the weblog of Alan Knox

If the appendix becomes noticeable, then cut it out

Posted by on Aug 7, 2013 in blog links, spiritual gifts | 2 comments

The appendix is supposed to sit quietly in place. If it gets noticed for any reason, then it should be cut out – removed.

Dan at “Cerulean Sanctum” thinks that many Christians today feel like an appendix… and I think he’s right. In his post, “The Church’s Appendix,” Dan says that (like the appendix) many followers of Jesus do not understand what role they play in the body of Christ.

At one point, he writes:

I suspect that many people in our churches today feel like the Body’s appendix. Or at least the appendix of old, when we thought it had no real purpose except to go bad and become life threatening.

I think of the person with the prophetic gift that goes unused in a church that ignores the prophetic. Or the person with a gift of words of wisdom but who is not a church leader, so he or she is given no opportunity to practice that gift in the larger church body.

Unfortunately, I think Dan has offered a great analogy.

And, I would take it further. Today, people rarely notice that they have an appendix. But, when the appendix becomes noticeable… we rip it out… surgery… get rid of it.

Is this what happens among the church when an “appendix” becomes noticeable? Is that “appendix” suddenly considered inflamed… irritated… infected? If it doesn’t go back to it’s rightful (quiet and unnoticeable) place, then it will have to go.

Yep. I think that happens far too often.

And, guess what? That “appendix” actually plays an important role in the body of Christ. The church is actually LESS healthy after the “appendix” is “removed.”

Trying to explain my understanding of the church (i.e., my ecclesiology)

Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in definition | 12 comments

I often have a hard time explaining my understanding of the church (that is, my ecclesiology) when I’m talking to people. I’ve talked about this with many friends who have a similar understanding of the church… and they agree with me.

The main problem – as far as we can tell – is that we start from different places when it comes to the church. And, if you start from different places, then it’s going to be difficult to understand each other.

Three years ago, I wrote a short series while I was thinking about this problem. This series started at the beginning… with God:

  1. The Church: It All Begins With God
  2. The Church: God’s Children and God’s Family
  3. The Church: The Character of God’s Family
  4. The Church: When We Gather Together

To me, each of those steps are important and necessary in order to understand the church. But, it’s difficult to answer a question like, “How do you think elders should be chosen/appointed?” with, “It all begins with God…” But, in reality, if we don’t begin at the same place, then we are not going to understand each other.

The way I see the church, we must understand God’s desire for a relationship with people, our identity as God’s children and God’s family, how we display the character of God’s family, and the reason for us to gather together before we ever begin tackling questions like, “How should elders be chosen/appointed?” or “How/When do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?” or “How long should the sermon last?”

In fact, if we take the time to work through the first few points, we may find that the original questions become unimportant and unnecessary to ask.

Unfortunately, many people don’t want to start at the beginning with God and work through those other important points. They want to jump to the BIG issues… So, we often end up talking without understanding each other.

If you have time, please read the four posts above. Whether you agree with each item in those posts or not, I’d love to hear what you think about my approach to understanding the church. Is something missing? What would you add, change, delete? What needs to be expanded?

An update about July 2013

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in personal | 3 comments

So, July 2013 was an interesting month for us.

First, my wife (Margaret) and daughter (Miranda) spent the entire month in Alabama. Miranda wants to be a veterinary technician, and she had an opportunity to work at her grandfather’s former veterinary clinic in our hometown in Alabama. So, Margaret took her down so that she could work at the clinic through the month of July.

Unfortunately, my son (Jeremy) and I had to stay in North Carolina to work. Needless to say, we missed them very much.

On top of that, I have been extremely busy with my job, including a business trip for a few days in July. Plus, we had to complete some certifications during the month of July for another contract.

Saying that about my job, I need to tell you… I really love my job! I’ve said that a few times here, and it’s more true now that it ever has been. My responsibilities are changing, and I’m excited about the direction that both my company and my job are heading.

Of course, everything that happened during the month of July affected my ability to blog. So, I did not blog for several days.

Also, I’ve been thinking about the best way to describe my understanding of the church (i.e., my ecclesiology). I’m planning to publish a brief post about that tomorrow.

Well, that’s the personal update from here. How are you doing?

The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be administered

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in blog links, fellowship, gathering, ordinances/sacraments | 9 comments

One of my favorite bloggers, Dave Black, wrote a few thoughts on the “Lord’s Supper” on his blog (Monday, July 29, at 6:58 p.m.).

Earlier (Sunday, July 28, at 5:15 p.m.), Dave had explained that for the first time the believers he gathers with shared a single loaf of bread and a single cup as the Lord’s Supper. I love the fact that Dave celebrates the small steps that a group is willing to take. As we read his further thoughts, it’s easy to see that he would love to change the “Supper” among that church even more. Well, he doesn’t want to change it… he wants to see God change it.

Here are some of the observations that Dave makes concerning the “Lord’s Supper” (from 1 Cor 11 primarily, but also from 1 Cor 10 and Acts 20):

1) The Lord’s Supper is the centerpiece of the Christian assembly.

2) The supper is superbly Christ-centered (“Do this in MY remembrance”).

3) No believer is “invited” to partake of the supper; we eat and drink in obedience to Christ’s command (“Do this” is in the imperative mood).

4) The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be “administered.”

5) The emphasis is both on remembering and anticipating.

6) It is a joyous celebration and not a sorrowful funeral.

7) The meal symbolizes the unity of the Body of Christ.

8) ALL are to partake, and ALL are to partake together.

9) The “unworthy manner” to which Paul refers has nothing to do with one’s spiritual status at the time of eating. It refers to eating and drinking in a divided manner.

10) Self-examination is a necessary part of the Christian life, but in 1 Cor. 11 it is not a reference to the preparedness on the part of the believer. It is a call to observe the social nature of the meal in which distinctions based on partiality of any kind are forbidden.

11) The one loaf of bread not only symbolizes this unity but in some sense creates it.

12) Because there is only one loaf of bread, we are one body no matter how many we are or how diverse we may be. “Many yet one.”

Can you imagine gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ around a table of food? Can you imagine eating and talking together knowing that Jesus is present (because he is and because it’s his meal)? Can you imagine how much different the teaching, encouraging, serving, and fellowship would be?

So, what would be the benefits of gathering in the way that Dave describes above? Would there be any disadvantages?

It’s hard to comfort from a distance

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in blog links, fellowship | 9 comments

One of my favorite bloggers, Kathleen from “Church in a Circle,” has written another excellent post called “Fellowship happens face-to-face.”

Like me, Kathleen sees the benefit in “long distance” communication, like through letters, phone calls, even Facebook and Twitter. But, these cannot take the place of “face-to-face” communication. It seems that John recognized this also. (See 3 John 1:13-14.)

While there are several great parts of Kathleen’s post, I want to point out this paragraph in particular:

The world is desperate for true community. God’s solution is the church. Jesus commands us to love one another – he says this is how people will know that we are his followers. But how can we get to know each other and minister to one another’s needs if we don’t get to talk to each other or even make eye contact? How can we encourage each other, teach each other, and spur one another on to love and good deeds, if we can’t even see each other?

I’ll take this a step further. It’s difficult to comfort someone from a distance.

Last week, someone who is very close to me needed comforting. Unfortunately, she’s about 600 miles away. I could talk to her on the phone, and I could text her. I could pray for her and encourage her as much as I could from a distance. But, I could not sit with her face-to-face. I could not hug her.

There’s a difference. Yes, at times (such as this time for me), we cannot meet with someone face-to-face. But, that should be our goal whenever possible.

God willing, I’ll get to comfort her face-to-face later this week. But, for many believers, there’s rarely an opportunity for face-to-face fellowship of any kind. Why? Because the church tends to focus on one gathering, and that gathering offers very little opportunity for fellowship.

Yes, it’s possible for believers to fellowship at other times, but shouldn’t any church gathering be the normal time for us teaching one another, encourage one another, serve one another, and, yes, even comfort one another?

Scripture… As We Live It #270

Posted by on Jul 28, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 1 comment

This is the 270th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

If possible, so far as it depends on you others are peaceable to you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Replay: Disciples follow Jesus

Posted by on Jul 27, 2013 in discipleship | 12 comments

Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Disciples follow Jesus.” I wrote this post at a time when I was thinking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’ve read several books, articles, and blog posts on the topic, and I’ve seen many different definitions and descriptions of a disciple, but isn’t it as simple as following Jesus? Disciples follow Jesus… it seems obvious and simple. Right?


Disciples follow Jesus

It sounds simple and obvious, doesn’t it? Disciples follow Jesus. Notice this passage in Matthew’s Gospel:

Now when Jesus saw a great crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. (Matthew 8:18 ESV)

That’s a simple order, isn’t it? “Go to the other side of the sea.” That has to be the most simple and direct command that Jesus gave. What was the response of the crowd?

And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20 ESV)

One man jumped up right away… “Yes Sir, Jesus! I’ll go wherever you want me to go.” I think he probably started humming to himself, “Wherever he leads, I’ll go. Wherever he leads, I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ…”

Jesus warned this enthusiastic fellow to count the cost before agreeing to follow. Discipleship is not something to be taken lightly. Following Jesus is hard work. Jesus says, “Are you sure you are ready to give up everything? Enthusiasm doesn’t count for much when the going gets tough.”

Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22 ESV)

Another person jumped up and said, “Yeah, Jesus, I’ll follow you. I’ve thought about it, like you said, and I need to take care of some things first.”

Jesus didn’t cut this guy any slack either. He said, “Either follow me, or go home. All or nothing.”

I imagine there were other responses as well. “Jesus, I’ll follow you as soon as my job is more stable.” “Yes, Jesus, I’ll be right there as soon as I finish school. My education has to be a priority right now.” “Jesus, you know that I want to follow you, but let me raised the kids first. You might lead me to places where I wouldn’t want to take the kids.”

So many responses to Jesus. How will Jesus ever determine who is sincere and who is not? How will we ever recognize the true disciples?

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. (Matthew 8:23 ESV)

Doesn’t that sound simple? Jesus issues a command, and those who are his disciples obey by following him. The ones who speak up first are not necessarily disciples. The ones who delay and are admonished by Jesus are not necessarily disciples, nor are they necessarily NOT disciples.

Are you a disciple? Are you following Jesus? That’s the simple test. Start with Jesus’ most important commandments: Are you following Jesus by loving God and loving other people?

Have you left “vocational ministry”?

Posted by on Jul 26, 2013 in elders, office | 17 comments

A few days ago, I published a post called “The non-vocational option.” In that post, I explained that a few years ago, when I felt God leading me to more consistent service to his people, I was given two options: vocational pastor or vocational missionary.

So, back in 2002, my family moved to North Carolina so that I could attend seminary and get a job with a church as a vocational pastor. During my time in seminary – primarily through studying Scripture – I decided that the New Testament presents another option: the non-vocational option.

In response to that post, a reader named Scott left the following comment:

I think it would be helpful for some to share stories of people who made the transition from vocation to non-vocation and how they did it. Perhaps you could share stories of how you’ve helped in this regard and have others write up their stories of how they did it.

I believe this would be very helpful to many out there. It would also make for fascinating reading.

Now, I have never been a “vocational minister.” I have never been paid by a church. Although that was the direction that I was heading in 2002, God changed my plans over the next few years.

However, like Scott, I think it would be extremely helpful to hear the stories of people who have left “vocational ministry.” I know that some quit to find a “secular job” for many different reasons. Others are forced out, being fired by their church for different reasons and decide to never return.

The only person who I know (personally) who has “left the ministry” is Eric from “A Pilgrim’s Progress.” You can read his story on a page of his blog called “Why I resigned.”

I would love to hear your story too. Why did you leave “vocational ministry”? How did you support yourself and your family immediately after the job change? How do you support your family now? How do you serve your brothers and sisters in Christ now? What advice do you have for people who are considering leaving “vocational ministry”?

You can either leave a comment here, or send me an email at alan [at] alanknox [dot] net. I will not publish your story without your consent.

Who’s discipling whom here?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 in blog links | 4 comments

If you’ve read any of the comments on my blog, then you’ve probably come across comments by Randi at “Seeds in my Heart.” I often joke with Randi that her comments are often longer than my posts. But, I actually enjoy the way that she uses comments to “think through” various topics and questions.

Last week, Randi wrote a very good post called “Shepherding the Lambs.” The post is primarily about how she shepherds her children. However, there is much in her post that is applicable even to us adults.

She primarily sees her role as helping her children understand how Jesus himself is shepherding them. She writes:

To me, it’s just about creating opportunities for the kids to interact with Jesus…and to keep my eyes & heart open to God seeds whenever, wherever.

But, primarily, I want to point to a statement that Randi made toward the end of her post, where she writes:

The more I think about it, I really am not sure who is discipling who, really. This is so very humbling.

Yes, that’s it exactly. When we’re discipling one another – that is, when we’re helping one another follow Jesus – it’s often hard to figure out who is discipling whom. And, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Why? Because, discipleship is the work of God through the Holy Spirit as he guides us and empowers us to follow Jesus Christ. He uses us, of course, but it’s his work.

And, who does God work through? Whoever is indwelled by his Spirit – that is, by all of his children.

So, while it’s definitely possible – and perhaps probable – that a mature follower of Jesus Christ will disciple a new believer, it is just as possible that the new believer will also disciple the mature follower of Jesus Christ – if they are both depending on the work of God through the Holy Spirit to help them follow Jesus.

I never worry about who is discipling whom. Because it’s always God discipling all of us by his Holy Spirit dwelling in and working through all of us.

The only danger, then, is if someone assumes that she/he cannot be discipled by someone else.

So, what am I against?

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in discipleship | 11 comments

Last week, I was talking with someone about the church. As he listened to what I was saying, he rearranged my thoughts and presented it differently, saying, “So, that is what you’re against?”

To be honest, I was taken aback. I thought about how he had rearranged what I had said, and realized what a difference it made. I explained, “No, I’m not against that. Instead, I’m for something else.”

Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking about the difference between being “for” something or being “against” something else. I realize that this difference causes some misunderstandings and perceptions.

For example, I’m “for” believers meeting together in a manner that allows them to interact with one another – both to speak to one another and to serve one another – in order to foster mutual edification among the church. But, this does not mean that I’m “against” other kinds of gatherings. I think they are less healthy and are less conducive to mutual edification and growth among the body of Christ. But, that’s different than being against them.

Similarly, I’m “for” the church choosing/recognizing elders from among the believers who gather together regularly, and I’m “for” those elders continuing to work “with their hands” in order to support themselves and their family and to help others. However, this does not mean that I’m “against” the traditional manner of hiring strangers to be “pastors/elders” and paying those people to remain among a group as “pastors/elders.” I think that traditional manner of leadership is less healthy for the church. But, that’s different than being against those people.

There may be benefits at times to standing “against” certain things. But, I try to work from a different direction – I work “for” the kind of community in Christ and mutual discipleship that I find in Scripture. At times, when I promote a certain understanding of church, it may seem that I’m “against” other understandings or even other people. But, that’s not my goal or purpose.

Instead, I hope to continue to work “for” the church working together to build one another up in maturity in Jesus Christ.