Discipleship

 

Apr

02

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The Fault Lines Before the Evangelical Earthquake

SAF-e1346289593322The recent controversy surrounding World Vision USA’s decision to open employment to same-sex couples and the organization’s subsequent reversal reveals the fault lines in evangelicalism today.

For the evangelicals distraught by World Vision’s initial decision, the controversy was never about the legitimacy or worthiness of people with differing views of marriage doing good work around the world. We should applaud good deeds of relief and compassion wherever we see them and wherever they come from. No, this particular controversy was about the meaning of evangelical.

Can an institution with an historic evangelical identity be divided on an issue as central as marriage and family and still be evangelical? Related to this discussion are questions about the authority and interpretation of Scripture, cultural engagement, and institutional power. All sides of the debate recognize that the definition of evangelical is at stake, which is why some are now publicly casting off the term altogether.

The World Vision decision was a tremor that warns us of a coming earthquake in which churches and leaders historically identified with evangelicalism will divide along all-too-familiar fault lines.

Here are the three camps I see right now:

Revisionists 

“The Church’s interpretation of Scripture and our consensus on Christian sexual ethics have been wrong and unjust. Just as we made adjustments in our treatment of women or in our position on slavery, Christians must be willing to revise our beliefs in light of ongoing Scriptural reflection and personal experience. Faithful Christians can and must celebrate and affirm same-sex relationships; otherwise, Christianity will lose its influence in the culture and bring disgrace to Jesus.”

Moderates 

“One’s position on homosexuality or gay marriage is not an essential point of theology. There are faithful Christians who disagree on these matters, just as faithful Christians disagree on baptism, the Holy Spirit, church structure, etc. The gospel is not at stake in whichever position you take. What is at stake is our unity before the world and how we love each other. We can agree to disagree on these issues and still partner in missions and relief work.”

Evangelicals

“The Bible is clear in its teaching that (1) homosexuals are created in the image of God and have innate worth and value and (2) homosexual practice is condemned as sin, one of many sins from which humanity needs deliverance. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Any other arrangement is not marriage at all, but a distortion of one of Scripture’s most beautiful pictures of the gospel. To abandon Christianity’s distinctive sexual ethic is to bow before the prevailing idol of our time and dismiss the authority of Scripture.”

Other Issues 

Same-sex marriage is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface are a number of issues related to traditional Christian belief and practice. The same fault lines find people divided over issues such as the authority and interpretation of Scripture, the exclusivity of the gospel, the reality of hell, and the nature of truth.

Sometimes I wonder if we are watching a replay of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy that took place a century ago. Last time, the revisionists wanted to hold on to the essence of Christian morality while minimizing the cultural embarrassment of the Bible’s miracles. The moderates believed they could be personally conservative and yet forge a middle way and partner with people on both sides. The fundamentalists separated and withdrew from Protestant denominations, paving the way for neo-evangelicalism to rise in the middle of the 20th century. This century, the revisionists want to hold on to the essence of Christian miracles while minimizing the cultural embarrassment of the Bible’s morality.

What’s Next

Learning from history, what will be next for each of these groups?

The Revisionists will continue to shrink and lose influence over time. There are three reasons why.

1. The converts to revisionism are typically disaffected evangelical churchgoers who find cultural accommodation appealing, not lost people finding salvation through Christ. Because of this pattern, it will be challenging to sustain consistent growth over time.

2. Those who revise Christianity’s sexual ethics are often the same people who deny that Jesus is the only way to God, that there is a hell, that the Bible is fully inspired and trustworthy, etc. A liberal doctrine is never an only child.

3. Revisionists are culturally captive to the demands of a shrinking subset of affluent, Western churches. Though global evangelicalism is much more united on the authority of Scripture and the distinctiveness of Christianity’s sexual ethic, revisionists lecture global churches on why they should adopt the same beliefs and practices that emptied their own.

The Moderates hold to an unsustainable position. They uphold a traditional understanding of marriage and sexual ethics, and yet they downplay the significance of these issues by taking the “agree to disagree” posture or a quiet agnosticism (“since people disagree on this, who can really know?”). I sympathize with those who feel like the culture has thrust upon us an issue we didn’t ask for and those who are weary of the constant cultural clashes between evangelicals and revisionists. That said, this category will shrink the fastest. The revisionists will challenge moderates to stop linking arms with people who affirm traditional marriage because they are “hateful” and “bigoted.” The evangelicals will challenge moderates to recognize the underlying authority of Scripture issues that accompany this debate. Moderates today will be forced to choose sides tomorrow. Those who remain on the fence will see their children, or the next generation, move steadily into the revisionist camp in response to increasing cultural pressure. “If marriage isn’t a big deal, Mom, then why are we holding the line on this?”

Among Evangelicals we can see two subsets:

  • Combative
    Some evangelicals speak to the issue of homosexuality in ways that are needlessly inflammatory. They look primarily to political action as the strategy for bringing culture change in these areas and overlook the flesh-and-blood people in their congregations who are struggling with this sin. The combatives are the minority, but they routinely make headlines.
  • Conciliatory
    Other evangelicals speak to this issue more pastorally, not shying away from Christianity’s distinctiveness but utilizing a tone that takes into consideration the common sinfulness and brokenness of all humanity. They are often publicly silent on the issue because of their desire to not be lumped in with their combative counterparts.

It is possible that evangelicals could repeat the mistake of last century’s fundamentalists by choosing to withdraw from societal and cultural engagement in order to preserve purity of identity. The result would be the inevitable downplaying of the public implications of the gospel we preach. Our kids will then be the ones with the “uneasy conscience” of last century’s Carl Henry, urging us out of our ghettos and back into the public square.

Another possibility would be that this issue paralyzes the church, leaving people to fear cultural backlash to the point we are silent in our witness.

There is also a third way: as society’s marriage culture crumbles further, we witness to the world, not only in our stated positions but also in our families to the beauty of God’s original design.

Loving People, Not Positions

Twenty years ago, the pro-life movement was derided for caring only about babies and not about women in distress. Since the rise of crisis pregnancy centers, few say such things anymore, and when they do, the slander doesn’t stick. It’s clear that evangelical opposition to abortion is coupled with acts of love and compassion toward women facing an awful choice.

Today, evangelicals are derided for caring more about marriage laws than gay and lesbian people. There’s a kernel of truth in this assertion. Too often, we’ve turned people into positions that volley back and forth as a political football – even sometimes trying to protect our rights so much that we fail to call out true discrimination when we should. We can do better. Indeed, we must not only do better, but be better.

What can evangelicals do to show that our belief in the sanctity of true marriage is just as uncompromising and unwavering as our love for gay and lesbian people created in the image of God? How can we be simultaneously committed to upholding biblical marriage and loving our gay and lesbian neighbors? I don’t know all the answers to that question. Nor am I sure of the best way forward, but I do know that we stand in a long line of Christians who often stood against the world for the good of the world. May it be said of us that our opposition to certain cultural developments is always motivated for the good of the world we’ve been called to reach.

 
 

Apr

01

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

“God’s Like That” – What My Kids Got From Studying Hosea

mzl.nmwxxnviSome Bible stories seem ready-made for kids:

  • Jonah and the big fish.
  • Daniel in the lion’s den.
  • David and Goliath.

These stories are epic. They’re memorable. The truths translate well to kids.

But what about stories about Achan’s sin, or David’s fall, or strangely-named prophets like Hosea?

When The Gospel Project for Kids team decided to take kids on a chronological journey through the Bible, the team didn’t skip the Minor Prophets. This decision created some headaches for the team, mainly because other children’s Bibles or curriculum generally pass over these stories. There was little help in seeing how other people had handled some of the more obscure Old Testament prophets.

Then there’s the question of suitability. Hosea is a weird story, even for adults. God tells a prophet to marry a prostitute, give their children horrible names, and then go back and purchase his wife after she is unfaithful.

How in the world can we teach our kids the story of Hosea?

I was curious to see how the session would go in our own church. At lunch afterwards, I asked our nine-year-old son to tell us what The Gospel Project was about that morning. (See the video treatment of the story below.) Timothy recounted the story of Hosea marrying a woman who didn’t love him and kept running away. “But Hosea just kept going after her,” he said. “He even paid a price to get her back.” Then, he paused: “God’s like that.”

I could have leaped for joy.

That’s what I want my kids to hear in church. Not to focus only on the sensational miracles or the details of the Bible’s stranger stories, but to get the point and recognize what the Bible is telling us about God – who He is and what He is like.

My son wasn’t the only one who got the story. A pastor from Maryland posted this to my FaceBook page:

“There was a very cool moment when [one of our students] had an “aha” moment. He said something along the lines of – ‘Oh, I get it now, I finally get what my mom and dad mean when they say that Jesus paid the price for us on the cross. It’s like how Hosea paid to get Gomer back. And I think Jesus felt sad on the cross the way that Hosea felt about what Gomer was doing to him.’ His eyes lit up and he just kept saying how he got it now, he understands. “

Recently, I was working through Hosea again for a future Gospel Project session for Adults, and once again I discovered how this book wrecks my soul. The vision of God as the spurned Lover, the great and glorious Husband who pursues His bride and willingly pays the price to win her back… it is such a breathtaking picture of God’s great love.

How could we not teach our kids Hosea?

You can preview a full month of The Gospel Project for kids, students, and adults by signing up here.

 
 

Mar

28

2014

Trevin Wax|12:15 am CT

T4G Panel Discussion on Group Ministry in the Local Church

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Groups are a big part of local church ministry. Whether they come in the form of discipleship groups, accountability groups, Sunday School, or home groups, it’s clear that evangelicals believe groups matter.

For this reason, I’m excited to host a free panel discussion at T4G this year. Daniel Montgomery (pastor of Sojourn in Louisville), Robby Gallaty (author of Growing Up) and Eric Geiger (author of Transformational Groups) will join me for a conversation about how to develop a wise discipleship plan for the local church. We’ll be tackling issues like:

  • How do you integrate a group philosophy into your church’s overall theological vision for ministry?
  • Should groups be on campus or off campus?
  • How do you raise and train new leaders for groups?
  • Should groups monologue or dialogue?
  • How do you connect the spiritual disciplines into the structure of your groups?
  • How do you multiply groups?
  • Should groups have an outward or inward focus?
  • How do you cast vision for groups from the pulpit?
  • Should groups primarily gather to study the Bible or focus on fellowship?
 
 

Mar

11

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

3 Reasons Why a Christian Worldview Still Matters

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Capitalism. Socialism. Postmodernism. Consumerism. Relativism. Pluralism.

There are all sorts of -isms in our world, each representing a different outlook on humanity, each with different opinions about the way societies should function and people should behave.

Some Christians shrug off any effort to study philosophies and “isms.” They say things like, “I don’t worry myself with what other people think about the world. I just read my Bible and try to do what it says.”

This line of thinking sounds humble and restrained, but it is far from the mentality of a missionary. If we are to be biblical Christians, we must read the Bible in order to read the culture. As a “sent” people, it’s important to evaluate the -isms of this world in light of God’s unchanging revelation. In other words, we read the Bible first so we know how to read world news second.

We also read the Bible in order to know how to engage people around us with the gospel. To be a good missionary, we need to have our own minds formed by the Scriptures, and at the same time, we need to understand how people think—the people we’ve been called to reach. That’s why we need to be familiar with the big questions of life and the big debates in our world.

Here are three reasons a Christian worldview matters:

1. Because it sets us apart from the world.

Take a look at Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

In verse 1, Paul wrote that we must offer our bodies. In verse 2, he wrote that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Mind and matter. Physical and immaterial. Thinking and behavior. Paul didn’t just say, “Think rightly.” Neither did he simply say, “Behave rightly.” Paul knew the gospel transforms both our thoughts and our actions.

If we are to keep from being conformed to this age, we’ve got to understand the connection between thoughts and deeds. Paul connected them, and so should we.

The Bible consistently presents a Christian view of the world. Along the way, the biblical authors interact with and contradict other worldviews. We ought to be skilled in doing the same. It’s part of how we keep from being conformed to this world.

There is a missional orientation to our nonconformity. Worldviews matter because people matter. Seeking to understand someone with whom we disagree is a way of loving our neighbor. It doesn’t mean we accept every point of view as valid, right, or helpful. Neither does it mean we paper over our differences. But it does mean that we will listen and learn like missionaries seeking to understand the culture we are trying to reach. If we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice,” we must live in light of the mercies of God, understand our role in the world as Christ’s ambassadors, and answer His call to bear witness to Him and His work.

2. Because it aids our spiritual transformation.

Romans 12:2 points us back to chapter 1 of Romans, where Paul laid out the dire situation of humanity before a holy God. There he wrote:

“For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom. 1:21-22, 25).

Romans 1 shows us what happens when we exchange the truth of God for lies. Our minds are darkened, and then we engage in sinful behavior, as is evidenced in Paul’s list of sinful attitudes and actions: greed, envy, murder, sexual immorality, etc. (vv. 29-31).

But in Romans 12, the situation is gloriously reversed! Because of Christ’s work, our minds are being renewed. No longer are we senseless sinners living in the dark. Instead, we are redeemed people living in the light of Christ’s resurrection. We also live in the light of His regenerating work in our hearts. Through the Spirit, God is at work changing us, conforming us—not to the world but into the image of His Son. By the mercies of God, we have been given a new identity.

It’s true that we don’t always think clearly. Our sanctification is indeed a process, and it is still incomplete. Yet God delights in seeing His children love Him with their minds. He loves to see us embrace the new identity He has given us.

The psalmist wrote, “The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced” (Ps. 119:130). Ultimately, if we have understanding, it’s not just because we have attained a natural level of maturity but because we’ve benefited from God’s revelation.

Being transformed by the renewing of your mind won’t happen apart from God’s Spirit working through God’s Word. We need the Spirit to illuminate the meaning of the Bible so that we are able to find our place in God’s great story of redemption.

3. Because it helps us know how to live.

Do you see how the apostle Paul gave the renewing of our mind a specific purpose? It’s not so we can pride ourselves in thinking rightly. Romans 12:2 makes it plain what the purpose of our spiritual transformation is: so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Sometimes Christians wish the Bible were simpler, a quick and easy guide that lays out every step of obedience. To be sure, the Bible has lots of do’s and don’ts. But God didn’t choose to lay out in detail specific commands for every possible situation we might find ourselves in.

What the Bible does give us is a grand narrative that focuses our attention on Jesus Christ and His gospel. In this story of redemption, we glean principles for living according to our new identity in Christ. Once we understand our general role in the plan and providence of God, we are called to exercise biblical wisdom in our everyday decisions.

God left us with something better than a simple list of commands. He gave us a renewed mind that—through the power of His Spirit—will be able to discern what actions we should take. He is seeking to transform us so that we can determine God’s will in particular situations where explicit instructions are not spelled out in Scripture.

~~~~~

This post is adapted from my introductory session of The Gospel Project – “A God-Centered Worldview.”

 
 

Feb

18

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

3 Things to Remember in Discussion with Doubters

Clear-Winter-Nights_1a-716x1024One of the most enjoyable teaching opportunities I had last year was walking through Clear Winter Nights with a group from my church. We met on Sunday nights and talked through the Conversation Guide at the end of the book. (You can access the PDF of the Guide here for free.)

Three aspects of the discussion stand out, and they are applicable to any group that wants to discuss the big issues related to our faith and practice.

1. Saying your church is a safe place for doubters doesn’t make it so.

During the first couple of weeks, our group focused primarily on our past experiences of faith and doubt. I wanted everyone in the group to put themselves in the shoes of Chris Walker, the college student who is dealing with disillusionment and asking big questions related to Christianity.

Almost everyone has entertained doubts of some sort, but our churches are not always a safe place for expressing them. Many Christians feel guilty for ever questioning the authority of their church’s teaching or the reliability of God’s Word or the cohesiveness of Christian theology. The list goes on.

We all say we want the church to be a safe place for people to be honest and open about their struggles, but too often, we paper over our problems and satisfy ourselves with individual Bible verses, while never dealing with substantive questions. This facade gets tiresome, of course, and it is the reason some people just drift away.

2. Doubting is never just intellectual.

The interesting aspect about discussing Clear Winter Nights (“theology in story”) was the focus on the characters’ stories, not just their intellectual hang-ups. We tend to treat people who doubt as if their issues are primarily intellectual. If we can just give the right answers, everything will be fine.

Now, to be clear, the conversations between Gil and Chris in Clear Winter Nights provide plenty of answers, and that’s a good thing. But doubts don’t start only in the mind, nor are they ever totally resolved only in the mind. We are embodied creatures. Our lives are individual stories, and there are all kinds of events and people who affect the way we view things.

We shouldn’t assume that people who express doubts about Christianity are coming simply from an intellectual standpoint. There are always more factors at play. A comprehensive approach will help identify some of those big-picture issues.

3. Strengthened faith should lead to the strengthening of other people.

God uses doubt. God uses doubters.

In the first instance, God uses doubt in a similar manner to the way a broken limb can actually wind up stronger and more fortified at the very place the break occurred. We don’t have to see broken limbs as a good thing to observe that good things can come from the healing process. Many times, our experience with doubt leaves us stronger in the end.

In the second instance, God uses former doubters as instruments in the lives of other people. It was fascinating to see how the early group sessions about Clear Winter Nights had us identifying with Chris and his doubts. By the end of the sessions, we had put ourselves in Gil’s shoes. We were asking questions like:

  • What did Gil do right?
  • What did Gil do wrong?
  • How can we be a mentor to other people?
  • How can God use us to bring peace and clarity to people who are disillusioned with family, friends, or church members?

Good conversations about “truth, doubt and what comes after” should move beyond our personal stories to how we can be useful to others. A strong faith shouldn’t be kept to itself.

Conclusion

My hope is that our churches will be places where we can have good, honest conversations about the questions that matter. Let’s learn how to talk about our faith in ways that strengthen those who are struggling.

~~~~~

Access the Clear Winter Nights Conversation Guide

 
 

Dec

03

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Is Your Bible Study a Christian Bible Study?

I’m convinced that a lot of Christians are in Bible study, but they’re not doing Christian Bible study. In other words, it’s Christians opening up the Bible, but none of the content being presented by the leader is distinctively Christian.

Here’s what I mean.

 
 

Nov

19

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Don’t Be So Practical You Miss the Powerful

9781433681721_p0_v1_s260x420One of the things I think teachers and small group leaders need to be aware of is this tendency we have to rush to application. To want to be so practical that we miss the powerful in what Scripture teaches.

I don’t want people to hear me saying we shouldn’t do application. We have to. We don’t want to be like the people James talks about, who go to the Word of God, look in the mirror and walk away, forgetting what they look like. We want to put the Word of God into practice.

But sometimes, there’s this tendency to rush so quickly to application that we short-circuit that moment of awe the Scriptures are intending to evoke, what the Scriptures want us to feel.

One of my favorite examples of this is a story from Mark Galli. In this video, I share Mark’s story.

Not long ago, I was speaking to a group of student ministers on this very subject. We were talking about our tendency to become so familiar with some of the stories in the Bible that we are no longer awed by the truth of the narrative. I used the example of Jesus calming the storm as an example. How many of us hurry so quickly to apply that story to “Jesus’ presence with us during the storms of life” that we miss the moment of awe that led the disciples to say, “Who is this man? Even the wind and seas obey Him!” It’s fine to apply the account of Jesus calming the storm in various ways. But don’t rush to that application so quickly you miss the moment of awe.

A few days after my talk with the student ministers, one of them sent me a Tweet, saying, “I couldn’t sleep last night thinking… He really did silence the storm. Crazy.” The student minister had gone from over-familiarization with a famous story of Scripture to once again being captured by the power of the narrative. He marveled at the power of Jesus, which is exactly what the biblical authors intended our reaction to be.

 
 

Nov

12

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

How Do You Teach the Gospel to Kids? 3 Things to Consider

How do you teach the gospel to children?

In this short video, I offer three things you ought to consider whenever you are teaching the gospel to your kids or the the kids in your church.

1. Repetition is essential.

2. Choose your language carefully.

3. Don’t underestimate your kids’ understanding.

Teaching the Gospel to Kids :: Gospel Centered Teaching – Trevin Wax from The Gospel Project | LifeWay on Vimeo.

 
 

Nov

04

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

How to Help Your Leaders and Teachers Understand “Gospel Centrality”

9781433681721_p0_v1_s260x420When The Gospel Project curriculum launched last year, I started receiving emails from pastors asking for something to help their small group leaders or Sunday School teachers understand why it’s important to be gospel-centered in our teaching. Here was a common refrain I heard from church leaders:

I encourage everyone to be “gospel-centered” and to connect the dots of the Bible or to ground application in the gospel, but I’m not sure everyone knows exactly what I mean when I tell them to do this.

In response to these requests, I decided to write something brief and accessible for the people who do the work, every week, of opening God’s Word and directing conversation about what God is saying to us. The result is a little book called Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture.

My goal is to give small group leaders a grid or framework that helps them see the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish. By recommending they ask just three questions of every lesson, I hope leaders will begin to instinctively notice when Christ is missing from their Bible study.

Let’s face it. As teachers, it’s easy to get wrapped up in some of the details of the Bible stories, the history, or the background. Or to get focused on immediate application for our lives, so that we’re skimming the Bible looking for practical tidbits rather than putting ourselves within this great Story that unfolds in the pages of Scripture.

But information alone doesn’t change us. Application alone doesn’t change us. Only Jesus changes us. That’s why the information we present needs to be connected to Christ. And the application we give needs to be grounded in Christ’s work for us too.

Some people think they are centered on the gospel because they have an evangelistic presentation at the end of their sermon or small group session. That’s a great thing, but we want to make sure that everything we present is done so in light of Christ’s finished work for us.

The gospel isn’t the dessert at the end of the meal. It’s the salt that gives distinctive flavor to the meat and potatoes. Trying to read the Bible without Christ at the center is like trying to read a book in the dark. We read everything in light of Jesus.

Prayer is key in this. Unless we sense our desperation for the Spirit to move in the hearts of our people, we will not pray and we will be ineffective.

More Info

Here’s a brief video about Gospel-Centered Teaching, with a few endorsements below. Please pray with me that this little book encourages and equips small group leaders across the country to faithfully point to Christ.

Danny Akin, president of The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:

It’s often said that the pulpit drives the church. Often overlooked is the role of gifted, godly teachers and leaders of small groups. The church needs not only pastors and preachers who point us to Jesus, but also teachers and leaders who overflow with love for Christ and love for the lost. Gospel-Centered Teaching will help accomplish this important goal. Superbly written, it is an accessible and helpful guide for leaders who want to ensure that their teaching of the written Word is always pointing others to the Living Word. This will be an extremely valuable tool for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Jason Duesing, vice president for strategic initiatives and assistant professor of historical theology at The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Pastors, if you are looking for a small book of great impact to give to all your teachers and group leaders this year, Gospel Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax is it. Written to help teachers ground their task in Christ, this book points them to a big God and his sufficient Word, not easy shortcuts or new methods. You will love it and love how much it helps your teachers.

J. D. Greear, pastor of Summit Church: 

A helpful resource steeped in good theology and imminently accessible. Perfect for those looking to teach practical insight in the context of the grand narrative.

Nancy Guthrie:

Many of us teach the Bible using our instincts—instincts honed through years of Sunday School lessons and small group discussions that focused on how to follow the example of a biblical character or how to apply what we’ve read to our lives right now. To overcome these instincts we’ve got to become convinced there is a better way and provided with tools to retrain them. That’s just what Gospel Centered Teaching provides. Whether you’ve been teaching for years or are just getting started, you’ll gain something from this accessible book. I sure did.

Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship:

Gospel-Centered Theology has fast become a popular term in American Christianity to call us back to the role of the power of Jesus in every area of life. Yet it also has become an unclear genre within American Christianity. In many ways it has become a movement, but in other ways it has become a fad. Hopefully in our generation, we will see the LORD use this movement in the grand scheme of people coming to know Jesus for the first time and believers understanding that we grow by that same gospel. That is why, Trevin’s resource Gospel-Centered Teaching is a great aid to serve pastor’s, teacher’s, and disciple makers. Whenever there is a movement, there has to be resources that serve, resource, and focus it for longterm sustainability. Hopefully this resource will be used to do this in our time and beyond.

Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church:

Bible teachers or small group leaders often ask a lot of questions in order to grow in their craft. Trevin raises the question teachers should ask: How can one center every message on Jesus and what he has done? I’ll be handing out this wonderful resource to many folks because Trevin explains the what, why, and how of Gospel-centered teaching so clearly and concisely.

Juan Sanchez, pastor at High Pointe Baptist Church:

At some point every preacher, teacher or small group leader will hear someone express disappointment with their teaching by suggesting that he or she want to “go deeper.” While these disappointed Bible students may not really know what they mean by “going deeper,” I suspect they may have a correct notion that something’s missing from our teaching. If we begin a quest to find “what’s” missing, we’ll likely embark on an endless search for “new and better” methods and curricula. In Gospel-Centered Teaching, Trevin Wax wisely points us to the right question – “Who’s missing?” The answer, of course, is Jesus. When we ask “Who’s missing?” from our preaching/teaching, we’ll embark on a quest to find Christ in all of Scripture. In this short, conversational, and extremely practical book, Trevin serves as an excellent guide who leads us to understand how to teach the Bible with Christ as our focus, the gospel as our center and the entire Bible as one big story about Jesus. If you want to teach a Christian lesson or preach a Christian sermon that glorifies our Savior and leads the church to live on mission, then you’ll want to read this book!

Ed Stetzer:

Theologically robust teaching and missional passion don’t have to be at odds with each other. Properly understood, solid teaching fuels mission because it leads us to Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was sent and now sends. Trevin Wax has given us a brief, easy-to-understand guide to what it means to be focused on Christ in our teaching. I recommend pastors give the book to all their volunteer leaders and teachers. I know I will.

Afshin Ziafat, pastor of Providence Church:

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4 that Jesus is the foundation of the church and we must take care how we build upon this foundation. As a pastor, I am primarily concerned with making sure that every gathering and every ministry of our church is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since my calling is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12), it is of critical importance that all the leaders of our church are trained to root all their teaching, counseling, and serving in the Gospel. I am so thankful for this concise and very practical book, Gospel Centered Teaching. I plan on distributing this to every one of our community group leaders and I highly recommend all pastors to get this book in the hands of their teachers and lay leaders.

 
 

Oct

22

2013

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

7 Arrows for Bible Reading

Matt Rogers is the teaching pastor at The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, SC. His church has developed an interesting way to help their people read and understand Scripture within their small groups. I asked Matt if he would share about their tool and how it lines up with their discipleship objectives.

There is often a vast disconnect between the awareness of the need for disciple-making and practical tools that actually aid in this work. Three factors are essential: Scripture, relationships, and time. Discipleship happens when the life-changing truth of Scripture is infused into genuine relationships over an extended period of time.

Our desire was to create a simple, reproducible strategy that would facilitate this process. This led us to develop a simply strategy for small clusters (2-3 people) to meet together regularly and talk about the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.

The seven arrows of Bible reading were an attempt at developing a tool for proper hermeneutics to power these relationships. We did not want our people to simply talk about the Bible. We wanted them to understand the Bible and know how to apply it to their lives. Each cluster would read a predetermined passage of Scripture and discuss it using these seven arrows.

The goal was for the clusters to start by summarizing the main point of the passage as succinctly as possible, ideally in one sentence.

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Next, the clusters sought to discern authorial intent for the passage by asking what it meant to its original audience. Since a text of Scripture can never mean what it never meant, it is necessary to begin by discerning what the text meant. Often this may require the clusters to consult other study tools or cross-reference other Biblical texts to arrive at the meaning of the text.

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Thirdly, we asked what the text tells us about the nature and character of God and specifically His work through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

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Fourthly, the text was analyzed to see what it tells us about humanity. Bryan Chappell refers to this as the “fallen condition focus” of the text. What does the text reveal about sin and mankind’s need for the gospel?

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Then we moved the clusters to application. Since we had now rooted the clusters in the meaning of the text, they were now positioned to rightly apply it’s meaning to their lives.

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From there we wanted our clusters to apply the Scripture to their relationships with others. Ideally, they would discuss how the text shaped both how they related to other believers and how they lived on mission in the world.

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Finally, the clusters rooted their prayers in the Scriptures. Hopefully, the previous six arrows kindled the flames of passionate prayer in the lives of the clusters – both for their own sanctification and for their mission to the lost.

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With these model, we touched on three important areas for discipleship:

  • Scripture - Disciple-making was rooted in a rightful understanding of Scripture and not in simply doing life together, unpacking another sermon, or dependance on classroom instruction.
  • Simplicity – Disciple-making was simple enough for everyone to get involved. All believers could take these principles, a Bible, and a relationship with a young Christian and get to work.
  • Stickiness – Disciple-making through understanding and applying Scripture was etched in the minds of our young church. They could use these same arrows to not only guide their cluster discussions, but also their personal Bible Study, small group leadership, and comprehension of sermons.

To further encourage and aid our people, we gave them bookmarks with the seven arrows on them. These arrows have proven to be a unique tool in our disciple-making toolbox that the Lord is using to call and build faithful and fruitful followers of Jesus.