The problem you and I have in life and ministry is that we get what we do not what we want. It’s very easy to forget that in every area of life from raising your kids to building your church. I want lots of things in life. I want to write a book but no matter how much I want it if I don’t start doing it, I will never write a book.
Ego: The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus
Genuine authority knows, however, that all immediacy is disastrous, particularly in matters of authority. Genuine authority knows that it can only exist in the service of the one who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the words of Jesus, “you have one teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matt. 23: 8). The community of faith does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and of one another. It does not lack the former, but the latter. The community of faith will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the word of Jesus, because it knows that it will then be guided not by human wisdom and human conceit, but by the word of the good shepherd.
Keeping our egos in check is so important because it is counter cultural to everything we see and hear. We live in a day where self promotion is rampant. The church sadly is no different. What worries me is kids who are digital natives are growing up and they don’t remember what it was like before the age of the minor Christian celebrity. You have ministers who start a blog and buy followers on twitter before long they are wearing swag and hitting the conference circuit speaking about things they have heard and seen others do but have never done themselves.
This may seem harmless enough but the greatest damage it does is it creates a misunderstanding of where authority comes from and what we as Christians are supposed to do to leverage the authority we have been given. The purpose of our God-given authority is to build the community and serve as faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
(Soap Box: You know what drives me nuts? That God calls people to plant churches in the fastest growing communities in America. Where people are leaving their churches moving into a new community and are looking for a church and we call that church growth.)
Am I anti-twitter, instagram, Facebook? No. Well maybe anti Facebook, I honestly don’t like Facebook. There is the problem when you can be in ministry for 2 years open up a twitter account and not know a thing, you have never built anything and you start to think that you have something to say because few people come to your blog everyday. It’s just far to easy to build a platform before you have payed the price for a message. The reason our message can be so shallow is we do everything we can to protect our ego’s and avoid pain. Pain in ministry refines the call and focuses us on what is eternal.
Our world is in massive need of genuine authority. We have enough egos in Christian ministry we need more servants.
Questions we need to ask ourselves often to keep our ego in check:
1. Do I love people who can do NOTHING for me?
2. If I lost my influence would I be ok with that?
3. Do I use my position to get people to do things for me?
4. Do I say and do things that will get Retweeted or Do I say and do what the Holy Spirit is asking me to say and do. Even if that is unpopular.
5. Do my actions reflect my stated priories.
6. Do the people walk away thinking I am great or did I in my conversation make them feel great.
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.
How to Communicate to kids.
Communicating to to anyone especially kids is more of an art than a science. I remember teaching a lesson to the kids it was a small group of like 30 kids I was going for it I had props I was ready I was engaging a boy in the 3rd grade raised his hand and I called on him he said “This is boring.”
Where you start from is as important as where you go.
To communicate to kids you need the following
1. A love for God’s word – No matter how fun amazing crazy slimy, explosiony our message is, if we are not continually pointing kids back to the bible we will have failed. We have to be more intentional than ever to create a biblical world view in the hearts of our kids.
89 Your word, LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life
2. A love for Jesus – If you love Jesus it will fundamentally change how and why you do what you do. The core of our teaching has to be the Gospel. – When kids encounter the Gospel it changes them fundamentally.
One of the advantages of serving in kids ministry at the same church for 14 years you are able to see the results of ideas and philosophies you have. One of the things I regret most is not preaching the gospel as clear or as often as I should of. I don’t change hearts Jesus does.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Communicating to kids in large group setting.
- Always maintain eye contact – Kids learn with their eyes if you don’t have their eyes you don’t have their hearts and minds and most importantly their imaginations.
- Don’t stay in the Safety Zone – We all have a level we are comfortable with don’t stay there have Highs and lows. One of the best ways to get the attention of you kids is not yelling at them but by getting quiet.
- Don’t just give kids facts your information will not be life changing if it conveyed in the context of a story. Jesus did this all the time he called them Parables. Tell kids truth in a story. Tell them stories about you. Kids love personal stories about you especially if you messed up in some way.
- Talk to kids like people not babies – Hello boy’s and girls (Elmo voice)
- Use massive amounts of energy. – You can rarely be to animated. If you feel stupid you are probably right on track.
- Help kids focus – Use lights, segments and music.
- Be relevant – Know what kids like now don’t use examples from when you were a kid.
- Use your Bible – Bring it on stage. Kids need you to reinforce that bible is life. It’s not a book of fairy tales.
- Distill truth don’t simplify it. – We underestimate what kids can understand Einstein said “If you can’t Distill it you don’t understand it well enough.” One huge example for me was faith I used to describe it as “Believing in the unseen” that is a simple definition of faith a distilled version is “Knowing God loves you and because he loves you, you can trust him no matter what.” It’s easy to understand, theologically correct and doesn’t lose the power though oversimplification.
- Always elevate Christ – I always try in the application section to elevate Christ that because of what He’s done for us it empower us to live for him.
Communicating to kids in a small group
- Listen – Kids want to talk listen to them.
- Know you lesson, know you lesson – The better you know what you are doing the more you kids feel respected. The more you can connect with your kids. The more you can listen to the Holy Spirit and make those small adjustments that make all the difference.
- Take every question seriously.
- Be there for the families of you small group kids. What you teach makes an impact but when you capitalize on those God moments your kids will never forget it.
Communicating to kids one-on-one
- Get down to their eye level.
- Make sure you always great the kids before the parents.
- Give kids your full attention when they are talking.
The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School – Aaron Reynolds
Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe edition – Sally Lloyd-Jones
An Hour on Sunday – Nancy Beach
Creating ever cool
I set a goal for myself this year to read 52 books I ended up reading 42, even though I didn’t reach my goal I read more books than I typically did because I had an agressive goal. Here were the 10 best books I read all year.
This was by far the best book I have ever read on marriage. Practical, insightful and challenging. This book is a must read for every married couple as well as every sigle adult. Kellers chapter on singleness was the best chapter I have ever read on singleness. So powerful and so challenging.
Loved this book. Was so inspired by the faith, trust and passion for the Gospel. The scariest thing for me was reading this book and seeing the startling similarities between the US and Germany. It was so encouraging and challenging reading Bonhoeffer’s life. I pray that I have the same clarity of thought and conviction of faith he had.
One of the biggest challenges most churches face is ministry silos. It’s awful but most churches are made up of ministries that are far more loyal to each other than the overall vision. If a church staff is going to accomplish what God has called them to accomplish takes hearts that beat together and eyes that see the same thing.
Death by meeting was a fantastic read. In ministry much of your life is spent in meetings learning how to hold a good, productive meeting is essential no matter who you lead.
Loved the reason for God. I am not a big apologetics fan. However I Really liked how Keller clearly articulated the main objections people have to the gospel. There is much of it I plan on re-reading.
This was the first of many Bonhoeffer books I plan on reading. What a fantastic gem this is on community. There are many books out there that talk about small group and community. They have lots of value but if you work with small groups or in forming the community aspect of your church do yourself a favor and read this brilliant dissection of true Christian community.
Gospel Powered Parenting is easily one of two best books on parenting I have ever read. Loved how he explains parenting in light of the gospel. He explains that the grace of God can only be truly understood in light of the wrath of God. I think I underlined something on each page of this book. Such a good book.
The War of Art was fantastic. It has a bit of language in it, but if you are a creative you need to read this book. Pressfield does a masterful job of explaining the primary reason we don’t write, create and innovate. He explains how to push through it and create what you have always wanted to create. It was very challenging There isn’t a day I don’t face resistance and there isn’t a day I don’t think about what Pressfield said to do to overcome that resistance.
This is one of my top 10 books of all time. I try and reread this book every year. If you are a young leader its a great reminder of how to respond to the authority God has put in your life. If you are an older leader is a great reminder how to lead in a way that insures you do not create an environment that is conducive to rebellion in the hearts of the young leaders you lead. Really such a great book. Short, quick, powerful read.