Giving up on Jesus

14329298961_da63af3bfc_bI have a great job. I work for the Christian Union at the University of Canterbury (in Christchurch), teaching the Bible to students, talking to people about Jesus, and discipling and training young Christians. I love it. But sometimes ministry hurts. Sometimes, Christian ministry leaves you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the teeth.

Among the (relatively few) negative things about being a full-time, vocational gospel worker, there is one thing that, for my money, is far and away the worst: seeing one-time followers of Jesus give up on their faith and give up on Jesus. It just sucks.

Part of the reason I say this is that I once tried it myself. Continue reading

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, and the very real sin of spiritual abuse

Mark DriscollMaybe part of the good to come from the Mars Hill disaster will be exposing the reality of spiritual abuse, a sin that usually lurks in the darkness and is misunderstood by many  

Everything that’s happened with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle is great fodder for the blogosphere, and a profound tragedy for the thousands of real people involved.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations on avoiding the whole sorry saga. But the short story is that Driscoll – poster boy for the ‘New Calvinism’ (and I hate that phrase as much as you do) – recently resigned from his role as Pastor at Mars Hill Church, the Seattle-based mega-church he founded 18 years ago. While some congregations will continue, Mars Hill as an entity will cease to exist. Continue reading

Yes, heaven is for real – but we already knew that

Charles Spurgeon is said to have used an illustration about receiving a visit from an angel. The imaginary angel has a message for the great preacher, but Spurgeon says he doesn’t want to hear it. But the angel insists, and delivers his message: “Mr Spurgeon, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!” While most of us would rejoice, Spurgeon says he would respond rather differently: “You wicked, wicked angel,” he would reply. “You are tempting me to put my trust in the word of a mere angel, rather than in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for me!”

That story started going around and around my head as I watched the film Heaven Is For Real. It’s the best-selling ‘evangelical’ book of the past decade, with more than seven million copies sold. Not surprisingly, it’s now been made into a major movie, grossing $100 million worldwide at the cinema and reaching number one on the Australian iTunes movie charts this week (the reason I inflicted it on myself and my wife). Continue reading

Why we don’t evangelise – and the simplest way to start

I admit it – starting an article on evangelism with the reasons we Christians don’t evangelise might be a strange tactic.* Why focus on the negative? Shouldn’t we dive in and fire our imaginations with the positive biblical reasons we should evangelise? Wouldn’t you prefer some inspiring stories, or Five Easy Steps To Make You A Better Evangelist Before Tea Time, or maybe just the searing kiss of red-hot guilt to push you back out there on the evangelistic trail?

There are lots of good things (not to mention some really bad things) that motivate Christians to share the gospel of Jesus with their neighbours. Yet I’m convinced that for most of us normal people, acknowledging the obvious challenges is a helpful place to begin. Here, in no particular order, are 12 reasons (you might prefer to call them ‘excuses’) that Christians find it really hard to share the good news of Jesus with the people around us.

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Who I Am, and Why I’m Here

Cartoon Profile PicI have to confess, talking about myself doesn’t come naturally. One of the earliest pieces of advice about Christian ministry I ever received (so early that at the time I didn’t know exactly what it meant or why it mattered so much) was this: ‘The best Christian leaders are the ones who tell you about Jesus, not about themselves.’ That simple tip has stuck with me and, I hope, served me well. I feel like I’m about to break that rule.

Still, I suspect it will help me – and perhaps some of my readers – to be clear on why I actually spend time blogging. And my WordPress blogging tutorial says I’m supposed to do it. So, this is me:

First and foremost, I’m a Christian. This is slightly old-fashioned of me, but I believe the Bible is God’s word to his world. I believe that every word of the Bible is true, and that what it says about Jesus is true – namely, that he is the one and only way that rebels like me (and you) can be reconciled to the God who made us. I believe that through his death in my place, and through his bodily resurrection, Jesus secures the forgiveness I need, he offers a certain hope that transforms my life now, and he has granted me an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. Wanna know more? Continue reading

Praying with the Nazarenes

Iraqi Christian Child
Photo Courtesy: Barnabas Fund

What a privilege – and what a responsibility – to pray for persecuted Christians around the world! Today, day 11 of ‘31 Days of Prayer‘, we’re taking a break from the series. Instead of reflecting on prayer, here’s a prayer you can use to pray for persecuted Christians in northern Iraq. (I’ve used ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ throughout most of this prayer to give some sense of the way we can stand together in prayer for those in desperate need.)

Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege of prayer, and for the way in which it allows us to uphold and care for our brothers and sisters around the world. Thank you that we can pray for persecuted Christians around the world in their time of need. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day Nine – Our passions or our prayers?

Pray - James 4“You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)

“I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for Joy.” So said C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy 1955. Over the last six decades, surely our world has become more filled with trinkets and tools that offer us more instant gratification (pleasure, as Lewis put it), but dissuade us from the pursuit of real, lasting joy – the kind of joy that God offers us in the gospel.

The book of James has a particular concern for showing that a driving desire for the pleasures of this world can be fatal for our prayer lives. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day Seven – Pray Like Jesus

Bethsaida“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)

Down through the ages, Christians have (unsurprisingly) looked to Jesus’ practice of prayer for guidance on how we ought to pray. Just a couple of months ago, Mark Dever (one of my favourite Christian authors and preachers) published a brief, insightful essay over at The Briefing, looking at prayer in the life of Jesus. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer

Prayer 1“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful in it and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

If I could choose one thing to be great at, or even one thing to be better at, it would be prayer.

Maybe that’s a reflection of how important I believe prayer to be in the Christian life. But if I’m honest, it also reflects my disappointment at my own lack of prayerfulness – my well-meaning plans that so often fail to produce action. And I’m not exactly going out on a limb here, but I doubt I’m the only one who wishes he was a better, more faithful pray-er.

With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to join me in the month of August for ’31 Days Of Prayer’. Continue reading

Creating a Culture of Evangelism – Mack Stiles Podcast

Mack Stiles PortraitMack Stiles, author of Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus and Marks of the Messenger, on promoting the gospel and creating an effective, Christ-centred culture of evangelism in your ministry.

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Mack may be the most passionate and naturally gifted evangelist I’ve ever met. He’s the author of five books, including Marks of the Messenger and Speaking of Jesus. This week, at the Together For The Gospel (T4G) Conference in Kentucky, Mack will launch his latest book – Evangelism: How the whole church speaks of Jesus. Born and bred in America, he now lives with his wife Leeann in Dubai, UAE, where he is CEO of Gulf Digital Solutions and General Secretary for the Fellowship of Christian UAE students. Continue reading