Worthwhile: May 3, 2019

It has been a bit of a whirlwind week here in Escondido but there is still plenty to share as you plan your weekend reading. A heavy subject, a better vision, and perseverance.

But first: As a member of the North County Inland Pastors Prayer group, I had the privilege of helping to draft and sign the Poway Statement on violence. It is for pastors and ministry leaders to stand together against violent acts like the one we just experienced in our community. You can view the statement at PowayPastors.org.

Anti-semitism and violence motivated by difference should have no quarter in the church and I think Jesus is bringing us as a universal church to an important moment of repentance and clarity.

Now on to the worthwhile bits for this week.


Related to the evil of white supremacy we have an article from Joe Carter on the roots of views that very well could be held in our pews.

When I was working in radio at a Christian station, of all the conversations with listeners I had the one that is most memorable is when a lady called in to complain that our station would promote a concert of DC Talk. She was appalled that we supported “mixing the races.” She even went so far to suggest that when Scripture says believers should not be “unequally yoked” it meant ethnic groups shouldn’t intermingle (and certainly never marry). I was stunned and told her she was wrong. This article brought that back to mind as I reflect on the prevalence of such a view in the church.

Take up and read to keep yourself from the same error.


Next up, we all could use a better vision given the age we live in. Why not have a “Christ-flooded vision?”

Christy Britton invites us to it in her article from early April.

A better vision awaits all who have the courage to seek the gaze of our heavenly father. When our vision is obstructed by the distracting sights before us, we need to change our field of vision. We must fix our eyes on Christ, and as we gaze on him, he will dominate our field of vision and we will be strengthened by what we see.


Our unbelief will be transformed into belief as we behold him.

Give it a read and keep your eyes up!


And lastly, mostly for pastors and youngsters, but also for all of us. The Long Haul. Darryl Dash writes about his own choice to not stick with a church and ponders the benefits of faithful, long labor in the same place.

We can be so enticed by what’s next or “greener pastures” that we fail to experience the fruit of long obedience in the same direction. Think about it as you read for yourself.


Thanks for paying attention and reading along. Have a great weekend and keep looking to Jesus!

After Easter Now What Does the Church Do?

Okay pastor. You have survived Easter. You took out all the stops, you rang the bell and poured on the hospitality. You even preached your heart out. Perhaps attendance was the highest it has been in a long time and it seems some of the visitors might even stick around.

What now? Where do you go from Easter and how do you keep the momentum? May I suggest you preach the gospel and let that drive the church?

Wait you say, I preach the gospel, every year at our revival service! No I mean every week, from every text, for the glory of Jesus and the good of your church.

Enter Jared Wilson’s book “The Gospel-Driven Church: Uniting Church-Growth Dreams with the Metrics of Grace.”

Wilson gives a practical guide to transitioning to gospel-centrality (which believe it or not is not a normal thing in the evangelical world).

Grab the book, hang with other gospel-driven pastors and get going into grace. It is what the church is meant for!

Here are some choice quotes to whet your appetite:

“Healthy, fruitful churches are made up of Christians who are searching out God’s ways and following the trails of doctrine in the Scriptures straight to the throne. “

“Real Christianity cannot be reduced to methods and ordinary human metrics. It must always for the supernatural.”

“May we never mistake our busyness and bigness for the breath of God.”

“The gospel refers to the good news that God sent his Son Jesus to live a sinless life, die a substitutionary death, and rise from the dead so that sinners who repent and trust in Jesus will be forgiven and have eternal life.”

“A gospel-centered church is one that explicitly and intentionally connects its teaching, programs, ministry philosophy, and mission to the content of the gospel.”

“The gospel will hold and sustain your church in a way all the relevant programming, applicational teaching, and worship experiences never will.”

“Gospel-driven preaching is preaching that proclaims and exults in the revealing of God’s glory in Christ.”

“The power of salvation and the sanctification that follows comes only from the gospel, not the law. In other words, the power for to-dos comes not from to-dos, but from the “was-done” of Jesus Christ.”

“The gospel is not fully preached until people have been called to respond. The call can sometimes look like practical application points, but more generally it looks like prophetic pleading that urges hearers to turn from their way and embrace the way of Jesus. “

“A church centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ will be turned inside out because the gospel rightly grasped compels a church to join God’s mission in the world. “

“Over time, the gospel preached, applied, and empowered by the Spirit will coalesce a church around Christ, and from this gospel focus, people can be galvanized to move outward in mission.”

“If you want a gospel-driven ministry, you must resign your will to the supremacy of the glory of Christ and trade your personal ambitions for the beauty of Christ’s bride.”

Worthwhile: March 1, 2019

Already March. Were you ready for that?! Things keep coming at us fast. Hopefully, you will get a chance to take a break and breathe in the rest of Christ this weekend.

A couple of items worth thinking through this week. Not a lot in the way of articles but some perspective from my roles as pastor and father.


First up is a tweet from Dan White Jr. A pastor and author with a forthcoming book on love. Dan tweeted a reflection from counseling that struck a chord on the Twittersphere, certainly with pastors.

Ghosting is essentially disappearing from someone’s life. You avoid them, you don’t communicate, not texts, calls or interaction on social media or more importantly, non-digital life.

I have been a pastor for nearly ten years and my experience is much the same. It is a strange vocation and since it is people-oriented role, meeting, becoming friends, and eventually losing people is normative. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

The hard bits are when it happens seemingly without cause. I get it if I was harsh or drove someone away, but even when you labor to care for someone and they vanish it can leave you broken.

I have even had people who have made a verbal commitment to commit and stand alongside me in ministry disappear over the years. My personality make-up doesn’t get as affected by it as some others but it is noticeable.

So maybe the take away is that we generally should try to avoid ghosting people, be open to deep relationships and allow our pastors to be among them.

And it goes both ways, sometimes pastors “ghost” people. As I was reminded by a young man who once served at my previous church. We shall call him “Marques.” Of course, he wasn’t ghosted since I stay in contact with him and even bought him burritos once when he visited San Diego! While moving away can feel like ghosting, hopefully, you have farewell parties to make the separation anything but a surprise!


Next up, and more importantly, is anxiety. And specifically anxiety in our kids. We have dealt with this in our home and are always on the search for solutions and ways of avoiding it. I am looking forward to some forthcoming work by Jessica Thompson to apply the gospel to kids and anxiety. It is everywhere and as a PTA member, I talk to parents about it all the time.

This article from John Thornton in January on Vox was super helpful to me. And the big takeaway is that kids carry their parents’ economic stress. From the burden of planning their futures so young and living with parents struggling to pay off debt and thrive in this economy can be too much.

I know first hand this is real, when my oldest daughter was in second grade she submitted a report at school that one of the things she feared was “taxes.” Clearly, she got that from me complaining about money and fearing taxes myself (which I am reminded I need to work on!)

Hear what Thornton has to say. Love your kids. Free them from some of these burdens. And live.

At the Base of the Mountain

I am thankful for a group of resilient and faithful friends that stay ever connected in the digital world and speak honest and caring words to a couple of pastors and missionaries in training. Four of us, from coast to coast and the frozen middle. We challenge, refine and attempt occasionally to encourage one another. We often talk about our heroes and our failings and how it is sad that so much of life and posturing plays out in social media. One of us is poetic in nature and anonymous in desire. He prefers no platform and just quiet places far from famous to share Jesus with those you would least expect. We shall call him Matt Pilgrim. After a stirring week of conversation, he penned this piece that is honest and challenging to our modus operandi in the church.

 

“At the base of the mountain: confusion.

Sacred truths seem to slide toward delusion.

Unwilling to trust the Good Creator,

Weak faith cries out to see something greater.

Hoping in vain I might better my odds,

Here at the mountain I make pastors gods.

 

And knowing the grip sin has on us all

I demand perfect, ignoring the Fall.

I ask of you what I’d never agree

Is fair, right, or just for “little old me.”

I raise up that bar so high for a few

Because way up there I can worship you.

Entrusting to you what no man could bare

I cast upon you each worry and care

 

“Oh please save me, Pastor” becomes my cry,

Give me comfort even if you must lie:

Tell me my politics will set me free

Tell me how comfort can still by gutsy

Tell me “for family all else neglect!”

Tell me nice half-truths that Christ would reject

Tell me fetuses, guns, and flags are all

Tell me which Senator that I should call.

Tell me about race and immigration

But make sure you don’t offend anyone.

Tell me the virtues of war or of peace,

Tell me my blessings ought never to cease.

Tell me my wealth is my share of the pie,

Tell me this camel will fit through that eye

Tell me you’re sinful but not too much, please

Tell me the things that will put me at ease

 

Pastor, idol, my religious plaything

I’ve wound you up, I expect you to sing.

So speak up and shut up, you know the drill

Make sure every word aligns with my will.

Don’t forget, Pastor, you’re here to serve me,

To feed my soul while I sit here carefree.

 

Counsel, comfort, challenge, and all on cue.

Father, brother, mother, and savior too.

Cash your check, Reverend, and just play along

Bang the same old drums and you can’t go wrong.

Disrupt my system? No worse could you do.

Cross this old saint and I’ll crucify you.

Your pulpit, back to your pedestal flee,

Yes, faith this small needs a god it can see.

 

At the base of the mountain the mobs rule,

Impatience reveals that I am a fool.

Lacking great faith I’m quite simply old chaff,

I mold you into my own golden calf.

Keep lifting up Jesus it’s all so nice,

I’ll keep filing it under “good advice”


What a great weight I ask you to carry

Leaning on shovel, ready to bury

Your memory and your reputation

The moment I’ve finished having my fun.

Maybe that’s where Christ has something to teach

To Pastors, especially, because each

Can know the deep wounds of loving a flock

That one day adores and the next day mock.”