Visual Theology

We need truth. The problem, though, is that truth is sometimes presented in ugly ways, while falsehood is presented winsomely. It helps us all if truth is offered compellingly, and seen to be both true and beautiful.

This applies to theology. We need to know the truth about God, but we also need to be drawn to its beauty. The best theology feeds the mind, warms the soul, and leads to praise. "We cannot study this subject dispassionately!" writes Wayne Grudem. "We must love all that God is, all that he says and all that he does."

I've been grateful, therefore, for the infographics by Tim Challies and others. They began with this post by Challies in 2008:

Infographics have become all the rage over the past few years and are used to display all manner of information. Last year I found myself wondering if infographics could be used to display theology in a helpful and visually-appealing way. I soon spoke to a few graphic artists and commissioned a series of twelve infographics, each of which dealt with a particular point of theology.

If you've followed Challies, you've benefited from many of these graphics over the years.

Today marks the release of Visual Theology by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. It's a book that presents many of the principles of systematic theology in a clear and beautiful way. It's divided into four sections: grow close to Christ, understand the work of Christ, become like Christ, and live for Christ. It's a book of words, and the words are very good. But the graphics add another layer, "presenting information in fresh, powerful, and attractive ways — and in ways words cannot express."

If the book came without graphics, it would still be a good book. But it comes with graphics, and they are helpful and beautiful. I've been browsing through the book, and love them. My favorites are "How to Put Sin to Death" (pages 96-97) and the "one another" command graphic (pages 136-137). You can see samples of some of the images at the Visual Theology website.

It's the first theology book I've owned that belongs on the coffee table.

I have three recommendations.

First, get this book. Put it somewhere where you'll have opportunity to read it. Although this is a book you can read from start to finish, it's also a book you'll enjoy browsing. Leave it out where you and others will see it, and dip into it often.

Second, give this book to others. I don't know any believer who wouldn't benefit from this book. It's a great introduction to theology for a new believer, and it's a great presentation of theological truth for even the most mature disciple.

My final recommendation is for Tim Challies and Josh Byers. Please continue producing these graphics. I hope that this is the first of many volumes.

Get this book, enjoy and absorb it, and join me in begging Tim and Josh for more.

Find out more at the Visual Theology website | Amazon.com | WTS Books

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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.

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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.

Revitalization

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it's like to be part of revitalizing a church, compared to starting one. Both ministries are needed. We need new churches planted, and we also need to see lots of churches revitalized. The two, by the way, go really well together.

I have the privilege of watching some gifted revitalizers at work in my city. I take off my hat to them, because I know that the work they're doing is both hard and important.

Here's what I wish someone had told me years ago when I first pastored an established church.

Revitalization is hard. Ed Stetzer writes, "Church revitalization does not happen much, but it does happen sometimes. I have been struck by how infrequently it actually occurs" (Planting Missional Churches). Read that over a few times. Thom Rainer says that the most common method of revitalization succeeds only 2% of the time. I wish I'd known that earlier.

The most important issues aren't what you think. The issues go much deeper than updating the worship or making some cosmetic changes. Common issues include spiritual lethargy, dysfunctional patterns of relating, and spiritual pride. Unless you're willing to confront deep issues, and to be unpopular, don't take on this ministry.

Revitalization begins with spiritual renewal. I like what Bill Hogg says: "It’s not about coming up with a plan. The first order of business is to surrender to Jesus. The idea is not to work a plan but to hear from the Lord, and then from dependence upon Him walk in obedience to what he speaks into the life of the church.” Richard Lovelace's Dynamics of Spiritual Life and Jack Miller's Outgrowing the Ingrown Church are great resources here.

You can't do it alone. Just as you can't plant a church alone, you can't lead a church revitalization alone. You need a core group, or as John Kotter calls it, a guiding coalition. These people can be inside the church, or they can come from outside the church, although they would first have to earn trust. You need 10-20% of the church's core engaged in mission and ministry. Never try to lead a revitalization alone.

Look up and outside. Church renewal doesn't happen by pursuing church renewal. It happens by pursuing God and joining him on mission. Get the focus on God and the harvest. Plant a church, or at least partner in doing so; serve the community; lead the church to risk and sacrifice; focus on God and his greatness.

Get your identity from God. If you get your identity from how well the revitalization is going, you will not survive. Get your security from your union with Christ. Go deep into the gospel. The renewal project may fail (see my first point), but the gospel will still be true. Dwell in God's love.

If you've been part of leading a revitalization, I'd love to get your thoughts.

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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.

Unoffendable

Somebody should keep a list of stupid things that people say to pastors. The only problem is that someone would pull out a list of stupid things that pastors say. If you want to look for offense, you never have to look far.

The problem is that unity never survives long when people start to get ticked. And when people get ticked, and unity disappears, the Spirit tends to flee. It's death for a church. In the history of revival, even when the Spirit is active, "no drop of blessing has descended there where a spirit of controversy and strife had obtained a footing," we read in The Revival of Religion. "The Spirit of God hovered around but fled from the scene of discord as from a doomed region where his dove-like temper could find no resting place."

We need to give others a lot of slack. This doesn't mean ignoring sin, because that can be a lack of love. It means, though, that we're slow to take offense. Our first reaction must be extending grace rather than judgment and anger.

As someone said to me last year: Be unoffendable.

Why? For one thing, Scripture commends being slow to anger (Proverbs 14:29 James 1:19) and overlooking offenses (Proverbs 17:9; 19:11) out of love (Proverbs 10:12). Also, it creates a pretty sweet spirit within a church. Have you ever seen a church in which people are always extending grace? I have. It's compelling. There's nothing quite like it.

The best reason to be unoffendable, though, is because of how God has treated us. "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love" (Micah 7:18). If God has lavished his grace on us, how can we not do the same for others?

By God's grace, give others what they need, and what you need too. Help shape a church that reflects the beauty of the gospel. Be obedient, and reflect how God has treated you. Be unoffendable.

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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.

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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.