Some surf-satisfying links to get you through the weekend.
Andy Rau at ThinkChristian asks an uncomfortable question about the goals, plans, and programs of churches and ministries: "Is this benefitting the kingdom of God?"
At Intellectuelle, Bonnie asks, "What part should maintainance and/or building of a church facility play in the stewardship of a Christian or a congregation?"
Mark Lauterbach hits one out of the park every day at GospelDrivenLife. Here's a recent example, all about the importance of Story in studying and teaching the Bible's story of Jesus and theme of redemption. This approach really resonates with me, and I'm willing to bet it does most others too. "Narrative preaching," properly executed, can be a great and effective bridge between expository sermons and topical sermons.
Similar to my recent bit on In Jesus' Name, Scot McKnight blogs on Paul's phrase "To the Lord"
There are so many conferences for Christians, preachers, teachers, church leaders, worship leaders, et cetera et cetera going on in the evangelical landscape today that "Christian conferencing" has become a cottage industry in itself. But I'm willing to bet the latest Desiring God Conference would have been worth twice the admission, what with leaders like John Piper, Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, and Mark Driscoll speaking. At Reformissionary, pastor Steve McKoy shares a couple of pull-quotes from the conference. One is a good one from Driscoll on Calvinist "contenders," but the one I like is this from Keller:
There has to be a lifelong process of realizing the wonder of the gospel. Religion gives you control which is why it's so popular. Religion is "I obey, therefore I'm accepted." The gospel is "I'm accepted, therefore I obey."
Milton Stanley's Transforming Sermons is another blog you should add to your bookmarks. (And not because he quotes and links to me more than occasionally. ;-) He just writes great and helpful stuff, and when he's not writing it himself, he has a knack for finding the folks who are and links to them. For instance, he found this gut-punching post from Christianity Today's Kent Carlson on the brutality of pastoral ambition. Milton's pull-quote will be mine as well:
Something has happened in the past thirty or so years that has shifted our pastoral ethic from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success. I believe this has stirred the fires of ambition. Given the nature of our American culture, this doesn't surprise me. It also doesn't surprise me that the battle with ambition will be a ferocious one, for the tendency toward self-absorption plagues every one of us. I just wonder why this is not a front burner item that is being addressed with greater passion in the popular Christian media. It would be so refreshing to hear Christian leaders in some panel discussion copping to the fact that they struggle with it and it often drives their ministry. We all know it's there. If only we could start being honest about it.
I just added Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church, to the Recommendations list in the sidebar. It is a great, great read for anybody interested in both growing a church for the lost and remaining faithful to the Gospel. Driscoll describes himself as theologically conservative and culturally liberal, and he must be doing something right if he can go to one of the least Christian cities in the nation, preach hour long sermons full of theology and calls to repentance from sin, and somehow turn a steady crowd of drug addicts, porn addicts, punk rockers, ex-gays, "loose" women, and the occasional demoniac or nutcase into a vibrant and still growing congregation of about 10,000. I don't agree with all Driscoll says (apparently he thinks stay-at-home dads are sinful sissy-boys :-), but I recommend the book for anybody interested in pastoral honesty, integrity, and, perhaps more importantly, plainspeak in a world of prepackaged pastoral buzzwords and "church growth strategies."
Read the Internet Monk's review of Confessions of a Reformission Rev. for more info.
If you can avoid drowning in his characteristic ellipses, BCC'er Chuck Leonard has a neat post on keeping the Sabbath.
Finally . . .
Studio 215, BCC's burgeoning ministry for twentysomethings, college & career, and young professionals, now has a MySpace page. Check out Studio 215's MySpace.