When we moved here a few months ago fall 2009 was what stuck out in my mind as a reasonable date to launch a new church here in Savannah. As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, for various reasons my enthusiasm began to wane. As my enthusiasm waned the prospects for a new ministry here in Savannah began to seem very faint and distant. What once seemed realistic had begun to seem foolish.
This morning as I walked and prayed about the idea of a new church in Savannah the thought of a fall 2009 launch began to seem reasonable again. There is much that would need to happen. A new church needs people. A new church needs resources. But I’m starting to get excited about it. If the Lord blesses we could very well be worshipping Him together as a fresh expression of His body here in Savannah by this time next year.
Those of you who are following the Savannah Project: I’d very much appreciate it if you would join us in praying that God might grant that we could launch a new church in the fall of 2009. We need people we don’t have yet and we need money we don’t have yet either. But certainly the One to Whom the nations are like a drop from a bucket can provide the resources we need.
I’m still reading this biography of William Carey and have found it to be a major encouragement to my soul. This move to Savannah has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. There was the initial high that comes from doing what one feels God has called one to do. Then there was the slow descent into the realization that this may be harder than I thought. There have been little moments of excitement but often they are followed by days or even weeks when nothing seems to be happening.
I have to say that my original vision has been obscured in recent weeks as the cares of starting a new life have become ever so present. I have been tempted to “fall back” on more traditional means of finding ministry by sending out resumes and surfing ministry job sites. But thankfully through the scriptures, the Holy Spirit, our pastor’s preaching and Carey’s biography I have felt a renewed commitment to the vision God gave us before we came here.
Early on in his ministry in Calcutta Carey says in his own words:
“My soul is a jungle when it ought to be a garden. I can scarcely tell whether I have the grace of God or no. How shall I help India, with so little godliness myself?”
It is such a comfort to see that a man who accomplished so much for Jesus during his lifetime struggled to that extent early on. At the beginning of this new week I find my heart echoing Carey’s words:
“When I reflect on how God has stirred me up to the work, and wrought wonders to prepare my way, I can trust His promises and be at peace.”
I enjoyed this short blog by Phil Ryken about somenew bus advertisements in London. The British Humanist Association is running a month-long series of adds on the sides of buses saying, “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Ryken says:
Word for word, the ad may contain more ironies than any other eleven-word slogan in the history of advertising. For starters, it is interesting to see the BHA hedging its bets by saying there “probably” isn’t a God instead of coming right out and saying “there is no God.” If the fool says in his heart that there is no God (see Psalm 14:1), then what should we call someone who says that there probably is no God?
I’m still progressing through my “third books” and have come to the biography of William Carey written by S. Pearce Carey. I’m enjoying it immensely. In the foreword to the book (I promise I’ve read more than the foreword) we find this paragraph:
In connection with Carey’s unflagging activity, it is striking to note that he was never strictly a full-time minister or missionary. Despite his enormous translation output, and the ever-expanding schemes which he pursued, he always worked for a living, whether mending shoes or keeping school in his early days, or cultivating indigo or lecturing Sanskrit and its vernaculars in later years…in Carey we have an example of mighty spiritual achievement set by one who was really never wholly set free to the service of the Lord.
I’m continuing to wrestle with the concept of taking a paycheck from a church (much easier to do when one is not currently being offered a paycheck by a church) and the example of William Carey only serves to increase the wrestling. I’m well aware of all of the reasons why a church should support their pastors and I am by no means passing judgment on anyone. Please, for all I know a year from now I’ll be happily taking a check and enjoying another book allowance. But it does seem to me that there are some good reasons for the pastor to work to supplement his income.
First, this week as I have been working as a “landscape artist” I’ve enjoyed interacting with my coworkers, some of whom have little or no contact with Christians ever. Second, it seems to be very beneficial to ministry for the pastor to be able to say that he has not been a burden on the church financially. Third, more than anything else, I continue to be struck by the importance of depending on the Lord for His provision. And finally, it seems as though there might be more opportunities for me to lead by example and practice what I preach.
Like I said I’m not passing judgment and I haven’t made up my mind. I’m just thinking out loud here.
My in-laws have been visiting and I haven’t had a lot of computer time. Here are a few things I’ve come across that I’ve enjoyed:
This is a piece by Dr. Russell Moore about the importance of being a part of the church in college as opposed to just a campus ministry. I even like the title: “Jesus didn’t die for campus ministry: the spiritual danger of unchurched spirituality.”
This is a site with pictures of a ship graveyard in Mauritania. We were at the beach this week with the in-laws and I started to wonder wheat they do with old ships so I came home and googled it.
This is another great post by Matt Waymeyer about dispensationalism. I’ve read more about dispensationalism lately than ever and I’m very excited by the topic thanks largely to thispost by Matt Waymeyer a few weeks ago.
I’ll have more to say soon about my trip to Knoxville. Ooooh.
The suburban megachurch is a much criticized phenomenon these days. I’ve certainly been raised in the era of the sub-meg and have experienced it firsthand as a pastor. I’d like to think I’ve seen the good and the bad. And I do think there is more good there than some have been willing to grant.
As I read blogs and books by those of my generation I find the suburban megachurch being blamed for most of what ails evangelicalism. I wrote a post about this. Sometimes it seems as though the SUV driving, soccer crowd is beyond the reach of the gospel. That’s why I was glad to find this interview with Ed Stetzer. I’m glad to see him point out that no segment of society is more to blame than others when it comes to serving the world’s system. In response to the question, “Do you think suburban churches are selling out to consumerism instead of making disciples?” Stetzer replies:
Of course. And so are urban and rural churches. Consumerism is the bane of our world, not the bane of the suburbs. People who think that there is not consumerism in the city have never lived in a real city. I lived among the poor and they want their needs met just like anyone else — that is not a suburban thing, that is a depravity thing. The difference is that in the suburbs people have the means to express their consumerism outwardly.
I think it is worth guarding against the temptation to judge a ministry based on our perception of it’s inherent nobility. The guy serving for years among inner-city young people may find his work to have been wood, hay and stubble if he has failed to confront the worldly thinking of his hearers with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Another guy meeting weekly with the children of the cultural elite could be bringing the foolishness of the cross to bear on their lives in a way that leads to radical life change.
The problem in every context is human depravity. And the answer to that problem is the gospel of Jesus Christ which is just as offensive and just as much foolishness in every part of our society.
Church planting doesn’t really lend itself to a book budget right now so I’ve been going back through my shelves reading “third books.” I call them third books because I usually try to order books in threes to minimize shipping. Often, the third book ends up on a shelf without having been read because (a) I don’t read fast and (b) by that time something else has caught my attention. So on my way to Atlanta last week I picked up an old “third book,” Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray. I know this will just confirm my geekiness to an already suspecting world but I really get into the history of Evangelicalism.
For many so-called Evangelicals today “narrowness” in regards to faith is to be avoided at all costs. Murray traces the history of how we got here in the book. From the outside not much seems to have changed among evangelicals over the last 50 or 60 years. In actuality, as many among evangelicals have been falling all over themselves to appear open-minded very few among those they have been trying to impress have taken notice. Various groups from the academy to mainline denominations still consider Evangelicals to be in an isolationist ghetto in spite of their loud protests to the contrary. Of more concern is the effect of all of this on the heart of Evangelicalism. Murray explains that:
“…evangelicals, while commonly retaining the same set of beliefs, have been tempted to seek success in way which the New Testament identifies as worldliness. Worldliness is departing from God. It is a man-centered way of thinking; it provides objectives which demand no radical breach with man’s fallen nature; it judges the importance of things by the present and material results; it weighs success by numbers; it covets human esteem and wants no unpopularity; it knows no truth for which it is worth suffering; it declines to be a fool for Christ’s sake. Worldliness is the mind-set of the unregenerate. It adopts idols and is at war with God.” (p. 254-255)
If I seem to be throwing stones let me hasten to say worldliness isn’t just a rare disease. Worldliness is an epidemic. Man-centered thinking is the air we breathe and who among us hasn’t recently placed undue importance on material things or coveted human esteem? At this point I’m less interested in assigning blame than in doing all that I can to avoid the spirit of the world. How do I fight an enemy that is not only invisible but to which I am constantly submitting both “unwillingly and unconsciously”? Sorry to leave you hanging but this post is already too long. Ponder the question and we’ll get back to it soon.