Monthly Archives: November 2008

Pastors, Don’t Waste Your Pulpit

Pastors and preachers, please preach Jesus tomorrow morning. “High church” or “relevant” church, megachurch or minichurch, traditional or contemporary, expository or topical, whatever or whatever: give your people Jesus. Not a little Jesus. A lot.

Don’t save him for a special occasion.

Just speaking for myself, I have a major crisis of conscience when I feel as though I haven’t preached enough Jesus. I believe it is my duty to center on the gospel every week because the Bible says it is of first importance. That means it can’t be occasional or implicit.

I don’t want to preach, leave the building in my car, get hit on the interstate and die, and have anyone be able to say, “His last message was on our inner potential to be awesome,” or whatever. I want to teach so that if any given message is my last, it can’t be said that I went out failing to have preached the gospel, failing to have proclaimed the glory of God.

Why do we settle for less?When we have in the endless fountain of Scripture “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ” why do we break even for one week from that stuff to preach the searchable riches of us? Why do we press pause on the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God in the amazing gospel of grace to press play on the Seven Steps to Being a Better Person?

If you’re a …

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The Gospel Word is Central to Gospel Work

A beauty from Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

Francis of Assissi is alleged to have said, “Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words.” That may be a great medieval sound bite, but it falls short of what the Bible teaches about evangelism. Jesus began his public ministry by “proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1:14). When he gained a reputation as a miracle-worker, his response was to leave the area so he could give himself to the task of proclamation, for “that is why I have come” (Mark 1:38). And the risen Lord left his disciples with the specific commission to go to the nations, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

There is a tendency in some quarters today to promote a kind of evangelism without proclamation. Acts of service are done or people are invited to experience Christian worship. But without words of explanation these are like signposts pointing nowhere or, worse still, signposts pointing to our good works. The gospel is good news — a message to be proclaimed, a truth to be taught, a word to be spoken, and a story to be told.

Related: Faith Comes By HearingWord-Centered Missionalization

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Numerolatry and the Church

Several weeks ago I was one of more than a few small church pastors listening in to the backstage interviews at the Catalyst Conference. Folks of my sort are somewhat skeptical of folks of that sort — not really the folks, so much as the machine the folks are a part of — and what we were hearing was not very encouraging. Conferences like Catalyst and its progenitors and imitators appear to be predicated on the idea that the number one problem facing evangelical churches is lack of success. How to get success and keep success. And who best to teach us how to do this than successful pastors? By which it is usually meant pastors of large churches. This is how pastors with radically different philosophies of ministry end up on conference stages together: they both have huge churches.

One of the Catalyst speakers in his address said that every church has the Holy Spirit but that some churches have that something extra that makes them special. The crowd ate this up, and indeed, this seems to be the implicit message of all conferences, kits, consultations, and systems of this kind: You may have the Spirit, but do you have _______?

This not only implies that God isn’t enough, it only feeds and stokes the insatiable idolatry for that “x factor” the fans of these programs are operating out of. “Sure, I’ve got Jesus. But I need the tips, techniques, and know-how to take it to the next level!”The level …

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The Supremacy of Christ

First, a passage from Mark Driscoll’s contribution (“The Church and the Supremacy of Christ”) to Piper and Taylor’s The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World:

The supremacy of Jesus Christ as our sovereign and exalted God is our authority for mission. There is not one inch of creation, one culture or subculture of people, one lifestyle or orientation, one religion or philosophical system, that he does not possess full authority over and command to turn from sin and glorify him . . . Indeed, the authority of our mission rests on nothing less than the authority delegated to us by the exalted Lord Jesus Christ who rules over all.

Nevertheless, as Christians enter into their local culture and its subcultures, we must also remember that it is Jesus (not us) who is sovereign, and it is Jesus (not the church) who rules over all. We are to come in the authority of the exalted Jesus, but also in the example of the humble incarnated Jesus. This means that we must come into culture as Jesus did — filled with the Holy Spirit, in constant prayer to the Father, saturated with the truth of Scripture, humble in our approach, loving in our truth, and serving in our deeds. Once we have the incarnation and the exaltation clear in our Christology, we are then sufficiently ready to contend for the truth of the gospel and contextualize it rightly for various cultures and subcultures of people, as Jesus did and commands us to …

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"Cool"ing the Fire

When some unbelievers get saved they are excited. They’re pumped. All they can think about is Jesus and all they feel is peace and gratitude.

They don’t know the rules yet, so they start listening to Christian radio and reading Christian books and putting Jesus fish on their cars and wearing WWJD bracelets and talking to people about Jesus and treating other Christians like close friends. They’re suddenly self-conscious about their language, whether they’re cussing or not. They think about things like if it’s okay to drink or watch R-rated movies.And they don’t do any of those things out of legalism or brainless conformity or selling out to Christian consumerism but simply because they’re just so freaking excited about being a Christian that it consumes their thinking and acting and they’re just energized by Jesusy thoughts and Jesusy language and flat-out being Jesusy.

Then a Christian who knows the rules gets ahold of them and out of embarrassment does his best to make the new believer less Jesusy and more cool, more presentable, less dorky.Because these three remain in contemporary evangelicalism: aloofness, selfishness, and coolness, but the greatest of these is coolness.

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American Idolatry

On my break last week I was unable to link from here to one of my SearchWarp pieces:

There is Only One Messiah and America Isn’t His Kingdom

An excerpt:

Politicizing and nationalizing the kingdom of God is as ancient as Christ’s proclamation of the countercultural kingdom itself. In the first century plenty of Jews expected a flag-waving messiah who would reestablish the nation of Israel as the preeminent empire on the earth, and they had only inherited this expectation from their patriarchs. The American flavor of this expectation has been employed since before the American Revolution.

But it is idolatry. Always has been, always will be.

Our hope is neither Republican nor Democrat, neither black nor white, neither liberal nor conservative, neither foreign security nor domestic tranquility. It is Jesus.

What is interesting in this last election cycle is the adoption of this idolatry by many younger evangelicals who hated it in the political stances of their parents and grandparents. After all the (well earned) criticism of years of conservative politicizing “Christian values” and trusting in “God’s man in the White House,” the critics have turned around and done the same thing. The issues are different — the ethereal “social justice” replaces the illusory “Judeo-Christian morality” — but the fundamental philosophy and theological bankruptcy are the same.

Let us not make this a young/old or liberal/conservative thing. It is a human thing, as all sin is. As all idolatrous hopes are.

Whether you are disappointed in the results of the recent election or elated by them, …

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Love Never Fails

Mike Edwards’s Lessons from a “Failed” Church Plant is a must-read.

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Jesus and Justice: Ed Stetzer Brings the Thunder (Kinda)

I must confess that I think churches talk more than they help. They brand themselves as caring for their communities through catchy slogans, yet they seem to talk more than they act. It kind of reminds me of that Brady Bunch episode in which Peter rescues a little girl from a falling shelf in Driscoll’s Toy Store. The newspaper wrote about it and the TV station came out. And, you guessed it, the middle Brady son became obsessed with telling his heroic tale and couldn’t stop talking about himself to his friends and family. It’s no wonder no one wanted to be around the “hero.” Self-congratulation is obnoxious and tiring. Likewise, I believe the world is growing tired of churches that occasionally helped the poor, took up an offering, or went on a mission trip and can’t stop talking about those occasional experiences. People today find it odd that the Church founded by a Savior who came healing the sick and caring for the poor is now only marginally involved in His mission.

Yeppers.

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