It’s Been a While

I have to say that I have been a bad blogger lately – and justifiably so.  School has ramped up, and I have been unusually stressed out.  So this past week was a great opportunity to practice an area of much needed sanctification in my life, something I like to call rest!  It was absolutely fabulous Us as a Family at Halloweento take several days “off” – no school work, no running out to study, or meet with anybody, or be anxious about how much I have to do in the next two weeks (which is alot). Instead, I got to roll around on the floor with my two children – Maya and Alex, re-arrange our living room to decorate for Christmas, lay on the couch without a Systematic Theology book resting on my belly, and spend some time on the couch with my wife.  I also spent very little time on the internet, and think that I might need to make that a recurring practice every so often.I do have some things in the works though for the blog that I wanted to preview for you all.Pierced for Our Transgressions  Sometime in the next few weeks I am going to posting several reviews of books.  One of my joys is sharing resources, and as I come across good books from class, or from generous folks (thank you Michele!), I’d like to tell you all about them, and recommend to you the ones that are worthwhile.  So, be on the look out for a post or two on Pierced for Our Transgressions (a great book on Penal Substitution), as well as something on Piper’s (and others) recent works, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World and The Future of Justification.Early on next year,  a friend here at seminary and I will be trying to read Communion with the Triune Godthrough some good stuff by some older generation, godly men.  We’ve talked about starting off with Communion with The Triune God – the recent adaptation(?) of John Owens’ classic.  I hope to make that a regular posting.  In addition, I’ll keep posting thoughts on faith, life, culture and preaching, because it seems those are the things that occupy the free space of my mind these days.

Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series – Emerging Church

Darrin PatrickHere is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.

Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)

Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)

Evangelicals and Reductionism – Can we really have community and not mission in our churches?

I have to say that I’m sorry its been so long since I’ve posted.  Its been a crazy few weeks, with a 4 day trip back home to Augusta.  Anyway, here’s a great post over at The Resurgence site, dealing with Evangelicalism and reductionism.  There’s alot in it, but this last thought is really great.  What do you guys think about this?

The danger I face…is that I, too, can reduce the Church’s real problems to simple solutions just like the next person. The real problem is a spiritual and theological one, not a management or programmatic one. This calls for spiritual and theological solutions, not pat answers. This frustrates busy, pragmatic Americans who want programs that will solve their problems. Thus the reductionistic problem just keeps getting recycled over and over again.

The place we must begin to counteract this reductionism is in seeing that our mission is not merely an activity of the Church, but rather that the Church exists for mission. Mission is the result of God’s activity within the world and that mission is to restore and heal creation. The Church is a community of the redeemed and exists to serve that mission. This is the meaning of John 20:21. God is a missionary God and we, as his people, are a sent people. The Church is not the purpose of the gospel, or even the goal of the gospel. The Church is the instrument and witness of the gospel. Only when we get this right will be begin to be the community that God intended for us to be.

So, do we as North American evangelicals operate in ways that reduce the gospel – in our gospel “presentations”, ministry objectives/approaches, etc?  Do we tend to see the church as serving our need for community, or as God’s ordained instrument in accomplishing His mission? 

Thoughts, comments, suggestions!

CT Article on Gospel Coalition

The Gospel CoalitionColin Hansen has an article for CT about The Gospel Coalition.  Its a good excerpt, and worth reading to understand what I think is an exciting and important trend for the shaping of future ministry, particularly in the U.S.   Here are a couple of good quotes (from Keller, yes!), but do go read the rest of the article (click here).

“I want to see more churches and leaders joining hands across denominational and network lines to think out how to do effective mission based on the historic, classical understanding of the gospel as it has come down to us from the Reformation and through the Awakenings.”

“If we seek service rather than power, we may have significant cultural impact,” the statement says. “But if we seek power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”-Tim Keller

Signs of an Unhealthy Church

Anthony BradleyAnthony Bradley has another great post over at The Institute regarding two things: 1) Some great sermon series’ from some solid, missional churches (I’ve only listened to the series from the Journey, which I highly recommend listening to, but the others look pretty good as well), 2) some thoughts ans signs of unhealthy churches.  I found them pretty interesting, what do you all think?  Here they are (click here to go to Anthony’s full post):

Here are some signs of possible immature and unhealthy churches and/or dying or dead churches:

(1) Little or no adult baptisms. That tells you A LOT about who the church is NOT engaging. (Acts 18:10) Fellas, did you know that there are actually Christians who don’t think it is odd that their church hardly ever has adult baptisms. Some don’t even at an eye at that. Shouldn’t that be kind’a embarrassing? The most I’ve ever personally been involved with, as a church employee, was when I worked at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philly). It was an amazing number.

(2) It’s mono-ethnic( except for rural churches). If the church is in or near a major city and the church represents a segregated mono-culture (by race and/or class) in leadership and membership you are right to think that is kind’a odd. It’s 2007 not 1907. And, sadly, church leaders and members avoid living in the epicenter of major cities. (Rev. 5:8-14; Eph. 4)

(3) The church has no social witness. Members and regular attenders are not personally involved in local, state, or national social issues (wherever the curse is found) at any level. It’s not a regular part of their family life. (James 1:27)

(4) Infrequent practice of the sacraments.

(5) Non-Christians are not involved in the life of the church, the personal lives of church goers, or attending worship (Lev. 19:33-34).

(6) The preaching, teaching, programs, aesthetics, music, etc. primarily appeal to 40-something women and their children. The men may be physically present but are bored and/or dead.

More good thoughs on “missional” and denominations

There’s a great post over at ‘Conn’-versation regarding the shape of younger Christian leaders and the whole “missional” conversation. I appreciate the post because it has put words to my scattered thoughts, particularly in relation to missional conversations within reformed denominations. For anyone trying to live and move in both worlds, this can be more tricky, and require a bit more awareness and discernment with the things we say or do. Anyway, here’s a great quote to wet your appetite:

“The adjective Missional will likely have its day in the sun and end dried up in the field of other helpful, but not bygone categories, but the changing ecclesiology it sought to capture will remain until and if we experience the Southern Hemisphere shape of Christendom to come (spoken of by people like Philip Jenkins) expanding into the landscape of our Post-Christian West in a culturally transforming manner.”

Check out the whole post here.

(P.S. – I have yet to read Jenkins book, but have heard great things about it, and with this post, I will most likely end up reading real soon. Anyone have any thoughts on the book itself?)

What does it mean to be “the Church”?

Anthony BradleyAnthony Bradley has got some good thoughts and a great quote over on his blog The Institute about being the church, and having more of a gospel-centered, “revolutionary” mindset regarding where and how we live as Christians in the world.  I always appreciate the way Bradley challenges me with his thoughts, but even more so, I love it when anyone draws my attention to the fact that Christianity is a “forward” religion – its meant to be lived out on the “offensive” rather than the “defensive” end (for more thoughts on this, check out The Prevailing Church by Randy Pope).

Here’s a quote from a missionary that Bradley includes in his post, and I think it sums things up quite nicely (but do go check out his blog to get the whole sha-bang!):

We need to recover the grand, cosmic significance of Jesus’ saving activity that moves the gospel out of the narrow realm of our self-preoccupation…The gospel properly understood, is much broader than our concerns for personal survival, security, significance, success, or even self-centered sanctification. The gospel presents us with a Jesus, not meek and mild, but One come to set the world on fire. It presents us with a plunderer, and it bids us to throw ourselves away in the pursuit of this new world order. –Bob Heppe, Missionary

Idols – Near and Far

I have a great privilege to go to The Journey church here in St. Louis.  One of the things I am most thankful for at the church is the solid, dynamic, idol-exposing, sin-shattering and gospel-driven preaching that comes through each week, no matter who is preaching.  The past couple of weeks we have gone through a series on Transformation, with some great thoughts on identifying Near and Far Idols.  Below I’ve linked two posts from the church’s website that I would highly encourage you all to read at some point.

Discerning Your Near Idols  (MP3 here)

Peeling Back the Layers – Far Idols (MP3 here)

Guys who call a spade a spade

Ed Stetzer has written a great little article over at the Catalyst site regarding the Church. The title alone is great (You Can’t Love Jesus and Hate His Wife), but here’s another great quote:

Paul was willing to take a beating for the church because Jesus submitted to a brutal murder “to make her (the church) holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:26-27 HCSB)

Seems like fewer and fewer people are willing to take the church seriously, let alone take a beating for her.

In a way, this is good reality check for me (and maybe for the rest of us who are wanting to plant a church/are planting a church). It’s making me ask, “Am I desiring to plant a church because King Jesus has called me to do it, or am I taking the easy way out and not take a beating for Christ’s bride in my local context by remaining and pursuing her holiness?”

Keller excerpt from The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World

The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern WorldThis is a quote from Tim Keller’s chapter in the upcoming book The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, from Crossway publishing. It’s being compiled from the sessions of this past Desiring God conference, and just this quote alone is enough to guarantee that I’m buying and reading it. Excellent topic, great thinkers and men who love Jesus and His world – what more could you ask for!

Here’s the quote, but know that over at the Desiring God blog, you can read a larger excerpt from Keller’s chapter: On Gospel Humiliation

“…unless something comes into your life that breaks you of your self-righteousness and pride, you may say you believe the gospel of grace but, as we said above, the penny hasn’t dropped. You aren’t a sign of the gospel yourself. You don’t have the Jonah principle working in you. You aren’t a strength-out-of-weakness person. God will have to bring you low if he is going to use you in evangelism.”