Archive for October, 2009

Church Growth Gone Wild

I came across this blog post written by a local pastor in town.  I have never witnessed a pastor encouraging this type of “church growth” strategy before.  The names have been removed in this post to protect the innocent. :)  This pastor and I did correspond back and forth a few times but we graciously agreed to disagree on various points.  Here is his blog post below:

“As you heard during my presentation, XXX is now entering an exciting stage in it’s early ministry—where the stakes are high! In this stage, we must all start seeing ourselves as “missionaries to Freeport—recruiting other missionaries to Freeport.” Large churches like XXX can survive for quite some time based on size, budget, different-ness, and momentum. XXX can survive based on size, multiple staff and a broad, mainstream evangelical culture, and migration from broad evangelical churches.

We’ve deliberately chosen not to replicate XXX or XXX, because they have their own philosophy of ministry that fits a niche, but would simply render XXX the smaller, “step-sister” of these other churches (even if we wanted) to imitate them. I mention this because we offer something unique to Freeport. I believe we can reach broadly and disciple deeply a new generation. But getting to that point will require “all prayers up, and all hands on deck”. It will truly take the entire XXX family praying and working together!

I ask during the upcoming year each of you join our family in…
1) Asking our sovereign God to glorify Himself by bringing to XXX people who would 1) Benefit greatly from XXX AND who would 2) Contribute greatly to XXX (as missionaries with us). To be honest, XXX needs both types of people.

2) Making a list of both types of people that you personally know. Please do NOT rule anyone out because they have gone to “church x” for 15 years. Missionaries are always people sent from an established church, to start a new church. No churches would exist today if no one left their churches to birth ‘daughter’ churches. There’s nothing immoral about asking people to be missionaries. It’s been done for 2000 years!

**Making these friend lists should be fun. After all, this is a chance for you to sit back and ask, “who would I love to see a part of XXX?” Who would be a privilege to serve alongside?” “who would add warmth, servant-heartedness and gifts to a new church?”

Praying for you!
~ Pastor XXX XXX”

Your role in the kingdom of God

Dr. R.C. Sproul offers some encouraging words to church leaders. 

While always initiated and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit, history tells us that the most powerful periods of church renewal and reformation follow the efforts of Christian leaders to teach the Word of God accurately. Certainly, the Protestant Reformation would not have traveled far and wide if men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and others had not systematically explained the gospel and dedicated themselves to the training of churchmen. But let us not forget the efforts of unnamed persons who were used of God to bring renewal through their faithfulness to Scripture. It is hardly possible that the Reformation would have spread apart from the work of knowledgeable men who handed the faith on to other men and the labor of educated women who instructed women and children in the church and at home.
Famous and unsung alike, these heroes held in common a solid grounding in the essential truths of the prophetic and apostolic writings, the foundation upon which Christ builds His church. Christian leaders today must likewise be established in truths like biblical inerrancy, divine sovereignty, the person of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, man as the fallen image of God, salvation by grace alone, the nature of the church and sacraments, as well as the hope of our final resurrection if the church would enjoy a new reformation.”

This is a great conference to consider attending.  I attended years ago and was very blessed.

The literary and thematic unity of Matthew 19-20

The more I preach through Matthew’s gospel account the more I see its wonderful thematic coherence. For example, it is interesting to see how scholars treat passages like Matt 20:17-19 or Matt 20: 29-34. They will say things like, “this is a late addition by Matthew borrowed from Mark or Q” or “this passage is a departure from the flow of Matthew’s thought.” Of course the evidence for such conclusions can be found on the same aisle at Walmart that sells unicorns and leprechauns.  As always, the literary-thematic flow of NT narrative is crucial to understanding each individual pericope and the book’s central message/purpose. In Matthew 19-20, Matthew uses six narrative units to uphold a significant point about the Messiah.

Long story short, although the OT was clear that the Messiah would suffer, the disciples were often befuddled over the fact that Jesus had to die (e.g., Matt 16:21-23). After all, if He is the one who makes His enemies His footstool (Ps 110), then why does He have to die? Matthew wants the reader to see that the Messiah will not come in the way many expect. In fact He will come to those who are the outcasts, the foolish, and the despised of this world. Shockingly, the Messiah has done this by becoming preeminent not among the first but among the last. The chapter divsions between Matt 19 and 20 are unfortunate but they are what they are. Here’s how I see the literary unity of Matthew’s point:

19:1-12 Introduction and testing the Messiah

19:13-15 Narrative 1–The kingdom is for the last.

19:16-26 Narrative 2–The kingdom is shut off to the first.

19:27-29 Narrative 3–The kingdom is rewarded to the last.

19:30-20:16 Parable–Kingdom blessing is sovereignly rewarded.

20:17-19 Narrative 4–The Messiah is preeminent among the last.

20:20-28 Narrative 5–The Messiah came to serve the last through giving His life.

20:29-34 Narrative 6–The Messiah demonstrated His compassion for the last.

Books on the Life of Paul

I am doing a bit of writing on the life and ministry of Paul and I have found that this is a fairly limited area within evangelical scholarship. There are many works on the theology of Paul but not so much on his life. I have Richard Longenecker’s The Ministry and Message of Paul and F. F. Bruce’s Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Is there anything else you have read that makes a contribution to the subject beyond these?

Chri$tian Publi$hing and the Reformation: What have we learned?

Printers played an unsung role in these early years of the reform movement, though it it not always easy to determine their motives. Many acted from deep religious convictions and risked all to produce evangelical literature for their countrymen. For others, religious sentiments combined easily with profit margins. The market for popular Reformation authors was great, and there was money to be made. Mostly the printers formed smallish circles of friends and acquaintances, yet with their extensive web of foreign contacts they were able to ensure a constant flow of literature into France which passed under the radar of censors [Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale University Press: 2009), 17].

Christ is muffled in ten thousand places

A number of years ago I heard a speaker quoting Eugene Peterson to the effect that there was something deficient in John Calvin’s theology, as evidenced by the fact that he was capable of writing all that high level theology in Geneva without ever once describing the glory of the Alps right out his window. This seems like a plausible objection as raised by pomo types, until we realize that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John never once described the azure sky above the sea of Galilee. What’s with that? Nor did they tell us what the lakeside zephyrs gently did to the long grasses on the slopes above the lake. I don’t know what the deal was. Maybe they had other things on the mind.

HT: Wilson

The circus leading up to the Reformation

“The fifteenth century was the great age of preachers who moved through cities and towns, not only encouraging the people to reform their lives but also providing a good deal of entertainment” [Bruce Gordon, Calvin (Yale University Press: 2009), 11].

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