Monthly Archives: January 2012

 

Jan

31

2012

Trevin Wax|3:12 am CT

Tears and Laughter

We’ll put my Grandpa Bill in the ground today.

As we stand around his grave and wipe away tears, we’ll remember his life and celebrate his legacy. We’ll pray and laugh, reminisce and cry. And then we’ll watch as a box holding his lifeless body is planted carefully in the soil – awaiting the promised spring when the death of winter will give way to new life.

Bill waltzed into our life fifteen years ago when he swept my grandmother off her feet. Both of them had lost the spouses of their youth. Both of them loved Jesus and cherished their families. And then, as a result of God’s kindness, they committed to companionship. The way they loved and tended to one another was an oasis of grace in a parched world. Their friendship was forged through the twilight years of increasing physical difficulties, which made their devotion to one another all the more powerful.

But death is no respecter of persons. Sometimes it snatches away young people in their prime. Other times it waits patiently until the years chip away at our vitality, battering and bending the backs of even the heartiest soldiers. Either way, death doesn’t wait until love runs out. It is an intruder in our homes, shattering the shalom we seek to build. It steals away our minds and ravishes our bodies until we succumb to its cold, dark clutches.

Death is an enemy. But its success will be short-lived.

One week ago, I stood next to Grandpa Bill and read the Bible to him. For six weeks, he had been unable to speak. The stroke left him paralyzed, able to communicate only by moving his eyes or moaning softly. But as I read the Scriptures, he convulsed in tears, his mouth contorting into the best smile he could muster. I turned to the passages we had discussed so many times before.

Ephesians 1 and 2.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Revelation 21.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

Psalm 95. 

For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. 

John 17.

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 

Psalm 96.

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.

And of course, Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus… But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you… For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us… Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We laughed and cried together. Journey’s end. And that’s the way it always is. On earth, the death of a saint brings tears and laughter.

Tears for of our loss. Laughter for heaven’s gain.

Tears for our present pain. Laughter for our future hope.

Tears and laughter at the bedside of Grandpa Bill as he lay dying.

Tears and laughter at the graveside where we’ll lay him to rest.

Tears and laughter in the days to come, whenever we wish we could hold him and then realize that King Jesus has him in His warm embrace.

I hate winter funerals. It was winter when my grandfather (by blood) died. There was snow on the ground when we lowered the casket into the dirt. I still remember the contrast – the dark hole, the sunny sky. The cold snow, the warmth of Grandma’s embrace.

Today will be hard. But today doesn’t have the last word.

I will smile on the inside as the mortician folds the American flag and closes the casket. How strange – this elaborate ceremony with its morbid pomp and circumstance! How sad – the sense of finality as we watch this coffin be enclosed in an even bigger case as it is lowered gently into the ground.

And yet, we know what the future holds. We know that it doesn’t matter how tightly they close that coffin. They can encase it in bronze, ensure its security, and dump six feet of dirt on top of it. And still the casket will be no match for the power of the resurrection on the Last Day.

Those locks will be undone.

The decomposition of Bill’s old body will be reversed.

The soil that we water today with our tears will be the garden where Bill’s resurrection body springs to life.

It may be winter, but spring is coming.

Tears and laughter today. Only laughter tomorrow.

 
 

Jan

31

2012

Trevin Wax|2:42 am CT

Worth a Look 1.31.12

Ross Douthat – “Government and Its Rivals”:

The White House attack on conscience is a vindication of health care reform’s critics, who saw exactly this kind of overreach coming. But it’s also an intimation of a darker American future, in which our voluntary communities wither away and government becomes the only word we have for the things we do together.

Some firms want to see your social media presence rather than your résumé:

Companies are increasingly relying on social networks such as LinkedIn, video profiles and online quizzes to gauge candidates’ suitability for a job. While most still request a résumé as part of the application package, some are bypassing the staid requirement altogether.

Thom Rainer – Ten Leaders Who Influenced Me:

I owe so much to so many. Countless men and women have influenced me over my 56 years. Some I have known well. Most I never met. But all have impacted my life in some way.

D. A. Carson’s “Reflections on the Church in Great Britain“:

At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit. Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one’s tongue (James 3:1-6).

 
 

Jan

30

2012

 
 

Jan

30

2012

Trevin Wax|2:07 am CT

Worth a Look 1.30.11

The Biggest Myth in Time Management:

The idea that we can get it all done is the biggest myth in time management. There’s no way Brad can meaningfully go through all his email and there’s no way any of us are going to accomplish everything we want to get done.

Face it: You’re a limited resource.

Spurgeon on counting numbers:

I found these thoughts from Charles Spurgeon’s book on preaching evangelistically, The Soul Winner, to be particularly helpful and remarkably relevant to contemporary discussions. Spurgeon had the rare combination of being one of the most evangelistically successful, as well as doctrinally rich, preachers of his day. How we need more who can do both!

To Read Cover to Cover or Not? The Ethics of Reviewing Books:

I recently received an inquiry about the expectations of book reviewers – are you meant to read the book under examination in full? Perhaps to some the answer is self-evident (“yes!”), and I follow this practice in general, but there are some exceptions.

Missing “March for Life” Photos Discovered:

Around 7 p.m. on Thursday, three days after the March for Life, the folks at CBS found some pictures of pro-lifers to include, rather after the fact. So now about half of the slides are of the hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers who descended on the mall and about half are of the roughly dozen or so pro-choicers who protested that same march. And for this, which is still a ridiculous use of a slideshow, we are thankful for the improvement.

 

 
 

Jan

29

2012

Trevin Wax|3:56 am CT

Hanging Upon the Life-Giving Cross

O Master and Lord, Jesus Christ our God,
We recall your hanging upon the life-giving cross,
as You opened the way into Paradise for the repentant thief,
and destroyed death by death:

Be merciful to us,
Your humble and sinful and unworthy servants.
For we have sinned and transgressed,
and we are not worthy to lift up our eyes and look at the height of heaven,
since we have forsaken the path of Your righteousness
and have walked according to the desires of our own hearts.

But we appeal to Your boundless goodness,
spare us, O Lord, according to the abundance of Your mercy,
and save us for the sake of Your holy name.
Pluck us from the hand of the adversary,
forgive us our sins,
and kill our fleshly lusts,
that putting off the old man, we may put on the new,
and may live for You, our Master and Protector.

For You, O Christ our God, are the true joy and gladness of those who love You
and unto You we ascribe glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning,
and Your most holy, good and life-giving Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.

- adapted from Basil the Great, A. \D. 330-379

 
 

Jan

28

2012

Trevin Wax|3:28 am CT

"My Measly Opinion"

In Talking the Walk, Marva Dawn recounts an interesting conversation:

Once, a few years ago at a youth convention, a lovely young lady came earnestly to talk with me. She asked me what I thought about a certain matter in sexual ethics. I answered her with the most careful biblical reading and ethical nuancing I had gained in years of training.

She responded, “Well, I just wanted to know your opinion.”

“That wasn’t my opinion,” I replied. “If I had given you my opinion, it would have been the opposite because I really would like to escape these biblical truths and say what pleases everybody. I tried to tell you as faithfully as I could what all my studies have discerned God is saying. That’s much more sound, more reliable, more eternally true than my measly opinion.”

She looked at me in shock. How could anyone question the importance of personal opinion? How could anyone give an answer different from her own private feelings? Is there really such a thing as public truth?

Yes, there is. And truth’s name is God.

 
 

Jan

27

2012

 
 

Jan

26

2012

Trevin Wax|2:44 pm CT

Grace and Truth Beyond the Elephant Room

Let me say at the outset that I’m honored and humbled to blog about this event. I realize I’m just a 30-year-old guy who loves Jesus, wants to resource His Bride, and carry His mission forward. And the fact that some of the men involved in the Elephant Room have been serving Christ longer than I’ve been alive gives me tremendous pause. If there’s one thing I learned during my missionary years in Romania, it’s that whenever I was quickest to criticize, it was usually because I lacked a true sense of perspective. I don’t want to make that mistake here.

Instead, I want to lay out a few guidelines for how we go about processing The Elephant Room.

Guidelines

First, we should aim for grace and truth in the way we act toward one another and speak of one another. We need clarity and charity, but too often we choose one at the expense of the other. Either our emphasis on clarity causes us to act uncharitably toward one another or our emphasis on charity leads us to paper over distinctions and leave things muddled rather than clarified. The goal of this post is to push for greater clarity and precision, but with heartfelt charity and good intentions.

Secondly, we should assume the best about people’s motives. That means that we ought to assume the best of motives on the part of James MacDonald in his hosting of this event. Likewise, we ought to assume the best of motives on the part of those who decried the event and the invited guests. Love demands we assume the best of intentions, even if ultimately we disagree with one another.

Third, we ought to consider the effect of this event on the mission of the church. Too often, the conversation about associations and invitations stays in the ivory tower of ideas. Instead, we need to push for more missiological reflection. How does this event equip God’s people to live on mission? How does this event hinder or help the mission?

The missiological dimension allows for the fact that sometimes our best intentions lead to effects we did not anticipate. There have been several times in ministry when when I’ve tried something in order to fix a problem, only to discover down the road that I had created a set of different problems altogether. So, while we might agree with James MacDonald on some of the problems between pastors he has witnessed, it is still beneficial to consider an event’s positive and negative implications.

With those preliminary things out of the way, let’s get on with the conversation about The Elephant Room 2.

1. It is good to celebrate minimal agreement on fundamental doctrines, but even better to pursue a robust affirmation of biblical teaching.

I understand there are multiple issues related to the resignation of James MacDonald from The Gospel Coalition. But at the foundational level, it’s safe to assume that the philosophy of The Elephant Room proposes a different way forward for evangelicalism than The Gospel Coalition does. And the primary differences zero in on the question of minimalism. In other words, what is the minimal number of doctrines and beliefs that must be agreed upon in order for there to be close friendship and fellowship between pastors?

What we have here is two different visions: one contemporary and one confessional.

Contemporary evangelicalism is a big tent that keeps getting bigger. A short list of doctrines must be in place in order for people to cooperate, fellowship, or share a platform together, but there is no consensus regarding how those doctrines should affect one’s ministry philosophy. That’s why contemporary evangelicalism has sometimes been described as encompassing “anyone who likes Billy Graham.”

Confessional evangelicalism seeks to renew the center of the movement by uniting likeminded believers around the gospel and promoting the centrality of the gospel in one’s teaching and preaching. A common theological vision for ministry leads these pastors to take associations very seriously, and even if there are no hard, fast rules in place, they generally refrain from sharing a platform together in a way that leads to a perceived endorsement.

The Elephant Room aligns more with the ethos of contemporary evangelicalism (public platform-sharing with anyone who confesses Christ). The Gospel Coalition aligns more with the ethos of confessional evangelicalism (public platform-sharing with those who share a common theological vision of ministry).

2. It is good to celebrate an affirmation of orthodoxy, but even better to affirm the celebration of orthodoxy.

By far, the session that was most anticipated was the one in which T. D. Jakes was asked to clarify his position on the Trinity. Thankfully, he did so – though perhaps not in a way that would satisfy all of his critics. I believe we should celebrate his affirmation of the truth that there is one God in three Persons.

At the same time we celebrate Jakes’ affirmation of truth, we should also look at what it is that he celebrates in his preaching and teaching. Surely one must ask why we have to discover Jakes’ view of the Trinity in a friendly panel discussion in Chicago instead of in the sermons he delivers to his church in Texas. In other words, the issue is not if Jakes believes in the Trinity, but to what extent Jakes’ belief in the Trinity matters to his ministry? Does the weight of this truth come out in his preaching and teaching?

Here is a question that needs to be asked: Within the realm of orthodoxy, how much does emphasis matter? It is possible to check off the doctrines on a list, and yet not give these truths the weight they deserve, to not let these truths affect what and how we preach. To me at least, the issue at stake here is not the content of one’s theology but the importance of that theology. It’s not merely about what we affirm, but what we celebrate and proclaim.

So yes, we can get a group of pastors in a room and ask them if they affirm the basics of the gospel. Amen and amen! Let’s celebrate those affirmations. But surely we must go beyond mere affirmation of a checklist to a more robust celebration of the gospel and how it affects what we do.

I’ve been listening to Steven Furtick’s preaching recently, and though Furtick assents to the gospel, his preaching ministry lends itself more toward motivational speech than strong celebration of the gospel. Jakes affirms the core message of the gospel too (praise God!), but in watching him preach on television in recent weeks, I’ve seen self-motivation and perseverance celebrated more than the cross. I cannot help but think that if one cannot discern your view of the Godhead from your preaching, perhaps you are not preaching enough about God. (And the disappointing part of the discussions at The Elephant Room 2 was that prosperity teaching went completely under the radar. It discourages me to think of David Platt at Elephant Room 1 getting drilled for urging radical sacrifice while Jakes’ teaching of health and wealth was never even brought up.)

We need to introduce a category related to theological importance that takes us beyond the mere affirmation of a theological point. Jakes believes in the Trinity. Praise God! But now we should ask: Is the Trinity important? How important? How do these truths we affirm affect our view of ministry? Our preaching? Our work in the world? That’s the conversation that still needs to take place.

3. It is good to come together in love, but even better when that love leads us sharpen one another in truth.

The conversation at Elephant Room 2 was much more tame than at the first conference, perhaps because the fireworks took place in the weeks leading up to the event. This one seemed more like a panel discussion with experienced pastors. The tone was quite different. It was refreshing actually to see how warmly all the pastors interacted with one another.

In the first Elephant Room, unity in essentials was assumed and diversity of methods was platformed. In the second Elephant Room, diversity in methods was assumed and unity in essentials was platformed. Because of this difference in tone, there was no substantial debate. What we witnessed was the coming together of several pastors united by their heart for each other and for people.

Several sessions were particularly encouraging – the affirmation of denominations as having value, the admonition to be urgent in our gospel proclamation, the way we ought to restore a minister who has fallen into sin. I thought Wayne Cordeiro’s session on pastoral burn-out was very encouraging. I benefited especially from Cordeiro’s insight that Satan will steal your joy if he can’t destroy you some other way. On these topics, the accumulated wisdom from these pastors was edifying to all who listened in. I highly recommend that pastors read through the notes and glean wisdom from these brothers.

Still, I wish we had seen more sharpening – not in a propped up sense of debating for debate’s sake, but in challenging one another in a way that goes deeper than merely affirming one another’s motives. It is easy to see anyone with a critical view of the Elephant Room as being hopelessly fundamentalist, narrow-minded and uncaring. Certainly some of the critics may fit that description. But there are others who were concerned about this event out of love. Love for people. Love for the organizers. Love for churches that have been damaged by aberrant theology and practice.

It would have been better to see the major distinctions between these participants brought to the table and discussed. Instead, it seemed as if all arguments and debates fade away in light of one’s fruitfulness in terms of numerical growth of the church. The silent assumption seemed to be: We may be different, but as long as God is blessing you (numerically), we can’t really debate. 

4. It is good to recognize that we all have errors that need correcting, but even better to pursue the correction of those errors.

The humility of the participants in the Elephant Room was refreshing. Everyone seemed self-aware and open to correction, even if very little correction took place during the event.

I also appreciated the warning given to conservative evangelicals (particularly the Reformed) who appear to celebrate critique. It’s true that in our circles critics are lifted up as courageous, often undeservedly. (And, trust me, the irony that I am offering a critique of the Elephant Room is not lost on me!)

Furthermore, Driscoll was right to admonish his Reformed friends to have a passion for reaching people that exceeds a passion for reviewing books. Still, I don’t want to drive a wedge between reviewing books and reaching people. Instead, I want to say that whenever anyone reviews a book, it ought to be motivated by reaching people. It’s in service to the mission that we debate theological matters. It’s because we recognize that theology is important and that the missional stakes are high that we engage in sharpening one another in gracious critique.

We need to create an atmosphere where we can challenge one another to not only check off boxes on a doctrinal questionnaire, but also to keep the cross and resurrection central to our proclamation. That was my motivation for writing Counterfeit Gospels - to reorient our lives and ministries around the beauty of the biblical gospel that empowers us for mission. We must avoid not only false gospels, but any proclamation that drifts away from the centrality of the cross. Why? Because drifting away from the cross and resurrection of Christ will leave us impoverished instead of enriched, weakened instead of strengthened. And our passion for mission suffers. The discussion in the Elephant Room seemed to assume that as long as someone’s ministry was numerically fruitful, the question of subtle (or not-so-subtle) drifting away from the cross couldn’t possibly be accurate.

One additional thing needs to be said regarding our humility in addressing theological topics. We mustn’t think that standing firm for certain doctrines and truths is dogmatic and arrogant. Our society chafes against an absolutist approach to virtually anything (except the absolute belief that there are no absolutes). To equate firmness with pride is a deadly error.

In contrast, as Christians, we believe that standing firm can be an act of humility. It is not a stubborn, arrogant dogmatism that leads us to insist on the traditional view of the Trinity. It’s a humble reverence for the Scriptures, interpreted by the church fathers and embraced by Christians for 2000 years. I understand, of course, that God is beyond our full comprehension. (I wrote just this week about the mystery of the Trinity and how we study this doctrine out of love.) But surely we ought to desire to grow mentally into more definite convictions on these matters. As Chesterton said, “The purpose of an open mind, like an open mouth, is to close on something solid.” It is not arrogant to close one’s mind on something as solid as Trinitarian truth.

Conclusion

In the end, I admire James MacDonald’s intention to bring about more civil discourse between believers. We need charity and clarity. But civility is not a love-fest. We will disagree – strongly at times. Why? Because theology matters. The stakes are high. Bad theology hurts people.

Bad conflict in the Christian church is caused by ego and pride. Good conflict ought to flow from love and compassion. We need less “bad conflict” and more “good, sharpening conflict.”

Weak unity in the Christian church is caused by minimizing the importance of theology. Strong unity flows from affirmation and celebration of the essential truths of Christianity and how they impact our lives and ministries. We need less “weak unity” and more “strong unity.”

So when we engage in conflict, let’s make sure it is out of love for the truth, love for Jesus, love for one another, and love for the people we shepherd. Sometimes we may even stand against a brother on a certain issue, but even when we take an adversarial stance, it ought always to be for the good of that brother and the glory of King Jesus. Let’s take the goal of The Elephant Room seriously and be people who are full of grace and truth.

 
 

Jan

25

2012

Trevin Wax|3:31 pm CT

Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 8

Speed Round

Speakers: All pastors

Disclaimer: This is merely a summary of my notes, taken down live during the event. They may not be word-for-word and will need to be seen on video in order for their context to be fully understood. I will be updating this post every few minutes as the session goes on.

MacDonald: Crawford, how did you come to know Jesus Christ?

Loritts: I was 13. My sister was older than me. I saw the change in her life. She invited me to church, and when I went there I saw the infectious love of the Lord Jesus in those people. I came back the next Sunday and was saved.

Furtick: My mom raised me in church. I got dragged to a Baptist revival when I was 16. A guy there named Jody took me aside and talked to me about having an authentic relationship with Jesus. And I got addicted to what I am doing today – trying to influence people for Jesus.

Cordeiro: I hid from Christians because they seemed freaky. I heard music from Christians, and I thought, they must not be that bad. It opened my heart. I still use music and arts to present the gospel.

MacDonald: I gave my life to Jesus Christ when I was 7 at a Sunday night service. I went home and asked my parents, and my mom led me to Christ. I wandered from the Lord, but He never let go of me. I know that I know that I am a child of God today.

Driscoll: I was raised Catholic. Some Catholics know and love Jesus. I was not one of them. A pastor’s daughter gave me a Bible. I finally understood sin as pride, not just moral issues. I had a whole lot of pride. Still do. God opened my heart to Jesus as I read through Romans. It was in my dorm room.

Graham: Childhood conversion. 6 years old. Evangelist came up and set up a tent. I walked the sawdust road. I have never doubted that experience, even though it was very young.

Jakes: My dad got sick when I was 10. He died when I was 16. It threw me into depression that created a spot in my life when I knew that the only hope I had to be fathered was from my heavenly Father. I was determined to know more about life and it drove me to the Author and Finisher of my faith.

Question: In my moments of honesty, the thing that frustrates me most about myself is…

Jakes: I have this passive-agressive personality. Sometimes I am loyal to a fault, and sometimes I get frustrated with myself because I am quicker to embrace than attack. But if you push all that love over, then I want to go to the other extreme and cut your throat. Not literally. Calm down!

Graham: The inability to let things go. When you’re a leader, you’re constantly trying to fix things. So the inability to really let it go, give it to God, or let it go away… I’m an obssessive “fix-it” kind of person. That’s the need to control a situation.

Driscoll: My selfishness. If I get angry, it’s because someone inconvenienced me.

MacDonald: Sometimes, I’m too good a friend. I volunteer too much. (joking) No… actually, the thing that frustrates me the most about myself is that I am more easily wounded than I let on. I can forgive, but I don’t get over it. I need to let it go. I’ve experienced so much forgiveness, I should be able to get over things faster.

Cordeiro: The line between caring deeply and worrying too much about something or someone. I can’t get that right. I wrestle with that. I hope I can figure that out.

Furtick: My wife said, “When will it be enough?” I can’t find the line between asking God to do more, not becoming complacent, and yet being grateful. It easily slips into wrong motives. I need another achievement, another asterisk.

Loritts: Sometimes, my heart will write a check that my calendar can’t cash. Not being a prisoner to need, or just because you can do it… understanding the tension of being a grateful servant.

Question: The gospel is our greatest treasure. It sparkles like a diamond. Which facet is sparkling most to you these days?

Loritts: The wonder of our Savior dying on the cross in our place. I’m overwhelmed at the fact that Jesus would die for me.

Furtick: I always thought God’s favor was a sidebar, but it is synonymous with grace. God is for us. I always would say that He is with me. But when I know He is for me… I always thought He loved me because He died for me, but that He didn’t really like me. But now I rest in him.

Cordeiro: God is pleased with us. Sometimes I am like Schindler. I’ve got to do one more thing to get God’s pleasure. And the Lord says, “No. Chill. I am pleased with you.” It’s in my mind. I need it in my heart.

MacDonald: The imputed righteousness of Christ. I’m not getting a report card. I’ve already got straight A’s. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a gift that cannot be imagined.

Driscoll: I’ve been thinking a lot about expiation. Not only are we forgiven in Christ, but we are made clean. For me, I always felt forgiven, but always dirty, damaged, and defiled. But Christ sees us as clean. God’s people get to wear white.

Graham: The call of the gospel. After 40 years, I am more passionate about this gospel and the call. And to know that your greatest years – the best really is yet. I’m more excited to preach the gospel than I’ve ever been more in my life.

Jakes: For me, it is knowing that we have a God that suffers with you. There is a fellowship in the suffering. We do not go through our struggles alone. I find that many people will experience the fellowship of success, but they don’t know that some degree of sorrow will come. We have a Suffering Savior. I never suffer alone.

Question: My one concern about young pastors would be…

Jakes: Young pastors see us on platforms, but because they don’t see the cost and the suffering behind it, they are not prepared for it when it comes.

Graham: That they don’t sell out the gospel or their own life for something cheaper. There is so much brokenness, and young pastors are bringing brokenness in. My prayer for the younger generation is purity of lifestyle that honors the gospel.

Driscoll: I speak to the tribe I’m a part of. I want to see their passion to reach people exceed their passion to review books.

MacDonald: Our sense of timing is messed up. A lot of people are impatient for promotion. Take your list of what you want to get, crumple it up, and throw it away. Give your life to Christ. It’s worth it even if you get nothing for it.

Cordeiro: The danger of letting the calling become a career. Don’t take any shortcuts. Pay the price.

Furtick: We can fall prey to a spirit of entitlement. That is the antithesis of honor. It’s like Guitar Hero. Everyone wants to be a rock star, but no one wants to learn the chords.

Loritts: Faithfulness has been devalued. Continuity is the key to their effectiveness. Others paid the tuition for us to have the platforms that we have. The power of your ministry comes from the fact of grabbing your baton, realizing that you live for a time you cannot see. I’m nervous for this generation because it’s disconnected from the faith rhythms that go down the corridors of time.

Question: What do you see the church looking like in 20 years, given its current trajectory?

Loritts: I’m conflicted. I’m alarmed at the drift away from truth. That scares me a bit. On the other hand, I see guys like Steven, what Mark is doing, and I just want to stand up and be the number one cheerleader. I think that this next generation is going to do some incredible things. My big concern is that they embrace holiness and godliness and won’t get disqualified. On balance, I have a lot of hope. Despite the statistics, there is a refreshing movement of God in this 40 and younger crowd.

Furtick: I don’t have any right to speak to the trend. The future cannot be predicted, because it is waiting to be created. I don’t know what’s coming, but by God’s grace, I intend to carry it forward. Not watering it down, and not resigning anything to the devil. We’re going to move forward. But I can’t speak to the trend. I want to prophesy life over our generation.

Cordeiro: I have a lot of hope because of things like this. If we leave it to the tendency of today, we will become a subculture rather than a counter-culture. Life inside, but hard shell on the outside. We’ve got to blow that out and be a counter-culture.

MacDonald: God’s favor on America has been surprising in its continuance. I think that it’s hard to miss the trends in society and the church. I’m not called to be the police, but preaching that emphasizes the Word of God and the gospel versus felt need preaching is what is important. I want to call others to the same. It isn’t impossible that North America would become like Western Europe. All we can do is expend ourselves to the opposite.

Driscoll: 20 years ago, I was a college junior and a Christian for two years. My hope is not in my network or my denomination or an institution. God can grab anybody, turn them into somebody, and use them for anything. I want to see who God sets on fire.

Graham: Praise God it’s getting gloriously dark. If we read our Bibles, we see that things will get worse. The signs of times are multiplying. It’s not going to get easier, but harder. The challenge is to prepare the church for a totally different place in America and around the world. We know opposition at some level, but not persecution. It could be coming. We must prepare our kids and grandkids for much harder times, for courage. What would our generation do in the face of real conflict? I’m excited about the future of the next generation because the gates of hell will not prevail against our church. But we must prepare for tougher times.

Jakes: My hope is that in 20 years, this coming generation will translate the integrity of the Scriptures into the language of the times and not make the mistake in looking at mediums of communication as bad. We should not limit the platform to wooden platforms or chapels, but infect their culture with the gospel through every medium of technology and use the arts to make the point.

Question: What have you learned today?

Jakes: How important it is to not be so busy that I can’t come out of my own comfort zone. That I’m called beyond my borders.

Graham: The challenge to moral purity in the pastoral purity. The whole anger thing disturbs me. I haven’t thought about that – how much anger is in the pulpit, our ministry, our churches, our pews.

Driscoll: I like to have fun. This has been fun. It was fun to have dinner with the guys. I wonder if fun is one of the attributes of God.

Cordeiro: It reminded me how much I need to sit before the Word and learn.

Furtick: There is freedom in knowing that I don’t have to have every answer right now. I can sit back and take down a note and admit a struggle. May God help us through His grace. Slow to speak. Be a better learner.

Loritts: I have to sit and marinate. The modeling of listening with our hearts has been terribly important. I leave here burdened for the state of so many of my brothers. We can spiritualize our insecurities and our fears. Why are we afraid to talk to each other? Why does that threaten us so much? It’s something I’ve known before, but the older I get, the more passionate I am about what I really do know and the more free I am to say, “I don’t know.”

MacDonald: I’m going to process all that I’ve learned. I’ll watch the DVDs and listen. You listen differently when there is no pressure at all. Thank you for serving Jesus Christ and for being honest in talking about things that are uncomfortable. I thank my son, Luke MacDonald, and many people who have worked very hard to make this happen. I hope we’ve honored Jesus Christ.

 
 

Jan

25

2012

Trevin Wax|2:51 pm CT

Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 7

Topic: “We Can Work It Out”

What responsibilities do we have to local pastors who exist outside our theological boundaries, but within the body of Christ? How do you confront a brother in error while showing fidelity to truth, and to the truth about biblical relationship? Given the freedom to preach your conscience, is there anywhere you wouldn’t preach? Does a pastor’s association really communicate endorsement, or is that just a carryover from fundamentalism? How can pastors practically encourage/challenge those who are different than they are? How do the benefits of broader community weigh against the dangers of confusing people about your own convictions?

Speakers: James MacDonald and Steven Furtick, moderated by Mark Driscoll

Disclaimer: This is merely a summary of my notes, taken down live during the event. They may not be word-for-word and will need to be seen on video in order for their context to be fully understood. I will be updating this post every few minutes as the session goes on.

Driscoll: This is a summary of your motivation and heart for this event, James. We’re talking about Christian associations and conversations. Think in terms of national and state borders. We’re talking about how big your world is. Pentecostal, Baptist, Reformed. Is that your state or is that your nation? If it’s your nation, you may declare war on those within the family of evangelicalism but not part of the nation you call home. If it’s your state, then within those states you see people who do love Jesus but have differentiation on secondary issues, then that will allow you to love our state, but see it as a home and not a prison. The question is – How big is your world? Is your state your nation, and you won’t work beyond that? The next question is, Where do you draw those lines? Thirdly, what relationship should you have with people beyond those borders? Is a friendship a tacit approval of disagreements? It’s the fundamentalist issue of association. It’s what Jesus got criticized for. He can’t have those friends!

MacDonald: Your description of national and state borders is very helpful. The problem comes when we say, “My state is Texas. It’s the biggest.” When you’re so proud of your state you doubt if anyone else is American, that is problematic. I was that guy. I went to a fundamental Bible college. It took me 25 years out of 30 years of ministry to see the trappings of negativity of fundamentalism. I could’ve lost it faster but I am fired up about the doctrine. I am a doctrine guy, but I’m not angry about it.

Driscoll: You’re like a pinata at Cinco de Mayo lately. You’ve taken a beating lately.

MacDonald: It all started with Bill Hybels. He was down the street from me. I see ministry very differently from him, to this day. But a guy in Chicago rallied together a bunch of us pastors. That’s how I met Reverend Meeks. Bill called me and said, “Pick me up.” We got stuck in a snowstorm to get across Chicago back to our houses. I love Bill Hybels. Don’t ever get up in my face and criticize his integrity or his commitment to the gospel. We have very different methodologies, but he is sincere and has left no scandal in the gospel. I could not negate him as a person, even if I emphasize things. His friendship changed – not my convictions, not my methodologies, but my tone. Round 2. I was in California and I played golf with a well-known pastor. (He’s not a fan of you, Mark.) Not one hole, but two, three, five, eight holes, he couldn’t stop talking about everything bad Driscoll does. I was so upset about that. I got off the course and I called Jack Graham, who has everyone’s cell phone number. I said, “Jack, get me Driscoll’s number.” It took him five minutes. Mark picked up, and I said “hello.” I knew he had one of my books on his website so he knew who I was. We talked. He came to Chicago and we went to a Cubs game. Then I called him and said, “We’re going to Haiti.”

Driscoll: Most people were trying to get out of Haiti. You said, “Get to Chicago, and I’ll find a way to get you to Haiti and I’ll get you your shots.”

MacDonald: We didn’t know what we were getting into. Two big experiences with someone I saw and doubted (or was told to doubt), and in both instances, my convictions didn’t change, but my tone changed. Those two experiences led to others. Maybe I could do this more. I saw Furtick in Outreach magazine and I thought, Who is that?

Driscoll: Why? He seems likeable. He looks Hispanic.

MacDonald: I think my disposition was to doubt. I’m not proud of that. I’m ashamed of that. So much of fundamentalism is rooted in fear. You’re going to hurt me, disappoint me. You’re going to go off course. We’re waiting. It’s going to come out. I had to shake that disposition off. I did like him. So I tweeted something to Steven, and he tweeted right back. He wasn’t put off by it. He gave a gracious response. He came up to Chicago and spent a whole day driving around with me, seeing the campuses. Such humility. I thought to myself, It happened again. Bill Hybels. Mark Driscoll. Steven Furtick. That led to the Elephant Room. I am going to get people in a room together. We’re not afraid to talk about anything. We don’t hide the truth. We’re going to talk. We’re going to spend eternity together. Why not start now? I feel called of the Lord to model that experience that I had. Both of you have enriched my life. I’m blessed by our friendship.

Furtick: The sad thing is… it’s rare for people to show their affection for each other in our line of work. How bizarre, when we are pastors and shepherds. Somehow we have been forced into this conversation about borders quickly. A lot of people may be called to draw borders and boundaries, but the calling on my life is to affirm the center. I don’t mean that no one needs to draw boundaries, but it’s a crazy thing – some of the language that we used. “The Reformed community is not a big fan of you, Steven.” Bishop Jakes said, “What does that statement even mean?” We must sound pretty silly to God, but especially to the world that we are called to reach. The whole idea of drawing boundaries from the beginning does not appeal to me a whole lot.

Driscoll: I’m talking inter-faith. We can’t worship with Hindus and Muslims, etc.

Furtick: When you called me, James, and Jack Graham got you my cell phone number… I thought, It’s really cool you would take the time to talk to me. I remember thinking about how nice you were on the phone. By listening to your radio broadcast, I thought, What a strong Bible teacher! But he sounds so dogmatic I probably wouldn’t like him too much. But someone at dinner once said that if you want to have a fun time, James MacDonald is one of the most fun.

Driscoll: Putting the fun back in fundamentalism. James MacDonald!

Furtick: I had constructs in my mind about what you would be like. I remember getting dressed to come see you, and I didn’t want to look a certain way. I didn’t want you to think I was “one of those guys.” I was operating out of a negative framework. I was insincere. When you hugged me, you picked me up off the ground!

Driscoll: That sounds romantic, bro. That’s a national border, you know.

Furtick: We could stand to build one another up in love more. We could give honor more freely. I don’t think we’re in danger of giving too much encouragement, love and honor. So, I think that I have my own hypocrisy in this area. We always think people are judgmental against us, but the judgment goes both ways. People didn’t want me to come to the first Elephant Room because of their perception of you as a dogmatic, hate-filled preacher. They associated you with people and friendships that are not even recent. I’ve seen real boldness today that made me want to be bolder. The people championed as bold are those who write books to their own tribe and throw the red meat to their own people. “Boy that’s bold! You really told them.” But the people you were telling off weren’t even listening. I am strengthened by you affirming people without an asterisk by it. For you to stand with me, it has been endearing. A lot of fatherless generation pastors appreciate you putting your arm around me and taking shots for it. How do we get this charitable spirit? Assuming the best about people? So that we don’t have to get to know everyone before we assume they are okay?

Driscoll: Friend, until proven foe.

MacDonald: Can I speak to that?

Driscoll: No. Wait, it’s your event. Go ahead!

MacDonald: If I hadn’t known Bill Hybels, I wouldn’t have had Wayne come. And Wayne has been a friend. I preached for Craig Groeschel, and he means a lot to me. Balanced. Biblical. My point is that if you call the pastor down the street and you start realizing there are people who love the same gospel and love the same book and follow the same Savior, you can explore these relationships. I was raised in a church in which anyone outside of our particular kind of Baptist church wasn’t saved. There are two priorities that have to stand: the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Furtick: I had a guy come up to me, a friend who knows me well. He said, “If you ever started preaching false doctrine, I would have to disassociate with you.” I said, “Did I preach something?” He said, “No. I just know your associations.” I said, “If you sleep with my wife, I will cut your head off.” In other words, Why are we having this conversation? We are friends. We wouldn’t do this. Some people think they are defending the gospel, but they are really just crappy friends.

Cordeiro: Love thinks the best. We’ve got the tendency to want to identify with one tribe so that we’re under a different flagpole. We try to side with one another to make ourselves seem bigger than we are. We’ve got to get back to the center. The closer we get to the cross, the closer we are to each other too. Maybe we are drifting from Calvary.

Loritts: 1 Corinthians 13. The legacy of the fundamentalist controversy has tainted all of evangelicalism. It hit the fan in the 20s and 30s. What was core to biblical Christianity? Unfortunately, it’s a legacy of fighting. Defining yourself by who you are against. Rather than assuming and sending people through pre-qualifying questionnaire, I need to lead with love, with my eyes wide open, and get to know people’s hearts and minds before I get to conclusions about people. I come from a strong, truth-speaking background. The downside of that is that it is the whole truth of the Word of God. Ephesians 4 is in the Word of God too. I’ve got to be kind, loving, seeking unity. So I say to my brothers who lead with truth, please lead with all the truth of the Word – both vertically and relationally.

Graham: I love to connect people to each other. To me, one of the joys of my life is to be connected and to leverage those friendships we have with one another to encourage each other. Everyone needs encouragers and mentors, and connectors too. For the sake of the gospel and unity in the bond of peace.

Jakes: I come from a world with different problems than these. I come from worlds where fellowship is taken for granted and unity is commonplace. The things you do easily, we struggle to do. The things you struggle to do, we do easily.

Driscoll: Why is that?

Jakes: Minorities don’t have the luxury of bickering about everything. We wouldn’t survive if we didn’t work together. Pre-trib, post-trib, etc. It’s not that we don’t have an opinion or can’t muster the intellect to have the debate, it’s that our survival instincts lead to brotherly kindness. We had no choice.  Loving as Jesus loved. He died for the people. If we lift the laws higher than the people, we don’t reflect the heart of God. Breaking a pathology that produces the false ideology that strength is taking a stand for what you’re against rather than what you’re for will change the atmosphere of all you influence. Let us not confuse anointing and substitute it with anger. Sometimes in the absence of the pursuit of God’s presence, the only power we can exhibit before our people is anger. Go back to our knees and ask God for the refreshing of the Holy Spirit to persuade men, rather than use the force of our anger and tenacity to replace the presence of God.

Question: Is there a Christian you wouldn’t invite to the Elephant Room?

MacDonald: No.

Furtick: That’s the absurdity. This is not a platform that endorses, but a platform for issues to be discussed. We’ve perverted boldness into arrogance.

Driscoll: If someone is accused of something, and they are willing to sit down and answer questions about it, then let’s ask the question.

MacDonald: Our anger doesn’t just show up in our preaching. By the way, authority – thus says the Lord – is not anger. Society rejects authority and can’t always interpret the fact that God doesn’t give “suggestions.” I’ve worked hard at bringing down any sense of anger, without losing authority. Having said that, though, we don’t just struggle with wrong attitudes toward Christians like us. We don’t just struggle with anger toward Christians in different races doing different ministries. We struggle with anger toward non-Christians, Republicans, Democrats. It’s everywhere. If we do another Elephant Room, and our elders decide we do another one, I defend the right to bring in a Muslim, or another religion. I just think – the subject of civility and the ability to talk to people very different – is important. We need to work on that.

Driscoll: I was talking to Andy Stanley, who said, “As a leader, you’ve got to ask – do I want to make a point? Or do I want to make a difference?” In the age of technology, that is instant, constant and permanent, “make a point, make a point, make a point…” You can garner a tribe of critics even if you’re not fruitful or faithful, just because others are fearful. You don’t have meet anyone to make a point, listen to what they’ve said, read what they’ve written. To make a difference, you’ve got to get to know someone. Build a relationship. Learn where they come from. Some people have already traveled miles down the road of grace. Sometimes the point we make is privately, because we love each other. So when we disagree, it’s the wounds of a friend to be trusted much.

Furtick: Your love paved the way to say anything you want to say to me. Publicly we launch grenades, and privately we don’t. It should be the opposite.

Driscoll: What has this even cost you? And what has it taught you?

MacDonald: It has cost me some relationships. I thought I knew what the Lord wanted me to do, and I had good counsel. Craig Groeschel has a lot of wisdom, and he said to me, “Just because someone doesn’t want you in their circle anymore doesn’t mean they can’t be in yours.” I’m going to be pursuing relationships. I’m praying for the ability to show grace. Nobody’s the center. The Word of God and the gospel is the center, but I don’t presume I’m standing in the center of the center. I don’t want to treat poorly those who are on either side. When we’re mistreated, we can say, “Now is my opportunity! I can be kind.”