Monthly Archives: October 2010





Jared C. Wilson|12:51 pm CT

A Blessed Reformation Day

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg. The fires of the Reformation were already smoldering and thereafter, swelled into a blaze. It would not benefit us to whitewash Luther’s sins and foibles, but it would behoove us to thank God for a justified “chief of sinners” like this man. I am grateful for him. He makes me feel normal, and he helps me see Christ more clearly.






Jared C. Wilson|6:46 pm CT

Put That In Your Grave and Smoke It

Therefore be it known unto you, O Death, you king of terrors, that though we cannot now resist your power nor escape your arrest—yet we do not surrender ourselves to you as helpless, irredeemable prisoners. We shall yet burst your bonds, and obtain the victory over you.

Samuel Davies, “Life and Immortality Revealed in the Gospel”







Jared C. Wilson|6:37 pm CT

Keller on Biblical Social Justice

I hadn’t planned on saying any more any time soon on the gospel and social justice. After 3 posts explaining why I don’t believe anything we do, whether we call that social justice or not, is part of the gospel’s content — the most substantial of which is here — and 1 post nevertheless explaining why I believe social justice is a necessary implication of the gospel, I was sort of done. But commenter Daneil is suggesting today that I am advocating the social gospel, which should be a surprise to those of you who in my previous posts suggested I’m advocating a truncated gospel which leads to ignoring care for the poor, etc. Guess I can’t win. :-)

But today Kevin DeYoung shares an interview with Tim Keller on Keller’s upcoming book Generous Justice. I found this exchange on the definition of justice quite helpful. We must reject the social gospel; but the concept of justice in society is thoroughly biblical. Keller explains why:

I’ll start with the million dollar question, what is justice and what does it mean to do justice?

Doing justice means giving people their due. On the one hand that means restraining and punishing wrongdoers. On the other hand it means giving people what we owe them as beings in the image of God. Nick Wolterstorff says that, as a creature in the image of God, each human being comes into your presence with ‘claim-rights.’ That is, they have the right to not be killed or kidnapped or raped. Of course there is plenty of room for disagreement on the specifics of these things, but that’s my basic definition. Doing justice, then, includes everything from law enforcement to being generous to the poor. (I believe Job 29 and 31 include generosity as part of a just life.)

Why are you so passionate about this issue?

I read the Bible and I’m overwhelmed with the amount of Biblical material that expresses concern for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. My main gifting is evangelism and I’ve never had extensive experience in a poor community or country. So I reason—if I can see all of this in the Bible, despite the fact that I’m not especially oriented to do so—it must be important to God. I’m passionate about it because I’m passionate to be shaped by the Bible.






Jared C. Wilson|12:45 pm CT

New England Ministry Resources

This post will increase in information, so I’m going to make a permanent link to it in my sidebar. I hope it will help those of you considering and aspiring to mission in New England. Please keep in mind that while there may be such a thing as a “New England culture,” there are also communal cultures that vary state to state, and village to village. Ministry in Burlington, Vermont (largest town in the state, the university town) will likely look different than ministry in Poultney, Vermont (small village, although Green Mountain College is there). Rural New Hampshire is different from Boston, Mass. Etc.

(Feel free to add resources/links in the comments.)

The six states that comprise New England are: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

According to Gallup 2009 these six states are in the bottom ten religious states in the U.S. Only 2% of New Englanders attend evangelical churches.

Church Planting Organizations

NETS Institute for Church Planting
An interdenominational missions organization that mobilizes and equips seminary graduates to plant churches in New England and abroad through gospel proclamation. Residency programs and field programs.

Acts 29 Church Planting Network
Acts 29 is currently planting more gospel-centered communities in the New England states. They need planters/pastors willing to increase that number. A29 Northeast regional director is Ed Marcel of Terra Nova Church in Troy, NY. A29 New England director is David Pinckney of River of Grace Church in Concord, NH.

ARC: Association of Related Churches
ARC is a network of church planters, church leaders, and churches in transition to provide support, guidance and resources to launch and grow life-giving churches. By my last count, ARC has 5 churches in the 6 New England states.

North American Mission Board (of the Southern Baptist Convention)
NAMB has indicated a renewed interest in sending pastors to plant or revitalize/replant churches in New England. Here is one such story. Lyandon Warren is the NAMB director for church planting for the state of Vermont, Barry Murry for the state of Maine.

Networks and Resource Centers

The Gospel Coalition New England
The Center for Gospel Culture hosts the New England chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This regional sub-network is directed by Dr. Stephen Um and runs a resource website and has begun hosting events and conferences throughout the year, so far in Boston, MA.

Vision New England
Now the largest regional association in the country, Vision New England ministry initiatives serve more than 5,000 churches in 80 denominations. As the region’s leading resource for pastors and churches, Vision New England is an interdependent network of individual Christians and local churches who are committed to reaching New England through intentional evangelism. Hosts seminars and intensives. See website for events.

The Gospel Alliance New England
The purpose of Gospel Alliance NE network of pastors and churches is to promote gospel renewal in New England area churches. Primary purpose is networking and cooperation. Holds an annual youth conference in the spring (The Calling) and an annual general conference in the fall (Lead).

Job Listings and Internship Programs

The Gospel Coalition Jobs Board
Check this resource frequently for openings in gospel-centered ministry positions around the world, including in New England.

Green Mountain Baptist Open Ministry Positions
A listing of church and missionary openings in Baptist churches in Vermont.

New England Center for Expository Preaching
Internship program that puts seminary students in host churches throughout New England to study expository preaching and be mentored by an established pastor. Interns provide pulpit supply for various churches each weekend. Seminary credit applicable in many cases. The NECEP hosts a conference every year as well.

YouthWorks organizes and conducts annual mission trips to Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont that concentrate on service projects and assisting local churches.

Annual Conferences

LEAD/PLNTD Conference
Typically located in Maine, The LEAD Conference is an annual fall conference highlighting gospel-centrality and gospel mission in New England sponsored by the Gospel Alliance New England. Past speakers include Tim Chester, Jonathan Dodson, Bob Thune, Bill Streger, Matt Chandler, Ray Ortlund, Caesar Kalinowski, and Scotty Smith. The last conference was co-sponsored by the PLNTD Network. Plans for a 2013 event are TBD.

Acts 29 Regional Events
Acts 29 Northeast events are usually hosted at Terra Nova Church in Troy, New York but are held at churches in several New England states.

New England Center for Expository Preaching Conference
Located in center New England and usually held in May, past speakers include Mark Dever, Derek Thomas, Steve Lawson, Thabiti Anyabwile and Ligon Duncan.

NETS Annual Conference
Held in Vermont, next year’s speaker is Mark Dever.

Reformation Conference (pdf)
Reformed Bible Church of Clarendon, Vermont hosts an annual Reformation Conference, typically the last weekend of October. Past speakers include D.A. Carson and Derek Thomas.

Colleges and Seminaries

(Please bear in mind that a listing here does not connote an endorsement of a particular institution’s dominant theology or understanding of the gospel, but merely provides options for further education.)

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts
New England Bible College in South Portland, Maine
Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Schenectady, New York (not technically New England, but close)
Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine
Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Why New England? by New England Theological Seminary (article)

Why New England is the New American Missional Frontier
by Jared Wilson (blog post)
The Country Parson by Tim Keller (blog post, fantastic on call to rural ministry)
Edwards and the New England Theology by B.B. Warfield (article)
A History of New England Theology by George Boardman (book online)
A Genetic History of the New England Theology by Frank Foster (book online)
Church History of New England from 1620 to 1804 by Isaac Backus (book online)
Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards (book online)






Jared C. Wilson|12:00 pm CT

20 Years is Easy for an Eternal God

Accidentally left my ESV journaling Bible at home this morning and ended up doing my morning reading in the office in my childhood Bible, a bonded leather NASB reference edition full of my adolescent scribblings and highlighting. Was reminded by its well-worn pages that 1990 was the year I heard God’s call to ministry. Since I’m decent at elementary math, I then realized this year marks the 20th anniversary of that call.

I’ve been a miserable failure and a grievous sinner since then. But as I sit in the pastor’s study of a 200+ year old New England church, staring down my 35th birthday next week, I am amazed, pleased, and grateful that God is faithful to be finishing the work he began in my 8th grade heart. If he is willing, by his grace I hope to be here decades more.






Jared C. Wilson|2:04 pm CT

We Praise What We Care About

Worship of God is enjoyment of God. We have no problem laughing at something funny, smiling at something pretty, “mmmm”-ing something delicious, humming something catchy, or cheering something exciting in the stadium, but when we get into church on Sunday mornings, we have trouble worshiping because we don’t know and enjoy God the same way we know and enjoy jokes, pictures, food, songs, or sports.

In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis writes:

But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

We praise what we care about.






Jared C. Wilson|12:19 pm CT

A Specified Grace in Solomon’s Song

There are recurring themes in the way the bride and the groom speak to each other in the Song of Solomon. I wonder if this repetition tells us something about God’s design for romance between man and wife.

Solomon repeatedly tells his bride how beautiful she is to him. Does not this speak to a woman’s deep desire to hear and know approval, to know she is found beautiful?

His bride repeatedly asks Solomon to touch her, to take her away, to sweep her off her feet, to be “active.” Does not this speak to a husband’s desire for sexual eagerness in his wife?

In both of their refrains is constant verbalized approval of each other, something so important for a marriage that wants to be gospel-centered. But in the nature of each of their refrains is something particular to the heart of their beloved.

Married folks, let’s learn something from this.






Jared C. Wilson|12:15 pm CT

Why Social Justice is Necessary

Well, necessary to what? To gospel mission.

I don’t want to confuse anyone about my stance on this, but just as I’m concerned about any good works (whether it’s feeding the poor or my having a quiet time) muddling the free grace in the finished work of the gospel, I’m also concerned about those of the brethren who somehow extrapolate that the cause of other-care is expendable.

These are just bullet points, but here’s why I think social justice is a necessary component of mission.

1. God doesn’t suggest we care for widows and orphans; he commands we do so. And not just a few times.

2. In the miracles of Christ we see signs of God’s inbreaking kingdom, which is to say not just that they signify God’s power in Christ’s Lordship but that they signify that God’s kingdom is restoring righteous order to the world. Acts of social justice, in much the same way, are these signs. The gospel changes the world.

3. In the letter to the Galatians, when Paul was confirming that “his” gospel was on the same page as the gospel of Peter, James, and John, those pillars reminded him to care for the poor, which Paul says is the thing he is eager to do (2:10). So even within the contextualized mission of the same gospel message to different cultures/tribes, care for the poor is a constant.

4. God is redeeming people, but he is also redeeming creation, which is outright groaning for its restoration. When the Christian enacts social justice for the glory of God, he is engaging in acts of eucatastrophe, redeeming the time in pointing to the Christ-shaped path back to the Garden. Christian social justice gives witness to the rightside-upness of God’s kingdom.

5. When we are saved, we are changed from self-worshipers to God-worshipers, and as God equates love of our neighbor with demonstrated love of him, acts of social justice are proof of our redemption.

6. When you read through the Old Testament Law, you find an astounding amount of strictures not just on right relations with the community but also about meals, about work, about forgiveness of debt, about rest days, even about how to treat livestock. This tells us that there is a righteous order God expects his righteous people to live within. The work of social justice testifies to this order.

7. Caring for “the least of these” is caring for Christ. (Matt. 25:40)

8. For those who would say we should care for the poor, but for the Christian poor, not necessarily the poor of the world, I offer but two objections:

a. What do we do with the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the “bad guy,” the outsider, is made the hero of the story? This parable is given in response to the question “Who is my neighbor?” Doesn’t this story, even if it were all we had as a clue of who to care for, say something radical about our scope of concern?

b. The mission of Jesus Christ was to love you and I while we were most decidedly not Christians. We were poor in spirit, enemies of Christ and his kingdom, and he offered his body for us anyway. Is it even Christian, then, to say we will only care for those who are like us? For some reason it doesn’t occur to us to question foreign missionaries who give of themselves, even to the point of death, for the lost and the pagan overseas. But stateside we give the unsaved scraps from the table.

Yes, the riches of Christ is all the satisfaction a sinner needs, and we must never obscure or dilute that good news, even with works that are good. If silver and gold have we none, “such as we have” is nonetheless eternally precious. But if we have the silver and gold, shouldn’t we give that too? Some may think that to be so free is to obscure the real pearl of great price. But in a delicious biblical irony, loving generosity doesn’t show we think money is important, but rather that we find money cheap in comparison to the treasure of Christ.






Jared C. Wilson|12:07 pm CT

The ‘Good Idea’-Driven Church is An "Idea Problem"

Via Al Mohler, I learn this:

In his 1986 book, Your Church Has a Fantastic Future, [Robert] Schuller provided what he called “A Possibility Thinker’s Guide to a Successful Church.” The book is a manual for a ministry built on pure pragmatism, sensationalistic promotion, a therapeutic message, and a constant and incessant focus on thinking positively.

His message about money was simple: “No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems,” he asserted.

As most of those who keep up with the headlines know, Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral has declared bankruptcy.

I guess he ran out of ideas.

Any church founded on a pastor’s good ideas will ultimately fail; but it is spiritually bankrupt from the start.






Jared C. Wilson|12:02 pm CT

Isaac Backus’s Gospel Wakefulness

During the Q&A session after my guest sermon at Valley Bible Church in White River Junction, Vermont last Sunday, one fellow asked if gospel wakefulness might be experienced as one is impressed with the immensity of the holiness of God. Seems that Sproul’s The Holiness of God was instrumental in his own awakening to the wonders of Christ. I immediately thought of Isaiah in the temple, being “undone!” by his vision of God’s glory. And then yesterday I encountered an historical example of a fellow named Isaac Backus who found joy and freedom in his comparative smallness.

Isaac Backus was an 18th century New England preacher. Greatly influenced by the Great Awakening, he was a prominent Christian voice during the American Revolution. A Connecticut native, he pastored Middleborough Baptist Church in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

Though raised in a Christian family, Backus was converted in his moment of gospel wakefulness at 17 years of age, as the holiness of God gripped his soul. We find his own account of this moment reprinted in the memoir portion of Backus’s own Church History of New England from 1620 to 1804:

In May, 1741, my eyes were opened to see that time was not at my command, and that eternity was directly before me, into which I might justly be called the next moment. Then I knew what it was to work for my life for three months: until on August 24, as I was alone in the field, it was demonstrated to my mind and conscience, that I had done my utmost to make myself better, without obtaining any such thing; and that I was a guilty sinner in the hands of a holy God, who had a right to do with me as seemed good in his sight; which I then yielded to, and all my objections were silenced. And soon upon this, a way of relief was opened to my soul, which I had never any true idea of before, wherein truth and justice shine with lustre in the bestowment of free mercy and salvation upon objects who have nothing in themselves but badness. And while this divine glory engaged all my attention, my burden of guilt, and evil dispositions was gone, and such ideas and inclinations were implanted in in my heart, as were never there before, but which have never been rooted out since . . .

“And soon upon this, a way of relief was opened to my soul.” The immense holiness of God and his right to do with us what we deserve will only strike us as a relief if we see the gospel. Else they are a terror.