“It seems like we have two opposing trends going on simultaneously. On one end of the curve rabid sharing is driving an attention cycle of seconds but on the other end people are reading and watching more. The social web has flattened web sites and made the home page irrelevant to many sites — simultaneously the shift to the phone/tablet and the mobile app internet is unbundling the web that we knew. The combination of these two trends is changing media and how we use and experience it.”—John Borthwick: You gotta read this! (via davemorin)
This post is a tad long, and also a long time coming.
It’s been about 3 years since I graduated from Southern Seminary with an M.Div, and 2 years into my first ministry position as English Minister /Youth Minister at Tri-Valley Chinese Bible Church.
There’s a lot that I could say about my first stint in the role as a pastor, about the struggles and difficulties, joys and accomplishments in ministry. But for this post, I want to give thanks to God for blessing me abundantly in a few specific areas.
1. A Vision for the Local Church
Before seminary, I did not know what I wanted church to look like. All I knew, was that I did not want it to look like my home church with all its aches and scars.
During seminary, I experienced a fairly ideal picture of church. While it was not perfect, it did give me an expectation of how the local church should biblically function. I am grateful for my home church (where I was converted & called to ministry) and also for my seminary church. Through my experiences at both, and as I began my first ministry position, I was confronted with the need to clear about what I wanted to see in my local congregation.
This is not to say that I had it all figured out. I don’t think any particular seminary class did it. But it really was the culmination of the theological vision I received from Southern and the Spirit of God that opened my ministry eyes to discern the direction that I wished “my” church to go in.
Before you start any pastorate, it would be really helpful to have a vision for the local church. If you don’t after a year or two in, you probably won’t find it for a while.
2. A vision for the pastorate.
This brings me to the issue of the pastorate. I was convinced from seminary and from the Scriptures that there are two offices in the church: elder and deacon. Yet I also knew from my church experiences that every local church confuses the roles and responsibilities. To this day, I still sit in on board meetings discussing toilets and termites (among other less tedious decagonal matters). While my church may not be completely working out the biblical offices, I know I am clear with my role and responsibilities as a pastor of sheep.
The pastorate should be regarded with significance by the pastor and by the deacons and the church members. At the very least, when everyone else may not think that leading, feeding and protecting the sheep is the job, I as pastor must believe that that is the very essence of the position.
3. The place of care.
As the church grows, it is impossible for the pastor to visit everybody. Even as a small congregation of some fifty people, I need to be strategic with who I “visit” and meet up with. And even my definition of what a visit is differs from other leaders.
Yet I am convinced that the care of the church members should primarily be provided in the community of our church—in the small groups of people that meet regularly. This way, everybody’s needs are cared for, and a system of small group leaders and coaches can be developed to report to the pastor.
This way, the pastor actually does know about the important needs that the church requires care for—even if he does not minister himself directly with individuals. Somebody will always be in contact with the one in need of care, and the pastor will always be informed about the general (or specific) issues facing the congregation.
Secondarily, the pastor shall make time to care for individualmembers on a strategic basis: especially to develop friendship with leaders, to welcome new members, to care for the special cases and love on those on the fringe.
Furthermore, churches need a regular routine of classes to care for the sheep. Some churches call these “redemption groups”; other churches give workshops on counseling one another. Whatever the case, training /seminars /workshops provided regularly will effectively care for a larger number of sheep at one time.
I am grateful for books like Community that really drive at this.
4. The gift of administration.
The Apostle Paul sys in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” If somebody confronted me and asked if I was charismatic, I would say yes. And I’m convinced that I have the gift of “administrating”. Early on in ministry, there were many things I needed to do—first of which, was to figure out what I needed to do. Nobody knew what I specifically should be doing day-to-day, but everybody knew that something needed to be done about everything.
I am grateful to God that I actually don’t cringe at getting my ministry organized. I enjoy planning for the long-term growth of my church. I thrive at setting the vision and mission of my ministry. I find it a beautiful thing when I can set the big picture goals of discipleship for my congregation. Just like in every job, you have to get organized. And in my job, I was at first forced into it by necessity. And now, I readily and naturally do it—especially because it keeps me sane, and most certainly because I would freak out if I didn’t have the plan on paper.
Thank God for giving me the gift of administrating.
5. The need for Discipleship.
This is something that God developed in me through seminary, through good and bad experiences of Sunday School and Church. Discipleship needs to be transformative. It cannot only be about knowledge, nor just behavior modification. Transformation is normally only accomplished by the gospel. On the heart of a regenerate disciple. This transformation takes place when we apply the knowledge of God in life and use the truths of the gospel through life’s ups and downs.
And this transformation takes time. Lord have mercy on me when I am discouraged and don’t see the fruit. In those moments, I need to trust the Lord in a greater measure for the gospel fruit that He will bring about.
6. The priority of the Bible.
As a “Bible” church, this is a given. With a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I lived and breathed this during my studies. And yet, to actually make it a priority requires using the Bible. In expository preaching; in Sunday School; in fellowship and Bible Study; through the worship service and during times of song.
And just because a church may be “Bible” centered does not mean that it will bring about gospel priorities. I have heard enough sermons (some even from Guest Speakers in my pulpit) that are the epitome of “moralistic therapeutic deism.” I am well are that sermons, classes and Bible studies that end up never connecting to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful to my God for convincing me of the need to always be preaching the gospel of grace in Christ. Salvation through judgment. In private and in public.
In conclusion, I don’t know where the next year(s) will lead. As long as the Lord calls me to stay here in my current church, there I will be. Wife (and soon baby!) beside me; Bible in hand, lifting high the name of Jesus. I am just grateful that God has equipped me for every good work that I could possibly do (2 Tim 3:16-17). And thank God He has carried me through these last 2 or 3 years.
The recent controversies around a ministry network that I am very fond of begs me to re-think what “The Gospel Coalition” is, and what should be the relationship of pastors like me with TGC.
For context: This past week, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s blog was forced to be movedout of thegospelcoalition.org. Further, last weekend C.J. Mahaney and Josua Harris have both resigned from the Council of TGC.
Given the seeming disunity within TGC contributors and Council members, I have to wonder — what is the “gospel coalition” now, given how differing the interpretation of how the “center” bounds us together?
I now look back and reflect on what was reiterated 3 years ago from Tim Keller and Don Carson. I invite you to join me in this reading and reflecting on who/what TGC is—especially if you’re like me: one who considers himself “part of” TGC, one who has attended a TGC conference, or have relationships with TGC contributors or Council members:
From the beginning TGC has distinguished between a boundary-bounded set and a center-bounded set. In the former, you establish boundaries to determine who is “in” and who is “outside” the set—-whether the set of true believers, or the set of faithful Presbyterians, or the set of evangelicals, or any other set. For the boundary to have any hope of doing its job, it has to be well defined. If the definitions are sloppy, the boundary keeps getting pushed farther and farther out. For example, suppose we were to say that an evangelical is someone who believes in inerrancy. That may be true, but by itself it is almost useless as a boundary-setting criterion for evangelicalism, since many other people espouse inerrancy who on other criteria are not evangelicals (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses). Moreover, someone might point to an individual who believes that Jesus died to bear our sin and satisfy the wrath of God, that he rose from the dead, that he is coming at the end of the age to establish resurrection existence in the new heaven and the new earth, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, who has personally placed his or her faith in the Lord Jesus, but who holds to a fairly high view of Scripture without subscribing to inerrancy: is that person an evangelical? How much deviation on any point do we allow before we insist the person is not an evangelical? Discussions of this sort lead some writers to declare that there is no widely accepted doctrinal definition of evangelical. The same exercise could be undertaken with definitions of Presbyterian, Baptist, or any number of other flags. Nevertheless in boundary-bounded sets, the attempt is made to provide a boundary that defines who is “in” and who is “out”—-and there is usually quite a bit of pressure to keep expanding that boundary, with the result that it easily becomes painfully porous, even meaningless.
Sometimes this way of thinking leads to hopelessly bad questions such as “What is the least I must believe in order to be called an evangelical?”—-the answer to which often generates reductionistic approaches to evangelism and horribly emaciated lowest-common-denominator versions of the gospel. Why not rather ask, “How can I give a theologically rich definition of evangelicalism that faithfully reflects the whole counsel of God?” Worse, inside the boundary there is so little agreed tough-minded confessionalism that love for the truth and a deep knowledge of the Bible and historical and systematic theology are rarely encouraged.
By contrast, center-bounded sets don’t worry too much about who is “in” and “out” at the periphery. Instead, there is a robust definition at the center. For TGC, the center is defined by our Confessional Statement (CS) and Theological Vision for Ministry (TVM) and sustained by the Council members. There we expect unreserved commitment to these foundation documents. As for others, we often have to explain that people cannot “join” the Coalition. Individuals and churches may choose to identify themselves with us and use the thousands of resources on our site, but Council members do not fall into paroxysms of doubt as to whether or not this individual or that church truly belongs to TGC: we are not a denomination, and we do not have the resources to engage in the kind of vetting at the periphery that a boundary-bounded set demands. At the margins there are many who love part of what we stand for and not other parts. They too are welcome to use our material. At the center, however, we expect robust allegiance.
Given that this is what TGC should be—as originally conceived by Tim Keller and D.A. Carson—what then is TGC now? How different has it become from its original vision and intentions? How are we lowly pastors to relate to such a network that has become so different than it was originally?
Our lives are shaped by the images that surround us. Each one sends a different message about life—what it means to be a “real” man or woman, what a “satisfying” relationship is like, what success looks like, or how “good” parents act, just to name a few. In a real way, we become the images we behold.
At the heart of the gospel lies the message that we look to all the wrong things in life. We allow all kinds of images to shape us that, instead of breathing life into us, steal it away. So, how do we find that illusory “real” life?
The Scriptures tell us that true life is only found in the gospel: through an image of death—the cross of Jesus Christ. In other words, if we want to live, our lives must be shaped by the cross. This is why “cruciformity” ought to be our way to life; this is why our vision is to see believers being shaped by the cross of Christ.
The Vision of TCBC’s English Ministry is to see disciples of Jesus Christ become committed members of the local church, who are being shaped by the cross and have hearts burning for the Word of Christ.*
The mission of TCBC’s English Ministry is to connect the gospel to people, people to community, and community to mission.*
But by the grace of God I am doing better than I deserve. I deserve the righteous wrath of God because of my sin; I deserve to be punished eternally. Yet in the mystery of His mercy, God sacrificed and crushed His Son on the Cross — as my substitute — so that I might be forgiven of my sin and know God as my Father rather than my Judge. That’s the Good News of Jesus Christ.
What am I? I am truly amazed by the grace of God. – Read on Path.
This week’s “Singalong Sundays" song is an oldie, but a real goodie. It’s a hymn by John Newton.
Blogger Justin Taylor recently posted about John Newton and why God almost drove Newton to despair. Taylor posted this old hymn from Newton, titled, “I Asked the Lord”. I remembered that I had this on the Indelible Grace live The Hymn Sing album and so I went back listened to the explanation-introduction of the hymn again, as well as the hymn itself.
And oh how is it a convicting hymn that honestly addresses human struggles, despair, and our prayers before God.
In the preface of the hymnbook, John Newton writes of the purpose of this collection of hymns. He wrote and compiled hymns for the hymnbook in part because of his friendship with hymnwriter William Cowper:
A desire of promoting the faith and comfort of sincere christians, though the principal, was not the only motive to this undertaking. It was likewise intended as a monument, to perpetuate the remembrance of an intimate and endeared friendship [that is, Cowper’s friendship].
With this pleasing view I entered upon my part, which would have been smaller than it is, and the book would have appeared much sooner, and in a very different form, if the wise, though mysterious providence of GOD, had not seen fit to cross my wishes.
We had not proceeded far upon our proposed plan, before my dear friend was prevented, by a long and affecting indisposition, from affording me any farther assistance.
My grief and disappointment were great; I hung my harp upon the willows, and for some time thought myself determined to proceed no farther without him [Cowper].
Indeed, the path through struggle and despair is through faith in Christ, faith in our Lord that is often accompanied by heartache and tears.
1. I asked the Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every grace Might more of His salvation know And seek more earnestly His face
2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray And He I trust has answered prayer But it has been in such a way As almost drove me to despair
3. I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest
4. Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part
5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, Cast out my feelings, laid me low *
6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death? "Tis in this way" The Lord replied "I answer prayer for grace and faith"
7. “These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”
*The last line of the original verse 5 reads, “Blasted my gourds, and laid me low." I reckon most of us do not understand the old English of God blasting my gourds, so the edit into "Cast out my feelings, laid me low” is helpful.
Today’s Singalong Sunday features a newer song from Tim Hughes & Phil Wickham. It’s a worship song that you’ll find on both their most recent albums. It is quite a catchy tune, and a song that I’m sure we’ll hear in churches more and more in years to come.
"At Your Name" is a hymn that speaks about the name of God—YHWH (the name that English Bible translators translate in all-caps: "LORD").
YHWH is God’s covenant name, given to God’s covenant people, to call upon Him with. It is a name that in olden times, Jews could not even utter. Yet, Our God who is also our Lord, has also given us the title of Jesus Christ, “Lord” to cry to Him.
It is at His name—Jesus name—that all of creation bows in humble adoration and reverent praise.
Lead Sheet available at the bottom of this post.
At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)
Written by: Tim Hughes, Phil Wickham
At Your name The mountains shake and crumble At Your name The oceans roar and tumble At Your name angels will bow The earth will rejoice Your people cry out
Lord of all the earth We’ll shout Your name, shout Your name Filling up the skies With endless praise, endless praise Yahweh, Yahweh We love to shout Your name oh Lord
At Your name The morning breaks in glory At Your name Creation sings Your story At Your name angels will bow The earth will rejoice Your people cry out
There is no one like our God We will praise You, praise You There is no one like our God We will sing (we will sing)
When we celebrate Advent, we relive all of the longing and yearnings for the coming of the Messiah that our fathers in the faith experienced before us. We look back and remember the people of the Old Testament as they waited for the Savior that God had promised through the prophets.
Advent reminds us that God became an infant by sending His Son, Jesus, to the world to live the perfect life that we could not live. Ultimately, Jesus came to redeem His people by dying on a cross, as our substitute for our sin, so that the wrath of God the Father would be completely satisfied and us fully accepted in return.
Advent also reminds us that one day Jesus will return to the earth, not to suffer for sins again, but to bring us home to the Father and destroy His enemies. It’s during this season that we look forward to and anticipate Jesus’ second Advent where He will put an end to all pain, suffering, and death.
Don’t allow the holidays to steal your joy, but instead allow the grace of God to transform and renew you. Abide deep in Christ and let the goodness of God wash over you.
In the links below, you’ll find some great resources to help aid you in your walk with Jesus during this Advent Season!
Why do you think Apple still sends stickers with every new product?
It’s a good question — I have no idea. If I had to guess, I’d imagine it’s largely about tradition. If Apple stopped shipping them with new products, I could envision a revolt similar to if Google took away the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button (in that, while not that many people may use these things, they’re expected to be there).
I can’t even begin to imagine how many of these stickers I’ve pilled up over the years. Dozens? Hundreds? And I think the last time I actually put one of them anywhere was the very first one I got (with an iPod way back when).
In a way, they’re viral real-world marketing. I still see them on the bumpers of cars quite frequently.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
As Immanuel (“God with us”), Jesus is the personification of this psalm. For Jesus himself is our present refuge and future victory. God’s past record of strong protection for his people is a present comfort to the psalmist; it is “well proved” (v. 1). Even if the unthinkable should occur—even the implosion of the earth—God’s faithfulness to his promises drives away fear (vv. 2–3).
The Christian’s confidence is even more certain because Christ personally promised to be with us to the “end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Like a secret aqueduct to a besieged city, God’s grace convinces the psalmist that the church will not only survive any onslaught but also will thrive in joy (Ps. 46:4-7). Jesus specifically revealed that the Holy Spirit is that means of grace who causes “rivers of living water” to flow from the heart of the believer (John 7:37–39).
Amid “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6), both Old and New Testament believers are buttressed with the confidence that all the kingdoms of this world will one day become the “kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15), thus fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3). Keeping our eyes on King Jesus, we must courageously witness for Christ to the ends of the earth (cf. Ps. 46:9) until the nations are given to Christ as his inheritance (Acts 1:8; 2:34–35).
With #Everpix shutting down, I just tried out #Loom. Not bad. Good new #SF startup. But no de-duplication or video streaming.
Just went back to #Picturelife. Very full featured with de-duplication and video. Just started trying out their 2month free #trial of their Premium 100GB plan, since I easily maxed out the 5GB freebie plan.
I think Picturelife could be it.
Now to get my photos out of Everpix… – Read on Path.
Speaking of Steve Jobs, I too will share the Fred Vogelstein post on the build up at Apple to the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007. A few of my favorite parts:
Jobs wanted the demo phones he would use onstage to have their screens mirrored on the big screen behind him. To show a gadget on a big screen, most companies just point a video camera at it, but that was unacceptable to Jobs. The audience would see his finger on the iPhone screen, which would mar the look of his presentation. So he had Apple engineers spend weeks fitting extra circuit boards and video cables onto the backs of the iPhones he would have onstage. The video cables were then connected to the projector, so that when Jobs touched the iPhone’s calendar app icon, for example, his finger wouldn’t appear, but the image on the big screen would respond to his finger’s commands. The effect was magical. People in the audience felt as if they were holding an iPhone in their own hands. But making the setup work flawlessly, given the iPhone’s other major problems, seemed hard to justify at the time.
Shrinking OS X and building a multitouch screen, while innovative and difficult, were at least within the skills Apple had already mastered as a corporation. No one was better equipped to rethink OS X’s design. Apple knew LCD manufacturers because it put an LCD in every laptop and iPod. Mobile-phone physics was an entirely new field, however, and it took those working on the iPhone into 2006 to realize how little they knew. Apple built testing rooms and equipment to test the iPhone’s antenna. It created models of human heads, with viscous stuff inside to approximate the density of human brains, to help measure the radiation that users might be exposed to from using the phone. One senior executive believes that more than $150 million was spent creating the first iPhone.
The second iPhone prototype in early 2006 was much closer to what Jobs would ultimately introduce. It incorporated a touch-screen and OS X, but it was made entirely of brushed aluminum. Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, were exceedingly proud of it. But because neither of them was an expert in the physics of radio waves, they didn’t realize they created a beautiful brick. Radio waves don’t travel through metal well. “I and Rubén Caballero” — Apple’s antenna expert — “had to go up to the boardroom and explain to Steve and Ive that you cannot put radio waves through metal,” says Phil Kearney, an engineer who left Apple in 2008. “And it was not an easy explanation. Most of the designers are artists. The last science class they took was in eighth grade. But they have a lot of power at Apple. So they ask, ‘Why can’t we just make a little seam for the radio waves to escape through?’ And you have to explain to them why you just can’t.”
And, of course, launch day:
By the end, Grignon wasn’t just relieved; he was drunk. He’d brought a flask of Scotch to calm his nerves. “And so there we were in the fifth row or something — engineers, managers, all of us — doing shots of Scotch after every segment of the demo. There were about five or six of us, and after each piece of the demo, the person who was responsible for that portion did a shot. When the finale came — and it worked along with everything before it, we all just drained the flask. It was the best demo any of us had ever seen. And the rest of the day turned out to be just a [expletive] for the entire iPhone team. We just spent the entire rest of the day drinking in the city. It was just a mess, but it was great.”
The iPhone seems so obvious and inevitable now. But it’s really the ultimate testament to the incredibly hard and complex work that so many at Apple did while being pushed by Jobs. This entire post is a great reminder of that.