Showing posts from January, 2014

Tasting the goodness of the gospel

Today's thrift store find was the book Speechless by Stephen Curtis Chapman and Scotty Smith. It is from 1999 and has the subtitle "Living in awe of God's disruptive grace." How could I not pick it up?! One chapter in and we get to a delightful story of eating the best crab cakes in the country. Scotty then correlates the experience to the gospel. "As with Picolos' crab cakes, so too with the gospel - deep satisfaction comes to those who partake, music to those who feast, dancing to those who linger at the table. In one of the great gospel invitations in the Old Testament, God's grace is presented as a life-giving buffer of his love and provision. A massive banquet of delight is offered to the hungry an thirsty. The price of the meal is our thirst, hunger and poverty." "Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is n

Art Azurdia on Spirit-Empowered Preaching

This week the Philadelphia Partnership hosted Dr. Art Azurdia. The partnership's goal is to encourage and edify pastors in Eastern Washington, three times a year through preaching from respected influencers. Art was asked to preach on what it means to be Spirit-empowered preachers. In his two sessions he challenged assumptions and gave pastors a thorough study of scripture on being filled with the Spirit and emboldened to preach. I am pleased to share these sessions with you and encourage you to share them with others. In session one, Art showed us that Spirit-empowered preaching must share Spirit-purpose. [vimeo] In the second session, Art walked through Acts and revealed the fruit of being filled. [vimeo]   Many thanks to Art Azurdia for joining us and special thanks to Dave Stone for capturing these sermons.

Gospel in Community

In the church we often talk about being in community with one another. For our young adult ministry the sole reason for this is to preach the gospel to one another and then others outside of our community. Too many times however the church build "community" for the sake of self or to meet a social need. This is where the church becomes a community center and not in fact a Christian church. We cling to people who resemble us and pursue what we have in common other than Jesus (keep in mind I lead such an "affinity" ministry.) When we neglect the family we have in Christ, we neglect Christ. We lose the gospel in the midst of our human systems of dividing the larger whole. There is a better way. But before we have a system, we need a savior. And we need a message that defines community for us. Dan Hallock has written a post on how the gospel shapes and is realized in community. Once he gives us the foundational truth that when we are united with Christ we are saved int

Killing the Idol of Approval

Identity is not a new issue for humans. Defining, living out and being comfortable with our identity has been an issue of self infliction for generations and it is only magnified by the raving narcissism of a culture saturated with social media and seeking the approval of others. Being man-pleasers. It is the death of us. I want you to approve of this blog post. I want you to approve of my preaching, of my storytelling, of my appearance. I want to be desired and culturally influence. Some times it is for the right reasons but mostly it is because I am prideful and in need of approval of others. What about you? Ever find yourself attempting to be someone you are not just to be approved? I wonder if you heard a sermon once on the steps to being well-liked... Sammy Rhodes has some important thoughts for our approval-seeking culture. They are game-changers for the Christian and if you struggle with acceptance or approval, or know someone who does, you must read Sammy's post . Rhodes c

Growth for Growth Sake

Chad Hall has years of experience coaching church leaders and often he has interacted on the issue of church growth and size of a church. Today he has a post on the Transformed blog on five reminders when thinking through growth. Here is his list of five things:   Growth is not the only good.  Evangelism may be a mask for egoism.  Pegging your sense of worth to attendance will drive you nuts.  Growth solves nothing. And t he litmus test for truth is not growth. Chad unpacks each point and I urge you to read the post if you are part of a church that desires growth. The words of challenge to me are his closing thoughts: "My experience with wise church leaders is that they reluctantly embrace growth when it comes, but they do not chase it, they do not fixate on it, and they do not use it as an indicator of anything in any short-term way.  They do look at long-term trends to help identify obstacles to effective ministry, and they certainly celebrate the stories of people who experi

The Insecure Pastor

The gospel grants us security. In fact, if you are united with Christ, you are as secure as Christ. Let that sink in. Sadly, we don't believe it and we remain insecure in lots of facets of life. Earlier this month Sam Storms reflected on 40 years of ministry and one of the key reflections was the destructive effects of an insecure pastor. I think they are a warning for us in ministry and we must gain our security in Christ. "I wish I'd known about the destructive effects of insecurity in a pastor. This is less because I've struggled with it and more due to its effect I've seen in others. Why is insecurity so damaging? "• Insecurity makes it difficult to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of others on staff (or in the congregation). In other words, the personally insecure pastor is often incapable of offering genuine encouragement to others. Their success becomes a threat to him, his authority, and his status in the eyes of the people. Thus if you&

The Spirit in You

Happy Weekend! [youtube=] HT: Seth Handsome  

You and Jesus not You and the Church?

For some reason I hear the statistics a lot. Maybe it is because I am part of a big church concerned with tracking where the thousands of people who attend are each week. For a slew of reasons, we are told, most "modern Christians" only attend church a couple of times a month. It is the new "normal" we are told. My first response: These aren't Christians. They don't love Jesus. But then I am reminded that we have statistics and there are other reasons... and I don't have the gift of mercy to understand people... Bob Thune has quoted Ray Ortlund from his commentary on Isaiah 62:1 and it includes a challenge to those of us that make church a couple of times a month endeavor. " Isaiah 62:1 is a neglected biblical emphasis today… So many Christians today are living a conveniently free-floating way of life [that] it doesn’t feel misaligned. It feels normal, and costly involvement feels like a super-spiritual option. But to God, church-hopping, self-prote

Urgency, Adventure & Sovereignty

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." (Psalm 90:1-2, ESV) "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!  (Psalm 90:12-17, ESV)" We don't quite get the sovereignty of God. His greatness. His power. His sure plan. That he is from everlasting to everlasting. We also don't get the urgency with which we should live our lives. The p

Constructive Criticism in the Church?

When I worked in DC we called these types of meetings "thought showers," mostly because that was more PC. But it turns out dissent and constructive challenge are actually valuable for creative teams. I wonder how things would look if our churches we a "safer" place to disagree... [youtube=] Video from RSA  and enlightenment org looking to solve cultural problems... HT: Upworthy

Stand and Walk

What does a grace junky do with Christian effort? You get busy! We are called to obey Christ and live in response to his grace but too often we view commands wrongly and end up pursuing effort for the wrong reasons. As we are unpacking 2 Peter at our young adult gathering I preached on 1:3-11 and tackle this issue. You can listen to the sermon here .

Preferences and Church Size

I appreciate this post from Matt Svoboda on churches and the move to embrace preferences over the gospel. The Rainer quote hangs in my office as a reminder for me; that it is too easy for us to be all about our preferences for things other than the gospel. And when we do this, the church is dying. To some the churches that come to mind are those small, overly traditional types but in reality it happens at churches of all sizes. Svoboda pushes in on the idea that preferences are only an issue for the small church. "Let’s ask another question… “Are there not megachurches full of church members whose personal preferences are greater than their passion for the gospel?” Of course there are, they just prefer loud, dynamic music accompanied by smoke and a laser show. Thom Rainer is absolutely correct, when that happens a churches spiritual vitality and vibrancy begins to die. This is happening all over in America, in churches numerically small and large that vary in all different types

I feel for "worship" leaders

Before I get into it... know that all elements of the church are worship. Not just our singing songs, but the open of the word and proclamation of Christ, and the community of believers is all worship. That being said, when I say worship leader in the rest of this post I mean the guy or gal that leads us in song. I have seen it far too much and it has left me frustrated this morning. A church wants to have a younger vibe so the "logical" choice for them is to bring in a young worship leader. Someone to bring the cutting edge to the church so it can stay vibrant and flourish attracting more young people. At the same time, the preaching pastor stays the same and the leadership of the church gets increasingly agitated that these whipper snappers want so much change. To me it is more comical but in reality it is dishonoring those devoting to leading the church in musical worship. Having witnessed a few "older" guys passed over for a younger "hipper" leader I a

Pastors caring for pastors

I enjoy the opportunities I have to interact with and encourage other pastors. One of my roles at our church is to serve other evangelical pastors and churches and I am on the board of our church association. There is so much pastors can sharpen each other on and ways we can encourage each other that those outside of vocation ministry can not. That being said... it is rare to find pastors willing to pour into each other. Certainly the first priority of the pastor is to care for the flock entrusted to him and I understand that busy schedules can get in the way of building relationships, but most often this is not the reason we avoid each other. In the years I have interacted with other pastors I most often recognize insecurity and territorialism as the reasons there is no relationship. Sadly, this reality has a greater impact on the local church these men lead as they do not raise up new leaders but it also robs the kingdom of church unity. "...insecurity and territorialism as the

A Church for the Generations

Joey Cochran has written a post on Gospel Center Discipleship about bringing young and old together in the church. The gospel is not for the young alone. The gospel transforms culture and should be building bridges for us to be in family with people aged beyond us and exceedingly different in race, background and circumstance. But that is not the current reality for most of us and our church. Cochran gives us clues as to why. "One reason that a church is generationally uniform is because it started that way and stayed that way. "For example, if the plaid, bearded, hipster, millennial church planting conferences that I’ve gone to during the last year is any indication of the uniformity within past generations, I might be onto something. These bearded, plaid-bearing men are a type that I am a part; I’m pointing the finger at myself here. We love to gather together with others just like us to learn how to minister those who are – shocker – just like us. "If churches strive

The Pathway Gospel

I don't have any resolutions but I do want to be more "clear" in 2014. I want to help those around me understand what I mean when I talk about being "gospel-centered." Toward that end I am thankful for men and women that make it easier to do so. Often I talk about the error in the modern Evangelical church is that we embrace the gospel (the truth of Christ's work for us) for salvation. Theologians among us call this justification. But once we are justified we want to move on to our own abilities to boot strap change in our live - the second part being sanctification. We instead need the gospel for sanctification just as much as salvation. Dane Ortlund has clearly shown the difference between the gospel as the ticket to the ride versus the whole ride itself. He shows the distinction of "gateway-gospel" and "pathway-gospel." "Reflecting on Jesus' words "I am the way," Martin Luther wrote: Christ is not only the way on wh

Gospel At Work

How does the gospel impact vocation? Greatly. This looks like an excellent one-day conference for those asking the question or at least should be asking. If you are around Portland on January 25 you should go. [youtube=] More information and register .

All I have is Christ

Saturday is for cartoons... [youtube=]

In Christ, you are not naked.

Last night we opened the year for our young adult gatherings by sharing the them of 2014 that we will study and hold before us at every turn: Union with Christ. As a group of people, we are being formed into who we will be for the rest of our lives and a foundation of being united with Christ is secure, trustworthy and awe-inspiring.  I closed the talk last night with a post from Jon Acuff. I encourage you to read the whole thing here .  "I don’t know when you discovered shame. I don’t know when you discovered that there were people who might think you are silly or dumb or not a good writer or a husband or a friend. I don’t know what lies you’ve been told by other people or maybe even by yourself. But in response to what you are hearing from everyone else, God is still asking the question, “Who told you that you were naked?” And He’s still asking us that question because we are not. In Christ, we are not worthless. In Christ, we are not hopeless. In Christ, we are not dumb or ugl

Avoiding Church Death

All we need is another post about the end of the church... We get it; millennials don't like church and we need to change to reach them and keep our churches from dying. But haven't we tried all that and still are not reaching new people? I do believe that in the midst of the clamor of a death to the church the only true way to grow and establish a church for generations to come is a re-centering on the truth of the gospel. Jesus plus nothing. The church must stop majoring in behavior change and start focusing on savior savoring. That is my piece. Who is with me? The church must stop majoring in behavior change and start focusing on savior savoring. David Tarkington has a post on about avoiding the coming tsunami of church closure. He gets as the idea of reaching and empowering the next generation. I think it is worth a read. A few highlights from the post follow. On our need for a generationally diverse church: "Generational differences are real and as the ti