Episode 083: An Interview with Matthew Bates

In this podcast we sit down with New Testament scholar Matthew Bates to talk about what he means by “gospel allegiance”.

We’ve missed what the gospel means and what faith means, and in light of that the whole package has been skewed…

What I am trying to say is that the gospel focuses on Jesus’ kingship, and in light of that, faith is the allegiance that we give to the king… we haven’t paid enough attention to this…

The gospel is the news that Jesus is the saving king, the victorious king… the Bible itself summarizes the gospel that way… “Christ” is a royal title, not a name…

The problem is that in the church we’ve often reduced the gospel to the cross, rather than the whole event of Jesus… this has the effect of putting the emphasis on the wrong place…

The word faith in the New Testament can also mean loyalty, and even faithfulness… this then will involve our bodily doing in some way…

The Christian community for too long has been swept along by the notion that Jesus is king over my spiritual life but not king over anything in the actual world…

When the Christian community gathers together and confesses that Jesus is king, we are creating an alternative social-political reality…

A lot of our disputes in the church about salvation have to do with grace… grace in the ancient world was reciprocal… if you received a gift you needed to give a response gift to keep the circle of gratitude moving…

Understanding this helps us see that God has already given the gift – the Christ-gift, the gospel, and the benefits that flow from it… none of us deserved it… in light of it, we are invited to reciprocate with our allegiance…

A good starting place for pastors would be to do a series on the gospel… look at texts that talk about Jesus being installed as the Son of God with power…

Working on the “gospel” first paves the way to work on the notion of allegiance… you need to help people see that faith doesn’t deny trust but usually means loyalty, which is a holistic response…

You can grab Matthew’s book Gospel Allegiance over at Amazon!

Episode 082: The Art of Songwriting

In this episode we sit down with Jon Egan and Micah Massey to talk about the agony, ecstasy, and discipline of songwriting.

Songs begin in the amateur’s heart and are finished in the craftsman’s hands… I have to start with childlike wonder and playfulness, and eventually something will take form…

The longer I’ve been writing, the harder it’s getting, but also the more rewarding it’s getting… sometimes the process is playful, but the majority of the time it is a wrestling match…

There’s a lot of humility and openhandedness involved in songwriting, especially in a cowriting situation… you know it’s going to morph and transform along the way and might be completely different than what you thought…

I worked with one really spectacular songwriter and one of the things I noticed about him right away was that he was totally unafraid to look like a bad songwriter… that’s how it has to start…

The saying “start with the end in mind” is bad advice for writers… you have to learn to fall in love with the process again… you have to fight for and protect the innocence of it…

There are a lot of different ways to write a song, but I love writing a song for the corporate body of Christ…

It’s a different approach when you’re writing congregationally… you have to write more objectively than subjectively…

There are three things that a corporate worship song needs: it needs to be accessible; it needs to be beautiful; and it needs to be theological…

This is one of the reasons why songwriting has been more of a boxing ring for me… I’m realizing that the singing is forming belief, forming culture, and how people think about God…

Silence and solitude are crucial for me… Dallas Willard said that you have to find your divine center every day… if I don’t have that, I will venture into a territory that is more subjective, more about me than it is about the church…

Community and friendship are the biggest disciplines for me… I learn so much from my friends… but also just remembering who has come before us… reading and community both help me…

Episode 081: 10 Hopes and Prayers Pt. 2

In this episode we sit down to conclude our conversation on Andrew’s article “10 Hopes and Prayers for the next 10 years.” (The original article can be found here.)

Church is at once the most mysterious thing on planet earth and also the most ordinary thing on planet earth… the way that we live together is itself a testimony to the world of what the world will one day be when God is all in all…

The church is an embodiment of a new possibility for living… but it can’t do that if what it’s exporting to the world is just a couple finely tuned religious goods and services… we actually have to DO LIFE together…

Our isolation is not good for the human soul… the church is the one place where face to face, voice to voice interaction is required…

Winning and losing are rampant in our culture, but in the church this need not be… the cross has leveled the playing field… and so there is no need to sequester resources or power…

The church is the one place where power can be used in the right way, where power is used to lift and not control, not to dominate, not to be abusive…

The places of deepest pain and brokenness and shattering can become the places of greatest strength… but you have to learn to rest in that…

We have a hard time with this in the church… so what we do is try to shore up weaknesses and amplify strength… we want supermen and superwomen and super-pastors… it was the same in Paul’s day…

One of the most powerful things that happens in the church is water baptism… another person is placing you under the water and bringing you up… it’s a symbol of vulnerability…

One of reasons we have siloed leadership is because we’re afraid to show our weaknesses… when we embrace our vulnerability it creates the possibility of our leading together…

We need to learn once again the ancient wisdom that God is our all… too many leaders are trying to achieve something existentially inside the church that only God can fill, and that’s driving their leadership into bad places…

Episode 080: 10 Hopes and Prayers Pt. 1

In this episode we sit down to talk about an article written by Andrew on 10 hopes and prayers for the next 10 years. (The original article can be found here.)

I would love to see the church become more spiritual… there is a vacancy of mystery in the church… we reduce everything to five easy steps, and it doesn’t satisfy the deepest thirst of the human soul…

The church needs to not be ashamed of the one thing it can offer that no one else can…

We need to recapture wonder… I think that we’re not surprised enough in church… the Holy Spirit is right here, and right now, which means that anything can happen…

The late Robert Jenson said that the basic difference between a living God and dead god is that a living God can still surprise us, and that’s what we see in the New Testament…

Our services are not unplanned but they are unscripted… we know that there are elements that will always be there, but it is the unscripted element that brings it to life…

Structure can and should have wonder in it… our way of holding the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer ought to be full of wonder…

In order to do this, we are going to have to slow down… I want the church in North America to swear off the haste that has become characteristic of its life…

God takes time, and we can too… sometimes when I am sermon prepping, the most effective thing I can do is just to leave it alone… go for a half hour walk, take some deep breaths, take in the landscape, and remember the Story…

When we are moving too fast, we don’t listen well, and when we don’t listen well, we don’t engage deeply in relationship, and we miss too much…

We are living in a time that is incredibly angry… the volume is so high and so many people are just talking past one another… it is a symptom of the haste that is in our hearts…

The frightful despotism of “I have to win” where life is a zero sum game is so destructive to our commonwealth, and I think that the church can lead the way on (changing) this…

Episode 079: Four Rules for Teams

In this episode we discuss four rules for how teams should function in their meetings.

Rule number one is you have to tell the truth… if it’s a bad idea, we want to hear about it… I need people in meetings who will tell the truth…

I would rather hear that something is a bad idea on Tuesday rather than on Sunday after my sermon… if you are thinking it in a meeting, don’t walk out carrying it with you…

If we can’t tell the truth in meetings, over time it will weaken the organization…

Rule number two is that you need to share the best ideas… I want creativity in the meetings… if people aren’t sitting in the meetings exploring and pushing the envelope, they don’t need to be in the meeting…

I want there to be a tension in the room that we challenge the status quo… I do not want people sitting there holding onto all their best ideas…

There needs to be robust debate in meetings for them to really work… I want my team members thinking outside their boxes, looking at everything with a fresh set of eyes… the best meetings are when there is really good debate… the best idea always wins…

Rule number three is that you can’t be in the meeting if you are afraid of being decisive… we have to make a decision…

I like to be around people who don’t get bogged down by data… at some point we need to make a decision…

A good leader with good instincts recognizes that if there is division in the room, we can’t move forward… we need to come to unity…

Rule number four is that if we make the decision, the people in the room all need to own it in public… but this is impossible if people haven’t been given an opportunity to weigh in…

The cardinal sin of team is to walk out of the meeting and say, “Well, you know I had a different perspective on this”… you can’t go out of the meetings nodding yes with your head but no with your heart…

Episode 078: The Essential Church Learning Community

In this episode, we revisit a conversation to talk about the “what” and “why” behind the launch of our Essential Church Learning Community.

Register for the Essential Church Learning Community HERE

On Feb 19-20thof 2019 we’re launching our first Essential Church Learning Community… We want to get together with leaders who are hungry to learn in an intentional environment… to explore topics we’re all wrestling with…

In a traditional conference setting, you have one person on the stage giving their best talk… I often walk away from those with 30 questions about what I’ve heard… usually there isn’t space for that in those conferences…

There are great conferences around the country that you should go be part of, but I know there are lots of leaders who want to be at a table with men and women who are in the same stage of life where we can sharpen and shape and learn from each other…

When I was in my 30s, I had a thousand questions and I was so grateful that in that season I found gatherings much like this… at one of them, we all had 30 minutes to share our greatest concerns and fears… the advice and relationship I gained from that have lasted a lifetime…

Very often at conferences, the best ideas go back to the cars in the parking lot, because participants don’t have a space to share them…

What’s beautiful about a learning community is that you don’t give people a solution to a problem, you give people conversations around big ideas that can help them in their ministries…

The format will be plenary sessions plus lots of guided conversations around tables, with food and time for interaction…

I think one of the things we’ve discovered is that we’re trying to live in some healthy tensions: the tension of having a senior pastor PLUS a strong team approach, the tension of the energy of the charismatic PLUS the rootedness of the Tradition, the tension between growth AND discipleship… these are the kinds of conversations we’re going to have and you’re the kind of person who should be here…

Episode 077: An Interview with Preston Sprinkle

In this episode we sit down with the founder and director of the Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, Dr. Preston Sprinkle, to talk about what it looks like to really love our LGBTQ neighbors.

This started as an academic challenge for me, but it quickly ripped my heart out… the journey has been trying to navigate the tension between biblical faithfulness and yet radically loving people…

Many Christians are so concerned to get the truth right that love takes a distant second… love winds up being the icing on the cake rather than the very embodiment of the truth… 

The phrase “our truth will not be heard until our grace is felt” is really directed at the person who is passionate about theology… the person who is concerned about theological integrity needs to also be radically compassionate… 

One of the most profound mysteries of my journey of Christianity is that when you are passionate to go where the text leads, you make Bible-believing Christians really nervous…

When I came at the Scriptures, I gave it a fair a shake as I could… and I think that the traditional view of marriage is clearly the Scriptural one… marriage is a union between a male and a female and that anything beyond that is sin…

N.T. Wright was really the one who helped me see that the meaning of marriage is written into the script of Creation… the ultimate question isn’t whether two people of the same sex can get married… the question is what even is marriage? Difference is woven into the Creation account…

We have no written evidence from church history that any branch of Christendom has defined marriage differently [than the traditional view]… same sex relationships have always been pervasive… and yet globally and historically the church has never had a different position…

We often hear that it’s the church’s theology that is driving people away, but that’s factually untrue… it’s not our theology that drives people away, but it’s how we have held to our theology…

We shouldn’t idolize marriage… we have often made people feel like they are a lesser Christian if they aren’t married… the New Testament defines marriage precisely and celebrates it, but it doesn’t idolize it… it is not essential to human flourishing…

Grab Preston’s book “People to be Loved” HERE. You can also check out his work at https://centerforfaith.com/.

 

Episode 076: Women in Ministry // (The “Tough” Texts)

In this episode, with John MacArthur’s controversial comments regarding Beth Moore in the air, we sit down to talk through some of the key texts for thinking about a theology of women in leadership.

The charismatic movement believes that God pours his Spirit out on all people… so in my journey, I’ve always wondered, “What would prevent a woman from preaching?”

For me, I came to Christ in high school, and my very first youth pastor was a woman, so I didn’t even realize it was an issue… when I started really reading the Bible, I saw women all over the place… so when I got to the troubling passages, I assumed there had to be an explanation…

Our entry point into the conversation really does matter… and we can’t just enter into it through our experience, and try to make the Bible match our experience… but it turns out that the Bible does have a whole lot to say about women in ministry…  

“Suitable helper” in Genesis is actually a bad translation… it is saying that alone, Adam can’t fulfill the commission…

The Hebrew word that is used for “helper” is actually most often used of God in the Old Testament… if the Old Testament had wanted to communicate subordinate status, it did a bad job of that…

With Mary and Martha… “sitting at the feet” is the same description used of Paul with Gamaliel; Martha is mad because Mary is transgressing a social boundary, and Jesus welcomes it…

What winds up happening is that we take a couple troubling texts and use them to dismiss all the others that seem to be saying something else…

In 1 Corinthians 14, we need to remember that this is one side of a correspondence… Paul has already given instructions on women prophesying in the church… in chapter fourteen he is quoting the Corinthians back to them to say, “This is NOT what I teach…”

In 1st Timothy 2, Paul is offering a specific prescription for a specific thing happening in the church… this is Pastor Paul showing up and trying to correct something that’s wonky inside the church…

We need to realize that either we are misreading Paul, or Paul is flat out misreading Genesis… instead what Paul is saying to the Corinthians is, “YOU are misreading Genesis…”

 

Grab Lucy Peppiatt’s book Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women HERE 

Grab Pastor Brady’s Book Let Her Lead HERE

Episode 075: Creating a Culture of Ongoing Leadership Development

In this episode we sit down to talk about how senior leaders can create a culture of ongoing leadership development—both values and methods.

It’s so important in ministry to never stop growing… oftentimes churches get a bad rap for using and using up people… our hope is to actually leave people better than when they joined our team…   

Pastoral ministry is so diverse and requires a really unique toolbelt… people pick some of those tools up naturally, but struggle with others… if we just assume that they’ll pick everything up on their own, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot…  

We used to do a once a month training time for our staff, but we realized it just wasn’t enough… so not we’ve switched to three, eight-week runs of gatherings where we can spend longer on topics and get more return…  

Part of how we’re deciding on topics is that we’re putting our finger on the pulse of our staff and saying, “What is it that we NEED?”

At a very basic level, culture is shaped by the stories, practices, and language we share… these meetings are not just about information transfer but about learning a shared language and developing shared practices…  

The conversations we’ve had have tended to breed a lot of compassion and connection among our staff… we’re sharing about our stories, our families, and the things that have shaped us… it’s helped develop relationship and connection…  

For our volunteers we do three big events a year… one is a huge celebration, one is a vision event, and one is investment… that model gets replicated at a smaller level across our ministry teams…  

The truth of this is that if you don’t invest in other leaders, it dies with you, or is limited by you… your limitations will become the boundaries of your ministry… if you invest in others, you increase the Lord’s work exponentially…

Start small… find an initial group of key leaders and do what is manageable and life-giving for you… start there and let it build and flow naturally… don’t try to do too much at first…

Episode 074: A Conversation with Amy Julia Becker

In this episode we sit down to talk with author Amy Julia Becker about her book White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege.

I was planning on writing a book about children’s literature… I began to notice that the books I read to my kids were the ones that were read to me as a child… but I saw that they were all mirrors: they were all about white suburban families who had nice lives and similar problems to ours…

I began to recognize that we did not have books about people of color, which set me on a journey to find them, and to realize that a lot of them just hadn’t been written… which led me to ask some serious questions about my childhood…

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t writing a book about children’s literature; I’m writing a book about privilege, about what it means to be a person born into relative affluence, access to opportunity and education, and whiteness… what does that mean and how do I reckon with it?

My image of my (southern) childhood was idyllic… it was somewhat horrifying to look back and realize that I went to a private school that was founded because of desegregation… I loved that school, but as an adult I needed to recognize that that was an injustice…

Trying to hold grief and gratitude about my past together was where I ultimately landed…

Many people feel as though they are forced to either reject their parents and their childhood in order to reckon with injustice, or simply tow the party line and ignore it all…

One of reasons we shouldn’t demonize privilege is that we need to recognize that we are born into a social location… as Christians we need to ask what is God doing in me and through me in this place? God blesses us to be a blessing…

As my daughter (who has Down Syndrome) grew up, I began to recognize my own impoverishment… getting to know people with intellectual disabilities helped me see what I needed… the ways in which I didn’t understand love or relationships being more valuable than productivity… I desperately needed them…

What I am hopeful for is a holistic response to the harm of privilege… we need to do the intellectual work of reckoning with our history, learning about our cities, etc.… we need to engage our hearts in lament… and after that work, we need to, in community with others, determine what we will do to participate in God’s healing of the world…

Pick up Amy Julia’s book White Picket Fences here.