5 Simple Ways to Teach Anyone About Jesus

Writing a post for SeeJesus ministries, Jill Miller explores practical ways to share the love of Jesus with even those who may seem the most challenged to understand – young children, peoples with disabilities, etc. Jill begins with this conviction:

I believe all of us can learn. We are made in the image of God, and God is limitless. I don’t believe in ceilings where people stop learning. I try to adapt Bible study materials so that people affected by disability can go beyond where they ever have before in studying the Bible.  I didn’t set out to be a writer. I set out to make sure all of “the gang” (as I lovingly call the kids and adults I teach who are affected by disabilities) could learn the Bible.

And follows with 5 helpful suggestions:

  1. Act It Out
  2. Question Your Questions
  3. Tell Your Own Stories
  4. Review, Review, Review
  5. With-It-Ness

To read Jill Miller’s original article, click: 5 Simple Ways to Teach Anyone About Jesus

Pastors and Their Friends

At the risk of being self-serving, I want to commend an article recently posted by ByFaith magazine, written by Walter Henegar, titled Your Pastor Needs Pastor Friends. I recommend it not only for those who are part of the congregation I serve, but also to all who regularly read this blog, as well as to those who have just stumbled upon it. Most if not all of you are part of some church; and if part of a church you most likely have a pastor. What this article does is offer a peek behind the curtain into the life of your pastor.

Getting a glimpse into someone’s life can be somewhat like looking into the closets and junk drawers of any family home – it does not usually offer the prettiest picture. It may not be shocking, it may not be scandalous, but it contains some things that might be preferred not to be put out for public display. This is certainly true if you have the relatively rare opportunity to look behind the scenes into the “real” lives of most church pastors.

In recent months I have participated in a number of gatherings with fellow ministers. What I have heard and seen is evidence of what has been widely reported, especially in the wake of the havoc COVID has wreaked in many churches: Pastors are tired. Pastors are burning out. Pastors are breaking. Many pastors have already walked away; many others are seriously considering throwing in the towel. I am not one of them. Not today, anyway. But I understand. I have been there. I have had such seasons – and likely I will again. It’s just not where I am today. Some of those who are on the brink, or who have already walked away, are far wiser, gentler, and godlier than I am. So it breaks my heart to see them so deeply wounded. And I know it breaks the hearts of many in the pews when it is their pastor who breaks. “If only we knew…”

I do not know Walter Henegar (though I do know his Dad). But I appreciate Walter’s transparency in this article because it offers an opportunity for many godly people to know how to care for and pray for those whom God has raised up to be shepherds for their souls. (Hebrews 13.17)

READ: Your Pastor Needs Pastor Friends

How to Make Disciples

Dallas Willard, in The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, wrote:

“The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”

Collin Marshall & Tony Payne touch on the essence of discipleship in their book, The Vine Project, (a helpful sequel to their excellent first book, The Trellis & The Vine). Here’s what Marshall & Payne have to say:

Disciple-making is really about calling people to faith and hope in Jesus Christ in the midst of this present evil age, with all its pressures.

For those who want to explore more of the meaning and the mechanics of making disciples, Steve Childers, of Pathway Learning, has published a helpful series of short audios he has titled “How to Make Disciples”. (NOTE: A transcript of each audio is available at the bottom of the posts, for those who prefer reading.)

Foundations of Discipleship (7:32)

The Master’s Method of Discipleship (7:02)

Principles of Discipleship (6:53)

Goals in Discipleship (8:32)

Imitating Christ in Discipleship (8:16)

Christian Social Responsibility

Article 5 of the Lausanne Covenant addresses Christian Social Responsibility as part of the church’s global mission:

We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and Man, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.

Just so there is no question in anyone’s mind whether the above statement is biblical and part of the missio dei (the Mission of God), take some time to reflect upon these scripture verses and passages:

Acts 17.26,31; Genesis 18.25; Isaiah 1.17; Psalm 45.7; Genesis 1.26-27; James 3.9; Leviticus 19.18; Luke 6.27,35; James 2.14-26; John 3.3,5; Matthew 5.20; Matthew 6.33; 2 Corinthians 3.18; James 2.20

3 Types of Preaching Styles

All sermons are not alike. They are not only differentiated by the personalities of the ones preaching, but also in the aim of how the Word of God will be proclaimed.

Expository Sermon is a technical term meaning that the proposition, main points, and sub-points are all taken directly from the biblical text. The key is to mine the text and “expose” what the Biblical author is saying, whatever the passage.

This is different from:

Textual Sermon – only the proposition and main points are derived from the text, and a

Topical Sermon – only the proposition is taken directly from the text.

All of these methods of preaching are valid, though those of us who are part of the Reformed tradition tend to favor expository preaching.

Christianity in Our Current Cultural Context

In March 2019, noted church leader Tim Keller delivered this keynote address at The Hendricks Center Gala. In this address Keller identifies some of the ways that ministering in our present cultural context may be different from ministering in the past. Whether one agrees with Keller’s assessments or not, all would be wise to at least consider the issues he raises, while considering the particular contexts in which we each live and serve.

Sir, We Would See Jesus

As a seasoned pastor, I have had the privilege to preach at a number of churches. Even as a seminary student I had the opportunity to speak in a number of small churches in rural communities throughout Mississippi and western Alabama. People would be surprised what might be found in some of the pulpits in those churches. In more than a few I saw brass plaques fastened to the tops. Some were memorials to significant figures from that particular congregation’s history. Some were Bible verses or inspirational quotes.

Perhaps because of my experience, seeing the inside and backside of a number of pulpits, I particularly appreciated the note by James Montgomery Boice from his exegetical commentary on John 12.20-23:

As a preacher and public speaker it falls to my lot to see a side of pulpits that congregations seldom see. On the audience side of the pulpit there is usually ornamentation, perhaps a carved figure or a cross. On the speaker’s side there are less glamorous things: buttons to push, wires to trip over, stacks of books, glasses, fans, heaters, squeaky boards, and so on. I have been in pulpits held up by hymnbooks. I have been in pulpits equipped with a clock – so the speaker knows when to stop. Sometimes there are signs: “The service ends at 12:00 noon” or “When the red light goes on you will have just two minutes remaining.” Obviously, I am not always as impressed with the pulpits as I trust the audiences are with the messages that come from them.

There is one pulpit that I always remember favorably, however. It is the pulpit of the little chapel on the campus of the Stony Brook School, located at Stony Brook, Long Island. I suppose that there are times when the backside of this pulpit is filled with hymnbooks and glasses of water too. There may even be buttons. But I have never noticed these things when I have been there, because of something else. That something else is a quotation from the Bible, which faces the preacher as he stands to address his congregation. It is a short quotation, but an arresting one. It simply says, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”(John 12.21)

Note to self: This is always an appropriate reminder when given the privilege to preach or teach God’s Word.

Race & the Church RVA: The Church’s Commission

The third gathering of Race and the Church in Richmond, Virginia took place on Saturday May 14.  Featured speaker Leonce Crump addressed the diverse crowd on the subject of The Church’s Commission.

Leonce Crump’s bio, from the Race and the Church RVA web page:

Originally from Louisiana and raised Catholic, Léonce began following Jesus at age 16. Always an athlete and a talker, Léonce outran his first mall security guard (and pregnant mother) at age 3, and spent most of his grade school years talking with his principals on the subject of public speaking during class. He has been in ordained ministry for 9 years, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma; and holds Masters degrees in Criminal Justice, with a focus on Case Law, from the University of Tennessee, Missional Leadership from the now defunct Resurgence Theological Training Center, an; is currently finishing his Masters of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary.

At Oklahoma he was an All-American wrestler and played a short while on the Sooner football team. He experienced an extended time of rebellion and running from God during college, but after 22 months of living as though he were not a Christian he surrendered to Jesus and ultimately to God’s calling into ministry. After college Léonce competed to make the world team in wrestling, played professional football for the New Orleans Saints and coached collegiate wrestling.

Prior to planting his present church, Léonce had served in 3 churches, starting and leading 3 college and young adult ministries. In 2006 he felt called to plant a church and settled on the under-served area of downtown Atlanta; and in early 2008 he and his wife began the process of planting Renovation Church, in partnership with  Acts 29 and Perimeter Church.

A prodigious reader and engaging speaker, Léonce regularly speaks and preaches across the country at conferences and churches of all denominations. Léonce enjoys boxing and MMA, studying theology, history, leadership, church structure and poetry. He likes Soul music, jazz/standards, and Bossaniva. He also loves to lift, keep up with wrestling, football, and rugby, playing with his kids, hanging with the homeless dudes.

To view the first two gatherings of Race and the Church RVA:

Race & the Church RVA: Why Do We All Look the Same?

The second gathering of Race and the Church in Richmond, Virginia took place on Saturday morning March 12. The theme was: Why Do We All Look the Same? A Cultural & Theological Analysis of Underlying Church Dynamics; featuring speaker Dr. Alexander Jun.

Alexander Jun is a professor at Azusa Pacific University, a TED Talk speaker, and author. He has published extensively on issues of post-secondary access for historically underrepresented students in under-served areas. Jun is also a respected Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

To view the message from the first gathering, with featured speaker Sean Lucas, click: Race and the Church: Telling the Truth.

6 Ways Ministry Spouses Get Hurt By the Church

Endangered Pawn

Researcher Thom Rainer identifies Six Ways Ministry Spouses Get Hurt.  I have listed them below, slightly reworded:

  • Complaints About Their Minister-Spouses
  • Complaints About the Children
  • Unreasonable Expectations About Ministry Involvement
  • Gossip & Murmering
  • Isolation
  • Attacking the (non-Staff) Spouse to Get Desired Results

Every non-staff church leader should be aware of these. Every church member should be aware of these.  They are very real.  I have experienced all of these in one form or another, in one church or another.  I see these happen to friends serving other churches.  While I am fortunate that all of my children, now grown or in college, have not only continued in their faith journeys but have actually increased ministry involvement, such patterns of behavior are common contributors to the high numbers of ministry children leaving the church, if not also the faith.  The behaviors Rainer identifies are often devastating to ministry families.

For those serving in churches where you are experiencing some of these abuses, perhaps causing you concern for your spouse and children, I will share the counsel I received from a godly older minister during a time when our experience was most acute.  I was told: “If you don’t let it crush you, it won’t crush them (the children).  Don’t share details (with your children) – they likely already know.  But do talk with them, be honest about it, and make sure they understand that those in the church are also broken and sinful, just like those outside the church.”  Our children learned this lesson; they consequently have a pretty good grasp of Total Depravity and Luther’s concept of simul iustus et peccator (Simultaneously Just and Sinner) -even if they don’t necessarily know the term. But because they understand that even as believers – as those “credited” as “righteous” – we are all still infected by our own selfishness and sin, they have a greater appreciation of why we all are in need of Jesus’ redeeming grace.   Though the blood of Christ was shed “once for all”, bringing forgiveness, we all have an ongoing need for the blood of Christ to continually cleanse us from our sin.  Though shed “once for all”, a one-time shot of Jesus’ blood is not all there is.

I encourage you, whether on church staff or a church member, click the link above to read Rainer’s descriptions.  One important thing to note, Rainer does not limit this behavior against only the Pastor’s family; it happens, at one time or another, to almost all ministry families.  Check your own church to see if (where) this is happening. Then step up, and step in where necessary.

Young Life 75th Anniversary Celebration

YL Logo

Happy Birthday, Young Life! The preeminent ministry to high school students turns 75 this year.  It is worth a celebration.  Faithful to their vision, “Every Kid, Every School”,  Young Life has developed ministry to reach as many teens as possible: Wyld Life for Middle School; Young Lives for teen moms; Capernaum for students with disabilities; and of course YL Clubs at as many high schools as they are able – and still counting.

I am among the beneficiaries.  It was through Young Life in Nashville, Tennessee during the early 1980’s that Jesus ceased to be a historical yet mythical figure in my mind, and by grace that ignited faith, I understood that not only was he a real person in history, but that he is a real person in reality.  In short, through Young Life I became a Christian.  My involvement continued into college, where I participated in the preparation program to become a Young Life leader to a high school campus.  Due to other commitments I never did become a Young Life leader. But in subsequent years I have had the opportunity to on the local boards (“Committee” in Young Life lingo), even serving as chairman in Pittsburgh and for a brief time in Williamsburg, where I now live.  Perhaps, one day in the future, I will again have that opportunity.

In the mean time, I will join the celebration; excited that both of my sons are presently volunteer Young Life leaders in East Tennessee; delighted to have several of my closest friends serving as Area Directors and Regional Directors scattered around the USA.

Check out Young Life 75 celebration video: It All Started With a Prayer


Authentic Church: Road to a Re-newed Reality

Celtic Transformation

I have been mulling on something the late Francis Schaeffer said:

“There are four things which are absolutely necessary if we as Christians are going to meet the need of our age and the overwhelming pressure we are increasingly facing.”

No doubt that the Church, in our culture as well as other cultures, faces increasing and overwhelming pressure.  Pressure to cave. Pressure to capitulate. Pressure to compromise.  These pressures come from both  subtle and overt threats from the culture and from the government, as George Orwell predicted in his classic 1984.  Perhaps even more devastating is the subversive seductive pressure. The craving of the church to be “relevant”, to fit in, to be liked, so people will come in great numbers, so we can be considered successful, has seemingly replaced a commitment to faithfulness and fruitfulness.  This mindset seems in line with Aldous Huxley‘s “nightmarish vision of the future” in his opus Brave New World.  And while there is certainly nothing wrong with a desire to be liked, nor to see our churches full, these consuming desires are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, and consequently, I fear, resulting in an increasingly impotent Church.

So what are Schaeffer’s four things?

Schaeffer labeled them Two Contents and Two Realities.

Continue reading

5 Reasons Church Should Not Be the Primary Place Where Children Learn About God

It Takes a Village

I agree with those who suggest that a vibrant children’s ministry is one of the five core programs essential to a healthy church or church plant.  We are fortunate at the church where I serve to have a very capable godly Children’s Ministry Coordinator on our staff.  But even having the best Children’s Ministry Coordinator or the best Children’s Ministry program is no substitute for God’s design.

In a post found on Relevant Children’s Ministry, titled: 5 Reasons Church Should Not Be the Primary Place Where Children Learn About God, we are reminded of what I consider to be the God-given pattern for raising children to grow in the Christian faith. While the church plays an important, even a vital, supplemental role, the church should never usurp the authority or the primacy of the parents.

Here are the five reasons:

  1. God has Called Parents to be the Primary Spiritual Leaders of Their Children
  2. No One Has More Influence in a Child’s Life Than His or Her Parents
  3. Kids Spend Much More Time at Home than They Do at Church
  4. The Church Compliments What Parents Are Teaching Their Kids at Home, but Cannot Replace It
  5. The Church’s Job is to Equip Parents to Lead Their Kids Spiritually

These principles are reflective of what I (and many others) would call a Covenantal Children’s Ministry.

Interesting that while studies have been conducted to discover why so many leave the church upon emerging adulthood (after high school graduation) most of those studies are revealing that in homes and churches where the principles of Covenantal Children’s Ministry are followed, not only do the kids not end up leaving church as often as they do from churches where kids are segregated and entertained, but the vast majority of Covenantal Kids don’t leave the church at all.