I love history.
I love theology.
I love the Church
I love God’s Word.
Over the last several years I’ve been on a journey. I have begun to really dig into God’s Word and study. I’ve studied everything I could find in the pages of Scripture that I could make time for. The riches of God’s Word are so deep that I know I’ll spend the rest of my life studying the Word and never mine the depths of it fully; which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
Recently, as I have transitioned into being a full time pastor and events leading up to that, I have spent a great deal of time studying not only the Bible but also the history of the Church and what we call the Church Fathers. The church I am not pastoring is currently a non-denominational reformed church. One of the things I feel that we need to do as we grow is to explore denominational affiliation. We also need to address leadership in the church as it pertains to elders, deacons and so on. As such I have begun to dig deeply into some biblical texts that we traditionally turn to for governance of the Church. As I’ve studied what God’s Word has to say I have also turned to the Church Fathers and the historic practice of the Christian Church. See, I think that we fail ourselves and our churches when we don’t consider what Christians have been doing since the inception of the Church.
How the Church has historically done things matters. Now I think we can all agree (at least I hope we can) that Church history doesn’t trump what the Bible says. Fair enough?
So as I have considered what our church in Nashville will do, I have turned both to God’s Word and to historic Christian practice for guidance. First I want to interact with a specific text and talk about it as we read it and also to see how, historically, that text has been put into practice in the Church.
Our text is 1 Timothy 3-6. In this text, Paul lays out for Timothy how the Church is to be governed. Clearly, having planted most of these churches, Paul has a great concern with how they are governed; as should we.
So in this text, Paul lays out qualifications for leaders in the Church. Paul uses three distinct Greek words. Those words are episkope (which can be translated as overseer, bishop, pastor or even guardian), diakonos (translated as servant or deacon) and presbyteros (which can be translated as elder, old man or official). So Paul uses three distinct and different Greek words. Now many have said to me that those words denote two offices in the Church.
Here’s my problem. If those words Paul uses denote only two offices, why use three different and distinct words? Some will say that episkope and presbyteros are the same office and that those two distinct words merely denote different functions of the elder/pastor. Now I’m no Greek scholar and I understand nuance but if Paul was trying to say these are different functions of the same office, why not just say that? Why use two different words?
Commentators disagree over this. Some say Paul is denoting two offices with different functions while others say there are three clear offices Paul is setting apart. So in light of the scholastic disagreement, I looked at what the earliest practitioners of this thought and did. So I went to the Church Fathers.
Now, before you get all snarky about all their shortcomings, can we all just admit that Christian leaders throughout the history of the Church have had their faults and failures? I mean, even the great and revered Martin Luther had some sketchy views on Jews. Christ is our only perfect example; on that we should all be able to agree.
However, I think it is especially important for us to consider what the Church Fathers believed and practiced in light of, first and foremost, the biblical text and the fact that several of these guys were direct disciples of the Apostles. So then it would stand to reason that, if they were directly discipled and trained by the Apostles, they would be in touch with the teaching of the Apostles as it related to these things. Apostolic authority and succession should matter I think.
In fact, as early as the end of the 1st century, Ignatius (a disciple of John) was writing about bishops. Now, to be fair, the earliest concept of bishop was probably not as complex as we see now. There were probably far less elders to oversee and far less churches. Nevertheless, the practice and office of bishop was in use very early on in the Church. By the time of Clement (end of 2nd century) the office and duties of the bishop were clearly delineated from that of presbyter (priest or elder).
It would seem to me that some of the earliest forms of Church governance involved three offices; bishop, elder and deacon.
For my congregational friends, I know you’re going to push back immediately and that’s okay. Even my Presbyterian brothers and sisters will push back and again, that’s okay. But this is a serious question:
Did the first 1500 years of the Church get it wrong on issues of polity and governance? Now look, I agree that, by the time of the Reformation, things were really out of hand in the Roman church. They had gotten way off course. But it should be noted that Luther never had any intention of creating a schism in the Catholic Church. He wanted reform not denominational alliances.
We can all agree that the theology of the Roman church had veered far away from what the Bible teaches. But does that mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Do we jettison the whole thing because we disagree with some theological points? Luther didn’t think so.
I wonder if perhaps we, as Protestants, need a bit more humility. Maybe we need to admit that Church history matters and we shouldn’t took quickly reject some practices of the historic Christian Church because of a knee jerk reaction to “looking like Catholics.”
The Bible is the source of all truth and the foundation of Christian practice. On this I hill I will stand and die. But we cannot ignore Church history.
On Reformation Day, let’s be grateful for our rich Christian heritage and continue to reform our practices according to what God has given us by his Word.
Semper Reformada and Soli Deo Gloria!
I haven’t been writing much recently. There’s good reason for that, as my family and I have been relocating to Nashville over the last couple of months. As you know if you’ve ever moved it can be a hectic and draining process, especially when you throw jobs and kids in the mix.
So forgive me if I’ve been absent.
Usually I write about more serious things involving the Church, faith, theology and such. But I’ve been asked by several people to write about this subject and so I’m going to. After all, it is my blog and I suppose I can write about whatever I want. And it’s early and my kid got me up before daylight so this is what happens.
About five years ago, my wife and I owned a CrossFit gym in North Carolina. We decided to do a “No Shave November” contest at our gym. So some of the guys and I began to grow beards. By the end of November, I had a decent beard going. I told my wife I wanted to keep the beard going for a bit.
She agreed, much to my surprise, to let me grow it for six months. So for six months, I didn’t shave or even trim or shape it. I just let it grow. By the time I got to the six month mark I had some growth going. I discovered fairly early on that beards need to be cared for; unless of course you want to look like a homeless version of Gandalf.
Some buddies of mine who had beards gave me some suggestions for beard care products and so began my experience with several different brands. Heck, I even made my own beard oil for awhile. So I got to the six month mark and thought, ‘I’m going to miss my beard when it’s gone.’ I mean, we had become friends. We spent a lot of time together and by this time my wife was joking that I used more product in my beard than she did in her hair.
Probably a lot of truth in that.
But I told my wife, “I wanna keep this going.” She said, “How long?” I looked at her and thought, ‘she’s gonna kill me and I may sleep on the couch but oh well, here we go.’
“One year,” I said.
Shocking me completely, she said, “Just take care of it.”
I was like, ‘yes!’ So I set out to learn about beard care products and yeards. At the end of the year, I was in full on ‘unabomber’ mode. I had a really serious beard going and I loved it. But I also knew I had to shape it a bit cause it was pretty shaggy.
Almost five years later now and I’ve been clean shaven once during that time. I’ve learned some things about growing a beard and taking care of it.
1. Be patient.
Growing a quality beard takes time so be patient.
2. Find a barber that knows how to handle a beard.
This is a big one here. I’ve gone to barbers over the years that have no idea how to handle a longer beard and have chopped it up with clippers. I won’t let someone touch my beard with clippers now. Well, except to fade in the sideburns. Heck, a lot of the guys I’ve seen over the last five years can’t even get the cheek line right. Your barber matters. Find a good one. Unless of course you’re going to do it yourself and then you’re a better man than me.
3. Your wife better be on board.
Do I really need to say more about this? Your wife needs to be on board. And don’t give me your crap about ‘Oh, be a man and take charge of your house’ or any other such nonsense. What your wife thinks of you matters and you’re going to be leaving beard hairs lying around and she has to kiss you with that man-fur around your mouth so make sure she’s on board.
4. Clean up your beard hairs.
Listen, your beard will shed some. Clean up after yourself. I’ve tried to be really aware of this but some have fallen through the cracks. Let’s be real, hair lying about the house is not super yummy so clean your hair up men.
5. If you’re going to grow a beard, commit to the beard.
I personally think that dudes that have this stubble thing going should repent or turn in their man card. Commit to the beard. This whole looking like you’ve just misplaced your razor for a few days look it not manly. Grow a beard or shave your face. I’m not saying not to shape and take care of it. I’m saying be a man and grow it or shave it off.
My four year old daughter said to me one day not too long ago, “Daddy, boys have beards.” I said, “No baby, men have beards. Boys shave. Know the difference.” Being my daughter, she looked at me gravely and said, “Okay daddy.”
My daughter knows me well.
6. Use good beard care products.
Now there may be much debate about the best products out there. There are so many companies and groups out there making this stuff now that it’s hard to differentiate between them. However, I’ve used a bunch of different groups and products over the years. So we’ll start with what I’ve learned and then I’m going to rank the products I’ve used.
Beard oil is kind of up to you. Here’s what I’ve learned. Oil tends to work better for me the longer my beard is. When my beard was shorter or just growing oil seemed not to be as effective. The point of the oil is to take care of the skin underneath the beard so that your beard can grow in healthy. So beard oil matters. Viscosity is important. For me, I tend to like heavier oils since I have a heavier beard. But I’ve used some lighter oils that weren’t bad also.
Balm, for me personally, is where it’s at. Balm is pretty much oil with beeswax added to give it some longer conditioning abilities and some hold. Now, that’s really simplifying what balm is but I don’t wanna get too into the weeds here. I’ve used more balm than I have oil. Balm is also good for the skin as well as providing conditioning and softening for the beard hair itself. Hold, shine and smell profile matter here so choose wisely.
Beard wash is the last thing I’ll talk about. Don’t, under any circumstances, use regular shampoo and conditioner in your beard. Beard hair is different texture than your head hair and so you need different care for it. Find a quality beard wash to use. For me, I only use the beard wash once a week. What I’ve found for me is that it’s good to let the natural oils in your beard and skin go for a few days and you can still be clean by washing your beard out in the shower. Just scrub your fingers briskly under the shower. This rubbish about some articles out there saying that beards contain poop is stupid. If your beard has poop in it, you have some deeper issues.
I’m not going to comment much on beard combs or brushes. There are lots out there so find one that works for you and get it. You do need to comb and/or brush your beard. If you’re going to grow it, take care of it.
Ok so last thing I want to do is rank the products I’ve used so far. No one is paying me to advertise for them and I’ve used several different brands. But if you own a beard care product company and would like for me to advertise for you, I’d be happy to test your product out and see what’s up (insert smiling emoji here).
So here we go:
For my top spot, I’ve got to have a 1 and a 1a. Both of these products are very high quality and well priced.
1 and 1a:
1689 Beard and Mountaineer Brand.
The owner of 1689 is a personal friend of mine and I can tell you that not only does he have quality products but he is also a good man. I don’t know the guy who owns Mountaineer (Mr. Mountaineer) but I know he has a quality product at a fair price so I recommend both of these guys enthusiastically.
2. Honest Amish
Don’t know these folks personally and have only recently used their products. But I am very impressed with both quality and pricing. The stronger hold balm is especially good and gives lots of shine to your beard. The scent profile isn’t as good but the quality is.
3. Mod Cabin
I used these guys early on and was very pleased with their products. They’ve got some good stuff and lots of variety.
4. Burton’s Beard Oil
It was actually hard for me to decide between this brother and Mod Cabin for my number 3. This product is really good also. Their oil has a lighter viscosity that I actually like and their scent profiles are on point. The IPA and Pacific are my favorite to date.
5. Reformed Gentlemen
This is a smaller company run by a pastor that I’m getting to know. While there is room for improvement his oil is good and the balm is pretty good also. I recommend the Pioneer scent; it’s quite lovely.
This is by no means an exhaustive covering of beards or beard care products and not really my usual thing to write about. However, this is my offering for you today. I hope you've enjoyed!
Be well and beard on!
Soli Deo Gloria!