Transitions: Reflections Before Launching Redeeming Life Church

August 25, 2014

Transitions are about gain and about loss.  I am in a season of transition.

A few months ago, a group of curious men, women, and their children sat in my living room to hear about church planting.  We were a small group seeking to understand how God might plant a church in the Salt Lake valley.  Many of us were wondering if God might be using us to plant a church.  Risen Life Church has desired to plant a church in another part of the valley and we were thinking it might be time.

From that first night in my living room, we've seen a number of good people come and go.  Some have said, "no, this is not for me."  Others have said, "yes, I'd like to do this."  And still others have said, "I'm not so sure about this, but I think God is calling me to do it."  It certainly has been an interesting journey.

For a while we grew into a larger group.  Then it seemed God whittled us down to a smaller but more committed group.   Then a family who moved away from Salt Lake six months prior came back, determined to be a part of our effort.  And our team started gelling like a new family.

We call the parsonage where I live (and where we were meeting) The Barnabas House.  We started calling our group of soon-to-be church planters The Barnabas House Fellowship.  Eventually we determined that we were called to plant a church out of Risen Life and we ended up with the name Redeeming Life Church.

Knowing that we'd start a Sunday night service, we determined that our Monday night meetings should be held in the fellowship hall of Risen Life Church, the location where we'd be holding our Sunday night church gathering.  So we moved across the parking lot.  And on September 7th at 6:30pm, we'll hold our first corporate church gathering as Redeeming Life Church.

We baptized a guy.  Upon hearing his confession, another woman wants to be baptized so we'll have a baptism service on the September 21.  We've got a Facebook page and we're working on a website.  Our sermons will be recorded and made available.  We cleaned up the fellowship hall.  It's been hard work, but fun.

Tonight we held our last Monday night group meeting.  Details were discussed.  We worshiped and
prayed.  We laughed.  As we were cleaning up, a homeless lady full of drama and complications walked in, and we did what we could to help her.  It was a great night, but it was clear that we are in transition.

As I examine where we started and I see where we're headed I feel the gains and losses.  I'm excited to see this team serving together, worshiping, praying, and reaching the lost.  I'm thrilled to see what God may do with this eclectic team.  But I also feel the loss.  I already miss those meetings in my living room.  I'm sure I will long for the simplicity of those living room meetings one day, yet at the same time, I can't wait to see what kind of gains God may bring.

If you're in the Salt Lake area and would like to know more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I would love to have you join us on Sunday nights at 6:30.  (2780 E. 3900 S. Salt Lake City, Utah, 84124).  And if you feel called to help plant the gospel in the Salt Lake valley, either in person, prayer, or by donating resources, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Soli Deo gloria!
Pastor Bryan

Doctor of Ministry at GGBTS

Shortly after completing a Master of Divinity at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, thoughts of further education began fluttering through my mind.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in seminary and I felt as though I could honor God by pushing further into academic pursuits.  But I also love the hands-on work in the pastorate and wanted any energy I expended toward advancing my education to have a direct impact upon my ministry.

I began examining PhD possibilities when Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary landed on my radar.  It's cost effective and a little closer to my ministry in the West than many other seminaries.  (And as it turns out, they are relocating, building a state-of-the art campus, and changing their name. You can learn earn more about that by following this link.)

 However, after making a PhD prospectus visit something did not feel right.  The PhD felt more removed from my ministry than I was seeking.  It is extremely focused and I would probably greatly enjoy it; however, I was unsure it would serve my calling.  It was on that trip however, when DMin (Doctor of Ministry) seeds were planted.  But I struggled with this idea at first.

Many seminaries treat the DMin as either 'PhD lite' or 'ThM plus.'  There are assumptions that the DMin is purely a cash cow for seminaries.  Many hopeful PhD candidates argue that the DMin excludes opportunities to serve as a professor for a seminary.  I've heard people say that it is not a serious degree and argued that the DMin is practical where the PhD is academic.  While I can't speak for how other seminaries treat the DMin, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth at Golden Gate.

For starters, the GGBTS president, Dr. Jeff Iorg holds a DMin, not a PhD.  There are many professors in seminaries and bible colleges across the nation who hold Doctorates of Ministry and teach in their respective fields.  There are many more serving in successful pastorates.  Many books and commentaries include the work of DMin guys and gals.

GGBTS is an ATS accredited seminary and an academic institution.  They only offer academic degrees.  The workload includes many seminars, not unlike the PhD.  There is lots of reading, writing, and study.  A major difference however, is that 8 of the 29 credits are an in-the-field, supervised, hand-on-ministry evaluation and study of the minister.  Another difference between a PhD and a DMin at Golden Gate is the project.  Rather than writing a lengthy dissertation on a narrow topic that nobody has ever previously conceived, the DMin candidate conducts an actual project in the field.  He or she must academically (theologically and theoretically) identify, argue, and prove a ministry problem or challenge in his or her ministry, develop a solution, actually conduct the project, and than report on the findings.  While the page count is limited to 100 perfectly written pages in exact Turabian format (plus large appendices), this is an academic process that requires an oral report and defense from an assigned committee.  I'm told less than half the candidates that start the program finish and ever hold the title of doctor.

In all reality, the PhD and the DMin are just different.  I recently heard a professor who holds multiple doctorate degrees describe it this way:  The PhD is a research degree, whereas the DMin is professional degree.  If this were the medical field, the PhD guy would be in a laboratory developing a cure for cancer while the DMin guy (not unlike the MD) would be in the hospital administering the cure for cancer.  The DMin is the pastor working in the lives of the congregation and the PhD is writing the commentaries the pastor uses when he preaches.  The PhD could write thousands of pages and be an expert on the doctrine of grace while the DMin is expected to gracious.  Both are necessary degrees and in the end, they simply serve different purposes.

As I examined the focus of the DMin, I found it to be the best option for me.  And as I looked at various schools, Golden Gate Baptist Theological seminary was the most appropriate choice.  


*The above photo was taken and used by the US Air Force and is in the public domain. 
** While I am presently  DMin candidate at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, this endorsement is purely of my own opinion and was not solicited from GGBTS.

Called to Teach by William Yount

Yount, William R. Called to Teach: An introduction to the ministry of Teaching. Nashville, Tenn,   B&H Publishing Group, 1999.

INTRODUCTION
Through his book, Called to Teach: An introduction to the ministry of Teaching, Dr. William Yount seeks to bring his readers to a “clearer understanding of how to teach, a deeper conviction for teaching ministry, and confidence that [the reader] possess the skills to make it happen” (x-xi). This may be a tall order for a book subtitled, An introduction; however, Yount does succeed in providing solid how-to material, a strong introduction to teaching ministry, and enough to leave the reader excited to try. His experience and expertise are present on nearly every page and his style is such that his arguments are accessible as well as convincing. Called to Teach serves as a great introduction to teaching, a guide for newer teachers, and a jolt back to something exciting for seasoned instructors.

OVERVIEW
In four parts, Yount moves through the overarching roles of the teacher. He starts with whom the teacher is in Part One, titled, “The Teacher as Person.” Opening with the Triad of Teaching, Yount introduces a textbook discussion; but before the reader can get lost in the linear nature of the thinking, feeling, and doing, the reader is challenged with the problematic methods many teachers. Yount argues that compartmentalizing the rational, emotional, and behavioral areas of learning open the door to grave weaknesses and is often is a disjointed approach (14-15). “The answer to the dilemma,” Yount writes, “is to integrate the rational, emotional, and behavioral into a single teaching style that communicates concepts clearly, warms students personally, and engages students productively” (15). This global model becomes the foundation for the remainder of the book.

As Yount builds upon his foundation he starts with the heart and motivation of the teacher. Providing many examples, he demonstrates that most poor teaching is do to a lack of maturity and proper motivation. “Mature teachers see teaching as a mission;” argues Yount, “The mission is greater than reading and lecturing and answering questions—it is to stimulate a desire for excellence, first in the subject at hand, but beyond that, in life itself” (37). Therefore, much of Yount’s opening two chapters deal with the teacher rather than the classroom environment, teaching style, or how-to material for instruction.

Moving into the second part of his book, “The Teacher as Instructor,” Yount shifts from the conceptual matters of teaching and the internal matters of the teacher toward the actual task of teaching. Idea after idea are shared in a structured approach that keeps each idea and subsequent example framed in clusters of concepts, demonstrating the value of one of Yount’s suggested formats (50). It is this section where most of the introductory matter of teaching is found and it is also this section that would likely be most helpful to the Sunday school and formal teacher alike. However, for those who need specific how-to material, Part Three, “The Teacher as Manager,” provides information on organizing the class, keeping order, and writing tests. Yount offers outlines and examples that could have an immediate impact upon the quality of the formal classroom. How to write good test questions and samples of the good, bad, and ugly serves as but one example. This section, however, will not likely be as helpful to the adult Sunday school teacher. The final part, “The Teacher as Minister” brings the entire endeavor into greater spiritual thinking.

CRITIQUE
Yount provides an excellent example of his approach and style through the way his book is written. For example, he argues, “As you gather material for your course, you will find numerous cross references—common essentials among the endless words—that reflect the structure of your subject. These are the elements worth talking about because they form the skeleton on which all the other words hang” (47). Called to Teach offers a fantastic skeleton of ideas without getting overly bogged down in the various theories and mechanics of teaching. He gives concepts as well as offering an introduction to the various ideas and theories. Yount also blends his whole-part, sequential, and relevance organizational ideas through out the book (49-50). He has a clear roadmap, leaving the reader aware of the destination but interested in the journey (47-54). And his personal experience offers engaging examples that allow the reader to warm up to Yount as a teacher.

One weakness of Called to Teach is Yount’s handling of Scripture. Very little of his book, if any, was driven by God’s Word but instead seemed to be an after-the-fact add-on. If all the scriptural references were removed, with exception to the final section about the teacher as an evangelist, the book would work extremely well in the secular world. Many of the verses quoted were tacked on to further make the point rather than leading the idea. This paragraph from page 11 serves as but one example,
One last word on humor. Be sure that the humor is positive and uplifting. Avoid crude or vulgar jokes, stories with a double meaning, and even lighthearted pranks or gags. Humor is wrong when it denigrates others or demeans the sacred task at hand. “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Eph. 5:4).
Rather than simply tacking on the passage as if to spiritualize the point, a simple rewrite could have signaled that God’s Word was the leading reason for the argument. This paragraph could have opened with something such as, “Adhering to Paul’s instruction, ‘Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or course joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving’ (Eph 5:4), be sure that humor is positive and uplifting.” In addition, some of the Scripture used is taken out of context. In these cases, Yount may have been better off to avoid using the Scripture all together.

Another difficulty of Called to Teach is the feeling of screeching breaks when the reader hits Part Three. Part Two is helpful to anyone teaching in nearly any formal environment. Part Three however, is a rather mechanical manual on class design, testing, and keeping young people or those required to attend the class under control. This creates a lurch that leaves the reader suddenly feeling less excited about the ministry of teaching. The material of Part Three is very helpful but a strong signal of the coming shift may have removed this awkward transition. Another idea may have been to add two sections at the end: one for the Sunday school teacher and one for the formal classroom teacher. With an introduction to each section alerting the reader what was ahead, the hard shift in tone and structure could have been avoided and the excitement of the new teacher maintained.

An additional section on teaching outside the classroom could have been added as well. Much of Part One and Part Two could be incorporated into an out-of-the-box format for the father trying to find ways to teach his children, the camp counselor desiring to teach as they go, or any other non-traditional format. This section might have greatly enhanced Called to Teach and provided additional thinking on what it is to teach and disciple those the teacher is called to serve, even if outside of a formal class setting.

Shortcoming aside, Called to Teach is an excellent introductory book on the topic of teaching. It is exciting, flows well, and is enjoyable to read. Sunday school leaders as well as formal academic teachers could greatly benefit from Yount’s book.


* This post comes from portions 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.

Ministering to Problem People in Your Church by Dr. Marshall Shelley

Shelley, Marshall. Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do with Well-Intentioned Dragons. Bloomington, Minn: Bethany House, 2013.

Dr. Marshall Shelley’s book, Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons is the type of book that will help pastors better minister to difficult people or cause them to leave the ministry. Shelley provides one story after another, each full of conflict between congregants and the pastor. While some of these stories end well and others end in tragedy, they are all difficult to read. Anyone who has been in ministry can likely relate to a story or two. If it is not the person like Virginia who expects the pastor to get all her troubled, lost friends saved in one meeting, then maybe it is the board member like Dwayne who regularly criticizes the pastor’s preaching because it is not like his beloved big-name preacher with the radio show. Or maybe it is the ‘Bird Dog,’ or the ‘Wet Blanket,’ the ‘Entrepreneur,’ the ‘Legalist,’ the ‘Busybody,’ or maybe the ‘Sniper.’ Whichever the dragon, Shelley states, “The goal in handling dragons is not to destroy them, not merely to disassociate from them, but to make them disciples. Even when that seems an unlikely prospect” (39).

“This book,” writes Shelley, “is about ministering while under attack” (14). However, the most valuable aspects of this book come in the form of preventing conflict in the first place. In looking to avoid problems all together, Shelley argues, “Pastors, who are charged to ‘see to it . . . that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many’ (Hebrews 12:15), find that the best way to prevent dragon blight, or at lease minimize its damage, is to concentrate on developing a healthy church” (128). Shelley figures that “perhaps the wisdom of battle-tested veterans will prevent others from walking unaware into an ambush,” but more than understanding how to maneuver through existing conflict, pastors should be equipped by the latter chapters that discuss the best defense: prevention (14). “Taking opportunities to build a close, cohesive church,” advises Shelley, “will produce better results than the shrewdest political maneuvers to squelch dissenters after problems sprout. Defusing potential problems before they arise is far better than troubleshooting later on” (128). The second best defense is very similar. According to Shelley, “If the church itself is not healthy, the best thing to do is to build a healthy board. Cohesiveness among the spiritual leaders of the congregation is a healthy core for healing the rest of the body and for fighting the infectious attitudes that spring up from time to time” (141). The author also provides some direct advice for dealing with people suffering with mental illness, conflict through electronic media, and those making a play for power. In each of these areas, Shelley’s direct advice and coaching is far more helpful than the stories of battle-tested, beat-down pastors.

Community Balance

My family gave me a little fish tank for my birthday.  I've never raised fish but I do enjoy watching them and I typically find fish interesting.  My half-moon, 3-gallon tank seemed simple enough.  Rocks, filter, bubbles.  Fill with water and plop in some fish, right? 

Yes, if you want to go through a dozen or more fish trying to figure it out.  That's what I did.

Over the past few months I've learned a great deal about tropical fish.  Goldfish, it turns out, don't have a stomach so they just eat and poop non-stop.  Some fish feed on the top, some on the bottom.  Allege is food for snails, but mostly on the glass and structures.  They don't eat the junk on the bottom because it's not allege.  Other fish and critters eat that 'stuff' on the bottom but you probably also need a special vacuum to keep the gravel (also called substrate) clean.  Oh, and there's bacteria that's really important for the survival and happiness of the fish.  Too many fish means that their waste can quickly become toxic.   Too much food is unhealthy for the water and too little food is, well, starvation for the fish.  Some fish are really communal while others will eat whatever will fit in his or her mouth (including the tail of a green cory catfish).  What I find really interesting is the type of fish that must have other similar fish with them.  If they don't have enough buddies they are not only lonely, they just give up and die.

In a mere 3 gallons, I've got a complex ecosystem.  Fish that find food on the surface.  A fish that eats on the bottom.  Shrimp that clean the substrate and snails that clean the glass and broken ship.  I have to do partial water changes and there are special pellets in my filter that somehow help the good bacteria grow.  And I've had to make many adjustments along the way.  Aggressive or messy fish have been evicted.  I've added shrimp and snails for the helpful jobs they do.  Fish selection became a serious process beyond, "hey, that's a cool looking fish."  In order for my community of tropical fish and critters to function in a healthy way, there has to be some balance.

You shouldn't have an entire tank of guppies or snails or catfish.  They each of a function that benefits the community.  It's a lot like the body that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12.  The entire body can't just be an eye.  There must by many parts working in harmony.  Every part serves a different function and in order to have health, every part is necessary.  Community requires diversity and balance.

As I'm working with a core team in preparation to plant a church, I'm seeing how much the church is like a fish tank; but unlike the life in fish tank, the Lord's Church offers grace and Jesus can bring about change.  When you have an aggressive person that chomps another person's tail off, you have a problem.  But rather than flushing the aggressor down the toilet, we can work together and extend grace while Jesus changes the very nature and hearts of those of us in the tank.  Over time, as we seek to live like Christ, we will find greater harmony and healthy spiritual growth in our community.  And hopefully we'll find something amazing.      

* Photo of clown fish is in the public domain. 

Taking Your Church to the Next Level by Gary McIntosh

McIntosh, Gary. Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won't Get You There. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2009.

Gary McIntosh, author of Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There states that his book is, “about cycles of fruitfulness and the importance of continual improvement to diminish destructive forces that keep a congregation from focusing attention on its mission” (16). That statement is loaded and could mean a great number of things, but it, according to McIntosh, “is not to help you build a church larger than the one down the street. It is, however meant to assist you in understanding what is blocking the growth of your church and what you can do to see it reach a new level of impact” (191-192). McIntosh’s argument appears to assume two things: first, that size is the greatest measurement of the health of a local church, and second, that pastors should desire to grow through the life stages of a church, which, incidentally are measured only by the number of congregants in attendance and years of existence. No attention or thought is given to the church that determines to remain at or under a specific size by continually planting more area churches, nor is any thought offered to the small-town church that simply will not grow into most of the church sizes mentioned in this book. ‘Fruitfulness’ and a church’s ‘mission’ in the statement above both appear to hold a definition that places a greater emphases on numerical growth over spiritual growth. Yet, even if one disagrees with these two assumptions (as I do), there is still a great deal of helpful, thought-provoking material in Taking Your Church to the Next Level.

McIntosh offers some tools that the pastor should have in his leadership toolbox. These tools, if utilized in conjunction with many other pastoral tools—something McIntosh seems not to suggest—should provide many pastors with helpful ways of thinking about numerical growth.

The first helpful tool is the church life cycle, or St. John’s Syndrome. Utilizing ideas from the business world as well as research from a number of scholars who have studied church growth, McIntosh identifies distinct stages most churches grow through based on size and age. While the specific size or age boundaries are disputed, thinking about the social constructs and communication methods within each stage is extremely helpful. These stages explain why some people enjoy the smaller churches while others are more comfortable in much larger churches. Looking through the lens of the St. John’s Syndrome also helps us understand why some pastors are more successful in different stages of numerical growth.

Another useful tool related to the church life cycle is McIntosh’s different categories of the church leader. The Catalyzer is the one who is an entrepreneurial type who can start church groups from scratch (90-91). The Organizer is one who takes the assembled pieces and introduces organization that maximizes resources (91-92). The Operator “keeps and organization going by improving its general procedures and systems (92). A Reorganizer is a turnaround leader who takes a church from a declining to a new direction, and a Super-Reorganizer brings about radical redirection, often saving a church from death (93-96).

Finally, McIntosh’s chapters on moving through various stages in the church growth life cycle are thought provoking. These chapters may serve to help pastors who are relatively weak in the area organizational structure. “The bottom line,” according to McIntosh, “is it takes different skills to lead a church during each stage of its life” (89). By providing examples of the garden-variety church at each stage along the way and then providing practical suggestions, the pastor has a framework on which to hang his ideas.

All of McIntosh’s guidance appears to be backed by a great deal of research and practical experience. It is helpful. This however, must be seen through the assumption that numerical growth is the desired outcome. Of course, churches should hope and pray to grow numerically (alongside the more important areas of spiritual growth and growth in faithfulness), just as the early New Testament church in Jerusalem was adding large numbers day by day, but McIntosh’s tools are really only designed to help with numerical growth.

If the pastor’s primary goal is numerical growth, McIntosh’s book should be among his top resources. This book is well thought out and supported by a great deal of research. However, while McIntosh’s work is highly practical, it is lacking in theological support. There are very few paragraphs dedicated to spiritual growth (if any) and almost no biblical references among his sited sources. For a book written to pastors for the purpose of growing churches the Bible aught to be the primary guide, which only further demonstrates McIntosh’s high value placed on numerical growth. Taking Your Church to the Next Level can easily be applied to para-church and non-profit organizations as well as non-Christian faith systems and cults.

In addition, Christ says he will build his Church (Matthew 16). Men can and should draw plans and strategies through prayer and submission to the Lord’s will regarding the assembling and managing of a local church, but in the end, God determines if a local church will or will not grow. The best plans of men still come with absolutely no guarantees. However, McIntosh’s tone is as if these methods are sure to bring numerical growth. Indeed, pastors should seek ways to grow as well as remove those things that are stopping numerical growth such as “the lack of adequate seating, parking, and classroom meeting space” (139); but pastors should first be men of character seeking to serve faithfully and trusting the results to the Lord.

I personally found the information and tools of Taking Your Church to the Next Level helpful but my experience and the scores of other similar books on the topic left me feeling that McIntosh’s goals are misguided. There’s nothing wrong with seeking growth—I know I certainly would like to see more people involved in the church were I serve as well as the church I am planting—but my first preference would be to see healthy growth. Therefore, this book should be paired with at least one more on the topic of spiritual growth in order for it to be more effective and avoid such a business tone that is absent of an apparent faithfulness toward the mysteries of God.


* This post comes from portions 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.

Training for Ministry: Utah School of Theology

Not too long ago, I wrote about the good work that denominations and associations might be a part of.  One of those examples was the Utah School of Theology.  It's an Contextualized Learning Development site through Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary that affords people the opportunity for ministry training. 

You can earn a diploma and receive an excellent education by taking 8 high-quality classes (see more here). Or you can take four classes and earn a certificate (Communicating the Gospel, Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, and Introduction to Christian Theology). Both the diploma and the certificate are backed and accredited by GGBTS and you can even travel to the Golden Gate Mill Valley campus and walk in the graduation ceremony, if you graduate that is.

I am teaching Communicating the Gospel (CLP 1411) this semester and it will be hosted at Risen Life Church on Thursday nights.  We'll be looking at preaching and teaching and hopefully become better preachers and teachers of the gospel. 

Aug 21 - Dec 4
6:30pm - 9:30pm
RLC Class Room 106

I'd be happy to send you a copy of the syllabus if you'd like more information.  You can contact me here.

Live in the Salt Lake area? I hope you'll join us.  If you have never enrolled with GGBTS's Contextualized Learning Development program, you will need to complete this application: https://www.ggbts.edu/cld/english/admissionForm.aspx.  (BE SURE TO SELECT UTAH SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY -- DRAPER, UTAH IN THE DROP DOWN MENU.) There is a one-time application fee of $30 that can be paid on the first day of class.

You will also need to go to the Utah School of Theology's site and register for the class here: http://www.utahschooloftheology.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=270257. It's $50 per credit and this course is a 3 credit class, for a total of $150. Shortly after applying at GGBTS and registering at the Utah School of Theology, you should receive some emails with additional information and payment and class instructions.

Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. I hope to see you in my class!


* Photo taken by Paul Kelly and is registered under a creative commons license.

Summary Verses of the Gospel

While all of the Bible provides us with an expression and explanation of the Gospel, there are some verses that serve as summary verses.  These verses, when understood within the big picture and proper context fire up believers.  They serve as succinct reminders of the Gospel.

Taken out of context and simply quoted to nonbelievers often doesn't produce the results we hope for because these are summaries and reminders.  (Of course this is not to say we shouldn't share these verses with nonbelievers.  We should and we should seek to provide the big picture and context.)

Allow me to use the movie, "The Empire Strikes Back" as an illustration.  Imagine you've never seen the movie or the one that came before it.  All you have is a 2 minute clip from the film.  You see a young man walk into a strange industrial area.  Suddenly a large, black, robotic looking warrior in a cape enters the scene.  They fire up their light sabers and engage in battle.  The young man eventually gets his hand hacked off and his weapon plummets far below.  He's defeated yet still manages to crawl out onto a catwalk far above an endless pit.  The darker character says something about the two of them ruling the galaxy together and something else about the power of the dark side. (Whatever that is?)

Then the dark character speaks with a deep voice and says, "Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father."

The younger man says, "He told me enough. He told me you killed him!"

Then the other character says, "No, I am your father!"

If we had see the entire movie, we'd gasp in shock and horror.  Having seen the the previous movie as well as this one up to this point, we can easily understand this absolute plot-twisting shocker.  If you've seen this movie, emotions and thoughts may already be welling up from this single summary clip. (I mean really, what voice did you use when you read that last line?)  Cultural references have been made from this scene for years, to include a scene where the character, "Tommy Boy" is speaking the words "Luke, I am your father" into an oscillating fan, just as many of us have likely done in our own lives.  But without understanding the movie, the clip is not as valuable.  So it is the case with the summary gospel verses of the Bible.

Those who don't know the Bible should ask many questions about these verses.  Who is this Jesus?  Who is the 'he' being referred here?  Why is this sin so series that we need rescued from it?  What is so significant about the death of this one man?  What is so amazing about the grace being referenced in this verse?  Salvation from what?  What do I do with this summary verse?  These are important questions, which is why believers should strive to understand these verses in their proper context, know the bigger story, and strive to explain these verses in greater detail to those who don't know the Bible.

But the gospel is for Christians.  We should be reminded of it often.  We should be spurred on by it, driven and motived by the gospel.  So the summary verses serve a great purpose.  They remind us of the bigger picture.  In one or two lines, these highly loaded statements fuel us.  They are very significant.

Listed below are a sample of the many summary verses that remind us of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  (They are quoted in the ESV.)

Isaiah 53:5 - But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jared Jenkins and I discuss John 3:16 on Salty Believer Unscripted. Listen here.)

Acts 10:43 - To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 13:38-39 - Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Romans 4:24-5:1  It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:7-8 - For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 - All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Hebrews 9:27-28 - And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ also suffered nonce for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 John 4:10 - In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


*Photo by flickr.com user, Ihar, is registered under a creative commons license.

Look Before You Lead by Aubrey Malphurs

Malphurs, Aubrey. Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church. Culture Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2013.

In his book, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture, Dr. Aubrey Malphurs sets out to “explore how to form spiritually healthy organizational cultures in the context of church planting, church revitalization, and church adoptions,” with his specific focus in the area of unique church culture and behavior (8). While his ideas are shaped out of his theological beliefs, much of Look Before You Lead is driven by his theoretical and practical understanding of leadership within the context of the local church.

Malphurs builds his arguments upon some theological assumptions. The first is that it is the pastor’s responsibility to understand a church’s culture and lead by way of cultural adjustment. “In a sense,” he writes, “every pastor of an established church, whether a new pastor or one who has been there for years, must be a culture architect” (129). While we see little biblical evidence for such a pastoral role, Malphurs’ argument leaves the reader rightly feeling that the lack of understanding and skill in the area of church culture may leave the pastor in a position where he cannot lead or motivate the congregation in any direction. Lacking in Maplhurs’ argument however, is the idea that the Word of God through strong, responsible preaching should play the largest role—larger than even the pastor’s role—in shaping the culture of the local congregation.

Malphurs’ second theological assumption comes through his view of the shape and structure of the local church. For example, it appears that Malphurs holds that a church is (or should be) led through a single pastor or elder rather than a plurality of elders with a leader among those elders. While there are hints peppered throughout the book, Appendix G provides the most direct view into Malphurs’ theological underpinnings regarding the leadership of the local church. Some of the questions about the maturity of the church assume that a single, highly talented leader is a sign of maturity.  Question 2 for example, suggests that viewing the role of the pastor as a visionary leader demonstrates a higher level of maturity. In similar regard, questions 5 and 24 suggest that a preference for change in the church (presumably under the pastor’s leadership) is more mature than a desire to maintain a status quo with no qualification of what the status quo may be; although it should be remembered that Malphurs is writing specifically to those wanting to revitalize, plant, or adopt churches. Question 19 asks if the pastor is a strong visionary leader and a good preacher. With more than one pastor leading in these areas, gifts and skills may be spread out among a pastoral team providing spiritually healthy advantages. A plurality of elders is biblical and may be a greater mark of spiritual maturity than a church built around the skills and personality of a single pastor.

Other assumptions around the structure of the local church also manifest themselves in Appendix G and seem to surface in the undergirding of Malphurs’ argument. There is an idea presented that a growing church is a mark of maturity; however, no measure of the kind or health of the growth is included. Yet another example is seen in the assumption that a well-kept facility is the mark of a healthy, mature church. It could be however, that the culture of the church is far more focused on spending time and resources on spiritual growth, missions, evangelism, or some other venture. Although correct, Malphurs also assumes that church planting and church adoption are a good way to advance the gospel, but he provides very little discussion behind his reasoning and assumes his readers agree.

Much of Look Before You Lead actually reside in the theoretical aresa of practical and organizational leadership. While his focus is for revitalizing, planting, or adopting churches, it would be rather simple to apply Malphurs’ ideas to a new or struggling non-profit organization that utilizes volunteers. Even so, Malphurs says, “I wrote this book for any church leader whose heartbeat is for Christ’s church” (9). For this reason, the first half of the book deals with exegeting church culture and the second is filled with practical methods of shaping, changing, and leading that culture in its vision and mission. The entire book, therefore, depends upon accuracy of Maluphurs’ statement, “The better a pastor knows his church’s culture, the better he’ll be able to lead his church” (16).

Culture is the primary building block of Malphurs' argument and through an explanation of what church culture is, Malphurs writes, “Churches are behavior-expressed, values-driven, and beliefs-based” (21). Interestingly, observed behaviors give an indication of the culture’s actual values; then dissecting the actual values exposes the church’s actual beliefs. Often there is a disparity between a culture’s perceived or aspired beliefs and values in contrast to those they actually hold. In motivating a church to a specific desired behavior, a leader most likely must first work toward establishing a belief among the culture. Once that belief is actually held, the leader must demonstrate why that belief should become a value. “When a church culture acts on its beliefs,” argues Malphurs, “they become its actual values” (21). Once the actual values are acted upon, the new behaviors should reflect the leader’s desired behaviors. While Malphurs does not address this in his book, is seems reasonable to think that if a leader unknowingly teaches or develops a belief within the culture without thinking of the intended value, there is a chance that an undesired behavior may result. All the more reason a leader must understand the culture and think like a cultural architect.

While Malphurs does not provide much discussion on the importance the preaching of the Word of God as the most significant influence of beliefs, I hold this as a theological truth. The preaching pastor or pastors must understand church culture if preaching and teaching is to be conducted in such a way that biblically centered beliefs become actual values followed by those values shaping behavior. The spiritual health of a church depends upon this truth. If Malphurs also holds this conviction, than I agree with his statement that the pastor must be a cultural architect. Most pastors serving in the context of planting a new church, planting a church out of an existing church, or adopting a church will likely find Malphurs’ theoretical arguments directly relevant and compelling.

The audience for Look Before You Lead is a little smaller than many other books on the topic, but a pastor or leader of a local church could greatly benefit from the information Malphurs provides in Look Before You Lead.



* This post comes from portions 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.

The Mission of Church Planting

June 24, 2014

Risen Life Church is planting another church somewhere else in the Salt Lake Valley.  As of yet, we haven't determined the location because we believe our first task is to gather those God is calling for this work and faithfully prepare ourselves for his mission.  We're slowly growing into a unified team. We're starting to understand and appreciate one another's gifts, personalities, and character.  We're worshiping, studying the Bible, and growing more devoted to the fellowship.  Little by little, we're starting to reach deeper into our relationships with one another as well as the lost community around us.  Some of what we're doing actually looks like mission trips to other parts of the world because church planting is the similar mission of making disciples of Jesus. But rather than connecting the disciples to an existing church, missionaries seeking to plant churches gather them into a group who covenant together to be a new local church.  Then, God willing, this new church serves as God's agent to reach even further into the community to share and plant the gospel of Christ.

We are on a mission. 

Unlike many church planting missions to Utah, we're locals and we're planting with extremely strong support from an existing local church.  Risen Life Church provides us elder oversight and shepherding, financial support, prayer, encouragement, and many other necessary resources.  Most of our core group regularly attends serves at Risen Life, but not all.

In addition, our new church plant group (we're praying about the name) meets in my home on Monday nights, which happens to be the parsonage on the church property.  (We have an intern living in the other parsonage next door.)  As we grow, we hope to expand into more home fellowships that meet during the week for discipleship under the leadership of elder quality men (or elder quality men in training).  God willing, we'll also meet together on Sunday as a larger corporate gathering in the Risen Life Church building--in the evening until we move across the valley to another location.  At that point, we'll start meeting on Sunday mornings. 

In the meantime, it's extremely helpful to start in an incubator of sorts, which happens to be right next to an existing church.  When we need chairs, we get them from next door.  Tables for a barbecue, yup, get them from next door.  Administrative support? Yes, he works next door.  Oh, and that big parking lot is a good place to park when you come on Monday nights.  Risen Life has a basketball hoop that attracts people from the neighborhood (and it's nearby in the parking lot).  The house is large enough to host people and there's a field between the two church owned houses where our intern lead a team to build an awesome fire pit.

On Monday nights we open with a worship song and a brief discussion.  Someone reads from Scripture.  We pray together and there's a sermon.  Then we respond in worship through more singing and prayer.  And we take communion.  Someone (usually my wife) provides snacks and beverages.  We have the kids join us at first, then they're dismissed to go downstairs for a lesson on the same text that's more age appropriate.  Two adults from a rotation of volunteers (which is an area we're going in) lead the children's lesson and activity. Then they join us again for worship and prayer.

While we're presently putting heavy attention into building a core team, we are still seeking to reach the lost, although this is another area where we need lots of growth.  This is a slow process, but we're starting to connect. Many of us get together for coffee, dinners, ladies nights, and other things.  We help each other move and seek ways to serve one another.  We pray for each other often and stay in touch via text and e-mail when we're not together. We've hosted open houses and a barbecue to invite others, both believers and non-believers.

Like any mission project we have to be creative and flexible.  We've had nights where we used Google Hangouts to connect with people who were away for military duty, health reasons, or other business.  It wasn't the greatest, but it was nice to have some kind of connection with those who were away. 

We've had to try different approaches with the kids (and hopefully we've landed on something that works well).  We've tried different things with our prayer time.  Daniel Graves, our worship leader, has sought ways to improve our worship time with song and reflection.  And we've done some stuff that looks like small churches in other parts of the world.

We determined that having a fire pit might be a good, natural way to bring people together.  Who
doesn't like chatting around a fire on a late summer evening?  What family wouldn't want to have a Smores night?  So, in what looked very much like a foreign mission project, some of our guys starting clearing the spot.  They dug through the concrete-hard ground.  We cut the bottom off an old 55-gallon drum.  With some decorative bricks we found at the house the fire pit was dress up.  And, by the way, our fist fire was great fun.

The challenge, it seems, is many people naturally seek to put mission work in some kind of neat box.  It's two weeks here or there.  It's not in our every day lives.  Or if it is, it has to look very specific like some popular book-inspired method evangelism or something.  People do the same with church planting work.  Some might criticize our methods (although I've found those who do are often not making disciples or planting churches themselves.) On the other end of the spectrum, some outsiders may feel that we look too 'churchy' and suggest we should be hip and 'organic' (to use the popular buzz words). 

I wonder how much of what this little group is trying to do would happen we were just tying to be "buddies hanging out," organically?  I suspect very little.  I find myself asking lots of questions.  What would our mission look like if we didn't understand and respect the diversity of gifts and personalities within our group?  What if we relied more on what's popular rather than the will of God?  What would we look like to our own communities if we were not who we really are?  What if we tried to wrap ourselves in the newest marketing and exciting church planting buzz words, even if they didn't fit us?  I wonder, can we honor Christ in our acts of service and love that are not cool enough to be spoken about in the hot, popular conferences?  Do we have to use the exciting buzz words?  No, we really don't.  Can we be be known by how we love Jesus and each other and then seek to bring others into that kind of community?  It's my hope that this may be a way for a small group of locals to plant our church and faithfully share the gospel of Jesus in our city.

Sure, we need to grow spiritually and numerically.  We need to develop a great unity.  We need to have a passion for reaching the lost.  Yes, we'll need financial resources along the way.  But our greatest need is prayer.  We seek to be on God's mission, and that requires prayer, lots of prayer.  Another advantage of being locals supported by a local church is that we have a number of people praying for us near by.  They can put an arm around us and ask, "how can I pray for you this week?" We printed prayer cards and made them available at Risen Life Church.  These cards have a pictures of people involved with the mission to plant a church.  Each card also has specific prayer requests.  One day I noticed a couple of sweet ladies digging through the stack to be sure they had all the different cards.  They expressed that at this point in their lives they wouldn't likely leave Risen Life Church but they sure want to help us by faithfully asking God to bless our efforts, to grow us, and to protect us.   What a blessing!

We'd love to have you join our efforts, whether physically with us in Salt Lake City or in prayer.  (You can chat with me more about that here.)  Will you try to remember our mission to plant a church in Salt Lake the next time you're talking with God?

Soli Deo gloria!
Bryan Catherman

Surviving Church with Children

Anybody who has been a part of a church that has children within its congregation knows children can be difficult.  Often we find ourselves feeling like we "survive" church with children.  And this feeling flies in from multiple directions. 

There's No-Kids-Ken.  He is the person who doesn't have children.  He hates being asked to help in the children's ministry and he is easily agitated with even the slightest noise made by a child during the sermon.  

Then there's Exhausted-Ed. He  is the parent who struggles Sunday to Sunday because his child may be in a difficult season.  It seems like getting to church is a ridiculous struggle.  He hasn't sat through an entire sermon in over a year because his child has some kind of need every week.  He can't go to any community groups in the middle of the week because they end too late or don't have much grace for his children.  Exhausted-Ed spends a great deal of time in the lobby and wonders why he even bothers coming to church.

Don't overlook Forgetful-Fran.  She is a little older now and has raised her children.  Yet somehow she seems to have forgotten the challenges that come with children.  She has all kinds of insights that rather than being an encouragement, just leave parents feeling bad about themselves.  She often finds herself in agreement with No-Kids-Ken.  Parents let their guard down only to get blindsided by a snarky comment about their children.

And how many Children's-Ministry-Michelles are out there?  She's the director of the children's ministry that many parents treat as a babysitter so they can go do their thing on Sunday mornings.  She's hardworking and deeply wants the kids to love Jesus but most of the time parents forget to say thank you because they're too busy criticizing her for something they're unwilling do to themselves.   She's often short on help and hasn't attended in the adult worship service in years.

Church, it seems, would be so much easier with all the kids running around.  At one point, it appears Jesus' disciples agreed.  People were trying to bring their kids to see Jesus and have him pray for their children.  The disciples rebuked them, trying to keep the kids away.  Jesus was not happy about this and said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14, ESV).

Children are a part of the Church.  We have an obligation not only to train them up in the way of the Lord, but to include them in the fellowship.  So while it might be difficult, we are indeed called to "survive" church with children.

Jared Jenkins and I recently recorded a series on Salty Believer Unscripted about this topic.  And because we don't have many answers in this area, we called in Kerryn Talbot and Dr. Randy Stinson to help us understand a little better.

Surviving Church With Children
-- An Introduction to the Issue audio
-- A Correct Attitude Toward Children audio
-- Teaching in Terms They Can Understand audio
-- Behinds the Scene of Children's Ministry with Kerryn Talbot audio
-- Teaching and Preaching "R Rated" Texts audio
-- Training Up Your Adolescent Children with Dr. Randy Stinson  audio
-- Training Up Your Teenage Children with Dr. Randy Stinson audio



*Photo take by Aaron Gilson is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission.

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet"  -- William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's character, Juliet, asks a good question: "What's in a name?"  Would Romeo be any different to her if his name were Steve?  Would she love him less?  When we think about church names, we really ought to ask that question.  
Biblically churches were identified by a lose nomenclature.  For example, in Acts 13:1 the church meeting in Antioch is called the church in Antioch.  In Paul's letter to the Romans he mentions Phoebe who was a servant of the church at Cenchreae.  This is simple.  Many churches still name themselves by their general location.  Maybe the name of the church is the street their building is located on.  Or maybe it's a regional thing.

The Bible doesn't dictate that names have to be geographical, however.  In some cases, this would be really difficult.  So some churches take names from other significance.  Living Stones Church is an example that comes from 1 Peter 2:4-5.  A friend of mine named the church he planted Taproot Church because the taproot is the strong root that grows deep down and anchors the tree.  Some churches just select catchy words like Velocity or Amazing or some other buzzword.  Some churches go with Greek or Latin names.  Or maybe the church is named after a saint of the past. 

Theology often makes an appearance in church names.  Many churches attempt to draw distinctions by including theological words like grace or faith or free will.  Or if it's not a theological distinction, it may be a practical one.  To indicate something about a church they may add Bible or community or evangelical to their name.  And of course many churches at one time held the denominational distinction in their name.  First Baptist.  Some Church Presbyterian.

A lot goes into a name, but in the end, the church may actually be the same if it's called the Romeo Church or Steve Church.  The local church is a gathered group of disciples who have covenanted together to be a local church.  Who they are will say much more about the church than the name.  A bad name can be problematic, but a good name really will only be a good church if the people are good, Jesus loving people in strong unity.

Jared Jenkins and I discuss this in greater detail as well as give some examples, make jokes, and share personal naming stories on this episode of Salty Believer Unscripted


*Photo taken by Romana Klee is registered under a creative commons license.

What is the Church... or is it who?

Ask nearly anybody for a definition of "church" and chances are good that before they think through an answer, they'll have images of buildings in their head.  Some may define church as a building used for religious worship or a place where religious people meet.  This answer wouldn't be socially wrong, but it's not how the Bible defines church.  Others may say that church is in the mountains or wherever they commune with God.  This definition also stands in opposition to God's Word, unless when they say this they mean a location where they fellowship with other believers, that is.

The 27 books of the New Testament provide a good picture of God's intention for his Church.  The Greek work behind the word Church (transliterated, ekklesia) appears 114 times in the New Testament.  The ESV translation team translated 106 of those uses as church and 8 as something else such as assembly or congregation.  The Septuagint (or LXX) has nearly 100 uses from the Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament.  

Interestingly, the Greek word behind church only appears three times in the Gospels, and only in Matthew for that matter.  One usage appears in Matthew 16:13-20.  The specific verse, Matthew 16:18, reads, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (ESV).  The other two uses are found in Matthew 18:15-20 which reads,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed* in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (ESV).
In the first usage, Jesus provides some specific information.  Jesus will (not maybe or might) build it.  It will be built on either Peter's confession or the revelation of the Father or Peter himself or some kind of apostolic succession depending on your theological persuasion.  And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Trying plugging our definition of church in here.  It doesn't work.  It's strange.  

The second and third uses of the word, church, are in context to sin and the proclamation of the gospel.  If  a brother sins against you, you are to point out his sin and hope that as a brother he would repent and see the gospel living and active in his life.  If the brother does not hear this from you, you bring another believer and try again.  If again this person refuses to repent of his sin and accept the truth of the gospel in his life, then you bring it to the church.  Here the larger body of believers makes every attempt to restore this brother to the gospel, but if no headway is made, than the church is to assume this man is not a believer.  They are to treat him like an unbeliever, continuing to preach the gospel to him hoping he may one day repent, be baptized, and profess an actual trust in Christ.  Try out the definitions here and you'll find they just don't work.

Either of the above mentioned definitions of church are really strange if applied in these Scriptures.  So it stands to reason that our definition of church as a building or a place where we commune with God is not exactly right. 

The disciples probably didn't fully understand what Jesus was talking about in Matthew until they were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and Christ started building his church through his people.  It may have been unclear to Peter when Christ first mentioned it, but he seems to have a good grasp of the Church later in his life.  In a letter to the elect exiles he wrote, "As you come to him [Jesus], a living stone rejected by men but in the light of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV).

Peter, it seems, is stating that the Church is made up of believers.  Each one is like a living stone.  So the Church is not so much a 'what' as it is a 'who.'  If you're a believer, you don't go to Church, you are the Church.  But you alone are not the entire Church; you are simply a stone among the many who to together are the Church.


*Photo by flickr.com user, "mlhradio" is registered under a creative commons license and use by permission.

Don't Hate Your Job

Most people have a season at some point in life where they really don't like going to work.  In fact, some people even hate their jobs.  They don't get along with their employer, or if they are the employer they don't like their employees.  But the Bible teaches that this ought not be the case for Christians.

Risen Life Church in Salt Lake City, Utah has been journeying through the book of Ephesians and I was called upon to preach from Ephesians 6:5-9.

Ephesians 6:5-9 is often a text that gets skimmed over because readers think that the slave or the bondservant relationship to an earthy master is outdated in not relevant to life today.  They couldn't be more wrong.  In my sermon, I deal with the instructions to employees and employers.  Then I journey into what the text demonstrates as the larger Master-slave relationship we as believers have as Christians. Everybody is a slave to something, either sin or righteousness.  If Jesus is our Master than we are slaves who are truly free.  I explain this in greater detail in the sermon and you can listen by clicking on the link below.


You get the opportunity to serve Christ when you go to work.  What a grand opportunity!  Remember this as you head into work and have joy in your workplace because of what Christ has done for you.


*I opened my sermon with a very brief discussion of our efforts to plant a church in the Salt Lake valley.  Risen Life is our sending church and a core team is meeting in my home as we seek God's vision for how we are to begin this new work.  My name is Bryan Catherman and if you are interested in learning more about our efforts, praying for us, financially supporting us, or joining our mission, I would love to hear from you.  You can contact me here.