Matt Smethurst|12:01 AM CT

How to Preach Books of the Bible You Don't Like

How do you preach a passage you don't particularly like? Many pastors, of course, would just find a different one. But for those committed to expository preaching, sometimes the text staring you in the face isn't one you would've picked.

"If I don't like a passage it's usually because I either don't understand it or don't see how I'm going to preach it," Mike McKinley explains in a new roundtable video with Bryan Chapell and J. D. Greear. Yet time and again, the pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in northern Virginia observes, "I've learned God is pleased to use things that don't impress me."

"If I understand what the Lord is saying but just don't like it, I have to learn to love it," says Chapell, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and former president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. "I've got to try to figure out the reason God put it there and then fall in love with that reason."

"I look back on my early years and am embarrassed by how little confidence I had in the Word of God," admits Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina. "But though there have been books of the Bible I didn't think I would like, I can honestly say I've never preached one that didn't prove to be profound and life-changing."

Watch the full nine-minute video to see these pastors discuss Monday morning terror, why Chapell bowed out before finishing Daniel, when application unburdens, and more.

Difficult parts of Scripture from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

"I don't know any pastor who has been more personally fruitful in discipleship ministry than Randy Pope," Tim Keller observes. "Nor do I know of any church leader who has had a more sustained, lifelong commitment to making the ministry of discipleship a pervasive force throughout his whole church."

Pope sat down with Mark Mellinger to discuss his vision for and experience with church-anchored discipleship over the past 25 years. "Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel," explains the founding pastor of Atlanta's Perimeter Church and author of Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church (Zondervan, 2013) [written interview | TGC13 workshop]. "If you want to see lives change, you've got to do it life-on-life." 

How does this vision get worked out practically? "We start small and invest deeply in the lives of a few," Pope says. "It's important to go deep before you go wide." At Perimeter this process entails small groups that gather weekly to invest time in truth, equipping, accountability, mission, and supplication ("TEAMS").

Watch the full nine-minute video to see Pope discuss leadership development, training clinics, how this vision fuels global missions, and more.

Randy Pope from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

'Non-Shepherding' Pastors: Option or Oxymoron?

Are "non-shepherding" pastors ever legitimate? You know, ministers who, due to other commitments (such as preaching) abstain from counseling and visitation and other life-on-life ministry during the week. Apart from perhaps a brief window on Sundays, they're essentially inaccessible.

"It's never okay to have a non-shepherding pastor," J. D. Greear insists, since you "can't separate those roles [shepherd and pastor] God has joined together." Nevertheless, the pastor of North Carolina's 4,000-plus-member The Summit Church admits, this principle will look different according to context.

"These duties are wed in Scripture," notes Bryan Chapell, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and former president of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. He points to Paul's instructive words: "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well" (1 Thess. 2:8). Like Greear, though, Chapell admits there will be different "gifts" and "degrees of calling" when it comes to shepherding and proclamation.

"It's good to know your own personality so that you'll be able to work against your weaknesses," adds Mike McKinley, pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in northern Virginia. As an introvert, he's acutely aware that "books are easier to love than people."

Just because you can't pastor everyone doesn't exempt you from pastoring anyone. Indeed, despite the priority of preaching, you won't be "half the preacher you ought to be if you're not individually involved in people's lives."

Watch the full seven-minute video to hear these pastors discuss generational shifts in expectation, the place of preaching, multiplying leaders, and more.

"Non-Shepherding" Pastors from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

Should Every Pastor Get a Sabbatical?

Pastors aren't the only tired ones out there. Churches teem with people who are working demanding jobs that offer no extended periods of paid leave. Are pastoral sabbaticals necessary, then? Are they even fair?

According to Bob Doll, chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager at Nuveen Asset Management, the answer is yes. "The stresses and strains of dealing with people—with souls—wears you down in a unique way," he observes. Besides, he notes, even some companies in the secular world are starting to use sabbaticals. "They realize that refreshment makes a better employee."

"Pastors need rest of all kinds, not just waiting for 'the big one,'" adds Kelly, pastor of Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. A strategic rhythm of work and rest, then, is vitally important.

"In the ministry, the unusual is routine," says Phillips, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. "Experienced ministers know you've got to plan for rest."

Watch the full nine-minute roundtable video to see these leaders—two pastors and a businessman—discuss sabbatical frequency, when work and family lines blur, and more. Later this month, March 14 to 16, Phillips will be speaking at TGC's Southwest regional conference, Clarus, hosted at Kelly's church in Albuquerque.

Sabbatical from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.





Staff|12:01 AM CT

S1NGLE—God's Gifts: Our Plans

single banner


Livestream this sold-out event at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. 

For the 25 years Redeemer has existed, the majority of its attenders have been single. There are thousands of singles at Redeemer seeking to engage the culture with hope and integrity. Join Redeemer for this conference to hear personal stories, theological reflections, and a Q&A dialogue about being single. This conference is for you whether you are single, have single friends, are praying for singles, ministering to singles, or just want to encourage the ministry of the church.


  • Brent Bounds: Introduction, Q&A Moderation
  • Wesley Hill: I Love You Because You're Mine: Friendship and the Single Life
  • Jessica Hong: Expectations vs. Reality
  • Bethany Jenkins: Why I Hate the Term 'Single' (And Why You Should, Too)
  • Tim Keller: Theology of Singleness
  • Kathy Keller: Singles and the Rest of the World: The Commonalities of Suffering
  • Jordan Tanksley: What You Didn't Know About Being Single
  • Janice Worth: Testimony
Date: Saturday, March 1, 2014

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST

Watch the livestream.





Staff|12:02 AM CT

The Gospel at Work: Questions and Answers

The Gospel at Work recently hosted a panel discussion in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, with Mike Lee of Hope Community Church, Henry Kaestner of, Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management, and Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was moderated by J. D. Greear of Summit Church.

In this hour-long conversation, these pastors and practitioners cover a variety of topics, including:

  • How can pastors encourage and serve practitioners?
  • Should our language about work-as-mission change?
  • How can there be gain for the gospel as cultural Christianity disappears?
  • How can we navigate what organizations we choose to work with?
  • What are some ways that non-senior management employees can express their faith at work?
  • How can we be thinking in redemptive terms about "winners" and "losers" in the business community as we have to deal with P&Ls and letting people go?
  • Where can we find motivation to start again after we've failed professionally?
  • What are some practical ways to prioritize family if we have jobs that require a lot of travel?
  • What books can we read to help us think about these things more thoroughly?

If you're thinking through any of these questions, their insights may be helpful for you.

GAWC-panel from Equip on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

Where to Discover Christ in the Old Testament

According to Jesus, the Old Testament is about him (cf. Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39-40, 46). But what does that mean? Is he hiding beneath all 23,000 verses, waiting for interpretive magicians to pull him out—tada!—from under each? As followers of the risen Messiah, how do we read the Old Testament and anticipate Christ in a responsible way?

"We often think of Christ as 'one theme among many' rather than in his central role of tying together the entirety of the Scriptures," observes Reformed Theological Seminary (Washington, D.C.) president Scott Redd in an interview with Mark Mellinger. "We must look for broad patterns which the Old Testament authors highlight—patterns which point beyond themselves to him."

Understanding the unfolding nature of biblical revelation is vital, Redd explains, since the person and work of Christ is progressively revealed over the course of history through all the various genres we encounter in the Old Testament.

Watch the full seven-minute video to hear Redd discuss allegorical interpretation, living in the nation's capital, and more.

Scott Redd from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

What Not to Say to Someone Who's Suffering

"Job's friends were great counselors," Tullian Tchividjian observes, "until they opened their mouth."

Tchividjian sat down with Paul Tripp and Dave Furman to discuss things you shouldn't to say to a person in pain—many of which they've learned the hard way.

"I've made the mistake of comparing one person's pain to someone else's," recalls Furman, pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Though perhaps well intentioned, this approach diminishes the real struggle before your eyes and leaves the person to conclude you "have no idea what I'm going through." Along similar lines, Tripp adds that it's remarkably unhelpful to tell someone, "You will never suffer as much as Jesus did." To the person who suffers this comment sounds like Jesus set the bar so high that no one else's pain matters.

"The mandatory happiness we require inside the church often perpetuates the pain people feel," says Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. "But we have a faith that actually embraces suffering, that looks it square in the face and is realistic about it. The idea that God suffers for us and with us is what sets Christianity apart."

Watch the full seven-minute video to see these pastors discuss blunders they've made, comforting their kids, awkward silence, and more.

Loss from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

The Grueling Glory of Pastoral Ministry

After TGC Arizona's recent regional conference, Paul Tripp sat down with Josh Vincent, pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Phoenix, to discuss themes related to his book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Crossway) [review | interview]. "Of all the books I've written, I think it's accurate to say I wept my way through this one," Tripp reflects. "To recognize that you actually need the gospel you preach is a wonderfully healthy thing."

Tripp also observes how perilously lonely leadership can be. Since "every pastor is in need of pastoring," it's imperative for leadership teams to cultivate environments of candor and grace. "An elder board can so easily become the logistical board of a religious institution rather than a spiritual community," he says. Carving out time to pray together, then, is one small yet vital way to promote unity and health.

"There's also an underplayed devotional aspect to preaching," Tripp adds. "One of the most powerful things is when your people get to watch you worship your way through your own sermon."

And what about the minister's marriage? "Think about how many ministry wives are dealing with two men—the public man and the private man," he says. "And they know the public man isn't the one they get to have at home." This sad state of affairs may be common, Tripp says, but it's not hopeless.

Watch the full 20-minute video to learn from Tripp about mentoring, delegating, sermon prep, pulpit humor, and more.

Paul Tripp on Ministry from Thomas Daniel Media on Vimeo.





Matt Smethurst|12:05 AM CT

When Staff and Lay Elders Collide

When it comes to church leadership, the New Testament pattern is clear: a plurality of elders shepherding a flock entrusted to their care. Some of them, such as the senior pastor, often serve as paid, full-time staff at the church. But many others may not. They have "regular" full-time jobs outside the church.

Senior ministers Ryan Kelly and Rick Phillips talked with lay leader Bob Doll about the conflicts that sometimes arise between staff and lay elders. "Some tension is inevitable," admits Kelly, pastor of Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. "It requires patience on the part of the staff elders to bring the others up to speed and understanding on the part of lay elders that much has gone on."

Doll, chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager at Nuveen Asset Management, points to inadequate vision-casting, poor communication, murky lines of responsibility, and conflict avoidance as factors that typically yield problems. Additionally, according to Phillips, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina, "It's important to ensure non-staff elders aren't viewed or treated as mere rubber stampers, an applause audience for the staff."

Watch the full eight-minute video to see these leaders discuss lay elders with demanding jobs, the cesspool of sinners, losing votes, and more. Next month Phillips will be speaking at TGC's southwest regional conference, Clarus, hosted at Kelly's church in Albuquerque.

When Staff Elders and Lay Elders Collide from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.