Thursday, May 24, 2007

A week in France: looking for the history of the church - day 1

Our trip starts in beautiful Paris, in one of its train stations to be precise. Having just spent 1 ½ days with my parents and grandparents in the French alps, I took the night train and arrived in Paris at 7:00 ready to meet my friends and board the 9:00 train to Lyon.

I had often passed through Lyon while on my way to my mom’s parents in Paris, but I do not remember ever having really stopped to visit. I discovered that the city with all those buildings that I used to see from the car window has much more history in it than I ever imagined.

At the Lyon train station, we were met by Eric, our driver, who took care of us all day. This man took pride in his work, a rare kind nowadays, and helped us very much on our journey.

First stop on our tour: the baptistery behind the Saint Jean Basilica in the remains of the church of Saint-Etienne which was destroyed during the revolution. For a Baptist, this octagonal 4th century baptistery is great. When it was first built, it had a depth of 80 cm (31 in) so that, as the sign states, “l’évêque baptisait des adultes, qui étaient entièrement plongés dans l’eau” (the bishop baptized adults, who were completely submerged in the water). Over the next four centuries it was resized twice “pour s’adapter à l’évolution du rite du baptême” (to adapt itself to the evolution of the rite of baptism), so that “après le 7e siècle, c’est le baptême des enfants, par simple aspersion d’eau qui est devenu le plus fréquent” (after the 7th century, it’s infant baptism by sprinkling which became more frequent). So, as we can see, the biblical practice of believer’s baptism was followed by the early church up to, and even after, the 4th century!

We then saw a Roman amphitheater where, in the second century, many Christians were eaten by lions. We talked to the Musée de la civilisation Gallo-Romaine about possible future visits, but were not able to visit it since it is closed on Mondays. After lunch we stopped by the church of St. Irenaeus. Under the 19th century church (for the original 9th / 10th century church was destroyed in 1562 during the war of religions by the “Calvinists’ fury”) lays an early crypt which is said to have been built in the midst of an early Christian cemetery and house the remains of three second century church fathers: Irenaeus, Alexander, and Epipodius. We are very thankful to a sweet old lady who took the time to open both the church and the crypt for us, for when we got there, they were closed.

We then headed to Avignon on the 17:45 train, and after a good supper and great conversation, we checked out for the evening.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A week in France: looking for the history of the church - introduction

I have just had the opportunity to be the Cicerone, as my dad would say, for a very loving couple. The plan was to scout the south of France to preview church history sites that will be visited by seminary students in a future site-based summer program. There was much scheduled for us to do, and we knew that we would not see everything. Nevertheless, we tried our best to see as much as we could.

I figured that if you are anything like me, you probably do not have a good idea of just how much there is to visit in France when it comes to the reformation, so hang on and enjoy the ride. We will travel great distances in both space and time. We will gain a better appreciation for what believers have had to suffer as a result of their beliefs. And hopefully you will be encouraged, just as I was.

Pastor/elders should be selected from within the body - 9Marks Trends

As you might have noticed in a quote that I shared in Giftedness is paramount, giftedness is not something that can be seen in a resume or detected from listing to a sermon: it is something that is observed over time. This is why I have been convinced for quite some time that the characteristics of a pastor/elder listed in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9 can only be observed if the church is allowed to share in the life of the believer in question for an extended period of time. Thus a pastor/elder can only be recognized if he has been a member of the community for quite some time (this has all sorts of implications on vocational ministry which I will not tackle at this time). As one example, consider the gift of hospitality: how can a community of believers observe this gifting in a person unless that person lives in the community?

I found that a number of the authors agreed with this way of thinking. Consider these quotes:

“The biblical characteristics for elders are all characteristics of godliness and giftedness that must be proven over time.” - John MacArthur

“If I learned anything ‘the hard way’ over the years, it is that the best way to identify potential elders is in the normal flow of church life. They are evident by their response to what’s being taught; by their willingness to serve; by the abundance of spiritual fruit in their lives; and by many ways their giftedness is manifested in the church before they are singled out for leadership.” - John MacArthur

“These [the elder candidates] completed a rigorous questionnaire as well as interviews before presentation to the congregation. However, I learned through the process that questionnaires effectively test knowledge of basic doctrine but lack the precision to test motives and ambitions. These inner qualities are learned only in the crucible of church life. … Demonstrate that more than doctrinal knowledge and high visibility is needed.” – Phil Newton

“Choose those who are already ‘among’ the flock, and the flock ‘among’ them (1 Pet. 5:2). … ask, ‘does this man love the flock and is he beloved by them? … Avoid appointing those who would commit to loving the flock if they were asked to be elders. Better by far to have men who love the sheep than men who love being shepherds (the former will become the latter, but not vice-versa).” – Sinclair B. Ferguson

Monday, May 7, 2007

Grace and patience in the midst of persecution

I received this e-mail from a friend who herself received it from India.

There was another spurt of violence against the christians last week here in this city. One of the local pastor here was beaten up badly in his house last sunday for preaching in one of the slums of the city. Please ask God´s people over there to pray for all of us here as we need more grace and patience from the Lord to face these kind of situations. (emphasis mine)
What an encouragement to see how these believers are reacting to persecution. May we have that same kind of faith when we are persecuted.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. - Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
Please remember to pray for the persecuted church worldwide.

Join my blog network
on Facebook