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EFAC Australia

Essentials

There is no doubt that technological development and increasingly rapid rates of change in so many areas have made making ethical decisions more difficult than it used to be. Now that is not to say that getting agreement about the rights and wrongs has ever been easy. Moralists have disagreed through all of history. And Jesus had a hard time getting some of his core values across, even to those who were most devoted to him.

But these days self-doubt has set in among Christians, and it has set in on a large scale. Loss of clarity about a distinctly Christian ethic has become widespread. There are various reasons for this, but let me offer you just a limited list. First, there is so much that Christians have done in the past that embarrasses and shames us. Second, there are the clever things that scholars have done to give parts of the Bible a totally different sense from how they have traditionally been understood. And third, Christians have largely lost sight of the importance of the Old Testament for their faith and life.

For us who are Christians radical values for a confused society must come from our Lord. And what I have in mind to appeal to here is Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

Finding the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible - Part One


by Peter Adam

 

We should always try to find the central ministry purpose of a book of the Bible. The central ministry purpose of the book is its ministry aim, its pastoral intention. It is the answer to the question that we could ask of the author of the book 'In one sentence, why did you write this book?' Or the answer to the question we could ask of God 'Why did you cause this book to be written?' It should include what the readers should do, and why they should do it. It regards the book as an extended speech-act, and seeks to clarify what the author wants to happen as the result of people reading the book. The central ministry purpose is more than the central theme, because it includes what the author wants the readers to do as a result of that central theme. It does not focus on topics, but on actions. It is not the language of analysis, but of action.

Here are some examples of 'central ministry purpose':

Book Review: Why Men Hate Going to Church

David Murrow, Nelson Books, 2005

I happened on this publication in the men's literature section of my local Christian bookstore, which many of you will know is very small compared with the women's section of the bookshelves. The title sounds a bit provocative and the contents challenge many of our notions of "Church". Nevertheless it's a valuable document if you're looking to connect with men in and around your church.

David Murrow has the advantage of a layman's perspective and he claims to have worshipped in congregations of "every stripe". His broad observations and pointers square with many of my own experiences in working among men in the church context over 25 years or more. His observations start with the obvious, i.e. churches have a male attendance averaging only 35%. In other words women outnumber men almost two to one. This is in line with the Anglican community in the Melbourne Diocese according to the 2006 National Church Life Survey.

By Justin Denholm

Many people today think of ethics as a potential 'common ground' for dialogue between people with divergent worldviews. After all, if "we all agree murder is wrong", some would say, "maybe we can work out our differences?" In this kind of approach, often universal humanitarian ideals are appealed to in the hope that we can use them to realise that deep down, we're all the same.

Sometimes I find it tempting to take this approach; certainly it is 'nice' and often popular. For Christians, though, ethical action cannot be divorced from the gospel, and without a clear understanding of the relationship between the two, Christians cannot appreciate what ethics is and how it should be done.

To understand why ethics should be considered so closely linked to evangelism, we need to reconsider why we should act ethically at all. Why does it matter how we live?

Book Review: The Word of His Grace: A guide to teaching and preaching from Acts

By Chris Green. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2005, 978-84474-075-7,189pp., $A19.99, paper.

Many factors conspire against creating and sustaining an evangelistic culture in our Christian communities. In my experience, one of the key antidotes is the regular preaching and teaching of Acts. To this end, Chris Green, Vice-Principal of Oak Hill College in London has written an overview of the book specifically for the preacher, and this serves as a very helpful foundational tool.

This book is not a commentary. Green begins by outlining key principles for understanding Acts in toto, then in Section 2 breaks the book into 7 "panels", examining in more detail the themes conveyed. A particular strength in these two sections is Green's outlining of Luke's careful narrative structure, and the various narrative devices he uses, such as parallelism, escalation and contrast. Green is keen to show that Luke has not simply written a chronology, but has carefully structured his account with theological purpose. This exposes and highlights key truths and helps answer some of the recurring theological and pastoral issues raised by the book.

Integrity: Leading without God watching. Jonathan Lamb IVP, 2007

This book is a tonic for the Christian leader's soul. Like some tonics, it may be regarded as medicine, best taken with food and inevitably swallowed reluctantly but dutifully, knowing that it is good for you. Very good for you.

So many books on Christian leadership pay lip service to the Scriptures and hurry on to pragmatic issue Save s of "how to do X or Y", hanging whole chapters on convenient pegs of scripture along the way. But not this book. Integrity is effectively a discourse on leadership based on Lamb's study of 2 Corinthians and themes arising from that epistle. It is material that has been shaped by various speaking engagements in his role as Director of Langham Preaching (a part of Langham Partnership International) including a Ridley Melbourne ministry conference in 2005. I have to confess that I attended that conference and found his presentation solid, but almost too solid and full-on for my poor first-year-out curate's brain!

The Annual Preaching Survey of the Year's Best Books

This is an edited version of the original article which may be access from www.preaching.com/resources/features/11569918/#

Reprinted with permission from Preaching magazine, March-April 2008. Copyright © 2008 Salem Communications. All rights reserved. For more information visit www.preaching.com. The website and magazine is an excellent resource!

Preaching is intimately related to books and study, and this goes all the way back to biblical times. Preachers and books simply go together, and the most powerful combination of preacher and book comes when just the right book is available at just the right time in order to clarify and focus the preacher's thoughts on the biblical text and the challenge of preaching.

Biblical Studies

If preachers are integrally tied to the study of books, this is especially true when it comes to books helpful in Bible study for the preparation of expository messages. Over the past several decades, something of a renaissance in evangelical biblical scholarship has occurred, and we are now in a season of publication with many of the most mature biblical scholars reaching the point of maximum scholarly production.

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