How Do I Evangelize in Word and Deed?

Ligon Duncan begins the conversation by sharing his and David Platt’s shared belief in the primacy of the Word just as God speaks and brings his people into being. Duncan says that as we image God as witnesses, we should speak his word of grace, and the Holy Spirit will use that to bring people to newness of life. Duncan goes on to say that we want to see the Word come to fruition in the lives of the people we are speaking to, and that if we desire those people to come to faith in Christ, we should then want the Word coming to fruition in our own lives and through our testimonies. Duncan thinks one reason that Christians are motivated to do deeds is not just for evangelistic reasons, but also because we are called to be a blessing to other people and to love our neighbor, at all times. Duncan says we as Christians don’t need an evangelistic motivation to love our neighbor. In the context of evangelism, Duncan says that when people see us living out the life that we are proclaiming with our lips, it makes the words that we are saying especially compelling, and oftentimes, opens a door of someone’s heart to hear the Word of God. Duncan thinks it’s helpful for us to see ourselves as followers of Jesus—called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Second, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are intended to look to others’ interests and ask, “How can I serve, how can I care?” Duncan says this is the character of Christ in us, and the greatest love we can show to someone else is to share the good news of how they can be reconciled with God.… Read More

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Do You Redeem the Time by Reaching Others?

When the Bible tells us to make the best use of our time, what comes to your mind as practical ways to do that? Paul’s focus is not primarily on us reading our Bible and praying more, but it is on us reaching others and serving them. The excerpt is taken from the full sermon, “Making the Best Use of Your Time“. So often you will hear when Christians talk about redeeming the time, very often they’re thinking, you know, getting their prayer life together this year, getting on track with their Bible reading. That’s not even on Paul’s radar here. It’s almost like that is Christianity 101. That’s an assumption. Those are the things by which you keep your light bright, by which God makes you light and bright. They’re not even the things. Brethren, all I’m saying is this, is if we approach this new year and we’re thinking about redeeming the time, if the main thing that’s on your mind is getting your Bible reading act together you’re not even where Paul is saying you need to be seeking to redeem the time. You’re not even on the same page with him. Brethren, breathing for the Christian – prayer is like breathing. The Word of God – it’s not bread alone – it’s by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You see, this is breathing and eating. This is 101. Those are just the basics of life. If that’s where you’re at, you’re not even hearing what Paul’s saying here. Paul isn’t even dealing with seeking opportunities to get in the Word and get in the prayer closet. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders making the most of the opportunity.” We’ve got to move beyond just praying, fasting, being in our Bibles. Paul’s very specific… Read More

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Healing from Pastoral Hurt for the Long Haul

Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches It took me a long time to realize how wounded I was from planting our church. Opening up my life, home, and church to be repeatedly taken advantage of was painful. It hurt to hear that people I’d spent hours counseling, shedding tears over, and giving generously to were moving. Being repeatedly “ghosted” wounded me. And seeing my wife misunderstood and wrestling with unfair expectations from people cut deeply, too. Pain is unavoidable when pastoring. It can’t be ignored. Complaining or white-knuckling our way through won’t work. When I was hurting the most, I existed in a state of cynicism, resentment, and frustration. I kept trying to heal on the fly and haphazardly bandage my wounds. But some wounds are too deep for Band-Aids and quick fixes. Brothers, if we’re going to plant and pastor churches for the long haul, we must address our wounds. Our aim should be to maintain our spiritual health and connection to Jesus. But this is easier said than done when we’re suffering. Here are three ways planters can prioritize healing from pain to ensure longevity in service to Christ. 1. Assess the Damage For years, I took a “head down, shoulders squared” approach to church planting. My motto was “forward at all cost.” I kept going, but only out of obligation, not joy. On the outside, I was determined; inwardly, I was dejected, discouraged, cynical, and often critical of others. Brothers, if we’re going to plant and pastor churches for the long haul, we must address our wounds. David prayed for God to search his heart, examine his motives, and reveal his sin (Ps. 139:23–24), and so should we. But be warned, brothers: asking God to examine you and reveal what’s hidden is a dangerous prayer. We may not… Read More

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Can I Ask for a Raise at My Ministry Job?

It’s been a long time—years—since I’ve had a raise. I work for a Christian organization that doesn’t have a lot of money, so I feel bad asking. On the other hand, I’m starting to feel a little resentful that I’m getting paid the same rate when my skills and responsibilities have grown. Is it ever legitimate for a Christian to ask for a raise? Is that putting myself forward too much? How can I do so humbly? I appreciate the heart behind this great question. The various emotions you feel all find their roots in Scripture; and, fortunately, Scripture can help us sift them faithfully.  First, a Christian should absolutely feel freedom to ask for a raise. I’m not just saying that as an economist—though economics is surely on your side here. Consider the following examples. In Luke 10, Jesus sends out the 72 and encourages them to willingly receive hospitality from their hosts, “for the laborer deserves his wages.” Jesus makes his point by bringing in something we already know from the sphere of “regular labor” and applies it to the sphere of kingdom work. He doesn’t merely say, “Accept hospitality because ministry deserves it,” but he reasons that just as laborers in every other context deserves their wages, so do those who labor for the Lord. Paul makes the same claim in 1 Timothy 5. He quotes Jesus directly, then adds an image from Deuteronomy: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” The assumption is that the ox deserves to participate in the fruits of its labor. And consider that the more the ox treads, the more it would eat while treading. The “pay” accruing to the ox would grow the more it worked. Jesus and Paul both make the case that those who… Read More

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God’s People Aren’t Impressive. Just Look at Moses’s Family Tree.

Editors’ note:  Take part in TGC’s Read the Bible initiative, where we’re encouraging Christians and churches to read together through God’s Word in a year. The Bible is surely history’s most honest book. Its unfettered and brutal transparency about the unimpressive nature of God’s chosen people, even its human authors, testifies to its authenticity. The gospel makes this point powerfully. Jesus, the God-man, entered human history, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, and rose again so that unrighteous, unimpressive chosen people would be reconciled to God. If God’s people believe they’ve been saved by grace through faith—that they contributed nothing to their salvation except the sin that made redemption necessary—then why do they often have such a challenging time believing that God can use them to do his kingdom work? Unimpressive Moses Frequently God’s people sense a lack of ability, as if God chooses to work only through those who have some innate and impressive aptitude. Moses struggled with this very thing. The same Moses whom God used to deliver Israel from Pharaoh’s oppression was a self-identified unimpressive man who believed he was unable to accomplish God’s mission. The example of Moses helps highlight the unimpressive nature of God’s chosen people and his choice to use them anyway. Toward the beginning of Exodus, shortly after God commissions Moses, there’s a genealogy that seems out of place. But the genealogy, found in Exodus 6:14–25, serves a critical purpose in the exodus narrative and a larger theological purpose for God’s people. Unfortunately, our tendency is to read genealogies hastily or skip over them altogether. Genealogies offer God’s people critical information, however, and Exodus 6 is no exception. Like the framing on a piece of art, a literary framing complements and accentuates the substance within its border. Moses, led by the… Read More

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The FAQS: What You Should Know About Polygamy in America

What just happened? Earlier this week the Utah Senate unanimously passed a bill that effectively decriminalizes polygamy. The bill, which will be taken up by the state’s House of Representatives, would make polygamy an infraction, amending the current penalty punishable by up to five years in prison. As the Associated Press points out, while mainstream members of the Church of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, an estimated 30,000 people living in polygamous communities follow teachings that taking multiple wives brings exaltation in heaven. What is polygamy? Polygamy is the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time. Polygamy has historically taken two forms, polyandry and polygyny. Polygyny is the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time, while polyandry is the practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time. Isn’t polygamy illegal in the United States? Since the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, bigamy has been a federal crime under U.S. law. Bigamy is a crime that occurs when a person is married to two different people at the same time as part of two different marriage contracts. If a person is married, it is a requirement for him or her to have the marriage dissolved through death, annulment, or divorce before he or she can legally enter into a new marriage. If a person intentionally fails to have the first marriage dissolved before entering into a new marriage contract, he or she can be charged with bigamy. While bigamy is technically still a crime in the United States, polygamy is, in essence, already decriminalized. In certain states, a couple could be legally married (husband/wife, husband/husband, or wife/wife), be cohabiting with another married couple, and claim that… Read More

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Introducing Gospelbound

Gospelbound, hosted by Collin Hansen for The Gospel Coalition, is a podcast for those searching for firm faith in an anxious age. Each week, Collin will talk with insightful guests about books, ideas, and how to navigate life by the gospel of Jesus Christ in a post-Christian culture. Listen to the trailer now and subscribe. Coming Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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David Helm on Teaching Habakkuk

Habakkuk had some significant questions for God. And God’s answers were hard to hear. But he told Habakkuk to write it all down, since future generations would need to hear it. We need to hear it. And those we teach need to as well. In this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible, David Helm—lead pastor of the Hyde Park congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago and chairman of the board of the Charles Simeon Trust—walks listeners through the short three-chapter book of Habakkuk, helping us to trace its argument, feel its poetic pathos, and sing its song. We spend time on how to handle Habakkuk’s important statement, “The righteous will live by faith.” We also talk about Habakkuk’s faith-filled determination to trust God in the disaster about to descend as God determines to use the Babylonians to deliver his judgment. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Recommended Print Resources: Recommended Audio Resources: Transcript David Helm: Is Habakkuk a character that we can warm to immediately? Yes. I don’t know where he was born. I don’t know precisely when he lived, but I am brought right at the opening to know that here’s a man whose heart is breaking. It breaks in prayer and it breaks with this weighty word concerning the absence of God’s word among His people, the forfeiture of God’s ways among our lives and the distortion of His righteousness, which the people are perverting. Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible.” I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help Me Teach the Bible” is a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org. Today, I am in Jacksonville, Florida, and I am sitting across from one of my favorite… Read More

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Why Train Women to Teach the Bible?

Taylor Turkington begins the conversation by highlighting that both men and women in the church can have the gift of teaching the Bible, and because of this, it is important to equip them—just like all the saints should be equipped for the work of the ministry as described in Ephesians 4:12-14. Jen Wilkin says that she notices churches have a lot of pathways for men to teach but not as many of those for women, often leading to an imbalance due to access to tools and resources. Wilkin wants to see churches develop a category of training specifically to equip women to teach the Bible with excellence and precision, understanding the weight of what they are teaching. Wilkin and Turkington both agree that teaching the Bible comes with a certain weightiness and, as Wilkin argues, the cost for teaching the Bible incorrectly is high. Because of this, Turkington says the church should help both men and women excel at both their interpretation and also communication of God’s Word. Wilkin says she believes women in the church want to get trained on teaching the Bible, they just don’t always know where to go. Wilkin suggests women need to see an example in the church of other women who are properly teaching the Scriptures. Ultimately, they need permission and tools to do so. Turkington agrees and adds that it is essential for women to see a model of what it looks like for a woman to teach the Bible. For women who are wanting to grow in teaching the Bible, Wilkin recommends reading books that explore the metanarrative of the Bible, explaining the bigger story of the Scriptures. Wilkin also suggests delving into a systematic theology text and trusted commentary texts. Last, Wilkin recommends the yearly conference in Dallas, Texas, called Proclaim… Read More

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Give to the Lord, even when it DOESN’T hurt!

I love to write, and since I just yesterday finished drafting out a new book – and having a great time doing so! – a comment by C. S. Lewis reminded me that I should not claim to be doing some great act of self-surrender whenever I crank up the laptop. To paraphrase Plutarch from his Moralia, it is in doing the difficult, not the easy, that we measure our level of commitment. Still, whatever we do, it by God’s grace, and should be laid before him as an offering, whether it cost us little or much! Here is the gem in C. S. Lewis’ Problem of Pain, chapter VI this weekend. He writes: How impossible it is to enact the surrender of the self by doing what we like, I know very well from my own experience at the moment. When I undertook to WRITE THIS BOOK I hoped that the will to obey what might be a ‘leading’ had at least some place in my motives. But now that I am thoroughly Immersed in it, it has become a temptation rather than a duty. I may still hope that the writing of the book is, in fact, in conformity with God’s will: but to contend that I am learning to surrender myself by doing what is so attractive to me would be ridiculous. My book-in-progress, by the way, will God willing be published in Spanish by Publicaciones Kerigma. The title, in English, is a collection of my writings under the umbrella, When the Comforter Comes: Essays on the gifts of the Spirit and his power in the church. One way or another it will at some point be available also in English. “Give to the Lord, even when it DOESN’T hurt!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New… Read More

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Why Are There So Few Christians in Academia?

Why are Christians – especially evangelical Christians – underrepresented on college faculties? The question itself is controversial. My Baylor colleague George Yancey has argued that he is more likely to experience discrimination in academia for being an evangelical than for being an African American. Our information about Christians in academia is somewhat impressionistic, but it seems clear that the overall history of higher education in America has gone from “Protestant establishment” to “established nonbelief,” as George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University puts it. Yancey finds that roughly half of college and university faculty would be less likely to hire a job candidate if he or she was a conservative Christian. It is undoubtedly true that at secular private and at public colleges, outspoken Christian faculty are in a decided minority. But before we consider why that might be, a few caveats are in order – first, I suspect that there is even more hostility toward Republicans than Christians per se, especially in the age of Trump. If you are a self-identified evangelical whose work or opinions are clearly anti-Trump or anti-Republican, your faith is less likely to be a problem. Second, there are a number of fields where faith is less likely to be an overt issue – math or physics, for instance. In those fields, faculty are more capable of making their faith a private matter. People who study religious topics are more likely to attract questions about the reasons why they chose to write or teach about religion. Finally, faculty members run the same gamut of faith that average Americans do – many of them are from a nominal Christian background and might still be theists of some sort, even if they aren’t sure about doctrinal Christianity. But Christian faith typically makes no discernible difference in… Read More

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Assessing Elders in a Digital Age

The calling of the elder is an honorable one, and the need for churches to identify and install worthy men to this role is as crucial as ever before. This need isn’t new, but the context into which elders are called to serve is. One seismic shift from previous generations is that we’re now considering men who are digital natives—they’ve grown up in the digital age. How should this reality affect the ancient work of calling elders? It doesn’t change what we’re looking for, but it should affect how we go about testing today’s candidate. As we test men in this digital age, watching and considering their lives, we’re going to discover that some have “gone native”: they’ve run headlong into the jungles of the internet, mobile tech, games, apps, and more. Some may even resemble their lost friends in their relationship with technology. When we read a passage like 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the contexts we often consider are the home, the church, and the workplace. Is this man quarrelsome at work? Is he self-controlled at home? Is he gentle around God’s people? But in this digital age we must also ask: What sort of man is he online? Is he above reproach in his use of technology? To help us think about this, let’s consider Paul’s instructions using some sanctified imagination: The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach online; the husband of one wife, so therefore never seeking out explicit or inappropriate images; sober-minded in online searches; self-controlled when scrolling social media; respectable in the comment section; hospitable to all his online neighbors; able to teach, that is, using technology to spread truth and never lies; not a drunkard, addicted to hits, likes, and retweets; not violent toward… Read More

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Faithful Reason and Reasonable Faith

Surely you’ve heard this exchange (or been a part of it yourself): Skeptic: The Christian faith doesn’t make sense. It’s just not reasonable. Christian: But that’s the thing. It’s not supposed to be reasonable. You have to take it all on faith! Both the skeptic and the Christian are mistaken. Faith is more than mere intellectual assent, but it’s not less. If a Christian thinks his faith is supposed to be unreasonable, then he doesn’t understand what he’s saying. The doctrine of atonement isn’t put forward as a spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling, but as the clear teaching of Scripture. But the skeptic isn’t right, either. Christianity is the worship of the one true God, and the faith is reasonable not because some subset of human inquiry has declared it to be true but because God is himself supremely reasonable. Many Christians should think more carefully about the relationship between faith and reason. When we exercise our reason, we sharpen and clarify our beliefs. The Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, talks about deducing beliefs “by good and necessary consequence” from what is explicitly stated in Scripture. That’s not the language of emotion but the language of logic. Christian theology’s embrace of faith and reason delivers an unexpected gift to the world. In Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization, Samuel Gregg explains how this right understanding of the relationship between faith and reason generates recognizably Western ideas, commitments, and institutions.  Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization Samuel Gregg Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization Samuel Gregg Gateway Editions. 256 pp. We can all see that faith without reason is benighted at best, fanatical and violent at worst. But too many forget that reason, stripped of faith, is subject to its own pathologies. A supposedly… Read More

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