ChurchETHOS

Small Group Disciple Making

Posted in body of Christ, discipleship, small groups by Nathan Creitz on December 3, 2009

What is the most effective environment for making disciples?

Some answer that question by thinking in terms of location (home, church, coffee shop) or size (large groups, small groups, one-on-one).

However, if those were the only two qualities of an environment (location or size) I would have to say “it all depends”. Instead, I think it is important to consider the gifting and experiences of the one who is making disciples. If a person is called to preach then perhaps a large gathering is one in which the disciple maker excels. If the disciple maker is gifted in the area of hospitality, perhaps the home is the optimum environment. In other words, the most effective environment for making disciples is determined by the skills and temperament of the disciple maker.

Having said that, I think I can answer a similar question: “What is always an effective environment for making disciples? The short answer is “in a small group setting.” A smaller setting is ideal for the majority of Jesus’ followers to exercise their gifts and show love to one another. I would go so far as to say that every follower of Jesus should be involved in a small group.

“Are All Teachers?”
(see 1 Corinthians 12)

For one thing, not everyone in the church is called to preach. Not everyone is called to fulfill the apostolic vision of church planting. Not everyone is called to teach a Bible study. Not everyone is called to be involved in Christian counseling. These are all valid ministries in the church and can be useful in making disciples, but how will the majority of people become disciple makers? After all, Jesus didn’t say, “All who are in professional ministry, go and make disciples of every nation…” Instead, Jesus challenges all His followers to make disciples.

So what will be the context in which the majority of disciples will make disciples? Will it be in the pastor’s counseling office? in the pulpit? The majority of disciple makers will make disciples in their homes, around the table, in a coffee shop, or in the park. It will be informal, rather than formal. It will be organic rather than organized. Not all are called to teach, but all are called to love.

“The Proper Working of Each Individual Part…”
(see Ephesians 4)

The small group setting also allows for the deployment of the church members to love and serve one another. The hired ministers weren’t hired to do all the caring and loving and serving of the church, they were called by God to equip the members to do the caring and loving and serving of the church. Sure, they must model and train others and sometimes that is done in a formal way but the goal is to engage everyone to do the work of the kingdom.

In a small group there may be a facilitator or group leader, but through conversation and the sharing of life, each of the members becomes a disciple maker. One member is struggling with an important decision, the other group members help her think prayerfully and carefully about that decision. Another group member has suffered a tragic loss, the other group members know him well enough to know how to care for him in the way he needs to be cared for. One group member has a theological question, the other group members help her to think Biblically about that question and they provide insight into where she can turn to find answers.

No one person is the Bible Answer Man, or the Professional Counselor, or the Life Coach. Instead, everyone in the group is able to contribute in full recognition that the Holy Spirit is there with them and is guiding the times of discussion and listening and prayer.

“Jesus took the 12 disciples aside privately and said to them on the way…”
(see the Gospels)

Finally, as I have studied through the New Testament I have seen a compelling argument for all disciples to be involved in a small group: Jesus’ first and closest disciples were a part of a small group! Jesus spent much of His time investing in twelve men who shared life with Him. I wonder if the reason we don’t spend more time with a smaller group of people is because of an American Christianity that says a one hour service once a week is enough to show our commitment to God.

The point of Jesus’ small group was to equip a few people until they were ready to be deployed to take the Gospel to the rest of the world. He multiplied His ministry through His small group. He preached to the crowds and that laid some groundwork for the disciples to later become leaders of the church. He healed and comforted and cared for thousands of people, but if it hadn’t been for His small group, Jesus’ ministry would’ve died with Him on the cross. There would be nothing left behind to prepare the world for His Second Coming. When Jesus rose and appeared to His disciples He spent 40 more days training them. He even forgave Peter for his betrayal and re-instated him as a leader.

So, I may be called to preach, and I may have some counseling skills that I can use to make disciples, but I believe small group ministry is always an effective way that any disciple can be involved in making disciples.

Related Post:  The Call to Follow Jesus ::  Making Disciple-Making Disciples

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A Gathering Church

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, fellowship by Nathan Creitz on May 6, 2009

img_2299What should Christians be doing when we gather together?

There are all sorts of people who want to know the answer to that question:
– Non-Christians who are wondering if there’s anything to this following Jesus business.
– Ex-Christians who are leaving the church because their time with other Christians seemed like a waste.
– Christians who are sitting in seats looking at the back of people’s heads wondering if there’s more to the Christian life.
– Pastors who are scratching their heads wondering what happened to all the people.

I’m sure there are others demanding answers and I understand where each of these groups is coming from. There are also other questions that we should be asking: How often should Christians get together? Where should we meet together? How long should we be meeting together? Who should lead our times together? Should anyone be leading anything?

The operative word in all of these questions is “should”. (You thought it was going to be “together” didn’t you?) We all know something is wrong. We all know there’s something missing. Something needs to change! What is it? What is it that should be? Doesn’t the Bible talk about Christian fellowship, brotherly love, you know, all those “one anothers”? We are missing the mark in our interdependence and interconnectedness with one another and something should be done about it.

So, what should Christians be doing when we get together?

We should be Loving one another

If there is someone in your church fellowship that you refuse to talk to then YOU have a problem. I don’t care what he or she did, if you know there is a wedge between the two of you then you are being disobedient to God if you aren’t attempting to reconcile with them.

If something comes between me and my wife I don’t give her the silent treatment indefinitely…we work it out. There are too many people who refuse to worship with other Christians because they’ve got a problem with someone else in the body. That is a big problem.

Colossians 3:14 says, “Above all, put on love – the perfect bond of unity.” The “above all” refers to the short list of things we should be putting on as Christians: hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, etc. Those are the sorts of things we express to one another because of our love. Love wraps all those other gifts into a beautiful package that can be given away daily to our church family.

We should be Praying for one another

Praying for one another sounds easy doesn’t it? I think most Christians know that when we get together somebody needs to pray. I hate when I’m asked to pray simply because I’m ordained. Like I have some special connection with God that no one else has. We think the Model Prayer in Matthew 6 goes something like this:

Our Father who art in heaven,
bless Tom’s half-sister Ethel.
And for my toenail
that’s now ingrown
it hurts as it has all day.
Give us today our daily desires
and be with all people
as all people have need of prayers from us.
For yours is the ability
and the responsibility
to take care of us forever. Amen.

Okay, I kind of feel bad for being sarcastic about the way we sometimes spend our prayer time in our church gatherings…I’m over it.

We have to stop spending all of our prayer time praying for those twice removed from us. God’s desire is that we pray for His kingdom and glory. That’s priority one! Praise him, exalt him, ask him to use you to advance his kingdom, etc. A close second to that is praying for one another. Open up! Share what God is doing in your life. What spiritual challenges are you facing? Where are you being tempted? Finally, after you’ve spent 98% of the time praying for God’s glory and for one another, now if it’s important to ask for prayer for Tom’s half-sister Ethel, then I guess you are free to do so.

Praying for Ethel is safe because it doesn’t expose our inner turmoil. We might actually have to admit that we don’t have everything together. That’s hard, but we aren’t truly praying for one another if we’re only praying through a laundry list of people and problems who aren’t sitting in the room at the moment.

Be an adult and share!

We should be Caring for one another

To care for one another means we have to know one another on a deep enough level to know each other’s needs. A Christian should always be asking this question: What needs am I uniquely positioned by God to meet today?

picture-13Maybe you are meant to meet the needs of your spouse or children, your neighbor, your friend, your pastor, or your student. Maybe you have the ability to meet a financial need. Maybe you have the blessing of time that you can give to someone. Maybe you are able to listen or teach or advise or encourage or give joy or build or share or volunteer or sing or cook or hold a hand or repair or provide a shoulder. Find a need. Meet a need.

We should be Trusting one another

My friend Mark recently gave me a point to ponder. He asked, “Have you ever thought about how Jesus got the disciples to trust one another?” We had been talking about how at least two of the disciples had political views of hatred towards the Romans and then there was Matthew who had sold out his fellow Jews to work for the Romans – collecting taxes no less.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a whole lot of glimpses at the interpersonal relationships of the disciples other than the arguments they got into and the times Jesus had to correct their foolishness. Sounds a lot like us doesn’t it? Regardless of our political or cultural or generational outlook, we need to learn how to trust one another. It takes time, it takes vulnerability, it takes effort, it takes Colossians 3:12-17, it takes a lot but it’s worth everything we put into it.

We should be Challenging one another

I’ll give you another sentence from Colossians 3: “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” (v. 15) I also love Hebrews 10:24-25, which says, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other…”

picture-3So, our meetings are characterized by encouragement, concern for one another, prompting each other to love and good works, and consistency according to the writer of Hebrews. The first verse from Paul to the Christians in Colossae says we are to teach and admonish one another, which is how the “Word of Christ” becomes richly indwelt among us. This includes a sermon that a pastor might give to everyone but it also includes a timely word, rebuke, encouragement, or advice between two or three friends.

Conclusion: A Vision for the Church

So how long and how often should we gather together? Where should we be meeting? When? The answer is, wherever and whenever and as long and as often as it takes to truly and deeply connect with each other as described above.

If you think you can accomplish all of the above in only one hour a week, or if you think you should be getting all of the above in only one hour a week, then you don’t understand what it means to follow Jesus. However, that doesn’t mean an hour or two with a large gathering of people isn’t important – far from it.

Imagine groups of three or four or ten or eleven or however many Christians coming together throughout the week praying and caring and trusting one another deeply, consistently, faithfully. They call each other when they are having a crisis. They can’t wait to share good news with their small group of fellow believers. They connect with each other often because they love each other. They’ve become family.

Now, when all these interconnected groups of loving, caring, praying people gather together with other small groups of loving, caring, praying people there is really a cause for celebration. They don’t just show up for a Sunday song and sermon, they are expecting God to challenge them and move them and change them. The “Sunday service” is valuable because people who are sharing the experience of fellowship are coming together to lift up their voices and worship God…together.

There are too many people throwing away the one hour Sunday service because it is meaningless and lifeless to them. They never realized they were supposed to live a life of discipleship beyond 12PM on Sunday. The answer isn’t to give up on that one hour, the answer is to give a few more hours and commit yourself to fellowship with other believers.

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You can also find this post at smallgrouptrader.com.

A Going Church

Posted in body of Christ, christian habits, discipleship, missiology by Nathan Creitz on April 28, 2009
image courtesy of txd

image courtesy of txd

Most Christians in America are overwhelmed.

The typical Christian in America works 50+ hours per week and sleeps about 50 hours per week. That leaves about 68 hours to spend on everything else: family, friends, hobbies, exercise, cooking, eating, housework, watching TV, playing video games, homework, lectures, and – oh yeah – God.

Our culture is on the move. A typical church attending Christian doesn’t want to spend more than an hour on Sunday spending time with other believers. In fact, many Christians have the perception that they go to church instead of recognizing that they are the church. As a result, church has become a place rather than a people, an hour rather than an identity, and an obligation rather than a privilege. The Christian begins to view their responsibility to church as the minimum set of requirements necessary to be considered a “regular”.

There are a lot of ways we can simplify our lives so that we can spend more time with other members of the church. I want to explore that in more detail in a forthcoming post entitled A Gathering Church. Meanwhile, how are we to perceive our role in the world?
#Should there be a secular vs. sacred dichotomy in our minds?
#Should we feel guilty if 95% of our time is spent in the world and only 5% is spent in “sacred” activities?
#How can we move from “regular attender” to become a faithful follower of Jesus (regardless of how much or how little time we spend in a church building)?

#How can we be the church when we aren’t with the church?

I’m Glad You Asked

Too many Christians are not asking those questions. If you are one of the few who is genuinely asking questions like these then you are on the path of a disciple. You are learning what it takes to truly follow Jesus. Keep asking those questions and others like them. Now let me see if I can provide some thoughts on the matter.

A church that merely packs out a church building for an hour each Sunday with regular attenders may look successful but is in fact disobedient to Christ. If the leadership of a church isn’t calling its members to costly discipleship then it is ignoring one of the most central teachings of Christ. We aren’t called make converts or church attenders, we are called to make disciples. But where do we look for new recruits (so to speak)?

A Church on the Move

In the Matthean Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus tells his followers, “As you are going, make disciples…” Every pastor has pointed out this nuance that “Go” is not the command because it is a participle and it means “as you are going”. In other words, this isn’t new stuff but it is a very important point: “Make disciples” is the command. Jesus commands his church to be on the move. It’s hard to escape from the busy pace of the American lifestyle, so let’s take advantage of the fact that much of our day is spent with unbelievers.

We are on the move because we are Americans and we are the church because we are Christians. So, as we go about our daily activities, let’s keep in mind that we are ambassadors for the kingdom of God. It’s kind of silly to think that we would try and be ambassadors only when we are in the walls of a church building during “holy hour”. America doesn’t send out ambassadors to America, they send ambassadors to places and people that need to hear the message we have to communicate. In the kingdom of God, our role in the world is to go to the people that need to hear God’s message of love and truth. We are going anyway (job, gym, restaurant, store, etc), so why not fulfill Christ’s commands “as you are going”?

Following Jesus 9 to 5

I once waded through every single verse in the gospel of Mark to determine where Jesus spent his time. Jesus spent most of his time on the seashore and in the marketplace with business people. Coming in as second to spending time with business people, Jesus spent his time with his disciples. Then, Jesus spent time in homes, and finally he spent time in the temple complex. So, in order of importance Jesus spent most of his time in the marketplace, then with his disciples, then in homes, and finally in the temple complex. Jesus made disciples as he was going.

We are called to be the church, not just when we are with other believers, but significantly we are called to be the church when we are not with other believers. It’s easy being the church with like-minded friends, but discipleship wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for Jesus’ original Twelve was it? We don’t just choose to be disciples when it’s easy for us. Peter and John said they considered it a privilege to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41) Suffering was one of the core values of the early church. We will never experience the kind of suffering of the first disciples, so can we not have enough boldness to share with a co-worker or a friend about our relationship with Jesus?

We freely talk about our spouse, our children, our pets, our hobbies, and our interests, but not about our God?!

Misplaced Priorities

The reason God never comes up in conversation is because we have misplaced priorities. Our job is something that is of absolute necessity so that we can pay the bills and eat meals. We forget that we are a child of the King. He is the source of our needs and He has placed us in our jobs and in our circles of friends to share God’s love with others. That is why we are employed: not to make money but to make disciples. Rather than view the workplace as a mission field for making disciples, too many Christians just try to get through the day so they can collect their paycheck and go home, never thinking about what “as you are going, make disciples…” might mean for their lives.

The church needs to develop the habit of calling its members to follow Jesus. Our leaders are often not willing to challenge the church to go beyond regular attendance at worship gatherings. Success for a church is not in filling a building on a weekly basis. Success is determined by how many lives are being transformed. It’s about quality not quantity, depth not width. Followers of Jesus recognize that church gatherings are pointless if the church is never going. But when the church is a going church, the church gatherings are that much better!

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Related Post: My Top Concerns for the Local Church

You Might Be a Milk Drinker If…

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, discipleship by Nathan Creitz on March 3, 2009

milk-bottleMy walk with God recently has taken me through Hebrews and I was struck by a passage in chapter 5 and 6 that caused me to ask the following question:

“Is the church developing milk drinkers or meat eaters when it comes to spiritual maturity?”

Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3 talks about spiritual maturity. It says that we Christians ought to be cooking up solid food but instead we are consuming the breast milk of the church. Christians are meant to mature, to grow up. So how about you and me? Are we advancing on to finger foods or are we stuck breastfeeding?

From this passage in Hebrews, I’ve realized that you might be a milk drinker if…

…you aren’t maturing!

Again, the analogy here is a new Christian who won’t grow up. We are meant to mature. The role of the leaders in the church is to see to it that the body is growing. Colossians 1:28, Paul says, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Maturity means spiritual growth and health.

The same word for “mature” could be interpreted as “perfect”. Don’t let that scare you though. The idea is that we are healthy. Health is the normal way of life, sickness is abnormal. When we are sick, we take action to be cured. Sickness debilitates us. It keeps us from work or school. It makes us groggy or lazy. When we are spiritualy healthy and when we are maturing, we are in the normal state of being.

Whatever analogy you use, whether a baby growing to adulthood or a sick person becoming well, we should be seeing spiritual growth in our lives!

…you aren’t leaving!

Hebrews 5:12 says “you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation.” Then, chapter 6 verse 1 encourages us to “leav[e] the elementary message about the Messiah.” This implies that we don’t need to relearn the basics (though a review every now and then doesn’t hurt). Instead we are moving on to more advanced principles.

The image in my mind has to do with a classroom. Once we’ve taken elementary Algebra we shouldn’t have to take it again and again. It’s time to move on to advanced Calculus or Trigonometry (I don’t even know what those things are, but you get my point).

…you aren’t bearing!

That is, you might be a milk drinker if you aren’t bearing fruit! Let’s return to the baby analogy. An eleven year old should be helping with the chores in the house. A 30 year old should be earning a living or caring for other children and not living at home with mom and dad. But, if an eleven year old or thirty year old is still trying to fit a round object into a square hole, chances are something is wrong developmentally. As we mature, we also begin producing. As a Christian, this means that at some point we need to begin bearing fruit. Eventually, we begin caring for other Christians who are new in their faith.

…you aren’t discerning!

A mature Christian is able to distinguish between good and evil according to Hebrews 5:14. Spiritual maturity brings discernment. We can all look back at our teenage years and know that we didn’t always have the best judgment. We all know that we could’ve avoided a lot of trouble if we had listened to our elders. The problem is, if you are a milk drinker, you probably can’t discern that you are spiritually immature. That’s why it is important for the leaders in the church to take steps to present “everyone mature in Christ.”

…you aren’t teaching!

Are you teaching anyone anything? This is a scary diagnostic for spiritual maturity because probably 80% of church attenders aren’t doing any teaching of anyone. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you’ve got to preach on Sunday morning or lead a small group every week. Those are important roles in the church, but there are other ways you can be a teacher. Some people mentor a teenager. Some people work with the children and teach them about God. Fathers can set an example by teaching their families. Some teach new Christians, others teach nearly Christians, while still others are doing their best to reach and teach anti Christians. We engage in discipleship, evangelism, apologetics, etc. and these are all forms of teaching. So, again, are you teaching anyone? Is there someone in your life in whom you are investing?

The writer of Hebrews was very clear, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food.” Members of the church should take note that we don’t leave the teaching to the hired “professionals”. Leaders of the church should take note that our job is to unleash the gifts and resources of the whole Body of Christ. We are to equip everyone to teach, to serve, to give, and to reach out to the world around us. Everyone in the church should be maturing to the point where he or she is able to sit at the table and eat the steak of God’s Word and not just the milk.

So pull up to the table and bring out the main course…I’m getting hungry!

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“In the Beginning” by Henri Blocher

Posted in body of Christ, book review, christian thought, discipleship, theology by Nathan Creitz on December 8, 2008

41fjpd8hg1lHenri Blocher is a Professor of Theology at Wheaton College. His book: In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis is both helpful and informative. It is academic, yet accessible to those of us who aren’t specialists. Blocher does a masterful job of explaining not only the purpose of Genesis, but also deftly maneuvers the controversial difficulties that have arisen especially in the modern era as science has advanced.

In Chapter 1, Blocher talks about the approach to Genesis. Dominating the discussion is the question of whether to approach Genesis literally or figuratively. Before reaching his conclusions, however, Blocher spends some time talking about the role of science in the interpretation of Scripture. Blocher presents the main approaches to this question: Concordism which seeks to rectify science with the Bible, “anti-scientism” which is Blocher’s view of creationism (the alternative to evolutionary theory), and fideism which seems to suppress the issue altogether. Blocher proposes a new way that allows science to “serve” our approach to studying Genesis, but not authoritatively. God’s Word is the authority and Blocher tries to take the positive advances of concordism, anti-scientism, and fideism and use those positives to help understand the book of Genesis. When he concludes the chapter talking about the literal or literary interpretation of Genesis 1, the reader can see that this is a unique story unlike any other story ever written.

Chapter 2 is a specific look at the week of Creation and it is Blocher’s view that the seven days are a literary device used to show the framework of God’s creating act. He writes, “The proofs we have given [in chapter 1] of the author’s careful structuring of his material would be enough to warn us not to suppose that the sevenfold shape is either imaginary or incidental.” (39) In this chapter, Blocher approaches four major interpretations of Genesis 1 in order of probability. Opponents may disagree, but the order in which Blocher organizes the probability of these theories begins with the reconstructionist theory as the least probable. This theory believes God reconstructed His creation after the fall of the devil. Next comes the concordist interpretation which is the idea that the days in Genesis 1 are ages or geological eras. Thirdly, Blocher deals with the literal interpretation that says the days are literal 24 hour days. Finally, Blocher believes the literary interpretation to be the best and he spends the rest of the chapter making the case for this interpretation.

Chapter 3 is about the content of Genesis 1. Rather than focusing on the framework and what that means, Blocher encourages the reader not to lose sight of the real purpose of Genesis. He suggests that if we get too caught up in science and creation then we may forget all that God is communicating to us. We can be distracted from the fact that God created ex nihilo, we can forget the work of all the members of the Trinity in the act of creation – including the Spirit, we can forget some of the characteristic nature of God (like He is a God of peace, not of disorder), etc. It is important to consider the purpose rather than just the conflict with modern science when we study Genesis.

Chapter 4 has to do with the Image of God and how humans are image bearers, unique among all the animals in their relationship with God. Blocher first makes sure we are sufficiently humble in our understanding of being “in the image of God”, in that we are “only an image.” “Mankind is infinitely lower than his Creator.” (82) With that humility as the backdrop, Blocher then turns to the privileged status we have over the rest of creation and talks about what it means to be made in the image of God.

In chapter 5, Blocher writes about the relationship between man and woman. The man and the woman are different sexually, with differing roles and yet they are connected. He treats “from the rib” as figurative language for their connectedness and relationship with one another Blocher supports this assertion when he says, “The Arabs apparently use the expression ‘He is my rib’ to mean ‘He is my close friend.'” (99) Blocher concludes the chapter by talking about the institution of marriage and that “the charter of marriage is summarized in Genesis 2:24” (108), that is, at least implicitly.

Chapter 6 focuses on covenant. Even though that word doesn’t exist in Genesis 2, Blocher believes it to be of primary importance for understanding that chapter. The outline of the covenant is found in the text according to Blocher. “Eden is the covenant gift.” (120) The two trees in the garden become “the chief provisions of the covenant agreement.” (121). “You shall surely die” is the penalty for breaking the covenant. This outline implies a covenant between God and Adam.

Chapters 7 and 8 deal with the breaking of the covenant and the penalty for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Blocher suggests that at the heart of their disobedience was the desire to claim autonomy. This disobedience “overthrows the created order.” (154) As a result of breaking the provisions of the covenant agreement, Adam and Eve must die. However, they don’t “cease to be” as is our normal understanding of death. Instead, our understanding of death must “broaden and diversify”. It is not mere physical death but it is of a spiritual nature. Blocher writes, “As soon as the disobedience is committed, the beauty and harmony of existence is shattered, and in their place come shame, fear and pathetic excuses.” (173) Their death is a result of their “claim to be like God in their autonomy.” God curses the man, the woman, and the snake and sends them out of the harmonious existence of Eden (the covenant gift).

Finally, Blocher concludes in chapter 9 by talking about the nature of the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden. Much is written here about Adam and Eve’s son Cain who killed his brother Abel. “Sin proliferates along with mankind.” (197) but God is merciful and though it seems that only God’s justice is on display in the opening chapters of Genesis there is an element of grace. For one thing, Blocher writes that God kept Adam and Eve from eating from both trees because that would’ve been unthinkable. He hinders the completion of the Tower of Babel by confusing their language. This is to prevent the unthinkable from happening. Therefore, God’s justice is merciful. But ultimately, it is through the promise of the seed of the woman that we see the grace of God on full display.

Blocher concludes with a very helpful appendix on “Scientific Hypotheses and the beginning of Genesis”. Several scientific theories are given and this appendix helps to show that there is some harmony in science and the Bible. Taken together, every chapter of this book is both descriptive of events as found in the opening chapters of Genesis and relevant for many of today’s controversies surrounding those chapters. Blocher’s work is a commentary on Genesis that is helpful to the pastor, the theologian, and the general laity.

Tithing Ethos: The Habit of Giving in the Church

Posted in body of Christ, christian habits, church reform by Nathan Creitz on November 12, 2008

20-dollar-bill-new-front-back

Some argue that tithing is not a New Testament Church concept. Others believe that if you are a true Christian you will set aside 10% (or more) of your income each paycheck to give to your local church. Most, on the other hand, feel caught somewhere in between. Regardless of your position on the matter, there is a study that shows a disturbing trend among American Christians concerning our giving. The study specifically deals with tithes in and through the church and I’m sure there is lots of giving that is done through other means (at least I hope so). Nevertheless, the information is troubling and we need to take a serious look at the habit of giving in the church.

But should we make the church a clearing house for all of our charitable giving? Is tithing, or giving of any kind in the church, mandated by Jesus and/or the apostles? What if your budget doesn’t include room for a tithe one month? Does God forgive you that debt? Or should you pay Him back later?

Seasons GREEDings

To begin with, let’s look at all the reasons Christians don’t tithe regardless of whether they believe it is encouraged by Jesus or the apostles. According to this study, there are five primary reasons for the fact that “the wealthiest national body of Christian believers at any time in all of church history end up spending most of their money on themselves.”

Basically, Christians in America don’t give because of:
€. Institutionalized Mass Consumerism.
(Translation: Greed, Worldliness, Selfishness, Independence, Christmas)
£. A lack of pastoral teaching on giving.
(Translation: Lack of communication / Pastor is scared of sheep)
$. A confusion about purpose, meaning, and expectations of giving.
(Translation: Lack of communication)
¥. A lack of trust in the elders or the institution of the church to spend the money wisely.
(Translation: If they spend it, it will be wasted…If I spend it, I will be able to buy 367 Starbucks coffees this year.)
¢. The privatization of the topic to the point that no one is held accountable in their finances.
(Translation: Lack of communication / Laziness / Embarrassment for our own greed)

It seems that greed and a failure to communicate are the two biggest reasons people don’t give. The study also confirmed that the 80/20 rule is still at work in our churches. In this case, 20% of the members are giving 86.4% of the total donations to the church. The average giving from all Christian church members comes out to about 2.9% of their total income being given to the church. What do we do with the rest? With Christmas just around the corner I’ll let you figure that out for yourself. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Help Me Spend My Money, Pastor!

One really interesting part of the research was what could be accomplished if people did tithe a full ten percent. In fact, if only the “committed” Christians (as defined in the research) would give 10% of their income there would be an extra $46 billion dollars a year for kingdom work in the American church alone. Again, regardless of whether or not you think people should tithe or that the church will actually be faithful to spend that money wisely…just think what that kind of money could do. A few examples given in the research reveals what that much more money could provide: food, clothing and shelter for ALL 6.5 million current refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East or enough resources to sponsor 20 million needy children worldwide. Is that what the church would spend the money on? Who knows? But it illustrates what could be done if American Christians were more generous.

Legalistically Tender

But none of that addresses whether or not we should tithe from a Biblical standpoint. Is tithing an unnecessary habit for those of us who do our best to tithe whether or not we think we’ve got the money to spend? Or is tithing a necessary habit for those who have given nothing to the church for years and just expect all pastors to have big inheritances that allow them to preach and teach for free?

Yes and No!

I refuse to answer those questions legalistically. I think the possibilities of what could be done if more people gave more to the church is a compelling argument for giving through the church. But should it be ten percent? I’m actually going to come right out and say a big fat “No” on that one. Should we give? Absolutely! But how much? That’s between you and God…but I would suggest that you talk about it with someone else too. The Bible doesn’t clearly mandate a tithe today but I think there are some people who know God is challenging them to increase their giving but they refuse God because of their selfishness. Take, for example, the story of the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus and said he had kept all of the commandments of God. Jesus perceived his heart and told him to go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Certainly we don’t believe THAT’s what we need to be doing is it? Probably not, but the point is that Jesus knew the man’s heart and knew his greed and corruption. Some people are very generous people and don’t have a problem here…but others need to take a deep look at their spending habits.

How Much Does It Cost?

Maybe instead of thinking we have to tithe ten percent to the church we should consider that everything we have belongs to God and is a blessing from God. Maybe we should take a look at our monthly expenditures and make two columns: “Spent on Me” and “Spent on Others” and see which one is smaller. Maybe we should ask the question, “Does my spending reflect my love for God and love for others or does it just reflect my love for myself?” Maybe we should become more transparent in our churches about our finances: pastors faithfully teaching, members faithfully responding, Christians holding one another accountable, etc. Maybe we need to first ask “What does the Bible say about money in general?” and then decide prayerfully about how much money, time, resources, and talents we should give to the church. Maybe we should be asking, “How much does it cost to follow Jesus?”

In the end, I believe the Bible tells us to give sacrificially. Sometimes we do that through the church. Other times we see a need and give to it. The Bible teaches a lot about money and giving so we don’t have to be stuck in a debate about tithing (notice I decided not to quote Bible verses for or against in this post. Study it for yourself!). Let’s simply give to the causes and to the people that mean the most in our lives and not just store up treasures for ourselves. No need for rules here, like what percentage is Biblical or do we tithe on gross or net income, etc. But when God’s love sweeps us away and we have a passion for the world and for the family of God we can’t help but give generously and sacrificially to others.

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Cultural Relevance

Posted in body of Christ, christian habits, christian thought, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on November 7, 2008

Before I publish the second part of my book review on Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today by John Stott, I wanted to address a habit that I’ve seen percolating in the Church today. Stott suggests that for a preacher to be relevant, we must understand the Word and the world. We need to be “bridge-builders” with one foot in the ancient world and one foot in modern culture. Seminary teaches a lot about how to understand the context and culture in which the Bible was written. We learn Hebrew and Greek so that we can understand the historical, grammatical, and lexical data of the text.

But how do we get a better understanding of modern culture? How do we connect with people and share with them the truth of God’s love?

I think the answer is obvious but too many people think they know the answer and that the answer is to watch more movies, wear cool glasses and hats, sip frothy lattes, and immerse themselves in CNN and the New York Times. I love what Ed Stetzer had to say today. He said, “Seems like everyone wants to be missional but when they say “missional” they really mean “edgy,” “innovative,” or “contemporary.” We want to connect with the culture but we are going about it in the wrong way. 

Before I give THE answer to the question, “How can we better understand and connect with culture?”, let me first point out the pitfalls that many of my Christian brothers and sisters are falling into:

Watch What They Are Watching

Watch more movies, that’s the answer! Right? TV and movies can provide a glimpse into the thinking of the culture. Movies like Religulous show us how Christianity is perceived and points out some of our own faults as well. Movies like Napolean Dynamite generate a cult following that has glamorized the life of the nerd. TV shows like Friends and Sex in the City have influenced culture and have changed the way we think about sex and relationships. Pop culture influences general culture but that’s not all there is to it. 

Let me be clear: Watching more movies will not make Christianity more relevant to the world. Today, a guy named Nick quoted John Piper who encourages us to “turn off the television”. We are wasting our time watching hours and hours of TV and we are justifying it by saying we are trying to understand our culture. I’m not suggesting that movies don’t provide some insight and that we should throw away our TVs. My wife and I have Netflix and watch about one movie per week (which is probably a lot by some standards). I watch a couple of news videos online about five days a week (that way I don’t have to watch the stories that are of no interest to me) and we might watch one or two shows a week on TV. Our TV is probably used a grand total of 4 hours per week. We don’t even have cable. 

I’m not asking for a pat on the back. I said all of that to say that I like what Erwin McManus says about being a connoisseur of information rather than a consumer. In an age of information and sensory overload we have to limit our intake to a few choice servings so that we don’t get so saturated with information that we can’t make sense of it all. My wife and I try to spend time with friends, play games, go for walks, etc. rather than just let the TV do all of our entertainment. That way, we don’t have to make excuses for the amount of time that we waste on TV by saying “we’re trying to understand the culture better.” I’ll never understand culture better if I just let culture happen on the screen in front of me.

Understand What They Are Thinking

Another way people try to get a pulse on the culture is by studying philosophy and world-views. This is of definite interest to me as a thinking Christian and enjoy reading and discussing this stuff all the time. I like to study other religions and compare and contrast that with the Bible as an exercise in discipline. I try to engage my mind and the minds of others as I read both Christian thinkers and secular philosophers. But this isn’t the answer either.

Is it helpful to understand postmodernism and how it differs from modernism? Is it helpful to study the various generations (millenials, boomers, busters, etc.) and how they act and think? Is it helpful to compare world-views and study various religions? Should we have an understanding of politics and global interconnectivity? Yes is the answer to all of those questions. These are helpful things to know but they are not necessary for understanding culture. A follower of Jesus can relevantly reach out to the culture without ever hearing the term “postmodern” much less study it and be an expert on it. A person can engage culture and never think through the characteristics of a postmodern world-view. 

Condemn What They Are Doing

One other way people try and engage culture is by yelling at them. I don’t see Jesus holding any signs by the side of the road cursing people for their sin. Yet, there are people who don’t care to watch the “devil’s box” or try and understand what the culture is thinking. They would rather “engage” culture by simply bashing a 50 pound King James Bible over their heads and condemn them all to hell. Many of these “Christians” seem to have little concern about what people need. They prefer to keep the world at arms length and believe they are holy and blameless and are doing God’s work by shouting at people about their doom. Is there ever a time when we should confront someone on an issue that we know is displeasing to God? Yes, but I believe the best way to do that is in the context of a relationship, which brings us to THE way to understand and connect with culture:

Share Your Life With Them

If you are a thinking Christian and you are concerned about the ethos of the Church (that is, the habits and the way of life of God’s family and the character and reputation that we have with those outside the Church) then you have probably already intuitively guessed the right way to understand the culture around us. It’s simple: Share your life with them! That’s right, you have to know people. The best way to understand culture is to build relationships with your neighbors and co-workers. Go to parties, participate in school activities. Don’t do it with some ulterior motive to win them to Christ. Simply get to know them. Enjoy the relationship. Don’t try and perform or convert. Be yourself. Listen to their hopes and fears and dreams and convictions. Share with them your hopes and fears and dreams and convictions. Be a friend. Laugh and cry with them.

Colossians 4:5 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Stop wasting your time “brushing up” on culture through stuffy books and pointless movies. Plant your foot firmly in the Word of God and the other foot firmly in the world in which you live. Live out your convictions and your faith but don’t push people away. Think Christianly about your relationships. Relationships take time and people want to know that you care about them and not just about getting another convert for Jesus.

It’s interesting that In Luke 10 Jesus says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. When asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. A person from a different culture and a different world-view helps a man who is in need. He sacrifices his time, money, and maybe even reputation by helping this man. When the religious leaders pass by on the other side, it is the Good Samaritan who stops and helps. Jesus spent a lot of time with “tax collectors and sinners” and he was rejected by religious leaders as a result. He did it, not to understand them or to be like them, but to love them and to develop a relationship with them. Shouldn’t we do the same? Let’s determine how we should act and what habits we should form by what Jesus said and did. How did he become relevant to culture?

Jesus was relevant because he was relational. Share your life with others. Love God and Love People. This is the WAY we should LIVE.

Related Post: What is ChurchETHOS?

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The Challenge of Preaching Today

Posted in body of Christ, book review by Nathan Creitz on November 5, 2008
This is Part One of a book review of the still timely work by John Stott entitled, Between Two Worlds.

After months of discussing the relevancy of preaching I have decided to write a book review of one of my favorite books on preaching. This book was written in 1982 but still has importance for important questions we have about the validity of preaching. People are asking, “Does preaching still connect with people today?” “Have preachers overstated their own importance and role in the life of the church?” “Where in Scripture do we find preaching that is exhortational in the church as opposed to evangelistic preaching in the marketplace?” The book Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today goes a long way in making the case that preaching is a God-ordained vocation that is still essential to the building up of the body of Christ today.

A Historical Sketch of Preaching

John Stott is the Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London. He has been an Anglican and an evangelical almost his whole life. He has written over 50 books and has been a major leader in evangelical Christianity. [Source

In the first chapters of this book, Stott describes the glory of preaching. From the prophets of the Old Testament there has always been the man of God singled out to preach God’s Word. This sweeping sketch of the history of preaching invokes both a sense of humility and confidence in any would be preacher. The confidence comes first in that this is an historic calling that God himself calls men to preach and that we may stand with centuries of faithful men and women who have refuted error and stood for truth. This confidence is in the glory of those who have come before us. He quotes Charles Hodge who said, “In every age, great reformers have been great preachers.” Today there is still such a need and God still chooses broken vessels like us. Stott also quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “The preacher should be assured that Christ enters the congregation through those words which he proclaims from the Scripture.” I’m not sure that there are too many people today that still believe such a controversial statement.

After a deep confidence that is in the majesty and glory of God that is displayed through preaching must come humility. Stott makes sure the preacher understands that “The ‘message’ is God’s own Word. For the people have not gathered to hear a human being, but to meet with God.” A preacher doesn’t preach his own message but preaches the Word of God. He is a herald that proclaims not a lecturer that postulates. Richard Baxter is another one of the preachers Stott highlights. Baxter was successful in converting almost his entire town to become disciples. He was systematic in his catechizing of every family every year and also in his public preaching. Stott writes, “This catechizing would occupy Baxter two whole days a week, and was one essential part of his work. But the other part, ‘and that the most excellent because it tendeth to work on many’, was ‘the public preaching of the Word’.” Baxter valued preaching because it was an opportunity every week to share the message with many hearers. That seems to be a value lost on today’s anti-establishment crowd.

Contemporary Objections to Preaching

The second chapter in Between Two Worlds is about the contemporary objections to preaching. He writes, “The prophets of doom in today’s Church are confidently predicting that the day of preaching is over.” Written over 25 years ago, these words not only ring true, they have become an understatement. He lists three major arguments launched against preaching: “The anti-authority mood, the cybernetics revolution and the loss of confidence in the gospel.” I won’t go into each one of those things but will simply make some comments from the chapter as a whole.

Stott writes that “Christians know from both Scripture and experience that human fulfillment is impossible outside some context of authority.” As I read through this section I thought of the church through the example of “the family of God”. It would be silly if a dad didn’t correct and teach and exhort and discipline his own children. What a silly family it would be if it resembled a complete democracy. Besides, a sermon is not just an authoritarian monologue…if crafted well, the preacher has already thought through the issues that would arise in the hearts and minds of his people. Stott writes, “Preaching is rather like playing chess, in that the expert chess player keeps several moves ahead of his opponent, and is always ready to respond, whatever piece he decides to move next.”

Another topic Stott deals with in this chapter is how people learn. When disciples learn, they do so through listening, discussing, watching and discovering. Most would say that the preacher is limited to teaching the congregation through listening but that should not be the case. The preacher can and should provide opportunities for discussion but Stott goes even further with teaching people through observation. Not only has God ordained baptism and the Lord’s Supper as participatory visual aids, but the preacher himself is a visual aid. Titus was told, “Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds.” Were it not for this example-setting, our words as preachers would fall on deaf ears. This gets to the heart of the purpose for my blog and the reason for the title ChurchETHOS. The way we live should be a visual aid to our congregation to help communicate Biblical ideas and the congregation itself is to be a visual aid to the world. 

Stott concludes that “There is no other form of communication which resembles [the sermon] and therefore could replace it.” He writes, “For here are God’s people assembled in God’s presence to hear God’s Word from God’s minister.” When we as listeners of a sermon have that sort of anticipation about what we will soon hear, how can we not hear from God. 

Theological Foundations for Preaching

There were several great thoughts from this chapter. The first that I thought was crucial to the success fo the pastor was that “Technique can only make us orators; if we want to be preachers, theology is what we need.” From here, Stott discusses various convictions that a preacher must have if he is to be successful. First, a preacher must have a conviction about God that he is light, that he has acted, and that he has spoken. Secondly, a preacher must have a conviction about Scripture that Scripture is God’s written word, that it still speaks to us today, and that Scripture is powerful. Next, a preacher must have  a conviction about the Church and a conviction about the pastorate.

Finally, a preacher should have a conviction about preaching. Specifically, Stott believes in expositional preaching that transcends subcategories of topical or textual or narrative, etc. He writes, “Exposition has a much broader meaning. It refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view.” He believes that “The Word of God is the scepter by which Christ rules the Church and the food with which he nourishes it.” The preacher contributes to this process by faithfully proclaiming God’s Word to the congregation.

What’s Next?

In the next part of this book review, I will look at the more practical chapters in Stott’s book. If the above issues raise any questions or objections to the role of the preacher in today’s culture, please feel free to discuss. I would highly recommend this book for your reading.

Big Ideas – 11.4.08

Posted in body of Christ, christian habits by Nathan Creitz on November 4, 2008
I am a seminary student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Each day brings new insights so I thought I would try and reflect upon my day and the big ideas I’ve learned. It’s hard to find space to ponder and meditate when I’ve got so much to read, so many papers to write, so many lectures to attend, and so many tests to take. But I think the most valuable times in seminary are the times we can reflect on the big ideas, talk them over with friends, and put them into practice. These posts will be an attempt to engage with you who are reading so that we can process these ideas conversationally. 

Ecclesiology

How do we go about forming an ecclesiology? What are the essential ingredients of church life that should be universal to all followers of Jesus living in community? Are there Scriptural norms that should inform the way we live life together and the beliefs that we believe together?

The Pre-Constantinian Model
Today I was speaking with a couple of friends about a book we have been reading called Journey to Jesus by Robert Webber. I really enjoyed the book but just like most books about ecclesiology, the author seems to get stuck on one system or one paradigm that seems best to him. A lot of it is great stuff but I find it hard to believe that this is the best or only way. This particular author wants to renew the ancient traditions and rites of the pre-Constantinian church. I like studying the ancient church but I think this is a bit short-sighted. Even the second and third century church was a product of its culture. Some of that culture is similar but much of it has changed in our Post-Constantinian Christendom of today.

Postmodern Model
Another friend of mine believes we need to focus on today’s culture to the exclusion (almost) of the ancient way of life of the church. He would argue that in our postmodern culture, preaching and singing are antiquated and no longer connect. Organized religion is out and there is no need for elders and hierarchy. He would say that every believer has access to the Bible today so there is no need for one person to teach, let’s learn communally. Again, I find this to be limited and, though I think it’s important to understand the modern culture, I don’t want to reject all of the ancient practices and habits of the church.

New Testament Models
Then there are those who believe we should be going back to the New Testament church. This sounds great, but what do they mean? The Corinthian Church? The Church in Ephesus, Jerusalem, or Laodicea? Do we model the leadership of our churches around Paul’s tent-making, bivocational ministry or his full-time missionary journeys? I love discovering principles in the New Testament that informs the way we structure (or unstructure) church life today but is it right to do the house church thing or the large church thing…or both separately, or both together? 

Jesus Model
Yet another friend has rejected all of these concepts and is trying to be like Jesus before the church was established. He believes the church should grow and develop organically as we try and live like Jesus. So, he spends time in his neighborhood making disciples and gathering them together in intense and intentional community. As leaders emerge he empowers them to serve God and make disciples in their own neighborhood. If it grows into a large church, fine. But if not, he will always be discipling men and women to become true followers of Christ.

Wonderful ideas! One person is concerned with embracing our modern culture and making church relevant to them. Another person wants to revisit the ancient church and reestablish its rites and routines. Another person studies the New Testament for insight. A fourth person tries to live like Jesus lived with His followers. Why can’t all of these be viable options? What do they have in common? I think everyone would say our Greatest Commission is to make disciples. Is it best to do that in a large church or a house church, a postmodern church or a traditional church? No matter what way a person decides, I think there is room for all of them, even all of them together as one church, perhaps. I know a girl that never went to church until she found a small group of believers who met in a house and ate meals together and shared life. I know a guy who hated the intense scrutiny of such an intimate setting and needed (at first) the anonymity of the large crowd and the option to go deeper as the Lord led. Could one local church incorporate all of these ideas in their ecclesiology?

An Integrated Ecclesiology
As for me, where do I land on the issue? I’m not sure. I was the pastor for four years of a new church that focused on intentional, relational discipleship. Could I one day pastor a large church that has programs and policies and procedures? Maybe, if I can still invest in a few people one-on-one and encourage church planting rather than simply making our church as large as possible (numerically). Could I one day pastor a small house church where we don’t preach sermons or sing songs of praise together but spend most of our time in table fellowship? Maybe, if at various times we can gather together with a larger body of believers to celebrate what God is doing corporately. Whether in small or large churches I think the essentials remain the same.

So here are the essentials in my opinion: Love God, Love People, Make Disciples, and teach them to do the same. If there are ways that the ancient or New Testament churches have found to do that successfully that still work today, then let’s integrate that into what we are doing. If there are new ways in modern culture that demand a shift in thinking about how we do those essential things today, then let’s do that too. But let’s not get swept away by methodology and “tactics”. Let’s meditate on how we can love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and how we can love our neighbor as ourselves. Let’s pray for opportunities to make disciples and teach them to obey all that our Lord has commanded. What has He commanded? To Love God, Love People and to make disciples and to teach them to obey. It’s a beautiful circle that is clear and unchanging regardless of culture. These are the things we are to do as a church. It’s simple. It’s hard, but it’s simple. Love God, Love People, Make Disciples, and repeat.

I think Paul had this in mind when he told Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Here we find four “generations” of disciples. Paul taught Timothy to love God, love people, make disciples and teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded. Timothy then entrusted that to reliable men who would then go on to teach others. These commands that we have been taught to entrust to others is why we have a church today. The church has stood the test of time because of the “ecclesiology” that Jesus instigated at the very beginning. Sure there are other commands and other aspects of church life: sacrifice, hospitality, preaching, fellowship, service, etc. But everything that we do should be out of love for God and people and from our desire to help others to do the same.

Related Post: An Unnatural Life

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Happy Halloween Martin Luther!

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, church reform by Nathan Creitz on October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween Martin Luther!

It has been 491 years since you nailed your 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Church door and what a reformational act that was! Your “protests” against the corrupt Roman Catholic Church lit a fire that continues to burn to this day. You created a separate branch of the Church that we now call Protestantism but even the Catholic Church has gone through some major reform as well.

Dead Ancestors, Dead Saints, or Dead Doctrine?
Oh, and good choice of days for nailing up your protests against the corruption in the Church. October 31st used to be an ignorant pagan festival where people would dress up in scary costumes because they thought their ancient ancestors were coming to wreak havoc on their crops. Maybe if they looked scarier than their dead ancestors they might be scared away and leave them alone. They even sacrificed to them. In 800AD the Roman Catholic Church declared the day “All Hallow’s Eve” and the next day to be “All Hallow’s Day”. This was a day to celebrate the saints and martyrs of the Church. The church leaders had hoped this would take the place of such a barbaric pagan holiday.

Maybe you had the same thing in mind when you chose October 31st to start the Reformation? After all, what’s the point in celebrating dead saints and obtaining relics like a tuft of hair from this saint or a toe nail from that saint? Too bad Christians today neither celebrate the saints and martyrs (such as yourself) that have gone on before us or the Reformation. Instead, we choose to dress up in scary costumes and ward off little witches and goblins by giving them “sacrifices” of candy (and at $5.99 a bag it’s quite a sacrifice). It’s a pretty inane holiday and my wife and I give away candy to the children just so we can meet our neighbors but it’s sad that nobody thinks of what an incredible day this really is for God’s Kingdom.

Indulge Yourself
Anyway, enough about Halloween, I’m sure you wouldn’t be too happy that rather than celebrating the reformation of the Church we would rather carve gourds and eat ghost-shaped peeps. Let’s talk about penance instead. It seems that you spent a lot of your time trying to convince the Church that repentance was a matter of the heart and had nothing to do with some priest absolving you of your sin…especially through the sale of indulgences. I mean, what a rip off that was. We wouldn’t think of doing anything like that today. Instead, we do everything we can to guilt trip people into repentance. It’s the priest or ministers job to say things like, “I only saw you at the church (meaning a building) 5 days this week, were you partying the other 2 days?” or “I notice you didn’t check ‘Bible read daily’ on your offering envelope, care to explain?”. We would never stoop so low as to sell something when we can take the moral high road by guilting people into confession and repentance.

Poverty or Property
I also want to commend you for condemning the Church for using the money obtained through the sale of indulgences to build St. Peter’s Basilica rather than to give it to the poor. That was a lesson that we have taken to heart and I am happy to say, poverty is no longer an issue in the Church today. Not that poverty doesn’t exist anymore, it just doesn’t exist in the hearts and minds of most Christians, therefore, it’s not an issue in the Church. Problem solved. And we certainly wouldn’t waste money on a massive church building project to the detriment of the impoverished either. Why do that when we can just buy an already built football stadium and fill it with people and tell them that if they are poor or in need they should just believe…I mean really believe that God wants them to have their best life now. Maybe the reason they are poor is that they don’t smile enough.

Get Me A Tweezer
Finally, I should say that we are grateful for the movement you started in reforming the Church. You were right, the Church was greedy and corrupt and in need of reform. Unfortunately, almost everyone coming out of the reformation has a different idea on what needs reforming in the church and as a result, the Church today has never been more splintered. There are about 10,000 denominations around the world…some of them good, some of them not so good. We are divided doctrinally, geographically, racially, culturally, and in polity, purpose, and practice. I’m not sure what sort of tweezer is needed to start taking out the splinters in the Church but we are still in need of some desperate reform 491 years later.

So, I just wanted to say Happy Halloween and let you know how things are going here in the 21st century. People are just knocking on doors rather than nailing things to doors (my neighbors would be a bit upset). There is some good news: there have never been more Christians in all of history, but I guess the bad news is there have never before been so many people that have never heard the name Jesus. The world population is multiplying exponentially but the Church seems to still be using its fingers and toes to add and subtract. Hope you enjoy your peeps!

Sincerely,
Nathan Creitz

PS – I know my letter to you sounds negative but I do not wish it to sound like your work was in vain. My gripe is with today’s Church. You helped to start a necessary movement that brought reform and change to the corruption of the Church in your day. My prayer is that the bad habits and false beliefs that the modern Church holds will continue to be reformed and transformed. There is much concerning the Church with which I am sure Christ is pleased and I enjoy writing about that as well, but you set the tone…October 31st is a day to think about reform and change. This is a day to boldly protest so that we can see reformation happen again in every new generation of the Church. Let the Protest begin again!

PPS – Not everyone has forgotten that this is the day you kicked off the Protestant Reformation. A guy in Canada named Tim Challies has started a Reformation Day Symposium to get people talking about what this day should be celebrating. I’m sure he would love it if you dropped by and checked out what everyone is saying about you.