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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God Your Father is Not Ashamed of You: Escape the Valley

As Christians, we are on the escape out of the valley of this world. For many, their love grows cold as they replace the best for that which is just good. They stop fighting the fight of faith and drift backward. Yet as believers, we often are imperfect in our escape. We must remember that we run the race with our eyes on the Lord, and God our Father who is not ashamed of us, even in all of our weaknesses.

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The Christian Life is An Escape

Genesis 19:14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”

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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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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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New and Notable Books – Fall 2019

Here’s my latest edition of New and Notable Books. As a reminder, these are suggestions focused on fairly recent books in American history and religious history. These books certainly may be of interest to fellow historians, but I also try to suggest ones that are accessible and (somewhat) affordable to students and general readers. Beth Barton Schweiger, A Literate South: Reading before Emancipation (Yale). This obviously is as much a history of learning and culture as it is of religion, but much of antebellum learned through religious sources. From the publisher: “Drawing on the writings of four young women who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Schweiger shows how free and enslaved people learned to read, and that they wrote and spoke poems, songs, stories, and religious doctrines that were circulated by speech and in print. The assumption that slavery and reading are incompatible—which has its origins in the eighteenth century—has obscured the rich literate tradition at the heart of Southern and American culture.” We recently had Dr. Schweiger to Baylor for a lecture, and it was exceedingly well received. Andrew Delbanco, The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War (Penguin). I recently listened to this on Audible, on Alan Jacobs’s recommendation, and it is outstanding. One of the best history books I have read in the past couple years. Kate Bowler, The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities (Princeton). Coming from the author of the best book on the prosperity gospel, this book promises to examine some of the tensions inherent in the public roles of female Bible teachers. A timely topic! Dr. Bowler spoke on her research for this book a couple years ago at Baylor, and it was fascinating.   Mark David Hall, Did America Have a Christian… 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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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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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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