“We’re NOT Like All the Other Churches”
Let’s Rejoice More in Christ Than Our Distinctives
If you wrote a list of what you want in a church, what would be #1?
“Even though the gospel was preached in Rob’s church, the deacons seemed to save their heartiest ‘Amens’ for whenever the preacher went off script and started reminding them of all that set their church apart from the others in town. The preacher and congregation took pride in the fact that their church was traditional…He sits down one evening and writes out a list of all the things important to his church experience. By the time he puts the pen down, he is frustrated that he can’t find ‘the right church.’…
Rob’s church and Kelli’s church look very different, and yet they are very much the same. Both churches proclaim the gospel, but both center their identity in aesthetic tastes and styles. The gospel is preached, but the style is what’s celebrated.
Week after week, the churches emphasize and celebrate what makes them different from other churches. They celebrate their uniqueness вЂ“ not the gospel uniqueness that shines light in a dark world, but a worldly uniqueness that would have us base our identity in stylistic distinctions between brothers and sisters.
Whenever we are formed within a context that celebrates certain cultural expressions over against other expressions, we begin to expect the wrong things from a church. So when the day comes for us to unite with a different congregation, our list of expectations is devoid of the gospel. The saddest result of Kelli and Rob’s church search is that neither of them were looking primarily for a church that preached and celebrated the gospel. They were lost in a sea of peripheral issues because that is what their churches had celebrated.
Pastors and church leaders, it’s important that we believe the gospel; it’s also important that we celebrate this gospel in a way that makes clear it is ‘of first importance’.
What do we celebrate as a church?…I pray that we celebrate the gospel in a way that leads our church members to easily cross cultural divides because of the centrality of the cross. What we celebrate is just as important as what we believe.
‘D.A. Carson: I have been teaching more decades now that I can count and if I have learned anything from all of this teaching, its this: my studentsвЂ¦learn what I’m excited about. So within the church of the living God, we must become excited about the gospel…But, at this point, the gospel is not what really captures us. Rather, is a particular form of worship or a particular style of counseling, or a particular view on culture, or a particular technique in preaching, or вЂ“ fill in the blank. Then, ultimately, our students make that their center…’” What You Celebrate as a Church is Just as Important as What You Believe by Trevin Wax
Can Children Understand the Preaching?
Remember, the smartest man who ever lived was able to explain deep doctrinal truths so that uneducated farmers and fishermen could understand. One of the best cures for “scholarism” is to teach children’s Bible study. If you can explain God’s Word to kids, you can explain it to anyone.
“However, in many circles, especially perhaps in some Reformed churches, we may be in danger of over-complicating sermons.” A Plea for Profound Simplicity by David Murray
Ms. Pastor? Encouraging Women More How They Can Serve Than How They Can’t
The best sermon I ever heard on women in the church was by Erwin Lutzer. He showed how God used women in redemptive history from Genesis – Revelation: Eve, Sarah, Deborah, Mary, Lydia, etc. He focused more on what women could do than what they can’t do (pastor).
“Few issues are so hotly debated today in evangelicalism as the issue of women in leadership…Yet just as there are common themes that tend to run through conversion stories, so too there are three common factors that emerge as chief influences in the lives of the contributors to this volume. While not true of every essay, the following pattern is consistent:
1. The author was raised in a fundamentalist Christian background that was highly restrictive of women’s involvement in the church (this accounts for about half of the essays).
2. The author married, or was herself, a highly capable woman with strong leadership capabilities (this was true in nearly every essay).
3. The author revisited Scripture, reinterpreting the ‘restrictive’ passages of the New Testament in light of the ‘broad sweep of the biblical narrative,’ which he or she saw as indicating freedom for women to serve in any leadership capacity within the church…
What follows are…points of application/observation that complementarians can glean from How I Changed My Mind:
1. Most significantly, many women have genuine pain and confusion about their place within the church…Compassion, not simply confrontation, is needed at precisely this point…
2. In light of the above, complementarians need to make as much room as possible for women to exercise their considerable giftedness within the church…Indeed. When complementarians become more preoccupied with telling women what they can’t do, rather than resourcing them for what they can do, the church as a whole suffers for it.” How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership by Gerald Hiestand
Top 10 Theology Stories of 2010
1. Francis Chan Resigns, 2. N.T. Wright Clarifies, 3. John Piper Rests, 4. David Platt Challenges, 5. Glenn Beck Mormonizes, 6. Matt Chandler Suffers, 7. Ergun Caner Fired, 8. Philip Ryken Hired, 9. BioLogos Evolved, 10. Crystal Cathedral Bankrupt. My Top Ten Theology and Church Stories from 2010 by Colin Hansen
Top 10 Christian Books 2010
Of all the Top 10 Book lists I’ve seen, this is my favorite. Top Ten Books of 2010 by Chad Knudson
O.T. Promises to Israel Fulfilled by the New Israel: Jesus
“In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is cast as the true and faithful Israel. Matthew is retelling Israel’s well known story, but he’s putting Jesus right in the middle as the main character in the story. Jesus is the new Israel…
Not only is Jesus the new Genesis, his life embodies the new Exodus…
Following right on the heels of Jesus’ exodus out of Egypt, we come to his baptism in the Jordan in Matthew 3. Again, I don’t think Matthew is trying to be speak in secret code, and he certainly isn’t making the stories up, but he has arranged the material in such a way as to retell Israel’s story, with Jesus now as the true Israel. So just like the Israelites left Egypt and then passed through the Red Sea (baptized into the sea according 1 Cor. 10:2), Jesus too leaves Egypt and passes through the waters in his baptism.
Just to point out one more parallel, think what happens to the Israelites after they pass through the Red Sea. They wind up in the desert where they wander for forty years. And where is Jesus in Matthew 4 after his baptism? He is in the desert about to be tempted after having fasted for forty days and forty nights.” Out of Egypt I Called My Son by Kevin DeYoung
How the NT Interprets the OT
“1. Keep in mind the NT’s purpose in referencing the OT.
2. Along these lines, remember the NT often uses the OT simply as a vehicle of expression.
3. The NT may press home the significance of a passage without trying to explain its original meaning.
4. We must allow for a broader view of ‘fulfillment’ language.
5. Similarly, some OT passages are fulfilled typologically.
6. OT prophecy is full of examples where there is a near and far fulfillment….
The other lesson is that we need not be embarrassed to use a strong theological lens on top of our appropriate grammatical-historical lens. This is not an invitation to allegory or a reason to search for hidden spiritual meanings…But it does mean we should, like the NT writers did, read the Bible across the whole Bible. We should see Jesus in all of Scripture. We should read the end in the light of the beginning and the beginning in view of the end. Above all, we can celebrate that Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of all that was imperfectly prefigured in the OT.” Can That Be Right? The New Testament’s Use of Old Testament Prophecy by Kevin DeYoung
Culture’s Sentimental Love vs. God’s Holy Love
“1. Applied to God, the sentimental view generates a deity with all the awesome holiness of a cuddly toy, all the moral integrity of a marshmallow. In the previous lectures, I briefly documented this point with examples from films and books.
2. Applied to Christians, the sentimental view breeds expectations of transcendental niceness. Whatever else Christians should be, they should be nice, where вЂњnicenessвЂќ means smiling a lot and never ever hinting that anyone may be wrong about anything (because that isn’t nice).
3. In the local church, it means abandoning church discipline (it isn’t nice), and in many contexts it means restoring adulterers (for instance) to pastoral office at the mere hint of broken repentance. After all, isn’t the church about forgiveness? Aren’t we supposed to love one another? And doesn’t that mean that above all we must be, well, nice?
4. Similarly with respect to doctrine: the letter kills, while the Spirit gives life, and everyone knows the Spirit is nice. So let us love one another and refrain from becoming upright and uptight about this divisive thing called вЂњdoctrine.” (pp. 11вЂ“12; numbering added) Popular Culture’s View of Love by D.A. Carson
Finding Your Place in God’s Story
Free audio and video of The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story by D. A. Carson. “This series will serve the church well because it simultaneously evangelizes non-Christians and edifies Christians by explaining the Bible’s storyline in a non-reductionistic way. The series is geared toward вЂњseekersвЂќ and articulates Christianity in a way that causes hearers either to reject or embrace the gospel. It’s one thing to know the Bible’s storyline, but it’s another to know one’s role in God’s ongoing story of redemption.” The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson
Hypocrites on the Worship Team?
“They might ask to participate, even in public roles, perhaps as musicians. As church leaders, how should we respond to these requests?…TGC asked four other pastors, ‘Do you invite non-believers to participate in corporate gatherings of the church by playing instruments or assisting in other public roles? Why or why not?’вЂќ (GG: I agree with 9Marks.) TGC Asks: Do Non-Believers Play a Public Role in Your Church Services? by Collin Hansen
A Life Worth Modeling: Follow Roger Nicole as He Followed Christ
“J. I. Packer has a gift not only for summarizing theological truth in a concise, compact way, but also for getting to the heart of a friend’s character and legacy. A few years ago he was able to summarize Roger Nicole in a sentence:
‘Awesome for brain power, learning, and wisdom; endlessly patient and courteous in his gentle geniality; and beloved by a multitude as pastor, mentor, and friend’…The couple did not have biological children but there are 19 people in the U.S., Africa and Asia who call them Mama and Papa. ‘These are some of the students we sort of ‘adopted’ throughout my career who regard us as their parents,’ Roger Nicole said.
John Piper has written that ‘One clear mark of Christlike tenderness is love for children,’ and several of Roger Nicole’s friends have noted his love of children. David Bailey says, ‘He converses as effortlessly with a five-year old child as with an academic colleague.’
Timothy George writes of Roger and Annette, ‘For many decades they have modeled the graces of Christian hospitality. Several generations of students and colleagues have known the largesse of their table and the conviviality of their home.’…
During his lectures, several of the students, on occasion, would weep…He was gracious in handling questions from ‘difficult students.’ We were deeply impressed by his complete transparency regarding his own Christian pilgrimage, his manifest godliness, his willingness to share with the students volumes from his own library…One feels both more intellectual and more Christ-like just spending time with Roger Nicole.
David Wells, his Gordon-Conwell colleague, dedicated a collection of essays on Reformed theology to Roger Nicole, and tried to get at the ‘center’ of his theological vision:
The sovereignty of God, expressed in grace and in judgment, has always been at the center of Roger’s vision. It has led him to think globally. He has always been a strong supporter of missions because he is confident that God is great enough to accomplish his saving purposes worldwide. It has also led him to walk humbly because he knows that in our human fallenness resides no spiritual life. To know this is to be liberated from the clutches of that exaggerated and false sense of self-importance, which, in the end, undermines all human well-being. And it has given his life a serenity and stability that have been an example to his colleagues, students, and the administrators with whom he has worked. In times of crisis, he has been a source of wisdom; in turbulence, a source of strength. His unerring instinct for what is noble has touched those who have known him and has ever pointed to Jesus Christ, ‘the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.’” Roger Nicole (1915-2010) by Justin Taylor
Making Scholars or Disciples?
Scholars can be pastors. But pastors don’t need to be scholars. Most seminaries train pastors so differently than Christ trained the 12. Seminaries often focus on scholarly details and debates. Yes Jesus debated and defended the truth with details. But he focused more on the big picture gospel, character growth (faith, love, and obedience), and how to’s (evangelism, prayer, and preaching). He chose men including uneducated fishermen to lead the Church. (Only Paul, whom Jesus called later, was a scholar.)
“To qualify for college or seminary positions, a theologian must earn a PhD, ideally from a prestigious liberal university. But at such schools, there is no training in the kind of systematic theology I describe here. Liberal university theologians do not view Scripture as God’s Word, and so they cannot encourage theology as I have defined it, as the application of God’s infallible word. Students are welcome to study historical and contemporary theology, and to relate these to auxiliary disciplines such as philosophy and literary criticism. But they are not taught to seek ways of applying Scripture for the edification of God’s people. Rather, professors encourage the student to be вЂњup-to-dateвЂќ with current academic discussion and to make вЂњoriginal contributionsвЂќ to the discussion, out of his autonomous reasoning. So when the theologian finishes his graduate work and moves to a teaching position, even if he is personally evangelical in his convictions, he often writes and teaches as he was encouraged to do in graduate school: academic comparisons and contrasts, minimal interaction with Scripture.” The Problem with and the Future of Theological Education and Scholarship by John Frame
Porn: Freedom Resources
“If you are struggling with porn, or seeking to help someone who is, there is help” “I Looked for Love in Your Eyes” by Justin Taylor