Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Position of Preacher-Elder in Churches of Christ

The problem with a positional-culture such as ours is that, as life progresses, a higher position is needed for one to feel he is maturing. Using rank to show maturity, a positional culture (oligarchical, hierarchical, representative form of government) offers an increase in positional power up the ladder and over others; however, for the church, the NT teaches "self control" and forbids other control (Gal. 5:22; cf. Mark 10:42-45).

Having this positional-mindset causes us to misapply and misunderstand what doing something "for" someone else means. I believe that we have an unhealthy, and therefore, unsound, usage of the word "for" in the church that maintains dependency and hinders God commanded growth (2 Peter 3:18; cf. Eph. 4:11-16).

Also, I think that this entitlement and military-rank mentality has caused the belief that, as one gets older, s/he is simply owed this status based on their age. Perhaps because when they were younger, they "respected their elders," and now they feel that this "respect" (read obedience, not dignified treatment among equals) is their God-given right. I don't know if some attached these strings earlier in their lives and are now pulling on them. I am simply trying to understand why some people act as they do.

As if the oligarchical system we have where a few "decide for" the many in private meetings is not foolish enough when compared to the wise Biblical process of open discussion and consensus (Acts 15:1-30), what is becoming more evident to me is that when elders have delegated their teaching responsibilities in the assemblies (Eph. 4:11) to "gospel preachers," this has, over time, caused the emergence in churches of Christ of a head-pastor as at the beginning of the 2nd century depicted in the letters of Ignatius.

Please don't think that when I say private meetings that I am talking about matters in life of a personal nature which is actually what elders (older men and women) are for (1 Tim. 3:1ff; cf. Titus 1-2). Real life help--not institutional, organizational rule. I am also not against elder-led consensus where elders would naturally have more influence (not rule) in the assembly.

When I was a "gospel preacher," I was never bothered by the fact that in many churches the preacher and one other man are often considered a "Scriptural eldership" with God-given "authority" to "decide for" (rule) other Christians in "matters of expediency," but the harmfulness of this "position" in our position-minded culture is becoming clearer as I see it more and more. (I have also found that the "expediency" realm is a fictional compartmentalizing in order to sustain "pattern worship" that is imposed onto the Biblical text).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Becoming an IRONMAN: FLORIDA 2013

The title of this post comes from a book of the same name written by Kara Douglass Thom which compiles various experiences of "first encounters with the ultimate endurance event." 

I read Thom's book a year ago before signing up for IRONMAN Florida, and the thesis of her book is simple. 
There are plenty of triathlon books out there that can help you become a triathlete, help you train better and race faster. But very few will tell you what it feels like--really give you the dish on what goes on inside a triathlete's head. 
This is my race report of IRONMAN Florida 2013 which I finished in 14 hours, 42 minutes, and 39 seconds on Saturday, November 2, 2013 in Panama City Beach, FL. This is what it "felt like" to me as best as I can recall. It was a perfect day, and a perfect result for me. Everything I hoped it would be (but not more), because I had high expectations and dreams!

The IRONMAN has been around for 35 years now, so most people are at least vaguely familiar of its reputation as a grueling challenge of endurance. The specifics, and their origin, which may not be so familiar are that it consists of an open-water swim of 2.4 miles, immediately followed by a 112 mile bike ride, which is immediately followed by a full marathon of 26.2 miles. Participants begin at 7am and are allowed 17 hours to complete the 140.6 miles giving finishers the goal of making it by midnight. As you can imagine the finish line is the place to be! Excitement builds throughout the night as the final finishers trickle across the line to raucous cheers of support from family, friends, and fellow finishers.

The IRONMAN originated in Hawaii in 1978 in the mind of U.S. Navy Officer John Collins, and Thom explains the reason for the particular distances and athletic disciplines of the IRONMAN:
He organized an event that combined all three of Honolulu's endurance races: the Wakiki Rough Water Swim, a 2.4 mile open-water swim, the Around Oahu Bike Race, a 112 mile cycling race that originally spanned two days, and the Honolulu Marathon, 26.2 miles of running. Fifteen men competed in the original Ironman race on February 18, and at the end of the day twelve called themselves ironmen.
The only glory these 15 had at the time was a homemade trophy made by Collins the night before in his garage consisting of an "ironman" made of bolts and a nut symbolizing the head with a hole in it. How fitting! But even more vain-glorious than that was Collins' promise:
Swim 2.4, ride 112, run 26.2. Then brag for the rest of your life.
I don't know about the bragging part. It seems once people know you finished an IRONMAN, they do the bragging for you! This is the way it should be, I guess.

IRONMAN Florida 2013 (IMFL) was special for me and others for many reasons. Any major endurance event you do for the first time will be epic, but IMFL2013 seemed to have a little extra. For starters, the day before the race (Friday) was a double-red flag day for swimming in the Gulf which means NO SWIMMING. You can imagine how nerve racking that can be for almost 3,000 participants who have waited and trained for a full year in preparation for this one day!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Belief & Faith Are Not the Same

Kindle Edition $5.99

Robert Anthony asks:

"Just what are beliefs?"

"They are the conscious and unconscious information that we have accepted as true."

"Unfortunately, we have accepted and been taught things that are not true, because we have not proven them for ourselves."

Anthony says,

"Truth can never be revealed to the so called 'firm believers.' They are too busy telling you everything they already know and refuse to believe anything outside their already existing belief system."

"Anything that contradicts this person's belief system is seen as a threat which must be labeled 'unacceptable,' or 'evil,' and that which suppresses the old traditions which are viewed as 'good.'"

"This person cannot see that the truth--no matter how painful--is by its very nature 'good' and that a lie--no matter how convenient or pleasurable--by its nature is 'bad.' Therefore, to protect his beliefs at all costs, he builds a wall around his world."

"Some 'firm believers' have a tall wall over which they will never look and some have a short wall over which they peek occasionally. Regardless of the height of the wall, however, it only serves to shut out more truth than it can hold in."

"The firm believer does not have the option to change his mind. He can only recognize what is found within the walls he has built around himself which prevent discovery and freedom." 

"Belief and faith are not the same thing and should not be confused." 

"Beliefs are totally limiting, but faith is limitless."

"Faith recognizes that there is more to learn, discover and know, and that life's quest is to seek to unfold more truth which leads to more freedom. 'With faith all things are possible' (Mark 9:23), but with the firm believer s/he is always "right" and thinks s/he knows the answer."