — God is just;
- covenantal, referring to the moral obligations associated with a communal, covenant relationship with God — God requires justice;
- legal, referring to juridical images of God as judge — God judges and pardons, and
- eschatological, referring to future judgement and salvation — God will judge and grant approval and life (or condemnation and death) on the day of the Lord.
“The just/righteous are those who are, and who will be vindicated as being, in right covenant relationship with the just/righteous God of the covenant as that God’s distinctive people. In Christ, (or, better, in the Messiah), of course, that relationship is open to Jews and Gentiles alike.
“For Paul, then, justification is not merely or even primarily juridical or judicial — the image of the divine judge pronouncing pardon or acquittal. That is part, but only part, of the significance of justification. The judicial image must be understood within a wider covenental, relational, participatory, and transformative framework.”
Dr. Gorman has written several excellent books on the Bible and Biblical theology. Here is the listing at Amazon: Michael J. Gorman.
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Teddy Ray: Absent from Flesh — the casualties of bodiless theology (sex, the Church, the Eucharist, and Christian fiction, for starters)
Guest blog by Teddy Ray. Teddy is a pastor and preacher for the Offerings Community, and the executive pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY. He blogs at Teddy Ray: Theology, Ministry & Life with God.
He says about his writing: “My goal is to provide a pastoral voice on issues related to the church, its ministry, and Christian living. I do this as someone with much hope for the church and for Christianity in the West, but also as someone concerned that the North American Church has lost its way on a number of points. With that, I hope some of these thoughts will point to a different way of being church, doing ministry, and living as Christians than what seems most prevalent today.”