Visions from the Vincents

March 31, 2008

C.J. and Company on Early Morning Battles

Filed under: Pastor — Joshua @ 4:39 pm
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Read this helpful article by C.J. and Jeff on the struggle of waking up in the morning to fill their hearts with thoughts of God.

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Mohler on Sin Survey

Filed under: Society — Joshua @ 1:44 pm
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Mohler recently posted his thoughts on a recent survey published by Ellison Research. His thoughts are cutting and the statistics are staggering.

Newsweek on Keller

Filed under: Evangelism,Pastor — Joshua @ 1:15 pm
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Check out this article in Newsweek. The writer actually praises Keller’s approach to ministry. His recent book, The Reason for God, should be excellent.

March 29, 2008

A Closer Look at 2 Children’s Books

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 12:01 am
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The Big Picture Story BibleI recently wrote a post concerning an excelent children’s book, The Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB). I wanted to follow up with a comparison of another Children’s book that is similar and in some ways more helpful–The Big Picture Story Bible (BPSB) by David Helm with illustrations by Gail Schoonmaker. Our son Benjamin is 22 months old and loves both of them. The Christian reader will vaunt each for their theological insight. I know many parents just want to provide the basics to their children. The beauty of these books is that they actually do this while also filling in the seams of the story with explanation of how little stories fit into the big picture. Each artist masterfully assists the storyline with brilliant illustrations. JSB provides sharper pictures with soft colors and is 2/3 the size of BPSB. The main difference that I would draw attention to is word content per page. While each contain excellent teaching, Helm provides a masterful economy of words providing the basics plus great theology in short sentences. The way this practically plays out is that currently Benjamin can sit through each page of BPSB, but his attention drifts when reading JSB. JSB seems to be written for a little bit older audience (maybe 3-4 yrs), but BPSB is great right now.

March 14, 2008

What is Spitzer really on Trial for?

Filed under: Society — Joshua @ 1:01 am
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New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer, stepped down from the state’s top office Wednesday amidst allegations of involvement in an international prostitution ring. Spitzer said, “I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me…I will try once again outside of politics to serve the common good.” My heart really goes out to Spitzer’s wife and girls. This is a tragic situation. I am curious as to why though. What is the “expectation” that Spitzer failed to “live up to?” Is sexual sin really such a big thing in the twenty-first century? Because the Bible says it is, Christians and the church should, but what about society at large? Television shows, movies, and the Internet are loaded with sexual content both implicit and explicit both written and visual. Much of the information we have today not only condones but encourages sexual freedom. Men and women are encouraged to enter into sexual relationships prior to marriage to make sure they click with their mate, and then to divorce mates that fail to fulfill their sexual desire. Our schools are teaching students not about abstinence but about being careful. We have a former president of eight years who committed adultery while in office and lied under oath yet was allowed to remain in his position. Add to this, a recent study that has shown 1 in 4 teenage girls have some type of STD. So, what is the “expectation” that Spitzer failed to meet? I am not convinced it is sexual sin. I am not so convinced that people are as concerned with the fact that Spitzer committed adultery, or that he had sex with a prostitute–in fact the federal law that could potentially lead to his arrest is not for paying for sex but transporting a prostitute across state lines for the purposes of paying for sex. The crime that has gripped the attention of the media and so many Americans is that a man who once prosecuted so many individuals–as a former state attorney general whose reputation as a scourge of white-collar crime (including those involved in prostitution rings) propelled him to the governor’s office in 2006–has been caught committing the very crimes he was obliged to prevent. Instead, it seems more likely to me that Spitzer is on trial in the court of public opinion for hypocrisy. Much could be said about this. I have two quick thoughts.

A Feeble Confession

For beginners, what about the weak confession. Spitzer’s major concern is not that he sinned against God or his wife. He feels little concern for the moral deprivation of his actions or the ethical banality. Instead, he is sorry that he didn’t meet everyone’s expectations. What if everyone expected him to have sex with a prostitute? Would his actions be acceptable? Unfortunately, I–from my very limited perspective–sense little remorse from Spitzer over his sin. Such a feeble confession reflects not only poor leadership but poor humanity. Another question to consider is how one can lead without a firm standard of “good?” How do you judge what is good and what is not? This is why it is so significant for Christians to have a Biblical worldview. To be fair to Spitzer, he lives amongst a people who daily make decisions without any solid rubric through which to evaluate right and wrong. They are dealing with a sliding scale. Christians will fair no better than Spitzer if they do not equip themselves with a strong understanding of God’s desires. In a fallen world, men and women are constantly tempted, and they need God’s word to combat a world that can spin the truth round and round so much that it leaves you dizzy. The Word of God is the anchor our worldview needs.

The World Hates Hypocrisy

The world hates hypocrisy. Men and women possess a natural knee jerk reaction to someone who claims to believe one thing, but does another. I think the church has suffered a great deal from this. Poor shepherding and loose membership have led to mammoth hypocrisy in the church. This side of heaven we will all fall short of the goal to some degree though. The difference between the church and the world is that the church covenants together to help one another flee sin, because they realize their calling is to image their great God through their union with Christ. From one perspective, hypocrisy is the very point of Christianity. Christians realize that God has communicated his will for us through his Word, but our desires work against us. This is why the Christian glories in Jesus Christ. He was no hypocrite. His death on our behalf gave us credit for his perfect, hypocrisy free life. He poured out his spirit upon his people to help them be transformed more and more into the image which they have been created to display.

Spitzer has Hope

The expectations for Spitzer’s life are far greater than he can imagine. But, the opportunity for redemption is far greater than he could ever know. God provides the opportunity for all to have their sins cast from them as far as the east is from the west. He must simply put on Christ by repenting of his SINS and believing in Christ. This requires a sincere confession of depravation. Unfortunately, many go on sinning and living a life of hidden sin in the recesses of their minds. Spitzer simply got caught. Don’t be deceived into thinking that Spitzer is some unique monster. All of humanity suffers the same destructive internal force–it is sin. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy whether you act on it or you fantasize about it. All have the same need before God–forgiveness. Spitzer should serve as a bullhorn for all of us calling us to heed our lives, and recognize the immorality of our hearts, and look to God for help. Only with God do we have hope, but the hope offered in Him is limitless.

March 12, 2008

Questions Pastoral Candidates Must Ask

Filed under: Pastor — Joshua @ 5:54 pm
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Matt Schmucker offered some helpful and practical advice for pastors considering a call to a church.

March 11, 2008

Youth Ministry: Where do we begin?

Filed under: Youth — Joshua @ 6:44 pm
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Jordan asked some helpful questions concerning youth ministry. As stated before, I think the role of parents is crucial. Here are some other thoughts that I believe will be helpful in thinking through how to minister to youth.

Where Scripture is Silent
Conservative evangelical circles these days discuss in great detail what a church should look like in light of the first century church. Some long to be a New Testament (NT) church. I think they mean more like the church of Philippi than the church of Corinth, but the point is clear. Many believe, as do I, that Scripture speaks to how God’s people should live together and order themselves. Everything the church does should be in response to the Word of God. Therefore, I would suggest that churches organize their youth ministries according to the principles set down by the Apostles in the New Testament. Wait a minute! Does the New Testament speak to Youth Ministry (YM hereafter)? Unfortunately, it does not. What then should we do? Should we sell the youth ministry for spare parts?

Where the Statistics Look Bleak
You may ask, “Why change a good thing?” Recent studies by the Barna Group, Lifeway, Fuller Seminary, and others have shown that the prodigiously increasing rate of attrition concerning students who entered their freshman year at college as Christians, yet abandoned the church by their sophomore year is startling. In 1945, 65% of students entering their freshman year as Christians remained in the church thereafter. By 2005 this percentage has fallen to 3%-5%. Something must be done.

What a Youth Ministry Should Guard Against
Before you do something rash, stop for just a minute and let’s think through this issue. Although, a Youth Pastor (YP) can hinder the gospel purposes for the church as presented in the NT, a YM that fences itself with certain principles, and focuses on the right ends can be faithful and fruitful. To accomplish this, YM should begin with what it is and what it is not. Though it is unintentional, many YPs do more harm than good for Christ’s Bride the church. A majority of YPs begin the conversation of YM with the YM, rather than beginning it with the church. The YM is not the church. If your approach grounds itself in trying to create a YM in a theological vacuum, then you have just become a magician, causing something to appear out of nothing, leaving all those who watch scratching their heads and asking, “Where did that come from?” While creativity is valuable, the church isn’t called to be creative as much as it is called to be obedient to revealed truth. Christians should begin with the church, and then constructively consider what a YM should and should not do. Perhaps, some of these will prove more obvious than others. But, the main point is that a YM should be integrated into the church. The more a YM distances itself from actively using its gifts in the church collectively, the more the YM distances itself from faithful obedience to the Word of God. Let’s begin with eight things a YM and YP should ordinarily steer clear of. I say ordinarily, because we live in a world that is fallen. In a perfect world, your youth ministry wouldn’t need a list, and you would have freedom to lead people in all of the directions we deemed best. As we all know, this world isn’t that place. Again, eight things a YM and YP should ordinarily avoid.

1. The YM is not a para-church organization working alongside or with the local church.
2. The YM is not separate from the congregation like a second church that shares a building. Although as many youth as will come are welcome, a youth cannot be a members of the YM without being a member of the church.
3. The YM should not practice ordinances apart from the rest of the Church.
4. The YM should not ordinarily grow in a manner disproportionate to the church congregation. This is not to say that you want to stunt spiritual or numerical growth, but it is to say that this shouldn’t be the goal of youth ministry.
5. The YM should not be an environment all together different from the church collectively. The YM shouldn’t see itself as a place where they can do all the things the older, boring adults will not allow them to do such as play the music they prefer. Though they may play different music and sing different songs, it shouldn’t be viewed as though relevance is equivalent to value before God.
6. The YM should not meet separately from the church during regularly scheduled meetings (i.e. Sunday morning, Sunday night, etc.)
7. The YP is not a substitute for the Pastor(s) of the church; he is a fully acknowledged pastor (this is an ideal or goal but perhaps not always possible).
8. The YP is not ordinarily a substitute for the spiritual role of the parents of the youth. Some spiritual orphans do need this though.

The Main Point: Teach the Value of the Local Church
This initial list serves to begin the conversation on the boundaries one should set up to begin a ministry of the church. It is easy for a YM to fold into itself and away from the church. Thus, it is possible for youth to prefer only to attend youth functions and only sit with youth in church, and only visit other youth. Let us not ignore the exhortation of James to image God by not showing partiality—even concerning age. Hopefully, this list clearly displays the potential pitfalls of YM. Churches should be encouraged to seek to set up these boundaries to emphasize the value of the local church as a whole to Youth. Part of communicating this vision is avoiding using language that confuses youth into thinking that their youth group is a substitute for the real thing.

Use Youth Ministry for all it’s Worth
We began this essay with the question, “Should churches sell the YM for spare parts?” You may be surprised by my answer in light of the conversation to this point. I actually think YMs can actually be an asset to the body of Christ! To this point, I have eight areas in which I think YM can be helpful.

1. The evangelism of youth.
2. The encouragement of family worship in families with youth.
3. The exhortation of obedience to parents.
4. The care of literal and spiritual orphans.
5. The integration of youth into the church.
6. The development of relationships with other Christian youth.
7. The preparation of youth for making the transition into adulthood.
8. Teaching Doctrine.

Conclusion
One may ask—and they have—which of these could not be achieved by simply folding the YM into the church and getting rid of the YM. I would be fine with a church not having an YM. Scripture doesn’t necessitate the provision of a YM or YP, but both can be a huge asset in thinking through these areas, especially in a larger church. On the other hand, Scripture nowhere prohibits a YM or YP. Paul says, “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some (1 Cor 9:22).” More individuals come to Christ between their teenage years and early twenties than any other age. Therefore, it would behoove the church to place a concentrated effort on the development and evangelization of youth. Much more could be said, but this was meant to be far shorter than it has already become. I invite any helpful criticism concerning these matters and would also appreciate any further positives or negatives you would propose.

March 5, 2008

Review of a good children’s book

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 4:28 am
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A Very Grown-up Children's BibleRead a recent article on The Jesus Storybook Bible in Christianity Today. CT says, “The Jesus Storybook Bible is as theological as it is charming.”

What should the Church do?

How socially active should the church be? What kind of thoughts should Christians consider as they think through living in the world?–You don’t have to think about it, I have some friends who have already done it for you.  Actually, this blog should be more of a help than an end to the conversation. Check it out.

Moore on the Theology of the Great Commission

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 4:04 am
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No pun intended. Check out more on the Great commission in Moore’s recent posts on the multi-part series .

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