Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Gospel Clarity vs. “The Fog”

The only hope for any church, at any time in history and in any part of the world, to become vibrant is to escape from “the fog” and move to “gospel clarity.”

Is it Okay for Me to Church Hop?

Church hopping is like family hopping. It’s just a terrible idea for both you and the family of God.

One Sentence That Pastors and Church Staff Hate to Hear

It is the one sentence that is uniformly dreaded by pastors and church staff. It typically begins with these words...

The Dirty Secrets of Church Planting — Part 1 and Part 2

Let's take off our rose colored glasses. There are some things we need to talk about.

An Open Letter to the Dad Doing Porn

You may think that this effects only you, or even your and mom’s relationships. But it has had a profound impact on me and all of my siblings as well.

Is it Ridiculous to Believe in a Literal Adam and Eve?

If your objection to the scriptural worldview is, “It sounds too unlike reality to be true,”, then you’ll need to apply that same logic to ANY story of beginnings – which, of course, leaves none left.

You

To fulfill your destiny, you don’t need to mimic someone else’s identity, someone who seems to matter more than you do. The you that you are by creation and redemption in Christ – that basic you is not fundamentally a problem; that you is fundamentally a strategy.

Is the Revolution Still On?

In his audio lectures on The Call, Os Guinness describes what keeps his sense of calling fresh. First, Guinness emphasizes the importance of spiritual disciplines. Second, Guinness credits accountability. “We all need a small group of those who know our dreams, who know our longings and our prayers,” he says. “As time goes by, things slip. We need to hold each other’s feet to the fire.”

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce

Guinness has a pastor-friend who regularly asks him, “Is the revolution still on?” Both of them have dreamed for twenty-five years of seeing the Lord do something in their time on the level of William Wilberforce or other great figures from the past. As time goes on, we tend to settle for less. “We give up on that hope,” Guinness says. “We moderate that dream.”

I’ve noticed how easy it is to begin to coast and lose one’s edge without knowing it. It’s our natural tendency. Some of the people I admire most are those who, even as they grow older, continue to learn and risk like they did when they were young, long after it’s necessary to do so. When they could settle down, they are still working on keeping their calling fresh.

One of the youngest minds I’ve met belonged was when I was in my twenties, and I met a pastor’s wife in her eighties. Her faith and her mind were as sharp as any person I’ve encountered.

I love Richard Lovelace’s advice:

Do not pray only for your own spiritual renewal. Pray for a springtime of the Spirit which will enrich the church and the world, an awakening for which all earlier renewal movements have been only rehearsals.

“Is the revolution still on?” Someone please keep asking me this as I get older. It just may keep me praying and working the way that I should be.

What Keeps a Church Planter Going?

It happens to most church planters. At some point, you wonder what possessed you to think you could start a church from scratch. All churches are fragile, but an infant church is especially at risk, and the mortality rate for infant churches is high.

I’ve heard someone say that a third of church plants thrive, a third limp along, and a third close. That means that two-thirds of church plants either struggle or fail. I’ve also heard that average church grows to only sixty people or so in the first four years. In places like Canada, that number is even lower. As I heard Ed Stetzer say recently, "Church planting is a hard, long slog.”

What keeps church planters going in the midst of the challenges, especially if you are in one of the two-thirds that isn’t experiencing rapid growth?

One of the things that has helped me is talking to small business owners in our community. Because our community is new, dozens of new businesses have started. In each case, the person who started the business has poured significant amounts of money into the venture. In each case, they are working crazy hours. In most cases, they didn’t have a hope of breaking even in the short term. In some cases, they’ve already closed. Just last week I heard of another new venture in our community that shut down.

If small business owners can pour their lives and risk everything to start a new business, why would I risk any less to plant the gospel? If they are willing to pour time and money into selling products, and sometimes fail, why would I be afraid to fail in what we’re doing?

I don’t think I’m far off in thinking this way. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul compared the risks and hazards of ministry to that of a soldier, athlete, and farmer. “I endure everything for the sake of the elect,” he writes, “that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

Church planting is hard, but not necessarily harder than the work that soldiers, athletes, farmers, and small business owners do. If they are willing to put a good part of their lives on the line, why wouldn’t I?

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Let's Talk about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

It has nothing to do with biblical Christianity. It's not in the Bible. Jesus didn't teach it. Paul wouldn't recognize it.

And yet it calls itself Christianity and it's taught every Sunday by pastors in church buildings all over the place.

What Is Evangelism?

I'm more confident than ever that I not only can but must share the good news with those around me.

So what’s changed? Why am I, a spectacular "failure" as an evangelist not discouraged?

Because I finally learned what evangelism truly is—and the good news about its results.

The Legacy of a Disciple-Maker

For the next year and a half, David poured into me. He taught me the importance of sharing life stories, hunting one other’s sin, and giving each other grace.

Four Ways Generosity Benefits Us

By God’s grace, it’s not only others who benefit when we give. Here are just four of the many benefits we receive when we choose generosity.

The Benefits of Sitting Under Expository Preaching

Consider a few benefits from sitting under regular expository preaching.

How To Build A Church Planting Team

A good planter and revitaliser will have to be a first rate communicator. They must be able to explain the their vision, excite and stimulate people and incentivise them to join his team. A good leader will need to communicate the following in the early days...

The Truest Kind of Rest

The thing about rest is that it sounds boring. The first time I heard of Richard Baxter’s classic The Saint’s Everlasting Rest, I almost felt like taking a nap. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great book. It’s just that my thoughts immediately went to heaven being a long sleep in a lazy hammock. It’s good for 20 minutes or so, but an eternity of that kind of rest sounds tedious.

It’s also why I had a hard time understanding Hebrews. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his,” it says (Hebrews 4:9-10). What is the nature of this rest? Why is Hebrews so concerned about it? And why, if rest is part of what it means to follow Jesus, am I more tired than I’d like to admit?

It turns out the rest is something much better than an extended nap in a hammock. George Guthrie speaks of this rest being we experience both now — today! — and later. It’s the end of entering striving based on our own works. The type of rest he’s talking about is resting in relationship with God because of what Christ has done for us. It isn’t inactivity; it’s all of life (including the things we do) from a foundation of security in what we have, and in what can’t be taken away.

This means we have freedom and permission to rest and worship no matter what is going on in our lives. It isn’t a legalistic obligation; it’s a gift that only has to be received.

Here’s the problem: we can miss out on this rest. It’s why the author of Hebrews continues, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:11). Appropriating the rest that is ours in Christ is not automatic. There’s a kind of irony in this passage: we have to work to find rest? According to Hebrews, yes. Strive to enter the rest that is yours in Christ.

Again, the book Beloved Dust puts it well. Speaking of rest, the authors say:

This is probably not what you think it is— rest is not inaction or laziness. It is not merely the default result of having nothing to do. Rest is the foundation for our lives in God.

They describe what this is like:

This is most fully understood only when we can come before the Lord in utter silence, not seeking to justify ourselves, prove ourselves, make excuses for ourselves, or even announce our presence. In the presence of the Lord, we rest in the intercession of the Son and Spirit. In the presence of the Lord, we draw near based on what the Lord has already done for us. There, before the face of God, we find rest and peace in the work of another.

We are free to love others and not use them, because we are no longer the center of our universe, but find ourselves in orbit around Christ. We are free to rest in God’s grace. We are free to know and be known because God has made himself known to us in Christ. In this freedom we can finally allow ourselves to be known in prayer, and to know the God of love as he cascades his prayers over us.

The real rest that we’re offered is something more valuable than a long sleep or vacation. It’s knowing that right here, right now, my foundation is the work of Christ. I have nothing left to prove. That’s much better than a nap in a hammock.