Category Archives: Christian Ministry

Ascends as Lord of all creation Acts 1 Trinity Lutheran Church,

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know Jesus’ sits at the right hand of all power and all glory said… AMEN !

We use the “Common Lectionary”, when people come up to do the readings, they traditionally read out of the service book, that has the daily readings assuring that we observe the important, formative, enlightening events of the Bible. It usually guides our worship. Sometimes the pastor has a good reason to deviate from Scripture, but usually we want to stick to the lectionary. This keeps the pastor focused. Too often in non-liturgical worship, preaching and teaching is more about the preacher’s hobby-horse versus, trying to teach the entire Bible. The entire Bible is important, we need, at the very least to be familiar with the various parts and be able to describe different parts of the Bible and what is going on in those parts. The entire Bible points to Jesus being active before His incarnation, the events Jesus lived through in the incarnation. When we understand that, we have an even deeper appreciation of the entire Bible. People will often tell me how “boring” the Book of Such and Such is. Yet that Book, all of Scripture describes Jesus, God the Son who has lived eternally, John writes in his Gospel: “ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” As much as the Father was through all eternity, so is the Son and the Holy Spirit. They may not have been revealed until the New Testament, but they very much existed, all eternal God. I’ve had people who claim to be Christian “pastors” say, I don’t preach on the Old Testament, it’s the Gospels and the epistles that really matter. Nothing could be more wrong, and someone who claims to be a pastor, and believes that, is not a qualified Christian pastor. All this is to say that the lectionary keeps us all honest, on track, having a thorough understanding of Jesus, and all of Scripture as possible. While Ascension Day may seem anticlimactic, OK, He rises up into the air and disappears, time to move on… Daniel Marrs writes: “I wonder if our tendency to let Ascension Day slip past uncelebrated has more to do with the simple fact that it feels anticlimactic? The Christmas story tells us that God purposed to be with us, joining himself to human nature and walking among us as a man. And we know how Jesus’ life culminated with the world-shaking significance of the cross and the resurrection. But then he just…leaves. Why? And what does it mean for us?[1]

Jesus is not unique in being bodily taken to heaven, Elijah was lifted up into heaven in front of his student Elisha. ESV 2 Kings 2:11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” It does seem that God’s intention for Elijah that he would be the one who would announce the Messiah’s return. We know he was with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Moses was also, some people believe Moses was also bodily ascended into heaven. Elijah and Moses are thought to be the two witnesses in Revelation 11: 3-12, because they were bodily raised to heaven for these purposes. While Dr Luther stipulated that the Bible did not say anything about the bodily assumption of Mary, he didn’t deny the possibility either. Lutherans have rejected that view, I’m not trying to convince you of it, but just that Mary is included in the list. Isaiah may be also, he was brought into the presence of Yahweh, but the intention was not to keep him there, same for St Paul.

While it might make an interesting discussion, how many angels dancing on the head of a pin, kind of discussion, we know this for sure. Elijah and Enoch may have been raised up to somewhere by God in heaven, and Paul says that he was raised to what he called the 3rd heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. In His Ascension into heaven, Jesus became the entirety of the universe. Elijah, Enoch, Paul, Mary(?) if God did raise them bodily into some level or part of heaven, Jesus was raised to the right hand of God. Being at the right hand of any ruler was always understood as the person being at the right hand had the power and authority of the ruler. Peter Mikhalev offers this pointed quote: “St. John Chrysostom: “Elijah ascended as if into Heaven, because he was a slave, but Christ ascended into Heaven itself, because He was the Lord.”[4][2] This is generally to be understood as the man who carries out the will of the ruler. Enoch, Elijah, Mary (?) may have bodily ascended to heaven, but to be sure no where near the right hand where as we profess in the Apostle’s Creed: “seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” By virtue of this position of power Jesus is He whose rule is in complete glory: John Calvin writes: “Christ was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him — and that he not only entered into possession once for all, but continues in it, until he shall come down on Judgment Day” [3](Institutes 2.16.15). Mikhalev quotes St Gregory: “…by His own Divine power the Creator ascended into Heaven, because He was returning to there from whence He descended. He entered there where He had habitation from the ages: for, although He ascended as man, as God He possessed both Heaven and Earth.”[14][4]

R C Sproul writes “God’s right hand is the place of “highest favor with God the Father” (WLC, Q&A 54), and the phrase is used throughout Scripture to indicate His power and sovereignty (Ex. 15:6Isa. 48:13).  This means that He is ruler over all and that the kings of the earth rule only according to His sovereign permission. As such, Christ alone is worthy of our highest allegiance, and it is to Him that we must render obedience, even if it means, at times, defying the rulers of this world. Jesus’ kingdom alone is eternal, and His rule is above all others.”[5]

That Jesus raised Himself to heaven, to the ultimate glory of His ruling over all of Creation eternally, also is another demonstration of His Lordship overall creation. Arator writes: “…let us commend the manner of his rule though the powers that are subject to him: born of a virgin mother, rising again by treading upon death, seeking the scepter of heaven He announces such deeds by these angelic servants. Nor do the elements cease to serve their thunderer. In his honor as he is coming, a star does service as a soldier going before the magi. A cloud waits upon him in obedience as he goes.”[6] As He is about to be lifted up, unbeknownst to the disicples, He gives them the great commission, we quote Matthew 28 more often, but Acts starts this way, reminding us we are His disciples, His witnesses to the end of the earth, everywhere. As He says that He is lifted up, the disciples stand there [wide eyed] The angel sitting there had to be amused what you guys doing? He’s told you what to do and He will return in the same way. In the meantime it’s time to turn to for Jesus.” They certainly did in the power of the Holy Spirit whose intentional introduction will be made at Pentecost that we will observe next Sunday.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom. Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/05/its-ascension-day-heres-what-it-means-for-you/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&spMailingID=59440308&spUserID=MjgzMzMxOTk1NTAS1&spJobID=1644181925&spReportId=MTY0NDE4MTkyNQS2

[2] Did Enoch and Elijah ascend into heaven? Deacon Peter Mikhalev

[3] R C Sproul quoting John Calvin https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/seated-at-gods-right-hand/

[4] Op Cit

[5] Seated at God’s Right Hand   RC Sproul

[6] Arator quoted in Ancient Commentary on Scripture NT 4 p 10

We are a kingdom and priests Revelation 1:6 Trinity Lutheran Church April 28, 2019

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that they are priests in the Royal Priesthood of believers said … AMEN!

I am not about the mystical issues surrounding the Book of Revelation, I had the opportunity to hear lectures from one of the foremost authorities on the Book of Revelation, Dr Brighton who was brilliant, fascinating to listen to, also tell stories about living in sub-zero temperatures in Saskatchewan where he grew up. Dr Brighton starts his commentary where Jesus started His revelation with the Greek word Apoka,luyij which means a revelation, a disclosure. What English word comes to mind? Apocalypse… Which has come to us to mean end times, what will happen in the end times. This is what Jesus is revealing to John in his vision of what John discloses to us of end times, what we call the apocalypse. Dr Brighton writes: “…the revelation comes from Jesus and it is a revelation about Jesus Christ. Through everything that Jesus Christ reveals, he reveals (that is, unveils) his exalted glory and dominion … the unveiling of Jesus Christ in his glory at the End…” God had always intended His people to be a chosen people, a Kingdom of priests. ESV Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” Israel has always been? …Jesus! The Church is the Body of Christ, that means that those in the Church, the Body of Christ are Israel and Jesus is making it clear in the reading His revelation is for His people, His priests and we are responsible for proclaiming Christ and His revelation.  In October, I preached on Jesus being the “Great High Priest”, Hebrews 4:15. If Jesus is our “Great High Priest” He must have junior “priests”. All in Jesus are “priests”, you and I equally priests before the Father. Jesus is our great High Priest, intercedes for His people, equally before God. We have people in authority over us in the church. We trust those people to “minister” to us according to church doctrine, and Christ’s Word in Scripture. In their vocation they are trained and ordained in order to properly serve Jesus’ church. We want people like that, we need people who are properly and sufficiently trained in Scripture and in the church to properly serve Christ’s people in His Church. There is a lot of nonsense out there by people who either don’t have a clue, really don’t care, have made it up to what they think makes people happy and hang a shingle saying they’re preachers. In York, I had a lot of people who were never around unless something serious happens, then there they are expecting I’m supposed to turn and burn for them. They knew I was well trained, that what I said was true Gospel, and when they needed authenticity they came to me. Otherwise, they preferred the church that told them what they wanted to hear, made them “happy” and convinced them everything was hunk-dory with Jesus. They had no intention at all to serve, certainly not as a priest, it was what they wanted, when they wanted it. One of the highest accolades I received was in my time in the York Police Dept as a chaplain. There were usually 9 serving as chaplains and we rotated duty, on 24 hour call. Both the police lieutenant and chief of chaplains said they had such confidence in me and my training and experience they would sometimes call me, even though I wasn’t on call, to come and minister. They knew I had the best training. I was called for a homicide on Good Friday, number of suicides, one involving a police officer in a town outside York, a number of overdose deaths. As a “minister”, qualified and responsible for teaching, preaching, administering the sacraments to serve you to the best in order for you, as priests, to grow in Christ and serve those around you as priests in Jesus.

The difference between a priest and minister a Roman priest, Greek Orthodox priest. You come to a priest, in confession, you tell the priest your issues. He takes those “issues”, raises them up to God on your behalf, asks God to forgive you in Jesus, God forgives you. He also tells you what “penance” you are to perform in to show true contrition, pay for your sin in some sense. This was one of Dr Luther’s major beefs with the Roman Church. Do I need someone to mediate for me before Jesus? No. We are all priests, we should all go before the Father for forgiveness. We are told, Matthew 5:24, before we go to the communion rail we should leave our gift, reconcile our issues, come back and offer your gift. We understand that to mean that you come before a minister, in confession and work out some of your sin issues. It is helpful to sit with someone be accountable to in Jesus. Either way, you’re the one, as a priest, who has to reconcile your issues before God the Father. I help you do that, as a doctor would help you deal with a physical issue, but in both cases, you have to do the consultation, “confession and absolution” in this case, and have to perform the treatments. All to your spiritual health as a “priest of Christ”, as being a part of the priesthood of believers. Dr Luther writes: “All this …proves that those who serve people with Word and the Sacraments may and must not be called priests. That they were called priest stems either from the custom of the heathen or was drawn from vestiges of the Jewish people and adopted to the great harm of the church. According to the evangelical writings, they should more correctly be called ministers, deacons, bishops and stewards…” I am an ordained minister and by virtue of that bishop of this church. We don’t normally refer to a pastor as “bishop”, we do have people in higher authority usually referred to as bishop. We are all priests, my priesthood consists of serving the congregation in a way that is to build you up, support you in Jesus. In your vocation you are called to be a “priest” to those around you. They won’t know you are, but the Holy Spirit will. Often you are the only Jesus people will ever see. How are you representing Jesus in your vocation, being His priest? Many people think that the pastor is supposed to be the “church evangelist”. American culture with its bizarre idea that people in the parish are there to take in, be entertained, maybe leave with one good thought of the day and bang, out into the real world. Based on my experience, ministry, done properly is as real as it gets. Second, my primary job, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, 4: 11-12 is to “equip the saints”, that would be you fellow saint and priest. Give you grounding and support to reach those around you, most I will never meet or know. Isn’t the Holy Spirit using you, in your vocation where you work, as Jesus’ priest to reach that person who might otherwise be lost?

We are a Royal Priesthood. In our life in Jesus, He serves us, saves us, mediates before the Father for us, constantly in prayer for us. Jesus is the One who will pull you across to complete the race, to be with Him in the eternal Resurrection, where we will live our life and life more abundant. In our life on earth, we are His junior priests and responsible for serving Him and others as His priests. Take some time this week, pull out a notebook, start a journal of your life in Jesus. How are you serving Him, His church and each other as His “priests” as a member of the Royal Priesthood of believers in Jesus?  ESV 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

Christ, David’s Son Psalm 9

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are uplifted by the Psalms said AMEN!

We are in the season of Lent, we know that we try to “sacrifice” something for Lent. Some Lent news; “It was just announced that chocolate maker Hershey is reportedly expecting to cut its global workforce by about 15 percent. Seth Meyers observes: That’s right, for the first time ever, chocolate is giving up people for Lent.” For the Lent season, I’m “planning”, I would like to, do a sermon series on Psalms. We really don’t hear many sermons on Psalms and that really is a shame. I like to just settle in to the Psalms and take it in. Certainly all of Scripture is about the human experience. That experience is with God, and some of it is to show how things get messed up when we try to cut God out of what is going on.

There is 150 Psalms, most, not all were written by David ben Jesse, also known as  King David, husband of Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, father of Solomon, Absalon, Amnon and Tamar. These were his, let’s say more notorious children. He had 19 sons total, and 1 daughter. I’m not sure what the odds of that happening naturally are, but… I’m sure it made jockeying to be David’s successor a lot more of a story in David’s palace during his lifetime.

The book that Jesus quotes the most is … Psalms. First the Book of Psalms is very long 150 books, second because David wrote most of the Psalms, and that Jesus is often referred to as the “Son of David” and that is because Yahweh promised that the Messiah would be in David’s line, one of David’s descendants would be the Messiah. This is referred to as the “Davidic Covenant”, 2 Samuel 7: 10-13: “…ESV 2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Of course “His” refers to Jesus and His Kingdom. What He established in His first coming and what will be fully realized as it is described in the Book of Revelation.

Father Patrick Reardon, who was the pastor of a church in Butler, Pa where our son Timothy is living, writes this about the Psalms: “From the very beginning of her history, when the Church of God turns to Him in love and devotion, the words of the Psalter form the expressions that spontaneously, as by an impulse of her nature, rise from her heart and take shape in her mouth.”[1] If you look, starting at about page 219 in your hymnal, you will see the “Daily Offices”. Those were the daily worships, roughly, in monasteries going back to sometime on or before the sixth century. Check the references to find that most of what is there are various recitations of Psalms. At least back to the sixth century Saint Benedict of Nursia, … prescribed the weekly reading of the Psalms, all 150, and basically called the monks at that time sissies because they didn’t recite them everyday as earlier generations of monks had done.[2]

This Psalm, Chapter 9, was written by David. It appears that this was for some sort of public declaration of victory. The Lutheran Study Bible notes: “The praise of God in the Psalter is rarely a private matter between the psalmist and the Lord. It is usually a public [that is, at the temple] celebration of God’s holy virtues or of his saving acts or gracious bestowal of blessings.” Where he proclaims God’s glorious attributes, righteous deeds, joyfully celebrate God’s glory. Probably where David is declaring victory over an enemy of Israel and proclaiming the power, might and glory of Yahweh.[3] The note in the Concordia Study Bible goes on to point out that: “This aspect of praise in the Psalms has rightly been called the Old Testament anticipation of New Testament evangelism.”[4] That is that what was written in the Old Testament was also intended for us to praise God now. Praise is the reason why we should more regularly refer to Psalms in worship, which we’re supposed to do in our personal and in daily worship in church. Worship is not just limited to Sunday morning, or once in awhile on Wednesday evenings, but intended to be regularly through the day and that is what Psalms have been. Not just about what David did 3,000 years ago, but what God is still doing today that we should be praising Him for now, daily. I’ve always thought it would be great to have a regular Daily Offices, where people would know they could go all through the week and share in worship and prayer. I think we could take such Psalms of victory, such as Psalm 9 that we’re reading today, and there are a lot of “victory psalms” out of the 150 psalms, and proclaim them as God’s victory against our enemies today, understanding that our enemies now aren’t the Philistines, but the powers of evil that are all around us. Whether that evil is demonic and all its different manifestations, spiritually or what we can actually see in the world. Not only has God defeated them but quoting the Concordia Study Bible, God has redressed the wrongs committed by them against David (and Israel).”[5] Again that is for us today. God has certainly defeated the powers of evil all around us, we who are in Christ, that we are certainly subject to demonic attack and are protected by the Holy Spirit from those attacks. Also that God does restore to us that which might be lost or destroyed, if not in this world, certainly in the world of the eternal of the resurrection. Tremper Longman writes: “It is impossible to date the psalm to a certain period in David’s (Israel’s) history. The characterization of the enemy is purposefully ambiguous so as to permit the individual lament to be used as a community lament.”[6] Again to say that while David probably wrote it for a particular occasion, it has come down to us through Jewish history and since the beginning of the Christian church. It’s interesting how both writers conflate David and Israel. David is very much Israel, Jesus certainly is Israel, and since we are in Christ we are Israel. Praise to God then, is as much praise to Him today, from His children in Jesus.

Undoubtedly David knew Who Jesus is, I have to believe that God the Father revealed to David who his descendant was and what He is. That David knew that while it was His throne that was promised to his Descendant, his “Son” by the power of His deity, would make that “Throne” the universal Throne of all power in creation. That the Name of Christ on the Throne, from all of creation to the end of all of creation was and is the power of Jesus. Reardon writes, kind of a long quote: “… particular attention should be paid to that of the “name”: “’I shall sing to Your Name, O most High,’  and ‘Let all those who know Your Name hope on You.’ This is that name of which St Peter said that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). This, truly, is ‘the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow’ (Phil 2:9, 10). The praying of the Psalter, in fact, pertains to our sharing in that universal genuflection ‘of those in heaven, and of those on earth…’ As the only name by which we have access to God, the name of Jesus is the proper exegetical key to praying the Book of Psalms.”[7]

So you might wonder why we’re conflating Jesus and the Psalms at this time of the year on the calendar, but certainly Jesus is being proclaimed, praised and given thanks for our salvation in Him from the time of His “father” David to the present. He is known from everlasting to everlasting and we praise Him and bless His Holy Name for His sacrifice, His suffering, His separation in order to bring us to the Father, to give us the hope and promise of everlasting, life and life more abundant in Him in His crucifixion, His resurrection and the marriage feast of the Lamb that is that eternal life in Him.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

 

 

[1] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p xv

[2] Ibid

[3] Concordia Study Bible footnote 9:1 p 794

[4] Ibid

[5] Concordia Study Bible 9:3-6 p 794

[6] Longman, Tremper “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary” p 143

[7] Reardon, Patrick Henry Christ in the Psalms   p18

Resurrection

We Christians talk about heaven as if that’s the ultimate goals. Many non-Christians, certainly the “nones”, use that as their cop out, because wow is that generation, ah heck the whole culture today, all about excuses. Doesn’t matter, what happens, happens, I’m entitled anyway, it’s all about me, yada-yada!

Well no, sorry, but your ticket is punched for hell. What you thought was reality, i.e. it’s all about me, well you will find out that it’s not true and that is tragically and eternally.

On to the actual, ultimate reality. It’s not heaven. Many will never be in heaven. They are saved, but if Jesus returns tomorrow, and you and I are around, we will never be in heaven, we go right to the eternal resurrection. For the non-Christian reading this, sorry, doesn’t apply to you, you will be eternally condemned in hell and that’s just the way it is. I sincerely do hope that the Holy Spirit uses this to save the reader who is not a Christian, but as a Christian minister, I’m required to live in the actual real world, and the ultimate reality in that world for me is the resurrection. For the non- believer, the ultimate reality is eternal condemnation and torment in hell.

Kind of separate, but interesting how our Christian holidays have become more about who we are in Jesus. The world is all about Christmas because it’s me-me-me, all about me, and that’s what the world is about. As Christians we know the deeper meaning and can still celebrate and observe Christmas in a genuine way. For genuine Christians (by that I don’t mean the people who call themselves that, because they grew up in that culture, went through the motions, but really have no clue, and live very much in the world. Too many of those people are in churches, don’t get it and don’t care. Like those in the world, they’re entitled, and well God has to come through for them.) Moving along, Easter is where it’s at if you are genuinely in Jesus. Easter Sunday and every Sunday we remember the resurrection, that is what being a Christian is all about. The new-perfect-eternal life in the new world. The world will look very familiar, but it will be perfect, no evil, no sin, no death, no illness, full of genuine life, of infinite potential. We will have the whole picture, understand completely what God did in creation, in history, in salvation and will understand that it was and is completely perfect and understandable. We will see what a truly evil, debased world the world around us was. We will see the spiritual warfare that went on around us, the constant attempts to undermine our relationship with Jesus and tear us away from Him to eternal  condemnation. The Holy Spirit and all the spiritual warriors all around us fought hard to keep us focused on Christ and fit for eternal salvation in the resurrection.

Certainly one way we resist in this spiritual warfare that is going on around us is through prayer. Continual prayer on our part keeps us connected to the spiritual, to God’s guidance to the beings around us that are protecting us. We are tuned into God’s direction, guidance, what He is doing in our life. Failing in prayer is to cut yourself off from God, to be tuned in only to the world and its direction. The world is condemned, and if that’s where you are tuned, you very much risk being condemned. Prayer doesn’t save you, that’s not the point. None of our works save us, we are only saved in what Jesus did and does for us. But if we are not connected to what God is doing in, for, through and around us through our prayer, we lose that connection, we eventually just buy into the constant blah-blah from everything around us in the world, decide that it’s the world’s message that’s most important and fade off into eternal separation from God.

The resurrection is the ultimate destination, the Holy Spirit guides us there, Jesus makes us fit to be there by His righteousness imputed to us and the Father assures us of that eternal life in the resurrected, perfect, eternal new world, New Jerusalem.

Millenials, long on fault finding, short on doing

I shared a post by a “millenial” who wrote, essentially, that the problem with the church was that it was too focused on being the church and wasn’t “serving”enough”. The research today says that “millenials” are motivated to “serve”. OK, they may believe that, but I see little evidence of it and what I see is not very well thought out and is more of a social event and well short of any effective service. Further, it seems as if society as a whole is convinced that the church is just another social service agency.

Well no it’s not.

It is the Body of Christ and is, at least supposed to be, supposed to teach about Christ, how we live the Christian life and how we grow as disciples. Yes, that certainly means to serve, but not to some end that is to self satisfaction, but in how the Holy Spirit moves the disciples of Christ to serve.

The writer had a problem with how too many churches do conduct their ministry more in terms of being a social club. I would agree and the church has been doing that for decades. It’s not so much the church, but telling people what they want to hear, pat them and send them back into the world as clueless as ever. The problem is that such a superficial generation takes every opportunity to deny reality, play the system and not assume any real responsibility, because everyone else should take on responsibility.

So I just wanted to post my comments about the church I’m the pastor of. Surprise, didn’t receive any response. I raised a bunch of questions that I really don’t think the superficial millenial mentality wants to deal with, because then, they’d actually have to do something:

thank you very much for the opportunity to answer you and this blog this is like throwing a dog raw meat. First I did not grow up in the church and yes I’m an old guy and yet I get stereotyped by the culture in general and get shut down without so much as a how do you do. First I have to laugh at the supposition that the church has millions of dollars. Oh I get the accusation but I assure you at least First Saint Johns is living hand to mouth. And yet unlike the critics we are standing on our ear to serve. However we are not a social service agency. We are here to give hope and promise of Jesus to a world with no hope and promise and getting worse. As a pastor of a downtown church I spend a large amount of my time trying to help people, millennials included, whose attitude is just gimme. We have a food bank, we have Grief Share, I’m a chaplain for the police department and have had to comfort people as the result of suicide, victims of crime, parents on the scene of a child who died of a heroin overdose. I am the chaplain at the Lutheran Mission Society that gives clothing to people. We started a community radio station at great time, expense and emotional expense. For a small group with limited resources we have done an enormous amount. We have started an afternoon meal program, a workout area and offer classes in martial arts. We started an employment support group. You know what the response has been from the community? Crickets! I’ve made a few efforts with the public schools and York College to get involvement at a great expense of time (frankly my wife thinks I should spend more time at home) and I assure you I’m a long way from making my first million. I’m sure I was making more in the business world hour to hour and actually had days off and vacation. We have been an open door for so much and again crickets. I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night to be with members and nonmembers undergoing duress. I’m sure the teacher writing this article never had to get up in the middle of the night for a math emergency. Oh I get it there are plenty of pretty suburban, happy clappy churches out there who are just about themselves but sad to say that’s pretty much the way of the society. I wish I had half the time off of a school teacher. I’ve averaged fifty hour weeks 52 weeks a year for seven years in ministry I am regularly exhausted and stressed at less pay then school teachers. Speaking of which we have begged the school dept here to give students the educational opportunity of the radio station that we spent a lot of money we don’t have. We are right across the street from William Penn HS. There’s been talk, but it’s easier for them to just say no. There’s a lot of people out there who love to wag their finger and just don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t care. I would love to have an open forum but I know what would happen. I’d spend a lot of time organizing and being there and no one would show up. I will do it since I’ve been challenged. I’ve been thinking about a “grill the pastor ” for First Friday but like the rest of our attempts no one will show. I was at church at 8:30 this morning went to about 1pm, went out at 4pm to support the Sheriffs canine program who have to raise money they don’t get any government funding, typing this message out at 10pm missing the All Star game and I’m on call for the police dept and what I get for all my trouble is why aren’t I doing more. I will compare my social service and DayTimer with any secular and Christian critic. Oh and we’re also setting up to be a Safe Space for the city and also have Spanish ministry and we’re doing it all on a shoestring budget. Maybe it’s time for the Millenials to put up. What I see from most of society is a lot of complaining and criticism, but very little in terms of action. Anyone who wants to come and talk I welcome the opportunity. But they need to listen too because I have a Masters Degree and extensive life experience. My experience with the culture is there is little background but don’t want to give and take but just want to lecture. I frankly believe they don’t want “give and take” because they have very little background and are used to getting their way, don’t want to give and have very little capacity for critical thinking. I felt this was important, missed most of the basketball game and need to get some sleep because I have an enormous amount to deal with on Monday my “day off”. But hey if someone tells me they will be at First Saint Johns to really talk tomorrow I will be there. And then go home to my wife who will be upset that I’m taking time away from her and not getting any rest. She cares about the stress and fatigue that ministry has been putting on me. Feel free to share this with anyone interested. God bless you and thank you for this opportunity.
…a big issue with church the pastor is supposed to do everything. I’ve been in corporate, operational in the military and ministry has just been a revelation very little support. The 80-20 principle. There are lay people who do provide physical support about 20 percent and the rest attitude is “it’s the pastor s job”. This is usually from people who work 9-5 5 days a week, have no concept of what it’s like to get a 2am phone call to go out in nasty weather to a bad situation for members and nonmembers. It’s the pastors job. People need to get real and lose the attitude and expect someone to come running to them at a moments notice. Maybe there will come a time where you need that attention. Who else comes running out in the middle of the night? But at some point they just might say “can’t do it, exhausted ” I will try to get there by noon. Why not? Every other profession does it or gets paid a lot of extra money for extra attention!
…Oh and if someone wants a mentor I will mentor the heck out of them. Check out my background not many out there with my breadth and depth of life experience and I would be thrilled to share that with anyone. But like all the other things we’ve been doing no one will take me up. It’s easier to criticize and complain then do something. Oh yeah another on my “wish list ” would be to train and coach a triathlon team high school, York College HACC, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. Michal Helfreich took a local television station thru the church for them to tape what we’ve been doing and offer. Results? Nil. We have a Men’s Group having an overnight retreat at a lodge here. All guys are welcome but they won’t. Their noses are buried in their phones.

Bullying, the church is not immune, too often it’s the passive-aggressive kind.

Thom Rainer has become one of my go to guys in Christian church research and he has really hit on the theme of church bullying. I have some personal observations to offer, that Rainer is pretty right on with his observations.

First, I have spent most of my professional life in the world of corporate finance and military. Yea, there was bullying, but… when it comes right down to it, it really wasn’t tolerated. Frankly, I’ve seen far more bullying in government, public schools (no not just students), unions and other not for profits and ya, even churches. Let’s face it, more passive types of environments generate more fear and more boundary guarding. The perspective in these environments is that there is only so much to get and you have to just grab for all you can. It’s an attitude that is just not tolerated in the private sector and I have twenty years, or the military 29 years. There’s too much to do and too much to earn and too much at stake for people to be quibbling as you see in the other sectors of society.

Full disclosure, the town we moved to when I was ten years old, was the home of Rocky Marciano, the only undefeated heavy weight boxing champion of the world, he had died that same summer. Also,  I grew up with Marvin Hagler a middle weight world boxing champion. The culture was very much boxing and football. And yea, I was relentlessly bullied from sixth grade until about tenth. But I dealt with it, created my own niches, played football, not well, but stood up for myself, i.e. if you want to bully me you will pay a price, and overcame it. So if I have a personal sensitivity to bullying, I will stipulate to that, but it doesn’t make the bullying any less that’s going on now, especially the more pernicious “passive-aggressive” bullying we so see much of today.

The distressing thing about bullying is that it’s not just about throwing punches, overt insults, just over the top actions. There is very much passive-aggressive bullying. Now I don’t have a lot of experience with it, although it seems to me that it’s a way of life for way too many in the church. Seminary professors and staff, pastors and church goers, it seems to be the preferred go to and it’s often an effort to generate active push-back which ipso facto, become evidence of aggressiveness on the part of the person who is really innocent and is being goaded by the passive-aggressive behavior, just an effeminate way to avoid the real issue. Seems that for those in academia, church, not for profits, other rather passive sectors, a profound inability to actually confront issues and actively resolve them and prefer the passive-aggressive, a clearly more effeminate means of bullying. So yea, those in these sectors, especially in academia, all levels, who like to pat themselves on the back as to how they are so unaggressive, no, it’s really more about your inability to confront and resolve issues. One reason most of you wouldn’t last in professions that require results is that you’re not really interested in the results, you’re simply interested in maintaining your little fiefdom.

So, ya, I’ve been victimized by church bullying also. Interesting findings though, when you do actively confront those who are trying either the active bullying or the passive – aggressive you usually end up with the proper/positive result and you usually tear down someone’s little bastion that they’ve been bullying people from, probably for years.

So the moral of this is you do have to actively confront, no it won’t be pleasant, and yes, people are going to see you as mean and nasty, but in short order people will realize that the confrontation was necessary and it allowed everyone, the organization, to move along. I’m not saying fist fights, yelling screaming, although it might come down to some animated discussion, but it has to be done.

I’ve seen it a few times now that churches really do tolerate the bullying, aggressive and passive-aggressive. Of course the issue in the church is to be nice. Not to really stand up and do what’s necessary, but to be nice and everyone should “understand”, in other words, a sort of effeminate, passive way of handling issues, which translates, they don’t get resolved.

Interesting because in my experience with church bullies of both stripes, while everyone is supposed to indulge them, they’re not the least bit concerned with anyone else or how the church is supposed to function. It’s either the status quo, i.e. them in charge, regardless of how deep they’ve run the church/organization into the ground, to their benefit or else they will do what they can to blow things up. How that will effect anyone else, the church’s image in the community up to and including the national church, non-believers perception of the church, on and on, doesn’t matter to them, it’s their way or the highway.

I certainly stipulate to the fact that the process of “debullying” will also cause discomfort for the current members and church leadership, up through to the national church, there also needs to be recognition for all concerned that if this person is creating a negative environment for those immediately concerned, the impact has to be huge on prospective members. They certainly do see the bully, whether overt or passive-aggressive, they see the nonsense this person causes (it can be a man or woman), the lack of focus and results of the organization and quickly realize that they just don’t need that kind of grief. That person’s agenda is only about maintaining the status quo and they will bully who they have to in one or even both ways in order to maintain their status quo. If that results in the failure of that church, in all respects of failure of a church, well, either bully will say that it was obviously someone else’s fault.

While leaders at different levels may not appreciate the upheaval, there clearly needs to be pro-active action towards those who are bullying and are at least partially responsible for the hard downward trend of the church overall. Should also remember that church leaders, all the way to the top, really have little, if any, training or experience in dealing with leadership and will usually default to what they’ve seen in the church for the decades that the church has been their only environment, i.e. passive-aggressive bullying by everyone.

Rainer lists out the ways to identify the bully, I’m taking them a little out of order, because I think this indicator is my indicative of the rest. “They are famous for saying ‘people are saying'”. When you confront them as to who, when, “oh well they asked me to keep that confidential”. You start doing your own checking around and don’t find anyone else saying anything about the perceived compelling “issue” of the bully. Rainer goes on to say; “They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to their own agendas.” Another personal observation is a lack of discipline, they’ve never really done anything that requires discipline, they’ve blown off any kind of school, military, serious business environment, nothing in their background indicates that they really can plan out, execute and work with people to carry out a necessary plan.

Rainer says that they will tell you how much they love you, the pastor, but so long as you’re toeing their line. They do have strong personalities, but as Rainer points out, that does not necessarily make a bully. They are highly opinionated and all that entails. It’s their way or no way, so just turn to and get moving on their directions. It’s interesting because so many of these bullies really have no idea what they’re talking about, they don’t have any real training, experience, to make the decisions they’re making, they’ve never felt the need because they’re not going to listen to anyone about anything, unless it’s another bully. They do seem to respond to being bullied and roll over pretty easily to an overt bully. They build unhealthy alliances, frankly in a church? The Body of Christ is one, if you have any kind of alliance going on, it’s by definition “unhealthy”. They gossip, work in the dark, have been to many churches.

In addition to “people are saying”, they of course don’t see themselves as bullies. Again they’ve never had to function in a “results oriented” environment, they’re amateurish attempts and attitude are all about how it’s everyone else’s fault, and even that they’re being somehow unfairly persecuted. Of course their, usually, uninformed agendas, forming alliances particularly among weaker members, they tend to have intense and emotional personalities (yes, more feminine emotions, versus being able to rationally address issues), they are usually part of mediocre/low expectation churches (i.e. the go along church, easier just to take it then deal with issues).

Rainer has a number of suggestions, but I want to insert a personal observation, especially if I might be coming across a little belligerently, I am not suggesting that anyone look for or pick a fight. But before push comes to shove you have to confront the bully and either exercise discipline or make it difficult for him/her to stay. Hey better someone else puts up with their nonsense and allows you to do genuine ministry. I have a downtown church where people have real issues and there are a lot of them. I don’t need a self – appointed enforcer making my ministry impossible and continuing to destroy, at least, this Christian church. To continue with Pastor Rainer;

  • “seek to have an Acts 6 group in your church.” Basically a group that will address “murmuring and complaining” in the sense of the Greek widows not being cared for.
  • “Have a high expectation church”, quit with the mediocre thinking, the cowering, whimpy safety in the herd mindset. Let’s start doing some real ministry and making some real effort.
  • “Encourage members to speak and stand up to church bullies”. No more playing, if you’re not about the mission of the church and moving to true discipleship and Christian integrity, you don’t have a place here.
  • “Make sure the polity of the church does not become a useful instrument to church bullies.” “Many churches have ambiguous structures and lines of accountability… Bullies take advantage of the ambiguity and interpret things according to their nefarious needs.”
  • “Be willing to exercise church discipline”. My church has excommunication and in the case of a bully, they are certainly guilty of being divisive. Not that they had an honest disagreement or working for the best interests of the church, but disciplined because of their attempts to pit people against each other and create divisiveness.
  • “Have a healthy process to put the best-qualified persons in positions of leadership in the church.” Bullies angle for power, create buffers against that possibility. Jesus’ church deserves the best, most qualified, those who will act with Christian integrity, not those who are playing political games.
  • “Have a healthy process to hire church staff. “
  • “Encourage a celebratory environment in the church.” I would go on to say a pro-active, striving for high ideals and goals with true Christian integrity. A bully is the person who keeps trying to drag that down to his/her level and mature Christians recognize such a person and start to isolate them from the rest of the congregation that is healthy.

I’m really not trying to be contentious and I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and pick fights. But on the other hand it is the pastor’s responsibility to create a positive, uplifting church that is responsible to Christ to grow as the Body of Christ. Allowing such people to undermine the church and it’s mission for their personal satisfaction and ego gratification is irresponsible on the part of the pastor, the pastoral hierarchy above the pastor, the rest of the church governance and all genuine Christians. We are not, as Christian disciples, entitled to surrender the church who will undermine it for their own purposes.

Jealous God?

At the end of the ten commandments we see “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,”. (Ex 20:5) Deuteronomy 4:24 says “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Woo there “jealous”? Isn’t that a bad thing to be jealous? In some situations, it can be used in that context, but we usually think of “envious”, wanting something that is someone else’s not mine.

We are God’s, He made us, He gave us what we have, He sustains us, everything we have we owe to Him. If then we turn and decide to throw our lives away on other “gods” doesn’t God have a right to angry. We’ve taken what He’s give us and thrown it away for what? The “god” of drugs, booze, the wrongful use of the gift of sex that He’s given us? Do we make power, greed, money, our “god”? As our Creator, our Father when we are reborn in the Spirit, does He not have the right to keep us focused on Him.

“He knows the danger of other gods, how they will lure us away, deceive us and leave us empty.” (Experiencing God Day by Day  Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby p 219) We’ve seen plenty of people who have been swept up by idols such as drugs, greed, alcohol, sex, squeezed dry and then tossed aside like an empty candy wrapper. He made us, did He make us to be wasted like that? No! Of course not. So shouldn’t He be jealous of us and what He has given us.

So many are caught up with “gods” who demand things, giving more money, more time, squeezing you for everything. Sure a church needs time and money to continue to serve those around us, but we do serve. We continue to help others grow in Jesus, true life. Whereas the things of the world continue to breakdown, squeeze life out of us, vs the life that is given to us in Jesus. If you see a “god” who just demands and leaves wrecked lives, doesn’t it make sense to run away from that “god” and to God who builds and saves lives?

God is faithful to us and helps us to be faithful to Him. He is jealous for us and as the Blackabys point out: “…the Lord’s jealousy on our behalf is something that should be precious to us! He has the complete right to our lives. He gave us life, and He wants to protect us from anything that could harm us.” (Experiencing God Day by Day  Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby p 219) We have a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent all holy, righteous, God who looks out for us, is jealous for us, because as baptized children in Jesus we have been given new life in Him, He is our Father, Creator and wants what is best for us. Jealous? OK, but in the most perfect, secure, life altering and enhancing sense of the world.