Saturday, May 07, 2011

Ordinary Means of Growth

This article by Ligon Duncan has much sound wisdom as he expounds on the "ordinary means of grace" view of ministry. He concludes,

This means, among other things, that ministry is not rocket science. Gospel faithfulness does not require the minister to be a sociologist. Because ministry is not determined (in the first place) by reading the culture but by reading the Word of God. The ordinary means minister wants to connect with the culture, but when it comes to determining method and priorities he moves from text to ministry, not from culture to ministry. He neither changes his message nor his methods based on the polling of the most recent focus group (though he strives to be fully cognizant of the obstacles and opportunities that his biblical message and methods face in his particular cultural context). He fully understands that there is no such thing as an unsituated biblical ministry, or an uncontextualized ministry (and so is careful not to universalize his particular cultural moment, nor to confuse it with universal, biblical norms). He also fully appreciates that some churches have unhelpfully baptized cultural norms and methods from the past, without realizing that baneful cultural influence. But he also knows that many churches, in the quest to contextualize the Gospel and the ministry, have in fact compromised them.

So he’s constantly going back and asking “what are my marching orders?” And when he remembers, it doesn’t require a Ph.D. in semiotics to interpret them: preach the Word, love the people, pray down heaven, disciple the elders, promote family religion, live a godly life. And what are the church’s marching orders: delight in the Lord’s Day, gathering with the saints to drink in the pure milk of the Word every Sunday morning and evening, as families; pray together as a congregation once every week; worship and catechize at home in families; love one another and all men.

What will a church look like that is committed to the ordinary means of grace? It will be characterized by love for expository Bible preaching, passion for worship, delight in truth, embrace of the Gospel, the Spirit’s work of conversion, a life of godliness; robust family religion; biblical evangelism, biblical discipleship, biblical church membership, mutual accountability in the church, biblical church leadership, and a desire to be a blessing to the nations. Along with this all, there will be an unapologetic, humble, and joyful celebration of the transcendent sovereignty of the one, true, triune God in salvation and all things.

I encourage you to read the whole article.

(HT: Reformed Baptist Fellowship)


Jay said...

The form "what are my marching order?" then "it doesn't take a PhD ... to interpret them". Together, they read to me as a claim that the following list contains items with obvious and clear scriptural mandates.

I don't have any significant problems with the items listed, but I am not so sure they are obvious and clear, at least not as given.

"...disciple the elders..." - really? Not anybody else? Only elders? What is the scripture on that one?

"...gathering...every Sunday morning and evening..." - What about the basis for this one?

"...pray together as a congregation once a week..." - How about this one? Where does the Bible mandate this in precisely this way?

These items seem more like conclusions drawn from scripture that have been given specific realization in terms of his church's schedule.

Jason Parker said...

Hi Jay,
Thanks for commenting. If you were o put yourself in the author's shoes, what do you suppose his response would be to your questions?

Jay said...

Hello Pastor!

Well, if I _really_ knew the answer I'd not be asking the questions! Since I don't know the answer, I can only imagine along what I think are three possible lines:

1) he misspoke/miswrote (implying that these marching order details are obvious and clear scriptural mandates) which would require an apology, retraction, correction, or the like; or

2) I am misunderstanding the (what seems to me strong) linkage between the marching order details and the 'obvious/clear' aspect, in which case he'd explain how the two were indeed so linked and my misunderstanding would be corrected; or

3) I understood just fine and he meant just that, so he'd provide me with an exhaustive list of scriptural references, of which I was heretofore ignorant, and then we could move on from there.

I would be glad for your expansion on any of the above, as well.

Jason Parker said...

Thanks, Jay. Sorry for my delayed response.

I asked the question simply to provide a helpful exercise. Often it helps to think about what we would mean if we were writing those words, because then we tend to put the best possible interpretation on the words.

In that light, it seems to me that you already answered your own questions: "These items seem more like conclusions drawn from scripture that have been given specific realization in terms of his church's schedule" (or in the long-standing tradition of which his church is a part, which has long-standing reasons for these applications). I think that is all he is claiming, no more.

For example, when he says "disciple the elders" he implies nothing about not discipling anyone else. He simply means "disciple the elders," which is a good application of scriptural teaching.

Could it have been more precise? Sure, just like this comment I'm writing could be more precise. But I think the article accomplishes it aim, and, like you, I don't have any problems with the items listed.

Jay said...

That was one of my guesses - on that we can agree!

If he was claiming that - that these are specific applications or instances of how he chose to apply things, etc, that's fine with me, but he sure didn't say that!

Yes, that was my point - he could have been more, much more, precise. Or maybe more - that the inaccuracy is troubling to me. As one who lives in the world of precision (that is, where I live, in the things I do) it seems to me wisest to aim for that. Obviously we all fall short, and we can all offer a helping hand in refining otherwise faulty logic or discourse. I am quite sure I would be glad for others to offer this to me.

Thanks for taking the time, Pastor Parker.