I encourage you to read Kevin DeYoung's recent article in Tabletalk magazine.
Here's a great excerpt on our need as followers of Christ not to look for the spectacular, but to continue in the ordinary daily disciplines of our faith and to be content with the spectacular nature of the Gospel.
Matthew 24:14 says, "The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a witness among all nations, and then the end will come."
Jerry Rankin'g recent post addresses what Satan's possible strategy may be to delay this promise:
That's the title of a section in Chapter Four, "The Charter of Love," of Jonathan Leeman's The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline.
In the section, Leeman writes,
"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."
What's the solution?
"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.'"
In his latest post, Kevin DeYoung asks the question, "Are Christians Meant To Feel Guilty All the Time?" Kevin writes, "Here's the tricky part: we should feel guilty sometimes, because we are guilty of sin. Moreover, complacency as Christians is a real danger, especially in America. But yet, I don't believe God redeemed us through the blood of His Son that we might feel like constant failures.
So, why are we so prone to feelings of guilt? Kevin offers four possibilities:
- 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.
Be sure to read the entire post here. It's well worth your time.
B21 has an exceptional post by Jon Akin on the choice before Southern Baptists at the annual convention on June 15th. I encourage you to read the entire article to get a feel for what the debate is about and what is at stake.
Here's a few good summarizing excerpts:
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.
B21 has a great post on the New Testament method of church growth: the growth of the Word of God.
Here's a few noteworthy pieces:
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)).
A Great Commission Resurgence to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ has already begun. On June 15th, the Southern Baptist Convention will make a decision that will result in either us riding the wave of what the Lord is already doing in and around the world to reach the nations or choose to stay on the shore, doing what we've always done and be left with our collective heads in the sand, refusing to see what the Lord is doing around us.