Teaching By Asking Questions (Teaching Like Jesus, pt. 8)

I have a question for you…
-Matt. 21:24, Mark 11:29, Luke 20:3

In my opinion, it is good when a speaker, whether it is just your friend across a table, or someone speaking to a huge audience, asks us questions.  It is bad when someone asks no questions, but just teaches you, lectures you or tries to entertain you.

Think about the best comedians or Shakespearean soliloquy/monologues.  They ask the audience questions.  They ask us to enter into the story.

The best experiences are when we are drawn in.  We say, “Yeah, that happens to me”.  And the questions draw me into whatever the speaker is talking about, so that we can be together in it.  Saying, “have you ever ran out of gas?”, “burned your toast?”, “been honked at?”, “been given a surprise?”; all draw me into your story or the story in teaching that you are asking me to go on.

If you have ever watched a TED talk, the speakers ask you questions to draw you into the story about what they are sharing or teaching.  That is called compelling.

Everything that we say that is compelling is not a question.  I am not sure if the Gettysburg Address has questions in it or if good eulogies need to have them to be compelling.

According to Hermann Horne, Jesus asked about 100 questions, in the Gospels.  The homework for this study, would be for us to go the Gospels and circle all Jesus questions.

Jesus is the answer.  But Jesus came to ask questions and give answers.  Why?

His questions are meant to stir us up to thinking.  Education is when we think and learn something.

I personally believe that good teaching involves asking questions and I like that style.  I used to listen to a preacher on the radio that began every message with, saying, “Question”, then he would ask a question, that was what his message was about.

Questions lead to dialogue, learning, and community.  I would say that in dysfunctional families or relationships, we don’t ask questions.  Dysfunctional parents or teachers do not ask questions or encourage questions that educate, cause growth, or nurture community.

Curious people are thinking people who ask questions and are growing.  Great teachers or leaders tell us things, and also ask us great questions.  And the best teachers and leaders also encourage their students or followers to ask questions, and they refuse sometimes, maybe often, to answer them.

This is one of my favorite quotes ever:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke


Learning to teach Like Jesus series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Sheep, Goats, & Shepherds

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

-Matt. 25:32-34, 1 Peter 5:1-5

After spending the evening with friends who are shepherds, I thought of two more points to add to my list on preparing for the harvest:
21. God will provide help for you, with your unexpected harvest, from hidden people near you whose hearts are already prepared to offer help to you.
22. Beware of people with agendas who are not followers, whose antics will disrupt your community.  Call them out, and if they do not repent, invite them to leave.
God gives some people shepherd’s hearts  
A shepherd can be a man or a woman.  A true shepherd cares for sheep.  
That caring is both loving and stern.  I enjoyed the book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, by Philip Keller.  In it, he talks about the characteristics of sheep and what they need from their shepherds.
Many Christians have shepherd’s hearts, while few become professional pastors who run a church and preach on Sundays.  In the coming harvest, all the believers who have been in the audience (congregants), who have shepherd’s hearts, will be called by God ‘into the ministry’ of shepherding.  Pastor means shepherd and pastoral care means shepherding.
Something that has been largely untouched by the Protestant Reformation, is this notion of the solo pastor or the clergy/laity dichotomy.  This is an idea that was abolished by Jesus, in the New Covenant, but then reinstated by the church, as it became institutionalized after the death of the Apostles and their protegees, and into the time of Constantine and Christendom.
Many people in the body of Christ have the gift of pastor or pastoring.  It might be their main gift, or part of their gift-mix cluster.  The solo pastor or the duo, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octet, nonet, or dectet of ‘pastors on staff’, is not the Biblical blueprint.  It is something we place on the Bible and assume they did it like we do: Episcopalian, for instance.
You might turn to Ephesians 4 and say that these are the ones that run the show of the church.  But what those ministries are for is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  It’s strange when we talk about ‘going into ministry’, when Ephesians 4 says that all the saints do the ministry.
Many people have shepherd’s hearts (they are natural, gifted pastors).  Some of them have already gone where their hearts have led them, to help people in a thousand ways other than preaching sermons and officiating weddings, funerals, and baptisms.
When your sudden harvest of people come into your life and you feel overwhelmed, God will send people with shepherds hearts to help you.  You of course need to discern that they are not a wolf person or a goat person; but are genuine.

Some people, who will come to your group, your church; are goats
That leads me to the second point, which is the issue of sheep and goats.  Both look somewhat alike, but are different.  Sheep are believers and goats are not believers.
Goats can get mixed in with sheep, but they are not sheep.  Goats can try to join a flock of sheep, but they are different and recognizable not only visually, but behaviorally.
“Sheep are gentle, quiet, and easily led; but goats are pushy, self-sufficient and headstrong.”  
Goats are naturally quarrelsome and have short tempers. They rear and butt in order to establish dominance. Rather than being a passive animal like the sheep, they have more aggressive tendencies.

Goats do not require as much supervision or care as sheep. Perhaps this is because they are a more independent animal. Unlike sheep, goats will easily revert back to their wild conditions if given the chance. Goats do not graze like sheep do, but instead browse. They nibble here and there, sampling a variety of bushes and leaves. Because they are browsers and do not graze, they tend to wander when they eat.

Goats also like the high places, often heading upward. They are not herded as well as sheep because they would rather lead than follow. Two striking differences between sheep and goats are that goats have an excessively bad odor and their tails are short and held high.

How do these goat characteristics relate spiritually to the shepherd or leader? If a “goat” is part of a fold, you may see some of these characteristics displayed. Goats are often pushy and can cause undercurrents and dissension. Turmoil and agitation are part of their nature. I believe this is because the goat has a dominating and controlling temperament, rather than a passive and submissive one.

Goats tend to be more self-sufficient than sheep, choosing to browse rather than graze in the pasture. They don’t enjoy the green pastures in the same way as the sheep. They are not always satisfied with what the shepherd (leader) gives them. They will nibble on the Word of God, a little here and a little there, yet they love to be seen in the high places. The goats walk with their tails held high, spiritually indicating pride, and they emit an offensive odor. There is something distinguishing about the goat, and that is the odor, or “air” about them.

All this said, it is important to note that goats are not wolves. They will not eat the sheep because they are not the meat eaters that the wolves are. They may be agitators and cause some turmoil for the shepherd, but they are not seriously harmful to the sheep. Perhaps that is why Jesus waits until His return to separate the sheep from the goats. The real danger and threat to our flocks and herds is the wolf.”

And some more on goats, from Rob McNutt:
“Typically, a shepherd in Palestine allowed sheep and goats to mingle together during the day. But at night, he separated the sheep from the goats through his unique call. The sheep would sleep in the open air, while the goats needed the heat of close quarters.

Why did Matthew use the images of sheep (for the righteous) and goats (for the evil)?  Ancient people drew moral analogies from the habits of sheep and goats.  Sheep were intelligent, yet quiet animals, submissive, yet persistent. Male sheep fiercely protected their harems from challengers.  Sheep arrange themselves in a herd. In the face of danger, the adult males would surround the females and the young.

In a culture that encouraged loud debate and social one-upmanship, contemporaries of Jesus admired sheep for their loyalty and silent strength.

Goats, however, were stubborn, destructive animals if left unattended. Male goats did not protect their mates from other males. The name “goat” became a derogatory term for a man shamed by the adultery of his wife.

In the folklore of the general Greek culture, the goat symbolized the loose morals of the lesser gods, Pan, Bacchus, and Aphrodite. So, Jews hated the symbol of the goat, for it represented a disobedient, undisciplined lifestyle.”

Some people you will encounter in Christian communities are goats.  Are they there to take over, cause trouble, buck the system, or are they genuinely on the road to salvation?  Shepherds must discern.  Do we call them out and kick them out?  Or do we let them stay, but keep them from hurting others?
I think that your community or church is like your house with ‘house rules’.  People who come over to our house have to abide by certain rules.  This goes with children and adults.
We can say, “you can’t do that here”.  If they can not or will not stop it, we can warn then again, and then they will have to leave.  It is that simple.
And what ‘they can not do’ simply boils down to that they can not do things that harm others or undermine the community.  There is plenty of hurt and offense that could happen, but harm is a whole other matter.
When people are confronted, they usually leave, if they are ingenuine.  We might misunderstand a person and confront them incorrectly too.  They may stay or leave after that.
Being assertive (to confront someone) is actually loving.  To passively let someone get away with violating house rules is bad shepherding.
Bottom line: be aware of goats.

Jesus Never Made Speeches (Learning to Teach Like Jesus, pt. 7)

After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

-Luke 2:46

Jesus never made speeches.  But when Christian leaders get up to teach, it is most always a speech they give.  We also call this a sermon, a talk, or an address.  You can actually get a doctorate in homiletics and be an expert on speechifying, in teaching the Bible.

Jesus did not teach through giving speeches, but we love to give and hear speeches, in order to teach or be taught.  If you go to almost any church, this is what we usually do.  But, it is not what Jesus did, nor what the Apostles did.

We kind of assume they did.  And we read the NT through our lense.  We impose our lifestyles, traditions and biases onto the text and see what is not there.

How would you like it if you found out that Jesus did not do sermon prep like we do and bring a sermon to people?

Some of the worst sermons you and I have ever heard were by preachers who did not prepare, but ‘winged it’.  The reason for this is that to give a good speech, you do need to prepare.  They tried to give a compelling speech without preparing or getting ready and they failed.  Great speeches are thought out and written out and often memorized and rehearsed.

 You may be great at doing the speech thing and even earn your salary because you are good at it.  But Jesus did not teach by giving speeches.  When you give speeches, you are not teaching how Jesus taught.

You may love the Lord and love God’s people.  You may be smart, wise and compassionate.  You have a true shepherd’s heart.  And from all that, you teach.

But your teaching is speech-ing.  Monologues.  Your audience loves what you do, loves what you bring.

Jesus did not teach that way though.  You are doing something he did not do.  Why don’t you think about being a pastor, being a teacher like how Jesus did it?

You don’t have to wear a robe and sandals or grow a beard.  Not that there’s anything wrong with doing those things.  But why not teach how Jesus taught, through dialogue: questions and answers.

The immediate objection by you, might be, “that won’t work!”  You might think, ‘chaotic’, or ‘out of control’.  ‘Open mic’ at church?  “People come to church to worship and hear a teaching and not be questioned by the preacher!”, is what you might say.

But that is how Jesus did it, so why don’t we?  He listened to the people’s questions and he asked questions.  He dialogued with people, and taught them that way.

Speeches or sermons are monologues.  Jesus dialogued.  Jesus taught conversationally.

Chapter seven of Horne’s book, Teaching Techniques of Jesus, is entitled, His Conversations.

The four gospels contain over 100 instances of Jesus asking questions.  Think about it.  The person with the answers constantly asked questions or those he would teach.

The best sermons contain questions, not answers.  Questions make you think and are for you to learn.

The homework assignment for this chapter would be to read through the gospels and look at all the times Jesus asked questions and to notice how he taught: through dialogue, with questioning.

To me, it is mind blowing to compare how Jesus taught with how we teach.  Where are the questions and where is the dialogue?  And how come I don’t see Jesus giving sermons like we do?

We imagine or fantasize that he was like us.  But we forget that Christianity is supposed to be about us being like him.


The painting above is: Giovanni Antonio Galli (Lo Spadarino), Christ Among the Doctors, c. 1620

Learning to teach Like Jesus series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Equipping The Saints

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong.

He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ.

-Ephesians 4:11-12 (CEV, MEV)
The ministry of Christ is meant to be done by the people who make up the church, who are ‘the Saints’.  In Christ, we are all saints.  Get rid of the legalistic idea that you are ‘no saint’, because in Christ, we are all saints.  
The issue is being in Christ.  If you aren’t in Christ, you simply are not a Christian, because that is what a Christian is.
Now, there has been a battle raging over ministry.  This issue was not solved during the beginning of the Reformation.  It is the church’s “third rail”.
In order to really come into what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, professional ministers who’s vocation is ‘ministry’ are simply going to have to step down.  They need to step down and be on the level with the whole church.
The ‘org chart’ of the church is flat, with one line pointing up, to Jesus.  He leads and builds and we all serve and we all do the ministry.  All of us.
The New Testament does not inaugurate a priestly class of people who are ‘the ministers’, that is 1, 2, 3, or 4% of Christians.  Everyone is a priest and everyone is a minister.
For various reasons, around the 2nd or 3rd century, this problem started.  The church invented the clergy/laity split that is not at all envisioned by the New Testament.  The Reformation, with Luther and the others, did not finish reforming this issue; but it started to.  That is when we started rediscovering the idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’.
Many Christians nod to this while not being in favor of the concept of ‘every member is a minister’.
Ephesians 4 teaches us that all Christians (the Saints) are the ministers, in the church.  Some people are ‘equippers’ or ‘trainers’, for the ministry done by others.  These are people called apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, or teachers.  That is what APEST stands for.
There has also been a debate as to whether Paul is talking about four or five groups of people.  Are there pastors and teachers as separate categories or is it pastor/teacher as a hybrid?  Both are probably true.
An aspect of the fierce debate is that the vocational ministry side, which is multifaceted; says that all pastors (ministers or preachers) have to be teachers.  Their argument is linked to the idea that pastors (vocational pastors, ministers, or preachers) are elders and elders must be able to teach.   That is true, but you can not superimpose that idea as your interpretive key to Ephesians 4.
The topic of Ephesians 4 is Christ and the church.  Paul says that Christ has made some people equippers, so that the rest of us can do the ministry.  This runs counter to the idea that the clergy do the ministry and the rest of us give them support money and passively receive their ministry.
Vocational ministers are defensive about Ephesians 4.  Besides discounting the idea that ministry belongs in the hands of everyone, another point of contention is that these are not five equipping ministries, but four.
But the truth is that there is pastoral ministry that does not involve teaching and there is teaching ministry that does not involve pastoring.  There are people who are gifted as pastors, who are not gifted as teachers.  They would not be qualified to be elders.
It is that simple.  Pastors who are not teachers are healers or caregivers.  A hospice worker or chaplain, for example.
Some teachers are not pastors.  They are outstanding at teaching, but do not have a shepherding giftedness.  
We are all called to bear the fruit of the Spirit, grow in godliness and become Christlike.  But some people are not the best ones at certain things
Ephesians 4 tells us that there are people who are in the five offices mentioned (APEST), who know their stuff so well that they are gifted to train the rest of us in how to effectively minister in that realm that they know.
When we look at the five APEST ministries, some or one will stand out for each of us in being what we are for or passionate about.  Taking an APEST quiz might help you get in touch with what kind of ministry you are passionate about or feel designed to do.

Ordination, Offices, Function and Authority (2)

But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

-Matthew 20:25-28
In churches there are structures of governance.  If you walk into a church meeting, you might ask, “who is in charge?”  And when someone writes, speaks, prays, counsels or does music; somebody might ask, “by what authority?”, or, “who authorized you?”
Some people make these questions more important or a bigger deal.  You mention an author that you read and people might ask who they are or where they are from and what group they are attached to.  And it gets difficult to describe the affiliations or make-up of someone’s pedigree, because their are thousands of streams or tribes in the body of Christ.
My friends and I were starting a home group once and a man who was a friend and tried out the group, was very concerned that none of us who were co-leading had ordination papers or were pastors on a payroll or something.  I knew a pastor who’s regional overseer was concerned about groups that were meeting outside the walls of the church property and that this pastor was beginning to dress more casually, when meeting with the church.  And I saw a person’s article in an online magazine, who was wearing the priestly collar, in which they were questioning another person’s authority to teach or lead in blog posts or through speaking and writing, outside of some sanctioned arena of influence.

All of these stories get me thinking about this topic of ordination, offices, function and authority.  The church ‘authorities’ questioned Jesus about, “who authorized you?’ (Mark 11:27-8).  Seems like the same thing still goes on today.  And although people are ordained in the high to the low churches and we have big Christian publishing houses and medium and small; in all these mechanisms or spheres of authority, we have faulty people.

I’m saying that we assume that because a person is ordained with a group, or has a book contract or record contract with a publisher or label, that they ‘must be ok’.  And if they ‘go bad’, they will be dealt with or disciplined by that organization.  But scandal is always a part of institutional power, perhaps because power outside of God or power that is not from and through God is corrupt power.

One of the words that authoritarians use is, ‘laity’.  They refer to we who are not in the clergy class as being ‘lay people’.  The problem is that there is no clergy/laity dichotomy in the NT.

We are actually all clergy and laity.  A huge variety of gifts are in us all and many of those gifts have leadership attributes or abilities that we may function in for the benefit of others.  The leadership structure in the kingdom is flat, with one person at the top, who is Christ.

Every time you want to argue that there is clergy and they are the ones over others, in charge, the authorities, the bosses or whatever title you want to employ; you must check yourself with Jesus words from Matthew 20.  No dominating exercising of power over other people.  Rather, you get to serve and be a slave; and servants or slaves are not in any way ‘over’ others, but under them, lifting them up and beside them, holding them up and guiding them and protecting them.

Most every church has officers.  Officers are those who are appointed, ordained, chosen or commissioned to be ‘in charge’ of some task or duty.  This includes the treasurer, the person who makes the coffee and provides or coordinates the food, the person in charge of child care and men on the board of elders who make decisions about a church’s facilities, properties, corporate vision or partnerships (to name a few of the things elders might do).

In the NT, we see the church being led by a plurality of elders.  Even the Apostles that Jesus left behind exercised a plurality of leadership.  Circle back and re-read Matthew 20.  In my life, I have witnessed a popular form of church governance that has perhaps waned a bit in recent years; that is patterned not after the plurality of elders model, but after Moses.

God can call a church or guide a church to have a ‘Moses type’ leadership structure.  And I believe that God does, but it is a special calling and is the exception and not the rule, nor the pattern expressed in the pages of the NT.  Churches that began with a dynamic leader called to be a ‘Moses type’ autocrat, must either reproduce Joshua’s who are still autocratic,  but maybe, maybe less so; or be transformed into more of what we see in the NT.

What is silly and even ugly is when a dynamic one-of-a-kind leader gets copied by the next gen of leaders who are actors or caricatures of the original person.  And we end up making a norm out of an exceptional person.

Gathering Without The Sermon

So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three’s the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you’re saying. Otherwise, keep it between God and yourself. And no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart. Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak. When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.

-1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (MSG)
Here are two scenes of identical gatherings, with one difference, that I want to share and see what you think. 
A group of people are gathered.  It could be a birthday party, a graduation celebration or a wake.  In the first version, a person, stands up to speak; and they speak for a long time: twenty minutes to an hour, without interruption.  In the second version, that same person speaks for one, two, three, four, five or six minutes, if they’re long winded.  Then someone else speaks for a minute or two, maybe a little more, if they are inarticulate or have a lot to say, like a long story with details.
Imagine yourself at the first version of the gathering.  Would it not be strange if someone spoke, without interruption and any conversational back and forth, for ten, twenty or even sixty minutes?  It would be surreal if someone went on and on and on, like, “is this a bad dream?”
Imagine a person speaking solo at a gathering to say a prayer, speak a blessing or congratulate someone.  I have done this, as best man, at my friend’s wedding party.  What if that person went on and on, ten minutes or longer?
Would not that be strange and uncomfortable or ‘socially unacceptable’?  The answer of course is, “Yes!”
But that is what many of us expect when we ‘go to church’.  Someone from another culture, that is more communal, like African, might ask, “Why does that one speak so long without others talking?”
And we would answer, “Because that is how we do it.”
We carve out an hour or three in our schedules to go to a meeting that is not really a meeting, because there is not much meeting happening.  We call it a service, but what is the serving?  I take it that we maybe serve God by singing songs?  Or by giving money to keep things going?
In the New Testament, church ‘services’ or gatherings are very different than what we normally do.  And I am speaking as someone in the Evangelical, North American context.
Two of the things that we hold dear: ‘the sermon’ and ‘the pastor’ are not mentioned much in the NT.
There are only a handful of examples, if that, of sermons or preaching sermons inside a church gathering, in the New Testament.  And yet, we keep doing it and feel we must do it.  Somehow, having a sermon or a pastor speak or a clergy person give a talk, at some point became what defined a Christian gathering.
But Christ and his body, plural, is what describes and defines the church or the Christians gathering, in the New Testament.
I have never read the passage in the NT that says to have a sermon, when you gather.  I have never seen the verses that support having one person give a speech, address or sermon; when we gather.
I can find more support for writing articles and books.  I can see a lot of support for short teachings, followed by questions and discussion.  I see a lot of support for ‘show and tell’ or doing something and then teaching about what you did.
I see conversations where one person says something and another person challenges what they said and the first person responds, while others join in.
Here is how it should be done: “When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.”
Each person should come to the gathering with something to share, like a pot luck.  That is community.
Church is not like going to a show or a restaurant, or even to a class.  And the ones who come empty handed are like the prodigal in Jesus parable, who has a heart open to Father.  Everyone else comes with something to share, something that God has given to them or that God has done in their lives.

Looking For A Jesus Shaped Church

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered,

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!

And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and

On this rock I will build My church,
And the forces of Hades will not overpower it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”
-Matthew 16:13-19

What do you look for in a church?  We know that a church is not a building, but a group of people.  Those people who are the church, are gathered around Jesus Christ as Lord, Messiah, the Son of God.

When I was a small child and my parents were looking for a new church, the number one attribute they sought was Christian education.  They were impressed by the emphasis on Christian ed. that our new church had.

Both the church we left and the new church we joined believed that Jesus is Lord.  That is the center,  But how does a church function, live and breathe, act, be, become and do; based on “Jesus is Lord”?

All churches that believe that Jesus is Lord do not have to look alike and emphasize the same things.  The NT does not have a model for what a perfect church is or what the right emphasis is, other than the cornerstone of Jesus as Lord.

Every list or advice on what to look for in a church should begin or have as it’s foundation, that Jesus is Lord.  The question becomes, “If Jesus is Lord, then what is your church going to look like, be like and function like?”

What if Jesus is the blueprint for the church?  He calls people to become like him.  He is the head of the church and the Spirit of God is the orchestrator, conductor and chief imagineer.

What is it that we need to have in a church that we are going to be a part of?

Jesus said, “I will build my church”.  It is important to keep in mind that Jesus is and has been building his church.  And every church on the landscape today is not necessarily a church that Jesus built or is building.
Jesus is saying that his church is based on the foundation that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.  If a ‘church’ teaches, believes or proclaims otherwise; they simply are not a part of the church Jesus has or is building.
And Peter is not the foundation of the church.  Peter’s proclamation, inspired by Jesus’ Father, is the foundation.  When we look at individual churches, we want to look at what they are built on and that gives us a clue as to if Jesus built it or is building it.
I think that the foundation or cornerstone that the church or any particular church is built from (should be built from) is “Jesus Christ is Lord, Messiah and Son of God”.  With that settled, what does a church look like and function like?

I looked for lists, that try to answer that question.  And I found a church that I think does a great job of describing what to look for in a church.

Here are five examples of lists, with some comments.

Church One (pastor-centric?)

  1. A church where my family will be regularly fed by God’s Word. 
  2. A church where I am convinced the care of my soul will be a priority. 
  3. A church where my family will experience meaningful Christian fellowship and accountability. 
  4. A church where I can serve God’s people and use my gifts for its benefit.

My questions for this sort of church:

  • Is the church a feeding center?  
  • Is this a pastor-centric view of church?  
  • Are we consumers or disciples in Christ?  
  • Did Jesus come, so that we could serve him in church?

Church Two (Biblical)

9 marks of a Biblical church:

  1. Expositional preaching.
  2. Biblical theology.
  3. Biblical understanding of the gospel.
  4. A biblical understanding of conversion.
  5. A biblical understanding of  evangelism.
  6. Biblical church membership.
  7. Biblical church discipline.
  8. Biblical discipleship and growth
  9. Biblical church leadership.
My understanding is that the people of this church’s camp are concerned about churches without the Bible.  There are so called churches that just do not value or believe in the Bible.
We do want to be people of the word and Biblical illiteracy among Christians is a bad thing.  But, the living Word, Jesus Christ, is really the center of the church, of Christianity.  We do not worship the Bible.

I believe:

  • We can miss God, with our faces and eyes in and on the Bible.  
  • We can memorize or think we know what is biblical, but misrepresent God.  
  • We do not study and understand the scriptures to be Christians or church members. 
  • But, we will love the word and live it, breath it and study it, discuss it and talk about it; 
    • Because of our loving relationship with the living God.
Church Three (not sure if you are Christian)

“Top 10 Things to Look for in a Church;”

  1. Community
  2. Commitment
  3. Involvement
  4. Worship
  5. Beliefs
  6. Graceful and Truthful teachings
  7. Evangelistic Aims
  8. Biblically based Teachings
  9. Clear Gospel Message
  10. Traditions

This list is very different than the previous one.  I do not doubt the author is Christ centered or based on Jesus.  But the church that Jesus builds is overtly Christ like.

The author of this list might say that Jesus and “Jesus is Lord” is a given, but we have no way of knowing, without the list saying it.  And the mark of an inauthentic church is that Jesus is not Lord there.

When I look for and look at a church, I am mainly looking for one thing:  Christ.  Jesus Christ is Lord.  People in Christ.  The love of Christ.  Christ in people, their hope of glory.
Church Four (church centered church?)
“10 Qualities to look for when Choosing a Church”:

  1. Is this Church Centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? 
  2. Does This Church Stand Firm on Sound Biblical Doctrine? 
  3. Is the Bible Faithfully Preached Week after Week? 
  4. Is the Worship Biblical and God-Centered? 
  5. Are the Leaders Biblically Qualified and Mutually Accountable? 
  6. Do the Leaders/Pastors Shepherd the Sheep? 
  7. Does This Church Practice Biblical Church Discipline? 
  8. Does this Church Equip Its Members to Serve God? 
  9. Does This Church Community Have a Culture of Grace, Love, and Peace? 
  10. Does This Church Have an Outward Focus—Missions, Evangelism, and Church Planting?
Lots of good points in this list.  But we, as the church and overseers of the church, can get so caught up in the church, that we do not see the forest through the trees.  There is more here about the church than who is inside its members and building it.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is number one.  But what is the Gospel?
Is the Gospel the message of the cross and about what happened there and the invite to appropriate that into our lives?  Or is is the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Jesus preached and we are to preach, teach and live in; the gospel of the kingdom of God?

The church that Jesus Christ is building today, is built on and through the Gospel of the kingdom.

It is popular today to use Paul to interpret Jesus and his message, even if we do it subconsciously or unintentionally.  We say we are all about Christ, but we preach a Pauline Gospel, that Paul himself did not preach.

(See notes at the bottom.)

What is Paul’s message in one short sentence, from all his writings?

I would say: “A man in Christ”.  A man in Christ has seen the cross and his savior thereon.  He sees the death and resurrection of Christ and he has Christ in him, as King; because now, for him, Jesus Christ is Lord.

Church Five (Jesus shaped church)

Crosspointe Community Church, in Michigan has a long list.

Here is their shorter list:

What to look for in a Church:

  1. Jesus is the focus of the church and all its teachings
  2. The church believes that loving other people is the most genuine and accurate representation of our love for God
  3. The Church believes that All People Matter to God no matter their race, nationality, income level, education, or political affiliation
  4. The Church believes that forgiveness, grace, and mercy is the deepest form of love towards other people; especially when it’s demonstrated to our enemies
  5. The Church believes that God’s Values are not the same as the world’s
  6. The Church believes that God is concerned about His Truth and not the traditions of mankind
  7. The Church lives out its Commission to spread the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ to impact the entire Community (people, environment, & institutions)
The longer list:

What to look for in a Church:

  1. The name, person, and works, of Jesus Christ are regularly focused upon, spotlighted, and promoted (John 17:1-5, 24-25, 2 Corinthians 4:5)
  2. People are being invited to join God’s family: publicly, privately, and regularly and people are accepting these invitations (Joshua 24:14-15, Acts 2:40-41, 46-47, 5:14)
  3. People’s salvations and growth in Jesus Christ are considered more important than traditions, dress styles, and/or musical styles (Philippians 2:3-11)
  4. The church is growing in their recognition, acknowledgement, and participation in evangelizing their local communities (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8)
  5. God’s Word and the learning of God’s Word is continually and regularly promoted and taught (John 1:1-5, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119)
  6. All people at your church feel comfortable, accepted, cared for, and loved by those who attend. (Mark 12:28-34, Romans 12:13, 1 Peter 4:9)
  7. Believers who have been part of God’s family are regularly challenged to grow in their fellowship with God and allow God to grow them to be more like Christ (Ephesians 4:14-16)
  8. The pursuit of truth is regular, continuous, and persistent (1 Corinthians 13:6, 2 Corinthians 4:2, 13:8, John 1:17, 3:21, 4:23-24, 8:31-32)
  9. Forgiveness should be promoted and practiced (Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 5:7, 6:12, Romans 2:1)
  10. The freedom of grace in Jesus Christ is promoted and not the slavery of the law of Moses (Romans 5:20-21, 6:15-18, 22-23, 8:1-4 )
  11. Satan doesn’t like what is going on and will continually try to subvert the work and impact of the church (Revelation 12:10-11, Genesis 3:15, Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8-9, 1 Chronicles 21:1, Zechariah 3:1-2, Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:13, Matthew 16:23)
  12. The people have an increasing capacity to recognize Satan’s work and don’t allow his schemes to cause them to waver from God’s work (Matthew 7:15-20, Proverbs 28:11, John 10:3-5)
  13. They are more concerned with the approval and praise of God and not the approval and praise of men (Galatians 1:6-10, 2 Corinthians 10:17-18)
  14. The congregation gets its identity from their love of God and not the name of their building (John 13:34-35, Matthew 22:35-40)
  15. They share their financial resources generously with those in need and in order to promote God’s program of adding to His Kingdom (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, 9:6-7, Deuteronomy 15:7-15, Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35)
  16. God’s finances are handled responsibly, reported to the congregation regularly, and are done in an “open” atmosphere (Philippians 4:10-18, 2 Corinthians 8:1-6)
  17. Teachers and other leaders are identified through prayer, information gathering, and careful consideration; not by popularity votes (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Samuel 16:6-7)
  18. There is no congregational uproar over minor issues of preference (1 Timothy 4:1-5, 2 Timothy 2:23, Mark 7:6-8) 
  19. There is no congregational uproar over how people dress other than the biblical mandate of propriety (1 Timothy 4:1-5, 2 Timothy 2:23 Matthew 15:8-9, Mark 7:6-8, 1 Timothy 2:9-10)
  20. Disputes are attempted to be settled biblically through loving dialog and mutual submission; not by gossip (Matthew 18:15-17, 2 Timothy 2:23-26, Romans 1:29)
  21. Leaders are encouraged and supported. New leaders are identified and trained. (Romans 13:1-5, Hebrews 13:7, 17-18, 1 Timothy 3:1-13)
  22. All styles of music which promote God’s Word and bring glory to Him are welcomed (Psalm 150)
  23. Creativity is encouraged and not discouraged (Psalm 20:4, Gen 1:1, 26-27. Exodus 31:1-5)
  24. There is no distinction over “types” of musical instruments that bring praise to God (Psalm 150)
  25. Leaders have private meetings about private matters and the discussions stay private (Proverbs 11:13)
  26. God, the Creator of the Universe, is not portrayed as “old”, “stodgy”, or “boring” but is portrayed as always working, caring, concerned, loving, exciting, interesting, and relevant to every single human life and the rest of His creation (The entirety of Scripture)
  27. While fun is not the ultimate goal of your church, certainly people of all ages can enjoy and have fun while in worship, fellowship, and learning. Worship, while not necessarily a pep rally is certainly not supposed to be a funeral either. (Exodus 15:20, 2 Samuel 6:12-22, Psalm 30:11, 149:1-4, 150:1-6, Luke 15:23-32)
Crosspointe community church

Their ministry philosophy is: “All people matter to God”

Their core beliefs are:

1. God exists
2. He matters to us greatly
3. We matter to Him greatly

Their core purpose:

1. To grow in our love for God and one another
2. To discover God’s design for our lives
3. To introduce others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ
4. To mature as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ
5. To bring God glory in all we do

Notes: For further reading

Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire, N.T. Wright
Paul and Caesar, A New Reading of Romans, N.T. Wright
What is The Gospel? (video), N.T. Wright
N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight and the Gospel: Compared and Contrasted
Jesus vs. Paul, Scot McKnight
Jesus, Paul and The Gospels, James D.G. Dunn
The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight

    50 Things Men Want In A Church

    (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one.

    -1 John 2:13-14
    This is a follow-up to my recent post, Why Men Hate Going To Church (notes from David Murrow).  After that post of notes from what I heard David say, the question was, “What do men want or like and what would make them stay in church?”  This list is the answer.
    David has a quiz or survey on his website, to determine how ‘man friendly’ your church is.  An extremely manly church might not be enjoyable for many women or for men who are not jocks, hunters, handy with tools or Nascar fans; to name just a few examples.  But the point made by David is that many of our churches or much of our church culture, in how we function and what we do as the church together, has somehow turned off men, to a large extent.
    David’s thesis is that if you build a church that is man friendly, masculine or manly; a church that men will come to, then the women will be happy and happily come to that church as well.  Men who become Christians and grow in Christ is a good thing for society.  
    Today, a higher percentage of men have given up on gathering with the church than women have.  Just visit churches and see.  And yes, there are some exceptions.
    I took David’s 50 question survey and these are my answers, from being involved in the church in America.  My answers are my opinion of what I would want and what I have heard from my male friends and from what I have observed in church life.  Women want many and even all of these things too, and an irony is that many churches, run by mostly men, do not offer the things on this list.
    1. Men want a man in the parking lot or near the door welcoming him.
    2. Men want Signage: restrooms, parking, sanctuary, classroom, etc.
    3. Men want Facilities that are in good to great shape (not falling apart). 
    4. Men want a Sanctuary not decorated femininely with quilts, feathers, pastels. 
    5. Men want Men on the stage, if you have a stage, 80-100% men is ideal, but at least over 50%. 
    6. Men want A “buzz” of excitement feeling in the room when they walk into a church, not the feel of a funeral parlor. 
    7. Men want good, or very good musicianship, if there is music.  Men don’t want to hear someone sing off key or constantly play an instrument poorly.
    8. Men want less “baby love”, “romancing Jesus”, “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs.
    9. Men don’t want songs where the chorus is repeated more than 3 times. 
    10. Men want sermons that are 15 minutes max and up to only 30 min on extraordinary occasions, unless the speaker is an outstanding orator or very funny. 
    11. Men want (physical) objects inserted into sermons or teaching times and/or film clips to make the point. Words up on the screen or power point presentations don’t count. 
    12. Men want masculine metaphors or illustrations given in sermons (battle, sports, adventure, survival). 
    13. Men are not comfortable or into “prayer requests” being shared during worship services. Sharing a crisis request is fine or allowing people to go forward and privately share a request with a prayer minister is fine.  But men are turned off by a bulletin handed out each week that has a full page in small type of prayer requests from members, members families, friends, neighbors and sometimes former members.
    14. Men don’t want to see the children perform in front every week.  Men love kids, but prefer that kids performances are once in a while.  Men are fine with children helping lead worship or singing solos.  If the church is a family style worship church, men are fine with children participating 100%, but it is the performances by the kids that men would like to be kept to a minimum (less is more).
    15. Men prefer worship services that last 60 minutes or less. Men are fine if there is a set coffee time before the service or something after the service (meal, food, coffee, a place to talk).  Most men do not say that they wished the sermon had been longer, but shorter.  Men want to get up and move.
    16. Men like to laugh and want to be able to laugh at least a couple of times a week at church. The more funny and the more laughter, the better, for men.  Men like a good joke or a funny story told that makes a point.
    17. Most men prefer racial diversity in a church. The more diversity the better.
    18. Most men do not want to be encouraged or pressured to hug or hold hands with others except rarely. 
    19. Men want to be at a quality event/service. They want time well spent and want to say, “well done”, not “amateur hour”.
    20. Men would like something unexpected to happen at church, even something so unusual that it is shocking or startling. A church where there is nearly never anything startling or shocking is extremely boring to men. Men like excitement, things that are thrilling (shocking or startling).  Men like to be surprised and have things be different from week to week.
    21. Most men do not want to be at an emotional event/service where it is routine for people to weep, faint and holler emotionally.  Authentic emotions like getting choked up when speaking about something sad, is liked by men though.
    22. If your church has sermons, men want astonishing and challenging sermons, not boring, irrelevant, check-your-watch-is-he-done-yet sermons.  Men say that if you don’t have much to say that is compelling, then be honest and say you don’t have anything and give the mic to someone who does or keep it real short.
    23. Men want pastors who are manly or jock-like, not Mr Rogers-like; not effeminate.
    24. Same thing, if there is a worship or song leader: manly, jock-like, not effeminate. 
    25. For “men’s ministry”, men want to meet other men.  Men only want once a week or monthly gatherings or yearly retreats if they are for the purpose of and are vehicles for meeting and knowing other men as brothers, so that small groups, or twos, threes, fours and fives can be formed.  Larger men’s gatherings where men do not make friends, find a sponsor or a mentor are missing it.
    26. Men want a church where over 40% of the men are involved in men’s ministry, if they have a men’s ministry.  If less than 40% of the men join in, then the ones who come ask where are the other men and ask what is wrong and want to have something done to attract more men.
    27. Men want a church where over 50% of the leaders in all areas are men. If you have 40, 30, 20 or 10% male leaders, you will not attract men and your church is in decline or will never grow.  Men want to be led by 50% or more males in the leadership of a church, plain and simple.  This is not a threatening thing to women leaders, but is just how men are wired.  If you have a church where the men simply are not stepping up and being in leadership roles, then that is a church that is not going to draw the majority of men.
    28. Men want to be in a church where over 50%, preferably over 60% of volunteers are men.
    29. If you have a mid-week service or event, men want to see 50% or more males there.
    30. If the church has a staff, men want to see a staff that is 50% or more male.
    31. If there is a men’s ministry, men want to see the pastor there always, often or sometimes, if he is super busy.
    32. Men want Children’s Sunday School, if you have that, to be active learning and not a classroom lecture.
    33. If you have a youth group (Jr or Sr High) with a worship time, men want it to be kept short: 5 to 15 min at the longest.  We have over emphasized singing and worship to the detriment of our other priorities.
    34. Men don’t want small groups where there is a lot of looking up passages and reading them aloud times.  This is fine in moderation but a man does not want to do this all the time in small group.
    35. Men prefer a take charge leader, even one they can disagree with, rather than a soft and gentle man, who seems lost and can’t ask for directions.
    36. If your church calls a meeting, men want that meeting to have a purpose and reason or goal that is stated.  How many “very important” meetings have churches called that turned out to be something we already knew or heard last time?  Men are turned off by this.
    37. Men want to be a part of a church that is known or tries and wants to be known in the community.
    38. Men want to be at a church that “makes the news” with something that is going on there, with the larger community, at least once a year.
    39. Men want to join a church that often or always takes risks, does risky things.
    40. Men want a church that men who are unmarried or don’t come with a girlfriend or sister would visit and check out.
    41. Men’s ministries or ministries that use men’s talents that men want in churches are car repair, home repair, strategic planning, financial management, and goal setting.
    42. Men want a church that is 50% or more male.
    43. Men like bigger (mega) churches.  Micro churches have a greater challenge to get men to come and stay, and must ask themselves, “Is this a ladies tea, Bible study or prayer group, that we are expecting the men to join; or do we want a church that men would want to be a part of?”
    44. Men don’t want someone up front leading singing or being a soloist who is a bad singer.
    45. Men prefer conservative theology.  This might offend liberal or progressive Christians, but it is true.  Think Orthodox when you see ‘conservative’ and not Fundamentalist (bigot).
    46. Men prefer casual or anything within reason and good taste, for Sunday dress. Casual jeans and t-shirts over dress up.
    47. Men want leaders who delegate responsibilities to others and share responsibilities and do not like a one-man-does-it-all style of leader that is like a dictator.  Men like take charge leaders who are great at delegating and sharing the work and the responsibility and then the rewards and fruit.
    48. If a church’s particular ministry program is outdated, poorly run or not producing much fruit, most men would say kill that program.  
    49. Men want a pastor or preacher who often, even every week, says controversial things, taking a stand that might offend some people.
    50. Men want congregational life to happen outdoors often or even all of the time and not once a year.  Men like having church outside, in the open air.

    Headship: God, Christ, The Husband, and The Wife

    But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.

    -1 Corinthians 11:3
    What is the foundation of a Christian marriage?  Who is the key to a happy, joyful, abundant husband and wife relationship?  And what is the Christ-following husband’s role in regards to his wife?

    These are questions that cross the minds of Christians who are married, thinking about being married, or have been married in the past and are looking back or looking forward.  In society, getting married is much easier to do, even though some single people who are searching or waiting might not agree with this; it is easier to do than getting a drivers licence or all sorts of other things we commonly do.

    Being married and staying married are much, much harder.  Two people living in a space together, even with rings and the paperwork, does not a marriage make.

    Christian marriage is a covenant between two people, both who are in Christ, that is held together by God.  The legal marriage certificate is a contract that in enforced by laws that will come into play if one of the spouses ends the marriage through divorce.

    The covenant only works when we work with it.  God holds our marriage together, as we hold onto God.  It is all about our relationships to God and to one another.

    We are all in a covenant, the New Covenant, in Christ, with God.  There are always two sides or two parties in a covenant.  Even though God does all the saving in our covenant with him, we must participate or be engaged in it to actualize the covenant in our lives.

    We can’t say, “I’m saved”, and then go back to our lives, running our show.  Being saved means we have begun a journey with God, where we give up everything we have and God gives us everything we need.  That may not be the gospel message that you have heard or believed in, but this is the gospel of the kingdom.

    When we say we are in the covenant of salvation or the covenant of marriage, the next step and life style is to live in the covenant relationship.  We don’t leave Christ or our spouse at the altar, so to speak, where we said “I do” and then go off on our own, saying, “see ya when I need ya!”.  But that is how some people live towards Christ and towards their spouse.

    Before we look at this issue of head and headship, we need to make sure we are saved and look at our salvation.  If a man or a woman is not in a vital union with the living Christ, where they are dying to their selves and living to Christ, marriage will not work.

    Many people are legally married, but not living in marriage.  The Bible gives clear instructions on how to live in marriage as Christians.  If you are not first living as a Christian, then you will not be able to or will have troubles participating in marriage, God’s way.

    What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11, is, “this is the way it is and the way it is supposed to be”.  If you read the whole letter, you will see that the Corinthians had problems and Paul is addressing the problems and their questions.  Some of them were not doing great in their being in Christ.

    Before Paul addresses the issues that were coming up regarding hair and head coverings, he says the statement that I am highlighting, as a foundation or backdrop to a discussion on hair and head coverings.  Paul could have said: “Thanks for remembering a lot of the stuff I taught you about being Christians.  Now, before I get into this issue of hair and covering or not covering one’s head, I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

    In case you did not realize it, and the Bible translation, HCSB, that I quoted has a footnote to flag this: scholars say that Paul meant husband and wife, when he wrote man and woman, here.  The ESV, for example, does this without a footnote:

    But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

    Before Paul gets into the hair and veil customs, he grounds things in Christ; and that is how we get this verse and that is the context, which we will go through broadly, in a moment.  The back story to Paul’s admonitions on head coverings, may have been questions or problems with this issue at Corinth.  And Paul brings them and all his readers from then till now, back to our relationship to God and each other.

    Before we get into head and headship and the wife being under her husband’s head, we have to say this:  A married Christian woman is a person who is herself in Christ, under Christ, and living her life from Christ; while also being and living under her husband’s headship.  A married Christian man is a person in, under, and from Christ; while also the head of his wife.

    There has been an ongoing discussion, a theological debate, about what “head” here means.  Over on one side, some scholars have said that head here means ‘source’ or ‘origin’; while the other side says that head means ‘chief’ or ‘ruler’.  Head (kelphale’) also means the ‘end-point’ of something: the top of a column or the end of a pole.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is also called the head of the year. 

    Also, head (kelphale’) means controlling agent, but not preeminent.  Our physical heads, having our brain within, rules and has authority over our bodies: our head is the controlling agent of our bodies.  This has nothing to do with preeminence, but everything to do with function.  The head is the boss, from which control emanates, but is not bossy nor controlling.
    A body without a head is dead.  It is normal for a body to be under the rule and control or authority of the head.  When we take headship as a metaphor, we see that Christians can and do live without being under Christ’s headship.

    In Christ, there is life and outside of Christ there is not life.  If a Christian is not living in Christ, functionally, then they are not living in his life.  Imagine a person who is legally married, but does not live in a marriage.

    Living as a room mate, living self centered, not sacrificing, not sharing everything you have, and not laying down your life for your wife; are examples of the husband who is not living under the headship of Christ.

    Christ is head of the church, head over all things, the head corner stone, and head of man; and God is the head of Christ and husbands are heads of their wives.  The church can ignore, set aside, or give lip service to Christ being it’s head.  And wives can also not believe in or live under the headship of their husband; and both of these can be happening today, to our detriment.

    After studying, reading, listening, looking things up, and reading some more; my conclusion is that ‘head’ (kephale) here in Paul, means ‘authority’, and not ‘preeminent’, ‘source’, or ‘origin’.  There are links to articles, in the bibliography at the bottom, for your further study, if desired.

    There have been Christians who are confused about Christ and God, saying things like, “the man upstairs”, or “God is my co-pilot”.  The truth is that God and Christ is king and we need to bow and surrender our lives.  But God is also good, love, and full of mercy and grace.

    Christians are the bride of Christ and the children of Father.  God and Christ are not this incredible religion or philosophy that we adhere to.  Being a believer means we give up everything and God gives us a different everything.

    It means death and resurrection.  It means leaving our mother and father and getting married to Christ.  It means that we are no longer orphans, but get adopted and become God’s children.

    If you do not have these basics, these staring points down; if you are not in and on the pathway of Christ; then having Christ as chief, head, authority, and boss of your life might be a strange and off-putting topic for you.  And it would follow, that if you are a wife, to have your husband over you in any chief, boss, or leader role would possibly be foreign, unwanted, incorrect, and rejected as archaic and bluntly crass.

    God and Christ is and are our source, and that is a Pauline idea (Acts 17:28, Rom. 11:36).  But that is not what 1 Cor. 11:3 is saying.  It is also not saying that one is superior and one is inferior.  Paul is not saying the husband is the inferior to Christ and the wife is the inferior to the husband and Christ is inferior to God.

    The text is neither saying that the husband is inferior to Christ nor is Christ inferior to God, and not that wives are inferior to husbands.  But it is saying that there is a hierarchy.  Some of us don’t like that word.

    God’s headship of Christ gives us an example to follow.  Jesus lives under his father’s authority.  He did all the good things and said all the good things, under his father’s headship.

    The husband lives out his life under Christ’s headship and his wife lives out her life under her husband’s headship.  The wife has her own walk under Christ, while also walking under the headship of her husband.  Christ is the wife’s savior and Lord, but she functions under the authority of her husband.

    The husband has Christ as his model for leadership.  Christ’s leadership is sacrificially loving.  The husband is called to sacrificially love his wife, who he is head over.

    Men and women are equal before God.  Husbands and wives are equal in value before God.  But husbands and wives have different roles in marriage.

    Different positions in the hierarchy does not mean superior/inferior.  That is a worldly perspective and not part of Christ’s way.  Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus Christ is Lord, and not just a man who was a carpenter and a traveling teacher/prophet/healer, who had and still has followers.

    “God is the head of Christ”, means God the Father has a role of authority over Christ.  It is a function and role issue.  While the husband is not God, Christ is also the head of him; and again it is a role and function.

    Remember how in the great commission, Jesus says, “all authority has been given to me”?  Father gives authority to Christ and Christ gives authority to us.  The one is functionally over the other and gives authority to the other.  Jesus has a oneness with Father, but is also under his headship.

    In marriage, the two become one; but the wife is under her husband’s headship.

    This is an aside, but if Christ calls a woman, a married lady, to be a pastor; her husband is obviously still her head.  If she is married, a blurb on their church’s website might read, “Sue Jones is the pastor (or lead minister) of Tall Mountain Jesus Is Lord Fellowship, and her husband Larry Jones is the boss of her”.  For anyone worried that she is not under her husband’s headship, that settles it.

    To every pastor, preacher, or standing up in front of people in a leadership role person; I would simply ask, “has Christ called you?”  If Christ calls a woman and if Christ gives a woman the desire to serve and teach and speak and minister, and gives her his authority to stand in leadership; who are we to argue with him?

    If elders are men and the elders are the pastors, then it makes it difficult to be a woman pastor.  But if Christ not only gifts a woman with gifts and then calls her to serve as a leader, and there is much discernible fruit from her ministry, then we call her a pastor, agreeing that Christ has made her one and his.  He has ordained her and we bless his work in her life.

    Also, it would be ideal for a woman pastor to have a qualified elder husband.  His being qualified as an elder actually is an endorsement or qualifier of her standing up and speaking and thereby leading other people.

    However, most people don’t make it to the ideal, and being divorced or never married should not disqualify anyone who Jesus desires to use, and he does.

    Is Christ the head of all Christians, male and female, husbands and wives, young and old?  Yes, of course.  This passage or section does not need to say that because Paul is talking about roles and functions.

    Husbands and wives have equal value and standing before God, in Christ.  But they have different roles, and that is what this verse is saying.  Imagine a narrow path, where only one person can fit at a time and one goes first and the other follows.  That is a picture of roles, not about one person being valued more.

    Think about a car, where there is one steering wheel in front of one seat that the driver sits in.  The one who drives and manages the wheel, is not superior, but only in the role, function, and service of driving.  Drivers who drive recklessly, speed, blare the radio, where headphones, text while driving, have their eyes off the road, tailgate, cut off other drivers, or drive the wrong way may be called bad drivers and get in trouble or hurt themselves or others, but being in the role, function, or service is not a bad thing.

    And that is the way it is with bad husbands.  Their God given role of being head is not the problem, but what they are doing in their role is the problem that needs correction.  Egalitarianism might be saying that the role thing is the problem, so we need to get rid of that and be equal in the roles.

    But the complimentary roles and functions, unique to each sex, are given by God; and are not the problem.  The problem are people who do bad things, act in bad ways, and are ungodly.  Egalitarianism seeks to set us free from ‘archaic’ roles, ‘patrimony’ and ‘misogyny’.

    The Bible and the roles for husbands and wives are not wrong and don’t need a re-write.  We need to separate the people who have done wrong, lived sinfully, even while saying they are walking with God, from the God we serve, who has created man and woman, with equal value, but different roles as husband and wife, that compliment each other.

    The only way to have a Christian marriage is in and through Christ.  We know that Christ is under the headship of God, but the husband must also be intimately aware of his being under Christ’s headship, for his wife to take her place under his headship.  It is about function and relationship.

    But before the husband begins to exercise his authority, as head of his wife,there is something to check.  Is he under or functioning under the headship of Christ?  If he is not, then he needs to come under Christ and let Christ be his authority.

    This is the subject I wanted to talk about.  Everything I have said up to this point is an introduction to what I am about to say.  There is a problem today, with Christian marriages failing or being dysfunctional, because the husband is not living under the headship of Christ.

    I could and am tempted to give you a list of bad things that Christian husbands do.  I could also give you a list of problems that Christian wives have that are to an extent, the result or fruit of their husband not being under Christ’s headship.  Obviously, Christian wives may sin themselves in ways that are not the fruit of their husbands lack of relationship with Christ, but that is not what I am talking about.

    This word, that I am focusing on, that says that, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ”, is found in the context of Paul’s words about hair and the covering of a person’s head.  It may be stating the obvious, but we know that Christ and his headship is for all time and universal; but the issues of hair length, and the covering of one’s head, in Corinthian, Grecian society are particular.  

    The challenge for us with passages like this, is to find out how the passage applies to us today.  And we can broadly place many things in the Bible into two categories: custom and command.  The statement, that Christ is the head of the husband is a command, for all Christians: to obey.
    But, the words that follow in 1 Corinthians 11, about hair length and veil wearing are in the custom category.  Paul is referring to the customs of their culture and  reflecting on how to be loving, in Christ, in the midst of their particular cultural customs.
    The husband being the head of the wife is also in the command column.  If you place that piece into the custom column, then you must also place Christ and his headship over man  in the custom column as well.  And some people do that, who say that the whole Bible is just customs.
    At the other side of the spectrum, some might say that this whole passage is of the command type, and we must strongly transpose Paul’s words then to our lives now.  And what this point of view would say, is that, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”.
    What is funny, in an ironic way, is that if you were to grow up, or be raised up and discipled in a church culture today, where you were taught, “women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it”, you would hear, and we could say, be indoctrinated, by an argument, that would lead you to believe that veils or head coverings are required by scripture, and the rest of Christianity and secular society that does not practice head coverings, is wrong.  Does that sound like any groups of people today?
    This is why critical thinking and cross-pollination is so important and beneficial for Christian strength of learning.  Indoctrination and sectarianism are religion.  Christianity is centered in Christ.
    Today, many Christians are centered on their beliefs, doctrine, and customs; rather than Christ.  They say they are centered on Christ.  But if they were centered on him, they would love what he loves, both the lost and all of his different flocks.
    Now, here is the context of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11:

    Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.

    Now I praise you because you always remember me and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.

    A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.

    Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.

    -1 Corinthians 11:1-16
    If you use this passage to say that women should wear head coverings, I might say that is ok, but please do not try to force it on others.  It is interesting to note that in Paul’s day and today, in Judaism, in their worship; the men where the skull cap and women let their hair flow down and about.  How did Paul get from that to the other?

    The answer is tradition or custom or culture.  If you look around the world, you will see different styles of dress.  In various cultures, women cover up their heads and even their faces.

    Corinth and Greece at the time had a culture that the Corinthians lived in.  They had to live and witness for Christ within that culture.

    This hair and head covering part is a cultural discussion that we can transpose and glean some wisdom from for today, which is what many even handed preachers try to do, when they speak on this passage.  But that is not the point of my message.

    My message is this:  Christ is the center and Christ is the head of man and head of the husband.  The husband is head of his wife, but that will not work out very well, unless that husband is under the headship of Christ.  Any Christian husband who is not under the headship of Christ, needs to start living in and from that place, and any wife who in not under her husband’s headship needs to start living from, in, and through that place.

    If we refuse this calling, we are living a double life that is exhausting and not in the peace of Christ.  We will do the religious things to feel good and then be selfish and lash out at others and even make disciples in this wrong way.  Please don’t do it.  Please come home to Christ.


    Brauch, Manfred T.; The Head of Woman is Man?, The Hard Sayings of Paul, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, pp. 559-602, (1989)

    Bruce, F. F.; The New Century Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians; pp. 103-4, (1971)

    Grudem, Wayne; Does Kefalh (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or“Authority Over” in Greek Literature?A Survey of 2,336 Examples (1985)

    The meaning of κεφαλή (“head”):An evaluation of new evidence, real and alleged, (2002)

    Kroger, Catherine; Head, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Hawthorne & Martin eds.; pp. 375-7, (1993)

    Nathan, Rich; Why Vineyard Columbus Encourages Women To Preach, Pastor & Church Plant, (2014)

    Wilderness Before Appearance

    The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

    -Luke 1:80
    Have you been, or are you in the wilderness?  The wilderness is an amazing metaphor that the Bible uses for time alone with God, or time in preparation for service or ministry.  The wilderness may seem like a punishment and sometimes people are forced there by adverse circumstances not of their own choosing.
    The way that vocational preparation, that includes a calling to the ministry, usually works, is that a young adult chooses or believes they are called or they come into an understanding of their desire to do a particular form of work.  They then prepare for that work in schooling or training and then get into that field of work and begin a life of that vocation.
    But, what if you want to be like the people we read about in the the Bible, who are named, and who did certain things, that had impact for God’s kingdom?  Every believer is called to live in the kingdom and let the kingdom have impact through their lives.  There are not two kinds of believers.
    It is also a mistake or wrong headed to believe that the only ones that truly serve God are preachers, pastors, or missionaries.  On a white board, we could list every other form or kind of ministry, with a list of a hundred or more, and still come up very short.  God is very creative with what he has designed each person to do and his list of ministries is almost endless.
    Whatever your dream, desire, or calling is; their is a wilderness component or time, sometimes.  I say sometimes, because it is not that way for everyone.  The wilderness is a place that God often takes his people to, and when he does it is for their good.
    Mature believers love the wilderness, because they have learned how to find and live with God there.  God can take a person into a wilderness at any time, in the middle of their life-times, and do amazing things with them there.  True saints desire to go to the wilderness to spend time alone with God.
    Jesus and John the Baptist were about age 30, when they began their public ministries.  I remember when I was a young adult and age 30 seemed older or mature.  My dad was pushing 50 and my grandparents were in their 70’s.
    I heard someone share that in the first century, that a man could not be a rabbi until he was 30 years of age.  Because at 30, you had a considerable amount of life experience and were considered an elder.  The average life expectancy, in the first century, was about 25 years.  
    Many people did not live past the age 10, but if you did, you might live to be about 47.  So, age 30 then was like age 60 now.  Imagine if the church did not allow anyone to be called pastor, as in the position or title, until the age of 60.
    What if every person who feels called to the ministry, to be a pastor, had to just do pastoral ministry and raise a family and be part of the community of God, in a sort of ‘potential pastor’ or ‘pre-pastoring’, before they turned 60?  And at the age of 60, they could be a pastor, because they have become a pastor, and they are frankly old enough and wise enough to be trusted as ‘pastor’?
    Look around at all the people up front who are under 60, who need to step down, because they are too young.  Stepping down means that they need to just work hard in their communities and raise their families together with others.  They can definitely serve along side of the older men and women.
    What if we have it backwards, and our so-called prime years, in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s are all meant to prepare us for appearing in front of people at age 60?  The senior pastor, solo pastor, lead pastor, or leading church preacher who is under the age of 60 is a modern invention that does not line up with scripture.
    Your first and easiest objection might be the first 12 Apostles.  They perhaps were not yet 30.  Remember I am saying that age 30 in the first century is like age 60 today.  You also would bring up Timothy.
    Timothy and the 12 Apostles were not pastors.  They were not local church, lead pastors.  They were apostolic workers.
    If you have a problem with the word apostolic, for today, think missionary, church planter, or evangelist.  What if it is God’s plan or wisdom for planters and missionaries to be younger?  But those who stand up in front of groups and lead them need to be older, elders, people who are roughly aged 60 and above?
    A guy in his 20’s or 30’s is not usually an elder.  People in their 40’s are becoming elders and folks who are in their 50’s are almost there.
    When I found myself in a position of authority in the church, in my 30’s; it was very gracious for anyone to view me as an elder.  I was a junior elder, lacking a lot of life experience.  I always sought out people who were much older than I, preferably people who were in their 60’s.
    This was purely common sense or perhaps a driving leading from the Spirit of God.  And the main thing that my older friends would do is listen to me and ask me hard questions, then listen some more.
    What if God has people, like John the Baptist, who have been in the wilderness?  They have been living their lives, as disciples.  They have been growing and learning, loving and being productive in their spheres.
    These people dream of appearing before people, for God, with words or deeds of God through their lives, that will be for God’s glory.  But they have been not visible to many and have been in a wilderness that is depressing at times, because it has stripped away their dreams of service for the Lord, that they thought were from the Lord, and they received years, even decades ago.
    The message or lesson in the scriptures is that the wilderness is an in-between place, preparing us for the future, which may be tomorrow, next year, or far down the time-line of our life.  Being in the wilderness does not mean you are done, but it means God loves you.
    For further study:

    Isolation–A Place of Transformation In The Life of a Leader, by Shelley B. Trebesch

    Rabbi and Talmidim, by Ray Vander Laan

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