Monthly Archives: January 2008





Jared C. Wilson|3:53 pm CT

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?”






Jared C. Wilson|3:45 pm CT

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)






Jared C. Wilson|3:35 pm CT

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.






Jared C. Wilson|3:32 pm CT

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 near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace . . . (Ephesians 2:13-15)

There is another powerful description of Jesus, mighty to save. But look at what v.14 says, really: “For he himself is our peace.”

That’s such an easy-to-overlook truth: that Jesus himself is peace. That Jesus himself is life. Remember Jesus didn’t say, “I have the information on how to find the way, the truth and the life.” He said that he himself was the way, the truth, and the life. That nobody gets into relationship with God except through him. There are no shortcuts or passwords. It’s Jesus only.

The Bible does this to us over and over again. It takes these virtues God knows we love to depersonalize even as we spiritualize them — peace, hope, goodness, love, etc. — and says about them all, Jesus is those things. God is those things. Jesus is our peace. God is love. It will not let us believe we can have these virtues, these moral niceties, without being in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is those things, and to get them we must be in him.

John Piper puts it well:
[T]he gospel has unleashed a million mercies on the people of Christ, but . . . none of these is good news in and of itself. They are all good to the degree that they make possible the one great good – namely, knowing and enjoying God himself. Therefore, the gospel must be preached and believed and lived as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The Gospel is Jesus. He is the Gospel. He is what you get. As St. Augustine once said, “You ask him for your reward and the giver is himself the gift. What more can you want?”

(Cross-posted at Thinklings)






Jared C. Wilson|3:12 pm CT

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 Times

With 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 this make all the communities still pushing the buttons and pulling the levers “zombie churches”? Cuz that’d be awesome.) I trust that in any event, true evangelicalism is still alive and growing, because Jesus is the risen Lord and sovereign king, and his evangel will grow.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.
– Colossians 1:3-6

Toward Greater Gospel-Centrism






Jared C. Wilson|4:03 pm CT

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 my e-mail, and received a bombshell message from a very close friend.
Lies. Sin. Facades. Betrayals. Crimes.
Repentance. Forgiveness?

As I say to those who for some reason don’t mind listening to me, all this stuff can’t just be something we talk about.

The gospel is for the real world, for real people. It conquers real strongholds, restores real brokenness. It carries the real weight of the real world.
This is why I was disappointed to see a Christian musician I respect positively review a book by Marcus Borg on Jesus. Marcus Borg is an intelligent, engaging scholar. But his Jesus is dead. His Jesus only rose symbolically, or quote-unquote spiritually. His Jesus is only as powerful as you believe him to be. Or something.

The Jesus of the gospel is really alive. His actual body came out of an actual grave. I need that. I cannot put hope in a symbolic resurrection, because I couldn’t care less about a symbolic rescue. My flesh and my blood cry out for redemption, because my problems, my brokenness, my sins are real. A dead Jesus gives me nothing, even if he’s written about eloquently and inspirationally.

We crave real resurrection. The weight of the world is equivalent to a heavy cross pressing on flayed shoulders. The gospel must account for that. Everything else is just pretty words that help nobody.






Jared C. Wilson|3:43 pm CT

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. :-)







Jared C. Wilson|3:34 pm CT

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.






Jared C. Wilson|4:58 pm CT

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 in PA. They were friendly. The Pastor demonstrated a loving and “pastoral” heart for his people. I believe at this particular service I attended, he was shorthanded and had to fulfill not only the preaching responsibilities but also the music portion, as well. I was looking forward to being challenged by God’s Word and pointed to my Savior.

The Pastor directed our attention to the verse,

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

My mind raced to possible connections to the Gospel from the first time he read the verse. “Ohh!! This is going to be good! Something I need to hear!” This hope, he said, is not like “I hope it doesn’t rain.” It is a desire for something that will most surely come to pass. It is more like, “I hope to go on vacation next week!”

Suppose I am at the grocery store, and I say, “I hope to get to the cashier soon.” And then there is a person in front of me who has 16 items rather than “15 items or less” AND there is someone who has a product with no bar code on it so a price check is requested. AND there is someone else who drops a glass jar with the words echoing throughout the store, “clean up at register 4!” (ok – I added that last part. You had to hear his descriptions of events). But this is what the word deferred means. It is a delay in receiving what we hope for.

This delay in receiving what we hope for makes the heart sick. I hope to get to the cashier, but all of these things are delaying me! At this point, the pastor described what happened when he was very sick a few weeks ago. He wanted to watch TV, so he got up from his bed (already weak from being sick) and crawled toward the living room. He tired out and rested in the hallway. After a short while, he began to crawl again toward the living room. After a few delays of a sick and weakened body, he finally made it to the couch where he could watch TV.

“Sickness will come!” he exclaimed. “Expect it!” He admonished. “Get up and keep going!” he exhorted.

He then briefly touched on the last portion of the verse, “a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”. When we hope for things and circumstances delay our obtaining them, keep going! Keep working to obtain it! Just like he wanted to watch TV but was delayed because he was sick and weak.

At the end of his sermon, he pleaded for people to come to Christ. He said something to the effect, “If you have not trusted Jesus as your personal Savior, please do so before it is too late!”

One weekend I watched a children’s television program while Owen was playing in the living room. Every so often, when something peculiar happened on the program, he would stop what he was doing and watch. On this particular episode, one of the puppet characters was dejected and lost all confidence of doing anything. The whole program’s point was, “have confidence in yourself because you can do it! You can do anything you put your mind to! Believe in yourself!”

The point of this child’s program was, in essence, “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and keep going!”

Now, this pastor was exegetically accurate and precise. He conveyed the meaning of the verse fairly well. He was not boring. He was engaging. His love for the people of which he is Undershepherd was compassionately displayed.

But there was no GOSPEL! The pastor’s main point conveyed was, “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps and keep going!”

We may be exegetically accurate and precise. And we may convey the meaning of the text as the original hearers (possibly) understood it, but when it comes down to where the rubber meets the road, it’s still moralism. It’s a promotion of self-salvation. At the very core, both teachings are saying, “Jesus’ finished work is not enough! Go and do! Save yourself!!”

For a preacher of the Gospel, it is sad there was no preaching of the Gospel.

For all of us, it is sad there is so little preaching of the gospel.

But I am hopeful. There is something in the air. Perhaps the tide is turning.






Jared C. Wilson|4:04 pm CT

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 you need to reach me.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
– Jude 1:24-25