March 30, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
If you're planning to come, register by tomorrow night to take advantage of the early bird registration discount. I hope you'll join us!
March 29, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
In an earlier post I introduced you to Matt Chandler, who is speaking at Next 2012 on “The Church and Culture.” (Tomorrow is the last day to get a discounted registration, by the way.) Today I want to share with you a similar interview I did with Kevin DeYoung. Kevin is a close friend, a fine pastor, and one of my favorite authors. He is also one of the brightest and most discerning guys I know. He happens to be a Michigan State fan, and although I think the Big 10 is overrated we both hate Duke basketball and that only strengthens our friendship.
Kevin is also no stranger to the Next conference—he has spoken there every year since 2009. Each of his messages have been exceptional and I expect this year’s (on “The Church and Relationships” and “The Church and Holiness”) will be no different. Below are some questions I asked Kevin that relate to the theme of the church, and his two topics at Next 2012 in particular. And if you want to get to know Kevin even better, you can listen to his previous conference messages.
When did the local church become important to you and why?
I can’t think of a time when the local church wasn’t important in my life. I was baptized as an infant and have been at church almost every Sunday of my life, usually two times on Sunday. I don’t say this to boast, but to show that I grew up in a family where the importance of church was a given. Church is where we sang, worshiped, heard sermons, prayed, and made friends. It’s always been at the center of my life. I hope I can pass on the same legacy to my children.
Share just one Scripture passage that has impacted your understanding of the church.
In Ephesians 1:22-23 Paul says the church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Think about that. God fills all in all, and yet the church is the fullest fullness of our all-filling God. That means the church must be incredibly special and important to God.
You're talking about "The Church and Relationships: How not to be a stupid friend." What's a stupid friend?
A stupid friend is a fool as Proverbs understands a fool. If you want to find out if you are a stupid friend, come to the conference.
What are some of the more common misconceptions people have about relationships in the church?
I can think of two very common misconceptions. One is to think that relationships are as easy as joining a small group and being in love with the idea of community. Wrong and wrong. Relationships are painful and always disappointing. The other misconception is really a missed opportunity. Churches talk a lot about marriage and parenting. There are classes on both and seminars and conferences and retreats and books aplenty. But we don’t offer much on friendship. We need to do a better job helping Christians with all of their relationships.
You're also speaking on "The Church and Holiness." You have a book on the topic coming out in the fall. Why is this an important topic to you?
It is important because I want to grow in holiness and because I fear that some “gospel-centered” Christians could stand to be “godliness-centered” as well.
How should we understand the world "holiness?"
Most simply, holiness is God-likeness. We are to be holy because he is holy.
March 28, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
In anticipation of Next 2012 I’ve asked some of our guest speakers to share a bit about their perspective on the local church. Matt Chandler was the first one to get back to me, so today I’m posting the questions I sent him and his answers.
For those of you who don’t know him, Matt is part of a younger generation of pastors building gospel-centered and doctrinally-sound churches that have a heart for evangelism and church planting. As I age, guys like Matt bring me great joy. And I can say that in particular about Matt because I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him personally and to enjoy a memorable meal in his home with his family. I’ve also spent time with the other leaders of The Village Church and these are impressive men who each have a great sense of humor. We laughed a lot together. So although Matt has a world-class public gift, I am most impressed by the man I have gotten to know in private and the church God has used him to help build. That’s why I’m very excited that he’ll be speaking at Next and grateful he was willing to answer some questions here so you could get to know him.
When did the local church become important to you and why?
The local church has always played a significant role in my life although I did have a season in which I questioned whether or not church as I understood it could effectively engage with the lost and seeking and disciple them to maturity. The Spirit and the scriptures provided clarity during a tumultuous year in my early 20s and I have been grateful for God’s call on my life to serve and lead His bride ever since.
Share a Scripture passage that has impacted your understanding of the church.
Ephesians 3:8-13. I know that’s not just one scripture but that’s the text! That the church is “revealing the manifold wisdom of God” gives me a great deal of vitality in that it reminds me that even on the difficult days the Spirit is using our prayers, meetings and organization to reveal His wisdom. We get to reflect his glory and perfection in our community and that thought is compelling to me.
You're speaking at Next 2012 on "The Church and Culture." How do you define culture?
Edward Tylor called culture "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man (or woman) as a member of society." I think that’s a robust and accurate definition.
The subtitle of your message is "Reaching out Without Selling Out." What are some ways churches might be tempted to sell out as they seek to affect their communities?
Historically what has happened is we’ve tried to give the God of the Bible a make-over like he’s out of date and no longer “cool” enough to draw people to himself, so we lower standards and try to make God more palatable to the prevailing culture.
What do you think are some of the more pressing issues in our culture today that the church should be addressing?
I think personhood issues like sexual identity, manhood and womanhood, etc., and the formation of deep, real community are the two most pressing.
Do you see distinctions between an individual Christian affecting culture and the local church affecting culture?
I think it naturally plays itself out that way. At The Village there are people who are engaging culture within the domain of society that they work or play in. It’s not a program of the church or a project that gets announced from the stage it’s those men and woman being faithful to God’s call on their lives. Meanwhile, the church as an organization has certain partners that we serve and walk with in the hope of engaging and impacting the culture around us with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The resurgence of Calvinism in the evangelical world in recent years has, I think, reflected an increasing concern among many Christians for purity of doctrine. But as Francis Schaeffer says in the quote below, pure doctrine by itself isn’t enough to constitute a thriving church—real community matters too. From The Church Before the Watching World:
One cannot explain the explosive dynamite, the dunamis, of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world can see. By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community.
This became a conviction of mine many years ago, and I wish now that I could identify who it was that influenced me in that direction. When I was converted, the Jesus Movement and all of its attending festivals and conferences were, at first glance, where it seemed God was primarily at work. Speaking at those events, as well as the Tuesday-night teaching ministry I was involved with back then (TAG), had the feel of something significant. And God did use those contexts in wonderful ways.
But it wasn’t long before the limitations of these venues began to appear—and near the top of the list was a lack of real community. Moving from festival to conference to teaching nights didn’t afford anyone the opportunity to practice the many “one anothers” of Scripture. And the more I studied Acts and Ephesians and became amazed at the goodness of God’s plan for community in the local church, the more that dynamic became dissatisfying.
Humanly speaking, that dynamic is what ultimately let to the end of TAG and the beginning of Covenant Life Church. To many, that was a dumb move—we changed from teaching 2,000 people to teaching 20. But community was being built, and whereas TAG, festivals, and conferences would have inevitably declined and ended, Covenant Life Church continues to build. So it’s a dumb move I would do over again in a heartbeat. Schaeffer was right: real community matters.
At the Next conference in May, we’re going to spend a few days getting teaching on the doctrine of the church. I’m praying that those who join us will walk away amazed by the goodness of God’s plan for the local church and motivated to sink down their roots in the real community that only the church can offer as the fruit and effect of the gospel.
March 6, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
The theme of this year’s Next conference is the role of the church, and what it means for each member to play his or her part. And we do all have a part to play. Ephesians 4:7 affirms this loud and clear: The ascended Christ has specifically given a gift of grace to each of those who have been reconciled to God and regenerated by God. John Stott makes a helpful distinction here between “saving grace” (referred to in Ephesians 2:1-9) and “service grace.” Each one regenerated by grace has also been uniquely gifted by and with grace.
And these gifts are not given to us simply as duties, but privileges. Here is how Stott put it in Cross of Christ: “If the church was worth his blood, is it not worth our labour? The privilege of serving it is established by the preciousness of the price paid for its purchase.”
This point is central to one’s understanding of service in the church and I hope is impressed even more on our souls at the Next conference in May. Service in and to the local church is a privilege because we are serving the object of Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross. Our motivation for service is rooted in the cross. Indeed I don’t think anyone can truly persevere in service without being informed primarily by the Savior’s death.
Without this theologically informed motivation we are vulnerable to substitute motivations for service. I’ve spoken to many people over the years who, for example, found themselves serving and participating in the church almost as a tradition. A routine. Something they kept doing because, if they ceased to do it, they would feel guilty. But that’s not gospel-motivated service. And over time such substitute motivations have a slow and almost imperceptible wearying effect on the Christian’s soul. Service is no longer a joy. Participation in church is no longer filled with expectation of encountering God. And the significance of the mission of the church slowly fades out of view. I know because I have experienced this myself.
We are all susceptible to this slow drift if we don’t keep the gospel in view when we think of the local church. Acts 20:28 describes the church as “the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (And what’s true of the whole is true of the part: in Romans 14:15 Paul describes one’s fellow believer as “the one for whom Christ died.”)
That is why it is a privilege to serve the local church—because it is the church that our Savior “obtained with his own blood.” So this year at the Next conference we’re going to be exhorting each other to labor for the church. We are all gifted by Christ to do so. And because of his great sacrifice, we are motivated as well.