Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Theological Comedy

"Because of piety’s penchant for taking itself too seriously, theology does well to nurture a modest, unguarded sense of comedy. Some droll sensibility is required to keep in due proportion the pompous pretensions of the study of divinity. I invite the kind of laughter that wells up not from cynicism about reflection on God but from the ironic contradictions accompanying such reflection. Theology is intrinsically funny. This comes from glimpsing the incongruity of humans thinking about God. I have often laughed at myself as these sentences went through their tortuous stages of formation. I invite you to look for the comic dimension of divinity that stalks every page. It is not blasphemy to grasp the human contradiction for what it is. The most enjoyable of all subjects has to be God, because God is the source of all joy." Thomas C. Oden

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Grace and Works

"If ye would be saved by works, ye must be as holy as the angels, ye must be as pure and as immaculate as Jesus; for the law requires perfection. The power to receive is scarcely a power, and yet it is the only power needed for salvation. Come along and take what Christ doth freely give you. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." C.H. Spurgeon

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Parish Distinctives

Along with all the other marks of a Biblical church, the parish model calls for at least four distinctive elements:

1. A reliance upon the "ordinary means of grace." A parish church is one in which the preaching and teaching of the Bible, the celebration of the sacraments, prayer, the fellowship of the saints, and regular, Lord's Day worship take absolute precedence over any and all other ministry forms.

2. A structural commitment to "covenant community." A parish church is one in which efforts to know and be known, to have genuine accountability, and to engage in lively community are practically pursued.

3. A strategic initiative in "missional multiplication." A parish church is a Kingdom-oriented church; it is a church where building bridges of outreach an reconciliation to the world are an essential aspected of everyday ministry.

4. A deep desire to realize "covenantal succession." A parish church is engaged in a wide array of educational enterprises and discipling efforts; it is a church committed to raising up the next generation of faithful men and women.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Parish Credo

• We are Christian. Our Triune God has spoken supremely in our Lord Jesus Christ and in Holy Scripture. Our trust in God is rooted in the sovereign, eternal, just, and merciful decrees of the Father, the atoning life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit as our ongoing Counselor, Guide, Equipper, and Friend.

• We are Biblical. It is our conviction that God’s inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word, the Bible—including both the Old and New Testaments—is altogether sufficient as our guide for life, practice, and godliness. As a people, we are committed to read it, study it, sing it, teach it, preach it, obey it, and practice it.

• We are Orthodox. We are grateful heirs of the early Church and of the pioneers and patriarchs of faith who gave us the creeds and the early councils. Thus, we continue to be linked with that historic line of faithfulness as it has continued, uninterrupted, across the centuries.

• We are Reformed. Our faith is rooted in the Biblical doctrines of sovereign grace as articulated by the solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Deo Gloria. We are gratefully numbered in the company of Luther, Calvin, Beza, Bucer, Comenius, Edwards, d’Aubigne, and de Prinsterer proclaiming a Gospel of Grace from the Scriptures alone through faith in our Lord Jesus.

• We are Evangelical. We continue in the gracious missional tradition of Whitefield, Wilberforce, Chalmers, Spurgeon, Kuyper, Schaeffer, Packer, Kennedy, and Sproul. We are committed to the spread of the Good News of redemption in Christ and Christ alone from here to the uttermost parts of the earth.

• We are Presbyterian. As members of the Presbyterian Church in America, we accept the historic Presbyterian model of church discipleship, governance, and care expecting elders to be shepherds and teachers, their ministries being rooted in the parish life of our covenant community. We affirm the tenants of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Book of Church Order as the best means for us to practice all the marks of a Biblical Church.

• We are Covenantal. We believe that God is at work in our families—and that He is making our household of faith into a family of families. His mercies in Word and Sacrament are not only extended to us individually but corporately—reaching across every boundary of space, time, race, culture, community, and generation.

Therefore, because we are Christian, Biblical, Orthodox, Reformed, Evangelical, Presbyterian, and Covenantal:

• We humbly cling to a unique Savior and exclusive Gospel in a pluralistic world; an authoritative Bible in a skeptical age; a sacrificial lifestyle in a consumer culture; a pure, chaste, and holy life in an era of permissiveness; a commitment to authentic relationships and community in a culture of individualism and isolationism; a hunger for reverence and awe in worship in a atmosphere of entertainment.

• We Pray earnestly with humble confidence in the ongoing intercessory ministry of Christ our only mediator and advocate, clothed in His righteousness alone—a righteousness imputed to us by Grace through Faith, this not of ourselves.

• We profess the Creeds with zeal without either crossing our fingers or mumbling them as rote phrases.

• Our worship is neither contemporary or traditional, but Confessional; it is neither casual or formal, but Covenantal.

• We trust in the reality of Grace and Forgiveness, Holiness and Piety, Heaven and Hell, and Blessing and Benediction.

• We proclaim Jesus as the only hope of Salvation, for all people, in all places, for all time. The work of God in Christ and the Word of God in Scripture are complete--we add nothing to either.

• We believe that a local Church can be a genuine sanctuary of hope in the world, demonstrating true community, accountability, and selfless service.

• We are plain, simple believers; we are Mere Christians.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Parish Vision

Our sovereign God has called Parish Pres to be a vibrant covenant community of Christian faithfulness, holiness, discipleship, and evangelism bearing all the Biblical marks of a true Church. Gospel Word and deed ministry in our midst inevitably serves as a fountainhead of Reformational nurturing, teaching, training, equipping, and sending.

We will thus give ourselves for the building up of gracious Kingdom outreaches in Franklin parishes, the Nashville presbytery, the national culture, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Therefore:

1. Parish Pres is to be a Reformed, Presbyterian (PCA) church;

2. Parish Pres is to be a covenantal community;

3. Parish Pres is to be a model Biblical faithfulness—in its preaching and teaching;

4. Parish Pres is to model true Reformed worship: Neither traditional nor contemporary; Confessional and Biblical (both regulatively and contextually); Full of reverence and awe; Focused on congregational participation; Emphasizing every means of grace at every opportunity;

5. Parish Pres is to focus its efforts in practical patterns of discipleship;

6. Parish Pres discipleship should be a matter of both word and deed;

7. Parish Pres discipleship should nurture Reformational ideas in: Pastoral care and nurture; Personal and corporate holiness; Family integrity and covenantal succession; Practical teaching; Effectual training; Dynamic equipping; Purposeful sending;

8. Parish Pres is to be a mother church;

9. Parish Pres is to incubate various Kingdom outreaches: Church planting and the establishment of parish networks; Discipling and raising up the next generation of Christian leaders; Modeling, training, and equipping for Presbytery-wide initiatives; Pioneering any and all new opportunities to proclaim the Good News; Seeking the shalom of our city, our region, our state, and our nation; Reaching the world through Word and deed missionary endeavors.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Parish Planting Lexicon

1.Local: Describes the particular geographical location of a parish church.

2.Collegial: Describes the interconnected, collaborative, and mutual relationship between parish churches and ministries.

3.Team: Describes the partnership and practice of ministry of the leadership in each church and between churches.

4.Center of Gravity: Describes the primary, but not sole, sphere of ministry for each pastor.

5.Multiplication: Describes the practice of extending and expanding parish-type churches to other locales.

6.Extended Church: Describes the half step toward a church plant, where one church is meeting in two locations. It is intended and designed to be an interim stage, where one church (the mother church) disciples the other toward becoming a church plant.

7.Church Plant: Describes a church that has moved beyond extended church to becoming a church in its own right.

8.Particularized Church: Describes a church that has become a church in its own right as recognized by the presbytery.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Here I Stand

"Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason (for I believe neither in the Pope nor councils alone, since it has been established that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen." Martin Luther