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The Most Difficult Ministry Decision I’ve Ever Made

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Yesterday my family and I announced the most difficult and emotional decision we’ve ever made in Christian ministry. We shared with the spiritual family and congregation we love our plans to transition from FBC Grand Cayman to return stateside to plant a church East of the River in Washington, D.C.

I Have All the Time I Need

Tim Challies:

I’ve noticed something in my own life that I find both interesting and disturbing. It’s this: People keep telling me how busy I am. People assume it. It might be because they just can’t imagine anyone being anything but busy. Or maybe it’s because I am giving off those busy vibes, somehow convincing people that I have way too much to do and way too little time to do it. I receive phone calls that say, “I know you’re so busy, and I’m sorry for taking more of your time.” I receive emails that say, “I’m so sorry for asking you this.” I even feel like I need to look and act busy since otherwise people may start to think I’m lazy. Are those the only options we’ve got: busy or lazy?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Some new deals for you from Crossway, David C. Cook and Zondervan:

And finally,  a few non-Christian books that you might enjoy

Battered Pastors (2)

Todd Pruitt:

I have written previously that the reality of battered pastors is a scandal upon the church. A startling number of pastors leave the ministry every month. The proof is in the research. The anxiety of caring for the church (to use Paul’s words) is simply too much for many pastors to bear. They leave not because they lost their love for Christ. They love Jesus and they love his church. But the battering they have received at the hands of a congregation or elders has left them too wounded to go on. It is for these men that my heart aches.

The Dangers of Appealing to Personality Types

Alastair Roberts:

…personality typing can easily become powerfully constitutive of people’s sense of identity, as they start to think of themselves as their personality type in a fairly uncritical manner. The appeal of such tests is quite explicable: they offer a measure of resolution to the existential discomfort of the question ‘who am I?’, a question which is probably pressed upon us with greater urgency than ever before. While such a test may be an improvement on diverting online quizzes promising to reveal which characters I might be in various fictional universes, at least I do not go through life believing that Gandalf-likeness is a crucial key to my identity.

 

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On the Number of Zygote Deaths and the Meaning of Pro-Life

Matthew Lee Anderson;

What does it mean to be “pro-life”? Judging by the recent conversation about contraception, it would be easy to think that the point and purpose of the pro-life position is to reduce abortions in the world.

But as important as that is to pro-lifers, it by no means encapsulates the entirety of the pro-life position.

John Piper: the infographic

Tim Challies shares the latest in his series of Visual Theology infographics. Look for one on R.C. Sproul next week.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new Kindle deals for you:

How Would You Respond to This Hypocrite?

Mike Leake:

Imagine with me that you are a well-respected pastor. You’ve been serving at your church now for about eight years. Things are going well and you are beginning to gain respect in the larger world of evangelicalism.

A new pastor moves into a neighboring town. This new pastor is truly a hypocrite. He denies the Trinity and by his own confession he became a minister for the money, the ease, and the hopes of getting himself advanced in the literary world.

Plant the Church that Is, not the Church to Come

JD Payne:

Hasty expectations hinder the birth and multiplication of churches.

Plant your churches, just make sure they have all of this stuff, and these structures, and these activities, and these twenty-five marks, and these forty-one purposes, and this affiliation, and give that amount of money.

Such is okay when we start instant churches with long-term, Kingdom citizens.

Brothers, don’t ignore the devout nations

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

Recently, Time shared the list of the most and least godly cities (which, incidentally, was updated here). Careful readers will hopefully find much to be encouraged about in it—there is much work to be done in America, and there are many who have not been reached with the gospel, so there’s much to be excited about. But there’s one item I hope missionaries and church planters ignore entirely:

Christian missionaries can apparently steer clear of Tennessee, as the report suggests the state is the most devout in the union. Chattanooga was found to be the most Bible-minded city in America, a title it won from last year’s victor, Knoxville.

I’ve got a lot of friends in Tennessee (in fact, we’re going for a visit in just a few weeks—you have been warned), and I’ve gotta say, there are some amazing churches and ministries in this fine state:

  • LifeWay’s doing some amazing stuff, with the Gospel Project and a number of other initiatives;
  • Ray Ortlund and Immanuel Church are seeking to “make the real Jesus non-ignorable,” (which, by the way, is one of the best mission statements ever);
  • Josh Howerton, Matt Svoboda and the crew at The Bridge are doing great things down in Spring Hill.

Then there’s The Fellowship, Grace Community Church, Christ Community Church… and those are just a few of the ones I know about surrounding Nashville!

There are so many wonderful, gospel-loving, Jesus-proclaiming churches in a state like Tennessee that it’s easy to forget that there are still a whole lot more that are either soft on the gospel, or have abandoned it altogether. In my own homeland, Canada, we don’t have remotely close to the remaining cultural openness to Christianity that America does, but we still have many good, faithful churches.

And you know what those churches need?

They need more faithful churches around them.

They need more faithful brothers and sisters working alongside them, sharing the good news about Jesus, preaching the Scriptures unashamedly, shaking sleepy churches out of complacency, and rescuing people from the clutches of damnably apostate ones.

In our country, where there are tens of thousands of churches across the land, and yet anywhere between four and eight per cent of the population are evangelicals, and is home to the single largest unreached people group in North America, there is a great need for the gospel. In fact, it’s a need at least as great as that of many lesser developed nations. Though it was once so, a devout nation we are not.

Brothers, we must go out to all the nations. We dare not neglect the call to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples from every tribe, tongue and nation (Matt: 28:19-20).

But don’t ignore the “devout” nations, either.

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What would you tell your 18-year-old?

R.C. Sproul Jr.:

We all have regrets. We look back at forks in the road behind us and wonder where we might be now had we chosen more wisely back then. Every misstep, however, is an opportunity to learn, to follow more faithfully in Jesus’ footsteps. How gracious that our Lord not only covers our folly, but is able to grow wisdom out of it? Below are ten things now me would seek to impress into the stubborn mind of then me.

Why the Prosperity Gospel Shouldn’t Appeal to Believers

Mike Leake:

Those prosperity gospel teachers are tricksy. They aren’t simply preaching materialism. They aren’t ripping you off and saying, “Get your Lexus now, and burn in hell later”. Saying things like, “Your Best Life Now” means that believers need to start living out our future reward today. This means that we get God AND our Lexus, designer suits, million dollar homes, and life of ease.

Church planting in 0.5% Evangelical Quebec

Marc Pilon:

In January of 2011, I had the joy of planting a church in Sherbrooke, Quebec. By God’s grace, in barely two years we grew from 100 to nearly 500, baptizing more than 100 people in that time. We experienced growth like I had never seen or heard of in my thirty years growing up in the evangelical church in Quebec, but our church was born out of a heritage of men and women willing to pay the price to reach the lost.

Why You Can’t Push Kids Into the Kingdom

Daniel Darling:

Furthermore, the common interpretation of Proverbs 22:6 as a promise or doctrine is faulty. Serious Bible students understand that Proverbs, while inspired Scripture, are just that: proverbs. They represent the best collection of the wisdom anywhere in the world. They rise above all other literature, both classical and contemporary.

But the proverbs are not doctrine, and they are not promises.

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Mission

The Church needs godly men who are transformed by God’s message of salvation to carry out God’s mission in creation. In parts one and two of Church Planter, pastor and author Darrin Patrick examines the character and qualities of a man fit to lead the church and the message he proclaims.

“Men who are qualified, called, and armed with the gospel message are on a mission with Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost,” writes Patrick (p. 173).

Patrick concludes Church Planter by examining the Church’s mission to seek and save the lost as we seek to imitate Christ. Patrick breaks it down as follows:

The heart of mission is compassion. “[C]ompassion is the dominant emotion that the Gospel writers ascribed to Jesus. . . . As a Christian anytime you look at someone who is hurting, you will feel compassion, unless you make a choice to turn your head and harden your heart” (pp 174-175). It’s compassion that motivates mission; compassion for the lost drives us to share the good news of the gospel and to live in light of it in practical ways. “Compassion is the God-given emotion that enables us to be distracted from our own wants and focused on others’ needs” (p. 179).

The house of mission is the Church. It’s fairly common these days to take shots at the Church; to suggest that the Church isn’t getting the job done. However, as Patrick rightly asserts, “the local church is God’s eternal plan to both edify his people and evangelize the world” (p. 187). While there are a number of different models of how to “do church,” ultimately a local church that is on mission is one that is focused on Christ, on seeing people come to know and love Jesus. Members are disciples marked by a humble confidence. Confident but not judgemental; humble but not depressed (c.f. p. 191). A gospel-centered church is a reproducing church, making disciples and planting new churches.

The how of mission is contextualization. “We take the unchanging gospel into the ever-changing culture so that persons in a specific time and a specific culture can comprehend the truth of the gospel and be saved by it” (p. 207). While there are many who oppose the idea of contextualization, Patrick astutely points out that everyone contextualizes the gospel, the only question is to when.

The “hands” of mission is care. Jesus expects His followers to obey the revealed Word of God and that is summed up primarily as loving God and loving people. “Jesus . . . wants the church, the unified body of all believers, to strategically seek, reach, teach, and serve people” (p. 211).

The hope of mission is city transformation. Looking at Jeremiah 29:4-7, wherein God commands the Israelites in exile to build homes, plant gardens, have children and seek the welfare of Babylon, Patrick writes, “It seems to me that God is commanding his people to sink themselves deep into the fabric of that wicked city. . . . What would happen if we really tried to be like salt and light to the people living around us?” (pp. 227-228).

Part three of Church Planter is very strong, although not nearly as strong as the first two parts. The explanation & defense of contextualization is solid. The example of how his church is serving as the hands of Jesus in St. Louis is encouraging. The commitment to (and brief explanation of) the local church is wonderful. The need for Christians to be a part of their community, seeking its good for God’s glory is inspiring.

But as I read that final chapter, one statement in particular jumped out at me:

“It is strange the way many Christians give so much money every year to foreign mission efforts without ever considering the need to be a missionary right in their own neighborhoods” (p. 228).

I believe this actually hurts the argument that Patrick is trying to make in this chapter. He’s rightly arguing that we need to be acting as “salt and light” in our communities; to be engaged in our communities as problem solvers, rather than problem finders. To be “in the world but not of the world.” But he didn’t need to set it up as an either/or with foreign missions giving, especially when the stats indicate that approximately 2% of all giving goes to foreign missions (that’s not a lot—I’m pretty sure more money is spent on Starbucks every year).

Maybe it’s one of those instances where I’m reading something into the statement that’s not there, but I’ve seen it enough times from enough voices in the “missional” church movement that it really concerns me. We need to be missionaries at home, absolutely.

But.

We also must—must—do all we can to reach those who are outside our local sphere. We need to think locally and globally, to seek and save the lost wherever they might be. To become too narrow in our focus can cause our vision to become too small.

When all’s said and done, I do believe that Church Planter is an encouraging and inspiring work. Its insights are built upon the firm foundation of Scripture, making it a valuable resource to show people what it takes to be a church planter, showing us godly men who are shaped by God’s message for the sake of God’s mission.


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

 

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Message

We’re in the midst of a man crisis. The vast majority of males today are not men at all—they are “bans,” neither boys nor men who don’t know what it actually means to be a man.

And this is as true in the Church as it is in culture at large.

Guys in the church, especially, need godly men to show them the way. Men who are rescued from their sin by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are called and qualified. Men who are skilled and dependent on the Holy Spirit; who are shepherds and determined.

“When these elements combine, the result is a man who is fit to carry the message of Jesus into the world,” writes Darrin Patrick (p. 103).

So what is the message we are to proclaim?

In part two of Church Planter, Patrick describes the message of the Church—the gospel—in all its provocative glory.

It is a historical message. The gospel is rooted in history. It is not the message of a historical figure that has been hijacked by his overzealous followers—it is grounded in fact. And these facts matter. It matters that Jesus was a real man. It matters that He really died on a cross. It matters that He literally, physically rose from death. It is the message of what God has done in history. “[T]he historicity of Christianity and the physicality of Jesus must be defended, because a Christianity not grounded in history is no Christianity at all.” (p. 114).

It is a salvation-accomplishing message. The gospel is the message of what God has done in history—and that is, first and foremost, Jesus coming to atone for the sins of mankind. Because God is so completely and utterly holy and righteous He cannot tolerate any evil. And the good news of the gospel is good news because Christ actually saves sinners. “God’s wrath toward sin is no longer aimed at those who trust Jesus as Lord. Instead all that was required for our salvation from sin has been accomplished by Jesus Christ” (p. 129).

It is a Christ-centered message. The gospel is not just the message about what Jesus has done—Jesus is the gospel. Jesus Himself declared that the whole of the Old Testament was about His life, death and resurrection. “It’s the central truth, the primary thread, the ‘Big E’ on the eye chart when it comes to understanding Scripture” (p. 134). We cannot understand the Bible without Christ being at the center of everything. Any message preached from the Bible without Christ at its center will be moralism, relativism, self-helpism or activism… but it “will not motivate people to love Christ, his people and his world” (p. 141).

It is a sin-exposing message. Today, the only unpardonable sin in our culture is to call anything “sin.” But when the true message of Scripture is proclaimed, sin will be exposed. “If there is no challenging of the sinful heart, there is no gospel preaching,” writes Patrick (p. 151).

It is an idol-shattering message. The sin Scripture’s most repeated and emphatic denunciations are reserved for is the sin of idolatry; indeed, it is the sin underneath most other sins. “All sin flows from valuing something more highly than we value God” (p. 160). But true gospel preaching forces us to confront our idols, to repent and turn away from them and toward Christ. It reveals to us the bad news that we’re even worse sinners than we thought. “However, the good news is better than we thought. Though in repentance we see that we are bigger sinners than we thought, through faith in the gospel we see that Jesus is a bigger Savior than we thought” (p. 168).

Part two of Church Planter, by and large, reminded me of how breathtaking the truth of the gospel is—and how breathtakingly ridiculous the gospel is if it’s not true. If the gospel isn’t historical, doesn’t accomplish anything without my involvement, is centered on anyone or anything but Christ, serves to prop up my sins and doesn’t lead me to turn from my idols and trust in Jesus, it’s of no use to me or anyone else.

But it is all of these things—and more! Reading these chapters once again reminded me of just how much I need this message in every aspect of my life.

One quick example: In my day job, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of what Patrick calls “activist” preaching—letting the cause become more important than Christ. But, in a particularly poignant passage, he writes:

Care for the poor, for example, is very important but it should not be divorced from Jesus Christ and the message of personal salvation that is connected with his life, death, and resurrection. We should work for the good of our cities, serve the poor, and fight injustice and oppression as a sign of the kingdom to come and as a sign we know the King. But Christ-centered preaching doesn’t forsake the personal nature of the gospel in order to simply focus on the corporate aspects of the gospel. Instead it provides the ultimate grounds and larger context for gospel-motivated mercy for the poor and oppressed. (p. 141)

This was both a strong encouragement to continue striving to place Christ at the center of everything that I write and a gentle warning of the temptations that exist for those of us who do work in social justice oriented organizations.

The message of the Church is nothing but salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It’s the message that makes the dead live. And it’s the message that drives the mission of the Church.


Next: The Mission


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Man

“[W]e have a cultural crisis and a theological one,” writes Darrin Patrick in Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. “We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. . . . This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry.” (p. 9).

In short, we have a man crisis. Modern society shuns the traditional role of the man as the head of the home, the breadwinner and the spiritual leader of the family. Advertising and entertainment show the man as the oafish buffoon, Mom’s “other child.” Emasculated, men have abdicated their responsibilities and escaped into the fleeting pleasures of hobbies, video games and pornography.

They are neither men nor boys. They are are “Bans,” a hybrid of both a boy and man. They’re in our communities, our churches, our workplaces, and our families.

Ban needs godly men and women to show him there is more to life than he is currently experiencing. Ban needs to be more than just a male. He needs to be becoming God’s man who is being transformed by God’s gospel message and is wholeheartedly pursuing God’s mission. (p. 18)

That’s why Patrick, the pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis and vice-president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, wrote Church Planter. In its pages, Patrick offers sound advice and biblical wisdom as he challenges prospective church planters, longtime pastors and the average churchman alike to be God’s man armed with God’s message and on God’s mission.

So what kind of man does it take to plant a church?

What kind of man does the church need to carry out its mission? What kind of man is needed to see lives transformed?

Patrick breaks down who that man is as follows:

He is a rescued man. He is, quite simply, a man who has indeed personally experienced forgiveness and acceptance from Jesus Christ. He must be growing in genuine love for God and people. When an unregenerate man (even one who is self-deceived) is given oversight of the church, both his well-being and the church’s are at risk. “[T]he church under such a pastor [one who is not truly a Christian] generally suffers spiritually, communally, and missionally, and it eventually withers and dies.” (p. 24)

He is a called man. Pastoral ministry is impossible for man on his own. He must be clearly called by God. Here, Patrick offers a three-fold way to discern the call: heart, head and skills. A heart-call is a deep inclination that says, “I must do this or I will die.” A head calling is asking the question, “How am I to specifically serve this church?” And a skills confirmation is the church examining and testing the gifts and character of the one who believes himself to be called.

He is a qualified man. He is a man growing in the character qualifications of a biblical elder as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. While the pastor/elder is specifically called to these qualifications, Patrick notes, “Almost all of what is required here of elders . . . is required of any believer elsewhere in Scripture. . . . Elders are not a higher class of Christians. . . . [They] are called to uniquely focus on and live out the virtues to which all Christians aspire.” (p. 45)

He is a dependent man. He is a man who solely depends on the power of the Holy Spirit for the success of his ministry. He knows that it’s not by his will that anything can be done and seeks to grow deeply in his dependence by cultivating his relationship with God.

He is a skilled man. He is a man who exhibits (in varying degrees) the three basic skills necessary for pastoring: leading, teaching and shepherding. Patrick examines these through the lens of the three-fold offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest and King. He explains:

Prophets are those pastors who guide, guard, protect and proclaim the truths of Scripture. They tend to ask questions like, “What does the text say?” and “Where is the church going?” (p. 69)

Priests lead the church by identifying and helping to meet people’s felt needs. They tend to ask the question “Who?” (p. 72)

Kings develop strategies for bringing the vision and mission of Christ-centered living to fruition. They tend to ask the question “How?” (p. 73)

He is a shepherding man. He is a man who cares for Jesus’ sheep, and is prepared to lay down his life to protect and nurture them.

He is a determined man. There are going to be seasons in every pastor’s ministry where it will be very tempting to “tap out” and give up. But, Patrick writes, “Pastoral ministry requires dogged, unyielding, determination, and determination can only come from one source—God himself.” (p. 94)

This first section of the book provides a compelling and captivating picture of what a godly man should look like—not simply a pastor or church planter. As I read through these pages, I had to stop and seek the answers to the questions that Patrick posed along the way:

Do I love people?

Am I (and others) seeing the fruit of the Spirit become increasingly characteristic of my life?

Is there a call on my life?

How am I wired in reflecting the spiritual offices of Christ?

Am I depending on the Holy Spirit or on sheer willpower and effort to get through?

These were really challenging questions to answer—but the clarity that came from wrestling with them is refreshing (especially in that I learned that yes, I do in fact love people!).

We do have a man crisis in our culture and in our churches—and the picture of a godly man presented here is much-needed. Already I’ve started using it as a discipling tool for younger men. Because many of us have not had an example of a godly man in our lives, we’re usually trying to make it up as we go along. This has certainly been the case for me. However, the book’s structure and insights allow for real and reliable self-examination, as well as examination by others. And this alone makes Church Planter a worthwhile investment.


Next: The Message


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Book Review: Church Planting is for Wimps by Mike McKinley

Title: Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things
Author: Mike McKinley
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Church planting is kind of the en vogue thing these days. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Acts 29 Network, Sovereign Grace, and Harvest Bible Fellowship (among others), church planting has never (as far as I’m aware) been more front of mind as an effective and God-honoring approach to missions.

So, how do you do it?

In Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things, Pastor Mike McKinley doesn’t exactly answer that question, but he does share what he learned while replanting Guilford Baptist Church in Sterling, VA, with a great deal of humility and more than a little sanctified sarcasm.

As a seminary student in 2004, McKinley met with his former pastor, Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Dever told him that Capitol Hill was going to start planting churches, and they wanted McKinley to be their “guinea pig church planter.” [Read more...]