Why Golden Gate?

I've shared my reasons for attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and I've discussed the Doctorate of Ministry program too.  We've had Dr. Jeff Iorg--the president of the seminary--on "Salty Believer Unscripted" to discuss the future of Golden Gate.  And I've interviewed Ryan and Jania Rindels about and attending GGBTS.  Now you can hear from other doctoral candidates too.

After too many days of seminars, I gathered up some of my friends and fellow cohort members to talk about the seminary.  We were tired and our brains were overworked, but thanks to the mobile podcasting gear we were able to get around the microphone and record a podcast.

Joining me that evening was Josh Saefkow, Peter John, Les Wesley, Al Weeks, and Daryl Watts.

The conversation was unruly and loaded with rabbit trails, which made it really fun. Our focus for the podcast was to answer the question, "Why Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary?"  

I love this school and this group of guys.  Iand highly encourage that you listen to what these guys had to say about Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, especially if you're thinking about attending seminary or a Doctorate of Ministry program.



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The Book of Isaiah

Jared Jenkins, a friend and co-host of "Salty Believer Unscripted" recently finished a PhD seminar on the book of Isaiah at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  I thought it might be interesting to do a podcast series on the Isaiah and have Jared walk us through the book.  It's a big book, but with Jared's info, it's really not that hard to navigate.

If you'd like to walk through and overview of Isaiah--and hear all kinds of interesting stuff along the way--I recommend you check out the Isaiah series on Salty Believer Unscripted.  You can subscribe on iTunes or listen by clicking on the audio links below.

Jared Jenkins on Isaiah
-- Part 1, The Lay of the Land audio
-- Part 2, A Walk Through Chapter 8 audio
-- Part 3, Nine Through 35 audio
-- Part 4, The Life of Hezekiah audio
-- Part 5, Isaiah Shifts Gears audio
-- Part 6, The Conclusion audio 

You can find many more podcasts, book recommendations, and other resources at the Resources page on this website.

*Photo of Isaiah taken by flickr.com user, "Ted" is registered under a creative commons license. 

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004.

There are books on my shelves that were read quickly.  Skimmed and speed-read.  Papers were written and then it was on to the next book.  This was my seminary life.  I always knew at some point I would return to a select few of these books for a second, moderately-paced reread.  Mark Dever's, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church is one of those books.

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church does not define the requirements to be a church, but instead suggests nine things a healthy church should demonstrate. But neither is it a diagnostic book on church health.  Dever writes, "This book isn't a complete inventory of every sign of health.  It is intended to be a list of crucial marks that will lead to such a full experience" (17).

The nine marks are, expositional preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of church membership, biblical church discipline, a concern for discipleship and growth, and biblical church leadership.  (Now that I've given you the marks, you probably think you don't need to read the book.  I feel otherwise.)

Dever does a wonderful job working through each of the items he defines are required for health. No single point goes too deep and Dever does hugs biblical principles.  He uses lots of Scripture to support his argument, which we've come to expect from Mark Dever.

I found that this book served as good guide and a reminder of sorts.  Given that I am in the process of planting a church, I quickly realized this book serves as a helpful reference tool.  It will be extremely easy to pull this book out the next time I need to think about biblical evangelism or a leadership issue or should we need to do church discipline.

While the book is probably best suited to pastors and church leaders, it is extremely informative and would make a good read for any Christian desiring to contribute to the health of his or her local church body.  

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church has been around for more than ten years, but if you've not yet read it.  I highly recommend it.

Purchase this book on Amazon here.

*Purchases from this website help support this ministry. 

Redeeming Life Church Public Launch (Or "The Funny Language of Church Planting")


April 28, 2015.

In February of 2014, I packed a church van full of young people and set off for Missions Week on the Golden Gate Seminary campus.  It was a pivotal trip.  We attended workshops and sessions.  We helped a church plant and we slept in a poor part of San Francisco.  I met Dr. Richard Johnston and Pastor James Soy.  Dr. Irog and Dr. Wilson encouraged me to apply for the Doctorate of Ministry program, and I did. (Dr. Iorg also tried to convince an intern on my staff to transfer to Golden Gate; but so, far that hasn't happened.) A young man in our group demonstrated that he can lead worship.  We discussed the missional nature of church planting and Risen Life's role in that. And we prayed a lot.

The group was from Risen Life Church.   I was on staff.  My job was to learn and grow in preparation to plant a church.

Upon our return, we started a Bible study group in my home with the purpose of examining what it might take to plant a church in another part of Salt Lake City. The Barnabas House Fellowship was the name of our study. We journeyed through the book of Acts with Elmer Town's book, Churches that Multiply as a supplement.

The group grew as people came and went.  Some were simply not called to church planting.  Others were only in it for the excitement of the newest, shinny thing.  But some were there in the beginning and are still a part of our core team today. (More than I expected, actually!)

Eventually we outgrew our house and it became apparent that God was calling this group to plant a church.  We worked through all kinds of details.  Eventually we settle on the name, Redeeming Life Church.  ([R] for short.)

We started meeting on Sunday afternoons in the Risen Life Church building.  It was a special time because we saw God do some amazing things.  People were saved.  Believers were baptized.  And our core team grew stronger and stronger. 

Then something happened. God brought people from the Rose Park area all the way across the valley to worship with us.  We knew what was coming.  God was calling us to the Rose Park area of Salt Lake.  It was time to move out of the Risen Life building.

Risen Life released me from their staff and commissioned me as the pastor of this new church.  My family, as well as other families of the core team moved into the neighborhood. We started doing evangelism in our target area to include a campaign that resulted in us hanging 5,000 door hangers. We invited the neighborhood to our Easter Sunrise service. 



We've spend the past three weeks meeting in the Northwest Community Center in preparation for our 'public launch.' It's funny because in church planting language, this point is thought of as the day the church plant starts.  But we've been a church seedling for a while and we feel more like May 3rd is the day we stop saying 'plant' and just say 'church,' Redeeming Life Church. 

I'm thrilled to see what God might do with this little church in Rose Park.  If you live in the area, we'd love it if you'd be our guest.  Our Sunday Gathering starts at 11am. We're praying that God is calling you to join us in this mission. Or maybe you don't live in the area but he's calling you to help us in some other way. And please, keep us in your prayers.   

Soli Deo gloria!
Bryan Catherman
Salty Believer and Pastor of Redeeming Life Church


GGBTS Cohort on Evangelism

After a grueling two weeks in doctoral seminars at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, some of the guys in my cohort pulled up chairs and recorded a podcast on evangelism.   I hit record on mobile phone recording gear and six of us tried to pull some thoughts out of our soupy minds.

Throughout the week, we tried a few things to open up evangelistic conversations in the community.  We also swapped stories from our experiences where we pastor, respectively.  This podcast attempts to understand how we try to engage in evangelism within our respective contexts.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Mike Clements pastors First Baptist Floresville in Texas.  Josh Seafkow is the Minister of Education and Outreach at Abilene Baptist Church in Georgia. Less Wesley pastors Trinity Baptist Church in Washington.  Stephen Brucker is the Associate Pastor of The Branch in Oregon.  And Peter Jun does international student ministry in Boston.


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The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

Ripken, Nik. The insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2013, Kindle.
When Nik Ripken is asked if he believes persecution is coming to America, he says, "Why would Satan want to wake us up when he as already shut us up?" (310).  It's good logic considering the deep faith and explosive Church growth Ripken has experienced in places of great persecution.  Ripken witnessed the entire community of Christians wiped out in Somalia.  When he arrived during their civil war, there were about 150 believers.  Four remained when he left.  And not long afterwards, they were hunted down too.  In the mist of this great loss, Ripkin's son died.  It was too much for him to take.  Ripkin seemed, but his own confession, to question God.

In his questioning, Ripken set out to find ways to help grow the church in places of great persecution.  He started visiting persecuted countries to interview Christians.  What he found fills the pages of his book, The Insanity of God.

The Insanity of God is easy to describe on one hand, and nearly impossible to explain on the other.  I'll let this video try to get at the basics of the book:



What becomes difficult to explain are the feelings generated deep within the soul of the persecuted believer. It's not guilt, but something else.  Gratitude maybe.  Or instead, it might be a greater understanding of persecution as well as why American Christians seem so much more apathetic, so much less rich, vibrant, energized.

Reading The Insanity of God it might be easy to think the stories are inflated, but I have no reason, experience, or expertise to suggest Ripkin may have stretched the truth.  It almost would matter anyway because one can easily image the same attitudes and responses of the persecuted.   At one point Stoyan, a friend of Ripkins' and interviewee encouraged, "Don't you ever give up in freedom wen we would never give up in persecution" (311).  How can anybody argue his point?

Nik Ripken has a ministry website at nikripken.com that's full of many more resources and stories.  It's worth your time to check it out.  I also encourage you read The Insanity of God.

Purchase this book on Amazon here.

*Amazon purchases from this website generate funds to help support this website. 

KSL's "Faith on the Frontlines"



On April 5th, 2015, Easter, the Salt Lake NBC affiliate, KSL ran a documentary about soldiers and faith.  This was one of a handful of documentaries to run during the halftime show between their broadcast of two LDS General Conference sessions.  Three of the interviewees are LDS and then there is me -- an evangelical Christian pastor.

With our permission, they brought cameras into our home and church.  They filmed our prayer time and school.  They interviewed me and asked me questions about the war, my family, the pastorate, and my faith.

Obviously there is a risk when you do these things.  Editing can make the program go any number of ways.  I could have ended up looking either LDS or crazy.  But I don't feel that's what KSL did.  Keri, Eric, Doug and the crew did a wonderful job getting at their topic; and although KSL is an LDS owned company, they were more than fair.  I wish I would have had more pictures to supply of the 3d Armored Cavalry and might have been able to give the Brave Rifles a bit more of a shout out but I just didn't take many photos in that first year of the war.

I really enjoyed KSL's work and I hope you enjoy the documentary.  (It's 22 and a half minutes long, but if you'd like to jump the the bulk of the stuff featuring me, my family, and Redeeming Life Church, you can click this link.)

It's a Matter of the Heart

Jonathan Edwards argues for a faith that comes from our affections because our affections ultimately drive us. “The nature of human beings,” writes Edwards, “is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection: love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc” (1).  True religion, according to Edwards, is one in which we are driven, compelled even, to seek after God with deep affection. Our faith simply cannot be motivated from a cognitive understanding of God. Edwards argues, “A person who has knowledge of doctrine and theology only—without religious affection—has never engaged in true religion. Nothing is more apparent than this: our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it” (2).

Sadly, many who call themselves Christian have affections for something or someone other than God. They have an awareness of God’s Word but it has not penetrated the dark places within the soul. Something else still masters over them. “There are thousands,” Edwards says, “who hear the Word of God, who hear great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet all they hear has no effect upon them, makes no change in the way they live” (3).  Edwards feels that no person will ever be changed by the Word of God unless he or she is affected because God has changed the heart, or more specifically, the affections of one’s heart.

_________
1. 
Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 20. 
2. Ibid., 21.
3. Ibid.


* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.

John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul

John of the Cross understood something of spiritual growth. “At a certain point in the spiritual journey,” writes John, “God will draw a person from the beginning stage to a more advanced stage. At this stage the person will begin to engage in religious exercises and grow deeper in the spiritual life” (1). The means, according to John, is the ‘dark night of the soul.’ This dark night is that time when, “those persons lose all the pleasure in that they once experienced in their devotional life” (2).

Seeing God as a mother caring for her little one, John compares the new believer to the babe suckling and feasting on its mother’s milk. “But there will come a time,” he writes, “when God will bid them to grow deeper” (3). As difficult as it may be, the dark night is the means of growth.

The Christian will experience a dry season in his or her devotion with God. Dry may even be an understatement for those who completely seem to lose any closeness with God. God withdraws himself for a season. However, the risk of living a life free of the dark night is grave. John identifies seven spiritual sins that manifest themselves in the devotion of the believer because of immaturity and a lack of the dark night season. Pride, greed, luxury, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth in devotion creep in and lead to death. A survey across Christendom confirms the very presence of these seven sins and may actually cause the Christian to welcome the dark night of the soul, the Christian who deeply desires to grow closer to Christ and mature in his or her journey. “No soul will grow deep in the spiritual life,” argues John, “unless God works passively in that soul by means of the dark night” (4).


__________
1.  Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 33.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4.  Ibid., 37.


* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.
** Photo used in this post is in the public domain. 

The Cost of Nondiscipleship

There is a grave problem in the church today and it seemly slipped in under the cover of apathy. The problem is nondiscipleship. “The disciple” according to Dallas Willard, “is one who, intent upon becoming Christlike and so dwelling in his ‘faith and practice,’ systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end”(1).  The nondisciple then is one who desires to be gathered with the Church without accepting the cost of discipleship. He or she desires association without following Jesus, leaving the clutches of the world, or being set apart in such a way that it surely might be “obvious to every thoughtful person around us, as well as to ourselves”(2).

How did this happen? How can it be that the American church today is so full of nondisciples? “For at least several decades,” contends Willard, “the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship” (3).

The expense of this great lethargy is severe. “Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it cost exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10)”(4). In light of such nondiscipline, the answer is clear—rearrange your affairs to follow Jesus with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength as his disciple, being formed into his likeness.


______
1. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 7.
2. Ibid., 16.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., 16.

* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.

David Platt on Local Church Membership

March 10, 2015.

Church membership is a sticky thing in our overly-individualistic society.  'Sticky' might even be too soft a word.  'Hot' could be a better word.  'Controversial' is another one.   Polarizing.  Offensive.  Idol-smashing.  Abrasive to our pride.  These are words that may describe attitudes toward membership in the local church; but these are not the feelings of every believer.  In all my time as a pastor I've never seen a new believer freak out over membership.  It's the opposite in fact.

The leadership at Redeeming Life Church is exploring a form of membership called covenant membership.  Names are somewhat arbitrary here, but we want to enter into a covenant with one another as a local extension of the Church, to be the Church and to make Christ known.

We're a church plant just getting started and church plants initially have a tendency of attracting jaded Christians who have been hurt by other congregations.  As a defense, pride runs high.  I've found that membership--dare I say, even commitment to a local body of believers--can be a tremendous struggle for these Christians who come with a little more baggage than others.  (Just mentioning the idea of a commitment in a sermon once earned me a barrage of emails about how membership is heretical and pastors who would even dare consider such a thing are abusing the flock.)

From the very early days of meeting as a study in my home, we've always known we'd have some form of covenant membership.  We know it's important, jadedness, hurt, and baggage aside.  Recently, I have been discussing how we might go about this with a group of our committed folks at Redeeming Life.  I've been studying this topic from the Bible.  I read a 9Marks book on the topic. And I've been praying.  (Thankfully, our team of committed brothers and sisters have absolutely no issues with entering into a simple covenant to be committed to one another as a local church.)

In addition, I've run across a video featuring David Platt.  Platt is speaking on local church membership and I've found it rather helpful.  It's short and worth a look.


Seasons of a Leader's Life by Jeff Iorg


 Iorg, Jeff. Seasons of a Leader's Life: Learning, Leading, and Leaving Your Legacy. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing, 2013.
In his book, Seasons of a Leader's Life, Dr. Jeff Iorg sets out to examine three seasons of leadership through the lens of the Apostle Peter.  In the Gospels we see Peter as a learner.  In the books of Acts he's a leader.  And by the time we read the two Epistles from Peter, he's leaving his legacy.

Iorg, a proven leader, has planted a successful church, served as the executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, and is the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of his other books include Live Like a Missionary, The Painful Side of Leadership, The Character of Leadership, Is God Calling Me?, The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church, and Unscripted.

In the opening pages of Seasons of a Leader's Life, Iorg writes, "This book surveys the overarching story of Peter's ministry in Scripture, and examines leadership principles underlying the biblical narrative of Peter's life" (5).  But this book is not the definitive leadership 'how-to.' A few paragraphs later he says, "This book is organized to help you think through leadership issues; it is not intended to be a step-by-step formula for your life.  The book is also organized to stimulate further consideration of each topic" (5).   Here's a video of Iorg discussing Season of a Leader's Life with Ed Stetzer:


Jeff Iorg has hit a home run with this book.  I loved it and have recommend it to countless leaders and soon-to-be leaders. 

The chapters are short and easy.  The content is serious but peppered with stories and illustrations that make the book fun to read.  And at any point if it seems Iorg is off, he has provided the Scripture so the reader can open his or her Bible and personally examine Peter's life.

"Hopefully," writes Iorg, "this book will be an ideal resource for mentoring groups, reading groups, self-directed leadership development groups, staff improvement exercises, classroom readings, and organizational development for emerging leaders" (6).  I believe Iorg is correct.  I encouraged members of my church staff as well as some lay leaders in the congregation to pick up this book.  My intention was to allow them to move through it how they saw fit. (It's always nice to see how staff members address book recommendations from the boss!)  One staffer grabbed hold of the book and it really seemed to be helpful to him.  (He has since applied to go to seminary.)  An intern (from a seminary where Iorg is not the president) thumbed through the book and read chapters occasionally as he had time.  I suspect it will help him has he thinks through the material and eventually enters the leadership phase of his ministry.  A few of our lay leaders also found the book extremely helpful.  It has prompted some really good conversations with quite a few leaders and future leaders.

I personally loved this book.  I found it informative and extremely helpful in shaping my thinking about my own leadership.  It also helped me realize that leadership comes in seasons.  I've entered the season of the leader but my staff are in the learner season.  Those mentoring me are entering the legacy leaving season.  Understanding these seasons has greatly helped me relate to those in different seasons.

I highly recommend this book to anybody thinking about leading, presently in leadership, or trying to understand how to leave a lasting impact as he or she exits leadership.

In addition, Salty Believer Unscripted has conducted two interviews with Jeff Irog in a series on church planting and this book comes up in that conversation.
-- An Interview with Dr. Jeff Iorg audio-- Another Interview with Dr. Jeff Iorg audio
Purchase Seasons of a Leader's Life here.

*I am a doctoral candidate at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary where Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president; however, I initiated this interview.  In addition, purchasing Seasons of a Leader's Life through the links on this website help support this website ministry. 

Is Christianity Easy or Hard?


C. S. Lewis asks a deeply significant question: “Is Christianity hard or easy?” (1). The answer, from his book Mere Christianity, argues for both. “You have noticed, I expect,” writes Lewis, “that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes very easy. He says, ‘Take up your Cross’—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden light.” (2).

This fascinating paradox is only an enigma if one attempts to hold on to the natural self. As Lewis contends, we are to give up our own life, desires, and temptation to hold something back for ourselves, and give it all to Christ, which will cause Christ to indwell our souls. And when we are no longer our own, the question of hard or easy easy is no longer a question at all. The complexity and strain of Christianity no longer matters. Hard and easy are measures that fail to report on the reality of Christianity. We no longer labor toward morality. No more do we seek to do good, but to be Christ-like. “It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soak right through,” says Lewis (3). No, Christianity is not a question of hard or easy, but a question of deeply inside or only a thin outside covering.


________
1. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 7.
2. Ibid. 8.
3. Ibid. 9.

* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.  Purchases from this website help support this ministry. 

Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman

Leeman, Jonathan.  Church Membership: How the world knows who represents Jesus. Wheaton, Ill:  Crossway 2012.  
Church membership is, sadly, a controversial matter in the American Church.  People will leave churches at the very mention of the word, "membership."  Arguments on this topic can get really hot.  On the other side, there are also Christians that are so apathetic to the topic they've chosen to know nothing about it and ignore or rewrite anything in the Bible that might simply hint at membership.  Most Christians are sandwiched between these two extremes and that is who Jonathan Leeman seeks in his book, Church Membership: How the world knows who represents Jesus.

Church Membership is a small book--only 132 small pages--in the 9Marks series, Building Healthy Churches.    This series include titles such as Evangelism by Mark Stiles, Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne, Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman, and Expositional Preaching by David Helm.

Leeman sets the parameters of his audience, writing, "I'm not writing [this book] primarily for the person who is skeptical of church membership, though, if that's you, it might prove helpful, too.  I'm aiming for the average church goer, church member, and church leader who have been going along with the crowd on this topic" (18).  His intention, it seems, is to provide something of an introduction rather than an argument for church membership; however, his introduction does do a nice job arguing in favor of membership.

"My primary purpose," writes Leeman, "is to show you what church membership is, because it's not what you think it is" (18).  In what follows, Leeman walks his readers through a survey of the New Testament, offering all the spots that hit at or explicitly point to membership within both the universal Body of Christ as well as in the local church.  He also offers a great deal of logical progression through the topic, doing well to keep the Bible in view (most of the time).

Church Membership is an easy, quick read, but it will not appeal to everybody.  For those already determined that membership in a specific local church is a prerequisite and necessary for salvation, this book will not likely persuade one away from heresy.  Likewise, the person who has already predetermined that membership in a local church is akin to abusive of the flock will reject Leeman's biblical survey and call him anamatha. However, for those in the middle, who reside within Leeman's intended audience, this book should be both informative and helpful.

I found it helpful and well written.  It probably could have made the same points in half as many pages, but I understand, publishers don't like to print 75 page booklets as much as they prefer to print 132 page books.  

If membership is a topic on which you could use more information, I recommend this little book.  Purchase it at Amazon.com here.  

*Purchases generated from the link above help support this website.