Thursday, April 21, 2011

Well... I should think they won't be calling again soon...

I receive phone calls and fliers in the mail each and every week that want me to purchase their wares.  Each one promises bigger and better results in training leaders, growing the church, reviving my community, etc.  Anything you can think of and slap a Christian label on, and it's probably already being sold by the case load online somewhere.

This week was no different.  Yesterday I received a phone call from a polite young man who was trying feverishly to convince me to purchase a DVD set recorded at a recent leadership conference.  He said that they realized that travel expenses were too great a cost for many pastors and so they were packaging the entire conference on a DVD set plus study guides. 

It was nothing fresh, it was your typical "leadership" conference.  Just from the description and what I'd already read on this conference online, it is not a Gospel centered conference, it is a church growth conference. 

All that aside, he began to list off the "teachers" featured on their DVD set and I noticed 3 names that I already know that I have very serious theological differences with.  These are not small differences in thinking or even quibbles over methodology but serious concerns over what some of those men teach and hold to.  Among their false doctrines were things like "Carnal Christianity", "Seeker Driven Mentalities", "Emergent Philosophies".  

He asked if I were interested and I told him that I simply wasn't interested because I knew that I would not agree with everything those men held to theologically.  So this sales person informed me that what they are teaching ISN'T THEOLOGICAL.  What?  A Bible conference that isn't theological?  Well, that's just not possible.  Matt Chandler said it well when he said that, "Those who say they aren't a theological type person really do have a theology.  It's just a theology that would have gotten them killed 500 years ago."

So I questioned him and asked if it wasn't theological, what was it?  His response.  "Well, in this DVD set we are trying to teach you to lead your people to be missional."  Well let's not even address how worn out the fad buzz word "missional" is.  That's a whole separate post altogether, but suffice to say that being "missional" isn't a separate category of ministry.  All activity should be "missional" in the true sense.  And being "missional" is to be Gospel driven.  Just saying...

Anyway, I pushed back and asked him how they taught missional principles divorced from theology.  I pointed out that it was impossible for them to come and make any presentation on any subject that would be divorced from their individual theological views.  He disagreed with me, but the reality is... he is wrong.

Whatever your views are on any theological topic, it will influence how you speak on those and any other topics.  The young man told me that they avoided theology and just stuck to the topic assigned.  

So I asked him to consider this, could a Evangelical Christian, a Muslim, and a Buddhist get together and teach a conference on a general topic and be agreeable?  No.  Why?  Because what a Muslim means by "missional" will be RADICALLY different than what I know the Bible teaches and it will be worlds different than what a Buddhist means.

The fact remains, you simply cannot divorce theology from leadership, missional teaching, or any other subject and when you attempt to separate the two, you open yourself up to all sorts of error and false teaching which sadly is typically just a hop skip and a jump from heresy.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Be very cautious around any who would tell you that theology doesn't matter.  Theology is very important.  Now, granted, theology is only useful if it draws you closer to God and spurs you on to obedience to His Word.  Theology is important.  Moreover, SOUND theology is important.  I tried to explain that to this young man, it wasn't in his script and so he then retracted his earlier remarks and said that I could be assured that all of these men were very very Biblical. *buzzer sound here* WRONG.  These particular individuals were not, as mentioned above.

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NASB) - Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle

Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), had a way of putting things and a way of teaching the Scriptures that really just made them snap home.  He held nothing back in his preaching but always laid out plain Scriptural truth with deep application.

That same boldness and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ comes across plain and clear in his tract, "A Call to Prayer".

At only 33 pages in length, this is one of the most powerful works on prayer that I've ever read.  He opens it up simply with one question that drives the rest of his thoughts.  "Do you pray?"

A simple question, yet is there anything that is more intimate in the life of a believer than their prayer life?  You can pick this up from and it is inexpensive as well!  At the time of this post, the book only costs $2.99!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: Radical by David Platt

Radical is an insightful look at what Christianity is, as defined by Scripture, verses what Christianity has become, particularly in America.  Platt uses several texts to show that what God has called us to as believers is not always in line with the American version of Christianity.  For example, in America we tend to judge a church at face value... a big church with lots of people, programs, and buildings = strong and healthy and Biblical verses a small church with few people, little money, small building = weaker church with no hope

Now, let me say from the top.  None of the above conditions of either church have any bearing on its health or soundness of its doctrine.  There are large churches (though few in number) that are sound doctrinally and pursuing a life of obedience to Jesus Christ.  Likewise, there are small churches that are sound doctrinally and pursuing a life of obedience to Jesus Christ.  Size doesn't automatically indicate a particular feature, neither do lack or abundance of programs, funds and buildings indicate a particular feature.

Platt seeks to point out that the goal of the church is to take the Gospel to the world and also to serve others.  Using the resources (financial or otherwise) that God has given them for the purpose of the furtherance of the Gospel, NOT to acquire more and more wealth.  The goal of God blessing us with money for instance is not so that we can store it up and be mega-wealthy consumer driven people, but so that we are people who live according to what we need and find a way to use the rest to give Bibles, or tracts, or food, or clothing, or shelter, etc... to all who need it.

To say the least, I was heavily challenged by the Scripture that David brought to light in this book and it has brought about some very deep examination and convictions in my own life.  To avoid boasting in myself, I'll just leave it at that.

Lastly, there were a few things I didn't particularly like about the book.  David does a fantastic job of exegeting the Scriptures he uses to make his point, that is good!  Intermingled with that, however, he uses illustrations from real life.  People he knows, has encountered, or that are in his church, who have abandoned worldly things for the glory of Christ.  To hear of those people is encouraging and a great example set.  And that was his purpose in putting them in their too... however, I could have done with fewer of them and still gotten the point.

I believe he was going to the extreme to show the diversity that exists amongst the callings God places on our lives.  How one person's call may look a bit differently than another.  He made a point to say that very thing.  That this person's "thing" may not be another's "thing".  But the book would have made the point just as well with a more brief story on each of them or just fewer in general.  That's a preference of mine personally that when I read any book that is going to convey Scriptural truths, I'd rather hear more about the Scripture and less about a personal experience, but that's just me.

Read it, Bible open as always, pray about it... and see if God doesn't use this book to challenge you as well to evaluate what you do with what He's given you.  Are you using it to His glory, or your own?