Oct 26, 2012

Freeing Our Idols

“What happens in the experience of gospel wakefulness is a satisfaction so complete that it fixes the center of our affections on God alone, in Christ alone, by his Spirit alone.  That is what worship is, after all: proclaiming worth, giving weight to something in the revolving of our affections around it.  When that center is anything but God, we are idolaters, and we end up abusing what we worship because it is not equipped or designed to receive our affections in that way.  But when the lights of the gospel flood our heart, we transfer our affections to God, finding all our fountains in him, and our idolatry dies as our idols are freed from the confines of our abuse.”
Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness

Oct 23, 2012

Grace by Max Lucado - Book Review

Every time I read a Max Lucado book, I put it down and realize that I love God more than I did when I picked it up.  My first Max Lucado book was as a college student when I saw a copy of "Six Hours, One Friday" at New Life Bookstores in Columbus, MS.  It was probably one of the first books I ever read cover-to-cover.  It changed my spiritual life and started me on a journey to love reading great books.  I own and have read every one of Max's books since.

Grace - More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine may be the best book Max has written to date.  Lucado dives into the subject of grace with the reckless abandon and vivid color that only he can bring.  It's apparent on every chapter that the subject of grace has captured Max's heart.  This isn't surprising to anyone who has read his previous works.  He has extensively treated the subject of grace in every book he's written.  However, in this one, he takes it to another level.  Early on in the book, Max does a masterful job of describing "The God Who Stoops."  He shows how God doesn't bring us up to his level or badger us because we can't get to him in our own righteousness.  Instead, God stoops.  He shows how Jesus stooped in John 8 before giving the Pharisees some "shut-up" juice and showing a morally loose woman how good grace really is.

My favorite chapter was the one entitled "Wet Feet" where he talks about Jesus showing grace in the washing of the disciples feet.  I could almost feel the cool water against my own feet as I read it.  It was a wonderful reminder that my Lord has left and example for me to follow and that just as he washed each one of the feet of those who would let him down, I am called to wash the feet of those who let me down as well.  Grace isn't just a great gift that I receive, it is a privileged calling I am called to give as well.

If your soul is dry and needs to drink deeply of the living water, I would suggest you go buy this book. It's a spiritual oasis in the desert.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Oct 9, 2012

Multiply Disciples

David Platt and Francis Chan have released some new material for discipleship that appears to be really good.  It's an organic movement designed to give some material to regular people to study the word of God together and replicate discipleship.  Check out the website and some of the material.  I'm looking for some ways to plug this material in our context at SSBC.

What Is the Multiply Material? from Multiply on Vimeo.

Oct 8, 2012

Voddie Baucham's Personal Take on Abortion and Adoption

I have a deep respect for Voddie Baucham.  He is a man who has come out of some of the most extremely desperate circumstances in life.  He came to faith as a college student at Baylor.  Now, he is a bold defender of the gospel, skilled in apologetics, and a man who has become a voice for families and adoption.  This is an excellent video I found on the internet about him addressing several important topics.  If more supposed evangelicals thought like this man, our country would be much different.

Oct 4, 2012

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley - A Book Review

A couple of months ago I saw a tweet where someone could get a preview of Andy Stanley's new book "Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend" for review.  It was on a website called NetGalley.  Naturally a book nerd and one who loves free stuff, I went to check it out and signed up.  It was delivered to me in a digital format for my Kindle which was a little different.  However, I was very excited to read and review it.  I have followed Andy Stanley's ministry and journey at North Point most of my time in ministry.  Stanley is one of the most engaging and effective communicators I have ever heard.  He has been given a very strong platform to teach leadership lessons for church leaders.  I have been to North Point at least a dozen times for conferences or worship experiences.  I have heard Andy speak at Catalyst and the DRIVE Conference.  I follow his leadership podcasts.  I have 12 of Andy's book on my shelf and have read almost all of them.  So, I went into the book with an expectation that I would probably be familiar with much of what was in it.  I was.  But, there was much in there I could learn from too.

The first section of the book that traces Andy's story at First Baptist, Atlanta with his dad through the starting of North Point is worth the price of the book.  Growing up in the shadow of a gifted and revered father was surely no easy task for Stanley.  When he went into ministry, he had great gifts and great expectations on him.  I knew some of Andy's story through following his parent's divorce and conversations I had with people in Atlanta who I knew.  But Andy does a great job peeling back the curtain to show that the starting of North Point was in many ways a defining moment and a divine opportunity.

I know that many of my pastor friends in the more Reformed/doctrinal preaching camp do not have a lot of appreciation for Andy Stanley.  In many ways, Andy comes across very dependent on corporate models of leadership.  His big church and his big platform make him a target of criticism.  Some of the criticism probably has some legs to it.  Much of it doesn't though.  There will be many things in this book that will make the "gospel-centered/missional church" crowd uncomfortable and argumentative.  I found myself writing several notes in my Kindle arguing some of Andy's points.  I went into the book knowing that the evidence is there for North Point being "wide" but I wanted Andy to show my some of the "deep".  Personally,  I didn't find a lot of testimony of depth.   I think that Andy narrowly defines the gospel as the preaching of Christ's death to get lost people converted.  I don't think Andy communicates in the book an appreciation that the gospel and not slick methods are what produces true conversion and sanctification.  Not surprisingly, I think Andy communicates a very man-centered understanding of evangelism.  At times when reading the book, I had the impression that Andy believes that the conversion is too deeply dependent upon what we do rather than how God is drawing that person and invites us into the process.  Much of what Andy communicates is formulaic and fosters the impression that if you use their formula or tweak it to work in your context, you will get the same results.  He also implies in some of the book that numerical growth, especially the kind of explosive growth they have seen, is the leading indicator of spiritual health.  I don't think Andy appreciates the complexities that exist for small-church pastors who reside in overly-churched areas on the rural South where growth is slow and tedious.

Having said all that, I found many strengths in the book.  One is that reading it gave me a sense of hope that my church can and should be doing much more to reach the unchurched in my area.  I like that Andy says that too often we create the "church" for "churched" people and forget that many don't come to our church precisely because we have unwittingly communicated that we don't want them.  I was forced to think about some of the language I use when I preach.  I was forced to remember not to assume that everyone in my congregation knows the background to the Bible stories like I do.  Another strength is his challenge to church leaders to lead through the necessary change no matter how hard it is.  It's far easier and more safe to keep those inside happy because they pay the bills and ultimately our salary.  However, when we decide to start reaching the outsiders, we will upset some of the insiders.  I appreciate that North Point and Andy take very seriously the challenge of reaching the lost and unchurched and their numbers show that much of their growth is reaching those who didn't go to church rather than pulling in sheep from another congregation.

Deep and Wide is a book that is worth reading, highlighting, and dialoguing with.  You likely won't agree with everything Stanley writes, nor should you.  He anticipates that point and even issues some arguments in the book.  However, I think every church leader can find some leadership nuggets and some programmatic challenges worth talking about in the book.  It would be a great book to read as a staff.