Saturday, June 20, 2009

Did They Just Make It All Up?

There is such a preponderance of extra biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth that no rational non-Christian or anti-Christian denies his existence. Yet, they still continue to deny His existence. (Note the capitalization) This time, let's take a little time to explore the rationale behind the evidence for the deity of Jesus.

One of the most common claims is that Jesus was a great man, but that He was not God: Jesus was a really, really smart teacher (rabbi, rabboni), but not divine. Therefore, according to the doubters, there weren't any real miracles. They claim that like the legends of King Arthur, the legends of Jesus as Christ and miracle worker grew after His death.

In my eyes, the most compelling piece of proof lies in the reactions and behaviors of the Apostles and the other disciples. Did you know that all the surviving Apostles (remember that Judas hanged himself, and his rotten corpse fell down and burst) were killed for their faith, except for John? Were they killed in wars? Droughts or famines? Fires? Earthquakes? No, they were all martyred for their faith in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

"Martyr" is an interesting word. It comes from a Greek word which originally meant "witness", but now means someone who was killed for their faith (Merriam-Webster). Why did this word transform? During the first several years after the execution of Jesus, the Apostles (except John) and many of the disciples were killed by the Jewish religious leaders. They were killed for refusing to recant their stories of the Resurrection. They were killed for claiming Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and God Himself made man. These things were heresy to the ancient Jews, and the punishment for heresy was death.

So, how does this prove that Jesus is divine? Well, would you die for a lie? While there have been several cases of people falsely confessing to infamous crimes just to get attention, and actually being executed, these are pretty rare. In the question of Jesus, dozens of people refused to recant. What could be so powerful and compelling, except being witnesses ("martyrs") to the miraculous events documented in the books and letters now known as the Bible?

One or two people might be fooled or duped, and die for a lie, but the history of the use of torture in military applications shows that the vast majority of captives will say whatever the tormentor wants to hear in order to escape pain or death. The Apostles and other disciples simply would not have all stood their ground had they not solid, irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of the everlasting God. And, manifestly, the Jewish religious leaders of the day would not have needed to execute so many people if their teachings were not credible. When so many hundreds and thousands of people heard the proof from the mouths of the disciples, they believed and turned away from the old, misguided ways.

Are you following old, misguided ways? It is never too late to turn away, and turn to Christ. If you don't believe my words, believe the transformation that took place in my own life.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What About the "Office" of "Pastor"

I'm going to break a little with my essay format and replicate a fascinating conversation from Facebook. I hope this gets you thinking. (Names have been changed to protect the identities of the well-meaning.)

POSTER1: Eph 4:11 "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers"Did you know this is the only verse in the entire NT where the word pastor is used?? It's amazing that the Protestant faith has hung an entire system of paid pastors on one lonely verse. Since it is used in a plural form, it is safe to say that these giftings were meant to be present in the "church" but NOT in a singular form (only one pastor as a "head" of the body) Do you also realize that the gifting of pastor does not have any authority whatsoever over anyone?? Why? Because it was never meant to be that way, Scripturally speaking. We have filled the word "pastor" with our Western Christianity concept of what we think it should be, not what God meant for it to actually be....according to His Word. Also, pastors were never meant to "lead" a body. They were a gifting (like ALL the other giftings) to help complete the body of Christ and function in the community of Christ to edify and encourage each other and glorify God. Also, we pay our pastors a salary. To pay a "gifting" a regular salary is completely, totally against what God intended....Explain to me why we do not pay a regular salary to prophets, evangelists and well as those who have the giftings of encouragement, exhortation, the church?? A study was done in the U.S. on Protestant pastors of churches and the following was discovered: 1)94% feel pressured to have an ideal family, 2)90% work more than 46 hrs a week, 3)81% say they have insufficient time with their spouses, 4)80% believe that the pastoral ministry affects their family negatively, 4)70% do not have someone they consider a close friend, 5)70% have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry, 6)50% feel unable to meet the demans of the job, 7)80% are discouraged or deal with depression, 8)More than 40% report that they are suffereing from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations, 9)33% consider pastoral ministry an outright HAZARD to the family, 10) 33 % have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year and finally 40% of pastoral resignations are due to burnout. The reason?Christ never intended any one person to wear all those hats or one person to bear such a great load. It is clear in His Word that the body of Christ would contain many giftings in each local body...more than one of several, more than likely. NT body of Christ was a community that had Christ in common and bore the load of that community together...never, ever expecting anyone to go it alone.....We have more than a few friends who were former paid pastors (one for over 30 years) of IC's.....God, in His Word, and through much prayer, showed them the hamster wheel they were on were of man's design....These precious couples are serving God with a passion that was hampered and eaten away by stress in the IC...and now they are free to be in a community that they don't have to "lead"...they can just be themselves with the giftings God gave them...where the whole community, together, functions the way God always intended. I wonder how many churches are built upon a pastor and not on Christ?? Interesting to think about.......Peace....

ALFREDO OLONA: "Pastor" means "shepherd". That is a leadership position with authority over a flock. Shepherds also do not work for free.

Teaching is a spritual gift too, but teachers get paid. Same with exhortation (motivational speakers), healing (physicians, nurses), tongues (translators, interpreters), wisdom (counselors).

I could go on, but I do now wish to belabor the point. God bless!

POSTER2: No believer has any Biblical right to have authority over another. Up until the second century the church had no official leadership. That it had leaders is w/o dispute. But leadership was unofficial in the sense that there were no religious "offices" or sociological slots to fill. The clergy system in place today is extra-biblical. It was borrowed from the Roman style of leadership, which is top-down and hierarchical. "The term 'laity' is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from the Christian converstaion." Karl Barth, 20th Century Theologian

ALFREDO: "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." (NASB) This is just one quick, easy-to-find example of authority of a believer over another.

Of which of the dozens of "clergy systems" do you speak? There are as many "systems" as denominations.

P2: [Alfredo], You're going to make me work a little :) (below is a partial response I used in another note)

The Greek word for "authority is exousia. You won't find this word exousia (authority) in the context where one believer in Christ has exousia (authority) over another believer. Jesus said, "The rulers of the Gentiles (Romans) lord it over those who are under them, exercising authority over them." The Greek word for "exercise authority" is katexousiazo. Kata means above or over. Exousiazo means to exercise authority over another. So kataexousiazo means top-down authority. It refers to hierarchical leadership and Jesus is condemning it.

The clergy system I'm referiing to is within Christiandom as a whole - Cath and Prot. They all have their own structure, but they're all extraBiblical.

P1: Within the Body of Christ, there is no Biblical support to pay a "gifting" a salary from the money of other believers whose giftings are just as legitimate and important to God...and the Body of Christ...separating "pastor" and paying it a salary is a division not found in Scripture....Just because that's the way it has been and how it's done does not make it accurate. Peace...

"Shepherd is a leadership position over a flock...." cannot be supported except by opinion. In the NT, you can find ONE verse dealing with the gift of pastor..that 's it. To say it is one who has authority over a flock (body of Christ) is completely inaccurate and cannot be supported Biblically. This subject is a great example of Tradition - Bible = The IC of today. Dig into the Word without your preconceived ideas and traditional is a treasure trove of amazing jewels....Peace....

ALFREDO: There is a growing movement in Christendom, particularly in non-denominational churches, to have "bi-vocational" pastors. They have full-time jobs that provide their primary income. They receive a small stipend (if any at all) from the congregation.

I suppose the real answer to the question of whether pastors should be compensated with full-time salaries depends entirely on what they are asked to do. If they are "just" pastors, only preaching on Sundays, then the compensation should be commensurate. If they are asked to act as on-call counselors, therapists, teachers, life coaches, managers, or anything beyond "pulpit preaching", then I suppose they should be compensated for those things, too.

I guess every worker is due their just wages according to the work they do.

P2: [Alfredo], The real question is, is the office of "pastor," biblical? If the answer is no, as suggested above, then it would make all conjecture about their official duties a moot point. But, it would also turn the church on it's head wouldn't it? :)

Great feedback, keep it coming!

P1: In the NT, in the Body of Christ (in it's purest form and fashion), it would be absolutely appalling to conceive of "getting paid" for excercising your gifting (in the Body). Using your opinions above as a guide (Alfredo), how would the Body "compensate" each other?? Wouldn't that be incredibly selfish and take away from what God truly intended?? I just cannot wrap my mind around that.....Peace. Again, agreeing with Dan, those are all moot points because the very core of the of where this all started (pastor as a paid "office") cannot be supported whatsoever Biblically....

ALFREDO: I do not wish to sound inflamatory, but this is beginning to sound a little like "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".

I don't think the office of firefighter can be supported biblically, either.When Jesus sent out the 12 (Luke 9:1-6), and again when he sent out the 72 (Luke 10:1-12), he tells them not to provide for themselves, but to accept that which is given to them. Effecitively, whatever human language label one chooses (cleric, deacon, divine, dominie, ecclesiastic, father, minister, padre, parson, preacher, priest, reverend, evangelist, missionary, dean, pastor, rector, vicar, or chaplain, to name a few), Jesus Himself established the concept that they should not provide for themselves separately from that which is given to them by those with whom they share the Good News.

Thank you for making me research, think, and pray. You bless me!

COMMENTER2: I know this is down a different bunny trail than just paying pastors for their job, but where should our tithes and offerings be going to if not partially to pay the pastor?

ALFREDO: [Commenter2], it's not a bunny trail at all. I believe it is exactly the point. Should "pastor" be a paid position or a volunteer position? Here is a short list of some spritual gifts that have corresponding compensation:

Teaching - teachers & professors
Wisdom - judges
Knowledge - scientists
Leadership - military officers
Helps - charity staff

I could go on, but I think this makes the point without belaboring it like I did with the list of "clergyman" synonyms.

P2: [Alfredo], The issue is not about pay or not it's about there being a position of "pastor." There is a a spiritual (not secular like your list above) gift of shepherd, but no static position to be filled in the church - that's extra-Biblical. It's understandable why you think this way however, it's our Westernized form of Christianity, but that doesn't make it Bibilical. You might want to check out the couple of "notes" I wrote on home page for more. Might make your head hurt a little, but your might enjoy it.

[Commenter2], The position of "pastor" is un-Biblical or extra-Biblical. Paying clergy wasn't even thought of until 300+ of years after Christ by a guy named Cyprian of Carthage. But, it wasn't until 900 years after Christ that it became a widespread practice. Again, the practice is not in the Bible and the NT church knew nothing of it. The Christians in the early church gave to help other believers as well as to support apostolic workers, enabling them to travel and plant churches.

Lastly, with the death of Jesus, all ceremonial codes that belonged to the Jews were nailed to Christ's cross and buried, never to be used again to condemn us. For this reason we don't see tithing in the NT or sacrificing goats and bulls to cover our sins. The tithe that gets preached is from the OT (Mal 3 namely), but a close study of tithing in the OT reveals that the total tithe was 23.3% annually, not 10% like we hear. Only 3% of US Christians tithe - is everyone in sin for not tithing? No.

ALFREDO: I read your notes, and found them to be fascinating. I only recently started reading Christianity Today, so I did not read the article that is the basis for your posts. If you still have a copy of it, or can post a link to it, I would be most grateful. It seems to explain why so many people are moving to non-denominational churches.

Separation of "spritual" from "secular" is what created the concept of "laity". "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31, NASB, emphasis mine) I do not view any "office" as being particularly sacred. I belive in living a sacred life and I try to behave outside the walls of a congregational building the same as I do inside those walls.

I serve the whole body of Christ, not just the parts that congregate at a certain spot at a certain time. I do not see my position in the US Air Force as less "holy" than my positions with FamilyLife or Overcomers Outreach.