Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Same Words Different Meanings

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Christianity is a culture with many terms that are used almost exclusively within that culture.  When was the last time you heard the word propitiation used outside a church context (or inside one for that matter)? We often talk about righteousness and grace and justification.  Those words are good English words, but their meaning inside church culture holds great significance.  Outside that culture, however, these words are seldom used.  

We have other words that we use commonly but we’ve given them a different definition than their original intent.  

The term “pastor” is used nowadays to refer to anyone who is in a preaching role in a church.  Usually the pastor is the “head” of that branch of the church.  The bible doesn’t use this term this way.  In fact, I’m surprised that the bible includes this term at all.  It is only used once in English translations and the Greek word that it is translated from is always translated as “shepherd” in the other instances it is used in the New Testament.  A pastor is supposed to be one of a group of shepherds or elders of a church.  

Pastor is a term the church of Christ has tried to avoid for many years, but culture keeps using that term in its new definition, so many churches are giving up on fighting this original definition.  The original definition of “pastor” is being lost on this generation.

There are a couple other terms we use commonly in church culture that we gave up on a long time ago.  We don’t even readily argue for the perpetuation of the original meaning anymore.  

The first is “church”. 

I recently had the blessing of serving with a friend of mine who is living in a missional community with the intention of driving the darkness out of the city in which they live.  They live together – Christians in common – being the church in community.  

At this service opportunity a teenager asked my friend if they all attended church together.  My friend looked bewildered and said, “yes, this is it.” 

He was bewildered because he was living in the biblical definition of the word “ekklesia” that many translations interpret as “church”. Church didn’t become a building until after the Catholic church began to build buildings around holy places as shrines for worship. The english word, “church”, comes from a German word that was used to signify such buildings.  Ekklesia, on the other hand, denotes community.  It is the assembly of saints in every place.  It is the people – not the place, and definitely not a denomination.

The other term is “ministry”.

This same teen asked my friend where they did ministry.  This was still in the context of the previous question about where they attended “worship” (another term that has been redefined throughout the years). My friend looked around again and said “we do ministry by living.”

Christians often think of ministry as a program of the church where they attend where people who have something to offer provide goods or services to those “less fortunate”. This cannot be further from the biblical idea.  Ministry wasn’t intended to be relegated to a specific activity.  Ministry is an outpouring of love to those living all around us.  Ministry is seeing others as equals and treating them as such even if they are drug addicts and prostitutes.  Ministry isn’t enabling dependence on a welfare-like activity.  Ministry is living with those the world sees as less fortunate and encouraging them and respecting them and expecting the same from them.  It’s not a top-down kind of mentality; it is an equality mentality.  Ministry doesn’t feed the poor; it frees the poor.

If you’re reading this chances are you are part of a church that does ministry.  Read the book of Acts.   See how the church functioned.  Imagine what the world would be like if we were actively battling the forces of evil in the spiritual realms while living together in community without need for all the pomp and circumstance.  Could this really be what we are called to? 

This group that my friend is involved with has been actively battling the darkness for at least five years now, and they now have watched Jesus drive the darkness out of two whole neighborhoods that were the most dangerous places in their city.  They are now actively pursuing the darkness into a third neighborhood.  Even the police recommend they don’t follow, but they do anyway – family and all.  God continues to scatter the darkness as the light and salt of Jesus is spread in strongholds of the enemy.  

This isn’t just church talk.  This is really happening.  The book of Acts doesn’t have to be a historical document.  It can also be a playbook for how to live for Christ today, but that would require us to give up on fear and be filled with an unquenchable love and desire to follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding.  It would also require us to remember the original meanings of so many biblical ideas.  It would require a restoration of first-century discipleship. I’m praying for a generation to rise up and change the world, and the generation I’m praying for is mine.  Won’t you join me?

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Waiting for a Tornado

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Several years ago I was heading back home to Ash Flat, Arkansas from a lectureship in Tennessee. The day of driving was filled with intensity as storms developed all around us. I counted 18 tornados that formed and crossed the highway within ten minutes behind us all the way home.

When we got into Arkansas we were having trouble contacting people at home because of the storms. About half an hour away from home we hit a wall of wind that nearly stopped the 15 passenger van we were riding in. After we got through the wall of the storm we got the call.

My friends Greg and Kendal were riding with us; they lived in Highland, and we were to drop them off on our way just past them to Ash Flat. The call basically said “Highland is gone”.

That evening, while we were traveling home, an EF4 tornado skirted the outside of Ash Flat and demolished Highland. In fact, houses on the same block as my friends’ house were damaged by the twister. The devastation was intense.

The next day we began to survey the situation. The temps the day of the tornado were in the 70s, but the next morning there was snow falling from the sky. Businesses and homes of friends were destroyed. No lives were lost, but everyone’s life was disrupted.

This week we are watching the story unfold of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. I am seeing the devastation. I see the same looks on people’s faces that I saw the year of our tornado.

I see something else that I saw before: hope. During times of crisis people band together and help one another out no matter their race or economic status. People don’t care what church others go to or what they believe. In times of crisis we are all humans helping out our brothers and sisters in the storm.

I am saddened by the tragedy, but I am encouraged by the selfless love poured out in such an event.

We shouldn’t wait until there is a catastrophe for us to treat each other with the kind of love and selflessness being shown in Oklahoma right now and Arkansas before. We should be praying for each other and our country at all times. We should be searching for life in all circumstances. To this we are called as followers of the One who showed compete humility and self-sacrifice and love on our behalf through the excruciating experience of the cross.

I am praying for Oklahoma today. I am also praying for you. Let us find unity in Christ and selfless love now instead of waiting until something bad happens. Then we will truly have a wonderful life.


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