Sacraments and Ruling (Lay) Elders
Modified from a text conversation.
Why should only Teaching Elders (pastors) and not Ruling Elders (lay elders) administer the sacraments? Why are the sacraments (normally) not properly administered otherwise? Here are the broad strokes of my reasoning, with particular application to the EPC. A more detailed breakdown can be found on pages 30-38 of the document linked in this post.
Biblical theology: The sacraments are part of the churchly ministry granted to the apostles (e.g. Matthew 16:19, 18:18-19, 28:19; John 20:23; 1 Corinthians 4:1, 11:23). The authority to administer sacraments is not entrusted to just anyone in the church. Teaching Elders as pastors stand in continuity with this apostolic ministry (i.e. apostolic succession) – e.g. Romans 15:15-17; 1 Corinthians 12:27-29, 14:1; Ephesians 2:20-22, 3:7, 4:9-11; 1 Peter 5:1. Whatever Ruling Elders are, they are not an apostolic, sacramental office. Pastors (or bishops, or ministers, or Teaching Elders, or whatever your preferred term) do stand in ministerial, apostolic succession, and therefore do have a sacramental nature to their office. Teaching Elders have been authorized by Christ to administer the sacraments, Ruling Elders have not…
Christians Need To Be Evangelized, Too
I had the privilege to present on the subject of evangelism during a lunch session at this summer’s EPC General Assembly. My talk was sponsored by the Westminster Theological Society, which was an honor. Unfortunately, I’m a technological doofus and failed to hit the right button on my mic to record the talk. Below is a rough paraphrase of my talk: “Christians Need To Be Evangelized, Too”. I started my talk by reading Isaiah 60:1-6.
To be evangelized, eugelizoed, is to be gospeled. To evangelize is do the working of gospeling. There is a need to do this for Christians, and not just because of the volume of ignorance in our churches. There would be nothing more disheartening for a pastor than to survey his congregation with the question “What is the gospel?” and read the results. Those of us who have done officer interviews and ask this question have far too been dismayed as we are met with answers focusing on personal experience, transformation, and comfort, not the affirmation that the gospel is the good news that Jesus is king and that he has inaugurated his kingdom through his death and resurrection…
Church Life, Health, and Mission in the EPC’s Presbytery of the East
I’ve drafted a white paper as a proposal to guide a presbyterially strategized, congregationally executed approach to church health. It is tailored to the EPC’s Presbytery of the East, where I am and the congregation I pastor are members. But the principles apply to any connectional denomination. David Brooks recently in The New York Times highlighted Tim Keller’s 8-point plan for Christian renewal in the United States. Jake Meador today drew out some of the implications of this plan for institution building. That is what this paper I drafted is trying to capture: a fresh, rooted, and aggressive approach to concrete institution building oriented by the church as God’s institution for mission.
The paper can be found here. Below is an excerpt of the first section.
The church receives its life from Jesus. The church is united to him spiritually and mystically, and receives its life from him. He is the vine, we are the branches. No approach to church health, revitalization (i.e. literally “re-lifeing”), or mission can proceed biblically without this reality foregrounded.
Churches are alive and healthy insofar as they truly united to Christ and practicing the means by which that union is deepened. Any conversation about church life cycles, budgeting practices, change management, congregational outreach, effective small groups, etc. is all tertiary to the redemptive work of God in Christ and the means by which the church receives those benefits.
Assuming this or backgrounding it in conversations about church health and mission only results in unhealthy churches and mission unaligned with God…
Belonging to the Body: Article up at Ref21
I have an article on church membership up at Ref21. Here’s a portion,
Yet, Paul grounds the two metaphors in the same reality: Because of the gospel, Jews and Gentiles alike are sus-soma, of the same body (Ephesians 3:6). The gospel that God reveals shows that scattered individuals are united together by the Spirit under Christ, either with the metaphor of Jesus as the head of his body (Ephesians 1:22-23) or the household cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). By the Holy Spirit, Christians are made members of the household of God, because we share in the same body, that is, we are all united to Christ. This mele, union in Christ, is central to the mystery of the gospel relationship of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:29-32). Salvation is Jesus joining with his people and his people being joined to him. By being his members, the Christian is a participant in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) because Jesus abides in us and we in him (John 14). That is what church membership is, ontologically.
Book Review on ‘Reparations’ up at Mere Orthodoxy
My book review of Duke Kwon and Greg Thompson’s Reparations: A Call for Repentance and Repair is up at Mere Orthodoxy. Kwon and Thompson make the case that White churches owe African Americans reparations. I expect that their work will be a starting point for a lot of reparation discussions in Presbyterian circles in the near future. The book was compelling, but overreached. Here’s an excerpt of my reivew,
I was persuaded of the biblical arguments for reparations before reading Kwon and Thompson, and their work only strengthened that conviction. But the application of that biblical principle into the life of the church? My church, where I pastor? The duty of Christian love and sacrifice in working towards repair does not go away if fault is cleared, but the bedrock of Kwon and Thompson’s argument is that reparations is the complicit returning what was stolen. It is not ethical bean counting or an evasion of loving obligation to take that aspect of their argument seriously and then to assess its claims of historical moral responsibility for my congregation.