Monthly Archives: January 2008

Feed Yourself; or, Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Last week I read another church leadership guru’s rant about Christians who “complain” they aren’t being fed in church. I won’t link to it. It sounded the same as all the other orders to “grow up” and demands to “feed yourself.” And it’s not so much the person I have a problem with anyway; it’s the sentiment.

As I said in an earlier post, For I Was Hungry and You Told Me to Self-Feed, “There are some lazy, consumerist, adultolescent Christians whose ‘I’m not being fed’ is nothing more than a whiny excuse for growing bored with their church’s programs and not serving, but there are also some mature, self-sacrificing, wise Christians whose ‘I’m not being fed’ is a sign a church has gone off the rails.”

As I read this latest indignant polemic against the beggars for bread, a verse came to mind. It is not just Jesus’ command to Peter “If you love me, feed my sheep” that is in play here. “Feed yourself” strikes me also as an echo of Cain’s “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

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More on Organic Community

David Fitch has a great post on seeding missional communities.From the conclusion:

Among the new missional leaders, church is the name we give to a way of life, not a set of services. We do not plant an organized set of services; we inhabit a neighborhood as the living embodied presense of Christ. Missional leaders now root themselves in a piece of geography for the long term. We survey the land for the poor and the desperate, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. We seek to plant seeds of ministry, kernels of forgiveness, new plantings of the gospel among “the poor (of all kinds)” and then by the Spirit water them, nurture them into the life of God in Christ. We gather on Sunday, but not for evangelistic reasons. We gather to be formed into a missonal people sent out into the neighborhood to minister grace, peace, love and the gospel of forgiveness and salvation. The biggest part of church then is what goes on outside gathering. If the old ways of planting a church were like setting up a grocery store, now it is more like seeding a garden, cultivating it, watching God grow it amidst the challenges of the rocks, weeds and thorns . . .

This is a sketch of nurturing organic community that lights my fire. It exalts Christ and promotes the gospel of reconciliation. Unlike other sketches.

Read the whole thing.

(HT: Bill Kinnon)

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Preaching that Changes Orbits

A great article by Craig Brian Larson at PreachingTodaySermons:Preaching That Promotes Self-Centeredness

An excerpt:

Our greatest challenge in training motives is to change the believer’s orbit. Under the full control of their sinful nature, people are self-centered. They have the planetary mass of Jupiter, with God and other people orbiting around them like tiny moons. When people turn to Christ in faith, God begins the revolutionary process of transforming them to be other-centered and God-centered. They begin to see themselves in proper relation to the value of others and the greatness of God. Increasingly they orbit the massive, glorious sun of God’s will.

Self-centered deeds do not please God. ” All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD ” (Proverbs 16:2). ” [The Lord] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts ” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

The harmful side effect of some preaching is we appeal to self-interest in a way that encourages hearers to continue in an utterly self-centered way of life.

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The Unavoidable Abrasion: No Hope Without Jesus

Saw this great William Willimon quote at Get Anchored:

“Our challenge, as communicators of the gospel, is not that God was in Jesus but that God was in Jesus reconciling the world to himself. We cannot make this faith mean anything we want. There is mystery, room for wonder, doubt, disagreement. But there are also these nasty particularities that make the gospel unavoidably abrasive, discordant, and so very interesting.”

– from Willimon’s article Jesus vs. Generic God

Kind of reminded me of this portion from the chapter “Jesus the Savior” in my book The Unvarnished Jesus (which is at final draft stage and ready to send!):

We proclaim Jesus, because there’s no way to real life, to resurrection life, except through the one man who died and came back to life under his own power. There is no salvation in or through anybody else. It’s all Jesus. And for those who may get tired of hearing about Jesus in this way, as if the gospel of Jesus’ atoning work is some sort of entry-level information that isn’t as “deep” as learning about the rapture or how to get out of debt God’s way , you’re not going to like this, but any Christian who is faithful to Christ must always be all about Jesus. Because Jesus is the center of the Christian life. And being “in Christ” necessitates a constant commitment to Jesus alone as the power to save.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought …

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Influences and Increase in Gospel-Centrism

More fuel for the fires of passionate gospel-centrism.

C.J. Mahaney has a blog now. He writes:

I think you can anticipate a disproportionate number of posts on one topic, “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), for that, by the grace of God, is what I am most passionate about. So here would be my hope for this blog, and for the handful of you that will join my family in reading it. If I can somehow draw your attention each week to the hill called Calvary and remind you of the Savior’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for our sins, if I can draw your attention away from yourself and direct your affections to him, then this blog will have served your soul and made some small difference for the glory of God.

Yes. Awesome. Blogging is like grass roots campaigning.

Also, I am planning to get my hands on this book:Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern TimesWith contributors like D.A. Carson, Millard Erickson, and J.P. Moreland (among others, of course), it looks to be a valuable addition to the intellectual foundations of gospel-centered ministry.

The iMonk says evangelicalism is officially dead.I agree with his diagnosis, but not his prognosis. I do believe something’s in the air, a divine discontent with the dog and pony show passing for worship and the extra value menu passing for covenant community, a resurgence in passion for theocentric worship and gospel-driven ministry. If what is passing for evangelicalism is dying or dead, good. (Does …

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The Gospel and the Weight of the World

Last Sunday night at Element I wrapped up a series on the kingdom called “Invasion: A People, A City, A Movement,” with a message on the church living the kingdom life missionally. There was a lot to pack in. The major textual thrusts were the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and Acts 2. I talked about living out the Great Commission by obeying the Great Commandment. I talked about the kingdom community running counter to culture by being typified by two things: Reconciliation (with God and with each other) and Exaltation (of Christ). I talked about racial reconciliation, forgiveness, spiritual values that run counter to worldly values (meekness, grieving with hope, turning the cheek, etc). I talked about a people passionate with the confession of Jesus as Lord conquering hell. I talked about eschatology: the gospel bearing fruit in the world, the kingdom conquering all other kingdoms, God being “all in all,” Christ’s resurrection being the firstfruits of ours, the work of Christ being the start of the “end times” like dawn is the start of the day, Christ dismissal of Satan in the wilderness, the paths being made straight, Christ setting people free from demonic possession, the kingdom being like a mustard seed that grows into a large plant, the kingdom being like leaven in dough, the kingdom filling all the world until the new heavens and new earth fill all in a sanctification not unlike the Spirit bearing fruit in our lives through personal sanctification.

Then I came home, checked …

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Linky, Linky, Linky, Get Your Adverbs Here

Yeah, I added yesterday to my week-long break. I’m still tired, confused, burdened . . . but God is still good and Jesus is still Lord, so I’m still too blessed to despair of anything but my own dang self.

Here are some quality links to get your already started week sort of started off right . . .

Read Shaun Groves’s meditation on “Abba Father” reflectively.

Read Bill’s “Hope Does Not Put us to Shame” inspirationally.

Read the Cruciform Life on finding refreshment in the midst of trials contemplatively.

Read my brother’s post on the glory of God nepotistically.

Read the news from Willow Creek curiously.

Read the line-up of speakers for the upcoming DWELL conference enviously.

I hope your week goes well. I finished the Jesus book last week and will be writing my proposal this week, aiming to send the whole kit and kaboodle to my agent over the weekend. If you don’t mind praying on behalf of this effort, I’d certainly appreciate it.

Btw, I got an e-mail from Rick Warren a couple of weeks ago. Very short, but apparently he reads and enjoys the blog. Made my week.If you’re reading this, Rick, I apologize for riffing on your trademark with my blog title, but I’d be willing to change it in exchange for an endorsement on my book.

Peace

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Church Growth

“If we entertain people, our church will grow. If we lead in worship, our church may shrink until it is composed of a group of people who want to worship. Then the church has a chance to grow based on the precedent of worship. The church that worships will have many visitors who never come back, and a few who cannot stay away.”

– David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring

“One does not preach the cross to win the admiration of the audience. The goal is to have them look up in awe at the cross, which implants new ideas and uproots the old ways of interpreting divine and earthly reality.”

– David Garland(HT: Transforming Sermons and Eternal Perspectives)

Will be back “for real” on Monday. Have a great weekend. Go gather and worship.

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Pastors Stingy with the Gospel

I’m convinced Bob has been spying on my heart.

I’ve been tracking pretty well with some of the quasi-personal stuff he’s been posting lately. Maybe something’s in the air, because I’m hearing this growing dissatisfaction with Jesuslessness in the churches more and more. I kind of ranted about it at Element last night in my message on The Church (part two in a three-part series on the kingdom called “Invasion”), and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Putting a finger on the problem really strikes a nerve with people who aren’t sure exactly what’s ailing them.

Anyways, Bob highlighted a great post this week by Dave Cruver: “Proverbs 13:12″. I hope you (and Dave) won’t mind if I reprint it in its entirety.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

The gospel is “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey” while every other religion operates on the principle of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to spiritual deadness, pride and strife and ministry ineffectiveness.– Tim Keller, “Preaching in a Post-Modern City”

Recently, I attended a service with another local body of believers …

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Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.– 2 Corinthians 11:4

I’m tired.

Jude tells us to contend for the faith, and I think this contention can take a variety of forms. The meaning I hear most conveyed today is “debating with nonbelievers.” But some of us are trying to contend for the faith within the community ostensibly grounded in the faith, fighting against the prevalence of a different gospel that is being “put up with readily enough,” and in that niche of trying to “rightly divide” without causing division . . . well, there lies exhaustion.

Cue the Debbie Downer wah-wah.

Here are some quality links to get your week started off right . . .

Trevin Wax: Why We Are Pro-Life

Must-read: Bill Kinnon on “A Certain Kind of Christian”

John Piper on “A Kind of Cold You Don’t Play With”

J.D. Hatfield with a critical appraisal of “The Power of Praise”

Mark Dever on biblical church growth

Also: Dever on how to reform the church in the face of opposition

Good luck with that.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be taking a break from the internet for the rest of the week. Will still access my primary email account, so for those of you who have it, you should use that one rather my Yahoo addy if …

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