Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Decline of America and the Role of the Church

Between the Dallas shootings, the Hillary mess, and so much more, I've been thinking about the relationship of the Church in America to the moral decay and lawlessness in our society.

Now, if you think about it, most culture-minded Christians assume that our national problems are largely a byproduct of the failure of churches to "transform" their surrounding culture. They are absentee in their cultural mandate. Having written a great deal on the cultural mandate, I see that connectivity as well.

However, I want to suggest that the real problem is not "with" the church and its cultural program. The problem is instead "within" the Church. Let me explain this nuance.

When Paul, for example, says in 2 Tim. 3:1-4 that "in the last days difficult times will come", then gives his long list of difficulties, it is natural to think he is decrying the state of affairs in the culture. But read vs 5. The treacherous people Paul is talking about are in the church, for they are "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power."

Here, then, is a clue to the relationship of the decline of the churches in America with the decline of American society. When Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth..."You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:13;14), he meant that the Church is both a standard of what community "ought to look like", and, is thus a citadel or safeguard against the decay of the world around it. And here's the main point: the Church IS these things simply by being the Church...a strong, Kingdom-oriented people, bent on holiness.

We can talk all we like about "worldview" and the need to practice the cultural mandate. But what can a worldly church offer the world that it does not already have? Before we are a more culturally-minded church, we must first be a Christ-centered, holy-minded church. We must be THE CHURCH.

This in my view is a major reason we are witnessing a world run a muck. The American church is far more American than it is the Church. So let judgement begin with the household of God.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Exploring a New Bible College in DRC

In May of 2014, I was blessed to travel to the DRC. Bukava, Congo is situated on the south end of Lake Kivu and provides a splendid setting for Bible classes. Much more than this, however, the conference with about 70 pastors and area leaders sparked overwhelming interest in core biblical doctrines that many of us take for granted.

The response to that conference was so overwhelming that, as I shared in my last newsletter, the pastors at the conference rather insisted on a Bible College in Bukavu. Since then, I have been praying about the start of a Bible College in the DRC, one very similar to Covenant College of Theological Studies and Leadership in Kenya, which I helped to start. 

After a very serious setback with my low back in 2014 that eventually required surgery, I was finally able to make plans to return to conduct what I call a "test" or pilot class to ascertain the educational abilities of the men who might form the nascent first class of the new school. 

A roadblock was immediately before us as we discovered that since 2015 the DRC has made it extremely difficult to secure a Visa. At issue is the fact that the Congolese government does not want foreigners witnessing what is happening on the ground in DRC and reporting back home. Because I was not able to secure a Visa in time for this trip, the organizer of the class, Bishop Theophile Rugubira, made arrangements for us to meet acorss the border in Kamembe, Rwanda. 

The class was on "Principles of Sanctification" a syllabus I have created. One rarely takes a class in sanctification in our Bible Colleges and Seminaries. However, I was moved to create the class due to the low view of sanctification leading to holiness in so many of our churches: the "cheap grace" movement. 

I am pleased to report two things. One is that the class went extremely well. The men were exposed to biblical truths they had never been exposed to before, and which absolutely opened their eyes. All of my teaching was based in Reformation truths on justification and sanctification. Rev. Stephen Nshimimana served as translator for the class. There is no better translator than this man of God!

Second, and this is also a great answer to prayer. I was able to stand and teach for many hours with relatively little discomfort. Friends, a week before I left for Rwanda, I could hardly walk through our neighborhood. But I thought, "I've just got to go and trust God. If he's in this, he will part the waters." Well, indeed he did! It's been said that ministry proceeds resources. In my case, ministry proceeded strength. 

Testing the men was a simple matter of pop quizzes. In addition, I gave them an assignment to write a 5-page paper on a reading. The reading is Chapter 3 of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion! The section covers the relationship of repentance and sanctification. Because the men speak French and Swahili, readers will assist me in grading the papers. 

Many questions remain regarding the Lord's will for a Bible College in DRC.  But think about this. Such an educational ministry would be the first in DRC in over 175 years!

I still have much healing to do. My doctor says that it could be another 6 moths before it is known with certainty if my last surgery is a success. Regardless, I plan to serve the Lord as best I can, and as long as I can. Lord willing. 

Thank-you all for your prayers for me and for a successful trip. I know that many at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, where I was pastor, and scores of Facebook friends, and many others, were lifting me up before the Lord. Prayer works!

Your continued support can be sent to Equipping Pastors International (EPI), Just mark your check "John Barber." Thank-you all!

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