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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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You’re Going to Die (and so might your dreams)

Jared C. Wilson:

You know, it’s possible that God’s plan for us is littleness. His plan for us may be personal failure. It’s possible that when another door closes, it’s not because he plans to open a window but because he plans to have the building fall down on you. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will Christ be enough?

When Your Words Cry “Wolf”

Barnabas Piper:

Every day we hear phrases like these and read headlines offering us “essential”, “incredible”, or “unbelievable” something-or-other. Upworthy has made an evil art form out of using such titles as click-bait. If a description of anything doesn’t include a superlative it’s good for nothing. But what happens when we run out of superlatives and absolutes (if we haven’t already)?

If everything is amazing nothing is. By definition, not everything can be the best or worst. If every piece of advice is essential and we can’t live without those life hacks, well we should just give up now; life is hopeless.

Get Captivated in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the paperback edition of Captivated by Thabiti Anyabwile (which I reviewed this week) for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke (ePub)
  • Moses and the Burning Bush teaching by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

Believers in a Culture Increasingly Hostile to Christianity

Randy Alcorn:

Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation. I’m grateful there are organizations working to protect the rights of Christians. But I’m concerned if we view ourselves as one more special interest group, clinging to entitlements and whining when people don’t like us. God’s people have a long history of not being liked.

Gone Fishin’ – A Forgotten Model of Ministry

David Murray:

What is a minister of the Gospel? The most common answers include models like Shepherd, Servant, Preacher, Theologian, Teacher, Counselor, Leader, and so on.

But one model that’s rarely thought about or spoken about today is the first model that Jesus used – Fisherman (Matt. 4:19).

My favorite hobby probably biases me here but I believe fishing for souls is one of the most powerful models of Christian ministry and must be re-prioritized. It’s such a perfect metaphor for both the fish (sinners) and the fishermen (pastors/witnesses) that I’ll leave you to make the obvious applications.

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Why “I believe in logic and reason” is a Nonsense Statement

Clint Roberts:

You are likely to hear something today that people in generations gone by would have thought strange, which is the following: In the context of disagreement about religious beliefs (like what a person believes about God, the afterlife, etc.), someone who doesn’t believe in any such things will announce his or her belief in “logic” and “reason.” This declaration of allegiance to logic and reason is typically offered with boastful superiority, as if to say, “Well as for the rest of you, you can believe this or that, but as for me, I believe in logic and reason.” The implication that is given by this simplistic credal statement is that belief in logic/reason is unique to the person making the confession of belief in it, as though it is the exclusive alternative to the other people’s beliefs.They believe x-y-z, but I believe in reason.

When Christianity Becomes Uncomfortable

Dan Darling:

For American Christians, I think the coming years will force us to make difficult choices. We will have to choose between cultural acceptance and the way of Jesus. In other words, Christianity, truly bearing the name of Christ, will involve a cross. It will be rough and uncomfortable. Sometimes this discomfort is in the form of cultural rejection. Sometimes it’s the discomfort of forgiving someone we want desperately to despise. Sometimes it’s the self-sacrifice to give ourselves for those we are called to love and nurture: our spouses, our children, our neighbors. Sometimes it’s the discipline to speak the truth in type of love others don’t exhibit. Sometimes it involves making reasoned, winsome arguments in favor of truth that are unfairly dismissed as bigotry.

How To Have A Confrontational Conversation

Ryan Huguley:

Confronting someone is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It can easily go south if not taken seriously and prepared for properly. One redeeming factor in my discomfort with confrontation is that I’ve developed a process for confrontation that I’ve found helpful. If you have one of these uncomfortable but important conversations in your future, here’s how I have a confrontational conversation.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners: But How?

Kevin DeYoung:

As precious as this truth is—that Jesus is a friend of sinners—it, like every other precious truth in the Bible, needs to be safeguarded against doctrinal and ethical error. It is all too easy, and amazingly common, for Christians (or non-Christians) to take the general truth that Jesus was a friend of sinners and twist it all out of biblical recognition. So “Jesus ate with sinners” becomes “Jesus loved a good party,” which becomes “Jesus was more interested in showing love than taking sides,” which becomes “Jesus always sided with religious outsiders,” which becomes “Jesus would blow bubbles for violations of the Torah.”

Why “No Creed But the Bible” Actually Imperils Your Liberty More

Bart Barber:

With anti-confessional churches, the theological boundaries are unwritten. You only learn what they are when you violate them. What would John Leland have done with a Baptist church that, for example, decided to embrace episcopal church governance? I can promise you, a man who would author a book subtitled, “The High-Flying Churchman, Stripped of His Legal Robe, Appears a Yahoo,” would boot straight out of a Baptist association any church that adopted episcopacy. Why? Because the church would have violated Leland’s unwritten confessional boundary.

A responsibility that cannot be ignored

pastor

…bringing the people of God to consistent Christian living in the light of the gospel of the crucified Messiah is so important to Paul that he will not turn from this goal. If he moves people in this direction by encouragement and admonition, all to the good; if severer discipline is called for, he will not flinch. So Paul offers the Corinthians a choice: “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (4:21). He does not mean, of course, that if he comes with a whip (literally, a “rod” of correction, continuing the father/son metaphor) he will not love them. The contrast refers to the manner or form of his coming, not his motives. But spankings still hurt, even from a father who insists that he is spanking his son because he loves him. It is much better for the son to change his behavior, so that the manner of the father’s coming will be not with discipline but with a gentle spirit.

In short, Christian leaders dare not overlook their responsibility to lead the people of God in living that is in conformity with the gospel. That is why Paul urges people to live a life worthy of the calling they have received (Eph. 4:1). It is why Paul prays that believers may live a life worthy of the Lord, the crucified Messiah, and may please him in every way (Col. 1:10). And if the people of God dig in their heels in disobedience, there may come a time for Christian leaders to admonish, to rebuke, and ultimately to discipline firmly those who take the name of Christ but do not care to follow him. The sterner steps must never be taken hastily or lightly. But sometimes they must be taken. That is part of the responsibility of Christian leadership.

D.A. Carson, Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians

Spontaneous baptisms and a nasty case of the heebie jeebies

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Over the last week, there’s been a lot of discussion about the practice of spontaneous baptism, spurred on by controversy surrounding Elevation Church’s how-to guide for “doing your part in God’s miracle.” Russell Moore’s weighed in, The Gospel Coalition released a roundtable discussion between Matt Chandler, Mark Dever and Darrin Patrick about 18 months ago, and undoubtedly many more voices are bound to say something.

None of us, of course, should be surprised that Furtick and Elevation would meticulously plan out such things—after all, anyone who has read Furtick’s books or heard him speak anywhere would be painfully aware of his Revivalist, um, “exuberance.” The first time I heard him speak was at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit a few years back where he demoed the power of Spirit Keys to set the mood during a worship gathering (and I hated Spirit Keys ever since).

Obviously there’s a lot more to be concerned about with Furtick than the spontaneous baptism issue (I’ll spare you my laundry list)—but the spontaneous baptism issue is an important one. While we see a few instances of spontaneous baptism in Scripture, which should lead us to be cautious of completely ruling it out as a practice in all circumstances, it’s still something we need to be careful of.

A bit of backstory: I was baptized in a more-or-less spontaneous situation. I’d been a Christian for about three months at that point and knew it was something I should do, but didn’t know when. One weekend in August 2005, the church we attended was performing baptisms (the majority of which were planned in advance). Emily and I watched each person and as we did, I felt compelled to get baptized. So Emily and I both talked to the youth pastor, asked if we could, the pastor got back into his wet pants, we shared what God had been doing in our lives—how He brought us to faith, how the gospel changed us—and then we were baptized.

The church I was baptized in was careful—their wasn’t a pressure for us to get baptized right away. There wasn’t an overly emotional appeal at the end, although they did invite people to come forward if they felt the Holy Spirit compel them to do so (which is fairly typical for most evangelical churches these days from what I can tell).

As you can imagine, the whole conversation is very personal to me. But here’s where I land, for what it’s worth: we should be very, very cautious to baptize anyone too quickly. I’d rather wait and (as best as any of us are able) be sure that someone is truly saved, is bearing fruit (even if it’s a tiny amount) and understands the significance of the sacrament.

What Furtick’s approach (and the revivalist mindset in general) reveals is a deficient understanding of this essential sacrament. But Furtick isn’t alone in this. We laughingly call baptism getting a bath, or getting dunked… When we’re being serious, we tend to stick to the now standard “outward declaration of an inward transformation” definition.

And while this elevator speech version is certainly true, we need to more fully express what that “inward transformation” entails. J. I. Packer’s definition of baptism is exceptionally helpful in this regard:

Christian baptism, which has the form of a ceremonial washing (like John’s pre-Christian baptism), is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:25–27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5), and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God’s seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13–14). Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7; Col. 2:11–12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11–12). Receiving the sign in faith assures the persons baptized that God’s gift of new life in Christ is freely given to them. At the same time, it commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus. Baptism signifies a watershed point in a human life because it signifies a new-creational ingrafting into Christ’s risen life. 1

While a convert doesn’t necessarily have to understand all the implications of this reality, if they understand none of it—if they’re compelled only by an emotional experience, if there is no credible evidence of Spirit-borne fruit, if there’s no evidence they understand the gospel at all—then we are absolutely right to have a nasty case of the heebie jeebies. Baptism signifies our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins and is a commitment to living as one of His disciples. When people just take a bath, they’re missing the point. And when we encourage them to do so, so are we.

photo credit: Mars Hill Church via photopin cc

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Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race?

Joe Carter:

The main difference between anti-discrimination laws based on race and on sexual orientation is that the former were intended to recognize a morally neutral characteristic, while the latter is an effort to reclassify a non-neutral characteristic as morally good.

Jesus, The Antidote to Blame Transference Syndrome

Jared Wilson:

Understanding BTS helps us see how sin works and how infectious and complex it can be: We believe lies to enter sin, and then we try to cover up our shame, dismiss it, hide from consequences, protect, and self-justify once inside it. Then, when we are called to account, we try to get out of it by offering some excuse about why it’s not really our fault.

All of this begs the question: How do we get out of this mess?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few great deals (including some fantastic brand-new books from Crossway):

Investing the Warren Buffett (Biblical) Way

Clint Archer:

Warren Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha, is known as the world’s greatest investor. In 1950, at age 20, he had saved $9,400 (about $100k in today’s money). He set out to invest it, applying his long-term, value-based, focussed portfolio philosophy, which his author Robert Hagstrom termed “The Warren Buffett Way.”  Buffett increased his net worth to $62 billion, making him the richest person in the world. Nipping at his heels for that enviable title was the young Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates.

The Ministry IS A Gospel Issue

Michael Horton:

When pastors preach and teach and elders govern, there is no autocratic leadership. It is hardly “clericalism” when the governors of the church are elders rather than pastors. The New Testament teaches a mutual accountability with checks and balances. Ironically, movements and churches that downplay or even denounce biblical teaching and advertise themselves as freewheeling and egalitarian, with an every-member-a-minister philosophy, usually end up being far more totalitarian.

If Daniel 3 Were Written Today…

Trevin Wax:

The United States of America crafted a gold statue called Aphrodite. They stamped it in their books, discussed it in their universities, and showed it on their screens.

The U.S. sent word to assemble the politicians, pastors, culture-makers, critics, businesspeople, judges, and law enforcers, and all the influencers of the different spheres of culture to attend the dedication of the statue that society had set up.

So the politicians, pastors, culture-makers, critics, businesspeople, judges, law enforcers, and all the influencers of the different spheres of culture assembled for the dedication of the statue.

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Pastor, Stop Lying

Ronnie Martin:

My heart had become full. Of criticism. To my shame, it was criticism of a fellow pastor. He was a friend, a godly man who loved his family, preached the gospel, prayed regularly, never gossiped, and always believed the best about people. But I began to struggle with something about him. It wasn’t some secret sin. It wasn’t a double life. It was nothing “scandalous” at all, really.

It was that he lied.

Take Me to Church

Aimee Byrd:

“Take Me to Church” points to something that draws us all: the self-destructive worship of a person. We like the idea that we are the authority of what is good and loving. And so we use words like love and unity, and we decide what that means.

But in God’s Word, we have Jesus praying for the unity of all believers.  In his prayer for his disciples, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.” This is a very theological prayer. We see that God’s people are set apart by his Word. While we easily talk about our unity in Christ, love for him and for one another, it is more difficult for the church to be theologians of the cross that he carried. Love can’t be separated from truth, and God’s people are set apart by that truth.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to the giant list shared on Tuesday, here are a few new and recent Kindle deals:

Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken is on sale for $2.99-$3.99:

Unbroken

There’s a new movie coming out based on Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of rabble rouser turned Olympian turned WWII prisoner of war, Louie Zamperini. Here’s the trailer:

It’ll be interesting to see what the filmmakers do with Zamperini’s conversion to Christ (an integral part of the book).

Coconut Cream Pie & Unity in Diversity

Andrew Hall:

Too often, the church hammers away at unity, but often at the expense of diversity, forgetting the essential nature of love.  The one God is united in essence and purpose, yet diverse as the triune God in complementary roles and responsibilities, connected in love.  We are one with Christ, seated with him in the heavenlies, and yet distinct from Christ, who loved us and gave himself up for us.  All believers comprise the one universal church, and yet each church is distinct in her make-up, uniquely bringing the gospel to bear on the life of her community.

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Faithful pastor, you’re not crazy

Ray Ortlund:

A text message came in from a pastor friend.  I’ve known him for decades.  He is the kind of man for whom the adjective “saintly” was invented.  He pastored a thriving church for many years.  Then someone on staff stabbed him in the back and rallied others to get him thrown out.  The objections to his ministry had no substance.  “The issues” were not the real issues.  As Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, said to me once, “Some try to pull down a prominent man, not because they themselves wish to take his place, but because doing so gives them a feeling of power.”

My friend had met with someone from his former church, wishing to reconcile.  But the person blew him off.  All that the meeting accomplished was to re-open an old wound.

So here is what I want to say to my friend:

You’re not crazy.  This has been happening to God’s men since Cain and Abel.  It is one way you identify with Jesus himself.

Are Tongues Real Languages?

Nathan Busenitz begins a new series asking an important question:

Has the church, historically, been right to conclude that the gift of tongues in the New Testament consists of the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages previously unknown to the speaker? Or is the modern charismatic movement right to conclude that the gift of tongues encompasses something other than cognitive foreign languages?

Ridiculously good deals from Westminster Books

Westminster Books has a whole bunch of great titles on sale for up to 70% off, including:

The Cold that Bothers Us

Greg Forster:

The most obvious lesson of Frozen—the one made explicit in the movie—teaches viewers that love is not about how you feel. It’s about putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. This theme by itself profoundly inverts the old Disney culture; it’s a big win for the Pixar invaders. But Frozen not only makes this point, it also traces some wide-ranging consequences. It shows us why people are investing too much importance in romantic love relative to other kinds of love, like sisterhood. The responsible grown-ups who tell you not to burn down everything else in your life for the sake of “true love” are not your enemies; they’re your friends. They’re the people who really love you.

The Danger of Forgetting How to Read the Bible

Dan Doriani:

In the past month, I learned that two more Christian leaders whom I know have either tarnished or destroyed their ministries. Neither was a friend, in the full sense, yet I’ve been friendly with both men and respected their talents and the fruit of their labors.

Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control? Even as I ask the question, I know I’m liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul’s admonition: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew.

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The Never-Ending Need of Multiplying Leaders

Ed Stetzer:

Pastors of growing churches know all too well the old adage of there being two sides to every coin. The excitement and energy of a growing congregation comes brings with it new needs and a constant demand of more people to help carry out the ministry.

When the numbers are lacking, the pressure increases on the pastor and staff to solve every problem, run every small group, set-up every service, and clean every toilet. The stress can become so heavy that the growth feels more like a crisis than a blessing.

Having a leadership crisis is not exclusive to the church (take a look at Congress) and neither is it a new issue. In Exodus 18, systematic issues within Moses’ leadership surface and reveal the need for a change.

The Gospel Rescues Cynics

Mike Leake:

Then one day some hopeful Harry decides to tell him that this isn’t the way that things are supposed to be. “You don’t have to be a slave! You can be free! Our God has heard our cry and He is going to rescue us from slavery”.

And he bought it. Just like all of his other countrymen. They bowed their heads and worshipped. And with that a terrible invader came into their hearts.

Hope.

The Joy of Theology Reading Groups

Eric Bancroft:

Pastor, I want to thank you. My marriage has been totally turned around.

These aren’t the words you expect someone to write three months after their spouse began reading a 1,291-page systematic theology book, yet that’s exactly what I was being told in a card. My prayers had been answered. I’d prayed that God would give people such a love for him and his Word that it would begin to affect all areas of their life. I’d also prayed that reading and discussing a systematic theology book with others would be one of those means.

What Pastors Owe Their People

Daniel Darling:

Preaching styles do differ, but it’s hard to argue the unmistakeable responsibility of pastors to take the whole counsel of God and preach it faithfully. To not give our people spiritual food, to not share with them the “all the things I have commanded you” is to commit spiritual malpractice. It’s to intentionally leave our people spiritually malnourished. And yet there is a temptation for pastors–I remember facing this weekly as a pastor–to sort of skip over or nuance the very hard passages. Or, more popularly, to not preach through issues that are at the tip of the cultural spear. Issues like a biblical sexual ethic, the dignity of human life, greed, materialism, and the prosperity gospel. It’s just easier to say things like, “We just want to love on people and be all about grace every Sunday.” But my question is this: if a new convert wants to know what it looks like to live out the gospel, where will he find it if he can’t find it in his church? We live in confused times, where the way of Christ cannot be assumed in popular culture anymore. So churches who tailor their preaching and services exclusively to not offend those they are trying to reach with the gospel will starve God’s people. I find it troubling when pastors sort of nuance or skip over passages that are counter-cultural. – See more at: http://www.danieldarling.com/#sthash.qvUEP7iR.dpuf

Seven Problems with an Activity-Driven Church

Thom Rainer:

Many churches are busy, probably too busy. Church calendars fill quickly with a myriad of programs and activities. While no individual activity may be problematic, the presence of so many options can be.

An activity-driven church is a congregation whose corporate view is that busier equals better. More activities, from this perspective, mean a healthier church. The reality is that churches who base their health on their busyness already have several problems. Allow me to elaborate on seven of those challenges.

Invest by Sutton Turner

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In ministry, it’s easy to think of certain gifts as being more valuable than others. We look at one man’s ability to handle the Scriptures and applaud. We look at another’s ability to manage an organization and… well, often times we’re not quite sure what to do. It’s not that we don’t appreciate those abilities. It’s just we have a hard time thinking of them as having a purpose in ministry. And as a result, some Christians who want to use their gifts to bless their churches are left in a lurch.

Invest: Your Gifts for His Mission by Sutton Turner is written for people like this. People with serious business skills and a heart for the church, but struggle to see how their gifts can be used to benefit the body. Turner uses his experience as the current executive pastor of Mars Hill Church to help business-minded believers see how they can work for the glory of God, perhaps by considering taking on the role of an executive pastor.

A good reminder of the need for business savvy

The best thing about Invest is the refreshing reminder of the need for business savvy in ministry. “Ministry” should not be code for sloppy planning and procedures. But this is pretty common, sadly. Many who gravitate toward ministry roles tend to be people who want to spiritually guide people, but aren’t particularly savvy with administration or business practices. It my never occur to them to think about things like licensing for the songs we sing on Sundays, or the tax regulations that need to be followed in order to maintain charitable status.

So churches and parachurch ministries alike can greatly benefit from believers who are skilled and passionate about such things. People who care about what the organizational structure looks like and whether or not it actually works in practice, and who care about staff culture and dynamics. We need to be concerned about these things, and, thankfully, God has gifted certain individuals to be deeply passionate about them.

While I appreciate the general premise of the book, there’s a great deal about it I’m concerned about:

[Read more...]

The accidental cheapening of heresy

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There once was a man named Seth. Seth was a popular author, especially among creative and “non-traditional” leadership types. He wrote with an unusual buzzwordiness while sharing many truths and many half-truths about tribes, lynchpins and meatballs on top of sundaes.

He wrote of our desperate need for people unafraid to challenge the establishment and chart their own course for the good of the many.

He called them “heretics.” But we should not.

This week I was reading a very good book on social media that embraced Seth’s “heretic” ideal. Not theological heresy, the author stressed, but ideological—being willing to push the boundaries of comfort in order to reach as many as possible.

But I’ve got to be honest, whenever I see Christian authors use the term “heretic” in this way, I get a little nervous. It’s not because I disagree with the sentiment (I generally don’t)—it’s the danger of cheapening the word “heretic.”

Imagine you’re in a room with no windows and only one door, which is at the farthest point from you. The door opens a little bit and someone throws a grenade in, which promptly explodes (as it is intended to do). This is what calling someone a heretic is like. Or at least, it should be. Churches have split over heresy. Ministries have been destroyed because of it. It’s a big word, and just like a grenade, once you pull the pin, there’s no going back.

So why do we treat it so flippantly?

Why, following along with a popular book, are we redefining a word that carries such weight and power—transforming a profanity into a virtue? Truthfully, I don’t believe it’s of malicious intent. I think it’s simply that we’re careless with words. We don’t give them enough weight; we don’t consider carefully what they mean.

Seth used the word “heretic” intentionally. He knew the power it holds, otherwise he wouldn’t have used it. We, on the other hand, have simply poured ourselves a nice, tall glass of his Kool-Aid.

When we assign foreign meanings to familiar words, we wind up cheapening the concepts they represent as a result. When it comes to a word like “heretic,” we must avoid this at all costs. And this is but one example. We’ve transformed tolerance into something wholly intolerant. We’ve desecrated love, turning it into a mere feeling flitting about with no depth or power. So love becomes preference, disagreement becomes prejudice, truth becomes error… Careless words cheapen powerful truths.

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The Problem with Polemical Preaching

Erik Raymond:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones called polemical preaching “thorny.” On the one hand, preachers can go wrong by being too weak, not adequately refuting the error of those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:9, 2:15). On the other hand a preacher can become consumed with calling everyone and everything out. We now have ministries, churches, even websites that seem to build their identity on their reaction to error. After all, we live in a time that some have called the most undiscerning period in history, which means some preachers will undertake polemical preaching and ministry. But defending truth against error is only one part of faithful preaching. The question is not whether there is a place for polemical preaching but whether someone can do too much of it.

The Story That Writes Itself

Kevin DeYoung:

The problem is that our ascendant moral logic amounts to an imposition: affirm me or else. It used to be that tolerance meant granting to your intellectual, political, or religious opponents the right to be wrong (as you see the wrong). Now tolerance means the freedom, if not the obligation, to utterly shame those you deem intolerant. Ours is a supremely moralistic age. I would call it puritanical, except I don’t want to insult the Puritans.

Truth and Tone Go Hand in Hand

Another from Erik Raymond (this time from his personal blog):

It is not difficult to fall off one side of the ledge while being so confident about our standing on the other. We can be indifferent to doctrine and extremely nice or we can be committed to doctrine and complete jerks. If we are indifferent to doctrine and try to be really nice then we abrogate our calling, dishonor Christ, and don’t help anyone. And, if we are committed to truth while being unduly harsh, rude, or biting then we undermine our doctrine. Surely you can see how you can fall off both sides of the cliff.

C.S. Lewis Kindle deals

Harper Collins has put a number of titles by C.S. Lewis on sale for $3.99 each:

Also on sale are the Holman QuickSource Bible Atlas and the Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls ($2.99 each). Enjoy!

Against Populism

Michael Hendrix:

The traditional establishment (an ever-shifting group, often described as donorist and corporatist) has now been deemed the enemy. Populist thinking has elevated the activists in their place. The result has been a celebration of “main street Americans” and of action over deliberation.

But as angry as we might be about the state our country is in, we cannot lose perspective of what’s true and good in being conservative.

Links I like

links i like

Why preach through books of the Bible?

Phil Newton:

I had a conversation with a minister friend who had been involved in discussing what pastors were preaching in their churches. While most seemed to agree that exposition of the biblical text must have priority in the church, few thought it wise to preach consecutively through books of the Bible—particularly with series that extended beyond twelve weeks. I understand the challenge of longer series but also see the value in the long run. The forty-four sermons that I preached through Ephesians in 1990–91, literally transformed my life, theology, and congregation. Eight or ten sermons would not have sufficed to uproot faulty theology and set us on a right course. The fifty-two sermons in Hebrews in 2000–01, sharpened our understanding of the gospel and its application to the whole of life.

What would you say had you been involved in the discussion? Here are a few thoughts that I’ve ruminated on since that conversation.

Pastor, Are You Speaking in Tongues During Your Sermon?

Trevin Wax:

Here’s a question we should ponder: Do we rely on biblical concepts or phrases in ways that fail to make sense to outsiders?

Let’s ask this another way. Would an unbeliever or a believer unfamiliar with the Bible be able to understand the basic message you are communicating in a sermon? If the answer is no, then we might as well be speaking in a foreign language.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put a number of titles in the Preaching the Word commentary series on sale this week for $2.99:

Forgiveness

A great clip from a message by Matt Chandler:

Why I Quit My Sorority Over Racial Discrimination

Elizabeth Munn:

Along with many others I was hopeful that 2013 would bring change. We were especially excited because an outstanding African-American student, already known and loved by many girls in my sorority, was going through our recruitment process. Yet three days into rush I was informed that this woman had been abruptly removed from our list of potential new members during a private meeting between two alumnae advisers and four student leaders. This African-American student had been eliminated despite impassioned pleas from student sorority leaders in this meeting. I spoke personally with three of these four student leaders, and they each tearfully testified that her removal had been driven by racial prejudice.

All Christians should be above reproach, but elders must be

old-church

Being above reproach means that an elder is to be the kind of man whom no one suspects of wrongdoing and immorality. people would be shocked to hear this kind of man charged with such acts. Being above reproach does not mean that he maintains sinless perfection. It means that his demeanor and behavior over time have garnered respect and admiration from others. He lives a life worthy of the calling of God (Eph. 4:1; 5:1–2; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10–12).

It’s critically important for an elder to be above reproach for at least two reasons. First, everyone will assume at least two things once he is made an elder: that he is an example to all the sheep in all areas of life (1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:1–3); and that he will receive the benefit of the doubt against uncorroborated allegations of wrongdoing (1 Tim. 5:19). Few things are worse for a church than having a man who lacks good character be able to set a bad example while also being shielded by the generosity of judgment that comes with the office.

Second, it’s critically important because an elder must be held in high esteem for his character, not for his wealth, popularity, or other worldly things. We may be tempted to grant the eldership to men on the grounds that they have made it in the business world, have a long family history with the church, or are popular and well regarded. But the apostle is not interested in any of these things. He’s interesed in a dignity of character commensurate with the office. If a man is popular in the worldly sense but is not above reproach, he will likely lead out of his popularity instead of character. He may fear man more than God (a big temptation for this office), or attempt to run the church like his business, or assume certain “rights” because of his standing in the community. And all these will cripple an eldership for a time.

All Christians should be above reproach, but Christian elders must be.

Thabiti Anyabwile, Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons, 57-58