Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review of Church Planting is For: Wimps by Mike McKinley

Author: Mike McKinley

Pages: 128pgs

Publisher: Crossway

Price: 7.91

Genre: Church Planting/Ministry

Quick Summary:

The subtitle of the book tells the story: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things. The idea behind this book is that you do not have to be extraordinarily gifted to plant churches. Often people think that it takes one type of personality to plant churches. This book hopes to break that mold.

It is, however, not about church planting (from scratch) but church “revitalizing” or “replanting”. Through connections with Capitol Hill Baptist, McKinley was hired as the pastor of a very small church. After spending time on staff at Capitol Hill, McKinley and a few members from there set out to revitalize Guilford Baptist about 45 minutes away. This book is their story, but it is filled with practical cross-situational advice.

What I Liked:

This was one of the most fun and thought provoking books that I have read in awhile. As an example of McKinley’s writing skill consider his description of the church building he inherited, "like a worm-eaten old cat sucking in its last few beleaguered breaths".

But it is not simply good writing that makes this book phenomenal. McKinley is unashamedly biblical; he exalts the sufficiency of Christ and His Word in building His church. This is a refreshing book on church planting/church growth. In the midst of so many pragmatic—“do this and be awesome”—books, comes a humble pastor encouraging us to patiently and passionately proclaim God’s Word.

Another added bonus is that McKinley does not just stop with how to do ministry in the church. In such a short book it is refreshing to see that an entire chapter is devoted to loving your family in the midst of such a difficult task.

Furthermore you could easily read this 128 pages book in one sitting. And it will keep your attention well enough to do so. I found myself unable to put this book down—although I had to at times to think about what is being presented.

What I Disliked:

I have never been involved in church planting so I am certain that there may be a few things that others would disagree with. Perhaps McKinley could be charged with over-simplification at times. But at the end of the day he is not really trying to say “do this and be awesome”. His plea in this book is the biblical plea of Paul—God uses ordinary broken vessels to spread His glory to the nations. I honestly cannot think of anything I disliked in this book.

Should You Buy It?

Even if you are not a church planter you should buy this book. Churches should be involved in planting churches (or revitalizing and replanting). If you are involved in church planting then you most certainly need to buy this book . You can read it in a couple hours and it’s under 10 bucks.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

40 Questions on Biblical Interpretation

One of my favorite professors so far has been Dr. Robert Plummer.  Few people could make an 8:00 Greek class exciting.  Dr. Plummer is one of those few people.  He has a noticeable passion for Jesus and teaches in a humble and edifying way.  So even though I have yet to read this book I wholeheartedly recommend Dr. Plummer’s new book: 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible

Dr. Plummer was recently on Dr. Mohler’s radio show, it’s worth a listen

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

30 Hours To Solve Biblical Famine

Yesterday I asked “should a pastor spend 20-25 hours in sermon preparation?”  Today I want to consider how a pastor could easily spend 20-25 hours in sermon preparation.  I even want to make the argument that these steps to sermon prep should not be circumvented.  Perhaps you could give some of these less time but I believe that these steps need to be present. 

I will state the obvious (but often overlooked) upfront.  Each of these steps should be bathed in prayer.  Sermon preparation should fundamentally be done on the knees.  With that being said here is how one could easily spend 20-25 hours in prep time.

I am assuming that the preacher is preaching through an already established series, so there is no time spent figuring out what to preach. 

Stage #1

The essential element to sermon preparation is to really get what the text means.  Sometimes this will be easier and sometimes it will be really quite difficult.  I typically begin by using something like Bible Arc to get a feel for how the passage fits together. 

After I feel as if I have a grasp on the flow of the text I will begin reading commentaries and engaging in linguistic and background studies.  This is where I really try to get a grasp on what the author in this text is saying.  All throughout this process I am asking myself questions about where it fits in the overall story of Scripture and how this particular text relates to Jesus. 

Then after doing all of this background work I try to write the text in my own words (I know, heresy, right?).  This helps me to know that I have a good understanding of what the original author intended.  The goal of the first stage is to be able to know what the author intended and how it relates to Jesus. 

Stage #2

All throughout stage #1 ideas will come into my mind about how this particular text might preach.  But what I try to do before considering how it may benefit others is to consider how this text needs to shape my own life.  As John Owen has said, “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” 

At the end of the day the most important thing is that I am mastered by the Word and not simply have a mastery of the Word.  What good is it for me to know that Christ saying “I wish you were hot or cold” has to do with the water supply of Laodicea, if my own heart is not rescued from lukewarm pursuits? 

In the first stage I want to know the text.  In the second stage I want to know my own heart and how it relates to this text.  I want to consider how Jesus provides rescue in this passage.  I want to know how this passage preaches the gospel to my own heart. 

Stage #3

Now I am ready to consider how to preach this text.  This is often a really difficult task.  You have won half the battle if you consider your own heart.  But there are unique needs to each congregation and individual. 

In this stage I am trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between my 21st century hearers and the original audience.  What do we have in common with the church in Colossae?  What might we be going through that can relate to David’s time in the cave?  At the end of the day I can have confidence that the human heart in the 21st century struggled with the same thing that people in the first century (or even OT) struggle with today.  And I can also have confidence that the same Jesus recorded in Scripture is the same Jesus that heals today.  I just have to labor to bridge that gap. 

The good folks at 9Marks have provided an application grid that is very helpful for this step.  They offer it in blank and also give a completed sample

At the end of this stage I hope to have a decent outline of what the text is saying and how it applies to us.  I hope to put it in a concise statement that connects what the original author is saying with our response today. 

Stage #4

I start writing out the sermon.  I fill out the skeleton.  This can take some time but is actually the easiest step.  After doing all of this preparation work it is quite easy to fill out six pages worth of manuscript. 

Stage #5

After writing the manuscript I try to put it back in an outline form.  At this stage I am simply getting ready to preach.  I want to know that if my notes burn up in front of me I could still preach this text.  I may take the whole manuscript into the pulpit with me and I may take an outline form (typically I take both). 

These stages are all inter-connected and I often find myself bouncing back and forth.  But you can see how a preacher could easily spend 20-25 hours per week doing sermon prep.  And each step is necessary.

If you skip step one then you will just be giving advice.  If you skip step two then your preaching will lack passion and  your soul will eventually wither.  If you skip step three you will just have a verse by verse commentary that your people cannot fully connect with.  If you skip step four it may not be the worst thing—but you will run the risk of not being as deliberate and intentional with the words you choose to communicate such a precious truth.  If you skip step five you may miss obvious holes in your sermon. 

Preaching and teaching the word is a high calling, lets not shirk our responsibility.

Early I mentioned something obvious.  Here is the second obvious thing: I am by no means and experiment in preaching and homiletics—not even close.  Feel free to offer suggestions or how you spend your time preparing sermons or Sunday school lessons. 

Should Mommy Work?

My wife often struggles with not working outside the home.  I am confident that she puts in more difficult days than I do while working outside the home.  Some of our financial strain could be alleviated by my wife taking a part-time or full-time job.  But at the end of the day we have decided that the most important thing that we can provide for Isaiah (and the forthcoming baby Hannah) is for mommy to be at home and pour her life into them.  That’s why what John Piper says here resonates with us:



Thank you Nikki for being so faithful to your glorious ministry!  Our children’s passion for Jesus will be a reflection of yours. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Listening to the Sermon

I'm working on a sermon from Luke 8:1-15 (Parable of the Soils). While reading commentary by Philip Ryken I was impressed by the closing paragraph on the teaching of the soils. He hits the nail on the head.

Usually when people listen to a sermon they make some kind of evaluation. "I thought that was a really good sermon," they say, or perhaps they say that it wasn't a good sermon at all. Either way, the sermon is what they want to assess. But according to the parable of the soils, it is really God's word that evaluates us, because the way we respond shows what is in our hearts. Good hearing is just as important as good preaching. If the gospel is truly preached, then what we say about the sermon says more about us than it does about the sermon. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

While reading this closing paragraph of Ryken's my mind was drawn to the verses in Luke's gospel that immediately follow the parable of the soils. Luke 8:16-18 Jesus points out that a lamp is lit to be seen, things will be disclosed, and then says in v. 17, " Therefore, consider carefully how you listen...."

Monday’s Ministry Musing: In Defense of Long Sermon Prep

I recently heard CJ Mahaney talk about 20-25 hours of sermon prep.  Mark Dever at another point mentioned upwards of 30.  I remember a discussion at T4G and most on the panel were at least in double digits.  Should a pastor spend 20-25 hours in sermon preparation? 

Apparently this guy doesn’t think so: The Waste and Redundancy of Sermon Prep

Is this neglecting the people?

The underlying assumption is that by spending 20-25 hours in sermon prep you are neglecting your people.  That is why I get tons of mail encouraging me to spend time away from studying and preparing sermons to do what I really want to do—be with people.  The thought is that if I just recycle someone else’s sermon, use a packaged outline, or show a video clip that I will immediately free up 20 hours of my week and now I can go minister to people.

Now I freely admit that many pastors (myself included) can have a tendency to be bookish and spend too much time in the study and not enough time with people.  I personally can have this tendency.  So, I need to hear the rebuke of men like Tim Keller:

If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be--someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people's struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher.

And I think Keller is especially saying this to younger preachers (like myself) that lack certain life experiences.  I must confess that I wholeheartedly agree with Keller.  I have on occasion neglected people for the sake of learning. 

But the pendulum can easily swing in the other direction.  And I think that is what has happened in the above article.  There is another side to what Keller is saying.  You will not be able to effectively minister to people as a shepherd and leader unless you are devoting an ample amount of time to the Word and to prayer.  Even if you are not preparing sermons you should be digging deep into God’s Word. 

You can neglect your people by being shallow just as easy as you can by being too bookish.  The wise pastor will find the balance.  Be aware of your own tendencies.  If you are more prone to spending time in the study (like me) then make it a habit to do “people-work”.  If you are more apt to doing “people-work” then challenge yourself to spend a little extra time in sermon preparation. 

The most important aspect to our ministry is the proclaimed word (which is empowered through Word-centered praying).  This happens through “people-work” and through sermons.  Be certain that you are giving ample time to both. 

Tomorrow I want to consider how you could easily spend 20 plus hours preparing a sermon…

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don’t Drown in Biblical Illiteracy, Get on the Arc

An amazing resource for any serious Bible student is  If you are unfamiliar with arcing then head over to bible arc and check it out.  I will warn you, arcing is a huge brain strain, but the payoff is wonderful. 

A new part of Bible Arc is Arc Blogs.  I would highly recommend learning how to arc (for the full experience you should pay 10 bucks and join) and then journeying through these Arc Blogs.  It will assist your Bible study and really help to make the Bible come alive. 

For more on this check out the DG annoucement.  Or watch this video:

Two Ways to Sell a Book, continued…

Yesterday I promised to “make the argument that biblical faithfulness and effectiveness are not synonymous, and conclude by urging you to focus on biblical faithfulness over against mere effectiveness.”  Promise delivered…sort of.

In one sense the above paragraph is ridiculous.  To be effective simply means to produce the intended result.  So, if your intended result is to be biblically faithful, and you are, then you are effective.  But that’s not what I necessarily mean by “being effective”. 

I’ll make this simple and not unnecessarily wordy.  You cannot control results in your church.  And if you think you can then they aren’t the type of results that you want.  There is not a formula that says if you follow this model then God will be pleased with your church and it will grow.  Yes, there are established means that God uses.  But there are men that have been ridiculously faithful (see Richard Greenham, who doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia) and have seen little visible fruit (see the prophet Jeremiah or even Jesus). 

Speaking of Jesus I wonder what the back of his bestseller would look like.  Would it be filled with all sorts of buzzwords?  What would be his selling point?  Biblically faithful or producing mass results.  Perhaps one blurb could read:

“Jesus, once had thousands following him until he invited his audience to feed on his flesh.  Since then Jesus has a small band of loyal followers.” 

At the end of the day what Jesus was more concerned with was biblical faithfulness and not mass results.  That was the grid he used to measure his success.  And that should be our attitude as well.  Consider this from Paul:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  (1 Cor. 3:6-8)

Focus on faithfully planting and faithfully watering.  But this isn’t all the revolutionary is it.  Tomorrow I will present to you a chart showing the difference of focus between the biblically faithful model and the effective model. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taking Issue with Rapping Motions

This is my first exposure to 5ptsalt.  Today he takes issue with Joshua Shank’s rap-motion at SBC 2010.  I showed the video a few days ago, but if you have not seen it you can do so here:

From what I can tell here is the gist of 5ptsalt’s argument:


Joshua was “more set on promoting Acts 29 than presenting a serious, worthwhile motion”. 


“not being satisfied with the proper use of the English language”

not “maintaining some degree of decorum”

he rapped his motion to the “shame of everyone who has even a modicum of an education”.

he spoke like an “ignorant, uneducated brute”


Shank is “silly and self-absorbed”, “degraded the very existence of the SBC meeting”, and is a horrible witness and only recognized as a pastor but not one really. 


I want to be upfront and say that I do actually wish that Shank would have made his motion and not rapped it.  It was fun as well as funny.  But I do think that it caused it to not be taken seriously.  And the content was actually not all that silly

However, I take serious issue with what 5ptsalt is asserting here.  It grieves my heart.  And I want to let you know upfront my motivation in posting this.  I am not simply trying to call out him as a person or merely this article.  My desire is to look at the issue, make an argument that his evidence does not warrant his conclusion or support his thesis, and in the end look at my own heart. 

The Ignorant and the Gospel

Timmy Brister gives us a back story to the intention behind this post.  Like it or not here is what the motion was about: “expressing appreciation and affirmation for the investment of the Acts 29 Network for their work in planting gospel-centered churches in the SBC?” 

So, maybe 5ptsalt is onto something.  Or is it possible that the aim behind promoting Acts 29 is to promote gospel-centeredness and to do away with all of the division and hatred towards Acts29?  I think that is closer to the intent.  What I think Brister, Mitchell, and Shank have in mind is promoting the gospel above our extra-biblical divisions.  (Yep, that just opened up the whole can of worms about whether we should be for or against A29). 

spurge Let’s just say for the sake of argument that the motion really was ignorant, brutish, improper, and shameful to the educated.  Doesn’t the gospel trump this?  Is it possible that having someone rapping a motion is actually a better gospel witness because of its display of the diversity within the body of Christ?  Do we really want to make the argument that ignorant, brutish, and improper people cannot make motions or lead churches? 

"Redolent of bad taste, vulgar, and theatrical."  That is what a newspaper (and it was not alone) once said of Charles Spurgeon.  Spurgeon spoke the language of the common people.  Perhaps, Joshua Shank is doing the same. 

Looking at my own heart

But I am often guilty of this same thing.  I have certain things that I greatly dislike and some things to me seem like great issues that in the end probably are not.  I have to ask these questions of my own heart.  Do I have the attitude of Paul that is excited that the gospel is being preached, even if with wrong motives?  See Philippians 1:15, and this article

Do I have patience and grace with those that are doing things perhaps not the best or even most biblical way?  Do I have humility to say that I may be wrong—and perhaps I am not doing things the best or the most biblical way? 

Thankfully, Jesus used fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, redeemed prostitutes, former extortionist, and all manner of outcasts for his glory.  He even used wealthy and refined people too.  I’m thankful that his grace is big enough to cover my sin, and that his glory is great enough to overshadow and use broken vessels like me. 

The Point of “Two Ways to Sell a Book”

Yesterday I said that there are two ways to sell books on church and ministry.  (If you haven’t read that post yet spend a couple of minutes and read it).  There are two ways to sell books because there are two different visions about church and ministry.  One vision is what I will call the Effective Model the other is the Biblically Faithful Model. 

Lest you be offended I am not intending to apply that those that are concerned with being biblically faithful are not also concerned with being effective.  Nor am I for a moment suggesting that those that desire to be effective are not at all concerned with being biblically faithful.  What I am concerned with is the ultimate aim.  Regardless of whatever lip service we might give at the end of the day what ultimately drives us is revealed by the words we use and the words we choose not to use. 

Real Words from Real Books

While yesterdays post may have been an exaggeration, many of the words I used came from actual books on church and ministry.  The selling point for one can be summed up by the word—effective.  The selling point for the other can be summed up by the words—biblically faithful. 

Now, I know that if you asked any of these authors if their ultimate desire is to be biblically faithful, they would all give a resounding yes.  I do not intend to question the heart or motive of any of these men.  But the problem is that while they would say that their ultimate desire is to be biblically faithful at the end of the day their work exposes that perhaps something else drives them. 

It has been my experience that being biblically faithful is simply assumed in many of these books.  It’s as if they say, “this is our foundation, duh!  Now, how do we grow this church for the sake of Jesus.”  So as a result the end becomes—how do we effectively reach people. 

And for proof that I am not just being a jerk look at the selling point on the books.  There is a marked difference between an option #2 book and an option #1 book.  And it is not just that they have different publishers.  They are different authors with different audiences and different visions for the church.  They have a different gauge for success and apparently so do their audiences.  One ultimately asks what is effective, the other ultimately asks what is biblically faithful.

The Point

I have a rather simple point in all of this.  I know that most of those that read my blog are people passionate about Jesus and the church.  Most of my readers want to see the church grow and want to see the church be healthy.  Many probably read some of the same books I do about church and ministry.  My goal in these posts is to convince you that we should focus our time and energy on being biblically faithful and let the Lord decide whether we are “effective”. 

In other words if you are a church leader I encourage you not to take an “effective model” type of book and try to implement it in your church.  Yes, it may “work” in their church.  Yes, it may even “work” in your church.  But just taking someone else’s “effective model” will short change you of the God-ordained process of patiently shepherding your people towards biblical faithfulness. 

Tomorrow I want to make the argument that biblical faithfulness and effectiveness are not synonymous, and conclude by urging you to focus on biblical faithfulness over against mere effectiveness…

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Two Ways to Sell a Book on the Church and Ministry

There are two ways to sell a book on church and ministry. 

Option #1:

On the back cover you read:

“__Guy that is obviously cooler than you  , became pastor of   Cool Name Church  in 1994.  This once struggling church now has 3,000 members, 12 multi-campuses, and is reaching world for Christ.  Through this book you will discover the effective tools for creating change, energizing people, and expanding your church.    Insert cool guys name  , will help you take your church from simply suck to success.”

And just for good measure you will see words like dynamic, thriving, transforming, practical, vision, innovation, (biblical will be on there somewhere, and maybe we can throw in a "Jesus" here and there), cutting edge, workable, make it happen, enhancing, inspiring, etc. smattered all over the back page.

You may even get a picture of a smiling dude that you just know has it all together.  And somewhere on the back cover or inside the book you will have blurbs from other pastors that have been effective, successful, and have created change also.  These guys tell you—read this book—and you’ll be innovative, dynamic, thriving, and a world changer. 

There is an offshoot of this strategy that takes some of the glam out.  It’s hip dudes that just want to love Jesus.  We just want to get back to church the way it was in the New Testament man.  But the end result and buzz words are often the same.  The people in the blurbs are different and have different shaped glasses, but the end result is still—be effective!

Option #2:

On this back cover you read:

“   Guy that is obviously smarter than you  , has thought a great deal about ecclesiology.  This book will address come of the most crucial issues facing the church today.    Smart dude looks at what the Bible says about the way a church should be structured.  His passion is to be biblically faithful, and to see you implement these biblical changes in your church for God’s glory.  The hope is that this book will change your life and ministry.”

You will see a few words like practical, helpful, etc. on the back cover but mostly you will see words like biblical, faithful, theology, pray for reformation, healthy, biblical priorities, pastoral, insightful, gospel, Scriptures, foundational, timeless, historical, biblical prescription, etc.

With option #2 it is an unspoken rule that you must have a blurb from John Piper, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, or one of those guys.  Somebody from T4G has to approve this book.  And these guys will assure you that the book that you have in your hands is approved and is biblical. 


Now obviously I have overstated these positions but there is something behind this that I want to mention for your consideration…tomorrow. 

Taste and See

Growing up I never ate Chinese food.  Maybe because I came from a town of 600 and my only exposure to all things Chinese came from Rambo and Chuck Norris.  I had always assumed it was only noodles, egg rolls, and little baby kittens.  So, I think the first time I ate Chinese food was in college.  But once I had my first bite of cashew chicken I was hooked.  And my love for Chinese food has expanded and grown over the last 10 years.  I couldn’t imagine turning down such joy. 

Scripture encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good”.  I have, and He has proven to be far more glorious than cashew chicken.  With that as a background consider this from the pen of John Newton:

For how can we but be staggered, when we hear people speaking the language of assurance—that they know their acceptance with God through Christ, and have not the least doubt of their interest in all the promises—while at the same time we see them under the influence of unsanctified tempers, of a proud, passionate, worldly, selfish, or churlish behavior?

In other words, how can it be consistent that someone can claim to be in a right relationship with a holy God and yet have lives filled with unholy behavior.  How can you taste and see that the Lord is good and yet turn back to living ungodly lives?  Is it not unsettling that a person (myself included) would feast on steak and then chase it down with a glass of sawdust? 

To this Newton speaks of the full effects of faith (You can read the whole letter, here).  Faith causes us to want more and more of God.  This is why Newton is able to say:

Whoever is possessed of true faith, will not confine his inquiries to the single point of his acceptance with God, or be satisfied with the distant hope of heaven hereafter. He will be likewise solicitous how he may glorify God in the world, and enjoy such foretastes of heaven as are attainable while he is yet upon earth.

Newton is saying here that once you have tasted that the Lord is good you are not satisfied with a mere taste or settling for the hope of a great banquet meal in the distant future.  Just like me with my first taste of cashew chicken.  I went back to Chinese restaurants and I even branched out and tried all sorts of other dishes. 

You haven’t really tasted that the Lord is good if you never come back to feast…

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SBC and Reformed? Why does it matter?

I must be missing something. 

There is a discussion on Les Puryear’s blog, and now at SBC Voices about whether or not you can be Reformed and Baptist.  This discussion really is not about Calvinism.  It is more about “Reformed” polity and other distinctives of Reformed theology. 

Allow me to tie a few things together, and then I will explain why I am confused.

1. The Southern Baptist Convention as a denomination began as a missions endeavor.  The hope was for like-minded churches to pool their resources to be more effective in missions. 

2. “Like-minded” is more about issues related to the gospel itself, the practice of baptism, and regenerate church membership.  It had little to do with other issues of polity.

3. Because of this belief the desire was to keep local churches autonomous.  That means that local churches are able to maintain their own polity, etc. so long as they held onto the gospel, the biblical practice of baptism, and regenerate church membership.  (Perhaps some will accuse me of rewriting history here—but I think it may be a decent summary). 

Summary: Southern Baptist Convention=like-minded autonomous churches pooling their resources to spread the gospel to the nations. 

This is why I don’t understand much of this whole discussion.  Can you be a Reformed Baptist?  At the end of the day this whole thing comes down to semantics.  What does it really mean to be Reformed?  What does it really mean to be Baptist?  I just do not understand why this matters. 

Obviously I believe that polity matters.  But I never thought the intention of the Southern Baptist Convention was to make certain that all of the churches held to a certain polity.  Puryear mentions 8 characteristics of being reformed and seems to say that only one is acceptable within the SBC.  I could be wrong but I just don’t think that historically these 8 things really matter as far as pooling together resources (except #6 of course). 

In my mind what the Great Commission Resurgence means is that we as a convention get back to what we original set out to do.  Find like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ, pool our resources, and take the gospel to the nations. 

And when the SBC becomes a bureaucracy or an agency to police tertiary doctrine/practice it is no wonder that young pastors are jumping ship.  Many aren’t leaving the historical SBC, they are just leaving what the SBC has become. 

But I’m probably missing something…

Review of Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson

Author: Curt Thompson

Pages: 286pgs

Publisher: Salt River/Tyndale

Price: 10.19

Genre: Psychology/Science, Faith

Quick Summary:

I received this complimentary book from Tyndale House to review…

This book is a suggestion for promoting personal change and improving your relationships. And the author believes this will happen through a greater understanding of neuroscience and attachment. By blending these findings with Christianity Curt Thompson believes that significant change will happen.

Each chapter in this book serves to teach the reader how to rewire the brain in such a way that it alters your brain patterns and in turn will provide the redemption and change that you seek. This is not distanced from the Christian faith. Thompson freely acknowledges that Christ is the only Redeemer and these are simply tools that God uses to bring about our full redemption. The book is filled with stories and practical exercises to help the reader implant the suggestions in this book into their everyday life.

What I Liked:

I am no expert in psychiatry and neuroscience. I want to say that I learned quite a bit, and I am sure I did, but I want to be cautious in saying that because I have little other references to compare this to. This was an enjoyable read and it did open my eyes to a few things to consider. I think there are insights in this book that given the proper foundation could be quite helpful.

This really was a fun read.  Very interesting book.

What I Disliked:

Sometimes this book was so bogged down with technical terms that I felt I needed to take an anatomy and physiology class to get anywhere. I am not sure that most people will be willing to sift through that difficulty. But this may just be my own ignorance showing. But that is not my major concern with this book.

My major concern with this book is the theology and use of Scripture that undergirds it. This is often the problem with full integrationist in psychology. There are a few times that it seems the author tips his hand—Christ and the Scriptures are not fully sufficient for life and godliness. I may be reading this the wrong way but on page 10 I think there may be a clue to the author’s denial of the full sufficiency of Christ:

This book, then, won’t prove anything. But if you hunger and thirst for God, and if you somehow sense that in Jesus you will be closer to having your hunger satisfied and your thirst quenched…” (Italics mine).

It seems that throughout this book the findings of neuroscience is the grid for determining truth and Scripture is just used as a backup. There are more than a few times that Scripture is used out of context and words of neuroscience are interjecting into the passage.

Should You Buy It?

Despite my qualms I actually hesitate to dismiss this book outright. I think there are some really good insights in this book. I think if someone has a decent understanding of psychology and a firm grounding in the Scriptures there may be some helpful things in this book. But for the most part I would not recommend this book. Not because it is outright wrong or evil, but because I think you can spend your time reading better books on soul-care. (Consider those by CCEF, Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, etc.)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review of An Army of Ordinary People by Felicity Dale

Author: Felicity Dale
Pages: 304pgs
Publisher: Barna
Price: 10.19
Genre: Church/Church Growth
Quick Summary:
I recently received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers to review. So here goes...
“No matter where you are in life, you can serve God right there.” This book is a collection of people that have practiced what our author (among others) calls “simple church”. All of the people in this book have been used by God with great results. God can do the same in your life. God uses ordinary people, this book is their story.
What I Liked:
Sounds good doesn’t it? God using ordinary people. That much I like. I also like to hear stories. Biography is one of my favorite sections. These stories are compelling and well-written. This book also made me think. But it also raised the hair on the back of my neck…
What I Disliked:
I am afraid it will take someone far wiser than me to offer a thorough and helpful critique of this “simple/organic church movement”. There are areas in this book where I can shout a hearty amen. I think the people featured in this book often rightly see problems within the church. I agree with many of their assessments. I commend their drive to follow the Spirit and to follow Jesus. I heartily commend their desire to see the gospel go to all the nations. And it is encouraging to see churches planted in many places by many ordinary people. But then, in my opinion, it goes astray.
It seems that they are really quick to throw away the “organized church”. That will receive a hearty amen in our non-authoritarian culture. And I agree that “organized church” has many problems and is rife with many abuses. But is the answer to start your own “unorganized church”? Such a response has its own problems.
Furthermore, this book seems to have a Pentecostal/Charismatic flavor. There are numerous irresponsible uses of “God told me”. How in the world can we question it then?
The final major critique that I have is the overall view of the church. I just do not buy the definition of a local church being “where two or more are gathered in my name”. Especially when this means that someone gets fed up with an “organized” local church and decides to buck the system and start their own “church”. I’m sorry but you cannot call it a church when it is mostly comprised of unbelievers.
I will freely admit that I may be overstating a few things and that someone else could provide a much healthier and helpful critique. But as for me these are the things that caused my theological antennae to raise up.
Should You Buy It?
I cannot in good conscience recommend this to many people. Felicity Dale seems like a great lady. It seems like she loves Jesus. I just disagree with her view of church. What I find in this book seems to be dangerous and an inevitable glory-robbing view of God and church. But I could be wrong.
Rating 2 out of 5 stars


(HT: JT)

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Face of Moralism

What will it take for America to see and experience a revival?  Or any nation for that matter? 

How you answer that question determines whether or not you are a moralist or gospel-centered. 

Every day I get emails or read articles from well-meaning Christians that say we need to get God back in America.  Of course what they mean by that is that we need to get pray back in our schools.  Let’s not let those liberal rascals take God out of schools—besides that’s why schools are getting shot up.  The reason that our government is becoming increasingly corrupt is because the 10 Commandments are not on the front lawn.  We’ve taken God out of the courtroom.  We need to repent as a nation and get God back on our side.

Add to this the abominable sins of abortion, homosexuality, and pornography.  If we get rid of these atrocities then we will be in a position to receive revival.  If that is your vision of revival then you have missed the gospel. 

Did you realize that this statement, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”, was leveled against a people that did everything we just described?  The Pharisees held the 10 commandments in high regard, they taught prayer, they fought against abortion, homosexuality, and a ton of other vices such as pornography.  So, if that is your vision for taking back America for God then it’s a vision that God Himself considers an abomination. 

Please do not misunderstand me.  God is not pro-abortion, His view of human sexuality has not changed, He still hates pornography, He upholds the 10 Commandments, and loves to hear the prayer of His people.  That’s not the point. 

The point is that God is in the business of “ransoming people for Himself from every tribe and language and people and nation” through Jesus.  And as He ransoms people He (not we), “make them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”  He is not in the business of simply making us better people. 

So, I ask do you stake the hope for America on our moralism and response to the Law?  Or do you stake the hope for America on the gospel of Jesus Christ that rescues, redeems, and restores gays, lesbians, porn-addicts, mothers that have had abortions, unrighteous judges, corrupt politicians, and even moralists? 

When I talk about moralistic therapeutic deism in the coming days this is in part what I am talking about. 

Is Your Church Headed for a Split?

Thabiti Anywabile has reposted a great article on church splits.  In this article he outlines a few warning signs that your church may be headed for a split:

  1. Growing numbers of cliques and factions.
  2. Low concern for the church qua church. (More concern for individual than the whole church body)
  3. Self-interests dominate group interests.
  4. Isolated and absent members.
  5. Lack of humility.
  6. Mixed allegiance to the pastor(s)/elders.
  7. Low emphasis on the Word of God.

Read the whole article, and tell me what you think…

Review of The Gospel-Filled Wallet by Jeff Weddle

Author: Jeff Weddle

Pages: 80pgs

Publisher: Transforming Publishing

Price: Free or 9.56

Genre: Christian Living

A Quick Word about Transforming Publishing:

Transforming Publishing is a great idea. As it says on the website:

Transforming Publishing was founded to publish Bible study and preaching resources for helping Christians understand and proclaim the transforming Word of God. Electronic copies of all publications will be available free online, and hardcopy publications will be available on-demand for what we hope to be very modest prices--less expensive in many cases than users will be able to print on their own printers.

Great idea! I am happy to be a small part of this.

Quick Summary:

Jeff Weddle hopes to paddle upstream against the current flow of “Christian” books on money. His claim is that many of today’s books use biblical “principles” to do unbiblical things with money. This book is an attempt to consider what the Bible really does say about money: both how we should handle it and our general attitude towards money.

There is one basic question in this book. Do you love God or do you love money?

What I Liked:

The best chapter, in my opinion, is Weddle’s chapter on How to Hate Money and Love God. This section is practical, biblical, and hard-hitting. His first chapter and conclusion are also well-written and informative. From the beginning Weddle lets us know what is at stake:

“Our lives are consumed with money. All of our life is centered on the pursuit, acquisition, and spending of it. Our lives prove that we love money. You show what you love by where you put your time and energy. Money consumes us. We love money. Thus, we hate God.”

And the driving force behind all of this is what our author states on page 69, “the soul was created for more.” A life spent trying to acquire more money and more possessions is a rip off. But the best thing you can do for your soul is to get rid of your money as quickly as possible for the glory of God. I like this.

What I Disliked:

The one major critique I have of this book is that for a book called The Gospel-Filled Wallet it majors on emptying the wallet of money but minors on filling it with the gospel. Do not misunderstand; the gospel is in this book. But a more compelling gospel vision would drive Weddle’s major thesis home with Spirit-empowered force.

I do not think that legalism would be the proper charge for this book. I think that is made clear when Weddle answers this charge on page 74. He rightly points that the motivator is the heart. It is not as if the author is saying do these things so that you can be acceptable to God. But the gospel seems to be assumed throughout this book and is not given as the major driving force behind giving your money away.

This book will convict but I’m not sure it will heal.

Should You Buy It?

Well, it is free so you should at least read it.  It is well written and a quick read.  You could probably read it in about an hour.  You will benefit from this book.  If you want a hardcopy you can get it for under 10 bucks. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What a Lame Gospel Produces

Over the past week I have heard Christian Smith quoted a few times.  His study on the beliefs of teens in America can be labeled as “moralistic therapeutic deism”.  Dr. Mohler has summed up Smith’s book, Soul Searching , quite well.  You can view that summary here.  This “moralistic therapeutic deism” can be summed up in five points:
  1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."
  2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."
  3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."
  4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."
  5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."
These views do not just happen.  These views are cultivated.  Of course we can blame several cultural things like television, movies, music, and more.  But these are just a reflection of the culture at large.  Music does not have a view of God and the gospel—musicians do.  Your television does not display a false gospel—actors and writers do.  And there are a myriad of things influencing actors, writers, musicians, athletes, and all other cultural influencers.
What I have a heart for—and what I think can actually change the world—is the local church and our faithfulness to the proclamation of the gospel.  Our kids (yes, church kids) have a “moralistic therapeutic deism” because they watch their parents display such a belief with their lives and their lips.  A lame gospel inevitably produces rotten fruit. 
I am going a different direction with this. So, if you were looking forward to those 5 posts, I apologize. But I will be considering this idea of moralistic therapeutic deism over the next few weeks. Once I get a little clarity I will create a post that serves as a hub for all of these thoughts. But the point of this post still stands A lame gospel inevitably produces rotten fruit.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Acts29 Rap at SBC2010

For me this was one of the highlights of the SBC2010. 


I have read a few comments of people that thought this was offensive, but I personally found it hilarious and actually making a good point. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Christ, the balm for our every wound

What do you do when you are groaning under the weight of your unhappy disposition as a sinner?  You remember the provision of Christ.  There are few better pictures of this than that presented by Newton when he said:

…blessed be God, though we must feel hourly cause for shame and humiliation for what we are in ourselves, we have cause to rejoice continually in Christ Jesus, who, as he is revealed unto us under the various names, characters, relations, and offices, which he bears in the Scripture, holds out to our faith a balm for every wound, a cordial for every discouragement, and a sufficient answer to every objection which sin or Satan can suggest against our peace. 

If we are guilty, he is our Righteousness; If we are sick, he is our infallible Physician; if we are weak, helpless, and defenseless, he is the compassionate and faithful Shepherd who has taken charge of us, and will not suffer any thing to disappoint our hopes, or to separate us from his love.  He knows our frame, he remembers that we are but dust, and has engaged to guide us by his counsel, support us by his power, and at length to receive us to his glory, that we may be with him for ever.  --Letters to a Nobleman, #3

Borrowing Light From Who?

This blog is called Borrowed Light due mainly to Robert Murray McCheyne’s response to reading Jonathan Edwards:

"How feeble my spark of Christianity appears beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me."

The truth behind this quote struck me at the Pastor’s Conference.  I look up to many of the men that spoke at this year’s Pastor’s Conference.  I love the gospel centrality that consumes Matt Chandler.  I love the joyous humility and love for Jesus that CJ Mahaney has.  I love Dr. Moore’s wisdom and heart for gospel-driven adoption.  I love Dr. Mohler’s wisdom and leadership.  This is not to mention all of the amazing things about Danny Akin, Francis Chan, David Platt, Mark Dever, etc. 

But I realized something as I sat listening to and admiring these men: what I love about them is Jesus in them.  It would be ignorant and desperately falling short to admire and follow men in such a way that does not lead me to a deeper worship of Jesus.  At the end of the day the only borrowed light that matters or lasts is that which comes from Jesus.  May I love, admire, and respect my leaders, but do so in such a way that bends my heart to Jesus.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

John Newton=Ben Cartwright

Does anyone else see the similarity?

Review of The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung

Author: Kevin DeYoung

Pages: 256

Publisher: Moody

Price: 9.50

Genre: Church History/Christian Living/Doctrine

Quick Summary:

Not many people read Catechism anymore. Fewer still read the Heidelberg Catechism. Kevin DeYoung hopes to change this. In The Good News We Almost Forgot, DeYoung writes 52 brief chapters to accompany a journey through the Heidelberg.

The Heidelberg was published in 1563 and serves as a commentary to the Apostle’s Creed, The 10 Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each chapter of this book provides a few questions from the Catechism and then a 2-3 page interaction with the catechetical questions.

What I Liked:

I had not read much of the Heidelberg before receiving this book to review. I loved being introduced to such a great resource. I also, as always, love DeYoung’s writing style. He packs so much wisdom into a small space. It is packaged nicely too. It is formatted to read one chapter per Sunday for an entire year. It would be fun and interesting to either take your own children through the book or a group of people.

DeYoung also provides a well written Epilogue. Some may remember Kevin’s article from March of 2009: The Crust and the Core. This serves as his epilogue. He also provides a helpful Appendix which explores whether the Catechism forbids homosexual behavior.

What I Disliked:

The book is well written throughout. Because of my own personal reading preference I have a hard time slowly trekking through a book. But even though this book is formatted to be read once per week, it could easily be read one chapter per day for about two months. At the end of the day there is little that I disliked about this book. Even the cover is sharp.

Should You Buy It?

I would strongly suggest buying it. It is written in such a way that most every person can benefit from it. Most people are not aware of the Heidelberg and it is fun to interact with. You could even take your children through the Catechism and discuss the chapters. I hope a good number of people read this book. Buy it today for only 10 bucks.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

An SBC motion worth considering

It looks as if a motion will be presented on Tuesday at the SBC:

That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention study establishing Baptist Press as an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, with a board of directors elected by the Southern Baptist Convention and supported with currently allocated funds for Baptist Press within the Executive Committee budget.

The hope behind this motion is that Baptist Press may be a less-biased service.  I suggest reading the entire article.  If this motion is presented I plan on voting yes.  (HT: Denny)

Preaching to Youth

Preaching the gospel to teenagers would absolutely mortify some people.  Thankfully Peter Mead as offered 5 level-headed tips (click through to see his explanations).

  1. Be engaging, don’t be silly
  2. This generation values meat
  3. Recognize that you are speaking cross-culturally
  4. Don’t be longer than necessary, but realize that attention spans are as short as ever
  5. The younger generation value authenticity more than previous generations

I agree with each of these.  I am thankful that many people are beginning to realize that a good number of teens actually value the meat of God’s Word more than spam-eating contests. 

Alongside of these five I would add a sixth:

6. Allow for interaction.  Teens today are accustomed to being able to comment online, text, tweet, etc.  Making room for healthy interaction is a sure fire way to keep a short attention span. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pulpit or No Pulpit?

On Tuesday we looked at the use of the pulpit in a church service.  At the end I asked this question: Should pulpits be discarded?  Or do they carry a symbolism that ought to be preserved within our churches?  My friend David responded with this comment:

My opinion, for what its worth, is that we should not abandon the pulpit. There is a great amount of symbolism wrapped up in its very presence in our churches. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people in our churches are ignorant of why it is there. They probably just think that it is an over-large fancy lectern, rather than symbolizing the centrality of the preached Word in the formation and sustaining of a true church.

David’s comment will serve as the outline for this post. 

The symbolism of the Pulpit

“There is a great amount of symbolism wrapped up in its very presence in our churches”

What is that symbolism and where did it come from?  David is correct that it symbolizes the centrality of the preached Word in the formation and sustaining of a true church”.  At least that is what it symbolized after the Reformation period. 

The term pulpit was used in the early church by Cyprian.  But the “pulpit” that he mentions was not used necessarily for preaching.  It was more of a raised platform that was more apt to symbolize the difference between clergy and laity than the task of preaching. 

During the Middles Ages the pulpit was moved away from center and often elevated.  The more liturgical elements of worship took center stage.  They also slowly became more ornate.  But this all changed during the Reformation.  With the renewed emphasis on the Word of God the pulpit once again took center stage. 

The Wittenburg Door points out the symbolism behind the pulpit.  It is central, raised, and solid.  The article continues:

Overall, the pulpit represents what the church service is to be primarily about—God’s people coming together to worship Him, and, as mentioned, God addressing His people through the preached word.

But is this what the average person thinks when he/she views a pulpit?  Apparently David doesn’t think so…

“Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people in our churches are ignorant of why it is there. They probably just think that it is an over-large fancy lectern,”

What happens when the symbol no longer signifies?

If the point of the pulpit is to be a symbol—and the symbol is no longer known or important—what is the point of having it? 

Consider the holy kiss.  4 times in the New Testament we are encouraged to “Greet one another with a holy kiss”.  Yet we now settle for a handshake or a hug.  Is this because we are not following the Bible?  Or is it because the holy kiss was a cultural symbol that is no longer used? 

Because kissing means something different in our culture we preserve this injunction by handshakes and hugs rather than kissing.  Why?  Because the symbolism has changed.  So if the symbolism of the pulpit has changed or been lost do we still need to preserve it? 

Perhaps we should teach on what the pulpit is and the symbolism behind it.  Undoubtedly we need to do everything we can to preserve the centrality and sufficiency of the Word to present the all-sufficient Christ.  But will this preserve the symbol?  Is it even necessary to preserve the symbol?  Is it possible that there are other ways—those more in touch with our culture—to convey the centrality of the Word? 

I’m not saying burn your pulpit.  I’m simply saying don’t burn those that use a music stand.  We should labor to preserve the centrality of the Word.  But I find it unnecessary to fight for something that is not found in Scripture.  In fact I think that may be closer to Reformational principles than ensuring that our churches have pulpits. 

But then again, I could be wrong…

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Newton on Keeping Jesus Center Amidst a Stack of Books Part 2

Continued from Part One...

But the primary concern of this young divinity student was how to “fill up his outlines”.  To this Newton advices the young man to learn people.  Speak a word to each:
The tempted and distressed will be most probably relieved by opening the various states and exercises of the heart, and by showing, from scriptural and other examples, that no new thing has befallen them. The careless and backsliders, who have made a profession, should be reminded of that blessedness they once spoke of, and warned of their danger. Those who are now upon the mount, should be cautioned to expect a change, and to guard against security and spiritual pride. To the dead in trespasses and sins (some such will be always present), it is needful so preach the spirituality and sanction of the law, that they may be stirred up to seek to Jesus. Of him all awakened souls love to hear much. Let Jesus therefore be your capital subject. If you discuss some less essential topic, or bend all your strength to clear up some dark text, though you should display much learning and ingenuity, you will probably fall short of your main design, which I dare say will be to promote the glory of God, and the good of souls.
I love how Newton (aware of a divinity students temptation to discuss a “less essential topic) sum his point up by saying preach Jesus—he will fit them all.  You must forgive me for the length of this, but I cannot allow any of these gems to remain on page without highlighting them for your attention:
Your inquiries respecting my own experience on this subject, must be answered very briefly. I have long since learned, that if I was ever to be a minister, faith and prayer must make me one. I desire to seek the Lord's direction, both in the choice and management of subjects; but I do not expect it in a way of extraordinary impulse, but in endeavoring to avail myself, to the best of my judgment, of present circumstances. The converse I have with my people, usually suggests what I am to preach to them. At first, my chief solicitude used to be, what I should find to say: I hope it is now, rather that I may not speak in vain. For the Lord has sent me here, not to acquire the character of a great speaker, but to win souls to Christ, and to edify his people. As to preparation, I make little use of books, excepting the Bible and a concordance. Though I preach without notes, I most frequently write more or less upon the subject. Often when I begin, I am at a loss how I shall proceed; but one thing insensibly offers after another, and, in general, I believe the best and most useful parts of my sermon occur de novo while I am preaching. When I can find my heart in frame and liberty for prayer, every thing else is comparatively easy.
The sum of my advice is this: Examine your heart and views. Can you appeal to Him who knows all things, concerning the sincerity of your aim, that you devote yourself to the work of the ministry, not for worldly regards, but with a humble desire to promote the Redeemer's kingdom? If so, and his providence has thus far concurred with you, trust him for your sufficiency of every kind, and he will not disappoint you, but will be near to strengthen you according to your day. Depend not upon any cisterns you can hew out for yourself, but rejoice that you have liberty to come to the fountain that is always full, and always flowing. You must not expect a mechanical sufficiency, such as artificers acquire by habit and exercise in their business. When you have preached well nineteen times, this will be no security for the twentieth. Yes, when you have been upheld for twenty years, should the Lord withhold his hand, you would be as much at a loss as at first. If you lean upon books or men, or upon your own faculties and attainments, you will be in fear and in danger of falling continually. But if you stay yourself upon the Lord, he will not only make good your expectations, but in time will give you a proper confidence in his goodness, and free you from your present anxiety.
But if it is our business, and our pleasure, to contemplate Jesus, and to walk in his steps, he will bless us: we shall be like trees planted by a constant stream, and he will prosper the work of our hands.

Newton on Keeping Jesus Center Amidst a Stack of Books Part 1

It is taking much restraint for me to not post this letter in its entirety.  It is a little lengthy so I will post this in two parts.  If you are a theological student, a nerd like me, or a minister of the gospel it would be wise to read the whole thing
The first part of this letter is very beneficial but the part that I want to blow up and make into a poster begins close to the middle.  Newton has previously exhorted us to rely fully on the Holy Spirit and to use the means that he has given us.  Then encourages us that we can expect the blessing of the Spirit if He is “diligently sought using proper means”.  But what does he mean by such diligence?
By diligence, I understand spiritual diligence. Such an active, improving, industrious habit, as is peculiar to a heart impressed with some real abiding sense of the love of God, the worth of souls, the shortness of time, and the importance of eternity. Without this turn of mind, though a man should spend sixteen hours every day in his study, he may be a mere trifler.
He then goes through great lengths to show that prayer and the Scriptures are the chief means for attaining wisdom.  I love this quote, speaking of Scripture and prayer, “The one is the fountain of living water, the other the bucket with which we are to draw.”  These are the means of first importance.  There are subservient means—such as the use of literature, languages, and logic.  To these he counsels:
If these things are held in a proper subservience, if they do not engross too much of our time, nor add fuel to the fire of that self-importance which is our great snare; they may contribute to increase and enlarge our ideas, and facilitate our expressing ourselves with propriety. But these attainments (like riches) are attended with their peculiar temptations; and unless they are under the regulation of a sound judgment, and a spiritual frame of mind, will prove (like Saul's armor to David) rather cumbersome than useful in preaching. The sermons of preachers thus qualified are often more ingenious than edifying, and rather show off the preacher, than commend the Gospel of Christ.
Continue to Part Two...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

O Great God! from T4G

This is one of the songs from T4G that has remained stuck in my head:

T4G2010 -- O Great God from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.


You can find the lyrics and back story here

How I Will Probably Vote on the GCRTF in Orlando

I have to be honest and say that I am really torn on the recommendations from the GCRTF.  There are things that I like.  Areas that I think they did not go far enough.  And frankly some things that I simply do not understand.  There have been concerns expressed by people that I greatly respect. 
Perhaps I am just being a mindless lemming, but I will probably vote yes.  And there is one simple reason why—I trust Dr. Mohler.  This is not to say that I do not trust others on the GCRTF or those that have voiced concerns.  I simply trust Dr. Mohler’s wisdom.  I trust that he has thought through many of the concerns, he loves the SBC, he loves Jesus, and he has a proven track record as a man with great wisdom.  So, I trust Dr. Mohler. 
Consider his most recent challenge to the messengers to Orlando...

Review of The Trials of Theology by Cameron and Rosner

Author: Edited by Andrew J.B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner

Pages: 192pgs

Publisher: Christian Focus

Price: 9.89

Genre: Theology/Ministry

Quick Summary:

This book is written specifically for students of theology. There are numerous trials that come with giving yourself to the study of theology. This book considers voices from the past as well as voices from the present. The modern authors give tips for steering clear of the various pitfalls unique to the specific disciplines of theology. The past authors give a more general advice to doing theology.

In this book you will hear from Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Warfield, Bonhoeffer, and C.S. Lewis. The modern authors are: D.A. Carson (biblical studies), Carl Trueman (church history), Gerald Bray (systematic theology), and Dennis Hollinger (Christian Ethics). It may be helpful to view the table of contents:

What I Liked:

This book is filled with wisdom and amazing quotes to put on my wall. It is great hearing voices from the past share their hopes and fears for the next generations. But sometimes the voices of the past are trapped in their own era and their timeless advice is muddied by specificity. Thankfully we are also given in this book advice from modern authors that say essentially the same thing but do with the specificity required of our own day. This book is such an excellent idea and it delivers on its promises.

I have to agree with what Dr. Schreiner blurbed on the back cover, “I was consoled, convicted, instructed, and even ushered into God’s presence by this book”. I was deeply convicted by Warfield and Bonhoeffer. I was instructed by Lewis and Trueman. And I was consoled by Carson and Spurgeon. The chapter by John Woodhouse is equally convicting, encouraging, and instructive.

What I Disliked:

I was a tad disappointed by the light sampling of Augustine. There is so much that Augustine has said that could have been placed in this book. What is here is greatly helpful but considering all that Augustine offered to the topic it seems lacking.

At times a couple of the modern authors seem to be more engaged in defending the need for their particular discipline than expressing the trials attending it. There are some spots that major on the “trials” but offer little advice on “becoming a proven worker”. But when read as a whole this book certainly delivers.

Should You Buy It?

If you are a pastor or a student of theology then this book needs to be on your shelf. If you do not tend to read or study theology much then you would benefit from this book but it may not be a necessity. This book should be given to every seminary freshman. You can buy it for yourself or a gift for only 9.89.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Spurgeon’s Opinion of Pulpits

"Pulpits have much to answer for in having made men awkward. What horrible inventions they are…the old-fashioned pulpit has been a greater curse to the churches than is at first sight evident!”
What could have been their design and intent it would be hard to conjecture. A deep wooden pulpit of the old sort might well remind a minister of his mortality, for it is nothing but a coffin set on end: but on what rational ground do we bury our pastors alive? Many of these erections resemble barrels, others are of the fashion of egg cups and wine glasses; a third class were evidently modeled after corn bins upon four legs; and yet a fourth variety can only be likened to swallows' nests stuck upon the walls. Some of them are so high as to turn the heads of the occupants when they dare to peer into the awful depths below them, and they give those who look up to the elevated preacher for any length of time a crick in the neck. I have felt like a man at the mast-head while perched aloft in these "towers of the flock." These abominations are in themselves evils, and create evils.
 Source: The Spurgeon Archive

Wish I Could Go


Will you be attending this year?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Battle with Sin Illustrated

I’m a visual person.  So this little cartoon by Josh Harris is a great tool to visualize our battle with the flesh: Feeding the Flesh

It is an excerpt from his “theological autobiography” Dug Down Deep.  I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but hope to have it read and reviewed by the end of summer.

Is the Pulpit Necessary?

If you want to watch an awkward display of uncoolness, just give me a handheld microphone in one hand and something else in the other. 

I remember one occasion getting the opportunity to preach before a relatively large group of college students.  I was already somewhat nervous.  My anxiety turned to full blown hyperventilation when I discovered that I would have to use a handheld microphone.  I cannot preach with one.  I use my hands when I preach and I’m too dense to keep a microphone in one place.  I’d rather go all George Whitefield and preach with a bleeding throat and no microphone than be hindered.

Before the invention of the wireless handheld or the Britney Spears model our church uses, many pastors had to stay behind the pulpit because that was the only microphone.  But with the invention of all things technological pastors do not have to remain stationary.  Combine this with more pastors preaching without notes and an interesting thing has happened in many churches: the pulpit is gone. 

Obviously, it is not absolutely necessary to preach behind a pulpit.  You would be hard pressed to find Jesus using a pulpit, and it’d be a foolish argument to say that Jesus was not faithful in preaching.  But is it possible that the pulpit holds a great symbolic function in the church?  Is it possible that we should not be so quick to remove the pulpit? 

Consider what Steven Koster says:

“In Reformed churches, the tradition has been to put the Pulpit in the center because of the centrality of preaching and the Word as a means of grace. The Pulpit is not just a utility stand for the preacher to use to hold his notes, but a weighty visual anchor to point to the significance of the proclaimed Word itself (which is why some churches have favored massive pulpits). In fact, some churches have a big pulpit (with Bible) in the center that is used only for preaching, with a smaller lectern to the side used for other readings and worship leading.

But is such a big bulky pulpit practical?  Does it “scare away” seekers?  Consider this by Mike Schreiter:

Fewer people want to see a sermon delivered from behind a large, wooden pulpit. Dynamic preachers that want to engage congregations today need to capture attention with words, actions, and illustrations. Today, a preacher needs a wireless microphone and a video remote control more than he needs a designated place to stand.

So what do you think?  Should pulpits be discarded?  Or do they carry a symbolism that ought to be preserved within our churches? 

On Friday I will try to answer this question and also give a little history on where pulpits came from. 

Faithful Plodding

If you are not reading Kevin DeYoung yet then you need to be.  He has written another great piece, this time for Ligonier.  This gem is entitled The Glory of Plodding.  In it DeYoung makes the argument that our generation needs “less revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries.” 

I realized something along these lines when I attended T4G a couple months ago.  I look up to many of these men as faithful pastors and leaders.  I think most young pastors (especially of a more Reformed persuasion) want to be leading churches like Dever’s Capitol Hill or Piper’s Bethlehem.  We want to be leaders like Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler.  And we want that to happen within the first couple years of our tenure.  But consider this:

  • Mark Dever has been pastor at Capitol Hill since 1994. 
  • John Piper has been pastor at Bethlehem since 1980.
  • John MacArthur has been pastor at Grace Community since 1969.
  • C.J. Mahaney pastored at Covenant Life for 27 years. 
  • Albert Mohler has been President at Southern since 1993.
  • Ligon Duncan has been pastor at 1st Presbyterian Church of Jackson since 1996.
  • RC Sproul has been faithfully plodding along as pastor, author, teacher.  Ligonier has been around since 1971. 
  • Thabiti Anywabile may be the only exception—but he has the heart of a faithful plodder. 

What’s the point?  These men aren’t where they are necessarily because they are “radical”.  These men are respected because they faithfully plod.  But not every faithful plodder will be asked to speak at T4G.  There are many faithful pastors that may not stand before a crowd of 4,000 but will stand before the Lord Jesus and hear him say, “well done, good and faithful servant”.  And that comes from faithful plodding not from flash in the pan ministry. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trellis and the Vine Book Winner

Congrats to Adam Pohlman!  He won a copy of Trellis and the Vine.  Even if you did not win you can still purchase this book for only 17.95

Adam, email me your mailing address so I can get this excellent book out to you. 

If you did not win, stay tuned, there will be more drawings in the upcoming weeks. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Great Commission Resurgence and Church Buildings

On Tuesday I asked, where do churches come from?  To which I answered, “Elaborate and decorated church buildings came from the time of Constantine.  Functional church buildings came from a time prior—perhaps a century before.”  I promised that today I would try to draw out some implications of this.  Before we do this it may be wise to think about whether the early disciples would have built church buildings had they the opportunity. 

Would the Early Church Have Built If Given a Chance?

To answer that question we will have to engage in some speculation as to why they did not build church buildings.  Perhaps it was economic reasons.  Or maybe it was because of their relatively small number.  But that does not square well with history.  There were indeed a decent number of believers living in Jerusalem shortly after Pentecost.  Certainly, enough to necessitate a church building.  And some of these (see Joseph of Arimathea) were quite wealthy.  Yet, they chose to meet in the synagogues and houses instead of building a distinctly Christian building.  Why? 

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that they did not build a distinctly Christian building because they were not quite ready to “break with Judaism”.  It is only after persecution that they were spread and subtly began to see the chasm between Christianity and Judaism . 

But why did they not build exclusively Christian buildings (assuming they did not) in larger metropolitan areas where they were not yet persecuted?  Perhaps it was for financial reasons.  Perhaps it was for missional reasons or even social reasons.  I doubt they were fundamentally against functional buildings designed exclusively for Christian worship.  But, my guess is that the elaborate Constantine-type of buildings would have been appalling to the early disciples—but that is simply a guess. 

Two Beliefs Driving the Early Church

I say this because there were two beliefs that seem to have driven the early church: A detachment from “this world” and a strong belief that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectation. 

Because of their detachment from “this world” and belief that Jesus was coming any day building an elaborate dwelling place would seem foolish.  They would soon be living in the New Jerusalem and all of their resources would be given to announcing the coming Kingdom. 
Sojourners don’t build mansions. 

Secondly, their strong belief that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of Old Testament expectation would probably cause the early disciples to shy away from recreating the temple.  In the Old Testament you went to a building to meet with God.  But Jesus obliterated that.  The curtain is torn.  Jesus is our Immanuel.  Temple worship is offensive to Jesus’ mission of rescuing a blood-bought community of redeemed believers.  The temple was elaborate because it was a display of the greatness of the God that dwelled therein.  God doesn’t live there anymore.  The indwelling Spirit creating holiness and unity in diverse peoples is now the cosmic display of the manifold wisdom of God (see Eph. 3). 

From Constantine to Church the Noun

Enter Constantine.  He was concerned with creating a “this world” type of empire.  Therefore, spending empire money on creating a place to worship was not foolish to him.  Secondly, he was converted (which could be argued that he was not) out of paganism.  The One that rescued Constantine was to be considered the superior God.  You displayed that by building elaborate temples to show this.

Fast forward some 18 centuries and we have church buildings that might shame Constantine.  Through the centuries the Church (now a noun) has labored to make all things bigger and better.  One church recently began 130 million dollar renovation plan.  Their justification for doing so?

As I look around downtown Dallas, I see spectacular temples of commerce, of culture and of government – many new, some restored to former glory, and all intended to stand for generations. The Kingdom of God needs a home to equal them – a spiritual oasis in the middle of downtown.”    (HT: Ken Eastburn)

Sound familiar? 

“The Kingdom of God needs a home to equal them”.  No, it doesn’t.  The Kingdom of God has within it a home that shames them, and it is not found in Dallas, Texas.  It’s one thing to look at a 130 million dollar renovation plan and consider it extreme, but the average church has 40-60% of its budget sucked up in building and maintenance. 

I am not against church buildings.  Let me rephrase that, I am not against functional church buildings.  I just do not buy the “Our God deserves the best” argument that I typically here to excuse elaborate expenses on church buildings.  I agree that our God is absolutely awesome and deserves the absolute best from us.  I just do not buy that “our absolute best” is a temple made with hands.  Rather, I think it is lives marked with single-minded devotion.  

Undoubtedly there are those leading churches with large buildings and those attending large churches that have a single-minded devotion.  Just like Constantine I doubt very seriously that these believers intend to do anything wrong.  And maybe they are not.  But my heart breaks that our church buildings are state of the art while children starve to death and a large part of the world lives in the darkness of no gospel knowledge. 

Maybe the Great Commission Resurgence should involve selling church property (like state of the art sound, lights, seats, etc.) to fund a missionary, support a family desiring to adopt, feed the hungry, or engage in other mercy ministries.  I have said it once before and will say it again, something is wrong with this:


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