Tag: Gospel-centered

Service in the Local Church Doesn't Have to Kill Her

On Sunday at our Deacon Training we discussed how be a deacon that doesn’t just do ministry. We don’t want to have deacons (or volunteers) that serve out of sheer duty. Rather, we want to cultivate disciples and deacons that serve from the strength that God provides in the gospel, thru the Spirit. Joyful deacons, not jaded deacons.

As Neil Cole points out, mundane service such as setting up or tearing down, can be disconnected from both the gospel and the mission of the church. It is unfortunate that mundane tasks are viewed as lesser, when in fact, they are frequently the greater task, requiring greater servants.

Service in the local church doesn’t have to kill her. In order to promote a gospel-centered approach to service in the church, we discussed what it looks like to connect the gospel to web design, media work, and traffic direction (and these are just Sunday examples; the church is much, much more). To cut to the chase, we concluded that publishing the gospel on the web has a remarkable impact on people who read manuscripts and listen to podcasts. For those that direct traffic, they are actually pointing people to Jesus, and some of these people have never really understood who Jesus is. Both traffic direction and media work contribute significant to the gospel-centered mission of the church, so deacons take heart.

But what keeps us from duty-driven service that leads to weariness and bitterness? The gospel. We spent some time considering how the three perspectives on the gospel ground us in Jesus and call us to mission. We also discussed the idea of leaning away from the gospel into people pleasing (not Christ pleasing) service or leaning into “screw the responsibility,” self-pleasing service. We were reminded that serving in the strength that God provides is essential to church-edifying, Christ-honoring work.

Instead of working to please pastors, we work because God is already pleased with us in Jesus. We don’t need the approval of pastors (though encouragement is important). The path of irresponsibility is also deceptively dangerous. Abandoning service to the people of God is an abandoning of the gospel, a gospel that has remade us to serve, that has wonderfully enslaved us in love to one another. Of course, seasons of rest are important, and one of our deacon candidates is in that season. In the end, we serve not to be spiritual but becase we are spiritual; we are new creatures who live out the new life we have received from the Spirit.

Preaching the Gospel from Our Past

The gospel fruit from last week’s sermon is falling off the tree. Person after person has contacted me to share how powerful the message was, how they are still thinking about it, how they were called to repentance and faith. In fact, gospel fruit is dropping all over the place. Yesterday I met with a guy who ran out of our Sunday service the first time he visited because he was so freaked by the “spiritual experience.” He was jaded and cynical but appreciated the kind of Christians he worked with. Yesterday he told me that he had been walking around with his past weighing heavily upon him, feeling that he had such a great penalty to pay. Then he said: “but then I realized Somebody paid that penalty for me. I am different. People are telling me I’m different!” This fruit is not because of great preaching but because of a great Christ. However, the greatness of Christ was more plain in the dimness of my own sin, my broken past.

The power of the Gospel to reconcile our past and present sin is all too often absent from the pulpit. Preachers hide behind the facade of professionalism, while our people struggle to understand how the incarnation really makes a difference. Our churches are longing for a little Christ in thier midst that shares their failures as well as their successes. They want to know a pastor who is truly human, so human that the need for the divine shoots through the roof. We constantly say that we are an imperfect people who cling to a perfect Christ. On Sunday, people got to see my imperfections next to the glorious perfection of Jesus Christ.

I guess this post is a reminder of the centrality of the gospel in church planting. A reminder to allow the full breadth of redemption to be experienced in our own discipleship and heard by other disciples. In the end, we are simply fellow sheep in need of the Great Shepherd. Our identity is disciple but our role is pastor, and because of that we bear the great responsibility of displaying redemption from our own stories, not just the stories of the Bible.



Keller: Gospel-centered Contextualization

In this brief interview, Tim Keller offers some advice on prayer, gospel-centered contextualization, a new writing project, and the new breadth and balance of city centre churches. To get you going, here is his comment on contextualization:

The gospel is the key. If you don’t have a deep grasp on the gospel of grace, you will either over-contextualize because you want so desperately to be liked and popular, or you will under-contextualize because you are self-righteous and proud and so sure you are right about everything. The gospel makes you humble enough to listen and adapt to non-believers, but confident and happy enough that you don’t need their approval.


Blogging yourself to Death

A few years ago I hesitantly took up blogging at the behest of a friend. Since then I have started three blogs, two of which are active. I knew the dangers going in. Blogging is an inherently narcissistic medium; it assumes that readers want to know what you think about any given topic. It is from you, through you, and if we aren’t careful, it will be back to you. I fight that blog narcissism every day. Blogging panders to pride.

Statistics don’t help. You can track down people who refer to your blog, interact in comments, and watch your hits rise and fall. Sure, these can be helpful and produce some good conversations, but stats are as dangerous as they are helpful. Of course, it’s not the stats that are really dangerous; it is my idolizing heart. The part of me that wants everything to be about me, not God. The impulse to worship something other than the glorious triune God, namely myself. Or is that really what is happening in my heart? Am I worshipping myself or am I worshipping what others think of me? Ah, that’s more to the point.

Blogging invites interaction, recognition, and criticism, as do many forms of self-expression. I find myself checking comments and statistics to see if anyone has responded. Often, this is out of a desire to know what people think about me and my ideas, to see if they like or dislike them. If they like my writing, then I feel good, and sometimes I will cuddle that goodness, like Gollum and his ring. I the dark places of my heart, I want others’ approval more than I rest in God’s approval. The applause of men echoes more loudly in my darkened heart than my applause of God.

If I am not careful, vigilent, I will blog myself to death. Living for the approval and praise of others is deadly. It blackens the heart, atrophying affections for Christ and actualizing affections for self. It leads us into a kind of death, where Jesus offers life.Paul tells us to put to death deadly things, to fight the good fight of faith: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:10). I need to put evil idolatry to death, so that I can truly live.

In Fight Club we: 1) Know our Sin 2) Fight our Sin 3) Trust our Savior. I know my sin, and sometimes I fight it. But I am short on strength to choose life, not death, apart from the Spirit. The Spirit has made me a new creature. When I cuddle blog stats, I act like the old creature, the one that Jesus died to forgive and renew. I act out of character. Paul reminds me that I: “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” The new disciple in Jesus is constantly renewed. He or she doesn’t just look back and say, that’s when I became a Christian, when I became a new person.” Instead, they look at the present and they say: “This is proof that I am a Christian, that I am being renewed today in the knowledge of the gospel, of Jesus, to live out my new humanity.”

Jesus offers us life where there is death, newness where there is oldness, forgiveness where there is vanity and every evil thing. The question is, “Will I trust him?” Or will I trust the fleeting promise of men’s approval? Fortunately, God is bent on renewing me, on guiding my heart to a place of infinite joy in his presence, to the acceptance of the Father who loves me enough to redirect my affections back to him. I am encouraged by God’s relentless pursuit of his glory in my joy. I am thankful for the knowledge of the gospel that reminds me and shows me just how great God’s grace is, and as a result, today, I will choose to trust Christ, not approval, and blog for life, not death!