Tag Archives: john piper

How Theology Drives Spirituality (Thinking and Doing Are Inextricable!)

It’s very common in evangelicalism to either be a “thinking Christian” or a “doing Christian.”  I think that these divisions are bunk.  I think that thinking drives doing.  Theology drives spirituality.  I recently had the opportunity to say as much at Highland Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, a church featuring a thriving discipleship ministry led by my buddy (and fellow TEDS PhD grad) Doug Hankins.  Here’s the link to the original talk.  If you want to ponder this topic further, check out John Piper’s Think.  There’s some discussion of this theme in the book I coedited from 2011 that Piper and D. A. Carson coauthored.

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Gender Roles and the Gospel

Here’s a great video on complementarianism (or biblical gender roles) from The Gospel Coalition featuring John Piper, Tim Keller, and D. A. Carson (HT: JT).  I found all three panelists’s remarks stimulating (and I enjoyed Carson’s anti-Zwinglian militarism at around the 9-minute mark!).

Piper, as Piper does, got ramped up in the first part of the video, and said some truly inspiring things about the need to guard this doctrine and not shrink back against the rushing tide of culture.  His boldness, clarity, and zeal for the gospel is as inspiring to me today as it was thirteen years ago, when I first heard of him.  Both he and Carson made painstakingly clear that the church must speak up about this issue, costly as this may be, culturally speaking.

I am thankful that TGC is hosting such nuanced and helpful video discussions, and I hope this video proves constructive to you as you sort out this issue.  God’s glory is in this.

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“I Wouldn’t Think So Much of the Gathering:” Engaging Francis Chan on the Church

Francis Chan offered some surprising thoughts at the Verge 2012 conference recently.  Speaking on the church gathering, he said the following at the conference in Austin:

If I just read the Scriptures, I wouldn’t even think so much of the gathering.  You know–Like, my first thought wouldn’t be, “Let’s have a gathering.”  Out of the Scriptures, I would think, “I’m on a mission.  Like, I love this God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and now I’ve got to go out and make disciples.”  That’s what I would think.  I need to go out there and just reach as many people as I can!  I’m supposed to teach them to obey everything that’s God command–that’s what I would get out of Scripture.  And then what would happen as I did that–what I believe would naturally happen–is suddenly I would find those other people who are on that same mission because we’d be the weirdest people on earth.   Right? 

We would stick out, we’d be so different, and that pressure to always stay on that mission, everyone else would always be beating me down, so I would actually need these brothers and sisters in my life and tell them hey don’t let me slow down, and I won’t let you slow down, we’ve got to stay on this mission together.  See this is why I wasn’t into fellowship before–because I didn’t any more friends, okay, it wasn’t like “Oh yeah, let’s get another gathering together so I can have someone to talk to.”  Like, I didn’t need accountability groups so I wouldn’t sleep around or whatever it was–I could do that, I can do that on my own.  Like–not sleep around, you know what I mean? <laughter> You know I don’t need that to do American church, I don’t need fellowship.  But to stay on mission everyday?  I need people because I’m going to get distracted–there are so many other things I would rather do than make disciples.  And so I need people in my life to tell me this.  That’s what I would get out of Scripture, is I got to go out and start making disciples.  And as I did that I really believe that I would start gathering with other people doing the same thing. 

Here’s the link again.

I stumbled across this piece of content and was surprised to see it rather tepidly introduced.  This is a big deal.  Let’s be clear: Chan is not saying that the local church is unimportant.  He’s arguing for what is called “missional” ecclesiology, the idea that the church isn’t about gathering for its own sake, but for the purpose of making disciples to the glory of God.

There is much about Chan’s body of work that I like.  He champions a bold, aggressive, unapologetic, God-driven spirituality.  He has words that the church needs to hear, it seems.  Even the section quoted above can provocatively push many of us to be less inwardly focused and more outwardly focused.  With many others, I want to be “on mission” in my daily life.

Here’s the problem, though: when I “just read the Bible,” it seems like evangelism is not the only important thing.  It seems like a plain and unsophisticated reading of the Bible without reference to all kinds of fancy commentaries and hermeneutical guides will lead you to a rather straightforward directive on church: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

You could draw a very similar conclusion from the Corinthian letters, which enjoin the church to purify itself and perform discipline on members caught in a pattern of unrepentant sin (see 1 Cor 6, for example).  Fellowship and accountability, in other words, are essential.  They are not lesser ends.  They stir the body up to kill sin for the glory of Christ and to encourage one another as “the Day” of Christ’s majestic return approaches.

The Great Commission, of course, is hugely important.  It’s our mandate as those sent into the world in the power of the Spirit.  Indeed, the Great Commission is now carried out with Pentecost power.  We “make disciples of all nations” in the power of the poured-out Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19).  But what does this all this disciple-making create?  It creates local churches that, as I noted above, do not neglect meeting together.  These churches function as kingdom outposts.  They are both centripetal places of rest, edification, and encouragement and centrifugal posts from which we are launched into the world to tell it of Christ’s death and resurrection and to live profoundly redeemed lives.

It is not weak of Christians to want to meet together and to “build [one] another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, also Romans 14:19).  That’s directly biblical.  It’s wise and good.  The only way we can do this, though, is if our orientation is Godward, if we are first coming together to give him honor and glory and praise.  He, and no other end, is the primary reason for our gathering.  We come before him first because he deserves worship.  Worshipping the Lord of heaven and earth is not a subordinate reason to gather.  It is our foremost concern.  To not realize this is to miss a massive biblical-theological point.  John Piper working off of Jonathan Edwards working off of Augustine working off of Paul working off of Jesus has made just this point (see Desiring God by Piper, Dissertation Concerning The End for Which God Created the World by Edwards, Confessions by Augustine, and the Bible for the rest).

I agree with Chan, by the way, that our churches can become inwardly focused, as I mentioned above.  We certainly can.  We need to take care that we leave room in our busy lives to get out among unbelievers and witness for Christ.  We should intentionally plan our church calendars so that we can accomplish this biblical priority. I like Chan’s focus on mission, and I like that he wants to avoid a weepy and weak Christianity.  He’s right, furthermore, that we don’t need something called “accountability groups.”

However, for many sinners like me, the words of Paul ring in my ears on this point: “[L]et anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).  I’m concerned that I hear in Chan’s message the seeds of a movement away from accountability in whatever form.  I’m as concerned for the less mature Christians who hear this message, want to be like a godly man like Chan, and therefore disdain different forms of accountability.  You don’t need to meet with three peers in a basement somewhere at 6am and weep for three hours to practice accountability–but make no mistake, every last one of us desperately needs it, and the church is structured to give it.  The horrifying stats on pornography and Christians would suggest that we desperately need accountability, in fact.

Chan makes us think in this little clip from a larger message.  He’s got a point.  But his words need beefing up.  Aside from the easy laugh he gets on the subject of sleeping around (which is a cheap and worldly way to engage your audience, one far too common among young evangelicals), he needs a more robust doctrine of the church, as so many of us do, whether in theory or practice.  Too many evangelicals settle for, as John Piper said a few years ago of his own ecclesiology, a B- on the church.  That’s not good, and it’s not biblical.  New Testament unfolding of the church is mere but very important (start here, perhaps, and then go here).

Here’s hoping, then, that this post will push others who–like myself–are inspired by a bold Christian leader like Chan to love God and love his church.

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An Essay on the Awesomeness of Men

Denny Burk has just announced the release of the latest Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.  Here are the contents and Burk’s introduction to the journal:

The Spring 2012 issue of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is now online, and you can download the entire issue from the CBMW website. This issue includes articles from Russell Moore, John Piper, and more. There are several book reviews, including Heath Lambert’s take on the controversial book Real Marriage. Owen Strachan has contributed an excellent article about the interchangeability of men’s and women’s roles. Louis Markos has some important reflections on gender-neutral translations of the Bible. The table of contents is below, and you can download individual articles from there.

Standard Fare
Denny Burk Editorial
Various Odds & Ends
Essays & Perspectives
Russell D. Moore Women, Stop Submitting to Men
John Piper “The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle”: The Value of a Masculine Ministry
Owen Strachan Of “Dad Moms” and “Man Fails”: An Essay on Men and Awesomeness
Louis Markos From the NRSV to the New NIV: Why Gender-Neutral Language Represents an Enforced Agenda Rather than a Natural Evolution
From the Sacred Desk
Denny Burk How Do We Speak About Homosexuality?
Gender Studies in Review
Heath Lambert The Ironies of Real Marriage // A Review of Mark Driscoll,The Truth about Sex
Kenneth Magnuson The End of Sexual Identity … or Sexual Morality? // A Review of Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity
Todd L. Miles Cultivating Womanhood in a World of Competing Voices // A Review of James Dobson, Bringing Up Girls
Andrew David Naselli and Jennifer J. Naselli Give Them Jesus: Parenting with the Gospel // A Review of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace
Courtney Reissig A Valuable Historical Study // A Review of Diana Lynn Severance, Feminine Threads
Here’s a teaser from my essay on “Dad Moms” (Denny asked me to revisit the original blog in a longer essay–it was pretty fun to write):

In November 2011, I was watching a football game, minding my own business, when a Tide commercial popped up on the television. It is not a commonplace that I pay great attention to advertisements for laundry detergent. But there was something different about this one. It began by showing a man folding clothes in a cheerfully lit bedroom. He introduced himself with this odd statement: “Hi.  I’m a Dad mom.  That means while my wife works, I’m at home being awesome.” This was interesting. I had not heard of a “Dad mom” before. This commercial suddenly had my full attention.

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Doing Ministry with a Shelby Cobra Mustang Engine (Like Piper & Carson)

I just did an interview with Christ the Center, a podcast produced by the Reformed Forum, which is associated with Westminster Theological Seminary.  This is a high-powered theological podcast that has hosted such important discussions as the recent debate among Presbyterian theologians over justification and union with Christ (with Michael Horton and Lane Tipton) and the ongoing conversation about the gospel and sanctification (with Rick Phillips and Kevin DeYoung).

Camden Bucey, Jared Oliphint, and Nick Batzig hosted the conversation.  The topic was pastor-theologians and the book The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry (Crossway, 2011), which John Piper and D. A. Carson wrote and David Mathis and I edited.

I had a fun and extensive conversation with the CTC guys, who are great guys with keen theological minds.  The topic in question related directly to the Reformed tradition, which has produced so many fantastic pastor-scholars (Calvin) and scholar-pastors (Warfield).  J. Gresham Machen is of course one of the five most important Christian figures of the twentieth century and fits nicely into the scholar-pastor mold.  He was a brilliant theologian who was nevertheless keenly focused on the church.  Much of his writing is deep but directly accessible to the thoughtful layperson.

Head over to the Reformed Forum and give this podcast a listen if you’re so inclined.  During the course of this hourlong conversation, we covered all kinds of things: why Piper and Dever might be wary of the term “pastor-scholar,” how pastors can own this role as theologian, and how church history relates to the present discussion.

About 15 minutes in, we cover the idea that being a pastor-theologian isn’t about escaping the hard work of pastoral ministry–counseling, evangelism, discipleship.  Instead, it’s about infusing all of that valuable pastoral labor with a 500-horsepower theological engine such that the work of the pastor is transformed and Christ is richly displayed in churchly ministry.

That’s what I’m after.  I think that’s what the CTC guys are after.  Can’t you hear the roar of that Christocentric engine?

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Should We Not Read Jonathan Edwards Because He Owned Slaves?

An upcoming event at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School tackles this question, and does so by way of a major lecture by esteemed pastor Thabiti Anyabwile.  This lecture, entitled “Jonathan Edwards and American Racism: Can the Theology of a Slave Owner Be Trusted by Descendants of Slaves?,” will be held this Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 1pm CST (2pm EST) on the campus of TEDS.  The event will be live-streamed here.

Two leading African-American Chicago pastors, Charlie Dates and Louis Love, will respond.

Here’s the lecture description:

Jonathan Edwards is arguably the most important theologian that North America has produced. He is a hero to many Christians. Yet he also owned slaves, a fact that has raised important questions about his moral credibility. Should we really be holding Edwards up as a theological role model? Should we be trying to learn from him? These are live questions here at Trinity and beyond. Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile has thought about these questions–as a pastor, an African American, and adherent to Reformed theology. We invite you to listen in as he reflects about them personally, engaging two other African-American pastors and the audience in an edifying installment of the Edwards Center series ‘Jonathan Edwards and the Church,’ moderated by Dr. Sweeney.

Again, make sure to watch the free live-stream of this important lecture.

I am personally very glad that the JEC at TEDS is hosting this conversation and that they have invited three African-American pastors to lead the conversation.  Evangelicalism very much needs this kind of honest and open discussion about racism in our past (I’m glad for pastor John Piper’s Bloodlines as well–see the arresting video).  The fact that Edwards owned slaves revolts me, to be frank, and was the most difficult matter with which I had to square in writing the Essential Edwards Collection with Dr. Sweeney.

My own conviction as a white Christian is that Edwards’s horrific sin should not cause us to ignore his theological voice.  If we were to adopt this kind of posture, we would find ourselves with precious few guides from past ages.  Luther denounced the Jews; Zwingli kept a mistress for some time; John Wesley was a less-than-ideal husband, to say the least.  The list could go on.

None of this means that we take Edwards’s slaveholding lightly.  We must not.  But it does mean that we must tread carefully in disqualifying leaders, not least because we ourselves are no better than they.  We are sinners.  We have gross faults, too.  Is this not one of Scripture’s greatest lessons?  Sin is in our house.  It is not only in our neighbor’s, as the log in our eye would obscure us from seeing.

All of us have sin; all of us need Christ, and forgiveness from our brothers and sisters.  There will be no weeping and anger in heaven, but it is a sweet thing indeed to think that there, Jonathan Edwards has recognized that the slaves he held, those who knew Christ, were not his property.  They, like all humanity–saved or not–were not his possession.  They were his kin, his spiritual kin, and Jesus has bestowed on them a dignity that the world denied them.

One hopes that this conversation at TEDS will lead evangelicals to continue to realize just how strong our union in Christ is, to meditate more on how great is the bond between us, much as our past suggests–to our shame–otherwise.

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Ed Stetzer on DeYoung/Gilbert: Are Pastors Qualified to Speak on Theology of Mission?

The pastor-theologian is a subject of great interest to me, as my introduction to the book The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry (Crossway, 2011) by John Piper and D. A. Carson  shows.  Because of this, my ears perked when, in the recent debate over the mission of the church, missiologist Ed Stetzer suggested that pastors Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert were not adequately prepared to do “careful theological thinking” on the topic du jour.

Here’s what Stetzer in the middle of his lengthy and stimulating Themelios review of What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011) by DeYoung and Gilbert (HT: JT):

Herein may be the book’s greatest challenge. The authors list the books they read to prepare for this response to the widening of the mission. Yet reading a couple dozen books is simply not adequate (or appropriate) to prepare themselves to stand against the careful theological thinking that has contributed to the widening of our understanding of mission and the prevailing view of evangelicals (if Lausanne’s Cape Town statement is a gauge).

At the conclusion, he had this to say in reference to the lack of “background and engagement” on the part of DeYoung and Gilbert:

However, I think it ultimately will not succeed at its task. Instead, it will have some people needlessly looking to parse terms when the mission instead is more about faithfulness. Those who read and share the book may very well be those who most need a stronger missional focus—the theologically minded who think deeply but engage weakly. Yet those who could benefit from the book will not read it because the authors lack the background and engagement to make the case to the missional and missiological community.

Read all of Stetzer’s review.

This review will not attempt to answer the question front and center in this debate; I have not finished the text by DeYoung and Gilbert, but am resonating deeply with it.  My review of Gabe Lyons’s Next Christians finds much sympathy with What Is the Mission of the Church?.  Nor am I taking on Ed Stetzer in this little blog post.  He’s a gifted thinker and leader, and I appreciate much of his scholarly and churchly program.  He is the go-to evangelical theologian on “missional” ministry, a churchman, and a Southern Baptist leader.

I would say, though, that Stetzer’s comments on the inadequate preparation of Kevin and Greg took me aback.  Merely reading books does not make someone an expert, it is true.  But that’s hardly all that these two young pastors–friends of mine–have done.  Kevin has an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  Greg has an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and did PhD work at SBTS before taking up pastoral work.  If an MDiv is not adequate preparation for high-level theological thinking, many of us have wasted our money and hard-earned effort.  Both of these men have proven themselves, furthermore, to be gifted thinkers (In fact, I think both of them won “top graduate” awards or some such thing at their respective seminaries).

If only doctors in missiology can participate in missiological conversations, then we’re in trouble, because the group will be very small indeed.  Kevin and Greg have read widely to prepare themselves for the task before them in their missiology text, and they are most definitely up to said task.  Their extensive reading on the subject, coupled with their own preparation, fits them very well to speak into the subject.  Who is not a practitioner of “mission,” after all, if pastors are not?  Surely missionaries lead the front-lines challenge, but hasn’t the whole discussion on “missions” broadened in the last decade or two to include a wider scope of activity?  Isn’t a crucial part of the “missional” conversation that pastors are at the forefront of “missional” ministry?  Are not pastors like Mark Driscoll, Jeff Vandersteldt, and Tim Chester leading the way in “missional” strategy, whether through books, speaking, or practice?  Or am I missing something?

Pastors who lead their church members to support missions, pray for missions, go on missions trips, give their very lives to the missions cause, live evangelistically, reach out to the local community in myriad ways, and generally “be on mission” everyday seem to eminently possess the “background and engagement” necessary to comment on missions, particularly if these pastors have strong theological and biblical preparation and have acquitted themselves well in the evangelical public square.  Other than a missiologist or missionary, who is more prepared than a local church pastor to speak about the mission of the local church?  I’m baffled as to whom else we might call upon.

Let me push this a little further.  Mark Dever’s endorsement of the book references Kevin and Greg as “pastor-theologians.”  I think that’s exactly right.  I fear that at least part of Stetzer’s critique of the credentials of these men owes to an unhelpful divide between church and academy that has exploded the traditional model of the pastorate.  Pastors, goes the line, do ministry; academics, goes the line, think and write.  Sure, maybe pastors write books on practical spirituality or tithing or overcoming temptation.  But they can’t really step up to the plate and actually do theology.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The historic Reformed model of the pastorate is that of the pastor-theologian.  Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones–these were pastors who wrote theology.  They knew no unhelpful divide between church and academy.  Neither do Kevin and Greg.  Their text is not published by Brill or T&T Clark, of course–it is aimed at pastors and thinkers.  But it is undoubtedly a work of theology.  The authors are undoubtedly pastor-theologians, agree with them or not.

We are in trouble if we assume that pastors–especially well-trained and widely published pastors–are not qualified to participate in theological conversation.  In all of this, by the way, I should not be read as critical of “missional” thinking.  I try to practice a form of it and appreciate it and have many friends and colleagues who feel the same way.

Now, Stetzer has qualified his position in a later post.  He’s backed off the remarks I quoted above and suggested that “an academic book review would be incomplete without asking if the authors were adequately prepared to make their case.”  I’m not sure that’s exactly what Ed was getting at; I think he actually seemed to be saying, pretty clearly, that Kevin and Greg frankly aren’t prepared for this conversation.  He went on to say in his response that “I think more preparation, experience, and conversations would have served them well.”  From my read of the Deyoung and Gilbert book, there’s a great deal of interaction with “missional” thinkers and writers.  The issue here is not really preparation or interaction, as I am able to piece things together, but agreement.  Kevin and Greg have plenty of preparation and outdid themselves in terms of interaction.  They just parse things a bit differently than Stetzer and some self-professed “missional” folks.

By the way, Stetzer references the “Cape Town Statement” of Lausanne 2010 as–unlike What Is the Mission of the Church?– a piece of careful theological thinking.  But if one thinks about the earlier Cape Town Statement of 1974, the foundational theological document of the Lausanne movement, was it not John Stott who essentially drafted it in 1974?  It seems it was.  What was Stott for much of his life?  A pastor.  And what was Stott when he drafted the Statement?  A pastor.

There is some irony, then, in Stetzer’s critique, which otherwise offers much food for thought.

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Kevin DeYoung Speaks Wisely About Celebrity Pastors

Kevin DeYoung has just posted a manifestly helpful piece on the hot-potato topic of “celebrity pastors.”  I commend it to you; it’s full of wisdom and good theological thinking.

Here’s a snatch:

Give glory to God for his gifts wherever you find them.This entails three things:

1) We must always remember—and not just give lip service to the fact—that God is the one who apportions gifts to teachers, pastors, and authors. The churches get edified. God gets the glory.

2) Some Christians are more gifted than others. That’s not just reality; that’s the way God designed things. It will be better to learn about John Calvin from some teachers than from others (one of the reasons speakers are advertised at conferences). Often those with the more pronounced gifts are those with more pronounced influence. And those with more influence are usually better known than those with little influence. So as long as God apportions gifts as he sees fit, we will not escape the fact that some men have more notoriety and are used more powerfully than others. If you had to teach a class on the Reformation you’d certainly spend the bulk of your time on the likes of Luther, Calvin, Know, and Zwingli. The human mind can only comprehend so much, so we tend to focus on the men who (to our imperfect eyes) seemed to be used uniquely by God in his plan.

Read the whole thing.  There are seven theses.

We must hear the cautions about evangelical “celebrities.”  Certainly we all are sinners, and a part of that sin can be seeking fame and power.  If many of us are honest, there is surely a part of our hearts that craves renown.  As with any other sin that tempts us, we need to remain vigilant about this tendency.  We should invite accountability from local church members on this point, encourage feedback from our spouses in this area, and pray against our natural propensity for self-glorification.  It would be ironic for Christians enthralled by a supreme Lord–and championing that God in front of hundreds or thousands of people–to focus attention on puny, insignificant vessels like us.

We must also remember, though, that as Kevin says, God raises up leaders.  Those leaders will naturally draw followers; it’s supposed to work that way.  Christians are call to “outdo one another in showing honor” according to the apostle Paul, a man of great prominence in the apostolic age (Romans 12:10).  We certainly can pay slavish homage to evangelical leaders; that’s not good.  But we shouldn’t forget that it is deeply biblical to go to great lengths to encourage and honor fellow believers.  This will surely include our pastors, movement teachers and leaders, and writers.

We should remember that when we’re feeling grateful for John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or John Piper, we’re not really, at the end of the day, grateful for them.  We’re thankful to the God who drove their every effort.  That’s what we’re truly excited about–a great God who uses fallen people to advance the gospel of his kingdom.  We can very much voice appreciation for our leaders, but we do so knowing and even expressing that it is God who raises men up and takes them down.  This is just what Daniel 2:21 says:

“He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings”

In other words, God controls who leads and who does not.

It is no bad thing, furthermore, to Christians to get together for mutual exhortation and great teaching.  The local church, the keeper of the ordinances, has the primacy.  It is the only institution Christ founded.  But this does not mean that Christians cannot get together to hear from particularly skilled preachers and teachers.  We can.  We should.  It’s a great thing for evangelicals to share fellowship with believers from other confessional traditions.  All this will necessarily mean that some leaders receive a good deal of attention.  But that does not need to be a bad thing; indeed, it was true of many biblical figures, it has been true of Christians throughout history, and it will continue to take place.

God uses leaders.  God raises them up.  God calls them to speak for him.  People will naturally thrill to potent proclamation.  Praise God for that.  We must watch our hearts.  But we should not shy away from leadership.

We should, however, shy away from green shirts like Kevin is wearing in his photo.

(Image: University Reformed Church)

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Is The Gospel Coalition a Good Thing? Is Harold Ockenga Like John Piper?

You can find scintillating answers to these and a number of other questions in an interview (part one, part two) I just did with historical theologian Nathan Finn. Nathan graciously asked me several questions following the release of the book I edited with David Mathis of Desiring God, The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Theology (Crossway, 2011, authored by John Piper and D. A. Carson–that’s Carson to the right speaking at the event that led to the book).

Nathan has released the interview in two parts–part one is on the forgotten Harold Ockenga and why he’s worthy of attention (and a dissertation!), and part two is about The Gospel Coalition, theological moves in the Southern Baptist Convention, and pastor-theologians.  I can’t speak to the helpfulness of my responses to Nathan’s great questions, but I can say that this was a very fun interview to do.

Nathan is a leading young scholar and historian teaching at the sister seminary of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He teaches a great deal at the highly esteemed First Baptist Durham, the reformed congregation led by Bostonian Dr. Andy Davis, a preacher worth hearing and emulating.  He has edited a number of books and chapters which I would commend to you.  Nathan likes Allison Krauss, Broadway musicals, and the Atlanta Braves, but we won’t hold that last one against him.  I’m grateful for Nathan and his scholarly, unapologetically theological ministry, which is a model for other young evangelical scholars.

I’ll leave you to surf over to Nathan’s site.  By the way, One Baptist Perspective is a fantastic church history resource.  Bookmark it or load it into your feed reader.  In the meantime, I’ll look forward with Nathan to seeing what the Lord does in the SBC and the evangelical movement more broadly to bring health to our churches.  It is my conviction that the rise and recovery of the pastor-theologian model is a major sign of future health for our churches.  I’m thrilled to see awareness of this historic model spreading, and I hope for many more young guns to catch this vision and storm the gates of hell on a mission of Christocentric dominion, possessing every tool and weapon attainable from ministry training in order to give glory to the Father.

(Image: the beloved Henry Center)

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John Piper, Don Carson, and Transformed Pastors and Scholars

There’s a great deal of interest right now in what some have called the pastor-theologian and theologian-pastor movement.  John Piper and D. A. Carson are two of the more prominent faces of each of these enhanced ministerial vocations.  I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dustin Neeley of Church Planting for the Rest of Us, a fantastic blog offering tons of free resources for pastors and church planters, and talk about the book I coedited on this subject.

It was great to talk about a conception of the pastor and scholar that has captured my attention.  As in the previous video I did with Dustin, he asked good open questions that we could have talked about for hours.  If this little video does not sate your thirst, I would encourage you to grab the book–it’s little and cheap.  If you want to watch the original messages given by Piper and Carson at the 2009 Henry Center event held at Park Community Church in downtown Chicago, go here.  They came on the heels of the Gospel Coalition national conference.  Nearly 2000 people showed up.

I’m planning to write more about this topic.  For now, here’s a snippet from a piece I wrote for the Gospel Coalition that interacts with one facet of this movement, the need for robust theology for the purpose of church health and personal transformation.

Many ministers of God’s church worked as pastor-theologians, laboring in their studies amidst the many duties of ministry to produce sermons and works that would feed their people meat and not milk (Heb. 5:12-13). This is true of countless pastors in varied areas of Christian history: John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Sibbes, Owen (not me, the Brit), Edwards, Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones, to name a very few.

There is a reason we still read the sermons and writings of these men, antiquated as their language may be, strange as we may find their historical contexts. They sounded the depths of the Bible in their preparation and created faithful, doxological, and utterly consequential messages. Few if any modern preachers will match Edwards; every preacher can, however, feed his people a biblical feast each Sunday that will enlarge their understanding of God and set their affections on fire, loosing Christocentric citizens of the kingdom to take dominion of their minds, their practices, their families, their communities, and the earth itself.

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