Month 10:8, Week 1:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5939:274 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 29 December 2014
The Pastor's Library
Systematic Theology in Leadership
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may the grace of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) be be with you all. Special greetings to those of the new South Africa Mission and blessings to the van Staden family who are heading it up - may Yahweh anoint them to be a light to their people. While we are freezing half to death here in Scandinavia it is good to know that in the southern hemisphere they are enjoying the summer! Please also keep the East Africa Mission in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and their needs in your prayers too as they prepare themselves for the big conference next Pesach (Passover) and try to get a larger meeting house erected in time and the funds to finance it. As the centre of the Kingdom work in Africa, a heavy load falls on their heads so please remember them constantly in your prayers.
Pastors and Books
If, as is true, the life-blood of the messianic community is evangelism, then its strength and stability is in its solid Bible-based education. My family is constantly teasing me about all the books I own and those of you who have been to my home know that I am surrounded by book cases of them and unassigned piles everywhere. I cannot dispute that I am a bibliophile but neither am I a compulsive collector as I am sometimes accused - there is purpose, system and planning. I think most people assume that this is because of my academic background, and whilst there may be an element of truth in that (since I have been amassing books since school and university days), it's not uncommon for pastors to be surrounded by them too. As Derek Prime and Alistair Begg, both pastors, note, "a pastor's books are as essential as the furniture of his home" .
Missionaries and Books
That's not to say that every pastor can necessarily afford a lot of books, particularly in poorer countries, though even there a basic library for a congregation that the pastor and teachers can have ready access to is highly desirable whever possible. Dr.David Bogue, a Baptist missionary instructor at the beginning of the 19th century, always asked his students to carefully consider how much by way of expenses should be put aside for a working library in the mission field. Though no two students necessarily agreed on the proportions, it was considered sufficiently important a question to raise for them to be properly equipped for the divine task given them.
From One Bible Translation to Many
Now in those days, in the English-speaking world of the early 1800's, there was effectively only one English Bible translation, the good old King James Version (KJV), so all commentaries and interlinears revolved around that. Today we do not have that luxury and so pastors, teachers and other leaders are faced with a bewildering array of choices. To do a good job these days they cannot just rely on a single version and they must know what are good and what are bad translations. As Messianic Evangelicals we have to stay abreast of the latest and best in both evangelical and messianic traslations and their commentaries, wherever that is possible. Right now I'm reviewing the Roman Catholic New American Bible (NAB) which is rapidly becoming their standard version in the USA, and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the preferred translation of scholars in the ecumenical movement and the one used by my favourite Pauline theologian, N.T.Wright, so I felt I should get to know it better. It's important to know how both liberals as well as conservatives in the Western Church are thinking so that a proper defence of the Davar (Word) can be made. One version I am really looking forward to reviewing is William Sanford's The Complete Messianic Aleph Tav Scriptures Paleo-Hebrew Study Bible as this is really up our own Messianic Evangelical alley. So in the international leadership we have our work cut out for us with local pastors looking for guidance to us as to which Bible Version to use in the ministry.
Availability of Resources
The larger the ministry gets, of course, the greater the opportunity for relying on the experience and knowledge of multiple apostles, pastors, teachers and others. And whilst we consult with various experts from other ministries thanks to the internet when we need to, these are not always available in the mission field where not all pastors can afford to have internet access. Then our books become even more important.
Gaining a Foundation of Systematic Theology
Not all books in a minister's collection should just be Bible versions, lexicons, dictionaries and concordances. Yes, preachers and teachers do need, wherever possible, to have some knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. However, commentaries are also invaluable, preferably single volume ones for ease of portability and for economic reasons, that contain the seasoned insights, exegeses and experiences of their writers. We need a sound understanding of the doctrines of the emunah (faith) with books that will give us a basic foundation of systematic theology. As a pioneer movement, though, there are no books available from our own NCAY tradition like that save what we write as we go along, which means a time must come when we systematise and condense. With so little time left before the last generation takes the reins from us more seasoned ministers, that is an urgent task indeed.
Personal Systematic Theology
Each minister and teacher needs to personally draw up his or her own systematic theology, meaning that we have to put meat on the basic doctrinal framework of the Messianic Evangelical paradigm as defined in the Constitution and the amplifications given by the apostles. Because all our experiences are a little different, with everybody coming from different backgrounds and building in a different way, so the details of our growing theology will also necessarily be different. Our cultural backgrounds, national histories, and family experiences all shape the way our theology develops as we seek to understand things that may be obvious to others. Ministers cannot be carbon-copies of one another in the same way as those from cults might be who slavishly follow manuals and magazines like the Jehovah's Witness Watchtower or the Mormon Ensign even if we all dip into, and drink from, the same chayim (life) of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). At the same time, there can't obviously be multiple gospels or contradictory theologies which is why there has to be a basic training so that all ministers in NCAY share a common platform. This is one reason why we require a three year probation for congregations coming over to us before they are granted full membership so that time is allowed for leaders and lay people alike for natural adjustments based on careful study.
Levels of Maturity
None of this means that there are multiple, contradictory theologies, as I said. It does mean, though, that because we are at different levels of maturity, some will of necessity have a greater depth of knowledge than others, forcing the latter to simplify. We can, moreover, only teach and preach what we know. Thus deacons, teachers and apostles will have different depths of knowledge, and experience if indeed they have been ordained according to criteria of maturity and giftedness and not simply to fill in a vaccant office. We are instructed by Paul not to ordain pastors who are too young, lest they become conceited (1 Tim.3:6). Temporary compromises may have to be made in the mission field to be sure but they must always be remedied, when opportunity presents itself, by making sure leaders and prospective leaders are properly trained. There is grace in these things but accepting people where they are does not mean they should be left in false theological belief - implicit in joining NCAY is the committment to change once understanding is obtained, and understanding can only be obtained if sufficient time is granted for study.
Africa and the NCAY Work
This is one reason we lay out our 'hot potatoe' teachings early so that there is an impelling motivation to find out the emet (truth). Interestingly enough, these have found a more ready acceptance in Africa than in the West which is probably one of the main reasons Yahweh has chosen that continent to launch this work anew. And it is surely a positive sign that African Christians have now produced their very own (and, I might add, excellent) Bible commentary  tailored for African cultures which I am hugely enjoying and learning much from, notwithstanding its evangelical anti-Torah bias. It's African origin notwithstanding, it is still very influenced by Western Church thinking and is inadequate for our own needs. But it is important to know about it especially as it becomes more popular in African churches and is used to defend, albeit Africanised, what is still a Roman world view.
Broading Our Knowledge in an Information Age
In addition to the commentaries and their theological science, biographies of the great ministers of the past are also important. There is a vast array of these to choose from. These stimulate emunah (faith) and illustrate from human experiences the emet (truth) of theology incarnated, as it were, or lived out. Many of the great ones of yesteryear like Moody, Tozer, Spurgeon and others may therefore greatly benefit us but we also need to read of those who are operating in the modern world too. We need to be able to combat modern philosophy and read giants like Ravi Zacharias, and apologists like Norman Geisler and John Lennox. We need to be able to combat modern scientism and its false religion of evolution and read experts like Henry Morris and sons, Walt Brown, Andrew Snelling and others. We also need the testimonies of modern evangelists like Brother Yun, and of the successful pastoral work of Francis Chan, Andy Stanley and others like them. And we need to know about the religions whose adherents we are witnessing which means knowing our Koran and to become aquainted with experts like Robert Spencer and Peter Townsend. As messianics witnessing to Western Christians we need to know our Torah well and avail ourselves of experts like David Stern, Andrew Roth and Jonathan Cahn, including non-messianic Jewish linguists like the great Ernest Klein. We have a lot of homework to do in a world saturated with information, where even novices have vast arrays of knowledge at their fingertips obtainable instantly and effortlessly from the information highway (which is also full of false teachers). We can't just surf the net and hope to hit on someone to answer difficult questions - there has to be tried system. Laying a foundation for that is the responsibiluty of my generation, though that's not to say scholars won't emerge in the last generation too. Yahweh will not leave us unequipped.
The Need for Rounded Knowledge and Experience
Now, of course, the prime thing is to be filled with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Without a strong spiritual anointing theology will be dead and stuffy anyway. We are saved by grace through emunah (faith) but that doesn't mean that knowledge is unimportant, because it's not any old sort of 'faith' that saves us but saving faith rooted in emet (truth), so we need to know the emet (truth) which means doing sound theology. So we can't just rely on anointing and emunah (faith) - we are commanded to reason too (Is.1:18). We are to use mind, hearts and spirits in concert as echad (one). Our witness has to be of, and in, the whole person in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). We live in a world of complex social problems which the greats like the Wesleys' and Moody's could never have dreamed of - how do you minister to transgenders, for example? Or to those steeped in devil-worship, or those traumatised and deeply spiritually injurned through ritual abuse? The modern minister needs many skills which cannot be acquired all at once so he has a lot of homework to do. Moreover, it may not be possible to find all-round ministers - we often have to work in teams of different expertise. Ministers are gifted in different ways too and can't be expected to be supermen who have knowledge and experience of all things. And we're learning all our lives, so experience is as precious as gold.
Unity and Complete Faith
I reiterate, we are all different - there are no carbon-copy preachers, nor should there be, though there should be, even within NCAY, a striving for proper unity of the emunah (faith) (Eph.4:13) rooted in the emet (truth) that liberates (Jn.8:32) and in the divine tavnith (pattern) by "imitat[ing] those who through emunah (faith) and patience inherit what has been promised" (Heb.6:12, NIV). This search for knowledge is not, of course, for knowledge's sake, since we are not Gnostics trying to save ourselves through superior knowledge (which is impossible) but so that we can 'do' the Besorah (Gospel) properly. When, for instance, popular teacher Andy Stanley emphasises the importance of 'doing' the Besorah (Gospel) so that our emunah (faith) can grow, that growth can never be complete until it is Torah-based , because Torah is the mandated lifestyle of the saved though which alone complete spiritual growth is possible. And if the last generation is to not merely survive but triumph over the fully ripened evil of the Anti-Messiah (Antichrist) reign that will prevail on earth before Messiah returns, it must have the kind of emunah (faith) that alone can come to full fruition through applied New Covenant Torah.
Retaining and Conserving Our Learning for the Future
We are all different and we all have our own ways of retaining information and systematising it. There is no one way to do this. It is also important to retain and conserve all we learn for the use of the last generation who will not have as much leisure time as we do to do in-depth research - they may even be denied access to the sources we take for granted like the Internet. One of the reasons I painstakingly record everything I learn, whether through study or personal revelation, is precisely for the last generation, so that they will have this knowledge at their fingertips independent of the system while they are on the move and witnessing. We can't, of course, record everything, but between us we can pool all of this spiritual wealth and provide what is hopefully more than adequate.
Ministers and Earning Daily Bread
Ministers must also have livelihoods and be able to support their families so that they are not a burden on the qodeshim (saints) who, for the most part, will belong to a very poor feudal class before Yah'shua (Jesus) returns. Ministers and laymen alike are rightly required to earn their daily bread, and if our vision of provision for the end-time is correct, this will essentially mean everyone must learn to grow their own food by whatever means are available. It will be all we can do to look after our old folk, let alone the able-bodied who think they have a right to be taken care of simply because they are pastors or teachers. If we are not to become a part of the Babylonian slave class we must be independent and meet our own needs, relying as little as possible on the state. This means that pastors and teachers must be farmers too, whether part- or full-time. Once again we must learn from Africa, though not from the corrupt health-and-wealth ministers there who have imitated their equally crooked Western mentors who exploit and fleece their sheep, living a decadently wealthly lifestyle, like the oppressive satanic political élites, while honest and hard working members toil to survive. I have never had any sympathy for those who believe in salaried ministry and I have never had occasion to change my view on this matter. We're all ministers anyway, but with specialist callings, and our goal must be to have every member a deacon or a deaconess at the very minimum. There is to be no ministerial class system, with one class exploiting the other. We are to be a collective lay ministry - always.
The Enemy's Targets
Shepherds (pastors) and teachers are the Enemy's prime targets because he knows that if you destroy these you will scatter the flock...unless you have educated the flock well and have strived diligently to mature everyone to become responsible and dedicated members of the Royal Priesthood (1 Pet.2:9), magnifying callings, increasing skills and multiplying fruitfulness. A united Priesthood is strong and less easy to destroy that Priesthood concentrated in the hands of just one or a few leaders. We must be learnèd prayer warriors and evangelists, every man and woman a missionary, every man and woman a servant or deacon(ess), and that is our goal. As I once said in Denmark many years ago, it is our goal that every member be a minister in some capacity or another, sharing the load in mutual dependency, closing ranks when the Enemy attacks, whilst extending wide and embracing collective arms for all those seeking the King and the Kingdom.
One thing we must be careful not to emulate in educating our ministers is is what is commonly called the "new evangelicalism" which David Wells identifies failing to be "driven by the same passion for truth as the older form, and that is why it is empty of theological interest. We now have less biblical fidelity, less interest in the truth, less seriousness, less depth and less capacity to speak the Word of God to our own generation in a away that offers an alternative to what it already thinks" . We have to combine the systematic theology and preaching passion of the old evangelicalism of the Wesley brothers and Charles Spurgeon with the Torah lifestyle of the Tanakh (Old Testament) in the training of our ministers, and if we do this, we will have unstoppable ministers and congregations strong, robust, intelligent, wise, and full of ahavah (love) and power, a true Royal Melchizedek Priesthood. This is the Messianic Evangelical goal, it is what I use my library for, and it is to this vision that I am dedicated, to the glory of Yahweh-Elohim. Amen.
 Derek Prime & Alistair Begg, On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work (Moody Publishers, Chicago: 2004), p.116
 Tokunboh Adeyemo (Ed.), Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Bible Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars (Word Alive Publishers, Nairobi, Kenya: 2010)
 Andy Stanley, Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith
 John Armstrong, Preaching to the Mind in Don Kistler (Ed.), Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (Soli Geo Gloria Publications, Orlando, Florida: 2002), p.173