Four Things a Pacesetting Pastor Should Do

Jack Miller, in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (which has had significant influence on Tim Keller, along with many others), suggests four permanent elements a pacesetting pastor should labor to make permanent fixtures in the life of a local church:

Preaching and Praying

…the supreme importance of preaching the gospel clearly and boldly, and his need to recruit people to pray regularly that this might take place. Preaching in the United States and elsewhere in the modern world tends to be strongly moralistic and legalistic rather than Christ-centered. Often the emphasis is on doing, without a foundation being laid in the grace of a God who welcomes sinners to Himself unconditionally. In other words, the pastor can unintentionally short-circuit the welcoming process by depressing the people with joyless preaching that concentrates on doing things rather than on relying on Christ for help to obey the will of God.

Reorienting Worship Service

…emphasize the importance of orienting the worship service around God’s welcoming person and grace….choose singable hymns that focus on Christ’s resurrection and ascension. —– …use songs and music that focus on our sins…but do so to bring people to an honest appreciation of divine grace in its surpassing abundance.  —– …emphasize testimonies of church members and new converts to make all aware that God’s gospel of grace is active and challenging people by faith in their midst.

Outward Facing

…labor to make every organization in the church develop what our church calls an “outward face” toward the world. The deacons should plan their work so as to get involved with the forgotten people in the community: the elderly in nursing homes, the sick, the unemployed, the people in prisons, the dying. The elders should not act merely as an official board, but also plan times of shared hospitality to which they invite non-Christian guests. —–  Every effort should be made to convert the Sunday school into a vehicle for welcoming families from the neighborhood.

Programs That Meet Needs of Community

…develop new programs designed to meet the needs of the community. The church should decide which needs it is most equipped to meet and then pray and organize with a view to meeting those needs. Going with the gospel needs a direction, a planned outlet. Ask yourself what gifts and abilities are resident in the members in the congregation. Then see how these resources harmonize with the needs of people living around you.

—Jack Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, pp. 90-91. Reformatted for readability.


New J.I. Packer-Led Catechism


There’s a promising new contemporary Catechism now available.

From the Anglican Church in North America:

Led by the Rev. Dr J.I. Packer, the Task Force has developed a unique and powerful resource for helping inquirerscatechism-sidebar3-2 come to an understanding of the Christian faith, and for helping disciples deepen their relationship with God. Written in a “Question and Answer” format, this Catechism, in the words of Packer, “is designed as a resource manual for the renewal of Anglican catechetical practice. It presents the essential building blocks of classic catechetical instruction: the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue). To these is added an initial section especially intended for those with no prior knowledge of the Gospel; as such, this catechism attempts to be a missional means by which God may bring about both conversion to Christ and formation in Christ.

For non-Anglicans (such as myself), this new Catechism could be a great template for other church and denominational settings to create their own catechism, or simply modify it, easily omitting the distinctly Anglican aspects (which comprises a small part of the Catechism).

Also, the new Catechism should be a wonderful tool in church planting contexts, effectively addressing spiritual nurture and formation (church) and mission (evangelism) from the plant’s very beginnings.

Download the Vision Statement explaining why the contemporary Catechism was created, and download the Catechism here.

Introducing God 2.0

Poster for Introducing God

Introducing God recently launched version 2.0 in Sydney, Australia, and is now available online at

Based on Matthias Media’s evangelistic tool Two Ways to Live, Introducing God (IG) combines Alpha-like sociology (i.e. highly relational) but with better theology (i.e. broadly Reformed).

And while Tim Keller asserts there are three ways to live (i.e. religion, irreligion, and the gospel of grace), when push comes to shove there really are just two ways. (And yes, I understand, and even agree with, the overall point he’s making.)

I’m exploring using IG in conjunction with planting a new church in Minneapolis, and am eager to explore the updated version. When I do, I’ll submit a review.

In the meantime Dominic Steele, IG’s creator, gives a good explanation of IG here.

T-U-L-I-P (Minus Grace)

Without a pastoral dimension the offense of the gospel too easily is understood as the offensiveness of the church. The unchurched have no perception of a loving God who accepts persons while they are yet sinners.

A brutal example of this was provided by the recent [1979] Hollywood film Hard Core, written and directed by a young man raised in an evangelical church. It is an agonizing experience for anyone from that community and the wider evangelical world to watch that film. The focus of the story is a lay member of the ‘Christian Reformation Church.’ His daughter has run away from home and joined the unchurched in the world of pornographic film. The hero goes to find her and recruits for the search a teen-age prostitute.

In a scene I think every gospel communicator should see, the hero, Jake, sits with the prostitute in an airport lobby waiting for the plane to take them to a California city and to the conclusion of their search. Jake is reading a newspaper. The girl asks about his church background. As nearly as I can remember the dialogue, it begins with a question from the girl:

‘What church do you go to?’

‘Well, we’re a Calvinistic church.’

‘Calvinistic? I don’t understand.’

‘Well, we believe in the Canons of Dordt.’ There is a look of confusion on her face. He continues, ‘You know, the five points of Calvinism: T-U-L-I-P.’

‘Tulip?’ she asks.

‘Yes, that’s an acronym,’ he continues, still reading. ‘T stand for total depravity.’

‘Total depravity?’

‘Yes, all men are totally unable to do good….’

At this point the plane is announced, Jake puts down his paper, and they head for the door.

The most frightening part of that scene is not what Jake said with his verbal symbols. Sovereign grace is sovereign grace, no matter how you spell it. It was what he really conveyed to that teen-age prostitute, to a girl whose whole life was sex and brutality. He was talking about grace without talking about grace. The Lord’s sheer mercy had become an empty sign with faded letters.

–Harvie Conn, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace (pp. 22-23,  emphases mine.)