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Why Believers’ Baptism is the Biblical Model

Several months ago I was provoked to developed an extended discussion on believers’ Baptism of Jesusbaptism as the model for the New Testament church.

In four points, I develop a case for Believers’ Baptism (why some might call credo-baptism) as the model of both the New Testament and the earliest Christianity:

1. The biblical case for baptism is of believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

2. The theological case for baptism only leads to baptism of believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

3. The historical case for baptism shows that the earliest Christians only utilized baptism for believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

4. The archeological case for baptism shows that for the earliest Christians their worship venues and structures provided for baptism of believers, by immersion, following their conversion.

Through these points of discussion I contend that the model of the earliest Christians, and as a result the New Testament, was baptism of believers by immersion following their conversion.

Since the baptism discussion will likely come up in any number of settings for the local church, it is helpful to present my position in advance of future discussions. Perhaps this will aid your own preparations. This paper was developed for use by both clergy and laity alike, and though it does not aim for scholarly acumen it perhaps might contribute in that era as well.

Here is the paper, hopefully you will find it edifying and strengthening.

Believers Baptism Paper – Garet Robinson

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Snark and Theological Discourse

One  of the great characteristics of the Millennial generation (which is certainly not limited to them) is a kind of deep flowing angst which manifests itself in copious servings of irony, sarcasm, and nearly perpetual satire that becomes central to much of their communication. Being fluent is sarcasm is not a vice, but, for some, perhaps a virtue. It seems that for so many, good feelings and happy-go-lucky sentimentality only perpetuate a false front for reality which is uncovered through, for lack of a better term, snark.

One example of this came out last evening while I ventured through my RSS feeds to find a post over at Near Emmaus written by Kate Hanch titled “The Mark Driscoll Scholarship for Women Pastors: A Good Idea?

Hanch is responding to a Facebook post by Shane Claiborne where talks about a group, Epiphaneia, who have sponsored a conference which hoped to support a charity titled “Mark Driscoll Scholarship Fund for Women in Ministry.” Clearly this is a theological jab directed at promoting an egalitarian position on women in ministry over and against a patriarchal view such at Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.

What struck me about this is how it has been sort of a fitting capstone to a series of developing conversations between the complementarian and egalitarian views of gender and ministry roles. Having been involved in some of these conversations for awhile, there has been a growing animus between the sides over the past several years that has been increasingly less charitable. For full disclosure, I am a complementarian (which Pastor Driscoll also claims to be) but of a different stripe than some.

What worries me about attempts (by any of the sides…because there aren’t just two) to make a point at the expense of someone else is that you ultimately a) devalue your point and b) undermine your credibility. 

It seems that as we continue these conversations (and particularly on these issues) there is less accommodation for those who might disagree and more of an antagonism between the sides. During my time in having these conversations I’ve been called all kinds of names (misogynist, hater, bigot, etc) by others in opposite camp in the midst of trying to clarify and discuss these issues. Now, granted, the more sane voices in these conversations don’t resort to such measures, but for too many of their followers this is fair game.

This kind of hurtful discourse also occurs in other theological discussions, most obviously between the Reformed and not campus. Why is it that we feel that the use of snark and sarcasm will bolster our points as opposed to not extending an olive branch of humility and contrition?

One truth is that someone might be able to gain a louder voice in these conversations and end up with many followers by using these tactics and tone. However, as we’ve seen so many times in history, this kind of a voice ends up being stuck in its own generation and does not have a lasting use.

So, more directly to this latest issue: why would anyone feel the need to support an organization that openly detracts from the conversation by impugning another believer’s testimony and character?

For all his strengths and weaknesses, one thing we can know about Pastor Driscoll is that he would not support this kind of movement. Those who are mockingly supporting this kind of scholarship are missing an entire group of leaders who do support the training of women in ministry who might be better leveraged to gain both credibility and real support.

Of course, this isn’t the goal of such declarations. Their goal is to jab us in the eye and sock us in the gut to attempt to gain our attention. Well certainly this has worked, but at what cost? This isn’t to say we can’t have a light and fun conversation. We can. Yet examples like these above clearly intend to go over the line of what is appropriate and easy camp out in the area of what is offensive and unnecessary.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29-32  29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Perhaps too many of us believe that filling our books, articles, papers, and blogposts with snark will make up for a lack of substantive engagement with each other and the real issues. However, I believe it only limits your voice and confines it generationally. The cause of Christ should echo through the generations.

If you disagree with Pastor Driscoll, tell us why is a reasoned and appropriate way. There are aspects of his theology, and specifically here anthropology and ecclesiology, that I disagree with, but also many aspects that I mutually affirm. Perhaps you are a woman who is called into ministry, go! and get trained at a great seminary. Find a church and be ordained to fulfill your calling. There is so much more that we agree on than we disagree, let’s not let these things stand in the way of the Gospel and its proclamation among those who need to hear.

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Pastors and Sermon Research Help

While strolling through my Twitter timeline I noticed a discussion between Dr Anthony Bradley and Jared Wilson about pastoral sermon preparation and research firms that provide assistance. Dr Bradley’s take was that this is a bad idea and is a kind of corruption of the pastoral office. Here is Dr Bradley’s tweet. (As a note, I do respect Dr Bradley and his work on a great number of topics.)

In case you’re not familiar (which most people aren’t) with the situation, there are several sermon research firms out there that, for a fee, partner with a pastor (usually of a church that can afford such a fee) to provide research of illustrations, statistics, stories, and other background information for sermons. One of the primary groups that provides this service is Docent which has been around since the early part of this century. There are a couple of other firms also.

Over the past several years this kind of sermon development has come under fire from some theologians (though usually not practioneers) and other folks who observe a lot of what goes on in churches. In an earlier post, Carl Trueman made note of this trend when he pronounced: “One instinctively knows it is strange and feels it is wrong; but as with many such well-intentioned things, it can be hard to articulate precisely why.” Jared Wilson provided an excellent reply in his post over at The Gospel Coalition titled: “What Does Docent Research Do?” So, what should we think about these services?

Personally, I know of at least two dozen pastors who utilize this service. While in seminary, I was asked to lead a team for Docent. Though I turned them down, it was not for philosophical or theological reasons…I simply had too much going on, I still respect the service that Docent provides. Several of my friends in seminary did work for Docent and had a good experience with them. For the pastors I know who use Docent, or another sermon research group, they are usually rather happy with the process.

Essentially, and Jared summarizes this well from his own personal experience, this is a person or group of people who are given sermon topics, titles and Scriptural passages already developed by a preaching pastor. The task is to then provide some illustrations, stories, statistics, and other relevant sermon components to recommend to a pastor in their preparation for that sermon. As Jared, and others, point out, these research firms do not write the sermons for a pastor.

I’m not certain why some who are or aren’t actively involved in vocational church ministry would have a bone of contention with these groups. We all know plenty of theologians (I can start naming some them if we wish) who use the services of TAs and GAs to do research for them in preparing articles, books, and other scholarly materials. This seems to be the same kind of service.

The research firm doesn’t write the final sermon/paper but it does help with some of the research. Just like a theologian in their office.

From my own experience I’ve known pastors who had their sermons written by a staff member. In fact, I know of one very significant pastor who, in the past, would have his sermons written out, exegesis and all, by a faculty member of the seminary near their church. The pastor would rise up to the pulpit on Sundays and read off the sermon, its illustrations, and entire content…in a television ministry church.

That seems to be more of a problem than the work of a group like Docent.

So when I see other tweets like this one, it seems we’ve missed the point:

Bradley Tweet 3

For my take, so long as the pastor is developing the sermon wholly on their own, using their own exegesis, their own ideas, while also checking a document of possible illustrations, stories, statistics, and other relevant data, this is makes the sermon no less biblical nor any less honest.

What is a problem is when a pastor has their sermons written out by someone else completely, and they simply stand and deliver. This is not what sermon research firms do and it isn’t accurate to characterize them as agents of plagiarization. In fact, the kind of service they provide for a church is no different than the service provided by so many TAs and GAs for theologians and scholars in almost every discipline and academic field. For those who prepare these briefs for pastors, usually seminarians or junior associate ministers, this is a helpful discipline to inform them and educate them on their own sermon preparation. As these sermons are delivered under the grace of God, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and always pointing to the Cross of Jesus Christ, much Kingdom work is done in the hearts of those who need a closer connection with God.

More than a few churches employ in house research personnel, and one of the fastest growing trends is using a collaborative team (or creative team) to help with the overall presentation and planning of a sermon and sermon series.

Now if a pastor is downloading and preaching complete sermons without attribution, if they are opening to Spurgeon and reading, and if they are stealing first person illustrations from another pastor and applying them to own lives, these are problems worth confronting. However, I see no difference in these two acts.

So what do you think? What did I miss? Is this a proper comparison?

 

 

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Resource Review: Faith Lessons Curriculum

Resource Review: Faith Lessons with Ray Vanderlaan

Resource Name: Faith Lessons

URL: http://www.faithlessons.net/  or the Christianbook.com site

In a Sentence: Through live presentations filmed in archeological sites, this series takes the viewer into the places where biblical events occurred, tells the story, and draws applications.

Cost: $35/DVD or $320 for the entire set depending on where you shop

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars…an outstanding series

Review

Perhaps I’m biased, but Faith Lessons videos were some of the first video curriculum options I encountered and began using in college and young adult group studies while in college. They were high quality then and continue to provide a tremendous group study experience.

Developed and hosted by Ray Vanderlaan, the Faith Lessons series has grown to 12 lessons sets with two holiday DVD sets that cover Easter and Christmas. As the ministry describes these videos they are:

In-depth video tours of the buried, distant, or otherwise forgotten places where the stories of the Bible actually happened. By weaving together fascinating historical, cultural, religious and geographical contexts, teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan reveals keen insights into the Scriptures significance for believers in this day and age.

What makes these videos unique is that Vanderlaan, as the host, takes a group of learners into an archeological place and films his talks. During these presentations Vanderlaan recounts the biblical story about that specific place, pointing out locations, buildings, and other relevant information that would have informed those who experienced those events in the biblical times. He then talks over how we read the story, begins drawing points, and comes to application for each of the videos. The entire method is very effective and it draws groups into the location with meaningful teaching content.

Click Here for a Video Demonstration

I first used the curriculum while leading a college aged small group where we covered the lesson series The Early Church. Already studying this era for my classes, the videos drew me in and our group participants who might otherwise have gotten bored with traditionally presented material. Being able to walk through the archeological sites and have a great teacher (Vanderlaan, not me) showing how the sites relate to New Testament texts made the biblical picture become more vibrant for these students.

One of the better parts of the video series is that I’ve now used this series with groups from college aged, young adults, middle aged adults, and even through senior adults. Each group is captured by the presentation and the discussions following are almost always full of life. This is a well researched and well done piece. It recently has gotten a make over from the older covers but the content remains the same. Though it might be a bit dated with regard to some of the fashions that appear on screen, this is easily overlooked as the content drives home important points.

Though you might well disagree with some of the thoughts, this is usually on some nettlesome issue that doesn’t effect the final, fuller application.

I really grew to enjoy these video curriculum options and have used them in every church which I have served in since my seminary days. As we can put high level, high quality content in front of our often distracted people we should find much treasure in these kinds of video curriculum options.

Lessons include:

  • Promised Land
  • Prophets & Kings
  • Life & Ministry of the Messiah
  • Death & Resurrection of the Messiah
  • Early Church
  • In the Dust of the Rabbi
  • Walk as Jesus Walked
  • God Heard their Cry
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • With All Your Heart
  • Walking with God in the Desert

So, my recommendation is to check out this series for yourself. You will certainly be benefitted. Also check out the YouTube channel above, it has many of the videos available from Zondervan.

As a final note: I have received no compensation nor preview copies of this curriculum in my review. This is an entirely objective review from a small groups leader in a local church.

Have you heard of this curriculum? How have you used it? What did you think?

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Resource Review: Modern Parables

Resource Name: Modern Parables: Living the Kingdom of God

URL: www.compasscinema.com

In Short: Modern Parables takes six parables of Christ and present modern retellings through high quality cinematography and innovative lessons.

Cost: $60 for the whole curriculum

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Review 

A couple of years ago, Compass Cinema‘s released a video based groups curriculum called Modern Parables. The curriculum had six video lessons that took some parables of Jesus and recast them into a contemporary (or modern) setting. In creating and releasing these parables, the leaders at Compass Cinemas made having high quality cinematography along with high grade acting as vital to their effort. 

The six parables which are considered in this series are: (click the links for trailers)

Each parable has its own unique story which is retold in a way that captures a group’s attention and identifies central points. Each video is between 13 – 21 minutes long, though they generally stay within the 15 minute time frame. This is helpful for group discussion. Also, as part of their approach the group lesson plan uses two sessions to talk about each parable. The first session is a viewing of the film with a brief discussion and the second session explores the themes a bit deeper. You can check out some of the film trailers on their Vimeo site. (Also, if you check out YouTube you can preview some of the full length videos I believe.)

The curriculum content is rather good and provides a good lesson path for each video. Facilitators, or teachers, can easily navigate the sessions and draw out some important points. Biblical content is central to each lesson and it is handled maturely by the curriculum authors.

As I’ve used the content, the reception by twentysomethings and adults through age 45 has been excellent. The videos are rather engaging. They mix humor with serious drama. Various films aren’t afraid to confront difficult topics: a Middle Eastern man is the Samaritan, racism is still prevalent in another film, and other important themes. In the Shrewd Manager they get behind the seeming contradictory message to the deeper issues in a timely way. The Sower will make you want to become a farmer. Perhaps the only film that doesn’t clip along is the Prodigals video, but for good reason, it is the longest video because it is the longest parable. However, the authors nail the point about that Jesus was making.

Overall this is an excellent curriculum piece. I have not used the two session approach for the videos but opted for one setting with the video up front. This does compress the discussion time depending on your group setting. My only complaint in the videos is that there is some superfluous content in several that adds minutes to the video but not much to the story. This is a minor complaint.

Also, I’m still waiting for volume 2…but don’t expect that too soon. Check this series out for your groups, especially if you’re working with 20s and 30s who are discussion focused and desire high quality, well developed curriculum pieces. In every scenario group attendance maintained with the anticipation of each coming week.

Finally, check out everything Compass has to offer. They’ve diversified their approach since this initial release and have some great content for families, homeschoolers, and regular classroom stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with all their points in the various videos, but the content is well presented. Though it isn’t in stores yet, their video series for learning Klingon will certainly help us prepare for our new alien overlords. I for one welcome our new Klingon overlords, and would likely to remind them that I, a trusted minister and counselor, can be trusted to round up others for their Klingon work farms. But seriously, check out their other stuff.

Have you used Modern Parables? What did you think? How has this kind of content been helpful or unhelpful for your groups?

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