How to know for sure that you are saved: My interview with J.D. Greear (Part 2)

stop asking jesus into your heart

I recently read J.D. Greear’s new book “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart.” I was drawn to the book because of the confusion the term can sometimes bring when explaining the gospel to kids.

J.D. Does a fantastic job addressing the topic of eternal security in a practical and theologically correct way. His book is a fantastic read for leaders and those wanting to think more about how we live our faith. He covers the sacrifice Christ paid for us, what is belief, what is repentance, once saved always saved, doubt and baptism.

Here is Part 2 of my interview with J.D. Greear

5. There has been more and more of an emphasis on the gospel in the church world over the past several years, but it really hasn’t fully made its way into Children’s ministry and youth ministry yet. Why has the gospel-centered movement not reached youth literature?

I am not familiar enough with the field to make too many sweeping assertions, but I can say that some groups are doing good work here. For instance, Lifeway’s Gospel Project is producing some excellent gospel-centered literature for children.

The bottom line is that some things take time, but good things are happening.

6. How do we guard against the gospel being used as a catchphrase by those who may not understand the implications of the gospel, but are using it as a church growth strategy? From your book, I believe you were addressing this in the area of assurance. How do we avoid it in other areas of Gospel ministry as well?

The gospel can always be high-jacked by those who want to box it up and use it for their own ends. Gospel-centeredness is a hot topic right now, so there may be some churches or pastors who are riding the “gospel-centered” train simply because it is trending upwards. If that is the case, we will know it when they part ways with the movement if it loses steam. But if they are using the gospel for some other purpose, then what they are preaching is some other gospel, or as Paul said to the Galatians, not the gospel at all.

The gospel is the proclamation that Christ has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. He lived the life that we were supposed to live, and died the death that we were condemned to die. Those who believe in him and repent of their sins will be saved because of his substitutionary sacrifice. That’s the gospel. And as long as that is the content of preaching and teaching, as long as that is driving the mission of the church, it will be impossible to use that story as a catchphrase for my own ends.

Does preaching the gospel lead to church growth? Jesus said that it would. He said that he would make us fishers of men, and that our boats would overflow like Peter’s did when he called him. Every church that is concerned for the souls of the people around it should care about church growth. Why would we want to reach less of the people around us for Christ? But church growth is the fruit of the gospel, not its root. Our concern ought to be on the faithfulness of our ministries first, and their fruitfulness second. It is possible to grow crowds without preaching the gospel, so a large crowd is no guarantee we’re being faithful. And there are certainly seasons—I have had many—when I preached faithfully with little fruit. It bothered me, as not catching fish should bother any fisherman, but it was not in itself proof I was not being faithful. Fruitlessness should not settle the question of faithfulness, but it should certainly raise it.

7. As a family pastor, I believe you can be saved at a very early age. I was myself at age 5. In the Scripture it says, “Repent and be baptized.” What restrictions (if any) do you have on children being baptized at your church, and why do you have those restrictions in place?

As you mention, baptism and repentance go hand in hand. Baptism signifies that we have repented and believed in Christ, and that the Spirit of God has given us new life with him. By being baptized, we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection, trusting that he will one day raise us from the dead to live with him forever.

That is the core of what baptism means, and anyone being baptized should—to the best of their abilities—understand that. That includes children. Can a child of 18 months truly understand repentance and belief? I doubt it, which is why we don’t baptize 18-month-olds. But is there a magic age, then? Is it 4 years old? 7? 13?

At our church, we do not have an explicit age restriction, but we do require that those who are to be baptized understand what it symbolizes. In practice, that usually makes the lowest age somewhere around 5. (I baptized my own daughter at age 5.) But the number is not nearly as important as the substance of the person’s belief.

I firmly believe that baptism is only for believers, but it should be something we grow from, not toward. There were several times in my life after I had been baptized that I had “awakenings” and defining moments that made my previous beliefs seem pale. But that didn’t invalidate the sincere profession of faith and the baptism that accompanied it.

8. Although this book is still fresh off the presses, is there anything you would already change based on further reflection or feedback from others?

If there were one thing I would change about this book, it is that I would have written it a lot sooner! The concept for this book first struck me after I preached a sermon about assurance a few years ago. Dozens of people responded by telling me that this was a major issue for them. And as I mention in the book, it was a major issue for me for years, too. I wrote the book because I sensed that there was a great need for someone to address the issue of Christian assurance. Since it has come out, the book has prompted a lot of the same positive responses as that initial sermon.

I also wish I had emphasized involvement in a local church more as essential to assurance. God gave us the church to help us see more accurately what God is doing in our lives.

So appreciate this book that J.D. wrote. If you have not picked up a copy do it today the Kindle version is just 4.99 go get it now.

 

When God gives you influence what are you going to say?

Spotlight-on-microphone-s-001

I believe everyone has influence to some degree or another. Here is another thing I have been thinking about. It’s very easy in the social media age we live in to have a platform before you have a message.

Here is my question: What are you going to say when people are listening. When God gives you influence how are you going to leverage that influence and what are you going to say?

Every person has influence. You have influence for a reason. You must use that influence I believe to say something of substance.

Social media has done some amazing things. It has allowed for a small world to become even smaller. I believe that social media has allowed some new voices to be heard and has given greater reach to established voices. Before the social media age your platform was created through creating something that is tangible, a book or a ministry. Because of the reach of social media that is no longer the case.

One of the things that we must be careful of is gaining a platform before we have something to say.

Here is how you leverage social media to make sure that happens.

  1.  Listen more than you talk.
  2. Connect with thought leaders who have actually created something
  3. If you are new to the ministry area you are a part of ask lots of questions
  4. Seek God more than the approval of others. 

4 Ways to clarify the gospel when communicating to kids.

Family ministry has been the big wave of the past few years and although I hope that wave does not diminish in any way, I am grateful for the next wave that appears to be coming behind it. It appears that next big wave in children’s ministry is gospel centered teaching for kids. This is something that is much needed and I am very grateful for. If there is one word I could speak to this movement before it really begins to take off it would be clarity.

There have been many different misconceptions about what family ministry is and what it isn’t. What I have taken from that debate is that there is often a lack of clarity, and assumptions are made that shouldn’t be made any time something goes “mainstream”. With a greater use of the word gospel and gospel centered teaching it is massively important that we are clear on what the gospel is and what it isn’t. Not having clarity on what family ministry is and isn’t is one thing, not being clear about the gospel is catastrophic.

I just started reading Trevin Wax’s  book Counterfeit Gospels in the very beginning of his book he takes on this issue of clarity. It’s very important with more and more people trying to define the gospel that we do so with clarity so as not to do more harm than good.

I always love practical suggestions they help me think more clearly about the issue I am addressing. Here is 4 ways to clarify the gospel when communicating to kids.

1. Let the kids know that you need God’s help just as much as they do. For to long in the church those who have communicated the truth of God’s word in an effort to give a great example have either intentionally or unintentionally set themselves up as a hero to be admired. In the previous generation pastors were perfect examples of the truths they preached. To be a good pastor you had to be a perfect christian first. The beauty of the gospel is that it both frees you and humbles you. As a communicator do not be the perfect example of truth, be a living example of grace.

2. Don’t oversimply the truth but rather be a distiller of truth. – The reality of this hit me hard a few years ago. We radically underestimate what kids can understand and retain. In an effort to help kids understand the complex truth of God’s word we make the gospel simple in doing so we rob the gospel of its power. Don’t misunderstand me there is work that needs to be done but simplification is not the work we need to do. We need to put in time, effort and prayer to be distillers of truth.  When you distill something you retain the essential element and remove the nonessential elements, and in doing so actually make that thing far more powerful. For example we need to take the complex truth of God’s word and be mindful to maintain the power of it and communicate it to kids in a distilled not diluted or simplified way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “If we can not explain doctrine to children something is amiss.”

3. Use diverse and age appropriate examples in your application. – As a communicator we have our go to examples, the kid at the bus stop getting picked on, the kid sitting alone in the lunch room you know your examples. Don’t get stuck in your go to examples think through each age group and what the gospel implications to each age group are. If you are always giving grade five applications the kids in first grade will feel that they have to be older to understand the gospel. If you use first grade applications all the time the older kids will feel that the gospel is for babies. Use yourself, vary your examples and think through how this applies to every age group.

4. Bring it back to Jesus. – The application of every story needs to come back to Jesus and what He has done that empowers us to go and do. Never miss an opportunity to make Jesus bigger in the minds of kids. I remember in the Chronicles of Narnia Lucy is talking to Aslan and she remarks to him how he is bigger than she remembered. Aslan explained that is because she knows him more. The more we know Him the bigger He becomes.

Guerrilla Parenting: Give Them What They Want.

Veruca Salt – Give your kids whatever they want

Why do we give our kids whatever they want?

  1. Guilt
  2. Wanting our kids to have what we didn’t have growing up
  3. Because we can
  4. Because it’s easier than saying no
  5. Because we love them and want whats best for them
  6. We may be trying to buy their love

When we give our kid what they want all the time we are not teaching them the importance of trusting God. Learning at a young age to trust God is priceless. I learned from a very early age that “life is not fair” and “you will not always get what you want.” By giving our kids what they want we rob them of valuable life lessons that will prepare them for inevitable disappointments life hands out. When you learn how to respond in a responsible way to disappointment and trust God no matter what your faith will never be shipwrecked.

My wife read this and I think it is powerful. When girls get whatever they want they become manipulative. When boys get whatever they want they become lazy.

Proverbs 30:15

15 “The leech has two daughters.
‘Give! Give!’ they cry.
“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFhNJ361vWY

 

Guest post from preteen guru Nick Diliberto

One of the people I met for the first time at Group’s Kidmin conference was Nick Diliberto he and Patrick Snow are the what I would consider the leading voices when it comes to preteen ministry. Nick is a great guy and much of what he writes applies to leaders of any age level but it especially hits him with those who are reaching out to the Pre-teen crowd.

The two places in our kids ministry where I have the most difficult time filling is the 2-year-old room and our preteen environment. Why? My theory is 2 year olds and preteens are the same. I’ll have to blog that theory for you someday. Needless to say we need more people speaking into this crucial age. It’s my honor to have Nick do a guest post for me I hope it will create some dialog and stir people to action.

Check out his blog over at preteenministry.net