B21 will be checking in from the ERLC Leadership Summit daily. Just a reminder, you can keep up with the sessions at the ERLC Summit by following us @baptist21 or by checking in on the #erlcsummit on twitter. Also, you can view the sessions live at live.erlc.com
One does not have to be in ministry very long to know that the issue of sexuality is a hot topic. And one just needs take a glance at the hashtag #erlcsummit to see that this is a conversation both “inside” and “outside” the church that is engulfed in much heat. Include that the gospel is intimately connected to the story of Redemption, of a Son leaving home to pursue and secure a bride at great sacrifice, and it makes this a timely conference. The talks from yesterday addressed important topics for pastors and members to think through together.
Pornography (speaker, Heath Lambert)
Heath Lambert, a Biblical Counseling Professor at Southern Seminary, as well as the author of Finally Free, began the conference with a topic that is ravaging our churches—pornography.
It is truly an understatement to say that Pornography is a massive problem in the church—even among its ministry leaders and pastors. In fact, Lambert said, “The greatest moral threat to Evangelical Christianity is the pastor who teaches rightly about homosexuality and then retreats home for an hour of pornography.” Lambert compared Pornography to the forbidden woman of Proverbs 7 and posed that this is a matter of life and death. He pointed out the connections in that pornography appeals, like the forbidden woman, to our most based desire, for life to be about us. In addition, she argues that this will just be a little secret that nobody will know about. Finally, she says you do not have to worry about “me,” which plays right into the pornography culture whereby women are consumed without a thought of their needs or their good (He shared that 90% of people in porn industry are involved in some form of drug abuse, and an “actress” said this was so because drugs were the only escape to deal with how they are treated).
This is a matter of life and death as Proverbs 7 states, and Lambert gives some practical and theological ways for us to fight for life over death. He began with the foundational point that it is impossible to resist this forbidden woman apart from the grace of Jesus Christ. Lambert ended with an appeal to the evangelical church to be at the forefront of a movement to fight for and protect women from being consumed and abused, while at the same time awakening our Sons and the World to the idea that there is something much more beautiful to look at… and His name Jesus!
The Pastor’s Purity (Panel Discussion)
Next, a panel discussed how the pastor can wage war for his own purity. As the panelists discussed, because of their position of public leadership in the church, pastors must be doubly on guard and willing to make war with their sin. The panel pushed those listening to understand that this is first a belief issue (A Christ-Centered outlook on sex and purity) and the belief always goes before fighting (i.e. cutting out one’s eye by: putting safeguards on your computer, setting up accountability relationships, and not being alone with women that are not your wife – this caused a stir on Twitter).
In addition, when it comes to the life of the local church, pastors (and aspiring pastors) were challenged not to make the standard of holiness “the next guy” whom you might be tempted to judge yourself against, but instead the holiness of God. A helpful reminder for those thinking through “qualifiedness” (if that’s a word) is that this is not up to one’s evaluation of themselves anyways, it is up to the church who affirms whether the aspiring man meets the qualifications of an Elder. Finally, in the context of the local church, pastors were encouraged that when it comes to sexual sin church discipline “has to be on the table.” In church discipline we not only call the sinner to repentance, but also protect the weak and fight sin; this is a must if we are going to personally make ourselves accountable and if we are going to protect, particularly women, those abused and hurt in our churches.
Discussing Sexuality with Teens in Your Home and Church - (Speaker, Jimmy Scroggins)
Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist West Palm Beach, held one of the more frank talks I have heard on the issue of sexuality. I would strongly recommend listening to this message. He began by saying he has been humbled in this area and that he was much more confident to talk about sexuality and teenagers before his sons became teens. He wishes he could tell that his thoughts in this area led to a pain-free environment, but it isn’t so!
Scroggins points out that teens today have it much different than teens in the 80s when there was no internet or cell phones (if he wanted to have a CD or VHS that his parents did not approve it was contraband, now those things can be hidden deep in a phone). He pointed out that today’s culture is marked by morally ambiguity, access, radical autonomy and that porn is a given, sex is expected, Gay is Ok (he lamented that even when he gave a very sensitive talk on homosexuality in his church that teenagers saw him as a bigot), and marriage is a capstone not a cornerstone). Scroggins challenged that these cultural trends have to inform how we teach and train teens in our churches and homes.
He proposed the way forward in continually building and rebuilding a culture of marriage in the home and church where it is honored and cherished. And he pointed out the necessity to start early—a great starting point is premarital classes and parents of young kids in your church. He gave some practical teaching points on how to teach children early on this topic by affirming their gender at an early age. And he challenged pastors to never talk about sexuality without speaking about marriage since this is God’s design for sexuality.
Pastoral Care for Sexual Sin (speaker, J.D. Greear)
J.D. Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, concluded the evening with some wonderful challenges for dealing with sexual sin in the church and how to interact with the sin of homosexuality with both grace and truth.
Greear pointed out that evangelicals should maintain the high ground on sexuality since sexuality is God’s idea. In addition, pastors and churches should seek to fight sexual sin at its root (not just fruit) but showing off the multi-faceted beauty of the gospel. Greear then modeled for the listeners one of his principles for dealing with sexual sin (Don’t avoid hard topics) as he moved to discuss homosexuality.
This talk certainly garnered much heat on Twitter, but Greear gave some helpful and challenging points to think through as christians speak the truth in love on this topic. As I would recommend that you watch this talk to hear it from the source, I will only mention two: Greear challenged that the point for us can never be homosexuality, but has to be the Lordship of Jesus. Finally, after several points of how to love the sexual sinner, Greear challenged the church that just because you are ticking people off does not mean you are doing something wrong. He pointed to the example of John the Baptist’s beheading and stated that he thinks if “Christian bloggers” had been around in that day they would have been equally disappointed with John as they are with today’s evangelical leaders who risk their necks to speak to sexual issues with which those who want to defend the “good face” of Christianity and the overall culture oppose strongly.
Baptist 21 is excited to offer a three-part post from Matt Chewning, Lead Pastor of Netcast Church in Beverly, MA–a suburb of Boston. In these posts Chewning walks through the first three years of planting a church, offering practical insight and wisdom from his experience as to how we all should rethink mission and strategy in church planting.
Be sure to stay tuned for parts two and three!
Year 1: Don’t plant a church.
Favor in the Graveyard.
As I’ve had opportunities to share our story of planting Netcast Church over 2 ½ years ago, people have been astonished to hear what the Lord is doing. Over the past century, Greater Boston has been considered the preachers grave yard; It’s where preachers go to die. So for us to have baptized over 150 people in a little over 3 years, is shocking to those who know the New England context. As a planter, I am consistently asked questions about strategy, philosophy and mission as people learn about what God is doing through Netcast.
When our family parachuted into Beverly, MA we had one goal in mind….Plant the Gospel, not a church! Netcast Church is not the hope of the world, Jesus is. Netcast is not the means to a transformed heart, Jesus is. Netcast Church is not the answer to the brokenness in our community, the Jesus is. Therefore, we must be more passionate about the gospel of Jesus than our local expression of the Kingdom of God.
A Gospel Strategy.
As our family prepared to move, it became more and more clear that our context didn’t need a church, it needed the gospel. Greater Boston didn’t need rules, morals or ways to better their marriages. They surly didn’t need more education, knowledge or tradition; they needed the transformation that only comes from Jesus. For too long, Greater Boston has been surrounded with religious ideals and the idol of tradition, but lacked a power that is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, our strategy? Plant the Gospel.
From day one we set out to tell everyone about Jesus. No shame, no bate and switch, no worrying about what people would think; just love people as best as we knew and talk about Jesus as often as we could. Jesus was our message. Jesus was our strategy. Jesus was our philosophy. Jesus was our hope. If this didn’t work, it wasn’t gonna be because we were too timid to talk about Jesus.
The Gospel Fruit.
As I get opportunities to encourage church planters, I constantly want to challenge them about strategy, philosophy, goals and motives. If your goal is to plant an exciting ministry, preach a relevant message, have dynamic music and organize yourself with good systems; you just may be tempted to find yourself talking more about your church than the one who hold the church in the palm of His hands. If you your goal is to have a specific philosophy of ministry or certain numerical goals, it’s possible that you’ll find yourself compromising gospel conversations for conversations surround around the topic of your church and in turn winning more people to your new ministry than to Jesus. However, the fruit of the gospel being planted in the hearts of men and women is a local body of transformed and empowered worshippers who gather together and scatter abroad because of the fame and name of Jesus. Therefore, plant the gospel and watch in amazement as Jesus builds His church right before your eyes.
Here are two keys of planting the gospel…
1. Talk Jesus, not church.
The problem in your city and my city is the same. It’s not that there aren’t enough churches, it’s the fact that the churches that do exist are not portraying an accurate picture of our Savior. To often people see church as a place of bored-rule followers where there is no life or fun to be had. Therefore they attribute the same thing to our great God. Next time you have the opportunity to invite someone to your church, pause long enough to remember that the reason they don’t want to come to your church is because they think they know what your God is like. And usually, their wrong.
2. Learn your context personally.
One of the reasons it is hard to plant the gospel is because the gospel is assumed. To often planters assume their context has specific views about Jesus but haven’t taken the time to actually explore. When I started Netcast, I wanted to understand what the presuppositional views were about Jesus so that I could deconstruct them and reconstruct an accurate one. Take a week and meet with as many non-christians as possible asking three questions.
ñ What do you believe?
ñ How did you come to believe it?
How has that belief system shaped your life for the best?
In a few days the movie based off the best selling “Evangelical Christian” book of the last decade, Heaven is For Real, debuts. Some of the truths in the sentence I just wrote frighten me and cause me to wonder if we have a biblically discerning, “Berean” culture in today’s Evangelical Church (cf. Acts 17:11). If you have not read the book, the basic premise of this supposedly true story is that a little boy is pronounced dead during an emergency surgery, goes to heaven, is revived, and recounts what heaven looks like in the ensuing months. There are all kinds of verses that come to mind that raise concern for our discernment about this story. David Platt highlights two of them while quoting John McArthur in this video clip from last year’s Secret Church
However, my biggest concern is the number of Christians who say this book bolsters their faith. These responses concern me greatly because they betray our lack of confidence in the sufficiency of the scriptures. Why do we look to a story about a boy’s “experience” with more excitement and awe than we do the Word of the Living God? But this type of demand for additional assurance than biblical truthfulness is nothing new. We have seen this before—in fact, about 2,000 years before. Jesus tells us a story about such a man in Luke 16:19-31 in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The parable is about the rich man dying and going to Hell while Lazarus dies and goes to Abraham’s side. The climax of the story records the rich man’s plea to Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead. Here is what is recorded for us in verses 28-31: “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house-for I have five brothers-so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.‘”
Christian, you do not need a dream of a 5 year old boy or someone spending “90 Minutes in Heaven” to prove to you that Heaven is for real or bolster your faith. You have the Prophets and Apostles! For 2,000 years they have been shouting to us through the Word that One came back from the dead and offers us both a resurrection like his and eternal life. Yes, Heaven is for real, and it’s a certainty for the believer. We shouldn’t garner our hope in the testimony of a 5-year-old boy, but in the power of our Lord and Christ who vacated a tomb in the Middle East and is right now at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. After all, we know Heaven is for real because in Christ we have already been raised from the dead and are right now seated in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6).
All this we know because the Bible told us so.
Post by Nate Akin, director of B21 and Pastor for Disciple-Making at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC
Pastoral Poison: Self-Glory
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the most competitive person I know. I hate losing — I hate it more than I love winning. Besides being born a sinner, I also was born into a family where this “competitive trait” drove us all. To this day, there’s the constant competition over which family member has the most money, who has the biggest house, or what married couple has the most sex; it can get awkward at times. In recent years, the Lord has begun to show me that entering into these conversations can be a form of self-glorification as I attempt to convince others that I’m better than I really am.
I’ve recently come to realize that this isn’t just a “Chewning Family” issue, but a massive disease that is spreading throughout pastoral ministry. Actually, many of us are trained in self-glorification from the moment of salvation.
I was raised with no spiritual upbringing at all. My mom is a non-practicing Jew; my dad, a non-practicing Catholic. They divorced when I was four years old. My only memory of church growing up was being thrown out of a church basketball game because I kept using offensive language. After high school, I was recruited to play basketball at a Christian college and decided to go even though I knew nothing about Christianity. Within two months of being at school, a friend of mine shared the gospel with me off campus, and I immediately believed in Jesus and became a Christian.
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