Friday, October 24, 2008

9 Marks and CCEF on Counseling in the Church

I really am going to return to blogging on a regular basis but have to lay low for just a little while longer. The new November/December eJournal from 9 Marks was enough to make me poke my head above ground to point others to it. It's all about counseling in the church and it looks great! Here's an excerpt from the editor's note:
We know counseling ain't easy. Polls show that most pastors prefer the pulpit to the counselor's chair. Not only are the problems people bring intractably complex and heart-rending, they consume vast quantities of time.
Yet we hope this issue of the 9Marks eJournal will do two things for you, pastor: encourage you to look for ways to bring counseling into your local church, and introduce you to an incredible resource, the individuals and materials at the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). Both parts of CCEF's vision statement nail it on the head: "Restoring Christ to counseling and counseling to the church." Is your counseling Christ-centered or moralistic? And how are you cultivating a culture of counseling and discipleship in your church?
Here are the articles (full PDF version here):
Five Advantages of Church-Based Counseling
Here are five reasons why churches shouldn't be so quick to "refer out" their counseling.
By Deepak Reju

Counseling and Discipleship
How are a church's ministry of counseling and discipleship related? By Deepak Reju 

Why Every Pastor-in-Training Should Read Ed's Book
Every Capitol Hill Baptist Church pastoral intern is required to read Ed Welch's book
When People Are Big and God is Small. 9Marks asks Michael Lawrence why.
Looking at the Past and Present of Counseling
Can biblical counseling draw from the Puritans? How are churches today doing at counseling? What is CCEF doing that's unique? An interview with David Powlison

Cultivating a Culture of Counseling and Discipleship
Tim Lane talks about counseling from the pulpit, the ideal church, recovery groups, promoting discipleship, and more. An interview with Tim Lane

Sorting Out the Spiritual and the Physical in Counseling
Former medical doctor and now CCEF instructor Michael Emlet discusses his own background and what pastors should make of the mind-body connection in their counseling. An interview with Michael Emlet
Premarital Counseling, Pornography, and Marriage
Today's buzzword for marriages is "compatibility." But counselors and couples need more wisdom than that, especially as pornography attacks marriage like never before. An interview with Winston Smith

What Should Pastors Do with Fear, Medication & Addiction
Welch considers questions like, Should pastors give more thought to fear? Are psychiatric medications unbiblical? Should pastors keep their hands off the psychiatric issues? An interview with Ed Welch

A new 9 Marks interview with David Powlison in which he discusses his conversion, counseling views, and assorted books is also available for listening online or downloading here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Anti-intellectualism No Answer to Dead Orthodoxy

"At many times in history, Christians reacted against academic versions of theology that deaden life. Examples like the Great Awakenings, the rise of Pietism, Kierkegaard's rejection of state Lutheranism, and the charismatic renewals come to mind. Too often, evangelicals today replace dead orthodoxy with anti-intellectual activism or moralism rather than with theologically vital spirituality. The model of piety valued most among evangelicals typically stresses inward moral holiness and outward Christian service set in opposition to reflective thought.

"...Indeed, the church cannot avoid theology in seeking to fulfill its mission. Though some think they can suspend theology, avoid the academic stratosphere, and achieve practical relevance, they succeed only in replacing a well-considered theology with a hodgepodge of theological scraps randomly interlaced with cultural ideas." - David Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology, pp. 208-209.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Books on Marriage

Steve McCoy continues his series of posts on Big 5 book recommendations. His latest entry is on parenting and the one before that was on marriage (at which I chimed in with my picks).

Related, today I came across Paul Buckley's pointer to a helpful comparative chart rating 30 Christian books on marriage in various areas. It came as no surprise to me that two of the most popular volumes fared poorly in the areas of biblical support and theological soundness. Full reviews of each of the books are available here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jesus in China

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune ran a fascinating and extensive cover story on the rapid rise of evangelical Christianity in China and how it's reshaping the officially atheist nation. According to some estimates, the mostly underground church consists of approximately 70 million members. The article is a preview of a joint project of the Trib and PBS' FRONTLINE/World called "Jesus in China" which airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET. The program is momentous in that it includes interviews with numerous church leaders and members publicly declaring their faith for the first time. In a related story, the LA Times reports on China's booming business of Bible production.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tim Keller Talks Apologetics and Evangelism with CT

Some friends and I had the pleasure of attending Tim Keller's Veritas Forum lecture at Northwestern University, part of his The Reason for God book tour. While he was in town he sat down with Christianity Today assistant editor Susan Wunderink. You can read the interview here.

Since my last two posts have dealt with marketing approaches to evangelism, I took particular note of what Keller sees as a major flaw in this way of thinking:
Marketing is about felt needs. You find the need and then you say Christianity will meet that need. You have to adapt to people's questions. And if people are asking a question, you want to show how Jesus is the answer. But at a certain point, you have to go past their question to the other things that Christianity says. Otherwise you're just scratching where they itch. So marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth.

C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it's not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it's really the truth, you really won't live the Christian life, and you won't get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff.
And here's a nugget for emergents and other skeptics concerning the role of rationality in leading people to faith:
Perhaps there was a day in which Christians thought that you evangelized largely through intellectual argument, but now I hear people saying, "No, it's all personal. If you're going to win people to Christ you just have to be authentic. You have to just reach out to them personally. You can't do the rational." In other words, Christians are saying the rational isn't part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions.  Don't get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there's too much emphasis on just the personal now.  Maybe you know I'm a 57-year-old man. You'd say, "Of course you'd say that." But I'm knee deep in 20-somethings. So it's not like I don't know how people are today.

The Two Obamas

New York Times columnist David Brooks explains the problem with dismissing Barack Obama as just another naive liberal:
God, Republicans are saps. They think that they’re running against some academic liberal who wouldn’t wear flag pins on his lapel, whose wife isn’t proud of America and who went to some liberationist church wherethe pastor damned his own country. They think they’re running against some na├»ve university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson.
But as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.  This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He’s the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.
Read the whole thing.

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An Ironic Side Effect of Toning Down Hard Truths

Here's something related to my previous post. Ligon Duncan points to the following thoughts from John Piper (he doesn't note the source) on how diluting biblical truth for the sake of winning unbelievers may actually harm the faith of those already in Christ:
. . . softening hard truth for evangelism in public undermines truth for the waffling believer in private. 
I think in general this is what cultural adapters fail to realize: making the truth more palatable for unbelievers to help them make a step toward orthodoxy serves even more (it seems historically) to help loosely orthodox people feel how unpalatable orthodoxy is and move away from it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Christian Euphemisms

In the interest of clear communication, Christians should carefully consider whether the vocabulary we use in declaring the gospel helps or hinders its furtherance. Contextualization of this sort is commendable. However, sometimes our selection of terms is driven not so much by a desire to facilitate understanding as by a desire to diminish the offense inherent in the message of the cross. After all, warning unbelievers about entering a "Christless eternity" isn't nearly as harsh-sounding as warnings about "hell" and thus the use of such euphemistic language might give us a longer hearing with people who would otherwise be turned off. Of course, it doesn't occur to us that the thought of an eternity without Christ is actually appealing to those who now hate him and have no desire for him.

The use of such toned-down language is not restricted to our conversations with non-Christians. Even when talking with each other we can resort to the use of euphemisms that dilute the concentration of biblical truths. I've always considered the phrase "unchurched" to describe the unconverted to be an example of such. The familiar term can easily give the false impression that a person's most fundamental problem is that he or she has not been properly socialized in church life. Likewise, it can give those who have never repented and trusted in Christ yet who regularly participate in church activities (i.e., the "churched"), a false security.

David Wells in his latest volume, The Courage to Be Protestant, critiques the premises and methods of the church growth and seeker-sensitive movements, noting how the words we use are products of the paradigm that is functionally authoritative:

We need look no further than the way those involved in this experiment speak of the unconverted. In virtually all church-marketing literature, non-Christians are no longer unconverted, or unsaved, or those not-yet-reconicled-to-the-Father, or those who have not come to faith, or those who are outside of Christ. No, they are simply the unchurched. Those who were once the unconverted have become the unchurched. This spares us the embarrassment of uttering theological truth. And that is the tip-off that something is amiss here. What is amiss is that the Christianity being peddled is not about theological truth (p. 45).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anthony Carter on Reformed Theology and the Black Experience

In an interview with byFaith Magazine, Anthony Carter, author of Being Black and Reformed and editor of the forthcoming Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church, explains why Reformed theology and the African-American experience are inherently complementary.
In God’s providence, He is working all things out for good for His people. And African-Americans experientially see this as true, as they have experienced trials and tribulations and historic oppression. They take comfort and solace in the fact that God is sovereign and working things out for good.

So Reformed teaching and the African-American experience is quite compatible. In fact, Reformed teaching best helps us interpret the African-American experience. There is a sovereign God who is just and merciful who is working all things together for good.

But the challenge is that African-Americans are not exposed to Reformed theology, so they see it as antithetical.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How to be Unfruitful

Though written with seminarians in mind, anyone desirous of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ can benefit from considering (and doing the opposite of) Derek Brown's list of 45 ways to waste your theological education. (HT: Said at Southern Seminary)

Understanding Scripture in Light of Christ

That's the theme of the most recent issue of Southern Seminary's magazine, The Tie. Articles and authors include:

  • Scripture’s story centers on Christ
    Stephen J. Wellum

  • Old Testament: Christ hidden
    Russell Fuller

  • New Testament: Christ revealed
    James M. Hamilton Jr.

  • Biblical counseling: Centering cure on Christ
    David Powlison

  • Beyond a Veggie Tales gospel: Preaching Christ from every text
    Russell D. Moore

  • Christ as Warrior-King: Preaching Christ from Judges
    David E. Prince

The complete issue is available for free here. (HT: Steve Weaver)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Steven Curtis Chapman's Daughter Accidentally Killed

May the God of all comfort console the singer and his family as they grieve over the tragic death of their youngest child.

The Tennessean:
Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest child died Wednesday evening after being struck by a car driven by her teenage brother in the driveway of the family's Williamson County home.
Maria, one of the Christian singer's six children, was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt Hospital, which confirmed the death, according to Laura McPherson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
>The 5-year-old was hit by an SUV driven by her teenage brother, she said. Police did not give the driver's name.
The teen was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser down the driveway of the rural home about 5:30 p.m. and several children were playing in the area, McPherson said. He did not see Maria in the driveway before the vehicle struck her, she said.
Please pray for this family.

UPDATE: Condolences to the Chapmans can be expressed at this blog set up in Maria's memory. (HT: The Point)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Big 5

Steve McCoy has launched a series he's calling the Big 5 in which he'll be asking readers for book recommendations on select topics. In his first post he asks for five titles for a church's book table and gives the following guidelines: "Your 5 should be somewhat diverse. In other words, don't give me 5 books on theology only. Mix it up. And I know you want to list more than 5, but no cheating! Don't necessarily suggest your best 5. Get creative. Mention some others won't mention."

Boy, did I have a rough time whittling my list down to five (I was stuck at six for the longest!) but here, at last, are my picks. Check out Reformissionary to see what others recommend and add your own Big 5.

Questioning Evangelism
by Randy Newman (I reviewed this one here)

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp

Decision Making and the Will of God
by Garry Friesen

Will Medicine Stop the Pain? by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D. (I gave a synopsis here)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Groothuis on Guinness

Doug Groothuis reviews Os Guinness's The Case for Civility in The Denver Post. Some comments about relativism didn't make the final but can be read at Dr. G.'s blog.

The High Price of Einstein's Unbelief

From the New York Times:
A letter the physicist wrote in 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, in which he described the Bible as “pretty childish” and scoffed at the notion that the Jews could be a “chosen people,” sold for $404,000 at an auction in London. That was 25 times the presale estimate.
The Associated Press quoted Rupert Powell, the managing director of Bloomsbury Auctions, as describing the unidentified buyer as having “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.” Among the unsuccessful bidders, according to The Guardian newspaper, was Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Birthday Wisdom

I usually don't air a woman's age but since my friend, Rosemarie, has published hers, I feel free to make an exception. Today, her 51st birthday, she shares thoughts prompted by a woman. two decades her junior, who asked how her priorities and values have changed since she was her age. Her response holds instruction for us all, regardless of our years. Here's a snippet:
I would read, meditate on and memorize the Word more. I would call my sin what the Bible calls it. Jesus provides a remedy for sin, but He is silent about 'mistakes'. I would advise young people to learn the difference between who you are and the choices you make. I value learning that people are more than their sin, they are souls in peril. I'd drill it in my head as soon as possible that flattery is abuse and that genuine heartfelt compassion can accompany the absolute rejection of someone's world view or lifestyle.
Read the whole thing.

Happy Birthday, Ro, and thanks for passing on a portion of the wisdom you've acquired over the years the Lord has given you!

Thoughts on Willow Creek's U-Turn

I'm cautiously optimistic about Willow Creek's stated intention to make the training of believers rather than the attracting of seekers the focus of their gatherings. Why it took reading the results of a survey and not just the New Testament to change their course of action, I'm not sure. Regardless of how they got there, at least they arrived at the right conclusion. One can only pray that the myriad of churches that have followed Willow Creek full throttle into seeker-focused ministry will have a similar epiphany and do a similar about face.

David Wells isn't as optimistic. In an interview with CT about his latest book, The Courage to Be Protestant, Wells was asked what theological significance Willow's shift has, to which he replied:

None. Bill Hybels has, I believe, the very best of motives, but he and his church are sailing rudderless in our cultural waters. Or, to change the image, he is like a CEO who shows up at the shareholders' meeting with very poor bottom-line results. So, what does he do? Instead of carrying out a serious diagnosis of what has gone wrong, he simply rolls out a new business plan that, unfortunately, has many of the same inherent weaknesses in it. The bottom line outcome will be no different five years, or ten years from now, from what it is today.
Also in CT, Matt Branaugh reflects on "Willow Creek's 'Huge Shift.'" He concludes with an observation from Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, that seems to share Wells's skepticism:
But they're still using the same marketing methodology. Willow appears to be selecting a new target audience with new felt needs, but it is still a target audience. Can they change? Yes, but it will take more than just shifting their target audience.
Melinda Penner welcomes the news of Willow's change and recalls her initial ruminations in response to the Reveal study:

Church is for the community of believers. The pastor is the shepherd who guides and teaches the sheep=believers. But at Willow Creek, the sheep fend for themselves and the programs are for unbelievers. Willow Creek calls itself a church but is in reality a perpetual evangelism rally. Hybels isn't a pastor, he's an evangelist. The problem comes when people attend thinking they're getting church, when really the sole focus of the church is evangelism. Billy Graham never started a church or claimed to pastor people. He did his job as evangelist and then encouraged local churches and pastors to do their job of feeding and discipleship. I think Hybels and Willow Creek would serve the Body better if they didn't claim to be a church. Churches and pastors don't leave believers to "self-feed."

Willow Creek says they're "seeker-obsessed." Great. We need evangelists with that obsession for the lost. That's a specific gift of the Spirit in the New Testament. And pastor is a different one. A church can't have that obsession to the exclusion of discipling the believers in its care. Do the job of an evangelist and then send new believers to a church instead of leaving them to "self-feed."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Henry Center and "Young, Restless, Reformed" Around the Web

Trinity International University's Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding now has a blog. Last month the Center's director, Douglas Sweeney spoke with Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists about the surge of interest in and passion about Reformed theology among people in their 20's and 30's. Among the encouraging topics discussed is the recovery of the model of the pastor as theologian and biblically/theologically-driven ministry. A Q & A session follows their interaction. I had the good fortune of attending the event and, thanks to the folks at the Henry Center, you can listen to or view it.

Another noteworthy interview of Collin worth listening to is that conducted by Tim Brister:

Interview with Collin Hansen, Part One
Interview with Collin Hansen, Part Two
Interview with Collin Hansen, Part Three

Christianity Today also recently published an irenic and informative exchange between Collin and Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, in which they discuss their books and respective movements: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

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ESV Study Bible Preview

The introduction to Luke's gospel from the forthcoming ESV Study Bible is available online. Time's running out to pre-order the volume at a 35% discount. Tomorrow's the last day!