Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Swedish Chef

I love this guy.

HT: Vitamin Z

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pray for David Sitton and His Family

David Sitton is a pioneer missionary among tribal people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life and ministry have been an awesome encouragement to me, to my church, and to many of my friends. If you have never heard his name, I'd encourage you to listen to his message from the Desiring God Conference for Pastors, here.

I just received an e-mail from David's co-worker, Rod Conner, which I've copied and pasted below:

Please pray for my dear friend and co-worker David Sitton and his family. His niece was shot and killed along with three others at a family Thanksgiving gathering in Florida. You can read more about it from David on the To Every Tribe facebook page.

Here is a link to a report from the local TV station and I would encourage you to hear David’s brother Jim’s testimony.

Linda and I have been praying that God will use David and his brother Jim as a real “voice” for Jesus Christ and the gospel.

For His Glory,


Who Can You Unite With, Christian?

These wise words by John Piper really resonated with me. I've pasted them below.

I have often said that I can go much farther down the road together with a serious, biblically oriented, articulate, firmly-believing Arminian than with a jesting, systems-oriented, unclear, wish-washy, Reformed philosopher.

G. K. Chesterton helps explain why.

It’s not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay a difference of creed unites men—so long as it is a clear difference . . . So a Tory can walk up to the very edge of Socialism if he knows what Socialism is. But if he is told that Socialism is a spirit, a sublime atmosphere, a noble indefinable tendency, why then he keeps out its way; and quite right too. One can meet an assertion with an argument; but a healthy bigotry is the only way in which one can meet a tendency. (What’s Wrong with the World 22-23)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review: The Pastor-Evangelist

There are two kinds of books that most of my pastor-friends read: new books that are ‘cutting edge’, and old books that have stood the test of time. The former are often reviewed by Tim Challies (at least in the circles I run in), and the latter are usually edited by Justin Taylor, or recommended by one of the super-pastors most of us little guys consider mentors from afar. The Pastor-Evangelist: Preacher, Model, and Mobilizer for Church Growth, fits into neither of these categories. Published in 1987, it’s too old to be ‘cutting edge’, and it’s too new to be a classic. It’s a book that has flown under the radar among most of my friends, but it is a book that deserves the attention of every pastor.

Edited by Roger S. Greenway, and contributed to by over a dozen American Presbyterian pastors, this book is rooted in Reformed Theology, and is a call for pastors and churches to have an evangelistic emphasis woven into the fabric of their existence. The book uniformly argues that to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ is a charge that applies to every pastor. To fulfill his charge, the pastor must preach evangelistically and with an aim to create a congregation of evangelists, he must model an evangelistic lifestyle to those under his charge, and he must strategically mobilize his congregation for effective evangelism.

The book begins with two chapters of theological underlay. Greenway writes on ‘Jesus, the Pastor-Evangelist’ and Edmund P. Clowney writes on ‘Kingdom Evangelism’. The ministry of Jesus, the paradigms in Acts, and the charges to Timothy, all combine to show that evangelism ought to be one of the central priorities of every local church pastor. Clowney reinforces this by reminding the reader that Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom that must be proclaimed to the world.

The ‘meat’ of the book is a series of practical chapters that fit under the categories ‘preacher’, ‘model’, and ‘mobilizer’. C. John Miller writes a chapter on ‘Prayer and Evangelism’ that had me on my knees in my study, even as I was preparing for an evangelistic outing with the church I serve as pastor. His stories of the coolness of his studied preaching, verses the blessing of God on his preaching when he began to prioritize both study and prayer, urged me to action! Some of the other ‘middle-chapters’ were: ‘Preaching and Evangelism’ (Dick J. Hart); ‘Evangelism Through Small Groups’ (Frank M. Barker, Jr); ‘A Full-Service Church’ (Bartlett L. Hess); ‘Learning How to Witness’ (D. James Kennedy); ‘Evangelism Through Sunday Schools’ (Kennedy Smartt); ‘Follow-up to Fellowship’ (James C. Bland III); ‘Equipping the Church for Lifestyle Evangelism’ (T.M. Moore); ‘Hospitality Evangelism’ (Richard P. Kaufmann); ‘An Integrated Plan for Evangelism and Church Growth’ (Terry L. Gyger); ‘Revitalizing a Dying Church’ (Harry L. Reeder III); ‘Pastor-Evangelists: Need of the Hour Everywhere’ (Roger S. Greenway).

The authors do not hide the fact that churches with Reformed convictions often fare poorly when it comes to evangelism. T.M. Moore notes that this is sometimes a conscious decision: John Owen believed that evangelism was primarily the job of the pastor, and was primarily to be done from the pulpit. The authors show that this is contrary to the teaching of Scripture’s didactic sections, along with the paradigms in Acts and the very creative methods for evangelism this inspired book describes.

Perhaps the most helpful chapter for me was Richard Kaufmann’s ‘Hospitality Evangelism’. He begins by quoting Peter Wagner: “The effectiveness of the Christian’s role as a witness for church growth decreases with that person’s maturity in Christ”. Kaufmann explains: “As a Christian matures in Christ he becomes more and more involved in the church. His free time is quickly filled with Christian activities such as worship services, prayer meetings, Bible studies, Sunday school, committee meetings, and church socials. Either his non-Christian friends are converted, or he gradually loses contact with them as their interests take them in different directions” (pg 140). In a ten page chapter, Kaufmann sets forth an intentional lifestyle of getting to know one’s neighbours, having them over for supper, and gaining trust with the goal of speaking the gospel into their lives, seeing them converted and integrated into a local church. This lifestyle of hospitality evangelism is in line with God’s work in salvation history: When the curtain of the Temple was torn in two the ultimate ‘open house’ began. Since God has been so welcoming with his people, every one of his people ought to be welcoming to the strangers around them.

In the last analysis, this is a book to buy and re-read. It may be a great book to read as an elder’s team. Select chapters, especially ‘Hospitality Evangelism’ would be great as photocopies for church members. This book will be life-changing, especially if the reader takes Edmund Clowney’s advice, and doesn’t avoid evangelism by escaping to the study to read about it! May the reading of this book serve to mobilize many pastor-evangelists who preach, model, and mobilize their churches for this all-important calling.

Canadians can buy it here.
Americans can find it here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Desiring God Conference for Pastors

The invitation for the Desiring God conference for pastors was just posted (today, I think). I tend to follow this every year via audio download. I was excited to see that this year's main speaker will be Sam Storms, and that John Piper plans to do a biographical talk on C.S. Lewis. Looks like a great conference line up, with a great topic: joy in pastoral ministry. You can read the invitation here.

Free Audio Book - Desiring God

In case you missed it, Christian Audio (an audio book web site) is offering John Piper's Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, for free download for the month of November. Since I first read it in the Winter of '99, this book has continued to be easily among the top five most influential on my life and ministry. This morning as I exercised, listening to the preface and introduction was a real blessing. I commend both the audio and the written book to you. You can download the audio for free here. (Also note: you can download a PDF version of the written book for free here, or you can buy your own copy here).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rick Mercer's Sleepover at 24 Sussex Dr.

I love Rick Mercer. His comedy brings tears to my eyes. In this video, he visits 24 Sussex Drive (where the Prime Minister lives), for a sleepover with Stephen Harper. He calls it, 'cracking open the 2-4'. It's worth the watch:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Our Church's Shiny New Web Site

It's still got a few bugs, and it still needs a bit more content, but the majority of work is finally done on our church's new web site. It's meant to be a helpful introduction to who we are (for those considering a visit), and a bit of a bulletin board for upcoming events and sermon audio (for attenders). The sermon audio is yet to be added, but take a look and read the various pages and let me know how we can improve it even more. Many thanks to Jim Stowe, who did all of this design work for free, and that with a newborn son at home. The site can be found here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Profiling the Average Binbrook Resident

Last night a few members of our church went door to door with surveys in our community. Our goal was not evangelistic. Our goal was to honestly get to know the people of the Binbrook community. We went out after suppers were over, but before kids were in bed. We were respectful and polite. We introduced ourselves, and told people the church we are from, and that we want to get to know our community better. Then we asked them if they'd be willing to complete a 60 second survey. At that moment 99% of the suspicious looks went away. Half of the people said no thanks and took our flyer. And about half of them gladly gave us sixty seconds of their night. We stuck to the 60 seconds, and learned a lot. Here are the questions we asked:

1. Do you have any interest in spiritual things?

2. Are you affiliated with any religion (if so which one)?

3. Do you attend a church at any time throughout the year (if so, which one)?

4. Do you have a Bible in your house (if not, can we give you this one for free)?

5. Can we pray for you for anything in particular?

6. After Christmas our church plans to begin discussion groups about who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about. When we do this would you be interested in a phone call?
(If yes to #6) What is your name, phone number?

(If yes to #6) Would you prefer a Wednesday morning, afternoon or evening?

At the end of our evening, here is a summary of the average answers. The average resident of our suburbia has:

- Low to no professed interest in spiritual things
- Has some ties to the Catholic church but is non-practicing
- May attend church once per year with a relative, or not at all
- Has a Bible in their home
- Is thankful that we have offered to pray for them, but doesn’t have anything that we can pray for (unless a recent family tragedy is at the front of their minds, in which case they share and are thankful for our prayers).
- Is interested in getting a phone call when our church begins discussion groups on who Jesus is and what it matters.

That last answer blew me away every time, especially in light of their professed lack of interest in all things spiritual. In an hour and a quarter 10 people (yep, 10!) told me they'd like a phone call when we start those discussion groups. (I worded it carefully - they want a phone call to hear more. . .they are not committing to anything right now. . .but who knows what God may do). Here are some more observations:

- Binbrook is primarily made up of young families (lots of little kids)
- There are more dogs than kids in Binbrook
- There are more big-screen t.v.’s than dogs in Binbrook, and they are all on all night
- People are initially suspicious when they see two people with a clip board, but are pleasantly surprised when they hear it is a 60 second survey and that we are there as learners

In the end, our first night of surveys was very worth while. I can't wait until our next scheduled time in two weeks! Will you pray with me that the Lord of the Harvest would:

- Send more labourers to help us
- Send fruit to those labourers who want to see people saved
- Gather many people from Binbrook into evangelistic discussion groups in the winter
- Gather many people from Binbrook into our Sunday Morning worship services immediately

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dead Orthodoxy

Yesterday I finished reading the 'Redeemer Church Planter Manual', by Tim Keller. In this previous post I shared that although I'm pastoring a 170 year old church, the community around us is rapidly changing (i.e. growth in population from 200 to 8000 in eight years). I thought reading a church planter manual would help me see any blind spots of my own, and give me lots of ideas as I seek to give leadership to our church in its evangelistic ministries. I was not disappointed. Keller strikes an amazing balance between the practicalities of ministry and the theology of church planting. I'd recommend this book to any/every pastor (and as a must read for church planters in particular).

One particular quote stuck out to me, not so much in regard to any particular church, but with the North American evangelical church culture in general. In a chapter on the dynamics of corporate renewal, Keller discusses what he calls dead (or drifting) orthodoxy. This happens when a church has all of its doctrinal ducks in a row, but still lacks vital spiritual life. He recognizes that this is a continuum -- and that most churches fall somewhere on it. But his penetrating insights help any believer to search his/her own heart and look for blind spots. Although there are many 'brands' of dead orthodoxy, Keller expands on what he calls the legalistic 'stream'. Its characteristics are noted blow.

Marks of Dead Orthodoxy:

1. Much more emphasis on defending the truth than propagating it. The emphasis is on attacking false views, not winning sinners to Christ. There is smugness toward those without the right views.

2. Strong, even fierce opposition to change programs and worship. What people call ‘closeness to God’ is often the security (sentimentality) that comes from familiar forms and procedures.

3. Often a desire for inspiring, general messages, but nothing disturbing. It is an unwritten law that the pastor must be ‘nice’ and must not offend anyone. On the other hand, in the power churches, the other extreme may happen. The pastor may become very authoritarian and controlling.

4. A tendency toward gossip and censoriousness. Differences cannot be discussed lovingly. Defensiveness creates bitter quarreling. The only way the church deals with this is to hide and suppress disagreements.

5. A dislike for the healthy disorder found in revival/renewals. Either the tradition or the pastor and/or key lay leader must stay in control. Sometimes there is an opposition to displays of emotion of any kind. During renewal people are so wiling to get involved in ministry and worship that there is a kind of ‘divine disorder’ that has to be addressed.

6. And unwillingness to believe in glorious possibilities. Unable to expect or believe that certain kinds of people can change, or no vision for community impact. Planning myopia that comes from a conviction that we can only do as much as we have visible human resources for.

7. Little discussion of one’s spiritual experience -- nearness to God, growth in love, temptations, and so on. There are objections to any self-examination or regular accountability for one’s growth in grace and walk with God.

8. Total focus on the needs and concerns of members and the survival of the institution (church). No desire or intention to reach the world.

9. A lack of lay involvement. A consensus and expectation that the pastor should do virtually all the ministry.

10. A strong clinging to cultural forms and customs -- types of music and styles of dress and speech and ‘unwritten’ rules of conduct -- which are semi-consciously considered part of what it means to be a ‘mature’ believer.

- Taken from ‘Redeemer Church Planter Manual’, pp 203-204.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

10 Million Words

When Tim Challies spoke at our church a few weeks ago, he told me about the next project he's planning. It's one that really excites me as a Christian who wants to be conversant with his culture: Tim plans to read all of America's most popular non-fiction books in the year 2010, and provide book reviews for each one. If you are Tim Challies you can plan this '10 Million Word' reading assignment for 2010. If you are Ian Vaillancourt, you can plan to read the 150 or so 'one page book reviews' that Tim plans to write and begin to be more conversant with the dominant views of the world you live in, even with the small investment of 15 minutes of reading (or so) per week. Thanks, Tim, for using your lightning quick mind to serve Christ and his church in this way. Below I've copied and pasted his first post. The blog, hosted by Don Carson and Tim Keller at the Gospel Coalition web site, can be assessed here. Again, give Tim's post a read and be wooed to following along on his project! (Note, leading up to 2010 Tim is 'in training' and will be posting reviews for most of the books on the bestseller list. So start following now!)

My wife thinks I’m a little bit crazy, I’m sure of it. During eleven years of marriage I’ve done a lot of things that have led her to roll her eyes and sigh. I guess she is getting used to it, though, because even she is interested in what I am planning to do in 2010. I plan to read all of the New York Times bestselling books over the course of the whole year. Do the math and you’ll see that this will come in at somewhere around 10 million words.

While the project proper begins on January 1, 2010, in the months leading up to it, I will be attempting to read all of the current bestsellers to reassure myself that I can actually do this without losing my sanity. In so doing, I will be trying to “find my voice,” so to speak–finding the best way to deal with as imposing a project as this one, and looking for the cultural and worldview themes that I think will be so interesting.

I am hoping that you’ll join in as I do all of this–following along, perhaps reading a few of the books to share your reflections on them, and maybe leaving the occasional comment.

Why Are You Doing This?
Just ten years in, the twenty-first century has already been fascinating and complex. The potential for a Y2K disaster was averted but within two years America saw a completely unforeseen disaster that showed just how small the world has become and proved that America was no longer safe within her own borders. Since then we have seen protracted wars, the deaths of iconic celebrities, a massive economic downturn that brought the world to the brink of depression, and the election of the nation’s first black President. All this and the century has only just begun.

America’s bestselling books tell us, I’m sure, who America is, who her people are, at this time and place. Surely they will give me a glimpse into the world’s most powerful, the world’s most fascinating nation.

So why am I doing it? That is a fair question and one that does not offend me in the least. There are a few answers. First, I love to read and this project gives me an opportunity to read a lot. That, as I see it, is a good thing. Second, it is a challenge and I like to face a good challenge. I expect this project to involve at least ten million words of reading–break that down and you’ll see that it comes to at least three books per week over the course of an entire year. Third, I am interested in the cultural and worldview implications of all of these books. They will provide, I’m sure, a snapshot of where America is at as she enters a new decade. And for me, as a Canadian who spends a fair amount of time wandering the United States and who has family living in the United States, this stands to be particularly interesting.

When I say that I will be reading all of the New York Times Bestselling books, I refer to non-fiction only. Yes, novels can also provide great cultural insight, but only in a less-pointed way. Plus, I hate novels. So non-fiction it is. I will largely ignore the non-fiction paperback list as well simply because most of the paperbacks have been previously published in hardcover. The plan is to track the Times list on a weekly basis (the new list is available on Friday of each week) and to update my reading list accordingly. I will post a review (of sorts) of each of the books, hopefully within a few days of it showing up on the list.