I have a bit of a Mike Breen man-crush at the moment. I've begun to read Building a Discipling Culture (Kindle Version) and read this very early on:

The problem is that most of us have been educated and trained to build, serve and lead the organization of the church. Most of us have actually never been trained to make disciples. Seminary degrees, church classes and training seminars teach us to grow our volunteer base, form system and organizational structures or preach sermons on Sunday mornings and assimilate newcomers from the Sunday service. As we look around as Christendom is crumbling and the landscape of the church is forever changed, a stark revelation emerges: Most of us have been trained and educated for a world that no longer exists.

However, the call to make disciples still remains. It never wavers and never changes.

Breen, Mike (2011-08-16). Building a Discipling Culture (Kindle Locations 94-99). 3DM. Kindle Edition.

(Emphasis mine) I bear the marks of that kind of education as I try to lead and make disciples within the church I lead and the community in which I live. Seminary was great but one thing I've noticed about post-seminary life (I graduated 9 years ago) is that putting all the pieces together is up to me and there were several classes that I took that were out of date as soon as class was over (not to mention dreadful for an introvert like me. Walk up to three random strangers to talk to them about Jesus for an evangelism class? Ugh).

Churches and denominations shouldn't require a Master of Divinity anymore. If they're going to require a masters level education at all it ought to be more like a Master of Missiology. How else are we going to make disciples in an ever-changing world?

A Couple of Good Books

Finished two great books today.

The first is Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism. My copy of this book is the same age as I am to the month according to the title page. The book isn’t so much about what we think of in terms of evangelism today but about making disciples. This clearly involves evangelism but contains so much more. The book originally came out in 1963 and isn’t a gimmicky method for evangelism like many books one might read today on that subject. It is concerned with one thing: how did Jesus make disciples and how did he intend for the disciples to make disciples? It is nothing if not thoroughly biblical. That’s what Coleman relies on and what makes the book timeless.

The second is David McIntyre’s The Hidden Life of Prayer. I’ve been devouring books on prayer lately, and this one is good, but I have to admit that it was hard to read. First published in 1891, McIntyre’s style isn’t quite what I am used to and I didn’t labor over the sentences as much as I should have. Also, there are zero footnotes in a book that used quite a few quotations. I would really like to look at the primary sources but, alas, there’s no way for me to find many of them. Still, a very helpful book and one I’m sure I’ll come back to in the future.

Power Through Prayer

In the last three days these things have happened in my life:

  • I left church on Sunday feeling neither high or low about the sermon I preached. I left confident in the Word of God and God’s power to work in the hearts of people. I was able to rest in that.

  • I deleted a couple of tweets. I grew up thinking that giving someone a hard time was a way to show someone you liked them and appreciated them. That’s pretty dumb. About 20 minutes after posting them, I felt this impression in my heart not only to delete those tweets but to start paying attention to how I give people a hard time and to stop doing it. It honors no one.

  • I apologized to my wife this morning. Yesterday, I was gruff with her for a moment in the middle of my yard work. It’s no way for a man to speak to his wife who just happens to be a daughter of God.

(If that last thing seems strange to mention, I have a really hard time apologizing. I’m that wicked.)

So, what’s been going on? It seems like I’m surprised at these good things. I am, a little. What’s been going on is that I recently finished a book called Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds. More than anything, that little book is an indictment on prayerless preachers who work so hard to create power and strength in their ministries while neglecting the only true power in their lives - prayer. I have repented and have devoted more - much more - time to prayer than some of the other things that tend to crowd my attention during the day. You know what? God’s been working me over. And it is awesome. The Holy Spirit has moved me in each one of those bullet points. No joke. It’s one of those weird moments in life when I think, “Man, this rebuking by the Holy Spirit is hard and it hurts. Do it some more!” (If this keeps up I’m sure my wife and church will be saying, “Do it some more!”)

I’m not writing to brag but to give those of you who are experiencing prayerlessness either some encouragement or a kick in the pants. Especially you preachers who walk into the pulpit thinking that your three points are going to totally change someone’s life when you haven’t sought the one who is already at work in the lives of those who hear his word.

Here’s three links you can try on for size (You’re in luck if you’re a Kindle-user).

Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer
The Complete E.M. Bounds on Prayer - Kindle $3.99
Power Through Prayer - Kindle is $0.99!

Reading on Jonathan Edwards

I decided to read a biography on Jonathan Edwards because last year I was grabbed by a biography on America's first foreign missionary, Adoniram Judson. It was one of those books that God has used to increase my faith and joy in him and I probably would have never read it if not for John Piper's biographical message on Judson. After listening to Piper's conference message on Robert Murray M'Cheyne I thought, "I like biographies of men like this. I want to read more." I did a Twitter request for recommendations and got Marsden's biography of Edwards. Good. I've been interested in the American Puritan tradition lately so I picked it up. I'm not that far into it but Marsden has my attention.

I posted this over at the Boar's Head Tavern days ago but wanted to write a bit more about it. There I wrote:
I started reading a biography on Jonathan Edwards last night by George Marsden. I’m not that far into it but am already fascinated by Edwards. I think 90% of it is that Edwards is fascinating but Marsden makes the rest. He appears to be a very even-handed historian. I don’t know what his faith commitment is or if he has one, but I stopped and pondered for a while this statement:
If there is an emphasis that appears difficult, or harsh, or overstated in Edwards, often the reader can better appreciate his perspective by asking the question: “How would this issue look if it really were the case that bliss or punishment for a literal eternity was at stake?”

Great question. In fact, I’m thinking about looking at all the issues I face with that same question on top of several other critical questions. Or for my own purposes, “How can I preach, teach, love, and serve so that people get a taste of eternal bliss and therefore crave it so much they must have the Source?”

Marsden not only wants to inform with his book, he wants people to be interested in the topic which is the person of Jonathan Edwards. As a writer, I can't think of anything more rewarding to hear than if someone said, "You increased my interest in the subject and made me want to know even more." This is what I want to do for Jesus. I want people to look at my actions and hear my words and say to themselves, "I've got to know this Jesus!" so they can taste for themselves and know what a treasure he is. Could a life be better spent than to help people savor the preciousness of Jesus and the joy of being his?

Marsden writes in the introduction, "Even today there are vast numbers of Americans who, although committed to live at peace with other religious groups, believe it is a matter of eternal life or death to convert members of those groups to their own faith." It appears he knows his audience will display some incredulity about this fact (though I expect that they won't whether Christians or not). The thing is, it's not our life or death that is important - it's yours. We're willing to give life or limb in order to see that you know Jesus Christ. He is precious. Our lives and our safety are not.

I think too many non-Christians see our attempts at evangelism as number-gathering for a pyramid scheme. I care, and from what little I know of Edwards I think he joins me, about you finding the greatest and deepest joy a human being can have. It's not money, power, orgasms, or sights - it's Jesus.