February 29, 2008

Text And Context (VI) - It's A Wrap

A great week came to a close yesterday as Jenni and I were assessed by three Acts29 church planters. It was a good experience as they asked tough questions but still showed their heart to help us succeed.

After our assessment, we went and had lunch at the Space Needle. If you've never done that, you need to sometime before you meet Jesus. It's a great time. We then began the long journey home which saw us crawl into our beds at 4:00 am this morning.

There are so many things that I will take away from this week and remember. The church planters that I met, the conversations I was blessed to have, the great preaching that we sat under, the hospitality of Mars Hill church, the beauty of Seattle, and the greatness of my wife.

Weeks like this don't happen very often. Maybe once in a lifetime. I'll always be grateful I got to experience it.

Photos and some other stuff still yet to come. But that's all for now...

February 28, 2008

Text And Context (V)

It's over. The conference portion at least. Once again, great roundups over at Justin Buzzard's blog. To be honest, my mind felt like Play-Dough today. I think you reach a point where there is just no more information - no matter how good it is - that you can absorb. And that's what it felt like today. With that said:

  • Jim Gilmore is absolutely amazing. He talked about his book Authenticity today and also did a good Q & A. When it becomes available, you have to download his audio and digest it.
  • The highlight of the day was Driscoll's Q & A, and then to have his wife Grace join him halfway through it was absolutely amazing. I'm going to offer some commentary here. Driscoll was different this week. He just was. And I think a great different. For those who think he's Satan in the flesh, you just have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. This guy is real. He loves his family. He loves Jesus. And he knows his stuff. There was an awesome spirit in the room as he did his session. You just had to be there.
  • Jeff Vanderstelt and Darrin Patrick wrapped up. It was good to hear. And they both have such unique angles from which they approached church planting. I think that's the strength of A29 - its diversity, its intelligence, and its Jesus obsession. These guys embody it.
  • Jenni and I did the tourist thing tonight in downtown Seattle. This is her first trip here so we checked out the fish market and then did dinner. That wouldn't seem like such a big deal except that 1) We had some conflict with two folks who thought homelessness and sitting in front of the Cheesecake factory begging people for food as soon as they step outside of the restaraunt was a good idea. 2) Seattle has to have the highest per capita rate of people walking around talking to themselves loudly. 3) Some sweet lady decided to stalk my wife and I for a few blocks asking for a dollar for the bus ..only problem is we told her around 150 times we had NO CASH on us. 4) *NOTE: THIS WAS SCARY AND SAD - not funny: we literally almost hit a blind lady who was standing in the middle of the street and disoriented yelling at the top of her lungs for someone to help her. It was a really scary moment and one I don't want to experience again.
  • Assessment is early. This is a big moment and I pray that God is glorified in all of the conversation and all of the questions.

We fly home on Thursday. So many things swirling in my head right now. More to come...

February 27, 2008

Text And Context (IV)

What a day! As I wake up this morning to share my thoughts (last night my brain was mush and there wouldn't have been much that was coherent), I'm SO JACKED UP NOW MORE THAN EVER to go plant Eternity.

Is it going to be hard? Yes! Will it be the absolute hardest thing anybody could ever do? Yes! Church planting is not for the faint of heart and neither is the proclamation of the great God we serve.

BUT, I'm ready to go NOW. What God has done here in Seattle has been nothing short of amazing and as you listen to Piper's messages by going here and here, you'll begin to know why I can't walk away and I'll never be able to walk away. No matter how hard it is, no matter what trials may come, I pray and know by the grace of God, I'll never be able to walk away.

And I pray for God's grace and mercy when the trials, suffering, and agony that always accompany church planting or preaching God's word come. I pray for the grace to endure it. I pray for the grace to feel the weight of it. But I pray for the grace to persevere through it. On the flip side, when the joy and the victory and the absolute radical transformations happen in people's lives, I pray for the grace to celebrate it and to glorify God in it.

Other thoughts (you can read more detailed notes about the speakers over at the Buzzard Blog):

  • I had a out of this world conversation with Jim Gilmore who spoke yesterday. Jim is the author of The Experience Economy and his presentation was nothing short of brilliant. And he's a really nice guy too. You gotta read this book and listen to his message from this conference.
  • Seattle is a cool city. Too bad you have to make Bill Gates money to live here.
  • Mark Driscoll is a passionate lover of Jesus - I don't care what the fundies say. And I'm not a Kool-Aid drinker by any stretch but to watch him interact with Piper last night at the Q&A was amazing.
  • I love my wife. I miss my boys. And I pray that I can be a good daddy to them.
  • I wish CJ Mahaney would have preached more than once at this conference.
  • Matt Chandler preached my opening sermon for my church plant. One of his points in his messages yesterday came out of Ecclesiastes and the text he used was "God has placed ETERNITY in the heart of EVERY man". It's a catchy little name for a church - don't you think?
  • I hope and pray that God uses me in a mighty way.
  • The Bible, The Bible, The Bible
  • Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
  • My assessment team coming up on Thursday is an awesome group of men. We had dinner last night as assessors and assessees. They asked good questions. But more than that they showed they cared about us. If you think about it, pray for me and Jenni, but also pray for Steev Inge, Trey Herweck, and Mike Rydman. They are guys who are in the battle and could use prayer.
  • Quote of the week and I'll leave today with this: John Piper to Mark Driscoll after insulting Mars Hill's worship band and Mark shooting back at Piper that he had just insulted his band: "You care about insulting people? What's going on here?" It was a classic moment and one that I'll remember forever....

More to come...

February 26, 2008

Text And Context (III)

For a full wrap-up of yesterday's events complete with pictures, you can visit Justin Buzzard's blog to see notes and pictures.

What I'm going to share is a few thoughts running through my head last night as I downloaded and processed yesterday:

  • Driscoll's message yesterday seemed to be more than just a sermon to this conference. If I heard it right, and I'm thinking that I did, he laid out the marker to say that he (along with others) are going to put for the definition for what a church is. He talked at length yesterday about how he would ask people what a church is and they would tell him they didn't know. That seemed to rankle him and with an upcoming book and yesterday's message, I think you're going to see him take on yet another HUGE task -- namely laying down the parameters for what constitutes a Christian church.
  • Along that note, he took George Barna to task yesterday. There were a lot of names he didn't mention, but he did mention Barna and with force.
  • For those who think Driscoll is not within the realm of "orthodox" Christianity, you really need to get your head screwed on tighter.
  • God (through CJ Mahaney) flat undid my whole world yesterday. I've always said one of the unspiritual gifts was to be able to size someone up and tell them what was wrong with them in the first thirty seconds I knew them. CJ, in the most loving way I've ever seen it done, not only called that unbiblical, but also stated you won't have a church for very long if you can't have a divine perspective. He preached out of the introduction to 1 Corinthians.
  • I've listened to a lot of CJ's messages, but to sit under his teaching live was amazing in that God brought him to this conference to talk to ME. Period. I was (and still am) so messed up I couldn't even think clearly. I was hoping God would do that to me this week. I just hate it when he does cause it hurts BAD.
  • The man (AKA Piper) spoke last night on why he trusts the Scriptures. I agree with Justin Buzzard, I'm going to have to listen to that one a few times to catch it all.
  • The highlight of Piper was watching him trying to find a word for "homeboy" or "homslice" or "homepick" and all he could come up with was "Trinity Partner"...you'll have to listen to the audio to find out what I mean.
  • Any day you have Driscoll, Mahaney, and Piper on the same stage is a good day.
  • My wife is awesome. I love her. And I love being in Seattle with her. 10 great years. And I'm ready for 50 more if God wills.
  • I have more deep seeded passion now for planting Eternity than I did before I got here.
  • This city is beautiful.
  • Mars Hill doesn't look all that great from the outside. But it's an awesome place to be. These people get it.
  • Late night buses with 60+ people smell like a locker room. Please use deoderant when riding mass transportation.
  • God is amazing. I sense Him and am aware of His presence more this morning than I have been in a long time. That has everything to do with my sinful heart. Nothing to do with God.
  • More to come today. I love weeks like this.

February 25, 2008

Text And Context (II)

The first session of the morning was Biblical Stress Management by Dr. Steve Crain. It was a good session.

Dr. Crain really emphasized the point that stress is not a matter of whether you have stressors in your life or not, because we all do and we won't escape them until we die. But truly, stress (it's physical manifestations at least) are a direct result of how we choose to handle those stressors.

He outlined the differences between "distress" (bad) and "eustress" (good).. The first segment of his presentation was on the science of stress and the processes that your body goes through to deal with stressors. He talked about the different stages of stress and really drew a good connection between "distress" and "disease" as one directly leads to the other.

The second part of the presentation was on Biblical responses and approaches to stress. This was really good segment as we camped out mostly in the book of Philippians and substituted the word "stressors" for the words "circumstances" and "trials". I had never really looked at the book as a book on dealing with stress, but Crain drew some good things out and had a fresh approach to it.

The last segment, and by far the part that I'm the worst at, is the actual ways we can physically help how our body responds to stressors and lessen the effects of stressors on us. Things such as diet, exercise, etc. For those who know me, this was the part I probably most needed to hear but checked out on the quickest. :)

All in all, a good session that I was glad I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready to come to. I couldn't help but feel like this was the undercard for what was to come. Driscoll takes the stage in 40 minutes. Don't forget that you can watch it live.

More to come later...

Text And Context (I)

We made it to Seattle and are staying literally in the shadow of the Space Needle...if you look closely on that webcam you may be able to see us walking around...

Flights were good and after a late night bite to eat, it was a good night's sleep...

I hope to blog the speakers today although it'll be streamed live on the web, so I may just give personal reflections. Either way, I think with Driscoll and Piper speaking today, it should be a good one...

More later..

February 24, 2008

A Week That’s Been A Long Time Coming

The journey that began almost eight months ago takes another significant step this week. It's boot camp week and with guys like Mahaney, Piper, and Driscoll as the drill sergeants, it promises to be a good one.

I'm excited for a lot of reasons:

  • Seattle is awesome. I spent a lot of time there in my days with Upward. It's a great city and one that I enjoy being in. If it didn't cost $300,000 for a shanty to live in, I might consider moving there.
  • It's going to be good to get away with my wife for a week and just immerse ourselves in this calling God has placed upon us.
  • It's a chance to stalk (in a totally non-threatening, non-offensive, non-creepy, very Christian way) John Piper. It's funny that a reformation of my heart that began with reading Desiring God some six years ago is going to continue as take another step towards planting Eternity.
  • If you had told me six years ago that this week would be happening, there's no way in the world I would have believed you. God can take you on the most unexpected of journeys. That's the fun part about being a Christian.
  • It's a chance to reflect and crystallize the call.
  • It's a chance eat some good food.
  • It's a chance to live another day.

It all starts with worship this morning at LifePoint. I'm thankful for this church, its leaders, and its people. It's great to be a part of.

Then on to Tulsa, DFW, and Seattle for a late night arrival. And tomorrow starts off with a session by Dr. Steve Crain on "Biblical Stress Management"… (I didn't think church planters had any of that)..

Watch this video for the thrust of the conference…more later…

February 21, 2008

T -3 And Counting

UPDATE: Tim Chester shared his thoughts on my question several hours before I ever posted - what's ironic is that I didn't know he had written the post until several hours after my post...read his thoughts, they are provoking...

We're getting ever closer to what I pray will be a stellar week in the beautiful town of Seattle.

Here is what has been rattling around today:

If you were gonna start a church, and you were headed to that area by yourself (meaning no one was moving with you), how would you go about developing a core group?

  • Who would be the first people you would talk with?
  • What would your strategy be?
  • Would you simply just start walking down the street and telling people you're starting a church?
  • Would you visit other churches in the area?
  • Are there any other key people that you should make contact with?
  • Where would you begin?
I've been thinking about that question for a few months now and I'm have some ideas but I'm curious to hear other thoughts as well. I've read books, listened to sermons, had conversations and the like, but what should the battle plan be for the soldier that parachutes in?

February 20, 2008

It’s The Gospel Stupid (II)

Earlier this week, I shared some thoughts on Tony Payne's address at the Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth event. Today I want to look at the very next point he makes in that address and it is this:

Gospel growth as it happens in people's lives daily is long term and it's slow. The Christian life someone has said is like solar power in that it doesn't happen overnight but it does happen. And that's what it is like. It happens slowly and incrementally and the character of growth is that we demonstrate endurance and patience. It's a process. In other words it takes place over time. It moves on.

Now I know that doesn't sound earth shattering and Tony said the same thing, but just in the last 24 hours God has shown me how I really don't believe this or feel comfortable with this.

I want change in people to happen now. Immediately! Without delay. If it takes any longer than it absolutely has to, you're either A) Not getting it or B) Stupid.

I'm such an impulsive, inpatient, non-enduring person. I've had mentors tell me for a long time that life is not a sprint, it's a marathon. I've never wanted to hear them. But I'm having to listen now. Because I realize that as I plant Eternity, I'm going into this for the long haul. I have to be able to look long term with people. I can't judge whether they've "got it" in just a few weeks or days of knowing them. I have to project out over a much longer timespan to ponder how much God can transform them in 5, 10, or 25 or 50 years.

And what's even crazier is that I don't have to look any further than my own life to prove it. I may not be changing "rapidly" overnight not but I'm a much different man in so many respects at 30 than I was at 20. And I suspect if God should allow me to see 40, I could say the same thing 10 years from now.

But we are so short minded. We are so A.D.D. We don't want growth in people to take place over long periods of time. We want instant gratification. We want fast results. Unfortunately, the Gospel most of the time doesn't work that way.

And that is why I'm glad that the church plant will have the name that it does. ETERNITY. To always serve as a reminder that results may not be immediate. But given enough time, we see the sheer miracles the Gospel has caused.

February 18, 2008

It’s The Gospel Stupid

This weekend I came across a message given by Tony Payne at a recent event that 9Marks and Matthias Media held called "Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth"

It's a great message and you really should listen to the whole thing by right clicking here and downloading the MP3. There were several parts of the message that I'll blog about but the snippet I want to talk about today is:

Read Colossians Chapter 2, it's a terrible indictment of modern Christianity captivated by false religion and by experiential philosophy and by a different Jesus that isn't the Jesus who is preached to us in the apostolic word. And that's why Paul says it here. Don't be seduced by the latest ministry program that promises you a fail-safe secret, a new label, an extra step, a new experience, or dare I say it a second blessing. Don't be seduced by them. It's not about tricks or techniques. It's not about something different. It's about understanding and grasping the word of Christ more and more and more deeply so that it changes your heart and life….Gospel growth is not about moving on or going beyond Christ, we must remember that.

As I prepare to plant Eternity, this admonition is the one I want to grab a hold to most.

Too many churches today are looking for the "silver bullet". Their church is declining, in shambles, or in need of a massive overhaul and instead of correctly diagnosing the problem, they begin to look for the latest "evangelistic" para-church fad that's going to rescue their congregation from the abyss. They believe that it's because they haven't had the right program that things have gone wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Churches aren't faltering because they are using the wrong programs. They're failing because they've had the wrong focus. It doesn't matter how many programs you have at your church, it is all in vein if Jesus isn't the hero.

I recently heard a sermon where the pastor was preaching on a particular subject and it was your general "Seven principles to doing such and such". It was 15 (FIFTEEN) minutes in before the name of Jesus was ever mentioned and even then Jesus wasn't the focus, He was just a principle.

And this is happening all around our country and our world. We want to look to anything but Jesus. We want to make the Gospel "five verses and a prayer" and then move on to our eschatology eight balls because it's cool to speculate how many planes are going to fall out of the sky when the rapture happens. We've missed the point.

It is possible to be seduced by another Jesus that appears in the Bible. It's possible to be seduced by theology. If Jesus (and the Gospel) is not the focus of your theology and your programs, you're leading yourself and other people towards destruction.

The whole focus of the Bible is Jesus and it's crystal clear. But somehow, we've let Jesus get really fuzzy in our churches.

February 15, 2008

“It Don’t Take Long For A Halo

….to turn into a noose". Ok so I caved in again last night but I must say that it's the most my wife and I have laughed together on Valentine's day in a long time.

However, when I heard this line, I knew I was going to write about it.

Because it's true. You look at the last days and months, and think about all the examples that this is true of. Bobby Knight, Roger Clemens, Kelvin Sampson, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, etc.

There are so many examples out there of folks who at one time or another were darlings and could do no wrong. But then, something changed. Was it the people around them? The rules around them? The culture around them? The authorities around them? What was it?

One thing is for sure, each situation is vastly different but one thing is consistently the same. They are all highly driven people with lofty goals and big ambitions. They put themselves out there, did things the way they thought they should be done, and then "let the chips fall where they man" so to speak. In short, they took risks. They ventured a lot. They went "all in".

And in life, sometimes the very thing that helps you build momentum, is the very thing that ultimately spells your downturn. For a lot of people, it's a big personality. Their charisma gains them a lot of friends and a following and along comes influence. And with influence comes responsibility.

And then, many times in moments of pride and bad discernment, they do something that because their big personality has put them in front, they are more readily exposed. And when you're exposed, and you make a mistake, there's nowhere to turn and hide. You're in full view of everyone.

And when the fall comes, there are inevitably the scoffers, the judges, the critics, and the morticians ready to bury them for falling and ready to heap scorn for their moments of failure.

But the question I want to ask and ponder a little more in this corner of blogdom is this:

What is worse? To stay in the recesses and never venture anything so that it's always others who are risking and taking chances. That's definitely the safe route. You'll never be exposed that way. You'll never know humiliation. You'll never know rejection. It's definitely a pragmatic choice. Or is it better to push "all in" and go for broke. Is it best to lay it all on the table and "let the chips fall where they may". That's definitely the most dangerous route. You're out there for the whole world to see. Every move. Every word. Every decision. And if you make a wrong one, it could cost you big time. It's rewarding. But it's risky. What should a person do?

Is the line "it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" really true? Do we really believe that?

And then, how does that fit in with The Gospel? What does Jesus have to say about this? Are we called as Christians to venture little? How is this issue OR Is this issue affecting the church today?


February 14, 2008

Go On With Your Bad Self

It's been a while since I've just purely linked to another blog post without adding much to it. But this one says a mouthful and says it better than I could.

It seems to me that pastors are shepherds: if there's malnutrition in the flock it may or may not be our fault, but it is most definitely our problem.

You have to read the rest of the article by Michael McKinley over at the 9Marks blog. The question is:
How many churches are out there where the sheep are receiving a steady diet of nothing that will truly sustain their souls?

February 13, 2008

I've Finished Reading "The Discipline Of Spiritual Discernment"

I wish this book had been around when I was 16. Of course, when I was that age, Tim Challies was probably that age as well so he wouldn't have much to say on the subject.

But now he has and this book is a good read for a lot of reasons. Number one, Challies really focuses on the fact that WE are responsible for our personal discernment. We should not be reliant on others to the hard discerning work for us. Ultimately we'll all stand before God and give an account for the choices we made and pawning it off on someone else simply will not do.

Second, Challies drives home the point that discernment must be based on truth. Not on our feelings, not on waiting on a divine magic eight ball to fall from the sky and tell us what we are to do. It's based on truth. I found the chapter on discernment of "God's will" really good. Tim makes the distinction that because there are two types of God's will, the one we waste most of our time trying to discern is typically the one God never chooses to revel to us. It's a helpful chapter that a lot of "mystics" really need to read.

Third, this is a good book because Challies pulls his insights from Scripture and bases them on truth. A lot of his influences have been the same as mine and they are the standard list of good solid reliable truth: MacArthur, Piper, Mahaney, Sproul, Ferguson, Harris et all. So you know he's reading the right people and being influenced in the day to day by people who have spent a lifetime discerning good and evil and movements and fads.

Fourth, this is a good book because Challies knows how to write. He does it every day at his blog (www.challies.com) and his book reflects his ability to keep the reader following along. I have to say that his illustrations and analogies at the start of the chapters were fascinating and appropriate. I enjoyed them and I've heard a lot of illustrations. He did a good job on that part of the book. Challies takes you through discernment and its':

  • Challenge
  • Definition
  • Heart
  • Truth
  • How it interacts with God's will
  • Gift as it relates to spiritual gifts
  • Dangers
  • Practices

Each chapter summarizes the key thoughts at the end of the chapter. There are helpful appendices and resources at the end of the book. He even throws in a study guide if you want to use the book as a group discussion topic.

It's 190+ pages and it's a good easy read. I whole heartedly recommend the book and think you'll get a lot out of it.

February 12, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Respectable Sins"

It's amazing how much reading you can get done during an ice storm with no power. I purchased this book a couple of weeks ago with a gift certificate to Amazon that I had received for Christmas.

I can't really remember off hand how I first heard about it but the title was what really intrigued me. I also wrote a little bit about it a few days ago.

I've read a few of Jerry Bridges' other works and have listened to a few of his messages and lectures via MP3. Other than that, I didn't know a whole lot about him. I have to say that after reading this book, I'm excited to listen and to read some more of his stuff.

If you look at the bio picture on the inside back jacket of the book, you'll see that Mr. Bridges appears to be in his fifties or sixties and I'm sure no one is going to confuse him with Mark Driscoll. And as you read this book, you'll definitely feel many times like it's your grandpa who is talking with you. He seems a little out of touch with 2008 America and his examples aren't really that poignant, but his words are extremely wise, pulled straight from Scripture, and should be heeded.

Bridges does a good job of getting at "the underbelly" so to speak of many things that plague Christian churches today and truly are the sins that are killing the church. He examines:

  • Ungodliness
  • Anxiety and Frustration
  • Discontentment
  • Unthankfulness
  • Pride
  • Selfishness
  • Lack Of Self-Control
  • Impatience And Irritability
  • Anger
  • Weeds Of Anger
  • Judgmentalism
  • Envy - Jealousy - And Related Sins
  • Sins Of The Tongue
  • Worldliness

All things that may not register high on the sin richter scale, but have definitely caused more disunity in churches than the gambling boats or adult video shops in town.

The book is 180+ pages and has 21 chapters so you're looking at about nine pages per chapter. It's a quick read and it's succinct and to the point. There's a brief notes section at the end but no general or Scripture index as they probably are not needed in this one. It's not so much exegesis as it is Bridges' thoughts on what He sees in the Scriptures and what he sees in the Christian practice.

This is a good one. And like I said, don't expect a lot of pop from the examples or illustrations Bridges' uses. But, the value of sitting next to your grandpa and having him share his thoughts on the world is invaluable and you'll get that feeling when you're done reading this book.

I would defnitely recommend it.

February 11, 2008

I’m Guessing That Peter, Paul, And Mary….

Didn't tell people about Jesus because they felt compelled to obey a commandment. I could be wrong, and one day I'll find out. But I have a hunch it wasn't the case.

So imagine my surprise when reading an article recently on evangelism that implored the necessity for all people to evangelize "Our culture that has descended into the deep pit of shameful immorality" and the article used the name of Jesus ZERO times. ZERO. None. Zilch. Nada. Niet. Goose Egg. Doughnut. Empty. To be fair, the word Lord was used ONCE. The word Christ was used ONCE. So it had that going for it.

So we're supposed to tell people about WHO? And we're supposed to do it WHY?

It doesn't take long to find multiple articles, essays, and speculations as to why conversions, baptisms, etc are DOWN in almost every major denomination in the United States. And not just DOWN, but PLUMMETING would be the more proper word to historic lows (or at least lows we haven't seen in almost fifty years).

And as sure as you can find those articles, the answer to fixing the problem almost always goes something like this:

"Now dadgonnit, get out there, fire up the folks sittin in your pews, tell em to start praying fer their neighbor and witnessin to em. But before you do that, tell em they got to start bein righteous and settin a good example for all them shamefully immoral people out there. We all know people ain't gonna come to Jesus if they think we're just a bunch of sinners too. So boys, strap it up, leave here on a mission, and for God's sake start winnin them souls to Jesus."

The one thing that kind of advice is devoid of is the true source of everything we do in the Christian life. Jesus himself.

And I wonder when we're gonna finally own up to the fact that maybe the reason evangelism is non-existent is because the majority of the people in our pews are lost and don't the first clue about who Jesus is. Just a thought.

Because when I think about Peter, Paul, and Mary (not the band mind you), I see people who were brought face to face with exactly who they were, and exactly who Jesus was. I see a people who were not "nominally" associated with a good teacher, but rather radically transformed by God become man. I see people who, by the grace of God, were made transformationally aware of the vast gulf that lie between them and their Creator.

And in that realization came the necessary leap from "have to" to "can't help but to do it". Most people in church are doing things because they feel they "have to". I think, personally, this is a very strong sign of a seriously defective faith in Jesus. Whereas we see in the earliest examples that they couldn't help but to do what they did.

The answer to our defective lives is not "try harder", "do more", "learn more", "organize it better" or "come up with cool acrostics for it". The answer to our defective lives is Jesus. A deepening, growing, thankful, humble, repentant life with Jesus.

Evangelism is not an act. It is a person. It is news that cannot help but be communicated. It is an announcement that cannot be muted. It is a transformation that cannot be dismissed.

And its power lies in the evidence, ethos, and expression of the one who proclaims it.

Instead of "trying harder" or setting numeric goals that are completely man made - maybe it's time for us to take stock of what we call a "Christian" these days and readjust the definition to a more Biblical, Jesus centered, cross-saturated, resurrection rejoicing, and eternity focused one. Maybe it's time for the Gospel to reclaim its rightful place in our lives, our homes, our pews, our preaching, our associations, our denominations, our states, our countries, and our world.

It may be time to really examine why Peter, Paul, and Mary did what they did. And I don't think it had anything to do with "because they were commanded to".

February 08, 2008

A Huge Confession

My conscience won't allow me to go on this morning without confessing right here on The Jonah Syndrome one of my biggest, deepest, and darkest secrets that I'm carrying around right now.

I've deliberated whether I should reveal this or not, wondering if the disclosure might be inappropriate, but I have to get it off my chest. I can't carry it around any more. Please forgive me if what I'm about to say causes you to look at me in a different light. I never meant to hurt anyone.

Last night, in my house, in front of my television --- I watched the first episode of Lipstick Jungle - a new show on NBC.

I didn't want to do it. I tried to look away. I even walked into the kitchen during commercials trying to convince myself not to go back and watch it. But I gave into the temptation. I watched a chick sitcom. And what's worse - I watched the whole hour.

What is happening to me? I'm already a Celine Dion fan. I read Penelope Trunk on a weekly basis. And now I'm watching a sitcom about three female executives in New York and their struggles to be both a wife, an employee, and themselves. Their struggle was so real.

Where can I turn for help? What should I do? Is there any sort of counseling out there that I can get? Can anyone point me in the right direction?

I think I'm still a man. But after last night I'm not quite sure.

Anywho, sorry for crying on your shoulder. I have to go - my cappuccino is getting cold. Pray for me today - I have a hair appointment and then a valentine's dinner tonight. I hear the decorations are going to be "to die for".

February 06, 2008

The Difference Between

Being the assistant coach and the head coach is the difference between suggestion and decision. -- Bob Knight (February 5th, 2008)

There are many people who don't care at all for Bob Knight. Many think he is a bully. Many think he has severe emotional problems. Many think he was a giant hypocrite.

Whatever you think of him, his graduation rates were higher than anyone in college basketball. He never had any NCAA rules violations. His former players (most of them) spoke very highly of him. He had the respect of his former coaches (most of them). And as he himself would say in an interview yesterday, he wasn't sure he had done it all right, but he had done it the way he thought things ought to be done.

And inherent in doing things the way you think they ought to be done is the willingness to accept the criticism, the judgments, the failures, and the summaries of your work.

As I get ready to plant a church, this principle of suggestion and decision is becoming clear to me and I haven't made any really hard decisions yet. But the little ones that I am having to make over the last few days have made for interesting moments.

I've found myself stopping and almost being paralyzed. I'm normally a fairly decisive person but here the last few days I've found myself standing still wondering "Is this the right decision?" or "What if I'm making a mistake?" "Is this going to be the best thing for Eternity?" etc etc…

And when Bob Knight came out with the line I quoted above, I thought that's it. That's what the difference is between going into an established church as an associate pastor or starting a church as a lead planter. That's the difference between working "at a ministry" and beginning a new ministry work. That's the difference between "attending a church" and "overseeing a church".

The head coach takes the arrows. The head coach fields the questions. The head coach puts his livelihood on the line. The head coach gets written negatively about in the papers. The head coach gets judged.

And as each day goes by and little by little pieces get put in place for Eternity, I begin to feel that weight just a little bit more.

Even though the church will be led by a plurality of elders. Even though it will be a team effort. Even though it will take the contributions and sacrifice of hundreds of people one day, there will still be one guy who believed God had called him to plant a church, and a lot of the decisions that I'm making now will either significantly help Eternity in the future. Or it will significantly hinder Eternity in the future.

My appreciation and respect for church planters and lead pastors is growing rapidly. My trust in myself is decreasing fast. My reliance on God and His wisdom is booming.

Because now I've begun something where I'm not just going to be making suggestions. I'm going to be making decisions.

There's a big difference.

February 05, 2008

Amen - Preach It Brother!

My wife's sister gave me a great Christmas present this year by giving me a gift certificate to Amazon. I love to read and am slowly becoming a bibliophile.

One of the books that I purchased with that gift was Jerry Bridge's most recent work "Respectable Sins". I'll do a complete book review here in the next couple days but one of his statements really resonated with me:

But on the whole, we appear to be more concerned about the sins of society than we are the sins of the saints. In fact, we often indulge in what I call the "respectable" sins or even "acceptable" sins without any sense of sin.

O-U-C-H! Wow! That's a 2X4 upside the head right there. You think about it though. It's absolutely true. There are so many churches on crusades against pornography, gambling, abortion, homosexuality, alcohol, stem-cell research etc. And please don't get me wrong, all of those things are societal sins and I'm not saying that we should quit praying that God would deliver people from them. Neither is Bridges.

But how many churches have you seen go on a crusade against:

  • The gossiping elderly women's group in their church
  • The men who care more about their golf swing than they do about leading their family spiritually
  • The church members who give Jesus less than one thought each day
  • The divisive church clique who wants to play the black sheep role and portray that they are being mistreated by the church
  • The wealthy church members who hang out with each other but show no hospitality to those less fortunate than they are

And the list could go on. When was the last time a church went on a crusade against that? And I'll ask this tough question to give you an idea of why I'm finding this book to ring very true:

When was the last time abortion split a church and destroyed the unity of the body? Conversely, when was the last time an un-forgiving, gossiping group of people split the church and destroyed the unity of the body?

Puts things in perspective doesn't. The societal sins are great. There's no doubt we live in a fallen world. But the secret world of our hearts and our tongues is far more deadly to our churches and to our Biblical communities than the adult book stores alongside the road.

And I think one of the major reasons a lot of people go on those crusades against societal ills is because it's easier to do that than to repent of the evils inside our hearts as members of a Biblical community.

It's easier to put the focus on what's wrong AROUND us rather than focusing on what's wrong WITHIN us.

It's safer to focus on IT instead of focusing on ME.

But if we don't repent of ME, we'll never make any headway against the sins of society.

The battle must begin in us first.

February 04, 2008


I don't have a lot in the tank today. I've long heard pastors say that their mind is mush on Monday and I would have to agree.

I preached yesterday at LifePoint on repentance. A heavy message to prepare for and I'm spent. If you wish, you can check it out by right clicking here and downloading the message.

February 03, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Shepherding A Child's Heart"

I actually bought this book at the conference bookstore in October of 2006 at the Desiring God National Conference. It sat on the shelf as a "have to read but don't have time right now" book for over a year.

I shouldn't have let it sit that long. And if you have kids, you need to get this book. It's a great page turner, and Tedd Tripp has a thorougly Gospel-centered approach to parenting.

As a matter of fact, it's Carson, Piper, Keller, Mahaney all put through a parenting filter. Tripp forces you to examine why do you what you do as a parent. He makes you very uncomfortable and quite frankly drives you to repentance when he begins to poke his finger into your discipline methods and the ways in which you guide your children. He forces you to examine your motives. He forces you to take a long term approach to parenting. And the good thing is, that no matter how old your child is (even if they're a late teenager) this is a great resource to help.

It's broken into two parts:

  1. Foundations For Biblical Childrearing
  2. Shepherding Through Stages Of Childhood.

So basically he walks you through the theology of parenting and then helps you make applications. The book has 18 chapter and is a little over 200 pages long so each chapter is about 10 pages. It's very digestible in small chunks but is one of those that is not a "read once and put on the shelf" kind of a book.

It's a very helpful tool in the day to day responsibility of raising children to glorify God. I'll say this. Any book that starts with the first question of the Westminster Catechism instead of the leather couch in some shrink's office gets my confidence as a book most Christian parents need to read.

It has no general index and a somewhat short Scripture index but I'm not sure that those would add a whole lot to this work. Overall, you have to read it. I recommend it whole heartedly and only do so if you're willing to repent as a parent. I'll leave as I usually do with a chunk from the book:

It is imperative to be clear on this issue. Parenting is not just providing good input. It is not just creating a constructive home atmosphere and positive interaction between a child and his parent. There is another dimension. The child is interacting with the living God. He is either worshiping and serving and growing in understanding of the implications of who God is, or he is seeking to make sense of life without a relationship with God.

February 01, 2008

Progress Report / Random Thoughts

It's February 1st already. I have had several folks ask me what's going on / how things are for the Backes family lately. I've also had several random thoughts running through my head but I can't seem to make a solid post out of just yet.

  • My prospectus for Eternity is making good progress. I've decided to go with a DVD instead of just bound paper. I wanted to bring to life the vision and the story God has laid upon me. The man who lead me to Jesus has graciously offered for free to do all the DVD work and video editing work.
  • It's a great thing to be able to involve and see those people who have been a part of my spiritual journey excited about the idea of me planting a church.
  • I've completed Phase 1 of the Acts29 application process and Phase 2 should be complete (except for boot camp) within the next 7 -10 days.
  • Based on what I'm reading about the Chicago boot camp, I'm getting even more jacked up about Seattle.
  • If anyone can arrange a personal introduction and conversation between me and John Piper in Seattle, I'll be your best friend, give you Starbucks cards, and immediately give you the "preferred friend" status in my life.
  • The look and feel for Eternity is being worked on as we speak. I'm jacked up to see the designs and logos this weekend.
  • Along that front, I have a feeler out about developing the web presence for Eternity. The person I have asked is wayyy more than capable. Now the question is: Was the price right?
  • I'm planning a move to a new blog address and a new blog feel in the near future as well. Blogger has served me well, but from everything I'm hearing, it may be time to get out of the kiddie pool and move to WordPress.
  • We had a great church planting quarterly this week at LifePoint. Lane Harrison rocks. He's so loving and kind. On a serious note, it was a great time of discussion as we talked about the pastor and his family. I was challenged beyond belief.
  • I'm finding out how much I need to repent. I'll talk more about this on Sunday at LifePoint.
  • I'm looking forward to another Acts29 quarterly in St. Louis here in the next couple weeks. Hanging around church planters always jacks me up to go be one.
  • My son turns 8 this weekend. I can't believe it. When I think back over the first eight years of his life, I realize how much I've missed. I'm not going to miss that much in the next eight.
  • I have an exciting dinner scheduled in Jefferson City next weekend with some folks who might be core group prospects for Eternity. I'll throw this out there, if you want to move to Jefferson City, get a job, and be a part of the core group of Eternity, you are always more than welcome.
  • For those of you who just thought "Why the heck would I want to move to Jefferson City?", I'll be glad to send you a copy of my prospectus when it's done.
  • You haven't lived life until you've done a bowling party with 15 eight year olds.
  • Oh yeah, there's a little game this weekend. My prediction: Patriots 49 - Giants 10

Have a nice weekend!