Yesterday morning I had something happen that has never happened to me before in 16 years of preaching almost every Sunday: I woke up and I had lost my voice.
My sermon was ready, so I went to church hoping tea would fix it, but it didn’t. I took a Covid test, which came back negative, so I prepared to preach the first service, but during worship I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it. So, I went up on stage and asked our worship pastor, Michael, to preach my sermon from my notes.
My notes are in a manuscript format; I like to write out every word I’m going to say. I don’t read my notes, but writing out every word helps me process my thoughts and plan my message.
There are other benefits to manuscripting, some of which I’ve written about more here: Speaking Tips: Manuscript, but Don’t Read. For example, I know that 4000 words in a Pages document equates to about 30 minutes, so manuscripting helps me keep my sermon the right length.
Another benefit of manuscripting is that lately I have been re-preaching some of my older sermons which had lost or damaged recordings. For the sake of our radio show, and so we can have complete series archives, I have been reproaching these sermons, and having a manuscript makes it easy to pull up my notes and re-preach an old sermon without much preparation.
If I get asked to guest speak, having a manuscript of my past messages makes it easy to create a new sermon based on something I’ve shared before. Or when people request a text version of a particular teaching, and it is easy to send them my manuscript.
Furthermore, I am currently beginning the process of turning some of my sermon series into books. Having manuscripts of my messages makes that process much easier.
Certainly there are downsides or detriments to manuscript preaching, like when someone reads their notes in the pulpit and fails to make eye contact and connect with their listeners, or when someone is so dependent on their notes that they leave no room for the Holy Spirit to inspire prophetic ad libs. See my previous article:
But yesterday I realized one more benefit of manuscripting my sermons: Mike, our worship pastor was able to preach my sermon without any preparation, and by the second and third services, he was ad libbing and making it his own.
At our Expositors Collective training weekends, Mike usually teaches the module on Christ-Centered Preaching, which is a topic near and dear to both his heart and mine, so it seemed like a good topic to discuss with him on an episode of the Theology for the People Podcast.
In this episode we discuss Christ-Centered hermeneutics, first by defining “hermeneutics,” then by explaining the case for Christ-Centered hermeneutics and seeking answer the question: “Is it a stretch to say that everything in the Bible points to Jesus?”
This is the first part of a two-part series on this topic, so stay tuned for next week’s episode, in which we will respond to some common objections to Christ-Centered hermeneutics.
Christ-Centered Hermeneutics – Part 1: Is it a stretch to say that everything in the Bible points to Jesus? – with Mike Neglia –
Theology for the People
Mike Neglia, lead pastor of Calvary Cork in Cork, Ireland joins the podcast this week to talk about Christ-centered hermeneutics: the idea that the Bible is a book about Jesus, and therefore everything in Scripture ultimately points to Jesus is some way.
What are "hermeneutics" and is it really accurate to view the Bible in this way? Furthermore, we will discuss if this way of looking at the Bible is actually helpful to the reader of the Bible or the listener of a sermon.
Mike and Nick are both on the steering committee of Expositors Collective, a group that seeks to collaborate in order to raise up the next generation of expository preachers and teachers of God's Word, and Mike is the host of the Expositors Collective Podcast, which has an incredible line-up of guests, with interviews to help you grow in your private study and your public proclamation of God's Word.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Christ-Centered Preaching online course
Center-Church (Timothy Keller)
Preaching (Timothy Keller)
Preaching to a Post-Everything World (Zack Eswine)
Earlier this month I traveled to London with my wife and 3 of our kids for my graduation ceremony from London School of Theology (University of Middlesex).
I had already graduated last November with a Master of Arts in Integrative Theology, but the ceremony was postponed until now because of the pandemic. As a result, it was a small ceremony, with most of the graduates not attending in person.
This is my second degree that I’ve done in the British system; I got my BA in Theology years ago from the University of Gloucestershire in the west of England.
London School of Theology (LST) is the largest non-denominational evangelical divinity school in Europe, and there were students from all over Europe and the world in my masters program, including several from the United States.
Sometimes people ask me why I chose to study in the UK rather than in the US. Part of the reason is because I began my theological studies while I was living in Hungary, and the UK was closer than the US. However, I chose to go back to school in the UK for my masters primarily because of cost, the ability to study fully online, and quality of education.
I currently have three American friends who are pursuing post-graduate degrees in the UK, one at LST, another in Oxford, and the other in Birmingham. I would recommend that more Americans consider studying theology in the United Kingdom for a few key reasons:
No Separation of Church & State = Lower Cost
Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom does not have “separation of church and state.” So whereas there might be more practicing Christians in the United States, on paper the US is a more secular state. The UK has a state church, with ties between the government and that church, e.g. the role of the monarch as the head of the church and the presence of Anglican bishops in the House of Lords. What this all amounts to is that the UK is, at least on paper, an officially Christian nation, whereas the United States is an officially secular nation.
One of the results of the separation of church and state in the United States is that public universities cannot have theological seminaries; at best they can have courses on subjects like “comparative religions.” For this reason, all theological seminaries in the United States are private schools, or part of private universities, which means no government funding, and higher cost for the student.
Since the United Kingdom does not having a separation of church and state, many public universities (e.g. Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham) have theological colleges (AKA departments), which amounts to a lower cost for the student. Many of these schools are highly respected, such as Nottingham, which has a great program in systematic theology, and LST which also has a great reputation around the world.
Furthermore, I was able to register for LST as a Hungarian citizen before the UK left the EU, which meant I qualified for subsidies as a “domestic student.” I’m not sure how or if things have changed for European students now as a result of Brexit.
British Education & British Evangelicalism
Perhaps I am biased, but I prefer the British higher education system. In undergraduate studies, they do not require “prerequisites” like American schools do, which means that the focus of your entire undergrad program is in your chosen field of study. In other words, if you study theology in England, you won’t have to take any math classes. Furthermore, the British system tends to have fewer homework assignments, and most of the assignments are essay writing. Undergrad students often write a dissertation research project to get their BA.
British evangelicalism has held onto the key facets of evangelical (meaning: gospel-focused) beliefs, such as the primacy and inerrancy of Scripture and the need for people to be born again by grace through faith, in a way that has avoided much of the politicalization of American evangelicalism. LST, for example, was founded by evangelical pastor John Stott, and is the alma mater of well-known Bible teacher Alister Begg.
If you are considering a theological education, I’d recommend looking into some options in the UK. I’m glad I did.
Today marks 20 years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Those of us who are old enough to remember it can all remember where we were when it happened, but those who are younger have all felt its effects.
Personally, I remember that it was a Tuesday and I was working for Christy Sports in Golden, Colorado in the snowboard shop, and we had the day off to attend a seminar hosted at the Burton Snowboards Colorado headquarters in Denver, so I was parked behind the shop waiting for a colleague to meet me so we could drive down together. He was over an hour late. This was before most people had cell phones, so I just had to stand and wait for him. When he arrived, he told me what had happened. I remember the confusion of that day; at first, people assumed it was an accident, until it became clear it was an attack.
We went to Denver and instead of a seminar, we ended up watching the TV reports at the Burton headquarters. Downtown Denver was absolutely empty, as no one knew if there were going to be more attacks.
I went home, and my dad was there; he worked at the Denver Mint, and since that was a federal building, it was considered a high risk for attack.
At this point in September, I had just returned home from my first trip to Hungary, after which I felt called to move to Hungary, and was making plans to go there in January. I did end up moving to Hungary in January, and one of the ministries I worked in was a refugee camp.
The camp was in an abandoned Soviet military base which had been reopened in 2006 by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) to house refugees from the Bosnian war, and had then been kept open to house refugees from Kosovo. Around the time I came, there were still many refugees from former Yugoslavia, but quickly the camp filled with over 2000 Afghan refugees.
While working in this camp, I got to know my now wife, Rosemary, and together we saw many people from Afghanistan, Iran, Kosovo, and other muslim-majority countries become Christians. As these people came to Europe to escape the conflicts back home, many of them had the opportunity to read the New Testament and hear the gospel, and meet Christians, and attend a church for the first time in their lives – and God used His Word to change their hearts and their lives.
My heartfelt condolences go out to the grieving families whose lives were changed when over 2,997 people lost their lives on September 11. I pray that the Lord would be their comfort and that they would find in Jesus the hope of the resurrection and life everlasting.
May we also honor and thank the first responders and emergency workers who served that day and in the weeks following. May we pray for our medical workers today as well as they serve the hurting and sick in the midst of this current crisis.
Let us also be in prayer for those who served in the military over the past 20 years, and for the families of those who lost family members in service. And let us pray as well for the Afghan people and the Afghan Christians who are now suffering under Taliban rule today.
You can listened to the episode by clicking this link, or by listening in the embedded player below:
Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Roy Collins: Guidelines for Correctly Understanding & Faithfully Applying God's Word –
Theology for the People
Dr. Roy Collins (DMin) has served as a pastor, consultant, and professor of theology at Colorado Christian University, where he taught Biblical Interpretation. In this episode, Dr. Roy shares with us the key to unlocking the meaning of any given passage of the Bible, as well as a 5-step system of guidelines for how to exegete a given passage.
The books recommended in this episode by Dr. Collins are:
Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, by Duvall & Hays
The Gospel and Kingdom, by Graeme Goldsworthy
Dr. Collins leads a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM (Mountain Time) at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado.
Check out the Theology for the People blog site, and please leave a review on your podcast app if you've benefited from this content.
Kay Smith, the wife of pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, passed away last week. While Chuck was well known for his radio ministry, books, and leadership – Kay played a big role in what God did through Calvary Chapel and in the church as a whole in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
For example, it was Kay who had a heart for the hippies and would go and pray for them, broken-hearted over these lost youths filling the beaches and streets of Southern California in the 60’s, and urging Chuck to reach out to them.
Furthermore, Kay’s women’s ministry, Joyful Life, was very large and influential, and played a big role in popularizing “women’s ministry” and a certain type of women’s Bible study that is now considered common in many churches.
This week, Calvary Chapel published an article and a podcast featuring my wife, Rosemary, who is a member of the Women’s Task Team for Calvary Global Network.
You can listen to the podcast here, and I’ve copied the article below:
Today, on When She Leads, we are discussing the question: should a church have a women's ministry? Women's ministries come in all shapes and sizes and we'll discuss all the facets and how it can be effective and healthy. When She Leads is a podcast for women in ministry hosted by Brenda Leavenworth, Jenn Benham, Jody Ponce, Rosemary Cady, and Kelly Bell.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Instagram at @whensheleads
There is a growing controversy today with churches assessing whether or not to have a women’s ministry. Is it mandated in scripture, always beneficial, or not necessary at all? These are questions church leaders are asking. A large church in our town dropped their women’s ministry to promote community groups instead. I have friends whose churches only have an occasional women’s ministry event, and we have women who join our church because their old church did not offer a women’s ministry.
Women’s ministry can look different in each church. So first, let’s define it. The word “ministry” means “spiritual service.” Therefore, in a church, a women’s ministry would be where women go for spiritual, emotional, and social needs.
WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?
The Bible does not mandate that churches have a women’s ministry; scripture never explicitly introduces the idea. And while it does describe principles for ministry, the Bible stops short of giving us methods to accomplish it. This gives us the freedom to minister in ways that are effective for our time and culture.
It’s true; one cannot reasonably argue that scripture mandates we have a women’s ministry. However, I think we can conclude that women ought to be engaged in ministering to other women. Titus chapter 2 tells older women to “train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:4-5 NIV). Paul charged Titus to equip the older women in his church so that they might be ready to teach the younger women. The list of what to teach younger women regards their character and matters of the home. With this in mind, we look for the best way for women to learn God’s heart for these things by teaching them scripture and how to apply it to their lives. Furthermore, Ephesians 4:11-13 says that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the church “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature” (NIV). One integral way to bring about this maturity of faith is to teach women the Bible (cf. Romans 10:17).
There is no one model for how to minister to women, but many possibilities. It is imperative that a church show they care for women, which can occur in a variety of ways, but the key is spiritual health. From thriving Bible studies with hundreds of people to small prayer groups and everything in between, the women will grow in their faith if they are taught the Bible well.
Women express that they are encouraged in their faith from the fellowship they experience in a women’s ministry, finding the strength to go on in life despite the trials, realizing they do not walk this journey alone.
Other beneﬁts include:
· A safe space to share struggles and prayer requests, uniquely as a woman.
· Develop meaningful friendships.
• Spiritual growth.
• Other relationships in their lives are blessed by their maturing.
· Opportunities to serve and use spiritual gifts.
Women have shared private matters and gained wisdom from others in women’s groups that they never would’ve with men present.
A basic difficulty is simply that some women feel anxious gathering with groups of women. Even seeing the words “women’s fellowship” strikes fear in their hearts! A simple group introduction or invitation to pray out loud can send someone out the door, never to return. These are women I’ve met at my church. One woman at our church in Hungary was skeptical about coming, saying, “What, are you going to teach me how to wear a dress?” Ministry leaders can help such women if they realize that they come through the doors with fears, anxieties, and horrible past experiences. Women with similar proclivities will come to your meetings, wondering whether they can trust those around them this time.
Another difficulty arises when a women’s ministry becomes a church within a church. Suppose women can attend women’s ministry activities without ever attending church services. In that case, it could be a red flag to the ministry leader that the ministry has created a church of their own. Such an ascription of authority to the women leaders may usurp authority from the pastors of the church.
Those leading must be motivated by love, having a heart for women, and displaying a good character, not self-serving or self-promoting. Skills can be taught; a heart to serve has to develop from within. It has been said that “everything rises or falls on great leadership,” so having the right women in place is essential.
What if a Lead Pastor is not interested in having a Women’s Ministry? Prayer would be the best place to start in this situation, and possibly a meeting with the pastor to hear his heart on the matter and share yours. The Women’s Ministry must follow the Lead Pastor’s vision for the church and help serve the needs of the women within it.
What if the women’s ministry leaders are gossips, slanderers, spiritually immature, or are running a ministry where power and position are more valuable than understanding and obeying scripture? Sometimes, a pastor’s best course is to shut down an unhealthy ministry and re-launch it with a healthy vision and leaders to match. To establish a healthy ministry, leaders must be mature in doctrine, character, service to the women, and submission to their pastors and elders.
Although scripture doesn’t mandate Women’s ministry, it is beneficial if teaching the Bible is foundational and is done with mature leadership and healthy guidelines. The beneﬁts reaped are creating a community where spiritual growth flourishes, training takes place, spiritual gifts receive room for use, and the community provides support and encouragement in a loving environment with hearts oriented towards God.
Look for the next steps in our post on how to start a Women’s Ministry!
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Our most recent episode of “When She Leads,” a podcast for women in ministry, is a companion episode to this article. Listen in as our team discusses whether or not churches must have Women’s Ministries. Each month, we gather around the table to consider the complexities and realities of leading as a woman.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
This text has been used, particularly by the Roman Catholic Church to say that if a person commits suicide, they go directly to Hell – no passing Go, no collecting $200.
“Mortal Sins” and “Venial Sins”
Using these verses as justification, the Roman Catholic Church labels suicide a “mortal sin,” for which no atonement can be made, as opposed to “venial sins” which a person may be cleansed of through paying for them via suffering in purgatory.
First of all, the entire idea of mortal and venial sins goes contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, which states that there is only one unforgivable sin, which is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (click here for an explanation of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). Furthermore, it is only Jesus who atones for our sins, we cannot atone for any of our sins, and to claim that we can “pay” for our own sins through our sufferings is to negate and minimize the work of Jesus on the cross, and say that Jesus suffered and died in vain.
In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul uses the plural form of “you” – in other words, he is saying: “All y’all (together) are the temple of God.”
What’s important to remember about this passage, is that Paul the Apostle is writing to the Corinthian church about their church. Some in the church were harming and tearing apart the church with their divisive attitudes and actions, and Paul is giving them a stern warning that if anyone destroys the temple of God (the Church which He loves), God will take that personally and not let is slide.
Later in 1 Corinthians, in chapter 6, Paul once again speaks of the Temple of God in relation to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but there he does so in regard to the individual believer. This passage in 1 Corinthians 3, however, is not written to or about the individual believer, but to the church about the church. So the point of the passage is not about suicide at all, but it is a warning to those who would harm and tear apart the church with their words and actions.
When Christians Were Killing Themselves
Until the Edict of Milan, AKA the Edict of Tolleration was issued in 313 AD, Christianity’s status in the Roman Empire was that of religio illicita, an “illicit” or illegal religion (as opposed to Judaism, which held the status of religio licita). During this time, Christians throughout the Roman Empire experienced waves of persecution, usually dependent on the attitudes of local authorities, although there were times when persecution was the official policy of the entire empire – such as during the reigns of Nero and Diocletian. Christians also faced persecution outside the Roman Empire.
During this period, many Christians were martyred, and martyrs were highly regarded and respected as those who had been willing to pay the ultimate price for their faith. In fact, martyrdom was so highly regarded, that people began to seek it out and desire it, as a way of expressing their devotion to Jesus. Ignatius of Antioch, for example, wrote about his desire to die as a martyr.
But some people took it even further. Jerome writes about a young woman named Belsilla who flagellated herself so much that she died from her self-imposed injuries. Another woman, Agathonike, upon witnessing the execution of a bishop by burning, also threw herself onto the fire, declaring “this is the meal that has been prepared for me.” She died in the flames, even though she had not been arrested nor charged. There are other accounts of Christians volunteering to be martyred even though they were not even being sought by the authorities. 
The Donatists, who considered themselves particularly hard core and dedicated (and looked down on those they considered less-committed, even to the point of questioning their salvation), greatly desired to show their devotion by being martyred. Some Donatists even went to the point of simply killing themselves to show how spiritual they were, i.e. how much they were not attached to this life and how much they desired to depart this world and be with Christ.
The Response of the Church
Seeking martyrdom and committing suicide became such a big issue with the Donatists in particular that it threatened the credibility, and even the existence of the church in their area of North Africa.
Judaism had always considered suicide to be sinful, whereas in pagan Roman culture it was considered an acceptable way to exit this life, and was practiced mostly by the wealthy, in part because slaves were not allowed to commit suicide since their lives did not belong to them, but rather to their masters.
It was Augustine of Hippo, a native of North Africa himself, who took up the challenge of addressing this issue and clarifying Christian thinking on this subject. In his book ‘The City of God’, Augustine considered what the Bible has to say about suicide and weighed various arguments for and against suicide. His conclusion was that suicide is always wrong as it is a violation of the sixth commandment (“Thou shall not murder”), and is never justified even in extreme circumstances. This became the official position of the church. 
Just because 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 isn’t talking about suicide, it must be noted that suicide is clearly a sin and is never the answer.
This week’s episode of the Theology for the People podcast is a discussion I had with pastors Benjamin Morrison and Craig Babcock on the topic of hermeneutics and Biblical interpretation.
Hermeneutics is the method by which we interpret communication, particularly texts. Legal hermeneutics, for example, is the study of how laws, or the constitution for example, are to be understood and put into practice.
Biblical hermeneutics is all about how to correctly interpret the Bible, so that we can be doers of the Word, not hearers only.
It must be said that not all hermeneutics are equally valid. Some hermeneutics are better than others. Sometimes we even intentionally use a hermeneutics in order to properly interpret something, as we do with “Christ-centered hermeneutics” – in which we intentionally read all of Scripture as pointing to Jesus, which we do because Jesus himself told us that this was the proper way to read and interpret the Old Testament Scriptures (see Luke 24:44-48).
Other examples of good hermeneutics would be “biblical hermeneutics,” in which read the Bible understanding all of the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, meaning that each individual part of the Bible should be understood in light of what the rest of the Bible says. We might intentionally choose to read the gospels through a Jewish lens, seeking to put ourselves sin their shoes in order to understand the things that happened or were said.
Oftentimes, however, our hermeneutics are not intentional, and we may not be aware of them, and they do impact how we interpret and understand what the Bible says. How then can we become aware of the hermeneutics we’re unintentionally using so that we can determine if they are good or not?
In this episode we discuss this and other questions surrounding the topic of hermeneutics. You can listen here or in the embedded player below.
Hermeneutics: How Do We Correctly Interpret What the Bible Says? – with Benjamin Morrison & Craig Babcock –
Theology for the People
In this episode Nick Cady and special co-host Craig Babcock speak with Benjamin Morrison, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine and coordinator for City to City Ukraine, about the topic of hermeneutics: the interpretation of texts, particularly the Bible. Hermeneutics and biblical interpretation is the focus of Ben's masters studies at London School of Theology, Nick's alma mater.
What is hermeneutics, and why is it important? Can't we just read the Bible without having to worry about interpretation?
As Ben shows us, everyone who reads the Bible has a hermeneutics and we are all interpreters, the question is: are you a good and faithful interpreter of the biblical text? If, as Ben points out, not all hermeneutics are equally good, then how can we determine which ones are better than others and how do we identify our own hermeneutics in order to examine whether they are good or not? We discuss these questions in this episode.
Jon Markey and Michael Payne are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in the latest episode of the Theology for the People podcast, I sat down with them to talk about the theology of music.
Michael is the Worship Pastor at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado. Prior to coming to Longmont, he spent 21 years as a worship leader and missionary in Hungary, and prior to that he served in the US Marine Corps.
Jon is a pastor and missionary in Ternopil, Ukraine. He moved to Kiev, Ukraine with his family in the 1990’s, when he was 5 years old, and earned a masters degree from the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music.
We recently had the pleasure of having Jon and his family visit Longmont and lead worship at our church, and while he was here, I got to sit down with him and Mike to discuss what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the “song of creation,” and how it serves to counteract pagan origin narratives, as well as Jubal: the first human musician, mentioned in Genesis 4, as well as other practical discussions which have modern application.
Michael Payne and Jon Markey are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in this episode they talk with Nick about the theology of music. Listen in to this discussion of what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the "song of creation," Jubal, and practical discussions for today.
Check out Jon's ministry: Room for More music on YouTube and his church: Calvary Chapel Ternopil (Ukraine)
Check out Michael on Spotify: Michael Payne and you can watch him on the White Fields Community Church YouTube page.
The book mentioned in this episode is Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card
Visit the Theology for the People blog.
Recently we have had the pleasure of getting to spend some time with some of our missionary friends from Ukraine, who have visited our church here in Colorado.
This past Sunday I had the opportunity to sit down with pastor Benjamin Morrison from Svitlovodsk, Ukraine to talk about his life and ministry. Ben is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine, as well as the coordinator for City to City Ukraine and is part of the leadership of City to City Europe.
This turned out to be a great conversation in which we talked about how Ben came to be a missionary in Ukraine, what it’s like doing ministry in a post-communist context, and what “contextualization” means and how it works out in practice. We finished the conversation by sharing some practical advice for those who are seeking God’s leading and direction for how they can get involved in God’s global mission.