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Common Slaves

Common Men; Uncommon Master

Small Churches; Big Problems

If only leading a church was as easy, trouble-free, and glamorous as it looks on TV! Indeed, it is a high honor, and an inestimable privilege to be called to be a part of the local church. But since the church’s inception, the church has battled scandal, division, ravenous wolves masquerading as sheep, attacks from without, and attacks from within.

A small, rural church is usually just one conflict from major, destructive division or even extinction, and those conflicts can appear from just about anywhere for almost any reason.

Understanding, navigating, surviving, and healing from church conflicts is the subject of the Common Slaves Conference. There are no mega-churches in the Common Slaves network; we are all part of small-town churches that suffer major body-wide trauma every time any division arises. We know how damaging it can be to have even a single person or family at odds with the leadership, or other members of the body. None of us are a part of a church where 25 people can leave unnoticed.

We have recruited some of the great veterans of small-town small church ministry to come present to us the things they have learned about living, dying, surviving, and recovering from destructive church conflicts. All of them share a similar, Reformed philosophy of ministry – Jesus builds His church; programs, models and marketing gimmicks don’t. As such, their approach to all things, including conflict, is God-oriented, not man-centered.

This is a one-day conference for pastors, elders, and “churchmen” (the lay-pillars of the local church). We are also inviting wives – we have learned from our own experience that they often suffer most during times of church upheaval. We have planned out 4 sessions, some good Q&A, some time to meet and get to know other brothers and sisters from the area, and some good food too.

We want to thank Crossway, Ligonier, Whitehorse Inn, and Bethlehem College and Seminary for their participation to make this day of great profit to all!

For the date, time, and location, and speaker info, see the Conference page.

To purchase tickets (brace yourself, it’s almost $20, but if you email me I’m sure we’d take a goat, 2 chickens, or a pound of butter instead) click here

-jr

“Lord, give the doctors wisdom,” we instinctively plead in our desperation.

The wise doctors don’t give us the answers we wanted.

We immediately cry out, “Lord, make the doctors fools!”

Weird.

-jr

Alice: Prognosis

I left our saga in “Limbo Land,” the land of unknown between initial diagnosis and confirmation/prognosis. I’ll pick it up there and catch you up…

Last Monday or Tuesday morning, Alice woke up particularly irritable and ornery. I wrapped her up in a blanket, then in my arms, and as we laid on the couch, I figured I’d try to make up a story to tell her. Lewis did that with Narnia, so how hard can it really be?

I didn’t get far, but managed to come up with a frog she named “Ribbit” who went fishing. “Dad, I wanna go fishing.” Continue reading “Alice: Prognosis”

Alice: Thoughts From Limbo-land

At this point, we don’t have much more to say as far as Alice’s condition. Writing helps sort out the scattered thoughts of a beleaguered mind, so what follows is more therapy than journalism.

We’re home, awaiting the pathology results and then the process of working through treatment options. More thoughts on that a little later. I call it “limbo-land” because we’re sort of in our old “normal,” wondering what the new “normal” will be like when treatment starts. In the meantime, we talked with her doctor and reduced her steroids to half of what they were, and that’s having some favorable results.

Alice effortlessly ate 4 boiled eggs for lunch today. To say she’s been really hungry is like saying Spurgeon was an ok preacher. She’s been voracious. Hopefully the reduced steroids help curb some of that. Our biggest challenge is trying to help her not eat constantly, especially when everything in us wants to dote on her every wish. Continue reading “Alice: Thoughts From Limbo-land”

Alice: Biopsy Day

First, Shelly and I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. As I write that, it sounds so cliche, so let me try again. The bride of Christ, often belittled and maligned for her dysfunction, has dazzled us with her tenderness, compassion, and affection. Jesus doesn’t marry down, and although His work with His bride isn’t done yet, we’ve been privileged to see something of what He sees in her, and I have to tell you, it’s awesome.

Let me catch you up… Monday was Alice’s birthday. What a bittersweet day that was. I always take the kids for breakfast on their birthday. Rock Creek Cafe. I barely managed to hold it together as I wondered if this would be the last one I’d ever have with Alice. I gave her all my bacon when she wasn’t looking. She held one up, “Want one Dad?” That’s Alice. She just knows how to do it. And she can eat pancakes, my word. A plate-sized, 1/2″ thick pancake, and she ate most of it, with three strips of bacon and a cup of apple juice. That’s my girl! Ate more than me that morning, that’s for sure. I gagged down a couple eggs and some toast. Continue reading “Alice: Biopsy Day”

Alice

note: Since I (Joe) am not on social media, but we have many friends with whom our only contact is through the digital pipeline, I’m going to use this site as a platform to share my heart and thoughts about our little Alice. Please know that we’d love to hear from you, but for reasons our own, leave your comments here on the blog instead of Shelly’s Facebook, and we’d greatly appreciate it.

In various conversations around the dinner table over the last couple of months, my wife and I occasionally discussed the fact that it seemed the “light” had gone out of our little girl’s eyes. This was significant, since Alice’s full-featured smile could infamously light up a room of any size. She has seasonal allergy issues, so we chalked it up to that, and did the whole Zyrtek Allegra Claritin thing.

Then she seemed a bit more unstable from time to time. Shaky might be a better word. Not much, just a little. But still our happy little girl (and she still is, by God’s grace!). Last Tuesday I came home, and she met me at the door, which she often did, and as we talked together, I noticed her eyes weren’t quite tracking with each other. Not crossed, and not really a lazy eye, just not quite in alignment. Continue reading “Alice”

One of the challenges of ministry in “small” churches is the nagging suspicion that God will judge our ministry like we do, which is often based on our ability (or lack thereof) to produce fruit, or by comparing our results with the industrial strength, professional, polished fruit bearers. John Piper offers some helpful and encouraging thoughts here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/are-small-churches-less-fruitful

thanks to Pastor Charlie Handren for passing this along

Jesus, See My Bride!

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. – Paul

One of the enduring marks of the image of God found in people is the joy of creating beauty. When God created the world, He made a beautiful creation. The story of redemption is the transformation of that which had been uglified (to borrow a term from Narnia) into something gloriously lovely.

Even children love creating beauty. The first time those chubby hands awkardly grasp a crayon and scribble all over a page, they look up and say, “Look what I made!” and those innocent eyes are begging for your approval – “Oh honey, it’s beautiful! You’re an amazing artist!” Continue reading “Jesus, See My Bride!”

The Protestant Reformation

by Pastor Eric Anderson

 

In 2017 we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. October 31, 1517 is the generally accepted beginning of the protestant movement and renewal of the true church, when humble men and women Re-formed their lives worship and the church based upon The Gospel of Jesus Christ. All the Reformation gains were summarized by what we call the Five Solas. Continue reading “The Protestant Reformation”

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