The post The Transition from Makers to Servants of Technology? appeared first on Southern Equip.
This is the second part of a five-part series of blogs that chronicle the journey of a cohort of business leaders who together pursued deeper relationships with God and the integration of the resulting spiritual transformation in their personal lives into their roles as leaders in their businesses, and ultimately into the culture of their businesses as a whole ...
Let me begin by making a claim that many will find rather contentious: Apologetic ministry—the ministry of commending and defending the “faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3)—is a vital and essential part of Gospel-centered, New Testament ministry. To many evangelical laity and non-laity alike, this claim not only lacks the clear ring of truth, but it is much too strong, as it needlessly saddles “ordinary” followers of Christ with the responsibility of being seriously intellectually engaged with ideas. Here, I briefly underscore the Scriptural grounding of apologetic ministry, and why the consistent New Testament witness is that such ministry is an essential component of impactful, Gospel-centered ministry.
In both its noun (apologia) and verb (apologeomai) form, the word “apologia,” from which we get the English word “apologetics,” is used a total of 13 times in the New Testament. To give an apologia for the truth of Christianity both as a set of beliefs and as a way of life is to speak (lego) away (apo) charges brought against it. The word “apologia” is most frequently translated as “defense” in the New Testament and is often used in a legal context as a defendant’s reasoned reply to various accusations (see Paul in Acts 22:1; 25:16; 26:1-2).
I am convinced that the consistent New Testament witness is that pastoral ministry minimally involves both the engagement with and the refutation of ideas and patterns of thinking that are contrary to the Gospel. While a fully-orbed, New Testament portrait of pastoral ministry involves much more than apologetic ministry, it most certainly involves nothing less.
Throughout the pastoral epistles, Paul admonishes those in pastoral leadership to be good stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1) and guardians of a particular set of ideas (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14), namely the “pattern of sound words” that marks out the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul considers the doctrinal content of this deposit of sound teaching to be very precious indeed, so much so that he deems it “good” and worthy of protection, even entrusting it to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:14) and charging him to “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16).
Paul tells us why pastors are responsible for exercising such great care in protecting this good deposit: because it consists of “doctrine conforming to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3) and enables the saints of God to be “sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). There is, for Paul, an intrinsic and organic connection between sound doctrine (literally: “healthy doctrine”) and godly and sound living. And it is precisely this deep conviction that underlies Paul’s urgent plea to those in pastoral ministry to be equipped and ready to “correct,” “rebuke,” and destroy “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). Paul describes his own Gospel ministry as aimed at the strategic dismantling of distinctively ideological strongholds that are contrary to the Kingdom of God, that is, as targeting arguments and lofty opinions (“strongholds”) and aiming to take “every thought captive to the obedience Christ.”
Even more, Paul tells Timothy that the church of the living God is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). “Support” in this context refers to a source of defense or reinforcement. Thus, it is part of the very nature and function of the church of God to reinforce and defend the truth of the Gospel of Christ. And it is, first and foremost, the responsibility of pastors to cast a vision for the local church that is oriented toward an abiding and public concern for the truth of the Gospel, which minimally includes equipping those in their care to gracefully defend it at all costs.
Without question, Paul himself practiced what he preached regarding the vital importance of the engagement of ideas in Gospel ministry. Throughout the book of Acts, we find Paul regularly devoting himself to ministry oriented around the engagement with and refutation of ideas. In Acts 17, we find Paul engaging the intellectual elite in Athens by quoting pagan sources from memory (17:28), as well as ministering to the Jews in Thessalonica even as he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:2-3). Luke even points out that some were persuaded and decided to follow Paul and Silas as a result of his rigorous and public apologetic endeavors in Thessalonica (17:4). In fact, Luke sees fit to emphasize that a ministry of intellectual engagement and persuasion was a regular and customary part of the apostle’s ministry (17:2). For Paul, the principal basis of Gospel proclamation was objective and not subjective, an appeal first and foremost to the truth of Christianity and not an appeal to felt needs.
In fact, in Acts 19:8-10, Luke tells us that in Ephesus, Paul “entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them [the Jews] about the kingdom of God.” After his efforts were met with fierce opposition and resistance, Paul “withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.” Luke goes on to say that Paul’s daily reasoning ministry in the hall of Tyrannus at Ephesus lasted two full years.
What was the impact of Paul’s fervent commitment to a two-year apologetic ministry in Ephesus? We do not have to speculate, as Luke tells us in the very next verse that “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Strategic apologetic engagement yields impactful Gospel ministry.
Likewise, the Apostle Peter offers what is perhaps the most straightforward injunction to engage in the task of apologetic ministry in the New Testament: “… but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…” (1 Peter 3:15). Similarly, in the face of false teaching that threatened to undermine the very lordship of Christ, Jude “felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (3). The word Jude employs for “contend” is epagōnizomai and denotes a deep and earnest struggle, which in the immediate context refers to an urgent struggle against false ideas that are contrary to the truth of the Gospel.
Moreover, Peter offers a clarion call to pastors in particular to “… shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” (1 Peter 5:2). Pastors as shepherds are called to stay out ahead of the flock of God, protecting it and looking out for its spiritual welfare. Yet the flock of God is threatened today not by wild animals but by false ideas that are hostile to the Gospel and corrosive of an abundant life in the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
Consequently, the New Testament teaching and practice regarding pastoral ministry minimally involves (1) being a good steward and guardian of the truth of the gospel (Acts 17, 19; 1 Timothy 1:3, 4:6; Titus 1:9), and (2) staying out ahead of the flock of God, protecting it from all that might threaten to subvert Christian commitment (1 Peter 5:2). As a result, pastors should themselves aim to be competent in and strive to equip leaders for training in apologetic ministry.
Yet, in my experience, it is often the case that apologetics has a severe public relations problem among evangelical Christian laity and non-laity alike. The very word “apologetics” tends to invoke a host of thoughts and emotions, chief among them being that apologetics is strictly for those who tend to be more cerebral, heady, and at home in the world of science, history, philosophy and cultural studies. Apologetics, it is often thought, is more like optional leather trim than a standard operating feature of Gospel-centered ministry.
Yet, at its root, apologetic ministry is a ministry of service; it serves both to help pave the way of Christ for non-Christians as well as to answer what theologian Avery Dulles calls “the secret infidel in every believer’s heart—that is, a kind of dialogue that takes place between a believer and an unbeliever in a Christian’s mind.” And as a Christ-centered Gospel ministry, speaking or reasoning away charges to the Christian faith ought to take place in the manner of Jesus, the master.
As ambassadors for Christ, the task of reasoning and persuading others to embrace the Way of Christ must be—just like any form of ministry done in the name of Christ—“full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), with “gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15), and “with wisdom toward outsiders” in a manner that is always gracious, “as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). Pastors, may we not neglect this essential intellectual dimension of such a noble task.
Not every pastor has the option to stay in the same church for a long time. God might call him somewhere else, a church filled with unregenerate or unresponsive members might force him to leave, or health needs of family members might dictate a move.
I do not mean to lay false guilt on those who have legitimate reasons to leave a church or go elsewhere. I do, however, mean to encourage pastors to default to staying rather than leaving, even in the face of problems.
1. The longer you live in community with people, the more credibility you will have—unless you simply don’t earn and have credibility. Either way, they will know it. There are no shortcuts to credibility, but every day presents plenty of shortcuts to its loss. The pressure to maintain credibility with people is a sanctifying grace that one forfeits with a pattern of short pastorates.
2. Only when you stay for a significant portion of time can you know for certain what the church has been taught and intentionally plan your preaching. You will need know how best to alternate between testaments, genres, law and gospel, and set a homiletical lens so they learn a strategic grasp of the Scriptures and it’s redemptive-historical framework.
3. Nearly every pastor will face a crisis of leadership in the church at a one-year, three-year, five-year, and nine-year mark (give or take a year at each point). If a pastor survives his one-year crisis but decides at the three-year crisis that he’s not going to stay (usually saying something like “I can’t put my family through that again,”), then he has to start all over again somewhere else. And he’ll have a one-year and a three-year crisis there, too. He may be in danger of one day claiming to have 30 years experience in ministry, when in fact he has 3 years experience ten times.
4. The temptation to preach old sermons at a new church setting is too great for some to resist, but rehashing old, familiar stuff will lead to spiritual dryness. Preaching old sermons leaves more discretionary time, but it’s time that a pastor doesn’t usually want anyone to know he has (Who wants your congregation to know you spent less than thirty minutes looking over an old sermon?). Consequently, he’ll fall into a pattern of looking busy when he’s not, at best wasting time on silly things, at worst spending time on illicit things. Sin usually flows in the direction of discretionary time. The necessity to be fresh and preach books, sections, and texts that your congregation has never heard before is a tremendous grace and discipline in a pastor’s life, but that necessity is only there when he stays someplace for a longer period than he has sermons for.
5. Moving is tough on families. I certainly applaud those men who do it out of the necessity of a calling, but I pity the families of men who do it out of personal ambition, laziness, or greed. A pastor’s wife, for instance, has enough challenges facing her in developing meaningful friendships and having ministry impact without also having to start over every three years.
It’s best for both the health of a church and its pastor for him to dig in and plan on staying for the long haul.
This is the first part of a five-part series of blogs that chronicle the journey of a cohort of business leaders who together pursued deeper relationships with God and the integration of the resulting spiritual transformation in their personal lives into their roles as leaders in their businesses, and ultimately into the culture of their businesses as a whole ...
The post A Monastery of the Heart: Resisting Wrathfulness in a Hateful Culture appeared first on Southern Equip.
Dear Dr. Craig,
As a former New Atheist and student of philosophy in United Kingdom, I have found your arguments for a creative intelligent mind behind the origin of the universe rather fascinating and compelling. Though, I have several insoluble dilemmas which I wonder if you could unpick and make sense of.
First of all, you invoke the KCA as your initial premise for belief in God (a God who created something rather than nothing). You're argument I believe to be valid, but listening to your debate with Dr. Lawrence Krauss, you said some interesting things which in-turn could provide a problem for the KCA and indeed the argument you use from Leibniz.
Your answer to the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?", was essentially the KCA, or in other words, God is the explanation for this question ...
As I teach on how to know God’s will for your life, the aspects that I encourage people to consider are not simply ‘easy steps to know God’s will.’ Rather they are more like ingredients in a cake – all are important. They are all to be included, and are all biblical. No one of them should be disregarded as unimportant. I have written on this process at length in The Missionary Call, and have blogged about the “Eight Essential Components for Discerning God’s Will.”
Here, I want to develop an aspect of seeking counsel that is often reduced merely to asking advice from friends.
We generally consider seeking counsel to be approaching the “grey-beards” in our lives, those who are older, who walk closely with God, who have made wise decisions in their own lives, and asking them their thoughts on a matter. This is crucial to do, and I always strongly encourage people to take advantage of this resource as these dear saints are a grace gift from God to each of us. They have watched us grow in our Christian life and witnessed the times when we ran ahead of God or lagged behind His leadership. It is such a blessing to be able to lay our dilemma before one who knows and loves and us and seek their counsel.
Yet, counsel also comes from even older saints as well.
How technology has changed missions
We live in a technological age that is rapidly changing how we do business, banking, education, and on and on. Certainly there are disadvantages of being constantly in touch with everyone who demands our time and attention, and the anxiety caused by information overload is evident in the harried, hurried lives we live. Only the…
We live in a technological age that is rapidly changing how we do business, banking, education, and on and on. Certainly there are disadvantages of being constantly in touch with everyone who demands our time and attention, and the anxiety caused by information overload is evident in the harried, hurried lives we live. Only the…I love to read missionary biographies, and I always have one or more going. I keep them on my nightstand, in my carry-on, downloaded onto my Kindle, and have entire shelves in my study dedicated to these biographies–including many favorites that I re-read from time to time.
Reading missionary biographies is another way to seek counsel that allows us to peer into the lives of those who went before us, who ran the race and finished well, and lets us glean from their life lessons to gain the wisdom and insights that we need for decision-making and growing in personal discipleship.
Here are a five specific reasons why reading missionary biographies is wise and helpful to gain needed counsel from those who went before.1. Embracing a call
We are able to “watch” other missionaries struggle with their call to missions, learn how their family members came to accept this new life the Lord had given them. There is something powerful about overhearing another’s call to ministry that puts our own in perspective. It is amazing how much we can relate to a brother or sister from a former time as they walked–or wrestled–with the biblical, theological, practical, and logistical concerns connected to accepting a call. We almost sense that we are walking with them as they leave their lives that had been so planned out in order to embrace radical abandon to the newly discerned will of God.2. Getting started in missions
We find Christian companionship as we walk with others through their search to find a sending agency, raise support, and answer objections from their dearest relations regarding their “crazy” decision to leave for missionary service in foreign lands.3. Pushing through the hard times
We are encouraged when we read of their disappointments, setbacks, frustrations, and how ministry-stopping challenges melt away through their perseverance and persistent trust in God.
Sometimes the pastor whom missionaries had poured into for years, spent long hours to disciple, and promoted among others as the “real deal” falls away and returns to the world. At other times the new couple that had answered the call to come join them in the work is turned back by a family crisis or denied visas by bureaucratic red-tape. Knowing that others before us faced and overcame similar setbacks can encourage us along the way.4. Examples of recovery from sin
While many new missionaries are well versed in biblical teaching about living the Christian life, reading missionary biographies allows us to see “Christianity with skin on.” Reading of occasions when they sinned, lost their cool, became frustrated with or separated from other missionaries or nationals, but then pressed through to the grace side of it all gives us hope.5. Missions education
Missionaries in the past faced many of the same cultural, missiological, methodological, and relational challenges every missionary will face. Reading the stories of their lives provides a missions education that is more than mere speculation. It is the actual story of receiving and giving grace over and over again, finding the keys to reaching and teaching new cultures, and planting churches in gospel-hostile places.
Whether the book is a missionary’s complete biography, an autobiography, or story of an event in missions history, lessons can be learned that will benefit and offer counsel for missions ministry today. I cannot count the numbers of missionaries I will need to look up when I get home to tell them thank-you for needed counsel.
Their stories are not inspired or infallible, and certainly not authoritative prescriptions for the way missions must be conducted today, but I believe the Lord caused their stories to be preserved for us today and that we would be wise to learn from their hard-won lessons. Listen to their counsel, because “being dead they still speak” and teach us today.Take up and read
Some excellent missionary biography “counsellors” to get you started include:
- The Autobiography of John Paton: Thirty Years Among South Seas Cannibals
- Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
- The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
- Jungle Pilot: The Gripping Story of the Life and Ministry of Nate Saint by Russell Hitt
- Bruchko: The Astonishing True Story of a 19-Year-Old American, His Capture by the Molitone Indians, and His Adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age Tribe by Bruce Olson
- Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
- A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
- Uncle Cam: The Story Of William Cameron Townsend, Founder Of The Wycliffe Bible Translators And The Summer Institute Of Linguistics by James and Marti Hefley
- To The Golden Shore: The Life Of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
- Faithful Witness: The Life & Mission Of William Carey by Timothy George