Archive for the ‘Advance09’ Category

Reflections on Advance09 (Part Four)

Here is what I realized over a year ago and Stetzer and Greear and Piper solidified it for me at Advance09. Here it is – So what did Christ and the Apostles have in mind when they called the people of God to holiness in this world?  Many of the tendencies I observe among those who make up the church take the “in and not of” thing further than the scriptures allow, both personally and corporately.

I have personally made the mistake many times of thinking I needed to separate myself from non-Christians and non-Christian things so that I could be “holy”.  However, in looking back on that tendency to withdraw I found that the reason I separated myself was not for the sake of holiness but so I could avoid suffering persecution and trial. The pursuit of holiness was just used as an excuse to stay away from tribulation and persecution.

This tendency began in me when I first repented of my sin and Christ called me to Himself. I had two very good friends – lifelong friends. But instead of sharing with them my new found commitment to Christ and my life of repentance, I cut myself off from them and it was all in the name of wanting to be godly but it was really because I knew I would be ridiculed by them and maybe, heaven forbid, rejected by them.

Now, don’t be ridiculous here, I realize there are times when we must separate ourselves and there are things that we, as Christians, must separate from. I’m not going down to the local strip club and starting a Bible study there and I wouldn’t counsel a redeemed drug dealer to stick with that profession so that he/she can be a light to other drug dealers. However, certainly not all of us have to quit our vocations that the Lord, in His providence, has seen fit to give to us simply because it could be labeled as secular. The sacred/secular dichotomy was rejected by Luther and Calvin and the Puritans, but I think many in the church today would debate them on this. Does being a software developer really make me ungodly? No. I could be a godly or an ungodly software developer. For example (and don’t go crazy, this is just an example – I’m not suggesting anything about how to choose your institute of higher learning), being a student at JMU, a state school, did not make me less of a Christian than those who went to Liberty University with all Christians (sadly, you would run into the same problems at both places regardless). No. I was a follower of Christ at JMU. Ecclesia, the word translated “church” in the New Testament, means the called out assembly. So there was a group of us at JMU made up of Christ followers. We were an assembly of called out ones within in the community of JMU – and we were to be salt and light within that community. Make sense?

Again – just an example so I’m not arguing for or against going to a “Christian” school. I’m not saying that you should not transfer out of a secular school so that you can get a Christian education. If that is what you need to do, then do it. But don’t think it makes you more holy. It helps you avoid persecution and tribulation. (Now it also helps you get a Christian education, which I am totally for…) I’m just using my JMU experience as an illustration of what I’m talking about. I’m not making any prescriptions for how to choose an institute of higher learning.

One of the speakers at Advance09 made this point – Christians are cutting themselves off from the rest of the world in just about every area of our lives. We have our own soccer leagues, our own book stores, our own financial gurus, and even our own biker clubs. These things are not bad things, it’s just that many of these things exist because they feed our desire to have our own thing so that we can avoid any and all persecution and tribulation in this world – not because they make us more set apart or holy as we might think they do. Because of these tendencies, many Christians can go through an entire day without any contact with this lost and dying world. And it is all setup that way with the pretext that we are to be separate.  How is that fulfilling the great commission? How does that advance the local church?

The church’s task is not to avoid persecution, but to choose tribulation and persecution and then in that persecution and trial show the world our light and let them get a taste our saltiness. Piper made this point so well in one of his talks. Unless the church injects itself into communities and cultures, the light will be hidden and the salt will stay in the shaker. Let’s be in the world (though we are not of it) and then show this world that it is not precious to us, but Christ is precious to us. So…pastors, leaders, churches – stop the withdrawal and join the advance.

Reflections on Advance09 (Part Three)

The men of Grace Bible Church – I couldn’t have asked God for a better group of guys to go with to this conference. So encouraging…so genuine…so loving…so brotherly and fatherly…My time was deepened by being there with these men.

Sitting next to men like Mike, who has survived brain surgery and a rough recovery from it and is currently struggling to find work and continues to faithfully and joyfully follow hard after God, and then getting to discuss with him what has been said after every session adds a depth to events like this that is irreplaceable. Getting to ride there and back with men like Jack, who planted Grace Bible Church and is still an elder faithfully serving and shepherding to this day, offers a perspective on the local church that few can offer and he makes a good co-pilot too. Rooming with a young man like Jacob, who is living as a new believer and a young married man with his first child on the way and still has a passion for the lost in the city of Richmond and is a faithful member in a local church, is more encouragement than all the speakers put together can offer (This guy could’ve written “Why we are NOT emergent” himself). Listening to the wisdom of a newly ordained church leader like Rick, who is 6 years younger than me and sets such a solid example of being quick to listen and slow to speak, is humbling and so refreshing. Sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch at Cracker Barrel with men like Mike (a different Mike) and hearing his heart for his family just brings such clarity and conviction. These are the things that God uses to grow men and sanctify them through His Spirit and then empower them to advance His church.

For this reason, my heart goes out to guys like my brother, who went to Advance09 without others from his church. God can still empower him and others like him to advance His church. I pray that these men came away making commitments and will be faithful to those commitments. It is so difficult being one of those men, but it is the same Lord who empowers us all to advance His church. I pray that the plurality of the men that went from our church will spark a movement, by God’s grace, with the commitments they make coming away from this event. I look forward to seeing what God is going to do in us and through us for His glory’s sake, His gospel’s sake, and His church’s sake…

In Part Four I’ll go over a conviction that God has given me over the past year but then clarified in my heart during Advance09.

Reflections on Advance09 (Part One)

This past week I had the privilege of attending the Advance09 Conference in Durham, North Carolina.  I wanted to take a few posts to share with you my reflections on the weekend.

My brother mentioned the conference to me because it was going to be in Durham, NC, and John Piper was going to be there. So he knew that, if Piper was coming that close, I would want to see him. So one day, at lunch with a couple of my pastors, we discussed the latest Mark Driscoll controversy and the articles regarding it at the Shepherds Fellowship (I’m not sure what to make of Driscoll – I’ve got some real concerns but I haven’t written him off and would actually love to see God glorify himself through that roughneck). I sent information about the conference to my teaching pastor, Rich Ryan, jokingly offering him a chance to hear Mark Driscoll in person, and oh yeah – Piper too. Well…he totally took the bull by the horns and the next thing I know I’m going to this conference with him and about twenty other guys from our church – AWESOME! I love this guy and his intentionality and initiative.

However, even with Rich’s intentions and initiative and even with my brother’s invitation and even with the draw of John Piper’s preaching, there is no way I would’ve gone to this unless my wife saw the greater good of me going. She is the real and precious visionary in my life. She sees what good it is for me to attend things like this and then she determines to send me off to it and does what it takes for that to happen. She is the one who sacrificed for the three days. She is the one that endured a kidney stone (yes she passed a kidney stone during the first night – and that sucker was big) and the sleepless night that came with it so that I could experience these things and have these reflections. I love her for seeing greater things for me and for us and her endless acts of self sacrificial service that are required to allow me to do something like this. So thanks Dr. Piper for making the trip. Thanks Rich for getting it together. Thanks Jason, my brother, for the invitation. But thank you God for giving me the gift of Jenn and the ever growing display of a servant’s heart that defines her life and ministry to me and our children. May your blessings continue to abound in her life.

Now, back to Advance09…in Rich’s words – “That conference soooo exceeded my expectations.”

Overall, I was very encouraged by the overwhelming theme of Christ-centeredness in the church and the obvious commitment, by all the speakers, to scripture and to the preaching of the true gospel message to all peoples as a necessary “mission” of the church. I was convicted by the call to be “mission-minded” in all areas of life and in the local church and the global church. I was convicted of the idolatry in my life and my lack of a war time attitude regarding prayer, evangelism, and missions.

I determined to pray for my elders on a more regular basis. I determined to buy Patrick Johnstone’s, “Operation World”, and begin learning about the unreached peoples of the world and teaching my family about it. How can the Holy Spirit call me or my family or you to go and reach a certain people group unless we know that they exist?

In part two I’ll give my reflections on the music and the individual speakers.