Crash the Chatterbox

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How do we hear God’s voice? Are all negative thoughts really bad for us? My thoughts on these questions and more can be found in my review of Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick over at The Gospel Coalition:

First, let’s talk about the good of this book. Furtick builds his argument, or rather his counterargument to the lies we believe, around four “confessions”:

  1. God says I am. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your insecurities.
  2. God says he will. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your fears.
  3. God says he has. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your condemnation.
  4. God says I can. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your discouragement. (Kindle location 382)

“These are truths about God and truths about you that come straight from God’s Word,” Furtick writes. “So by filling our spiritual ears with these four declarations of truth, we receive and respond to what God says about who he is and who we are in him” (Kindle location 371).

Taken on their own, these confessions (or, more accurately, declarations) are actually pretty helpful. What matters isn’t what I, or others, think about me but what God says about me. What God says he will do and what God has already done is more than enough to overcome my fears. What God says I can do—or, more correctly, what he’s empowered me to do through the Holy Spirit—is more important than what others think I can do.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. And the details, I’m afraid, spoil Crash the Chatterbox. I’ll limit myself to four significant errors I see in this book.

Read the full article at TGC.

Spontaneous baptisms and a nasty case of the heebie jeebies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Mars Hill Church via photopin cc

Should Leaders Create Controversy?

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I recently opened my inbox to see an article by Steven Furtick asking this very question. Over at Outreach Magazine, Furtick writes:

One of the greatest things preventing many pastors and churches from reaching their optimal level of impact is their fear of controversy. . . . They avoid criticism, which no one likes to receive. But they forfeit something far greater:

Influence. You can’t have influence if you are not willing to be controversial.

Just ask Jesus. . . . If Jesus’ ministry was controversial, why do we expect ours should be any different? . . . If you want to be like Christ, expect controversy. If you’re faithful to what God has called you to do, you are going to be misunderstood. Criticized. Maybe even hated.

But don’t worry when people are criticizing you. Worry when they’re not criticizing you. Because at that point you’ve blended in too much to be worth noticing. Personally, I’d rather be misunderstood than ignored.

So how ’bout it? Should leaders be comfortable with controversy?

Should leaders create controversy?

Well, this is a subject I’ve been mulling over for some time, and more intently since reading this article.

Our controversial message

On the one hand, it’s easy to say yes, church leaders should be willing to be controversial. Those who stand up for the truth, who proclaim the gospel unashamedly will inevitably create controversy because they are holding fast to the Word of God.

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 2:15-16, “to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

The gospel is offensive in and of itself because it confronts us with an accurate view of ourselves—we are faced with the truth that we are hopelessly lost in our sin. We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve created things instead of our blessed Creator (Rom. 1:25). Left to our own selves, we are idolators whose hearts are so deceitful and corrupt we cannot even rightly evaluate ourselves (cf. Jer. 17:9).

There is no darker picture of the truth of humanity than the one we see in the Scriptures, and yet no brighter hope for our reconciliation with God. God isn’t content to leave us to our own devices to make ourselves right with Him—the price is too high, the debt is too great!

So instead, He does it for us—the Father ordains our redemption; the Son accomplishes it in His perfect life, death, and resurrection; and the Holy Spirit applies it to us, bringing life to the spiritually dead, renewing our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.

So, if that’s the message we proclaim, absolutely it’s going to be controversial… and we should absolutely embrace the controversy that comes from it.

And yet…

Our uncontroversial attitudes

As clearly controversial as our message is, the Scriptures make it clear that Christians are to be decidedly uncontroversial in our approach to our calling. Consider what a brief survey of Paul and Peter’s epistles reveal on this matter:

…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. (Col. 3:15)

…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs… (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

An overseer must be above reproach . . . sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable . . . not quarrelsome… (1 Timothy 3:1-3)

[Christian leaders are not to have] an unhealthy craving for controversy . . . and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Timothy 6:4-5)

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

a person who stirs up division . . . is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

…let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:11)

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

Whether inside or outside the Church, the apostolic witness is consistent and clear: Christian leaders, and indeed all Christians, are to be pursue self-control, peacefulness, and be above reproach (that is, beyond criticism, especially from unbelievers).

Just because Jesus was controversial…

The trouble with Furtick’s argument in his article is its flawed approach. It represents, at best, a half-truth.

Was Jesus controversial? Yes.

Why? Not because He was dangerous in the earthly sense.

Remember, Pontius Pilate found no fault with Him; He wasn’t a political upstart or a revolutionary in that sense. The danger Jesus represented was (and is) in His complete denunciation of our futile attempts to earn our own salvation and for His repeated declarations of His divinity.

There’s nothing more dangerous and nothing more controversial than that.

But here’s the thing… we don’t get to be controversial the way that He was.

We can’t make the claims that He did and we cannot perform the deeds that He did.

The danger of a half-truth comes when it’s presented as a whole truth. When that happens, a half-truth becomes a whole lie.

For the Christian, our call is more like that of John the Baptist—Jesus must increase, but we must decrease (John 3:30). It’s a call to humility. We don’t sacrifice influence by rejecting the notion of creating controversy. We increase in godliness as we consider others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3).

The only controversy that should ever come from our ministry is the faithful proclamation of the gospel. But anything else—if our methodology is stirring up division within the body, if our attitudes are creating cause for concern among believers and confusion among unbelievers, then we’ve not only missed the point, we’ve revealed we’re not fit for the ministry.

Controversy is not always wrong, but it’s pursuit is never to be commended. Influence is not wrong, but it is not something we, ultimately, can earn. It’s a gift from God given in whatever measure He deems fit. Steward what you have well and let Him worry about the rest.

What’s the Role of a Pastor’s Wife?

Is the Pastor’s wife to be the “co-pastor,” the church’s “First Lady,” or just another member?

What role should the wife of a Senior Pastor have in the church? Steven Furtick, Greg Laurie and James MacDonald offer their takes here:

(Can’t see the video? Please click through to the site)

 

James MacDonald’s closing remark in this clip is particularly insightful:

We’re to love our wives. . . . the way we treat our wives in public is a signal not only to our own wives but to our congregation of what that’s supposed to look like . . . and I just don’t think there should be any further expectation beyond that…

This brings up an important question, not just for pastors, but for all Christian men:

How are we treating our wives in public? Do we treat them better in publicly than privately? Do we treat them better privately than publicly? Are we striving to be consistent in how we show honor to our wives wherever we are?

HT: James MacDonald

Book Review: Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Title: Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible
Author: Steven Furtick
Publisher: Multnohmah (2010)

I wasn’t sure what to think of Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still when I first received it.

I’d heard a bit about Furtick, the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of it had to do with numbers —Elevation has a congregation in the thousands, and its founding pastor has only just turned 30.

But I didn’t really know what he was all about. I didn’t know what he stands for and what he’s passionate about.

The back cover copy of the book didn’t make things any clearer. As I cracked it open, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be completely ridiculous, or if it would be a lot more helpful than I anticipated.

By the time I finished the book, I had great deal more clarity regarding those questions. Furtick is deeply passionate about seeing Christians live in the fullness of their faith, and this book is his attempt to guide readers through the process of doing so.

Sun Stand Still is a call to what Furtick calls “audacious faith”—to live and pray like the God we worship and serve is actually capable of the impossible (because He is).

Furtick takes his inspiration from Joshua 10:1-15; there Joshua commands the sun to stand still so the Israelites can finish off their enemies, and God causes the sun to stand still. He wants readers to have God-sized visions; plans and prayers that are absolutely terrifyingly impossible to accomplish if God is not at work in them and through them.

In this sense, the book is right at home with Francis Chan’s bestseller,Crazy Love. That is, there’s this strong desire to see Christians living fully in their faith. To not try to live your best life now, but actually do big things for God’s glory.

That’s something that I greatly appreciate and resonate with, particularly in my own life. It’s easy to get wrapped up in getting by or sidetracked pursuing comforts in life that I might be at risk of missing an opportunity that God is giving me to take a big, bold step of faith. None of us should be content with actions that, as Ecclesiastes 1:17 says, are merely grasping or striving after the wind. A great deal of effort exuded for very little payoff. [Read more…]

Black holes and Revelations

Okay, so there might not be any black holes, but there is at least one revelation here.

The other day, I asked you all to decide which of these three books I would review.

After several days of voting, the results are in and a book has been requested.

Because you demanded it, I’ll be reviewing Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick.

Sun Stand Still Cover

In case you don’t recall, here’s the write-up of the book:

If you’re not DARING TO BELIEVE GOD for the impossible,
you may be SLEEPING THROUGH
some of the BEST PARTS of your Christian Life.

“This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years.

In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.”

I’m very intrigued by the idea of having my audacious faith activated, so this should be interesting.

Look for the review in December.

So is that it?

Well… there is something else (although it’s probably not as “earth-shattering” as the Beatles being available on iTunes).

I’m working on a new book. Working on the details of where/how it’ll be published, but it should be available in 2011. Keep your eyes peeled for news and updates.

Also, there’s this (which may or may not have a hint at something else…)