Archive for September, 2010
In this series of posts introducing DSC to The Gospel Coalition (TGC), we’ve been looking at the foundation documents that provide the basis for the partnerships that make up The Gospel Coalition network of churches and church leaders.
Grounded in these commitments, TGC is serving the church in a numerous practical ways:
- Resources: A large database of sermons, articles, lectures, and interviews searchable by topic, text, date and author. This is a vast treasury of Scripture rich reflection, exposition and instruction.
- Blogs: Seven blogs are hosted at TGC’s site, all of them valuable regular visits. We recommend two in particular to those working through theological issues and interacting with culture: Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung.
- Publications: Themelios is a theological journal that expounds and defends the historic Christian faith.
- Book Reviews: TGC Reviews is home to book reviews, interviews with faithful readers, and book excerpts.
- Conferences: A National Conference is held every two years in April in the city of Chicago, alternating years with Together for the Gospel, another fine conference. The 2011 conference theme is Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament and includes breakout sessions with about fifty different speakers, most of whom are pastors.
- Networking: The Gospel Coalition Network, Regional Chapters, and the Church Directory are all ways for gospel minded believers and church leaders to network for strength of the church and the spread of the gospel.
And that concludes this five part introduction to TGC. We are happily listed in TGC’s Church Directory and are encouraged with the recent news of Ryan Kelly’s appointment to the council. Bookmark TGC’s site on your browser and take advantage of what you find there for your encouragement and help in living and spreading the gospel for the glory of God.
The theme for this year’s Clarus conference was, Between Heaven and Earth. This post is the first in a series of six from Ryan Kelly’s Question and Answer discussion with guests, Wayne Grudem and Randy Alcorn.
How does the doctrine of depravity fit with an optimistic view of human productivity?
Are we responsible for the potential use of what we create?
How should the Christian think about marketing?
How did previous generations speak about the nobility of work? How do we instruct the coming generation?
On Sunday Ryan introduced the book of Colossians, covering the context, authorship, and the theme of this New Testament letter, written by the apostle Paul.
We also considered the importance of reading books like this straight through to get a sense of their unity and message. Colossians is, after all, a letter. Since this is actually a helpful approach to daily Bible reading, Ryan challenged us to read through Colossians once each day for the next week, then to do the same thing with a different New Testament letter after that. For longer books, like Romans, it may help to divide the book into two sections.
To help you read through Colossians, here’s the outline that Ryan gave on Sunday:
I. Believing in Christ’s Preeminence (Chapter 1)
- His Preeminence in our Experience (1:3-14)
- His Preeminence in Creation (1:15-17)
- His Preeminence in the Church (1:18-23)
- His Preeminence in Paul’s Ministry (1:24-29)
II. Defending Christ’s Preeminence (Chapter 2)
- His Preeminence vs. Empty Philosophy (2:1-10)
- His Preeminence vs. Judaistic Ceremonialism (2:11-17)
- His Preeminence vs. Man-Made Rules (2:18-23)
III. Living Out Christ’s Preeminence (Chapter 3-4)
- His Preeminence in Your New Identity (3:1-10)
- His Preeminence in the Church’s Unity (3:11-17)
- His Preeminence in Your Home and Work (3:18-4:1)
- His Preeminence in Proclamation (4:2-6)
- His Preeminence in Service (4:7-18)
This Sunday begins our new sermon series through the book of Colossians. Ryan will preach an introduction and overview of the book, helping us to zero in on its central theme: The preeminence of Christ. That’s not a word we use very often…preeminence, that is. But this is not an altogether bad thing. Good words that are over used or improperly used are slowly emptied of the weight of their meaning. When we use the word preeminence, we can think of Christ as he is described in this central portion of the first chapter of Colossians:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)
Christ created all things, he is before all things, in him all things hold together and through him God is reconciling his church and all things to himself. By God’s grace, we will come to know Christ better for who he is as a result of our time in this book.
By way of reminder, Community Groups discuss and apply the sermon when they meet throughout the week in various homes. If you are not already involved, the start of this series is a good time to join. Go to the Community Group page for more information, and check our messages page for sermon audio as the series unfolds.
The second half of this document is worthy of its own post. It is framed with two questions concerning the gospel and its implications.
First, In what ways is the gospel unique?
Secularism tends to make people selfish and individualistic. Religion and morality in general tend to make people tribal and self–righteous toward other groups (since their salvation has, they think, been earned by their achievement). But the gospel of grace, centered on a man dying for us while we were his enemies, removes self–righteousness and selfishness and turns its members to serve others both for the temporal flourishing of all people, especially the poor, and for their salvation. It moves us to serve others irrespective of their merits, just as Christ served us (Mark 10:45).
Secularism and religion conform people to behavioral norms through fear (of consequences) and pride (a desire for self–aggrandizement). The gospel moves people to holiness and service out of grateful joy for grace, and out of love of the glory of God for who he is in himself.
Some implications of this gospel are worked out in answer to the final question raised in this document: What is gospel-centered ministry? The document follows this question with an explanation of five marks of gospel-centered ministry:
- Empowered corporate worship: “In corporate worship God’s people receive a special life–transforming sight of the worth and beauty of God, and then give back to God suitable expressions of his worth.”
- Evangelistic effectiveness: “Because the gospel (unlike religious moralism) produces people who do not disdain those who disagree with them, a truly gospel–centered church should be filled with members who winsomely address people’s hopes and aspirations with Christ and his saving work.”
- Counter cultural community: “Because the gospel removes both fear and pride, people should get along inside the church who could never get along outside…Thus the gospel creates a human community radically different from any society around it.”
- The integration of faith and work: “The good news of the Bible is not only individual forgiveness but the renewal of the whole creation. God put humanity in the garden to cultivate the material world for his own glory and for the flourishing of nature and the human community.”
- The doing of justice and mercy: “Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, and comes to wealth through giving all away. Those who receive his salvation are not the strong and accomplished but those who admit they are weak and lost. We cannot look at the poor and the oppressed and callously call them to pull themselves out of their own difficulty. Jesus did not treat us that way.”
Who doesn’t believe in “empowered corporate worship” or “evangelistic effectiveness”? Certainly most evangelical churches do. In fact, we should say that all true churches must. But the actual manifestation of these fruits is something different than agreement. At DSC, we want these things, and we want them as described in this vision for ministry because we want the gospel to be central in our life together.
Recently Ryan announced DSC’s hopes to partner with the Acts 29 Network in our effort to become a church planting church. For some of us, Acts 29 calls to mind familiar churches, church plants, and church leaders. Others of us are flipping through the Bible to find out what happened in Acts chapter 29.
The Acts 29 Network is a trans-denominational network of churches distinguished by three commitments:
Our men: We believe local churches should be governed by godly husbands and fathers who are biblically qualified elders serving under the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Head of the church.
Our mission: We believe Lord Jesus desires the planting of church planting churches.
Our message: We believe the reformed gospel about Jesus Christ is the central message of the Bible.
Outside of these commitments, Acts 29 churches are relatively diverse. Some are denominationally associated, many are not. Some are rural, some are suburban, others are urban. In terms of church ministry methods and style, Acts 29 churches are all over the map. But they are all centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, committed to the authority of Scripture and distinguished by their commitment to qualified biblical male leadership, multiplying churches that plant churches, and a reformed understanding of the gospel.
Of course, DSC can be happily committed to these things without an official association with the Acts 29 Network. But a partnership with Acts 29 offers DSC an invaluable help in fulfilling our mission to plant churches. That, after all, is risky business.
This Sunday, Ryan prefaced his message with a number of reasons for our partnership with Acts 29. Here they are:
- Simply put, A29 is one of the most effective church planting networks in history
- We share their theology and ministry philosophy: The solas, male leadership, being missional, differentiating between open and closed hand issues
- We need help, partnership, & resources for church planting – like 1615 helped us for global missions.
- It will also help DSC grow towards an identity of “every member missional living” – it pulls us in that direction, and we need energy and momentum in that direction.
- It is not a denomination, so this is consistent with what we’ve always said that we want to be a non-denom church but not an unconnected church. We want to find strategic, helpful partnerships even across denominational lines.
- Possible Acts 29 connections and partnerships for our work in Guatemala and in North Africa.
The attrition rate is high among church plants and the costs are great. The network is young, but we see God’s blessing on their work and the application of the kind of hard learned church planting wisdom that DSC needs. It is just bad stewardship to reinvent this wheel with help like this available.
This video trailer for Darren Patrick’s new book, Church Planter: The Man, The Mission, The Message, communicates in a personal, serious and compelling way the heart of this network of church planting churches. For more information about the Acts 29 Network, check out their website, and the Frequently Asked Questions page, which details the doctrinal commitments, ministry philosophy and leadership structure of Acts 29.
As you may have discovered, there are only 28 chapters in the book of Acts. The Acts 29 Network is so called because “God is at work today continuing the building of His church and expansion of His kingdom through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are simply seeking to follow in the pattern of Spirit-led and Scripture-directed church planting and evangelistic ministry that began in the book of Acts and has continued in every age since through God’s faithful servants.”
That is a chapter we want to help make. Actually, it’s a chapter we’re already a part of, and a partnership with the network by this name will serve us in spreading God’s glory broader and deeper in the years ahead.
While the Confessional Statement was designed to unify leaders and churches around particular doctrinal commitments, this document further clarifies TGC’s concern and mission.
The first half contains three sections addressing three major areas of concern for the church today. Three questions frame this section addressing the issues of epistemology, hermeneutics and contextualization respectively. Here they are, with a few significant lines from the explanation:
- How should we respond to the cultural crisis of truth? “We believe the Holy Spirit who inspired the words of the apostles and prophets also indwells us so that we who have been made in the image of God can receive and understand the words of Scripture revealed by God, and grasp that Scripture’s truths correspond to reality. The statements of Scripture are true, precisely because they are God’s statements, and they correspond to reality even though our knowledge of those truths (and even our ability to verify them to others) is always necessarily incomplete. The Enlightenment belief in thoroughly objective knowledge made an idol out of unaided human reason. But to deny the possibility of purely objective knowledge does not mean the loss of truth that corresponds to objective reality, even if we can never know such truth without an element of subjectivity.”
- How should we read the Bible? “To read along the whole Bible is to discern the single basic plot–line of the Bible as God’s story of redemption (e.g., Luke 24:44) as well as the themes of the Bible (e.g., covenant, kingship, temple) that run through every stage of history and every part of the canon, climaxing in Jesus Christ. In this perspective, the gospel appears as creation, fall, redemption, restoration…To read across the whole Bible is to collect its declarations, summons, promises, and truth–claims into categories of thought (e.g., theology, Christology, eschatology) and arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches summarily (e.g., Luke 24:46–47).”
- How should we relate to the culture around us? “We want to be a church that not only gives support to individual Christians in their personal walks with God, but one that also shapes them into the alternative human society God creates by his Word and Spirit.”
These are important questions. The answers we hold, however consciously or unconsciously, give shape to our vision for the church, its function in God’s plan, its purpose in this world and how ministry should be carried out.