Amazing Grace: Nadab and Abihu

nadab.jpgThanks to Kris’s comment, I’ve now listened to Dr. Rodney Plunkett’s excellent sermon on this subject. I’ve now added his thoughts to my own, thereby moving ever closer to the definitive debunking of the Nadab-and-Abihu argument.

For those not familiar with the Church of Christ argument that God damns who worship in error, you can skip this. If you’ve already read my preceding post “Classes on Grace: Objections,” you just need to read the part starting after the underlined paragraph. Continue reading


Amazing Grace: Now That We’re Saved (the 1 John lesson)

grace2 It took me a long time to figure 1 John out. It’s just such a different style of writing from, say, Paul or Luke. John is very non-linear.

And he doesn’t explain himself. Well, he explains himself, but indirectly. He seems to change the subject when he’s really tackling the question from another angle to help us deepen our understanding.

He says the simplest things–at least they seem simple–but when you ponder what he says for a while, you realize that John is quite profound.

However, at least for me, to get the profundity of what he’s saying, I have to read the entire book and add it all up. You see, John’s style is more circular than the very linear Paul. He returns to his topics again and again, shining light on them from different angles. In fact, of all the writers of the epistles, I find John the most like Jesus: pithy, insightful … and puzzling.

Continue reading

An Agenda for a Visioning Retreat

LeadersOur elders and ministers recently scheduled a 7-hour retreat to consider some of the big-picture church issues. It went well, and so I’d thought I’d share an only-slightly edited version of our agenda, in hopes that other elderships might profit from our experience.

I think it’s in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that Stephen Covey points out that we often fail to take the time to consider “second quadrant” issues, that is, issues that are important but not urgent. After all, the urgent issues are, well, urgent and so tend to dominate the agenda. But the seemingly non-urgent issues will soon enough become urgent if we ignore them–by which time they’ll be awfully hard to deal with! And so it’s essential that leadership teams take time to think about these kinds of things. Continue reading

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

silos.jpgRegular readers will recall that I’m a big fan of Patrick Lencioni’s The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s a great book and a particularly useful study for elders and ministers–especially for elders with ministers.

I’m on vacation at the beach, and among my readings has been Lencioni’s Silos, Politics and Turf Wars. It’s another great book and should be required reading for leaders of churches large enough to have two or more ministers on staff.

Like 5 Dysfunctions, the book is written in parable format, being built on stories about several clients of a business consultant, including a church. Continue reading

Amazing Grace: Now that We’re Saved (the Romans lesson)

grace2.jpgAfter many years of thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the cinch point in Church of Christ thought is very simply our understanding of how grace works after our salvation.

We generally start with the assumption that the rules dramatically change after salvation. And to this extent, we’re right. But we assume the standard gets tougher, that God holds us to an ever-higher standard. But while there’s a germ of truth in that thought, it misses the much larger point. Although God does have very high expectations for his children, his forgiveness is far greater for the saved than for the being-saved. Continue reading

The Gospel Advocate Creed, Part 5

ga.jpgWhen we disagree with someone about doctrine, it’s easy to get caught up in the particulars of the doctrinal debate. But once in while, we need to take a step back and look at the tactics we use. It is very possible, of course, to argue for truth in very untruthful ways.

Let’s take a moment to analyze the tactics being used by the Gospel Advocate. Consider Br. Gregory Alan Tidwell’s  articles in this month’s Gospel Advocate. I pick on Tidwell, even though he is one of more thoughtful and articulate spokesmen for his point of view, because the fact that he uses these tactics shows just how deeply engrained these tactics are in the conservative Church of Christ culture. Continue reading

Amazing Grace: Our Pardon

grace2.jpgThis is a class for the converted. And it’s not a class on systematic theology. In other words, I’m going to skip lots of really, really important stuff, because I assume the class members are already convinced of such things as why they need to be saved in the first place and who God is. Rather, this class begins with a review and then an expansion on some very familiar concepts.

The five-finger exercise

We traditionally teach — pretty much correctly, I think — that to be saved we must hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. This teaching goes back to the Restoration Movement’s first missionary, Walter Scott (not the author in the card game Authors, you know, the guy who wrote Ivanhoe and such. He lived in England. Our guy lived on the American frontier, in places like Ohio and Kentucky). Continue reading