The Arrogance of Youth and the Subtle Danger of Experience

For most of the last week, a number of folks have been chiming on John MacArthur’s critique of Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. If you’ve been following it at all, MacArthur says that he was shocked by the following passage:

The man who is experiencing head confirmation [of his calling to pastoral ministry] is thoughtful about his own philosophy of ministry, his own ministry style, his own theological beliefs, his own unique gifts, abilities and desire. In short, there is uniqueness to the way he wants to do ministry. Unlike many young men who know much about what they are against and little about what they are for, the man who is experiencing head confirmation thinks through very carefully and deliberately, What am I for with my life and ministry? What are my specific burdens for the church? How can I best serve the church in these areas? (Church Planter, page 37, emphasis in original)

MacArthur’s take on this section is that Patrick is suggesting that “everything about one’s ministry (Patrick expressly includes “his own theological beliefs“) needs to be self-styled and individualistic” (source). What he suggests is that what this paragraph (and indeed the whole book) is calling for is a radical individualism.

Having read both the book and MacArthur’s concerns, I believe that his take is uncharitable at best, but I can understand how one could make this conclusion. However, my point is not to defend the book, nor is it to criticize John MacArthur, who is a godly man and a great Bible teacher.

What concerns me is something that caught my attention in the follow-up post on the Grace to You blog.

After rightly calling out those who have been (perhaps) overzealous in their responses to MacArthur’s critique as needing to be a little more thick-skinned and to remember that Scripture is our authority, the author writes the following:

John has more than fifty years of preaching faithfully, more than forty years in the same pulpit—don’t you think you ought to listen? Don’t despise the older generation; don’t dismiss their wisdom; don’t ignore their criticisms of you. Proverbs is full of wisdom like that: “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Prov. 15:31-32; cf. 10:17;12:1; 13:18; 15:5).

Now here’s where I agree entirely. John MacArthur has been in ministry for a long time. He has a great deal of wisdom to offer, much of which is well worth heeding. Older men who have been in ministry can an invaluable resource to younger men and we would be foolish not to give them our ear.

That said, one’s experience does not make a man infallible. We are all subject to error and we must be careful to recognize this, especially when we comment on what we perceive to be the errors of others lest we fall into pride.

This is why the Apostle Peter in addressing both older pastors and younger men:

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you… (1 Peter 5-6)

Pride is an equal opportunity sin. It doesn’t discriminate against youth or experience. Any of us, whether because of the arrogance of youth or through the subtle danger of experience, can easily be ensnared by our pride if we’re not watchful. And the result is we look and act like this:

I don’t want my contemporaries to fall into that trap. I don’t want it for myself. And I don’t want it for those who are ahead of us in the race. God, help us, please.

(Video HT: Z)

Looking Ahead: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2011

Looking at the books I enjoyed over 2010 made me think about the ones I’m really looking forward to in 2011. Here are a few:

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father edited by Dan Cruver, with contributions from John Piper, Richard D. Phillips, Scotty Smith, Jason Kovacs, and Dan Cruver (Cruciform Press, January 2011)

One of the ambitious dreams that Reclaiming Adoption and its authors share with the Apostle Paul is that when Christians hear the word adoption, they will think first about their adoption by God. As it now stands, Christians usually think first about the adoption of children. Reclaiming Adoption sets out to change this situation by providing breathtaking views of God’s love for and delight in His children — views that will free you to live boldly in this world from God’s acceptance, not in order to gain it…

Dan Cruver and his co-authors are convinced that if Christians learn to first think about their adoption by God, and only then about the adoption of children, they will enjoy deeper communion with the God who is love, and experience greater missional engagement with the pain and suffering of this world. That’s what this book is about. What the orphan, the stranger, and the marginalized in our world need most is churches that are filled with Christians who live daily in the reality of God’s delight in them. Reclaiming Adoption can transform the way you view and live in this world for the glory of God and the good of our world’s most needy.

Order this book | Read a sample

Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb (Crossway, January 2011)

The statistics are jarring. One in four women and one in six men have been sexually assaulted. But as sobering as these statistics are, they can’t begin to speak to the darkness and grief experienced by the victims. The church needs compassionate and wise resources to care for those living in the wake of this evil. Other books attempt to address the journey from shame to healing for victims of sexual abuse, but few are from a Christian perspective and written for both child and adult victims. In Rid of My Disgrace, a couple experienced in counseling and care for victims of sexual assault present the gospel in its power to heal the broken and restore the disgraced.

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb present a clear definition of sexual assault and outline a biblical approach for moving from destruction to redemption. Rid of My Disgrace applies a theology of redemption to the grief, shame, and sense of defilement victims experience. This book is primarily written for them, but can also equip pastors, ministry staff, and others to respond compassionately to those who have been assaulted.

Pre-order this book | Read a sample

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (Crossway, October 2011)

We may know the gospel. We may believe it—even proclaim it. But we also may assume the gospel and become lethargic. In this book Jared Wilson seeks to answer the central question, how do we experience and present the gospel in a fresh, non-routine way in order to prevent ourselves and others from becoming numb? His answer may be surprising: “by routinely presenting the unchanging gospel in a way that does justice to its earth-shaking announcement.” We don’t excite and awaken people to the glorious truths of the gospel by spicing up our worship services or through cutting-edge, dramatic rhetoric, but by passionately and faithfully proclaiming the same truths we have already been given in Scripture.

Wilson’s book will stir churches to live out the power of the gospel with a fervent, genuine zeal. After an explanation of the term “gospel wakefulness,” Wilson unpacks implications for worship, hyper-spirituality, godly habits, and sanctification, as well as other aspects of church life. Pastors, church leaders, and all in ministry, especially those who are tired or discouraged, will be uplifted, emboldened, and empowered by this book.

(Not yet available for pre-order) [Read more...]

Discerning Your Call

From what I understand after speaking to many, many older and younger men over the last few years, it seems that every Christian man, usually around that 3-5 year mark in their faith, starts asking themselves, “Am I called to ministry? Should I be a pastor?”

So how do you know if you’re sensing a legitimate calling—or maybe that taquito you ate last night is coming back to haunt you?

Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, Vice President of the Acts 29 Network and author of the recently released Church Planter answers:

For those trying to discern their calling, are you actively pursuing others who can confirm it?

Are you taking opportunities to test your giftedness?

Do you feel, as Spurgeon said, “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work”?

For those who have confirmed their calling, what was most helpful for you along the way?

What advice would you give to those still trying to figure it out?

Who We Are Before God Seeps Out Constantly

Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor and theologian, counseled those seeking to serve in pastoral ministry with these words: “When your minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it. Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and heavenly to them. They will most likely feel when you have been much with God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their ears.”

Baxter is reminding us of something that we often forget but that should be pretty obvious to us: our people can tell when we are close to God—and when we are not. It will come out in our sermons, our prayers, our leadership, and even our conversations. As Moses’ face shone to the Israelites after he had been with God, so our lives will radiate his presence when we have been with him. . . . Who we are before God seeps out of us constantly.

…”If we forbear taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in their leanness, and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching; if the matter show it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for it.”

Darrin Patrick, Church Planter, p. 61

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)

Around the Interweb (09/12)

What’s Next For Church Planting?

Church planting is the hot thing to be a part of right now. The Acts 29 Network, PLNTD, Redeemer Presbyterian’s planting movement, Harvest Bible Fellowship… over the last decade more and more churches have been captivated by a growing understanding of the need to multiply. The folks at the Gospel Coalition ask, “What’s next for church planting?” Darrin Patrick shares some ideas in the following video:

Head over to the Gospel Coalition blog and see responses from Tim Brister and Ed Stetzer.

In Other News

Theology: Denny Burk writes Why Evangelicals Should Ignore Brian McLaren: How the New Testament Requires Evangelicals to Render a Judgment on the Moral Status of Homosexuality in the latest issue of Themelios.

Culture: Albert Mohler asks, “why aren’t “emerging adults” emerging as adults?”

On Evangelism Fails: Burning the Koran and Shooting Yourself in the Foot

In Case You Missed It

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

Book reviews! Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely, Andy Andrews’ The Boy Who Changed the World, and Max Lucado’s Outlive Your Life

Can a results only work environment strengthen your faith? A few thoughts on how it’s helping me.