Why Church? . . . and a Little from Francis Chan

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For 8 episodes, Jared Jenkins and Bryan Catherman discussed the question, “Why Church?” on Salty Believer Unscripted. In this episode, they share some concluding thoughts and deal with some excerpts in Francis Chan’s newest book, Letters to the Church.

Listen to the Conclusion (with a little from Francis Chan, too):

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Unscripted: "The Church and the Preached Word"

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The local church and preaching the Word of God are tied together. The Church has a duty to protect the Word and a duty to hear the Word, just as much—if not more—than the duty of the preacher’s part of preaching the Word. Why Church? In part it the answer includes the necessity of preaching, hearing, protecting, and propagating the Word of our Lord.

In this episode of Salty Believer Unscripted, Bryan Catherman and Jared Jenkins look at the connection between the local church and the preached Word of God.

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A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

Photo: The Gospel Herald.

Photo: The Gospel Herald.

Peterson, Eugene H. A Long Obedience In The Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000. 

Many consider Eugene Peter’s , A Long Obedience in the Same Direction a classic. It’s a must read. Bryan Catherman offers a video review and recommendation:

Maybe your next bookclub choice? Maybe something personal to help you move through a dry or difficult season in your Christian journey?

Find and purchase this book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2t9CrZ4.

If you found this review helpful, you can find more written and video reviews at the book recommendation and review section of our website. Also, we encourage you subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Happy 9th Birthday SaltyBeliever.com!

On January 1, 2010, SaltyBeliever.com was born. It became a public website and ministry to share Christian ideas, thoughts, resources, and other helpful things for believers on a journey with Christ.

I was in seminary, working on a Master’s Degree and had papers only read by a professor. I thought that maybe I could modify that work and make it available to others. Perhaps it could be helpful? I hoped that the website could help serve alongside my other ministries. There was only one way to find out.

I chose the name “Salty Believer” for a few reasons. First, I took a cue from Matthew 5:13. Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth, but if salt were to lose its saltiness, it wouldn’t be good for anything. I think that's interesting on many levels. Second, I live in Salt Lake City and at the time didn't expect this website to reach beyond my friends and family. I wanted to play upon the name of my home and wasn't thinking beyond the small circles I was in. Finally, a decade ago the term "salty" was used a little differently. It was more of a reference for sailors who had been out to sea and experienced the sea life, opposed to new sailors, identified as "green." When I was in Iraq, we used these terms for soldiers, too. Today, the term, "salty" is used more to describe someone who is jaded, snarky, or holds resentment towards something. The irony is that in 2010 I was far more 'green' in ministry than I am today, and far more 'snarky-salty.' But the name stuck, and here we are.

The past 9 years of this website have seen many things. My ministry as a self-supported missionary working alongside Redeeming Life turned into a full-time position supported by the church. I graduated with an M.Div. In 2017 I earned a D.Min. I planted a church. Book projects and chapters were penned with my words. I made more friends and invited them into the activities of SaltyBeliever.com. I’ve preached hundreds of sermons. I wrote hundreds of blog posts. Guest authors wrote some, too. Our gang filmed videos, books were reviewed, classes offered, and we started a podcast. We've had some remarkable guests along the way. And we’ve had a lot of fun through it all.

It's been a great journey so far. I would never have thought so much might have happened with SaltyBeliever.com over these past nine years. I'm waiting expectantly to see what the next nine could bring. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

For the Kingdom!

Bryan Catherman
SaltyBeliever.com

Unscripted: "The Church and the Mission"

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So many Christians are jettisoning the local church. Why? Regardless of the arguments presented, the conclusion they draw is that the Church, specifically the local church, does not have the value God says it has. Jared Jenkins and Bryan Catherman are seeking to explore the value of the local church in a Salty Believer Unscripted series called, “Why Church?”

In this episode, they look at God’s plan to use the Church (including the local church) to reach the world with the gospel. It’s God’s only plan. There is no other.

Listen or download with this link or use the player below.

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The Cradle and the Cross

There are things on our Christmas tree that remind of us the nativity scene. We have a star on top, to remind us of the star the Magi followed to find the Christ. We have white lights to remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world. And as John 1 reminds us, that light was coming into the world and darkness cannot overcome it. We have gifts under the tree to remind us of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, for all who believe and call him Lord. Like our little ceramic figurines sitting in the miniature barn on the coffee table, these things are but simple reminders. I don’t feel too bad about their simplicity because it’s much like taking the Lord’s Supper. How can a small cracker and tiny cup even come close to remind us of the magnitude of our crucified and risen Lord? Yet is is helpful to have reminders.

We have something else on our tree. At times it has drawn comments and attention. “Isn’t that better for Easter?” I’ve heard. What is it? Well, we have a cross on our tree. More than one, actually.

I greatly appreciate that our decorations include the cross. The cross on a Christmas tree serves as a strong reminder that the baby Jesus entered humble humanity in terrible circumstances to do more than give us Christmas. He came to give us Easter. Christmas is the start of a celebration that culminates with an empty tomb. The baby was laid in a manger—the man was laid in a tomb. Both significant. Both meaningful. Neither are the end of the story. The tomb is empty and a baby born in humble beginnings is the King of all kings.

When I look to Christmas, I think more about an empty tomb than I do about ‘no room at the inn.’ I think about a King on the Throne. I think about my Savior and salvation, a rescue beyond what any sinner could accomplish.

The cross on our Christmas tree is another reminder of Christ and why we call him Savior. It seems only fitting to have such an ornament on our tree.

Merry Christmas!
Bryan Catherman

Unscripted: Why Church? Meaningful Community

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On this week’s Salty Believer Unscripted episode, Bryan Catherman and Jared Jenkins look at meaningful community. They are exploring the question, why church? and meaningful community can’t be overlooked. There are many times that a church community even replaces biological family as the community of God’s people becomes more and more significant.

Listen to this week’s episode here.

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Unscripted: Why Church? Rhythms of Community

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When it comes to church attendance, any more people feel like they nailed it if they are present in church services twice per month. That’s really not good attendance. Others argue that regular attendance with a faith community at worship service isn’t an important part of the Christian life. We argue otherwise. Having regular rhythms of connection with a body of believers is a highly important and significant aspect of Christian maturity.

Listen this episode here.

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Unscripted: Why Church? An Introduction

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Hebrews 25:10 instructs believers not to neglect gathering with the body of Christ, specifically in a local church gathering.  In this series, we are setting out to discuss the value of the local church gathering, why it's important to gather with it, and why it might be God's plan for the advancement of the gospel in the world (Ephesians 3:7-10). Many people offer arguments about why the local church is no longer necessary, but most of the excuses are unbiblical and flimsy.

In this series, we’re looking at why Christians should be committed to a local church body and gather with other Christians for corporate worship.

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The Saints of Zion by Travis Kerns

Kerns, Travis. The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Academic, 2018.

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Dr. Travis Kerns has studied Mormon theology for more than half his life. And by ‘study,’ I mean he earned a Masters and Ph.D. focused on the topic and taught undergrads, master students, and doctoral students at Boyce College and Southern Seminary. I've personally observed his study beyond the academy. Kerns, my friend, moved to Utah, the heart of Mormonism. He's made friends with Mormons, to include professors at BYU and public relations folks within the LDS religion (Latter-Day Saints). I've toured the Riverton Temple with him and some LDS leadership prior to the temple's rededication. And Kerns keeps up with the news and events of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He's not so much an apologist, standing on the streets arguing as he is an academic expert. When it comes to Mormon theology, I suspect he has a more robust knowledge of the topic than the greater majority of Mormons.

In his book, The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology, Kerns set out to provide a fair look at the theology of Mormons through the lens of Mormon source material. However, while many apologetic authors will quote one or two obscure sources, Kerns loaded his book with large block quotes from a wide range of commonly accepted Mormon sources spanning from the religion's early beginnings right up to a handful of months ago. His approach is far more academic than apologetic which explains his statement: "[I]n accessing official Church doctrine, the works attributed as officially binding and declarative, as the Church, its leaders, and scholars defend them, will be used" (22). While recording a podcast with Kerns, he told me that it's his hope that while LDS members might not agree with his conclusions, they will say the treatment of the theology is fair and the information is correct.

Published by an academic publisher (B&H Academic), it's important to remember that this is indeed an academic book. It could serve as a textbook for an undergraduate or master's comparative religion course. Therefore, the book looks a little different than the popular-level reading Mormonism 101-type books. The Saints of Zion is not one of those books. If you have no knowledge of Mormonism what-so-ever, this is the book you read after one of those books Mormon basics book, or you read Chapter 5 first and then come back to the beginning of the work. This is a book specifically about Mormon theology, not just the basics of the Mormon religion. The Saints of Zion gets much deeper below the surface level discussion, getting at the root of belief, practice, and doctrine. Above all, this book is not about reading what Kerns thinks and knows--it's a book full of large amounts of Mormon source material intelligently curated by an expert.

While the first chapter is called an introduction, it's not the introduction a reader might expect. Instead of the 30,000-foot overview, it's a compelling argument why non-Mormons should seek to understand what informs Mormon belief and practice. Chapters 2-4 are theological discussions on God, sacred writings and how those are to be understood, and salvation. As is abundantly clear in the pages, these are the larger matters that need to be addressed before anything about the minutia of the religion can be understood. Chapter 5 is a helpful and extensive discussion of the history of the Mormon Church and how it is organized. And finally, Kerns addresses the question, "Are Mormons Christians?". This is the most apologetic chapter of the book, yet is still remains academic in nature and relies heavily upon simply presenting the Mormon source materials.

What might be the most impressive aspect of The Saints of Zion is the 26 pages of single-spaced works cited. It's an overwhelmingly large bibliography of publications, mostly from Mormon sources. Based on counting a couple pages, I estimate there are over 625 cited sources used in the 236 pages of the book. Almost every page of the book includes a block quote to be sure the context is properly conveyed.

The book is well written and the structure of thought flows great. The material is presented in what appears honest and fair, allowing the reader to draw conclusions from the source material.

Kern's book is not free from challenges, however. At times, I found myself hoping for more of a summary or explanation statement for clarity. I appreciate that he allows the reader to draw conclusions from the source materials, but at times I felt buried in so much source material and overwhelmed by what the material demonstrated about Mormon theology. I could have benefited from a few more signposts that I was concluding the same things the expert had concluded. At other times, the material revealed so much about why the Mormons I know might think and act as they do that I'd want to camp out in that thought for a moment, but Kerns just kept marching forward without a rest to catch my breath or collect my thoughts. It's a lot of material to cover. Now, I could have paused, slowed down, and reread, so this is not all on Kerns.

Also, I think I understand why the book is structured as it is, but I believe Chapter 5 might have been helpful as Chapter 1, or a true overview introduction could have been offered. The introduction could have been a basic section on the organization of the Mormon church with a statement that the section could be skipped if the reader didn't need it. I have many friends and family who are Mormon and I live in Salt Lake City, but at times I had to pause and remember the organizational structure to make better sense of some of the quotes. A refresher would have been helpful before getting to Chapter 5. For one with limited knowledge of Mormonism, an introduction like this could be helpful. (If you think you might need this kind of overview, I recommend reading Chapter 5 first.)

That being said, these challenges are minor. I found The Saints of Zion extremely informative and I learned a lot (and I've read many books on the topic!). I will return to this book often and I will regularly recommend it to those interested in Mormonism, history, or even how a large number of people in the world think. Travis Kerns did an outstanding job with this one. (He and I both know I'm not just saying this because we're friends. He wouldn't respect my review if I did that.)

I highly recommend The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology by Dr. Travis Kerns.

Note: I did not receive any benefit for reviewing this book; however, using the link to purchase the book from Amazon.com does help financially support the maintenance and hosting of this website.

Also: Travis Kerns is donating any personal proceeds from this book to the North American Mission Board’s Annie Armstrong Offering to help further the work of church-planting in unreached and under-reached places in North America, like Utah.

Journey Through John, 2-Minutes per Day

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Nearly 6-months ago, I started posting 2-minute videos on YouTube, each discussing a single verse in the book of John. People could (and still can) subscribe to receive an email—Monday through Friday—that contains the written verse and a link to the video. At this point, subscribers have watched over 3 hours and twenty minutes of discussion, 2-minutes at a time. We're nearing Chapter 4.

I realize that people may not want to start where we're presently at, so now you can subscribe to an email list that starts at the beginning.

Subscribe to Journey Through John (From the Beginning) here.

By the time we've walked through the 879 verses in John, there will be nearly 30 hours of discussion, 2-minutes per day, one verse at a time.

Two-minutes each day is not much. It’s not difficult. One verse to read to you and a couple of things to think about or meditate on each day, all from the simplicity of a video. It only takes two minutes each day (Monday through Friday). What a good way to start the day. This is an easy way to be in the word daily, and the email makes it even easier.

At the same time, while two minutes isn’t much, 30 hours of commentary offered for you to consider little by little each day is a big accomplishment. The emails help keep you on track and you’ll be in God’s word every weekday.

If you've previously signed up for Journey Through John (Newest Videos) but you've fallen behind, I recommend subscribing to this subscription and sign up for Journey Through John (From the Beginning).

It's not difficult to waste minutes here and there. But it's also not difficult to use two minutes in a disciplined way that will drive you into the Word of God and grow you.

Here's a sample video. It's John 3:17.

Here's another sample.  There are some occasional summaries or explanation videos, but not many.  In this video, I show how the first 18 verses of John are a prologue and each of those verses correspond to the entire rest of the book of John.

Reserve Space for God

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Is there step in your Christian walk where you really feel you're falling short but want to do something? You know you’re not being faithful but you want to grow. Maybe you're struggling to read your Bible daily. Or maybe you don't see how you can give a regular offering to God in support of his mission at your local church or other ministries, or both. Fasting? Or maybe you're struggling to gather with your local congregation.

Spiritual formation is often about forming habits and the formation of a habit takes strategic effort. Reserving a space for the thing you're lacking but want to do is a great start for growth.

When I was first starting a church plant, we set a budget that had line items for sending another church planter, foreign mission work, and even a building fund. This was a time when our weekly offering was a few bucks and some loose change. We were fundraising and had no money (and, really, we still don't) so why would we set these items in the budget? Because we reserved a space for them to grow in the future. It was about being faithful. These line items had extremely small percentages of our undesignated collected offering. It was almost comical how much we saved in each line item, but we were honoring God by making an effort, even if it was all we could do. Each year we try to up these percentages. It's not easy, but it's faithful and they serve as a placeholder for growth. It’s something, and that’s more than doing nothing.

How does this illustration translate into your life?

Are you are struggling to read your Bible every day? Set yourself to read one verse per day. Maybe it seems silly, but it will reserve a space for you and God and you'll be in your Bible daily. That’s something! As you grow, you can up it to two or three verses. If you keep this up, eventually you'll grow into entire chapters, then more and more chapters. Additionally, you'll begin to grow in this spiritual discipline and enjoy it.

Is the offering plate passing by you unchanged. If you're presently not giving to the mission of God at your local church through financial offerings and gifts, you should. It's an act of worship. "But I can't afford it," you might say. Try this. Every pay period, give $1. Not just $1 cash in the plate, but take the time to write a check or give online (or through text giving). Make it an intentional act every pay period. Be mindful of God and the spiritual discipline to give. And maybe as you start this, you'll give up one of those coffee drinks so you can up your giving to $5. See what happens when you act in obedience and faith. Doing something, even if it’s $1, reserves space for God to work in your life, and it's much better than making excuses to the Lord.

Do you fast? If not, start by setting a fast for a single meal per month. Skip a meal and pray every time you feel hungry. It might not seem like much, but it’s more fasting than you aren’t doing now. It’s a start and it reserves a space for God to grow you.

Having a hard time making church attendance a priority? Many people struggle to go to church regularly. "I'm tired" or "I'm too busy" they say. The problem is not Sunday morning, it's Saturday night. Reserve space for this spiritual discipline by setting an evening bedtime on Saturday. If it’s not the evening, maybe it’s the chores in the day. Trying getting off the couch even for just a little bit on Saturday. It's really not that difficult. And by reserving space and time, you'll find it's not too difficult to attend a worship service with fellow believers. As you do this over time, making worship with your faith-family a priority, you’ll be surprised how much God grows you through it.

Spiritual formation starts with a little discipline. And discipline starts by reserving a space for God to work, even if only a tiny bit. Create a space holder until you've grown more. Be intentional about a strict effort that will lead to your spiritual growth and faithfulness. Watch what God might do if you reserve the space.

"The Saints of Zion" a Discussion With Dr. Travis Kerns

Dr. Travis Kerns is an expert on the topic of Mormon theology. It has been the subject of his studies since his undergraduate education. He’s taught on it in formal academia for a few years, too. Twenty-three years of his life have been given to researching Mormonism. He even gave up teaching at Boyce and Southern Seminary to move to Utah, the heart of Mormonism. Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and for the past six years has been Travis’s home. He sat down with us to discuss his forthcoming book, The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology (B&H Publishing, 2018).

If you’re not already subscribed to Salty Believer Unscripted wherever you listen to podcasts, you can listen to the podcast here.

Purchase The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology by following this link or find it wherever books are sold. Travis and his family have decided to give any money they make from the sales of this book to further the work of Church planting in North America.

A formal review as well as a video review are likely on the way once one or more of at SaltyBeliever.com have read the new book.

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Hoofin' It Through Hebrews

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I'm doing a variety of studies right now, and I'm starting another study called "Hoffin' It Through Hebrews."  I think I just crave this kind of study and teaching, and there's been a void ever since my committee called me "Doctor" last year. 

Bur first, Journey through John is a verse-by-verse study through the book of John.  It's done by way of 2-minute videos and each video covers a single verse.  It's hard to pack too much into a two-minute video, but it is a good amount to start your day with a verse of the Bible. And you can do it in the natural environment of the human condition--staring at your phone.  Interested?  Subscribe and receive a daily email, Monday through Friday, with the verse and a link to watch the day's video.  Or you can subscribe to the video channel.  

I'm also working on an in-depth study on the topic of elders, deacons, pastors, overseers, and the various responsibilities as we see them in the Bible (and early Church Fathers).  There's a lot of discussions out there so I'm really only adding to the white noise, but I'm not campaigning for a theological camp.  Rather, I'm trying to break free of my "camp-thinking" and explore this study on my own, with none of the camp leader's voices chiming in. It's an area in my thinking that has needed this kind of study for some time. I'm calling the study "Exploring Eldership."  It's coming by way of SaltyBeliever.com posts as I have the material worked out.  

Of course, there's always Salty Believer Unscripted.  If you're not tuning in to that, you're missing out.  We've had great guests and we have a line up of more fantastic guests.  It's a 20-minute unscripted conversation with pastors, theologians, missionaries, and many others.  We hit record and chat.  Join in.  You won't regret it.  

And now I'm starting a study at the church where I pastor called Hoofin' It Through Hebrews.  I've opted to post the handouts in the classes and reflections section of this website and I'll be posting things from this study along the journey.  (Download this week's handout here.) This study is a Bible Study for a Sunday School format.  It's in-depth over a few verses.   I've set a goal for the class that we'll dig in enough to practice a good Bible study to learn study tool along the way, but we'll also learn the book of Hebrews.  

The first class is only going to look at the first two verses of the book because I'd like to start with the prolegomena.  What's prolegomena?  That's a fancy word used by some theologians and biblical scholars to say introduction in detail.  It means the things spoke before or the necessary things beforehand.  It's more than a simple introduction like you find printed on the back of a book.  It's detailed.  

Why start with an introduction like this?  Because a good introduction hands topics like the title, date, authorship or destination, audience, circumstance or occasion or provenance or purpose, background, structure or outline, theme, content or text, literary features, contribution, adoption into the cannon, and history of study or controversy. 

It might surprise you to learn that a great deal of scholarship and even debate has gone into every topic.  Take something as simple as the title of the book of Hebrews.  It didn't come with a title originally, but it was given one at some point.  The traditional title is "To the Hebrews."  This suggests that the letter (if that's what it is) was written to people who have a Jewish background and would understand the sacrificial system and the history of the Hebrew people.  That seems to follow when you read the book.  But it's not always this simple.  For example, the title of the book of John was not original.  If you had a copy without the title, you would have no idea what the author's name is because he only refers to himself as the "beloved disciple" or "the disciple Jesus loved."  It is only by way of the synoptic gospels that we have figured out his name.  But the early church knew it was John and they referred to that book as the book of John. 

Many other aspects of an introduction are helpful too.  The date tends to be a really big deal when it comes to a time before or after 70 AD.  That's when the temple was destroyed.  So references to the temple practices might have been heard by the intended audience differently depending on when it happened.  We thought of terrorism a little differently before 9-11.  Reading that word when it was written before 9-11 had slightly different significance than after.  

I could get into much more, but you'll get the idea if you get into the practice of reading the introductions in your Study Bible.  I even encourage you to get a second Study Bible published by a different publisher so you can compare introductions.  Read the introduction chapters in any commentaries you own.  And if you're really feeling ambitious, considering purchasing an introduction.  You can find commentaries and introductions in the recommended books section of SaltyBeliever.com.  

I'm looking forward to this additional study.  Any time you see the "Hoofin It Through Hebrews" posts, it will be something from or for this study.  If you're interested, be sure to keep an eye out for those.  And if you'd like to learn more about Bible study tools, subscribe to our YouTube channel because more videos are coming.  

Study on! 
Bryan Catherman
SaltyBeliever.com 

Exploring Eldership: Starting with the Local Church

An exploration of New Testament eldership and church leadership should start in the New  Testament.  If we want to see what kind of leadership the local church should have, we should probably start by trying to define the local church.  My attempt is to get a basic idea of what the church is.  This is not an effort to define the various marks or functions of a local church.   

We get the English word, "church" from the Greek word, ekklesia.  Technically we first see that word in Matthew.  It comes up 3 times and is only used by Jesus.  Until Acts, we don't see it again.  In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says he will build his church.  I think this is big C Church. The universal Church, which is a collection of all local church and all Christians, living and passed away.  Then in Mathew 18:17 we find the other two uses of ekklesia in the gospels.  Jesus says if a brother has sinned against you (and you've already addressed it with him and after that brought other witnesses) then tell it to the church (ekklesia).   And if he won't listen to the ekklesia than there's a good chance the guy does not believe and live by the gospel, so treat him like a lost person.  (Meaning, change your expectations of him and keep sharing the gospel with him.) 

Technically, ekklesia has a wide range of meaning.  It can mean an assembly or a legislative assembly.   It can be a summoned body or a casual gathering of people.   A gathered group of people with shared beliefs is another way the word can be used. There are uses of ekklesia that suggest that it can refer to a gathered group of Christians.  Church is one of its meanings. Many of the New Testament uses point to the Universal Church.   

We see what looks as if it's the start of the New Testament Church in Acts 2:42-47.  This shows the reader what they were doing although there is no mention of the local church by the name of "church" yet.   Ekklesia (the word) first comes on the scene in Acts 5:11.  The word makes 23 appearances, 20 of which refer to either the local church (often in plural form) or the Universal Church.  Three uses of Ekklesia (all in Acts 19) refer to a non-Christian legal gathering.  A study for another time might include what the local church does.  What constitutes that a group of gathered Christians is or is not a church?  This, however, is not why I'm looking at ekklesia.  I'll come back to this. But first, let's look at the early understanding of the Greek word in question. 

The LXX is the short-hand for the Septuigent (which means 70).  The Septuagint is the first translation of the Hebrew Bible (and the Apocrypha).  This translation started some time about 275 years before Jesus was born.  It's helpful to see how the 70 translators understood Greek and Hebrew while doing the translation.  They used the word ekklesia a  couple hundred times.  Most of those uses were in regard to the Jewish congregation.

Here's why it matters. 

Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 are why a brief investigation of ekklesia seems like a helpful exploration.  In Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas saw fit to appoint elders for the disciples in every church.  So the gathering of people following Jesus needed an elder or elders in each local gathering.  That sounds like leadership in the local church and an elder or elders are involved.   In Titus 1:5, Paul is writing to Titus to give him guidance and advice.  Paul said he left Titus in Crete to finish the work that Paul started (or put what remained into order).  While we do not see the specific mention of local churches, Paul does tell Titus that he needs to appoint elders in every town.  I can't imagine these elders were being appointed for anything but the local churches.  

Based on what we see in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5, it seems there were churches in need of elders.  Maybe they didn't have elders before, but that's hard to prove from these Scriptures.  Could it be that Paul and Barnabas were elders?  Or maybe there were a limited amount of appointed elders in Crete by putting things in order meant finding more of elders.  No matter the case, Paul felt the ekklesia needed elders.  

What's the point?  It seems that according to the Bible, the local gatherings of believers needed an elder or elders at some point.  

* This article is part of a continuing series called, "Exploring Eldership."  Be on the lookout for additional articles on this journey. 

Exploring Eldership: Detangling the Ball of Snakes

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Leadership in the church is a difficult conversation these days.  Elders?  Deacons?  What do these words mean?  Who should hold the title of pastor?  What role do females play in church leadership?  What model of government?  Are there still Apostles?  "Big A" or "little a" apostle; what in the world does that mean!  How does tradition and shifting vocabulary impact our understanding?  Exploring the biblical idea of eldership seems tied to many of these questions and more.  At times, this conversation feels like a tangled ball of snakes. 

There are many ways to untangle the ball, but most people who try haven't first identified a process.  They just start grabbing at snakes.  Even worse, tradition and history influence the journey and pre-conceived ideas influence the desired final destination.  History and tradition are helpful and even necessary in understanding how things got tangled and what we must to do communicate clearly today.  Understanding our avenues of approach is also critical if we're going to sort out this mess if indeed it is a mess.   Pragmatics?  Which voices are we going to elevate with the most authority?  The loudest, the newest, Scripture?  

Most churches got where they are by following the churches or leaders before them.   They might have and elder-lead church, or not, but they aren't completely sure why.  Or there might have been a shift by following the popular teacher of the day.  "Let's do what he's doing" might have led to a change in church government, or an adjustment to a plurality of elders, or some other variation, but apart from following someone else, the church couldn't fully articulate why.  Or maybe the pressure of the outside world around the church forced change in the church.  In his book, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, "Alexander Strauch writes, 

"There are horrendous pressures on churches today to conform to the world-wide, feminist spirit and its ruthless eradication of all male-female distinctions in the church. Part of the church growth movement, in its obsession with bigness and numbers, preaches giving as much power and authority as possible to one person.  Multitudes of churches are oblivious to the moral and spiritual qualifications outlined in the New Testament for church shepherds.  Worldly attitudes of bigness, power, self-promotion, and success in 'the ministry' are deeply ingrained in the minds of too many church leaders" (Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1995, 11-12).  

I admit that I am guilty.  I have been influenced by the popular (and unpopular) voices of the day.  I planted a church and simply adopted the same government, definition of roles and offices, and constitution as the church that sent me to plan a new faith-family.  I've allowed my "camp" to influence how I understand the terms.   Sure, I see eldership in the Bible and I can make a case for a plurality of eldership, but are there other cases to be made?  Do I fully understand my position on eldership?  I'm ready to start untwisting the knot of vipers.  I believe what looks like a ball of snakes is really not something so harmful or poisonous.  The more I read God's Word and watch how he works, the more I'm convinced that getting this sorted out will actually bring about a great deal of peace in my mind, solidify my own biblical convictions, and reveal the correct identity of what, at present, looks like dangerous reptiles.  And maybe there's blessing there that I've missed out on for years because of my failure to dig deeply into this doctrine.   But I won't know until I start working at it.  

My plan is to start with a biblical perspective of words like Elder and Deacon and pastor and church.  I want to gain a better understanding of pastor, shepherd, overseer, bishop, and the other roles we see then and now.  What are the offices of Christ's Church?  And how about the Apostles?   Ephesians 4 has something to say about the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the shepherd-teachers.  If I'm going to get the right foundation, I want to build it on God's Word.  

Once I have a biblical foundation, I want to look at how this moved forward through history.  What did the early Church have to say about it?  What did other godly theologians think?  What happened during the reformation?  How did the great awakenings, the mission movement, and church growth movement influence the thinking on church leadership and government?  How about other cultures?  They have had different influences thrust upon them that might have shaped their thinking differently?  I want to look at this issue through time. 

And finally, I want to understand how to communicate my findings clearly and in a way that does not add more confusion.  How does a local church function in a world where words have meaning and people have assumptions?  And we have to consider translation.  For example, no churches that I am aware of officially call their leaders "overseers" even though that translated word is used in the Bible, among many different translations to describe church leaders.  I want to get this right in my mind and then right in how I lead the local church to function.  

 In the coming weeks and months, I will offer posts in a journey I'm calling "Exploring Eldership.  I don't yet know how many article will find their way into this series, but we'll find out together. I pray it might be helpful for you and ask that you pray for me.  And be on the lookout for the next installment in the series, "Exploring Eldership." 

For the Kingdom!
Bryan Catherman 

Unscripted: "Setting High Standards"

Brett Brandewie, the Youth Pastor from Ingleside Baptist Church, joined us on Slaty Believer Unscripted to discuss the importance of setting a high bar or high standard for short-term mission teams.  Brandewie leads teams around the world and sets very high standards of his teams. 

Listen in here

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What is the Purpose of the Church According to Howard Hendricks

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In the late 1980s, Howard Hendricks considered Chad Walch's idea about what the church might look like in the early 21st Century.  Walch figured that the church would have just enough Christianity to miss the mark of the Kingdom of God.  It's amazing to see this video 30-years later and see how it turned out.  

Hendrick's consideration of this question launched him into a conversation about the purpose of the Church.  He asked three questions. 1. What is the purpose of the Church?  2.  What is the role of the pastor?  3.  What kind of leadership does it take to make an impact on our society?  In the powerful, easy-to-listen-to style of Prof Hendricks, Howard addresses the very things our present church may be loosing.  Opening to Acts 2:42-47, he launches into the answers to the above questions.    

What are the essential components of a New Testament church?  Long before Mark Dever asked this question and identified 9 marks of a church, Hendricks saw that there are four components in Acts 2:42-47.  

If we are going to call ourselves Christians, we must know the Word of God and let it define us.  As Christians, we discover (in the book) that the Church is God's plan A.  There is no plan B.  So what is the purpose of the Church?  Christians must know if we're going to be the Church. 

Mission Trips: "When a Volcano Blows!"

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Today's episode of "Salty Believer Unscripted" marks the 312th episode of this podcast.  312?  That seems like an odd number, except that it marks 6 years worth of once-per-week podcasts.  We've not published a podcast every week.  We've actually been going for more than 6 years, but if you listened every week, you'd have six years of podcasts to enjoy.  

In this episode, Jared Jenkins talks about the work they do in Guatemala and what happens when a national disaster strikes when you're boots-on-the-ground. 

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"Prof" Howard Hendricks on Leadership

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A few years ago, I posted a recording from Howard Hendricks from a lecture he gave at a Campus Crusade For Christ meeting.  The topic: motivation.  Recently, a reader reached out and informed me that he has two other lectures from that meeting on cassette tape.  I was tickled with joy!  The man is having them converted to a digital format so we can share them.  

In addition to the additional lectures, the reader also forwarded me a couple links to videos.  There is a possibility--although I am not positive--that these videos may have come from the same conference as the motivation lecture.  However, there is good reason to think that Dr. Hendricks gave similar lectures in multiple venues. 

In this video, Prof Hendricks talks about the six characteristics of leadership.  It's a great video and worth the 17 minutes to watch it.  

For the Kingdom! 
Bryan Catherman