You Aren’t Gospel Centered

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There’s been a resurgence in the last few years around the gospel. This is a good thing. We are starting to have a larger view of the gospel, seeing the gospel as more than just how one is made right with God, how one is changed and how one goes to heaven. We are seeing the gospel for Christians as well and how the power of the gospel changes us into who God has called us to be.

This is positive.

It has also created a new thing to complain about.

Now, preachers are gospel centered preachers. If you want to sell a book, throw the word gospel into it. Parenting, preaching, church planting, maybe even write a book called the gospel. 

Now, bloggers complain about writers and preachers who aren’t gospel centered. Maybe, if you are a pastor, you’ve had someone tell you, “I’m leaving your church because you aren’t gospel centered.”

When I’ve heard this personally, what this often means is, “You don’t preach the gospel the way I think the gospel should be preached.” In other words, “I think the gospel has specific components and need to be said in a certain order (ie. the Romans road) and if you don’t say them in that order, you haven’t preached the gospel.

This has also become code for deeper preaching and not having to move forward and do anything with a sermon someone gives.

So, if you are a pastor and get someone who comes up to you after a sermon or sends you an email telling you that you aren’t gospel centered, even though someone started following Jesus in that same sermon, what do you do?

  1. Ask them what it means to be gospel centered. Most of the people who will make this complaint have a prophet lens. For them, gospel centered is the gospel they heard when they got saved, how Tim Keller or John Piper tells the gospel message or something else, but something very specific. One of the best ways to learn from them and help them understand your perspective is to ask them what they think is gospel centered. Sadly, most people who make this complaint cannot actually articulate it. I had one guy complain about this for almost a year and he could never tell me what it meant to be gospel centered, only that our church wasn’t it. Finally, he said we were to sensitive to seekers, so that made us not gospel centered. At that point, you can actually have a conversation, when terms are defined.
  2. Lovingly tell them the gospel from your perspective. As you move forward, explain to them what the gospel is from your perspective. All over the New Testament, there is evidence of Peter and Paul communicating the gospel differently depending upon their audience. This is important for a pastor to keep in mind. So, what John Piper says at a Passion conference may have a different goal and audience than your church in New England or rural Nebraska.
  3. Understand the fears that come from someone with this complaint. Most of the complaints around this, and I can say this since the camp I’m a part of, the Reformed camp is the one blogging and complaining about this issue. It comes from fear. As we watch our country become more and more liberal, people are fearful that the church is going the same way, and many are. This is a legitimate concern, not fear. Scripture is clear that we are not to be afraid. This is a great shepherding moment for you as a pastor. Many leaders miss this opportunity in an effort to be right or win the argument.

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N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage

This is so good:

You can read the transcript of the interview here.

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Learning to Love Church Planting

I was part of a live interview yesterday with Innovate 4 Jesus on the topic of church planting, calling and the difficulty of planting. If you weren’t able to watch it, you can watch it below.

It was a ton of fun and I hope it is helpful to you.

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Join Me Today on Innovate 4 Jesus

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Join me this Today, June 24 at 2 pm EDT / 11 am PDT live on Innovate 4 Jesus as I join Holly Snell and Justin Blaney as we talk about church planting and surviving as a church planter and leader.

Have questions about this topic? Tweet your questions with #I4JLIVE or comment in the blog post here.

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God Will Let You Have Your Sin

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I was reading Romans 1 the other day and while this passage is often used as to why homosexuality is a sin, I was struck by something else. There is a phrase in vs. 24 and 26 where Paul says, “God gave them up to their dishonorable passions.”

When we choose to sin, and yes, every time we sin we are choosing to sin.

God will allow us to make that choice and experience what comes from that choice. That wording, “gave them up” is a handing over.

Often, when we experience the ramifications of sin, we get angry at God. Why didn’t he intervene? He did, He allowed us to move forward.

The truth of the gospel is that God does and will rescue us from our sin. He does give us a way out of temptation. He also will allow us to have our sin.

Often we complain about the consequences of our sin. Why does God allow our sin to hurt ourselves, others? Why do we bear consequences for what we do wrong? Why are relationships broken because of words? Why do our actions lead to bankruptcy, broken trust? This falls into the area of what God allows.

His will is not for this to happen, but is what He allows.

There is grace found in our consequences. 

When we feel the consequences of our sin, we learn that God is indeed good. In our sin, we learn that God is better than our sin and the temptations we face.

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How You See as a Leader

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How you see as a leader, shapes everything about your leadership. If you think in steps, that’s how you evaluate the effectiveness of a ministry or sermon. If you are highly relational focused on making people feel cared for, this will shape how you see things, how you lead and evaluate things. If you are a big picture, visionary, this will affect your outlook. If you care deeply about doctrine over everything else, that will also affect how you see things. The reality is, though no leader wants to admit this, no way is the “correct” way to see things when it comes to leadership. All perspectives are needed to lead an effective church.

The Old Testament establishes three primary leadership offices for the people of Israel:

  • Prophets: God’s messengers to his people
  • Priests: Mediators who approach God on behalf of his people
  • Kings: Rulers who govern God’s people

In the New Testament, we see that Jesus perfectly fulfills each of these offices. He is our final and authoritative Prophet (John 1:1). He is our Great High Priest (1 Peter 5:4). And he is the conquering King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15).

The prophet is the Bible guy (I’m using guy because it is shorter, women have the same lenses). When a prophet reads the Bible, they ask, “What does this tell me about God?” They love verses, mission, doctrine, theology. All they need is a verse for it to be true. They don’t need feelings, just a verse. For them, it is all about the mission and truth. This person will often post things about their beliefs on social media, whether it is about vaccines, theology, gay marriage, abortion, being gospel centered, etc. They seek to argue people into the kingdom of God.

The priest is the relational guy. When a priest reads the Bible they ask, “How does this passage make me feel?” They are all about shepherding, relationships, making sure everyone is cared for. They are on the lookout to make sure everyone is connected, feels loved, wanted. They want to make sure no one falls through the cracks. This person can often sacrifice truth in the name of keeping a relationship. Willing people to continue sinning in hopes they will turn around from more time spent together. Priests often find themselves wasting time in meetings or counseling sessions that never seem to end.

The king is the systems and organizational guy. When a king reads the Bible they ask, “What does this make me want to do?” They want steps. They love excel, spreadsheets, things that add up, budgets. They want systems to care for people, systems to move people from one place to the other. They want to be organized and they want the churches they are a part of to be organized. Most churches aren’t sure what to do with kings.

What often happens is if you have a priest leading the church, they will be intimidated by the kings because they are more efficient. They will struggle with prophets because prophets have a clear picture of the future. Kings will get frustrated with prophets because they can’t ever get to their vision, only cast it. They will also get frustrated at a prophet preaching because there will never be any steps. Prophets will often say what the bible says and sit down, “letting the holy spirit do the work.” Prophets will get frustrated with kings because “they don’t get it” and want to talk about how a church will get there, so a prophet always wonders if a king is on board. A prophet gets frustrated at a priest because they keep talking about people who need help or haven’t bought in and are slowing the church down.

Which one is right?

All of them. They are all needed on a leadership team and to help a church become who God calls it to be.

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How to Trust God

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Is It Biblical for a Church to have a Target?

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Recently, I did a series of posts on why a church should have a target, why every church has a target and how to make choices to reach that target (you can read them here). After the series, I got some questions about whether or not it was biblical to have a target. After all, are we told anywhere in the bible that a church should have a target.

The answer is yes.

In the book of Acts, we see how Paul had a target of the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Galatians 2:17) and how Peter had a target of the Jews (Galatians 2:17). Jesus in the great commission even gave the disciples a road map of who they were to reach and the order in which to do it (Matthew 28:18 – 20).

As you look at the New Testament, you see that certain people were better suited to reach certain people. Their backgrounds, the way they talked, how they understood certain world views, enabled them to be more effective in taking the gospel to places. The courage of some allowed them to plant churches others never would.

Does this mean that Paul never shared the gospel with a Jew? Or Peter with a Gentile? No, in fact we have evidence of them doing that. It means they were focused though and knew who their primary target was.

Churches are the same. The style of preaching lends itself to reaching a certain person. The pastors who have effective ministries are largely effective because of where they are located. That isn’t an accident. Instead of fighting against this, churches need to be clear about this. And, they need to support church planters who go to places they don’t.

Let’s admit a tension here: it sounds unloving to say we are better suited to reach a certain kind of person as a church. This is a reality though. Dress, style of music, age of the people on stage, how programmed or organic a church is. All of these go into who a church is best suited to reach. A church will reach people outside of the norm, but by and large, they will reach a certain kind of person more easily. When we fight against this, our effectiveness goes down. This is one reason that church planting is so important. It enables a church to reach different kinds of people within a city.

I think that is one reason God blessed Peter and Paul’s efforts. They led from their natural gifts, didn’t fight with each other about it (at least after Acts 15, so you can see what happens when we look down on each other) and they then encouraged each other by planting more churches in a variety of places with a variety of leaders.

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Made Right with God

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All of us want to be happy. We all want to know that we meet the standard that is set. What happens though, when you feel like you don’t measure up?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that the grace of God saves you. There is nothing you can do to earn it. Yet, once you begin following Jesus, so much of your time is spent earning more of God’s love and favor.

The truth is, you can’t do anything to get any more of God’s love and approval and grace than He has already given you. 

But what if, you want to be made right with God? What happens when you discover you are broken and you can’t fix yourself? How are you made right with God? How do you stay right with God? Do you do something? Work harder? Be better? Clean yourself up?

Sunday, as we continue our series Changewe’re going to look at Galatians 2:15 – 21 and what is a paradox of Christianity: you are forgiven by grace, you are sustained in your relationship with God through His grace and you do not nothing to attain this grace. It is freely given to you.

About this passage, Martin Luther said this:

This is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.’ In other places he refers to it as the ‘chief’, the ‘chiefest’ and ‘the most principal and special article of Christian doctrine’, for it is this doctrine ‘which maketh true Christians indeed’. He adds: ‘if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost.’

This is by far, one of the most crucial passages in the entire book of Galatians, and a truth, if we miss, we will miss out on the life God calls us to live. 

If you or someone you know has a hard time believing that God can forgive them, that they don’t have to earn God’s love or that will continue to forgive them and work in their life, this is a great week to bring them to Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

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Preaching on Topics You Aren’t Passionate About

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If you listen to enough of a pastor’s sermons you will hear a few things:

  1. What he is passionate about.
  2. What he struggles with.
  3. What he wants to become.

Pastor’s tend to stick with what they know or like. If I had my way, I’d preach on a New Testament letter every time. Other guys would preach from a gospel whenever given the chance. A few will throw in some Old Testament wrath of God.

Sunday, as we are going through Galatians, we got to a topic that I haven’t preached a lot on. It isn’t because I don’t care about it or don’t think it is important. Truthfully, it hasn’t come up in any of the series we’ve done. It’s the topic of approval.

Now, we all struggle with approval to some degree. We all care what people think, to some degree. It is just different for everyone.

For me, my struggles center around control and power. I don’t care too much if you like me, but I do care a lot if I lose.

If a pastor isn’t careful, they will only preach on the things they find important. This can be good and bad.

It’s good because it should mean a pastor is passionate about what he is communicating. It’s good because his sermons will tend to be more thorough because it’s on a topic he likes or has read a lot about (because he struggles with it).

If you aren’t careful though, you will end up missing an enormous part of your church. Your church doesn’t have the same struggles you have. They don’t have the same temptations or history or baggage that you do.

Because of that, they need to hear sermons about things you aren’t as passionate about.

This is one of the benefits to preaching through books of the Bible. You can’t skip anything. Now, choosing to preach through Galatians, I knew I was going to hit the topics of legalism, approval and moralism. It is the theme of the book. It is one of the reasons we chose it, because we haven’t had a lot of sermons on those topics.

Pastors will also stay away from topics they don’t want to talk about. Maybe a pastor is more of a shepherd than a vision caster, so he won’t preach a lot about vision. This will lead the church to be aimless. Or, he’s a vision caster who can’t stop talking and no one gets cared for because he never preaches on it. A pastor isn’t an evangelist, so there is no talk on evangelism, just discipleship and growing. Or the other way around.

If you simply talk about what you like, care about, are passionate about or things you know about, you will keep your church from hearing all that God wants to teach them.

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