Friday, March 31, 2006


Textured Vegetable Protein

Dear Friends,

Do you know about TVP? It's a meat substitute made mostly of soybeans. The best-known iterations are Bacos and school lunch hamburgers.

Well, a few years back I got Y2K crazy. (This should suprise no one who knows me, because I get caught up in whatever I get interested in.) In the process I bought some cans of long-term storage food, among which were some cans of TVP. Since I spent so much money on this barely-edible stuff, I feel obligated, when it's my turn to cook, to use it if possible. Through the past few years, my family has sat down to some decent powdered-cheese kinda soup stuff, some barely-edible black bean vegetarian chili, and a few dishes that the dog wouldn't eat.

It's been more than five years now, and most of the food has been et. (That's the rural Texas past tense of "to eat.") But today when I was about to cook, I seemed to remember that there was still a can or two under the bed. Sure enough, there was one more can of TVP Beef!

We had the makin's (rural Texas for "ingredients") for enchilada casserole, so I gave it a try. This casserole had all kinds of good stuff in it:

-half a brick of Velveeta
-a can of cream-of-something soup
-a cup of milk
-a package of Taco seasoning
-Ranch dressing (rural Texas multi-purpose seasoning)
-flour and corn tortillas

We even had some Texas-shaped tortilla chips that my in-laws brought back from San Antonio. (We don't have HEB up here in North Texas.)

You'd think that with all these yummie ingredients, the flavor and texture of the TVP would disappear, and the whole casserole would taste wonderful.

You'd be wrong.

Seven kids and two adults sat down to that casserole, and I found I had fooled no one. The little kids ate their apple slices, asked for more corn chips, then said, "Can I go play the computer now?" The older kids ate some and said it was pretty good, but were just being nice. My normally-ravenous 12-year-old ate only a few bites. (This was very telling!)

The combined flavors of the delicious ingredients could not overpower the stale, imitation, artificial flavor of the TVP.

I think this simple episode in my family's life could serve as a strong challenge for Christians in general, and church leaders in particular. We must live holy lives. We must keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. We must purify ourselves.

If we have a great witnessing ministry, but we watch sexual movies on the DVD or VCR, we will not be able to keep the rotten taste from surfacing.

If we preach great sermons, but we harbor prideful thoughts about advancing in our careers, moving to more prestigious churches, we will not be able to mask the artificial flavor.

If we provide good biblical counseling for troubled Christians, but overindulge in leisure or good food, we will not be able to keep our church members from wanting something else besides what we are serving.

The Bible says,

(2 Peter 3:11) Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives

(James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

(1 John 3:3) Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

"Daddy's Famous Under-the-Bed TVP Enchilada Casserole" was not much use as a food. Maybe it will at least be useful as a reminder of this principle in Christian life and ministry.

Love in Christ,


Monday, March 20, 2006


Prayer for the International Mission Board BOT

Father, thank You for the trustees who have been called to manage the affairs of the International Mission Board.
Please keep them safe as they travel to and from the meeting.
Please bless their meeting this week.
Please lead the men who have been in conflict with each other to be reconciled.
Please lead every member to speak the truth in a loving, Christ-like manner.
Please lead the board to repeal the new policies they passed in November, if that is what would honor You.
Please remove all partisan politics or sectarian agendas from the board's deliberations.
Please give each one wisdom to make good decisions for the IMB.
Father, thank You for calling new missionaries into Your service.
Please bless those who are in the application process, and especially those who will be commissioned this week.
In the name of Jesus, amen.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Should We Be Called "Pastor"?

Dear Friends,

As you may already know, God has been leading me to study and question some of the teachings found in the 2000 BFM and its predecessor, the 1963 BFM. Our church holds the 1963 version, not out of opposition to the 2000 revision, but just from never having been motivated to look at it! (Institutional apathy?)

In our church’s discipleship training class, we have been studying baptism in light of the 1963 BFM, and have raised the question, “Is baptism really a church ordinance?” If you’re interested, you are welcome to join the study at .

This blog is dedicated to defining and promoting the work of the elder-bishop-overseer in the church. Previous posts have been walking through the New Testament’s teachings about what the elder is to pray for as he prays for his church, but I am going to put that on the back burner for a while in favor of a look at the title of “Pastor” in relation to the Baptist Faith and Message.

So here is my question: Should the men commonly called "pastor" in our churches be called “pastor”? In this article, let’s look to the Bible for guidance. Next time, we’ll consult our historical Baptist confessions.

Not being an accomplished Greek scholar, I study from the NIV, NASB, and KJV English translations, then consult the Greek when these do not agree, and for the precise meaning of important words. That will be the method in this article.

Does the New Testament call us “pastor”?

The only place that the English word “pastor” is used in the English translation of the New Testament is:

(Ephesians 4:11) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

This is the NIV rendering, but there is complete agreement on these terms among the English translations, because the Greek is not difficult here. The Greek word is poimen, which means “one who tends sheep” both literally and figuratively. Our English word “pastor,” taken from the Latin word pastum, “to feed,” also means “one who tends sheep” both literally and figuratively.

Some people look at this verse to supply the term “Pastor” for our church office. This is weak, however, because this is not a list of church offices. Baptists do not say that the offices in a church are Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and Pastor-Teacher. This lists describes the roles people may assume or the gifts they may exhibit, but not the offices they may hold. Therefore this verse cannot be the basis for our use of the word “pastor” to describe an office in the church.

The word “pastor” is not used anywhere else in the English translations. The related word “shepherd” is used in other verses, though. Not counting the many times that it is used to refer to Jesus, or to actual shepherds who tend real sheep, the term is used in three verses:

(Acts 20:28) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (NIV)

(1 Peter 5:2) Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; (NIV)

(Jude 1:12) These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. (NIV)

Interestingly, however, the noun form is not used in these three verses. In Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2, the apostles instruct certain men in the churches to shepherd the church. In Acts 20:28, the Greek word is poimainein, present active infinitive of purpose of poimaino, which means “to shepherd.” In 1 Peter 5:2, the Greek word is poimanate, first aorist active imperative of the same verb. The NASB conveys this in English by using the verb “to shepherd.” The KJV uses the verb “to feed,” which gives the main meaning of the Greek verb, but not the related ideas of “guide” and “guard,” which are also expressed in the verb. The Jude passage is not as relevant to our study as the others, since it is an indictment of false teachers, but even this verse uses a verb form of poimaino, not the noun poimen.

Jesus used this same verb and another when he spoke to Peter about this role in the church that was soon to be. In John 21:15, and 17, Jesus used the word boske, present active imperative form of bosko, an ancient word that means “to feed.” Verse 16 uses our friend poimaino again, in the present active imperative form poimaine.

(I realize that this account may be a Greek translation of words spoken to Peter in Aramaic. What else can we do but to use the Greek text?)

Where, then, is the New Testament basis for calling ourselves “pastor”? Jesus, Paul, and Peter all told us to tend our churches as a shepherd tends his sheep. But they never referred to the office of “pastor,” and in the New Testament record, they never referred to us as “the pastor.” Far from it, they never even used the noun “pastor” or “shepherd” to refer to us or our office.

What does the New Testament call us?

The Bible does refer to our office. Both Paul and Peter wrote on this matter. The most instructive passages are Acts 20:17-28, Titus 1:5-7, and 1 Peter 5:1-2. In all three passages, the apostles call the men in our office “elders” and “overseers” or “bishops.” Evidently these terms were used interchangeably by the apostles in referring to the same office.

The Greek word translated “elders” is presbuterous. This is a term borrowed from Jewish custom, especially the synagogue. It literally means “the aged,” but was used to refer to the leaders of families and communities, who also were the same class of men who lead the synagogues. This is the most-used term to refer to the office we hold as the church’s leaders and teachers. A simple word search for this term will yield several New Testament references to elders.

The Greek word translated “overseers” is episkopous. It is a word taken from business, and literally means “to oversee” and means also “to inspect.” In the Vulgate and the KJV, the word was not translated, but instead was carried over from the Greek. In the mutation from Greek to Latin to English, the term became “bishop.” (Write this out and have a look. You’ll see that the words are very similar.) Therefore there is no inherent difference for English-speakers between the terms “overseer” and “bishop.”

In addition to the definition of the terms, at least two points that may be significant strike the reader who studies these three passages.

First, the term “elder” occurs before "overseer" in each passage. Is it that they are commonly referred to that way more often than the other, or that the term “elder” occurs first to the mind of the author because of his Jewish mindset.

Second, the term “elder” has no inherent meaning as to function, while the term “overseer” does. That is to say, the term “elder” does not in itself give any clue as to what the man should do, while the term “overseer” does so.

Should we, then, be called, “pastor”? The Bible’s answer is, “No.” We should be called “elder” or “overseer” or “bishop.”
Wow! Have so many of us been so wrong? Apparently so.

Next time, we’ll look at our historical Baptist confessions to see what they say about the title of our office.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you share your ideas.

Love in Christ,


Monday, March 06, 2006


Second Spiritual Topic for Prayer

Dear Friends,

My last post showed that one spiritual topic for prayer is love. We pray that Christians will love each other, and that they will grasp the love that God has for them. A second theme about which the apostle Paul prayed was knowledge.

(Philippians 1:9-11) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, (10) so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, (11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.

(Ephesians 1:17) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

(Colossians 1:9) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

In these verses we see Paul praying that Christians would have knowledge, depth of insight, discernment, spiritual wisdom, revelation, and understanding. We as preachers and teachers generally focus our attention on instilling knowledge in the people through our teaching. That is all well and good---biblical teaching is absolutely crucial in the discipleship of Christians. But the Word shows us that God is the one who fills His people with spiritual wisdom. Therefore, just as much as we teach the people ourselves, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will be their true teacher. Let’s pray that our churches will be filled with the knowledge of God!

Love in Christ,


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