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Tim Challies

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August 2010

August 31, 2010

Facebook. In so many areas of life it’s no longer an if, no longer an option. With 500 million users it is quickly becoming a near-essential tool for families, for businesses and yes, even for churches.

The good news is that Facebook has a lot to commend it; there many things it does very well and thus there are many ways in which Facebook can assist pastors and other ministry leaders. The bad news is that there are also (and inevitably) ways in which it can hinder ministry if not used well. Today I want to look at Facebook as a ministry tool and suggest a few ways in which it can help and hinder. Because of practical limitations I cannot tell you how to go about setting up an account, but at least I can give some suggestions on what to do once you’ve already joined and started to be active.

One of Facebook’s great benefits for you, as a ministry leader, is that it lets you be where your people are. If you are like most pastors, you will find that your church members are not only members of Facebook, but that they are active members. This is where people socialize, where they entertain themselves and where (occassionally) they discuss serious issues. This is not to say that you need to be on Facebook in order to effectively minister to your people, but it does give you one more way of interacting with them, and one that can be very effective. Facebook is at its heart a social media, one used to coordinate communication and this is where you will find that it assists ministry. However, there are a few areas in which you will need to be cautious.

Use Facebook to Supplement Real-World Ministry

As you consider using Facebook in your ministry, or as you consider how you are already using it, spend a few minutes thinking about what Facebook has replaced. It is generally true of new technologies that they do not just add something to life, but that they also replace something that is already there. In the case of Facebook, it may well be that it is replacing real-world face to face ministry. Facebook builds social connections and in some ways enhances them; but it can just as easily diminish them as it replaces offline life with online. There is always the temptation to take the easy route (Post “Happy Birthday” on someone’s wall instead of calling him; Send an email instead of meeting him for lunch). Be sure that you are not allowing Facebook to be an easy way of getting around difficult ministry. And make sure you are not using it to disincarnate yourself, to remove your physical presence from people’s lives.

So as you use Facebook, be careful to use it in a supplementary way, a way that supplements your real flesh and blood contact with the people you are seeking to serve. Use it to share event information, to get people remembering last week’s sermons and thinking toward next week’s, to get people singing the songs you sing and praying for what needs to be prayed for. Use it to share photographs of great events and to encourage people to make contact with one another. The ways it can supplement ministry are nearly endless. But all the while use it to push yourself toward, not away from, face to face contact.

Learn, But Don’t Be a Stalker

There are parts of the shepherding ministry that are active and parts that are passive. This is to say that in many cases you will inadvertently encounter information relevant to your ministry—things you need to act on. You may be told by a mutual contact that there is an important date coming up in another person’s life or that someone has committed a grevious sin. You did not go looking for the information; rather, it came to you. There are other times that you will be more proactive in seeking out information. You may approach a person and ask how he has been doing recovering from a surgery or you may ask him how he has done in the battle against a particular sin.

August 31, 2010

How Netflix Pays Its Employees - This is an interesting article. It details the ways in which Netflix pays its employees and assigns their vacation. It’s fun to see clever innovation in this way.

Caring for Widows - Brian Croft (whose blog really is becoming a must-read for pastors) has some good words about training young women to care for the widows in a congregation.

HCSB Online - HCSB has a new online version of their Study Bible that offers all kinds of interesting interactivity. People who want to dig deep into the text will particularly enjoy it, I think.

What’s Next for Francis Chan? - I really enjoyed this video where Mark Driscoll and Josh Harris talk to Francis Chan and even push back a little bit as he describes his plans. Be sure to watch for the great missed fist-bump at 5:55.

What’s Next for Francis Chan? A Conversation with Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris from Ben Peays on Vimeo.

How marvelous it is that we do not hate sin more than we do! Sin is the cause of all the pain and disease in the world. God did not create man to be an ailing and suffering creature. It was sin, and nothing but sin, which brought in all the ills that flesh is heir to. It was sin to which we owe every racking pain, and every loathsome infirmity, and every humbling weakness to which our poor bodies are liable. Let us keep this ever in mind. Let us hate sin with a godly hatred.J.C. Ryle

August 30, 2010

It is time for another of these irregular roundups of books that I didn’t review. It’s not necessarily that these are bad books or ones I purposely chose not to read and review. It’s just that, life being what it is, I cannot read them all. So here are a few that came in this week that I wish I could have read but that I just did not have time for. And here are a couple that I wouldn’t read if you paid me.

The God Who Is thereThe God Who Is There by D.A. Carson. “It can no longer be assumed that most people—or even most Christians—have a basic understanding of the Bible. Many don’t know the difference between the Old and New Testament, and even the more well-known biblical figures are often misunderstood. It is getting harder to talk about Jesus accurately and compellingly because listeners have no proper context with which to understand God’s story of redemption. In this basic introduction to faith, D. A. Carson takes seekers, new Christians, and small groups through the big story of Scripture. He helps readers to know what they believe and why they believe it. The companion leader’s guide helps evangelistic study groups, small groups, and Sunday school classes make the best use of this book in group settings.” It looks like a very useful book. I may well go through it with a small group at some point.

Getting the Reformation WrongGetting the Reformation Wrong by James R. Payton Jr. “Most students of history know that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Wittenberg Church door and that John Calvin penned the Institutes of the Christian Religion. However, the Reformation did not unfold in the straightforward, monolithic fashion some may think. It was, in fact, quite a messy affair.” This one looks quite interesting, though I suspect it’s best left to those who have at least some background in church history in general and Reformation history in particular. So I would not recommend making this book your introduction to this period of history. I believe we’ll have a review of this at Discerning Reader before wrong (but someone else called dibs on it!).

The Faithful ParentThe Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family by Martha Peace & Stuart W. Scott. “A compelling read, this book offers practical advice and biblical hope to parents of children of all ages. Most parenting books, outright or indirectly, promise a good outcome if you only follow their suggestions. The Faithful Parent contains a wealth of practical, biblically-based suggestions, but it maintains that the most important relationship in any family is vertical—between parents and God. It is the Christian parent, in being faithful, who glorifies God. Look inside to discover how the faithful parent has the biggest impact on his or her children.” It’s not like we are hurting for more books on parenting, but this one comes from two good authors and comes highly recommended by Ted Tripp, Wayne Mack, Lance Quinn and Al Mohler. I appreciate that this book’s emphasis is particularly on drawing your children into a relationship with the Lord.

The Boy Who Came Back from HeavenThe Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin & Alex Malarkey. Don Piper’s 90 Minutes from Heaven has spawned all kinds of imitators and this is the latest and greatest. It’s another book that seems to clash with Scripture but which we are all supposed to just accept because the authors say it’s true. “In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just terrible to a six-year-old. And, most amazing of all … Of meeting and talking to Jesus. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.”

A few quick hits:

August 30, 2010

The ninth chapter of John describes a scene from the life of Jesus and one that was all too common. I wrote about it just a little bit last Monday (God’s Losers and Gainers) but want to return to it today. Let me set the scene. Jesus is walking from one place to another somewhere in the city of Jerusalem and passes by a man who has been blind from birth. During his ministry Jesus encountered hundreds of blind people and countless others who were lame or deaf or otherwise suffering from the effects of the Fall. We read endless examples of his sovereignty in healing these people, in touching them or spitting upon them or in simply commanding that the disability leave them

John 9 is just a little bit different. As he walks by this man, his disciples ask a question. “Rabbi,” they ask, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples assume that this man’s blindness is a punishment that has been justly given him as a curse for his sin or perhaps for the sin of his parents. Somehow they just know that some action has necessitated this punishment. Jesus shocks them by answering, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” In other words, he says “Neither—he was born this way so that God’s works should be shown in him.”

As I looked into this passage I came across Matthew Henry’s commentary on it. Henry does just an amazing job of showing what God was teaching here, what he wasn’t teaching here, and how it matters to you and me.

[Sufferings] are sometimes intended purely for the glory of God, and the manifesting of his works. God has a sovereignty over all his creatures and an exclusive right in them, and may make them serviceable to his glory in such a way as he thinks fit, in doing or suffering; and if God be glorified, either by us or in us, we were not made in vain. This man was born blind, and it was worth while for him to be so, and to continue thus long dark, that the works of God might be manifest in him.

Henry says here that God makes people serviceable to his glory and that he does so in the way he thinks fit. He may let us serve him in our actions or in our suffering. Regardless, as long as God can be glorified in us, then our lives are not in vain and our suffering is not in vain. No situation is useless or hopeless or irredeemable if God uses it to glorify himself. This man was born blind and suffered with blindness for a long time so that God could make himself known through him.

That is, First, That the attributes of God might be made manifest in him: his justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities; his ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction, especially that his extraordinary power and goodness might be manifested in curing him. Note, The difficulties of providence, otherwise unaccountable, may be resolved into this—God intends in them to show himself, to declare his glory, to make himself to be taken notice of.

August 30, 2010

God, the Gospel and Glenn Beck - Russell Moore looks at this weekend’s happenings is Washington and is not thrilled. “A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.”

The Bride Wore Cowboy Boots - Mark Altrogge: “I knew it was going to be different when the bridesmaids and bride came in wearing cowboy boots.  But I knew the wedding would be wonderful long before Saturday, because the couple is an amazing couple.”

Insolence Upbraided - Read this little snippet from the life of G. Campbell Morgan: “An incident occurred in connection with meetings held in a town in England, which shows a side of Campbell Morgan few people ever knew, and those who did, it is likely, never forgot. Soon after concluding a series of meetings at which the offering had been particularly generous (which was not always the case!) Dr. Morgan received the following letter…”

Life Together - or Maybe Not - Carl Trueman has some really good things to say in this post. “I am immensely grateful that I have only ever held membership in churches of a size where the pastor has always been accessible and available.  Indeed, my pastors have always even known my name, my wife’s name, my kids’ names, and even what sports they play (this latter may seem trivial but it has been peculiarly important to me: my kids may not always enjoy going to church; but they have never doubted that the pastor actually cares for them; and that is something for which I am more grateful than I can articulate).”

Nancy Pearcey in Washington - This may interest you if you’re in or near DC. “Nancy will be speaking at a ‘Faith and Law’ event in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on September 1, the date of the release of her new book Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning.

Remembering Katrina - The Big Picture looks five years into the past to remember Hurricane Katrina and all the devastation it caused.

“Endurance and perseverance are qualities we would all like to possess, but we are loath to go through the process that produces them.” —Jerry Bridges

August 29, 2010

This week I came upon a prayer written by the Puritan Matthew Henry. This prayer comes from his book A Method for Prayer and is meant to be used “At the entrance upon the public worship on the Lord’s day, by the master of the assemblies.” What is most notable to me is how the prayer is almost entirely Scripture; it moves from one verse to the next, all the while seeking God’s blessing upon the worshipers. It’s a beautiful thing.

Thou, O God, art greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about thee. O give us grace to worship thee with reverence and godly fear, because thou our God art a consuming fire.

This is that which thou hast said, That thou wilt be sanctified in them which come nigh unto thee; and before all the people thou wilt be glorified. Thou art the Lord that sanctifiest us, sanctify us by thy truth, that we may sanctify thee in our hearts, and make thee our fear and our dread.

August 28, 2010

I have been reading Nancy Pearcey’s new book Saving Leonardo, something about which I’ll have a lot more to say next week. But for now I wanted to share with you a quote from one of the early chapters which deals with Sex, Lies and Secularism. Here she writes about liberal and Christian views of sex, showing how the Bible elevates sex to the position God wishes it to have while Liberalism lowers it to something so much less than God wants it to be. Though Christians are often denigrated as being prudes, in reality Christians have a high view of sex.

The irony is that Christians are often accused of being prudes and Puritans who hold a negative view of the body and its functions, such as sex. During one college debate over abortion, the pro-choice students shouted to the pro-life students, “You’re just anti-sex.” But the truth is that Christianity has a much more respectful view of our psycho-sexual identity.

August 27, 2010

Friday morning seems like a good time to provide some updates on what I’ve been up to lately, and especially what I’ve been up to in relation to my writing.

The Next Story

Yesterday morning was a big day: After eight months of work I finally submitted the manuscript for The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion. Surprisingly, it was a bittersweet moment for me. I was very thankful to be able to send it in and to be able to anticipate at least a few weeks away from it. It has been a long, hard push to complete the book—something that has taken me far beyond the 9 to 5. I’ve enjoyed writing it, but look forward to having a short break from it (like when your kids go to grandma’s for a couple of days—you miss them, but you’re glad for the break!).

At the same time it was also a little bitter. I was somewhat ashamed to send in a manuscript that wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I think the ideas in the book are good and helpful but as of this moment, it just doesn’t have the flow I want it to have. Here’s the problem. After writing 80,000 words I found that I just wasn’t able to get “above” or “beyond” the book anymore to see it from a wide perspective. I was just too close to it. I know there are a few elements in the book that need to be improved but either I can’t tell quite what they are or I can see plainly but don’t know how to fix them. I found that profoundly frustrating and very nearly exasperating.

However, all is not lost. Helping me in such things is the job of an editor and I’m grateful that I’ve got a good one. The book is in Ryan the Editor’s hands now and I know he’ll do great work in helping me with the flow of the ideas. He’ll have that big picture perspective that I’ve been unable to find. I know that the book will be much improved after he has helped me through this part of it.

I guess all of that humiliation is really just a manifestation of pride. I feel like I should be able to write a really good book without the help of an editor. And yet here I am saying, “I need your help!” It’s good for me, I’m sure; a valuable lesson. I think God is using this to teach me something and I suppose that means I ought to listen!

The plan is that Ryan will have the book for a few weeks so that he can begin to work his magic on it. Then he will send it back to me and I’ll have a few weeks of my own to respond with changes, improvements, and new content. By the time this stage is complete I am sure that I will be much more comfortable with the state of the manuscript. I am looking forward to being at that point. If you have been praying for me as I’ve been writing and would like to continue doing so, this is what you can pray for—that God will provide that final bit of direction I need to take all of those ideas and weave them together into a cohesive whole.

We are also beginning to look at cover design, something I always look forward to since it brings with it an element of reality—once the book has a cover it is much closer to becoming a real book. I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as there is something worth seeing.

The Next Story is still on-track for release in April.

Sexual Detox

Sexual Detox is on the way and will be released in printed form just a couple of weeks from now. It has a new subtitle (“A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn”), it has been edited and added to, and it has been endorsed by Ted Tripp, Mark Driscoll, Kevin DeYoung, Ben Zobrist and Owen Strachan. All-in-all I think it’s a much better book than the one I gave away for free in e-book format. It is being published by Cruciform Press, a company of which I am a co-founder, and is our very first book. I’ll have more news about it in the days to come.

Don’t Call It a Comeback

In January Crossway will be publishing a book titled Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. Kevin DeYoung edited the book and I contributed one of its chapters. Crossway gives this as part of their description: “DeYoung and other key twenty- and thirty-something evangelical Christian leaders present Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Evangelical Faith for a New Day to assert the stability, relevance, and necessity of Christian orthodoxy today. This book introduces young, new, and under-discipled Christians to the most essential and basic issues of faith in general and of evangelicalism in particular.” That book is set for release in late January.