What we get wrong about church discipline

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Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of stories come to light about evangelical churches practicing “shunning” as part of church discipline. This typically happens as part of the final stage of church discipline, when a congregation member persists in unrepentant sin is excommunicated—and then cut off socially, with friends (and sometimes family!) actively distancing themselves socially.

And herein lies the problem.

The key passages on church discipline

There are a few key passages of the New Testament that describe church discipline, the most famous being Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

The first deals with personal sin in general, while the second deals explicitly with sexual immorality (specifically, a church member who was having [a possibly incestuous, but regardless incredibly icky] adultery with his father’s wife).

There is a simple point here: habitual, unrepentant sin in all its forms should not associated with the people of God. Whether someone is a perpetual gossip, slanderer, malcontent, fornicator or adulterer, these things should not be known of among us, at least, not if we are to be people who are above reproach.

About the gentile and the tax collector…

But notice, something else, something very important that we see in Matthew 18:17: “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

What Jesus says here is what is so often missed in our approach to church discipline (or more correctly, in the approaches of certain mega-churches): we forget that we have an active role to play in the offender’s restoration. We are called to pursue them with the gospel.

Before going further, I want to be 100 per cent clear: I am absolutely for church discipline, provided the way we handle it is biblical.

So consider Jesus for a moment. During His earthly ministry, we find numerous occasions where Jesus commends the Gentile’s faith, rather than the Israelite’s. Among them, the Syrophonecian woman (Mark 7:24-30), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-45), and the official at Capernum (John 4:46-54). And among the tax collectors, we see no less than two breathtaking examples of repentance, including the apostle Matthew (9:9-13), and Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10). In both instances, Jesus makes it very clear: His mission is to seek and save the lost. He does not pursue the righteous but sinners to repentance.

In other words, in church discipline we are to treat unrepentant offenders as though they are not believers. Which necessarily means we are called to share the gospel with them. 

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And yet, it seems we’ve forgotten this. Instead of pursuing those who have been “handed over to Satan” with the gospel, we entirely ostracize them. We are right to not permit them to serve in the church, to bar them from taking communion and no longer recognize their profession of faith as genuine until proven otherwise. But, we may go further in our application of this than Scripture does in the way many churches cut off contact.

Again, to be clear: we must be absolutely committed to the purity of the Church. All who continually besmirch the name of Christ through their ongoing, unrepentant sin should be dealt with appropriately. But we still face a tension: without compromising the purity of the body, we need to consider how we pursue these people evangelistically.

Yes, they are to be cut off from fellowship, as Paul says—but we also need to show fearful mercy to someone continues in sin, even as we carefully protect the purity of the Church—we are called to both reprove and exhort. We tear down pride with the Word and build up in humility. This is what Jude stresses in the final verses of his epistle when he writes, “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).

Thwarting the schemes of the devil

We are not alone in our goofing on this. It seems the Corinthians fell into the same trap. Prior to writing 2 Corinthians, word came to Paul that while the church had, largely, repented of their rebellion against Paul and apostolic teaching, they had not reconciled with the one who was responsible for the rebellion. And so, Paul encouraged them to forgive and be reconciled.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

“Reaffirm your love for him,” he wrote, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan.” There is nothing the devil loves more than to mar the name of the church. And when we handle discipline wrongly—when we fail to pursue those who persist in unrepentant sin with the gospel and welcome those who have turned away from their sin back—we are undone. The devil “wins”.

So yes, let’s practice church discipline, biblically. Let’s also make sure our practice includes the earnest pursuit of those in sin with the gospel, so that they might come to repentance and fellowship can be restored.

 

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Silver bullet ministry

Craig Schafer:

By all accounts I am a stereotypical, standard, plain vanilla, suburban church pastor. And that’s pretty much what the ministry is like at our church: there is absolutely nothing hip or cutting-edge about us. We’re not a funky inner-city church plant. We don’t meet in a disused theatre.

We’re not close to any major tourist attraction. We haven’t started several networked extension services. We’re just a normal, suburban church. It is true that people say two of our pastors look like movie stars—but they mean Ben Stiller and Jack Black, so I’m not sure that really helps us in the attractional ministry stakes. (Having said that, they’re both better pastors than I am, so it is very handy to have them around.)

All the same, I think it’s instructive to reflect on how gospel-centred DNA drives the ministry practice in stereotypical vanilla suburban churches like mine—and quite possibly like yours.

Listening When You Shouldn’t

Leon Brown:

If you notice someone is hurting, and that person begins to share the details of the situation, you may want to consider asking that individual to refrain from sharing specifics of the circumstances, which may include names, dates, location, etc. I know it may be difficult, but many times we have no business knowing all of the details. Do not let curiosity lead you down the wrong path. Do not let your desires to be sympathetic cause you to hear details you should not. You may end up getting involved in gossip, hearing false details, and making wrong conclusions. We need to be there for each during difficulties, but even then we must be cautious.

Jesus-Juking for the Gospel

Derek Rishmawy:

Still, I wonder about the modern-day “Christ” party among us. It’s pretty easy to spot that sort of thing on the progressive wing of things: people who boast about being anti-power, anti-empire, anti-celebrity, anti-Evangelical-entertainment-industrial complex, all the while getting “I am of Boyd” and “I am of Hauerwas” tattooed on their firstborns. (You Anabaptists know I still love you, right? Well, some of you at least.) Deeper still, though, are the theological approaches that tend to relativize formal teaching structures in the name of the some vague, ‘way of Jesus’–modern-day heirs of those that Luther and Calvin deemed the “enthusiasts” during the Reformation.

The Death of Adulthood

Matthew Lee Anderson:

We’ve reached the end of adulthood in America according to AO Scott. Or at least of the patriarchal version of it, anyway, which Scott sees in three paradigmatic dramas of our era—Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Sopranos, whose protagonists and their downfalls allow us to “marvel at the mask of masculine incompetence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly.”  On Scott’s reading, “in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grownups.”  It’s a provocative, sweeping hypothesis of the sort that are useful for engendering conversations, even if it doesn’t stand up under analysis.

And it may not.

Are You Leeching the Local Church?

Ryan Shelton:

When I was a teen, I bought into the very fashionable assumption that the local church would only cramp my style and put a barrier to “authentic spirituality.” I stopped attending for a while until I got wind of a hip, cool church across town that was full of attractive, young, relevant people. The music was great, the preaching was edgy, and the atmosphere was exciting.

For months, I drove all the way across town, nearly an hour each way, to attend services at the church that “got it.” It was a booming place, with six fully packed services each weekend. And if I arrived late, I was turned away because the fire department was keeping a close eye on the safety capacity.

It all ended for me one week, when the pastor said something that disturbed me.

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Get free shipping on Not Just a Soup Kitchen at Westminster Bookstore

Westminster Bookstore is offering free US shipping when ordering one or more copies of David Apple’s new book, Not Just a Soup Kitchen: How Mercy Ministry in the Local Church Transforms Us All ($9 each). Enter coupon code MERCY at checkout (good for one use only). You can also save 50 percent off the cover price when ordering five or more copies.

Also on sale at Westminster:

The real significance of the “eighth day”

Nick Batzig:

In recent decades, the “eighth day” has been taken up by American pop-culture as something of a rhetorical literary device. When I was in high school there was a somewhat annoyingly catchy song about God making sweat tea on the eighth day. Then there was the Superbowl commercial about how God supposedly made farmers on the eighth day. While these attempts to employ the idea of the eighth day are an apparatus to show appreciation for the goodness of beloved objects, there is a divinely invested theological significance to the eighth day in Scripture–both with regard to the day on which the Israelite boys were to be circumcised (Genesis 17:12), as well as to the ceremonial Sabbaths in the Old Testament ceremonial law concerning the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36-39 and Numbers 29:35). The Eighth Day (on a seven day week structure) denotes new creation–one and eight representing creation and new creation.

Gospel Affection

Joe Thorn offers ten ways to show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Moral Ambiguity in a Selfish Culture.

Erik Raymond:

How can we in America go hoarse yelling about a child who is abused and then likewise lose our voice yelling for the rights of mothers to kill their unborn children?

This is moral ambiguity.

Burial vs cremation

Mike Leake on why he prefers the former over the latter.

When Your Church Is Not Revitalizing

Scott Slayton:

It is hard to overstate the difficulty of working in a church where revitalization is not happening. There are years with more funerals than baptisms. Teenagers graduate, move on to college, and don’t come back. Families with young children leave and go to the church with “better” children’s ministry, music, and preaching. The church’s leaders stare at you and wonder what you are doing wrong to keep the church from growing. The pastor hears countless stories about church’s glory days and how great was the pastor who led them in those years. When those stories are told, the pastor hears, “We wish we were in those days again, and we wish he was still our pastor instead of you.”

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of Kindle deals for you today:

Three books on leadership from Crossway:

Also on sale:

Finally, four books by Hank Hanegraaff:

A Failure of Worship

Tim Challies:

I find addiction, and the bondage of addiction, to be very difficult to understand. It seems like overcoming addiction should be so simple, and especially for the Christian: Instead of doing that thing, how about next time you just don’t do that thing? Instead of opening that bottle, keep it closed. Instead of buying those pills, buy some groceries. Instead of typing in that web site, type in a different web site. Instead of walking through the doors of the casino, choose not to even go near the casino. If only it was so simple.

A Little Greek Can Be a Big Distraction

Peter Krol:

You don’t have to reference Greek or Hebrew to study the Bible. You can observe, interpret, and apply using a decent English translation (such as the ESV or NET). In fact, knowing a bit of Greek can actually distract you from careful study of a passage.

The Blessings and Curses of Being an Introverted Pastor

Eric McKiddie:

The stakes are high when it comes to being an introverted pastor because our job ispeople. The very nature of our role requires us to engage with our congregation relationally, but the nature of our personality inclines us toward alone time. To the extent that we avoid people, or outsource shepherding to staff pastors or interns, we short-circuit our leadership potential.

But there are strengths to being an introverted pastor, too. It seems to me that people think there are only curses to being an introverted pastor. Maybe it’s just me being a sensitive introvert, but I’ve never heard someone being referred to as an introvert as a compliment, nor have I heard someone identified as an extrovert negatively. The word extrovert, it seems, is synonymous with entrepreneurial, charismatic, and being a people person. Even the negative sides of being an extrovert are given a positive spin, like the gift of gab.

 The Books Boomers Will Never Read

John Piper:

Not all boomers are readers. They will feel their losses coming at their dented, shaky, leaky space ship in different ways. But millions are.

We love to read. We wish we could read so much more. I had lunch recently with a 93-year old man, full of alertness and mental energy. He told me that in his wife’s last years he read 22 novels out loud to her.

For the boomers who read, the thought of so many books never being read brings a sense of great loss. The loss is felt in proportion to our love of reading.

Why do we love to read?

The Problem with Others

Chad Thornhill:

If we require the other to be like us before we open our arms to them, we undercut the entire thrust of the Gospel, which is that God loved humanity in its complete and utter otherness from him, and yet embraced them through his son anyway. We are called to offer the same response to both outsiders (those outside of the faith) and others (those who are different from us). That is the call with which those who claim the name of Christ have been entrusted. Yes, governments exist to enforce laws and prosecute criminals. But the Church does not. This does not mean the Church should withdraw from public engagement. But our engagement must be driven by biblical and theological convictions and attitudes, and not political ideologies and legal inquiries.

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The Barney-Stinsonization of America

Chris Martin:

Sleeping with countless women with no strings attached seems like paradise to countless young men, but throughout the show, in between his seductive tricks and sexual triumphs, one reality remains:

Barney is enslaved by his sexual freedom.

And there’s reason to believe he isn’t the only one.

We are in the midst of the Barney-Stinsonization of America, and the most popular song in the country is proof of that.

He must increase, our churches must decrease

Jared Wilson nails it, as per usual:

See, nobody ever said, “We changed our music style and revival broke out.”
Nobody ever said, “We moved from Sunday School classes to small groups and the glory of God came down.”
Nobody ever said, “You would not believe the repenting unto holiness that happened when our pastor started preaching shorter sermons.”
(I’m just sayin’.)

No, all those things and more can be good things. Done for the right reasons, those can be very good moves to make, but the glory of God is best heard in the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. So that’s where the glory-aimed church is going to camp out.

We all talk a big game about the glory of God, but it is a rare church that takes God’s glory seriously as the purpose of everything.

Having Boldness to Enter the Holiest

L. Michael Morales:

The Book of Leviticus is the heart and center of the Pentateuch. The theological heart of Leviticus—and, therefore, also of the Five Books of Moses—is the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). On this most sacred day, the high priest of Israel would bring the blood of sacrifice into the holy of holies to cleanse both the tabernacle dwelling of God and the camp of Israel. Ultimately, every other sacrifice and ritual in Israel’s cult derived its meaning and significance from this annual entrance into the earthly throne room of God. Worship in ancient Israel was through the chosen and anointed mediator, the high priest. Significantly, then, in the Pentateuch “messiah” refers exclusively to Aaron the high priest—he is the one anointed with oil, whose mediation allows God’s people to draw near in worship.

Why Twitter is a bad place to do theology

Mark Jones on the problems with trying to do theology well in 140 characters or less.

“I Have Another One…”

Tullian Tchividjian:

Sam confesses an infidelity to Sheila, and she forgives him. Sheila confesses an infidelity to Sam, and he forgives her. Everything seems to be back on track until Sheila says, “I have another one.” Sam says, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. This is what it’s all about…honesty and forgiveness.” But then she says that it’s Cliff, from Cheers (the frumpy mailman played by John Ratzenberger). “Cliff?!?!?!” Sam explodes. This is over the line for him. He can’t take it and storms out of the room, calling off the marriage.

All too often, this is how we think of God’s forgiveness, and why assurance eludes us.

Evangelicalism’s Poor Form

Alastair Roberts:

Whether designed to clarify evangelicalism as an object of study or analysis, or to police its supposed boundaries, definitions of evangelicalism have generally tended to occlude the cultural, institutional, and sociological dimensions of the movement. This is unfortunate, as it is precisely these elements that are most salient in the experience of many within it. Evangelicalism is not There is a sort of evangelical folk religion, most of which is largely unauthorized by pastors or elders.typically experienced as a set of abstract and explicit doctrines or beliefs held by individuals, but more as a distinctive cultural environment within which such beliefs are inconsistently and idiosyncratically maintained. The official beliefs of evangelicalism exist alongside a host of other miscellaneous elements and the cross-pollination from the surrounding society, all sustained within local churches and a shifting constellation of denominations, movements, ministries, groups, and agencies.

Err on the side of original

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There are a lot of embarrassing things that can happen when you’re preaching. One time, and this was one of my earliest preaching opportunities, I completely blanked out. It was as though my entire vocabulary was lost, and I just stood there for what seemed like at least 15 seconds (which is a really long time to be silent when you think about it). Another time, I preached one of the worst messages of my life at a friend’s church. The entire thing was a scattered mess, and I felt like I wanted to die (especially when people were offering polite compliments).

There are some things I haven’t done, thankfully. (At least, not yet; there’s still time.) But you know what I expect would be really embarrassing? Being invited back to a church and preaching a message you’ve already shared.

At that church.

Toward the end of Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares a number of stories of preachers who had this happen. He wasn’t saying this to steer his hearers away from re-preaching a message, but to give wise counsel: if you’re going to do it, make sure you keep track of where you have already preached the message.

This is good advice, for obvious reasons. Although I prefer to not re-preach my own sermons, the odd time I have, I’ve made sure to note where so I don’t do it again.

But, I’ve got to be honest, sometimes it’s sorely tempting to just re-preach out of convenience. After all, I have a young family, a full-time job and multiple hobby jobs… it’s not like there’s a lot of time that exists to write new sermons every time I preach.

But there’s just something about the process of preparing the message that feeds and encourages me, even as the purpose is to encourage others. When I re-preach, I rarely have that same experience. I don’t feel truly prepared, no matter how much time I spend reviewing the text and manuscript. When I preach new material, it’s the message I need to hear, as much as it is the message for the congregation. For me at least, that seems to be a pretty good reason to err on the side of original. What do you think?

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eBook deals for Christian readers

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper is $3.99 for the Kindle. Meanwhile, over at Westminster Bookstore, you can get any of P&R’s eBook titles for $1.99 each until September 6th. Here are a few you might want to consider:

Ruined by the Bell

Richard Clark:

Zack served not only as the central protagonist in the series, but also as the primary communicator with the audience. He had a habit of breaking the fourth wall, explaining the insane inner workings of the high school to the audience. And, while all of the other characters maintain a cartoonish and unthinking stereotype, Zack exhibits his ability to indulge in shallow self-awareness. Essentially, Zack seems keenly aware of the startling fact of his existence: he lives in his own television show.

8 Questions To Help Guard Your Heart

Mark Altrogge:

…we must pay attention to what is going into and coming out of our hearts. We must watch what we’re thinking. This doesn’t mean we should become self-absorbed or become overly introspective or constantly be thinking about ourselves. But we should be aware of our thoughts because our mindset affects our life. Here are seven questions we can ask ourselves to see how we are keeping our hearts.

Controversy: What Is It?

Joey Cochran:

But rarely do people ever step back and think about the very nature of controversies themselves. What are they? What makes them what they are? How are they resolved? Why do we never seem to get away from them? Is controversy all bad? What are the advantages to controversy? These are some of the question that I hope to answer over the course of time.

This Was Not My Plan

Courtney Reissig:

We had been in Little Rock for more than a year, having moved to plant a church with another couple from seminary. Because of the nature of a church plant, my husband took a corporate job. He was bivocational with the intent of going on church staff once we settled our school debt and the church could pay him.

In that first year and a half of working, though, he started noticing something about himself and his job. Others noticed it, too. He liked sales, and sales seemed to like him. His “day job”—which started as a means to a ministerial end—had suddenly become the end in itself.

Hearing that the trajectory of our lives might change, though, was unsettling for me. When he asked, “What if I am meant to do this forever?” all I heard was, “You will forever be alone with twins while I travel with my job.” I panicked. This was not how I envisioned my life.

Facing Leviathan

facing-leviathan

Influence. Leverage relationships. Eschew formal authority. Develop compelling values… this is pretty much what you see in all the best-selling leadership books. And while it’s not all bad (although not all good, either), it begs the question: if influence is the silver bullet, why isn’t it working? 

Mark Sayers, senior leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia, may have stumbled onto the answer, and, as he writes in Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, it’s less of an issue of technique or style than one of worldview.

A clash of worldviews

 

We are in the midst of a battle between what he describes as “mechanical” and “organic” values—a move away from traditional values surrounding leadership, which includes authority and power toward fluid, creative and (sometimes) leaderless leadership styles. And while some argue that this is our “evolving beyond” the modernist approach to life and leadership, Sayers argues it’s actually a reversion. It’s the reassertion of the values of Romanticism.

“Romanticism arose in reaction to the Enlightenment,” he writes, “attempt[ing] to create an alternative to the mechanical worldview. It would base its ideology on the suspicion of power and structure… They preferred emotion and experience to reason and the empirical.” And while the Englightment (or modernist) vision imagines the leader as hero, “the Romantic vision imagines the creative genius as a heretic, always pushing the boundaries and breaking taboos” (26-27).

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Go take a look at any of the leadership books littering your shelves and you’ll see this conflict front and center. But Sayers goes deeper than the Romanticism vs Enlightenment ideology clash—those two are merely alternatives to the Christian worldview, options that fail to stand up against the true battle:

The real battle in which our culture is engage is not between the mechanical and the organic but rather between the pagan and Christian worldviews. A Christianity that attempts to model itself on the hero or the genius will be a faith that has little potential to speak the good news to the West. Instead, we must rediscover the truly radical vision of leadership found within the Bible. A model of leadership… that dared to proclaim in pagan streets and squares that God had lowered Himself to come and live in the mess and muck of human life, within history, in time, in human flesh. (29)

Christlike leadership

The first and last chapters—and the passage above in particular—makes Facing Leviathan worth reading. Sayers succinctly and precisely identifies the battle within our world, and the struggle within leadership circles. We’re essentially fighting the right battle with the wrong weapons. We’re combating “leader as hero” with “leader as heretic,” preferring to be hip over being heard. And both approaches leave us—both leaders and followers—wanting.

The leader as hero types quickly tend to veer into becoming overbearing and authoritarian. I once knew a man who seemed more like a supervillain than a human being in this regard, laughing maniacally whenever he learned an employee had purchased a car or a house. It meant, from his perspective, he owned them—they needed their jobs, and he delighted in that fact. Followers of this type often feel beaten down and abused. But I’ve also seen the leader as heretic, too, and it also quickly falls apart as they’re too busy deconstructing what already exists to figure out how to move forward. Followers of this type are typically frustrated by the lack of forward direction, which feeds into their distrust of authority, which then makes them even more frustrated, which then…

We don’t need more heroes, and we definitely don’t need more heretics. We need something better. “We must become leaders who are deep in a society of the spectacle that produces shallowness” (115). In other words, we need leaders modelled after Christ. We need people who are, as Sayers calls them, rebuilders, those who are quietly “getting on with the job.”

“Our culture of deconstruction no longer makes sense to them,” he writes. “The culture of deconstruction that has come to dominate the church no longer helps them. It hinders them. They are the rebuilders, partners with God in the rebuilding of His creational order” (217). These are the kinds of people we need to become, he argues, people less concerned with worrying about “moving from the mechanical values to the organic values,” and instead “living wholeheartedly for the God we find in the storm” (218). And out of that comes something compelling and beautiful, something deep in a sea of shallow. Maybe even leaders worth following.

Weaknesses punctuated by the author’s strengths

There is so much strength to Facing Leviathan, particularly when Sayers is exercising his considerable skills as a cultural commentator, that it’s hard to find much fault with the book. But what weaknesses do exist come from its author’s strengths.

Sayers is clearly gifted as a cultural commentator, but is not nearly as gifted a biblical one, as demonstrated by his novel (but not entirely unorthodox) approach to Jonah throughout the book. Jonah isn’t the first book I’d go to tease out lessons on leadership, but maybe that’s just me. I’ve seen it done occasionally, but the results have always left me wanting. Jonah is a powerful illustration of the gospel, to be sure, but I’m not sure he really fits the mould of either the “heroic” or “heretic” leader. Instead, he, like the rest of us, is a deeply confused, broken, sinful, selfish, individual—one who desperately needs the saving work of the One whom he foreshadows.

As borderline blasphemous as it might seem to say “I wish he hadn’t included discussion of this or that biblical passage,” I’d almost rather he’d have not bothered with it since it lessens the impact of the rest of his writing. His theologically informed reading of culture, the arts, and literature stands on its own.

Nevertheless, I would not let this prevent me from recommending this book to most any reader, especially those in a position of influence (or leadership). By recasting our leadership principles as a conflict between worldviews, Sayers will surely cause its readers to rethink what they’ve read in the latest leadership bestseller—and perhaps reconsider their approach to Christlike leadership.


Title: Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm
Author: Mark Sayers
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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You will not say this on your deathbed

True.

7 Characteristics of Spiritually Beneficial Friendships

Nick Batzig:

When I was a boy, my father always prayed that God would make us “wise beyond our years.” One of the ways that the Lord does this is by surrounding us with friends who are wise beyond their years. If you want to be the best doctor, lawyer, teacher, mechanic, chef, etc. one of the best ways to reach your goal is to study the lives and techniques of those more skillful than you in that field. In the business world, those who excel most are those who surround themselves with those who give wise counsel about what they did to excel and how to best go forward. As the Proverbs explain, “In the multitude of counselors there safety” (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). This is, of course, first and foremost speaking of the multitude of counsel in Scripture and from the Lord in prayer–but it also has applicability to the counsel of biblically mature and spiritually-minded men and women that God places in our lives.

Here are seven characteristics of friends with whom we should seek to surround ourselves.

Victoria Osteen, the glory of God and reformed worship

Ligon Duncan gives a thorough response to the Victoria Osteen video that’s been floating around for the last week or so.

Ten Ways to Double Your Church Volunteer Recruitment and Retention

Thom Rainer:

Without volunteer labor and ministry, our churches would not exist. The recruitment and retention of volunteers should be one of the highest priorities of church leaders.

While we typically honor our paid labor force on Labor Day, I want to take the opportunity to focus on volunteer labor in our congregations. Specifically, I want to share with you ten ways the most effective churches are recruiting and retaining volunteers. In many cases, they have more than doubled the success of those churches where these approaches are not taken.

A Novel Every Christian Should Consider Reading

Louis Markos shares a novel every Christian should read in Justin Taylor’s new blog series, and it’s a good one: Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

Making a case for books

This is some impressive stop-motion work:

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How to speak Christianese

HT: Jeff Medders

Are We Passionate for People?

Jonathan Parnell:

It is an amazing thing that God comforts the downcast, and that he tells us this so clearly. The idea of God’s comfort isn’t religious folklore, nor is it some spiritual platitude to pull out when we can’t think of something more specific to say. This is a truth read explicitly in the words of Scripture, and pervasively narrated throughout.

But how exactly does he comfort us? This is an important question. Comfort, in order for it to be real comfort, must be as palpable as our pain. Theoretical comfort won’t do. The idea of comfort won’t satisfy. Therefore, in what ways might the “God who comforts” actually comfort his people?

7 Ways We Pray Without Praying

Aaron Earls shares how we might be praying without praying at all.

Who’s Self-Controlled Now?

Lore Ferguson:

People are prone to affirmation when it comes to commentary on one’s goodness or their kindness, but rarely do I hear someone say, “Wow, your self-control is really stellar. You’ve got it going on in that department.”

Why?

Because you can’t see my self-control unless I give you opportunity and opportunities like that are few. Before you can see me exercise my will power you have to know that there’s a struggle of my wills.

And I don’t let people see those things.

Don’t You Worry Child

Tullian Tchividjian:

One night about 18 months ago when I was putting Genna to bed, I asked her, “Honey, how do you think God feels about you?” Her immediate response was, “Disappointed.” After some probing, I realized that she wasn’t feeling convicted about any particular sin, she simply sees God as someone whose feelings toward her are basically unhappy ones. She knows that God is perfect and that she is imperfect—she understands that God is holy and that she is sinful—and so it only makes sense to her that God is perpetually displeased with her.

Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap

Kevin DeYoung shares wisdom from Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Brothers, abandon the green room

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Every so often, I’ll be reading a book by a pastor and see mention of a green room at the church. For those who don’t know, a green room is one in which in which performers can relax when they are not performing (typically, they’re found in a theaters, concert halls, and studios).

Which, of course, is one of the goofiest things ever.

Now, I get it: I am not a natural “crowd” person. My favorite time at a party is when it’s time to go home. Most pastors (at least, most of the pastors I know) tend to have a more introverted temperament.

And while I get that, I hope we all realize that the green room runs completely contrary to the gospel.

No matter how we over-spiritualize it—whether we say that area is used for pre-service prayer, or yet another review of our sermon notes—it represents more of a detriment to our spiritual well-being than we might realize, both those of us in the congregation and those who preach. The green room is about isolation, about creating barriers between the shepherd and the sheep.

The green room is a place to hide.

The gospel, however, refuses to let us remain isolated. It connects us to God through Christ; but it also connects us to others. That whole “body” metaphor Paul kept using? Yep. The vine and branches analogy Jesus used? Ditto.

No matter how much we believe, “No one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings,” autonomous Christianity doesn’t work. Ever.

If a pastor does not feel that he can be present with the congregation while waiting to preach, there is something dreadfully wrong, internally. And if there’s a lesson for all of us—both congregation members and pastors alike—it’s that. Pastors cannot be disconnected from congregations. When they cease to be connected, they cease to truly be pastors. They become something else entirely. And this should never be.

Brothers, abandon the green room. Do not hide from the congregation; do not perpetuate the leadership is lonely garbage. Worship with the congregation, seeing your place in the body so you might experience the ministry of the body.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

These deals from Zondervan and Thomas Nelson could end any time (99¢ each):

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On Platforms, Self-Promotion, and Pleasure Complete

Tim Brister:

You think that, following such an ordinary introduction, his list of accomplishments would soon follow to make up for a bland beginning. And yet, it seems to be all the more paradoxical. The Apostle John says John the Baptist “was not the light.” This was confirmed through the testimony of John the Baptist who, at every point, told people who he was not. “I am not the Christ.” “I am not Elijah.” “I am not the Prophet.” Finally, when asked to explain who he was, John could only describe himself as a voice in the wilderness. And when his followers pressed him to be more aggressive and increase his influence, John could only respond by saying, “I must decrease.”

So there you have it. The man who Jesus said was without comparison (Jesus excluded of course). His life did not end with him on a throne but in prison. He did not have a crown on his head but ended with his head on platter. How could it really be true what Jesus said about John the Baptist? Is there really none greater?

Driscoll steps down for at least six weeks while disqualifying charges are reviewed

More at RNS.

Parable of the Vineyard Workers: The Best for Last

Aaron Earls:

o what it is it that makes the last different from all the other workers? They went into the job blind – totally relying on the landowner’s generosity. He didn’t even promise to pay them anything.

Then why did they go to work for someone without having any type of agreement? Trust. They trusted the landowner to do right by them.

After the workers put their trust in the landowner, how did he treat them? Grace. They didn’t deserve the denarius. They barely deserved any pay, yet the landowner was compassionate to them. Their trust found grace. Their reliance was met with undeserved favor.

Losing your voice: 4 ways pastors lose pulpits

Clint Archer:

There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

The Questions God Asks

Lore Ferguson:

I can’t shake the heaviness. It’s been there for weeks, months, a year. A funeral shroud. “Where, oh death, is your sting?” Oh, it’s here. All here.

I’ve been thinking of Mary in the garden these days, weeping by the tomb, the empty tomb. Standing by the evidence that her Lord had risen and she didn’t even recognize the man who asked, “Why are you crying? And whom do you seek?”

But he knew.

Links I like

How to Raise Up Leaders in the Church

This is a conversation that, if you’re not having already in your own church, you desperately need to begin:

To Trust in Men

Lore Ferguson:

A few months ago I sat across from a pastor who took my shameful history and held up his own, point for point. It wasn’t a competition, it was a “You too? Me too.” I am grateful for men like him who do not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but stand on the level ground before the cross and say, “There’s room here. There’s room here.”

Am I a Horrible Parent for Moving My Kids (Back) to Africa?

Stacy Hare:

Currently our kids are used to playing in the Olympic stadium just around the corner from our house. They know where the neighborhood castle is, and if ever we visit a different city, they are always on the lookout for that city’s local castle. They go to a school where they are being taught how to properly brush their teeth, how to recycle, and of course how to speak French. It is not uncommon for me to come home with a handful of birthday invitations that their little friends gave them at school. And if they cannot go to school, they cry. America is a faint memory, but France is their home, and being surrounded by the amazing Alps is their normal.

Now we are taking them to a remote, poor village in Africa without electricity, a school, or a nearby hospital.

Ferguson is Ripping the Bandages off our Racial Wounds

Trevin Wax:

The policy successes of the Civil Rights movement have given rise to the narrative that the worst of our racial and ethnic prejudices are behind us. Unfortunately, politics and policies show only one side of the story.

The truth is, we are still a country divided.

Get Economics for Everybody in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get t<em
Economics for Everybody: Applying Biblical Principles to Work, Wealth, and the World a teaching series by R.C. Sproul, Jr (audio and video download), for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Psalm 51 teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
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$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

God uses two “gardens”

JD Greear:

In Psalm 127, Solomon refers to children as a “heritage” or an “inheritance” from the Lord. It’s easy to miss how revolutionary that statement is. Solomon isn’t saying that children will receive our inheritance. He is saying that they are our inheritance. But what doesthat mean?

It means that the most important task we have as a church is to teach the next generation the gospel.

Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff!

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I have to be honest: I really, really miss the days when leaders were cool with just being called managers or leaders. You know, when people weren’t adding qualifiers to boost their self-importance self-esteem?

Today, instead of being managers, we’re leaders. But not just leaders, catalytic leaders. Visionary leaders with fireworks shooting out our rear-ends with every decision we make. (And not just because of the Taco Bell we ate at lunch.)

We get it, okay? You’re a big deal. You’ve got people skills, dag-nabbit!

But could you maybe shut up about it?

There’s a problem in leadership circles when you have to declare yourself a catalytic, visionary such-and-such with mad woo skills (which is just as creepy as it sounds). The problem is simple: you’re clearly not one.

Your vision is seen in what you’ve accomplished, not by what you say you’re doing.

Your ability to move people to action is less important than what action you’re calling them to.

Your charisma is less important than your character.

Who are we trying to kid, honestly? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s ourselves.

We want to be seen as important. We want to be seen as big deals. We have a brand to uphold and promote, after all. We want to matter… because, well, we are deeply insecure. We are unsure of our ability to lead faithfully, so we mask it in bravado. We are insecure in our relationship with Christ, so we look to our performance for comfort.

But it’s a little bit like a foodie blog operated by someone who only knows how to make Kraft Dinner. The disconnect is often obvious to everyone but us.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” says Proverbs 27:2, “a stranger, and not your own lips.” There’s a reason the Lord inspired these wise words. When we praise ourselves, we reveal our insecurity.

But, brothers (and sisters, too!), we do not need to be insecure. The fruits of our labors will be apparent to all in time, if they are not already. And in time, if the fruit is good, the lips of another will praise our efforts. So we don’t need to!

Leader, let another praise you. Worry less about calling yourself a catalyst or a visionary. Vision and charisma is fleeting, and your security is not in those things anyway.


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