Thanks to all of you who have sign up for this blog – it has been offline for some time but i will posting again from this week. Watch out for a series of post on “How to make disciples”
The Why in Community
You should join a community group because ________.
That is very important blank. How you fill it in will have a profound effect on the health of your community group ministry. You can do a lot of things right and still be torpedoed by that question.
If you are not convinced the question of why is that important, tell your wife that you’re planning a date night because Mark Driscoll says it’s a good idea. While she may appreciate the insight of Pastor Mark I would venture that she would be more moved if your motivation were her beauty and your desire for her company.
The answers to the why in community are similarly not all equal.
Good Fruit ≠ Purpose
Growth, retention, belonging, and health are important byproducts of community, but they are just that: byproducts. We cannot take good fruit of healthy, gospel-saturated community and make it the purpose.
“Apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection, community is not possible.”
Our foundational reason for why we have community groups in our church is to image God and proclaim the good news of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. – 2 Cor. 5:17-20
The Ministry of Reconciliation
We have been reconciled to God and one another for the purpose of making an appeal to the world to be likewise reconciled. As image bearers of God we were created for community. What sin has broken, Jesus has reconciled. Apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection, community is not possible. The existence of a loving, gospel-saturated community is a testimony to the truth of the gospel.
In a broken world that intrinsically longs for authentic community, this is a profoundly different motivation. People aren’t interested in church growth. They are desperate for hope. They can find belonging in a pub, but they need a community transformed by the love of Jesus. We have exactly what they need when we root our groups in what Jesus has accomplished.
“Our foundational reason for why we have community groups in our church is to image God and proclaim the good news of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross.”
The Why Before the How
If you want to inspire people to be a part of community help them see the bigger purpose. Show your church how to image God in community and help your leaders understand that they are an integral part of the advancement of the gospel.
As for those byproducts, when we get the foundation of community groups rooted in Christ, we can trust there will be fruit that is good and glorifying to God.
So before you ask how to do healthy community groups, make sure you know why.
When an Unreached People Group Hears the Storyline of the Gospel for the First Time
If you’ve never seen this old-school video about the moving EE-TAOW story, it is very much worth 25 minutes of your time to fan the flames for frontier missions where Christ is not yet named. Make sure to watch to the end.
Richard Dawkins, the champion of the New Atheism, argues that we should base our lives only on that which is empirically verifiable or rationally provable and yet in this devastating interview Dawkins admits that;
a He has no idea how likely it is that God doesn’t exist and wouldn’t want to put a figure on it
b He has no idea how the universe was created
c He has no idea how life began on earth
d He suggests that we might be here because aliens put us here!
Given his lack of answers its perhaps no wonder that he’s happier raking in the money at the Albert Hall rather than debating William Lane Craig.
My wife and I have no gold in our house, as long as you don’t count our wedding rings. What we had was stolen a few years ago and we never replaced it. Now our daughter and her family have no gold in their house either. With the soaring price of gold and our culture’s insatiable need for more drugs, a thoughtful burglar found a way to break in without breaking windows, kindly left my daughter’s wedding pearls, and took all jewelry of value. All gold is gone. We are told that the jewelry is probably being Fed Ex’d to Nevada where it will rendezvous with a lot of other stolen jewelry and then get back into circulation so it can be enjoyed by someone else.
So, we are following the normal protocol.
I have found comfort in knowing that we have nothing of significant value in our house.
I told my wife that I would be willing to get her some decent jewelry as long as we also invested in a safe that was anchored to the core of the earth.
I feel very sad for my daughter, who no longer has some family heirlooms.
She and her husband are now security experts. You can be sure that there will be no more burglaries in that house.
We are wondering whether she should replace her cat with a Doberman. The cat’s only defensive ability is to provoke allergies in susceptible burglars. We think a Doberman would inspire more universal fear.
My daughter is going to redouble her efforts to keep her bedroom neat. Then she won’t have to explain to the investigating officers that, no, the mess all over the floor was not a result of the robbery, and her parents won’t have to explain that, no, she was not raised by a pack of wolves.
And of course, having gone through some of those more mundane steps, we are left with that wonderful question, “And to what else am I too attached?”
Just imagine. What would it be like to hear that something in the house broke, or the car was totaled though all passengers are fine, and be largely unmoved? It is possible. We were recently in California and friends let us use their immense Suburban for as long as we needed it. As we were leaving they said, “We are just so glad that you have the Suburban because if the car gets ruined you should still be safe.”
In other words, if they had to make a list of the objects to which they were attached, the Suburban, at least, would not be on it. I, on the other hand, can remember times when I was reluctant to loan things out for fear that those things would come back damaged.
Lord have mercy.
We know that everything is the Lord’s and we are mere stewards who are called to freely give and enjoy opportunities to be generous. But we also know that primitive cry of “MINE” exists in every human soul.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, looking at him with sadness, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Luke 18:22-24)
This is one of the hardest passages in Scripture. It isn’t saying that we must follow the mendicant tradition and divest ourselves of all earthly goods. But it is calling us to be beggars of the heart.
Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over twenty-six years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling.
Church planting pastors usually experience a painful crash course in leadership. Very few seminaries teach this well and very few churches model this well. So, young pastors led by a vision and driven with passion often run into a leadership brick wall. I remember the first church I led as Pastor and Chairman. The Board was more concerned about Robert’s Rules of Order than they were in Jesus’ Great Commission (Mt 28:16-20). I move that we postpone indefinitely the exclusion of the Holy Spirit in church leadership meetings.
A Tool for Leaders Leading Leaders
I have used one leadership tool in my 30 years of ministry and 21 years as a chairman of a non-profit Board more than any other tool. Perhaps it may help you as you lead a newly formed leadership team or an official board of directors. It may even be the difference maker in any leadership team you direct.
In leading other church leaders, ask them to weigh in and not just to buy in to a product (any idea, project, concept, or thing produced by the work of the organization).
Buying in is securing the commitment of affected parties to a decision where they have not been involved in its formulation (i.e., I need their buy in to my plans)
Weighing in is having an idea, concept, or vision and asking for key leaders to lend their ideas (weigh in) on its formulation (i.e., I want them to weigh in on this need we have)
Average leaders will appreciate your bringing a finished product to them for their approval. But great leaders will want to help shape it, refine it, and make it a better product. Which kind of leader do you want to lead your organization?
In his first letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul invited the early Christians to consider what their life was like before Jesus. He remembers:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26–29)
God’s Upside Down Economy
This passage is incredible. Over the course of a few sentences, Paul discredits nearly all of the sources we humans turn to for our sense of identity and worth. He says the Corinthians were:
Not of noble birth
Low and despised
Things that are not
God did not choose the Corinthians because they were smart, strong, influential, rich, respected, or any of the other characteristics we long to achieve in ourselves. Jesus chose the awkward kid, not out of pity but to reveal his grace and glory and our need for him.
This may not be a good strategy for establishing a winning kickball team, but apparently God’s economy and priorities are completely opposite from our conventional way of thinking.
How Awesome Are You?
Put yourself in the Corinthians’ shoes. Think about your life before Jesus (or your life now, if you’re not a Christian). Where did you find your motivation and your worth? Were you intelligent, wealthy, beautiful, successful, popular? Compared to whom?
“The Bible helps us see our pathetic state, not to rub our nose in it but to jog us out of our prideful complacency and short-sighted priorities and see the gift of Jesus.”
As for me, I was living to get rich, break commandments, and win praise and approval from other people. Then I met Jesus and realized that, though I may improve my status and station relative to other humans, my life was pretty pitiful next to God’s perfection. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” as Paul wrote, “and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
The Gift of Jesus
Does God want us to feel bad about ourselves? Did Paul insult the Corinthians to beat them into humble submission before the great and powerful God of the universe? We are not the point. The point is God, “and because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
The Bible helps us see our pathetic state, not to rub our nose in it but to jog us out of our prideful complacency and short-sighted priorities and see the gift of Jesus. In verse 30, Paul lists five things we have in Jesus:
Life/Identify – “You are in Christ Jesus”
Wisdom – The wisdom of God
Righteousness – Jesus’ perfection
Sanctification – Daily lives that reflect Jesus’ grace to us
Redemption – We are bought at a price (Jesus’ death) and free from the sinful patterns of comparison, posturing, and pride
Jesus gives us everything we need, everything we’re looking for, and everything we want to be, if we relinquish our fleeting glory and receive the gift of his immortal glory, extended to us by grace.
How to Talk to God - Ed Welch
“Why is God doing this to me?
”These words signal a spiritual train wreck in process.Any version of a “why” question, when it is directed to or about the God of the Bible, is terribly risky. Even if it begins as a simple question, it gradually accumulates other questions about God’s character and promises, while it generates false assumptions about ourselves.
“Why God would you do this to me? when I haven’t done anything like this to you.”
“Why would a good father allow this to happen to his children? If I were God I wouldn’t allow such things to happen.”
Questions like these will only lead us away from God. It’s okay to question God, but how you go about it really matters. Here are two ways to avoid the God-ward accusations and self-righteousness that can so easily become part of the why questions.
Use his Personal Name
First, ask “Why, O Lord?”
When we use his less personal name God we can slip in a few complaints and feel okay about it, but speak to the Lord and everything changes. He is your creator and rescuer. You belong to him. He is both your liege and the lover of your soul. Your response is praise, thanks and humble requests.
This kept the psalmists from going off the tracks.
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1
Not surprisingly, this psalmist ends with hope and confidence.
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. . . . The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. Psalm 10:14-18
The Psalms encourage great freedom of expression. We are strongly encouraged by the Lord himself to speak openly from our hearts. The one thing he asks is that we know whom we are speaking with, which is a normal requirement of any conversation. We don’t talk with a child in the same way we talk to an adult. With the knowledge of his mighty acts in mind, the why question can end well.
Ask in Hope
Second, for a change of pace, and as a way to stay in tune with the psalmists’ style, consider another question.
“How long, O Lord?”
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? Psalm 13:1
This is the much more frequent question of psalmists, and for good reason. The true knowledge of God is clear and inescapable. He is the one who will deliver his people. There is no question that he hears and responds. The only question is when our eyes will be open enough to see his mighty hand in action. Hope is built into the question; an optimistic conclusion is guaranteed.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6“
Why, O Lord?” This takes our why questions and adds humility.
“How long, O Lord?” This question considers our suffering and infuses it with hope.
Is The Main Thing The Only Thing?
When I was in Bible College I often heard an old preacher tell the students, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Of course he wasn’t the first to say it, but I loved it. I still do.
Recently someone I respect asked me, “is it possible that within the ‘gospel-centered movement’ some people are making the main thing the only thing?”
It is a great question, and I think it does point to a problem of unhealthy reductionism among some well-meaning brothers and sisters. I believe this brother was essentially saying, “Look, our people need to know what their hope is before God. This is of first importance. But, they also need to know how to pray, fast, love, give, fight, and serve.” Of course, I agree with this sentiment.
There is more in God’s word than the gospel. God has given us his law to show us the way, uncover our corruption and condemnation, and point us to our need of redemption. There are commands to be obeyed, there is wisdom to learn and practice, and affections to feel and be moved by. But, the law itself is unable to create within us new hearts, or empower us to obey its demands. So let me say it this way: The gospel is the main thing, but it is not the only thing. However, it is the only thing that brings life, power, and transformation. The gospel isn’t everything, but it does connect to everything, and preachers and teachers in the church must be able to show that connection lest we allow the church to drift (or even be lead) into various kinds of hopeless, powerless legalism.
“The gospel is the main thing, but it is not the only thing. However, it is the only thing that brings life, power, and transformation.”
Learning and Reminding
Let’s take one example. I need to learn how to pray, but I also need to learn, and be reminded, that I can only pray because Jesus has made peace between God and sinners like me. I need a practical method for praying, but I also need the assurance that when I fail to pray, God’s love for me is secure and not based upon my performance. I need counsel on how to pray without ceasing, but I need the confidence that Jesus prayed perfectly in my place, prayed on my behalf, and currently intercedes for me. These gospel principles don’t merely compliment the command to pray, that satisfy it. They do not remove the need to pray, they give freedom and power to approach God with boldness. Without these gospel principles we are left to our own devices, and at least implicitly encouraged to trust in our work more than God’s grace.
The best teaching of the church preaches the “whole counsel of God,” unpacking all of the subject matter available within, but does so with the aim of grounding the hearers in the gospel. When we fail to do this we show that the functional main thing is the act of teaching or learning, rather than the gospel itself.
The topics of hell, final judgment, and the Rapture have become prominent water cooler subjects recently.
A common reaction today is to reject the idea of hell entirely, stemming from a suspicion of moral absolutes or a denial of the possibility of final judgment. Some prominent Christian figures have predicted doomsday scenarios which have been widely covered (and ridiculed) in mass media. Depictions of hell become cartoonish and ever less believable.
The question becomes, how do we understand the biblical doctrine of hell in our scientific and secular culture? Are we beyond believing such things? How do we contextualize this discussion in our churches so that these historic beliefs become relevant in our postmodern age?
Zondervan has just released a new book called Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go To Heaven? Contributors to the book include Albert Mohler, J. I. Packer, Robert Yarbrough, and Timothy Keller. Readers will find examples from several pastors and theologians to help equip them in engaging both the traditionalists and secularists that enter their church doors.
Tim Keller’s chapter, “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age,” is available for free download from our Resources section. You can find other resources on Preaching there as well.