Monday, October 31, 2005

NBC's take on Evangelicals

If you watched the NBC report, In God They Trust, you saw what most of America probably considers Christians to be or at least after this show, if watched, they will think we are. What is it they will think, well, that Evangelicals (whatever that means today) are shallow and superficial and maybe we are as a whole. Why is it that when ever Christians are portrayed on TV we see such people as New Life Church? I am sure that it is because it is mega churches like this that make the biggest noise and it is this noise that draws attention. You can read a review of the show here at

What we need to take from this is that we need to return to the Word of God and live by it regardless of what draws people and press. In the end we are to answer to God and not Tom Brokaw or the American people.

Along these lines there is an interesting survey of churches by the Barna Group that reflects that the majority of protestant churches in the US are small and not large like New Life. However the data does not seem to reflect what we see when it comes to large churches. The survey says that small churches are less theologically correct, my interpretation of what was interpreted, and that larger churches are more correct. The idea that the theology of larger churches being more correct is intriguing as well, since that would not be how I see it. It truly seems that as churches get larger the “me centeredness” gets greater. I do not know how the data was gathered but I would suppose that since the more liberal mainline denominations are dwindling in size that may influence the first statistic and since larger churches may think they are correct and say the right things the second statistic may be influenced by this, I do not know.

The bottom line is that it is shows like the one on NBC that show the world a side of Christianity that is not necessarily reflective of the whole, or is it. If Barna were correct then the theological views of the church as it gets larger is getting more watered down and that does seem to match what I see when I read what Pastors of these larger mega churches have to say.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ligonier Pastors Conference (Day 3)

Well another good day of messages. Actually one of the outstanding things was the singing of the tree hundred or so men. It actually out did the accompaniment and at the Vespers service of the choir.

In session 1 for the day Mark Devers spoke on God Centered Evangelism. There were for questions posed: 1) Who should evangelize, 2) How should we evangelize, 3) What is evangelism and 4) Why do we evangelize.

To the first question the stress was to those that may feel that evangelism is for a special class of people. So we went to Acts 8 and 11 as well as 1 Peter 3 to see verses that speak to more than just the apostles and thus show the community is involved in evangelism. TO the second question were given 6 guidelines:

1) Do it honestly – Meaning we are not to so called soft cell but be truthful that part of the call of God is to take up ones cross.
2) Tell people with urgency – Since the Bible tells that there is no other way then there truly is little to think about. But also passages such as Psalm 95 speak of an urgency of the message of the Gospel.
3) Tell people with joy – The Gospel is good news because it allows us to see God. This is not a fact of purporting all of the blessings but instead allowing people to see the joy in simply knowing God. So as to see the truth of Heb 11 and that we can endure all for the joy set before us.
4) Use the Bible – This is not because people trust the Bible but what it does do is show that it is not your opinion but comes from a particular source.
5) Our lives are to be a central point of the evangelism – The beauty of God is to be displayed in His people and thus is part of evangelism.
6) Prayer – We need to implore God for salvation since it is God who calls and saves.

One important aspect that was related was that we need to avoid relating sin to helplessness since many people may not get the right connection and instead of dealing with their sin simply seek to eliminate their feelings of helplessness. So their response may not be genuine.

Another question dealt with was :

Why should we evangelize?.
1) Desire to be obedient
2) Having a love for the lost
3) Having love for God – our only sufficient motive is to see God glorified

So we have a God given commission, a God Given Method, a God Given Message and a God Given Motive.

Session two was by RC on God Centered Adult Education with the focus scripture being Hosea 4:1-12. After he started giving a list that was antithetical to what most would see as true it was revealed that he was joking. I quit writing because I wondered where he was going. The basic idea is to teach so that the people can be obedient. Needs may be met but that is not the focus just as the benefits of the Gospel are not to be the focus. We can not guarantee results as we do not know the will of God. The bottom line was to help adults so that they can have knowledge but knowledge for knowledge sake.

Session three was by Derek Thomas and was on God Centered Mercy Ministry and he used Acts 6:1-7 as the focus passage. While it is important to minister outside the church we do need to make sure that mercy ministry starts in the household of God. This was not to detract from outside ministry but was so as not to ignore internal ministry. The struggle I can see is making sure that the church does not become cloistered in its own little corner. Two observations were given with the first being that the Churches greatest need and priority is the proclamation of the Gospel so as to nourish and stabilize. The second observation was, as I said above, that Mercy Ministry begins in the household of God.

The day ended with a Vespers service. I need to look up what Vespers is as far as a definition. Basically it was a more formal Wednesday night service. The message was from Galatians 4:1-7 and was very good.

This has been a great conference and not only a help with the messages but also very encouraging talking to all of the other pastors that were here from various denominations. So again thanks to those that helped me come and my wife for letting me go.

So tomorrow it off to home and since I leave the Hotel at Noon (9am PST) and get home at 10:50 PM (PST) it is going to be a long day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ligonier Pastors Conference (Day 2)

Well I have given up on using the internet connection in my room as it just does not seem to work as it should. It makes my dial-up seem like DSL in comparison.

I am just astounded by all that Ligonier provides as the meals have been very good and to top this off they gave everyone a gift certificate for merchandise, they are very generous.

The other aspect of this that has been encouraging is that while there are many different denominations here most every one holds to the Doctrines of Grace with a few working through them. Then there is the fact that every now and then there are friendly jabs between Mark Dever, who is a Southern Baptist, and Derek Thomas and RC, who are Presbyterians, over baptism.

Today’s sessions focused on the service with the first session of the day on having a God Centered Service. One question that was proposed was to ask a visitor or a member if the service was God centered or not. The issue is if the service is centered on the audience then in essence that is who we worship. So this speaks volumes to the so called seeker sensitive services. Needless to say the issue is that who is the service for the congregants or the visitor and the answer from a biblical sense is the congregants. So that is who we trying to lead in worship of God not the visitor who may or may not know God. So here are three aspects of a God Centered Worship Service:

1) God Centered worship services have preaching of God’s word at the center.
2) Every necessary element of a Christian service is commanded by God.
3) The service is to encourage God centeredness.

Session 2 was on God Centered Music and was given by Derek Thomas. HE gave what he called the Ten Commandments of Music:
1) Aim to ensure the music helps one to worship God.
2) Aim to insure the music aids the corporate worship (not individual worship).
3) Do it well
4) Be sensitive to appropriate musical forms – words and music need to be married together.
5) Be culturally different – The church ought to be different
6) Avoid crassness on the one hand elitism on the other
7) Introduce new tunes with care
8) Grow to treasure a good hymnal and use as a devotional aid.
9) Take charge of the music – The Elder/Pastor is the true worship leader
10) Evaluate what you do regularly.

All of these are good ideas to contemplate when setting up a worship service and particularly that the Pastor/Elder is ultimately in charge of what happens, even if you have Worship Minister.

Session 3 was given by RC and was titled: Surely God is in this Place. The most important question to ask when dealing with the worship service is: What pleases God. We are not to focus on what pleases us which is what usually is done at the expense of doing what pleases God. Again the point was made that we are not called by Scripture to structure worship for the ungodly.

So this was another good, if not long day. More to follow as long as I can find a way to get on line.

Ligonier Pastors Conference (Day 1)

Well after a windy rainy flight, with much lightening I finally got to Orlando on Sunday night.

The first session on Monday concerned the title of the conference: Overcoming the Eclipse of God. With the issue being that an eclipse does not destroy that which it eclipses but instead obscures it. So RC related how this has been done in our day in the area of: 1) Our understanding of nature and 2) Our understanding of Humanity.. With regards to the first point it is a Deistic view of God that has prevailed that allows God to be there but not part of all that happens. We see this especially clear in the Open Theism argument. So the it is not enough for people to believe in God but they need to believe in God correctly. The second part dealt with man’s view of man that obscures God. In this RC basically described the Doctrines of Grace and how it truly does offend humanity since man has such a high view of himself even if they claim God as being sovereign, it is a limited sovereignty.

In the second session Derek Thomas spoke about the “Target Audience in Preaching and was not so much speaking about crafting sermons to the audience but reminding us that we do have an audience and the sermon needs to be relatable to them. So three things were put forth to ask: 1) What does the passage say?, 2) What does the passage say we do? and 3)What redirection may need to be done? All of this to help the preacher keep in mind the audience in all of this. Also he reminded us that preaching should not be divorced from pasturing so that all of this can take place in person and from the pulpit.

Session 3 was given by RC Sproul and dealt with Preaching from the OT and gave a good example. Being that this is a subject that is near and dear to me I have to admit there was not as much light shed on the subject as there may have been if I had not already spent a great deal of time on this in the past.

The last session for the day was on Expositional Preaching by Mark Dever. Many may already know this, but I will give it anyway, the definition given was that the point of the passage is the point of the sermon. Other good insights were:

- The church needs to reformed by the word of God or it will become deformed.
- The basic way to feed congregations is through the exposition of God’s word.
- That preaching is a picture of the Gospel in that the preacher speaks as God speaks to us and just as the congregation is the recipient and does not add to the sermon so this represents us as we add nothing to God and His word.
- Our calling is to deliver God’s word and not create it.

Overall the conference has been great and it is an interesting conglomeration of denominations with way more Baptists than I may have thought. This has led to good conversation and insights. Ligoniers has done all they can do to make people comfortable and have done a great job.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Off to the Ligonier Pastors Conference

Well I am off to the Ligonier Ministries National Pastors Conference in Orlando Florida dark and early tomorrow. I will try and do a review each day. The topics covered are:

Monday - God Centered Preaching
Tuesday - God Centered Worship
Wednesday - God Centered In........ (Evangelism, Adult Education, and Mercy Ministry)

The speakers will be; Derek Thomas, Mark Dever and of course R.C. Sproul.

I am really looking forward to it and am very grateful to the gift of my flight so that I could afford to go.

So be looking for an update Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Beyond the Gates of Splendor - DVD

I just watched the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor and highly recommend it. For those of you who do not know about this movie it is about the five missionaries (Jim Elliot; Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully) who were killed in Ecuador in 1956 as they were trying to meet with the Auca Indians who were one of the most violent tribes around. The information behind the missionaries and their families is inspiring but the story that followed the killing was even more so.

The story that followed the “spearing” of the missionaries truly shows how God works in all things as the documentary shows how the Indians that were involved in the killing became believers and friends of Elisabeth Elliot (Jim Elliot’s Wife) and Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s Daughter). It is truly a story of God working in the hearts of the people and making a change that only God could do. In the documentary there are two anthropologists that I would suspect do not see God doing the work but never the less speak about how for as long as could be remembered the Aucas were a violent tribe and within months of the two women going to live in their tribe things changed. The anthropologists relate this change to new information being given to the Indians, which is true, but it is much deeper than that.

One minor warning on the movie is that I does have what is described as “National Geographic nudity” since it has actual footage of the Aucas. My kids (15,13, 11)watched it with little problem.

In January of 2006 there is a full length movie, End of the Spear, about this coming out and I am very much looking forward to seeing it. Reading about Jim Elliot and the other missioners is one of the most inspirational things, apart from reading the Bible, that I have done.

Here are some of the books you can read on this topic:

Through Gates of Splendor
Shadow of the Almighty
The Savage My Kinsmen
The Journals of Jim Elliot

Jungle Pilot

Monday, October 17, 2005

New Kind of Christian - Concluded

Well I finished McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christian and have to say it was frustrating to read at times. As I said at the beginning of this I am sure that my reading of McLaren’s journey is tainted by seeing where he has arrived so far.

Instead of spending much time on the last chapters I thought I would summarize my thoughts as best I can. First, I would say that McLaren is reacting to much of what many dislike about the church. Such things as consumerism and a lack of the church living as it preaches are things that I would say are issues that need to be addressed. The problem is that McLaren attributes these issues to Modern mindset and seems to see a Post-modern mindset as the antidote.

Second is that throughout this book it seems that either he is unsure of key concepts as the atonement or instead does not want to be accused of proclaiming some absolute truth. This is no different than when I saw him questioned on Larry King about homosexuality and answered, well non-answered, that any answer he gave would hurt someone so he did not answer.

If a New Kind of Christian is to be of a Post-Modern breed then the sort of double talk of McLaren will seem to be the norm. The other issue is the topic of propositional truths that scripture proclaims. The Post-Modern person dislikes these truths as it places them in a bind and does not leave an alternative and those trying to accommodate this in the end sacrifice the scriptures.

What I also see is that in an attempt to counteract a consumerism that is rampant in the church the New Kind of Christian is in the end just as much a consumer and the church reaching them is driven to provide what is sought after. All in all things are not made better but basically stay the same but in a new format.

I do think it is important that those dealing with today’s culture read something from McLaren, even if it is difficult to digest at times, so as to see the direction that I would guess many seminaries will all too soon head. The seminary of NEO’s dreams is not to far away if it is not hear already somewhere in some form or another.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

What can you do with $48 a month?

You can find in various places (see below) comments on the statements of Bailey Smith Ministry that for $48/month they can save a soul. By the way this does seem much cheaper than the $50,000 for the power team (article is near the bottom of archive page). The gist of their sales pitch is that others spend much more and that they are good enough at it that they can cut the cost. May be they are the Sam’s Club of Salvation. They must deal in bulk quantities of souls. Actually this is not funny and I probably should not even joke as this ministry, if you call it that, has reduced the work of Christ on the cross to a dollar amount. I know he is not the first but never the less this is terrible.

Not only is the Gospel reduced to a life enhancement addition but it is not available for a discount over other place salvation is dispensed. This so much plays into the SBC focus on baptisms and membership and the focus on numbers. What is generated, and Tom Ascol has done a good job of pointing this out, is place an emphasis on people getting wet, walking an aisle, saying a prayer or signing a card over actually becoming a disciple.

While I seriously see issues with the Emergent church this is one of the questions they ask and while their answer is lacking there does need to be an answer. How can so many profess belief and so many live without any sign of that belief changing them. We need to return to the Gospel and regardless of the times and culture stay true to scripture. The Gospel is about God and not us and once we see this we may be headed down the right path. Pray that the pragmatism of the world, "If it works it must be true or right", is discarded for the truth of God's word.

Bailey Smith (They have now removed page. See article regarding this)
Founders Article #1 and Article #2
James White

Monday, October 10, 2005

Piper's New Book: God is the Gospel

I just finished reading John Piper's new book: God is the Gospel and I think he hits the nail right on the head when it comes to the Gospel. I will write more later but the basic idea is that all too often the Gospel is peddled as a sort of life enhancement product when in reality the Gospel is all about God. Piper asks the question:

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—
is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the
friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and
all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties
you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no
human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ was not there?

At the heart of this question is what are we searching for, God or the things we can get from God. The focus needs to be on God and while other benefits may come they are not the focus or reason for our joy in the Gospel, God is.

I really think this can effect how we live, especially in the face of adversity. If we are looking for stuff then when things are bad we will stray but if the main focus is God we will be less likely to stray. I was reading Job for a Sunday morning class I teach and was looking at 19:25-27:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (ESV)

While this verse deals with bodily resurrection I think it also reveals Job’s heart. In the midst of his adversity he was not contemplating a new body for all of it’s inherent benefits, health and such, but instead he focused on seeing God.

I will try and reflect more on this but I really do think that how we focus on God is an antidote to the consumerism that is rampant in the church today. This then can radically impact how we preach and what we preach.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Praying for Persecution

I found this article in World Magazine very enlightening: Praying for Persecution. Basically while we, well at least a large segment, in America are praying for health, wealth, the good life and the same for others such as China, quite the opposite is being prayed by others. A leader in underground church said the following: "We, in fact, are praying that the American church might taste the same persecution so revival would come to the American church like we have seen in China."

Does China see something we do not, I think so, and this speaks of me as well. Maybe our prayer is not for the removal of persecution but the God given power to persevere through it and for revival in the midst of it. We should take this to heart and see if we see things as those who live in the midst of daily persecution and at the same time exponential growth in the spread of the Gospel.

Monday, October 03, 2005

More Travels around the Blogosphere

The Institute for Creation Research reflects on the Crystal Cathedral latest extravaganza: Once Upon All Time: Creation, as well as comments at Slice of Laodicea.

Tim Challies writes on the much ignored idea of repentance: Repentance and Evangelicalism. All to often the idea of repentance is either ignored, glossed over or redefined in some manner as to minimize its importance.

Greg Koukl writes on Doug Pagitt’s post on John 14:6 and reveals the issues that appear to be standard practice with much of the Emergent Conversation crowd.

Phil Johnson’s article on retired missionaries Herb and Ruth Clingen is well worth reading. I always find it beneficial to read about those who seek to take the word of God to the end’s of the world as I sit here in my comfortable life in the US.

Tom Ascol at relates a story of the “Power Team” and creating a Buzz, I mean Hum, in your service. There is a similar article at with more info on the Power Team.