The Simplest Way to Impact Your Community Right Now
It was the great missionary William Carey who said in the late 18th century: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
That resonates with most Christians; we want to see God move mightily, and we want to play a part in it. We want to see our homes, communities, countries, and world reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But where do we begin? Where do we start?
We might get so fixated on “attempting something great” that we miss the opportunity right in front of us—an opportunity that is readily available and also very simple. The best opportunity you might have to impact your community right now is through hospitality. What’s more, that’s not a new phenomenon.
Hospitality was vitally important to the spread of the gospel in the days when the church was just beginning to flourish because when traveling to a new area, people were at the mercy of the people who lived in that city. Christians took hospitality seriously, and because they did, the gospel was able to take root as it spread through displaced Christians who were welcomed into the homes and lives of others. It’s not wonder, then, that the biblical authors of the New Testament put such an emphasis on hospitality:
“Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
“Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
“Be hospitable to one another without complaining” (1 Peter 4:9).
From a purely pragmatic perspective, the early church had to practice hospitality in order for the gospel to continue to move throughout the world and for the church to grow. But there’s also a deeper reason why hospitality is so vital – that’s because practicing hospitality is one of the simplest and most tangible ways we model the truth of the gospel.
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Why the PCA Needs a Statute of Limitation – Reasons to Vote Against Amending BCO 32-20By Jason Piland — 2 years ago
I am convinced that removing the present wording of the statute of limitations in BCO 32-20 will lead to other serious problems and unintended consequences. The proposed amendment will potentially open up members to harassment by the courts; it will allow the shepherding from elders to become lax; it will allow courts to settle for evidence that has been corrupted by time but fits a preconceived narrative; and, ultimately, it will harass and harm untold members of our congregations.
Removing the “Statute of Limitations” from the Book of Church Order (BCO) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is a serious matter, and I am concerned that last summer’s General Assembly hastily began that process without counting the costs. If we move forward with the proposed substitute to BCO 32-20, I fear there will be significant unintended consequences. I write in hopes that Presbyters across the PCA will better appreciate the wisdom of having a statute of limitations and, with Anton Heuss, I hope that the proposed replacement of BCO 32-20 will NOT be approved and that better language will be put forward.
As it stands today, BCO 32-20 begins, “Process, in case of scandal, shall commence within the space of one year after the offense was committed, unless it has recently become flagrant.” This amounts to what some, including the SJC and an important commentator, have called a “Statute of Limitations” for church discipline, at least for cases of “scandal.” The new proposal sent to Presbyteries for their advice and consent removes this language altogether and only codifies the right the accused already has to object to indictments and names “degradation of evidence” as one possible ground for objection.
Overture 22, which gave rise to the proposed language, and Howie Donahoe, the esteemed moderator of the 47th GA, raise a number of objections to the current BCO 32-20, but neither account for the significant costs of removing a statute of limitations altogether. Nevertheless, I share their concern about abuse and other private sins that are not immediately known or discovered. I wholeheartedly agree with criticisms of the current BCO 32-20 on this point, but this does not warrant overthrowing a statute of limitations altogether when an exception could be built into the BCO that provides a way to bring before the court cases of past abuse.
We need to remember why we have a statute of limitations in the first place, and I posit that there are at least three significant reasons to retain a statute of limitations for church discipline.
To Protect the Accused
A statute of limitations protects every member of the PCA from all kinds of harassment by the courts. If a court declines to bring charges against a person, it can’t hold the possibility of charges over that person’s head in perpetuity.
Consider another situation. Suppose a pastor or Session believes a church member is guilty of a particular sin, and, with a clear conscience, the church member does not believe he has committed it. Or suppose a church member believes he is repentant of a certain sin, but his elders don’t think so. What happens then? Often in cases like these, the church member hears continual, frank, and strong counsel about how he needs to own up to his sin or to biblically repent of it. The shepherds are doing what they believe is right: rebuking strongly from time to time, bearing with the individual over the long haul in a “pastoral” manner, calling him to be faithful to Scripture’s teaching, and seeking to keep the rest of the church pure from the potential defilement of sin.
But the actions of the elders wear down the church member. The elders don’t want to bring charges, so they are “patient.” They don’t realize how the church member feels like the life is being squeezed out of him. In these cases, forbearance isn’t the answer. When the church member and Session legitimately disagree after prayerful dialogue and counsel, the pastoral answer is not to wait it out and hope the church member changes his mind. The loving and right thing is often for the Session to bring charges. From the Session’s perspective, he is in conscious sin, and it must be addressed immediately. From the church member’s perspective, he has the right to have his case heard not just by his Session, but also to have it reviewed by the higher courts of the church. It is a merciful thing that the church member has his day in court to vindicate himself and to appeal to higher courts for assistance. We are Presbyterians, and this is Presbyterianism at its best. This is good for both the Session and the church member because there will be resolution to the disagreement.
A statute of limitations requires Sessions to bring charges sooner rather than later. It protects the accused from a forbearance in the name of pastoral kindness that ends up being harmful. Where legitimate disagreement exists, a statute of limitations puts an end to it by requiring action, and it protects the accused from all kinds of potential harassment by the courts of the church.
To Encourage Diligent Shepherding
If a court is not able to bring a charge on day 366, it is forced to be diligent in shepherding its flock in the first 365 days after a disciplinable offense takes place. When a court knows that a sin cannot be addressed through process after one year, a statute of limitations actually compels action. We want to encourage the shepherds of the church to conscientiously care for the hurting and wandering sheep and not to let a sheep walk away from the fold for years before beginning the process of bringing him back.
When someone commits an offence of the sort that often gives rise to formal discipline, it often takes several months for the dust to settle, for the church to understand what happened, and for the offender and the offended parties to appreciate the fallout. The spiritual realities are not usually immediately clear. So the statute of limitations ought not be too short to require the court to act before it can shepherd the parties through these early days and gain clarity of the situation. But it seems that a year has been plenty of time in the PCA to understand what happened, counsel the parties, assess their responses, and determine if formal process is fitting. These situations are difficult, and courts must be diligent shepherds to adequately care for its members. A statute of limitations requires them to be engaged intentionally from day one, and that is a good thing.
To Ensure Accurate Evidence
As time goes on, the quality of evidence degrades. Memories fade. Witnesses move away, die, or otherwise disappear. Documentary evidence, whether digital or physical, corrupts or goes missing. The immediacy of the offence is lost to time, and the accuracy of the remaining testimony decreases in quality. Overture 22 admits as much. Of course, there is no certain time where good evidence goes bad, but the principle still stands: It is better to call upon witnesses and use evidence when it is as fresh as possible so that the accuracy and truthfulness of that testimony is best preserved and conveyed.
Additionally, the further one is from an event, the easier it is to falsify documents or to produce fraudulent testimony. We minimize the risk of false accusations if we maintain a statute of limitations.
The substitute proposal includes an encouragement to courts to not entertain an indictment if the evidence has been too degraded, but such a question is far too subjective and could easily be answered to accord with the court’s view of the merits of the case. I question the wisdom of placing this as the only named backstop on the court’s ability to do adjudicate ancient cases. A bright-line statute of limitations takes this question out the hands of the court in the interests of fairness.
While I deeply appreciate the concern about some alleged offenses that may not be immediately known, I am convinced that removing the present wording of the statute of limitations in BCO 32-20 will lead to other serious problems and unintended consequences. The proposed amendment will potentially open up members to harassment by the courts; it will allow the shepherding from elders to become lax; it will allow courts to settle for evidence that has been corrupted by time but fits a preconceived narrative; and, ultimately, it will harass and harm untold members of our congregations.
There are better ways to word an amendment to handle the problem of alleged offenses in the church than to remove a reasonable and limited time period altogether, avoiding throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
I urge Presbyteries to vote against the proposed amendment to BCO 32-20 and then let us find a better solution to the perceived problem. Concerned members of the PCA can work to make sure a better alternative isn’t too far away.
Jason Piland is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and serves as Associate Pastor of Redeemer (PCA) in Hudson, Ohio.
 See, e.g., Grace RPC Session v. Heartland Presbytery, Case No. 93-14, M23GA, 113–121; Morton H. Smith, Commentary on the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, 5th ed. (Greenville: Southern Presbyterian, 2004), 313.
 The full text of the proposal is as follows:
The accused or a member of the court may object to the consideration of a charge, for example, if he thinks the passage of time since the alleged offense makes fair adjudication unachievable. The court should consider factors such as the gravity of the alleged offense as well as what degradations of evidence and memory may have occurred in the intervening period.
Review: Estelle, The Primary Mission of the ChurchBy Harrison Perkins — 1 year ago
Estelle’s book provides some truly original biblical insights as he reflects upon the Joseph and Daniel narratives, arguing that they exemplify God’s people engaging as individual believers in the secular field. The historical material provides an illuming exploration of what the spirituality of the church is not, and what it is. Readers will find throughout this nearly-comprehensive volume thought-provoking material to help discover a refined, precise, and biblical understanding about what task Christ gave his church between his ascension and return.
Western culture is being ripped apart, to varying degrees depending on the country, over issues of social justice and cultural welfare. That increasing pressure has also often included the advocates of various social causes demanding assent from everyone else. This no exception approach to ideological uniformity has also often affected the church, as proponents of cultural issues impose their views upon us as another institution that must get in line with secular orthodoxy. Perhaps even more troubling, Christians also have sided against one another even on these exact same issues—in some way or another—both insisting that the church must adopt and promote their cause. Christians sympathetic to mainstream cultural woes summon the church to align itself overtly with the same causes defended in the popular media, while Christians who see those issues as nonsensical intrusions of unbiblical mindsets insist that the church speak out against these same agendas. Ironically, both sides of this issue demand the same thing: that the church as church address cultural issues with a formal and official stance and pronounce from the pulpit about what God has said we must do.
Into this furor of demands for the church to saddle up for or against every wave of cultural concern, Bryan Estelle has contributed a balanced, even-keeled defense of the church’s mission as focused primarily upon spiritual matters.
An Important New Book: Covenantal and Dispensational TheologiesBy Kim Riddlebarger — 1 year ago
“Over the last one hundred years, the debate between dispensationalism and covenant theology has often hampered more than helped fellow Bible-believing Christians understand one another or the Scriptures they all uphold as authoritative. This book represents a welcome exception. Each writer makes a cogent case for their respective positions, and the book delivers what the title advertises: four views on covenantal versus dispensational theologies.” R. Todd Mangum, Clemens Professor of Missional Theology
Here’s the scoop on an important new book, with Michael Horton as a main contributor: Covenental and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture
Here’s the Publisher’s Blurb:
How does the canon of Scripture fit together? For evangelical Christians, there is no question about the authority of Scripture and its testimony to the centrality of Jesus Christ in God’s salvation plan. But several questions remain: How do the Old Testament and New Testament relate to each other? What is the relationship among the biblical covenants? How should Christians read and interpret Scripture in order to do justice to both its individual parts and its whole message? How does Israel relate to the church? In this volume in IVP Academic’s Spectrum series, readers will find four contributors who explore these complex questions. The contributors each make a case for their own view―representing two versions of covenantal theology and two versions of dispensational theology―and then respond to the others’ views to offer an animated yet irenic discussion on the continuity of Scripture.
Views and Contributors:
Covenant Theology: Michael S. Horton, Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
Progressive Covenantalism: Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Progressive Dispensationalism: Darrell L. Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
Traditional Dispensationalism: Mark A. Snoeberger, professor of systematic theology and apologetics, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary
Here are the Recommendations:
“None of us interprets the biblical text in a vacuum. Those who say they interpret the Bible without bringing any theology to the text are mistaken; they are simply unaware of the theology they hold. This work on covenant and dispensational systems helps us to see larger frameworks that are operating when we read the biblical text. We are challenged by this fascinating book to examine the Scriptures to see what is really so (Acts 17:11). We want to be faithful in proclaiming the whole plan of God (Acts 20:27), and grappling with the different views presented in this book will sharpen us all to be more faithful.”
— Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary