Lots-o-Links 7.19.13


5 Evangelism Tips at We Are Soma

Earlier this year God woke me up from my sleep and asked me questions about evangelism. Questions like, “How many people did you share the gospel with this past year? How many people did you invite to gatherings? Why?” It was one of those gracious conversations that made me realize I was not evangelizing primarily because of my selfishness. I am too selfish to regularly tell people the best news in the world. I felt relieved that this could change and I am growing in evangelism. Here are 5 things God is teaching me about evangelism

Stop Hate-Watching The Church

But these Internet communities too often aren’t about healing. Not really. They funnel all of these triggers into one place, providing an opportunity for us to direct all of our rage, anger, and malice at what we have deemed to be rightful and deserving targets. These places of supposed healing become places of malice and mockery.

A Public Statement Concerning Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ

In the hope that a time is coming when Christian leaders respond to all sexual abuse with outrage and courage, we offer this confession and declare the Good News of Jesus on behalf of the abused, ignored and forgotten.

16 Ways I Blew My Marriage | When my wife tells me I should read something like this, I listen. We don't agree with everything, but it's pretty good.

I don’t have marriage advice to give, but I have plenty of “keep your marriage from ending” advice (two equivocally different things), and that might be almost as good.

Thornbury's Mission to Revive Carl F.H. Henry

“I want to make Carl Henry cool again,” Thornbury exclaims in the introduction. Given that we can recognize Henry’s thoughts almost everywhere we look these days, such an aspiration is not terribly ridiculous. I would love to see the book cover in many a coffeehouse in the coming days, and would love even more to see Henry himself return as a staple of theological conversations. He was a giant whose legacy deserves to be recovered. As the new president of the King’s College, Thornbury is well positioned to do just that.

Lots-o-Links 9.17.12

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"This website exists as the on-line presence of Authentic Manhood, a bold movement to lead men to live the life of truth, passion, and purpose they were created to live." Contributors include Justin Buzzard, Eric Geiger, and others. 

Joe Thorn: Praying for Your Pastor

There are a number of pastors I pray for regularly, and these are some of they ways I lift them up. I hope you will join me as you pray for the leaders God has given you.

9 Writing Books That Will Inspire You To Write -- Today (Check the whole list. I really like the top 3.)

  1. On Writing by Stephen King
  2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  3. Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Street Pastors --> What Is A Street Pastor? (Interesting idea)

A Street Pastor is a Church leader/minister or member with a concern for society - in particular young people who feel themselves to be excluded and marginalised - and who is willing to engage people where they are, in terms of their thinking (i.e. their perspective of life) and location (i.e. where they hang out - be it on the streets, in the pubs and clubs or at parties etc). 

Street Pastors will also be willing to work with fellow activists, church and community leaders, and with agencies and projects, both statutory and voluntary, to look at collaborative ways of working on issues affecting youth, and initiatives that will build trust between them and the Street Pastors.

I'm Buying This Book -- check this interview, reviews & responses by Moo, Bock, Horton

Book Review: Generous Justice


I've been given the opportunity to follow up my review of Dr. Timothy Keller's Counterfeit Gods (buy) with a review of Generous Justice. Thanks to Dutton for the book. It's another great addition to his works: The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, and the long-ago written Ministries of Mercy. Dr. Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. If you haven't yet, you should check out my Tim Keller Resources page.


A lot has been said in recent years of orthodoxy & (or vs) orthopraxy. We have become a people who know the Book but don't "do" what the Book tells us to do. We aren't being changed. We are better on paper than we are in practice.

And we don't take correction well. It takes a distinct voice to speak in a way we can hear, to lift the conversation above misunderstanding and reactionary responses. I believe Tim Keller is one of those voices and has accomplished that goal. He's done it before. For example, in The Reason for God he elevates the conversation with skeptics. I've read and encouraged others to read his Introduction there a number of times because it changes the conversation, it raises it "to the level of disagreement." Brilliant stuff. I think Keller does that again here on a polarizing topic: Justice.

"Scars" from old battles are hard to overcome. Theological conservatives, like me, tend to react against issues beloved by theological liberals, like social justice. And the more justice issues are brought up, the more likely (typically) theological conservatives will be leery of an author. But, and all man-love aside, Tim Keller in Generous Justice has done something I consider remarkable. He has cut through the thicket on justice to show us a clearing. It's a breath of fresh air among stuck arguments and stuffy minds.

Here's how Keller sets up his argument from the introduction... 

Elaine Scarry of Harvard has written a fascinating little book called On Beauty and Being Just. Her thesis is that the experience of beauty makes us less self-centered and more open to justice. I have observed over the decades that when people see the beauty of God's grace in Christ, it leads them powerfully toward justice.

Through dealing with several Old & New Testament passages, including word studies made simple (not just a scholarly work), Keller writes deep enough for the scholar and simple enough for the layperson. He shows himself well-read in both historic Christianity and modern cultural scholarship. Several times I found myself finding the endnotes for more info on an author or book I've never heard of and want to check out.

Some of my favorite sections are on biblical passages I'm very familiar with but Keller explains in a fresh way, such as his explanations of gleaning, tithing and Jubilee in chapter 2. Keller argues with these concepts that, "God's concern for the poor is so strong that he gave Israel a host of laws that, if practiced, would have virtually eliminated any permanent underclass" (p 27). I have not encountered a discussion on business and profit like this before (p 30). I believe it will shake the rich up and, Lord-willing, lead them toward justice. Keller reveals how profoundly American (and worldly) we are, yet he uses thoughtful, biblical argument to open our eyes. 

Then Keller discusses Jesus and "your neighbor" in chapters 3 and 4. His explanation of The Good Samaritan in chapter 4 is rich. Just as he makes Luke 15 and "The Prodigal Son" come alive in The Prodigal God, he continues to surprise us at our own dullness as he reveals the *sparkle* of familiar stories. In this instance he does it both through exposition of biblical texts as well as the liberal use of the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Keller works through the objections he's received to teaching love for neighbor and the answers he's seen from Edwards. His use of Edwards is compelling. Then Keller does what too many fail to do with The Good Samaritan, which is bring Jesus directly to bear. Instead of teaching the parable merely as the great example of how to love neighbor, he goes one step further.

Jesus is the Great Samaritan to whom the Good Samaritan points. 

Before you can give this neighbor-love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously boy someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need. (p 77)

Keller then discusses the motivation for doing justice, treasuring human beings because they are creations of the Almighty. It's how we show God respect, by seeing His image in people. He mentions our redemption as motivation. Keller says, "If you look down at the poor and stay aloof from their suffering, you have not really understood or experienced God's grace" (p 96). "If you are not just, you've not truly been justified by faith" (p 99). How can someone who has experienced justification not respond by doing justice? When you understand the gospel, you see the poor and realize you are looking into a mirror. There can be no superiority or indifference when you get God's grace toward you.

Biblical background and motivations in mind, Keller gets practical in chapter 6. He says it should be our constant thought, to look for ways to do justice. We should ponder it. We should have "sustained reflection" on issues and places of justice. He considers big justice needs and areas. He discusses education and social capital, the need for business owners to be neighbors, racial reconciliation, and more. But then he does zero in on what everyday, neighborhood Christians can do. He mentions the mission of London City Mission as "the same person, going to the same people, regularly, to become their friend for Jesus's sake" (p 143). I love that. Keller does well to bring all our efforts, individually and organizationally, to bear on a community needing justice. "While the institutional church should do relief inside and around its community, the 'organic' church should be doing development and social reform" (p 146).

Keller also considers justice in the world of ideas, the public square. Keller's proposal: "Christians' work for justice should be characterized by both humble cooperation and respectful provocation" (p 158). I'm particularly encouraged by Keller's understanding of being distinctly Christian even when working in cooperation with others...

Christians should identify themselves as believer as they seek justice, welcoming and treating all who work beside them as equals. Believers should let their co-workers know of how the gospel is motivating them, yet also...they should appeal to common values as much as possible. (p 161)

Keller avoids pitfalls on both liberal and conservative sides by encouraging bold Christian work for justice while embracing a cooperation with others for the good of the oppressed. Yet he says Christians should "at the same time be respectfully provocative with them, arguing that their models of justice are reductionistic and incomplete" (p 164).

I love the way Keller ends Generous Justice. A chapter on "Peace, Beauty, and Justice." He ends where he started, remember the quote from Elaine Scarry above. Here Keller focuses on "shalom" or "harmonious peace." He refers to the "interwovenness" of rightly related human beings into community. He describes shalom as "flourishing in every dimension -- physical, emotional, social, and spiritual" (p174). Keller considers shalom and justice...

In general, to 'do justice' means to live in a way that generates a strong community where human beings can flourish. Specifically, however, to 'do justice' means to go to places where the fabric of shalom has broken down, where the weaker members of societies are falling through the fabric, and to repair it. This happens when we concentrate on and meet the needs of the poor.

How can we do that? The only way to reweave and strengthen the fabric is by weaving yourself into it. (p 177)

But Keller doesn't paint us as the hero. We do justice "because serving the poor honors and pleases God, and honoring and pleasing God is a delight to you in and of itself" (p 183). Loving and seeking justice means hard work. It's painful and people are difficult to love. But Keller says, "Don't shrink, says the Lord, from spending yourself on the broken, the hurting, and the needy. I'm good for it" (p 185).

Keller has written the best sort of book. He deals with something that has and can divide us, and does it winsomely. He does it biblically and theologically. He does it convincingly and compellingly. I finished Generous Justice desiring to see the hurting and oppressed with new eyes, a new generosity, and a new desire for shalom. 

This book is suited to many audiences. It can be read and understood by the average Christian and the more learned. I think it will be quite helpful for Christians involved in the leadership of business or government. Those responsible for much will be challenged to do it different, do it justly. And yet those with the simplest of lives and in the smallest of places will see in this book the profound, eternal purpose of God as they seek justice where they live. What a great gift a book like this is! 

I highly recommend Generous Justice, though I'm sure I haven't done the book justice (pun intended). There are a few books I know will be a constant reference for the remainder of my life, and this is one of them. Go get it.

Purchase Generous Justice | Christianity Today interview with Tim Keller | Other reviewsChuck Huckaby | 9 Marks | Brian Hedges


Keller: Generous Justice

Tim Keller's new book, Generous Justice, will be released this October. From the publisher...

It is commonly thought in our secular culture that the Bible is one of the great hindrances to doing justice. In Generous Justice, Timothy Keller illuminates a life of justice empowered by an experience of grace: a generous, gracious justice.

Generous Justice is a book for believers who find the Bible a trustworthy guide, as well as for those who suspect that Christianity is a regressive influence in the world.

Keller calls upon life-long Christians to deepen their faith by understanding that justice for the poor and marginalized is central to the Scripture’s message and challenges skeptics to recognize that the Bible is actually the basis for the modern understanding of justice.

(via JT)

Tim Keller: The Gospel and the Poor

It's a Keller-centered day here at Reformissionary. The new issue of Themelios is out (also PDF) which includes "The Gospel and the Poor" by Timothy Keller.  This was originally a paper presented at The Gospel Coalition's Pastors' Colloquium last summer.

--> Via Jim Hamilton, who also has an article with a very Baptist title. :)

Update: I also noticed a glowing review of Culture Making by Andy Crouch in this issue.

Intentional Suburbanites

Will Samson has posted someone's "Ten Ideas for Living Intentionally in the Suburbs" (HT: Hamo). Helpful stuff.  Also will take this chance to say that Will's new book, Justice in the Burbs, is out now.  Haven't picked it up yet, but will when I get the chance.  Here's Will's post.

Ten Ways to be the People of God in Suburbia
by Chris Smith

In response, to Brian McLaren’s call for urban churches at the Mayhem gathering last weekend [in Cincinnati], my friend Mike Bishop has been stirring up some conversation on "suburban ministry." Here's my response to that conversation, ten ways for those called to suburban ministry to be in the people of God in radical ways in suburbia. This list is meant for people to chew on and not all of its points may be applicable for all suburban missional church communities.

1) Live with others from your church community

Whether you share your home with another person or family, or whether you have several families that have homes in close proximity or both, sharing life together is perhaps the most powerful (i.e., going against the grain of suburban culture) way to be the body of Christ in suburbia. If you can't live together, at least find a way to share resources (power tools, lawn mowers, children's clothes/toys, etc).

2) Work Less!

One of the major powers that enslaves suburbia is the idolization of the career. There are many ways to pay the bills that do not involve a 9-5 job, and even within a 9-5 job, there are ways to work less (turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave, etc.) Working less will free you to serve your church community, your family, your neighbors, etc. It will also spur creativity: finding a solution for working less, finding a way to "make ends meet" financially, etc.

3) Throw out the television

Another (and perhaps larger power) that enslaves suburbia is consumerism. You'll be amazed at how your desire for things ebbs as you take the TV out of the picture. If you can't bring yourself to kill the television, at least take steps to lessen its influence (get rid of cable, only use it for movies, put it on a cart that can be wheeled in and out of a closet, etc.) Throwing out the television will also stimulate your creativity.

4) Drive less

Suburban culture is also enslaved to the automobile. Find ways to loosen those bonds (much more difficult in suburbia than in urban areas). Share a vehicle with others in your church community (much easier if you are doing #1 above). Invest in a good bicycle. Walk. There was a segment on "60 minutes" a few weeks ago about how much we miss when we zip around in automobiles. Walking and/or biking will help you be more attentive to your surroundings

5) Have a garden / grow food

Suburban life is often very shut off from the food cycle (Food comes from the grocery store, of course!). Homegrown food is more healthy, it gives you a good excuse to be outside (see #7 below), and it provides you with a resource to share generously with your church community and your neighbors. Phil Kenneson outlines a number of horticultural lessons for the people of God in his intro to LIFE ON THE VINE that are additional benefits of this practice.

6) Get to know your neighbors / listen for their needs

To be human is to be poor. Or in other words, everyone has needs. The challenge of suburbia is that there are many more ways to conceal that poverty, and similarly that it will take more effort to get into a position where a neighbor can reveal their needs. Be intentional about building relationships. Share meals, play poker, have block parties, whatever it takes.

7) Be outside as much as possible.

Another temptation of suburbia - fueled by individualism - is that of the house as an impenetrable fortress. Dissolve this temptation by eating, playing, relaxing outside. This practice is also one avenue to interact with your neighbors.

8) Do not fence in your yard

All apologies to Robert Frost, but fences do not make good neighbors, and in fact they often keep us from making good human neighbors. This is a corollary to #7, the fence is a major component of the impenetrable fortress syndrome; it protects our privacy and keeps out our "evil" neighbors. It often is a statement of distrust. If you must have a fence (to corral a dog for instance) make it as low and as permeable (i.e., not blocking off the view) as you can get away with.

9) Take a stand against the greed of mega-corporations

Whenever possible, resist buying from domineering mega-corporations (e.g., Wal-mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, and others). These corporations destroy local economies and have little or no concern for the environment. Buy as much as you can from businesses that are as local as possible (family-owned businesses are preferable to local chains, local chains are preferable to regional chains, and regional chains are preferable to global corporations.)

10) Utilize and support non-commercial public spaces (parks, libraries, colleges, etc.)

This point is another corollary of #7 above. We must utilize and show our support for these public spaces, lest they be conquered by the powers of individualism (by becoming private property) or by consumerism (by becoming commercial or industrial property). This is also a wonderful way to foster relationships with our neighbors.

Dan Cruver & Adoption

I wanted to send a quick shout out about Dan Cruver of Eucatastrophe, who has recently started working with Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency.  I first got to know Dan about a year and a half ago.  He emailed me about some Keller stuff and we have kept up on each other's blogs ever since. 

My wife and I have considered adopting in the past, and we may revisit that idea again someday.  It's good to know guys like Dan are working to bring small "r" redemption to little ones around the world.  He writes on his blog...

My responsibilities are (1) networking with pastors/churches, mission agencies, children’s homes, and other organizations to inform them of Carolina Hope’s established full-service adoption ministry; (2) speaking in churches, Bible study groups, and other venues to present adoption within the context of the larger story of redemption; and (3) writing content for Carolina Hope’s website and articles for publication. If you know of a ministry that might be interested in having me come to speak on orphan ministry in general and adoption in particular, please let me know.

I hope by mentioning Dan's ministry here that someone might be able to connect with his ministry.

Saturday Selections

I'm getting a lot of hits from Spero News.

Have you been listening to Ken Myers' podcast from Mars Hill Audio?  It's called Audition, and it's a great free resource for provoking thoughts on theology & culture.  And if you don't subscribe to Mars Hill Audio, I recommend it.  At least get a free sample issue to try.  It's a key resource for stretching me beyond my current intellectual boundaries.

I've gotten through part of the Book TV discussion with Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks.  The conversation focused on Sullivan's new book The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How We Can Get It Back.  I originally caught some of the end of the show on TV.  It is intriguing concerning political conservatives and evangelicals.  You can also get at least some (maybe all?) of the video at YouTube, which has worked better for me than the Book TV video.  Al Mohler just had Sullivan on his radio show as well.

Speaking of evangelicals and the political world, I'm very interested in the recent comments of David Kuo, who is currently a columnist at Beliefnet.  Kuo served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and has written the new book  Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.  I just bought the book and look forward to reading it in the next couple of weeks. I was introduced to Kuo by watching Charlie Rose's interview a couple of nights ago.  Here's the Google Video of the program, and the Kuo interview begins at around the 35 minute mark.  Justin Taylor points to the Books & Culture review of Tempting Faith.

I'm already tired of the online discussion about Ted Haggard, and find Stephen Shield's post on the matter very helpful.  Mark Driscoll's good advice in his post on the subject are must reading, though nothing profoundly new (a typical sign of most good advice).

The late Mitch Hedberg has some important thoughts for us as Thanksgiving approaches.

I don't listen to country music, but the new CD by Alan Jackson is really good.  It's called Like Red On A Rose

I'm finishing up preaching Colossians this Sunday.  I've enjoyed N.T. Wright's commentary (TNTC) the most.  Then I'm taking two Sundays off for vacation and a planning retreat.  Tim Etherington will be preaching for me from Jude.

Astonishing Generosity

I'm preaching a series of sermons on generosity in January, and this post on "Astonishing Generosity" by Tod Bolsinger caught my eye.  A blurb...

• This is not just a strategy for adding some kindness to the world.  It’s a strategy for changing the world.  (It's a revolution strategy!)
• It’s not just about making the world better, it’s about making the world new
•Generosity is not just about making people think we are good nice and kind, it is about helping people see that God is good, compassionate and responsive to their cries.

It is a central activity of the followers of Christ to reveal God to the world. 

Our generosity is to remind people of God’s generosity.  Our generous forgiveness of those who fail us, giving to those in need, of openhandedness to those who were clinging so hard to the scraps of life, and welcome to those who are without a place in this world would be nothing more (and nothing less!) than a reflection of the “generous love of God into the whole world.”

McKinley @ Catalyst

One of the many conferences I wanted to attend this year was Catalyst.  Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, is one of the speakers I wanted to see.  Out of Ur has some thoughts on the "lab" McKinley led at Catalyst...

"As pastors, we are tempted to build the church," [McKinley] said. "So wesend out postcards to targeted Zip codes and we promote church programs." But that misses the point, he argued. "Our job isn’t to build the church. We’re supposed to BE the church, and build the kingdom." He emphasized that the kingdom is to be experienced NOW, on earth, as Christians exemplify godly living, but he also pointed out, as the recent school shootings demonstrate, that the kingdom is also "not yet." God’s kingdom won’t be realized in its fullness as long as such sin characterizes our world.


"The best expression of the church is NOT what happens on Sunday morning. It’s what happens in the world during the week. And that’s not something you can market."

His most provocative statements focused on the Christian’s calling to love their neighbors, even if those neighbors don’t respond to Christ or clean up their act. He told of his church’s messy efforts to love those with addictions, mental illnesses, and other conditions that aren’t easily cleaned up.

"We’re not called to change people’s behavior; we’re called to love them whether they change or not. It’s up to God to change them."

The Suburban Christian

HsuI just got Albert Hsu's The Suburban Christian and immediately read about half of it last night.  I'm really enjoying it.  What I find fascinating is the way Hsu speaks of suburbia in much the same way some speak of the city.  Here are a couple of quotes.

Suburbia has become the context and center of millions of people's lives, and decisions and innovations made in suburbia influence the rest of society.  If Christians want to change the world, they may well do so by having a transformative Christian impact on suburbia and the people therein. (27-28)

While an individual suburb might not be a microcosm of the total city, it is an essential slice of the larger metropolis that cannot be partitioned off or seen in isolation, just as a traditional local urban neighborhood is an essential component of the whole city. (29)

Crisis in Generica

Read Mark Van S' post on the Crisis in Generica (his name for suburbia).  A blurbia...

These days, when we think of Genericans, we think of vacuous, vapid,consumers. Lonely plastic-people who pretend that everything is all right. Urban folk, and rural folk, both are suspicious of such plastic people. In our cities and towns the problems are obvious. The poor folk aren’t hidden. Our lives are lived in public. When we go to the streets of Generica (those streets with deceptively pretty names), everything looks the same…the pleasant exteriors betray the brokenness of their residents.

And in response, the Suburban church–the Church of Generica seeks to save these people by catering to their broken impulses. We feed the individualism by giving them individualized sermons (David Fitch can detail this phenomenon much better than I can). We try to attack the isolation by introducing small groups (which are usually pretty anemic and unoffensive…being centered on things like the Purpose Driven Life). And so the Generican Church tends to have the same ailments as the Generican people–and all their blessings as well (like resources and a value of excellence).

A spiritual crisis is growin in Generica. The people are dying there. They have money, but it has secured their sense of disillusionment. Materialism grows, but the people cry out for substance. They moved out to the burbs to find sanctuary, but they crave relationship.

But as missional pioneers emerge–those uniquely envisioned folks that can utter prophetic voice to their brothers and sisters in Generica–they flee to the cities with their obvious problems. Urban has its own challenges, to be sure, but it is easier to be missional in the city, in many ways, than it is to be missional in the burbs. Generica needs missional leaders. Missional leaders who reject the homogeneous unit principle (the idea that folks don’t like crossing cultural boundaries so we should do church in a way that appeals to particular cultures rather than being mulit-ethnic in our approach), who reject consumerism and materialism, who embrace authentic community, who care about the poor and the marginalized should come back to the suburbs and minister there. Generica is growing in its diversity. Generia has its poor. And most of the churches in Generica tend to assume that issues of race and poverty and crime are urban issues. But new churches must come to Generica.

Churches that value social justice.

Churches that cross cultural boundaries.

Churches that challenge consumerism.

Churches that build authentic community amidst fracture.

Who will respond to the cries for healing in the broken land of Generica?

Read Crisis in Generica.

Sacred Space Ministry

Imago Dei in Portland, where Rick McKinley is pastor, has started something called Sacred Space.  From the Sacred Space website...

sacred space is an urban renewal project spearheaded by Imago Dei Community.

sacred space emblemLast fall, nearly two hundred people got together on a sunny September day with a vision. The team descended upon St. Francis Park in SE Portland to serve in an amazing renovation project with over $5,000 in resources raised. The park was transformed from a blighted area into sacred space.

After a year of dreaming, praying, and planning, our vision has grown.

And it’s still growing.

On August 12, we expect one thousand people will come together to bring restoration, resurrection, and renewal to about fifty spots around Portland, Oregon.

With shovels and rakes, hammers and nails, hard work, healing, and laughter.

We’d love for you to be a part of it.  Look for signup information soon.

the idea

plantSacred Space is about recalling our duty to preserve creation by reclaiming harmony with God’s Kingdom: the way things should be. We are committed to a missional journey of actively repairing the broken places all around us, partnering with God to restore our divinely-created habitat.

We want to engage the city in this process of regeneration, planting seeds of hope and nurturing the faith that we can make life better together. We believe that God invites people from all beliefs into this progressive movement. As we combine our talents we experience authentic community rich in meaning, truth, beauty and worship.