Why Golden Gate?


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

Now you can hear from other doctoral candidates too.

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

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

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

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

Listen to the conversation here.

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The Book of Isaiah


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

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

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

You can find many more podcasts, book recommendations, and other resources under the resources menu on this website. 

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

GGBTS Cohort on Evangelism

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

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

You can listen to the podcast here.

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

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Some Great Wisdom on Church Planting

How did the church you attend (that is, if you attend church) get started? Who did the hard work to get it going?  Who was there in the early season of your local congregation?

Getting a local congregation going is often called church planting.  It sounds strange, but as Dave Nelson points out, "every church that exists had to start at some point."

Church planting is hard work.  I can speak with some limited experience; however, as a guy trying to plant a church, I would love the opportunity to sit down at a coffee shop with a handful of guys who've done it and chat.  Then I realized I have a podcast called Salty Believer Unscripted.  So, I reached out to some guys and set it up.

I suspect guys trying to plant churches might be interested in hearing from those who've paved the way before them; but even missionally minded congregants could benefit.  Advancing the gospel in America is hard work.  Maybe God is calling you to join the effort to plant a church but you really have no idea what that means.  Maybe you're a church planter looking for some wisdom from others.  Or maybe you've never even hear the term church planting.  If any of these are the case, check out what these planters have to say.

Church Planting
-- What is Church Planting? audio
-- An Interview with Dr. Rich Johnstone audio
-- An Interview with Stephen Bruker audio
-- An Interview with Mike Littleton audio
-- An Interview with Kyle Costello audio
-- An Interview with Dave Nelson audio
-- An Interview with Bryan Catherman audio
-- An Interview with Dr. J.D. Payne audio
-- Another Interview with Dr. J.D. Payne audio
-- An Interview with Dr. Jeff Iorg audio
-- Another Interview with Dr. Jeff Iorg audio
-- An Interview with Danny Braga audio

And if you feel like you could help out a church plant in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me.  You can help us at Redeeming Life Church or I'll be happy to find a plant for you to serve along side.

A Look at End Times, AKA: "An Overview of Eschatology"

A part of the ministry of SaltyBeliever.com is a podcast called Salty Believer Unscripted.  You can find our podcasts on our Resources Page or subscribe to it on iTunes.  (A selection of them are also available at EntrustedWithTheGospel.com.)

If you've never listened to "Salty Believer Unscripted," it's basically an unscripted, unedited 20 to 30 minute conversation between pastors that's recorded so you can join in.  We typically select a series topic (but not always) and chat over coffee.  We just finished a series called "An Overview of Eschatology" which takes a look at what the Bible has to say about the end times.  (At the time of this post, we're recording a series of podcast with other church planters and pastors, getting a feel for what's happening in the ministry of church planting across the country.)

Eschatology is kind of a funny thing. Either people are excessively into it and it dictates how they think about everything or they really don't have an opinion or thought about it at all.  This, I think, is primarily because people are so influenced by how they've seen others behave rather than what the Bible says.  So Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Pierce, Brett Ricely, and I set out to introduce and discuss some of the ideas contained in the study of Eschatology.  And in case you're wondering, we start with "What does Eschatology mean?"

Through this discussion, we cover topics like how we should interpret prophecy, where to find end times stuff in the Bible, why is studying eschatology important, the millenium, the tribulation, and the state of both heaven and hell.  Hopefully this will help you on your journey to better understand eschatology.  Are you a premillennialist, amillennialist, or postmillennialist?  How do you understand books like Revelation, Matthew, Daniel, and Isaiah; and what are they saying about the end?  What's your view on the tribulation and rapture?  Are you a litterlisist, historicists, or something else?  What is the New Heavens and New Earth like?  What's going to happen to this earth?  Why should we care?  We hope to help you answer these and many other questions.  However, we only offer a brief overview.  We don't get too bogged down.

Whether you have an interest in the end times or if you've never thought about it, I hope you'll consider checking out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
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Or listen here:

An Overview of Eschatology
-- An Intro of the Terms audio
-- Prophecy: A Difficult Task audio
-- The Near-Far Views of Prophecy audio
-- Scripture, Not Man's Ideas audio
-- Definitions: How We See Prophecy audio
-- Understanding the Millennium audio
-- Why We Should Study for Ourselves audio
-- The Tribulation and Rapture audio
-- The The Glory and Wonder of Heaven audio
-- Hell is for Real audio

*Artwork by flickr.com user, "Rich" is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission. 

An Evening of Eschatology

As Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Peirce, and Brett Ricely spent some time chatting in a Salty Believer Unscripted podcast series, "An Overview of Eschatology," a video came up in our conversation.  It's titled "An Evening of Eschatology" and it's free on YouTube.  John Piper is the host.  Dr. Jim Hamilton represents the Premillennial view, Dr. Sam Storms the Amillennial, and Douglas Wilson the Postmillennial viewpoint.  (We've had Dr. Jim Hamilton and Douglas Wilson on as Salt Believer Unscripted guests in our series on Preaching.

If you're interested in Eschatology (the study of end times) or you're feeling a little uninformed and would like to get an overview of the various viewpoints, I'd like to encourage you to watch the video above.  I also invite you to check out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."   You can subscribe on iTunes or with another podcast device or find it in the Resources section of this website.

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Overview of Eschatology

Salt Believer Unscripted has embarked into the future, that is, we've started a series that looks at eschatology.  This is not to say that we're going to start wearing sandwich boards that read, "The end is near."  We're not going to scream through a bullhorn.  And we don't need to identify The Anti-Christ because the Apostle John already has (in 1 John 2:22 he says he's anybody who denies the Father and the Son).  No, we're simply walking through an overview of eschatology.

If we're not going to get over-excited about end times symbolism and preach every sermon about our view of the end, why are we doing it?  Well, because we want to do our best to understand Scripture.  Avoiding specific Scriptural teaching just because people get crazy about it and it's kind of strange is not a sound practice for a student of the Bible.  Also, because Revelation 1:3 says, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."  If people are blessed to read the book of Revelation, that is stands to reason that we probably ought to study it.  I suspect the same is true of Isaiah, Matthew, Daniel, the letters of the Paul, and all the other books of the Canon.  And finally, because a listener asked after seeing a trailer for a Hollywood's attempt to explain it.

If you'd like to join us for this series, subscribe to our podcast or find the series on the resource page of Saltybeliever.com.

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*Artwork by Phillip Medhurst is registered under a Creative Commons Licence. 

The Balanced Christian Life

The normal Christian life (if there is such a thing) is one of balance.  But balance of what?

Preaching on Romans 2:12-29 this week at Redeeming Life Church, I noticed a picture of the balance the Bible speaks of.  Romans itself offers a nice illustration.  The first 11 chapters of the book are Paul's systematic theology.  It's what we should know.  It's our doctrine. Romans 12:3 through the end of chapter 16 provide us with a picture of what it looks like to live like a Christian.  It's what we should do and how we should act, all based on what we believe.  Romans 12:1-2 is the point in which these two things should intersect.

It's like an old hinge.  One side is fixed, anchored. This side is our knowledge, doctrine, and theology.  It's what we believe.  The other side is attached to the part that moves.  It's our actions.  It's ministry.  This side of the hinge is what we do.  And the pin in the middle that holds it all together is our love and submission to Jesus Christ.  (Take a look at Romans 12:1-2 with this illustration in mind.)

As we journey through the Christian life, most of us will default to one side or the other.  For most Christians one part of the hinge is larger than the other and we often see the world around us from the perspective of our larger side.  The lynchpin is the critical piece however.  How we love Jesus and submit our lives to him is not only what allows these two parts to work together, it's what we must entirely orient our lives around.  It's what make the hinge work.  Without the pin, the two sides become something other than the Christian life.  They become ugly.  They becoming idols.  But when the hinge works well, we have balance, joy, and faithfulness.  These two parts, working well together, held together by Christ, should be our desire.

*Photo used in this post comes from pixabay.com

Scriptures Every Christian Should Know

Jared Jenkins and I set out to record a Salty Believer Unscripted series called "Scriptures Every Christian Should Know."  It seemed easy enough.  What Scriptures should every Christian know?  But it's really not that easy.

How do you determine which Scripture is more important that other Scripture.  We had a hard time narrowing them down.  Are the Scriptures in red more important that the others because Jesus spoke them during his earthly ministry?  That's a faulty question because John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the very Word of God.  And we find in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is breathed out by God.  How can one verse be important enough to know and the others be on the list of Scriptures not worth knowing.  Are the ones that go nicely on a coffee mug more important than others?  The truth is, Christians should read and know all the Scriptures.

In addition, Jared and I were often tempted to discuss the verses that might not be as popular but still very important to the Christian life.  This is probably not right, but we found this cropping up in the moments just before we hit the record button.  (We don't script or plan much and a series like this probably takes more planning than we generally allow ourselves to do for this podcast.)

We eventually ended this series, although we could have continued it for months.  In any case, here are the 12 verses we did end up discussing.

Scriptures Every Christian Should Know
-- Introduction and John 3:16 audio
-- Ephesians 2:8-10 audio
-- Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and Isaiah 64:5-6 audio
-- Isaiah 26:3-4Isaiah 32:8, and Acts 9:26-31  audio
-- Romans 8:28-30 and Jeremiah 29:11 auido
-- 1 John 1:9 and Matthew 5:17-20 audio
-- Philippians 4:13 and Philippians 4:6 audio

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*The photo used in this post comes from pixabay.com. 

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.

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.

J.D. Payne -- Sharing Christ and Start Churches

Not too long ago, I was fortunate to sit down with Dr. J.D. Payne and others to discuss reproducible church planting.  If you listen to Salty Believer Unscripted, you may have heard our conversation.  Dr. Payne was in Salt Lake, consulting with some pastors and on March 13, 2014 he lectured at a small conference called Strengthening Churches to Share Christ and Start Churches.  Not only was it a great pleasure to meet Dr. Payne, but I was blessed to hear some very good information that has really helped shape some of my thinking on making disciples and church planting.

Dr. Payne serves as the Pastor of Multiplication at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.  He also served on staff with the North American Mission Board and was an Associate Professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He's been an editor of missional magazines and journals, served on missional boards and associations, served as a pastor of five churches, worked to plant four churches, and has written books to include Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel, The Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Practices of Church Planting Team Members, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s Questions, Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and Mission, Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion, Kingdom Expressions: Trends Influencing the Advancement of the Gospel, and Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church.  

I was pleased to learn that someone filmed Dr. Payne's lectures and was able to acquire the footage.  Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties with the video.  I was able to extract the sound from the file with only some occasional minor interruptions.  If you're thinking about church planting or sharing Christ to start churches, I highly encourage you to check out the Salty Believer Unscripted podcast with Dr. Payne (above) and consider listening to his Salt Lake lectures by following the link below.

Train Yourself for Godliness: a Discussion in the Spiritual Disciplines

Walking with God is to walk in a relationship with the Creator and Savior of the World.  Like any relationship, there are ways to enhance and strengthen this relationship.  This is where the spiritual disciplines come in.

I remember an angry man who approached me after I suggested that reading the Bible and praying more would likely help one to know God better and love him more.  "This is legalism!" he cried, not really understanding the meaning of legalism.  "It's works and I believe in a God of grace," he continued.  (I guess he probably wouldn't agree with me that the Bible tells us we are saved by grace not works, but the same Bible does include instruction and commands for how we are to live after we are saved.  You can read more on that here.)

I asked this man if he was in a relationship with his wife.  "Of course!" he barked.  I then asked him if his relationship with his wife would be better or worse if they went on dates, talked, and he learned things about her.  "Are there things that may take a little effort on your part but greatly grow your love for you wife?" I questioned.  So it is in our relationship with God.

Benjamin Pierce, Jared Jenkins, and I recently discussed some disciplines that help us grow in our relationship with our Lord.  Many call these practices the spiritual disciplines.  We certainly didn't discuss all of the various disciplines but we did talk about some of the more common spiritual practices that help foster a stronger relationship with God.  Practicing these disciplines may help us know God better and love him more. And they may also help us understand ourselves better as we seek to grow and mature in our walk with Jesus.
Train Yourself For Godliness: A Journey in the Spiritual Disciplines
-- Why the Disciplines are Important audio
-- Reading and Studying Scripture audio
-- Meditating on the Word, Silence, and Solitude audio
-- Journaling and Confession audio
-- Praying Through Scripture audio
-- Hearing from God and Tools for Prayer audio
-- Fasting audio
-- Time Management and Margin auido
-- Sabbath and Rest audio  
-- Worship, Family Worship, and Tithing audio
-- Service and Evangelism audio 

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* Photo by flickr.user, Ibia is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission.

On Worship with Joshua Lallatin

Jared Jenkins and I were led in worship by an interesting Provo, Utah guy named Joshua Lallatin.  There was something unique about the worship that was difficult to clearly identify.  The leader looked like an AC/DC member, spoke like an NPR announcer, and pounded on his electric guitar like a starving 80's punk rocker.  The first song, or hymn rather: "A Mighty Fortress."  We discussed what we saw and experienced and determined that both the character and theology of the church and worship leader had something to do with what we knew was, dare I say, special.  

Lallatin is the Director of Music and Media at First Baptist Provo. And if you know nothing about Provo, Utah, you should realize that there are very few Christians in Provo and the resources are extremely limited.  Josh and the leadership at First Baptist Provo appear to be taking what they've got and going after it to the glory of God.

Joshua drove up from Provo to meet with us and talk worship for Salty Believer Unscripted.  It was very informative and extremely enjoyable.   If you love worship, punk, unique people, or just have a heart for a church and a worship leader in a tough place, you really ought to check out this episode of Salty Believer Unscripted.

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*Photo by James Prescott is registered under a Creative Commons License. 

J.D. Payne on Church Planting

Dr. J.D. Payne visited Utah recently to discuss sharing Christ, starting churches, and strengthening churches (the mission of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Association).  I had the privilege of hearing him speak on these matters as well as interviewing Dr. Payne, Russ Robinson, AdamMadden, and Dr. Travis Kerns on the topic of church planting after the conference.  Dr. Payne serves as the Pastor of Multiplication at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.  He also served on staff with the North American Mission Board and was an Associate Professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He's been an editor of missional magazines and journals, served on missional boards and associations, served as a pastor of five churches, worked to plant four churches, and has written books to include Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel, The Barnabas Factors: Eight Essential Practices of Church Planting Team Members, Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting, Evangelism: A Biblical Response to Today’s QuestionsStrangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and MissionRoland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous ExpansionKingdom Expressions: Trends Influencing the Advancement of the Gospel, and Pressure Points: Twelve Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church." The more complex a church," argued Payne, "the less it will be reproducible."  Unlike many church planting books, Payne didn't argue for one specific model or one specific level of complexity, but instead challenged his listeners to think about the starting point.  He took his audience through the biblical picture of planting churches; that is, making disciples and then gathering them together to be the church.   Instead of criticizing big, complex church that takes millions of dollars and lots of people to reproduce somewhere else as 'instant church,' he pointed out that while that's biblically permissible, it is difficult and really not normative.  But neither did he advocate that the only way to start churches is in homes with nothing but new believers and a pastor recently raised up from among them.

"Before we can discuss church planting," Dr. Payne opened with, "we need to understand what it is we are planting."  His starting point was extremely refreshing.  He spent nearly an hour simply looking at what Jesus meant when he said 'Church.'  We examined at what the local church looked like in Acts and the Epistles.  And it wasn't the process of planting or entering an unchurched community that we explored, but simply church.  What is church?  What is local church? What is the big C Church?  "How we answer these questions determines how and what we plant," said Dr. Payne.  I believe he is absolutely correct. 

Dr. Payne sat down with a pastor from First Baptist Provo, a pastor from Christ Fellowship, the Salt Lake City SEND City Coordinator, and me to record a Salty Believer Unscripted podcast on the topic of church planting.  He was extremely informative, and really, just an easy going guy.  We laughed and joked and he was extremely gracious when I got his name wrong. (Thanks J.D., that was really embarrassing but you were much easier on me than I deserved! )

If you're interested in starting churches and making disciples (or if you just want to hear me make a boob of myself), I highly encourage you to check it out here:

A Discussion on Reproducible Church Planting with Dr. J.D. Payne

Learn more about J.D. Payne, download free books, and keep up with what he's doing at www.JDPayne.org.  Also, you can find this podcast and many others like it as well as many other resources at www.SaltyBeliever.com in the Resources section and you can subscribe to Salty Believer Unscripted on iTunes.

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A Discussion with Dr. Albert Mohler: Church Planting in a Changing Culture

The culture of America is changing at a rapid pace and in the cross hairs is cultural-Christianity.  "This is a pretty expensive turn," said Dr. Albert Mohler in a discussion for Salty Believer Unscripted; "but it really doesn't help us to argue as to whether it's good or bad because we don't get to choose our times." 

Mohler spoke at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and then addressed area pastors at First Baptist Church of Provo.  Preaching from the first chapter of First Peter, Mohler made a strong case that we are seeing some major cultural shifts which will impact the American church but the elect exiles need not be surprised. "The question is," he later told Jared Jenkins and I, "is now what do we do?  What does faithfulness require us to do?"   

Dr. Mohler took some time to sit down with Jared and I to discuss and record a podcast dealing with the question: What does church planting look like in light of the coming cultural shifts? 

We discussed the need for less infrastructure, more flexibility, and a willingness to take less for granted.  He also argues for a little different approach by dropping the expectations on the other side of our present models.  Stained-glassed windows, pipe organs, paid staff, and programs (among many other things) may have to change.  Things may look a bit different in the future.  In addition, I was encouraged and concerned by his charge that Christians in the Pacific North-West may have a responsibility to help other Christians around the nation as the "iceberg melts."  It seems that we're closer to the front edge of these changes (especially Seattle and in the heart of Moromdom) than are believers in other parts of the nation. 

"You are on the cutting edge of what America is going to look more like," Mohler stated.  He continued,
"The fact the evangelicals are in a minority and have been for a very long time, virtually from the beginning of Utah as a territory, means you're on the cutting edge as a laboratory of what Christians in the rest of America are going to wake up and find.   I'm not asking you to rejoice in every particular; I am asking you to consider the fact that the Lord has giving you the stewardship here to help the rest of the Church to figure these things out."
I'm extremely thankful for the time Dr. Mohler gave us to discuss church planting on the front edge of these changes.  If you'd like to listen to our Salty Believer Unscripted discussion with him, you can find it here.  And I'd like to encourage visit AlbertMohler.com.

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On Grieving

February 11, 2014

"Blessed are those who mourn," Jesus said, "for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4, ESV).  For the one mourning, this can be an odd statement.  Confusing in a difficult time.  But truly, there is something amazing in these words.

"Blessed?" might the grieving mother ask.  You can almost hear the pain in the question of a daughter who lost here father, "How am I blessed?" It's difficult to see a person mourning the loss of friend or family member.  From within this perspective, it's hard to see the blessing.  Blessed?  It certainly seems like a fair question.    

In November of 2013, my wife and I lost our baby.  We mourn, but we've also been comforted.  Blessed, actually. The comfort comes from God, often through others.  There are times in our grieving and sadness when we directly feel the hand of God and experience his peace There are also times when we are comforted and blessed by God's people.  Obviously I would prefer not to have lost my son and I certainly wish my heart was not grieved, but without this sadness, I wouldn't have this opportunity to experience Jesus' promise or feel drawn to God as I do in this way, at this time.  The comfort would not likely be as sweet without the mourning, just as the joy of the day's first light is greater after enduring a difficult dark night (Psalm 30).

While it can be a challenge to see the blessing from within the clutches of a grieving season, that does not change the truth that it is a gift.  For those who mourn, there is grace from God, a blessing.  This gift may be easier to understand in eternity, when our views are not clouded by our fallen nature, but blessed are those who are comforted now. 

At the moment I wish Lisa and I were grieving less and our feelings of comfort more, but we realize this is a journey that is often traveled slowly.  The road feels long, but Christ is with us.  "Blessed are those who mourn."

Shortly into our mourning, I sad down with Tina Pelton and recorded a two part podcast series for Salty Believer Unscripted on the topic of grieving.  If you are grieving or in a position to comfort or bless someone who is, these podcasts may be helpful.

Grieving: A Conversation with Tina Pelton
-- Grieving (Part 1) audio
-- Grieving (Part 2) audio 

  *The painting of "Old Man Grieving" is by Vincent van Gogh and is in the public domain.

Lessons from Church History

In the forward to 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Holman Reference), J.I. Packer says, Both the processes and characters of history have a vast amount to teach us; studying them matures our judgment and frees us from blind submission to present-day prejudices" (XI, 2000).  In short, history is important.  Christian history then, is even more important considering the depth, weight, and magnitude of the our relationship with God through the ages. 

The Bible is a written history, either of the individual's words or a narrative, or both.  Even the book of Revelation which is often thought only to be a book about the things to come is history.  Revelation 1:1-2 provides an introduction that something suggests something happened and John wrote it down.  Like the history of book of Revelation, Christian history (with includes John and his books) holds lessons and instruction for the present and future as well as a look into the past. This is precisely the point of Hebrews 11 and the fantastic picture and instruction provided in Hebrews 12. 

Truly believing that we can learn much and be greatly encouraged by the history of Jesus' Church, Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Pierce, and I recorded a series of podcasts about lessons we can learn from Church history.   In each podcast, we briefly examine a person or event from history and then discuss lessons or encouragements we've learned.   Our heroes of Church history come from the patristic age all the way forward to the mid-1900s and include both men and women.  We selected apologists, scholars, pastors, preachers, missionaries, martyrs, politicians, pioneers, and front runners in social justice. 

If you're interested, you can subscribe to "Salty Believer Unscripted" on iTunes or listen here:

Lessons from Church History
-- Athanasius and Lady Jane Gray (Part 1) audio 
-- Patrick and the Puritans (Part 2) audio
-- Jan Hus and Charles Spurgeon (Part 3) audio
-- Conrad Grabel, George Blourock, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Part 4) audio
-- Polycarp and John Chrysostom (Part 5) audio

*Photo of Natural History Museum of London, England was taken by Geof Wilson and is registered under a creative commons license.

On Preaching

They stand and deliver Sunday after Sunday, alone or as part of a team, sometimes traveling, sometimes for the same flock for many years.  They are the preachers that so many sit under week after week.  From their biblical expository preaching many learn the Word of the Lord and are moved to respond accordingly.  

Preaching is a special calling that often takes discipline, training, and practice in addition to the aid of the Holy Spirit.  It's hard work and encompasses so much more than what is seen and heard on Sunday morning.  And preaching is nothing new; preaching, according to Dr. Jim Hamilton, "is as old as Moses." 

After reading Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Jared Jenkins and I amplified our regular conversation on the topic of preaching.  As our conversations grew more numerous we decided to start a series on the topic for Salty Believer Unscripted.  We quickly realized a better way to examine preaching would be to view if from a variety of perspectives so we talked with a guy after he preached his first sermon.  Then we talked to pastors who preach in the team ministry of a shared pulpit.  We chatted with church planters.  One guy we interviewed has a PhD in preaching.  Another preacher develops curriculum and cut his preaching teeth in another language.  We talked with an itinerant preacher.  A seminary professor who also pastors a church was on the list as well as a preacher who has been preaching every week at the same church since the 70s.  Through a conversation with a variety of diverse preachers we saw similarities and differences.  And I believe we got a better picture of preaching through such a great list of preachers. 

I deeply appreciate all the guys who contributed their thoughts and time to this conversation.  I learned a great deal as I suspect will be the case for others who listen.  These contributing preachers include: Andy Conroy, Kevin Lund, Robert Marshall, Dr. Travis Freeman, Trevin Wax, Kyle Costello, Rob Lee, Danny Braga, Douglas Wilson, and Dr. Jim Hamiltion.  It is a great privilege serving our Lord alongside them. 

You can listen to the conversation by following the links below:
-- On Preaching: Who's Qualified?  audio
-- On Preaching: Defining the Sermon audio
-- On Preaching: The Bucket and the Thimble audio
-- On Preaching: Stand and Deliver audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Andy Conroy audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Kevin Lund audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Robert Marshall audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Dr. Travis Freeman audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Trevin Wax audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Kyle Costello audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Rob Lee audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Danny Braga audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Douglas Wilson audio
-- On Preaching: A Discussion with Dr. Jim Hamilton audio

Salty Believer Unscripted is a weekly podcast.  If you would like to listen to more conversations like the ones listed above please subscribe.

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

Is God Calling Me? By Jeff Iorg

Iorg, Jeff. Is God Calling Me?: Answering the Question Every Believer Asks. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

I once heard a pastor tell his congregation that he didn't have any kind of calling, he just thought that ministry looked like a good career for him.  As he made his argument, I wondered if this man should be representing God if God had not selected this man as his representative.  It's amazing that God even allows anybody to touch his Bride, that is, the Church, let alone those he did not set apart to do so.

Calling is important and answering the question, "Is God calling me?" is an important examination.  In his book, Is God Calling Me?: Answering the question every believer Asks, Dr. Jeff Iorg states, "'Is God calling me?' is the essential question you must answer before entering ministry leadership or accepting a specific ministry assignment.  Settling the issue of call is foundational to effective Christian leadership" (1).  He further argues that understanding the answer to this important question "charts a lifelong course of ministry leadership" (1).  In what could serve as a response to the pastor arguing that a call is not important, Iorg further writes, "As ministry leaders, we serve in response to God's invitation and at his pleasure, not at our initiative" (2).  This book serves as a tool to aid in finding the answer to this extremely important question.

"My first goal," writes Iorg, "is to cut straight to the heart of the matter and give you tools to work through the call process.  But detailed analysis and intellectual understanding are not enough.  My ultimate goal for you is clarity about God's call so you can answer affirmatively!" (3).  As clearly stated, Iorg sets out to meet his goals using the Bible and careful study, but also ideas and conversations that he has had about God's call for more than thirty years of combined ministry as a pastor and the President of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  He concedes that over the years, many others have shaped his thinking and at times critics have even changed his mind (2).  Peppered throughout the book are personal stories from Iorg's experience as well as those from many others.

Iorg starts by defining the concept of the call.  Here he provides a biblical foundation of the importance of the call as well as a strong understanding of the biblical history of calling.  He also provides his own working definition: "A call is a profound impression from God that established parameters for your life and can be altered only by a subsequent, superseding impression from God" (8).  After he has laid some groundwork, Iorg offers three types of calls, from the larger call all the way to very specific calls that function within an individual's larger call.  Continuing, Iorg deals with the kinds of people God calls (which are diverse and surprising), how to discern God's call, and how the calling shapes the life of those God calls.  And then in a very practical conclusion, Iorg discusses some specific calls such as the call into mission work as well as the call to pastoral ministry.

I originally picked up Is God Calling Me? at the recommendation of another pastor and friend.  A number of young men had been meeting with me about entering ministry in some capacity or another and some of them were even considering seminary.  As my pastor friend and I were discussing the call upon some of these other guys, he told me he read Is God Calling Me? as he was considering leaving a campus ministry for seminary.  I purchased the book thinking it would help me counsel these guys.  But as I started reading, I found myself working through each page, slowly chewing on the concepts and ideas.  It served as a great conformation of my general call and helped me process some aspects of present, specific calls in my own life.  I found Iorg's book extremely helpful.

As I was reading through Is God Calling Me? I had the opportunity to discuss the call with Ryan and Janai Rindels from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Chris Smith from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The book was fresh on my mind so it entered our unscripted conversations.  Janai Rindels, Dr. Jeff Iorg's personal assistant, offered some great insight.  The guys also provided some helpful thoughts as they both serve as seminary recruiters.  You can listen to these conversations here:
-- Calling and GGBTS with Ryan and Jania Rindels audio
-- Calling and SBTS with Chris Smith audio
If I must offer a criticism of Is God Calling Me? it would be about Iorg's perspective.  Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of a seminary.  He is seminary trained and holds a Doctorate of Ministry.  And while I am also seminary trained and greatly appreciate my seminary education, a weakness is found in the book is that some may be called into ministry apart from thinking about seminary.  Iorg did make an effort to support this thinking but it is clear that his bias held strong.  Using the terms informal and formal training, he discusses both saying, "Preparation for ministry leadership involves formal and informal processes; both are valid and necessary.  The best case is for the two forms of training to be integrated and to build on each other" (79).  Iorg then gives 3 sentences to an explanation of informal training before he says, "But is informal training enough? Usually not" (79).  Following this question are 4 pages of the positive and negative aspects of attending seminary.  While he makes a good argument for formal training--as should be expected from a seminary president--he provides way too little information on the positive and negative aspects of informal training.  

Apart from Iorg's bias toward seminary (which I also hold), Is God Calling Me? is an outstanding book for those thinking they may be called and wrestling with calling.  It's also extremely useful for the man or woman already called who will inevitably deal with additional specific calls from God as he or she journeys through a lifetime of ministry.  I highly recommend this book! 

-- Some of Iorg's other publications include: The Painful Side of Leadership, The Character of Leadership, The Case for Antioch, and Live Like a Missionary.

* I have no material connection to this book, monetary or otherwise.