I received a copy of Andy Stanley’s new book: Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. There’s no doubt he’s an excellent communicator of biblical truth and all of us have a lot to learn from him as a strategist. He has built teams and developed vision for life-changing ministries. It seems this is his “everything I’ve learned so far” book. I’ve read the first 50 pages and if you’re connected to ministry in North America the story is a page-turner. Like many of my generation, Andy is someone I watched grow up in the spotlight of his father’s ministry. I’ve had opinions of various shades from gushing to sincere appreciation to doubts. Reading so far I’ve experienced all three again. Quite a bit of what I’ve read confirms what I’ve intuited from afar. There’s complexity and I’m not sure everything adds up as he explains it. But I came away with greater appreciation for his Father and for the support my wife has always given to my ministry. He takes a jab back at his critics who call his model “attractional” and point out its flaws. Instead of embracing their critique he fires back, using their preferred term “missional” somewhat sarcastically. This is unfortunate. But hopefully later in the book he’ll be a bit more balanced and positive.
I’m intrigued to read more and will eventually have a full review. I’m most interested in his take on spiritual formation, which apparently contains attractional elements.
Special thanks to my friend Lonnie Marshall for this link. How would you like N.T. Wright commenting on your blog? That’s what happened to Jamie Smith. Click the link above to see his questionable review of Wright’s book, then scroll down to the 10th Comment. None other than N.T. “Tom” Wright responds. I had the same response to Smith’s review. It seemed to not understand the context of some of the terms Wright uses in his book. Maybe it’s not his best book overall, but his carefully nuanced point, about the Creeds never having the purpose of replacing the full Gospel accounts about Jesus’ life and ministry, is well taken. He’s not attacking the creeds. He says them daily/weekly. He also prays the Lord’s Prayer which does a nice job summarizing Jesus’ ministry emphases. Creeds plus Gospels equals very fully formed faith. Here, here, N.T.! I agree, I agree!
This isn’t just a scholarly question. It gets right down to how we make disciples. People should be reading the story and living the story as they learn the creeds and get formed in faith.
I may not agree with many of Wright’s political examples, but I agree with his theological and textual points and think he’s asking the right questions about how we worship and do spiritual formation. What do you think?
Today’s Ashes to Fire readings included the following from 1 Corinthians 9:10b, 14:
It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop … In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
This serves as a reminder of the inherent value of preaching the gospel…May preachers, congregations, and seekers never take it for granted. Any time the Word of God is opened and proclaimed by one who has prayed, studied, and prepared it is a supernatural event. I’ve told my preaching students: as preachers we want to remove all barriers to clear communication, being stewards of the Lord’s message and servants to our people. But we should not become arrogant so that we notice the flaws and mannerisms of other preachers rather than being in awe of the Word that is being proclaimed. May preachers count it a sacred privilege both to proclaim the gospel and receive it, whenever possible. May we study to show ourselves approved and rightly divide the Word of truth. And may we preach the gospel every week, not just isolated sermons on passages. Let the passage of the day be set in the context of the whole good news: the radical optimism of grace. May it provide food for souls and energy for kingdom living.
In the same way, may congregations never view preachers as hired hands who do religious tasks or run spiritual errands for them. May the preacher be paid. But may the preacher’s highest priority be to faithfully study and proclaim the gospel. This gospel must be proclaimed in a way that creates an environment for disciple-making. And may the life of the congregation be shaped around the disciple-making mission created by that good news. And may preachers lead the way in making disciples.
The passage above mentions paying preachers enough to make a living. Pastors can do their best work when the church feels a burden to take care of their needs. In this way the gospel is honored. And honor is important. When finances are slim, churches can be creative; finding ways to share the sacrifice and support the ministry.
The gospel is the foundation of our salvation. It is the very form of our life together. May all who preach proclaim it faithfully. And may the church always honor those who give their lives to it as God receives all the glory!
PRAYER—O Lord, govern my life by your wisdom, so that my soul may always be serving you as you desire, not as I may choose. Do not grant what I ask if it offends your love, which must always be living in me. Let me die to myself, that I may serve you; let me live to you, for you are the true life. Amen. (John Wesley)*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 467-469). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
Well, it’s not really a secret. I’ve known about it since I was a teenager and did some research on the faith of the founding fathers. But it’s interesting that Jefferson may have created it without sharing it with many others. What was it? A Bible created by cutting and pasting (literally) lines from the New Testament which he considered authentically from Jesus. He put them together into a sort of moral philosophy guide which he read many nights before retiring for bed. He was downright devotional about it.
It’s comforting to know that a founding father was a spiritual man. Better still, one interested in the bright side of moral philosophy. Even better that Jesus was a guide? Well, yes and no. A Jesus completely remastered. A Jesus pulled from the inspired pages which had delivered him to Jefferson. A Jesus diluted of full context. A Jesus in his own image.
But don’t get me wrong we all do this a lot. And like Jefferson we probably don’t tell anyone about it. Our own private Jesus to bring our burdens to and to confirm our own freshly-minted moral convictions. Our own private savior to comfort and affirm. Not quite the risen Savior who blows the lid off our comfortable reality yet offers us his raw self.
Ashes to Fire is a great time to get in the habit of spending personal moments with Jesus. Just make sure your heart is wide open. One day we will end our journey just like Jefferson did and our family and friends will pick up the Jesus we left behind. Will it be a Jesus in our own image? Will it be a cut and pasted and domesticated life chaplain? Or will it be Jesus: the One and only savior of the world? It’s so easy to let our faith slide into this. But let’s not do it. No secret bibles.
PRAYER—Lord, I ask that I may look for nothing, claim nothing, and expect nothing but you, and that I may go through all the scenes of life, not seeking my own glory, but looking wholly unto you, and acting wholly for you. Amen. JW*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 461-463). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
I’ve been reflecting throughout the day that Ashes to Fire is about 2 things. It begins with truly opening ourselves toward God. Even Jesus, as a human being, was defined by the Father’s love for him. Not by attributes, abilities, human relationships, titles, roles, accomplishments, or even losses. God’s love. What if I could let that love completely define me? Wow. Plenty to sort through there. Of course the issue is living that way, not agreeing.
The second thing is about being truly open to others. Others are a blessed opportunity. Others are a chance to serve, love, grow, give, and be with. Others are also a challenge.
One flows out if the other. In that order.
God’s love fills me and defines me. Now I can be open to freely loving others. Wow. Plenty to sort through there as well. For me, anyway. How about you?
This Ashes to Fire journey won’t be easy. But if we’ll give ourselves to it, there’s a whole other kind of life that could be ours. It could be like waking up and remembering who we are. It could be living in that wisdom by the grace of God for the rest of our days.
Repent and believe the Good News! The Kingdom is arriving at Gate Now…
Just found another interesting way to connect with the hunger issue in our world. Many people I know have enjoyed the Hunger Games book series. Of course, the movie is hitting theaters March 23rd. The filmmakers are teaming up with Feeding America (Foodbank of NW Indiana is a partner) to help end hunger in this country, which now affects 1 in 6 people. Check out the link to learn more. Take the Hunger Quiz and get involved!
World Vision is a great organization working to relieve all kinds suffering in the name of Christ. If you’re looking for a way to put your faith into action this Lenten season, check out this link.
Dr. David Wine shared these at a Discipleship seminar I recently attended. These questions would be excellent for anyone to use at the end of the day. Notice they cover vertical and horizontal stuff in our journey. I also see a trend toward authenticity over achievement. What do you think?
Wesley’s 22 Questions
Questions John Wesley used for accountability for members of his Holy Club at Oxford.
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
- Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
- Can I be trusted?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially, as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward, or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
- Do I grumble or complain constantly?
- Is Christ real to me?