Monthly Archives: September 2008

Be the First!

I don’t consider myself a church planter, although what we’re trying to do with Element is essentially trying to plant a church, in the most organic sense of the word. One thing we have struggled to accommodate and work around is the reluctance on the part of some folks to be the first ________ in our community.

This is not a phenomenon unique to new or young churches either, I don’t think.

It is difficult to be the only:ethnic minoritysingle momcouple with small childrensenior citizenmarried couple


In our Bible Belt suburban context, in our days of full-fledged “young adult” targeting, it was difficult attracting college students and young adults, because most of these folks want to go where there’s already lots of college students and young adults. Big attendance is considered success, and small attendance begs the question, “What’s wrong with this place?”

Very few want to be the first of their kind. They want to go where others have already blazed the trail, broken the seal, what-have-you. (I understand the appeal. There is certainly less required that way.)

In the current phase of our ministry, we need couples and families of all kinds to value what we do and what we’re trying to do (in a nutshell, the things that set us apart from surrounding churches are heavy gospel-centrism and a missional approach to church “operations”) and decide to be the first of their kind.

This is difficult for us because as a small community made up largely of young adults in their twenties, we …

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Stetzer on Pastoring in the Suburbs


. . . [S]ome pastors hate the suburbs. If you hate the suburbs, stop whining about it and move into the city. I have done both and find them both in deep need of the gospel. It is trendy to mock the suburbs — I have done it myself, calling them the “vast suburban wasteland.” Well, it may be, but everywhere is a wasteland without Jesus. So, if you are called to pastor in the suburbs, dig deep and engage its culture — look for bridges over which the gospel will travel and expose the idols that the gospel must destroy.

Seen at sub*text

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How to Feel Scripture

My latest piece at SearchWarp:

Five Ways to Feel Scripture

A taste:

We like to keep Scripture short and manageable, and that’s understandable. It’s certainly more convenient that way. But we will not be mastered by Scripture if we don’t occasionally allow it to overwhelm us, intimidate us, and force us to wrestle with it.

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Gospel Intentionality

Desiring God’s David Mathis interviews Tim Chester, one of the authors of Total Church, a new book in Crossway/Resurgence’s Re:Lit series that sounds awesome. From the interview:

DG: Tim, what do you and Steve Timmis mean by the title Total Church?

Tim Chester: The phrase is actually adapted from the world of football (or soccer in the States!). “Total football” was a style of play associated with the Dutch international side in the 1970s.

“Total church” is our way of capturing the idea that church is not one activity in our lives. Church isn’t a meeting you attend or a building your enter. It’s our identity, our community, our family. It’s the context for the totality of the Christian life.

DG: How would you summarize the message of the book?

TC: Total Church argues for two core principles: We need to be gospel-centered and community-centered.

Being gospel-centered means we’re word-centered (because the gospel is a message; it is good news), and it means being mission-centered (because the gospel is a message to be proclaimed; it is good news).

I think most conservative evangelicals are strong on this. But we also need to be community-centered. The Christian community is the biblical context for evangelism, discipleship, pastoral care, social involvement, and so on. That doesn’t mean meetings. It means the shared life of the community.

One of our catchphrases is “ordinary people living ordinary life with gospel intentionality.” It means doing the chores, having meals, watching sports, and so on with an intention to talk about Jesus, to …

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Gospelizing a Folk Tale

Another contribution at SearchWarp:Grace and “The Little Red Hen”

It’s about dispensing with “just desserts” and giving people what they don’t deserve.

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The Law, Love, and Reconciliation

Obedience is really about reconciliation. The place of the Law in the context of the Christian life is an integral one, but a tricky one. One of my chief concerns in teaching on obedience and the Law is that order be kept straight. We see it in the Exodus story, and we see it in the order of salvation. We are set free to then follow. God did not hand Moses the Law before the burning bush. He did not deliver the Law to the Israelites while they were still in bondage. He delivered them into the wilderness first.I think that’s really important. We are set free to follow. The call and the deliverance precedes obedience in the same way that a changed heart precedes changed behavior. (Tim Keller is the best of the best on this subject from a pastoral perspective.)

But it still leaves the command to obey, the command to follow the Law, sitting heavy on us like a weight. And so my aim is to give it context, to put the Law in its proper framework, and for post-cross Christians the context and framework is the same as it was for post-Exodus Israelites. Or at least should be. Love.

God gave the Law out of love. And when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into a legal fumble, it was love that Jesus used to frame the Law:The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love …

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The Glorious Christ and Christ Alone

We sang “On Christ the Solid Rock” at Element last night.

My hope is built on nothing lessThan Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

This gets me. It slays me.Honestly, in the words of another great hymn, I scarce can take it in.

I am not a fan of emotionalism. And I would never encourage gauging the quality of one’s spirituality based on how one feels (I in fact discourage such temperature taking). But I do think it is important for us to be moved when we ponder the gospel. When you even barely grasp the depths of your depravity in even a glimpse of the light of God’s holiness, and then see that terrible contrast intersecting at the cross, where God’s only Son bled the ground red with grace, how can you not be moved? How can I not be moved?

These days, the more I think on it, the more I reflect on it, the more I feast on it, the more I trust in it, the more I proclaim it, the more I enjoy it . . . the more I am in disorienting awe over it.

The scandalous beauty of the crucified king, the awful glory of the sacrificed Lord: this is the watershed moment of all of history, and it ought to be the watershed moment of your history.

It is Jesus’ offering of himself to the torturous, murderous death on the cross that connects us to the potential of beholding him in his resurrected, exalted glory. Without the full experience of the …

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"Just Turn it Loose"

Here’s a choice quote on “making the Bible relevant” from a book by Ben Patterson called Preaching to Convince that I saw once upon a time at Theocentric Preaching:

This particular temptation used to be the sole province of the liberal theological tradition. But in the past few years, it has gained a number of victims in the evangelical community . . . The sin courted in this temptation is the presumption that it is the Bible that is dead and we who are alive . . .

Is the Bible relevant? Dr. Bernard Ramm once remarked, “There is nothing more relevant than the truth.” The longer I preach, the more convinced I become that the best thing I can do is simply get out of Scripture’s way.

Yes. Love that. “The best thing I can do is simply get out of Scripture’s way.”

I am a big fan of the notion we can’t make the Bible relevant; it already is relevant.Reminds me of that great Spurgeon quote: Scripture is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose; it will defend itself.

The modern church is endlessly attempting to update, innovate, and augment the message of the gospel to best speak to our audiences. It occurs to me that we have somehow decided, a priori, that there is something wrong with the seed that must be fixed. Why don’t we stop and perhaps wonder if the problem is not with the seed, but with the soil?

This requires …

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Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

– 2 Timothy 4:1-3

I think we’re “out of season” right now.

My guess is that we get back “in season” by embracing the charge to preach the Word even though a great number in the Church don’t want to hear it.

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Brant Hansen offers another incisive piece: LeaderMan vs. Servant Leader

Servant Leader: Has something to say

LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something


LeaderMan: You almost feel you know his family, because he’s your Leader

Servant Leader: You allow him to influence you, because you know his family


LeaderMan: Wants you to know he’s a Leader

Servant Leader: You’re not sure he knows he’s a leader


LeaderMan: Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church

Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path


LeaderMan: A great speaker, but self-described as, “Not really a people person.”

Servant Leader: Makes himself a people person


LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization

Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you


LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision

Servant Leader: Just gets together with you


LeaderMan: Resents “sheep stealing”

Servant Leader: Doesn’t get the “stealing” part, since he doesn’t own anyone to begin with


LeaderMan: Wants the right people on the bus

Servant Leader: Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it


Servant Leader: Shows you his whole heart

LeaderMan: Shows you a flow chart


LeaderMan: A visionary who knows what the future looks like

Servant Leader: Knows what your kitchen looks like


LeaderMan: If it’s worth doing, it worth doing with excellence

Servant Leader: Not exactly sure how to even calculate “worth doing”


LeaderMan: Talks …

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