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Stories That Feel Foreign

Stories That Feel Foreign

When I returned to Christ Community after pursuing additional education, I was a year removed from even thinking about preaching. Let me just state the obvious: research papers and sermons are very different kinds of projects. Pretty quickly the reality hit that I better get back on my sermon-writing game. 

We were in a sermon series studying 1 & 2 Samuel; essentially, we were following the life of David. When I read my Bible for the purposes of preaching on a passage, there’s a very particular type of intentionality that exists for me. Sometimes it even looks like desperation: “God, I have T-minus (however many hours) to have a finished sermon…please show me the way to get there.” 

So as I stepped back into my sermon preparation habits, I flipped open my Bible and turned to 1 Samuel. I began to read. Suddenly, I felt confronted by a writing style, turns of phrases, names, and cities that seemed to represent in small ways a larger reality that lay behind these stories. Here is that reality: these stories are foreign. Even though I’ve been trained in biblical studies and I’ve read them many times before, they were difficult to understand. Not only did I have the desperation of needing a sermon to preach, but first I needed a fresh understanding of all these characters, places, story arcs, and all the rest.

It’s true that even for the seminary-trained, the Bible can be hard to parse; its stories can be challenging to navigate. I confess that when I approach my Bible, whether in devotional time or sermon preparation, many times I’m hoping for it (and God, for that matter) to immediately dispense grand nuggets of truth and wisdom into my brain. But understanding the Bible is not that easy, and reading 1 & 2 Samuel reminded me of that reality. 

I was confronted again by the fact that grasping the meaning and translating the Bible for our time, is not always clear cut. That process is not a type of slot machine that if we happen upon it at the right time, God will reward us with something holy or profound. To get at what God is saying, to get to the good stuff, we have to submit ourselves to the stories. We have to really surrender to them. In fact, we have to be immersed in them so we find ourselves in them.  

 

Closer to Home Than We Think

Here’s what happened to me in the weeks leading up to that first sermon for Christ Community (that sermon, by the way, was on David and Bathsheba. Yep.). As I kept reading and staring into these stories, I began to live into them a bit. What I mean is that at some point I realized I had passed a threshold: these historical accounts with strange names, strange places, and different cultures and customs were no longer stories I felt the urgency to extract some quick meaning from. No, actually, these stories were way more than that…they were my story. Our story. 

No longer was I just reading these stories…these stories were reading me. More importantly, I realized they were reading us—God’s people. Suddenly, I wasn’t just peering through a lens to hear about a distant story in a faraway place with confusing names and places. Instead, I was reading stories that I found myself in… stories that the people of God find themselves in. In fact, they are stories the people of God need to hear because God himself left them to us. He gave these ancient stories as a way of revealing himself to us and us revealing ourselves to him and each other. 

 

1 & 2 Kings Aren’t Just Stories

For our sermon series this summer we are heading back to the Old Testament. Deep in the heart of the Old Testament lie the books of 1 & 2 Kings. And these two books are, in fact, the ones right after 1 & 2 Samuel. 

In the Hebrew Bible, 1 & 2 Kings were originally just one book called Kings.Together, these books tell the story of all the kings that came after King David. Over the course of some four centuries and forty rulers, not one of these kings lived up to the promised King that God’s people needed. You’d think that God’s people would have gotten the hint that what they needed was something different, perhaps someone different…a true and better King: the Messiah. But they didn’t realize that…yet. So 1 & 2 Kings is one story of many stories: lots of kings and two kingdoms, rivalry and competition, good and bad leadership, and in the end, God’s people are left crying out more than ever before for their promised King.

We are returning to stories with foreign names: Asa, Ahab, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Joash…just to name a few. These stories are from a time, era, age, and point of view that is so different that you might not completely understand the context. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter. Why? Because our job is just to stick with the stories. To stick with them long enough that we pass the threshold, where we are no longer reading a story but we find ourselves in the story. 

We do all of this because 1 & 2 Kings doesn’t just tell random stories of kings of old. They are stories that show how God remains faithful to those who aren’t faithful to him. They are stories that reveal the type of leaders God wants and is actually after. They are stories of God’s people being drawn back to the God who has adopted them and who loves them. These are the stories God left to us in his word because these are the ones we need to hear. This is God revealing himself to us so we can learn to reveal ourselves to him and each other, becoming the people he can use for his story told through our lives. 

We live on the side of history where we know that the King did come, and his name is Jesus. Even still, none of our kings and rulers have lived up to King Jesus since then. He is the King our world has always needed and needs now. It’s our hope that this series gives you reason to put your hope in the true and better King. Come find yourself in the stories. 

Lessons from the Past, Insights for the Present: Church Governance and Its Relevance Today |  POD 017

Lessons from the Past, Insights for the Present: Church Governance and Its Relevance Today | POD 017

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RESOURCES

HOSTS & GUESTS

Kevin Rauckman – Guest

Tom Nelson – Guest

Bill Gorman – Host

Show Notes

Lessons from the Past, Insights for the Present:
Church Governance and Its Relevance Today

How are churches structured and governed? Kevin Rackman and Tom Nelson join our host, Bill Gorman, bringing their extensive experience in church planting, architecture, and governance to the conversation. They explore the significance of accountability, the role of national denominations, the complexities of power dynamics, and the importance of checks and balances in church and business leadership. Join us as we uncover the practical wisdom and principles that can guide churches and organizations in their governance and leadership roles.

 

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:
  • Importance of Accountability and Checks and Balances: The application of checks and balances helps prevent abuse of power and promotes virtuous leadership. This concept is not limited to the church context but is part of God’s design for all organizations.
  • Character and Virtue-based Leadership: Biblical guidance in the Old and New Testaments stress the importance of leaders’ character and moral virtues in ensuring the flourishing of the church. The process of selecting elders involves collaboration and input from various stakeholders, and the role of elders is primarily governance-oriented rather than day-to-day operational management.
  • Adaptation and Application of Biblical Principles: While the apostles did not directly address the institutional structures and challenges currently faced by church leaders, their ethical vision, principles, and wisdom can be extrapolated and adapted to contemporary church governance. Understanding the historical and cultural context of biblical writings helps in discerning timeless wisdom applicable to church leadership structures today.

#ChurchGovernance #LeadershipStructure #AccountabilityMatters #ChecksAndBalances #GoodGovernance #ChurchLeadership #OrganizationalGovernance #EthicalLeadership #BoardResponsibilities #FlourishingChurches

 

GUEST BIO:

Kevin Rauckman is the owner of, and financial consultant for, Rauckman Advisors, LLC, where he has worked since November 2017. Rauckman was previously a financial advisor for MoBank (formerly Bank of Kansas City). Prior to joining the Bank of Kansas City, Rauckman served as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Garmin Ltd. from January 1999 until December 2014, and he was named CFO of the Year by the Kansas City Business Journal in 2008. Rauckman received a B.S. in Business Administration and an MBA degree in Finance from the University of Kansas. He serves as a board member and the audit committee chairman of JE Dunn Construction Group; a board member and the nomination/governance committee chairman of MGP Ingredients, Inc.; and a member of the board of CrossFirst Bank since 2018. He is currently chairman of the elder board at Christ Community.

Tom Nelson is the Lead Senior Pastor of Christ Community Church and founded the church over 30 years ago. He also serves as president of Made to Flourish, a network that seeks to empower pastors to lead churches that produce human flourishing for the common good. Tom is the author of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity, and The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership. Tom speaks regularly on faith, work, and economics around the country. Tom has served on the board of regents of Trinity International University and is also a council member of The Gospel Coalition. Tom graduated with a master’s of theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and received his doctorate of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Tom and his wife, Liz, have two grown children and live in Leawood, Kansas.

 

QUOTES:

“…there are checks and balances on the board…those checks and balances don’t guarantee virtue but they encourage virtue…congregationalism isn’t perfect, but it’s really, really good on that point of check and balance on power, boundaries, accountability and order.”
— Tom Nelson

 

“On a governance structure…the assumption is there’s transparency, there’s fairness, there’s love, all these character pieces, you’re hospitable…But the assumption is people are going to treat others fairly if there is a challenge, or a problem along the way. Structure or governance helps combat that. [which is] why this is so important in the life of any institution.”
— Kevin Rauckman

 

“…throughout church history and present that there are different ecclesial structures or structures of churches, and they appeal to certain scriptural texts for validation. I think that’s good. It shows there’s not just one size fits all. There’s diversity and that’s really good. Each one has its strengths and maybe weaknesses. That’s just the nature of an imperfect world and imperfect structure.”
— Tom Nelson

 

RESOURCES:

Christ Community’s Position Papers:
Flourishing and Leadership
A Biblical Theology of Male and Female

 

CHAPTERS:

[00:01:30] Discussing governance in organizations.
[00:05:33] Enron’s example highlights the importance of oversight.
[00:06:50] Tim Mackie on complexity of biblical context.
[00:12:32] Diversity in ecclesial structures is beneficial.
[00:15:05] Financial world requires integrity; similarities in organizations.
[00:17:59] Exploring biblical principles in today’s diverse churches.
[00:20:43] Bylaws, board, checks, balances, accountability, power.
[00:25:51] Collaborative effort in selecting church elders.
[00:28:06] Kevin leads as the Elder chair.
[00:30:34] Responsibilities of board members.

Thinking Slowly Together About Gender 

Thinking Slowly Together About Gender 

Confusion, frustration, and distress are but a sampling of emotions we may feel as we consider topics of sexuality in our cultural moment. However, it is not just the culture “out there” that is deeply troubling for many believers. Our own evangelical culture all too often exhibits unhealthy and unbiblical patterns in male and female relationships. A host of critiques of our evangelical culture have been published recently, including Jesus and John Wayne, The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Recovering from Biblical Womanhood, and The Great Sex Rescue, to name a few. In addition, the podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill has unmasked a particularly toxic church culture. And perhaps most disturbing in recent months has been the revelation of the extent to which the Southern Baptist Executive Committee mishandled and covered up sexual abuse. Is there hope for our culture? Is there hope for the evangelical church?

 

A Challenging Conversation

Addressing these questions is complex and requires difficult conversations. I am usually one who runs from confrontation and uncomfortable topics, so my first impulse is to throw up my hands, thinking it is futile to engage. However, gratefully, our local church is a place that invites challenging conversations and makes room for long, thoughtful engagement. To borrow a phrase from a recent book, we are invited to think slowly together. This past year, I have had the privilege of being a part of a “think slowly” group, a task force of five people from different campuses and different walks of life. We were invited to sit, study, pray, and write together about God’s design for male and female flourishing in our church. This little band of people met for many hours for the better part of nine months, leaning into this challenging conversation. We prayed, read widely, and worked through the vast sweep of Scripture. Entering  the conversation with open hearts, we made room to be corrected, surprised, and inspired by what we learned. The result is several papers that are posted on our website. We hope you will read them for a much more in-depth reflection. 

 

Flourishing Together 

So, how do men and women flourish together? Our team’s best understanding from Scripture is that we are designed to be in a complementary alliance as members of a family. Complementary means male and females are uniquely made so as to enhance one another. Genesis 1:27 clearly declares that male and female together bear God’s image. We are so similar: both embodied image-bearers of God. But we are also unique in our contribution and biological distinction. Alliance means we are designed to be in a relationship for the purpose of a common mission. Genesis 1:28 gives the male and female a mandate to rule over God’s earthly kingdom, as well as to multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 2:18, in response to the declaration that it was “not good for man to be alone,” describes God’s intention, “I will make a helper corresponding to him.” The word translated “helper” in this verse is the Hebrew word ezer. Too often this word has been conceived as “assistant” or subordinate. However, the word ezer is most often used to describe God himself as our help. Far from a mere assistant, the ezer is the essential one to come alongside, to enable the fulfillment of a given task. The ezer is what Talbot professor John McKinley describes as “the necessary ally,” emphasizing the joint mission for which male and female are created; to rule God’s earthly kingdom.

This beautiful relationship of complementary alliance was devastatingly fractured in Genesis 3, and God foretold that the consequences of sin would introduce male domination and female frustration into the relationship. This is the part that prompts the throwing up of the hands. However, as believers, we are redeemed to be reconciled—to God first, and then to one another as males and females in relationships of complementary alliance. Whether married or single, we are necessary allies on mission together as family members. We are neither identical nor interchangeable, and we are all necessary. 

Most profoundly of all, we find that God himself is pictured as the husband of his people in the Old Testament and Jesus as the Bridegroom to his church in the New Testament. The mystery of male and female is theological (pointing us to God) and eschatological (pointing us to our glorious future). Ultimately, we will live in the New Creation as a complementary alliance of brothers and sisters forever in the perfected family of God.

 

Living This Out

As a result of this conversation, the leadership structure at Christ Community has not changed, but our understanding and expression of God’s beautiful design for males and females in complementary alliance has blossomed. Our task force has been deeply humbled and grateful for the manner in which our elders and senior leadership have commissioned, engaged with, and endorsed this conversation.

After thinking slowly together with the task force and our leaders over the last year, I no longer feel like throwing up my hands in exasperation regarding the relationship of males and females in the church. Rather, I am prompted to lift my hands in worship of our Bridegroom, the Lamb of God. Praise to the Father for his good and gracious inclusion of all his children in his plan. May we be found faithful to increasingly live into his marvelous design.

 

Read the resulting papers created by this task force:

1) Exploring God’s Design for Male and Female Flourishing In the Church A Biblical Theology of Male and Female

2) Male and Female in the Church Structure and Polity

 

 

 

Note about the task force:

This team experienced the joy of functioning in a true complementary alliance on this project:

Ben Beasley, former Associate Pastor, Downtown Campus, MDiv, pursuing ThM at Princeton Theological Seminary

Nikki Dieker, Associate Pastor, Olathe Campus

Bill Gorman, Campus Pastor, Brookside Campus, MDiv

Melody McSparran, Bible Teacher, Trinity International University Board of Regents Member, Congregant, Leawood Campus

Kelli Sallman, ThM, Writer and Editor, Congregant, Leawood Campus