Do Celebrity Pastors Need Their Own Publishers?

I received my monthly newsletter from the Redeemer City to City network and the announcement of a new publishing endeavor reminded me of the origins of the movie studio, United Artists. In response to tighter control by the existing Hollywood studios and a rigid system of movie production (both in financing and creative content), in 1920 Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith started a new company with the express purpose of producing movies by these highly acclaimed actors and directors. Over time, United Artists fizzled, only to be revived by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, who turned UA into one of Hollywood’s more successful companies (even launching a record label for a time), until the bloated Heaven’s Gate almost put the company out of business.

What, pray tell, does any of this have to do with Redeemer City to City? Well, it turns out that the Keller brand (TKNY) is now starting a publishing firm. The description of operations is murky since it appears that Content Labs, the name of the publisher, is going to do a lot with products related to Keller’s existing books. This would seem to indicate a kind of symbiotic relationship between Keller’s publishers, who will print and distribute his books, and the church publisher, which will print, sell, and distribute study guides to the books.

But Content Labs also promises new books. Here is a description from one of Redeemer’s many webpages:

To help us reach a wider audience in our target cities, Labs publishes content resources for leaders to use for evangelism, discipleship, and every stage of spiritual growth, as well as learning platforms for a global community of leaders.

Publications to date:

Books: King’s Cross.

DVD Group Studies: The Prodigal God, Gospel in Life, The Reason for God.
Coming Soon: The Meaning of Marriage, Center Church, King’s Cross study, and books on Preaching, Faith & Work, and Suffering.

Among the several puzzling aspects of this venture is the obvious redundancy of the books that Content Labs promises. I can think of any number of works already published by P&R or Crossway or Baker that cover preaching, vocation, and suffering. To borrow another movie analogy (i.e. Barton Fink), these other publishers’ books may not measure up because they don’t have that “Tim Keller feel.” But do we really need another publisher to produce books on such topics? Redeemer’s niche seems to be that it is THE uber-urban church and so it apparently is at the front-lines of urban church planting, thus making its wisdom on urban ministry unparalleled. But does that make John Piper and Minneapolis chopped liver?

The question of redundancy is especially pertinent since Content Labs is asking donors to contribute to the endeavor. According another webpage for Content Labs:

In 2011, our total budget is $890,000. We plan to make about 20-25% of our budget through sales and royalties of our
books and DVD group studies. This means we need to raise 75-80% of our budget through donations from individuals like
you.

Since United Artists started out with Hollywood stars who already had a lot of money, the new producer could afford to risk a new movie-making venture. Can Redeemer really afford another expense stream? And will Content Labs endure beyond the brand name recognition of TKNY?

55 thoughts on “Do Celebrity Pastors Need Their Own Publishers?

  1. Since, presumably, Tim Keller has absolutely no difficulty getting existing publishing houses to publish his material. What grounds could there possibly be for asking people to donate to start a new publishing organization that will … publish those materials?

    Besides, Harper & Row et. al are happy to pay Pastor Keller royalties which he can donate to good causes. Obviously, a Redeemer organization that is raising money through donations couldn’t pay its pastor any royalties as that would be terribly unethical.

    Where’s the upside?

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  2. Couldn’t they have just gone the way of the Trappists and made a high quality beer? Aside from the difficulties of how much connection a commercial, or even a non-profit, non-church related (ie. three marks) activities might present; can’t they simply obtain either a grant or a loan to finance the publishing company? I would assume they don’t plan on running at a permanent loss, and this way if there are royalties involved, they aren’t being funded via donations.

    I am not against pastors engaging in tent-making activities when the church is unable to fund him for full-time ministry, but Keller doesn’t quite fall into that category. It’s at least an important idea to grapple with before moving forward, hopefully that was the case.

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  3. If anyone else is curious about the target cities and funding goals, they can be found here:

    Click to access Why_Global_Cities.pdf

    Question: Is Keller doing this independently from his denomination? And if he is autonomous, could the desire to set up his own publishing company to market his merchandise to urban city pastors and church planters be to sell it at lower prices or other publishers could not be as nimble in printing his church methods in numerous languages?

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  4. IF TKNY is half as successful as Osteen or Warren are in drawing large crowds and donations from fans outside their congregations, wouldn’t it be safe to guess they can probably afford Content Labs and if it’s fortunes are tied to TKNY, it will rise or fall with him?

    I guess I’m not concerned about the same things you are, Dr. Hart?

    As an older layman, it’s not hard to learn to loathe these never-ending awesome plans/fads for pastors and church planters. Scores of workshops, programs, and even whole industries promise to make pastors and churches effective. How many buzz words (eg: servant leaders, vision, leadership ) and hot paradigms (eg: seeker friendly, share the gospel one-on-one) have we endured over the last 50 years? Are the worst and most destructive ones the CEO pastors with their business plans coated with an evangelism veneer?

    I dunno. I don’t see much difference between Warren and Keller. Other than the surface laid-back, southern Cali homeliness versus slick, manicured NYC sophistication. Both are intelligent men with extremely well thought out business plans to implement what they think should be done to 1) remake the churches 2) reach their niche market 3) focus the churches energies/resources on social programs 4) Christianize the culture 5) Take care of the poor and disadvantaged 6) does the list ever end?

    The problem as I see it is: the people in a niche market aren’t widgets and business plans to produce gospel results and/or social engineering results don’t have a good track record. Besides, we aren’t in control and I’m not convinced God is impressed with our fads. I am convinced of the old fashioned word and sacrament. Natch, I think the church calendar is icing on the cake for catechism, but I haven’t found a way to tempt you with it. 😉

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  5. Lily, I do not know how a publishing start up, that needs to raise 75 percent of its budget from donors, is going to be more nimble financially or linguistically than established publishers. This does not seem to be well thought through. But it does fit a model of turning Keller and Redeemer into a brand. I used to think the Reformed faith was an identity. Now it is a certain urban church. Yuck.

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  6. You’re right, Dr. Hart. I was thinking nimble to cater to needs since TKNY would be their major client. I hadn’t thought about branding. It would be interesting to see the financial statements. NYC is expensive, but so is southern California. Saddleback had Drucker (non-profit guru – think donor development). Makes me wonder since NYC has a wealth of consultants.

    Rome? It ranks right up there with bishops who want to own church property. Infidels. I heard a fascinating take on 2k the other day by a respected Lutheran pastor. He said the kingdom of God was limited to Word and sacrament (eg: Divine Service). Everything else was left hand kingdom including church government. Everything in the left hand kingdom boils down to power. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think he’s right.

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  7. DGH: I hope there isn’t a problem with autonomy, nor for TKNY to venture off on a solo business plan. However, making giving venture capital deflects major resources away from true kingdom work.

    Speaking of kingdom work, Lily, Could your pastor friend be a wee bit pietistic? Church government is ordained of God – Titus 1:5. Of all the forms of church governance Titus could have been told to stay in Crete and set up a Lutheran synod (or Presby GA) but wasn’t. Maybe the problem is the pastor’s understanding of biblical church government?

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  8. Rick Warren + sprinkling babies + intellectualism = Tim Keller

    This is a further sign of the flattening out of evangelicalism. Since I run in Reformed circles (though I still dunk and am therefore reluctant to refer to myself as “Reformed” in the historic sense of the word), I thought it was just us. Some of my family and friends, however, who are in Pentecostal-type denominations were bemoaning the same things to me. They don’t like it that their worship (preaching and music) is essentially the same as that in the large SBC church down the street and the medium-sized Presbyterian church across town.

    It’s getting so you don’t know who to look down on anymore. (that’s just a joke)

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  9. Ted,

    Big oops! I strayed into distinctives territory again. Lutherans don’t believe specific forms of church governance (eg: episcopal, congregational, etc.) have been ordained by God, thus we see them as left hand kingdom. As for pietistic… that inspires howls of laughter and I think you’d agree if you knew him. I think the point he was making was how the mishandling of power or grab for power seems to be a hallmark of the left-hand kingdom, to which I would imagine any Christian would be forced to admit. How many have not been burned by the power struggles in the politics of a church, denomination, and so forth – eh?

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  10. Ted:
    Presbyterian churches by definition (and perhaps most LCMS) are Elder led. That doesn’t mean that the Lutheran pastor-in-view isn’t “a wee bit pietistic.”

    Confessionally-minded Presbyterians are rather strict on the principle that church-polity is de jure divino, and that there is only one, authorized form of it–the one we follow.

    The text you cite (Tit.1:5) is, to us, rather confirmatory of our polity, especially as it is integrated into the full Scriptural witness (NT & OT) to the divine mandate. Titus is commanded to “appoint elders in every city,” which obviously could have had many separate congregations, and which would be unavoidable as the church grew. And cf. 1Tim.4:14, which refers to the presbytery, a term which corresponds to the representative gatherings of the whole-church under the Jewish polity, Act.22:5, Lk.22:66.

    Our doctrine of the unity of the visible church summons our individual (plurality-elder-led) congregations to governmental/disciplinary union in matters that pertain to the interests of the regional church, or the whole. And we take our direction from the principles expressed in Act.15; not to mention the fact of the existence of sub-apostolic churchmen like Titus.

    The fact that we aren’t strict congregationalists doesn’t mean that we ignore texts like Tit.1:5, but that we plug Tit.1:5 into a complete Scripture doctrine of the church, http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Scripture_doctrine_of_the_church.html?id=QdUrAAAAYAAJ

    I just wish folks in general would familiarize themselves with the full argument for Presbyterian polity, before they take swipes at it. I won’t presume full agreement would come about thereby–after all, we read the Bible too differently from one another. However, the problems we face in our Reformed churches aren’t typically the problems of mini-popedoms, that grow out of a domineering solo-bishop-led church.

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  11. Bruce,

    I won’t name the Lutheran pastor since not only is he well known in both Reformed and Lutherans circles, it’s a moot point. I do think it’s rather presumptuous to deny my statement when you don’t know him. If you think you can find that “wee bit of pietism” in him – the burden of proof is upon you to prove my statement wrong about him. I would think it best to show where pietism resides in his observation that the left hand kingdom boils down to power. The distinctive beliefs about church governance is not up for debate – I try to respect the differences and have no desire to debate them. I do think you would be hard pressed to deny the presence of power struggles within individual churches and/or denominations since it is not unique to any polity.

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  12. Lily,
    1) You posted your comment while I was writing my reply. I didn’t see it, or else I might have taken your subsequent comment into account.

    2) My reply makes no evaluation of the *unnamed* and Lutheran pastor whatever, since it only quotes “Ted,” and merely allows that the accuracy of his judgment is irrelevant to my comment.

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  13. Lily,
    As far as what you have to say, concerning the adiaphora of polity in the Lutheran understanding: Precisely because polity is, in our view (and presumable’s Ted’s), doctrinal and not indifferent, for us it cannot be a matter of the left hand.

    There looks to be an assertion on the table here that “power” is left-handed, and “powerlessness” is right-handed. If this is true, and “the kingdom of God” is simply the distributionary function of the church, then the church must needs be a “mixed” institution, with both left and right-handed functions. Do you really think so?

    I don’t think that idea is remotely biblical under the New Testament. Under Moses’ covenant, the constituted state-church had a left-handed administration. No more. Church-discipline, of which polity is simply an aspect, is not left-handed.

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  14. Bruce,

    Re: As far as what you have to say, concerning the adiaphora of polity in the Lutheran understanding: Precisely because polity is, in our view (and presumable’s Ted’s), doctrinal and not indifferent, for us it cannot be a matter of the left hand.

    Which is why I wrote: Big oops to Ted and made it plain I didn’t mean to stray into distinctives on church polity and wrote you I try to respect the differences and had no desire to debate distinctives. I’m not sure how I could have been clearer.

    Re: There looks to be an assertion on the table here that “power” is left-handed, and “powerlessness” is right-handed. If this is true, and “the kingdom of God” is simply the distributionary function of the church, then the church must needs be a “mixed” institution, with both left and right-handed functions. Do you really think so?

    I made no such assertion. You appear to reason that if the left-hand kingdom boils down to power, this must mean the right-hand kingdom is powerless. I would offer that this is a logical fallacy on your part that has nothing to do with our distinctives. I would offer that if God has chosen the church as the place to distribute his means of grace, why is that a problem? Is that not what both communions believe?

    Re: I don’t think that idea is remotely biblical under the New Testament. Under Moses’ covenant, the constituted state-church had a left-handed administration. No more. Church-discipline, of which polity is simply an aspect, is not left-handed.

    Looking at the sum of your comments, I can see you do not understand our differences or my boundary to not debate them.

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  15. A full quote clarifies what Fesko is saying about adiaphora:

    J. V. Fesko closes by looking forward to the next anniversary, yet warning that “one of the greatest dangers for the OPC, indeed any church, is elevating matters of adiaphora, things indifferent … to the level of articles of faith, practice, or confession subscription” (p. 503).

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  16. Some folks’ things indifferent show up in other folks’ study guides to the confessions. GI Williamson, p188 (WCF)— “Could there not be an entire congregation of hypocrites, who have gathered together to maintain the true preaching of the Word of God, the sacraments, and discipline, while not one of them is really a member of the body of Christ? The answer is: No, it is not conceivable.

    “The Confession states that the ‘visible Church…’consists of all that profess the true religion, together with their children.’ If this be true, it cannot be denied that unbelievers may be, and actually are, members of the true Visible Church. It may perplex us that God has ordered that his true visible church should include those who are not, and will never be, members of the body of Christ. But our perplexity is not the criterion of truth.

    “God did command that both Jacob and Esau be circumcised, and thus be visibly identified as members of the Church. And yet it was already revealed that Esau was not to have part in the invisible Church. Does not the Scripture also speak of “the place…from which Judas fell away” (Acts
    1:25). This can only mean a place in the visible Church was actually his…The true Church becomes visible… by a disclosure of certain things that true believers will do…

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  17. Pfft, yeah, why doesn’t he just take over his denomination’s publications with his own brand… you know, like you did with the OPC’s publications.

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  18. Well, it turns out that the Keller brand (TKNY) is now starting a publishing firm.

    If there were any money in wit these days, DGH, you’d be a rich man.

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  19. Tim Keller’s forthcoming new range of products (DVD’s, books etc.) reminds me of Wayne Grudem’s boxed DVD’s on theology which are marketed over here in Britain. From an outside perspective, the American culture is steeped in a business culture, so it is no surprise that TKNY is going full tilt down this well worn path, where ‘ministry’ is closely allied to selling products to raise money to support the organisation, staff, and the juggernaut it can become which needs buckets of cash.

    John Piper did something similar over here when his empire of Desiring God Ministries set up an outpost selling his brand products from a cannily situated base in Northern Ireland which is home to Europe’s biggest evangelical market. That business folded some years ago, and John MacArthur has had something likewise when his Grace to you started giving ‘free’ books to people on their UK data base, which made me wonder if they were actually hoping for a deeper (financial) relationship with their audience.

    Such empires as TKNY, DG, GC, and Grace to you foster an organism which needs lots of support (cash) and time which can all too often detract from the less product and consumer orientated means of grace found in the simple church ministry of the Word preached and the sacraments. And they produce, as Dr. Hart as described, pages upon pages of information which likewise can detract Christians from the obvious means of grace; folks get sucked into para church set ups to an alarming degree.

    I would suggest that our American friends should take a leaf out of the present English approach to the Europe Union and view the siren calls to be liked by joining in empires (TKNY, GC, ACE) and adopt the English bulldog approach of viewing the such like with a rightly so skeptical eye and bull dog like fang on view for those who want our time, attention and cash.

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  20. Paul (UK), it’s always good to hear your sane, insightful comments and I always want to apologize to you for what dumb, hubristic, meddling Americans we are. It’s situations like this that make me see red.

    I cannot understand why these “pastors” cannot see the limits and boundaries of their call from God to a specific place and a specific church. Good grief – if they want to offer outreach overseas, why not go through the old-fashioned route of offering support through old-fashioned denominational mission funding for new and existing churches and not compete or usurp other men’s calls from God?

    I like the term “siren call” that you use. It is so true. There seems to be such a blindness to the temptations of the pride of life, the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh among these men in what it means to be a minister. Why they think they are ubermensches and blind to the harm they cause is beyond my understanding.

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  21. Boooo Keller! Worst thing to ever happen to PCA, America Presbyterianism, and the Old Life. Glad this blog is edifying and encouraging.

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  22. The rest of TKNY’s presbytery probably needs to do something at this point.

    I wanted to use a cruder vernacular term for what they needed to do.

    @Paul(UK) – America really is the Great Satan.

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  23. Walt S.,

    I strongly disagree that America is the Great Satan. I love the place so much that I married a fabulous American lass from PA. And whether you ands others see it the same way, America still provides the most thoughtful and useful theological books by a mile. The UK in comparison has become a duff place to find a decent real Presbyterian church although there are still a few; count your blessings Walt for the USA still being a country which has an authentic Presbyterian presence but watch out for the subtle and very smart guys like Kevin DeYoung who want to morph Reformed theology with anything else they like (for example, Kev sees CJ Mahaney as the man he would like as his pastor) to get a bigger audience and influence.

    But finally best of all for me regarding the USA when visiting is that I can now sample the sugary delights of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Panera (flippin’ awesome), and slowly amble round the excellent Wegmans store when I am there, savouring the best grocery store I know of in PA.

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  24. Lily,

    Sorry to be late back to the blog. Ministry responsibilities, you know.

    My question to you is, “how can a wonderful Lutheran girl like you claim one specific form of church governance isn’t ordained by God when your Bible contains Titus 1:5?”

    Bruce,

    Back off beatin’ on the gals, OK? 😉 She’s smarter than both of us by a country mile.

    And my request of you is that you go back and read Titus 1:5 and ask yourself, “is Paul commanding Titus to appoint elders in each church (as you claim), or each city?”

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  25. DGH:

    The comments section of an unrelated post is a lousy spot to pose this question, but I would like to hear your take on the new state department policy of actively supporting gay rights.

    Should I, as a 2K guy, oppose this change in policy?

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  26. Ted,

    You are too funny! An apology? Wonderful Lutheran? Smarter than a…? I’m tempted to ask what you’re been drinking and if I can have a glass too? 😉

    I’m not sure that anyone should be afraid to challenge some dumb or clear as mud statement I’ve made? Your question about Titus 1:5 may be a good example? I went straight to the form of governance (eg: episcopal, congregational, etc.) being adiaphora for us and assumed you would understand the rest. So… I think the simplest answer to whether we “ordain elders in every city” would be yes (according to the Lutheran understanding), each local church has an ordained pastor and elders are appointed or elected to serve a term in that position. I won’t bore you with the details of our individual church and synodical governance.

    If I understand things correctly, ya’ll believe the form of governance is clearly spelled out in the bible as a presbytery whereas Lutherans and other communions do not. I try to steer clear of distinctives and not debate them, but alas, too often I step into one before I see my mistake – not to mention I don’t know all of them and/or miss the nuances in the distinctive. Zrim, Darryl, and John have bailed me out a number of times by showing me what I missed or misunderstood. Thanks, guys!

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  27. Lily,

    You are a wonderful Lutheran, so I’ll try to get at you another way 😉

    Based on Titus 1:5, was church governance adiaphora to Paul? Titus? Yea or Nay?

    And please don’t bring Zrim into the discussion. My brain is already redlining posting with you!

    BTW, Lutheran polity is not boring to me. Do you have a link for me to read, b/c it seems like different Lutherans have different views, esp. in Europe v. USA.

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  28. Ted,

    This link looks like a nice succinct site with just about anything you might want to know about the LCMS (including governance). Our last synod president ruined the LCMS website as one of his last expensive machinations during his papal reign of terror at the purple palace in his merciless onslaught to strip confessionalism and force bare bones Lutheranism into synergism with MethoPentoBaptoOokum, CGM, Jesus is my Boyfriend worship music, expletive idiocy. It’s hard to find things on the new site and some things are no longer there. Our new synod president is a good man with his hands full steering the good shop Missouri and cleaning up the mess left behind by his predecessor, so the expense and effort to restore the website is most likely not a high priority: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Lutheran_Church_-_Missouri_Synod

    Zrim? Definitely not a light-weight (not taking sides on the loafers, Zrim! 😉 ) and who couldn’t luv a guy with his photo?

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  29. Ted,

    You’re welcome. There are a few caveats with that website. It’s not an LCMS or even a Lutheran site and it does contain some errors. I offered it as a quick overview not as a reliable reference source that would qualify as good scholarship.

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  30. Ted:
    “And my request of you is that you go back and read Titus 1:5 and ask yourself, “is Paul commanding Titus to appoint elders in each church (as you claim), or each city?”

    What am I claiming again? It seems like maybe you’re assuming a formal Congregationalism, and then reading my comment in light of that as-yet unargued premise. You dropped a text into the discussion, as if it self-evidently proved a presbytery or synod false. I simply offered an explanation of the text that showed it thoroughly non-contradictory to de jure divino Presbyterianism.

    Here’s my quote:
    “Titus is commanded to ‘appoint elders in every city,’ which obviously could have had many separate congregations, and which would be unavoidable as the church grew.”

    The size of the church in any given city is irrelevant to my interpretation of Tit.1:5; I need assume nothing on that score. It may be a single congregation, or it may be multiple (which latter possibility I was at pains to emphasize). But I rather think that Paul’s basic thrust assumes a single recognizable church in each locality, where the leadership is close enough for efficient co-laboring, and irrespective of the number of the congregational sample.

    What I’m *not* doing is reading radical autonomy (or autocephalacy) _into_ Paul’s description of Titus’ assignment. The fact that there are many cities to go to doesn’t sunder the unity expressed by a common doctrine (i.e. the letter), as well as the persons of both Paul (extraordinary office) and Titus (ordinary office), who exemplify the mutual care of the church (cf. 2Cor.11:28). Where is the inherent principle of insularity to be found? It isn’t rising up out of the text, Tit.1:5.

    Presbyterians confess the visible unity of the church as a biblical ideal worth striving for. We no longer have apostles or the unity they embodied. But we have the Church where they were laid as foundation-stones (side-by-side with the prophets), and the Councils that directed it even in their days (cf. Acts.15), and still direct it by ordinary ministers and elders under the Spirit and Word of Christ, however large or small a circle you choose to draw.

    I linked in the post above to over five-hundred pages (a free-book) of biblical theology and exegesis that presents a highly developed ecclesiology that is inherited by the apostles. Its principles are sought strictly from Scripture alone. I don’t expect a baptist-congregationalist to agree with all of it’s conclusions, and probably not with its whole-counsel-of-God methodology.

    But generally, whatever the many problems we do deal with, our congregations aren’t now floundering in need of recovering the lay-eldership we did regain in the aftermath of the Reformation. The idea that de jure divino Presbyterians are insufficiently dedicated to obedience to the Spirit alone speaking in Scripture deserves to be challenged (Job.12:2-3). Pax.

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  31. Bruce,

    Thanks for the favor of a reply, and your passion for the topic. Thank you for the link to the lengthy book, no doubt full of great learning and wisdom.

    What are your thoughts on this observation of Titus 1:5….:

    Paul’s words concerning church governance are not lacking in any necessary detail. In these words he directs both what Titus is to form and by necessity what he is not to form. His words prohibit Titus from forming a presbytery of churches, but leaves all authority in each local church in the care of that church’s elders. There is no hint that elders, once appointed, are to be under any external authority. Indeed, for Titus to have set that up would have violated The Titus Mandate itself, just as much as if Titus had appointed an archbishop over the churches (or had appointed a single elder in any church). Once Titus had finished appointing elders in one town, he moved on to the next, and then repeated The Titus Mandate in every city (or until replaced (Titus 3:12). He was given no apostolic instruction from Christ to bind separate local churches together, as a faithful Presbyterian claims is the apostolic practice.

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  32. In an attempt to return to the point of Darryl’s post (sorta), I would like to offer a link that seems apropos:

    Where have all the Seelsorgers gone?
    http://thisweconfess.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/where-have-all-the-seelsorgers-pastors-gone

    A few excerpts from the post:

    Within the North America church, the role of pastor has morphed from the biblical and historic role of Seelsorger (one who gives care of souls) and giver of God’s gifts, to that of a CEO, administrator, and/or therapist.

    Lutheran pastor and professor, Harold Senkbeil notes, “We must admit that something is missing in the life of the church as we know it. We have lost the art of the individual care of souls. Over the generations, great treasures have been allowed to languish dust-covered and untouched in our ecclesiastical attics, while we have been busy using second-hand tools of our own devising.” (“Generation X and the Care of the Soul” in Mysteria Dei: Essays in Honor of Kurt Marquart. 2000).

    It is alarming that within the North American church not only has the pastoral art for the care of souls seemingly been lost, but so has the teaching of the truth about the Gospel in and out of the worship service.

    —————-

    Eugene H. Peterson, Presbyterian scholar and pastor for over 30 years, gives a scathing indictment against pastors, reminiscent even of Luther:

    “American Pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the churches pastors have done for most of twenty centuries…It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of people whom you have every reason to expect share the quest and commitments of pastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not. They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status, matters of God and the soul and Scripture are not grist for the mills.

    The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shop they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns—how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money…The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in town and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades. (Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, 1987, p. 2)”

    ——–

    William H. Willimon, a bishop in the United Methodist Church in the USA, former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, and considered by some to be one of America’s best known preachers, also has profound insights as well as criticism for the church and her pastors to heed:

    The gospel is not simply about meeting people’s needs. The gospel is also a critique of our needs, an attempt to give us needs worth having. The Bible appears to have little interest in so many of the needs and desires that consume present-day North Americans. Therefore, Christian pastoral care will be about much more than meeting people’s needs. It will also be about indoctrination, inculturation, which is also—from the peculiar viewpoint of the gospel—care. Our care must form people into the sort of people who have had their needs rearranged in light of Christ. (Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, 2002, 96.)

    —————-

    Lily: I question whether celebrity pastors and their goals to grow their multi-site churches and build empires with subsidiary publishing companies even qualify for being called pastors any longer? Are they able to care for the souls already given to them?

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  33. DGH:

    The gist of it is that it is now policy to demand that other nations protect the right to actively do gay things. The civil rights of gays were not in question, I suppose.

    It is a response to recent Ugandan efforts to criminalize gays.

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  34. Ted,
    I made one reply that is simply too long for a combox. Here’s the much abbreviated version:

    1) Your definition for “church” cuts me off, before we even get to the text. You look to have no room for a doctrine of church unity in this world that gets past a particular weekly gathering of an identifiable group of professing believers.

    2) You appear to understand Presbyterianism to be essentially the binding together of various churches. Whereas we understand church-or-congregational-connection to be a byproduct of the unity of the church.

    Presbyterianism, in our book, is essentially the requisite working together of all the church’s eldership, however much of the church you’ve gathered together. Elders from various congregations working together brings their congregations together in common cause.

    3) If the locale of “Crete” be permitted to have a “church,” conceived as one body, then Titus is simply to organize that church (the Church of Crete) by ordaining elders for it in every minor locality.

    If you deny “Crete” may have such an organized church, then you preclude the Presbyterian understanding of the church before we begin. In my view, one city could have one congregation with a session; or several congregations with elders that function in separate sessions and together in a local presbytery. These are just ways we describing elders working together on the business of the church.

    4) Finally, it seems most urgent for you to deny any external authority to the largest body you will define as a “local church.” Submission to the brethren stops at the city (or neighborhood) limits.

    Not so in our churches. In Presbyterianism, the rank-and-file’s right of redress does not stop with his local elders. A particular church is accountable for its words and acts before the whole church.

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  35. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks, you are right. I do view “Presbyterianism to be essentially the binding together of various churches.”

    Now when you say that “a particular church is accountable for its words and acts before the whole church,” how do you reconcile that “whole church” to reality? Do you mean to say the “whole church” is your particular G.A. of Presbyterians, or that your “whole church” means a local presbytery? If so, how is a “whole church.”

    And regarding your leaders: are they not merely representative of individual local churches? why, for heaven’s sake, are your leaders representatives in the first place? Elders are several things in Scripture: stewards of God, shepherds, and even rulers. But representatives? How contrary to Scripture and the mind of the Lord. Prove it.

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  36. Bruce, I got off on polity for moment. Please allow me to respond to your first paragraph:

    “Your definition for “church” cuts me off, before we even get to the text.”

    I’m just basing my comments on some simple observations of Titus 1:5 and asking you to respond. If that really does cut you off “before we even get to the text” then it may be that you have a front-loaded hermeneutic in ecclesiology. It means that I will not be able to assert Scripture on a matter that I can only understand from Scripture.

    “You look to have no room for a doctrine of church unity in this world that gets past a particular weekly gathering of an identifiable group of professing believers.”

    I confess this to be a truth, but precisely because we have so assiduously rejected The Titus Mandate. I yearn for unity with all my heart in local expressions of churches but live with continual sorrow over the present condition of so many churches in competition with each other. We are so very much like Crete’s churches before Titus fulfilled the mandate from Paul.

    Presbyterianism isn’t much better on the “church unity in this world” front except in theory, is it? Should the Lord tarry, its likely that the present group of Presbyterians you are affiliated with will split. At least, that is Presbyterian history.

    Lastly, there is no evidence of a “church of Crete” in Titus. Titus has a city by city mandate to carry out, and has no apostolic instruction on how to bring the resulting church in each town together in an island wide-church.

    Which raises a question or two. If bringing the churches meeting together was so important (think Presby and Assembly level) for not only a display of unity in this world (as you put it, point 1), but also displayed the church to the world, then perhaps Presbyterians would find a better ecclesial home in Rome? In reality, the elders of many local groups are the church, just as in the RCC, the priests are the church. Once an elder, always an elder?

    Which brings another question. Are you member of a local church, or of a presbytery?

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  37. Neoz, what’s it mean to actively do gay things? Dancing is pretty gay, and so are Appletinis. But I think people should be allowed to actively do them.

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  38. I thought saying “sodomy” would smack of Baylyism.

    Also, I’m pretty sure the testosterone suggested by enjoying a briar loaded with English would outweigh cat fancyin’ on the ‘gayness’ scale.

    Don’t bother with an answer in my original question. I’ve lost interest in the topic already. The State Dept and other pagans will do pagain things.

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  39. Ted,
    “when you say that “a particular church is accountable for its words and acts before the whole church,” how do you reconcile that “whole church” to reality? Do you mean to say the “whole church” is your particular G.A. of Presbyterians, or that your “whole church” means a local presbytery? If so, how is a “whole church.””

    The reality is the “whole” to which the “parts” belong. “We” all agree that “we” belong together. We share one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We are in mutual submission to one another; that’s a reality. Our particular churches are congregations of the greater church to which we belong.

    This reality includes being surrounded by other churches that refuse to confess a “common” doctrine with us, and refuse to be in mutual submission to a common discipline. What can we say to such refusal? If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. We seek as much unity as good-conscience will permit us (and them); and draw the line.

    “And regarding your leaders: are they not merely representative of individual local churches? why, for heaven’s sake, are your leaders representatives in the first place? Elders are several things in Scripture: stewards of God, shepherds, and even rulers. But representatives? How contrary to Scripture and the mind of the Lord. Prove it.”

    Comboxes have their limitations. I already provided you with just a single reference to over 500pp of biblical theology and exegesis that “Prove” presbyterianism to my satisfaction. I can’t make you see anything or agree with me.

    “Elders” are mentioned at least 40 times in the original constitution of the “church in the wilderness” (Act.7:38), namely the Pentateuch. Besides “elder,” there are other designations for roles of overlapping responsibilities, such as “leaders,” “judges,” “officers,” and the like.

    Representation is the soul of texts like this: 1Ki.8:1, “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.”

    You may take back your “contrary-to-Scripture” blast any time now.

    “I’m just basing my comments on some simple observations of Titus 1:5 and asking you to respond. If that really does cut you off “before we even get to the text” then it may be that you have a front-loaded hermeneutic in ecclesiology. It means that I will not be able to assert Scripture on a matter that I can only understand from Scripture.”

    Of course no one actually comes to any text with no preconceptions. You have yours. I have mine. You have a definition of “church” that you are bringing to Tit.1:5 (which doesn’t contain the term); so you have at least a minimalist “front-loaded hermeneutic in ecclesiology” as well.

    Titus is one of the Bible’s last-written books. From the standpoint of an instituted, developed, practiced, modified, reconfigured, and reoriented polity for God’s people that is about 1500 years old by the time Titus is written, I’d say that *not* bringing some kind of pre-ordered “mindset” to a polity-study in Titus is negligent.

    As for the likelihood of an eventual church-split: given sin and entropy, that’s practically inevitable. But this is an problem faced by churches in general, no matter how small they are, down to a single congregation. How does the fact of this problem–at any level of organization–bear on the question of organization itself?

    “there is no evidence of a “church of Crete” in Titus.”

    Not after you precluded such a reading from Tit.1:5. If I don’t come to the text with your constrained definition of an earthly church, it is no less natural a reading to understand that Titus is sent to organize THE CHURCH in Crete by ordaining elders in every city there; than that he is is sent to organize isolated CHURCHES in Crete, ordaining an eldership in each, and sure to tell them to mind their own business.

    The first, as my preferred reading, subsumes the second reading as a part of it’s vision for the church(es), except for the insistence on isolation. But the second reading excludes the first, eliminating organized unity and the benefit of formal appeal and discipline. That would have us believe the first century sheep (and shepherds) had the benefit of higher-appeal in the form of Apostles; but after they depart, collegiality between the elders of smaller church-organization is forbidden, and the right of appeal and oversight disappears.

    “If bringing the churches meeting together was so important (think Presby and Assembly level) for not only a display of unity in this world (as you put it, point 1), but also displayed the church to the world, then perhaps Presbyterians would find a better ecclesial home in Rome?”

    Rome cast us out, rather than consent to being reformed according to the Word. You may have heard of a little thing called “the Reformation.” 😉 We’d be happy to have a chastened, broken, repentant, and dismantled Rome come home to the historic Christian Faith she abandoned. We’re ready to forgive her murder and obloquy. But one Lord and one Faith come before one baptism. Today, Rome has too little of the first two, so we can hardly be joined on a pretended unity of mere ritualism.

    But your question almost seems to hint that you sense in my passion for the unity of the church, an impulsive craving for “glory.” But unity is not glory, nor does it require or need it. Glory is not unity, inasmuch as glory is often a cloak for disunity. Rome could not exist without her glory, for her “unity” is nothing but the wisps of glory.

    Real unity, like a good marriage, takes hard work; it is hardly ever glorious in terms of what is seen; and its “best” moments can be slippery and fleeting. Unity is a cross; like marriage is a mutual martyrdom. And when it is so practiced, it is a thing of great beauty. But maybe only the eyes of faith can see it, down here. It’s still worth the effort.

    “In reality, the elders of many local groups are the church, just as in the RCC, the priests are the church. Once an elder, always an elder?”

    Since I don’t know exactly what you are trying to develop by this statement-then-question, and I don’t want to guess what you mean, I will pass on it.

    “Are you member of a local church, or of a presbytery?”

    Yes.
    But since that’s not an answer that advances the discussion, my membership is on the roll of the regional church to which I belong. I am also a constituent member of this “presbytery,” which is our designated name for the governing body of the elders that guide the church of which I am a member. I also serve on a “session,” which is our designated name for the governing body of the elders that guide the church where I minister.

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  40. Keller with a new publisher?

    “Eternal LORD, spare us of the tedium of dreary and self-afflating and self-inflating mortals, including clerics, in America to the praise of Thy August Name, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.”

    Just the old classics.

    Like

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