For Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness, Issue 96

October 7, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation

Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness’ of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone’ speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation will offer brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God’s word.

Augustine heard the voice of a child saying, “Take and read, take and read.” He opened a Bible, began to read, and was set on the path of committed discipleship and faithful pastoral ministry as the Bishop of Hippo and a theologian for the ages. Let’s assume that pastors do not need to be encouraged to read the Bible. But what else can we read that will enhance our preaching, teaching, and pastoral care?

Suggestion for October reading:

  • David W. Johnson, Trust in God: The Christian Life and The Book of Confessions. Louisville: Geneva Press, 2013.

Presbyterians have never quite figured out what to do with The Book of Confessions. We take vows to be instructed, led and guided by it, and to receive and adopt its essential tenets, but we are never sure how to do that. We add confessions to it but are uncertain what effect that will have. The Book of Order reminds us that in our confessions we declare to ourselves and to the world who and what we are, what we believe, and what we resolve to do, but if we are honest we know that our confessions are only minor influences on our beliefs, actions, and witness.

There is no shortage of good books to help us, but only a few of us have read them. So, here is one more, but one that focuses more on the spirituality of The Book of Confessions (BOC) than on its historical or theological character. David Johnson, professor of church history and Christian spirituality at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has written a brief book that examines the Christian spiritual life using The Book of Confessions as a guide. It is less a book about the confessions than one about how the life of faith develops and matures, and how the BOC is a help in our spiritual growth.

Following introductory chapters on the vocabulary of faith, the nature of the spiritual life, and the importance of the deep tradition for spirituality, the heart of Trust in God is shaped by the foundations of the Christian life – Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Cor. 13:13). Each brief chapter is followed by “questions for comprehension and self-exploration,” making the book ideal for study by church sessions and by youth and adult study groups.

Johnson writes that his book is “an invitation to learn that Reformed Christianity is not simply a historical tradition or a theological orientation, but a way of life.” He adds that “this way of life once transformed the world. It has the power to do so again.” What makes Johnson’s book so important for Presbyterian Reformed Christians is the revelation that one of our best resources for this way of life has been right under our noses for 50 years!

Webinar: The Pastor's Role in Growing Generous Hearts

Our friends at the Barnabas Foundation invite you to a free webinar on Thursday, October 13 from 12 – 1 p.m. ET. Rebekah Basinger will offer a fresh look at church giving trends and discuss strategies for 1) overcoming reluctance to talk about money in church, 2) asking for money in ways that grow givers’ heart, and 3) using data to encourage and celebrate generous giving by church members. Basinger, co-author of Growing Givers' Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, serves on the board of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.

Featured Resource: Stewardship Resource Center

The Presbyterian Foundation is your partner for congregational stewardship. We’ve been helping Presbyterian churches since 1799 to raise and steward the funds they need for the mission God calls them to do. This site is your starting point for training, discussion, tools and resources, and ongoing support as you work to build a culture of generous giving in your congregation.

Stewardship Resource Center