This promo video is of Jeff Vanderstelt, a pastor at Soma Communities, is very challenging. I would hope that I would personally view all things through the lens of the gospel. In addition, I hope I am teaching and equipping my church to think this way.
For more thorough and involved teaching on this subject, see this post by Justin Taylor.
In view of John Piper’s newest book, Desiring God has produced a short documentary cataloguing his growth from a full-fledged racist to the father of an African-American daughter. It is worth your time to watch because it very concretely details the implications of the gospel in all areas.
This is one of the best and most creative presentations of the gospel I have ever seen. It is both memorable and theologically rich. It manages to take complex concepts and present them in a simple way without devolving into naïve simplicity.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this video, please do not pirate it but, rather, support those who made it and purchase it from Dare2Share ministries.
When I was a young teenager there was a family connected to our church that was dysfunctional. The wife was involved in the mission and vision of the church and the husband was nowhere to be found. I remember my dad telling me, “who you marry will affect your ability to live for Christ.” As I’ve watched my friends and acquaintances get married I can now tell the prophetic truth of that statement.
My wife fits every Biblical description of a godly woman. She is talented, beautiful, industrious, hard-working, humble, and modest. She is incredibly smart. In fact, when we met in college she helped me bring my GPA up (unfortunately I helped her bring hers every-so-slightly down). She would never brag, so I get to do it for her! People don’t often realize the sacrifices she made for us to come to Virginia and me to become a vocational pastor. I often joke that she was my sugar-mama while I was in seminary in NC. That’s really not a joke! She had one of those high-paying, corporate jobs that gave her all the worldly accolades. She traded that in to move to VA for a lower (much, much lower) paying job with much less recognition. She traded in day-trips to NYC for a vibrant ministry with teenager girls. Business trips to the Waldorf-Astoria are now replaced with discipleship dates at Starbucks with a teenager. Corporate weekends in Veil have given way to Bible Studies in our house.
Through all of this God has confirmed to me that I made the right choice when I asked Whitney to marry me. She fears God and strives daily to serve him. My wife is by far the more gifted minister. She is more like Jesus because she is more of a servant.
The other day I was talking with another local pastor. We were talking about evaluating personal strengths and weaknesses. I have a lot of weaknesses! However, when he asked me to name my greatest strength, I answered without hesitation, “my wife.”
What has motivated me to write this post? First of all, I love my wife and think she is awesome. I think everyone needs to know how awesome she really is. In addition, she puts up with all sorts of foolishness from me. Finally, in an age of celebrity it is important for people to know the “hidden story.” Sometimes those without the attention are the ones who are most to be emulated.
Whitney, thank you for loving Jesus and thank you for loving me.
(P.S. — One of Whitney’s passions is helping people plan events. Check out her blog to learn more about her event planning!)
The Bible does talk a lot about public evangelism. In Acts, for example, the apostles preach to large crowds of unbelievers on many occasions. Their preaching is often direct and, even, confrontational. (e.g., Acts 2:14-40, Acts 14, Acts 7:1-51).
However, there is also a component of relationship and community that is evidenced throughout the Scriptures. (1 Thes. 2:7-12, Acts 19:9, 1 Thes. 4:12).
In my own life, daily discipleship is much harder than one-time events. I don’t particularly mind large, attraction-based, event-oriented evangelism (though I question their effectiveness in today’s culture). However, one-time evangelism must be accompanied by daily, sacrificial, authentic, missional living. I find it much harder to mentor a student weekly than take teenagers to camp once a year. It is much more time-consuming to volunteer in the local middle school than throw a Superbowl party. I have to be vulnerable when I share my life with other people and that scares me. When you share life you share success and failure, strengths and weaknesses.
By God’s grace I will strive to demonstrate the gospel not just once in a while but every day.
Some time ago I read a post by Larry Hurtado on the fall of Christendom in Western cultures.
In the Western nations where Christendom once was dominant, it is dominant pretty much no more. I for one don’t grieve this one bit. I regard “Christendom” as a morally dubious phenomenon that probably did as much harm to the gospel as it ever did any good. It consisted more in the promotion of institutional power of churches and church officials. It may have had some effect in shaping professed public morals, and perhaps even some effect on moral practice. But I don’t like the idea of any religion being able to exercise social coercion, and I think that religious faiths should live or die solely by their ability to commend themselves to the consciences of people…
So, I find pre-Constantinian Christianity much, much more exciting than what comes later, with much more to say to churches, Christians, and non-Christians too in our modern era in which Christianity is essentially one religious option in a religiously plural world. If Christians want to figure out how to be authentic and particularly Christian while also negotiating their contributions to the wider society, it’s Christians and texts from the first three centuries that provide the best resources.
This is similarly related to a conversation I had with a fellow pastor at our church. He was telling me how he used to want to live in the South, deep in the buckle of the
Bible Belt “Religion Belt.” He was commenting on the change in his attitude over the years. He would rather live somewhere that the gospel and Christianity was not culturally assumed. In a non-Christian environment he could share the joy of the Christ without having to disabuse people of their religious idols.
This is a good reminder for me that the decline of Christianity’s social and political impact is an opportunity to elevate the life-changing, life-saving, power of the gospel.
HT: Alan Knox.
Pastor Tim Piland shared an excellent message from Matthew 28:19-20 this past Sunday at Nansemond River Baptist Church. I love to listen to Pastor Tim share; he is biblical, passionate, and relevant. I like to tell people that he’s 65 going on 20. He has the energy and passion of a young man with the wisdom and wit of a seasoned veteran. I think he has a faint hint of Jimmy Stewart in his voice as well .
In any case, Tim made a comment (I think I’ve heard similar comments before) about sharing the gospel:
The gospel is not a commodity to be sold; it is a relationship to be shared.
I grew up learning all the methods of evangelism (E.E., Romans Road, 4 Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, F.A.I.T.H., etc.). As I’ve grown (a little) older I’ve found methods to be helpful but often inadequate. Each person is different and, therefore, every time I share my faith it sounds a little different. The content must always be biblical but the method of organization and communication is often ad hoc.
More important than the method, however, is the relationship. We must build relationships with people that can bear the weight of the gospel. The message of sin and salvation is heavy stuff and casual conversations rarely offer the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue. Talking about football and the weather is hardly a natural segue to the magnitude of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Too often fervent evangelists see people as converts to be won. I am reminded of Kevin Roose’s experience at Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University chronicled in the book Unlikely Disciple:
When I told the Liberty students at Thomas Road that I hadn’t accepted Christ as my savior, the entire dynamic of the conversation changed. It began to feel distant and rehearsed, like a pitch for Ginsu knives.
People are unique and interesting and the gospel is not formulaic. Different people have different objections and hangups to the gospel. I know that I value authenticity and honesty much more than a polished presentation.