Those who read the Bible regularly soon come across this verse: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18, KJV). But as is often the case, people read the text and think no more about it. But there can hardly be a more important verse in Scripture. And as is also often the case, they read the first half of the verse and ignore the remainder.
Management guru Peter Drucker picks up the theme of vision in his book, Managing the Non-Profit Organization. In a section entitled “Planning For Performance” Drucker observes, “unless you integrate the vision of all constituencies into the long-range goal, you will soon lose support, lose credibility, and lose respect.” When this happens, the doors will close real fast, because people will abandon the organization. “No reason to be here,” they’ll say. I saw this in action just recently when a congregation had difficulty accepting a proposed budget. Some wanted money for a sound system; another wanted an upgraded car park so people didn’t have to park in mud when it rained. What was missing? The purpose of the budget had not been established throughout the organization.
Thus the passage in the Bible referring to Scripture is a very practical issue. But in a local organization, it needs to be remembered that where there is no united or shared vision, the organization will stumble, and stumble badly. It may limp along for quite a while, but it will die an agonizing death eventually. People will be burned, their hopes and aspirations for the organization will not be achieved, and they’ll leave disgruntled, unhappy and unfulfilled.
by R.J. Rushdoony
In Jude 24, we are told that our Lord “is able to keep you from falling.” The word “falling” can be better translated as “stumbling.” In other words, our Lord is able to keep us from being stumblebums!
Between forty and forty-five years ago, I knew an ex-boxer who was physically a healthy-looking man. A gracious and kindly man, he had been in a few too many fights, and, as a result, he at times was mentally or physically tangled. The unkind term “stumblebum” was applied by some to him.
Well, there are spiritual stumblebums in the church, and they cannot blame too many fights for their problem! They stumble morally and religiously because they refuse to submit to the discipline of God’s Word and His Spirit.
A pastor I know has a chronic problem with a man well into his forties who gets into temptation faster than a jackrabbit can race across the road. He is a spiritual stumblebum who would trip over a grain of sand. He regularly confesses to his pastor, bewailing his sins, and as regularly is in trouble again. He uses his pastor as a crutch, and he is “too busy” to submit to the disciplines of the Word and the Spirit. He is a stumblebum who has no desire to grow strong.
But our Lord is able to keep us from stumbling and falling. Do we want to walk in strength? Or do we prefer to be stumblebums in the church?
Rushdoony, R. J. (2015-07-15). A Word in Season (Vol. 6) (A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life) (Kindle Locations 784-798). Chalcedon/Ross House Books. Kindle Edition.
In an earlier article, False Worship? The Christmas and Easter Debate I suggested that the dating of Easter did not follow the Biblical dating system. Easter is the Passover event, and in Scripture was set to a calendar date, 14 Nisan (or Abib, same month), not a day of the week. This date is critical for understanding New Testament events, including the Last Supper and Pentecost. Both occurred according to the dating patterns of the Torah. But is that dating pattern still applicable today?
Recently, however, I found some fascinating information about the dating method, and the reason why the Christian Easter does not necessarily coincide exactly with the Jewish calculation of the Passover feast.
The Gregorian Calendar is thus a recognition of the continuity of Old Testament by the New Testament followers of Jesus Christ.
At the center of the discussion is a calculation that remains somewhat difficult. It is the determination of a ‘year’. It was not until the Gregorian calendar of 1582 under Pope Gregory XIII that the former Julian calendar and the lunar cycle were reconciled. They were only reconciled by determining the number of days between two vernal equinoxes. The result was 365.25 days—a year, adjusted every fourth year. But even that is not so simple, since there is an 11-minute ‘drift’ in the calculation of the equinoxes that needs to be addressed. That is, the actual calculation of the year is 365.25 days minus 11 minutes. If you like exactness, a year is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds.
It was the purpose of the Gregorian Calendar to provide a constant calculation of Easter according to that which was determined at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Why did the bishops at Nicea find it necessary to regulate the Passover date? There was an issue.
Socialism is the enemy of the people. Thus argued Ludwig von Mises in his book by that name, Socialism. It is the enemy of the people for economic and political reasons. But it is also the enemy of the people when it comes to Church Planting. And this is the view of David Garrison in his book, Church Planting Movements: How God is Reclaiming a Lost World (2004).
The Church Planting Movement (hereafter, CPM) has literally become church planting on steroids in some parts of the world. When missionary David Watson was sent to India in about 1991, he asked God to give him five converts in the first year. That prayer was honored by God and David got his five workers. From there it was all a downhill run. Or so it seems. Fifteen years later, the results were 80,000 churches with an average membership of around 64 people, and about three million baptisms. Church growth may be dead in your neck of the woods, but in other places it is alive and well on planet earth.
The CPM movement developed a number of important ‘steps’ to successful church planting. One of them, for example, was the idea that church planting was a relative failure when the teaching carried with it cultural baggage. That is, trying to plant western-style churches with stain-glass windows into a culture such as India was a commitment to failure. In the words of Garrison, “When the gospel is perceived to be alien to a culture or is viewed as belonging to another people group or culture, Church Planting Movements face an uphill battle.” David Watson explained that it was necessary for them to strip western culture out of the Gospel in order for the Gospel to do its work. And it would be the Holy Spirit in the lives of the new believers that would eventually bring cultural change in India.
Sustainable church growth must learn to find its own resources.
This article, however, is not about CPM in general, but only about socialism and its identified impact on the CPM movement.
Socialism is a term that refers to ownership of the means of production. It is different from communism in one respect. Under communism, all property is owned by the state. It is therefore controlled by the state. Under socialism, property may well be ‘owned’ by individuals and corporations, but it is still controlled by the state. But there are two aspects to socialism that cause it to fail. First, it takes the decision-making away from those who should be making decisions. Second, it can turn finances into a perpetual state of subsidy.
- Garrison, Church Planting Movements, Kindle edition, Loc. 4090.↵back
You don’t have to do this — survival is not compulsory
— W. Edwards Deming
This was going to be one interesting meeting. People began dribbling in around 6:00 pm on a Friday evening. Not all at once; some came a distance, and others finished their work day later. By the time the assembly was complete there were thirteen church elders and deacons, two pastors – and yours truly. The purpose of the meeting? To find out what was wrong, if anything, with the senior pastor.
Early in the event I asked the question about profit. Now I should have known better than to use the ‘f’ word in a meeting of church elders. They were happy to talk about “prophets” but not “profits”. But I had committed the mistake – deliberately, I might add.
“We’re a church,” I was told. “We don’t make a profit.”
With that response I went to the whiteboard and wrote two numbers: revenue and expenses. And I made sure the expenses were less than the revenue. Accounting systems usually refer to that as net profit. But this is a no-profit church.
“This $10,000 you see here at the bottom that has not been spent,” I asked. “Is that a profit? It is certainly money left over at the end of the year. What do you call that?”
You can’t beat up on the pastor just because he failed your expectation, especially when you didn’t tell him what you really expected.
“We don’t make a profit,” it was repeated. After some thought, “But we can call it a surplus.”
I know when I’m ahead, and I figured “surplus” would achieve our ends. From that time forth the question was not “Should we make a profit?” but “Should we have a surplus?”
There was silence as a response to this question. Logic said “yes” there should be a profit – sorry, surplus – but something prevented these church leaders from planning to have a surplus. Why?
Why Check-Book theology is Necessary For the Expansion of Christianity — Part 3
Look around many cities in the USA, as in Europe, and you find empty churches, or churches that have been taken over by businesses or by non-Christian faiths. Dying churches, allegedly, are a sign of our age and coming catastrophe: inevitable, or at least, beyond our ability to reverse the trend.
This negative belief is to be expected. It’s suggested that the “average” (mean) church size is about 189 people. Or, to look at the statistics another way, about half of church attenders attend a church of 400 or more, while the other half attend a church of less than 400. We hardly seem to be on the winning side.
What these statistics don’t tell you, however, is the distribution by theological persuasion. By that I mean the underlying theology of the churches. Are they predominantly Baptist or Presbyterian? If they are Baptist, what is the distribution of Reformed Baptist as opposed to non-Reformed Baptist? Does the theology of the church give you any indication of the size of the church?
Growth vs. Doctrine
In small conservative churches it is not uncommon to hear the idea expressed that in order to be large, you have to give up your theology. Gary North wrote about this in his book Crossed Fingers. He identified the idea from looking at Presbyterian church history that when the church growth people meet the doctrinally pure people, the church growth people always win out. This implies that church growth is only possible at the expense of doctrine. Is this true?
But there’s another question: why is there a conflict between the church growth crowd and the doctrinally pure crowd in the first place? Is it essential that in order to have church growth, you have to give up your doctrine?
Why Check-Book Theology is Necessary For the Expansion of Christianity — Part 2
In Part One I wrote about a workshop with church elders that highlighted the lack of planning. Part 2 is about implementation, but the implementation story is from another workshop I conducted with even better results.
When Danny said he believed God was directing him to a new “calling,” my mind began racing. Why would a man,fifty-three years of age, eighteen years in the pastoral ministry, receive from God a new calling outside of the ministry? Was it to become a truck driver? Maybe a janitor?
Danny, a humble minister of the gospel, did not think he was being called to be president of a major corporation. He could readily empathize with Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the Dirty Harry movie, Magnum Force: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” And Danny was certainly well aware of his limitations.
You have to stop circling the wagons around doctrine. You need to let the doctrine do its work.”
At the same time he also knew he served a God who had no limitations, and for these many years Danny had faithfully relied on God as he served his local parish in the suburbs of a city of around one million people. It was a quiet, lower middle-class area, with a growing population as land availability and prices were forcing people to move to the outer suburbs. Danny had surrounded himself with a small number of faithful elders.
We were sitting over coffee when Danny dropped this bombshell about a new calling. We explored his options, which he recognized were few in the marketplace.
“If your church was growing at ten new members a month, or even if it was just growing in attendance at any rate month after month, would you want to quit the ministry and go somewhere else?” I asked.
I could tell from the expression on his face that he was thinking. But it took him a few days before he called me with his response.
Whatever Happened to Ecclesiastical Government?
I know you might think this is crazy. But bear with me, and see if the logic fits.
While driving through Canada in 2009 I listened to a lecture Dr. Rushdoony gave somewhere. It was an introduction to lectures on Corinthians, and he had one vitally interesting point that I cannot get over.
Rushdoony pointed out that the word ekklesia in the Greek — usually translated ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ in the New Testament — has its origins in Greek culture. The ekklesia were the ‘called out ones’. This would be a group in a city or town who were ‘called out’ to deal with issues of the township.
Is the KJV a reliable translation?
I have written previously on the meaning of the ekklesia. You can find the article here.
What I did not touch on at the time is the obvious mistranslation of the word ekklesia found in English Bibles, starting with the King James Version. There is, I think, a possible reason for the mistranslation.
The word ekklesia in the Greek—usually translated ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ in the New Testament—has its origins in Greek culture. The ekklesia were the ‘called out ones’. This would be a group in a city or town who were ‘called out’ to deal with governance issues of the township.
The ekklesia was the governing body of the township. In antiquity, they met 30-40 times in a year, and usually discussed issues that involved a change to the law, appointments to official positions, contracts, peace, war, and finance, etc.
The political climate in Great Britain at the time of King James was in great turmoil. The king’s mother, Mary Queen of Scotland, had been unceremoniously removed as the monarch. However, Queen Elizabeth I in England, unmarried, provided no heir to the throne. Mary, however, made sure her son had every chance of succession. In due course he not only gained the throne of Scotland as James VI, but also the throne of England as James I.
- You can read more on this in Colin Brown’s, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols.↵back
The Bible Is the Church’s Book
The Bible both grew in and was mediated through the church; hence, the Bible is the church’s book. This is why Tertullian refused to argue Scripture with the heretic: the heretic had no right to claim Scripture because it was not his own, he was interpreting it outside its true home.64 This is relevant for us because by accepting the Bible as authoritative, we must also accept the process and means through which it came to be. We are operating within the universal church’s recognition of canon. Thus, even at this foundational level, one is led to the importance of the church.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) once said that he did not believe the gospel “except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.”65 The context within which Augustine made this statement was his reluctance to believe the claim of Manichaeus that he was an apostle of Christ. Augustine refused to believe this because it is not recorded in the gospel that was mediated to him through the church. Scripture and church function together—they coincide.66
“Those who are situated outside the church are not able to acquire any understanding of the divine discourse.”67 These words, written by Hilary of Poitiers (ca. 315-367), are in line with both Tertullian and Augustine. But it is precisely this attitude that many evangelicals find disturbing. Because popes and bishops of the church have at many times in Christian history misused their authority and status, most evangelicals have rejected the very idea of privileged interpretation.68 They believe that privileged interpretation squelches the prophetic voice and oppresses true spirituality. This belief is based on the misconception that evangelicals are indebted to the Protestant Reformation for freeing the Bible from the corrupting influence of privileged interpretation. But the Reformers were rejecting a particular interpretation as out of line with patristic interpretation of the gospel.69 
- Craig D. Allert, A High View of Scripture: The Authority of the Bible and Formation of the New Testament Canon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 84-85. See printed book for footnote references.↵back