My book of the year, “Enjoying God” by Tim Chester

Tim Chester is a pastor and author (more than 40 books) and he lives in England. Back in July of 2009 Tim accepted my invitation and came to do a seminar at my church in New Jersey about the gospel, community and mission. Most of what he taught us was based on his book, “Total Church“.  It was neat to get to know Tim just a little bit and see up close his love for God and God’s people.

I believe it is fair to say that in my theological circle we have the tendency to emphasize knowing about God over experiencing God in daily life. I love to read and learn and so I know, unfortunately, this tendency is alive and well in me. That is the reason that I love “Enjoying God” so much.

Michael Horton wrote this endorsement for “Enjoying God”:

We talk a lot about knowing and glorifying God, but what about enjoying him? And not just as an abstract Being, but as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-enjoying each Person in all of his difference as well as divine unity? And not just in happy times or at church, but in every circumstance in life. It just keeps getting better and better as you turn each page of Enjoying God. This book will life you into the presence of the Source of all joy.

So how does Tim go about helping us to enjoy God in everyday life? Here is the table of contents:

  1. More (Do we ever wonder if there is more to the Christian life?)
  2. Joy (What does it really mean to taste and know that the Lord is good?)
  3. In every pleasure we can enjoy the Father’s generosity
  4. In every hardship we can enjoy the Father’s formation
  5. In every prayer we can enjoy the Father’s welcome
  6. In every failure we can enjoy the Son’s grace
  7. In every pain we can enjoy the Son’s presence
  8. In every supper we can enjoy the Son’s touch
  9. In every temptation we can enjoy the Spirit’s life
  10. In every groan we can enjoy the Spirit’s hope
  11. In every word we can enjoy the Spirit’s voice
  12. In one another we can enjoy God’s love
  13. In daily repentance and faith we can enjoy God’s freedom
  14. Under the hood

What Tim has done is look at all the ways in everyday life (pleasures, hardships, failures, temptations) that we can experience and enjoy the presence of God.

I have already purchased a bunch of these books and plan to use them to teach an Adult Sunday School class here in Watertown, South Dakota. As a pastor I believe strongly that one of the greatest things I can ever do for my people is guide them towards enjoying and worshipping God.

Excerpt from Enjoying God

I wonder if some of us don’t “feel” the work of the Spirit because we’re not on the frontline-we’re not on the frontline of the battle against sin or we’re not on the frontline of the battle for mission.

Imagine you’ve been driving a small car with a beat-up engine which struggles to go much over 30 mph. Then one day someone gives you a powerful new car with a large turbo-charged engine. A week later you shock them by saying, “I haven’t really noticed much difference.” But then they discover that you’ve never driven it over 30 mph. You’ve got this car that can accelerate to 70 mph in three seconds. But you don’t notice the difference because you’ve never hit the accelerator. Don’t make your life so safe that you never have cause to notice the Spirit’s work.

How do we live in communion with the Holy Spirit? We rely on him. We expect him to work. If you want to see the Spirit at work in your life, then attempt things that you feel you can’t do without his help. Everything we do for God is done with the Spirit’s help, whether we feel it or not. But if you want to feel the Spirit’s help, then attempt things that feel beyond you. Do not complain that God never does anything dramatic in your life if you never attempt anything outside your comfort zone.  p.118-119

18 Of My Favorite Quotes From “Making Sense of God” By Tim Keller

Secularism is on the decline

Demographers tell us the twenty-first century will be less secular than the twentieth. There have been seismic shifts toward Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa and China while evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have grown exponentially in Latin America. Even in the United States the growth of the “nones” has been mainly among those who had been more nominal in their relationship to faith while the devoutly religious in the United States and Europe are growing. P. 10-11

Are you longing for something that does not exist?

If this life is all there is, why do we long so deeply for something that doesn’t exist and never did? Why are there so many experiences that point beyond the world picture of secularism, even by those who do not welcome such perceptions? And if this life is all there is, what will you do with these desires that have no fulfillment within the closed secular frame? P. 22

Secularism is based on faith

The Christian believer is using reason and faith to get to her beliefs just as her secular neighbor is using reason and faith to get to hers. They are both looking at the same realities in nature and human life, and both are seeking a way to make the best sense of them through a process that is rational, personal, intuitive, and social. Reason does not and cannot operate alone. Contemporary secularity, then, is not the absence of faith, but is instead based on a whole set of beliefs, including a number of highly contestable assumptions about the nature of proof and rationality itself. P. 41

Secularism does not lead to love

However, if we are just a decaying piece of matter in a decaying universe and nothing more significant than that, how does it follow that we should live a life of love towards others? It doesn’t. Why shouldn’t we live as selfishly as we can get away with? How do beliefs in individual freedom, human rights, and equality arise from or align with the idea that human beings came to be what they are through the survival of the fittest? They don’t, really. P. 42

Where did the values of Western culture come from?

Where, then, did the moral values of Western, liberal, secular culture come from, including the importance of the individual, equality, rights, love, and concern for the poor, and the necessity of improving material conditions for everyone? Many scholars have made a strong historical case that they came down to us from Jewish and Christian thought. P. 46

Is meaning in life possible without God?

So is meaning in life without God practically possible? Public discourse is filled with loud religious voices insisting that life without God is inevitably pointless, bleak and unworkable. Other the other side there are plenty of secular people who insist that they not only have satisfying meaning in life but also have a kind of freedom that religious people do not. Who is right? Can we have meaning in life without any belief in God at all? To be fair to all, I would argue that the answer is both yes and no.

I say yes because both by our definition and by lived experience secular people can certainly know meaning in life. We define “meaning” as having both a purpose and the assurance that you are serving some good beyond yourself. If you decide that the meaning of your life is to be a good parent, or to serve a crucial political cause, or to tutor underprivileged youth, or to enjoy and promote great literature-then you have, by definition, a meaning in life. Plenty of secular people live like this without being tortured and gloomy in the manner of Camus. It is quite possible to find great purpose in the ordinary tasks of life, apart from knowing answers to the Big Questions About Existence.

But I also say no. Secular people are often unwilling to recognize the significant difference between what have been called “inherent” and “assigned” meanings. Traditional belief in God was the basis for discovered, objective meaning-meaning that is there, apart from your inner feelings or interpretations. If we were made by God for certain purposes, than there are inherent meanings that we must accept.

The meanings that secular people have are not discovered but rather created. They are not objectively “there.” They are subjective and wholly dependent on our feelings. You may determine to live for political change or the establishment of a happy family, and these can definitely serve as energizing goals. However, I want to argue that such created meanings are much more fragile and thin than discovered meanings. Specifically, discovered meaning is more rational, communal, and durable than created meaning. P. 64-65

Secular people and the big picture in life

When secular people seek to lead a meaningful life, they must have discipline to not think so much about the big picture. P. 67

The dread that comes from a lack of meaning in life

If you believe that there is no discovered meaning in life, only created meaning, then if you really start to think globally-about the fact that nothing you do is going to make any difference in the end-you are going to begin to experience the dread of nausea of the modernists. And, of course, you don’t have to think like this-you can put it out of mind-and that is certainly how most people in the secular culture live today. But that is my first point. That is not a very rational way to have meaning in life. Created meaning is a less rational way to live life than doing so with discovered meaning. P. 69

We distract ourselves from the emptiness of our lives

James Wood refers to the pursuit of “jobs, family, sex, and so on-the usual distractions” by which we hide from ourselves the emptiness of our lives.” P. 83

Where does our discontentment come from?

The ultimate disordered love, however-and the ultimate source of our discontent-is failure to love the first thing first, the failure to love God supremely. P. 90

Where does contentment come from?

Here, then, is the message. Don’t love anything less; instead learn to love God more, and you will love other things with far more satisfaction. You won’t overprotect them, you won’t overexpect things from them. You won’t be constantly furious with them for not being what you hoped. Don’t stifle passionate love for anything; rather, redirect your greatest love toward God by loving him with your whole heart and loving him for himself, and not just for what he can give you. Then, and only then, does the contentment start to come. P. 94

Everybody worships

David Foster Wallace, the postmodern novelist, puts it like this:

In the day to day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as…not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough…Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you…Worship power – you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. P. 111

True view of ourselves is powerful

(Miroslav) Volf answers: “No one can be in the presence of the God of the Crucified Messiah for long…without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous humanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness.” P. 146

Christianity is the only true world wide religion

One of the unique things about Christianity is that it is the only truly worldwide religion. Over 90% of Muslims live in a band from Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Northern Africa. Over 95% of all Hindus and in India and immediate environs. Some 88 percent of Buddhists are in East Asia. However, about 25 percent of Christians live in Europe, 25 percent in Central and South America, 22 percent in Africa, 15 percent (and growing fast) in Asia, and 12 percent in North America. Professor Richard Bauckham writes, “Almost certainly Christianity exhibits more cultural diversity than any other religion, and that must say something about it.” As we have seen, Christianity has been growing explosively in Asia and Africa for over a century now. It is no longer a Western religion (nor was it originally). It is truly a world religion. P. 148

Death makes our lives better

All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better. P. 166

The best way to think about moral truth

Yes, of course, believing in universal moral truths can be used to oppress others. But what if that absolute truth is a man who died for his enemies, who did not respond in violence with violence but forgave them? How could that story, if it is the center of your life, lead you to take up power and dominate others? Remarkably, then, we can conclude that a professed Christian who is not committed to a life of generosity and justice toward the poor and marginalized is, at the very least, a living contradiction of the Gospel of Christ, the Son of God, whose Father “executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:7). Bauckham says, “Distortion of the biblical story into a theology of oppression has to suppress the biblical meaning of the cross.” All of these characteristics of the biblical story make it “uniquely unsuited to be being an instrument of oppression.” P. 210

Greater percentage of the world is Christian than ever before

Today a greater percentage of the world’s population than ever before is Christian, and Christianity adds to its ranks over fifty thousand persons a day, or just under nineteen million new people a year. P. 229

Nothing compares to Jesus

Particularly impressive to readers over the centuries has been what one writer has called “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.” That is, in him we see qualities and virtues we would ordinarily consider incompatible in the same person. We would never think they could be combined but, because they are, they are strikingly beautiful. Jesus combines high majesty with the greatest humility, he joins the strongest commitment to justice with astonishing mercy and grace, and he reveals a transcendent self-sufficiency and yet entire trust and reliance upon his heavenly Father. We are surprised to see tenderness without any weakness, boldness without harshness, humility without any uncertainty, indeed, accompanied by a towering confidence. Readers can discover for themselves his unbending convictions but complete approachability, his insistence on truth but always bathed in love, his power without insensitivity, integrity without rigidity, passion without prejudice. P. 233

 

15 Of My Favorite Quotes From “The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family, And The Digital World” by Tim Challies

Sunday, May 22 I am going to be taking a break from the book of Acts and preaching a sermon entitled “Christianity in a Social Media World.” One of the resources I have been reading to get ready for the sermon is “The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family and the Digital World by Tim Challies. I would strongly recommend this book, especially for parents who are wondering what kind of impact social media and technology is making in our every day lives.

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  • The digital revolution is global, reaching to the farthest corners of the earth. It effects the way we see, what we hear, how we interact with the world around us, and how we communicate with others. Swimming in this digital sea, we are caught up in a torrent of media, striving to stay afloat and make some headway against the rush of sounds, images, and words that seem intent on drowning us out. Some, like Rip Van Winkle, are just now waking up to this reality. They rub their eyes and wonder what has happened. How has the world changed so quickly and so thoroughly? Others have been born into it-they are digital natives who have never known a world apart from digital technology. p. 12
  • Technology is the creative activity of using tools to shape God’s creation for practical purposes. p.23
  • So while it is true that we please and honor God when we create and develop new technologies, we must also understand that technology is like everything else in this sinful world: it is subject to the curse. The things we create can-and will-try to become idols in our hearts. p. 24
  • We should neither try to demolish technology nor run away from it. We can restrain it and must redeem it. p. 25
  • Meanwhile, the digital explosion has even changed the way the adult brain functions. It has placed many of us into what has been described as a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we devote partial attention to many tasks simultaneously, most of them having to do with communication. While we sit at our desks working on a report, we are also monitoring our mobile phones and our instant messaging accounts, giving partial attention to a host of different media. As we do so, we keep our brains in a constant state of heightened stress, damaging our ability to extended periods of thoughtful reflection and contemplation. After some time, our brains begin to crave this constant communication, finding peace in little else. p. 45
  • Ongoing exposure to pornography creates a “neurological superhighway” that traps men in a prison of their own lust. Escape from this trap is more than simply a matter of breaking an addiction; it involves rewiring the brain. p. 45
  • The television image is extraordinarily stimulating to the brain, and not in a healthy, ‘this discussion about politics is so stimulating’ way-more like the sugar-is-stimulating-to-the-body way. The televised brain candy we consume doesn’t develop-or even require-any mental capacity. Learning through images and visual media is directly opposed to learning by reading, which requires a more sustained focus and actually generates new skills and capacities in the brain. p. 54
  • How can we tell if something has become an idol in our lives? One possible sign of idolatry is when we devote an inordinate amount of time and attention to something, when we feel less than complete without it. p. 74
  • Our lives have become saturated with sounds and images flashing in front of our eyes, blaring into our ears. Sociologist and author Todd Gitlin states rightly “Life experience has become an experience in the presence of media.” At work we spend forty hours staring at computer screens. At home we watch television or visit our favorite websites. Between work and home we check our route on the GPS and dash off a few text messages. Even at church we watch pastors on screens before returning home to watch sermons on the internet. Life is mediated by the screen. p. 89

(We think so little about this next quote yet it is so incredibly important…)

  • While it may be that we have always identified is some sense with communities that were outside of the contexts of home, work, or school or church, what has changed today is that for many of us, our primary context, our primary identity, is now found elsewhere, in a context unhinged from geography, from the one who’s or what’s closest to us. Many of us are more concerned about who we are in a mediated context than who we are before those who live in the same neighborhood or who attend the same church. Our mediated communities, the ones that exist only in the form of communication-these are the ones we love the most and the ones which we feel the most. p. 105

(We are spending so much time in the artificial cyber world that we have not taken the time to get to know the people in the real world all around us!)

  • The cell phone, a device meant to enhance my communication with others, can increase my ability to communicate with those far from me, often at the cost of communication with my own wife and children-those closest to me. p. 116
  • During a time of singing at a recent conference, I spotted a woman raising one hand in worship while sending a text message with the other one. p. 121
  • The speed of digital life, the understanding that e-mails grow stale if they are not responded to immediately, the knowledge that a text message that is a few hours old is already ancient, increases the pace of our lives. Eventually we begin to try to make everything faster. We try to speed up our families, our worship, our eating. We begin to race through life, unwilling or perhaps unable to slow down, to pause, and to reflect. And yet when we turn to the Bible, when we turn to the source of divine wisdom, we see very little about a life dominated by more, dominated by speed. On the contrary, we look to our heroes-we look to the Savior-and we see a life that is contemplative, a life that takes time to ponder the deep things. p. 122

(Too often in the church we try to speed up the process of discipleship with terrible results.)

  • Meanwhile, if we surround ourselves by too many stimuli, we force our brains into a state of continuous partial attention, a state in which we keep tabs on everything without giving focused attention to anything. When in this state of continuous partial attention, “people may place their brains in a heightened state of stress. They no longer have time to reflect, contemplate, or make thoughtful decisions. Instead, they exist in a sense of constant crisis-on alert for a new contact or a bit of exciting news or information at any moment. Once people get used to this state, they tend to thrive on the perpetual connectivity. It feeds their egos and sense of self-worth, and it becomes irresistible. p. 125
  • Google’s profit is not tied to the quality of information its users consume, but the velocity of it. Author Nicholas Carr observes, “The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. Google is, quite literally, in the business of distraction.” p. 128

(Chapters 6 and 10 give some very practical tips/ideas on how to protect your family and deal with technology overload in a Biblical manner.)

 

 

“Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray

John Lockley writes, “Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in a church full of people who do not understand depression is like a little taste of hell.” (p. 6-7)

Four reasons why I like “Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray.

  1. The book is short (112 pages). Not everyone loves to read long books and I believe this is especially true for a person who is struggling with depression.
  2. The book helps to dispel the foolish notion that mature Christians don’t ever feelchristians get depressed cover depressed. “My choice of title, Christians get depressed Too, is intended too oppose and correct a very common response to Christians suffering from depression: “But Christians don’t get depressed!” How many times have you thought that, said that, or heard that? How many times have Christian pastors and counselors made this claim, or at least implied it? If it is true that Christians don’t get depressed, it must mean either that the Christian suffering from depression is not truly depressed, or he is not a Christian. But if this notion is false, what extra and unnecessary pain and guilt are heaped upon an already darkened mind and broken heart!” (preface)
  3. The book is balanced in its approach as to what causes depression. “There are three simplistic approaches that we should avoid when considering the cause of depression: first, that it is all physical; second, that it is all spiritual; third that it is all mental.” (p. 13)  During my years in pastoral ministry I have run into people who only have one answer or solution for depression. This approach usually does more harm than good. As the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer then you treat everything like a nail.”
  4. The book is biblical. Murray is continually building everything he writes on the Word of God. There are constant references to Scripture on early every page. For example, one cause of depression can be wrong thinking. We think and believe things about our life and the world around us that don’t align with what is taught in Scripture. On pages 74-77 Murray asks his readers to write down their thoughts and then to examine them based on what we know to be true about God in His Word.
Here are a few other quotes that I appreciated:
  • An additional benefit of having some knowledge about depression is that it will prevent the dangerous and damaging misunderstanding that often leads people, especially Christians, to view medication as a rejection of God and His grace rather than a provision of God and his grace. (p. 6)
  • However, the general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers. (p.6)
  • The spiritual reason, and one that I am most concerned about, is that many who have the symptoms of depression, without identifying them as such, reason, “If I have these thoughts and feelings, I cannot be a Christian!” My aim in this chapter is to not only outline the symptoms, but also to show from Scripture that such symptoms are not only compatible with being a Christian but are also found in some of the most eminent Bible characters. (p.32)
  • The general rule is to listen much and to speak little. The following is a helpful list of what not to say: (to a person struggling with depression)
    • Pull yourself together
    • But you’ve got nothing to be sad about.
    • Don’t get so emotional.
    • Oh, you’ll get over it soon.
    • It’s a sin to be depressed.
    • Just believe the promises.
    • Smile, it can’t be that bad.
    • Well, things could be worse.
    • At least it’s nothing serious.
    • You should confess your sins.
    • You are not still on medication, are you? (p. 98)

At New Life we plan on offering a class on depression in March. In no way am I under the delusion that one class will fix a person who is dealing with depression. I know full well that it just does not work like that. Here are a few reasons I want to offer this class. First, to point people in the right direction who are feeling depressed. Second, I want to dispel the idea that depression is a topic that is off limits in the church. We are all broken and the church must be a safe place to admit it!  Third, to equip people to know how to minister to those who are dealing with depression.

11 of my favorite quotes from “Show Them Jesus” by Jack Klumpenhower

show them jesusOur Children’s Ministry Director (Janet) and I have been reading and discussing “Show Them Jesus” for a number of weeks now. I believe this wonderful book should be read by anyone who is leading, teaching, or raising kids. It’s just that good! My greatest desire for the children and youth of New Life is to see them grow up and love Jesus Christ more than anything, or anyone else. This book will help give you ideas on how to make that happen. “Show Them Jesus” is loaded with references to God’s Word and it is thoroughly gospel centered.

You can find Jack’s website here. (You will find lots of great articles and resources.)

Here are just a few quotes from the book that I wanted to share with you.

When kids go to college and stop following Jesus

Today, a frightening number of kids are growing up in churches and Christian homes without ever being captured by the gospel of Jesus. As children and teenagers they may seem to be believers, but then they reach their college and young-adult years and quit. They quit church-and any growing commitment to Jesus.

These kids actually have good reasons to quit. They look back and realize that they learned much about Christian behavior and churchy experiences, but whatever they learned about Jesus didn’t really change them. They never saw him so strikingly that he became their one, overriding hope and their greatest love. They were never convinced that Jesus s better-a zillion times better-than anything and everything else. p. 3-4

The way to handle every sin

It means that the most powerful way to handle every sin in the life of the church is to apply a deeper understanding of the cross of Christ. p. 15

Raising little Pharisees

No how-to-live lesson can wake the spiritually dead. You might as well be teaching corpses. If a kid is still dead in self-love, such a lesson will, at best, only get him to work harder at a selfish, manipulative sort of religion. But new life springs up where the good news is proclaimed. It hatches loving wonder at Jesus and true gratitude to God. “For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). p. 46

How do kids grow spiritually?

We make a mistake if we think kids are saved by hearing the good news and trusting Jesus, but then grow as Christians some other way. p. 49

Jesus is always better

If kids are leaving the church, it’s because we’ve failed to give them a view of Jesus and his cross that’s compelling enough to satisfy their spiritual hunger and to give them the zeal they crave. They haven’t seen that Jesus himself is better than any “Jesus program.” He’s better than the music used to worship him. He’s better than a missions trip. He’s better than their favorite youth leader. He’s also better than money. Better than video games. Better than romantic teen movies. Better than sex. Better than popularity or power.

We’ve failed too many kids. We’ve fee them things to do. We’ve feed them “worshipful” experiences. But we’ve failed to feed them more than a spoonful of the good news. Now they’re starving and they’ll eat anything. They’re trying to feed their souls with something-maybe even a churchy thing-that feels like it fits them, when what they need is someone utterly better than themselves. p. 52

My favorite quote from the book

The good news takes us daily from despair to astonished laughter. With relief in our eyes we look at the man who’s done all this for us. And who do we see? We see the strongest, yet gentlest, most regal, and yet most humble person imaginable. Most of all, we see the kind of lover we’ve never known before. Jesus’s love for us is pure love. It has nothing to do with us being the least bit lovely. If it did, we’d feel pressure to keep up whatever earned his love. But no, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). He loves us forever. No payback needed. No conditions. No guilt trips. We are loved, period.

And where that is believed, the heart is won. p. 69

The Bible is one epic story

The Bible is one epic story about God saving his people. We can’t rightly understand any part of it unless we understand the context. This epic story centers on the person and work of Jesus. If we cut individual stories off from the Bible’s central story arc about Jesus, we miss the main thing the Bible wants to say-and fashion Bible stories that aren’t biblical. p. 86

Teachers need to think through the lesson carefully ahead of time

If you teach Bible lessons, you do need to come up with your own lesson content. Even if you use published lessons-even if they’re good, Jesus-centered lessons-you still need to set them down for a time. You need to go through the process of studying, thinking, and finding wonder in Jesus yourself. p. 102

Teaching the good news to kids from the Old Testament

Years ago someone told me to never mention Jesus when teaching the Old Testament. That way, the theory went, my students would feel the full brunt of the old ache-the weight of sin and the hunger for salvation. When I get around to teaching Jesus, the good news would feel that much better.

Well, I can’t do that. Never mind that it’s bad theology-the good news is just too good! I’m not able to keep such a secret. How could I possibly know the full song begun in the Old Testament and not sing it out every time I teach? It’s too explosive. If I tried to hold it in, I would burst. p. 120-121

Making all of this very practical for teachers

The next week I came to class with a plan. I had a sign that I taped to the wall. It read:

Jesus is better than anything else because…

“Here’s what we’re going to do, ” I told the kids. “Every week, when we’re done with our lesson, well write out at least one thing we learned about Jesus that completes this sentence. Some weeks we may learn two or three things, or even 5 to ten things. But whatever we learn about Jesus we’ll write down on a card and tape to this wall. We’re making a list. This way I’ll have to teach you about Jesus every week, and you’ll learn lots of ways he’s the best.”

I laid out the rules: “Every card needs to be different-something new every week. And it has to be something amazing enough to go on the wall. We’re going to do this all year.”

One kid was looking at the wall, imagining. “That’s going to be a long list,” he said. “The longest list in the church.” Exactly. p. 128

Teaching Jesus to kids the wrong way

The first point of studying the person of Jesus must always be to wonder at him, not to copy him. There are teachers who show kids how astounding Jesus is only to tell them, “You should be like that.” Ouch! Those kids quickly get to where the last thing they want is to hear another way that Jesus is better. They learn to resent Jesus. Then our chance to wow them with Jesus is lost.

Yes, Jesus is our example. As kids come to love him, they will want to be like him. When that happens regularly, wanting to be like him will follow naturally enough. p. 133

9 Of My Favorite Quotes From Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

everday-church-2

What happened to Christendom?

In Christendom many people attended church, sometimes by legal constraint. In this context churches could legitimately speak of faithfully proclaiming the gospel, because each Sunday they has gospel-centered sermons. This is no longer the case. We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church. We need to do mission outside the church and church events. This is something we need to recover rather than discover, for the modern evangelical movement was born out of a recognition that the United Kingdom was not a Christian nation and that it needed to be evangelized outside of church buildings and services. p. 27

Living like missionaries

Imagine you woke up one day to discover that you had become a missionary in a foreign land. The language, the culture, the worldview, and the values are all unfamiliar. Fortunately you are part of a team. What are you going to do? Together you are going to learn the language and the culture. You are going to explore how the Bible story interacts with the outlook of the people around you. You are going to try to connect with them at a relational level. This is the situation in which the church in the west finds itself. The culture has moved on. It is not what it was a hundred years ago when it was significantly shaped by the Bible story. We need to wake up and realize we are in a missionary situation. We cannot  continue to undertake mission in a pastoral mode. We cannot assume that people feel any need or obligation to attend church. We cannot even assume we understand the culture. We need to operate as missionaries in a foreign land. p. 37

When living like a missionary is just rhetoric

Claiming that the West is a mission field is now common, but there is a big gap between the rhetoric and the reality of our attitudes. One of the measures of that gap is the extent to which we are willing-or unwilling-to learn from the experience of the mission and the church around the world. If we really believed we are in a mission field, then we would all be reading books written by third-world Christians and cross-cultural missionaries. We would be looking to operate as missionaries to another culture. p 40

As we are marginalized will we see culture as a threat?

It is so important to love your neighborhood and its culture. As we sense our growing marginalization with the wider culture, it is all too easy to view it as a threat. But viewing the culture around you as a threat is not a good starting point for reaching people with the gospel. p.45

Should we try to be more relevant and do cool church events?

But it is a mistake to pursue relevance as an end in itself or to emphasize how we are like the world around us. For one thing our “product will always be inferior to that offered by Hollywood, Facebook, and Nintendo. Brits spend 20 hours a week watching television, Americans 28 hours. We are entertained by multimillion-dollar movies. We undertake role-play and action computer games. We are naïve to think the church can compete with these stimuli through three songs and a thirty minute sermon or drama and a worship band. We cannot compete on entertainment. At best this distracts us from the need to create distinctive communities that communicate a distinctive gospel, a gospel which more often than not grates with the wider culture. At worst the medium becomes the message, and the challenge of the gospel is lost among the entertainment or watered down to make it palatable to the audience. We have already seen that in a Post-Christian context we cannot rely on church events however cool, because the majority of people will not attend church. p 49

Programs are what we create when Christians are not doing what they are suppose to be do in everyday life.

Because we are not pastoring one another in everyday life, we create accountability groups. Because we are not sharing the gospel in everyday life, we create guest services. Because we are not joining social groups to witness to Jesus, we create our own church social groups. Please do not misunderstand. We are not against meetings or programs. The regular meeting of the church around God’s Word is vital for the health of everything else. This is where God’s people are prepared for works of service. But the works of service take place in the context of everyday life. p. 50

Celebrating ordinary Christians

It is not simply that ordinary Christians live good lives that enable them to invite friends to evangelistic events. Our lives are the evangelistic events. Our life together is the apologetic. There is a place for meetings at which the gospel is clearly proclaimed, but let us affirm and celebrate ordinary Christians living ordinary life in Christ’s name. p.89

What is step one in evangelism?

Step one in evangelism is being passionate about Jesus. Step two is being passionate about people-not just seeing them as evangelistic fodder or targets for gospel salvos, but as friends, people to love. Love will care for all their needs-physical, social, emotional-but gospel love also recognizes our greatest need, which is to know God through Christ. So true love will always want to introduce people to our greatest friend, Jesus. p. 93

Mission by being good neighbors

Once upon a time a group of largely middle-class graduates in their mid-twenties moved into a deprived neighborhood. Three made the first move, and they were gradually joined by others. There are now ten in total, a combination of marrieds and singles, male and female. There is nothing remarkable  about these people. None of them are hard-core or edgy. There is not a tattoo among them as far as we are aware. Initially the plan was to plant a church. A lot of time was invested in recruiting leaders, but to no avail. For some time this failure to plant a church was a cause of considerable frustration, animated conversation, and earnest prayer.

As this was going on, the Lord quietly got to work. How? Through these ordinary, unassuming individuals doing nothing more spectacular than being good neighbors. They were not a church (they attended a church elsewhere in the city). They did not hold meetings or do formal evangelism, nor did they significantly change the way they spoke or dressed. They just lived there-all very ordinary and unspectacular. Nothing they have done would mention merit in a missional manual, but over a few years they have built credibility in their neighborhood through simply being the neighbors everyone would want to have. They do have a corporate identity: they are known as “the Christians.” p. 97

Complexity Makes An Organization Dumber

I was reading, “STRANGE LEADERSHIP: 40 Ways to Lead An Innovative Organization” by Greg Atkinson when I found this quote…

strange leadershipOn the podcast Andy Stanley said, “Everything drifts towards complexity. Complexity makes an organization dumber. Complexity is so distracting that nothing gets done as well as it could get done were fewer things being done. For some reason in church life we add and we add and we add, and we chase the new fad, and we chase the new program, and we never subtract and things become so incredibly complex that we often times just fold under the pressure.” Reggie Joiner continued by saying, “A lot of churches get distracted from their vision and become ADD. It dilutes your potential to make an impact. It takes all of your energy, budget, staff, and resources and divides it in a hundred different ways instead of it being focused and excellent.” Andy agreed and added, “Competition for resources, competition for rooms, competition within the organization. Ultimately what gets squeezed out is not ministry to believers but evangelism. Complexity kills the spirit of evangelism in the church…(this last sentence is most troubling of all) All the resources are consumed trying to make insiders happy.” p.103

Above pic is taken from laurelofleavesdotcom