Jun 27, 2011

A Few Links to Click

I like to read other blogs because they help me to think more deeply about my own life and theology.  Here are a few that I have read the past week that would be worth your time to read:

The Enemy Next Door by Tim Challies - Challies has become one of the preeminent bloggers in the evangelical world.  This post about our attitude towards unbelievers rings too true in most churches.  God have mercy on us!

The Missional Idea in Scripture by Ed Stetzer - Great post by Ed. He's really on track in helping churches to understand our missional mandate.  I love the reminder that God has always been a "sending" God and that if we are to be faithful to him, we must be on mission as well. 

Vocation: Discerning Your Calling by Tim Keller - I love anything that comes from Keller's pen.  This guy is on target and in the trenches.  He is leading a great church in the heart of the mission field of New York.  Great post on being a steward of your job. This is what missional living is about.

Do You Teach Your Kids the Gospel or the Law? by Elyse Fitzpatrick - another good post related to the messages we send our kids about the gospel.  An important question for every Christian parent that we must constantly return to. 

Immigration and the Gospel by Russell Moore - a very important post about a very timely issue.  A few weeks ago this topic was a heated conversation on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It concerns me that many times we let our earthly allegiance to the United States blind us to our heavenly allegiance to the kingdom of God and the advancement of the gospel.  If you are concerned about immigration issues, read this first before you chime in with your opinion. 

"Don't Call It a Comeback" - A Book Review

Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day (Gospel Coalition Series)Ever since the birth of our newest addition Josh 5 months ago, my energy level and reading have been limited.  I still have way too many books that I want to read than I have time for, but I am really feeling the pinch now.  One of the authors I have enjoyed reading recently is Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.  Kevin is a sharp young leader with a deep theological base.  Last year, I was browsing the racks at Lifeway and saw the book "Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day".  I was intrigued by the title and saw that Kevin had served as the editor.  I bought it and added it to my "Hope to read one day" list.  A few months ago, I threw it in the bag and started reading it one night at my son's baseball practice.  I quickly found it to be one of the most helpful and necessary books I have read in a while. 

Here is the premise of the book.  Kevin and a 17 other pastors and church leaders each contribute a chapter to the book.  Each of these guys are young evangelicals who are solidly committed to sound theology, biblical exposition, and helping transform churches into relevant missional communities.  The idea that birthed the book was an attempt by younger evangelicals to understand and define what the evangelical community looks like historically and what they believe about important topics like the person of Christ, Scripture, the gospel, justification, sanctification, the kingdom of God, social justice, homosexuality, and gender confusion.  The authors identify and admit that there is much confusion in the church today about what constitutes the "evangelical" movement.  The term has become a political identification that has lost grips with the theological roots that bonded the movement together for many years. 

I am 42 years old and have been a Christ-follower for almost 25 years.  I am a graduate of a conservative Baptist seminary.  I have almost 20 years of ministry in church-related vocation.  However, I admit that before reading this book, I had a very blurred picture whenever I heard the term "evangelical".  I believe that my generation and the ones succeeding it have lost all identification with the evangelical movement.  As a matter of fact, in some younger circles the term is avoided for fear that you will have to cover your face and shout "Unclean! Unclean!"  As I read each of these chapters I was encouraged greatly that the theological truths that I hold so dearly are affirmed in a larger circle and are being embraced by men much younger than I.  I am extremely pleased to see a return to biblical fidelity, theological accuracy, and missional relevance in the "younger evangelicals" today.  I am excited that the prophecies a few years ago that spelled "doom" for this next generation have not come to pass.  I believe that God is raising a generation of God-glorifying, gospel-saturated, and missionally-focused leaders that will change the course of much of the evangelical landscape in the next 20 years. 

If you are under 40, I believe this book is a must-read.  If you are a 20-something who has come out of your "youth group" mentality and are now looking for some substance to believe in regarding God, the Bible, and contemporary issues, you need this book

Jun 21, 2011

"Let's embrace the ends of the earth 'till the end of the age"

I didn't make it to Phoenix last week for the SBC Pastor's Conference or Convention.  However, I watched much of it online.  I am excited about the opportunities facing us as Southern Baptists and especially the focus on much of the convention about engaging unreached people groups.  Here is an excellent message from Ken Whitten that I hope inspires you and I to do more.

ASPIRE Msg: Ken Whitten from Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas on Vimeo.

Jun 16, 2011

Slow Fade by Casting Crowns

This is a powerful and painful video I saw years ago by Casting Crowns.  It's a wake-up call for many that we need to be careful of even seemingly insignificant choices. 

Jun 13, 2011

Matt Chandler Update

If you have read my blog in the past, you have seen me post prayer requests and updates for Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas.  God has anointed this man and gifted him to be a leader for this generation.  He was diagnosed in December 2009 with a brain tumor and has chronicled his journey on his church's website.  Here is a link to latest video blog he put up a few days ago.  Great news!

Also be praying for Jonathan Bean, one of the pastors at The Church of Brook Hills.  He was also diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year.  He had some setbacks last week.  Here is a blog where they post updates about him.  Jonathan Bean

I Wish I Was In Phoenix...

Right now I am sitting in my office with a cup of coffee and a messy desk from two busy weeks of ministry.  I am critiquing my sermons from yesterday (not feeling real good about them) and preparing a sermon plan for the next few months.  I have a Doctor of Ministry proposal that is way too far overdue and I have little motivation right now to get it done.  My wife's car is in the shop with an electrical problem and I am dreading the final bill.

At the same time, the Southern Baptist Convention is taking place in Phoenix, AZ.  I had planned to go this year, but several circumstances have kept me from doing so.  I attended my first SBC since becoming a pastor last year in Orlando.  It was my first time attending since 1996.  As a pastor now, I definitely had a different perspective.  I also was interested to see first-hand the discussion and debate surround the Great Commission Resurgence.  It was a large topic of conversation in my local association and in my State Convention in the days leading up to the '09 SBC.  I enjoyed the whole process and felt like while the SBC has a number of issues that we need to address, it is nice to know that I can be a part of the process and hopefully part of the solution.

There has been a trend for a long time of many younger Southern Baptist leaders to ignore and avoid the convention politics.  I am 42.  Most of my friends and colleagues my age and younger have been frustrated over the convention and have viewed it as a bunch of power-hungry pastors fighting over crumbs instead of aligning the convention for the future.  I don't think that it's coincidence that the issues of declining baptisms convention-wide, detachment of younger SBC leaders, turnover in the convention entities, and the call for a refocus on the Great Commission are all aligning at the same time.  I am happy to see from social media that a growing number of younger SBC evangelicals are starting to check back in.  The rise of groups like Baptist21 and Advance the Church show some promise that positive change is attainable in the near future for our SBC family. 

From my observation, most of the people in our churches have no idea what the SBC is, what it does, how it operates, and why it may be the last hope for conservative evangelicalism on a denominational level.  We know the names of Lottie and Annie and pass the plates to support them.  We have been a convention of churches with pastors who have a hard time cooperating with anybody or anything other than the Cooperative Program.  We have created a false sense of health in our churches by using a methodology that inflates our numbers so we can answer that question "How many are you running?" while filling our pews with unconverted believers who have never been told that following Jesus will cost them everything.  As a result we have a large State and National bureaucracy that is hard to define and harder to unite.

Do I know all the answers? Certainly not.  I do have some opinions.  Do I accurately understand all the issues?  Not really, but I am trying to learn.  Nevertheless, I wish I was in Phoenix so that I can remind myself that my church in rural Alabama is part of a wonderful family of churches that have the potential significantly impact the Great Commission.  I want to be there to be part of the process instead of sitting in my office critiquing things without being part of the solution.  I want to be part of a generation that takes the baton from a faithful generation that has run the race before me and hand it off to a powerful generation that is coming behind me.  I want to be part of the generation that can stand soon and report that baptisms on a national level are increasing.  I want to be a part of a generation that can report hundreds of new church plants in pioneering areas and list unreached people groups that now have disciples of Jesus and access to the gospel message.  This is why I wish I was in Phoenix.

Here are some helpful links I have read today and recently by some much smarter bloggers than me about the SBC and the future:
Ten Thoughts About the SBC - A very helpful post from Timmy Brister about some of our issues.
Again. From Decline to Decision - An appropriate post by Ed Stetzer who is a gift to Southern Baptists.  We need to heed some of his warnings.