Getting the Most Out of Today’s “Gospel. Life. Ministry” Conference

May 11, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Today’s the day! This afternoon, from 1-5 p.m. CST, thousands of people will gather online for Gospel. Life. Ministry, a free online event sponsored by The Gospel Project. Over at the Gospel Project blog, Matt Capps has provided some tips for getting the most out of this online event.

Connect with us: Follow The Gospel Project on Twitter and Facebook. Also, bookmark the event hashtag #TGP15. Find and connect with each of the speakers in social media, see the full list here.

Invite others to the event: Since the event is free, and it’s online, you can invite anyone who might be interested in how the gospel applies to different areas of life or ministry. Do you have a group of friends or people in your church that might be interested? Do you have fellow ministry leaders or pastors that might benefit from the event? Send them an email with a link to the event site:

Prepare to learn: Before you tune in, look over the list of speakers and titles, and choose a few that are directly related to your area of ministry or related to an area of your life that you would like to grow in. Since the event schedule is posted on the site, you can make sure that you block off time for directed focus during these talks.

Take good notes: Take good notes during the event. If you have a blog, consider live blogging the event and making your notes available to everyone else by posting a link using the #TGP15 hashtag.

Share notable quotes: During this event you are going to hear some really good content. Share quotes with others. Here is a sneak peek at a few of my favorite quotes from the speakers.

  • The gospel rescues me from me. @PaulTripp #TGP15
  • The victorious Christian life isn’t the sinless life; it’s the repentant life. @TrevinWax #TGP15
  • By learning of God’s deep love for us, a deep love for God is produced in us. @JDGreear #TGP15
  • The glory of God is God going public with His holiness. @johnpiper #TGP15
  • As we pray for the world, God will give us His heart for the world. @plattdavid #TGP15
  • We are called to share the love of Jesus to a lost world and to show the love of Jesus to a hurting world. @EdStetzer #TGP15
  • We are called to be so heavenly minded that we can be of earthly good. @randyalcorn #TGP15
  • The gospel reconciles us first to God and then to one another. @trillianewbell #TGP15
  • Discipleship is not a ministry of your church; it is the ministry of your church. @dhati #TGP15
  • The community is the place where your need for the gospel is powerfully revealed.@JeffVanderstelt #TGP15
  • Jesus came to earth not to make bad people good people but to make dead people alive.@louiegiglio #TGP15

Engage with others: The official event hash tag is #TGP15. Use this hash tag in social media to connect with others and discuss the topics of each talk. The Gospel Project team and other church leaders will be live-tweeting and responding to people during the event.

Post-event engagement: As soon as the live event is over, each of the videos will be posted individually for two weeks on the site. Also, each video will have a downloadable discussion guide that you can use in your small group or team meeting. Choose a few videos that will be most useful for your group or team, and plan on watching and discussing them within the two-week period.

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Worth a Look 5.11.15

May 11, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth4Kindle Deal of the Day: The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. $1.99.

What would happen if every follower of Jesus took the Great Commandment literally? Is it possible that the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years?

Bryan Loritts has a bracing and convicting word regarding the “low-grade ethnic fever” some of our African-American brothers and sisters feel in predominantly white, evangelical institutions and churches:

There’s a low grade fever running among many of our minority brothers and sisters working in white evangelical environments, and their fever is a result of varying factors that have left them vulnerable and exposed.  I cal this fever “low grade” because they can still function, yet if left undiagnosed and untreated, this ethnic fever will only escalate into a toxic sickness.  If we want to treat their condition, I find it helpful to look at the factors contributing to their ailment.

Barnabas Piper informs Yankees of 25 things they should know about moving to the South. You know, stuff we’re, like, used to down here:

I grew up in Minnesota. I lived in Illinois for twelve years. And in late 2013 I moved to Nashville, TN. It’s different here than up north. Here are 25 things I learned and felt I must share with anyone else making the same migration.

If you’re familiar with C. S. Lewis’ famous essay, “The Inner Ring” (or even if you’re not), you’ll benefit from this reflection from Jeremy Writebol — 4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing:

If we are going to understand our pursuit of the Inner Ring and how those pursuits motivate and manipulate our behaviors and beliefs, we must know what we are pursuing. Without being reductionistic or missing the nuances of individual hearts, there are four principle Inner Ring pursuits each of us gravitate towards. While many of these pursuits can be fundamentally good, their gravity will cause us to acquire them in unhealthy ways. Here are the four principle Inner Rings manifested in our everyday lives.

All my gospel-centered bearded peeps, for the love of everything holy, please shave:

Beard hygiene is important unless you want to have the equivalent of a dirty toilet seat growing out of your face, according to a microbiologist who swabbed a bunch of beards and was shocked by the results.

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John Newton’s “Spring” Hymn

May 10, 2015 | Trevin Wax

springI love how Newton celebrates the arrival of spring and then prays for God to renew his heart:

Kindly spring again is here,
Trees and fields in bloom appear;
Hark! the birds with artless lays
Warble their Creator’s praise.

Where in winter all was snow,
Now the flowers in clusters grow;
And the corn, in green array,
Promises a harvest-day.

Lord, afford a spring to me,
Let me feel like what I see;
Speak, and by Thy gracious voice,
Make my drooping soul rejoice.

On Thy garden deign to smile,
Raise the plants, enrich the soil;
Soon Thy presence will restore
Life to what seemed dead before.

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A World Waiting To Be Claimed

May 09, 2015 | Trevin Wax


I once scorned ev’ry fearful thought of death,
When it was but the end of pulse and breath,
But now my eyes have seen that past the pain
There is a world that’s waiting to be claimed.

Earthmaker, Holy, let me now depart,
For living’s such a temporary art.

And dying is but getting dressed for God,
Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod.

– Calvin Miller, The Divine Symphony (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2000), 139.

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Trevin’s Seven

May 08, 2015 | Trevin Wax

TrevinSeven1webKindle Deal: The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. $0.99.

1. Scot McKnight – The Positive Side of Holiness, Frequently Ignored

2. Facts and Trends — Church Revitalization: New Life for Dying Churches

3. My view is polar opposite of this opinion in The Washington Post — “How To Take Christ Out of Christianity.” If I don’t get Jesus, I don’t care about the rest.

4. Gene Veith comments on a rising perspective that “having a loving family is an unfair advantage”

5. Barnabas Piper – Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

6. Matthew Loftus on problems in Baltimore and possible solutions – Run Toward the Pain

7. The “Right Side of History” is Sometimes Wrong

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The Blind Spots That Hinder Our Christian Witness

May 07, 2015 | Trevin Wax

9781433546235Categories are a gift to thinkers. Writers who frame groups and perspectives by giving us categories help us form a mental framework to assess strengths and weaknesses of various positions. Collin Hansen has given me a new set of categories to consider when I see the landscape of conservative evangelicals:

  • Compassionate (those who emphasize Christ’s compassion for people inside and outside the church who are hurting).
  • Courageous (those who emphasize the call to create a counter-culture and speak truth boldly in society).
  • Commissioned (those who see revival and evangelism through “reaching people” as the preeminent consideration for the church).

In Blind Spotsa short book or a long essay (depending on your perspective), Collin fleshes out the strengths and weaknesses of these groups and why we all need each other. As I read this book, I quickly came to agree with his choice of categories, and I found great wisdom in his assessment of each particular challenge. Collin has joined me on the blog to answer a few questions.

Trevin Wax: You mention “blind spots” as the ways we have been conditioned by our various cultures and experiences to hear certain aspects of the gospel more clearly than others. These differences often create division, but you see opportunity. Why?

Collin Hansen: I see opportunity because God made us this way. He has given us different personalities and walked us through different experiences.

More importantly, he variously gifts believers in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). That sounds like a great opportunity to me, so long as together we stay focused on the “more excellent way” of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul extols the love that unites us to one another and to Christ.

Trevin Wax: The problem with blind spots is that they tend to hide behind good traits. Your book is outlined around three of those good traits: compassionate, courageous, and commissioned. Alliteration makes my Baptist heart sing. Seriously, though, what are the strengths you see in these three broad categories of Christians?

Collin Hansen: The strengths resemble Jesus Christ himself, and since we belong to his body, these characteristics belong to us. You see him weeping over Jerusalem in compassion because he loves his people, and he knows they will not find peace if they reject his mission and authority. He weeps because the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 anticipates the judgment of God against all who do not repent of their sins and follow the Son (Luke 19:41-44). So it was compassion that took Jesus to the cross.

But so did courage. After he weeps over Jerusalem, he cleanses the temple. Indignant with the moneychangers, he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (Luke 19:45-46). Courage compelled him through his trial in the Garden of Gethsemane to his ordeal on the cross. All followers of Christ share this courage, as we have seen in church history from the apostles in the book of Acts to the Egyptian and Ethiopian men who would submit to death by ISIS before they would deny Christ.

All along his ministry Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, which means he remained committed to fulfilling his mission of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). No political plot or misguided scheme from his disciples would distract him. After his resurrection and before his ascension Jesus gave his followers the Great Commission with the promise that he would always be with us (Matt. 28:18-20). So the church can never doubt what we’re supposed to do, nor doubt that God has given us the power to do it.

Trevin Wax: What are the blind spots each of these groups must watch out for?

Collin Hansen: This is where the book gets difficult. Behind every strength you’ll find a corresponding weakness, or blind spot. Everyone else can see these problems in us and our friends. And we can see their blind spots, too. The challenge is trusting Christ to reveal our own weaknesses as we see the strengths of others.

Courageous Christians have a hard time knowing the difference between the offense of the gospel and offense from sin. Jesus told us to expect tribulation in the world (John 16:33). But we must not confuse such tribulation with our failure to love the world.

Compassionate Christians want our neighbors to see our good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12). But as my colleague Joe Carter points out, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow does more good deeds than any of us, and many people hate him for it. Jesus did more good deeds than Tim Tebow, and they killed him.

Finally, commissioned Christians want to leverage every new technology, every new trend for gospel advance. If you’re engaging the culture with the savvy of Paul at the Areopagus, that’s great (Acts 17). But if you’re touting 50 Shades of Grace, then don’t expect life transformation. You’re probably just tacking Jesus onto a consumeristic foundation.

Trevin Wax: Every generation thinks that the current challenges are the greatest the church has ever seen. Why is it important to have perspective when it comes to today’s challenges, and how can we make sure we are relying on hope as a motivator, not fear?

Collin Hansen: Evangelicals, at least in America, tend to be torn between progressive and regressive narratives. Everything’s either getting better and better or worse and worse. The loss of historical perspective and eschatological hope is a problem for both groups.

Courageous Christians tend to fear ours is the worst era ever, and if we just got back to the good ‘ole days, things would be fine. But the good ‘ole days don’t exist, even if you’re talking about the Bible and the churches in Galatia and Corinth. Compassionate Christians tend to see things as getting better and better with liberation from social sins. But their hope must be invested in the return of Christ more than our ability to usher in utopia. The poor will always be with us (Matt. 26:11).

Commissioned Christians bounce back and forth. They tend to invest too much hope in the latest movie or evangelistic strategy. But so long as they keep focused on what God is doing around the world, they’re at least more balanced. In any era God is doing a million things we don’t know or can’t see. So we eagerly await the return of Christ, which all will see.

Trevin Wax: You write: “It’s often easier to weep over the world than to pick up its pieces.” How does compassion, courage, and commissioning equip us to bring about change in the world God has placed us?

Collin Hansen: I love that question, because it captures the ultimate aim of this book. I want to encourage “sober optimism,” to borrow that phrase from one of my heroes, Carl Henry. We’re sober because the world is fallen in sin. Christ has come, Christ is risen, but we wait for Christ to come again. And that’s why we’re optimistic as well, because we know how the story ends, with a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21-22).

My descriptions of courageous, compassionate, and commissioned Christians are only designed to direct us toward Christ so he can show us where we’re following close behind and where we’ve strayed from his example. If we fix our eyes on Christ and work with others whose spiritual gifts complement our own, we’ll see significant change. If we fix our eyes on one another and fixate on where others fall short, then the world will feel free to ignore us and the gospel of Christ.

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Worth a Look 5.7.15

May 07, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth a Look MagnifyingKindle Deal of the Day: How the Bible Came to Be by J. Daniel Hays and J. Scott Duvall. $0.99.

Christians believe that the Bible is divine communication–God’s message to human beings. But how did ancient people capture the very words of God? How were these words passed down? Why were some books included in the Bible while others were not? And how do we know that these texts have been faithfully translated over the ages?

Christianity Today‘s cover story calls Christians, of all people, to get their vaccines. I know there is plenty of heated debate over this issue, but I’m with CT on this one.

Many are not so privileged as to opt out. Those who suffer from poverty or immunosuppressive disease do not have the same power to protect themselves and their children. Parents who consider the effects of vaccines only on their families without considering the wider consequences are, from a public-health perspective, whittling away at the herd immunity that protects the most vulnerable. It’s like a town that lives at the source of a river and disposes of their waste in the water—forgetting the other town downstream. Not vaccinating elevates the risks of infectious disease among the poor and immunosuppressed.

Lynn Vavreck in the New York Times makes the case that the public is more in agreement on abortion policy than our politicians are:

Unlike the opinions of party activists and pundits, public opinion about women’s choices during their pregnancies yields surprising points of agreement across party lines. If you ask them specifics, Americans agree on quite a bit about when and why abortions should be legal. This is what one large, federally funded survey project did in 2012.

David French responds to a recent article online that claims younger believers want the religious trappings and rituals of Christianity along with a thoroughly revised progressive agenda:

There’s just one problem with this analysis: It turns out that Millennials are not, in fact, longing for the Episcopal experience. Not many people of any age are. What Evans neglects to mention is that the American religious community has been engaging in a decades-long experiment in exactly the kind of spirituality she proposes, and the Mainline churches — those churches that combine the ancient forms of faith with progressive beliefs — are committing slow-motion suicide.

Fascinating article about Civil War veterans who made their way to London after the war, and later met with WWI soldiers:

The proximity of those two generations in that moment is striking. Did they speak to each other? If so, what did they say? In popular memory, two generations are normally seen as worlds apart: Generals Ulysses S. Grant and John Pershing could not have been more different in their demeanor and world views, and yet there they were, represented, marching side by side.

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Book Notes: Beyond the Abortion Wars / Blind Spots / The Meaning of Marriage

May 06, 2015 | Trevin Wax

4139rVO5fqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_BEYOND THE ABORTION WARS
A Way Forward for a New Generation
by Charles Camosy

Regarding abortion, Charles Camosy, associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, says most Americans occupy a middle ground — a majority that neither opposes abortion in all cases nor supports its legality for virtually any reason. We are not in a hopeless stalemate over abortion. “A majority of Americans actually agree about broad ideas with respect to abortion morality and law.”

Camosy’s work is fresh because he wrestles not only with the morality of abortion, but also the social structures that make abortion so common. His ”way forward” is the Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act. This policy does three main things: It gives legal recognition to the prenatal child, offers protection and support for the mother, and allows for certain abortive procedures in rare circumstances. The details of the policy include changing the social structures of society so that the choice to carry a pregnancy to term is less of a burden for women today. I appreciate Camosy’s incremental approach to reducing abortion, but I am less optimistic that we are on the verge of major change.

9781433546235BLIND SPOTS
Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church
by Collin Hansen

Fred Sanders’ excellent review of this book is titled “The Christians who Annoy Us are the Christians We Need Most.” That’s a good summary of the main point that Collin makes in Blind Spots. A well-rounded evangelicalism needs the strengths of its various streams. For example, The emphases of the “courageous” Christians need the balance of the hands-on ministry of the “compassionate” as well as the missionary outlook of the “commissioned.”

Perhaps balance is too strong a word. Collin is not making the case that we should shoot for a perfect balance of these three elements, but that our overall placement within one group instead of another will be strengthened if we recognize the blind spots that the others reveal.

This is a book about appreciating the diversity of the body of Christ as we pursue faithfulness in exercising our own God-given gifts and passions. Well worth the read.

Family, State, Market, and Morals
edited by Jean Bethke Elshtain and Robert George

This is an informative collection of essays from a variety of scholars on how marriage works in our society as a public institution. The essays come from liberals and conservatives who nevertheless agree that altering the institution of marriage will lead to profound, unintended consequences for society. The editors write:

It will have consequences for what we think of the families to which we belong, what we think of how we should organize our lives as individuals and citizens, and what kind of citizens we attempt to cultivate. It will affect quite profoundly whether we continue our long tradition of supporting mothers and their children. Given the importance of marriage as an institution for individuals and for society, the thoughtful citizen has every reason to expect, and even demand, a deep and thoughtful debate as the precondition for any change in how we understand marriage and encourage it to take shape. One need only reflect on previous alterations in the regulation of marriage in order to understand that changes in marriage law have consequences that intellectuals, politicians, and citizens alike should think through thoroughly before endorsing.

Like any book of essays, some contributions are stronger than others. Hadley Arkes’ essay is a highlight. He traces the legal changes to the meaning of marriage over time, helping us understand how the law now has reached a point where same-sex marriage can have a case in court. Seana Sugrue’s essay on the relationship between same-sex marriage and soft despotism was written several years ago, but we are already seeing signs that she is right. I highly recommend this book if you want to be brought up to speed on the current challenges the institution of marriage is facing today.

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Worth a Look 5.6.15

May 06, 2015 | Trevin Wax

Worth5Kindle Deal of the Day: The Dynamics of Preaching by Warren Wiersbe. $1.99.

Wiersbe crystallizes the unchanging principles of preaching and applies them in practical and creative ways to ministry in the new century.

Hard-hitting post from John Mark Reynolds on passive-aggressive dissenters from the evangelical faith who want to still be “evangelical:”

I know how to hold any view in Evangelical churches and remain in good standing.

This process of passive aggressive dissent is so effective that in the hands of a winsome person it can be used to allow “good standing” while doing almost anything and believing almost anything. The exceptions will be actions or beliefs that are viewed as vile by both the Evangelical culture and the Democratic Party. These beliefs or actions will be condemned and you will be unable to get any traction trying to change Evangelical minds. If you want to dissent and have a career, with very little work, you need a belief that Evangelicals reject, but American secular elites accept.

Michael Kelley writes about several reasons we fail to pray, but then he gets to the big one:

We can’t concentrate. We fumble around. Despite all our classes and training, all our best intentions, all our alarm clock settings that get moved to snooze, we fail to pray as much or as long or as fervently as we ought to. When we ask ourselves why we don’t pray, then, there are a myriad of reasons we come to…

Here’s an overview of Tim Keller’s TGC workshop that explains why sermons often bore people, and how to preach to the heart:

How often have we heard (or preached!) sermons that feel more like a lecture than a sermon—sermons that inform, but fail to transform. Keller helped us think about how to preach to the heart, and through the heart to the whole person.

Excellent counsel from Dan Darling for pastors who are weary and would like to check out of any controversial “culture war” issues:

Why can’t we take a timeout or take a year off from the culture wars? In my experience I’ve found three reasons why the true gospel will always be at odds with any fallen culture.

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Discipleship as Equipping Believers to Read the Signs of the Times

May 05, 2015 | Trevin Wax

EndTimesEveryone reads their times. We all operate out of a sense of who we are, where we’ve come from, and where the world is going.

We see ourselves not as isolated individuals living out a basic lifespan on this planet, but as people who inhabit a society, a culture that has its own history, its own sense of the present moment, and its own vision for the future. We understand ourselves in reference to the society we inhabit and the story that society tells.

The question is not if we as Christians will read the signs of the times, but how well we will do so. Oliver O’Donovan has warned that “those who do not make an effort to read their times in a disciplined way read them all the same, but with narrow and parochial prejudice.”

When Reading the Times is Hard

It’s easy to read the signs of the times “with narrow and parochial prejudice” in the United States. Why? Because false visions of history and the future are subtle. The differences between the stories society tells and the Story the Scriptures tell are not always obvious. We can grow so familiar with a false calendar that we are unable to see it.

In mission work, we find it rather easy to spot and counter rival eschatologies. An example would be Christians in India. Their missionary encounter will confront an eschatological vision of the world that is largely cyclical in nature. The Hindu worldview does not conceive of time in a linear fashion, with a beginning and end, but rather sees salvation in terms of release from the endless cycle of life. Christianity stands out in a Hindu setting, because the church sees the rival calendar and openly rejects it.

In North America, however, the situation is more complicated. We live in a society that has been formed, in some measure, by Christian ethics. Here, it’s easy for Christians to assent to Christian teaching and embrace certain practices common to Christianity, and yet still make decisions from a framework that is more influenced by a rival conception of time, because it remains hidden from view.

“Bible Believers” Living Out of Other Stories

This is a source of continual frustration among pastors.

  • We get discouraged when many of the people in our congregations, people who are faithful in attending church and who claim to have personal times of Bible reading, seem to be okay with the fact that their kids aren’t as religiously oriented as they are, as if it’s expected for kids to drop out of church for awhile and hopefully come back (but at least they made a decision for Christ at camp one summer!).
  • We get discouraged when we see people put Bible verses on their Facebook page right next to a post about a television show they’re watching, a show drenched in the ethos of the Sexual Revolution and all the lies that come with it.
  • We mourn the loss of people who are as kind as can be to us while they’re walking out the door to visit another church that has better services and programs for their kids. We thought they were committed to our church, but they were really just committed to their preferences.

A Question for Our Generation

As cultural currents move faster and we see rapids and waterfalls ahead and wonder what the future holds, one of the questions we must ask is this:

What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?

That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. The audio from the talk is now available here.

What are the disciplines we need as we read our times? Oliver O’Donovan again:

To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.

If you find my TGC workshop on this topic helpful, please share it with other pastors and church leaders who may benefit from it. And please send feedback on the talk so my thinking along these lines will be sharpened.

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