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

Tim Challies

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June 17, 2014

Johann Heinrich Alsted wrote: “The article of justification is said to be the article by which the church stands or falls.”  The Reformers sought to recover this vital doctrine, which is at the very heart of the gospel. Brave men such as John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, Theodore Beza, John Knox, and many others gave their lives—often literally—to defend this quintessential doctrine of grace.

But the Reformation recovery of these great truths was immediately threatened by two very different, but equally militant, movements—the Counter-Reformation and the Radical Reformation. While the Counter-Reformation of the Roman church rejected Reformation doctrines such as sola scriptura by asserting the authority of the papacy, the Radical Reformation rejected sola scriptura in favor of mystic subjectivism.

The Reformers wrote a great body of literature to guide the church through the time’s treacherous waters. But in the generation after the Reformation, there remained little in the way of a comprehensive, rigorously systematized synthesis of Reformed theology to precisely communicate and preserve the Reformers’ legacy.

CollectionIn the midst of this battle for truth, the gifted scholar Amandus Polanus provided the Reformed churches with one of the earliest and most extensive Reformed systematic theologies: the Syntagma Theologiae Christianae. This monumental achievement synthesizes the body of Reformed theology into a coherent and rigorous system. Not only does it preserve and defend the Reformers’ original theology; it also presents it in a precise, nuanced way.

The Syntagma covers all the topics addressed in standard theologies, but with a skill and precision that has few equals. Richard Muller describes Polanus’ treatment of the attributes of God as “Perhaps the clearest and fullest summary of the entire paradigm.” Polanus is also eminently practical and addresses the church’s needs with an extensive treatment of Christian ethics. “[Polanus] portrays the state of emerging Reformed orthodoxy in the crucial years between Theodore Beza and the Synod of Dort… . Polanus is a bridge between the pristine Reformed teaching and orthodoxy, scholastic in constructing theology with academic precision and logical rigor but, with a strong doctrine of God, oriented to christological, soteriological, and practical concerns” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology).

Polanus’ importance in preserving the Reformed tradition and shaping its development is undeniable. Robert Letham writes, “Amandus Polanus is one of the most significant dogmaticians of early Reformed orthodoxy … . As a consolidator, a preserver of the tradition, he brings the whole field of theology together into a systematic unity… . His intent is to meet the needs of the church of his day, a generation or more removed from Calvin and facing new challenges which require fresh and perhaps clearer and more rationally developed solutions… .”

As a student, he was trained at Basel by Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza. He later became an influential professor at Basel, where he instructed important figures such as Johannes Wollebius and others who would become the next generation of Reformed theologians and ministers. Polanus’ work served as one of the primary sources that would go on to influence the enduring Reformed confessions, such as the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Standards.

For centuries, this seminal work was required reading at Reformed seminaries. Now, Lexham Press wants to produce the first-ever English translation of Polanus’ Syntagma, previously available only in rare Latin editions—but we need your help. The more pre-orders we get for this classic work, the more quickly we can get it to you. Pre-order your copy of Polanus’ A System of Christian Theology today, and join Polanus in preserving the legacy of the Reformation.

“If you love Reformed theology, if you want access to classic Reformed texts, if you want to learn Reformed theology from the sources that informed the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Assembly, then this is the sort of project that you should support.” 
—R. Scott Clark, professor of church history and historical theology, Westminster Seminary California

Check out our other projects that will bring to you, for the first time ever in English, important authors and their untranslated works, such as Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics, The Sermons and Lectures of John Calvin in English, and The Latin Works of John Owen in English.

June 11, 2014

Are Church Plant Media websites easy to update?

Yes, all Church Plant Media-powered websites come with a user-friendly Content Management System (CMS) that gives you control over your website content. It is not only easy to update, but fun to use as well. Without any need to know programming languages, you can add and edit your text, photos, navigation, events, sermons, blogs, audio, video, photo galleries, mobile site, password protection, and much more.

Our CMS has been completely custom-built by our team and was created specifically for gospel ministry. This ensures that churches and ministries get the features they need without having to wade through the features they don’t need. A big benefit of using our CMS is that you don’t have to cobble together different plug-ins to get a non-church CMS to do what your ministry needs.

Call us to learn how we can relieve your website burden: (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

June 03, 2014

Reformed Baptist Seminary is a church-based ministerial academy that provides a full theological curriculum as either a Master or Bachelor of Divinity degree. It also offers a streamlined 32-credit program. Both programs can be completed via online learning as well as through our modular format live classes.

We’d like to invite you to join us for a five-day seminar on Creeds & Confessions this fall. This is a great way to meet some of the men involved in this ministry and explore RBS as a potential way to do your seminary training. Click on the banner below for more information.


Use these links to find out more about enrolling on one of our degree programs and to receive updates about module class offerings, seminary news, and free resources:

May 28, 2014

Will Church Plant Media protect my website design in my local area?

Yes, we will ensure that no other church in your immediate area has the same design as you. Most website companies allow churches in the same area to purchase the same website design theme, but not Church Plant Media. We know your brand is important, so this is why we purposefully limit how many times each of our designs can be used in each area. For some, this may feel like a “restriction” when selecting a design, but it is our promise of respect and protection for the duration of our partnership.

We are not aware of any other web company who provides this same service.

Call us to learn how we can protect your website design: (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

May 14, 2014

What is the process to set up a Church Plant Media website?

As mentioned in a previous post, Church Plant Media builds websites for a wide spectrum of gospel ministry endeavors. We have worked hard to make our setup process as simple as possible. The following steps are all it takes to get up and running with a Church Plant Media website.

  1. Affirm the Gospel & kick-start our gospel partnership.
  2. Select the Design & serve your unique ministry needs.
  3. Create the Content & use our system to build your site.
  4. Reach the World & see how others are doing the same.

Call to see how we can serve your website ministry needs: (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

April 30, 2014

Does Church Plant Media build websites for both churches and ministries?

Yes, with “plant” as our middle name, we are happy to help you “grow” your online ministry. We have been building great websites for gospel ministry since 1998 and we welcome any gospel-loving group that is defined by the words “Church & Mission” including, but not limited to…

  • church planters
  • brand new churches
  • established churches
  • multi-campus churches
  • church networks
  • missionaries
  • non-profit ministries
  • Christian camps
  • Christian schools
  • Bible colleges

Call to see how we can serve your website ministry needs: (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

April 16, 2014


Happy Easter from your friends at Church Plant Media! As your team prepares for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services, we wanted to encourage you to take a fresh look at your church website. According to LifeWay Research and the 1,000 Protestant pastors they polled in 2012, Easter Sunday has the highest attendance every year. With this in mind, will your website serve all of those new visitors?

Over the past few months we have shared some thoughts on Tim’s blog about the 5 primary features that every church website should have. As we unpacked these features we repeated the phrase: a church website = an online building. Our hope is that this brief phrase will help you think more strategically about the Internet. To learn more about these 5 features follow the links below to the blog posts that explain our thinking in detail.

  1. The CORNERSTONE proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. The FOUNDATION utilizes a Content Management System.
  3. The FLOORPLAN organizes pages, sermons, events, etc.
  4. The EXTERIOR shows your design style & code structure.
  5. The ENTRANCE answers questions: who, what, when, why.

You may also be interested in the Church Plant Media ~ A La Carte post we did a number of months ago. In that post we collected links to a few of our other entries about website costs and various content strategies. Although every church is different, we believe every church can have a truly great website for gospel ministry.

If you are an avid reader of Tim’s blog, you may notice that our upcoming sponsored posts will have a different flavor as we answer some Frequently Asked Questions. With that said, if you have a website question that can not wait, feel free to call us at the number below.

Easter Blessings from your friends @ Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

March 26, 2014


Hello again from your friends over at Church Plant Media. We are back with the last post in our series exploring the idea that A Church Website = an Online Building. In this series we have been sharing how the form and function of a church website can be compared to these 5 items: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance. Today, we are going to consider the Entrance.

Here is how we defined the Entrance of a church website:

The entrance is the first impression of the building. Whether you call it a lobby, foyer, or narthex, this is the room that people experience when they first walk through the front door. Many churches will have people stationed at the entrance with bulletins and a welcome hand shake near a welcome center for new visitors. The home page of the website should function very similarly to your church entryway. Its purpose is to help answer the main questions of who, what, when, where, and how. Just as you think about greeting new visitors and introducing them to your church, you should also give thought to your website visitors.

Depending on the design structure of your website, you may have different places for text or images on your home page. Some website designs have more text then images and others have more images then text. There really is no right or wrong way to design a home page as long as the code is clean. Websites with descriptive text at the top or bottom of the home page tend to do a little better with search engines, but Google really cares more about the keyword content within the website then the actual design of the home page. However, your website visitors need you to answer these 5 questions.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you believe?
  3. What can I expect?
  4. When and where do you meet?
  5. Why should I come?


This should be more than just your logo and can usually fit into a brief phrase or paragraph. Many churches like to feature their mission statement or a few words about the church. This should be a 30,000 foot view of who you are in a few simple and compelling words.


Before visiting a church, most people want to know what the church teaches before they visit. With this in mind you should have either a text or image link on your home page that will get them to that information quickly. Let your light shine and don’t hide it.


Some churches like to feature a small photo gallery of the meeting space right on the home page, while others like to prominently feature a “Before You Visit” or “New Here?” button towards the top of the page. Either way, make sure this info is easily accessible.


You would be surprised how many churches do not have this information clearly marked on their website. Be sure to feature your service times, your address, and a link to a page with an embedded Google Map along with directions from the north, south, east, and west.


People come to church to hear the good news about Jesus. The primary means that they hear is through your sermons. So it is always helpful to feature a graphic that displays what is being preached along with a link to a sermons page where they can listen to past sermons.

If your home page provides easy access to these 5 answers, your website visitors will be served. Feel free to give us a call if you would like a website with these features built-in.

Your friends at Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

March 19, 2014


Grace and peace to you during this special season of Lent. Church Plant Media here again to unpack our thoughts about how it can be helpful to understand that A Church Website = an Online Building. In the blog post at that link we outlined how churches can think about their web presence using these 5 key terms: Cornerstone, Foundation, Floorplan, Exterior, and Entrance. Today we would like to consider the Exterior.

Here is how we defined the Exterior of a church website:

The exterior is the outer expression of the building. It is what people see before they walk through the front door. Some churches have steeples and siding, others have brick, mortar, and concrete, while others might have a renovated store front. The same concept applies to your website. In the same way the physical walls must be sturdy, a great website design must be more than just skin deep. Your church website should be built to address both search engine visibility and the design preferences within your church culture.

When you think about the exterior of your church building a few things may come to mind. Depending on your background you may have differing thoughts about the outside of the building. Some people only see the visible “style” of the building (wood, metal, or plastic siding; brick, stone, or concrete work). While others may think about the actual “structure” or framing that holds up the exterior (wood beams or structural steel). Both aspects (inside and out) are needed when planning both a public meeting space and a website.

Style — judging a book by its cover

Although my mother always taught me not to “judge a book by its cover” the reality is that every book has a cover because we all pass judgement on books based on their cover design. If you don’t believe that covers matter, just visit your local Barnes & Noble and walk through the aisles. In the same way that people judge a book by its cover and a building by the exterior, people will think differently about the church based on the design style of the church website whether we like it or not.

In the same way that you (or the church members before you) took time to consider your siding, you also need to take some time to consider your website design and how adequately it conveys your church. What is important to your church and how well does the website design convey who you are and what you are all about? What are your church colors and do they feature prominently in your website? What is your design aesthetic and how does the website reflect the look-and-feel of your church?

Structure — more than just skin deep

When talking about the book and its cover, my mother was trying to help me understand that true beauty is more than just skin deep. We can think about buildings and websites in the same way. Although the exterior matters a great deal, if it cannot stand up to the effects of severe weather, then it does not matter how pretty it looks when it is built. Similarly, even if a website looks great on the outside, it is relatively worthless if a search engine can not find it online.

Design matters to a visitor but code and content matters more to search engines. When a search engine displays a result, it could care less what the website looks like. Google and Bing are looking for websites that match a keyword search like “church in city, state”. Although your search rank is based on a number of factors related to your website content, if your website is not coded properly it may not matter what keywords you feature. It is like the old adage, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Or in Internet terms: if your website looks great but search engines can’t find it, do you really have a website?

If you would like to learn more about how to have a website that is both easy on the eyes and easy to find online, feel free to give us a call at the number below.

Your friends at Church Plant Media | (800) 409-6631 x 1

Web Stuff Wednesdays

March 12, 2014

I’m sure you’ve had the experience within the course of a normal conversation, when you stumble across something profound and unexpected. This happened to me as I was in the process of writing my first book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. I was already underway in the writing process, so I clearly believed in the importance of diversity and had been moved by what I saw on the subject in God’s word. My wonderful friends at Moody Publishing had captured the vision as well and had blessed me with their partnership on the project, but here I was having a conversation halfway through the writing process that was refocusing for me the need for a biblically based theology of diversity.

UnitedI wasn’t experiencing vitriolic racism and injustice, it was…indifference. It was, in short, a life that had missed seeing the beauty of God’s creative, diverse children. A life that thought issues of integration and equality were a thing of the past and that diversity was best handled by adopting a well-intentioned “colorblind” mindset – ignore the differences, don’t see the beautiful shades and hues. And, tragically as a result, miss the amazing unique designs that God has built into the human race. Refocused, I wrote United for my friend, because I want him to see in color and be captured by how God has made us different but united together inside of His family.

United was written to cast a vision for diversity in the church, but also in all of life. I spend the first section sharing about my own journey and testimony. The second section highlights the benefits of diverse friendships through taking a closer look at my friendship with two young women and how the Lord used it in our lives. I also write about the theology of race and our adoption into one family, the church. Finally, I realize that the pursuit of diversity can be difficult, so I write about the hindrances and yet the hope we have in the gospel to unit all tribes and tongues and nations.

United does not dwell on negative or discouraging aspects of our culture; instead I share what it would look like practically if we pursued diversity. I do this mainly by focusing on a diverse friendship I experienced with two other women after opening with a few chapters explaining my personal perspective, struggles, and fears about diversity. My goal is not to leave readers defeated and condemned but, rather, encouraged by the vision of the family of God made up of all nations. What an amazing family this is!

My prayer is that this project would be used to encourage pastors and their churches but the book is about the beauty of diversity in relationships and therefore it is for everyone. Ultimately, I pray this little book would magnify and glorify the Lord.

You can learn more about me and United by visiting my website at www.trillianewbell.com. You may also visit Shop Moody, Amazon, or your favorite retailer to purchase United.  I can’t express enough my thankfulness to Moody Publishers for allowing me to share with you about this project. I hope that it blesses and encourages you.

In Christ,

Trillia J Newbell