CHURCH PLANTER – Darren Patrick (2010)

Church Planter, by Darrin Patrick is an insightful look at one of the most important activities for Christians living in New Testament times.  The author carefully organizes his book in three broad categories: The Man, The Message, and the Mission

THE MAN

In part one, Patrick makes a strong case for men who are biblically qualified to plant and pastor New Testament churches.  This man, of course, must be a Christian.  He must be called of God.  He must meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  He must humbly rely upon God.  He must be a uniquely skilled man.  He must have a passion to shepherd the people of God.  And he must be a determined man.  The author faithfully explains each of the above qualifications – qualifications that must be met by an aspiring church planter.

THE MESSAGE

Part two focuses on the “meat and potatoes” that church planters serve the flock; not just any kind of food.  Rather, a qualified church planter must commit himself to the biblical message of the gospel.  The essence of the message must be consistently Christ-centered, sin-exposing, and idol-shattering.  His emphasis on smashing idols is especially helpful: “The way to deal with sin and idolatry is to repent of them and believe the gospel.”  Patrick hammers the necessity of getting the message right and articulating the gospel with skill and clarity.

THE MISSION

After exploring personal qualifications and theological boundaries in the first two sections, the author moves to the philosophical arena, which describes the mission of the church planter.  He argues that pastors must demonstrate compassion.  They must contextualize the message for the culture they are trying to penetrate.  And he makes it clear that the gospel must be delivered in a way that communicates hope to hurting people who are enslaved to sin.

Darren Patrick has written a book that is helpful and practical.  But most important, his work is biblical.  Emergent types on the prowl for pragmatic methodology and downplaying theology should look elsewhere.  Church Planter is a solid effort and should make a huge splash, especially among young, Reformed evangelicals.

4 stars

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THE PLIGHT OF MAN AND THE POWER OF GOD – Martyn Lloyd-Jones (2009)

Although Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones went to be with the Lord in 1981, his influence continues to swell even to this day, and better yet, to a new generation of pastors.

The Plight of Man and the Power of God is the fruit of five messages, originally delivered by the Doctor in Edinburgh in March, 1941.  Lloyd-Jones exposition of Romans 1:18-21, 28, 32 is clear, thought-provoking, and Christ-centered.  His primary intention is to unfold, as the title indicates, the predicament of man and the pardon that is received through Christ.

The predicament of man is clear.  Every person is a sinner by nature and choice and is separated from God, and enemy of God, and under the wrath of God.  “Man must be convinced and convicted of his sin.  He must face the naked, terrible truth about himself and his attitude towards God.  It is only when he realizes that truth that he will be ready to believe the gospel and return to God.”

Lloyd-Jones is quick to direct readers to the cross of Christ.  For it is in Christ alone that sinners find pardon (Rom. 1:16).  “The law of God, which decrees travail and sorrow and misery as the result of sin, has been satisfied.  God in Christ offers us pardon and forgiveness, instead of cursing, blessing … There is but one solution to the problem of individual man and of the whole world.  It is ‘the gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation to every one the believes.'”

The Plight of Man and the Power of God is a simple, yet powerful reminder of the necessity of believing and proclaiming the gospel message!

4 stars

NO CREED BUT CHRIST

One of the most genuine and repeated phrases I hear again and again is “No creed but Christ.”  It sounds slick.  It sounds trendy.  It even sounds biblical and evangelical.  However, I believe it is time to rethink this so-called Christian mantra.

Initially, the slogan seems innocent enough.  It appears to give Christ his proper place in the church.  And it seems to rightly place Christ in the center of the Christian life.  But is it possible that this slogan is at its root the very antithesis of all that is Christian and all that honors Christ?

Consider some of the serious implications of the slogan, “No creed but Christ.”  First, imagine where the church would be if Athanasius adopted this mantra.  Clearly, Athanasius wouldn’t have quibbled over one iota.  And Arianism would have assaulted the church with its godless Christology.

Second, one wonders which “Christ” the slogan appeals to.  Is this “creedless Christ” the figure portrayed in Islam, who is regarded as a mere prophet but stripped of his deity and majesty?  Or is he the Christ of Arianism, a mere created being whose blood is unable to forgive sinners?  Is he the Jesus of modern-day liberalism; you know the “cool Jesus” who tolerates sin and changes his mind about hell and eternal punishment?

If the thought of comparing this “creedless Christ” to a hodge-podge of world religions sparks concern, consider the essence of the phrase.  It could actually mean just about anything.  The term, “creed” comes from the Latin, meaning “I believe.”  Therefore, this “creedless Christ” could mean anything one wants to believe!

Third, if “No creed but Christ” is truly valid, then this notion renders the imperative to catechize believers utterly meaningless.  Scripture stands opposed to such a view:

“Build yourselves up in your most holy faith” (Jude 20, ESV).

“[Get] rooted and built up in him [Christ] and established in the faith (Col. 2:7).

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1).

“Apollos was instructed (catechized) in the ways of the Lord” (Acts 18:25).

Additionally, the great gladiators of the Christian faith agree that catechising is an essential element of the Christian faith.  John Bunyan wrote, “But the composition of a catechism was found to require the clearest conception of truth, and the fullest command  of simple, expressive phraseology.”  C.H. Spurgeon added, “I am persuaded that the use of a good Catechism in all our families will be a great safeguard against the increasing errors of the times.”  And J.I. Packer has wisely stated, “The greatest challenge for the twenty-first century church is to re-catechize and disciple believers.”

Next, the slogan “No creed but Christ” is self-refuting.  The statement uttered is in fact a creed, dare I say, a proposition.  Yet, this creed bemoans propositions, reacts to doctrinal statements, and discounts theological systems.  In the final analysis, the dogmatic slogan, “No creed but Christ” becomes a sort of theological system!

At best, the slogan, “No creed but Christ” is naive and has been embraced by well-intentioned Christians who have failed to think through the implications.  And the fertile soil of naivety, though well-intentioned, may easily grow into grievous theological error and produce thorns and thistles in the Christian life.

At worst, the slogan is arrogant.  To discount the foundational creeds of historic Christianity is always a step in the wrong direction.  Indeed, to cast aside the historic creeds is to do violence to the nature of faith itself.  Consider the following creedal statements that describe fundamental Christological components:

“… Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made” (The Nicene Creed, 325 A.D.)

” … Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body …” (The Chalcedonian Creed, 451 A.D.)

“The Father uncreated: the Son uncreated: and the Holy Spirit uncreated” (The Athanasian Creed, 4th-5th centuries A.D.)

The subtle trend in the church is to move away from doctrine.  We see this at every juncture, especially in churches where postmodernity has taken root.  Spurgeon stated emphatically, “Those who do away with doctrine … are the worst enemies of Christian living.”  A creedless Christ is in fact a creedless Christianity which is something akin to a toothless tiger whose motives may be noble, but will, in the final analysis be ravaged by his enemies.

The next time you hear a well-intentioned person promote a “No creed but Christ” worldview, remember that godly people gave their lives to hammer out the creeds and confessions to protect the church from theological wolves.  The creeds were carefully and prayerfully fashioned so we might know and worship Christ rightly.  This Christ is the uncreated One who himself created all things (Col. 1:16).  He was born of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-35), the Savior who was tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-24).  This Christ perfectly obeyed the law of God, died on the cross for sinners, and rose on the third day for our justification (1 Cor. 15:3-5; Rom. 4:25; Acts 2:22-24).  This Christ is fully God and fully man and stood in the place of everyone who would ever believe (Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:4-6), bearing their sins (2 Cor. 5:21), satisfying the wrath of God (Rom. 3:23-26), redeeming them from hell (Col. 1:13-14), and reconciling them to a God (Rom. 5:10).  And this Christ is worthy of our undivided allegiance, devotion, and worship!

THE GOSPEL AND THE CROSS

“Justification is first and foremost about the vindication of God.  God simultaneously preserves his justice while justifying the ungodly.  That is the heart of the gospel … Do you want to see the greatest evidence of the love of God?  Go to the cross.  Do you want to see the greatest evidence of the justice of God?  Go to the cross.  It is where wrath and mercy meet.  Holiness and peace kiss each other.  The climax of redemptive history is the cross.”

– D.A. Carson, Scandalous (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 67, 70)

THE GOSPEL FOR MUSLIMS – Thabiti Anyabwile (2010)

The Gospel for Muslims is another winner by Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile.  This short but powerful work shatters the assumption that Muslims are impossible to reach for Christ.  A former Muslim himself,  Anyabwile demonstrates that loving and faithful proclamation have and will continue to reap benefits among our Muslim friends.  For the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Pastor Thabiti employs the same strategy for unpacking that gospel that emerges in Greg Gilbert’s excellent book, What is the Gospel? Four components summarize this God-centered approach to evangelism, namely, proclamation concerning God, the sinfulness of man, the person and work of Christ as well as the responsibility for sinners to believe.  Each section contrasts Muslim dogma with the truth of Scripture.

This little book is loaded with practical help in sharing the gospel with Muslim people.  Anyone who has contact with Muslim people should read Anyabwile’s book.  And everyone should practice the principles set forth so Muslims everywhere might know the hope and forgiveness found in Christ alone!

4.5 stars