Drew Goodmanson shares a good story about how a couple made a gospel-centered decision about moving in community. A great example for all of us. An excerpt:
Recently, in our missional community we have had two families begin the process of searching for a home. Both were considering a location farther away from the community where they could get more home for the money. In our gospel intentional way we asked them what were the motivations behind this. If we are called to be a community on mission with the gospel at the center of everything we do, wouldn’t our decision of where we live profoundly be impacted by this? … What motivates us to move outside the city to buy a bigger home? Comfort? Investment? Safety? If the answer isn’t calling than ultimately this decision is not being made with the gospel at the core…We ultimately need to get down to the heart issues of what motivates people in all our decisions, because if we are not walking in line with the gospel we are worshiping something other than God. These two families have begun to re-consider what they want to prioritize. They recognize that if they moved 20 minutes away it would impact their ability to be gospel intentional. Certainly, if God was calling them to move and their motivation was the gospel at the center, we would embrace this and help them move but our missional community doesn’t see this as the case. These people have been willing to submit this decision and heed the counsel of the community because of the gospel intentionality they desire. (Note: This is not gospel ‘intensity’ these conversations are not heavy-handed or us trying to make decisions for them.) All of us seek to expose our lives to each other and the community around us so that when any decision or circumstance is brought up we examine it through the idea of God’s calling on our life to live as a redemptive people who are servants of our great King…
Some good friends, Will and Bob, have written some great Gospel-centered Life material. This nine lesson workbook explains and applies the Gospel in a user friendly, thoughtful, and practical way. I got my hands on an early version and was impressed. No doubt the new version is even better!
For samples and more info go here.
Does vision or personality drive your church? What role does leadership really play in influencing an entire city? In this blog exchange between Tim Keller and one of his church members, Keller backs away from the personality-driven ministry, while affirming leadership as the fuel of ministry, acknowledging some has higher octane than others.
QUESTION: Tim, I had an interesting conversation with the pastor of an…NYC church this past week. I was discussing the need for churches in this part of the city and the vision God has placed on my heart to see churches planted throughout the city and my dedication to seeing one here, in Brooklyn Heights/Dumbo. I was frustrated and haunted by his focus on mere ‘survival’. Not only that, but when I mentioned that I was attending Redeemer, he kindly insisted that Redeemer’s success was the result of an advantage ‘they’ have over other churches. His response to my inquiry was, “Tim Keller”. Naturally, I spent the next couple of days pondering his observation. Is Redeemer what it is because of Dr. Keller and his persona? I mean no disrespect, but my answer is an emphatic ‘no’…. It is the vision of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the passionate embodiment of that vision that has allowed Redeemer to focus on things beyond mere survival. In the relatively short number of days that I have lived in New York City, I have lived beneath the banner of Jeremiah 29, and have found nothing short of Shalom. Numerous friends are amazed, even shocked, at the number of friends and acquaintances my family and I have made. I have no doubt that it is the result of our view of the city, largely influenced by this vision. If Redeemer’s advantage is ‘Tim Keller’ then every church has the same advantage. There is an example to follow. Living the vision, Brad
REPLY: Brad, Thanks for a great letter, and for defending me against a “false compliment.” I get this a lot—“How are you going to start a movement—only you can do the things you do?” It’s very frustrating to me, especially because Redeemer-model churches have already prospered and grown in cities like San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and many other cities, both in the States and abroad. The distinctives of gospel-centrality, a balance of evangelism, community, justice and cultural renewal, and a concern for the whole city, not just our own tribe could be likened to an engine. The leadership and preaching gifts of any individual pastor, using this metaphor, would be the “fuel.” Naturally, some pastors have “higher octane” gifts than others, but the “engine” will run on just about anything. Thanks for realizing that it’s primarily the model and the vision that God is using, and only secondarily the giftedness level of the pastor! ~ Tim
- Notice Keller’s quick identification of temptation to self-flattery. He deflates it with truth by calling it a ‘false compliment.’
- Notice his emphasis on the gospel not personality as ‘the engine” of ministry, and that the gospel does not require high octane fuel. It will take my low-grade unleaded, praise God!
- Notice the importance of vision over personality, a lesson we all need to learn and continually pray and practice.
The book You Can Change, by Tim Chester, promotes a gospel-centered approach to sanctification by asking ten major questions. The real fruit of the book comes through the required Personal Change Project, an endeavor reminiscent of the Personal Counseling Project required by David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change (and quotes CCEF authors throughout).
The Trinity and Change
Chester gives a little more attention to the role of the Trinity in producing personal change than most books on this topic. The Trinity gives us a new identity: 1) children of the Father 2) bride of the Son and 3) the home of the Spirit. He emphasizes the role of the Spirit in giving us the desire to do what is right, believe what is true, and cherish what is good. The simple emphasis on surrender to our inclination to do what is right and believe what is true was a refreshing reminder that the Spirit is already at work in us and that, very often, we simply need to yield to him. The Spirit opposes sinful desires and promotes God-honoring desires. The challenge is to “sow to the Spirit” by “saying yes to whatever strengthens our Spirit-inspired desires.” When we fail to yield to the Spirit, Scripture calls us to repentance and faith. The way we begin and continue in the Christian life is the same—repentance and faith in Christ.
Who is God?
Ten questions guide the reader through categories similar to Dynamics (heat, thorns, root, fruit, etc). In order to get to “the root”, Chester says that we must find “the lie behind every sin” and then identify one of four truths we are refusing to believe: 1) God is not great 2) God is not glorious 3) God is not good 4) God is not gracious. While a little simplistic, this typology is helpful and moves towards Christ being the expression of God’s greatness, glory, goodness, and grace.
Pride and Preciousness of Christ
The chapter on what stops change was personally transforming. Chester claims that pride isn’t just a sin; it’s part of the definition of sin. In sin we lift ourselves up over God, but in the gospel grace flows down to us. We need to give up on ourselves, to repent of self-reliance in sanctification and receive God’s grace for change. As one prone to self-reliance and pride, this was a word of grace. Jesus not only shows me humility but humbles me through the cross. The god of self-reliance (or self) is not merciful. When I let it down, it does not forgive. Instead, self-reliance beats me when I am down saying: “You could have done better. You need to work harder. You can do it.” But the gospel tells me the truth: “You can’t do it, but God in Christ through the Spirit can do all things through you.” When I let Christ down, he does not beat me; he dies for me. When I rely on him, not on myself, I discover that he not only dies for me but also lives for me, changing me into his very own image. This is a humbling, transforming, gospel-driven way to live and I am grateful for it!