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I got a chance this past week to interview Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger and Josh Patterson about their new book Creature of the Word. The goal of the book is to refocus church leaders on a Jesus-centered church and provide real practical steps toward achieving it. Here’s 5 questions asking them about the project, the Gospel and youth ministry!

There’s a ton of talk today about The Gospel. Can you help us give a clear definition of it?
To explain the gospel fully, it takes a combination of two perspectives – the global work of God to reconcile all things to Himself and the life, death, resurrection and future return of Jesus Christ. The combination of the two perspectives provides a more crisp, clear and lifelike expression of the story.

The gospel is the historical narrative of the triune God orchestrating the reconciliation and redemption of a broken creation and fallen creatures, from Satan, sin and its effects to the Father and each other through the life, death, resurrection and future return of the substitutionary Son by the power of the Spirit for God’s glory and the Church’s joy.

Where has the modern church failed in sharing and preaching the Gospel?
The Church historically and presently makes one of two errors when it comes to the gospel, legalism or license.  We try to lean on the law for justification or we do whatever we want because we have heard that God will forgive us regardless. Both of these errors are traps that rob of what Jesus called “life to the full” (John 10:10).  In our day it seems we are making both errors simultaneously depending on the church we worship with.  Some of us lean on a type of moralism that would dictate our relationship with God based on our actions instead of God’s. Others lack any real desire to pursue holiness because they believe to “pursue” (1 Tim 6:11) “strive” (Heb. 4:11) or “toil” (Rev.2:2)  would be legalistic and not leaning on the grace of God in Christ.  Our hearts burn to see people throw themselves on the lavish grace of our Savior and let that be the fuel that burns in the engine of the pursuit of holiness.

Tell us about the year-long campaign and why church leaders should consider it?
The Creature of the Word Church Campaign is a year-long movement of examination and growth. The hope is for churches to become more centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Broken into 12 parts, each corresponding to a chapter in Creature of the Word, the campaign is designed to help churches audit and assess their various ministries, from preschool to the pulpit, in order to be saturated with the Word of God in all that they do.

Each one of us as individuals and our churches corporately, have areas where there is a gap between our doctrinal confession and our practicing culture. Our hope is, by God’s grace, close the gap between what is believed and how we are actually living and functioning. We want to see churches, including our own, take an honest look at how our theology is being translated into practice. Is there is a correlation or have we bought into some other foundational system to try and lead a church.

The Creature of the Word Church Campaign is an attempt to address a variety of challenges that we all face through an audit, assessment and renewal process.

How has this thinking and strategy shaped your personal ministries and churches?
Ultimately the book is about the gospel and the pervasive nature of it, especially in the context of a local church. Too often, the gospel has been relegated to an aspect of the church like preaching or teaching, but doesn’t actually permeate into the life and culture of the entire church.

The thinking and strategy is lay a solid theological foundation based on the Word of God. This is the foundation upon which the philosophical framework of the life is established. Then, this philosophical framework informs daily church practice and decisions. To simplify it, theology informs philosophy which informs practice. So, our church practice should ultimately be tied back to a theological truth.

This thinking is how we have led The Village Church. It literally informs our approach to decisions, ministries, what to keep, what to cut, why to do something or why we wouldn’t do something. It is embedded into our culture. One of the great benefits of this is that we are able to make relevant connections between our church practice and our theological convictions.

Can you share the most important principle from the book and campaign where change is necessary in youth ministry?
We have a natural tendency to drift toward religion, to drift toward futile attempts to stand before God in our own goodness. Couple that natural drift with the burden many youth pastors and youth ministries sense to teach students to behave (no drinking, no sex, no drugs, make good grades) and we have a recipe for youth ministry to drift away from Jesus and His finished work for us.

While the gospel definitely creates a new heart in a believing teenager, and the result is a life that is marked with obedience and glad submission to Christ, it is very possible to teach for behavior without addressing the heart. And many would applaud a youth ministry for effectively teaching the kids to act differently. Many youth pastors and youth ministries sense pressure from parents and even the overall church  to “train kids to be good” or to “keep the kids busy.” The problem is that if the behavior is not the result of a changed heart, then the behavior is merely temporary. And the messages the students hear only further burden and enslave. Only Jesus transforms. Only His sacrifice is sufficient to melt the heart of a kid.

So youth ministries must wage holy war on the urge, the natural inclination, and even the pressure to protect students from the world (“keep ‘em busy”) or teach them them to overcome the world in their own strength. Youth ministries must constantly and continually bring teenagers back to Jesus. As Thomas Chalmers once stated, ”The best way to overcome the world is not with morality or self-discipline. Christians overcome the world by seeing the beauty and excellence of Christ. They overcome the world by seeing something more attractive than the world: Christ.” 

We know many youth ministries continually apply Jesus and His grace to the hearts of teenagers. And for those we deeply rejoice!

Thanks so much, guys! Get Creature of the Word today!

JG

Change is something that we all long for but not many of us choose to do what it takes to see it happen. We continue to live comfortable even if it means we are miserable rather than shake things up a bit and live the life God intended for us to live, a life full of abundance! John 10:10 mentions both of these kinds of lives, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Decide: What are you taking back?
First, you need to decide what are you taking back from the thief? Has he stolen your joy, your intimacy with the Creator of the universe, your drive? You may have never gotten a chance to see what he stole from you or maybe you use to thrive in what he has stolen; whatever it is that he has, it is time to decide it is yours and you want it back!

Take action
Now that you’ve decided what you are taking back, it is time to take action. To take action, you need to have a plan. To go without a plan, is like shooting without aiming; yeah, you took a shot but you missed too. Figure out what you need to do to take it back and write down the steps you’ve got to take to get there. Look back at them from time to time as a reminder and to track progress. Just remember, the little steps are just as important as the big ones.

Show yourself grace
When you decide to make a change in your life, you will make mistakes. Remember to show yourself grace and forgive yourself for the small and not so small mistakes. The more understanding and forgiving you are of your downfalls, the more you learn from them and the quicker you progress.

Go you! For deciding to take back your life.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.



One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well.

19) Enjoy Everything in MODERATION!!!  There can be too much of a good thing!

20) When you SIN / Fall Away – Confess your sin to God – He ALWAYS forgives

Prodigal Son Story – “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. -Luke 15:11-32

21) Work hard at a job you love

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

God gives the birds their food, but He doesn’t throw it into their nests.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. -Colossians 3:17

22) Family first

I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.

Nothing can ever take you away from being part of your family.  Love them and care for them – There is no replacement.

23) Change will happen

The key to change… is to let go of fear.

Don’t Forget to INCLUDE God in the change process

This is an excerpt from a letter sent to President Jackson in 1829.  As you may know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed. Martin Van Buren Governor of New York

Don’t be afraid of change – Embrace it and learn through it.  It can be very exciting, it can be very challenging, but change is going to happen.

24) Live Life to it’s fullest

God came to give us a rich and satisfying life.  He has given you everything you need to make the most of your life.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:10

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow’s flight, and then young Frank’s tracks meandering all over the field.  “Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.” Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.  “I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

In Everything Be A LEADER: Don’t let Fear get in the way

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.

Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.

The world needs leaders. who cannot be bought;

whose word is their promise; who puts character above wealth;

who possess opinions and a will; who are larger than their vocations;

who do not hesitate to take chances; who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;

who will be honest in small things as well as in great things; who will make no compromise with wrong;

whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires; who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;

who are true to their friends through good and bad , in adversity as well as in prosperity;

who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;

who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular, who can say no with emphasis, although the rest of the world says yes.

JG

GUEST POST: Mirror

Josh Griffin —  February 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Ok. Stop and go look before reading. Really look at yourself.

(humming Jeopardy tune)

Ok. Good. You’re back and ready to continue. So, what did you see? Are you being truthful to yourself? I can speak personally that I see a guy who is about to have another birthday, who feels much younger inside than his outward appearance shows, needs to lose some weight, could use a haircut, one eyes seems slightly closed more than the other, looks tired and worn down from chasing a toddler around and investing in the lives of students…you get the drift. What do you see?

Let me ask another question. What do you want to see? I used to want to see a pretty good looking guy with 0-2% body fat who wore the latest fashion and everyone wanted to know. Not anymore! As a side note my flesh still wants that, but I really want to see with my spiritual eyes.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Would that not be the coolest thing in the world? To have the veil removed that blocks our vision and spiritually see and reflect the glory of the Lord? How would we live then? I guarantee that we would live with the utmost confident in Christ and I pray that we would remember it’s Him we see, not ourselves.

To do that I believe there are a few things we must adjust in our thinking.

1. Does Jesus know you?
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)

If you do not know Jesus, this would be your first step. How can any of us reflect Christ if we have no relationship with Him? You’re right! We can’t. So our first step is to realize we are a sinner, we need help, that you believe Jesus literally died on a cross for your sins and rose again 3 days later to conquer the sting of death, and make the decision to follow Him from this moment forward. (see John 3:16 also)

2. We need to stop believing we are worthless.
Galatians 2:20 says, My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We are here for a specific purpose. Yes, there is a reason YOU are living right this very second at this very year. God wants to use your for something amazing and it’s only when you are willing that you can move into your true calling. Notice I didn’t say when you are ready. Willing. Willing to climb mountains, jump rivers, swim oceans, walk through fire, jump on crushed glass…make sense? In other words when you are willing to do whatever He tells you to do. It’s not you who live, but Christ who lives in you. So you are NOT worthless since He now lives in you!

3. We need to be ready to do anything, even die.
This life is short compared to eternity and there is only one decision you’ll ever make that effects your eternity. Would you die to tell others about Jesus? In other words, would you be willing to literally sacrifice everything you have for someone else to come to a relationship with Him?

On the flip side, if you don’t know Jesus, would you die to your old self to start a new life with Christ?

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. (Philippians 1:21)

The simple solution is that we do anything God ask of us and let Him determine the outcome.

4. Mistaken for Jesus
Can you see God reflecting in your life? Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life as Galatians 5 talks of?

I can say that I’m failing miserably at reflecting Christ, but I want to desperately be mistaken for Jesus. Yes, mistaken for Jesus. I want Him to radiate through everything I do, everything I touch, and everyone I meet.

Now go look in the mirror again and pray to God to make Him evident in your life. Pray that people see Him in your life and His Spirit reflecting back when others see you. Let’s be mistaken for Jesus and not just when we are alone and looking in the mirror.

Nick Fry blogs at http://morethanscars.comand serves as the youth pastor at Crosspoint Community Church in Huntington, WV.