Criticism in the Ministry is Inevitable

Aesop (circa 620 BC–564 BC) was a Greek story teller who provided fables to teach morals.  There is one such fable that encourages me in ministry:

The Man, the Boy and the Donkey 
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?" 
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides." 
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along." 
Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned. 
"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:   
"Please all, and you will please none."

I would phrase the moral of the story in another way: Christian worker, you will be criticized no matter what you do, so never fulfil your ministry to please people.  Only minister to please God.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 ESV)

When You Can't Baptize by Immersion

As an ordained minister of the Church of God (Anderson) I believe baptism by immersion was the normal practice of the early Church.  The issues are complex; I am a credobaptist as well, not a paedobaptist.  (Look those up if you care.)  

However, what happens if baptism by immersion ("dunking" for the non-technical folks) is not feasible?  What if a person is gravely ill?  Should an immersionist like myself just shrug his shoulders and say, "Well, baptism doesn't save a person anyway so I won't do it"?  I believe baptism is important; King Jesus demanded it of his followers.  While there are times when immersion is impossible some occasions present themselves where a compromise can be reached.

There is an impressive ancient document from early Church history called the Didache, which is Greek for "teaching."  While scholars debate the age they all arrive at an extremely early dating for the manuscript, from the mid-first century to the early second-century.  In fact, even though consensus did not grow to include it as part of Bible canon (as one of the authorized books of the New Testament) some early Church Fathers did believe it was inspired Scripture.  I don't think it is Scripture but its importance would be hard to be overstressed.

The Didache has a section on baptism.  It reads as follows:
7 Now about baptism: this is how to baptize. Give public instruction on all these points, and then "baptize" in running water, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  2If you do not have running water, baptize in some other.  3If you cannot in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  4Before the baptism, moreover, the one who baptizes and the one being baptized must fast, and any others who can. And you must tell the one being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.
This certainly is interesting.  It appears to me that this manuscript hints that the early Church baptized by immersion (or at the least they stood in a considerable amount of running [Greek: "living"] water).  Notice, however, that the produced document isn't legalistic about the mode of baptism.  It says, "Do A, but if you can't then do B, but if you can't then..."

If a person becomes a Christian in a hospital, on his sickbed, etc. and is in grave illness then I advise the immersionist minister to wrap a towel around the convert's neck and pour water on the new believer's head three times, "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

Yes, the mode of baptism is important but it is not as important as the act of doing it, and the mode is far less problematic than a minister refusing to perform baptism if he can't do it in his theologically preferred way.  It appears the early Church was flexible.  I pray immersionists like me will be flexible as well.

My Favorite Dream

To quote Amos, "I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son" (Amos 7:14a ESV) so I am claiming no prophetic insight.  However, I would like to share with you a recurring dream that I've had.  The dreams aren't identical but they follow a common pattern.  It's hard to describe but I'll try, however imperfectly, to be faithful to the impressions of my dreams.

I am in a church sanctuary but not during a worship service.  The church building once housed a thriving congregation that has dwindled in numbers over the decades.  I go exploring throughout the building because, over time, the congregation has remodeled it, adding rooms, sections and even floors to the original huge sanctuary, cutting it down to size because they had no need for such an enormous sanctuary as they did in their heyday.

In my dream I investigate, walking into different rooms and sections as I mentally trace the outline of the original sanctuary.  Perhaps behind a wall is the former stage of the old sanctuary, complete with stained glass windows that nobody pays attention to anymore.  Perhaps in another section is a divided off room where theater seating has been removed and one can see where the seats were once bolted to the floor.  By climbing floors and going through dividing doorways it becomes clear that it was a breathtaking artifice where throngs of people once gathered.  

It isn't a sad dream for me but one of hope.  I thrill in the possibility of the discovery of the once-used sanctuary.  I thirst for revival so that the building will once again be filled with worshipers.  It is an open-ended dream.

Is it a prophetic dream?  
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, (Job 33:14-15 ESV) 
I just don't know.  W. Dale Oldham believed in the prophetic dreams of Church of God evangelist, W. F. Chapel.  Perhaps the best response is for me to quote John Wesley concerning another matter:
Now, he that will account for this by natural causes, has my free leave: But I choose to say, This is the power of God. [i.406]
In any event, it makes me hunger and thirst for revival.

Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? 
(Psalms 85:6)

Divine Healing

I believe in divine healing.  The testimonies from credible witnesses are simply too numerous to dismiss out of hand.  (Consider the compilation of modern day miracle testimonials found in the two volume work, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, by Dr. Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary.)
My father, Larry McCallister, Sr., experienced one powerful case during the 1962 Church of God state campmeeting then held at Cross Lanes, West Virginia.  In those days they held a daily divine healing service at 5 P.M. during the campmeeting.  A man from Clendenin, West Virginia learned of the service; he suffered with a broken back.  The man called and said that he wanted to attend if he could raise the money to rent an ambulance.  He was told to rent the ambulance and the bill would be paid.  A group of ministers pooled their money for the trip.

Dad remembers that the man wore brown pajamas as he came wheeled in on a stretcher.  Some of the ministers present were J. Ross Taylor, George Oiler and Gene Curtis.  Preachers prayed for him.  Nothing visibly happened and the ministers left his side.  However, during the second verse of Amazing Grace his hands were raised.  During the third verse the man was walking up and down the aisles.  The man rode home in the ambulance; he sat up in the front with the driver.

I believe in divine healing.  I'm sure that man did, too.

Theology of Holiness and Love by Kenneth E. Jones

I was honored to know the late Dr. Kenneth E. Jones during his latter years after his retirement from Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University, my alma mater). My senior year I took a Daniel/Revelation video class that was taped from Gulf-Coast Bible College years before. He penned such works as The Commitment to HolinessDivorce and RemarriageThe Word of God and his extremely helpful article in a Gedenkschrift (tribute) to Dr. Boyce W. Blackwelder entitled, "Babylon and the New Jerusalem: Interpreting the Book of Revelation." Dr. Jones provided the interpretative notes to Ephesians and Colossians in the now discontinued The Wesley Bible, a study Bible from the Wesleyan theological viewpoint. (We expressed our displeasure to each other that the translation used was the New King James Version. Both of us were Alexandrian Text people, not Textus Receptus folks.) I own a few books written by him in which he autographed and wrote some nice remarks.Theology of Holiness and Love, his systematic theology, is the culmination of many years thinking about the Savior and is his magnum opus.

Most people in the Church of God may be familiar with him (though perhaps without realizing it) by his editorial work; Jones condensed Frederick G. Smith's What the Bible Teaches to a more readable level. The old paperbacks are probably still sitting in the basements of a gajillion church Sunday School rooms across the nation.

Jones never tried to "sound" like a scholar in his writings. He wrote for the average person on the street and could bridge the gap between lofty theologians on the one hand and the homespun folksy prose of holiness preacher, Uncle Bud Robinson, on the other. In this regard he is similar to the late Scottish scholar, William Barclay, though far more conservative. He had the knack of being an academic without sounding like an academic. Let me stress: you don't have to be highly educated and brilliant to understand his books. Don't let a fear that you aren't professionally trained in theology deter you from this book! 

Admittedly Theology of Holiness and Love never will rank as one of the most important Wesleyan theologies. Even at 359 pages it is too brief and cannot be compared to a William Burt Pope, a John Miley or an H. Orton Wiley. However, it is intensely readable and reliably helpful. I compare it favorably against three other Church of God volumes: It is far easier to understand than Russell R. Byrum's Christian Theology. It is more in-depth than Albert F. Gray's Christian Theology. I, personally, prefer it over the more recent Theology For Disciples by Gilbert W. Stafford. (I mean no slight on the late Dr. Stafford's scholarship; I believe Stafford's book, by design, was penned to accomplish other goals.)

Along with past Gospel Trumpet editor, Charles E. Brown, Dr. Jones' genius is in his stress that humans—because of Adam's fall in the garden—are born deprived and not depraved. That is, because of Adam every human enters the world deprived of a relationship with God, without the Spirit of God and, because of that, quickly becomes depraved as a result. Jones helps us by making theological terms personal: holiness is being turned to God in love and wickedness is being turned away. Sin isn't a thing, not an "it", not a thing to be removed. It's a relational term, not an abstract concept. For these clarifications I owe a great debt to him.

I purchased my copy of Theology of Holiness and Love directly from him years ago. I called him at his home in Louisville and then sent him the money. In the mail arrived his book with his autograph and short note just inside the work. Today you can buy the book through Reformation Publishers in either softcover or hardcover. Just mentally digesting this single book probably would give the "regular guy in the pew" a comprehension of theology he never knew he could have. Don't cheat yourself.

Study this book in Sunday School classes or small groups, at least in part. It could raise the theological IQ of a congregation. No, I don't think I'm over-selling it.

I thank God for Kenneth E. Jones and his commitment to holiness.

"Slain" in the Spirit? D. S. Warner vs. B. E. Warren's Father

In 1989 Joe Allison provided the following account in the “Songs of Faith” section of Vital Christianity, a discontinued publication of the Church of God (Anderson). It is entitled, “Barney is the Lord’s: A story form the life of B. E. Warren”. The article is quoted in its entirety.

Gospel singing played an important role in the early growth of the Church of God reformation movement. The importance of music is clearly shown by the gospel quartet that D. S. Warner formed just after he moved the Gospel Trumpet to Williamston, Michigan.

In April 1886, Warner’s group was holding cottage prayer meetings at Geneva Center, Michigan. Here lived a teen-ager who had been converted just a few months earlier as a result of the preaching of Joseph Fisher, and now he was feeling God’s call to enter the ministry. His name was Barney E. Warren, and he had a wonderful bass voice. Only one obstacle kept Barney from joining the singers-his unsaved father, Tom Warren.

One night the singers conducted a prayer meeting at the home of Joseph Smith. When the service ended and the farming folks began putting on their coats to go home, Warner came directly to the Warrens to express his appreciation for their presence. “And I want to thank you for bringing Barney to sing with us tonight,” Warner added. “Your son has a beautiful voice, and I’m glad to see him using it for the Lord.”

“Won’t you reconsider your decision about letting Barney go with us?” Warner pleaded. “I can understand your concern for his welfare; but believe me, he will be well cared for. And I’m sure he’ll write to you often and tell you about his travels. You’ll be proud of him.”

“Barney knows how to take care of himself,” Tom retorted, pulling on his gloves. “I raised him good. But I ain’t about to see him gallivanting around the countryside when he’s got plenty to do at home.”

“Yes, I know. I grew up on a farm myself. But isn’t the Lord’s work more important for a young man with Barney’s abilities?”

“Ha! That’s what all you preachers say! ‘The world is coming to an end!’ ‘Repent, the Lord is drawing nigh!’ Be that as it may, somebody’s got to keep food on your table and clothes on your back. Someobdy’s got to keep the home fires burning. That’s where Barney belongs.”

Warner bristled. Stepping up close to Tom until their faces almost touched, Warner looked him straight in the eye. “Tom Warren,” he said, “you are fighting against God, and you can’t get away with it.”

Warren began to tremble. Suddenly he sank to the floor and shook violently, as if chilled by a draft. With his feet planted on either side, Warner towered over him. “God has smitten you, and you cannot get up until you let Barney go,” the preacher said.

Tom Warren made an effort to get to his feet, but he kept falling back to the hardwood floor and shivering in helplessness. The neighbors watched. Tom pounded the floor with his fists, but it was no use-he couldn’t get away. Finally he stopped fighting and relaxed his body upon the slats. “Barney is the Lord’s,” he sighed.

D. S. Warner smiled in relief. “Now you can get up,” he said.

And Tom Warren did.

Barney Warren made a lasting contribution to the reformation movement through his work with the gospel quartet, which traveled together until 1890.

Curly-headed young Barney proved to be a skillful songwriter as well as singer, and after the quartet broke up he continued to travel as a music evangelist for many years. His songs formed the backbone of the movement’s early hymnals and were used by other Christian groups as well. (33)

Allison, Joseph D. “Barney is the Lord’s: A story form the life of B. E. Warren”. Vital Christianity. Anderson, IN: Warner Press, 13 April, 1989. Arlo F. Newell, Editor in Chief.

Dale Oldham to Sam Hines: Delivering a Message From God

The late Sam Hines (1929—1995) and Joe Allison wrote the theme book for the 1993 North American Convention of the Church of God (Anderson). It is entitled Experience the Power. In this excerpt the late W. Dale Oldham(1903—1984) first radio preacher of the Christian Brotherhood Hour (Now Christians Broadcasting Hope), brought an encouraging message from God to his friend, Hines, when he needed it desperately. In the words of Sam Hines:

When I came upon rough times in my ministry in the early years, no one spoke of “ministerial burnout.” We didn’t even know that term. We just said that such a minister was “backslidden.” No matter how you describe it, I came to an impasse in my ministry that could have been the end of it all. I left the pastorate and I left Jamaica. I went to England in pursuit of a new vocation and a new style of life. I contemplated studying to become a physician and began setting my sails in that direction. 
In 1955, the First World Conference of the Church of God was held in Fritzlar, West Germany. I had heard about it and was planning to go. 
Dale Oldham
 As I was packing for the trip, one hot summer afternoon in London, Dr. Dale Oldham appeared on my doorstep. Dr. Oldham had been the speaker at my ordination service in Jamaica, two years earlier. He was enroute to Fritzlar, too. We sat down in the living room for what I expected to be a bit of idle chit-chat. But Dr. Oldham came right to the point.
He said that he had heard that I had decided to leave the ministry. I told him, “Yes, that’s true.” 
For several minutes, we discussed all the ramifications of that change. We reviewed my own failures and foibles in the ministry. It was a painfully searching conversation. 
Then he paused and said, “Milton,” (that is how I am known in my family and among hometown friends), “what has happened to the vows that you made at your ordination?” 
“Well, now,” I said. “I just don’t feel anymore that that’s the way I ought to go. I’ve come on some hard times in my own life and some hard times in ministry. It just takes a lot more that [sic] I have to be a pastor. I can’t attain the high standards I set for myself or achieve at the level of accomplishment expected of me. I just can’t do it.” 
“Well, maybe you are right. I don’t know,” Dr. Oldham said. “I’m here, though, because the Lord gave me a message for you.” 
“The Lord said to tell you that the calling of God is without repentance” (Rom. 11:29 KJV). 
“Okay,” I said. “What does that mean?” 
“I was never told to explain it,” Dr. Oldham said, picking up his bag. “God didn’t ask me to interpret it for you. God just told me to give you the message.” At that point, he offered a brief prayer for me and my family, and he left.
It should be mentioned that Sam Hines never left the ministry.
(Hines, Samuel G. and Joe Allison. Experience the Power.Anderson, IN: Warner Press, 1993), 76-7

When Max Gaulke Wrote to Me

During my time at Mid-America Bible College (now Mid-America Christian University) I wrote a small article for the January 1991 edition of the Reformation Witness.  I was surprised (read: "shocked") when Dr. Max R. Gaulke, the founder of my alma mater, wrote me an encouraging note after he read my article.  

I still have the note; here is a scan of it:

The Scriptural reference Gaulke included is as follows...

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)

Boyce W. Blackwelder on Justification by Faith

The late Reverend Doctor Boyce Watson Blackwelder (1913—1976) of Concord, North Carolina, remains one of the greatest scholars the Church of God (Anderson) has ever known.  Blackwelder wrote the influential Light from the Greek New Testament and translated the Letters of Paul.  He wrote a book on the apostle, himself, entitled, Toward Understanding Paul as well as Pauline commentaries.  He also penned The Four Gospels: An Exegetical Translation.  Blackwelder was responsible for translating Colossians for the New King James Version and served as an adviser on other passages of the NKJV.

In his work, Toward Understanding Romans, Blackwelder translates Romans 3.21-25a, 26b:
But now God's kind of righteousness stands manifested apart from law [of any kind], although it is attested by the Law and the Prophets.  Indeed God's kind of righteousness is through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is effective for all who are trusting [in him].  There is no distinction, for the whole race has sinned, and [man] continues to fall short of God's standard.  The permanent principle of justification operates freely by the gift of his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God openly set forth as the means of expiation by his blood, to be appropriated through faith...even while declaring righteous the person who places trust in Jesus.
You will never be declared "Not Guilty" of sins based on how good you are.  You aren't good at all compared to God's holiness.  Rather, you are declared "Not Guilty" by trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Bless Your Church Property

Have you ever blessed your church property, the land dedicated to the worship of God?

In the name of Jesus...

I bless this place with the manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit.

I bless this place with grace and freedom from legalism.

I bless this place with the Holy Spirit's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith/faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I bless this place with unity and a feeling of goodwill and caring.

I bless this place with the fear and knowledge of Yahweh.

I bless this place with irresistible human drawing-power where people seek God's Face.

I bless this place with holy signs, wonders and healings.

I bless this place to be the area where people have their deepest needs met.

I bless this place with freedom in Christ, free from the evil one and his unclean servants with their devices, schemes & assignments.

Maurice Berquist, a late minister in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) wrote a book called The Miracle and Power of Blessing. I don't agree with all of Berk's views or theological framework but it is a provocative read. You can download a .pdf version here.

Maurice Berquist and The Miracle and Power of Blessing

Have you ever blessed someone in Jesus' name?  Yes, you've probably heard that a Christian is supposed to be a blessing to others.  But have you ever intentionally, consciously blessed someone?  Blessed his health?  His finances?  His spiritual state?  His family?

To bless means to give a gift.  In verbally blessing another you are connecting him to the power of God.  To bless a person is to use your Christian authority in Jesus' name (that is to say, you are under Jesus' authority and, so, you are authorized to use his authority) and direct the grace of God to him.  You can bless a congregation, even an inanimate object like a building or an abstraction like your job.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14 ESV)
 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? And his name--by faith in his name--has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:12,16 ESV)
The late Church of God minister, Maurice Berquist (1923—1993), wrote a fascinating book entitled The Miracle and Power of Blessing.  You can download a free .pdf of this book by going to this link. You don't have to agree with all of the points, illustrations or conclusions of Berk to, well, be blessed by the book.

I bless you in the name of Jesus in order that you might bless others.

 I'd love to build up a great church based on blessing!  Love!  Joy!  Peace!  The presence of the Holy Spirit!  Salvation!  Sanctification! Healing!  Blessing!

Demons are Real

Yes, I believe in their existence.  I'm writing this short post because not long ago I came across a fascinating account concerning demonic activity and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, one of the premiere biblical manuscript authorities alive today.  What makes it even more interesting to me is where he teaches; Dallas Theological Seminary hardly could be called a hotbed for continualist thought.  Consider this:
Several years ago, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace (’74) — a Biola graduate and professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary — was asked to perform a house exorcism. The wealthy Christian homeowner reported poltergeist phenomena that began when his father moved in. As Wallace and a colleague prayed through the rooms, objects began to move, according to Wallace. 
“It was small objects, like magnets on the refrigerator flying clear across the room. It was really remarkable,” said Wallace, who once doubted that demonic activity occurs today. He’s now writing a book arguing that many evangelicals have become unbiblically antisupernatural.
I wish I could find a more complete account of this exorcism.  You may wish to read his article, "Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?"  He also helped compile a book of the same title.

Wallace isn't the only Dallas teacher to delve into the demonic realm.  Dr. Merrill Unger was a published writer on the subject.  I just found this snippet fascinating, having come from the noted koine Greek expert.

John Wesley on Christian Perfection

In his Journal for June 1769 John Wesley succinctly explains what his doctrine of Christian perfection (entire sanctification) entails:
By Christian perfection, I mean 1) loving God with all our heart. Do you object to this? I mean 2) a heart and life all devoted to God. Do you desire less? I mean 3) regaining the whole image of God. What objection to this? I mean 4) having all the mind that was in Christ. Is this going too far? I mean 5) walking uniformly as Christ walked. And this surely no Christian will object to. If anyone means anything more or anything else by perfection, I have no concern with it. But if this is wrong, yet what need of this heat about it, this violence, I had almost said, fury of opposition, carried so far as even not to lay out anything with this man, or that woman, who professes it?
This really isn't so radical when one considers that John Wesley, an Anglican priest, simply took at face value a prayer at the beginning of the Mass from his own Book of Common Prayer.  From Thomas Cranmer's 1549 original:
ALMIGHTIE God, unto whom all hartes bee open, and all desyres knowen, and from whom no secretes are hid: clense the thoughtes of our hartes, by the inspiracion of thy holy spirite: that we may perfectly love thee, and worthely magnifie thy holy name: through Christ our Lorde. Amen. 
This, to Wesley, surely was reasonable and rational—nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.