Monthly Archives: April 2009

Dude, Where’s My Gospel?

Once upon a time, my family made the very difficult and emotional decision of breaking fellowship with a church for several reasons, but the most important one, and the one that would have done it by itself, was the persistent neglect of gospel-centered teaching. Since I’ve begun publicly urging the evangelical church to reclaim the centrality of the gospel and re-form its discipleship culture around the gospel, I have heard from many others in the same boat.

Gospel deficiency is the biggest crisis of the American church. It has been replaced by many things, most commonly a therapeutic, self-help approach to biblical application. Bible verses are extracted to enhance calls to self-improvement and Jesus is preached as moral exemplar (which of course, he is, but then again, so is Mother Theresa). The result is a Church that, ironically enough, preaches works, not grace, and a growing number of Christians who neither understand the gospel nor revel in its scandal.

There are lots of good reasons to reclaim the centrality of the good news of Jesus in our preaching and teaching and writing and blogging, and I’ve come up with four basic arguments for (what I’m calling) The Gospel Imperative, but perhaps defining our terms is in order. It’s no good going on about making the gospel the center of our worship and discipleship if we are not on the same page for what the gospel actually is.

Like many others, I affirm that the gospel is big. I favor a robust gospel, …

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What is a Missional Church?: Three Convergent Takes

Mark Driscoll posts:

In Vintage Church chapter nine we answer the question, “What Is a Missional Church?” With the ongoing debate between traditional churches, seeker churches, emerging churches, etc., there is a need to clarify what a missional church is and is not. In this chapter we explore the history and nature of a missional church. Regarding the missional church, excerpts from Vintage Church pages 219-220 say:

Thankfully, the mission of the church is not that complicated. The mission of the church comes directly from the command of Jesus, who, following his resurrection and just prior to his ascension, said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20; see also Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:20-31; Acts 1:5-8). Jesus speaks of going, evangelizing, making disciples, and planting churches that plant churches to continue the process. Therefore, the mission of the church is nothing less than bringing the entire world to Christian faith and maturity.

A missional church must strategize how to carry out the mission to today’s increasingly non-Christian culture.

Still the best short piece I know of is What Is a Gospel-Centered Missional Church and Why Do We Need One? from The Journey Church (St. Louis). Read it all, but here’s an excerpt:

Primarily, a missional church recognizes the centrality …

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The Fear of Preaching Dangerously

Collapse shmollapse.

Last year I nodded toward the preaching coming out of LifeChurch as a sign that the tide may be turning. LifeChurch is in many ways the epicenter of the attractional multi-site church movement, and LifeChurch’s pastor Craig Groeschel has been preaching some great messages in some great series.

Last week at the Catalyst West Conference (which gets credit for inviting Francis Chan back to speak year after year), Groeschel pushed the calling of people into “Level 3″ discipleship, where life is sacrificed for the good of the gospel. And then there’s this post, which is just refreshing and awesome and prophetic:

Pastor, you are called to preach a dangerous message.

(Notice I didn’t say an “edgy” message. There is a big difference between dangerous and edgy.)

Preaching the Gospel of Christ is offensive to men. If you’re being criticized for your sex talks and creative marketing and never for preaching Christ, something might be wrong with your preaching.

Preaching God’s standards will make some people mad. If your sermons always make people feel better about themselves and you never confront their sin, they won’t likely see their need for a Savior.

Preaching about the miraculous power of God stirs people up. If your typical message is five steps to a better life, you may be overlooking the one step of truly taking God at His word.

I pray our messages become more Spirit-filled, Scripture-packed, and God-annointed!

A few of the comments are revealing.

When a guy like me, in my context, says things like this, they …

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When the Work is Dull or People Are Slipping Away

Don’t expect the enemy to coddle you.

This excerpt from C. John Miller’s The Heart of a Servant Leader really ministered to me:

Let me urge upon you the importance of cultivating faith if you are to be able to walk in love and spiritual power. Without faith it is impossible to please God, but those who believe are given more grace than they can handle. Believing is to expect God to be with you and change you and to change others…When the work is dull and routine or people are slipping away, go forth with new boldness and preach Christ until you are filled with faith yourselves and God works faith in others.

Think of it this way. All the powers of hell and earth are ranged against the gospel and your ministry. They will not compromise. Therefore don’t expect it from them. Don’t expect the enemy to coddle you. He will continue to attack from every quarter. At night. On the streets. In your meetings. Wherever. This is a take-no-prisoners kind of war, and we must not compromise with the uglies and with evil in any form.

Therefore resist, fight with all your heart against evil in yourself and others, seek holiness through faith in the blood of Christ, and live boldly out of your union with Christ. You are in Him and He is in you. Don’t doubt it. On that basis keep at it.

Keep at it. Yes.We will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Thanks to

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Jesus Wants the Rose

Killer story from Matt Chandler, a radically gospel-intoxicated puma of a pastor.

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Element celebrated another milestone last week: our second engagement!

After the service last Sunday night, Element worship leader and rascally raconteur-about-town Jason Haggard proposed to his girlfriend of, like, 14 years Abigail Davis.

I had the great privilege of baptizing Abigail last year, and now I’ll get the great privilege of officiating their wedding in November.

Congratulations, you crazy kids!

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Gospel Coalition Conference Rundown

Had a great and refreshing three days in Chicago with some good friends and Element team members for the 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference. You can find video and audio and manuscripts elsewhere, so I won’t say too much about the talks. Just some general reflections.

John Piper was on his game. I feel incredibly blessed to have heard live in person one of the best messages I’ve ever heard from him. A great word for ministers of the gospel. Find it and take it in. He also has a keen insight to Paul’s epistles that I’d never heard before, which is no wonder, given that Piper said he’d never seen it in any commentary. (Btw, only a guy like Piper can get away with introducing an insight that’s not found in commentaries. Don’t try that at home.)

Mark Driscoll’s talk was good but uncharacteristically subdued. I took this as perhaps fatigue, but also as a sign that he was speaking from experience, wisdom, brokenness, and repentance (as he himself indicated) on the topic assigned him. Given recent hammering of Driscoll by a guy Driscoll himself honored quite recently online, his message was ripe with meaning and sensitivity.

K. Edward Copeland and Ajith Fernando also gave great messages. Copeland spoke on ministering under God’s sovereignty and had some great stuff to say about pastors who engage in “recreational preaching.” Time is too short to mess around. Fernando talked about suffering for the gospel in a pluralistic culture. Sobering stuff.

C.J. Mahaney’s workshop (which might as …

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Your Jesus is Too Safe Available for Pre-Order

I discovered over the weekend that my book Your Jesus is Too Safe is now available on for pre-order. (Book releases in July.)

I’m not saying you should order it now. I’m just saying you can.


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Gospel Coalition Conference This Week

I’m going to be in Chicago for this for the next few days.

I haven’t been to a conference in 13 years (the Willow Creek Leadership Conference in 1996), so I’m really looking forward to hearing and learning from some of my favorite preachers and writers.

And I’ll be there with Element’s worship director, administrative director, and missions director, so I really look forward to having a leadership retreat of sorts with some close friends. We will be staying with our good friend Chris Thomas, the guy who founded Element (and now works at Willow, incidentally).

Might blog from the conference; not sure. But it’s a good bet I’ll be tweeting.

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Judgment Begins with the House of God

…All the calls to “reclaim America for Christ” leave me cold. Our real need is to reclaim the church for Christ. When Christ is exalted in His church, when He is loved and revered and cherished with passion by those who bear His Name–in other words, when the church starts living like the church–then His body cannot help but make an impact on culture.

– Tom Ascol

Thanks, Brenden Link, for the quote. It is timely as I have been already brainstorming my July 4th weekend sermon, and this is near the direction I’m heading.

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