Canadian Youth and Christianity

Recently Ed Stetzer released some of his research regarding Canadian young adults and their view of Christianity & the church. After taking a look at some of the data, there were a couple of things that were interesting to me:

  1. Unchurched[1] Canadian youth are far less hostile toward the church than their American counterparts
  2. They’re far more open to a Christian sharing their faith than you’d think (89% responded positively), but far less likely to examine the Bible for themselves (51% say they’d be willing to study the Bible if a friend asked them, and only 32% would be willing to join a small group to learn about Jesus and the Bible)

Now, I get that stats and numbers aren’t all that compelling or even all that interesting for most of us; however, there’s something important for us to learn:

If people are willing to listen to us share our faith, shouldn’t we be doing so?

This has been the experience of some friends from church who are a part of our evangelism team. Every week, they’re out talking to people, sharing the gospel whenever they can, praying with people…

And the people they’re talking to are willing to listen.

So, what would happen if today—and I’m just saying if—we asked a random person if we could talk about our faith with them?

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

That they ignore you—or that they say, “yes”?

1: The “unchurched” are defined as those who do not belong to or participate in a local church

Sermon Audio: Obedience – The Fruitful Life

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more about “Obedience – The Fruitful Life“, posted with vodpod

On Sunday May 30, 2010, I had the privilege of preaching at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. Our time together was spent in Matthew 7:24-27, where we looked at the meaning and implications of Jesus’ statement at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

An MP3 is also available.

The sermon’s manuscript follows: [Read more…]

Martyn Lloyd Jones: The Peculiar Task of the Church

[T]he primary task of the Church is not to educate man, is not to heal him physically or psychologically, it is not to make him happy. I will go further; it is not even to make him good. These are things that accompany salvation; and when the Church performs her true task she does incidentally educate men and give them knowledge and information, she does bring them happiness, she does make them good and better than they were.

But my point is that those are not her primary objectives.

Her primary purpose is not any of these; it is rather to put man into right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God.

This really does need to be emphasised at the present time, because this, it sees to me, is the essence of the modern fallacy.

It has come into the Church and it is influencing the thinking of many in the Church—this notion that the business of the Church is to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions. My whole case it that to do that is just to palliate the symptoms, to give temporary ease, and that it does not get beyond that.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing to palliate symptoms; it is not, and it is obviously right and good to do so. But I am constrained to say this, that though to palliate symptoms, or to relieve them, is not bad in and of itself, it can be bad, it can have a bad influence, and a bad effect, from the standpoint of the biblical understanding of man and his needs. It can become harmful in this way, that by palliating the symptoms you can conceal the real disease. . . .

The business of the Church, and the business of preaching—and she alone can do this—is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner.

This is specialist work, it is the peculiar task of the Church.

The church is not one of a number of agencies, she is not in competition with the cults, she is not in competition with other religions, she is not in competition with the psychologists or any other agency, political or social or whatever it may chance to be.

The church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 30-32 (paragraph breaks and emphasis added)

Statler and Waldorf Go to Church

We live in a very consumer-driven society. We are able to access whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want.

I never have to leave my house to shop. I don’t have to pick up the phone to order a pizza.

And I get to have things my way.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for that same thinking to creep into how we view the local church?

It’s really subtle how it sneaks up on us.

The easiest way to tell is when we start describing our Sunday based solely on our feelings. If the preaching or the music or whatever was entertaining or uplifting, then it was “good.”

But if the preacher doesn’t say things like the guys I podcast? Weak.

No movie clips and pop culture references? Forget it.

No lasers and smoke machines during the music? Pfft, please…

And if we’re not careful, it’s really easy to become like Statler and Waldorf when we look at our churches.

Always grumbling. Always finding fault.

But not loving our churches.

That just won’t do.

While there are some concerns that are absolutely legit (like unsound doctrine), is it possible that some of our frustrations are due simply to our preferences?

Could they be solved by investing in our local church, instead of grumbling about her?

By showing her love?

At our church, we’re encouraged regularly to find ways to serve. There are lots:

Kid’s ministry. Small groups. Set-up. Greeting. Parking. Care teams. Prayer teams. The resource table. Music…

I’m sure there’s more opportunities that I can’t even think of (we’re still relatively new, having been there for less than a full calendar year). Sufficed to say, there is no shortage of opportunities to serve.

For me, starting to serve when I did (shortly after we began attending) was essential. And where I serve, the resource table, is a great fit. Not just because of my bordering-on-obsession with good books, but because it gives me an opportunity to actually meet people and be a help to them.

Serving my church helps me love the people there.

How are you loving and serving your church?

Untapped Resources

Photo by Adrian Boca

“Are you in a small group?” 

I get asked that question just about every week at our church. We love small groups and want to see everyone connected to one. 

The first people we met were Bruce and Mary, an older couple who oversee small group leaders.  Just about everyone I know is in a small group. In fact, groups are so much a part of the community’s DNA that it’s generally assumed that you’re going to be a part of one. 

As you can imagine, if you’re passionate about small groups, this is a really, really good thing. 

Back to that question: “Are you in a small group?” 

While I’m involved in a weekly men’s group, my wife and I aren’t in a group together, aside from a course we’re taking.  We’re a single-income family, and the cost of child care for two young children can be overwhelming. 

As I’m sure most parents can relate, even regular social events can be a chore when you add kids into the mix, particularly if there are no grandparents living in close proximity or friends who can be called on to regularly babysit. So when a night of babysitting comes up, it’s more likely to be used for a date night than for a night in small group. 

After all, what man doesn’t love an opportunity to take his wife out on a fancy date to Starbucks? 

The odds are stacked against groups. So what can we do to encourage parents of young children to join (aside from asking them to host one)? 

Look at the resources that exist around us.  [Read more…]

Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – Lessons from The Gospel Coalition 2010 Conference

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, I had the privilege of attending The Gospel Coalition’s first ever Canadian conference featuring D.A. Carson and Mike Bullmore as the keynote speakers.

Dr. Carson kicked off the conference with the message Christian Faithfulness in the Last Days – The Need for the Gospel Coalition.

He began with by giving us a bit of background on how the Gospel Coalition came together as he and Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian came together and realized they’d been reflecting on something similar: The centrality of the gospel was being lost in evangelicalism. “Today, people do what is right in their own eyes—with the gospel becom[ing] something assumed rather than central,” lamented Carson. The Gospel Coalition came together out of a desire “to be robust about Scripture [and] to hold up the centrality of the gospel.” And this is of the greatest import for those of us living in “the last days.”

While some have indulged in “a feeding frenzy of speculation over the end times,” Carson reminded us that, “The last days refer to the entire period between Christ’s ascension and second coming. Whether it’s three weeks or three thousand years is irrelevant. . . . All authority has been given to Jesus, and while it’s contested, the kingdom has still come. The old is passing away.”

This led to a study of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8, first asking, “What does Paul see in the last days?” [Read more…]

D.A. Carson – The Drifting of Evangelicalism

Dr. D.A. Carson on the drifting of evangelicalism:

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.925498&w=425&h=350&fv=titlevar%3DThe+Drifting+of+Evangelicalism%26videosource%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fs3.amazonaws.com%2Ftgc-video%2Fabout%2Fcarson_drifting_evangelicalism.flv%26poster%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.thegospelcoalition.org%2Fmedia%2Fa%2Fposters%2Fda-drifting.jpg]
more about “The Drifting of Evangelicalism“, posted with vodpod

If you can’t see the video, click through to The Drifting of Evangelicalism.

Brothers, We Are Not Figure Skaters

Phil Johnson provided this nugget at the 2010 Shepherd’s Conference in his message, “Marching Orders for a Backslidden Church.” It’s quite insightful.

HT: Nathan Bingham

Don't Just Lead – Learn to Let Others Minister to You

The following article was originally published at SmallGroupTrader.com


A few months ago, my wife and I made a big decision and left the first church we ever went to and joined another church where we live. Up until that time, we’d been running a small group that, due to a variety of circumstances was coming to an end; and after joining our new church, we found ourselves, for the first time in two years, not leading a group.

In some ways it was refreshing. No study to prepare. No questions to email. No house prep… The first couple months in particular were actually a much needed respite for us individually and as a family.

After about three months of getting settled, I decided to join a new small group—a weekly men’s group. Every Friday mornings, I wake up at a ghastly time and grab some breakfast (although I’m not sure it counts as food) on the way over to the meeting before digging into a discussion of the book we’re reading. And to be a part of a group, for the first time in a long time was equally refreshing (and yes, that can happen at 6:30 AM).

Why? Because I realized I had burnt out a bit. I’d been going at top speed, trying to do as much as I could to help as many as I could…but I wasn’t letting anyone do that for me. It’s really easy for leaders to forget that they need to be ministered to as much as they minister to others.

Because of the responsibilities that often come with leading a group, it can sometimes feel like you’re just not part of the group. Maybe, for whatever reason, you don’t feel like you can be as open as others. I know a number of people in church leadership who have expressed that they feel they can’t be a part of a group unless they’re leading it. It’s “expected” of them. Because of this expectation (legitimate or not), these leaders invest, invest, invest… but aren’t being invested in. It leaves them spiritually dry, sometimes a bit bitter, and more than a little exhausted.

So here’s my encouragement to you: Do not just lead a group—be in one. Learn to let others minister to you. No matter who you are—a pastor, a ministry leader, a small group leader—let other people invest in you, encourage you and build you up in your faith. None of us are not so important, so spiritually mature that we can neglect this aspect of our lives. Talk to your existing one and repent if you’ve been doing this. Join another one if you have to. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Learn to let others minister to you.


Thanks to my friends at SmallGroupTrader.com for giving me a reason to write this.

 

"Who Will Help the Church?" Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald in Haiti

When I first heard about Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald hopping a plane to Haiti, honestly, I had mixed feelings. I greatly respect both men and love the fact that they want to help the church… but I found myself asking, “Aren’t other organizations doing this?”

As I’ve been thinking about it and (inconsistently) praying, I suspect the answer is… not exactly.

From ChurchesHelpingChurches.com:

Churches Helping Churches was created to address the immediate and long-term needs of churches when disaster befalls a country, region, city, or people in the spirit of Galatians 6:10—“…let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Our help complements the initial waves of humanitarian aid that pour into a country in the wake of a disaster. Many countries have relied on networks of local churches to be a primary conduit for the flow of health care, humanitarian aid, and even education. Rebuilding churches is a means of restoring infrastructure in a country through which aid can flow into local communities which so desperately need it.

Both throughout history and following specific tragedies it is often the local church that cares for widows, orphans, and the poor. It is the church who performs the funerals, grief counseling and spiritual follow up with families of victims. Rebuilding local churches helps address the practical and spiritual needs of a country, one person, one neighborhood, and one community at a time.

When the magnitude of a catastrophe can be described as “biblical,” it is the local church that reminds people that another biblical concept is even more powerful: hope in Jesus Christ.

Looking at their mission is really encouraging. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of aid. There are other organizations that do a brilliant job of that.

They’re not trying to do community development. There are other organizations that are fantastic at it.

They’re not trying to do people development. Again, there are others who already do it well.

Their goal is to love the Church so that the Church can be a blessing to the nations.

That’s a pretty great mission.

I’m interested in seeing how this develops.

How about you?

D. A. Carson: What the Church in America Needs

I really appreciated this video featuring D.A. Carson on what he believes the church in America needs. It’s a message that I believe we would all be wise to pay close attention to. Agree? Disagree?


What the Church in America needs is what the Church of the living God in every age and culture always needs. It can be put a lot of different ways. To make the first things the first things—that is to focus on what the Bible makes central.

It needs to preach Christ, but not as a cipher, but Christ as the incarnation of the Living God, who has come amongst us not only to teach us, but also to introduce this dramatic, life-transforming saving reign, all grounded in His death on our behalf, bearing our sins in his own body on the tree so the righteous wrath of God is turned away because of God’s own decisive love for us. He gives His own Son so that we may be reconciled to Him, reconciled to each other in anticipation of the climactic new heaven and new earth, resurrection life still to come, and already that transforms everything and makes us a new community of men and women who are already borne along by the Holy Spirit, living in the power of the age to come.

That’s what it needs always. Always!

Those are central things because we see them to be central in the Word of God. Well what this is the preaching and teaching of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit to see men and women transformed.

And whether people believe it or not—whether the proclamation of this message is, as Paul puts it, an aroma to some of life, of sweetness, or an aroma to others of the stench of death… In one sense, that doesn’t matter nearly so much as being faithful.

In Isaiah’s day, according to chapter six of that prophecy, he was called to preach—and preach in such a way that in fact people would be blinded and deafened. This, you find also in the teaching of Jesus in John chapter eight. There, Jesus says, “Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe.”

That is stunning, it is horribly shocking.

It’s not a concessive. “Although I tell you the truth you do not believe.” It’s causal. “Because I tell you the truth.”

So there are times and places and history, there are always people in every generation in history for whom the truth is so offensive that it guarantees unbelief. In other words, the truth itself is so offensive that articulating the truth is going to harden their hearts.

And if that’s the case, then you don’t start asking, “Well, I guess I’d better preach some untruth, shouldn’t I?”

Rather you remain faithful, and you leave the results with God, and it will draw some, because it will be an aroma of life to some, even if turns out to be an aroma of death to others.

So what we always need then is faithfulness, and understanding the Bible, teaching the Bible, preaching the Bible, living out the Bible for the glory of God, for the good of his blood-bought people, living in the light of eternity.

And that also teaches us how to live in our day-to-day existence.

Prayer for Matt Chandler

Update: An update from the Village Church on the pathology report that Matt and Lauren Chandler received yesterday:

Dear church,

In the first chapter of Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes that whatever imprisonments, beatings and trials he may have suffered, they all “serve to advance the gospel” of Jesus Christ. We implore you to keep the gospel of Christ as the main focus as we walk with Matt and Lauren through this trial.

On Tuesday, Dr. Barnett informed Matt and Lauren that the findings of the pathology report revealed a malignant brain tumor that was not encapsulated. The surgery to remove the tumor, the doctor said, was an extremely positive first step; however, because of the nature of the tumor, he was not able to remove all of it.

Matt, who is being released from the hospital today, is meeting with a neuro-oncologist this week to outline the next steps of the recovery process. There is a range of treatment possibilities but the exact course of action has not yet been determined. He will continue outpatient rehab.

The Lord is calling Matt and Lauren and The Village Church body to endure this trial. It will be a challenging road for Matt, his family and our church body. The gospel is our hope and the Lord is our strength. Matt and Lauren continue to find solace and hope in Christ. They weep facing this trial, but not as those without hope and perspective. The gospel clarifies their suffering and promises more of Christ through it all.

You have done a wonderful job respecting the family, and we ask that you continue to do this. They are processing all of this together and need you to give them precious space. Please do not visit them at their house unless personally invited by the Chandlers. The best way to serve the family is to continue to be faithful in prayer. Specifically, pray for the following:

  • Wisdom for all the coming decisions
  • Strength and peace to endure
  • The kids’ (Audrey, Reid and Norah) hearts; pray the Lord is merciful as they process and that their little hearts do not grow embittered
  • The Chandlers and The Village would suffer well because of the gospel and for the sake of Christ’s name

As you hurt and weep for the family, do not do it alone. Gather with your home group and with other believers in homes and pray together. This is a time to walk together with others and to endure this trial in community. If you wish, send cards and letters to Matt and Lauren at 2101 Justin Road, Flower Mound, TX 75028.

We will continue to keep you informed as new information is made available. Please be patient with the frequency of the updates. May God strengthen us all and may His glory shine brightly through this.

Please continue to pray for our brother, his family, and his church.

Yesterday he wrote on his Twitter account: “Path report is 2ndary at best…good report doesn’t mean much, bad report doesn’t mean anything…my days r numbered and nt by ths report.”

Collin Hansen recently wrote in CT about Chandler’s trials: “When the Pastor Suffers.”

HT: JT [Read more…]

Church Buildings: They're actually useful!

Yesterday on Out of Ur, author, pastor and all-around swell guy Dan Kimball recanted of his earlier belief that church buildings are nothing more than a drain on resources and propagate consumer Christianity.

My anti-building phase was a reaction to having seen so much money spent on church facilities, often for non-essential, luxury items. I was also reacting to a philosophy of ministry that treated church buildings like Disneyland; a place consumers gather for entertainment. But these abuses had caused me to unfairly dismiss the potential blessing of buildings as well.

Understandably, there are a lot of people who feel this way. It can become very easy to see the church building as the goal, rather than a tool to be used to forward the gospel in our communities. And that was the thing that helped Dan see the value of the building:

When we planted our church in 2004, we needed a place to meet. We found a very traditional church building that had a sizable “fellowship hall” originally used only for donuts and coffee on Sundays. Wanting to use the building differently, we converted the fellowship hall into a public coffee lounge featuring music and art from the outside community. The Abbey, as it’s now called, is open seven days a week and offers free internet access.

Just yesterday I was in The Abbey and saw about 20 people, not part of our congregation, studying and hanging out. (During finals week I counted 90 students packed into the place.) While there I talked to a brand new Christian who has been coming to our gatherings. He found out about our church from a Buddhist friend. His friend loves coming to The Abbey and recommended our church because he trusted us.

We’ve also used our building to serve our community in times of crisis. When wildfires forced nearby residents to flee their homes, our building became an overnight refuge for those without a place to stay.

These missional opportunities would not be possible without a building.

I know there are a lot who would disagree with me, but a building is important. Not because it’s a status simple or an indicator that a church has arrived (wherever the destination may be), but because it’s a wonderful and helpful tool to further the name of Christ in our communities when used well.

What do you appreciate about your pastor?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how undervalued pastors can be.

Pastors have a hard job. A packed schedule of family obligations, weddings, funerals, couseling and all the other things that come with shepherding the flock God has entrusted to them.

On top of that, they have to deal with a disheartening number of books & speakers who suggest the office of elder/pastor is unbiblical. People taking offense to something they say (perhaps because it points out their sin or it’s a legitimately poor choice of words) and trash them, and on and on it goes…

It’s easy to see why Paul wrote, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 5:17, emphasis mine).

There’s the big issue: Elders who rule well (in short, leading people in the example of our ultimate leader, Jesus) are worthy of “double honor.” In the context of the passage, it is talking about financial compensation—but it’s also talking about respect.

And that’s something I wonder if we’d do well to think about for a few minutes.

What do you appreciate about your pastor?

Have you ever had an opportunity to think about it? Honestly, it’s not something that’s often at the top of my things to consider list, but it really is important.

But it’s really worth considering. [Read more…]