Jeff Iorg Blog
Jul 21 2015
One of the casualties of the loss of discipleship focus in many churches is the absence of an intentional stewardship development strategy. Some pastors are afraid to “talk about money” in church (a ridiculous cop-out) and others over-spiritualize church finances (expecting money to magically materialize when it’s needed). Wise leaders implement intentional strategies to develop stewards – helping people disciple their wealth (all of it, not just the part they give away).
Developing stewards is a favorite theme for me. I was fortunate to be trained as a young adult in a church that did a good job with this facet of disciple-making. One of the early lessons I learned related to giving was “the tithe is the baseline and grace givers exceed the tithe.” We took that lesson to heart and have given away more than ten percent of our income for more than 35 years. As a result, we have experienced God’s supernatural provision and enjoyed his financial protection in tangible ways.
Over the years, some younger Christians have challenged me when I have taught the afore-mentioned basic conviction. They claim the tithe is passé, and grace giving frees us to give whatever amount God directs. In one sense, I agree. The tithe is legalistic – and Christians are free from legalistic ritual. But in another sense, I disagree. In the New Testament, the law was fulfilled (filled full and exceeded) – not fulfilled (abolished and ignored).
Three examples. Jesus said the law forbade adultery – but he forbade lustful thoughts. Jesus said the law forbade murder – but he forbade vengeful plotting. Jesus affirmed God required a sacrifice for sin to be forgiven – and then offered himself as the consummate sacrifice. Jesus taught legalism was overwhelmed by grace – its standards exceeded by grace-living in every way.
So, if you claim the tithe is passé – and by that you mean we should all give more than a tithe, I agree! But if you use the claim to excuse your selfishness – giving less than even a legalist would give – I disagree.
American Christians currently give – by multiple survey reports – between 2.5 and 3.0% of their income to kingdom causes. Any way you cut those numbers, we are a selfish, greedy people. May God give church leaders courage to re-establish stewardship training as part of their disciple-making ministry. May God give us faith to trust him as we learn to give away more and more of the resources he has generously provided.
A Timely Book For You
Jul 15 2015
Several faculty members and a few other guests have joined me in creating an important new book called “Ministry in the New Marriage Culture.” The book will be released soon but you can pre-order it now at www.lifeway.com or www.amazon.com. Since the Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, the book is needed more than ever.
Here is an excerpt:
“This book is about ministry in the new marriage culture. It’s not about political activism to oppose same sex marriage, moral foundations for biblical marriage, or philosophical reasons for traditional marriage. We agree those subjects are important and demand clear articulation in every appropriate venue – but just not here. We are moving on to the next big issue – responding to the ministry needs the re-definition of marriage is thrusting upon us. This book focuses on how to minister in the new marriage culture, while upholding biblical convictions about gender, marriage, and sexuality. We will consider some of the biblical and theological support for ministering in this kind of cultural milieu – and there are rich resources available. But even in those chapters, the focus will be on ministering in the new marriage culture - not defining or opposing same-sex marriage from Scripture.
Similarly, when we describe various ministerial approaches for specific age groups or issues, the focus remains the same. We recognize, for example, how unwise it is for children to be adopted or otherwise grow up in same-sex marriage households – but they are there and powerless to change their situation. We do not debate whether this is a healthy family arrangement (we know it is not). Instead, our focus is on ministering to people who are impacted by these arrangements – children, their friends, their parents, their grandparents, etc.
Same-sex marriage impacts not only the couple in the union, but their extended family and community members who must adjust to and respond to their marital choice. The focus throughout this book – whether in biblical, theological, or applied sections – is on answering the question “now what?” and addressing the ministry needs created by this dramatic cultural shift in defining marriage.”
And So It Begins
Jul 10 2015
Nathan Collier and his “wives” – Vicki and Christine – want to get married. Actually, Nathan and Vicki are already legally married but they live in a polygamous relationship with Christine. They recently went to the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, Montana to apply for a marriage license under the Marriage Equality Act to become a legal three-some. After some consideration, they were denied by county officials. They then appealed to the Montana Attorney General. They were similarly denied.
After being denied, Nathan said, “All we want is legal legitimacy. We aren’t asking anybody for anything else. We just want to give our marriage and our family the legitimacy that it deserves.” Sounds familiar!
The Colliers are making the same arguments the LGBT community made in their quest to redefine marriage. We will now see if President Obama can evolve on polygamous marriage and the Supreme Court can mysteriously find “equal dignity” for them in the Constitution. Failure to do so would be the height of ethical and legal hypocrisy. Failure to now recognize polygamous marriage will reveal the supposedly legal basis for permitting same-sex marriage as the politically-correct sham it has always been.
I have resisted every re-definition of marriage and continue to advocate for marriage between one man and one woman as best for the people involved and our society as a whole. While polygamous marriage is an unhealthy model (which is why is has long been outlawed), there is no legitimate legal objection that can be raised if the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind their recent decision is consistently applied.
My hope is our President, Legislators, and Judges will reverse course and re-affirm the traditional definition of marriage. If not, when the Colliers have their day in court, marriage will continue to devolve until it dissolves as the foundation for healthy families and a stable society.
Ministry in the New Marriage Culture
Jul 06 2015
About two years ago, Golden Gate Seminary sponsored a conference entitled “Ministry in the New Marriage Culture.” Since we have been dealing with same-sex marriage as a daily reality for more than 10 years in the Bay Area, we thought our faculty had some perspective to offer on this issue. The conference attracted a standing-room-only crowd.
Dr. Ben Skaug, our Vice President for Institutional Advancement suggested we expand the conference into a book by the same title. Over the past year, several faculty members and a few other guests have contributed chapters and I have served as the general editor. The book will be released soon. You can pre-order the book at www.lifeway.com or www.amazon.com. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriage is legal in the United States, the book is needed more than ever. Here is an excerpt:
“This book rests on the conviction same-sex marriage is wrong – on every level, in every way - but also acknowledges it is a growing cultural reality demanding a ministry response from Christian leaders and churches. Orthodox Christian leaders have clearly articulated our moral position and engaged in political activism opposing this movement, but the culture changed anyway. We are now, like it or not, in a new marriage culture. The question this book attempts to answer is simple, “Now what?”
Same-sex marriage is here – and there’s ample evidence it’s here to stay. Every writer who contributed to this book agrees same-sex marriage is wrong. Every writer agrees the biblical model for marriage is one man joined with one woman for life. Nothing in this book contradicts or softens those convictions. Up until now, communicating those standards and advocating for traditional marriage has been the Church’s primary message. We are not minimizing or denying the importance of those efforts. We are not advocating political activism or legal action to preserve traditional marriage be stopped. We are, however, insisting the Church accept the reality of our present situation and address ministry issues emerging from this cultural change.
If same-sex marriage is really as bad for our culture as we claim – and it is – then the negative fallout will soon show up on our ministry doorsteps. Broken families, disillusioned parents, confused children, and disheartened believers who do not know how to relate to their child, parent, friend, or colleague will turn to us for help. This book is a first, and we admit limited attempt, to provide resources for answering the “now what” questions people are asking or soon will be asking ministry leaders.”