Hey Church Planters! A Quick Question for you.


As part of my seminary program, I’m currently in an Urban Church Planting class. As an assignment, I’m supposed to ask you all:

What are some things you wish you had known before planting, or things you wish you had done differently?

A penny for your thoughts? Please also include your church’s name and your position there.

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The Trinity building the Church! | Acts 20.28


Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

Acts 20.28

Wow, here’s the whole Trinity at work in leading God’s church! Would that we give more attention to this Trinitarian nature to the sustaining of our churches. Also, notice how Jesus’ blood “obtained” the Church. He didn’t merely create the space of possibility. He went out and got it. It is is his.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Sermon’s Essence & Power | 1 Corinthians 2.1-5


When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2.1-5

This encourages me so much in preaching. No matter the exegesis, eloquence, or whatever, we preach Christ and him crucified, and that makes a good sermon. We also live a life in accordance with that outside of the sermon and it supports our preaching as well. Just as in the nature of God Himself, our words and our deeds cannot be separated from one another.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

When your church’s “cultural relevance” fails | Acts 14.11-18


When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice.

 

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”

 

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14.11-18

This is in contrast to Paul’s later methods at Mars Hill in Chapter 17. Here we see that not every “contextualization” is created equal. Sometimes, your “relevance” could be dragging people to worship yourself or false idols. As preachers, we should always be on the lookout for this, and to constantly speak against it.

On another note, that bold part (v.15) should be the model for every single sermon.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Confirm everything, even the Holy Spirit | Acts 13.2-3


While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13.2-3

I love this. Because they were so in tune with God and his Spirit, even after the Holy Spirit tells them something, they still feel they need to fast and pray before doing it. Those early Christians weren’t just willy-nilly following whatever spiritual whim and inspiration they got. They were careful and made sure they were hearing God rightly. May we do the same.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Really. What is this “Mystery” Paul is talking about? | 1 Corinthians 2.6-8


Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2.6-8

What an odd set of lines. I’ll be brutally honest. I get that “the mystery” is the inclusion of the Gentiles but in hindsight, it doesn’t seem that mysterious. From the beginning, God has promised a multitude of peoples would be counted among his people. Perhaps, the mystery was not merely the inclusion of the Gentiles as we commonly express it, but rather the way in which they are connected to God’s people? Maybe the “mystery” is more that it is no longer by becoming an ethnic group, but rather by both Jew and Gentile becoming something different and wholly other from what they have been.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Who Sent Whom? | Acts 13.2-4


While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
Acts 13.2-4

Nice. I love that.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Urban Lessons: Why cities will save our souls. [VIDEO]


Yesterday I started a brief little series going through some lessons I have learned from my first semester back in seminary. I first talked about how (at least in my mind) cities had to be taken off their pedestal. There are desires and needs of the human soul that can’t be met in cities. We need other types of livable environments as well.

And yet, through this semester I was re-grounded in my belief in the essential importance and centrality of urban settings. Above, you’ll find a video reflection I had to make in which I give my perspective on this question: Why should Christians engage in cities? In it, I speak about some of these dynamics that are in greater detail below. (Sorry for the poor video quality.)
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What IS the Bible? Let’s Discuss.


Acts-bible-lomo“The Bible is a Communicative, Missional Speech Act”

Yesterday, this quote came back to me after years of sitting in the cobwebs of my brain. It was the summary statement of my Introduction to the Old Testament class that I took during my previous seminary stint. I mulled it around for a little bit, and found that this had shaped me profoundly since taking the class, and that it still really does match how view the Bible. And so, I just wanted to take a few moments today to unpack this and how it affects my approach to Scripture.

The “Bible”, this book, is the written revealing of an otherwise unknowable God. Everything in it is centered around the person and work of Christ. The Old Testament is the testimony of who God is and how He has worked through history and the hearts of people to bring about his promised unmerited redemption.
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Are Cities too broken for Christians to fix them?


philly-city-hall-1As I go through these seminary discussions and readings concerning the relationship between Christians and cities, two things are pretty certain for me. First, God loves cities and had/has great intentions for them. Second, things went horribly, completely, and utterly awry.

I have the privilege of taking these courses along with incredibly thoughtful people. They haven’t just taken wholesale this newly “rediscovered” urban emphasis of Christian faith. They get the reality that God and the Bible have an urban-centric feel to them, but they really want to fight for a conception of God’s work in the world that comes to bear upon every person in every type of place in the world–not just city-dwellers.

And so I’ve been wondering: is this “urban call” to Christians a general one, or does it only go out to a very specific type of person? Are the difficulties in cities so big, so intractable, and so unique that only certain types of Christians with certain types of giftings could find a place for Kingdom work?
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