As Räsänen points out herself, one does not need to agree with her beliefs to agree that everyone should have the right to speak freely. As Räsänen waits for the ruling of the Court of Appeal, expected before November 30, a lot lies at stake. The verdict will reflect the state of regard for free speech in Europe. This is one to watch as a cautionary tale – not only for Europe, but for the rest of the world as well.
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By David Mathis — 7 months ago
The pastors, who have been aiming all along at the holy and enduring joy of their people, have their own joy made complete in seeing the advantage and gain of the flock. So it is, in the apostles’ complementary callings on the pastors and their people, a kind of holy conspiracy of joy: the leaders aspire to the work and joyfully do it; the people “let them do this with joy,” striving to not give their pastors reasons to groan; and that joyful labor by the pastors then brings about the greater joy, advantage, and benefit of the whole church.
Money and joy. Across the passages in the New Testament that speak to Christian leadership, these are the two most repeated themes. And we might see them as two sides of one motivational coin. That is, what gain are pastor-elders to seek (and not seek) in becoming and enduring as local-church leaders? Why pastors serve really matters.
What Makes a Pastor Happy?
The apostle Paul worked with his own hands, making and mending tents — which made him a good man to make the case for “double honor” (respect and remuneration) for pastor-elders who give themselves to church-work as their breadwinning vocation. However, necessary and good as it is for staff pastors to receive pay, Paul would not have greedy men (paid or unpaid) in either the pastoral or diaconal office. “Not a lover of money,” he specifies in 1 Timothy 3:3 (memorable in the King James as “not greedy of filthy lucre”). For deacons, in 1 Timothy 3:8: “not greedy for dishonest gain.”
So too, the final chapter of Hebrews moves seamlessly from “keep your life free from love of money” (Hebrews 13:5–6) to “remember your leaders” (Hebrews 13:7), and it’s no wonder. The one should go hand in hand with the other — as they do right at the heart of Peter’s passage for elders: “Shepherd the flock . . . , not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2). The apostles would have us speak, in the same breath, of lives free from love of money and local-church leaders who exemplify that lifestyle.
The other side of the coin, then, is the positive motivation: joy. Paul begins 1 Timothy 3 by not only condoning but requiring the holy pursuit of joy in ministry: “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” Pastor-elders must aspire to the work, that is, want it, desire it, anticipating that it will, in some important sense, make them happy. They should not have their arms twisted to serve, but genuinely desire such work from the heart — as Peter says, “not under compulsion, but willingly.” Even though prospective church leaders hear (and may have observed or even experienced) that this line of labor can be especially taxing emotionally and spiritually, they can’t seem to shake a settled desire and aspiration for the work. They desire it, from and for joy.
Gain That Matches the Work
Peter succinctly captures the two sides (not money but joy) of our motivation coin: “not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” Notice he doesn’t say “not for gain.” Rather, he says “not for shameful gain,” meaning that there is a gain without shame that he is not excluding. And in fact, he requires it. “Eagerly” presumes some motivation to gain — just that this gain is not “shameful.”
What, then, might be honorable gain in Christian leadership? We wouldn’t be right to rule out any financial remuneration (which would require ignoring Paul’s case). But we would be correct to rule out money as the driving motivation. What gain, then, are pastors to seek? We might say it like this: honorable gain in Christian ministry is benefit that befits the work. Or we might say: gain that is commensurate with the work.
By Jason K. Allen — 2 years ago
Written by Jason K. Allen |
Sunday, March 6, 2022
The church’s attention to Jesus’ return seems to be seasonal, with interest rising and falling based upon a host of issues, most especially current geo-political events. The need of the hour is not for more end-times speculation or an unhealthy preoccupation with the sequence of eschatological events. Such interests should give way to an eschatological anticipation that impacts how we live the Christian life until he returns.
“There are two days in my calendar: this day and that day,” quipped Martin Luther in reference to Christ’s second coming. We have come a long way since Luther’s statement, with most believers erring dramatically in one of two directions.
Second coming sensationalists are the most egregious, and widely lamented, offenders. They predict the timing of Jesus’ return; but, of course, they do so in vain. Jesus stated no man knows the day or hour of his return. The most infamous prognosticator in recent years has been Harold Camping, who on multiple occasions has predicted the specific date of Jesus’ return, thus embarrassing himself—and the name of Christ—before a watching world.
As irresponsible as Camping and his ilk are, one can argue the greater danger facing the church is not hyper-expectancy about Jesus’ return, but a slumbering church that acts as though Jesus isn’t returning at all. This seems especially to be the case in the year 2013. Twenty years ago, sermons and literature on the second coming were plentiful, but such interest seems to have gone the way of the el Camino car or the waterbed, an out of style fad from a previous generation.
This ought not be the case, for evangelicals are a second coming people. Though we hold differing positions on both the millennium and on the tribulation, we are unified on the literal and soon-coming return of Christ. For Christians, though, the most important questions to ask are not if Jesus will return—that is settled—and not when he will return, that is unknowable. The most helpful question to ask is: “So what?”
Jesus’ second coming is not an abstract doctrine with no bearing on the Christian life. Rather, the New Testament refers to Jesus’ return with applicability. The Bible is replete with references to Jesus’ second coming. These passages come not as an eschatological data dump, but as a forthcoming event that is to shape a Christian’s life. The Pauline corpus speaks with special relevance. Paul frequently references, and even elaborates on, the timing and circumstances of Christ’s return. In studying Paul’s many references to the second coming, one finds that the Apostle gives special emphasis not only to Jesus’ return, but to the church’s posture as the bride in waiting. What Jesus will do and when he will do it are not unimportant considerations, but they are not the most urgent. The most pressing consideration for believers is how we should live in light of his impending return.
An Expectant Hope
In Titus 2:13, Paul describes Jesus’ second coming as the church’s “blessed hope.” For most Christians throughout church history, expecting the second coming was more than the hope of moving from a good life to a more perfect eternal state. Rather, it was a yearning for deliverance from pestilence and war, a yearning for deliverance from death and destruction, and a yearning for deliverance from poverty and persecution, or even deliverance from martyrdom.
By Scott Aniol — 1 year ago
Churches that understood corporate worship to be covenant renewal used music that modestly supported a fitting embodiment of doctrinally rich hymn lyrics and avoided music that simply “enervates men’s souls.” Sacramental worship, on the other hand, with its understanding of worship as felt experience of God, saw pop music as the perfect vehicle for their goals.
In a previous article, I argued that music (all art) embodies interpretation of reality—it embodies ideas beyond mere words. Scripture itself does this, not only telling us what we should believe, qualities that should describe us, and how we should live, but also showing us through artistic embodiment those things. Therefore, we Christians ought to always evaluate the embodied ideas within a work of art to determine whether or not they accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
Two Worship Theologies
This brings us to music used in worship. As I’ve argued, what worship songs do is more than just neutrally carry theological ideas expressed through words. If this were the case, then as long as the words were theologically correct, it would not matter what musical forms or performance style carries those words.
Side note: I hope you recognize here that even lyrics that are “technically” correct may already present an interpretation of biblical ideas that do not “accord with sound doctrine.” This is beyond the scope what I want to get to in this article, but just consider whether “reckless” or “sloppy wet kiss” accords with how Scripture expresses God’s love. These are not just neutral expressions of a correct biblical truth (God’s love), they embody a particular interpretation of what God’s love is like.
Music is not simply a neutral container for lyrical ideas—music embodies an interpretation of those ideas. So with worship songs, the music embodies both an interpretation of the particular words of the song and an interpretation of what is actually happening in the worship service.
So before I give some attention to the music itself, we need to briefly review the fact that Christians hold to more than one theology of worship.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll focus on what I would say are the two most dominant theologies of worship among Christians today.1
The first is what I’ll call Covenant-Renewal Worship. This is a theology of worship that considers the Lord’s Day corporate gathering to be one of covenant renewal in which God renews his covenant with his people through the gospel, and his people renew their covenant with him in responses of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and dedication. This kind of covenant renewal glorifies God because it highlights the work that he has done, and it forms his people to mature in how they live out the implications of that gospel covenant. Here’s how I describe it in Biblical Foundations of Corporate Worship:
Corporate worship is like renewing our gospel vows to Christ. Just like when we were first converted, God calls us to draw near to him. Just like at our conversion, we respond with confession of sin and acknowledgement that we have broken God’s laws. Just like when we were first saved, we hear words of pardon from God because of the sacrifice of Christ. Just like when we began our relationship with God, we eagerly listen to his instructions and commit to obey. We are not getting “re-saved” each week, but we are renewing our covenant vows to the Lord, and in so doing, we are rekindling our relationship with him and our commitment to him, and he with us.2
Worship services shaped by this theology follow the shape of the gospel:
God reveals himself and calls his people to worship through his Word.
God’s people acknowledge and confess their need for forgiveness.
God provides atonement.
God speaks his Word.
God’s people respond with commitment.
God hosts a celebratory feast.
Corporate worship that embodies this theology is dialogical, a conversation between God and his people. God always speaks first through his Word, and then his people respond appropriately to God’s revelation.
As Bryan Chapell has helpfully demonstrated in Christ-Centered Worship, and as I demonstrate in Changed from Glory into Glory: The Liturgical Story of the Christian Faith, covenant-renewal worship characterized believers in the early church and Protestants following the seventeenth-century Reformation. Though differences certainly exist between various groups stemming from the Reformation, their theology of covenant-renewal worship was fairly consistent. Another book that very helpfully explains this historic theology of worship is Jonathan Cruse’s What Happens When We Worship.
Songs within this covenant-renewal worship serve one of two functions: (1) Often psalms and hymns serve as God’s words to us, either directly quoting from or paraphrasing Scripture itself. (2) Psalms and hymns can also serve as our response to God’s revelation.
With both cases, choice of songs depends upon how the lyrical content fits within the dialogical, gospel-shaped covenant renewal service. Songs are not lumped together into a musical “set,” but rather interspersed with Scripture readings and prayers throughout the dialogical, gospel-shaped service.
The goal of covenant-renewal worship is discipleship—building up the body (1 Cor 14:26). Every aspect of the service is chosen, not for how it will give “authentic expression” to the worshipers or give them an experience of God’s presence (see below), but rather how it will build them up, maturing them by the Word of God.
The music itself is actually not very prominent in this theology of worship. Music is important—as I’ve discussed, it provides an interpretation of the theology of the lyrics and gives expression to that interpretation. But music is secondary. The music is selected and performed to modestly support the truth with sentiments that “accord to sound doctrine,” and an emphasis is given to reverence, self-control, sobriety, and dignity in how the songs are led, accompanied, and performed.
Contrary to caricatures, this kind of worship is deeply emotional, but the music is not intended to stimulate or arouse emotion; rather, deep affections of the soul are stirred by the Holy Spirit through his Word, and music simply gives language to appropriate responses to the Word. Emotion in covenant-renewal worship is not often immediate, visceral, or flashy—rather, it is felt deeply in the soul.3 In fact, particularly because of commands in Scripture (like Titus 2:1) that Christians are to be dignified and self-controlled, care is given to avoid music that would cause a worshiper to lose control. Christians with this theology recognized that although physical feelings are good, they must be controlled lest our “belly” (a Greek metaphor for bodily passions) be our god (Phil 3:19). Rather, since reverence, dignity, and self-control are qualities that accord with sound doctrine, music is chosen that will nurture and cultivate these qualities and the affections of the soul like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col 3:12) and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:23). This theology takes note of the fact that qualities like intensity, passion, enthusiasm, exhilaration, or euphoria are never described in Scripture as qualities to pursue or stimulate, and they are never used to define the nature of spiritual maturity or the essence of worship.
Musical choices from this perspective are not about new vs. old or the canonization of one kind of music; rather, it is about choosing musical forms that best accord with a covenant-renewal theology of worship.