4 Suggestions on “Sharing the Gospel” from Matt Chandler

In a recent interview with Bob Smietana for Facts and Trends Magazine, Matt Chandler offered four practical suggestions for teaching Christians how to share their faith.

1. Get the gospel right.

Strategy doesn’t matter if churches don’t get their message right. And people can’t share the gospel if they don’t know it. “Get the gospel message right,” he says. “And then be confident in that message. Not in your delivery but in the message. Here’s what we do—we love well and we share the gospel.”

2. Admit your faults.

Self-righteousness is one of the biggest turnoffs for nonbelievers, says Chandler. Don’t pretend being a Christian makes you superior to other people. “If you really understand grace, it’s not us and them,” he says. “It’s us. The ground at the cross is flat. The gospel of Jesus Christ has set me free to not pretend that I am perfect in front of you.”

3. Don’t try to scare people into following Jesus.

Chandler’s not afraid to talk about hell. He says it’s an “awful reality” that can’t be avoided. But avoiding hell isn’t the main message of the gospel. “If hell is how you are trying to motivate people toward heaven, then you have missed a key component of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ,” he says. “Namely He has justified us, sanctified us, and is adopting us as sons and daughters. You have missed the entire delight piece—where God delights in those He has rescued.”

4. Focus on the gospel instead of arguments about non-essentials.

Chandler tries to steer clear of arguments over issues like creation, evolution or the age of earth, where he’s not an expert. “If you think you don’t have all the answers,” says Chandler, “Just say ‘I don’t know. But here’s what I do know—Jesus changed my life.’ A passionate belief in Jesus Christ that has changed your life is still the best apologetic.” Remind people their job isn’t to save nonbelievers. Instead, they need to share the gospel and let God do the work. “I have tried repeatedly to lay out the reality that it is God who saves,” he says. “God saves. That takes the pressure off of people.”

To read the whole article, click here.

On Reading Books

Al Mohler recently published a helpful article titled “Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books“. Dr. Mohler establishes good guidelines to energize your reading life.

1. Maintain regular reading projects. Mohler strategically reads in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. Mohler constantly reads works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies as he works through books of the Bible.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. “Identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development.”

4. Get some big sets and read them through. “Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set…You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.”

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. Mohler allows some time each day, when possible, for enjoyable/recreational reading.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them yours. “Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled…learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.”

Read the whole thing here.

Thoughts on Christian Rap

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/80291749]

What’s Beef?

If you follow the Christian blog world, you’ll know that a recent panel of pastors George Bush’ed the button on the Christian rap discussion. By the response of some bloggers you’d think that Joel Beeke put a picture of Lacrae in a tutu on a Summer Jam screen. Others act like they’ve been appointed to bring rap to justice like some kind of the cultural five-O.

But let’s be clear, this isn’t the Big and Pac feud of the reformed evangelical world. The discussion that sparked this debate was incited by a group of men who have little familiarity with the story and function of rap as a legitimate genre of music. When a panelist hesitantly and almost apologetically (sheepishly, I might add) admits to having Toby Mac on his iPod, something isn’t right. I imagine that the underwhelming arguments of the panel will not cause too much ruckus in the Christian rap world. One might wonder why we haven’t ignored it all together.

Born and Raised in the Streets

Rap, just as its musical predecessors, was created as a form to serve a specific function. Since its birth in the 1970’s, rap has undergone a transformation in terms of its medium and primary message. However, rap as a musical form has always served to promote a civil function. Rap was born and raised to give a voice for the urban sentiment of a people who didn’t buy into or experience the suburban American ideal. For those that didn’t fit the American suburban mold, like drops of oil suspended in a glass of water, they coalesced, rap becoming the emulsifier that not only promoted a sense of community amongst all who rallied around this new form of self-expression, but also showcased their legitimate talent, abilities, and potential to an outside world content to ignore and avoid what they couldn’t understand. And by implication, rap artists have helped give a poetic and emotionally charged voice to a whole class of American citizenry. Art always imitates life. And rap serves as the intersection where rhythm is life and life is rhythm.

Rap music gives a window to the soul of American culture. Rap music also speaks in the language of many in American culture. As thoughtful Christians we should take notice of the themes and messages that resonate with millions of Americans – let me add, Americans from every ethnicity and socioeconomic background. This is part of our missionary call. It is because of the resonate power of rap that many Adidas have walked through concert doors and roamed over previously uninhabited concert floors. From a missional standpoint, the medium of rap music has served as another vehicle for the gospel message.

For Every Dark Night, There’s A Brighter Day

We can either retreat to our elitist Christian bubbles and take unintelligent shots from within or sift through Niebuhr’s categories (or Carson’s expanded categories) and think reflectively about Christ and culture. I’ll go with Niebuhr and Carson.

At the very least, I write this blog with more authority than the men on the panel. For a large period of my life I listened to secular rap and hip-hop music. So, my authority comes from actually knowing what rap music is. There is a dark side to this knowledge. The mnemonic power of rap has lodged rap lyrics deep into my mind. Still today, you can lay down an instrumental track from countless rap artists, and I can regrettably recall their Godless and often God cursing lyrics.

From experience I can tell you that most of non-Christian secular rap is full of vulgar and vain vernacular – a stark vision of depraved hearts. Not only do their lyrics leave one wondering if these rappers have been cursed with a curse to just curse, but the main message they’ve proclaimed is primarily about coming from the bottom of the bottom to the top of the top. For them, their justification in life is that they’ve made the change from a common thief to up close and personal with Robin Leach. Understandably, many onlookers wonder if the picture of the good life in secular rap is that of the artist formally known as Snoop Dog, laid back, with his mind on his money and his money on his mind. Even worse, the degradation of women in many secular rap songs reimage them as objects of sexual triumph.

In this ego-centric environment it’s understandable that rappers perpetually compete in a lyrical battle of king of the mountain. Sadly, they hypothetically (and sometimes literally) kill one another to grab everything the capitalist driven media promises can fill the deep voids in their lives. If anything, I can truly understand the hearts of these lost and hurting artists. They bleed on those albums. The reason so many people are drawn to their rap is that they too, have been cut in the same places. However, not all rap is the death rattle in the throat of a dying culture. Judging from the broad generalities made by the panelists, they seemed to make no distinction between secular and solid Christian rap.

What More Can I Say?

We cannot, as the panelists’ desire, snuff out rap music all together. While I have engaged in the ritual of throwing many of these secular albums in the Christian summer camp fire, I am not yet ready to pour out a bottle in memory of the entire genre. Rap music has its place. Sadly, some Christian rap functions like drug store cologne – kitschy mimesis of depraved and self-centered secular rap. However, not all rap is about drawing attention to the rapper. There are legitimately talented and God honoring Christian rap artists who use their distinctive voice to proclaim Christ. These brothers are not “disobedient cowards who have caved into the world” – as one panelist said.

So I raise my glass to the gospel proclaiming, doctrinally solid, and biblically literate rap artists that serve the church. Let the trunks rattle. And let the 16 bars point to the one true God of the universe. As for the medium and the message, Christ-exalting Christian rap is a breath of life in a culturally contextualized voice. I rejoice that Christian rap adds to our spiritual expression as the people of God.

For more, read Dr. Moore.

New Book: Michael Kelley’s “Boring”

My friend and co-worker (and fellow fruit flavored candy lover) Michael Kelley has written an extremely helpful book titled Boring. Not only is Michael a good writer, he is also a good thinker. He applies these two God given gifts to challenge our perceptions of everyday average life.

“What if we are looking so hard for these grandiose experiences of significance that we are missing the opportunities for significance right in front of us,” he writes. “What if there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God?” (8)

In Boring, Michael seeks to reorient the reader to this important and often neglected truth. Too many of us fear that our lives will be ordinary. However, for the Christian, an ordinary life is a paralyzing myth. If you are a follower of Christ – you are the child of a God that is anything but ordinary. The God of the Bible is the God who created, sustains, and providentially directs all things – including the seemingly mundane details of your life. This is not an abstract theological truth that has no impact on your daily activities, but should shape every aspect of your life.

boring-michael-kelleyThe problem is that too many of us miss what God is doing in the valley, because we are longing for the mountain top experience. However, all of us know that the majority of the Christian life is lived in the valley. According to Kelley, “…The truth is that we will all spend 90 percent of our time here on earth just doing life. Just being ordinary.” So, the heart of the problem is not with the routines of life, but with our understanding and expectations of them. Kelley argues that we should reorient our thinking to see the profound nature of our extraordinary God, and how that impacts the activities of daily life.

“What if God actually doesn’t want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find signifi­cance and meaning inside of it?”

The question isn’t whether or not God is present and active; the question is just how aware we are of that presence and activity.

“This greater reality is happening right in the middle of the ordinary people, singing in their off-key kind of way, trying to wrangle their ornery children. In the middle of the mundane there is something of cosmic significance going on…A regular life isn’t just a series of physical times and moment strung together; it’s a progression of being formed into the image of Jesus…Because an extraordinary and active God is there, constantly working, there is no such thing as ordinary anymore.”

Pick up this book and read. Prayerfully, Michael will show you how to see every relationship, every act of kindness, and every moment for what it is: a part of God’s exciting plan for your life.

Together for Adoption: “Why is Your Mommy White?”

The Ministry of Together for Adoption 

Laura and I are so grateful for the ministry of Together for Adoption. Several years ago we attended the national conference in Franklin, TN, while waiting to adopt our son Solomon. If you have adopted, are in the process of adopting, or praying about adopting I would encourage you to attend the Together for Adoption National Conference on October 4-5 at Southern Seminary. If you do attend, prepare to be inspired and equipped for adoption, foster care and global orphan ministry. Here are the details.

Six rich general sessions. Sixty tool-gathering workshops. One breathtaking Story.

In the Bible, Adoption is a story-word. God’s work of adoption within the world is a story that encompasses all of human history, from its pre-temporal beginnings when God predestined us to “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-6) to the eventual renewal of all creation (Romans 8:23)—the Day when everything sad comes untrue. From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, Adoption is the redemptive Story that changes everything for us and the fatherless.

Alongside the six rich plenary sessions, our national conference will provide more than sixty tool-gathering workshops led by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, Dr. Randy Stinson, Johnny Carr, Dr. Jon Bergeron, Gerrit Dawson, Susan Hillis, Elizabeth Styffe, and many other global leaders.

Together for Adoption National Conference Details

General Session Topics

  1. The Story Gone Wrong (Mike Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity)
  2. Stories of the Fatherless (Dr. Sharen Ford, Manager of Colorado State’s Permanency Services Unit)
  3. The Story Re-Written (Dan Cruver)
  4. Our Lives Re-Written (Mike Reeves)
  5. Stories of the Fatherless Re-Written (Vermon Pierre)
  6. When Everything Sad Comes Untrue (Scotty Smith)

8 Breakout Session Tracks

  1. Stories about Beginning the Adoption Journey (Pre­-Adoption)
  2. Stories from Experienced Adoptive Families (Post-Adoption)
  3. Stories from Experienced Adoptive Families with Special Needs
  4. Stories about Foster Care within Families
  5. Stories about the Orphan Crisis from Experienced Organizations
  6. Stories about Financing your Adoption Journey
  7. Stories about Developing Ministries for Adoption/Orphan Care Movement
  8. Stories about God’s Work through the Theology of Adoption

Download the PDF version of the Breakout Sessions listed according to their Story-Tracks.

See the conference schedule.

Tim Brister on “From Strangers to Missionaries”

Over the last year or so I have watched my friend Tim Brister devote a considerable amount of time to writing about missional living. Not too long ago Tim posted a summary blog of his reflections and writings on this subject. I have found his thoughts beneficial and challenging, so I wanted to share them here.

Strangers to Missionaries Overview Graphic

Brister’s Series:

Other Supplementary Articles from Brister:

Thankful for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream

I Have A Dream

It’s been fifty years since Martin Luther King Jr. shared with a divided nation his “dream” of racial equality. I am thankful for his dream, which is a reality for our family today. This is our son Solomon with his cousin Emma.