The church: the household of God

“. . . if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, NIV).

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the church as “God’s household” is that Christians are God’s family. After all, household means the people who live in a house, and in our society, that’s usually a family. Indeed, God has adopted all believers into his family. But to gain a deeper understanding of Paul’s meaning, I would like to propose a different way of looking at it, not to replace the notion of the household of God as God’s family, but to enrich it.… Read the rest

Hearing the voice of God

Back in the mid ’80s I had an apartment in what used to be a storefront. My door opened directly onto the sidewalk. One winter it snowed a lot, and there was a stretch of several days when there was just a deep puddle during the day, then at night it would freeze. I didn’t know what my liability was, but I didn’t want to be responsible for someone slipping on the ice and breaking a hip or something.

I felt kind of helpless. There’s not much you can do about either a puddle or a sheet of ice with a cheap snow shovel.… Read the rest

Church unity in little choices

Methodist churches get their ministers by appointment from a bishop. After every annual conference, lots of congregations get a new minister. For all you Methodist readers who still have the same staff you had before, if your senior pastor has been appointed to his or her seventh year, chances are better than even that you will have a new one this time next year. Not everyone will be happy with the new minister. Some folks will wind up leaving that congregation.

Many other Protestant denominations call their own pastors. Changes of pastorates  occur at less predictable intervals. They can be very messy if a bare majority of the church wants to dismiss a pastor.… Read the rest

Leaving Jesus behind

We have only one story of Jesus’ childhood, when he sat in the temple questioning the teachers while his parents had already started to return home. Surely every parent can identify with the multitude of emotions Joseph and Mary must have felt as they searched for their son.

Men traveled separately from women and children in those days. A twelve-year-old, one year from adulthood, could have plausibly traveled with either group. Only when they stopped for the night and families reunited did Joseph and Mary recognize that no one had seen Jesus. They had to return to Jerusalem to find him.… Read the rest

Trading division in the church for unity, conflict for humility

Jesus made only one petition in the garden for those who would become believers through the disciples’ testimony: for their unity. David wrote Psalm 133 about how beautiful it is to live in unity. Perhaps because God values it so much, it is one of the most fragile things in the church. After all, it requires humility. Conflict and division come more naturally.

A thousand years ago, the church divided into the Eastern and Western church. About five hundred years ago, the Western church divided into Catholic and Protestant. Conflict among Protestants caused division into a number of denominations, and then the denominations fragmented into smaller groups.… Read the rest