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Archive for May, 2012

Why You Can’t Preach the Gospel with Deeds

Duane Litfin, author of Word Versus Deed, had his article “Works and Words” published at Christianity Today yesterday.

He writes:

How often do we hear these days, with passion and approval, the famous dictum attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”? In this saying, the word-versus-deed question rears its head, stressing in this instance how important it is for Christians to “preach the gospel” with their actions. Let the gospel be seen rather than spoken, it’s implied. Words may serve a useful backup role, but our actions must take center stage if we are to make a difference in the world.

At first blush, this sounds right. Except that it isn’t.

Read full article.

May 31, 2012 | Posted in: Missions,Preaching and Teaching,The Gospel,Theology | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 1:00 pm | (2) Comments »

9 Considerations: What Does Paul Mean by “Able to Teach”?

Content adapted from Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile

Paul’s criterion “able to teach” in 1 Timothy 3:2 refers to the ability to communicate and apply the truth of Scripture with clarity, coherence, and fruitfulness. This ability is not limited to public teaching from the pulpit. Some men are not exceptional public speakers, but they are teaching and counseling the people around them from the Scriptures all the time. Such men should not be disqualified from the office of elder.

Teaching ability is the unique gift associated with the office of elder, and aspiring men must possess it. We must not overlook this qualification when assessing a candidate for pastoral leadership: Can he teach?

QUESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS

1. Pastors must look for ways to provide men in the church opportunities to teach in order to assess giftedness and ability.

Men who have an interest in teaching and who meet biblical qualifications for the office of elder should be given opportunities to teach in appropriate settings, such as Sunday evening services, Sunday school, mid-week Bible studies, or training and workshop experiences. Whatever the local situation, pastors and churches should create opportunity to observe and affirm the teaching gifts of men in the congregation.

2. Assuming a man has had a number of opportunities to teach, how capable is he?

Pastors should probably grant a man several opportunities to grow and learn as a teacher. His ability need not be judged on a maiden voyage. But over time, it needs to be asked whether the man demonstrates skill in interpreting a text, outlining a sermon, communicating biblical ideas clearly, applying the Scripture appropriately, and anticipating objections and pastoral needs in the body. Cultivating and assessing this gift requires clear, honest, and patient appraisal.

3. Does the man show pastoral sensibility in his teaching?

Congregations should look for men who know the body and are able to apply God’s Word to God’s people. Does the prospective elder show discernment in this regard? Is he able to speak to hurts, pains, joys, needs, history, and hopes in the congregation? Does he tend to beat the sheep or feed the sheep? If he knows the people, it should show up in how he nurtures them in the teaching (1 Thess. 2:11–12).

4. Is the prospective elder committed to exposition (or the church’s preaching philosophy)?

Does he agree with the current elder(s) on what preaching is and should be? Widely divergent views about this essential task may cause serious strain on the eldership and on the main preaching pastor as he endeavors to discharge his duty faithfully. Divergent opinions may also affect the sheep as teachers employ fundamentally different strategies in the pulpit. The elders set the character and the tone of the teaching ministry, so unity in teaching philosophy is necessary.

5. Are others edified by his teaching?

Will the congregation, if asked, affirm that this man has teaching ability and that they spiritually benefit from his teaching? Ask around to see how others receive and use a prospective elder’s teaching.

6. Does the man disciple others?

Since not all (or even most) teaching is public, we should look to those smaller, less public areas as well. Does the prospective elder help others grow in Christ in more private settings such as small groups or one-on-one discipleship? Is he faithful to help others work through difficulties or questions? Do others come to him for advice and counsel? And is his counsel consistently and thoroughly biblical? A man may do a great deal of pastoral work in the hallways or in the parking lot after church or over a cup of coffee during the week. Who are those men who teach in this way?

7. Is the man theologically mature and supportive of the church’s theological distinctives?

A man may have a gift, but the gift must be informed by appropriate content. Many are skilled at emotionally rousing the crowd but cannot explain the basic doctrines of the faith. So leaders and churches must assess a man’s theological maturity and knowledge. For the unity of the church, a man with teaching authority should be able to fully champion the church’s distinctives.

8. Can the prospective elder defend the faith?

The ability to defend the truth is another aspect of sound teaching ability (Titus 1:9). Pastors and churches should consider whether the potential elder demonstrates an ability to correct error and preserve the truth, without being argumentative and unkind, but patiently and gently.

9. Is the man himself teachable?

Will the elder candidate be a model to the congregation as someone who humbly and joyfully receives the Word with profit? Being teachable is itself teaching; it models humility before others. If a pastor is not given to learning and submitting to the teaching of his fellow elders, he creates tension inside the eldership and may model hardness of heart before the sheep. Or worse, he may be less the teacher and more the dictator in interacting with the sheep.

CONCLUSION

As pastors and churches, we must find reliable men and entrust to them the things we have learned from faithful men. In order for the transmission of the truth to happen well, the men we appoint to leadership must be able to teach in various settings and ways. Calling a man who cannot teach, to serve as an elder, is like channeling the pure, wholesome milk of the gospel through rusty, corroded pipes. The Word continues to be milk, but for how long? And who wants to drink milk from a rusty pipe?

A Thank You Letter From Crossway’s President

Grateful for the Amazing Response—Goal Reached!

I am writing to express my deep appreciation to all who have provided the tremendous response to the matching grant. Your response has been amazing—the match was reached today (one day early) at about 9:30am.

Less than a week ago, it seemed like this would be impossible. The Lord has indeed graciously provided far beyond “all that we could ask or think. . . to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and forever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Having reached the goal, I would be grateful for your continued prayers as we execute the matching grant projects, namely: to provide the Bible and Bible learning resources free to 1 million people globally—free via the Internet, and free anywhere and everywhere, on every major tablet and smart phone device—particularly to people where the need is greatest in China, India, and Africa.

Any matching grant donations that we may receive beyond the match will be used to underwrite similar projects. We will “close” the match tomorrow, May 31, 2012, with much rejoicing in the Lord (which is also the end of Crossway’s fiscal year)!

To God alone be the glory. “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your greatness” (Ps. 145:4).  And so we do!

With my great appreciation to you for your prayers and for your help in reaching the match—to provide the Bible and Bible learning resources to 1 million people.

Grateful for your partnership in the gospel,

Lane T. Dennis, Ph.D.

President, Crossway

May 30, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Company Updates,ESV,Ministry,News & Announcements | Author: Andrew Tebbe @ 1:53 pm | (3) Comments »

10 Helpful Books for Church Leaders

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we think the following 10 books would be valuable for every church leader to read and have in their library. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know which books you would add to the list—we’d love to hear your recommendations.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Everyone’s idea of discipleship is different. Some people emphasize evangelism—sharing their faith. Still others promote a hierarchical system for spiritual growth, a way for older Christians to pass on best practices to younger believers. Yet, both ideas are incomplete. Real discipleship is so much more.

Avoiding extremes and evaluating motives, Jonathan Dodson insists on a way of following Jesus that re-centers discipleship on the gospel.

This book helps us understand and experience the fullness of discipleship as God intended. It combines the mess and the weight, the imperfection and transformation, the honesty and wonder of being a disciple who revolves around Jesus. Here is a practical guide to discipleship that is Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, field-tested, and easily implemented.

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin

Nothing is more essential than knowing how to worship the God who created us. This book focuses readers on the essentials of God-honoring worship, combining biblical foundations with practical application in a way that works in the real world. The author, a pastor and noted songwriter, skillfully instructs pastors, musicians, and church leaders so that they can root their congregational worship in unchanging scriptural principles, not divisive cultural trends. Bob Kauflin covers a variety of topics such as the devastating effects of worshiping the wrong things, how to base our worship on God’s self-revelation rather than our assumptions, the fuel of worship, the community of worship, and the ways that eternity’s worship should affect our earthly worship.

Appropriate for Christians from varied backgrounds and for various denominations, this book will bring a vital perspective to what readers think they understand about praising God.

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

“Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter,” write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. “It’s an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become ‘total church.’” With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways. The church becomes not just another commitment to juggle but a 24/7 lifestyle where programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat to sharing lives, reaching out, and learning about God together.

In Total Church, Chester and Timmis first outline the biblical case for making gospel and community central and then apply this dual focus to evangelism, social involvement, church planting, world missions, discipleship, pastoral care, spirituality, theology, apologetics, youth and children’s work. As this insightful book calls the body of Christ to rethink its perspective and practice of church, it charts a middle path between the emerging church movement and conservative evangelicalism that all believers will find helpful.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D. A. Carson

D. A. Carson’s father was a pioneering church-planter and pastor in Quebec. But still, an ordinary pastor-except that he ministered during the decades that brought French Canada from the brutal challenges of persecution and imprisonment for Baptist ministers to spectacular growth and revival in the 1970s.

It is a story, and an era, that few in the English-speaking world know anything about. But through Tom Carson’s journals and written prayers, and the narrative and historical background supplied by his son, readers will be given a firsthand account of not only this trying time in North American church history, but of one pastor’s life and times, dreams and disappointments. With words that will ring true for every person who has devoted themselves to the Lord’s work, this unique book serves to remind readers that though the sacrifices of serving God are great, the sweetness of living a faithful, obedient life is greater still.

Am I Called?: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey

Many men have the skills to lead a church, but only some are called. Dave Harvey helps men considering pastoral ministry to see God’s active role in the process of discerning their calling.

God’s Word offers a clear framework for evaluating one’s call, especially within the context of community. Harvey offers six diagnostic questions to help prospective pastors process their calling, and what they should be doing now if they aren’t sure. Illustrated with personal and historical stories, Harvey explores biblical and practical principles for determining the pastoral call.

Over the past twenty-four years of ministry, Harvey has enjoyed assisting many men in discerning whether they are called into ministry. This book will guide you through that all-important process with wisdom and confidence in God’s faithfulness in your life.

Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson

Given the evermore apparent failure of modern psychotherapies and a growing discomfort with pharmacological strategies, many churches are reaffirming the sufficiency and power of the Scriptures to change lives.

To aid churches in ministering to broken and hurting people, the authors of Counsel from the Cross present a counseling model based on Scripture and powered by the work of the wonderful counselor, Jesus Christ. Through careful exegesis and helpful case studies, they demonstrate how to provide consistently biblical, gospel-centered counseling and explain why it is important to do so.

The authors’ combined backgrounds—one, a woman trained in biblical counseling and the other, a male professor of practical theology—bring balance to this work, making it relevant for those who counsel as part of pastoral ministry and for all involved in mentoring or discipleship.

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

If the Christian life is like a race, we must admit that too many Christian leaders stumble, burn out, or veer off the track. Clearly it is not automatic that a leader will finish well.

Based on Dave Kraft’s thirty-five years of leading, teaching leadership, and coaching dozens of Christian leaders, Leaders Who Last moves through three stages of leadership: foundations, formation, and fruitfulness. Concise, anecdotal, and packed with wisdom, this book will help you aim your ambitions, refine your character, and position yourself to be an effective leader who endures.

Kraft’s brief, down-to-earth guide to Christian leadership will inspire readers to finish the race well-to hit the tape in full stride with an energetic burst of speed and receive their commendation from God.

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

Every church leader knows the qualifications for elders and deacons that are spelled out in the Bible, but actually finding other leaders who fulfill the biblical qualifications can be difficult.

Thabiti Anyabwile writes from his expertise as a pastor and elder, showing how to identify and reproduce legitimate leaders and willing servants throughout the ranks of the local church. Balancing thoughtful analysis of pertinent passages with thorough application for practical use in a contemporary context, Anyabwile answers the questions, “Who should we look for to lead and serve in the church?” and “What should they do to fulfill their calling?”


Economy Bible

With the ESV Economy Bible it’s easier than ever to impact lives through the distribution of the Bible. The most affordable Bible on the market, the ESV Economy Bible features the clear English Standard Version text, making it compelling and readable to those receiving a Bible for the first time.

This paperback edition of the full ESV Bible is ideal for bulk distribution. The ESV Economy Bible has a suggested retail price of $2.99, but is available for only $1 per copy when ordered in a minimum of five cases of 48 copies each. The ESV Economy Bible features not only the full text of the ESV Bible, but also an article on What the Bible Is All About, a reading plan, and a plan of salvation. Highly affordable and designed especially for outreach, the ESV Economy Bible is a great resource for reaching the world with God’s Word.

Coming Soon from Crossway:

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp (Forthcoming – October 2012)

After traveling the world for many years and speaking at hundreds of churches of all kinds, Paul David Tripp is concerned about the state of pastoral culture. He is not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but with the very people who train him, call him, relate to him, and restore him if necessary. Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. Here is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the war that rages not only in the momentous moments of ministry, but also in the mundane day-by-day life of every pastor.

Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Forthcoming – September 2012)

Christia

ns are increasingly aware that we live in a post-Christian culture. We recognize the need to adapt, but are unsure of the way forward. This book offers practical ideas for engaging with secularized society and does so in a way that is enfranchising, helping churches rely on their members instead of one leader with a dynamic personality or specialist skills. Che

ster and Timmis contend that the solution is an “everyday church” doing everyday mission with no signage except our lives. They organize the book around a missional reading of 1 Peter, since Peter’s first-century readers faced a similar situation as aliens and strangers. Gifted communicators and experienced pastors, these authors have proven their ability to be winsome and enlightening, especially in view of their success with Total Church and You Can Change.

Which titles would you add?

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Grateful for the Amazing Response—Only $35,840 to Go

I am writing to express my great appreciation to all who have provided the tremendous response to the matching grant, which I mentioned in my e-mail letter less than ten days ago. The Lord has graciously provided an amazing response.

As I wrote on May 21, we have a significant opportunity and a corresponding need. We have been offered a matching grant in the amount of $270,000, if we are able to raise an additional $270,000 to match the grant. As of ten days ago, we still needed to raise $232,502. As of today, that number has been reduced to $35,840.

The need is urgent: First, because the all-or-nothing goal needs to be reached by May 31, 2012—but more importantly because of the massive need worldwide for the Bible, and for essential tools to teach and understand the Bible.

I would be deeply grateful if the Lord might lead you to help reach the goal before the deadline of May 31, 2012.

With my great appreciation for your support, and for your help now with the matching grant, to provide the Bible and Bible learning resources to 1 million people.

Grateful for your partnership in the gospel,

Lane T. Dennis, Ph.D. Crossway, President

P.S. As I mentioned ten days ago, the purpose of the grant is to help provide the Bible and Bible learning resources free to 1 million people globally—free via the Internet, and free globally, anywhere and everywhere, on every major tablet and smart phone device—particularly to people in great need in China, India, and Africa.

May 29, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Company Updates,ESV,Ministry,News & Announcements | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 4:35 pm | 0 Comments »