The spiritual discipline of sleep by Dr. D.A. Carson http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/04/28/the-spiritual-discipline-of-sleep/
Reflections on the life of Isaac Newton by Dr. John Piper http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/reflections-on-the-life-of-isaac-newton
Some Personal Musings on Christian Service by Dr. Fred Zaspel http://www.credomag.com/2012/04/25/some-personal-musings-on-christian-service/
A lot has been written and said about the millennial generation in the church. Though the exact parameters are vague, millennials are generally thought to have been born somewhere between 1980-1999. Essentially we’re talking about the new generation of Christian leaders, at or around 30 years old. I was born in 1978, so I may or may not be millenial :).
We are a generation characterized by action, by activism, by new resurgent interests in orthodoxy and theology. In many ways, it’s a great time for the church. But with every movement comes pitfalls and cautions. And so as a young leader, I just wanted to offer five words leaders in my generation may want to consider:
Humility. As young leaders, are often infused with great confidence and conviction. “Let’s go change the world.” This is a good instinct, but we must guard against a sort of generational pride. This is the idea that we are God’s answer to the world’s problems. Young change agents tend to resist advice or rebuke. We tend to think we know more than previous generations. But I’m reminded of the Scripture that says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This verse is repeated three times (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) in the Scriptures–for a reason. Pride must be put to death daily. I find it instructive that Peter repeats this instruction in his book. As a wise older man, he’s likely reflecting on his younger days as a brash, young, disciple of Jesus. “Don’t be like that,” I sense him saying. We’d be wise to embrace humility in all of our boldness.
Dependence. I have a wise elder in my church who reminds me often of the increasing frailty of age. He’s fond of telling me how much energy and how hard he worked in his younger years, but now that he’s older, he realizes how dependent He is on God. When we are young, we don’t often think we need God. We’re healthy, we’re gifted. We might even convince ourselves that God is really fortunate to have us on His team. But discipleship begins with a childlike dependence on God. And I think we lead God’s people better when we acknowledge that it is His power, not ours, that sustains God’s work.
Unity. As a young guy, I like to mix it up. I like to engage a good discussion on theology or politics or culture. This is good, but it can quickly descend into useless and unfruitful arguments. I see this tendency among the young Christian bloggers (including myself). We get a rise out of “calling out” some Christian leader or movement. We pride ourselves on the supposed “courage” of being disagreeable. But we have to ask ourselves a penetrating personal question. Are we writing that blog post to get more clicks or to genuinely edify the body of Christ? Are you trying to make a name for ourselves by opposing someone famous? Most importantly, is our contribution to the discussion building up or tearing down? We have to genuinely examine our hearts for motives. Sometimes I think many of the conservative bloggers–guys I regularly read, whose ministries I admire–feel they have to be in a constantly critical mode. There’s always an angle to wedge in a disagreement. I’m all for thoughtful discussion and engagement, but let’s make sure our efforts are always toward building up, loving, and promoting unity among God’s people. Let’s not be self-critical of the church just to be self-critical.
Truth A word to counterbalance this would be truth. Do we realize the precious truth we carry as followers of Jesus? Do we realize the value of the gospel? Do we understand that the message of the cross is one that is controversial, a message of stumbling, a message the world needs, but doesn’t want to hear. We should contextualize and adorn the gospel well with acts of service. We should rid ourselves of legalism that binds, of dead religion that alienates. But at the end of the day, we’re still left with a cross over which many will stumble. News flash: you can be as relevant and sexy and contemporary in your approach to church and still Jesus message will offend. You can change your hairstyle, wear skinny jeans, grab a guitar–and still the cross will be offensive. You can host art galleries, open a food bank, and even apologize for all the church’s past abuses–and still folks won’t like hearing they like sinners in need of the Savior. I’m not saying we should abandon all of these attempts to speak to the culture, but let’s not forget the message we carry, the truth, is both precious and divisive. Let’s steward it well.
Faithful Does our generation discuss faithfulness? It’s not a buzz word. It won’t headline any conferences. But what the world needs more than new ideas and new paradigms is the steady, faithful, obedience to Christ. By faithfulness I mean faithful attendance in your local church, faithful shepherding of your family, faithful adherence to the disciplines of Scripture and prayer and sacraments. Let’s be faithful in the little, seemingly inconsequential areas of our lives. Let’s not be so in search of new movements and ideas that we forget the unspectacular ordinary things God wants us to do every day. Let’s be more concerned with actually evangelizing now than finding the latest and greatest tool or the most perfect definition of the gospel. Let’s help stack chairs after the service rather than dream up the most clever blog post. Let’s volunteer for VBS or the nursery at the church you think is lightly outdated rather than fire off a lengthy email to the pastor telling him why you wish things were different. Every generation needs faithful leaders–ours is certainly no different.
Holiness. I love the rising emphasis in the evangelical church on grace as opposed to legalism, depravity as opposed to self-sufficiency. I like the emphasis among many to preach only the Word and not avoid raising preferential lists to the level of orthodoxy. Good, good, good. But, let’s not be pendulum swingers and abandon the Bible’s call to holiness. You can’t read the New Testament without seeing the verbs that call us to work, strive, effort toward Christ-likeness. Yes, it’s an effort soaked in grace and empowered by the Spirit. But there is still intentional human effort. Holiness matters to God. Let’s call folks to “come as they are” but remind them that the intention of the gospel is for them to not “stay as they are.” The gospel not only calls us out of something, it calls us to something. Israel wasn’t just freed from Egypt, they were called to the Promised Land. The gospel not only gets us to Heaven, it gives us a brand new identity and restores us to God’s original purpose-to glorify God by good works (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s preach, teach, and model that. Let’s pursue that. Let’s realize that perhaps the previous generation was aiming for this, even if we think they may been legalistic in their approach (a criticism our own children will level at us one day.)
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 4/22-4/28/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Sunday 4/22/2012- A Prompt Obedience a quoted shared by Aaron Armstrong: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/22/a-prompt-obedience/
Monday 4/23/2012- Blessed are the peacemakers by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/23/blessed-are-the-peacemakers/
Tuesday 4/24/2012- Headship, Chauvinism, Culture and Service Part 2 http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/24/headship-chauvinism-culture-and-service-pt-2/
Wed 4/25/2012- Book Review A Faith of our own Reviewed by Dan Darling: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/25/book-review-a-faith-of-our-own/
Thursday 4/26/2012- Meet the Skeptics Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/26/book-review-meet-the-skeptic-a-field-guide-to-faith-conversations/
Friday 4/27/2012- 5 leadership Lessons I’ve learned in 4 years by Dan Darling http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/27/5-leadership-lessons-ive-learned-in-4-years/
Saturday 4/28/2012- Book Review Gospel-Centered Discipleship Reviewed by Ricky Kirk http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/04/28/book-review-gospel-centered-discipleship/
Arousing ourselves to death: Porn is Ravaging our churches by Dr. Moore http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-03-003-e
Seven Ways to Pray for your prayer life by Tim Challies http://www.challies.com/resources/seven-ways-to-pray-for-your-prayer-life
A Call and and Agenda for Pastor Theologians by Dr. Sweeney http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/04/26/a-call-and-agenda-for-pastor-theologians/
We encourage you to check out the G3 conference coming in January 2013. We will be posting more information about this conference throughout the year, but for now encourage you to pray for the conference. The purpose of the G3 Conference is to exhort Christians to become grounded in sound doctrine and to be passionate missionaries for Christ. The purpose of the G3 Conference is to create a blaze in the hearts of those who attend – by the Word of God – to shake the neighborhoods and the nations with the gospel of King Jesus. Check out their website at http://www.g3conference.com/
Chuck Colson and Hope for the next generation by Dan Darling: http://www.danieldarling.com/2012/04/chuck-colson-and-hope-for-the-next-generation/
Would Jesus have a Facebook Page? By Dr. Michael Horton: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/04/26/would-jesus-have-a-facebook-page/
The Pastors Wife is simply a wife by Scott Thomas http://www.churchplanting.com/2012/04/22/the-pastors-wife-is-simply-a-wife/#axzz1tARalzTA
Lecrae’s ‘Man Up’ Mission to Address Father Absence by Justin Taylor http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/04/26/lecraes-man-up-mission-to-address-father-absence/
I’m nearing my fourth years as Senior Pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church, which means I’m just beginning. I’m still learning. John Maxwell need not fear. I won’t be dethroning him from the position of Leadership Guru anytime soon.
However, being on the job has taught me a few things about leadership, especially for young guys. Some of these lessons I’ve learned the hard way, others through the wise mentoring of older men. Here are five:
1) Young Leaders Must Resist the “push-off” model of ministry.
In their book, Sifted, Larry Osborne, Francis Chan, and Wayne Cordeiro talk about the tendency of young leaders to get their leadership energy by “pushing off” the perceived mistakes of other ministry models. They use the example of an Olympic Swimmer, who gains forward thrust by pushing off the pool wall. For leaders, it could be their legalistic, fundamentalist background that they despise, so every decision is made through the lens of how their parents or pastors or professors “got it wrong.” Or it could be the desire to be distinct in your community, so you’re going to sell yourself as the “only” version of your ministry in town. I’ve also seen the tendency to “pendulum-swing.” So if the staff culture you left was very lax, you’re tending to enforce a more rigid culture. Or if the staff culture you left was too rigid, you’re “the grace guy.”
The problem with a “push-off” model is that the forward thrust from the pool wall eventually loses energy. You need energy to sustain you in the race. I believe this must come from your own personal walk with the Lord and your own study. I have found that God may use a negative previous environment to push us toward something better, but ultimately our leadership must be based, not on what we don’t like elsewhere, but what God is teaching us in the present.
2) Young Leaders Need Old Guys
There is a fallacy in the world that younger is better. Young leaders have charisma, vision, energy. This is good and God uses this. But there is one vital component to leadership that we young guys lack: wisdom. Wisdom born from experience. And the only place to get this is by subordinating our ego and listening to older men. This means several things. First, we need to realize that we don’t have all the answers, that we are sometimes wrong, and that perhaps the previous generation had some wise and important things to say.
Young energetic leaders tend to think that the old guys are washed up, that they are out of touch with today’s generation. And maybe some of them are, but for the most part, older, experienced pastors are fonts of spiritual wisdom. Use them. I’ve made it a practice to cultivate relationships with some experienced pastors. Why? Because they know things I just don’t know. They now the Word. They’ve made difficult choices. They’ve wrestled with the discouragements and fears that come my way.
I think every young pastor should have at least one, if not two or three older pastors who are speaking into his life. He’s woefully under-equipped if he does not.
3) We Must Die to Our Messiah Complex
If you’re a young guy in ministry, somewhere along the line you felt you were the answer to what the world needs. Or at least the answer to what your church or your community needs. But the truth is that you are not the answer. Jesus is the answer and you and me are simply humble representatives. We may have gifts and talents, but those too were created and distributed by God.
And here’s what I’ve discovered: People sense when you have too high an opinion of yourself. It creates a frustrating and chaotic leadership environment. It shuts off your ability to listen, learn, grow, and apologize. The Scripture reminds us in many places that God “resists” the proud but “gives grace” to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 1:5). My friend, you and I need grace in our ministry. We don’t need God’s resistance.
The bottom line is that gospel ministry is a privilege, a stewardship. It was here long before we arrived on the planet and will be long after we are gone. I’ve learned that the sooner I get over myself, the easier and better it is for me to lead. You’ve got to die to yourself.
4) You are responsible for the culture you create
Someone once said that sons do in excess what fathers do in moderation. This is true in leadership. I recently preached through the book of James. What struck me as I studied James 3 is just how pointed this chapter is for Christian leaders. At the end of the chapter, James contrasts two different Christian cultures. One is characterized by chaos, dissension, fear, and strife. The other by peace, love, harmony, and joy. James is quick to remind us that the former is not a leadership culture that reflects Heaven, but earth. In other words, if you’re culture is constantly beset by strife, there is a leadership problem. Leaders set the tone. What we emphasize, what we celebrate, what gets us angry is what we are telling people we believe is most important.
I’ve seen this played out vividly. Faithful church members will act on those things we have told them are most important to God. So if we find that people our churches are overly legalistic, it’s not enough to say, “Well, that’s not what I meant or intended.” There’s a communication problem. They’re getting the wrong message. On the flipside, if we find people are casual about church or flippant about following God, it’s not enough to say, “People just don’t get it.” No, they do get it, we’re just delivering the wrong message.
I’m not saying a leader is responsible for every action of those who follow him. People make their own choices. But I am saying that the words we say, the emphases we make, the actions we model–have far greater impact than we realize.
5) You Must Put the Work In
There is no app, no download, no program that will enable us to circumvent hard work. Yes, we’re fueled by the Holy Spirit. Yes, our ministry is grace-driven. But God does not reward laziness. God honors hard work. This means we’ll have to study on some Saturdays when we’d rather be watching sports. We’ll have to travel to the hospital when we’d rather be reading a good book. This means we’ll need to get our hands dirty with some areas of ministry that are “not our gifting.” Good messages require lots of study and hard work. There is no shortcut. Discipleship requires time and effort and money and patience. A loving family means an investment of our best time and efforts. Prayer and Bible study require discipline.
The ministry requires late nights and sweat and toil. Paul said that he “worked harder than them all (1 Corinthians 15:10). I don’t think he was bragging, just letting people know that doing God’s work requires . . . work. It’s not evil. It’s not belittling. Work honors God. Pastors can be workaholics, but pastors can also be lazy. We must fight both tendencies.
Messy Discipleship by Gospel Centered Discipleship http://www.gospelcentereddiscipleship.com/messy-discipleship/
Heroes and Monsters: A Conversation with Josh James Riebock conducted by Trevin Wax: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/04/25/heroes-and-monsters-a-conversation-with-josh-james-riebock/
Gospel-Centered Spiritual Formation: The Triperspectival Framework by Timmy Brister http://timmybrister.com/2012/04/25/gospel-centered-spiritual-formation-the-triperspectival-framework/
The FAQs: Are Mormons Christian? by The Gospel Coalition http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/04/24/the-faqs-are-mormons-christian/
One of the greatest struggles for contemporary Christians is to understand how to connect what they believe to the lives of real people. When Christianity is talked about in contemporary culture it is very rarely if ever spoken of in a positive light, because the popular media focuses on leaders who have fallen, or on the church’s hypocrisy rather than on the many ways Christianity is making an in the world with the Gospel. When you compound how our culture has moved away from the Bible, with the ignorance of the population about biblical doctrine and the modern belief of popular culture that the Church is full of nothing but hypocrites it can be intimidating to the Christian to engage non-Christians effectively in evangelism.
In my experience engaging in evangelism at coffee shops, on the streets and in airplanes Christians struggle with evangelism because they are afraid of being rejected or think that evangelism is only for those who are “in the ministry.” This is why Meet the Skeptic by Bill Foster is such a welcome book, because it helps Christians to engage biblical, moral, scientific and spiritual skeptics by helping them contend, defend and proclaim the Gospel to them. Many Christians don’t engage in evangelism because they don’t know how to respond to issues related to the Bible, science, or moral objections to the Christian faith and this book will help them to understand what the Bible teaches and how to speak the Truth of God’s Word in love to skeptics.
Meet The Skeptic is an excellent book filled with references to popular culture while remaining faithful to the Word of God. This book will help Christians to recognize key words that non-Christians use, to scrutinize bumper-stickers, to ask probing questions, and to recognize opportunities to make much of Jesus. This book will help Christians to develop an understanding of the mindset of skeptics and their ideas in order to share Jesus. Finally, this book will help new or mature Christians to share the Gospel with those around them. I recommend you read Meet the Skeptic to be equipped to know, defend and declare the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to your friends, family, neighbors and all those in your sphere of influence.
Author: Bill Foster
Publisher: Master Books (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Master Books review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
How do evangelicals of the millennial generation engage the culture differently than their parents? This is a question that has been raised with great frequency over the course of the last several years. The latest offering is A Faith of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt, an articulate voice with roots in America’s largest Protestant denomination, The Southern Baptist Convention. Merritt speaks whereof he writes, as the son of a former SBC President and eyewitness to the rough-and-tumble culture wars of a previous generation.
This book is at times a memoir and at times a chronicle of today’s shifting evangelical attitudes toward politics. It has many strong points with which I agree. Like Jonathan, I feel that the lust for power, a seat at the table, has at times corrupted the simplicity and purity of the Church’s central message. For many, the word “evangelical” means a certain brand of conservative politics. At times, we’ve gotten so preoccupied with “getting our guy in” that we’ve lost our way. We’ve forgotten that as followers of Christ, we don’t put our faith in parties and movements and iconic figures. There has also been the tendency to wage a spiritual war with fleshly tools, to adopt the guerrilla tactics that might win temporary skirmishes, but lost the cultural battles.
Jonathan is correct in describing a new generation’s reticence to engage the way the Religious Right did in the past. Even amongst conservative evangelicals, the issue matrix has broadened beyond pro-life, pro-marriage and includes issues like human trafficking, poverty, and creation care. And there is a more healthy relationship to power that sees gospel proclomation as the first hope. Today’s young evangelicals are more interested in church planting and activism and less likely to pin their hopes on the rise and fall of one party or another.
I also appreciate Jonathan’s discernment. In rejecting the politics of a previous generation, he doesn’t reject their theology. He’s still thoroughly evangelical and gospel-centered. You might argue that it his committment to Scriptural fidelity that has unmoored him from a blind allegiance to a particular political movement. I think his approach will mark how my generation approaches issues, on an ala-carte basis rather than accepting the entire package of what talk show hosts or politicians deem “conservative.”
Furthermore, Jonathan writes with a sense of respect and humility for his father’s generation. This is not the rant of a rebel, but the earnest plea of a discerning believer. At the end of the book he offers a warning to today’s evangelicals, that in our quest to differentiate from our fathers we might ignore our own blinds spots. When the books are written about our generation, surely there will be as much criticism of us as we had of those who went before. He doesn’t write with a mocking or sneering tone. And he anchors his approach in an earnest desire to pursue Christ.
I found three weaknesses in the book. First, Jonathan seemed to present his critiques of figures like Jerry Falwell and others as new and shocking. Some of the personal stories he told were new, but Jerry Falwell has been a convenient foil for younger generations for at least a decade. And most younger evangelicals have moved on from their allegiance to the brand of politics that those men employed.
Second, I felt Jonathan could have given readers some better ways to engage important issues. For instance, previous generations may have engaged the prolife cause in a sloppy way, but does that mean we should abandon it all together? I felt like Jonathan could have written more positively about the unsung heroes who staff prolife clinics who save babies every single day. These organizations offer compassion and hope to unwed mothers on a consistent basis. Some of the issues conservative Christians engage are petty and worthless, but the prolife cause can and should be reframed as an issue of justice, not dismissed as a partisan position.
Third, I longed for Jonathan to reframe the issues worth fighting. Yes, we’ve wrongly substituted conservatism for Christianity. Yes, we’ve engaged in petty, unChristian tactics. But there are some issues worth fighting. I know Jonathan isn’t advocating a wholesale retreat from the public square. So what does “faithful presence” look like?
Those quibbles aside, on the whole, this book is a worthy read, a good and honest discussion for a new generation of evangelicals. I have no doubt that Jonathan will continue to be an articulate voice for Christianity in the years to come. I highly recommend this book.