When it comes to modesty, considering your community and context doesn’t mean seeking their approval…but it does mean prioritizing their good. It means placing the well-being of others as greater than your individual freedom.
Modesty in the context of finances might mean choosing not to plan a multiple-day bachelor party out of town, because you know that some of the people in your wedding party are financially struggling. Modesty in the context of clothing might mean not posting Instagram pictures of yourself in a minidress, because you know that the middle school students you lead are looking to you for a standard. Modesty in the context of your community might mean not constantly talking about the new relationship you’re in to a friend who just went through a breakup.
I remember when my dad got a new job when I was in the fourth grade, and our family had a little more income than we had before. Our family was growing, so my mom began to look at other houses to accommodate the need for more space. There was one house that sat on a hill over a pond, with a big yard and beautiful street value in a nice neighborhood. Our family strongly considered purchasing it, but ultimately my mom felt convicted that its outward appearance came across a little too “prestigious.” Would it have been sinful or wrong for our family to move into that house? No. You could probably make the argument that it would have been a good thing! But ultimately, my mom wanted our home to be reflective of our heart…a bit messy, obviously imperfect, but open to all and content as is. It was a choice she made in modesty, from a humble posture.
Alan Hirsh and other argue that the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers (APEST) given by Jesus to equip the church constitute a defining paradigm for the life and ministry of the church.
I love Hirsh’s desciptions in the book 5Q. But can it serve as a master list of gifts? Why use these 5 rather than the longer lists in Romans or 1 Corinthians as the primary lense?
I speak to you as a leader responsible for your generation. Take responsibility for your generation. Take responsibility for your current reality, for the part you played in creating that reality, as well as the part that involves you changing it as necessary. And quite frankly, if you are not willing to take responsibility, you should not be in leadership in the church–or any organization that requires moral leadership for that matter.
I have a friend who is trying to make sense of the Anabaptist world (and, more importantly, to discern how Christians should live and work together). Recently, he shared an insight someone shared with him.
Think of the Anabaptists as a religious order, with the different groups as sub-orders.
Many of us would prefer not to have our congregations compared to a group of monks or nuns and most of us aren’t interested in living in a monastery or a convent. But the comparison is definitely helpful for understanding the conservative Anabaptist mindset. We think about a lot of issues in ways that make more sense for a religious order than for a full fledged church. From our concept of obedience to church leaders, to our concerns for regulated dress, to our willingness to include things in our discipline statements simply because we think they are one helpful way of doing things, we can infer the mindset of an order.
Now I have sympathy for orders, monastic ones included, though I would question the wisdom of a lifetime vow. But orders are supposed to be part of a full fledged church. A full fledged church must be broad enough to encompass believers in all legitimately Christian vocations. An order, by definition, is for those with a more specific vocation.
Many unresolved issues in Anabaptist ecclesiology can be thought of as confusing orders with churches.
What sort of headship is in view in Ephesians, Collosians, and 1 Corinthians? The options are usually framed as either authority or source. Both words are of some help, but neither is adequate. Ephesians gives several pictures of Christ’s headship before chapter 5. This is nicely discussed by Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld. In 1:10 we see God’s plan to “sum up” all things in heaven and earth in Christ. The term for “sum up” is cognate with the Greek word for head, and this passage implies bringing all things under the headship or “heading” of Christ. At the end of chapter 1 we see the risen exalted Christ as a two-fold head. He is seated above all rule and authority and power, which has been subjected to him. He is given as head over all things to his body, which helps him fill all things. Chapter 2 speaks of believers sharing in Christs reign by being seated with him. Chapter 4 shows Christ as the head who supplies what is needed for the bodies growth through each member of his body, so that the whole can grow up into the head.
If we are to draw ethical implications from this for marriage it would highlight the husbands responsibility to care for, give to, empower, and equip his wife. It also suggests that he represents the pair in their shared dominion and reigning with Christ. While Christ reigns over his church, Ephesians put equal emphasis on the church sharing in the reign of Christ over all things.
Head Links in Scripture
“Head” is used in the Septuagint to refer to the capital city in a country and the king located in that city. (Isaiah 7:8-9)
Colossians: Used of Christ
Ephesians: Used of Christ and husbands
1 Corinthians: Used of God (The Father), Christ, and Men/Husbands
Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-18
Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 2:8-19
Ephesians 5:22-30; 1 Corinthians 11:3-12
[compare headship ideas in Ephesians and women passages in other epistles]
This podcast has a great discussion of the head passages in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 4-5. Though I wish it brought in a few more things.
Work can be a mode of contact with reality. Often, it is a brutal and humbling mode. I have written extensively on the value of skilled physical work as knowing, but am now beginning to articulate how this works in my present line of work within organizational management.
For a brief introduction to my general epistemological reflections, see this essay or my dissertation.
Leading up and down the chain of command
This is a multifaceted topic but I will approach it from two epistemological angles, who knows what and how do we make use of that knowledge at an organizational level.
Make decisions easy for busy people. You will rise fast in your career if busy people like working with you. Here’s a tip: when you have a problem to solve, come prepared with a suggested next step. If you have a question, phrase it in a way they can answer yes/no. If there are multiple options, lay them out and ask them to pick one. Try to avoid expansive, open-ended questions.
[You] are your software. When you only have a small number of users, you can sometimes get away with doing by hand things that you plan to automate later. This lets you launch faster, and when you do finally automate yourself out of the loop, you’ll know exactly what to build because you’ll have muscle memory from doing it yourself.
…the way Stripe delivered “instant” merchant accounts to its first users was that the founders manually signed them up for traditional merchant accounts behind the scenes.
… It would be a little frightening to be solving users’ problems in a way that wasn’t yet automatic, but less frightening than the far more common case of having something automatic that doesn’t yet solve anyone’s problems.
Began as bookkeeper and learned QBO by reverse engineering.
Identified the need for a fuller CRM and set up Kindful for donation and contact management.
Identified the need and led the adoption of Microsoft Teams and SharePoint for systematizing our file storage and communication.
Identified needs for a more robust database for relating to staff, trainees, and churches. Oversaw design and implementation of a new database in sync with Kindful and custom apps built through the Microsoft Power Platform.
Wellspring Mennonite Church
Get software for your needs.
Software, especially software as a service, feels expensive. Staff time is expensive. (And volunteer time is equally precious.) Software that will do what you need it to do is important. Cobbled together solutions are a real liability and changing software solutions later can be a real pain. My story with Anabaptist Perspectives exemplifies that pain.
On accounting we went from a simple spreadsheet, to personal finance software, to Aplos as combined accounting and donor software, to Quickbooks and separate donor software, still using Gusto for payroll.
We have processed online donations through Paypal buttons, Donorbox, Aplos, CiviCrm, and GiveWP.
Some transitions are necessary as needs change, some come from initial ignorance of true needs, but other times software changes happen because we don’t want to spend the money on software as soon as we should and limp along too long.
Simplify, streamline, and build in procedures
What do you need to know? How easily can you know it? Does everyone know where something belongs? Does everyone know how something should be documented? A sprawling mess comes easily to an organization, especially one with multiple part timers and volunteers.
File organization, versioning, and record keeping, might not be the most exciting topics for entrepreneurs. But some creative discipline in all things data organizing can save enormous headaches.
Define procedures and administrative responsibilities for everyone
Most procedures and data organization require everyone to use it. Nobody is exempt from putting their work and records in the official system.
Maintain adequate secretarial support
Computers have changed a lot of things. Everyone can type, which makes dictating letters to secretaries unnecessary. Myriads of other tasks have been made easier by technology. But an organization still needs people to close the loops and keeps things flowing. Even with software, procedures, and holding everyone accountable, there is secretarial work to be done.
As one of my colleagues said, however good your system is, “It is always easier to use no system.” His point was that, we can’t just build systems we have to train users, and for more complicated processes, we may need one person in charge of the system and managing the checklists.
Multiple mindsets are needed for secretarial and operational purposes. Even if someone could do both, it is hard to be tuned into both at one time. Secretarial and administrative matters require their own dose of wisdom and the filling of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 6). Happy is the organization that recognizes this early.
Job descriptions for editors vary greatly. Is this just a proofreader? Is it a coauthor or ghost writer? Is it the business manager for an organization? For the publishing work I am involved in I think of three main roles.
Editor as Proofreader
Proofreaders are people who care about whether to write “proof reader” or “proofreader.” They catch mistakes, lots of them. They notice inconsistent formatting. Writers can proofread their own work and learn to write more carefully, but for published writing where it matters, a separate proofreader is needed.
Beyond the word level, proofreaders may examine phrases or sentences for technical grammar or missing words. Again, an indispensable task. On the other hand the author may need to push back against prescriptive grammar and a conventionalizing, flattening hand.
Editor as Rhetorician and Stylist
These editors delete sentences, maybe paragraphs or chapters. They also tell the author where to add sentences or paragraphs.
This is what I think of as an editor proper. The editor carries the reader and the author in mind. Per context, they may rework a piece or simply give feedback to the writer.
Edit with love. A sympathetic understanding of the author’s heart and mind is the proper basis for editing. Bring out the author’s best voice; don’t get rid of the distinctive voice. Amplify their key ideas. You help the author communicate. So love for those on the receiving end is requisite. You work on flow and terminology, etc. to get and keep the readers attention.
Editor as Reviewer
The reviewer cares about substance. They may or may not be sympathetic to the author’s aim, but in either case they will look for weaknesses of reasoning, evidence, clarity, depth, accuracy etc. as needed for the genre. Reviewers don’t rewrite. They may ask an author to revise and resubmit based on their feedback.
What Kind of Editor Are You?
You might straddle the lines or fill another niche. On the other hand knowing which hat you are wearing when editing is helpful. It is easy for me, for example, to blur between reviewing and editing, which can be hazardous, when I am assigned to be simply an editor. One way to tell your natural editor type, is to observe what changes you would like to see in this piece. Are you correcting my grammar? Catching inconsistencies? Thinking about how to improve the flow and make it more catchy? Evaluating my sloppy thinking and looking for better categories to describe different types of editors?
Editors for Video and Visual Media
A coworker who edits video said he sees his work as a sort of visual proofreading, watching transitions, cutting out stumbles in a section of speech etc. To get a macro sense of a video for the purpose of rearranging it or cutting clips would require a different watching and a different mode of thought.
I’m curious too how these categories apply to static visual design. Designers tell me that they can’t do design and proofread text at the same time. I wonder if there might be a proofreader, rhetorician divide even in design review with some editors looking for basic consistency of design elements and others reviewing for style, and overall visual messaging. I would love comments from designers!
Whatever your line of work, I would love your feedback on these categories in the comments below!
A professor once told me that worshiping violates something about the moral dignity of a human being. Worship involves, at a minimum, recognizing another being as supremely worthy and as greater than oneself.
At the time I was puzzled as to why rendering worship to God, should be thought to diminish human dignity. Why are we less because God is more? As I reflect now, I realize that many Christians share the concern that worshiping something else degrades humans beings. We do believe that idolatry, that is the worship of anything but God, is not only an affront to God but also to our humanity. We also commonly believe that humans must functionally worship something. It is only a question of worshiping God versus idolatry. Worshiping God completes our humanity and our moral dignity as persons. Worshiping anything else undercuts our humanity and our moral dignity as persons.
As I am sympathetic to the above claims, I suspect that I partly agree with my professors claims about worship being unworthy of humans, but only certain worship. At the same time, I completely believe that worship is essential. A human being must be related to God appropriately to flourish. The thought that we can do just fine without worshiping anything is an illusion.
All of this leaves me hungry for an account of what worship is, and there is much of that account I do not have. I hope to explore that in the future, for my own sake and for the sake of those who think worship unnecessary.
A preacher should have as much money in his library as in his pickup truck, or so says a pastoral advisor to my church. Those charged to regularly teach the scriptures need good tools for study. So do the rest of us. Not all of us will spend thousands of dollars on commentaries or devote years of our lives to studying the Greek and Hebrew languages in which the scripture was written. But, as Christians, we all must be students of the Word.
Fortunately, the most important tools for Bible Study are inexpensive and easy to obtain, at least for English speakers. The tools I have in mind are the Bible itself, in its multiple translations into our native language. Bible translations can be a confusing subject. There is an alphabet suit of different translations available like the ASV, CEV, ESV, KJV, NAB, NEB, RSV ….and the list goes on! What we should remember is that this represents an embarrassment of riches for English speakers. In this article I focus, not on choosing a bible for primary use like public reading and memorizing, but rather on assembling a small collection of translations for study purposes.
Choosing a set of translations for Bible study
Bible apps make it easy to compare many translations of a given verse. This is helpful, but I still advise getting two or three translations in print. You will become familiar with these select translations, and it will be easier to pore over passages, or to read extensively, with a book in front of you. If you don’t own at least two or three translations in print, what should you purchase to build your library? If you have several translations and want to add a few more, how do you know what translations will best complement your existing collection?
Of all the translations on the market, many fall into families, or natural groupings. You want to aim for a balanced collection by choosing Bibles from various groupings. One family of translations consists of those that derive from King James Version of 1611. This includes the NASB, the ESV, the NKJV, and NRSV as well as the older RSV, RV, and ASV and a host of other minor translations. (Don’t worry, the table below imposes some order on this confusing alphabet soup!) While these translations will vary among themselves, it is helpful to compare them to another translation that is not a derivative of the familiar KJV.
Another grouping of English translations is those done by Evangelical scholars. The ESV, NIV, CSB, NET, NLT and others reflect the biblical scholarship of the modern Evangelical community. On the one hand Evangelicals are generally committed to a high view of scripture and to understanding scripture in line with historic Christian orthodoxy. This makes careful translations by Evangelicals a good choice for studying the Bible. On the other hand, even the most careful translations are inevitably affected by how the translators understand scripture and its teachings. For this reason, we do well to include translations from other branches of the Christian church and other scholarly communities.
The following table marks out four quadrants based on these two ways of grouping bible translations. The top left lists versions which derive from the KJV and have been translated by Evangelical scholars. The top right lists translations derived from the KJV, but not reflecting modern Evangelical scholarship. The bottom left represents other translations done by Evangelical scholars. The bottom right lists some other modern translations. At a minimum you should own at least one translation from each row and at least one from each column. Ideally your study collection would include one from each quadrant.
NASB ESV NKJV
NIV CSB NET
NEB REB NAB
It is helpful to own at least translation from each row and at least one from each column. Ideally your study collection would include one from each quadrant.
Notes on the Apocrypha and the Septuagint
You should have a copy of the Apocrypha. Most contemporary Anabaptists don’t consider it part of the Bible, but reading the Apocrypha provides an important background for understanding the New Testament, and you will frequently see it referenced by earlier Christian writers. Most translations in the right-hand column are available with editions that include the Apocrypha.1 (For two contrasting perspectives on the Apocrypha see the Anabaptist Perspectives Episodes by David Bercot and Stephen Russell.)
It is also helpful to have a translation of the Old Testament derived from the Septuagint. Before the time of Christ, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. The New Testament, itself of course written in Greek, often quotes the Greek Septuagint. Several English translations of the Septuagint are available and adding one to your tool kit is not a bad idea. (Learn more about the Septuagint in this episode from Anabaptist Perspectives.)
Notes on Translation Issues
One reason to study from multiple translations is so that we don’t blindly follow the quirks of any given translations. Diversity is protection. Nonetheless, a basic understanding of some differences among translations can be helpful. I will offer a few comments here that might stir you to further research.
Gender Language in the Bible: Should translations be “gender-neutral.”
This is a touchy one. Until the last few decades, the English language allowed free use of the “generic masculine.” Pronouns like “he” and “his”, and even the word “man”, could be used to refer to a person of unknown gender. In many cases a phrase like “any man” would mean, not “any adult male,” but simply “any person.” For better or for worse, the English language has shifted, and we can no longer say “a man” when we mean “a human.” Even using “he” or “him” when a person of either gender could be in view is a real stretch in today’s English. Translations of the last few decades have found various ways to deal with issues of gendered language. In many passages the solutions are quite simple. Other passages bring more complicated issues. For two different ways of dealing with gender issues compare the preface to the ESV with the preface to the NIV. If you take the time to read these prefaces you will also find valuable perspective on how these two translations handle the two issues discussed next.
New Testament Manuscripts
The word “manuscript” means hand copy. Thus, when we talk about Greek manuscripts we are referring to handwritten copies of all or part of the New Testament. Manuscripts date from the days of the early church all the way up to the Reformation era when they were replaced by printed texts of the New Testament. Naturally, hand copied texts incorporate slightly different variations, not only in spelling and punctuation, but also in wording. Many of these variant readings cannot be translated into English and many which can be translated do not affect the sense of the passage. However, some variant readings are more significant and involve whole verses, or in two cases, paragraphs.
Today, the most common printed text of the New Testament is known alternatively as the NA28 or UBS5. This text was compiled by carefully comparing readings from the manuscripts we have, with special emphasis on the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament. Almost all recent bible translations follow the basic pattern of the NA28 when it comes to which variant readings from the manuscripts they choose to follow. The one major exception is the NKJV which attempts to translate the exact manuscript readings which underlie the King James Version of 1611. The NKJV provides extensive notes, that allow readers to compare its textual basis to standard editions of the text of the Greek New Testament.
The Role of Paraphrase
Be careful of translations that rely on paraphrase. I don’t have in mind the “functional equivalence” employed to various degrees by all translations, but rather renderings that prioritize what the translator thinks a passage means over precise attention to what it says. Outright paraphrases like The Message, I regard as more of a commentary than a Bible.
Of the translations on my chart above, I would call attention to the excessive use of paraphrase in the NLT. The approach of the NLT means that the theological beliefs of the translators come through rather clearly. To illustrate, let’s compare two verses in the NIV and NLT.
Whether or not you agree with the theology reflected in the NLT in these two passages, I am concerned that the wording prejudges interpretation in a way that the NIV and other major translations do not.
NIV:Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,
NLT:So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10
Theology shows through. For the translators of the NLT, confirming our calling and election does not appear to mean taking steps to safeguard ourselves from the real danger of falling away from God, but rather “proving” that we are among the elect (who God would never allow to fall away).
NIV:And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
NLT: And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
It is not hard to miss the NLT’s emphasis that true Christians cannot, ultimately, fall away from God’s salvation. To do this, the NLT pulls in wording from Ephesians 1:13-14, and applies a particular interpretation to that wording.
NIV: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
CSB: In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.
What should we take away from these notes on Bible translation? Sorting out the advantages and disadvantages of various versions is tricky. Most of us will naturally end up with one translation for our primary use in reading, memorizing, and teaching. The concerns I raised about paraphrases in the NLT means I can’t recommend that translation for your primary use. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the NLT in your Bible study tool kit; it can definitely be helpful. Just be aware of the issues. Don’t let the NLT (or any other translation) be the only Bible you read.