When evangelicals are asked about what baptism is, a typical response goes something like, “baptism is a public declaration of my faith.” This is how I grew up understanding baptism, and from what I can tell, so did many others.
Although the New Testament does not quiet put it like this, the previous answer is not inherently wrong. I think the general idea of a “public declaration” can be drawn from several of the passages in Acts which describe particular baptisms, but at the same time we must draw attention to the fact that baptism is so much more than this. If baptism were only a public declaration of our faith, then why must we use water? Why must one be completely submerged? And why must baptism be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Surely there must be an easier way to publically declare our faith? The answers to the previous questions lead us to acknowledge that baptism is incredibly symbolic, and as such, points to something much more significant than a public declaration. Baptism is symbolic of our union with Christ. In other words, baptism is an outward symbol of an inward (spiritual) reality.
Romans 6:3-5 is significant to our understanding of baptism when it says, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Here we see the key to understanding our baptism within the broader framework of our salvation: our union with Christ.
When a Christian is baptized they are submerged in water. This submersion into water is symbolic of our very real participation in Jesus’ death and burial (Galatians 2:20). We are buried with him in his death. Then, as we rise from the water, it is symbolic of the reality that we too have been raised with Christ to newness of life (Colossians 3:1). Baptism is a symbol our death to our old life and the beginning of our new life in Christ. Therefore, when an individual is baptized, it is more than a proclamation of their faith. It is a proclamation and demonstration of what Jesus has done and the union with Christ God has brought about through the Holy Spirit.
As we have the opportunity to witness several baptisms on Sunday, November 12th, let us take that time to remember and celebrate our union with Christ.
After the service on Sunday we met as a church to hear from our elders about leadership and some changes that will be implemented over the next year to allow them to better serve the congregation and involve more people in the mission and ministry of the church. The topics discussed:
A shift in Elder focus from managing church business to ministering to God’s people
The implementation of a team of Deacons to assist elders
Nine-month training program for Elders and Deacons
David Gumminger stepping down from the elder team
Mike Stanczak to join staff as a Pastor in Training.
David shared that over the summer, as the elders studied biblical eldership, he realized that serving as an elder was not the right fit for his gifting. His remarks can be read in full here: David Gumminger Resignation Letter. He closed by expressing his desire to become a deacon in the future and encouraged the church to pray for the elders.
The elders also shared their desire to hire Mike Stanczak for a two-year pastoral residency. With our current budget situation, this would require using some of our cash reserves and greater financial support from the congregation. The elders want to hear from the congregation regarding this plan before making a decision.
Please email the elders at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts about hiring Mike or any questions or comments you may have regarding the Church Family Meeting.
Listen To Dan’s interview with Josh from Sunday, October 8th:
[letter from Josh & Carley]
This morning, Carley and I announced to the church that we will be transitioning out of our role here at Trinity. At the end of January, we will be moving to Boise, Idaho where we will begin a yearlong church planter training residency with Trademark Church.
Church planting has always been near to my and Carley’s hearts. Our passion has only been increasing the more we have thought and prayed, and the more we grow in our understanding of the priority of missions. This, coupled with the desire to move west to be near family, has helped us to see this church planting residency as an incredible opportunity to prepare us for the future. The decision has been years in the making as we have sought the Lord and his leading as well as listened to wise counsel from trusted advisors. Obviously, a decision like this one is full of mixed emotions as we are sad to say goodbye to our church family here, yet excited to pursue the opportunity God has given us.
The obvious question in all this is: what will we be doing? In a nutshell, the next year will be spent working alongside Trademark Church as they provide us with training and practical experience in the area of church planting. Trademark Church is part of the Acts 29 Network, which is a church planting network dedicated to planting churches and training church planters, both locally and globally. It is their desire (and ours) to see the gospel impact cities around the world through the ministry of local churches. Over the next year we will be actively involved in discipleship, missional living, and investing in the local community as we seek to bring the gospel to bear on the lives of those living in Boise. The goal of this residency is to equip Carley and me to be involved in church planting, whether as a lead pastor or part of a planting team, in the western United States. You can find out more about Trademark Church here and the Acts 29 Network here.
There is still a lot that needs to fall into place over the next three months before we move. We are in need of financial support, prayer, jobs, and housing. If you are interested in partnering with us, there are two main ways you can do that.
There are many things we need prayer for, but a few of them are:
A place to live in Boise
Financial support raising
Strengthening of our marriage in the coming season of big transitions
Safety as we drive across the country in the middle of winter
Friendships and a welcoming community
For missional living to become more natural to us
Confirmation in how we are called to partner in church planting
As part of our residency we will need to raise financial support. If you would like to partner with us in this way, you can give through our church website. Click here to donate. (Select Church Planter Training – Boise)
We are so grateful for the part Trinity has played in our lives. Thank you for how you have supported us and provided a gracious place for me to grow as a pastor. The time we have been able to spend with your children has been particularly sweet and we will miss having active roles in their lives. Some of our best memories from the last 5+ years have been with them. We will miss you!
January 21st will be our last Sunday at Trinity. I will be preaching that morning and following the service there will be a small “going-away-party.” It would be wonderful to see you there.
This past Sunday I challenged our church to be fully engaged in Jesus’ mission to make disciples and plant churches. But responding to the Great Commission is no easy task. Each day we are faced with our own insecurities, our own sin, our desire for comfort, and we dismiss the task at hand. As I was preparing for Sunday’s sermon, I thought of three different barriers we face that often keep us from making disciples. I want to take a moment to identify each of them and provide (what I hope to be) a helpful way forward.
We are not communing daily with Jesus.
I once heard a pastor say that most Christians are not eager to share their faith with others because their faith is comprised of something that happened 20 years ago and not something that is happening today. In other words, if our Christian life is built on attending church a few times a month and remembering a “salvation experience” we had in the past, we are not in communion with Jesus. If, when we talk about our faith, we are always recalling past experiences, rather than current ones, we are not in communion with Jesus daily.
To commune with Jesus daily we must establish regular rhythms in our lives where we are reading Scripture, gathering with our community groups, partaking in the sacraments (communion and baptism), sitting under the preaching of the word, spending time in private and corporate prayer, and being discipled by other Christians. It is through these every day rhythms that we are communing with Jesus and experience the vibrancy and joy of the Christian life. As we do this, we will be all the more eager to invite others into what God is doing among his people.
We love the suburban dream more than the kingdom of God.
While the suburbs may appear physically safe, if we are not careful they can suck the life out of our soul. Suburban culture has a way of lulling us into a dangerous apathy toward God and the life he has called us to as Christians. The typical suburbanite values (idolizes) comfort, money, college degrees, jobs, traveling-sports, cars, luxury, and security (safety) at the expense of everything else. As Christians who live within a suburban culture, we can all too easily walk this same path, completely unaware of what we are doing. We push our kids just as hard toward the aforementioned idols as our non-Christians neighbors do, subconsciously competing against (and keeping up with) them. We spend more time thinking about work than our families or our church. We spend our money, time, and resources the same way our neighbors do and it kills any motivation we may have to make disciples.
In order to live faithfully within our current context, we have to first repent of the way we have idolized school, sports, jobs, money, material possessions, etc., and receives God’s grace. Then, in response, we must begin to lay these idols down at the foot of the cross where we are then empowered by the Holy Spirit to go. If we continue to value comfort and security over the self-sacrificing-take-up-your-cross-daily lifestyle Jesus calls us to, we will never walk into the joy he has laid before us. Making disciples is not comfortable, it is not safe, and it won’t bring financial prosperity, but Jesus has called us to it, and we must joyfully obey.
We don’t feel equipped for the task.
It’s common to hear Christians confess they feel ill-equipped and unprepared to make disciples. On the one hand, I am grateful that Christians see disciple-making as something that requires training of some form or another. Jesus spent three years training his disciples to make more disciples. Christians should absolutely seek life-on-life training from an older and more seasoned Christian to aid them in the task of making disciples. However, on the other hand, we may have overcomplicated the task of making disciples. No one needs a seminary degree to make disciples. We do not need to have been Christians for three decades before we start making disciples. Jesus’ method for making disciples was messy, but simple. He invited others into his life and as he went about his business he showed them what disciple-making looked like.
If you are feeling unprepared or ill-equipped to make disciples I have three suggestions that I hope are helpful:
Find a mature Christian who is actively engaged in making disciples, and attach yourself to their hip (metaphorically, of course). Learn from them in real life situations and allow them to disciple you.
Become a student of the Bible. Being a disciple is committing oneself to learn from another. As Christians, we must be committed students of God’s Word: learning from it, memorizing it, living it, and allowing it to transform our entire life. As we do this, we invite others along to join us – this is discipleship.
Check out the resources at www.radical.net. (click on the “resources “ tab). This website is full of sermons, books, blogs, talks, and other means of teaching Christians how to make disciples.
Look into the lives of almost anyone living in the Chicago suburbs, and you see something they all have in common: busyness. A frantic life pace that runs from one thing to the next, often trying to balance the schedules of several kids, a dog, and household chores (not to mention work). Add to that the stress of thinking about the future, and you have a recipe for burnout.
This frantic life pace is no different for Christians. This pace of life leaves little to no room for us to engage in a fruitful walk with God outside of the hour or so we mark on our calendar each Sunday morning. In Scripture, we see that a faithful walk with God takes time. It takes time to pray, time to read, time to meditate on what we have read, and time to love and serve others. But time is not something we have much of because we’ve already filled it up with busyness. So, here is what I want to say… this summer – Pull back. Stop. Rest.
I, too, am busy, often. I overbook my schedule, commit to too many things, think I can handle more than I actually can, and then volunteer myself to do more. Several months ago I stopped and asked myself “What am I doing right now that is not commanded of me in Scripture?” In other words, how much of my life is spent doing things that God does not require of me? For example, I’m training for a marathon (this takes about 8 hours a week of training). This is a good thing, but God does not require me to do that. I’m working on my blog. Again, a good thing, but God has not required me to do that. We do a lot of things that God does not require of us, yet we tend to neglect the things he has required of us.
Jesus said, “…the Sabbath (rest) is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God has quite literally given us rest as something we should be doing. It is his gift to us because He knows we need it. We should not be working hard in order to rest, but rather, we should rest in order that we can work hard. We should work from rest, not for rest.
So, the good news is there are many things we can pull back from, maybe for a month or a whole season, in order to rest. Rest does not mean we cease all activity, but that we enter into a time where we acknowledge that God is in control. We acknowledge that our kids will still get into college if they skip one season of baseball or an after school club. We acknowledge that God is more concerned with our family’s well being than we are, and if He has called us to rest, then we can do it in faith knowing that He is in control.
If you’re feeling too busy, burnt out, stressed, or angry, it is likely time to pull back from the things you are involved in, specifically the ones God has not required of you, in order to be refreshed spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Take a few weeks, a month, a semester to pull back from some of your commitments (again, the things God has not required of you) and enter into a time of rest. Use this time to read God’s Word with more intentionality. Open a Bible commentary or theology book and drink deeply of God’s truth. Spend long periods of time in prayer. Invite your neighbors over for dinner and demonstrate to them a hospitality that comes from knowing God. Use a time of rest to show your kids what matters most in life – not their extracurricular activities, but what God has called us to do as Christians. Use a time of rest to show your spouse that they still matter to you. Use a time of rest to have your passions for God fanned into flame.
This summer, create space for rest. In Christ we are free to rest from our busyness and enjoy God.
In the past week and half the U.K. has been struck by two devastating acts of terror. I can’t imagine the grief of those families who have to hear the names of their loved ones come across the television and radio as the topics of breaking news. I can’t imagine the sense of dread and insecurity falling on the nation as a whole, the sense of hostile crosshairs being trained on their small island. And I can’t imagine the anger. If I feel it in my comfortable Libertyville apartment located safely across the pond, how much more do those friends, family, and fellow citizens of the U.K. burn at the injustice of lives lost by violence?
I keep returning to the passage I preached last Sunday, James 1:19-21. Where is the place of anger in the life of the Christian? Can meekness share a park bench with vengeful grief? We feel anger as a response to injustice. When we feel that the world has been twisted like a warped iron bar, anger is the muscle that wants to bend it back in place. Beneath the throne described in Revelation, the martyrs call for justice and are not rebuked. We know that God gets angry, so anger alone must not be the problem.
The problem is what we do with it. Anger is a response to injustice, yes. But it is only righteous when it is a response to real injustice. James says we have reason to be suspicious of ourselves. The world is not as it should be, but too often we are up in arms simply because the world is not as we want it. For this reason, our anger cannot make the world a better place. In our anger we crown ourselves the center of the universe, the judge of right and wrong.
It makes sense, then, that James would call us to set aside our filthiness and rampant wickedness. If we tolerate sin and selfishness in our lives, how can we trust ourselves to know what justice really is? There is no better judge than the Lord, and yet scriptures tell us that he is slow to anger, abounding in love. It should give us pause to realize that we have a shorter fuse than the Almighty. Perhaps that’s why James says “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” It can only produce the arbitrary righteousness of man.
So what kind of anger does produce God’s righteousness? What is the difference between Saul’s jealous rage at the anointed King David, and Jesus’ fury as he overturned the tables of the money changers? The answer, it seems, is worship. Saul would not have wanted the world that Jesus is making, because in Jesus’ Kingdom Saul would not be king. Are we angry at the same things that God is? Do we think the kingdom and power and glory should belong to him, or to us?
The Christian heart will rage, will lament, but it will do so with longing for God’s Kingdom to be seen. Christian anger holds in balance, as God does, the desire for terrorists to be punished, and the desire for terrorists to be saved. It is the attitude of Christ: as passionate to cleanse temples as it is to forgive. God’s world will be a just world, and it will populated by forgiven terrorists, myself among them. The question I have to ask myself is whether I will be meek enough to want God’s world.
This Sunday, May 14th, we will begin a 12-part series in the letter of James. The book is important for several reasons, and I will give you four as a means of introduction.
First, James’ style of writing resembles the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs) and his warnings sound like the Old Testament prophets. James is steeped in Jewish culture. He writes to Jews dispersed throughout the Roman empire, and he expresses a love for the beauty of God’s moral law and the Old Testament’s vision for humanity. But, his perspective is uniquely informed by the teaching of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount. And though he never quotes Jesus directly, he alludes to his words constantly. James gives us the wisdom of Jesus for the trials, temptations and struggles of this life.
Second, the letter of James is fascinating because the author was Jesus’ half-brother. He grew up eating meals at the same table and sharing chores with him. One can only imagine how hard it was being Jesus’ younger brother. And what we know of the family dynamics from the Gospels points to tension. His siblings mock him in John 7, claim that he was out of his mind in Mark 3, and are nowhere to be found when he is crucified. We don’t know when James came to faith, but tradition tells us that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and he believed. He came to see himself as a servant of the brother he once mocked. James shows us how faith in the resurrected Jesus can change us.
Third, James was the earliest of all the New Testament books. And because of this, his teaching on the need for our works to prove our faith is probably not a response to Paul or a rebuttal of Paul’s teaching that justification is by faith alone and not by works of the law – which relieves some of the tension that has marked the comparison between the two men’s teaching. Although we still will have think to through how they fit together, we can accept that James is making a different point about faith. James teaches us that living faith must respond in obedience to God’s Word.
Fourth, the gospel seems hidden. Martin Luther wrote, “St. James’s epistle is really a right strawy epistle, compared to these others [Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Peter, and 1 John], for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.” And yet, while James does not express the gospel in terms that may be more familiar to us, the themes of grace and mercy, even new birth, are evident. God brings new life and salvation through the word that he plants in us (1:18-21). God’s mercy triumphs over judgment (2:14). And when we fail, and James assumes we will, God gives grace to the humble (4:6) and forgives our sin when we confess (5:15-16). James calls us to draw close to God and find mercy when we fail.
Our culture often speaks of faith as a private matter, something between the individual and their Creator. Something that cannot, and should not be challenged. For James, true faith is living. It is visible and active. Faith expresses itself in thinking that demonstrates a deep trust in the character of God and actions that reflect His character to the culture around us. Faith works. James will challenge us to actively become what we say believe.
When evangelicals are asked about what baptism is, a typical response goes something like, “baptism is a public declaration of my faith.” This is how I grew up understanding baptism, and from what I can tell, so did many others.
Although the New Testament does not quiet put it like this, the previous answer is not inherently wrong. I think the general idea of a “public declaration” can be drawn from several of the passages in Acts which describe particular baptisms, but at the same time we must draw attention to the fact that baptism is so much more than this. If baptism were only a public declaration of our faith, then why must we use water? Why must one be completely submerged? And why must baptism be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Surely there must be an easier way to publically declare our faith? The answers to the pervious questions lead us to acknowledge that baptism is incredibly symbolic, and as such, points to something much more significant than a public declaration. Baptism is symbolic of our union with Christ. In other words, baptism is an outward symbol of an inward (spiritual reality).
Romans 6:3-5 is significant to our understanding of baptism when it says, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Here we see the key to understanding our baptism within the broader frame work of our salvation: our union with Christ.
When a Christian is baptized they are submerged in water. This submersion into water is symbolic of our participation in Jesus’ death and burial (Galatians 2:20). We are buried with him in his death. Then, as we rise from the water, it is symbolic of the reality that we too have been raised with Christ to newness of life (Colossians 3:1). Baptism is a symbol of our death to our old life and the beginning of our new life in Christ.
As we have the opportunity to witness several baptisms on Sunday, April 23, let us take that time to remember and celebrate our union with Christ.
With a baptism service coming up next month, I decided it would be unifying to bring the whole church up to speed on how we are approaching teaching on baptism. The next two months will highlight the class we are teaching to those who will be baptized, as well as a theology of baptism as seen through our union with Christ.
For those who desire to be baptized at Trinity, a short class must be taken in order to make sure baptism is properly understood. Tim Chester, a pastor in the UK, has written a wonderful booklet called “Preparing for Baptism” that we have chosen to use. In it, he details three things (signs) that baptism is and why they are significant. I hope you find these as encouraging and helpful as I have.
1. Baptism is a sign that we have a new hope. Mark 1:4-11
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus himself is our only hope of salvation from sin, in both life and death. Baptism is a sign of this new hope that we have in Jesus.
2. Baptism is a sign that we have a new family. Galatians 3:26-4:7
In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Through our union with Jesus, which comes about by faith and is symbolized in our baptism, we now have a new family. This family is made up of all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for their salvation.
3. Baptism is a sign that we have a new life. Romans 6:1-14
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Baptism is a sign that through faith in Jesus, we have died to sin (our old life) and been raised to a new life (a resurrection life) where we now become partakers in God’s act of recreation.