With the slow re-opening of the country back up, and the likelihood of church gatherings being restricted for awhile, leveraging small groups is critical. Many churches want to be a church a church of small groups. This crisis is a great test of how well … Continue reading Small Groups: the amazing opportunity of now
React, Repeat, Respond
Life is hard and not fair. A good friend of mine, Joe, reminds people often that we cannot control our situations, but we can control how we respond to them. The platitude of attitude is everything comes into play here. When life hits you, a … Continue reading React, Repeat, Respond
A big vocabulary is not a vice
Big vocabulary, complexity, and academia are not a vices. Too often I am seeing pushback when smart people use big words, many words, or complexity. We need to stop with the anti-intellectualism.
The Bible takes three views on a person: wise, foolish, and naive. Only one is acceptable. In Proverbs to be truly wise is to be godly. In Ephesians to be truly godly is to be wise. Naive people are children. At a certain point you are no longer naive but a fool. Pursuit of wisdom is an essential spiritual practice.
Passion is not enough
Jesus said we are to love God with all our mind. Paul said we are to renew our mind. Peter commends Paul for his wisdom. Theology & philosphy are immensely practical. Developing the mind is intensely spiritual. One doesn’t need degrees to be smart and have an impact. Like Peter, we should not denounce intellect either. Foolishness should not be acceptable. We should develop our mind to the best of our ability.
In our age we can easily look things up. Rather than castigate someone for using big words, look it up. Learn. A person’s use of the mind is not a vice. Learn from them and be sharpened. What we should not be is comfortable in our ignorance. Degrees do not always equal intelligence or education, but lack of degrees is not an excuse.
Paul did not apmilify foolishness at the cost of intellectualism. Paul upheld humility in the face of arrogance. Knowledge puffing up points to arrogance. Love edifying is using knowledge to build up a person. Knowledge was not the vice, arrogance was. Passion is not in opposition to intellect, it requires it!
The bottom line:
Developing the mind is an essential part to loving God. Anti-intellectualism is actually a vice, not those those who use big words. The smarter you are is the better that you can love. To be wise is to be godly and to be godly is to be wise.
Think. Judge. Redeem.
Let us change the discussion from navel gazing at ‘the why’ of our problems and look to solutions. One sentence on the why of the “church” problems: Unbiblical thinking combined with lack of thought and theology leads to poor discernment and a mess. Now that the problem is out of the way, we can stop reading numerous church is blah blah blah articles. A wise professor drilled three concepts that will help us overcome: Think. Judge. Redeem.
Proverbs teaches us to be wise is to be godly. Ephesians 5&6 teaches us to be godly is to be wise. In Ephesians 4 as well as Romans 12 the Spirit points directly at the life of the mind. Christianity must work in the midst of suffering and chaos of our current world. And it does. Our fear stems from a lack of thought. Reason and faith are not opposed to one another. Our devotional life must ponder the deep questions of life as we study the Bible. Renewing our mind is a critical aspect to worship. Jesus did say we will not only worship in spirit but also in truth.
God is the source of all truth. In our current reality there is evil and suffering in the world. The question we then need to ask is how to we discern good form evil? Developing the mind is for the pragmatic result of discerning between good and evil, and between better and best. It is to, as Jesus stated, be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. This level of discernment is expected of us as Christians. (Read Hebrews 5:11-14)
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. The world is not a mere reference to people, but all creation as well. As we discern truth from error we must answer the question of how to redeem it. As Paul states, redeeming the time for the days are evil. How can we take an object that is depraved, discern the truth of it, and then use such for God’s glory? We are not to live life as a great waiting room for heaven. We are to engage in life and assist in the process of making it new in anticipation of Jesus return. This takes courage.
Lights. Trees. Action.
Think. John talks about Jesus being the light of the world. Judge. Martin Luther, a pastor in Germany, is faced with the paganism of the people he is trying to reach. One pagan ritual was bringing in evergreen trees to celebrate the winter solstice. The people needed to move away from false religion and instead focus on Christ. Redeem. The solution was to add lights to the evergreen tree to represent Jesus as the light of the world. A tradition once tied to paganism is renewed to a symbol of an incredible truth.
Act, don’t react.
We react negatively when our mind and discernment lacks development. Worse, we act in fear. Developing the mind is a critical spiritual discipline. Discernment is essential if we are to not only speak the gospel but also live it. Redemption is a critical role we play as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Developing the mind does not take away from faith. Truly, developing the mind bolsters the reasonableness and truthfulness of the gospel.
The bottom line:
Developing the life of the mind is a solution to help the church radiate the truth of the gospel, bless our culture, and act with gracious courage.
Who turned out the lights for a brighter future?
Every once in a while an article or articles you post online blows up your feed. Clearly, lighting in a worship center is a sensitive issue. In the ground swell of discussion there are a few concerns and patterns that need to be addressed. The lighting issue is a symptom of a greater issue within the North American Church, issues we do need to repent of.
One God, sneaky idols…
Churches worship methods as Christians worship preferences. While churches decry consumerism, Christians can point out the out of balance focus on methodology. Shedding light on modern idols is essential. We should operate from our theology and not our methodology. Methods change, who God is does not. On the individual side, church is not a commodity or business, it is a family. Being the church via one’s preferences misses a major point in the Bible: It’s not about you. Let us be frank: method worship and preference worship are major idols we the church need to remove.
One family, many discussions…
We are too quick to end discussions, as if the truth is already clearly known or understood. We are too quick to take offense. For example: The no light crowd pounces on the non-biblical issue with a side of evangelism. The all light all the time crowd brings out the design and Bible issue. Boom. Then there are people on the entire spectrum who say we shouldn’t discuss such things as there are more important issues. All three shutter discussion that is healthy and important. As Christians we stop discussion way too often and to our hurt. Cue the passages that talk about listening.
One creator, numerous stories…
Design communicates. Design matters. How we act as a church communicates our message as much or more so than what we say. For instance: Try communicating about Jesus’ birth in a brightly lit room, or discuss heaven in a dimly lit dark one. In both these scenarios the environment is antithetical to the story. Both these stories also need to be communicated with utmost clarity. We must stop treating the arts, such as design, as a non biblical, minor issue. Our mission to clearly communicate and proclaim who God is requires that such be brought under the light of our theology to reach a darkened world. After all, artists are a part of the body of Christ.
One church, open back doors…
In the last few decades there is a price the church paid: the de-churched. The idolatry, shuttering of discussion, and schizophrenic views on the arts cost the church too much. After all, we are family. Perhaps church growth would improve if our back doors were what we shuttered and not discussion, if we valued the glory of God more and our little kingdoms less. We can open our front doors more with artistic brilliance as more darken the seats of our worship centers. That is a worthy discussion, but there are sins we as a church family must repent of first. We’ve already paid too high a price.
The bottom line:
How we light our churches is not a big deal. How we discuss it shines a light on a dark stains the blood of Christ can easily wipe clean. While lighting may not be significant, there is too deep a price we paid. So, why not have the discussion and let the grace which God lavished on us and predestined before the foundations of the world conform us to the image of His son. Why not focus on the long-suffering and patience aspects of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. As a family we can and must do better.
The great divorce: Belief from action
Ask a dumb question and you’re bound to get a bad answer. In the vast online discussion on living for Christ one such questions is rampant. What is more important: theology or how we live? Let me be frank, it’s a dumb question. Why? We act (live) based on what we believe (theology).
God to Joshua
God tells Joshua that he MUST be absorbed with the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). Why? That Joshua may be careful to do all that is written in it. The result is success. God did not distinguish between action and belief, He called for both. Right actions flow from right thinking. God designed us as theological & philosophical beings. Theology and philosophy are intensely pragmatic because it’s the source of our actions.
Paul to Timothy
A key theme Paul wrote to Timothy was to guard both ministry (living) and doctrine (theology). This theme echoes the idea that God instructed Joshua. Either bad theology or bad living will undercut our mission of making disciples. This is a tension in life that is best left in place. Resolving this tension, which is too often done, creates a bigger mess. Poor Christian living is often a result of bad theology.
The other words of Christ in red…
Jesus makes this point as well. In the seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor Jesus upholds the value of upholding correct theology and living. Jesus calls out the error in either direction and praises success in either direction. While incorrect, people often value the words of Christ in red as more important than the other Holy Spirit (who is also God) parts of the Bible. Hilariously, people often forget the red words in Revelation. Jesus will judge our actions and doctrine.
This divorce hurts our kids
When we focus on belief vs action we lose the ESSENTIAL third rail of proclamation. God wants to be known and made known. The belief vs action debate is inherently self-focused. God upholds correct theology and correct living because He wants us to make Him known. It’s time to hang up the “preach the Gospel and when necessary use words.” God wants us to use words. Bad theology and bad living will undercut our sharing that message. Our focus should be on our spiritual children and grand children.
God the Father has a plan. Part of that plan is making Himself known to us. Life is not about us. God leads for His own name’s sake! God gave us the Bible (special revelation) so He could be KNOWN (theology). God the Son acted as a servant to point people to the Father. (He also did a lot of theology.) In communion this aspect of servanthood is demonstrated as we take the bread that symbolizes Jesus’ body which is for us. Becoming like Jesus is fundamentally servanthood (action). God the Spirit empowers God’s plan and living like Christ. The Spirit is our third rail. Acts 1:8 points this out. The Spirit leads us to not just live well, but to make God known (proclamation).
The bottom line:
We act based on what we believe. This drives us to share with others who God is by the power of the Spirit. Being like Jesus involves correct theology AND correct living for upholding our message of a risen savior. Don’t get stuck with the dumb question of belief vs living. Ask this question: Is my theology and life such that I can boldly proclaim the excellencies of Him who came as a servant, died innocently for our sin, rose victoriously on the third day and will soon return as King to make all things new?
Reflections on R13 conference
My reason for attending was to gain insight into the direction of culture & the church. The information and input were critical to setting up LFC’s direction. At the end of the day, the most important question at a ministry conference is who did God design your church to be. (Yes, in know it’s Jesus’ church.) I’ve heard and seen many churches get shipwrecked by returning pastors. Prior to the conference, friends reminded me of that fact and that the vision God gives me is important but as a pastor my job is to draw our the vision God gives the church.
“Just say you like someone. I like Mark Driscoll. Nobody agrees with everything about a person. I don’t even agree with myself sometimes.” ~ Rick Warren
This jumped out at me for several reasons. 1) I’m often asked why I like XYZ, followed by all the reasons I should like XYZ. 2) I was anti-Driscoll for a while and then grew to tolerate him. Seeing how other leaders affected him and sharpened(softened ironically) his ministry I figured I should not hedge. I like Mark too. 3) I’ve frequently heard Rick Warren criticized, especially by followers of John MacArthur. Rick Warren is the first guy I’ve seen get down on his knees and pray for pastors out of all the conferences I’ve been too. I like Rick too!
Serving Jesus hurts
“When, not if… When, not if… WHEN, not if… I said, when, not if you are betrayed…” ~Crawford Loritts
The speakers talked about the wounds of ministry. The larger your influence the more criticism you will take. Betrayal is part of the ministry package. The danger in hurt is acting out of hurt. We must serve out of the Gospel in the Spirit’s power. The temptation to act out of hurt is great and doing such will not produce good fruit. Pain is part of the sanctifying work God is doing through us. Ministry is about being and becoming who God designed you to be.
Vision isn’t about you
“If you think your vision is about you and it’s your vision, then you will hurt people and fail in the vision.” ~Crawford Lorries
Each speaker warned about our identity being in our vision or in the church. What matters more than our vision is our character, who we are when no one is looking. While the push was to grasp a God-given vision, it is our growth in Christ that matters more. If our identity is in our vision and our ministry we won’t let things go and give things away – requirements of a pastor. We are given a message to pass on. (I like Crawford too!)
John MacArthur disappoints
There was no anger or bitterness at John. Many highly view him as a man of God and appreciate his passion to teach the Word. The feeling of John not showing up felt like a let down to people. All the talk about it being a stunt or a trap for John was not true. The X3Watch booth with the cardboard cut out of John and Mark was classic. We laughed at ourselves too. After all, the host speaker called us all stupid. That said, John was respected and he disappointed.
Wake up church!
“Stop practicing repentance leads to hypocrisy, stop preaching repentance leads to heresy.” ~Mark Driscoll
The church needs to actively and intentionally change gears and get back on message. A major paradigm shift in culture has come and gone. The last session unveiled a massive research project on the unchurched or de-churched. Key to this is that the meaning of tolerance has changed. The new definition of tolerance is highly intolerant of Christianity. I’m reserving judgement on “riot evangelism,” but I do believe that love & courage can go together.
The bottom line:
The conference and divine appointments at the conference were well worth the investment. I learned a ton, met with God, and enjoyed the Seattle coffee I missed so much. For sure, I miss judged Mark Driscoll in a few ways. I think the church can learn a lot from him and Mars Hill just as they try to learn lots from others. Perhaps the message of humility is good for all churches to hear.
Book Review: A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll
“You didn’t think you were here just to kill time listening to Christian music until Jesus returned or you died, did you? Get to work.” P. 246
“A Call to Resurgence: will Christianity have a funeral or a future?” can be summed up in a simple sentence: Jesus’ church needs to aggressively refocus her attention and energy on the mission of making disciples of Jesus. Pastor Mark nails down the issues the church is facing in the culture of the United States. Regardless of your view of Pastor Mark, this book is a critical read for church leaders. It is a wake up call.
Things have changed
Over the last few years I noticed that culture shifted greatly. The light went on when speaking at a boys camp. When the least intellectual Christian sports jock asks a deeply apologetical question with antagonism towards Christianity- a paradigm shift has come and gone. Mark declares accurately that Christendom is dead in America. Culture will no longer carry Christians’ water and will instead be antagonistic towards it. If this thought is new to you, chapters 1 & 2 will be very helpful in describing the fall of Christendom.
Call it for what it is
Pastor Mark pulls no punches. (He often mentions or alludes to stories where this tendency may have caused some turmoil.) The interplay of humor, truth, humility and a call to focus on Jesus is interesting. He makes his point clear. Throughout the book is a clear message to pastors: It’s time to show courage in our calling.
Loving is a must, character is core, but Jesus is central!
Demonstrating biblical love is critical. I appreciate the issue of community and helping people the book brings out. Also running throughout the book is the issue of character, particularly in men. It is foundational to ministry, but is only accomplished through Spirit-empowerment. (Yes, there really is a 3rd member of the trinity!) All of that is to make Jesus known. We must proclaim a risen savior, Jesus. None of our acts of love or our character maters if we’re not sharing the Gospel.
Tribes & the Holy Ghost
Pastor Mark is not calling for weakened theology, but he is calling for us to speak with each other. Given the rising antagonism that the church is now and will continue to face we simply don’t have time to attack one another. There are issues where we disagree and conversations that should be had, but they shouldn’t distract us from our primary mission. That said, Mark accurately states that the Holy Spirit is a major issue that tribes need to work through. This may sound strange to some, but we must not put out the Spirit’s fire.
The bottom line:
A paradigm shift has come and gone for our country and Jesus’ church needs to quickly sharpen her focus without watering down or editing her message. There is no longer a dominate Christian view like “evangelicalism” anymore, but instead various “tribes” that must get back on mission. I appreciate Pastor Mark’s work and his communication on a much-needed message.
Forgotten Gifts of the Spirit
Church is team. It takes diversity for a unified church body to work, both within the local church as well as the universal church. Smoldering in the back of my head is the issue of Seminary, thanks in part to Pastor Tim Raymond. Back in May, Pastor Tim, a peer in seminary and a man of God I had the privilege to growing up with, wrote a series on the importance of seminary (Part one Part Two Part Three Part Four). Here is the opening to the series:
“For decades, seminary education has endured the slings and arrows of bad jokes, unkind mockery, and downright slander. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard a disillusioned preacher intentionally misspeak, recalling his years in “cemetery, I mean seminary,” I might be able to buy something edible. It would be easy for the average Christian to think wrongly, like Nathaniel did with Nazareth, that nothing good can come out of seminary.”
Wisdom & Knowledge
Wisdom & knowledge seem to be neglected gifts. Bill Hybels mentions often how leadership is often not developed or neglected in churches. For a long time, I believe that to be true. As I look over the course of my lifetime, it seems wisdom and knowledge are largely neglected. Churches rarely promote the life of the mind. Wisdom and knowledge feeds solid leadership and solid pastoring. It gives tools to evangelism and mercy. In the fear of heresy, apathy and/or elitism, we’ve neglected two vital gifts.
Seminary is vital
The church both local and universal need places of scholarship where those gifted with wisdom and knowledge can develop and build the body of Christ. I believe it is a duty of a pastor to be a theologian. Having the gift of leadership or shepherding doesn’t give us an excuse to be lax in our theology. It does mean we need to lean on those gifted in ways we are not. I’d be lost preaching through Romans if it were not for those gifted with wisdom and knowledge. While true knowledge can puff up and love edifies, Paul also argues for the importance of the mind in 1 Corinthians 14.
Disciples were diverse
Often the argument against scholarship, like seminary, is the disciples were average men. This is partly true. They were also men who went through a rigorous three-year training program by a master teacher, Jesus. Afterwards the Holy Spirit instructed them. While peter was “blue collar” Paul was clearly an intellectual. While John spoke profound truths simply, Luke and the writer of Hebrews were academically astute. We need all gifts. The formation of God’s Word illustrates this.
Biblical and theological literacy are at an all time low. The need for biblical counseling stands at an all time high. There is a relationship between these two things. Perhaps the church is reaping the costs of neglecting the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. What good is leadership or shepherding if it’s not on the firm foundation of God’s Word? Confusion on the Gospel, in worship and the church relationship to culture flow from not heeding wisdom and knowledge. We need to heed Hebrews 5:11-14.
The bottom line:
We need seminary and seminaries don’t need to be places where people lose their faith or passion. Like Tim, I found this to be quite the opposite. I’m immensely grateful for the discipleship Baptist Bible Seminary provided. While I understand that not all will or can attend seminary, I do think one should if at all possible. We need places where we can benefit from those gifted with wisdom and knowledge.
People often ask for peace. I spoke with young men this morning about for keys to having peace. A good reminder for us all.
1) Work through conflict Phil 4:2-3
Work through or help others work through conflict. Avoiding conflict will result in a lack of peace. Choose courage and work through conflict.
2) Worshipful spirit Phil 4:4-7
When we rejoice and thank God for all situations we have peace. A worshipful spirit means we trust in God’s plan. Choose joy, it demonstrates faith.
3) Make disciples Phil 4:8-9
What we focus on we’ll see in others. By focusing on good things we’ll see it others, and then take the next step to apply to our own lives. This is the discipleship process. Making disciples leads to peace. Choose to focus on Nobel things and live them out.
4) Be content Phil 4:10-14
Possessions can distract us or they can propel us. We can accomplish God’s will with what we have. We can bless others and help others accomplish God’s will when we have an abundance. Choose to be content with what you have, it will maximize your ministry.
The bottom line:
If you’re lacking peace from God, check these areas as a start. They’ll take you a long way on the road of peace.