5.20.2010

Daily Discipleship: Long Obedience In the Same Direction

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.

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we’ve changed — and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation. It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it.

Satan's Strategy for Delaying Matthew 24:14?

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:

Satan is doing everything in his power to keep that contingency from being fulfilled—to keep the gospel from being proclaimed as a witness among all peoples. He has worked through puppet governments to keep countries closed to a Christian witness. He has obscured the nature of the Great Commission task in terms of ethnic-linguistic people groups instead of just reaching geo-political countries on our map. He has persecuted the church and believers, thinking it would inhibit the advance of God’s kingdom. But none of these strategies are working.

The strategy that is working, however, is to convince Christians that missions is optional, to get churches to become self-centered, engrossed in its own programs and work to the neglect of taking the gospel to the lost. He is distorting the concept of a call to the task as applying to an elite few who go as missionaries rather than to the church as the people of God. He has eroded the spiritual vitality of God’s people and the faith that would enable them to carry out God’s mission.

5.14.2010

Christian Ministry: Starting What You Cannot Finish

Excerpts from Al Mohler's Commencement address at Southern Seminary:

The call to the Christian ministry is a profoundly counter-cultural reality. The conventional wisdom just does not fit. As children, we are taught the adage that we are not to start what we cannot finish. But these ministers of the Gospel will never really finish anything, and they are not very qualified to start anything. As the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 3:10-11]

They will take their places in a long line of faithful ministers. They will build upon the foundation laid by the apostles, and that foundation is Jesus Christ. They will toil and serve and witness and teach and preach and lead and build, but they will die with more undone than done. Some will serve long, some may serve only a short time in this earthly life, but they will serve a cause they cannot complete; they will tell a story they cannot conclude...

...Behind us is a line of faithful Christians who toiled and served and preached and planted and tended and witnessed and died. The graduates we see before us today get in that line, are indeed already in that line, and they will never get to finish what they start — and we can live with that...

...Why? Only because Christ will finish what He has started. Only because we are absolutely confident that this is not about us, but about Christ — all about Christ...

...Let’s consider what this means. The Father’s purpose is to glorify himself in the Son, the Lamb, through whom sinners are ransomed by his blood — men and women from every tribe and language and people and nation. In these blood-bought saints the curse is reversed, sins are forgiven, and Babel is turned into a thunderous and endless chorus of common praise...

...This vision transforms the Christian ministry from a profession into a calling that makes no sense according to the wisdom of the world. The vast majority of Christian ministers and pastors have served without the slightest attention of the world, completely lacking in its accolades and attention. They preached the Word, in season and out of season, evangelized, baptized, taught, tended, wept, and cared — and they were laid in humble boxes and lowered into to the waiting earth. And all is well...

Be armed with the vision of the Lamb before the throne, and of the reigning saints from every tribe and nation and people and language. Take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and let the nations rejoice in Christ. Serve the Lord with gladness and tend the flock of God with love and care. Preach the Word, in season and out of season. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. Be those of which the world is not worthy...

...Serve, preach, teach, and tell the world about Jesus until they put you in a box or until Jesus comes. And all will be well. Start what you cannot finish, and trust that Christ will finish what He has started. Serve so long as you live and live so long as your serve, and we will one day meet together again — when we smell sulfur and see a Lamb.



5.11.2010

The Weightiness of Local Church Membership

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.'"

Stop Feeling So Guilty

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:

  1. We don't fully embrace the good news of the Gospel.
  2. Christians tend to motivate each other by guilt rather than grace.
  3. Most of our low-level guilt falls under the ambiguous category of "not doing enough."
  4. 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.

Two Competing Paths in the SBC

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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. As the Word Grows, So Grows the Church

      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 d├ęcor.” 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)).

      5.03.2010

      Turning Point

      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.




      A Great Commission Resurgence from GCR on Vimeo.