Books I’ve Read In 2009

In 2001 at the age of 25, I read my first legitimate book from cover to cover. I was not raised a reader. In fact, I hated reading! I only looked at books for pictures. However, things changed that year. That fall, I enrolled in school at a masters level for a seminary education at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC.

Over time, with God’s help, I learned to become a reader. Then something happened. I learned to love reading. Today I sat down to reflect on what I have read this year, and plan on reading in 2010.

Right now I am reading…

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
Bitesize Theology by Peter Jeffrey (This is a systematic theology book I am reading with my oldest child)
Hints for Parents by Gardner Spring with Tedd Tripp (Reading this with my wife Mary)
Souls in Transition by Christian Smith
A Church in the House by Matthew Henry edited by Scott Brown

Books I have read 2009…
Keep in mind I am reading motivated by a doctoral degree I am pursuing at Southeastern Seminary. I would much rather read fewer books that I spend more time digesting. Nevertheless, here are books I have read this year in two categories, Doctoral Studies and Personal Choice.

Read for Doctoral Studies in 2009:
The Forgotten Ways
by Alan Hirsch
Firefall
by Mcdow and Alvin Reid
Breaking the Missional Code
by Ed Stetzer and David Putman
Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age
by Ed Stetzer
The Present Future
by Reggie McNeal
Confessions of a Radical Reformission Rev
by Mark Driscoll
Total Church
by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
Rediscovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship
by Jerry Marcellino
Thoughts on Family Worship by James W. Alexander
The Family at Church
by Joel Beeke
The Case for Family Worship by George Hammond
Your Family God’s Way
by Wayne Mack
Jonathon Edwards On Revival by Jonathon Edwards
The Spontaneous Spread of Home-Discipleship Christian by Henry Reyenga
The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball
Missionary Methods by Roland Allen
The Multiplying Church by Bob Roberts
Organic Church by Neil Cole
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
A Family Well-Ordered by Cotton Mather
The Strong Family by Church Swindoll
Parenting Isn’t for Cowards by James Dobson
Perspectives On Family Ministry by Timothy Paul Jones
Parent’s Concerns for their Unsaved Children by Edward Lawrence
Rite of Passage Parenting by Walker Moore
Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally About God with Your Children by John A. Younts
Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo
Raising Children God’s Way by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Books Read by Choice in 2009:
Don’t get me wrong, the books above were books I wanted to read. The topic I chose for my doctoral research was my choice, but these books were read in addition to my studies…

Bible by God (finishing reading through it in a year for the 6th time)
What He Must Be by Voddie Baucham
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
Saved From What? by R.C. Sproul
Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism by Iain Murray
Why the Ten Commandments Matter by D. James Kennedy
Sticky Church by Larry Osborne
Young, Restless, Reformed by Collin Hansen
John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion Doctrine & Doxology edited by Burk Parsons
Dear Timothy edited by Thomas Ascol

Here is what I plan on reading in the beginning part of 2010:

Bible (starting a new “read the Bible in a year” plan)
The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul
The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
The Secret of Intercession by Andrew Murray
The Autobiography of George Muller

A good portion of my reading comes from recommendations from friends. What are you planning on reading? What could you recommend?

Are There Problems With Today’s Gospel? — Part 3

There is valid evidence suggesting reasons to doubt the life-changing effect the Gospel has in the evangelical church today, as I tried to note in Part One. Since I do not believe the problem is with the Gospel of the Bible, in Part Two I suggested the source of the problem may be with how we evangelize and disciple children today. Here, I will conclude with some thoughts on why our greatest problem may be with what we believe about, and how we communicated, the gospel.

I fear many people in America (in many cases with proper motives) have communicated the Gospel in a way that misrepresents the Gospel of the Bible. Because the church in America longs to everyone come to faith in Christ, Christians have attempted to make it easier to be identified with Jesus Christ, and in effect, created an unscriptural way to evangelize.

One example of an easy and unbiblical way to invite a person to Christ in our day is to present Christianity as a life enhancement. Today many  come to Christ because they were told they will have a fix to their  life’s problems or an improvement to life as they know it. Is the church right to present Christianity as a life enhancement?

Though to some extent true converts experience life benefits, never in the Bible are sinners invited to Christ by way of life enhancements. Fruits of the Spirit are indeed benefits to the believer. Yet, they only benefit us from a Godly perspective, not a sinful perspective (i.e. the perspective of the unconverted).

Some come to Christ believing “to be a Christian means life is better, more successful, and an answer to all life’s problems,” only to find in time that this is not true. Eventually they stop attending our churches, or they never really become more than an attendee, and they are eventually labeled “backsliders.”

Ken Keathley, professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes salvation is offered as a commodity when evangelism methods use life-enhancement to draw people to Christ.[1] “Salvation is not a commodity,” explains Keathley.[2] He points to First John 5:11 as the basis for a biblical theology of salvation, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”[3] Keathley defines salvation as “the work of God that delivers us from sin and its penalty, restores us to a right relationship with Him, and imparts to us eternal life.”[4] Salvation is not a life enhancement; but a restoration with God through Christ.

The concept of salvation as a commodity reveals the motive of why people come to Christ. Under the commodity mentality of presenting the gospel, the chief motive behind a “decision for Christ” is because of some benefit or life enhancement added to the responder’s life through belief in God. Motive is paramount. If one comes to Jesus as the solution to all life’s problems, the need of restoration to Christ because of the penalty of sin is minimized, if existent at all.

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Are There Problems With Today’s Gospel? — Part 2

To read the first part of this post click here.

In part one, I tried to give reasons why the question, “Are there problems with today’s gospel?,” is a valid question. Research is regularly published that suggest major problems in the evangelistic efforts of gospel-believing churches. Before I suggest my opinion on solutions to this terrible dilemma, I want to share a few more factors that may be contributing to the problem.

At the 2007 Florida Baptist Evangelism Conference, Ed Young Sr., pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, shared his “secrets of Biblical insight” on how to reach kids that he believes “will radically change your church.”[1] Young pastors a church that hosts 45,000 people every weekend on five campuses. He said he began building his congregation “by focusing on evangelizing children and teens.”[2]

Acknowledging that two-thirds of all converts make decisions before the age of 18, Young plead for churches to adopt his strategy for reaching children, insisting it was necessary to reach Florida for Christ. His strategy is to focus on the needs of children, believing that “parents will come to a place where their children are loved and welcomed.”[3] For thirty years, Young has sought to attract children in order to reach parents and grow the church.

For many years, churches have adopted evangelism strategies much like this. It is not uncommon for churches to invest their resources in an attempt to reach the children of unchurched families in hopes of reaching their parents. Is this is wise methodology? Polly House of Baptist Press reported,

Of all the studies recently published, the most telling related to the fathers role in discipleship is this: according to a report published by The Baptist Press if a child is the first person in the household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone in the household will follow. If the mother is first, there is a 17% chance everyone else in the household will submit to Christ. Here’s the clincher: If the father professes Christ first, there is a 93% probability that everyone else in the house will heed the Gospel call.[4]

These statistics do not suggest we should fore-go quality children’s programs in churches that teach children the gospel. Nor does this suggest that children cannot make genuine life-changing decisions to follow Christ. However, there is enough evidence to question our effectiveness in reaching children with the gospel. If “the one who endures to the end…will be saved” (Mark 13:13), we cannot settle for our children simply repeating a “sinner’s prayer” and being baptized, only to have 70 – 90 percent of them leave the church as adults and never return.

In addition, the evidence calls into question the effectiveness of reaching parents with the gospel by attracting their children. A large number of unchurched parents of these children are not being converted, and the children reached by the church will most likely leave the church permanently upon graduating high school. Is it wise to continue doing the same thing, while expecting different results?

Why is there a large emphasis on children making faith decisions today? Does the New Testament record an overwhelming number of children converts? I honestly cannot think of one, besides maybe Timothy. I do not see the strategy of churches “targeting” children in the New Testament. I see Scripture advocating children being permitted to come to Christ, and for parents to bring their children up to know Christ. But why are some so insistent that the success of churches in evangelizing their territories are dependent on our child evangelism efforts?

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Are There Problems With Today’s Gospel? — Part 1

Are there problems with today’s Gospel? Statistics continually demonstrate there is a problem with our evangelism today, particularly in the denomination I have most of my experience.

Experts continually report decline in the number of baptisms (and here). Not only are the numbers down of those who have come to faith , but there is reason to question the authenticity of those newly reported  “believers.” Grant it, only God knows for sure if someone is truly born-again. But the Bible does tell us that believers will be proven by their fruit (John 15:8; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Matthew 24:13). So what’s the fruit saying?

Research suggests that “Faith Has a Limited Effect On Most People’s Behavior.”  Another words, by the behavior of many Christians, it is hard to tell they are really Christians. Many are finding a large portion of high school graduates who make decisions for Christ prior to graduating high school are leaving our churches. “Dawson McAllister, national youth ministry specialist, remarked that 90 percent of youth active in high school church programs drop out of church by the time they are sophomores in college.”[1]

Other research suggests at least three-quarters of students who have once professed faith in Christ, fall away from the faith within two years after graduation (From a 2001 report to the SCB Executive Commitee, and the 2002 Report to the SBC Council on Family Life). These reports indicate 70 to 90 percent of churched children are leaving the church. Some may want to label once professing Christians as “backsliders.” However, the evidence may also suggest that many have never slid forward in the first place.

In regard to those high school graduates who are leaving their faith, author Voddie Baucham believes “many by their own admission refuse to claim to be Christians even though it is implied they had made a decision within the church at some point in their childhood.”[2] According to Baucham, these statistics may suggest that “thousands, if not millions, of people have been manipulated into ‘repeat after me’ prayers and ‘if you ever want to see that dearly departed loved one again…’ altar calls without a trace of the Spirit’s regenerating power.”[3]

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Providence Church: East Lee Planting Update 2

To those of you who take the time to read this and pray, please know we thank God for your interests and prayers.

Mary and I are confident we are not alone in this mission to plant Providence Church. This has been and will be conveyed to all who are laboring with us in these early efforts of starting Providence. We are glad to be partners with you on this mission.

If this is your first time reading about and/or praying for our church planting effort, please browse around this website to read more about our work (Newsletters & Providence Core Values). It is our desire to communicate all we can about what God is doing in this endeavor to plant the Gospel and eventually Providence Church in eastern Lee County, Florida.

Earlier, we requested prayer in three specific areas: 1. Leadership; 2. Gospel Transformation; 3. Abounding Prayer in me, and for this mission. Here is an update after just one month:

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