Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ministry Mythbusters

I had the great privilege this morning of sharing the message at Calvary, as Pastor Chuck is away for two weeks. I chose to talk about how God views us volunteers as ministers. Some of the main teaching points were blowing away four myths about ministry.

Ministry Myths
1. Clergy / staff do the ministry. Volunteers help.We are the ministers. Equippers support us.Eph 4:11-13
2. I don’t have any gifts. I’m not involved in ministry.Every believer in Christ has a spiritual gift and a ministry.I Cor 12:4-11
3. Ministry is what happens inside the church.Ministry happens everywhere, whenever we serve others.I Pet 4:10-11
4. Full-time ministry is a special calling reserved for a select few.We are all called to full-time ministry.Col 3:17-24;  I Pet 2:9

Why does this matter?
When you see yourself as a full-time minister, as someone who seeks to serve God and love others all at times, in all places, relying on the Holy Spirit… it transforms your life. This is not a call to do more – but to let God do more.
This is being who God wants you to be, and doing what He wants you to do. The cool part? In doing so, you become more you. We no longer merely 'pitch in' out of a sense of duty, nor do we do something natural within our own strength, but we begin to let the Spirit work through us and transform our heart until our ministry becomes a passion.

If you are a follower of Christ, you have been
… uniquely created by God for works of service,
… gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve others,
… given authority by Jesus to minister in His name,
… strategically placed in your current home/job/church.

Will you step up to the call of being a full-time minister, with the ministry of living out Christ in you?

Download the Audio of the sermon as MP3
View or Download a PDF of the sermon slides

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Soulprint of Character Development

Today I received my copy of "Soulprint," Mark Batterson's new book. I'm about a half-way done and think it's his best one yet. There's a paragraph I wanted to share with you. Batterson is describing the trials and disappointment and failures David went through before he became a man (and a king) after God's own heart -- trials that led to his writing some of the best-loved Psalms: 23, 51, and 142.
"You may not want to be where you are. Maybe you're wrestling with depression or reeling from a mistake that seems unforgivable, or you're just plain sick and tired of being sick and tired. Dare I suggest that God is cultivating character? How do I know that? Because you are His masterpiece! He is chipping and chiseling. And like a half-finished piece of art, it may not look beautiful yet. But God always finishes what He starts, as long as we don't quit on Him. So you may not like your present circumstances, but they may be the key to your character development. And character development is the key to your future."
I'm glad God finishes what He starts, and that no matter what we're going through, God wants to bring good out it (Romans 8). I think it's very true that often the good is the transformation of our heart and character, whether or not we recognize it at the time. As I look at my own life and those of friends and co-workers... wow, it seems like God really loves character development!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Digging Deeper

Today at Calvary Baptist Church our Children's Ministry revealed a huge project they will be undertaking in 2011. We will be partnering with Living Water International to dig a well in Honduras. The kids will be doing a number of projects to raise $5,000 to pull this off, and we're really excited for this opportunity to provide clean drinking water for a village that right now is suffering greatly from the lack of any clean water supply. We're calling this "Dig Deeper in 2011", doing both this well project in combination with a focus on the kids (in partnership with parents) digging deeper in their faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. We've launched a Dig Deeper page on our website and even a new blog by our Families Ministries Director, Amy Anthony.

As cool as this is, it got a bit personal this morning when the family got home from church today after the Dig Deeper project was revealed, and after each kid got a water bottle filled with mud and junk as an object lesson. I asked my three boys what they learned in class today and they mentioned their bottles. I explained that many kids in Honduras have to drink water just like that, and they asked how we could help them. Oh my goodness... for the next full hour they had non-stop questions about wells, water, sickness, Honduras, and how they could make a difference. As we sat at the lunch table we learned all about what the kids there eat (beans, tortillas, bananas, eggs, meat and cheese), how they had to walk two hours just to get their water. We pulled out the globe and hunted down Honduras on the map. We saw that it was almost identical in size to Indiana (both 100,000, and even similar populations (8 vs 6.5 million). My wife shared it was the third poorest country in the whole Western Hemisphere (after Haiti and Nicaragua). Each of my sons in turn took their hand and placed it on the globe over Honduras and prayed for the country. One prayed they would be healthy and safe. My oldest prayed they would find a great place to dig a well and that we could raise enough money to help them. My youngest boy prayed that the kids there would stay healthy long enough for us to get the well built and not die first (gasp, that one shocked me). Our boys are very excited that they and other Calvary kids will actually be working this year to save lives of these families in Honduras. I'm definitely excited, and hope you are too!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review - Radical

"Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream" by David Platt is a powerful and exceedingly challenging book that provokes Christians to examine what it really means to abandon all for the sake of the Gospel, and invites us to choose radical obedience to Christ and His mission. The book is not aimed (just) at pastors, but at all Christians. Platt himself is the Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a thriving church of 4000 whose members are making an impact on their community and across the globe.

The book is not easy to read. While the style is clear and the message not hard to understand, throughout the book Platt goes over the top slamming his perception of those in American churches today: "I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe." From the very start he examines the type of radical commitment and obedience Christ expected from His disciples. The lifestyle of American Christians and the vitality and depth of obedience of Christians in other countries are put in stark contrast. The next two chapters talk more about the gospel, and the need to rely on God's power.

In Chapter Four Platt presses strongly that every single Christian needs to be involved in overseas missions, and that almost all of us use the excuse that we 'are not called' to turn our backs on this need. The style here is typical of the rest of the book. He makes some very strong points, shares some appropriate biblical principles, but then makes the case so aggressively and unbalanced, it's hard to stomach and usually more guilt inducing than inspiring. I don't think he intends this - Platt is genuinely passionate about the Gospel and those in need. So much so that Chapter Seven again hammers away at the idea that 'going is urgent, not optional.' I find it amazing that yet another author makes a huge deal of the word 'Go' in the Great Commission: 'Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey...' when in fact the verb and command is to 'make disciples', with the other phrases as helpers. "Go" is not the command, it's literally "While going" or "As you go".

Chapter Five, 'The Multiplying Community', is a powerful discussion highlighting the tremendous need for making disciples and how all of us join together to fulfill God's purpose. "Jesus reminds me that disciples are not mass-produced. Disciples of Jesus - genuine, committed, self-sacrificing followers of Christ - are not made overnight." In too many churches there is no intentional process for developing disciples. People are effectively trained to be receivers of knowledge and blessing, instead of being reproducers. The goal is too often to disinfect the people in the congregation rather than truly disciple them.

Chapter Six addresses an extremely important and practical question, especially for American Christians who live in great wealth compared to the rest of the world. "How much is enough?" Just how do we reconcile the commands of Christ with the lifestyle choices we face in such a country? He challenges the readers to consider what it might look like to abandon all for the sake of Christ, and to better meet the needs of those who have far less. A key idea here is to consider a lifestyle 'cap' - to decide how much is enough, and to give away any income beyond this amount.

Chapter Eight was another tough chapter. The author continually stresses to go to the need, to seek out the dangerous and dive in. He praises a faithful follower of Christ for taking their family overseas to Bangladesh "where they could better glorify God". Excuse me?? Our ability to glorify God depends on where we choose to go? That's unbiblical and unfounded. Stephen would not have glorified God more had he left for more exotic lands. Faithful Sunday School teachers who invest their lives in children and share and model Christ's love in such a way that they bring many to Christ and make disciples who make disciples are in no way bringing less glory to God than if they moved overseas. Another story shared in this chapter was even more disturbing. He talked about the travesty and tremendous waste of the SS United States, which he said was designed to be the best troop carrier the world had ever seen, yet sadly was never used for its purpose. It instead ended up being used somehow as a luxury liner to ferry around rich VIP's. He then made an analogy to the church and losing its purpose. Amazing story - until I looked up the ship. From what I read, it was initially designed to be just that - a luxury liner! In order to subsidize the cost and as a backup plan, the navy paid a fair bit for it to be possible that the ship be able to be converted into a troop carrier in times of war, should the need arise. (Thankfully it did not.) That's quite a different story, and demonstrates the lack of balance that is possible when one strives too hard to make a point. (Which is awkward, because the author's key points are so true, that God is sovereign and that following Jesus Christ is worth far more than whatever we risk.)

Chapter Nine, "The Radical Experiment," was completely unexpected. At this point in the book I was ready for the big challenge to sell all that I had and catch the next plane to the most dangerous country imaginable. Instead what Platt recommended was equal part radical and rationale, including some seemingly easy steps that could profoundly impact our lives. Rather than recommend spiritual bungee jumping, the author dares us to undertake a one year experiment with five components: i) pray for the entire world; ii) read through the entire Word, iii) sacrifice your money for a specific purpose; iv) spend your time in another context, v) commit your life to a multiplying community. Rather than a call to abandon organized religion and institutions that contributed to the problem, Platt makes a passionate case for the importance of being committed and actively involved in a local church. That was quite welcome news. In hindsight, this chapter makes perfect sense. The typical reader is probably someone who is disillusioned with the church, may not be involved in community, doesn't read the Bible as much as they think they should, nor have any involvement in global missions. Several of the things we are challenged to do here have the potential for radical life change. My wife and I spent a year abroad which was completely life-changing. Reading through the entire Bible was the most powerful growth experience in my faith, and praying for the nations does much to keep your eyes and mind Kingdom focused. I will definitely be taking up this challenge in several areas, and prayerfully considering the others.

So... is Radical worth reading? The book reminded me of "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan in many ways. Both hammer home a message of radical obedience to Christ and are challenging in the extreme. If you've read Crazy Love, chances are good you will have a similar reaction to Radical. As you can tell above I had extremely mixed reactions to Radical. It will take much longer to process than to read this book, as I'll need to reconsider the message prayerfully. One beef I have is that God gives all of us different gifts, different passions, and has placed us strategically in a unique setting - there is no "one true pathway" that all must follow to be a 'real' disciple. There really is much of value in the book - my hope is that those who choose to read it will not feel bombarded or guilted out by the author's style, and that they will persevere to the end and accept the challenge of the radical experiment. I especially hope that readers will strive to become reproducing disciple-makers who model obedience to the Gospel in community within their local church. I would caution those who are newer to the faith, or those prone to guilt, to pass on Radical.The best way to read Radical is probably to discuss it within a small group.

Radical was actually a New York Times bestseller, and is available at Amazon and many other retailers. (It's actually quite inexpensive, currently just over $5. A shorter 50-pg companion book, The Radical Question, is also available.) You can also read the first chapter online or check out a few videos on the book. A great resource for praying for the world is Operation World with daily featured countries and prayer requests. See also the book's companion websites - and

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging For Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising".