Episode 116: The Outward Facing Church

In this episode we wrestle with the question, “What is salvation?” and what that means for our efforts to be “outward facing” in our ministries. (Much of the content of this podcast came from Session 1 of our recent Essential Church Learning Community. You can learn more about and register for our next Learning Community HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

Being “born again” or “being saved” is often misinterpreted… the question is are we really counting salvations, or just emotional responses to sermons…?

We count people who have decided to go into the waters of baptism… we think that is the number to celebrate…

Salvation is as much a process as it is an event… yes, we’ve decided to follow Jesus… but that moment of decision ought to throw you into a lifelong process… 

Salvation is an event within a story… the Bible teaches us by telling a story… sin is the story of God’s good world coming apart… salvation is wholeness, it’s the story of God putting the world back together again… 

We can think about it in concentric circles… there is the individual who is being put back together again inside a people who are also being put together again… and both are signs of the new creation…

Some of this is a holdover from a revivalist era… once upon a time we could assume that the culture was basically Christian and people just needed to make a fresh “decision” for Jesus (without baptism)… but that’s not the case anymore…

There’s also something here with the Enlightenment’s obsession with the soul… we’ve been on a long track of dis-incarnation… where as long as something happens “inside” me, I don’t need a church… 

The church is the indispensable context whereby our salvation is worked out… 

The Enlightenment relegated God “up there” somewhere… which by default made salvation about “the afterlife” or just “your spiritual life”…

Thinking about salvation in that way makes the ancient call of the church to acts of mercy incomprehensible… it’s difficult to give a robust account of the call to feed the poor if all that matters is the afterlife…

We are saved into a people… we are saved through a people… we are saved for a people…  

Episode 115: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 2)

IIn this episode (part two of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

The new paganism presents a real challenge… because if people are managing the practical needs of their lives by getting what they need through the new paganism, it makes the church’s appeal more difficult… what does the church offer that people don’t already have…?

This is one of the reasons why the gospel is racing through the global South and is waning in the West… the church is in decline in the West in part because we’re rich and have our needs met… 

Part of the reason it also may be in decline is that because we have positioned the gospel as only therapeutic, and once the practical need is satisfied, then the need for the gospel goes away… but perhaps the gospel is about MORE than the therapeutic… 

Another thing we are seeing is expressive individualism… it is the exaltation of the self as the source and goal of all goodness… my measure of what I am going to do is whether or not it will make “me” a “better me”…

People used to discover meaning in the world, but now we think that our job is to construct meaning in the world… this is why we hear people talk about “your truth” and “my truth”… it sounds nice in the suburbs, but it doesn’t work in Taliban-haunted Afghanistan…

What Christian spirituality has to do is claim the interiority while also showing how all the pieces of the world fit together… 

The aftermath of all of this is very messy… one person said, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him…” and I think that describes so many people… 

I have an impulse in my heart to say that the church just needs to keep its doors open and trust that people will come… but Jesus is the one who goes out after the lost sheep… we need to go out and meet the culture where it is at…

We must never give up on the one thing that we have to offer that no one else does—the presence and power of God… 

We need to make room for the power of God… Paul says that one of the signs that the Gentiles belong to the kingdom is that the Spirit is at work… people don’t come to church for the coffee; they come for the presence and power of God, and that’s the one thing we’re carrying… 

Episode 114: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 1)

In this episode (part one of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

In some ways the pandemic was the instigator of new changes… in other ways it accelerated some that were already in process… and in still other ways it revealed changes that had happened that maybe we had masked over… 

The tectonic plates that have shifted are Christianity and country… many of the things that we take for granted in Western civilization (like civil rights) have Christian roots… but now Christianity no longer has a prominent place… 

The big question for Western civilization is whether we can keep the fruit of a Christian culture when it is severed from its roots…

To say that we are in a “secular age” does not mean that we are post-religion, it means that we have decoupled the relationship between religion and the ordering of society…

Now we are seeing a surge in the gap left by that decoupling… one of the elements of that surge is a new pluralism in the West which is syncrestic and imperialistic… the new pluralism is where people say “I’ll take a dash of Buddhism and a dash of Hinduism and a little Christianity…”

In a way, the new pluralism is a response to religious fundamentalism… if embracing religions in their totality is seen to be evil, then taking a little of each is a way of hedging our bets…

One of the challenges here is that when I’m in conversations with people and they are leveraging a critique against the church, they don’t recognize that many of those critiques are dependent on what the church has taught…

There’s a greater burden now on the church to show that what it is teaching is good… that religion is good is no longer taken for granted… there’s an invitation of the Spirit here to show how what we believe is good for civil society…

Christianity at its best has always at its best has been able to name what is good about different religions and systems of thought while also showing how Christ corrects and completes them…

Another element of the surge is a new kind of paganism… in the old paganism, you used the gods as means to your own end… the new paganism is things like technology, commerce, and politics… it is a way to get what I want and make me feel better…  

Episode 113: An Interview with Dee Wilson

In this episode we sit down to chat with the newest member of the New Life Worship staff, Grammy-winning artist Dee Wilson.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

A Grammy is really cool… but honestly, the coolest thing for me has been my daughter, who is so proud of it… to watch the lightbulb go on for her—that means so much to me…

I’ve been blessed to write with amazing artists that I love and respect… I don’t take it for granted…

The song I’m most proud of has to be between Rose Petals and The Medicine… I love it when a person says they felt something they never felt before because of the song… 

The first thing that you have to integrate isn’t the music, but the person… they have their own culture and view of the world… it’s not fair to invite my songs but not invite me…

So if you’re going to bring someone in, you have to know that you’re bringing in a person… you have to learn to love each other… and then the songs will come…

The church I grew up in was an anomaly among the churches in the area… we set the culture that worship isn’t about your preference but about giving glory to God… the sound of unity is so much more important than what the chord changes are… 

I’ve so appreciated being at New Life because we can do hymns and then go to gospel music… 

What keeps me ‘true north’ is my wife, who doesn’t care about Grammys… I’ve learned to lean on the relationships that don’t need anything from me other than for me to be whole… 

My wife and daughter don’t thrive from me being successful but from me being grounded, close to Jesus, and dedicated to his cause… 

If the things that are happening to me now had happened when I was 25, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it… I’m so glad to be surrounded by the people I’m surrounded by now…

Episode 112: An Interview with Tara Beth Leach – Radiant Church: Restoring the Credibility of our Witness

In this episode we sit down with pastor and author Tara Beth Leach to talk about her book Radiant Church: Restoring the Credibility of our Witness and what the church can do to recover a kingdom ethos. Grab a copy of her book here.
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week! I am a daughter of evangelicalism… I wanted to be like Billy Graham when I grew up… the first time I walked into Willow Creek, I thought it was the epitome of what the church could be about… that’s just how I was formed…  It wasn’t until 2007 and 2008 that I began to look around and say, “Something isn’t right, here”… the first thing was women in ministry… so many women who were gifted to teach and preach didn’t have a role and they were leaving the church to take corporate jobs…  Later, seeing the church’s participation in Christian nationalism, racism, and success culture and the failure of many church leaders made me think that something wasn’t right…   It’s important that we love the church AND critique the church… we can be “all in” and still critique the church…  We have rooted ourselves in storylines that are not grounded in the grand narrative of Scripture… we have to go back and recover that narrative… our call to bear witness begins with Abraham where the Lord tells him that his descendants will shine like stars… we are those stars…  Let me be the first to confess that I am lured to success as much as anyone… I have always worked in the megachurch world, and it is so easy to pay attention to measurables like attendance and money… it’s easy to lose sight of the more important questions…   We have been hijacked by individualism in the church… it has distorted our witness… when faith becomes all about me, or all about a ticket to heaven, then we forsake the prayer that Jesus teaches, “on earth as it is in heaven” in which we participate as a PEOPLE…   We can’t talk about the missional crisis in the church until we talk about the formational crisis first… the gospel is about restoration, about the healing of all creation… the kingdom mission is about a partnership with the work that the triune God is doing to restore all creation…  We are called to be Great Commandment AND Great Commission people… justice and evangelism need to be reclaimed as the mission that we’ve been called to…   One practice we need to cultivate is a new kind of examen… we need to open ourselves to the Spirit by listening to our neighbors, women, people of color, and people that have been hurt by the church… not listening to prove a point but listening to receive…

Episode 111: An Interview with Lucy Peppiatt – Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women (Pt. 2)

In this episode (part two of two) we sit down with theologian and New Testament scholar Lucy Peppiatt to talk about her book Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts in which she unpacks why and how the biblical texts traditionally used to support the subordination of women to men might not be saying what we think they’re saying.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

With Genesis 2, people will say that because the woman was made after the man, she is subordinated to him… but I don’t think that’s warranted by the text… 

But with Genesis 3:16, it’s very interesting… human beings have eaten of the fruit, and God speaks over them the world that they have now created for themselves… God is revealing to them what they are going to have to live with… 

There are traditions that would say that God is speaking curses over them, but I see it as God saying, “This is what I told you would happen…” So his words to the woman encapsulate the dysfunctional relationship that now ensues between the man and the woman… 

Household codes were a normal part of the ancient world, and were normally addressed to men… Paul is making any great and different claim by calling the male of the household the “head”… it is descriptive not prescriptive… 

But what is fascinating about the Christian household is that the texts address the woman directly… women, slaves, and children are all addressed, along with the men… this is really powerful, subversive teaching…  

The apostles are saying to the men that their wives are their only sexual partner, which is radical for the ancient world… the men are called to a much higher standard than any other men of their time… they are called to a monogamous, loving relationship with their wives, in front of everyone… 

We might have wanted Paul to go further in overturning oppressive systems, but when we look at his letters, we can see that the seeds of revolution are planted… 

Ephesus was a place where the cult of Artemis was central… many wealthy women in Ephesus were priestesses in the cult, and it seems that some converted and came into the church, and became the false teachers…  

Once you realize this, you can construct a picture [of what Paul was addressing in 1 Timothy 2]… it helps make sense of Paul’s words…

Episode 110: An Interview with Lucy Peppiatt – Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women (Pt. 1)

In this episode (part one of two) we sit down with theologian and New Testament scholar Lucy Peppiatt to talk about her book Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts in which she unpacks why and how the biblical texts traditionally used to support the subordination of women to men might not be saying what we think they’re saying.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

In my twenties I made a commitment to Jesus and married an Anglican clergyman… I was busy with church and kids but felt like God was calling me into a ministry and teaching… and loved it… as I sought more training in theology, I found that I loved that too… I did a masters and halfway through was encouraged to do a PhD…  

Instead of “complementarian” I use the term “mutualist”… I was drawn to this term because when I first heard the term “complementarian” I assumed it meant someone who believed that male and female complemented each other perfectly…  

When I later learned what “complementarian” meant, I realized it assumed a power structure between men and women and that is not what I thought… I think men and women are different and those differences are good, but I don’t think “complementarian” best describes what I think… 

These issues are not cosmetic for the church, but they strike to the core of the church’s understanding of salvation…  

My experience of coming to know God in my twenties was uncompromisingly affirming… it built me up as a person… encountering the love of God was really life-changing… when I discovered [subordinationist theology] I realized that kind of setup of relationships hinders or blocks the revelation of God to a woman of who she is in Christ… 

I think that it prevents her from understanding that before Christ she can come into the fullness of who she is, without needing a man to mediate that to her… it’s a distortion of the gospel because it is a distortion of what Christ says to a woman… 

Genesis 1, 2, and 3 are seminal texts… we know based on Genesis 1 that male and female together are made in the image of God…  

Old Testament scholars make a very clear case for the phrase “helper suitable” connoting strength and mutuality… for the Hebrew phrase to be translated “helpmeet” when the word itself [Hebrew: ezer] has been used for God, it is disingenuous…

When the man cries out “this is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”, he is saying that she is his perfect counterpart who will be with him and is his substance and equal… that she comes from his side denotes equality and mutuality…

Episode 109: Developing Preachers and Teachers

In this episode we sit down to talk about some of the ins and outs of intentionally developing preachers and teachers in our congregations.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

Our conviction is that the word of God has to “go”, but we need to train people up to do this… 

A lot of churches depend only on seminaries to train preachers and teachers… but it’s not until you’re in the soil of the local congregation that you really develop your voice in preaching and teaching… 

The Bible is full of stories of God putting his hand on people, and the church’s responsibility is to call that out of them… 

Developing preachers and teachers need both opportunities and honest feedback… when I was a young pastor, a guy invited me to preach weekly at a truck stop chapel… that was where I got my start, but the problem was that I got no feedback… 

It’s a little like a musician getting started—if you can play in clubs and bars, you’ll get good pretty fast, and then when you’re on the big stage with all the support, it’s easier than if you just got thrown up there… you need to say “yes” to opportunities that come your way… 

Too many preachers are looking for instant success… the hard work of getting better requires a lot of work… after a hundred times—maybe—you’ll begin to find your voice… by two hundred messages you should be comfortable in your own skin… 

We need to create rooms where we review the work (of preaching) that we’ve done, and then preview the work that’s coming up… 

It’s important to surround yourself with multigenerational, multiethnic, and different gender voices… I’m trying to surround myself with people that will help me understand the people I’m pastoring…

We also need to create layers of opportunities… it doesn’t have to be 30-minute sermons from the start… even two to three-minute offering moments are a great place to start… 

Help people understand that preaching is a speech-act… it needs to be something that we can listen to and enjoy… listen to the great storytellers and writers… 

If we’ve got the greatest story that’s ever been told, we ought to be able to handle it beautifully..

Episode 108: An Interview with Winn Collier – A Burning in My Bones

In this episode we sit down with Winn Collier, Director of the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination at Western Theological Seminary and to talk with him about the release of his book, A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene Peterson. Grab a copy here.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

When I was a young, struggling pastor, someone handed me Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles… I needed that book… I didn’t have language for what it meant to be a pastor, and Eugene gave me the starting of that language… 

A lot of people don’t understand Eugene… they think that even though he grew up Pentecostal, he left it in a huff… but that wasn’t true… he was invited into the Presbyterian world and at the end of the day it was more about what was in front of him… 

For someone who had as deep an ecclesiology as he did, he was profoundly un-enamored with any kind of ideal about any church tradition… when people asked why he was Presbyterian, he would say, “Because God put me here and I made a promise…” 

Eugene asked God to make him a saint… but a saint for him wasn’t someone who had achieved a nirvana-like experience but rather someone who in their very human body was so ravished by the love of Christ that their interior and exterior were becoming congruent… 

Eugene had a burning longing for holiness, for God… and at the same time he understood that a saint was someone who was becoming more and more human… that was the source of his gravitas… 

He insisted in a hundred different ways that all of our ideals have got to die… our pictures of the world are not the real world… until we let Jesus illuminate the actual realities of our life, we will just be fighting against God… 

There are a lot of things that Eugene stands for which we hear in an abstracted kind of way… but Eugene didn’t believe in abstract principles… he was interested in particular people in particular situations… he always started with, “Tell me what God is doing in your life…” 

When you ask the question, “What does Eugene Peterson contribute to the pastoral imagination?”, I think the answer is, “God…” 

We are so desperate to have God at the very core of our being again… all the upheaval we are seeing in our culture… and all the questions we are holding about the future… what the future holds is God… Eugene relentlessly pointed to the Triune God…

Episode 107: Four Rules for Preachers

In this episode we sit down to talk about some of the marks of genuine Spirit-inspired preaching.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

What I found fascinating reading through Micah is that the same word used for “wind” is the word used for “Spirit”… one wind is holy and one is not… not everyone knows how to discern the difference… 

Pastors should pray before they preach… we are under tremendous pressure these days… there are thousands of land mines… the temptation is to fall under the fear of man and to preach in a way that simply satisfies the base…  

The occupational hazard of the experienced preacher is that we can do this from our heads… we get good at outlining ideas, but we can forget that a good sermon is supposed to come from the living center of our union with God… 

Pastors should revere the Scriptures… right now there are a lot of people demanding content that is not Scriptural… they want us to preach on certain topics that are not informed and shaped by the Holy Scriptures… 

I believe it is going to become more and more important for pastors to explain why these texts are still important for us today… we need to get back to helping people understand the overarching narrative of the Scriptures… 

One of the things that we have learned is that by preaching the Scriptures, we get all the “felt needs” topics thrown in… we just have to be willing to hang in there for the long game… 

When you do preach it should be producing the fruits of the Spirit… what kind of people is your preaching producing…? How is it shaping them…? And in what spirit are you preaching the text…? Anger and divisiveness are not of the Holy Spirit… 

Many people think that the issues we’re seeing in our culture demand an angry response… I am very concerned about what’s happening in our culture… but I want to speak out on them in a radically new way… 

Pastors should be pointing people to Jesus… I know that sounds obvious, but the Great Commission has not been amended… we have the same assignment the saints of old had: to bring people to Jesus…