Training Pastors and Planters in the Church, by the Church, for the Church

Bible literacy is becoming rare as theological confusion spreads around the world. We must combat theological poverty with robust theological training of pastors. Pastor training is critical to our mission, and Acts 29 trains church-planting pastors and aspiring church planters in a number of ways. The newly announced Grimké Seminary is one of those ways. Grimké Seminary exists to train pastors and planters who are characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation. Grimké specializes in training men for the realities of pastoral ministry—in the church, by the church, and for the church. With me on the podcast today to tell us about this new seminary are my good friends Bryan Laughlin, CEO of the seminary and lead pastor of Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia, and Doug Logan, Grimké president and pastor for church planting at Remnant. Listen to this episode of Churches Planting Churches. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Margin notes: A simple prayer about my cravings.

Psalm 78:18 (ESV) — 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. In this Psalm of Asaph, he recounts the stubbornness of Israel in the way it has dealt with God, and the mercy and grace God has displayed in the face of Israel’s stubbornness. Vs. 18 seems to be the lynchpin on which their rebellion hung.  And I could not help but feel the pinch of it myself as I reflected upon how often I’ve resented God loving me better than my cravings, by abundantly meeting my needs – far and above anything I could have imagined. He is so very, very good to us. Heavenly Father, this is so much how I am. No matter how often or how wondrously you prove yourself to me, at the next crisis, it is as though you have done nothing in the past. It is as though you are constantly having to prove yourself to me. Please forgive my hardness and unfaithfulness. Make my mind recall your past graces, and let me stand secure in your love that I do not repeatedly put you to the test. Let my heart be free of its sinful doubting – and truly trust you. Make my only “demand” – that I might know you more. Keep me from demanding that you cater to my cravings above what your infinitely perfect love and wisdom deem best for me. Teach me to trust you above my own wicked heart. Teach me to “crave” better than I know or feel. Love me better than what I think love ought to be. Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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9 Things You Should Know About Cohabitation in America

A new survey finds that cohabitation is pervasive in the United States, and is increasingly viewed as acceptable by Christians—even if it doesn’t lead to marriage. Here is what you should know—and that most American don’t—about cohabitation. 1. Cohabitation is the state of living together and having a sexual relationship without being married. Because Scripture considers all sexual activity outside the covenant bonds of marriage to be sexual immorality, cohabitation is sinful and should be rejected by orthodox Christians (Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7). 2. As more U.S. adults are delaying or foregoing marriage, the percentage who have engaged in cohabitation has been rapidly increasing. Since the 1960s, the percentage of men and women who cohabit before marriage has increased by almost 900 percent. More recently, Pew Research found that the share of adults ages 18 to 44 who are living with an unmarried partner has risen from 3 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2017. But a report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics that selected only adults who had sexual intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex, found the numbers were even higher: 17.1 percent of women and 15.9 percent of men were cohabiting. 3. Among adults ages 18 to 44, the share who have ever cohabited (59 percent) is now larger than the share who have ever been married (50 percent). Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are almost twice as likely to have cohabited as they are to have married (44 percent vs. 23 percent). Among those ages 30 to 44, the share that has cohabited (71 percent) is similar to the share that has married (73 percent), and 52 percent have both cohabited and married at some point.… Read More

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Margin notes: Teach your children well – Better than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Psalm 78:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. If you didn’t get my byline – than LISTEN HERE first, and then come back to read this. What a good thing it is for each generation to make known what they’ve come to know and have learned about the goodness, power and wonder of God. For parents to tell their children of their own conversion to Christ. To tell them how God rescued them in trouble, provided for them, walked with them, comforted them, sustained them and blessed them. Parents – do not be silent. Give your children the heritage of your life in Christ. Recount it. Glory in it, joy in it, and tell them of it. The following verses tell us why we should do vss. 1-4 – So they… Read More

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In Church Planting, Overcome the Obstacle of Me

“Church planting is hard work.” I often heard this before we planted our church. I agreed and prepared for the challenge by reading books and talking with other pastors. But then we planted and I thought, Man, this is hard work. What the heck? The reality of spiritual warfare, of more work than workers, and of never-ending needs such as money, space, leaders, and equipment make church planting grueling work. But there’s another reason why it’s so challenging. It took me a while to realize this, but my greatest obstacle in church planting is me. If I’m unwilling to embrace my own need for Christ, I become the hindrance to his work in my local church. It’s easy to blur the line between exalting Christ so he’s seen and known, and exalting him so I’m seen and known. Jesus Provides In Luke 9:1–17, Jesus launches his disciples into public ministry. He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Surprisingly, Jesus tells them to “take nothing” for their journey—no money, staff, or food. He sends them out, sans resources, and when they return, they marvel at all the work they have done. Immediately, a hungry crowd surrounds them. Jesus instructs the disciples to feed the crowd, but they can’t. So he feeds them. The people eat and are satisfied. The disciples were busy marveling at what they had done, but Jesus exposes their inability to do anything on their own (John 15:5). Jesus meets my stubborn hold on my plans with his generous grace, inviting me to trust him. Like the disciples, our greatest problem isn’t a resource problem. We can be sent out with scant resources and still see spectacular fruit. What if our lack of resources isn’t about problems, but about glory? What… Read More

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Margin notes: God’s Steady “pillars”

Psalm 75:3 (ESV) — 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah 3 Things in the 3rd verse from Asaph are so vital for Christians today to bear in mind. First, there are times when the earth totters, stumbling and quaking and crumbling. The Psalm does not say “IF” these things happen – but “when.” They will. Great upheavals in the creation physically, politically in governments, economically and even religiously and personally. The earth and all earthly system stand presently under the judgment of God. And it is crumbling. Second, The Lord knows there will be these seasons. He is not surprised by them, and so neither should we be. Comfort, ease and outward security are no inalienable rights. We live in a world that is passing away. And this entire world system suffers from its death spasms. This will not be reversed, even tho God in His grace does give seasons of respite as well. But we must make no mistake that this present world which is passing away – cannot be rescued. (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17) Third. Those in Christ have this knowledge as well – that in spite of it all, even in its worst moments, the Lord still keeps those pillars of grace and mercy steady. We have a sureness and security those outside of Christ cannot conceive of. Like the Disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm threatened to sink and drown them – they could not perish because HE could not perish. As long as we are with Him, in Him and He in us, though every piece of the fabric of human existence be torn, we have secure and steady pillars which cannot be shaken even in the least.… Read More

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How to Share Christ in a Workplace Where You’re Not Supposed to Discuss Him

I am a scientist, researcher, politician, and educator. In all these fields, I’m not allowed to talk about my faith in Christ. And sometime it makes me upset. So how can I honor God through my works? This is such a great question. Scripture summons us to speak about the good news of what God has done in Christ. So where does that leave you and many others who spend much of their waking hours in jobs that don’t allow for that? In their helpful new book, The Symphony of Mission, Jim Mullins and Mike Goheen explain that God’s mission is like a great symphony with many instruments playing their notes in one accord. They propose three vital ways we join Jesus in his renewing work: through our spoken words (as your question suggests), our stewardship, and our service. 1. Spoken Words Peter’s epistles are full of wisdom for Christians in environments hostile to the gospel. After encouraging his readers to stand firm amid suffering, he adds: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). Even when we aren’t allowed to speak publicly about Jesus, we can have an answer ready for anyone who asks why our work and life look different. “Always be prepared” implies readiness across different situations to share about our hope. This isn’t a passive process but takes intentional creativity. Spend time framing the gospel in language specific to your fields. When fellow politicians raise an eyebrow over why you hold two seemingly contrary commitments, describe a vision for restorative justice motivated by Jesus, who rules with righteousness and mercy. Or when your research assistant notices how excited you get over the smallest discoveries, describe your awe and wonder at the intricate… Read More

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Sow and Sleep, Pastor. Let God Define Success.

“Well done, brother. Well done.” It was a sultry summer day in the heart of our nation’s capital. Just outside the restaurant, laborers were setting up fences and hanging bunting in preparation for the July 4 celebration. Inside, we were having a celebration of our own. Some 10 or 12 men had gathered together to celebrate the ministry of one of our own church planters. It was a wonderful occasion. Dozens of people walked by without interest as the brothers laughed, prayed, and encouraged this precious man. One by one, they spoke words of heartfelt gratitude for how he had inspired and encouraged them in their own ministry. One documented the brother’s biblical fidelity, another his eagerness for evangelism, still another his coffee snobbery, followed by another who testified to his love for the church. Our hearts were as full as our bellies as we rejoiced in how this man had helped us all. Had you been in the neighboring booth and listened, I’m sure you would have testified to the success of this planter. And you’d have been right. Only, the occasion of the meal was to say goodbye to this brother and his family as they transitioned out of the city; his church hadn’t made it past the indomitable five-year mark of a church plant. In the eyes of church-planting gurus, he had failed. But in the eyes of God, he had not. Four S’s For far too long in America, we’ve been led to believe a lie. While few will come right out and say it, we’ve been led to believe that church-planting success is defined by the accumulation of what I call the “four S’s:” size, speed, self-sufficiency, and spread. Get a large size, get it quickly, so you might be financially self-sufficient to spread your… Read More

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9 Things You Should Know About the Armenian Genocide

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 296, a resolution “recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.” A total of 405 representatives voted for the bill, while only 11 voted against it and three voted “present.” Here is what you should know about one of the most horrific atrocities against Christians in modern times. 1. The Armenian people have lived in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for thousands of years. The kingdom of Armenia was even the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion in the fourth century. But during the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, and whose rulers were Muslim. 2. In 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Ottoman authorities began a propaganda campaign portraying the Christian Armenians as being “in league with the enemy.” On April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals suspected of being hostile to the Ottoman government were rounded up in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Many of them ended up deported or assassinated. That date is now known as Red Sunday, and is commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day by Armenians around the world. 3. The next month the Ottoman authorities passed the Temporary Law of Deportation (“Tehcir Law”) authorizing the deportation of the Armenian population. The government forced the population to march to concentration camps in desert regions in what is today northern and eastern Syria, northern Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Scholars estimate that 600,000 to more than 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered or died on the marches. 4. The Ottoman authorities implemented a plan to systematically remove and kill all Armenian men who could resist. As… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 5

This is last in this series of posts. And I trust there has been a stirring in your heart as there has in mine – to recover true Evangelicalism for our day. It is when basics like those we’ve been examining here either get assumed, and thus for all practical purposes ignored, or shoved out of the way by other important, but not equally as essential things – that the foundations erode quickly. We go off course. It is one of the features of the Old Testament prophets that they were like “master-builders” (to use Paul’s term) who were constantly calling God’s people back to the original plan. Back from distraction and compromise. Back to the foundations. Back to lives and practices commensurate with the foundations laid. Hence we need those prophetic voices in every generation. It would be in that context that I would exclaim with Paul –  “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged 1 Corinthians 14:31 (ESV). Oh for such a spirit of prophecy to fall on our generation. Calling us back consistently to be about the eternal purposes and plan of God in Christ – and not sidetracked by so many other things.  If I might summarize our writer’s points so far – Dr. Ryle has been advocating for understanding true Evangelicalism as having 5 “leading” features. As he’ll note today, these aren’t the only features, but they are the 5 leading ones in his opinion. An opinion I share. The Supremacy of the ScripturesThe Depravity of the human heartThe Centrality of ChristThe Necessity of Regeneration And today: The active Presence of the Holy Spirit (e) The fifth and last leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the importance which it attaches to the outward and visible… Read More

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Bumping Our Heads Against a Secular Ceiling

“That’s life in a secular age. That’s belief under the conditions of doubt. That’s pastoring and leading the church under the conditions of doubt. Because even watching things happen—whether you’re watching people move from death to life, through salvation, or whether you’re watching people experience healing, physical or emotional or whatever—the reality of secularism is that there’s this nagging, needling condition of doubt.” — Mike Cosper Date: April 2, 2019 Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 4

Following a short essay by Bishop J. C. Ryle, a leading evangelical Anglican of the 19th century, we have seen that Evangelicalism isn’t what most would think of today when they hear that word in the public sector. In a sense, we’ve let others define that term for us rather than insisting on making it clear what WE mean by it. And to be fair, many self-professed Evangelicals have poured into the current public perception by doing what they do in the political and social realms in the name of Evangelicalism. When in fact those endeavors may have more to do with their brand, than the core features we’ve been discussing. The great churchman of the 16th century Richard Hooker noted that when people have a cause and a particular slant in controversial issues or those they are greatly exercised over, they tend to make that issue an all-or-nothing proposition before long. And in doing that, they then pour everything into it in such a way that their very Christianity rests in the issue itself. And as a result, those who do not agree with them on this issue are suspect even in their Christianity. So for some, a representative republic as a form of government or free-market capitalism become synonymous with Biblical Christianity – and anyone holding to anything else in any way can’t even be a Christian! Thus in the process, Evangelicals end up deconstructing our own Evangelicalism. All that to say, that we need to get back to real basics here. So far we’ve seen the first 3 leading features of Evangelical Religion – and today our writer sets forth the 4th one. a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the… Read More

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Christopher Ash on Teaching Esther

The book of Esther presents us, as teachers, with an incredible opportunity to tell a dramatic and captivating story. But the narrative also presents challenges. God is not mentioned once throughout the book. We tend to want to make judgments and draw conclusions about the motives and morality of the characters. But in this conversation, Christopher Ash—writer-in-residence at Tyndale House in Cambridge, and author of Teaching Ruth & Esther—warns us away from over-evaluating Esther morally, and from leading those we’re teaching to either cheer or boo at the actions of the characters, since many of the book’s actions are ambiguous. Instead, he demonstrates how we can teach the book of Esther in a way that points to Christ, a greater mediator than Esther, a more righteous man than Mordecai, who brought about a greater reversal than the king’s edict. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Recommended Audio Resources Recommended Print Resources Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 3

Being Evangelical isn’t new – though some would (rightly I believe) think that we have lost our moorings. It was the 14th Century firebrand, priest and pre-Reformer who was known in his day as doctor evangelicus. Doctor of the “evangel” or the Gospel. The term gained popularity early in the Lutheran side of the Reformation and spread from therewith the awakening of the Gospel across Europe. Those men wanting to be identified with the recovery of the gospel in terms of its central doctrine of justification by faith called themselves evangelici viri – evangelical men. Luther in turn liked and used the expression in German as die Evangelischen. The direct connection in each case was the idea of the gospel – the “evangel”, or “good news.” And  “evangelical continued to gain popularity, and achieved its widespread use during the 18th century in the revival movement associated with Wesley and Whitefield. That is the heritage of Evangelicalism. A heritage all but lost today, as it was in J. C. Ryle’s day when he sought to rearticulate its foundations. So far, we’ve looked at 2 of those foundations from Ryle’s essay: “Evangelical Religion.” (a) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture, as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy. (b) The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption. And now… (c) The third leading feature of Evangelical Religion is the paramount importance it attaches to the work and office of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the nature of the salvation which He has wrought out for man. Its theory is that the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has by… Read More

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