Book Review: Budgeting for a Healthy Church

By Jamie Dunlop

A Christian book on making a church budget? That isn’t going to land on any best-seller lists, but is an eternally valuable book nonetheless. Putting together a budget seems like a necessary evil in the administration of earthly processes. Yet, Jamie Dunlop writes in his book Budgeting for a Healthy Church, “What a church treasures—how it spends money—reveals its heart, its values, and its priorities” (15).

A budget is necessary to pay the bills wisely, but it is more than simply an earthly necessity, it is part of shaping the spiritual identity of the church. “This is not a book about money…It’s a book about value. Ultimately it’s a book about the value of Jesus Christ. It’s about how his extraordinary kindness, mercy, justice, beauty, goodness, and power have captivated and transformed our hearts through his death and resurrection so that we spend our lives proclaiming who he is…So while your church budget is written in the language of money, it’s not ultimately about money. It’s about the glory of our Savior” (21).

That’s a strong statement for a book about handling money. But the gospel redeems all things so “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do [handle church finances], do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The goal of Budgeting for a Healthy Church is to help the church do that very thing.

Dunlop’s driving text throughout the book is the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:15–30. The goal of being given this stewardship isn’t simply to protect the gifts we’ve been given (that is actually wickedness!), but to faithfully invest the gifts for a spiritual return. A church’s budget should reflect a risk-taking faith that is willing to give up worldly pursues to gain something heavenly. “When obedience means risking what this world loves, it becomes a bold statement about the goodness and trustworthiness of the Master…Risk-taking obedience reveals the goodness and glory of God…” (27)

The book provides the spiritual vision for healthy-church budgeting and then follows with helpful principles to guide budget discussions. First among those principles is that the entire process should be guided by the spiritual leaders of the church: the pastors. “A church is a spiritual institution with spiritual investment goals, and it should have Spirit-minded leadership. [Therefore] the church budgeting process should be led by the church’s pastors and elders. Why? Because these are the leaders who have been chosen because they possess spiritual discernment…, and they have been tasked specifically with caring for the spiritual well-being of the congregation (Heb. 13:17)” (37).

That’s not to say that the pastors do it without accountability, but they are ultimately responsible for the spiritual vision and direction of the church. The budget is simply a reflection of the priorities set forth by the pastors. Because all things are to have a spiritual focus, it doesn’t make sense to compartmentalize the finances apart from the spiritual leadership of the elders.  Healthy leadership will take into account the data kept by the finance team, the needs of the ministry leaders, and feedback from the congregation. But the pastors must winsomely cast a vision for the direction of the church using the budget as one of their primary tools.

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The bulk of Budgeting for a Healthy Church is then guidance for pastors on common budget items: staff, programs, missions, and operations. Using wise Scriptural principles, Dunlop reminds us that the budget should not just be about funding ministries, but people who do ministry. We aren’t just trying to prop up an organization, but a family of servants who are called to be a witness to the world. Our budget should “[m]ake it clear that you love your people more than you love your budget” (66). It should reflect our love for each other and how we intend to love one another as we go on mission together.

There are wonderfully helpful tips throughout the book. Dunlop explains how we shouldn’t feel bad that a significant portion of the budget goes to staff, because that is our primary way we fund the Great Commission. He reminds us that we are not being faithful with God’s money if we are funding programs and missions that aren’t faithfully making Jesus known. He gives helpful tips on budgeting well for obtaining and maintaining buildings.

Dunlop wraps up the book with an emphasis on communicating the budget. Pastors should use the budget as a tool to teach and explain the gospel mission of the church. “Your congregation’s use of money matters mainly as a window into the well-being of their souls. That makes the budget more significant as a pastoral tool than a financial tool” (139). Budget talks provide opportunities to discuss faithful giving, reveal areas of faithlessness among the congregation, and cast a vision for the mission every member is to be on.

The budget is more than simply managing funds. Though a church and a secular business may both have budgets, that is where the similarity ends. “God’s job description for church operations is a world away from the job description for a business.” (123) It is an opportunity to prayerfully consider what God has given us to invest, seek his wisdom on where to invest it, and faithfully take risks to trust that he will provide powerfully for his mission. The budget isn’t a plan on exactly how every dollar will be spent, but, “Your church’s budget simply represents a plan to be faithful should God provide as you expect” (139).

Though not every church member needs to read this book, those involved in ministry (whether finance team or otherwise) and who desire to understand how your pastors are striving to lead the church should check it out. It is a short book (154 pages) with helpful anecdotes and very practical tools to help all in church leadership faithfully craft and communicate a budget for wise eternal investment.

Mammas, Tend to Your Vineyards

Yesterday I received a call from a dear old friend who has been and is a prime example of a Titus 2 woman in my life.  I have memories of Sunday afternoons with this dear German couple, Heinz and Brigitte, as we often shared a roast around the table. I can still hear this brother say in his thick German accent as he piled his plate with pork roast, “I am so glad I am not a Jew”. 

 Following our meal, the kids would head to the guest room where the bottom drawer of a dresser was packed with children’s books.  They would crawl up on the sofa to read or page through these books as Tom and Heinz sat in recliners going over the scriptures of the morning and Brigitte and I would visit at the sink while working through the pile of china that had been carefully set for our special meal together. 

 One line that she shared during one of these visits has been a mantra for me through these past 28 years of bringing up our children: “Be sure not to neglect your own vineyard.”  As mothers at home we often feel shame for not doing enough as if tending to the huge responsibility of bringing up these dear ones entrusted to us is not enough.  As I would be asked to take on certain tasks through the years, I would always ask if that would take from my time caring for our vineyard which could make way for little foxes to come in.  “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”  Song of Solomon 2:15

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 Our phone call yesterday emphasized again to me the importance of mothers nurturing their own vineyards. As we visited I was eager to ask her about Heinz’ involvement with Hitler’s Youth while growing up in Nazi Germany. I wondered how he, a youth then from a Christian home, was impacted by this fierce indoctrination.  With two children now in public high school I often consider the influence of the strong indoctrination of “tolerance” that is of our day. 

 “As a teenager seeking his independence, he was quite enthusiastic about this enlightenment.” she said. I couldn’t help thinking about our natural desire to exalt ourselves and how knowledge “puffs up”. It is no wonder that when I did a quick search for verses on humbling oneself my search engine returned 73 hits. Oh, how I can imagine the prayers of his dear mother.

 What Brigitte said next encouraged me and I hope it encourages you as well.  She said, “Heinz believed God used the prayers of his mother and the words that had been instilled in his heart at a young age to help him see through these lies.”  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6 I am happy to share that Heinz spent many of his adult years traveling through the US and Canada preaching Christ and spent several years as a missionary in Malawi, Africa. 

 Toward the end of our discussion I shared how I have been surprised by the recall of lines of hymns that come to mind lately that I didn’t realize were etched in my memory. “You know what’s really surprising to me?” she said, “I am not being reminded of the English hymns from all of my days in America but the German hymns of my childhood.” 

 Enjoy tending to your vineyards, Dear Mammas.  Your labor is not in vain. 

Book Review: The Gospel Comes with a House Key

In seminary our wives met together once a month with older mentors rotating through each other’s homes in order to learn how to be hospitable with whatever we had. Some nights the ladies gathered together in the comfort of a couple near retirement who had plenty of space for everyone. Other evenings 20 women would pack in a one-bedroom apartment barely large enough for the couple that made it their home. The goal was to remind us that what matters is our willingness to open our homes, not that it is perfect for entertaining many guests.

In her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, Rosaria Butterfield says, “Sometimes Christians tell me that they don’t practice hospitality because they don’t have enough space, dishes, or food…This is a false fear that no one should heed. Hospitality shares what there is; that’s all. It’s not entertainment. It’s not supposed to be” (216–217).

We are a world that is connected in greater ways than ever in history yet more disconnected from real relationships. We have a thousand friends on Instagram and yet can go through a week without having meaningful conversation with anyone outside our own family. It has created a culture that is more concerned about image than relationships and we fall prey to it fearful that our homes aren’t good enough to have people over. But “People will die of chronic loneliness sooner than they will cat hair in the soup” (111).

Hospitality is an often overlooked aspect of the church, especially of her leaders. Elders must show a pattern of hospitality in their lives (1 Timothy 3:2). We are to love one another as the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 6:10). We must be hospitable because God was for us in Christ. We are orphans, wanderers, foreigners, homeless and he makes us into a family and gives us a home (John 14:1–4). Our witness of his hospitality toward us is hospitality toward others.

But what is Christian hospitality? There are many counterfeits. There is the feeling of welcome you get at the local coffee shop or the camaraderie you build at the CrossFit box. You might even know someone who has an extra room in their home and makes it available on Airbnb. But this isn’t what God did for us. He made us part of his family. He extended a welcome at his table to those who were rebels, thieves.

Hospitality in the bible comes from the Greek word meaning, stranger-love. But it means so much more than being cordial with a person you don’t know on the sidewalk downtown. It was a word commonly used to refer to having someone in your home as part of the family for a time. It could refer to a stranger passing through or a fellow citizen who fell on hard times. It’s not so much the time or the type of person in your home, but how that person is treated inside. It sees the gift of a home as a tool to display the work of God. “Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom” (11).

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That could mean a myriad of different things for different homes, but to Butterfield it boils down to this: “Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God…When our Christian homes are open, we make transparent to a watching world what Christ is doing with our bodies, our families, and our world” (31). The world already distrusts us. They think we are crazy. They think we oppose them, hate them, are disgusted by them. We say we aren’t. We follow with pithy bible quotes that justify our position. But hospitality puts hands and feet to our words about truth and love. It creates a dissonance in the minds of many when they don’t like our words, but they see what the words from Christ produce in our homes.

It is important to realize that this isn’t an individual endeavor tacked onto an already busy life with other worldly priorities. It is part of the fabric of our corporate Christian identity. “Radically ordinary Christian hospitality must be rooted and steeped in grace: church membership, private prayer and fasting, solitude, repentance, Bible reading, Scripture memory, and worshipful singing” (36) We do this together with the tools God has given to the saints for two-thousand years. This simple work is the means by which he rescues the perishing. “Radically ordinary hospitality means this: God promises to put the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6), and he intends to use your house as living proof” (37).

The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a much needed book for the church. We have forgotten what our witness is. When we hear “evangelism” we are filled with fear believing it means we are called to preach on the street, hand out gospel tracts, engage in apologetic debates with skilled arguers, or confront blatant sin in someone’s life. Some of these things might need to happen, but we fear evangelism so greatly because we’ve disconnected our witness from our ordinary lives. Hospitality is the connection between ordinary people and an extraordinary witness. “Radically ordinary, daily Christianity is not PhD Christianity. The gospel coming with a house key is ABC Christianity. Radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living.” (220)

Instead of worrying about sharing the gospel with a complete stranger, let’s first take the step of welcoming a neighbor or co-worker into our home. It is through building these relationships of trust that spiritual conversations flourish and the gospel has a real person to it instead of a cold, social-media hit. Jake and I often joke that we are going to write a one-page book called, Eat Food and Talk about Jesus. It’s a book that simplifies evangelism and discipleship. Food has a way of breaking down barriers.

Rosaria Butterfield’s book does far better. With both inspirational stories and solid bible teaching, she casts a vision of a church on mission through ordinary life in the home.


We have purchased a copy of this book for each of our Community Groups. Reach out to your CG leaders to get a copy of it for yourself.

Don't Waste Your Life

By Sarah Trejo

This morning I am thankful for the alone time that God has allowed to take place. It can be difficult to find the time to calm one’s mind and heart with the business of everyday tasks and commitments. To sit and meditate on what God has been showing you is an important part of the Christian life. This helps us to refocus on God’s will and way for our life and gears us away from our tendency to get caught up in the humanistic world’s will and way.

            I was going to write on the topic of the value of life this morning, but once again when words began making their way unto “cyber paper” and forming sentences and meaning, an epiphany hit me like a pickup truck’s brights hit my vision from the rearview mirror of my small 1998 Chevy cavalier. Don’t Waste Your Life. Some may have read John Piper’s book. As for myself, I was referred this book the other day but have not yet read it. It started out a couple days ago when I was working with a patient, and we got on the topic of our spouses and how we met. To back up just a bit; I work on a cancer unit as a Nurse. Our patients have blood cancers which are sometimes curable, and other times terminal. I often ask myself how God can use me there, and I honestly struggle trying to save people’s physical beings while their spiritual beings are heading towards death. This is a real battle in “physically treating” in the medical field. I have prayed for conversations to be brought up on eternal focus and hope, and for guidance when these conversations do get brought up. Anyways, this patient and I are both married to Ecuadorians, so we found ourselves asking more questions on how we met our spouses and what drew us to each other. The Ecuadorian wife laughed and asked me if “he could play the guitar”. Funny that my husband can, but I shared that it was our beliefs and faith that was the main tie. Both of their eyes lit up even more and they both said, “Us too!”. The husband began sharing with me his involvement in Missions in Ecuador for over 10 years and how through studying Biblical theology, God really shaped his understanding of the Gospel and meaning of life. He told me about how he sold his house and workshop and moved to Ecuador to basically live a missionary life. It was very refreshing and encouraging to meet this person who is going through this physical challenge, with such a strong focus on what really matters in life; the spiritual being and God’s will and use of us as vessels. He told me that John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life is a must read and will change your way of how you want to live your life. I want to share this with the church as this was and is a very awesome encounter that God brought about, with not just a spousal cultural similarity, but also a larger focus on the kingdom of God and how Christian’s are tied to each other all around the world by an invisible spiritual string. It is there! Since the string is invisible, we often forget it is there, and also tend to stretch that string to gear away from the mainstay to get consumed by the world and living a meaningless life.

Photo taken by Sarah Trejo, Ecuador 2014

Photo taken by Sarah Trejo, Ecuador 2014

Let us be used by God to pull each other closer and bring new souls to this string so that we can become more confident and intentional with our life.   

We must wake up each day and ask ourselves, “How does God want to use me today?” and to, “Pray to give us an opportunity to help grow YOUR Kingdom and to encourage and bring life to others.” The sermon a couple of weeks ago on the hired laborers validated the importance of being active and not wasting your life away while here on earth.

Matthew 20:1-19

It was a perfect connecting message to what God was speaking to me through the divine meeting with this married couple at work.

6...He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

Don’t waste life away! God has so much in store for us. Be active, share, and show the good news with those who are lost, or even encourage those who already know, so that they can experience the immense joy and zeal for life that He intended His creation to have!

Follow the Leader?

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by Scott Regener

            The children are working their way through the Old Testament in Sunday School, and just this month we came upon the famous story of the golden calf. If you recall, Moses went up on a mountain and was hidden from the view of the Israelite camp by a cloud for forty days while God delivered the first tablet, just a few thousand years before Apple delivered theirs. Before long, the Israelites turned on Aaron and demanded that he make them a god to worship. If Eve’s explanation of the serpent’s deception stands out as funny, how much more Aaron’s explanation of what happened when Moses asked what happened: “’So they gave [their gold] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

            Marshall McLuhan famously said that the medium is the message. What he meant is that the way a message is communicated changes how it is received. Television distanced the viewer from what was shown, encouraging a certain dispassionate stance where the viewer could serve as judge and jury based solely on what they were able to see on the screen. Daytime television exploited this judgment tendency to perfection. And now Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media take this one step further, including buttons for us to judge someone’s ideas without even needing to take a moment to ponder. Popularity is measured by likes, subscriptions, or even LOLs. It is tempting to open up our Bibles and click “Like” on Moses and give a big thumbs-up to Jesus, and then frown upon the Israelites for their many failings.

            The truth, however, is that the Israelites in the Old Testament show us just how far we will go from God if given even half a chance.  Consider how recently the Israelites had seen how mighty God was – delivering them from Egypt, leading them across a barren land, all the while providing them food and water when they needed it. Yet hide their human leader from their view for just a moment, and they looked around and saw where how bleak their surroundings and decided they needed gods to deliver them. In truth, they idolized Moses and worshipped and served him rather than the God who saved them.

            Before we move on from those Israelites and their failures, though, we need to take a moment and look at our own hearts and those who lead us today. Megachurches rise and fall on the abilities of their leaders. Dozens of preachers can be heard every single day on radio and television, some of whom number their listeners in the millions. When we cannot see God’s hand in front of us, how quickly do we turn aside and ask these human leaders to provide us the answers we seek? When we think about our own lives and realize just how far short we fall, how quickly do we look to the men who lead our church and expect that they will do their job to perfection, rather than seeing them as sinners in need of grace like us all? When we cannot see God, do we look for someone with the answers we need?

            That Moses guy the Israelites followed? He was a murderer. He married someone outside the Israelite nation, a Midianite. And when God asked him to lead the people, he said, “Oh my Lord! Please send someone else!” His patience with the people of Israel would eventually run out and, in a moment, he threw away his chance of going to the promised land. The man whose face literally shone from the glory of God was not perfect, and even he forgot the God with whom he met. Let us resolve not to worship men or idols or anything but the God of the Bible. Let us remind ourselves and each other every day that no one should ever take his place in our hearts.

What's in a (church) name?

Early in our dreaming and visioning stage we spent much more time figuring out the name of our church. It seemed so unimportant. What does it matter if your name is Redemption, Redeemer, Bethany, Calvary, Trinity or Harvest? What really matters is the doctrine, the ministry, the people!

But our vision drove us to come up with a name that communicates who we are and what we are aiming toward. "Redemption" reminds us that this world and the Bible are not about us, but it is God's story of redeeming the world from sin to return us to paradise. We enter into a small chapter of that story to join God in that work. Instead of saying "Community Church" or "Baptist Church" we chose "City Church" to emphasize people and the culture they make in the city. The new creation will be a garden city. What makes a city other than a lot of people and the culture they create together giving that city its unique identity? We want to embrace the people of the city and help shape its culture, not move to the edge of the city and invite people out of it.

What I found especially interesting during our research for a church name was the more recent (last 20-30 years) trend of naming churches after some scenic vista. It really struck me as I was driving past a golf course and remarked that it would make a great name for a mega church. And then I searched the internet for golf course names and looked at the lists of America's newest, largest churches. Sure enough, it is often difficult to discern the difference.

So I made this quiz to test it out. Can you guess which of the following names are golf courses and which are mega churches? 

Golf Course or Mega Church?

I wonder what they are trying to communicate when they chose those church names. I really don't know what those names are supposed to teach me about who they are and what they believe. If you have any insight let me know. I really would like to know.

I'm thankful that God led us to the name Redemption City Church. It sounds current. It has historical roots. It teaches something about who we are and what we believe. And I'm thankful for the people God has shaped in this community.

"What do you do the rest of the week?"

I think it is a well-meaning question. Most of the time it comes from smaller children who usually only interact with their pastors on Sunday. Sometimes it comes in veiled forms from adults in conversations about church budgets or career paths.

“What do you do the rest of the week?” is a question that makes a pastor chuckle the first couple of times he hears it. But the more often it is said, the more he begins to examine himself and wonder if he is involved with the church family enough that his schedule is fairly known.

Paul quoted Isaiah in Romans 10:15 saying, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But he didn't say those feet couldn't be resting on a desk all week long.

Paul quoted Isaiah in Romans 10:15 saying, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But he didn't say those feet couldn't be resting on a desk all week long.

Redemption City Church is a family that spends a lot of time together outside of Sunday morning. With Community Groups, Bible studies, counseling, events, and regular hang-outs we see each other a lot. So many of you know what we do with much of our week. But just to satisfy the curiosity of some onlookers, the following is a ‘typical’ week for a pastor at Redemption City Church.

Monday:

Rest day? Upload the sermon from Sunday to the website with pictures and link to podcast hosting page. Send out invitations to visitors to meet up during the week for coffee or lunch. Answer random phone call from church member while bathing the kids. Go to child’s baseball game (invite church families to come cheer him on).

Tuesday:

Get to office at 6:00 am while it is relatively quiet. Start with Bible reading and prayer time. Begin sermon prep: translation, argument diagramming, word studies, recite text multiple times, pray for insight. Meet visitor for coffee from 9:00 – 10:30 am. Get back to office to have elder discussion of Sunday worship service: sermon faithfulness and response, Sunday School lesson, facilities logistics, member needs, changes for next week. More sermon text studying in the afternoon. Read blogs/news to find information helpful for church. Follow up on emails from church partners, mentors, disgruntled members, and community group leaders. Plan sermon texts and SS lessons for the next couple of months. Meet with next week’s SS teacher to help him prepare his outline. Enter visitor information into the people management application. Babysit church members’ children from 5:00 – 7:00 so they can go on a date.

Wednesday:

Meet with finance team at 6:00 am to discuss budget needs and estimate upcoming giving patterns. Read Bible. Plan School of Theology lessons for fall semester. Answer phone call from member about personal counseling situation. Respond to dozen texts from various members. Write a newsletter to inform the church of upcoming events, news, and prayer requests. Plan dinner presentation of vision and membership at Redemption for new attenders. Assist development of new community group. Explore rough 5-year plan for new church plants. Brainstorm potential new mission partnership overseas. Lunch with Sunday visitor. Review book table recommendations for free resources on Sunday mornings. Send out email to community group meeting reminder. Pray for insight into sermon text, church family, and cultural connections to illustrate and apply sermon. Attend Community Group during the evening to connect deeper with church family.

Thursday:

Men’s prayer meeting at 6:00 am. Meet with potential future leader for one-on-one discipleship for an hour. Have coffee with visitor at coffee shop (spend 30 minutes talking to the barista about religion and church). Write an adoption recommendation letter. Formulate sermon main idea and outline. Double check sermon study notes with commentaries. Write introduction to sermon. Bounce sermon ideas off of other pastor. Meet for lunch with mentors to check in on our families and our ministries. Call member to get update on outreach efforts. Update website details. Pray through section of membership list. Read through sermon text multiple times. Read blogs/news to find information helpful for church. Meet with Redemption ministry leader to discuss how things are going and pray together. Review commentary manuscript written by friend before he submits it to the publisher. Read book on how to preach and write better sermons. Host a family from church or the neighborhood for dinner.

Friday:

Pray for final sermon details. Listen to sermon text from audio bibles. Write sermon. Check w/ facilities manager on current status of building details for Sunday. Fill out bulletin with song and sermon details. Meet with visitor for lunch. Read sermon aloud to make adjustments. Practice sermon in a pulpit. Meet with engaged couple for premarital counseling. Pizza and a movie night with family.

Saturday:

Wake up in the morning before anyone else in the family to practice sermon a couple of times. Try to shelf pastoral duties for entire day to spend some time with the family. Go on a family trip to the museum (and invite a few other church families). Read sermon text one more time before going to bed marking up the margin with notes.

Sunday:

Begin the day at 5:00 am preparing for the morning sermon. Read through manuscript a notes a few times and pray for the Spirit to bring clarity, prepare soft hearts, and exalt Christ in our weakness. Arrive in the office at 7:15 to collect equipment, print bulletins, review sermon notes once more. Arrive at middle school at 8:00 to help set up. Corporate prayer at 9:00. Sunday School at 9:30. Worship at 10:30. Lunch at 11:30. Clean up and get home by 1:30 pm. On alternating weeks during the school year, meet class from 6:30 – 8:30 for School of Theology.


This is just a sample of the type of things we do each week. Not all of them get done every week. Not everything is included in every week. Many things are missing. Many things actually happen in the evening when a member calls or texts when they have more time. This doesn’t include emergency room and hospital visits or other urgent church family needs. This doesn’t include the quick emails and texts suggesting improvements or important books and articles to read that would help our ministry.

A pastor easily finds his entire identity in the church. Every moment of the day he is pastor. Every time a friend calls, he is also pastor. Every time he is at a the store and runs into a member he is pastor. As an engineer I could check out of work at 4:00 pm and not care about it anymore until I sat back down in my office the next day. Not as a pastor. He has tied his life completely to the people he has been called to shepherd. But it is his joy to be called to bring the gospel to life for Christ’s people.

Baptism at Redemption

 
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Baptism is a topic that has caused a lot of confusion among Christians. As we have gotten to know one another's stories that confusion has shown to spread across the board. To try and bring clarity we have written the document below: Preparing for Baptism at Redemption City Church. It is our aim to bring some clarity to this important identifier of Christ's body.

 

Christ-Centered

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These days everyone is gospel-centered, Christ-centered, God-centered, Bible-centered, etc. It all sounds so spiritual, but for so many people it is simply another language that has little meaning. So is this just a way that we are trying to look like we've got it together without actually having any day-to-day meaning? 

As our first Core Value, we really do mean it when we say we strive to be "Christ-centered." We say, "Christ is the light of the world, bringing salvation to all who believe. By his blood, he has redeemed his people and has brought us from death to life. This Christ exalting message is the hope of all men and women, and is the focus of every endeavor at Redemption City Church."

Everything we teach points to Christ

In John 5:39 Jesus confronted the religious majority of the day saying that they had missed the entire point of the Scriptures they thought they knew so well. He says these Old Testament texts all "bear witness about me." The Jews should have known Jesus before he even came because their book told them all about him.

In Luke 24:25-27 two men are walking on the road to Emmaus discouraged that Jesus had just died. When Jesus appears to them they are surprised wondering how such a thing could happen. And in verse 27, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Jesus began going through every section of the Old Testament showing them that they should have known his life, death, and resurrection would happen.

So we preach, teach, and disciple at Redemption City Church not just to improve our lives, but to show from every text how Jesus is the main character in the story of the Bible and the story of our lives. The only way to defeat sin, overcome shame, guilt, and sorrow, is to look to Jesus in his word from beginning to end.

Everything we do is about Christ.

But we don't just focus on Jesus when we are in the Bible. He is the point of everything we do. "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17). "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Everything we do points to God's work toward us in Christ. We strive for great marriages because marriage points to Jesus (Eph. 5:32). We work in our jobs as we are working for Jesus (Col. 3:23). We care for one another as unto Christ (Matt. 25:40). We eat food in anticipation of the coming marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9). We sleep because of the rest and peace with God that Christ obtains for us (Psalm 2:12; 3:5-6; 4:8). We play as children adopted into the family of God through Christ (Matt. 19:14; Rom. 8:15-17). We do evangelism not simply to save people from their sins, but in order that they would delight to worship God in Christ (Psalm 22:27; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 9:17; 15:9).

Everything we do as the people of Redemption City Church is done so that people will see Jesus, become like him, rest in his protection rejoice in his provision, and exalt in his glory. We do all these things because all things were made by him and for him (Rom 11:36; Col. 1:16).

The Bible: The Source of Hollywood's Humor?

A bit of light humor from the blog this morning.

I've been reading through Samuel lately and twice was caught up in a moment of laughter when I was reading the words on the page but imagining scenes from modern movies. I had to re-read the text to make sure I understood it correctly. But sure enough there it was.

In 1 Samuel 19:11-16 we read:

[11] Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” [12] So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. [13] Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats' hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. [14] And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” [15] Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” [16] And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head.  (ESV)

Every time I read this I think of Ferris Bueller and his intricate contraption that he built to make it look like he was still in bed sick. His sister is onto his trick and bursts into the room to reveal he is not really in bed.

"And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head."

"And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head."

Every kid has tried this trick. It shows up in TV and movies as one of the oldest tricks in the book. So I was a little surprised to find it also in the Bible! Perhaps Michal was the originator of the "dummy in bed" trick.

So I got a few good laughs out of that thinking it was a rather isolated incident until I came across Absalom's (David's son) demise in 2 Samuel 18. He is trying to run away from the soldiers trying to kill him and we read:

[9] And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. (ESV)

Seriously?! The knocked-his-head-on-a-low-lying-tree-branch-while-riding-a-horse gag. Samuel is full of hollywood source material.

It's a common bit in all kinds of B-movies and even Disney movies. Yet, here it is in the Bible. 

Okay. Enough silliness. I need to get back to sermon prep.