Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review - The Church Planter

Posting a book review by someone else seems completely like cheating. It probably is. I've got a few other books i'm working on right now though so I'll let you take a look at Dan Threlfall's review of The Church Planter by Darrin Patrick. This is a highly anticipated, highly endorsed book on one of my favorite subjects - church planting! Even better, this guy has actually done it!

If it's a subject you're interested in, but like me haven't had a chance to read the book yet, don't feel bad! Just read the review and use it to salve your conscience until you have a chance to read the book for yourself!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Church Planting in New England

Tonight I was privileged to be given the opportunity to present our burden to plant churches in Maine and New England. It was an absolute joy to share with the people at GBF what the Lord is doing in our hearts and lives. It might be a little difficult to completely understand the presentation without the audio, but I thought I'd post it regardless. Get any profit or enjoyment out of it that you can!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Old Hymns - Treat with Love, Use with Care

Yes, I know I tread on ground that is sacred. Ground that begs me to remove my sandals, exposing a well developed sandal tan. But tread I must. :)

One thing that is quite sad, perhaps even tragic, about the music debate in conservative Christianity is that while we are studying, debating, and evangelizing our applications of Scripture, we often overlook was Scripture actually says! What a strange occurrence. The vast majority of scriptural information on music is focused on the text. Yes, I said the text. Not the genre, or the beat, or the instrumentation. The two purposes for Christian musical texts are the worship of God and the edification of believers. Excuse me for a sec while a briefly explain these two purposes since they are foundational for my points of concern.

Glorifying God - Life is all about GOD. GOD created the world. GOD intitiated the redemption of man. GOD sacrificed His Son for us! Kind of makes sense that our songs should enthusiastically praise this God (1 Chr 16:9, 23; Ps 92:1; Heb 13;15; etc.)

Building up believers - The other scriptural goal of Christian music is building up our brothers and sisters in Christ (Col 3:16; Eph 5:19). These are in no way inferior purposes. Lyrical edification is essential!
So, here are 3 main problems with many older songs:

1. Theological error - This one is pretty much inexcusable in my mind. How is it that after 700 years this stanza of All Creatures of Our God and King can still be found in our hymnals? "Dear mother earth, who day by day, Unfoldest blessings on our way, O praise Him! Alleluia!" This should be the official hymn of the green movement! It is dangerous to be teaching through singing incorrect doctrine. Thankfully this isn't rampant, but we need to be careful.

2. Foreign words/phrases - This is kind of basic, but if you don't know what something means, you can't really teach, learn, or worship. Just sayin'. A couple examples you say? How about "Gladly for aye we adore him" and "here I raise mine Ebeneezer" (which some have thankfully translated to "sign of victory"). Holiday hymns also join the ranks by using different languages in the same song. Some Christmas favorites are "G.....L.....O.....R.....I......A. in excelsis Deo" and "Noel x 6."
3. Archaic or awkward language - This principle is similar to #2 and there is some overlap depending on the person. Typically though, the hymns in this category use mostly familiar words. You can clearly identify this category if, as you are singing, you find yourself scratching your head thinking "Could they have worded this any more awkwardly?" These hymns probably weren't always awkward, but they are now quite dated. While it is true that God understands and appreciates 1st century Greek, 17th century English, 19th century German, and 21st century English equally well, the same cannot be said of us. We read, speak, learn in, communicate love through, and express our deepest pains by means 21st century English. Shouldn't we worship in that language as well? The first verse of The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want is a perfect example. "The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want; He makes me down to lie / In pasture green; He leadeth me The quiet waters by." If you talk like that, I have a speech therapist you can see! Other words in this category include "thou, thy, hast, and ye."

The Good News:
1. I'm not advocating the abandonment of all old hymns. To some of you this is a sigh of relief. To others, perhaps a disappointment. The New Testament encourages the singing of psalms, which at that time were quite old (they had, however, been translated into "modern Greek"). I think we ought to respect and enjoy old hymns.
2. We need to examine what we sing, preferably before we sing it. Is it theologically correct? Is the language understandable? Are we able to sing with understanding or are we mumbling through 18th century incantations?
3. We need to adapt the older songs to make them theologically correct, understandable, and suitable for worship and for building up fellow believers. Thanks to technological advances, this is much easier to do with power point than it would have been to alter hymnals by hand.
4. We need to recognize the biblical emphasis on new songs (Ps 40:1-3; Ex 15:20-21; Lk 1:46-55). The church today needs to be writing and singing new expressions of what the Lord is doing in and through His people. For the record, I think that is one of the biggest reasons that conservative circles enjoy Sovereign Grace music, regardless of the style of musical accompaniment. The theological texts are phrased in modern English. Blows my mind why current authors would write their texts chock full of archaic language, but I don’t want to be too judgmental. Maybe it’s their language of love!
Guess that leads me back to the title. Use and respect the old hymns, but do it with care. Don’t overlook God’s purpose for you singing amidst the debates. And definitely continue bringing in the new songs!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"How Good is Good Enough?"

I signed up for several podcasts recently, curious to learn from the theology and preaching styles of different men. I enjoyed Andy Stanley at the Newspring Leadership Conference so he was a natural inclusion into that list. Today, while driving, I listened to the first sermon in his series "How Good is Good Enough?" Apparently this sermon series borrows content from a book he wrote with the same title back in 2004.

The first sermon was fantastic! Stanley closely examined the most common argument for people believing they are going to heaven - they are good enough. He engagingly and kindly shows the biblical problems with this argument, leaving the listener to recognize the enormous holes in their belief system.

If you have any unsaved friends, relatives, or even just live in a world full of people blinded by the devil, it's definitely worth your time. The good news is that you can save the money on the book and listen to the sermons. The bad news is North Point Community Church won't allow me to link directly to the message so you can either listen to it on itunes or you can find the series here and then locate "How Good is Good Enough?" on your own.

If you're interested in the book (which I'm assuming is similar to the sermon series), Tim Challies did a basic review of the book in 2004.

What do you think? What are the biggest arguments against Christianity? How well does Andy Stanley address them?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Interview with Ed Stetzer

Here is an interview with Ed Stetzer. He just spent a large amount of time researching the American church planting scene and wrote the book Viral Churches as a result. He certainly has a better perspective on the national church planting scene than most others. I certainly appreciate his empahsis that planting churches is not the end goal. The end goal is the salvation of lost souls and church planting is the God ordained means to that end. Our confidence should be in the Lord, that He will keep his promise to build His church!

I think you'll really enjoy this inteview!

RT @ dan threlfall

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review - Exponential

A few months ago, Zondervan sent me a free book to review. Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement came to my doorstep. I started the book with great excitement, but a kitchen remodel, a new roof, and two hard drive crashes set me back a little in completion time. However, I finished the book yesterday and here's the bottom line on it.

The book was written by Dave and Jon Ferguson, two brothers who started a church in Chicago. They founded the church with almost no resources - nothing but a vision from God. This one church has birthed several campus churches, started various other churches, and has now organized many of these into networks.

The book is written from Dave's perspective, with Jon throwing in random snide comments. If my brother Peter ever writes a book, I definitely want the "snide comment" job! The book is well written and easy to read as it's largely just their story.

The book could be summarized by two points. 1. Stop thinking small, get all your friends together, and plant a million churches. Then, keep going. They use their story to convince, motivate, and persuade you that this can be a reality. Should we need this encouragement? No, we probably shouldn't. The Great Commission commands the radical, widespread, yep, even exponential growth of God's kingdom throughout the world. This command is backed by the power and presence of God. If you're still unsure about Christ's ability to bring His plans to fruition, check out Revelation 19-20. However, years of disobedience and a lack of faith have given us spiritual cataracts, leaving us unable to see what God really desires to do. This book is encouraging, not because they give us some magic formula, but because their story affirms today what we should already know - that God will build His church!

2. Intentionally develop leaders! Here again, this should be kind of a no brainer. That's what discipleship is all about, but this book does a really good job of giving some practical ways to develop leaders. Community (their church) believes that every person in every position ought to have an apprentice. In this way, leadership is being intentionally developed on every level. The Fergusons correctly point out that if you wait to mentor leaders until you need the leaders, it is way too late and you are actually hindering the progress of winning souls. Unfortunately, most leadership training occurs more like this. "Hey, I've got the flu. Can you teach my class this morning?" It's sink or swim. What a great way to help people!

At Community they laid out a leadership flow chart. Everyone starts as an individual (obviously!). Then follows leader, coach, director, campus pastor/church planter, and finally network leader. I think it's interesting to how Community is structured, but it doesn't need to be precisely emulated. The big point is, the are intentionally developing leaders. Sounds kind of like 2 Timothy 2:2, doesn't it? :)

They do a great job of breaking down leadership development into five basic steps:
1. I do. You watch. We talk.
2. I do. You help. We talk.
3. You do. I help. We talk.
4. You do. I watch. We talk.
5. You do. Someone else watches.

This completes the leadership circle and creates mature believers who are training others. I've seen these steps listed very similarly somewhere else, and I have no idea who canonized it first, but I think this approach is simple and effective. The three questions that guide their conversations are (1) "What worked?" (2) "What didn't work?" and (3) "How can we improve?"

In summary, it was a great book if you want one path to do this. I loved the emphasis on leadership development and faith in what God can do. Some chapters kind of reitterated their previous motif of leadership develop (ex, reproducing artists, reproducing groups, etc). Each chapter added a little to it, but not exceptionally. Worth a read? Definitely.... but I still like Viral Churches better.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Christ and the Arts

No, this isn't the final treatise on Christian aesthetics or the solution to the iconclast debate of eclipsed centuries. I came across an inteview that my good friend Dan Threlfall did of Jesse Bryan, the creative director at Mars Hill. Jesse is responsible for anything artistic at Mars Hill. The interview is brief but it does a fabulous job of communicating Bryan's philosophy - one which is I think is extremely helpful and biblical. I'll spare you my rehash of the interview, but make sure you read it here.

What do you think? Is it biblical? Have you heard a better philosophy?