Mar 15

Session 6 Recap: Panel Discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile and Rick Phillips

2014 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Clarus 14

Editor’s Note: Nathan Sherman is Minister to Youth and Families at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of the Panel Discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile and Rick Phillips on Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 15.


Question: What’s the difference between a trial and God’s discipline?

Rick Phillips: If God is chastising you, you know why. His discipline comes for unrepentant sin that is clearly on your radar. But more commonly our trials are not that way. They come to strengthen our faith – refining us; and to give us opportunity to glorify him.

Question: What do you say to someone who wants to know why God is giving a trial?

Thabiti Anyabwile: There is a subtle conceit in the assumption that even if God would tell us, we could understand. We are creatures and not the creator, and there is something in that assumption that forgets our creatureliness. Without any effort, God is upholding the universe by the Word of his power, while we can’t do five things at the same time. He is God, and we are not.

Question: How does one reconcile contentment with godly ambition?

Thabiti Anyabwile: Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord. Our every act is coram deo and sola deo gloria and should imply a holy ambition as well as a holy discontentment. We’re not happy with our selfishness and ego, and yet Christ is all. Contentment at bottom is not complacency or laziness – it is a repose or satisfaction in God which awakens desire and energy to worship. And in worship, we bring our best ambition in work. In worship, we don’t want to bring bad work or rotten fruit.

Rick Phillips: It matters if our work is for our righteousness or brought as a thank offering.

Question: Is there a time to be discontent in things that can be changed, e.g., being a member of a church with poor leadership?

Rick Phillips: If you are a father in a church where the Word is not soundly taught to your family, why are you in that church? You should be willing to ask questions of your leadership in humility, but generally speaking you will not change your pastors, and it may be right for you to leave.

Thabiti Anyabwile: We need to draw a distinction between complacency and contentment. In my opinion there are many Christians remaining in churches under leaders who have committed disqualifying sin. It’s also important to distinguish between different kinds of failings – it’s not imperative that your pastor be perfect but that he is growing.

Question: Does Acts 2 and 4 imply communal living or required sharing?

Thabiti Anyabwile: There is as much biblical basis for communal living as for capitalist living. Acts 2 and 4 are not teaching capitalism, socialism or any other ‘ism’ other than the familial relationships of the local church. We can run the risk of guarding the value of capitalism to the neglect of the greater value of love.

Rick Phillips: The problem for Christians to say “Why should I care about others’ needs?” is that we really are our brothers’ keepers. I don’t mind being taxed; I mind when my taxes are being used to hurt people, but the principle of my money going others I am for.

Question: How do we decide which needs to meet with our money?

Rick Phillips: If you give money to a beggar, you may be harming him. This is where para-church ministries can be very helpful. If you are going to care for the poor in our cities, you must really work at it – you can’t dabble in that. The mission of the Church itself is the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of their souls; however, individual Christians must be working for our neighbors.

Thabiti Anyabwile: Proximity matters. The responsibility I have for my neighbor down the road is greater than the responsibility I have for the man in Zambia. But we need to be leaning toward mercy and generosity rather than reeling from it. We are too often looking for excuses to not give so that we may not be defrauded. It is better to risk being defrauded than being unmerciful.

Question: Is there a tension between, on the one hand, allowing difference of conviction in the amount of  giving and personal possessions; and, on the other hand, the need to talk to and challenge each other about our giving and possessions?

Rick Phillips: Our churches are not giving enough because we are satisfied with a nice church with nice programs. If we can meet our budget without special need of prayer, we are not aspiring to enough. The purpose of this Age is the spread of the gospel to every nation, and the more connected we are to the global Church, the more we will be encouraged to give.

Thabiti Anyabwile: In a smaller setting, we try to press home that our convictions should be biblical and these should circumscribe our freedom. We must fundamentally recognize that we are stewards, and that nothing that we own is ours. The questions we ask of stewards are much different than the questions we ask of owners. “God asks us to give, not to get money out of our pockets, but to get idols out of our hearts.”