SEND Network Training (With Charles Campbell)


Bryan Catherman met with Charles Campbell to discuss the nuts and bolts, as well as the value, of additional training for church planters.  Send Network Training offers a greater focus and additional tools in order to plant more successfully.  The North American Mission Board (also identified as The Send Network) partners with churches to plant churches and train church planters.  In this episode, Charles Campbell talks about that training. 

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Lessons We Can Learn From CrossFit


If you've ever met a member of CrossFit, you'd know.  Why, because he or she had already told you.  Members of the fitness organization, CrossFit think, function, and live in unique ways that can be informative when we think about the life and culture the gospel calls Christians too.  We had NAMB trainer and CrossFit member, Charles Campbell on to help us see lessons we can learn from CrossFit and apply to mission work and church planting.  

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Concise Theology by J.I. Packer

Thinking about learning a little more Christian theology?  Maybe you don't know where to start.  You see the big text books, but that's too much.  How about something you could add to your daily devotional time or read in small bits on your lunch break?  Bryan Catherman recommends Concise Theology by J.I. Packer. 

Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House, 2001.  

Avoiding Moral Failure


Join Jared Jenkins and Bryan Catherman as they revisit the problems with moral failure in the Christian life.  With recent failures of high-profile leaders questions about dependance on fences is better than a construction fence that allows room for the soul to be transformed.  What's the best way to defeat sin?  Do internet blockers and strong boundaries produce moral growth and change or just a wall for the heart to go around, under, over, or through?  The guys discuss this and more in this week's episode of Salty Believer Unscripted. 

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* You can find more podcasts like this in our archive.  

Reordering the Trinity by Rick Durst

Durst, Rodrick.  Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel, 2015. 

Looking for a book that will challenge you intellectually but drive you into deeper spiritual devotion?  Maybe a book that speaks to the head and heart that moves you to think about your hands?  Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Rick Durst might be the book you're looking for. 

Bryan Catherman is talking about Dr. Rick Durst's book, "Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament. it was published by Kregel Academic in 2015.

Get your copy of Reordering the Trinity here.  And please know, Dr. Durst is a great guy and a brilliant thinking, but he's not giving me anything to recommend his book with you. 

Conversations with Christians


There are many outside Christianity who make assumptions about Christians and there are many Christians who make assumptions about non-Christians.  Many of these assumptions are keeping us from having conversations with one another.  It's not helpful.  

Jared Jenkins and Bryan Catherman discuss the dynamics of these assumptions and what we could learn from the problems and solutions.  

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* You can find more podcasts like this in our archive.  

Inconsistencies in the Cultural War


Inconsistencies run wild in today's culture war.   Tolerance and acceptance are championed but usually at the cost of telling others with equally strong convictions they are wrong and should not be tolerated or accepted.   It happens all the time. 

For example, a popular rock band, fronted by a man who claims to be a Mormon is hosting a concert in Salt Lake with the intention of uniting the LGBTQ young community with the Mormon church.  In a recent news story, he said this about the event: 

"My only hope is that we learn to love and give total acceptance to our gay youth.  And total acceptance means, that when they ask, 'Hey, does God see me as sinful or dirty,' the only answer is 'absolutely not.'"

While the musician's comments are wildly popular today, they are not consistent with accepting different people for their various convictions.   He might have been more honest had he just said something like, "It's my only hope to change the convictions of the Mormons for the sake of the convictions of the LGBTQ community."   

Mormons and Christians see the Bible differently.  (We have our various convictions.)  For that reason, I can't speak for the Mormon view.  But I can say that the Bible says that all people are sinful, that is, all have sinned and have fallen short of God's standard.  (See Romans 3:23, for example.)  The same is as true for the LGBTQ community as for any other community. 
 In fact, this is the very reason for Jesus rescue plan!   Saying someone is not sinful is saying the Bible is not true and that Jesus is not necessary, which is precisely opposite of many people's religious convictions.  

Many people have a stronger love for Jesus than any human being.  They can't control it.  It is the desire of their heart. 
 If the argument is that people should be able to love anybody they want, then Jesus should be included, right?  And that means a person who loves Jesus lives by a particular lifestyle.   A consistent argument should consist of tolerance for this lifestyle, but that's just not the case.  

Please note, the issue here is not about the first part of the musician's statement, but the latter part.  The musician is dictating that every person have a specific religious opinion derived from the rock star rather than the Bible.  His statement says there's something wrong with stating any other answer to the question, "Does God see me as sinful or dirty?"   So he's not offering total acceptance to any religious view other than his own.   

There is a way that statements like the one quoted above about tolerance and acceptance can be consistent, but we have to get honest.  If we are okay to qualify our tolerance statements, then we remain consistent.  If we define tolerance as any view in agreement with the speaker's view, then we are, by definition, always consistent.  However, this is not the definition of the word tolerance, but this is the way it's used in the culture wars.  It makes it okay championing tolerance by being intolerant of people one thinks are intolerant.  The better option might be to get honest with our desires.  It would go a long way merely saying, "I don't agree with the Bible" but then not dictating those convictions upon those who do. 

Podcast: "Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out" (With Guest, Alvin Reid)


Listen in at Brett Ricley, Josiah "the intern" Walker, and Bryan Catherman chat with "Doc" Alvin Reid about his newest book Share Jesus Without Freaking Out.   

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True Grit?


I've been thinking a great deal about character.  Developing young, potential, pastors means finding ways to help men build competency, but it also means seeking opportunities for character development.  Both competency and character are not merely about doing things over and over again.  But it's not about doing something once putting it in the file and moving on.  Neither is it about accidental success, especially in the area of character.  And a head full of information doesn't automatically turn one into a skilled, successful pastor of outstanding character.  IQ, EQ, social intelligence, and grit--these things combine like baking goods to produce successful pastors.  But do we over-value IQ and undervalue grit?  Might this hurting our ability to develop good pastors in the field?  

What is it going to mean for pastoral development if we grow more aware of grit?  That is, sticking to it, being about deliberate practice, 100% focused.  What if we start providing more opportunities for failure, evaluation, and refocus for the purpose of learning and growing?  What might happen if we develop ways to help trainees, interns, and pastoral residence better understand his or her emotional quotient, social intelligence, and grit?  What are some ways to create ways to grow and learn in these other character areas?  Can this even be done in a 6-month program or an 18-month residency? 

At this point, I'm not sure about the answers to the questions I just proposed, but I believe they are vital to good, meaningful, pastoral development pathways. 

I've picked up books to start getting my head around some of these ideas.  For me, it started with a book called Brain Savvy Leaders by Charles Stone.  This book is more about how the brain works, but I share this because it opened my mind to the reality that we are so much more than the information we've learned and retained.  Another book in the stack is Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.  There's also Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. And if it's grit you're interested in, you really ought to watch Angela Duckworth's Ted Talk below and her longer Google interview about the topic.  


Maybe this post is a bit premature; but maybe, like some of the things I've seen recently, it will cause you to think more about the other aspects that shape our character.   

Sutherland Springs -- After the Cameras Left


We all watched as the news came rolling in.  As many pastors were finishing up their services, the nightmare at First Baptist Sutherland Springs, Texas was just beginning.  A gunman opened fire on a Christian church service, killing 26 and injuring 20 more.  

Mike Clements, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Floresville about 12 minutes down the road, got the call and raced over.  He was the pastoral first-responder.  But he was more than that.  These two churches worked together.  He had friends in the small town, most members of FBC Sutherland Springs.  

What do you do in such a situation?  What do you say? 

Pastor Mike shares the story and updates us on Sutherland Springs now that the cameras have left town and the country has moved on.  It's a powerful Salty Believer Unscripted episode and one you're going to want to hear. 

Listen in as we interviewed Pastor Mike Clements about the aftermath of the shooting at FBC Sutherland Springs. 

Sutherland Springs (After the Cameras Left)

What's Up With Word Studies?

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." 
    — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya.jpg

Word studies are a wonderful tool in biblical study.  Well, unless they are done poorly.  

Here's how NOT to do a word study:  Look up the meaning of an English word in a dictionary or a Greek or Hebrew word in a lexicon and assume the word simultaneously means everything you see.  Words (to include the original languages of the Bible) have a range of meaning).

Here's another way NOT to do a word study:  Look at the various ways translations have rendered a word and pick the one you like, calling it the best translation.  It's the best translation if it does the very best to convey the same meaning as the original word, as the author intended it at the time it was written.  But that's not always helpful to transmit meaning, so if you are not an expert in the original languages and the English, it's wise to listen to the council of competent scholars. 

If you're just starting out with word studies, it's not likely that you have an extensive library of extra-biblical texts using the words in the same century and area as the word you are studying.  But you do have a Bible.  Using your Bible, you will be able to get a study of most words that appear in the Bible (with the exception those that are a hapax legomena).  

It is best to try to get to the word behind the translated word.  That is, get to the Greek or Hebrew.  A good concordance helps.  Strong's Concordance uses key numbers so you can connect English words to the original language words by the key number.  This is the very best place to start learning how to do proper word studies.  Get familiar with your concordance.  Read the introductory matter and learn how to use this tool well.  

Let's do a word study using the Bible.  I've also brought in the Septuagint (also called the LXX) to show you how materials outside the Bible can help with a word study.  We could have also dug into lexicons and other extra-biblical material, but my purpose is to show you how you can use the Bible to help you interpret the Bible.  Therefore, I have not provided a lexical definition.  I'd rather you find the meaning from the word's other uses.  Let's give it a try. 

I've got just the word. . . . 

"Tongues" is a strange word in some circles of Christianity.   There are entire books and practices about "speaking in tongues."  It's an odd phrase in the English today.  We don't say it much unless we are referring to a wildly popular religious practice that some think is a unique or more holy way to pray to God.  It's a phrase we've imported from a more familiar phrase from thousands of years ago.  

But rather than allowing behaviors around us to shape what we think of this practice, let's look at what the Bible says.  

I realize this is a sensitive issue for many people.  It may be a sensitive issue for you.  All I am asking is that you look at the verses and see what the Bible has to say on this topic.  It's our authority on this matter.  If you come to a firm conviction one way or the other, please practice unity and love for your brothers and sisters with kindness and patience.   Also, please know that I have deep-rooted convictions on this matter because of what I see in the Bible.  

Here we go.  (I might be wise to ask God to speak to you and give you clarity from his word before you dig in.) 

The question at hand is, "How is the word 'tongue' or 'tongues' used in the Bible?"  Or maybe, "What is meant by 'speaking in tongues?'"  

1.  A search of every use of 'tongue' or 'tongues' in the ESV translation shows 136 appearances.  (141 in the NASB, 125 in the CSB, 96 in the HCSB, 165 in the KJV, 76 in the NLT, and 97 in the NET).  Roughly 70% of those occurrences are singular, 30% plural.   

2.  Drilling down a little further, we'll see that overwhelming majority of the Old Testament occurrences come from the Hebrew world LASHON (transliteration for our not Hebrew language readers) or a close derivative.  In the New Testament, the overwhelming word is GLOSSA (transliteration for our not Greek language readers) or a close derivative.  The derivatives are slight changes to indicate tense, person, or if it is plural or not, or other minor but informative changes like we do with words in English.  

3.  Depending on the translation, there is a small handful of other words that some Bible translations have translated as the word 'tongue.'  Other translations get a little more specific in the range of meaning and go with language or dialect or something like that.  For this study, I'm only going to focus on the two primary words--one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.  I assure you, the few other words will not change our understanding. 

4.  Looking at the Old Testament uses of the LASHON and its derivatives, there are 116 appearances of the Hebrew word LASHON.  (Gen 10:5, 20, 31; Ex 4:10; 11:7; Deut 28:49; Josh 7:21, 24; 10:21; 15:2, 5; 18:19; Judg 7:5; 2 Sam 23:2; Neh 13:24; Esth 1:22; 3:12; 8:9; Job 5:21; 6:30; 15:5; 20:12, 16; 27:4; 29:10; 33:2; 41:1; Psa 5:9; 10:7; 12:3–4; 15:3; 22:15; 31:20; 34:13; 35:28; 37:30; 39:1, 3; 45:1; 50:19; 51:14; 52:2, 4; 55:9; 57:4; 64:3, 8; 66:17; 68:23; 71:24; 73:9; 78:36; 109:2; 119:172; 120:2–3; 126:2; 137:6; 139:4; 140:3, 11; Prov 6:17, 24; 10:20, 31; 12:18–19; 15:2, 4; 16:1; 17:4, 20; 18:21; 21:6, 23; 25:15, 23; 26:28; 28:23; 31:26; Eccl 10:11; Song 4:11; Is 3:8; 5:24; 11:15; 28:11; 30:27; 32:4; 33:19; 35:6; 41:17; 45:23; 50:4; 54:17; 57:4; 59:3; 66:18; Jer 5:15; 9:3, 5, 8; 18:18; 23:31; Lam 4:4; Ezek 3:5–6, 26; Dan 1:4; Hos 7:16; Mic 6:12; Zeph 3:13; Zech 8:23; and 14:12.) 

5.  Based on context, the ESV translates this LASHON and its derivatives as follows: growl (1 time), language (12), languages (2), slander (1), speech (1), tongue (81), and tongues (11).  Sometimes tongue or tongues refers to the physical tongue muscle in the mouth. 

6.  Here are the 92 times the ESV translated LASHON as 'tongue' or 'tongues.'  I suggest you read those verses.  Based on these verses, what does the word seem to mean?  (Ex 4:10; Josh 10:21; Judg 7:5; 2 Sam 23:2; Job 5:21; 6:30; 15:5; 20:12, 16; 27:4; 29:10; 33:2; 41:1; Psa 5:9; 10:7; 12:3–4; 15:3; 22:15; 31:20; 34:13; 35:28; 37:30; 39:1, 3; 45:1; 50:19; 51:14; 52:2, 4; 55:9; 57:4; 64:3, 8; 66:17; 68:23; 71:24; 73:9; 78:36; 109:2; 119:172; 120:2–3; 126:2; 137:6; 139:4; 140:3; Prov 6:17, 24; 10:20, 31; 12:18–19; 15:2, 4; 16:1; 17:4, 20; 18:21; 21:6, 23; 25:15, 23; 26:28; 28:23; 31:26; Song 4:11; Is 11:15; 28:11; 30:27; 32:4; 33:19; 35:6; 41:17; 45:23; 50:4; 54:17; 57:4; 59:3; 66:18; Jer 9:3, 5, 8; 18:18; 23:31; Lam 4:4; Ezek 3:26; Hos 7:16; Mic 6:12; Zeph 3:13; Zech 8:23; and 14:12.) 

7. Following the same pattern for the New Testament, the Greek word, GLOSSA and its derivatives appear in the New Testament 47 times.  (Mark 7:33, 35; 16:17; Luke 1:64; 16:24; Acts 2:3–4, 11, 26; 10:46; 19:6; Rom 3:13; 14:11; 1 Cor 12:10, 28, 30; 13:1, 8; 14:2, 4–6, 9, 13–14, 18–19, 22–23, 26–27, 39; Phil 2:11; James 1:26; 3:5–6, 8; 1 Pet 3:10; 1 John 3:18; Rev 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 16:10; and 17:15.)  

8.  Based on the context, the ESV translates GLOSSA and its derivatives as follows: language (3 times), languages (4), talk (1), tongue (21), and tongues (21).  There are some occurrences when the word refers to the physical muscle in the mouth. 

9.   Here are the 42 times the ESV translated GLOSSA as tongue or tongues.  I suggest you read those verses.  Based on those verses, what does the word seem to mean?  (Mark 7:33, 35; 16:17; Luke 1:64; 16:24; Acts 2:3–4, 11, 26; 10:46; 19:6; Rom 3:13; 14:11; 1 Cor 12:10, 28, 30; 13:1, 8; 14:2, 4–6, 9, 13–14, 18–19, 22–23, 26–27, 39; Phil 2:11; James 1:26; 3:5–6, 8; 1 Pet 3:10; and Rev 16:10.) 

Here's where we're about to bring the Hebrew and Greek Languages together with the Septuagint.  

The Septuagint (identified by LXX) is the first translation of the Hebrew language into Greek.  The translation was completed in 132 BC.  Some of the New Testament writers quoted the LXX rather than the Hebrew Bible when they quoted the Old Testament.  While it's not perfect because it's a translation, it's an extremely helpful tool to understand how the speakers of Jesus day understood the Hebrew and the Greek.  

10.  The translators of the LXX used the word GLOSSA 112 times translating the 39 books of the Old Testament.  Here are all the places GLOSSA was used in translation: (Gen 10:5, 20, 31; 11:7; Ex 11:7; Josh 7:21; 10:21; Judg 7:5–6; 2 Sam 23:2; Psa 5:9; 10:7; 12:3–4; 14:3; 15:3; 16:9; 22:15; 31:20; 34:13; 35:28; 37:30; 39:1, 3; 45:1; 50:19; 51:14; 52:2, 4; 55:9; 57:4; 64:3, 8; 66:17; 68:23; 71:24; 73:9; 78:36; 81:5; 109:2; 119:172; 120:2–3; 126:2; 137:6; 139:4; 140:3; Prov 3:16; 6:17, 24; 10:20, 31; 12:18–19; 15:2, 4; 17:4, 20; 18:21; 21:6, 23; 24:22; 25:15, 23; 26:28; 27:20; 31:25; Song 4:11; Job 5:21; 6:30; 20:12, 16; 29:10; 33:2; Hos 7:16; Mic 6:12; Zeph 3:9, 13; Zech 8:23; 14:12; Is 3:8; 19:18; 28:11; 29:24; 32:4; 35:6; 41:17; 45:23; 50:4; 57:4; 59:3; 66:18; Jer 5:15; 9:3, 5, 8; 18:18; 23:31; Lam 4:4; Ezek 3:6, 26; 36:3; Dan 3:2, 4, 7, 29; 4:21, 37; 6:25; and 7:6.) 

11.  There are 90 times when the translators saw the Hebrew word LASHON and translated it as GLOSSA.  You can see those occurrences here:  (Gen 10:5, 20, 31; Ex 11:7; Josh 7:21, 10:21; Judg 7:5; 2 Sam 23:2;  Job 5:21; 6:30; 20:12, 16; 29:10; 33:2; 41:1; Psa 5:9; 10:7; 12:3–4; 22:15; 31:20; 34:13; 35:28; 37:30; 39:1, 3; 45:1; 50:19; 51:14; 52:2, 4; 55:9; 57:4; 64:3, 8; 66:17; 68:23; 71:24; 73:9; 78:36; 109:2; 119:172; 120:2–3; 126:2; 137:6; 139:4; 140:3; Prov 6:17, 24; 10:20, 31; 12:18–19; 15:2, 4; 17:4, 20; 18:21; 21:6, 23; 25:15, 23; 26:28; 31:26; Song 4:11; Is 3:8; 28:11; 32:4; 35:6; 41:17; 45:23; 50:4; 57:4; 59:3; 66:18; Jer 5:15; 9:3, 5, 8; 18:18; 23:31; Lam 4:4; Ezek 3:6, 26; Hos 7:16; Mic 6:12; Zeph 3:13; Zech 8:23; and 14:12.) 

Why is this kind of word study important?  

When Paul uses the term GLOSSA in 1 Corinthians  (and when Luke uses it in Acts 2), we need to understand how he understood the meaning of the word and how the people he wrote to heard the word.  If not, we import meaning that's not there and that could lead to an application that was never intended.  Understanding what how the Bible uses the terms rather than looking to the experiences of people around us should help better inform our understanding of biblical truth. 

I hope this study has helped you.  Study on!

Short-Term Mission Trips (Part 3)


Evaluating Success
By Scott Catoe (Guest Author) 

     [This is part 3 of a 3-part series.  You can find Part 1 here.] 

The trip is over. You are driving or flying home and your thoughts of the week are only being interrupted by the raucous snores of the team that just spent its week doing some crazy, radical, servant-based things that you hope will leave an impact.  In the midst of the interrupted silences, yawns, and the longing to get home and get a shower and sleep in your own bed, you questions if you did well.  How do you know?  How do you evaluate your trip? Five questions come to mind that may be helpful for you as you are thinking about whether or not you succeeded?

1.    Do I understand and know how to encourage the missionary or church planter more because I spent time in his or her context? Do you know more about the context and the missionary planter? Can I communicate with the people in my context how vital supporting those people are? Can the members of our team communicate how critical their work was? These things are more helpful than you realize, primarily for their ability to help answer the second question.

2.    Have I opened the door for a long-term relationship with this missionary or church planter? If your group leaves talking about "next year," that's a good thing.  If the missionary starts talking about "next year" with you, that's an even better thing. Long-term relationships matter.

3.    Has God been honored and glorified through our work together? This answer is often harder to objectify, but is extremely important, especially when you are on mission in hard places. God honors faithfulness. Has your team been faithful. God honors labor. Have you labored well. Above all, God answers prayer. Did your group pray? Did they pray a bunch? Was the week marked by humble prayer as you asked God to move in this context to reclaim worshippers for His glory? A "yes" to any of these is a sign that God has been honored.

4.    Is there a clear strategy for continuous follow-up with the missionary or church planter? This one goes along with the part of a successful mission trip where you, the team coming in, work to build a year-long relationship with that church planter or missionary in that context. Do you have a plan to follow-up with them? Please, friends, don't just call the missionary when it's time for next year's mission trip. For many in the field, doing that makes them feel, well, used. Send them cards during the year, or email or text messages that you are praying for them. Let them know that part of your calling to come alongside workers in other contexts is to care for them personally. In short, let the missionary or church planter know that you are there to serve them, not just to have their mission field serve you.

5.    Have my team members been challenged to grow in their understanding of the Gospel, of the mission of God, and of the critical role of the local church? Can you see evidence of grace and growth in your team? Are they more dependent on the Holy Spirit than they were before you went? Can they see and communicate what is both similar and different about being a child of the King in a different context? Do they love the Gospel more? If so, then that's a win.

There you have it. I have a love/hate relationship with short-term mission trips. And I bet most missionaries and church planters do as well. I hope these blogs have helped shed some light on how to do it in a way that is a little more efficient. My final charge to you is this:

Let it be more than a neat vacation for you. Don't just pick the exotic, attractive places. Go to some hard places, places that people need encouragement, help, and support. Pour everything you have into that week. And then trust Christ for the results.

Scott Catoe is a friend of and he's a regular guest on Salty Believer Unscripted.  Scott pastors Slater Baptist Church.

Short-Term Mission Trips (Part 2)


By Scott Catoe (Guest Author)

     [If you have not done so, find and read Part 1 of this series here.

If we understand the "why" of a short-term trip, and then we understand the "how" of how to prepare, let's move to a "what."

What does a short-term mission trip look like?

If we can't identify what a well-done trip should look like, then we have set ourselves and our teams up to fail. We need to be able to identify what we are aiming for, and then be able to evaluate whether or not we have hit that mark. To that end, two separate lists can be helpful here. First, let's identify what short-term missions done well looks like. 

Short-term missions done well:

1.    Plan way in advance.  If you haven't read the blog prior to this one, I would encourage you to go back and read it. Planning ahead is key, so that there is a definite, concrete team, purpose, plan and goal. Ironically, planning well and planning ahead will better prepare you for the inevitable changes that will happen when the week actually starts. Plan way ahead!
2.    Encourage the missionary. This one is critical. A healthy, effective, powerful short-term mission trip has as at least one of its primary goal the encouragement of the missionary planter that you are connected to. This assumes 1. You are connected to a local church 2. You know the missionary planter, his family and their needs 3. You are coming to the context to make a long-term impact. I can't say this enough: the single best use of a short-term trip is to come alongside, serve, encourage and edify the missionary planters who will be there long after you have gone home. Good mission trips have as a primary goal the encouragement of the local missionary.

3.    Serve the local church.  The local church in that context is the greatest hope for the deepest impact in a mission field. Your short-term mission trip energy ought to be focused on serving the missionary planters in those areas. Focus your time, energy and attention to things that serve that local body of believers.

4.    Promote the Gospel, not your church.  This is a painful one, and I want to be careful and gracious here. The goal of your short-term mission trip is the propagation of the Gospel. It's the advancement of the Kingdom in an area that is usually difficult for a variety of reasons. It's the edification of what is normally a small, struggling group of believers that is lacking resources, encouragement, and sometimes people. The very last thing they need is for your church, who sometimes has an abundance of these things to share, spending your time celebrating your local body, or your vision, or your greatness. There are some things not to do here, but here is the ultimate question: when people see you in that context, how much do they see and hear you proclaiming your own greatness? Focus on and promote the Gospel. Encourage and edify the Christians in that context.

5.    Leave opportunities for follow-up.  Finally, a mission trip done well is constantly looking for opportunities for the Christians who live in that context to follow-up with the people they are reaching. Can Christians there connect with the non-Christians you are connecting to? Again, the focus is the advancement of the Gospel. Help that missionary planter and that local church to do that work.

There are some contrasts to this, and it's worth exploring these as well. What does a short-term mission trip done poorly look like? They are, in many ways, a contrast to the prior list, but they are worth exploring as well.

Short-term missions done poorly:

1.    Wears out the missionary or church planter.  This is a tough one because I think so many teams do this very unintentionally. The first year I was here in my context as a pastor, we had a mission team 6 out of 8 weeks in the summer. Many of those teams (but not all) had the expectations that I would be available to them (which often meant present with them) at any time of day. If you are only hosting one group for the whole summer, this may sound reasonable. But when you spend 6 weeks hosting groups, your family (and your church, for that matter) starts to miss you. There is another way, friends. Consider how you can spend your week in ways that the missionary or church planter has more energy, or at least more encouragement than he had when you came. There are great ways to do this, that aren't super hard: watch their kids while they have a date night away, cut their grass, help with projects around their home they haven't had time to do. All these things and more can help put gas in their tanks.

2.    Come in with preconceived, rigid ideas.  Another tough one. Many groups have things they do really well. Maybe your church rocks at Backyard Bible clubs. Maybe you are excellent at Block Parties, or sports camps, or building projects. Here is the thing: just because you are excellent at those things, it doesn't follow that the project you have in mind will work in the context you are headed. If the missionary seems hesitant about it, ask questions. It may be that he knows what you want to do won't work well, but he is afraid to express that to you. There is a ton of pressure to keep mission teams satisfied and a lot of fear that goes along with offending them. But at the same time, if something won't work, it just won't work. Be sure that what you can do will work well in the context you are headed. If not, there are two possible solutions: either learn to do something else or consider that God may want you to go somewhere else.

3.    Use the missionary and the field to promote the mission team.  Okay, so maybe all of these are tough. Does your group spend its week on a short-term mission trip promoting itself? There are some ways this presents itself. Do you wear T-Shirts every day with your church's name and logo on it? Do you print promotional literature for your missionary outreach opportunities that have your church's information on it?  A "yes" to these questions might be a problem.  On the other hand, do you actively include members and people from the indigenous church? Do you strive to learn, act, and think like the people who live there? A "no" to these questions is a red flag.

4.    Focuses on things that aren't reproducible or open to follow-up.  Finally, does your mission team do really great, awesome, huge things when you are there? Do you promote and implement huge events? Do you do as much as you can to make things as big as you can? If so, you may be missing out on a key idea here. Focusing on events and activities that the local church in that context can reproduce are far more valuable, and far more effective in many ways, than the bigger, more fun, flashier things. It isn't nearly so much fun sometimes to do things that aren't particularly flashy, but it is often far more effective.

Next week, we will evaluate how to evaluate our short-term mission trips. How do you know you did a good job? 

Strive for excellent, friends.

Scott Catoe is a friend of and he's a regular guest on Salty Believer Unscripted.  Scott pastors Slater Baptist Church.

Short-term Mission Trips (Part 1)


By Scott Catoe (guest author)

As the holidays pass by, the new year starts to get into full swing and the calendar moves from a state of flux to something resembling a solid (sort of like Jell-O in a refrigerator).  There is an inevitable planning process for those events on the calendar that most pastors begin, or at least think about beginning this time of year. Whether senior pastor, associate pastor, missions pastor, or youth pastor, one thing looms on the schedule, one thing guarantees to consume more time than it should, one ministry event promises to consume the energy of all parties involved at a level never even dreamed of before:

The mission trip.

I have the distinct opportunity to be on both sides of this planning. At Slater, we receive anywhere between 3 to 8 mission teams each year, mostly in the summer. We also plan a short-term trip each year, sending a team out to Salt Lake City, Utah. As such, I thought it might be helpful to write a short blog series on short-term missions. Being on both sides has created some pretty strong feelings in my world on the idea of short-term missions, and it may be helpful to explore some concepts and ideas around the planning, implementation, and execution of these trips.

A good place to start is how to prepare a team for short-term missions. This is assuming a few things that we may explore later; namely, that you have right motivations for taking a team somewhere on a short-term trip (HINT: it's not primarily so you can take your church to see things they wouldn't have seen before, or so that you can promote your congregation as "missions-minded").  If the motivation is in the right place, then what are the essentials for planning and preparing for the week? Four things stand out, but there are certainly more than four out there.

1.  Pick the right people.  

This is an easier mistake to make than many think.  Often, we confuse excitement over going on a short-term mission trip with qualification to go on a short-term trip. There are some helpful questions worth asking to get the right people on the team.

Is this person, as far as you can tell, a professing Christian? Sounds like a softball, right? But it isn't. There is a pretty popular view that one of the great ways to evangelize the lost that are somehow connected to one's church is by putting them on a bus or plane or van and sending them to, well, evangelize the lost. Though I do understanding the intention of people who think this way, this is really a case of the blind leading the blind. Christians go on missions. Lost people ARE the mission. The Bible doesn't really show any other pattern.

Is this person interested for the right reasons? What's the motivation for going? It is a certainty that sometimes people will tell you what you want to hear, but that's not really on you. Failing to ask, however, is. Ask people why they want to go.

Finally, can this person communicate the Gospel? Anyone on a team should be able to communicate the Gospel. This one is so often neglected, however, that most guys I know begin the week with a mission team by explaining the Gospel to the team, and then asking them to communicate it. Sending person, it is not the missionary's responsibility to train a team that they may never see again to share the Gospel with people. God has given them you. Take advantage of the mission trip training to train your people on how to share the Gospel. Any missionary is happy to help you in this. But few want to be responsible for it.

2. Prepare them for the context.

Okay, so you have the right people in the van now.  What else should we be doing to get ready? Prepare them for the context they are about to enter. Most likely, it is very different, or at least a little different, then they are used to. And while nothing prepares someone quite like having their boots on the ground, you can do some work to help your folks get ready.

Take a vision trip.  Part of this is you, the leader, going there yourself and having some familiarity with what your team will be facing and doing. What is the same? What is different? What should we expect? Get to know the missionary or church planter you are working with.  How is his personality going to mesh with mine for the week?  You can get some good answers to these questions by going and spending a day, a weekend, or a week there yourself. If this isn't financially possible for your church, at least have some good phone or Skype conversations with the missionary or church planter to ask these questions. 

See if there are books.  In our context, there are three or four good books that I like to recommend for people to read to prepare themselves for our work. Most groups never ask me for this. There are helpful things to read for almost every context. Ask the missionary or church planter what he recommends

Communicate with the missionary or church planter.  Consider a question and answer session via Skype, or a season of prayer between the planter/missionary and the short-term team. Doing so will help the missionary/planter communicate his passion for his context in a way that is contagious.

3. Pray for God's guidance.  

Sure, this seems like an obvious one, but it is vital that we beg God to work, so that our work is made fruitful. A consistent and healthy admittance of the team's dependence on God is necessary for an effective short-term trip that has the potential to have a Gospel impact. What do you pray for? There are a lot of great things to pray for, but here are the big three: humility, power, and unity. 

Humility.  Pray for the team to be humbled at the work, by the work, before the work, and through the work. Pray for Christ to be exalted, not your team or your church, or even the missionary planter.

Power.  Pray boldly for fruitfulness to do the work with joy. Pray for opportunities to serve the people there, for the strength to push through a challenging week with energy, strength, and grace.

Unity.  Pray for God to knit the hearts of the short-term team and the local church they are serving on the trip. Pray for a Gospel-focus for the members of the team. Pray for peace to abound during the time you are serving together.

4. Practice the work you intend to do.  

Finally, practice! Whatever work you intend to do on the field, be sure that, when you do it, you are not doing it for the first time when you get there. If you are leading backyard Bible clubs, use your own community as a lab for practicing conducting them with efficiency. If you are going door to door, find a place close to home where you can practice something similar. Either way, you will find the week far more fruitful if you have come in ahead of time already comfortable with the way to execute the work. There will be plenty to be uncomfortable about in a new context; knowing how to do the work will be one less thing to worry over

OK, you've done all that, and you are prepared! What does a short-term mission trip done well look like when you are there? That will be the subject of next week's post. Until then, plan ahead, and plan well!

Scott Catoe is a friend of and he's a regular guest on Salty Believer Unscripted.  Scott pastors Slater Baptist Church.

The Painful Side of Leadership by Jeff Iorg

Iorg, Jeff.  The Painful Side of Leadership: Moving Forward Even When It Hurts.  B&H Publishing: Nashville, Tenn, 2009.  978-0-8054-4870-2

At just under 300 pages, Jeff Irog's, The Painful Side of Leadership: Moving Forward Even When It Hurts is more than a read-once and be done book.  It's a comfort for leaders in the thick of it.  It's a handbook for leaders heading into it.  And it serves as a reference tool to come back to when difficult situations surface.  

I wasn't much of a ministry leader the first time a read The Painful Side of Leadership.  Sure, I was serving in the church and leading a small group, but I wasn't leading in the lion's den, where a senior pastor often finds himself.  I was in seminary and required to read the book.  I zipped through it, and that was that.  But add a few years and a great deal more ministerial responsibility, and I was ready to pick the book up once again.  

Dr. Iorg, the President of Gateway Seminary, was lecturing in one of my doctoral seminars and, in Jeff Iorg fashion, shared a biblical account of a leadership problem followed by a story from his own experience.   At one point he mentioned that he wrote about it in his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, but said something like, "But this part was too painful at the time, so I didn't include it."  He was so honest and raw with the situation that I knew I needed to go back to the book.  If Jeff Irog, a leader I greatly respect, felt the barbs in leadership, he probably could help me navigate the barbs too.  

Returning to the book, I realized that it's not just about ministry leadership.  The principles apply to any leadership, and the seat of leadership comes with a painful side.  It was right of my time as a Staff Seargent in the Army as much as it's true of my time as a lead pastor now.   I also realized that having experienced some of the pain in the book, that I could relate to Iorg's struggles, especially from his church planting experiences.  I also felt a sense of comfort that my experiences were not isolated to me and that I could learn a great deal from a guy who, it would seem, had navigated a relatively heavy amount of pain in his leadership role.  And Iorg has walked with enough other pastors to have many additional examples from across the country.  

I don't have anything negative to say about this book.  I do think if Iorg were going to release another addition, a companion guide for the team around the leader could be helpful.  For those not in areas around the leader, the perspective can be lacking.  A companion guide could help them better understand what their leader is going through and ways they can help the leader navigate the waters. 

If you're reading this and you're a leader, heading into leadership, or walking alongside your leader, I highly recommend reading Jeff Iorg's The Painful Side of Leadership.  Find it on Amazon here, or wherever books are sold. 

Are Mormons Anti-Presbyterian?


I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a., Mormonism or LDS).  Not only do I live in Salt Lake, but I'm also the pastor of an evangelical church in Salt Lake.  As a pastor, I teach people what the Bible says and sometimes that comes in conflict with what the predominant faith group of Utah believes. When this happens, I'm often called "anti-Mormon" by those who hold to LDS theology.
In our day, using the word "anti" is loaded.  It might be a way of saying what one hates, but it's also used to create a victim identity.  Just the mere act of drawing a contrast had elicited a victim response, and perceived victims press the hot-iron brand to my flesh.  "Anti-Mormon," I'm called.  

I don't agree with or believe the LDS doctrine, but "anti" used this way blasts me as unfair or mean.  I find this response one-sided and ill-informed given the example I see in Joseph Smith. 

Smith recorded an encounter he had with his Presbyterian mother.  Based on a revelation he believed he had from God, he called his mother's faith a lie.  "I then said to my mother," wrote Smith, "I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true" (1).  Smith's statement was not that much different than my comments.  He based his ideas on what he believed was a revelation from God (his personal vision).  I base my thoughts on what I hold is a revelation of God (the Bible).  

By the standards I'm judged by some Mormons, Joseph Smith was anti-Presbyterian.  And based on previous verses in his recorded history, he was likely ant-Baptist and anti-Methodists too.  

But I'm going to argue for Joseph Smith for a moment.  (Trust me, this rarely happens.)  Smith apparently was a man of deep conviction.  He believed he heard God's Word (in the vision) and acted on his beliefs by pointing out what he thought was wrong about Presbyterianism and his mother's faith.  It was important enough to him that he shared his convictions with others (by putting it into print and starting a new religion).  I can that he didn't keep convictions of this caliber to himself, and I would expect nothing less of biblical Christians today, including Presbyterians, Baptist, and Methodists.  

If an LDS missionary encounters a Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist today, he or she doesn't hesitate to suggest that there's something wrong with these beliefs and that the LDS faith is superior.  The missionary might not say there is something wrong with a person's faith, but suggesting a Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist should become a Mormon gets the job done.  When the LDS missionary encourages that the person converts to the Mormon faith, he or she is drawing contrasts based on conviction (just as I am doing). This act should be seen as anti-Presbyterian, anti-Baptist, or anti-Methodists by the standards I face in Salt Lake City when I suggest the same to members of the LDS faith. 

If what I am doing--as a life-long missionary of the Christian faith--is showing the problems with the Mormon faith and that a Mormon should follow the biblical Jesus, I am not much different than an LDS missionary.  And if my convictions are shaped by the Bible, which I completely believe is a revelation of God, then I'm not much different than Joseph Smith.  If these similarities are true, then either I am not acting in a way that Mormons should brand as "anti" or we should fairly brand Joseph Smith, LDS missionaries, and the entire LDS faith as anti-Presbyterian, anti-Baptist, and anti-Methodists.  Or, maybe, we might want to relax with the victimization and be okay to discuss the similarities and differences of what we believe to seek God's Truth.  Yes, I vote for that.   

1.  Joseph Smith -- History: Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. Published by the Church of Jesus Christ Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1981, v. 20.


Theological Stall Out? (Or what was going to be a review of the "Calvinist" film)


I stared at the blank screen for nearly an hour before typing the first letter of this post.  Passing before my mind's eye were the faces of well-known apologists who have seen something in a review or statement of another Christian and then made that other Christian the target of thousands of typed words and hundreds of hours of videos of critical blasting war.  This is not true of all apologists, but it is the case for some.  And not that I think any well-known apologists might give any attention, but maybe the mention of the film I was hoping to review would trigger some alert.  

Sometimes I wonder these apologists have droids searching out the internet like the floating robots the Empire sent to the Ice Planet Hoth.  Unfortunately, I don't think I'm as skilled as Han Solo and Chewbacca to take out the probs.  

Therefore, I will not be writing a review of Les Lanphere's film, "Calvinist."  There is much I could say, both positive and negative, but it's just not going to happen.  

As I thought about the situation before me, I conducted an internet search of some of the keywords, the name of the film, and names of the participants.  What I discovered was both shocking and sad.   I found brilliant men (not necessarily in the film or associated with it) who have dedicated hundreds of hours to making YouTube videos, podcasts, and written posts arguing with each other about soteriology.  Is that all we have time for these days?  Is there nothing more important?  Have we reached theological stall out? 

But please don't hear that I think soteriology is unimportant.  And please don't believe that I am suggesting that less time should be spent getting doctrine right.   It goes much deeper than that. 

What I found was a lot of theological energy spent contending for 450-year-old ideas and the men who developed those ideas.  I can't imagine that the intelligent, academically-driven Reformers would have wanted us arguing for or against them still to this day.  Instead of taking up the charge of exploring the depths of God's Scripture to understand better, we've taken up the banner of one theology or another, from one dude or another . . . for 400 years. 

I watched some videos (or part of videos).  Brilliant men used Scripture to argue for or against a position and then against other brilliant men.  They all raised interesting points with Scripture.  It was thought-provoking.  But the objective was to defend a position.  They might say they are trying to get the Bible right, but it was so clear they were coming at it from the presuppositions of their old heroes and social camps.   I started asking, "What kind of theological work and a scholarship might we have if these men spent less time going to blows against other Christians?"  

It seems as if the study and work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius and many others is considered terminal work.  This can't be so.  They'd have never wanted such a thing.  But that's exactly how we behave and think.  We assume these imperfect men got it down on paper perfectly.  And we act as if they reached the completion and totality of God's ways and thoughts on the matter.  Is God so simple that such a thing could happen in one lifetime?  I don't think so.  So why do we assume this of Calvin, Luther, Arminius and others? 

If others have stood on the shoulders of the Giants of the Reformation, their work must be shelved in the annals of academia.  With the wide variety of Scripture on the condition of the heart--hardening or not, flesh or stone, wicked and deceitful and so on, might there be deep and hard things to consider here beyond what Calvin concluded?  Might the atonement of Scripture be more multifaceted than the theological ideas so many have merely settled into?  And what of God's call?  The human condition?  Scripture speaks so much on these things.  There's still room for thought and work on these topics.  I do remember some academic work and debate on justification at the Evangelical Theological Society, but is that where it ended?  Did that discussion not make it to the pastor or podcaster, the apologists or even the man in the pew?   

I am not contending that we try to add to or morph doctrine into something different than the Bible speaks.  I am, however, asserting, that we continue onward as the people of Berea recorded in Acts 17.  Even with the Apostle Paul as their teacher, they turned to the Scriptures to see if his teaching was so.  Let's stand on the shoulders of giants and look further than they could imagine.  And let us not make man the authority of our doctrines, but God.  Let's continue to plumb the depths of God's Word.  We need not give Calvin or Luther or Arminius the final word.  We must not stall out theologically.  For that would be a tragedy. 

Discipleship Uncomplicated by Warren Haynes


Haynes, Warren.  Discipleship Uncomplicated (Franklin, Tenn: Carpenter's Son Publishing, 2016).  ISBN: 978-1-942587-51-4

Before I begin my review of Discipleship Uncomplicated, I must share my biases.  Afterward, you may prefer to call this review more of a recommendation.  That would be fair.  

Dr. Warren Haynes was on my doctoral committee.  I pre-ordered his book, Discipleship Uncomplicated when I read Haynes' name on the committee assignment sheet.  I wanted to read some (or all) of the written work of my committee to gain a better understanding of the men of my committee.  I believe Haynes was assigned to my committee because my initial project and focus of research were pointing toward training up indigenous pastors and leaders.  Haynes is the national director of the contextualized leadership development training (now called Advance) through Gateway Seminary, so that was a logical fit.  However, early on in the research, I determined it best to move my attention to a step much, much earlier in the process of developing local leaders. 

As I started the literature review on discipleship and simplicity, Haynes seemed an even better fit, and his book was an obvious inclusion to my review.  After reading the book, I used material from Haynes' work in my DMin project and, I gave his book to participants in my study as an accessible resource for discipleship.  Therefore, you should probably see my bias for this book and its author.  That being said, I have waited until after graduation to share my review.  Now, on to the book review! 

The opening line of Haynes' introduction reads, "I promise to share with you in understandable terms what you have to do to make disciples" (ix).  He continues, stating that the material shared in his book can, "seamlessly integrate disciple making into everyday life" (ix).  I've read (or skimmed) at least a hundred books on discipleship, evangelism, the two rightly combined as the Bible demonstrates, or some extra-biblical combination of the two.  Not one of them offered such a clear statement of purpose like Haynes.  Did Haynes over-promise his thesis?  I was concerned when I read the first paragraph.  However, after reading the book and returning to his opening statement, I believe he achieved his goal and kept his promise.  Also, having spent some time with Warren Haynes, I also believe he indeed practices what he wrote in his book.   

Discipleship Uncomplicated, by Warren Haynes, is a simple book.  It would be misleading if it weren't.   The entire book is less than 140 pages, including the front matter, appendices, and info about the author.  Eight principles of discipleship are covered in 96 pages.  Another 30 pages serve as a guide or workbook that includes individual, group, and leader assignments and a guide to get started. 

Rather than offering a chapter on the biblical mandate, importance, and relevance of discipleship as may books on the topic do, Haynes offers biblical direction throughout each chapter.  The advantage to this approach is the ease of incorporation to a class or small group.  Also, each chapter provides not only the argument on each principle, but tips, a memorable summary, and a challenge to the reader. 

The uncomplicated discipleship principles, which are also the chapter titles, are: 

1. Love God, Love People (The Heartbeat of Disciple Making)
2. What's Your Name (Making Discipleship Personal) 
3. Let's Pray (Bring Spiritual Power to Your Relationships)
4. This is for You (Create Relational Breakthroughs) 
5. Let Me Share a Story; Tell Me Your Story (Share Stories to Build Connections) 
6. With Me (How to Move People Spiritually) 
7. Gather People (Gather People to Influence People) 
8. Multiply Leaders (Empower Rapid Advance) 

The reader will not find any new, revolutionary ideas and methods in Discipleship Uncomplicated.  If that were Haynes' goal, the book would be called Complicated Untested Discipleship.  Instead, Haynes has sifted through the mountain of complex ideas and pulled out the simple, useful principles every Christian can do in faithful obedience to the Great Commission.  

The strengths of Discipleship Uncomplicated are many.  It's a simple book any pastor, Bible study leader, or faithful Christian can hand to anyone else in the Church to get them started in the disciple-making process.  Because the book is short and simple, the learning process is simple, and the reader can take the lessons of this book and apply them immediately.  The tips and summaries keep the already-uncomplicated material grounded in reality.  As each chapter looks to biblical principle, the Bible remains in view of every principle.  And finally, because the goal is simplicity, Haynes took good, but more complex material, and simplified it.  For example, Hayne's discussion on social spaces comes from a more extensive conversation among many books on the same topic.  Few people have the time to read multiple books, so Haynes took the most applicable material and put it in easy to hear and do terms. 

A weakness of Discipleship Uncomplicated is a natural by-product of its strength.  In keeping things short and simple, little attention is given to the cultural and contextual nuances of discipleship that may come up for the reader.   This is not to say that the book should include every possibility, but, for example, the few pages on spacial dynamics were only enough to explain the general concept yet not enough to give the undergirding and differences across cultures or contexts.  The additional material would not complicate discipleship; however, providing too much content begins to subtract from the ease of use this book offers.  

Discipleship Uncomplicated is great for jumpstarting a dead or limping along discipleship effort.  It is formatted to work well with small groups or even a church-wide discipleship program.  It's cost effective and won't eat up too much time to read.  For these reasons, I highly recommend Discipleship Uncomplicated for individuals who want to obey the Great Commission.  I also encourage pastors and small group leaders to give this book your consideration as a resource for equipping those you pastor, teach or lead.  

You can find Discipleship Uncomplicated on Amazon by following this link. 

A Pastor Is. . .


Toward the end of 2017, we aired a podcast series called, "A Pastor Is. . ."  The idea was to chat with pastors about what informs their thinking and pastorate.  It was a diverse group, although probably not as different as it could have been.  It should only take you a second to notice that we did not get the perspective of pastors in other countries.  Neither did we interview a female. And we didn't cover the range of theological differences.  But before you go crazy, understand that we were asking our friends and contacts to join us for this series.  If we were trying to get a more comprehensive range, we probably could have.  Maybe we should have.  In any case, we still found it informative to have the voices we did.  And we has some great guests! 

If you're a pastor, thinking about entering the ministry, or you want a better lens to understand your pastor through, this series might be helpful.  And if nothing else, it's a fascinating series.  Notice the many differences, even among our less-than-diverse group of pastor guests.  

We also tried sharing episodes on YouTube.  It was a worthy attempt, but it would seem the traffic didn't warrant the extra work.  We may try again in the future, but for now, we'll stick to the typical MP3 audio and normal podcast channels.  

A Pastor Is. . . 
-- Part 1: Introduction audio / YouTube
-- Part 2: Peyton Jones audio / YouTube
-- Part 3: Jared Jenkins audio / YouTube
-- Part 4. Michael Cooper on planters as pastor audio / YouTube
-- Part 5: Michael Cooper on finding pastors audio / YouTube
-- Part 6: Dale Noe audio / YouTube
-- Part 7: Douglas Wilson audio / YouTube
-- Part 8: Ben Fust audio / YouTube
-- Part 9: Conclusion audio / Youtube

Tools for Doing Theology


I always find it interesting to watch Christian engage in the study of God (theology) without using theological tools. That's right, the school of theology requires tools just as every other school of thought and area of study has its methodology and tools. 
When we start learning scientific things, be it physics or biology, we learn the tools of the study of science. The scientific method, observation, control groups, and the difference between a hypothesis, theory, and law. We would be silly to try to use the methods of science without learning how to use those methods.

However, the methods and tools of one school of thought are typically not the best tools the other schools of thought. The tools of science are not the best tools in the school of language arts. Law and medicine are not the same and use different methodology by which they examine the world.   The school of philosophy uses different tools too. And the same is true of theology (the study of God).

As a person starts to do more digging into the Bible and theological thinking, it's helpful to start with some of the most basic tools of theology.  If not, the results might end up in poor, ill-informed places.  Also, don’t be fooled into thinking theology doesn’t have its tools. It does. Lots of them.  And theological thinking has many subsets and related tools. It also has tones and standards for communication and practice.

An introduction to the art and science of theology and theological thinking tends to start with a presentation of the basic tools.  Levels of theology (folk to academic), exegetical methods, hermeneutics, apologetics, historical approaches, the biblical approach, a systematic approach, understanding tension, and on and on.  

The Circles of Importance and the Level of Certainty are two entry-level theological tools. Understanding these tools could save lots of hurt feelings, arguing in extremes, and maybe even keeping your church from splitting.   When we do theology in community (which is another tool), we need to know how to communicate with one another well.  These two devices serve to assist with our communication as well as our thinking on doctrines, concepts, ideas, and opinions. 

I made this videos for this website a few years ago. The material hasn't changed, just the color and style of my beard.  I hope you find them helpful. 

"Circles of Importance"

"Level of Certainty"