Category: Leadership

Christmas Confession & Assurance

CONFESSION

Lord God,

We praise you for sending your light and love—Jesus the Messiah—into this world.

We confess that we often live like the light did not defeat the darkness.

We confess that we often live as though Jesus is not returning in glorious light.

We sometimes confine Christ to parts of our lives and our faith becomes small.

We do not joyfully serve and expectantly worship.

Forgive us for ignoring Jesus’ light.

Prepare us for His return.

Help us rejoice in the light,

So your grace illumines the dark places of our hearts, our city and our world.

Amen.

ASSURANCE

The God who promised never to leave us or forsake us,

has come to us in Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

He binds up the broken-hearted,

heals all our infirmities,

and relieves our burden of sin.

While it is true that we have sinned,

It is a greater truth that, in Christ Jesus, we are forgiven.

God has shown his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died and rose for us.

Arise, shine; for his light has come,

And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Thanks be to God!

*Taken from City Life Church Christmas Eve liturgy.

When Mission Gets in the Way of Counseling

Should we spend time counseling when we could be out evangelizing, building community, strategizing for mission or preaching? Isn’t counseling something missional leaders “refer,” not something we do?

Well, it depends on how we define the word counsel. If we mean specialized sessions devoted to psychological issues that can not be addressed by the gospel, then perhaps we shouldn’t counsel. However, if we mean discipling others with gospel wisdom in the full range of human thinking, feeling, and behaving, then perhaps we should reconsider our default practice of referring.

Overlooking Counseling

Mission-minded people tend to overlook or look down on counseling. We may see it as an obstacle to mission. Too often I’ve heard things like, “God called me to preach not to pastor.” “I’ll save ‘em, somebody else disciple ‘em.” Or “Counseling isn’t my gift.” But this simply doesn’t square with the Bible. Counseling might not be your gift but it is your responsibility.

Even the greatest church planter, the Apostle Paul, had time for counseling. His letters are charged with gospel-centered counsel that springs from an intimate knowledge of people’s everyday lives. Very often, his counsel is to counsel (Rom 15:14; Eph 5:25; Col 3:12-17; 3:12-13; 10:23). Peter, James, and the writer of Hebrews also counseled their churches and counseled them to counsel. If we’re biblically faithful, counseling is something that is required of all God’s people, even church planters!

Professionalizing Church Planting

Church planting has already become an industry. Just Google “church planting”(897,000 hits). A multitude of conferences and businesses have sprung up around church planting. Best practices and best venues dominate planting conversations. Church planters borrow business language and practice in order to “plant” churches. Consider this string of questions:

  • What are you running? What are your numbers like?
  • Are your groups multiplying?
  • When are you going to plant next?
  • How are you reproducing leaders?

We’re quick to talk numbers and slow to talk transformation. If we’re not careful, church planter will become another religious profession in an increasingly professionalized Church. Planters will share more in common with entrepreneurs than they do with apostles, elders, and pastors. Church planters will become disobedient to God and irrelevant to his Church. They will build buildings and launch services, not pastor people and cultivate community.

Pastoring while Planting

Missional people often reach unreached, unbelieving, and very broken people. As a result, pastoral wisdom and gospel-centered counseling quickly become important skills. For church planters, the biblical office we hold is not church planter but elder-pastor. How are you cultivating pastoral wisdom? How are you growing in your capacity to shepherd your flock with wisdom, truth, and grace?

In order to plant healthy missional churches, we must grow in gospel breadth and depth. It’s imperative we train others to think the gospel down into issues of the heart and back into the struggles of their past. This will enrich our sermons with pastoral application that grows from spending time with struggling sheep. The best application is mined not from homiletical brainstorming but from pastoral counseling.

Counseling on mission is critical. If we do not counsel while we are on mission, we will fail in planting missional churches, while succeeding in starting organizations and events. Gospel-centered counseling should be the overflow of gospel-centered church planting.

5 Ways Seminary Equipped Me for Ministry

1

  • Biblical Epistemology – My prolegomena helped me grasp how a Biblical worldview in intellectually credible. The writings of John Frame and N.T Wright on critical realism helped me grasp a way of looking at the world that is neither naive or nihilist. We can perceive what is true, through reason, the Spirit, and the Word, but not all we say is true.

 

This enabled me to press into a pluralistic context like Austin, Texas with the requisite humility and confidence.

 

  • Systematic Theology – Showed me how the Bible is theologically coherent. Apparent contradictions and various texts can be harmonized to tell us something about the nature, character, and purposes of God.

 

This enabled me to know God and answer some of the big questions regarding suffering, evil, election and so on.

  • Hermeneutics – Enabled me to read and interpret texts well through propositional analysis, grammar, syntax, genre and so on. Discourse analysis was paradigm-shifting for me and taught me how to reason much better (Thank you Dr. Roy Ciampa!).

 

This enabled me to read the Bible and other books well, to reason well cultural texts and claims, as well as biblical ones.

 

  • Biblical Exegesis – I got to apply hermeneutics to the whole Bible with the guardrails of mentors in order to understand the author’s intent. Lots of Bible. I added a second degree to get more practice and more Bible! In particular, Greg Beale’s categories for OT in NT exegesis helped me grasp how to make sense of what the NT authors do with the OT.

 

This launched me into the difficult task of showing the church, through preaching, that the two testaments are a whole. 

 

  • Biblical Theology – The above led me to read diachronically not just systematically, to read along the grain of Scripture so that the grand narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation is always my framework and Christ is at the center. Meredith Kline, Greg Beale, Sean McDonough were all a great help in this. Monotheistic Christology, the understanding that “Jesus is Lord” places Christ into the identity of YWHW simply blew my mind and still does.

 

That is gospel-Centered and led to a a consistent practice of challenging cultural notions of authority with the authority of Christ, basically preaching and teaching and discipling and counseling people into Jesus as King, not just as Savior

3 Recommended Books on Burnout

In light of my recent article at Lifeway Leadership, here are a few books I recommend reading if you feel exhausted by ministry, lackluster about the church, or distant from Jesus:

On The Brink – This book blends empathy, challenge, and biblical exhortation very well. An excellent help to anyone who feels “on the brink” or wants to better understand what pastors, in particular, often face.

Leading on Empty – This book combines science with sage advice. It contains some great best practices from an experienced pastor.

Near Unto God – A life-giving devotional by Abraham Kuyper. His brief devotional entries are packed with spiritual insight and stir religious affection.