Category: Discipleship

10 Stirring Quotes on the Church

I’m reading through Kevin Vanhoozer’s Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, and there’s a tweet on every page. So, instead of loading up people’s twitter feeds, I thought it would be more merciful to list out some quotes here.

A brief set up. Vanhoozer is helping us see how doctrine must be done, which is good for the ivory tower preachers, theologians, & bookish types. When Jesus said  to “observe all I have commanded,” he was saying more than “take notes” (xiii). And yet, desire for God, without doctrine, is blind (xiv). Doctrine gives direction for bearing faithful witness, for speaking understanding” (1). How, then, does doctrine speak? Through the church, of course, for good or for ill, depending on you.

Here are a string of quotes that articulate the church’s glorious responsibility to live our doctrine as a theatre of the gospel in and for the world:

The church is ultimately a triune production, a theater of the gospel wherein we begin to see how God in Christ is “reconciling the world to himself.”

 

The church is not only the “people of the book” but also “the (lived) interpretation of the book.”

 

Doctrine serves as a finishing school for disciples by helping them to view their lives as Christ did his, as caught up in the area drama of redemption.

 

The church is the place where Christ rules by his word, which dwells in disciples’ hearts.

 

The church is not an empty space but a peopled place where God exhibits his gospel.

 

The church is the public revelation of the mystery of salvation.

 

The evangelical church finds itself in danger of being indoctrinated by culture rather than by Scripture.

 

The argument in the present book is that the church is a theater of the gospel in which disciples stage previews of the coming kingdom of God.

 

Imagination is biblical reasoning in its Sunday best, lost in wonder at the creativity of the Creator.

 

There is nothing more authentic that being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the prototype of true humanity.

 

 

Learning Burnout Before its Too Late

Remarks about “celebrity pastors” are everywhere (mind you it takes “celebrants” to reach such status). Unfortunately, some of these pastors have followed a tragic, Aristotelian arc–starting in a good place, gaining influence, and then falling. Before joining the scoffers, we do well to heed the wisdom of Solomon,

I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction” (Prov. 24:30-32).

It is foolish to mock those “who lack sense,” but it is wise to watch and learn. This is true and helpful for everyone, not just pastors.

Learning the Signs of Burn 

A few years ago I began watching pastors burn out and leave their churches. Some left out of exhaustion, others out of moral failure. Aware that, I too, could face a similar fate, I began reflecting on my own motivations for ministry and evaluating my habits. During this time I read Leading on Empty, which helped me identify the physiological warning signs of burn out. It helped me understand that a general lack of motivation may be the result of overworking and under-resting, which depletes serotonin levels. We’re not made to run full throttle for long. As a result, I stepped away from speaking engagements for about a year. I focused on my family and church.

It was also helpful to read about the tendency to withdraw from things the pastor finds difficult, such as counseling or preaching, depending on the pastor. Burnout is accompanied by a malaise that dulls a person’s senses. He begins to lack excitement for anything. Natural strengths slowly become weaknesses. A couple of these warning lights lit up, which with my fresh understanding, helped me make changes. Burnout is preventable. And the pastor is responsible for how he responds to ministry pressures, congregational expectations, and outside demands. Most of all, he has to be aware of God in Christ, to walk in the Spirit. Studying about God is not the same as walking with God. Awareness is very important.

Reactivating Devotional Habits

In addition to these warning signs, I reacquainted myself with life-giving habits. Knowing my soul lifts when I spend time in creation, I began to walk the quai next to Town Lake, praying out loud and listening to God. I returned to one of the two devotionals I read, Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper. While most of his writings are theologically robust, his devotional takes those seeds of strength and waters them with contemplative reflections, all relating to the necessity and goodness of being near to God. It was in this season that I fell upon a quote that flies me:

Love for God may be fine sentiment. It may be sincere and capable of inspiring holy enthusiasm, while the soul is still stranger to fellowship with the eternal, and ignorant of the secret walk with God.

In essence, Kuyper is saying that it is possible to love the ideas of God without loving God himself. While we may be tempted to judge this slicing the theological bread too thin, this warning is not without warrant. After all, it was Jesus who warned “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt 7:23-24). You can preach, perform miracles, and grow a church all in the name of Jesus without Jesus even knowing you. This led me to some deep repentance, and the quote continues to pop up and correct me. I recently preached a sermon on this.

I also reread some of Eugene Peterson’s grounded, incisive, and pastorally enriching books. These things helped me revalue time with God for a season, as well as adjust some habits. I began to pray on my knees more, where I sense God’s greatness in a way that is hard to grasp sitting or standing up. My devotional line continued to be jagged but evened out a bit. The sense of God’s nearness rises and falls but he remains ever-present and with me. Faith has to lean forward or its not faith. It has to grasp at promises that are true, not be bullied by feelings that moor in untruth.

Then, this summer in the midst of a difficult season, I retreated to the Avon valley in Colorado, where I collapsed on a bed and began reading Clay Werner’s On the Brink: Grace for the Burned-out PastorI’ll pick up with some of the gems from Werner’s book in my next entry.

13 Quotes on Parenting

Dr. Michael Goheen served as the Jake and Betsy Tuls Professor of Missiology, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids; a Senior Fellow of the Newbigin House of Studies, San Francisco; and is currently focused on his work as Director of Theological Education and Scholar-in-residence at Missional Training Center—Phoenix. He is also known for his writings on biblical theology and mission.

His book The Drama of Scripture is, in my opinion, the best single volume book summarizing the big story of Scripture. 

With all his great academic credentials, I’ve been pleased to get to know him also as “Mike.” He and Marnie are humble in presence and earnest in faith. They just love the Lord. It shows. When Mike and his wife Marnie spoke at our parenting seminar, they shared from their mundane and funny experiences, as well as insightful reflections on raising four children. We also had several couples from our church with grown children sit on a panel. The evening was littered with wisdom. I’ve collected a few of the quotes for you.

Family Life

We always played hard with our kids after dinner for half an hour. They still remember it.

Your best disciples should be in the home.

Give your kids lots of unstructured time. Play is a gift to kids; it sparks the imagination.

Our kids don’t need to try everything. Our kids are too busy.

Don’t rob your children of play by forcing them into sport.

Missional Community is a family gathering so bring your family to the gathering.

Discipline

It’s important to make the distinction between rebellion & childishness.

I want to befriend my children before discipling them.

There’s a cruelty to not helping our kids obey.

Discipline is a fence, keeps our kids from the thorns & cliffs. If stay this side you’ll be more fully human.

End discipline on a positive note, talk about things they enjoy or play with them.

Gospel

Our children said it made them feel special to be part of Gods big story, to have a calling in his world.

The big picture of our relationship to God as Father helps our children makes sense of discipline.

10 Tips on Promoting Your Writing

1. If you care about what you write, you’ll spend time promoting it. No point in writing an article or book to let it sit in obscurity. If you believe it, you’ll spread it.

2. Have some goto verses to guide against spiritual pride. Don’t obsess about stats or read all the reviews. You also don’t have to answer every critic.

3. Let a publisher or agent do a fair amount of the promotion for you. If you have ideas on how you’d like them to help promote, don’t be afraid to creatively brainstorm and share ideas.

4. Stepping into the published author world is a whole new experience. You will face fresh temptations and encounter new joys. Dig deeper than ever to consistently find Christ as your chief joy, not what others think or say about you.

5. Don’t retweet everything, but if something is particularly good, and gets across what you want to get across, no harm in doing so. Ignore what critics and leaders say about RTs and just follow the Holy Spirit. RT doesn’t equal Self Praise. Though RTs certainly can be full of vanity, they can also be a way to spread the gospel, distribute wisdom, and rejoice in the truth.

6. Don’t get sucked into platform building. Don’t read books and blogs on this stuff. It will just build your ego. God will open doors. Be faithful, fight for joy in Christ, work hard at your craft, promote as the Spirit leads.

7. Have one blind eye and one deaf ear. Filter praise and critiques and let the Holy Spirit guide you. Talk to your heavenly Father, honestly, about it all. This is part of your discipleship now.

8. Invite godly accountability. Be transparent about your struggles and share your joys. Most people wont understand the challenge of being an author until you let them in on it. When they discover there’s genuine fight for the fame of Christ, they’ll be discipled for good or for ill in how you handle it. When they observe humility and genuine zeal for truth, people will join you in prayer and support.

9. Ask your elders if they will to support you through prayer, promotion, accountability. Let them be a voice to the church to teach them how to support you, particularly through praying for you and the kingdom influence of the book.

10. Get and remain zealous about God’s fame, not yours. It’s all his truth, grace, and glory anyway. Ask God everyday to make you a creative, truth-telling author who is full of grace and humility.