Wednesday, September 30, 2009

THE GATES OF BILL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HER

by Keith Giles

“But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." - (Matthew 16: 15-19)

The Christian Church is resilient and irresistable as long as it remains built upon the right foundation. Even the Gates of Hell aren't strong enough to withstand the advance of the Body, according to our Lord Jesus.

So, when we read that the current economic downturn threatens to cripple the American church it makes me wonder – “What is our Church built upon?” If we were built upon Christ and His identity as the Messiah, I believe that nothing could shake us or weaken our effectiveness.

As the article in the link points out, “organized religion was already in trouble before the fall of 2008. Denominations were stagnating or shrinking, and congregations across faith groups were fretting about their finances.” So, the decline of the American Church is nothing new. The Great Recession we’re in now only accentuates the problem. In America, the Church has aligned herself with a political agenda, and has embraced a business model, rather than to take a New Testament approach.

Usually whenever I point these things out I get the most vehement responses from my brothers and sisters in Christ. They either defend the business model of church or the political solution, or they deny that such an association exists. Others simply insult me for attacking the Bride – as if calling God’s people to a more New Testament approach is somehow an act of violence rather than an appeal to repent and be healed.

I’m honestly flabbergasted by the Church’s lust for the business model. If it had brought us any real fruit over the years I could understand our attraction for adopting the Bill Gates’ philosophy of ecclesia. However, most pastors will readily admit that the current model of traditional church hasn’t produced better disciples, more loving followers of Jesus or an increase in moral or ethical advancement in the Body. If anything we see the opposite. Not just in the church, but those outside the church are increasingly turned off by our “bigger is better” approach and our constant focus on money as a fuel for growth or a benchmark of God’s approval.

Being bigger doesn’t correlate to deeper faith, more earnest discipleship or transformed lives. Attracting a crowd isn’t a required skill for those who seek to follow Jesus and put his words into practice. Scoring converts isn’t a fulfillment of the Great Commission to teach people all that Jesus commanded and make disciples of all nations.

Just think about the environment you work in. Does your workplace inspire a sense of family? Does it foster a pervasive sense of belonging to a greater cause? Does it help you generate a stronger sense of love for your co-workers? Does it inspire you (or anyone else) to adopt the mission statement into a way of living life? Do you ever find yourself wishing that your church family could be more like your workplace? I simply cannot understand why we would look to an organizational model for the Church when it accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom and only succeeds in growth at the expense of others.

This is why the Church in America can, with a straight face, demand that pastors sign non-compete clauses before they’re considered for the pulpit. We wouldn’t want to invest in this person, and the success of our church, only to have this charismatic individual leave and start his own franchise down the road – taking key investors (tithers) with him.

These behaviors do not encourage church growth, they inhibit and discourage the planting of churches in a community based on the need for success - and this definition of success has nothing to do with making disciples or serving others or meeting the needs of people within the community. No, in this new business model of church, success is strictly defined as growing larger and increasing the size of the bank account.

Because we have built our American Church on the business model, we are now suffering right along with every other business as our economy slows down and spending is at an all-time low. Churches are laying off ministers, cutting youth budgets, selling their buildings and liquidating their assets. What will we do now? After nearly two thousand years enduring persecution and the lions of the coliseum, even the Gates of Hell itself, will the Church now be overcome by the Gates of Bill? Will we finally be defeated by our own greed and misplaced values? No, I don’t think so.

If anything, I believe that more and more churches in America will discover, the hard way, that they really can be the church they were called to be without a building, or a paid staff of professionals, or a thirty thousand dollar sound system. In fact, many others have already discovered this. Not only have these followers of Jesus discovered their ability to be the church outside of the American business model, they’ve also discovered that they can actually grow the size, and the quality, of their congregations by empowering them to be the church in their community and take responsibility for their own spiritual growth and the well-being of one another in the Body.

Truthfully, the majority of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe are already experiencing exponential growth, new conversions to the faith, and powerful moves of the Holy Spirit completely apart from paid staff, million dollar structures or a business plan. All they have is the New Testament, the indwelling presence of Almighty God and a simple faith in the Son of God that nothing will stand against the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Sounds like a great business plan to me.

**

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWO NEW ARTICLES AT POVERTYINTHEOC.COM

Just posted two new articles over at
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JESUS: THE PRINCE OF PEACE (PART 4 OF 4)

The final article is up now at theOoze.com. Drop by and leave comments if you like, or leave them here.

READ THE ARTICLE
HERE

Monday, September 28, 2009

A PROFOUND MYSTERY

When you consider that the Bible as we know it today was written over a period of thousands of years, by wide variety of authors, and assembled as a single document nearly two thousand years ago, it's fairly miraculous that the first three chapters of the Bible correspond so symmetrically with the last three chapters of the Bible.

In the first three chapters of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we see a series of events that are mirrored in the last three chapters of Revelation.

First, we see the creation of heaven and earth. At the end of Revelation we see a new creation.

In the first three chapters we see Satan ensnaring mankind and in the last three we see Satan cast down and doomed forever.

In the first three chapters we see a garden, and in the last three chapters we see a garden city. Both gardens include the tree of life.

In the first three chapters we have a curse given to man for his sins, and in the last three chapters the curse if forever removed.

In the first three chapters God visits the garden once per day, and in the last three chapters God is at home with man forever.

In the first three chapters man and woman are cast out, but in the last three chapters they are welcomed in.

In the first three chapters a bride is created from out of Adam’s side, and in the last three chapters a Bride is ushered in for the Son of God and a wedding feast is celebrated.

In the first three chapters we have the beginning of Time, and in the last three we have the beginning of Eternity.

DEEPER THINGS
The Scriptures reveal the Church to be the Bride of the Lamb. It is one of the most common metaphors used by God to describe His people throughout the Bible. However, as I began tracing these threads between Genesis and Revelation I noticed even more about what Paul the Apostle refers to as "a profound mystery".

In Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul uses the metaphor of marriage to teach us something astounding about Jesus and about our identity as the Bride of Christ. I've edited the text to highlight the main thoughts:

"...just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." – Eph 5:25-27

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church." – Eph 5:31-32

Because this passage is so often used to counsel men and women in regards to the marriage relationship, I have removed those references so that we can see what Paul says he is actually talking about: "Christ and the church".

First, Paul tells us how Christ has given himself up for us (the Bride) and how he cleanses and washes us through the word of God so that we might be ready for our wedding day. Paul also quotes from Genesis chapter 2 in this passage and this reminds us of how God put Adam to sleep and made a woman for him because "God saw that it was not good for man to be alone". Notice it was God's idea, not Adam's, for man to have a wife. Somehow this reference points to God's plan for the Church. As Paul reminds us - "For this reason" the man is to "leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and the two will become one flesh". This is where Paul pauses and remarks that "this is a profound mystery". Why? Because he is not talking about Adam and Eve now. He's not talking about Christian marriage between a man and a woman. No, he is talking about Jesus and the Church "becoming one flesh".

THE MYSTERY OF THE BRIDE
We know from God’s word that we (the Church) are the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33). But in Revelation we learn that the Bride is also a City:

"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." – Rev 21:9-10

We are the Bride, and the Bride is a City.

THE MYSTERY OF THE TEMPLE
We also know that we are the Temple of God (Eph 2:21), but in Revelation we discover that it is Christ who is the Temple in us:

"The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." – Rev 21:21-22

So, we are the Temple where God dwells within, but we are also the Bride which is a city and in that city is a Temple which is the Lord Himself.

ONE IN CHRIST JESUS
Want to see how this is played out in the rest of the Scriptures? In the Gospel of John, beyond the prayer of Jesus to the Father that we (the Bride) would be one even as Jesus and the Father are one, Christ also prays:

"Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." – John 17:21-23.

In Ephesians 2:21 we are told that we are the Temple of God, as we have already seen, but look at what this passage actually communicates. Try to guess where God ends and we begin here:

"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." – Eph 2:21-22

Here we see that we (the Church/Bride/Body/Temple) are being built to become a dwelling in which God lives, and yet the Temple is being built "in him". So, we are being built in Christ to become a Temple where God will dwell by His Spirit. Who is on the inside? Who is dwelling where? We are in Christ, and we contain God's Spirit all at the same time.

THE MYSTERY OF THE BODY
In 1 Corinthians 12, and in Ephesians 4:15, Paul gives us another wonderful illustration of how the Body is to function. He refers to the Church as the Body of Christ and explains that we are dependent upon one another for life, and yet that Christ is our Head and without Him we can do nothing (see also John 15:5). Here we have a wonderful picture of the unity which Jesus prayed we would have (John 17:21-23) and a fulfillment of the picture that we are "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, Eph 2:21), with Christ since we are His Body and He is our head.

As I look at who we are in Christ, (His Body, Temple and Bride), and as I see God's sovereign plan from the beginning (to find a Bride for His Son, and a Temple for His presence), and as I hear the prayer of Jesus that we be in Him and that we be one even as He and the Father are one, I cannot help but feel an urgency to tear down our man-made divisions and embrace our identity as members of one Body, with one Head.

THE GLORIOUS MYSTERY OF GOD
This mystery is quite profound. One worthy of our awe. It is not my goal to explain or understand this mystery. One dear brother I shared this with recently said to me, "Let it continue to be a mystery in your heart" and that is my intention. This is a profound mystery and what we must contemplate is not how to make sense of it, but instead how to live out our part of it. How can we be one in Christ? How can we make Christ the head of our Body? How can we be the Temple of the Living God? How can we make ourselves ready for that glorious wedding day to come?

THE END IS THE BEGINNING
The last thing I see as I look at the symmetry between Genesis and Revelation is that all of History ends with a wedding. All that we have known, and all that we now experience is only the courtship. This is just the engagement phase of our life with Christ. One day we will become the Bride of Christ and be one with Him. Yet, a wedding is not the end of life, it is only the very beginning. God's Word ends with a beginning.

This is a very profound mystery, indeed.

**
kg

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

JESUS: PRINCE OF PEACE (3 OF 4)

The third article at theOoze.com is up now. Please read and comment here if you like.

Read Part 3 of 4
HERE

Blessings,
Keith

Friday, September 18, 2009

RESPONSE TO THE ACCIDENTAL ANGLICAN

Todd Hunter has been a mentor to me for several years now. I have known him for over ten years and I love and respect him and consider him to be a wise and sincere brother in Christ. My own personal epiphany concerning the Gospel of the Kingdom was the direct result of a series of phone interviews I did with Todd for an article I was writing for Relevant Magazine a few years ago. (These interviews are both on my main blog). Since that time he has encouraged me, and provided practical wisdom for me during times when I needed guidance or advice about matters of faith.

Todd was recently interviewed by Christianity Today Magazine regarding his newest spiritual adventure as a Bishop in the Anglican Church. Todd Hunter is someone who started out in Calvary Chapel, and who played an instrumental role in the formation of the Vineyard movement, and who left that expression to coach church-planters in the Emerging Church. For many who have called Todd their mentor, like myself, this new step Todd is taking towards liturgical, traditional church is a confounding one. I don’t think I can express that in terms that are strong enough to convey the real impact on people who have, like me, looked to Todd as a spiritual leader for all these years.

This article does a good job of addressing the question and Todd’s answers are clear, but there’s still a very real disconnect for why Todd would choose to abandon the more organic expressions of faith he's participated in previously for the Anglican tradition.

On some levels it’s really none of our business. Todd can do whatever he wants and, clearly, he feels a genuine calling from God to become an Anglican Bishop and plant liturgical churches in America. Just because I may not agree with him, or understand the logic, doesn’t mean that God isn’t actually compelling Todd to move in this direction. If we look at the Scriptures we can see numerous times when God asks men and women to do things that make absolutely no sense to those around them. I can relate to that as someone who felt called to leave the traditional church and plant a house church where 100% of the money would go to help the poor in our community. There were many who didn’t understand (and still don’t) and who openly opposed me, dared me to do it (and fail), and branded me a heretic for my actions and for my stand against hierarchy in the church. What matters is, “Is God calling?” and “Will you obey?” and in Todd’s case it’s all between him and the Lord. I for one am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

EQUAL TIME
Still, reading this article I cannot help but feel compelled to interject some thoughts into what Todd says about the liturgy and about the Emerging movement (of whom I am not a participant, although I am often lumped into this group due to the fact that I do not embrace traditional church practice).

As you read my responses to these quotes, please understand I do not intend these as criticisms of Todd Hunter, whom I love as a brother in the Lord. My responses here are meant to provide a counter-point of sorts to some of the things that are said, if for no other reason than to attempt something like “equal time” for those who find themselves on the outside of traditional church and have made a conscious decision to step away from any denominational identity or division in favor of following Christ alone. To quote Lance Lambert, “I could no longer be a Baptist. I could only be a Christian. Anyone who follows Christ is a member of me and I am a member of him because there is only one Body and one Family of God.”

TWO BIG PROBLEMS
In the interview, Todd Hunter mentions “two big problems” with the Emerging movement. (I have my own problems with the movement but we’ll discuss those at another time). Todd’s problems with the Emerging movement are:

“First, the emergents are so sensitive to issues of community, relationship, egalitarianism, and being non-utilitarian in their relationships, that evangelism has simply become a synonym for manipulation—a foul ball, relationally. If you and I were work colleagues and I built a relationship in which I could influence your journey toward Christ, that would be considered wrong in these circles. I cannot be friends with you if I intend to lead you to Christ. “

As Todd points out, the Emerging Movement isn’t something you can “broad-brush”. It’s much too slippery to get a handle on enough to make any real, substantial criticisms, (which is one of my problems with it, but I digress).

In Todd’s response I would tend to agree, as he states it, but I would also agree with those who feel it’s manipulative to make friends for the purpose of evangelism. I guess I would amend Todd’s statement to say, “I cannot be friends with you only because I intend to lead you to Christ.” It’s the recruitment motive that bothers me, and I think a few others, when it comes to targeting people as conquests rather than learning to love people no matter what their faith, or whether or not they eventually become followers of Jesus. I think what has to be intentional is our love of others, not evangelism itself. I believe in intentionally loving someone and praying for God to reveal Himself to them, but I do not believe in intentionally targeting someone simply to convert them to my faith.

One helpful question I believe we should ask is, “Am I willing to be someone’s friend for the rest of my life, even if they never convert to my faith?” If at any point in the relationship I would abandon the friendship and move on to a better prospect then, I believe, we’re not really fulfilling the Lord’s command to love others. Love isn’t conditional. It should remain and be sustained regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. Love should continue apart from agreement on matters of faith.

Todd’s second problem is the one I take the most issue with.

“Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn't moved forward because there's no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership.”

Where do I even begin to respond to this? Perhaps I am misunderstanding him. I don't think I am but if so, I look forward to apologizing later. However, as I read this it seems that Todd’s second problem with the Emerging faith isn’t based on their lack of spiritual fruit. He doesn’t say that, “…after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church you have to ask where the fruit is.” Instead, he has a problem with them for not building structures. He says, “…the normal building of structures and processes hasn’t moved forward because there’s no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership.”

Really? What we should expect to see from a healthy understanding of evangelism and leadership is an $11 million dollar church building? Not followers of Jesus who make disciples of others? Not a deeper love for Christ? Not the fruit of the Spirit but….”the normal building of structures and processes.”

The Church in America spends billions of dollars on itself every year. Mainly on the building of structures and the financial support of leaders. I would hardly call that “Church for the sake of others” as Todd often refers to it. That seems like Church for the sake of itself, to me.

I want to ask, “Can the Church be the Church, in all of its’ original Spirit-filled DNA of love for others and mission to the least, without buildings, or paid clergy?” I believe that if we look to the first 300 years of Christian history we will see that the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, the Church in most of the world today is more vibrant and missional and evangelistic than anything we see here in the West without any “normal building of structures and processes.”

If anything, I would question the use of the word “normal” in Todd’s response. What is normal? Shouldn’t the definition of normative Christian practice come from the New Testament? Why should the definition of “normal” come from our man-made human traditions? Isn’t that part of what Jesus was critical of the Pharisees about? (Matt 15:3-9)

I’ve already written at length about how the New Testament expression of Church differs from our man-made traditions. Simply put, the Old Testament prophesies that the Messiah would build the Temple of the Lord. (Zechariah 6, 2 Sam 7, etc.) When Jesus came there was already a Temple in Jerusalem. So, what did he build? In fact, Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem and prophesied that it would be destroyed (and it was) and that he would build it up again (speaking of the temple of his body). This was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus laid down his life for us and then resurrected from the dead. However, it was also fulfilled when his Body (the Church) was built into a house of living stones and a new temple of God was formed-(Eph 2:20, Heb 3:5, 1 Cor 3:16, etc.).

In the New Testament expression of faith, the new Temple is the Body of Christ, the Church. We are the only building God is interested in building. We are the new priesthood. We are the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (men and women, Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free). We are now the place where the Glory and Presence of the Living God dwells. Not in a house of stone built by men, but in a house of flesh filled with the Holy Spirit of the Living God. We are the fulfillment of the promise that one day no one will ever seek for the Ark of the Covenant, because it is now only an empty box.

“And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more" - Jeremiah 3:16

Why is the Ark no longer remembered or visited? Because the presence of Almighty God now resides in each and every one of us.

Why was the veil torn in two at the moment Christ said, "It is finished"? Wasn't it to seal the end of one expression (a physical temple and singular expression of God's presence) and the beginning of a new one (a living temple of human followers with an exponential expression of God's presence in each one of them)?

Why do we continually go back and repair the veil in the Temple?
The Church is not a building and we do not need a building to be the Church.
I believe it’s one of the most powerful and liberating truths of the Gospel of Christ, that you and I are the Temple of God and that there is no longer any need for any man-made temple to be built.

ON LEADERSHIP AND PRIESTHOOD
Of course, my disagreement with Todd’s theology also extends to a difference of opinion when it comes to leadership and clergy. Again, I probably don’t need to repeat my arguments here, but in essence the early church had no clergy class of Christian. Every baptized believer in Christ was empowered, authorized and expected to baptize new believers, share communion, preach the Gospel, and actively participate in the function of the Body. The first letter of Paul to the church in Corinth is pretty clear on the fact that there are many gifts which are given by the one Spirit to the Body for the building up of the Church. He does not say that there are many gifts given to one man for the healthy function of the Body (which is what we have in our traditional church today).

So, I find a few things to disagree with in this article, although I still love and support Todd Hunter and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that God has indeed called him to pursue this new direction.

I AGREE WITH TODD
What I agree with Todd about is that people today are looking for a faith to practice, not so much a religion to join or a church to belong to. Of course, not everyone feels this tug towards faith in practice, but I do see a large, and growing number of Christians gravitating towards the practice of authentic Christianity in their actual lives. As much as Todd fans that desire into flame I am with him and I support that activity.

I also agree with Todd on the concept of faith in Christ as the starting line and not the finish line. There is a very real need to change our culture in America away from salvation as a goal and towards salvation as the beginning of a life lived under Christ as Lord. For that I am with him as well and I applaud his efforts to change the way we think of evangelism, discipleship and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

I understand that Todd wants to use liturgy as a tool to help Christians understand how to live out their faith and practice following Jesus, however I think it’s better to allow them to understand their place as members of the priesthood of all believers rather than to be the one leader who does all the teaching, leading and modeling for them. At some point you have to allow the people to wear the vestments of a servant to one another – and even to you – in order to facilitate true discipleship and complete the circle of fellowship in the Body.

In the interview, Todd describes how he uses the liturgy as a tool to teach his church how to love and forgive- and this is helpful. (I think I was actually present the first time he did this). However, if you really want people to learn to love and relate to one another in the Body, I suggest that it’s better if everything they do is shared and relational, not just this one blip on the program where everyone says, “It’s time to be relational now”.

I also agree with Todd about the value of practical apologetics (our actual lives of faith in submission to Christ) versus verbal apologetics (engaging in debates with non-believers about who is more right or wrong). This is also something I can see we, as a Church, need to embrace more often. How we live our lives is very important. We are the “Proof of Concept” for the validity of our message. If we say, “Jesus loves you” but we’re not loving people ourselves, we make our message false. If we say, “Jesus can transform your life” but we ourselves are not any different from the world around us, we give people reason to doubt the validity of the Gospel.

I would also add that we cannot say to one another, “You are the Temple of the Holy Spirit” and then place so much emphasis on buildings and structures. We cannot say, “You are a member of the priesthood of believers” and then tell people they need a professional priest or clergy to embody all of the various gifts outlined in 1Corinthians 12. We cannot say, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all creatures, teaching them to obey all that (Jesus) has commanded” and then tell people to coerce their unsaved friends to come to us so that the Pastor can make a convert out of them. We cannot say, “Jesus is the head over all the Church” and then say, “Submit to the authority of your Pastor” when the New Testament tells all of us to submit to one another out of love and that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth.

CONCLUSION
This article was sent to me by someone who has looked to Todd for spiritual direction, like me, for many years. He has also expressed confusion over these new developments in Todd’s life. My response to him was that I have ceased looking to men for spiritual wisdom or guidance and I have begun to seek the wisdom of Jesus and to re-discover the New Testament.

I am still blessed and inspired and encouraged by many brothers and sisters in the faith, including Todd Hunter, but these days I’ve begun to understand that God really is capable of revealing His will to me, and to His Body, apart from special, holy men. God is powerful enough to guide us Himself, and I am very interested in being part of a Church that embraces Him as the Head, and the actual leader.

-kg

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

FOLLOW JESUS AND JOIN THE SCUM OF THE EARTH

“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” - 1 Corinthians 4:11-13

What does it mean to identify oneself with Jesus? In this passage, Paul paints a pretty stark picture of the Apostles as one’s who are dishonored, poor, weak and foolish. Then he goes further to describe himself and his fellow Apostles as hungry, thirsty, in rags and homeless.

Didn’t anyone explain to Paul the power of positive thinking? Why isn’t he using his faith to pray for riches and a new chariot? Why doesn’t he ask for an offering to be made so that he and the other Apostles could enjoy the finer things in life? I thought that Jesus wanted all of us to be rich? Yet, somehow, Paul and the other Apostles appear to be weak, humble, hungry and homeless.

I wonder what would happen today if our mega-famous Christian leaders took this approach to leadership? What if they became poor so that others might become rich? What if they went hungry so that others could eat? What if they became homeless so that others might sleep in comfort?

Even more, what if our high-powered Christian teachers, authors and celebrities today identified themselves as the “scum of the earth, the refuse of the world”? One obvious change would be that they might beat others to the punch, of course. But greater still, how wonderful would it be if it were literally true that our leaders were on the bottom lifting everyone else up?

Can you imagine how powerful it would be if even half of our Christian leaders actually took the yoke of a servant and made themselves nothing in order to identify with Christ and demonstrate the power of humble service to others? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could point to men and women of God who willingly sacrificed their own comfort and fame and power and position to empower their brothers and sisters in Christ?

In a recent article, Jon Zens questioned whether or not we can even fully comprehend the new testament, and the writings of Paul especially, apart from taking into account the suffering which he and the early church endured. He says:

“Paul wrote out of the context of anguish, tears, rejection by others, physical infirmity and imprisonment. Are we not deceiving ourselves to suggest that Paul’s writings can be properly handled outside of a cross-bearing atmosphere? Can hermeneutics be healthy in an environment where the interpreters are on “flowery beds of ease”? I doubt it.” – Jon Zens, From the article “Is Cross-Bearing A Precondition For Hermeneutic Activity?”

I think that, not only do we need to acquaint ourselves with suffering and cross-bearing to understand the New Testament, we also need to practice these things if we’re going to fulfill the New Testament and the commands of Christ.

“To this we were called, because Christ suffered for us on the cross, and His life was an example for you, we should follow in His footsteps.”-1 Peter 2:21

This is for me. I am called to follow in His footsteps. I am called to follow the example of His life. I am called to acquaint myself with suffering and to humble myself to serve others. Serving others in humility is what Jesus modeled for us. Paul, Peter, James, John and the other Apostles took their cues from Jesus and they also served the Body in humility and love.

A good friend recently read through a few of my older articles and caught me referring to myself as “the pastor of The Mission”. It helped me to see how my understanding of Church and leadership has evolved over the last few years, and yet how far I still have to go when it comes to being a servant leader in the Body.

Over the last several months I have managed to fade into the shadows at our House Church in many ways. It’s exciting to see how others step forward and take ownership as I drop back. But as I become more superfluous to the ongoing life and health of the Body I find my interest fading as well. Being “just another member in the Body” has been more challenging than I ever imagined. Suddenly no one needs me to function. I am no longer the source of direction or wisdom. As we lean more on one another, and especially as we learn to surrender to the Lordship and leadership of Jesus, my role becomes more and more ordinary. I’ve never really considered the implications of fostering a true “priesthood of believers” in our Body, and now I can see that it forces me to humble myself in ways I never imagined.

Can I learn to lead others from the background – or from the bottom? Can I step into the shadows and shine the spotlight on them? Can I be the sort of leader that Jesus was, and that Jesus calls me to be in the Body of Christ? I’m not sure. It’s one of those questions that I never expected to have to answer, and it makes me realize that, once again, I am an absolute beginner in all of this. I know nothing.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:3-8

To this point it’s nothing short of a miracle that the Mission House Church has survived my ego thus far. Time and again God reveals to me that I am still carrying the baggage of the old, traditional, man-made Church with me, even as I do my best to avoid it. The truth is that I am still far away from embracing the badge of honor that Paul claims for himself when he declares that he is the “scum of the earth, the refuse of the world”. I only hope that one day this could be truthfully said of me as a leader who lifts others up from the bottom.

Peace,
kg

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

JESUS: PRINCE OF PEACE (2 OF 4)

The second article in the series is now live over at TheOoze.com.

Check it out there and comment here if you like:
HERE

Peace,
Keith

Monday, September 14, 2009

PROOF OF CONCEPT

Definition: The evidence that a product, technology or an information system is viable and capable of solving an organization's particular problem. A proof of concept is often developed for new products that have not yet come to market.

At the core of the Gospel is the idea that a person can be transformed by the power of the resurrected Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit of the Living God to become a new creation; a person capable of loving the unlovely, forgiving the most vile and serving others as Jesus did.

In the early days of the Christian faith this theory was proven true in the lives of the disciples who suffered persecution without retaliation, shared everything they owned with people in need, and were known for their radical compassion, astounding love and uncommon inclusivity.

Somewhere along the way our message got circumvented, the idea of living ones' life after the pattern of Jesus became supplanted with a softer approach where one need only agree with a set of beliefs and doctrines in order to call oneself a "little Christ".

The fruit of that original tribe of Jesus followers was quite unlike the fruit we see of today's Believers. In the first few hundred years it was unheard of for a Christian to take another human life. In fact, we have no known record of such a thing occuring, even from Pagan sources. Today there are hundreds of such examples.

In the early Church it was unheard of for a Christian to ignore the poor. Today it's all too common for the Church to spend billions of dollars on new buildings and pastoral salaries and large-screen plasma screens, and give less than 2 percent of the offering to the poor.

In the early Church, no one was coerced to tithe or to give anything. They gave freely and with gladness to care for anyone who had need. In fact, the Christian church didn't institute a mandatory Tithe until nearly 700 years after Christ, surviving mainly on the charity of the people and being served by leaders who took no salary from the money received.

In the early church, Christians were primarily concerned with preaching the Gospel, making disciples and caring for the poor. Today, Christians are primarily concerned with gaining political power, promoting their specific local church, attracting new tithers and finding a larger building.

In the early Church there was no segregation of age, sex, race, music preference, ethnic background, or anything else. Everyone who named the name of Christ was immediately a fully functional and valued member of the Body of Christ.

In today's Church we separate children from youth, youth from singles, singles from young married and young married from the elderly. We also separate from one another by theology, doctrine, practice, worship preference, race, and style.

In the early Church the followers of Jesus were simple, humble and loving people. They did not politically oppose the oppressive Roman government or pagan religions of the day. Instead they chose to rebel by living counter to their culture and learned to live radical lives of love within the community.

In the early Church, there was no one place where the Church could be located because they did not see the building they gathered in as sacred or holy. Instead, they saw that they, themselves, were holy and sacred by the Blood of the Lamb and the trasformative power of Christ.

In the early Church there was no one special day when they stopped what they were doing to worship God. Instead they gathered daily to break bread, fellowship, and devote themselves to the teaching of Jesus. To them, worship was seen as a way of life where each Believer continually submitted themselves to Christ as a living sacrifice.

In the early Church, Love was the only Law. They were not concerned in any way with amassing wealth, becoming politically powerful, changing laws, or selling products with their church name, cross, or scripture verse attached.

In the formative stages of this Christian faith it was the proof of concept that convinced people that the Gospel was true, and in spite of the high cost of following Jesus, many hundreds of thousands of people risked everything to identify with Christ.

The proof of a concept is something that must be demonstrated outwardly for everyone to see. If it cannot be demonstrated, it is rejected as false and another concept must be found which can accomplish the task.

Our lives as followers of Jesus prove, or disprove, the truth of the Gospel. When it comes to the Christian faith, people are looking for a proof of concept and, so far, they’re not very impressed by what they see.

-kg

Saturday, September 12, 2009

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY...?

CLEARING UP CONFUSION- On my blog and elsewhere I often identify myself as “a pastor who doesn’t take a salary at a church where 100% of the offering goes to the poor in our community”. Some people have been confused by this and I felt it was about time to address these questions.

What do you mean by ‘Pastor’?
I mean this in the most New Testament way possible. I have the spiritual gift to pastor the Body. This means I do what I can to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ and I care for and encourage their spiritual development.

It does NOT mean that I preach or that I am the CEO of our Church. In fact, I never preach anything and we all practice the priesthood of the believer. So, when I refer to myself as a "Pastor" I mean that I, like many others in our Body, have a gift from the Holy Spirit to serve the Body as a foot-washing equal.

What do you mean by ‘Offering’?
I mean that we have a basket at the back of the room and randomly people will place their offerings in this basket. We do not pass the basket or observe an offering time. If people give they give, if they do not that's between them and the Lord. We do not keep giving records and we also do not give tax exemptions (since we also are not a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Wendy and I started this house church because we felt a calling to plant a church where 100% of the offerings could go to help the poor in our community. For the last 4 years we've seen giving increase exponentially - not because we've emphasized giving or taught on giving - but because people can see for themselves that every penny they give is going to help and bless actual people in need every week.

Why aren't you a non-profit?
Well, we know many house churches that are. In fact, nearly all of them we know of are registered with the State as a non-profit organization. Our conviction is that we do not need the State or any Government body to declare us a Church. We're a Church because we are called by God and we have placed Him at the Head of our lives.
Secondly, we feel strongly that Church is not meant to be a business, therefore we have no need to operate as one. Furthermore, since we have no expenses to "write off" there's no point (or benefit) to us for being a registered non-profit organization. All of the money that comes in goes right back out to help buy groceries or help people in need.

If you want to know about the Mission House Church and how we function I've posted an MP3 from a recent House Church weekend where I answered questions in detail.

The message, "House Church: How it Works" is available as a free MP3 download at the link on the lower left sidebar.

For any other specific questions, please email me directly at "elysiansky" (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Blessings,
Keith

**

Friday, September 11, 2009

GUEST ARTICLE: Alan Knox

NOTE: I've posted a slightly edited version of Alan's brilliant article here. For the complete article be sure to visit the direct link below.
-kg

**
AND THEY DEVOTED THEMSELVES
by Alan Knox

Acts 2:42 is often called a summary verse concerning the early followers of Jesus Christ. Luke records:

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." - (Acts 2:42 ESV)

Luke says that the believers were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. This does not mean that they were “devoted” to listening to what the apostles were teaching. Instead, it means that these early Christians were continually persevering in living according to the message that the apostles taught, as well as continuing to fellowship (share life) break bread (eat together), and pray.

Think about it this way: If the phrase “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” conjures up an image of people sitting around listening to the apostles teach, then the translation is NOT communicating the image to you properly.

On the other hand, if you read that phrase and picture the early believers attempting to live their lives in accordance with the message that the apostles taught, then you’re understanding what Luke wrote.

We see that Luke helps us understand what he means in the following verses:

"And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." -(Acts 2:43-47 ESV)

This passage demonstrates how those early believers lived according to the gospel (the apostles’ teaching), and how they shared their lives and their meals with one another. On the day of Pentecost, God did not create individuals who loved to sit and listen to teaching. Instead, God created a new community who now lived new lives – lives that were not lived for themselves any longer. Instead, they lived their lives for God by sharing their lives with one another and with the world around them.

The world noticed...and the world found favor on this new community and new way of life.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT ALAN'S BLOG
HERE

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NEW ARTICLE AT GINKWORLD.NET

My article, "It Shall Not Be So Among You!" is up now over at the new and improved Ginkworld.net.

Read the article and comment
HERE

Thanks,
kg

LOVE ONE ANOTHER - MP3

Two new sermons are now live:


LOVE ONE ANOTHER

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

Blessings,
kg

JESUS: PRINCE OF PEACE - Part 1 of 4

My four part series of articles, "Jesus:Prince of Peace" will be running every Tuesday over at www.theOoze.com.

Part one is up now. You can read it
HERE

Please take a moment and leave a comment (for or against) as this is intended to inspire thoughtful dialog on the subject.

Thanks,
kg

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SERMONS ON MP3

My friend Bob Moffat has kindly uploaded a handful of my sermons online for your edification and spiritual encouragement.

There are currently 12 sermons on various topics
HERE


Titles
1 Conversatio Morem 44:20
2 Finding the Cross 40:55
3 The Fullness of His Love 33:03
4 Get in the Game 38:04
5 The Gospel: For here or to Go? 32:40
6 House Church: How it works 50:29
7 Hunger and Thirst 30:51
8 Missional Life 41:59
9 My Spiritual Journey 51:42
10 The Church Jesus Built 33:31
11 The Gospel of the Kingdom 40:12
12 Worship and Justice 34:08

*Two sermons are pending:

13 Love One Another
14 Love Your Enemies

I hope these encourage and edify you in your walk with Christ.

NOTE: To avoid confusion let me explain in advance that most of these sermons are several years old. So when you hear them introduce me as a pastor on staff, please understand that I am no longer an on-staff, paid pastor at any church, including my own.

Peace,
Keith

Friday, September 04, 2009

WHY ART?

I've submitted an article to a friend's blog on Art and Faith called "Art and Why?".

Jake Doktor and I once, briefly, wrote for Relevant Magazine. Since then he and I have been kindred spirits, although we've never spoken on the phone or met in person. In fact, I don't even know what he looks like. Still, he is a good friend and a dear brother in the Lord.

I'll let him finish the story on his blog, and then you can read the article and see what else he's got going on over there.

Jake's blog is:
HERE

**
About the blog: Art and Why?

This blog will explore the basic of question of WHY ART?
What is it that chokes you up in a movie, song or in front of painting?
Why do you make art? Write songs?
Whats your favorite painting, sculpture, poem, scribble?

The big WHY of why do we make this stuff? Why do we read this stuff? Why do we look at this stuff?

I conjecture that if we talk about the WHY long enough we will move beyond talking about art and start talking about things like, LOVE, PAIN, NEED, ACCEPTANCE, LONELINESS, COMPASSION, HOPE, BEAUTY etc.

Find out more and share your thoughts at
http://artandwhy.wordpress.com/

**

FYI- If you live in Orange County, please be sure to drop by the St. John's Lutheran Church presentation of SEEDS Art Show, featuring my sister in Christ, HEATHER WRIGHT. She will be painting live in front of the church on Sunday evening at 6:30pm. Come join us and our house church family as we support Heather and her incredible gift.

-kg

Thursday, September 03, 2009

ALL THE NOTHING I HAVE COME TO KNOW

God has been speaking to me loud and clear lately and teaching me so many new and wonderful things. The main thing He is teaching me is that I know nothing. In fact, the more He shows me, the more I am convinced that I am a spiritual midget among giants of the faith.

So, as a teacher and a writer, how do I share with you all that God is teaching me? How do I illustrate all the nothing that I have come to know? How can I express to you how little I know about God's Spirit and how He speaks to us? How can I write about how little I've learned about what God is doing in my life right now? Or how I know nothing about where He's taking our Church? Or how I have no idea what He's doing in my own family? Or in my own life?

I don't know.

But, apparently, the amount of what I do not know is great. This leaves room for God to do more than I expect, more than I imagine, more than I can anticipate. If I knew what God was up to, I'd be able to predict His movements or move in concert with His steps. Instead, I'm fumbling around on the dance floor, flubbing my steps, ruining the choreography, and publicly demonstrating my ungraceful qualities.

I'm used to dispensing the truth. I've created the illusion that I have all the answers. Yet, the more I know, the more I know that I really know nothing at all.

Here's what I do know (and it's not much so don't worry about writing any of this down):
God is at work in His Church today.
He loves everyone.
He is purifying His Bride.
He is coming soon.
We are His Body.
He wants us to submit to Him as our Lord, our Leader, our Husband.
I know nothing.

Many of you have known the true depths of my foolishness for a long time now. Thank you for loving me in spite of this. Others have done your best to loudly proclaim my lack of wisdom and I'm sorry that I wasn't able to hear you. You were right. I am hardly qualified to speak with any authority whatsoever. Only the Word of God has authority. Only God's Spirit is True. Only Jesus is Lord. I am nothing.

It's a funny thing. I used to believe that, once I knew everything I would be happy. Yet now that I have come to accept that I really know nothing at all, I am more happy than I've ever been. I mean, I'm a dope. A complete numbskull. A cotton-headed ninny-muggins. And you know what? I'm so thrilled to confess my stupidity to all of you. The pressure is off. I no longer need to perform or deliver or meet anyone's expectations. Why? Because we all know that I don't know anything, really. And now we're all on level ground.

I'm a child of the King. He loves me. He knows I don't know anything and He still loves me. He's put up with me so far, and many of you have as well. I'm so blessed. I'm so loved. Praise God for His wonderful revelation! I know nothing.

I am no different from you. I struggle with my pride. I fail miserably on a daily basis. I disappoint myself often and I am far from the model servant of God. Honestly, I truly need a constant conversion. I need to die daily to myself. I need to put to death my flesh and submit myself to God for wisdom and hope and life and truth and grace and, most of all, for love.

I'm not a super christian. I'm not a prophet. I'm not a spiritual giant or a minor christian celebrity. I'm not even internet famous. I'm just Keith. I'm a guy sitting at a laptop in the dark typing stuff that people read and once in a blue moon I fart out something that God uses to bless someone. Glory to God.

If and when I come to the end of my life, I can only hope that God can find something, anything, that honestly and truly brings Glory to Him and helps to advance the Gospel of the Kingdom. By the Grace of God, I hope and pray this is true.

So, I say all of this to admit to the world that I am nothing. I am empty. I am a fool. If you must place your hope in something, or if you must place your trust in someone, let it be Christ, Jesus. Make Him your everything. Read His Words. Put them into practice. Love others. Love God. Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk in humility.

But, don't take my word for it. I know nothing.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

ARE THE SISTERS FREE TO FUNCTION?

An Exploration of Paul’s Concerns in 1 Timothy 2:11-15
By Dr. Jon Zens

**
NOTE: I have published a severely edited version of this article here in order to convey the main points of Dr. Zens’ teaching on this topic. If anyone would like the entire 27 page document I would be happy to send it via email. Contact me at elysiansky@hotmail.com with the subject “SILENT SISTERS” and I will send it to you free of charge.
**

In the history of the church 1 Timothy 2:12 has been used unrelentingly as a proof-text to swiftly and decisively squelch the ministry of women in fellowships.

My examination of the evidence has brought me to question the traditional use of 1 Tim.2:12 to silence female believers. If the “silence” use of 1 Tim.2:12 rests on very questionable assumptions, then women in the body of Christ have been put under an unfounded bondage based on a serious misinterpretation of a critical passage of scripture.

Everyone admits that 1 Tim.2:11-15 is attended with difficulties at every level – contextual, cultural, linguistical, grammatical and conceptual. Nevertheless, it would seem to me that for those who truly desire light from God’s Word, sufficient light can be uncovered to show that the traditional understanding of 1 Tim.2:12 is riddled with dubious assumptions and even prejudices. If this is true, then it truly has been used to abuse half the priesthood of believers. The evidence is such that Bible teachers and church leaders would do well to re-visit the common application of 1 Tim.2:11-15, which may be misguided and unwarranted.

**
Why Was 1 Timothy Written?

The purpose of 1 Timothy is stated by Paul in 1:3-4 – “As I urged you upon my departure to Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain persons to neither teach differently, nor to pay attention to myths and unending genealogies, which stir up questions rather than furthering the stewardship of God in faith.” “The key to understanding the letter,” Gordon Fee notes, “lies in taking seriously that Paul’s stated reason in 1:3 for leaving Timothy in Ephesus is the real one; namely, that he has been left there to combat some false teachers, whose asceticism and speculative nonsense based on the law are engendering strife, causing many to capitulate to the false teaching.”[2]

1 Timothy is not a church manual for a pastor. It is a mandate for an apostolic assistant to deal with serious issues involving false teaching in Ephesus. Unfortunately, some women had become involved in this problem.

The Immediate Context of 1 Timothy 2:11-15
In terms of the basic structure Paul used in this section (2:1-15), we can note the following (I have tried to follow the Greek closely in translating the verses in 1 Tim.2:1-15):

The same Greek word, hesuchia (quietness), is used in verse 2 with reference to all believers leading a quiet life, in verse 11 with reference to a woman learning in quietness, and in verse 12 with reference to a woman being in quietness. The word simply does not mean “silent.” Verse 2 obviously does not envision us leading a “silent” life, but rather a life in which we are not known as rabble-rousers. Thus, any Bible version that has the woman in “silence” (2:11-12) reveals some level of bias, is a very inaccurate translation and leaves an impression upon the mind that is not from the Lord.

Apparently this congregation in Ephesus was riddled with false teaching and there was some level of disorder going on. One can appreciate, then, why Paul would emphasize prayer among the brethren and then elaborate on the world-wide salvation purpose of God in Christ (vv.3-7).

The implicit contrast between prayers in Christian assemblies and those in Jewish synagogues must be underscored. Jews in the first century were under Roman rule. Their synagogue prayers focused on the destruction of their Gentile enemies, not their salvation. Paul, on the other hand, exhorts the assembly to intercede on behalf of those in civil power and for the salvation of people all over the world.

Key Observations On 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Truly, I am a debtor to all the hard work others (listed in the “Suggested Sources”) have done in trying to understand these verses. Along with some possible insights that I have come to see, in most cases I am just calling attention to some foundational points that they have unearthed through diligent research. I’m going to structure my comments by contrasting the traditional view with some correctives that seem warranted.

1 Tim.2:11 – “Let a woman learn in quietness in all submission”

Traditional View: The word hesuchia has been taken to mean “silence,” meaning that women are not to speak in assembly meetings. “All submission” is taken to mean that females are to be passive receivers, not active participants.

Correctives:

**Hesuchia means “quietness,” not “silence.” Further, in 1 Tim.2:2 the stated goal is for all believers to live a “quiet” life. In 1 Thess.4:11 Paul instructs all the brethren, “strive eagerly to be quiet, to do your own business and work with your own hands.” The apostle tells those believers who are not working “to work with quietness and to eat their own bread” (2 Thess.3:12).

**Since “quietness” is to be a quality of all the saints, if Paul mentions that a woman needs to learn in quietness, wouldn’t that imply some special circumstance that required this instruction? Is it not clear from the context that the males needed a dose of quietness too, as they were manifesting “wrath” among themselves (v.8)?

**The fact that hesuchia does not mean “silence” illustrates the careless use of Scripture by those who with full confidence and dogmatism cite 1 Tim.2:12 as an end to further discussion.

** “In all submission.” Again, the New Testament clearly teaches that “submission” is to be an attribute of all believers, not just the sisters.

--Rom.13:1,5 -- every person is to be subject to the civil authorities.
--1 Cor.14:32 -- the spirits of the prophets are subject to [under the self-control of] the prophets.
--1 Cor.16:15-16 -- the brethren are to submit to those who lay down their lives for others.
--Eph.5:21 -- all Christians are to mutually submit to one another in the fear of Christ.
--James 4:7 -- we are all to submit to the Lord.
--1 Pet.5:5 -- “all of you, be subject one to another.”

**We must ask, do only women learn in all submission? Do men somehow learn in a different way, without submission? Aren’t “quietness” and “submission” necessary qualities in order for anyone to learn? If this is indeed the case, then are we not warranted to suggest that there must have been a problem with some women, or a woman, which accounts for why Paul would issue this special directive?

** “Let a woman learn [Greek, manthano]…” We must not forget that learning in the early church was not male-driven and pulpit-centered. It was a body experience in which all participated. We have already seen that both men and women are free to prophesy (Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor.11:3-5). Paul made it crystal clear in 1 Cor.14 that he wanted prophecy from both genders to be central in the gathering. In 1 Cor.14:31 he directs the saints in this manner: “you may all [males and females] prophesy one by one, so that all [men and women] may learn [manthano] and all may be encouraged.” In the New Testament even singing results in teaching and admonishing (Eph.5:19; Col.3:16).

**

1 Tim.2:12 – “But I am not now permitting a woman to teach with the goal of dominating a man, but to be in quietness.”

Traditional View: This verse is taken as an always-binding command by Paul that women are not to teach men, which if done would be a wrongful usurping of male authority. Instead of teaching, women are to be in silence.

Correctives:

**First, it must be pointed out that there is no command (imperative) from Paul in this text. The wording in the King James Version, “I suffer not a woman,” can certainly sound like a command, but it isn’t. Instead, it is a simple present tense, “I am not now permitting a woman….” This could imply a shift in Paul’s strategy because of the problems that existed in Ephesus. Timothy had worked with Paul for years and was not used to hearing restrictions on the sisters from Paul. But now Paul announces, “I am not now permitting a woman….”

**Considering the background of the assembly in Ephesus will be helpful in this regard. Read Acts 18:34-20:1 and you’ll see that Paul spent three years there. This was his longest tenure in any city during his journeys. With this background in mind, we can surmise that during his years in Ephesus – approximately 54-57AD – the sisters were functioning along with the brothers in a fashion similar to the meeting described in 1 Cor.14. It was not Paul’s habit to put restrictions on the sisters. However, things changed when false teaching crept in and some women were involved in the aberrations. As a result, at this time some six years after he left Ephesus (approximately 63AD), Paul must announce to Timothy, “I am not now permitting a woman to teach….”


**Two infinitives. When Paul says, “I am not now permitting a woman,” he follows with a neither…nor construction involving two infinitives, didaskein (to teach) and authentein (to have one’s way with, to dominate). It must be asked, how are the two infinitives to be correlated? Philip Payne and others suggest that the best fit is that of goal or purpose. In other words, Paul in this Ephesian situation where some women were propagating error does not want them to teach with the purpose or goal of having their way with (or dominating) a man. Payne sees the closest English parallel to how these two infinitives are employed to be our idioms: hit ‘n’ run, eat ‘n’ run, hence, teach ‘n’ dominate – to teach with the goal of dominating (with false teaching). It is this specific type of teaching that Paul is not permitting.[26]

**There is only one use of the verb authenteo in the New Testament and it is the infinitive authentein in 1 Tim.2:12. Traditionally it has been translated as, “nor to usurp authority over the man.” This view assumes that the very act of a woman teaching a man is inherently a wrongful deed that violates male headship. But the Bible nowhere substantiates such a notion.

--Deborah, a Prophetess, Judge and Wife, sat by her palm tree and made judgments as men and women came to her for counsel in applying the Mosaic law to their lives (Judges 2:16-19; 4:1-5:31).

--King Josiah sent a male envoy to the Prophetess and Wife Huldah after the Book of the Law was discovered. She gave them (and ultimately, Israel) the word of the Lord (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chron.34:22-28).

--Further, we know that Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more perfectly to Apollos in their home in Ephesus (Acts 18:19-26). The assembly in Ephesus also met in the home of Priscilla and Aquila where we can safely assume she had some edifying things to say.

--When males and females prophesy in a gathering, Paul says that “learning” is one of the outcomes. Thus, brothers and sisters are constantly learning from one another. In this sense, it is clearly not wrong for women to contribute to the “learning” (manthano) of males.

If there is a divine law that women-teaching-men is sinful, then there can be no exceptions. But there is no concern in this regard expressed in Scripture, and there are clearly cases where women taught men. In Romans 12:6-7 where Paul is listing some gifts, he mentions “prophesying” and “teaching.” There are no gender restrictions here – both men and women can be involved in such activities. There is nothing inherently evil in women-teaching-men, but it is a problem when women teach error, or teach with a view to dominate men. Of course, the same concerns hold true if males teach error or teach with the goal of dominating others!


CORRECTING ARTEMIS WORSHIP
**Reflecting on the background of the Ephesian assembly will be helpful at this point. The Temple of Artemis was a massive structure and was the focus of religious attention in Ephesus. Her Latin name was Diana. Her temple was then one of the seven wonders of the world. The effects of this woman-centered religion were pervasive. A significant share of the cash flow in this city was connected to the sale of idols and religious objects. Paul and his associates were in Ephesus for three years. It is likely that some of the converts to Christ were women who had been in the cult of Artemis, which included the practice of temple prostitution. Many ladies in Ephesus would be female-centered in their outlook on life. The influence of the gospel reached the point where many believers were confessing their past evil activities and burning their occult books publicly (Acts 19:18-19). A riot almost erupted, but at stake was the honor of the female god – “Artemis is the goddess that everyone in Asia and the whole world worships”….They all shouted the same thing for two hours: “Great is Artemis of Ephesus” (Acts 19:27,34). N.T. Wright provides this excellent summary of religion in Ephesus and the “why” of Paul’s instructions in 1 Tim.2:11-15:

There are some signs in the letter that it was originally sent to Timothy while he was in Ephesus. And one of the main things we know about religion in Ephesus is that the primary religion—the biggest temple, the most famous shrine—was a female-only cult. The Temple of Artemis (that's her Greek name; the Romans called her Diana) was a massive structure which dominated the area; and, as befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women. They ruled the show and kept the men in their place.

Now if you were writing a letter to someone in a small, new religious movement with a base in Ephesus, and wanted to say that because of the gospel of Jesus the old ways of organizing male and female roles had to be rethought from top to bottom, such that the women were to be encouraged to study and learn and take a leadership role, you might well want to avoid giving the wrong impression. Was the apostle saying, people might wonder, that women should be trained up so that Christianity would gradually become a cult like that of Artemis, where women did the leading and kept the men in line? That, it seems to me, is what verse 12 is denying. Paul is saying, like Jesus in Luke 10, that women must have the space and leisure to study and learn in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis cult, but rather so that men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching, and leadership God is giving them (“The Biblical Basis for Women’s Service in the Church,” an address given at St. John’s College, Durham, England, at the CBE Conference on September 4, 2004).


Such background material aids our understanding of 1 Tim.2:9-15 at least in the following ways:

--We can see why Paul was concerned about female modesty in v.9. The Artemis influence which included the superiority of women ideology out of which some of the sisters came would contribute to dressing habits that were far from modest.

--This helps us understand why a woman influenced by the feminist Artemis cult could “teach with the goal of dominating a man.”

--We can then appreciate why women under the spell of false teaching would need to learn in quietness.

--“Adam was formed first” has a real punch with Artemis in the background. The Diana-cult taught that Zeus and the Titaness Leto had twins and the female came first – Artemis originated before Apollo.

--We can then understand why Paul would stress that Eve was “deceived.” The Artemis religion glorified women as superior to males. Paul punctured the Artemis balloon in two ways – Adam was made first, not woman; Eve was not superior to man for she was deceived into sinning against God.

--Verse 15 is mysterious indeed, but the Artemis backdrop may provide some light. This helps us understand why Paul would mention help in childbirth through faith in Christ. The women in Ephesus looked to Artemis for help during the childbirth process. “As the mother goddess, Artemis was the source of life, the one who nourished all creatures and the power of fertility in nature. Maidens turned to her as the protector of their virginity, barren women sought her aid, and women in labor turned to her for help”[29]. “She [singular] will be saved through the childbirth” could also suggest the thought that even though Eve was deceived, God still promised in Gen.3:15 a seed (child) who would crush Satan’s head and bring salvation (cf., Rev.12:4-5).

1 Timothy 2:14 – “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

Traditional view: Verse 14 shows that serious problems arise when women take the lead. Paul does not want women to teach because they are more easily deceived than men. Women are more prone to wander into error. Therefore, the teaching role has been left in the hands of males.

Correctives:

**The idea that women are more prone to error is based on a key faulty assumption – that females are inferior to males when it comes to spiritual discernment. The history of the church – in which women were removed from the picture – illustrates to the hilt that males are very susceptible to conjure up, propagate and fall into error. Most false teaching has originated with and been spread abroad by males.

** “Isn’t Paul using Eve as an example of what can go wrong when women usurp the male’s leadership role? . . . . This view is without scriptural support. Eve was not deceived by the serpent into taking the lead in the male-female relationship. She was deceived into disobeying a command of God, namely, not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She listened to the voice of false teaching and was deceived by it.”[30]

** The notion that females are more capable of being deceived than males is shown to be false by observing that Paul applies the Eve-deceived model to an entire Christian congregation (2 Cor.11:3). The possibility of being deceived is not a problem peculiar to females.

** “The language of deception calls to mind the activities of the false teachers at Ephesus. If the Ephesian women were being encouraged as the superior gender to assume the role of teacher over men, this would go a long way toward explaining 1 Timothy 2:13-14. The relationship between the sexes was not intended to involve female domination and male subordination. But neither was it intended to involve male domination and female subordination. Such thinking is native to a fallen creation order (Gen.3:16).”[31] Why would we want to take our cue from the curse-ridden words, “your desire will be your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen.3:16)? That is a simple description of sin’s implications for the husband/wife relationship. Wouldn’t we want to be informed instead by the redemptive implications of Christ’s cross and resurrection, and the pre-fall relationship of Adam and Eve to which Jesus appeals in Matthew 19:4-6?


The Gospel Applied to Cultural Situations

A major concern uttered by some is that if you don’t see a passage like 1 Tim.2:11-15 as an expression of “timeless truth,” are you not on a slippery slope that leads to truth being relativized? The answer to this concern is a resounding, “No!”

The New Testament letters were written in response to specific problems in various cultures. Steve Atkerson observes, “Everything in the New Testament is called an ‘occasional document.’ There was some occasion, usually a problem, that motivated the author to write the book.”[32] What is wrong, then, in noting that in 1 Tim.2:11-15 Paul brought gospel truth to meet the needs of a concrete situation in Ephesus? Here is a summary of how that truth was applied:

--Usually the sisters and brothers functioned together in the participatory meetings of the assembly. Because of false teaching that had infected some women, Paul announced that some should be learning in quietness, not teaching with the goal of dominating men.

--It is not right for a woman or a man to teach with the goal of dominating others. In Christ’s kingdom no one is to dominate anyone else. “You are all brethren.” No clergy. No laity. No honorific titles. No elevation of some above others. If anything, give honor to the parts least esteemed.

--The mandate to have dominion over the earth was given to both Adam and Eve. They were not to seek dominion over each other, but to carry out their stewardship of the earth as a team. Females are not superior to males as was taught in the Artemis religion of Ephesus.

--Just as Eve had been deceived by Satan’s false teaching in the Garden, so some women in Ephesus had been deceived by the false teaching that was making the rounds.

--Many women in Ephesus looked to the goddess for help and guidance regarding the issues of virginity, fertility and childbirth. Paul directs godly women to look to the Lord Jesus.

The truth is, in most cases we have just bits and pieces of information about what was behind many apostolic statements in the epistles. Often it is hard to know exactly what question was being answered or what problem was being addressed. We are, as it were, hearing one side of a conversation. But such issues do not keep us from either profiting from the New Testament, or discerning the Lord’s mind. The Holy Spirit teaches us the mind of Christ. However, we do have to confess in humility that there is a great deal we will always struggle with to properly understand.

There are cultural matters in the New Testament which we have to face. In 1 Cor.11:1-16, for example, you have some gospel perspectives brought to bear upon some cultural issues like head coverings. Some people conclude that head coverings are still binding; others see them as a cultural item that we are not required to emulate in our day. 1 Tim.2:8 mentions men praying with uplifted hands. Do we teach that male prayer is invalid unless the hands are lifted up? Would 1 Tim.2:9 lead us to confront a sister who donned some jewelry that contained some pearls or gold? Based on 1 Tim.5:9, would we tell a 57-year old widow in need that we couldn’t help her for three years until her 60th birthday? Why don’t we “greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Thess.5:26)?

The New Testament was written in the first century and many culturally-rooted issues appear on its pages. Because of this are we to conclude that it is all “cultural” and contains no relevant “truth” for us today? No, rather we affirm that the gospel is brought to bear on many Jewish and Gentile cultural matters that impacted the early Christian assemblies.

As we, being New Covenant believers, approach any topic or concern, the key perspective for us must be, “you have heard him and have been taught in him, just as truth is in Jesus” (Eph.4:21). The fundamental truth about sisters in Christ is that they are free to function. There is no revealed emphasis on universally applicable restrictions to their service in the kingdom.

Conclusion

Evidence has been presented to suggest that the traditional understanding of 1 Tim.2:11-15 rests on some very shaky assumptions, and some fundamental misunderstandings about what Paul actually said. Difficulties found in these texts are often glossed over by those who use them to muzzle female ministry. It is time for honest Bible students to revisit 1 Tim.2:11-15 and to separate reality from fiction. Those who simplistically wave 1 Tim.2:12 as a proof-text to silence women had better be careful that they do not incur the dreaded millstone by hurting Christ’s little ones (Matt.18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).

In terms of what actually happened in history, I think Bart Erhman puts his finger on another huge factor in the marginalization of women in the church – the movement from simplicity to institutionalization.

Women played a prominent role in Paul’s churches, as missionaries and leaders; moreover, Paul maintained that in Christ the distinctions between male and female were obliterated. But Paul did not advocate a social revolution for women; instead, he insisted that men and women maintain their distinctive gender roles . . . . Women may have enjoyed more prominent roles in the Christian communities early in the movement’s history because churches met in the home, women’s sphere of influence. When churches acquired a more public character, however, men appear to have asserted more fully their gender claims and removed women from positions of authority [33]


SUMMARY

1) 1 Timothy 2:11-15 says nothing about women being “silent.”
2) There is no command (imperative) in 1 Tim.2:12 connected to women not teaching. Paul uses a simple present tense, “I am not now permitting….”
3) The infinitive, authentein, does not mean “to exercise authority over.” The two infinitives, didaskein and authentein, are best correlated together as purpose or goal, thus translated as “I am not now permitting a woman to teach for the purpose of dominating a man.”
4) Some key elements in 1 Tim.2:11-15 are clarified and elucidated by considering the pervasive influence of the Artemis cult in Ephesus: (a) women coming out of a goddess-based religion would need to be reminded concerning modesty in dress; (b) the need for a posture of learning on the part of some women because of the influence of false teaching; (c) because of the female-centeredness of the Artemis religion, it can be appreciated why a woman would teach with the goal of dominating a man; (d) because the Artemis cult believed that males originated from the goddess, it can be understood why Paul would point out that Adam was formed first; (e) because women were viewed as superior in Ephesus, it can be appreciated why Paul would mention that Eve was deceived into sin; (f) while many women looked to Artemis in connection with fertility and childbirth, Paul directs godly women to Christ as the promised Seed who was promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15.
5) When the ekklesia began on the Day of Pentecost the first thing that was mentioned concerned males and females prophesying together. Women and men prophesying are mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor.11:4-5. In 1 Cor.14 Paul wished for prophecy – from the whole assembly – to be central. Thus, to use 1 Tim.2:11-15 as a basis to completely silence the sisters in Christian assemblies is hardly an accurate way to handle Scripture. It uses one context to cancel out the revelation of many others.

May we have grace and humility to search the Scriptures together in order to see what is indeed really so!
**

FOR FURTHER STUDY - If you're interested in studying this issue further, I'd like to encourage you to obtain this set of 4 DVD's which contain 3.5 hours of instruction. They are filled with insight and presented in a respectful, Christ-like spirit. You may not be persuaded by every point that is suggested, but you will be challenged to search the Scriptures to see what is really so.

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