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What did I just vow to do? (Or, ordination in a “free church” tradition)

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Last Sunday night was my ordination service at Grace Community Church of Seal Beach. In our tradition (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches), it is the local church alone that is the ordaining agent, rather than a diocese, presbytery of classis. This made the night more personal, since it was our church family doing the ordaining. But personal has its challenges: since I could design the service however I wanted (within reason), the question became: What do I really want to vow to do? Below are the ordination vows I chose. They borrow heavily from the Presbyterian Book of Order and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, with an eye toward our free church practice.  

Vows for the candidate: 

Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If so, please answer I do.

Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word? If so, please answer I do.

Do you sincerely receive and adopt the statement of faith and teaching positions of Grace Community Church as reliable expositions of Scripture, and will you be instructed and led by them as you lead the people of God? If so, please answer I do and I will.

Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, proclaiming the Word of God in season and out of season? If so, please answer I will.

Will you shepherd the flock of God that is before you by equipping them for works of ministry, praying for them and seeking to serve them with energy, intelligence, imagination and love? If so, please answer I will.

Questions to the Congregation

Do we the members of Grace Community Church of Seal Beach ordain Bob Wriedt as our pastor, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to guide us as disciples of Jesus Christ? Do we?

Do we agree to pray for him, to encourage him, to respect his decisions, and to follow as he guides us, serving Jesus Christ, who alone is head of the church? Do we?

Do we promise to pay him fairly and provide for his welfare as he works among us, to stand by him in trouble and share his joys? Will we listen to the Word as he preaches, welcome his pastoral care, and honor his authority as he seeks to honor and obey Jesus Christ our Lord? Do we?

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Why have an ordination service for someone who has been a pastor for 8 years?

To answer this question, it helps to understand what we mean by “ordained” here at Grace, because it is different from other denominations.

I became licensed as a minister in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (of which Grace Seal Beach is a part) during my first year here. This process involved two written exams, two oral exams (one with area pastors, another with our local elder board), and a ceremony of licensure in the Sunday morning worship services. In that service, Pastor Don explained licensure this way: “It’s like a driver’s permit. It’s temporary, but let’s you get out on the road and drive.”

Some denominations require completing ordination before one becomes a pastor. Our fellowship does it a little differently, believing that the best way for both the pastor and the congregation to learn whether someone should be ordained is to have them engage in real life ministry. So, once one is licensed, he has at least a three-year trial process before being eligible for ordination. After that waiting period, he can take two more written exams, two more oral exams, and have a Sunday evening service with carrot cake (okay, I may have added the carrot cake part).

What’s the difference between the two? Licensure is temporary, the tests are easier (though not easy), it is for the purpose of discernment, and is therefore best done under supervision of an ordained minister. Ordination is the final step of the process, and therefore requires a higher level of theological precision in the exams, more self-awareness of strengths, gifts, and calling, and is fitting for those in senior/supervisory leadership roles.

While I could have remained licensed indefinitely, I made the choice to be ordained as a way to express my commitment to serving Jesus in the pastoral ministry for as long as He will have me to do so. The testing period affirmed my commitment to Him, and to serving His church.

Let me end with this: Being licensed here at Grace has provided me a terrific experience of “testing out” pastoral ministry. You have let me figure out who I am and what pastoral ministry is during these first eight years of my time in Seal Beach. I know I have stuck my foot in my mouth plenty of times during these past eight years. Thank you for your patience; it has been a means of God’s grace in my life.

I am especially grateful to Pastor Steve and Pastor Don for their direction, encouragement, trust in me, and prayer. I hope I can encourage others in ministry the way you have encouraged me.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
Quote

“It is because in Christ there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision that the distinction is abrogated not only between Jew and Gentile but also between male and female.”

F.F. Bruce,  The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, p. 104

The end of circumcision and gender issues for Christians

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Neuroscience and the Soul

Last week I attended a lecture at Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought on the topic of “Neuroscience and the Soul.” The speaker, Dr. Kurt Thompson, a psychiatrist from Virginia, built off of this basic premise:

- According to Romans 1:20, creation declares the glory of God.

- Neuroscience is a part of creation.

- Therefore neuroscience declares the glory of God.

If this is true, Thompson wondered, why is neuroscience often used as a tool to ridicule God-belief? (Thompson was too gracious to say it, but noted “New Atheist” Sam Harris springs to mind as someone who leverages the language of neuroscience in order to diminish theism.)

I certainly am not a neuroscientist: the only things I know about the brain are from helping Becca study or listening to NPR. But Dr. Thompason did raise a fascinating question in my mind: neuroscience is held up as the definitive language of our culture. If you can cite a neuroscientific study, it is regarded as a more authoritative form of evidence than just about anything else out there. Therefore, how can Christians engage in the study and dissemination of the findings of neuroscience in a way that glorifies God and declares the gospel of Jesus Christ?

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Four observations about Bible translations in the United States today

The Christian Booksellers Association announced the top ten selling Bible translations from 2012 in the United States recently:

2012 – Based on Dollar Sales

  1. New International Version
  2. King James Version
  3. New Living Translation
  4. New King James Version
  5. English Standard Version
  6. Holman Christian Standard Bible
  7. New American Standard Bible
  8. Common English Bible
  9. Reina Valera 1960
  10. The Message

2012 – Based on Unit Sales

  1. New Living Translation
  2. New International Version
  3. King James Version
  4. New King James Version
  5. English Standard Version
  6. Common English Bible
  7. Holman Christian Standard Bible
  8. New American Standard Bible
  9. Reina Valera 1960
  10. New International Readers Version

A few things stood out to be about these lists:  

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1. Readability – The top two translations (both in terms of dollar sales and unit sales) are the NIV and NLT, both translations that prioritize readability over literal translation. 

2. KJV/NKJV tradition - In pockets of American Christianity, the KJV is considered to be the only choice, with perhaps an allowance of the NKJV for the youth. This is based 

on a preference for the group of manuscripts (called the Byzantine or Received text) that the KJV is based on. I was surprised to see this tradition so near the top of the 2012 list. 

I wonder if the Gideon’s use of the KJV and NKJV had something to do with it. If you aren’t familiar with them, the Gideons are a parachurch organization that gives away  Bibles in hotels, near schools, doctor offices… really anywhere they can, for free. And since the KJV has no license fees, they can get more bang for their buck.  

3. Competing literalist translations - The HCSB, ESV, and NASB all are looking for the same market (those wanting a more literal translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), but seem to be splitting the pie. The HCSB is the official translation of the Southern Baptist Convention, the ESV is favored by the younger Reformed crowd, and the NASB is the translation of choice for an older group of evangelicals who like inductive Bible study. I use the ESV 99% of the time in teaching, and think that it’s star is rising, as influential groups like AWANA and Bible Study Fellowship switched to it this year. 

 

 

4. Reina Valera 1960 and Spanish translations - I certainly am no expert on Spanish translations of the Bible, but I wonder if the market is there for an updated and more readable translation of the Scriptures in Spanish. If anyone knows of one, I’d appreciate the heads-up, so I can help be a resource when asked about what Spanish translation to recommend. 

(HT: Thom Rainer)

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

St. Patrick’s Prayer

From the famous prayer of St. Patrick (aka the Lorica or Breastplate of St. Patrick)

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Why is he called “pope”?

Interesting stuff from Joe Carter’s “9 Things You Should Know About the Papacy”:

1. The most well-known title for the head of the Roman Catholic Church—”pope” (from the Latinpapa, a child’s word for father)—does not appear in the official list of titles given in the Annuario Pontificio (Italian for “Pontifical Yearbook”). The Pope’s official list of titles are Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God.

Read the rest of his list here.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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