I received an advanced copy of The Prodigal God this week, Tim Keller’s third book (Reason for God, Ministries of Mercy). This short book is a narrative introduction to Christianity based on Keller’s reading of Luke 15, focusing especially on the parable of the so-called “Prodigal Son.” His faithful reading of this familiar story brings into focus the self-righteous sin of the elder brother as well as the irreligious sin of the younger brother, charting a gospel middle that points the sinner away from themselves to the abounding grace of the Father.
Chapter after chapter offers redefinition of traditional evangelical readings of topics such as sin, lostness, and heaven. Keller’s insightful re-readings and redefinitions are valuable for new Christian and old, and especially for those who have a problem with Christians and the Church. If you’ve heard Keller preach on this passage before, there’s a lot of overlap; however, there are some fresh gems embedded in the text. Here are a few:
“The world is not simply a theatre for conversion narratives, to be discarded at the end when we all go to heaven.”
“Most of us are either too eager or not eager enough for what Jesus offers.”
In preparation for our Fall Deacon Training, I found these interview questions from Tim Keller very helpful:
- Purity. Are you leading a sexually pure life? (What do you consider a sexually pure life?)
- Possessions. Do you understand the Biblical tithe to be for Christians of the giving to the Lord’s work? Are you giving out of your income in Biblical proportions, or are you moving toward that standard?
- Personal walk. Describe your prayer and devotional life. Has God been real to you in prayer of late; is your relationship with him vital? Is anything hindering your communion with God? Are you making progress against it?
- Ministry Involvement. Tell us of how you have been involved in people’s lives in ministry through _____ or through other organizations in the City. Do you have any non-Christian associates that you are regularly praying for and sharing faith with?
- Office affinity. Describe for us the duties of deacon/deaconness. How do your gifts, abilities, interests fit this office?
Taken from the Redeemer Church Planting Manual
Here are some recommended CP manuals on the nuts and bolts of planting.
Gary Rohrmayer has planted tons of churches and wrote a helpful course called First Steps: Missional Church Planting. First Steps is strong on the nuts and bolts and guides the planter through six stages of the first year of missional church planting. These stages include:
- Relating to God and Others
- Networking and Gathering
- Building a Launch Team
- Designing Worship Services and Ministry Strategies
- Launching Public Services
- Establishing the New Community and its Ministries
Another one of its strengths is that it is principle, not model driven. So, it accommodates a variety of models and encourages contextualization. Though the course is launch driven, some of the templates for budgets, position descriptions, financial accountability, etc are helpful jumping off points. You can also purchase a membership at CoachNet that allows electronic access to the entire workbook and PDFs and take the course.
Redeemer Planting Manual
Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church Planting Manual is incredibly strong on missiology and philosophy of ministry. If you really want to know how to become lead missionary that cultivates a church of missionaries, follow Tim’s approach. At times, it is overwhelming (and I have background in Anthropology!), but there are a lot of riches to be found in this manual.
Exploring the Land
Exploring the Land focuses on understanding your target people and culture(s). This book was written for reaching unreached peoples, which is why it is so helpful for domestic church planting. It forces to ask questions that we think we already have answers for, forcing you to do the hard, loving work of contextualization.
Church Planters Toolkit
Bob Logan’s Church Planters Toolkit is a standby that offers a lot of pracitcal helps and is used by the Evangelica Free Church. Logan has actually transformed some of his personal convictions about methodology and is now planting more organically. He co-wrote an expensive book on this with Neil Cole called Beyond Church Planting.
Dynamic Church Planting Handbook
Dynamic Church Planting Handbook is built around strong theological and pastoral foundations, but with modern methods. I found myself continually challenged to rely on the Holy Spirit, plant in spirtual health, and plant for the Glory of God when reading this manual. Some of the nuts and bolts were disappointing, however.
Interesting series of discussions from PCA Denominational Renewal fall out.