Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fleeting Thought: Giving to and Investing In.

I was in a conversation with a peer in ministry today. I was describing the nature of missional efforts in ministry and I said this sentence without really thinking about it. "There is a difference between giving and investing in ministry. Missional ministry that works is more about investing in that giving to.."

As I am unpacking this reflexive statement in my head, I like it more and more. My peers understood what I meant, but I am not sure every church person will.

Giving is a good thing. God commands it. We should do it. A lot. But giving is more transactional. You have a need. I help you with that need. I am homeless and hungry. You take your turn serving at the Salvation Army. You need gas, and our deacon helps fill up your tank. I need help moving my mother to a nursing home and I don't know where to turn so I come to a church for help, and the youth group reaches out in service by helping load my mother's belongings into a storage unit. This kind of service is generous and compassionate. It is an important in expressing God's compassion and grace to the world. However, because of its easy detachment from ongoing relationship and its limited opportunity for partnership and mutuality, and its inability to be highly formational in the spiritual life of both the giver and reciever, it is not truly missional in any sense of truly being contextual, or in equpping churches for the growth and transformation as a community that they need.

The most effective missional ministries both give to and invest in people and communities. When I was a pastor in Colorado, we did a project called a Backyard Mission Project. We thought our primary impact was going to be in serving needs in the community. We started by "giving to" in a powerful way. The larger impact though, came through investing in the community for its own benefit. Six months of interviews and planning allowed us to invest time with our city council and staff, the chamber of commerce, school clubs and the fire department as well as businesses that we eager to make their community a better place and make a difference in people's lives. The church began to attract folks that wanted to be a part of a church that was eager to be active in their faith and not just talk about faith as an idea.

How that exactly will manifest itself in our ministries going forward in North Platte is still to be revealed. But now I have a little better language for the journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Book Review of Commentary on Hebrew, James Volume of Reformation Commentary on Scripture

Hebrews, James

Hebrews, James
New TestamentVolume XIII
Reformation Commentary on Scripture
ed. by Ronald K. Rittgers
ISBN 978-0-8308-2976-7
Published by IVP Academic
Reviewed by Clint Walker

As readers of this blog know, I have been blogging on the Reformation Commentary on Scripture since its release began several years back. Recently, I recieved a new volume in this stellar series to review, and this particular volume is not a volume that you want to miss!

This particular volume of the series is collated and edited by Dr. Ronald K. Rittgers. Dr. Rittgers is both a theologian and a history scholar. His historical work specializes in studies late medieval and early modern European history, with a special emphasis on the Reformation. There are few better choices to introduce us to the Reformers approach to James and Hebrews.

This volume is enjoyable because there are some issues that the Reformers had to work through, that many Christians also have to consider in our time. For instance, there is a variety of opinions regarding the authorship of Hebrews. Some people think it was Pauline, including Zwingli. Others, such as Luther and Calvin, did not think the writing in Hebrews was Pauline, and had some good arguments to present for that view.

As far as the book of James goes, most people familiar with any Biblical studies during the Reformation have heard about Luther's dislike of the book as a "straw epistle" (p. 200). For me, it was interesting to see this comment sourced, and the quote put into a little bit deeper context. Also fascinating for me was the quickness that the Reformers had in connecting the teaching on faith and works in James 2 with the teaching on love in I Corinthians 13 (pp. 202 (Zwingli), p. 230 (Erasmus), p. 232 (Calvin))

Hebrews and James are two of the most lively books in the New Testament in their theology and call to living the faith boldly as a believer. Reading the Reformers in this volume will at once help the reader step outside of their own cultural context, and yet at the same time see that many of the same challenges that were presented to them interpreting and living the Scripture then are still with us today. Pick this up, and add it to your library, especially if you are one who teaches or preaches the Word!

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