pecaspers: a Blog in transition

November 29, 2012

Holiday Market

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:16 PM
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It’s time for Holiday Market! “What is Holiday Market?” you ask. It’s a local arts, crafts, food, etc. market put on by the Tallassee Farmers’ Market. It occurs in conjunction with the Tallassee tree-lighting ceremony and Christmas parade. The market is open Friday from noon to 6PM and Saturday from 8AM to 1PM.

So why am I excited about Holiday Market? Because @PEaCe Photography is going to be there with a really awesome photo booth, and I’m @PEaCe Photography!

I’m hoping for better results this weekend than we had at Trade Day back in October. I’ve got far less $ sunk into being at Holiday Market, so I’m hoping to pull back into the black this Friday and Saturday.

But as far as this blog goes, that’s enough for now. Find out more about my photography biz by following the link above.

November 20, 2012

Prospective Pastor Questionnaire – Part 4

4. What do you believe the role of those in the office of Deacon should be?

I follow in the tradition held from the ancient church that Acts 6:1-6 describes the setting apart of the first deacons.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

In fact, these men aren’t called deacons at all in Scripture–they are appointed to handle the “distribution” (Greek diakonia) to widows so that the apostles can be devoted to “prayer and the ministry of the word,” (ministry = Greek diakonia). Luke choosing not to call these men deacons isn’t that significant because it likely only shows that this wasn’t immediately considered to be a specifically named office of the local church–remembering that the idea of a “local church” wouldn’t even make sense until after persecution broke out and the believers were scattered beyond Jerusalem. Luke goes back and forth in his use of “Saul” and “Paul” in reference to the same man until he reaches a certain point in the story of Acts when one can assume everybody only thought of the man as Paul. The term “Christian” isn’t used until Acts 11:26 when the disciples are first called it. All that to say, we can learn something about the office of deacon from how these men are described even if they were only prototypes for the office.

In light of that, this text is still instructive, but it doesn’t tell us all that we might need to know about the office of deacon. We do learn here that they were “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” who were selected from among the body of believers and appointed to serve to preserve the unity of the body so the apostles would be free to devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And so, I believe the role of deacons is to foster unity within the body by attending to all matters which are important to the ongoing ministry of a local church but would divert the pastor(s) from their primary tasks of prayer and the ministry of the word.

The only other major passage in Scripture about the office of deacon is 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

And here’s the problem, this text doesn’t tell us much about what deacons actually do either. It is clear that it is an office of the church since Paul is careful to list out qualifications for being a deacon immediately after listing out the qualifications of being an overseer/pastor. It is also clear that this is a position of servant-leadership within the body, otherwise the qualifications would not be drawn up along so similar lines as those of being an overseer/pastor. The wonderful beauty of it is that God left great latitude in his word about the precise duties of the deacon. God knew that in some churches, some things would fall to the deacons that would not necessarily require their attention in other churches. O God, I love being a Baptist!

And so I say again. I believe the role of deacons is to foster unity within the body by attending to all matters which are important to the ongoing ministry of a local church but would divert the pastor(s) from their primary tasks of prayer and the ministry of the word. Let me unpack that a bit. The role of those first deacons wasn’t to keep widows properly fed, though that was their task; their role was to be a front line defense in maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3). And so today the role of a deacon is to handle issues of need within the body that would be a distraction to the pastor(s). In some churches, that might mean deacons see to the custodial and maintenance needs of the church building, and in other churches it might mean that deacons oversee all the financial matters from counting the offering to paying bills. It is those duties which are important to the ongoing ministry of a local church, whatever they may be for any particular church, which are the responsibility of deacons. And it is only those things which would distract the pastor(s) from their primary duties that must be the responsibility of deacons. On one level, pastors will find different matters distracting depending on their spiritual gifts, natural abilities, and personality. On another level, I read somewhere once that the average pastor of a small church (less than 250 members) spends around eight hours a week doing janitorial work; somebody’s deacons are failing them if that’s the case.

I believe in all churches it is the role of the deacon to intercept issues among the congregation and see that they are attended to before they become a point of either disunity within the body or a distraction from prayer and the word. I believe it is also the role of all deacons to shield their pastor from the distraction of criticism and attack by thoroughly vetting the major decisions regarding the goings on of the church body. Deacons must not be “double-tounged” because they must deal honestly with pastors, other deacons, and the congregation; they must not say they agree with the pastor to his face only to sow division within body when he isn’t around. Deacons must not be “greedy for dishonest gain” because they must not steal when entrusted with finances of the church in one way or another. Similar inferences could be made from each qualification, but the point is ultimately that deacons are to be exemplary Christians who defend the unity of the church by guarding the pastor(s) from distraction.

November 10, 2012

Prospective Pastor Questionnaire – Part 7

7. With what worship style are you most comfortable? If that is not the working style employed by the church, would you expect to lead the church to develop that style?

Allow me a detour before I get to the answer to your question. I know that when you say “worship style” what you really mean is the style of the music in the worship service. However, one thing I would be careful to lead the church to develop is an understanding that worship is more than music. All of life ought to be worship (see Deuteronomy 6:5, Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 10:31, 1 Peter 4:7-11, and many more). We as Christians have done damage to the truth of what it means to really worship God by allowing this word to become a synonym for church music. There is nothing wrong with talking about “worship music,” but we muddy the waters when we use the word worship to mean nothing more than music. We make it all the worse when we use the term to mean a specific style of music as though any other style wasn’t worshipful. For instance, if you say that your church service begins with “worship” followed by taking the offering and then preaching, what does that say about the value of giving and hearing the word of God preached? Is generous giving to the work of the church, for the aid of God’s people, and for the spread of the gospel NOT an act of worship? Are the preacher preaching and the congregation hearing the word NOT worshiping by doing so? No! We sing in worship, we give in worship, we hear the preached word in worship, and we ought to also work at our jobs, play at our sports, mow our grass, eat our food, and do all we do in worship to the one true and living God.

However, I know what you mean. And use of the word worship to mean music is a pretty common error. It’s not like I jump down someone’s throat every time I hear them do it. The point of these questions and answers is for you to know my heart a little better. I figured it might be helpful to get this pet-peeve of mine on the table. Now, to the substance of your question.

I am most comfortable with whatever style of music is most appropriate to the setting of the worship service and can be performed live well. Not terribly helpful, is it? Let me explain.

It makes me uncomfortable to have a two electric guitars, an amplified bass, a keyboard, and a full drum-set rocking out in a small, country church full of stereotypical country church folks who don’t like loud music. At the same time, it makes me uncomfortable to be in a large church with plenty of competent musicians and hear an old Sandi Patti song sung off-key accompanied by a background track on a cassette tape.

Now, I like a band with one or more vocalists for leading the singing as long as they are good and the room will support them. If they are falling off the stage or making the walls shake, then that’s distracting and keeps me from fully worshiping. If they keep hitting wrong notes and can’t hold a tempo, then that’s distracting and keeps me from fully worshiping. However, if they have a strong, well-rehearsed sound, then dim the lights if you like–or don’t, either way–and let’s raise our hands–or not, to each his own–and let’s get our corporate worship on.

At the same time, I like one vocalist accompanied by a single piano. In a small space without amplification, or a larger one with one or both of them mic-ed, that’s a great way to go. Simple, focused, and it’s easy to find that melody for those who don’t read music. If the pianist can handle playing the harmony, then that’s even better. The church I grew up in had a one pianist playing the song as written and another pianist playing chords and ad libbing, and that’s a great sound. I’m also a big fan of a piano and an organ together. All this, is assuming you’ve got someone who can sing well enough to lead and someone who can play well enough to accompany.

My current church is struggling because our three capable pianists’ hands are all getting stiff and painful with age. We’ve had to switch to using mostly tracks rather than a live accompanist, which I think takes something away from the experience. Still, what else are we to do? Sometimes you just make do until God brings to you someone who can fill the need, I guess. Canned music should be a last resort, in my humble opinion, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

I would have to say that if it were all about me, then I’d prefer to have a man who sings baritone leading the vocals backed by a choir of 55% men and 45% women accompanied by a twenty-piece orchestra including brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, piano, and pipe organ with the ability to add an acoustic guitar or two, an electric guitar or two, a keyboard, and a bass when wanted for just the right feel. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Worship music isn’t about me. It shouldn’t be about mere personal preference. If it’s all about me and my preferences, then it’s self-centered idolatry instead of Spirit-and-truth-filled, God-focused worship.

So, would I expect to lead the church to develop a small orchestra, choir, dueling pianos, or a band? Only if there are bunch of talented musicians in the church who want to start an orchestra, etc. There are really only a few things I would expect to implement when it comes to the music of the church. First, we would sing songs that honor God and are biblical. Some people are amazed to find out that many songs sung in many churches are in-fact man-centered and/or full of bad theology if not out right heresy. Second, we would sing songs we can sing. There are some amazing songs full of wonderful truths that just don’t work for congregational singing. Those can be for other parts of the service or other settings, but we shouldn’t knowingly deprive John Pewsitter of the experience of joining in the singing when he hasn’t got a prayer of singing the songs. Thirdly, anything that meets those first two expectations would be fair game.

Bear with me for a bit on this last point. I’m amazed by elder church members who reject all music that is younger than they are. It makes me sad for them and for the whole congregation who is missing out on the wonderfully rich new “hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) that are being written right now. I’m equally amazed at the mindless way many of my own generation and younger want to exclusively sing new songs. “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Just as I Am,” these are songs that have stood the test of time and are good for our people to sing and know. I’m not even fully comfortable with the attempt to re-vamp old hymns to give them a contemporary feel, but I do think this has it’s place and is something that people have been doing throughout church history.

I have observed that previous generations are more likely to miss out in this regard. At our association’s annual meeting a few weeks ago, you could tell by the marked difference in volume level that the songs popularized in the last ten years were unfamiliar to many of the messengers. The average age in the room was probably somewhere in the fifties–sixties if you only counted lay people. We are an association made up predominantly of small churches in rural communities and small towns. No one is teaching most of these senior saints the current hymns of men and women like Keith and Kristen Getty, to say nothing of praise songs of Chris Tomlin and the like. I have not experienced the same phenomenon at youth events. At StudentLife Camp this year, our band for the week was Rush of Fools. One night they said we were having a hoedown and proceeded to play bluegrass style versions of “I’ll Fly Away,” “I Saw the Light,” “Victory in Jesus,” and more. Maybe it was because there were words on the screen, but the 1,500 or so young people were all singing along just fine. “Victory in Jesus” may have even been up a notch compared to the newer songs sung at other times. Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Bill Gaither, Charlie Hall, Laura Story, Aaron Keyes, they all can help us as we approach the throne of God with an offering of songs of worship.

That said, if your church doesn’t currently sing any songs written after 1981, then we would introduce this very slowly and carefully; likewise if you presently sing only songs written since the turn of the millennium. I have no desire to ignite a so-called “worship war.” That falls far short of maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3).

November 5, 2012

Presidential Election Prediction and Commentary

I’ve pretty much held my tongue until now. Perhaps a grassroots movement would have begun if I put this forward sooner, but I doubt it.

Barak Obama will win. Let me tell you why. Democrats are still all going to vote for President Obama. Republicans aren’t all going to vote for Romney. Remember all those Christian Republican voters who didn’t come out and vote for McCain? Many of them aren’t coming out to vote for Romney either. Many independent voters who would go Republican for a strong candidate aren’t going to vote for Romney. Independent voters who typically go Democrat certainly aren’t going to flip for Romney. And then you have people like me.

I voted for Bob Dole, I voted for George W. Bush twice, and I voted for McCain. I kind of liked Dole, but I probably didn’t know as much about him as I thought I did. I don’t know if I’d vote for him if he were up this year; it’s possible. I liked the W. No, he wasn’t a perfect president. I didn’t like all he’ll be remembered for, but I still think he is a good man – – perhaps evidenced best in his withdrawal from the political scene after his presidency. I didn’t like McCain. McCain was a big-government, Washington-tainted, moderate Republican. I did appreciate the fact that he had actually served in the military. At any rate, I voted for McCain because I bought the “lesser of two evils” argument. However, I knew Obama was going to trounce McCain.

My mind has changed. In what way does choosing the lesser of two evils actually make sense to the Christian worldview? Given that choice, shouldn’t we choose neither? If you lock me in a room, duct tape a gun to my hand, and force me to shot either my wife or my son; I’m not pulling the trigger. But the situation isn’t that limited. We’ve been lied to by both democrats and republicans telling us we have a two-party system. We don’t have a two-party system. We have a system that is dominated by two parties, and that’s not the same thing. Did you know that you can vote for anybody you want to who meets the constitutional criteria for being president? Anybody, even if they aren’t a party candidate, they don’t even have to be on the ballot. You can write someone in. So that’s what I’m going to do, I’m writing in Ron Paul.

Why Ron Paul? It’s not because I agree with him on every issue. It’s definitely not because he has any chance at winning. I’m voting for Ron Paul because he’s the one guy I can think to write in that might show up in some statistically significant way in the polling data. I’m voting for him in an attempt to say to the Republican party, and in a small way to the Democrats too, that I’m sick of them picking some loser who’s been doing nothing but running for president in step-by-step fashion for the last twenty to thirty years. If the best you can do is put up a moderate guy who adopts Obama’s winning strategy of saying whatever you tell him the people he’s talking to at that moment want to hear, then I’m just going to vote for someone else.

Here’s the reality folks. I’m more afraid of 8 years of Romney, or 4 years of Romney followed by 4-8 years of some other liberal Dem, than I am of 4 more years of Obama. Obama is fighting a Republican House of Representatives, and he could be about to face a Republican controlled Senate too. I’m pretty sure the more-or-less-conservatives will keep him in check for his next term. Hopefully they’ll have the intestinal and testicular fortitude to live up to their constitutional duty to throw down some checking and balancing on his executive ordering and declaring ways. But can you imagine what a mess of nonsense would get pushed through by Romney and a piggy-eyed Congress (especially if it’s both houses)? Now, if Obama wins AND Republicans lose the House and stay the minority in the Senate…maybe the Mayans were on to something. If Romney wins and the Democrats get both houses, then we’re back to Romney losing in 4 years to an all lady Clinton/Pelosi ticket or something equally maddening.

Please go vote. Vote for whoever you want to be your president. I don’t want either of the front-runners, so I’m voting for someone else.

Whatever you do, don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe Fox News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, or anybody else when they tell you why Mitt couldn’t unite the Republican base…unless they say “Gotcha, we knew he’d lose! I can’t believe you let us pull this off. Will you let us convince you Obama 2016 is a good idea too?”

Don’t believe hype, no matter who is feeding it to you.

P.S. For all you Christians rocking a Romney/Ryan sticker on you bumper right over your Jesus fish, think about this. Obama may be pro-choice and in favor of redefining marriage, but when Romney says “God bless America!” he has a completely different definition of the nature and identity of that God and how he relates to humanity than you do.

SomebodyBetter2016

November 3, 2012

Prospective Pastor Questionnaire – Part 6

Filed under: Job Hunt,Ministry,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 10:47 PM
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6. Which Bible translation do you prefer to use from the pulpit?

The English Standard Version is my preferred translation for sermon preparation and preaching. I like it for it’s essentially literal translation philosophy, which makes it great for in-depth study in sermon preparation. I like it because it follows the King James Version in how certain passages read (Psalm 23 comes to mind) giving it a familiar feel to many hearers who grew up with the KJV. I like it because the ESV is based on the largest pool of extant ancient manuscripts ever available to us. I like it because the poetry still sounds like poetry, and Paul’s very long and very Greek run-on sentences are broken as little as English readability allows. I like it because it’s the Bible, and I love the Bible.

That said, I have preached from the old New International Version (NIV 1987), the New American Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and even the Good News Translation (GNT)–that last one was in South Sudan and was the translation most familiar to attenders of the English service of that church. I typically consult a number of translations as I study to preach. I typically teach my youth from the HCSB because that’s what our pastor uses from the pulpit. I regularly intentionally call on the two sisters in our youth group whom carry the New Living Translation because of the vivid and interpretive language it uses. I’m not afraid of other translations, I just prefer to study and preach from the ESV.

Prospective Pastor Questionnaire – Part 3

3. What is your style of pastoral oversight/administration, including working with staff members, committees, and departmental leaders?

I suppose I don’t yet have a fully developed “style of pastoral oversight/administration,” or not a fully tested one at least. My current church doesn’t have a defined organizational chart, but I’m pretty sure I would be on the bottom if it did. That’s fine with me; as I understand it, a pastor is supposed to be a servant to the rest of the church body in many ways. Jesus taught his disciples about servant-leadership long before the conference speakers and authors ever picked up on it. As far as working with staff members, I have a firm grasp of the facts that the pastor is not the boss and that other staff members are not his employees. The whole church staff is employed by the congregation, and the whole church has only one Boss.

I can also tell you that I love a good meeting. A good meeting accomplishes its purpose efficiently and only involves the necessary people; a bad meeting typically has no purpose, is a waste of time, and involves people with no stake in the task or issue at hand. This applies to working with staff members, but is especially important for working with committees. All committees are not created equal, and I can’t say precisely how I would relate to the committees at your church. I can say that I wouldn’t expect to be part of every committee. Every committee shouldn’t need direct pastoral involvement. Some churches do operate that way, and we would take our time in moving away from that model if yours is one.

Like committees, the role of departmental leaders differs greatly from church to church. At Lakeview, a large church, there were very few non-staff departmental leaders. At Liberty, a small church, there are no paid departmental leaders except youth and music. At Lakeview, the adult Sunday school is under the oversight of an associate pastor who trains teachers, decides when to start new classes or divide growing ones, ensures class leaders are ministering effectively to their members, etc. At Liberty, the Sunday school directors’ two primary duties are to collect the roll books and offering envelopes and report the count to the pastor. One is not better than the other, but I’d just hate to say I’ll relate to departmental leaders in such and such a way then find out we are thinking about completely different roles.

Finally, my father taught me when I was in Boy Scouts that a good leader never asks someone to do something he wouldn’t do himself. I have changed diapers in the nursery, pulled weeds in the parking lot, made copies, brewed coffee, cooked meals, driven vans, taught Sunday School, lead Bible studies, taken youth to camp, stayed up all night at lock-ins, built buildings, given cold water (and Coke products) to thirsty people, taken evangelistic surveys in public places, gone door to door with the gospel, visited the sick, run audio and video, sang in the choir, and much more. Some of these things were serving in my area of talents or spiritual gifting, and some of them just needed doing. What I know about my general style of oversight and administration is that I see these as aspects of equipping the church to do the work of the ministry. I have done the ministry and have been equipped to equip others to equip others.

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