More than anything else I could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.
Preaching the gospel to myself each day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way and see the true cause for rejoicing that exists in them. I can then embrace trials as friends and allow them to do God's good work in me.
That is, until he sees me or hears my voice. Then the grunting and squealing starts, followed by crying. I know not to take him from the nursery worker because that will only make it worse when I have to give him back and return to the sanctuary. So, I just keep walking and hearing him cry. Now, I don't ever really like to hear my children crying. But I must say that there is something welcomed in Asher's cry for his Daddy. That cry is an instinctive reaction of his that expresses that he wants his Daddy. It is his way of communicating that he desires to be with his Daddy in that moment. It is a cry of affection and dependency. And that is welcomed as his father. I want him to love me enough to cry to express his affection for me and desire to have me hold him. It is welcomed that he is dependent on me and that in some sense he sees great value in me.
In thinking about that scene of Asher crying for his Daddy, my mind and heart could not but help to think about the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father in and because of Christ. I am certain that in some sense it pains the heart of God to hear His children crying because of pain and suffering or just the regular struggles of life as imperfect sinners living in an imperfect world. However, there must also be something that is very welcomed in our cries to the Father. In our cries to the Father are we not, likewise, expressing our desire to be with Him? In our cries to the Father are we not, likewise, expressing our affection for him and dependency on Him? And in those cries are we not clearly showing that He is very valuable, even priceless? Does He not welcome our tearful cries?
And then I am reminded of the reality that I have no right to be called His son and to relate to Him as my Father. It is only through Christ's death and resurrection that I am made a son of God, a join heir with Christ Himself. It is only because of Christ that I can cry out the cry that He welcomes, "Abba, Father!"
The argument goes like this: The hymns are outdated. Nobody talks like that any more, nobody knows what these archaic words refer to, nobody sings melodies like that any more; therefore, the solution is to ditch the hymns and sing only contemporary songs.
But I don't think the reason hymns fell out of favor is because they became old. I think it's because our preaching got new.
The great hymn writers could tell the gospel story with gospel words in very solid ways. But preaching over time became moralistic stories with pop psychology words in wispy ways. We stopped giving the hymns context. We would sing "Oh how marvelous, Oh how wonderful is my Savior's love for me!" but our preacher had long stopped marveling and wondering about the cross, so the song didn't make emotional sense. And then it stopped resonating with us on a Spiritual level.
All good hymns declare the gospel and assume gospel context. I suspect the main reason hymns don't resonate with people much any more is because we don't preach the gospel.
My definition of a hero is someone who does the right thing in the right way for a long time whether people notice or not. Thousands of unheralded, unknown pastors personify this definition. They marry and bury, preach and teach, hold hands and pat backs, attend open houses and attend meetings, pray like they believe it and sing like they mean it. Even if the coffee is bad, the pay low, and the church music so-so, these brothers keep loving and keep on proclaiming the same gospel. Some say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But that goes out the window when what you’re doing is the very thing God has called you do.
Faithful, humble, diligent, reliable, gentle, courageous, compassionate, teachable, imperfect ordinary pastors—of them the world is not worthy.
Got a good pastor? Then tell him you think so.
Eventually, such a pastor discovers that he’s become a better man because of his work as a pastor. The pressure of the job has made him a man who more deeply believes and experiences the biblical truths he’s constantly talking about. He realizes that his own sanctification might be one of the main reasons God called him to be a pastor. He realizes that he would’ve turned out a worse man had he chosen a different career path. The unique pressure of the pastorate has made him a far better man than he would’ve been otherwise.
Pastors, join me in seeing our vocation as God’s perfectly pressured path for making us better men.
To save the sheep from wild beasts and all other dangers is not to feed them; and if they are not fed, what matters whether they are safe or not? What is the good of being saved to starve? We must be saved in health and strength, unto maturity and power to reign with Christ in His Kingdom. And for that we must be fed. Every temptation to be sidetracked from the task of eternity which is the task of the hour--your hour--must be seen in relation to the finished product. What is the end of what you are doing? The God-appointed end?
Be encouraged. Be encouraged in the midst of ministerial duties that are mind-numbingly mundane. Be encouraged in a world drunk on the sweet nectar of the spectacular. Be encouraged when you preach the gospel clearly. Be encouraged after years of faithfulness, even if you don’t have numbers that impress conference organizers. Be encouraged in the tedium. Be encouraged when you see the same faces week-in and week-out. Be encouraged as you marry and bury, counsel and speak at the local lodge’s spring pancake breakfast. Be encouraged.
Be encouraged when dreams of thousands have careened against the retaining wall of reality with hundreds. Or dozens, even. Be encouraged when no one has heard of you, your church, or your town. Be encouraged in the midst of decline. Be encouraged when you must stop preparing your sermon to clean the bathrooms. Be encouraged, because you stand before God redeemed and loved because of Christ’s righteousness credited to you. Be encouraged, for this right standing before God is not based on the success of your ministry, loved no less because it is ordinary. Be encouraged, ordinary pastor.
Be encouraged when growth is slow and measured by generations. Be encouraged when guilt, fear, and the specter of failure form an unholy alliance against you. Be encouraged when young men grown fat on the feast of podcasts question your every move. Be encouraged when no one knows your name; it is written in blood in the book of life. Ordinary pastor, be encouraged: Your faithful labor in the darkened forest of obscurity is heroic...Really, the phrase “ordinary pastor” is a misnomer. For all who pastor by the power of the gospel do extraordinary work: preaching the Word, comforting the hurting, baptizing, and administering the Lord’s Supper. It is all extraordinary. After all, “we have this treasure in jars of clay.” This way, “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). No wonder, then, the extraordinary is in the ordinary.
I know that you’re familiar with this story and that you know that its ultimate fulfillment is in the promised Messiah. But this morning this story spoke to my heart in this way: I could look at the weakness and barrenness of my life. Those were, indeed, true realities. In response, I could get out my list, my sticky-notes, and devise ways of feeling better about myself. To switch back to our patriarch’s story, I could go visit Hagar. Or I could give glory to God knowing that even though I am still so very weak, so very barren of true love for my neighbor, God had already promised me that I would be fruitful and that my life would somehow count. How? Only through faith in the righteousness of another. It was in this process of rehearsing God’s promises to me, of giving him glory for his wonderful mercy, grace, and kindness, that my heart was changed and I walked out into faith again.
Every morning . . . every moment of every day . . . I have a choice to make. I can trust in my heart’s default position: Work it out, work harder, prove I’m better, show that I do love my neighbor, engage with Hagar and my sticky-notes. Or, I can rest in his promise that even though I look at myself and realize that for me it’s been nearly 40 years since I first believed the promise, the One who is able to speak into existence things that don’t exist, has declared that I am righteous now and that this faith is enough now. It must be enough or I can’t breathe. That was the choice for me today and it’s the choice we all face every day.
It is to feed sheep on such truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the Word of God, by His Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God.
Tullian Tchividjian gives a good answer. The entire post is here.
You see, when we separate people according to something as trivial as musical preferences, we evidence a fundamental failure to comprehend the heart of the gospel. We’re not only feeding toxic tribalism; we’re also saying the gospel can’t successfully bring these two different groups together. It’s a declaration of doubt about the unifying power of God’s gospel. Generational appeal in worship is an admission that the gospel is powerless to join together what man has separated.
In Paul’s day the world was rigidly divided between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female. Those walls of separation were thick, and the groups on each side were hostile. But that didn’t stop Paul from boldly proclaiming God’s intention to establish a new community—the church—that not only included all these but also allowed them to enjoy deeply interdependent relationships. As Paul argued for the Gentiles’ place in God’s redemptive plan, he said, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon him” (Romans 10:12). As Paul decried certain Jewish leaders for teaching that the sign of circumcision was a condition for justification, he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And when he addressed class distinctions threatening to divide the church, he asserted our newness in Christ, in which “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). If he were writing to the 21st Century church you could almost hear him say, “There is neither ‘traditional’ nor ‘contemporary’ worship; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The primary reason, though, that stylistic segregation in worship shrinks our souls is because it prevents us from knowing God deeply. The only way to know him deeply is to have many different types of Christian people in your life, since each person will help to reveal a part of God that you can’t see by yourself. This means the great tragedy of segregation isn’t so much that we see less of each other but that in separating from each other we see less of God. All of us need other lights than our own to see more of his myriad facets.
So, we miss out on some great things God intends for us to enjoy when we separate in worship according to musical tastes. The idea to do this comes, not from the Bible, but from American consumerism and we adopt this practice to our own peril.
As my friend Steven Phillips rightly says, we ought to use the best music, prayers, and traditions of our Christian past, so that our worship is guided and enriched by our fathers in the faith. In doing this we demonstrate that our Christian faith reaches back thousands of years. And we ought also to use the best new songs and styles – to “sing a new song to the Lord” as the Psalms say – so that we can demonstrate that the grace of God is ever new. God’s saving power is available now, in the present day, to all who call on Him in faith.
By musically blending things in this way we exercise love toward those who resonate with different musical tastes than us. We recognize that our worship service is a shared time and a shared space, so that if a particular song or style doesn’t inspire us, we can still look across the sanctuary and give thanks from our hearts for the diversity of people who are here. The gospel of Jesus Christ invites us to look across the aisle and say, “Though this song or style may not appeal to me, I see that God is using it to move you. I love you in Christ and I’m glad you’re here.”
Before and above all else, pastors are shepherds to real sheep. Lord, keep me from ever being too big.
Read the whole post here. (No, really read it)
First, I am immensely grateful that I have only ever held membership in churches of a size where the pastor has always been accessible and available. Indeed, my pastors have always even known my name, my wife's name, my kids' names, and even what sports they play (this latter may seem trivial but it has been peculiarly important to me: my kids may not always enjoy going to church; but they have never doubted that the pastor actually cares for them; and that is something for which I am more grateful than I can articulate). Indeed, each of my pastors has cared about his people, not as a concept or a good idea or as an indeterminate mass, but as real, particular people with names and histories and strengths and weaknesses; and this surely reflects the character and love of God who, after, calls his sheep by name and cares for us all as individuals. If I gave you the names of said pastors, few reading this post would ever have heard of them: they have written no books; they have never pulled in huge crowds; and they have never spoken at megaconferences. But they have always been there when even the humblest church member has called out for advice, counsel or even help with bailing out a flooded basement.
Brandon J. O'Brien explains the difference in The Strategically Small Church :
True relevance is being sensitive to the culture or subculture in which you are ministering and incarnating your ministry in your specific location. It is vital that a church be relevant by that definition...
Trendiness, by contrast, is applying a strategy that is foreign to your personality and mission for no other reason than to draw a crowd. The worst thing a small church can do is try to reach people by pretending to be like them. A church should welcome everyone; however, they shouldn't become everyone. A young person will be open to hearing the gospel from a fifty year-old pastor who speaks and dresses in a way befitting a fifty year-old man, if--and this is a big "if"--that pastor and his church show genuine concern for that young person. But this same visitor will smell phoniness from down the street if the middle-aged pastor speaks and dresses like a twenty year-old in an effort to appear "relevant."
Pastors, let's be careful what we smell like.
His answer, "Supportive, but Unimpressed." Read his explanation to see just how much of an invaluable gift this is to a pastor.
Supportive: A pastor’s greatest asset isn’t a loyal elder or faithful deacon. It is a wife that knows him better than anyone, knows his struggles, knows his faults, knows his inadequacies, and knows the sins that most easily entangle him, yet has this unshakable support, love, affirmation and care for him. It is a wife with an unwavering faith in God and support of her husband, that sustains them both through the most painful conflicts, the greatest betrayals, and allows the hardest church situations to be manageable
But unimpressed: Though the unwavering support of a wife is of great value to a pastor and is essential in surviving the struggles of ministry, one of the worst roles for a pastor’s wife to play for her husband is to view him and his ministry with rose-colored glasses. The blind spots in a pastor’s life and ministry are most clearly and carefully observed by his intuitive ”supportive, but unimpressed” wife. A pastor’s wife that is impressed with her husband will not help him see the areas of pride and self-deceit in his heart that show up in conversations at home. A pastor’s wife impressed with her husband’s preaching will not objectively listen to him preach for the purpose to help him grow as a preacher. A pastor’s wife impressed with her husband’s gifts for ministry will be tempted to overlook those consistent criticisms that come from credible people in the church.
The reason I know what an invaluable gift it is to have a wife serve a pastor in this way is because I have a precious wife who is tremendously supportive and incredibly unimpressed with me. Because she has found this balance well she knows when to comfort me when I am legitimately discouraged and push back when I sulk. She affirms my faithfulness to preach God’s Word, but doesn’t think I am the greatest preacher in the history of the world (probably not even top 10!). When my first book was published and people asked with a bubbly excitement, “You must be excited, but I can’t imagine how your wife feels. What does she say?” I found the most accurate response being, “She is very supportive, but unimpressed.”
Thankful for Holly's support in the most difficult of times, but also for the fact that she loves the Lord enough to be unimpressed with me as well.
“Leave Christ out of the preaching and you shall do nothing. Only advertise it all over London, Mr. Baker, that you are making bread without flour; put it in every paper, ‘Bread without flour’ and you may soon shut up your shop, for your customers will hurry off to other tradesmen. … A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. And I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of ‘believe and live.’”
Here they are:
1. Children’s Ministry—The Children’s ministry at another church is better. This cannot be a reason for changing churches. It is rather an opportunity for you to get involved in the children’s ministry of your church.
2. Buzz—Many people will flow to whatever church in town has the current “buzz.” The argument will be that the Spirit is at work there and we want to be part of it. But buzzes come and go. And so do the people that follow them.
3. Youth Group—The unhappiness of our teenage children in the current Youth Group, because of activities, other youth, etc. is not a reason for leaving the church we have covenanted with. I know this one will be controversial. Believe me, I have empathy as a parent and a former Youth Pastor. But our children are not the spiritual directors of our home. They should not be choosing the church we attend based upon their social status and network.
4. Church has changed—Churches always change. Unless the changes are unbiblical than we don’t have a reason to move on. We don’t move on when our wife or husband changes! We are we so quick to do so with the church we have covenanted with.
5. New Pastor—A new pastor is not a sufficient reason to change churches. It doesn’t matter how stiff, impersonal, unfunny, etc. he is. The list is endless. It doesn’t even matter if he is not the most interesting preacher. He is the man God called to this church for this time. And this is your church. Again, unless he is unbiblical why move on? You haven’t covenanted with a man, but with this body.
6. I’m Not Being Ministered to—I tell every one of our new member classes, “If we all walked into church each week and had a list of people we were going to try and ‘touch,’ encourage, or minister to, do you know how dynamic this church would be? Just on Sunday mornings, let alone if we did it during the week. If we each were concerned about the other person and walked in each Sunday with that in the forefront of our mind instead of, “Why didn’t he talk to me?,” “Why doesn’t anyone care about me?,” “Why isn’t anyone ministering to me?” Start ministering to others and you will find that you are being ministered to.
7. Music—Not a reason—whether it is slow, fast, traditional, contemporary, Psalms, hymns, or gospel choruses. Stop using it as an excuse!
8. There are others…we haven’t even mentioned the service is too early, the coffee is terrible, the pastor doesn’t know how to shuck corn (Yep…those are all true ones I have heard).
Here's to listening better so that we can better shepherd the flock the Lord gives us.
- Sermons are for the pulpit—Leave sermons in the pulpit and enter into dialogue with your people. Dialogue requires talking and listening. Taking breaths in conversation is a good thing. It allows the other person to talk!
- Remember that the person before you is the person you are to be ministering to—seize this moment instead of thinking about talking to the person “over there.”
- Be teachable—we may be called to teach, but that does not mean that we can’t be taught ourselves.
- Show honor to all—the five year old or the mentally disabled person begging for your attention and conversation after the worship service is just as important as the District Attorney and his wife who are walking by.
- Silence is golden—Silence in conversation is fine. The tension is not a bad thing. It often helps bring the true issue to the surface. Don’t fill the space.
- Maintain eye contact—most pastors are multitaskers and are busy looking around. Stop!
- Ask questions—avoid jumping to conclusions and giving your stock answer. Ask clarifying question after clarifying question.
- Don’t always feel the need to lead—Many pastors are busy leading all the time and so every conversation they enter into is dominated by them. Allow others to lead the conversation. You will surprised at what others want to talk about.
- Don’t be “super-spiritual”—Every conversation does not have to end with a discourse on the atonement. Nor does every conversation need to be a demonstration forum of your Bible knowledge.
- Think through questions—On your way to a meeting with someone, make a mental list of questions to ask them. And then ask the questions and listen.
- Care tenderly—Always remember that these are Christ’s sheep. They are his and we are to lead them with a loving-tender care. And surely that must mean listening to them.
The gospel answers my questions of identity. It tells me I am God's bondservant, His child, a worshiper, and a functioning member of His Church. My identity as a pastor was always a secondary identity. I have not lost my main identity.
The gospel answers my questions about purpose. The gospel opened my eyes to the glory of God in Christ. I responded to the call to ministry in order to glorify God. Being pastor was never, rightly, my chief end. I do not presently have opportunity to serve as a pastor, but I do have daily opportunities to fulfill my main purpose in life. Asking the question, "How do I glorify God now?" wonderfully liberates me.
The gospel always points the way to my ongoing happiness. My main joy is in God and and in the salvation Jesus wrought for me on the cross. Above all else, I'm grateful to be a Christian--to be saved--to know the joy of sins forgiven and conscience cleansed. The joy of ministry could never legitimatey be the foundation of my happiness. It is secondary, derivative joy.
So, God has taught me to...
- think of myself in terms of my main identity
- busy myself with my main purpose
- delight myself in my main joy.
By God's grace, lesson learned...hopefully.
It is easy to blast the church for all her failures. It is harder to live in the church day after day, year after year, with all of the ho hum, hum drum, and to slowly and consistently make a difference.
What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. We need to ask the right questions, we need to have the right expectations, and we need to establish the right vision...
Here is my burden for our generation: along with all the necessary pleas we have to be earnest and intense and radical and sold out. With all of that, I just also want to wave the banner from Zechariah 4:10, "Do not despise the days of small things." That is what I mean by being plodding visionaries.
If you are a visionary, you don't have your head in the sand. You are going somewhere. You are looking out. You are moving in a direction. But you are a plodder. One foot in front of the other.
Many of us are attracted to a Tasmanian Devil kind of Christianity...splattering, spinning around. You get fired up--praise God for that--and you spin out like the Tasmanian Devil ready to conquer the world for Christ and you blow up into a tree somewhere.
We need plodding visionaries.
When I wrote the book on the church I read nine books that called for a revolution. Every other day it seems like a read of a new manifesto. We may need to just simplify a little:
Get on the right road and keep going. Our generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We want to change the world and we have never changed a diaper. You want to make a difference for Christ? Here is where you can start: this Sunday, volunteer for the nursery. Say, "Here I am, pastor. What can I do to serve?"
We need more of the latter and less of the former.
- Find a good local church.
- Get involved.
- Become a member.
- Stay there as long as you can.
- Put away thoughts of a revolution for a while.
- Join the plodding visionaries.
- Go to church this Sunday and worship in Spirit and in truth.
- Be patient with your leaders.
- Rejoice when the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed.
- Bear with those who hurt you.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Say "hi" to the teenager that no one notices.
- Welcome the old ladies with the blue hair and the young man with the tatoos.
- Volunteer for the nursery.
- Attend the congregational meeting.
- Bring your fried chicken to the potluck like everybody else.
- Invite a friend.
- Take a new couple out for coffee.
- Give to the Christmas offering.
- Sing like you mean it.
- Be thankful someone vacuumed the carpet for you.
- Enjoy the Sundays that "click."
- Pray extra hard for the Sundays that don't.
- And in all of this, do not despise the days and weeks and years of small things. (Zechariah 4:8-10)
And this is where we need to pause. Because we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn't mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.But do you and I realize what we are doing at this point? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, after all, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshiping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshiping ourselves.
It is to feed the sheep on [biblical] truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the Word of God, by His Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God...God has caused you to become pastor to some souls here who are as valuable to Him as any in the world–your quiet persistence will be a sign that you believe God has a purpose of grace for this people, and that this purpose of grace will be promoted, not by gimmicks, or stunts, or newe ideas, but by the Word of God released in preaching by prayer.
- A Pastor Must Be Able to Teach
- A Pastor Must Be Able to Relate to People
- A Pastor Must Be Able to Lead
- A Pastor Must Stay Relatively Organized or Surround Himself With Those Who Can Do This For Him.
- A Pastor Must Pray
If this tool gets rusty, no one will know. At least not at first. It is impossible to survive as a pastor without the other four skills. But, sadly, it is easy to survive, even thrive, without this one. But the pastor that can thrive without prayer is not the pastor I want, nor the pastor I want to be. We can accomplish a lot on our own, but the stuff that really matters requires prayer because it requires God. A man who does not pray should not preach.
"Today, we don't believe that authority belongs to the church; it belongs to the consumer who asserts his rule through his presence and pocketbook. Instead of calling consumers to submit to the lordship of Christ, the church does all it can to cater to the consumer. The preacher pulls up a stool and plays the comedian. The minister of music closes his eyes, leans back, and lays into a guitar riff. The church 'audience' is delighted--for a while.One of the chief tragedies of evangelicalism todays is that it has lost sight of the wonderful, life-giving force of authority. We've been carried away by culture. More than we realize, we view ourselves as independent agents charged with determining how best to grow, serve, and love in the faith. Yes, we may listen to others, defer to others, and accept guidance from others, but in the final analysis we view ourselves as our own coaches, portfolio managers, guides, judges, and the captains of our own ships in a manner that is more cultural than biblical. In short, an underdeveloped theology conspires with out antiauthority and individualistic instincts to deceive us into claiming that we love all Christians everywhere equally while excusing ourselves from loving any of those Christians specifically, especially submissively. Unsurprisingly, churches are shallow, Christians are weak, and God's people look like the world."
"But what if local churches were to recover the understanding that each stands as a proxy for Christ? Each church is his representative on earth. Consider, then, the weightiness of accepting members. Consider the weightiness of saying goodbye to those who move to another city; much more the weightiness of excluding them. If churches were to undertake such considerations, receiving members would be treated more like an adoption. 'Are the child's papers in order? Have all the necessary questions been asked by both sides of the adoption? How can we best serve and protect this child?' Saying goodbye to members as they depart for another city would feel like saying goodbye to a precious son as he leaves home. 'Let us know when you arrive safely. Let us know if you need money. Find good friends. Remain steady in what we've taught you. We love you.'"
- We don't fully embrace the good news of the Gospel.
- Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace.
- Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of "not doing enough."
- When we are truly guilty of sin it is imperative that we repent and receive God's mercy.
One path is the “Great Commission Resurgence” (GCR) vision set forth by the GCRTF and their recommendations. The other path has been coined as the “Cooperative Program Resurgence” (CPR). These two competing paths are not about who is “for” or “against” the Great Commission. One can be against the GCR and still for the Great Commission (and vice versa). The question is not who is “for” and “against” the Great Commission. The real question is two-fold for Southern Baptists: 1) How do we define the Great Commission? 2) How do we most effectively accomplish it? That is what we are voting on in Orlando this June.
GCR- This vision is to restructure certain items within the SBC to enable greater effectiveness and cooperation in the Great Commission. The hope is that this vision will lead to greater missions giving because people will give to a vision that is compelling and mobilizes more resources (people and money) to the areas of greatest need (need = least access to the Gospel). CPR- This vision is to do more/better at what we are already doing. The SBC structure is right but the giving is not, so we need a resurgence in CP giving and that will lead to a greater fulfillment of the Great Commission. The division of the CP pie is not a problem; the size of the pie is.
In terms of the bottom line, here is how the two views play out in terms of mission impact:
GCR- Allocate resources (people and money) to the places of greatest need in our country and the world, and as a result missions giving will increase. CPR- Give more money so that resources (people and money) will continue to fund what we are currently doing in the south and more will trickle out to the places of greatest need in our country and the world.
Every speaker, every “church growth guru” suggests a different way to “grow the church.” “What you need is better marketing.” “What you need is more contemporary music.” “What you need is a big outreach event.” “What you need is another staff member.” “What you need is a shorter, more ‘relevant’ message.” “What you need is more video in worship.” “What you need is casual dress on the platform.” “What you need is candles, curtains, or ancient-looking décor.” Each guru believes his solution is the missing element that, if put in place, can help take your church “to the next level.”When the word grows, the church grows! In short, the message of Acts concerning church growth is quite simple—believe the word, preach the word, and live out the word. God gave us a promise about the power of His word back in Isaiah 55 when He declared, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” And what is the purpose for which God has sent forth His word if not reaching the lost with the message of salvation and discipling the saved (Matt 28:18-20)? Yet despite this promise, and despite the word-based pattern of growth in the book of Acts, many church leaders today are seemingly unsure of the power of the word alone to change lives and “grow their church.” Though we are called to “believe the word,” there are portions many church leaders do not wish to believe and therefore do not wish to obey. Though we are called to “preach the word,” many church leaders are shortening their sermons, adding in more stories and video clips until all that is left of the “preached word” is a little kernel. Is this because we believe a kernel is all that our culture will find palatable? Is this because we believe the power to change lives lies in our ability to communicate rather than in the word itself? And though we are called to “live the word,” believers are not living it, because to a great extent our church leaders are not teaching it or modeling it.We need to bear in mind that increased attendance at our churches does not necessarily equate to the “growth of the word.” The church can grow and the word can shrink. There are many churches in our country where this is in fact taking place; drawing a crowd is not the same as “making disciples.” The inverse can occur as well; one can faithfully preach the word in a church where there are many false disciples and actually drive some church attenders away. In this case, the word grows but the church shrinks. (Remember, Jesus, the Living Word, drove some ‘disciples’ away too (John 6:66)).