White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

IX Marks on Church Membership

There are few evangelical churches that practice formal church membership anymore. Our friends at IX Marks (associated with Mark Dever and Capitol Hill Baptist Church) recently posted a new eJournal on the topic of church membership. Matt Chandler’s lead article, Is Church Membership Biblical?, is especially good and worth your time to read. Here’s the intro:

I was 28 when I became the pastor of Highland Village First Baptist Church (now known as The Village Church). I had had a rough go early on in my church experience, and at that time I was not fully out of my “disenchanted with the local church” phase.

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure at the time that church membership was biblical. Despite that, the Spirit had made it all too clear that I was going to be pastoring this small church in the suburbs of Dallas. That was one of the many ironies of my life in those days.

Highland Village First Baptist Church was a “seeker-sensitive” church in the Willow Creek mold and had no formal membership process, although they were actively working on one and wanted the new pastor’s input. I had a strong understanding of the church universal but wasn’t well versed—and, as I said, somewhat skeptical—about the church local. We started growing quickly with young and oftentimes disenchanted 20-somethings who usually had no church background, or bad church backgrounds. They liked The Village because we were “different.” This always struck me as strange because we weren’t doing anything but preaching and singing.

In conversations with these men and women I began to hear things like “The church is corrupt; it’s just about money and a pastor’s ego,” or “I love Jesus, it’s the church I have a problem with.” My favorite one was, “When you organize the church it loses its power.” Although something occasionally resonated in me with these comments (I, along with most of my generation, have authority and commitment issues), I found them confusing since they were being made to me by people who were attending the church where I was the pastor.

Read the whole thing here.

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Tullian on The Gospel Commission

Mike Horton’s new book, The Gospel Commission, which rounds out his three book series that started with Christless Christianity, is now available. Last week Tullian Tchividjian pointed out one of the important points Mike makes in the book:

Mike’s excellent point is one that I’ve made time and time again. Namely, that imperatives – indicatives = impossibilities! Whenever we see an imperative in the Bible (what we must do) we need to look for the indicative that grounds it (what Jesus has done). Because, no matter how hard you try or how radical you get, any engine smaller than the gospel that you depend on for power to do what God has called you to do will conk out…most importantly, the Great Commission!

Read the whole thing.

You can now purchase The Gospel Commission directly from White Horse Inn through our new online store. We’re slowly adding resources to the store and the prices are hard to beat. Right now, you can get all three books in this trilogy for less than Amazon sells them.

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Horton on Biblical Theology

The good folks over at The Resurgence asked Mike Horton to write up a short piece on biblical theology. Here’s his conclusion:

Biblical theology is essential if we’re going to feel the Bible’s own pulse and follow its unfolding plot. Without it, systematic theology can easily succumb to a deductivist scheme. Going back to the street-map analogy, it’s easy to deduce where roads must go because of the map even if they don’t! Yet it can never be used as a rival of systematic theology. Christ was not only crucified and raised; he was “crucified for our sins and was raised for our justification.” Doctrine arises from the drama, indicating the significance of God’s acts in creation, redemption, and consummation.

Read the whole thing.

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Uwe Siemon-Netto on Rumors of the Apocalypse

Friend of the Inn Uwe Siemon-Netto is an award-winning journalist and confessional Lutheran. His most recent column for the website Freepressers.com takes up the many disasters (natural and otherwise) that are dominating the news. How have apocalyptic-minded people thought about the end of the world in previous periods of church history? How should we think bout it when our own newspapers are filled with “it’s the end of the world as we know it” language?

The Bible cautions believers against speculating about the date and time of the Apocalypse, although current world events and calamities seem to invite such conjecture. There are the uprisings in the Middle East. In Japan, the tsunami and earthquake disasters are fueling  nuclear fears. And then the nuttiness of clergymen fitting Luther’s definition of “false clerics and schismatic spirits” reminds us that Christ listed some signs of the looming end of times, for example the appearance of many bogus prophets.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Sacrificing the Sacred Cows of Evangelicalism

Our friend, Tullian Tchividjian, has a follow-up post to his great article last week, “Why I Hate Accountability Groups.” In it he quotes Mike Horton’s article, “Does Justification Still Matter?” (Modern Reformation Sep/Oct 2007). As you read both Tullian’s post and Mike’s article, ask yourself when was the last time that “doctrine” played a significant role in understanding your life in Christ? When was the last time your sanctification was grounded in the work of Christ for you rather than your work for Jesus? People often ask me exactly how Reformational theology is different from what they might hear in a run of the mill evangelical church. The difference is clearly displayed whenever we consider who we are in Christ as the foundation for what we do, how we behave, and how we deal with the sin that still remains within us.

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Tullian on Accountability Groups

Tullian Tchividjian, the pastor of Coral Ridge PCA and a good friend to White Horse Inn posted a great piece about accountability groups yesterday on his blog. Here’s the teaser, but be sure to click through and read the entire thing!

Reminders Are More Effective Than Rebukes

Are you tired of being told that if you’re really serious about God, you must be in an “accountability group?” You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones where you and a small group of “friends” arrange for a time each week to get together and pick each other apart–uncovering layer after layer after layer of sin? The ones where all parties involved believe that the guiltier we feel the more holy we are? The ones where you confess your sin to your friends but it’s never enough? No matter what you unveil, they’re always looking for you to uncover something deeper, darker, and more embarrassing than what you’ve fessed up to. It’s usually done with such persistent invasion that you get the feeling they’re desperately looking for something in you that will make them feel better about themselves.

Well, I hate those groups!

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The Science of Atonement

A great find from our friends at Mockingbird: from this week’s Economist, a story about the relationship between guilt and pain.

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The Apprentice’s Sorcerer

Friend of the Inn and Modern Reformation contributor Doug Powell has a new CD out titled, The Apprentice’s Sorcerer. Doug’s music was last heard on the White Horse Inn on October 3. Listen here to get a taste and then go here to pick up his new CD.

After getting his new CD, read Doug’s article from our November/December 2009 issue, “Illusion, Confusion, and Solution: Apologetics in a Postmodern World.”

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Youth Ministry with Roots

Our friends at MockingbirdNYC connected us with Cameron Cole and the Rooted Conference, a gathering for youth ministry workers who want to speak truth and meaning into the lives of the young people in their care.

Cameron and I corresponded a bit about the conference and what the hopes of the organizers are for it:

What is the Rooted Conference?
Rooted is a theology conference for student ministers. Rooted comes out of a desire to see the Gospel upheld as the center of student ministry; it has come as a response to the overwhelming concentration on methodology at most conference for youth ministries. Rooted hopes to encourage and equip student ministers in Christ-centered ministry, while also fostering a community of people committed to boldly preaching the Cross to young people.

How does the approach to ministry that you advocate at the Rooted Conference different from what is normally seen in evangelical youth ministry?
Sadly, so much of student ministry can be characterized as a moralistic, Christian pep rally. Many evangelical youth ministries seek to prescribe moral behavior, while providing the emotional motivation to “imitate” Jesus. Rooted views the development of a Gospel-centered belief system in students as the ultimate goal. Through teaching biblical theology and repeatedly encouraging students with the basic Gospel–the intersection of our deep depravity and Christ’s amazing grace–we aim to cultivate life-long followers of Jesus, due to a worldview rooted in message of the Cross.

What do youth ministers need to know in order to be effective and faithful in their calling?
Three words I uphold in effective student ministry are truth, love, and Spirit. By truth, I mean that students need to hear the full, undiluted Gospel, including the depth of their depravity and the greater grace of Jesus. Knowing that Christ’s death on the Cross has set them free from a life of performance is what ultimately will change a student’s life to follow Jesus. With love, I mean that all of the doctrinal truth in the world means very little to young people outside the context of loving relationships. By spirit,  I emphasize the scriptural call for ministers to pray for the Holy Spirit to change the lives of students. While we can love students and teach biblical theology exhaustively, only the Spirit can draw students to the Father and sanctify them.

What is the most important thing parents should consider when considering a youth ministry?
I think the two things parents should focus on are whether the youth ministry does relational ministry and whether the ministry has a vision for long-term spiritual formation based on the cultivation of a Gospel-based belief system. Many parents (and youth ministers) succumb to the allure of youth ministry that will “keep my kids out of trouble.” They think that young people will dive into a life of unfettered debauchery and fervent eroticism if they are not repeatedly told to follow the rules. In truth, law-driven student ministry tends to yield thirty year old agnostics who hate the church, while Gospel-based ministry provides a better chance that a student will become a follower of Jesus in the long run. I emphasize the significance of relational youth ministry because young people of this generation want to be loved and known before they will be open to answers and truth.

How can youth ministry contribute to the great, biblical vision of the church as every tongue, tribe, nation, and age rather than contributing to the demographic and socio-economic division of the church?
Most students live in segregated worlds with little genuine interaction with people unlike them. The messages of integration they hear in the secular world usually lack depth and sound artificial; they come across as impotent law. Student ministry serves as the ideal opportunity for students to have authentic relationships with people across racial and socio-economic lines. Creating opportunities for cross-cultural ministry while teaching the message of God reconciling unlike people to Himself can create a foundation for a less stratified church in the future. In this context young people can cross barriers with love and sincerity, not simply out of the obligation that the AdCouncil public service announcement compelled. This generation of young people yearns for such reconciliation and justice, and student ministers can capitalize on it for the sake of the church’s future.

You can preregister for the Rooted Conference at a reduced rate until June 1! After that, the rate goes up slightly.  And, just in case Cameron’s interview didn’t motivate you to attend, check out what our own Rod Rosenbladt said about this conference:

In an era of “Christless Christianity,” the chances of a student hearing a vigorous presentation and/or defense of historic Christianity are few — in church or on campus.  But to have students hear and embrace this Gospel is to later effect many educated people who never consider darkening the door of a Christian church, don’t see any reason why they should.  As former associate staff of Inter-Varsity, I heartily commend the Cathedral of the Advent’s conference on student ministry.

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Art Auction to Help iMonk

Our friend Michael Spencer (also known as the Internet Monk) is dying of cancer. Michael Buckley, a Kansas City based artist that has worked with Michael, is offering original watercolors to help generate donations for Michael and his wife Denise. You can learn more about the auction here. You can learn more about iMonk’s diagnosis here. Take a moment and visit the auction site: this is a great opportunity to support Michael Spencer.

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