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Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’


May 3  Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA), Birmingham, AL  The Sower, the Seed and the Soil

May 10  Cornerstone PCA, Lutz, FL  The Sower, the Seed and the Soil

May 17  Cornerstone PCA, Lutz FL  The Pharisee & the Tax Collector

May 24  Bethel Christian Church, Chicago, IL The Pharisee, the Tax Collector and You

May 31 Cornerstone PCA, Lutz, FL  The Unmerciful Servant

June 14 1st Presbyterian Church (ARP) Frostproof, FL The Unmerciful Servant

June 21  Christ Community Church (ARP), Apollo Beach, FL  The Unmerciful Servant

June 28  Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church, Tampa, FL  The Pharisee, the Tax Collector and You

July 5  Trinity ARP, Tampa, FL

July 26 Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church, Tampa, FL  The Unmerciful Servant

August 16  Farm Fest, Bakers Mills, NY  Reflections on the Long & Winding Road

Schedule subject to change

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This story from the Odd News is certainly odd.  A Florida church is in trouble for a 3-week series about “great sex.”  No, the problem is not the denomination, or some stuffy members upset about such a scandalous thing.

The problem in this case is the “risk management” department of the local school board.  The controversy revolves around the 25,000 mailers sent to homes in the target area of the church.

Mark Langdorf, the director of risk management, says the mailers generated complaints, were not appropriate for elementary school children and shouldn’t be used to advertise the sermon in the school.

This implies a few things, which really aren’t true.

First, that the mailers were geared for, and sent to, children.  Elementary school children to be precise.  I seriously doubt they were sent to elementary school children.

Second, that elementary school children don’t hear about sex from … the school.  Yes, there could be some hypocrisy at work here.  It is okay for the kids to hear about sex, including certain deviations from normalcy portrayed as normal.  But not okay for a church to instruct adults about God’s good plan for sex within the confines and freedom of marriage.

Churches should be teaching people about sex- not just the when not to part.  A certain famous pastor has been attacking another certain famous pastor for doing just that using the Song of Solomon which last I checked was in the Bible, and about …. sex (among other things).  Most churches don’t have elementary age school children in the service for the sermon however.  So, I’m not sure how this would ‘damage’ the children who attend the school (which is the risk the risk management board should be assessing, though they might need to look at their own curriculum).  Nor should it damage the children who attend the church.

This is an off-hours, voluntary event that is not contiguous with normal school hours or any other school event.  So what is the problem here?  I just don’t understand how this could even be an issue.  But I guess it shows that the world is even more inconsistent when it comes to sex than the church is.

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With a slight let up in work, I can get to work on the new box of books that just arrived from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.  Here’s what I got:

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I made a joke on a friend’s Facebook wall the other day.  He lamented playing too much ping-pong in seminary.  I joked that his ministry would be more effective if he hadn’t.  It’d be more like mine …

I figure he’s having a pretty effective ministry.  The church I pastored closed (lots of reasons for that).  I, by no means, took Winter Haven by storm for the Gospel.  But I had some meaningful ministry over those 9 years, and in the 1 1/2 years since then as I’ve done pulpit supply.

Lest we make too much of that (failure), let’s consider the Apostle Paul.  I did while trying not to wake up this morning.  Paul didn’t take every town he visited by storm.  Yes, he saw conversions- I saw a few of those.  He saw Christians grow- saw some of that too.  But he was run out of more than a few cities.  There were riots, a stoning, death threats and more.  Being run out of town might say something about you, but it also says something about those who ran you out of town.

(more…)

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With the shrinkage of the for-profit sector, the not-for-profit sector will see a similar contraction.  Churches are one of the not-for-proft organizations that will be hit hard.  The government should take a lesson from other not-for-profits and cut back rather than trying to raise taxes and spend even more.  These cycles come, but governments seem to lack the discipline necessary to save in times of prosperity for times of decline.  Governments abhor a surplus and must spend it, much to our disadvantage.

Churches will be hit hard for a number of factors.

  1. Unemployed members.
  2. Under-employed members
  3. Lost retirement savings

All of these will reduce the offerings a church needs.  If a church is small, or comprised of a largely retired population, that crunch will be most severe.  I know of a few churches that are at risk for these very reasons.  Things were already tight financially, and now these churches are on the brink and in grave danger.

Other churches will merely contract- reducing staff and/or programming. 

On the surface, this looks to be a bad thing.  As someone who is under-employed and watching the number of churches in which I could serve shrinking, I can see it that way at times.  But overall I think it presents some great opportunities for the church at large.

  • Opportunity for mercy ministry.  There will be opportunities to take care of our own, displaying the love of God in a tangible way.  We are to take care of one another, carrying one another’s burdens.  There will also be plenty of opportunities to take care of the poor outside of the church- opening the door to sharing the hope we have in Christ.
  • Opportunity to repent of our greed, materialism and consumerism.  Many people are having to cut back on their spending and realizing much of it was superfluous and luxury rather than necessity.  Many Americans live beyond their means- as evidenced by the average consumer debt.  It is time for that to change.  Our priorites can be reshaped, refocused by the gospel in times like these.  Good financial management programs can be utilized to instruct those in and outside of the church.
  • Opportunities to reveal the greater hope we have in Christ.  Yes, this can be a time of effective evangelism as people realize they have built their house on sand instead of rock. 

So while times like these are hard, they are also opportunities for ministry.  Churches driven by the gospel will recognize this, and go for it.  Churches driven by other agendas will … be overcome and possibly close their doors.  It is in times like these when we need to trust Him who holds the present and the future, and remember that He tends to work most profoundly when it seems darkest.

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There is a new book out, Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry, Unmovtivated Teens with Biblical Counsel by Rick Horne, that offers assistance to families, ministers and counselors.  WTS Books has this book for 65% off , an introductory price of $4.88, until January 24, 2009 at noon.  Then it will be the customary 30% off, not a bad deal either.  [ WTS Books sold out, but received 500 more copies of the book.  When they are gone, so is the special price!]

Here is what some other authors have said about this book:

“Rick Horne has invested in teens his whole life. He has learned that he is more like them than unlike them. From years of first hand experience, he knows how to talk with them and his is not afraid of the tough ones. What you will read here is the wisdom of a man who has experienced the courage and hope that transforming grace can give to you and that hard teenager God has chosen for you to be near. This book is a call to action with biblical perspectives and practical steps that God can use to change the teenager and you as well.”  Paul David Tripp, author of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, co-author of How People Change among other books highly recommended by Cavman.

“Rick Horne knows teens the kind that won’t talk and those that won’t stop talking. If you have a teenager, you need this book. In fact, don’t wait for the teen years! Arm yourself now with the timeless truths from this book that counsels moms and dads with gospel-hope for teenage trials.”  Dave Harvey author of When Sinners Say “I Do”.  (Highly recommended by Cavman)

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In Galatians 1-2 one of the dominant themes is the fear of man.  Paul, in lovingly yet boldly confronting the Galatians, and exposing the false teachers was living in the fear of God rather than the fear of man.  He was not accomodating the gospel to please anyone, recognizing the divine origin of that gospel.

On the other hand you have the account of Peter in Antioch.  He, again, succombs to the fear of man (his besetting sin, and lest you’re too hard on him- you’ve got some too!).  He shrunk back from fellowship with Gentile Christians and hypocritically followed the dietary laws out of fear, not conviction.  And Barnabas joined him.  Two important Christian leaders fell victim to this sin- and Paul displayed gospel boldness by confronting Peter publicly.

While not referring to these events, Milton Vincent talks about gospel boldness in A Gospel Primer for Christians.

“Boldness is critical.  Without boldness, my life story will be one of great deeds left undone, victories left unwon, petitions left unprayed, and timely words unsaid.  If I wish to live only a pathetically small portion of the life God has prepared for me, then I need no boldness.  But if I want my life to bloom full and loom large for the glory of God, then I must have boldness- and nothing so nourishes boldness in me like the gospel!

(more…)

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I got this from a Pastor Finder e-mail that I received today.  I thought it was interesting.  The reasons are in reverse order (least to most common).

  1. Church was in conflict when the pastor arrived. Pastors can arrive at a new church to find remaining unresolved and deeply painful conflict. This conflict will not end when you as the pastor “declare” it’s over, and they won’t be resolved with a church majority vote. Conflict only ends when the vast majority of those participating in it agree that it’s over. Make sure you take time to carefully evaluate the church before accepting a pastoral position, and ask probing questions of the search committee. Ask about any prior forced terminations. A church in conflict should not automatically eliminate them from consideration, but you must be prepared and willing to help such a church when you accept the job.

  2. Pastoral leadership style is too strong.A pastor continually walks a fine line of exercising too much or too little authority. Do not assume that because the church is growing, the leadership approves of your leadership style. Honestly evaluate your willingness to share decision—making responsibilities—do you enjoy empowering others, or do you feel it slows down the process too much? Admittedly, some may dislike your style just because you dont agree with them all the time. But a pastor must learn to delegate, resist the temptation to make all decisions and commit to learning more about leadership.

  3. Pastor has poor people skills.

    Believe it or not, some pastors just don’t like people. Others have been sorely hurt by them over time, and others struggle with the shepherding aspect of their position. Still others fall into a trap of people-pleasing. Study Jesus’ life and how He related to people. Understand your calling and purpose as a pastor, and obtain honest feedback from a few trusted individuals.

  4. The church is resistant to change.

    Most churches—and most organizations—resist change, and at times the pastor will become the target of opposition simply because of his position. However, the pastor can cause undue stress to a change situation if he/she is not aware of why the church is resisting. Assess correctly the church’s attitude toward change, and honestly assess your own motivations for suggesting it. Study and practice good change agent principles and skills. Then acknowledge that some changes are yours to begin, but God may wish someone else to complete the work.

  5. Power struggles. Pastors can find themselves caught up in a war over power and control issues with individuals or groups within the church body. To help prevent undue complications, focus on servant leadershiprather than dictatorial leadership. Share ministry with volunteer leadership, and publically give God the glory for your church’s accomplishments. Accept the fact that some will resist your leadership, and learn to deal with them in love. Above all, pray unceasingly for Gods guidance and power.

Even better is when you have more than one of those dynamics going on.  Been there, survived that- by the grace of God alone.  Search committees need to keep the context in mind when they interview a pastor who has been fired.  The pastor can be faithful, pointing people to Christ to resolve the issues, but they continually refuse.  Or, the pastor could completely mishandle the conflict, struggles and resistance in any number of ways.  It’s good to see the history of the church, as well as the pastor, to see if this is a pattern or aberration.

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Started in on The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller tonight.  I couldn’t wait.  I’ve heard his sermons on the Parable, but I like books.  So much easier to interact with the content. 

So I found this at the end of the first chapter:

“Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day.  However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. … The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.  That can only mean one thing.  If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.  If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

Hard to hear, but I suspect it is more true than we want to believe.  Many churches hear messages of moralism and self-help.  The broken remain broken, unable to discover the balm of the gospel.

I have ministered in “Elder Brother-ville” for lo these many years.  I know I have a tendency to be an older brother (though in my family I’m the one who wandered off the reservation only to be discovered by Jesus).  Grace just doesn’t seem to register to most church folks here.  It’s like “that’s nice, but can you give me something to do?”  They refuse to see themselves as lost and in need of rescue- they think they just need some direction and maybe a little assistance.  As a result, most churches are filled with smug, “we’re okay,” living in denial, self-righteous people.

I ponder those I “ran off” in my years of ministry here.  They fall into 2 categories: those who wanted cheap grace- acceptance without any need to change, justification with no sanctification- and those who didn’t understand how grace applied to them- the self-righteous looking for tips on being a better person, sanctification without justification.  But there was a group who “got it,” recognizing grace was for them, that God loved them despite their sin AND wanted to remake them in his image.

Pastors who play into the hands of cheap grace are often called liberals.  Pastors who play into the hands of the self-righteousness look like conservatives.  Both are missing the point of ministry, and offer people partial or false gospels.  We have to start realizing that our churches are filled with lost people- and some of that is our fault.

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I’m currently working my way thru Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margy Tripp in my free time.

So far it has been a good book to read: clear & convicting.  That’s why I wanted to read it- to become a more godly parent and learn to build what I never had as a child, a heart schooled in God’s ways.

They use Deuteronomy 6 as their foundational point, which is an important thing.  We must experience it if we are to truly pass it on to our kids.  But they bring other Scriptures into the discussion.

Essential to good, godly parenting is the recognition that the problem is not “out there”, but that our kids have sinful hearts that produce inordinate desires.  They are hardwired to respond to the temptations of the world and the devil.  They are hardwired for selfishness and lovelessness. I am to offer them the gospel, pray with and for them, instruct them in those opportune moments- addressing their hearts, not just their behavior.

“Scores of opportunities evaporate without notice as we hurry through our days thinking that devotional time with our children is enough.  Our responses to the circumstances and crises of everyday life make our theology real.”

What we do have to realize is that devotional times are good, but insufficient.  Our kids must also see us live our faith the rest of the day.  I try to do that- and sometimes I don’t and therefore instruct them with lies instead of truth.  They also remind me that during correction is not the time for formative instruction.  It just won’t sink in- they are too mad or sad to hear what you are saying.  Formative instruction occurs in the more regular moments, not the moments of heightened tension.  Sadly, like many people, I can prefer to relax and miss some of those great opportunities.

“Don’t talk to your children about that which you have spoken little with God.”

My wife is a great example of this.  Me?  Not so much.  It was convicting.  I can forget to pray about their stubbornness, self-centeredness, temper etc.  I really should be spending more time praying for the heart work to go along with the hard work of instruction.  It is the same for ministry- we must pray for the people, not just instruct the people.  So I find some crossover as I think about shepherding God’s people as well (just as I did with Shepherding a Child’s Heart).

So far it is great stuff to help you be a more godly parent in the hopes that God will use those means to change your kids’ hearts through the gospel.

I should say that I don’t agree with everything they write in either book. For instance, allowing a young child to choose clothes for the day does not necessarily teach them autonomy. There is a family context that allows children to grow in decision making in safe ways which can begin early. But these areas of disagreement do not undermine the main points they make.

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I was talking with someone about church planting the other day.  I’m trying to sort out my reasonable options in continuing to pursue another call in ministry.  So he was doing some quick assessment on the phone.  There was one question in particular that was quite interesting.

Are you a maintainer, reorganizer or starter?

Maintainer– this person maintains or administrates an organization, often to maintain the status quo.  They are not innovative or creative.  They may want to improve efficiency or effectiveness, but they will fiddle with the system rather than completely revise the system.  I guess I’d say this coincides with the priestly gifts.

Reorganizer– this person identifies the weaknesses in the system, including its goals, and works to redirect the organization to better goals and more effective processes.  As a result, this person is usually resented in the organization precisely because he/she threatens the status quo.  It coincides with the prophetic gifts in the church.

Starter– this person wants the ground floor opportunity, lacking the patience to change an organization.  They want to institute their structure and goals from the beginning.  It would coincide with the kingly gifts, and would include most church planters.

I can see a reorganizer starting a church when they grow frustrated by resistance to change in existing, established churches.  Since the reorganizer is not always welcome, and may have a difficult time finding a call, they may decide to plant.

Me?  Reorganizer!  I don’t see myself as being able to start ex nihilo.  I need raw materials to reshape and expand upon.  I was constantly trying to reorganize the church (which no doubt was frustrating to those who found comfort in the status quo) to refocus us on God’s agenda done God’s way.  On a staff, I will be the guy who consistently calls the congregation to rethink, refocus and reorganize to become increasingly faithful to Christ.  Not always welcome, but important (as are the starter & maintainer).

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Here’s what I have lined up so far (all of them are at Cypress Ridge PCA):

8/31     A Trustworthy God for People Who Don’t Trust Genesis 17:1-8

9/7      A Heart for the City     Nehemiah 1

9/14     Taking Risks for the City     Nehemiah 2

9/21     The Battle for the City     Nehemiah 4

9/28     Justice & Generosity for the City     Nehemiah 5

10/5    The Battle for the City Part 2    Nehemiah 6:1-14

10/12  A Few Good Men for the City    Nehemiah 6:16 -7:73

10/26  Revival in the City   Nehemiah 9:1-37

11/2    In, But Not Of, the City     Nehemiah 9:38-10:39

11/9    Joy in the City     Nehemiah 12:27-43

11/16  Sin in the City- Part 1     Nehemiah 13:1-14

11/23  Sin in the City- Part 2     Nehemiah 13:15-30

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.  15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.  (1 Timothy 4, NIV)

I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to continue to devote myself to these things rather than neglecting the gift given to me.  May I be diligent!

It should be noted that God’s spokesmen did not ‘fail’ when they faithfully deliver God’s messages.  The people who disobey are the ones who ‘fail.’  Edwin Yamauchi

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I’ve made my way through the first 6 chapters of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul David Tripp.  I’ve come across another one of those books I wish I’d read in seminary.  It would have been helpful not just in my own personal ministry, but to help equip others for their personal ministry in the church.  Yes, the one another kind of ministry that Scripture repeatedly mentions.

In chapter one, Tripp lays out the fact that our redemption in Christ is what makes all other change possible.  Those changes are not disconnected or isolated from the redemption that Jesus purchased for us. 

The good news confronts us with the reality that heart-changing help will never be found in the mound (creation).  It will only be found in the Man, Christ Jesus.  We must not offer people a system of redemption, a set of insights and principles.  We offer people a Redeemer.  In his power, we find the hope and help we need to defeat the most powerful enemies.  Hope rests in the grace of the Redeemer, the only real means of lasting change.

He briefly unpacks the damage sin has done to us.  This is why we need a Redeemer so badly.

(more…)

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I’m prepping my sermon on Hebrews 10:19-25.  My previous text, Hebrews 4:14-16, focused on Jesus’ intercessory work as our Priest.  This one focuses on Jesus’ sacrificial work as our Priest and how the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Him.  As a result, we live in a new way: boldness, hope and consideration for the community of faith.

It is one of the many one another passages in Hebrews.  One of the complaints of those who are discouraged by the “institutional or organized church” is that people aren’t involved in one another’s lives.  They have a point.  Often church-going can be nearly anonymous.  People want Jesus, but not one another.  Jesus offers some great benefits.  His people offer us sin and misery: relationships with imperfect people are very messy.  Often it is easier to opt out.

The solution of some folks is to opt out of the “institutional church”.  They hope to find this relational ministry among their friends or in a house church.  This passage argues against such neglect of assembling yourselves together.  These meetings appear to be formal, and the root word is “synagoge”.  They were to forsake the disconnected worship of the temple.  It was first disconnected from Christ, and then disconnected from one another.  People were minister to- they didn’t minister to one another. 

The vision of the author of Hebrews is to keep our assemblies connected with Christ by faith, and one another as we stir one another up to love and good works.  I need others to stir me up to greater love and more good works.  Perhaps a better way to think of this is that Jesus stirs me up by using other people.  And He stirs them up by using me.  Jesus uses us to minister one another- we are instruments in His hands.

I don’t say this accidentally.  I began reading Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp last week.  It is going slowly as I actually minister to people.  I began to read it in preparation for a new call (I still have hope that God will show me mercy).  I recognize that this is God’s design for the church, and I want to be better prepared to help a body of believers actually do this.

If more churches read books like this, and began to implement such “one another” processes, the church in America would look an awful lot more like what Jesus intended.  It would be healthier, people would be growing and (I think) fewer people would be opting out.  But it is messy because you are applying the balm of the gospel to sin-wrecked lives.  You are getting in the midst of it.

First, we are afraid to get our hands dirty.  We are afraid we don’t have what it takes, and will really mess things up.  We are afraid of how much time and energy it will take.  We are just plain afraid.

Second, people are often afraid of receiving help.  They are afraid to show you their sins, warts and to be vulnerable.  They are also afraid of change.  Their problems are their ‘normal’, and change invites them into an uncertain future.  They are afraid to give up cherished sins, comfortable lies and cozy accomplices.  They are afraid of rejection by those comfortable with the old person and not wild about the new one that is emerging.

Yet, this is precisely the work the church is called to by this and many other passages.  We are to be a place where people change as we help one another apply the gospel to the sin-stained and maimed parts of our lives.  This is the biblical view of Christian community.

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Here’s what I’ve got going thus far, subject to change:

5/8  Men’s Group of Lake Placid ARP  Sin & Ministry  1 Timothy

5/18 Cypress Ridge PCA, Winter Haven  Our Great High Priest I: Hebrews 4:14-16

6/1  Cypress Ridge PCA, Winter Haven  Our Great High Priest I: Hebrews 10:19-25

6/8 Magical Mystery Tour     Genesis 17:1-8

6/15 Covenant PCA, Winter Haven Our Great High Priest: Hebrews 4:14-16

6/22 Avon Park ARP Church

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I am in the process of re-reading Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes.  I had to read it in seminary, and have been planning on going through it again.  A few other guys have blogged about it in recent months.

Let’s say I agree with their conclusions, but wasn’t excited about how they got there or explained it.  Maybe it is just me.  But here are their definitions of pastoral success, and the questions I put in my journal that address them.  These are the things God is looking at, not numbers, be they attendence, baptisms, giving etc.

Faithfulness

Is my instruction faithful to the Scriptures?  Am I faithful to obey His commands in Scripture?  Am I working hard at the things that matter?

Serving

Am I serving God and others, or serving myself?  Do I care in people notice my service?

Loving

Do I love God above all else?  Do I love the people I am serving?

Believing

Do I believe God love and saves me in Christ?  Do I believe God is able and willing to save others through Christ?  Do I believe Jesus is building His church (thru me)?

Praying

Do I pray for my spiritual progress?  Do I pray for the spiritual progress of the congregation?  Do I pray for the advance of the gospel in the community?

Holiness

Do I repent of my sin?  Am I putting my to death (by the power of the Spirit) or is it putting me to death?  Am I growing in the fruit of the Spirit?

Attitude:

Am I characterized by faith, hope & love or fear, doubt and bitterness?

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Here are 2 of my favorite, non-colorful (or Driscollesque), Luther quotes.  I used them in my sermon yesterday on the Lost Sons.

 “Something inside of us strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God’s approval.  We look for good works, in which we can place our trust and which will bring us praise.  We want to show God what we have done…  None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works.  Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible, religious fanatic. … We should realize that we all carry in our heart a horrible, religious fanatic, who will destroy faith with foolish delusions of good works.  … God’s approval doesn’t come to us by what we do.  Rather it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead.”  Martin Luther

”Therefore we make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not he who has no sin, but he to whom God does not impute his sin, through faith in Christ.  That is why we so often repeat and beat it into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake.”  Martin Luther

The first quote is found in a devotional called By Faith Alone.  The second is from his Commentary on Galatians.  When I was a kid there was a local hardware  chain called Grossman’s.  The ads declared “There’s a little Grossman’s in everyone, there’s a little Grossman’s in you.”  Luther would concur, if it is acknowledged that the little Grossman in you is a religious fanatic.  The default of our heart is to seek to establish our own righteousness.  Every other major religion has this as it basic idea.  This is the primary way people run from God- religion, or legalism (being a good person).  We make an idol of our own goodness/sincerity, and subtly despise the perfect righteousness of Christ.

This is why Luther talks about ministry as “beating” the doctrine of justification into people’s heads.  We must do this because people are prone to lapse back into a legalistic mindset and earn their blessings for God.  Hard message to sell, since it undermines the idols of men’s hearts.  But this is primarily what gospel ministry is.

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            Enter the Gospel.  Part of the Good News is that God becomes our Father.  The doctrine of adoption is one of the most neglected doctrines in the Church.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says the following in chapter 12.

 

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, to have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a Father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

 

Our heavenly Father’s not afraid to give us the good stuff we need to become healthy people.  What does our Father do for us?  He gives us access to Himself in prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Ephesians 2:18), and promises not to abandon us (Hebrews 13:5).  In the movie Anna and the King, court stops when the King of Siam’s daughter enters the room.  He grants his beloved child all of his attention.  The perfect Father gives attention to all of His children.  He takes time to listen to them.  His ear is not cold toward us in distress, but we are pitied.  He empathizes with us.  There is no “big boys don’t cry” or “take it like a man”.  Rather, He pities us in our weakness and distress. 

In addition to pity, He provides protection. In his great treatise on adoption, Paul declares, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)?

Not only that, but He provides for us.  Our daily bread is His gift to us.  Lastly, He disciplines us as sons (Hebrews 12:5-11).  He wants us to bear the family likeness, and works to conform us to the likeness of His unique Son, Jesus (Rom. 8:29).  So we find a strong, but neglected, theology that addresses the situation of many Christians under our care. 

(more…)

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The first “official” chapter of Confessions of a Reformission Rev. is entitled Jesus, Our Offering Was $137 and I Want to Use it to Buy Bullets.  He talks about having 0-45 people in the congregation.

I had one of those Sundays recently.  The general fund giving was $1.  Yes, $1.  Not enough to buy the bullets for the gun I don’t own anyway.

In his coaching corner, Driscoll says “In the infancy phase, the church and the leader are one and the same because the leader is essentially the only person holding the church together and doing most of the work.”

Lots of pressure is on the planter/pastor.  There really can be a sense that if you aren’t there, no one is.  At times this feels unbearable, and lots of counterfeit guilt can pile up.  While you focus on keeping it alive, you really should be doing something else- “the hard part was figuring out how to get my vision into the minds of other people so that together we could build the church God had put in my imagination.”

Driscoll develops the Missional Ministry Matrix with 4 focal points or questions.  1st is Christology- who is Jesus, what has He done for us, and what does He send us out to do?  2nd is Ecclesiology- what church structure will be most faithful to the Bible & enable us to fulfill our mission?  3rd is Missiology- who can we most faithfully expand God’s kingdom where He has sent us?  4th is Ministry- how does Jesus us want to serve His mission in our culture thru the church?

The 1st focus of the matrix was developed as Mark visited a wide variety of churches on Sunday mornings (his plant met in the evenings).  He witnessed plenty of selective presentations of Jesus.  They were not wrong, but only part of the story.  As someone once wrote (Packer?) “A half truth put forward as the whole truth is a lie.”  That would be a rough approximation.

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