Archive for the ‘Personal Commentary’ category

John Piper and Jason Meyer Talk About Succession at Bethlehem Baptist Church

May 30, 2012

As you know, I have been praying for and paying close attention to the succession plan/process at Bethlehem Baptist Church.  My interest is really twofold: on the one hand, this succession is between a hero (Piper) and a personal mentor (Meyer). On the other hand, the issue of pastoral succession is, in my opinion, one of the biggest issues facing local churches today. I can’t find the statistic, but somewhere I read that 3/4 of large churches are currently pastored by the leader during its most significant growth. In other words, the church’s identity/personality has been largely influenced and shaped by the personality/values of the lead pastor.  When the pastor leaves, how will it affect the church? Is there any forethought or plan in place for the health and prosperity of the church and its mission for the next generation?

Along those lines, I am thrilled to see how God has unmistakably worked in the succession plan/selection process of the next lead pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Below is a video interview with John Piper and Jason Meyer, interviewed by Justin Taylor  on the campus of Southern Seminary, in which they discuss for the first time together what God has done over the past year to bring it all about. Watching this, my heart is filled with gratitude on multiple levels, especially for God’s “leaning in” in choosing to make His will known in such a glorious way.

[vimeo 42906650]

Bethlehem All-Church Vote on Jason Meyer

May 21, 2012

Last night, Bethlehem Baptist Church had an all-church congregational meeting to vote on the unanimous recommendation of the elders for the successor of John Piper as Associate Pastor for Preaching & Vision. As many of you know, I have had the privilege of knowing and being mentored by Jason Meyer, so I am particularly interested in the outcome of these events. The result of last night’s vote was an 99% affirmation (784 yes, 8 no), further paving the way to a healthy succession plan under the leadership of the elders (and of course John Piper). Plans are for Jason to begin ministering in this capacity on or before August 1, 2012. Pray for him, BBC, and this process!

John Piper reflected on this vote through a blogpost on BBC’s website. He wrote:

On February 13, 1980, Bethlehem voted to call me as her pastor. The vote was 149 yes, 17 no (89.7%). Thirty-two years later the church is more united than ever behind her leaders. For this I am on my face with tears of thankfulness and joy.

Jesus Christ is the head of this church. And he means to have the glory. Let him have it from your heart and lips. Gather your family and friends and give thanks. Tell him how amazing he is. Exult in the cross of Christ. Without it there could be no such blessings on sinners like us.

Praise God for the unity He has given BBC, wisdom to the elders, and humble dependence upon God to shepherd them through this critical period in the life of their church.

Mind Mapping and Personal Planning

April 17, 2012

I found myself this weekend at a juncture where the majority of my time was mapping out a multiplicity of things–from personal planning to discipleship investments to book proposals. Rarely do I mention mind mapping on Twitter that I do not get several folks asking about what program(s) I use and how I utilize them.  I’m sure there’s more of a science to them than what I employ, but I nevertheless have greatly benefited from the mental exercises of visual information dumping and creative brainstorming.

Last weekend, I posted a twitpic with this status update about some personal planning I’ve been doing lately. I use iThoughtsHD for my iPad to do all my mind mapping. Currently, I have approximately 40 mind maps (going back almost a year).  The cool thing about iThoughtsHD is that you can export the maps anywhere, including email (PDF), camera roll, dropbox, cloud, or over various apps and devices.

Personal Planning

I just recently completed some major projects, including 2012 Band of Bloggers, South Florida Regional Training Event for PLNTD, and a major relocation (and replanting) of Grace Baptist. To bring clarify, focus, alignment, and clear directives, I use mind mapping as a means of untangling the web of thoughts that exist in my brain.

The four primary areas I now employ for planning my personal life are (in Baptist alliterative style):

1. Renewal – what I need for vital spiritual health (prayer, Word, Gospel, meditation, etc.)

2. Rhythms – disciplines I employ on a regular basis (reading, writing, exercising, discipling)

3. Roles – priorities that bring balance, accountability, and filters for how I spend my time, energy, etc.

4. Responsibilities – primary areas where I use my gifts and abilities in ministry

What I’ve come to find is that everyday we live, all four aspects of personal planning should intentionally forming how I spend my day and week.  Obviously, there is a lot of overlap.  The point of this exercise is to be rigorously intentional to invest my life well in the areas God deems most important and to conform my life according to God’s revealed will for my life. A life well lived necessarily includes a day well ordered.  Roles dictates my priorities. Responsibilities govern the stewardship of my time, energy, and gifts. Rhythms are incorporated disciplines to leverage the margin in my life. And renewal is all about “keeping the heart” and stoking the flame of affections for God, His glory, His people, and His mission.

D0 you have an approach for planning your personal life and ordered your day? Do you use any tools such as mind mapping apps or other means of accomplishing your goals?  I’d love to hear them!

Why Jason Meyer Should Be the Next Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church

March 28, 2012

This post is entirely unplanned. In fact, I just happened to see John Piper’s tweet about the succession plan going forward. And now that the choice has been made, I’d like to share a thought two why I believe Jason Meyer is the right man for Bethlehem Baptist Church as the successor to John Piper.

I met the guy who is replacing John Piper first on a UPS tram at 3:30AM nearly five years ago. He was reading his Greek New Testament, something which I came to find he was actually memorizing. I had to meet this guy. Walking to the parking lot, we connected as I soon to find what a gracious guy Jason Meyer really is.  Jason worked third shift with me, seeking to evangelize the same people I was seeking to reach. He also pastored a small church out in the sticks, faithfully expositing God’s Word in total obscurity. He was completing his Ph.D while teaching NT Greek, and if I remember correctly, holding down a couple of other jobs. What I came to find God enabling Jason to do was nothing short of amazing.  More than that, God afforded me a year of getting to know the kind of man Jason is, which leads me to this post and Piper’s announcement.

While in seminary, I always wanted a godly man to mentor me, to speak into my life and help me love Jesus more. Three years in, I did not think it would happen. But on that cold, autumn morning on a stinky UPS bus, God answered that prayer through Jason.  Over the course of the next year, Jason would become my Greek professor, mentor, and a great personal friend. Every Thursday morning, we would meet at the UPS cafeteria, reading through Scripture and praying fervently for the Lord to work in our life. It was honestly the highlight of my week. We were not just praying. We were communing with God.  The people you’re with when those moments occur are the ones you want to have with you the rest of your life.

I certainly don’t know Jason as well as others do, but I did have the opportunity to see his life up close and personal, how he loves his wife Cara and precious girls (and since then two adopted sons). I been with him in prayer, observed his love and passion for God’s Word. The sincerity and gravitas by which he walks with Jesus permeates every aspect of his life. There is nothing sensational about Jason Meyer, and that is why most of the evangelical world does not know him.  He hasn’t sought a platform when he could have easily had one. He’s not that kind of guy. He’s the guy you meet at 3:30AM in the UPS cafeteria and the young preacher boy giving his life away to a small country church that no one has ever heard of.  That’s the guy I believe God had long ago called to be the man to succeed John Piper.

There’s a lot of similarity between John Piper and Jason Meyer.

(more…)

The Pastor Shuffle

March 19, 2012

Yesterday morning, I was getting ready to preach at our daughter church (Providence Church), when this crazy idea came to my mind.  You see, also yesterday morning at Grace, Jamin Stinziano who is a pastor of Summit Church (in Estero, FL) brought the word.  So a Grace pastor was at Providence, and a Summit pastor was at Grace.  I suppose you could say the pastors were doing a little shufflin’. 🙂

But thinking about it a little more seriously, I wonder what it would be like if there was an intentional effort to do “the pastor shuffle” every 3 months in a certain area.  Local, like-minded sister churches can benefit from the encouragement of other pastors and preachers in the area, and the shuffling pastor would have the opportunity to bring greetings as well as share what God is doing as a matter of prayer request and kingdom encouragement.

I thought about this seriously because something like the pastor shuffle would communicate a lot about local churches and the kingdom of God.  What God is doing here is so much bigger than any local church, and if we truly care about His kingdom come, we should celebrate it in places and ways other than our local church.  Furthermore, the pastor shuffle will be a counter-cultural move to kill the spirit of competition and “turf wars” among local churches.  We are, after all, on the same team.  So why don’t we intentionally try to promote and celebrate that reality?

In January, I saw this kind of vision in action while in Haiti.  All the pastors in our network plugged into the life of other churches as though it was their own local church.  One pastor led in singing. Another helped with the children. Others still led in congregational prayer.  When they could serve and bless other churches, it was their joy.  And when I could see and experience it, I was deeply moved.

So here’s to the pastor shuffle. I hope something like this could happen around the country. Do you think it would work where you live, among the churches in your area?

Twenty Thousand Tweets

February 10, 2012

June 9, 2008 I created an account with Twitter.
Today, I posted my 20,000th tweet.

4.5 years of my life is chronicled in 140-character tidbits which, if I did the math correctly, comes to approximately 2,800,000 characters. I’ve been thinking this morning about the the ways God has used twitter in my life and ministry.  We hear a lot of the dangers and abuse of social media and the Internet, but on occasion we will hear a report on how it has positively impact someone’s life.  I for one can say that it has been a great experience thus far, for at least the following five reasons.

1.  People I’ve Met with Twitter

Between blogging and Twitter, the overwhelming majority of people I know in evangelical life came through these digital avenues.  My life has been enriched by friendships, several that developed to a greater degree offline and in “real life”.  Twitter opened the door and created accessibility to people who I otherwise would have never had the opportunity to meet.  Often times late at night, I end up having an extended conversation via direct message with people I’ve rarely (if ever) talked to on the phone or email. So Twitter has essentially flattened the world for guys like myself who don’t pastor a large church, published a book, or have influential people in my corner to have opportunity to connect, network, and build relationships online.

2.  The Twitter Help Desk

If ever have a question or practical need, I ask my Twitter followers first. Seriously. I cannot recount to you how many times I have been helped by people, many I don’t know, who care enough to reply when, for instance, my son decides to practice drawing with a massive permanent marker all over our furniture, television, and flooring. On more serious matters, I was leading our church to transition to small groups, and for 3 hours one day, I had over 15 people dialoguing with me via Twitter which tons of experience and practical counsel, logging in over a hundred tweets tailored specifically to helping me lead my church. It was like a customized, decentralized conference with a panel of folks from across the country address the specific challenges with incredible relevance. I was blown away that day. And still am.

3.  Tim Keller Reading Group

Two years ago, I started a Twitter experiment based on similar tweets from friends.  We all apparently were reading similar Tim Keller articles and tweeting them the same day. I decided to create a Tim Keller Reading Group using Twitter exclusively with no other online or offline promotion. The result was a six-month journey with 75 people from 24 states and 11 denominations and 12 video conference calls.  Twitter provided this platform, and many of the guys I got to know during that process have become good friends.

4.  Social Media/Networking Training

I find this really crazy, but over the past couple of years, I have been asked to speak at three conferences on the role of social networking and media to the local church and ministry.  They have ranged from church planting bootcamps and seminars to collegiate conferences.  If I ever thought I’d speak at conference, social networking would have never been on the radar. Yet, God has allowed me to encourage hundreds of church leaders and students on using social networking for the glory of God, for that I’m grateful.

5.  Resource and Renewal Aggregation

Before Twitter, I relied almost exclusively to Google Reader for aggregating information and resources. With increasingly limited time, I use Twitter for my main stop for helpful links and encouraging devotional thoughts.  I even took the time to compile a 36-part series from Scotty Smith with 720 tweets of “signs you are growing in grace.”  To a smaller degree, I have done this also with tweets from Paul Tripp and Tullian Tchividjian. God has used Twitter to bring me encouragement, exhortation, and rebuke from people I know and have great respect.

I could give you several other ways Twitter has been worth the (little) time each day. I hope that the 20,000 tweets logged over the past 4.5 years have been some profit and encouragement to you as well.

For other articles on Twitter by me, check out:

* Twitter Is Not Real
* Twitter – The New Traffic Generator
* Twitter for the Local Church
* Don’t Waste Your Tweets
* Why I Use Twitter

Tis Always First Quadrant

February 7, 2012

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” – Acts 20:28

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

Pastor friends, there is nothing more important to you or your the congregation entrusted to your care than your own personal holiness and passionate pursuit of God. There is never a time when keeping your heart with all diligence is not most urgent and most important.  With all the needs, challenges, opportunities, and demands upon your time, money, and energy, be militant with your spiritual life. Persist in this. It will be good for you and those who benefit from your usefulness.

In all your task management and getting things done, keep these at the top. Assumption is not an option. Careful attention, close watching, diligent persistence is the order of the day. Every day. For Jesus’ sake, and His church.

May we be known not merely by the skillfulness of our hands or the swiftness of our feet or the eloquence of our words, but let it be our nearness to Jesus and the sweetness we’ve tasted in His gospel. Let it be known that we can be found at the banqueting table of our Lord–remembering–renewing–reviving with all joy and delight in His presence. And above all else, command our lives to the cause of our hearts, confessing “Jesus is Lord” in the power of the Spirit. Amen.

P2R Memory Moleskine in 2012?

December 23, 2011

That’s the question I have been asking since June.  The Partnering 2 Remember Memory Moleskine took a life of its own this year with over 30,000 people participating in the challenge.  To say that I was blown away by the response would be a great understatement.  A Facebook page was created as well as a Twitter account. And even an iOS app was developed in the process.  It was so encouraging to hear from small groups in South Africa, missionary moms in SE Asia, entire congregations, and every member in the family–all participating together in putting the book of Philippians to memory.

So naturally, people have been asking about an organizational plans for a 2012 Memory Moleskine for P2R.  I have thought and planned through the next memorization challenge, and as the last public poll indicated, the leading passage to memorize is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  Plans were in place this past summer to make preparations for this upcoming year.

However, as 2011 continued to unfold, I continually faced challenges on every front that brought much of my life to a halt.  The year I planned and the year I lived had almost nothing in common.  As much as I would like to lead another organized effort with P2R and a 2012 Memory Moleskine, providence would have it otherwise, and I am sadly going to have to direct my efforts in the most direct spheres of responsibility.

Those areas include shepherding Grace (which is in transition), directing PLNTD (which is getting started), and directing the Haiti Collective (which is expanding rapidly).  Among these, I am planning three conferences, and working to raise $250,000 for 2012.  As I consider what the Lord ha allotted to me a this time in my life, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities and at the same time wish I could do more. Including leading another P2R challenge.

I know that there are groups of people planning to do a memory moleskine in 2012, and if you have an iOS device, you can find a lot of texts available on the iOS app for memory.  I hope that the vision continues and spreads with a love for internalizing, meditating, and treasuring God’s Word.  Personally, I plan to tackle the Sermon on the Mount, so if anyone else is as well, I would love to know.

May the Lord richly bless your efforts to own His Word.  And may He be kind to increase interest and expand the numbers of those who are drinking deep from the fountain of Scripture!

A Word to Internet Busybodies and Wiki-leak Christianity

November 19, 2011

It seems that in recent years, several groups of people have sought to use the Internet and in particular blogs to “expose” or “hold accountable” Christian leaders.  And so often, we are prone to believe what other people say about a brother or sister in Christ, especially if it is critical or some sort of exposé.  We may not be the ones to spread the gossip and slander, but we are not opposed to entertaining it either.  The later I find more subtle and dangerous, because we can justify being uncharitable and unChristian by “a pursuit of the truth.”  In most cases, Christian leaders are judged guilty until proven innocent.

This morning, I read a word from Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts that addresses this sort of behavior directly.  I want to provide the entire devotion for you below.  Now, hear what Winslow is saying and not what he is not saying.  We indeed should care for truth, integrity, godliness, and so on, but the way in which we honor truth must also honor the call to love one another as Christ has loved us.  When it comes to busybodies on the Internet, anonymous bloggers calling out Christian leaders, or the like, it seems very unlikely that the driving principle and motivation of the heart is redemption and reconciliation expressed in genuine Christian love . . .

(more…)

And now for a personal update

October 6, 2011

2011 has been one of the most eventful years of my life.

As someone who likes to plan and prepare things, I thought I had a good beat on where the Lord was leading me at the beginning of the year.  And yet I can say that the majority of my days this year have been overturned by God’s sovereignty in ways that continually reminded me that He is in control of my life, not me.  I feel like I have been living in James 4:13-16 and Proverbs 16:1-9 for the past eight months.  Let me explain.

In December of last year, I met with my fellow elders for our elders retreat during which time I presented them the need for me to dedicate more time to developing the church planting network I started, called PLNTD.  After much discussion and prayer, my fellow elders affirmed that call and encouraged me in the transition to move full-time into directing the network as it continues to be developed and launched.  Also during this time, the door for ministry in Haiti was wide open, and I was dedicating a significant amount of time organizing mission work, creating systems to fund orphans, and forging partnerships for theological education of Haitian pastors.  At the beginning of the year, it was clear that God was abundantly blessing the work locally and elsewhere.

(more…)

Hurricane Irene, Mercy in Models, and Mobilizing Disaster Relief

August 25, 2011

I live in a part of the country very familiar with hurricanes (southwest Florida).  Because of where we live, we have houses fit with metal storm shutters, elevated lots, and houses secured by cinder block from the ground to the ceiling.  This is not so for many places that are not considered to be primary targets of hurricanes from the Caribbean.  Like the Northeast.

My good friend Winfield Bevins is pastor of Church of the Outer Banks in Nags Head, NC.  From all projections, the eye of Hurricane Irene has the Outer Banks of North Carolina the bull’s eye (here is where Church of the Outer Banks meets).  Irene is expected to land Sunday morning either as a category 2 or category 3 hurricane, bringing heavy wind and rain.

Unlike tornadoes that pop up rather unexpectedly, hurricanes can provide those seeking to help those worst affected opportunity to strategize and mobilize before the storm hits.  I don’t know how many readers I have in the NC, SC, GA, TN area of the country, but the advanced warning system and computer-generated projections are a mercy and gift of God’s common grace for those seeking to embrace the need that will undoubtedly arise no later than Monday morning.

The 3-4 day notice that disaster relief workers are afforded is critical to the gathering of resources and supplies, mobilizing volunteer workers, and strategic planning on the best course of action.  Those not affected directly by Hurricane Irene Sunday morning should be affected indirectly Thursday night.  Let us pray not only for those being hit by the storm Sunday but also those making plans right now to serve and give themselves in the relief and recovery work that is to come.

And if you can go, I encourage you to contact the Church of the Outer Banks and my friend Winfield.  That church is a great beacon of gospel light in word and deed to the outer banks of NC.

Thank You John Stott (1921-2011)

July 27, 2011

Few people have shaped evangelicalism more in the past 100 years than John R.W. Stott, and this morning he departed to glory with a legacy that will far outlast his lifetime.  I never had a chance to meet John Stott, but I felt that I came to know him through his writings in the many ways he came to meet me in the journey of my Christian faith.

In the early days of my studies, I benefited greatly from his classic book Basic Christianity, which I often kept several copies in my car to give away.  In the formative days of my preaching, his book Between Two Worlds was foundational to understanding and communicating God’s Word.  When I wrestled with the nature, extent, and purpose of Christ’s work on the cross, his book The Cross of Christ rocked my world and plunged me deeper into the glories of Calvary that I had ever been.  As I began to consider how to apply what I had been learning to the world around me, his book The Contemporary Christian was a faithful guide.

When I moved onto seminary, my first major topic of interest was understanding evangelical anti-intellectualism, what would you know, but John Stott had written a book on it (actually they are lectures put into a book).  In the following years, I began wrestling with evangelical mission, in particular the relationship of evangelism with social action.  Stott had two books that I referenced regularly, namely Christian Mission in the Modern World and Our Guilty Silence.  Though it is presented as a commentary, John Stott’s commentary on the book of Acts is incredibly helpful and insightful for the mission of the church, and from my reading of Tim Keller very instrumental in his thinking as well.

The are other books by Stott that I enjoyed, but these served almost biographically in my journey over the past ten years and proved to impact me in numerous ways.  I’m confident that I’m not alone in saying that God has used John Stott in big ways and small as a trustworthy guide in matters related to the gospel, the church, and the mission entrusted to us.  Stott was a faithful steward, and I pray that my generation will carry that baton in the shadow of this churchman, scholar, and missionary statesman for generations to come.  Thank you John Stott, for the way God used you to impact my life.

Below is a tribute from Langham Partnership, the ministry outreach of John Stott that has just been made available.

Vacation Reading

July 21, 2011

My stack of “to read” books is getting bigger and bigger.  Sadly, this year has proved to be a very difficult year for reading and self-feeding, but I’m working on that, beginning with my upcoming time off.  I wrestled with what books to take with me this year.  A lengthy theological treatise? Moving biography? Leisure reading?

I decided to go with four thin books that that I anticipate to be both personally nourishing and ministerially challenging.  I chose thin books, too, because they are easy to pack and carry to the beach. 🙂

Here they are:

1.  A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table by Tim Chester (144 pages)

2. Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed Up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things by Mike McKinley (128 pages)

3. Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God by David Platt (196 pages)

4. Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel by J. Mack Stiles (128 pages)

Ten Thoughts About the SBC

June 13, 2011

It’s been quite a long time since I blogged anything about the Southern Baptist Convention.  Early blog readers will remember the days when SBC issues were a regular item here.  It is not so much that I am uninterested in what is taking place in the SBC as much as it is a desire for me to be more of a contributor in what I do than simply what I say as a commentator.  Having said that, I hope the stuff I am writing now about the gospel, mission, church planting, etc. would be considered edifying to anyone, but especially to my Southern Baptist folk.

But alas, this is the week of the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I am unfortunately not in Phoenix, AZ where the mass of polo shirts and comb overs are converging.  Given the significance of this week in SBC life, I thought I’d post ten (random) personal thoughts about the SBC for what it’s worth.

(more…)

When the Bible Calls You Stupid

June 8, 2011

This past Sunday, I taught our congregation on the profitability of God’s Word from 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The Apostle Paul brings out four categories where Scripture is profitable for the believer: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. The first two categories address Scripture being profitable for our beliefs (orthodoxy), and the latter two address how Scripture is profitable for our behavior (orthopraxy). Furthermore, both our beliefs and behavior are addressed constructively and correctively: teaching (belief) and training (behavior) are constructive, and reproof (belief) and correction (behavior) are corrective. In a way, Paul is saying that Scripture is entirely sufficient to address every aspect of the Christian life.

For most Christians, I would assume are open and receptive to the constructive ways Scripture is profitable to them, namely through the teaching of God’s Word and training by God’s Word.  However, that is only 50% of Scripture’s intended instrumentality for being competent and equipped for every good work.  What about the corrective ways that Scripture is intended to be profitable?  Are Christians just as receptive, open, and welcoming to giving and receiving reproof and correction?  If the answer is no, then we can only conclude that believers find Scripture to be only 50% profitable for their lives while God intends for it to be 100% profitable.  Could this explain, perhaps, the problem of believers not being equipped and competent for a life of good works?

(more…)