• Does Knowing Theology Make you a Mature Christian?

    Have you ever met a person who knows a bunch of theology but hardly lives it out? Does knowing theology make someone a mature Christian? How can some people (even some pastors) seemingly know the Bible cover to cover and know a lot of theology but don’t seem to love like Jesus or live like him?

    I think Paul Tripp in his great book A Dangerous Calling nails these questions in this quote:

    Since seminary tends to academize the faith, making it a world of ideas to be mastered (I will write about this at length later in this book), it is quite easy for students to buy into the belief that biblical maturity is about the precision of theological knowledge and the completeness of their biblical literacy. So seminary graduates, who are Bible and theology experts, tend to think of themselves as being mature. But it must be said that maturity is not merely something you do with your mind (although that is an important element of spiritual maturity). No, maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and be very immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and be in need of significant spiritual growth.

     

    Paul Tripp A Dangerous Calling

    What do you think?

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  • Are all religions just culturally conditioned?

    One of the things that irks most people today is to say that there is only one right religion. I mean how arrogant is that! As a Christian how can I say that my beliefs are better or more truthful than a Muslim’s beliefs or a Buddhist’s beliefs?

    One of the biggest objections to the idea of exclusivism (the belief that there is only one God and there is only one way to that God) is to assert that all religions are just culturally conditioned responses to reality. The argument goes like this: I am a white western male and therefore it is obvious that I would be a Christian because generally white western males, if they are going to believe in something, they will believe in the Christian God. But if I grew up in Morocco I would be a Muslim because most males in Morocco are Muslim. Therefore if this is true then this proves that all religions are culturally conditioned responses to reality and we should not say one is better than the other!

    Here is how the great philosopher Alvin Plantinga responds to this objection:

    “Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would have been quite different. But the same Goes for the pluralist.. If the pluralist had been born in Morocco he probably wouldn’t be a pluralist. Does it follow that… his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief producing process?’

    Alvin Plantinga, A Defense of Religious Exclusivism, p. 205

    In this quote Plantinga points out that the objection cuts both ways. For example, if an atheist student had been born in Morocco, then he probably would be a Muslim, not an atheist!  Does it follow that his atheist beliefs are merely conditioned by his parents or peers?  As Tim Keller observes “You can’t say, ‘All claims about religions are historically conditioned except the one I am making right now.’”

    All people whether they are Christians, Muslims or atheists are products of the cultures they were raised in. But atheists would never want to say that their atheism is merely the result of cultural conditioning.

    When we go down the road of claiming that those who disagree with me only believe what they believe because of their culture or upbringing or some because of ignorance I am not giving their position any respect.  I am simply patronizing them and really I don’t care about them or their position I am just trying to be right.

    Are religions culturally conditioned. To certain extent yes. But that doesn’t mean that there is no one true religion.

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  • Who Is Leading Your Church?

    Senior leadership teams of a church, whether they be a parish council, a staff team, an elder board or something else, are crucial for healthy, high functioning churches.

    I have been reading a book by Tony Morgan called Take the Lid Off Your Church: 6 Steps to Building a Healthy Senior Leadership Team. He says this about senior leadership teams in churches:

    The reality is, the decision about who will be on your senior leadership team is probably the biggest determining factor of health and success for your church. This decision is much bigger than those about discipleship strategies, series plans, buildings, budgets, etc. Determining who is on your senior leadership team will shape every other decision.

    Did you see how crucial senior leadership teams are? They are “probably the biggest determining factor of health and success for your church” Now of course Tony is speaking here on a human level. He would be the first to admit that God grows his church and so we need to be careful before we think all that we need to do to grow a church is to get the right people in the right positions. It is God who gives the growth. But God does work through humans and our good and bad decisions and so we need to think carefully about who is on our senior leadership teams.

    The wrong person(s) in a senior leadership team can frustrate the growth of a church and the right person(s) can make a church flourish as Tony says:

     I’ve seen firsthand how the right person can propel a church forward. I’ve also seen how the wrong person—though talented and gifted by God—can truly disrupt culture and growth. There is simply too much at stake for a church not to do everything within its power to make sure they understand who needs to hold the senior leadership positions in their church.”

    I love that sentence There is simply too much at stake for a church not to do everything within its power to make sure they understand who needs to hold the senior leadership positions in their church.” There is a lot at stake isn’t there? If your church has the wrong people in positions of leadership and the work of the church is hampered and as a knock on effect evangelism, pastoral care and the like doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen in the manner in which it should there are eternal consequences.

    Pastor, are you going to have the courage to build the right senior leadership team for your church? If you do some people will be offended and some people may leave. But the stakes are far too high for you not to get the right people in the right positions on your senior leadership team.

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  • Tim Keller on Pastors and Gospel Identity

    Absolute brilliance from Tim Keller:

    “Perhaps the greatest dilemma of the pastor – or any Christian leader – is the danger of hypocrisy. By this I mean that, unlike other professionals, we as ministers are expected to proclaim God’s goodness and to provide encouragement at all times. We are always pointing people toward God in one way or another, in order to show them his worth and beauty. That’s the essence of our ministry. But seldom will our hearts be in a condition to say such a thing with complete integrity, since our own hearts are often in need of encouragement, gospel centeredness, and genuine gladness. Thus, we have two choices: either we have to guard our hearts continually in order to practice what we are preaching, or we live bifurcated lives of outward ministry and inward gloominess.

    In this way, the ministry will make you a far better or a far worse Christian than you would have been otherwise. But it will not leave you where you were! And it will put enormous pressure on your integrity and character. The key problem will be preaching the gospel while not believing the gospel. As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. In other words, we look to ministry success to be for us what only Christ can be. All ministers who know themselves will be fighting this all their lives. It is the reason for jealousy, for comparing ourselves to other ministers, for needing to control people and programs in the church, and for feeling defensive toward criticism. At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.”

    What resonates with you from this quote?

  • Five reasons why you should go to the In The Chute Conference

    I love being a Geneva Church planter. In fact if anyone tells me they are even thinking about planting a church the first thing I say is “You gotta get in touch with the Geneva guys!” Every year The Geneva Push puts on it’s yearly conference called In The Chute. It is always an amazing time. So in light of the upcoming conference I want to give you my five reasons why you should go to In The Chute.

    1. It is a refreshing time. As church leaders we need to get away and be taught ourselves so we are refreshed by God and his word. The teaching at Geneva events is always top notch and is always encouraging and refreshing.
    2. Don Carson will be speaking. If you have never heard of Don Carson he (along with Tim Keller) runs The Gospel Coalition and is one of the most influential men in Evangelicalism. Don is an amazing speaker who will stretch, rebuke
      and encourage you as he preaches and teaches.
    3. The topic for this years conference is The Church. I have written on the mission of the church here. I think what the church is and does is one of the most important topics for contemporary Christianity. It is going to be amazing hearing from Don Carson on this topic.
    4. You learn from other church leaders about what is working for them. It is great to get together with other planters and church leaders and compare notes on what is and isn’t working for them.
    5. You get to listen and learn from older more experienced guys. I love hearing from a guy 1, 5 , 10 or 20 years down the track because I hear that what I am going through is pretty standard. I also get to reap the wisdom that God has given them through the years. At In The Chute I always get time with older more experienced pastors and try to learn everything I can from them.

    There you have it. There are my five reasons why you should go to the In The Chute this year. If you want to sign up for it go here.

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  • Have Younger Evangelicals Lost What the Mission of the Church is?

    I hear and read of so many young evangelicals talk about what the church should be doing. The church should be “making sure our city flourish” or “bringing shalom to our world” or “eradicating injustice, oppression and poverty”. This is all couched in such language that if your church isn’t doing these things your church is not truly living as salt and light in out world or your church doesn’t have a kingdom mentality.

    But the question is “What is the mission of the church?” Is the mission of the church narrowly defined or broadly defined? Is everything mission or are only a few things mission?

    What does Jesus say that the mission of the church is? In Matthew 28 Jesus says:

    “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    For Jesus, and therefore for us, the mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel to a dying world so that people escape the wrath to come and to grow Christians in their knowledge, love and service of Jesus.  Now does this means that doing social justice is a bad or unbiblical thing? Not at all, in fact the bible says a lot about caring and loving the poor. But we need to be clear and say social justice might be what a church does but it is not the primary thing a church does. Preaching the gospel is the primary thing the church does. Gresham Machen nails what the primary thing a church does is in this quote:

    “The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life–no, all the length of human history–is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth–no, all the wonders of the starry heavens–area as the dust of the street.

    “An unpopular message it is–an impractical message, we are told. But it is the message of the Christian church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life”  Gresham Machen in Selected Shorter Writings: J. Gresham Machen, edited by D.G. Hart, 376

     

  • Pastors always look better on social media

    Here are list of things that you will never see a pastor put on Facebook or Twitter:

    “We had the lowest attendance ever but the gospel was preached!”

    “I am really bombing on this camp I am speaking at”

    “I am burnt out and I want to quit ministry!”

    “My wife is going through post natal depression and I am struggling.”

    “My Church wont seem to grow no matter what we try.”

    No here is what we (and I am putting me square in the middle of the we) put on Facebook and Twitter:

    “Please pray for me because my church has grown from 10 to a quarter of a million in 24 hours and I really need wisdom on how to pastor them.”

    “How good are the first 9 chapters of Chronicles? God’s word is amazing!”

    “Can’t wait to preach at John Piper’s church’s youth group. I am humbled by the opportunity”

    Granted, these posts are sarcastic posts that I have never seen on social media.  But I have seen and I have posted things that are very close.

    I have been challenged over the past few months to think about why I post what I post on Social Media I especially have been challenged by how my posts affect others. Sure my church is going great at the moment and I want more people to come to it but would posting how awesome my church is going discourage a godly and faithful brother in Christ who is struggling leading a church that is elderly and dying no matter what he tries to do? Putting up a post about my great wife could be cute or romantic but how does the single person who is struggling with their singleness feel when they read that post? How does the man who is married to a woman who is going through post natal depression feel when he reads my tweet about my amazing wife?

    I am not saying that we should never put things on social media about how great my church is or how awesome our spouse is but we should check our hearts before we post. We should ask what is the motivation behind posting this tweet. Is it to show the world that I have arrived  that I am awesome and that my life is fantastic? Or is it for a more noble reason? Also, ask this question before you post “Would I say what I am posting to all my Facebook friends or Twitter followers if they were right in front of me”? If not why would I post it online for them to read it?

    Twitter and Facebook has shown me for who I am in the past. That I am really quite narcissistic and this narcissism is deadly to my soul. What about you? Do you need to change they way you use social media?

  • A prayer that all Christian leaders need to pray

    I have been reading Replenish by Lance Witt and on page after page it has been cutting to the core of me and doing significant heart work. Today, I have been reading about the desire pastors have to be significant in people’s eyes which is a significant struggle I have. Here is a prayer that I am going to pray daily which Lance has in his book. I think it is  a prayer that all Christian leaders should pray:

    Today I still long for so much honour, I am so pleased with myself, so rooted in my nature. I am pleased when others as for my opinion, when I am made to feel I am needed, when people know that I am clever, talented and popular. I am glad when I am friends with everyone, when I can share what is in my heart, when I can shine.
    But Lord Jesus, you were servant of all. Today I surrender all desire to be great; I renounce all pleasure I take in being important.
    (From Baselia Schlink’s book I found the Key to the Heart of God: My Personal Story, 47-48 as quoted in Lance Witt Replenish)
    Is this a prayer you need to pray too?
  • Why we Sydney Evangelicals need to be a bit more charasmatic

    I preached on these verses over the weekend:

     “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

     “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

    Matthew 7:7-11

    As I was preparing the text I found myself thinking “But there are some things that this doesn’t apply to.” I was thinking about asking God for fancy cars, money and general bling. All of which I am still sure this text doesn’t apply to. But as I kept thinking I found myself rationalizing this text away. I was thinking that there were so many good things I was saying this couldn’t apply to.

    This can’t mean that if we ask God for revival in our land he would do it.

    This can’t mean that if we ask God for healing of this sin or sickness he would do it.

    This can’t mean that if we ask God for spiritual renewal in our church he would do it.

    I mean those things seem so big!

    I know what you are thinking “In his sovereignty God may or may not bring those things to pass” Totally and 100 percent agree.But,  have we used God’s sovereignty to negate us asking big things of God? Have we, in our cultural and theological conservatism, really undermined this text and undermined the character of God as revealed in this text?

    Our charismatic brothers and sisters seem to believe this text more than I do. They not only believe it intellectually but they believe it in action and prayers. We see this in the things they try to do for God and the types of prayers they pray.

    I need to learn from my charismatic brothers and sisters in this area.

    Do you too?

  • How to talk with a Christian who wants a divorce

    This Sunday at Resolved I am preaching on Matthew 5:27-32  where Jesus talks about lust and divorce. I am nervous to be speaking on such important and potentially painful topics. I have never preached on divorce before and have been reading widely on it this week. In my reading I found this brilliant piece of pastoral wisdom from John Stott about speaking with someone who wants to get divorced:

    “So, speaking personally as a Christian pastor, whenever somebody asks to speak to me about divorce, I have now for some years steadfastly refused to do so. I have made the rule never to speak with anybody about divorce, until I ahve first spoken to them with him (or her) about two other subjects, namely marriage and reconciliation. Sometimes a discussion on these topics makes a discussion on the other unnecessary. At the very least, it is only when a person has understood and accepted God’s view of marriage and God’s call to reconciliation that a possible context has been created within which one may regretfully go on to talk about divorce. This principle of pastoral priorities is, I believe, consistent with the teaching of Jesus.” 

    John R.W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7 pgs.98-99

    What do you think? Is he right? Would you follow his advice?