Book review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

The Freedom of Self–Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy

Title The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy
Author Timothy Keller
Pages 48
Publisher 10Publishing
Year 2012
ISBN 978 1 906173 41 8

There are two kinds of people in this world–those who think too much of themselves, and those who think too little.

This very short book (a pamphlet, really) offers a third alternative. Keller suggests that our problem is not that we have too much self-esteem or too little self-esteem: our problem is that we think about ourselves too much.

The book is essentially an exposition on how Paul sees himself in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7. It’s short enough that it can be quoted in full:

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Paul’s answer to this problem is to not focus on what others think of him, or even what he thinks of himself, but rather what God thinks of him. After all, God’s judgement is the only one that matters.

This is profound. Our identity has now moved from being subjective (the opinions of others or even ourselves) to being objective (as belonging to Christ). I certainly found this insight very helpful in how I view myself.

The book is short–you can easily finish it in one sitting. And it’s cheap (Kindle and iBook versions are available). There’s no reason not to get it.

If vanilla is brown, why is vanilla icecream white?

Vanilla extract

A model for administering independent churches: how it works

This is the second in a series of posts on a model for administering independent churches.

My previous post described the problem that independent churches face in their governance structures. Briefly, we want financial management, etc., to be the responsibility of deacons, but under many current structures for administering churches, the responsibility must be taken up by the elders.

Now I want to offer up a model that may be able to provide a solution. It is summarised in the following diagram:

Diagram showing two organisational structures, one (the church) headed by the elders and another (the service company) headed by the deacons

The main features of this model are:

  1. The “church association” is split up into two separate organisations: the “church” and the “service company”.

  2. The “church” is an unincorporated association headed by the elders. All ministry of the Word and prayer is done through the unincorporated association. As an unincorporated association is not a legal entity, it cannot hold property or employ staff. It does not have any finances that need to be managed.

  3. The “service company” is a legal entity headed by the deacons. The legal entity can be a company, an incorporated association or perhaps a trust. The service company holds all property, employs staff and handles all the finances.

  4. The relationship between the “church” and the “service company” is driven by two things:

    • Membership in the two organisations are stapled. The membership criteria within each organisation is worded so that people can only be members of both organisations at the same time.

    • The membership in the service company is divided into multiple classes. This allows the elders to retain influence over the service company through special voting rights, etc, available to certain classes of members.

    • There is a service agreement between the “church” and the “service company”. The service company would essentially agree to supply property for use by the church, second staff to work for the church, take on any liabilities of the church, etc.

I think this would achieve what we want in that:

  • the elders have responsibility over the ministry of the Word and prayer, and retains influence over the service company if things go bad; and
  • the deacons have responsibility over finance and administration through the service company

Future posts will elaborate on some of the details.

Are there any issues with this model that you can think of?

A model for administering independent churches: some preliminaries

This is the first in a series of posts on a model for administering independent churches.

Before we go on describing what the model is like, I will need to explain what I mean by an independent church, and why a different model may be useful.

What is an independent church?

By independent church I mean a church association whereby its governance structure is not prescribed.

Most churches in Australia are part of a denomination of some form, which in most cases prescribe ways in which the church is to be administered. For example, most denominations would require churches to be essentially unincorporated associations. Any property needed by the church will be held by some central legal entity (e.g. a property trust). The denomination would then prescribe a governance structure on the church (usually through a template constitution).

Obviously, churches which are not independent can’t simply adopt the model described in my later musings. Nevertheless, I hope that the model may still provide useful insights.

I will assume that independent churches will be organised in a way that is similar to the “elder-deacon model”. Essentially, the governance of the church involves two groups of people:

  • The elders, who leads the church and mainly deal with ministry of the Word and prayer.
  • The deacons, who are the administrators of the church and deals with administration matters, including finance.

Generally the elders would be seen as organisationally above the deacons within a church association’s governance structure.

Why a new model may be useful

Note that I am not a lawyer, and this section should not be taken as legal advice.

In Australia, the ultimate responsibility for financial management of an organisation (whether it be a company, an incorporated association and even an unincorporated association) usually rests with the organisation’s management committee. For a company, this management committee is usually called the board of directors. For other types of organisations, the management committee may be called various things.

For church associations, I imagine that the elders would be seen as the management committee in this sense. This means that it would the elders rather than the deacons who would be ultimately responsible for the church’s finances, even though we would normally think that these things are the responsibility of the deacons. The fact that deacons do most of the day-to-day work in relation to finance is not likely to absolve the responsibility of the elders as the lead committee of the church association.

We end up with a rather uncomfortable situation where there is a difference between how we want the governance responsibilities to be divided between elders and deacons, and how the governance responsibilities must be divided. Can we develop a church administration model where we can achieve both? My humble suggestion begins in the next post.

A model for administering independent churches

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. That’s because I had, until now, nothing much useful to say. (Plus the fact I was writing reports and Board papers at work all the time, which diminished my enthusiasm for writing.)

Anyway, I’ve been mulling over the idea of a model for administering independent churches for some time, and it’s now a good idea to write it down.

So, over the next little while, I hope to have a series of posts on this topic. It will be organised as follows:

  1. Some preliminaries
  2. How the model works

Stay tuned.

Wrote this on an iPad

I wrote this on an iPad using a 3G connection.

Channel 9 revives The Block; property bubble imminent

Channel 9 has recently announced that The Block, the renovation reality television show, will be back for 2010.

Surely this is a sign that we may now be in a property bubble.

Conversations with Mormonism

About half an hour ago I had a fascinating and pleasant conversation with two Mormons, who were apparently visiting someone from their church. I think we had about a 10 minute conversation about our beliefs. A few dot points from things that struck me:

  • We use the same jargon to mean different things. To them, “grace” means something that Jesus does to enable people to get baptised and live a holy life. To me, “grace” just means undeserved gift.
  • It is quite clear that they have a gospel++ theology. They emphasised that they are calling on people to believe Jesus, get baptised and live a good life. I explained how thankful and relieved I was that I contributed absolutely nothing to my salvation
  • There was a big emphasis on water baptism as a prerequisite to salvation. They placed so much emphasis on the word “water” in John 3:5 that they seemed to have completely missed the point that one can’t be “born again” (same verse, elsewhere in John 3) by yourself.
  • We had a brief conversation about the various English Bible translations. What’s interesting is that they mentioned that they have interlinear Bibles with the literal translations “placed there by the Church”. I haven’t heard a Bible translator place so much authority on his or her translation, as opposed to the authority of the Scriptures in its original language (see paragraph 1 of the AFES Doctrinal Basis)

Sadly, all of us were getting bitten by flying insects that we had to end the conversation early.

Qantas Club Paper Planes Commercial

You may have noticed recent television commercials from Qantas, featuring the paper planes motif.

One that caught my eye is this one, featuring the Qantas Club.

I have been to the Qantas Club a few times, courtesy of my employer. What I am wondering is at what times of the day/week/year, or at which airport(s), is the Qantas Club as serene as the one depicted.

4 pages

Apparently you can distil anything into 4 pages or less.