Christian Concern highlights the conclusion of Oxford Professor Roger Trigg, founding President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion that Christians are in danger of facing ever growing persecution for their beliefs in British courts.
Ron Edmondson has highlighted some of the weaknesses, apparent and perceived, in leadership for an introvert. Well worth a read. It’s also a great reminder of how crucial it is to be self-aware in leadership and why although we may want to simply play to strengths we do need to compensate for our weaknesses if we are to lead well.
Tullian Tchividjian explores the enormous possibilities for Christians who grasp the reality of justification by Christ through faith.
Here are 10 top take-homes for me from Jesus + Nothing = Everything
1. Functionally, living out the gospel does not come naturally, even for Christians
Obviously, before we were Christians, it was never our natural bent to seek all our satisfaction in Christ and the gospel; but even after God saves us, that isn’t where we naturally turn.
2. Therefore our Christian lives become focused on what we are doing rather than on what Christ has done. The results are disastrous.
Our rules become our substitute savior, and keeping those rules becomes our self-salvation project, with Jesus safely outside the picture. With enough rules and regulations set up, we don’t need Jesus.
3. Church makes things worse!
To make this situation worse, our idolatrous self-focus is only intensified by what is typically taught and preached in our churches. The fact is, a lot of preaching these days has been unwittingly unconsciously seduced by moralism. Moralistic preaching only reinforces our inner assumption that our performance for God will impress him to the point of blessing us.
4. The message we communicate is a denial of the gospel and a disincentive to non-Christians
Millions of people, both inside and outside the church, believe that the essential message of Christianity is, “If you behave, then you belong.” From a human standpoint, that’s why most people reject Christianity.
5. The truth of the gospel is that Jesus + nothing really does = everything. If only we would believe it.
If we are in Christ , then everything we need, we already possess…approved by God, accepted by God, redeemed by God, forgiven by God, and transferred from darkness to light by God.
6. Believing the gospel of justification deep down alone has the power to sanctify.
The gospel transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution…Sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification.
7. All of our teaching and preaching must be an exposition of the gospel of justification
All theology is an exposition of the gospel, a further articulation of the gospel in all its facets, meticulously unfolding all its liberating implications and empowering benefits.
8. The gospel not only has the power to change us but to set us free to serve our neighbours
God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbour does – Martin Luther
9. Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others, because your identity is in Christ.
10. It is hard work to keep the gospel central to our thinking, living, and preaching. Unless we persevere in doing so we will naturally revert to a life of self-justification.
I’m always amazed at how hard it is for my heart to embrace what my head affirms.
The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are at looking outward. Instead, we need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ. – Sinclair Ferguson
What would you like to ask the man whos church baptised 1392 people in 2011 in one of the most secular, least churched, cities of the United States of America?
I had the privilege of gathering a small number of people, including a Bishop, to have dinner with Pastor Mark in Birmingham last May. He gave us two hours of his time to listen to the challenges that face our city in how we get the gospel out to a lost generation. Not one of us had any connect with Acts29. He neither asked for, nor took, any of our money. We did a lot of listening and learning.
A number of people including some good friends of mine argue Driscoll goes too far. I don’t doubt it for a moment but he’s right to say that he does it in a church culture where hardly anybody goes far enough.
I live on a council estate in Birmingham and the one thing I know for sure is that men where I live are not going to church and there is no church I could think of many of them would want to go to including my own. Millions of people are going to hell and the church is not ready or able to do something. I’ll take all the help I can get from a guy who is helping me see how to get working class, blue-collar workers to hear about Jesus. Driscoll preaches expository sermons, over an hour in length, promises no-one wealth or health, talks honestly and openly about the reality of heaven and hell, calls upon people to live radically holy, self-denying lives and above all else talks about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus AND people are converted. It’s time to listen.
Whatever we think Driscoll has got wrong it pales into comparison with what he’s got right and for that I praise God. If I had to choose, I would rather he continued to go too far than not far enough provided that his basic conclusions are sound. The trouble for British evangelicalism, as it seems to me, is that we don’t like it.
The decision of Christianity Magazine to pre-lease a web article with highly edited and potentially misleading quotations from a Driscoll interview on his views on the British church can hardly be considered responsible publishing, and Mark Driscoll has a point when he questions the motives of the magazine in choosing to do so. I for one would not appreciate such a pre-release.
Whatever Mark Driscoll may have got wrong he’s got a whole lot more right. So come on British evangelicals – let’s take the medicine – and learn.
If you want to know Pastor Mark’s views on the British church at greater length in his own words then this might be a place to start A Word for all seasons.
In a day when it is easy to spend a lot of our time listening to great preachers from around the world on the internet how can we ensure that we are learning from those who preach faithful sermons to us Sunday by Sunday without wishing they were someone else or we were somewhere else.
This post by Steve Burchett on the Gospel Coalition site offers 5 suggestions.
One point that stands out to me and I’ve found to be true in my own church is that ”The mature worshiper is easily edified.” He or she knows they are not going to be hearing the best sermon that’s ever been preached at their local church but they are ready to receive from God and learn. If it is novelty we seek, if it’s new and profound insights to blow us away we crave, we may well be disappointed because few preachers can live up to such expectations. If it is an opportunity to consider afresh even the things we know, to renew our commitment to live for Christ we should rarely be disappointed.
Mark Twain was right when he said ‘it’s not the parts that I don’t understand that bother me in the Bible. It’s the parts I do understand.’
A fascinating article in today’s Telegraph on the rise of Christianity concludes:
‘Church attendances, in freefall for so long, have started to rise again, particularly in Britain’s capital city. Numbers on the electoral rolls are increasing by well over two per cent every year, while some churches have seen truly dramatic rises in numbers.’
(HT: Brian Law)
John Piper makes the case for reminding the people you are leading of your vision. There is a need for renewing, restating and rejoicing in your vision as a church.
‘It is the job of the leader to articulate the vision over and over again’ – Piper.
1. In regular patterns for church at large eg. a preaching series, business meetings, church weekends, vision nights
2. Every time leaders meet
3. When making changes such as multiplying a small group
4. Every time people are considering membership
5. Every time you (as leaders) introduce change
6. Every time you recruit volunteers
‘For the skilled leader, every day brings “insertion points” for vision. They might be when a church member talks to a neighbor — a vision casting moment. It might be a teaching, transitioning toward application — another vision casting moment. It might be the children’s director inviting someone to be on the team….’
Let me tell you why I work wherever possible through teams in church ministry.
The heart of it is this – through teams we learn to lead through others.
1. Teams recognise gifting. People are full of surprises and gifts are waiting to be nurtured. Inviting someone to be on a leadership team gives them limited opportunity and responsibility from which you can both assess gifting and aptitude in a relatively safe environment.
2. Teams facilitate a culture of ‘every member ministry’. At our church we want everyone to be exercising gifts and serving in some way. It helps integrate people into church and it helps model how the gospel works out in practice. A church with passengers [a very different category from visitors] is a dangerous place to be.
3. Teams help cement commitment from individuals in the church. It’s easy to opt in and out of church until responsibility compels you to commit. It’s really healthy for Christians to have to say ‘no’ to something else because a church commitment calls.
4. Teams develop leaders. When I form a team I’m looking for someone to take on that team and to lead it 6 months to 2 years down the line. Teams help identify leaders and provide a great way to train them.
5. Teams are a safe way to test character and ability. Is this person reliable, dependable, trustworthy, etc. Team-life reveals a lot.
6. Teams help you avoid burn out. Most ministers are doing too much. Some responsibilities can be delegated to teams saving you time and helping you focus your priorities.
7. Teams build community through stronger and more diverse relationships within the church. Teams bring people together to work on projects who perhaps don’t know each other well or wouldn’t naturally relate. Deliberately building diverse teams facilitates community too.
8. Teams create synergies. Allsorts of ideas, creative solutions and problem-solving comes from good teams working together, sparking off each other.
9. Teams model biblical practises. Jesus worked in a team. Enough said.
10. Teams foster accountability. They train people to learn to be disciplined and dependable.
11. Teams prevent a church from pursuing an ungodly professionalism. Church members are tempted to pay staff to do the work and staff are tempted to justify their place by doing the work.
12. Teams teach you to relate better to the church. Teams prevent you from making mistakes in the life of the church generated from one or two people deciding everything often without a wide enough understanding of the impact on church life.
RESULT? Through teams we build a church and through teams we model ministry as a church and through teams we achieve more for a church.
I’m proud of the fact that a number of the key leaders in our church’s children’s work are men. Our head of children’s work is a man and the head of our new Friday kids club is a man. Our 3-5 year olds work is also headed up by a man. I say all this at a time when the average age of children in the church is 5.
Please don’t misunderstand me, we have some very able female leaders in the team. I guess it’s just that churches expect that to be the case. But I’m proud of the fact that we are developing a culture in which men and women want to lead this work together.
Here’s a short post by Mark Driscoll encouraging men into this vital ministry.
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