Thursday, May 31, 2007
On preaching: the problem with some preachers is that they are more in love with their message than they are with their people. What I mean is this: For some preachers, the pursuit of the perfect homiletical outline has overridden their obligation to think about the audience to whom they are preaching. While the message should never compromise because of an audience, it should also never fail to communicate with the audience. The preacher must begin his preparation with two eyes on the text. He must finish his preparation with one eye on the text and one eye on his audience. One pastor I read talked of doing his final sermon prep at the food court in a local mall. He would see the people walking about and think about how his sermon would plug into their lives. It's not a bad suggestion.
On slogans: slogans are great tools. They are generally bad solutions. They are, by nature, usually memorable, but simple. I love those who can take a complex truth and boil it down to a simple memorable statement. But we must be cautious about naked sloganeering. Most of them need the clothing of explanation and application. For instance, I frequently give the whole message of the Bible in two words: God wins. It's a slogan. It's true. It also needs explanation. God's victory includes a lot of things along the way that need to be explained, defended, applied, and accepted. So by all means, use slogans when you can, but use them carefully.
Finally, on analysis: if you are going to do an expose of something, make sure you do your homework. Case in point: John MacArthur has recently written a book about the emerging church movement. It is being roundly criticized by some who believe that MacArthur did not do enough homework in preparation for the book. Though I have it, I have not yet read it (not sure if I will anytime soon). Questions are being raised: How many emergent church services did MacArthur attend? How many interviews with emergent church pastors did he conduct? If the answer is none, that is bad. When the people you are writing about do not recognize themselves in your writing, there may be a problem. Now I recognize that people being critiqued are not always objective about their problems, but they should at least recognize some of what you are saying. MacArthur's book is probably not entirely wrong, but it deserves some caution. I recommend reading both sides of the issue before you make dogmatic statements. It may save you from being wrong.
I think the emergent conversation has some severe problems. I think much of it is a distortion of historic Christianity. But I think we can show that from what they believe and do. We do not have to make stuff up, or paint the worst possible picture of a situation. Their own actions are sufficient.
I never see the mail lady (she calls herself that) when she delivers mail at the church. She just puts it through the slot. But I do see her in the diner just about every time I am in there.
She usually stops and talks and tells me what’s going on in her church and her life. Yesterday, she had these words of wisdom gleaned from a message last week at her church, presented in her own inimitable way (which needs her personality to give the full effect).
Tell them if you want to be in a good relationship with your husband you have to stop talking and let him be in control. It’s in the Bible.
"Of course," she said "I will never get married ‘cuz I can’t shut up."
We had a good laugh.
I told her I would pass it along.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The public reading of Scripture is a feature of the corporate worship of God’s people, both in the Old Testament and New Testament. Public reading of Scripture was found during the wilderness wanderings (Exod 24:7), the great reformation of Josiah (2 Kings 22-23), and the return of the exiles under Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh 8-9). In each of these cases, as well as more that could be cited, the public reading of Scripture played a major and vital role in the revival and growth of God’s people. This practice was carried over into NT Judaism, seen in the life of Christ (Luke 4:16ff) and Paul (Acts 13:15ff; esp. v. 27), though the reading of the word was typically not mixed with submission in those who heard it.
Paul considered his own writings as authoritative and worthy of public reading. He command the public reading of Scripture in
However, the public reading of Scripture may be the most uncommon of worship practices in modern churches, particularly in fundamentalism. Though we have long and rightly emphasized the preaching of the word, we have often overlooked the naked reading of the Word. It is generally not viewed as a dynamic part of the worship, and perhaps viewed by many as boring and uninteresting.
What is striking in the OT passages is that the people’s attention was focused on the Scriptures for lengthy periods of time. They would stand while the Law was read from for hours at a time—from “early morning until ” in
There are a number of ways in which the public reading of the Word can be carried out. It can be done by a single person reading aloud to the assembled congregation, by means of responsive reading (alternating verses between a solo leader and the unison reading aloud of the congregation), or by having the congregation read aloud together. A variety of practice can be beneficial in exposing ourselves to the Word of God through the bare reading of Scripture without comment.
 It may be that these long sessions also included “translating to give the sense” of the Scripture, which would be preaching.
Friday, May 25, 2007
For worship to fit the proposed definition there must be both a reception of the truth and a response to the truth. The idea known as the Regulative Principle teaches that God has ordained the manner in which this reception and response should be carried out. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a widely recognized formulation of the Regulative Principle.
WCF 21:1 The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture
The Regulative Principle is the expression of the Reformer’s desire to return to sola Scriptura. Believing that the Scripture was sufficient for all things, it necessarily followed that it was sufficient to declare how the church should approach God in worship. Frame says “Everything we do in worship must be divinely warranted.” Or as Pratt puts it, “We must have positive biblical support for all that we do in worship.”
The Regulative Principle distinguishes between the elements of worship (the constituent parts of it) and the circumstances (place, time of day, use of bulletins, musical instruments, etc.). The circumstances are the way in which we observe or practice the elements. The elements are prescribed while the circumstances are left to the discretion of the church.
Though the Regulative Principle is an ongoing topic of debate, it is generally agreed that there are five elements of worship prescribed in Scripture and therefore necessary for the church. Those five elements are 1) Reading of Scripture, 2) Prayer, 3) Singing, 4) Preaching, and 5) Sacraments or Ordinances. The intent here is not to make an argument for the Regulative Principle, nor to answer objections or address the suggested weaknesses of it. Rather, having previously defined worship as a conversation, the intent is to show how the conversation of worship is warranted by Scripture and should be considered as a paradigm for corporate worship.
 See D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe (
 John M. Frame, “A Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle,” www.reformedperspectives.org/newfiles /joh_frame/frame.ethics2005.afreshlookattheregulativeprinciple.pdf, accessed 17 Dec 06.
 Richard L. Pratt, “The Regulative Principle,” www.reformedperspectives.org/newfiles/ric_pratt/ th.pratt.reg.prin.pdf accessed 17 Dec 06.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
By Floyd Schneider
There is no doubt that a vast majority of people in evangelical and fundamental churches (churches that actually have the gospel or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof) have never shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with other people. One of the most common reasons given is that they are scared. I remember when I first came to Grace, an older lady who had been a member of the church since the 50s expressed to me her unwillingness to counsel a child in the way of salvation. She was afraid she might say the wrong thing or give a wrong answer.
The truth is that she is not alone. It is doubtful that there are any of us that have never felt the twinge of cowardice when a door for the gospel opens. Even the apostle Paul prayed for boldness. For most, this struggle to share the gospel with others is not because they think it is unimportant (though some certainly do), but because they are scared. Fear overrules their knowledge of the obedience of evangelism.
To address these people Floyd Schneider has written an excellent little book (217 pages) that will be abundantly clear on the first read, but will likely take a number of reads to begin to understand and think in the manner he present.
In essence, this is a book of questions, good questions, questions that will form the basis of a good evangelistic approach. In fact, this book has more question marks than any book I have ever read. Now mind you, these are not the questions the author is asking you, but questions that the author is encouraging to you ask others.
In short, this is a book about apologetics that takes very little training. It encourages evangelization by encouraging people to find answers to questions in Scripture. Your basic role is encouraging people to ask questions based on what the Bible says, and then find the answers to the question in the Bible.
Three Major Propositions
The genius of this book can be summed up in three major propositions.
1. Relationships provide the foundation for fruitful spiritual conversation.
While Schneider does devote a section to Short Conversations with people whom you might never see again (chapter 8, pp. 103-116), the bulk of his book is built on the foundation of his first principle of witnessing: Become a friend before you become a preacher (p. 87). While some have objected to “friendship evangelism” because it seems to be more about friendship than evangelism, Schneider is clear about getting to the gospel. However, he believes (and with good merit) that these kinds of conversations are usually better received from someone who is a friend first.
He cites a Swiss missionary who says, “If people get to know you as a nice person and then they discover that you’re a bit odd about religion, they won’t mind. But if all they know about you is that you’re a fanatic about religion, they probably won’t ever make the effort to discover that you’re a nice person” (p. 28).
In stressing the need for a relationship, he encourages cultivating a genuine interest in something they are interested in and warns against viewing non-Christians “only as potential converts, whom you will cast off if they do not get saved” (p. 30).
2. Questions can demonstrate the absurdity of rejecting a belief system without evaluation.
Another major component of Schneider’s approach is the apologetic task of showing the absurdity of unjustified epistemology. (I just wanted to write that.) Here’s what it means: If you have never read the Bible, how do you know it’s not right? How can you so adamantly reject something you know nothing about?
He demonstrates the absurdity of moral relativism with examples that everyone will understand. He shows how people use in everyday life are rejected when it comes to their beliefs about God. As I read, I found myself smiling, even laughing, at the simplicity with which Schneider shows the absurdity of some people’s approach to faith, religion, and life, using illustrations from everyday life to show that people treat issues of religious faith totally differently than they treat other things that they must believe. Several of his ten principles (pp. 87-116) deal with getting your friend to question his current beliefs by asking him questions about why he believes what he does—how he justifies what he believes (his epistemology). He says, “You will have accomplished a lot if you cause a stranger to doubt his own viewpoints” (p. 116).
Questions have a way of provoking thought. Declarations have a way of provoking self-defense. With an unbeliever, you want the former, not the latter.
3. The Bible provides the authority by which one will be converted. Therefore, get your friends to read the Bible with you.
The third major proposition Schneider heavily emphasizes is the sufficiency of Scripture to bring about faith in the reader. He says, “God’s thoughts, as found in His Word, will do a far better job of convicting our unsaved friends than we can with our explanations of His Word. Therefore, we emphasize reading the Bible with our friends, not just giving them a gospel presentation” (p. 22).
Contrary to most evangelism approaches that I have seen, Schneider does not present a canned conversation with leading questions to get people to a point of decision in a few minutes. In fact, Schneider is adamant that you not give answers (principle 9, p. 100). If you do, you will become the source of authority. He does not encourage debating with people, or trying to “argue them into the
To demonstrate this approach in action, pp. 172-205 contain an extended discussion of
Schneider includes a section on understanding Christ’s approach (pp. 34-46), preparing yourself (pp. 47-52), turning conversations to spiritual topics (pp. 53-73), witnessing to cult members (p. 120-124), and actually reading the Bible with someone (pp. 157-164). Each chapter closes with “Do It”—a list of suggestions for putting the chapter into practice. It makes this book very useable for a discipleship course in evangelism training.
The emphasis on question asking is a much needed emphasis, but it will take a photographic memory or several reads for most people to begin to grasp the mindset Schneider is suggesting. He recommends lots of practice by yourself, asking questions and anticipating responses (p. 87). Learning to ask question is an art-form in a way, but it can be learned. The great thing about what Schneider is recommending is that you do not actually have to have answers. The text will answer the questions.
Incidentally, I think the questions throughout this book have the potential to help pastors in their sermon preparation by helping us to think about the objections to Scripture and the false standards of belief that have been raised up that can and should be destroyed by preaching. It can help the pastor ask probing questions that provoke thought. And it simply has some great illustrations about scriptural topics.
While Schneider heavily emphasis the authority of Scripture, one can get the impression that he is also dependent on his ability to ask probing questions. We must be aware of our dependence on cleverness to do the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does certainly use our witness, but it does not seem that he is generally given to cleverness. The danger of all apologetic evangelism is the danger of authority transfer from the simplicity of Christ crucified and proclaimed to the ability to persuade through cleverness and argumentation.
The use of friendship evangelism must also be carefully guarded to make sure that our evangelism does not become simply being different. Schneider does emphasize the evangelistic power of a changed life. However, we must constantly remember that a changed life is not enough. It did not please God through the amazement of changed lives to save, but rather through the foolishness of the message preached. As Schneider points out, becoming a friend before becoming a preacher is vital, but it is insufficient.
I highly recommend this book. It will be great as for an individual or for a discipleship class or group study. It will not be a good book for those who like instant results. If your driving goal is to see a person pray during your very first conversation, this approach will not satisfy you. It will however have the possibility of actually seeing people saved after they have come face to face with the truth of Scripture as opposed to coming face to face with you. Schneider will not encourage to you take their hand, put your other hand on their shoulder and squeeze just right while looking them in the eyes from fourteen inches away. He will encourage you to get them face to face with the Jesus of the Bible.
Those who are scared that they do not know enough about the Bible can find great encouragement in this approach. All you need to know, really, is how to find the gospel of John, and how to ask questions. You do not even have to be able to answer them. Remember, one of Schneider’s main points in the book is that we should not answer questions. When we answer questions, it becomes our view and we are risking the appearance of asking someone to believe what we have said. It would be better to have them find their answers directly in Scripture.
This approach to evangelism will be difficult for those with the gift of teaching, since they like to instruct and give answers. It will also be difficult for those who think they have the gift of right answers. One of the main repetitive themes of the book is Ask questions; don’t answer them. You want the answers to be found in the Bible through reading. That way, you do not become the authority; the Scripture does.
So read it … and do it.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
What are the cultural factors of city churches? I am particularly referencing the issues that urban churches would deal with that a suburban church would not.
If a church were to be planted in an inner-city area, what particular cultural and social issues would have to be dealt with in some way that would not show up as much in an suburban area?
What would a healthy urban church look like?
I am not referring to doctrinal fidelity here, so we can dispense with talking about the necessity of preaching the gospel, making disciples, separating from false churches and false teachers, etc.
I have some ideas I have collected for a while, but am interested in other people's thinking on this.
The entire article entitled "The Conversation of Worship" can be found here.
True biblical worship has primarily to do with a glad and necessary response of life to the truth about God communicated in his Word through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
In the first place, biblical worship is inseparably connected with truth about God. Man, by nature, is a worshipper. He has an instinctive awareness of something bigger than himself, and he is therefore always in search of this “something bigger.” It is manifested in daily life in the virtual idol status that is given to athletes, actors or actresses, successful businessmen, and even church leaders, who are seen as possessing one or more characteristics that evoke a sense of awe and amazement. Yet this instinct for worship can only be truly satisfied in God alone. Man worships at the altar of lesser gods—people, pleasures, or ideas—because he has no compelling vision of the greatness of the one true and living God. Until such a vision is gained, man’s instinct to worship will be pursued in these lesser gods.
The instinct to worship derives from the image of God in man. In every human, there is the innate knowledge of the transcendent God. It is a knowledge mediated both internally (through conscience;
In the second place, biblical worship is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Mankind, by nature and choice, is sinful. Sin has affected every area of his being, including his mind and affections resulting in man’s inability to properly process truth respond to it appropriately. The problem of sin is an insurmountable barrier to the worship of God apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, worship took place in conjunction with the sacrifices in accord with the revelation of God, sacrifices which pictured the coming final sacrifice of Christ. In the New Testament, we recognize that “God…in these last days, has spoken to us in his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). The perfection of Christ combined with his work on the cross is the only way to remove the sin problem, and therefore is the sole ground on which we can approach God in true worship. Worship that is not based on the person and work of Jesus Christ is worship that cannot deal with sin. Therefore, sin must be dealt with by the work of Christ in his life and death and by the confession and submission of the worshipper to the lordship of Christ. By doing this, the mind and affections can be prepared to receive the truth of God, wherever it is found in Scripture.
In the third place, biblical worship is a glad and necessary response of man. Having received the cleansing of sin brought by Christ and having received the truth of God brought by Scripture, there is a response drawn forth from the heart of man that employs his whole being—mind, will, and emotions. We first note that the response is drawn forth by the truth, not worked up by manipulation. Many worship services in modern churches depend heavily on the ability of the worship leaders (whether the pastor or the musicians) to manipulate a response from the hearers. Before one jump too heavily on the use of certain types of music or humor, we should not fail to admit that emotional stories and thirty-seven verses of “Just As I Am” with the choir humming softly in the background is scarcely different. When someone comes face to the face with the truth about God from God, the response will not need to be manipulated. It will be drawn forth irresistibly or necessarily. While manipulation can ply on the emotions, only truth can break the heart and the will. The truth about God clearly communicated will compel the tender heart to submission. Only sin (hardheartedness against the truth) can prevent the response.
The response should also be glad. Worship should be joyful. This joyful worship should not be confused with loudness and energy, physical demonstration, or gladness of heart, though it may include all of those things. Glad worship can also take place in times of quiet reflection, in times of mourning over sin and the sweetness of repentance, and in times of struggle with life circumstances. Gladness in worship is the state of the heart overwhelmed with the sovereign control of a loving and just God, no matter the life context. Such a heart may grieve and cry, but it will be glad in God. Gladness in worship is not contrary to sorrow for sin brought on by truth, or sadness for what may be a difficult life circumstance. It is a part of it.
It is sometimes said that “Worship is all about God, not about us.” Such a statement is well-meaning, but is perhaps an overstatement. While worship is driven solely by truth about God and directed solely to God, biblical worship does have effects in the life of the worshipper. Worship is designed by God, not only to bring glory to himself, but to bring confidence and joy to the worshipper. Psalms, the hymnbook of ancient
In the fourth and final place, true biblical worship is the response of life. Too often, worship is relegated to an hour on Sunday morning where the church corporately gathers with her guests to sing, pray, give, and hear the Word preached. These services are sometimes considered dead and lifeless. Perhaps the reason why many worship services are considered dead and lifeless is because people have failed to worship God with their life for the previous 167 hours and will leave to return to a life of self-worship rather than God worship. The worship of Sunday morning is, in many respects, a continuation of what has occurred for the past week. A life spent consuming the world for six days will find it hard to hunger for God in true worship on the seventh day. Worship is a time for the readjustment of priorities and realignment of lives, but one hour a week can scarcely undo the disorder brought by the modern consumer mindset.For worship to be biblical, therefore, it must be a glad and necessary response of life to the truth about God communicated in his Word through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Biblical worship is not about how people feel when they leave the building, nor is it about whether or not emotions were stirred, though genuine worship should result in changed feelings and emotions. Biblical worship is first and foremost about the truth of God, in his person and work through Jesus Christ, communicated to the hearer, drawing forth the response of the spirit to that truth. Simply put, biblical worship is a conversation between man and God, where God speaks and man responds.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
From a recent “Fundamentalist” paper:
“When I see so many major ministries and Bible colleges have evangelists and preachers who travel openly with their mistresses come to speak and then get introduced as the greatest preachers in
Fair enough, though I am troubled by the broad accusation without naming names.
However, his basis for this statement is found just three paragraphs earlier when he said, “Some of you hate that I am exposing our own, but if he were a charismatic preacher, we would call his name and lambaste him. However, when it comes to our own, we would rather gather around tables like little school girls and gossip instead of take a public stand against such trash … which leads me to my third observation: Our movement is so full of politics it is sickening.”
So here is a guy who said if it was a charismatic preacher we would “call his name and lambaste him.” He then complains about the politics that prevents people from doing this. And then doesn’t do it. Was it politics that kept him from naming the names of these preachers who are allegedly making the preaching circuit with their mistresses in tow?
But here’s the greatest irony: This is from a man who, in the last paragraph of this paper, cites “Dr. Jack Hyles” as someone he “preached across this country with” who told him that “every generation of fundamentalists has to define themselves.”
Here's the problem: The definition that Jack Hyles gave for his fundamentalism is a complete and absolute embarrassment. He is a man who openly preached heresy. He is a man who accepted the adulation of thousands. He is a man whose moral qualifications for the pastorate were at best questionable. He was not “blameless” by any stretch of the imagination.
And he is cited by a man who complains about preachers with mistresses making the preaching circuit.
Have you no shame?
So should I be consistent and name names? Sure, why not: These are the words of Keith Gomez from
Oh that God would spare fundamentalism from the Old Paths that cite Jack Hyles as a moral authority on anything.
Monday, May 21, 2007
It is hard to overestimate the damage that the topic of worship has done to the church, particularly in recent times. The fact that this topic is often referred to as “war”—as in “worship wars,” is not entirely hyperbole. Churches have been split, and pastors have found themselves on the unemployment line for daring to tackle the topic of worship. People from both sides of the aisle have launched a seemingly endless volley of names and charges at those who disagree with them. Charges run the gamut from “You do not really love God” to “You are narrow-minded and blind.”
The reason behind this problem cannot be the lack of a clarion call from Scripture to worship. One can hardly read the Bible without sensing on virtually every page this call of God to worship and a pastor cannot pretend to preach the whole counsel of God without addressing the topic of worship. So why is this subject so controversial? It almost certainly stems from confusion about what worship really is coupled with a refusal to submit to the commands of God about biblical worship.
A survey about worship will undoubtedly find people’s idea of worship closely connected with feelings or emotions. A service is considered worshipful when a certain mood has been created, a mood that is often evaluated by the cultural or social baggage that one brings to his religious experience. The buzz, the feeling, the emotional movement—a state of excitement, or reflection, or both, are the bases on which someone evaluates worship service. In pursuit of this, some churches have set out to create the perfect worship atmosphere, perhaps with low lights, great bands, or candles. Others use quiet meditation, organ accompaniment, and robes for the pastor. In some cases, one can walk away from the service feeling like it was a “great worship service” while being unable to recall even basic information about the message brought from Scripture. On the other end, the mood is evaluated by similar standards with a different outcome. These assert that “if my flesh likes it, it cannot be true worship.”
In the midst of this confusion, many have lost sight (if they ever had it) of the fact that true biblical worship has primarily to do with a glad and necessary response of life to the truth about God communicated in his Word through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let us examine this definition in more detail by examining it in order of priority, and then propose a paradigm for corporate worship.
For worship to be biblical, therefore, it must be a glad and necessary response of life to the truth about God communicated in his Word through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Biblical worship is not about how people feel when they leave the building, nor is it about whether or not emotions were stirred, though genuine worship should result in changed feelings and emotions. Biblical worship is first and foremost about the truth of God, in his person and work through Jesus Christ, communicated to the hearer, drawing forth the response of the spirit to that truth. Simply put, biblical worship is a conversation between man and God, where God speaks and man responds.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
"Really, it's a myth," he says of the Exodus. "Sometimes as archaeologists we have to say that never happened because there is no evidence for it."
How is it that we can argue argue a categorical negative based on the lack of evidence? It seems that there are some significant assumptions that go into such an argument.
There is the assumption that every historical event left recognizable evidence that would be preserved for thousands of years. How would we know that that is indeed a fact? Would we not recognize that through the millenia of human history there have been many events which likely left no identifiable evidence, if in fact they left any evidence at all.
There is the second assumption that we have found all the archaeological evidence that there is to find. This assumption is demonstrably wrong, inasmuch as archaeologists are constantly making new finds. If every bit of archaeological evidence was already found and categorized, then archeology would virtually cease to exist.
There is a third assumption that all the archaeological evidence has been properly categorized and dated. This is simply impossible to verify. Archeology is a very technical and detailed field. But it also works from guesses in many areas, and from circular reasoning in others (e.g., We found this potsherd in this layer so it must be from this era because everything else in this layer is from said era.)
The reason this grabs my attention (and this has been sitting on my desk for weeks now while I ruminated on it) is because some people think that archaeology is the secret key to evangelism through apologetics. If we can simply prove that Noah's Ark existed, or that Israel was in Egypt, or that Belshazzar did reign in Babylon, then we can win the world to Jesus very quickly and usher in the kingdom.
Such is not the case. God has not left the confirmation of his truth up to the "lucky" finds of archaeologists. He has instead entrusted the confirmation of his truth to the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the communication of the Word of God. While archaeological finds may provide interesting extra-biblical data, the truth of Scripture does not rest on men digging holes in the desert.