Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Bonhoeffer’s Teaching on Preaching

I’m convinced Bonhoeffer has much pastoral and homiletical wisdom to pass on to all who preach or teach God’s Word:

Here are a few of his insights that I found to be highlights...

A Tale of Two Mars Hills

One Mars Hill, and numerous observers, has been adversely impacted by a failure to closely watch life, and one by a failure to watch doctrine.

A third church comes to mind...

The Ordinary Christian Church

When we commit ourselves to this ordinary Christian church, God does extraordinary things.

Shame, the Image of God, and Finding Freedom to Love

The longer I'm a pastor the more convinced I become that every person, regardless of situation, is fighting a hidden battle with shame.

Saltshaker Conference TO

Becky Pippert, author of Out of the Saltshaker, is teaching in Toronto on December 6. If you're in the area, it's worth checking out.

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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Soaking in the Gospel

I’m tired of conferences. In twenty plus years of ministry, I’ve been to every conference imaginable, and then a few more. Don’t get me wrong: I see the value of conferences, and I understand why people like them, but I feel about them the same way I feel about cucumbers: I’ve had so many in my life that I don’t care to have many more.

That’s why you may find it strange that I attended The Gospel Coalition Atlantic Regional Conference in Prince Edward Island a few weeks back. I was invited as a speaker, and when I heard who the other speakers are, I knew I had to go because I had a sense of what the conference would be like.

Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, and Scotty Smith, also a pastor in Nashville, headlined the conference, along with their wives, Charlene and I, and Brent and Mary Kassian. Here are some things I appreciated about this conference:

The size — With 140 or so people attending, it was easy to make friends and to speak to anyone who attended. It felt homey rather than overwhelming.

The hospitality — The staff of Grace Baptist Church in Charlottetown went out of their way to make us feel at home. Prince Edward Island hospitality is great. (See also: PEI lobster and Cows Ice Cream.)

Scotty and Darlene Smith

Scotty and Darlene Smith

The speakers — I’ve been reading Ray Ortlund’s book on the gospel, and I’ve long appreciated Scotty Smith’s written prayers. I’ve even interviewed Scotty, and his answer to my last question is gold:

Q: What encouragement would you give to pastors in the trenches?

A: As Jack Miller taught me, live as close to Jesus as you can. Constantly preach the gospel to yourself. Walk closely with a “gospel posse”. Risk or rust for the rest of your life. Love one spouse well the rest of your life. Never be surprised to discover how broken the bride of Jesus is; how immature and selfish you can be; or how much God loves you in Jesus. Ache for heaven and serve in this moment.

The minute that I heard that Ray Ortlund and Scotty Smith were speaking, I knew I would have to be there, because I knew what they would be talking about. Which leads me to the final thing I appreciated:

The gospel — Some conferences are lecture halls. This conference was like a three-day soak in the gospel. Both Scotty and Ray unpacked the gospel and their own lives so that we weren’t talking theology; we were experiencing it. Early on, Scotty made the remark that the gospel is the end to all posing and pretending, and then he went on to model that truth. His openness combined with the beauty of the truth created an atmosphere in a conference I haven’t experienced before. Ray’s teaching on creating a gospel culture in a church is superb.

I always need to soak in the gospel. For a number of reasons, I was acutely ware of this need before the conference. I’m so glad that God provided just what I needed right when I reeded it.

Keep an eye on the website for the conference audio. It was definitely one of the highlights of my summer.

Update: Session One by Scotty Smith has now been posted.

How to Run a Theology Pub

For the past six years or so, I’ve convened a Theology Pub in Toronto. It all began with a post that expressed a desire to get together with others to eat and discuss theology. I hoped that this group would be open but orthodox, and that our discussions would drive us to mission.

Photo compliments of Lao Brothers Photography

Photo compliments of Lao Brothers Photography

Theology Pub is relatively easy. I don’t work at it a lot; I convene and organize it a little, and it just seems to happen. It’s also enjoyable. It combines two things I really love: theology and getting a network of people together who want to learn.

I’m occasionally asked by others what advice I’d have for others who want to start a pub. Here, from my experience, is what’s worked for us:

Know the purpose. Our pub is a meeting to discuss a theological topic, and it’s primarily geared to Christians across the evangelical spectrum. I keep pointing back to the original post when people ask what it’s about. Clarity about our purpose has helped a lot.

Find a good location. We try to find a central location close to the subway line. We’ve experimented with a few locations. It also helps if you can find a relatively quiet location, which is harder than it seems. Some pubs have a room that you can rent, although they usually come with a minimum charge.

Invite great guest speakers. I’ve been amazed at the quality of speakers we’ve been able to invite. We pay nothing; we pass the hat and cover the cost of their meals and drinks. I’ve found that many speakers are open to coming because they are so passionate about their message. It never hurts to ask. Ask around for ideas; there are probably some great speakers in your area that you don’t even know about.

Mix it up. We’ve had theologians, pastors, atheists, activists, journalists, and more. The variety helps to keep things fresh.

Allow room for discussion. We follow the same format. We eat for the first hour. The speaker gives a 15-20 minute talk. We then spend about an hour in discussion. The discussion is often the most profitable part of the evening, especially if the talk was a good one. Leave plenty of time for this, and don’t allow one or two guests to monopolize it.

Let it grow. The pub has grown over time through word of mouth. The numbers vary depending on the speaker and the topic, but there’s no doubt that our numbers have grown over the years.

Communicate clearly. We use Mailchimp and Facebook to get the word out, and Eventbrite to manage who’s attending. It’s important to get the word out about the pub a few weeks in advance of the meeting.

Don’t work too hard. This has been key for me. I don’t have time to sweat another thing in my life. I’ve decided to just enjoy the pub rather than try to make it happen. Ironically, it seems to work better this way.

If you’re in Toronto, you’re invited to join us at our next Theology Pub on June 2. If you’re not in Toronto, I’d encourage you to look for one in your area. If there isn’t one, you may want to start one yourself.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.


The night before he was crucified, Jesus knew that he was about to be betrayed and arrested. It was an intense period of testing for both Jesus and the disciples. In Luke's account, Jesus began and ended by by saying to his disciples, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Luke 22:40, 46). The word "temptation" is a word that's used for testing, for discovering the nature of someone or something. Jesus and the disciples went through a severe period of testing.

This was a watershed moment. This was when we find out what Jesus and the disciples are made of. The consequences are huge. If Jesus didn't pass this test, everything falls apart.

We Fail the Test

What was the test for the disciples?

Jesus gave the disciples one thing to do. He told them to pray that they wouldn't enter into temptation. Jesus recognized that the disciples are not up to what he's about to experience, and he encouraged them to cry out to God to be exempted from this test.

Instead, the disciples slept. Jesus gave them one thing to do — to request an exemption — and they failed at even this. This is the watershed moment, the climatic point in the Gospel of Luke so far, and they fell asleep. The disciples failed the test.

What's true of the disciples is true of us. We don't stand up very well under testing. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that we have a tendency to fail God when it counts. We're incapable of passing the test on our own.

Jesus Passes the Test

What was the test for Jesus? Jesus was abandoned by his closest friends, but that was just the beginning.

Jesus faced a test that nobody else in history has faced. From eternity he had enjoyed perfect communion with the Father, a relationship of absolute intimacy and love. At the cross, Jesus was for the first time cut off from his Father. At the cross, Jesus took on our sin and bore the wrath of God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he saw what was coming at the cross, and it put him into shock.

New Testament scholar Bill Lane writes, "Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered."

Centuries ago Jonathan Edwards said:

The thing that Christ's mind was so full of at that time was...the dread which his feeble human nature had of that dreadful cup, which was vastly more terrible than Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. He had then a near view of that furnace of wrath, into which he was to be cast; he was brought to the mouth of the furnace that he might look into it, and stand and view its raging flames, and see the glowings of its heat, that he might know where he was going and what he was about to suffer. This was the thing that filled his soul with sorrow and darkness, this terrible sight as it were overwhelmed him...None of God's children ever had such a cup set before them, as this first being of every creature had.

In the Garden, Jesus had a foretaste of what it would be like to be abandoned by God. He was abandoned by his closest friends, and also began to experience God's abandonment of him.

Incredibly, Jesus passed the test. The disciples failed, yet Jesus passed the most intense test that anyone has faced in history.

David Sunday notes that the story of Scripture can be presented as a tale of two gardens. In the first garden (the Garden of Eden), and in this garden (the Garden of Gethsemane), humanity failed. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus passed.

Where we failed the test, Jesus passed.

Jesus' Pass Becomes Ours

This is not just a story of how Jesus passed the test that we failed. Incredibly, his pass became ours. On the cross, Jesus bore the weight of our failure. His obedience was credited to our account, so that we passed through Jesus even though we failed. In the garden, and on the cross, Jesus passed the test on our behalf.

Tim Keller says: "The Bible's purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible's purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome." The Bible is not about our need to pass the test. It is about our failure to do so, and how God has overcome our failure through Jesus Christ, who passed on our behalf. It's a call to turn away from our own failed attempts and to rely on what only Jesus could do.

Come Celebrate What Jesus Did

Good Friday is coming up in a few weeks. It is the day that we mark what Jesus has done for us, remembering that he accomplished what we could never do for ourselves. It's a day that honestly recognizes human failure, but that takes us to Jesus' provision for our failure. He passed the test on our behalf.

If you are in or near the Greater Toronto Area, would you consider joining our church and several other Toronto churches as we celebrate the death of our Savior together? Will you come with all your failures and look at the one who passed on your behalf?

We will gather at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, on April 18 at 7:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

adapted from a sermon I preached in 2012

Top 10 Quotes from The Congress

I spent some time this week at The Congress, a Canadian church planting conference.

Here are some of the most tweetable moments from the conference. They lack context, but give a taste of what the conference is like. As you can tell by my selection, I really appreciated the message by Jon Tyson, pastor of Trinity Grace Church in New York.