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As John Stonestreet and I argue in our book Same-Sex Marriage, we are currently undergoing one of the most sweeping social revolutions in world history. Until the Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS decision in 2015, the definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman was the understanding of virtually every civilization throughout history. But this has all changed.
Now that marriage has been redefined, the law, our educational system, and other social customs have begun to change as well. As a result, there is a great tension between belief in religious liberty and claims of discrimination. Can Catholic adoption agencies operate according to their convictions that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, or is this discriminatory towards gay couples who want to adopt? Should the law coerce people to use the preferred gender pronoun of people with gender dysphoria? ...
This summer I had the privilege of attending Acton University. This week-long meeting is hosted by the Acton Institute, a think-tank “whose mission is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” Common themes at Acton are religious liberty, economic liberty, and natural law. Much like C.S. Lewis’ “mere christianity,” Acton seeks to promote a civil society advanced on natural law reasoning. At Acton one encounters philosophers, economists, entrepreneurs, theologians, biblical scholars, ethicists, and aid workers from around the world ...
An increasingly popular trend is for some within the church today to call themselves “apostles.” Pentecostals and Charismatics have used the designation for years because they want to be apostolic. Recently, however, some church planters have also used the title. They use the label because they see themselves as “those sent out” on mission. However, their use of the title for themselves is confusing and inapplicable because all Christians are “sent out” on mission.
No apostles are extant today in the way the term is overwhelmingly used in Scripture, viz., as “apostles of Jesus Christ.” I make this point for two reasons. First, after a while, it becomes historically impossible to be an “apostle of Jesus Christ.” Second, the “apostles of Jesus Christ” carried a unique and normative authority. The apostles were called and commissioned as Christ’s plenipotentiary representatives, who preached the Gospel in ways fundamental to its spread, prescribed normative teaching, and issued commands on God’s behalf. Their authority in the church seems indisputable.
To Be an Apostle of Jesus Christ Today is Impossible
After a while, it became historically impossible to meet the criteria to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. When the apostles sought to fill the vacancy created when Judas, one of the 12 apostles, died (Acts 1:12–26), the criteria Peter put forth for the replacement were (1) he had to have accompanied the Lord Jesus during the entirety of His earthly ministry (cf. Acts 1:2; 10:39–42), and (2) he had to be a witness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21–22). They prayed to God and selected Matthias, who was added to the 11 (Acts 1:23–26).
No other biblical evidence shows that any other apostles were replaced when they died. For example, when James the brother of John was killed (Acts 12:1–2), his vacancy was never filled. Apostles did foundational work in the church, and foundations are laid once, not repeatedly.
The Apostle Paul was a special case. He did not meet the first criterion but was converted and commissioned by the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1–19). In Galatians, he emphasized his parity with the Apostle Peter (Galatians 2:7–8), and James, Cephas and John recognized that Paul had apostolic status (Galatians 2:9).
The Apostles’ Authority in Patristic Writings
That the apostles of Jesus Christ carried a unique and normative authority is evident in patristic writings. For example, in the second century, an early church Father named Serapion, bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 190), made a statement that is fairly representative of the early church’s attitude toward apostles in general: “We receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ.” That is, the “apostles of Jesus Christ” were received by the second-century church as though they were Christ Himself. The church saw the apostles as Christ’s plenipotentiary ministers who possessed authority over the churches, and who were personally commissioned and sent by Jesus to make God’s will known. Other texts that show the unique and normative authority of the apostles of Jesus Christ can be found in the earlier Apostolic Fathers: for example, 1 Clement 44:1–2; 2 Clement 14.2; Ignatius’ Romans 4:3 (cf. also Trallians 2:2; 7:1; Magnesians 13:1; Smyrnaens 8:1); and Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians 6.3.
The Apostles’ Authority in the New Testament
The unique and normative authority of the “apostles of Jesus Christ” is also found in the New Testament. Their authority is seen in Jesus’ statements to them like, “The one who receives you receives Me, and the one who receives Me receives the One who sent me” (Matt 10:40). Moreover, apostolic authority is manifest in certain Pauline texts that clearly indicate that his unique status and high authority were connected with his divine commission and having seen the Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 9:1–3, Paul excluded the apostles from the judgments of pneumatics who examined the revelations of others, and he placed the apostles’ gift above that of the prophets. In 1 Corinthians 14:37–38, he claimed that his words were equated with the Lord’s command.
In 2 Corinthians 10-13, Paul described his authority in terms approximate to that of the Old Testament prophets. When false teachers in the Corinthian church tried to attain for themselves the apostolic status that Paul believed was reserved only for a certain few, he rebuked them, calling them “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13; cf. 12:11–12).
In Galatians 1:1 and 1:11–2:10, Paul contended that he was called and commissioned directly by Christ. He described his call with prophetic language, which indicates that he had authority on par with the Old Testament prophets. Paul stressed his parity with the Apostle Peter, who clearly was seen by the letter’s recipients as authoritative. James, Cephas and John also recognized Paul’s apostolic status.
Paul wrote to Philemon to ask him to forgive and receive back the runaway slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. In verses 8–9, Paul’s ability to command Philemon to take the proper action strongly indicates that his apostolic status enabled him to enforce such obedience, but instead he appealed to him out of love.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul might have had in mind a forgery written in his name. The reference to a “letter as from us” shows that works falsely written under an apostle’s name were frowned upon, but also the authority that an apostle’s name carried.
Next to Jesus Himself, the apostles were the primary authority in the early church because they were Christ’s authoritative representatives through whom He laid the foundations of the early church. They were conduits of divine revelation who spread God’s Gospel. Their authority approximates that of the Old Testament prophets.
No one today meets the qualifications to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. No one now carries the authority they possessed. The title “apostle of Jesus Christ” was reserved for Christ’s authoritative representatives, who got the church “off the ground,” so to speak. That authority today is found in God’s Word, i.e., in the writings of the apostles and the prophets, the Lord’s authoritative spokesmen.
This designation primarily describes Christ’s 12 apostles and the Apostle Paul. On the distinction between “apostles of Jesus Christ” and “apostles (= messengers) of the churches” (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:23; Phil 2:25), see E. Earle Ellis, Pauline Theology: Ministry and Society, Repr. ed. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005), 66, 89–91.
E.g., Matthew 10:40 (cf. John 13:20); John 20:21; Galatians 4:14.
They recognized “the grace” that God had given to Paul. This is surely a reference to Paul’s apostleship.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.12 (emphasis mine). Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine.
E. Earle Ellis, “Pseudonymity and Canoncity of New Testament Documents,” in Worship, Theology and Ministry in the Early Church: Essays in Honor of Ralph P. Martin (ed. Michael J. Wilkins and Terence Paige; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 219.
For example, Paul equates his words with a command of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37–38) and uses Old Testament prophetic language and imagery to describe his apostolic authority and calling (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:8 and 13:10 with Jeremiah 1:9–10; and Galatians 1:15–16 with Jeremiah 1:5 and Isaiah 49:1, 5, 6).
Whole books have been written on pastoral ministry so, even an attempt at summarizing it in a short blog article will fall short of the mark. But I would suggest that several principles rise to a high level of importance when considering the subject of pastoral ministry.
Much of what passes for pastoral ministry today is nothing other than the philosophies and methods of corporate America pressed down upon the church. Too many pastors think of themselves as “doing their jobs,” and they don’t think of themselves as God’s men who are called to a whole-life pastoral ministry among God’s beloved people.
Consider the following five aspects of biblical pastoral ministry.1. A faithful pastor watches himself.
True pastoring always begins with personal holiness. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy “Keep a close watch on yourself.” The word “watch” means “to be vigilant” or “to pay close attention.” A pastor needs to give careful attention to his own soul because he is called to be a holy man. He’s a student of the streams of sin as they run inside of his own heart. And he learns to apply the gospel of grace for the mortification of his sin. He must be a man who knows the great love of Christ for him, whose heart is conquered by a crucified and risen Savior, and whose hope is everlasting life in him.
Because of Christ’s love, a pastor is faithfully committed to prayerful personal communion with him, and he prays for his family, the church, his community, and the world. He learns to repent quickly of sin, and he’s deeply devoted to studying Scripture and to keeping God’s good commandments as an expression of his love for Christ.
A pastor also watches himself by being a faithful husband to his wife and father to his children, loving them and serving them just as Christ has served him. He loves and teaches his wife and children the Word of God. And he’s involved in his family life, sharing life with his wife, enjoying his children and taking sincere interest in them. Faithful pastors watch themselves.
Only when a pastor faithfully watches himself is he able to watch others faithfully.2. A faithful pastor watches his teaching.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy, “keep a close watch… on the teaching.” There is a heresy made for every one of us. Heresy is a form of false teaching that undermines the gospel. Sadly, there is a heresy made for every pastor. Heresies tell us that we can have our idols, and we can have Jesus too. Some heresies puff us up in self-righteous religious pride, while other heresies promote sensual worldliness.
Pastors can be tempted to adopt forms of false teaching that serve themselves rather than Christ and his people. Even when a pastor begins with good doctrine, he can drift into error over time, if he is not very careful to watch his teaching.
A pastor must be very careful to teach what the Bible says is true, not what he wants the Bible to say is true. He is responsible to repeat what God says in his Word. A pastor simply delivers what he has received, adding nothing, subtracting nothing. That means a pastor studies the Bible carefully and holds fast the word of life for his own soul and for the souls of others by faith. God’s beloved people are only fed when pastors proclaim sound doctrine clearly and consistently, even though it will cost them their idols, and it may cost them their very lives.3. A faithful pastor preaches Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 2:2. Paul says, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Like Paul, pastors must never tire of preaching Jesus. Pastors do not preach the words of men. They do not preach themselves. They do not preach their own wisdom or man-made techniques. They preach Christ and Him crucified. Jesus himself is the very heart of our message. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus. Christ is all.
Some teachers insist that it’s impossible to preach Christ from every passage of the Scriptures. They say, “Not every passage is about Jesus. We should only preach Christ when he is explicitly mentioned in the text, or when there is somehow a clear connection to Christ from a particular passage.” But I want to respond briefly to that error in three ways.
First, Jesus preached himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” If Christ preached himself from all the Scriptures, then so should we.
Second, the Bible’s covenant theology is centered on Jesus. Scripture teaches that there is only one covenant, or promise of grace, running through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (Heb. 9:15-16). Therefore, the only way to faithfully interpret any particular passage of the Bible is in light of the overarching promise of redemption for sinners in Jesus Christ.
Third, the goal of preaching is worship. If a pastor merely explains a text and doesn’t hold forth Christ, then the church cannot worship, or if it does worship, it does so in spite of the sermon. It’s impossible for the church to worship, unless it is set upon Jesus, who is the chief revelation of God to men. We need to see God in the face of Jesus by the Spirit speaking in his Word if we are to worship. Unless the preacher shows how Christ is at the center of every text, then he will fail to lead the congregation to worship.
What happens when Christ is faithfully preached week in and week out? Jesus himself encourages the fainthearted, admonishes the obstinate, and gives strength of faith and obedience to all who belong to him. Jesus begins to form his people after his image, more and more, and they begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit and keep the Ten Commandments as the very definition of what it means to love God and love men.
And when Christ is preached every week, Jesus prepares his people for sufferings and trials in their lives. The whole church’s eyes are set upon the things above, where Christ is, and they don’t love this world too much. And more and more, the church is able to say with Paul, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”4. A faithful pastor does personal work.
Pastors are to love God’s people personally. Personal work includes conversations with people at church, pastoral counseling, visiting hospitals, performing funerals, officiating weddings, living among people in the community, and being generally available.
Some popular preachers and teachers today say that pastors shouldn’t waste their time doing personal work. They say a pastor’s job is to pray, study, preach the Word, and nothing else. A pastor’s work is public, not private, they say. But this is a very serious error.
Consider the many places in Scripture that show examples of personal work in pastoral ministry. Jesus ministered personally. He ministered personally to Nicodemus, to the woman at the well, to Zaccheus, to the Roman Centurion, to Mary and Martha, and to many others. He ministered at funerals, weddings, visited the sick, and He counseled people individually. Jesus also ate with His disciples, fished with them, slept with them, and lived life with them. Acts 20:27 tells us that Paul ministered the Word publicly but also house to house at Ephesus. Paul wrote a very personal letter to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:3 to “instruct certain men.” Personal pastoral work is found all throughout the New Testament.
Personal work is important because much of a pastor’s power in public teaching and preaching depends on the good will and the relationships he has with the people. People are willing to listen to a man when they know he cares for their souls. His preaching will become more and more useful to the people the more he learns who they are so that he can apply the Word to them wisely. Some parts of pastoral ministry absolutely require personal work.
When people lose loved ones, or are going though severe trial, they need a pastor to help them think clearly and to set their minds on the Lord Jesus. When people are struggling with personal sin or temptation, or marriage difficulties, they need pastoral counsel about how to handle their sin wisely. When people have specific questions about the Bible or doctrine, or personal decisions that they are making in their lives, they need to feel free to approach their pastor to ask him personally.
Much of the power of true pastoral ministry depends greatly on a pastor’s faithfulness to do personal work.5. A faithful pastor ministers to the community.
A faithful pastor is not merely concerned with his own church. He thinks of the lost people in the community as in Adam, under the condemnation of the covenant of works. They need the mercy of Christ in the covenant of grace. He’s not cold to unbelievers in the community, but thinks of them as souls in need of a Savior. He also thinks of the other believers in the community as part of the one covenant of grace, and he sees himself and his church as joined together with them in Christ in the kingdom of God. Consider that Jesus ministered to the community throughout His life. The book of Acts shows how the Apostles and the church ministered to the community. And in 1 Timothy 3:7, Paul says that one qualification of a pastor is that he is to have a “good reputation with outsiders.” How can he have a good reputation with outsiders, if no outsiders know him?
Practically, what does ministry to the community look like? It looks like participating in community events. It means being available for funerals and counseling for people in the community when asked. Getting to know people through regular business dealings with them. And getting to know other pastors and working with other churches where ever that is possible.
Pastoral ministry is both public and private. It’s based on sound doctrine, rooted in personal holiness, and centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. Pastoral work is both formal and informal, involving a whole man who seeks to minister to whole men. Pastors who are faithful and called of God have the most joyful and sanctifying calling in this world. May God give the church more faithful pastors for his great glory.
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There has been a lot of discussion recently about why kids leave the faith. People have rightly drawn attention to the role of poor theology, the importance of kids owning their faith, the significance of intellectual issues such as the apparent tension between science and religion, and more.
But there seems to be a core issue that is often overlooked—to develop a lasting faith, kids need to grasp their need for God. Let me explain ...
The inaugural issue of the Augustine Collegiate Review.
That simple phrase bears far more weight than might first appear. The journal, a product of The Augustine Honors Collegium of Boyce College, aims to stand out from amongst the vast sea of publications already on the market. In fact, the publishing world appears to be so saturated that one would certainly be excused for questioning the logic behind yet another journal. Hopefully, this first issue will demonstrate its value to the readership.
That being said, I have been involved in the academy long enough to understand the ludicrous nature of a claim of uniqueness for a publication of this sort, and I have been appropriately humbled enough to recognize both the dangers and the limitations of claims of self-importance. Thus, I have no desire to sell this project as “the next big thing”. I do not believe this journal will change your life, nor do I believe it will change the academic world. Thankfully, those are not the aims.
My hope in overseeing this project can be described in one word: potential. In my years in the classroom, I have had the great privilege of teaching some extraordinarily bright students, students with such natural giftings that even I would have to try hard to get in their way. But those students are few and far between—even once in a generation. The vast majority of students in an undergraduate or even postgraduate classroom enter as vessels of potential, lacking only the shaping of experience and the lighting of the proverbial fire. In my mind, at its best this journal will be part of that honing, a tool for undergraduates (and their professors) to hone their skills through a rigorous academic process which includes a double-blind expert review.
The academic publishing process can be difficult and even disheartening as authors submit the product of their hard work only to have editors and expert reviewers zero in on the minutest details. For many undergraduates—if not most of them—having papers edited in such a manner is a completely new experience. In fact, several students who submitted papers for this issue responded with amazement at the level of critique their papers received. Sometimes the critique proved positive and led either to publication or at least to more constructive work on the article. At other times, the critique left a surprising wound in the mind of the author. But in all of those cases, the students began to understand the invaluable (and seemingly unending) process of researching, writing, editing, and receiving critique on academic work.
While this publishing process will certainly benefit the student authors—indeed, it already has—the journal also has the potential to benefit the greater academic community. The vast majority of academic journals purport to be publications “of the experts, for the experts,” but this journal seeks to be something different—an opportunity for the academic community to begin developing the next generation of writers and for these talented undergraduate writers to begin sharing the knowledge they have gained in their studies.
Please understand, this endeavor is not an attempt to fast-track students into the academic world—something equivalent to a participation trophy in t-ball. I firmly believe students need to work hard and develop their skills as researchers and writers in order to earn their place in the academic community. This journal is not intended to give undergraduates a false sense of importance or prematurely bestow upon them the title “expert”. The editorial team makes no claims that the undergraduate authors represented here are experts nor that these articles represent a unique contribution to the collective body of knowledge. The articles selected through this rigorous process do, however, represent the best of undergraduate academic writing, combined with some excellent, in-depth—if not exhaustive—research.
Each journal issue will present those select undergraduate-authored articles alongside others contributed by seasoned experts which will serve as entry points into the issue’s theme. The goal of this format is to allow the readership to dig into the theme with as much depth as they would like. Readers are not assumed to have prior knowledge in order to benefit from the journal as authors of all ilks have been instructed to write for an educated but non-expert audience. Each of the issues will tackle a single broad theme with authors being instructed to tackle the topic from a Christian perspective.
This first issue, for instance, focuses on the joint themes of metaphysics and ontology—large topics which provide innumerable angles for research. To introduce one of those angles, experts Mark Coppenger and Douglas Blount, both well-published in the fields of philosophy and theology, have contributed articles on their conceptions of God and time. Following those articles, the undergraduate papers tackle themes from a theology of place to fantasy literature, from a philosophical foundation for art to the concept of transhumanism. With each of these articles, I hope readers can engage the topic with a critical interest which, at least for the moment, will keep from thinking about the undergraduate authors and instead will leave them inspired, educated, captivated, or even moved to disagreement. The quality of research and writing will certainly move them to return for more.
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We have established using philosophical arguments the impossibility of an actual infinite (I'm referring to an infinite set of objects, not an Infinite God which is not impossible), but I have read again and again that "the majority and best supported by the data hypothesis in physics is that the universe is flat and spatially infinite". Does this mean our philosophy was wrong, or does it mean that physicists have got necessarily something wrong, since their conclusion is against clear and distinct philosophical facts? ...
If you’re old enough to remember the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, you remember where you were when you heard the news. Driving down Coulter Drive in Bryan, Texas, I was on my way to a staff meeting at church. The radio broadcaster interrupted to report the shocking news that American Airlines Flight 11 had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
This seemed inconceivable. Unfortunately, it was true, and within minutes, the awful reality of terrorism was verified when United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower.
When I got to the office, we watched in horror as the two towers came crashing down. The images of people covered in ash running for their lives were devastating. Seeing others plummeting hundreds of feet to their deaths was ghastly. The tragedy continued as American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Due to the bravery of the passengers of United Flight 93, which was headed to Washington, D.C., that plane was taken down before it could cause further damage.
We didn’t have our staff meeting; we prayed—intensely. Sixteen years later, these images are still horrifying to watch.
The number of people who suffered this evil is incalculable: 3,000 people died that day, including more than 300 firefighters and 70 law enforcement officers; thousands more were injured; and the residents of New York City, as well as those working at the Pentagon, suffered greatly. In defiance, the response of the American people to all of this devastation surpassed the evil that caused it. For one of the few times that I can remember, the rancor of politics was dropped, and the nation actually resembled “one nation under God.” Support came from across the country, prayer was earnest, and people were more open to Christ than any time in recent memory.
Amid all of this support and care (though largely unreported) were thousands of Christ’s people, many with churches and Christian organizations; they comforted, cared for, and counseled the hurting, meeting spiritual needs along with physical needs. The reason for such a response among God’s people is simple: God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5).
Suffering is reality, and no one wants it. Ironically, believers in Christ are at their best when giving comfort to the afflicted.
I’ve seen the power of God’s people comforting the afflicted many times. I remember it when I took a group to Turkey in 1999 following the devastating earthquake in Izmit and the surrounding area, which killed 17,000 and left more than 300,000 homeless. The largest presence of any aid group was Christians from all over the world, working as one to care for the needs of the people and finding ways to share Christ with them. We set up shelters, organized food and clothing distribution, and simply sat down to listen to people, cry with them, love them, and show Jesus Christ to them. Most of this was never reported—but, if you were there, you saw it firsthand.
As I write this, Hurricane Harvey has just overwhelmed the Texas Gulf Coast, causing destruction from Corpus Christi to Orange. Houston has been devastated. As in previous disasters, the response to the suffering has been spectacular: emergency workers, government agencies, and businesses have given and done so much. These organizations should be recognized and thanked for all they’ve done. Volunteers with boats, trucks, and any other means of rescuing people have just shown up to help—truly remarkable.
Among these are thousands of Christians. One news broadcaster said he had never seen so many churches and Christian organizations doing so much to help in so many ways.
Southwestern Seminary is putting together plans for faculty and students to go down to help in the relief efforts. The effort will take months, even years, to accomplish. Prepared to meet the physical and emotional needs of those who are suffering, we will also be prepared with the Gospel. And be there we will—serving in the midst of suffering is what Christ’s people do best.
We know what it means to suffer spiritual poverty and affliction; most of us also know other forms of suffering. Because we know the comfort of God in Jesus Christ, we will comfort the afflicted, not for recognition, but for the Kingdom of God, so that those who suffer will also come to know the abundant comfort of Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
While much hospitality focuses on individuals or families opening their homes to others, a vital practice which enables “house churches” to meet (e.g., Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19), I am focusing attention on churches gathering outside of the home.
Thus, spring-boarding from 1 Corinthians 16, a passage overflowing with gospel labor, here are five more ways we can pursue hospitality in the church.1. Introduce people and build networks for ministry.
In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul is doing all he can to urge Apollos to return to Corinth and minister to them (v. 12); he is urging godly servants like the household of Stephanas to lead (v. 15) and others to follow (v. 16). He is sending Timothy to Corinth (v. 10) and he delights to receive Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (v. 17). Moreover, he sends greetings from the churches in Asia to the church in Corinth (v. 19), he himself sends greetings (v. 21) and he passes on the hearty greetings of Aquila and Priscilla (v. 20). In short, Paul was an extraordinary networker, who delighted to connect people to other people.
Indeed, it seems that following Jesus’ model, he did nothing without bringing others with him. In this way, he built up the body of Christ by introducing members of the body to one another. This happened at the personal level and the church level. And it is something we should do as well. Whether in ministry or not, we should all be aware of who our brothers and sisters in Christ are and how we can mediate conversation, friendships, and partnerships for the gospel.2. Invite someone to coffee, lunch, or to anything you are doing.
Such introductions can take place anywhere, but lasting, loving relationships need something more than momentary hallway conversations. To foster relationships, therefore, we must go deeper—or at least, we must go longer. This might look like grabbing coffee or a meal together. Maybe it looks like taking a new couple out to lunch after church, or setting up a play date with another family, or intentionally inviting someone from another age demographic to join your game night.
Creativity and availability are key here. If you are willing to reach out to others, you will reap the blessing of being a conduit of grace to them. Often we fail to invite others because we think unless we can set aside time for them alone, the time would be wasted. But that’s not true at all. Discipleship best occurs in the midst of the mundane. So, look for ways to grab coffee, but don’t neglect drive time, chore time, or going-to-the grocery time. You’d be surprised how many ways you can redeem the time, when you think: How can I bring someone with me?3. Invite someone to your community group or start a discipleship group.
Moving from the informal to the more formal, it is important to help church visitors find contact points other than Sunday morning worship. Most people stay in church when they make relational connection. And one one-hour worship service a week is not sufficient to make that connection.
For that reason, our church has community groups that meet throughout the week. These times of fellowship enable us to talk more openly about life challenges and personal application of the Bible. But people may not know about them or want to go without a personal invitation.
At the same time, we should look for ways to gather groups of believers. You might call this a disciples group and it might include Bible study, prayer, mentoring, or just intentional times of men or women gathering to exhort one another from God’s Word.
Both of these groups are tangible places in the church body where community and care are fostered. When medical crises and personal loss afflict us, our community groups are there to step in. Yet, such care can only be felt as people commit to a weekly community group. Likewise, when life-changing decisions need to be made, what better forum than a group of Bible-saturated believers to pray with and listen to. Still, such connections depend on individuals taking initiative to invite others.4. Never minister alone.
To further this point, we might say: Don’t try to follow Christ by yourself, and never minister alone.
In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi makes the case for taking people to lunch to learn from them. But he also stresses the need to be generous with your time and resources, seeking to serve others instead of using them to serve you. Plagiarizing Jesus (Acts 20:35) he says, “It’s better to give before you receive.” And again, “Real networking [is] about finding ways to make other people more successful.” Indeed, whenever we do anything for the Lord our aim should another’s benefit. But it is possible to serve one group while robbing another.
Here’s what I mean. If in all your teaching, serving, hosting, helping you always serve alone, you are robbing another generation from learning how to teach, serve, host, or help. Scripture teaches us, the normative way to do ministry is in community—two-by-two, in groups, or within or sent out from the local church.
Indeed, we are not simply called to serve God, we are called to bring others with us. Paul says to Timothy, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Clearly, God intends for his disciples to disciple others as they make disciples of others. Indeed, the Christian faith and the Christian ministry are meant to be shared.
And this transferal of discipleship comes not only face-to-face as we instruct those who might listen, but also side-by-side as we labor with those who already are. Therefore, if you to want magnify community and mission in the church, stop doing things by yourself and invite someone along. In the classroom, or the Bible study, or the personal visitation, invite someone to go with you. Stop doing ministry alone and look for ways to multiply your labors.5. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Finally, hospitality must not neglect the body. Typically, hospitality involves some sort of food, but we must also have a category for physical touch and what Paul calls the “holy kiss.”
In 1 Corinthians 16:20, he writes “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” In fact, he says this four times in his letters (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26); Peter says it once (1 Pet. 5:14). Interestingly, this is the same number of times the Lord’s Supper is mentioned in Scripture. Yet, how many of us practice this “holy kiss” or know how to?
Without making the church a kissing booth, there is an important principle that underlies Paul command. If our church is a family, then family affection is appropriate—and necessary. In his book Sensing Jesus, Zack Eswine makes this point and argues for the place of sanctified touch. He writes,
The “holy kiss” envisions a way for Christian community to recover in Jesus how human beings were originally meant to touch each other. Physical touch is meant as a holy act. Few of us know in an experiential way what it means to touch or be touched in a sacred way. Profane touch has mentored and broken most of us.
Put succinctly, physical touch matters. We are not walking brains or disembodied souls. We have bodies—aching, tired, untrustworthy bodies. And as we hobble through this world, it is appropriate to pat a back, hug a side, grab an elbow, or hold a hand. Yes, culture will dictate practice—hence the reason we may not greet each other with a kiss. But make no mistake, we must communicate grace to bodies and souls.
The widow needs more than a “Hello, how are you?” She needs a hug. Children need more than a “Slow down, stop running.” They need a gentle pat on the head from strong men. The redeemed prostitute needs more than “I’m glad you are here,” she needs to receive the touch of godly women and to learn that men’s eyes are not just vehicles of lust but also instruments for empathy. In short, to be the body of Christ, we must care for the bodies of others.
Much could be misunderstood about this call for physical touch, but that only shows how desperately we need our Lord to sanctify our misguided understanding of the body. As Eswine says, “Until the gospel rightly changes our use of touch, we are less ready for ministry than we realize” (pp. 186–87). See chapter 6 in Sensing Jesus.Not an optional ministry
In the end, we must remember Jesus was forsaken that we would be received by the Father. And being received by our heavenly father, we are supplied with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and then called to receive others (Romans 15:7). Surely this includes sharing the message of Christ, but it also includes sharing our lives (1 Thessalonians 2:8). And because the Word of God communicates love to embodied creatures, we must learn how to do more than speak words. We must pursue hospitality.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8, “I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you.” In these words, we learn true gospel ministry—for apostles and auto mechanics—devotes itself to the whole man. In spending ample time with the Corinthians, Paul indicates his desire to be in their homes, at their tables, around their places of work—maybe even at their burial site. Such life-on-life ministry is filled with giving and receiving, hosting and helping. In other words, ministry is hospitality, and hospitality that is more than an event. It is simply the Christian way of life.
Indeed, may this way of life be our own. And may we continue to pray and think and plan ways we can pursue hospitality to share both our lives and the life-giving message of Christ with others.
Our vision for the Augustine Collegiate Review is to publish an academic, Christ-honoring, and accessible journal, benefiting both the academy and the lay-person. We seek to provide an opportunity for Christian scholars to conduct independent research on topics they find personally engaging and appropriate for the building up of the church. As the next generation of Christian academics, we desire to make valuable contributions to fields ranging from metaphysics, aesthetics, apologetics, history, and more. We envision a journal that engages century old ideas with fresh words and eyes, while providing critical analysis on important cultural endeavors. These demand a Christian response, a response that perhaps only Christians reared in a rigorous academic environment are prepared to make. Remaining true to our namesake, we desire, like Augustine, to provide scholarship that also transcends this current culture and impacts readers for decades to come.
As one of the first research journals of our kind, we see a bright future for aspiring scholastics. Research journals are one of the main avenues people present groundbreaking scholarship, and the Augustine Collegiate Review provides a new approach to those ideas. We want to renew the idea that our generation can hold ideals and opinions worthy of consideration and respect. John Calvin published a commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia when he was only 22, and later became one of the most prolific theologians in Christian history. His renown and influence was impossible without an opportunity to publish his work as a young man.
This journal is not an echo chamber, meant only for similar ideas and opinions. Instead, students who publish this journal interact critically with the big-ideas of history and current culture in such a way that demands conversation with secular and sacred realms alike. This journal has a vision of showing there are eloquent and scholarly young men and women with an exceedingly large amount of worthwhile ideas that deserve interaction. It is intended to be ecumenical enough to provide scholarship that critically engages ideas from other Christians, and exclusive enough to clearly exemplify the importance of engaging all ages, races, denominations, and worldviews. We believe they deserve a listening ear.
The inaugural issue of the Augustine Collegiate Review is centered around the evaluation of various aspects of metaphysics. As one of the classic disciplines, philosophers have focused on metaphysical questions for centuries, and continue the discussion today. From evaluating the relationship between the body, the mind, and the soul to exploring the presence of personal identity as it relates to the meaning of humanity, these big questions individuals have long been asking will continue to drastically shape the life of the individual and society as a whole. Overall, developing a proper view of human nature is determined by one’s ultimate reality. Thus, the men and women who contributed to the journal connected with scholars past and present in the quest for answers to these philosophical questions. They evaluate various facets of literature, personhood and technology, beauty and craftsmanship, a theology of place, and God and time. We hope readers, through critical evaluation, self-initiated research, or a simple peaked curiosity, will venture down new paths and join this journey as well.
We hope the inaugural issue of the Augustine Collegiate Review proves fruitful, encouraging, and challenging to a wide audience. It offers students the opportunity to engage ideas charitably while also publishing an academic work for a diverse audience. Ultimately we hope it fosters intellectual curiosity for many readers, and encourages a legacy of cultural and academic engagement from a biblical worldview.
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