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7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind

David Murray:

The worst kind of poison is the kind that poisons you without you realizing it. There’s no bitter taste, no pain, no sudden weakness, nothing to alarm; yet, the poison is slowly and steadily doing its deadly work.

In such a dangerous condition, our only hope is some kind of test that shows what is undetectable to normal human senses, maybe a scan of sorts that shows up the extent of the poison in our systems? Only then can the antidote be found, prescribed, and taken.

Discipleship in Canada: Sharing Faith and Making Relationships at Church

Ed Stetzer shares some findings from Lifeway’s recent research on the state of discipleship in Canada.

Faking Cultural Literacy

Karl Greenfeld:

There was a time when we knew where we were getting our ideas. In my eighth grade English class, we were assigned “A Tale of Two Cities,” and lest we enjoy the novel, we were instructed to read Charles Dickens’s classic with an eye toward tracking the symbolism in the text. One afternoon while I was in the library, struggling to find symbols, I ran into a few of my classmates, who removed from their pockets folded yellow and black pamphlets that read “Cliffs Notes” and beneath that the title of Dickens’s novel in block letters. That “study guide” was a revelation.

Here were the plot, the characters, even the symbols, all laid out in paragraphs and bullet points. I read the Cliffs Notes in one night, and wrote my B paper without finishing the novel. The lesson was not to immerse and get lost in the actual cultural document itself but to mine it for any valuable ore and minerals — data, factoids, what you need to know — and then trade them on the open market.

With the advent of each new technology — movable type, radio, television, the Internet — there have been laments that the end is nigh for illuminated manuscripts, for books, magazines and newspapers. What is different now is the ubiquity of the technology that is replacing every old medium.

HT: Zach

How To Handle Controversy

Jeff Medders shares some terrific advice from John Newton:

John Newton, writer of Amazing Grace, is also well known for being a prolific letter writer. Volumes of letters.

Newton once wrote to another minister who was about to publish a very critical piece on another pastor. It was destined to spark controversy. And given what has gone on in the internet and the evangelical world—and what will come in the future—Newton’s counsel is wisdom crying aloud in the street for us all.

Too Scared to Cry: Social Media Outrage and the Gospel

Russell Moore:

If mere outrage were a sign of godliness, then the devil would be the godliest soul in the cosmos. He, after all, rages and roars, “because he knows his time is short” (Revelation 12:12). Contrast that with the Lord Jesus who does not “quarrel or cry aloud” (Matthew 12:19).

Why is this so? It’s because the devil has no mission, apart from killing and destroying and accusing and slandering. And it’s because the devil is on the losing side of history.

When the h-word slipped

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My wife let the h-word slip in conversation with Abigail a few days ago.

No, not “hell”—homeschooling. Which in our family, is far more scary.

Not too long ago, I asked if you’d mind praying for our family as we make some decisions about our children’s education going forward. We had always intended on having our kids in the public education system, but over the last couple years, our feelings on that have changed. Not because of any particular conviction that we must do this lest we disobey the Lord—we just want our kids to get the best education possible, and our schools aren’t doing that.

With teachers that hold Abigail back (“We don’t want her to get too far ahead in her reading,” her senior kindergarten teacher told me) or hypnotize them with TV during lunch (yeah, that’s been happening at a LOT), the impression that we’ve gotten has been they’re more concerned with doing what’s easy than what’s best. (And yes, I know not all teachers are this way, there are problems with the system, etc.…)

We’d always said we’d evaluate every year and every semester to determine the next step. Up until recently, we’d had concerns, but not anything that would have made us say “when.” Until we did. So over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking to friends, doing research, even having practice homeschool days when Abigail’s been home sick.

Through it all, Emily’s been approaching it from the “if we do this” perspective, something I appreciate. She’s been trying to be careful to not make a rash decision, or do something as a knee-jerk reaction to issues that have come up.

And then she let the h-word slip. And once that Genie’s out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put it back in.

Thankfully, our kids have been gradually getting comfortable with the idea. Abigail’s the only one with traditional school experience, but she’s been increasingly looking forward to the change. And honestly, so are we—if we 100 per cent decide to go forward, that is. But there’s a lot of work to do, yet. We have to find the right curriculum for the kids, find out if we’ve been accepted into the homeschool co-op… and then, figure out how to tell our parents.

That’s probably going to be the hardest part. My family tends to poke fun at the notion of homeschooling (which is funny since we didn’t know anyone who was homeschooled growing up). My in-laws place a very high value on education, but we’re not sure how they’ll react. Lord willing, everyone is going to be accepting of the direction we’re going (or at least polite enough to keep their disapproval to themselves). But if you’d mind continuing to pray with us about this, I’d sure appreciate it.


photo credit: Mohammed Alnaser via photopin cc

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Whetting your appetite for the Word

Chris Hefner:

Recently, my wife and I had the joy of bringing our second son, Nathan, into the world. Newborns cry (for those of you who are not parents yet). Nathan cries amazingly loud when he’s hungry. He desires, with unfettered passion, to be fed every 2-3 hours. God reminds us in 1 Peter 2:2 that we are to desire his Word as babies desire to be fed. I had to ask myself when was the last time I cried out for the Word of God. I think that may be a good question for our congregations as well.

Making Friends, But Not Disciples

Trevin Wax:

But sometimes, I wonder if our emphasis on relationships might cause us to turn all our focus to relationship-building and indefinitely postpone gospel proclamation. So someone asks you, “Are you sharing the gospel regularly?” and you think, Of course! I’m building a relationship with an employee at a coffee shop; I’ve got a friend who watches football with me; I’m getting to know the parents in my child’s preschool class.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Four volumes in Leland Ryken’s Christian Guide to the Classics series are on sale for 99¢ each:

You can also get Boring by Michael Kelley for $4.80, and Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers by Graham Cole for $2.87.

10 tips to avoid becoming self-promoting jerks online

Mark Sayers:

Social Networking can be a fabulous tool for leaders to advance the kingdom. However like so many other things it can also lead us into dangerous territory if unexamined.

Below are some tips on how to use social networking well in our celebrity obsessed, image based culture without falling into the sin of pride. I have probably broken several at times, but hopefully they will be of help to you.

Our Snarky Eye-Rolling Might Actually Be Sinful

Dan Darling:

Today there are many addressing legalism and the way it suffocates the soul. Even for those who don’t have this biography need to be reminded of John Newton’s words, “Grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.” For the recovering legalist, there are few passages better than 1 Corinthians 8.

And yet, Paul doesn’t end this chapter with his rebuke to legalists. He then turns toward those who delight in their spiritual freedom. There is, among those who understand the freedom found in the gospel, an easy temptation to wound the consciences of our brothers and sisters by mocking their choices in the gray areas. Paul said that to compel someone to violate conscience, to belittle the rules they have set for themselves, is to sin, against Christ. 

Is it My Fault?

is-it-my-fault-holcombAs we sat in the school auditorium where our church meets, I could feel my wife seething beside me. Our pastor had come to a crucial text in one of the gospels—Jesus’ teaching on divorce. As we listened to our pastor strongly (and faithfully) teach on what the Bible says about marriage and divorce, Emily became increasingly agitated. Not because of anything that was said, but what hadn’t been: what about women who are being abused?

To many, the Bible’s teaching on divorce seems too simplistic to deal with these issues. Bad counsel based on incomplete teaching leaves many women (and men) feeling trapped, with nowhere to turn when their spouses begin to spiritually, psychologically, physically or sexually abuse them. When the abuse somehow becomes their fault in the counselling session, or they’re too ashamed to even say anything at all—or don’t even know if it “counts.”

Whose fault is it?

Emily’s anger was birthed from experiences of these feelings in both her childhood and adolescent years, and her empathy for several friends who have experienced abuse in their marriages.1 If we’re to offer any sort of hope and encouragement to those suffering from domestic violence, we need to know what the Bible has to say to them.

This is why books like Is It My Fault? are so necessary. From its opening pages, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb offer a compassionate and biblical look at the problem of domestic violence, beginning with five words victims need to hear: It is never your fault.

No matter what kind of abuse you have experienced, there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing you think that makes you deserving of it. There is no mistake you could have made and no sin you could have committed to make you deserving of violence.

You did not deserve this. And it is never your fault.

You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or “getting what you deserve.” (21)

These truths should be obvious, but for someone in an abusive relationship, they’re anything but. And truthfully, I’m not sure how obvious they are to some of us who aren’t, either. For example, we tend to look at marital problems and try to figure out how divide responsibility for those problems equally between spouses. And while this is certainly true in the average problems that come with marriage and relationships, we need to be careful to not apply this too broadly. Sometimes, it really is the problem just one person—and in the case of domestic violence, in whatever form it takes, it is always the abuser’s fault.

Although a bit of a loose example, consider the recent shootings in Santa Barbara, California, when 22-year-old Elliott Rodger stabbed three people to death, shot three more, and left 13 more injured, before killing himself. Why did he do it? Because “girls have never been attracted to me.” What surprised me with this wasn’t Rodger’s placing the blame for his yet-to-be-committed crimes on women, but because some online commenters seemed to agree, saying that if he wasn’t a virgin, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

Yeah. Someone actually said that.

What is domestic violence?

Keeping this in mind is especially important when you consider how tricky it can be to develop a concrete definition of domestic violence. You need a broad enough definition that captures the full spectrum of abuse, yet doesn’t leave every reader paranoid that they’re either being abused or an abuser themselves. How is it defined in Is It My Fault?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner. (57)

Despite being a little clinical, and maybe a bit lawyer-y, this definition is very strong. I believe the key word here is “pattern.” An abuser isn’t necessarily someone who says something stupid and hurtful once (again, if that were the case, we would all be abusers). An abuser is someone who makes an intentional behavior of it. This doesn’t mean that sinful and hurtful words don’t need to be dealt with (they do!); it just means we ought not label the one-time offender—depending on the nature of their offense—as being guilty of domestic violence. (There’s no such thing as being just a little stabby.)

What will God do about it?

The first several chapters of the book offer extremely necessary definitions and categories that readers may lack—beyond a definition of domestic violence, they may not know what the cycle of abuse looks like, or what types of personas exist among abusers, all of which the Holcombs provide. But the strength of the book really comes through when the authors turn to the Scriptures to show readers what God says about this issue. The picture shown here is of a God who “hates abuse, viewing it as sinful and unacceptable” (107), and “delights in rescuing the oppressed (2 Sam. 22:49)” (108).

This isn’t always easy for us to believe, though. After all, in our day-to-day circumstances—especially those in abusive situations—struggle to see God at work. They cry out asking for the Lord to deliver them, just as David did many times in the psalms. But it’s the tension we all face. Suffering and pain are real, but deliverance is real, too, even if it doesn’t come when or how we might wish it did. Despite how it may seem at times, “God is not standing idly by to watch evil run its course he will not allow evil to have the final word. His response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and recreation” (113).

What I appreciate throughout the authors’ reflections on several psalms is how they hold this tension. They don’t offer a pat “God’s in control,” although that would be easy to do. They dig into the reality of the pain, the difficulty of the circumstances. But they don’t leave us there. Instead, they redirect despair to hope, showing how we can be confident that God’s deliverance will come.

This, arguably, may be the most important practical takeaway for readers (aside from the very helpful action plan in the appendices). When the darkness won’t seem to lift2, we need the hope that God is not ignoring our circumstances. That God is at work, even when we can’t see it. That His promises are still true—and because His promises are true, hope cannot be extinguished.

What will we do about it?

Is It My Fault? will provoke some strong feelings in its readers—anger that abuse happens at all, perhaps temptations toward seeking vengeance, and a longing for Jesus’ return and the coming of the new creation. What I hope it does is remind us all that none of us can stand by when abuse occurs in our homes or in our churches. In those situations, our goal should always be to bring hope into the darkness of abuse of all kinds. To humbly, earnestly and uncompromisingly call perpetrators to repentance, and allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. To offer compassion to victims and allow them to begin to experience some form of healing, while holding out the promise of the final restoration Jesus will bring when He comes to wipe every tear from every eye. This is what victims of abuse need, and by God’s grace, it’s what we can offer, if we’re willing.


Title: Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence
Authors: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Publisher: Moody (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

Ray Ortlund:

The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.  The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt.  But we will follow through horizontally on whatever we believe vertically.

Genesis 1-11: an overview

This video from The Bible Project is really well done:

Five Benefits of Corporate Worship

David Mathis:

Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role inrekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.

But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment.

Six Principles For Youth Ministry

Jonathan Leeman:

“What does your church do for middle and high school students?” A pastor friend recently asked this question.

I have no special expertise with youth, and I tend to think there is some measure of programmatic flexibility. Do you host a weekly event? Who is it for? What do you do? Special projects or trips? I will leave that for you to sort out.

But here are a few biblical principles that we should heed no matter what, and my sense is the many youth groups don’t heed them.

Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime?

Melissa Martin:

“You just may not be in a season of life where you can serve right now.”

This well-meaning, godly woman’s advice to a room full of wives and mothers caused a little pang in my heart.

There is obviously a wealth of truth in that well-worn statement. I’ve been there. I know. I remember so clearly one evening soon after my daughter was born, my mother-in-law lovingly pushed my husband and me out the door for some time alone while she held our newborn. We slid into a booth at a ’50s diner on the beach, eyes glazed over from sleep deprivation, both sporting matching spit-up stains on our shoulders.

This season of life was not conducive to anything beyond barely keeping my head about water.

Before all time, God is love

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The one living and true God is revealed, not as God absolute, but as God related, or as God subsisting from the beginning with certain internal relations; in a way admitting, in some sense, of mutual action and reaction; of a certain reciprocity of loving and being loved.

So we are to conceive of God as love. He is love. And his being love is not dependent on what may be called the accident or contingency of his having creatures to be loved. It springs out of the very necessity of his nature. It is his essential manner of being. Before the existence of any creature—before all time—God is love.

And he is not love potentially only, but actually: not capable of loving, but loving. He loves and is loved. He is love itself. He is not love quiescent, but love active and in exercise. He is so from all eternity. And he is so, and can only be so, in virtue of the eternal distinction of the divine persons in the Godhead, and the eternal relations which they sustain towards one another.

More particularly, it is in respect of the eternal relation of fatherhood and sonship that God is thus, from everlasting, love. It is chiefly in virtue of that relation that God is revealed as consciously, if I may so say, and energetically, love. From everlasting the Son is in the bosom of the Father. And the infinite, ineffable complacency subsisting between the Father and the Son in the Holy Ghost, is the primary exercise of that love which God is; that love which is of the essence of his nature.

It is thus that love in God has never been, properly speaking, the love of himself, or self-love. For there have ever been in the one undivided Godhead the holy three, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, mutually loving and loved. And especially in the second person, and in the real and intimate relation of fatherhood and sonship between the first person and the second, the deep disinterestedness of the divine love is proved. The Father loveth the Son. The Spirit glorifieth the Son. For it is in the Son, as the Son, that the fatherly love of God flows forth in full stream. It flows forth to create and bless the countless multitude of intelligences who are, throughout eternity, to rejoice in calling the highest Father, in and with the Son.

Robert J. Candlish, The Fatherhood of God, pp. 67-69

Where the Sermon on the Mount leads

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Strange indeed is the complacency with which modern men can say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need. In reality, if the requirements for entrance into the Kingdom of God are what Jesus declares them to be, we are all undone; we have not even attained to the external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands? The Sermon on the Mount, rightly interpreted, then, makes man a seeker after some divine means of salvation by which entrance into the Kingdom can be obtained. Even Moses was too high for us; but before this higher law of Jesus who shall stand without being condemned? The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.

J.Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism | Image source: Lightstock

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7 Traits of Leaders Who Hire Well

Eric Geiger:

The only time the Bible records Jesus praying all night long was before He chose His disciples (Luke 6:12-13). He had no plan B. He chose to ensure the gospel would spread through the disciples, and He prayerfully selected those who He would hand the mission to.

In my role, I interact daily with leaders and managers who hire people, who invite others to join the teams they lead. I have observed these seven common traits in leaders who hire well, leaders who seem to excel at attracting the right players to their teams.

What Tom Nettles Taught Me

Russell Moore:

Tom Nettles retired last week as professor of historical theology at Southern Seminary, capping off a long and distinguished career. As I thought about his retirement, I reflected on what I’ve learned from this iconic Baptist historian, and it was hard to find a place to start.

Will Ferrell and Chad Smith drum off

HT: Barnabas

Four Words I’d Like to Strike From Christian Conversation

Joey Cochran:

There are four words that I’d like to strike from our Christian conversations. There’s probably more, but these four keep coming to my mind. They’re kind of buzz words these days. They are the following businessy terms: connect, tribe, sexy and brand. Here’s how they get used.

Was Christ’s Death Divine Child Abuse?

Jason Helopoulos:

He in our place. “He has borne our griefs” (Is. 53:4). “He was wounded for our transgressions” (Is. 53: 5). “He was crushed for our iniquities” (Is. 53:4). “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5). He was our substitute. It has been argued that this is unjust; it isn’t right. Some enemies of the gospel have gone so far as to say that Christ being our substitute was some sort of divine child-abuse. However, that is far from the case. As Jesus said in Luke 22, quoting Isaiah 53:12, “He had to be numbered with the transgressors.” He had to be. It was the only way to save sinful men. “For our sake, He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). He became sin for us. And because He took what was ours we are absolved from the necessity of enduring that same punishment. Justice has been upheld. He received wrath and death that we might receive grace and life. Our debt has been paid by another—in full. And this is anything but divine child abuse. Let me give you four reasons why.

Better to tell the truth than stories

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“You used to be awesome and tell funny stories about dumb things you did. You don’t do that anymore.”One of the fifth graders at our church shared this little bit of encouragement with me as he headed out the door the other week.

He meant it as an insult. I see it, oddly, as a compliment.

A few months back, I started sharing a few stories of really foolish things I did when I was between 8 and 10 years old. Things like: jumping off a roof to see if a man (or, in this case, boy) could fly. Defying my mother and getting an ATM card for my bank account after she explicitly told me not to. Or finding all the Christmas presents during a sick day, opening and playing with them all, and then attempting to cover my tracks by “rewrapping”all the presents.

Y’know, the typical idiotic stuff you can expect an eight-year-old boy to do.

The kids all enjoyed these stories, which is great, but then I ran into a couple of problems:

  1. The stories I could think of were inappropriate for kids (most of my childhood stories are PG-13 and up).
  2. The stories I could think of were inappropriate for the lesson being taught.

The second is far more significant an issue than the first. Although some of the stories I could share make me wonder how I’m not regularly in therapy, there are some I can clean up a little to make slightly more appropriate for little ears. But when a story doesn’t connect with the meat of the lesson, I don’t feel right about using it.

Telling stories that way—telling a story just to get a laugh—puts the focus on the wrong thing: me. While I obviously want to do all I can to make what I’m saying relatable and interesting, I don’t want to put me at the center of the teaching time for the sake of a quick laugh.

I’d rather be accused of being boring because I’m not telling funny stories, if it means the kids get to hear the gospel.

But the kid who was upset that I’m not telling as many funny stories doesn’t understand that. At least, he doesn’t understand it yet. He doesn’t get that it’s more important for him to know what God’s Word says than hear about something dumb I did when I was a kid. Someday he might. And if it ever happens, I hope he’ll be thankful that I sometimes sacrificed telling stories for the sake of telling him the truth about Jesus.


Originally posted at jtcochran.com. Photo credit: amanky via photopin cc

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The End of Books

Jon Bloom shares an English translation of a new interview (from the Dutch newspaper, Reformatorisch Dagblad) with Tony Reinke, author of Lit!:

What do you think, in contrast, would the impact of a practice of slow reading be for our understanding of God?

The purpose of reading is to learn new things, experience new truth, and change for the better. The content that has most challenged and changed my own life are the resources I have invested the most time. The faster I scan, the less enduring impact is made. By default, this puts ephemeral blog posts and short articles at a disadvantage. Short online material appeals to scan-readers, but the low time commitment and focus it asks of the reader actually makes the piece unlikely to permanently alter the reader. Short blog posts or social media updates meant to be read quickly can affirm (or offend) our thinking, or they can bring clarifying affirmation to our thinking, but they do not require the time investment necessary to change a reader’s thinking. Changing minds will continue to be the work of long-form journalism and patiently read books.

The Hardest Place on Earth to Be a Christian

Jesse Johnson:

While there are many terrible places on earth to be a Christian (Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan, etc.), Pakistan is arguably the worst. Other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ.

Get The Prince’s Poison Cup in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul (an Armstrong family favorite) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Holiness of God (Extended Version) teaching series (CD)
  • What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series (DVD)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

When Silence is Golden

Griffin Gulledge:

There’s something to be said for not saying anything.

In a church culture where cliches, cool quips, and candor are the currency, silence is most often seen as only deficiency. Add in a passion for theology, a thirst to see people grow in Christ, and a sprinkle of immaturity and the problem multiplies. Silence isn’t golden.

Except sometimes it is.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The other day, I shared a fairly sizeable list of Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

And finally, four by R.C. Sproul:

A Prayer for Answering Our Subpoena to Hope

Scotty Smith shares a prayer I needed to read (and pray myself!).

My Dirty Little Secret For Happy Knowledge Work

David Murray:

Sometimes I get envious of painters, plumbers, landscapers, carpenters and others who get to work with their hands and have something to show for it at the end of every day, or at least every week.

What do I and other “knowledge workers” have to show for it every seven days?

Virtually nothing.

Does your slogan say what you think it does?

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Whether it’s on our signs, our websites or on the lips of our congregations, every church has a mission statement or slogan that people rally around—something that articulates the vision of what we’re all here to do.

At least, we think it does. But maybe it doesn’t.

One of the challenges of church marketing (yes, I used the “m” word) is seeing our mission statements and slogans from an outside perspective, carefully considering what they communicate, intentionally or otherwise, to people who aren’t us. We’re all blind to our own blind spots, and without good council and perspective, the message we’re sending may be the opposite of what we’re attempting to.

This is what we see in so many of our church slogans. Here’s one example:

“A church for people who aren’t into church.”

What does this actually communicate? Let’s think about it from a couple of perspectives.

This slogan is birthed out of the seeker sensitive mindset of the 1980s and 1990s; the idea most churches using a slogan like this is trying to get across is that it’s a place where non-Christians will feel safe to explore the Christian faith at their own pace.  They’re trying to say they’re welcoming and inviting.

But what does a Christian attending a slightly more theologically conservative church take away from it? In my town, it’s a safe bet a church using this type of slogan:

  • Has topical “talks” instead of expositional preaching
  • Has a low-level of commitment from congregation members
  • Has a low-level of biblical literacy
  • Has high attendance turnover

(I say this from experience, not to be a snarky, divisive jerkwad.)

At best, to this sort of believer, it comes across as trying to be “relevant” to the culture in the negative sense, and perhaps a few steps away from abandoning the gospel at worst. (This, again, is something I’ve seen from churches using this exact slogan.)

Just as importantly, what does this slogan say to its intended target—the non-Christian?

Not much.

The difficulty here is the idea of being a church for people who aren’t into church is those people aren’t into church. There is nothing you can do to be a church for them except to not be a church! It’s like saying a banana is a banana for people who aren’t into bananas—if someone doesn’t like bananas, there’s nothing you can do to make them want to eat one, even if you claim it’s not like any other banana they’ve tried.

The fact is, there are only a few things that lead a non-Christian into a church service:

  • The work of the Holy Spirit
  • alleviating familial pressure (Easter and Christmas visits)
  • baby dedications (sometimes)

Being a church for people who aren’t into church isn’t likely to do that.

Whether we like it or not, marketing is a part of ministry. We need to think carefully—from a theological and practical perspective—on what we’re saying, considering whether or not the message we’re conveying is true and clear and God-glorifying. If we don’t, our attempts at marketing might be doing us more harm than good.


photo credit: deadwords via photopin cc

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Remember rather than blame

Kim Shay:

It’s not uncommon for those who grew up in the church, and who have become disenchanted with it, to blame the church they grew up in. I’ve seen it and I’ve heard it from young people around me.

God’s Character and Your Circumstances.

Erik Raymond:

I don’t believe Abraham had an advanced copy of the plan. I don’t think he knew what was going to happen in detail. However, I do believe that he believed that God would fulfill his promise to him to make him a great nation, a father with countless descendants.

This is a perfect example of interpreting his circumstances in light of God’s character and promises. Everything that happens is processed through who God is and what he has said.

Too often we do this in reverse. We interpret God’s character and promises through the lenses of our circumstances.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few new Kindle deals for you:

Why libraries matter

HT: David Murray

The Happy Rant podcast

A while back, Stephen Altrogge and Barnabas Piper started a series of video conversations in which they cheerfully ranted about things that didn’t matter all that much. Now, by popular demand (if me, Bobby Giles and a few other dudes encouraging it is popular demand), they’ve ditched the Google Hangout videos and moved to podcasting and brought Ted Kluck along for the ride. Enjoy!

When We Get Small And God Gets Big

Jared Wilson:

Natalie comes walking in. “What are you doing in here? Go out there and meet people.”

Excuse me? Who does this lady think she is?

One of my best critics and greatest friends, actually. As I’ve thought over our friendship the last few weeks, it occurs to me that Natalie is the person from the church I talk with the most. Several times a week we exchange emails. We volunteer together at the local food shelf. When I have to meet with a woman alone at the church, Natalie is the one who will come and hang out in the room next door. Natalie is the one who, when she’s at the table, I know things will get done. When she says something is doable, dangit, it’s doable. Natalie went from my shrewdest challenger to my fiercest supporter and encourager.

The Internet needs a cookie

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

At least, that’s what it looks like based on the craziness in the Christian side of the Twitter- and blogospheres:

  • People are continuing to wrestle, with varying degrees of helpfulness (very little, for the most part) with the Nathan Morales trial and the question of who knew what when. People continue to (again with varying degrees of helpfulness) press for statements from TGC’s leadership.
  • Tullian Tchividjian officially left TGC, something he’d planned to do (but evidently several months earlier than he’d originally intended), leading some to get their rage on even more.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Held Evans, in a ham-fisted effort to illustrate God being beyond gender (since He’s neither male nor female) wrote a post referring to God as “She,” and was declared a heretic for her trouble. She’s since been asking everyone on the Internet if they think she is one.

There’s a lot right and wrong with everything that’s happening at the moment. Those who are legitimately angry about a horrific crime not being reported to police are right to be angry. The crime itself should never happen, ever, nor should any concerned parent feel like silence is acceptable.

But is it right to start spiralling and getting all conspiracy theory-y? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Because I’m friendly with a lot of TGC folks, I’m inclined to think the best of them. That’s what we all do with people we like, though (which is sometimes what gets some of these things happening). But, of course, thinking the best of someone doesn’t mean they’re exempt from criticism, as we all also know…

Tchividjian, likewise, is a guy who has taken a lot of heat—and been called a lot of nasty names—because of his views on sanctification. Again, he’s a guy I’m on good terms with, and I tend to agree with a lot of where he’s coming from (even if I’d nuance some of it differently). But does that mean he’s the right horse to bet on in the sanctification debate? Probably no more than Mark Jones is (I’m one of the few who didn’t find his book Antinomianism terribly compelling or helpful).

And then there’s Evans. Is it fair to call her a heretic for her attempt to say God is beyond gender? I don’t know; at a minimum, I’d think it’s more accurate to say she’s a sloppy lay theologian who lets her desire to win the Internets get the better of her and cries foul whenever her bluff is called. (Full disclosure: this opinion is based on her public persona as I have no personal relationship or connection with her.)

When a perfect storm of crazy comes together like it did this week, it’s easy for people to get their rage on. But we should also remember something really important: We don’t do anger well. Paul (and the Psalmist) encourage us to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26; Psalm 4:4). James warns that our tongues are “a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). 

We should take this seriously. If even our righteous anger yields unrighteous results, particularly because of our hasty, harsh, mean-spirited words, it means we’ve got a problem. We should all be very cautious about how we use our words—especially when we’re angry! We say things we’ll regret. We say things we mean in the wrong way. And worst, we don’t take our words and redirect them to the Lord.

We don’t pray. We don’t ask for God’s wisdom. We don’t ask for God to reveal to us the state of our hearts.

That’s the danger we’re all in in this latest hullabaloo—and it’s the thing we, individually, need to protect ourselves against the most.

And sometimes the best way to do that is to just chill out, have a cookie and ask God for wisdom. You might feel better if you do.


photo credit: Bob.Fornal via photopin cc

Links I like

10 Things We Need to Hear from Young Church Leaders

Chuck Lawless:

I have the privilege of spending much of my life with young church leaders. As a seminary dean and missionary trainer, I hang out with people younger than I am. I’m the teacher, but I learn from the young generation as much as—if not more than—I teach them. Sometimes they teach me something new, as with technology and social media. In other cases, they simply remind me of something I’ve forgotten or have taken for granted.

Of course, all young church leaders have room to grow, and nothing I say here can be applied to every young leader. With that understanding in mind, here are some of those general reminders that I, and perhaps other older leaders, need to hear from young church leaders.

The trauma of abuse and the blessing of repentance

Wendy Alsup:

Last week, a former youth group leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was convicted of multiple accounts of sexual abuse of minors. Testimony at the trial confirmed that an elder at the church knew of the abuse and did not report it to authorities. When I read a news report while researching this article, I was struck by this section:

Tears of joy could be heard from victims and their family members as the verdict was read.

“I started crying. It was just, it was overwhelming to know that the struggle, the fight, the 25 years of trying to bring this forward, was worth it,” victim Jeremy Cook, now a married father of three, said.

I could only imagine their reaction. My heart aches for children who for years keep their abuse secret out of fear and misunderstanding of what happened to them. But what about the child who does tell someone but that person either doesn’t believe them or minimizes what they’ve experienced? I can’t imagine the double harm such a response does to youth already experiencing the trauma of abuse. If a child was shot in the arm, we’d recognize more clearly the double trauma of protecting the one who pulled the trigger, minimizing the damage done by his actions, and not reporting it to the police.

Blue Collar Man:  On Financial Struggle and Working for a Living

Ted Kluck:

In general, youngish-Reformed evangelicals tend to be a pretty affluent, heavily degreed, upwardly mobile lot with a surplus of time to read websites and grow their considerable book collections. With “providing” often being a top priority for Reformed men, this group generally has a clear vocational plan and usually gets plenty of opportunities to implement said plan. And because we tend to be small-government capitalists, we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves when we’re making lots of bank–and don’t feel conflicted about enjoying it. And in general (again), readers of TGC tend to be pastors, professors, seminary students, theology nerds, or wives of the aforementioned.

But what about those who don’t fit this social/cultural Reformed paradigm, including in their vocations?

New for Logos: D.A. Carson sermon library

The folks at Logos Bible Software have a brand new product available for pre-order: the D.A. Carson sermon library. Containing over 500 messages from over 30 years of ministry, “Carson’s sermons focus on specific biblical passages such as Ezekiel, John, and Revelation; on theological topics, including the New Perspective on Paul, openness theology, and providence; and on practical issues such as suffering, discipleship, and cross-cultural ministry. Preached in churches, colleges, and at conferences around the world, these sermons provide instruction and edification from a preeminent evangelical voice deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” At $90, now’s the time to order this collection before the price goes up.

Can a Videogame Teach Grace?

Nathaniel Valle:

Many games implement a worldview of obtaining rewards for our actions. An economy of risk and reward is fundamental to the gaming experience, and, excepting games like The Sims, it’s a comfortable harmony we’ve come to expect.

Yet there is no such discernible reward within That Dragon, Cancer, a title designed around the life of a young child stricken with cancer. It’s a surreal, poetic experience, and the game’s designer intends for the uncomfortable and unfamiliar scenario to convey truths somewhat neglected within most gaming experiences. In a video from Games for Change 2014, Josh Larson asks a question central to the soul of his game: “How does one calculate a parent’s love for a dying son who can’t easily express any love in return? How then should we design this?”

Witnessing To Homoexuals

Leon Brown:

Years ago, my wife and I used to visit an area in San Diego, CA that was heavily populated by homosexuals. We made a routine visit to this area at least once per month to share the gospel. Personally, it was a rich time. I had some amazing conversations with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

During that time, and since then, I have realized you have to be prepared to do two things while witnessing to some homosexuals.