J. D. Greear on Not Being a Fundamentalist

Every Thursday afternoon at BtT we highlight the writing of J. D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011). This week J. D. writes about why it’s bad to be a fundamentalist (calvinist or otherwise). 

Here’s an excerpt:

Don’t hear me encouraging some kind of doctrinal reductionism. We should think deeply about election, as with all great biblical truths, and form deep convictions about it. Everything in the Bible is important, especially things that relate to salvation and evangelism. I have my own convictions. But we must learn to be comfortable with certain scriptural tensions, and live with grace and freedom in some places God has not bestowed clarity to the degree we’d prefer. As Alister McGrath says, the ability to live within scriptural tensions is a sign of maturity, not immaturity.

Read the full post here.

John Ewart on Critical Abilities, Part 7

In the final post of this series I want to present one more critical ability necessary for missional leaders. Let me remind you of those I have shared about in previous posts so far:

  1. Understand the true mission.
  2. Establish a biblical vision.
  3. Build bridges of leadership.
  4. Manage change and conflict well.

These initial abilities will build on one another or at least lead to the need for one another. This final ability, however, must undergird every step. The fifth critical ability is to pray with a missional heart. I cannot overstate the significance of the need for this skill and practice!

If you want the train to move down the tracks, it needs a powerful engine. That power will not come from within us. It must come from the Holy Spirit. Prayer is one significant way to engage in that power relationship.

The church must acknowledge God’s sovereignty. Matthew 16:18 says, “…and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” First Corinthians 3:6-7 adds, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

Effective leaders acknowledge that “apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). They recognize their inability outside of Christ. They are not trying to move the load by themselves and by their own strength. They know they must understand His mission, establish a vision based on His Word to fulfill it, build a team of leaders to join them in that vision and then be equipped to lead in the change and through the conflict that may arise.

It bothers me greatly as I visit with pastors to see how many suffer from the sin of omni-competence. They seem to believe they are supposed to have the answer for every question and be able to accomplish any task. Who told them to do that? We were never intended to be able to do everything on our own. In fact, we were never designed to be able to do anything on our own. Everything belongs to Him. It is His church, His growth, His harvest. My life is even His. He bought me with a great price. Let us be careful that we do not confuse ownership and stewardship!

Stop reading and take a deep breath. I mean it. Breathe in breathe out. You couldn’t create that. Even that breath is a gift of grace from Him. Everything is. Prayer helps us to acknowledge Him and His sovereign rule over everything including the church.

Ironically though, Scripture also shows that the church must accept her service. James 4:2 states, “…you do not have because you do not ask.” Matthew 18:19-20 reminds us, “Again I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” God has chosen for us to play a role in His mission.

I often ask pastors for what are they praying. Are we asking for the lost souls of our communities? Are we sincerely pleading with God to revitalize the church and send her down the tracks? You know I have never met the leader who believes they are praying too much. Perhaps if we focused more in the prayer closet we would see more happening in our ministry field.

Effective missional leaders will not only develop their personal prayer lives, they will develop the prayer experiences of the entire congregation as well. Prayer will be a major part of body life and spill over into outreach efforts as well. This emphasis demands intentionality. Be the church that really prays. Activate a prayer strategy. Jesus is quoted in Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers in to His harvest.’” How will we pray? For what will pray? When?

Prayer must saturate our personal lives, our small group ministries and our corporate worship experiences. This is a DNA issue for a church to experience revival and growth. Historically, no great spiritual awakening has ever occurred without God’s people first being in concerted prayer. Step one, pray. Step one million, pray. At every step in between, pray. Privately and publically, with your leaders and by yourself, pray.

 

Nathan Finn on Election and Holiness

Nathan Finn is Associate Professor of  of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies and the Director of the new Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality. This week he writes on the doctrine of election in the doctrine of holiness.

You may not know this, but evangelicals like to argue about the doctrine of election. This is especially true of evangelicals who frequent blogs. This is especially true of Southern Baptist evangelicals who frequent blogs.

It may surprise you to know that evangelicals agree on more than we disagree when it comes to the doctrine of election. For example, virtually everyone agrees that there is a doctrine of election because, well, it’s in the Bible. Furthermore, almost everyone agrees that all true followers of Jesus Christ are part of the elect. We may not agree on how believers “get” elected, but we all agree that there is a category called the elect and that believers are the folks in that category.

Please note I’m not trying to minimize the legitimate debates that honest Christians have about the finer points (see what I did there?) of the doctrine of election. However, in this post I want to focus on one of those aspects of election that I think we all agree upon, or at least ought to agree upon, and yet, in our rush to highlight our disagreements with one another, fail to emphasize enough. So here goes: if you are a Christian, you have been elected to holiness.

Ephesians 1:3–11 is one of the better-known New Testament passages that deals with the doctrine of election. In verse 4, Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (ESV). I think our tendency is to debate the “he chose us” part of the passage. However, let’s not miss the “holy and blameless” part of the text. Christians have been debating the “he chose us” part since way back when the Roman Empire was a global superpower. We probably won’t reach a consensus on that part until Christ’s kingdom is the last and permanent global superpower. But I’m hopeful we can find a consensus in the here and now on the “holy and blameless” phrase of this passage.

Brother and sister in Christ, your holiness is inevitable. You are among God’s chosen, in part, so that you can be holy and blameless. You have already been set apart through your justification as part of God’s holy people. You will one day complete the journey of holiness when you are fully conformed to the image of Christ at your final glorification. Along the way, you are called to become progressively more like Christ—to become more holy—through your sanctification. Not so that you can earn God’s favor. Not so that you can win holiness competitions with your friends. Not so that you can get a spiritual leg up on all the pagans around you. But so that you can, increasingly in this life, own what you’ve been set apart to be for the next life and beyond. Christian, you have been elected to holiness.

I believe this is an empowering truth. If part of what it means to be among the elect is to be holy, and if my holiness is guaranteed by God’s promise and provision, then my pursuit of holiness becomes a holy adventure rather than a legalistic burden or a licentious fatalism. I’m joining God in his work of making me holy when I put my sins to death. I’m joining God in his work of making me holy when I cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. I’m joining God in his work of making me holy when I practice spiritual disciplines. I’m joining God in his work of making me holy—and making others holy—when I encourage others in their pursuit of holiness (especially fellow church members). The same God who has ordained (elected!) the end has ordained (elected!) the means. I am holy. So I will fight for holiness. And I will be holy, forever, eventually.

If you are a believer, you are elect. And if you are elect, you’ve been elected, in part, to holiness. So, run hard after holiness today in anticipation of that future day when “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b).