I had been preparing to transition from a series called The Gospel and the Gospel to a new series on The Apostles Creed. I had done some preparation, broken down the summer preaching schedule, and begun to read several books on the topic. However, I sensed the Spirit directing me away from this. Not convenient. With one sermon on baptism between the series, I didn’t have a lot of time to make my decisi0n—go with Apostles Creed or follow these promptings. Despite the difficulty I chose the latter.
Dynamics of Spiritual Life
Richard Lovelace helped me make this decision. I had the great fortune of taking two classes from Lovelace before he retired from teaching as emeritus professor at Gordon-Conwell. If you haven’t read his opus Dynamics of Spiritual Life, order it today (and try to read it before finishing your second year of church planting). It is a historical, systematic theology of church and personal renewal rooted in Edwardsian theology. Lovelace had a profound effect on my approach to the Christian life. While debating which direction to go with the sermon series, I picked up Dynamics again and read the following:
Spirit-led Sermon Selection
What is true of the Holy Spirit’s role in the counseling procedure is equally important in the pulpit and teaching ministry of the pastor direct toward the whole congregation. If it is difficult to do spiritual surgery in the life of one parishioner in the counseling situation, its even more difficult to take aim at the spiritual needs of a group without explicit direction form the Holy Spirit. Many texts and many sermons may be appropriate in a general way to congregational needs, but the pastor who is working for congregational renewal will learn not to fix on any of these possibilities prematurely, until the quiet imprimatur of the Holy Spirit’s direction illuminates the thrust and strategy which his most strategic for spiritual release.
May we not cease to wait for the imprimpatur of the Spirit as we pastor his people.
Prayer is one of the main agencies through which we are brought ot understand the mind of Christ toward our particular mission and the work of the kingdom of God in general. Undoubtedly the small quantity of intelligent intercessory prayer in most twentieth century congregations is part of the short-circuiting of missionary consiousness among the laity. The establishment of the kingdom of God is an elusive tak; we cannot even see what it involves in our vicinity without specific prayer, and we certainly will have little urgency to carry it out unless we are praying. ~ Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 156-57
At the recent Acts 29 Pastors and Wives Retreat, Mark Driscoll spoke on Movements and Renewal, pointing out that Acts 29 has moved from being a Network to becoming a Movement. Of course, time will tell. My respect for Driscoll and Acts 29 shot through the roof over these four days. Driscoll’s address was a significant part of that. He addressed Movements & Renewal, littering his talk with pastoral exhortations. Hopefully the audio will be up soon.
For now, I’d like to highlight some of his remarks that are well worth considering. Note this a personal summary; quotations indicate direct quote from Driscoll. In classic Lovelacian form, Driscoll avered that Movements of God are precipiated by the whim of the Spirit and personal and communal renewal (if you haven’t read Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Lovelace order it now). From what I can recall, Driscoll noted seven characteristics of lasting movements:
- Lasting movements can only ultimately be attributed to a unique work of God. “Movements are fueled by a passion to increase the number of people worshipping Jesus Christ as God.”
- Lasting movements are typically strated by a movement leader who faces controversy and criticism.
- Lasting movements are characterized by “lives transformed in larger than typical numbers not unlike a revival…”
- Lasting movements are frequently started among young people.
- Lasting movements plant churches.
- Lasting movements use new technology to communicate the gospel (Horseback/Great Awakening; Printing Press/Reformation; Internet/Acts 29) . “Something in the culture has changed and a new model ministry is leading the pioneering of a solution.”
- Lasting movements exert an external influence that is beyond measure.
- Heretics are good for lasting movements; they help clarify what is central to the movement and develop theological precision.
- Lasting movements produce auxiliary organizations to manage growth.
- Lasting movements inevitably leave behind doctrinal and practical clean-up.
Pastoral Exhortation: “Shoot the wolves, not the shepherds, sheep or goats.”
Driscoll exhorted A29 pastors to not become embroiled in in-house debates, shooting fellow shepherds over best missional practices. This happens way too much among missional planters and blogosphere addicts. Younger planters tend to think they have the latest and best form of missional communities or whatever. At one point said something to the effect of: “Some of you don’t like that I do video venue. Well, i don’t care. I don’t like your band. Some dude strumming an acoustic instead of rockin out. It doesn’t matter. If we are going to be a movement, we are going to have stop shooting one another.” As churches grow there will be plenty of critics, fellow shepherds need not be among these. Rather, shepherds should encourage one another, guard the sheep, win the goats, and shoot the heretics. Mark obviously wasn’t suggesting that we literally shoot anyone, but rather that in assuming the task of watching our life and doctrine closely and shepherding the flock of God, we clearly mark out heretical teaching.