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All articles in category Ecclesiological & Pastoral

May 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Zeal for God

Complacency is an enemy that can attack any one of us in our Christian faith and hamper a fulfilling relationship with God. Merriam-Webster defines complacency as ‘a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to make them better’. Though many of us may acknowledge God on a daily basis, this can be done without strong conviction. But the Bible says, ‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord’ (Romans 12:11). Stagnation  Our faith should be seen as real commitment. We must avoid the pitfall of ‘convenient faith’. Algae, bacteria and parasites are more abundant in water...

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May 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Spiritual check-ups

Every six months or so, I need to go to the dentist to have a check-up, to see if my teeth are fine or any remedial work needs to be carried out. Some people need to go regularly to the doctor’s surgery for a medical check-up. Believers should be carrying out spiritual self-checks regularly. The morning is a good time to seek the Lord and his counsel and support, and ask for opportunities to enjoy and glorify him in the day. The evening is the ideal time to review the day, assess events, give thanks and ask for forgiveness (Psalms 5:1-3; 6:6-7; 119:55, 62). There...

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March 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Prepare to be an amazing old person!

Like it or not, if you continue to live, you’ll get old. As you look around at all those ancient people in the grocery store, golf course, retirement village and nursing home, don’t be smug — you’ll be there soon enough! It will do you well to prepare to make those years the best they can be, for the glory of God.  It’s not uncommon for God to use older people. Take Caleb who fought giants as an octogenarian. Or Moses, who led a cantankerous people up to the promised land at 120. Remember Anna, the widow, who served God with prayers at the temple...

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February 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Fresh expressions – engaging with context or theological liberalism rebranded?

With continuing claims of declining attendance in churches across the UK, it is commendable that some within the church are not only saddened by these statistics, but also moved to respond to them. One such movement is ‘Fresh Expressions’ (www.freshexpressions.org.uk). This movement is largely maintained and championed by Bishop Graham Cray, and came out of Cray’s work in his seminal Mission shaped church report which was published in 2004 (London: Church House Publishing). Cray’s findings in this report helped to shape what has now become the Fresh Expressions movement. Here are a few findings from that report. Smaller groups Setting out a basis for a...

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January 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Be still

Anxiety and the believer This article is for the faint-hearted. There are some people who always remain calm when faced with the prospect of a challenging situation, be it a school or college exam, a hospital or dental appointment, or a summons to an employer to discuss ‘your position’. Having experienced all of these scenarios, I confess to sometimes becoming somewhat stressed — symptoms include a nervous stomach, irregular sleep patterns and heart arrhythmias. A mature Christian friend recently wrote, ‘I can really sympathise with you. I hate going to the Dr and Dentist — glad to know someone else with the same problem. We...

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January 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The Amish (4) – anachronism or Example

Though the Amish have left the gospel preached by their Anabaptist forefathers (see the October 2013 ET), much of their lifestyle had its origins in biblical teaching and is, therefore, still a challenge to those who love the Lord and want to keep his commandments (John 14:15). We noted some examples of this in November’s ET. In this final article we look at their dress code and also sound a warning. Rules In each congregation the ‘ordnung’ (rules for Amish living) lays down the style, colour and type of material to be used for each item of clothing. The width of the brims and bands...

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January 2014
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Hope in suffering

‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him’ (Job 13:15). Life is hard for every one, but God’s people too need always to remember that, irrespective of salvation, they live in a fallen world, where everyone suffers. Suffering is part of the fallen order of the universe. It is a given and ordained experience and reality, just as much as love and joy are. It was not so in the Garden of Eden, but it is so now and will continue to be so until this old order of creation is ended and the new order begun (Romans 8:20-23). Job Job was a godly...

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November 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Worshipful worship

Discussions about the form of worship are often polarised into opposition between services dominated by music on the one hand and the fear of formalism on the other. The word liturgy makes most evangelicals shudder as it suggests deadness and smacks of Anglicanism. Saying ‘our church has no liturgy’ hides the fact that we do have one, made up of ‘slots’, often led by solo performers: prayer – hymn – prayer – reading – children’s talk – hymn – message and so on. It’s a predictable mix, sometimes laced with unsingable songs, and we may legitimately wonder if this is what worship should be. Come...

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November 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The Amish (3) anachronism or example?

The image that most people have of the Amish is of a people driving horse-drawn buggies, rejecting tractors in favour of horses on their farms, and wearing plain clothing — the men with wide brimmed hats and beards and the women in bonnets. These are the Old Order Amish, who chose to reject the mechanisation and onset of consumerism that came in with the Industrial Revolution.     We have seen how they are descended from the early Anabaptists and briefly traced their history through their split from the Mennonites, their migration to the New World and their growth over the last 100 years (October ET)....

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November 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

A labour of love

Why have I written this book? That’s a good question. There are a host of reasons, but two in particular merit mentioning at the outset. First, I’ve written this book out of concern for the church’s diminished appreciation of pastoral ministry. I realise this assessment might come as a surprise to some, but I’m convinced that even a casual glance at today’s evangelicalism supports it.     The fact that pastors act on Christ’s behalf seems to rest weightless upon the church, including many pastors. What could be more important than shepherding the ones Christ purchased with his blood? What could be more crucial than watching...

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November 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Adoption: God’s greatest blessing

Do you pray for your children? If so, what do you ask God to do for them? My prayers for my children and grandchildren are directed primarily towards their spiritual welfare. Over my lifetime, my intercessions for them have included a wide variety of requests, often dictated by the need of the hour. But, if I were to condense my prayers for them into one short petition, it would run something like this:     ‘Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask that all my children and grandchildren will be adopted into your family and will know that they are secure...

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October 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The glory of Christ (3)

God made us as complex beings. We have heads and hearts (and wills too); that is, each one of us has both a centre of understanding and a centre of emotion. We are not robots, but flesh and blood. But not mindless flesh and blood; we are to be guided by truth. We rightly dislike the excesses of the Charismatic movement which cause people to be led by emotion and fancy instead of God’s revelation. But, whilst warning about that ditch on one side of the road, are we equally aware of the ditch on the opposite side — the ditch of dry intellectualism?    Unless...

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