A Woman's Place

Donna Woolfolk Cross's novel, Pope Joan, contains a compelling scene in chapter seven. Set in the ninth century, the book's subject, Joan, who has already been tutored and become an exceptional student by the age of thirteen, is excited to be in the awkward and unorthodox position of being the only female enrollee in the schola in Dorstadt (the book is a fictional portrayal of the legendary woman who became pope upon the death of Leo IV).

In contrast to many current novels, the author's theological and historical knowledge so far impress me, and I found particularly interesting the arguments she places in the mouths of Odo, the master of the schola, and Joan:
"As is well known"--Odo's voice assumed an authoritative ring, for now he was on familiar ground--"women are innately inferior to men."

"Why?" The word was out of Joan's mouth before she was even aware of having spoken.

Odo smiled, his thin lips drawing back unpleasantly. He had the look of the fox when it knows it has the rabbit cornered. "Your ignorance, child, is revealed in that question. For St. Paul himself has asserted this truth, that women are beneath men in conception, in place, and in will."

"In conception, in place, and in will?" Joan repeated.

"Yes." Odo spoke slowly and distinctly, as if addressing a half-wit. "In conception, because Adam was created first, and Eve afterward; in place, because Eve was created to serve Adam as companion and mate; in will, because Eve could not resist the Devil's temptation and ate of the apple."

Among the tables, heads nodded in agreement. The bishop's expression was grave....

Odo smirked. Joan felt an intense dislike for this man. For a moment she stood silently, tugging on her nose.

"Why," she said at last, "is woman inferior in conception? For though she was created second, she was made from Adam's side, while Adam was made from common clay."

There were several appreciative chuckles from the back of the hall.

"In place"--the words tumbled out as Joan's thoughts raced ahead and she reasoned her way through--"woman should be preferred to man, because Eve was created inside Paradise, but Adam was created outside."

There was another hum from the audience. The smile on Odo's face wavered.

Joan continued, too interested in the line of her argument to consider what she was doing. "As for will, woman should be considered superior to man"--this was bold, but there was no going back now--"for Eve ate of the apple for love of knowledge and learning, but Adam ate of it merely because she asked him."

There was shocked silence in the room.
Indeed. As there would be in many churches today. The first of Odo's arguments--based on creation order--continues to be a common interpretation of Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:13, apparently explaining why he was not allowing a woman to teach or have authority over men: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve." And Odo's third point is often seen as the meaning of Paul's next statement, "And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."

However, as Stanley Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo (and others) point out, these are far from the only--and far from the most biblically and logically consistent--conclusions. While Paul might have meant that Adam's prior creation means that men are intrinsically superior to women, and the second statement means that men are morally more fit to resist temptation, it is also possible that he was building a timeline of sorts, to draw a parallel with the women in Ephesus, who (like most women in the Jewish and pagan world of that time) were relatively new to "book learning" and "training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul, relying on Timothy's knowledge of the Word (2 Timothy 3:15), might have intended to refer to Eve's lack of preparedness for temptation, since "Adam was formed first, then Eve..." and Eve--having not received the command from God (because it was given to Adam before her creation; see Genesis 2:16-17)--seems to have been poorly "catechized," as the misquoting of the command in Genesis 3:2-3 might indicate. IF that was the intention of Paul's words to Timothy (and anyone familiar with the cultural and theological setting of Ephesus, where Timothy ministered, must at least grant that it is a possibility), then the Apostle's prohibition was against the spiritually immature, untutored women occupying a place of teaching authority....rather than a blanket prescription that all women=all silent=for all time (a prohibition that not even the strictest hierarchicalists enforce consistently).

In fact, I would have liked it better if Joan had responded to Odo's points a little differently. Perhaps like, "In conception? For if man, who was created after all things is the crowning glory of God's creation, surely woman--created after man--is even more so." And, "In place, because God pronounced everything in Creation 'good,' until he remarked that man was alone; so woman, as the divine correction of the only 'not good' God saw, must be the greater good in all Paradise." And, "In will, because while the woman did indeed succumb to temptation by words of the serpent, the Father of Lies, Adam was led astray by his wife, a newly-minted, amateur sinner."

Or something like that. In any case, it was an unexpected, and intriguing theological discussion well-executed. And, while I'm only 134 pages in at this point, it makes me look forward to the rest of the book even more.

Disorganizational Chart

The Word of Promise Audio Bible

Have you ever met a radio personality, someone whose voice was very familiar to you but whom you had never actually seen, and your first thought was, "You don't look ANYthing like I pictured you?"

Well, that's always been my problem with Biblical paintings, movies, and television--especially those that depict Jesus. They just don't look or sound....authentic. And, while I know this will sound a little snobbish, the problem has gotten worse since I've become a frequent visitor to the lands of the Bible.

Still, I had great, great hopes for The Word of Promise Audio New Testament, a multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) which features a star-studded cast of actors, an original music score, and incredible feature film quality sound effects. The cast Includes Jim Caviezel as the voice of Jesus, Stacy Keach (Paul), Lou Gossett, Jr. (John), and many others.

It was a hope mostly fulfilled.

I expected the familiarity of the voices to be a distraction; it wasn't. And, while some actors' performances definitely outshone others, the score and sound effects added consistently to the meaning and enjoyment. Ultimately, my only complaint--and then only occasionally--was the all-too-typical melodrama some of the actors added to the text.

If you've never listened to an audio version of the Bible, I recommend this version. It will bring the Word of God to life in a new way.

Pastor Steve

Awesome post from Justin Wise (BeDeviant.com) guest-blogging on CatalystSpace:
Most pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. Most pastors have some sort of regular public speaking routine built-in to there weekly/monthly schedule. As such, we have a lot to learn about human communication.

We have a lot to learn from others who communicate a message effectively and decisively.

One of those people to learn from is Steve Jobs. In fact, someone named Carmine Gallo even wrote a book on the presentation secrets of ol’ Steve. I haven’t read the book, but below is a list of some of the “secrets” unveiled by Gallo....

1. Set the Theme

Andy Stanley does this more brilliantly than anyone I know. He weaves a single statement throughout his entire message, making it unforgettable by the end. Jobs does the same thing–one particular theme that you base everything else in your message off of. Cohesion, baby.

2. Provide the Outline

Tell people where you’re going. Don’t make them guess. Jobs will provide some sort of verbal outline near the beginning of his presentations. I like to do the same thing, just so people have an expectation of what they can expect to hear. You respect your audience by doing this, as well as giving them something to look forward to.

3. Open and Close Each Section With a Clear Transition

Give them a “bookend.” Clearly transition from one point to the next with a relevant and catchy transition. Jobs masters this and it shows–the momentum in his presentations never slows, even though the pace might. It’s like a stick-shift–you wouldn’t go from first gear to third, otherwise you wouldn’t have a car for very long. You go from first, to second, to third, etc. The same principle applies in public speaking.

4. Demonstrate Enthusiasm

Someone I work with once told me, “Your audience can’t exceed your level of excitement. If you’re at a five, it is not possible for those listening to go past that. You set the tone.” Steve Jobs is obviously, palatably excited every time he gives a presentation. He’s amped about the latest product he’s wow-ing the crowd with. What about you, pastor? Are you honestly excited about the message you’re conveying? Or are you manufacturing energy? Learn a lesson from Perry Noble: GET EXCITED!!!

5. Make it Visual

Pastors and preachers, listen up. I am convinced this is the most important take-away we can learn from Steve Jobs: Make your presentation visual. The spoken word is designed to engage the mind while visual images are designed to affect the heart. Steve Jobs is a master at conveying information about Apple products while engaging the heart at the same time (i.e. the “I want that!” factor):

* He rarely has more than three images on a single slide.
* There are usually less than 10 words on a single slide.
* The images he uses are rich and vibrant, telling a story.
* Visual aids are simple and rich with meaning (i.e. pulling the Macbook Air out of a manilla envelope. Brilliantly simple).

This is where we pastors have the most to learn. Powerpoint slides are not an excuse to cram as much information as possible onto the screen. Clip art is (and always should be) forbidden. Think less words, more images. Think less words, less slides. Let your story-telling skills do the walking!

6. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

While I’m not 100% on this tip, there is merit. Jobs makes his presentations look effortless because he’s logged dozens of hours to make you think that he’s not even trying. Believe me, he is. While every individual is different, and every schedule is different, practicing your message can never hurt. Knowing your transitions and cues from one segment to the next is key. While we pastors may not have as much time to practice for a weekly message, we can be intentional about knowing what we’re going to say before we step on stage.

No matter what you think about his products, Steve Jobs is an amazing communicator. Sure, he may not be communicating the truths of Scripture, but the message he is conveying is being heard and embraced by millions. Isn’t that something we can learn from? Leaders are learners!

Death by Ministry

"At our recent Reform & Resurge Conference in Seattle, my good friend Pastor Darrin Patrick from The Journey in Saint Louis spoke frankly of the burden that pastoral ministry is. I have pushed myself to the edge and over the edge of burnout throughout my nearly ten years in vocational ministry. Subsequently, I have been doing a great deal of research that I am compiling in hopes of not only improving my own life but also the lives of the leaders at Mars Hill Church and the churches in our Acts 29 Network." ~Mark Driscoll

Part 1 — Some Statistics
The following statistics were presented by Pastor Darrin Patrick from research he has gathered from such organizations as Barna and Focus on the Family.

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
Pastors' Wives
Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
My brethren, it ought not so to be! Ministry ought to be the most joyful pursuit, the most rewarding vocation in all the earth! But in many churches (apparently most) and in many pastors (again, apparently most) our dysfunctions combine to produce an unrealistic, demanding, must-please-everyone environment that destroys men and women, marriages, and ministries. The unremitting criticism and petty bickering and sinful gossip that is too often aimed at hard-working pastors (my colleagues among them) makes church ministry--at least in our American culture--a slow death. Death by ministry. God, help us.

Take Care of the Pennies, and the Dollars Will Take Care of Themselves? Or Not.

Blogger and innovator Seth Godin (sethgodin.typepad.com) writes:

So many small businesspeople are crippled by their relationship with money. I know... I used to window shop at restaurants and then go home and eat Spaghetti-Os. The thing is, if you run out of money you lose the game. That's a given. But what's the best strategy for not running out of money?

I don't think the answer is to worry insanely about little expenses (saving $20 on your blogging expenses in exchange for distracting ads, for example.) In fact, too much worrying about cash is the work of the lizard brain, it's a symptom of someone self-sabotaging the work.

The thing to do is invest in scary innovations, large leaps, significant savings. Instead of renting a skimpy booth at the big trade show and scrimping on all the extras, why not rent a limo and drive the key buyers around town, or sponsor the awards luncheon? When you skimp all the time, you signal that you're struggling.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Church of the Week: Shepherd's Field, Beit Sahour

Beit Sahour, a town of approximately 12,000 residents in the Bethlehem area, is believed to be the site where the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-10). There have been churches and monasteries on this site since the fourth century or earlier.

We visited the Franciscan church (there is also a Greek Orthodox church nearby) on our recent pilgrimage to Israel:

The chapel's dome is intended to evoke a starry sky:

And from left to right, the frescoes tell the shepherds' story, of the angels' announcement:

Their discovery of the Christ child:

And their going off to tell everyone of what they had seen and heard:

Another chapel is located in a cave off a courtyard just below the church, which could have been the cave where some of those biblical shepherds sought shelter...until the angels appeared.

This area is also believed to be where the Hebrew matriarchs Ruth and Naomi gleaned in the fields behind the harvesters on their way to Bethlehem from Moab (Ruth 2-4).

A Pastor's Prayer

Lord God Adonai,
my precious Abba,
you know how grateful I am
for the church you have given me
as my family
and as my flock.

How I thank you
for my coworkers in the Gospel,
such faithful, diligent,
giving, growing servants
and beautiful brothers and sisters.

I ask you, glorious Father, give your people the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know you better. I pray also that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened, that they may know the hope to which you have called them, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for all who believe, in Jesus' name, amen.

(Based on Ephesians 1:17-19)

Pray for Me?

I speak today, tomorrow, and Sunday at the Jerry B. Jenkins's Christian Writer's Guild "Writing for the Soul" Conference in Denver, Colorado (here's the website).

I will be teaching a continuing class on "Proposals & Pitches," acting as a "campus pastor" (praying to open each general session and presenting devotions on Friday and Saturday), and presenting the final keynote Sunday morning.

Sure could use your prayers. As God had me preach last Sunday at Cobblestone, "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). So pray for me to be weak.

The Big Red Tractor

A video from Francis Chan, to which I can only say, "Oh, amen!":

The Big Red Tractor from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

Ministry Idolatry

A couple years ago, I wrote an article (based on my book, American Idols) entitled "A Pastor's Idols." It has appeared (here) on this blog. So I was all the more interested and impressed by this post from Pete Wilson's blog, Without Wax:
I think most people get into ministry for the right reasons. Our motives are pure but over time we easily become seduced into playing games which feed ego.


All become these mini god’s which promise us increased satisfaction and purpose but leave us feeling unsatisfied and empty.

John Ortberg recently wrote a fantastic article for Christianity Today where he ended with the following questions. He labeled the series of questions the “Idol Quotient Test.” While this is geared toward people in ministry I think you can easily adapt each question to your current situation.

—Where does my sense of security come from—from God or from how my church is doing?

—After a worship service, do I find myself grateful that God is God and feeling joyful that I get to live in his care? Or, if I’m honest, are my emotions dictated more by how many bodies were in the room?

—Do I spend more time thinking about God, or thinking about how to make my church/ministry do better?

—How do I feel when the prospect for more prizes in the church tournament—recognition, praise, reputation, applause—get taken away from me?

—Does my sense of identity flow more out of my relationship with God or out of my performance at church?

—How much do I sacrifice to know God better versus how much do I sacrifice for my church to work better?

Idols are persistent things. They are weeds. Their growing season knows no end. And they can really derail a pastor, a ministry, a church--a life.

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).

Key Books for a Man or Woman Entering Ministry

Six years ago, our all-volunteer church hired our first full-time staff member, a called and anointed and gifted man of God whose choice was confirmed in several striking and supernatural ways. Since he had no prior "professional" ministry experience, I was asked to devise a "ministry development" plan for him, part of which was a reading plan. I could have chosen any number of "church" or "leadership" or ministry books. Instead, I considered then (and still do) the key books for a man (or woman) entering ministry to be the following. I still do:

Knowing God (Packer)
The Master Plan of Evangelism (Coleman)
Knowing Scripture (Sproul)
With Christ in the School of Prayer (Murray)
The Pursuit of God (Tozer)
Heralds of God (Stewart)
Spiritual Maturity (Sanders)
The Christ Life for Your Life (Meyer)
A Diary of Private Prayer (Baillie)
Sit Walk Stand (Nee)

These are not, of course, the end-all of ministry reading. They are a beginning, though. I happen to think that any man or woman who seeks to serve God should first and foremost be well-acquainted with God, his word, his methods, prayer, and preaching. That is primary. In fact, most of these books are on my short list of the few books I try to re-read from time to time. They never become old, never go out of style.

Church of the Week: St Martin-in-the-Fields

This week's featured church is St. Martin-in-the-Fields, an Anglican church on Trafalgar Square in London. It is named after Martin of Tours, the Roman soldier who famously gave half his cloak to a beggar. Robin, Aubrey, Aaron, and I visited this church with our dear friend Nigel Horridge in 1995.

The location of the church dates at least as far back as 1222, according to historical records. The church was rebuilt by Henry VIII in 1542 to avoid plague victims from the area having to pass through his Palace of Whitehall. At this time, it was literally "in the fields" in an isolated position between the cities of Westminster and London. It survived the Great Fire of London, but was replaced with a new building in 1721 and completed five years later. The church is essentially rectangular, with a great pediment in the Classical style supported by a row of huge Corinthian columns. The high steeple is topped with a gilt crown.

We particularly enjoyed the Cafe in the Crypt, a very cool restaurant in the ancient crypt under the church itself.

Paralyzing Progression

From the blog of Jason Curlee, a church planter and Campus Pastor for Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas:
Far often than not many churches “want” to do great things, have a lot of “good” ideas”, are praying and planning for what they’d like to do but in their quest and desire to progress often churches end up paralyzing their progression.

In their book Know Can Do! authors Ken Blanchard, Dick Ruhe, and the late Paul Meyer, identify three reasons why people don’t put more of their good ideas into practice.
Too much knowledge
Too much negativity
Bad habits
To overcome these paralyzing stoppers, the authors recommend three strategies—a “less is more” approach, positive—instead of negative filtering, and spaced repetition with active coaching.

If your church wants to break through the paralysis:
Less Is More – I know that this may totally go counter culture to your church but why not do a little less planning, less thinking, less working it out before you go and JUST DO IT!!!!! At the time of this writing at Bay Area Fellowship we launched FOUR sites in less than 18 months. We haven’t “figured it all out”, we didn’t have long detailed out plans, we didn’t have it all down in manuals and spread sheets…Less is More has enabled us to go and do.

Avoid Negative Voices – We strive to not listen to those that say it can’t be done, we’re not ready or why are we doing this. We put those negative voices behind us and listen to the “One” that says all things are possible.

Repetitious Progression – Go and do it…evaluate…adjust…and do it again. No matter how much you plan, think or work out, you will go through the growing pains anyway, so why not go through them with while you are doing it.
You will never have it all figured out anyway so why not just drop the excuses, go put your ideas into motion and grow along the journey.

What has been paralyzing you?

Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Repent! Or I will TOTALLY drop this Bible on your head...

Distant Leaders

It's not true only of Christians, but we do love our leaders...from a distance.

All of us, I think, tend to idealize leaders and pastors, as long as we can read their books or blogs, enjoy their churches or ideas, and never be personally affected by their decisions. It's easy to esteem a leader or pastor I know from TV or in a book, someone I can admire and even follow from a safe distance.

But to lead is to make decisions, and to make decisions is to disappoint someone. I can learn much from fellow authors and bloggers and pastors and leaders...but I'm not sure I have fully experienced a person's leadership until I've been disappointed by that person's decisions.

This was true even of Jesus. People followed him, admired him, were THRILLED with this food-giving, disease-healing rabbi....but there came a time when his words and direction simply alienated "many of his disciples" (John 6:66).

The test of a leader is NOT whether no one is disappointed with or even alienated from him or her. That will always be the case, as it was with Jesus, if the person is really leading. While there is still much to be learned from leaders we admire from a distance, we should keep in mind that our picture of their leadership is probably incomplete, at best.

Preparing to Preach

The Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock is known throughout the church as a master preacher and mentor of preachers. An ordained minister in the Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ), he is the Bandy Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

Critic...Or Pupil?

C. S. Lewis's masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters, continues to be relevant and timely, despite its age and its references to World War II, etc. This excerpt, for example:

You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that "suits" him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a "suitable" church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise—does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!) This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul. There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper. So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round of the neighbouring churches as soon as possible.

Spurgeon on Blessings

If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes the common pebbles of God's temporal bounties more precious than diamonds; and spiritual prayer cuts the diamond, and makes it glisten more. When thou art wrestling, like Jacob with the angel, and art nearly thrown down, ask the Holy Spirit to nerve thine arm. Consider how the Holy Spirit is the chariot-wheel of prayer. Prayer may be the chariot, the desire may draw it forth, but the Spirit is the very wheel whereby it moveth.

Church of the Week: Chamberlain Hall

This week's featured church is Chamberlain Hall, the auditorium at The Salvation Army's Camp Swoneky in southwest Ohio, near Kings Island.

Chamberlain Hall was (I think) the first building constructed at Camp Swoneky in 1958, after The Salvation Army closed Camp Glendale in Cincinnati and moved the summer camping program here. I probably attended my first worship service (or "meeting," as they're called in Army parlance) here very soon after, as my family moved to the area in late 1958, while I was still an infant.

It has come to be a precious place to me, as it was my weekly "church" while I was on staff at camp during the summers of 1973-75 and 1978. I also remember many memorable Labor Day camp meetings, where I sat under the ministry of Dr. Tom Hermiz, Commissioner Andy Miller, and others.

Church of the Week: Dominus Flevit Church

This week's church of the week is a small Fransciscan chapel located on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, known as the Dominus Flevit ("The Lord Wept") Church. It is fashioned in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears of Christ because it was built on the spot where, according to the 19th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem and wept at the thought of its future destruction (Luke 19:37-42).

The building was designed by Italian architect Anton Barluzzin and constructed in 1954. It stands on the ruins of a 7th-century church, some mosaics of which still remain. The western window in Dominus Flevit provides a beautiful view of the Temple Mount, which in Jesus' day would have been dominated by the Great Temple built by Herod rather than the Dome of the Rock as it is today. It is easy for the visitor to see how Jesus could have been moved by the view...and the knowledge of the destruction to come.

We have seen this beautiful chapel on our visits to Jerusalem....most recently a few days ago! Interestingly enough, tradition also identifies this as the spot where Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet," composed his Lamentations.

This shot of the unique roof of Dominus Flevit also shows how close it is to the Church of All Nations, the spires of which can be seen just down the slope of the Mount of Olives.