Worth a Look 6.16.15

Jun 16, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth6Kindle Deal of the Day: Multi-Site Churches: Guidance for the Movement’s Next Generation by Scott McConnell. $2.99.

Common practices and mistakes to avoid are clearly explained, and first-person advice and anecdotes from leading multi-site church pastors offer an invaluable advantage for when your church considers whether or not to follow this path of ministry.

The missionary pioneer, Elisabeth Elliott, has passed through the gates of splendor:

One of the most influential Christian women of the 20th century, Elisabeth Elliot, has died.

Elliot, the Christian author and speaker whose husband, Jim, was killed during their short-lived but legendary missionary work among unreached tribes in eastern Ecuador in the 1950s, passed away Sunday at 88, according to reports. She had been suffering from dementia.

Aziz Ansari’s article in Time about love, online dating, and arranged marriages raises some good questions about modern conceptions of romance:

Today’s generations are looking (exhaustively) for soul mates, whether we decide to hit the altar or not, and we have more opportunities than ever to find them. The biggest changes have been brought by the $2.4 billion online-­dating industry, which has exploded in the past few years with the arrival of dozens of mobile apps. Throw in the fact that people now get married later in life than ever before, turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options than previous generations could have ever imagined, and you have a recipe for romance gone haywire.

Here’s a leadership lesson from Game 4 of the NBA finals, and what it means for a young guy to “lead up:”

The Golden State Warriors were down 2-1 heading into Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Andre Iguodala had not started the entire season, but he started Game 4 and helped the Warriors to a blowout victory over Cleveland.

The Warriors changed their starting lineup, inserting Iguodala, because of a 28 year-old young leader, a guy named Nick U’Ren, who head coach Steve Kerr called “a kid.”

John Frame’s 6 cautions when preaching redemptive-historical themes from Scripture:

Killing Christless moralism is a good and right endeavor, but there are some cautions for the young preacher when it comes to preaching this way.

Here’s John Frame cautioning young preachers. I’ve italicized parts I find particularly important.

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Know Your Southern Baptists: A Directory

Jun 15, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Know Your Southern Baptist directory

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is going on this week. Here’s a directory of all the people profiled so far in the Know Your Southern Baptists series.

To read the full profile, click on the individual’s name.

Danny AkinDanny Akin

As president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Akin has used his platform to promote a greater commitment to expository preaching and missions, including calling for a Great Commission Resurgence.

Jason Keith AllenJason Keith Allen

He has served as a local church pastor, a seminary professor, and now president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO.


Robert AmayaRobert Amaya

He recently appeared in the movies Courageous and October Baby.


henry-blackabyHenry Blackaby

He is the author of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, which sold more than 7 million copies in 62 languages and inspired numerous related resources including workbooks, study Bibles, and devotionals.

Sara BlairSaira Blair

Last November, she became the nation’s youngest elected state legislator.


Matt CarterMatt Carter

He is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at the Austin Stone Community Church, which he planted with Chris Tomlin in 2002.

Michael_CattMichael Catt

He has been the senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA since 1989. The church owns and operates Sherwood Pictures, the independent film company responsible for a string of recent Christian films.

chandlerMatt Chandler

Pastor of The Village Church and president of Acts 29 Network, Chandler gained notoriety in 2009 when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, which he later credited God with healing.

HB-Charles-JrH.B. Charles, Jr.

He is the pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL and frequent speaker on preaching and pastoring.

Travis CotrellTravis Cottrell

He is a Dove Award-winning worship artist and worship leader at both a local church and Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live conferences.

Vicki CourtneyVicki Courtney

She is a best-selling author, nationally recognized speaker, and founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries.

william-lane-craigWilliam Lane Craig

He is one of the foremost Christian philosophers today. His apologetics ministry, Reasonable Faith, provides resources on both a scholarly and popular level.


Ted CruzTed Cruz

He is a Republican candidate for president and the junior U.S. senator from Texas.


Mark DeverMark Dever

Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and president of 9Marks, as well as an accomplished author and frequent conference speaker.


Kevin_EzellKevin Ezell

Ezell leads the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.


artist-FLAMEsuitFlame (Marcus Gray)

He is a a Dove, Stellar and Grammy Award nominated rapper. His most recent album, Royal Flush, charted at both iTunes and Billboard.

Ronnie-FloydRonnie Floyd

Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church, successful author and was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014.

Eric_GeigerEric Geiger

He is vice-president at LifeWay Christian Resources and leads the Church Resources Division.

Timothy GeorgeTimothy George

He is one of the premiere evangelical scholars in the U.S. and the founding dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University.

Billy GrahamBilly Graham

He was the preeminent evangelist of the 20th century and has preached the gospel to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—more in live audiences than anyone else in history.

Jack GrahamJack Graham

Graham served two terms as president of the SBC and has been pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the US since 1989.

Steve and Jackie GreenSteve and Jackie Green

The Green family, owners and operators of Hobby Lobby, were embroiled in a religious liberty battle that made its way to the Supreme Court. The Greens won in a 5-4 decision.

GreearJ.D. Greear

He is the lead pastor of The Summit Church, a megachurch in the Raleigh-Durham area, as well as an influential theologian, speaker and author.

IMG20116222528HISusie Hawkins

She is a nationally recognized speaker and writer on women’s ministry and life as a minister’s wife.

D.A. HortonD.A. Horton

Horton is the Executive Director of ReachLife Ministries, the National Coordinator for Urban Student Missions at NAMB, as well as an author, pastor, theologian, and hip-hop artist.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.Mike Huckabee

Huckabee is the former governor of Arkansas, presidential candidate, and host of the talk show Huckabee on Fox News.

I know there is something greater, something more important than just what we are doing here on the field. I'm thankful for the faith that I have. I want to share it with whoever wants to listen to me.Philip Humber

As a starter for the Chicago White Sox, he pitched a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners on April 21, 2012.

Johnny HuntJohnny Hunt

Hunt is pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, a Georgia megachurch and is a former president of the SBC.

Jeff IorgJeff Iorg

He is an author, teacher, and president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.


David_Jeremiah(1)David Jeremiah

He pastors Shadow Mountain Community Church, a megachurch near San Diego, and his radio and television programs with Turning Point Ministries are seen and heard around the world.

Charles Chuck KelleyChuck Kelley

Along with being the president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, he is an established speaker, teacher, and writer in Southern Baptist life.


Dennis KimDennis Kim

He has been the senior pastor of Global Mission Church of Greater Washington for more than 20 years. The predominately Korean congregation is the largest SBC church in Maryland and Delaware.

Trip LeeTrip Lee

He is an award winning hip-hop artist signed to Lecrae’s Reach Records and is a pastor at Cornerstone Church Atlanta.

shai linneShai Linne

A rap artist with Lamp Mode Recordings, Linne gained increased notoriety in 2013 with his song “Fal$e Teacher$,” which referenced 12 popular preachers whom Linne connected with the prosperity gospel.

FredLuterFred J. Luter Jr.

He is the senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. At his election as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012, Luter became the first African-American to ever hold that position.

eric-mason-picEric Mason

Eric Mason is founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, as well as a speaker and author.

51xgOzsvF0L._UX250_Reggie McNeal

He is a well-known and well-respected author and speaker on the church and its future. McNeal currently serves as the Missional Leadership Specialist for Leadership Network.

Tony MeridaTony Merida

He is the Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC.


bart millardBart Millard

The Grammy award winning musician has been the lead singer of MercyMe since the band began in 1994.

mohlerAl Mohler

As president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mohler is frequently quoted or referenced in discussions concerning the intersection of faith and culture.


50443375146ff.preview-620Beth Moore

She is a teacher, speaker, founder of Living Proof Ministries, and author of best-selling Bible studies and books for women.

Russell MooreRussell Moore

One of the leading theologians and ethicist today, he is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as well as a well-respected author.


David NasserDavid Nasser

He has been one of North America’s foremost evangelists, speaking to more than 500,000 people each year. Currently, he is the Senior Vice President for Spiritual Development at Liberty University.

Trillia_NewbellTrillia Newbell

She is Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as well as a nationally recognized writer and speaker.

perry_noble_2Perry Noble

Noble is the founding pastor of one of the fasting growing and largest churches in America, NewSpring Church in South Carolina.

Frank-PageFrank Page

He has held numerous roles within Southern Baptist life, from pastor to SBC president and now President and CEO of the Executive Committee.


Paige_PattersonPaige Patterson

He’s the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as a key leader in the SBC Conservative Resurgence.

david-plattDavid Platt

He took the evangelical world by storm with his bestselling book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Previously a pastor, Platt is now the president of the International Mission Board.

Karen Swallow PriorKaren Swallow Prior

Prior is an English professor at Liberty University, a contributing writer at several publications like Christianity Today and The Atlantic, and is a research fellow with the ERLC.

Thom RainerThom Rainer

Rainer, a leading voice for pastors today, is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and a best-selling author.

Alvin ReidAlvin Reid

He is the Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry, as well as the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


MJ-124Mary Jo Sharp

She is an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, a leading Christian apologist, author and debater.

Kevin SmithKevin Smith

He is currently a teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, as well as an assistant professor of preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Robert Smith JrRobert Smith, Jr.

He serves as Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School where he teaches Christian Preaching.

New_RogerRoger Spradlin

He has been the pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, California since 1983.


Charles StanleyCharles Stanley

Stanley is the 16th senior pastor of First Baptist Atlanta and the founder and president of In Touch Ministries, which broadcasts his sermons on over 500 radio stations and 300 television stations.

Ed StetzerEd Stetzer

He is an author, speaker, researcher, pastor, church planter and one of the leading missiologists in the country.

Rick WarrenRick Warren

He is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in California, one of the nation’s most influential churches. Warren also wrote Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life, which sold more than 30 million copies.

Ken WhittenKen Whitten

He is the senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, a multisite church in the Tampa, Florida area.

Jen WilkinJen Wilkin

She is the managing editor of The Village Church blog and leads the Flower Mound Women’s Bible Study, an interdenominational Bible study with about 700 members.

455181029_640Keith Marshall Williams, Sr.

He has been senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia for almost 30 years and has spoken at numerous national conferences.

Selma WilsonSelma Wilson

An accomplished author and speaker, Wilson was the president of B&H Publishing Group, one of the largest Christian book publishers.

dr.-ed-youngEd Young

The former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pastors Second Baptist Church Houston, one of the largest churches in the country.

afshin ziafatAfshin Ziafat

Afshin is the lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, TX. Previously, Afshin served as an evangelist and was the speaker at Vertical Ministries at Baylor University.

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Worth a Look 6.15.15

Jun 15, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth4Kindle Deal of the Day: Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick. $2.99.

Simply speaking, love changes people. Christians, then, by definition, should exhibit the greatest transformation of all because, rightly understood and cherished, God’s love makes them increasingly more like the One who has lavished his love on them.

The best part about learning Romanian was coming to grips with idioms that made no sense literally (and having my eyes opened to idioms in my own language I’d never thought about before). Here are the best idioms from around the world, ranked! I might start using some of these in everyday speech, just to watch the reaction of my friends.

21. “When dogs were tied with sausages…” Origin: Uruguayan. Meaning: “A long time ago…”

20. To go to the pineapple. Origin: Dominican. Meaning: To fight.

19. “Grow like an onion with your head in the ground.” Origin: Yiddish: Meaning: “Go take a hike.”

18. To stand like a watered poodle. Origin: German. Meaning: To be crestfallen.

Amy Julia Becker explains why some of the internet’s most prominent bloggers are calling it quits:

Stepping away from the very platforms that shaped them and popularized their careers, these celebrities raise questions about the future of blogging in particular and of social media in general. In announcing their departures, Whedon, Sullivan, and Armstrong all mention wanting to move away from the barrage of “haters” who leave their reckless disagreements and insults in comment sections and replies.

Video — Jerry Seinfeld is fed up with political correctness and how, on college campuses, it is nearly impossible for comedians to be humorous due to people taking quick offense.

The airlines are about to shrink your carry-on luggage, and suitcase makers rejoice!

It’s a happy day for luggage manufacturers. The world’s major airlines could soon be changing their requirements for carry-on luggage, potentially forcing people to buy new bags.

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Bede’s Prayer When Studying Scripture

Jun 14, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at SunriseMay Your Spirit, O Christ,
lead me in the right way,
keeping me safe from all forces of evil and destruction.
And, free from all malice,
may I search diligently in Your Holy Word
to discover with the eyes of my mind Your commandments.
Finally, give me the strength of will
to put those commandments into practice
through all the days of my life.

Bede, 673-735

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The Kingdom Has But Begun

Jun 13, 2015 | Trevin Wax

112I’m packing my bags to head to Columbus for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting next week, and I dipped into some of John Broadus sermons, recently collected by Roger Duke. I loved this section from a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer. Watch how, in his take on the petition “Thy kingdom come,” Broadus moves from celebrating the kingdom’s “already” to yearning for it’s “not yet” and then to personal application.

Do you think there is no need to pray for the kingdom of God to come? Do you think the reign, the Messianic reign of God in the world, has come? It has but begun.

It was beginning when Jesus taught these teachings.

It began still more when He rose triumphant from the grave and ascended glorious into the sky.

It began still further, on the day of Pentecost.

It began in another sense at the destruction of Jerusalem, which He spoke of beforehand as the time when He should come in His kingdom,

The kingdom has begun on the earth, ah! It has not come yet.

Alas, for the wide portions of the world where the very name of the King Messiah has not come.

Alas, in the metropolis of one of the great Christian nations today, the great mass of the men that surge around us, are utterly unsanctified by the gospel, utterly heedless of the reign of God.

Stop any moment and think, between two heartbeats, of this great world you live in, of this great city you live in, and then you shall address yourself with new fervor to the prayer: “Thy reign come, O God! Thy reign!”

Anyhow, let it come in us; let it pervade our whole being; let it control our whole life; let it sanctify our home life; let it elevate our social life; let it purify our business life; let men feel, as they note our conduct, that we are subjects of the Lord God.

– from Prince of the Pulpit

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The Bible Doesn’t All Sound The Same, So Why Do Your Sermons?

Jun 11, 2015 | Trevin Wax

RecapturingTheVoiceOfGodIt’s possible to be tied to the biblical text in your preaching and yet miss the voice and tone of the text, the specific shape of the genre God employed to get His message across. If you’re like me, you have a rhythm and method for sermon preparation and, at times, that method can start dictating how you preach rather than the text itself.

Steven Smith’s new book, Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture is a lifeline for preachers who want to grow in their ability to preach the various genres of Scripture effectively. It rescues “biblical exposition” from becoming merely a style, and it shows how to substantively engage the way God delivered His message — not just what He said, but how He said it. This is a resource I will consult frequently.

I’ve asked Steven to join me on the blog for a conversation about how to shape our sermons like Scripture. Dr. Smith is the vice president of Student Services and Communications and professor of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Trevin Wax: Steven, your book opens with a concern that “expository preaching” has become a referent for “a tired, formulaic preaching template,” a style of structuring sermons that leads pastors to preach according to their template rather than preach the text. What has caused this problem? And why is it harmful?

Steven Smith: The root of the problem, in me at least, is that I begin to fall in love with sermons more than falling in love the Word. So now, exposition means using a certain template, or sounding like a certain preacher, no matter if we are actually dealing with the text or not. We start to think of preaching as representing a template instead of re-presenting Scripture.

Of course, not everyone does this, but it happens a lot. And then pastors and their congregations get tired of the template and turn to other avenues to fill that vacuum. My prayer is that those who are looking for another way to structure sermons will look to the structures that are embedded in the text. It’s not the next thing, it’s the first thing.

Trevin Wax: You want preachers to allow the text “to breathe” – to let the shape of the text drive the shape of the sermon. Why is it important for preachers to pay attention to the voice God uses in each genre?

Steven Smith: The principle reason to look at genre is that there is meaning at the structural level of the text. Secondly, this is the way that God chose to reveal Himself, so that means something. Thirdly, when I let the text shape the sermon, I never have to scramble for sermon structure again. It is all there provided for me. This accomplishes another goal of teaching people how to read Scripture.

Trevin Wax: Many pastors today speak of themselves as “communicators” instead of “preachers.” You say we are communicators, but we are more. What differentiates preaching from mere communication?

Steven Smith: The word “communicator” is fine as far as it goes. Certainly we want to do no less! But we are much more. We are speaking for God. We want to help people, and encourage people, but all of those goals are secondary to the goal of re-presenting what God has already said in His word. That’s a huge responsibility, and I fear that aspect of preaching in a pastoral context is played down today. We do not invent, we relay what He has already said.

Trevin Wax: Some pastors may hear your counsel to vary up their style based on the genre of text and say, I feel tired just thinking about it! How can I master preaching from all the Bible’s genres? 
But you’ve categorized all the genres into three main buckets: story, poem, letter.

Which one is hardest for you to preach? And how have you grown in your ability to preach that type of Scripture well?

Steven Smith: Poetry, no question. Stories have a structure that emerges clearly after reading, and epistles are usually pretty linear in their logic. So I really enjoy preaching narrative/parables, and epistles. But Hebrew poetry, including the prophets, does not reveal its structure easily to me.

The answer to how to grow more is that I need to preach them more. That’s the only way to get better. While I am disappointed on one level, it’s hard to describe how wonderful that is to think that there are massive portions of Scripture I do not know how to preach! What a joy! The rest of my life I get to explore these texts. Nothing better than that!

Trevin Wax: In reading through your chapters on specific genres, I see that some of your sermon outlines still follow a basic three or four point outline, but you refer to the points as “scenes” (for stories) or “moves” (for poem) rather than “points” (as in letters). How can a pastor implement your suggestions here without simply falling into the same, tired patterns of sermon structure?

Steven Smith: Well, the idea is to let the text be the text — whether it has scenes, points, or moves. What you call them is not all that important. The real difference is what we say when we preach. And, I am not sure that comes out in the written samples.

For example in the sermon in Revelation 19, I do not say when preaching it, “Now that we have seen this, let’s look at this point.” A point is actually a word picture for pointing to something. While my written document may have that structure in it, that’s not what I would say. The written document is just for my clarity. So the real difference is how it is preached.

Trevin Wax: There may be different genres of Scripture, but they all point us to Jesus – albeit in different ways. What counsel would you give to the preacher who wants to be “Christ-centered,” but finds that his way of pointing to Jesus each week begins to sound the same?

Steven Smith: Great question.

I think we need a good and honest discussion of what it means to be Christ-centered in our preaching. Or, more specifically, assuming we are talking about a pastoral context, we need to answer the question of what is a pastor’s goal in Christ centered preaching.

If it is to mention the gospel in each sermon that is a wonderful goal, and something I try to do each time I preach. It seems that a more ambitious, and helpful, goal would be to equip people with a macro level understanding of the exaltation of Christ through the salvation of His people through all of Scripture. If that is the long term goal, then I think preaching is sometimes clearing a spot and making the gospel as explicit as possible.

At other times it is showing a nuanced link to a covenant that is ultimately fulfilled in Christ.  Sometimes we are sketch artists, sometimes we are impressionist.  But the goal is that over time people can make the connections in the text.

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Worth a Look 6.11.15

Jun 11, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists: Restoring New Testament Christianity edited by Malcolm Yarnell. $0.99.

A study of the lives and theology of evangelical Anabaptists encourages a reader to dig deeper into the Bible, count the cost of discipleship to Jesus Christ, and commit oneself to engaging the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Last year, I answered those who say “I believe the creeds!” but then justify sexual immorality by appealing to the little letter of Jude. In Jude, “defending the faith” is about life and practice, not just doctrine. Since then, I’ve been hoping to do more study on Jude. Lo and behold, my friend Derek Rishmawy has gotten there quicker. Here’s his take: Jude, Corpse-Fights, and Angels — Dealing with Moral Revisionism Then and Now

Judging by that and his judgment that “They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (4), it seems licentious antinomianism is probably the biggest issue. According to Bauckham, these opponents were probably arguing for some sort of rejection of traditional moral norms because they’d transcended them and were inviting the rest of the Church to join.

Good stuff on prayer from Winfield Bevins — 8 Keys to Personal Prayer:

Every believer can have a dynamic personal prayer life. The Bible gives us the keys we need to develop a powerful prayer life. The Scriptures are full of examples of men and women who walked with God and used prayer to impact their world, and you can do the same thing through prayer.

A couple weeks ago, I linked to a widely-read post from Australia on the church in “second stage exile.” Karina Kreminski has some good questions about the right and wrong ways to respond to these cultural developments. The Church Is In Post-Christian Exile – But Should We Really Respond Like It’s A War?

Has the church in fact entered into a second phase of exile? And even if the church has entered into a second phase of exile and it is characterised by some of the qualities and descriptions that we read in this author’s article, then what is to be our response? Is warfare an appropriate metaphor for this season? I think some responses are worth considering.

Good stuff from Geiger on building a culture of gratitude in your organization. 5 Ways to Say “Thanks” as a Leader (without a pay increase!)

Leaders must define reality, create urgency, and guide teams in a direction. But leaders must also say, “thank you.” They must continually express gratitude to those who are serving alongside them, who are working hard to advance the mission. Without thankfulness, the team culture grows cold and people can feel used. Surely financial support is one way to express appreciation, but here are five other ways to say “thank you”…

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Stephen Colbert to Graduates: “Decide for Yourself What is Right and Wrong”

Jun 10, 2015 | Trevin Wax

20150518commencement0343Earlier this week, I began a new series on American commencement addresses. Over the next few weeks, we will be taking a look at the advice given to graduates across the country and what this advice shows us about our culture. 

Let’s begin with Stephen Colbert’s address to the graduates of Wake Forest University.

I’m going to bypass the bulk of Colbert’s speech, which is humorous in nature. I do want to point out one of the jokes — a barb directed at millennials. Early on, Colbert references the recent online Twitter debate over a dress being blue or white:

“Grandparents, just know this was the issue that divided a generation. You had the Vietnam War. Your grandchildren had an ambiguously colored Tumblr post.”

This joke reminds me of something I noticed in several of these commencement addresses: the speakers often describe the graduates as needing “a cause” bigger than themselves. Colbert is no exception, but he makes this point by mocking the shallowness of the digital age, and also by comparing this generation’s pursuits to those of previous generations.

Colbert begins to transition from humor to serious counsel when he speaks of the future, something that is “always uncertain.” The one thing we know is that we dont know what the future holds. And neither has any other generation.

Set Your Own Standards

So, what will help graduates navigate the years ahead? First, Colbert says they’ll need the discernment to see the difference between “hype” and “substance.”

Secondly, the most important thing the students need is their own “set of standards.” He adds:

“When you’re out of school, there are no objective criteria for achievement anymore.”

In other words, the test-taking years are over. The rest of life is a test, but you alone are the grader, and you create the test.

Colbert believes that the best way to withstand criticism is to have your own standards, so that you can judge yourself as successful even if other people think you are a failure. You set the bar for yourself, and if you fall short, you can “be an easy grader.” You can “score yourself on a curve” or “give yourself extra credit.” Then, he adds: “You are your own professor now.”

The speech ends with Colbert encouraging the students to “find the courage to decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong” and then to “make the world good according to your standards,” no matter what others might think.

The best part of this speech is Colbert’s counsel to students to see the difference between hype and substance. I wish he had given more attention to this issue. We live in a digital age in which we are deluged with information, and discerning between hype and substance, truth and error, perception and reality is often difficult.

The Harm in Creating Your Own Test

Unfortunately, Colbert moved quickly past this point to what is perhaps the worst possible counsel you can offer a graduating class: “Set your own standards” and then “grade yourself according to your standards” so you can consider yourself successful even if other people see you as a failure.

Why is this advice so harmful?

Well, to start, let’s admit that Colbert’s intention is noble. He wants to protect the graduates from throwing in the towel when things get tough. He doesn’t want them to define themselves by what their critics say.

For Colbert, the way to avoid a feeling of failure is to create your own test and then grade it yourself. Why worry about passing a test that someone else has created for you? Why feel bad for failing to meet some externally imposed standard?

The problem with Colbert’s advice is that it doesn’t eradicate the feeling of failure or the angst of despair; it just moves it back a level. With no outside referent, with no ideal outside of your own mind and your own experiences, you will constantly wonder: Are my standards right? Did I create a test that is objectively good? Did I shoot high enough? You won’t worry about other people judging your performance, but you’ll always wonder about your self-created standard of judgment for that performance.

True Courage is Seeking Truth

Colbert’s counsel makes sense in an age of self-expression. For many today, the purpose of life is to discover your inner essence (your “true self”) and then express that self to the world. Along these lines, Colbert says it takes “courage” to “decide for yourself what is right and wrong.”

The reality is, it takes absolutely no courage in an age of self-expression to create and live by your own standards. Instead, true courage is not deciding for yourself what is “right and wrong,” but seeking to discover what truly is right and wrong — for yourself and for everybody else. It takes courage to look outside yourself, to bind your heart to an ideal that is bigger than your own set of standards, to investigate truth rather than invent it.

Imagine yourself as a young Adolf Hitler, sitting in the pews of Wake Forest, listening to Colbert’s counsel. “Be courageous! Decide for yourself what is right and wrong, young Adolf! Make the world good according to your own standards!” To which the response comes, “Alrighty, then. I think the world would be better off with a master race.”

Take Colbert’s advice to its logical extreme and we sacrifice our sanity. We have special homes for people who, despite all protestations to the contrary, see themselves as brilliant and successful — the masters of their own destiny and the fulfillment of all their dreams. To shrink the reality of what is “right and wrong” or “success and failure” to one individual’s mind is to shrink our horizons, not expand them.

This is where Colbert’s speech falls short. But since he alone is the judge of his speech’s success, then no critic can possibly be right.

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Worth a Look 6.10.15

Jun 10, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth5Kindle Deal of the Day: One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis Williams. $0.99.

Today, many Christians still allow cultural prejudices to shape their understanding of race instead of scripture. One New Man endeavors to help Christians understand what the gospel says about race and race relations by focusing on selected Pauline texts.

Anthony Bradley on New York City as a post-secular city moving back towards religious practice:

I recently contacted Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of A Journey through NYC Religions, to set the record straight on the New York City area. Since 2010, Carnes and his team have visited thousands of religious houses of worship, from all religious traditions cataloging the religious activity in New York City. In light of what he and his team have seen on the ground, Carnes has come to the conclusion that the best description of New York City is that it is a “post secular” city—a condition somewhere between a secular and sacred.

The last day of summer has arrived for Phineas and Ferb. Luke Harrington offers a eulogy:

 In a truer sense, though, it encapsulated the program’s irrepressible (and irresistible) message in just a handful of seconds: Don’t waste your time. The day is a gift. Create something.It’s such a wide-eyed and pure message that it almost feels out of place in contemporary animation, and I can’t help but think that might be part of why it took co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh the better part of 16 years to sell a studio on the concept.

Sobering words from Bryan McGraw on why toleration is never enough (and why moral conservatives and free speech liberals will keep losing):

In relatively recent debates over toleration, there has developed a view that says toleration is simply not enough. In tolerating others, we implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) communicate that what they do or believe is, in our view, morally disreputable. That can have serious effects, of course, on the tolerated’s sense of self-worth and ability to live her life as she sees fit. Instead of toleration, the argument goes, we should instead offer one another mutual respect or positive regard or, and this is the key move, recognition. We need not morally endorse others’ lives full stop, but we should go beyond a grudging indifference to something like a decently warm encouragement. And the reason, broadly speaking, we must do so is because the goods we thought we could secure via toleration are not enough. They still leave those being tolerated the object of social opprobrium and thus at some real disadvantage—or worse.

I enjoyed Becky Wilson’s reflection on why she tucks her kids in at night:

Do y’all know these edges? The ones that are flayed open to be destroyed by the tiniest thought of any harm that might come to your children? I don’t even mean the really bad stuff. It could be as simple as worrying that someone might hurt their feelings tomorrow. Does that thought have the power to destroy the edges of your heart? It does mine. I need those edges tucked in. Every single night. By my Comforter and my Keeper and certainly the Keeper of my children as well.

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