Sunday, April 26, 2009

Entrusted with the Gospel

This may not sound all that unusual (for me), but my mind has been racing of late. And that, inevitably, leads to a great burden on and movement in my heart. By God’s unbelievable grace and allowance of technological creativity through His people, I have the opportunity to communicate and articulate that racing to you on what we call here a blog. I will do it the best I can, hopefully for God’s ultimate glory and your joy. I’m glad you're here.

In God’s perfect timing, I found myself at The Gospel Coalition conference this past week. I say perfect timing in one sense because it comes at a time when I am in the middle of, and offering challenges to, pretty significant questions and experiments within the church, both my own and that of the larger Body of Christ. And I needed confirmation, clarity, and conviction. I say perfect timing in another sense because, well, the conference was last week, and I was there. Thank you Mr. Obvious.

I won’t beat around the bush. This conference was primarily for young pastors. Part of my reason for going was simply to set the precedent that it shouldn’t be unusual for non-pastors, “laypeople” if you will, to attend such a thing. It is more than a hobby for me (though it is not less than that), and that shouldn’t be unusual, or cancel out any of my passion or commitment to my career. Another part of my reason for going was that I believe you can be pastoral in your life, and not be in full-time ministry. And an exposition of 2 Timothy, which is what this conference essentially was, is very helpful to that end. And yet another part of my reason for going had much to do with what is probably no secret: my theological convictions lean a certain way and I desired to get a first hand confirmation of that, and even more importantly, get it in the context of church, community, and instruction as to how it should flow from my life, and not just exist in my head.

It did not disappoint. You can listen to or watch select sessions at The Gospel Coalition website. Let me recommend a couple: all of them. If you appreciate and benefit from expositional preaching (which I hope you do!) – in other words teaching directly from the text of the Bible explaining what it says and means - than these messages will blow your mind. The diversity in style, yet consistency in the core, from all these experienced, anointed, and humble men are greatly helpful and deeply encouraging. Piper will woo you by his passion, Driscoll will woo you by his wit, Keller will woo you by his logic, Carson will woo you by his intellect, (among the others) and they will all amaze you at their consistency to Scripture, heart for God, and love for people. So yeah, check out all of them. I have consolidated my notes from each talk and could make them available to you per request – just comment here with your email address and I will send them to you.

A quick note to those who are not Christians who read this blog. First of all, thank you. The fact that you would pay attention to such talk on here is humbling, encouraging, and no small evidence of the Sovereignty of God, specifically in your life. You may wonder occasionally (and increasingly, if you stay tuned for the foreseeable future), why all this talk about the Gospel, the culture, the church, what is wrong, what is right. Who cares?

The reason is that we (I ) care about you. Really, really care about you. And that you don’t see the person and work of Jesus Christ as relevant, exciting, helpful, and above all, true, at this time breaks my heart and encourages my efforts to plead and pray for you without ceasing. All this talk of purity in the message and unity and flexibility in the methods is ultimately about making a true, lasting, and authentic impact on you and all people so that we can realize and experience the way God created us to live, which will always give glory to God, which is the whole point of the universe. Thanks for reading and know that I’m praying for sensitivity to the Spirit and receptivity to the Gospel in your mind and heart.

Here are quick summaries of the sessions:

Acts 19:21-41

We have to confront the idols in our world by discerning, exposing, and destroying them. Destroy them meaning as the ultimate focus of our lives, not altogether. They come in the personal (money, romance, children), religious (truth, gifts, morality), and cultural (reason, science, technology, family) variety. If there is something in your life you can't imagine living without, it is an idol, and it is taking the place of the God of the universe. In gospel-centered ministry, we must confront this in our culture as Paul did. --- Tim Keller

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Keep feeding the flame – the white hot flame – of God’s gift in you, namely, the unashamed courage to speak openly of Christ and suffer for the Gospel. This courage comes only from God’s power, which is possible only through His grace, which comes to you only through His Word. --- John Piper

2 Timothy 1:13-2:13

God calls us to faithful ministry, which is achieved through entrusting His Gospel to faithful men, to do faithful works, through the grace of a faithful Savior, demonstrating the absolute faithfulness of a faithful God. --- Phil Ryken

2 Timothy 2:14-26

Our churches are essentially filled with three types of people: Positives (who do gospel things in gospel ways for gospel reasons, bringing health, working for good, and being a blessing because they want the gospel to win); Negatives (who do ungospel things in ungospel ways for ungospel reasons, bringing sickness, division, and trouble because they want to win); and Neutrals (who are unsure, confused, fearful, and caught in the middle). God can use negatives for positive purposes, but He calls us to be constantly positive in gospel ways to win the neutrals and those not in the church. --- Mark Driscoll

2 Timothy 2:1-9

People will choose (and are choosing) to center their life around self, instead of God, leading to disastrous results. This choice and these results will not be isolated to the secular world, but will affect the church. But God is Sovereign and has written His name into every fabric of life, and will win in the end. In the meantime we have to correctly present Him to the world for them to see, know, and experience who He is, and we must do it with urgency, because we are in the last days. --- K. Edward Copeland

2 Timothy 3:10-4:5

Preach the Word. Jesus is present with His people through the proclamation of His Word. It is the voice and hand of God to sinful people, showing them the heart of God in Jesus Christ. They will only get this if we preach it. When we speak the Word of God, we not only speak about Jesus, or for Jesus, but as Jesus. --- Bryan Chapell

2 Timothy 4:6-22

Emphasize the finish line, not earthly satisfaction or ministry success; “Bring my books!” Not paying attention to other men’s brains shows that you have no brains yourself; Being faithful in gospel ministry doesn’t mean you won’t be left alone; Communicate love in a way as to build gospel community; The Lord will be with you and so will His grace. --- Ligon Duncan

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

We must show flexibility and accommodation as the messenger, not with the message, and once a persons believes, we must bring them into our position to do the same. In other words, when a Muslim becomes a Christian, he no longer is a Muslim, but a Christian. He should show flexibility in witnessing to other Muslims (speak their language, etc.), but he should not be flexible with the message itself, nor with his new status as a Christian. We can’t jeopardize the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus by our actions. If that means having a drink to show a non christian that our salvation is not in our behavior but in Jesus, so be it. - Don Carson

Gospel Centered Ministry in a New Christendom

Proclaim, and seek ways to make culturally accessible, the culturally distant message of the Cross. Uphold the uniqueness of Christ in a pluralistic world. Maintain an evangelistic passion and holistic living by keeping in front of people the stark reality of lostness and doing it with a motivation of love. --- Ajith Fernando

Ministering in a Church Hopping Society

We will not be faithful ministers of the Gospel if we don't teach that people need the local church to hold fast to the Gospel. They should see the good of the Gospel (God) in our churches and understand the connection between holding fast the Gospel and commitment to a local church. Church hoppers should be taught the truths of the biblical theology of the church (story of God's plan for a people); the systematic theology of the church (structure, necessary components); the necessity of the church in personal, spiritual growth; the necessity of the church in worship; and the necessity of the church in mission. --- Joshua Harris

This all does not even include the panel discussion. I don’t know how I could summarize that. It was breathtaking. And it doesn't include the other workshop I attended on the Gospel and Community, which was essentially a road map for how Christians should interact in politics, social issues, and the like. That outline was 7 pages. And it doesn't include the worship, which was deep, powerful, truth-packed hymns sung to contemporary music. I never realized the unique spiritual presence hearing mostly men's voices in worship - most churches you hear predominately women.

So, there you have it. Now it is like you went to the conference yourself at no charge. Consider it my gift to you. Yours to me can be your continued reading. Coming up: what is church and how should we do it? I have a smorgasbord of books I am going to try to read, and I will invite you to read some or all of them with me to sharpen and counter my thoughts. Or don't read them at all and be left with your ignorant, ill-informed perspectives.

Totally kidding. You know I welcome your comments and thoughts always.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Advance of the Body of Christ

Don’t freak out. As I have pointed out before, Newsweek is not as helpful as the Bible. So while a recent cover story in Newsweek reports on the decline and fall of Christian America, the Bible says differently about the lasting nature of the Church; something about the gates of hell not overcoming, or something. Of course, the article in Newsweek speaks mostly of a declining political influence, which isn’t necessarily a tragedy. Still, the spiritual influence of the Christian church in America, evangelical or otherwise, is no doubt in troubled times. The culture is becoming increasingly secular, local churches are fragmented, biblical faithfulness is harder to come by, and “postmodernism” seems to dominate the pulse of our understanding of absolute truth. But at the end of the day, nothing is happening that is not spoken about in the Bible as inevitable. Now, as Christians, we just need to do what the Bible says about it. Allow me to articulate this in three problems in the Church and suggested solutions that seem apparent to me.

1. Lukewarm Christians

These are the people that are saved, but as if through the fire. They come to church, faithfully tithe, but are not encouraged and motivated to let the Holy Spirit work powerfully through them, and though they have claimed belief in Him, they are very indecisive about following Him. Their remaining sinfulness most likely leads them into a (perhaps hidden) life of legalism or license. They have become dull of hearing, and are coasting down shore with the earphones of this world distracting them to all else that moves. But they are not lost. To make it personal, without the constant practice of spiritual discipline, gutsy guilt, and an unending fight for faith, through the power of the Spirit, I am always at risk of being in this category. We are either growing closer to Christ, or we are drifting away from Him. There is no neutral.

The clearest solution to this problem is preaching, discipleship, and intentional (diverse) community in our churches that teach and embrace spiritual disciplines and progressive sanctification, encourage members to discover who they were created to be, and challenge them to serve others before themselves. We must understand the concept of whole faith for the whole person (Head, Heart, and Hands); and the Gospel is the source of that faith. The Gospel is the power of God to save not only unbelievers, but also believers, and if it is preached faithfully (and repeatedly) and lived out consistently, it will inspire people to live a life worthy of the calling they have received, and by the Spirit it will help them discern that calling. We should by our example and ministry help them make their calling and election sure (which it is, if they are in this category). We dare not fill our churches with "undiscipled disciples".

2. Unregenerate Sheep

These are people who profess to be Christians but do not have an authentic relationship with, understanding of, or saving faith in, Jesus Christ. They may come to church, open their Bible, take communion, sing to God, go to small group, but they are not converted. Without the illumination and regeneration of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel, they will be lost.

The clearest solution to this problem is not accusation or ridicule of those who may be in this category. We can never know. The clear solution is preaching, discipleship, and intentional (diverse) community in our churches where members (and especially leaders) watch their lives and doctrine closely, and faithfully proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. Speak the Gospel, love people, and trust the Holy Spirit. We should by our word and deed help them make their calling and election sure (which it isn’t, if they are in this category).

3. Unconnected Non-Christians

These are the people that are not in our churches. They do not come, either because they have no interest in the Bible, God, or spiritual things, or they did at one time but their experience or perception of church is tainted and they don’t plan to come back. In turn, they are agnostic, or atheist, or “spiritual” outside of Christ, and as they raise families and work for a living, their influence is shaping our society away from Christ.

The clearest solution to this problem is engaging the culture with the Gospel, and taking the church to the people. In other words, decentralize our idea of church so that Christians understand and practice the reality that we are the church, not the building we go to. This solution will incorporate a small group structure in our churches that emphasizes cultural engagement with unbelievers, intentional (diverse) community with fellow believers, and selfless service towards those who need both to hear the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to see the demonstration of that Gospel. Go and be, instead of come and see. The creativity and engagement of Christians reflecting the biblical Gospel should be shaping our culture, and not letting the culture shape us.

This third solution should be a natural outflow of, and not a replacement for, the first two solutions. Though the institutional church has driven some away by its inconsistent proclamation, hypocritical demonstration, or overall confusion of our beloved Gospel, it is not time to leave it behind. We should not assume that being the church in our culture is enough, because God desires more. We are called to walk the delicate balance between being in the world but not of the world. Healthy institutional churches, if cured from past sickness, can accomplish this simultaneously by sending out believers to faithfully speak and live the Gospel in their everyday lives, and by structurally representing a unified Body of believers that are not of this world. His Church is advancing with Spirit-empowered force in local churches across the country, and can still be a biblical and profound representation to the world, Christian and non-Christian alike, of the glorious, otherworldly, and invincible City of God and Body of Christ that God is bringing forth in His perfect timing.


This is oversimplified. I know. But I hoped it would be a helpful start. There is more to say, and say more I certainly will do. Please feel free to contribute to the dialogue. But remember that at the end of the day, the Gospel is the issue; any problem in our culture, or our country, or our church, ultimately comes down to a confusing, inconsistent, or false proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. Every effort we make to get closer to the true Gospel will inevitably bring glory to God and will expand His kingdom through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every effort away from it will further the decline on which even the secular world has now seen fit to report. If you have an uninterrupted 80 minutes sometime soon, I would HIGHLY recommend the following talk:

The Genesis of the False Gospel

A passion for the faithful presentation of the biblical Gospel in our secular culture is not only the ultimate purpose of this blog, but I think also the one thing most lacking in our Church today. Hence my seemingly random attendance at the following conference next week:

I’m humbled to be able to do my part in participating in its preservation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do You Know Him?

Coming from a relaxing, humbling, and thankful Easter weekend, I thought I'd extend this prayerful encouragement: Please do not consider the Resurrection over because Easter is over, and then just get on with your life. It is a bigger deal than that. Let's get to know Jesus like Dr. S. M. Lockridge did.

Elvis is dead, Picasso is dead
Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are dead
Marilyn Monroe is dead- however…
Jesus is Alive

Brando is dead, James Brown is dead
Princess Di and John Lennon are dead
Biggie and Pac are dead- however
Jesus is Alive

Give praise to King Jesus, the blessed Son
Victorious, glorious resurrected One
To Him belongs the power, glory and honor
Ascended where He sits at the right hand of the Father
At the cross He made atonement- His people He saved
After three days He was raised in defeat of the grave
By faith the elect behold Him, His scepter is golden
He must have been hot or slippery because death couldn’t hold Him
The spotlight is on today’s icons
In a thousand years, nobody will care- their light’s gone
But at that time, Christ will still shine bright
He’s not in the limelight- He IS the limelight
Criminal minded, you’ve been blinded
Looking for the body of Jesus? You won’t find it
We never lack spirit, letting you cats hear it
Because His tomb is empty like most secular rap lyrics

Plato is dead, Socrates is dead
Aristotle and Immanuel Kant are dead
Neitzsche and Darwin are dead- however
Jesus is Alive

Buddha is dead, Mohammed is dead
Ghandi and Haile Selassie are dead
Elijah Mohammed is dead- however
Jesus is Alive

Throughout history there’s been mad religious leaders
Prophets, preachers, scholars, teachers
But when it came to the grave, no one could climb out
That’s where Jesus stands alone like taking a ‘timeout’
And don’t be mislead- I got a level head
No resurrection, Christianity would have never spread
The disciples weren’t stupid guys who would ruin their lives
And then choose to die for what they knew was a lie
That would be beyond ridiculous- Nah, the issue is
The risen Christ seen by 500 eye-witnesses
Imagine 500 people in a court of law
Each of them taking the stand reporting what they saw
If their stories lined up and made sense
The evidence would have to leave you convinced
But still it’s by faith that we trust and praise the Son
Who was raised for our justification

Nero is dead, Constantine is dead
Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun are dead
Alexander the Great is dead- however
Jesus is Alive

Napoleon is dead, Lao Tzu is dead
Che Guevara and Henry VIII are dead
Saddam Hussein is dead- however
Jesus is Alive

Through faith in Christ, we’ve been saved from hell
Because He’s risen, it means we’ll be raised as well
In glorified bodies fit for the new earth
For now, we participate in the new birth
The universal reality of the true church
With resurrection power, watch the Spirit do work!
United with Christ, we reside in His light
Abide in His might, keep in stride as we fight
The pride in our life, the lies and the spite
We strive to be wise as He guides through the night
He’ll chide and He’ll slice- recognize that He’s right
His brightness inside lights our eyes and it’s tight
(He) decided to die to wash white all our strife
His life was the price to delight in His wife
He told death “sike” just to rise like a kite
All eyes on the Christ- let’s prize Him tonight

Pharaoh is dead, Cyrus is dead
Darius and Sennacharib are dead
Nebuchadnezzar is dead- however
Jesus is Alive

Caesar is dead, Herod is dead
Annas, Caiaphas and Judas are dead
Pontius Pilate is dead- however
Jesus is Alive

--- "Jesus is Alive" by Shai Linne

Monday, April 6, 2009

Watch Your Life and Doctrine

This post is actually written for pastors. What? Writing a post for that purpose is strange for a couple reasons. First, I don’t presume to think that any pastors read this blog (though I hope some do). Second, it’s awfully arrogant of me to think I have much of anything to say to a pastor, someone who has been specifically anointed and appointed to shepherd God’s people, when I haven’t. Obviously I am neither a pastor, nor in vocational ministry at all.

I’m writing this assuming that the wisdom or observation or suggestion of a layperson can be helpful to a pastor; or at least that the recommendation by a layperson to what other pastors are saying can be helpful. I am assuming that someone who cuts and sells foam, but who also happens to seek and live a “missional life” in Church and beyond has some helpful perspective for someone who seeks, teaches, and lives a missional life, but just doesn’t happen to cut and sell foam or work in the secular marketplace; that perhaps someone like myself has a perspective of “contextualization” that a pastor would not. The risk in that assumption being wrong is one I’m willing to take. Hopefully, this stance will not be viewed as arrogant, but humble.

As a side note, if I were a pastor, I would be all over this conference:

I’m considering checking it out myself. Do I feel called to someday go into the pastorate or full-time ministry?


But I doubt it. Besides, it is a miracle in the first place that God would use me at all, in any capacity. Right now at least, I feel God pruning, disciplining, and sanctifying me into the role of a “pastor” in the business world. That is to say, a businessman who is actually pastoral in his witness and biblical approach to the marketplace; a manager who not only proclaims his faith through bible verses on his wall or free bibles in the lobby, but also who loves and helps his employees, customers, and suppliers in a way that is productive for the company and for the kingdom of God.

Someone who has a vision for business that centers on producing a product (or service) that allows the community to flourish, and employing people in meaningful work that allows them to utilize their God-given abilities - all the while not compromising the absolute truths known to be true (among them, that the goal of a business is to make money, or else the opportunity to do any of this would be bankrupt).

And someone who pursues “seminary” as a lifestyle, instead of a series of semesters. I think this would be unique (though I did not come up with the concept), powerful, and fruitful. So we’ll see.

In the meantime, I wrote this post because God has brought me to a sensitive, but important, subject in the Church, and in the process I came across an interesting message at a conference for pastors (A Shepherd and His Unregenerate Sheep). Please listen to or read this message – as usual, my summary is not sufficient. It speaks on the reality that every Sunday, there are some, maybe many, people, who take communion, have their Bibles open, and sing to God at church; and during the week attend (or God forbid, lead) a small group; but do not have a true knowledge of, relationship with, or saving faith in, Jesus Christ. The way Matt Chandler approaches this tragedy in this message is by encouraging and rebuking the pastor (read Christian leader), instead of calling out and criticizing the “unregenerate sheep”. This is probably an effective approach, among other reasons, because it would be difficult and counterproductive to try to determine who is “regenerate” and who is not. It is the way Paul approached it with Timothy.

So, I wanted to pass along some amazing lessons from this message, and I acknowledge that such lessons are most helpful to pastors. But, if you consider yourself a leader in the Church at any level, which is to say that you feel a calling to disciple other Christians into a growing knowledge of Jesus Christ (which you should, if you’re a Christian) then this will hopefully be very helpful to you also, as it was for me.

If you are not a Christian, I hope this can be for you a helpful distinction between what the Bible teaches a Christian is and what the world assumes a Christian is. And I hope that the biblical definition, and biblical center of that definition (Jesus), would be infinitely glorious and irresistibly desirable to you. I hope that it would clarify to you exactly where you stand spiritually, in case no one has been so bold as to share the Gospel with you, and therefore left you unsure.

If you are a pastor, by all means, you have no idea how much I welcome (and need) your comments, criticism, rebuke, etc. If you’re not a pastor, lay off.

Just kidding. At the very least, consider this food for thought.


I don’t think there is much I could say that would be as clear or profound as the instructions in 1 Timothy 4.

1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Regarding doctrine, there is one example from this sermon based on this text that I’d like to highlight:

“Evangelism that doesn’t lead people into a community that teaches and embraces the reality of progressive sanctification is an exercise in futility.”

That is a mouthful, but read it a few times, because it is a very profound and helpful observation about discipleship and conversion. What I think he is trying to say is that if you expect in evangelism to make an altar call, pray the prayer with someone, and then be done, you are wrong. Not teaching the reality that justification gets you right with God, and sanctification keeps you right with God, and that both of these are done only through grace and by the Holy Spirit, and that justification is once for all but sanctification is progressive; not teaching and embracing these things could ultimately lead people to either legalism or license.

Legalism in the sense that they spend their Christian life enslaved to keeping the law and commands of God (like the elder brother in Luke 15), and when they realize they can’t, or that they aren’t always rewarded accordingly, they become severely depressed (or angry).

License in the sense that they spend their Christian life doing whatever they want (like the prodigal in Luke 15), and they end up eating with pigs and maybe never even realize it. In both of these cases, they are lost and outside of the grace of Jesus Christ and may not even be “justified”. Evangelism that teaches that Christianity is something altogether different from legalism, or license (sinning so grace can abound), is the only kind that will be effective, because through the Holy Spirit it will get people saved, and keep them saved.

And even worse, if evangelism leads people to this place, outside of a loving, committed, authentic community of believers who encourage, challenge, and love new members of the faith, then the whole exercise is futile. If evangelism leads people to a generic small group that is comfortable and friendly, but does not help people navigate through the complexity of this world and the reality of their remaining sinfulness, then the effort is at risk of inoculating people to a relationship with Jesus. What Matt Chandler means by this term “inoculate”, is that we risk showing someone just enough of Jesus for them to never know him – we show them just the surface of his character in the Bible without unpacking the deep, profound, and eternal accomplishment that started on the Cross and will end at glory – and in turn people will think they know him because they know only a generous Savior; or think they know him because they know only an authoritative Lord; instead of knowing they know him because they live in a relationship with both a mighty Lord and a gracious Savior, and do so in a community of believers who encourage and confirm that reality every day.

All this talk does not mean that someone can lose their salvation (cancel their justification). Progressive sanctification naturally leads to the reality of the perseverance of the saints, which means that only those who are born again will persevere in faith to the end, and only those who persevere in faith to the end were ever really born again. I promise that statement is not as confusing as it sounds. “For by a single offering, he perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:14

All that to say, I think Chandler’s point is that doctrine (and community!) is important in evangelism, and you can’t have one without the other. If we neglect either, people won’t become authentically saved, or they will, but life and indwelling sin will strip all their joy away and leave them lukewarm.


Again, the text in 1 Timothy 4 is clear, but one point to highlight:

12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

The example that Matt Chandler uses is hearing the stories of two groups of people who went on the same mission trip, but traveled in different buses to get there. One bus of people (from another church) spent their time praying, reading scripture, and calling out to the mercy of God, and when they arrived, they were covered in tears. The other (from Matt’s church) spent the time challenging each other as to the best joke they’d ever heard, and upon arriving, exited the bus laughing and carefree about the mission ahead of them. Chandler describes how disturbed and convicted he was by this: “I laid on the floor and sobbed because my witty, sarcastic humor had been embedded into The Village so much that on the way out to such a dark, spiritual destination, we’re doing knock-knock jokes.” He recalled a professor in college saying, “Five years in, what’s wrong with your church is wrong with you.” I don’t think this only applies to the pastor, but to any Christian leaders in the congregation as well.

Be the example in speech, in life, in purity, in love, in prayer. Be the example. By doing so, you will not only confirm and reveal the regenerate, but also you will save both yourself and your hearers.


One note about spiritual depression I thought would be helpful to include, which was mentioned above referring to the result of a life of legalism. Many of the heroes of the church struggled with spiritual depression; wondering, or doubting, or despairing, for no apparent reason. It happens, it good times or bad, and can be very dangerous, not just for yourself, but for your witness.

In my experience - with I guess I would describe as limited in that my times of doubt or despair have seemed minor in comparison to the John Bunyan type – I have been convicted of a few very practical and helpful ways to fight the sin of despair (which can be the gateway to worse things).

1. Be inspired every day. What I mean by this is that not a day should go by that you are not inspired to the point of amazement at the Living God and the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it applies to your salvation and those God desires to reach through you. Whether it is through music in your car, or a sermon, or a bible verse stuck in your head, or a really good book, or having a conversation with spiritual implications, or just enjoying fellowship with friends - you should seek to have your mind blown and heart moved by the God of the Bible every day. And at the most fundamental level, you should make sure that the source of that inspiration is the Word of God, the content of that inspiration is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the power in the inspiration is the Holy Spirit. Such inspiration will do wonders to your joy and witness, and God offers it to you every moment.

2. Know who you were created to be. Get all over Ephesians 4 and realize that you are a uniquely created being that God knit together in your mother’s womb for specific gifting that He intends you to use for the glory of His name. This process is not necessarily easy (it probably requires a separate post), but begin it so that you will not wonder if your existence is only random and waste your life consuming and enjoying when God created you for much more.

3. Serve others and not yourself. This should be common sense, but unfortunately in our culture it is not. We were created for community, and we were created to love others, and we were created to glorify the name of Jesus Christ, and until that reality is understood and embraced, we shouldn’t expect to ever be completely satisfied. The more selfless we become, the more joy we experience, and the more God is glorified.

4. Develop and maintain a full assurance of hope. All these points really require another post, but all I mean by this is that if you can’t develop and maintain a full assurance of hope, and be completely secure in your salvation and eternal life, than the enemy will use your doubt to devastate you. It is God’s will that we be sanctified, and know without wavering where that sanctification is leading us.

5. Talk to yourself more than you listen to yourself. This advice is from C.J. Mahaney in a talk called The Troubled Soul, and it basically means we should constantly remind ourselves of the promises of God, speak scripture to ourselves all the time, to counter the worry, doubt, despair, confusion, anger, and whatever else that seems to come from inside us involuntarily. We are our most trusted counselor, and it shouldn't be that way, because we are sinners. The Holy Spirit is the Counselor we need.


I am going to write a potentially massive post about the Church, as soon as I get the time – about church-hopping, discerning a healthy church, becoming a healthy church member, strategies and programs, new paradigms, etc. In the meantime, my general observation is that the direction of the American Church is curious right now, because most would tell you that it is at risk of significant decline. Just pick up a Newsweek. Actually, that is what people have been saying for decades, and so far it appears that the solutions have not slowed this decline (which could be defined in either numbers or passion). The marketing philosophy of the mega churches, and the truth phobia of the emergent church, have not seemed to be the answer to what the Holy Spirit is doing. The next effort may indeed be the “house church movement” or the decentralized model of bringing the church to the people, and “doing life together”.

I believe this last effort has some teeth. It is more biblical and meaningful than all the rest. But I also worry about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If we strive for our churches to become Bible-centered (considering the Word of God to be authoritative and inerrant); and Christ-centered (knowing that the Bible is not just a bunch of religious stories but a canon that is entirely pointing towards the person of Jesus Christ); and Cross-centered (knowing that Christ was not just a good teacher who taught us some things but was the Son of God who went to the Cross to accomplish for us forgiveness (saved us from sin), and propitiation (saved us from wrath), and expiation (made us clean), and that this was the center of history) – if we become a church like that, I think we can throw out the bathwater of false teaching, lukewarm living, prosperity and marketed gospels, and still keep the baby of the local, structured, biblically-led church. And if we keep that, I think real, authentic, life-changing community, and disciples who bring the church to their neighbors and co-workers, will result from it. If we let the local church be thrown out with all these unbiblical things, we risk losing the foundations of our faith, and stand to drift off not only to heresy, but also to irrelevance and fragmentation (beyond even what the Protestant church has experienced so far). This doesn’t have to happen.

If we watch our life and our doctrine closely, we will decrease the possibility of unsaved people being a part of our community while not knowing anything is wrong. If we are faithful, by the Holy Spirit, after becoming a part of our community, we will witness these people become saved and live in the joyous certainty about the nature, fruits, and permanence of that salvation. We will see a church and community of born again people proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world, with full assurance of hope, and without fear of the persecution that will await us. God has seen fit to use the local church for this for centuries. Though decentralization is necessary in our time to refocus our efforts to the outside world, we must be careful that the local church is not the casualty. The local church has not been the problem; the problem has been what many have let the local church become. We should both be the church and go to church, and I believe God will take care of the rest.