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John Piper – People Need Weighty Truth, Not Flash

29 Apr

The older I get, the less impressed I am with flashy successes and enthusiasms that are not truth-based. Everybody knows that with the right personality, the right music, the right location, and the right schedule you can grow a church without anybody really knowing what doctrinal commitments sustain it, if any. Church-planting specialists generally downplay biblical doctrine in the core values of what makes a church “successful.” The long-term effect of this ethos is a weakening of the church that is concealed as long as the crowds are large, the band is loud, the tragedies are few, and persecution is still at the level of preferences.

But more and more this doctrinally-diluted brew of music, drama, life-tips, and marketing seems out of touch with real life in this world—not to mention the next. It tastes like watered-down gruel, not a nourishing meal. It simply isn’t serious enough. It’s too playful and chatty and casual. Its joy just doesn’t feel deep enough or heartbroken or well-rooted. The injustice and persecution and suffering and hellish realities in the world today are so many and so large and so close that I can’t help but think that, deep inside, people are longing for something weighty and massive and rooted and stable and eternal. So it seems to me that the trifling with silly little sketches and breezy welcome-to-the-den styles on Sunday morning are just out of touch with what matters in life.

Of course, it works. Sort of. Because, in the name of felt needs, it resonates with people’s impulse to run from what is most serious and weighty and what makes them most human and what might open the depths of God to their souls. The design is noble. Silliness is a stepping-stone to substance. But it’s an odd path. And evidence is not ample that many are willing to move beyond fun and simplicity. So the price of minimizing truth-based joy and maximizing atmosphere-based comfort is high. More and more, it seems to me, the end might be in view. I doubt that a religious ethos with such a feel of entertainment can really sur-vive as Christian for too many more decades. Crises reveal the cracks.


~John Piper~




Counted Righteous in Christ (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2002) p. 22-23.

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Book Review: Church Planter

9 Oct

If you are looking for a book that clearly and concisely describes what is required of men who would be a pastor or church planter, what the central message this man and church proclaims should be, and how he and the church he leads should love one another and function in their city then this new book by Darrin Patrick is a pretty good choice.

The book is Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission and was published by Crossway Books. Patrick is a pastor at The Journey in St. Louis and is also a vice president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network.

Now, not being a pastor or church planter myself, I am obviously nothing more than a christian who cares about these issues and desires to think about them more biblically and see others think about them more biblically as well.

Preliminary Observations:

As I like to do with all books I read, I try to make preliminary observations about the book to help me get context as I read it. Speaking in terms of design and graphics quality I have really enjoyed the books Crossway has been putting out lately. This book is no exception. It has a great look and an awesome picture on the front. Though I was initially turned off by the cover as possibly over-glorifying a pastor or church planter as this lone saver of souls. The back of the book is also very helpful with a long list of respected evangelical leaders and thinkers giving glowing endorsements for this book.

The book is only 240 pages long and is very accessible in terms of length and writing style.

Surveying the table of contents really helps make clear what the book will be about. And it covers a wide range of topics very well and very coherently. The book is divided into three main sections: The Man, The Message, and the Mission, with Mark Driscoll writing the forward.

The Man:

In the first section “The Man,” chapters include:

-A Rescued Man
-A Called Man
-A Qualified Man
-A Dependent Man
-A Skilled Man
-A Shepherding Man
-A Determined Man.

I thought this was quite an impressive survey of what is needed and required of a pastor/church planter. I found Patrick’s writing to be both admonishing and warning toward those lacking in these areas as well as encouraging and shepherding toward the same people. Helping one to evaluate their calling and gifting and ask the hard questions about themselves, while not leaving them hopeless and despairing.

Starting with the most basic and essential requirement is that a man be truly saved before he be a pastor/church planter. This may seem obvious and unneeded until we realize that many churches could be being led by men who are actually not saved themselves.

The chapters on calling and qualification were especially helpful in helping potential church planters or pastors evaluate their calling and if they meet biblical qualifications. They weren’t just helpful on a practical level, but Patrick was pointing us back to the biblical crietera for elders. The office shouldn’t be reserved for the best communicators or committed members, but for men whom God has gifted and is calling. I also think it would be helpful for churches to have these things as their criteria when thinking through who their elders or pastors should be. These issues can seem so nitpicky and unimportant until we realize that it is God who gives elders to the church. It is the potential elder’s and the churches responsibility to take the qualifications in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus seriously.

The final four chapters in this section were equally helpful in equipping men to think through what the real life of a pastor/church planter might look like and what will be essential in their lives.

The Message:

I also found the second section titled: “The Message” clear and instructional as well:

-A Historical Message
-Salvation-Accomplishing
-Christ-Centered
-Sin-Exposing
-Idol Shattering.

Each of these chapters were packed with great teaching on the objective reality and power as well as the every day experience of the gospel. Nothing is more essential and critical than the message of the gospel. Getting the gospel right and applying it to our lives is the first and most foundational point from which the rest of the points made in this book should flow.

The Mission:

The final section zeroed in on “The Mission”:

-The Heart of Mission: Compassion
-The House of Mission: The Church
-The How of Mission: Contextualization
-The Hands of Mission: Care
-The Hope of Mission: City Transformation.

This could possibly be the most controversial section among the reformed camp. With characteristic Acts 29 emphases on “missional” themes such as “contextualization” and “city transformation” are possible points of tension. Though some may not be thoroughly convinced of Patrick’s positions I felt that he did a great job of clarifying his positions and striking what to my mind seems like a biblical balance.

Conclusion:

I was struck by how comprehensive this book was in so small an amount of pages. Patrick extensively covered a range of issues that are so important. It truly is as Dave Harvey says on the back of the book: “a boot-camp-in-print.”

If I had hoped to see anything that wasn’t thoroughly mentioned it would be a treatment of the gifts God gives to each of His people to build His body. It seems it would be helpful for a pastor/church planter to not only see his role as one that God has gifted him for but also to have a healthy grasp of how he is but one part in the whole of the varied parts of the body. And building a healthy “every member functioning properly” perspective into his church could only help further church health and mission.

Even if you don’t agree with everything in the book it seems that almost everyone thinking of seeking the position of pastor or church planter should read this book and be forced to wrestle with what is found here.

Who Should Read It:

Overall I found this to be a very helpful book covering a host of topics that should be one of the top books any of the following should read:

1. an aspiring pastor/church planter,

2. an existing pastor/church planter who hasn’t really received much instruction in these areas, and finally

3. church members and leadership searching for elders or pastors.