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All articles in category Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Article

July 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The Preacher and Politics: Seven Thoughts

This post is addressed to preachers and is about preachers. While many of the reflections may be useful for all Christians, I’m writing specifically with my fellow pastors in mind. [Note from the ET editors: this article was first published within an American context, but the principles are equally applicable here in the UK]. We live in a day where politics are everywhere, and everything is about politics. On one level this has always been true. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. That’s a political statement. Every sermon touches on the polis, on the city of man, on our earthly citizenship. But that’s not what I have...

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Article

June 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Too busy to rest?

Some time ago, I was talking to some colleagues from the organisation I worked for before I joined Mission Aviation Fellowship. One had come from Australia and said that, because of his work, he spent half his life with his family, and the rest travelling between various countries. After a detailed account of his physically exhausting itinerary, he concluded by saying, ‘And after that I return home’. ‘Well, try and get some rest,’ I replied. ‘Rest?’ he exclaimed somewhat disapprovingly, ‘What’s that?’ I was about to respond, when my other workmate chimed in, ‘It’s a four-letter word!’ They both laughed, though I didn’t. It may...

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Article

May 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Refreshment for gospel ministers

There is a problem in our churches with many empty pastoral positions across the UK. There are many reasons for this problem, one that could possibly get worse as the ‘baby boomer’ generation steps down from ministry responsibilities. The FIEC identified a possible obstacle to ministry staffing as the lack of clearly defined access, training and progression routes, but the problem is clearly more complex. Retention Recently I was talking with a Christian brother, who is a manager in a large international warehouse chain. I was struck by how much emphasis he placed upon staff retention. The staff incentives, management training and work ethos all...

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Article

May 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Pastoring a victim of abuse in the glare of the media

Pastoring a church member who has suffered childhood sexual abuse is hard enough. Doing so when the person in question has entered the national and international media spotlight is even harder. That is precisely what Jim Savastio has faced in recent months. Jim is the pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky. It is the church were Rachael Denhollander and her husband Jacob are members. Rachael’s televised ‘victim impact statement’ in the case of sex abuser Larry Nassar was reported globally. Her words were full of courage and grace, justice and forgiveness. Speaking in court to her abuser, Rachael said, ‘Should you ever...

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Article

March 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Solving conflicts in the home

We have an announcement to make — today, our families and marriages are under siege. Good communication and conflict resolution are important in a healthy and edifying marriage and home life, but are they missing in ours? Marital disagreements may occur for various reasons. There can be unrealistic expectations of our spouse, or the discovery that he or she does not possess the qualities we expected of them before marriage. Since we want to see desirable traits acquired and distasteful ones eliminated, we proceed with the monumental task of ‘remaking our spouses into ideal mates’, and the conflict begins. Conflict It has been claimed that...

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Article

March 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The pre-emptive resignation: a ‘Get out of jail free’ card?

Church leaders often ask how they should respond when a person who is being disciplined by the church resigns before the process of discipline is complete. Should they accept the resignation or continue moving toward excommunication? Suppose a man decides to leave his wife for another woman. Other members of the church ask the man to repent and return to his wife. He doesn’t. They ask again, but this time they also warn him about the possibility of excommunication. So, he resigns his membership. Case closed. He’s now immune. Or at least that’s what the adulterous man is saying. Is that correct? The case in...

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Article

March 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Same gender love

‘The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David’ (1 Samuel 18:1); ‘your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing that of a woman’ (2 Samuel 1:26). In China’s past, close female friends sometimes bound themselves to each other in friendship by means of a voluntary contract called Laotong — a contract in which they vowed to be sisters for life. These vows were often formalised and sealed with a small religious ceremony in a Chinese temple. In Chinese thought, such friendships were to last for eternity. Marriage, children, distance, illness or age would not erode the commitment of friendship each had made to...

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Article

February 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

‘I shall not die, but live and tell’ — an author’s testimony

In May 2017, I sent the completed manuscript of my recent book, Prayers of the Bible, to my publisher. In June, I was rushed to the hospital, after coming down with an extreme case of altitude sickness at a Christian conference in Colorado. Relentlessly dizzy and nauseated, I threw up for 21 days in a row, defied all treatment, and showed no improvements. The doctors warned my wife that I might never recover. Food and fluid were pumped into me intravenously; my death was awaited with baited breath, and my life was prayed for by many of God’s people. One day, early in this ordeal, I...

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Article

February 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Two debatable traditions

We all observe certain traditions, some good and others open to question. I wish to address two of these traditions, observed by some, but not by others. Pronouns used in relation to God I have been asked why it is that so many evangelicals no longer begin pronouns referring to God, the Lord Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit with a capital (upper case) letter (e.g. ‘You’, ‘His’, ‘Thee’, ‘Thou’), especially as I am guilty of the same practice. My response is that the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures carry no such distinctions, neither does, for example, the Authorised Version of the Bible. The practice of...

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Article

January 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

In whose name?

In ET August 2016, ‘Teach us how not to pray’ looked at some bad ways people pray, putting their desires above their legitimate needs and not considering God’s will for their lives. But why do Bible-believing Christians behave this way? It comes down, I think, to at least two issues. One is fear, the other overfamiliarity. The fear issue is probably the simplest to understand. Although we might ‘have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16), we, like Peter in Mark 8:33, do not always ‘have in mind the concerns of God’. There are times when our concerns appear so overwhelming that, rather than seeking...

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Article

January 2018
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Seeking, speaking and winning2

They will be missing from our churches next Sunday: that wide variety of individuals — the ‘down and outs’, ‘up and outs’, and all others in between. But one thing is for sure, whether up or down, they are most definitely ‘out’; the majority totally ignorant of the real gospel, living with a blatant disregard for God and his commands. And they live near you. So what? There may just be a Pharisee lurking within us, wanting to scold these ungodly people for not seeking the Lord in his house on his day. However, like Adam, they are cut off from the life of God,...

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Article

December 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Mary’s Magnificat; Rachel’s lament

For many families at Christmas, traditional imagery can be heartbreaking, rather than heart-warming. ‘Christmas is all about family’; ‘children make Christmas special’; ‘it’s such a joy to see the little ones’ faces on Christmas day’. We’ve all heard these perfectly natural sentiments expressed by parents and not just secular parents. Christian parents often put more into their seasonal celebrations because of their children. In one sense, they’re right. It is lovely to be surrounded by family and excited children, opening presents or singing carols or taking part in nativity plays. And of course, it reminds us of the virgin Mary, whose obedience to God’s will,...

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