Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christian Ministry

Another helpful quote, this one on Jeremiah 15, from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God, Vol. 2:
"The deep tension between faithfulness to God and alienation from one's own people is an unvarying constant in the ministry of faithful preachers assigned to a declining culture."

I assume that this quote summarizes the kind of ministry I will do as a preacher of the gospel.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Simple-ish Question: What is the Gospel?

I say "simple-ish" because it should be pretty simple for a Christian, but often it is not. Let me explain both propositions, and then I'll conclude with a quick Starbucks story (I have many of them from my career as a barista).

First, it should be simple for a Christian to answer the question "What is the gospel?" The epistles (there are about 20 in the New Testament) contain numerous references to a certain message. A careful reading of these books of the Bible will lead to the conclusion that that message is the one true, biblical gospel. This gospel is true. It is rooted in historical facts. It is supernatural. It is real and life-changing. So when Peter tells his Christian friends to be always prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15) I assume that he at least is alluding to the message of the gospel. This is the good news that guilty sinners may be forgiven and made righteous before God (the one they've offended!) through the sacrificial death of God the Son. So it would seem that the New Testament assumes that Christians can easily answer the aforementioned question.

But sadly it is often not simple. Christians often are not ready with an answer. Why is this the case? Is it lack of understanding? Poor teaching? Laziness? Fear? Lack of confidence? The unpreparedness may be any of these, and this is not the place to tease out all the possibilities. It just seems to me that if I have been told the most important message ever, I'm convinced that it is true, and I've been told to spread it far and wide I should know what the message is!

What's my point? Brothers and sisters (and John): preach this good news to yourself! Know it so well that you can explain it in less than 90 seconds. Much more could be said. The preaching stops.......now!

The story: there is a large gathering of Pentecostals taking place in Louisville right now. Many of them are staying at the hotel where my Starbucks is located. I decided to ask one of these friends, who had just said that he is a preacher, how he would explain the gospel. His response was discouraging. Nothing about sin and the Savior, nothing about forgiveness, nothing about the great debt we owed God that Christ paid for his own, dying in their place. Alas, we must know and believe this message.

Monday, July 2, 2007

D.C. Trip and Evangelism

Lizzie and I arrived home late last night from an encouraging 5 days in our nation's capital. We spent absolutely no time whatsoever doing anything one normally does in D.C. Instead we enjoyed the company and fellowship of the wonderful brothers and sisters of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and, in particular, our dear friends the Gilbart-Smiths. Mike and Hannah were exceedingly gracious to host Liz and me for the week. This entailed: a lot of British/American jokes; loads of questions thrown at Mike from me; observation of two patient, godly parents doing their best to bring up Abigail, Joshua and Daniel in the fear and admonition of the Lord; and some good eats (i.e. Wimbledon cake - very light!). We are so encouraged by our time, and we praise God for such Christ-exalting friends.

Mike exhorted me to work on my personal evangelism and discipleship efforts. He also helped me think through some things. For example, as a seminary student I have a quick and easy road to take conversations towards the Gospel. I had certainly attempted to use this in the past, but I realized that I have been too heavy on "periods" instead of "question marks." So instead of: "I'm training to be a preacher of the gospel" (which requires no response whatsoever), I should say, "I'm training to be a preacher of the gospel. What about you? Are you a religious person? Why do you believe that?" and so on. And the conversation could go anywhere from there. Here's the point: seize opportunities to ask "why" questions. Steer the ship towards the glory of Christ in the gospel.

Okay, off to watch an episode of Planet Earth with the one whom my soul loves...