Monthly Archives: May 2009

Preach the Gospel at All Times; It is Necessary to Use Words

Mark Galli debunks a treasured evangelical urban legend:

I’ve heard the quote once too often. It’s time to set the record straight—about the quote, and about the gospel.

Francis of Assisi is said to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.

The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age . . .

Go read the whole thing.

It is true that too many churchfolk are all talk, no action.It is also true that the Bible never ceases to command us to speak boldly, to preach the gospel, by which it means with our mouths.

It’s a two-fisted gospel, folks.

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Woe to You When All Men Speak Well of You

A healthy dose of being criticized, even hated, is honorable if they’re criticizing or hating you because of your Jesus-fixation and gospel-stubbornness.

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Shepherding Toward the Truth

Good counsel for pastors from one of my faves, Matt Chandler:

* Give people texts to read and then give them plenty of space to wrestle. I love strong, convincing theologically driven books. The Bible’s better.

* Listen. Don’t listen to respond. Listen. You’ll find that people usually have an aversion to truth because it is affecting something or someone very close to them. If you’ll listen and see past a specific theological agenda, you can minister to their hearts. Let me give you an example. The Village is reformed in theology. A few weeks ago after an especially clear presentation of God’s sovereignty over salvation a young man came up to me after service frustrated with what I taught. It didn’t take long to figure out someone very close to him wasn’t a believer. We prayed for his family member for 10-15 minutes and asked the merciful God of the universe to save. After we prayed together, he told me he needed to “learn more of what the Bible says about all this.” After feeling loved, cared for and then prayed with, he was much more open to hear the scriptures unpacked. I have found this to be the case more often than not.

* Be patient. Progressive sanctification is just that…progressive. Deep spiritual growth is far from a super highway; it’s more like a dirt path through a thick jungle. Encourage, pray, and be patient.

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I Admit I Deserve Death and Hell. What of It?

At our Pastors Gospel Group meeting yesterday, Ray Ortlund, as he consistently does, lit a gospel fire in the midst of us by reading this passage to us from Martin Luther’s “Letters of Spiritual Counsel.” It is so powerful and encouraging.

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there shall I be also.”

If that don’t ring your bell, your clapper’s broken.

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Love/Hate Relationship with the Suburbs

That’s what I got. (And in fact what I usually hate in and about the suburbs is pretty much what I hate in and about myself.)

Joe Thorn echoes this in a great little post at sub*text:

I was talking with an old friend on the phone yesterday. He’s a pastor in a context that he finds himself at odds with. We went over this for a while, and my encouragement was that as sojourners who have been sent by God to be his gospel witness we will have a love/hate relationship with whatever culture we find ourselves in. Or, at least we should. If we don’t, then we are either missing the brokenness in creation, or the imago dei in the people to whom we have been sent.

I have said all this before, but it bears repeating: I both love and hate the suburbs – and I think this is healthy and necessary. Finding stuff to love and embrace in one’s culture can be difficult, at least for some. Some are so focused on the present evil and corruption that any good has been pushed beyond their peripheral vision. On the other hand some are so in love with (idolize) their culture they ignore all that is wrong with it.

Right now it’s cool to love the city and loathe the suburbs, but I do not believe this reflects the heart of God. I believe God has a love/hate relationship with this culture. My culture. And I’m working hard to maintain …

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Five Spiritual Rhythms for Subverting Suburbia

The suburbs smother the Christian spirit.

I know, because I live in suburbia. The message of the suburbs — heck, the message of the city too, the message of culture — is self-empowerment. Self-enhancement. Self-fulfillment. Self is at the center, and all things serve the self. (Self-service!)Suburbia’s highest virtues are convenience, abundance, and comfort. In suburbia you can have it all, and you can get it in a super-sized cup with an insulated sleeve.

The suburbs birthed the megachurch and its attractional paradigm, and this odd conflation of consumerist values and Christian religion has birthed a perverted sense of Christian entitlement. The suburbs have been good for spread of the prosperity gospel beyond the consumer ghetto of the poor.

The cultural tide of suburbia is exceedingly hard to swim against. We must have the nice house for our busy family, the nice car to get us to our “good” job, and the nice neighborhood amenities to make this apparently insufficient life more livable. And the kingdom of God? Well, we are sure it happens somehow. We certainly make time for God when we have the time, and when we do, we are sure to fit him in somehow between the paths from house to car, car to work, work to car, and car to home. We are captive to the rhythms of the world — what the New Testament calls “worldliness,” by the way — and consequently we live compartmentalized lives. We live as though our life belongs to us, and God gets …

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What is Preaching?

Fantastic post from John Piper on what he means by “preaching”:

Some of you may have little or no experience with what I mean by preaching. I think it will help you listen to my messages if I say a word about it.

What I mean by preaching is expository exultation.

Preaching Is Expository

Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all 66 books of it.

The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Every sermon should explain the Bible and then apply it to people’s lives.

The preacher should do that in a way that enables you to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will end up resting on a man and not on God’s word.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest biblical truth that will

* make your spiritual bones more like steel, * double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, * make the eyes of your heart dazzled with the brightness of the glory of God, * and awaken the capacity of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.

Preaching Is Exultation

Preaching is also exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain …

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10 People A Pastor Should Fear

Not to be confused with 10 Church People You Shouldn’t Trust.

All of these people need grace (EDIT: except for #10, of course, who gives it), but pastors should guard their hearts against some of their words and deeds (EDIT: except for #10, of course, whose words and deeds should be trusted, enjoyed, and proclaimed).

1. The guy who “subtly” reminds you how much he gives to the church.He thinks he is buying influence, and because some of his money pays your salary, he thinks he is buying more access to you and more pull with you than others have. Relieve him of this illusion if necessary.

2. The young guy who likes it when you rant against stuff or preach angry.Beware of pleasing young men too much. Young men are notoriously stupid. (I know, ’cause I am one.)

3. The guy or gal who doesn’t like it when you rant against stuff or preach angry.Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. If you’re sincerely and reliably preaching the Word, toes are going to be stepped on from time to time. If you’re not being self-indulgent about it and you are speaking the truth, beware those who think you should be more “positive” like those fellows on TV.

4. The lady with the unbelieving or spiritually unsophisticated husband who emails you a lot.Danger, Will Robinson.

5. The person who finds you right after the message to point out something you got wrong, quibble over a minor point, or mention some other criticism.You are tapped out …

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Blessed Are Those Who Are Kicked While They’re Down

There is a certain blog — that I won’t link to — I used to frequent. The blogger and I go waaay back to the days of the Christian blogosphere when we were both big fish in a little pond. I still have this blog in my reader, and I don’t know why. Nostalgia, I s’pose. But reading it is not good for my spirit. The blogger is fixated on stereotyping and demonizing Christians in conservative demographics and fixated on the issue of homosexuality.

So heavy is this fixation that despite the blogger’s oft-stated concern for mercy for the weak and justice for the powerless, that stuff didn’t mean squat when Miss California answered an interview question about “gay marriage.”

Let the smears begin.

This poor girl was an immodest fool to allow nude (semi-nude?) photos taken of herself. Perhaps she is an immodest fool today, I don’t know. (To show you how disconnected I am from the Miss Wear a Bathing Suit competitions, I kept seeing the name Prejean in the news and thought for a few days it referred to the real-life nun from Dead Man Walking.)

But make no mistake: the outright “she must be destroyed” campaign about her parents’ bitter divorce — who’s business is THAT?! for goodness’ sake — about the photos, about where she goes to church and how awful the place is, or whatever else can be dug up is all about her response to the question about “gay marriage.” If she’d said it was cool and …

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Pastors, Pastor

Last year around this time I wrote a piece called Pastors Pastor. I was actually thinking about re-running it pretty soon, but now I’ll only link it as reader Ken Stoll emailed me this great piece highlighting words from Eugene Peterson (pastor, writer, the dude behind The Message Bible) encouraging pastors to pastor.

This is prophetic stuff for the current evangelical pastorate. Let him who has ears hear.

‘The most important thing a pastor does is stand in a pulpit every Sunday and say, “Let us worship God.” If that ceases to be the primary thing I do in terms of my energy, my imagination, and the way I structure my life, then I no longer function as a pastor. I pick up some other identity. I cannot fail to call the congregation to worship God, to listen to his Word, to offer themselves to God. Worship becomes a place where we have our lives redefined for us. If we’re no longer operating out of that redefinition, the pastoral job is hopeless. Or if not hopeless, it becomes a defection. We join the enemy. We’ve quit our basic work’.

‘I don’t ever want to convey that our primary job as pastors is to fix a problem. Our primary work is to make saints. We’re in the saint-making business. If we enter the human-potential business, we’ve lost our calling’.

‘You cannot go to a pulpit week after week and preach truth accurately without constant study. Our minds blur on us, and we …

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