Understanding Your Design

“SIMA is a process that discovers and describes the unique pattern of behavior that motivates individual people.”

Our faces are the parts of ourselves that we present to the world, and yet we cannot observe them for ourselves—not without a mirror, that is. Without that tool, we could come to a close approximation of what we looked like. We could ask others to describe us, or we could use our fingers to explore its contours. Eventually, we might be able to come to a close approximation of what our own face looks like. Yet this process would be time consuming, difficult, and prone to errors. If what we want is to know our own face, then, a good tool—a mirror—quickly solves that problem.

In a similar way, it can be a challenge to discover the unique pattern of behavior that is motivating to us. What are the skills, circumstances, subject matter that are enjoyable to us? What is it that we want to achieve through our work, and how do we want to relate to, and interact with, others as we do that work? Without some sort of tool, we could eventually come to a close approximation of that pattern of behavior.  We could use self -reflection, trial and error in our choices, or the testimony of others. But again: it would take quite some time, be very difficult, and (worst of all) subject to mistakes. In order to solve this difficulty, the Antioch School makes use of a powerful tool: the System for Identifying Motivated Abilities (SIMA).

SIMA is a process that discovers and describes the unique pattern of behavior that motivates individual people. Through the SIMA process we discover what skills you gravitate toward and are prone to be talented in. We find out what environmental circumstances constitute a good fit for you, and what subject matter captures your interest. We discover what you want your relationship to others to be like, and what fundamental results you want to come from your work. This behavioral pattern represents the range of activity that you do well, find genuinely enjoyable, and in which you are prone to experience success. SIMA is a tool to help us to identify that pattern to equip people with knowledge about who they are.

Man takes a look at himself in the mirror.

Like a mirror reflects a face, SIMA reflects a reality that already exists: the unique pattern of behavior evident in your life and your activities. SIMA does not impose its own artificial categories on individuals. Rather, the SIMA method strives to be the most accurate, and detailed description of who you really are and how you behave, and to present this information to you, for the benefit for your decision making process.

The Antioch School uses SIMA because when a person is equipped with this sort of knowledge about themselves, they are in a position to make the best decisions about directing the course of their studies, and using their new-found knowledge (and eventual degree!) to maximum effect. If we know who we are and how we’re put together, we’re equipped to make the choices that best reflect the sort of work that we find most enjoyable, and in which we will experience the highest degree of success.

Again, much like a mirror, the SIMA process can reveal things to ourselves that we either did not know, or only understood partially. And, as with a mirror, SIMA is a useful tool to use in order to see ourselves objectively, in order to make decisions, adjust our course, make necessary changes, or even embark on a new trajectory in life. In future posts I will unfold some of the ways that the SIMA tool can be used in order to do all these things based on an accurate, detailed understanding of ourselves, and how the tool can be used to avoid potential pitfalls.

Seeing Students as God Sees Them [Mentoring 9/11 Chaplain Bob]

Audio interview with Chaplain Bob Ossler – Please be advised content includes some graphic description of scenes at Ground Zero and Hurricane Katrina.

Students tend to get lost in the system of formal higher education. Apply. Register. Pay. Go to class. Take a test. Earn credit. Rinse. Repeat. Graduate.

No Bible college or seminary intends to be impersonal. It just happens largely because of the schooling paradigm. Even when faculty members want to be more personal, it often doesn’t occur. As a student who frequently took advantage of meeting with faculty members during their office hours, I often heard them make statements of regret that more students didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.  

Bob Ossler is one such student who almost got lost in the process. I was the dean of the non-traditional programs of a very well-known Bible college. We had a policy of letting students who flunked tests review their tests, retake the tests, and average the scores. Well, Bob was a student who took advantage of the policy. It seemed that he retook almost every test for every correspondence course he took. I thought he might be abusing the policy, so I scheduled an appointment with him in anticipation of having to dismiss him from his degree program. It turned out that he wasn’t the problem, we were. Bob had a Mensa-caliber mind, but also had ADD. When he took our multiple choice exams, his mind went in many directions as he read the options for the answers. By the time he read all the options, he no longer remembered the question. However, when I simply asked him the questions, he could practically recite and interact substantially with the relevant content from the course. He wasn’t cheating the system. The system was cheating him. As dean, I was able to create an alternative path for him to finish his degree that was truly competency-based.  

512QSBLE+9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m particularly interested in Bob these days because he just wrote a book called “Triumph Over Terror” that reflects on his experiences as the 9/11 Ground Zero Chaplain fifteen years ago. Once I got to know Bob, I learned that he was a unique and incredibly gifted person. His main job was with the Chicago Fire Department as an Air and Water Rescue Paramedic. He was the guy who went into the frigid Lake Michigan water to save and/or recover drowning victims. Bob was also a licensed mortician, trauma chaplain, and chimney sweep. Can you imagine someone better suited for providing support on the “Pile” after 9/11? Chaplain Bob went to Manhattan five different times. He presided over hundreds of ad hoc memorial services when body parts were found. He provided care to countless workers and visitors. He even provided training to most of the other chaplains who had never had to work in an environment like this.  

Although my experience with Bob was within the context of a traditional Bible college, it vividly illustrates why I joined the BILD team and helped found its Antioch School. First, in church-based theological education, the key leaders know their students. Academics are not housed off-campus somewhere apart from real lives and ministries. Rather, the theological education is integrated into the God-given learning contexts of the students. Second, in competency-based education, there is no single method of assessment. Evidence of competency may be demonstrated in a variety of ways.  

You may not have a 9/11 Ground Zero Chaplain Bob in your church, but you have existing and emerging leaders who are specially gifted by God and placed in your midst. And church-based, competency-based theological education may be the key to helping them be equipped and mobilized for the work that God has for them.

The Role of the Church Globally

“A church that is maturing locally will understand that they are to also engage with the global work of the church. Locally established means globally engaged.”

Christ has a plan to make disciples of all nations and we know that these disciples are to be gathered together into communities of faith, and established as church families. But how do these church families reach all nations? Is a church meant to be part of the global work? Doesn’t our church today have enough work in the local setting, so why do we need to discuss “all nations”? Isn’t this the job of our missions departments? Why does the whole church need to understand Christ’s plan? These are the questions we want to explore in understanding the role of the church globally.

Let’s begin by looking at Scripture, as we need to understand its purpose before being able to move on to other matters. Growing up, my church would use the following passage when sending missionaries to the field as the reason for the church to participate in global work:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” – Matthew 28:16-20

This is often referred to as the Great Commission because Jesus is giving His authority to His leaders, to go to the nations and promises to be with them until the end of this time. As a kid I often struggled to make any connection between the church and the Great Commission, as this text says nothing about the church. At the time I understood that the role of a missionary was to tell the Good News of Jesus to other nations… and that’s it.

Years later, I met a missionary who helped me develop a better understanding of the New Testament. He shared that if all missionaries do is tell people the Good News without surrounding them with a local church family, that would be the equivalent of taking a young infant and expecting it to live on its own without the support of a more mature family. Families are meant to have older and younger generations, working together in life; a new infant cannot live on its own. Thus, if foreign missionaries don’t work with local churches to get new believers plugged in, then the lasting effects of their work is minimal.

“Christ has a plan to make disciples of all nations … gathered  together into communities of faith, and established as church families.”


Matthew (and in fact all of the Gospel books) was written in context of what occurred in the book of Acts and the Epistles. You see, the book of Acts explains how when Jesus left, the Spirit came and the apostles then formed new disciples into church communities, setting up elders and leaders to shepherd and mature them in the faith. Acts shows how the church started in Jerusalem and spread across the empire and is ultimately going to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 gives the outline to the entire book:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

So the apostles were meant to be witnesses starting in Jerusalem, then Judea, the Samaria and then the ends of the earth. And in fact, Luke shows us how the church progressed in this manner.

  • Acts 6:7 – “The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
  • Acts 9:31 – “Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”
  • Acts 12:24 – “But the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents.”
  • Acts 16:5 – “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.”
  • Acts 19:20 – “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”
  • Acts 28:31 – “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”

We can see that the intent of this book (especially as you look at Luke 1:1-4 as well) is to give us confidence in how the church expanded and was established with the Good News, demonstrating that this is the plan for the Gospel to go to the ends of the earth.

We live in the age of the church, an age where we are to move the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the church. A church that is maturing locally will understand that they are to also engage with the global work of the church. Locally established means globally engaged.

Today we are following this pattern of being engaged with the church around the world. Our focus is on leadership development; we work with indigenous church networks, helping them build leadership development systems. Strong churches have strong leaders, who are trained.

“Locally established means globally engaged.”

Creating a Training Culture in Your Church

“The Apostle Paul fostered a developmental culture within his team, across his network, and within each church that he established.”

The Apostle Paul fostered a developmental culture within his team, across his network, and within each church that he established. Several things make this clear. First, he regularly assessed the maturity of the churches he had planted and let them know how he assessed them. Second, he worked tirelessly to train the leaders who would minister within and among these churches.  Third, he challenged leaders to both show progress in their own development and to give effort to the training of others.

How do you form such a similar, vibrant training culture if it does not currently exist in your church?  At least three elements must be present – vision, example, and flexible structures.

It starts with vision from the senior leader and core leadership team.

Senior leaders must value and envision a developmental culture. As steps are taken to create this culture, they must continue to cast vision, persistently answering the question of why time and energy is being given to training. Beneath this vision must be a fundamental conviction that 2 Timothy 2:2 is a mandate, not an option.  Strong churches and sustained movements of church multiplication simply will not happen without training leaders in the context of ministry.

Vision must be reinforced by example. 

The church needs to see existing leaders taking their own development seriously.  It also needs to see emerging leaders making evident progress as a result of training.  And it needs to see a range of its members investing in lifelong learning and experiencing fruit.  These examples spur others to imitation.

Flexible structures must be used as tools to aid development.

When Paul invested day and night for 3 years in the training of the Ephesus elders, choices had to have been made regarding times and places for teaching, topics to be covered, and shepherding skills that needed to be modeled.  Likewise, today we must create practical training structures which shape leaders while flexing with the realities of ministry.  These structures will necessarily be tailored to each situation, but some core elements will hold true in any ministry context.  For example:

  • Establish a weekly time slot for equipping. What will work? A weekday evening? A Saturday morning?  Adjust this as the ministry requires.
  • Create mentoring habits. Leaders in training might begin by connecting every other week over breakfast. Then make the time more frequent or less according to need.
  • Develop quarterly rhythms to gather and assess the body of work being developed by those who are studying the scriptures together.
  • Schedule annual leader retreats to cast vision and reinforce discipline.


Our partners who are working with Antioch School cohorts should recognize that every component of an Antioch School training program fits within these broad structures.

“2 Timothy 2:2 is a mandate, not an option.”

Many things will distract you from fostering a training culture in your church or church network.  Congregational expectations may need to be corrected.  Ministry needs will demand your time. Developing new leaders will take longer than you planned. Despite this, if you are the leader giving concentrated effort to create a training culture, find courage and resolve in the knowledge that your strategic investment will bear fruit now just as it did in the early church.

The Antioch School has been Reaccredited!

“The Antioch School recognition is “national accreditation,” granted by the Distance Education Accrediting Council because they specialize in non-traditional forms of education, such as online learning and competency-based education.”

Accreditation is a rigorous process for academic institutions. There are two forms of legitimate accreditation in the United States (granted by accrediting agencies recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education). “Regional Accreditation” is the general recognition of traditional universities and colleges granted by seven regional agencies in the U.S. “National Accreditation” is the specialized recognition of institutions within a particular sector of higher education, such as medical or veterinary education. If you are having surgery, you most likely want a surgeon who has graduated from a medical school accredited by the American Medical Association (AMA). The Antioch School recognition is also “national accreditation,” granted by the Distance Education Accrediting Council because they specialize in non-traditional forms of education, such as online learning and competency-based education.

Accreditation by DEAC is particularly valuable because of its rigor and expertise. Most accrediting agencies are still just learning how to evaluate the non-traditional programs of its traditional institutions, but DEAC has been focused on non-traditional programs for 90 years. DEAC is a leader in the use of outcomes assessment in higher education and is miles ahead of most other agencies in this regards, as evidenced by the very significant role that DEAC plays in the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. The Antioch School received the maximum length of reaccreditation from DEAC, namely 5 years from the start of our reaccreditation process, because DEAC thinks that the 10 years often granted by regional accrediting agencies is far too long to provide a meaningful ongoing declaration about an institution’s quality.


DEAC is a leader in the use of outcomes assessment in higher education and is miles ahead of most other agencies in this regards…”

On April 7, 2016, we received a site visit from a team of six DEAC evaluators, including a chairperson, an education standards evaluator, a business standards evaluator, a ministry content expert, a theology content expert, and a staff person. They arrived having each already scrutinized our 50,000 word Self-Evaluation Report (with 60 exhibits) and the reports from the independent course evaluators. They interviewed staff, faculty, students, and Certified Leaders. They reviewed files, policies, and facilities. They compiled a Chair’s Report to address 70+ indicators of compliance with DEAC standards. Fortunately, our response was quite brief because there were only a few points that needed to be addressed. The DEAC Accrediting Commission met late June and announced in late July the granting of our reaccreditation.

Thank you to all who helped us with the reaccreditation process. Many students and Certified Leaders were contacted by phone during the site visit. Many more were contacted through surveys. Some unknowingly served as models of admission, service, and BILD Cloud portfolio assessment processes as site visit team members arbitrarily chose examples to review. And many of you have been praying. Indeed God has answered your prayers and honored the hard work of the Antioch School, both its staff and its partner churches and ministry organizations around the world.

The Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Accrediting Commission (DEAC), 1101 17th Street NW, Suite 808, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 234-5100, www.deac.org.

Leading with a Church Planter Mindset

Church planting is a priority in God’s plan. The Great Commission, as seen in Acts, is a church planting strategy, not merely outreach to individuals. And the Pauline Epistles clearly show that establishing (strengthening) churches includes engagement with God’s plan and partnership with the apostles in the progress of the Gospel. Thus, even if I’m not a church planter, I need to lead with a church planter mindset.

“… whether or not you consider yourself to be a church planter, you need to have a church planter’s mindset!”

So, what do we mean by “leading with a church planter mindset?”

  1. Church renewal is closely related to church planting. Many existing and emerging leaders hope to bring strength and focus to churches that are faltering badly. Although their churches already exist, leaders who believe church planting is a priority in God’s plan approach their tasks in a manner that is much like a church planter. They try to put strong leadership in place and help the churches become strong and participate in the progress of the Gospel.
  2. Church maintenance may need a dose of church planting emphasis. Many people find themselves in churches that may not seem to be faltering, but in reality have plateaued. These churches are focused almost entirely inward (or on causes that are only tangentially related to the progress of the Gospel). Leaders need to be trained to help these churches refocus on the core of the progress of the Gospel.
  3. Church planting in small groups (without even knowing it). Contemporary Western Christianity tends to be focused on “Sunday church services.” However, there is a rapidly growing emphasis on small groups. Although most churches don’t refer to their small groups as “churches,” I heard one church elder say that “my missional community is more like a church than my church [Sunday morning church service] is.” The fact is that small groups may not just be ministries of a church. According to biblical definitions of what a church is, the small groups may actually be a network of churches that share much in common, such as Sunday morning services. And perhaps the focus of the pastoral staff should be the training of the small group leaders as shepherds of churches, not just facilitators of small group discussions.
  4. Church planting movement support. Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be a church planter, you need to care about church planting movements because they are at the heart of God’s plan for fulfillment of the Great Commission. The more you can think like a church planter yourself, the better you will be able to provide support to others who are directly engaged in church planting.

globe resized

Occasionally, I’m asked the question: “Do I have to be a church planter to enroll in the Antioch School?” The answer is “no, you don’t have to be a church planter to enroll with us.” However, even if you are not a church planter, BILD resources and Antioch School programs are designed to help you lead churches and minister with a church planter mindset.

Many students have enrolled in the Antioch School without any intention of becoming a church planter. However, as they use the BILD resources, particularly the Leadership Series course on Acts, they find themselves compelled by the priority of church planting in God’s plan. Some begin immediately to plant churches, even before they have taken the Pauline Epistles course to identify the characteristics of a strong, well-established church.

The point is that the priority of church planting is a compelling idea that may draw you into church planting whether you expect it or not. So, whether or not you consider yourself to be a church planter, you need to have a church planter’s mindset!

Making Progress Toward Graduation – Academic Progress Requirements

BILD Cloud is very transparent regarding what work has been submitted by students as evidence of competency, as well as initial assessment by Certified Leaders and validation assessment by Associate Faculty. The Antioch School has established Academic Progress Requirements to indicate the minimum that is expected of a student. These requirements are not an indication of the pace to complete a program quickly. Rather, these requirements help to provide accountability to keep you going toward our common goal of graduation.

One of the best features of competency-based education is the flexibility of the content and timing of what you submit as evidence of competency. However, the flexibility of timing may also be a trap for some Antioch School students who let too much time pass without posting evidence of competency. In order to provide accountability, we have academic progress requirements regarding the timing for students to demonstrate minimum amounts of evidence of competency. See below for the full statement of requirements.

Progress arrows

Please note that it is not our intention to penalize anyone for the flexibility of competency-based education. If you have a good reason for not having met the academic progress requirements, please let us know. The requirements and academic probation warnings are intended to help you make progress, particularly if you need the accountability.

* Academic progress requirements include:

Assignment or Course Deadline
SIMA Autobiographical Form within 3 months of admission
SIMA MAP Response each 12 month period
LifeN Plan (or annual revision) each 12 month period
Personal Development Assessment Quaterly Reports each 12 month period
Competency for a Leadership Series Course ** within 12 months of admission, then each 6 month period until all are done
Initial Integrated Ministry Plan ***

  • Interim Plan
  • Future Plan
24 months of admission

  • within 36 months
  • within 48 monhts
Ministry Practicum Report each 6 month period until all are done
Teaching Practicum Report each 12 month period until all are done

If you have not yet activated your BILD Cloud account and started to use your portfolio, please visit the Help Center for tutorials.


* Update: as of 8/09/16, this chart and article were revised to reflect the current May 2016 Handbook.

** There are times when students need to move through the courses at a slower pace while still showing progress on elements of the program. If this is your circumstance, please contact us.

*** If you have a good reason for completing Leadership Series courses at a slower pace, the deadlines for Ministry Strategy Plans can be adjusted.

Competency Tips

So, you have finished a BILD Leadership Series course, but now you wonder “What am I supposed to put in my e-Portfolio as a demonstration of competency?”

As you know, the Antioch School is a competency-based academic institution. You don’t get credit merely for doing Leadership Series courses and their projects. Rather, you get credit for demonstrating competencies associated with the courses.

Here is a link to the Antioch School Help Center in which you will find “competency tips” for each of the Leadership Series courses required for Ministry degree and certificate programs. For the most part, these tips help you to know which projects to use (and how to use them) to demonstrate each of the competencies in the courses.

Also, please note that we have revised the Student Competency Assessment Guide. Specifically, we have provided more explanation of what is meant by each of the criteria by which Leadership Series course competencies are to be assessed. Also, we have add additional rubrics for the “accuracy” criteria of each Leadership Series course so that you can know more of what is expected.

We hope that these additional services will help you as you do your work in the Leadership Series courses, but also as you demonstrate competencies and do your self-assessment in BILD Cloud in order to earn Antioch School credit.

And if you have questions about the “competency tips,” you may discuss them with other students, Certified Leaders, and Faculty in the Community Discussion Board.


Is the Church Really a Family?

Yes, the church is a family!  Not just a metaphorically, but the church in its local expressions is really a family.  Joseph Hellerman proved it!  His two books make a definitive case for the fact that the concept of family is core to the apostolic understanding of the church.

When the Church Was A Family, Joseph H. Hellerman, B & H Publishing, 2009 [WCWF]

The Ancient Church As Family, Joseph H. Hellerman, Augsburg Fortress, 2001 [ACAF]

Here are a few excerpts from his books and from my review of his books.

“It is hardly accidental that the New Testament writers chose the concept of family as the central social metaphor to describe the kind of interpersonal relationships that were to characterize those early Christian communities.  There is, in fact, no better way to come to grips with the spiritual and relational poverty of American individualism than to compare our way of doing things with the strong-group, surrogate family relations of early Christianity.  This is the central focus of this book.”  From the introduction of WCWF.

“The centrality of the family matrix for early Christian social organization calls for a careful examination of the nature of family in Mediterranean antiquity and the appropriation of the surrogate family model on the part of the early Christians.  This leads to the subject matter of this book.  I will demonstrate in the following pages that the ancient Mediterranean family provided the dominant social model for many of the early Christian congregations.  Specifically, local churches understood themselves to constitute surrogate patrilineal kinship groups, and local leaders expected their members to behave in a manner consonant with such a model of interpersonal relationships.”  From Chapter 1 of ACAF.

I admit that I read these books because I had already come to similar conclusions as the author on the basis of what I consider to be biblically normative teaching.  I hoped that they would help me deepen my convictions through additional substantive research in Scripture, church history, and sociology.  The essence of the church as “a family of families” (or better, “a household of households”) is already expressed as a foundational concept in the First Principles of the Faith discipleship resources and Leadership Series courses of BILD International and the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development, ministries with which I am associated.  These books did much more than provide data that back-filled my understanding of the church as family.  They significantly enhanced my understanding by forcing me to sharpen my thinking in many areas, both as a scholar and a practitioner of the church as family.

Interestingly, I read these books on a trip to India (and even wrote the review on the return trip) because I was eager to benefit from the extended isolated focus that you can have during an international flight.  However, my focus on these books extended far beyond reading them on a plane.  I found myself vigorously recommending this book to leaders of church planting movements all over India.  As it seems that God is currently pouring out His Spirit in a special way in India, particularly in North India, these leaders have the opportunity to shape the future of the church.  It is my sincere hope that they take seriously the normative biblical teaching that is explained so clearly and effectively by Hellerman in these books.  Entire church movements may depend on it.  Other church planting movements have derailed because of pragmatic adoption of Western evangelical models and ideas rather than doing fresh theology-in-culture built on serious consideration of the biblical authors’ intentions of normative teaching that transcends culture.

The significance of these books is implied in their titles, particularly in the bold yet subtle claim of the title “When the Church Was A Family.”  Although it is easy to overlook it on the book cover, “the” and “a” are italicized, stating that the church “was family” in its essence, not just “like a family” in some of its characteristics.  Don’t minimize the significance of this implication.  In the final chapter of one book, Hellerman powerfully makes the point.  “Here, finally, is the rub, is it not?  When we define Christian community in such a way as to embrace the biblical teaching about relational solidarity, while at the same time rejecting the robust boundaries we see reflected in early Christian literature, we are left with nothing but an emasculated, localized, postmodern, Western version of ‘community’ that bears little resemblance to the surrogate family model of the ancient Christian church, and which is actually no longer worthy of the name Christian at all” (WCWF, p. 219).  I concur that the stakes are indeed this high, both for the church in the West and the emerging (as distinct from Emergent) church in places like India.

One may have a tendency to think about The Ancient Church As Family (ACAF) as a thorough presentation and analysis of the data and When the Church Was A Family (WCWF) as a popularized version, particularly because ACAF is drawn from Hellerman’s dissertation and WCWF makes consistent illustration in and application to Hellerman’s church.  However, this would do a grave disservice to the contributions of the books.  The illustrations and applications to Hellerman’s church provide substantial additional analysis and insight, particularly as they are connected with the much more substantive critique of Western evangelical culture that is found in WCWF, such as rejection of the false common hierarchical prioritization of God/Family/Church/Others (pp. 73-74) and comparison of the ancient Mediterranean concept of family as group with the Western emphasis on individual autonomy and Western evangelical concept of salvation as personal conversion.  ACAF does more analysis of biblical and historical data, but WCWF does much more analysis of ecclesiology in both abstract and practical forms.  Thus, it is crucial that one read both books, not just one to benefit fully from Hellerman’s contribution.

It should also be noted that these books are especially readable for works based on so much data and research.  This is particularly true of WCWF.  Its illustrations and applications don’t feel tagged on, but are well edited and fit rather seamlessly into the more direct treatment of the data.

You can also read my complete review of the books, including sections on the “Framework of the Books,” “Key Contributions,” and “Concerns and Issues to Explore Further.”

I hope that the starkness of the titles of Hellerman’s books shock you into paying appropriate attention to the data and analysis in them.  Everyone seems to want to have a “New Testament church.”  Hellerman has done a great service to help us actually know what a New Testament church is and how to participate in it as New Testament church members, namely be deeply part of an extended family, God’s household.

Despite the tremendous scholarship and pastoral concern of Hellerman, I don’t think he has begun to grasp the significance of his contribution.  These books should fundamentally transform the way most Western Christians (and those influenced significantly by Western Christians) conceptualize church and participate as church members.  It is up to us to carry forward the implications of his research, along with the research and resources already provided for this purpose by BILD International and its Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development.


Bible Innovations

I grew up in a family in which innovation regarding the Bible was frowned upon.  If our version was good enough for dad, it was good enough for everyone.  Much of what is called “innovation” these days is really just marketing to generate sales.  However, recently I encountered two “new” Bibles that are truly noteworthy for their innovative merits.

The Books of the Bible

“The Books of the Bible” is published by the International Bible Society.  Its innovations are:

  • No chapter and verse numbers.  Rather, the texts are presented in paragraph, poetic verse, or conversation as is appropriate to the genre of the texts.  Granted, it makes it a little hard when you are looking for a verse, but it is no harder than it was for the original recipients of the biblical documents.
  • No headings or notes.  The editors have let the texts (and text blocks) speak for themselves.  And they have not inserted interpretation via headings and subheadings.   There are also no notes for explanation or interpretation.
  • Book order (OT).  The OT books are organized according to the order in the Hebrew Bible, namely Law, Former Prophets (historical books), Latter Prophets (prophetic books), and Writings (including Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel).  It is the only English Bible I’ve ever seen to give respect to the Hebrew order.
  • Book order (NT).  The NT books start with Luke-Acts, followed by Paul’s letters in the order in which they were likely written, and logical groupings of the rest of the books which came later (Matthew with Hebrews and James, Mark with Peter and Jude, John’s Gospel with John’s Letters, and Revelation).  Again, it is the only English Bible I’ve ever seen that takes the temporal order and logical grouping of books seriously.

I have to say that “The Books of the Bible” has become one of my favorite Bibles for reading.  It has also become a valuable tool for understanding the author’s intention in the form in which it was written.

The Voice Bible

 “The Voice Bible” is published by Thomas Nelson.  Its innovations are:

  • Screenplay.  The presentation bears resemblance to a screenplay, particularly with the character being identified whenever speaking.  Similarly, inserted notes function like a narrator’s comments in a movie.  “The Voice” is more than just a clever name, it accurately describes the approach taken by the publisher.  It will be a welcome contribution to those who focus on the story of God’s plan as presented in the Bible.
  • Development team.  The people behind “The Voice” at the outset include a pastor (who is also a writer), a fiction writer, a poet, a Vietnamese pastor and poet, and a writer/research assistant.  The development team is marked by artists, performers, and writers, not just biblical scholars.
  • Divine names.  They claim that “Christos is not a name at all; it is a title,” so they don’t simply transliterate it as “Christ,” but translate it as “The Anointed.”  Similarly, rather than use “Yahweh,” “Jehovah,” or “LORD” as transliterations of YHWH, they use “the Eternal One” which is more in keeping with the meaning of YHWH. 
  • Contextual equivalence.  The translation of divine names above are examples of their translation philosophy of contextual equivalence.  Other examples includes “emissary” for apostles and “heavenly messengers” for angels.
  • Notes.  Unfortunately, the notes are so large and intrusive that they take on a “voice” of their own (they are even marked with a “V”).  The historical and interpretative commentaries inserted into the biblical texts often seem to drown out the sound of the text itself.  Nonetheless, the notes are helpful, but I would have preferred for them to have been kept to the preface or as footnotes.

The story and philosophy behind “The Voice” is published in The Story of The Voice by David B. Capes with Chris Seay and James F. Couch, Jr.