Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Reflection

Two weeks ago I finished a 700-page book on the Association. That's right...700 pages. Hours spent reading about the career of Dolph Shayes, Elgin Baylor, Tracy McGrady and about a hundred others. Obviously, this was just reading for entertainment, but I also tried to tell myself it could have gospel impact. Perhaps the style of writing, or an anecdote or just the relaxation will enhance my ministry, I told myself. By page 35 or so, I realized that was simply entertainment, and there was no reason to attempt to whitewash it.

For a 700-page book, it read relatively easy. I finished the book thinking, Well, that was fun, but did not seek to bring any real meaning out of it. After all, it's a book about a game I love to play (but am lousy), and enjoy watching (but since we don't have cable I rarely ever see). Surprisingly though, I started mulling over various thoughts, which I think were remotely related to the book.

Foul language is overrated. One reason I am not specifically referencing the book is because I know the language would be offensive to many who read my blog (It was to me, as well). I guess offensive is not the right word, I would not expect an unbeliever to act any different. The greater issue I saw was just how completely unnecessary the language was. There is a temptation, especially around men my age, to justify crude language as authenticity. It just simply isn't the case. Foul language does not display authenticity unless you're wanting to declare to people you are authentically immature. Often times, the author conveyed his emotions far more clearly and robustly in sections where he did not see the need to swear, than in some where he did. It didn't enhance his writing, nor did it make his point. Sadly, some ministers today want to advocate coarse language as a means of engaging the just doesn't have to be.

Writing about others is tricky. It is no secret that the author of the book respects Isiah Thomas the player, but not Isiah Thomas the GM/coach/front office guy. In fact, he has spoken so critically of Thomas that at one point--while Thomas was coaching/GM of the New York Knicks--Thomas told a radio host he would physically harm the author if they ever met face tot face. Well, early in the book he recounts the time he was introduced to Thomas by another member of the media. While still holding to his opinions, he also (obviously) softened his stance somewhat, and became a bit more empathetic. Certainly a humbling and awkward situation. (You can read about my crow-eating-humbling-lesson here.) However, the author continues to write about people in such a way that I couldn't help but think of athletes and coaches who may read it. As I read, I kept thinking He could have a lot of awkward occasions in his future! The author regularly critiqued in a such a blunt form, that I am sure would have to be softened when would meet an athlete. Then I thought about myself. How often can I critique apart from considering motive? This does not mean something becomes right simply because someone had good intentions...poor theology and practice remains poor theology and practice. But, it did cause me to ask, Can I point error out in such a way that the person would be willing to converse with me without having to diffuse the situation? Sometimes, this is out of our control; a person will be offended either way. But I could do a better job of not contributing to the raised emotions.

Facts/stats do not necessarily reduce subjectivity. I enjoy this author because he is a fan of specific teams and does not try to cloak his views. He hates certain teams simply because he loves others. I enjoy this style far more than the starched collar professional journalist view who treats games with the same gravity and seriousness as terrorism. I want to read from a guy who jumps off his couch at the end of a game because he's thrilled, not a guy who simply reports the game as an event. However, this book was different for the author tried to be objective. At times, he acknowledges that he is not being objective, yet he still underestimates how often subjectivity permeates his work. He attempts to buoy his views with statistics. However, numbers may not lie but the same numbers can be used to make opposing points. It convicted me to remember that "facts" do not always get to the heart...for they can be spun however a person desires. If a person wants to toy with the facts, there is no reasoning with them. At times, this can even happen with Scripture, a person will distort and twist a Text to say the opposite of what is intended. I was reminded: a) to call out to God that He would protect me from myself and my fleshly tendency to distort Texts to my gain; and b) to not join a person in the game when they choose to defiantly distort a Text just to keep from doing what they know they need to do. Sure, an undershepherd is to teach and help show people error. However, when a person is clearly willing to sacrifice the integrity of the Scripture to defend their actions (rather than sacrificing their actions to defend the integrity of Scripture), there is no reasoning with them.

I enjoy books that feed my soul. Reading this book also made me realize how much I cherish reading books that not only feed my mind, but my soul as well. Nearly every book I read is ministry related, and some could see that as reading for work, rather than reading for pleasure. However, when you enjoy your "work reading" then it really is reading for pleasure too! Time is short. I'm not making a commitment that I'll never again read something just for the sake of entertainment (such a commitment would be a foolish endeavor), but for now I'm content to just get back to the pile of books I've been thinking I need to read. And I'll thank God for the grace that it isn't just work, but I enjoy it.

I am not advocating an "all truth is God's truth" sort of view that would claim Christian thinking is revealed in a book even when it wasn't the author's intention. No, there is no Christian agenda to this book. Sanctification does not come from reading anything, but ultimately from reading Scripture. I'm thankful to God for His Word and was also reminded that just as I had to be in the Word to truly grow while reading an NBA book, I better be in the Word to grow even while reading Christian words from a ministry-minded book. Sanctification comes from the Truth, and His Word is Truth. Whatever you may be reading, make sure it doesn't supplant your time in the Word!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

O come let us adore Him...

Not just the Jesus who is wrapped in clothes when He was born, but the Jesus who is wrapped in a cloth after His crucifixion.

Not just the Jesus who entered the world to the chorus of the angels, but the Jesus who would enter into Jerusalem to the declaration “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Not just the Jesus who has the angel of the Lord go before Him, but Jesus who was preceded by John the Baptist, the forerunner to Christ who we were told was, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord!”

Not just the Jesus who was cast out into cold, with only room for Him in a manger, but the Jesus who’s very words of judgment caused the people of His own home town to try to cast him off a cliff to get rid of Him.

The Christ who did not begin in the manger and did not see the grave as His end. Adore the One who said:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sad, But Ultimately Not Tragic

Yesterday, we received an email from a friend/missionary/church family member about a fellow missionary and his physical needs. Hugo Liborio had collapsed and received emergency medical treatment. The email informed us of specific diagnosis, but also that the outlook was not positive. About 24 hours later, we received another sad email, informing us that Hugo had gone home with the Lord. (Official word from SCORE can be found here.)

Hugo died at 29 years of age. He had a young bride, Sarah, and left behind two little children, Matias and Layla, a preschooler and a newborn. In fact, they were in the states for the birth of his daughter and recovery when his aneurysm ruptured. Obviously, prayers for comfort for his family and mission agency are greatly appreciated.

Death should always cause grief and remind us of the harmful, painful effects of sin. However, for the believer, it also reminds us of hope, for Christ has defeated death and will reconcile all things to Himself. The day is coming when this earth will be rid of all of the effects of sin! And currently, Hugo is enjoying glorification in ways that we still groan to experience.

It may be tempting for some to think, Wow, only 29. What a tragedy!

However, while Hugo's death certainly feels tragic, there is nothing tragic about his life. Consider the following:

      While it is sad to think of the few years of marriage he and Sarah enjoyed, what a grace from God that those few years were saturated with a devotion to Christ and His gospel. Their marriage was marked and oriented around a motivation to see Christ exalted that caused their living place and conditions to be radically changed. Their marriage started every morning with the reminder that they are His ambassadors and exist to do his work.

      It is probable that his two children will not really remember him beyond pictures, stories and history that is shared with them by others. However, consider the legacy that he did leave his children. His children will hear how their daddy loved Jesus and desired for His name to be proclaimed to all peoples. His children are far better off than others who have their fathers for most of their life, yet also observe an apathy toward Christ during those years.
I'm saddened by the pain his loss brings to family, friends and colaborers, yet rejoice in the grace God gave him not to waste his few years. I'm jealous of the time he now gets to spend with Our Master, yet refocused on considering the work He has for me to accomplish before He takes me home.

Death is sad, but the day is coming when He will throw death into the Lake of Fire. Until then, I pray by His grace, He would keep our lives from being tragic.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Counseling Training Offered

Steve Short, pastor of Beamsville Christian Church, is offering his first semester of NANC training starting in mid-January.

There are two different ways to take the class:

Every other Thursday night, 6:00-9:00pm
(1/21, 2/4, 2/25, 3/11, 3/25, 4/15, 4/29)
Beamsville Christian Church
6102 Beamsville-Union City Road
Greenville, OH 45331

Four Saturdays, 8am-Noon
(1/23, 2/20, 3/20, 4/10)
Greenville Grace
4805 St Rt 49S
Greenville, OH 45331

Steve classes are approved by NANC toward becoming a certified counselor. Steve has rearranged the first semester to fit under "Informal Counseling." This means the class is beneficial to anyone who is considering a formal role as a counselor (since the first semester is required before the second), but also to anyone who simply wants to encourage and admonish other disciples.

All three of our "staff-elders" found the classes highly beneficial. Currently, the rest of our elders are looking to pursue the training as well.

Deadline for registration is January 11. Contact either church for more information.

*Steve is also offering his second semester class on the opposite Thursdays at his church in Beamsville.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Public Service Notice

Don't celebrate Christmas like this.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cross-Centered Christmas Gift

Looking for a great gift for your kids?

Still struggling to understand what I mean by Christ-centered or Jesus Hermeneutic?

Want to make sure Moses, Elijah and Peter don't pick on you in heaven for "missing out?"

Then get your hands on this:

Seriously, my kids love it. I've been moved to tears several times while reading it. I even encouraged a young man who is interested in the ministry to read it recently, and he found it a blessing.

Grab a copy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Crossmas

Not only can the Christmas season reveal confusion over the nature of evangelism, I believe it can also expose the confusion over what is meant by "Christ-centered." Recently, "Christ-centered" has become an adjective that can be placed before almost anything: Christ-centered music, Christ-centered preaching, Christ-centered hermeneutic, Christ-centered furniture padding. (Okay, I made one of those up.)

Though I've often called it a "Jesus hermeneutic" on my blog, I have no problem with the Christ-centered moniker. I think it aptly labels your intentions as keeping your focus on Christ. However, this term can usually bring difficulties from two directions:

    It's confusing at times to know what is meant by "Christ-centered." Do you mean it simply needs to name Jesus? Can Jesus be implied? If the focus is always Jesus, do you mean you are only appealing for people to get saved each time? Does this mean you allegorize to make obscure passages somehow about Jesus? Is it possible to mention Jesus yet not be Christ-centered? Strangely, there is a lot of confusion about the term.
    It's offensive if it seems someone is suggesting you are not Christ-centered. Who wants to be told an element of life is not centered on Christ? Let alone, what minister wants to hear that his ministry is not centered on His Savior? If emotions escalate, it can seem like someone is saying your ministry is based on secular humanism or may even seem like the person is questioning your own salvation. Once the emotions are raised, no one is listening and lines seem to get drawn.
It seems Christmas serves as a perfect illustration of what may and may not be Christ-centered. No real triumph has happened if the person says, "Merry Christmas" over "Season's Greetings." Some even act as if you defy Christ-centeredness by saying "X-mas" instead of Christmas. (Jay Adams points out that the origins of X-mas aren't as Jesus suppressive as some think.) Are these fair accusations to make? Is the name Jesus all that is necessary to be Christ-centered?

Let's just take preaching, for example (same principle could be applied to all other areas). What does it take to be a Christ-centered sermon? Is there a number of times the pastor must say Jesus? Is it the insertion of a first-time-gospel-invitation that makes it Christ-centered? Must the pastor always cross reference to the New Testament? Perhaps he must find a word directly from Jesus that is germane to the sermon theme?

While any of these elements may present themselves in a sermon, none is essential for a Christ-centered sermon. Theoretically, you could apply each of the above questions and still not be Christ-centered. Again, in theory (not like it is a goal), you could have little connection to these questions yet be Christ-centered. The best question to ask is:

Is Jesus the hero of your sermon?

Sally Lloyd-Jones loves to call Him "the Rescuer." (And I love that too!) Our attention is drawn to the fact that the Text is not about me, but its primary purpose is to reveal Him. (For even when the Text reveals my character and nature, the end result should be that it calls me to depend on Him.)

I've had the privilege of watching my wife deliver four children. Each time I witnessed the birthing event (and the 9.5 months that built up to it), I was struck by the bravery, toughness and selflessness necessary to usher in new life. However, those thoughts were never appropriated to my children. I never once looked at one of my babies as heroic in any fashion. No, I was amazed by my wife! I couldn't imagine enduring what she just did and was humbled to see the attitude by which she did it.

Christ's incarnation should humble us as well. However, if you segregate His incarnation from His crucifixion and resurrection, it really doesn't make much sense. Let the story end with Jesus in the manger and it really fails to be a heroic story. Yet this is exactly what so many do at Christmas time. (Perhaps this is why some elevate Mary to an undue nature; an understandable error if the focus is not kept on the heroic Christ.) A Christmas sermon isn't really a Christ-centered sermon unless it finds itself pointing to a Crucified, Risen and Exalted Savior! In the same way that His crucifixion would not have meant justification for us had He not become a "Second Adam" and took on flesh, the incarnation is not heroic unless He was born for the purpose dying as our sin substitute.

The Christmas season provides a great opportunity for evaluation. Pastor, do your sermons faithfully present Christ as the hero and you completely desolate without His work? Brother, do you neighbors hear not only that you believe in Jesus, but do they hear you explain the Person and Work of Jesus, chiefly directed at His work on the cross and resurrection? Friend, if your religious system makes you feel heroic by living up to the rules, no matter how much it considers those rules a reflection of "Lordship," such that you affirm Jesus as the hero, but claim some victory on your own, it simply isn't Christ-centered. Christ-centered does not mean you make Jesus a hero, it means you make Him the hero.

And in that sense, it is impossible to really be Christ-centered unless one is also Cross-centered.

So perhaps it would be better to say, "Merry Crossmas!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas, Christendom & Evangelism

If a Christian is not vigilant, Christmas can cause him to forget this world is not his home. Songs about Jesus, nativity scenes and statements about the virgin birth abound. It could be easy for the believer to rest on his laurels, thinking these must be evidence that the gospel has reached all corners of the globe! Our society is speaking favorably of God and Jesus, that must mean we've made some headway, right?

Often, we parody the non-believer into a belligerent atheist that hates God. They want anything religious removed from every possibly arena in life. They want to take our children away from us for fear we are "brainwashing" them. However, this just isn't how most of society thinks. Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Ecclesiastes states:

The secular outlook is not necessarily theoretical atheism, but a thoughtless attitude towards a God whose existence is unquestioned but unappreciated.
The fact that the "traffic circle" in our town is adorned with a nativity scene is not a sign of the triumph of Christianity, but of Christendom. Most non-believers can drive by it without offense because they haven't thought fully about the purpose behind the incarnation. In fact, many will assume they must be a Christian because they aren't offended by the display!
She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.--Matthew 1:21
Imagine our community with a cross and empty tomb displayed on the property of a municipal building. Why doesn't that happen? Sure, Christmas gets polluted by all kinds of distractions, but we still see many symbols of the Biblical description of the incarnation. Why don't we see those things around Resurrection Sunday? Wouldn't it be easy to display the same syncretism? Couldn't the easter bunny stand at the tomb in awe? Why does our society want to distance itself form the Biblical account of the resurrection, but not the incarnation?

I think there are a couple of answers:
    1) Jesus the baby is less threatening than the resurrected Jesus who was crucified and now sits on His throne as Lord of All. Everyone loves babies. Babies are cute. Babies are manageable. Babies are under our control. The Infant Jesus doesn't scare us. He's vulnerable. He needs His mother for His survival.
    2) We've removed the blood. The birth of Jesus is filled with reminders of sin. The bloody, painful mess of childbirth serves as one great reminder. The sin offering Mary makes for herself (Luke 2) serves as another. However, look closely at a nativity scene. Mary is spotless and appears fully recovered. Joseph somehow managed to escape the whole event without a mark. Even baby Jesus is spotless; His hair is not matted nor does He show any signs of the stress of labor. And you won't find any filthy rags out back behind the manger, as if Joseph quickly cleaned up the scene. No, it was a silent night, remember?
So a man looks at a spotless, helpless baby and does not find it offensive. In some ways, this is a two-fold tragedy. First, he is often deceived that his lack of offense is evidence that he must be right with God. Second, the believer, who should know better, naively assumes this must mean the man is "on the right track." We assume that since he has not called the ACLU and filed a suit against the city, this must mean he close to conversion!

We must remember that while it is essential to believe that Jesus took on flesh (1 John 4:1-2), this is not the only doctrine a person must accept for salvation. They must see their sin, and that it deserves death. They must see the perfect Jesus Christ, both fully God and fully man, as their sin substitute. They must believe He died to pay their penalty and that He rose again to grant us life. They must believe this gift is received by grace through faith. In short, they must be driven to the cross; it's purpose, function and reception.

The timeline for conversion can be difficult to spot. We're tempted to create clear lines through altar calls, sinners' prayers and decisions. However, this is even cloudy for how many people have you seen who prayed the prayer, yet never exhibited any form of fruit? Wouldn't you say that the person who came forward to publicly declare he is a sinner in need of the shed blood of Jesus was already saved before he stepped out of the aisle? Our attempts to clarify the moment of conversion have only muddied the waters.

Strangely though, we've done the opposite with evangelism. As a young man, I remember being exhorted regularly on the virtues of "God-talk." While it was labeled "pre-evangelism" it was also consider part of the work of an evangelist. (Catch the confusion there?) So we were presented with the nebulous "1 to 10 scale." The God-hating, ACLU supporting, nativity kicking Atheist was a 1. A genuine believer was a 10. Our task was to simply try to raise every person we meet by a point. (I say it was nebulous because number 2 through 9 were never defined...wholly subjective.) Perhaps the person who agrees to come to your Christmas Eve service, brings a Bible (and their family!), cries during part of the sermon and tells the pastor "that was beautiful" on the way out is a 9? They're soooo close!

But that's not the reality of Darke County (or much of the world, I would suggest). Churches in our community (and some pulpits) are filled with people who bring their Bible, acknowledge the "real meaning of Christmas" and support the view that we were created. Yet they are no closer to the gospel than the tribesman who has never heard the name "Jesus." They're happy with what they've got of Jesus. He's not bloody. He may not be a baby any longer, but He still is not threatening. He's controllable; manageable; and best of all, that means they are still in charge.

"God-talk," like nativity scenes, do not save anyone. They may serve to open the door for us to present the gospel, but until the words of the gospel have flowed from our mouth, we have not done evangelism. Our feet are not beautiful because of "God-talk" but because of the gospel! Christmas should serve as a great reminder of this. There are wheat and there are tares. The point of the parable is that tares look like wheat. Our harvest field around us is filled with people who are saying, "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays." Sadly, we walk by encouraged that they are so close while they walk by thinking God must be pleased with them for they are keeping "Christ in Christmas."

We should realize that our call is to take that to the gospel. Perhaps the believer should think of the holiday as "Crossmas," reminding him that the gospel must be declared for conversion to take place.

Don't look to conform people to Christendom, share the gospel, trusting that the Holy Spirit is looking to convert people to Christ!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christian & Christmas

My attorney advised me to explain the difference between Christianity and Christendom. Since I'm not sure if he wanted this for his benefit, or to help me avoid any pending lawsuits, I'll take a stab:

For the purposes of this series, I would label Christianity as that pertaining to the genuine Biblical content of the gospel. You could call Christianity the Kingdom of believers. Though secular society prefers to basically call anything Christian that is willing to identify itself as such (evidenced by many definitions--including my dictionary--saying that Christianity is comprised of Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox), I'm not using the definition in that sense.

Look, the Holy Roman Empire can label herself as such, but it doesn't change the fact that she was not holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. I'm not looking to identify Christian as whoever is willing to carry that label. By Christian, I am saying that which accurately presents Christ, particularly His death and resurrection.

By Christendom, I mean the culture that can be left in the wake. It may be a culture that is formed by genuine Christians, but I do not believe one has to be a genuine Christian to participate in Christendom. Christendom is removed from the doctrines of the faith and is simply an attention given to the actions of those who may/may not claim adherence to these doctrines.

Christianity: doctrine based

Christendom: culturally based

Can a genuine believer be a part of both? Sure, but his allegiance must always be to the doctrine, not the culture. Can a non-believer participate in Christendom without grasping Christianity? Unfortunately, I think this often happens. By missing the doctrines of the gospel and the necessity of faith, a person is deceived into believing they are a part of the elect simply because they "do the same things other do."

For instance, I am pro-life. I am a creationist. As a believer in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection as my only means to the Father, I believe these are faithful, Biblical perspectives to take. However, I do not believe they are essential perspectives that determine salvation. I believe someone can be born again yet support abortion and denies creation. I think they are wrong, and I think those issues are important, but the person could still be born again. I also believe someone else could be a pro-life creationist and be excluded from the Kingdom of God. Genuine Christianity should be so determined to point a person back to the gospel that we do not count it a victory when someone simply adopts the above perspectives. We want to see them won to Christ. However, Christendom is willing to stop at exterior by-products (some times Biblical by-products, sometimes culturally created ones). They are supporting the same causes, therefore they fit in our culture. I think this can have a damning effect.

I believe the following song is the product of Christian doctrine, not just Christian culture:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry Christendom?

About one-third of the way through our study in Ecclesiastes, I truly began to see how much "the preacher" and our community has in common. Here in the "heart of it all" our greatest threat is not mainline groups like Islam or Catholicism. It doesn't appear that well recognized cults, like Mormonism or Jehovah's Witness are gaining any steam either. And yes, you'll occasionally meet the young person who has stumbled upon Bahai or Shinto and thinks they've found something new. However, these people are few and far between, and typically don't even understand what they are endorsing. To be honest, all of the above make such ludicrous claims, and are so naturally inconsistent with Scripture that they really don't pose a threat to take over our community.

No, most people in our neck of the woods are still under the wrath of God due to another religion:

American Christendom.

Now, before you run me up the flagpole as one of those "church bashing" men, (I'd remind you that I too love the church.) notice that I used a word I don't believe has appeared on my blog before. Christendom, not Christianity.

Nothing points this out quite like Christmas. The fury that began a couple years ago to "keep Christ in Christmas" and has grown to cartoonish proportions. (Exhibit A: A site devoted to rating how "Christmas friendly" a retail establishment is.) Christendom encourages us that it is our Christian duty to wish "Merry Christmas" rather than a generic "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays." Every nativity scene is a triumph for Christendom, even if Santa Clause is also looking in on the scene.

Two weeks ago, we loaded up the kids and headed to our local zoo. They have a beautiful light display, and since we have a season pass, opening night seemed a great time to go. From the moment we approached the gate, we were bombarded with rapping elves, giant gingerbread men, a giant walrus (still trying to figure out the Christmas connection there), nutcrackers, Mrs. Clause, a giant Christmas tree, rapping tigers (apparently hip-hop has made a real surge at the North Pole), "real" reindeer and Satan Clause himself. Yet, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, there was also a nativity scene in the old "petting zoo" section. As our family drove home from a very enjoyable night, one of my children said, "I didn't know the zoo was Christian." (We won't even deal with the onslaught of evolutionary theory oozing from the zoo...different post.) Her reflection, since they had a nativity, it has to be a Christian place, right?

Well, no. It meant it was part of Christendom, not Christianity. And at that point, we realized Christendom had snuck in our van and bit our family too.

Now, I'm not opposed to Christmas at all. I love this time of year. As another pastor stated: "I know the whole Christmas thing is not in the Bible, but joy is." This should be a ripe season for Christians to present the gospel and the fascination and awe of the season shouldn't come from flying reindeer, but from the fact that "the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us!"

But there is a lesson to be learned, and the lesson isn't just for how we act during this season. This season shines the light brightly on the issue of Christendom, and it is a lesson we must learn for the sake of lost souls surrounding us. This season allows us the chance to see how most people think of Jesus, and should cause us to examine how we speak of Him.

There are lessons to learn, and there are souls at stake...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Encouraging Resource

I found Dustin Neeley's blog recently and have found it to be very useful. I love how Dustin describes the purpose of his page, Church Planting for the Rest of Us.

"speaking up for the guys who may never plant mega-churches, while being thankful for those who do"

His page on preaching is only a link's page, but man is it helpful. (Over 35 hours of preaching resources linked to it!)

He has been airing some interviews conducted during Ambition, and his most recent one Bob Thune was especially encouraging. (Can't figure out how to embed it, or I would!)

I remember Daniel calling our church a plant even after we would be considered "established." I never said anything to him about it (I can tend to come across nit-picky), and just figured it was a man who was simply continuing to see our church through the lens of those first couple years. (Kind of like the parent of a graduate who still feels like the toddler years were just yesterday.) I've since come to realize, I believe his choice to call us a plant was strategic.

In most eyes, our church is not a plant. We're self sustaining. We own our own building (well, the bank does, but we're working on that). We have a fully functioning elder team and certainly appear "here to stay" to our surrounding community. However, I don't think I want to become established. We're not done! There is no reason to settle and certainly no call for us to congratulate ourselves. There is a lot of work to be done!

I pray that God would keep our church a plant forever...that we would never lose the urgency and vitality of those early years. The fields are white, there's much work to be done!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Church Planting?

Dave Harvey has some great posts over at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Blog in regard to church planting.

Just pulling a couple of quotes out of the articles, Harvey states:

I hope this is important to you as well. But sheer enthusiasm is not enough. We need to understand from God’s Word why we as a ministry are called to plant and build gospel-centered local churches around the world....

That’s why we can’t get all hyped up on the latest way to do missions, the latest research, the latest means and methods of doing ministry. Because nothing we can concoct will ever prepackage the power of the gospel. Church planting shouldn’t start with techniques, technology or talking to territorial spirits, often the launching point for church planting in certain parts of the world. It must begin with our confidence in the explosive message embodied in Christ and entrusted to us in Matthew 28. It’s the one message that makes all the difference. And we’re the megaphone....

I’m one of those guys who responded to an altar call at a concert. I shot to my feet so fast I got dizzy…and I was already a Christian! The altar call was for radical Christians; believers who would risk life and limb to become missionaries and take the gospel to faraway lands. Being radical for Jesus sounded like a great career move to me, way better than my minimum wage job. So I stood! I stood up to be counted, stood tall for Jesus, stood ready to leave that night for the radical life.

The tug on my pant leg came just above the knee. It was my new bride. I had, ummm, momentarily forgotten about her. She was still seated and not a little confused. Stow the passport—this needed to slow down a bit. Eventually God showed us that we should be seated in a church before we could stand for missions. So we joined a church, and it was there we discovered that God’s mission to the world—the Great Commission—doesn’t sidestep the church but actually involves the church. That’s part of what makes it a GREAT Commission....

Think about how the Great Commission was applied in the New Testament. Missions in the New Testament was about churches and church planting. It was profoundly church-centered. That’s why Paul was sent from local churches and received into churches. It’s why his labors resulted in churches and his letters were addressed to churches. It’s why the aim of missions was never to separate from the church, but to result in the church.

You can read Harvey's messages in whole:

Hi, My Name is Dave

Why Plant Churches? (1)

Why Plant Churches? (2)

Why Plant Churches? (3)

You can also listen to his excellent message, The Gospel and Ambition here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book Suggestion

I don't usually reference or suggest a book I haven't read myself. However, this one came across John Piper's twitter and looks like it could be quite helpful to many in our community and church:

Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Theology Can Kill Your Church

Though the audio does not appear to be up (yet), Joe Thorn has posted his brief outline from his session: How Theology Can Kill Your Church.

Joe offers the following four ways:

1. Your Theology is Under-developed
Under-developed theology leaves your church defenseless against false doctrine and heresy, and corrupts the spiritual growth of the body. We need a robust theological confession and culture in our churches.

2. Your Theology is Over-valued
Theology is over-valued when we find our identity more in a system than in the Savior. The dangers here are often pride and pugnacity. Good theology will always give a clear picture of God and self, which promotes strong convictions and humble hearts.

3. Your Theology is Compartmentalized
Compartmentalized theology is a purely academic discipline removed from Christian experience. The danger here is being satisfied with knowledge over transformation. We need “experimental Calvinists” who are not content to be right, but desire to be made right by the Spirit of God in conjunction with the truth of God.

4. Your Theology is Disconnected
When our theology is disconnected from the gospel, all of the above dangers are likely, and additionally our preaching will be little more than moralism. Imperatives apart from the gospel tell people to “do this,” and doctrinal preaching divorced from the gospel tell people to “know this.” In both cases people are not led to the grace of God in Christ, but to their own attainments. We need theologians who can show the connection between doctrines like sin, creation, the Trinity, etc. and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

UPDATE: Audio Here