Tag Archives: local church

“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.

8 Comments

Filed under church life, missional

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? An Atlantic Essay

The Atlantic has a long and engrossing new essay on the isolary nature of Facebook by Stephen Marche.  I’ve written about this before and thought this article worth considering.

Here’s a bit:

We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible. Over the past three decades, technology has delivered to us a world in which we need not be out of contact for a fraction of a moment. In 2010, at a cost of $300 million, 800 miles of fiber-optic cable was laid between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange to shave three milliseconds off trading times. Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.

Here’s the whole thing.

It strikes me that Facebook doesn’t have to be isolating, though it can be.  I try to make the service work for me, for example.  I don’t spend long amounts of time on it, I don’t use it as my primary social outlet, and I avoid pages/subjects that would upset me.  Frankly, I don’t really have enough time to spend on Facebook to get lonely.  I’m pretty sure that’s an ironic statement.

If you struggle with this, leave the site.  Or slash the time you spend on it.  Plug into real life.  Go to a Bible-preaching church, get to know the people, have potlucks (yes, they still exist!), play with your friend’s kids.  Get married, have kids of your own, work hard, serve the church.  Facebook need not be evil or soul-destroying, especially when your life is already balanced and big things–like God’s glory being spread over all the earth, including your little corner of it–matter far more than profile pics and status updates.

Social media is here to stay, and it’s increasingly where ideas are debated.  But we must use it carefully, and not allow it to use us.

2 Comments

Filed under social media

A Startling Word from Mark Dever on False Conversions

Justin Taylor is live-blogging Together for the Gospel, which is quite a feat given the extensive content yielded by this outstanding conference.  Yesterday, he summarized Mark Dever’s message on “False Conversion,” which included the following.  It’s well worth pondering as a pastor and a Christian.

“In reading through the NT, there are five summary truths that were being distorted in NT times and are still being distorted again—on these we must be especially clear on:

  1. God’s judgment is coming (2 Peter 3). You can easily fill a church with people who will follow their own evil desires. Avoiding the doctrine of hell is one step away from denying it altogether.
  2. We should be judged by God. It’s not just out there for someone. We need to feel our own helplessness. God is good and we are not. We need to understand and teach clearly our natural state and indisposition—we love darkness rather than light. This will preserve us from the idea that if we just fiddle with stuff enough, things will be successful. Meditate on Ezekiel 3. Don’t deny or downplay natural human lostness. We cannot deserve—but Someone Else has deserved for us. He who thinks lightly of sin will think lightly of the Savior.
  3. Our only hope is in Christ. We must trust in Christ—who he is and what he is done. We cannot be converted through our own works. The bodily resurrection is an essential part of our message. Without Christ’s person and work, you can make “converts” but you will not have a Christian church. When we get this right, we begin offending and attracting all the right people. Only true converts respond to the truth about Jesus Christ.
  4. We don’t see the fullness of our salvation in this life. Christ’s death and resurrection secure forgiveness—but it’s not true that salvation is mainly for this life only. There is a blessed hope—the glorious appearing. If only for this life we have hope, we are to be pitied for all men (1 Cor. 15:19). Wanting health and happiness is not the same as repentance. We need to see Christ as worth more than all worldly treasure.
  5. We can deceive ourselves and others about our relationship with God. It’s counter-intuitive in our culture, but clear in the Bible. Please teach this! How would your congregation understand 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

5 Comments

Filed under church membership, salvation

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.

19 Comments

Filed under church life, missional, missions

On the Trinity, Gospel, Local Church and More: Christianity.com Videos

What is the value of church history?  I attempt to answer this very important question here in a video interview with Christianity.com conducted at the 2011 national conference of The Gospel Coalition.  I reference the doctrine of the Trinity–currently a hot-button issue due to the matter of modalism raised in light of the Elephant Room video series–to show that while historical theology does not create truth, it certainly allows Christians to put together biblical insights, to systematize doctrine for the flourishing of God’s people and the defense of God’s name.  (That’s Athanasius, Trinitarian theologian par excellence, to the root, by the way.)

You can watch the featured Christianity.com video here.  Here is a list of other videos that I did for this organization, which is committed to putting out rich doctrinal content to aid Christians in their walk with Christ.  I’m thankful for the chance to have made a small contribution and hope that these videos stimulate thought and learning.  They were very fun to do.  Most are between 2-3 minutes.

Here are the topics I talked about in bite-size pieces:

1 Comment

Filed under theology

New IXMarks: Pastoring Women

The new IXMarks eJournal is out, and it’s on pastoring women and honoring and understanding distinctiveness.  Below is a listing of the Journal’s contents.

I. Pastoring Women: Understanding And Honoring Distinctness

 Why Complementarianism Is Crucial to Discipleship  By Jonathan Leeman
If God created men and women differently, discipleship should not be one-size-fits-all. It should cultivate their differences.

Discipling Men vs. Discipling Women  By Deepak Reju
Practically speaking, how should a pastor disciple men and women differently? What kind of strategies and structures should he put in place?

How Pastors Can Equip Women for Ministry  By Bob Johnson
A seasoned pastor provides practical, down-to-earth counsel on training women for ministry.

The Genesis of Gender and Ecclesial Womanhood  By Owen Strachan
Strachan digs into the foundational texts on the differences between men and women in order to present a vision for ecclesial womanhood.


II. Women’s Ministry In the Local Church

Wanted: More Older Women Discipling Younger Women  By Susan Hunt
Titus 2 commands it. Younger women are hungry for it. The church as a whole will benefit from it. So where are the older women who will disciple younger women?

For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt, and Seasons of Life  By Jani Ortlund
Young mothers face enormous demands that consume all the energy they have. Here’s why they shouldn’t feel guilty for focusing on the home rather than outside ministry.

May Women Serve as Pastors?  By Thomas R. Schreiner
A trusted New Testament scholar takes on this contentious but crucial topic.

 
III. Resources For Today’s Biblical Women

Book Review: Radical Womanhood, by Carolyn McCulley  Reviewed by Kristin Jamieson

Book Review: Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit, by Mark Chanski  Reviewed by Owen Strachan

 
IV. Audio Interviews

What is the Gospel? with Greg Gilbert and C.J. Mahaney
The gospel. The cross. The kingdom. The church. Greg Gilbert and C.J. Mahaney discuss all this and more. Posted on July 1, 2010

Biblical Theology in the Local Church with Michael Lawrence
Why is biblical theology essential for pastoral ministry? How do you do it? Find out in this roundtable discussion with Michael Lawrence, Tom Schreiner, and Jonathan Leeman.
Posted on June 1, 2010

1 Comment

Filed under 9Marks, church life, womanhood

Upcoming: John Piper and Don Carson on Pastors and Scholars

pipercarsonIn just two weeks, on Thursday, April 23, 2009, at Park Community Church in Chicago, IL, the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School will host an evening of free lectures and discussion with Dr. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church and Dr. D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The event will begin at 7:00pm and conclude around 10:00pm.

Titled “The Pastor as Scholar, and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry with John Piper and D.A. Carson”, the evening will feature hour-long lectures by Drs. Piper and Carson that offer reflection of a theological and personal nature on the work of the pastor and the scholar, respectively.  All are welcome and invited.  See below for details on parking and transportation (note: shuttle buses will run from both the Chicago and Division blue line train stops to the church from 5pm to 7pm).

We at the Henry Center are really excited about this free event, which is sponsored by our title partner, BibleMeshAdditional partners include Moody Press, Christian Focus Publications, and Crossway Books, all of which will be featuring a book in the initial moments of the event.  The evening will be recorded in high-definition by Desiring God Ministries and live-blogged by the Henry Center.  All material will be available for free at DGM, The Gospel Coalition website, and the Henry Center website.

For more information as we rapidly approach this event, please visit the event website, pastortheologian.com.  If you are a budding pastor or scholar with a love for God’s Word and a heart for the church, I encourage you to come out to this free event and be a part of a growing movement that is changing the church as it recovers the historic model of the pastorate and reinvigorates it with the riches of biblical truth and the resources of theological study.

**********************

1. Event Location:

Park Community Church (Chicago, IL, 60610)

1001 N. Crosby map between Chicago and Division Streets

River North District.

2. Parking:

Parking is available on the street level of the building (enter on Crosby).  It will be scarce, so the train may be optimal for local attendees.

Additional parking is available in the lot on the north side of the building; street parking is available in the neighborhood.

Validated parking is available in the parking deck at 950 N. Kingsbury ($4 for 3 hours).

3. Public Transportation:

For those in the city, by bus, take #66 Chicago, #70 Division or #8 Halsted.

By train, to the Brown Line to Chicago and head east to Larrabee; take the Red Line to Chicago & State and catch the westbound #66 Chicago bus.

Special Note: For those coming from the northwest (from The Gospel Coalition), take the blue line to either Chicago or Division. From 5:00pm until the event begins, chartered buses will take attendees from either stop to the church building.

4. Schedule:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

7:00pm | Introductions
7:10pm | Piper Talk on “The Pastor as Scholar”
8:10pm | Carson talk on “The Scholar as Pastor”
9:10pm | Break
9:20pm | Audience discussion
10:00pm | Conclusion

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Are Roommates the New Family?

Just found an interesting article that captured a cultural trend.  The New York Times writer Stephen Williams penned a piece called “Home, Hangout, Departure Lounge” that profiles a group of roommates living together in New York City.  It’s a short but noteworthy article that includes the following:

nytHere’s how the group came together: “The four roommates from Grand Rapids became friends in high school. Each of them eventually made it to New York, where all but Mr. Armstrong attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was there that Mr. D’Adamo joined the crew. He now works in sales at the Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams furniture store in SoHo.  About four years ago, everybody except Miss Scott rented an apartment together in Harlem. It had a huge kitchen and living room and four bedrooms, and cost $2,600 a month. Then Miss Scott moved in, staying in whichever room was empty — all of the roommates spent (and continue to spend) many nights with their significant others. When it was decided that Miss Scott needed her own room, they started looking for a five-bedroom place to share. They like hanging together.”  

Here’s how they think about family: “It’s nice to have some sort of family here where you know each other’s business, their parents, everything,” Mr. Vosovic said.”

They live separate lives together: “It’s a great little commune, especially because while the residents hang out now and then, and give birthday parties for one another, they still live separate lives. So far, there are no plans to break up a good thing. But Mr. Vosovic has ideas for the future. “Hopefully the girls will get pregnant and we’ll have babies with live-in baby sitters!” he said.”

Clearly the roommates are nice people.  They prize that most precious of modern buzzwords, “community.”  That’s no bad thing.  They sound fun and caring, and it seems that they have created their own little family.  It seems, though, that they have accepted the current generation’s radical redefinition of family–where once it referred to a “nuclear” unit composed of husband, wife, and children, now it refers to any number of shifting collections of friends and acquaintances.  Having seen many couples seemingly fall out of love, observing the fragmentation and geographical isolation of the modern family, groups like this are recreating family the best they can.

But this comes with a price.  It means that one lives as one likes.  It means the delaying of responsibility and maturity.  As a new father, I can say that I have found fatherhood to be one of the most spiritually stimulating experiences of my life.  It is a blast, simply put, though it involves tons of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work.  I’m very much figuring all that out, but I can already see how fatherhood helpfully changes us and robs us of our selfishness, if we allow it to do so.

Though this modern way of living–with relationships, work, and friends neatly compartmentalized–seems optimal, it can mask a pervasive narcissism and refusal to mature.  The call to make a family, which many of us will hear, brings together all aspects of life, unifies them as a single whole, makes us whole people.  One can’t have a “life” at work, another with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend, another with one’s roommates.  Rather than accepting a new definition of the family, an unbiblical one, Christians need to be salt and light by transmitting the beauty of the natural family to a confused, compartmentalized world.

In the end, it strikes me that these young people are looking for something that they can’t find outside of Christ–a family greater than their own.  This little group of roommates, in their own way, is reaching for a community they cannot enter, a joy they cannot taste, unless God makes them His own by giving them faith in His Son through the work of His Spirit.   

Whether single or married, we need to call all people to the true family, the family of God.  Our natural families, saturated with goodness and blessing, are just a snapshot of the beauty of God’s spiritual family in which both all people may find ultimate fulfillness.  In New York City or rural South Dakota, the local church beckons to the sad and lonely, calling all to join it in its journey to the lasting home, the dwelling place of God.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

David Jackman on Preaching That Connects

From the just-published Trinity Journal come from wise words of expert preacher David Jackman of the U. K.’s Proclamation Trust:

“Counteract the particular distortions of our present cultural context by refuting them biblically.  That is to say that we must read the newspaper as well as the Scriptures.  We should be people who know and understand our times, who discern the currents and tides beneath the surface of events and movements.  We should be people who penetrate to the causes of the cultural malaise and expose them, rather than simply railing against the symptoms.  If we do not take on the real pressure points of the culture in our preaching we shall not connect with our people.  We shall end up preaching an abstracted discipleship, which has no cutting edge in reality.  Why, for example, were eighty percent of the abortions in one of the southern states performed on women who are church members?  This is where the gospel connects and so we must be courageous enough, and dependent enough upon God’s Spirit, to address these issues.  It will requires the negatives of rebuke and correction as well as the soothing message of grace, forgiveness, and transformation.  But remember the same Jesus who spoke those wonderful words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” continued immediately with a negative: “No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).  Pastoral preaching must seek above all to be faithful; it may not be popular.” (Fall 2008, 202)

Too many of our churches feature “abstracted discipleship” in which the pastoral burdens expressed are those found in Calvin’s or Hodge’s commentaries, thus relevant only to those members of our churches currently dealing with Victorian-era social problems.  Not all pastors need to be cultural experts, but all pastors need to be culturally familiar, and to bring the gospel to bear on the unique challenges and vicissitudes of life in their environment.

Do not preach an abstract Christianity; preach a particularized, powerful, personally applicable one that engages your hearers, reaches their hearts, and addresses their needs, desires, and sins.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Saturday Devotions: Holy Spirit Comfort

Acts 9:31 reads,

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

Following a section on the difficulties the newly converted Saul faced in joining the church, this verse stood out to me because it seems to connect the way in which the church lived–”in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit”–with its growth.

Why is this noteworthy? Well, because there are roughly 18 million church growth books that offer you the one surefire way to “grow your church.” I am not one to think that anyone, however talented or creative or holy, can come up with the solution for church growth. Nor am I one to think that we should focus much of our time and energy on this matter. If one is to do so, though, it seems a good idea to start with the Bible and its testimony regarding growth.

What, then, does this verse say to us about the means by which we grow the growth? Well, nothing we wouldn’t already find out from out the Word. Our local churches need to “fear the Lord” and taste “the comfort of the Spirit” as we live boldly in a fallen world, sharing the gospel and living it out in our communities. That, it would seem, is our basic approach to church growth.

This is a most comforting mandate, though. We need to fear the Lord, and we need to taste the Spirit’s comfort. Let us start there, trust the Lord, work very hard to glorify Him through our evangelism and radically different and attractive corporate life, and leave whatever comes to Him, staying open all the while to counsel and encouragement from others.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized