Monday, October 19, 2009

You Are (I Am) Arrogant

Denny Burk recently interviewed Mark Dever at a Boyce College dorm meeting. Audio can be heard here.

I love Mark Dever, the following answers reveal a bit why:

Question One: Do you have a good pastoral exhortation for first year theological students entering semester one?

[Dever's Answer] You need to realize you are arrogant. Not because you are a first year student, but because you are a human being who is fallen, even if you are redeemed you are still fallen. You're not glorified yet, right? Got that straight? That's important. Now, you need to realize that means you need people, and that doesn't mean just your friends here, right? Even the Gentile pagans have friends. No, you need to be in a local church that's healthy and preaches the Word. The church is far more important than any school you will ever go to. You need to get into a local church, officially join it, be a member, put yourself under the authority of the elders in that church. They will watch over your soul as those who will give an account to God. (Hebrews 13).

Question Two: A word to our students who are in their final year?
[Dever] Right. You are arrogant. No, I'm serious. Not because you are in your final year, but because you are a fallen child of Adam, even if you are redeemed you are still fallen, all right? You're not in glory yet; you're not glorified. So you need to be in a local church. You need to be in a healthy local church. You are making life decisions that you are not competent--you're not made by yourself--to make. You are meant to be in a community of faith where you character is known, where your gifts are understood, where they can give you good counsel and direction. Get in a healthy local church. Spend this final year in school in a local healthy church as an official member there.

If nothing else, my fallen condition tells me I am arrogant. If I think I am beyond needing the accountability, oversight (and yes) authority of local church elders, such thinking is evidence of my own arrogance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Driscoll Writes Controversial Article

Mark Driscoll has begun writing articles for the Washington Post. His first article (found here) certainly upset some of the commenters.

You may be thinking, "Ah, I know Driscoll's track record. He probably hornked some people off with some unnecessary language." (You'd be wrong, there's none to be found.) Perhaps a racy comment or two? (Nope.) "At the least, he probably thundered calvinism and complimentarianism in exclusive terms, turning off some who may be reading. (And while Driscoll holds to those views [as do I], you don't find them in this article.)

Driscoll's article begins with a question (assumedly from the editors or from a reader): What makes the best 'case for God' to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?

Driscoll's audacious answer: Jesus

Yep, that's what got some reader's ire up. One gentleman--who wrote a number of comments--originally began disputing the timeline of when the gospel's were written and pointing out things like Paul's silence on the virgin birth. He adopts and points to several different conspiracies (Such as, we can know for a fact that none of the gospels were written by their namesake.) A few other commenters try to get involved and show him that his "scholarship" is suspect. But eventually proving Driscoll's point, the man comments again:

And here we get to the core problem with Christianity: It's inherently immoral. Jesus dying for your sins, if he did, is a horribly immoral concept. Think about it for one quick second. Zoom yourself out of your present world view and just try to see it like it is. Someone kills your son. As the judge is sentencing the person to life in prison, a man in the courtroom stands up and says: "I've done nothing wrong, but punish me instead. I will take the burden for this crime." Has justice been served if he is allowed to take the punishment? No. It hasn't. Vicarious redemption of sins on a cross or any other way is just plain wrong. Say what you will, but human morality is based on personal responsibility for actions. You do something wrong. You are responsible. Letting someone else take the blame, that's disgusting.

You were born right the first time. Get over it. Hell isn't real. There are no demons. There are no monsters in the closet. If this is the only life you get, you're wasting it on empty threats and empty promises.
And there we realize the offense; the cross.
but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.--1 Corinthians 1:23-24
The real controversy is Christ. It's not Intelligent Design. It's not Theism. It's not the Bibliographic Standard. It's Jesus.

Keep your eyes fixed on Him.

Continue to proclaim Him.

Pray that others will see Him.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'm Just Saying...

Read a post this morning that caused me to go back an immediately re-read my most recent post. As I did, I realized the unfortunate nature that the previous title does not really match the article.

Let me allow you into the creepy confines of my mind...perhaps this might clarify.

The previous article originally dove into the obsession Christian book authors have with "how to attract [sub-group a] to your church." There is a great deal of material out there for how to get your church younger, richer, bigger [and worldlier...but that's another post]. I don't think this is to be our concern, trying to govern the demographics of our congregation. However, the pastor should focus on the fact that his preaching--and character--can greatly influence the internal changes to the Body.

I deleted all those thoughts for fear that the article was getting too long and scattered. However, I forgot to look at the title section and change it appropriately.

The bottom line I saw from the linked article and audio:

The congregation I do not want is one that thinks everything is a joke. (I am not suggesting the AACC thinks everything is a joke, clearly they don't. But I think they had been conditioned [either through that conference or's a pretty typical experience for many conferences I've been to], that when a speaker gets up, he starts with humor.) And ultimately, I control that. And given that my flesh tempts me to treat everything as a joke, I know this is a very real temptation for me.

If I preach in a way that everything is a joke, then my people will eventually think everything is a joke. And that is not a congregation I want.

Just made me think. (And think again.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Congregation I Do Not Want

Between the ministry I formerly served and current opportunities afforded me, I've done a fair (but not great) amount of "guest speaking." While nothing is as sweet as being able to preach to your own congregation, itinerate speaking does grow you and can be quite a challenge. You pray (and trust) that by being faithful to the Text, you will minister to the guest congregation you serve.

At times, it is a wonderful blessing. Sometimes you land at a place where the people's hearts are right with you, it almost feels like you are preaching to an extension of your own church body. Other times, (and I've had only a couple of these) what you are preaching is so different to what they are used to hearing, yet because they are His sheep they hear the Master's voice in the text, they respond. You can see this radical shift happening in the listening audience even as you preach!

But it's not always a happy experience. I've preached in churches before where the congregation was so hostile to the gospel that people crossed arms and scowled at me as I simply preached a text. I've been in other environments where I unknowingly said something contrary to the pastor's teaching and immediately saw the pastor and congregation take up a defensive posture. I've had hecklers before. I had my microphone shut off once. I've had people respond that a message was "nice, but a bit too Biblical for their taste." These situations serve to make you extra thankful for you congregation.

But in either environment, the personality of the regular preacher will be assumed into your message. If he preaches angry, comments you make will be assumed as harsh though that wasn't your intent. If he quotes other people a lot, original statements in your message will be assumed as quotations from others. If he uses humor a lot, comments you intend to be serious will be assumed as humorous.

In fact, the following link is a haunting example. If you click the audio link (only need to hear the first 5 minutes) in Taylor's article, you will hear Piper laying his heart out to the American Association of Christian Counselors. The response he gets: laughter. Over and over again. He even calls them out for this and it seems self defeating. The more he tells them he can't understand why they are laughing, the more people continue to laugh.

Now, if any audience has been trained to be empathetic and gracious, you would expect it to be the AACC. I don't believe this is a reflection of their insensitivity to Piper or an apathy toward sin. Any counselor who would laugh at a counselee who poured out his heart in a session is evil and should be removed from their position. I simply doubt any of them would respond this way in their professional setting. But get them to a conference, put a guy on the stage, have him start working through his introduction and what will they expect: humor. Like Pavlov's dog, they become trained to wait for the joke.

When the jokes weren't there, the anticipation for them was so great, the audience began to see humor in places it was not intended. That's not a reflection on John Piper, that's a reflection on the previous conference experiences of the audience.

The question then becomes, "What does my congregation anticipate week in and week out? What expectation would be placed on a guest speaker at our church? (Those expectations are not all bad. I remember the week we had a guest speaker and several people in the congregation said something to the effect, "That was a nice message, but I like how our guys talk more about Jesus.")

Taylor ends his article:

Apparently the conditioning of that audience to think everything is funny took no more than a couple of days.

How deep do you think that conditioning would be for a church who sat under a funny-man pastor every Sunday for fifteen years?
May the greatest expectation be to preach Christ, and Him crucified!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Introducing Beef Tweets

In effort to chronicle the unusual comments we hear from our son, we've opened a twitter account for him.

A few things to know about "Beef Tweets"

      --the comments are unsolicited
      --unless marked, he does not intend to be making an odd comment at tht time
      --provided he keeps providing material, it will be updated about once a week
      --you can follow him on twitter (The_Beef_man), or from the sidebar of my blog