Archive for the ‘Social Reform’ category

Interview with Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert on the Mission of the Church

October 4, 2011

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing about a new reading initiative out of the PLNTD Network for planters and pastors alike.  Our first reading project will be reading two new and important contributions to the subject of the mission of the church.  The first one is the sequel to Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester called Everyday Church: Mission by Being Good Neighbours.  The second one is by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert entitled, What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission.

IX Marks recently sat down with Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert to discuss their new book, and their interview is broken down in two parts (links are downloadable MP3s).

Part 1 – discussion on the mission of the church, social justice, and the gospel

Part 2 – exegetical considerations on the mission, the poor, and the kingdom of God


For additional resources, consider:

* Rethinking Missional: Reconciling the Mission of God and the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung



True Social Justice

November 30, 2010

HT :: My man Charlie Mitchell

Mark Dever and Jim Wallis on Gospel and Social Justice

September 7, 2010

Out of Ur has been posting a series of videos where Mark Dever and Jim Wallis, along with Skye Jethani engage the issues of the gospel and social justice.  The matter of justification and justice is a longstanding interest of mine, so I was particularly interested in this discussion.  For the record, I don’t agree with either of them entirely but find myself very close to Dever’s position.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Ministries of Mercy – Free Audiobook for August

August 2, 2010

Christian Audio announced yesterday that their monthly free download for August is Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road.  The second edition of this book was recently released, and I consider this early work by Keller to be among his more important (and more controversial) books.  Whether you agree with him or not, I strongly encourage you to read Keller’s take on the Christian’s call to show compassion to the needy, to love the poor, and display the gospel through deeds of mercy. Remember to use the coupon code “AUG2010” when checking out.

Also, for the month of August, you can get Ministries of Mercy for half price ($6.49) at Westminster Bookstore.  Get it.

Tim Keller on Justification and Justice: The Both/And Gospel

April 29, 2010

In case you didn’t know already, Tim Keller has a book coming out later this year entitled Generous Justice.  In the publisher’s description of the book, it says:

Keller calls upon life-long Christians to deepen their faith by understanding that justice for the poor and marginalized is central to the Scripture’s message and challenges skeptics to recognize that the Bible is actually the basis for the modern understanding of justice.

This theme of justice was picked up yesterday in Keller’s talk at the Q Conference.  Skye Jethani has the summary at Out of Ur:

[T]he justification people are all about justification by faith alone. Only after being justified can a person live as he/she ought to live. While Keller was in full agreement with this doctrine, he said the unfortunate implication for many of the justification people is the belief that “we are mainly here to do evangelism” and they view “justice as a distraction.”

The justice people, on the other hand, tend to downplay or completely ignore the doctrine of justification by faith. Instead they can focus on language about “defeating the powers” or seeking the renewal of communities. Also good ideas, but not if justification is lost in the mix.

Keller believes this rift between justification and justice is completely unbiblical. “Justice and justification,” he said, “are joined at the hip. They are a seamless cloth.” He spent much of his time arguing from scripture that the doctrine of “justification by faith leads inevitably to justice.” Citing passages like Isaiah 58, Mark 12:38-40, Matthew 25, and others, Keller said that if we truly believe that we are saved by grace alone we will care about the poor.

The doctrine of justification by faith emphasizes that “God’s justice matters,” he said. We are perpetrators of wrong. We are sinners. We are poor in spirit. But God has had mercy on us. If we understand our spiritual poverty than we cannot ignore the material poor who are presented to us. If our belief in justification does not manifest itself in care for the poor, then our faith is dead as the Epistle of James says.

This is what Keller calls the “both/and” gospel…it’s about justification and justice, not justification or justice. And when we get this right, not only do we see justification lead to more justice, but doing more justice leads more of the lost toward Christ and justification through faith.

If you are familiar with Tim Keller’s work on “the gospel and the poor,” you would be familiar with his argument (in fact, I think justification and justice is just an alliterative way of making exactly the same point in his previous articles).  I believe it is precisely at this point where there is a divide among Reformed evangelicals as to the nature and implications of the gospel (and I think may have something to do with the theme “unadjusted gospel” from this year’s T4G).  In any case, Keller is forging the discussion with his new book and similar talks at conferences which is a good thing.

But I’m curious with you guys.  Do you believe the gospel is “both/and” in the sense it is about justification and justice? Is it a seamless cloth?  Is Keller mixing the nature and implications of the gospel?  Let me know what you think.

[For more on Keller’s talk yesterday, see Tim Schraeder’s notes as well.  Also, you can see some of my reflections on the relationship of the gospel to the poor here.]

Tim Keller, Deed Ministry, and Bridge Building

March 24, 2010

In his book, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road, Tim Keller gives three ways in which mercy (deed) ministry supports the evangelistic work of the church.  He says it serves as (1) a plausibility structure for the lost, it (2) builds a bridge to the lost, and (3) functions as a communication medium to the lost.

Regarding the first point, it has often been said that people don’t care about how much you know until you show them how much you care.  In other words, by your actions, you make your words more plausible.  The third point is similar in that in that the incarnational approach to evangelizing the lost means that we should do more than be drive-by Christians.  Our loving commitment to the lost is communicated meaningfully when it is demonstrated in sacrificial living and in the humble service of others.

But I want to point out the second point for the sake of this post to draw out the distinctions that Keller argues (actually from Frank Tillapaugh) regarding the lost.  He says there are basically four types of lost people:


Safeguarding Mercy Ministry with Gospel Priority

March 19, 2010

Greg Gilbert recently posted an excerpt of this lengthy discussion of D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller where Carson asks them how to safeguard mercy ministry from mistakes in the past.  Piper’s and Keller’s responses, transcribed by Gilbert, give good counsel on this important matter of word and deed ministry.  Here’s their responses:


Gospel and Poor: Some Personal Reflections

March 17, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks, I have taught on the relationship of the gospel and the poor which apparently is a hot topic in some evangelical circles.  I initially intended this to be a short addendum to the 20-week teaching on “The Gospel Centered Life” from last year, but when I asked our adult members if any of them had done an in-depth study on what the Bible says about the poor, no one raised their hands.  Well, that was a month ago, and since then there has been dozens and dozens of hands raised with questions abounding.

While I have not completed our study on this subject, I thought I’d post some blogposts on this subject from our church blog.  Perhaps some of this may be of some interest to you.

* Gospel and Poor: Implications
> From the Life of Christ
> From the Death of Christ
> From the Resurrection of Christ

* Additional Thoughts
> 12 Observations About the Poor from the New Testament
> Two Ways to Live – Regarding the Poor

Tim Keller has done a lot of thinking on this topic as well, and I encourage you to read this article and/or watch the video below.

The Biblical Gospel and Its Social Implications

March 4, 2010

James MacDonald rejects the Social Gospel but embraces the social implications of the biblical gospel:

Kingdom Words, Kingdom Deeds

March 1, 2010

A lesser known evangelical declaration, the Manila Manifesto (1989) was adopted by the Second International Congress on World Evangelization  in Manila, Philippines.  Regarding the gospel and our social responsibility, I would like to post an excerpt:

The authentic gospel must become visible in the transformed lives of men and women. As we proclaim the love of God we must be involved in loving service, as we preach the Kingdom of God we must be committed to its demands of justice and peace.

Evangelism is primary because our chief concern is with the gospel, that all people may have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Yet Jesus not only proclaimed the Kingdom of God, he also demonstrated its arrival by works of mercy and power. We are called today to a similar integration of words and deeds. In a spirit of humility we are to preach and teach, minister to the sick, feed the hungry, care for prisoners, help the disadvantaged and handicapped, and deliver the oppressed. While we acknowledge the diversity of spiritual gifts, callings and contexts, we also affirm that good news and good works are inseparable.

Margin for the Marginalized

February 25, 2010

From Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

Jesus’ eating with sinners is a wonderful declaration of the riches of God’s grace. But notice how this grace plays out in practice. It results in Jesus spending time with the despised and marginalized.  It means Jesus has time for the needy.  They are his priority. He does not focus on the professional classes, the lawyers, the doctors, the respectable middle classes. Such people are welcomed if they will associate with the ragtag group who makes up the community of Jesus–after all, Luke himself is a doctor. But Jesus goes out of his way to welcome the poor, the marginalized, and the needy.  (emphasis mine)

Have you ever thought about Christ-likeness in this way?  If the goal of the Christian life is to be transformed into His image, to become more like Christ, then shouldn’t our lives display margin for the marginalized, making the poor and needy our priority?  Does our community of believers look anything like the community of Jesus?  Are we demonstrating the grace which we have received vertically from God in a horizontal way to others in our city?

The Gospel and Hearts for the Poor

February 22, 2010

Here’s an excerpt from A Gospel Primer for Christians on a much discussed topic among evangelicals today: the relationship of the gospel to the poor.  Check it.

Like nothing else could ever do, the gospel instills in me a heart for the downcast, the poverty-stricken, and those in need of physical mercies, especially when such persons are of the household of faith.

When I see persons who are materially poor, I instantly feel a kinship with them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ.  Perhaps some of them are in their condition because of sin, but so was I.  Perhaps they are unkind when I try to help them; but I, too, have been spiteful to God when He has sought to help me.  Perhaps they are thankless and even abuse the kindness I show them, but how many times have I been thankless and used what God has given me to serve selfish ends?

Perhaps a poverty-stricken person will be blessed and changed as a result of some kindness I show them.  If so, God be praised for His grace through me.  But if the person walks away unchanged by my kindness, then I still rejoice over the opportunity to love as God loves.  Perhaps the person will repent in time; but for now, my heart is chastened and made wiser by the tangible depiction of what I myself have done to God on numerous occasions.

The gospel reminds me daily of the spiritual poverty into which I was born and also of the staggering generosity of Christ towards me.  Such reminders instill in me both a felt connection to the poor and a desire to show them the same generosity that has been lavished on me.  When ministering to the poor with these motivations, I not only preach the gospel to them through word and deed, but I reenact the gospel to my own benefit as well.

Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love (Bemidji, MN: Focus, 2008), 38-39.

Gospel Workshops – An Idea for Consideration

September 29, 2009

I have argued for several years now that the greatest need for our churches today is the recovery of the gospel.  Some people have concluded that what I mean by that is everyone embracing the doctrines of grace; however, a casual observer of my blog could able to discern that is not the case.  What I mean is understanding the functional centrality of the gospel and its sufficiency in every aspect of the church.

I have become more and more aware of this need when I talk to, for instance, seminary-trained Christian counselors who have never heard or been trained in how to apply the gospel to situations in life involving believers and conflict of any sort or a leadership style that reflects more of corporate one-upmanship rather than the gospel style of decreasing to serve others.  I have grown up in the county-seat First Baptist Church and heard how the gospel of Matthew was a how-to manual to overcome stress, worry, fear, and so on and also been in the seeker-sensitive megachurch where the stories are gripping but the gospel missing.  I have been in the smaller, more rural church where the preacher is excited and earnest as in the tradition of revivalism but the gospel is reduced to a few points and a prayer.  Reflecting and experiencing these realities have served to increase the burden in my heart for the gospel to be preached, lived, and result in truly transformed lives.


Pray for Lakeshore

January 17, 2009

This past week, a team from our church along with several other churches ministered as part of the Rebuild Lakeshore.  For those of you may not be familiar with Rebuild Lakeshore, Don Elbourne is pastor of a church whose community (and church buildings) were completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Since then, Don and his church have committed themselves to rebuilding not only the church buildings but also the homes of people in their community.  Since Katrina, Lakeshore Baptist Church in Waveland, Mississippi has hosted hundreds of volunteer teams from across the country with a long-term commitment to loving their neighbor by helping rebuild lives by rebuilding homes.

I write this post to request prayer on behalf of Don, the project leadership team, and the entire church because it appears that the County Planning and Zoning Commission is seeking to pass a resolution that would virtually stop all future efforts to minister in the community after May of this year.  While there have been various groups who have come and gone from this area, Lakeshore has remained faithfully committed to the task of bring hope to the destitute and a helping hand to those who have no where else to turn.  Years after Katrina, still there are folks living in tents or practically homeless.

I don’t know all the rationale of the County Commission, but I struggle to hold back the frustration and confusion of preventing the rebuilding of lives and homes of people who have lost everything.  Instead of placing their hand on a love-motivated shovel, they are placing it on a law-making pen in pursuit of taking the very privilege (and responsibility) of caring for the needy away from those who are bearing the burden and seeking to be a blessing.  If there ever was a needed time of cooperation seeking the good of the people, surely it is now.

Apparently, the proposed resolution must first be approved by a Board of Supervisors before it goes into effect.  If it does, Lakeshore Baptist will have until May 31 to shut down the operation which began the day after Katrina devastated literally everything.  If this happens, it will be a tragedy for the people of Hancock County and a serious handicap to future volunteer work among people whose hearts are big but whose hands will be tied.

Please join me in praying for this situation, especially for the opportunity for Rebuild Lakeshore to work out an agreement with the County Commission that will enable them to continue the work in their community.  May God who defends the destitute and oppressed be gracious and turn the hearts of politicians to the cause of loving their neighbor than writing a new law.

Here’s a video giving a glimpse into the realities they see every day:

Dan Kimball on Wholeness and Hell

November 19, 2007

Dan Kimball, a leading voice in the Emerging Church Movement, shares his concerns of an absence of evangelism and downplaying (if not outrightly rejecting) the reality of hell. Here’s an excerpt from Kimball’s blogpost (emphasis mine):

Something else I love about [this convention] is something I honestly feel is often missing often in the whole emerging and emergent church conversations – and that is evangelism. I am not talking about social justice or issues of Kingdom living in the now which is talked about and acted on a lot (thank God). I fully admit that most (not all) of the evangelical church didn’t pay the attention needed to how the gospel of Jesus changes this life, not just the afterlife. A wonderful book I would suggest reading about this is Ron Sider’s book “Good News and Good Works: A Theology for the Whole Gospel”. The gospel of Jesus is more than just salvation for the life to come.

At the same time, I wonder if because we are reacting to perhaps the over-focus on the gospel being about the after-life only, that we have gone too far in response. Do we now focus so much on the gospel and Kingdom-living in this life and what that means (which is incredibly important) but we now neglect talking about the gospel’s impact on the after-life? Perhaps it is fresh on my mind and heart, since my dad just died and my thinking has been about the after-life. But something I have a personal concern for is balance. As we adjust to making sure we teach and live out the good (great) news of the gospel and Kingdom living here and now in this life – that we still talk and teach about the reality of the after-life. That we still talk about heaven and we also still talk about the reality of hell. I honestly don’t hear too much talk about hell in most (but not all) emerging and emergent church circles. I know it isn’t pleasant to talk about. I know there is much mystery with it. I know God is the only one who knows people’s eternal destinations. I know we have used “hell” in manipulative and incorrect ways. And again, I understand fully the reality of how we neglected understanding the Kingdom of God on this earth and what that means and perhaps focused too much on the after-life only when we talked about the gospel. But at the same time, how can we forget about the reality of the after-life and not talk or think about hell and heaven?

I know some of my friends may not agree with me, but I fully believe in the reality of both heaven and the eternity of a hell. I may not understand all there is to it and much of the hell imagery isn’t actually biblical truth, but a poor understanding of biblical metaphors and mixing in medieval concepts that we have historically used. But I believe from passages such as in Daniel 12:2 to a bunch of them in the New Testament which to me clearly indicate that there is an eternal separation of people in the afterlife. A horrifying and heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, mind-searing, painful thought. But a reality I personally cannot dismiss. So it doesn’t mean that we take the gospel and only focus on hell, as the gospel is about this life too. But at the same time, we can’t forget or dismiss the topic of hell either, which I am wondering if we are beginning to do in some circles.

But I hope in emerging church (and all church circles) we don’t forget the reality of hell and aren’t afraid to speak about it in a balanced way. I don’t mean to sound like a backwoods fundamentalist of some type here, but we must have a healthy balance of Kingdom living and the gospel being for this life and for the life to come. Hell is real and to some degree, it does motivate and compel me to never forget about evangelism and teaching about the gospel in terms of the after-life, as well as this life.

What Kimball is seeking is a balance between social action and evangelism, already (kingdom now) and not yet (kingdom to come). We recently discussed what Ajith Fernando wrote as part of the Christian Vision Project as well as an excerpt from Christopher J.H. Wright. As you can see, this is an issue of concern for those who tend to swing the pendulum to either extreme – Kimball’s concern for the extreme of social justice alone (kingdom now) in the emerging church and others (including myself) concern for the extreme of evangelism alone (kingdom to come) in the traditional church.

What do you think? Can there be a balance forged by emerging churches and traditional churches that strengthen our evangelism and encourages social action?