The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘technology

The church and the plague

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“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour” (Rom 13:1–7).

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Lk 20:25).

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:24–25).

“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” (1Thes 5:26).

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge’” (Acts 4:19).

“You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13).

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Lk 6:27–31).

And then the government said, “Thou shalt not gather, no, not for religious worship, not even on the Lord’s day.”

So what do we do? How do we proceed? Are we capitulating to anti-Christian authorities if we fail to gather together on the Lord’s day? Or are we honouring the authorities which God has put in place over us? Where and how do we obey the civil authorities, and how does that connect with our duties to the Lord our God? I have some kind of innate resistance to the idea of civil government regulating the worship of God. I trust that I have developed, over time, a principled commitment to being among God’s people on the Lord’s day, and making the most of those opportunities. However, I am most concerned to work out how to honour the Lord in all of this.

In this regard, I have read some amusing comments suggesting that, because—as is well known—all Europeans are basically socialists, therefore they will obey their governments without question, demonstrating mindless submission to their near-totalitarian authorities, whereas free Americans, of course, will resist their government the moment the big boys start throwing their weight around. Not quite following the logic there, but it seems a somewhat simplistic reading of the situation.

So, we are to be subject to the governing authorities, appointed by God. If we do what is good, we shall have nothing to fear from them. We are to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. All this would include recognising the measure of oversight and national direction a competent and well-disposed civil government might be able to provide, and at least honouring the government’s intentions to preserve the health and life of its citizenry, maintain the economy, and so on. So, for example, if the government assures us that it has stockpiles of toilet paper, we don’t need to go on binge-buying toilet paper on the working assumption (working suspicion?) that they are trying to deprive us of toilet paper and hoard it for departments and officials of the state. If the government, for the preservation of life, urges or requires that we avoid public gatherings, including religious worship, we have—at the very least—an obligation to take that into account. In doing so, it is proper to take into account the difference between counsel and command: the government might advise us to do something which we choose to do or not to do, or to do in a certain way. In such an instance, we have a little more freedom of manoeuvre.

But what if the government forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids? Does it make a difference if it is temporary and a matter of outwardly good governance? God has commanded us to meet as a gathered church, has appointed the first day of the week as the proper day on which that should take place, and has made sweet promises in connections with those gatherings. Our love for God would surely carry us toward a dedicated commitment to gathering with his people in his presence for his praise. If we are healthy saints, we will have both a sense of our proper obligation and a proper appetite for the worship of God together. And, when we gather, there usually ought to be proper expressions of affectionate fraternity among us—whatever may be the equivalent of the holy kiss. Indeed, we might argue that such times as these are times when the gathering of the saints becomes more significant, not less so, as we come together to cast ourselves upon God, and receive the spiritual sustenance our souls need to keep faith keen, hope bright, and love strong amidst these challenges.

Now, what of the sixth commandment? We are told not to murder, and that commandment requires (to employ the language of The Shorter Catechism) us to use all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others, while forbidding the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tends toward that end. Earlier this year I was struck down, for what may be the first time in my life, with proper flu. I was in bed for about a week, careful about exposing others to any potential infection for several days after that, especially when resuming my public pastoral duties, and particularly careful about not visiting more vulnerable members of the congregation for a further period of time. Under normal circumstances, I would probably encourage people with a high level of sickness to take particular precautions about spreading their illnesses. While I do not encourage people to cry off the worship of God for petty reasons, if someone is sick (especially infectiously sick), then—for their own sake and that of others—they should probably ‘self-isolate’, to use the current jargon. In that sense, we are simply applying the regular principle to an irregular situation. If someone is either unwilling or unable to make a wise decision for themselves, perhaps some diaconal counsel would be appropriate, even to the point of advising them to return home for their own wellbeing, and that of others.

Then there are those principles of love to our neighbour which are the very essence of our obligations to our fellow men, and which lie behind the sixth and other more ‘horizontal’ commandments. In encouraging God’s people last Sunday to think through this, I emphasised that much of what is required is simply the extensive and intensive application of Christian courtesy as well as particular wisdom. This might include properly washing your hands, especially if handling food others will eat; not shaking hands, embracing, or whatever your equivalent of a holy kiss might be, if the other party is not comfortable with it, or obliged to refrain from it for their own sake or yours; not being offended by someone who wants to take more precautions than you; taking particular care around the particularly vulnerable, whether the elderly or those whose immune system is already compromised or whose health is poor; taking unusual pains with cleaning the church building, especially those spots or rooms where the transfer of a virus might be more likely. How would love to our immediate neighbour work out if the government were to forbid gatherings for religious worship, or gatherings over a certain size? In the latter case, some smaller churches might be fine, while others would be over the threshold. What about love to the souls of men? How do we regard their eternal wellbeing? Incidentally, loving courtesy and care should extend to our ministry to those within the congregation who might need particular assistance, should they be necessarily self-isolating, and so isolated, or in need of particular care. Are we ready, if need be, to risk our own well-being for the sake of our brothers and sisters? What of those who are outside the kingdom, and may go to face the judgement unwarned and uninstructed if we do not warn and instruct them? That is a question that all Christians, especially the pastors of a flock, need to answer in principle now, before a crisis presses it upon us. What if other congregations have pastors laid aside by sickness, or by sensible precautions against sickness? Are we ready to travel to minister the Word of God? Are churches ready to adapt their meeting times and circumstances in order to accommodate every proper opportunity to hear the truth which saves?

And what of celebrating the Lord’s supper? That might present a particular challenge. It may depend on whether or not you believe that the Lord positively requires that you come to his table every Lord’s day. If you belong to a church or group of churches which celebrate less regularly, or much less regularly, it might not make much difference. What about the use of wine as against grape juice? Would the presence or absence of alcohol help? What about the use of a common cup? What about breaking or cutting the bread into smaller pieces ahead of time, if you use a single loaf? Does any of that make much difference if plates or cups are being passed hand-to-hand? This will likely say something about our theology of the Lord’s table. If it is nothing more than a memorial, perhaps we might more readily dispense of it. If we approach it as something talismanic, perhaps nothing will stop us taking it (unless the perceived danger renders our superstitions void for the time being). If we consider it a genuine means of grace, we will doubtless acknowledge that we need and desire it now, of all times, but other considerations may influence how or when or how often we celebrate it. Of course, given that it is not an ordinance for families, mates, or small groups, but for when “when you come together as a church” (1Cor 11:18), it may be that—leaving aside the context of division within the congregation—you acknowledge that, under these circumstances, the church is not truly gathering (and I am not suggesting that you cannot come to the table unless every member is present). Perhaps you can simply wait until the hopefully brief storm is over.

Let us try to work out some principles and some practices. I would suggest that we should be eagerly disposed to gather for the worship of God. Our primary commitment and expectation should be that, whenever and wherever possible, we gather with God’s people for worship on the Lord’s day. Let that be your working assumption. Let all your planning and preparing be carried out with the aim of enabling God’s people to come together to worship him and enjoy fellowship with each other as regularly and easily and as safely as possible.

If such gatherings were to become ill-advised, actively unwise, or even temporarily illegal, how might we then respond? There are a number of possibilities. First of all, I would expect that anyone actually or probably sick with coronavirus or any other such disease would be taking care of themselves and others by embracing such an illness as a genuine providential hindrance to gathering. I hope that goes without saying. So what of others? Perhaps a church could gather outside, with families in self-isolating units, with the requisite or recommended space between them. It might be a wonderful opportunity for evangelising, especially if there were properties nearby from which people could hear the good news. I think of the centre of our neighbourhood, with a square space surrounded by benches. One bench per family unit? Others standing or sitting in the spaces between? The opportunity to listen from the surrounding homes? It may be that the church building is big enough or the congregation small enough for such a gathering to take place within the building, with people sitting apart from each other, and proper care taken about the possibility of infection from mutual touching of surfaces like door handles. Under any such circumstances, proper measures for minimising risk would be essential (including parents taking pains to make sure that their children are looked after in this respect, like the young lads last Sunday who insisted to me that they didn’t like hot water and so were not going to wash their hands properly). Perhaps hand sanitisers (if they are still available) could be put at entrance points, with regular written or spoken reminders of good practice.

We might need to do a little ecclesiastical triage. Perhaps we could begin by stripping back some of the added extras to the essential rhythms of church life. For example, the church I serve has a number of additional meetings during the week, over the course of a month, or as one-offs, which we might need to review. While part of me says it is all the more important to preach the gospel under these circumstances, it is not necessarily a good idea to try to gather a crowd of strangers into one room at such times as these. So, we might focus on the morning and evening gatherings of the Lord’s day, and perhaps also meetings for prayer, which become more pressingly needful.

If other options are more limited, technology might be a particular help. For example, could the preacher go to the church building with his family, if healthy, and any others willing and able to attend? He could preach so that it could either be live-streamed to those who are not able to gather, or even recorded and/or streamed if no-one else can attend? We know, I hope, that there are spiritual dynamics associated with the gathering of God’s people to hear God’s word that cannot be replicated or transmitted by digital communication of the event, but such options at least keep in the loop those obliged to be absent, and might provide a temporary alternative (perhaps some instruction as to the pros and cons of such an arrangement might helpfully be given). Some churches already do this as a help to people already unable to attend, and this simply extends that provision on a temporary basis. It certainly has an impact on celebrating the Lord’s supper, as outlined above. Presuming I am available (and making plans if I am not), I currently intend to be at the church building on the Lord’s day, perhaps ahead of the usual hour if live-streaming proves a challenge with our limited resources, and making sure that audio and video recordings of the ministry were available for people to tune in at the regular times in order to give them some sense of normality and some necessarily reduced but still profitable dimension of church life. If things became more difficult, perhaps an elder could provide some kind of broadcast or recording from home, ministering to God’s people so that they could at least feed from the Word of God. If such technology lies beyond the church, there may be other faithful congregations providing a service that the saints could employ and enjoy, though every step of distance from the regular life of the covenanted congregation may well diminish something of the blessings that we derive, though the Lord knows how to shepherd his people in all seasons. Take into account, too, that in some cultures and contexts, such technological shortcuts may simply not be available. For some congregations, there may be older saints without the apparatus or awareness to use such means, and they might be the very ones who need most care of body and soul.

And what if the civil authorities were temporarily to ban all gatherings, including for religious worship? What then? I think I would be content, for the time being, to employ some of the means above to maximise the opportunities to preach the gospel to as many people as I could, within and without the walls of church buildings, and by as many legitimate means as I could find or devise. I am not persuaded that extravagant displays of civil disobedience, under these circumstances, are warranted or wise. And if, down the line, such government intervention became coercion or persecution, then I would feel perfectly at liberty to resist with a polite and humble disobedience any attempt to prevent the exercise of my God-given privilege to gather with the saints to worship him, despite my previous acknowledgement of the government’s counsels or commands in another context.

And liberty is important. It is worth taking into account the principle of Christian liberty. Not everyone will make all the same judgements at all the same points at all the same places. Some of our hypochondriac brethren may well already be living in a sealed unit with a lifetime supply of tinned goods and toilet paper, and have decided that the gathering of the saints is simply too dangerous for them and their families. I might not agree, but—as long as this is not taken to foolish extremes—I am unlikely to rebuke them for non-attendance under the circumstances, though I might counsel a little more robustness, in dependence on God. We do not honour God by blind panic, though we should by a loving caution. On the other hand, some who boast in God’s sovereignty might choose to display their confidence with a sort of bravado or abandon, turning convictions about providence into a sort of carefree or miserable fatalism. I might encourage them to use the means God has provided for their wellbeing, and that of others, and need to rebuke them if they are risking the sixth commandment. There may be many times when we simply give people the option and the opportunity, and leave them to judge in accordance with the light that they have, remembering that we are, in a real sense, a voluntary gathering. Liberty is also corporate. Some churches will take a different line to the one which you might take; they are free to do so, under God, so long as they do not violate clear principles of scriptural conduct.

Bear in mind, too, that current indications suggest that this will be a temporary measure. If the figures we know are to be believed, such restrictions might only last for a few weeks, perhaps a month or a little more. If the restrictions were maintained for longer with good reason, then we might need to consider again how we respond. If they were maintained without good reason, then we might more readily return to our more default positions.

In all this we do need to remember that there is a God in heaven, who does whatever he pleases, in accordance with his goodness, mercy, wisdom, and love. Bear in mind that you could take all precautions, and still fall sick, or even fall asleep in Jesus. You might take no precautions, and remain well. Believing in the sovereignty of God should not make us careless of the use of the means that God has appointed to accomplish certain ends. Even Hezekiah, promised a recovery from his deadly sickness, applied the poultice of figs which the Lord appointed the means to the ends of his recovery (Is 38:21). Neither mindless panic nor thoughtless bravado will honour the Lord. Stability and even serenity belong to those who trust in the Lord.

So, commit to doing all you can to obey God’s commands and embrace the privileges of the saints. Plan and prepare to make the most of every opportunity for this, now and under any future circumstances. As and when the wisdom either or the elders (in the ecclesiastic sphere) or the government (in the civil sphere) dictates, you may need, temporarily, to make the kinds of adjustments outlined above, seeking in all this to “honour all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1Pt 2:17).

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 12 March 2020 at 09:19

Upcoming SALT Conference in Glasgow

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We are informed that “SALT is a conference organised by Trinity Baptist Church, Dundee, and Grace Baptist Partnership Scotland to encourage teens and twenties to be serious about loving truth. It is a free day conference with four sermons, refreshments, supper and time for relaxation and getting to know others.”

It takes place on Saturday 16th February and will be hosted by South Glasgow Baptist Church in Govan. The preachers are Conrad Pomeroy (Dundee), Ali McLachlan (Edinburgh), and myself (but never mind).

The theme is how to glorify God in the arenas of Social Media, Recreation, Technology and Entertainment.

The conference flyer can be downloaded (and printed and forwarded) here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 26 January 2013 at 18:23

Twinterview: Guides and gateways

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This twinterview turns to two bloggers who are technologically-engaged, known for their attempts to bring Christian principle to bear on this brave new world, and who act as gateways for all manner of material that sits at the intersection of these and many other issues. I particularly appreciate, in both of these gentlemen, their readiness to plough their own furrow, not bullishly and arrogantly, but faithfully and humbly, writing out of conviction and not jumping on bandwagons because those bandwagons happen to be flying past with lights flashing. They also help others guard their time and their priorities from the often enslaving attractions of technological tools.

So, we welcome Tim Challies of überblog Challies.com fame and David Murray of HeadHeartHand (preacher, lecturer, blogger, film-maker, author, etc.) to the world of the twinterview. There are fewer questions than usual – a trade-off required before my invitations were accepted – but I hope that you will the answers sufficiently penetrating and full to make it more than worthwhile. I am grateful to these brothers for sparing their time for this exercise.

As usual, neither interviewee saw the other’s answers until both sets of responses were in, and there was no collaboration or collusion. The answers are as given, and I have not commented on them, either in terms of interest, agreement or disagreement. The responses are edited only lightly for form, and the content is the responder’s own. Please feel free to engage politely in the comments section.

Previous twinterviews can be enjoyed at the links below:

1. How did you get to know one another? What do you most appreciate about one another as friends and fellow-bloggers?

Tim Challies: David will probably have a different story to tell, but I believe that he and I interacted a little bit via social media, but then first met when I made a business trip out to Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary to discuss a new web site. Obviously this was a few years ago when I was still in the web design business. I met David at that meeting and I guess we pretty much hit it off right away.

There is a lot I appreciate about David as a friend. He is one of the most caring people I have met, one who is genuinely thoughtful and compassionate. He is also humble, a guy who is far more widely-read and far more capable than he tends to let on. And he is serious but not too serious; he has a zany and understated kind of humor that surfaces now and again. And then there is that amazing accent.

David Murray: I was not long in the USA when I heard of some popular Christian blogger called Challies. I started reading and enjoying his writing, and found his daily A la Carte selection of links especially helpful in getting to know the North American church scene and culture.

When Puritan Seminary decided to re-vamp our website, Tim’s name came up and we invited him to do the work. When he came to Grand Rapids to get the website specs, we met face to face for the first time, and got on well. We also found out that Tim’s Dad and I had studied in the same Seminary in Edinburgh.

We next met up at The Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago in 2009 I think, had a meal together and I interviewed him for the Seminary blog. We kept in touch regularly after that, mainly over email and Skype, and a few times face-to-face including a meal we shared together with our wives in Canada.

Although Tim and I are quite different in many ways (Baptist v Presbyterian, 30-ish v 40-ish, Newish Calvinist v Oldish Calvinist, Canadian v Scottish, etc.), we do share a number of things in common – including our interest in how to use and not abuse technology, a passion for practical theology, and a deep concern to see the New Calvinist movement continue to grow and mature (as well as learn from it ourselves).

 I have a deep respect for Tim as a believer, as a husband, as a father, as a Pastor, as a writer, and in other ways too. I’ve probably learned far more from him than he ever has from me. I admire his doctrinal clarity, his writing gifts, his focus on the church, his care for his wife and family, and his love for Christ. I’ve learned most from him in the area of being transparent and vulnerable. That kind of honest openness is risky, and doesn’t come easy for a Scot, but it’s a beautiful trait that requires a lot of faith to exercise in such a public way.

2. What would make you stop blogging? Do you see any technology or platform that is likely to render the blog obsolete any time soon?

TC: I have thought about this one a fair bit over the years, and at this point cannot imagine too many scenarios in which I would give it up altogether. However, if I found that blogging was having a negative effect on my family or on my ministry to my local church, I know I would feel compelled to quit or at least to scale back. I prioritize those things far higher than blogging and hope I would have the strength and integrity to follow through. I trust my wife and my fellow elders to keep me accountable and to ensure that my priorities remain in place.

As for blogging, it is not going away in the near future. I suppose we may give up the term blogging at some point, but the simple act of common folk writing down their ideas and posting them to the Internet is not going anywhere. The little people have a voice and they are not going to give that up. Not only that, but we have learned that we do not need and do not want professionals to shape all of our ideas; we want to have a voice of our own.

DM: I do pray about the place of blogging in my life. Although it’s been a huge blessing to me to have to write something edifying most days of the week, and I hope it’s impacted others for good too, I am often concerned about the amount of time it takes each day. I’m conscious of the need to keep it in the right place, and as with everything make sure that it is the Lord’s will for me to do. I do ask the Lord to show me if He wants me to stop it or to reduce its place in my life.

Obviously it’s very difficult to predict Technology. However, I think that blogging will continue to grow, though more slowly. Whatever happens to our culture, I can’t ever see human beings losing the impulse to put words into the public arena, even if only to be read by a few people.

If Facebook ever gets round to writing some decent software that will be more hospitable to blogging, that could have a significant impact on independent blogging sites. However, as they can’t even design good software for their core service, I think blogging is safe for the foreseeable future.

3. You are both fairly intimately involved in aspects of the Reformed and evangelical world of America, yet perhaps standing slightly outside of it by virtue of your origins. What do you think are the challenges of the American context and assumptions of so much theological and practical discussion? To what extent do you discern the existence of a gap between that and different (European/Canadian/other) contexts, and what might be the effect of that gap?

TC: I always get in trouble when I speak to America, so you’re putting me in an awkward spot. But here I go. America has justly deserved her reputation as a nation that believes it knows what is best, not just for itself but for others as well. America is known to walk with a bit of a swagger, whether politically, militarily or spiritually. And to be fair, America has a lot to commend it in all of those regards. Still, when a Canadian hears that a group of Americans is coming to Canada to do a service project or to plant a church there’s often a bit of hesitation, wondering what drama will come from it. What I mean is that America has brought to the world a lot of assumptions that reflect herself, but not necessarily the church in other places; America assumes that American Christianity is the purest, normative form, that it is the real deal and that the rest of the world ought to do things the same way.

I can testify that the church in Canada, a country that shares a border with the United States and which is culturally downstream from the United States, is very, very different. In general, American church planting movements have not seen a lot of success in Canada because they fail to understand just how different we are. We need indigenous church planters just as much as any other country.

Let me offering a peace-making word before I move on: I think we may be seeing a humbling in these areas, especially as we begin to see the failure or displacement of Western Christianity and the rise of Christians in the global south and east.

DM: I feel hugely privileged to live and work in America. I and my family love it here, and hope to spend the rest of our lives here, if God wills. The sermons and books of American pastors have played a huge role in my own Christian life and in my ministry. The major challenge in the American context is to avoid extremes. I think America is a very practical nation, Americans are a can-do people, and like solving problems. However, problems are rarely solved at the extremities. Simpler solutions are found there, but usually not the right ones. The challenge is often to live in the messy middle, feeling the tension of truth, and being prepared to live with the stress of that balancing act. I’m thinking especially here of the tensions in counselling (e.g. what place do we give to the sciences), in preaching (e.g. balance of consecutive-expository, evangelistic, redemptive-historical, application, law and Gospel), and in Christian living (balance of external v internal, activism v piety, law v Gospel, etc).

4. Taking into account any nuances from the previous question, what do you see as particular dangers or challenges to the church in the West at this time? Would you care to suggest potential remedies?

TC: I would suggest that one of the greatest dangers to the church today is thoughtlessness. The first book I wrote was about discernment and that remains a burning topic to me. It continues to surprise me how many Christians there are who have not been taught how to think biblically and who may never even have been told that there is such a thing as biblical thinking. That’s tragic. We can only live like Christians if we think like Christians.

After I wrote my book on discernment I wrote on technology and came to see that there’s a growing danger hidden in our technology that may lead us to even more thoughtlessness by way of busyness and distraction and obsession. It seems that just as many Christians have begun to identify the problem—we need to think like Christians—we’ve filled our lives with gadgets and gizmos that are going to likely to keep us from the kind of deep thinking we need.

DM: (1) Antinomianism. Can only be fixed by a Christ-centred covenantal understanding of the Old Testament. (2) Preaching becoming too academic and less evangelistic. Remedy is to remember that unless hearers are born again they are going to hell forever. We need much more of a “burden for the lost.” I think on the whole that Pastors are spending too much time with books (and the Internet) and not enough with sheep. Solution is simple – get out of the study and visit the sheep – and seek the lost ones too. (3) Militant homosexuality is not going away. The trajectory of media, educational, political, and judicial, intimidation is worrying. Acceptance of gay marriage is usually followed by hate-crime legislation that eventually is interpreted to prevent any criticism of homosexuality. The church will need to hold firmly hold to the immorality of homosexuality without unnecessarily provoking legal and other consequences, as well as learning how to reach out to homosexuals with the Gospel.

5. Without wishing to go “Miss World” on you esteemed gentlemen, what three things would you be particularly grateful to see happening in your particular sphere of operation and influence over the coming year?

TC: Let me address that by looking to three different spheres of operation:

As a father and husband I want to see my children profess faith, be baptized, and live as if their profession is legitimate. I want to continue to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord and to build a real friendship with each one of them—a friendship that will last far longer than my role as dad. As a husband I want to more and more internalize the command to be toward my wife as Christ is toward his church, to understand what that means and how it ought to work itself out in the way I relate to her.

As a pastor I want to serve my church well and to lead them in holiness and godliness and prayerfulness and other godly character qualities. I won’t ever be the most dynamic preacher and won’t ever have the theological depth of so many men whose career path has taken them through seminary and post-graduate work, but I know I can lead them in those things that do not require a degree or formal training. I can, that is, if I set my heart and mind in that direction.

As a writer I want to be careful to avoid writing books for the sake of writing books. I want to be content to write only when I have the kind of idea that just won’t let me not write about it. And I want to continue to use my web site as a place to think publicly, to wrestle through the issues that are important to the church in this time and this place, to draw attention to good resources and to warn people away from the ones that are unbiblical. And as I do those things, I want to ensure that I am always speaking truth in love.

DM: (1) I’d love to see more racial diversity in our Reformed churches. I think that can only happen by majorities reaching out to minorities, rather than majorities expecting minorities to come to them. (2) I’d like to see more Christians re-discovering the joy of keeping the Lord’s Day holy. The main obstacle to that is sport-idolatry. (3) I’d like to see more evangelistic preaching; expository preaching that is regularly and specifically focussed on the conversion of unbelievers in our congregations.

6. You are both writers. What place does more developed writing with a view to formal publication have in your commitments of time and energy? Do you enjoy it or feel obliged to do it? Do you feel a sense of compulsion with regard to particular topics, or are you pushed into areas of expertise which, under God, you have developed?

TC: I feel no great compulsion to write books. As I have just said, I want to be content to be the guy who publishes a book every few years and not feel like I need to crank out a new title every six months or every year. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve got the time or energy or brain space to do much more than a book every few years.

I do not want to ever write a book under compulsion. Soon after I began writing formally a wise man who has seen many of his books be published warned me against two things: signing multi-book contracts and writing the book that someone else wants me to write. Both things, he warned, will produce low-quality works that you write even though they do not excite you. Looking back, that seems like sage advice.

DM: I’m trying to write something for publication every 18 months or so. When I started writing a few years ago, I hated it – I was more of a speaker. But now I love it and really look forward to writing time. Blogging has really helped me in that regard. It’s helped me find my “voice,” strive for clarity and brevity, and try to present truth in an engaging and enjoyable way.

I can’t imagine writing a book on something I wasn’t passionate about. I believe that’s part of God’s leading – He gives you a passion or a burden for a subject and you cannot but speak or write the things you have seen and heard!

7. Are there any particular books you wish you had read, but have never got round to?

TC: There are more than I could easily list, which is exactly why I began the Reading Classics Together effort at my web site. Reading Classics Together gives me the context and accountability to read some of those great works from days gone by.

I would also like to read more reference and academic works. The problem I face is that I may put weeks into reading a dense academic work, print a review, and see that only a very few people are interested in it. If I read and review The Shack, I will see hundreds of thousands of people be interested in it. In that way I find myself dedicating a lot of my reading efforts to lighter reading. However, even with that being true, I am trying to dedicate more of my time to reading good, dense, difficult, high-return books.

DM: I’d love to have read more of the huge biblical theologies that have been published in recent years. I’ve read one or two, but there are a number of others I’ve just not been able to find time for. I’d also like to read more of the Puritans. My favourite Puritan is John Flavel and it’s still my ambition to read through his works. I’ve also only dipped into Jonathan Edwards – I’d like to submerge myself in his thought over a period of time.

8. What are the best and the worst things about being a preacher, in your experience?

TC: My preaching experience is still rather limited compared to David’s or compared to most other preachers, so you may want to keep that in mind.

The best thing about being a preacher is being set aside and even paid to study and apply God’s Word. That may sound selfish, I suppose, but it is a great honor and privilege to be called to do what every Christian wants to do—study the Bible. While that study is often gruelling and more work than pleasure, it always bears fruit.

The worst thing is all that preaching takes out of you. Preaching is soul-baring and exposing and that brings about a kind of fatigue, a kind of post-performance weakening, that I haven’t ever experienced elsewhere. People who haven’t prepared and preached a sermon probably just do not understand how cutting even a small comment can be or how encouraging a small praise can be. Preaching must easily be one of the most difficult tasks in the world; but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

DM: Best: Getting to study God’s Word as my calling, the felt guidance of God in preparation, the joy of experiencing divine help in the pulpit, the potential of seeing souls saved, comforting God’s afflicted people.

Worst: Monday morning, sometimes having to prepare sermons with too little time to do it as I would like.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 3 July 2012 at 14:47

Face to face

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We still hear a fair amount about incarnational ministry. Unfortunately, it too often refers to choosing the right T-shirt, identifying the right body piercing, listening to the right music, and so on. It too rarely refers to a readiness to put down your phone, pod, pad or whatever else you might be using, and give your undistracted attention as a physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual presence to the person or people who need it. That is what a pastor does.

@ Reformation21 Blog.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 8 June 2012 at 08:19

Posted in Pastoral theology

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The inventions between me and the world

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Sometimes, Christians with a sympathetic view of culture (like myself) have a tendency to treat it all—including technology—as though it were neutral, but this isn’t the case. Like all of creation, the technological world bears witness to God’s glory and goodness with its undoubted helpfulness, its moments of beauty, and its occasional ability to inspire awe. But also like all of creation, it bears the stain and destructive power of sin, introducing us to whole new ways to destroy relationships, disrupt our lives, and distract from the glory we were created to behold.

I enjoyed Mike Cosper’s thoughtful piece on technology (remember, he’s a New Calvinist, so he means Apple!) and the distance it puts between us and the reality – the people and things – with which we need to engage.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 27 October 2011 at 11:30

Review: “God’s Technology” (DVD)

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God’s Technology: Training Our Children to Use Technology to God’s Glory

David P. Murray

Head Heart Hand, 2010, 40 minutes, DVD $14.99 or download $5.99 ($6.99 HD)

What for many parents might be a bewildering landscape is for their children the norm: the digital revolution has had a profound impact on almost every part of our life in the West, and it is this brave new world in which today’s children are growing up. But how can our children be equipped to face these challenges and embrace these opportunities? To help us, David Murray provides a short but helpful treatment (see preview and trailer below), in which he gives four Biblical principles to help us understand the technology around us. Following on, he offers three possible responses: enthusiastic embrace, strict separation, or disciplined discernment. Eschewing the thoughtlessness of the first two, he embraces the third, offering seven helpful steps drawn from Scripture by means of which to negotiate this realm, and to equip our children, under God, to deal with it righteously. So prevalent are these pressures that it is often a case of master or be mastered. In such a context, Murray’s suggestions will direct parents to manage their own digital load, as well as help their children learn how to live to God’s glory in the dawn of the digital age. The concrete recommendations of useful software and websites are helpful. Individual families will profit from this, but the material would be just as useful in church and other settings where the battle lines need to be drawn and the appropriate spiritual equipment issued.

The preview:


The trailer:


God’s Technology Study Guide

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 14 March 2011 at 08:02

Posted in Reviews

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Old theology marries new technology

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I have little idea what the finished product will look and sound like, and – most importantly – consist of, but I like this topic, enjoy a lot of David Murray’s stuff, appreciate his attitude, and am impressed by his evident abilities (not merely as a theologian). He asks:

Want to find and worship Christ in the Old Testament? Need a weekly Bible Study that’s doctrinal, devotional, and doable? Trying to help your children study the Bible on a Sunday afternoon, but they aren’t great readers? Looking for a Sunday school series that marries “old” theology with new technology. The CrossReference series of films from Head Heart Hand Media may be for you.

Find out more here.

On a related topic, David informs us about an app store missionary putting his newfound skills to good use.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 19 January 2011 at 18:11

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