Contextualization & Mission

“Contextualization is speaking to people with their terms, not on their terms.”
-Darrin Patrick (p. 195 in Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission)

“Missionary strategy consists of two parts: a) On the one hand, be sure not to remove any of the offensive essentials of the gospel message, such as the teaching on sin, the need for repentance, the lostness of those outside of Christ, and so on. b) On the other hand, be sure to remove any nonessential language or practice that will confuse or offend the sensibilities of the people you are trying to reach.  The key to effective mission is to know the difference between essential and un-essential.”
-Tim Keller (quoted by Darrin Patrick on p. 193 in Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission)


Counterfeit Christ-Centered Preaching

The Bible is centered around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  He is the Supreme Person and the Supreme Focus of the Bible.  Christ permeates the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

With such a saturation of Christ throughout the Scriptures it would seem simple to preach Christ.  Yet there are a few “counterfeit gospels” that can sneak into our preaching.  Darrin Patrick lays out a few of these counterfeits in his book Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission.

“Moralism can be defined as an attempt to please God’s wrath toward sin with our good deeds.  It is an enemy of the gospel because, at best, it says that salvation = Jesus + my moral effort.  At worst it ignores Jesus’ atoning work altogether…Moralistic preaching, then, tends to place the wrath and holiness of God above the love and grace of God” (p 137).

“Christ-centered preaching  doesn’t discount God’s holiness.  It honors that holiness more than moralistic preaching because Christ-centered preaching asserts that we can’t be holy enough – only Christ was.  It asserts that we are only practically holy when we understand and live in the reality of our positional holiness in Christ.  It causes us to ponder and bask in the free grace of God in Christ, which motivates us toward practical holiness” (p 138).

“In relativism we create our own God and obey our own law.  Relativistic preaching, therefore, elevates the love and grace of God above the wrath and holiness of God. This kind of preaching appeals to the emotions, encouraging people to follow their own hearts.  Relativistic preaching produces mushy, milquetoast people” (p 138).

“Christ-centered preaching doesn’t belittle the love and grace of God; it magnifies it because such preaching asserts that God’s love and grace cost Jesus his life.  It moves us outside our own subjective “law” by motivating us to obey God’s revealed law out of love for Christ, who perfectly kept the law” (p 139).

“Self-help preaching…focuses on Christ as example, forgetting Christ as Savior.  Self-help preaching does not take the persuasiveness of sin seriously because it assumes that people want to obey and can obey, they just need to be told how to do it.  Such preaching is not biblical because it completely discounts the reality of human resistance to obeying God” (p 139).

“Christ-centered preaching refuses to run too quickly to applications without grounding its hearers in gospel reality: we are completely sinful, but fully accepted in Christ…Christ-centered preaching goes much further than merely providing suggestions for how to live; it points to the very source of life and wisdom and explains how and why we have access to him.  Felt needs are set into context of the gospel, so that the Christian message is not reduced to making us feel better about ourselves” (p 140).

“Activist preaching focuses on the corporate renewal of Christ at the expense of the personal saving work of Christ by overemphasizing the corporate work of the kingdom of God and underemphasizing the personal work of the King.  Activist preaching produces cause-oriented people whose lives are not centered on Christ.  Ultimately this approach undercuts the ability to effect true societal change because genuine societal change begins with a changed heart…We should work for the good of our cities, serve the poor, and fight injustice and oppression as a sign of the kingdom to come and as a sign that we know the King.  But Christ-centered preaching doesn’t forsake the personal nature of the gospel in order to simply focus on the corporate aspects of the gospel.  Instead it provides the ultimate grounds and larger context for the gospel-motivated mercy for the poor and oppressed” (p 141).

Seeking to Redeem Masculinity in the Church

The typical church today has disproportionate number of women to men (over 60% female).  I am an avid supporter and fan of women developing and serving Christ in the church to the fullest extent described in God’s Word, but I find it disturbing and sad that the number of men actively serving, growing, and stepping up to lead in the church seems to be declining.  Rather than actively pursuing spiritual growth and leadership, it appears that more and more young men are pursuing leadership status on the latest video games.

Darrin Patrick, author of Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission, has a moving and pointed video calling men to truly become men of God.  Redeeming Masculinity is worth watching, considering, and bringing before the Lord in our personal prayers.

A Determined Man

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

If you are a pastor or a church planter, you will face many moments where you are ready to tap out and give up the good fight. The questions are: How will you make it?  Where will you find the strength to keep going? If you remain faithful in ministry over the long haul, it will not be because of your ambitions, your strength of will, or your desire not to let others down.  Amidst the buffetings of ministry, these motivations will eventually wane.  The only way you will endure in ministry is if you determine to do so through the prevailing power of the Holy Spirit. The unsexy reality of the pastorate is that it involves hard work – the heavy lifting, curse-ridden, unyielding employment of your whole person for the sake of the church. Pastoral ministry requires dogged, unyielding determination, and determination can only come from one source – God himself (p 94).

These wise words by church planter and pastor Darrin Patrick may not be easy to hear and take to heart, but in my experience and from my observations of others these words are true. These words need to be heeded.  In his book Church Planter: The Man, The Message, the Mission, Patrick unveils what it looks like to be “A Determined Man”.  He hits upon the motivations and the practices of the determined man which I laid out in bullet point below.

The Motivations of a Determined Man (pp 94-98)

  • Remember God’s Love and God’s Promise
  • Remember the Resurrection
  • Work for Your Heavenly Reward

The Practices of a Determined Man (pp 98-103)

  • Confront Reality
  • Use Your Time Wisely
  • Take Responsibility for Your Physical Well-being
  • Listen to Wise Counselors
  • Take Sabbath Rest
  • Spend Time with Your Family

Shepherding With Jesus

“Shepherding helps you stay close to Jesus.” Seems like an obvious conclusion, but how often is it actually put into practice?  How often does a shepherd of souls rely on their own wit, assumptions, history, and opinions rather than on the Savior of souls, the Chief Shepherd Himself?  Given enough time and people, and even the most hard-headed and self-confident shepherd will realize that they need Jesus.

Darrin Patrick’s section entitled “Shepherding Helps You Stay Close to Jesus” in Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission succinctly lays out the logic behind relying on Jesus when shepherding people.  He does an excellent job of contrasting the pastor who locks himself into the safety of the pulpit with the pastor who engages himself with the flock entrusted to his care by Christ.

There is something about dealing with the enormity of people’s sin that necessitates staying very, very close to God. In preaching it is easy to hide a lack of spiritual connection with God through good preparation and raw ability. But the unpredictability and sheer emotional content of pastoral work confronts you with your own necessity for a Savior. In preaching you can prepare what you will say ahead of time. But in pastoral work there is a lot of room for insecurity and anxiety as you wrestle with the questions, objections, and arguments of your people in real time. It is terrifying! It drives you to dependence on God (pp 83-84).

Shepherding: Preparing for Living

Shepherding people requires time, energy, and money.  It can seem like a drain. Yet the benefits to the faithful shepherd outweigh the cost.  Darrin Patrick lays out some of the pluses in his book Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission. The first item he lists is: Shepherding Prepare the Pastor for Living.

When you deal with the sin of others, you become more aware of your own sin. When you shepherd the stubborn, you see your own stubbornness.  When you shepherd the selfish, you see your own selfishness. When you shepherd the broken, you inevitably see your own brokenness.  Positively, when you see others obey, you want to obey. when you see others use their gifts effectively, you want to use your gifts effectively.  This should come as no surprise to us, since it is the Holy Spirit who reveals sin, empowers obedience, and imparts gifts. Both the Greek and Hebrew words for spirit mean “air” or “breath.”  The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, which also means “air” or “breath.” This is where we get words like respiratory (breathing) and expire (no more breathing). It is also where we get the word inspire. It’s as if when the Spirit is at work in those whom we counsel, we pastors are, by the same Spirit, inspired to repent, believe, and obey with the best gifts we have (pp 82-83).

Upcoming Reads

I like reading.  I like reading good books by good authors.  There are three books that are at the top of my list that I am reading at the same time and appear to be great books:

1) The Momentum of Togetherness: Why the Church is the Best Thing Ever for the Christian Life by John Myer
This new e-book is based upon a sermon series by John Myer, pastor of Grandview Christian Assembly.  It is the first of several books in the “Big Ideas – Little Books” series.   The book looks to be a great read as its description is: “Is the church just an accessory item to the Christian life? Many have begun to feel this way as they pursue a course of isolated spiritual growth. Momentum gives good reasons for settling down with other believers, putting a stop to wandering from one congregation to another, and being about the business of serious Christian development.”

2) The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
This is a Christian classic that examines the attributes of God and how they apply to the Christian life.  Written by a well respected theologian, this book promises to bring in a reverence and praise to God for who He is and how He reveals and makes Himself available to us.

3) Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission by Darrin Patrick
The latest book from ReLit, this short book takes a look at church planting by examining the need for a proper church planter.  A real man of God. A man of God with the right message and who is on mission.  The concepts and principles laid out in the book look like something every Christian leader and lay person could learn from, whether or not they are involved in a church plant.