My next SearchWarp piece is up:
Next week I’ll begin expanding on the attractional/missional chart.
My next SearchWarp piece is up:
Next week I’ll begin expanding on the attractional/missional chart.
Read an excellent piece by Tim Keller in the print version of Leadership, so I thought I’d find it online to share. Good stuff.
Simon Gathercole distills a three-point outline that both Paul and the Synoptic writers held in common. (See “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom” in God’s Power to Save.) He writes that Paul’s good news was, first, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.)
Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.) Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)
Gathercole then traces these same three aspects in the Synoptics’ teaching that Jesus, the Messiah, is the divine Son of God (Mark 1:1) who died as a substitutionary ransom for the many (Mark 10:45), who has conquered the demonic present age with its sin and evil (Mark 1:14-2:10) and will return to regenerate the material world (Matt. 19:28.)
If I had to put this outline in a single statement, I might do it like this: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.
One of these elements was at the heart of the older gospel messages, namely, salvation is by grace not works. It was the last element that was usually missing, namely that grace restores nature, as the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it. When the third, “eschatological” element is left out, Christians get the impression that nothing much about this world matters. Theoretically, grasping the full outline should make Christians interested in both evangelistic conversions as well as service to our neighbor and working for peace and justice in the world.
Prophet, priest, or king?
I’ve heard several guys talk about this perspective before, Mark Driscoll most often, and while I’m sure limiting pastoral personalities to three types is simplistic, I think there’s a lotta truth here.
Here’s how the types are characterized:
Very much into study and research. Theologically motivated. Doctrinally zealous. Writerly type. Draws hard lines. Very black and white thinker. Tends toward proclamational preaching. Very high value on preaching. Vision tends to involve philosophy, faith statements, teaching trajectory of the church. A thinker. Pulpit gospel.
Trends extroverted. Big on mercy, encouragement, helps. Compassion and service. Tends toward gray thinking (not meaning morally, necessarily). Very high value on community and collaboration. Vision tends to involve cooperation, missional thinking, outreach programs, personal counseling. Very high value on counseling, hospital visits, marriages, and funerals. A feeler. Living room gospel.
Organizationally driven. A practical thinker but highly interested in “outside the box” thinking, visionary thinking. Likes data, research, numbers, troubleshooting “church systems.” Thinks nuts and bolts. Problem solver. Big on leadership, motivating, coaching. Very high value on impact, quality, influence. Big on building and innovating. A doer. Strategic gospel.
I think most pastors/leaders are probably a blend of these three types, but still probably trend most toward one.
As I think about my own ministerial makeup, I think — no, I know — I trend most toward Prophet. I think if I had to guess at the blend of my type, I’d be 60% Prophet, 25% Priest, and 15% King.
How about you? What kind of pastor/leader are you?
It’s apparently Michael Horton Day. And why not? The dude’s a hoss.
Came across two great quotes.
Pastors, teachers and elders are not “life coaches” who help us in our personalized goals for spiritual fitness, but gifts given by the Ascended Lord so that the whole church might become mature and less susceptible to being spiritually duped (Eph. 4:1-16)…..not surprisingly, ministers today are regarded more as “life coaches” who facilitate our self-transformation than as ambassadors of Christ, devoted to the Word of God and prayer, so that they can spread a feast on behalf of the King for His people in this world.
– Michael Horton in Modern Reformation (HT: Crossroads)
I would argue that the reason so many unbelievers can sit comfortably in our churches and even call themselves born-again Christians is that we give them very little to deny. The offensive message of the cross has been replaced with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” with the cross tucked somewhere underneath it.
– Michael Horton (HT: Boar’s Head Tavern)
I also learned today that Horton has a new book coming out in October called Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. It’s gonna be good.
From the publisher’s note:
Is it possible that we have left Christ out of Christianity? Is the faith and practice of American Christians today more American than Christian? These are the provocative questions Michael Horton addresses in this thoughtful, insightful book. He argues that while we invoke the name of Christ, too often Christ and the Christ-centered gospel are pushed aside. The result is a message and a faith that are, in Horton’s words, “trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant.” This alternative “gospel” is a message of moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion. It trivializes God, making him a means to our selfish ends. Horton skillfully diagnoses the problem and points to the solution: a return to the unadulterated gospel of salvation.
HT for that news: New City Church
My new friend and mentor Ray Ortlund, Jr. gave me a copy of his book, A Passion for God: Prayers and Meditations on the Book of Romans, which I began savoring yesterday. I’d like to share the Afterword from the book with you, because it is as prophetic and powerful an evangelical manifesto for gospel reform as I’ve ever read.
It’s a little long (for a blog post) but is definitely worth your time.
An Earnest Call For Evangelical Leaders To Recover The Gospel From Its Present Humiliation
A wave of authentic revival sweeps over the church when three things happen together: teaching the great truths of the gospel with clarity, applying those truths to people’s lives with spiritual power, and extending that experience to large numbers of people. We evangelicals urgently need such an awakening today. We need to rediscover the gospel.
Imagine the evangelical church without the gospel. I know this makes no sense, for evangelicals are defined by the evangel. But try to imagine it for just a moment. What might our evangelicalism, without the evangel, look like? We would have to replace the centrality of the gospel with something else, naturally. So what might take the place of the gospel in our sermons and books and cassette tapes and Sunday school classes and home Bible studies and, above all, in our hearts?
A number of things, conceivably. An introspective absorption with recovery from past emotional traumas, for example. Or a passionate devotion to the pro-life cause. Or a confident manipulation of modern managerial techniques. Or a drive toward church growth and “success.” Or a deep concern for the institution of the family. Or a fascination with the more unusual gifts of the Spirit. Or a clever appeal to consumerism by offering a sort of cost-free Christianity Lite. Or a sympathetic, empathetic, thickly-honeyed cultivation of interpersonal relationships. Or a determination to take America back to its Christian roots through political power. Or a warm affirmation of self-esteem. The evangelical movement, stripped of the gospel, might fix upon any or several of such concerns to define itself and derive energy for its mission. In other words, evangelicals could marginalize or even lose the gospel and still potter on their way, perhaps even oblivious to their loss.
But not only is this conceivable, it is actually happening among us right now. Whatever one may think of the various concerns noted above as alternatives to the centrality of the gospel—and some of these matters possess genuine validity and even urgency, especially the family—not one of them is central to our faith. Not one of them is the gospel or deserves to push the gospel itself to the periphery of our message, our agenda and our affections. But the gospel of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is today suffering humiliation among us evangelicals by our conspicuous neglect of it.
When we think of the gospel, we may have a feeling that “We already know that. Ho-hum.” We assume the gospel as a given. We assume that the people in our churches know the gospel, and we are anxious to move on to more “relevant” and “practical” topics. The gospel is being set aside in our minds and hearts in favor of a broad range of issues, as broadly ranging as evangelicalism is fragmented, while the heart and soul of our faith is falling into obscurity through neglect. The holy mysteries of the incarnation, cross, resurrection, ascension and heavenly reign of our Lord, the great themes of election, propitiation, justification and sanctification, the power and deceitfulness of sin, the meaning of faith and repentance, our union with our crucified, buried and risen Lord, the infinitely superior value of our heavenly reward compared with anything this life has to offer (including the Christian life), the final judgment and eternity—these glorious themes which lie at the very center of our faith, which made the church great at her greatest moments in the past and which can do the same again for us today if only we will recover them and exploit them confidently, prayerfully and biblically, these infinitely precious treasures are being bypassed in favor of legitimate but secondary matters of concern. We must guard the centrality of that which is central.
We should not think, “Well, of course we have the gospel. The Reformation recovered it for us.” Such complacency will cost us dearly. Every generation of Christians must be retaught afresh the basic truths of our faith. The church is always one generation away from total ignorance of the gospel, and we today are making rapid progress toward that ruinous goal. Rather than carelessly assume the gospel, we must aggressively, deliberately, fully and passionately teach and preach the gospel. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. If we do not intentionally search them out, we will miss them.
Pastors and church leaders, in particular, are under enormous pressure today to satisfy the immediate demands of the marketplace at the cost of the gospel. People want what they want when they want it, or they will drive down the street to the First Church of Where-It’s-At to get it. Are we leaders losing our nerve? Have we come to feel that the gospel itself meets people’s needs less convincingly and helpfully? But think about it. Without a clear understanding of the central truths of our faith, where will the wisdom and motivation to live godly lives come from? We are constantly offering people “Five Steps to (whatever)” in answer to their problems. But it is not working. To a shameful degree, we Christians are morally indistinct from the world. Why? One reason is that we think piecemeal, and our lives show it. We do not perceive reality from God’s perspective. We perceive reality from the perspective of our ungodly culture, and then we try to slap a biblical principle onto the surface of our deep confusion. Consequently, very little actually changes. What we really need is not to be pandered to but to be re-educated in reality, as it is interpreted for us by the gospel. We need to know who God really is. We need to find out who we really are. We need to understand what our root problem really is and what God’s merciful answer really is. And we need that new perception of reality to percolate deep down into our affections and desires, reorienting us radically and joyfully to a whole new way of life. But if we frankly feel that the plain old gospel offers very little for people’s real needs, then we have never really known it at all.
We evangelicals today are suffering massive defeat, brilliantly disguised as massive success. A record high 74% of Americans eighteen years of age and older say they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, according to a recent Gallup Poll. That could suggest a high degree of effectiveness in our witness. But at the same time—as if we needed verification of the fact—a survey by the Roper Organization shows little difference in the moral behavior of “born-again” Christians before and after their conversion. If we come under the spell of ratings appeal rather than the imperatives of the gospel, what room can there be for the narrow gate and the hard way? Even as our churches enjoy a measure of outward success, we remain the influenced, not the influential, as long as we shift our power-base from the ways of God to the ways of man, from Spirit-anointed biblical truth to human skills and novelties. Operating in a man-centered rather than a God-centered mode, our churches do not necessarily fail. They stand as good a chance of success as any other franchise network. Some even become popular—but popular as what? As a religious pastime, or as a force for God?
And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in scarlet,
that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.
– Jeremiah 4:30
O desolate evangelicalism, what do you mean by your stylish fads and restless search for ever new “relevance”? Why are you so insecure that you long for the world’s approving recognition? They despise everything you hold dear! “All things to all men” is no license to cater to the whims of the consumer. Christ alone is Lord. Or have you yourself forgotten his majesty? And why are you so boastful of your numbers and dollars? How poor you really are! Come back to the gospel. Come back to the wellspring of true joy and life and power. Sanctify Christ again as Lord in your hearts. Wake up! Strengthen what remains, for it is on the point of death. But if you will not return to the centrality of the gospel as God’s power for the church today, then what reason does your Lord have for not abandoning you altogether?
Every week someone asks me, via e-mail or in the comments, how one might influence a church/pastor toward more gospel-centered reform when one isn’t in a position of leadership or direction.
I’ve (sort of) addressed this issue in a previous post of mine called What To Do If Your Pastor Doesn’t Preach Jesus.
But Greg Gilbert has actually been blogging a series on this specific issue over the last few weeks at the 9 Marks blog, Church Matters. I thought it might be of some help to some of my readers. Here are the links:
It’s good stuff, and there may be more coming in the series, so stay tuned.
Once upon a time (say, in the mid-90′s) I was a young, thin man. I didn’t have to work at staying thin; I just was. And athletic too. Every weekend, I gathered with buddies to play basketball or football, depending on the season, and I was routinely picked first.
Then I got married and moved away, and we were able to afford my going to school full time, and I didn’t have any friends to play sports with, and I never worked out anyway, and did I mention I got married to a woman who in addition to being incredibly hot and incredibly smart is an incredible cook?
Ten years later I was not so thin. Age, diet, and lethargy took their toll. My first clue of course was visiting Houston again, gathering with buddies (and their younger buddies), and being picked near last for touch football. Near last! After once going first in every draft! It was humiliating. And that wasn’t based on anyone seeing me play. It was based purely on my being the pudgy guy. Too fat to be fast, not fat enough to be a reliable blocker apparently.
Wake up call.
I started eating right and working out (it’s not rocket science), and I lost 55 pounds. That’s not a typo. 55. I looked good, I felt good.
I took it off and kept it off.
And then Element happened and a whole bunch of other stuff, and workout time became hard to come by. Becky has always maintained a regular workout, but she can do hers at home. I just couldn’t get to the gym in the mornings any more and by the end of the day, I was too wiped to care. After being thin again for almost 2 years, I’ve put about 30 pounds back on.
But I’m getting my act together (again). I got up at 5 a.m. this morning (5 a.m. for goodness’ sake! before God’s even up!) and worked out with Beck. I can do this thing.
Well, we’ll see what happens.
Here are some links to get your brain a’flexin’ . . .
A homeschooling dad writes about how Homeschool is Not the Gospel
Some John Piper goodness to take you into the weekend.
What he describes has happened to me. I hope it has happened to you too.
And I hope that as you gather to worship this weekend, you are led to behold Jesus as spectacularly beautiful.
I was reading that (HT: BHT) and thinking, This is weird. I wonder if a whole mess of it just has to do with the blogger not liking Driscoll in general. Because I read the excerpt from Driscoll and think, Yeah. What’s so controversial about that?
The whole time I’m perusing the calling out of the man for idolatry of the family, I’m also thinking something everyone even in the comments seems to miss: The Church isn’t Jesus.
One of the commenters cites this Scripture: “”Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Yep. I’d add that anyone who loves the church more than Jesus is not worthy of Jesus.
As far as I understand what Driscoll is saying, and I’ve heard him preach on this very subject numerous times, what he’s saying is that family is more important than his job.
By accusing Driscoll of idolatry based on the excerpt provided, these critics are making the mistake of equating Jesus with his Church. And in doing so, they are indicting themselves. They are being idolatrous. Of the Church.
Loving Jesus means loving His Bride, no question. But loving the Bride more than the Groom is sinful.
This site and many like it talk about the ins and outs and nuts and bolts of the big-C Church and the little-c churches a lot. But it is Jesus we’re supposed to worship, Jesus we’re supposed to follow. The Church is indeed His design for the spread of the gospel, but if you love the blueprint more than the architect, you will mess a whole lot of things up.
Quite possibly your family.
And, no, I’m not talking about Sunday School.
Yesterday in the Attractional and Missional thread, long-time reader nhe wrote this:
Our church is pushing hard toward an Acts 2/gospel centered small group ministry, but that is flat out NOT GONING TO WORK if our messaging from up front is not regular/explicit gospel – that has been our problem – I’d argue that is the biggest reason why well-meaning churches stay attractional without even knowing it.
I think he’s so right. And I was so grateful for his comment, because it sets up nicely this piece that I’ve actually been meaning to write for a few months now.
My thesis is this: Small group programs don’t succeed apart from a consistent, determined gospel-driven nurturing of the value of community in the weekend worship service.
More and more church leaders are waking up to the reality that the church small groups push isn’t working. The number of people conducting a quote-unquote “successful” small groups program is quite small. Only recently are national leaders admitting this.
But it hasn’t stopped hundreds and hundreds of smaller churches aspiring to be like the big dogs from adopting the big dogs’ blueprints for small groups, in the well-meaning (but sometimes desperate) hope that the right format will transform their congregation into a tighter-knit community.
And if it’s not the right blueprint, it’s the right leader. As I peruse ministry job boards, aside from the ubiquitous ads for worship leaders, I’m seeing more and more churches looking for a spiritual formation pastor or a community groups pastor, and nearly all of them require applicants have previous success directing “successful” small groups programs at large churches. The implicit belief appears to be that if you don’t have a vibrant small groups program, all you need is the right leader to make it happen.
And all of this ignores the basic truth that if you don’t have a congregation who cares about small groups, it doesn’t matter what kind of program or leader you throw at the need, your congregation isn’t suddenly going to care about small groups.
But the evangelical church’s hunger for the magic bullet is insatiable.
I believe that you can have the most successful church in America’s small group format headed up by the best small groups pastor money can steal, but if the culture of your congregation is such that they have never shown much interest or desire to meet in community groups, it won’t matter. Or you’d better give that program and that pastor plenty of time (years, in some cases) to plant seeds and cultivate growth in this area.
The logic is simple but somehow evasive for so many pastors. If week in and week out you are feeding your congregation a steady diet of self-help, of personal improvement, of application for someone’s walk with Jesus as their “personal” Lord and Savior, you may not exactly be stirring the desire in them to be connected to other believers. If your preaching is consistently of the “How to Win at Work” or “How to Be Your Best You” variety, you are only feeding and coddling the insidious individualism of the average evangelical churchgoer and the consumerist culture he is the product of.
Your weekend service has a direct effect on how your congregation thinks and acts.
It’s supposed to. Right?
You trust that all the time and energy and preparation poured into your worship service is impacting lives and being used by God to mature them.
So do the math. If, despite the different programs and leaders you’ve thrown at the small groups gap in your church, you still can’t get people interested in small groups, it might be time to rethink the message your weekend gathering is sending and the sort of impact it is having.
We should be rethinking this stuff right now anyway. Maybe REVEAL doesn’t call for repentance (I think it some cases it does), but surely, at the very least, it calls for rethinking. When the original Worship Evangelism advocate looks at the data after more than a decade and says the seeker church movement hasn’t done what it thought it was doing, maybe it’s time to rethink some things.
There is no quick fix. This is one big reason why church plants are booming right now. Pastors feel stifled by the intimidating prospect of turning a luxury cruise ship 180° so they find it easier to start a church from scratch. For those committed to turning the ship, it will take a long time, a singleminded tenacity, and a new set of values. It requires an investment – a longview – that in many cases is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the vending machine values of the stereotypical megachurch.
Preach hard on the cost of discipleship, on the call to community, and adhere to that hard preaching in a long obedience in the same direction. Reconstruct the aim of the worship service toward adoration of God, dismantling the celebration of man so prevalent in many attractional models. Dig in, commit.
If we want to cultivate disciples, if we want to alter the DNA of our churches to better reflect the reconciliation of the gospel, the investment will be worth it.