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The Authenticity of Disciple Making

Month: January 2014

Why Good Works are Necessary

Kevin DeYoung | http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/01/10/why-good-works-are-necessary-for-the-christian/

Why Good Works Are Necessary for the Christian

Anthony Burgess (d. 1644) argued that while good works should never be construed as meritorious for our justification, they were still necessary as our duty on the way to final salvation. Here are 13 reasons why:

1. “They are the fruit and end of Christ’s death” (Titus 2:14).

2. “There is an analogical relation between good works and heaven insofar as God has appointed the way (good works” to the end (heaven).”

3. “There is a promise made to them” (1 Tim. 4:7-8).

4. “They are testimonies whereby our election is made sure” (2 Peter 1:10).

5. “They are a condition, without which a man cannot be saved. So that although a man cannot by the presence of them gather a cause of his salvation; yet by the absence of them he may conclude his damnation; so that is an inexcusable speech of the Antinomian, Good works do not profit us, nor bad hinder us.”

6. “They are in their own nature a defence against sin and corruption” (Eph. 6:14-16).

7. “They are necessary by a natural connexion with faith, and the Spirit of God.”

8. “They are necessary by debt and obligation. . . . We cannot merit at God’s hand, because the more good we are enabled to do, we are the more beholding to God. Hence it is, that we are his servants.”

9. “By the command of God” (1 Thess. 4:3).

10. “They are necessary by way of comfort to ourselves. And this opposes many Antinomian passages, who forbid us to take any peace by our holiness.”

11. “They are necessary in respect of God, both in that he is hereby pleased, and also glorified.”

12. “They are necessary in regard of others” (Matt. 5:16).

13. “Holiness and godliness inherent is the end of our faith and justification.” (Quoted in Jones, Antinomianism, 68).

What are theologians for?

From Justin Taylors blog post found at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/

Here is a video lecture from Kevin Vanhoozer, asking “What Are Theologians For? Why Doctors of the Church Prescribe Christian Doctrine.”

Here are Vanhoozer’s seven concluding theses:

[First,] Doctrine tells us who God is and what God is doing in Christ. So, doctors of the church prescribe doctrine in order to preserve the integrity of our Christian witness.

Second, doctrine tells us who and what we are in Jesus Christ. And doctors of the church prescribe doctrine to preserve the integrity of Christian identity. We’re not like the other nations, we’re a holy nation, a people of a new covenant.

Third, doctrine says of what is in Christ that it is. Doctors of the church prescribe doctrine in order, as I’ve said, to minister reality—the only reliable tonic to the toxins of meaninglessness and nothingness.

Fourth, doctrine restores sinners to their senses. Doctors of the church prescribe doctrine to wake up people who are sleepwalking their way through life, helping us see with the eyes of the heart the bright contours of the splendors of God revealed in Christ.

Fifth, doctrine provides a fiduciary framework for understanding God, the world, and ourselves. And doctors of the church prescribe it to dissipate the mist of confusion and apathy about the meaning of life.

Sixth, doctrine directs the church in the way of wisdom, godliness, and human flourishing. If we prescribe doctrine, we’re clarifying the mission of the church and we’re answering another question, maybe for another time, what are the people of God for?

And seventhly, doctrine instructs not only the head, but orients the heart and guides the hand. Doctors of the church prescribe doctrine so that our faith, hope, and love, our credenda, spiranda, and agenda, will go with the grain of the Gospel and correspond to the historical and eschatological reality of what is in Christ.

So, in sum, theology sets forth in speech what is in Christ. And at its best, it’s the attempt to set forth in persons what Christ is like. That is, doctrine is for growing disciples. . . . I’m suggesting, then, that the pastor-theologian is the church’s primary care physician. Problem is, too many pastors have stopped doctoring.

Have We Lost Our First Love

From Thom Rainers blog: http://thomrainer.com/2014/01/13/an-open-letter-to-my-denomination-have-we-lost-our-first-love/

Dear Southern Baptists:

I could be writing to a broader audience. Perhaps I should be. And I know many outside our denomination will read this brief letter. I hope those readers will bear with me as I have a “family discussion.”

Please hear me clearly. I am not writing out of any sense of superiority. Indeed, many of you could put me to shame. But my heart is breaking with what I perceive to be a loss of passion for those who do not know Christ. Many of you have seen the numbers. We are reaching fewer people for the gospel today than we did decades ago when we were a much smaller group.

The First Love

Where is the passion in most of our churches to reach the lost? Where is the passion among our leaders, both in our churches and in our denomination? Jesus told those at the church at Ephesus that they had sound doctrine, that they hated evil (Revelation 2:1-7). But He also told them they had lost their first love. When we truly love Jesus with all of our hearts, we can’t help but tell others about Him. We can’t help but share the good news.

I thank God for our contending for the faith. I thank God for our affirmation of the total truthfulness of Scripture. I thank God for orthodoxy. But I pray that it is not becoming a dead orthodoxy—an orthodoxy that has lost its first love.

The Purpose of the Letter

The purpose of this letter is not to chastise. I am a messed up sinner who has no right to look at the splinter in the eyes of my brothers and sisters when I need to deal with the plank in my own eye. I need to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. I need to share His love as part of my very being. In His power I must do more and I must do better.

No, the purpose of this letter is simply to share a broken heart, and to express a heartfelt desire to change. I must love Jesus more deeply and tell others about Him more often. I must show Christ’s love not only with my words, but with every action and interaction I have. I must be more like Him every day.

I have no proposal. I have no new programs for now. I simply have a burden.

And as a commitment to God first, but then a commitment to you, I am asking God to lead me to love Him more deeply than I ever have. I am asking God to put people in my life where I can show His love, and tell them about my Savior.

It Must Begin with Me

My life’s desire is to glorify God by loving Him with all my heart. And I have no right to say that unless I am so much in love with Him that I “am unable to stop speaking about what (I) have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Evangelism must be as natural to me as breathing.

Pastors, will you join me in this plea? Will you be an evangelistic example for the churches God has called you to serve? Laypersons, will you pray for evangelistic hearts in your own lives? I must make that prayer a part of my life every day.

Have we lost our first love? Is that love reflected in in how we share the gospel of Christ every day?

May God break me until I am all His, telling others about His Son every day.

And may the sharing of the good news of Christ once again become the focus of all our lives in the churches of our denomination.

Postmodern Architecture

Posted from Justin Taylor’s blog found at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2014/01/13/ravi-zacharias-on-postmodern-architecture-at-ohio-state/

From an address by Ravi Zacharias:

I remember lecturing at Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in this country. I was minutes away from beginning my lecture, and my host was driving me past a new building called the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts.

He said, “This is America’s first postmodern building.”

I was startled for a moment and I said, “What is a postmodern building?”

He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”

I said, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

He said, “That is correct.”

I said, “Did he do the same with the foundation?”

All of a sudden there was silence.

You see, you and I can fool with the infrastructure as much as we would like, but we dare not fool with the foundation because it will call our bluff in a hurry.

6 Ways to Evaluate Your Church’s Strategy to Assimilate New Believers

6 Ways to Evaluate Your Church’s Strategy to Assimilate New Believers

By Chuck Lawless

Maybe you’ve seen it happen.  A new believer joins a local church, and he is thrilled by his changed life.  He shows up at every church event.  He consumes knowledge of the Bible. But then something happens. The excited new believer slowly wanders away, and few people in the church notice.

Too often, this story resounds in churches that have a poor assimilation strategy. They might reach people for Christ, but they have no intentional plan to keep the people they reach. Their back door remains as open as their front door.

Listed below are some steps to evaluate your congregation’s assimilation strategy. Taking these steps will require some work, but no church should be pleased when new believers disappear.

1. Review the church’s primary approach to evangelismSometimes new members fall away because the presentation of the gospel they hear is incomplete.  The gospel call that weakens repentance is insufficient, and the result is often new members who fall again into previous sin patterns.  A gospel message that speaks only of blessings without commitment commonly leads to new believers who depart the church when those blessings are not immediately realized. A poor presentation of the gospel often reaps what it sows.

2. Compare the church’s addition numbers with corresponding attendance numbersIf, for example, a church reports twenty-five new believers in the last two years with a corresponding attendance increase of only ten, further review is warranted.  The causes for the discrepancy may be many (e.g., job transfers for current members, deaths in the church, teams sent to church planting, conflict in the church), but one cause is often poor assimilation of new believers.

3. Review attendance and participation records of specific new believersIn the above scenario, review the records for the twenty-five new believers. Are the new believers actively attending a small group?  Are they participating in some type of ministry?  Are they accountable to someone for their spiritual growth?  If all new members are attending and participating, the cause for the membership/attendance discrepancy may not be related to poor assimilation—at least not of these new believers. Seldom have we found that to be the case, however.

4. Evaluate the church’s current strategy for keeping new believersOur studies of growing churches have shown four components of effective assimilation, best illustrated in an “assimilation rectangle”:


  • Stated expectations help the new believer understand up front what God and the church expect; the growing believer is then held accountable to these expectations through participation in a small group.
  • Ministry involvement—even in an “entry” position—gives the new believer purpose in the church.  Involvement begins with a strategy to help believers understand their giftedness and callings.
  • Healthy relationships help form the “glue” that draws new believers back to church; discipled members then turn around and reach out to others.
  • Convictional teaching and preaching meet the needs of new believers who long for Christian growth; these same believers then mature and grow under that preaching.

In many cases, though, churches have no intentional strategy in place. Where there is no intentional strategy based on these components, it is not surprising that new believers do not remain long at such a church.

5. Talk with new believers who no longer attend the church. Interviewing church members is one of the most helpful and productive strategies of church consulting.  With the church’s help, locate non-attending new believers and ask them why they no longer attend.  Again, the causes may be several (e.g., laziness, church conflict, recurrent sin, “never really fit in,” etc.), but the church must recognize that something is amiss when new believers no longer participate in the church. Interviewing them may be the first step toward drawing them back to the congregation.

6. Interview new believers who have remained in the church. Just as something happens to leads to non-participation, something usually happens to keep new believers in the fold.  The new believer may not be prepared to articulate that “something,” but a good consultant can interpret answers as needed.  “It’s just friendly church” may mean, “They connected with me relationally.” “I feel important here,” may mean, “The church has given me some purpose.”  “I get answers here” may well reflect the church’s commitment to teaching truth.

Our goal should be to reach and keep new believers in the church. What other steps would you recommend?  

Lifeway_Blog_Ad[1]Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

photo credit: Lynn Kelley Author via photopin cc

Comment at ThomRainer.com »

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SBC Stuff

We are on the decline as Southern Baptists.

Nashville, Tenn. – Southern Baptists experienced growth last year in the number of churches affiliated with the denomination and the total amount given for denominational missions causes. However, according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions, most of the ACP metrics declined in 2012 including membership, average attendance, baptisms and total giving. continue reading by clicking this link: SBC Numbers

Dr. Rainer challenges us to not forsake our first love in his most recent blog post.

We are becoming larger, yet smaller (in practice)

We are doing more church, and less evangelism

We love God, but fail at loving people

We can have great theological discussions, but do not explain the gospel to our neighbor

We have a long way to go.

Small Group Ministry

Four Ways to Make Your Small Group Evangelistic

By Chuck Lawless

As a pastor, I learned early that small groups are essential to a church.  They provide opportunities for growth we could not offer in a large group setting.  Members cared for each other when I could not possibly be there to meet every need in the church.  More specifically, small groups became a central player in our church’s evangelistic strategy.

Most healthy churches have both open groups and closed groups. Open groups use an on-going curriculum that allows guests to enter the study at any point; emphasize evangelism, with the goal of becoming an entry point for guests; and strive to grow enough to multiply at least annually.  Closed groups use a set curriculum that limits entrance once a study has started; typically meet for a set number of weeks; and emphasize discipleship, with the goal of strengthening a believer’s walk.

The problem in most churches is this: open groups become closed groups when steps are not taken to avoid this direction. Because evangelism is difficult, many open groups see few unbelievers attending their group. The evangelistic focus thus quietly disappears as the group slowly becomes closed.

How does a church make sure that open groups remain evangelistic?

1. Be aware of indicators that an open group is losing its evangelistic focus. 

I know of no open group that intentionally decides to be inwardly focused. I have, though, seen many open groups lose their evangelistic focus.  Watch for these indicators that an open group is moving in the wrong direction:

  • a failure to reproduce another group at least every two years
  • a leader who refuses to raise up an apprentice to lead another group
  • a steady decline in the number of guests who attend the small group
  • group members who complain that “the curriculum is not deep enough for us”—thus showing they believe the group is more for them than for others
  • no new group members within the last six months
  • no planned fellowship/outreach events within the last six months.

2. Choose the right small group leaders.

Most, if not all, problems in small groups can be fixed by selecting the right leaders.  A strong small group leader will teach anywhere, reach out to anybody, and make any curriculum work.  Likewise, the right small group leader will help the group keep its focus on evangelism.

If your groups are intended to be evangelistic, seek these characteristics in leaders:

  • good teaching skills so that believers and non-believers alike will want to attend and learn. A boring small group leader will lull a group into irrelevance.
  • a stated willingness to reproduce the class – that is, to reach people, train them, and send the strongest out to begin another class.  A small group leader who is unwilling to send out “class missionaries” will not lead his class to be evangelistic.
  • a lifestyle of personal evangelism.  Few small group leaders suddenly focus on evangelism when they start to lead a group.

3. Continually challenge small group members to think about non-believers.

This practical step sounds almost too basic, but it is critical.  The longer people are in a church, and the higher they rise in church leadership, the more likely is they will be disconnected from non-believers.  Without realizing it, most of us get cocooned in the church world.  We get comfortable in our world and almost dare outsiders to disrupt it.

Good small group leaders push hard against this tendency.  They ask group members to share names of non-believers for whom they are praying.  They hold members accountable for intentionally developing relationships with unbelievers.  They model evangelism by telling stories of persons for whom they are praying.  They lead the small group to plan fellowship activities that unbelievers might attend.

4. Celebrate when group members become believers.

What better way to rejoice than to throw a party when a non-believer chooses to follow Christ?  The small group that has prayed for that person, reached out to her, invited her to fellowships, and welcomed her into the group surely is ready to celebrate when God changes her heart.  Bake a cake, buy some ice cream, and give some presents!

In fact, the gift options are numerous – a Bible, Christian music, a devotional guide, a journal, Christian books, and a family magazine subscription are all possibilities.  The gift need not be elaborate to let the new believer know you celebrate what God has done.

Here’s the point: God-honoring, Christ-centered celebrations will help your small group’s evangelistic outreach.  Clearly and intentionally praise the Lord every time He uses your group as a means to change a life – and then ask Him to use your group again.  Evangelistic small groups are actually quite fun when evangelism takes place and lives are transformed.

What other strategies would you recommend?

Lifeway_Blog_Ad[1]Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

photo credit: marcia.furman via photopin cc

Comment at ThomRainer.com »

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New Year, New Joy

January brings a new year with all the hope and promise that comes with a fresh start. Sometimes the turning of the calendar causes us to commit, or recommit, as we seek to get better, do better, or be better. I am reminded that most of these commitments will falter and fail, but those made by the power of the Spirit will stand.

 Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Based upon the confidence received from this promise in scripture, I feel it is possible to move forward with confidence. God has begun a great work, and we are seeing that through the people at work in North Park Baptist Church. This is something that has been started by God, is planted in our hearts, and we will be equipped until the end.

We are doing the work of God, placed in our hearts by the Spirit of God, to accomplish the will of God! Let us serve with confidence, celebrating through the success, praying through the challenges, but ever mindful that God began this work, and he will complete it!

My prayer is every believer to reach the potential God has set for them this year. I am fired up to be the pastor of a church that believes in reaching, teaching, and loving people. I believe God has a GREAT plan for you! Praise the Lord for His mighty Work!


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