Showing posts from February, 2014

The Influence of a Small Church

Bigger is better. Right? When it comes to church size shouldn't our goal be a bigger body? I mean after all, how can we impact the community if our church is not big? Hogwash. I have been so encouraged to hear of stories from smaller churches proclaiming the gospel and serving their communities well. And it seems like they often have more influence or success in serving then bigger churches. So what gives and should we care? Sadly, for many churches the pursuit and focus has been geared toward numeric growth at all costs. These churches may do service for their community - after all they typically have the money to do so - but it is usually as an add-on and not a central part of the ministry. Justin Lathrop thinks small churches and he provides a couple of suggestions when defining the priorities of the church. And these are not just for the smaller churches, big churches can learn from this too. "1. Know who you are and what you’re about" Stop acting like or mimicking t

Christ in the OT

This, from the Gospel Coalition, is worthwhile. Scott Redd of RTS DC shares on Christ in the Old Testament. [vimeo]

Grace and Shame

A guest post from Marques Rodriguez , a youth ministry coordinator in Eastern Washington. Marques attended the Liberate Conference and brought back some thoughts on ministering to those that are faced with shame. As liberate kicked off last week I was excited for much but was very intrigued by the session on Grace for the disgraced. Justin Holcomb, author and pastor,  went through this with the mindset of re-wiring the way pastors deal with sexual and domestic violence. The sexual abuse and violence statistics are horrifying. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are victims of these terrible crimes. This means that it is almost certain that no matter what ministry you are leading this issue will arise. There are most likely, even now, people you minister to that this is a very real issue. When asked, most victims said that a "minister" would be their first choice in seeking help. After seeking help however, when asked who would their top choices be, "minister" fell to last b

Comforts for Lent

For some Christians Lent is a big deal. It is the season of anticipation ahead of Easter and it begins next Wednesday. While our church culture is not big on Lent, as a young adult ministry we do call our people to reflection and revelry in the cross. This year we will be sharing daily thoughts pulled from Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, Comforts from the Cross . We will take Saturdays and Sundays off and get through the book in time for the Thursday before Easter. You can follow the reflections on the Abide Facebook page . Like the page for updates. No matter your tradition or what you do this Easter season, may Christ be bigger than ever before and may you rest in his once for all work for you.

In Search of a Worship Leader

I have had the privilege to work with some amazing worship leaders. People of talent and passion. But I have never had to search for a worship leader. As we sat in Florida at Coral Ridge Presbyterian church this last Sunday I thought through the things in the musical portion of worship that I highly valued. Emphasis on congregational singing. Musical ability and creativity. And the expressed heart of the leader to glorify Christ. Beyond what I value, what should be baselines for finding a worship leader? I have a few friends looking for leader in their churches and I thought this list of marks of a healthy worship leader from Alex Duke was worthwhile and even important. Among the marks that Duke sees of a worship leader are these that stood out to me: " 3. Your worship leader should be invisible (almost)." Here the emphasis is on the whole church singing. Can a quest walk away thinking "wow those people can sing" or is it "wow that one guy can sing?" Thi

Motivated to Obey

This last week Stacy and I had the joy of attending Liberate 2014 in Ft. Lauderdale. It is a conference founded by Tullian Tchividjian and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. This year's theme was one way love for an exhausted world. It is the message of grace. It is needed. But how do we live that out day to day and what of obedience? Steve Fuller has a post that I think is helpful when it comes to discussions on motivations for Christian obedience. Something Tullian and specifically Kevin DeYoung (a pastor, author in Michigan) have disagreed one. Fuller says this of the debate: "Tchividjian — obedience comes from faith alone — faith in our justification.  Our effort should go into strengthening faith in our justification." "DeYoung — obedience does not come from faith in justification alone.  We need effort in addition to faith." Fuller wonders though if John Piper has a better, or more Biblical way. "For Piper, faith means trusting  all  that God promises

Christ is Enough

Jesus truly is enough. [youtube=] Christ is my reward, And all of my devotion, Now there's nothing in this world, That could ever satisfy Through every trial, My soul will sing, No turning back, I've been set free Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me, Everything I need is in You, Everything I need Christ my all in all, The joy of my salvation, And this hope will never fail, Heaven is our home Through every storm, My soul will sing, Jesus is here, To God be the glory I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, No turning back The cross before me, The world behind me, No turning back, No turning back

Intimacy and the Mission of God

Jeff Lewis preached at Bethel this week and his sermon was a great called for Christ-empowered unity and mission. Our preferences fall away when we realize the intimate relationship we have been invited into by being in Christ. I commend this sermon to you. [vimeo]

Children or friends far from Christ

Children or friends far from Christ - click the link and read. "No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus." Abraham Piper shares some vital instructions when hoping a loved-one will choose Christ.

The Lord above Lovers

Happy Valentine's Day... Psalm 121 "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore."  

Testing the Sermon

Those that preach, whether weekly or in special contexts, have available to them any number of systems by which to critique or evaluate a sermon. And the hearer of preaching also can find such resources. Some of these systems though are no better than a grade sheet from a public speaking class at the public university. Sadly, in our churches, we judge style and presentation more than we do substance. The saints languish under this emphasis. Many systems and evaluations are worthwhile though. The key to judging them is the emphasis they put on the preaching of Christ in every sermon. (After all friends, these are supposed to be Christian sermons!)   Bill Riedel has four questions when listening to a sermon that I think are helpful and could serve many preachers. "As we sit under gospel-centered, biblical preaching we ought to ask how the text shapes us rather than asking how the preacher did." Here are his questions: " 1. Was the Bible faithfully exposed? "...That me

Christian Mentors

My wife Stacy is an advocate for healthy mentor relationships in the church. She serves at our church in a role to educate and coordinate those interested in mentoring, something which is central to her faith experience and maturity. One thing that frustrates both of us is when mentoring in the church takes on culturally defined norms. People seek out "life coaches" or people with more years of life experience and the relationships are centered on how to raise kids, and succeed in work. All good things but perhaps something less than what Christian mentoring should look like. Perhaps Christian mentoring is more about "gospel reminding" than trite talk of the weather... Steven Curtis Chapman seems to agree and in his book, Speechless, he outlines some things we should look for in a mentor. I commend this list to you! “1. Be intentional about being a follower of Jesus Christ. To have a mentor in songwriting, gardening, and golf is one things, but to have a mentor in t

Grace Pharisee

Scotty Smith has a prayer today that the Lord is using to convict and draw me to repentance. It is about being a "gospel pharisee." Read it here. "Forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we love exposing and condemning false gospels more than we love spending time with you in prayer and fellowship. Forgive us when we’re more paranoid about falling back under the law than excited to offer you the obedience of faith and love. Forgive us when we call ourselves “recovering Pharisees” and “recovering legalists,” when in reality, we’re not recovering from very much from anything. Forgive us when we’re more known for exercising our newfound Christian liberty, than those who fight for the freedom of 30 million human slaves in the world. Forgive for talking more about who “gets” and doesn’t “get” the gospel, than humbling confessing our sins to one another. Forgive us for being just as arrogant about grace theology as we were obnoxious about legalistic theology. Forgive us when we don’t use

Sanctification in Leviticus

"Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you." ( Leviticus 20:7-8, ESV ) This morning I am relishing this truth from Leviticus. As the Lord lists ways in which the people of Israel are to respond to his redemption, ways of holiness, he declares who is accomplishing change and righteousness in them. 'Be holy for I am the One that saved you from Egypt and have given you promise. Respond to the great gifts and provision I have given you and live well. And along the way know that it is I that sanctify you.' Notice the command is not for the people to sanctify themselves. They do have a role, work to do, to be holy because of who God it and what he has done. But the work of sanctification, the progress of making them holy, is done by the Lord himself. In Christ this truth remains. We live holy lives in response to the salvation we have been given and as we live out his command, Je

Pastoral Weakness

Confession time: While our culture tells us that those leading church need to at least appear to have it all together; I am a weak pastor. I am ill-equipped to shepherd those the Lord has given me charge of. I often think I am too broken to preach Christ. I suffer poorly. Let's be honest, it doesn't matter that I am a pastor. I am human. So are you. We suffer. We mess up. We still sin. But the glory of the gospel is that we are united with Christ and he is most glorified by our weakness because in it, he is strong. We suffer as people with promise. Jared Wilson preached this week at the Desiring God Pastor's conference and it is an encouragement. [vimeo] Lean into Jesus. He is our eternal strength. No matter how weak we are. Jared will also be at the Annual Enrichment Conference for CBNW in March. You should come.