March 16, 2015 — by Sarah Singleton

Unlearning Our Natural Independence

Today on the ECO blog, we are grateful to hear from Sara Singleton, the founding director of ELI, Elder Leadership Institute: a church leadership training program in the Reformed tradition. ELI develops and supports spiritual leadership for the church by training ruling elders (members of Session) together with their teaching elder (pastor).

Most of my Christian life has been remedial. Since the Fall, perhaps that’s true in some sense for all of us. There’s a lot that comes naturally that must be unlearned: simple things that stem from our inherited and inherent sin, as well as our living in a broken world. For example, take the common measure that is used for success. Deep in our bones, how many of us feel that success involves a modicum of recognition from others, some degree of comfort, a measure of financial security and a sense of personal satisfaction? But how did Jesus measure success? By doing His Father’s will. Period. In fact, Jesus said that he could do nothing by Himself, but only what he saw His Father doing (Jn 5:19). I don’t think for a second that Jesus couldn’t think about his mission, open his mouth to speak, or implement a plan that involved his disciples. It’s just that Jesus wouldn’t do anything apart from His Father’s will and the Spirit’s power. He could do nothing by Himself, otherwise, He wasn’t fully God: the eternal, unchanging, omnipresent God who is in perfect fellowship within the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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March 9, 2015 — by Dr. Laura Smit

Baptized in the Holy Spirit

How do I know whether or not i've received the Holy Spirit? That question troubled me a lot when I was young. Many of my junior high classmates were involved in the charismatic movement, and they had stories about signs and wonders that made me question whether my own experience of faith was really complete. After all, the New Testament often talks about baptism in the Holy Spirit as a specific event.

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March 5, 2015 — by Hannah Parmelee

Young Adult Evangelism & Discipleship

When I first started working with college students, ten years ago, I thought I needed to be “professionally cool.”  I knew from past experience that I wasn’t the regular “cool.”  I didn’t have the “it” my college or youth ministers had that made students flock to them.  So, fresh out of grad school and eager to impress, I tried to have all the answers, look the part of a professional, and draw students to me with my wisdom.  As you can guess, this approach failed miserably.

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March 2, 2015 — by Mark Patterson

Holding A Doctrine To Be True Vs. Living A True Doctrine

There is a profound difference between holding a doctrine to be true and living a true doctrine. We Presbyterians are, rightly so, rigorous in our Trinitarian understanding of God. We hold this doctrine to be essentially and vitally true. Yet we must acknowledge that sometimes our actual living of this doctrine is arguably more “binitarian” than Trinitarian. Regardless of word, we might declare our Trinitarian affirmations look more like “FATHER! SON! and Holy Spirit.” 

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February 26, 2015 — by Sarah Arnoult

Campus Ministry: Developing Student Leaders

Before my role as assistant to the Synod Executive at ECO, I spent three years as a missionary to college students on the Central Coast of California with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. In my short years working with this group of people I learned a lot (and failed a lot) about how to reach the 19.5 million college students that are in universities across the nation. If you are reading that number and thinking “Wow, that’s a ton of people!” and also thinking “We need to reach those students!!” let me offer you a few pointers that I learned during my time on campus.

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February 19, 2015 — by Barry Gray

Setting The Four Pillars Of The Church In Their Proper Order

Matthew tells us in 16:16 that God has built his Church on the rock of Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Paul said, in Ephesians 2:20 that it is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the Chief Cornerstone.” And he goes on to explain in chapter 4:11-12: “It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service (Italics mine), so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

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February 12, 2015 — by Anthony Ceder

Can I Have A Do-Over?

I recently saw the movie, “American Sniper” and I really enjoyed it. I am only bringing up Chris Kyle (the Navy SEAL upon whom the movie is based), not to argue for or against the righteousness of his life and vocation, but because I saw a little of myself in him. Specifically, I could relate to how difficult it was for him to be devoted to his family and a vocation he was 100% passion about. In the movie, Kyle was depicted as a man who loved his wife and children but was also frequently torn by how much he felt “needed” by his fellow soldiers. I have nothing critical to say about Kyle. I truly appreciate his service to our country. I don’t know if our military “needed” him as much as he thought they did, but when I watched him leave his family multiple times in tough moments to go back to Iraq to meet a “need”, I was reminded of my youth ministry days.

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February 5, 2015 — by Jim Gribnitz

Pastors & Parents: Shepherding The Next Generation Together

The relationship between parents and their church's youth ministry can be an interesting one. We often say that parents are primary. This is very true, but the church also plays a vital role in shaping the next generation. In our attempt to get the relationship between youth parents and youth pastors in sync, I have seen two extremes in my 15+ years of nextgen ministry...

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February 1, 2015 — by Rod Pinder

"You Didn't Get It Here"

"Amen!" The sound rang out from the back of the sanctuary when the preacher made a particularly salient point. Horrified ushers hurried to the scene of the crime and gently but firmly informed the visiting perpetrator, “We don’t do that sort of thing here. Please listen quietly during the sermon.”

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