Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #20

Resolved to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

So if I’m honest, I have been putting this one off for a little while. This is one area that I know I should do better in, but simply don’t. I’ve developed bad habits of eating poorly and though I can point to benefits, I have never really been able to develop a strong discipline of eating well. The drinking aspect is really a non-issue for me; I don’t really consume alcohol or drink poorly (water tends to be a dominant fluid for me).

What comes to mind that really gives me pause about my inability to be disciplined is that the Bible definitely speaks to this. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:20, while contextually talking about sexual immorality, reminds me of this sort of disciplining of our bodies: “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Just one verse prior to this one (in 1 Corinthians 6:19) Paul writes “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…?”

In the Old Testament the temple has many connotations; most notably, for me, is that of it being a place of holiness and un-defilement, and a unique place of honor because of the presence of the Lord (2 Chronicles 5:7). Romans 8:9-11 outlines the truth that the same Holy Spirit that indwelled Jesus is within us, and this should give us cause for great rejoicing.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul said “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Essentially, he is calling out to the other Christians: “follow my example, as a leader and representative of discipline and worship; do as I do but only because I am pursuing Christ’s face.”

In a leadership context I heard Justin Anderson once speak on this. He said “your body matters–what you wear, your weight, your presentation of yourself–because your congregation follows you not just as a pastor but as a leader. They follow your lead. Your people have to be able to see themselves in you.” 

Ultimately, if we as leaders do not consider what our nonverbals (and even image) is communicating, we might be in danger of communicating that our bodies are not valuable to be tended to. Paul refers to us as athletes and soldiers–both of which have physical and mental disciplines–and I think that could be used in this context as well.

At the end of the day, this is not an area that I am thriving in, but I see the biblical warrant and I pray that these reminders help me reorient my choices. For me personally, I am reminded that many times I chose foods that will satisfy me temporarily but hurt me in the long run–they do not really have nutritional value but they may be appetizing in the here and now. Many times I regret the decision even while I’m still eating it! In the same way, God has called us to feast from the true source of nourishment–Himself. God calls us to be disciplined in our approaches and be mindful of our discipline, because it may likely reveal to us our posture of worship–do we “feast” on that which we know is damaging and will not satisfy, or do we “feast” on that while is abiding, true, and ultimately nourishing to our bodies and souls?

“Food for thought,” if you will. Hope some of this provides a different perspective.

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Preach The Word: Day 2 Panel Q&A

[These are notes from the Q&A Panel on Day 2 of the Preach The Word 2013 Acts 29 West Regional Conference in Reno, NV]

Participants: Harvey Turner, Tony Merida, Alex Early, Justin Anderson and Leonce Crump

—–

[[Psalm 16 reading]]

How much time do you spend preparing and critiquing your sermon?

-Leonce Crump: prep (4-5 hrs) critique (1-1.5 hrs)

-Justin Anderson: pre-series a lot of time fleshing out themes // in-week (10 hrs) critique (occasionally a couple hrs; most of the time 20-30 mins)

-Tony Merida: 10-15 hrs prep but you never stop preparing “it took me 36 years to prepare this sermon” (everything is shaping you)

-Harvey Turner: 10-15 hrs (including prayer time)

Everyone has their flaws, what red-flags would show that we can’t trust the leader(ship) anymore?

-Justin Anderson: The moment a staff member is asking that question.

-Alex Early: Go to the big issues: for men those tend to be–with a drastic majority–inappropriate stewardship of: money or women

-Leonce Crump: When they stop practicing repentance

-Harvey Turner: Sometimes the problem is not your pastor (just be honest and mindful FROM SCRIPTURE with that)

What if you’re called to preach but your church doesn’t seem to share that belief that you were called to do so? What do you do?

-Justin Anderson: anyone can talk out loud about Jesus and the bible; that’s not preaching. People need to listen and confirm that (it WILL be confirmed)

Being convinced you were supposed to do something and hearing otherwise is a tough pill to swallow, but it happens.

-Harvey Turner: If God is really telling you, He will confirm that with the church (your leaders, peers, etc.)

Acts 13 – “it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit

-Leonce Crump: If you put yourself in any untrustworthy situations you may sometimes need to seek outside counsel (but don’t jump around for that immediately; don’t be rebellious, etc.)

-Tony Merida: In the Hebrew Bible Ezra and Nehemiah are the same book. Nehemiah is the administrative, priestly guy and Ezra is the bible guy (they know their roles and know when to step aside to let the other do what they do)

“The church is dying for the Paul Tripp counseling types. We need more of those.”

Have you ever thought “I can’t do what that preacher does?” What do you do with that?

-Tony Merida: God has called to give an account to your life, not theirs.

-Alex Early: I’ve absolutely felt this… But I need to remember it’s unhealthy and dangerous/distracting

There will always be someone 10x better but it shouldn’t be competed against but celebrated. Celebrate it when someone is flourishing in the gift God called Him.

Leonce Crump: The time it becomes sin is when you get mad at God that your aren’t like them (you can admire, but don’t covet)

-Harvey Turner: There are varying levels of influence/favor (from Driscoll): there are church-focused, regional, national, and international leaders // know which you are

Many passages have multiple ideas–how can we be faithful to the passage without imposing a single idea on the passage (risking minimizing the text)?

-Tony Merida: The more ideas the more general the theme (but likely still one common theme constantly)

 What resources would you point to for preaching Christ in the Old Testament?

-“Preaching Christ from the Old Testament” (book)

-“Preaching the whole bible as Christian scripture” (book)

-Tim Keller series “preaching Christ in a postmodern world” (RTS App and iTunes)

-“Preaching and Biblical Theology” (Clowney; Book)

What things in Acts 29 churches hinder evangelism in our church culture?

-Alex Early: We get overly concerned in theologically nit-picking that we miss the point about being missional

“Sometimes, you have to loosen up a bit”

We get so caught up about being doctrinally solid in every respect and may be faithful but aren’t being fruitful

Some would rather argue about penal substitutionary atonement rather than talk to their barber to see if he knows Jesus

-Justin Anderson: We think we’re too cool for our own good (and we’re likely too young)

Because of our desire to be cool and because of our age, we tend to more likely reach young, specific types, and narrow our demographic

-Leonce Crump: we have a very particular type of person reached: white, plaid, angry, and precise.

Almost every church (in Acts 29) feels the same.

This is a hindrance (we need to figure out how to avoid that and be faithful to the context you’re in)

Don’t try to be the black guy.. But be faithful to your community. It goes back to “Who is your neighbor?”

Are there women or moms in your archetype prep (regarding session six)?

-Justin Anderson: there are many moms who are smart skeptics and many moms who are “disciples”.. But also I need to own [my lack of accounting for women in the model]. We [at Acts 29] are intentional about men but are also a little overly focused on them (and can miss it at times).

-Harvey Turner: Luther parallels men who lead churches to a drunken man on a donkey. We fall off one side, get back up rightly, and fall off the other side (it’s a constant rebounding/redirecting)

How do you preach against prosperity gospel but still assure the people and yourself of God’s promises?

-Leonce Crump: In myself I am a worm. In Jesus I am not a worm but a son.

As a critique of our movement: “I don’t know when our sin became bigger than our Savior” (we tend to spend so much time magnifying sin and, in doing so, miss magnifying our Savior)

“I don’t waste my time preaching against the prosperity gospel, I preach the fullness of the riches in Christ” you know you messed up, but Jesus (standing between you and it) declares you holy and righteous and blameless.

On the other end of the spectrum we need to be mindful not to preach our sin so much that our savior looks small.

How, specifically, would you break down a small chunk of scripture?

-Tony Merida: Study the text, unify the theme, creat a rough outline, add some meat to it (illustrating, applications, etc), then pray for God to bring the rain.

-Alex Early: Every word has a semantic range (make sure if you examine “propitiation” in context of that particular passage; ie Romans 3 v 1 John 2) — be mindful of it to not universally apply.

You critique not catering to those from other churches, but there are people who come from moralistic churches who aren’t hearing the gospel preached. Isn’t loving them doing the work of an evangelist?

-Harvey Turner: As a general rule, we are too quick to assume that other pastors are not preaching the Gospel. Quick to stroke our own egos (“we’re doing it right, they aren’t”)

Pastors will also use this as justification to not reach the lost (won’t say it but that’s what they’re doing

-Justin Anderson: An easy way to differentiate these situations are to have relationships with pastors around you. (“No guy is too busy to not have lunch with you in the next month”)

How can you get out of JUST discipling and get into evangelizing also?

-Harvey Turner: Discipleship is fundamentally evangelistic (“fishers of men”). All discipleship must be done in view of our mission (not meant to only hang with Christians)

Always look at “how is this (CG, gathering, etc) going to lead us towards mission/evangelism?”

-Leonce Crump: John 6 (eat my flesh and drink my blood) emphasizes that discipleship is related to community and relationships (some follow that aren’t Christians)

We lead them to Jesus and His cross then continue leading them to Jesus afterwards (some turn away, some continue following because he has the words of life).

How many people can you pour into/disciple? How do you stay deep and wide?

-Justin Anderson: Putting butts in the seats is the easy part (not much time, commitment, etc). Discipleship and leadership development is the hard stuff (so we are focusing on the hard stuff and let the easier stuff just happen)

“If you’re doing discipleship and it’s not working itself out in evangelism, you aren’t doing discipleship”

It’s not realistic to expect a deep conversation when it’s a group of 15-20 people

For most “normal” people the number of people they can legitimately “pour into” is 1-2 (for his staff and himself it’s 50% of their time)

“I’d rather start hard on the hard stuff and swing it back a bit than the other way”

-Tony Merida: Timmis says “the church is not a building you visit or an event you go to but a people you belong to” (may be slightly off on the quote)

If we don’t make it a priority (with specifics) it won’t happen.

Taking Criticism

Tonight I just wanted to share a brief, but dense, passage from Tim Keller on criticism, and learning from those who may have something to say against you. I pray it blesses you.

The biggest danger of receiving criticism is not to your reputation, but to your heart. You feel the injustice of it and feel sorry for yourself, and it tempts you to despise not only the critic, but the entire group of people from which they come. ‘Those people…’ you mutter under your breath. All this can make you prouder over time. Newton writes: ‘Whatever…makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.’ He argues that whenever contempt and superiority accompany our thoughts, it is a sign that ‘the doctrines of grace’ are operating in our life ‘as mere notions and speculations’ with ‘no salutary influence upon [our] conduct.’
 
So how can you avoid this temptation? First, you should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you. So even if the censure is partly or even largely mistaken, look for what you may indeed have done wrong. Perhaps you simply acted or spoke in a way that was not circumspect. Maybe the critic is partly right for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, identify your own short-comings, repent in your own heart before the Lord for what you can, and let that humble you. It will then be possible to learn from the criticism and stay gracious to the critic even if you have to disagree with what he or she has said.

I Want to Hear From You

Hello all followers or onlookers,

I would love to hear what you would want to see posts about.

Whether it be a particular topic, scripture, resource, dialogue, etc. I would love to hear what you would be interested in seeing. My goal is to make the blog more interactive between you and I and to do that I want to be sure that you are adequately engaged (within the proper scope of things).

Let me know if you would like to hear about something, be given a particular set of resources, blogs, have any questions I could directly respond to, etc.

Thank you for following or checking out the blog and take a second to let me know how I can best serve each of you!

Book Review: Leaders Who Last (Kraft)

To start off, the necessity of this book cannot be overstated. Statistically speaking only 30 percent of leaders finish well (for more on this, see Bobby Clinton’s landmark book The Making of a Leader), and only 1 out of 10 seminary graduates will finish in the ministry (let alone finishing it well, loving the Lord, etc.). So with pressures such as burnout being more and more a statistical probability than a far-off danger, what can we do to cultivate leaders who last?

Dave Kraft gives us a book that is to the point, extremely helpful, and one of the books next to the Bible that a leader should be extremely well acquainted with. Kraft approaches the writing of this book not with academic theories to implement, but practical life lessons to learn from.

One way in which Kraft presents this is through examining how the role and dynamic of a leader has changed over time (for instance, leaders in the past were organizational and characterized by command and control whereas today leaders tend to be more relational and permission-giving). One final (key!) area in which Kraft examines elements of leaders who last is by looking at the “areas” in which leaders ought to live:

With Jesus Christ in the center as their power,

With Jesus Christ as they develop a purpose,

With Jesus Christ as they develop a passion,

With Jesus Christ as they set priorities,

(and) With Jesus Christ as they develop pacing for how much they accomplish and how fast to do it.

This book is a book widely needed, especially within the church, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to read it on the front end of my ministry journey to safeguard against burn out, becoming a (negative) statistic, and further harming the perception of Jesus. This book is a necessity for all church leaders and is a quick, pointed, and necessary read.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the Crossway Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.

Fulfill YOUR Ministry

As for you,always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

(2 Timothy 4:5; emphasis mine)

For this posting, I’d like to set the tone for my future posts by simplifying my expectations. Instead of posting a wide spectrum of ideas, thoughts, content, etc. [of which this blog will still consist of in some capacity], I am hoping to narrow my focus to 3 particular frameworks and plan to do so through 4 practical applications.

The Frameworks for my Focuses:

-1) Church Leadership/Planting –This particular content-matter will emphasize such topics as a philosophy of ministry, biblical manhood, Triperspectival leadership (Prophet, Priest, King), and overall leadership (both being a leader and becoming a leader/growing as a leader)

-2) Missions This content will be missions-oriented in nature (both locally and globally). This includes content related to the unreached and unengaged, calling as a missionary (and the biblical command to be sent and on mission), and suffering for the sake of the spread of the Gospel)

-3) Gospel Contextualization — Focusing on, as Mark Driscoll says “showing the relevance of the Gospel and not trying to ‘make the Gospel relevant’.” This content matter will also include information from Tim Keller’s work on delivering the Gospel in urban environments from his book Center Church. Lastly it will include what it means to live a life (both personally and congregationally) that is both deep and wide (simply: theologically deep, a depth of the gospel, and wide relationally).

With these three categories in mind, I wish to accomplish them by doing four things.

1) Be affected (It is necessary to be affected by the Gospel before attempting to talk about it or dissect it. We are ever-living out of a response to what God has already done, is doing, and promises to do)

Love well (This happens through intentionality through service, contextualization, and community)

Lead well (Through church leadership, humility, and realizing that I will fail, mess up, and that Jesus alone provides the ability and perfect model of biblical leadership)

Go well (Through understanding what it means to be sent into the world [again, both locally and globally] and to care more about the lost and hurting in this world than living a comfortable Christian lifestyle)

Pray with me as I pursue these things, and pray that Christ will be glorified and magnified in our time.

Book Review: Gospel Coach (Thomas)

Gospel CoachThe topic of christian leadership has always been a particularly interesting one to me, and as a leader within a church which stands firmly within the Acts 29 network this book was a given for me to get my hands on. I have got to say it did not disappoint.

I loved that this book addressed not only the necessity of having a Gospel coach, but also being a Gospel coach. The Gospel and leadership is not meant for consumption but replication; this was a welcome reminder.

Another aspect of this book that quite rooted with me was the holistic nature of what exactly a “Gospel Coach” is. Scott Thomas describes it through a framework of shepherding by laying out four particular coaching qualities I found helpful. A gospel coach leads through knowing his disciple(s), feeding his disciple(s) [and necessarily pointing them back to their ultimate source of nourishment–the Bible/God Himself], leading his disciple(s), and protecting his disciple(s). This was helpful for me because being a gospel coach involves much more than a weekly session of going through particular curriculum or leading a person through a particular area of their life. Being a Gospel Coach requires a level of investment in the person’s life; a sense of involvement in the person’s gospel growth in all areas of life–not merely the one in which we do as little as possible so we can check our “leading others” box off of our lists.

This being said, I would argue that one of this book’s strengths is it’s practical nature. This book does a good job at tackling potentially vague concepts and providing meat to them; setting out a framework of not only the idea of leadership, but what it would look like to tangible do this leadership. Put simply, this book’s strength lies within it’s ability to be implemented, not studied.

Central to the Gospel is relationship, and I believe that Gospel Coach drives us deeper into a relational model of leadership, where vulnerability, risk, and authenticity is present–and which I would argue that leadership ought to look like.

Lastly, one thing I thought as I was diving into the book is “how is this idea of a gospel coach different from a life coach?” This can be answered quite simply: for a Gospel Coach, the Gospel is always central and primary. This changes everything because the focus of meeting up and fleshing things out is not on self-improvement or rule-keeping; rather, the focus is on Gospel transformation, implementation, and growing into a deeper understanding of Grace and what that means for each of us personally.

In summary, Gospel Coach not only laid out a helpful framework of what it looks like to invest, love, and care for those you are leading/discipling, but it also provides a tangible look at what it may look like as you work it out in practice. Again, the beauty of the book is not in the content it provides but the implementation of said content, and if the Gospel remains central, I believe this book propels us in the right direction towards gospel fruitfulness and the glorification of Jesus, and not ourselves.

[[The book may be purchased here: http://ow.ly/fXLPpx%5D%5D
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.