Guilt by association?


Maybe it’s me, but it seems like the Christian side of the Internet getting a bit… crankier.

This Internet is a wonderful tool for Christian ministry—it allows us to share further the spread of the gospel, connects us with fellow believers around the world, and lets us equip and encourage believers who desperately need it.

It also provides a terrible opportunity for sin to gain a foothold in our lives. 

Recently, I’ve seen more than a few websites attacking a Christian publisher as well as a well-respected blogger—simply because of their association with another Christian leader (and in the blogger’s case, the connections are extremely loose).

What’s increasingly disturbing to me is how easily we succumb to guilt by association.

We see it too often:

  • Pastors who are public figures take shots at bloggers as being single guys living in their moms’ basements who don’t have lives, jobs or girlfriends.
  • Bloggers who are confused on the relationship between discernment and divisiveness.
  • Professing Christians whose long-harbored bitterness toward a particular church or leader who set up websites featuring months and years of saved personal correspondence and detailed analyses of every minute detail of a leader’s public ministry.

…and if you’re a friend of the “enemy,” heaven help you.

How we deal with this continues to be one of the most difficult issues we face, both within our local churches and as part of the global body of Christ.

And it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.

Honestly, it’s easy to look at the watchblogger/”survivor” type websites out there and write them off entirely. But I’m not always sure that’s the best thing to do—not in a “their arguments have merit” sense, but from a perspective of desiring to help others.

When dealing with “survivor” blogs…

While it’s tempting to do so, we have to be careful to not heap condemnation upon them. Though we must recognize that all-too-often their methods are both ill-advised and and entirely sinful, many of these kinds of bloggers are people who are badly wounded by real or perceived slights and sins.

Whether the facts line up with the feelings, the feelings are real and need to be considered in making a judgment of their behavior—not as an excuse, but as a reminder:

Bitterness is poison to the soul. When we leave hurts too long, they spread like cancer. It’s no wonder Paul commands us to be done with our anger quickly (cf. Eph. 4:26-27).

When addressing controversy…

Tim Keller’s advice on gospel polemics is very helpful, so much so that I can only reiterate what he’s said so very well:

  1. You don’t have to follow Matthew 18 before publishing polemics. This doesn’t mean you don’t go to person X to confirm their views prior to publishing, but that the rules for church discipline don’t apply.
  2. You must take full responsibility for even unwitting misrepresentation of someone’s views.
  3. Never attribute an opinion to your opponent that he himself does not own.

Number three is probably the greatest challenge bloggers face in addressing controversy. As much as possible, make sure you can demonstrate what someone actually believes before you say anything publicly. But more than that, try to address controversy in a spirit of love for a potentially misguided brother or sister.

Protect and defend sound doctrine, without question. But be mindful that your methodology doesn’t do as much damage as some destructive heresy.

When dealing with accusation…

I remember one pastor who, when his book was being lambasted by critics (including those who were otherwise friendly to him), went on the attack. Rather than hearing the legitimate criticism about his book, he declared that critics were revealing their own issues and hang-ups more than anything his book said.

This hurt, not simply because I was indirectly implicated by the statement, but because it called into question a stated desire of this particular individual: to turn critics into coaches.

This is my plea for the prominent public pastor, and indeed for all of us who occasionally face accusation: please remember not to think too highly of yourself than you ought (Rom. 12:3).


While not every critic is worth listening to, some most definitely are. When someone criticizes us, it hurts, especially when it’s about something we’re passionate about. However, we need to remember that in the end, the Lord will vindicate us if we’re truly in the right (cf. Psa. 135:14)—but thoughtful, carefully worded criticism may God’s grace at work in our lives.

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

Let’s take a look back in time and see the most-read posts from December. Go check them out:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Branch Out! Three Reasons to Diversify Your Reading in 2012 (December 2011)
  3. I’m Giving You a Library for Christmas! (December 2011)
  4. Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (December 2011)
  5. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  6. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  7. 12 Books I Want to Read in 2012 (and Think You Should, Too) (December 2011)
  8. My Favorite Books of 2011 (December 2011)
  9. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  10. The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them) (January 2011)

And just for fun, here are the next ten:

  1. Book Reviews (page)
  2. Who Writes This? (page)
  3. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (December 2011)
  4. Three Things I’d Like to See in the Christian Blogosphere in 2012 (December 2011)
  5. A Readers Guide to the Inspiration of Scripture (December 2011)
  6. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words (July 2009)
  7. Podcasts, Pastors and People (December 2011)
  8. Book Review: You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (December 2011)
  9. 4 Things That Irritate Me About My Kindle (December 2011)
  10. Immanuel: God With Us (December 2011)

December was a terrific month in terms of traffic, the best month to date in fact (thanks in no small part to an endorsement by Tim Challies). God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle remained at the top of the heap, but the vast majority of the top ten (and indeed the top twenty) was dominated by new content—some of which was released in the last week of the month. Real Marriage is a topic that’s heating up in terms of interest (the book comes out January 3) and the ongoing series on Scripture continues to be of interest (“A Readers Guide to the Inspiration of Scripture” is probably one of my favorite posts of the month). If you’ve not had a chance to read any of these, I hope you’ll check them out!

The Top 10 Posts of 2011

Continuing the 2011 wrap-up, here are the top ten posts on for 2011. A couple of items to note:

  1. I have removed two pages (not posts) from the list. Had I left them in, they’d be in between numbers 5 and 6 on the list.
  2. This list is based on WordPress’ page view statistics (is the case with the regular monthly reports).

I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has engaged with the content on this site over the past year. Thanks for taking the time to read this site over the last year, everyone!

Now, to the top ten:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  3. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. His Name was Smeagol (April 2010)
  6. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words (July 2009)
  7. Rob Bell + Universalism = Fireworks (February 2011)
  8. Everyday Theology: You Need To Feed Yourself (May 2011)
  9. Book Review: Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle (July 2011)
  10. Branch Out! Three Reasons to Diversify Your Reading in 2012 (December 2011)

Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, Rob Bell related content wasn’t the most frequented throughout the year, and for this I’m very grateful (I hope I managed keeping it to a minimum). I’m also grateful to see that half of this year’s top posts were actually from 2011, including one that’s less than a month old. If you haven’t had a chance to read any of these, I hope you’ll check them out. Thanks again for reading!

6 ways to get attention in the Christian blogosphere


One of the common concerns I’ve seen come up again and again about blogging (and Twitter… and Facebook…) is that it’s inherently selfish. Well, while I think that critique is a tad overstated, there’s no denying that blogging certainly can stroke our egos.

No one said that pride was logical.

Or intelligent.

There’s a sense in which we all (even introverted weirdos like me) love attention—and on the Internet, it’s surprisingly easy to get it. Now, the best way to get people to pay attention to what you’re saying is to have something worth saying… but sometimes that takes too long. Here are a few ways you can get attention on the Internets (even if they’re not the right way):

1. Start an online “discernment” ministry. There is an art to the discernment ministry. I’m always impressed at how someone can write a post smashing theological progressives/liberals/whatever-you-want-to-call-them by citing a conservative celebrity pastor can then turn around and smash said conservative celebrity in the next post (or paragraph). That takes serious skill, though I’m not sure it’s what Jude had in mind when he exhorted us to contend for the faith.

2. Culture guerrilla warfare. You too can become the voice of your generation (maybe) with the time tested practice of not-so-subtly implying someone may be on the wrong side of history, theology, and/or your own preferences on any number of hot-button issues (and best of all, this approach works regardless of where you land on the theological spectrum!).

3. Leaving and/or returning and/or leaving evangelicalism. The tradition you grew up with is behind the times or is so compromised it’s time to leave it all behind. Get ready to say goodbye to evangelicalism.

And this time you really mean it.

4. Post about sex. It can be pretty much anything. In fact, the more likely it is to set off Covenant Eyes or send a warning to your accountability buddies with X3 Watch, the better. You’ll be pretty much guaranteed to get the wrong kind of traffic, but you’ll probably get a boost (and maybe someone will stop and read a gospel appeal…)

5. Choose a nemesis. Whether it’s public education vs homeschooling, formula-feeding vs nursing, or old Mark Driscoll vs new Mark Driscoll, you’ll probably get some crazy traffic. At a minimum, you’ll get some crazy comments, and that’s almost as good, right?

6. Quit blogging (or at least post that you’re thinking about it). Read the comments from people telling you how much they’ll miss you. Blog more than ever. Repeat ad infinitum.

Did I miss any?

(P.S. It should go without saying that this post was written with my tongue firmly in my cheek.)

Updated May 2015.

Around the Interweb

Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?

Insightful videos featuring Dr. William Lane Craig:


HT: Justin Taylor

Also Worth Reading

Controversy: Adrian Warnock had a face-to-face conversation with Rob Bell about Love Wins. It’s a very interesting listen (albeit incredibly frustrating at times).

Easter: Jesus and the Martyrs

Business Ethics: The 4 P’s of Business

The Persecuted Church in China“If This is What God Intended, So Be It”

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

He Will Be Holy To Make You Holy

Book Review: Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

Fully, Finally, Unquestionably, and Irrevocably Vindicated

The Power of The Resurrection

Only If A Substitute is Provided

Let the Law, Sin, and the Devil Cry Out Against Us

#TGC11 Day 3 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about the final day of The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference:


The last few days have been fantastic for Emily and I. We’ve been greatly encouraged by our time in Chicago and were blessed to talk with so many great people.

More from us when we get home!

Help Me Reorganize!

So, after two years of (usually) weekly reviews, the Book Reviews page is beginning to get a bit out of control. And since it exists for your benefit, I’d like your input on how best to reorganize it!

What would be most helpful for you, readers?

Filing by author?


Subject matter?

Leave a comment and help me reorganize that page!

Blogging Break

Something that a number of people I respect have been encouraging in their own lives is the idea of a blogging break. Taking some time away from what can be a highly self-promoting medium to recharge, relax and refocus. This week I’m doing that while enjoying a family vacation in Grand Bend, Ontario.

So this week, I won’t be contributing any new content to this site. However, it doesn’t mean there won’t be anything worth reading as I’ve line up a few godly and thoughtful men to guest-blog.

This week’s guest bloggers are:

  1. Ben Reed, small groups pastor of Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN. He also blogs regularly at Life & Theology;
  2. Matthew Svoboda, soon-to-be pastor of 56th St. Baptist Church in Kearney, Nebraska. You can find him online here;
  3. Gabe Posey, who blogs at Jesus Apostrophe and is involved in an Acts 29 church plant in Southern Alabama; and
  4. Chris Canuel, who blogs at Striving with God.

There might be another one or two surprise guests coming up, but we shall see.

I’m very blessed to have these guys helping me out this week. I hope you enjoy what they’ve got to say!

Around the Interweb (01/31)

The iPad: Greatest Disappointment in Human History or the New Device You Can Touch

Last week, Apple unveiled the long-rumored tablet computer, the iPad.

Über-blogger Tim Challies has written an astoundingly negative post on the iPad, calling it “the greatest disappointment in human history”:

I wanted the iPad to do lots of neat things but to do one thing exceedingly well. Speaking personally, I wanted it to be an exceptional reading device. Why Apple didn’t position it as a reading device baffles me. Why didn’t they work with textbook manufacturers to make this the future of reading, the future of studying? . . . .This device could have been an amazing way of taking reading (which even Steve Jobs knows isn’t really going to go away) to the digital world. Kindle has tried and has done some good things. But the whole field is still vastly underdeveloped. Apple had its chance and, by what I can see, has completely blown it. Sure the iBook application looks pretty, but it does not look at all innovative beyond a few visual effects. I’m disappointed because the iPad could have been so much more.

Josh Harris disagrees:

Now my brother Tim is upset that the iPad doesn’t have a camera and more input options. But that’s the genius of Apple. They know what to leave out. Before we even know ourselves, they figure out what we’ll actually use and how we’ll use it. Sure, the iPad will get better. We’ll look back on this first version like we do the clunky first-edition iPod. But I think this will be a game changer for how people interact with media and the internet. Seeing my kids interact with the iPhone has convinced me of that. We want a computer we can touch.

Mike Rundle, rightly, I think, gets to the heart of the issue: The iPad isn’t for power users. It’s for everyone else.

What about you, internet friends? You a fan of the iPad or do you think Tim’s right to be disappointed?

In other news

My internet friend Matt Svoboda needs prayer in pursuit of church planting. He’s a good guy and I’ve got no doubt he’ll be a great pastor.

JD Greear offers a tip for evangelism: Tip well.

You are cool if you are “missional.”

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: God the Holy Trinity

A tip for evangelism: Talk positively about your spouse

Ten questions about books (because Aaron likes his bookie-books)

“If I’m the hope, that’s not good news,” a message from Mark Driscoll

Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us that there is hope because we have a God who acts.

Around the Interweb (12/13)

Tim Challies: The Next Story (His Next Book)

Tim Challies, the world’s most famous Christian blogger and author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment announced his next book this week.

The working title: The Next Story. The publisher: Zondervan.

True story. Here’s what Tim had to say:

Since I wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I’ve often been asked the obvious question: what next? That’s a good question, of course. I have deliberately been biding my time. I’ve been in no real hurry to jump into my next project. A few ideas have come and gone, but none have been intriguing or original enough that I’ve wanted to dedicate a year of my life to them. The commitment to a certain topic is really a commitment to spend at least six months reading and writing about it and then a further six months (at minimum) doing interviews about it, speaking about it, preaching about it, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was find a topic that would bore me and leave me dreading it.

[…] The book’s working title is The Next Story. I’m really pleased with the title, but it does have a downside in that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce (try saying it out loud). It is a book about technology in general and digital technology in particular. Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by technology. Like it or not, we rely upon it in unprecedented ways. Many people feel that they are analog creatures in a digital world. Christians are beginning to awaken to this reality and are trying to think critically and biblically about many new realities brought about by technological developments. Yet, there are few helpful and sympathetic voices for those who wish to do so but have no idea how. I’m hoping to fill this gap, creating a book that will help Christians think well about technology. I do not intend to discuss Facebook and Twitter and whatever will be big and popular next month. I want to discuss technology in the bigger picture so that the book will be applicable today, tomorrow and ten years from now.

If all goes well, the book will be published in hardcover in the spring of 2011. And it will be published by Zondervan. I’m guessing that this will be a surprise to a few people. Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise to me. But in the end it was clear that Zondervan had the best all-around offer, from the financial, to the marketing, to the audience. Zondervan will take the book to a whole new audience, I’m convinced, and will work hard to help me find interesting speaking opportunities. They put together a fantastic proposal and I had no hesitations in signing on with them.

This is very exciting news and I’m thrilled for both Tim and Zondervan (and a very wise move on Zondervan’s part).  I’ve no doubt that he’ll bring the same thoughtfulness to this book as he did his first.

Look for The Next Story in 2011.

In Other News

Molly Piper cordially invites you to break your heart

Kevin DeYoung on The Christian Century and the New Calvinism

Michael Hyatt believes the SI Tablet might be the end of book publishing as we know it (and he’s excited!)

Trevin Wax reminds us that contextualization goes both ways

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Andy Deane’s very helpful book, Learn to Study the Bible

Building Christmas traditions with my family

Ed Stetzer points us to a study on the effects of pornography

It Makes Me Laugh: How To Write Badly Well

Today’s laughter comes to us courtesy of my new favorite blog, How to Write Badly Well:

Narrate every scene in a matter-of-fact tone, no matter how exciting

At this point, the dragon, which was larger than a single-decker bus but smaller than an articulated lorry, breathed some fire out of its mouth (or, more properly, exhaled a mixture of flammable gas and liquid which was ignited by a spark from a gland in its throat). This burned several people quite badly, although the knight who is the subject of our story remained largely unharmed.

Naturally, this incident caused a reaction of fear and surprise amongst the local population. It also caused a not insignificant amount of damage to property, which would take local residents many weeks to repair. Aside from this immediate inconvenience, the subsequent disruption caused by reconstruction efforts would also have an adverse effect on the local economy in the medium term. The knight then hit the dragon with his sword, killing it, which was probably for the best.

And one more:

Introduce major plot elements in an off-hand manner

As the wailing of sirens got louder, Claire and Pete hunched over the glowing computer screen. Pete swallowed nervously.

‘What now?’ he said.

‘Well, now we disarm the missiles.’ Claire flexed her fingers. ‘I didn’t tell you this before, but in my spare time, I’m a skilled computer hacker. I’m sure I can crack these defence codes.’

‘Excellent,’ said Pete. ‘I’ll use my extensive jujitsu training to hold off the guards if they come through the door, which we were unable to lock behind us because the key broke off in the lock, which I forgot to mention at the time, but it did.’

‘I’m in!’ said Claire. ’The password was the middle name of the shadowy CEO of Cryptotech, who incidentally is secretly my father.’

Happy Monday!

Sunday Shorts (11/22)

“”You will be hated by all for my name’s sake”

Video footage of house church raid in Vietnam:

Voice of the Martyrs provided this report from church members:

On Sunday, August 23, 2009, we were still gathering together for service meeting since this is necessary spiritual need. At 3 p.m., many district security officers came into my house. At that time, we were having service meeting, they came and stopped and dismissed us. We stopped and explained to them we had made the application of permission already, but they still blustered. Several of them towed Brother — out to the house and had him sit on their motorbike. They did the same way to —. They oppressed him ruthlessly and towed him; they did not allow for him to speak a word. And other women were towed away also. They did take away one guitar but they did not make a report to taking away guitar. After arriving at the district police station, they made the report with the accusation:  “They are gathering together illegally.” They used the abuse words and threatened Brother —: “If you came back this place again; you will be beaten.” … and at 6:30 p.m. they released us.

Ray Ortland’s Blog Joins The Gospel Coalition

Pastor Ray Ortland has joined the Gospel Coalition as their newest blogger. Fellow TGC blogger Justin Taylor describes Ortland’s blog as “edificiation on steroids.”

If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Matt Chandler on Celebrity, Burnout and Diversity

Dustin Neeley, an Acts 29 pastor, interviewed Matt Chandler during a recent A29 event in Louisville. Here’s one of two videos from that interview:

HT: The Resurgence

In Case You Missed It…

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Consequences, continuing the Saturday series featuring George Whitefield’s classic sermon

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, reviewing Craig Groeschel’s very interesting book on church growth

What do you appreciate about your pastor, looking for ways to encourage our pastors

The Ultimate Christian Novel, Tim Challies’ satirical take on Christian fiction—Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation

Friday Funnies: The Ultimate Christian Novel

Yesterday, Tim Challies’ writing career took a dramatic turn as he shared his idea for the ultimate Christian novel:

Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation

No, your eyes do not deceive you. It’s an Amish Vampire Romance novel set in the end-times.

“It’s an Amish novel; it’s a vampire novel; it’s an end-times novel. It’s the best of all worlds,” wrote Challies.

Here’s Tim’s back cover text:

He is handsome. He is romantic. He is Amish.

Twenty-three year old Cassidy lives a simple life in the Amish countryside of Lancaster County. Simple, that is, until Slade Byler moves into the old Lapp farm. Cassidy finds herself irresistibly drawn to the handsome Slade; but she fears to share the secret that she alone knows. For Cassidy is an immortal, a princess in the long line of ancient Amish vampires. Will Slade’s love grow cold when he learns this great secret? Can she give to him a heart that does not beat?

Meanwhile, the strength of the Antichrist grows as he consolidates his power and seeks to destroy the peace-loving people of Pennsylvania. A blossoming romance unfolds between Cassidy and Slade as the world around them changes forever. They must fight to stay alive, they must fight to keep their forbidden love a secret, but, as Amish, they must not fight at all.

In this irresistible tale of intrigue and adventure, set against global upheaval, the bonnet meets the cape in a story sure to span the ages.

The “excerpt” from the novel is spectacular as well (you can click through to read it).

But you know what makes this even more awesome?

The reaction:

I have received [genuine] publication offers for “Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation.” It’s not exactly how I saw my career going.
(via Twitter)

Congratulations, Tim–Take one of those offers up and put your kids through college!

They have Jesus. And He is everything.

If you haven’t been following the latest Compassion Bloggers tour, you really should. Molly Piper, Heather Whitaker and Kelly Stamps are sharing their first-hand experiences visiting with Compassion-assisted families and it’s alternately heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.

Molly shares the story of Maricella:


Maricella. Mother of Blanca (picture #1). This is her in her home. She welcomed us there, even though she was nervous. Jesus came and met us there, though. She told us of her history of gang membership and the tattoo on her forehead because of it. And she now can’t find work because she won’t be trusted. Even though in Christ, she is a new creation…. My heart broke for her.

My first day of interacting with people on the receiving end of Compassion has been nothing short of amazing—their stories, their homes, their openness to our presence, their excitement for Compassion and the effects it’s had on their families. My heart is somehow broken and full at the same time. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. [Read more…]