An e-response to e-opinions about e-giving

I’m all for ease and efficiency, and I love systems that work.  I am not, however, in favor of weekly church contributions that are electronically set up on a recurring basis—for more than one reason.  A recent article brought up this question, and several official church leaders were interviewed.  Below is an expanded version of the original comment I made under that article.

Sincere individuals will frequently have very nice, spiritually minded ways of working something like electronic contributions out for themselves.  The folks interviewed for the article, for instance, presented a nicely balanced, thoughtful view of the e-giving conundrum.  Thinking about the masses, though, I would put forward three reasons not to move in the direction of e-contributions:

  1. As pointed out, it tends to be neither very personal nor very communal to click or tap in a charity app—especially if that click/tap is for a one-time setup for a recurring transaction that it’s so easy to be unaware of later.
  2. Some of the “pro” rationale strikes me as very institutionally motivated rather than Reign-of-God-motivated.  Contributing to building upkeep and salaries as a member of an institution may be fine for some, but it is not as compelling for those of us more interested in simple/organic concepts and missions.
  3. Giving charitably is good, but the tithe, after all—and we simply must realize this—is not a New Covenant thing.  A payment service calling itself “easyTithe” is perpetuating the problem.  Other e-giving options may be less problematic in terms of overt nomenclature and illegitimate association with ancient Israel’s priestly tithe system, yet the very idea of regular contributions appears more connected to paying dues in a club than to the goals of the apostolic church.

I found it interesting that a (pretty good!) translation of 1Cor 16:2 was included in the above-referenced article.  It bears emphasis here that the import of the first few verses of 1Cor 16 is not a little ambiguous.  This passage certainly cannot be inextricably linked to weekly contributions to today’s church treasuries, though.

For more on this topic, please see the following posts:

In the second of the above posts, this on-target quotation appears:

There is no indication given whether this is meant to be a tithe (no such prescription occurs in the New Testament); but is is implied that it is proportional and substantial.  It seems this is to be done on a family basis and the funds kept at home.”  (emphasis the authors’, not mine)   – Orr and Walther, The Anchor Bible Translation and Commentary, v. 32, 1 Corinthians (1976), p. 356.

One can object to my objections on any one of several grounds (e.g., community-based, tradition-based), but the simple fact is that habitual, institution-supporting weekly giving to a church treasury is not explicitly supported—or dealt with at all—in canonical Christian scripture.

Writing (peri-graphic particulars)

An author-friend recently expressed me that he doesn’t feel something he wrote has much to offer.  (He is wrong on that point, but his feeling is nonetheless valid as a feeling.)  I too often wonder whether I have something worthwhile to offer in writing.  In some cases, and on my brighter days, I think I do, but it is difficult to trust that my efforts can have either Kingdom or vocational purpose.  I usually write better than I talk, so I hold some hope that others will understand a worthwhile message better when I write it, but I don’t write well enough to captivate readers . . . plus, I am awful at marketing, which makes the self-doubt and worth-questioning worse.

Pushing the actual book-writing (and substantive blogging) aside now. . . .  Some of my recent activity-flurry might be termed “meta-writing”—peri-graphai, if you will.  This type of writing is not the core material; rather, it is material about or around the writings.  Such periphery can be both important and exhausting and even rewarding at times.  In my case, it has included

♦  e-mails and text messages with friends and acquaintances about what I’m writing
♦  e-mails and text messages with advance readers about their responses
♦  e-mails about proofreading (a particularly annoying type of perigraphy—it can be keytroke-intensive to describe/suggest alterations, e.g., “on what used to be p. 72 before that new section was added, 3rd full para [3 paras above the next heading], around the middle of 2nd line, depending on point size and text boxes in the edition you’re looking at, what about ‘had been’ instead of ‘was'”?  aarrgh …)
♦  communication about others’ material used within my books

(This blogpost is itself a peri-graph, and when it’s done, I will have spent an hour on it—about 45 minutes more than it was worth!)

It is the last bulleted category above that gives me pause now.  During my writing processes, I’ve had to make decisions about quoted material that might carry the need for formal permission to reprint.  In some cases, it’s a matter of courtesy, not legality.  Aside:  I have been treated discourteously in the past viz. some of my original music—in one case, a substantial portion of a collegiate CD recording used my arrangements and one of my original songs—having been provided at the director’s request.  Not only did I not receive even token compensation (or an apology for not being able to pay) . . . I didn’t receive credit on the insert as arranger or composer.  Try as I might to forget¹ that unprofessional, inconsiderate behavior from some years ago, it comes to mind every now and then, and it has yet to be addressed or apologized for in any meaningful way, although there have been two or three communications since.

In my own writing projects, I have of course tried to avoid such inconsideration, yet it is not always possible to obtain permission.  Some materials are out of print and/or in the public domain.²  I had obtained permission to print several pieces years ago in other formats, and I’m frankly not sure if it was legally necessary to ask again for the current revision/revamped format, but in most cases, I’m asking anyway, where the other author is still alive/accessible.

The Christian Chronicle has a most helpful and gracious permission-to-reprint policy.  No issues there.  Just credit them and print it.

The Barna Group waited nearly two months to respond to a request I made, and I frankly don’t think the request was necessary in the first place:  I consider my use of their material to be covered under the principle of academic fair use.  Their delayed response caused me minor concern, but I elected to trim the quotations a bit and simply proceed without delaying another two months.

The editors of Leaven journal (and Pepperdine University’s Digital Commons) were prompt and gracious in granting permission to reprint an article, as was the family of the author, who is now unable himself to communicate.

Three individuals have so far been silent—for at least two different reasons, I suspect.

Courtesy and Christian-sibling interests are far more important than legalities.  If, for one reason or another, a friend or past friend preferred that I not reprint his or her writings, I would honor that request even if not legally required to do so.  However, if individuals with questionable decision-making authority have proven themselves difficult, non-communicative, and unkind, and if there is no copyright issue of which I’m aware, I have little remaining concern.  I might even say that in the one case I’m thinking of, my feet, having been shaken, are not very dusty anymore.

¹ I do not consider this matter to be in the Christian forgiveness category.  Those who live with more of a “live-and-let-live” M.O. may have difficulty with my not completely letting this go.  To be sure, I have been mistreated far worse than this—contemptuously and terribly un-Christianly, in several very notable scenarios.  Even in those far worse situations, I do not consign the guilty parties to hell.  In the above case of my name’s not having appeared on a recording that included with my own music, I believe it was a matter of ignorance and carelessness at first; later, the person probably just couldn’t figure out what to do in order to make things right.

Two responses

Following the slaying of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., the composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein said this:

This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before.

And in the Christian Chronicle of January 2015, Brian Owens of the (predominantly black) Ferguson Heights MO Church of Christ is said to feel “inclined to protest. ”  But his protest won’t involve “waving a ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ sign, staging a ‘die-in’ or chanting ‘I can’t breathe’ during a march.”  Owens told fellow members of the predominantly black Ferguson Heights Church of Christ,

Worship is our protest. . . .  Our response is worship because it is through our worship that people see the glory of God.

The notions expressed by these two men — ideologically and chronically distant from one another — seem to be of the same ilk, don’t they?











Next:  Two (more) historical figures

Two views



Sometimes, believe it or not, I don’t even feel like offering an opinion or critiquing something.  This time, you decide which opinion related to Ferguson, MO you prefer.

In a sermon, Brian Owens offered, “We are not surprised by the lawlessness of man, the arrogance of politics, the irresponsibility of the media, the dishonesty of religious leaders, the false teaching of self-proclaimed modern prophets or the inability of government to bring justice, fairness, equality and peace to this world. . . .  Our kingdom is not of this world.  We can’t be distracted by things of this world. . . .  It is when we love without hypocrisy that people see the glory of God.”  – Brian Owens, Ferguson Heights MO Church of Christ

~ ~ ~

A scholar named Tanya Brice believes Christians ought to be “active in disrupting a system in which blacks are much more likely than whites to be killed by police.”  Brice said, “Heaven is our real home — that’s what folks said during the institution of slavery. . . .  I think that Christians should be in the streets and at the policy table to effect these changes.  I think we should use the words of the prophets,¹ from our sacred Biblical texts, as support for what we do, as our voice against injustice.”  – Tanya Smith Brice, Dean of Education, Health and Human Services, Benedict College, Columbia SC

Both quotations are taken from the January 2015 Christian Chronicle.

Next:  Two responses

¹ OK, one comment:  Brice’s advice to re-appropriate words spoken millennia ago by God’s prophets manifests her lack of understanding of the situational nature of most prophecy, not to mention her lack of scholarly approach to scripture.

Drink a philosophy?

I completely believe that all ethnic groups are equal in God’s eyes.  However, it strikes me as disingenuous, or at least anachronistic, to suggest that heaven will be “culturally diverse.”

In the September 2014 Christian Chronicle, just following a quotation from Revelation 7:9, minister and professor Dan Rodriguez is quoted as having said that we should “embrace God’s multiracial, multiethnic vision.”  I’m not sure exactly what Dan has in mind for this life, but inasmuch as he looks for such a divine “vision” in heaven’s life, I think he is off-base.

Walt Leaver of the Brentwood Hills Church says, “. . . Heaven is going to be culturally diverse.” Of course, people from all groups are welcome in heaven, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that each people group will have a consciousness of its (prior) distinct identity, as though that identity is to be merged or even celebrated alongside others.  Could it be that races and ethnicities will be amalgamated to the point of obsolescence, i.e., that no one will have consciousness of prior ethnicity?  (I’ve heard “celebrate diversity” for decades now, but in a real, at least partial  sense, isn’t a lack of ethnic/racial consciousness desirable in this life, as well?)

Someone might object that Jesus, in the parable that compares the kingdom of heaven to the mustard seed, said that seed would grow into a tree. The wild birds (presumably people of other nations) would then come and nest in the tree’s branches.  (So, shouldn’t we celebrate diversity in a multi-ethnic sense?)

Someone else might further object that Revelation has the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, with leaves for the healing of the nations.  And Revelation also has Jesus’ blood purchasing persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.  (So, if heaven heals nations and Jesus purchases people from every nation, aren’t those “nations” all present in heaven?)

Yes, but there is a big however — those words were spoken within the context of human understanding, in this sphere  of existence.  How else could John communicate to first century believers in Asia Minor, etc., that Jews and Greeks and Romans and Gauls and Phrygians and all the rest were welcome?   Eternal truths are always difficult to communicate to time-bound beings.  It’s two different languages, two worlds. It’s a little like saying “drink a philosophy archaeologically.”  (A nod here to Chris Rice, who wrote the song “Smell the Color 9,” expressing how difficult it is for a human even to conceive of “finding God.”)

Although many peoples are to be there in heaven, it seems unlikely to me that there will be ethnic consciousness.  After all, since Babel, language has divided humankind, and cultural differences continue to contribute to distance and distinction among various people groups.  This distinction, an indisputable fact in this life, is a negative  factor, and it is the result of the sinfulness of humankind.  It seems that those differences could be expected to evaporate, ceasing to exist, in the next life.  I don’t, then, envision heaven as a sort of mini Summer Olympics in which each nation has its own colorful party going on in the HC (Heavenly Coliseum).

All the above is speaking to the next  sphere of existence.  What we do with ethnicity in this sphere is another question.  My hunch is that God is a lot more concerned with the hearts of people toward others than about whether Hispanics and Anglos and Asians, etc. meet under the aegis of the same congregation.  And I’d be pretty sure He doesn’t care whether worship activities are bilingual — whether simultaneously or in alternation, whether carried out in adjacent rooms or in different buildings.

The article referred to above also gives away that the 1st-century Jew-Gentile dynamic is being used, to some extent, to illustrate Anglo-Hispanic dynamics in the current era.  This parallel seems misguided; the complex relationship of Jews and Gentiles and God and redemption — roughly from the time of Jesus through the first century — constitutes a theological watershed.  I do not intend to downplay the significance of today’s Hispanic-White relations when I say that there is simply no comparison.

We might well glean some general principles of inclusion and bi-racial unity by coming to understand what Paul and Peter (Acts 10, Romans, Galatians, etc.) said about Gentiles and Jews, but Gentiles are not a single race, so it’s different.  I can imagine Paul weeping when speaking of Jews’ and Gentiles’ being one in Jesus Christ, but I can’t imagine his requiring them to be in one congregation daily or weekly; neither can I imagine Paul or anyone else with Christian authority requiring Hispanics and whites (or blacks and Asians, etc.) to meet in one group regularly.

It seems presumptive to suggest that we’re all supposed to meet together when we don’t speak the same language.  My own, limited experience is that bilingual worship is that a) it’s cool for the first few weeks, but then b) it just gets confusing and a bit annoying.

Brian Medrano is quoted in the Chronicle as saying, “I feel more comfortable praying in Spanish.” Let us not force Spanish-speakers to speak English in church gatherings, and let us not force English-speakers to deal in Spanish, either.

And however God and we end up handling “ethnicity,” let us lose ourselves in the glory of the eternal One.

Let the little children what?

It is unfortunate that my Bible trivia game opted for a memory blank in this spot:   “Let the little ________  come unto me.”  (One tends to insert “blankety-blanks” if one is not at one’s best and has urchins or brats in one’s mind.)  The game is otherwise pretty well-constructed.

Children are important, obviously.  Four years ago, I wrote a letter to the Christian Chronicle, stimulated by the previous month’s editorial about training and young boys to lead in the assembly.  It was not that anything terribly unseemly had occurred in my personal experience, although I had witnessed few child exploitations in the name of getting kids involved.

My purpose in the letter (below) was to emphasize the responsibility of public leadership.  I would now say things a little differently, at least adding that public leadership is in view too much on Sunday mornings.  If we were a bit less official and leader-y, there would be less need for such child “training,” not to mention fewer opportunities for disagreement over a-biblical concerns.

As long as we have pulpits and microphones and pews and audiences, I suppose we do need some training, but I think there are better venues for experimentation and experience than in the full assembly.  Sometimes I’ve thought a certain congregation was more interested in saying, “Awww, isn’t little Trey cute up there?” or “Mikey has a squeaky soprano voice … har, har” than in hearing the voice of God in scripture or in singing heartfully to each other or to the Lord . . . while Trey reads or Mikey sings.  See what you think.

The April Chronicle’s editorial suggested in its conclusion that young people be involved in assembly leadership roles.  Gifted, interested young people should indeed be encouraged in this type of work, but not at the expense of the quality of the assembly’s activities.  No person should be leading publicly if he cannot really lead, unless there are no other options in the congregation.

If an individual is typically unable to connect one thought to the next, and if he struggles to pronounce words in succession, he is not a good choice for congregational readings which are, after all, designed to communicate, not merely to fulfill an obligation to mutter.  The purpose is to convey the message of the Lord, not to perform or to have some reason to compliment John or little Tommy on his improvement since last time he stammered through a reading.

There may be a time and place for children to read scripture publicly, but not when we really need to hear the message of the reading.  I also recommend reserving the lengthier passages for the more experienced, fluent readers.  The assembly should engage us with deeper things than the adorable 8‑year-old all dressed up with that cute little necktie on.

Yes, our congregations are Christian families, and we can surely provide some avenues for our little boys to practice leading in these ways (at home, at least!).  But simply because our model—not a biblical model—presumes that all immersed men should be public leaders in the assembly does not mean we need to move little boys into significant assembly roles before they are mature enough to do so effectively.

I find more flagrant issues with inept, apathetic adult readers than with child readers.  If I’ve heard scripture read 3,000 times in Sunday assemblies, it’s probably been purposeful reading on maybe 100 of those 3,000 occasions.  3% is not good enough, and it is the adults who are wholly to blame.

What we ought, then, to emphasize is effective leadership — whether with training of young men, or with the redirection of older men into other areas of service if they are not cut out to be public leaders.

Let the little children lead songs or read scripture from the mic?  Maybe, with some limits.  But letting non-leader adults lead from the microphone?  If they don’t do that sort of thing well, I don’t see the point, and it’s not cute anymore.

Restoration and “plan” (2)

Certain church groups’ historical underpinnings are blueprint-oriented:  they emphasize divine “plan” and “pattern” they find in scripture.  Such orientations are certainly not entirely off-base, yet they are frequently overemphasized.

For the last century or so, a Restoration Movement hermeneutical ideal (command, example, necessary inference) has been manifest in the desire of church leaders to convince outsiders that God has a scriptural blueprint or plan for everything.  This desire, while in most cases pure-hearted, only goes so far.  And it seems to shove the grace of God as shown in Jesus’ incarnation into a back seat, while men’s interpretation of scripture may be driving the car.

In the following letter, written nearly two decades ago, I attempted to say something that highlighted Jesus more than a supposed, legal “plan.”


Christian Chronicle
Oklahoma City, OK


RE: Restoring the Plan

To the Editor:

Thanks to Stafford North for inviting us (through his “Thoughts” column in the July Chronicle) to look anew at the first century with a view toward Restoration. While my application of the principle of restoration seems somewhat different from his, the call to look at the foundation is a good one.

Let us all understand that when the earliest Christians “began to practice what was revealed,” that Revelation was in the person of Jesus the Messiah‑‑communicated personally and then through His specially inspired men‑‑since the New Testament scriptures had not been written. The “plan” for salvation, therefore, if God would ever have expressed it in such a term, is this: divine grace expressed through Jesus.  Any other plan purported to suffice for our sin is blasphemous, and if we attempt to mandate mechanisms of our own design, Satan will laugh as he sees groups of initially well‑intentioned, Restoration‑oriented men and women on the descent into creedalized, sectarian Christianity.

In the Gospel Advocate (5/11/33), G.C. Brewer reviewed K.C. Moser’s The Way of Salvation with these comments:

“In the minds of some the divine has been completely ruled out and salvation made a matter of human achievement‑‑except that the ‘plan’ was divinely given.  The gospel was made a system of divine laws for human beings to obey and thus save themselves sans grace, sans mercy, sans everything spiritual and divine‑‑except that the ‘plan’ was in mercy given. Mercy to expect man of his own unaided strength to save himself by meeting the demands of a system of perfect divine laws.”

moserbookBrewer continued, “Such teaching as that makes ‘void the grace of God’ (Gal. 2:21) . . . and counts his blood an unholy thing‑‑except as it is reached by a perfect obedience, and then it is not needed.

Jesus is our Cornerstone, our Life-Bread, and the Center and Soul of the sphere of Christians’ existence. Jesus is the Word.  He is the Way.  He is the Plan.  May our relentless clinging be a holding to the Lord.


Brian Casey

Restoration and “plan” (1)

Certain church groups’ historical underpinnings are blueprint-oriented:  they emphasize divine “plan” and “pattern” they find in scripture.  Such orientations are certainly not entirely off-base, yet they are frequently overemphasized, clouding more deeply significant realities.  The hermeneutic that finds under every scriptural rock a supposed “pattern” for this or that is shallow at best, although such a bent may produce eminently sincere followers of the Lord.

Unlike some of my “progressive” siblings, I still find much validity in this hermeneutical triumvirate:  “command, example, and necessary inference.”  The problem comes not in the mantra, but in its working out.  If we could more aptly sort out which is which as we seek to understand scripture, we’d all be better off.  In other words, we get into interpretation trouble when examples and inferences are made out to be commands — for all disciples, for all time.  tabletsThe resultant set of “commands” becomes a blueprint or new tablet of stone — although the stone material may only be in the minds of the men who chiseled out the words.

Would that such men would understand more of the message of the letter to the Galatians — not incidentally, one of the two earliest canonical letters!

Moreover,  would that such men would come to understand that when Jesus invited folks to “come to Him,” as recorded at the end of Matthew 11, the contextually clear inference is that the Pharisees’ law-loads were anything but light.  He wanted them to do right, to act mericfully and charitably, to please the Father — of course! — but He also wanted them to find rest from back-breaking, legalistic yokes.  Why should we in this century be any different in His eyes?

It is my understanding that the “fathers” of the American Restoration Movement desired to restore the New Testament pattern along with New Testament dynamics in the churches.  They wanted restoration of the ancient order of things along with the unification of Christians.  As the decades progressed, the former goal was aggrandized, while the latter became less apparent.

For the last century or so, then, the RM half-ideal has been seen more in the desire of church leaders to convince outsiders that God has a scriptural blueprint or plan for everything from church government to corporate worship to the use or non-use of tobacco.  If these outsiders will but follow the plan, everything will be OK with them.  This desire, while in most cases pure-hearted, only goes so far.  And it seems to shove God’s grace, as shown in the incarnate Son, into a back seat, while men’s interpretation of scripture drives the car.

In the next post, I’ll share a letter I wrote nearly two decades ago, attempting to say something a bit more concise about this age-old, hermeneutical problem.

[Continued . . . ]

Spectatorism and entertainment in the worship gathering

Caveat lector:  I had planned to post this 18-year-old letter now, anyway, but the topic has become a bit more significant since some correspondence with some siblings to my north.  I hope they’ll find continued encouragement in these thoughts on corporate worship — thoughts I believe are still valid and applicable today, or I wouldn’t repost them here.

Not all is lost, but a lot does tend to be discouraging.  I, for one, am pretty discouraged by the current state of corporate worship in churches I’ve been associated with.  But I am perpetually, irrevocably drawn to the goals and Object of worship.  This I cannot change.


Christian Chronicle
Oklahoma City, OK

To the Editor:

A letter in the June Chronicle called attention to a movement in corporate worship that aims at “entertainment and self-gratification” rather than at the adoration of God.  I suppose the writer refers to a somewhat enigmatic movement of believers on his ideological “left,” but I find it significant that Christians on both sides of this issue could be described with the above phrasing.

In some congregations, change agents may rush to “connect with people” and resultantly neglect the true Object of worship, forgetting that it is He, first and foremost, that we should connect with.  In other churches, the culprit can be passive spectatorism, along with a time-clock mentality which ignores the meaning of worship activities and is satisfied with merely sitting through them.  Some who wish to ban changes may be belying the desire for pacification and self-gratification and may be appeasing self by keeping things the way they want them.

Truly, any person or any church characterized by attention to self is misguided!

As Bailey McBride pointed out in “Worship Must Be a Communion,” awareness of God’s greatness and majesty should permeate our assemblies.  Thank you, Bailey, for a most thoughtful article.


Brian Casey

Voices: unhelpful language

Being a language person can make one appear obsessive or annoying.  Being a language person is also a state of being, i.e., it’s not exactly a choice one makes, and it’s difficult to mask or deny or move away from said state.  18 years ago, I wrote the following to the Christian Chronicle (based in Oklahoma City), and I still think such language matters are significant.



To the Editor:

I would like to make two language-related suggestions toward a more appropriate understanding of what God intended in the sphere of corporate worship:

(1) Migrate from using the term “worship service” since this term tends to obscure the two distinct aspects of Christian activity, relegating what should be a dynamic and transforming occurrence to the realms of ritual ceremonies like “graduation services” and “funeral services.”  Also, since “worship services” typically contain much that is not actually worship, and rightly so, the meaning of true worship is often lost.

(2) Realize that the phrase “in spirit and in truth” refers primarily to the spiritual realm and to true, actual worship, not to attitude and to supposed doctrinal correctness (though attitude and sound theology will certainly come into play).  Jesus likely made no intentional reference here to the truth that resides in the words of the sacred writings.

[ . . . ]


Brian Casey


#1 above is a nearly universal concern; most protestant churches and believers should be able to grasp and heed.  On the other hand, not all readers’ backgrounds will allow for immediate understanding of the issues behind #2; it is a more provincial concern.

In particular, the Church of Christ (over the Christian Church and far over the Disciples of Christ) has a history of stressing “doctrinal correctness.”  While the interest in being “right” and following God’s desires certainly stems from good intentions, in my estimation, it is not always pure-hearted — and in fact can result in misguided actions and off-base emphases.

One instance of such misapplication is in the area of worship and the assembly or gathering.  It is entirely right to be concerned with what God wants and doesn’t want when the church (or an individual, for that matter) worships or edifies.  It is, however, off-base to think that Jesus’ articulation “spirit and truth” in John 4 speaks of “doing things right.”  For one thing, in John, Jesus is manifest as truth, and any John words about truth should be considered in that light.  Moreover, from a simply linguistic standpoint, to do things “in truth” is to do them truly or genuinely or authentically, and it should not logically be presumed that doing something “in truth” equates to doing it with strict adherence to a body of understood protocols. 

Jesus’ thought seems to be more about being genuine and real than “correct.”

For more on worship John 4 and worship, please click here:  A Paramount Worship Text:  John 4

Voices: political (non-)involvement and spiritual life

Below are two letters to the editor of a monthly Christian newspaper — dated nearly one and two decades ago, respectively — in which I asserted a basic principle I still hold as true.  Although life’s emphases often do change over time, this one has not, for me.


Dear Editor:

In response to the “Christians in Politics” spread in the April Chronicle, I noted that A. Campbell’s view (“that Christians should be involved in shaping public policy”) was conjoined with his belief in the future reign of Jesus on earth.  I deduced, perhaps unfairly, that at least some who believe disciples should be politically active also seem to have a physical, or at least institutional, concept of the Kingdom, whereas Jesus’ own notion of the Kingdom was quite the opposite.

Though I affirm each believer’s right to express his opinion, I admit some dismay that in this article, political activism seemed to be juxtaposed with spiritual “aliveness” and the non-sectarian practice of working alongside those of other denominational heritages. Personally, I believe I stand on solid Biblical ground in avoiding political involvement, yet I consider myself spiritually alive and am an avowed, vocal non-sectarian!

Though it may “separate the men from the boys,” this world’s evil will not triumph.  We need to abandon our earth-oriented fears in the decisive, ultimate victory of Jesus and in His eternal, spiritual kingdom.  When we are in tune with the transcendent God and His enduring rule, we will possess the essential life-elements which will allow us to act as true salt and light in this world, bringing souls into relationship with our only Captain and King–God. Remember, “No soldier engaged in active duty gets involved with civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer” (II Tim. 2: 4).  Let’s keep our focus on the battle and on our Commander!

Brian Casey (4/94)


To the Editorial Committee:

Thank you for expressing the opinion that Christians should participate in the political process and be part of an “informed electorate.”  As one who attempts (albeit weakly) to center his thinking and ministering around the eternal Kingship of God and not on governmental systems of this world, I find a decided non sequitur in your suggestion that since “the government under which we live is participatory, then it is logical that Paul’s and Peter’s teachings direct us to participate.”

On the contrary, it seems clear to me that in such passages as Romans 13:1-7, the Christian is assumed to be separate from government and politics:  note the third-person pronouns “it” and “he” that refer to government and its agents.  Paul certainly tells us to submit but does not seem to assume any meshing of the believer with civil government.

By the time anyone reads this letter, the national election will be history; I hope by these words to influence the post-election thinking of my fellow sincere brothers and sisters.  Like most Bible-believers, I am deeply concerned about certain trends in our country, but the direction any country takes is not material to the faithfulness of God’s people.  Our primary goals must not be related to this life.

Long live the King of the New Israel!  I thank Him for the privileges of living in the United States while eagerly anticipating the fullness of His Kingdom — God’s reign among His people, and our spiritual residence in His eternal habitation.  May we trust in our God regardless of the situations of our secondary, earthly citizenship (2 Timothy 2:4).

Brian Casey (10/04)



Recently, a cause of great concern has been in the news.  Yes, I am troubled — not so much over the present, economic and political specifics as over the long-term consequences for society.  I am concerned that it will be increasingly difficult to raise children with a sense of what is right and what is wrong . . . what is normal and what is abnormal.  We’re not talking about merely private behaviors (that I consider aberrant and destructive) here.  We’re talking about the very public, purposeful shifting of societal mores and norms over a period of years and decades.

A ESPN news show on 6/30/13 featured a person who was out to wage war, from all possible angles, against what he feels is “anti-gay bias” in sports.  If his “program” works in even small measure, I’m concerned for my son as he progresses through public schools, Little League baseball, and more.  A few years ago, a professional colleague mentioned that his then-20-year-old son had surprised him by registering acceptance of those who practice things that clearly run counter to biblically based morality.  It’s going to be harder for today’s children to discern rightly.

With that said, I remind myself and you that, no matter the political cause du jour (or du coeur), it is good to remember that they are all time-bound causes.  Teaching my son right from wrong is important, but the conservative cadre of causes is not, relatively speaking.  I prefer not to be wrapped up in an ephemeral cause or counter-cause, or a party, or a political philosophy.

Rather, the more I am wrapped up in Kingdom causes, the less I will worry about earth-bound ones.  This is not to say that earthly things are of no importance — far from it.  It is to say that eternal, Kingdom business helps to put temporal, earthly causes in perspective.

Voices: yeah … no (993)

The problems with the clergy-laity system are a) centuries old and b) pandemic.  Most of my disputes with this system run pretty deep and are long-lived,¹ but this particular rant is rather shallow.


Having recently visited a church I’d been a member of years ago, in which one preacher had filled the pulpit for about 50 years, I suppose it was inevitable that, soon after, I saw two articles about other, way-too-long-term preachers.  (These things seem to come in multiples.)  First, the man I once knew.  Then, another octogenarian, celebrating 50 years with the same church.  And then a feature article about a guy who was with one church more than a quarter-century and with another church in the same city for 10 years.

This man is surely a wonderful man, with a good heart and a love for God.

But he is quoted as having said … and, you know, everything has the potential for being quoted out of context … but, get this:

Church growth must begin with the preacher.

Yeah . . . NO.

Oh, my goodness. . . .

First off, the term “church growth” is loaded, and I don’t accept its chock-full package as entirely worthy of discussion.  Sure, the growing of churches is likely a good thing — at least potentially so, for some churches grow merely in an opposite reaction to the decline of other churches, which fact makes the growth rather moot.  Numerical growth in terms of overall congregational “membership,” then, may be good but also may be neutral.  Spiritual growth is not quantifiable.  In my experience, “church growth ‘experts’ ” focus almost exclusively on quantifiable data.

Even if one accepts (or ignores as loaded) the term “church growth,” the notion that “growth much begin with the preacher” is ludicrous on at least two levels.

  1. First, the presence of a preacher is required by no biblical text that I know of, and this fact negates the “must.”
  2. Moreover, I would assert that if either spiritual or numerical growth is preacher-driven, it is growth that is not going to last. 

Preachers, of course you should keep growing and not become stagnant.  (This self-evident truth may get at the speaker’s intent more than the ripped-from-context quote.)  My rant here is in no way intended to ignore the human tendency to become stale.  I have had good models in staying current in one’s discipline, including my grad advisor Ken Singleton, who, for instance, annually updates his repertoire list with new, good music, refusing to do anything but grow.  Preachers should do similar things, studying new books and documents and Greek and methods, etc.  But really, preachers, don’t be deceived into thinking that you should function as the center of things.


P.S. to the Christian Chronicle:  I chose not to read this article in depth.  It’s a matter of time and priorities for me.  But let’s think about the big, bold quotation at the top of the page for a moment.  Couldn’t you have chosen a better seven-word quote to pull out for highlighting?  Surely there were better, more on-target things that he said!  🙂


¹ Grandmother Kathryn Ritchie (1909-1988) taught me that “long-lived” was originally pronounced with a long “i,” as in “dive.”  I have trouble saying it that way now, because everyone thinks it’s wrong.  Often, taking the less popular way ends up being right, right?