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Month: May 2017

Wednesdays on the Web (31/05)

Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ.

I am far from emotionally intelligent. I have a long way to go before I can perceive all the nuances of emotion and develop a greater awareness of emotional well being in myself as well as in others. When it comes to considering feelings with regard to our Christian faith, emotion has an important part to play here too; just make sure it isn’t the lead role.

Know Your Doctrine

“Doctine Divides.” “I find doctrine boring.” This article doesn’t speak to a single crowd, denomination, or ‘tribe’ of Christianity; all of us have a responsibility to pursue the God that we love by learning his ways, and doctrine does not merely inform our minds, but also warms our hearts and reforms our behaviour. There are so many things in this article that are close to my heart when it comes to not simply seeing people come to know Christ, but to grow into mature disciples who are well equipped to take this gospel to others.

The Only Spiritual Gifts Test You’ll Ever Need

Stephen Altrogge pushes back on plans and programs designed to help you work out (in 200 questions over 10 weeks) what your spiritual gifts are. His approach isn’t just straightforward, it shatters complacency and procrastination. Go use your gifts right now!

6 Ways Men can support Women’s Discipleship

Having read Trillia Newbell’s book Enjoy last month (my review here), the by-line on this article caught my eye. As expected, Trillia writes with clarity and conviction. Even if you just skim the titles of the 6 points, you’ll come away encouraged and inspired to see these highly practical points gain traction in your local church, and be reminded of the value and responsibility we all have to ensure that women are never sidelined when it comes to theological education and discipleship.

Someone is Offended on the Internet

“I know a lot about feeling offended. It is a struggle I have had all of my life. As a Christian, I know this is a path to sin, and I understand that I must be willing to be offended. Ultimately feeling offended all of the time is a sign of pride, of self-focus. Self-focus can lead to negativity, and that is a destructive force.

…I want to be so conformed to Christ that I lose the taste for negativity.”

What I Read in May

The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity

This month I’ve continued my reading on the Trinity, this time with B. B. Warfield. I thoroughly enjoyed this short walk through every passage of Scripture where the Trinity is present. You often hear people talk about the fact that the Trinity isn’t explicitly revealed in the bible, but Warfield demonstrates how the three persons of the Trinity (and the orthodox position on the Triune God) permeates all of Scripture, from the Old Testament all the way through to the words of Jesus, Paul, and others.


Another book added to my shelf by an fantastic woman author engaged in solid thinking. For everyone. Read my full review here.

The Flash Volume 2: Speed of Darkness

I’ve come to love so much about the Flash. There’s little doubt that Batman rules the DCU, but the way Barry Allen continues to display that his goodness is his greatest strength appeals to me. Although it works with a different plot line to where the current The Flash TV series – which just hit the end of season 3 – is headed, neither is second to the other. Both great writing, both true to the world I know and love.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

Joshua Hammer’s true story of his time documenting the life of Abdel Kader Haidara, who smuggled tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts during the height of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups enforcing Sharia Law, banning and burning everything that opposed them. Exciting, terrifying, real. Much respect for both the author, and the men who risked their lives to preserve their culture.

The Passionate Preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones

There’s a sense in which Steven Lawson had an easy task in writing about this man. Lloyd-Jones has been widely recognised as the man who resurrected expository preaching, passionately advocating for the systematic journey through all of Scripture. He never forced a topic upon the text, but lived and studied to bring the message of God to the people from the natural flow of God’s word. I particularly loved this sentiment from Lloyd-Jones:

“I never allow the pew to influence the pulpit;
when I was a physician I never let the patient write his own prescription”

I’ll be seeking out some more of Lloyd-Jones work now, most likely his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Hobbit

While I’m fairly certain I’m not the last person on earth to read these works by J.R.R. Tolkien, I think I must be close. I’ve never read any of Tolkien’s works, so I’m starting here. I’ll move into the LOTR trilogy in the coming months, then on to Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion.


Here’s what I read in

See what else I read in 2017:

Wednesdays on the Web (24/05)

Keep Your Phone in your Pocket

“Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, Nass discovered, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate. To put this more concretely: If every moment of potential boredom in your life—say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a  restaurant until a friend arrives—is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where, like the ‘mental wrecks’ in Nass’s research, it’s not ready for deep work—even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration.”

Where Are the Women who will Write like Him?

I’ve seen this call somewhere else recently. Too often Christian women authors seem to be relegated to the “feeling” books rather than the “thinking” books. While there is valid acknowledgement that women are often better at self-awareness and emotional sensitivity, I know a great many women who are better theologians than me, and I’ve read some amazing tranformative books this year by authors such as Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, and Hannah Anderson. I’m glad that these women are reading, thinking, and engaging with me through the written word. Gender should never be an obstacle to writing good books of all kinds.

Marriage Wounds

“Having a spouse is like living with a mirror that constantly shows you where you are weak, where you are prideful, and how in desperate need of a Savior you really are.”

Small Wonder

We glorify God when we pause, rest, and wonder.

How to Become a Tech-Wise Family

If you’re a parent, this podcast is worth your time.

The home, he says, must limit technology in order to delight in God, neighbor, family, and nature. The church, he says, will not enjoy authentic community unless it disciples Christians in countercultural living when it comes to our TVs, video games, and smartphones.

At $6 on Kindle and $9 in paperback, this book has been added to my wishlist.

Come and Drink

Last Sunday I preached this message from John 4. This story as much to teach us as we strive to be people who are more mission-minded.

What We’re For, Not What We’re Against

Over the last few weeks I’ve observed (or participated in) a number of discussions on hot topics. In almost every conversation, there comes a point at which the art of effective argument disappears and comments become personal attacks instead of rationale and fact. It’s a sad thing to see that often opportunities for mutually beneficial discourse give off more heat than light.

All too often, the sad state of affairs is that Christians (not exclusively, but frequently) tend to define themselves by what we’re against. Killing unborn babies. Homosexual relationships. The refugee crisis. We sure can be vocal when it comes to that which we find immoral, unjust, or otherwise against our ideologies. But where’s the good in being known by what we oppose? How does that display the love of Jesus to a world that so desperately needs him?

In The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper writes

Christians are to live lives marked by love – to as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. This means we are to be defined by characteristics of grace. We are to assume the best of people and offer them the same hope and patience and mercy we know we so desperately need. We are to offer them second and third and fifty-fourth chances. In short, we are to exude the love Jesus poured out on us.

However, assuming the best of people doesn’t mean that we pull the wool over our own eyes. We have been given God’s clear, inerrant Word as our moral guidepost; the lens through which we see the world, the means by which we are saved, and the exact how by which we are called to live as members of the family of God on earth. We can be sure that in its pages we find everything we should be; simultaneously we also find a lot of things that we shouldn’t be.

As a student attending a seminary made up of students and lecturers of differing persuasions on what would be classed as “secondary issues”, that journey included much more than beginning to grasp the content of the bible and learning about the tools we use to rightly read and apply its demands. (side note: my learning is far from over) I witnessed the art of conversation and the importance of approaching the beliefs of another with humility and respect. For another person to share their opinion is a privilege, and learning to listen well is the least I can do. Not listening in order to respond, but listening in order to learn. I’ve graduated now, but every day I’m reminded of how little I really know and that my convictions – no matter how strong – have zero influence on the posture I should take towards another person opening up to me.

The gospel promises to change lives. As followers of Christ and lovers of this gospel, we should be people who are mission-minded; our posture being one that desires to display the same humility that Christ modeled in his incarnation. If our attitude indicates that Christ makes no difference to how we live or how we treat others, we immediately undermine its credibility. Ultimately, our goal is not to win arguments, but to see people come to know Christ.

On My Table:
Life & Books with Nathan Campbell

This month’s On My Table comes from Nathan Campbell. Nathan is a husband to Robyn, a father to Soph (5), Xavi (almost 4) and Ellie (almost 2); he’s also a pastor of Creek Road Presbyterian Church’s South Bank campus (but the names and ages for all those people would take too long to write down), and a blogger at Because he’s a total Christian ministry cliché he also likes coffee, but he tries not to just paint by numbers when it comes to coffee so he helped start a social enterprise cafe in West End and he has a stupidly big commercial machine plumbed in at home, so that’s not totally boring.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

I have about 5o unfinished books on my kindle that I work through simultaneously, to keep me on my toes a bit and help me think about how things integrate. I’m currently reading lots of books about public Christianity and culture (I’m always reading lots of books about public Christianity) including Confident Pluralism by John Inazu, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, To Change the World by James Davison Hunter, and Culture Makers by Andy Crouch, A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, Becoming the Gospel by Michael Gorman. I’m also reading bits of Subversive Christianity by Brian Walsh, which was written in the 90s and feels really prophetic and amazing, in hindsight.

Oh, and a bunch of fiction, at the moment the one I’m into most is Fool Moon, the second Dresden Files book by Jim Butcher. I’m perpetually slogging my way through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest as well.

What was the last book you left unfinished?

I don’t finish lots of books; the last one I deliberately abandoned because I didn’t want to finish it/life is too short was the second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Stephen Erickson, somebody had told me that he was a fantastic ‘world builder’ (I’d been reading lots about ‘mythopoeia’ (fantasy world building) after really loving Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories which basically argues that world-building (and exploring new worlds) is a thing we do because we’re made in the image of the world building God.

Is there a book you feel guilty for not reading?

No. Life’s too short, and there are too many books to feel guilty about not reading them all. There are plenty of books I just go ‘nah, I don’t want to read that’… I don’t read much John Piper (for varying reasons) and sometimes I feel bad.

Is there a book you wish you’d written?

I recently listened to Mike Cosper’s Stories We Tell, as an audiobook, which was the latest in a long line of books I wish I’d written that I’d like to give to lots of people. James K. A. Smith writes lots of books where for the first half, as he does cultural analysis and anthropology, I’m like ‘man, this is how I see the world’ but then I find his application a little bit constricting, You Are What You Love is pretty brilliant. I also love Stanley Hauerwas’s Resident Aliens, and Michael Gorman’s Cruciformity, those are two of the more important books I’ve read in shaping how I think about church and the Christian life. I wrote my thesis at college on the image of God, and what that is, and I reckon Hannah Anderson’s Made For More and Brian Walsh’s Subversive Christianity are something like the books I’d write on that, if I was going to write one.  Most of the time when I read anything by David Foster Wallace I wish I had his brain and his ability to breathe life into sentences so they feel like they’re spoken by some crazy, energetic adult with the ability to pay attention to lots of things at once and weave them all together. I’ve got a few novel ideas in my head and would love to write something one day, I read a novel recently, The Book Of Strange New Things, which, though the protagonist grapples with his Christian faith, shows how faith and life can intersect in meaningful and interesting ways.

What was the last book you gave as a present?

C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity; I bought it for a lady who has just started coming to church. I bought a Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy parody called Zombie McCrombie From An Overturned Kombi for someone, but haven’t given it to them yet.

Best biography you’ve ever read?

I don’t read lots of biographies. But Matthew’s Gospel is right up there… I did enjoy Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. I did not enjoy Alex Ferguson’s autobiography.

What 5 books would you take to a desert island?

I’m guessing the Bible is a given…

Augustine, City of God
I love Augustine, I’d love to finish reading this from cover to cover rather than dipping in and out for study. A desert island seems like as good a place as any… and it’s big enough to keep me going for quite a while. It does seem a little pointless to have a book about how civilisation should be ordered if there’s no civilisation though…

Bear Gryll’s Survival Camp
I’m pretty terrible at the sort of skills you might need to survive on a desert island. I’d want something like this. I’ve never read it, but just googled Bear Gryll’s survival book; cause he’s the kind of person I’d want leading the way.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary
I’ve been doing lots of reading/thinking around the idea that we’re liturgical animals and that we are shaped by our love/worship (see Jamie Smith’s cultural liturgies series) and that we shape our loves by our habits in connection with the ‘story’ we live in (where we get our picture of what a good/flourishing life looks like). I’d have to rethink what that looks like in the isolation of a desert island setting, and what practices would help me continue to cultivate a love for God and a participation in the Gospel apart from people (and that’s hard, because I think to participate in the Gospel is to share it, maybe I’d write books and hope someone discovers them one day when they come to settle on this island). Anyway; Liturgy of the Ordinary is a fantastic picture of how one woman, Tish Harrison Wells, consciously shapes her life and habits liturgically around the Gospel.

J.R.R Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
I love fiction, especially high fantasy. I haven’t read Lord of the Rings for a few years, but I love the reminder that Tolkien gives us that there’s more to life than just the material world.

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
In terms of sprawling dystopian ‘world building’ this is a masterpiece that is, I think, on par with Lord Of The Rings. The reason I haven’t finished it is every three pages I have to stop and think about how I see the world, or I get caught up in some small observation about a seemingly trivial thing. DFW is like the agnostic (or searching) Tolkien or C.S Lewis, he writes in a world that is haunted by the loss of something transcendent, and I think the bleakness of this world, in a deserted; island context, would be a good reminder that belief in something more isn’t just preferable but true.

What book has most frustrated you?

Born This Way, a book on how Christians should approach sexuality published by Matthias Media. I thought it was pastorally damaging and it made me realise that there’s a massive division between the way people from my Christian tradition (reformed evangelical) think and speak as modernists, to the way the people we live next to think and speak as post-modernists (we need stories and experience to make sense of our world, not just the facts).

What is one book (apart from the bible) you’d encourage every Christian to read?

The Plausibility Problem by Ed Shaw, a perfect counter-example to Born This Way, that, while it’s about how to make the gospel plausible for same sex attracted brothers and sisters, has such a rich picture of what life following Jesus could (and should) look like that it should shape not just the way we speak, but the way we live together; and Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah which shows something of the richness at the heart of Christian belief in quite an approachable way while staring down some pretty big questions.

How does reading fit into your life?
And what does your routine look like?

I read voraciously I guess; I’m almost never not reading in my spare time, but not just books, I read lots of online stuff from journal articles, to blogs, to tweets. I think what I try to do though is never to be bogged down in finishing one book, or exclusively reading one author (except in fiction, where I like to wait until an author has finished their ‘world building’/story-telling rather than having to wait years and years for the next installment — I’m looking at you George Martin, and you Patrick Rothfuss). So I have lots of unread books going at the same time, usually around a theme (though sometimes not, and that can be fun too), and I think knowledge is more ‘iterative’ than revolutionary, so I try to have these books as conversation partners with each other, and with what I already think, and then I’ll often try to write epic, sprawling, blog series that bring these ideas together, or they’ll get turned into a teaching series at church. But it also means my kindle is full of books that are about 50% read, and I keep adding books faster than I can read them.

I’m looking forward to that desert island… can I take my kindle instead of just five paper books?

Wednesdays on the Web (17/05)

Fast From Food, Not Facebook

I cannot fully convey how much I agree with this article. For years I’ve pushed back against the idea that fasting from social media is a valid engagement with this valuable spiritual discipline. It’s not. While I can appreciate those who have specific medical conditions that prevent them from biblical fasting (food), I completely agree with Tim on this one. And while we’re here quit calling the Daniel Fast biblical too. It’s a health gimmick thinly veiled. The End.

Learning a “Different World”: Loving Families with Special Needs

I have yet to meet a parent of a child with special needs who brags about methods, achievements, plans or systems. Parents of children with special needs, specifically those in the church, are some of the most humble people I know. They’re not quick to give advice or dispense wisdom, yet I learn much from their lives and how they patiently care for their children. We learn humility best by watching it at work in others. Many of these parents are beautiful examples for us to follow.

Ten Things To Do While You’re Waiting

Before you ask, no this post isn’t talking about alternatives to the fidget spinner.

The Mission of the Church is Eternal

This week I’m preparing a sermon on mission from John 4, and this popped up. Let’s be people who live as part of the church, and not just attend.

Carl Trueman – Reformation 500 Event

Registration closes Wednesday 19 July 2017 @ 5:00pm.

Get there.

Wednesdays on the Web (10/05)

Your Kids Aren’t the Priority

Many married couples would have come across (or had thrust upon them) the advice that you must put your relationship with your husband or wife as the primary one.  Here, Ann Swindell adds value to this discussion on how to be purposeful about growing as spouses “even as we parent those small humans who are making lots of noise in the house”.

Make Room for Different Kinds of Discipleship

Notwithstanding the need for Christians to always be active members of a local gathering of believers, there are many other secondary ways in which Christians can engage in discipleship, mentoring, and be spiritually nourished. It’s good to be creative and reflect on how we can sharpen each other in our many and varied circumstances.

7 Things to Know About Conversational Prayer

This list contains several gems that explain or enhance the richness of prayer as a vital part of Christian Spirituality. Plus I appreciate the way Nick has bounded the conversation on all sides by a good theology that doesn’t allow for straying off the straight-and-narrow. Read this one slowly, twice.

You Don’t Even Have A bucket, Jesus

We can’t blame the woman for not understanding Jesus. In fact, how often do we make the same accusations of Jesus when he’s claiming to have everything for our circumstance?

The New City Catechism

Our family’s copy arrived yesterday, and a quick flick open told us that this could very well be the book that is going to see our family worship take off (finally). Because of the brief question and answer style, each one could be read in under 5 minutes, or used as a launch pad to open discussion for as long as your little learner’s attention will hold. Plus, even though The New City Catechism is available free as an app I’ve opted for the paperback; firstly because our kids get enough screen time already, but secondly because I’ve always found that my retention success is better from paper than from screen. But that’s just me, so I guess we’ll see. From the inside cover:

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have used catechisms – collections of questions and answers designed for memorization and recitation – to teach others the core doctrines of the faith.

Enjoy: Trillia Newbell

I‘m one of those people who always tries to make the most of every opportunity. Need to get in the car? I’d better listen to a Christian podcast and learn something on the drive. I can sometimes find myself in low-level guilt if I simply play or relax without infusing it with more purpose. But can we honour God by doing things for no other reason than that they bring us pleasure? In her new book Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts, Trillia Newbell asks the question “why did I wrestle with guilt over time spent riding my bike, feeling as if it were a waste of time unless I turned it into something greater?” By exploring the twin realities that God is the giver of good gifts and that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, Newbell invites us to consider what it looks like to enjoy a simple, leisurely activity for our good and God’s glory.

In eleven chapters, Newbell looks at how despite living in a fallen world, the Christian should never feel guilty about unwrapping and delighting in the many and varied gifts that God has intended for us to enjoy. This exploration includes our God-ordained enjoyment of (and with) other people, work, possessions, sex (in marriage), food, and more. One key area that I’m slow to get the message on is beautifully framed by Newbell in her chapter on rest called The Freedom to Press Pause. When we rest – and enjoy doing it – we’re actually fulfilling part of our design as creatures made in God’s image. Newbell is quick to remind us that taking a Sabbath is not a legalistic duty, but rather as we hit pause for a time (especially when work and deadlines are vying for our attention from every angle) we are accepting a wonderful gift of grace in which we demonstrate our trust and reliance on God.

When it comes to money and material possessions Newbell exhorts us to hold them lightly knowing that they are perishable things. By all means, remember that money and possessions are gifts from God and to be enjoyed in the knowledge that he has given them for his glory as we exercise wisdom in the distribution of our wealth among our work, rest, and play. But at the same time, Newbell encourages us to expand the categories in which we think of enjoyment, in that wealth also empowers greater generosity and here too “we give because of the joy of emulating our saviour.”

When we pause and learn to delight in these things, we also learn to delight in God and give proper thanks and admiration… We delight and give thanks not solely because he gives good gifts but also because he is God.

Most importantly, not all God’s gifts can be seen. God has also given us glorious promises, and faith through which we can lay hold of those promises in – and despite of – our varied circumstances. Most of all it is Newbell’s heart for glorifying God through the enjoyment of his good gifts that shines through on every page. As she infuses her own story into each chapter, the richness of what it means to enjoy giving, resting, sex, food, art, and more is simultaneously encouraging and transformative. Enjoy is a call to see and know God as the giver of these good gifts, and how those gifts (and the enjoyment of them) reveal something about him. Rich with scripture, Enjoy continues to point the reader back to Christ as the ultimate gift of God that we should enjoy in and above everything else. Through the pages of The Enjoy Project (practical application found at the end of each chapter), Enjoy is relevant and readily adopted into the life of every Christian for their good, and God’s glory. This is a great read for individuals or small groups.


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I received this book free from Blogging for Books for review.

Wednesdays on the Web (03/05)

Lord, Search my Heart

The glorious gospel miracle is that what God requires of us in Micah 6:8, he purchases for us and accomplishes in us.

A Marriage Checklist

So here’s a book that’s been on my shelf untouched for too long. At a guess, I’d say I’ve read 5-7 books on marriage since purchasing Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, while it sits with a bookmark at page 1. Expanding on the old idea of Love Languages, Keller discusses love “currency” and here David Murray shares a practical list which is well worth frequenting. Simple, practical, über beneficial (if you get it right!).

Grace and The Non-Instagrammable Church

The real church is just that. It’s real. It hasn’t been photoshopped. There’s no filter or adjustable settings to clean up the mess, tone down the noise, or disguise the sin. And this is exactly how God designed it, and its the perfect place for grace to flourish. This culture of grace, this community of differents (to borrow from Scot McKnight) is where we see the message of the gospel most clearly displayed. Jared C. Wilson writes

You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time.

God uses our brokenness to display his grace; so we give thanks.

4 Methods to Organise Your Prayer Life

Whether you’re a paper person, an app person, a person who needs to find more time, or a person who has trouble remembering who or what you were planning on praying for, there’s something in this article that will help you get the most out of whatever time you set aside for in prayer.

Love the Lord with your Mind

Thanks to Jen Wilkin for the important reminder of intentionally cultivating our relationship with God through study.

Christless Christianity

Early on in Michael Horton’s 2008 look at the state of Evangelical Christianity in America he states his case clearly by saying “My argument in this book is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous.” From this beginning he takes the reader on a journey through mainstream evangelicalism and shows where Christ has not been explicitly denied but simply ignored.

The first stop is to look at what has replaced Christ-centred Christianity, namely Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. This is essentially the belief that there is a god who wants us to be good people and wants for us to be happy. While this is an attractive belief system – after all who doesn’t want a god who just wants us to be happy – Horton shows that it is a belief system that doesn’t have Jesus as its focal point. Instead the focus is the consumer.

So instead of introducing people to a majestic God who nevertheless condescended in mercy to save those who cannot save themselves, these sermons— even with the parable of the prodigal son as their text— proclaim a message that can be summarized as moralistic, therapeutic deism. As a product, the God experience can be sold and purchased with confidence that the customer is still king. Therefore, statements that would have appalled previous generations of mainline Protestants are assumed as a matter of course even among evangelicals today, such as George Barna’s defence of “a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message is sovereign.”

Having identified the problem we are now led through an in-depth look at a few specific examples. We see the gospel of Joel Osteen where we are essentially good people who just need to do the best we can, but “Who needs Christ if this is the gospel: ‘You’re not perfect, but you are trying to live better, and God looks at your heart. He sees the inside, and He is changing you little by little’?” We see the message of Joyce Meyer where we “live the gospel” by loving people but “love is actually the summary of the law. God’s commands stipulate what love of God and neighbour means. In the Bible, the law simply nails down what it means to love God and our neighbour.” Finally we look at the message that Willow Creek sent by their response to a survey on the health of the church which found that a large number of members described themselves as stalled spiritually. As Horton says “What I find remarkable is that those who identified themselves as “stalled” said, “I believe in Christ, but I haven’t grown much lately,” and the dissatisfied said, “My faith is central to my life and I’m trying to grow, but my church is letting me down.” These highly committed respondents even said they “desire much more challenge and depth from the services” and “60 percent would like to see ‘more in- depth Bible teaching.’” The take- away for the authors, however, was not that Willow Creek should provide a richer ministry but that the sheep must learn to fend for themselves— to become “self- feeders” who need to be more engaged in private spiritual practices.

Fortunately we are not shown the problem without an answer being provided. The answer is simple: we can never outgrow the gospel. We should never assume that everybody knows it and we can move beyond it.

When our churches assume the gospel, reduce it to slogans, or confuse it with moralism and hype, it is not surprising that the type of spirituality we fall back on is moralistic, therapeutic deism. In a therapeutic worldview, the self is always sovereign. Accommodating this false religion is not love— either of God or neighbour— but sloth, depriving human beings of genuine liberation and depriving God of the glory that is his due. The self must be dethroned. That’s the only way out.

This isn’t a book that all church-goers are going to enjoy. The people that it looks at are admired by many but unfortunately that is the point. It has been nearly a decade since the book was published and if anything the problem is now worse. I’m convinced that this should be required reading for anyone in the western church. “As heretical as it sounds today, it is probably worth telling Americans [and Australians] that you don’t need Jesus to have better families, finances, health, or even morality.” If that is true then we need to understand why we need Jesus and that’s not something that’s talked about enough these days.
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