Do Not Say: Or, The churchs excuses for neglecting the heathen: with a statement and an appeal . . .

This pamphlet is the reason James Fraser went in to missions. And therefore it is the reason the Lisu people are in a large part Christian to this day.Fascinating.

I've been looking for it for years, but I finally found it here. PDF, Kindle, etc...

Beauty.Amazing to think the effect a small little pamphlet can have on so many lives.

Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders ➙

I've been a parishioner in many churches over many years. In each church, the pastor has been tempted, as I was, to become the great leader, to shape himself in our culture's image of success. To be sure, the modern pastor does have to "run a church"; he or she is, in fact, the head of an institution that has prosaic institutional needs. I've been thankful when my pastor carries out these institutional responsibilities with efficiency and joy.

Things I Believed Before Getting my Seminary Degree

In 2007 I wrote, things I believe before getting a degree and I've always had the intention of returning to it and responding after finishing the program. I wrote it about a year in to the process, but I think I had only taken one class at that point. Granted in January I changed from an MDiv to an MA, but I'm done. While a lot of this is unrelated to theological things, they were all ideas I wondered about being changed in the process of seminary. And here are my thoughts:

1. Uneducated people should be allowed to teach. Not everyone, but some people.
  I believe this more now than I did then. Seminary does not a gifted teacher make.

2. God seems to bless even the very unhealthy (theologically or practically).
  I believe this more now as well, but more from experience in ministry than anything I learned in seminary. Shocking how unhealthy we are really.

3. God seems to bless me, which isn't a sign that I'm doing anything right.
  Keeps blessing my socks off. Not sure why.

4. Conservative is probably a better leaning than Liberal
  Deal.

5. I have to be open to liberal ideas (definitely not all), and definitely new things in the christian world. Not closed off to music, etc. 
   Hmm.... not sure what I think now. I lean awkwardly conservative these days.

6. Raising kids is not about how well you do it, or lead, or how good of a person you are. It seems to be 100% based on the Lord's grace that they will turn out well or not.  We can help, but they can still turn out funny. 
   Still early in child-rearing to know.

7. Writing a book is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression.
   The influence of books is laughably larger in my life than sermons.

8. Books can help you to fall more in love with the Lord.
   See above. But I think more than books, people.

9. Just because some publishing company printed it, doesn't mean its true, or even worth reading. 
   Wow. Shockingly true.

10. People all turn out weird. Its okay to become weird in your old age.
   Look forward to it.

11. Money will wont make you happy.
   How much are we talking about? Okay... still agree.

12. Loving my wife is more important that my studies.
   I think I was good at living this until the last three months or so, there was definitely tension.

13. I want my ministry to be first place before my studies.
   I lived this, but it was hard. Keeping school in a place where it can never take precedence over my work (ministry), that was hard, but I'm glad I did it.

14. Taking forever to get a degree is probably a reality.
   Whew. Six years.

15. Having a PhD by 35 is still pretty impressive.
   Still possible, not sure if I'll pull it off or not, or even if I want to anymore.

16. I shouldn't be concerned with how impressive it is if I ever get a PhD.
   True, but feeling like I'm probably supposed to, makes it difficult to be unconcerned with.

17. People with PhD's can be losers just because they have one. Dont be a loser. 
   Holy snap. There are a boatload of Dr. Losers.

18. Discipline sucks when you're developing it, but I seem to like life better when I am disciplined.
   True, and true. I would now add that discipline is infinitely harder when you have children. Your time is not your own to arrange appropriately. Even in the morning.

19. Children are a HUGE blessing no matter how much work they are.
   Ha. While in general I definitely believe this, I don't always believe it in the moment when my 2 year old is screaming and my three year old is vomiting in the car. Did I mention I'm just a few months away from adopting two more. Ha!

20. Children are your most important disciples. 
   I hope I manage to never forget this. They are also right there along with our wives as catalysts for sanctification.

21. God's creation is fascinating, beautiful, and should be pointed out just short of the point of annoyance.
   Absolutely.

22. God has blessed me, but that doesn't mean I'm doing anything well.
   Funny I mentioned this twice (see #3). The Lord really has blessed the poo out of me. It's ridiculous. Why does he keep doing that?

23. Money still wont make me happy. 
   But beer might. At least temporarily.

How Can You Be So Dumb?


When George Bush won the Presidential election for the second time in 2004 there were variations of a headline all over the web which said, "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?"

It's interesting because it represents something I hear from the far left quite frequently, "how can people really think this?" If anyone really thought about it, they would have voted for Al Gore. Or another example is gay marriage. How can anyone possibly think it's wrong? You would have to be an idiot, they think, to come to any conclusion other than that gay marriage is no different than straight marriage.

Or in the pro-life discussion. Only a fool would come to the conclusion that abortion is wrong. If someone really thought about it, there is only one conclusion that can be reached, abortion is the prerogative of the pregnant woman.

Actually, it doesn't matter if it is the far left or the far right in politics, or extremes in any debate, the discussion is the same, "How can you be so dumb?" What about in religion? People who are atheists strongly believe that if everyone had all the facts they would arrive at the same conclusion. There is no God.

There is this deep-rooted belief, and it is expressed regularly online (as well as other places), that a well educated person can only arrive at certain conclusions. If we all had the same logical process this would be true. And for the most part, our logic probably is very similar. But the reason this doesn't happen is our premises are different.

If we accept the Bible as the standard, rather than human reason, we arrive at the conclusion that life (even in the womb) is valuable. If we accept human reason as the standard, rather than the Bible, we arrive at the conclusion that life (even if only in the womb) is not yet life. Because really, what does life matter at all? Without God, it doesn't. Period.

All of this is important to our understanding of, and patience with non-Christians. I get so frustrated with people who think I'm stupid because of my conclusions. But the Bible tells us the truth is foolishness to those who don't believe (1 Corinthians 1:18). If our premise is truth, to them it is foolishness. What can we do?

We can tell them about the Love of Jesus. We can have patience when they think us foolish. And we can pray our lips dry that the Lord would help them to see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10).

Done baby.

In other news, I graduated from seminary on Wednesday. It doesn't feel like an accomplishment so much as a relief. Still, I'm stoked.

Dining with the Devil by Os Guinness


This is easily in the top three book I've read this year. The premise of the book is that the megachurch movement has blindly embraced modernism for its methodology and as a justification for its existence.

First he makes the point I did in my most recent post with this:
"On the one hand, does the term church refer to 'the people of God,' including all the people in a local area, or to a particular local church and its facility and programs? The two are not necessarily the same."
Then:
"On the other hand, is the term growth to be understood quantitively, in terms of size and numbers, or qualitatively, in terms of depth, character, and spirit?"
Or better:
"In the case of the church-growth movement, this idolizing trend can develop in one of two ways: either the insights and tools of modernity are themselves relied upon idolatrously, or the churches themselves becomes idolatrous because their very success as institutions makes them into an end in themselves."
Then he quotes Philip Rieff saying:
"What characterizes modernity, I think, is just this idea that men need not submit to any power—higher or lower—other than their own."
And what characterizes the church growth movement is the belief that we can figure out through methodology how to grow a church—void of the Holy Spirit. Of course they wouldn't say the point is to grow the church void of the Holy Spirit, but in practice that is what the emphasis on analysis and methodology are doing. Not all megachurches are this way, but the movement as a whole trends this way.

He then mentions this ridiculously convicting line about a Japanese businessman who says to a visiting Austrailian:
"Whenever I meet a buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager. . . . The two most easily recognizable hallmarks of secularization in America are the exaltation of numbers and technique."
I don't know about you, but as a Christian leader I have far too often fancied myself a good manager rather than a holy man. When you step down in leadership what do people say about you? You managed meetings well? You dressed respectably? Or you had a profound and contagious relationship  with your savior?

When methodology is the focus then statistics about people coming in the door are the measure of how well the methodology is working.
"One obvious problem with this mentality is that quantity does not measure quality. Numbers—or what the Southern Baptists call 'nickels and noses'—have little to do with truth, excellence, or character."
Not all of this book is negative. While it is primarily a critique, Guinness is really arguing that there are some wonderful things about modernity. Modernity has some things which certainly can be used by the Body of Christ, but we need to be careful about the way we include them. Otherwise we chance becoming dependent on numbers and results instead of, you know, God.

In response to this book, while I agree and think the megachurch movement is a result of a blind embrace of modernity (as Guinness argues), I would posit that the house-church movement is a blind embrace of post-modernity. Both are not inherently bad, but both can be foolish when blindly embraced.

The concluding sentence in my opinion is just as useful when considering post-modernity as it is when considering modernity:
"By all means dine freely at the table of [post-]modernity, but in God's name keep your spoons long."
Brilliant. Guinness' book can be had on Amazon for about $13 new, $0.45 used, and $10 on kindle. I cannot suggest it enough. Dining With the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts With Modernity.

Our Ecclesiology is Fundamentally Flawed

This is a post I've been meaning to write for some time. Life has been busy despite it being furlough for me. I have recently had quite a bit of "down" time, but this is time which is designated for spending with the family. I consider myself both privileged to be in a job which values my family, and burdened with a job where I am disqualified for much if my family falls apart. It's amazing how much a person in a secular job can allow something like a divorce to not affect his work. But that is a topic for another post.

Some background for this may be necessary. I work for a para-church organization. In raising my initial support years ago, a very close pastor friend of mine told me, "I cannot give money to [organization name here] because I believe it is a sinful organization because it is operating outside of the church. I do not give to para-church organizations." At the time I was confused by it, but I didn't really know why. Was he right? Is there something inherently sinful about para-church organizations because they operate outside of a relationship with a group which meets between certain walls on a Sunday? This man would perfectly willingly have given money to a missionary who was sent out by that local congregation, even one who would do the very same things as me. Because then it would have been a "church" activity as opposed to "para-church."

More recently I was reading the Southern Baptist Convention's definition of a church (scroll down to VI. The Church), and I was wondering what might make a campus fellowship different from an actual church. According to this definition, many campus fellowships I know may qualify as a church. Or fail to qualify only because they do not include the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

My work is not campus, but city focused. A large part of what we do is training local church leaders in theology, and church planting. I've realized that among them (and this is true in America as well) a very common attitude is, "I'm in this for myself, for the sake of growing the biggest church in this city." This is something we work very hard to combat. Specifically we want people to instead have an attitude of, "We're in this together for the sake of furthering God's kingdom in this city."

What I'm to suggesting is that our ecclesiology (the study of the Church) should be one of the Church as the body of Christ (period). Not the church as the body of Christ which happens to meet from 9:30-11:00 AM on Sundays in your renovated warehouse.

The implications of this are much bigger than you might think.

The opening line to the Wikipedia entry on ecclesiology has this sad statement: "Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense."

Books on ecclesiology today are about how to build a big church. Or the better ones may be about how to build a healthy church. But they're still talking about the "building and decoration of churches." The body of Christ does not need decorating. It has been washed clean by the blood of Christ. The buildings in which the body of Christ meets on Sunday mornings need decorations. But is worrying about such details where we should be spending our time?

Shouldn't we instead be studying the body of Christ. How we as the body of Christ work together; how we as the body of Christ function together. How we as the body of Christ can love one another and reach and transform the world. Para-church is a misnomer inherently because those who are of the body of Christ (no matter who employs them) are a member of the body of Christ. I am not offended when someone refers to me as working for a para-church organization. But it should concern all of us when the hand says it refuses to support the foot because it doesn't believe it is a part of the body. Just because the hand says the foot is not a part of the body does not mean the foot ceases to be a part of the body.

Okay, but before this drifts further into rant-that-only-quotes-wikipedia territory, lets look at the Biblical evidence. I would like to state that this is something I'm still just formulating in my head, and I would love feedback about it. If you think I'm way off base let me know, or making a big deal out of nothing let me know. But I think this has huge implications.

The Biblical references to the word church (ecclesia) are the following (if I'm missing something let me know):

Universal ChurchA Body of BelieversA City Church
Matt 16:18Matt 18:17Acts 8:1
Acts 8:3Acts 5:11Acts 9:31
Acts 12:1Acts 11:26Acts 11:22
Acts 20:28Acts 12:5Acts 13:1
1 Cor 10:32Acts 14:23Acts 14:27
1 Cor 11:22Rom 16:23Acts 15:3
1 Cor 12:281 Cor 4:17Acts 15:4
1 Cor 15:91 Cor 6:4Acts 15:22
Gal 1:131 Cor 11:18Acts 18:22
Eph 1:221 Cor 14:4Acts 20:17
Eph 3:101 Cor 14:5Rom 16:1
Eph 3:211 Cor 14:121 Cor 1:2
Eph 5:231 Cor 14:231 Cor 5:12
Eph 5:241 Cor 14:281 Cor 11:18
Eph 5:251 Cor 14:352 Cor 1:1
Eph 5:271 Cor 16:19Col 4:16
Eph 5:29Phil 5:151 Thess 1:1
Eph 5:321 Tim 3:52 Thess 1:1
Phil 3:61 Tim 3:7Rev 2:1
Col 1:181 Tim 3:15Rev 2:8
Col 1:241 Tim 5:16Rev 2:12
Col 1:25Philemon 1:2Rev 2:18
Heb 12:23Jam 5:14Rev 3:1
3 John 1:6Rev 3:7
3 John 1:9Rev 3:14
3 John 1:10


I've divided every usage of the word church in to one of three categories: (1) the Church universal, (2) a body of believers, and (3) a city church. These lines are not particularly clear cut, and there are a few of these which might easily have fit more than one category. But in the above references how many do you see which match a specific meeting location (other than a city)? While I didn't list them, there are actually two: Romans 16:5, and Col 4:15. In both these instances Paul actually references the church that meets in a specific house.

Now, I'm not saying the groups that meet in buildings on Sundays should no longer be called "church." I think any gathering of believers is well defined by the word. But unless each city had only one church the entire third column also fits in with the first two in the sense that the word Church is used for body of Christ. Believers, as we relate to one another. This is ecclesiology.

If we are the body of Christ why are we not united? Why is First Presbyterian completely ignoring First Baptist down the street? We can disagree on the finer points of our theology but we cannot disagree that we are the body of Christ. Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." By this, I would argue, He did not mean, "When Senior Pastor A loves executive Pastor B at Bob's Bible Church they will know you are my disciples." But rather, "When Senior Pastor A from Wesley Methodist Church loves Executive Pastor B at Calvin's Presbyterian Church they will know you are my disciples."

Our ecclesiology has become fundamentally inward focused. We are concerned with the structure, authority, programs, and decorations of our buildings rather than the expansion of God's Kingdom through cooperation with the other members of the body of Christ. Our ecclesiology is fundamentally flawed.

What if your church saw itself as a part of the body of Christ in your city? What if your church actually said, "Not everyone will agree with us theologically, but as long as we can agree on the majors of the gospel we will work with any evangelical church in this area to expand the Kingdom of God."

One of the beauties of the interdenominational para-church organization I work for, is that we are required to agree on the majors and agree to disagree on the minors. We are a large organization which I think demonstrates the body of Christ in a beautiful way. Wesleyans work alongside of Calvinists. Dispensationalists work alongside, well, non-dispys and they seek God's Kingdom over their own theological agenda. Have an opinion. Please do. But don't let your opinion convince you that the foot down the street is not a part of Christ's body. Because it will not then cease to be a foot. And for you to try to operate in the body of Christ without the foot, you are crippled dramatically.

What would it take for us to shift our priorities from individual interior decoration to cooperative disciple making? Can we unite over the gospel, disagree on secondaries, and move forward with common mission? Or are we so convinced of the way the hand works, looks, and that we cannot accept our body may need a foot to get around? Where are we spending our time and energy when we think about the church? Are we focused on our pretty building and the kind of coffee we serve, or the body of Christ, it's function, purpose, and unity?

It's an embarrassment that even Wikipedia knows our ecclesiology is flawed.

Reject Those Who Reject the Gospel and Move On?

"The possibility of rejection was ever present. St. Paul did not establish himself in a place and go on preaching for years to men who refused to act on his teaching. When once he had brought them to a point where decision was clear, he reminded that they should make their choice. If they rejected him, he rejected them. The 'shaking of the lap', the 'shaking of the dust from the feet', the refusal to teach those who refused to act on the teaching, was a vital part of the Pauline presentation of the Gospel. He did not simply “go away;” he openly rejected those who showed themselves unworthy of his teaching. It was part of the Gospel that men might “judge themselves unworthy of eternal life.” It is a question which needs serious consideration whether the Gospel can be truly presented if this element is left out. Can there be true teaching which does not involve the refusal to go on teaching? . . . If then we go on teaching where that moral response is refused , we cease to preach the Gospel; we make the teaching a mere education of the intellect."
Holy snap! I have been a full time evangelist for years and this has never occurred to me. Fascinating. This is from Roland Allen's book Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? A book which I'm still chewing on slowly.

(For $2 on Kindle you almost cant afford to NOT read it.)

Thoughts on "Not the Way It's Supposed to Be" by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

A friend of mine suggested I read, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin which, to be honest, I wasn't altogether impressed with until the Epilogue. Mostly the book is just a laundry list of sins and how we should perceive them. I wanted to find it convicting, but little of it had that effect. That said, Plantinga's conclusion was great.
To speak of sin without grace is to minimize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fruit of the Spirit and the hope of shalom. . . . But to speak of grace without sin is surely no better. To do this is to trivialize the cross of Jesus Christ, to skate past all the struggling by good people down the ages to forgive, accept, and rehabilitate sinners, including themselves, and therefore to cheapen the grace of God that always comes to us with blood on it. What had we thought the ripping and writhing on Golgotha were all about? To speak of grace without looking squarely at these realities, without painfully honest acknowledgment of our own sin and its effects, is to shrink grace to a mere embellishment of the music of creation, to shrink it down to a mere grace note. In short, for the Christian church (even in its recently popular seeker services) to ignore, euphemize, or otherwise mute the lethal reality of sin is to cut the nerve of the gospel. For the sober truth is that without a full disclosure on sin, the gospel of grace becomes impertinent, unnecessary, and finally uninteresting. 

Is Our Ecclesiology Fundamentally Flawed?

I'm nearly done with my seminary degree (course work is complete and I'm in the final stages of my thesis editing) and so I'm going to finally be getting the reading time I've wanted.

In addition to that I've been pondering something and I'm curious if anyone has feedback. Related to our ecclesiology. Where did we get the notion that our ecclesiology should be about how we govern our local church building's institution rather than the church body in a location?

For example, most modern ecclesiology seems to focus on what it means for an elder to be appointed in the local church (differentiated by a building or a denomination). But what if our ecclesiology was about how we as a church body in a location (city or whatever) should interact with one another?

I ask this because in my brief study of the word "church" every instance I've found refers either to the Church Universal (catholic church), or to the local body (as in the whole body of believers at Corinth, not "the meeting Bob leads at 143 Roman Road").

If you have any thoughts on this please send me an email (rogermugs at gmail dot com). I'm curious to process this a bit before I write and publish something more completely.

Church Planters and Missionalotry ➙

Second, if you plant a church with a gospel that does not drive us towards regular self-examination, you will steer people towards a social-gospel. There is a lot of talk about the gospel these days, which is great. But the gospel is being reduced to something I imitate, rather than something by which I am saved and sanctified. We are viewing it as something to ”display,” instead of good news by which I am progressively transformed through moritification of sin. The shift is subtle, but unsafe.
Still confused how 'church' has come to mean 'that thing we do on Sundays' rather than 'that body of believers of which we are all a part'. But nonetheless interesting.

Strategy

Being strategic in mission demonstrates reverence for the weight of the message being taught.

On Preaching


A teammate of mine recently asked for my thoughts on preaching. I suppose it was warranted as I first asked him to tell me his thoughts. The discussion stems from something I've mentioned here before, my frustration with preaching seeming to be the center of Sunday morning worship meetings, but so few lives seem to be changed by sermons. How many sermons do you genuinely remember in your life? I remember maybe two or three, which is sad considering I've pretty much been a church goer my entire life.

With that said, here are a few of my thoughts on preaching.

Expository vs. Topical

It seems like a recent thing to me (and maybe I'm just new to the scene) that people hail expository preaching as the best thing to happen to the church since the invention of the oak pulpit. The argument that I typically hear seems to revolve around the concept that if you preach topically it will be like giving your child a steady diet of deep fried butter, that is to say, you'll be depriving your people of some sort of needed vitamins (or teaching, as the case may be). Apparently preaching through the word in an expository manner will keep this from happening (more akin to feeding your kid a healthy diet by running the gamut of vegetables, even brussels sprout occasionally).

The issue I have with this thinking is two-fold. First of all the preacher working methodically through different books of the Bible is just as likely as anyone to miss things. Even expository preaching only preaches one interpretation of the scripture as it works through books. God can easily teach two or even ten different things in one verse. The preacher is going to see what he is ready to see in what he teaches, and that will be what he chooses to expound in his sermon. Secondly, the preacher who doesn't preach what is on his heart (because he's stuck in a 52 part series working through the book of Matthew at a pace of 7.2 verses each week) is missing something essential. The Lord puts things on his heart, at least occasionally, and he should preach what he is passionate about when he has the opportunity.

Also, I should mention that one of the most powerful sermons I've ever heard was topical. I was attending a training in the Middle East for Arab Christians who were about to be sent out to the hardest parts of the Middle East. The likelihood of martyrdom for these guys was extremely high, and therefore the burden on the teacher was significant. The guy preaching was an Egyptian man who for three days in a row stood at the front of the classroom and held open his Bible and taught in a way I've never seen before. He would make a point in Matthew and then flip to Exodus to explain the background for his point. Then that would remind him of something he had read that morning in Micah and he'd flip there and draw a diagram on a whiteboard which would require two or three supporting texts from Paul's epistles. This guy knew the word like no one I have ever seen before or since. He let the word make his points, but he jumped around like a crazy person. It was topical, but incredibly biblically based. And his heart was wrapped up in every point he made, which is why I remember it. He spoke passionately about his love of the Lord and the Word. He spoke in a way which shook me to my core because he knew the weight of what he was saying, and the significance of the men to whom he was addressing. He knew he could not change these men's lives, or fates, but that God could change their lives.

I'm not intending here to argue against expository preaching, but I am arguing that it is no more sacred or inherently superior to topical preaching than Hymns are to "Praise Choruses" (I still cant believe people actually call them that). Sermons are only as great as the Pastor's love for the Lord, regardless of the methodology for teaching.

On a related note, recently I read an article in favor of preaching without notes, it seems to suggest that you stay within the text and not jump around to different scripture so as to keep things simple for the congregation and to ease the memorization burden. I have to question anything which limits your ability to teach the word like that. Expository preaching shouldn't mean you don't tie the Word together to other places which relate. The whole Bible does tie together, and not just a little bit, don't make it seem like it doesn't, just so you can appear better prepared.

Unchanged Lives — The Fault of the Preacher or the Listener?

If preaching really isn't changing lives, who's fault is it? Or rather, who bears the responsibility for teaching to change lives? I don't think this falls fully on the shoulders of either the preacher or the listener, but I do think that should be qualified a bit. In my recent frustration about attending so many Sunday mornings and having so little of it actually affect me, I decided I would start to take notes — in my Bible — about what I was hearing. This is a skill I learned much too late in seminary. The notes I took on the papers the professor handed out, would never be referenced again. But the notes I took in my Bible were there when I taught, and wonderfully useful (In another post I'll complain about how far you can get in to a seminary class without opening your Bible, but that will have to be for another day).

Taking notes in my Bible did affect my memory of the sermon and it offered me useful notes that would actually be referenced again later. However, useful notes and life-change are two different things.

But more important than this, while I do believe some of the burden lies on the shoulders of the listener, I think the preacher should take responsibility as a shepherd for leading his sheep. If the sheep never learn that there is a pattern to where he is leading them, or never learn how to head in the right direction themselves then the shepherd might be failing at his job. In the same way a leader takes responsibility for the failure of those who work for him, the preacher is responsible for bad listening. What if we taught our people how to listen? What if we actually spent a sermon or two each year talking about our need to hear and apply the word? And then what if we taught people how to take notes? Or what if a church actually encouraged people to bring their own Bibles?

I strongly believe that choosing to not put the verse on a powerpoint will encourage people to bring their own Bibles. Turning the pages of a real book and finding out where things are in reference to the whole is a good skill for the congregation to have. And the awkwardness of the newcomer having to consult the Table of Contents to know if 1 John is in the New or Old Testament is a good thing. Not knowing the Word of God should be embarrassing to a man (it certainly is embarrassing to me how poorly I know it).

Funny vs. Boring

I'm not actually sure why this topic is discussed as much as it is. Of course preaching with humor is not a sin. I think I may agree with the camp that says that the Word of God is profoundly interesting and the preacher who preaches week after week in a way which makes people think the Word of God is boring may be sinful.

That said, the formulas you hear from some folk (yes they actually give a formula sometimes) about how many minutes you should place between each joke, this is just sad. If you want to grow a church void of the Holy Spirit it can be done, and humor will probably help. But do you really want to do that?

My beef with this comes from the reformed circle from which I am getting my seminary degree. A good friend of mine and a Westminster grad was telling me about the difference between a teaching and a ruling elder in the presbyterian system. I have to say that I find some problems with the qualifications of the former. The latter they seem to have nailed, but the teaching elder needs to have a seminary degree. That in itself is worthy of having taking some issue with, but the bigger problem is that just about anyone who completes a seminary degree can claim that they have "a calling to the pulpit." Even my friend (bless his soul) is a terrible speaker. He speaks so slowly and dully he can put anyone to sleep. He spoke for an hour and a half at a friend's wedding when they wanted him to give a brief evangelistic message. Unfortunately anyone who might have heard the gospel feel asleep before the second of his 13 points.

There is value in preaching the truth with love, and preaching it in a way that communicates just how valuable of a gift the word of God is to us is not a little thing.

20 mins vs. 60 mins

The root of this question is as ridiculous as many of the problems over which we have divided denominations.

Video Venues

I have a lot I would say about this. I have a strong opinion against them in general. That said, I have a friend whom I greatly respect who works for a church with this model and he isn't opposed to the idea inherently. I have too much respect for him and his views on ministry to therefore outright oppose it.

That said, this article made some great points. The question, I think, is appropriately asked, "What are the arguments in favor them?"

The Bottom Line

There are a million more things I could cover on the topic of preaching. It's hard to wrap my head around the topic. I do know that I think the preacher should view preaching as just one aspect of his shepherding. I do think the large there church the more difficult actual shepherding would be. You may be able to teach great, you may be able to gather a crowd, but are you really leading people to Christ, or are you drawing them to yourself? Can you save people?

If the answer is no (and .... um... it is no), then there is probably an appropriate amount of fear in which you should be living.

The bottom line is this: the pastor needs to be ridiculously in love with the Lord. Enamored with His power, love, grace, sovereignty, and salvation. If the pastor knows how small, sinful, and worthless without a savior he is then he will be pointing to Christ with all his heart. He will be preaching of the God who saved him, and he will do so with overwhelming and visible gratitude. This will lead others to Christ. He will then be involved in the lives of his people because he will be afraid to not be. The congregation who knows their pastor personally is capable of calling him to account. The congregation who sees their pastor as entertainer can find the same worth in downloading a few stand-up comedians from iTunes.

Preaching with humble passion comes from passion for the savior. Preaching with humor, great hair, or fireworks comes from a very different place. That place may not be inherently sinful, but it may be from a passion to grow a big church (or the biggest church in town). And that passion may be realized. But how is your pastor acting when he's the second biggest church in town (or the nation)? Is he threatened? Disheartened? Where is his value found?

For the advancement of whose kingdom is your preacher preaching?

I fear we know the sad truth of the answer to this question far too often.

Is Leadership a Biblical Category? ➙

In Luke 20:26, Jesus is drawing a contrast with how the Gentiles led, and how he wants the church led. The Gentiles lorded it over people and saw exercising authority and controlling people (for the leader’s benefit!) the main thing in leadership. Jesus said: “Not so. That’s a wrong view of leadership. It will not be that way among you.”
. . .
The problem is not leadership, but bad leadership.
When someone who works for you sends you an article like this it might be time for some soul searching. Ha.

Edwards: Many Wo Men Well Actually, Through Lack of Knowledge, Do Great Harm ➙

The point is: see the vocations God has given you in your life as important and see people as important. And therefore be diligent in fulfilling your vocations and upgrading your skills so that you are actually doing good, and not thinking it is sufficient to merely intend to do good.

William Carey at 250 ➙

This is old, but I just now got to it in my Instapaper queue. Spectacular brief look in to the man who started a movement, and without whom I would probably not be doing what I do today.
Carey’s plan to evangelize India included a three-pronged approach: preach the gospel, translate the Bible, and establish schools. Proclamation, translation, education.
Which of these do we miss most today? Definitely the third.

Seminary, Sharing About Jesus, and Writing

Just got back from a seminary class. Interesting because it looks like it might be possible for me to graduate before Christmas and my return to the field (if it happens after, it wont be for several years). The trip was also interesting because I met so many people willing to talk about Jesus. One guy in particular who entered into a discussion with me at a bar in the airport (over beer—ha!) was very interesting. My discussions about Jesus in the field are always very different than in America. This guy grew up a Christian and knew what it meant to believe, but wrestles with doubt and modern "popular knowledge." But after discussing some philosophical hang-ups he eventually stopped me and admitted we dont really know about a lot of the scientific things, and at the end of the day the choice is one of faith. I was impressed by this, normally I have to be the one to make this transition and I don't always do so well, so I was shocked when he did it without me. Anyhow. He'll be reading some things I suggested and I've got hope for him that he'll sort through his salvation. The mere fact that was interested in wrestling with the truth of Jesus is always encouraging. My hope for my time home these many months was to get a lot more writing done. It looks like that will happen, but primarily with seminary and not here. I could use your prayers. An adoption, furlough, and seminary have turned out to be quite the line of expenses. The Lord has always provided generously and I've no reason to believe he wont continue to do so, but that doesn't mean I'm not uncomfortable.

Life Lesson: Do Things.

I've heard it said that in our twenties we fumble around in life trying to figure out what we're good at. Then in our thirties we know what we're good at and spend the next decade or so getting better at it. Our forties are spent getting fat, then our fifties growing senile.

While I don't know about those last two, the first two sound like they're probably pretty right on. As a wiener of a twenty year old I put my hand to everything and succeeded grandly at none of it. I don't know that I could argue I'm succeeding at much of it even now, but I've learned what I really enjoy and what I'm good at. Something nobody told me is that having children will give you a tight focus in life. After my second girl was born I found myself sitting down and making a list of things I wanted to do in life for hobbies outside of work. My list was about 5 items:
  1. Run
  2. Write
  3. Mountain Bike
  4. Program
  5. Graduate Studies
I don't think I dwelled on this for very long before I realized with two children I was fooling myself and cut out numbers 3-5. Those who know me know it took time to cut some of these out. I'm still working on finishing up one of my graduate degrees, but it is prioritized low on my list. Always losing out to running and writing.

For about four years now I've had this blog (and my other for almost as long), and it's changed dramatically over the years. I'm okay with that. Things I learned about writing:
  1. Write like a crazy person.
  2. Never announce a change of direction for your writing (blog et al.), just change direction.
  3. Write like a crazy person.
  4. Revising is only painful at first, it quickly becomes a pleasure.
Just because you can publish anything without reviewing it at all doesn't mean you should. Writing is about writing, therefore write. And write. And write some more.

Similarly here are some things I've learned about running:
  1. Run like an idiot.
  2. Don't wear shoes.
  3. Run like an idiot.
  4. You will fart your brains out after the 5th mile. This is normal.
I used to run for the sake of mental stability. The biggest change I ever made was shedding my shoes — now I run because I love it. I run far because I don't want to stop, and mental stability has become a mere pleasant side effect. As a side note, don't run during the day barefoot on pavement which has been cooked by the 104 degree Houston sun; run in the morning, or just before sundown.

On reflecting on these things I realized these lessons also have parallels in my spiritual life. Knowing what I know now, I wish someone would have told me the following:
  1. Chase God like a fool.
  2. Ask God for the desire to desire Him.
  3. Chase God like a fool.
  4. When you find yourself distracted by the world (fame, lust, pride, money) it's probably because you're failing at numbers 1 and 3.
You'll find the things you love to do are really pretty simple. You could spend hours each day reading about how to do them better, but the best way to learn to anything is just to do it so much it becomes ridiculous. The best way to learn to run is to run till your legs feel like Jello, and then some more. The best way to write is to write so much you don't just discern a writing voice, you discover two or three, and you learn a Hindu accent just to mix things up. The best way to follow the Lord is to chase after Him like nothing else matters.

Walk slow. Run fast. Write all the time. Publish only some of it. Wake up early. Read the Bible and mark it up as though it is God-breathed revelation — because it is.

The time you spend reading about something should never outweigh the time you spend actually doing it. The Getting Things Done (GTD) crowd is the epitome of failure in this world. You could spend 4 of your 8 hours every day learning new software to help you better get things done or you could actually just do things.

Time spent writing should be greater than time spent reading about how to write, or trying new writing software. Time spent running should be greater than time spent reading about running or running gear. Time spent with God should be greater than time spent reading about how to spend time with God.

The truth is, if you do numbers 1 and 3 in any of these you will figure out 2 and 4 in no time. Everything other than passionate pursuit is secondary and will be learned through experience if you maintain said passion. And maintaining passion is easy if you just stay in the pursuit.

Knowing what things are worthy of your time can be difficult. But once you've decided where you will spend your time, the how is simple. Listen to Nike — Just do it.

Awkward Transitions Aren't Awkward When We're Passionate

Dude, check out my shoes.
Hey, did you see my bike? It's Harley.
Did I tell you about my new home? It has a pool.
Hold that thought, check out my new flat screen TV.
Bro, let me tell you about the God who saved me.

Just saying.

Ministry: Whose Kingdom? ➙

You see, the biggest protection against the kingdom of self is not a set of self-reformative defensive strategies. It’s a heart that’s so blown away by the right-here, right-now glories of the grace of Jesus Christ that you’re not easily seduced by the lesser temporary glories of that claustrophobic kingdom of one, the kingdom of self.
Bringing to mind the same truth worded differently,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Calvin on The Preaching of the Word

I assert not that wherever the word is preached, the good effects of it immediately appear; but that it is never received so as to obtain a permanent establishment, except in order that it may be efficacious. However this may be, where the word is heard with reverence, and the sacraments are not neglected, there we discover, while that is the case, an appearance of the Church, which is liable to no suspicion or uncertainty, of which no one can safely despise the authority, or reject the admonitions, or resist the counsels, or slight the censures, much less separate from it and break up its unity. - Calvin's Institutes Book 4 Chapter 1
Unity, unity, unity. But what I really love in this short quote is an admission that results (good fruit) are not proof of faithfulness.

We (as fallen-judgmental man) so wish God's approval would be revealed in tangible success. We as ministers wish we could judge our work in the same way a businessman judges his — numbers.

God's ways (often to our frustration) are higher than ours.

And unrelated but worth mentioning due to recent um, labeling, I should note that not all who read Calvin (or quote him for that matter) are followers thereof.

Judgement, Hubris, and True Christian Maturity


If everything you know about Christian living came from blogs and websites in the old-and-bored district of the Reformed community, you might have the impression that judgement is the principal symbol of Christian maturity.

For some who self-identify as "Old, Bored, and Reformed," (OBeeR) it seems judging others is a more popular topic for study and discussion than the doctrine of predestination. They devote whole blogposts to the celebration of categorizing and then disapproving of others. They earnestly assure one another "that most good theological discussion has historically been done in finding fault with others and discussing it online." They therefore love to meet for "open dialog on faith and culture" wherever the elderly Bible-commentators are wearing suits — or better yet, in circles discussing how things were "better in the old days". The famous among them publish their own books (an antiquated form of textual communication) and even offer opinions publicly online outside of Facebook.

It's clear that judgement-loving passion is a prominent badge of identity for many in the OBeeR movement. Apparently judgment is also an essential element in the missional strategy. Judging others publicly is often touted as a necessary means of influencing  youth culture, and conversely, humility is deemed a "sin" to be repented of.

After all, in a culture where "experience" is everything, what could be a better lubricant for one's testimony than mocking a generation they don't understand?

Of course, judgement is by no means the only token of cultural savvy frequently associated with old-and-bored religion. All kinds of activities deemed vices by youth everywhere have been adopted as badges of Calvinist identity and thus "redeemed": academic pride, wrinkly skin, Uno, bickering, snobbery, and lots of awkward talk about how people never have sex.

Cast a disapproving eye at any of those activities, and you are likely to be swarmed by bored reformers denouncing humility and wanting to debate whether it’s a “sin” to divide the body of Christ. But without even raising the question of whether this or that specific activity is acceptable, indifferent, or out-and-out evil, we surely ought to be able to say that disunity and judgement amongst ourselves and other symbols of pagan society's seamy side are not what the church of Jesus Christ ought to wish to be known for. In fact, until fairly recently, no credible believer in the entire church age would ever have suggested that so many features evoking the ambiance of a bridge group or a cheerleader's slumber party could also be suitable insignia for the people of God.

It is puerile and irresponsible for any pastor to encourage the recreational use of pride-at-the-expense-of-others — especially in church-sponsored activities. The ravages of pride and egotism in our culture are too well known, and no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or more oppressive than self-righteousness. I have ministered to hundreds of people over the years who have realized their good works cannot save them. Many of them wage a daily battle with fleshly desires made a thousand times more potent because of the church's acceptance of hubris. The second to last thing I would ever want to do is be the cause of stumbling for one of them (the absolute last thing I would ever want to do is imbibe that devil-juice known as beer).

Besides, deliberately cultivating an appetite for pridefulness or a reputation for loving myself is not merely bad missional strategy and a bad testimony; it is fraught with deadly spiritual dangers. The damage is clearly evident in places where the strategy has been touted. Bob McDinkinson, who helped pioneer “Theology Doesn't Need A Savior, Just Division Over Secondary Issues,” acknowledges the gravity of the problem:
As I coach and mentor church planters and pastors, I am shocked at the number of them who are either already convinced or headed toward thinking they've got it all together. Increasingly, the same is true works-righteousness. One pastor I know could not relax without first mentally putting others down during and after work and could not sleep without the aid of counting crippled sheep. [Thick Book (Fancy-Reformers, 2009), 511117 (we read really long books)]
In biblical times, self righteousness was necessary for health reasons. The risk of humility in public places could be significantly reduced by walking around next to someone who dressed worse and talked slower than you. The result was an overly optimistic view of one's own opinions and self-image. Weblogs and international fame make the need for private self-righteousness unnecessary today.

Contrary to the current mythology, humility is no sin — least of all for someone devoted to ministry (Leviticus 26:41 ; Proverbs 15:33; Luke 14:11). It is, of course, a sin to give one’s mind over to thinking our own good reputation is sufficient unto salvation. As a matter of fact, judgement and division are the very antithesis of Spirit-filled sanctification (1 Corinthians 3:17)—and men who indulge in them are not qualified to be spiritual leaders.

Yes, I realize Jesus Himself was referred to by His enemies as "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 11:19). But He was none of the things that expression implied—nor did He seek such a reputation.

He was indeed "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" in the sense that He specialized in lifting them up out of the miry clay and setting their feet on a rock. But He did not adopt or encourage their lifestyle. He did not embrace their values or employ put-downs borrowed from their vocabulary in order to win their admiration or gain membership in their fraternity. He confronted their wickedness and rebuked their sins as boldly as He preached against the errors of the Pharisees (Matthew 18:7-9).

Note, too, that He ate and drank with Pharisees (Luke 7:36) as readily as He ate and drank with publicans. His disciples were young, restless, and regularly indulged in wine. The only significant difference was that the typical tax collector was more inclined to confess his own desperate need for divine forgiveness than the average self-righteous Pharisee (Mark 2:16-17; Luke 18:1-14).

But there is no suggestion in Scripture that Jesus purposely assumed the look and lifestyle of a publican in order to gain acceptance in a godless subculture. He didn't.

This tendency to emblazon oneself with symbols of carnal self-sufficiency as if they were valid badges of spiritual maturity is one of the more troubling aspects of the OBeeR movement's trademark boredom. It is wrong-headed, carnal, and immature to imagine that stereotypical old-woman behavior makes good missional strategy. The image of judgement-casting old dudes does nothing to advance the cause of Christ's kingdom.

Slapping the label “incarnational” on strategies such as this doesn’t alter their true nature. They have more in common with the Pharisees, who looked down on everyone else as unholy, than with Jesus, who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26).

Real Christian maturity is not about flouting perceived superior righteousness and offending other believers. The maturity in which we stand begins with full indemnity from the law's threats and condemnation—meaning we are at peace with God (Romans 5:1; 8:1). An understanding of Christian maturity also removes the restrictions of the law's ceremonial commandments (Colossians 2:16-17)—freeing us from asceticism, superstition, sensuality, and "human precepts and teachings" (vv. 18-23) — making us more like Christ.

But conscious humility and maturity are virtues commanded and commended by Scripture; these are not manmade rules or legalistic standards. As a matter of fact, one of the main qualifications for both deacons and elders in the church is that they cannot be arrogant. In other words, they are to be known for their humility, not for their judgement of others or self-righteousness.

It should not take a doctor of divinity to notice that Scripture consistently celebrates virtues such as self-control, sober-mindedness (which includes a healthy perspective of ourselves), purity of heart, the restraint of our fleshly lusts, humility, and similar fruits of the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work in our lives. Surely these are what we ought hold in highest esteem, model in our daily lives, and honor on our websites, rather than trying so hard to impress the world with touting our superiority, encouraging the very things that hold so many believers in bondage.


Please note this post is written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It is a response to/rewrite of/mockery of John McArthur's recent post Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty.


I do not know John McArthur nor do I know much about him. However I do know some who have been positively influenced by him and therefore have no reason to believe he deserves anything other than respect. Outside of this blog post, of course.

Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours

I'm reading this book by Roland Allen because someone, somewhere, in an article once mentioned it. And I really wish I could remember where so I could link to it.

So — old dead fogies who lived a hundred years ago are not all boring idiots/stiffs. Exhibit A:
There is yet another and a more weighty reason: St. Paul's method is not in harmony with the modern Western spirit. We modern teachers from the West are by nature and by training persons of restless activity and boundless self-confidence. We are accustomed to assume an attitude of superiority towards all Eastern peoples, and to point to our material progress as the justification of our attitude. We are accustomed to do things ourselves for ourselves, to find our own way, to rely upon our own exertions, and we naturally tend to be impatient with others who are less restless and less self-assertive than we are. We are accustomed by long usage to an elaborate system of church organization, and a peculiar code of morality. We cannot imagine any Christianity worthy of the name existing without the elaborate machinery which we have invented. We naturally expect our converts to adopt from us not only essentials but accidentals. We desire to impart not only the Gospel, but the Law and the Customs. With that spirit, St. Paul's methods do not agree, because they were the natural outcome of quite another spirit, the spirit which preferred persuasion to authority. St. Paul distrusted elaborate systems of religious ceremonial, and grasped fundamental principles with an unhesitating faith in the power of the Holy Ghost to apply them to his hearers and to work out their appropriate external expressions in them. (Emphasis mine).
Whew.

But seriously though, epic.

Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty ➙

I had to link to this, not least because in it John McArthur linked to my previous post on beer, but also because the argument is amusing.

Yes alcoholism is a problem, and not a small one. But in my opinion Christians tend towards legalism more than overly practicing their liberty. Talking about beer, tobacco, or whatever isn't sinful, or even weird. Neither is abstinence.

But an old guy calling me "Young, Restless, and Reformed", thats weird. I resent all three.

Why we must fire boring teachers and preachers ➙

So, elders should make sure they fire consistently boring teachers and preachers (making providence, for example, as dull as ditch water is false teaching as sure as open theism is); and congregations should connect their acts of praise and worship to the declaration of God's wonderful acts about which they hear from the pulpit.
And to think people have long used 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 to argue that by speaking passionately you're taking away from the gospel.

Stop Doing Stupid S*** (Back to the Basics) ➙

I recently read this spectacular article and I've been thinking about it ever since. The title is really more an attention grabber than anything (and if cursing is overwhelmingly offensive to you then don't click through), it really should be titled, "Getting Back to the Basics."
Learning how to reflexively avoid stupidity is a key ingredient to attaining great heights with any skill. It's amazing how many hours you can piss away trying add new and interesting techniques to your repertoire before you've really mopped up the basics.
I've thought about this in light of my running. Since switching to barefoot running I have re-learned how to run and now I can run much further without getting tired, which makes me enjoy running more. I also no longer breathe as intensely as I used to, which is incredibly relaxing. Re-learning the basics has made me a much better runner.

So naturally I started to wonder what it meant to get back to the basics as a missionary. It occurred to me how much I read about missionary methodology, or church planting, or whatever. But a few months of great teaching on the Pauline Epistles had a dramatic effect on the way I thought about and did ministry. Really learning the Bible is the minister's equivalent to the pianist's scales. Knowing the word is the equivalent to the runner's knowing how to run. The Bible is my basics.

And it's a shame to me to have done ministry so long and have such a sad grasp of the basics.

via Rands

A Working Microwave


When you introduce someone to the offer Jesus made you're not offering something better in the sense of "this microwave is better than that one." Which is how many in our postmodern world feel. They think you're arrogantly saying Christianity is better. But that's not what you're saying. Because in such an illustration either microwave may indeed work, the only difference is one is superior in the number of features, or the speed of cook time, or cost to take home.

With Jesus it's completely different because nothing else works. Nothing else is even remotely comparable.

Or to carry out the analogy, nothing else can even begin to heat up food. Everything else you put the food in to poisons and kills you.

Is God Good? (Part Four: Why Didn't Jesus Abolish Slavery?) ➙

A few weeks ago I subscribed to this blog in my RSS reader and I've been really enjoying it. For the most part it's very well-written book reviews about books of which I'd probably only read %50, but nonetheless it's been interesting.

This link points to a concise series on the goodness of God. Here's a sample:
How can we transform a corrupt and wicked system? Can we do it by forcing people to follow set rules and patterns? This almost never works. I don’t think many people would advocate slavery as an ethical system irregardless of their views on slavery for productivity or economical reasons. Yet, various forms of slavery have and do exist. It seems such tendencies of selfishness and ownership go hand in hand with human nature. And if this is the case–if slavery is a manifestation of unethical thoughts and desires within certain people–then the solution is to change those thoughts and desires. Would it be possible to transform the hearts of the masters to such an extent that they willingly set their slaves free? If so, this would be more efficient than forcing abolition.

Church Shopping

I hear a complaint frequently about the flakiness of church goers. Mostly it comes from the leadership of churches when they have people come in and out of their congregation while "church shopping." I'm not sure who coined this term, but the church goer sees it as a necessary thing to find a church which suits them, and the pastors see it as a bad/sinful thing motivated from unbiblical American consumerism. Afterall, the church isn't about what the individual can get from the church, they'll say, but rather what the individual can give to the church.

But maybe it's not that people are wrong in their search, but that they're searching endlessly because nothing good actually exists. We inherently know we are not getting enough from church and that that is bad. Sure we need to give, but a church that does not feed its' sheep must have something wrong, right? At least this is our gut feeling. So we look elsewhere, continuing our hunt for a church which somehow brings a community we instinctually know we need. But in America it's hard to find.

Is the issue our pulpits and rows of pews/chairs?

Were we created for community we're not getting from big church? I did just write a post about the unity we should experience in Christ. Sadly the experience of most of us in big church is anonymity rather than unity.

It seems like the teaching is great, but apparently teaching is not sustaining us. Whether you're preaching exegetically or topically might not matter if it's still just teaching. But the churches keep complaining something is wrong with the people because the church is so certain about the way it's doing things it can't possibly be something wrong with themselves — can it?.

But where is the Biblical model for their lectures from the front? Where in the New Testament is the word "pulpit" used? Or instruction to Timothy for picking out one with just the right oak? And yet seminary grads cite their desire to preach from the pulpit as their reason for pursuing the pastorate.

Also I wonder what role lecture played in the life of the shepherd with his sheep. Was it an essential part of his raising the sheep into healthy adults? Did a lecture lead the sheep where they were supposed to go? Or did the shepherd lead by walking where he wanted his sheep to go?

Does preaching from the front effectively lead us to Christ? Or are people "church shopping" because they instinctually know it is not?

Scripture as the Basis for Truth ➙

Video where Don Carson, John Piper, Tim Keller sit around in a very uncomfortable circle and discuss scriptural authority in relativistic times. The discussion is great, although Piper is almost awkward.

It's interesting because just today when working on an analysis of 2 Timothy for a seminary class I wrote in my Bible the following summary of the book:
1. There are foolish people who choose no standard for truth.
2. Scripture is breathed out by God. It is truth (the standard).
3. Preach scripture.
Interesting this book was written nearly 2,000 years ago, and the message is so very apt in our day.

Driscoll Can Tell You What it Really Says ➙

Regarding Mark Driscoll’s preaching style Matthew R. Malcom says:
In the excerpts of his sermon on Song of Solomon available here, I keep getting the sense that he’s trying to explain what the Bible “really” means – if only God had thought to just talk straight.
This never occurred to me but many, many of the sermons I’ve heard in my life were taught this way.

via The Elaborated

Corinthian Elders by Jack Fortenberry

Recently I was contacted by a man named Jack Fortenberry and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing his book Corinthian Elders. As a general rule, free books are good. And this was sent in response to my post recently about ecclesiology.

The book is interesting because it’s such a departure from the way so many people think. For instance:
“The church meeting prescribed by Paul was very different from what many believers experience in churches across the United States. Whereas contemporary church services are usually led by one or two professionally trained pastors or elders with a scripted program of hymns, prayers and a sermon, I Corinthians 14:26-31 describes interactive meetings of believers with no professional speaker, no script and many sermons by both new and old believers. Everyone was encouraged to participate without emphasizing any gifts over others.”
Or elsewhere:
“For the church to present one or a few preachers to a passive audience who attend services because they enjoy the sermons or preaching style is a violation of Paul’s commandment to the Corinthians when he redirected them from men to Christ. Why do we persist in disregarding this commandment? Do we know better than Paul?”
I appreciate that the writing style is a little in-your-face unapologetic, but there certainly are things in the book with which I disagree. As usual I’ll let you decide for yourself, but the book is not overwhelmingly long (about 85 pages) so it wont take too much of your time. I suggest it for those chewing on why they can attend church so faithfully, enjoy the teaching/preaching, and yet still feel like they get next to nothing out of it. Perhaps our system is broken. Dependance on a “leader” from the front, as opposed to a system of interaction and community (with Christ as the head) may be the primary cause of our frustration with the way church is run in America.

Then again. Maybe you have no problem with the way things are being run.

A Plea for Unity

I’ve been dwelling a lot on the concept of church unity lately since finishing my most recent seminary class on the Pauline epistles. Paul talks about unity a lot. But sadly it’s not something I’ve paid a lot of attention to. I suppose we all know we’re supposed to be unified, but probably in the same way we all know we’re supposed to drive under the speed limit. Unity just feels inconvenient, and nobody is doing it anyways.

The first scripture on unity I want to look at is in Ephesians 3:6. This is about the mystery of the gospel. I’ve always heard that the mystery of the gospel is that the gentiles are fellow heirs. And I suppose that is nearly an acceptable reading of the passage. The reason to read it otherwise is that everyone already knew the gentiles were brought in. Therefore the mystery Paul speaks about in this passage isn’t the fact that they were saved, but rather the fact of how they were saved.
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
The “how” is “in Christ Jesus.” The gentiles are fellow heirs because they are one in Christ with the Jews. The whole of chapter 2:11-22 expounds this. See the “in Christ Jesus” of 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Also note verse 21 talks about how being joined together we (with Christ) grow into a holy temple in the Lord. This brings me to my second point.

I have read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 many times and never understood something fundamental. First of all look at the verse:
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
If you’re like me you’ve read this verse a million times and thought, “Yea, I am the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in me. Cool.” But that’s not what this says. Unfortunately our English Bibles are incredibly unclear on this. In other languages it sticks out like a sore thumb that this “you” is plural. My ESV simply notes this in a footnote I’ve never read.

Paul is literally saying that we (as in together) are God’s temple. And then verse 17 tells us that when we destroy God’s temple God will destroy us. When we divide as the church we are literally destroying the temple of God because we corporately are the temple of God.

The mystery of our salvation is related to our being united with other Christians in Christ. I have to then conclude that there is something fundamental about our Christianity which requires unity. I have to imagine this is part of the reason for the Lord’s supper. After all Paul tells us “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

If you take the Lord’s supper and you don’t discern, remember, recognize, the body of Christ (the church!) in which we are unified, then you are eating and drinking judgment on yourself.

There is something about unity which is outrageously fundamental to Christianity. And if we’re not seeking unity, praying for unity, or at least praying for our fellow brothers and sisters then I’m arguing that we’re missing our Christianity. We can not forget that we are Christians because of Christ. We cannot be Christians unless we are in Christ.

Finally, what if Galatians 3:28 read, “There is neither Pentecostal nor Calvinist, there is neither Baptist nor Wesleyan, there is no Episcopal and Lutheran, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”?

Unity. I plea. Unity. If you don’t see it in the Word, then you aren’t reading it. If you don’t recognize it as essential to who we are — change.

Unity. I plea. Unity.

Thoughts on Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne

I've been reading Larry Osborne's Spirituality for the Rest of Us and now that I'm nearly done with it I believe I can suggest it with some confidence. A friend of mine suggested the book to me in April and I just now got around to reading it. There are a few things I disagree with in it, but on the whole I've been very impressed. Here are a few selections. First on spiritual growth he says:
Contrary to what so many of us have been led to believe with sermon illustrations and Sunday school stories, the greatest sign of God's work in our life is not a pattern of rugged self-denial and dig-deep obedience. It's wanting what God wants — then going out and doing it.
Then regarding what he calls "Gift Projection" he says:
Gift Projection takes place whenever we begin to project our own unique gifts and calling upon everyone else, as if our assignment should be their assignment, and our strengths their strengths. At its core, it's an arrogant assumption that my calling is the highest calling, and my gifts are the best gifts.I call it chocolate-covered arrogance because on the surface it often looks like nothing more than a sincere desire and passion to carry out God's agenda. In fact, gift projectors never see it as arrogance. They think they're humbly helping God out by fervently recruiting others to a vital task.

But It's arrogance nonetheless. And God's not too hip on arrogance, even if it's chocolate coated.
. . .
God-pleasing spirituality is found in pleasing him — not everyone else.
The last thing I'll share is from a chapter titled "Why Results Don't Matter." This was challenging to me because I think about results a lot. But Osborne says,
Faith and obedience always matter.
Results don't.
In this section he basically argues that success in your job or ministry is no sign that God is necessarily pleased with you. The only thing that matters is faith and obedience. What is difficult about this is my strong desire to see results. And he's arguing that the Lord will not necessarily give results. Even if you do everything right. Even if you share the gospel with more people than anyone and that is exactly what the Lord wants you do, it doesn't necessarily mean you will see any converts.

I've been tossing around the idea of a PhD in missiology and I'm just about to apply. But gosh, if my thesis proposal is to research missionary methods which are working best in certain places I may just be researching the methods which have yielded results and end up completely missing the missionaries who are fully in the will of God. I'd hate to walk away from years of research thinking I had found out what is best to emulate when in fact there is no correlation. I wonder if the school would accept a thesis proposal on missionaries who the have seen zero fruit for years, but are still trusting the Lord in all they do (faith) and obediently doing what they think they're supposed to despite not seeing fruit.

Updates

If you decide to move overseas be advised that flying home for furlough sucks. Unless you live in Mexico, then I suppose it wouldn't be too awful. Our three flights nearly killed us. They would be fine I suppose if we didn't have small children. Then the free flowing wine and beer would have made up for the pain of the flight. But alas.

Also, American food is way better than I remember. Specifically the beer. My first beer after arriving home was a Fat Tire (I'm from Ft. Collins very near to New Belgium) and I think I commented after every sip about how amazing this was. Yes — I home-brew, no — my beer is not as good as Fat Tire.

Finally, America has gotten stinkin' expensive. Wow. And Wow.

That is all.

Stetzer on Disciple Making and The Elephant in the Room ➙

Let me be frank. The elephant in evangelicalism is this: We have focused our energies on our corporate worship gatherings, sermons, and organization— while we have struggled to produce disciples. If the central command of the Great Commission is to make disciples, and your church’s philosophy of ministry revolves around marketing, facilities, and programs, you have missed the point. You must have a plan for discipleship if you want to be missional.
When an elephant is in the room it means everyone recognizes there is a big problem, but no one wants to talk about it. I would argue most people don't even recognize there is a problem.

Why Leaders Lose Their Way ➙

Before anyone takes on a leadership role, they should ask themselves, "Why do I want to lead?" and "What's the purpose of my leadership?" These questions are simple to ask, but finding the real answers may take decades. If the honest answers are power, prestige, and money, leaders are at risk of relying on external gratification for fulfillment. There is nothing wrong with desiring these outward symbols as long as they are combined with a deeper desire to serve something greater than oneself.
No, leaders lose their way because even the Christians believe this statement to be true.
(via Todd Singletary)

What is Church? (Thoughts on Ecclesiology)

The following is an edited version of email I received recently from my father. My team spends a good bit of time with church leaders and this came from a discussion with my Dad about ecclesiology. My father worked for 25 years and was involved in the church as a layman. Two years shy of full retirement he felt called to full time ministry and left his job to go work at a big church. There were some wonderful things that happened there and some terrible things. After finishing his time at that church he started a number of house churches as he was sorting through what he believed church should look like. Later he raised support and moved to a closed country to serve as a missionary. I respect my father greatly and thus reproduce this here. That said, we don't agree on everything stated here, but I'll leave that to you to sort through. The email has been edited so as to hide some of the background and his and my location in this world.

Discussions like these can be really problematic because we sometimes start from such fundamentally different places. The Bible is rather silent about how church operated in the first century. So there is a lot of room for different ideas from an academic starting point. We have a few verses at the end of Acts 2 which could be argued only apply to that special time and then we have 1 Cor 14:26 and maybe a few hints in other places. We have some information from early church history which can be useful. But, it is very disappointing to see how quickly the church structure degenerated as early as the end of the second century.

From my experiences, I have found that my biblical foundation has changed. I want to give you my perspective biblically first. As part of that I will add many ideas from my experiences. That will put my comments in perspective. If you read all of this I suspect you will see that I have a fundamentally different idea of church as compared to the normal big church in America. So, I will build the foundation, then I will speak very directly to the issues you raise.

1. Paul's list of gifts needed for the building up of the church. We started in very traditional church systems. Later we became involved in churches based on a Kingdom of God theological system. The best thing about this last church system was that we began to experience the traditional gifts that are listed by Paul in four locations: Rom 12, 1 Cor 12 (two lists) and Eph 4. We became elders with some freedom to "eld." We experienced all of the gifts listed. We learned that these gifts really are needed for the building up of the church. Paul actually knew what he was talking about. I provided the 4 lists of gifts below.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. - Rom 12:6-8

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. - 1 Co 12:7-11

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts... - 1 Co 12:28-31

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. -Eph 4:11-14
2. And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God...” - Luk 16:15

This verse was about money and the Pharisees. But, I think it applies to much in life. From my experience working in the church and in the world, whenever we make the things "exalted among men" important in our lives, we have a problem. We often are focusing on something that is "an abomination in the sight of God." So, when I see the church highly valuing money, a well known personality, popularized music and the musician, I get uncomfortable for those who follow the personality and especially for for the person who has made himself a personality.

3. Those who become important and popular and have many followers live in a questionable place. The apostle Paul called the Corinthian elders to account in 1 Cor 4 for becoming important--almost like kings. Whereas he was an unimportant apostle. These verses make it very clear that those who are like kings--and are considered "wise," "strong" and "in honor"--live in a place that Paul considers very questionable. Many people hold one popular pastor or another in a high place of honor. Usually, he is well known, often rich from his books and the leader of a large organization. All of these things make me nervous and should make him nervous if he is willing to listen to Paul. Finally, Paul says to imitate him. Paul had a big vision for the unreached and he gave his life away for it. He did not get rich or important in a worldly way. He went from place to place establishing churches and setting up elders to minister there. We have people like that in the world today. People like Paul. People we should be imitating. But they are like Paul at the end of the line. We do not know them. They are not famous like our pastors.
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. - 1Co 4:8-16
4. In that same chapter Paul says:
That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? - 1Co 4:17-21
Paul sent Timothy to "remind you of my ways." That which we are to imitate. Then he confronts the arrogant among them and their talk. He goes on to say "kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power." Most of our big name pastors are all about talk. They would not even know what to do with the verse about power. It is not what made them famous. On the other hand, the unknown church planter in the back country of Asia has experienced lots of power. But, we ignore him and listen to our teachers. Americans give immense amounts of money to these teachers and their projects/buildings. These teachers need to be very fearful before God for how they taught their thousands and how they used their money. They have not imitated Paul. They have imitated the Corinthian elders.

5. "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. " - Jas 3:1

This verse is serious. And the rest of the chapter says some very strong things about our tongues. If you are the leader of a big church you need to be very concerned about what you teach. The problem is, every church in which I have worked or studied, got to be that way through a big vision. A big vision that they talked about almost every week. This vision is always talked about as something given by God. But, there is a problem with vision like that. Paul had a big vision for the non-Jewish world. But, his vision did not gather people to him or his organization. He went from place to place giving his life away and setting up elders in new churches. I cannot find any vision in the New Testament that gathers people to one personality or organization. I am now convinced that every one of these visions is NOT from God. Instead, it is self serving to build an organization. Big vision is something highly valued by business and the world. In the church it might very well be an "abomination." Read the article about institutionalizing missional narcissism.

6. Organizations are a very questionable entity biblically. There is a famous secular quote from Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
I have watched pastors whom I know well. They know something is fundamentally wrong with what they are doing. But, they cannot imagine changing it. They are secure in their important position. It is not their calling. But it feels good most of the time. It is really hard to think outside of their position because their salary and prestige is based on the organization that they have built. The big church is built on big organization and there are concepts even in the secular world recognizing that organizations do things that are not good. One is that "organizations persist." They are self perpetuating. Big church like other big organizations is inherently self perpetuating. That is not good if it is time for God to do something else. We are proud of our big organizations. Instead, we should be scared because we often confuse our sense of direction from God with what is good for the organization and the two are rarely related in my experience.

I cannot find support for an organization in the New Testament. Secular entities are concerned with how organizations operate. We should especially be concerned about the church organizations. I shudder when I read the line in the article on missional narcissism: "...many folks in the church become collateral damage." From our experience, we had to go around and apologize to people because they were collateral damage of our big system. I am still concerned about all the people that I forgot and therefore was not able to apologize and for all those that I did not realize I had damaged. I am also floored by the authors insight that churches like that are: "highly valuing an entrepreneurial style of leadership that shoots down contrary opinions and gathers “yes people” who are “celebrated as team players.” In our experience, we got rid of every person who was not a yes person. That is some of our collateral damage. This is the way that businesses operate. Not the way a church is supposed to operate (see Matt 18 comments below). Churches like this never have any prophets operating there. See below on leadership.

7. Right now in America, big church is all about leadership. There are teachers out there that are teaching everyone that it is the most important gift in the church. It is listed in the New Testament, but only once and it is not an important one. Leadership is a secular thing, very important in business, the ways of the world. We have teachers in America teaching that the church should have better leaders than business. But, Paul said we need Apostles, prophets, evangelists and elders, etc. And he said that we should all seek to have the most important gifts such as prophesy. Not leadership!

Great leadership can build large organizations, but cannot build effective Christians. For that you need apostles, prophets, elders etc. I think Paul said something like: all these are needed "for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11). No wonder the modern church is a disaster. We only have leaders. We are missing the ones actually needed. We have churches full of people "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Eph 4:14). This is especially true if you suspect—as I do—that the vision of most churches is actually not from God, but from human cunning. In fact, the idea of a vision is an idea of big business. As long as "Leaders" are our prophets, the church is in big trouble and the Leaders are in big trouble with God. The things highly valued by the world are indeed an abomination to God (Luke 16:15).

8. There are some interesting verses in Matt 18 that I listed below. One problem in a big church organization is that the senior pastor/personality is very powerful. He usually decides who gets which task, determines salaries, hires new pastors and fires pastors and other staff people. The Matthew verses say that if your brother sins against you that there is a process for correcting that issue. In my experience, these verses can never be followed in a system with a strong senior pastor. Anyone that confronts him will be set aside and ultimately fired. Therefore, there is very little confrontation of the senior pastor and no prophet would ever by able to operate in the church.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. - Mat 18:15-17
9. In the early church there were very few large gatherings. People almost always met in homes. There are only a few larger meetings mentioned and they were not typical church meetings. They were special teachings by Paul or evangelistic meetings. Elders taught people in the church in small groups. They probably used teaching along with lots of interaction to learn scripture, deal with sin and explore the gifting of the group. We miss-understand the gift of teaching when we think a famous teacher has that gift. In the early church the teaching was in small groups. The teacher needed to teach, listen, minister in power, and raise up elders. He was unpaid and needed as much help as he could get especially if he was going to plant more churches. The biblical gift is about growing people up in their faith and involves a lot more interaction than just preaching. It is about a small group and a lot of interaction. It is well known that preaching does not grow up people. Those of us who grew up in a church system based on preaching matured because of our dogged efforts to get in relationship with others and learn side-by-side. We might learn some head things in church, but we changed and grew up in relationships. Sunday was just the hoop to get through to get to the important stuff. Preaching takes up 70-80% of the church resources on something that is not growing up the church. However, it often grows a big crowd.

The idea of an elder is much deeper than a teacher. In a small informal environment when someone unhealthy or deep in sin comes, they often disrupt the meeting. In a big church they just sit and then leave. In the small meeting the people get to watch the elder, "eld" these people. He must call them to account, deal with their issues, pray for them in the meeting and work in conjunction with the other elders and gifted people in the church to resolve the issue in the moment. Everyone learns and many more are developed as elders. Sin/unhealthiness gets dealt with appropriately. The learners see a healthy model of working together in our gifting, praying and confronting. They see discussion based learning from a leader of some depth and accountability. Not just words from a personality at the front.

In addition, in the small, informal environment the gifts in Paul's lists can operate. People can pray, give words of knowledge, prophesy, discern spirits, teach and even give tongues and interpretations. None of this can happen in a large gathering or even a small formal gathering. We did all of these things in our small churches.

10. My understanding of big church systems comes from my experience as a elder in two large churches, my time as a pastor in one large church and my interviews with staff people from other churches such as Hybel's church. It may be possible that some large church is run differently from my experience, but I have not yet found one.

The above was written as a foundation to answer the questions he was specifically asked. The following is the answers to those questions.

First about Paul exhorting Timothy to preach. The real issue here is what does the word "preach" mean. I would be very surprised if it meant what we see on a typical Sunday morning in America. I think it meant one thing in an evangelistic meeting. Probably very much direct speaking without too much interaction. I think it meant something very Jewish in the context of church. It meant, teach and interact, answer hard questions, confront miss-understandings, teach some more, confront a demon, pray, listen to someone prophesy and then help the prophet to understand his gifting and help the people understand/judge the prophesy. These are exactly the kinds of things we did in our house churches.

Second, about “long teaching.” I think there is a place for in-depth teaching. I just do not think it takes the place of a real, biblical church service. I think 1 Cor 14:26 describes a much more useful church meeting: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” So, extended teaching is fine. But it is not a substitute for real church. Why would we look for excuses to continue doing the unbiblical thing while we do not do the biblical thing? Extended teaching might be biblical and useful outside of the normal church meeting.

Third, about church that is small or big. I really think the issue is more about formal verses informal. A big church, say 100-20,000 people is inherently formal. You can make a church of 20 very formal as well. I think the 3000 and 5000 that got saved in the big evangelistic meetings quickly were moved to small churches in homes. I would guess that those new believers that failed to get to those small churches quickly lost their connect to their new faith.

Usually, large churches plant new churches that look just like the first one. So, if the first one is built around one personality, the second leader will need to build his church around his personality or he will be considered a failure. I think the worst thing that can happen to a believer is to be in a church led by a “major league player.” First, I do not see them in the new testament. There are no churches led by big names except the gnostics and the Corinthian church that Paul confronts in 1 Cor 4. It was not considered a good thing to have a big name person or important person. The important people did ministry and traveled from city to city. Second, the church is supposed to be about the gifting of all the people, not the teaching gifting of one “major league player.” I think this idea is another idea highly valued by the world and is possibly an abomination to God.

Fourth, on church planting being disruptive, our experience with small house churches is that everyone is having fun together so they want to stay together. On the other hand it eventually gets too large and some elders need to leave and start another church. We stay in relationship as elders and this makes it easier for them to go out. It is a little disruptive, but more than workable. It is really fun to encourage as many people as possible to go with the new church.

As for certain pastors being able to teach a “challenging message” I think there are many people with challenging messages. I know prophetic people who can speak challenging messages directly to the heart of a mature Christian and encourage him to go even further in his ministry. I have seen people confront sin and demons and false prophets. These people are my heroes. In spite of their gifting no one knows them. They are not famous because they do not have a pulpit in front of thousands of people. Thank God for that. I am sure it would ruin them and we would no longer be able to trust their gifting. I like those at the “end of the procession”—those like Paul.

Sixth, about a really large church that remains biblically faithful, I have never seen one. But, as you can see from the above, I have an entirely different idea of what defines a church. I do not know what to do with the big church. After the reformation, the Catholic church did not go away. It pretty much kept going its own way. Many years later the protestant church finally impacted its ideas. I think the same will happen with the big church. Many people will leave and find alternatives. But, like the Catholic Church, it has a big organization and organizations persist.

I hope you find this helpful. If you disagree with me, that is fine. I got here the hard way. Here in [redacted] we have a saying about people who "[redacted]." Literally, it means someone who has eaten lots of sour and salt. It means, someone who has already had lots of experiences, both good and bad.

In my years in the church I spent way too much time listening to famous teachers and following “leaders” instead of real elders. My wife and I paid a big price for my foolishness.