Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

September 2004

September 24, 2004

If I had a dime for every time I have heard someone tell me “it changed my life!” I’d be a rich man (even if those dimes were Canadian currency). I remember hearing people walking out of the theatre after watching The Passion of the Christ and saying how the movie had changed their life. It’s not unusual to go to Amazon and read book reviews that say something like “I finished this book last night and it has changed my life!” I can’t deny I am always skeptical when I hear this. It seems to me that life change is rarely something that can be measured in mere minutes.

I won’t deny there are moments that are life-changing. This is certainly true in salvation – I know of many people who have had a moment where suddenly it all came together and the Lord gave them new life, just like that. There was no long, drawn-out process; it just happened. There are other life-changing moments. A wife who suddenly loses her husband can legitimately immediately say “this has changed my life!”

When it comes to sanctification, though, it seems to me that life-changing moments are much fewer and further between. Sanctification is not an easy process. It is an uphill battle where we fight for every inch of ground we take as we wage war against the old nature. We often lose ground and have to fight long and vicious battles to regain ground we took days, weeks or even years before. As we strive to live as God would have us live, we battle the old nature, we battle Satan and we may even have to fight battles with those around us. Those who have been believers far longer than I tell me that the battle does not get easier as it goes on. Behavior that hasn’t been manifested in decades may come crawling back while new aberrant behaviors may rise up. Truly it is a lifelong fight.

But it is not impossible. As believers we have confidence that the Spirit lives inside us, helping us fight the war. He is the one who empowers us and enables us to gain ground. He is the one who moulds and shapes our character to slowly begin to conform to the image of the Son.

And so it is that I exercise caution with using the term “life changing.” In my own life I have seen that many battles I thought I had won were merely temporary victories, for when I thought that particular enemy was subdued, he came roaring back as strong as ever. I rejoice that there are other enemies that I put to rest that have not showed their ugly faces again. But I know that in the future they might.

Have I had life changing moments? Absolutely! Have I read life changing books? Yes! How do I know? Because months or years later I can look back on those as defining moments that gave me a new level of understanding or helped change a specific aspect of my character. At the time I rarely realized the impact they were having. It is only in time that they have become clear.

Through the setbacks and the losses I am not discouraged. I rejoice in the victories and take confidence that He who lives inside me has empowered me to win the battles as I walk with Him, one day at a time. I look forward to the day when the enemy will be conquered fully and finally in what will be the ultimate life changing experience.

September 24, 2004

While much has been written about the church growth movement and Purpose Driven principles, I believe that Who’s Driving The Purpose Driven Church is the first book-length treatment dealing specifically with this topic. The title is slightly deceptive, as this book deals particularly with Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life which has sold nearly 20 million copies in just two years. The book purports to be a “documentary on the teachings of Rick Warren.” Because of the overlap between The Purpose Driven Church (targeted at pastors and church officials) and The Purpose Driven Life (targeted at the wider church body as well as unbelievers), Who’s Driving is relevant to people who have concerns about either book.

September 23, 2004

Christianity has been in the news the past few days, and frankly I think most Christians wish it was not. It seems Christianity is best kept a little under the radar, for when it hits the mass media little good can come of it.

First we had Jimmy Swaggart and his comments about homosexuals. On his television show he said “I’m trying to find the correct name for it… this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men… I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.” Most Christians reacted with shock when they realized the Swaggart still has a television show. But recovering from that, most just rolled their eyes and sighed, knowing that the statement of one high-profile man would make us all look bad for a couple of days.

Meanwhile, Paul Crouch’s character and ministry are being dragged through the mud following the allegations about a homosexual affair. He received a fair bit of media attention with some papers, most notably the LA Times, digging deeper into the story and his organization. Of course what they uncovered was sickening, but not surprising. You can read the articles here and here if you so desire. Unfortunately you will have to register to read them. They show a man who is obsessed with obtaining wealth from those who can least afford it under the pretense of helping them obtain blessings from God. 30 houses, a jet, six-digit salaries…it’s all there for the public to read.

I wonder how unbelievers view these things? Do they place as much stock in these men and their words and actions as we do in radicals of other types? No one honestly believed that Timothy McVeigh spoke for or acted on behalf of a large segment of the American population when he committed his atrocious act, but do unbelievers attribute the words of Swaggart to all believers? I suspect that both of these men (Swaggart and Crouch) have so little credibility that their words count for little. Or at least I hope that is the case. It is tragic that those who are worst-qualified to represent Christianity are most often the ones that do. When was the last time we saw R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur on the front pages of the newspaper?

But I refused to be embarrassed by these men. While they may preach a false gospel and may be completely unqualified to represent what I believe, I stand firm and confident on the foolishness that is the gospel.

September 23, 2004

This is the “official” announcement launching the “League of Reformed Bloggers.” This is a news aggregator and blogroll featuring bloggers who write from the perspective of a Reformed worldview.

This is being co-hosted and moderated by yours truly and David at Jollyblogger.

Our desire is to provide a place where those who write and read blogs can find biblical, theological, cultural and social issues addressed from the richness of the Reformed theological tradition. If you have a blog and would like to be a part of this, here are some guidelines for membership.

1. Embracing the Five Sola’s of the Reformation:

Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone

Sola Fides - Faith Alone

Sola Gratia - Grace Alone

Solus Christus - Christ Alone

Soli Deo Gloria - For the Glory of God Alone

An explanation of these slogans can be found in the Cambridge Declaration from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

2. Agreement with one or more of the standard Reformed Confessions.

Westminster Confession and Shorter and Larger Catechisms

London Baptist Confession

Heidelberg Catechism

Belgic Confession

Canons of Dordt.

* Note - in saying that you agree with one or more of these, this does not mean that you must agree with every particular expression in a confessional statement, just that you agree with the system of doctrine in the statement. We’re not trying to create some type of presbytery or governing body with a bunch of hoops to jump through. If you tell us you are in agreement with one of the Reformed confessions, we’ll take your word for it.

All of the above confessions, except one, can be found at the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics on the document page. The only one missing is the London Baptist Confession (sorry about that - the CRTA site is obviously run by a Presbyterian), so for the Baptists among us you can check out the London Confession at this site.

3. For those from Anglican or Lutheran traditions.

Technically, those who follow the Continental Reformers or are from the Westminster Tradition will distinguish the Reformed Tradition from the Anglican and Lutheran traditions. However, we recognize that many in both traditions accept the five sola’s as their own and would be in agreement with the high view of God’s sovereignty that is embodied in the Reformed confessions. So, if you are Anglican or Lutheran, and hold to either the 39 Articles or the Book of Concord, as well as embracing a high view of God’s sovereignty and the five sola’s you are welcome.

4. Civil Discourse

This is not a requirement, but we would ask that all who join the League of Reformed Bloggers practice civility in their interactions with others. We’ll leave it up to you to define what civility is or is not. As most of us know, discussions in the blogosphere can get a little heated from time to time, so it would be nice if we could keep things something like winsome and cordial. Of course we want to foster vigorous and spirited debate, after all that’s what Reformed folks do best. No one is going to be policing things, but let’s just try to keep things free of vitriol. May we be so bold as to recommend the following posts and articles for guidance.

G. K. Chesterton’s Advice to Christian Bloggers - Jollyblogger

Some thoughts on Godly disputation, or “How to Have a Christ-like Argument.” - Jollyblogger

On Controversy - John Newton

How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us - Roger Nicole

5. Write about whatever you want.

In saying that this is a Reformed blog aggregator we aren’t looking for academics and scholars who will do nothing but give defenses of the standard Reformed positions. Basically if you consider yourself to be reformed and have a blog that’s great with us. You may have a blog that deals with politics, culture, relationships or something else for which you don’t mention “Reformed theology” very often, if ever. That’s ok - you don’t have to change your blogging habits to be a part of this. We just want folks who treat a wide variety of topics and are guided and informed by a Biblical, Reformed Worldview.

6. How to join

a. Read over the above stuff, particularly #’s 1-3. If you affirm the five solas and are in agreement with one or more of the confessional documents then you qualify. Just contact us and let us know you qualify and promise to play nice and we’ll add you to the list.

b. The easiest way to join will be by leaving a comment to this post. Or you can e-mail David or myself.

c. We need your xml or rss feed to add you to the aggregator, so include that in the comment or e-mail. From what I understand, blogger doesn’t have a built in xml or rss feed so if you are on blogger you will need to get one of those feeds. Also, at this time we aren’t able to take an atom feed. Without an xml or rss feed we can add you to the blogroll but you won’t show up in the aggregator.

d. We would appreciate it if you would put a link to the “Leauge of Reformed Bloggers” aggregator and blogroll on your blog. This is not a requirement, but it would help publicize it. The aggregator can be found here. The aggregator has the blogrolling script for you to use, but I think the script is messed up. So, if you want to add the blogroll to your site, I can send you the script.

Also, we’re going to try to make the aggregator site look a little more attractive in the next few days so if you come back soon and see that it looks different don’t worry, it’s the same site - we’re just trying to make it a thing of beauty.

And, a big thanks goes to the indomitable Adrian Warnock who set this thing up and gave us the kick in the pants that got it rolling.

September 22, 2004

I was cleaning up my hard drive this afternoon and came across a whole bunch of different site design concepts that never actually made it onto the Web. While there was good reason for a lot of them, I could a couple that were actually pretty good. Since I have never used them I figured I’d see if anyone was interested in having one of them. While it needs to be fixed up a little bit, you can get an idea of what it looks like in the picture below (click on the picture to make it bigger).

I could help you turn it into a real site design if you were interested. I wouldn’t ask for anything in return, though if you got me a couple of books from my Amazon wish list I wouldn’t complain! If interested, either leave a comment here or send me an email. First come, first served and all of that. Of course even if someone else has expressed interest go ahead and post as I may dig up a couple more good ones.

So the question is, then…is anyone interested?

September 22, 2004

A couple of weeks from now I will be starting a Sunday evening study at my house which will be geared towards new Christians. It will be called Cutting It Straight. I anticipate it covering the basics of Christian beliefs and doctrine. Initially I do not intend to do “Bible study” as much as topical studies on a variety of subjects.

I’m wondering if anyone has suggestions for where to begin. Where do I begin with teaching what will mainly be new Christians about Christian doctrine? I want it to be intellectually stimulating without being intellectual (if you know what I’m saying). I have some ideas of where I might begin, but if anyone would like to direct me towards some other resources that would be great!

September 22, 2004

There are more biographies devoted to Charles Spurgeon than to just about any other Christian figure. The first were written before his death (including his own autobiography) and hundreds have been written since. In the two years following his death, new biographies were published at the rate of one per month! One would be justified in asking, then, why we need another one. Arnold Dallimore answers this question in the preface, saying that in his studies he discovered no definitive volume. He found, for example, that no other biography gave a satisfactory account of Spurgeon’s ability as a theologian or the methods he used in leading souls to Christ. Also, his character was often made to appear weaker than it really was. And so Dallimore sought to remedy these faults in his volume which was first published in 1984.

September 21, 2004

In the past few days I have noticed a surge of interest in the 40 Days of Community program, the follow-up to the 40 Days of Purpose program some 20,000 churches have already participated in. The initial launch of 40 Days of Community is the Fall of this year, which would explain the increased interest in the program. The next launch is Spring of 2005.

While the materials for the 40 Days of Community program are not available unless your church registers, I have been able to gather the following information which will give a detailed overview of what it offers and how it functions.

What is 40 Days of Community?

It seems that few people realize that 40 Days of Purpose, the program Rick Warren created based around his mega-seller The Purpose Driven Life (approaching 20 million copies sold), was merely the beginning of his Purpose Driven campaign; it was but the first step. Where this first step of the program answered the question of �What am I here for?� the second step extends the Purpose Driven principles to the community and asks �what are we here for?� The third step, which will likely be initially offered in 2006, will extend the reach to the global community.

Warren describes 40 Days of Community as being �the next step in spiritual growth for your congregation.� He also says that it is �a necessary step for deepening healthy, balanced, purpose-driven lives.� The results for 40 Days of Purpose were so staggering that he considers it the beginning of a national revival, a new reformation and a great awakening. Among the statistics he provides for the first campaign are: average church attendance increased by 22%; average church giving increased by 20%; and average small group participation increased by 102% (while this last number is impressive, one must realize that many churches had no small group programs prior to the beginning of the program). This second step will grow Christian community and help mobilize Purpose Driven Christians to reach out to their communities � both their faith communities and their local communities. It will grow stronger small groups and trigger new outreach and evangelism opportunities. Warren says that unbelievers are actively looking for community and when they see a church engaged in godly community, churches will have to lock their doors to keep them out.

The program is purchased from the Purpose Driven Web site (www.purposedriven.com) as a package which costs different amounts depending on the size of the church. A church of between 200 and 500 people, for example, will pay $900 for the program, though the Web site indicates that there will be additional items to purchase that are not included in that fee. I am unsure if the $900 is merely a registration fee or if it also includes the leaders guides, devotional books, etc. The program will last 40 days and will involve all aspects of the church, it�s programs, worship and small groups, as well as the lives of the members of the church, as it will provide them their devotional focus, Scripture verses to memorize, and so on. Here are the components of the program:

  1. The 40 Days of Community Kick-Off Event. This is a message preached by Warren which will be broadcast live via satellite, though churches without satellite capabilities can obtain it on DVD or VHS.
  2. Seven weekend messages and worship plans. The messages were originally preached by Warren in his home church of Saddleback Community Church. Participating pastors are to preach his messages and employ his worship plans which direct which songs to sing. The messages are based on the book of Philippians and Warren indicates they are expository in nature. (Please note that Warren�s interpretation of what constitutes expository preaching is not consistent with what historically has been considered expository. For more, see this article).
  3. The �What on Earth Are We Here For� devotional book with 40 days of daily devotional readings and journaling pages. This book also includes study guides for weekly small group study.
  4. Six small group or Sunday school lessons. These include a video which gives teaching that is then discussed by small group members.
  5. Six weekly scripture memory verses.
  6. Multiple church-wide events which will deepen the commitment of church members are make them active in their church and local communities..

Principles & Prerequisites

Through the 40 Days of Purpose Program, Warren discovered five principles that he says will guarantee success in the upcoming Community program. Conversely, cutting out any one of these principles will necessarily damage a campaign, curtailing the results. The principles are:

  1. Unified Prayer � everyone in the church must pray for the campaign beginning months ahead of time, for there is power in unified prayer.
  2. Concentrated Focus � The church must focus on just this one program. Multiple focuses will dilute the program and reduce its effectiveness. Each ministry and each program must carry the message of the 40 Days program.
  3. Multiple Reinforcements � The program depends on many reinforcements throughout the week � church services, small groups, daily quiet times and a weekly memory verse.
  4. Behavioral Teaching � Each aspect of the program helps people become �doers� and not mere listeners. After each section there is a homework assignment, activity or event.
  5. Exponential Thinking � Exponential thinking is thinking that stretches faith. It forces leaders to look beyond what God has done before and focus instead on believing God for greater growth, greater giving and so on.

The only prerequisite for 40 Days of Community is that a church must first have completed the 40 Days of Purpose program. And, of course, they must pay the registration fee and purchase the necessary materials.

Summary

To summarize, 40 Days of Community is a comprehensive program that impacts every area of the church�s ministry for the duration of the program. Warren warns that many other programs and activities will need to be placed on hold or even cancelled if they are not part of 40 Days of Community. He advises leadership to begin to address this in advance with those ministry leaders whose areas of ministry will be affected. The program extends not just to the corporate gatherings but also to individual quiet times.

Commentary

I believe 40 Days of Purpose and 40 Days of Community are unique in the long history of the church. I cannot think of any other programs that asked a church to turn itself over completely to another pastor for the duration of a program. Warren believes the Purpose Driven principles are so important and so unique, that he asks pastors to hand them his church � programs, messages, worship and even private devotions - for 40 days. At the end of that time he promises that the principles God has revealed to him will have transformed your church. It will be bigger (growth in numbers), be bringing in more money (growth in giving) and stronger (growth in small groups). He asks members of these churches to listen to his messages, his interpretation of Scripture, sing the songs he has chosen and study the topics he has outlined. Warren casts his vision for your church and then attempts to deliver that vision to you. The program is designed to infiltrate every important area of the church and remove those areas that are not deemed important. It is all-encompassing.

It does not require a Bible scholar to realize that there is no Biblical basis for the 40 Days of Community program. God has decreed that congregations will be led by pastors who know and love their flock. The relationship of pastor to flock is to be intimate, loving, caring, and personal. Warren, on the other hand, decrees that pastors should hand their churches to him � to a man the pastor and members of the local congregation do not know. Warren must believe he has such an exclusive grip on truth that he is the only one who can share this truth with churches. He does not merely share principles with pastors and ask them to take these to their congregations. No, he does the teaching himself, requiring nearly every aspect of the Christian walk be directed by him for a full 40 days. His pride is overwhelming.

It is amazing that so many churches are so quick to jump on this bandwagon. It is amazing that so many pastors are willing to turn their congregations to this man.

For 7 Sundays Warren will preach in their pulpits. For 7 weeks he will teach at small groups and lead the discussion. For 7 weeks members of the congregation will memorize his chosen verses, most likely in poor translations and paraphrases. For 40 days he will provide devotional thoughts to each member of the congregation. And for 7 weeks the church will participate in the church-wide activities he suggests.

What a dark time it is for the church when pastors have so little discernment as to turn their churches to this man. What a time it is when pastors have so little confidence in their own abilities to lead their flock, and even more alarmingly, in God�s ability to provide what they need to lead their flock.

God has provided all we need in His Word. No program and no preacher can do better than the careful exposition of the Holy Bible! When we become distracted by programs and agendas, we necessarily wander from the great truth of His Word. Turn to the Word while there is still time!