Category Archives: Ministry

JOSH HARRIS…A WARNING TO ALL OF US

Many things could and should be said about Josh Harris’s announcement that he has left both his wife and Christian faith. I offer here a few things that strike me as underappreciated by many Christians. More seriously, I also think the case can be made that these areas completely pass under the spiritual radar for far too many of us.

Be Sad, but not Surprised

The Bible makes it clear that you can cast out demons and not be a Christian (Mt. 7:21-23). Since that is true, it means that you can be a pastor, missionary, memorize lots of Scripture, lead people to faith in Jesus, and a whole bunch more, yet not be a Christian.

We American Christians are impressed with behavior. Our models for Christian growth tend to focus on what people do, not who they are. Don’t misunderstand. I am a big believer in sharing my faith, memorizing Scripture, and reading the Bible. However, Scripture warns me that these important practices for Christian growth can also be done for less than honorable reasons. Though terribly misguided, it is impressive to see someone who pours gas on his own body and then lights himself ablaze as a human torch. We’ve seen this occur from time to time in various protest movements. Such a stunning sacrifice, yet the Bible makes clear that this incredible act can be done completely devoid of love (I Cor. 13:3, NASB).

I’ve done open-air preaching on the campuses of Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. I’ve also done open-air preaching on the streets of Boulder, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. Impressive, eh? I can tell you, however, that these were much easier to do than gladly serving my family when I am tired physically. People may be wowed by the public preaching, but I can attest that it was much easier to do than serving my family in obscurity.

Biblical Illiteracy is Causing Much Damage

I’m sixty-one years old. I’ve been in various ministries for over forty years. In many places where Christians congregate, I’ve seen a precipitous drop in biblical literacy. A few months ago, I asked a group of ten college students, all from evangelical backgrounds, whether they had heard at least one sermon on the book of Lamentations. Not one of them had. Here you have a book of the Bible that has much to say in our current cultural moment and yet many are unaware of its riches. I should add that the book of Lamentations is not difficult to understand. The message of Lamentations is certainly difficult to accept which maybe offers some reason why so many preachers steer clear from preaching through it. Sadly, many miss this life-giving book of the Bible that offers unvarnished language for grieving when the unthinkable happens in our life.

Taking Every Thought Captive

In II Corinthians 10, we read that we are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The battle always begins with our thoughts. All of us marinate on things that are ungodly. More than a few of these would be embarrassing to admit to anyone, but a loyal friend. Even then, it is risky. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who will provide a godly and safe environment to give voice to your darker thoughts? Answer: you are left to your own devices, and Scripture makes clear that going it alone is deadly.

I’ve seen this scenario play out before. A person has certain gifts that many are unwisely enamored with. The gifts cause the person to be elevated far past their maturity in Christ. In too many cases, the “indispensable” person is promoted to a position of Christian leadership when their own faith in Christ is uncertain. This, in most cases, only becomes evident later on when the damage is done.

During my various interviews for pastoral positions at four evangelical churches I was never asked about my own walk with the Lord. Everyone seemed quite happy that my two seminary degrees came from the right schools. One evangelical pastor, also with the right pedigree, only asked me about my ministry strategies for motivating church-attending men who are apathetic. In all the interviews, only one asked me about my relationship with my wife, but rather predictably, he is a professional counselor!

Where to Go from Here?

Instead of offering a grocery list of suggestions, and there are several things to consider, allow me to give one. When you think of your own life and the lives of the Christians in your orbit, focus on one thing: Who/what is loved most and why? If our communities are getting healthier, we should be free to say, “I love ministry more than God. I get more excited about shopping or golf more than anything else. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. Please help me with this.” May this be the kind of Christian communities that we build to His glory and our good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’M DESPERATE!

When people ask Pastor Tim Keller why he reads so much, he simply says, “I’m desperate.”  Keller is desperate for insight to help himself and others.  I resonate deeply with this sentiment.  In fact, it seems very odd to me that any Christian, especially pastors and those in full-time vocational ministry, would be needing to explain/justify the need to read.  I should also say that I am constantly stunned by how many pastors and those in full-time vocational, Christian ministry do not read or read books not worthy of their time.

I was recently asked by a friend about my own reading habits.  Here is what I told him:

I usually have a book with me wherever I go. I have them for appointments so don’t mind at all when someone is late! If I have a package to take to the post office, a book will be with me. And the DMV or waiting for a haircut are great times to read. You get the picture. There are lots of places/times to redeem the time.

On top of these haphazard things, I read intentionally 50-60 important books per year and peruse hundreds. The 50-60 include lots of highlighting, marginalia, and then sifting out what is most beneficial for teaching, discipleship, and writing projects. I also read several dozen journal or magazine articles.

As I get older, I am rereading the most formative books in my own personal canon. So The Great Divorce was recently reread. Interestingly, C.S. Lewis famously said legitimate readers are re-readers of important books. I think that is true.

Of course, I am always reading Scripture which this year means 2-4 chapters of meditative reads with note taking and highlighting. Scripture memory and review are daily disciplines which go back over forty years ago to my early college days. Then ten verses of my Greek NT along with some vocabulary review and basic grammar.

People regularly mention that I have a good memory.  I think that is true to some extent.  However, let it be known that review, review, review is a major staple of my life.