Recently I expressed some frustration to my pastor about how I am not "applying the gospel to my children." So this past Sunday he lovingly took me aside to make sure I wasn’t legalistically trying to "apply the gospel" in a slavish, duty-bound way.
It's easy to allow slavish obedience to muddy the gospel, isn't it? We discover something beautiful about Christ and the gospel, but then after some time, instead of it remaining transforming good news that overflows in worship and good works, we turn it into a means of gaining acceptance, once again taking up the yoke of our former master.
But obedience that flows from joy is so different than obedience that flows from duty! The first …
One of our dear small group members recently sent all of us this hymn by John Newton. It was refreshing to my soul. Thank you, God, for John Newton—and for my friend!
If you’ve been praying for greater faith and love and freedom from selfishness and more of God, you probably need to read this and take heart. Our Father “disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
Prayer Answered by Crosses
By John Newton
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.
‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray;
And he, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a w…
In Luke 19, Zacchaeus the tax collector was converted. He vowed to give back fourfold to anyone he had defrauded. Imagine a conversation he might have had when returning the money.
* * *
"Dad, there's a man at the door. He said his name is Zacchaeus."
"Zacchaeus!" Judah's face flushed with sudden anger. "What does he want?" Under his breath he muttered, "The little vermin." His young daughter didn't need to hear that.
"I don't know."
Judah moved brusquely past his daughter, clenching his jaw. If the little weasel even hints at more money, I swear… a thunderstorm of violent thoughts broke in his mind.
When he saw Zacchaeus he exploded, "WHAT?" Zacchaeus reeled s…
In the sixth and final session of the Trellis and Vine workshop, Col Marshall presented 13 ideas for changing a complicated and programmatic church culture into a culture of disciple-making:
- Set the agenda on Sunday. The public ministry of the gospel and the Scriptures is essential.
- Teach “the ministry of the pew”—that everyone can minister to everyone, and they can come to the weekly gatherings on the lookout for others to engage with, welcome, and minister to.
- Be a catalyst of a network of discipling relationships. Begin discipling others to disciple others at the grassroots.
- Encourage every trellis worker also to be a vine grower. Help the trellis workers to “think vine-ishly” about the…
Women in the Work of Vine-Growing
The fifth session of this 2-day Trellis and Vine workshop began with an excursus as Tony briefly commented on the ministry of women in this vine-growing work. Tony and Col both hold to a complementarian view of gender roles. Although this is different from the Anglicanism in which they are a part, Tony admits that the Scriptures drive them to the complementarian position.
In fact, their understanding of gender roles has created a better platform for what they would consider real women’s ministry. The issue in many egalitarian churches can often drift to the issue of power. But ministry is not about power. Real ministry is about ministering the Word of G…
After yesterday’s afternoon of small-group evaluation and discussion, we started Day 2 with another teaching session.
Col Marshall led us through 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:16 and pointed to how Paul himself was a trainer of ministers—a discipler of disciplemakers. Three key points Col highlighted from the text came under the headings 1) word, 2) prayer, and 3) parenting.
First, Paul’s ministry was word-centered—shaped and powered by the gospel and the Scriptures. Col challenged us to “be plain speakers of the gospel, and let God do the work.”
Which means, secondly, dependence on God and his Spirit—characterized by prayer. In explaining our need for God’s help, Col commented, “Our sin keeps…
For session three yesterday of the Trellis and Vine workshop (the second half of which is today), the pastors split into three groups to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their current ministry. I sat in on one group and listened to the discussion. As one pastor would stand, introduce himself, and report from the frontlines, all of the pastors responded with resonating nods. Although these pastors are speaking as workers in different contexts, their shared vocation creates a warm camaraderie.
As the three groups of pastors came back together, Col picked up the teaching by introducing some trellises for disciple making. On the foundation of Sunday gatherings and the public ministry o…
It was always one the most dramatic moments in the well-known secret agent drama. Although viewers didn’t know it, one of the Mission Impossible agents had donned a latex mask that was meant to make him look familiar and safe to the enemy. The mask was so pliable and real-looking that it took on the appearance of actual human skin. At some crucial moment, the government agent would reach up and tear the “skin” off his face and reveal his true identity to the international bad guys who were about to be taken down.
As a child I loved watching those moments. I dreamed of growing up and being the latex mask agent. And I wanted to be the costume king.
As a sinner, I am still seeking to b…
Col began the second session of today’s workshop with a story of a young cricket player who embraced the gospel after two years of intentional ministry of the Word. In summary, Col said that the careful, personal proclamation of the gospel, alongside the public, is being used by God to call people to himself.
Why Do We Do Small Groups?
The session then moved into the subject of small group ministry within the local church. The pace of the sessions are helpful, weaving the teaching by Col and Tony with focused discussion by the pastors gathered. The first question posed to elicit discussion was simply, “Why do we have small groups?”
The 100 pastors huddled into groups of two or three an…
We're at Bethlehem's North Campus for the first of a 2-day Trellis & the Vine workshop with Col Marshall and Tony Payne (authors of the book by the same title). We found out at the beginning of this morning's session that there are attendees here from not only the 5-state region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas) but also as far as New Hampshire, south Texas, and Oregon.
Tony Payne led us through the first session on the biblical vision of Christian ministry.
God's Agenda for the World: The Gospel
Payne began by asking, "What is God's agenda in the world?" It is not political transformation or social liberation (the liberal agenda) or a gospel of personal fixes for our l…