Tag Archives: Dick Woodward

A Covenant for Small Groups: Discovering Authentic Christianity

Ray Stedman, the California Bible teacher, who inspired Dick Woodward to write A Covenant for Small Groups.

Ray Stedman, the California Bible teacher, who inspired Dick Woodward to write A Covenant for Small Groups.

Dick Woodward, the late pastor emeritus for the local church I worship with, was once a youth director in a church pastored by Ray Stedman, at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California. This was back in the 1950s, when Ray Stedman, a popular Bible teacher and author at the time, mentored Dick Woodward, then a young man, fresh out of Bible college.

Stedman eventually would write a book, Body Life, that explained some of the great teachings that impacted Dick Woodward in those days. The thesis in Body Life is that the church needs to get back to practicing authentic Christianity, creating small fellowships of believers, who learn to care for one another, getting to know one another….really….as they study and seek to live out God’s Word together.

Fast forward to the 1980s, when Dick Woodward took these teachings with him to pastor the church I would eventually become a part of in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Williamsburg Community Chapel. Dick decided to distill the fundamentals of these teachings into a small booklet, A Covenant for Small Groups, now published by International Cooperating Ministries, that can be read in one evening. But this little booklet contains a lifetime of spiritual wisdom.

Since that time, the concept of small groups of believers, gathering together on a regular basis, to care for one another as they study God’s Word, has been the core foundation in our larger church fellowship, for over thirty years. An untold number of other churches and groups have adopted these same principles in their own fellowships. I would encourage every Christian to get and read the whole booklet, but please allow me to list out Dick’s eight fundamental commitments of a small group below, to whet your appetite.

By following these principles, a small group can create a safe place where the group members can get to know one another… really… as they study the Bible together. Living out these principles does not happen on “day one,” when you first meet together as a group. It takes time, and different people have different expectations as to what these specific commitments entail. But when you find such a group that is willing to embrace these eight commitments, it will help you and your group to discover authentic Christianity. Continue reading


Dick Woodward on BBN Radio This Week (Jan. 16-20)

Dick Woodward

Dick Woodward

The late, pastor emeritus of Williamsburg Community Chapel, Dick Woodward, is on the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN) this week, on their evening “Conference Pulpit” program, at 9pm EST (January 16-20).

Dick Woodward served as the pastor at my church in Williamsburg for many years, despite suffering from a degenerative spinal cord disease, that eventually left him as a quadriplegic. Woodward’s message series this week addresses the topic of suffering. Reverend Woodward died in 2014.

Last night’s message touched on the subject of the “prosperity doctrine,” which has been in the news lately, with respect to some controversy over the choices of some of the prayer leaders, who will be participating in the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies later this week.

The Bible Broadcasting Network is a nationwide, American radio ministry with some 30 full power stations and over 100 low power stations, in some 29 different states, with Internet streaming capabilities across the world. The nightly Conference Pulpit program features recordings of leading Bible teachers over the past 100 years. Theologically, BBN leans more towards promoting dispensational premillennialism in their teaching.

In the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, BBN operates at at WYFI, 99.7 FM. You can also stream the program from the previous evening, available for the next week, on BBN’s website at here or here. Since I forgot to mention about this yesterday, you can listen to last night’s message currently available from “Monday,” on that BBN website.

UPDATE: 01/19/2017   The Colson Center and Breakpoint.org have a brief article covering the Inauguration and Prosperity Gospel controversy from an evangelical perspective.

 


Racism, Police Authority, and the Misinterpretation of the Bible

FBI posted looking for three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, June 21, 1964.

FBI poster looking for three missing civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, June 21, 1964.

Ferguson, Missouri. Baltimore. Minneapolis. Baton Rouge. Dallas. Black Lives Matter.

America is caught in the middle of racial conflict, as tensions between law enforcement and African American communities have erupted in violence. However, the problem has deep roots in history. An understanding of these roots will go a long way towards healing and reconciliation. Some of these roots go back to misinterpretation of the Bible.

In June, 2016, the Mississippi attorney general officially closed a 52-year old case involving the murders of three civil rights workers, in the summer of 1964. Members of the Ku Klux Klan in Neshoba County had killed two white men and one African American who had traveled to Mississippi to help segregated African Americans register to vote. The Klansmen feared that the efforts of these three men would lead to the “mixing of the races,” so they sought to teach the civil rights workers “a lesson.”

The Klansmen were aided by one of their number, a local deputy sheriff, Cecil Price, who arranged for the abduction of the three men after a supposed traffic stop and afternoon in jail. The three were taken to an earthen dam, where they were shot and buried, one of them still breathing as the bulldozer shoveled the dirt over them.

Deputy Cecil Price was never convicted of murder, but he was tried and sentenced to six years in prison on civil rights violations, in 1967. The ringleader of the Klan group, Edgar Ray Killen, was finally convicted of manslaughter and put in jail thirty-six years later in 2005, as part of this infamous “Mississippi Burning” case.1

Edgar Ray Killen was a part-time Baptist preacher. Killen had been put on trial back in the 1960s, but he escaped conviction back then due to a hung jury. One of the jurors in that early case claimed that they could have never convicted a preacher.

Price was the “law man,” and Killen had the Bible. Thankfully, men like Price and Killen are an exception, and do not represent in any way all law enforcement authorities or Christian preachers. Yet I sincerely doubt that Price would have been able to self-justify his actions if Killen, the preacher, had not somehow signaled that the terrible actions they ended up all taking were somehow, “Okay with God.”

So, what goes through the mind of someone, like “Preacher” Killen, who can justify such brutality, a man who claims to be guided by the Word of God? How can a law enforcement official, like Cecil Price, go along with such actions? Where do people get the idea, that the “mixing of the races” is something contrary to the Bible, to begin with? Continue reading


Spiritual Diagnosis

Sphygmograph

Transmission Sphygmograph, c. 1900

Do you ever think about your spiritual health? Spiritually speaking, how are you doing? How about those around you? How about your church? Are you making a difference? Are you trying hard enough? How good is good enough?

I do. I think about spiritual effort a lot.

Dick Woodward used to call this kind of thinking “a checkup from the neck up.” (Dick had a way with words.) Spiritual diagnosis was a prerequisite for the Sermon on the Mount—it’s all about attitudes. And Jesus Christ had a lot to say about attitudes and spiritual effort.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Revelation 3:15-16, NIV84

That sounds frightfully harsh…but wait a minute. No need to worry, we have Sola Gratia. What about Ephesians 2:4-5 and Romans 3:23? It’s all about grace, right? We don’t have to be good enough. Gimme a break, we all fall short. I’ve got a job that wears me out, responsibilities…I don’t have the time or energy to do more. Besides, salvation doesn’t depend on our works.

The problem with that kind of attitude about spiritual effort is that it constitutes what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Grace without Discipleship? How can we diagnose grace without discipleship? Well, it could look like serving your church or ministry in a leadership position and feeling a little too complacent. How is your personal discipleship coming along? Is there urgency in your service? Are you working effectively to promote discipleship—or are you part of an organization that’s largely going through the motions? Isn’t it best if everyone just gets along and serves in harmony? It’s best not to rock the boat. Maybe. But if we heed Christ’s words to His churches in Revelation, this is indeed serious business. So how hard should we row? There’s that checkup from the neck up again.

An Ethic for Ministry

Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly VirtueMarion and I recently had dinner with Drs. Andreas and Marny Köstenberger. Not surprisingly, we got around to talking about personal discipleship and the Veracity blog. When I mentioned the spiritual basis for the blog in Philippians 2:12, Andreas told us about a book he had written that expands upon these ideas.

Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue is an exhortation written to scholars, but with broad application to anyone involved in ministry. The burden of the book is to “urge all of us who sense God’s call to scholarly labor to pursue earnestly, and with God’s help, the scholarly virtues discussed in this book.”

We don’t really talk about virtues anymore. It’s as if the word went out with parasols and medicine shows. But the pursuit of biblical virtues constitutes an appropriate cornerstone for personal discipleship.

The biblical basis for Excellence is the apostle Peter’s exhortation for believers to “grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. … Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election.”
2 Peter 1:5-8,10a (NET Bible)

Just as Paul instructed believers to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), Peter directs us to work on our faith. And he sets the bar very high—the first virtue is the pursuit of excellence in increasing measure. With this scripture in focus, we have the answer to “how hard should we row?” and we have an ethic for ministry. Complacency has no place in the church, so go ahead, rock the boat if need be, but appreciate that Christianity is serious business.

One of the things I appreciate most about Excellence is the passionate humility with which Dr. Köstenberger paints the text. A book exhorting readers to steadfastly pursue excellence and Christian virtues could easily have swayed between dogmatic cheerleading and impersonal instructions for self-help. But it doesn’t. Without pulling any punches, he makes the point that mediocrity is not pleasing to God but does so with a gentle and genuinely humble voice. The book is extremely well written and thought out.

Dr. Köstenberger also offers practical suggestions for keeping the work of the ministry from becoming stale and getting off track. I particularly appreciated what he had to say about the importance of balancing purposeful rest with hard work. In fact, the book is full of well-formed balancing points. For lots of reasons, I read the text at just the right time.

The following quotes from Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue should give some indication of how helpful this text can be in thinking about spiritual diagnosis and spiritual effort.

Being set apart unto God as a scholar also entails a rejection of the false modernist dichotomy between faith and scholarship, a wholehearted pursuit of truth, complete dependence on the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, a balanced life that does not turn our scholarship into an idol, an awareness that the primary orientation of our work is to be missional, and an engagement in spiritual warfare through faithful witness to the truth.

Without the Spirit’s empowerment, our pursuit of holiness and excellence through growth in godly virtues will devolve into mere human self-effort that invariably results in pride and failure.

The primary spiritual disciplines advocated by Scripture are prayer and the obedient study of God’s Word.

We need to cultivate the discipline of rest, of regular time set aside for reflection, planning, and relaxation. In the long run, this will ensure that we will be at our most productive. I often find that after a week or two away from the office, I return invigorated, sharper, and more focused and alert.

The principle, then, is this: rest in God’s grace, look to him for guidance, and then do the work (in that order!). Don’t put self-effort and striving ahead of listening to God. And balance hard work with regular rest and relaxation (which means don’t forget to take a vacation once in a while, or take a day off on your son’s or daughter’s birthday or on your anniversary).

Mediocrity, sloppy workmanship, and a half-hearted effort do not bring glory to God or advance his kingdom.

The message here is not simply to try harder, to put in more effort, and to make things happen through sheer force of will. Salvation is entirely by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8–9), and sanctification is by grace as well (Eph. 2:10). This means that the pursuit of scholarly excellence must be undergirded by a keen sense of God’s continual grace in the personal and professional spheres of our lives and that we should pursue scholarly excellence in an environment of grace, not in a spirit of self-effort or unhealthy competition.

As evangelicals, we have too often, in Franky Schaeffer’s words, been “addicted to mediocrity,” and this mediocrity has in many cases become a curse—a curse that has kept us from reaching our personal, creative, and academic potential given to us by God, and has prevented us from impacting other believers as well as unbelievers for the glory of God and for his kingdom.

To your wisdom, add grace. Everything a Christian does should be characterized by grace. Grace should permeate our thoughts, words, and actions, and make a noticeable impression on those with whom we come in contact, both believers and unbelievers.

What are you and I going to do? Will our scholarship be characterized by a mean-spirited, confrontational, and harsh attitude? The writings of some evangelicals show little love for their scholarly opponents; in fact, one might almost conclude that they despise them. Unfortunately, these brothers in Christ do not seem to realize that the scholars on the other side of a given issue are, ultimately speaking, not the enemy. Satan is our common enemy.

Graciousness in response to criticism requires that we take ourselves out of scholarship to some degree and leave the results in God’s hands.

This balance, of course, is hard to achieve. It is much easier to spend long hours in one’s study and to ratchet up an impressive record of scholarly publications while neglecting one’s family. Conversely, someone may be a great father and husband but only a mediocre scholar (though, if a choice has to be made, the latter is, of course, to be preferred over the former).

While dangers are doubtless lurking ahead, commit yourself to excellence. The God you serve is himself characterized by excellence, and that same God has called you to the pursuit of excellence for his glory and for the good of others. If you pursue excellence and progress in it, you and others will be blessed, and God will be glorified.

HT: Dr. Andreas Köstenberger, Museum of Historical Medical Artifacts (transmission sphygmograph photo)


A Layman’s Faith

Religio-Laici

Religio Laici, or A Layman’s Faith. John Dryden’s radical 1682 poem comprises a warrant for personal discipleship.

“For every man is building a several way; impotently conceited of his own model, and his own materials: reason is always striving, and always at a loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised about that which is not its proper object. Let us be content at last, to know God, by his own methods; at least, so much of him, as he is pleased to reveal to us in the sacred Scriptures; to apprehend them to be the word of God, is all our reason has to do; for all beyond it is the work of faith, which is the seal of heaven impressed upon our human understanding.

“Yet to such as are grounded in the true belief, those explanatory Creeds, the Nicene and this of Athanasius, might perhaps be spared: for what is supernatural will always be a mystery in spite of exposition: and for my own part the plain Apostles Creed, is most suitable to my weak understanding; as the simplest diet is the most easy of digestion.

“But, by asserting the Scripture to be the canon of our faith, I have unavoidably created to myself two sorts of enemies: the papists indeed, more directly, because they have kept the Scripture from us, what they could; and have reserved to themselves a right of interpreting what they have delivered under the pretence of infallibility: and the fanatics more collaterally, because they have assumed what amounts to an infallibility in the private spirit: and have distorted those texts of Scripture, which are not necessary to salvation, to the damnable uses of sedition, disturbance, and destruction of the civil government.

“The florid, elevated, and figurative way is for the passions; for love and hatred, fear and anger, are begotten in the soul by showing their objects out of their true proportion; either greater than the life, or less; but instruction is to be given by showing them what they naturally are. A man is to be cheated into passion, but to be reasoned into Truth.”
John Dryden, Preface to Religio Laici, 1682

(Ed: One of our regular readers complained recently about the length of a typical Veracity post. His complaint was that they are too short. Well…far be it from us to ignore our readers.)
Continue reading


%d bloggers like this: