Wednesday, November 28, 2007
In the meantime, my first two online messages are up at Fellowship Baptist Church, Saskatoon. I was asked to speak at a conference and then on Sunday morning - they've put both the messages up here. There were a couple more speakers at the conference, but the messages didn't get posted - technical difficulties?
The first one, "The Church's Roots" was on biblical authority from 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. The second one, "How to Fix the World" was from Ephesians 1:9-10.
My mom doesn't use the internet, but in case anyone else in interested, there you go.
Friday, November 23, 2007
I have certainly experienced a dissatisfaction with conferences, leadership events and pastors that don't seem to appreciate the centrality of the Gospel for every day. I try to have a good attitude, but when Christian books, events and programs don't look to grace to justify their purpose, they come off flat and shallow. For instance, a few of our men at church went with me to a leadership weekend a few years back. The presenter spent most of his time quoting from secular business books and dropping names of movers and shakers in the corporate world. There was very little Bible, and we didn't hear about anything in that retreat that only God could do (i.e., grace).
The same applies to various aspects of evangelicalism today; church growth, Christian counselling, parenting and marriage seminars and other aspects of Christian life are based on what we do rather than what only God can do. Secular models are borrowed and the Bible is set to the side (or a few proof-texts are pulled out). So many Christians need reform - a paradigm shift, a Copernican revolution.
In his message on the Gospel at the first meeting of The Gospel Coalition, Don Carson identified the problem as a misunderstanding of what the Gospel really is. He said that many believers think that the Gospel is for "tipping people into the Kingdom" and then it is left behind and the focus shifts to what we do. That is not good. The gospel must be central for all of life. As Jerry Bridges says, "preach the gospel to yourself every day" (if you haven't read any Jerry Bridges' books, or if you've just read, The Pursuit of Holiness, find and read The Discipline of Grace).
One critical passage on this theme is Galatians 3:1-3. The Galatians were "foolish" and "bewitched" because, after starting with grace through faith, they began to rely on human effort. Another key text is Titus 2:11-13 (which Dave Harvey unpacks in his book). The grace of God is operative in training us until the day we see Christ face-to-face.
Declaring this Gospel - from the pulpit and among non-believers - is the absolute center of true Christian life. Dave Harvey calls this "persistent grace to run the race." I love that phrase and I plan to swipe it.
Not everyone in my Fellowship of churches, not all the pastors in our Edson ministerial, not all the people in my my church get this concept yet. It is only by a revolution wrought by the Holy Spirit that we will get the Gospel in this comprehensive manner for all of life. I'm going to keep on promoting the gospel by preaching, teaching, recommending great books and messages and hammering away on this theme on my blog.
Thanks, Pastor Dave, for your book and that great phrase, "persistent grace to run the race."
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
These are big topics, but one of my frustrations is that many pastors that I talk to don't even get the categories (or think they do and reject my narrowness out of hand). I could point people to David Wells' four books that do such an excellent job diagnosing the problem, or even D.A. Carson's The Gagging of God (I can't believe that book is 11 years old already), but these books take some work.
I don't seem to have the words to express what's wrong briefly, so I have been hesitating to do a blog post or a blog series. Enter the wonderful world of the internet. Now I can just point people to Tim Challies post, "Ruined for Anything Else" and Michael Haykin's post, "Spiritual Vitality and Church Governance." Together, they form an excellent primer for what I perceive to be the greatest problems in our churches today. These two little posts don't say everything, but they are great discussion starters. Thanks, gentlemen!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
- Are we an association of churches or a denomination? Is that a meaningful distinction any more?
- I have serious reservations regarding a corporate model of leadership for local churches, but is it acceptable or even desirable for a National administration? The National Fellowship office is not a church, but exists to serve churches.
- With that in mind, is it important for an administrative body that serves churches to be theological, i.e. define their terms (missional, disciple, conversion, etc)? Is it safe to assume: a). we are on the same page on doctrine because of our shared affirmation of faith and / or b). theological precision is a local church matter?
- The ultimate purpose of these changes is to grow churches, both by expanding the size of existing churches and accelerating the planting of churches. What is the most effective way to influence local churches to achieve these goals while respecting their autonomy?
I am not opposed to streamlining administrations to make them more effective in accomplishing their mission. I am not opposed to helping churches grow and multiply - in fact, I could use some help in mobilizing our people to be more mission-minded here in Edson. One thing I do know is that I am not going to cheer for the team that wants to maintain the status-quo (I don't even know if that "team" exists). We do need change and renewal as a Fellowship of churches.
However, I want to know if my restlessness is warranted. Am I asking the right questions? Is there cause for alarm or shall I just hang tight and see what develops?