Thoughts on the 2008 AAPC Pastor’s Conference

Last night Pastor Wayne and I returned home from the conference. As usual we had a great time of fellowship talking, listening to CD messages and bouncing thoughts off each other. These times of brotherly fellowship have been some of the most cherished times along the way in my Christian journey. I am sure that Jesus and His disciples, Paul and Barnabas, and Peter and John had sweet times of brotherly fellowship as these.

Sometimes we forget that our God is a relational “Trinitarian” God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and He, our God has created us in His image and that image is reflected in our relationships – our families, our friends, or our neighbors. Christian theology as important as it is – without relationship is an empty suit, isolated facts are just that – isolated. What good are facts, information, or even truths if they disconnected from an incarnational expression? Faith without works as James says are dead.

So, I thank God for these mini-retreats that I have been able to spend with brothers in the faith sharing the greatest conversations that men can have talking and thinking about our great God.

Well on to the conference, Peter Leithart gave one of the better talks on the connection between the Levitical sacrificial system and the way the New Testament uses sacrificial language in worship and life;

Hebrews 13 talks of the “sacrifice of praise” and doing good, “sacrifices” that God is well pleased with.

Romans 12 – about being a “living sacrifice”

Ephesians 5 – walking in love as Christ did offering himself for us as a “offering” and a “sacrifice” to God as a “sweet smelling savor”

Paul in Phil 2 – uses the term “poured out as a drink offering” the “sacrificial offering” of your faith – and chapter 4 the “offerings” that were sent with Epaphroditus as a “fragrant offering” a “sacrifice well pleasing to God”

2 Corinthians 2 uses “fragrance” and “aroma”

2 Tim – “vessels” of gold and silver – if anyone “cleanses” himself – he will be a “vessel” for honor, “sanctified” and useful for the Master, “prepared” for every good work.

As Leithart brought these texts to mind all sorts of lights started going off in my head. Usually we make the connection of sacrificial system to what Christ has done for us in His finished work. However I have not meditated much on the connection in regard to our worship and the way we live. The next time I read thru the Pentateuch and especially Leviticus I will read it with New Testament eyes in regard to worship and living.

As for the rest of the conference, there were other helpful elements like these, however this particular crowd of Presbyterians is to moving in a little to “High Church” direction for me. They want to be “Liturgical Presbyterians”. These good folks did not prove to me the necessity or the exegetical proof to move to a more sacramental Lord’s Day service similar to Anglicans or Lutherans.

I especially have real problems with the Pastor liturgically “representing” Christ (a symbolic mediator) in the service – which is a pattern you see in all high liturgical traditions. This “symbolism” in the service, in my opinion, eventually translates beyond the Lord’s Day liturgy – to real everyday life in the minds of the people. They will see their Pastor/Minister as a kind of Priest/Mediator and this leads to a more episcopal (with a small “e”) orientated world-view in the minds of the people, thus making the leadership – laity distinction disproportionate beyond the scriptural teaching on the subject. In this world-view, even the local elders and deacons become a kind of second tier below thier “representative” priest.

In my mind “collars” and “robes” (especially white ones) can and do lessen the biblical understanding of the “priesthood of all believers”, and is a move in the direction of priest-craft. This kind of priest-craft can become a real stumbling block to Pastors and any kind of leader in the Church, Jesus’s words on the subject come to mind:

Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40

Other than that – I always appreciate being challenged, even from folks I disagree with on certain matters. In my mind faith and theological discussion is to be thought through and lived out in both the local community as well as the greater body of Christ. These conferences always help serve to clarify my understanding of my God and what he requires of me, this is why I value them…

Lar

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4 Responses

  1. Sounds like a great time. Glad the Lord was able to use it to get you to treasure Leviticus more. Good to see you back.

    Dave

  2. Dave,
    Since your a Leviticus guy (Leviticus and Stuff is your blog name after all)

    I’d like to get some of your insights on the sacrifice – worship/life perspective.

    Maybe sometime down the road you could do a few blogs on different Leviticus illusions used in the NT and how they relate to the way we worship God both on the Lord’s Day as well as everyday living…

    Lar

  3. I wish I could have been there. A few comments:

    I especially have real problems with the Pastor liturgically “representing” Christ (a symbolic mediator) in the service – which is a pattern you see in all high liturgical traditions.

    Do you have a problem with covenant heads of households representing Christ to their family? Eph 5 seems to indicate that a husband is a sort of Christ-figure to his wife.

    In my mind “collars” and “robes” (especially white ones) can and do lessen the biblical understanding of the “priesthood of all believers”, and is a move in the direction of priest-craft.

    There are extremes on both sides here. If you have the minister dressed in a business suit, can it not lead to the relegation of his office to a mere profession?

    The New Testament says almost nothing about formal worship, so we can either look to the Old Testament or do whatever we want. The ministers of the Old Testament wore robes for glory and beauty. The problem with the scribes was that inwardly, they were ugly. Jesus never speaks against beautiful garments in general.

    Grace and Peace in Christ.

  4. Ron,

    1) “Do you have a problem with covenant heads of households representing Christ to their family?”

    Respectfully, (a) what does the head of the family have to do with the Pastor in a church? Is the Pastor a “Father” and a “Husband” to his church?

    “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.”

    (a) In light of Mat 23:8-10 please clarify.

    (b) If so what then are the elders? This passage teaches a “plurality of leadership” (presbyterian) why do you set apart the pastor by robe above the rest, would you be more consistent to robe all the leadership?

    2) “can it not lead to the relegation of his office to a mere profession?”

    In light of what you said, do you acknowledge the “priesthood and kingship of all believers?” If so would you say it is legitimate to “robe all believers” lest they be seen in this world as common?

    3) “The New Testament says almost nothing about formal worship, so we can either look to the Old Testament or do whatever we want.”

    Actually the NT does and it is very simple Acts 2:42
    “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (which is very low church)

    Also, much of the sacrifices and worship we offer today (not all) as Leithart pointed out by my comment above is in the way we live and care for one another. (Rom 12:1, Heb 13:16)

    Also, Your comment seem to presuppose a one to one connection between the Pastor and the Levite/Priest.

    This raises all sorts of exegetical troubles like Pastors should not own land: Numbers 18:20 and they cannot do the funerals of his father or mother, they have to marry a virgin, or cannot have any deformation Lev 21:10-23.

    Humbly,

    Lar

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