Meet Ryan and Dave.
Ryan has been married for fifteen years, Dave for twenty. Dave has two kids, while Ryan has three. Those fifteen years of Ryan’s marriage has been filled with pornography use. Dave had periodically dabbled in pornography, buying a magazine once in a while and turning to the internet in the last year. Both of their wives had finally had enough after discovering their use and threatening to leave. And both sobbed buckets of tears and made emotional pleas with their spouses not to leave.
Heath Lambert recalls these two stories in his new important resource, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. It’s obvious these two have a lot in common: “Both have serious problems with pornography and have for some time. Both are ‘family men’ with a wife and children. Both stand to lose their family because of their sin. Both are in desperate situations as they cry and plead for reconciliation.” (32)
But here’s the thing: these two stories play out very differently.
Only one is reconciled to his wife and family and is porn-free. The other is divorced from his wife and separated from his kids. One was interested in real change when he pleaded with his wife not to leave and begged forgiveness; the other was not.
Which one do you think it was?
It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? Both men were heartbroken and sincere. Both displayed an apparent commitment to their family and appeared willing to do whatever it took to change their. But as Heath explains, “Though they both displayed sorry, their tears were drawn from two totally different well.” (32) They were polar opposites in their lived response.
And this is crucial for us ministers to recognize as we disciple men and women to fight pornography and become finally free. Sorrow is an important first step, but it can also be a deceptive first step.
Sorrow can be deceptive because there are two very different kinds of sorrow. Distinguishing between the two makes all the difference. So what are they and how are they different? Heath helps us distinguish them in order to help bring freedom to those God has entrusted to us.
Let’s look at the numbers:
The porn industry generates $13 billion each year in the US.
Internet porn alone is a $3 Billion per yearbusiness.
980,100,000+: The number of searches for pornography since the start of 2013.
9 out of 10 boys were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.
6 out of 10 girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.
The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old.
How about in the church:
50% of all Christian men and 20% of all christian women say they are addicted to pornography.
Among pastors 51% say Internet pornography is a possible temptation.
Regular church attendees are 26% less likely to look at porn, however, self-identified “fundamentalists” are 91% more likely to look at porn.
These numbers are staggering.
I know the power of these staggering numbers because I’ve been part of these numbers myself. I’d still be part of those numbers had it not been for the grace and power of Jesus Christ to set me free from such sin.
Which is why I am overjoyed about a new resource for Christians and people in ministry to help people find freedom and release from the bondage of pornography.
It’s called Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. As the title suggests, Heath Lambert’s new book begins with the foundation of grace. As Heath has counseled countless people over the years “who feel locked in a losing struggle against pornography,” he’s come to realize “They need grace-filled, practically relevant strategies as they seek to flee sexual immorality.” (13-14)
This book is practical and saturated with grace, which is why every ministry leader should pre-order it, own it, and read it, in order to pass it along and minister to people they know who are struggling with this toxic, powerfully binding struggle.
For the past two weeks we’ve been challenged by artist Con Campbell in his crucial new ministry resource about the “why” and “how” to outreach to the art community with Jesus’ gospel. That resource is called Outreach and the Artist: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts. And it’s one every ministry leader should read.
This book is for Christian artists as well as church leaders because it encourages artists to use their gifts for evangelism and help them to think through the issues involved in doing that; and it encourages pastors and “ordinary church folk” to engage with the arts and the artistic community in their midst for the sake of reaching them for Christ.
Perhaps you’re a pastor in a city with an unusual concentration of the creatives class, and have wondered “How do I reach these artists with the God’s rescue in Jesus Christ?” Perhaps you’re a small group leader, and you find yourself ministering to painters and poets and have a similar question: “How does it look to evangelize these artists?”
Con explains that this type of outreach is a “complicated mission with many challenges.” Thankfully Con shows us a way forward, beginning with understanding the central issue in outreach to artists and how to disciple artists through that issue.
It’s unfortunate that artists are an often overlooked, minority group in churches. It’s as unfortunate that the Church is struggling to remain connected to the next generation of young creatives (including, musicians, artists, writers, designers, and actor).
That’s where a crucial new ministry resource comes in: Con Campbell’s Outreach and the Artist: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts. This book is for Christian artists as well as church leaders because it encourages artists to use their gifts for evangelism and help them to think through the issues involved in doing that; and it encourages pastors and “ordinary church folk” to engage with the arts and the artistic community in their midst for the sake of reaching them for Christ.
If, as Con insists, “the arts are a precious gift of God,” (12) why aren’t Christians and churches leading the charge on creating good art? Art that reflects and channels the glory and majesty of the Chief Artist? Perhaps more importantly, why aren’t churches engaging the arts and the art community more in outreach?
Con helps navigate these questions and helps ministry leaders and artists alike use the medium of art to communicate the message of Christ in a winsome, deliberate way. While our first column explored the issues involved in churches partnering with artists in outreach, this one considers the different ways in which an artist and leaders can utilize art forms for evangelism.
And Con summarizes these ways with two important phrases: “the message and the medium” and “the medium and the message.” Understanding these two phrases are crucial if you’re an artist seeking to use your art in Christian outreach. They are also crucial if you’re a ministry leader seeking to encourage or partner with artists in your church for the purpose of outreach.
The arts are a precious gift of God. Music, painting, dance, sculpture, theater, and so many other art forms enrich our lives and give expression to the human condition. They challenge and comfort us. They inspire and humble us. They feed us and demand our energies. I can’t imagine life without the arts. What a miserable and shallow existence that would be! —Con Campbell, “Outreach and the Artist,” 11.
My day job is pastor of an Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. But I also moonlight as a writer, as a freelancer and author. Which makes me part of two minority groups in two cultures: pastor in America and artist in the Church. While the former is expected, the later is unfortunate.
It’s unfortunate this is the case, that artists are a minority, overlooked group in the Church. It’s been shown time and time again that the church is struggling to remain connected to the next generation of young creatives (including, musicians, artists, writers, designers, and actor). Which is why I am thrilled about a new book by Jazz musician, Con Campbell, called Outreach and the Artist: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts.
This book is an important resource that fills a crucial gap in the available literature on outreach, not only for artists but also pastors and others in ministry leadership.
This book does two crucial things well: it encourages artists to use their gifts for evangelism and help them to think through the issues involved in doing that; and it encourages pastors and “ordinary church folk” to engage with the arts and the artistic community in their midst for the sake of reaching them for Christ and reversing the trends.
As an artist I need this book. And as people in ministry we need this book. Beginning with exploring how to do evangelism with the arts. Thankfully for us ministers, Con charts a doable path toward marrying jazz and Jesus.
What are the Necessary Components of Effective Discipleship? Jim Putnam & Bobby Harrington Explain in “Discipleshift”
For the past few weeks we’ve been talking a lot about discipleship (check out HERE and HERE). Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington in particular have been encouraging us ministry leaders to make a shift in how we do ministry, a discipleshift.
In their similarly titled book Discipleshift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples Jim and Bobby have shared their refocusing journey around forming people who are following Christ; being led by Christ; and are committed to the mission of Christ. And such formation requires a shift: a shift “from simply making converts to reaching people and discipling them.” (51)
Ok, fine. But how do you do this? And what are the necessary components to effectively form such people?
Let’s stop here and throw these questions your way: How do you form disciples? What are the absolutes you’ve found necessary to disciple effectively? Consider dropping your own hows and whats in the comment section and then come back here and read on.
So then what are the necessary components of effective discipleship? I’m glad you asked!
Jim and Bobby believe “there are three necessary components to the disciple-making process—the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God. These three components work together to bring about spiritual maturity in people’s lives.” (137)
When I was in seminary just a few years ago I was a bit of a commentary snob. I thought that the only pastor worth his salt was the one who owned ”quote-unquote” academic commentaries—like Anchor or Hermeneia. So I filled with my shelves with these lengthy, heavy tomes, thinking they would help me craft the perfect punchy, provocative, academically informed, theologically tight sermons West Michigan had ever seen!
Then I got into ministry. And things changed.
Yes, those lengthy, heave tomes still inform my sermons and have tremendous value. But I’ve found I have less time for sloshing through 20+ pages on the nuanced exegetical views of a given passage. I still want to understand the original meaning of God’s Word, but I need more. I need resources that will pluck my sermons from the clouds and help my people apply it to my people’s lives on the ground.
That’s where the NIVAC series comes in.
Not that these commentaries aren’t academic. Each NIVAC volume certainly holds their own against others in their field. The blissful twist with these resources, though, is that they are made for you and me to quickly access, digest, and use the information to craft application-centric sermons.
Case in point: the newest NIVAC edition on the Book of Deuteronomy. Maybe it’s because I’m a green preacher and haven’t taught on the Old Testament often, but applying Deuteronomy to 21st century living is a head scratcher. Yet Daniel Block’s 870+ pager manages to do just that, apply it to everyday life.
Like every NIVAC volume, Block opens with a healthy intro, complete with a handy outline of Deuteronomy. He then exegetes each passage using the three-fold “Original Meaning,” “Bridging the Context,” and “Contemporary Significance” structure. The latter is the commentary’s real bread-and-butter. For instance of the Shema, the famous 6:4-9 passage, Block writes:
Moses taught his people and he teaches us and Christians everywhere that true spirituality arises from the heart and extends to all of life…This passage suggests that that the very decorations of our homes should bear testimony to our faith, declaring to all guests and passers-by the fundamental theological outlook of those who live within… (189)
This Fall my church journeyed through The Story, a thirty-one week teaching series through Scripture’s big narrative. I had few OT commentaries to start and 9 times out of 10 I gravitated toward these handy commentaries to help me craft biblically informed, academically sound, yet applicational sermons. They were still punchy and provocative, but they also had boots; they reached the ground so my people could understand how they could find their story in God’s Story.
If you haven’t already I’d urge you to stock your shelves with these pivotal pastoral resources—whether you’re a preaching pastor, youth pastor, or small group leader. And this week is no better week to start stocking those shelves because the ebook version of every volume in the series has been discounted to $4.99! So do yourself a favor and stock up, because this super sale will end next Monday, May 13.
Has an NIV Application Commentary helped you in your preaching or teaching?
Jeremy Bouma is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA—a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith—holds the Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and writes at www.novuslumen.net.
This morning I’m going to speak with pastors. If you’re a small group leader you may listen in, too. But this morning I want to hit on a crucial section of Jim Putnam’s and Bobby Harrington’s important new book Discipleshift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples, because if it’s implication for us pastors.
First take a look at section from Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)
Read it again if you need to, because these verses tell us our goal as pastors: to equip people for works of service and ministry so that the Body of Christ may be built up, so that we all can reach unity and spiritual maturity.
Among all the hats you and I wear, one of our most important hats is disciple-maker. We are called to guide and equip our people to do Christ’s ministry. And that hat necessitates a shift in how we do ministry, a discipleshift, if you will.
Jim and Bobby are helping me make that shift as I help lead my own church through a season of significant change, beginning with understanding and embracing the four main roles of a disciple-making pastor.