• Vibe part 1: A definition and why every Pastor needs to think about it

    Vibe can be a dirty word in some church circles and in others it can be thought of too highly. Over the next few days I will be blogging about vibe, how we should think about it, what vibe we should be going for and how to get a good vibe going.

    But first what do we mean by vibe?

    Here is my definition of vibe: Vibe is the atmosphere of a person or place as felt by people in that space or interacting with that said person.

    If this definition is in any way correct then everything has got a vibe. You can have boring vibe, a relaxed vibe, an angry vibe. This vibe can refer to places or people.

    But you may say, “What does this all have to do with church and leadership?”

    Well have you stopped to consider that your church has a vibe and you as a person have a vibe? But what kind of vibe does your church have? What kind of vibe do you have?

    What kind of vibe do you want your church to have?

    When people love a church they usually talk about things that add to the vibe i.e. the music, the welcoming people, the preaching. These all add to the vibe and give your meetings a certain flavour.

    Conversely when people say they are leaving the church sometimes they talk about vibe. They talk about how the people were not friendly, it was boring, how it was disorganised etc. These all add to the vibe.

    So as pastors we have to think about vibe carefully because it is all around us. We have to think whether the vibe we are putting out there is in sync with the gospel we preach.

    Two questions that I think we need to ponder:

    1. What vibe do you as a person give off?
    2. What vibe does your church have?

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Enemy is Within part 5: The Road Ahead

    Whether or not my assessment of the dangers to the gospel is right or is way off I think we can all acknowledge that there will be threats to the gospel in the future and we need to think now how we, as Christian leaders, work at heading these threats off and killing them before they get out of hand.

    Here is what I think we should do:

    Be more lovingly confrontational – I see, in Sydney, a lack of eyeball to eyeball theological discussion where people say things like “I have heard you say that. Did I get that right?” or “I think you are wrong on this issue and you need to repent and teach correct doctrine!” Instead of this kind of frank discussion where things come out on the table we generally talk behind peoples backs or we talk at conferences about what these people are believing to be the next “silver bullet.” Now this begs the question have I been lovingly confrontational? To my defence, I think I have confronted the people that I think are guilty of the theological errors I have outlined in the previous three posts. I hope these brothers do come away with the fact that I am concerned about the gospel and not some macho point scoring exercise. Hell is too real, Jesus is too amazing and the truth too precious for stupid school boy games like that. We do need to work hard at being loving as we confront our brothers and sisters who we think have strayed theologically. This is something I have to continue to work on please pray for me in this area.

    Be abreast of what is happening theologically outside of Sydney – that means we will have to read books and not just blogs and have to keep our ear to the theological ground. This takes hard work, discipline and time but as shepherds we need to do this crucial work.

    Train the next generation of leaders – the trajectories that we are on will not come to flashpoints until ten or twenty years down the track. Therefore it is crucial that we work hard at training the next generation of leaders of the church. But not just train them in how to think about ministry, we need to work hard at training them in how they are to think theologically about theological issues of the day. I am surprised at how few internships in Australia have a significant reading component. As Christian leaders we need to be training up the next generation of Christian leaders. What are you doing to train the next generation of leaders?

    I hope I am wrong about the threats to the gospel in Sydney. I hope that Neo-orthodoxy, the New Perspective and the denial of inerrancy don’t make inroads into our churches and therefore corrupt the confidence of our people in the gospel and the scriptures. But I am convinced that the next big threat to Sydney Evangelicalism is not outside of us but the enemy will be found within.

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Enemy is within Part 4: The decline in the Doctrine of Scripture

    The doctrine of scripture is fundamental to our faith. If we believe that the Bible is the word of God and that God speaks and when he speaks he tells the truth then it follows that the Bible would be inerrant.  Inerrancy is basically saying that the Bible is without error. An easy thing for Evangelicals to say and believe isn’t it? Or is it?

    In recent times there has been a growing unease with the term inerrancy and we have seen this in two areas:

    1. We have seen the denial of inerrancy taught from a doctrinal point of view. We are told that the Bible never claims to be inerrant and when we see the so called contradictions we can see that inerrancy doesn’t work. Therefore, some conclude that inerrancy is theologically indefensible.
    2. We have seen the willingness of biblical scholars to accept the findings of historical critical scholarship at the expense of defending the historicity of the biblical text.  Now I am not against scholarship or even critical scholarship but when we use scholarship to say that the Exodus didn’t happen like the Bible says it did or events in the Bible that purport to be historical aren’t but they still convey truth we are on the rocky ground where we are sitting over the Bible in judgement.

    I am an innerantist and I think inerrancy is defensible because of who God is. Because we believe in a God who speaks clearly and who speaks clearly through his word (2 Tim3:16) and because God tells the truth (Numbers 23:19) I think we can safely say that the Bible is inerrant. That then means any so called contradictions need to worked out so that we harmonise them and not let them inform our doctrine of scripture because this is putting the cart before the horse theologically.

    The problem once again is influence. I am not saying that everyone in Sydney denies the historicity of the Bible but there have been number of people very influenced by these positions. History shows us that when we significantly modify our doctrine of scripture it does take a few generations for the chickens to come home to roost.

    I pray that it doesn’t, I pray that I am wrong.

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Enemy is Within part 3: The threat of the New Perspective

    Every generation has to deal with an attack on the biblical doctrine of Justification. In the current generation this attack comes squarely from group of scholars that are arguing for a new or fresh perspective on Paul, the law and justification. Here is their argument:

    1. We Protestants (but especially Martin Luther) have got first century Judaism wrong. First century Judaism wasn’t a religion of works but of grace. It was grace that made a person come into the covenant community and it was works that kept them there.
    2. Therefore because we have read 1st century Judaism wrong we have got what the Bible says about the law and justification wrong. Paul wasn’t arguing against that you can be saved by works because no one believed that, Paul was arguing against the Jewish Christians using circumcision and the law as a boundary markers that distinguished them from their gentile Christian brothers. Justification is therefore not targeting a salvation by works but Jewish national pride.

    As you can see this changes not only how we interpret the Bible but also how we preach the gospel and it has profound implications for the mission of the church.  But these two arguments don’t hold up:

    1. Have we got Judaism wrong? In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells of a Pharisee who was self righteous and thought he was right with God by his works (18:11-12). For Jesus there was a problem of salvation by works in Judaism. Additionally, there is still a problem in the way advocates of the New Perspective talk about first century Judaism. If you were in the covenant by grace and then you were kept there by works then works still have a large part to play in your salvation. Biblical Christianity,  first century Judaism and Catholicism all believe that you are saved by grace in some sense but the question is are you saved by grace alone? If you are not saved by grace alone then can you say you are really saved by grace at all? This is the problem that both Paul and Martin Luther were fighting against in their respective times.
    2. In the Bible, the underlying Greek word for justification comes from a word group that is a group of words that speak about morality/immorality (e.g. righteous, unrighteous etc.). So to say that justification is about covenantal relationships is to ignore the Greek text and what the words really mean. If we take the Greek text on its own we see that justification is about being in a right relationship with God.

    As you can see the New Perspective muddies the Gospel by taking things that are in the foreground (justification being about right standing before God) and putting them in the background and taking things that are in the background (the Gospel brings about unity between Jew and Gentile.) and making them central.

    The issue here is that there are preachers in Sydney who being influenced by some or all of this new view of justification. This influence worries me because it muddies the gospel in their preaching.  This threat to the gospel is significant

    You may also like:

    N.T Wright and the Gospel

    An Interview With Tom Wright on Paul, Justification, Critics and New Books

    Do You Have to Believe in a Historical Adam to Believe the Gospel?

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Enemy is Within part 2: The Threat of Neo-Orthodoxy

    One of the main theologians we were told interact with at the theological college that I went to was Karl Barth. For those that don’t know who Karl Barth is he was a German theologian who many think was the most influential theologian in the 20th century. He was a man who was trying to escape the trappings of theological liberalism of the 19th century. At the centre of his theology was a christocentricism that meant Christ was the starting, middle and end of all theological talk. Of late he is lauded by Evangelicals because of his disdain towards theological liberalism but I think we need to think hard before we put him on the side of the angels.

    Before we get into why Barth is dangerous I have to admit that I have only read about 1000 pages of his Church Dogmatics. Because of this, I have been told that I have not read enough to have an informed opinion on Barth. Therefore I am no specialist on Barth but I can see there are huge issues with his theology. That being said because of space I will outline two aspects of his theology where, in my opinion, he is significantly amiss.

    The first issue I see is his Doctrine of Scripture. Here are some quotes taken from Church Dogmatics Book 1, 2.

    But the vulnerability of the bible, i.e. its capacity for error, also extends to its religious or theological content.”

    “To the bold postulate, that if their (writers of the bible) word is to be the Word of God they must be inerrant in every word, we oppose the even bolder assertion that according to the scriptural witness about man, which applies to them too, they can be at fault in any word, and have been at fault in every word, and yet according to the same scriptural witness, being justified and sanctified by grace alone, they still have spoken the Word of God in their fallible and erring human word.”

    Barth is clear, the Bible is in some sense the word of God but it contains errors and these errors could be historical in nature and could even extend to the theological realm. Therefore, how are we to know what the Bible writers got right and wrong about history and God? Barth is in error here because, as Evangelicals, we believe that when God speaks through his word he speaks the truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A denial of inerrancy or a claim that the bible is mistaken is first and foremost an attack on the ability of God to speak the truth clearly and secondly it is an attack on the Bible.

    The second issue I see in Barth is his view on the atonement.  To be clear, even though he caricatures penal substitutionary atonement at some points in book two of his dogmatics I think he actually subscribes to it. For example:

    The Son of God fulfilled righteous judgement on us men by himself taking our place as man and in our place undergoing the judgement under which he had passed.” (Church Dogmatics2,1)

    It is a great thing that he subscribes to penal substitutionary atonement. But I think he considers the atonement to be efficient for all people whether they have belief or not. In layman’s terms, Barth seems to say at some points that through the cross all people are forgiven of their sin not just those who believe. For example:

    “This human action and suffering has to be represented and understood as the action and, therefore, the passion of God himself, which in its historical singularity not only has a great general significance for the men of all times and places, but by which their situation has been objectively and decisively changed, whether they are aware of it or not.” (Church Dogmatics book  4, 1)

    Coupled with his view on predestination where he holds that “predestination consists positively of election but does not include reprobation (ie. punishment) ” (Church Dogmatics book 2, 2) We can see that there are strains of universalism in his view of the atonement. That is the atonement makes everyone right with God regardless of their belief in Jesus or lack thereof. This negates what the Bible says about hell and judgement. Now to be fair, Barth, because he wants to emphasize the freedom of God, does hold out that people will be judged and sent to hell. But how do his view on the atonement fit with the freedom of God? This is unclear.

    If you are finding Barth confusing it is because he is! It is interesting to read what different people say about him because sometimes it can seem like I am reading critiques of two different theologians. This is where I see Barth’s influence being its most dangerous. Because it seems that those who are very into Barth take on his way of communicating. It is this push and pull, this yes and yet no, way of communicating that runs through all his theology and his disciples theology that makes both him and his disciples unclear and ultimately irrelevant for the person in the pew.

    When I was at college I was told by some  of my lecturers that Barth was “Evangelical” and that he “got the New testament right” and that he was “one of a number of guys who we should base our theology on”. Coming out of college I have seen many of my brothers and sisters influenced significantly by Barth and because of the problems outlined above, and many others, I think the influence of neo- orthodoxy on some of the current crop of young Sydney ministers is a threat to the gospel in Sydney.

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Enemy is Within Part 1: Setting the Scene

    When I listen to some leaders from within Sydney evangelicalism speak about what threatens the gospel in Sydney  I hear things like Catholicism, liberalism and the Charismatic movement. These things are touted as what is going to move the evangelical church in Sydney away from the Gospel. The way they talk about these three movements gives the impression that the biggest threats to evangelicalism are from outside the camp.

    But history doesn’t point us that way.

    History points us in a different direction. The most dangerous and subtle challenges to the Gospel usually come from within the evangelical church. For example take the now-dead Emergent church movement. Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, etc all have evangelical backgrounds. It was their wanting to reach out the postmodern world that caused them to have a look at their theology and change it. It was them, who from within evangelicalism, who have now become liberal. But we see this in other times also. Take Spurgeon and the downgrade controversy in the late 1800’s. His opponents were once rank and file evangelicals who went liberal. Or take Fuller theological seminary, a seminary that was started by evangelicals now has a president that endorses Rob Bell’s latest book, a book where Bell openly flirts with, if not capitulates to, universalism.

    If history is any guide or teacher we are kidding ourselves if we think that the threats to Sydney evangelicalism are outside our fold.

    With this in mind I will be blogging about this all week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I will be blogging about what I see the three biggest threats to Sydney evangelicalism and then on Friday I will be talking about what we need to be doing about these threats.

    But to get the conversation started I have two questions:

    1. Do you think my assessment of history is correct?
    2. What do you think are the biggest threats to the gospel in Sydney?

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Christian girls, Facebook and sanitized pornography

    Recently I sat down with a young dude who is struggling to be a Christian. Not struggling because he has some doubt or struggling because he has gone through pain in his life but struggling because he has sin in his life.

    He has the sin all guys struggle with. He has the sin of lust and that sin creeps up every time he goes on Facebook. You see the girls he is friends with on Facebook seem to have their profiles laden with photos of their latest trips to the beach where they are in their bikini’s or photos where they are posing provocatively for the camera.

    I want to ask the question: why if you are a Christian girl why would you put a photo on Facebook or anywhere else on the internet of yourself in a bikini or a provocative pose when you know it is going make a brother in Christ stumble?

    Sure, my friend has a lot to work on. He needs to work on his theology of sin and atonement as well as working on having a huge dose of self control as well as a revved up prayer life.

    But really girls do you need to have that photo on Facebook?

    Do you need to prove to the world how sexy you really are?

    God loves it when women dress modestly.  (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

    That doesn’t mean unfashionably.

    That just means that you realise that your body is not your own and you are to honour God with your body(1 Corinthians 6:20). You also realise that your body is meant to be for your future spouse not for every person to ogle at.

    Girls and guys please lets us not cause our brothers and sister to struggle. Go through your Facebook photos and please delete any pictures which could cause someone to stumble

    Do this because you love your brothers and sister in Christ and you want to honour God with your body!

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • Your Sexuality is an adjective not a noun

    I hate grammar but it is important. Here is a little grammatical lesson for those of you, like me, didn’t learn grammar in school.

    A noun is a word that is a person, place, thing, event, substance, idea, etc.

    An adjective is a describing word that modifies a noun. So words like pretty, ugly, dumb, smart are adjectives.

    E.g. That girl is very pretty. Girl is the noun and pretty is the adjective.

    Now you are probably asking what this has to with sexuality.

    Well I hear a lot of people talk about their sexuality or relationship status as if it is a noun. So people say I am gay, straight, single, married, divorced etc.

    But does the fact that you are gay, bi, straight, single, married, etc. Define you?

    I hope not. I hope we cannot boil your essence down to your sexuality or your relationship status. I hope you are much more than that!

    The weird thing I hear Christians pigeon holing themselves by using their sexuality or their relationship status as the noun with Christian the adjective.

    I say this because when some people say they are a single Christian it seems that their singleness modifies their Christianity not other way around.

    When some people say they are a married Christian it seems that their marriage modifies their Christianity not other way around.

    When some people say they are a gay Christian it seems that their being gay modifies their Christianity not other way around.

    The only noun that we have as Christians is that I am in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

    Being in Christ shapes and defines us. Everything else is additional.

    “In Christ” is the noun.

    Everything else is an adjective

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • How to steal sheep well….

    One of the biggest issues with growing churches is what to do with people who rock up to your church but who are members of another church.

    If the person hasn’t been going to another church for a while or they have moved into the area there is really nothing to do. Welcome them and start ministering to them.

    But what happens if they come and they don’t like their old church? Or what if they just want a change?

    I know of some pastors who as soon as they get a new person from another church they try to integrate them into the life of their church straight away.

    But should they do this?

    I am not too sure they should.

    I think if we have a new Christian who comes to our churches we must do the following:

    Discern as to whether there was a specific issue(s) for leaving their last church. This is crucial because if there was an issue(s) at their old church we need to see if there needs to be reconciliation between them and members of their old church. We also need to know what kind of baggage (sin or other baggage) they are coming to our church with because, as we know, everyone has baggage.

    We also need to notify their old pastor of them coming to our church. This is so that the pastor knows that they are being cared for but also to get insight on how he, as their former pastor, pastored this person. This also brings clarity to a situation that could be fraught with charges of sheep stealing.

    At an appropriate time, we need to talk with them about being part of their new church. We don’t want Christians who do not commit and so we want to encourage this new person to be fully committed to their new church. Therefore, we will encourage this person to commit to doing our membership course, committing to a bible study,  and supporting the church prayerfully, financially and by serving.

    What do you think? Have I missed anything?

     

    Please follow and like us:
  • You should leave your church when…

    I have been putting this blog off for a while. I wrote a blog a while back called “5 questions to ask when you are bored with your church”. I got a of people emailing me and asking me what are good reasons to leave your church. So here is my answer…..

    What most ministers say…..

    I have heard too many ministers say that the only biblical reason for leaving a church is when the church doesn’t preach and teach the bible faithfully. But that leaves me with a bunch of questions:

    • What does preaching and teaching the bible faithfully look like?
    • What if relationships in the church have been broken beyond repair?
    • What if you have the opportunity of a lifetime at another church?
    • What if you aren’t being used at your church?
    • What if you have tried to fix the problems at your church but no one is listening?

    Saying that the only good reason for leaving a church is because of lack of biblical teaching is unsatisfying.

    You should leave your church when…

    They don’t preach the gospel.. If they don’t preach the gospel and you have talked with the teaching pastor about the teaching and they don’t listen then leave.This is a  no brainer.

    You have a relationship that is toxic to your faith at the church….. If there is a relationship that is toxic to your faith and mental well being I think it is okay to leave provided that you have sought to rescue the relationship by all possible means. If you have not sought to rescue the relationship either because you are avoiding the issue or sin in your own life then God is calling you to stay and be reconciled to your brother or sister in Christ. (Matthew 5:23-24)

    You have a great opportunity at another church which doesn’t exist at your church….. You are offered a great opportunity in training or a job or something else at another church and this opportunity will allow you to minister to others, train you for future ministries and will stretch you to know God in a deeper way then it is okay to leave provided you have cleared it with your current minister and there are no opportunities that are similar at your current church.

    You have tried and worked hard to be a positive force for good and fix the problems at your church but no one seems to care…. Every church has issues. But if you have seen those issues that you think are significant and you have worked hard at changing them and you are being ignored then it I think it is okay to leave provided that you have actually worked at the issues. Many Christians point out the issues and expect someone else to fix it and then get frustrated when no one does fix it. This is a sinful attitude. You be the change you want to see. You want to see more fellowship happening you talk with people about it and make it happen. You want to see the music better then you join the band, learn the songs, come prepared and give it your all etc. If you have only sat on the sideline and been a critic without being in the game then  you have no right to leave your church and I would say you may be the problem at your church.

    If you are not being used at your church….. Everyone has gifts and there is nothing more frustrating when you are sitting on the sideline wanting to be in the game and no one will let you use your gifts. Now sometimes your pastor might say to you that he doesn’t want you to use your gift because there is sin in your life or you are not where you need to be as a Christian or in your knowledge to serve like you want to. That is a fair and legitimate reason for you not serving and you should cop it on the chin and see if you can serve in other ways. Also you have to think not what I want to do but what does this church need from me? You may be a great vocalist but the  band at you r church si stocked with great vocalists and your church needs people to do crèche. Well you jump on the crèche roster because working on the crèche is your gift to the church. The wrong question is “what do I want to do?” The right question is “what does the church need me to do?” This is because gifts are there for the building up of the body of Christ not building up of the individual with the gift (1 Corinthians 12-14). If you are not serving in any way because there is no opportunity or no good reason and you have chatted with your minister about it and there is no solution then I think you can leave you church.

    Leaving the church should not be a rash decision. It should be thought out and talked out. You shouldn’t leave your church until you have talked with you minister at length about the reasons you have for leaving and you have worked hard to overcome those reasons or you have sought to fix the issues. Only when you have exhausted yourself trying to fix the issues and they remain can you leave your church and go somewhere else as long as you are leaving on the best terms you can with the other people at your church.

     

    Please follow and like us: