Church Stuff

A Good News Posture

My goodness! It’s been over 3 months since my last post on my blog. That’s a little sad, but this blog is going on fourteen years old and the continuing evolution of my soul and relationship with the Godhead has taken me on a number of twists and turns with respect to life priorities. I’ll share more about this in the coming weeks as I make reentry to the blogosphere, but I thought I’d post this audio file of a sermon I shared yesterday with a sister congregation here in Washington.

This message was timely, in my opinion, especially with regard to the tensions currently felt in our great nation, and most certainly with regard to the political season we presently find ourselves.

The message of our Great God is GOOD! We are Good News People and we should live according to the good news (Gospel) we profess and proclaim. In this message taken from the text of Acts 17, I share how we can model what we learn from the Beroeans and the great Apostle Paul.

I hope you enjoy the message and would love to interact with your thoughts in the comments section here.

Community: Gaffs, Gifts, and Glory

I shared this devotional thought a few years back, but as I am about to enter into a new season of forming discipleship groups in my local church, I thought it a timely piece to share again.

The Gift of Community: It’s a Family Sort of Thing

Hey, uummmm… you’ve got a booger hanging from your nose.

I know, I know; “ooooh gross!” But really, who hasn’t heard these words at least once in your life? I know I’ve heard it more than once myself and it is never any less embarrassing than it was the first time I ever heard it, but in the end I’m always thankful (after the initial horrifying embarrassment) I was made aware of my “booger.”

Something I’ve realized about publically exposed boogers, there aren’t lots of people who will tell you about them. Strangers, casual acquaintances, and sometimes even close friends will hardly ever take the time to advise you of your “hanging chad.” There are rare exceptions, but that’s why they are exceptions…they’re rare. Family, on the other hand, will almost always tell you about your “sticky little friend.” I come from a family with brothers and sisters; none of us ever hesitated to share with one another about a potentially vulnerable “exposure.”

This is the gift of true community; family familiar and intimately comfortable community. Speaking generally, family love and family friendship is a working paradox of the exquisitely beautiful and grotesquely messy existing side-by-side and all the time.

We talk much about our Christian experience being one of community, but I think we have lost something in the translation. I read something not too long ago that talked about our lifestyles being overly connected through the advances of technology (email, IM, Facebook, etc.), but we are more disconnected from intimacy than at any point in the history of mankind. My experience in the Christian community has been largely disconnected even though we speak of connection. It’s not often that I have had someone share with me about an exposed booger… and when I’ve pointed out boogers to some of my brothers and sisters in the church, some of them have become offended to the point that it was catastrophic, but enough about boogers…

I am becoming more and more of a believer in very small communities of faith. As well, I think these communities need to live in close proximity to one another and spend much time together… really doing life together; eating, playing, learning, laughing, crying, and praying… all together. This is how families live and this is how we grow comfortable with one another even through the screaming frustration that being in family creates sometime. I know that my biological family had some serious knock-down-drag-out matches, but that never stopped us from being family. Truth be known, it was the laughter and the tears that taught us about unfailing beauty and assurance of unconditional love. There needs to be more of this same experience in the Christian family (in my honest opinion).

I think another illustration might be helpful. We are sometimes stubborn about admission of our faults, especially when we spend so much time making ourselves look and smell good. What do you do when someone tells you that you might be wearing too much perfume or cologne? I know my first response is that it might be that person’s issue. Maybe that person who told me has sensitive smell or doesn’t like my cologne; that is their problem, surely it isn’t mine. Right? Well, in a large family a parent, brother, or sister might come to tell me I’m wearing too much cologne as well. Maybe this happens three or four or eight times (my family might be as big as the Walton Family). Maybe now I am inclined to think the remotest possibility could be a reality; maybe my cologne is on a little heavy. Now, I might be persuaded to ask one of my most trusted family members if they think I’m wearing too much cologne… They, of course, being a brother who has nothing to lose or gain (unconditional love works that way), tells me; “Of course, you’ve got too much cologne on. You didn’t notice people passing out from lack of oxygen whenever you entered a room?” Armed with new information and valuable insight, I am now able to adjust the amount of cologne I use so that it enhances my presence instead of overwhelming everyone who comes in contact with me.

On the other side of this “family coin” is the confidence of privilege a family member has in speaking truthfully to a brother, sister, mother, or father in the family. Consider yourself; how comfortable do you feel about telling someone you randomly pass in the shopping mall their perfume is too strong, or how about someone in your workplace, school, or church? Now, consider the same about a member of your immediate family… If your family is anything like mine, you feel comfortable about saying, “Hey Sis, you need to back off a bit on that Miss Dior Chérie and by the way, you may wanna blow your nose.” This is the value of true family and true Christian Community.

I hope my playful illustrations provide something for us to think about on a much more serious level… and we might just want to check our nose before walking out the door today… just sayin’

Discipleship's Greatest Challenge

This past fall, I was taking some CEU classes that entailed lively discussions about the history and challenges of the modern church in North America. My pastoral role and calling to the vocation of pastor as spiritual director puts me headlong into some of the challenges we discussed, especially those challenges that affect the process of discipleship and whole life transformation in the image of Jesus Christ. This is, after all, the primary mandate Jesus commissioned his followers to pursue before his ascension back to the Father. Jesus said; “Go and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” We, the Church of the 21st Century, specifically in the United States of America, face unique and difficult challenges… not insurmountable, but challenges nonetheless, if we are to fulfill the commission we have received by Jesus. The following is a presentation I shared following the the completion my my CEU course.

When asked to prepare a thesis and presentation for what I might consider one of the greatest challenges of the church for the twenty-first century, I immediately thought discipleship…that is, making true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically, I believe consumerism is one of the greatest challenges to the mandate of the Great Commission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ” the Church faces today.

The very nature of making disciples in the image of Jesus is difficult by definition of Jesus himself. It is he who qualifies the disciple as one who “denies himself daily” and/or one who “takes up a cross” to follow Jesus. Likewise, Jesus proclaims his disciples are people who are “kingdom people,” yet he also says the number is “few” who find and follow the path to this kingdom (Matthew 7:13-14).

While I believe the Teacher and writer of Ecclesiastes speaks truthful words saying, “There is nothing new under the sun,” I think our first-world western culture offers unique challenges making discipleship as difficult as or more difficult than any time in the history of the church.

I pastor and worship in the context of the United States of America and my statements are reflective of this context and not a generalization of the global church. This is important because, while I believe discipleship is difficult in any culture; my statements are uniquely applicable to our setting.

It doesn’t take a deep reading of Scripture to realize there is something strikingly different about the message that Jesus taught his followers. A quick reading of the gospels reveals the message of Christ as very counter-cultural, especially when that culture is centered around the economic system of capitalism and the “American Dream.” We, the church in North America, are in direct competition with our culture; this detail alone makes creating disciples incredibly difficult.

Reading from the Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain, quickly reveals the American Dream as the antithesis ideal to following Jesus.

Before I proceed, I think it necessary to say that I love my country and I love the Church of the Living God. I also believe in large part the motive of the Evangelical Church has been born of honorable intentions, but I also believe despite her intentions, she has been deceived by destructive intent disguised as an “angel of light.” Our good intentions and attempts to be culturally relevant have largely defused the dunamis of the Gospel of Christ. Many of our efforts to acculturate the gospel for shifts and changes in our society has resulted in blurred understanding of the gospel at best and a complete reduction of the gospel at worst. The result of this blurry reduction of Jesus’ message is a lack of discipleship and a patchwork of shallow theology that often borders on heretical teaching.

In the monumental Reveal study commissioned by the Willow Creek Association, one thousand churches and two hundred fifty thousand congregants were surveyed. It was discovered that our contemporary church growth model was largely ineffective in making true disciples of Jesus and producing measurable spiritual growth. Our programs and formulas can build self-sustaining organizations, but these organizations are rarely consistent fulfilling the primary mission given to us by Jesus Christ to make disciples.

Recently, I have been reading from the book Thinking | Listening | Being by district superintendent of the Kansas City District Church of the Nazarene, Jeren Rowell. In this book, particularly found in chapters titled “thinking identity” and “thinking leadership,” he gives voice to the dangers presented to our churches as our models for organizational leadership have shifted from the pastoral and prophetic to business and the boardroom. Superintendent Rowell identifies the jugular of this challenge quoting from Eugene Peterson’s book Working the Angles; he writes:

“The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns—how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.”   

One of the greatest challenges we face with making disciples in our society is the economic engine of capitalism. The very success of a capitalistic economy hinges on consumers; therefore, all that our society does from top to bottom and side-to-side is built to nurture and develop consumers. The result of this nurture and development is most everything in our society becoming commodified and/or commoditized. Capitalism and consumerism has trickled and seeped into the church at a slow and steady pace over the years until it has become utterly saturated until it bears little difference from any other marketplace in our society. In practice, the western church has simply become another marketplace for many consumers seeking “christianized” commodities. Sadly, the Gospel has become another commodity to sell on Sunday and one wonders if there might not be tables and lattes overturned were Jesus to join the services on any given weekend.

In many churches across America, congregants come to the marketplace on Sunday to have felt needs met and to get their soul entertained…rarely is the intent to enter into deeper transformational relationship with Creator God by becoming a more dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ.

This consumeristic relationship between the church organization and the congregant develops codependency. While codependency may be good for the capitalistic model, it is critically unhealthy for the Bride of Christ.

The dangers of codependency become realized when the organization becomes the focus of the church rather than Jesus Christ, making disciples, and living as kingdom people.

Ultimately, the codependency becomes the “driver” behind every vision and mission statement. If the “mission and message” is not new and fresh to compete with the latest “flavor of the day,” consumer-members may seek out a more popular and momentary gratifying mission and message… In essence, churchgoers may seek out a more charismatic teacher (claiming they are not being fed), they may seek out a different music, children’s program, affinity group, or more robust programming. While there may be some validity and good in all these aforementioned programming elements, it can easily be recognized how quickly they become commoditized and consumed. When this becomes the model and churchgoers become dissatisfied consumers, they leave in search of a better product to consume. When churchgoers leave, finances wane. When the organizational structure (building, grounds, staff, and capital resources) get large, the organization cannot afford to suffer serious and unsustainable loss of income. When this happens in a capitalistic model, bankruptcy can occur and the business dissolves. Churches have largely copied the business model of western society and tried to balance the reality of their message with the wants and perceived needs of the churchgoers and have effectually compromised the message and call to “deny self” and follow Christ. Simply put, the consumer discipleship model hinges on serving the self, which illustrates the fundamental flaw when compared to a Christocentric discipleship model.

The call of the Church is to make disciples and teach them all the commandments of Jesus Christ. We are not called to make “McChurches” looking to franchise or assembly line church growth methods. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, not consumers of church products hoping to make a better self… a better self is not necessarily a denied self.

The nature of this thesis is to identify the challenge of the Church and not to necessarily identify a definitive correction; however, there are some suggestions we might consider as we ponder our next steps.

We might remember that systems and processes are needful, but discipleship is intimate and organic at its core. People and souls are unique, mysterious, and wonderfully made, and as such, disciples cannot be cookie-cutter created or assembly line manufactured.

It is likely we will not be able to change the current and flow of our economy and society. Personally, I’m not sure that is part of our mandate; there are a number of Scripture passages that teach us to not conform to the world and we are “in the world, but not of the world.” The point is that we are all consumers of some degree and it is all too easy for consumerism to creep into all we have done and all we do. It will be important for us to remain vigilant, always on guard that we do not allow consumerism to contaminate our mandate to make disciples of Jesus.

The Church can learn much from the ancient traditions and not fear the streams of Christendom that are not our own. God has been working from the earliest days of the Church to refine His bride and make true sons and daughters in the likeness of Christ. We might choose to walk on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and embrace the revelations that God shares with us today.

by Jeff Borden–The Greatest Challenge for the Church of the 21st Century ©12/27/2014

Book Review: James the Just

Book Review: James the Just

Author: Dr. David Friedman

Publisher: Messianic Jewish Publishers ISBN: 9781936716449

James the Just: Yeshua’s Brother & Chief Rabbi of the Messianic Jewish Community

This is a short book, but very dense; this is to say, it might not be for everybody. When I was first offered this book for review, I was excited and looked forward to learning more about the Jewish perspective on the writings of James or Ya’akov from the collection of Scripture known as the New Testament. My goal in ordering this book was to hopefully learn more about the actual intent of these writings and perhaps understand more clearly, what may get lost in English interpretation.

Truthfully, there are some gems to be gleaned from this little book, but it was a difficult and cumbersome read for me. I’m not a Biblical languages scholar, nor am I a Biblical history expert; consequently, I struggled with finding a rhythm while reading through James the Just. There are many references to the original languages of Hebrew and Greek throughout the texts; likewise, there are quite a few transliterations of the texts that also added to the slowing down of my reading. These details contributed to my inability to digest approximately thirty to forty percent of the book. It is for this reason that I refer to the “mining of gems.” It was, in a very real sense, my experience. I would read, skim, read, skim… find a nugget that piqued my interest and then try to understand and polish up the nugget I had found. The ultimate end of this experience was that it made my level of enjoyment minimal; I felt my reading was more inclined toward work than anything else.

The book is well-annotated, complete with bibliography, reference tables, endnotes, and glossary. My experience will likely not be the average experience. I expect that most persons ordering this book will have a better background with the original languages and the socio-political history of the Jewish people. This is a very academic book and not something easily understood by the average Bible student.

As I have already said, there are some wonderful gems to be gleaned in this book. I particularly enjoyed chapter five, which seemed most like a commentary for me. I do caution you, before you order, evaluate what your purposes and expectations are for this book.

Book Review: Know the Creeds and Councils

Book Review: Know the Creeds and Councils

Author: Justin S. Holcomb

Publisher: Zondervan

ISBN: 9780310515098

Know the Creeds and Councils

When it comes to the Christianity and the Bible, it can seem there are as many different “beliefs” and interpretations as there are people.  According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world.[1] This can present considerable challenges when comes to trying to understand “What we believe…” with regard to the Christian faith.

It is precisely for this reason that a book like Know the Creeds and Councils is such a valuable resource for members of and people who are curious about the Christian Church. The creeds, confessions, catechisms, and councils are the declarations of faith and unifying statements of the people to make up the Christian Church. These defining words are the “things we believe.”

Justin Holcomb has done a commendable job articulating these belief statements in a way that most anyone with the ability to read at a sixth grade level can understand. While some of these creedal statements and confessions can be a bit cumbersome, Holcomb has summarized them in such a way that there has not been any compromise to the integrity of the original statement.

One of the things I liked most is the linear development of theology and doctrine observed through these creeds and confessions. Most, if not all, of the succeeding statements build on the preceding teaching lending to a more robust and deeper understanding of the things the Church believes. Personally, this is important to me with respect to Ecumenicism; where my choices and considerations may differ from another Christian brother or sister, I can reach back to a confession or creed where we have common ground and stand in that place to build unity.

Each chapter provides a brief summary of each creed, confession, catechism, or council. Holcomb provides the historical background, content, and some contemporary relevance. The book is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. It does not cover every creedal document in detail, but provides an overview of the major statements of faith. It is a perfect introduction and gives the pertinent points necessary for beginning conversations that might lead to deeper study. Each chapter includes discussion questions helpful for the individual reader or group reading. There are also recommended resources for further reading about each creed, council, catechism, and confession at the end of each chapter. Additionally, there is a thoroughly annotated notes section at the end of the book that can provide even richer studies, should the reader decided to venture there.

Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb is a great place to start with understanding the what and the why of our Christian beliefs.



Fifth Sunday in Lent


Lent.31—Fifth Sunday in Lent

Readings: Psalm 130  Ezekiel 37:1-14  Romans 8:6-11  John 8:6-11

I love the Lectionary. I love the beauty, order, and symmetry of the Liturgy of the Church. I love the prayers of the Church. I love the history and tradition of the Church. I love God’s Word. I love the psychic, intellectual, emotional, and deeply spiritual energy I receive and feel when I connect to the universal Church and the Triune God who covers her.

Sometimes when I read these Scripture passages a huge smile begins to creep across my face and that warms my heart and as I hold these holy words in my heart letting them steep in my renewed mind, I realize that this is one of those times that commentary is not necessary. These verses speak all that is necessary all by themselves… and it seems to be better that way. See if you might agree:

LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. With the LORD there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin. (Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8)

I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your land. (Ezekiel 37:14)

Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. And Christ lives within you…the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. (Romans 8:6, 9-11)

Go and sin no more… (John 8:11)

Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Book Review: Troubled Waters

Book Review: Troubled Waters

Author: Ben Witherington III

Publisher: Baylor Press ISBN: 9781602580046

Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism

Ben Witherington chose a great title for his book, Troubled Waters. I do not know if it was intended, but the book was not the easiest read for me. I am very familiar with Ben’s other works and I’m a great fan of his writing and his brilliance. I believe he is considered one of the preeminent Bible scholars of our age, but sometimes his efforts can be somewhat confusing for me. This was one of those times. I will admit that the conclusion of the book, chapter eight, was extremely helpful in bringing resolution to questions and confusion. In the end, I am very glad that I worked my way through some of the difficult reading for the treat that is the postscript of the book.

Troubled Waters is about Christian baptism; specifically, Witherington addresses paedo-baptism (infant baptism), credo-baptism (believer’s baptism), and spirit-baptism. Echoing my earlier words, Witherington is a brilliant scholar and despite the short length of this book, his work is careful, meticulous, and very well reasoned (albeit somewhat confusing from a positional perspective) in presenting baptismal practices represented and debated in the Christian church.

The book opens with a presentation of details of baptism outside of the New Testament Scriptures. Illustrations and references to baptism are explored from the Old Testament Scriptures as well as the Qumran Community. It is here that Witherington shares pre-Christian church definitions and practices of Baptism, drawing connections, parallels, and distinctions. This is very helpful foundations work for this discussion.

Primary source material for Witherington’s work follows: (1)The Barth-Cullmann Debate; The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism, Karl Barth and Baptism in the New Testament, O. Cullmann (2) The Jeremias-Aland Debate; Infant Baptism in the First four Centuries, J. Jeremias and Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?, K. Aland. Included in this debate is also J. Jeremias’ The Origins of Infant Baptism (3) The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism, P. Marcel (4) Baptism in the New Testament, G. R. Beasley-Murray (5) Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, P. K. Jewett (6) Children of the Promise—The Case for Baptizing Infants, G. W. Bromiley (7) Baptism in the Holy Spirit, James Dunn. The book is well annotated with references and a Scripture index included in the final pages.

As I pointed out in my opening comments, I found the book quite confusing at times with “seesawing” commentary that, on occasion, seemed as if one paragraph would contradict another. This, I attribute to Witherington’s strict objectivity and (assumed) desire to present material in the purest form possible. This might be good or it might not be so good. It did prompt me to read very carefully and I appreciate the background information that I learned that I was previously unaware. I should also mention the context of the book was not what I expected when I originally purchased it.  My perseverance paid off as I found the final chapter the mortar that cemented all of the previous building block chapters together.

I would not say this is the definitive book on the Baptism debates, but it is an excellent beginning to the conversation and the material can be trusted for being presented without bias. Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism is one of three books by Ben Witherington III in a series on the primary sacraments of the church. Other titles include Making a Meal of It and The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible. Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.

Book Review: Church History Vol. II

Book Review: Church History Vol. II

Author: John D. Woodbridge & Frank A. James III

Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310257431

Church History Vol. II: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day

A book of this scope is an enormous undertaking. It is worth recognizing that the attempt to cover (accurately) the amount of history and many influences that have shaped the Christian Church will inevitably fall short in the minds and expectations of many people. I applaud the efforts of John Woodbridge and Frank James in putting this work on church history together. I am sure that it was a laborious endeavor and very difficult to pare down and distill their research to the published volume I hold in my hands today. I share this information for the purpose of highlighting the point that some seven hundred years of history has been compressed to just over eight-hundred fifty pages. This is no small task, and the reader should realize there will be omissions of certain facts and compression of facts; not every reader will be entirely satisfied. Disclaimer aside, with the challenges implied in my earlier words, this is a monumental work and I am thrilled to have it as a resource for my library. I have enjoyed reading it and browsing articles that have inspired deeper study and pointed me to additional authors and writings that can answer questions and provide deeper understanding on various subjects.

Church History Vol. II begins with the year 1300AD, European Christianity in an Age of Adversity, Renaissance, and Discovery, setting the stage for the Protestant Reformation. The work continues, hopping, skipping, and jumping through the various twists, turns, turmoil, and triumphs of the Christian Church all the way through to the present day. As I have mentioned, it is near impossible to record or explain every nuanced influence that has shaped the Church to her present iteration, but Woodbridge and James have done a commendable job. Also, to their credit, I have much appreciated the bibliography included at the end of each chapter titled “For Further Study.” Major contributing authors have been included in those references that can be helpful for the curious reader to dig deeper into the details of the particular era in question. Naturally, digging into these resources will lead the reader to even more references and resources. It is for this reason and these included additional resources that I believe this work in Church history is so valuable.

I have particularly enjoyed reading and study in chapter five, learning about the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement (16th Century) and the birth of the Jesuits under the leadership of Ignatius of Loyola (also in the 16th Century). Although the reading is very high-level, there is more than enough detail to provide me with a “launch point” for deeper study. Chapter seven was/is also fascinating to me as it provides insight into the Pietist and Puritan movements; considering that it was the Puritans who settled Plymouth Colony (some of the first colonists in North America), I am very interested in reading about their influence on the shaping of our nation. Chapters Ten and Eleven are still providing me interesting reading as they introduce the Age of Reason and Enlightenment and the beginning of Methodism under the Wesleys (John and Charles).

As I have mentioned, I have tempered expectations with a book of this magnitude, so I do not expect it to answer all my questions or cover every detail and dot in history. I do think, if I were have any fair critique, I would have liked to see a glossary of terms included in the appendix to the book. I believe this might have been a helpful inclusion. This one exception withstanding, I think this is an excellent resource and consider it a wonderful inclusion in any library.

Book Review: Body & Soul

Book Review: Body & Soul

Author: M. Craig Barnes

Publisher: Faith Alive ISBN: 9781592557455

Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism

I get a great deal of joy and much insight from reading and studying the ancient creeds and confessions of the Church. When the opportunity presented itself to review this book, Body & Soul, by Craig Barnes, I was more than delighted to volunteer. Now, after having the opportunity to spend some time with the book, I can confidently state that it is a wonderful resource and I have greatly enjoyed the insightful commentary from Professor Barnes regarding the Heidelberg Catechism.

My Church background is rather storied and very ecumenical. I have enjoyed fellowship among a great many traditions within Protestantism and I have received training in the Benedictine tradition as well. I say this to qualify my comments that I do not necessarily stand unilaterally with the confessions claimed in the Heidelberg Catechism. With that disclaimer aside, there are rich foundational truths found in this teaching tool that (I believe) any Christian tradition can benefit from. If one is not aware, the Heidelberg Catechism is a primary catechism of the Reformed Tradition. While there are some proclamations of doctrine here that I may be in disagreement with, there also exists the opportunity for conversation and deeper learning. This, in my opinion, is the value of learning from creeds, confessions, and catechisms from outside one’s own tradition.

The book is a total of seven main chapters, each of which take a portion of the catechism and break it down by theme; for example, chapter one is titled The Only Comfort and addresses he first question and answer of the catechism. The second chapter, Our Misery and Our Mediator, addresses questions and answers found in numbers two through twenty-five of the catechism. Subsequent chapter and themes follow with the seventh chapter devoted the Heidelberg Catechism, as it is formally written and complete. Professor Barnes has thoughtfully included this last chapter encapsulated in a format that could easily be used in a daily devotional, which I plan to use as such at some point in the future.

“It’s impossible to understand the Christian faith without the voice of a holy tradition that is always waiting to be our teacher in the faith.” M. Craig Barnes

This is a thoughtful and timely book. I believe it is very readable and accessible to most reading levels. I did not find the book overly academic at all. In fact, I do think it could serve as a discipleship tool from the ages of upper middle-school through adult.

Book Review: Journey to Jesus

Book Review: Journey to Jesus

Author: Robert E. Webber

Publisher: Abingdon Press ISBN: 9780687068401

Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture Mission of the Church

I am probably not in a great majority, but I found this proposal for a model of discipleship by Robert Webber stimulating and refreshing. What is so refreshing (to me) is that
it does not promote a new or revolutionary approach and it certainly does not attempt to be “relevant” to a contemporary culture. Although the back cover of Journey to Jesus claims this approach to worship, evangelism, and nurture mission is “cutting edge,” Webber reaches back to Christianity’s ancient roots in order to define and develop his model. This ancient approach is precisely why I am likely in a small group that actually appreciates and will promote this model for spiritual formation.

What does this model of evangelism look like?

Webber’s description (pg. 10) follows: “First, the content is grounded in the biblical and historical message of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Second, the style has the flexibility to be integrated into any type of setting. Third, the structure is characterized by four stages of development and three passage rites which mark the seeker’s journey from conversion to a period of discipleship to a time for equipping the believer for spiritual warfare, finally, to incorporation into active church membership.”

Webber goes on to describe the four stages or phases in detail. Phase one deals with evangelizing the seeker aka unchurched. Phase two discusses how to disciple the hearer aka new believer. Phase three looks at equipping the kneeler aka maturing believer, and phase four focuses on the process of incorporating the faithful aka new member into the church. Each of the phases transitions to the next with a rite of conversion.

I very much appreciate the style the book was written. It’s obvious that Webber (deceased) writes from the heart of an educator. The writing is clear, there are multiple illustrations, and there are extensive notes and additional resource recommendations throughout. In addition, Webber has included a leader’s guide to help teach this development model or to serve as a discussion starter if reading the book in a group.

As a pastor who has been involved in Christian education and discipleship methods for many years, I think there is much to be gleaned from Webber’s observations and proposal. I’m not sure that I would use the method as a blueprint, but I’m certain it could function as a guide. I believe there are principles worth considering in Journey to Jesus that might stimulate our thinking about some of the ways we have approached mentoring others in the ways of Jesus Christ. The book is worth reading for this reason alone.

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