Monthly Archives: April 2007

Leadership: A Communal Experience

As I was completing the new edition of the Heart for Ministry leadership assessment course, I was tempted to revise the sessions that were focused on a definition of leadership. The conventional definitions seem to define leadership as a personal trait belonging to certain unique individuals. Recently, I’ve encountered several writers who challenge the conventional wisdom. One, in particular, is George Bullard. I constantly find his thoughts stimulating. The last blog I wrote referred to an article in his online journal [http://bullardjournal.blogs.com/] In another article in the Journal [Abandon Committees, Skip Teams, and Embrace Communities] he identified a trend that I’ve been tracking from other sources. Increasingly, I am encountering learning communities, collaborative communities … and leadership communities. While Bullard contrasts the behavior of committees, teams, and community – using 8 factors – there is an element that adds a new dimension to a definition of leadership: as a communal expression. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard have written of Situational leadership – as the ability of a leader to manage the contribution of followers according to their commitment and competency. Leadership as a communal expression is a mirror image of the concept in that groups realign their communal relationship in order to follow the lead of whichever individual possesses the most appropriate fitness to lead through the specific issue. To do that, the community must be healthy and adaptable. And, individuals in the community must be prepared to either lead or follow with equanimity. It’s a concept that has me thinking … and one that seems to be quite relevant to the nature of congregational life. Leadership, not solely an individual aptitude – but a communal expression. Something to think about…

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Read Theology – #8

Reason #8.

Theology has great potential as a teaching tool for the church. In fact the whole concept of systematic theology was not just about trying to describe the whole of reality in systematic terms but about the orderly catechesis of the faithful. As a teaching tool it enables you to think more clearly about the nature of the God-human relationship and make better sense of it all.

Final Words

On Monday night of this past week at the Convention of the Baptist churches of our Fellowship, an award of merit was given to pastor David and Virginia Fairbrother. They’re an amazing couple, having served sacrificially and with peculiar distinction in a number of churches over many years.

There was a particular intensity and pathos in the moment as rather extraordinary measures had to be taken to get David out of hospital to the convention site for the recognition.  He’s very seriously ill. After notice of their ministry was given, David and Virginia responded in turn. The silence of the congregation and the focus of our listening were particularly noticeable as we strained to hear every word that David had to say. It was just too important than to risk missing one of them. After the recognition, David went right back to hospital.

Reflections from Rome

It has been interesting for me to think about spiritual formation from a different perspective spending these days in Rome. I suppose that when I arrived here I was prepared for the Coliseum, the Forum and all the vestiges of Imperial Rome. I was less prepared for the influence of the Roman Catholic experience. It has been interesting to ride buses and walk the streets in close proximity with nuns, monks, and priests. Yesterday, my wife and I entered at least eight different cathedrals, all stunning in their beauty and complexity. Today we walked down Catherine of Sienna street. A few impressions… St. PetersOn Saturday we managed to get tickets (free – but nonetheless rare) for the Pascal Vigil which is a three-hour service beginning at 10pm. This was pre-resurrection worship in anticipation of what would happen the following morning. We sat a few dozen feet from the alter inside the vast St. Peter’s Basilica, the very seat of Roman Pontifical power, and just a few dozen feet from the Pope himself. Once we were able to get past the stunning beauty and scale of our surroundings, we were able to settle in and try to understand what was happening. Given that about 90% of the proceedings were either in Latin or Italian, this was difficult. Still, we were able to sense something of the wonder that Catholics bring to the experience of celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord. I remembered how just a few days earlier, I had led communion in a small evangelical Baptist church in Hope, BC. It seemed worlds apart. While I loved the sincerity and meaning of that small protestant service, I found myself feeling that our celebration was a little weak in comparison to all the drama we experienced at St. Peter’s. Karen and I did not go forward to receive the mass, perhaps in solidarity with our free church reformation protestant forebears who would have been aghast that we were there at all. I’ve got some huge issues with the Catholic church. The veneration of Mary, prayers for the dead, and the general misuse of money and power so in evidence throughout this city, leave me cold. Still, these people love Jesus. This afternoon we looked at paintings by Raphael and Caravaggio, not to mention Michelangelo’s magnificent ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. I want to tell you that it was as much a worship experience as a tourist experience for me. Yesterday, we visited the catacombs and thought about the tremendous faith practiced by the early Roman Christians. We visited the prison where Peter and Paul were incarcerated and stood inside a cell that may very well have been their own. I was deeply moved to think about how our faith is not some mythological story about gods that never actually lived. Our faith is rooted in real history and it has changed the world. Scala SantaIn the afternoon we stumbled across a chapel in the Lateran section of town where was housed the Scala Sancta. Tradition holds that these were the actual stairs that Jesus used when he climbed to meet with Pilate to be judged. The stairs were said to have been brought to Rome by Constantine’s mother, Helena. While this cannot be proved, the possibility is plausible as these were real people and real places. Whether or not the stairs really were as reputed, I was moved by the devotion of people who climb the stairs one by one on their knees. The sides of the staircase are adorned with frescoes (mural paintings) depicting the passion of Christ. I watched these people kneeling on each step individually to think about the pictures and to offer prayer to God. Say what you will about the possibility of their superstition, but rightly directed I could see how this could be a powerful worship experience. I guess I was too Baptist to participate, but I did pause to thank my God for his sacrifice for me. On Easter Sunday morning we stood in St. Peter’s square (it’s actually round) with at least 100,000 of our closest friends. The Pope’s sermon (what we could gather of it) spoke about resurrection and hope. He denounced terrorism and the war in the middle east. I’ll never be a Roman Catholic, but standing in that place filled with hopeful people, seeing people wave their flags from every corner of the world (including more than a few Canadian flags), I thought about the old Sunday school song we used to sing… "Red and yellow, black and white. All are precious in his sight."

Earth Day 2007

Earth day 2007 has come and gone. What did you do to help preserve planet earth and its delicate ecosystems? The fervency of the rhetoric matches that of revival preachers from a bygone era. Guilt is heaped upon those who refuse to comply. “Make the culprits pay!” advocates shout. The activities of the human species, like some deadly virus or parasite, are degrading, corrupting and destroying the earth. Human beings are viewed as part of the earth system, but a part that is out of control, a rogue element that must be stopped. Earth For some the saving of planet earth is a religious quest. “Gaia” is their god and ecology their religious faith. Others support these measures out of self-interest. They like to swim in clear oceans and vacation in pristine wilderness. However, some adopt strategies to be eco-responsible because they have children and grandchildren and desire them to have access to the same wonders of nature that their generation enjoyed. Others are skeptical, seeing the vastness of the planet and wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, the earth in the view of some is billions of years old and has managed to survive countless disasters. It’s been hot and then cold and then hot again. If human beings are part of the evolutionary sequence, then their activity becomes just one more development that earth will cope with in some way. If dinosaurs became extinct in the course of evolution, then probably other species will become extinct too. So what’s the worry? Believers in Jesus seek to find a way through these debates and claims so that they are true to God and His Word, and also by their actions add to his reputation, not detract from it. For us earth day can be the opportunity:

  • to praise our Creator for the wonders of this earth and the entire universe. He made it all!
  • to evaluate our own personal and corporate stewardship of the planet and its resources. How much of its resources are being expended on our own selfish and sinful pursuits, rather than those that would help human beings live and flourish in health and peace? As part of the industrial complex, what can we do to use these resources more responsibly?
  • to express that the earth is more than a physical place, it is also a spiritual place. There is good and evil alive and well on planet earth. The ecosystem is not just biological or geological, but is also theological.
  • to express our hope that one day God will create a new heaven and a new earth in which there will be no pollution – moral or otherwise.
  • to emphasize the special role that God has given to human beings in this earth as stewards of his creation.

As the Psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s!” To celebrate earth day rightly, we must also celebrate its Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps next year you church might celebrate earth day, but in a way that honours God as Creator, and Jesus Christ as its sustainer.

Keeping missionaries and Mission Agencies Accountable

I have been spending some time interviewing pastors and key missions committee personnel to discover the areas they would like to improve in the area of missions One frustration that a number of people expressed is in knowing how and when they are to keep mission agencies and missionaries accountable. One pastor provided the following insight:

The prayer letters that missions personnel send to the churches are often very different in content to the reports that they are required to provide their mission agency. In order to monitor their missionary and be privy to important decisions being made the missions team of the church may wish to request these reports be sent to them as well.

There are, of course, confidentiality issues that need to be taken into account. However, if the missionary grants permission for the report to be passed on to the church missions team and the team does not pass on that information without permission, such difficulties can often be overcome.

The benefit of such a request is that both the missionary and the missions agency become directly responsible to the sending church. The missions team in the church is able to ensure that the missions agency is providing the support and direction required and that important issues are being dealt with. They are also able to more clearly understand the difficulties and frustrations the missionaries face which they are not free to publish in their public newsletters.

Have you discovered some creative ways to be an effective missions team in your church? Send those ideas to me via the form below so that they can be shared with other churches. Visit the Best Practices for Church Missions webpage and evaluate your church’s missions team. We are working on a workshop to support churches as they seek to join in God’s mission both locally and around the world. Information on this will be posted on the Best Practices for Church Missions webpage as it comes available.

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Mobilization – the new Assimilation…

I have always found the thoughts and writings of George Bullard to stimulate my thinking. Not long ago, I came across a phrase from his online journal [http://bullardjournal.blogs.com/bullardjournal]. In reporting on a workshop at the Lake Hickory Learning Community on Sustaining Pastoral Excellence, Bullard described a phrase used by Alex McManus that “mobilization is the new assimilation.” I love a good turn of phrase. Mobilization is the new assimilation… As Bullard caught the phrase, his understanding was that mobilizing people in the work of the kingdom of God…is the best way to assimilate them into the body life of a local congregation.

When the new “unchurched Harry” comes to church, they want to be involved in something with someone….If anything,… [to] get a measure of the quality of people’s lives through actual experience … are these people authentic, are they real, do they believe what they say, and how do they really feel about me…?

Bullard’s interpretation of the phrase took me back to a conversation that I had with one of my dear friends who is part of the leadership structure at the Willowcreek Community Church. According to him, there has been a huge shift in their approach to non-believers. The “Seeker” of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s” described as “unchurched Harry” valued anonymity, and Willowcreek honored that value by creating a safe space around those people who were “coming to God, but weren’t aware of it quite yet.” According to my friend, things have undergone a remarkable change in the last 7 years. “Seekers” no longer value anonymity as much as they now demand participation. When the new “unchurched Harry” comes to church, they want to be involved in something with someone – not so much for the long term, but in a limited fashion. My friend told me that it’s more than just a matter of finding a community and finally gaining a sense of belonging. If anything, this new demand is being made so that the Seeker can get a measure of the quality of people’s lives through actual experience … are these people authentic, are they real, do they believe what they say, and how do they really feel about me as a trusted partner? As a result, Willowcreek has had to shift their approach to the Seeker from anonymity to partnership and have discovered that mobilization is the new assimilation. It’s not been easy. They have to find appropriate ways to include the seeker into the action. They can’t very well make a seeker a Sunday-school teacher … but they are finding valuable roles for seekers to do 2 things: 1. make an impact with the seeker’s service [even if it’s helping with the parking lot managers] and 2. provide an authentic opportunity for the believers to communicate faith and create community. As I travel in our Fellowship, I find myself thinking – that would be both a challenge and an opportunity for our congregations … to think about how to make Mobilization a matter of Assimilation.

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Read Theology – #9

Reason #9.

You need theology because, lets face it, we all talk about God at some point in time. Wouldn’t you want to speak about God intelligently, with at least a basic idea of who, and what we are talking about? We are all theologians of sorts, why not be an informed one? Even atheists need some knowledge of theology or their arguments make no sense, (not that they ever do fully make sense). But then again, “only a fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God'”. On the other hand, if we have no knowledge of our theological tradition we could end up saying other things just as foolish. Other than the indispensible Bible, you could start with a very good book like Alister McGrath’s Introduction to Theology.

Virginia Tech Reflections

It seems that it will never end.  Yesterday it was the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.  The toll so far is 34 dead, including the shooter Cho Seung-hui who committed suicide.  Last year it was the Amish Schoolhouse shootings where a gunman took the lives of 5 little girls before killing himself. Before that it was the Columbine High School shootings in Denver. There the death toll was 12 with 24 wounded and two teenage shooters dead by their own hands.  And long before that it was the University of Texas in 1966 when Charles Whiteman killed 15, including his mom and wife, and wounded 31 others before being cut down by police gunfire. We can inset to the list Taber, Concordia, Ecole Polytechnique, and Brampton as sad Canadian examples. The bloodstained litany is appalling.

 

Norris Hall at Virginia Tech

People are pressing in from every side to ask, once again, “How could this happen?” Early reports are suggesting that Cho was having girlfriend problems, but that may not be it. The other shootings threw up various motives—brain tumors, video games, Goth culture, troubled home life, post traumatic stress. The media and featured experts wrestled one another to paralysis all the while that parents and others called for the heads of various school, political and law enforcement officials for not being better prepared, for being too slow, or too fast.

The weapons of choice in the above instances were handguns, rifles, shotguns, M1 carbines etc. The shooters were younger and older; they were white and non-white; comfortable and poor. The victims were male and female; known and complete strangers.

What kind of a world do we live in?  Quite apparently, a deeply hurting world where some take their pain and magnify it by hurting and destroying others; a world without solutions for prevention; a world without recourse to do more than analyze and/or vilify the memories of killers, bury their dead and give thin comfort to the wounded and bereaved.

Today, more than usual, I’m convinced that there’s no help from within. The world only repeats itself with one horrendous shock after another. It’s clear that we cannot help or heal ourselves.

What we need is rescue deep down, healing deep down and help deep down … from outside the circle of our reality.

Reactions to the News of Jesus’ Resurrection

In the various Gospels we have complementary accounts of the resurrection of Jesus and the diverse responses that people had to this news. We tend to think that these first century people easily accepted that God had raised Jesus from the dead. However, that is not the reality, at least as we find it in the Gospels. It took repeated appearances and stern words from Jesus himself before some were ready to believe that his resurrection had happened. The implications of such an event were enormous and people wanted firm evidence that it was true before accepting that Jesus truly was Messiah. After all, a dead Messiah, in any Jewish setting, was a contradiction in terms. One of the more surprising responses is reported by Luke (24:11). Women went early on Sunday morning to complete the burial preparations for Jesus. When they arrived at the tomb they found the stone door no longer blocking the tomb’s entrance. They entered the tomb and found no body. While they were considering this, two angels appeared and announced Jesus’ resurrection, in accordance with Jesus’ own words. The women rush back to report this “to the eleven and the rest” (24:9). Luke tells us this group of women included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the rest with them (24:10). However, to the eleven “these matters appeared before them as nonsense (lÄ“ros).” This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Why did Luke choose this word to describe the response of the eleven to the women’s witness about Jesus’ resurrection?…

Rolls-Royce Never Fails

The following story was told by Mac Brunson of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida in his sermon, The Purpose of the Passion which you can hear on the most recent Preaching Today Audio CD (#283). For more information on this audio series and for other online features check out PreachingToday.com. A man who lived in England came over to the United States to go to a resort for several months, and he wanted to bring his car – his Rolls-Royce – over. It was packaged up and shipped over so he could drive his car while he was in the United States. But, while he was here, something happened to the car. There was a mechanical failure. And so he called over to England and said: “I’ve got this problem with my car. I think this is what it is.” And Rolls-Royce told him: “That’s fine. Within 48 hours, we’ll have a mechanic with the auto parts there to fix it for you.” They put a mechanic with some car parts on a plane and flew him to the United States. He worked on the guy’s car out in the parking lot at this resort, fixed it, got on a plane, and flew back to England. The man drove his car the rest of the time. Then he packaged it back up, put it one a ship, and sent it back. He was back home for nearly a year before he discovered he had never got a bill from Rolls-Royce. So he wrote the company. He said: “This date last year I called – there was something wrong with my Rolls-Royce, and you flew a mechanic over. You fixed it, but I’ve never received a bill. If you’ll find that bill in your office, I’ll be happy to pay the bill for fixing my car.” He received a letter back from Rolls-Royce that said this: “In the files at the headquarters of Rolls-Royce, there is no accounting that anything has ever been wrong with a Rolls-Royce anywhere.” Brunson said, “Now that’s justification. When you get to heaven and Satan wants to holler and scream about all your sin, Jesus is going to look through the files, turn around and say: We don’t have a file on him here at all.”

Keeping Missions from becoming a number in the budget

People committed to supporting cross-cultural missions, whether locally or globally, recognize the essential role of missionaries who have dedicated years to learn the culture and language of a particular people group. It is through their expertise that bridges for the gospel are discovered and churches planted. However, missions mobilizers serving in churches are often frustrated and discouraged at the overwhelming task of keeping people interested and committed to the support of missionaries over the long haul. There are so many legitimate activities and alternative ministries that staying the course with one family whose ministry requires slow and steady progress, rather than glamorous leaps, is difficult. Support sometimes becomes reduced to a budget item that is “rubber-stamped” each year.

As a result people no longer give to the church generally and think about their financial commitment to missions once a year. Instead, a focus on missions giving is highlighted weekly along with giving towards the church’s general needs.

One church in our Fellowship has developed a creative approach to the support of their missionaries that, even though only a small adjustment, has helped provide a stronger focus for missions in the church. Each year they designate part of their budget to the support of their missionaries, as is common practice for most of our churches. However, funds from the general offering cannot be applied to this commitment. Only those funds designated “missions” are used to fulfill this responsibility. As a result people no longer give to the church generally and think about their financial commitment to missions once a year. Instead, a focus on missions giving is highlighted weekly along with giving towards the church’s general needs. Secondly, the deacon in charge of missions is responsible to keep the church informed of their commitment and when giving has fallen short, he or she reminds the church of the importance of these ministries and the role the church plays in advancing God’s mission. Furthermore, when giving exceeds the budgeted commitment, and this is not uncommon, they are able to apply these extra funds to special projects such as the Fellowship International Ministries 2007 “Blessing the Nations” project. Have you discovered some creative ways to highlight missions in your church? Send those ideas to me via the form below so that they can be shared with other churches. Visit the Best Practices for Church Missions webpage and evaluate your church’s missions team. We are working on a workshop to support churches as they seek to join in God’s mission both locally and around the world. Information on this will be posted on the Best Practices for Church Missions webpage as it comes available.

Read more of Mark’s articles at Cross-Cultural Impact in the 21st Century

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What Makes A Christian Relevant?

I never met E. Stanley Jones, but over the years he has served as a Mentor to me. His book Song of Ascents is one that is a constant source of insight and wisdom … and perspective. Over the last couple of years it’s been hard to find perspective. Not since the Jesus people revolution of the ‘60’s have I detected a spirit of struggle among pastors and churches desperate to be “relevant.” It’s hard enough to define what it means to be “post-modern, seeker-sensitive, emergent, and missional.” It’s even harder to prove that you are all-of-the-above. And, if you aren’t? Well, to mangle a phrase from Hughie Lewis and the News, “it ain’t hip to be square.” Carrying all of this angst about being irrelevant, I turned to my Mentor and on page 132 of Song of Ascents found a truth that set me free. There, E. Stanley Jones described his first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi. As a young missionary in India, he went straight to the point, “You are, perhaps, the leading Hindu of India. Could you tell me what you think we, as Christians, should do to make Christianity more naturalized in India. Not a foreign thing … but a part of the national life…? He immediately replied: “I would suggest four things: First, that all you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ. Second, that you practice your religion without adulterating it, or toning it down. Third, that you emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, that you study the non-Christian religions sympathetically to find the good in them.” “This is genius” Stanley wrote. The sheer simplicity of the idea that to be more “naturalized” or relevant to a society is to be more Christian freed him from trying to be something he wasn’t in order to simply be who he was – a Christian, and work by love. Stanley was astonished that it took the leading non-Christian of the world to give him permission. After offering a few examples to support this perspective, Jones then wrote a paragraph that I wish everyone who struggles with the search for relevance would take to heart: “People say that we must adopt the language and culture of the day to be relevant to today. That is a mistake. If the church marries itself to the spirit of the times, it will be a widow in the next generation. There is a universal language – the language of reality and the language of love. Have those two things and you’ll be understood and appreciated in any situation, anywhere, in any age. [page 133]” Tucked away in the passage is a phrase that gives balance to my heart: to be home in any given situation, be like Christ…be just what I am – a Christian – and work by love!

So, What’s Different?

OK. It’s Monday, the day after the Easter weekend. So, what’s different? I attended two services—one on Good Friday at which a number of churches attended and one on Sunday in my home church. Regular church-goers like me and C & Es—Christmas and Easter only types—were reminded of the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The sermons we heard took different tacks as they crisscrossed various texts. I heard a couple of good ones—one from a youthful preacher and another from a man who’s been in the ministry for over fifty years. As the sails of their sermons each caught gusts of relevance, I was thrilled at the sudden quickening.

“True understanding builds a life on what is heard.”

But, what’s different?

 

When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he concluded by telling people that true understanding was not merely attaining to a personal intellectual “click” point. Rather, true understanding builds a life on what is heard; its hearing and doing. Jesus likened it to a man wisely building a house on a solid place so that it would withstand storms (Matt. 7:24). I heard the preachers. They were helpful. But did I really get it? How will that part of the world I touch be different because I’m building upon what I heard this past weekend? What’s going to be different?

Visual Preaching

The other day I had the pleasure of hearing my good friend, Dr. John Auxier preach. John is Dean of Trinity Western University and an expert in marriage and family counseling. He is also a very fine preacher. His sermon was taken from John 11 and 12, focusing on the dinner party where Mary of Bethany washed the feet of Jesus. It was a wonderful sermon, well assimilated, and thoughtfully conceived. One of the striking things that John did, however, was to set up an actual table and chairs in order to be able to physically describe the circumstances of the event – who would likely have been sitting where and what it might have indicated. It was a very simple way to help us visualize the text – not complicated in its execution, but very helpful just the same. In recent days my students in class have used many such visual aids – hollow eggs, t-shirts emblazoned with various messages, a book of family history, and an antique lantern, among other things, all designed to enhance the learning experience for the listeners. I’ve been a little surprised by this given that I have not required it nor spoken a great deal to the students about it. Nevertheless, they have found these “object lessons” to be helpful in communicating their message to their audience. In my experience, the simpler these objects are, the better. They also ought to be central to the theme of the message. A physical object will be a striking element and should not be used to describe extraneous aspects of the sermon. This is a great way to take our sermons to another level. In my friend John’s case, he used the table in the second service but not in the first. In his view, the visual display greatly enhanced the impact of the sermon in that second service.

Visit Kent’s site on preaching? www.preaching.org

The Dance is Not Perichōrēsis

In several recent publications various authors have sought to support arguments related to the understanding of the Trinity by stating that the Greek noun perichōrēsis (cognate verb perichōreō) signifies dance or dancing. For example, George Cladis states that “Perichoresis means literally ‘circle dance’.”[1] Eugene Peterson concurs: “The dance is perichoresis, the Greek word for dance.”[2] In her discussion about the Trinity, Catharine LaCugna discusses various analogies “used to depict perichōrēsis.” But she finds them too limiting. Instead she suggests “this is why the image of ‘the divine dance’ has been used to translate perichōrēsis. Even if the philological warrant for this is scant, the metaphor of dance is effective. Choreography suggests the partnership of movement,…”[3]

But does perichōrēsis mean “a circle dance” and does the cognate verb mean “to dance”? The fact is that these terms have nothing to do with dancing. Liddell and Scott indicate that there are two distinct Greek verbs:

perichōreō means to go around. perichōrēsis is defined as ‘rotation’.[4]

perichoreuō means to dance around.[5] No cognate noun is listed.

So there is no warrant for suggesting that perichōrēsis has any connection with dancing in Greek Classical Literature.

Perhaps, though, it may have come to mean this and so the church fathers had this sense in mind when they applied it to the Trinity? A scan of the information revealed in Lampe’s A Patristic Greek Lexicon, however, is not encouraging:

perichōreō means “interchange” when used in reference to the two natures of Christ and “interpenetrate” when it describes the actions of the members of the Trinity. A similar range of meaning is found for the cognate noun.[6]

perichoreuō is also listed with the meaning “dance round”, but the primary references are found in Pseudo-Dionysius Aeropagita (5th century) and these uses are not related to the Trinity per se. Also, Lampe only lists three occurrences, whereas for perichōreō he lists many occurrences, both Christologically and in relation to Trinitarian discussions.

Again, we find no evidence that suggests perichōreō has anything to do with dancing.

St. John of Damascus (8th century) used perichōrēsis in his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith to describe how the members of the Trinity relate to one another. For example, he says “they are made one not so as to commingle, but so as to cleave to each other and they have their being in each other [kai tēn en allēlais perichōrēsin echousi] without any coalescence or commingling.” However in this context he makes no use of the analogy of dancing to explain this relationship. Augustus Strong indicates that “theologians have designated this intercommunion by the terms perichōrēsis, circumincessio, intercommunication, circulation, inexistentia.”[7]

What can we conclude from this? It seems that some writers have confused perichoreuō (dance round) with perichōreō (interpenetrate). Although the verbs sound similar and are spelled somewhat similarly, they have two quite different meanings. The primary lexica for Classical and Patristic Greek give no indication that perichōreō was ever used to describe the motions of dancing. Catharine LaCugna is right so far as she goes to say that “the philological warrant for this is scant.”[8] It is in fact non-existent.

If a person desires to use the metaphor of dance to describe the mutual interactions of the persons of the Trinity that might be useful and appropriate. However, one cannot justify the use of such a metaphor by trying to connect it with perichōreō. That tune will not play. Nor should one pretend that the term “choreography” in some sense relates to perichōreō. Again, there is no etymological relationship whatsoever. Perichoretic dancing is a modern invention that does not come from the meaning of the underlying Greek term or its use in the Church Fathers.

 

Larry Perkins, Ph.D.

December 8, 2006.


[1] George Cladis, Leading the Team-Based Church (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999):4.

[2] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eedrmans, 2005): 44-45

[3] Catharine LaCugna, God For us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper-San Francisco, 1973): 271. Peterson refers to her publication in footnote 15 of his volume and quotes from page 272 as support for his understanding.

[4] Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966):1394

[5] Ibid., 1393.

[6] G.W.H. Lampe, editor, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968):1077-1078.

[7] Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1974):333.

[8] Op. cit., 271.

Removing Shame Through the Cross

The prodigal son had shamed his father, shamed his family and shamed his religion. As the crowd listened to Jesus reach the climax of the story with the father running towards the son, some of the listeners – Prodigal Sonthose who had shamed their religion through compromise with the Romans, those who had shamed their families through prostitution, those who had shamed their fathers through neglect and rebellion – winced as they waited for the inevitable punishment to fall. What other action could a just, holy and righteous father take? Other listeners – the Pharisees who deeply felt the dishonor borne by father – anticipated with satisfaction the blow to fall on the son. How else could the shame be purged from the family name?

"…the father is not tainted by the impurity of the son but instead transforms the son once again into his image with a robe, shoes and a ring symbolizing an astounding renewed identity as an honored child."

In Pakistan there exists an infamous tradition of Karo Kari – black boy, black girl – the killing of the defiled daughter. A few years ago at a wedding a teenage girl was dancing and celebrating with other girls when a young man came up and grabbed her hand. She snatched her hand away, but it was too late, an uncle from the balcony had seen this exchange take place. The girl was dragged from the celebration, taken outside and stoned to death. There can be only one answer to shame: to purge it through death. In the story the father reaches the son but instead of the anticipated blow, his arms open and he draws the son into a strong, accepting embrace. The crowd is stunned as they realize what has taken place. The father has taken the shame upon his own self, he has embraced and absorbed the dishonor. As this totally unexpected story unfolds the father is not tainted by the impurity of the son but instead transforms the son once again into his image with a robe, shoes and a ring symbolizing an astounding renewed identity as an honored child. Can it be that there is redemption for shame? This is a theology of the cross for an honor – shame culture: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole”’ (Gal 3:13 TNIV). The cross is the act of the father to those of us living in shame. “I am not worthy!” and we wait for the blow to fall, only to be surprised by the grace of the Father’s embrace. There is a deeper and more profound answer to shame. The cross of Jesus is God’s embrace of humanity, taking our shame and bringing transformation.

Read more of Mark’s articles at Cross-Cultural Impact in the 21st Century

Easter Surprise!

While I love Christmas and Easter, over the years as a pastor I found it an annual challenge to find something fresh to add to my preaching. I would thrill at any new insight that would add a new voice to the message. One year the Pastor of the College Church in Wheaton Illinois, Kent Hughes, introduced me to a familiar passage with an added twist. At his advice, I turned to Matthew 27 and attempted to relive the scene of Pilate’s final judgment from a prison cell on death row with a convicted felon named Barabbas. In verses 16 and 17, it was apparent that Barabbas was living on a bubble. His crimes deserved death, but his name was up for the annual pardon. It takes a bit of imagination, but it’s easy to picture him listening intently to the sounds of the crowd through the bars of his prison window. It would have been almost impossible for him to hear Pilate give the crowd a choice in verse 21. But it would have been impossible for him not to hear the crowd roar out his name: Barabbas! That got his attention. From that point, the only voice he could hear would have been the crowd as it continued to shout out: Crucify Him (verse 22), Crucify Him! (verse 23) Let his blood be on us and on our children! (verse 25.)

"But, I thought I was the one to die?! Isn’t that what the crowd wanted? Isn’t that what my verdict says? Isn’t that what I deserve?"

He had heard all he needed to hear. His life was at an end. It was judgment day. The sound of the crowd would have been in his heart as he heard the guards open the door to his cell. Forget a pardon, it was time to die. Except there was a voice he hadn’t heard. The one that said, “release Barabbas, crucify Jesus [verse 26.]” You can imagine the mental confusion: But, I thought I was the one to die?! Isn’t that what the crowd wanted? Isn’t that what my verdict says? Isn’t that what I deserve? All of that was true, except for one thing. Somehow, by a divine plan, Jesus intervened. The Bible says of Jesus, “He was pierced for our transgressions…crushed for our iniquities…the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5,6)” Somehow, I have to think that Barabbas was the first human to fully appreciate the sheer intensity of that fact. And, somehow, I’d like to think that what he discovered would give me, give all of us, even greater reason to give thanks!

Read Lyle’s Northwest Centre for Leadership Development newsletters

The Evangelical Emergent Condition

I have been teaching a series called “Principles of our Faith” lately at one of our local Fellowship churches and one of the questions people keep asking me is; “what do you think of the concept ‘emerging church’”? My answer is always the same. The emerging church, like Postmodernity, is a condition, only confined to the evangelical church. It marks its self by its lack of clarity, its lack of direction and its lack of theological depth, all because evangelicals have forgotten their Bibles, lost their historical identity and jettisoned their doctrinal roots. The reactions are predictable. Denial. But I have yet to be proven wrong. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Alumni: Randy (1975) and Ruth (1973) Kamp

Randy Kamp, Canadian Member of Parliament for Pitt Meadows– Maple Ridge–Mission. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Randy (BTh. 1975) & Ruth (Certificate 1973) are Northwest alumni.Randy and Ruth Kamp

Randy, in the years since graduation, what kinds of ministry has God led you and Ruth to be involved in?

Ruth and I met on our first day at Northwest and got married a few years later. After I completed my Bachelor of Theology degree in 1975, we spent a year as associate pastor in Edmonton and then moved to Fort McMurray where I was employed in retailing. We returned to Northwest in 1978 where I completed a year of studies towards a Master’s degree. But then we decided to move back to Fort McMurray where we spent another three years in retail work.

In 1983 we joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and, after training, we spent two terms in the Philippines. We lived in a village situation for a while, being trained in linguistics and translation, but during our second term we lived at our northern center where I served as the regional director for teams in the northern area of the country.

In 1992 we returned to Canada and I served as associate pastor at Maple Ridge Baptist until 1996. At that point the opportunity came to get involved in the political arena, managing our MP’s constituency office. When he retired in 2004, I won the Conservative Party of Canada nomination and was then elected as the Member of Parliament for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.

You have served Northwest as a Board member for many years. What motivated you to volunteer your time and energy for such a role?

I had the privilege of serving as a member of the Board for about ten or eleven years. Although we went through some challenging times, I really enjoyed my time on the Board. I made a lot of friends and found the Board to be a great support group. Several things motivated me to serve in this capacity. I grew up in a Bible-believing family and church, but when I got to Northwest I realized how much I didn’t know. It was my training at Northwest that helped me establish a firm Christian foundation. This experience led me to the conclusion that Christians needed to be well-trained to live most fruitfully and serve most effectively. So I was pleased to have the opportunity to help Northwest achieve its mission by serving on the Board.

You have served as Member of Parliament for the Pitt Meadow—Maple Ridge—Mission riding for two terms so far. How do you see your involvement as an MP in relation to your Christian commitment? What has motivated you to develop this vision for involvement in Canadian society?

It has been a real privilege to serve as an MP, but I have to admit that it was never my ambition. So it was a very difficult decision, probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I enjoyed my work in the constituency office, and was also part-time interim pastor at Ruth Morton Baptist, and would have been happy to keep doing both. But when the opportunity presented itself I began to see my time in the constituency office as a kind of apprenticeship and preparation for a different kind of service. So I started down that path, leaving the outcome to God. I’m glad I did.

I believe in the doctrine of separation of church and state, but not in the separation of faith and politics. Our faith has moral and social implications and we have the obligation to express these and to influence public policy. I bring to my role as a politician a Christian worldview, but not a Christian agenda. In fact, I believe every parliamentarian looks at the issues through a lens that’s formed by his or her personal experiences and values. In my case I look at each piece of legislation through a Christian lens, applying Christian principles to the decisions I have to make. I believe that if a policy aligns with Christian principles, it will be good for Canadian society as a whole. The way I see it, God did not give us his revealed will to make life difficult or to see if we can keep the rules. Rather, He provided the framework that would help all people live productively and healthily. So Canadians benefit as we follow God’s principles.

It’s often a challenge to know how to think Christianly about the issues before us in parliament, but I’ve come to realize that one’s ability to navigate at the interface of faith and politics depends on how well-developed one’s Christian worldview is. The years I spent at Northwest have played a big part in the formation of my worldview.

Of course it’s not enough just to think Christianly, we have to act Christianly too. When I started down this path I adopted as my guide Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4:4: “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” That’s hard in an adversarial environment, and I haven’t always succeeded, but I keep trying.

Can you suggest some specific ways in which Christians should engage our culture positively and transformatively?

I think we need to consider two areas of involvement in our society:

First, we need to be personally involved in meeting social needs. I don’t think you can read the Bible without realizing that God is interested in social justice and that He wants us to act justly and love mercy. Acting Christianly is more than just standing up for the traditional definition of marriage. There are a lot of needy people, even in our own country: people living in poverty, without clean water, without a home, suffering from AIDS, shackled by addictions, and the list goes on. I think we should all try to be personally involved in meeting a social need.

Second, I think Christians should also consider becoming well-informed about some justice or social issue that they feel strongly about and working to influence public policy. That can be done by writing letters, sharing your views with elected officials, contributing to public forums, organizing petitions, etc. I know that currently there’s a high degree of cynicism about the political process, but politicians do listen to what their constituents have to say—especially when they realize it’s in their political best interests to do so.

I am sure your life is filled with many diverse opportunities to serve. How do you maintain the balance between family, Parliament, personal development, etc.?

I am not sure that I do all the time. There are a lot of demands in both Ottawa and the riding, and of course the weekly travel between Ottawa and Maple Ridge can be pretty tiring. But Ruth and I find that this is a good time of life to be contributing in this way. Our three children are grown and married and Ruth is able to travel with me sometimes. I’m part of a weekly Bible study on Parliament Hill and participating in a worship service at Maple Ridge Baptist is an important part of my week. I think I understand my limits and know when I need to be alone and re-charge.

As you reflect upon your experience since graduation, can you discern generally or specifically ways in which your education through Northwest has assisted you in pursuing your Christian vocation?

Well, I met Ruth, the love of my life, there more than thirty-five years ago so that was important! We’ve been on this journey together. What I learned there was very important in my spiritual formation but I think whom I learned it from was just as important. Many of my professors had a profound impact on my life—although they probably didn’t know it—as they modeled what it means to be a faithful, thoughtful Christian.

How can people be in prayer for you and Ruth?

I know that many are praying for us and that means a lot to us. For us, Micah 6:8 is a powerful word from God. Keep praying that God would teach us daily what it means to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. And pray that in the cut and thrust of the political fray that God would give me the grace to be a gentle man (Phil. 4:4). Finally, pray that I would have the wisdom to understand the issues and be able to communicate effectively so that I can be a good ambassador for Him.

Of ‘Impossible People’ and Iceburgs

Before he became a follower of Jesus, the apostle Paul was a persecutor of Christians. Scripture relates how he “began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3) and of his “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” (Acts 9:1f.) He did not look to be a likely prospect for conversion. In fact, he seemed an “impossible case.” Image:Iceberg IlulissatAnanias thought that. When the Lord commissioned Ananias to go to see Paul, his response was shock. He rather audaciously reminded the Lord that Paul was a Christ-hater and persecutor (Acts 9:13f.)—he was an impossible case. Ananias may have been far more convinced that Paul would kill him than that he would become a follower of Jesus! What Ananias didn’t know at the time—but what we know from Acts 9:3-16—is that Paul had, a short while before, been shaken to his core by a meeting with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul had had a vision in which a man named Ananias came to restore his sight. Ananias didn’t know that the Lord had some very big plans for Paul. God was ‘on the case’ long before Ananias arrived on the scene.

"Someone has said that God’s action is a lot like icebergs-9/10ths of what he’s doing is below the surface, beyond the field of human vision."

Few conversions are ‘out of the blue.’ Almost always there has been an incubation period.God is preparing unsaved people through life experiences and circumstances long before we ever arrive on the scene. In fact, he can work even through the very things we might think make our friends ‘impossible cases.’ Someone has said that God’s action is a lot like icebergs—9/10ths of what he’s doing is below the surface, beyond the field of human vision. Think of your ‘impossible’ person—God is and has already been working in their life, even though they and we may see nothing at all. That’s part of the great news of this passage—God is working and can save ‘impossible’ people. So, don’t be discouraged!