Sociologist Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist introduced us to the term moralistic therapeutic deism. They came up with this term as a result of a study funded by the Lilly Endowment called “National Study of Youth and Religion” to describe the spiritually of today’s youth. You can learn more about their study in their book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005).
You may wonder why I would begin a short blog on preaching by introducing this concept. Unfortunately much of our preaching or at least my preaching has reflected this, or perhaps our youth reflect our preaching. The essence of moralistic therapeutic deism preaching is that we give them a little morality. It’s therapeutic in that it makes them feel better, and we back it up with a little God or little god.
Can you relate? Let’s get confessional! Let me suggest an alternative to this approach when it comes to our preaching.
Why not preach the gospel-centered messages?
First, let me suggest that gospel-centered preaching isn’t talking about relevant stuff and making a beeline to a gospel invitation. That may have gospel in it, but it’s not what I’m referring to when I suggest that we should take a gospel-centered approach to our preaching.
Second, gospel-centered preaching begins with a basic understanding of the gospel. I hear people ask all the time, “Isn’t this elementary?” The answer is no! This is fundamental and foundational. The gospel at its core is an announcement of what God has already done. Much of our preaching outside of the gospel offers some good or sage advice, but it’s not the gospel. It’s not an announcement that God has redeemed us, he is renewing us, and he will ultimately restore all things.
Third, the gospel is the story of God from Genesis to Revelation. It’s the meta-narrative of creation, rebellion, rescue, redemption, renewal and restoration. When we preach a text it should always be taught in the context of the gospel or it is ultimately being taken out of context. When this happens we always revert to either moralism or relevance.
Finally, the gospel is all we need. For years I understood I was saved by grace. I understood that I had nothing to add to God rescuing me from sin. However, I thought that once I was saved by grace I had to work really hard to grow. I had a grace plus works mentality. Since then I have discovered that I’m not simply saved by grace, but I grow by grace as well. In other words the gospel is all I need. If this is indeed true then this alone should shape the way we approach the responsibility of preaching. If I don’t give you the gospel I don’t have nothing to give you, regardless of how eloquent I sound or dapper I look. Is this not what Jesus is telling us in the following parable, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29, NIV).
As a disciple maker "when are we successful" is one of the question we ask the leadership of the churches we work with. Another way of stating it is "What does a disciple look like in our context?"
This is a question that I've spent hours pondering. I've read through the Sermon on the Mount a thousand times. I've poured through the entire New Testament time and time again looking for the right metrics.
In a recent conversation with David Rhodes a fellow disciple maker it all came together for me in my context. From the vantage point of my own unique passion for simplicity, my context of working with pastors in the US and around the world, and my own unique community or faith tribe here's the metrics that came out of my conversation with David.
- Hears the voice of God and puts it into practice.
- Reflects the character of Jesus and is becoming like Jesus.
- Has a kingdom vision and is living with a sense of purpose.
- Is part of a larger redemptive community and extends it to others.
- Helps other do the same by reproducing themselves.
Pretty simple and it should be. What do you think? What's your metrics for success? What does a disciple look like in your ministry context? What makes your metrics unique?
There’s a kind of resurrection that occurs. We walk in darkness. It’s our natural state. We are born into it. At first we are unaware. Slowly it becomes more and more apparent. Seeing, we don’t see. Hearing, we don’t hear. Nor do we understand. Then something happens. A light shines through our darkness. This light reveals our darkness. We must choose. This light is the good news announcement. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In that moment we recognize that we are more wicked than we ever imagined, but God is more merciful than we could ever deserve.
In that moment we stand on the threshold of the Kingdom of heaven. We ponder our dilemma. We repent...in that moment we have a change of mind. In that moment we see things differently. In that moment our hearts are changed…we are given a new heart.
We have entered the narrow path. We have been redeemed. Purchased with a price. Like a merchant seeking the finest of all treasures and finding it, God sells all to purchase us. The purchase price is the life of Jesus, through the shedding of His blood.
We are overwhelmed. Our tears are met with a humble prayer. “Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” In that moment He already has. There is now no condemnation. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. I am more than a conqueror. We all are!
Now I walk in the light. I no longer have to earn God’s approval. Like I could in the first place. I now have God’s approval. God’s approval is the essence of my new heart. It’s why I now walk in the light.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was driving down the road. I had robbed my kids of the wonder, beauty and mystery of the gospel. I had not only allowed religion to rob me, but it had robbed them.
My motive was right. I didn’t want to expose them to my checkered passed. I wanted to protect them. I didn’t want them doing the things I did. I thought the best way to keep them safe was to keep silent and live a good Christian life in front of them.
I was wrong.
At the time of this revelation my son was deployed to Afghanistan. He would have to wait. My daughter was twenty years old and home from college. I would start with her.
It was a fall afternoon. I sat in my favorite leather chair. She sat across from me. I started with, “I owe you an apology.” She replied, “For what?” I pressed on, “I haven’t been honest with you. I need to tell you about my past.”
I had her attention.
I spilled my guts.
I told her about my rebellious years. I appropriately told her about the years of drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. I came of age in the seventies. It was a wild ride. I was saved out of sin, not from sin.
She took it all in. After a long silence she spoke up. “Dave (my son) and I talked about how we could never live up to you and your standards. To be honest Dad, we’ve sort of given up.”
In my attempt to protect my kids I had put them at the greatest kind of risk. Unknowingly I had hidden the very light I so wanted them to see and embrace. Without even knowing it I had displayed a kind of self-righteousness. A self-righteousness that they had decided they couldn’t achieve. I was good at it.
As I told her my whole story it put the gospel in context for the both of us. I was an ordinary man. God did for me what I could not do for myself. It also did something else. It let me off the hook. I no longer had to live up to a self-imposed standard. I was free to be myself and to become fully who God wanted me to be; and for me more important so was my daughter.
The good news is we can come out. We no longer have to hide behind religion.. We no longer have to make excuses for our sins or seek to cover them up. Our sins have been dealt with. We are okay. No, we are better then okay. We are complete!
God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has redeemed us, He is renewing us, and ultimately He will restore all things. He is rewriting our story. It is a story to be shared.
Religion is that thief. The gospel is that life. And the having it to the full is our life in the gospel. The truth is we can never live up, but nor do we have to. The gospel is all we need.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10, NIV).
Application: Don’t hide behind religion…share your gospel story!
Let’s face it discipleship language isn’t sexy. If we are completely honest it’s somewhat generic. Now before you pounce on me I’m a discipleship guy.
Yet when I work with churches I’m discovering that there is often a gap between their rhetoric and reality. I was recently with a group of senior leaders who are in the process of building a discipleship culture. In spite of their commitment something is missing. They are quick to recognize it. They say, “We are committed to making disciples that makes disciples, but our leaders don’t think we have a vision.”
It’s understood that language creates culture. In this case their lack of language is creating tension. It appears to be even slowing down and stalling out their intent to develop a robust discipleship culture.
Could the answers be as simple as creating or crafting a new, clear, or/and compelling language. Probably not! The issues seemed to be much more complex. Yet crafting a discipleship language may be the first steps.
When Jesus invited his first disciples to follow him he used a metaphor that screamed from their context. “Come follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men”.
In Innovating Discipleship by friend and Ministry Partner Will Mancini talks about three types of results. They are:
· Input Results – the number of people and dollars that come “into” the church.
· Output Results – the actual life-change outcomes that God intends for followers of Christ individually
· Impact Results – captures the broader effect of the church in the surrounding city or community.
Notice the language Jesus used in his calling of his first disciples. It is filled with output and impact results. “I will make you to become (output) fishers of men (impact).”
Connect your discipleship language with output and impact results and see what happens. For Jesus it might look something like this if he had couched it in mission language, “Transforming everyday fishermen into extraordinary fishers of men”. Regardless they left all to follow him.
Need help with your vision language. Hit me up me at email@example.com.
Will Mancini, Innovating Discipleship (Church Unique International Leaders Series; 2013), Location 213-225.
I work hard at being healthy. I haven’t always, but since turning fifty I’ve worked at turning back the clock. Most people think I’m in my forties (or at least I like to think they do) and I can keep up or outpace most people in there 20’s and 30’s. One of the reasons I work really hard at being healthy is I hate being sick.
Up until a week ago, I haven’t been sick with so much as a cold in over three years. I’ve learned over time that the key to good health is exercise, nutrition, and rest. All three are important, but we tend to underestimate the importance of rest in building an optimal you.
From a physiological perspective growth doesn't happen when we exercise, but when we rest. Proper rest always creates a better version of you. I was reminded of this recently. I tend to cram in my workouts around my travel. On Wednesday evening I returned home from a trip and immediately jump into an intense Crossfit workout called a chipper where we did 60 calorie row, 50 knees to bar, 40 wall ball, 30 cling and jerks, and 20 muscle ups. The next morning less than twelve hours later I went back to my Box and did another intense workout. These back-to-back workouts wreaked my body. Why? Because I didn’t give my body time to recover between workouts. I didn’t rest. One week later I’m still paying for it with a good ole summer cold.
God designed us to work hard and to rest hard. In His creative genius He pause each evening of the creation week and reflected on the goodness of each day as He rested. In six days he created the heavens and the earth and then created a seventh day where he took pause as He devoted it to rest. When He gave us the Ten Commandment, He included this day of rest as a Sabbath that is to be kept holy. In many ways rest is Holy.
When we rest we recover, replenish, re-center, and God recreates a healthier and better you. Our best gift to others is a rested you. From a ministry and/or work perspective every person or client deserves a well rested you.
Our foundation for rest is the gospel. Sometimes we fail to rest because of religion. Religion tells us we have to work hard to earn God’s favor or forgiveness. Religion tells us that we are never good enough. Religion tells me that if I can do or not do this then I will earn God’s approval or the approval of others. In religion there is no rest.
The gospel is an altogether different story. Jesus invites us to rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Every Rabbi had a yoke. A yoke was his interpretation of the Law, which included the Ten Commandments and 613 other laws in the Torah on Jewish life. For every Rabbi there was hundreds of smaller laws know as “hedges” designed to form a fence or hedge around the written law in order to protect it. These small laws along with their oral interpretations formed a very specific way of life unique to the each Rabbi forming a yoke. These various yokes were known for being heavy and burdensome.
Jesus to the contrary has a yoke. His yoke is easy and light. His yoke is the gospel. His gospel is the good news announcement that He has redeemed us, He is renewing us, and He will ultimately restore all things.
This changes everything. Now I no longer have to do in order to earn God’s favor. Now I do because I have God’s favor. I have a whole new heart. I have an entirely new motivation for living. I can now live from a deep well from within. When I rest I draw from this deep well. When I rest I able to reflect on the goodness of the gospel. It’s this goodness that recreates me.
It’s this gospel that reminds me that I have God’s approval. It’s because of this approval I can now rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I wanted to take a moment and encourage some of my Facebook Friends living in Cumming, GA to check out really awesome way to get and stay healthy and have a lot of fun while you do it. For me and Tami this means Crossfit at Crossfit Stand.
About four years ago I made a commitment to get healthy. I lost over 50 LBS at one point. I've gained about 15 of it back in mostly muscle. At 55 years old I'm doing stuff I had no idea I would ever do. I am literally enjoying the health I enjoyed as a much younger adult. This past year after a year into Crossfit I competed in the Crossfit Open a worldwide Crossfit competition. I finished 313 in the world in my age division out of about 4000 who entered and just over 2000 that completed the competition over five weeks. Next year my goal is to be in the top 200 and advance to the qualifying round with a shot at the World Games.
Regardless if you are a 55 year old maniac (me), soccer mom, competitive athlete, or retiree Crossfit can and will improve your quality of life. Where else can a 55 year old compete with some of the best and fittest athletics in the world, build incredible relationships with all kinds of people, improve their health and appearance weekly, learn and grow in the area of nutrition, run a mile, 100 push ups, 200 sit-ups, 300 air squats, and run another mile in less than an hour (Murph), and share a hobby with their spouse of 35 years. We have one simple goal when it comes to health: to live a healthy life and enjoy doing it.
I've said all this not to brag or boast, but to encourage you. If Tami and I can do it, so can you. And, there's no time like now to get started. We have an incredible opportunity coming up at Crossfit Stand our local Box where we workout.
If you dare and I pray you do check out the information below and give Mariah a call. She is absolutely awesome as well as our entire crew. You will also want to check out Crossfit Stand Facebook page. If you need someone to talk you over to the other side hit me up.
Our next Foundations class starts next Monday, June 1! If you are ready to start your health journey with us, give us a call. Classes are M/W/Th at 6:30pm for two weeks! In the Foundations course we give you the keys to success; including diet, proper form, mental outlook, and beginner workouts! For more information or to RSVP contact Mariah; firstname.lastname@example.org or (678)316-0656
Every Lead Pastor is responsible for financing the mission. As a Lead Pastor you have to own it. We can delegate a lot of the responsibilities to the financial team, business administrator, or executive pastor, but at the end of the day the buck stops with you. The degree in which your church is funded lands squarely on your shoulders.
At the same time, many Lead Pastors shy away from this role. It’s almost as if they feel less spiritual if they think and talk about issues related to funding the mission. Because of this, it’s not unusual for churches to go under-funded or for significant ministry opportunities to simply never happen.
We could all use more funding. Vision simply has a way of always out pacing our resources. I’m convinced that we can be better funded with a little intentional effort. Here are some best practices for funding the mission that I’ve observed and practiced over the years.
Leaders who fund the mission:
They talk about money. Sometime during the 80’s we got the idea that we shouldn’t talk about money. We went to great lengths to avoid the conversation. We even invited people not to give when we passed the offering plates or baskets.
At the same time, leaders who finance the mission don’t back away when it comes to talking about money. They recognize that it’s their responsibility and they are intentional about talking to their teams, staff, and entire congregation. Not talking about money doesn’t overcome the challenge of financing the mission, it only intensifies it.
They are conservative operators. They expect God to do great things, but at the same time they realize they must live within their means. This often plays out in three common ways:
They help others win financially. They understand that if the people they shepherd win, the church wins. They are intentional about systems being put into place that teach people how to budget, save, and get out of debt. I am convinced that the number one way of financing the mission is a long-term financial ministry. This should be the first thing we staff and fund as a church, and not the last.
They understand the importance of focused campaigns. They understand that a capital campaign is really not a capital campaign, but a spiritual initiative. God uses these times of focused intensity to disciple His people, create movement, and fund his mission.
They are accountable and they communicate. They openly thank people for their sacrifice. They connect their giving with real life change and ministry. They are financially accountable to the body. They create trust. They are over- the-top in communicating through some kind of end-of-the-year report.
Here are five practical applications, based on these practices, you can apply this year.
We would love to help you win in these areas. For your generosity and campaign needs don’t hesitate to reach out to us, the Auxano Team (www.auxano.com), or email me at email@example.com.
Lyle Schaller died this week at the age of 91. I wanted to write a short tribute to him for the impact that he had on my life and ministry.
I had the opportunity to spend a day with Dr. Schaller in in the summer of 1996. I had just joined the church planting team of the Home Mission Board (HMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Dr. Schaller was speaking at an event we hosted for many of our church planting leaders across the country. I was the new guy on staff, and was given the responsibility of getting him back to the airport.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, I arranged a lunch with him and a group of church planters. I asked him to critique our church planting approach on our way to lunch. Here is the essence of what he said:
“David, all you church planters are similar in that you are driven by calendar. You are going to plant your church on Easter or some big day regardless if you are ready or not. You need to be driven by milestones, not calendar.”
He continued during the rest of our drive and over lunch to talk about five milestones that we must achieve before we plant a church. They were very simple, yet profound. I know that you probably want the list. The best that I can recall they included: meeting place, worship leader, 30 to 40 spiritual investors (core group), clearly defined niche, and small group structure. Not a bad list!
The list wasn’t the key to what he said. Lists come and go. It was the way he approached the list. You need to be driven by milestones, not calendar. That was the first time I had heard of milestones. He was right - I was driven by calendar. The last church I had planted was launched on Palm Sunday thinking this would give us two big weeks. It did, yet we weren’t ready. We watched our attendance nosedive over the summer and even beyond. We hadn’t achieved our milestones.
This radically changed how we equipped church planters in the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) and beyond over the past 25 years. As part of the HMB, I was a member of a team that developed our Basic Training for Church Planters where we employed Dr. Schaller’s approach to milestoning. This approach was then taught to thousands and even tens of thousands of church planters.
I wonder if Dr. Schaller knew of the impact he had on my life and other church and church planting leaders. I can only hope to have a small percentage of the impact that Dr. Schaller had on the church planting world.
David Putman is founder of PTG and a Lead Navigator for Auxano.