Archive for April, 2017

Looking beyond Age 70
April 8, 2017

Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952) was an American missionary who came to be known as the Apostle to Islam. He did missions work in Arabia and Egypt and later was professor Princeton Theological Seminary. He retired from the professorship at age 70 but continued traveling, speaking and advocating for world missions after that. He died ten days short of his eighty-fifth birthday.

Zwemer expressed his attitude toward retirement by a message he gave to Princeton’s Warfield Club in his seventieth year. It was titled “Life Begins at Seventy.” He gave seven reasons why:
1. We should have a diploma from the school of experience by that time.
2. We are near to the river that has no bridge.
3. We have passed our apprenticeship in the school of life.
4. At 70, we can look further backward and further forward.
5. By this time, we should know that life consists not in the abundance of the things we possess.
6. The responsibility to witness for God to the next generation.
7. At 70, the Christian must redeem the time and live in more deadly earnestness.

What important life lessons have you learned in your life so far?
Who or what shapes your thinking as you consider aging, retirement and serving God wholeheartedly?

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Learning Together
April 2, 2017

On March 16 and 17, I hung out days with 300 Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Baptist and Mennonite people at the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. The occasion was a conference on “Bringing the Church Home: Reimagining the Family on Mission.”

Jonathan Lloyd (Director of Brethren in Christ World Missions), Bruxy Cavey (Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto) and I were the only Brethren in Christ participants.

Bruxy Cavey was a plenary and workshop speaker.
He talked about the fact that our human relationships are patterned after God and his essence as Trinity, and that therefore “the goal of the gospel is union with God’s love life.”
He explained that the real nature of The Meeting House is the home churches, not the Sunday morning service. All functions of the true church take place in the home churches.
He and his wife have maintained an open door policy for their family. Anyone who needs a place to stay can live with them for a few days or weeks.

Other speakers included:
• Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, my alma mater,
• Frederica Mathewes-Green, author and speaker, Greek Orthodox, married to a priest,
• Christopher West, Catholic writer and teacher who lives in Lancaster County, PA
• Bishop Ronald Gainer, Bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese of the Catholic Church,
• Monsignor Renzo Bonetti, of Verona, Italy, who is passionate about the discipleship of the family and how the home serves as a primary place for evangelism.

A few highlights of the event:
• The Amore Project here in US is a ministry that helps the whole church rediscover the family as the domestic church and the NT “oikos” as the center for community and mission. Amore trains married couples to embrace their marriage as a sign of the gospel and a calling to minister among those who are far from God. Amore was the main sponsor of this conference.
• We need a movement of married couples who live as agents of Christ’s self-giving love. Mission often arises when the people of God seek reconciliation in their broken places.
• In the Gospels, you find that, to a great extent, Jesus did his teaching over a meal in someone’s home.
• Jesus said clearly that his disciples, not the physical family, are his primary family. The family of faith takes precedence over the biological family.
• “Ecclesia domestica,” domestic church, was the early church’s name for the home. The early church was a domestic movement. On Sunday the domestic churches come together.
• The purpose of the family is to be a beacon of God’s love in the world.
• We are always sitting at the feet of Jesus and always being sent out into the world as missionary disciples.
• Christopher West has devoted himself to spreading the “theology of the body” that Pope John Paul II wrote about extensively. It takes both the male and female human to express the image of God. Our physical bodies are giving constant witness to the nature of God and the nature of grace. Marriage and wedding are central images, signs pointing to the intimacy of the Trinity and the intimacy between Christ and the church. Lust is what you have left when you let agape out of your life. Some of what Christopher said was what I already knew about the biblical view of marriage, but “the theology of the body” was new to me.
• Because the body and marriage are images of God, it is no surprise that the enemy is launching major attacks on sexuality and marriage.
• As the culture in America becomes less and less committed to Judeo-Christian values and worldview, we Christians from all traditions need each other in a deeper way.

This was an enriching and stretching experience for me. I met wonderful people from other traditions. I reflected on ways that JoLene and I have lived out, and failed to live out, the reality of the domestic church as the primary means of discipleship and evangelism. I began to look at Scripture and human sexuality in a deeper way. I thought often of the fact that, in various ways, many of our Brethren in Christ missionaries are establishing home churches as the primary expression of the gospel. In the days following the conference, I have sensed a new depth and richness in my devotion to God.

I thank God for the truth about life, sexuality, marriage and spirituality that comes to us from the Scriptures, other Christians and the Holy Spirit.

I pray that Christians all over the world get a vision of their homes as a domestic church, a beacon of God’s love in our world.

If any of my readers have some experience in, or thoughts about, domestic church, I welcome your comments.