Monthly Archives: July 2011

 

Jul

26

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:26 pm CT

Your Wife, Your Bride

Jon Acuff writes at Stuff Christians Like on peculiar evangelical jargon:

It weirds me out a little when a guy refers to his wife as his “bride.”

Unless it’s your wedding day, telling me, “I need to go see my bride,” sounds a little strange to me. If it’s your big day and you’re about to go down the aisle, bride it up. Say bride all day long like it was your J.O.B. Go bride wild. I’ll even get in on the action and say things like, “Your bride looks beautiful today.” Or “It’s going to be amazing for you to see your bride walk down the aisle!” I’m 100% down for calling your wife “bride” on the day you get married.

The day after your wedding? I’m not so sure.

Jon then lists 3 reasons why it’s weird.

Let’s keep in mind that Jon is largely a satirist, is poking fun at this evangelical cliche, and that above all that he is only stating this as his opinion, not saying that it’s wrong to call your wife your bride.

But this perspective has gained some traction in other corners recently, and it’s starting to sound as if the point is that it makes no sense to call a non-newlywed wife a “bride.” But it actually makes good gospel sense to call a non-newlywed wife a bride.

For one thing, the church is called the Bride of Christ, and we’ve been established for at least 2,000 years (though foreknown before time began). But there is also a Scriptural precedent for regarding our wives as the “brides of our youth.” See Proverbs 5:18-19 for instance:

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,

a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.

We are told to always enjoy the wife of our youth, which indicates “as if you were just married.” And “be intoxicated always in her love” speaks to maintaining that lovedrunkness from day one through the end.

To love our wives in a gospel-centered way is not let our love grow cold, but to keep at fanning the flame of joy we had in her the day we were first wed! Most wives I know would love for their husbands to be as interested in them and as satisfied in them today as they were on the day of marriage. And thinking of our wives as our “brides” is a way to do that with Scriptural precedent.

It is a great gift of grace to love our spouses ever-newly, to cover the passages of time and age, the familiarity of closeness, and the perpetual conflicts in marriage relationships with the approval and the love of the wedding day. And the gospel empowers our ability to do this.

Of course, if your wife hates being called a bride, you shouldn’t call her that! But neither should you drop the term just ’cause some blogger thinks it’s silly and others decided it was a cliche. :-)

(Then again, I’m also the weirdo who thinks it’s cool that husbands think their wives are “hot.” I could understand if that’s all they said or thought about their wives, but when did we decide it was bad for men to find their wives very attractive? What a bunch of complainers we are. We’ll always find something new to be irked about.)

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Jul

26

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:18 pm CT

Planting vs. Replanting in New England

New England is now the least-churched, least-reached area of the United States, making it America’s most needy mission field. Yet missional church planters are not flocking here. There are likely some good reasons for that.

And I am loathe to ascribe it to lack of interest, necessarily, because every week I receive emails from men who feel called to minister in New England. Most of these do not believe they are called or gifted to plant churches. (I sympathize, because I am neither called nor gifted to be a church planter either.) So they ask about existing churches needing pastors. Are there churches here in need of pastors?

Yes. There are many dying or dwindling churches, and some just plateaued congregations dawdling around, that are in desperate need of gospel-centered shepherding. My church, for instance, has commissioned 4 of our men to provide pulpit supply for a growing number of churches in our area who are without a preacher. One of our guys was recently asked by two churches in the same town to be their regular preacher each week. And whenever I bring up the need for church planting in New England, I will hear from a few cautioning corners that the “real” need in New England is for pastors to take over existing churches.

But.

First of all, this is not an either/or situation. As in all areas of mission, we need the restoration/reinvigoration of existing communities of faith and we need fresh plantings of new communities of faith.

Secondly, I believe planting may be the preferable option to replanting for a few reasons:

1. Many of the churches in need of pastors do not want an evangelical in their pulpit in the first place. I’ve seen this happen locally multiple times just in my 2 years here, and I have heard of this difficulty elsewhere. A friend of mine interviewing for churches in another New England state was very much liked for his preaching gifts, his personality, his experience, and his general presence. But he was ultimately rejected for holding to the exclusivity of Christ and the authority and infalliblity of the Scriptures.

It is just not as simple as saying, “Hey, there’s a bunch of churches who need pastors, why don’t you come to one of those?” The reality is that these bunches of churches don’t want the kinds of pastors who would be most likely to replant them in the gospel. Even if a pastor wanted to take one over, he would likely not be hired for his conservative beliefs.

2. Many of the churches in need of replanting would sooner die than change. The notion of replanting is predicated on a church that is eager for someone to lead it into the future of mission and gospel-centrality. But this idea is not only foreign to the theological liberalism and functionally social nature of churches here, it is foreign to the personality of New England, which for all its liberalism is a pretty traditional place. Churches don’t want to change. They want to keep doing what they’re doing but see different results.

Churches are married til death do them part to buildings they can’t afford, to denominational affiliations they don’t understand, and ways of doing church that don’t resonate even with themselves anymore. It’s just the way we’ve always done it, don’t-cha-know? And we are very suspicious of outsiders saying they have a better way. Consequently, it is often easier — which doesn’t mean better, of course — to start a new movement with a community of eager disciples than it is to gain traction in an historic congregation of 10 or 12 old-timers who won’t budge and whose vision is of the past, not the future.

3. Most of the churches in need of being replanted cannot afford to hire a pastor, nor are they able to assist him in the work of ministry. We are not talking about even mid-sized congregations. We are not talking about churches with ample resources just waiting for a great pastor to send in his resume so they can hire him. We are talking about churches that are small even by New England standards — and almost all churches in New England are small by the standards of the “Six Flags Over Jesus” Bible Belt south. They don’t have any money. They cannot pay to move your family here or bring you on full time. You will have to get a job, maybe even a full time job. One guy I know was sent by the North American Mission Board, and he’s having good success revitalizing a church near here in rural Vermont, but he still works on a dairy farm every day. And even if one of these dying/dwindling churches could afford to pay you, they would not have the people resources to come alongside your leadership in cultivating community, discipleship training, evangelism, and the like. You’d have to do it largely alone or recruit a team.

So in that sense, replanting here ends up a lot like planting from scratch. I tell any guy interested in coming to replant an existing church — at least, if he’s coming to my state and other areas in New England like it — that he will likely have to do the work of a church planter in raising financial support and recruiting a team to join him. But most guys who prefer to take over an existing church are not particularly adept at those things. (I know I’m not.)

This is not an effort to dissuade anyone. New England needs both planters and pastors who would like to assume the pastorates of existing congregations. And the ground is available for both. We just have to be honest about the opportunities and about the work involved in both.

I am still committed to helping pastors find churches open to replanting toward gospel-centrality, or even solid evangelical churches already “there” who just need a new pastor. But hopefully the above points explain the emphasis on church planting.

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Jul

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|8:37 pm CT

Gospel Wakefulness Conference August 6

We are two weeks away now from the next Gospel Wakefulness Conference.

Join me at New Life Church in Gahanna, Ohio (suburb of Columbus) on Saturday, August 6 as we receive God’s Word with gladness and in the hope of gospel astonishment.

Details and registration here.

Cost is just $10.

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Jul

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|4:03 pm CT

Holy vs. Holier Than Thou

Somebody asked a good question of me this weekend: “How do we become holy without becoming ‘holier than thou’?”

The answer is simple: By actually becoming holy, not just thinking we are.

Holiness and holier-than-thou-ness aren’t parallel phenomena. They run on different tracks. If someone is growing in arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness, by definition they are not growing in holiness.

The problem arises in equating holiness with religious behavior. Holy people do obey God, of course. But the character of holiness, in which the Spirit does his progressive sanctifying work in our hearts (and therefore in our thoughts, speech, and actions), produces qualities of humility, gentleness, kindness, and self-control. Any arrogant fool can abstain from certain sins or give to charity and what-not. The Pharisees certainly did that, and all our legalistic contemporaries do too. But that is not real holiness. That is moralistic separatism or some such thing.

Therefore, it is impossible to become both holy and holier-than-thou. To grow in one, is to atrophy in the other.

But I am grateful that while I still struggle with a variety of sins, most especially the root sin of pride, I have God’s promise that he will complete the work he began in me, and that Jesus is both the author and the perfecter of my faith.

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Jul

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:32 pm CT

That Irritating Feeling, That Twinge? That’s the Scandal of the Cross

The horrid beast who murdered upwards of 100 in Norway last week deserves the full measure of justice executed upon him, and worse. He deserves the wrath of God. And if he goes to his grave as he is, he will experience the eternal conscious torment of hell.

But if he repents and believes in Christ . . .

That little “twinge” we feel at the very idea is our brushing up against the scandal of the cross.

David Berkowitz — most (in)famously known as the “Son of Sam” — was a serial killer who terrorized New York City from 1976 to 1977. In 1987 he made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. “Of course he did,” we say. “They all do.” But his commitment to the faith has lasted, and his repentance has been visible and consistent, evidenced continually in his request not to be paroled in order to own the consequences of his sins and to not cause any distress to the families of his victims, and in his advocacy for victims’ rights groups, arguing that killers should not profit from writing or memorabilia related to their crimes. (Proceeds from Berkowitz’s own book go to a victims’ rights group, not to himself.)

This bothers a great many of us. We don’t care how repentant he looks; we reckon his crimes too heinous to forgive.

If this vicious murderer in Norway repents of his sins and trusts in Jesus’ saving work on his behalf, when he goes to his grave he will be welcomed into the arms of the Father like a beloved child.

If this bothers me, it is because I have forgotten most of the Psalms and most of the New Testament were written by murderers.

And it is because I consider myself a better judge than God.

And it is because I have forgotten that I deserve the same fate as this horrid beast. Or I think I do not face this fate because of some comparative goodness of my own.

It could be that we don’t often meditate on just how much Christ’s cross saved us from. And how much he bore when he hung on it.

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Jul

25

2011

Jared C. Wilson|3:30 pm CT

The Worship Gathering is for Beholding

The gospel must be central because nothing else even comes close to filling the eternal gap.
We all agree that fallen man has a “God-shaped hole,” but then we go on to suggest all kinds of fillers that are not God — financial success, good sex, promotions at work, healthy relationships, happy spouses and children, community service, outlets for our creativity, etc. All good things but all things you can have and do and still be eternally bankrupt.

Our scale is far too small. The Bible speaks to all manner of good things useful to all men, but the Church is starving (starving!) for the glory of God. We too easily forget that the gospel covers the scale of eternity, that it is the division between real life and death, that God is infinite and our sin is a condemnation-worthy offense against an eternally holy God. We preach and we settle for much less than, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”

Every week people file into our church services aching for eternity; in our zeal to provide something they may find comfortable and useful and inoffensive, are we offending the God who wishes to offend us in awe of his glory? Are we dismissing our brother Jesus whose formula for victory includes crucifixion?

The scale is enormous, the stakes are high. Instead of spiritually dressing up the idols we know people want, let’s give them what they need — God all in all, the filling of the Spirit, the exaltation of the risen Lord.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God!
– 1 John 3:1a

That should be the chief service of our worship services — beholding. Behold our glorious God and his lavishing of grace on us in his precious Son.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
– Romans 11:36

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Jul

21

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:22 pm CT

Peter Huntoon on Middletown Springs

Local artist Peter Huntoon is amazing with watercolors. Here is his whimsical impression of our town green, including the church I pastor.

Here is his take on the view of town from the town center. (From this vantage point, the green and church would be directly to the left.)

Huntoon’s work is displayed in places everywhere up here, as well as in galleries around the world. He has paintings and prints on a variety of subjects for sale on his website.

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Jul

21

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:02 pm CT

Growing Churches is Not the Goal

The deceptively simple task of disciple-making is made demanding, frustrating and difficult in our world, not because it is so hard to grasp but because it is so hard to persevere in.

This is why we are such suckers for the latest ministry expert, who has always grown a church of at least 5000 from scratch, and who has a guaranteed method for growing your church to be like his. Every five or ten years, a new wave comes through. It might be the seeker-service model, or the purpose-driven model, or the missional-cultural-engagement model, or whatever the next thing will be. All of these methodologies have good things going for them, but all of them are equally beside the point — because our goal is not to grow churches, but to make disciples.

– Collin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine (Matthias Media: 2009), p.151.

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Jul

21

2011

Jared C. Wilson|2:02 pm CT

Strange Allowance, Greater Glory

Unless we fudge on the traditional view of God’s omniscience, the only thesis that makes the most biblical sense of why God would allow man the ability to disobey is that it gives himself greater glory to save a fallen man than to never have let man fall at all.

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Jul

20

2011

Jared C. Wilson|1:35 pm CT

Lay the Gospel to Heart

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you . . .
– 1 Corinthians 15:1

As a pastor committed to gospel-centrality, it can be frustrating and distressing to re-learn every day how difficult it is for people to “get it.” Every day in gospel-centered ministry is a new lesson in “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive” (Is. 6:9).

This is not a deficiency of pulpit preaching, because a) people seem very good at remembering the parts they want to remember, and b) the gospel is the primary message of everything else I/we do, from counseling to children’s talks to friendly chit-chat to Facebook page status updates and the like.

Still, many seem pathologically devoted to anything warm and fuzzy that is not the gospel. “If I just stay positive, things will be okay.” Well, no, they won’t. And I’ve told you that a billion times. “If I just pray more, my life wouldn’t be so difficult.” Are we reading the same Bible? “Just keep hoping; that’s all we’ve got.” That doesn’t even make sense.

My least favorite times are when those who hear the gospel clearly articulated on a regular basis couldn’t tell you in their own words what the gospel is.

In the Scriptures we find this phrase “lay it to heart” or “take it to heart.” We find that there are many who hear the words of God, but they never lay them to heart. We’re still failing to do that, and I think every fleshly bit of us is still attracted to anything shiny. We’re like babies this way, or cats. Anything that smells of the cross activates the reverse polarity of our flesh.

So. We must force the issue. With ourselves first and then with our churches.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…
– Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.

– Martin Luther

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