Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

3 Lies We Believe about Ministry

I often pray that God will help me be a minister of His Gospel instead of an event coordinator; a programmer. Turns out, it is so much easier to ‘program’ than it is to minister.

Answering “No” to One of These Questions Will Kill Your Evangelism

Answer “no” to any of these questions and your evangelistic passion will suffer.

Evangelism on the Rocks

Like missionaries in a foreign country, we inhabit a new mission field. We need to relearn the language, discover redemptive analogies, and reacquaint people with the true Christian story.

In Bondage to Pornography

One would not allow alcoholics to have the last word on liquor licensing laws or crack addicts on drug policy. Yet when it comes to sexual morality, that is the kind of world in which we now live.

Teddy Roosevelt’s 10 Rules For Reading

Ten rules for reading from Roosevelt's autobiography

Theology is Doxology

When I sit on ordination councils, I begin with a mental checklist of theological issues to be covered. I want to make sure that the candidate is theologically sound, as well as someone who is qualified as an elder.

Usually I get a sense of the candidate’s suitability pretty quickly, and my focus changes. As I hear the doctrinal statement, I begin to realize again: This is true. This matters. This matters to me. It’s as if I lose my footing as a council member and stagger under the weight of the truth of what I’m hearing. It’s an awesome thing.

This is as it should be. I remember reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology for the first time, and thinking that he got it right when he wrote:

The study of theology is not merely a theoretical exercise of the intellect. It is a study of the living God, and of the wonders of all his works in creation and redemption. We cannot study this subject dispassionately!

I find myself listening these days to sermons by preachers who open the text and work their way into worship. They are theological to be sure, but they aren’t content to stop there. As they explain the text, they begin to be filled with wonder. It’s almost like their outlines are: This is true! Can you believe it’s true? Because it’s true, it changes everything! Somehow it never gets old to hear a pastor preach his way to worship.

Theology is doxology. It had better be, or something is seriously wrong. I never want to get over the truth of what I hear every week. What truth; what a God.

The Anti-Grace Cycle

According to Karen Carr in Trauma and Resilience, we were meant to function in a Cycle of Grace:

Acceptance → Sustenance → Significance → Achievement

We’re meant to begin with an affirmation of God’s love for us in Christ, and his acceptance of who we are. This sustains us in our well-being and lives. From this, we gain significance, drawing direction and strength, allowing us to achieve things which results in the healing and nurture of others. Carr says that Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry: his significance and achievement came directly from his relationship with his Father.

Many of us, however, life in an Anti-Grace Cycle, or a Cycle of Frustration:

Achievement → Significance → Sustenance → Acceptance

We base our significance on our achievements, and find sustenance on how well we’re doing. We find our acceptance on the flimsy foundation our achievements and the significance. This leaves us feeling exhausted and often disappointed.

Carr gives an example of someone in ministry:

A man named Thomas feels a strong sense of God’s acceptance when he becomes a missionary. He chooses a difficult field where there are few Christians. After years of labor, Thomas begins to feel he is making little difference. He cannot see results, not a single convert! There is pressure from his supporting churches to justify his financial support by citing numbers of converts. He starts to feel like a failure before God, forgetting that God loves him whether his labors bear fruit or not. Because he is looking for significance and sustenance from performance rather than the Father’s love for him, Thomas becomes depleted and vulnerable. He resorts to late-night pornography after his wife has gone to bed. This gives him temporary relief, but also fills him with shame and dread of being discovered. Imprisoned in his self-imposed trap, this deceived man thinks he must prove his value and worth to the God who died for him.

We all have a tendency to live in the Anti-Grace Cycle. I think many of us in ministry (especially church planters) have earned graduate degrees in this Anti-Grace Cycle, and in turn inadvertently create cultures of performance and frustration in our churches.

“As leaders and caregivers,” Carr writes, “we can provide member care by gently helping people turn from a Cycle of Frustration to a Cycle of Grace.” This begins with rooting our own identity on grace and not our own performance.

I’ve lived under both cycles. There's not even a difference. Those of us who preach grace had better experience grace. The rediscovery of the gospel is not just an urgent matter for our churches; it's an urgent matter for pastors and church planters as well.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

23 Things That Love Is

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, here's a gospel-centered reminder about how to love. But, you don't have to be romantically in love to find this list practical. Every healthy relationship requires love and sacrifice, so if you're a parent, child, sibling, neighbor, pastor, or co-worker, this list is for you.

The Four + 1 Primary Tasks of the Senior Leader

I’ve outlined five straightforward tasks—directional clarity, strategic movement, culture cultivation, resource stability, and reason for being.

It will be very hard for an effective senior leader to get these five tasks done if she is tied down doing things that other folks can do. And if he doesn’t get these five things done, it may not show up today or tomorrow, but the organization is racing toward a needless detour or a screeching halt.

You Must Write the Manual

Many of the necessary Kingdom advances today require teams to write the manual as they go.

10 Pointers for Young Preachers

I am way too young to be called a sage, but I don’t get called young any more either. So while there is better advice to be found, here are some pointers from me for young preachers...

Three Reasons Why Singing is Essential in the Life of the Disciple

It seems that in the Bible, singing is not an option; it’s a command. And maybe even more than being commanded, singing is essential for the life of the disciple. Let me give you a few brief reasons why I believe this to be true...

9 Things You May Not Know About Introverts

Here are 9 things you may not know about introverts...

If All The Bible Translations Had A Dinner Party

English Standard Version (ESV): Hey everybody, can I have your attention? Great, thanks. Look, I’m so glad that you’re all here for this reunion of sorts. It sure is great to have all of us translations together in one...

Two Types of Living

There’s the type of living that makes sense according to my resources. That kind of living takes small risks and makes measured actions, never straying too far from what’s humanly possible or reasonable.

There’s also the type of living that makes sense only if God is who he says he is. This is the type of living that is bothy scary and exciting.

It’s what caused Jack Miller to revoke his resignations from and return to ministry as a pastor and seminary professor, only to see God do more in the next year of his ministry than in all the years before.

It’s what causes his widow Rose Marie Miller to choose service rather than retirement. Now in her nineties, she’s building friendships and sharing her faith with Asian women in London, England.

It’s what causes pastors I know to bank everything on building churches based on what only God can do, so that if he doesn’t come through the whole enterprise will fail.

I spent a long time living the first way, according to my own resources. In light of four billion people in the world without Jesus, the teaching of the Lord (Matthew 25:14-30), and the example of others I respect, I’m fumbling my way slowly into living the second way. Key words: fumbling and slowly. I have a long way to go.

Have you been holding back from a risky, costly course to which you know in your heart God has called you? Hold back no longer. Your God is faithful to you, and he is adequate for you. You will never need more than he can supply, and what he supplies, both materially and spiritually, will always be enough for the present. “No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11 RSV). “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13 RSV). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Think on these things!—and let your thoughts drive out your inhibitions about serving your Master. (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)