Great thoughts by Doug Wilson.
Here are the seven points:
- The point is fruitfulness, not efficiency. [Comment: This point is especially excellent. Very often, the question for optimal efficiency backfires and is actually less efficient. It's this way in management as well: seek effectiveness, and efficiency often follows. Seek efficiency, and you'll probably lose both.]
- Build a fence around your life, and keep that fence tended.
- Perfectionism paralyzes.
- Fill in the corners.
- Take in more than you give out.
- Use and reuse.
John Piper Interviews Rick Warren on Doctrine — And Thoughts on the Significance of Their Relationship
The video of John Piper interviewing Rick Warren is now online. Here’s some of what John Piper had to say about it at the Desiring God blog:
The nature of the interview is mainly doctrinal. I read Rick’s The Purpose Driven Life with great care. I brought 20 pages of quotes and questions to the interview. You will hear me quote the book dozens of times. With these quotes as a starting point I dig into Rick’s mind and heart on all the issues listed below (with the times that they begin on the video).
My aim in this interview is to bring out and clarify what Rick Warren believes about these biblical doctrines. In doing this my hope is that the thousands of pastors and lay people who look to Rick for inspiration and wisdom will see the profound place that doctrine has in his mind and heart.
I had the privilege of being there when the video was shot out at Saddleback earlier this month. I was very impressed with Rick Warren’s answers. I think Piper is right: Doctrine plays a large role in Warren’s mind and heart, and he is doctrinally solid. Piper asked him about everything from repentance to the sovereignty of God to election to the gospel to total depravity to hell. Warren gave clear and thorough and biblical answers to all of Piper’s questions — answers that we would agree with here at Desiring God.
The one place he was a bit sketchy was on the new heavens and new earth, but I think that’s just because Piper’s question there may not have been clear and he wasn’t sure what was being asked.
Obviously, there has been a lot of controversy over Piper inviting Warren to the Desiring God National Conference last fall. One of the main reasons is that Warren’s methodology doesn’t seem to be doctrinal at all, but rather pragmatic. Here’s what Piper had to say about that in the post introducing the video:
Rick is not known for being a doctrinal preacher. One reason for this is his intention to be theologically sound and practically helpful without using doctrinal or theological terms in his public ministry. Inside of Saddleback there is a greater intentionality about building biblical and theological categories into the people’s minds and hearts.
Near the end of the interview, with great respect and appreciation for the stewardship of influence that Rick carries, I exhort him and pray for him that God will make the final chapter of his ministry a deepening one, that leaves a legacy of biblical and doctrinal truth more explicitly and firmly in the minds and hearts of the generations that will follow him.
Piper’s exhortation here is excellent, and points to, I think, the broader importance of Piper and Warren’s relationship. I would argue that not only do Warren and Saddleback perhaps have something to learn from Piper, but that Piper and our church have something to learn from Warren as well.
Here’s what I mean.
As Piper shows in the interview, there is a solid doctrinal foundation underneath Warren’s ministry. But, as Piper exhorts him at the end and summarizes in that quote above, he can perhaps do a better job in making this explicit and fleshing it out. The practical emphasis of Warren’s ministry, in fact, would be even better served by making the doctrinal foundations more explicit, because doctrine is the foundation of practice. (Piper shows very effectively how this works in his biography of William Wilberforce. Briefly, the connection is that doctrine fuels the joy that drives practice.)
This provides a wider lessen, perhaps, to all those in the evangelical church who care deeply about the practical while giving less emphasis to the theological. The message that doctrine grounds and fuels effective practice says: your emphasis on the practical is a great thing, and you don’t need to become less action-oriented; rather, let yourselves become more action-oriented by kindling a love for doctrine and allowing that doctrine to have its joyful, action-producing effect in your lives and churches.
(If I can, I will post a message I gave here last fall at a Desiring God staff devotional that talks about how this works out in more detail; the message is called “Why Sound Doctrine Grounds and Leads to Effective Action: What Rick Warren Should Have Said at the Desiring God Conference.” The title, by the way, is not a critique of Warren’s message — I found it very helpful; what I try to do in the message is show in more detail exactly how and why doctrine leads to practice, and the biblical texts that show this to be the case.)
So that’s what I think Warren and the highly practical and leadership-oriented segment of the evangelical church can perhaps learn from Piper.
Now, on the other side, I think that Piper, our church, and the more doctrinally-oriented segment of evangelicalism could learn something from Warren’s emphasis on the practical, and from the importance he gives to biblical leadership. I think the mistake we make is that sometimes we focus on the doctrinal to the expense of the practical. It’s not that we reject practice or don’t care about it — we do. But sometimes we don’t place as much importance on, for example, learning how to do it well. We can neglect learning about things like leadership and organizational effectiveness and other such things, and I think this hinders the growth of our people and fails to serve them as well as we perhaps could.
So to this segment of the evangelical church, I think people like Warren show us that we need to pay greater attention to letting these doctrines have their ultimate ends in the service of others and the glory of God. We don’t need to be less doctrinal. No way. But perhaps we need to be intentional in learning about the practical. And with the doctrinal foundations we already have in place, the practical side will be all the more effective because it will be built on top of a solid theological foundation. This, further, will serve doctrine because when people and organizations are well led and organized, more people will hear and come to the greater joy in God that comes from understanding the theology of the Bible in a deeper way.
In one sense, it is the purpose of this blog to bring both of these goals together by equipping Christians theologically and practically. Or, another way to put it is that the purpose of this blog is to equip Christians in good works. And to be effective in good works, we need to understand both the theological and practical dimensions of life.
That’s why I blog on things from how to set up your desk to why we should be creative and competent in fighting global poverty to the six things Christ accomplished by his death. Productivity and leadership are really about good works. As Christians, we are to abound and excel in good works (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 2:10), and to do this best we need to grow in our knowledge and understanding of how to be effective in all areas of life (including the mundane things like setting up your desk), and we need to do this on a solid, exciting, worship-fueling theological foundation.
The main point here is that we don’t have to choose between deep thinking and effective practical action. Instead, they drive one another: thinking hard about truth motivates and directs wise, effective practical action for good. We should think theologically about the practical for the sake of love. The Piper-Warren interview models this well, and gives both the more practically oriented and the more doctrinally oriented something to think about.
One final thought on the video: The best part of the video is the very end, where Warren talks about stewarding the influence that God has given him. His humility and concern for God’s glory and the good of God’s people really shines through at that point, in my view. If you don’t watch any other part of the video, I’d make sure to watch that. This section starts at 1:28:10.
Here’s the breakdown of the rest of the topics in the video and where they begin:
3:29 The glory of God.
7:16 David Wells and the weight of God’s reality.
9:00 Would you write the book the same today?
12:00 The sovereignty of God.
18:47 How do you speak of God’s sovereignty in the presence of tragedy?
22:01 How do all things work for bad for those who reject Christ?
24:14 Do you hedge on Larry King?
27:00 Unconditional election.
30:18 The importance of eternity.
34:42 How do you conceive of eternity: in heaven, on earth?
38:53 What is the Gospel?
42:00 What did Jesus achieve on the cross?
50:50 Why don’t you call yourself a Calvinist?
54:39 Prevenient grace.
1:00:01 Total depravity.
1:09:10 Eternal destiny of those who never heard.
1:12:40 The extent of the atonement.
1:17:00 Do unbelievers always do the devil’s bidding?
1:18:40 Your view of the Bible.
1:22:40 Expository preaching and doctrinal depth.
1:28:10 Rick Warren’s sacred trust.
This is a guest post by Loren Pinilis. Loren blogs on time stewardship at Life of a Steward.
For a long time, my desire has been to not waste my life. I wanted to do great things for God and to bring him as much glory as possible.
But I was going about it all wrong.
My thinking was refined by Dave Harvey’s Rescuing Ambition and by what Matt has said here on What’s Best Next.
I had an individualistic view of good works. Productivity was all about what I personally could contribute and accomplish. I looked for ways to use my strengths and to follow the callings and burdens that God had given me.
But I’ve realized the New Testament model for effectiveness is strikingly different. Instead, we see God working through his church. We see the passion of the apostles to build up this corporate body. We see God creating, refining, and growing local congregations of believers — and expressing his love to the nations through them.
This should radically change our view of productivity. We shift from a model that focuses on personal effectiveness to one that centers on organizational effectiveness. The most important thing is the team record, not the stats of the players.
This organizational productivity is not about finding fulfillment in our ministry. It’s not about making sure our gifts are utilized to the fullest. It’s about what’s best for the church.
There is a relationship between personal effectiveness and organizational effectiveness. God did, after all, give us strengths and gifts that he intends for us to steward well. But when spiritual gifts are discussed in the Bible, it’s in the context of the church. These gifts are given so that we join with others who have complementary strengths – and together we build up the church, serve the needs of others, and fulfill the Great Commission.
The danger, however, is when the church becomes merely a vehicle for us to pursue our personal ministry goals. In the desire to maximize our own individual productivity, we end up devaluing the local church. Instead of the church being a functioning body, it becomes some Frankenstein’s monster of individual parts sewn together.
I like the way Dave Harvey puts it: “The church shouldn’t merely accommodate our ministry; it should help define it according to the present needs of the church. This means if you have a burden for adult education but the church needs someone to teach kids, then grab the milk and cookies and get your lessons ready.”
“Having a heart” for a particular area of ministry is a signpost pointing you to an area where you may be the most productive. Passions are often God’s way of showing you how you can contribute to the greatest organizational effectiveness of the church.
But the performance of the body is the final measure of success — not our fulfillment. Not our individual accomplishments.
If the pursuit of our lives is to bring God glory, let’s make sure we’re doing it in a way that honors him and his body. Let’s do what will help the church the most — asking first “what needs to be done,” rather than simply “what would I like to do.”
Here are two endorsements of the videos:
Are you afraid to open your eyes and see death and destruction in the world? Dispatches from the Front will open your eyes to the great needs of the lost, enflame your heart to go to the nations, and give you the courage to carry on the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. This is a bold call to action.
–Burk Parsons, pastor, author, editor of Tabletalk magazine
Dispatches offers a potent reminder that in the darkest places, the gospel shines brightest. It should come with a warning label. Danger: Graphic scenes of mission reality that will disrupt your comfort and ignite your heart for God’s work on the frontlines. Pray, watch and act!
–Dave Harvey, Sovereign Grace Ministries – Church Planting & Missiology
Here’s a summary of what Frontline Missions does:
For nearly 20 years Frontline Missions International has worked among people in areas of war, persecution, and poverty, primarily in restricted-access countries, seeking to strengthen the Church, give voice to persecuted Christians, and preach and publish the Good News.
And here’s a preview of one of the videos:
Here is a short, good video of Tim Keller speaking on passion and entrepreneurship. Interestingly, he points out the the last of the seven deadly sins — sloth — doesn’t refer to laziness but rather passionless.
In other words, living a life without passion was traditionally considered to be one of the seven deadly sins.
(Sorry for not embedding the video — technical difficulties; the above link will take you right to it, though.)
JI Packer, in Knowing Christianity:
We need not be discouraged by the problem of supposedly unanswered prayer. I say “supposedly” because I challenge the supposition.
While God has not bound himself to hear unbelievers’ prayers, his promises to answer the prayers of his own children are categorical and inclusive. It must then be wrong to think that a flat no is ever the whole of his response to reverent petitions from Christians who seek his glory and others’ welfare.
The truth must be this: God always acts positively when a believer lays a situation of need before him, but he does not always act in the way or at the speed asked for. In meeting the need, he does what he knows to be best when he knows it is best to do it.
The parable of the unjust judge shows that God’s word to his elect concerning the vindication for which they plead is “wait” (Lk 18:1-8), and he may say “wait” to other petitions as well. Christ’s word to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” when Paul had sought healing for his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7-9), meant no, but not simply no. Though it was not what Paul had expected, it was a promise of something better than the healing he had sought. We too may ask God to change situations and find that what he does instead is to give us strength to bear them unchanged. But this is not a simple no; it is a very positive answer to our prayer.
I remember a scene from my childhood. As my eleventh birthday approached I let m parents know by broad hints that I wanted a full-size bicycle. They thought it was too soon for that and therefore gave me a typewriter, which was in fact the best present and became the most treasured possession of my boyhood. Was not that good parenthood and a very positive answer to my request for a bicycle? God too allows himself to improve on our requests when what we ask for is not the best.
Fantastic. Here is the mission, vision, and philosophy of ministry for a mercy ministry that just started at my church:
The seventeen-mile rugged descending road from Jerusalem to Jericho is the setting for the Good Samaritan to display mercy and restoration to a beat-up man and robbed stranger. Jesus tells us to go and do likewise. Luke 10:35-35
It is not enough to bandage the wounds of the beaten up man. It is necessary to give him a donkey ride to the inn in Jericho so that he can be fully restored.
“From crisis to Christ-centered restoration.”
To meet the basic needs of the hungry, homeless, and unemployed while teaching life skills that will lead them to be community minded and part of a Christ-centered church.
Philosophy of Ministry
It is a privilege and honor, not a sacrifice, to serve the low income/no income persons in a Christ-like way.
We will be there for a person’s crisis. But, far beyond just crisis food and financial response, we want people to be restored. This will happen through the following development programs . . .
Here are two reasons why I’m so enthusiastic about this. First, it affirms the need to not only meet immediate needs, but also to teach life skills and restore people so they can become self-sustaining. Second, though this is not easy, they see this as a privilege, not a sacrifice.
I commend this as an example of a mercy ministry founded in good thinking (and good theology) regarding relief and restoration for those in great need.
Successful organizations don’t wait for leaders to come along. They actively seek out people with leadership potential and expose them to career experiences designed to develop that potential.
I love these words from Jonathan Edwards (in Charity And Its Fruits):
If you are selfish, and make yourself and your own private interests your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interests as well as you can.
But if you do not selfishly seek your own, but do seek the things that are Jesus Christ’s, and the things of your fellow human beings, then God will make your interest and happiness his own charge, and he is infinitely more able to provide for and promote it than you are. The resources of the universe move at his bidding, and he can easily command them all to subserve your welfare.
So that, not to seek your own, in the selfish sense, is the best way of seeking your own in a better sense. It is the directest course you can take to secure your highest happiness.
I would say that this might be the second most important thing I have ever read.
Recently I’ve been thinking a bit more about Edwards teaching on heavenly rewards.
Briefly, Edwards teaches, as the Bible seems to (Luke 19:13-19; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Ephesians 6:8), that there are degrees of rewards in the new heavens and new earth. But this will not be the cause of any unhappiness, for it doesn’t mean that those with less reward will be only two-thirds happy, while those with more reward will be fully happy.
Instead, everyone’s cup will be full; it’s just that not everyone will have the same size of cup. In this way, there can be greater degrees of happiness, while at the same time everyone is fully happy. There can be greater and lesser joy without implying that there is any sadness or dissatisfaction that goes along with the lesser degrees of joy.
Here’s how Edwards put it, using the analogy of a ship:
It will be no damp to the happiness of those who have lower degrees of happiness and glory, that there are others advanced in glory above them: for all shall be perfectly happy, every one shall be perfectly satisfied. Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others; and there shall be no such thing as envy in heaven, but perfect love shall reign throughout the whole society.
In fact, Edwards argues that degrees of happiness will actually increase everyone’s happiness, because everyone’s happiness is interconnected. In other words, when one person sees another person with a greater degree of happiness, because of their perfect love for others, the person with the lower degree of happiness will rejoice at the fact that his brother or sister in Christ has a higher degree of happiness. This principle from 1 Corinthians 12:22: “When one member is honored, they all rejoice.”
Here’s how Edwards puts it:
Those who are not so high in glory as others, will not envy those that are higher, but they will have so great, and strong, and pure love to them, that they will rejoice in their superior happiness; their love to them will be such that they will rejoice that they are happier than themselves; so that instead of having a damp to their own happiness, it will add to it…
I love Edwards’ teaching here and find it beautiful.
Now, there is also one thing I would add to it: Not only will everyone’s cup be “full” with greater and lesser degrees of happiness, but everyone will also be as happy as they want to be. In other words, someone with a smaller “cup” will feel that the size of their cup is just the right size for them. They won’t “want” a larger cup at that moment, but will see that they are actually happier (more satisfied) with less of a cup at that point than a larger cup.
I think Edwards would agree, because this actually seems to be an implication of what Edwards is saying. For if everyone’s cup is full, that implies zero discontent. Which, conversely, implies a preference for whatever level of happiness it is that you have.
Along with this — and Edwards also points this out — our happiness in the next world will not be static, but ever increasing. So if you start out with half the capacity for happiness as Martin Luther or Edwards himself, you aren’t going to stay that way but will continually grow in your capacity for happiness — forever.
One last thing here, which is an interesting connection with productivity. As I’ve talked about before, when we talk about being productivity, what we are really talking about is the doing of good works — the works which God created us in Christ to do, and which he prepared beforehand for us (Ephesians 2:10).
Understanding helpful productivity practices and tools, in other words, enables us to amplify our effectiveness in good works. And thus, perhaps, it helps us to in some sense lay up greater heavenly reward. (Which, of course, Edwards would also approve of, as his twenty-second resolution was “to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.” Wisely utilizing effective productivity practices would certainly fall within Edward’s aim here of using whatever might and vigor he can to lay up greater joy in heaven.)
Now, we need to be careful here, because I don’t want to imply that those with greater access to technology, for example, will have greater reward in heaven simply because they were born in a country where they could access these things. The Bible also talks about how “to whom much is given, much shall be required,” and that might be part of the solution — since we have been given much, if we don’t use these practices and opportunities to do more good, we are failing to be faithful with what God has given us; likewise, those without access to them (right now) are held to a different standard.
But I don’t think we should primarily cast this in the light of “you better do this, or else,” because I don’t think the Bible does (and, that’s not very motivating). Instead, the primary emphasis I think the Scriptures reveal to us is: “What a great opportunity we have here. God has blessed us with great knowledge and many technological tools that can increase our productivity, and as a result we can have the joy and privilege of doing more good for others and his glory than we otherwise might have been able to.”
The ability of productivity practices and tools to amplify our efforts in doing good is a wonderful and amazing thing, and is to be utilized to the full. And, perhaps, there is a connection here with laying up greater rewards in heaven.
It’s really simple to understand on one level; but on another level, it’s very hard to truly grasp and put in to practice. Here it is, stated very well by Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Church:
The secret of effectiveness is to know what really counts, then do what really counts, and not worry about all the rest.
This makes sense if you think about it. Effectiveness means doing the right things. It doesn’t mean just getting things done, but getting the right things done.
If you are going to be effective, then, you need to know what the most important things are. But that’s not enough, because if you know what is most important but don’t actually do those things, it won’t help you. so you not only need to know what really counts, you have to actually do what counts.
But in seeking to do this, there are obstacles. There is a villain, so to speak: all the other things (many of which are good in themselves) which are outside of our core purpose and threaten to distract us from it by splintering our efforts and pulling us in too many directions. So in order to put first things first, you also need to know how not to worry about other things.
So: Know what counts, put it first, and know how to keep yourself from being distracted by everything else.
William Wilberforce, in A Practical View of Christianity:
My grand objection to the religious system still held by many who declare themselves orthodox Churchmen…is, that it tends to render Christianity so much a system of prohibitions rather than of privilege and hopes, and thus the injunction to rejoice, so strongly enforced in the NT, is practically neglected, and Religion is made to wear a forbidding and gloomy air and not one of peace and hope and joy.
No man has a right to be idle. Where is it that in such a world as this, that health, and leisure, and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate?
In other words, be constantly on the lookout for good that you can do. Use the time and energy that God has given you not to make your own life easier or more restful primarily, but rather to meet the needs of others, both nearby and on a global scale.
Here are some easy things you can do right now, in just a few minutes:
- Empower an entrepreneur in the developing world with a $25 loan through Kiva.
- Help bring rescue and restoration to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression through a $250 gift to International Justice Mission.
- Give one person the gift of clean, safe water through a gift of $20 to Charity:Water
- Contribute to theological famine relief by helping supply pastors in the developing world with resources through a gift of $100 to Desiring God.
This is what true productivity is: Being creative and thoughtful in finding ways to use our time and skills to become fruitful in good works.
Lots of people have been discussing how Christians should think of Osama Bin Laden’s death. If you are subscribed in a reader, you might have received a post I was starting to pull together on that — but which was unfinished and just a collection of notes at that point.
John Piper has some helpful things to say on the larger issue that this is a sub-set of, and I had started pulling them together for a possible post. After copying in a couple of verses and a John Piper quote (but not yet the main one), I accidentally hit “post” instead of “save” (I’m doing this on an iPad [long story] and hit the wrong button).
Anyway, the post was very incomplete. It had one quote, but not the most helpful one. Sorry for the mix-up!
Here is the link to Piper’s sermon where he addresses the larger issue involved here: “The Pleasure of God in All That He Does.”
And here’s the very helpful section I was intending to quote:
I have commended a solution to you before and I will commend it again: namely, that the death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself no delight to God (Ezekiel 33:11). God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. Instead, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God delights in is the vindication of truth and goodness and of his own honor and glory.
… those who have rebelled against the Lord and moved beyond repentance will not be able to gloat that they have made the Almighty miserable. Quite the contrary. Moses says that when they are judged, they will unwittingly give an opportunity for God to rejoice in the demonstration of his justice and his power and the infinite worth of his glory (Deut 28:63).
The Wall Street Journal also has an article that gives a helpful short summary: How Bin Laden Was Found and Killed.
The other day I came across an excerpt from the new book by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. I don’t know if he’s a believer or not, but right at the start he does a fantastic job of articulating, in shadow form, a core concept of the biblical doctrine of vocation. Here’s what he says:
Only weeks earlier, I’d sat in my Seattle office holding back-to-back meetings about how to quickly fix myriad problems that were beginning to surface inside the company. One team had to figure out how we could, in short order, retrain 135,000 baristas to pour the perfect shot of espresso.
Pouring espresso is an art, one that requires the barista to care about the quality of the beverage. If the barista only goes through the motions, if he or she does not care and produces an inferior espresso that is too weak or too bitter, then Starbucks has lost the essence of what we set out to do 40 years ago: inspire the human spirit.
I realize this is a lofty mission for a cup of coffee, but this is what merchants do. We take the ordinary—a shoe, a knife—and give it new life, believing that what we create has the potential to touch others’ lives because it touched ours.
Here’s the point: the ordinary is not ordinary. Rather, it is in the ordinary that we are able to build people up and, yes, inspire the human spirit.
When you clean house for your family, or pour a cup of coffee, or take your car to the wash, you aren’t just doing small, mundane things. You are building building people up. You are making things better, and making a statement that people matter. Or, that’s how you ought to see it.
And the doctrine of vocation takes us further than this. For it means that, when we serve others in the everyday, it is actually God himself who is serving people through us. God is hidden in the everyday. This is true if we are believers; and God is also working through unbelievers, even if they don’t know it (Gene Veith makes this point very well in God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life
when he discusses why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread” when we actually get it from the grocery store, who got it from the bread company, who got the ingredients from various other spots, and so forth).
In fact, the doctrine of vocation even takes us one more step. When we, as followers of Christ, serve others for his sake, we aren’t just serving them. We are actually serving the Lord himself. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24; see also Ephesians 6:7-8).