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All articles in category Ecclesiological & Pastoral

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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October 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Forgiveness (2)

The most important thing of all is to experience God’s forgiveness, through Jesus Christ (September ET). And we must then forgive those who sin against us. Consider first the forgiveness Christians should show to one another. This should mirror God’s forgiveness of us — ‘forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32); ‘as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive’ (Colossians 3:13).    If we are sinned against, Christ tells us what we should do (Matthew 18:15-35). Matthew 18:15 says, ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears...

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Personal View: The elephant in the worship room
October 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Personal View: The elephant in the worship room

Chris Martin shares his response to Phil Harmonia’s thought-provoking June ET article ‘Instruments of praise?’ (See also Barry Tone’s response in August ET.) For our worship to be acceptable to God, it must be ‘in spirit and truth’. In other words, outward conformance must reflect an inner desire to love and obey God.     Much of the debate surrounding styles of worship has tended to focus upon ‘truth’. Certainly, the lyrics of most contemporary worship songs have been written by Charismatic musicians, whereas many traditional hymns were written by authors more grounded in Scripture.

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September 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Forgiveness (1)

Forgiveness should be a straightforward matter. When someone offends us, we are to forgive them irrespective of their response, just as we have been forgiven by God. You probably have heard many sermons on this subject. Christ responded to Peter’s question, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’, with, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’ (Matthew 18:21-22). Christ’s answer requires continual, unlimited forgiveness. But is it that simple?   Vital issue   The issue is one of vital importance, affecting our view of salvation. Getting...

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September 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The church at the crossroads

‘Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls’ (Jeremiah 6:16). Some people have a nostalgic view of the past — nothing is to be compared to ‘the good old days’ and ‘the traditions of the fathers’. Others see the need to be contemporary — we must distance ourselves entirely from the past. Who is right? It all depends on what is meant by ‘the old paths’.   Revealed truths   When the Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, pleaded with apostate...

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August 2013
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Why does God ordain suffering? – A Puritan’s answer

The Christian church today has all but abandoned a robust and refreshingly biblical theology of suffering. This is why it behoves us to consider those in the past — in particular, the Puritans — who not only tasted some of the bitterest afflictions to befall humanity, but also skilfully applied the balm of gospel promises to those who would receive them by faith. One of the greatest Puritan expositors of a theology of suffering was John Flavel (c.1630-1691) of Dartmouth. Flavel experienced severe suffering within his own lifetime, with the loss of three wives, two sons and his parents, as well as ejection from the...

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