Monthly Archives: August 2010

What is the Gospel?

The gospel is good news about bad news. The bad news is that every person is sinfully flawed in their nature and dead in their sin before a perfect and infinite creator God (Rom. 3:9-18, 23; Eph. 2:1). The good news is that God, being rich in mercy, sent Jesus to live perfectly, die as a substitution, and resurrect victoriously over sin and death (1 Cor. 15:1-11). The atonement Jesus made for  sin is enabled by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit and the atonement is applied by our response of repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). We cannot by our good works earn favor with God (Eph. 2:8-9). It is by grace through faith that we are made a new creation to live to righteousness (2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:4-8; 1 Pet 2:24, Ephesians 2:10).

To summarize: God is perfect. You and I are hopelessly separated from God by our sin. Jesus is our only hope to have a relationship with God. You must turn from your sin and follow Jesus by faith alone, otherwise, you will perish.

The gospel is the living story that Jesus can turn your infinitely bad situation into eternally good news for God’s glory.

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Fighting for Marriages that Last

“At that moment I knew, I knew like you know about a good melon.” That’s a great line. Not very realistic, but a great line nonetheless. (What is the Gospel – What must I do to be saved?)

Most people get married with the intention of sitting on a couch one day and telling the story of how they met, endured some bumps and bruises, and now they are now riding off into the sunset, happy ever after. But there is more to life than making it to the end and still being married – and tragically many people won’t make it with their vows in tact. Additionally, it is entirely possible to live a happy life with one person and still waste the marriage relationship, which may be just as tragic as a divorce.  As much as I like the video above for its entertainment value and its sense of romantic idealism, it is incomplete and even misleading because of the absence of Jesus. I don’t mean to be a joy killer, but there is no lasting joy a part from Christ in anything we do.

Here are some biblical and practical thoughts about marriage and an event that is coming up that might help marriages last on earth and count for eternity.

  1. Marriage is a covenant commitment between a man and woman before God that is meant to last like the covenant between Jesus and His bride (the Church) will last (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:22-33).
  2. Marriage is for Jesus and Jesus is to have first place in everything, including our marriages (Colossians 1:16-18).
  3. Strong and Christ-centered marriages don’t just happen, they require an intentional and consistent plan.
  4. Marriage should not be a fight but we must fight for our marriage relationships everyday.
  5. Most marriages don’t fall a part over night, but disintegrate as they slowly fade from the erosion of trust and unreconciled mistakes.
  6. Satan is a murderer and liar and he will do anything he can to destroy marriages and families (John 8:44), because when Satan destroys marriages and families, he cripples local churches and distorts the gospel story that marriage tells.

So what are you doing to get ready for marriage and if you already are married, what are you doing to strengthen your marriage against the attacks of the murderer and liar?

On September 9th and 10th we are having our 2nd annual relationship weekend. This year we are focusing on the idea of “His Needs, Her Needs”. Love is wanting and doing what is best for others and we can’t know what to do unless we know what others need. It is easy to think of reasons why we can’t do something and it takes effort to do things that are worth doing. I pray that you will make the effort to focus on relationships and marriage and join us as we seek to follow Christ in all we do. You can register online by clicking on this link: Relationship Weekend Registration

What do you Expect?

Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 24th) at 9:45 we will gather for staff meeting and we will have a new pair of university interns who will join us for the first time. Welcoming new staff to their first staff meeting  is a helpful trigger that allows me to introduce and remind what I expect from everyone on staff. I am not a dictator but I have found that it is clearly communicated expectations which enables good communication and in turn builds trust. After all, how can anyone know what success is if there hasn’t been a clearly communicated standard of what is necessary?

Consider for a moment what would happen if you were planning a trip with several people and you were in charge but  never told them where they were going, what they should wear, how much money they should bring or what they would be doing. It is probably safe to say that the people you planned the trip for won’t be going with you anywhere anytime soon. It seems to me that far too many leaders make the simple mistake of not adequately communicating what each person should and can do for whatever it is they are asked to do. What ensues as a result of failed communication of expectations is frustration and all sorts of organizational dysfunction. This is why I try to regularly evaluate, update and communicate expectations.

Here is the list of expectations the staff will receive:

  1. Biblical and Christ-Centered for God’s glory. This is the foundation for all we do and attempt to do.
  2. Mission and Commitment – the universal church and our local church is God’s plan to demonstrate the gospel by “taking an unchanging savior to a changing world.” To be committed to Jesus is to commit to His mission.
  3. Trust – Accountability and Confidentiality– I trust you to do what God has called you to do, but you must be accountable to do it. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Confidentiality: What’s said in staff meeting stays in staff meeting – at least some things. There must be mutual trust among the staff.
  4. Jesus Excellence and Sunday Mornings – This is the only time the whole church is together. We need to be excellent and Bible-saturated and Jesus-centered. Key Question: Does Jesus look good on Sunday morning?
  5. Thick-skinned – You must be willing to both critique and be critiqued in your areas of ministry. You must be able to take constructive criticism and lovingly give it. But do it with a Matthew 7:12 ethic.
  6. Consistency – “The signature of mediocrity is not the inability to change, it is chronic inconsistency.” – Jim Collins
  7. Serious Yet Joyful – Ministry is serious because eternity is serious, but you must be able to have joy and fun doing it. Balance.
  8. PaceSetting Awareness – You as the staff are pace-setters. If you are cranky and short, others will follow. If you are friendly, others will be friendly, etc. Those who follow take on the attitude and actions of their leaders.
  9. Soul-care and Boundaries – You must be disciplined in caring for your own soul. You must read the Bible and Pray and Worship and Rest because if you don’t, you won’t be able to help others if your soul is atrophied from neglect. You must set appropriate ministry boundaries.

Can You Tell the Story?

It is alarming how many people cannot articulate the true gospel of Jesus Christ in a succinct and confident way, and I am not talking about unbelievers, I mean people who profess to believe the gospel for salvation. Consider for a moment what we know and remember with vivid detail, that is in the grand scheme of things are unimportant. For example, I can tell you exactly what you need to know about how to use the remote to turn on the television in our home, what channel you need to turn to, and when you need to turn it on to watch Whale Wars. So what are the things that you can articulate with great specificity that have little or no eternal value? To say the least, is it not troubling that so many Christians cannot tell another person the very story that saved them from eternal separation from God so that they could be changed for heaven to worship the Triune God?

Here are some questions that might help you diagnose how well you know and love the gospel:

Can you give a succinct summary of the gospel without long pauses or stumbling over your words? Do you stumble over your address or how you met your spouse?

The gospel is good news. It is a story. Can you tell it? Which one is harder, to tell the story of Jesus or the story of your most recent vacation or some other eventful moment in your life?

Have you ever sat down and written the gospel out?

What are the essential elements of the gospel? The gospel is the grand story of 66 books that span at least 1500 years. What are the main points of the life-changing Bible story?

I tried to be pithy and tried to identify essential details of the gospel story with the summary below. We will never share the gospel until we love it enough to know it. If I were asked, this is how I would answer the question: “What is the gospel?”

The gospel is good news about bad news. The bad news is that every person is sinfully flawed in their nature and dead in their sin before a perfect and infinite creator God (Rom. 3:9-18, 23; Eph. 2:1). The good news is that God, being rich in mercy, sent Jesus to live perfectly, die as a substitution, and resurrect victoriously over sin and death (1 Cor. 15:1-11). The atonement Jesus made for  sin is enabled by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit and the atonement is applied by our response of repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). We cannot by our good works earn favor with God (Eph. 2:8-9). It is by grace through faith that we are made a new creation to live to righteousness (2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:4-8; 1 Pet 2:24).

To summarize: God is perfect. You and I are hopelessly separated from God by our sin. Jesus is our only hope to have a relationship with God. You must turn from your sin and follow Jesus, otherwise, you will perish. The gospel is the living story that Jesus can turn your infinitely bad situation into eternally good news for God’s glory.

Obama and the NYC Mosque; Why?

I was momentarily shocked to read on Twitter yesterday (Friday, August 13th – seems fitting) that President Obama publicly supports the building of a community center that includes a mosque, just two blocks from the “Ground Zero hole.” Honestly, I was struck by Obama’s endorsement because of the political liability it is in a mid-term election year that is shaping up to be a disaster for Democrats. “A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this month showed that 68 percent of Americans opposed the Islamic center plans, while only 29 percent favored them.”

I have a lot of opinions when it comes to politics, however, I normally don’t blog about politics because they can be unnecessarily divisive and a distraction for the work of the gospel ministry. To quote Ed Stetzer who probably quoted someone else, “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.” But as I said, this captured my attention and made me ask, “why?” “Why”, can be dangerous territory when it leads us to question someone’s motives, but why would Obama do this at this time? Does Obama have a political death-wish for Democrats (perhaps eventually himself) who have the unfortunate task of getting re-elected in a mid-term in a country that is very cranky from the hope of change that simply has not happened – at least economically and fiscally?

So why President Obama? Why now? Why this and why now?

Here are a few possibilities:

  1. President Obama is still trying to make peace on behalf of the U.S. with Islam. This is a viable option given the way the Obama administration has dealt with Israel and the way that Obama has gone to the Muslim world to try to soften the image of the U.S. and make us look like something other than crusading conquerors because of our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and our strong presence in other Middle Eastern Countries.  No doubt that is what many Muslims probably see the United States as. Perhaps then, this was a calculated diplomatic move to improve U.S. and Muslim relations. However, if this was his intent, it may have back-fired as it has only escalated the controversy that surely many Muslims are watching closely all over the world on cable news. I rule this reason out because I believe Obama and his team are smart enough to know that any U.S. image repair would be offset by public outcry to Obama’s support and the fact that it could prove to be costly politically.
  2. President Obama is covertly a radical Muslim who is trying to advance the cause of Islam. After all, his middle name is Hussein. I’m certain this is what many conspiracy theorists and crazy people are advancing, and I am not one of them. By the way, 1 out of every 5 Americans believes Obama is a Muslim.
  3. President Obama believes that the American way is to let every person have the right of religious freedom. Obama said in the article that is linked above, “This is America and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.” I hope this is why he supports the Islam Community Center, because it certainly does not make any political sense to support it. I believe that Mr. Obama is a smart man and this is the only conceivable reason that I can think of as to why he would make such an announcement. It would have been better for him if he would have had his opinion and stayed out of the fray, but this time I am going to choose to believe, unless convinced otherwise, that Obama is standing on a strong and deeply held  American conviction of religious tolerance and liberty. If so, good for him.

Having offered my musings and opinion, let me offer a few more thoughts. I think it is a bad idea to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero. It just doesn’t make sense to me on a number of levels. Most Muslims may not be terrorists, but it does seem like salt in the wound of a city and its people. I also find it interesting that we are willing to fight for religious freedom of Muslims in this country, but highly doubt the same effort is being made for Christians in Saudi Arabia and other countries that are dominantly Muslim.

I also want to make sure that I am clear that while I believe in religious freedom and the right of every person to choose who and how they may worship, I do believe that Muslims are hopelessly separated from God as they seek to work their way to paradise. Unfortunately, Muslims are caught in the same trap as every other major world religion that does not trust in Christ to be for them what they could never be in this life, which is perfectly righteous. Muslims need the gospel of Jesus Christ, not our hatred. We will not be winsome for Jesus by denying Muslims the very same rights of religious liberty that this country was founded on as many people came across the Atlantic to escape religious bigotry and intolerance. It should not be quickly forgotten that when God finishes His work of redeeming a people for himself for the praise of His glory, many of those we worship with as brothers and sisters in Christ will be former Muslims. I hope we can all pray and work for more to be by our side before the throne of Jesus Christ.

But back to Obama. I think it is a political mistake for him to endorse this mosque. (By the way, this is not an endorsement of Obama as president, but simply my musings about this story.) I believe and hope that he is endorsing the mosque because he has a core conviction that America stands for freedom and even the freedom to be wrong about the sovereign Creator of the universe. I hope others will join with me in praying that President Obama makes wise choices in protecting the people of this great country from domestic and foreign threats. Last, while there may be many opinions about this proposed mosque in Manhattan, I hope that all true followers of Christ will engage Muslims and pray for Muslims and share the gospel with Muslims, because our greatest problem is not a mosque, though many might be afraid of what it represents, our greatest problem is that we have the religious freedom to share the gospel and we simply withhold the very thing that really matters, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Muslim world has come to us and yet many of us who call ourselves Christians are incensed about a building with no thought that those who want to build the building are without Christ.

Which one is more troublesome, Obama’s support for building the mosque or the fact that many people care more about a Muslim building than they do Muslim people? We can ask “Why President Obama, what are you thinking?” But perhaps the best question is for Christians, “Christian, what are thinking and praying for?”

Trouble and Holiness

I just finished up a little book titled, Humility; The Journey Toward Holiness, by Andrew Murray. In the book Murray argues that true humility before God is the beginning of all virtue and that without humility there can be no holiness. He also argues that humility will manifest itself in everyday life, especially with people and the circumstances that come from dealing with people. To say it another way, how we respond to difficulty with people and circumstances may reveal our humility or lack thereof.

This is troublesome, because almost all the trouble I experience in life has its genesis in dealing with people, or their dealing with me. As an example, is there anything as frustrating as calling an insurance company to get a mailing address changed only to find out a few weeks later that they didn’t change it after 30 minutes was spent going through various prompts and listening to various recordings to finally be able to talk to a human who apparently didn’t do what I asked? Of course there are experiences that are more frustrating and irritating, but it is hard to keep a balanced perspective when you are a human.

But ask yourself, are these little, or big,  irritating experiences just trouble or is there something good that might come from them? Murray says that the humble person sees them as a gift from God to refine us and teach us holiness.

Do you see the trouble of your life, that almost always involves others in one way or another, as a gift? If trouble and irritations are for our good and holiness, then many of us are missing out on the very things that God wants to use to change us to be like Christ, and ignorantly we are resisting a gift from God by seeing it as an undesirable end rather than the means to holiness that God intends. But this requires a proper perspective and a great amount of humility. Murray helped me to see the need for both. He writes:

Place yourself before God in your helplessness; consent to the fact that you are powerless to slay yourself; give yourself in patient and trustful surrender to God. Accept every humiliation; look upon every person who tries or troubles you as a means of grace to humble you. God will see such acceptance as proof that your whole heart desires it. This is how you humble yourself so that God can put to death self.

Let us learn the lesson that the greatest holiness comes in the deepest humility. Let us look at our lives in the light of this experience and see whether we gladly glory in weakness, and whether we take pleasure in injuries, in necessities, in distresses. Yes, let us ask whether we have learned to regard a reproof, just or unjust, a reproach from a friend or an enemy, an injury, or trouble, or difficulty as an opportunity for proving that Jesus is all to us. It is indeed the deepest happiness of heaven to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all and we are nothing.

Take every opportunity to humble yourself before God and man. In the faith of the grace that is already working in you; in the assurance of the grace for the victory that is yet to be; stand persistently under the unchanging command: humble yourself. Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace, to remind you of your need for humbling and to help you in it.

So when someone or something else goes wrong, instead of complaining and seeing whatever has happened only as a distraction or irritation, let us each ask God to give us the strength to be teachable enough to see that God uses the trouble and pain caused by people (including ourselves) to humble us so that we might be like Christ. It won’t be easy, but if we see trouble as a means to Christ-likeness, we might make better use of it because we would see it as the means of grace that it really is.

Authentic Relationships Need Truth and Authority

This is an excellent three minutes by Randy Alcorn in which he calls for the need of deep rootedness in truth (Ps. 1) to sustain and define “authentic relationships”. He also talks about the need for the authority of the local church to help people have an enduring obedience in the same direction.

Discipleship and Golf with a Six-Year-Old

What does golf have to do with discipleship? Maybe nothing and maybe a lot. Nothing if golf isn’t for Jesus, since all things are created by Him and for Him. A lot if it is for Jesus by helping me see something that is true about following Jesus.

Golf Swing "Discipleship"

This past Saturday I went with my six-year-old, Luke, and his “papa” to play on a nine hole, par-three course here in Stillwater. When Luke learned we were going he immediately begged us to let him go along. Since we only planned on playing for about an hour or so, I thought surely it wouldn’t  hurt to let him be the caddy. So we got in the car and headed over to the course and then we went to the clubhouse and paid the green fee, and then we went and retrieved our golf cart, etc. Luke was right by my side the whole time learning what you have to do to actually play golf.

We finally got on the tee box of the first hole and I placed my ball for the first stroke of the day, and right as I was in the beginning of my back swing, Luke said to me rather loudly, “Daddy, make sure you hit it over the pond.” So instead of going Tiger Woods on him, I stepped back and gently told him that while daddy and papa were swinging, it was polite and good golf course etiquette to remain quiet to allow superior concentration so that the ball would in fact go over the water. Luke is a fast learner so I only had to remind him of this on every other hole.

A few holes later we were on the green and when we were on the green we let Luke putt with us. I explained to him that when we were all on the green, then we could pull the flag out of the hole. I also explained to him that we putt in a certain order and that the person furthest from the hole always gets to go before the others who are closer to the hole. However, one mistake he did make was stepping in the putting line of his papa. I had to show him why it was wrong to step in the line of the ball where someone was about to putt. I made that mistake one time as a college student and was chewed out for violating such a well known expectation of play. But how was I to know? How was Luke to know unless someone told him. Hopefully my showing and telling him about the proper way to act around the green will help him to avoid the unpleasant reaction of people who had spent a lot of time playing and understanding the intricacies of golf.

One other memorable moment from our little outing was when Luke became the course professional for his papa. We

Practice Swing

were hitting over a good stretch of water and Luke’s grandfather had deposited two balls right in the middle of the pond. Luke’s solution was simple, “Papa, you might do better if you hit it a little higher.” Easier said than done. Of course it seems simple to him, he has never played and tried to a hit a golf ball over the water that you can’t quit thinking about because the ball always seems to go in the water. Luke will one day learn that hitting a golf ball where you want it to go is much harder than it looks, but he won’t learn until someone gets on the course and shows him how hard it is and how he can avoid the hazard himself.

I had a very brief moment of frustration with my son on the first hole at the beginning of my backswing. After all, didn’t he know not to talk while people are hitting a very small ball to a very small cup? No he didn’t. Why would he know? I didn’t either until someone took the time to play golf with me and correct me when I was wrong and explain to me why there is a code of behavior on the course. It’s one thing to tell someone about something and tell them what they ought to do when they are put into a specific situation, and it is something completely different to tell them what to do and then to also walk with them and show them while you are telling them.

Teaching my son golf by doing it with him is the same way we ought to be teaching others to follow Jesus. Speaking instructions on how to do something is important, but what is equally, and maybe more important, is modeling what is told. This is what Jesus did for three years with his disciples. Jesus talked and walked the moral standard of God. We are quick to pick up on the verbal teaching aspect of Jesus that we have replicated with controlled and sterile classroom environments, but there is so much more to teaching than talking; there is also living. We are often surprised that so many people don’t now how to live the life of Christ. Has someone told them and modeled for them the life of a disciple of Christ?

Fathers and mothers, the best time to tell and show your children is now. Make every moment an opportunity to be a lesson to teach something about following Christ in the present moment. Golf is an opportunity for making disciples of Christ. When we are intentional, something as simple as crossing the road can be an opportunity to teach our children to follow Christ.

Follower of Christ, do you need to walk with someone who will tell you and show you the gospel. Find someone you trust and ask them to tell and show you how to live for Jesus. If you have been told and shown, who are you telling and showing? A disciple of Christ will desire and attempt to make disciples of Christ. A disciple makes disciples because that’s what makes them a disciple. Who are you meeting with on a regular basis over coffee or at the golf course, so that you can tell and live the gospel of Jesus?

All of life should be for Jesus – even golf. But someone has to pass the simple truths of Jesus and golf to others by talking about them and living it with them. It takes both to make disciples.

Donald Miller on Authority

This is an old blog that I have resuscitated because it fits with where we are headed this Sunday in our sermon series, “Why the Church Matters.” This Sunday I am going to attempt to give evidence that the local church matters because it is God’ s plan to provide a shepherding authority for the good of every person in Christ Jesus. It is amazing to me that  many people want to have authority, but don’t want to be under biblical authority that is mandated or prescribed in the Bible as being within the context of the local church. One of the essential identifiers of a true local church is a biblically qualified shepherding authority. And because the church is God’s plan and Jesus’ possession, I would argue without wavering that a person who will not submit to the leadership of a local church is a person who is also refusing to submit to Jesus. So I have called an odd witness to the stand to testify to the idea that we all need and must live under the authority of others. Donald Miller is his name.

I don’t make a habit of quoting Donald Miller but I’ll give him credit because credit is due, so give me some credit for giving him credit. Nevertheless I think he makes sense when he talks about authority in the following quote. What is striking to me is that Miller seems anti-authority in a lot of what he has written but here Miller is helpful for this very reason. He acknowledges his propensity to resist authority yet admits that it is a necessary part of life. Actually what he implies is that we can’t be taught and won’t teach others unless we submit ourselves to authority. Anyway, I’ve said more than I meant to so I will let Miller’s words have the authority to teach.

This quote is taken from, “To Own A Dragon; Reflections On Growing Up Without A Father”. p. 92

And I couldn’t help but wonder if, perhaps, my distrust of authority was costing me something. I started thinking about the wisdom that is handed down when we have authority figures in our lives. We learn a trade by submitting to authority, we learn a work ethic by submitting to authority, and more than any of this, we learn who we actually are by submitting to authority. And when we have earned authority ourselves, we teach others, because for so many years we have been taught. A guy like me, then, who has a resistance to authority, is begging to be useless. What I mean is, he isn’t receiving any advice on how to live, and in turn he isn’t able to hand advice down to those who are coming behind him. And if he is handing down advice, it isn’t good advice. I mean it isn’t tested and tried by years of experience.

We all need to be under authority and it seems to me that the best authority is the authority that the Spirit has inspired as a part of God’s plan in the Bible. Why does the church matter? Because God has thought it best that we submit to Jesus by submitting to others. That’s all.

Monday Morning Pastor – Getting Close Enough to Forgive

We are three weeks into a sermon series called “Why the Church Matters” and I personally have learned a lot about the local church and what it is and what it does. God is editing my life, just as I hope He is editing the life of others as we think about bride of Christ. This last Sunday (August 1) we had a guest speaker, Curtis Cook from Hope Fellowship in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Curtis did a great job of working through Philippians 1:1-11 and giving us four ways to identify a healthy church from Paul’s letter to the local gathering (church) at Philippi.

Philippians 1:1-11 – A healthy gospel church

Here is my best effort to record the four identifiers of a healthy church that Curtis gave us from Sunday:

  1. A healthy church has a new identity as a result of the gospel. We are saints, holy ones, in Christ Jesus.
  2. A healthy church is a new community in the gospel. The gospel changes and continues to change us both individually and corporately. We are connected to each other in Christ and we should live connected.
  3. A healthy church focuses on the gospel and partners for its advancement.
  4. A healthy church has priorities that flow from the gospel.

Notice that all four of these propositions have the word gospel in them. I was wondering as I listened to Curtis speak, “How many times has he said the word gospel?” It was a lot and he was right to use the word over and over because we will in fact never move beyond the good news that Jesus is the solution for the bad news of our sin. The gospel will be the anthem of the people of God for the rest of eternity as we sing the praises of Jesus for the glory of God the Father.

How Involved Do I Need to be to Contribute to a Healthy Church?

Curtis said something that I think is very helpful in trying to understand what it looks like to be biblically connected to a local church. Curtis rightly acknowledged that we will in fact get hurt because the church is a gathering of people who are prone to error. The church is messy because people are individually messy. The church can be insensitive because people are insensitive. But relational messiness is true of all people and all groups. However, what ought to be unique about gatherings of believers is the effort to avoid relational trauma, and the willingness to deal with it in a Christ-like way.

It is hard for me to think of a way that we could be more like Christ than when we seek the forgiveness of those who have intentionally or inadvertently hurt us. Jesus said from the cross to the Father, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are dong.” (Luke 23:34) Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

How involved, how connected, do we need to be to a local gathering of believers to be biblically involved? We need to be close enough to others to be hurt and to forgive. We need to be close enough to hurt and be forgiven. How can you be kind, tender-hearted, and like Christ in forgiving others unless you are involved in the lives of others in a personal way? You can’t. And if you won’t then you might also be refusing to be involved in a local church to display the gospel with your forgiveness.

I’m Not Mark Driscoll

And I am glad I am not. Watch this video from YouTube and read the comments below it to see why. (BTW – This is quite entertaining if you have 8 minutes and BTW, he is right on with the content.)

For me and other pastors and aspiring pastors of all ages, but especially younger guys, it is easy to watch and listen to guys like Driscoll, Matt Chandler, David Platt and others, and think that if we only spoke like them or led like them then we could do great things for God too and sell lots of books and make our way up the iTunes list. But I am not any of these guys and God has given me a personality, gifts and skills to be sanctified in the Holy Spirit as the person He created me to be. Additionally, I don’t live in Seattle or Flower Mound, Texas and so the context in which I pastor and preach is a lot different.

I suppose what I am driving at and what I have to constantly be careful about is that I must be thankful for the pastor God has made me and is making me to be. I must be faithful to God with what He has given and let Him cause the growth or whatever may come. I think it is good to observe others and learn from them, but Jesus is the one we must seek to emulate as the Spirit guides and empowers us to live the life of Christ.

The other side of the coin of watching someone like Driscoll jump around and contort his face is that what we are watching on YouTube is 50 minutes a week. If that is all being a pastor is, then who wouldn’t want to be a pastor? The reality is however, speaking is only part of what it means to be a pastor/preacher, and most pastor/preachers spend a lot of their time doing things besides giving talks to thousands of adoring or angry people. The grass may always look greener from a distance, but there are usually lots of thorns and thistles and weeds along with green grass.

I personally enjoy watching Mark Driscoll, but I am careful to not want to be him or idolize him, and I think I would have to be on a lot of NyQuil or be insanely tired to do a tolerance rant. But who knows what might happen after listening to Christian radio.

A Word About “Lots of Other People” and Matthew 7:12

I wonder how it would change the way we treat other people if we really prayed through and then lived out Matthew 7:12 in all our relational endeavors? How much more like Christ would we be if we stopped to consider whether our words or actions treated others according to the Bible and according to the way we would want to be treated, which is essentially a summation of the Bible (Matthew 22:36-40).

I have recently developed a bit of a ministry rash to a statement that comes up in ministry conversations, and it doesn’t just happen in the context of being the pastor of a local church. I often hear people in ministry and other contexts saying that they feel or think a certain thing about a certain something, and “lots of other people have been saying or feeling the same thing too.”

To this I have to ask, who are all these other people that go unnamed and did they ask to be brought in as anonymous witnesses to strengthen the vocal person’s concerns? Also, how many is “a lot of people”? After all, if the person who has heard from a lot of people only knows five people, then two people might be “a lot of people.” In this case, “A lot of people” could be a very misleading statement – I’m inclined to think it often is.

I know I have invoked the “a lot of people” argument myself. I am culpable. I want to be clear that I am speaking to myself and all teachable people everywhere when it come to thinking about “a lot of people” and what the Spirit would have us do. Here are a few suggestions to consider before using “a lot of people” as anonymous witnesses:

  • Suggestion 1 – If you are going to invoke  “a lot of people” as a part of your reason for saying something, be prepared to tell how many people, “a lot of people” represents. Doesn’t that seem fair? Otherwise, the person you are talking to might think that the whole world is talking about them and your concern. Also, giving a definite representation of the concerned might help to show that there are not “a lot of people”, or maybe there are are, and then you can determine whether you really need to say what you were thinking of saying. Your argument might not be as strong as you think when you put in context.
  • Suggestion 2 – If you are going to call “a lot of people” as witnesses, be prepared to reveal who you mean by “a lot of people.” This also seems fair that the person you are speaking directly to, knows who he or she may need to talk with to resolve the concerns of “a lot of people.” That would be biblical.
  • Suggestion 3 – If you are going to out your support (those who agree with you) then you may want to to let them know that you will call them to bear witness when you go to the person you have a problem with or who might be able to do something about your concern.
  • Suggestion 4 – If you are going to share a concern on behalf of “a lot of people”, you may want to consider how it would make you feel if someone came to you and told you that “a lot of people” were saying this, that, or the other. Honestly and sincerely, what I am calling for is a biblical effort to treat other people the way that we want to be treated, for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). I know that if someone has a concern or doesn’t like something that I have done or am doing, what I would appreciate most is that they come straight to me and not leave me to wonder what is being said by “a lot of other people.”

As much as we can help it, we owe to each other to speak clearly and precisely about what’s bothering us. The other side of this coin is that we have many people who are too easily bothered. We live in a thin-skinned, therapeutic and hyper-sensitive age. Maybe I’m too sensitive about “a lot of people”,  but if we took the Bible seriously, Jesus would have us be very careful about leveraging anonymous and unnumbered witnesses to make our point to our brother and sister in Christ. There is more to being a Christian than being right or making our point, there’s treating others the way we would want to be treated.