Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lessons from a Pastor

I recently discovered that David Strain, who used to be minister of London City Presbyterian Church but is now going to a church in the US, had moved blog from here to here.

David leaves some good thoughts for us to think about.

BTW, sorry to see you go, mate!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Time, Gentlemen!

While some would argue that conservative evangelicals should leave mixed denominations (i.e. those which have evangelicals and liberals in communion) without delay, I have always hoped that with some patience, at least with the Church of England, we would see some reform due to their efforts.

However, I have almost lost hope. The recent decision to allow the ordination of female bishops has demonstrated the weakness of conservative evangelicals. Of course, it was an inevitable decision, having allowed female priests in the '90s. The horse has well and truly bolted. Provision for pastoral oversight of those who disagree with the recent decision would have been a pyrrhic victory. But they do not even have that. Now there is nowhere to run and hide. Will the conservative evangelicals stand up and be counted? In particular, will Reform, a group for which I once had high hopes, do anything?

John Richardson calls for urgent action, I must say with a degree of exasperation, from Reform. But as he points out, they have merely issued a press release expressing disappointment, and, according to John, plan to do nothing until the September meeting of the Reform Council.

September! Sorry, you guys. You have lost me. Are you serious about reform or just playing at it? The last chance saloon is here, now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Man Set Apart

Last Saturday it was great to be at the ordination and installation service of (now Rev.) Andy Young at Cheltenham Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I guess there were about 100 people present which included the congregation plus many from other EPCEW churches and some local church leaders.

I have only recently begun to know Andy, but I have been struck by his seriousness about the gospel, his desire to learn, his abilities as a preacher and his love for the Scriptures. (How many men do you know who want to get together with others to talk about the Scriptures in Hebrew!)

I found the ordination process quite moving. After the sermon was preached (by Ian Hamiton of Cambridge) and the ordination vows taken, Andy knelt on the floor while members of Presbytery laid hands on him and Richard Holst prayed. (This moment distinguishes presbyterians from independents and congregationalists since elders of the wider church set apart a man for the ministry to serve a local church.) The process of fifteen or more men reaching in, eager to lay hands on a young man who has been proven fit for ministry was certainly powerful. Chad van Dixhoorn then charged him to "be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:1). Notably, Chad also instructed Andy to stand while he received the charge.

The ordination was tinged with sadness because this was the final time that Tim Horn, the founding minister of Cheltenham EPC, would address its members. He charged them to use their gifts for the sake of the kingdom and warmly commended Andy and his family to their care. Tim, an MTW missionary, and his family returns shortly to the US on extended furlough.

The sermon and charges are worth hearing. I don't know if they were recorded. I will point them out if they are made available.


"We still have enough ‘family silver’ to be able to fund decline for decades."
I suppose naively I had been expecting that the evident slow decline of the C of E resulting from corrosive liberal theology ought to result in collapse of the liberal edifice some time soon. I was hoping that it would then bring gospel clarity. I guess not for a while yet. Read John Richardson's post-GAFCON review here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Machen's Worrier Children Don't Need to Hammer Their Swords and Spears into Candlesticks and Incense Bowls

...a word of comfort from Carl Truman, who writes on the 'new calvinism' in American evangelicalism.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lessons for a Preacher

Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Banner of Truth, 1995)

Fascinating book, though I have always found Lloyd-Jones difficult to read quickly. Perhaps that's because they are sermons and meant to be heard rather than read. I could rarely take more than one sermon at a time. Consequently this book required some time to work through.

As ever, Jones' preaching displays a remarkable ability to analyse the soul, not just of believers, but of unbelievers too. It is clear that he thought deeply about what motivates and concerns those outside the church. There are lessons for every pastor in this.

There are homiletic lessons too. One I appreciated was the way in which the message was applied. He was a master of the rhetorical question. This was illustrated by a remarkable passage on p.248 on which there was a deluge of 35 rhetorical questions alone! I can only imagine how this must have felt for the hearer!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

What We Need to Be

This a fascinating and thought provoking post from Pastor Andrew Webb. Particularly interesting is his quotation from John Angell James on four kinds of churches. (James ministered in 19th century at what is now Carrs Lane URC in Birmingham.)

So, we don't want to be just fat.

We don't want to be just frantic.

We don't want to be neither fat nor frantic i.e. dead.

We need to be
those, (alas! how few they are,) who unite earnest spirituality with activity and liberality no less eminent; whose spiritual life is all healthfulness and vigor, and in whom its developments are seen in all the operations of holy zeal.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Not Afraid

David Anderson on recent events in Zimbabwe.

(See Telegraph article for background.)

Interpreting the Parables by Craig L Blomberg

A quick review of Blomberg's book I put on Facebook:

Blomberg neither adopts the 'one-main-point-per-parable' common in the 20th century nor the detailed allegorisation of the early church, and which modern readers easily to slip into. Rather he sees that there are either one, two or three main 'characters' (which may be people or things) in each parable with the remaining details and characters as 'props' for the story. This is a helpful approach from which he can draw theological conclusions about the Kingdom and Jesus' self-understanding.

I have two obvious problems:
  1. It leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) says nothing about the reality of hell. The main characters are Abraham, the Rich Man and Lazarus and so Hades (v23) is relegated to a 'prop'! This is simply not credible. Thus Blomberg's scheme needs to be applied with care.
  2. Blomberg sees his work supporting a historic premillenialist eschatology, a case which is unconvincingly made.
But overall, he helps build a framework for interpreting parables which is very useful.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Church in China

The explosive growth of the church in China is gradually becoming clear to the rest of the world. Some have estimated that the number of Christians in China is greater than the total population of the UK. Such a large group can't but become a political and economic issue which the ruling Communist Party must come to terms with. This fascinating video report shows the how the underground church is becoming increasingly open in China, yet not without struggle.

(HT: Nicholas T. Batzig)