Tag Archives: Jared Wilson

Can Bible-Centered Preaching Win the Lost?

Pastor Andy Stanley has been making headlines by questioning what he calls “The Bible says” preaching. He says we live in a post-Christian world, and many people have already dismissed the Bible’s authority. How can we reach the lost, he asks, with sermons that appeal to the authority of Scripture if our audience doesn’t already trust that authority?

Reader's eye view

You’d be shocked by how many students and adults in your church view the Bible as a spiritual book that says true things to live by as opposed to an inspired collection of documents documenting events that actually happened. This is why I will continue to insist the foundation of our faith is not an inspired book but the events that inspired the book; events that inspired writers, born along by the Holy Spirit, to document conversations, insights and events—the pivotal event being the resurrection. While it’s true we would not know these events occurred had they not been documented, two other things are equally true. First, they were documented years before there was a Bible (i.e., New Testament bound together with the Jewish Scriptures). Second, it is the events, not the record of the events that birthed the “church.” The Bible did not create Christianity. Christianity is the reason the Bible was created. The reason many Christians struggle with statements like these is they grew up on “The Bible says” preaching. And that’s fine as long as one first believes the Bible is inspired.

Stanley compares this faith in the Bible’s inspiration to Muslims’ faith in the Quran. If you don’t already believe the Quran speaks to your life, why should anyone appeal to it as an authority?

Jared Wilson points out the huge problem with this statement.

There is zero room here for the actual reality of the Bible as God’s living Word. There is zero room here for the supernatural reality that the Bible carries a weight with lost people they don’t often expect it to! But this inadvertent nod to materialism and pragmatism is certainly expected from those with a proven track record of treating the Bible like an instruction manual rather than as the record of the very breath of God.

If preachers are trying to Christianize people into acting like Christians because the Bible says they should, then yeah, they will have problems motivating people to do what they want. But Christianizing people isn’t the gospel. We can’t justify recommendations found in Scripture based on unbiblical worldviews in an effort to make non-believers look like believers. What we can do is tell them about Jesus, to talk about life in the light of Christ, and to marvel at the Son of God in their presence. What we want to do is demonstrate our preeminent love for the Father by how we love our neighbor, all the while speaking of the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).

How is anyone going to believe the Bible if we do not preach the Bible?

Some Churches Have Lost Their Way

How do you react to the claim that what a Christian does at church on Sunday morning is the most important thing he can do that week? I think some pastors have said this as a way of saying worshipping God is our most important act, but if that’s what they intend to say, they aren’t quite saying it. One could easily hear in such a claim that attending church that morning is the most important part of the week. Is that what worship is? Are we only able to worship the Lord in an organized service on one day or can we develop a lifestyle of worship for the whole week? Is the church’s mission to draw people into its organization or to declare the wonders of Christ Jesus?

Jared C. Wilson has experience in churches that put all of their creative energy into making the Sunday morning service exciting, unique, and attractive to the people of their city, and he believes those church leaders have lost the vision for Christ’s church on earth. The manner of the services and the theme of the sermons (or talks) point to good feelings and self-improvement. “But are they the real message of Jesus?” he asks.

Wilson’s argument in The Prodigal Church rests on his belief that what you win people with is what you win them to. “Pragmatic discipleship makes pragmatic Christians. The way the church wins its people shapes its people. So the most effective way to turn your church into a collection of consumers and customers is to treat them like that’s what they are.”

He urges church leaders to question their assumptions about what takes place in their services and programs. If their goal is make clear the claims of Christ or to help others make God of first importance in every part of their lives, then they are on mission regardless their presentation style.

You could walk away from the attractional church’s pattern of teaching and think you needed some more skills, some more enthusiasm, and some more advice, but you’d rarely walk away thinking you need more grace.

Wilson is careful not to overly criticize. He isn’t arguing for his preferred church style or saying that everyone has to agree with him on what makes for a good worship service. He admits we have different styles, but making consumerism a normal part of the American church does not lift up the name of Christ or apply his grace in healthy ways. That’s not a style choice. It’s a problem. It isn’t cultural sensitivity; it’s being co-opted by the culture.

The second part of the book offers many thoughts on how to do church well, including some stories of people who realized their manner of ministry didn’t accomplish their intentions. I heartily agree with and recommend this book.

Excerpt from The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson

Many attractional churches still preach that Jesus died for our sins, of course. But too often this message of Christ’s death has become assumed, the thing you build up to rather than focus on. Or, in too many other cases, this message is treated as the “add-on” to other messages, the proposition presented at the end of a message that is more about our personal success than Christ’s personal victory.

A cognitive dissonance can result for those who hear a message all about what they should do to be more successful or victorious or happy or what-have-you, only to then hear the proposition that Jesus died for our sins. To hear a lengthy appeal to our abilities, culminating in an appeal to our utter inability, can cause spiritual whiplash.

But the appeal is easy to see. Attractional is certainly attractive. These kinds of messages, over time, communicate to seeker and believer alike that Christianity is about themselves, making the faith more about self-improvement or life enhancement—which are things we all want deep down. But are they the real message of Jesus?

— From The Prodigal Church:A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo, by Jared C. Wilson

Though I am in no position to challenge Wilson’s assessment here, I want to offer the suggestion that the spiritual whiplash may be negated quite a bit by presenting the gospel with a heavy emphasis on personal choice. These preachers could be summarized as saying that since Christ has done so much for our eternal lives, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of it. Don’t you see how your life would be improved by declaring yourself a follower of Christ Jesus?

That may be a way to make converts, but it isn’t a way to make actual disciples.

His Kindness!

Jared Wilson tells a wonderful story on how we don’t want to be put a period where J.I. Packer puts an exclamation point.

Also, if you missed the news earlier this month, Packer, that greatly anointed author, has lost his sight. He talks about it in this interview.

No, in the days when it was physically possible for me to do these things I was concerned, even anxious, to get ahead with doing them. Now that it’s no longer possible I acknowledge the sovereignty of God. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” (Job 1:21). Now that I’m nearly 90 years old he’s taken away. And I won’t get any stronger, physically, as I go on in this world. And I don’t know how much longer I’ll be going on anyway.

Do You Give Bigfoot His Might?

Jared Wilson enthuses over the mysteries of God and his creation by hoping Bigfoot exists and isn’t found.

I like that God keeps some things just to himself. It reminds me that he’s God and I’m not. It reminds me that this world he’s created is revealing his glory, not mine. This is part of the reason, I suppose, that when God responds to Job’s inquiries with an epic journey up the dizzying heights of divine sovereignty, he includes some stuff about sea monsters.

The thick of the forest

 

What is among those trees, glorifying the Lord in short, unobserved lives?

A Few Questions for God-bloggers of 2003

Joe Carter, formerly of The Evangelical Outpost, is wicking out the nostalgia in me by profiling three God-bloggers who started blogging in 2003, a year before I started this lit-blog. Like Joe, I have admired these men for a long time. They helped shaped the blogosphere, or it feels like they did for me.

Of Tim Challies, Jared Wilson, and Justin Taylor, he asks these questions:

  1. What was your motivation for starting a blog?
  2. How has blogging changed your life over the past decade?
  3. What is one lesson you’ve learned from blogging about writing, communicating, etc.?
  4. How has blogging itself or the blogosphere changed in these ten years?

Tim says: “I learned that I think best when I write. I don’t really know what I believe until I write it down and work it through in my word processor, and in that way writing has been a critical part of my spiritual development. For some reason it took me beginning a blog to figure this out.”

Jared says: “Then one of our guys said, “Why don’t we stop the clunky email chains and do this on a weblog?” I had no idea what that was, but we all kinda said, ‘Okay.'”

Justin: “Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think we are more bored with blogs than we were ten years ago. Our attention spans are even shorter as we want to hear from and interact with more people but with fewer characters — hence the rise of Twitter. What was a short piece ten years ago is now almost considered ‘long form.'”

Otherworld, by Jared C. Wilson

A UFO craze has hit Trumbull, TX, a little town outside Houston. It starts when Pops Dickey, a transplanted farmer from Wisconsin, discovers one of his cows dead one morning. He calls the local police, who call a local vet because the cow has been slaughtered with little or no blood spilled on the ground. Not the norm for vandalism. The vet labels the killing the work of aliens, and that’s the cue Pops needs to step into the media limelight.

Aliens had visited Trumbull. They took some cow parts as souvenirs. Pops Dickey will tell you all about it and make up more along the way. Police Captain Graham Lattimer won’t have any of it, and when another cow dies, he wants to resolve the two incidents in entirely human terms.

In Houston, Mike Walsh is a magazine writer, who has been assigned a background story on UFOs with a few details from the Trumbull encounter to make it relevant. As he does his research, he is fed up with the hype and tumble of alien books and TV shows until he meets a philosophy and culture professor, Samuel Bering, who seems to know more than anyone else about alien phenomena. But for all of his knowledge, Bering has neglected wisdom, and now he hopes to gain a secret knowledge that will lift him above everyone in the world.

Alien with beerIn another part of Houston, a troubled young man gives in to the voices in his head and starts killing people, because this isn’t actually a book about visitors from outer space. It’s a book about an ancient evil.

And it’s fun. At one point, Mike Walsh says the events are getting too much like Peretti, which is a great comparison for Otherworld. The pace and plot read like This Present Darkness with an important difference. Jared has chopped up his narrative with short news reports, journal entries, and brief scenes of other characters. It has a TV feel to it, maybe a bit of artificiality, but I wasn’t annoyed by it. It helped the story move quickly.

While the characters aren’t depicted very deeply because of the fast-paced story they are in, they are all well-rounded. For example, the pastor, Steve Woodbridge, isn’t the Bible-quoting pillar of strength nor is he a villain. He’s a burned out, materially successful preacher, who wants to follow the Lord and may not be very good at leading his church. His character arc is beautiful.

Otherworld is a good story without Amish people falling in love or frowning on those who do (as Jared notes on his blog). If you have been a Thinklings.org fan for a few years, you may notice some familiar names for background characters. I don’t doubt that his next novel will be twice as good as this one and the following one twice as good as that.

New and Free Today: Otherworld by Jared C. Wilson

Pastor and author Jared C. Wilson has written a novel of UFO sighting and troubled circumstances on the outskirts of Houston. He actually wrote it several years ago and has only recently gained enough money to bribe a publisher. It is free today for Kindle, so take a look at it. Jared says, “Otherworld is a supernatural thriller in the genre of Christian fiction that does not involve any Amish people.” What more could you ask for?

Gospel Deeps, by Jared Wilson

In warning his readers against divisions, Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel to those of us who are being saved is the power of God. That describes the beauty of a book like Jared Wilson’s Gospel Deeps. It’s an extended meditation on this glorious word of the cross.

“Does love demand freedom?” he asks in chapter one. That’s the idea we get from many stories and some ministers. “What we are asked to believe is that God doing whatever he wants with whomever he wants is a simplistic, fatalistic view of love, and that God letting us do whatever we want is a more compelling vision of his love.” But God, who is the author and giver of life itself, whose character defines love, peace, joy and other virtues, could not be more loving than he is. God is love, though love is not God, as some would have it. “Maybe the reality is a love more multifaceted than we can understand with finite, fallen minds… that the God of the Bible is as transcendent as he is imminent, that his ways are inscrutable, that his love is glorious and astonishing precisely because it is too wonderful for us” (pp. 27-28).

Jared isn’t a mystic on a frozen Vermont hillside. Continue reading Gospel Deeps, by Jared Wilson

Quotes from Gospel Deeps

Josh Otte offers “20 exulting quotes from Jared Wilson’s latest book, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus. I just couldn’t fit them all into my review, but I also couldn’t resist sharing them with you. Read and worship, friends!” For example:

“My driving conviction in this book is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is big. Like really big. Ginormous, if you will. And deep. Deep and rich. And beautiful. Mulitfaceted. Expansive. Powerful. Overwhelming. Mysterious. But vivid, too, and clear. Illuminating. Transforming. And did I mention big?”

I’ve been reading this book too. It’s wonderful. Don’t wait for my review to get it yourself or for someone on your Christmas list.

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson

Jared’s latest book on the joys found in the gospel of Christ is a rich, beautiful addition to a long list of puritan literature. Gospel Wakefulness describes our Lord’s multifaceted gospel, revealing its shimmering light against many dark colors of brokenness and sin.

In short, we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. As Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” When Christ said on the cross, “It is finished,” he truly conquered death and overcame sin for all who believe. His resurrection from the grave proves it. Many Christians do not struggle with this concept as a doorway into heaven and the church, but we frequently misunderstand that this is the path to holiness as well as salvation. We believe that Jesus is Lord for the purpose of saving us from damning sin, but not for the purpose of making us righteous today. For righteousness, we believe we must “work out our salvation” on our own (Philippians 2:12). “The spiritual reality is that it is God who is in us doing the work,” Jared explains. “The gospel is not just power for regeneration; it is power for sanctification and for glorification [as if these ideas can be separated-pw]. It is eternal power; it is power enough for life that is eternal.” Continue reading Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson

Wilson Interview on New Book, Abide

Jared Wilson has a Bible study called Abide: Practicing Kingdom Rhythms in a Consumer Culture and answers a few questions about it here. Here’s a bit from the first part of the interview:

Your book has much to say about the influence that our consumer culture has upon us as Christians. How would you describe its impact upon the being and doing of today’s evangelical church? In other words, is the influence of consumer culture hindering us from being the church, and, if so, how?

Yes, consumer culture has enormous impact on the evangelical church, and the “root” way it hinders us from being the church is how it appeals to and feeds our innate self-centeredness. Consumer culture urges us to see ourselves at the center of the universe. From self-service to self-help, everything about consumer culture makes convenience, quickness, and comfort idols that are difficult not to worship. And of course the more self-centered we are, the less inclined we’ll be to see the great need of experiencing the gospel community of the church. And consumer culture affects the “doing” of the church, as well, which is fairly evident in the way many churches not only don’t subvert consumerism but actually orient around it and cater to it. From some of the more egregious forms of marketing to the way church services are designed to the way many preachers prepare the messages, the chief concern appears to be to keep the customers satisfied.

Your Jesus Is Too Safe, by Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson is, among other things, a pastor, a writer, and a participant at one of our favorite blogs, The Thinklings. Phil has already reviewed his recent book, Your Jesus is Too Safe, but I’d like to say a few things about it too.

I picked it up without great anticipation, assuming from the title that it would probably be lots of things I already knew, plus a guilt trip on a deeper Christian life which would only depress me. But I read it with great interest (almost the same as if it had been a novel), and benefited it from it. Continue reading Your Jesus Is Too Safe, by Jared Wilson