Motivational Pick-Me-Up for Aspiring Church Planters (and Sundry Occupationally Hazardous Positions)

So long, Stuart Smalley. Later Matt Foley.

There’s a new kids in town.

As an aspiring church planter, I’m bound to encounter various difficulties, experience failure, and consider throwing in the towel. (Upon further reflection, it sounds a lot like life.)

But then I’ll just watch Apollos, and all will be well.

At least till tomorrow.

“The Most Heard [and] Successful Hymn of the Last Few Decades”…by U2?

Bishop Bono?

The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman perceptively writes about U2’s ongoing tension with the Christian faith and doubt:

The story of U2 might be this: having begun as a band that was uncertain about the idea of pursuing a life of faith through music, they have resolved that uncertainty. Their thin ecclesiology has become thick. Today, they are their own faith community….

For more about U2’s apparent faith/doubt paradox, and to find out what one scholar asserts is “the most heard, most successful hymn of the last few decades” read Rothman’s article “The Church of U2″ here.

(HT: Calvin Institute of Christian Worship)

We Need Heretics—Here’s Why


We all need a good heretic.

Richard Mouw, writing for First Things:

…it is a good thing to have a couple of favorite heretics. Some false perspectives are illuminating, and it can be healthy for Christians who love ideas to be challenged regularly by perspectives that we can disagree with in productive ways.

Mouw concludes:

Perspectives that are both false and illuminating are in short supply these days.

Read Mouw’s article on how Nietzsche, Sartre, Bertrand Russell and other heretics are good for Christians here.

Engaging With God Popularized

David Peterson, who’s masterful book Engaging With God:  A Biblical Theology of Worship is the most referenced and footnoted resource on worship, recently (and quite quietly) released a more practical follow-up, Encountering God jpegTogether: Leading Worship Services That Honor God, Minister to His People, and Build His Church

In a recent interview with the book’s publisher, Peterson was asked what inspired him to write Encountering God Together:

Many peo­ple have urged me to apply this teach­ing more specif­i­cally to con­gre­ga­tional gath­er­ings and to write at a more pop­u­lar level on wor­ship. So my lat­est book is the result and I hope it meets the need that has been expressed.

Here are the chapters:

  1. The Gathering of God
  2. Worshipping God
  3. Edifying the Church
  4. Patterns of Service
  5. Listening to God
  6. Praying Together
  7. Praising God
  8. Singing Together
  9. Baptism
  10. The Lord’s Supper

I’ve read it, and it’s fantastic. Whether you’re a pastor, church planter, elder, music leader—in short, have anything to do with leading congregational worship—this book’s for you. It’s a fairly quick read and will stimulate your thinking and practice about worship and the church.

Read the first chapter here.

Bono, Tim Keller and John Piper for a Sit-Down Conversation? What Might Have Been

Several years ago I had a crazy idea.

I had tickets to U2’s upcoming concert in Minneapolis. Desiring God’s headquarters were 1.5 miles from the stadium where U2 was scheduled to perform. Bono had a history of partnering with well-known evangelicals, including Rick Warren. So would he be open to meeting with Tim Keller and John Piper for a sit-down conversation and be willing to have it captured on video?

There was only one way to find out.

After a bit of sleuthing, I directly corresponded with U2’s people at their modest Dublin office. No joke. They were interested in the possibility, but just wanted more information.

I then contacted Keller’s people. He was scheduled to be on a summer sabbatical. Crazy idea was officially nixed.

But I wondered: what would have happened with Bono, Keller and Piper in a moderated discussion?


imgres-1We’ll never know. But it piques the imagination, no?

Catechizing for the 21st Century: John Murray Article Refreshed, Repurposed, and Republished

Former Westminster Theological Seminary professor John Murray the Scottish theologian who wrote Redemption Accomplished and Applied (a book that deserves multiple readings), also wrote a little-known apologetic called “Catechizing: A Forgotten Practice” in 1962 for the Banner of Truth Magazine.

While the content is the same, I reformatted the article for readability and received permission from Banner of Truth to publish it.

In the article Murray, with frequent nods to Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Baxter (and others), covers a lot of ground:

  • The Origins of Catechizing
  • The Development and History of Catechizing
  • The Need for Catechizing
  • Catechizing and Preaching
  • Difficulties of Catechizing
  • Difference Between Catechizing and the Use of a Catechism
  • Catechizing and Catechisms Not for Children Only
  • The Case for Catechisms
  • The Benefits of Catechizing

May Murray’s retooled article find new life amid today’s growing catechetical renaissance.

Read, print, or download on your e-reader Murray’s “Catechizing: A Forgotten Practice” here.

Note: After this post was published, I discovered there are two John Murray’s—both Scottish, both of whom also had writings published via Banner of Truth. The John Murray who taught at WTS was simply John Murray, while the John Murray who wrote the above catechetical apologetic is John J. Murray. The former is deceased, while the latter is very much alive. My apologies for the unintended confusion.

Richard Attenborough’s Favorite Film? Not What You Think

In light of Lord Richard Attenborough’s death this past week, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special remembrance of his life. In a 2009 Scottish TV interview, Attenborough recalled his favorite film as a director. It wasn’t what you’d expect, i.e. Gandhi (for which he won an Academy Award in 1983), but instead Shadowlands, about the love-life of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman.

Attenborough reveals his affinity for Shadowlands at the 6 minute mark:

And here’s the movie trailer for Shadowlands:




Your Mind Is Not a Vacuum



David Brooks writes about the relationship between the mind, morality and character in The New York Times op-ed article “The Mental Virtues”:

…[the]mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.

Read Brooks’ “The Mental Virtues” here.