Alex Chediak has just released his new book, Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World.
Alex covers 10 common mistakes students can make in college:
- Chucking your faith
- Treating college as if it were high school
- Not being intentional
- Distorting dating and romance
- Refusing to grow up
- Being a flake
- Living out of balance
- Being too passive or too cocky
- Living for grades
- Wasting opportunities
It is endorsed by Al Mohler, Jerry Bridges, Randy Alcorn, and more.
You can read some of the book online for free:
The book looks excellent, and the parts that I have read so far have been insightful.
Alex’s first point is the most important, and if you get this right, everything else will follow: “College is a season in which you can — and must — really take ownership of your faith. You can’t truly grow in the Christian life on borrowed faith, and most find college to be a season in which their Christian faith is put to the test.”
I agree completely. The most important thing you can do in college is learn everything you can about God — whether you are at a Christian college or a secular university (sometimes, this goes better at secular universities!).
Here’s why you should do this: you will never have more free time and be more free of concern. If you are in college, this may sound strange. But just wait. Life gets incredibly packed and busy. Use the extra time you have to build a good foundation of knowledge about God (doctrine and practice) and great Christian friends. This will serve you for the rest of your life. Here’s how Edwards puts it (which I blogged a few months ago):
It is fitting that we should begin our lives with God; and the first business persons should enter upon should be getting into a converted state and condition. Therefore God has so ordered it in providence that in the beginning or morning of our lives there should be room left for it. There is a vacant space left in the beginning, a time of leisure not filled up with the other cares and business, to give the better and freer opportunity for this business; for God expects that we should do this business first. Persons have ordinarily abundantly freer opportunity, freer from those cares and hurries that come upon persons afterwards. Providence has filled up all the rest of our lives with cares, but here it has left, as it were, a vacant space on purpose that we might begin in the first place with that great business.
Second, here’s how you can do this: read everything you can (especially books like Desiring God and Knowing God), get involved in a solid campus ministry, and learn how to handle intellectual challenges to Christianity.
Some courses and professors are especially interested in raising challenges to the Bible and Christian worldview. This is not something to shy back from, but is an opportunity, at the very least, to go find the books and do the research and talk to the people that will help you go deeper in learning the evidence for Christianity, which is really solid (one of the best books here is William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics). This is a really, really good way to grow in your faith. I would often end up writing papers defending various aspects of the Christian worldview (Jesus as the only way, evidence for the resurrection, evidence for the existence of God, and so forth). You don’t have to do that, but at the very least, encountering challenges to your faith is something to be harnessed rather than shied away from.
Alex has more thoughts on confronting challenges to your faith in college, and a whole host of other things, in his book. I am not aware of any other book like it, and would agree with what Justin Taylor said in his post: “From what I’ve seen of the book, it’s probably the first book I’d recommend for students going off to college.”
A good point from Gordon MacDonald in Ordering Your Private World:
Because I had not adequately defined a sense of mission in the early days of my work, and because I had not been ruthless enough with my weaknesses, I found that I normally invested inordinately large amounts of time doing things I was not good at, while the tasks I should have been able to do with excellence and effectiveness were preempted. . . .
So why did I spend almost 75 percent of my available time trying to administrate and relatively little time studying and preparing to preach when I was younger? Because unseized time will flow in the direction of one’s relative weaknesses. Since I knew I could preach an acceptable sermon with a minimum of preparation, I was actually doing less than my best in the pulpit. That is what happens when one does not evaluate this matter and do something drastic about it.
Warming up your day by knocking off a bunch of quick, easy tasks is tempting, but it can provide you with a false sense of accomplishment.
The danger in this approach is that the bulk of your energy gets depleted over a bunch of insignificant tasks. First there’s email, then a couple of phone calls, then a meeting, then huddles with some direct reports and a quick sign-off on a project budget — then, guess what? It’s time for lunch!
To warm up after lunch, you start off with another round of email, then a client eats up your mid afternoon, and suddenly it’s 5 pm — and you never got around to, much less finished, the grant proposal — your day’s one-step-from-the-revenue-line priority. In fact, you can’t even remember what you did get done.
Solution: You must retrain yourself to choose the important over the quick, the tough over the easy, no matter how intimidating the project may be. Starting too far from the revenue line prevents you from producing the volume of revenue-generating work that your company actually relies on and pays you for.
Working from the bottom up puts you in a risky position — when that inevitable crisis appears, . . . how can you possibly handle it when you haven’t even gotten to your most important assignment yet!
Completely two or three tasks that directly make or save your company money far outweighs finishing twenty things that are three steps from the revenue line.
Seth Godin, from Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?:
The single biggest objection to changing the way you approach your job is the certainty that your boss won’t let you do anything but be a cog.
Nine times out of ten, this isn’t true. One time out of ten, you should get a new job.
Let’s take the rare case first.
If you actually work for an organization that insists you be mediocre, that enforces conformity in all its employees, why stay? What are you building?
The work can’t possibly be enjoyable or challenging, your skills aren’t increasing, and your value in the marketplace decreases each day you stay there. And if history is any guide, your job there isn’t as stable as you think, because average companies making average products for average people are under huge strain.
Sure, it might be comfortable, and yes, you’ve been brainwashed into believing that this is what you’re supposed to do, but no, it’s not what you deserve.
The other case, though, is the common one. You think your boss won’t let you, at the very same moment that your boss can’t understand why you won’t contribute more insight or enthusiasm. In most non-cog jobs, the boss’s biggest lament is that her people won’t step up and bring their authentic selves to work.
John Piper, in Don’t Waste Your Life:
God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion.
God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.
More good counsel from Spurgeon’s Counsel For Christian Workers:
According to Christ’s law, every Christian is to be a minister in his own sphere; every member of the church is to be active in spreading the faith which was delivered not to the ministers, but delivered to the saints, to every one of them, that they might maintain it and spread it according to the gift which the Spirit has given them.
On Wednesday I asked what one thing about Getting Things Done you found to be most helpful. Thank you so much for all of your thoughts (both in the comments and by email). They have been really helpful!
Here is one comment from a reader that I especially wanted to highlight:
The whole concept/category of “knowledge work” was really helpful—never heard or thought along those lines previously. It helped to clarify practically why I struggle the way I do with productivity (my own heart issues obviously not addressed).
I wondered why I felt so incredibly productive in seminary and, well, the total opposite in ministry. Seminary was incredibly challenging, but it was so simple: just do what the professors assigned. All my tasks were clearly spelled out. Not so in ministry. As a self-employed “knowledge worker” with nobody handing me a syllabus, I was in quite a different position, and up to that point, I wasn’t able to clearly articulate why I felt so unproductive.
The label didn’t cure me—just clarified the problem. It helped to realize that I probably wasn’t the only one struggling.
I love this comment because of how it gets at one of the core challenges that I think many people in ministry experience — namely, the transition from seminary to full-time ministry and work.
This is the transition that actually got me interested in productivity in the first place. I went through seminary pretty fast — at one point I took 48 hours (= 16 classes) in a 9 month period. I did this without using a planner or even calendar (although I did write down a list of assignments once). One semester I completed all of my assignments within the first six weeks, and then had the rest of the semester almost entirely free from obligations (other than going to class; I used the time to work more and, I think, do more reading or something). I had never even heard of David Allen, and life worked great.
But then we moved back to Minneapolis (we had been at Southern Seminary in Louisville) and I started full-time at Desiring God. And my first task was not so small: launch a nationwide radio program while managing the church and conference bookstores at the same time. I found that my default practices for productivity just didn’t work. I realized I had to be more intentional and deliberate about how I got things done.
I had always read a lot. My focus up to that point had almost exclusively been theology. So I said to myself, “I’ll try to do the same thing with productivity — I’ll find some key books to read and try to develop an overall approach and system to keep track of what I have to do and stay focused on what is most important.”
At Desiring God, some people were reading Getting Things Done. So I picked that up. I also noticed that in the employee handbook for the church that they encouraged the use of Franklin Planners and would even pay $50 a year for you to get one and replace the pages each year. So I got one of those as well. This led to developing my own approach that merged what I took to be the best insights from David Allen and Stephen Covey, along with some of my own thinking.
Anyway, that’s how I got into productivity. I think the struggle I had is something that many other people also have experienced and continue to experience. And that’s why I resonate with Andrew’s comment above so much
Piper has written a lot of books and preached a lot of sermons. You can learn something amazing and biblical from everything he has said. But the best place to start, in my view, still remains Desiring God.
This is where Piper lays out most fully the foundations of “Christian Hedonism” — the truth that the great business of life is to glorify God by enjoying him and to see this joy reach its consummation as it serves others (joyfully) in love.
Here are the five convictions on which Christian Hedonism is built, as Piper lays them out in Desiring God:
- The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
- We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
- The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
- The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
- To the extent that we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.
Yes. “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11).
Here’s what the ESV Study Bible has to say about this passage:
Hastening (Gk. speudo, “hurry [by extra effort]“) the coming of the day of God suggests that, by living holy lives, Christians can actually affect the time of the Lord’s return.
That does not mean, of course, that the Lord has not foreknown and foreordained when Jesus will return (cf. Matt. 24:36; Acts 17:31). But when God set that day, he also ordained that it would happen after all of his purposes for saving believers and building his kingdom in this present age had been accomplished, and those purposes are accomplished when he works through his human agents to bring them about.
Therefore, from a human perspective, when Christians share the gospel with others, and pray (cf. Matt 6:10), and advance the kingdom of God in other ways, they do “hasten” the fulfillment of God’s purposes, including Christ’s return.
Spurgeon, from Counsel For Christian Workers:
Grace does not make us unearthly, though it makes us unworldly.
True religion distinguishes us from others, even as our Lord Jesus was separate from sinners, but it does not shut us up or hedge us round about as if we were too good or too tender for the rough usage of everyday life.
It does not put us in the saltbox and shut the lid down, but it casts us in among our fellowmen for their good.
Jerry Bridges, in Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints:
The word perseverance is very similar in meaning to the word endurance, and often we equat the two. But there can be a subtle difference.
The word endure means to stand firm, and that is the theme of this book. We are to stand firm. We’re not to be carried about with every wind of doctrine theologically. We’re not to go off to this and that and the other. We’re to stand firm.
But we need to do more than stand. We need to move forward. When Paul says, “I have finished the race” (2 Tim 4:7), obviously he was talking about motion. And perseverance means to keep going in spite of obstacles.
So when Paul says “I have finished the race,” basically he was saying, “I have persevered.” We do need to stand firm, and Scripture over and over exhorts us to stand firm. But remember, that’s more than just standing still. If we get that idea, we’ve missed the point.
We must move forward. We must persevere. We must be like Paul and say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
A lot of people that I talk to say “I can’t do everything David Allen outlines in Getting Things Done, but I took away a few key ideas that have made a big impact.” And the main take-away they describe is usually very helpful.
So I’m thinking of having a call-out in the book that highlights the top things various people have taken away from Getting Things Done. I’ve been asking this question of some people I’ve interviewed for the book, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.
Just shoot me an email or add a comment below answering this question: “What is the most helpful thing you learned from Getting Things Done?”
I haven’t read this yet, but I’m looking forward to it:
1 Peter 2:21 tells us that Christ left an example for us to follow, especially when we suffer as he did:
“But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pt 2:20-21).
This example is incredibly important and precious. We can and should look to Christ, especially in his obedience to the point of death, as an example to follow.
The mistake some make is to think of Christ’s life (and death) merely as an example. They are an example, but they are more than an example. This “more than” is, in fact, necessary for Christ’s example to work, because we cannot follow in his steps unless we are first empowered by the knowledge that our sins are forgiven — forgiven, that is, because of his death.
So in order for Christ’s disposition in suffering to be an example to us, his suffering had to be more than an example. It had to also be a sacrifice paying the penalty for our sins.
Sometimes it is thought that if you focus on one, you inevitably downplay the other. That if we focus on the fact that Christ’s death was a satisfaction for sin, we will somehow be less likely to see the example that he also left and live like him.
But this is a false dichotomy. And here’s the amazing thing. It is not only a false dichotomy because, as we’ve already said, the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death is what makes it possible for us to follow his example at all. It is also a false dichotomy because the Bible itself does not see them as being at odds. Instead, right in this very text we see both the example of Christ and sacrificial nature of his death together. Here’s the full text:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 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” (vv. 21-24).
So right here, in the same text, we see held up for us both Christ’s example and the sacrificial nature of his death that makes it possible for us to even follow his example (“so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness”).
Living like Jesus, then, doesn’t mean simply doing what he did. It also includes trusting in him and what he did for our right standing with God and ability to follow his example.
In other words, we cannot divorce doctrine and practice. Doing so is not only unbiblical, but also undermines the very practice that you want to uphold.
Crouch argues that “everyone should strive to make culture by humbly mastering a field that intersects with the world’s brokenness.” And he believes just that: everyone can make culture, not just the elite.
That seems to be a major difference between his book and James Davidson Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.
Wasn’t Mark using street language so as to communicate with common folks, not elites? Does the difference between street and elite play into the difference between your book, Culture Making, and James Davidson Hunter’s book To Change the World? He seems to argue that elites make culture, and you write more about everyone making culture. Is that a valid distinction? Yes, that’s so true. Dr. Hunter and I have different instincts. When you ask when I first made culture, I don’t think of my first publication in a national magazine. I think of the “ABC Song,” because that’s culture. Where does cultural influence come from? It’s very mysterious—the Holy Spirit can work through a lot of different vessels.
I think that’s a key difference.
I respect James Davidson Hunter’s book very much, and learned a lot from it. But I also think he makes some critical mistakes, chief among them being that he fails to take into sufficient account the changes brought about by the rise of the Internet. In many respects I think a helpful companion book would be Jeff Jarvis’s What Would Google Do?.
A good post from Seth Godin the other day.
I would add also — as Seth does — that silence can be heckling, too.
For example, with our 16-month-old, we know that if there are certain behaviors that he shouldn’t be doing, one strategy to root them out is to ignore them. The things that you ignore tend to go away. The things that you reinforce you tend to get more of.
The problem is that if you are silent about good things, you can end up (inadvertently) stamping them out as well. And not just with toddlers. Here’s how Godin puts it:
. . . Just like it’s heckling when someone is tweeting during a meeting you’re running, or refusing to make eye contact during a sales call. Your work is an act of co-creation, and if the other party isn’t egging you on, engaging with you and doing their part, then it’s as if they’re actively tearing you down.
This is one reason, I think, that the Bible is replete with passages to encourage one another and build one another up. We are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” and “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25) and “speak only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29) and “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
If you aren’t actively building people up, there is a sense in which you may be inadvertently tearing them down. I don’t want to say that that is always the case, of course. But we should definitely be alert to the possibility that, sometimes at least, failure to encourage is to discourage. Our general bent toward one another should be to take every opportunity that we can (and makes sense) to build people up.
Here’s Godin’s whole post:
The other night I heard Keith Jarrett stop a concert mid-note. While the hall had been surprisingly silent during the performance, the song he was playing was quiet and downbeat and we (and especially he) could hear an increasing chorus of coughs.
“Coughs?,” you might wonder… “No one coughs on purpose. Anyway, there are thousands of people in the hall, of course there are going to be coughs.”
But how come no one was coughing during the introductions or the upbeat songs or during the awkward moments when Keith stopped playing?
No, a cough is not as overt or aggressive as shouting down the performer. Nevertheless, it’s heckling.
Just like it’s heckling when someone is tweeting during a meeting you’re running, or refusing to make eye contact during a sales call. Your work is an act of co-creation, and if the other party isn’t egging you on, engaging with you and doing their part, then it’s as if they’re actively tearing you down.
Yes, you’re a professional. So is Jarrett. A professional at Carnegie Hall has no business stopping a concert over some coughing. But in many ways, I’m glad he did. He made it clear that for him, it’s personal. It’s a useful message for all of us, a message about understanding that our responsibility goes beyond buying a ticket for the concert or warming a chair in the meeting. If we’re going to demand that our partners push to new levels, we have to go for the ride, all the way, or not at all.
Tim Keller has a good post seeking to address the question: How do seasons of revival come?
After discussing briefly whether we can have any influence at all over whether revival happens, he then carefully discusses “some factors that, when present, often become associated with revival by God’s blessing.” He mentions four from William Sprague’s Lectures on Revival of Religion:
- Extraordinary prayer
- A recovery of the gospel of grace
- Renewed individuals
- The use of the gospel on the heart in counseling
Keller points out that Sprague “studied under both Timothy Dwight, Edwards’ grandson, at Yale and also Archibald Alexander at Princeton” and that “the Princetonians – the Alexanders, Samuel Miller, and Charles Hodge – did a good job of combining the basics of revivalism with a healthy emphasis on doctrine and the importance of the church.”
He then adds two more observations:
First, “revivals occur mainly through the ordinary, ‘instituted means of grace’ – preaching, pastoring, worship, prayer. It is a mistake to identify some specific programmatic method (e.g. Billy Graham-like mass evangelism) too closely with revivals.”
And, second, after mentioning Whitfield and Wesleys “new method” of open air preaching, he adds: “I’m ready to say that creativity might be one of the marks of revival, because so often some new way of communicating the gospel has been part of the mix that God used to bring a mighty revival.” Very interesting.
I blog frequently on management and how the essence of good management is not actually to supervise people but realize that they are self-governing. In other words, people are to manage themselves. The manager is a source of help whose role is to unleash the talent of each individual by seeking to enlarge their scope of freedom and autonomy as much as possible.
This is not a new idea. Interestingly, Charles Spurgeon, way back in the 1800s, articulated the essence of this as well as anyone today. Here’s what he had to say in Counsel to Christian Workers (and, also interestingly, he is simply echoing Ephesians 6:6!):
What a mean and beggarly thing it is for a man only to do his work well when he is watched. Such oversight is for boys at school and mere hirelings. You never think of watching noble-spirited men.
Here is a young apprentice set to copy a picture: his master stands over him and looks over each line, for the young scapegrace will grow careless and spoil his work, or take to his games if he be not looked after.
Did anybody thus dream of supervising Raphael and Michael Angelo to keep them to their work? NO, the master artist requires no eye to urge him on. Popes and emperors came to visit the great painters in their studios but did they pain the better because these grandees gazed upon them?
Certainly not; perhaps they did all the worse in the excitement or the worry of the visit. They had regard to something better than the eye of pompous personages. So the true Christian wants no eye of man to watch him.
There may be pastors and preachers who are the better for being looked after by bishops and presbyters; but fancy a bishop overseeing the work of Martin Luther and trying to quicken his zeal; or imagine a presbyter looking after Calvin to keep him sound in faith.
Oh, no; gracious minds outgrow the governance and stimulus which comes of the oversight of mortal man. God’s own Spirit dwells within us, and we serve the Lord from an inward principle, which is not fed from without.
There is about a real Christian a prevailing sense that God sees him, and he does not care who else may set his eye upon him; it is enough for him that God is there. He hath small respect to the eye of man, he neither courts nor dreads it. Let the good deed remain in the dark, for God sees it there, adn that is enough; or let it be blazoned in the light of day to be pecked at by the censorious, for it little matters who censures since God approves.
This is to be a true servant of Christ; to escape from being an eyeservant to men by becoming in the sublimest sense an eyeservant, working ever beneath the eye of God.
Martin Luther explains one of the chief reasons. Here’s what he says in The Freedom of a Christian (quoted in Don’t Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus Is Not Enough):
Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that it is true.
Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches?
I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.
Tim Keller has an excellent article at Leadership Journal on what it takes to transform a city through the gospel.
Let me highlight two things.
First, one of the core ideas of the article is that reaching a city takes more than just one or two flourishing churches. It takes a “city-wide gospel movement.” Here’s what what he means by that:
What it takes to reach a city is a city-wide gospel movement, which means the number of Christians across the city is growing faster than the population, and therefore, a growing percentage of the people of that city are connecting with gospel-centered churches and are finding faith in Jesus Christ. That will eventually have an impact on the whole life of the city. That’s what I mean by a city-wide gospel movement.
A city-wide gospel movement is an organic thing. It’s an energy unleashed across not only the city but across the different denominations, and therefore, there’s no one church, no one organization, no one leader in charge of it all. It’s bigger than that. It’s the Holy Spirit moving across the whole city and as a result the overall body of Christ is growing faster than the population, and the city is being reached. And there’s an impact for Christ made in the whole city.
Second, one of the things that needs to be at the core of this movement is a contextualized, biblical, gospel theology. Here’s a highlight on that:
The church loses its life-changing dynamism to the degree that its theology goes off to this side or that side—into either uptight legalistic moralism, or into latitudinarianism, broadness, not believing the Bible, licentiousness, relativism.
By saying the biblical gospel is in the middle, that’s not saying “moderation in all things.” Jesus wasn’t moderate in anything. He was radically gentle and radically truth loving at the same time. The gospel isn’t a kind of middle-of-the-road, lukewarm thing. But the gospel is neither legalism nor licentiousness. And to the degree we lose the biblical gospel, we’re never going to be a movement that reaches the city.
There is much, much more in the article that is worth checking out. Read the whole thing.
I read (or re-read) about 20 books on the church this week (ironic — I’m writing a book on productivity, and yet I felt compelled to review my understanding of the church before fully diving in; there is a relationship there that I might talk about sometime).
Many of the books were really good, but one of them stands out above all others: Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.
Whether or not you are a pastor, it is important for all Christians to have a good grasp of the doctrine of the church and what makes for a healthy church. One reason for this, as I blogged the other day (also from Dever’s book), is that it is ultimately the church members who, at the human level, are most responsible for what the church becomes.
With that in mind, if you are looking for the one book to read that might give you the best help in understanding what makes for a healthy church, I would recommend Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. You will be more equipped to serve your church and love people if you read this book — whether or not you are a pastor.
And, it’s also an enjoyable read.
If we are God-centered, we will be on the lookout to meet the needs of others and do them good.
God-centeredness does not lead to an inward focus on ourselves, or simply our own relationship with God (as important as our own relationship with God is). Rather, it leads us up and out of ourselves to be disposed to the good of others — both Christians and non-Christians.
This is because if we love God, then we will love people since they are in the image of God.
Mark Dever captures this well in the preface he wrote to the expanded edition of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church:
If I had to add one more mark to what you’re about to read, it wouldn’t be missions or prayer or worship; but it would touch on all of those things.
I think that I would add that we want our congregations to be outward-looking.
We are to be upwardly focused — God-centered. But we are also, I think, supposed to reflect God’s own love as we look out on other people and on other congregations.
That’s well said. Loving God and being God-centered leads you (and your church!) to be outward looking. For when we love God, we also find within ourselves a strong desire to serve those who are in his image and reflect the character of the God that we love in the world.
If we don’t have this desire, we might not be God-centered in the right way.
Piper summarizes the case Adler makes for reading hard books:
In his classic, How to Read a Book [Adler] makes a passionate case that the books that enlarge our grasp of truth and make us wiser must feel, at first, beyond us. They “make demands on you. They must seem to you to be beyond your capacity.”
If a book is easy and fits nicely into all your language conventions and thought forms, then you probably will not grow much from reading it. It may be entertaining, but not enlarging to your understanding. It’s the hard books that count. Raking is easy; but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.
Evangelical Christians, who believe God reveals himself primarily through a book, the Bible, should long to be the most able readers they can be.
This means that we should want to become clear, penetrating, accurate, fair-minded thinkers, because all good reading involves asking questions and thinking.
Mark Dever, in What Is a Healthy Church?:
Before we consider what the Bible says churches should be, which we will do in the first few chapters, I want you to consider why I would pose this question to you, especially if you are not a pastor. After all, isn’t a book on the topic of healthy churches a book for pastors and church leaders?
It is for pastors, yes, but it’s also for every Christian. Remember: thats who the authors of the New Testament address.
When the churches in Galatia began listening to false teachers, Paul wrote to them and said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ” (Gal 1:6).
Who was the “you” that Paul called to account for the false teaching in their churches? Not the pastors alone but the church bodies themselves. You’d expect him to write to the churches’ leaders and say, “Stop teaching that heresy!” But he doesn’t. He calls the whole church to account.
Likewise, when the church in the city of Corinth allowed for an adulterous relationship to continue unchecked in their midst, Paul again directly addressed the church (1 Corinthians 5). He didn’t tell the pastors or the staff to take care of the problem. He told the church to take care of it.
So it is with the majority of letters in the New Testament.
I trust the pastors of those first-century churches were listening as Paul and Peter, James and John, addressed their congregations. And I trust the pastors initiated and led the way in responding to whatever instructions the apostles gave in their letters.
Yet by following the apostles’ example and addressing you, pastor and members alike, I believe I’m placing responsibility where, humanly, it ultimately belongs.
You and all the members of your church, Christian, are finally responsible before God for what your church becomes, not your pastors and other leaders — you.
Warfield (quoted in Keller’s Ministries of Mercy):
Objection 1. “My money is my own.”
Answer: Christ might have said, “my blood is my own, my life is my own.” Then where should we have been?
Objection 2. “The poor are undeserving.”
Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels . . . shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving.
Objection 3. “The poor may abuse it.”
Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood.
Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”