Long preaching isn’t always good preaching

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Early on in my faith, I was enamored with preachers who would give these 45, 50, 60-plus minute sermons. I would compare what I’d hear in their podcasts to what I was hearing on Sunday mornings, and I always wondered, “Why doesn’t my pastor do what these guys are doing?”

Which, of course, is stupid. But then again, I was kind of an idiot.

(Moving on…)

Over time, I grew less enamored with some of those preachers (or at least their preaching). As I listened, I increasingly realized that the guys that seemed to be able to get up and had little more than a post-it for notes weren’t actually saying much of anything. They were using a great many words to say very little.

When training pastors on the importance of keeping people’s attention, Charles Spurgeon encouraged his hearers to keep their sermons shorter. “Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit,” he said.

We are generally longest when we have least to say. A man with a great deal of well-prepared matter will probably not exceed forty minutes; when he has less to say he will go on for fifty minutes; and when he has absolutely nothing he will need an hour to say it in. (Lectures to my Students, 156)

This is valuable advice (and also helps us understand why TED Talks are so powerful). Sometimes preaching1 “long” isn’t necessary—it’s just long. It’s a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”(1 Corinthians 13:1), revealing a great love of our own pontificating, but little for our hearers. And I really have no interest in that, either as a preacher or the hearer. I’d rather speak five simple words that communicate clearly than 1000 that may be eloquent or funny, but lack substance. What about you?

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get the 9Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series $4.99 each:

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What should the Duggar scandal teach the church?

Russell Moore:

…sexual abuse in the context of the church must be handled in terms of both authorities responsible—both the church and the state. The state has been given the sword of justice to wield against those who commit crimes (Rom. 13:1-7). The church has no such sword (Matt. 26:51-53). This means that the immediate response to allegations of sexual abuse is to call the civil authorities, to render unto Caesar the responsibility that belongs to Caesar to investigate the crime. The church may or may not know the truth of the allegations, but it is the God-ordained prerogative of the civil authorities to discover such matters and to prosecute accordingly. When faced with a question of potential sexual abuse, call the authorities without delay.

A word to the journal writers and bloggers

Kim Shay:

For those who write in journals (and for those who blog with a lot of transparency), beware. Every thought does not need to be recorded. Instead of recording negative thoughts, write things that are good. Write about how proud you are of your kids, how much you love your family, the daily provision of God, the joy He gives. I can toss my journals aside in the garbage if I feel like they contain nothing edifying. Sure, pour out your thoughts to God, like the Psalmist did, but write with kindness and grace. Don’t be harsh.

More real

Great stuff from Ray Ortlund.

When You Fear the Future

Trillia Newbell:

I’m not sure if there is a greater fear for women than the fear of what’s to come (or what won’t come). You and I rightly pray for our husband, children, schools, and whether to pursue a career, but we don’t often come to God in peace. Instead we come anxiously awaiting our fate. Goodness will follow all the days of her life, or her life, or maybe her life, we might think, but surely not my life. It’s hard not to have control, and one thing that we can’t ever determine is what lies ahead. Thankfully, God’s Word is packed with sweet promises that smash all our fearful thinking.

Charles Spurgeon’s 9 Tips for Christian Readers

Grateful Kevin Halloran compiled these quotes.

How much bandwidth can you give controversy?

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Whenever I read news of a church imploding, some sort of scandal arising involving sexual abuse, or any other scandal really, I can’t help but think, “I wonder what it would have been like to live during a time when the entire world wasn’t at my fingertips?”

Now, obviously, I’ve never been one to entirely avoid controversial issues (or people). And when we see a celebrity pastor lose his mind, or when patterns of abuse are revealed that affect anyone, man, woman or child, it is hard to ignore. But at the same time, though we should grieve these things—and if a crime has been committed, we should report them—we can only give so much mental bandwidth to these things. Here are a few reasons why I believe this is so, at least from my perspective:

1. Because I really can’t do much to help. Without (I hope) sounding callous toward those who’ve experienced abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional), there’s not a lot I can do to help in a specific situation happening in Florida, Texas, or, honestly, even in a different town 30 minutes down the road. I can pray and, if the issue warrants, I can say something where I feel compelled to, but that’s about it.

2. Because I have people close by who need my attention more. What I am responsible for is not so much what happens out there, but what happens in my local church and within the various communities I associate with. I am required to love and serve those whom I am closest with differently than those who are far off. So if there is someone in need within my local congregation, or within one of the groups I’m a part of (our homeschool co-op, for example), I have a greater sense of obligation to address that need. If I become aware of a pattern of behavior that is concerning, I need to say something in the appropriate way. If I’m aware of a crime being committed, I am obligated to report it.

3. Because it can lead me to despair. There is no shortage of bad news out there—no shortage of controversies, abuses of authority, violence and all the other evidences of humanity’s desperately wicked state. Knowing about the ugly things that are happening in other congregations, other communities and other nations doesn’t add a sense of urgency to the call to love and serve others, or tell me anything I didn’t already know. It’s just more.

4. Because it tempts me to become even more distrustful. Many who report on abuse issues within the church have been severely harmed by an experience in a local congregation they were once a part of. And my fear is that for some, confusion has found a foothold, and authority exercised by a godly individual is seen as authoritarianism.

I’ve got to be honest: I’m already distrustful of some of the leaders God has placed over me, some with more reason than others. But what I find myself needing to do more and more is praying for those leaders, rather than trying to parse the meaning of every word they use, attempting to find some hidden meaning or a message between the lines. I want to be lead by people that are worth following, and the only way for that to happen is for God to be at work in them. And if I am not praying for them, what does it say about what I think about them?

5. It tempts me to put myself in the place of God. The truth is, none of us know the full story of what goes on in any given scandal. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care, but it does mean we need to be cautious. When I judge too quickly, I often find myself thinking as though I am standing in for God, and therefore capable of rendering a sound and infallible judgment. And a lot of the time, I’m completely and totally wrong. That isn’t to say that wrong isn’t wrong or sin isn’t sin (far from it!)—it’s just that we ought to be very careful about what we put out there in our outrage. There are certain things you say that you can never come back from. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in this regard, and I’m not eager to repeat them.

So getting back to the question at hand: how much mental bandwidth should we give controversy that doesn’t directly affect us? Speaking only for myself, only as much as my conscience allows—and only in so far as it doesn’t become a distraction to loving and serving those with whom I am in relationship. For most, that means almost none. For some, it means a great deal of attention. But for all, it means learning when to say “when” so that I don’t neglect the things that are most important.

Links I like

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Tyndale Commentary Series sale at WTS

Westminster Bookstore’s got a really great sale going on right now on the Tyndale commentary series. You can get individual titles for as low as $10. The entire OT collection is on sale for $268, and the NT set is $199. Be sure to take a look at everything available for the Old and New Testaments for yourself.

Gentle Heresy-Hunting with Paul

Derek Rishmawy:

Heresy-hunting gets a bad rap nowadays. If there’s one thing that nobody wants to be, it’s a “heresy-hunter.” And who can blame them? I mean, cruise around the Internet and you’ll find any number of “discernment” ministries dedicated to finding anybody who doesn’t line up with their particular, historically-contingent, possibly cultish understanding of Christianity and placing them on the “list” with a page dedicated to listing their dubious tweets.

God’s Google

Tim Challies:

Google has become such a part of our lives that we tend to forget its newness and its historical uniqueness. Just a generation ago parents and spouses had to find answers in an entirely different way. And I wonder what we’ve lost along the way.

Does R.C. Sproul Believe in Miracles?

R.C. Sproul:

Now of course when people ask me, do I believe in miracles, they’re asking one question and I’m answering a different one. If they’re saying to me, “Do you believe that God is still working in the world supernaturally?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God answers prayers?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God heals people in response to prayer?” Of course I do. All miracles are supernatural, but not all supernatural acts are miracles. Theologians get real tight in their making of distinctions, and when I say I don’t believe in miracles today, I don’t believe in the tight kind of miracle in the very narrow sense where a miracle is defined as a work that occurs in the external perceivable world; an extraordinary work in the external perceivable world against the laws of nature, by the immediate power of God; a work that only God can do, such as bringing life out of death, such as, restoring a limb that has been cut off—by command—such as, walking on the water, such as, turning water into wine.

Young, Restless, Foolish

Darren Carlson:

There is a caricature of young Reformed guys as being hard to get along with and angry. I agree. But it’s not because they’re Reformed. It’s because they are young, mere infants in the faith. It’s not true of every young Christian, but it seems to be particularly true of zealous, academically minded men.

Are You A Spiritual Doomsday Prepper?

Mark Altrogge:

The Bible doesn’t talk about prepping for the grid to go down, but it tells us we should be spiritually prepared. We should all expect to “meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2), to be “grieved” or distressed by “various trials” (1 Pe 1:6). We shouldn’t have an Eeyore-like “Well I guess my life’s just always going to be miserable” mentality for God promises to pour out his abundant goodness and steadfast love upon us, but we should also be ready for tough times in this fallen world. We should be prepared spiritually. Spiritual preppers.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

William Zinsser (1922–2015), the Writing Mentor

Ivan Messa:

Zinsser passed away last week at 92. Even though Zinsser was no evangelical, he acknowledged his Christian heritage. A self-described “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)—he stated, “In my own work I operate within a framework of Christian values, and the words that are important to me are religious words: witness, pilgrimage, intention.”

While many will praise his publications (more than 19 books) and point out his gems of writing wisdom, one aspect of his life is often overlooked. Zinsser was more than an instructor, he was a mentor for writers. From Zinsser we can learn three ways to improve our own role as writing mentors…

Teens react to Saved by the Bell

Language warning in effect (it’s mostly bleeped out):

We Are Not Things

Wade Bearden on Mad Max: Fury Road:

What might have easily turned into a bleak tale ending with the loss of personal and collective identity is instead a meditation on the struggle for meaning in a world that doesn’t seem to hold any. A group of women escaping Joe’s rule remind themselves (and their overlord) that “We are not things.” Max struggles with feelings of guilt after losing his wife and child. Joe’s warriors valiantly vie for their ruler’s attention, embarking on suicide missions in order to have their place among the “heroes.” In a society where the wall between individual and beast is blurred, each person, as Furiosa says, is “looking for hope.” They want to know they matter.

More Pressing than Women Preachers

Jen Wilkin:

Once again the internet has been abuzz with discussions of whether women should preach in the local church gathering. Whenever the issue is raised, those who oppose it are quick to explain that the role is not withheld from women because they are less valuable than men. And that “equal value” assertion always shifts my eyes from the pulpit to a more pressing concern. As some continue to debate the presence of women in the pulpit, we must not miss this immediate problem: the marked absence of women in areas of church leadership that are open to them.

What Is the Significance of the 7 Churches in Revelation?

Brandon Smith shares a few insights from Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation.

What is marriage to evangelical millennials?

Abigail Rine:

A few weeks ago, I assigned the article “What is Marriage?” to the students in my gender theory class, which I teach at an evangelical university. This article presents an in-depth defense of the conjugal view of marriage, and I included it on the reading list as part of my efforts to expose students to a range of viewpoints—religious and secular, progressive and conservative. The goal is to create robust civil dialogue, and, ideally, to pave the way for thoughtful Christian contributions to cultural understandings of sex and gender. The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.

Get grounded! (For the Church)

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My new series at For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer,” continues. The first post addressed the dangers of rushing into leadership roles. The second takes a step back and addresses a foundational issue: getting grounded in the Bible:

When my wife and I first became Christians, we had a lot to figure out. Up until that point, we’d been more or less your typical non-Christian couple: we met in college, moved in together halfway through, got engaged (but didn’t set a date for several years), eventually bought a house… and then we met Jesus.

And it was exactly as awkward as you’re imagining. (But we’ll get to that another time.)

During that time, though, God was very kind to us as we started figuring out what the “now what” of our conversion. We were connected to a local church where there were a lot of very kind people. The pastor worked with us to make the mess of our lives make sense as Christians, though he was kind of flying by the seat of his pants with some of it. But as much as we saw God pouring out grace upon us in this time, we were in danger. I was in danger.

…I read books like Velvet Elvis, Searching for God Knows What, and Blue Like Jazz, many of which were well written but had deep theological problems that I couldn’t recognize. I read memoirs by celebrity pastors that had no business writing memoirs, and did nothing to help me get a clear picture of Christian character. Our friends sat up discussing NOOMA videos, but never saw the hopelessness of their messages. Many young men in our church talked about what it meant to be Christian men, which somehow meant going on spirit quests to kill dragons while building sheds with nothing but duct tape and our own tenacity. We listened to lectures on how we needed to be less concerned with building programs and evangelistic rallies, and more concerned with making sure people had clean water to drink.

But you know what few of us were doing during all that? We weren’t grounding ourselves in the faith. We weren’t reading our Bibles, at least to the degree we ought to have been.

Keep reading at For the Church.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A Goodbye to Youth Ministry

Mike Leake:

Though I’ve made mistakes I’ve also watched God do phenomenal things in the life of teenagers. I’ve always said that the success of a student ministry isn’t determined by what it looks like when the kid graduates—it’s better viewed by how he/she lives out his/her life as a disciple. I’m proud that I have quite a few former students who are now serving in local churches. I’m proud that students who I was allowed to lead to Jesus are still walking happily in the faith. I think, by the grace of God, I have done some things well.

As I’m passing the baton off to a group of guys here at Jasper I laid out for them a simple philosophy of youth ministry. Perhaps it will be beneficial to you as well.

The Importance of Friendship

Michael Haykin:

Here is but one example: On Jan. 27, 1552, Calvin wrote to Farel and chided him for reports he had heard—true reports, one must add—about the undue length of Farel’s sermons. “You have often confessed,” Calvin reminds his friend, “that you know this is a fault and that you would like to correct it.” Calvin went on to encourage Farel to shorten his sermons lest Satan use Farel’s failing in this regard to destroy the many good things being produced by his ministry.

Biblical Marriage Has Always Been Counter-Cultural

Aaron Earls:

In one sense, a Christian view of marriage does have less cultural sway today than in previous generations. However, there has never been a time when all of cultural rightly understood marriage from a biblical perspective.

Scripture has been challenging the way culture views marriage since the beginning.

Clickbait Headlines Are Killing My Soul

Stephen Altrogge nails it.

What small churches can do (part 3)

Joe Thorn:

Smaller churches are no less hindered from doing what God has called his people to do than are larger churches. Having more people does not maker it easier. Get that. More people does not make it easier. Just have a conversation with pastors of larger churches and you will find that leading God’s people into mission isn’t easy for anyone. In fact, larger numbers often makes things more complicated. However, clarifying what the church is all about and what it will give itself to does make things simpler, if not easier.

Liberating King

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I tried to like Christian music.

I really did.

When I was a new believer, I got a whole bunch of Christian CDs from the “if you’re a fan of [insert band name here]” section of the Christian bookstore. I listened to a whole bunch of stuff… but, outside of a few songs here and there, and the odd album, nothing really clicked.

Perhaps it’s helpful to understand my general opinion of the music geared toward Christians (please assume the appropriate caveats are in place):

  1. Much music intended for personal enjoyment tends to try too hard to sound “Christian,” and thus feels dishonest.
  2. The music we sing in many of our churches is even worse. Far too much church music tends to be simplistic, emotionally manipulative, and triumphalist—at best including a few disconnected statements about God, without actually encouraging us to truly know him better.

This is probably the strangest way to start a review of an album by a Christian worship leader, isn’t it?

Now, before you write me off as a “good church music stopped in the 1800s” guy who thinks every song should be a systematic theology lesson, that’s not what I’m advocating here (tho’ I do love me some hymns). As has often been said, the answer to bad church music is not to go back to older songs, but to write better ones. That’s what I love about The Modern Post and Citizens and Saints, The Sing Team and the Gettys. It’s also what I really dig about what Stephen Miller’s doing on his latest album, Liberating King.

Praise music that’s praiseworthy

From track one, it’s pretty clear this is not going to be what you’d hear from, say, Hillsong or even the Vertical Church Band.1 The songs featured on Liberating King teach us about God, even as they direct our praise to him.

This is harder than it sounds. It’s really easy to swing too far, in trying to correct from where much of modern praise music has gone. But Miller doesn’t overcorrect; instead, he maintains a strong balance between the head and the heart. Consider “You Complete All You Begin”, which is probably the standout song of all the original material on the album. Here, Miller takes listeners (and, ideally, congregations) through the story of redemption, from the first glimpse of the gospel to the end:

Completely just and holy God
Who from age to age forbeared
All the blatant acts of evil hearts
Unrelenting in despair
While promising a Son would come
The Messiah from of old
And his bruised heel would crush the head
Of the serpent, cursed and cold

This is powerful stuff. When was the last time you can recall singing about the fact that God promised to send Jesus and that he would triumph over evil? When was the last time you sung something like “When the blood of bulls could not suffice / Christ absorbed it all in him”? This is the kind of gospel rich, hope-inciting words we need to sing more often. These are songs that are directing our starting points and our responses away from us. Our emotions obviously play a role in what we’re singing, but Miller helps us to recognize that while we “could sing of [God’s] love forever”,2 it’s more helpful to do so when we understand what God has done in his love for us.

“It is well”

My favorite song on the album, though, is Miller’s arrangement of Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well.” This is probably one of the greatest songs ever written for the benefit of the Church—not because it is terribly complicated, but because it communicates profound truth. Spafford wrote the song out of adversity, following the great Chicago fire of 1871, financial ruin, and finally, the death of all four of his daughters in a shipwreck. In other words, this isn’t an ivory tower hymn, written from a place of privilege; it is written from the same place David wrote so many of his psalms—one of grief and trial. And this is what makes it so honest, and enduring. Miller honors the original: the new arrangement “fits”, and he sings with noticeable conviction. Were I to hear this arrangement in our church’s worship gathering, I would be elated.

Songs worth singing

Liberating King did something that hasn’t happened in quite a while with any praise songs—it actually made me want to sing. And with good reason: this is an album that is worth singing because it’s an album that is clearly about Jesus, our Lord and King. And if he’s not worth singing about, what is? Definitely check out the album; I have no doubt you will be blessed in your hearing of it.


Title: Liberating King
Artist: Stephen Miller

Buy it at: Bandcamp | Amazon | iTunes


Today, I’m giving away three copies of Liberating King. To enter, all you’ve got to do is tell me about your favorite church music. What’s the song you really love to sing at church (or wish you did), and why? I’ll choose the winners at random on Wednesday, and they’ll be notified by email (followed by an announcement in the comments on this post).

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week the 9Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series is on sale for $4.99 each:

Also on sale:

The Pastor and Social Media

Nick Batzig:

…I have observed a somewhat disturbing trend among ministers in recent years. If a man posts links to his own sermon audio, things about the church he pastors or to books, articles or posts that he has written then he is often painted by the social media police as being driven by self-aggrandizement, opportunism and desire for celebrity status. Judging the motives of others is an extremely spiritually unwise and unhealthy practice. The Scriptures say, “Let another mouth praise you and not yourself,” not “Let another man post links to your sermons, books and writings and not yourself.” We need to guard our hearts against sinfully judging the motives of those who do. In short, we must guard against setting ourselves up as self-appointed social media police.

The Pastor’s Dilemma

Nicholas McDonald:

I began ministry at a grand $36,000 a year, until I finally pinned down some of my theology and decided the place I worked didn’t share it. I then transferred to a church that paid significantly less, we had our first child, and the “graduating payment” plan kicked in generously, asking us to donate to our local loan officer a grand $400 a month payment.

The story does get better, but before it does, I need to be honest about the fact that “ministry” during this the time felt less like changing people’s souls and more like I was a cat trying to claw its way up drywall. I was struggling to breathe, to work, to think straight – my debt was an insurmountable burden, like I was pregnant with a child who would never breach the womb.

How ISIS Helped Salmaa Become a Christian

Garret Kell:

Seeking to know Him came with many obstacles and danger, but Salmaa continued to pursue Him. The longing to have peace, righteousness, and nearness to God could not be quenched. And in recent days, her longing to know Jesus has intensified by the most unlikely of circumstances.

As Salmaa watched the news and saw the murder of 21 Ethiopian Christians by the hands of ISIS, she was strangely drawn to the peace she found on the faces of the men who knelt in honor of Jesus.

How could they be at such peace with God?

The Grass Isn’t Greener

Stacy Reaoch:

Whenever I step foot in the mall I realize how many things I “need.” The enticing window displays of shiny leather shoes, the latest fashions, and giant red SALE signs draw me in like a moth to a flame. All of a sudden, I realize how dingy my boots look, how out of style my coat is, and why I had better jump on this clearance sale before it’s gone. What I had been content with 10 minutes ago now urgently needs to be replaced.

Discontent has set in, and it leads down a windy path to a host of other sins.

House votes to ban abortion in the U.S. after five months

Although it could be defeated in the Senate or struck down with a presidential veto, this is still news worth celebrating (and praying that this would be made into law).

If we’re not communing with God…

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One of the things my father-in-law often says he has little time for is navel-gazing. That is, the incessant paralyzing introspection that is the aim of the modern self-help industry. We get advice from Oprah and her cabal. We run to Dr. Phil. We dig into some Tony Robbins. We do the hokey pokey and we turn ourselves around. And while we might get a little dizzy, we still don’t know what it’s all about.

As much as this sort of hopeless spiral of self-examination is to be rejected, though, we should always be careful to remember that there is such a thing as healthy self-examination. After all, the Bible frequently encourages us to examine ourselves. But the purpose is not to get in touch with our innermost feelings, and discover what our inner child wants us to do and/or eat this afternoon, but to examine the state of our heart before our God. To grow in our knowledge and enjoyment of him as we better recognize where our hearts really are.

This is something, I suspect, many of us don’t do nearly enough. Or, at a minimum, I don’t do nearly enough. And there is really no excuse for it. For when we fail in doing so, we put ourselves at risk for serious backsliding, as J.C. Ryle explained in Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke:

Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God, are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall. To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works, is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge. It often leads to adverse consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ. The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the Church, and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.

A friend once described a mutual acquaintance as really knowing God. Not that he and I aren’t Christians, but that this man of whom he spoke was actually his friend, if you follow. That’s really what Ryle is getting at in this passage. The sort of healthy self-examination he exhorts us to, the kind we all would do well do actually do, doesn’t just protect us from backsliding: it is what grows us from followers to friends. To not only know of him, but to know him and enjoy him.

But you can’t get there if you’re not communing with him. Friendship only comes through the time invested. How then can we ignore this privilege?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals:

Also, be sure to get PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones for $1.99 today.

Finally, Westminster Bookstore’s spring overstock sale is on now. There are tons of great books to choose from, including Dangerous Calling, Crazy Busy, and Learning Evangelism from Jesus.

5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years

This is really interesting.

Owen Wilson says “Wow”

Just because:

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood

Ray Ortlund:

In public, my dad was one of the great pastors of his generation. He served most notably for twenty fruitful years at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, where John and Noel Piper worshiped during their Fuller Seminary days. Dad and John were dear friends.

In private, my dad was the same man. There was only one Ray Ortlund, Sr. — an authentic Christian man. The distance between what I saw in the New Testament and what I saw in my dad was slight. He was the most Christlike man I’ve ever known, the kind of man, the kind of father, I long to be.

5 Ways Christian College Didn’t Prepare Me For the Real World

Chris Martin:

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at a Christian college, and I’ll do everything I can to convince the bank to give me a loan for my kids to do the same if they would like. Taylor University equipped me for the real world in numerous ways (that’s another post for another time). I’ll sing my kids to sleep with “How Firm a Foundation” if that’s what it takes to get them to go to school there. I love that place.

I’m so excited to visit my friends in good ol’ Upland soon, and I thought it’d be fun to reflect on the few things attending a Christian college didn’t teach me as it pertains to the real world.

So, here are five ways Christian college didn’t prepare me for the real world.

Blessed are Those Not Offended by Christ

Jason Garwood:

Many are so offended and embarrassed they angrily persist in an unrepentant, unregenerate state. They find the claims of Christ to be a stumbling block and a waste of time. They are put off by Jesus’ followers, message, and truth. Ultimately they will never take up their cross and follow Him because to them there is no holy and righteous God and, because of that, his atonement is irrelevant. Who needs a savior if there is nothing to be saved from?

Helping Deaf Students to Flourish

Jen Pollock Michel interviews Betty McPhee is a teacher at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, Ontario.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (Hardcover)
  • John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology by Burk Parsons (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 1 A.D. 100-600 Teaching Series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)

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

The Long Way Home

Lore Ferguson:

I have numbered the dreams that have slipped from my palms over the years and a home was the one that died the slowest death, particularly the dream of a husband in a home. To paint the walls, to settle in, to build something as permanent as anything on earth can be: this is the work of a home.

You May Not Like ‘em, but You Have to Love ‘em.

Erik Raymond shares from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Life in Christ.

What the stories we consume say about us

This conversation between Dan Darling and Mike Cosper is worth watching:

Our Words Will Be Thunder When Our Life Is Like Lightning

Matt Capps:

When one examines the character qualifications for pastors in the New Testament, especially in the Pastoral Epistles, it becomes clear that there is a standard for spiritual and moral maturity (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). In short, pastoral character is vital for faithful ministry. Don Carson has said on many occasions that what is most remarkable about the qualifications for a pastor is that they are so unremarkable. In other words, the quality of character called for in pastors can be found mandated for all Christians in other parts of God’s word.

The Organization That Will Surpass Google, Apple, and Wal-Mart

Mark Altrogge:

Many believers have written off the church. I recently talked with a man who told me he reads his Bible and prays every morning but wants nothing to do with a church. “They’re a bunch of hypocrites,” he seethed when I asked him why he so loathes the church. Maybe he’d had some bad experiences, but not every church is full of hypocrites. We’re weak and messy and fail often, but Jesus hasn’t given up on his people. He’s building his church, and he will be successful.

Six ways podcasts may be good (and bad) for your faith

podcast-church

Podcasts are not your pastor.

I realize this is ridiculously obvious, yet it is so necessary for us to remind ourselves of this fact. We have more podcasts being created by more people than ever before (including one, eventually, by me). Some are completely separate from what happens in the local church on a Sunday morning—their goal is not to replace church, but to enhance, which is a good thing (but I’m getting ahead of myself). Others tend to be limited to the Sunday morning message from a given local church.

None of these are bad, obviously. And to be clear, we should never have to choose between podcasts and our pastors—instead, we should always see podcasts as being a beneficial addition to the teaching we receive in our local churches. Yet, I sometimes I wonder if they’re contributing more to the consumerist mentality that plagues the Christian life in North America.

When podcasts supplant pastors in our hearts and minds, we should be gravely concerned. But what concerns me is not entirely the consumerist mentality, or the continued perpetuation of Christian celebrity. Instead, I want to know why people turn to podcasts and perhaps too frequently looking to them as their source of biblical nourishment? Here are two reasons I’d suggest:

1. An inability of church members to submit to the leaders placed over them. The reasons for this are twofold: First, we lack a proper understanding of that there is even such a thing as objective truth. This is fundamentally a worldview issue—if truth is relative, then I am the arbiter of truth, so I’m ultimately my own authority. At best, everyone else has an opinion, but it’s not something I need to listen to. The current generation’s attitudes toward leadership is fruit of decades of mistrust and skepticism. We expect politicians to lie to us. We assume our bosses are going to throw us under the bus in order to save their own skin. And we have wrongly projected that onto our church leaders. This unhealthy attitude must be countered and corrected.

2. Pastors are failing to preach. To not put too fine a point on it, if pastors are not preaching the Word, they are failing their congregations. As Jared Wilson once put it so succinctly, “Putting some Bible verses in your message is not the same thing as preaching the Scriptures.” Christians who are starving for the nourishment that only comes from the preached Word will inevitably seek it out elsewhere, and if that’s a podcast, so be it. But here’s the thing: if you’re in a church where you truly never hear the Bible preached, you seriously need to leave and join one where it is. Podcasts might be a benefit in the short term, but they shouldn’t replace sitting under the faithful preaching of a pastor who knows and loves you.

So those are my concerns. And yet, as I have already said, podcasts can be (and often are) hugely helpful for many people. After all, that’s what they’re intended for. So here are a few positive benefits:

1. Podcasts can prevent you turning your pastor into an idol. Listening to other pastors offers you different perspectives as well as opportunities for discussion with your pastor and can help keep you from viewing him as your sole source of truth. In other words, it can help prevent you from turning him into an idol. We naturally attempt to put anyone and anything in the place of God. But to put any person in that position is not only unfair, it is evil. Podcasts can help remind you that your pastor is a regular person, just like you. Every pastor, no matter how excellent a student of the Word, is imperfect. He can and will make mistakes. And a good pastor is never afraid of his congregation hearing the Word from other sources, provided those sources hold fast to the truth.

2. Podcasts can help you recognize false teachers and doctrine. This one is a bit touchy as there is a greater possibility of exposure to false teachers and doctrine through podcasts; iTunes doesn’t check for doctrinal fidelity. So when you subscribe you might find yourself listening to something terrible—but that podcast might also help you identify and counter false teaching within your own congregation, whether it’s found in your small group discussions (which happens), or—God forbid!—from the pulpit or platform at your local church.

3. Podcasts can help you redeem your commute. Rather than listening to smutty and/or irrelevant morning-drive shows, a podcast can help you prepare for your day on a positive note, using the time that has been given to you to hear the truth expounded. This is a wonderful and necessary thing. Prior to selling our house and moving, I had a roughly 30 minute commute (round trip) each day, which I used to listen to audiobooks and podcasts such as Ligonier’s Renewing Your Mind. This was hugely beneficial not only to my ability to do my job well, but to prepare myself for the second half of my day—being “dad,” helping my wife and writing.

4. Podcasts can help you become a better preacher. Don Carson has often said that if you listen to one person, you’re going to be a bad copy, if you listen to 10, you’ll be boring, and if you listen to 50, you’ll start to develop your own voice. Podcasts allow preachers to hear how others communicate, learn helpful techniques and grow in the role to which God has called them.

The important thing for us to note (again) is that podcasts can be very valuable to our spiritual health and growth provided they maintain their proper position in our lives—that is serving as a supplement and complement to the instruction we receive within our local churches and in our personal study. So give thanks for their existence, encourage others when you find worthwhile ones to listening to and enjoy.


This post is based on two previously posted articles from 2011.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And for those productivity/organization fans among us, check out Matt Perman’s How to Set Up Your Desk: A Guide to Fixing a (Surprisingly) Overlooked Productivity Problem ($4.99).

13 Mistakes People Make in Social Media Bios

Barnabas Piper shares a few of the common errors he sees in Twitter bios.

Charles Spurgeon, Susannah, and The Pilgrim’s Progress

Ray Rhodes Jr:

Why did Spurgeon give a copy of Bunyan’s book to Susannah instead of a copy of the Bible with passages highlighted to address her particular situation? Growing up in a Christian home, Susannah had long enjoyed access to the Bible. She had also heard the Scripture expounded numerous times at New Park Street. What Susannah most needed was not another Bible, but instead, biblical counsel. Understanding Spurgeon’s attitude towards John Bunyan generally and The Pilgrim’s Progress specifically provides hints as to why he chose this classic work for Susannah.

The Unfortunate Triumph of Clickbait Christianity

Aaron Earls:

Because the decline in “Christians” is overwhelmingly the result of these nominal believers dropping the name and embracing their practical lack of religion, what this really should lead to is a collapse of clickbait style religion reporting.

But nuance takes work and doesn’t fit well in a tweet. “Well, it’s kinda complicated” doesn’t naturally elicit Facebook shares or garner viral style page views. Yet that doesn’t make it any less true.

Don’t Confuse Spirituality with Righteousness

R.C. Sproul:

Over the years I’ve had many young Christians ask me how to he more spiritual or more pious. Rare has been the earnest student who said, “Teach me how to be righteous.” Why, I wondered, does anybody want to be spiritual? What is the purpose of spirituality? What use is there in piety?

The story of Luke’s lost friend Biggs

Star Wars fans will appreciate this: