Why Christians Should Never Retire

Christians may be free to “retire” from their occupation, but as disciples of Christ we aren’t ever free to retire from serving God and others. If we’re fortunate enough to be freed from the demands of working for a living, that opens a door of opportunity to do more work for the kingdom using the wisdom, experience, talents, and resources the Holy Spirit has given us through a lifetime of discipleship. If this sounds like “retire but don’t retire,” that sums it up well. Retire or don’t from your job or career; but if you do retire, then imagine and plan for a retirement that is different than the world envisions. What Reimagined Retirement Looks Like In my book Reimagine Retirement: Planning and Living for the Glory of God, I look at the biblical and historical perspective on retirement and then describe what a Christian “reimagined retirement” might look like. I describe it this way: A reimagined retirement is one that is planned, structured, lived, and continually re-examined in light of sound biblical doctrine, principles, and practice. It is a retirement lived for the glory of God, his kingdom, and the good of his people. (44) Retirement may mean a new season of life, but it doesn’t mean we should stop growing and investing our time, talents, and treasure in God’s kingdom-building work. All our personal and material gifts, whether we have much or little, are good gifts from God that can be used in retirement for our joy, others’ good, and God’s glory (1 Cor. 12:11; 1 Pet. 4:10–11; 1 Tim. 4:14). All of us have been given gifts in various measures from God in the form of skills, talents, resources, and abilities.  Here are four kinds of stewardship. 1. Stewardship of Time: Serving and Mentoring One of the… Read More

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9 Things You Should Know About Family Structure

In a new article for The Atlantic, David Brooks argues that “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake.” Brooks claims that, “The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.” The article has provoked a wide range of responses (see, for example, this symposium at the Institute for Family Studies) about the best arrangement for families. Here are nine things you should know about family structure. 1. A family is commonly defined as the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of either two parents rearing their children, or various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family. The three primary types of family structure are nuclear families (two parents and their child or children), extended families (a family that extends beyond the nuclear family, consisting of parents like father, mother, and their children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, all living in the same household or in close proximity), and single parent families (a parent or guardian who lives with a child or children and who does not have a spouse or live-in partner). 2. The term “nuclear family” originated in the 1920s, and was originally used in academic fields such as anthropology and sociology The Oxford English Dictionary claims the term was coined by Bronisław Malinowski, considered a founder of social anthropology. At the time, the word nuclear was associated more with the Latin nucleus, meaning “kernel,” than with atomic energy. Thus, when applied to the family, it refers to the core members, usually parents and children. 3. Despite a common assumption, the nuclear family wasn’t created after the Industrial Revolution. Using English parish records and other demographic sources, some historians discovered that the nuclear… Read More

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6 Ways to Watch Your Heart in Ministry

Ministry can be tough and wearying in this broken and painful world. What does it mean to entrust our souls to God while serving as caregiver or mentor for hurting and brokenhearted women? Ellen Dykas addresses both the dangers and also the joys of being poured out into the lives of others, with a focus on Christ-centered practical wisdom for our own hearts. Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.  Ellen Dykas: I’d like to begin our time this afternoon with a letter. “Dear friends and faithful supporters, I want to thank you for your years of support in so many ways. But I do need to share some news that is both very sad and humbling for me. I was removed as a women’s ministry director of Harvest USA last month. While I can’t share all the details, I want to confess that I’ve lived with several secret sin struggles for the past two years, including an ungodly relationship that came to light a few months ago. I’m sorry for the shock and disappointment of this. Will you forgive me?” This, my friends, is fake news. By God’s grace, this never happened, but it could or it could have been alcohol or TV or buying addiction. I could have just been being so exhausted from the ministry that I just wanted to quit. Maybe just getting to that place of “You know what? It’s not worth it. Who cares?” Or maybe just a place of burnout and just not believing the Bible anymore. I’ve learned over the past 30 years of ministry how important it is to have not only a loving heart but a wise heart as a woman in ministry, in… Read More

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Church Planting in (Spiritually Desolate) Dublin

Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches Ireland has a rich history of faith in the living God. At one time, it was one of the highest church-attending nations worldwide. Sadly, this is no longer the case. Ireland’s modern population is suffering from spiritual famine. While other world religions like Islam and Romanian Orthodox are on the rise in Dublin, the fastest-growing religious worldview is that of the “nones,” those with no religion at all. Contrastly, evangelical Christian denominations are steadily declining. Today there is approximately one church for every 40,000 people living in Dublin. Church planting in this postmodern context is difficult. The required financial investment is high. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Yet, for pastors like Mark Smith and others, the commitment to disciple-making and church planting in Dublin is unwavering due to their unshakeable hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, I’m excited to have Mark Smith with me on the podcast. Mark is married to Philippa and serves as lead pastor of City Church Dublin. He also serves as the Acts 29 Ireland Area Lead. Listen to this episode of Churches Planting Churches. Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy. Tony Merida: Welcome to “Churches Planting Churches,” a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host, Tony Merida. Ireland has a rich history of faith in the living God. At one time, it was one of the highest church-attending nations worldwide. Sadly, it’s no longer the case. Ireland’s modern population suffers from spiritual famine. While other world religions like Islam and Romanian Orthodox are on the rise in Dublin, the fastest growing religious worldview is that of the nuns or those with no… Read More

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Defining Moments After Sinners Say ‘I Do’

We count marriages in years, but they’re really defined by moments. And usually not the picture-perfect ones. We tend to enjoy recounting the early moments—when we met, when we got engaged, when we said “I do.” While those moments are necessary for the formation of a marriage, the ones that come later tend to have more effect on the health and duration of a marriage.  What about the moments when parenting is hard, or we face financial struggles, or we receive a difficult diagnosis? As Dave Harvey—president of Great Commission Collective—explains in his new book, I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments, there are “unique points of trouble and transformation that visit us as our marriages mature” (17). This work is, in many ways, a natural sequel to Harvey’s popular 2007 book, When Sinners Say ‘I Do’: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. Trouble Couples who’ve been married for any time at all know that troubles are a part of marriage. But how we view the source of trouble and our response to it can have great implications for our marriages. One of Harvey’s foundational and most helpful points is that “brokenness is broader than sin,” so the fact that sin is “our biggest problem” doesn’t mean sin is “our only problem” (25). Harvey explains that we need to understand ourselves and our spouses in a holistic way.  I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments Dave Harvey I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments Dave Harvey Baker Books. 224 pp. With 37 years of marriage and 33 years of pastoring under his belt, Dave Harvey has identified those life-defining moments of a post-newlywed marriage. He wants to help couples recognize them in their own relationships so that… Read More

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James Leo Garrett Jr. (1925–2020), the Gentleman Theologian

During his life, theologians across the spectrum honored James Leo Garrett Jr. as first among equals with titles like “Last of the Great Gentlemen Theologians,” “Dean of Southern Baptist Theologians,” and “The Most Knowledgeable Baptist Theologian.” Garrett blushed at such accolades, for he was genuinely self-effacing. But you need read only one of his two greatest works before realizing no other contemporary Baptist systematician has yet risen to his level of authorial achievement. And when you consult his entire corpus, you discover it may well be a long time before anybody will. Who was this man? And how did he accomplish so much? Who Was James Leo Garrett Jr.? Born to a father who served as a deacon and university professor and a pious mother named after a missionary, Garrett was born again at the age of 9 then baptized into the church of the founder of Southwestern Seminary. Disappointed after the military twice rejected his voluntary service (due to extreme myopia), he entered college instead, ultimately sensing God’s call to pastoral ministry. Between leading three churches, he earned two bachelor’s degrees (Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary), one master’s (Princeton), and two doctorates (Southwestern and Harvard), followed by an honorary doctorate (Baylor). His formal academic career included significant stints at Southern Seminary (14 years), Baylor University (6 years), and Southwestern Seminary (28 years), interspersed with one-year stints in Oxford and Hong Kong. In 1948 he married his soulmate, fellow Southwestern student Myrta Ann, who herself became a highly respected librarian. They raised three sons and together ministered to students, faculty, and churches until she predeceased him in 2015. Garrett taught masses of theological students. During the administration of Russell Dilday, when over 5,000 students were enrolled at Southwestern Seminary, Garrett’s classes in particular overflowed. (I still appreciate the student who… Read More

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New and Notable Books – Winter 2020

Here’s my latest edition of New and Notable Books. As a reminder, these suggestions focus on recent books in history, especially American history and religious history. These books certainly may interest fellow historians, but I also try to suggest ones that are accessible and (somewhat) affordable to students and general readers. Pekka Hämäläinen, Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power (Yale). I am listening to this book on Audible, and I am recommending it partly because of Hämäläinen’s previous book Comanche Empire, which may be the book on Native Americans that has had the most profound impact on the way I view and teach early American history. Brenda Wineapple, The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation (Random House). Kind of relevant in 2020. Timothy Tyson, The Blood of Emmett Till (Simon & Schuster). Published in 2017, I just finished reading this recently. It is a harrowing but authoritative account of how the murder of a black teenager in Mississippi, and the exoneration of the murderers by an all-white jury, improbably came to fuel the Civil Rights movement. Alec Ryrie, Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt (Harvard). From Andrew Wilson’s review at TGC: “The intellectual case for unbelief, [Ryrie] argues, only emerges after many generations of emotional and practical unbelief.” John G. Turner, They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty (Yale), forthcoming Apr. 7. There will be many books on the Pilgrims coming out in this 400th anniversary year of the Mayflower, but this is my contender for the best one. In my endorsement for the book I say “This highly important book will become the new standard work on the Plymouth Colony.” Turner has incredible range as a historian, with fabulous previous books on subjects including Campus… Read More

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On My Shelf: Life and Books with John Starke

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers. I asked John Starke—pastor of preaching at Apostles Church, a regular contributor to TGC, and the author of The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World—about what’s on his nightstand, favorite fiction books, influential biographies, books on prayer, and more. What’s on your nightstand right now? I don’t have a large nightstand, so they tend to be scattered around the room like the cups of water in the movie Signs. My wife, Jena, and I are reading David Sedaris’s book When You are Engulfed in Flames aloud to each other. We like to read aloud funny books together, but we’ve also read Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter and Robert Capon’s Supper of the Lamb, which aren’t funny (though Capon is witty!). By the way, Engulfed in Flames isn’t Sedaris’s best. Jena got me a nice hardback edition of John Updike’s In the Beauty of the Lillies for Christmas, which I’ve been reading since the New Year. It’s a slow, beautiful novel, following a family line throughout the 20th century. I just began Tom Holland’s Dominion on how Christianity has shaped the Western imagination. I’ve never been a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, but Pity the Reader—a collection of his remarks on writing—has been surprisingly fun. Two books I’m working through in tandem are Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water and James Choung’s Longing for Revival. What are your favorite fiction books? I remember sitting on a train platform in Boston, finishing Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, thinking, This might be the best book I’ve ever read. I don’t know if that’s true, but it felt so in that moment, and it’s surely near the top. I love Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy (Gilead, Home, and Lila). She forces you to slow down… Read More

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The Underrated Potential of One-to-One Bible Reading

Imagine if everyone in your church were regularly reading the Bible. “Everyone?” you might ask. “I don’t even read it regularly.” But if this happened at your church, do you think your church would grow in the likeness of Christ? Imagine if everyone in your church were regularly engaged in evangelistic relationships. “Maybe a few people, but certainly not the majority,” you think as you get sweaty palms, knowing you don’t consider yourself an evangelist. We all recognize the top evangelists in our midst, but surely not everyone can do that, we think. But what if we did? What if we each pursued one other person with gospel aims? Imagine if everyone in your church knew how to disciple others. “In your dreams,” you chuckle. “Discipleship is the pastor’s job. He’s been trained for it.” But what if you could be trained for it? What if there were a simple way to help yourself and others grow in grace? In my experience of local-church ministry, I have found a simple activity that, by God’s grace, encourages us to read our Bibles, pursue evangelism, and engage in discipleship. It’s called one-to-one Bible reading. 2 People + 1 Bible + Regular Meetings = Gospel Fruit One-to-one Bible reading is not complicated. It consists of two people meeting together on a regular basis to read through a book of the Bible.  They might meet weekly or bi-weekly. At their meetings they do a few things: pray; read through a passage together; ask simple questions related to observation, interpretation, and application; pray again; and schedule a meeting to read through the next passage. They continue meeting together until they finish reading the whole book together. This simple activity gets people reading their Bibles regularly. It’s also helpful as we encounter difficult-to-understand passages. Think of… Read More

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The FAQs: What You Should Know About Late-Term Abortion

What just happened? Recent events have brought the issue of late-term abortion back into the news, and into the realm of presidential politics. On Tuesday, during his 2020 State of the Union address, President Trump called on members of Congress to “pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies.” The next day, on the talk show The View, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was asked to elaborate on his support for late-term abortion. Co-host Meghan McCain said, “I think the interpretation from pro-life people like me was that you meant a baby actually being born . . . I just wanted you to clarify, because I found that statement to be pretty radical.” In response Buttigieg replied, I’m just pointing to the fact that different people will interpret their own moral lights, and for that matter interpret Scripture, differently. But we live in a country where it is extremely important that no one person should have to be subject to some other person’s interpretation of their own religion. . . . What are late-term abortions? The definition of what is considered “late-term” is controversial within the abortion debate. Pro-lifers generally use the term to refer to any time after the fetal viability, when the child could possibly survive outside the womb. This is usually around 21 weeks, or the last half of the second trimester of pregnancy. In contrast, abortion supporters usually say that late-term only after 27 weeks, when the chance of viability is more than 90 percent. Some more radical claims, such as by The New York Times health reporter Pam Belluck, contend that the term should only be applied to “pregnancies that extend past a woman’s due date, meaning about 41 or 42 weeks.” Isn’t late-term abortion illegal? Wasn’t a ban on the procedure already put… Read More

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Tracing Truth in This Year’s Oscar Films

The 92nd Academy Awards will air this Sunday night, celebrating the best films released in 2019. This year nine films were nominated for the top award, best picture, and over the last few months TGC has featured reviews of all nine. Below you’ll find excerpts and links from these reviews, which explore the various ways these films intersect with faith and theology or contain elements of goodness, truth, or beauty. As with all our movie reviews, these are not endorsements as much as engagements—attempts to theologically interpret the films our culture creates and celebrates. 1917 Excerpt from TGC’s review: When Schofield and Blake receive the grim orders from the general, they respond with a firm salute. This resolute gesture, made with unmistakable dread in their eyes, captures the beauty of duty and simple obedience, of saying “yes” to something costly and hard, simply because an authority above you gives the order. In a “follow your heart” world where “do as you’re told” deference to authority is tantamount to blasphemy, the moment feels radical and refreshing—and the rest of the film only builds on it. See also: Jared C. Wilson’s “Some Men Just Like the Fight.” Ford v Ferrari Excerpt from TGC’s review: The film beautifully captures some of the tensions of fatherhood. How do you teach your child safety and prudence without raising them to be too safe and risk-averse? How do you shield them from danger without being overprotective? How do you model ambition and risk-taking without recklessly setting them (or you) up for disaster? What’s the value of modeling diligence toward some hard-won achievement, if it means more time away from home? The Irishman Excerpt from TGC’s review: The sadness and emptiness of [Sheeran’s] life—for all its grand underworld exploits and made-for-the-movies drama—stands as a bracing warning to the… Read More

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