A Liturgy on Aseity

This is a liturgy I wrote for our staff devotional, designed so that each reader line was read by a different person. I think such readings are best when more voices are heard.

Reader: God does not need our trust, as if his faithfulness, strength, or power depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need our thanks, as if his graciousness depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need our prayer, as if his goodness and provision depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need our confessions, as if his mercy depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need our worship, as if his majesty depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need our love, as if his presence with us and in us depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need our obedience, as if his sovereignty depended on it.

All: Our God is God.

Reader: God does not need us at all, for he is faithful, strong, powerful, gracious, good, providing, merciful, majestic, present, and sovereign in himself.

Reader: “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God… Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:4-6, 13-14 ESV

Reader: “God’s aseity means that he is Being; everything else merely has being. God is Pure Actuality; all other things have both actuality and potentiality. Thus, God cannot not exist. All creatures can be nonexistent. That is, they have the potentiality for nonexistence. Only God is a Necessary Being. All other beings are contingent.” [Geisler, N. L. (1999). “Aseity.” In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.]

Reader: God does not need us, but he does desire us. He desires our trust, thanks, prayer, confession, worship, love, and obedience. He desires us without strings.

All: Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1-2 ESV
 

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Ministering as a member of Christ’s Body

What keeps a person in long-term ministry at a particular church? While the answer is no doubt complex, and probably out of our direct control, I suggest that a major influence is the nature of that person’s connection to the community. Some connections are external: we put them on like clothes. Other connections are internal: these are part of who we are.

An external, or adherent, connection is association by contract; therefore, short-term assignments are acceptable. The ministry assignment is a job, something done for rather than with the community. An internal, or inherent, connection is part of the essential nature of the community and the person; therefore, long-term assignments are fundamental. Inherent is defined as “involved in the constitution or essential character of something.” The minister is an essential part of the community in Christ and ministry is the natural outworking of that inherent connection. Ministry is a vocation, a response to the call of God.

Biblical evidence supports inherent ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers) are given by God to the church to equip the saints until “we all attain the unity of faith.” Paul goes on to speak of the essential unity of the church. Unity, maturity, truth, and love are characteristics of the body (vv. 13-15). Christ works through the whole Body to accomplish growth (vv. 15-16). The various images of the church in the New Testament provide evidence of this essential unity. The bride-groom, flock-shepherd, body-head, and branches-vine metaphors use corporate language to speak of the church, reflecting the essential unity of believers with one another and with Christ.

Christ himself has an inherent connection with the Church and if Christ himself is inherent to his Church, then his ministers surely ought to be inherent. The one Body of the church is locally expressed and ministers are inherent to these local expressions. If ministers (regardless of the particular historical-cultural expression) are gifts of God that arise naturally within the essential nature of the church, then they are not mere structural or administrative necessities. Rather, they are integral parts of the whole.

Questions

  • In churches where some ministers form a paid staff, how is the relationship to the local congregation best understood?
  • Given the importance of inherent connection, how should we balance local development of ministers and hiring from outside the local church?
  • Since there is only one body of Christ and many local expressions of that one body, what are the differences and similarities between local development and outside hiring? If we are hiring from within the global church, does outside hiring even exist?

Previous version, titled “Can we counter the short-timer mentality in ministry?” posted December 18, 2012. Original version posted as “Inherent or Adherent Pastorate? At http://lauraswritings.blogspot.com/2004/09/inherent-or-adherent-pastorate.html

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Eternal With-ness

By this, you know the Spirit of God:
Every spirit which plainly says,
“Jesus Anointed One has come in flesh,”
is from God,
and every spirit which does not plainly say,
“Jesus,”
is not from God.
1 John 4:2-3b [1]

There is something about the incarnation that is crucial, core, and basic to our knowledge of God. There is something about this extreme “with-ness”. We see it first in the garden (Gen 8:47), walking with the entirety of humanity in the cool of the day. We see it in the tabernacle (Num 9:15-23), filling the tent with presence, leading—walking with—his people in the wilderness. We see it in the temple (1 Kings 8:1-11) when his presence is so overwhelming that the priests are unable to enter.

But most clearly, we see God’s with-ness in his incarnation (1 John 1:1-4). The One who created humanity in his own image takes into himself the image of humanity. By this, he takes upon himself the cost of our self-important, yet unnecessary, image making and ensures that humanity will once again be the perfect, unstained image of God. And all this is for the sake of with-ness. Make no mistake, with-ness is part of God’s nature. It is not something added on because he was needy or because we screwed up.

God, you created us to walk with you, shoulder to shoulder, as it were. You became us and now we who trust you are in you and you are in us. I stand amazed.

[1] Text is my translation from UBS4.
[2] Original version posted on Musings of a peripatetic wannabe-sage 

 

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