Thinking Out Loud

April 20, 2020

Author’s ‘All Inclusive’ Church Actually Favors One Approach Above the Others

For the past twelve years, most of the books I’ve reviewed here have either been popular titles or books which went on to become bestsellers. I generally don’t consider anything that isn’t going to end up on my personal bookshelf, which is currently quite crowded.

About a year ago I realized that I needed to go a little deeper in my personal reading and kept eyeing titles which all had one thing in common: InterVarsity Press (IVP). Book reviewers get their copies for free and no amount of pestering people at IVP would produce results, so just before the lockdown, I decided to bite the bullet and for the first time pay for copies of books to read and review and chose four titles.

This in turn freed me up from the restriction of having to focus on recently-published titles, so I reached back to 2017 for Evangelical, Sacramental & Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three by Gordon T. Smith (IVP Academic). I tend to select books I know ahead of time I am going to review positively and this one had three things going for it:

  1. The writer is Canadian. Gotta support the home team, right?
  2. It was published by IVP, where I was once a warehouse manager for their Canadian operation.
  3. The writer is from my denomination: The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

In other words, this can’t miss. Or so I thought.

However, as I progressed through the book’s scant 133 pages of actual text (at a $18.00 US list, or a whopping $23.99 Canadian) I found the premise of the book wearing increasingly thin.

On a personal level I’ve admired churches which can not only blend worship with ancient and modern, but can blend the somewhat relaxed form of contemporary Evangelicalism with some more deliberate acknowledgements of liturgical forms such as more than one scripture reading, or call and response readings, etc. That my wife does this each week in an otherwise Evangelical church just confirms my bias.

Right there I had a problem. I was reading the title of the book as though it said, ‘Evangelical, Liturgical, Pentecostal…’ whereas the author is contending for a hardcore sacramental inclusion even though Evangelicals and Charismatics no more teach a sacramental approach than they confer sainthood on pillars of the church. (Tangentially: I think there’s a case to be made for Evangelicals having a sacrament of preaching, but that’s outside the scope of this article.) As I got deeper and deeper, it appeared that Gordon Smith not only sees a local church being influenced by all three ecclesiastic streams, but importing bulk-sized elements of each into their worship routine. (To fully do this justice, I believe you’re looking at a 2-hour worship service.)

I am confident there are churches out there who have successfully followed this model though the book offered absolutely nothing in the way of case studies or positive anecdotal accounts. However, the Apostle Paul’s words notwithstanding, I think that in trying to be “all things to all people” a church might miss out on their unique calling, especially in an urban situation which already offers a broad selection of churches.

The book is arranged in six, easy-to-follow chapters. In the first three shorter chapters, Smith looks at the themes of abiding in Christ, the grace of God, and the significance of the ascension; as they are found in John’s Gospel, the Luke-Acts narratives, and the writings of two key figures, Calvin and Wesley.

Chapters four through six are the meat of the book, looking at the principles of Evangelicalism, Sacramental liturgy, and Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

In examining what it means to be Evangelical, there is already an emphasis on the importance of Baptism and the Eucharist (Communion). In the Sacramental section, I saw this bias more clearly and when he declared that The Lord’s Supper is something that can only be practiced under the “authority” and “administration” of the church — and remember I’m reading this during the Covid-19 lockdown where we’ve all had to exercise all manner of grace on this matter — I wrote in the margin, “He just lost me.” (p 80)

Not at all fearing that Communion could run the risk of being a postscript to a worship service, Smith insists that it must occur after the sermon and feeling he needs to state this despite widespread agreement, that the words of institution must be read each time. (Personal Rant: Pastors, please do the more seasoned believers in your church a favor and at least vary the Bible translations used in the I Cor. 11 reading.) He also appears somewhat opposed to including any type of teaching on the meaning of the sacrament with the terse dismissal, “We certainly do not need a second sermon and we do not need an extended explanation of the meaning of these symbols.” (p 91) As in, never? He also seems to confuse the liturgical approach of more liberal churches with those who are truly Christ-focused, suggesting, but not overtly stating, that the passages in the Lectionary are simply pretext for the pastor to express a personal opinion. It’s a rather sweeping generalization.

The final chapter on the Pentecostal principle is where Smith shows himself to be least comfortable. At least nine times he begins a paragraph or a sentence with “And yet…” his personal equivalent to ‘On the other hand…’ not unlike a politician writhing on the stage in an attempt to satisfy all his constituents.

He suggests there might be Pentecostal churches where no preaching or communion are present. (p 105) and while I concede such events occasionally occur, they are clearly the exception, not the rule. He believes in an experience of the Spirit that is felt and acknowledges the possibility of God’s Spirit moving in our services spontaneously, and in the prayer for healing of the sick — this is consistent with Christian and Missionary Alliance history and doctrine — but is clearly unwilling to give this section of the book the wholehearted endorsement he gives to Evangelical and Sacramental emphasis, even going so far as to state, “We are not truly pentecostal, in other words, unless we are sacramental.” (p 116)

In a short concluding chapter the book loses all academic pretense and moves to the ranting of a grumpy old uncle.

Even the lectern has been replaced by the bistro table and bar stool, while the equivalent of the sermon has become a more casual chat, downplaying the authority of the Scriptures in an attempt to make the Word more accessible. As often as not, the communion table which for my upbringing was always viewed an important item of furniture even when not being used, has been removed. And now what is front and center — with the pulpit and the communion table gone — is, I say this without any exaggeration, the drum set. (p 127-128)

In the margin of my copy, I have written, “Yikes!” …

…So perhaps I misspoke earlier. There is an example in the book of a church doing all three — being Evangelical, Liturgical and Charismatic — and it exists in the author’s mind. He pictures it vividly complete with a “baptismal pool” at the back of the church and not the front, and banners hanging from the walls. This is the author’s personal Walden and it might have been better served if the title reflected this — or more truthfully using must instead of should in the existing subtitle — instead of suggesting something being more widely and gently advocated.

 

 

 

 

August 13, 2017

For the Grandmas

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:19 am

Her daughter didn’t take the boy to church, so when she heard that he was willing to spend a week with him, she knew that this would be an opportunity to share the Jesus story with him. As an experienced children’s worker, she had no shortage of resources at her disposal to do this.

The boy responded positively, and knowing that her daughter might never give permission for this to take place in a church, she took the boy down to the lake and baptized him, something not entirely unusual in her faith tradition.

The mom was not pleased…

…She never mentioned him again in our subsequent conversations and as it had been at least a year, I got curious this week and asked her how the young boy was doing with his faith.

She said when she saw him recently, he ran toward her and gave her a hug and said, “Hi Grandma. I still have God.”

I still have God.

October 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster

Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.

A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.

The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.

What a Mug I Have of Coffee

September 5, 2012

Wednesday Link List

This week’s links include:

February 24, 2012

He Showed Up Anyway

We focus on areas where no other organization is doing work.

~Pete Wilson

Nashville pastor and Thomas Nelson author Pete Wilson has just returned from another trip to India.  A couple of days ago he wrote this:

There’s no doubt in my mind that last Friday was a highlight in ministry I’ll never forget. I stood there in a muddy pond in the middle of a remote village baptizing one person after another. For many of these individuals their baptism meant they would no longer be accepted by their families or community. One young man was told by his parents that if he went through with the baptism not only would he not be welcomed home, but he would no longer be recognized as their son and not be able to receive his inheritance.

He showed up anyway.

Threats of violence forced us to move the baptism service last minute…

continue reading and watch a Baptism video here

 

February 25, 2011

Believer’s Baptism: How Young is Too Young?

She couldn’t be seen over the rail of the baptismal tank. Despite having a clear line of sight, the best we could do is listen to the audio as the pastor explained that at nine-years-old, she was the youngest person ever baptized in that church, and was doing so only after a great deal of discussion with her, her parents, and the pastoral staff.

I couldn’t help but think she was too young…

I was thirteen when I was baptized in the Peoples Church in Toronto by Dr. Paul B. Smith, the son of iconic missionary statesman Oswald J. Smith. It was a Wednesday night, but most of the 2,200 seats in the auditorium were filled. I was given a number. There were over 100 people baptized that night and it was done alphabetically. I think I was 119.  We each filed through the platform and gave a 30-second testimony. Then the actual baptisms started.

There’s no way the pastor knew everyone he baptized that night. So as we entered the water a small name tag was pinned to our inner sleeve.  Then it was over.

I was glad it was over. I wanted to get it over. I was baptized out of guilt.

For some reason, I felt that I had completed all my obligations to the church and to God once I had had “accepted” Jesus as “my personal Savior.” So when a traveling Evangelist rolled in when I was eleven and gave several invitations for people to, as he said it with his accent, be ‘bap-i-tized,’ I suddenly realized I was spiritually incomplete, and thereby spiritually inferior.

With the baptisms conducted on weeknights, I didn’t get the exposure to it that those growing up in other churches did, growing up where a baptism could occur in the context of any particular Sunday service. As the evangelist asked people to raise their hands if they’d never been baptized as believers, I raised my hand, but when he asked how many of those would like to commit to being baptized, I cowered into something best described as a sitting fetal position.

My parents wisely decided that I should postpone this important event for at least a year, but I spent the better part of church services in what turned out to be about two years — especially when the invitation was given, as it was every Sunday night — feeling like a prisoner who is about to be taken out to be shot. Guilt is not a great motivator for spiritual decision making.

To compound things, I have a gift with words and with speaking, so when it did happen a couple of years later, my 30-second soundbite so impressed the leadership that I was asked to give a much longer testimony in Sunday School a few weeks later.

I spoke well. My spirituality was firmly established in the minds of the people who mattered. I was a rising spiritual superstar.

But I was only thirteen.

In hindsight, eighteen would have been the perfect time for me to be baptized. At that point, I wasn’t just capable of giving a testimony, but I was inching toward living a testimony; and not just before the church crowd but at a very secular university. I was choosing my friends and my activities on the basis of my faith, and was going public with my beliefs in a much larger way than many.

Between thirteen and eighteen, a few things happened to indicate that I was not quite established on the spiritual trajectory where I now find myself. Looking back, I wish I could have been baptized at twenty-one, or thirty-one, or even last week. It’s one of those, “If only I knew then what I know now” situations. But for me, waiting until after high-school graduation would have been most meaningful.

So how young is too young?

…Things worked out for the nine-year-old baptismal candidate. She married a youth pastor and they have a couple of kids and are faithfully serving the Lord. But what about the rest?

I really wanted to be part of the discussion of this at Kingdom People last week, but as mentioned yesterday, thanks to an impersonator, I’m now blocked from commenting at all my favorite sites.  Be sure to read his very brief article and the comments which follow.

I recognize some of you have a ‘sacramental’ view of Baptism and some have view it as an ‘ordinance.’  I also realize some of you believe that infant baptism is sufficient, though the New Testament appears not to support this.

What are your thoughts on this?  Does your church mandate a specific age? Leave a comment, and then in a few days, we’ll look at the parallel issue: Younger children partaking of Communion, aka Eucharist, aka Lord’s supper.

Like birth, baptism means life. It is done once, yet it is for all of our life….we need to discover ways to communicate baptismal living. If I say, “I was married,” you will likely assume that my wife has died or I am divorced. But if I say, “I am married,” you will assume I have a wife and that on a certain date I was married and still am. Although it is true and essential to say I was baptized, it is also necessary to assert, “I am baptized.”

~Thomas H. Schattauer

The first picture, of the Mormon Baptism is apparently everyone’s default child baptism pic. If you’ve seen it one website, you’ve probably seen it on fifty. The second picture is from a Baptist Church. The third one may be taking in place in potentially chilly waters in British Columbia, Canada.

Related post at this blog: The Lord’s Table: How Young is Too Young?

Only marginally related story if you need a smile!

September 8, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The long hot summer is just about over, and the kids are back in school.    Time for a look at the pages that grabbed my attention this week, with a little help from our friend (at right) the links lynx.

  • First of all, there’s a live event online tomorrow (Thursday September 9th) night:  A Night of Worship, streaming live from North Point Community Church at 7:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 PM Central.   To watch at home you need enough bandwidth to capture the live feed, and this website.
  • When Chad Holtz isn’t busy pastoring a rural Methodist church, he’s busy confronting evil at the local Islamic Center.  Sort of.
  • Greg at the blog, Lost in the Clouds posts an edgy response to the Christianity Today cover story Hipster Christianity by Brent McCracken based on his book of the same name.   Greg says “I’m sorry, but all of this is adding up to a sorry picture of our tour guide through the world of Hipster Christianity…”   I think he struck a nerve.
  • Students at Belmont University are being handed cash to make a difference.    Donald Miller explains the $20 giveaway; but I wonder what they’d do if — after the manner of Matthew 25 — one of the students simply handed back $40?
  • Carlos Whitaker doesn’t want attendees at the Catalyst Conference to be singing the songs he chooses, so he asks his readers to report the song titles they are connecting with at their churches.   So far, over 125 replies.
  • Frank Turk, who probably doesn’t write a lot of music reviews, joins a number of bloggers who are noticing what can only be termed a “modern hymnwriter,” Matthew Smith.
  • Andrew Jones lists five major game changers that revolutionized who he is today.  People in ministry, don’t miss this one.
  • Thom Turner knows that baptism can be a divisive subject, but suggests there’s room for diversity even within denominations and possibly within local churches as well.
  • If you missed the blog tour — actually it was more like a progressive dinner — for Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely (Thomas Nelson), you can still catch all seven excerpts by following the links, starting here.  Anne’s honesty will resonate with anyone dealing with various types of pain.
  • Brian, a regular reader of this blog, invites you to join him and others in a week of prayer for Beja people — nomadic camel herders — of Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.   Read more here.
  • Our video link this week is a worship song you may not know by Willow Creek’s Aaron Niequist, simply titled Changed.
  • U.S. Fundamentalist nutcase Terry Jones is determined to burn copies of the Quran on September 11th — I doubt even the U.S. President could stop this guy — so as of Tuesday night officials announced plans to quell access to his property through an identification checkpoint, so fewer people can see him do it.
  • John Stackhouse has no problem with street preaching, but that’s usually in commercial areas, right?  What happens when the preachers invade a residential street?  That, he says, is going too far.
  • Anglicans in Nova Scotia, not content with the annual “blessing of the pets” service, are having a “blessing of the techs” service for laptops, cellphones and mobile devices.
  • This may be your church, or at least your church sign:  Grace Methodist Episcopal in New York, circa 1922; from Shorpy.com; a classic photograph site.  Middle picture is from the Gospel Mission in Georgetown, circa 1920; final picture is a storefront church from the “Black Belt” of Chicago in 1941 and where deciding where you’re going to eat after church isn’t an issue with the lunch wagon next door.   Click through any of the pictures to see the images in super-giant size.


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June 6, 2010

Christopher, We’re Proud of You

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:48 pm

I don’t get too personal on this blog, but today is an exception.   This morning our oldest son, Christopher, was baptized.   The picture is a bit grainy — we need a good camera — but he’s the one in the baptismal robe, and the pastor is Rev. Jeff Knott, who I had the honor of working with in the capacity of worship leader for a little over a year, awhile back.

But back to Chris.  We’re really proud of the spiritual maturity he demonstrates — both of my boys actually totally surpass where I was at their age.  He also decided to share his testimony without notes — despite my constant, week-long prodding — and I think people respected his raw transparency, something we value highly in our family.

In a few weeks he leaves us for ten weeks to work at a Christian camp about two hours northeast of where we live.   He’ll be working in the kitchen — the job nobody wants because of the heat — for the second year, and if you add up all his culinary/food-service experience, this will be the seventh thing he can put on a resumé.   He may be majoring in electrical engineering, but the cooking skills he has already would lead to a decent-paying summer job.  Unfortunately, the camp is ill-equipped to pay people, so, like a summer missions student, he has to do the necessary fundraising to cover his own salary.

There’s something about us Wilkinsons that we seem to always choose principle over profit; ministry over money.   Income eludes us.   So I’ll be mentioning that in a few days on this blog.   Meanwhile, if you want to support him in that and want to beat the rush, you can request the necessary paperwork from us at epistle[at]ymail.com (ymail — as in Yahoo — is not a typo). Canadian donations earn tax receipts, U.S. donors who just want to help out can e-mail us and I can give you another option.

But I’m getting off topic here.   The focus today is that his desire was to follow Jesus in baptism and give public testimony to what God has done — and is continuing to do — in his life.  I was thrilled that we were able to witness that today.  I’m also sure that in that congregation, he has picked up some individuals he may never know who will be remembering him in prayer over the next few days, weeks and months.

I know I have readers for whom baptism was something that was done when you were too small to remember. I don’t want to engage that debate, but the scriptures don’t mention infant baptism, but there are frequent references to believer’s baptism. I think it’s a wonderful thing, yes; but I also see it as a scriptural commandment. If you haven’t been baptized to this point, why not?

April 21, 2010

Wednesday Think Links

Here’s the list for Wednesday the 21st: That means spring is one-third gone already!   (Or autumn for all our mates down under.)

  • Gotta love the new style of church names, right?   Okay, maybe not all of them. The blog Out of Ur has put them all in this collection.
  • What’s the worst thing a Methodist preacher can do?   Re-baptize someone, according to this piece by Talbot Davis at The Heart of the Matter.   Mind you, I can think of worse things!
  • Cornerstone Church without Francis Chan?  Tell me he’s just testing his congregation again.  Here’s the 11-minute video at Resurgence.  Or listen to the message on 4/18 here.
  • David Kenney went to church on Good Friday and Easter, only Jesus never died at the one, and never rose again at the other.   In this piece, he suggests that it’s all about life.
  • Tom Datema sets the bar low enough on church “purpose statements” that any local church can attain, in this piece at Brain Twitch.
  • Can you handle one more Jennifer Knapp post.  “…Let’s assume that it is a sin.  Then my question is: Can a sinful person love Jesus?  Oh! We’ve got to be so careful how we answer that question.  To me, the answer is an obvious “yes”.  It is obvious to me because my own life testifies to it.  In every season of my life, I have struggled with different sins. But in all of those seasons I have still loved Jesus.”  Read in full at Upwrite.
  • All those progressive Christian radio stations can keep playing Owl City, now that Adam Young has hit the online pages of Christianity Today.
  • Colin at the blog simply titled Words has an analogy on the subject of “constructive reconstruction” of faith with the piece, My Brother the Bike Mechanic.
  • Jon Acuff from Stuff Christians Like finally gets around to doing a book promo video, but you might draw more from this CNN clip of a piece he appeared in.  (Canadian readers:  Does John Roberts hint at the end that he attends North Point?)
  • Allen Flemming, who claims an intimate knowledge of the family says that Canadian David DiSabatino’s DVD documentary on Larry Norman has got it all wrong, setting up a website refuting Fallen Angel called Failed Angle.
  • Pastor Craig Groeschel of Lifechurch.tv re-establishes his church’s purposes in The Code, a series of 13 statements spread out over three blog posts at Swerve.   You’ll have to click here and then head for April 14, 15 and 16 posts; but they’re good reading.  (Or see them all in the comments section here.)
  • Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, has a balanced look at discernment ministries in 10 Ways to Keep Watchdogs from Barking.
  • Jason Wert is thankful for Anne Jackson drawing attention to the issue of human trafficking in Moldova, but suggests this event has been going on for a long while, even in the United States.
  • Adrienne at the blog, Contemplative Life, has a short post here introducing a piece by Ann Voskamp about Ann’s daughter’s baptism.   Start here, and then click the link to Ann’s piece.
  • Bill at the blog, A New Language for Christians, puts a more modern spin on the story of the good Samaritan.
  • This week’s cartoon is from Thom Tapp at Baptist Press:

March 21, 2010

The Top 100 Issues That Divide Us

When the blogger at Free In Christ started his blog in July of 2008, he noted his indebtedness to a book by Cecil Hook also called Free in Christ.   Not being a regular follower of that blog, and so not having read everything in between then and now, it does appear that 21 months later, he hasn’t stopped blogging his admiration for the book.

Recently, he cited Cecil Hook’s list of 100 things people disagree on in the churches of Christ.    Rather than simply link to it — many of you never click anyway, and even fewer leave comments — I wanted to have this list recorded here.    I’m not sure about the order in which these are listed, but here it is:

1. taking of oaths
2. serving in the military
3. inflicting capital punishment
4. using force to defend oneself or others
5. voting for political candidates
6. serving as a government official
7. engaging in political activism
8. Christmas or Easter programs
9. letting a non-member lead prayer
10. lifting hands while singing
11. joining a ministerial alliance
12. indwelling of the Holy Spirit
13. work of the Holy Spirit
14. baptism of the Holy Spirit
15. prayer for healing
16. the Trinity
17. special providence
18. how God answers prayer
19. fasting
20. translations of the Bible
21. use of Thee and Thou in prayer
22. authority of elders
23. who selects and appoints elders
24. qualifications of elders
25. tenure of elders
26. elders presiding at the Lord’s Table
27. qualifications of deacons
28. deaconesses
29. enrolling widows
30. addressing disciples as Major or Doctor
31. long hair on men
32. midweek contributions
33. dimming the lights during prayer
34. singing as the emblems are passed
35. use of church buildings for secular activities
36. use of pictures of Jesus
37. use of symbols such as the cross
38. use of steeples and stained glass windows
39. use of the term Sunday School
40. passing of the collection baskets
41. eating in the church building
42. grounds for disfellowshipping
43. support of colleges from the church treasury
44. divorce for any cause
45. remarriage of a divorced person
46. preacher officiating at a wedding of a divorced person
47. disciples marrying non-members
48. preacher officiating for a mixed marriage
49. use of an instrument in “church” weddings
50. method and type of inspiration of the Bible
51. re-baptism of Baptists and Christian Church members
52. the “five items of worship”
53. use of choirs, choruses, quartets, solos, etc.
54. serving the Lord’s Supper on Sunday evening
55. serving the Lord’s Supper other than in assemblies
56. integration of races
57. smoking
58. total abstinence from alcoholic beverages
59. membership in fraternal orders
60. contributing to public charities
61. use of Bible class literature
62. youth directors, youth rallies, youth camps
63. the six days of creation being literal days
64. the extent of evolution
65. the operation of Christian hospitals
66. awards and prizes for church activities
67. debating religious issues
68. ministers of education, ministers of music, etc.
69. benevolence to fellow-disciples only
70. the baptismal “formula”
71. formal confession before baptism
72. going to law against disciples
73. dedicating babies
74. signing contribution pledge cards
75. children’s homes under eldership or a board
76. dancing
77. women wearing shorts and slacks
78. women wearing slacks to church services
79. girls leading prayer in family devotionals
80. girls leading prayer in youth devotionals
81. clapping hands during singing
82. buying VBS refreshments from the treasury
83. the present day activity of demons
84. applauding in the assembly
85. use of God’s name as a by-word
86. use of euphemisms of God’s name in by-words
87. use of contraceptives
88. abortion
89. adopting out an illegitimate child
90. women working outside the home
91. Children’s Bible Hour
92. busing children to services
93. “What is to be will be.”
94. bodily resurrection
95. if we shall know each other in heaven
96. degrees of reward and punishment
97. whether heaven and hell are literal places
98. dress code for men serving the Lord’s Supper
99. whether Christ came in AD 70
100. a name for the church

The unnamed blogger follows the list with a brief discussion here, but I’m wondering if you think there’s anything there that shouldn’t be or anything that got left out?

And now, for today’s bonus item:

This is the “disagreement hierarchy.”  Anyone know the origin of this?   Here’s an article (without the chart) which would seem to attribute this to Paul Graham.

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