One more reason why Sunday evening services are disappearing

Winter-Church

Recently, Thom Rainer shared a few reasons for the possible demise of the Sunday evening service. Yesterday, Tim Challies chimed in from his perspective, suggesting that it could be linked to a diminished view of preaching, our amusement culture and the growth of amateur and professional sports, among others. But there’s one other reason I’d like to suggest:

A diminished view of discipleship and leadership development.

This has been a growing problem not only in the church but in the culture at large, despite it being one of the most oft-cited practices of good leaders (and all who’ve read a book on leadership said, “Amen”). Younger potential leaders need guidance from seasoned leaders—to learn from their experience (both positive and negative). And seasoned leaders do their most important work when they’re investing in those coming up behind them and ensuring that there are strong leaders to take the reins after they’ve retired or moved on to another opportunity.

Yet, despite the common knowledge that developing leaders is a good thing, this is missing in the cultures of many organizations—including churches.

This should never be. After all, we see a pretty strong emphasis on this kind of development in the New Testament. Although, you’re not going to find a verse saying, “older leaders, thou shalt raise up younger ones,” what you will find is Paul exhorting older men and women to invest in younger ones (Titus 2:1-6), Paul shepherding younger men like Timothy, whom he calls his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), appointing elders (Acts 14:23) and tasking his protégés to do likewise (Titus 1:5).

Going a little more broadly, this kind of investing in others is part and parcel with the great commission itself—we are to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily requires the older (or more mature) to train and teach the younger.

Factoring all that in, rather than think of it as leadership development, maybe it’s more helpful to see it as discipleship.

Back to Sunday evening services for a moment: what both Rainer and Challies mentioned is that many pastors simply don’t have time to prepare two different sermons for each Sunday. This is very true. The responsibilities pastors carry are great, and one of the most important is their proclaiming and teaching of the Bible. But no one says senior pastors have to be the ones preaching on Sunday evening.

Sunday night services are a prime opportunity for the training of younger preachers—men who have shown some aptitude, but need experience to both identify their strengths and confirm whether or not a calling to pastoral ministry exists. It’s also a positive way to disciple the congregation as a whole. By having someone else preach, even someone who isn’t super-experienced (and may preach a lemon or ten), the congregation is protected from developing a cult of personality (you don’t need to have a big church for this to happen). They’re learning to be discerning, as well as being reminded that they’re trust is to be in the Word, not in the words of a messenger.

These are just some of the practical values a Sunday evening service brings. While I don’t attend a church that has one (we meet in a public high school and it’s not included in our lease agreement), I have been invited to preach at other churches for their evening services. And every time, it’s been a really positive learning experience and (thankfully) the congregation leaves encouraged. The more I do it, the more I am grateful for the churches that continue to hold these services.

Now, obviously, the solution to the leadership development and discipleship issue isn’t just “bring back Sunday night services;” that would be far too simplistic a thing to suggest. But what it should make all of us consider is how are we intentionally investing in and discipling younger potential leaders—and, honestly, whether or not we’re doing it at all.

Links I like

It multiplied

Ray Ortlund:

I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one.

What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking About Q Nashville

Hunter Baker:

When I look at Q, its hosts, and the young people participating in it, I suspect I am seeing the cultural stance of those who have grown up in pervasively Christian subcultures. For them, rebelling means rebelling against Massive Baptist Church or Church Related University or Clearly Wealthy Famous Preacherman. Those are the holders of power in their world. It is little wonder to them that the dominant culture dislikes us. We are hypocrites. We don’t measure up to our own standards. And we are judgmental while the secular world is more understanding. Or so it seems to them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a number of wonderful books by J.I. Packer on sale this week:

Also on sale:

Finally, a few books by Stephen Altrogge are on for 99¢ each:

Celebrities Are Not Commodities

Richard Clark:

Between movies, television shows, pop music, websites, and podcasts, our lives are full of background noise created by and in service to celebrities. Even if you’re not obsessed with Hollywood and tabloid culture, you’ve no doubt been a little too excited about being in the same room with your favorite pastor, writer, or theologian.

The reality of celebrity throws a wrench into our well-oiled mastery of relationships. We may have learned to restrain our judgment of those closest to us, to give those around us the benefit of the doubt, and to show grace to those who sin against us. We might have learned not to keep a record of wrongs. We might have learned to forgive our friends 777 times. We allow ourselves to continue in friendships that inconvenience and disturb us, because that’s what Jesus would have done. But all of this is exhausting. We need a break.

10 Ingredients Of A Happy Home

David Murray:

One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort. From my own experience and from observing others, here are ten ways to cultivate a happy home.

The Church Needs More Tattoos

Russell Moore:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often tells audiences, “Republican Party events need more people with tattoos.” It struck me, as I heard him say this, that this is kind of what evangelical Christians ought to be saying about our churches. It struck me further when I read this tribute my former student Spencer Harmon wrote about his new wife and her past that this is precisely the issue facing the next generation of the Bride of Christ, the church.

What Paul (the senator, not the Apostle) means, it seems, is that his party, if it is to have a future, shouldn’t count on just doing the same thing it’s always done, and it can’t rely on people who look like what people think Republicans ought to look like. The party must expand out to people whose pictures don’t currently show up in a Google image search for “Republican.” There are people, Paul says, who agree with the Republican message, in theory, but who pay no attention to it because they assume they aren’t the kind of people the party wants to talk to.

Links I like

You won’t waste your life

In this short video, Jared Wilson, who moved from the buzzing metropolis of Nashville to a small town in Vermont, contrary to those who think giftedness is wasted in smaller contexts, encourages young men and couples to consider ministry in less notable areas.

Caring for a parent with dementia

Dave Jenkins:

The last time I saw my father was six and a half years ago in that exact office. On Father’s Day, 2012, (one month before the phone call from my brother) the Lord placed it heavy on my heart to pray and intercede for my dad, which I did. As tears streamed from my eyes, little did I know the Lord would bring my dad back from Eastern Washington to Seattle one day in the near future. So on that day in July 18th, 2012, while I was shocked to get a phone call from my older brother, I was at peace as I spoke to my father on the phone for the first time in six and a half years. As I choked back tears, I said, “Do you know who this is?” and he said, “Yes, I do, it’s my son, David.”

A Thirst for Knowledge, A Thirst for Porn

Mike Leake:

Knowledge is a good thing. There is nothing innately wrong with someone settling an argument by Googling the 1984 World Series MVP. In fact it can be quite helpful.

The problem is when we believe knowledge is a right. And it becomes a big problem when that foolish belief collides with our sex-crazed culture.

Many young men are introduced to pornography out of curiosity. They simply want to know what those forbidden parts look like. And then that curiosity gets more pointed. They want to know what certain celebrities look like naked. It never satisfies.

Like, totally, whatever, y’know

This has been floating around for a while, but it’s pretty awesome:

Christianity is a Crutch for the Weak

Matt Chandler:

So when I hear someone say that Christianity is a crutch, I agree. I’m a guy whose legs are broken. I need that crutch. When I hear someone say Christianity is for the feeble-minded, I agree. I have a feeble mind. I need the gospel to give me a right mind. When I hear someone say Christianity is something that weak people need, I agree. Weak people need it. I’m weak, and so are you. You just don’t know you’re weak.

The Best Way To Live

Tim Brister:

Ironically, the very “don’ts” that unbelievers present as objects to their freedom and pleasure in the world hold out the true and greater freedom and pleasure found in knowing God and doing His will. God is not against your freedom. He is for it enough to purchase it at the cost of His own beloved Son. God is not against your pleasure. He is for it enough to place the curse of sin on the only person with whom He has ever been well-pleased so that we might know the pleasure of salvation and the riches of His loving acceptance.

Links I like

Can We Trade Sexual Morality for Church Growth?

Russell Moore:

Sexual morality didn’t become difficult with the onset of the sexual revolution. It always has been. Walking away from our own lordship, or from the tyranny of our desires, has always been a narrow way. The rich young ruler wanted a religion that would promise him his best life now, extended out into eternity. But Jesus knew that such an existence isn’t life at all, just the zombie corpse of the way of the flesh. He came to give us something else, to join us to his own life.

Get The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts free

Reformation Trust’s free book of the month is The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond. Get it for free for the Kindle at Amazon, the ePub edition at Ligonier.org or for iBooks at iTunes.

Constitutional Wisdom and Common Sense on Ceremonial Prayer

Albert Mohler:

The Court’s ruling yesterday is important at every level — even as the controversy over the ruling is very illuminating. Some people argue that the problem is prayer in any form, and would simply prohibit public prayers at any governmental occasion. Others, like the women who brought this case against Greece, New York, would argue that prayers may be allowed, but only if they are sufficiently nonsectarian prayers offered to a generic deity. Others, including Justice Kennedy and a majority of the Court, argue that the nation has clearly allowed explicitly “sectarian” prayers to be offered at government occasions, and that the nation’s commitment to pluralism then depends on the invitation to pray being extended to all, regardless of creed.

How the Lego Movie should have ended

HT: Zach

Church Is For Messy People

Stephen Altrogge:

I distinctly remember one Sunday when a man said to me something like, “When I look around, I see all these people who have their lives together. Meanwhile, my life is a mess.” Church should be a place where messy people feel comfortable. When I say “messy people”, I don’t mean people who are willfully engaging in unrepentant sin. I mean people who are seeking to follow Jesus, but who often find themselves struggling, and falling, and failing. I’m talking about the weak, weary, and worn out.

10 Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids

David Murray summarizes ten lessons he’s learned from Dave Ramsey’s new book, Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money.

Get The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes for $5

Westminster Books has a killer sale on Zack Eswine’s new book, The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes. This week only, you can get this book for $5 per copy. Here’s the description:

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that life under the sun does not play out according to neat and tidy rules. He asks us to see the world around us in all its messiness and explores what that messiness reveals about us, our world, and God. The Preacher is plainspoken, because people live in the midst of this mess and we have to talk about it. Zack Eswine gives us a meditation that engages people where they are and invites them to draw near to God who enters their world to redeem it and them.

Links I like

I Miss the Absurdity

Tim Challies:

It was with a twinge of remorse that I realized I can’t relate to her as a little kid any more. For so long our love language has been the language of absurdities: “Mommy says you don’t want birthday presents this year, so mommy and I are going to use the money to go out on a date.” We used to have such fun with these, teasing one another back and forth with increasingly absurd statements. Now all I get is rolled eyes and the one-word exasperated exclamation, “Daddy!” I guess it’s time to stop, time to find something new, time to learn a new language.

Nine things you should know about prayer from the Bible

Joe Carter:
Do you know how many prayer are mentioned in the Bible (and how many were answered)? Here’s the answer to that question and other things you should know about the prayer in the Bible.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s list, here are a few deals for you:

St. Patrick’s bad analogies

This is pretty fantastic:

Why Playing it Safe as a Pastor Is the Riskiest Move You’ll Make

Eric McKiddie:

With all the opposition we face in ministry, it’s tempting to play it safe. Evasive maneuvers often seem like the best course of action. Mitigate the risk, and live to minister another day.

The irony is that while avoiding church conflict buys you time now, long-term—as I hope to show you—it guarantees failure. And anything that guarantees failure is the opposite of safe. It’s the ultimate risk, because you’re betting you will be the one-in-a-million pastor whose church problems go away all by themselves.

If playing it safe isn’t safe in church anymore, then what is? Risk is. In ministry, risky is the new safe.

The Ministry of Watching Sparrows Fall to the Ground

D.L. Mayfield:

It has been a hard few weeks. Death has been stalking this neighborhood. Suicides, both passive and otherwise, have haunted us. I have sat in the apartments of recent widows and had nothing to say but “I’m sorry”. I have listened to people as they told me about all of their possessions going up in a blaze, looked at the floor where they and their 8 children now sleep. I have had people clutch my arms, tell me their stories in snippets, beg for bus money. I have heard so much that I cannot share with anyone. Instead of debating the finer points of Pauline doctrine or sharing the stories of Jesus I find myself sitting in stuffy apartments, listening to sad stories being translated to me.Lately I have taken to chastising myself: what right do you have to be sad? You are just a newcomer, an outsider. Don’t co-opt the grief of others and pretend like it is your own. I have settled into a numb sort of dullness, objectively identifying situations with my lips: yes, yes, this is all very sad. But I am floating far above it all, afraid of being an emotional, slobbering wreck; tired of the increased distance I feel between myself and people who are not living this same life; hesitant to plumb the depths of my feelings towards the person who got me into this mess. Who is, of course, God. Some people feel called to do certain things. “Called by God,” they say, and I listen with envious ears. I imagine a gentle voice, a guiding light, when all I ever feel (as my good friend Jessica says) is a great big shove from the Almighty one. A grim sort of determination is the sheen around everything that I do. Of course, there is joy–I cannot get over the pleasures of living in diversity–but still I think that compulsion fits the bill for me better than calling.

Links I like

This comes from the Lord

Ray Ortlund:

Connecting “this comes from the Lord” with “having this ministry” forces a disturbing question.  How many of our churches today can say, “Our ministry comes from the Lord.  Our life-giving impact is of him.  What we are experiencing is coming down from above”?  How many of our churches have a clear awareness that what’s happening in their midst is not due to their cleverness or relevance or traditions or anything of Self?  How many of us can honestly say, “What’s happening among us here is from the Lord.  There is no other way to account for it.  We’re not that smart, not that attractive, not even that virtuous.  We want to do our best for him, of course.  But our church is under the touch of God.  Our ministry is by his mercy”?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The World’s Best Grandfather

Christopher Catherwood:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commonly referred to as the “Doctor,” was the prince of preachers of the twentieth century—perhaps the greatest since Spurgeon in the 19th century and Whitefield and Edwards in the 18th.

He was also the world’s best grandfather!

He died on my 26th birthday, March 1st, 1981, and he and I had a close grandfather/grandson relationship. I took very much after his side of the family, with a personality and intellectual interests very similar to his father, my great-grandfather, Henry Lloyd-Jones.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, while it may not seem like a deal, you should really pick up omnibus edition of C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy for $19.99.

On Church Membership and Theological Disagreement

Jake Meador:

“Port William repaid watching. I was always on the lookout for what would be revealed. Sometimes nothing would be, but sometimes I beheld astonishing sights.”

The lesson from that quote (from Wendell Berry) is that fidelity to a place, a people, or a tradition is often its own reward. This is because learning to actually see something takes a great deal of time. It is only through the virtues of patience and affection that we can come to truly know a place and find our home in it. Seeing these things properly is something that takes a great deal of time to do, and the longer you take at it the more apt you are to realize how much more there is to see. This was the thought I continued to have as I watched the Future of Protestantism event earlier this week.

Checking the Pulse of Spiritual Sibling Rivalry

Joey Cochran:

If we’re honest, there are times where we meet a brother or sister in Christ and don’t feel like being a brother or sister in Christ to them. Sometimes the feeling is subtle and subversive–so subtle that we almost deny the feeling; yet we’ve allowed ourselves to be rubbed the wrong way by that person. It might be that they are more successful, attractive, intelligent, or just flat out better than you at everything they do. It could be that they accomplished all of this while displaying sinful characteristics in the process. We see sin in them more than we see the same in our self (Matthew 7:3) . Maybe they took something that we believed should’ve been ours. Perhaps it was a promotion or award at work. You know that they follow Christ, but boy, you wish they didn’t so that you wouldn’t feel so bad about giving them an earful.

Links I like

3 wrong assumptions church leaders make

Trevin Wax:

As a church leader, you’ve probably noticed that when your assumptions are incorrect, you’re more likely to implement plans that don’t go anywhere. Why? Because what we’ve assumed to be true about the people in our congregations isn’t in line with reality. So, we’re forced to go back to the drawing board to determine what went wrong.

Much of our angst could be resolved by correcting our assumptions.

Here are three wrong assumptions we often make.

Kindle deals for Christian readers (and free stuff, too!)

Amazon also has 110 books on sale for $3.99 or less from a variety of genres.

And a couple of great additions to your cheap and free audio and Logos libraries:

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer is ChristianAudio’s free book of the month. Logos’ free book for May is 300 Quotes for Preachers from the Puritans. Along with it, you can get Study, Apply, Share: James—a resource for preparing and presenting sermons and coordinating your worship services—for 99¢.

20 Things I Wish I knew As A College Student

Paul Spears:

I don’t know if you are like me, but as I look back on my college years I wish someone would have pulled me aside and given me some tips on how best to pursue an education at the university. So I decided to put together a list called 20 things I wish someone told me while I was in college. This list is in no way exhaustive.

Get Saved From What? in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Saved From What? by RC Sproul for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas (ePub)
  • The Christian Mind conference messages (audio & video download)
  • Developing Christian Character teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)

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

The Conference No One Hosts is the One You Need to Attend

JD Payne:

No one schedules a conference called “The Things that did not Work.”

No one would want to come to that. No one would flock to hear a bunch of people talk about the shortfalls. We would not pay for that. Plus, we are not secure enough in our identity in Christ to talk about our “failures.” That means being vulnerable, transparent.

We want to know what works.

Squeezing the Fun Out of Sin

Mike Leake:

His hands are trembling and his eyes are watering as he reservedly plummets his spoon into another bite of this nasty concoction. It’s part soup, part meatloaf, and all the way disgusting. Truth be told nobody really knows what this garbage is but the miserable man knows that this is his only option to calm his raging stomach.

I guess I should say this gruel used to be his only option. A new cook has been hired and has now set before him a banquet of the tastiest morsels. He can say goodbye to the nasties and hello to this new delectable food.

Only he doesn’t. He has decided that he’d like to finish his bowl of half-meat.

“What a fool!”, you shout.

You are that man!

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

For a limited time, you can get the basic Kindle (with ads) for $49 and the Paperwhite for $99.

Although deals are pretty scarce at the moment, here are a few worth checking out:

10 Characteristics of Mr Controller

David Murray:

I’m trying to figure out how to distinguish between authority and authoritarianism. Any help you can give me would be much appreciated because while I think I can tell the difference, I’m finding it difficult to define the difference. I think I know it when I see it, but can I explain it to someone else? Not so easy.

But let me take a stab at this and please jump in with your own suggestions and corrections. I’ll begin with some broad definitions.

CBMW National Conference Media

A few hours prior to T4G, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood held their first national conference, featuring messages from Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, David Platt, Russell Moore, Danny Akin and more. Here’s a look at DeYoung’s message:

Be sure to check out the rest here.

10 Ideas to Improve Giving in Your Church

Chuck Lawless:

Something’s amiss in the North American church when believers average giving about 2-3 percent of their income to the church each year. Such shallow giving limits our ministry possibilities and hinders our getting the gospel to the nations.

If you want to increase the giving in your congregation, consider these steps.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

Jeff Medders:

Do you remember Geoffrey the giraffe? What about the painfully catchy tune, their retail battle cry and hymn?

I don’t wanna grow up; I’m a Toys-R-Us kid.

If you learn one thing from this post: Never trust a giraffe.

Theology from a giraffe is never a good thing. From my limited experience, most talking animals are bad theologians: Barney, Chuck E. Cheese, Chester Cheetah, Geoffrey the Giraffe, and The Serpent in Eden. This theology from the 80s is, sadly, a still small voice echoing in the lives of professing adults. While the slinky has gone the way of the perm, refusing to grow up is still in stock.

Don’t Call Her “First Lady”

Thabiti Anyabwile:

“Big Tim” does it every time he sees her. It doesn’t matter if it’s at church, in the grocery store or at the little league game. Every time he sees my wife he smiles real big, bows his head ever so slightly and says, “Hey, First Lady! How you doing First Lady?”

I chuckle on the inside because I know Kristie is gritting her teeth. She doesn’t like the label—not one bit. I’m getting a good laugh out of the entire episode. Meanwhile Kristie gets this nails-on-the-chalkboard cringe in her soul. But she’s smooth as water. You’d never know she dislikes the label because she smiles that big country grin back and says, “I’m fine. How are you ‘Big Tim’?”

Links I like

I Love My Black Letter Bible

Matt Smethurst:

I recently heard a remark that only in Jesus do we see God “as he is.” While this statement may sound profound and even have a ring of truth—Christ is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15; cf. Heb. 1:3) and the point of the biblical story (Luke 24:27, 44)—it is finally misleading since it does not reveal the whole picture. The Lord’s self-disclosure was not exhausted by the Son’s earthly life. Jesus’ appearing neither nullified the revelation that came before (Matt. 5:17-18) nor rendered redundant the revelation that followed after (John 16:12-15).

On the surface, “Jesus shows us what God is really like” language appears pious and even Jesus-exalting. In reality, it betrays a tragically truncated view of the Jesus of the Bible. We see God “as he is” by gazing with the eyes of faith on the pages of his Word—all of them.

When pastors fail: why full and public repentance matters

Ed Stetzer:

…while pastors have a higher scriptural standard to receive criticism– and cultural realities exist making it harder to make such accusations– pastors also have a higher standard to repentance. Yes, repentance should be evident when any believer is caught in sin, but something more is required when a pastor is involved, and this matters just as much as the cautions against accusations.

With this higher standard in mind, I want to offer three principles of repentance for pastors and Christian leaders.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s great big list, here are a few new deals to look at:

A Subtle, but Powerful Way to Love Your Spouse

Dan Darling:

I’m amazed at how often I hear good, faithful Christian couples undermine each other in public. I hear wives degrade their husband’s character and worth, sometimes in the church parking lot. I cringe every time I hear this because in my mind I can see the strength and confidence of the husband shrink. I also hear husbands rail on their wives in a sort of “can you believe what my wife just did?” kind of manner that tells me how much they really value the wive God has given them.

New eBook: God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines

Recently a new book by Matthew Vines was released claiming to present a biblical case for supporting same-sex relationships. Albert Mohler, along with James Hamilton, Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, and Heath Lambert, have produced a free eBook offering a response to the biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral issues raised by Vines’ book. To download a copy, go to sbts.me/ebook.

Evangelism by Mack Stiles

Evangelism by J Mack Stiles

Our church has always been very clear on stressing the need for evangelism. Whenever our local missions pastor preaches, it almost always turns into a sermon on evangelism (especially when he’s trying not to). We have a local missions team that goes out every week to open-air preach and interact with individuals on the streets of our city, sharing the gospel at every opportunity.

But then, about a year ago, we did something really bold: we took all of our small groups through a personal evangelism workshop. And the response?

*crickets•

I was a small group leader at the time, taking my group through the course. It was really challenging material, but presented in a way that took a lot of the fear out of evangelism. But despite its initial “failure,” the impetus behind offering this training is a good one—a desire to create a healthy culture of evangelism, one where it’s seen as a normal part of the Christian life.

I have a hunch Mack Stiles would stand up and cheer if he knew this was something our church attempted (and continues to nurture). Why? Because that’s exactly what his latest book, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, is all about.

Evangelism: it’s not about the results

If there’s one thing Stiles wants you to understand, it’s this: evangelism is not about programs or events. It’s not a technique or a specific kind of response. Many of our problems creating a healthy culture of evangelism stem from a lack of a biblical foundation. We count declarations of faith, hands raised, cards put in a bag, people walking down aisles… but do these things really mean anything? Maybe, but maybe not.

Regardless, if we’re going to see a culture of evangelism take root, “we must be very careful to conform our evangelistic practices to the Bible, because this honors God,” he writes (24).

And so, he begins by defining his terms—specifically, what evangelism means.

“Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade,” Stiles writes. “This definition, small as it is, offers a far better balance in which to weigh our evangelistic practice than looking at how many people have responded to an appeal” (26-27).

…the definition does not require an immediate outward response. Walking an aisle, raising a hand, or even praying a prayer may tell us that evangelism has happened, but such actions are not what evangelism is.

Those four elements in Stiles’ definition are key: teach, gospel, aim, persuade. Without those, you don’t really have evangelism. Our goal in evangelism is to communicate the gospel with the purpose of persuading our hearers that it is true. That doesn’t mean browbeating or extorting a profession of faith out of them. It just means speaking with conviction about the truth of the gospel.

This, I think, is one of the places we all get tripped up. We tend to speak almost apologetically about the gospel, or we wring our hands, break out into a sweat, and worry about saying the wrong thing. But this is also where it’s helpful to remember something crucial: “conversion is required, but conversion is a function of genuine faith, which is given by the Spirit” (37). In other words, you’re not responsible for the result. You’re only called to be faithful and speak.

What a culture of evangelism looks like

So what does a healthy culture of evangelism look like? Stiles is pretty honest that it’s impossible to instruct people on everything that goes into it, but he can describe the yearnings that surround it. He breaks these down into 11 points:

  1. A culture motivated by love for Jesus and His gospel
  2. A culture that is confident in the gospel
  3. A culture that understands the danger of entertainment
  4. A culture that sees people clearly
  5. A culture that pulls together as one
  6. A culture in which people teach one another
  7. A culture that models evangelism
  8. A culture in which people who are sharing their faith are celebrated
  9. A culture that knows how to affirm and celebrate new life
  10. A culture doing ministry that feels risky and is dangerous
  11. A culture that understands that the church is the chosen and best method of evangelism

There’s so much that could be said about each of these, but notice how they all work together. You can’t have a culture of evangelism without any of these points. If the people attending week in and week out aren’t passionate about sharing their faith, then no amount of encouragement from the pulpit is going to change that. It’s something that builds from within the body, and something that needs to be celebrated.

Simple, but not.

Create and cultivate the culture you want to see

Creating a culture of evangelism isn’t a one-and-done thing. You can’t preach a series on evangelism or offer an occasional course, pat yourself on the back and say, “nailed it.” You have to be intentional about creating and cultivating the culture you want to see, but there’s only so much control any church leader really has.

Why? Because “a culture of evangelism is grassroots, not top-down.”

In a culture of evangelism, people understand that the main task of the church is to be the church.… The church should cultivate a culture of evangelism. The members are sent out from the church to do evangelism. (65-66)

Do you feel the tension there? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to force the change from the top or programmatize evangelism. But it doesn’t work that way. A church only becomes more evangelistic as its members become more evangelistic. And this is big, scary stuff. Church leaders can and should model it, but the members have to own it.

Thankfully, it’s a vision that I believe every faithful Christian can own. We should want this for our churches. We should want to be the kind of people who take risks in order to share the gospel with others, who understand that entertainment doesn’t equal ministry, that God truly rejoices when one lost sheep is found. This is the vision Mack Stiles presents in Evangelism. It’s what I want to see in my own life and in the lives of all the members of my church. How about you?


Title: Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus
Author: J. Mack Stiles
Publisher: Crossway (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

What will they hear next weekend?

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Easter always has a lot of buzz around it, both from Christian and non-Christian sources. News outlets are always looking for a big, salacious Jesus-related story to plaster across magazine covers, newspapers and websites. Over the last few years we’ve seen big “exposés” on the gospel of Jesus’ wife, the Jesus family tomb, and the gospel of Judas, all of which have gotten some people talking about Jesus… but pretty quickly fizzled out of everyday conversation.

Christians, likewise, make a big deal out of Easter. This is one of the big times of year for programmatic evangelism in a lot of churches—encouraging every regular attendee to invite a non-Christian friend of family member being the most common. (There’s also the spectacle silliness some churches engage in, but let’s not talk about that right now, mmmkay?) And it’s a big deal. I mean, tons of people—whether nominal believers, adherents of other religions, agnostics, and even some atheists—show up every Easter.

Looking around the auditorium at the high school where our church meets during first service, I couldn’t see a single open seat (and second service was undoubtedly even more packed). The children’s ministry was filled to bursting… And most importantly, the gospel was preached, with clarity and conviction.

I’m guessing the Easter Sunday experience was similar for many of you, too.

It’s a safe bet most visitors to a church in North America heard the gospel this weekend (again, except for in those ones that engage in a lot of silliness…). This is something we should thank God for, to be sure. The resurrection of Jesus holds the promise of the gospel—that Jesus’ death on the cross actually did satisfy the wrath of God, that our sins are paid for, and that all who trust in Jesus will be forgiven and given new life.

But, here’s a question that’s on my mind:

What will next weekend’s visitors hear?

I’m thankful there are many churches, including my own, for which Easter Sunday is more-or-less the same as every other Sunday. The gospel is front-and-center every weekend. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the thing we celebrate together each week without fail. So, you know what visitors to churches like those will hear?

The gospel.

But for far too many churches—churches filled with really great people—yesterday’s message was kind of an anomaly. Next weekend will begin a new sermon series offering steps to handle finances, raise obedient children, or have a better marriage… and the gospel, while not denied, won’t be quite so front-and-center. They won’t hear about the only hope they have (and may not realize they need).

They might hear a call to moral living, but they may not hear a call to bow before Jesus.

And if they’re not hearing that, what are they really hearing?

While I don’t believe we should be gearing our worship gatherings toward the needs of unbelievers, we should never forget that they are always present. Visitors will be in the room. People who don’t know Jesus will be there. What will they hear next weekend?


photo credit: ACOUSTIC DIMENSIONS via photopin cc

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question…

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If Paul were ministering today, would he use video?

This is an important question, and it’s not one that is as clear cut as you might think. Many who have embraced video venue gatherings point to Paul as their example. Because he was all about becoming all things to all people in the hopes of winning some to the gospel, he would surely use any (non-sinful) means at his disposal to extend the reach of the gospel.

That’s generally how I’ve seen the argument go, anyway. (I realize I’m probably oversimplifying a bit.)

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one.

Would Paul use video to share the gospel? Probably, sure. But, more importantly, what would he use it for?

See, here’s the thing with Paul—he was, by and large, an itinerant minister. With the exception of his time in Ephesus, he never seemed to stay in one place all that long. His ambition was “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest [he] build on someone else’s foundation” (Romans 15:20). This wasn’t a vanity thing for him—he simply wanted as many people as possible to hear the good news about Jesus.

He was all about fulfilling the great commission.

But he would frequently communicate with other churches. Some, like the churches in Galatia, Ephesus and Thessalonica, were ones he played an integral role in starting. Others, like the church in Colossae and (likely) Rome, were established by others. But regardless of his connection, Paul wrote to teach, correct, encourage, and strengthen them in the gospel.

But he also wasn’t their pastor. Even in the churches he had helped start, he had commanded that elders be established to equip “the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). These elders were the ones charged with “keeping watch over [their] souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). These were the ones who would regularly proclaim God’s Word and teach the believers.

So what was Paul? Paul was not serving as the primary teaching pastor of any of these churches. He didn’t need to. These churches had faithful men like Titus, Timothy, and so many others. In his letters, he might be better viewed as the guest preacher.

And when you look at Paul’s letters more closely, there’s another interesting thing: this expectation that those letters will be shared with other churches. In Colossians 4:16, for example, he explicitly told them, “when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” Similarly in 1 Thessalonians 5:27, he made them swear they would “have this letter read to all the brothers.”

So even letters meant for specific churches weren’t meant for them exclusively.

So that takes us back to the real question:

If Paul had access to the technology in his time, what would he have used video for?

Here’s my hunch, with all the necessary caveats in place: I suspect Paul’s use of video might look similar to an event like Secret Church.

If you don’t know the concept, Secret Church is an intensive six-plus hour Bible study modelled after the meetings of the underground church in countries where religious freedom is either extremely restricted or entirely nonexistent. The idea is to “take what we’ve learned and pass it along to others … to use what we’ve learned during this gathering to make disciples of Christ—both locally and globally.”

They host a live event and simulcast it to host churches and homes around the world. This isn’t making TV screens serve as pastors, or extending the brand of a single man. The goal is to teach, correct, encourage, and strengthen believers in the gospel, while also encouraging the spread of the gospel.

I might be crazy, but that certainly sounds an awful like Paul’s model, doesn’t it?


photo credit: ACOUSTIC DIMENSIONS via photopin cc

Links I like

How to deal with false teachers

Denny Burk offers three ways for pastors to address false teaching and teachers:

Not every purveyor of false teaching is a lackey of the Devil. We have examples in scripture where bona fide believers are the source of error in the church. Apollos was a man mighty in the scriptures who taught accurately about Jesus but who nevertheless was only familiar with John’s baptism. In Apollos’ case, his deficient teaching was an error of omission. He simply did not yet know the full apostolic message. Priscilla and Aquila came alongside Apollos and explained to him the way of God “more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Presumably, Apollos responded favorably to their correction such that Paul would later identify Apollos as a co-laborer in preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 3:5-9).

New Kindle deals

Zondervan has a big list of reference works and other resources on sale:

Finally, Zondervan’s 5 volume Encyclopedia of the Bible series is on for $6.99 each:

Let’s Stop Forgiving Those Who Don’t Want Forgiveness

David Murray:

I’ve lost count of the number of times some tragedy has occurred – a mass shooting, a terrorist attack, a drunk driving death – and the victims or their relatives, usually Christians, start “forgiving” the offenders within hours or days of the crime.

I understand the motive, and also the desire to present an attractive witness about Christian forgiveness to the world. But it’s not a faithful witness to God. It does not reflect how God forgives, which is to be our pattern and model. Here’s why.

Why You Ought to Be Violent

Mike Leake:

Taking the kingdom by force seems so opposite of the gospel of free grace. Why in the world would men and women need to forcefully grab at something that is free? Surely it is not because there is a limited supply of grace. And certainly not that one must bully his way into the kingdom—trampling over other beggars for a little slice of that bread. No, indeed there is enough of this Bread of Life to fill the world and all that is in it.

The New Birds and Bees

Tim Challies:

I sometimes read a magazine called The Walrus. It is a Canadian magazine that exists on the left—just about as far left as you can go, I think. Still, it features some skilled writers and presents a perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, so I rather enjoy reading it. In the current issue there is a column called “The Talk” that discusses teaching boys about sex. I realized as I read it that the way I have been teaching my children about sex and gender and sexuality is very, very different from the way society around us would teach them if given the opportunity. We use similar terms, but mean very different things by them. As a Christian, and as a Christian parent, I found it very helpful to have this alternative view so clearly laid out.

Links I like

Are Your Efforts to Contextualize the Gospel All about You?

Eric McKiddie:

Although my theology of contextualizing has remained intact, since that morning I’ve been forced to reconsider how I go about doing it. Despite how selfless “becoming all things to all people” sounds, our deceitful hearts enable us to apply the principle selfishly.

Are you contextualizing the gospel in a way that is more about you than the people you are ministering to? The following three questions that rise out of 1 Corinthians 9 will help you find out.

Sympathy for the Devil

Brian Mattson’s take on Noah is excellent.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Platt Wasn’t Enough For My Church

Andy Schmitz:

Five years ago, some Christians began meeting in a living room to watch sermons by Dr. John Piper. Their Sunday preaching was primarily supplied by streamed sermons from well-known preachers. By God’s grace, they grew. They grew to a point where they could afford to call a pastor to shepherd and preach for them.

But why would they? Why not simply continue to video stream an extraordinarily gifted preacher instead? It would certainly save a lot of money. And let’s be honest, the homiletical prowess of a 24 year-old fresh-faced seminary graduate would never come close to the likes of a Piper or Platt. So why hire me?

What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?

Thom Rainer:

As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the Millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the Millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”