Thabiti Anyabwile|2:12 am CT

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

This past week has featured some good reading around the blogosphere. Listed below are some posts I enjoyed:

Sunday (23rd)

Charles M. Blow, “Thomas Speaks… Blindly about Race.” Loved this paragraph:

We must stop having these juvenile discussions of race and face down the big questions: How can we help people see a thing so vaporous? How can we help direct dialogue among individuals about things happening on a grand scale? How can we help avoid victim and guilt fatigue in addressing problems whose formation was glacial and whose undoing is likely to be so as well? And how can we encourage people to fight on two fronts at once: holding the culture responsible for allowing and even nurturing roadblock biases, while still encouraging individuals to make every effort to overcome those biases, identifying and eliminating self-destructive behaviors?

Monday (24th)

The Preaching of William Still

I received a real gift in a comment from Malcolm Duff, who read a post I’d written some time back on William Still’s book, The Work of the Pastor. Still was used of God to impact many better known men in the evangelical world today. He pastored Gilcomstom Church in Scotland for 52 years (1945-1997). He was committed to the exposition of God’s word, but I’d never heard him or knew his sermons were available. Then this gift called Tapes from Scotland which makes available some of Still’s preaching.

Kevin DeYoung shows us how to charitably but critically critique a book in his review of Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer. He opens:

Austin Fischer, the 28 year-old Teaching Pastor at Vista Community Church in Temple, Texas, has written an honest, intelligent, accessible book about why he is no longer Reformed. Lauded by the brightest stars in the Arminian firmament–Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, Greg Boyd, Rachel Held Evans–Fischer is to be commended for writing on such a difficult topic with disarming prose and without biting rancor. I can understand why Christians on the other side of this issue may feel like this is the Book They’ve Been Waiting For. Of course, given my position as an ordained Reformed pastor, it will come as no surprise that I found his arguments ultimately unpersuasive and, in several instances, full of significant weaknesses.

Wednesday (26th)

I’ve always respected former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Chris Carter, both for his exploits on the field and his commentary. He’s one of the likable guys from league. I thoroughly enjoyed much (not all) of what he said about the use  of the N-word and other epithets in the NFL.





Thabiti Anyabwile|9:53 am CT

Two New Sites Dedicated to Thinking About “Race”

“Race” is a perenniel problem. It seems inescapable and good thinking about “race,” racism, “post-race” and the like can be difficult to find. Even those who think about it professionally have difficulty managing the spiraling issues that “race” spawns. Because of that, we might be tempted to think we need less thinking, writing and discussion of “race,” not more.

But the reality is that unless we apply ourselves to thinking biblically, carefully and hopefully about these things we won’t make progress. We can’t acquire a new mindset or escape the quagmire of “race” and racism by osmosis. We’re going to have to do some hard work.

That’s why I’m glad to highlight two new sites dedicated to the cause.

The first is a site called “The Gospel and Race“. It’s a new joint venture between Soong Chan-Rah and Anthony Bradley.

The second is Eraçe Ourselves. It’s a new blog dedicated to imagining and pursuing a world  where “race” as a construct no longer defines the way we think of ourselves and others. I plan to post there about once a week or so. I’d love it if you would join me there and, more importantly, join me in the project of fostering a biblical view of humanity’s unity and a celebration of God-given diversity rightly understood.





Thabiti Anyabwile|2:59 am CT

My Son Shoots David Platt Preaching

So it looks like my son, Titus, has been bitten by the shutter bug, too. He’s been asking for a camera of his own for a while. And every chance he gets, he borrows my camera or his sister’s to take a few snaps. He’s actually pretty good. At least he consistently shoots better shots than I do. Case in point: Here are a string of snaps he took of David Platt preaching at #CROSScon last week.





















Two quick reactions:

1. This is not bad for a seven year old; and

2. Captures the subject pretty well.





Thabiti Anyabwile|4:54 am CT

Tweets and Links (Jan. 18, 2014)

A few of the things that encouraged and edified me this past week:












Thabiti Anyabwile|1:55 am CT

Cross: Day 4 in Pictures

Here are a few snaps from the final powerful day of #CROSScon 2013:

Victoria opens the day with her conversion story

Victoria opens the day with her conversion story


Michael Oh opens his address to the students


Near the cross



Michael Oh issuing a call to the students


Don Carson beginning his address on “The Church as the Means and Goal of Missions”



Surprised by the glory of God’s love revealed in the church


How would you caption it?


Trip goin’ in! “Can I brag on my Lord”



Our REAL photographer, very rarely seen, but seeing it all through her lens


Checkin’ the shot to be sure it’s right


I gotta buy me one of those pro lens!



David Platt closing the conference with a sermon on staying in support of the global cause




That’s the David Platt I know–ALL IN!


Platt reciting Romans 1-8




A shot of Platt preaching reflected in the drum set





Thabiti Anyabwile|4:55 pm CT

Cross: Day 3 in Pictures

Here’s a sampling of shots taken on the third day of the conference.


Matt Boswell leading us to the throne


Boswell and co.


Andre shares his testimony


Richard Chin from Australia’s IFES fed us from Mark 8



Students gripped with Richard Chin’s message from Mark 8


My son Titus (7) consistently shot better photos than I did. This one of Richard Chin preaching.


Speaking of Titus, here he gets in a game of frisbee between sessions with students.


Sara sharing her story


Nisin leading us on day 2


Mack teaching on the call to serve cross-culturally






Juan Sanchez leading a breakout on “Latinos in Missions”


Andy Davis leading a workshop on “Missions and Mercy Ministry: History and Problems”


Al Mohler moving at blinding speed through a session on the urban realities of the world


A student taking some quiet time to reflect on the morning’s teaching


Great to see fathers and mothers with young children at Cross



Trip helping to lead us in praising our God


Jimmy Needham and Trip team up to lead us in song





Matt Chandler opening up Phil. 1:21


Okay… you do the caption…




Add another caption….


David Sitton telling the story of his call to serve in South America


David Sitton driving home the point





Thabiti Anyabwile|4:09 pm CT

Cross: Day 2 in Pictures

I’m still rejoicing in the Spirit-filled fellowship and teaching of #CROSScon this past week. Honestly, it perhaps tops my list of conferences where the presence and power of God were most palpably sensed. For some time to come I’ll be sorting through the many profound moments of insight and illumination gained in those four days. But in the meantime, some more pics capturing some moments on day 2 (see day 1 here).


Kevin DeYoung on “Five Surprising Motivations for Missions,” leaning in for emphasis


Kevin with the scary hand to keep you alert


Now he goes “Hulk smash!” on a point


Kathleen Nielsen on “The History of Women in Missions”


Students listening closely to “The History of Women in Missions”

Jimmy Needham leading us in song.

Jimmy Needham leading us in song.



Joanna shared her testimony of conversion.


Conrad Mbewe fed our souls with a sermon on Romans 3:21-26, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”



The students loved Conrad’s sweater; a shepherd who carries his sheep on his heart!


Kevin DeYoung rocking that argyle swag and leather lace-ups.


CROSS is all about reaching people made in God’s image who have less than 2% evangelical witness among them and those for whom no church or organization has any effort to reach. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest!





Thabiti Anyabwile|10:28 am CT

Duck Dynasty and the Twisted Ironies of Our Current Sexual Politics

Well, our Duck Dynasty friends have found themselves in the news again. The show has been something of an inexplicable (to me, at least) pop culture phenomenon. Not since Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck” routines has redneck culture  been so prominent and acceptable and marketable.

But this time Duck Dynasty finds itself on the receiving end of a media backlash that one could predict with just a little exposure to our current cultural climate on sexuality. The now infamous GQ interview with Mr. Phil Robertson has caused something of a furor surrounding the surprisingly popular Duck Dynasty show.

Watching from the distance of a Caribbean island, which is not to be confused with watching from an impartial distance, several ironies surface for me.

1. It’s ironic that a “vulgar” rejection of certain sexual acts cannot co-exist with visual and verbal sexual vulgarity itself.

2. It’s ironic that “vile” remarks are rejected while the vile acts they describe are celebrated.

3. It’s ironic that an end to the censorship of certain sex acts should be accompanied by the use of censorship.

4. It’s ironic that one’s job can be taken away because of their view of human sexuality while sexual orientation is protected against job descrimination.

5. It’s ironic that young girls can parade themselves as hyper-sexualized beings on major awards shows and older men be vilified for graphically expressing their sexual interest.

6. It’s ironic that “wisdom” on the side of normative sexual ethics requires the use of rhetorical restraint while “tolerance” of deviant sexual ethics includes acceptance of rhetorical abandonment, recklessness and provocation.

Whatever one thinks of Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ magazine, Americans should all agree that he has a First Amendment right to make them. And, frankly, in a public debate characterized by a lot of raw, unrestrained demonstration, we seriously need to reflect on the terms of engagement in this debate. As you may  know, I think Mr. Robertson spoke what a lot of people think and feel but are not accustomed to expressing–for good or ill. His visceral reaction is the reaction of most who stop to think about the actions in question. That he should be beaten up for it is expected. That many should stand by quietly while he is… is sad. Soon they’ll come around for us, too. Which raises the big question of whether or not, at the risk of being rejected, every American citizen will insist on the kind of public debate that makes room for every opinion–whether or not we agree. We don’t have to confer legitimacy on every opinion or even engage everyone who speaks to an issue. But we should make sure that the freedom to speak freely is protected and honored.





Thabiti Anyabwile|9:42 am CT

How to Make a Confession and Extend Forgiveness

It seems God is pleased to teach much of the evangelical world how to make confessions and to extend forgiveness. From comments made in panel discussions about Christian hip hop to radio confrontations over proper citation of written material, we’ve seen a lot of calls for apologies and opportunities for practicing the difficult discipline of forgiving.

This morning I woke up thinking about one of the most helpful and simple set of guidelines for making full confessions of wrongdoing in the hopes of being forgiven and extending complete and joyful forgiveness of the same. It’s called “The Seven A’s of Confession” and “The Four Promises of Forgiveness” published by Peacemaker Ministries. You can read more about these principles at the Peacemaker website or in Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker

Here are the principles with a brief sentence of explanation.

The Seven A’s of Confession (see Matt. 7:3-5; 1 John 1:8-9; Prov. 28:13)

1. Address everyone involved.

We haven’t fully confessed a sin or wrongdoing until we engage all those affected. If the situation happened between two people, then the two involved should be addressed. If I wronged someone before a group, then the group should be addressed.

2. Avoid “if,” “but” and “maybe.”

These are magic words that actually erase the apology. They shift blame or nullify the apology. “If you hadn’t….” “I wouldn’t have ____ but you….” “Maybe things would have been different if… but….” Rarely does this feel like a sincere apology to those who have been wounded or wronged.

3. Admit specifically.

General “I’m sorry” statements without identifying the wrong leave the impression we’re not actually aware of what we’ve done or that we’re unwilling to account for it. The more specific the apology the more thoughtful and genuine it is.

4. Acknowledge the hurt.

Sometimes we leave off this step. Sometimes facing the hurt can overwhelm the guilty. But until we show some empathy and compassion by saying, “My words must have made you feel small… embarrassed you… or angered you,” then we haven’t fully acknowledged the humanity of the one we’ve wronged. Acknowledging the hurt goes some distance in repairing the breach.

5. Accept the consequences.

Sometimes we want “I’m sorry” to erase all consequences. We can use apologies as a “get out of jail free” card. “I said I’m sorry; what more do you want?” indicates that our repentance is incomplete. But a genuine confession accepts that there may be consequences to follow our confession. We accept that we may need to pay for some damaged property, lose a friendship for our transgression, or endure a bad reputation. In either event, we play the adult and accept whatever outcomes result from our wrong.

6. Alter your behavior.

We’re not truly repentant until we do this. And failing to do this undermines our apology and any trust we’re trying to rebuild.

7. Ask for forgiveness.

Actually make the ask. “Will you forgive me?” We should give the person we’ve wronged the dignity of processing their hurt and responding honestly. We may have to wait a long time before forgiveness comes. We ought not assume everything can be instantly waived away. So we ask and we wait a reply when we’re genuine in our confession.

Here’s a  wonderful example of applying these principles. It’s the 2007 public confession of former Olympic track star, Marion Jones. Take a look:

The Four Promises of Forgiveness (see Matt. 6:12; 1 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 4:32)

1. “I will not dwell on this incident.”

We haven’t forgiven if we can’t let it go. If we’re brooding on an injury or transgression after a confession then we’re holding the guilt over a person’s head. “I will forgive you but I will not forget” may in fact be unforgiveness. I love Corrie Ten Boom’s comment in reply to a former colleague asking if she remembered the colleague’s transgression from some years prior. Corrie said, “I distinctly remember forgetting.”

2. I will not bring this incident up and use it against you.

When we haven’t forgiven, we can store a transgression until that “right time” when we can attack with it, leverage some future outcome or gain some advantage. That’s not forgiveness; that’s manipulation. It’s old fashioned “pay back.” Then we’re in need of confessing our wrongdoing.

3. I will not talk to others about this incident.

If we forgive a person then the matter should not be spread to others. Apart from serious situations requiring counseling or the like, we never raise the matter with others.

4. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

This is sometimes the most difficult part. And it’s this part that requires something akin to the seven A’s of confession. Full confessions enable full reconciliation. The aim is redemption and restoration of the relationship and a truly forgiving person seeks that.





Thabiti Anyabwile|10:15 am CT

5 Things to Do Before Leaving Your Church: The Pastor Edition

In my last post on leaving well when you’re a member of a church several respondents pointed out that pastors often leave churches in very poor way. Sadly, they’re correct. We’ve all heard the horror stories about pastors who announce their departure after the morning service and U-Haul arrives first thing Monday morning. Or, we’re familiar with the all-too-painful accounts of pastors who apparently take a scorched earth approach to leaving, destroying everything they touch before they leave. We can add to that those pastors who leave by splitting the church. The pain abounds.

It’s hard on everyone when a pastor leaves–usually. Sometimes congregations are happy to see a man go and seem to do everything they can to ensure it happens. The story is told of the irate pastor who stood before the unhappy congregation and announced in no uncertain terms that he was leaving. Today would be his last Sunday at that church with those people. Then the congregation spontaneously and in union broke out in song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

We don’t want to be that guy or that church. So, in response to those concerns, I want to offer five things pastors should do before they leave their local churches. The aim would be much the same as the goal of members who leave: to leave in as healthy and Christ-honoring a way possible.

1. Talk with Your Fellow Leaders When You Begin to Think Seriously about Leaving

Most of the problems begin right here. Far too many pastors either lack sufficient trust with their leaders or fear man to such an extent that they don’t talk about their interest in leaving until it’s a done deal. That’s devastating for a church’s leadership and for the church as a whole. Showing up with a decision to leave without having allowed the leadership to speak into your life is tantamount to serving divorce papers to a totally unsuspecting spouse.

So, if a pastor wishes to be faithful to his charge and humbly submissive to others in leadership with him, he should share his desires with the leadership well before he has made a decision to leave. This is tricky and requires some thoughtfulness with regard to timing. The pastor shouldn’t “think out loud” about a possibility he’s not seriously considering, otherwise he’ll make his fellow leaders uncertain when he doesn’t need to. Better to not share comments about leaving when you’re frustrated or when you’re having the occasional bout of “what ifs.” Instead, at the point that you think leaving could be a serious possibility, then talk with your fellow leaders about the possibility. Perhaps meet with them individually first so that their initial reactions, often emotional and sad, aren’t first offered in a group meeting of the elders. Prepare them for the group conversation by allowing them to process individually. Give them a general heads up on your thinking and take any initial questions or reactions they may have.

2. Be Genuinely Open to Counsel and Correction

I tend to stay away from the sometimes mystical and authoritative language of “call.” Far too many pastors have led congregations in unhealthy directions or abandoned a pastorate because they “felt called” to do so. Sometimes people use the language of “call” or “calling” as a way to circumvent any hard thinking and testing of motives. We speak as if a “call” ends all debates because the decision was really in God’s realm and will. When, truthfully, God extends and affirms calls through His people and leaders in prayer together (Acts 13; 1 Tim. 4:14).

Rather than making a highly subjective and privatized decision in the pseudo-spiritual language of “calling,” pastors should actively seek the counsel and correction of others. Don’t just take advice; go after it. They should be willing to hear hard things about their hearts and motives. They should be willing to accept the challenge of those who think they should stay, especially their fellow leaders who most likely know them best. They should be willing to lay out their potential plans–as far as they know them–so that their fellow leaders can shepherd them through their thinking. This would be a good time to receive counsel and correction about how they’re leading their families, since wives and children will undoubtedly be affected. These talks should take place over months of meetings, not a meeting or two. The meetings should involve significant prayer rather than fleshly reactions.

Then heed or take the counsel and correction. Don’t dismiss it. Receive it. Make yourself accountable to the leaders by stating your agreements where you can and by explaining why you won’t or can’t take counsel where you can’t. Not everyone will agree about everything in situations like this. But where there’s disagreement and the pastor wishes to take a direction the other leaders advise against, he should humbly explain his reasons and hear again the elders’ admonishment or affirmation. Here’s the place and time to be ruthless with your motives and desires.

3. Resolve Any Conflicts Before Leaving the Church

According to a couple of surveys I’ve seen, the number one reason pastors leave churches is conflict. They feel embattled about a direction they wish to take. They are constant recipients of criticisms. Sometimes their wife and children bear the brunt of unloving and un-Christian attacks in the body of Christ. And a great many pastors feel they have no friend in the congregation with whom they can talk about these things. Most pastors feel overworked, under-appreciated and put down by some of the people they serve. Conflict abounds.

But before a pastor leaves, he should allow plenty of time to mend relationships and settle conflicts in as biblical a manner as possible. In fact, as much as it’s possible, he should plan the timing of his leaving in accord with his being able to restore peace in the ministry. The same things that are required of members who leave are required of pastors. Obey our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15. Go and be reconciled to the best of your ability.

If pastors obey the Lord in this before moving on then everybody wins. Lord willing, pastors win their brothers and sisters over and relationships are mended. You may find you don’t have to leave at all and experience renewed joy in the church family you’ve already invested years of life with. Even if you still need or want to leave, you’ll experience freedom from guilt because you’ve “made every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The church you leave behind will, by God’s grace, be in better repair for their next pastor. Don’t make the next guy do your work in healing the sheep. Position the next guy to begin smoothly, or at least make his own conflicts and mistakes. And your new church family will be able to receive you without the baggage associated with the previous church.

One person in the comments section of the last post suggested churches should contact a candidate’s previous church to see if they left in good standing. I think that’s a wonderful idea and am surprised at how many do not check references or complete background checks before calling a pastor. Many have simply inherited unresolved problems from previous pastorates because men have not left well and have not dealt with their relational demons before moving on.

4. Plan Your Transition and Succession with the Elders

Don’t just pack up your books and disappear into the night. As much as you’re able think with your fellow leaders about how to address the condition of the various souls in your care, the state of the various ministries and major needs in the transition. The church may feel like it’s stopped with the announcement of your departure and you may feel tempted to disengage, but keep your head in the game. Life continues apace and that means people continue to need shepherding, decisions continue to come before the leaders, and time remains (or should be taken) to get things in order for transition.

Hopefully you’ve been grooming a potential successor as part of your ministry in the church. Hopefully you’ve been sharing the leadership so that others have “stepped up” long before any prospect of your leaving was on the table. And perhaps you have a successor in mind. Talk that through with the leaders. Give them your honest assessment of a prospective replacement. Resist the urge to simply speak in glowing terms about the next guy because you want everyone to feel good after your difficult announcement. The truth lovingly spoken will make them free. And if there is no successor on the horizon, help the leaders think through their recruitment strategy. Give them counsel from your unique perspective on what they did well when recruiting you and what they could improve. Let them benefit from your watching this process unfold with many of your friends and associates. Lead through the transition.

5. Express Your Appreciation to the Church and Say “Goodbye” to Friends and Saints

Sometimes pastors fall into the trap of thinking they’ve done the church a favor by being their pastor for some season. We can fall into thinking we’ve made all the sacrifices, borne all the difficulties, and exercised all the patience. But, truthfully, the church has put up with us, patiently prayed through our shortcomings and failures, and sacrificed to partner with us in the gospel. It’s been our privilege to shepherd the people of God–no matter how difficult we found the shepherding or how rowdy the sheep. We were not called to pastoral ministry in order to enjoy a life of ease. We were called to get in the pen and smell like sheep. And we should be happy and grateful for the opportunity to be Christ’s under-shepherds!

Which  means we should be able to step back and express sincere and profound gratitude for God’s people. Paul could do it with Corinth, surely we can do it with out congregations. Before we leave we should make every day an expression of appreciation and thanksgiving. We should do it publicly and privately, in groups at planned functions and in chance encounters in the hallways or grocery stores. We should do this as an act of love and with the hopes that the people would be reminded of God’s grace at work among them and strengthened for the transition ahead.

Pastors should spend adequate time saying “goodbye” to friends. They should make sure their wives and their children have opportunity to do the same. From the time of your public announcement to the actual date of departure, give yourself plenty of time to have dinners, coffees, small group meetings and the like to make the rounds and relay personal appreciation with people. Weep together. Rejoice together. Pray together. Be together so that being apart might be softened in time to come.


Well, there’s much more that could be said. A thousand details need to be attended and without question lots of sticky issues addressed. But in broad strokes, here are some thoughts that I hope churches and pastors find helpful in the sometimes painful process of losing a shepherd.