Thursday, January 31, 2019

Headship and Prayer (3) Variety

Some say that headship means that fathers have primary responsibility for discipline, (especially when husband and wife disagree). I am not sure about this. We need to be very careful when defining male and female roles that we don’t go beyond the scriptures. The New Testament seems to define attitudes and behaviours, but says very little about different roles for husbands and wives.

One reason seems to be that God has created both men and women with a huge variety in personality and character. So, when two people marry, there will not be a one-size-fits-all definition of roles that will work for them. We must be careful about assuming that what will work for the average couple will fit everyone.

For example, on average men are physically stronger than women. But there is a huge variation in strength between men, and also between women; and massive overlap. The result is that some men will be married to women who have much greater physical strength than they do. For these couples, it may not be practical to say that “the husband should cut the wood”.

The same applies to nurturing. I think it can be shown statistically that on average women are more nurturing than men. However, there is great variation in nurturing ability between men, and also between women, and huge overlap between men and women. This means that some men will be stronger on nurturing that their wives. These couples will need to think carefully about their roles to make sure that they take full advantage of their different giftings.

The same applies to the discipline of children. Many women find discipline difficult because they are kind and caring. On the other hand, some men are too harsh. That is why Paul warned fathers not to embitter their children or exasperate them (Col 3:21; Eph 6:4). Most couples will find that the discipline of children goes better when they do it together, using their complementary skills. However, it also depends on the personality and the character of the couple.

I know couples where the husband is quieter and gentle, so he finds the discipline of children hard. The wife tends to set the boundaries because she is emotionally tougher. This seems to work for some parents, so we should be careful about judging, just because they have different personalities.

There are two things that husbands cannot do: carry a pregnancy and breastfeed a baby, so women need to undertake these two roles, (although some cannot). However, if the wife is not very good at nurturing, and the husband is better at it, there is no reason why the man cannot care for the young children. Couples should work out what is best for them, giving their combination of personality and character.

Provision of income is an interesting case. The traditional view is that when their family is young, the father should be the provider, while the mother cares for the children. This works for many couples, but the personalities of some couples may be such that the traditional approach does not work.

If the husband is artistic, the couple might decide that he should concentrate on his art, even though it does not pay well, because that is his calling. If the wife is capable, she might be more effective as an income earner. The woman in Proverbs 31 seemed to be an astute manager of the family business. If she has the skills, it is good that she gets the opportunity to use them.

God is far more concerned that we achieve our full potential as people, than that we fit with preconceived roles.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Headship and Prayer (2)

Understanding the meaning of the word “head” in 1 Cor 11:3 is quite difficult.

I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
Paul uses the word head in a variety of ways, and it is not clear which one fits in this passage. Whatever meaning is chosen must also apply to the relationship between Jesus and God, and most suggested meanings don’t. We must be particularly careful that we don’t choose a meaning that makes Jesus subordinate to God, (because we already know that he is God).

I am intrigued that men are more concerned about the meaning of headship than women. I wonder if that is because men begin with a presumption that being the head of the women gives them a power advantage. The desire of disciples to sit at Jesus’ right hand in power has not died (Mark 10:36-37). One thing is certain, headship does not mean that men have power over women.

Jesus headship must be understood in terms of 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul describes the church as a body with many parts. Each part must be fulfilling its role. Paul says that the more unseemly parts of the body should be given greater honour (1 Cor 12:21-26).

A body cannot function without a head, so the head and the parts of the body are inseparable. In the same way, a husband and wife must be inseparable, with nothing being allowed to divide their communication and unity.

I sense that the main thing that being the head of his wife gives a husband is accountability to God. This is clearer in the Old Testament. God sometimes to hold men accountable for the mistakes of their wives (Num 30:10-15). Moses described a situation where a husband must bear his wife’s guilt, in the same way that Jesus carries our guilt.

He shall bear her guilt (Num 30:15).
This suggests that if a woman goes wrong, it is possibly because the husband is the problem. Maybe he is not wise enough or loving his wife enough.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Headship and Prayer (1)

Husbands and wives are required to submit to each other (Eph 5:21). A husband who loves his wife will often need to submit to her will.

When they submit to each other, they give each other authority in their lives. This means that their prayers for each other are extremely effective. This is why mutual submission is so important.

A man who controls his wife makes her prayers ineffective because she has no authority in his life. Given how women pray for their families, that is a mistake.

I am always uneasy when a man says, “A husband has authority over his wife” because it goes beyond what the scriptures say. It often means that the husband is imposing his authority on his wife by moral force. In the biblical model, a man only has as much authority as his wife gives to him. Therefore, it is meaningless to say where the balance of authority lies. If the husband is imposing his authority over his wife, her prayers are nullified, because he denies her authority in her life. If he is imposing his authority severely, then 1 Pet 3:7 says that his prayers will not be answered because his attitude is wrong.

If a wife is fully submitted to her husband due to love, and he loves her and sacrifices his life for her, as required, they will be operating by consensus. Their wills will be one. In that situation, it does not make sense to say that one has more authority than the other. Their prayers are strong, because they have authority over each other, and two people have agreed.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul confirms the power of mutual submission.

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife (1 Cor 7:4).
These are strong words. A wife has authority over the body of her husband. This allows her to control his actions because he acts through his body. The wife cannot control what her husband thinks. People are free to think as they choose. But a wife can constrain the way that her husband acts because she has authority over his body. In the same way, the husband has authority over his wife’s body.

Mutual submission makes prayer powerful.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Alcohol is a controversial topic for Christians. It is fairly clear that alcoholic drinks are not prohibited by the scriptures.

The argument about the difference between wine and grape church is irrelevant, because in a hot climate without refrigeration, there is no ability to preserve grape juice without it fermenting in some way. Of course, they had no capacity to producing high-alcohol-content drinks using a distillery, so these cannot be justified by the scriptures.

I believe there are three reasons why a Christian might drink alcoholic beverages.

  1. Enjoyment of the flavours of the drinks.

    I do not enjoy the flavour of either beer or wine, but there are particular reasons for that. When I was a child, my father kept a pig. We often helped him by feeding household food waste to it. He kept a bucket of barley soaked in water so he could add a cup of soaked barley to the rest of the pig food. In the summer, the barley fermented a little and gained a beery smell. Consequently, I have never liked the taste of beer, because it reminded me of pig food.

    Wine also seems to be an acquired taste, because I have never found one with a flavour that I really enjoy (I understand that other people do enjoy the flavour)

  2. Sharing in a social mood

    I would occasionally sip half a glass of wine when out for a meal with work colleagues so as not to disrupt a social occasion.

  3. The effect that alcohol has on their mood.

    Most people drink alcohol to improve their mood (confidence or happiness).

    The book of Proverbs says that beer or wine should be given to a person who is bitter of dying.

    Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
    And wine to those who are bitter of heart (Prov 31:6).
    If people are suffering, it makes sense to give them alcohol to numb their pain.

    However, Christians have a better solution to pain. They should be praying and asking the Holy Spirit to help them deal with their suffering.

Given this last point, Ephesians 5:18 is a key verse for Christians.

Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.
We seem to have a choice between alcohol and the Holy Spirit. For me, this is an easy contest. Alcohol is an artificial solution to pain and suffering. It covers up the symptoms, rather than dealing with the underlying problems. The Holy Spirit is always a far better solution, because he can deal with the problems that are causing the suffering of the sad mood.

The fruit of Spirit includes peace and joy. Follower of Jesus who are feeling down or sad should seek the Holy Spirit. The greater his presence, the greater will be their peace and joy. It is real peace and joy, unlike the artificial high created by alcoholic drinks. I see alcohol as a poor second best for people who the people of the world who are suffering or depressed. Christians have a superior solution. The Holy Spirit is skilled in dealing with our problems.

I prefer to seek the Holy Spirit and be filled with his presence. I am cautious about drinking alcohol in case it influences my thoughts or words, and causes me to say or do something that would grieve the Holy Spirit and cause him to withdraw. Being filled with the Spirit is far more important than anything that alcoholic drinks can give.

I see alcohol as a poor second best for people who the people of the world who are suffering or depressed. Christians have a superior solution. The Holy Spirit is skilled in dealing with our problems.

I prefer to seek the Holy Spirit and be filled with his presence. I am cautious about drinking alcohol in case it influences my thoughts or words, and causes me to say or do something that would grieve the Holy Spirit and cause him to withdraw. Being filled with the Spirit is far more important than anything that alcoholic drinks can give.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

OT Prophets

A common view is that the OT prophets became automatons controlled by the Spirit to write down his message as he gave it. That is not true. The language style of the various prophets is different, reflecting human influence. Because they were living prior to the cross, their experience of the Spirit was probably even less intense than ours. So the Holy Spirit had a difficult task getting them to write down what he wanted in the scripture recorded accurately. He probably had numerous attempts. And they probably recorded some of them, but the Holy Spirit ensured they were discarded, because they were not up to his standard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pastor's Wives

I notice that an increasing number of pastor-leaders are using their wives as a prophet to their church. Many women have greater openness to the spiritual realms than men, so this could seem like a plausible solution for a pastor.

I believe this is a dangerous trend, because a husband and wife are one. The wife may have a prophetic edge, but if she is one with her husband, she will be a pastor too.

A prophet can be pastoral, but they should not attempt be a pastor. A pastor can be prophetic, but they cannot be a prophet.

By getting his wife to be responsible for leading and developing prophetic activity in the church is a good way for the pastor to keep it under control, but it will also keep it tame.

In one situation that I have observed, the pastor’s wife has had some powerful visions, but the interpretations do not seem to do them justice. I presume that the interpretations also come through the lens of her husband, so they do not rock the boat.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Church Meetings

Most of the reasons given to justify church meetings are invalid.

  1. Worship. Most Christians think that worship is something we do on Sunday. This is not true. All our lives should be an act of worship. Worship in a large group is an encouraging bonus, but it is not essential.

  2. Teaching. There is nothing in the scriptures to suggest that Christians need to listen to an hour of good teaching each week for the rest of their lives. A new Christian who is serious about following Jesus can be taught the basics of the Christian faith in a few weeks. From there on, they can learn what they need to know by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The main purpose of the weekly teaching format is to give the teacher a place to perform.

    If a Christian is stumped by an issue, they can search the scriptures, or look up the answer on the internet. Most modern Christians have had so much teaching that they are choking on it. What they need is a bit more doing, but they will not learn that at a meeting.

  3. Oversight. Most Christians know how to put on a holy mask while they are at a church meeting (I have done it for so many years, I can do it without thinking). The elders responsible for providing oversight generally do not have a clue about what is going on in their day-to-day lives. To offer credible oversight, an elder needs to see how a Christian functions in their family or at work. The best way to get insight into a person's spiritual state is to share with them in some service in the world.

  4. Training. Attendance at meetings trains Christians to be passive. The best training comes in the way Jesus trained his disciples. Take a few people with you into the world to do the Jesus stuff, so they can see how it is done. When they have watched for a while, get them to have a go, dealing with an easy case, with the leader ready to come in and help if things turn to custard. When they are competent, get them to start training others. That will really sharpen their ministry.

  5. Gifts of the Spirit. Some people may only get help when several people move in complementary gifts of the Spirit to get to the bottom of a holding them back. That could happen at the front of a meeting, but it will usually be less effective, because one superstar will be performing. Good stuff is more likely to happen and be more effective, if a group of Christians friends gather in a friend's living room. The Holy Spirit can really get to work when he has a group of people who love one another to flow through

  6. Learning the Gifts. The front of a meeting is not a good place to learn to operate in the gifts of the Spirit. A better is a place to learn is a friend's home with a few people that are trusted. Once the Christian has learned to move in the gifts, the next step is not to the front of a church meeting, but to go into the world with some friends.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Attend or Follow

When a person comes to faith in Jesus, the standard instruction to the new Christian is to join a good church. The unspoken assumption is that if they attend a church meeting each week, they will be fine (ie meetings save?) But they will not be fine. Millions of Christians have attended meetings for years and years, but remained immature and in ineffective. Issues that should have been resolved in the first few months of following Jesus continue to weigh them down for the rest of their lives.

Better advice would be to tell the new Christian to find someone to follow (this is Pauls approach). If the new Christian has a pastoral nature, they should find someone who is effective in that gifting and follow them around until they have become effective their ministry. If they have an evangelistic calling, they should find an effective evangelist and follow them until they have become an effective evangelist. If the new Christian has a prophetic bent, they should find an effective prophet and follow them until they have learned how to be an effective prophet. If they are confused about their calling, and choose the wrong person to follow, it will soon become clear. They can switch a different person to follow when their calling becomes clear.

Following a more mature Christian is a far more effective strategy for a new Christian wanting to learn the Jesus stuff, than joining a church and attending meetings. We should stop telling new Christians to join a church. Instead, we should say, "Follow me!" or "Follow Fred" or "Follow Freda".

Friday, January 11, 2019


The relationships in the church should be circular. The "One Another Stuff" is more important than "Submission Stuff". Most of it will take place within pairs.

In contrast, in the conventional church, all the links go through the centre.
A good test of the quality of relationships is the amount of forgiveness that is taking place.
Forgive one another (Col 3:13).
If people are not interacting, there will not be much stuff to forgive. It is interesting that much of the offence among modern Christians is either against the pastor and worship leader, or against friends and workmates. The reason is that most interaction in the church is with the pastor and worship leader. Most Christians do not have enough interaction with each other to cause offence and need forgiveness.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Bureaucratic Leadership

The early church was structured like a family. The elders cared for their people in the same way as fathers care for their children. But once the church was successful and respectable, it moved away from this biblical model. It dropped the family form of government and took over the imperial form of the Roman Empire. Bishops ceased to be shepherds and became more like monarchs. This imperial stage of the church continued down to the Reformation.

Bureaucratic Government
The Reformation substituted a bureaucratic form of church. The elders sat as boards and committees, ruling over the church. They were more like bureaucrats than pastors. Individual attention was given only to those with special needs. This form has continued up to the present time.

The modern church is often more of an institution than a people, or a community. Christian life is expressed in various activities and projects carried out in a church building. The result is that elders become more concerned with the institution than with people. Their leadership consists primarily in administration, decision making and opinion forming. Their time is spent in meetings organising programs and activities.

The authority of elders extends over the institution, but not over the lives of the church members. These remain private. The result is that elders have very little influence on the way that Christians actually live. Christian growth is limited, and very few strong relationships are formed.

The bureaucratic form of government has severely weakened the church. It has also left elders frustrated, because they are unable to fulfil a true spiritual ministry.

Corporate Management
In recent years the church has begun to copy the corporate management model has become pervasive in the business world. "Electric Jack", the CEO of General Electric has been held up as an example for church leaders. As churches have grown larger the corporate model seems more relevant.

Massive growth in the size has brought tremendous benefits to business through economies of scale. This growth has been made possible by the emergence of the corporate management model. This model has provided a method of controlling complicated and divergent processes. A body of literature has developed to encourage leadership within this model.

However, the corporate model is not relevant to the church. The primary goal of the corporate model is to control complicated processes to achieve quality and efficiency. Quality and efficiency are not important goals for the church.

Activities where there are benefits from size

Activities where there are no benefits from size











The really important things for the church seem to be in the right-hand column. Most of these are very hard to achieve in a large corporate model. All these things need to be done in a personal way in the anointing of the Spirit.

The church wanting to be big so that it can have a greater impact on the world has succumbed to the spirit of the beast. The beast says, "We must come together and pool our resources to achieve more and make a name for ourselves" (Gen 11:1-4).

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


The modern church is a bewilderingly complex array of structures and activities. There will usually be national, regional and local organisations. At each level there will be a variety of committees, dealing with all sorts of activities. There is a complicated range of ministries: bishops, cardinals, ministers elders, deacons, pastors, priests, administrators, etc.

The church produces magazines, minutes, agendas, vision statements, strategic plans, tenets and doctrinal statements. It owns worship centres, halls, office blocks, training colleges, cars and superannuation funds. And the scene is further complicated by the duplication of all these activities across the various denominations. On top of all this, there are a wide variety of para-church organisations specialising in missions, youth work, children's work, evangelism, Bible distribution etc. The modern church is a large, unwieldy and complex organisation.

Most of the activities and structures that make up its complexity are not necessary for its essential work. The church has become so complicated that people cannot see the wood for the trees. And yet we find it hard to imagine a church without all these things. We need a radical change in our understanding of the church.

The institutionalisation of Christianity has severely weakened the church. It has also left elders frustrated, because they are unable to fulfil a true spiritual ministry. Fortunately, this form of church is dying, and people are instinctively going back to meeting in small groups in their homes.

The main responsibility of the church is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. However, all the peripheral structures and activities of the church stop people from seeing Christ. For most non-Christians, a church building is part of a strange institution, which they do not understand. They will only go into it if they really have to. In contrast, they will be quite happy to go into another person's home. If churches go back to meeting in believers' homes, people will feel free to join them. To be successful in evangelism, the church must meet in the homes of believers.

More in Being Church.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Two Reasons

If the Holy Spirit is not moving powerfully in a church, there are two possible reasons.

  • The people have grieved the Spirit or are rejecting his leading.
  • The leaders are refusing to make the changes that the Holy Spirit needs.
God is never the problem. He is always wanting to move.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Righteous in Romans

As I have been reading Romans, I am struck that we no longer use some of the key English words used in the translation of the letter. This makes the message hard to understand.

Paul declares that God is righteous. The problem is that we do not use this word much anymore. No one speaking of another person says “He is a righteous man”. Rather we would say, “He is a good man”. We sometimes use the expression “self-righteous”, but in a negative context, to describe someone who thinks they are better than they are.

Describing God as righteous is not very helpful in the modern world, because the word has become anachronistic.

A better option would be to say that God is good.

The righteousness of God might be better described as “moral integrity”.

The letter to the Romans says that we have been “declared righteous freely by His grace” (Rom 3:25). What does that mean?

God has put us right. We are okay.

The other common statement in Romans is that we have been “justified”, usually by faith. This is another word that we do not use much. When a person says that “their actions justified”, they usually mean they had good reasons for doing what they did, even if other people did not approve.

Being justified means “being right with God”.

In a legal context, it means being declared “Not guilty” by a judge. The technical term is being “acquitted”, but that is too narrow for Romans. In that context, we should think of it as being “made right with God”.

Upright is close, but it is also a bit anachronistic.

Innocent is probably too strong.

However, "as if we are innocent" could work,

or "as if we never sinned".

Friday, January 04, 2019


Josh Daffern on Why the ‘Nones’ Are Walking Away From Church.

People come looking for community and we give them a program.