Category Archives: Church Planting

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way” by D.A. Carson

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way. Those who claim all the blessings of the new heaven and the new earth in the present time frame have not come to grips with New Testament eschatology.

True, the age to come has dawned, and the Holy Spirit himself is the down payment of future bliss; but it does not follow that all material blessings, prosperity, and freedom from opposition are rightfully ours now.

Even John, who of New Testament writers is most inclined to focus attention on the already-inaugurated features of the age to come, makes it clear that the Christian can in this age expect hatred, persecution, and even violence.

Perhaps this chapter, taken by itself, might prove depressing to some. It is helpful to remember that the biblical passage being expounded, John 15:17–16:4, does not stand in isolation. It is the counterpoint to intimacy with Jesus Christ and rich fruitbearing in the spiritual life.

To know Jesus is to have eternal life; and this is worth everything. In ultimate terms, the acclaim of the world is worth nothing. That is why the dark brush strokes of this passage, 15:17–16:4, far from fostering gloom and defeat, engender instead holy courage and spiritual resolve.

Meditation on these verses forges men and women of God with vision and a stamina whose roots reach into eternity. It calls forth a William Tyndale, who while constantly fleeing his persecutors worked at the translation of the Bible into English. Through betrayal, disappointment, and fear, he struggled on until he was captured and burned at the stake. His dying cry revealed his eternal perspective: ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!’

In a similar vein, William Borden prepared for missionary service in the Muslim world. Born to wealth, he poured his money and his example into missions. After the best of training at Yale University and Princeton Seminary, he arrived in Egypt to work with Samuel Zwemer. Almost immediately he contracted a terminal case of cerebral meningitis. His dying testimony did not falter: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

C.T. Studd, born to privilege, gifted athletically, and trained at Eton and Cambridge, turned his back on wealth and served Christ for decades against unimaginable odds, first in China and then in Africa. He penned the words:

Some want to live within the sound
of church or chapel bell;
I want to build a rescue shop
within a yard of hell.

This is the passion we need: a passion that looks at the mountainous difficulties and exults that we are on the winning side. By all means, let us face the worst: Christ has told us these things so we will not go astray.”

–D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 130-132.

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“When Barna becomes more important than the Bible” by D.A. Carson

“At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how ‘vision’ consists in clearly articulated ‘ministry goals,’ how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies.

But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel.

Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements–but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing.

Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 26. [HT: JT]

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