This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: Culture (page 1 of 2)

Making disciples of those in plain sight

I love this video from Rebuild Net­work.

Mak­ing dis­ci­ples of all nations includes the nation — the peo­ple group — where you live.

Fulfilling the Law of Christ: Applying NCT in church life

burdenOver the past sev­eral years, I’ve seen, read, and par­tic­i­pated in a lot of dis­cus­sions about what laws or com­mand­ments we need to fol­low in the New Covenant, what a Bib­li­cal The­ol­ogy of the New Covenant should be, or what the escha­tol­ogy of NCT adher­ents should be. (That last one is a par­tic­u­larly volatile one at the moment, with some amills want­ing to kick out the premills.)

In other words, there’s a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about NCT orthodoxy.

But what about NCT orthopraxy?

What should a church that teaches New Covenant The­ol­ogy look like? What are its hall­marks? Con­tinue reading

Context, not compromise

bullhorn guy

Not a good exam­ple of contextualization.

At his blog, It Is Writ­ten, Dr. Bob Gon­za­les has put together an excel­lent series on con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion – a manda­tory tenet of mis­sional churches and the bête noire of John MacArthur — or what can bet­ter be described as “accommodation.”

In his lat­est install­ment, Gon­za­les help­fully reminds us:

[W]e need to accom­mo­date our com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the peo­ple we’re try­ing to reach, to the peo­ple we’re try­ing to edify because God accom­mo­dates him­self to us in his rev­e­la­tion and because the ser­vants of God, like Jesus and like Paul the apos­tle, accom­mo­dated their com­mu­ni­ca­tion to their audi­ence. Broth­ers, if we want to win souls, if we want to see our churches grow, if we want to increase the edi­fi­ca­tion of our cur­rent mem­ber­ship, then we must become all things to all men. We must accom­mo­date (not com­pro­mise) in the area of communication.

Indeed, con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion prop­erly defined and prop­erly done doesn’t water down the gospel; it makes the offense of the gospel as clear as possible.

Chan: How not to make disciples

Some­times there’s an awfully long dis­tance between the head and the heart. Fran­cis Chan shows us the dif­fer­ence between know­ing and doing:

Rebuild where you live, live where you rebuild

I’m very moved and moti­vated by what I see the Rebuild Net­work ( doing to plant churches in urban areas. But there’s more to them than plant­ing, and there’s some­thing to learn from them in all churches who want to focus on dis­ci­ple­ship and mission.

Here’s a video that tells the story of the first church they planted. I just love this.

On Decem­ber 15, 2007, 25 fam­i­lies made the com­mit­ment to move from Den­ton, TX to Atlanta, GA to plant a church that was in the city, for the city, and looked like the city. It became the Rebuild Network’s first church plant—Blueprint Church.

The Trellis and the Vine, revisited …

About three years ago, we as the elders at our church read Colin Mar­shall and Tony Payne’s The Trel­lis and the VineI’m revis­it­ing it now as I’m read­ing it with one of the new dea­cons in some trellis-and-vine style discipleship.

I’m sad­dened to see how poorly we’ve adopted what the authors recommend.

Trellis and the VineChap­ter one pro­vides a beau­ti­ful para­ble com­par­ing the work done in churches to a vine grow­ing on a trel­lis. The authors ask us, are we putting our effort into build­ing a trel­lis (cre­at­ing pro­grams) or cul­ti­vat­ing the vine (grow­ing peo­ple.) The argue — and I agree — that way too much goes into cre­at­ing struc­ture and force-fitting peo­ple into that struc­ture, rather than build­ing, train­ing and grow­ing peo­ple for ministry.

Chap­ter two of the book out­lines the “Min­istry Mind-Shifts” that the writ­ers rec­om­mend and which they flesh out in detail in later chap­ters. They say we need to transform:

  1. From run­ning pro­grams to build­ing people
  2. From run­ning events to train­ing people
  3. From using peo­ple to grow­ing people
  4. From fill­ing gaps to train­ing new workers
  5. From solv­ing prob­lems to help­ing peo­ple make progress
  6. From cling­ing to ordained min­istry to devel­op­ing team leadership
  7. From focus­ing on church polity to forg­ing min­istry partnerships
  8. From rely­ing on train­ing insti­tu­tions to estab­lish­ing local training
  9. From focus­ing on imme­di­ate pres­sures to aim­ing for long-term expansion
  10. From engag­ing in man­age­ment to engag­ing in ministry
  11. From seek­ing church growth to desir­ing gospel growth

Get­ting buy-in on these as prin­ci­ples is not the dif­fi­cult part. Get­ting buy-in on these as actions? That’s where the work is.

My friend, the ‘God-soaked geek’

No doubt many of you have seen this video from Desir­ing God about their start through the efforts of my friend Moe Berg­eron. John Piper called him a “God-soaked geek” in a tweet pro­mot­ing this video.

As Dr. Piper wrote, “For decades, Moe was a fac­tory worker and bi-vocational pas­tor on the rugged spir­i­tual soil of New Eng­land. He was one of the first to believe in the power and poten­tial of com­put­ers ‘talk­ing’ to each other, and he may have been the first that dared to dream about a rad­i­cal new way to freely spread the gospel.”

Be sure to visit the site Moe edits: Christ My Covenant and also Piper’s Notes, the orig­i­nal online archive of John Piper.


Porterbrook ROC brings Porterbrook Network to Rochester, N.Y.

We’re very excited at Evan­gel­i­cal Church of Fair­port to be the 11th Learn­ing Site in the U.S. for the Porter­brook Net­work.

Our first fall term begins Oct. 3.

Update: we’re post­pon­ing the launch until Jan­u­ary 2 so that we can get the largest pos­si­ble participation.

More about the Porter­brook Net­work may be found on our local site’s web­site,

Porter­brook Net­work is a two-year church-based the­o­log­i­cal train­ing pro­gram with a sup­ported self-study struc­ture with oth­ers who are train­ing in a sim­i­lar field, church or geo­graphic affiliation.

Steve Tim­mis and Tim Chester, co-authors of Total Church and founders of The Crowded House, cre­ated The Porter­brook Net­work in the U.K. in 2006 in response to a con­vic­tion for churches to become more Gospel-Centered and for new Gospel-Centered churches to be planted.

The vision of Porter­brook is to equip indi­vid­u­als and churches to redis­cover mis­sion as their DNA, to become bet­ter lovers of God and lovers of oth­ers, and to pro­claim the Gospel through word and action for the Glory of God. Porter­brook is being used in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Italy, Ukraine, India, South Africa, and Aus­tralia, and Porter­brook Learn­ing mate­r­ial is cur­rently being trans­lated into Chi­nese, Russ­ian, and Italian.

Setting things straight on ‘contextualization’

The folks at Grace to You fre­quently con­demn the con­cept of “con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion” and do so by defin­ing it in light of those who abuse the term. John MacArthur and Phil John­son in par­tic­u­lar have por­trayed con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion as water­ing down the mes­sage so peo­ple aren’t offended by it.

Ed Stet­zer cor­rectly defines con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion and the need for it on his blog today:

I have said it many times, but it always seems to bear repeat­ing — con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion is not water­ing down the mes­sage. In fact, it is exactly the oppo­site. To con­tex­tu­al­ize the gospel means remov­ing cul­tural and lin­guis­tic imped­i­ments to the gospel pre­sen­ta­tion so that only the offense of the cross remains. It is not remov­ing the offen­sive parts of the gospel; it is using the appro­pri­ate means in each cul­ture to clar­ify exactly who Jesus was, what He did, why He did it, and the impli­ca­tions that flow from it. Often­times, it is unclear com­mu­ni­ca­tion (and a lack of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion) that con­tributes to some reject­ing some­thing they do not under­stand. If the feet of those who bring the gospel are beau­ti­ful upon the hills, it is at least partly due to the fact that those who hear the gospel under­stand and appre­ci­ate its life trans­form­ing truth. This often occurs through crit­i­cal contextualization.

My often-used def­i­n­i­tion of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion: com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a way so as to make the offense of the gospel most clear.

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