Alan Knox

  • Internet Ministry: What Is It?

    A couple of months ago, I was asked to write a post about Internet ministry. Since I was preparing to leave for Ethiopia, I said that I would write the post after I returned. As I was studying and thinking about the topic, my post turned into a series of posts.

    In this first post, I want to define what I mean by the term Internet ministry. Now, to be completely honest, this is my definition. While my definition may be similar to others, I wanted to define the phrase in a way that expresses what I think about ministry itself. So, I’ll begin my definition with the term “ministry.”

    As many, many scholars have pointed out, the English term ministry comes from the same Greek term as the English term service. “Ministry” is “service” and “service” is “ministry.” In the New Testament, there is not difference. So, in my definition there is no difference either. “Internet ministry” is “Internet service.”

    But serving whom? In Scripture, service is also directed toward other people. While it may be beneficial to do something that benefits only yourself, this is not service. For example, if I write a book, but do not show it to anyone, it is not an act of service. It only because a possible act of service when I then share that book with others. So, “ministry” or “service” is directed toward others and interacts with others in some way.

    Thus, “Internet ministry” is “internet service directed toward and interacting with other people.”

    Now, what about the “Internet” part of the phrase “Internet ministry?” For this series, I will include any technology, app, or function that uses the Internet as “Internet.” That may seem obvious, but this means that both email and cell phone apps could be included in the phrase “Internet ministry.”

    On the other hand, simply having a computer program does not mean that I would include that program in the phrase “Internet.” For example, I often use BibleWorks, but I would not include that software package in the term Internet.

    There is at least one more statement that needs to be made about “Internet ministry.” I’m writing this from the perspective of a child of God – from someone who desires to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ. As such, my intentions in serving others is so that those other people will be drawn to the love of God and begin following him as well. In other words, I want to see people grow in maturity toward Jesus Christ as the ultimate goal.

    So, I could give a hungry person food as an act of service. But as a child of God, I also give them that food to demonstrate the love of God and to attract them to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This idea is not found in the terms ministry or service but should always be found in the life and actions of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    Thus, as a Christian, my idea of “Internet ministry” must include the idea of helping someone grow in their understanding of God and in maturity in Christ.

    So, “Internet ministry” is the use of online services, apps, functions, and technologies in order to serve people with the intention of helping those people grow in maturity towards Christ.

  • How to Be an Example to Others

    In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul reminds the Christians in Thessalonika about the time that he spent with them. Paul probably only spent a few weeks with the Thessalonian believers. However, it seems that he made the most of that time.

    This is what Paul says:

    For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved--so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last! But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you--I, Paul, again and again--but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2 ESV)

    What can we learn from Paul’s example:

    1: Continue making disciples in spite of difficulties.

    2: Seek to please God, not people.

    3: Do not try to persuade people by your rhetoric or your method of teaching or your arguments.

    4: Do not make demands on people, even if you think you may have the right.

    5: Gently care for people.

    6: Share your life with people, not just your words.

    7: Work hard serving people and serving with people.

    8: Continually encourage people to walk with Christ.

    9: Give God all the glory when people grow in maturity.

    I don’t know about you, but I think I still have a long way to go before I am following Paul’s example. While I can see where my life and discipleship has matured in some of these areas over the last few years, I can also see where I have much more need for growth.

    Primarily, I think the first item is one of the toughest for me. Paul suffered greatly at Philippi – he was imprisoned. Yet, he continued to make disciples. He did not let the difficulties distract him from his purpose.

    I tend to be distracted much more easily. If something goes wrong or if life gets difficult, I tend to withdraw and forget or ignore the fact that I am supposed to be making disciples. Sometimes, I let my circumstances dictate my level of obedience. I can learn from Paul here. I can learn to trust God and follow the Spirit in spite of my circumstances, allowing him to strengthen me.

    What about you? Have you seen growth as a disciple-maker in your life? In what area or areas do you still need to grow?

  • Do Elders Manage or Care for the Church?

    When Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, he either left a letter with him or sent a letter to him in order to help his young apostolic coworker (1 Timothy). In part of that letter, Paul wrote to help his friend understand who should be recognized (or appointed) as elders among the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

    In this section, Paul describes what kind of person should be an elder. There are many different descriptions within this short passage. But, for this post, I want to focus on one sentence (in two verses):

    He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5 ESV)

    This passage is often presented as an indication that elders are “managers” over the church. However, the verbs used indicate something different.

    To begin with, there are two important verbs used in this passage: “manage” (in vs. 4 & 5) and “care for” (in vs. 5).

    First, the verb translated “manage” comes from the Greek verb προΐστημι (prohistemi). This verb has a wide range of meanings, including “be over,” “superintend,” and “managed” and also “aid,” “care for,” and “give attention to.” So, as the ESV translates it above, this verb can definitely mean “manage.”

    In the passage above, the verb προΐστημι (prohistemi – “manage”) demonstrates the relationship between the elders and their families, especially their children. Again, in that context, “manage” would work.

    Next, the verb translated “care for” comes from the Greek verb ἐπιμελέομαι (epimeleomai). Unlike the verb above, this verb has a much more narrow range of meaning: “to take care of a person or thing.” This verb cannot mean “manage.”

    The verb ἐπιμελέομαι (epimeleomai – “take care of”) is only used in one other passage in the New Testament – in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan:

    He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” (Luke 10:34-35 ESV)

    It’s clear from the context above what “take care of” means. It means “to render aid” or “offer support”… it does not mean “manage.”

    Now, remember, Paul is making a comparison. He’s comparing a person’s relationship to their family and suggesting that the familiar relationship will be an indication of their relationship with the church. Paul describes the familial relationship with a verb that could mean either “manage” or “care for.” But, he describes the church relationship with a verb that could only mean “care for.”

    Regardless of what Paul is saying about the elders’ relationship with their family, he is definitely not saying that the elders are to “manage” the church. Instead, he is saying that elders are to “care for” the church, much like the “good samaritan” took care of the wounded traveler.

    By the way, there is another Greek verb that falls within the same semantic domain (meaning) as the verb “care for” (ἐπιμελέομαιepimeleomai). Which verb is that? The verb that is usually translated “shepherd,” which is also often used to describe elders.

    [I wrote a similar post about 3 1/2 years ago called "Manage his own household?" However, the Greek fonts became corrupted during a database upgrade, so I decided to rewrite the post here.]

  • Why Do We Often Respond Differently to Jesus?

    One day, a friend of ours asked about dealing with a brother or sister in Christ who seemed completely apathetic to following Jesus. That led to a good discussion and some good advice from others, but it also led to a good discussion between my wife Margaret and myself.

    As Margaret and I were talking about this subject, I remembered something that I had noticed earlier. When Jesus talked about dealing with a brother or sister who “sins against you,” those listening to him responded differently to the way that people today often respond to that same teaching.

    What am I talking about? Well, start with this familiar passage:

    If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

    Upon hearing or studying this passage, I’ve heard people respond with many questions, such as:

    * Is this only for when a person sins directly again you, or is it also for someone who sins in general?

    * Who should the one or two others be?

    * What does it mean to “tell it to the church”? Who tells and when?

    * What does it mean to treat the person “as a Gentile and a tax collector”?

    * What does it mean to bind and loose?

    * When Jesus says “where two or three are gathered,” is he only talking about “church discipline” or is he defining the church?

    But, if we keep reading, we find that Jesus’ first audience responded quite differently:

    Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

    Peter recognized something that we often miss: Jesus’ statements were about relationships. When faced with the potential of breaking a relationship, most people will ask for forgiveness (even if they don’t really mean it). Peter recognized this, and wondered how many times he would have to forgive this brother who continued to sin against him.

    How did Jesus respond? Keep on going to them, and keep on forgiving them.

    I think there are other examples, too. But, to me, this is an obvious example of Jesus’ listeners responding to him differently than we often respond to him. Perhaps their focus (and Jesus’ focus) was different than our focus as well.

  • About Alan Knox

    Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.

    He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.

    Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.