25 Years a Widower

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his godly ones” (Ps 116.15).

Mom's TombstoneMom died 25 years ago today.  It was a remarkably Christian death.  She died well. Painfully, but well.

We buried her across the street from the Itta Bena cotton field in which she was born.  Under the magnolia next to her dad, her sister and her infant son.  It was brutally hot that day in the Mississippi Delta.

Dad never remarried.  Said he would never find anyone better so why settle.  Most days he stills wears his wedding band.  For better or worse ’til death do they part. He’s still honoring his vow.  In fact, about ten years after the funeral Dad moved her casket to a local cemetery.  She was too far away. They will await the resurrection together.

Everybody’s mom dies.  Every spouse eventually becomes a widow(er).  But I just don’t want to waste her death or Dad’s example.  There are many days I’m still that 16-year-old kid trying to make sense of God’s providence.  I’ve not made much sense of it yet.  But what’s different now than 25 years ago is that I’m okay with that.  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1.21).

By God’s grace, I was privileged to watch a Christian die well even though I wasn’t one myself.  She must’ve wrestled many days with her God as much as her cancer. But at the end of those days God always won out.  She may have complained to God but I never once heard her complain about him. She always brought honor to Christ.  She died in him in every sense of the word.  Her last breaths left a sweet aroma of Jesus that those who knew her enjoy to this day.

By God’s grace, I’ve watched a man widowed after 38 years.  I was a high school kid with a 65-year-old roommate.  Needless to say, we had more than a few rough patches thanks to my arrogance and petty rebellion.  But Dad still raised his son the best he knew how.  He still honored that boy’s mother.

Dad never retreated.  He’s buried his parents, an infant son, his wife, his brothers, his in-laws and all his aunts and uncles.  And he still pressed in further into the life of the church and his friends.  He never retreated.  He’s walked slowly but surely in faith.  An imperfect faith to be sure but he’s still on the journey.  He has battled severe loneliness for a quarter-century.  But I never saw him pout.  In fact, it’s only been in the last two years that I’ve seen him cry.  That’s no particular virtue per se, but he would bear his burdens so we wouldn’t have to.

We may do more caring for Dad then he does for us these days.  But he still fathers us.  Just like he promised her.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.
(Augustus Toplady)

Fancy It Forward:

Hold Your Heterosexuality Loosely

“But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7.29-31).

In a chapter about how Christians respond in marriage, singleness and widowhood Paul tucked what could be the key to the Christian life and ethic.  This world as we know it (the outward form or schema) is passing away.  In fact, “the time has been shortened.” And with it all that takes up most of our lives: marriage, pain, joy, possessions. Christians  therefore hold all of those relationships and experiences very loosely in light of the world to come. His goal was “to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord” (v35).

This world–and its marriages, experiences and possessions–is important.  But Jesus is more important.  This world is necessary for now.  But Jesus is necessarily necessary for eternity.  This world is a means to end, not the end itself.  Paul did not command indifference but perspective.

Paul did not mean married men are free to live like single men.  Rather, their marriage is not ultimate (Mt 22.30) and can end in a split-second.  Hold your marriage loosely so as to hold Jesus tightly.  Love Jesus more than you love your spouse.  Your spouse will love you for it.

Paul did not mean Christians are Stoics: not weeping or rejoicing.  Rather, our worldly pains and joys are not ultimate.  Christian weeping is temporary (Ps 30.5) so we hold our most difficult pain loosely.  Worldly joy is temporary (Lk 10.20) so that we don’t assume we have arrived when we’ve succeeded.  Our pain does not condemn us.  Our joys do not save us.  One tragedy does not make your life or eternity tragic.  One success does not make your life or eternity one big accolade. Our worldly pain should not overly burden us.  Our worldly successes should not overly comfort us. Jesus is greater than both.

Paul did not mean Christians should not buy goods or can treat their stuff haphazardly. Rather, we hold what we buy very loosely.  Our possessions neither define nor save us.  They don’t ultimately provide anything eternal for us.  Christians hold their stuff loosely so they dress themselves in readiness with lit lamps (Lk 12.35; cf. Lk 12.15-34).  That is, we travel light.  We don’t set our hearts on this world so that we’re not ready at all times for Christ’s return.  We want Jesus to come this afternoon more than the UPS truck.

All we hold dear in this world–spouse, pain, success, possessions–can be gone in a heartbeat. Like Daniel and friends, we live in Babylon without becoming Babylonian. We are not “of the world” because Jesus was not (Jn 17.16).  We are ambassadors to the world.  We use the world (because we must) but assume very little of it.  We assume everything of Jesus.  We use the world as marathoners use the next cup of water.  It gets us by until the next cup, and the next, until the race is over.

We can overlay this principle over the church’s current pressures and temptations.

  • Be heterosexual as though you weren’t.  Love Jesus more than you love heterosexuality.  We’re not to be indifferent toward homosexuality by any means. Rather, we know heterosexuality doesn’t save anyone.  It’s not the end all-be all of Christian morality.  Jesus is.  We love lifting up Christ’s name and honor rather than shouting down our opponents.  Like Paul in Athens, we hold up the precious value, loveliness, power of Christ so that sinners like us are compelled to him (Acts 17.22-34).  We make disciples, not heterosexuals.  We don’t call gay and lesbian friends to be straight, but to be saved.  Better to have pews full of homosexuals crawling away from their sin toward Jesus than heterosexuals with no regard for him.
  • View Supreme Court decisions as though there are no judges.  The church has not ultimately failed.  Christians need not blame all the other Christians for prayerless schools, abortion and same-sex marriages.  Since Genesis 3 this world has always been passing away and any assumed decency with it.  We need not load up a Supreme Court’s decision with eternal value.  Even if the court had ruled in our favor, it would still only be a temporary ruling (we would rejoice as though we didn’t rejoice). Only Jesus is Supreme.  Only he is Judge (Jn 5.22).  The Supreme Court has not hindered Christ’s kingdom in the slightest any more than it would’ve strengthened it.  Let’s not assume too much of nine judges not matter how stately their robes.
  • Appreciate democracy as though you don’t live in one.  Our beloved American democracy–a mere  240 years old–is being whittled away at breakneck speed. The world we know passes away.  The church is not however to tighten its grip on any political system, but loosen it. Democracy might promote best the common weal but it’s not necessary for the church to thrive.  We don’t double down on the Republic. We bet everything on Jesus.  For 2,000 years the church has always lived in tension with the world.  Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3.20-21). Jesus will fix what’s wrong through resurrection, not legislation.  Now is not the time for more entrenched patriotism that blurs kingdom lines. Now is the time for “undistracted devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7.35).

While current events may appear to cripple the church’s work and witness, they are in fact catalysts for it (1 Pt 2.9-10).  We once availed ourselves of a common decency and civility.  Now we know now how quickly that fades.  We can finally let go of sexual restraint, an “unbiased” judiciary and civil democracy as friends of the church.  They’re not.  And we should not expect to befriend them again.

We can now unashamedly proclaim the otherworldly excellencies of Christ without trying to fit that message in worldly categories.  We can now leave the fleeting baggage behind so as to travel light.  We can now recover our peculiarity and embrace the blessing of being insulted, lampooned and ridiculed (Mt 5.11-12). There is no need for us to doll ourselves up for the world any longer (as if there was ever any reason to do so).  We have no need to malleate the gospel to be reasonable or palatable.  Or American.  Church membership need not be cheap and easy any longer.  Let’s clothe ourselves in Christ alone (Col 3.12-17) and light our lamps.  Love wins when Christ comes.

“Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 2.20).                 

Fancy It Forward:

Finally, The Rainbow Five Can Now End Abortion

In a monumental ruling (to say the least), the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  Justice Kennedy wrote the majority (5-4) opinion in which he said, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty” (Syllabus, 2.b.4).  In a noble effort to defend their decision he waxed eloquently,

“From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations” (Opinion, 2.A).

Marriage is a “fundamental right,” a “most basic human need,” and “essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.”  As such, it should not be denied gay and lesbian couples.

While I disagree with the majority opinion, the reasoning could very well help us end abortion.

The Court assumes the right to marry involves two living persons.  Presumably, a girlfriend whose rich boyfriend just died can’t then marry him to get benefits.  The right to to marry applies only to living people.

If marriage is a “fundamental right” and “essential” and that right depends or relies on still something more basic then that more basic requirement is fundamentaler and essentialer.  If marriage is a “most basic human need” and it depends on life itself then life must necessarily be the mostest basic need.  Life is de facto more fundamental, basic and essential than marriage since marriage assumes it is living persons getting married.  If marriage is an essential right and life is essential to marriage then it only stand to reason life is an essential right, too.

For that reason, the Court should immediately overturn Roe v. Wade based on the 14th Amendment.  The right to marry depends on the prior basic need for life.  By their own reasoning, life itself must be a fundamental right, a most basic human need and essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.  After all, dead people don’t hope and aspire.

If marriage is a “fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person” then life itself even moreso.  (That assumes you believe humans conceive humans as science and society overwhelmingly confirm.)  And if marriage as so defined must not be restricted from same-sex couples then, by the same token, you cannot restrict the right to life from gestating babies.  Liberty good for the goose is good for the gander.  They are as much human and American as any gay or lesbian is.  In fact, they might even be gay or lesbian!  They have a fundamental right as well–a most basic human need–to live, hope and aspire.  Even in the womb they aspire to live and that right is protected, by your own reasoning, by the 14th Amendment.

So, thank you, Rainbow Five.  Change a few dates and terms and the 14th Amendment can now apply to even more Americans who have the fundamental right to live and marry.  We know you would not want to deprive anyone of an inherent liberty afforded them by the Creator and protected by the Constitution.  We look forward to your ruling soon.

Fancy It Forward:

Why Your Church Should Have Elders (Part 4)

Jesus loves the church and has richly provided for her eternal health and glory (Eph 4.7-16). He sustains the church through a well-ordered, humble, Spirit-wrought polity. The New Testament teaches and demonstrates that local church leadership should be entrusted to a plurality of qualified men who, though gifted differently, are equal in authority and responsibility. Both biblically and practically, your local church benefits greatly by having a group of men sharing the pastoral responsibility for souls.

Here are some common questions when considering a plurality of elders for your local church.

Aren’t elders basically the same thing as deacons?
Though a common assumption in modern (Baptist) churches, there is a clear biblical distinction between the offices of elder and deacon. Deacon is not a synonym for elder.  For example, see Phil 1.1 where the roles are clearly distinguished in the Philippian church. While elders and deacons are called to diakonia (Acts 6.2, 4) they are called to different forms of primary service. Elders and deacons are to be same sort of men (cf. 1 Tim 3.1-13; Titus 1.5-9): mature, Christian men.  But their ministry to the church is different.  How so?

Elders/pastors/overseers/bishops serve primarily in the ministry of the Word (preaching, teaching, soul care) and prayer (Acts 6.4). These men provide the main diet of biblical instruction in both public and private ministry. They set the pace in public and private prayer. They also bear the responsibility of guiding the process of formal church discipline.

The elders oversee the spiritual health of the church and church members. They are not priests or popes. They do not dictate. They are shepherds who help Christ’s sheep feast on the gospel and enjoy God’s grace (1 Pt 5.1-5). They are to be joyfully obeyed in the way children submit to loving, grace-filled parents (Heb 13.17). Elders are a means of God’s grace so that we can flourish in spiritual maturity.

Deacons administrate “social ministry” (John Stott, The Living Church: 73) that could otherwise dominate the elders time and energy (see Acts 6.1-6). Arguable, we find the first deacons to be able preachers themselves and even martyrs (Acts 7; 8.25-40). Nevertheless, their primary ministry was tending to the practical needs in the church body.

The deacons are not vice-pastors, junior ministers, or interns. While deacons do not have pastoral authority, they are “in charge” of their particular practical/social ministries (Acts 6.3). And their ministry complements the elders’ main ministry by relieving them of burdensome administration. Deacons do not serve the elders.  They serve Christ by administrating practical needs in the church.

Both offices are ultimately subject to the church. The local church should be elder-led, deacon-served and congregationally-responsible.

Won’t the plurality of elders eliminate congregationalism?
Scripture indicates the exact opposite is true. Congregationalism thrives under proper biblical polity. Ultimately, the church is the final court of appeal in matters of doctrine, discipline and practice (see Mt 18.17; Acts 13.1-3; 15.22; 1 Cor 5.4-5; 2 Cor 2.6-8; 1 Tim 5.17-22). The apostles entrusted the choosing of deacons to the church (Acts 6.1-6). Even the apostle Paul was commissioned in some sense by the church in Antioch (Acts 13.2-3).  After deliberating how to enfold Gentiles into the brand new covenant community, the apostles and elders enjoyed the commendation of “the whole (Jerusalem) church” (Acts 15.22, 30).

Elders who love their flock would not lead them astray and congregations who trust their elders will gladly follow. The local church flourishes when elders are obedient to their charge (1 Pt 5.1-5) and devoted to those in their charge (Acts 20.28), and congregations are obedient to Jesus by submitting to the elders’ authority. Christ’s church is marked by heavenly humility. She is at her finest when, in subjection to Christ himself, elders humbly serve through robust biblical instruction and the church humbly submits to biblical instruction.

Are the offices of elder and deacon universal, perpetual appointments?
No.  The offices of elder and deacon are local church offices.  Particularly in the Baptist tradition of local church autonomy, no governing ecclesiastical body confers the offices on anyone.  Each local church recognizes her own officers prayerfully and Spiritually.

Because a man is an elder in one church does not automatically make him one in another church.  Another church may wisely consider his qualifications and experience, but he does not necessarily carry his eldership with him.  The next local congregation must formally recognize him as their elder.  Further, an elder may simply not want to be one any longer (1 Tim 3.1) or a church may no longer affirm his fitness any longer.

It seems deacon(esse)s were appointed for particular ministry needs (cf. Acts 6.3; Rom 16.1).  There were no deacons-in-general but deacons of specific ministries.  All the members were to serve all the other members in whatever capacities were needed.  However, if a specific ministry need became large enough or necessary enough to require administration then the church recognized deacons to manage the need.  That ministry may be a one-off occasion (Rom 16.1) or require ongoing administration (Acts 6.3), but the deacons was only formally needed as long as the ministry required administration.

For example, your church might have a summer food pantry requiring a measure of administration.  Your church would recognize deacons to manage the ministry need.  When the summer ministry ends there is no need for a deacon to manage it.  They are not demoted but the specific need is simply no longer necessary.  Any given church certainly has ministry needs requiring ongoing diaconal service (sacraments, finances, benevolence, widow care, etc.).  In those cases, a deacon would serve for a longer period of time, but he/she would be a “deacon of sacraments” or the like.

As with elders, deacon(esse)s do not hold their office perpetually.  Because someone is a deacon in one church does not automatically make them one in another church.  Again, the office is conferred by a local church and, in the Baptist tradition of local church autonomy, no local church exerts authority over another.  Another church may not have the same ministry need(s) or may already have deacons managing the needs.  Another church may wisely consider a deacon’s former experience but not automatically or necessarily so.

How does a church install elders?
There is a measure of liberty as to how a local church installs her elders. Generally speaking, elders were “appointed” and deacons were “chosen” (Acts 6.1-6; Tim 4.14). Paul commanded Titus, his apostolic representative, to appoint elders in every city. It seems prudent that elders appoint other elders with some form of congregational affirmation rather than an open ballot or the like.

Ideally, a local church raises up her own pastors (2 Tim 2.2). Imagine if your church’s next pastor search committee was the last one you would ever need! Therefore, anyone presented for the office of elder has likely been serving in the church for some time (cf. 1 Tim 3.6). The church has already observed and benefited from their ministry. The elders appoint a man who has already been demonstrating those qualities and abilities fitting for pastoral ministry. In the healthiest sense, when elders appoint other elders they merely formally recognize what the church has long been informally recognizing already.

What if a church has no formal elders and wants to establish them?
After being convinced from Scripture, it would help to ask a sister church with elders to help with the process.  In some sense, the sister church provides “surrogate” elders that help your church onto healthy footing.  From then the elders begin training and recognizing other men in the congregation who aspire to the office (1 Tim 3.1).

We trust in the Spirit of Christ more than strict protocols and processes.  Your church should pray often together and trust the Spirit to provide wisdom and congregational unity.  Jesus loves your church more than you do so he will give grace to the humble.

Are elders the same thing as church staff?
Not all elders are on the paid church staff. In fact, most of the elders should probably be “lay” (non-vocational) elders to avoid the professionalization of the pastoral office as well as the temptations that come with being paid to preach the gospel. However, anyone set aside in a primary pastoral capacity should be considered an elder.  Likewise, not all paid church staff should be elders. The variety of ministry support roles are just that: administrative support.

Are all elders considered pastors?
Yes. In fact, the words are synonymous. Vocational pastors are not the church’s “professional” ministers. Whether paid or not, all the elders share equal responsibility and authority. The “senior pastor” carries no more weight than the lay elder. Of course, this also means the pastors accustomed to their titles must humbly relinquish the glory attached to their vocational status.  Any vocational elders should especially use “we” and “us” as much as possible.

In terms of character and pastoral fitness, the church should expect from the lay elder what she does from the full-time pastor. While the full-time pastor(s) will probably bear the bulk of the preaching and teaching load, he/they do so in concert with the other elders who help oversee the church. All the elders share equally in spiritual oversight even if some or most of the elders are not as public as others. Most, if not all, the elders of the local churches addressed in the New Testament are anonymous so that Christ alone would be famous.

Together the elders equip, encourage and empower all the church members to mature in gospel knowledge and service (Eph 4.11-16).  “What is needed is a basic biblical recognition that God calls different people in different ministries. Then the people will ensure that the people are free to exercise their gifts. It is through this reciprocal liberation that the church will flourish” (John Stott, The Living Church: 75).

Elders do not hand-feed every sheep (only the weak/sick ones). They lead the sheep to fertile pastures where they’ve taught the sheep how to feast well on Christ.

Both biblically and practically, Christ’s church benefits greatly from having a plurality of elders kneeling at the helm. In fact, it’s Jesus’ design as carried out by the apostles in the local churches throughout the Roman Empire. The burden of gospel ministry is simply too heavy for one man to bear in any church of any size. Only Christ can bear the weight of the entire church.  For the sake of the church, the pastor(s) and ultimately Christ himself, your local church should have elders.

Revisit Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.

Fancy It Forward:

Why Your Church Should Have Elders (Part 3)

Parts 1 and 2 introduced and briefly defended from Scripture that local church leadership is best entrusted to a plurality of qualified men who, though gifted differently, are equal in authority and responsibility.  Both the biblical vocabulary and pattern indicate the local church is best led by elders (a.k.a. overseers, bishops, pastors-shepherds) rather than solo pastors or other pastoral hierarchies.  A church without elders is no less a church, but she should consider such polity of primary importance (cf. Titus 1.5).  A church should carefully and patiently pursue having a plurality of elders as soon as reasonably possible.

Whatever Jesus commands and/or models is by definition practically beneficial for the church.  What he commands is right because it’s also good.  In addition to the biblical witness there are practical benefits to having a plurality of elders in your local church.  It is the best practical way to display the church’s nature, provide pastoral care, protect pastors from moral failure, and cultivate happier pastors and churches.

1.  The plurality of elders best protects the nature of Christ’s church.  Most churches — especially those formed in the mid-20th century — organize according to business or governmental practices.  A strict hierarchical structure draws a sharp line between the leaders and those they lead.  Titles, salaries, office sizes and secretaries define the importance of positions.  Like a mailroom clerk at a Fortune 500 company, the lowly children’s ministry intern hopes to climb the ladder.  The associate pastor bides his time like a minor league shortstop, ready for the big leagues when the position opens up.  There is often more concern for the church’s “business” (buildings, budgets and bodies) than the church’s mission of making disciples of those Christ calls to salvation.  

The church, however, is unlike any other institution in history.  She is led by an otherworldly Founder and operates according to an otherworldly economy.  How did the very men who walked and talked with Jesus go about establishing local churches?

The church is family.  The most common NT term for Christian fellowship is that of brotherhood (the Greek cognates of which were used some 250 times outside the Gospels).  The church does not behave like a business (a la the Pharisees) but as a family of brothers and sisters.  Having a plurality of elders helps remove any assumed pecking order in the church.  While the congregation is to  submit to her elders (Heb 13.17ff.), the elders in no way lord their authority over the congregation (1 Pt 5.1-5).  Mirroring the humility of Christ himself, a church is at her finest when she humbly submits to men who humbly lead.  The congregation joins together with the elders on their knees.

The church is inherently non-clerical, non-professional.  God’s Spirit does not indwell only certain qualified individuals as in the old covenant.  Pastors are not the equivalent of Old Testament priests because Jesus is the fulfillment of that role.  In the church, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers and unites them equally in grace.  All believers are saints and part of the “royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2.9) serving one another at the pleasure of the Great High Priest.  Worship is no longer led by professionals but all are participants.  Having a plurality of elders protects the church against clericalism.

The church is led by Christ himself.  The plurality of elders enforces humility among those who would oversee the local church.  No one man is the chiefest.  Alexander Strauch states it firmly: “…in the first century, no Christian would dare take the position or title of sole ruler, overseer, or pastor of the church.  We Christians today, however, are so accustomed to speaking of ‘the pastor’ that we do not stop to realize that the New Testament does not. . . . There is only one flock and one Pastor (Jn 10.16), one body and one Head (Col 1.18), one holy priesthood and one great High Priest (Heb 4.14ff.), one brotherhood and one Elder Brother (Rom 8.29), one building and one Cornerstone (1Pt 2.5ff.), one Mediator, one Lord.  Jesus Christ is ‘Senior Pastor,’ and all others are His undershepherds (1 Pt 5.4)” (Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: 115).

“The pastor” is not and never was the boss.  Having a plurality of elders is the constant reminder there is only one Head of the church.

2.  The plurality of elders provides for the best pastoral care of individual church members.  Jesus never established his church so that one man had all the gifts to care for her (Eph 4.11-16).  In reality, most pastors are weak in far more areas than they are strong.  The plurality of elders balances those weaknesses.  “Plurality of leadership allows each shepherd elder to function primarily according to personal giftedness rather than being forced to do everything and then being criticized for not being multigifted” (Strauch: 42).

Faithful shepherding (from which the word “pastor” derives) does not mean getting the same number or more people coming back to church the next Sunday.  It does not mean leading successful building campaigns or crusades.  Faithful shepherding is ensuring all those who profess Christ in their charge (Acts 20.28) are making gospel progress.  The elders serve the members by regularly (daily, weekly) layering the gospel into various life situations (Heb 13.17).  They want to ensure those who claim to be Christian are indeed persevering in Christ: enjoying his grace, obeying his commands, gathering with his church, observing his sacraments, loving and serving his people.  

One pastor/elder simply cannot oversee an unlimited or undefined number of souls.  Jesus never intended that to be the case.  In fact, in most cases two or three men couldn’t even do so.  Assume, for example, one elder could faithfully serve 30 people (give or take).  That is, he can reasonably pay close attention to that number of people during any given week.  A church of 150 people needs five pastors/elders equal in accountability and responsibility to ensure all 150 people are persevering as Christians.  Again, not all the pastors/elders/bishops/overseers need to be vocational.   But they all have equal weight and authority to shepherd their slice of the membership.

Without a plurality of elders all the souls in a church suffer.  Having a plurality of elders provides the best and broadest means by which individual members receive personal pastoral care and encouragement.

3.  The plurality of elders provides accountability and support for the pastors themselves.  The rash of moral failure among pastors is enough for any local church to reconsider its polity.  Too many sole pastors or “untouchable” Senior Pastors slip into grave moral sin without the church’s knowledge or accountability.  Pastors/elders must have a good reputation in the world (1 Tim 3.7).  Moral failure and scandal bring shame not only on himself and family, but also the work and witness of his church and ultimately Christ himself.  Having a plurality of elders provides a heavy layer of moral scrutiny necessary for maintaining a ministry of integrity.  The plurality of elders helps protect the name and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Further, good elders are those who work hard studying and teaching the Word (1 Tim 5.17).  Believe me, sole pastors can easily grow lazy in the word.  They are also spread so thin they simply do not have the time and energy to mine Scripture for the church’s eternal benefit.  He is often left with shallow study and superficial sermons that all sound the same.  Having a plurality of elders provides a measure of scholarly discipline and, since the pastoral load is shared, each elder has more time and energy to devote to it.

Lastly, a pastor is also a church member and responsible for spiritual growth and maturity just like all other church members.  “It was never our Lord’s will for the local church to be controlled by one individual.  The concept of the pastor as the lonely, trained professional – the sacred person over the church who can never really become part of the congregation – is utterly unscriptural” (Strauch: 43).  Having a plurality of elders ensures the pastors have pastors, too.

4.  The plurality of elders provides the best protection against pastoral burnout.  Very simply, a plurality of elders share the church’s pastoral workload.  The burden of pastoral leadership is an impossibly heavy load to bear (2 Cor 11.23-29).  Pastors/elders can take no credit for the church’s success and bear much of the blame for her weaknesses.  It is not a glamorous job by any stretch.

In a 2001 survey, George Barna found the average pastoral tenure at a church to be five years (I doubt much has changed in 15 years) and concluded,  “To appreciate the contribution made by pastors you have to understand their world and the challenges they face. Our studies show that church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That’s a recipe for failure—nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master. We find that effective pastors not only love the people to whom God allows them to minister, but also provide firm, visionary leadership and then delegate responsibilities and resources to trained believers. Ultimately, the only way a pastor can succeed in ministry is to create a team of gifted and compatible believers who work together in loving people and pursuing a commonly held vision. The pastor who strives to meet everyone’s demands and tries to keep everyone happy is guaranteed to fail.”

It might be that your church is simply too busy and/or (gasp!) too big. It might be the pastor intentionally spreads himself too thin.  In any case, having a plurality of elders significantly slows the pace of pastoral burnout. 

Having a plurality of elders makes for happier pastors.  Happy pastors stay longer at churches.  And those churches remain consistently faithful for generations.

Revisit Part 1Part 2, or jump to Part 4.

Fancy It Forward:

Why Your Church Should Have Elders (Part 2)

The New Testament teaches and demonstrates local church leadership should be entrusted to a plurality of qualified men who, though gifted differently, are equal in authority and responsibility.  The local church is most healthy when she is led by elders who defend and teach sound doctrine, and encourage gospel progress through careful pastoral oversight.  As introduced in Part 1, until a local church installs a plural eldership it is lacking.  It might not be any less a church but she will not be firmly established for generations of gospel consistency.

Both the NT vocabulary and pattern provide that a plurality of elders was the expectation and ambition of local New Testament churches.

Biblical Vocabulary
The NT defines local church leadership using several synonymous terms and titles. Most English Bibles translate the Greek word presbuteros  as “elder” (Acts 11.30; 14.23; 15.2, 4, 6, 2-23, 16.4; 20.17; 21.18; 1 Tim 5.17, 19; Titus 1.5; Jas 5.14; 1 Pt 5.1, 5; 2 Jn 1; 3 Jn 1).  Hence, “presbyterian” churches are so named for their particular polity (local church elders or “session,” presbytery, synod and general assembly).

Most English Bibles translate the Greek word episkopos as “overseer” (NASB) or “bishop” (KJV) (Acts 20.28; Phil 1.1; 1 Tim 3.2; Titus 1.7; 1 Pt 2.28).  Peter referred to Jesus as “the Shepherd and episcopon (Overseer) of your souls (1 Pt 2.25).  Literally, Jesus was the Bishop!  Hence, “episcopal” (or Anglican) churches are so named for their particular polity (local church rector/bishop, diocese, archbishop, etc.).  

Paul used both presbuteros and episcopos interchangeably in Titus 1.5, 7.  They were therefore synonyms for one and the same office: elder/overseer/bishop of a local church.  The  apostles invested local church leadership in a plurality of men called elders (presbuteros) or overseers/bishops (episkopos).

Most English Bibles translate the Greek word poimen as “pastor” and that in only once place: Eph 4.11.  It is elsewhere and most appropriately translated “shepherd” (Mt 9.36; 25.32; 26.31; Mk 6.34; 14.27; Jn 10.2, 11-12, 14, 16; Heb 13.20; 1 Pt 2.25). The verb form (to shepherd) is more often applied to local church leadership (Jn 21.16; Acts 20.28; 1 Cor 9.7; 1 Pt 5.2).  For example, in Acts 20.28 Paul commanded the overseers/bishops (episkopous) to shepherd (poimanein) the (one) Ephesian church.  We might say then “elders/overseers/bishops/pastors” is who these men are and shepherding the local church is what they do.  Like Jesus the Shepherd.  Not managers, innovators, executives, visionaries, Leaders-with-a-capital-L, or bosses.  Shepherds.

But we’re Baptists!  And Baptists ain’t got no elders or bishops.  Think again. Southern Baptists might especially be surprised when they read the first edition of the Baptist Faith and Message (1925), which borrowed its language from the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833).  In Article XII we confessed “Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons.”  There are four notable things about this simple confession.  (1) The words “bishop” and “elder” are synonymous.  (2) They are plural.  (3) They are the only two scriptural offices in the local church.  This means that while the church clerk, church treasurer, Sunday School superintendent, WMU director, church council chairman or children’s ministry coordinator may be helpful roles they are not biblically required church offices.  And (4) the office of bishop/elder is distinct from that of deacon.  For better or worse, the subsequent editions of the Baptist Faith and Message (1963 and 2000) updated the word “bishops” to “pastors.”  Evenso, they retained the same distinctive traits as of the office even if it has been lost in modern practice.

In the end, all these terms are and can be used synonymously for the one office of elder/bishop/overseer/pastor-shepherd.  And as we will now see throughout all local churches, this one office was filled by a collection of qualified men.

Biblical Pattern
In addition to the vocabulary used the NT demonstrates that a plurality of elders was the common expectation and ambition in local churches.  It was not a matter of cultural tradition, preference, pragmatism or expediency for any given church to decide.  
It was rather the apostolic practice to establish elders in each church all over the known world:  Judea (Acts 11.30; Jas 5.14-15), Jerusalem (Acts 15.6, 22), Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch (southwestern Turkey) (Acts 14.19-23), Ephesus (western Turkey) (Acts 20.17; 1 Tim 3.1-7; 5.17-25), Philippi (northwestern Greece) (Phil 1.1), Crete (island south of Greece) (Titus 1.5), Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia (Asia Minor, northern Turkey) (1 Pt 1.1; 5.1), Thessalonica (north-central Greece) (1 Thess 5.12) and Rome (Italy) (Heb 13.17).  Having a plurality of elders wasn’t for this or that culture but for all local churches everywhere.

Further, the NT gives so much attention to local church polity that we do not have the liberty to be indifferent towards it.  The apostles gave instructions to local churches about their elders (1 Thess 5.12-13; 1 Tim 3.1-7; 5.17-22; Titus 1.5-9; Heb 13.17; Jas 5.14; 1 Pt 5.5).  They gave instructions directly to elders of local churches about their ministry (Acts 20.28, 31, 35; 1 Thess 5.13; Jas 5.14; 1 Pt 5.1-5).  For local churches to thrive in disciple-making they must be ordered rightly.  Elders must be men who understand their service.  Congregations must understand their submission.  All must embrace Christ’s humility.

Additionally, when the NT speaks of elders/overseers/bishops/pastors, it does so in terms of a plurality within a local (singular) church (Acts 11.30; 14.23; 15.2, 4, 22-23; 16.4; 20.17, 28; Eph 4.12; 1 Tim 5.17; Titus 1.5; Jas 5.14; 1 Pt 5.1). There is no evidence in the NT of our modern pastoral hierarchy of Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, etc.  “There is no biblical warrant for the so-called one-man band, in which a single pastor, like a single musician, plays all the instruments” (John Stott, The Living Church: 77).

Lastly, elders appointed in the churches were always men from within the particular congregations (Acts 14.23; Titus 1.5).  That is, there was no “pastor search committee” who solicited résumés  from unknown men in a distant seminary.  Each local church, with apostolic help in some cases, raised up her own pastors (cf. 2 Tim 2.2) who were men of firm gospel convictions, demonstrated spiritual maturity, and embodied Christian humility and grace.  These men were neither necessarily professionally-trained men nor paid for their ministry (see Acts 4.13).  They were nevertheless men recognized by the congregation as spiritually fit men to faithfully exercise pastoral oversight for every member of the church.  

We can see from the New Testament’s vocabulary and pattern that local church leadership should be entrusted to a plurality of qualified men who, though gifted differently, are equal in authority and responsibility.

Revisit Part 1 or read Part 3.

Fancy It Forward:

Why Your Church Should Have Elders (Part 1)

For many a churchgoer church polity (how a church is governed) is not of great concern.  As long as there are plenty of programs, pennies and people then why fuss over a secondary issue.  But is polity as secondary as we assume?

Church polity does not rise to the level of salvific importance.  Whether or not a local church has a plurality of elders does not determine if it’s a Christian church.  However, local church polity does directly influence church health and how church members thrive (or not) in gospel accountability and witness.  And that does touch on matters of salvific importance. We want to foster communities of faith wherein Christians flourish in the gospel. That requires meaningful church membership and deeply personal pastoral care. Having a plurality of elders best facilitates those means of grace.

Jesus is the “head of the body, the church” (Col 1.18).  How we structure our local churches demonstrates our allegiance to his authority.  For our own individual and congregational health, church polity is a means of Christ’s grace to help us in gospel progress.

A mere casual reading of the New Testament shows us the apostolic principles and model of church leadership.  Local church leadership should be entrusted to a plurality (a group of at least more than one) of qualified men who, though gifted differently, are equal in authority and responsibility.  Of course, their authority and responsibility are at all times subject to that of the Head of the Church, Jesus himself.  This plurality of elders protects the the nature and health of the local church better than other models–i.e. a solo pastor, hierarchical structure (Senior, Associate, Youth, Children’s, Music, etc.) or deacon-led structure.

“Under Christ’s name an elaborately structured institution emerged that corrupted the simple, family structure of the apostolic churches, robbed God’s people of their lofty position and ministry in Christ, and exchanged Christ’s supremacy over His people for the supremacy of the institutional church” (Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: 100).

We all want good and godly governance for our churches, but not more than Jesus wants it.  Strauch is right.  We’ve replaced church as family with either church as business where pastors are CEOs with subordinate middle managers or church as democracy where majority rules.  In so doing, we have indeed “robbed people of their lofty position in Christ.”  Generally speaking, churches not led by a plurality of elders will fiercely contend for parliamentary procedure (i.e. Robert’s Rules of Order), a regularly-revised constitution and by-laws, or cumbersome committees.   Yet Jesus has provided the church with what is best: simple, prayerful, Spirit-guided leadership through a plurality of qualified elders.

In Titus 1.5, Paul explained why Titus would stay in Crete: to “set in order what remains” or literally, to “set right the things lacking.”  Titus’s first order of business as Crete’s apostolic representative was to “appoint elders in every city as I directed you.”  As a matter of apostolic command Titus would establish local church elders (plural) in every city (singular).  Paul considered the lack of elders in the churches unfinished business (see CSB, NIV).  Not having elders did not disqualify a church as a church but elders would be necessary for the ongoing health, perseverance and gospel witness of the local churches.  Local churches led by a group of elders is be far better equipped to remain faithful to the gospel for the long-term.

No local church will be perfect no matter her polity.  But she can be healthy and maintain her witness through a well-ordered, Christ-designed, apostolic polity.  Having a plurality of elders protects churches from cycling through a pastor (and a new “vision”) every few years.  The plurality of elders provides more stability to a church’s convictions and identity so she will maintain a consistent witness for generations to come.  The plurality of elders also provides the best (albeit not perfect) protection for the pastors themselves from doctrinal error, personal burnout and moral failure.

No Christian wants their local church to be “lacking.”  We want to have and enjoy of all that Christ has for his Bride.  Jesus wants the best for your local church because the Father has staked his glory and name on her prosperity (Jn 6.37-40; 17.22-26). Therefore, we want our local churches to resemble as closely as possible the community he “purchased for God with Your blood from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5.9).  Having a plurality of elders helps gets the most out of his purchase.

Read Part 2.

Fancy It Forward:

A Father’s Day Tribute to the Men of Adult 7

“Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding” (Job 12.12).

Father’s Day in 2013 meant church with Dad.  Church with Dad meant a morning spent with the men of Adult 7.  (For all you hipsters, that’s how churches named Sunday School classes before small groups, cell groups, community  groups, life groups, and care groups).  I thought I was doing Dad a solid by flanking him in Sunday School but it was quite the reverse.

By the way, there is no Adult 8.  Not one man in Adult 7 will be surprised if he attends the funeral of any one of them he saw last Sunday.  They’re used to the probability one of them will not be back next week, or ever.  I don’t know if there was an intentional correlation between the biblical number of completion and Adult 7 but it does fit.

The men of Adult 7 shot really big guns at really bad people for a really long time.  They have buried their wives (maybe two) and children.  They’re proud pall bearers.  And they are still humbled by the grace of God to them.  They can tell war stories but would rather tell you about Jesus.  They have earned every wrinkle and every ounce of our respect.

These are men.  Christian men.  Men who started together in Adult 1 still meet faithfully together now six decades later. In all its supposed wisdom and innovation the church has passed them by.  One room church buildings have given way to children and youth wings with strobe lights, plasma screens, coffee bars and gut-rattling speakers.  And here is Adult 7 tucked away in an unadorned room on the second floor, still gathering every Sunday like they have for the last sixty years. Their Bibles and Sunday School quarterly open on their laps.  They pray for the litany of doctors’ visits, the new widows of their friends, and the salvation of children and (great)grandchildren.  They ride an elevator to their class now but they still run the race.

The men of Adult 7 can’t hear very well.  They walk slow.  They hobble along in their high-waisted and creased pants.  But the men of Adult 7 don’t complain.  They don’t make excuses.  They don’t miss.

They don’t text.  They talk.  They don’t whine.  They work.  They don’t grumble.  They give.  They don’t entertain.  They encourage.

These are men.  Christian men.

These are men who smile and have conversations.  Their legs may be weak but their handshake as firm as ever.  They look you in the eye and greet you in the Lord.

They still wear their coats and ties because that’s what men like them do.  The men of Adult 7 still fill out their offering envelopes.  They still use their tattered KJV Bibles with decades of notes scribbled in the margins and obituaries as bookmarks.  Bible on a phone?  Who needs that?

The men of Adult 7 don’t care about blog posts, Facebook or who’s tweeting what about whom.  They care about eating breakfast together Tuesday at Chick-Fil-A.  They know the precious value of Christian brotherhood and how quickly it comes to an end.  For these men social media is sipping a hot cup of coffee with his friends.

In The Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis wrote, “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.  We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

The men of Adult 7 are men with chests.  They are men of honor.  They are not perfect.  But they are men.  Christian men.

And if you have any sense about you then you don’t run your puny mouth in Adult 7.  You sit.  You watch.  You listen.  You learn.  You don’t make fun of these men; you aspire to be like them.

We need less catering to pre-teens, tweeners, teenagers and singles.  For all our baptized theatrics, youth camps, guitar riffs and conceited decisionism, we make very few men with chests.  We create spoiled consumers who think the church exists to entertain them and will bolt when the excitement fades into Christian adulthood.  We make few 60-year churchmen.

Many say the “youth” are the church’s future and we must therefore do everything to keep them interested in church, whatever the cost.  Perhaps we should lock the door to the youth wing and make every student sit in Adult 7.  They will learn Christian maturity does not come with platitudes or pretension but with a scarred, weathered, hardscrabble life of faith in Christ.

Let’s create men.  Christian men.

Say what you want about all the so-called progress the church has made.  In the end, this youth hopes to be a man worthy of Adult 7.

Fancy It Forward:

Call Me Jamaal Sigvaldi Falco

In 2013, PFC Bradley Manning was convicted as a national traitor for leaking classified military information.  He faces 35 years in prison.  Or does “he”?

It seems Private Manning has now declared himself to be Chelsea Manning, his long-time inner and true identity.  After his arrest he released this statement:  “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me.  I am Chelsea Manning.  I am a female.  Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”  Per the statement, Manning’s declaration was effective immediately and insisted the feminine pronoun be used from that point forward.

Bruce Jenner recently shocked the world when he assumed his alter ego, Caitlyn.  The Who’s Who of mainstream pop culture called his transition “courageous.”  In fact, Jenner will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the ESPY’s.  For his “accomplishment” Jenner will hold stage with past winners such as Jim Valvano (1993), the Flight 93 passengers (2002), Pat Tillman (2003), and the Kabul girls soccer team (2006).  Having awarded Michael Sam for his “courage” in 2014, ESPN clearly considers publicizing one’s homosexuality and undergoing a sex change on par with cancer fundraising, dying to take down a hijacked plane, fighting terrorists and women’s suffrage.

And now we learn a woman, who is as European as they come, has been passing herself off as black.  She even leads her local NAACP chapter.  Her parents “outed” her, causing no small controversy.  But should it?  We should fault her for lying to be sure, but for wanting to be black?

First things first.  Whoever PFC Manning, Mr. Jenner or Ms. Dolezal thinks themselves to be, they remain human beings.  They should be afforded the respect and dignity due all those bearing the imago Dei.  They are not dogs or mutants so we shouldn’t rant against them like one.  They don’t need to be strung up or even isolated.  They don’t need to snap out of it or have a one-night stand.  They need the truthful compassion of the gospel.  Who they feel like is nothing compared to who God already made them to be.  Mr. Manning hopes “Chelsea” will fill, supply or correct something badly damaged in Bradley.  Bruce hopes Caitlyn will fix what’s been wrong with him.  That’s what we fallen people do.  We seek salvation from something we know is terribly wrong (Is 55.2).

Further, let’s not assume the onslaught of “transgender” (or transracial) issues are anything new.  They are expressions of the perversion we all inherited from Adam in Genesis 3.  We may not all come out as liberated “transgendered” folks, but we do come out wrank sinners all the same.  A man who abuses women is no less offensive than a man wanting to become one of them.  On one hand, Manning, Jenner and Dolezal should be pitied.  On the other, they should be warned.  We should be warned.

There was explicit instruction against cross-dressing in the Torah (Dt 22.5).  There is warning to the “effeminate” in the New Testament (1 Cor 6.9).  Therefore, this is not a 21st-century novelty that offends the “good ol’ days.”  While technology has provided instant global access to these stories, we really shouldn’t be surprised there are stories.  The news hasn’t discovered something new.  It is able now to uncover what has always been.  We’ve always confused good and evil good outside of Eden (Is 5.20).

That said, these rather uncomfortable stories have provided another theater in which to discuss what it means to be “real” human.  Is it simply a matter of becoming the person who makes you feel more, well, person?  Can we become someone new by personal fiat?  If we can demand everyone treat us as any person we want then why stop at gender?  Why not introduce a transracial identity like Ms. Dolezal?  Why not a transvertical or transannual identity?  If something as obvious as anatomical identifiers can be dismissed and ignored, then why not skin color or height or age?  This can be an exciting way to open a whole new world for guys like me.

Therefore, I want everyone to know the real me: I am Jamaal Sigvaldi Falco.  I am Jamaal because I’ve always felt like I wanted to be a tall, black man (think Denzel Washington).  I am Sigvaldi because who wouldn’t want to be a Norse warrior?  I am Falco because Italians are cool and “falcon” speaks for itself.

From now on airlines must give me the roomiest seat because the “real me” is 6’4″.  The government must now afford me minority status.  I will demand my share of any reparations due Viking families.  And, while in Rome I will assume all rights and privileges due Italians, especially the coffee and wine.  Lastly, I am Jamaal Sigvaldi Falco who is now perpetually 35-years-old.  What you call a slippery slope is the pathway to personal liberation, the unfettered self.

Any reader would consider this satirical and ridiculous.  But should it be?  PFC Manning and the California legislature insist we take this far more seriously; and the groundswell has only swollen more.  Again, without a robust biblical worldview, why stop at gender?  Why not ethnicity, height or age?  The same reasons Bradley Manning and Bruce Jenner can declare themselves female, or white Ms. Doleval can declare herself black, are the same reasons I can declare myself 35-year-old Jamaal: a black Viking romantic.  Who or what is to stop me?  Why would you want to?

Since the Fall, every human has rebelled against God’s created order.  Even the created order itself does so (Rom 8.22).  We are born shaking our fist at God, charging him with treason against a sovereign us as though he got it wrong.  We think liberation is finally breaking off the shackles of our true self to become who we’ve always wanted to be.  We give little consideration to the notion our “wanter” may be corrupt.

With Manning, Jenner and Doleval, we are guilty of a far greater treason.  We are not alter egos trapped in gender-confined bodies.  We are fallen creatures enslaved in sin.  We are not transgendered, but transgressors.  Despite the color of our skin, we share the same color of our sin.  Salvation is not becoming who’ve we always wanted to be.  It’s becoming truly human: God’s Christ-besotted image bearer.

Neither PFC Manning or Jenner or Doleval is liberating their true self.  They simply redecorate their prison cell.  We all do.  Some may think they’ve all gone too far.  The gospel says they’ve not gone far enough.  Gender, height, age, ethnicity (heritage, education, poverty etc. etc. etc.)  are not our problems.  Sin is.  We don’t need a new gender or ethnicity.  We need a new heart.  And God has declared by divine fiat that all those in Christ are restored to their true selves.  That’s good news fit to print.

Fancy It Forward:

Caitlyn Stole Our Womanhood

Bruce Jenner brought some measure of shame on manhood.  From the cover of Wheaties to the cover of Vanity Fair is, after all, a meteoric fall (or rise depending on your perspective).  It was partly intentional since he insists his manhood has been a lifelong ruse anyway.  In any case, he has certainly given new voice to the age-old “gender war.”  

It’s not, however, a war between the genders but against gender itself.  The battle of the sexes has spawned a new skirmish: the gendered vs. the ungendered.  The new competitor wears a 36D and extra-large cup.  This shameful mongrelization of gender only dehumanizes us.

Caitlyn Jenner has become another sort of “American Champion.”  Efforting to advance the feminist cause she has only weakened it.  She has not championed womanhood, but cheapened it. In playing Diane Sawyer’s ace she actually overplayed her hand. She triumphantly crossed the finish line but ran the wrong race.

Caitlyn assumes womanhood can be manufactured with cleavage and corset.  Even (or especially) genitalia is irrelevant.  She’s Caitlyn from the waist up but Bruce from the waist down.  The best of both worlds is actually the worst of all worlds.  Not so much transgendered, but ungendered.

Take some pills, don a push-up bra, slip into slinky silk, paint the lips and voilà, call me woman.  If womanhood is the 1500 meters then Caitlyn cheated by shortcutting the track.  She wants all the glory of womanhood without enduring the very (oft painful) things that make it glorious.  It’s a counterfeit glory.  Bruce earned his gold medal, but Caitlyn stole womanhood right out from under our nose jobs.  While we were keeping up with the Kardashians Bruce was robbing us blind.

As feminists fight the objectification, devaluation and exploitation of women, Caitlyn set them back a few lengths.  To be called Caitlyn she must first become eye candy to prove her womanhood. That’s not courage.  It’s cowardice.  Far more vanity than fair.

Womanhood is infinitely greater than Caitlyn’s costumed version.  And most women know that.  They are more than the sum of their parts.  Womanhood is not less than genitalia and biology, but it’s certainly more.  Let’s hope Caitlyn trades her gold bustier for Bruce’s gold medal again.  In the meantime, I’ll tell my son to eat his Wheaties and my daughters to run like the women they are.

Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Pt 3.3-4).

Fancy It Forward: