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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‘I Never Knew You’: Fatal Dreams of the Religious Lost

Is any lostness worse than remaining lost while believing you’re found? Of all those who finally travel the broad way to destruction, are any so wretched as those who sang Christian songs, prayed Christian prayers, and sat under countless Christian sermons along the way? The man sipping sand in the desert, because he thinks he holds a cup of water, is the most tragic and pitiable of sights. To plunge thoughtlessly into the next life is one horror; to play the saint, and still be deceived, is another. There was a time I wouldn’t have believed such people existed — least of all, that I was one of them. Certainly, all who audibly called upon Jesus as Lord would be saved — why else would anyone show up every Sunday? But there it stood before me, glowing as if engraved in fire, Jesus’s own words giving us a transcript of some on judgment day: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21–23) I read it again. And again. No verse had ever made me lose sleep before. I realized that I must be one of the “many.” Three Fatal Dreams I was like so many sermon-hearers, Bible-readers, and synagogue-attenders of Jesus’s day: lost in a dream, traveling toward hell in church clothes. “As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating, and awakes with his hunger… Read More

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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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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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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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The Key to Our Victory over Sin

Audio Transcript Today marks the birthday of Augustine. The church father was born on this date, November 13, back in the year 354. He of course served as bishop of Hippo in North Africa. His story of conversion and spiritual awakening is laid out in a book under the title The Confessions, a classic memoir, enjoyed today in over a dozen available English translations. That book, and all of his books, have left a permanent impact on the Reformed tradition, and specifically on John Piper and this movement we call Christian Hedonism. When Augustine was in his seventies, he went toe-to-toe with a nemesis named Pelagius, a free-will theologian in Britain. Here’s the backstory, and why it matters today, from John Piper’s 1998 biographic message on Augustine. My assumption is that too much Reformed thinking and preaching and worship in our day has not penetrated to the root of how grace actually triumphs through joy in believers’ lives. And therefore, our Reformed thinking and writing and preaching and worshiping is only half Augustinian and half biblical and half beautiful. It isn’t beautiful to people. Everything Good a Gift Pelagius was a British monk who lived in Rome. He was there when it was sacked. He had to leave. He taught that though grace may facilitate the achieving of righteousness, it is not necessary to that end. Grace is not necessary to making right choices. He did not believe in the doctrine of original sin, and he believed that human nature was, at its core, irreducibly good, and that we are able to do everything we are commanded to do. And therefore, Pelagius and Augustine were on a collision course, because when he read the Confessions, this sentence infuriated him: “Give me the grace, O Lord, to do as you command,… Read More

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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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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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All We Do Is Succeed: The Story of John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’

On the morning of November 12, 1660, a young pastor entered a small meeting house in Lower Samsell, England, preparing to be arrested. He hadn’t noticed the men keeping guard outside the house, but he didn’t need to. A friend had warned him that they were coming. He came anyway. He had agreed to preach. The constable broke in upon the meeting and began searching the faces until he found the one he came for: a tall man, wearing a reddish mustache and plain clothes, paused in the act of prayer. John Bunyan by name. “Had I been minded to play the coward, I could have escaped,” Bunyan later remembered. But he had no mind for that now. He spoke what closing exhortation he could as the constable forced him from the house, a man with no weapon but his Bible. Two months and several court proceedings later, Bunyan was taken from his church, his family, and his job to serve “one of the longest jail terms . . . by a dissenter in England” (On Reading Well, 182). For twelve years, he would sleep on a straw mat in a cold cell. For twelve years, he would wake up away from his wife and four young children. For twelve years, he would wait for release or, if not, exile or execution. And in those twelve years, he began a book about a pilgrim named Christian — a book that would become, for over two centuries, the best-selling book written in the English language. Tinker Turned Preacher John Bunyan (1628–1688) was not the most likely Englishman to write The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book that would be translated into two hundred languages, that would capture the imaginations of children and scholars alike, and that would rank, in influence and popularity, just… 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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