April 18, 2014

Reader Response

April 17, 2014

Serving Like Jesus

I was delighted to read the wonderful, inspiring article, “Serving Like Jesus,” by Darius Jankiewicz (Mar. 13, 2014).

From my own in-depth study a few years ago, prompted by participating on a Nominating Committee, as well as reflecting on discipleship and all-member ministry as a result of reading several books by Russell Burrill, I had come to the sad conclusion that our churches have often lost sight of what Jesus has in mind. In fact, I was challenged to change some of my own thinking.

In 2012, I was greatly encouraged when I heard Jankiewicz speak in depth regarding his studies on the historical aspects of organization and biblical authority. In that outstanding presentation, just as in this article, he humbly and graciously presented biblical truths that are so necessary in our churches, and from which we each could benefit from personal examination.

Perhaps we will recognize that even with good intentions, we have strayed from God’s plans and incorporated worldly ways and traditions, including domination, power, ruling, and lording over others, as we can easily witness. Anything outside the truth as it is in Jesus brings variance, confusion, sin, and pain.

Amid the sincere but opposing voices often heard today regarding aspects of ministry, whether to go down this road or that, or get stuck in the left ditch or the right, it is so refreshing to contemplate the way Jesus illustrated to serve, spread the gospel, and make disciples under the leading of the Holy Spirit while uplifting and encouraging one another.

–Audrey Neuharth-Ponaski
Kila, Montana

In his article on authority in God’s church, Darius Jankiewicz was a bit selective in the passages he cited on the subject.

True, Jesus’ mission was to serve, and He calls upon His followers to serve. However, passages in the New Testament clearly show that there were positions of decision-making authority in the church.

Paul called upon members at Thessalonica to “acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12, 13).

The author of Hebrews similarly bid believers to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you” (Heb. 13:7).

Paul’s counsel to Timothy showed that he and Timothy had commanding authority. Concerning the widows needing church assistance, Paul counseled, “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty. . . . As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list” (1 Tim. 5:9, 11).

Paul instructed Titus to “appoint elders in every town, as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Then, after giving some of the qualifications of an elder, Paul wrote that an overseer must be “blameless” (verse 7). From this we can see that overseers were elders.

In Paul’s description to Timothy about the qualifications of an overseer, he mentioned that an overseer “must manage his own family well. . . . (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Tim. 3:4, 5). Note the parallel between an overseer ruling his house and taking care of the church. This implies a certain ruling authority on the part of a church overseer. . . .

–Lewis Anderson
Allendale, Michigan

An inevitable dimension of “authority” that is well demonstrated in the New Testament might have at least been touched on by Darius Jankiewicz in his article, and that of its disciplinary, even remonstrative purpose.

In a fallen world, and in a beloved but imperfect church, Jesus and the apostles made provision for responding to foreseeable needs, challenges, and problems the church would encounter. Notice the exercise of spiritual authority in the following passages:

Jesus taught how we as a church are to deal with fellow believers when they sin against us in Matthew 18:15-18.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-16, Paul offered counsel to elders or pastors for preventing or remedying people problems. Note the pastoral authority indicated. Verses 19-22 contain due process for elders accused of sinning. Those convicted are to be rebuked publicly because of their public position. Elders are not to act out of partiality, and not to lay hands on [ordain] anyone too hastily.

Paul wrote: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Tim. 4:12). Most pastors begin as young men, initially possessing only positional authority.

In Titus 1:5-11 Paul lists specifically the qualifications of elders (see also 1 Tim. 3:1-17). They are to hold fast to the faithful word, exhort in sound doctrine, refute those who contradict and must be silenced. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” (Titus 3:10).

I fully embrace Jankiewicz’ servant/leader paradigm, but I think he goes too far in discounting the positional aspect of such. The above texts with their responsibility/accountability directives for clearly defined leaders bear this out. Reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians—2 Corinthians 10, for example—reveals that many cared little about the genuineness of Paul’s Christ-like character. Spirit-led, executive authority, by virtue of Paul’s calling and position was necessary.

–Kent Knight
Hermiston, Oregon

What a great article on Christ-like authority in the church by Darius Jankiewicz! Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35), and “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).

The only thing I took issue with was the statement, “In Christian history the lowly term ‘pastor’ has become a symbol of status.”

While this may be true for some, “shepherd” was my favorite term to be called by my parishioners. To me, it’s a title of service. A shepherd is a pastor as a physician is a doctor (one who heals).

After I was ordained as a young pastor, I was chagrined by the title “elder.” I didn’t feel like an “elder,” but rather like a “younger.” What’s wrong with titles like “brother” and “sister?” Nothing. I think Jankiewicz would agree.

By the way, I’ve never known a woman elder or woman pastor who desired the title “elder.” The whole issue of titles depends on how you look at yourself. Jesus deserved the title “Rabbi,” but many did not. Self-importance is not very important in God’s eyes; neither does it have a valid place in Christian leadership.

–Ertis L. Johnson
Elk City, Oklahoma

Quiet Reflection

I was disappointed some time ago to see some of the misdirected and uncomprehending criticism of Eric Anderson’s Review article, “What Is a Mystic?” (Jan. 10, 2013).

That’s why I was pleased, though not at all surprised, to see the courage of Review editors in trying again to educate the church on this subject through Rex Edwards’ article, “Keeping the Heart in Heaven” (Mar. 13, 2014).

In a few short paragraphs, Edwards deftly makes the biblical case, supported by the Spirit of Prophecy, for the important role of quiet reflection in the life of a vibrant Christian. Edwards’ citation of the works of Elton Trueblood, a profound writer who had much to say of value, Alfred Delp, and Richard Baxter shows that Edwards has an inclusive library. I would like to know more about Delp, of whom I confess ignorance, and now I will be off on a search of my own.

Edwards also swiftly distinguished effectively between Eastern meditation, “which seeks to empty the mind and merge with cosmic consciousness,” and Christian meditation. For some reason the subject of meditation seems to loose passionate excitement in some circles in our church. I hope those who waste their energy in this way will take a few moments to consider Edwards’ points.

–Jeff Bromme
Longwood, Florida

Rex Edwards’ excellent article “Keeping the Heart in Heaven” lists three powers for meditation. I would like to add a powerful fourth: imagination.

Ellen White wrote: “It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones” (The Desire of Ages, p. 83).

–J. David Newman
Mt Airy, Maryland

Like Fine Chocolate

Sometimes, in reading a book, I become so engrossed that I can’t wait to find out how it ends. But as the final pages turn in my hands I feel a sense of loss that it’s finished. That describes my experience with the March 13, 2014 issue of the Review.

Bill Knott’s editorial, “Springtime in the Soul,” beautifully written, brought a smile to my face as I remembered my sacred place at Lake Junaluska camp meeting many years ago. Then came tears while reading “Fragile Daisies” by Dixil Rodríquez, one of my favorite writers.

So I put my Review aside, hating to finish reading it in one sitting; saving “A Twenty-First Century Faith” and “The Green-Striped Downy Comforter” for another devotional time.

It’s kind of like the last bite of a great chocolate bar, wonderful while it lasts, with the assurance of more to come! The Review never disappoints, a blessing to be savored even more than the finest chocolate!

–Linda Whicker
Denver, North Carolina

Together in Christ

Thank you for printing “Breaking Up With Church” (Feb. 20, 2014). The author couldn’t have said it any better. Whether it be over issues where there is not a “thus saith the Lord,” or over the color of the carpet, she is so right in saying that abandoning the church because of differences of opinion has become the prevailing attitude among us when we disagree with one another.

The author’s statement, “People can disagree on particulars and still pull together for the greater good” is so true. It is my desire that all of us be more Christ-like in how we act and what we say when differences of opinions arise, as they do in any family.

–John Loor, Jr.
La Center, Washington

Health for the Soul

I have become a fan of the Adventist Review. Although I am a Christian, I am not a Seventh-day Adventist. I particularly enjoy Dixil Rodríguez’ column, “Searching the Obvious,” and was moved by her personal story “Cartography of Faith” (Nov. 28, 2013). She speaks to me on a personal level, and I find my patients are great fans of her work as well.

I work with oncology patients at the National Institutes of Health, and sometimes they need inspirational reading, and just a little more faith to keep going through difficult times. You would be surprised how many Christians we have in our care. Thank you for the wonderful articles you present. Thank you for helping our patients find hope and renewed faith.

–Matt Reynolds
Bethesda, Maryland