Nashville Conference on the Church & Theology 2009

John MacArthur and Bruce Ware join Bryon Yawn at the 2009 Nashville Conference.

Right off the bat MacArthur delivers some of the best messages I’ve heard this year.  He begins in session one by reflecting over the core convictions of his ministry that he formed early on and have not let go of since.  These convictions happen to be Trinitarian:  The Glory of God, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture.

There is so much to talk about regarding his messages.  But perhaps the most needed, is he relates the story of when he met a ministry friend who told him about this incredible book about how IBM was structured, and why pastors needed these lessons.  MacArthur asked this man, “Why, is the Word of God deficient somewhere?”

MacArthur also talks about why he does church discipline.  Again, early in his ministry other pastors told him he would empty his church.  It never happened. If you are a church planter or pastor who buys a lot of contemporary books on how to “do church” you need to listen to a pastor who saw God build His church apart from all the books, programs, polls, and expert opinions.  Listening to MacArthur is like a breath of fresh air in a day when the church looks more to Starbucks for it’s ecclesiology than it does the Apostle Paul.

Above Every Name pt. 1, John MacArthur

Above Every Name pt. 2, John MacArthur

Above Every Name pt. 3, John MacArthur

Beholding the God of Merciful Holiness; Transcendence, Immanence & Ministry, Bruce Ware

An Overwhelming Greatness, Bryon Yawn

Beholding the God of Self-Sufficient Fullness; Humility, Satisfaction & Ministry, Bruce Ware

Beholding the God of Sovereign Supremacy; Good, Evil & Ministry, Bruce Ware

Slaves of Christ, John MacArthur

NCCT 09 >>>

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Christians and Culture with Ken Myers

I usually groan when I hear the words ‘Christian’ and ‘culture’ used in the same sentence.  But in the mind of Ken Myers it actually makes sense, and makes sense biblically, because he rejects the churches attempts at popular contextualization.  Mark Dever interviews the fascinating Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio.  There was so much information packed into this interview that I’ve had to listen to it twice, and it was such a joy the second time around.

Ken talks about his education, his work at NPR, and how Mars Hill Audio came to be, and what it’s focus is.

Ken  begins by saying that the difficulty in talking about culture is that we don’t know where to start; we don’t have a good framework to know how to tackle it. There are many who have attempted to adapt to the culture by introducing media, entertainment and appealing to a consumer culture, such as the Church Growth Movement, but they have not understood the dangers that they present.  And from a historical perspective now, those dangers have taken hold of those churches.  Most would agree that contemporary society is confused overall, and it’s irresponsible to look to the world for models that we would structure the church around.

In fact, we have become Christian “choosers”, or “consumers” today, rather than becoming Christian disciples.  We treat church like a commodity, and we treat people like consumers, and our culture has conditioned us to fill those shoes.

In the church, Ken sees a problem developing in the intellectual life of the church.  Pastors are taking cues from the dumbed-down pop Christian culture, while Christians are reading at a far lower caliber books than they did 30 years ago.  Today the demand for discernment is greater than it ever has been, and we are generally very ill-equipped for any kind of useful discernment.

Ken also talks about how Christianity has become more American than Christian, which is something that’s been happening for a long time.  There has been the temptation for the Christian church to be the “chaplaincy” for the American project.  Secular people have defined what the American project is, and the church is there to bless it.  Yet, in the other direction, Ken is disappointed in the efforts of the Right Wing to engineer a Christian culture into society via a political machine that has consumed billions of dollars.  He observes that there is only so much we can do that society will allow.

Given our media hungry culture, Ken says we as Christians must be skilled in the use of language.  God has revealed himself to our age through words and language. And we ought to be conversant in poetry, prose and language arts.

Ken talks about things that define how our culture operates and thinks, from “optionalities” (having the freedom of unlimited options) to the danger of informality. We have also lost formal rhetorical speech, and we are one of the only cultures that have lost this formal register of speech, because we have developed a suspicion of authority.  And this has application to churches who seek to contextualize themselves and their message to this culture.  Can we contextualize to a cultural that prizes informality because it rejects authority?  Are our church values of informality encouarging further rejection of authority?  These are serious questions that we need to be thinking about.

Here’s a Bibliography of books and articles mentioned in the interview:

Nicholas Carr’s Atlantic Monthly Article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Books by Mortimer Adler, John Stott, Carl F. H. Henry

Knowing God, by J. I. Packer

Mediated, by Thomas De Zengotita

Mark Edmundsons article from Harper’s Magazine, “On the Uses of a Liberal Education

Why Read?, by Mark Edmundson

All Gods Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Ken Myers

The Democratization of American Christianity, by Nathan Hatch

Foolishness to the Greeks, by Lesli Newbigin

Doing Our Own Thing, by John McWhorter

The Gravedigger Files, by Os Guinness

The Death of Character, by James Davison Hunter

Anything by David Wells

Technopoly, by Neil Postman

Culture Making, by Andy Crouch

This is a fabulous interview filled and will raise your level of Christian awareness.

Christians and Culture >>>

Christless Christianity

Michael Horton raises an alarm about the condition of our churches and the youth who are following us, as he discusses his book Christless Christianity on Christ the Center.  Horton clearly explains the gospel understanding and basic theological position of the average evangelical American who attends church.  Quite frankly it’s frightening.

Christless Christianity >>>

Paul Washer’s Shocking Sermon

Here’s the sermon that often doesn’t get Paul Washer invited back.  And no, it’s not because he’s boring.  Washer preaches with clarity and passion.  The reason Washer has caused such an uproar in some places is because he makes a frontal attack on some of Evangelicalism’s most sacred cows:  Assurance of Salvation, and sincerity in “making a decision” for Christ.

Washer pulls no punches.  Nor does he just attack for the sake of attack.  He attacks these forms of Evangelical religion like a surgeon attacking a cancer. He dissects and explains.

Washer rails against how Evangelicals are so quick to proclaim people ‘believers’.  One of the most damnable practices in the church is when a person doubts their salvation, they are usually taken back to that day when they “made a decision” for Christ and “asked Jesus into their hearts”, neither of which are statements found in Scripture (apart from a poor hermeneutic).  We are often guilty of giving people a false assurance that is based more on the ‘sincerity’ of their decision than on the presence of a transformed life.  Washer claims this tactic sends countless people to hell.  At the very point that a person may be coming to Christ with a legitimate doubt about salvation, we kill off that work with a sloppy proclaimation of false salvation.

Washer broadsides contemporary evangelistic practices, including child evangelism and Sunday School programs. He says he would not put his children in 80% of the Sunday school programs, because the gospel presentations we give to children are so seriously distorted they border on heresy.

This message needs to be preached to every church in America.  The congregations response would serve as a good litmus test of spiritual health.

Paul Washer’s Shocking Sermon >>>

Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church

What can I say about Paul Washer?  Lest I tread too closely to making too much of a man, I can’t help but be excited by a preacher who speaks for God, whose words convict and inspire awe before God and his work of the Gospel.   Here is a man who has a prophetic voice in the manner of a Tozer or Lloyd-Jones.  And in this message, Washer clearly and effectively levels ten indictments against the modern church that we must take heed of.  Here are just a few of Paul’s major points, though not necessarily his exact 10 indictments:

The modern church practically denies Scripture by embracing the sociological, the psychological and the anthropological as having authority over God’s Word.  The modern church does not know God.  The modern church has exchanged the Gospel and the power of God for tricks, techniques, and pagan-like methodologies.The modern church has robbed people of the power of the Gospel by embracing the heresy of decisionism.   The modern church is focused on prosperity and not on sin, thus defusing the one thing necessary for the Holy Spirit to deal with to restore a sinners true relationship with God.  The modern church is filled with and caters to the goats while the sheep starve under the hand of capitulating leaders.  The modern church has remained silent on the reality that God`s people are called out to be separate.  The modern church has torn Matthew 18 from Scripture, and along with it loving, compassionate church discipline.

Paul asks the loaded question of leaders, “Are you smarter than God?  Then stop acting like it!”  There is a sharp bite to Washer’s indictment, yet the cutting comes from spiritual wisdom, and one who loves Christ’s bride, the Church.

Washer spent 10 years ministering in Peru, where he started a missions organization called HeartCry Missionary Society, and has since returned to the US to oversee this organization.  He makes Grace Life Church of the Shoals his church home.

Many thanks to Chad of Christ Fellowship in Hannibal, Missouri for connecting me with Paul Washer.  You will be hearing much more about this man as my iPod is filled with Paul Washer mp3’s.

Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church >>>

David Wells talks about his book The Courage to Be Protestant

Al Mohler interviews David Wells on his radio program.  Dr. Wells talks about his latest important book, ‘The Courage to Be Protestant’, and what motivated this work. The Courage to Be Protestant is a summary of his four amazing books beginning with ‘No Place for Truth.’  This is one book every Christian should read and consider.  Wells and Mohler talk about the non-doctrinal nature of the church today, the loss of an informed evangelicalism, and the destructive nature of marketing methodologies.

David Wells interviewd by Al Mohler page >>>