Is Peter or his confession "this rock"?

Warning! This is a long read. Grab a coffee. Close your office door. Open your Bible. Pray for understanding, grace, and patience.

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 A few months ago I preached on Matthew 16 and made the statement that I agree with the Catholic interpretation that the “rock” on which Christ will build his church is Peter himself. That discussion came up again in a Sunday School discussion and a bunch of sharp, thoughtful “Bereans” asked me for clarification. Being a Protestant church such a statement seems quite at odds with what we stand for. Am I denying the gospel? Am I supporting the pope? Or as one brother asked, “What is wrong with giving God all the glory?”

You can be assured that I am not on a slippery slope to Catholicism. I weep over how that “church” has lost the gospel and trapped millions in a false hope of works-righteousness. I was raised Catholic and nearly lost my soul to bearing its burdens. I have many in my family who are in that bondage and still speak with people regularly who think they are doing a pretty good job of pleasing God through Catholic works.

For years I grew up under the heavy yolk of Catholic legalism, striving with all my self-righteous might to be a good, pious boy whom God would be proud to claim as his own. But God saved me from being the self-righteous older brother. He revealed to me how great he is and how pitiful my attempts to impress him are. I realized my utter helplessness and need of his mercy. Suddenly all of the Bible stories I learned growing up began to fit together into a story of redemption all focused on Jesus Christ.

As I grew in my knowledge of the word, the teachings of the Catholic Church became an abomination to me. It’s views on marriage and divorce infused in me a constant sense of inferiority and shame. When I was saved I felt a desperation on behalf of my family who had been taken in by the impressive, yet empty rituals of the Church. I was deeply frustrated that I felt I had been lied to for nearly 20 years of my life and I was determined to cast off every vestige of this damning institution.

So it is with no flippancy that I tread into interpretive territory that sounds Catholic. Growing up Catholic I am quite familiar with the papacy and the arguments for it. Chief among them is Jesus statement toward Peter in Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” From this one statement the Catholic Church defends centuries of papal succession which they claim goes all the way back to Peter (though church history documents a far different story).

Brief History of Interpretation

According to Catholic dogma, at this moment Jesus proclaimed Peter to be the first in a line of popes who would have authority over all the church until King Jesus returns. These words are inscribed inside St. Peter’s basilica in the Vatican where the Pope’s sits on his chair as a reminder to carry on the successive authority of Peter.

As church history progressed, it became clear to many faithful Christians that the papacy and the Catholic Church had lost their way. They did not represent biblical truth. First they sought to reform (i.e. fix) the broken system. Eventually they were forced out and began their own movements. These new movements vehemently rejected many of the forms that had been so easily corrupted by the Church. Chief among these abominable offenses was the entire concept of the papacy.

Some of these reformers attacked the very root of the argument by presenting an alternate interpretation of the Matthew 16 text. They claimed that the “rock” on which Jesus would build his church was the confession Peter made, not Peter himself. This gave the people more fuel to reject the assumed authority of the Pope because they had biblical justification to do so.

In faithful, biblically-serious Protestant churches today this is the most common interpretation. Especially for baptists, we hold that there is no authority outside the local church except for King Jesus himself. We are confessional people who hold to a confession of Christ (Rom. 10:9), not allegiance to a church structure.

Plus, we all know that Peter was a fool. He put his foot in his mouth a lot. He was rebuked for exalting himself. He couldn’t stay awake to pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He rejected Jesus three times. There is no way this guy is the foundation of the church. Jesus is the foundation of the church (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6–7).

Any attempt to add anyone to the foundation of the church besides Jesus should be rejected as an attempt to steal glory from God! “What is wrong with giving God all the glory?”

But I want to argue that it is precisely through Peter as the rock that we glorify God in the way God chose to be glorified. Who am I to decide how God gets all the glory? He could have just snapped his fingers and built an impregnable church, but he didn’t. He chose to use brittle, cracked, weak, broken stones like Peter and you and me. I want to argue that to deny Peter is the rock is to deny an assurance that Jesus has given us in the success of his mission—not in a papal succession, but in the work of his Spirit.

A proper interpretation of the grammar, the context, and a whole-bible theology will bear this out.

Grammar and Context

It is often argued by my Protestant brothers that there is a lexical distinction between the Greek word for Peter (petros) and rock (petra). And this is true. Rock (petra) is the common word for a large stone or bedrock. Peter is a rather common name derived from that word. Some try to distinguish between them by saying Petros is diminutive meaning a smaller stone. But the linguistic evidence just doesn’t bear that out. Peter is simply the way you make a name out of a common word.

We do this all the time in our language. We make names out of other words because of their meaning, but in order to make the name make sense, we adjust the spelling just a bit. This is especially necessary in Greek which has masculine and feminine forms of words. This doesn’t necessarily mean an object is masculine or feminine, it is just how the system works.

But when it comes to names, men have masculine word endings and women have feminine word endings. Typically, male names end in –os: Petros (Peter). But rock (petra) has a feminine ending: -a. In order to give your son, whom you want to be strong as a rock, the name Peter, you need to change the ending from feminine (-a) to masculine (-os). But quite simply, Peter and petra are the same word. The first being a proper name.

So Jesus is literally saying, “You are a rock, and on this rock I will build my church.”

Some want to argue that the antecedent of “this rock” is Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” But grammatically it just doesn’t work that way. A demonstrative pronoun (“this”) has clues to which word it is referring to. It will match the gender form if it can (in this case it can’t because of the two forms of “rock” being used) or it is arranged nearest to the word it references.

Greek is a flexible language when it comes to word order. Because each word is so precise with its meaning, the order of words doesn’t need to be in as strict order as in English. You can move words and phrases around to make clearer other points without sacrificing the meaning of the word. The nearest antecedent to the demonstrative pronoun is “Peter.” If Jesus wanted to connect it to the confession he would have front loaded the phrase “this rock” to put it nearer the confession: “On this rock I will build this church, Peter.”

He also could have given the pronoun a neuter ending—“-o”—to emphasize he is not connecting it to a specific word, but to a concept or larger phrase. Matthew records neither of these attempts, but clearly shows that the reference of “this rock” is to Peter. There is no other way to make that clearer.

The earliest interpreters of the Bible (who knew Greek far better than we do) agree on this interpretation. Catholics like to trot out the Church Fathers to make their point on a lot of things (while they also ignore the discontinuity of the Fathers in other things). But here we find much help in interpreting this confusing phrase.

“Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ [Matt. 16:18] with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’ [Matt. 16:19]?” (Tertullian, Demurrer Against the Heretics 22 [A.D. 200]).
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys” (Tertullian, Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter” (Clement, Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).
“Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? ‘Oh you of little faith,’ he says, ‘why do you doubt?’ [Matt. 14:31]” (Origen, Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [A.D. 248]).
On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. . . . If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

There are many more from the first three centuries that see Peter as the rock in Jesus’s statement. It is difficult to argue grammatically against Greek speakers and writers that the confession is not the object of the metaphor, Peter is.

 Matthean Context and NT References

The context bears this out. Jesus switches metaphors for a moment from a building to authority in a kingdom. He hands Peter the keys to the kingdom, symbolic of a king handing off authority in his absence to a trusted friend. Handing the keys to Peter and calling him the rock foundation of the church are saying the same thing. If we reject Peter as the rock, we must reject him as the key holder.

But again, the Catholic church loves to take this and run with a papal succession. “See! Peter has authority over the entire church because he is the rock and holds the keys.” But the text says no such thing. There is no reason to make the jump from Jesus calling Peter a rock with keys to a line of Popes. The text just doesn’t say that.

Protestant scholar and commentator R. T. France argues similarly and says there is no reason to establish a papacy from this text. “All such apologetic rewritings of the passage are in any case beside the point, since there is nothing in this passage about any successors to Peter. It is Simon Peter himself, in his historical role, who is the foundation rock. Any link between the personal role of Peter and the subsequent papacy is a matter of later ecclesiology, not of exegesis of this passage” (623).

There is no succession from Peter to a line of Popes. In fact, we see this very same authority of the keys (“binding and loosing”) given to all the disciples (and by extension the future church) two chapters later in Matthew 18:18. The succession is from Peter to the small group of disciples to the entire church. This spread of authority continues at the end of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus commissions his disciples to share the authority with the whole world.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go…” (Matt. 28:18). Matthew’s Gospel is telling the story of Jesus as the King with all authority. Israel, the pagan nations, and especially Jesus’s disciples are all rebels to his kingdom. Nobody is good. We are all fools. Yet the conflicting paradigm through the entire story is that Jesus is welcoming these losers into his kingdom. And not just welcoming them, but giving them his authority!

We rightly cringe at the thought of Peter being called the rock, because God will not share his glory with any man (Isaiah 42:8). Yet we see this very thing happening in the Gospels. God gave his glory to this man Jesus, who is more than a man, and he is sharing it with sinful people! How can that be? Because he bore their rebellion on the cross and offers them his righteous authority as an exchange.

We should marvel at that and wonder with my brother, “What is wrong with giving God all the glory?” But the answer is that, because of Christ, God is using us despite our sin to build us into a home to share with us his glory. God isn’t sharing his glory with anyone but Christ. Yet we share in his glory precisely because we are in Christ, precisely because we confess Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This is where my Protestant brothers and sisters finally want us to be. But I don’t want us to take shortcuts to get here. The confession is not the rock, but Peter, a sinful man who makes such a confession becomes the rock. Christ is the solid rock, and all who are in him are solid rocks too.

This is massively encouraging to us. It is assuring to every person. You don’t have to be some high and holy pope. You can be an ordinary sinner like Peter to become an important part of his spiritual building project. You can be this by confessing Jesus as Lord (even when right after this confession Peter stumbles and speaks foolishness again and again).

Our response to Jesus calling Peter the rock should not be that nobody but Jesus should be the rock. But we should marvel that he would use sinners like Peter, Paul, you and me as part of his spiritual house. A paradigm that makes even more sense if we zoom out on the biblical story a bit more.

Biblical Theology of the Temple

This language of buildings and churches didn’t start with Peter’s confession. It goes back to the beginning and spans the entire Bible. To put it shortly, in Eden God had a temple where he dwelt with man who was to become a great assembly (same word as “church”). They rejected this arrangement, but God planned to rebuild his temple to be with his worldwide church. Throughout the Old Testament we see many examples of rebuilding projects that fell short: Babel, the Tabernacle, the Temple. Each of these was either an evil or holy attempt at restoring what was lost: a place to dwell with God.

The temple was the pinnacle of this effort. This was where the assembly of Israel gathered. It was massive, beautiful, and holy. God could be there and nobody else (remember he would not share his glory, in fact, it would kill anyone who came near him). There was a problem. The assembly (church) and God’s dwelling place could not come together as they were in the garden.

Eventually God destroyed it and promised something better. In the Gospels we see Jesus come and call himself the temple (John 1:14; 2:19). He is the only man who can dwell with God. He is God dwelling with us (“Immanuel” Matt. 1:23). Yet this temple was destroyed.

When Jesus died and rose from the dead, he began to rebuild the temple with the church (assembly) and the structure combined into one entity in which God would dwell. In Acts 2 the Spirit comes down to dwell in his people. Back in Ezekiel the glory of the LORD departed from the temple and never returned until it descended upon the saints at Pentecost. The church has become the building in which God dwells.

Paul uses this imagery in 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 and Ephesians 2. Actual people assembled together (church) is now the building in which God dwells. We in successive generations of believers are built upon that first generation, the first disciples, the apostles, beginning with Peter himself.

Peter is the first stone laid in this spiritual assembly temple. And the first stones laid in the dirt are called the foundation. So in the storyline of the Bible in which God is building a temple, Peter is quite literally the first rock (after Christ) that is laid down in the new covenant building which is built upon him.

We see this play out then in the book of Acts. Peter is the primary spokesperson in the first few chapters. Yes, his only message is Christ the Lord, crucified and risen from the dead; that is his only source of authority. But he is the first one to whom the church looks. All who follow Christ follow because they heard first from Peter. Then we see the succession of authority move to men like Philip, Stephen, Ananias, Paul, and others. It is not a succession of popes but of more “rocks” to throw on the temple Jesus is building which will never be destroyed, rocks which repeat the same confession.

In the NT references where Christ is spoken of as the chief cornerstone and foundation (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6–7) it is right alongside the idea that part of the foundation is the apostles and prophets. Peter, the other Apostles, and Paul are the ones who wrote Scripture. The Bible is the foundation for our faith written by Peter and the Apsotles. The Bible is the word of God (Jesus) brought to us through the Apostles. Jesus is the foundation with his Apostles butting up right against him on which all of our church stands.

Conclusion

Calling Peter the rock doesn’t steal glory from Jesus, it reminds us that it is Jesus who is at work to build his church, not because we are so great, but because he is. Peter is the first rock of many including all today who believe in Jesus. Peter being the rock should encourage us that it is not our faith that holds this temple together, but the God whom we confess.

All of these images are tied together with the confession, with the gospel, but we don’t see that as clearly until we step away from the immediate context to see the trajectory of the entire Bible. The problem with the Catholic view isn’t their grammatical interpretation, but their view of the entire Bible lacking a redemptive hermeneutic. We need to take a birds-eye view of what God has been building from the beginning, to see why it is so profound that Jesus makes Peter part of the foundation of the church.

 “What is wrong with giving God all the glory?” We should. And we should do it in the way he has ordained: building the church out of people who become spiritual stones by repenting and confessing Jesus. Because of Jesus God’s glory dwells in redeemed sinners like us.

John Calvin comments on this text:

“Hence it is evident how the name Peter comes to be applied both to Simon individually, and to other believers. It is because they are founded on the faith of Christ, and joined together, by a holy consent, into a spiritual building, that God may dwell in the midst of them, (Ezekiel 43:7.) For Christ, by announcing that this would be the common foundation of the whole Church, intended to associate with Peter all the godly that would ever exist in the world. “You are now,” said he, “a very small number of men, and therefore the confession which you have now made is not at present supposed to have much weight; but ere long a time will arrive when that confession shall assume a lofty character, and shall be much more widely spread.” And this was eminently fitted to excite his disciples to perseverance, that though their faith was little known and little esteemed, yet they had been chosen by the Lord as the first-fruits, that out of this mean commencement there might arise a new Church, which would prove victorious against all the machinations of hell.”

The confession isn’t the rock, but it is people (starting with Peter) who make the confession that Jesus is LORD who was crucified for our sins and rose victorious from the grave. God guarantees that this building project will succeed, not because of the strength of the brittle rocks he uses to build it but because of the strength of the blood that binds them and the Spirit that lives within.

 

Further study:

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/peter-rock/

https://www.ivpress.com/the-temple-and-the-church-s-mission

https://www.amazon.com/Eden-New-Jerusalem-Introduction-Biblical/dp/0825420156

https://thebibleproject.com/blog/presence-of-god/

https://thebibleproject.com/podcast/i-am-who-i-am-part-9-spirit-temple/

Let Your Light Shine

Every believer has a desire to obey the Great Commission, Christ’s command to go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching to obey (Matt. 28:18-20). But what does that look like? More specifically, many of you share how you are able to start conversations with people but don’t know how to turn the conversation toward spiritual topics. How do we get beyond small talk about the weather?

If you are a master of communication, that is an easy task and you can just skip this article. For the rest of us we need tips and encouragement to go for it.

As we embark on a summer of “Life on Mission” together I’d like to offer a few articles to help shift your perspective on evangelism. My goal is to give you a few ways to help shift your mindset to make spiritual conversations more natural for you.

When it comes to evangelism, there is one verse that always bothered me: 1 Peter 3:15. “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” I had gone almost 10 years of my Christian life without a single person asking me anything remotely sounding like that.

How often do people ask about the hope that lies within you? If they don’t, perhaps it is because you aren’t living in a way that they can see a hope in you that is far different from the rest of the world.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world and they should live in such a way that the world would notice their light as much as a traveler through the night would notice the lights of a city lit up on a hill.

Jesus says there that the light we shine is good works, but I wonder what kind of good works he has in mind. Lots of people do very nice things for others. Despite her many warts, America is a very generous country, a people who donate a lot to charity. We live in a city where a lot of medical good is done for people. Doing a generally accepted good deed doesn’t stand out as light in the darkness around our city. Giving to charity, holding a door open, carrying groceries for someone, even “going to church” are not really seen as extraordinary in our part of the world.

The light that we are to shine is not the occasional good work, but a life marked by continual, out-of-the-ordinary service and generosity. If we go back to 1 Peter 3 and look at the context of that familiar verse, we will see that Peter there is talking about a specific type of good work that we should be known for. Indeed the occasion for Peter’s entire letter is the suffering of the saints (v. 14). He is trying to motivate faithful living in the saints by reminding them of Jesus who suffered for them. It is by keeping Jesus, their holy Lord, as the treasure in their heart (v. 15a) that they will be enabled to live contrary to the world in a way that triggers them to ask why they continue to live in such a way.

The Roman Christians Peter wrote to were persecuted greatly for their faith. That was part of their call to be witnesses. We may not suffer like they did, but we are still called to live in a way that looks like we are denying ourselves, with our hearts set on Christ, for the good of others.

Our country is known for its pursuit of athletic succes, film and musical entertainment, leisurely enjoyment of the finer things in life, saving for a comfortable retirement, working to climb the corporate ladder. Much of this is supplemented by good church attendance and charitable giving. So if we are going to be lights in the world who spur questions about the hope that lies within we must live in a way that looks different than what even unredeemed people are doing.

If someone were to watch your life every day for a month—follow you around during the day, watch your parenting, document all your social media posts, listen to your conversations—what would they conclude is the treasure of your heart? What would they say is the focus of your eyes? Would they look at you and think you are drastically different?

In Acts 5 the people in Jerusalem are watching this budding new church with astonishment. They witness many powerful works of God and see the church caring for one another in an extraordinary way. But they also hear about people dying when caught in a lie. It is strangely attractive to want to be part of this extraordinary community, but they hold back because of the obvious demands it would have on their lives. Verse 13 says, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.”

This is the type of life we ought to be living where the world sees the extremely generous and kind things we do at great cost to ourselves. And when they watch us serving in this sacrificial way they are both strangely drawn to it yet hesitant. These are the kinds of things that cause people to ask “about the hope that is in you.”

In my life the most commonly witnessed “good work” people have seen is adoption. We are able to bear biological children, but out of a desire to be a witness in the world, we have chosen to adopt as well. People can very clearly see that we have adopted and so they often ask, “Why did you adopt?” (Or to say it another way, “Tell me about the hope that is in you.”)

This is exactly my opportunity to explain how I was an orphan in the world, made a slave by the Devil, but Jesus bought me by his blood adopting me into his family. Adoption is a beautiful picture of the gospel and because people see this work, I have had hundreds of opportunities to share the gospel because of this clear light shining in the darkness.

If nobody has asked you in a long time about the hope in you, set your eyes on Christ who gave up heaven to become a slave and rescue you. You’ve been called to be a living picture of that sacrifice in your own life. What extraordinary lifestyle is God calling you to live in order that your light would shine and lead to gospel encounters?

It could be as simple as volunteering in a local ministry in which the world often sees you caring for others in need at great risk to yourself. Perhaps you make your work identity the person who always buys someone in your office lunch. You could care for small children for no cost so a single mother can go to work or get an education. You can take care of the lawn of your elderly neighbor every single week. Visit the same grocery store, restaurant, gas station, coffee shop, etc. every day/week so you can get to know the same few people there and show them an strange kindness.

Don’t just do the occasional good work, but let that light shine all week long so it is unmistakable by a watching world.

And when they ask, trust the Spirit to guide your words to tell them about the worthiness of Jesus who died for your sins.


Gospel Fluency

Every believer has a desire to obey the Great Commission, Christ’s command to go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching to obey (Matt. 28:18-20). But what does that look like? More specifically, many of you share how you are able to start conversations with people but don’t know how to turn the conversation toward spiritual topics. How do we get beyond small talk about the weather?

If you are a master of communication, that is an easy task and you can just skip this article. For the rest of us we need tips and encouragement to go for it.

As we embark on a summer of “Life on Mission” together I’d like to offer a few articles to help shift your perspective on evangelism. My goal is to give you a few ways to help shift your mindset to make spiritual conversations more natural for you.

trung-thanh-714899-unsplash.jpg

One of the most common reasons people say the don’t share their faith with others is because they feel they aren’t knowledgeable enough of the Bible. They fear that the conversation will introduce a concept that they won’t know how to answer. Perhaps some skeptic will have a silver-bullet type comment that makes us look foolish and we don’t want to fail Jesus, so we avoid such potential failures.

The obvious answer to that concern is simply, read your Bible more to know it better and be more confident in your knowledge (and quite honestly, every skeptic I meet has the same arguments that have been answered over and over). But if you want to be persuasive, you want to know more than simply how to answer a critique of the Bible. You want to have a better response than just resolving an apparent contradiction. You want to be able to show someone how all of history is the work of God’s hand to redeem the world in Christ and fold our lives into his story.

We want more than an extensive biblical knowledge, we want a Gospel Fluency. Gospel fluency refers to a particular understanding of the bible and a sympathy with others that is able to connect every page of Scripture and every experience of a person with Christ. Jesus told his disciples that every Old Testament story was actually about him (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44). Paul went around the Roman Empire preaching the gospel using his Hebrew Bible (Acts 28:23; Cf. Acts 8:35; 17:2; 18:28; 26:22-23). We want to do more than explain the consistency of Scripture, but display how it consistently points us to Jesus.

I recently heard on a radio show on my drive to the office a Q&A with a fairly well-known bible teacher. People wrote in or called with all kinds of questions about the Red Sea crossing, the powerful signs that happened at Jesus’s death, the temple, the nature of our physical and spiritual being, and the proper name of God. The host gave great answers that clarified the Bible for the questioners, but I had wished he would have drawn the answers out to culminate in Christ and the gospel.

One question involved the name of God, YHWH, which doesn’t really appear in our modern translations. He explained, rightly, that every time that name shows up in the Old Testament it is translated as LORD, because the Jews were so afraid to say the name of God for fear of taking his name in vain. When you see “Lord” it is simply a translation of a word that actually means lord, or master.

While this is all correct, Jesus says we should be able to take this information and explain the gospel with it. And the better you get to know your Bible, the easier it is to make these connections. The answer could be drawn out quite extensively, but it climaxes in Philippians 2:6-11 where we hear Paul tell us that Jesus, being God, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross and was raised and exalted above all things to the point of being given the name which is above every name (verse 9). That name is the OT name for God, Yahweh, or LORD (verse 11).

So even with an interesting translation note, we can still bring people to the righteousness of Christ, his crucifixion, and resurrection. This applies to characters in the bible (Adam, Abraham’s seed, David and Solomon, Boaz,…), events (exile from Eden and Jerusalem, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, the Red Sea crossing, David and Goliath’s battle, Jonah in the whale, David taking a census, the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon etc.), or more explicit promises. All of these things have a fulfillment in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

All of these things reflect the human experience in one way or another. If you take time to listen to people’s stories, ask them questions, find out what drives them and concerns them, you will find we are all on the same journey to find meaning, experiencing the same trials that people have experienced throughout history. When you know your Bible well and you listen to people well, it becomes easier to connect their story to the story of the Bible culminating in the gospel.

To give you a sample: If someone is lonely, it is reflective of God’s design to make us in relationship with him and others in a beautiful world (the garden of Eden). There were hints at restoring that world in the tabernacle and temple, but it wasn’t the full expression of it until Jesus (God with us) was forsaken by the Father on the cross in order to reunite us in relationship with him where one day he will dwell with us in a perfect world.

If a friend desires marriage, it points to the original design to create a diversity of humanity united together as one bound by God’s Spirit in us. The world is full of broken marriages and unfulfilled desires for marriage because of our rejection of God, but Christ took the punishment of that rejection in order to re-establish that marriage between God and his people. You can experience the intimacy of a relationship with God and his people whether you are married or not.

If your family is broken through death, divorce, or other curse in the world, you wonder what you have missed out on because you don’t have a father, mother, or siblings (the theme of sonship). But Jesus came that he could adopt us into a new family that will never fall apart. Because he bore that brokenness on the cross, when he rose from the dead he began a new family that will last for eternity for all who trust in him.

If you have a spirit of adventure, conquering, building, it is because God made us to have dominion over this world (Kingship), to build it up into a flourishing community for people to dwell in. But we rejected that and instead chose to build our own kingdoms, not his. But Jesus is the perfect king, who had dominion correctly in building people up into his kingdom, but instead of judging his subjects, he took the judgment upon himself on the cross. When he rose from the dead he put in his followers his ability to reign again as we were designed. Your desire for adventure can be fulfilled in following Christ to have dominion over the ends of the earth!

There are hundreds of ways to do this. It doesn’t just come naturally. It flows from a heart that is saturated in the word, dependent upon the Spirit to illuminate our hearts, eager to see how Christ is highlighted on every page of the Bible, and careful to listen to the people around you.

How will they hear without a preacher who is sent into the world (Romans 10:14-17)? You are all witnesses of Christ called to teach the nations to obey his commands (Matt. 28:20). You are all evangelists whose job it is to open the Scriptures and explain the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). You can’t do this unless you get into the word, look for Jesus on every page, and get into the lives of people who see you living differently.

Open your bible. Find Jesus there. If you need help growing in this understanding of the bible, check out the resources listed below. Listen carefully to the sermons on Sunday and see how your pastors connect OT hopes to fulfillment in Christ applying it to our lives today. Through all of this we are equipping you to handle this powerful sword which cuts to the heart (Heb. 4:12).


"Who are you?"

Every believer has a desire to obey the Great Commission, Christ’s command to go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching to obey (Matt. 28:18-20). But what does that look like? More specifically, many of you share how you are able to start conversations with people but don’t know how to turn the conversation toward spiritual topics. How do we get beyond small talk about the weather?

If you are a master of communication, that is an easy task and you can just skip this article. For the rest of us we need tips and encouragement to go for it.

As we embark on a summer of “Life on Mission” together I’d like to offer a few articles to help shift your perspective on evangelism. My goal is to give you a few ways to help shift your mindset to make spiritual conversations more natural for you.


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Any conversation is easier if you are secure in your own identity. If you aren’t confident of who you are and what your purpose is, you will always feel you need to be on the defensive. It will feel unnatural to explain a worldview and call someone to embrace a new identity if you aren’t absolutely convinced of it yourself.

When you meet someone new, what are two things people talk about to get to know each other? Usually it is family and employment. Someone almost always introduces two topics: “What do you do?” and “Tell me about your family.” It’s easy to talk about your job and your family. They are very non-threatening, but also very temporal. Understood biblically, these two things have a far deeper spiritual purpose. Knowing your true calling and family identity can help you steer a conversation to Christ and his work through the church.

Imagine if you were an orphan, you had no family to go home to, nobody to depend on when difficulty came. Then in conversation someone began to talk about their family. You’d likely get quite uncomfortable. Then they start to ask you about your family. Because it is so uncomfotable, you don’t like to talk about it so you try to shift the conversation to something less threatening like the weather. When holiday seasons come around you avoid people because you know everyone will be talking about their family traditions.

This is often the way we think about talking about our church family. We feel like spiritual orphans so we are uncomfortable talking about the family of God. We avoid the conversation because we aren’t secure in our place in the family so we don’t speak with confidence about our brothers and sisters in Christ and our heavenly Father.

But the more you immerse yourself in your church family, the more you love them and are loved by them, the more you shape your weekly life around them, the more natural it will be to talk about how God our Father is taking care of us. During holidays you will be especially excited to talk about the meals you will be sharing with your church family, or the traditions you share with them as you gather to celebrate what our Father has done for us in Christ. If you’re secure in your identity in the church family and enjoy your place as a brother or sister, you’ll be eager to tell others about this family.

Similarly, when the conversation turns to talk about your job, it is helpful to remember what your primary calling is: you are a priest (1 Peter 2:9) and an ambassador of King Jesus (2 Cor. 5:20). Both of these responsibilities have a representative role. Your job on earth is to represent the holiness and authority of Jesus on earth. You represent people before God and God before people.

For me, as a pastor, this conversational transition is easy. If someone asks, “What do you do?” I say I am a pastor and immediately I can ask them, “Which church are you a part of?” Then, we are immediately in a spiritual conversation. This transition is easy because that is my job.

But it is yours too. You are a minister in the church too (Ephesians 4:12). It’s probably a bit awkward to tell someone you are a minister, priest, or ambassador when you are actually a nurse, a mom, a counselor, a technician, a teacher, or an engineer. But you can be creative with how you introduce your job.

I heard of a pastor who avoided telling people he was a pastor because he wanted to go deeper with someone before letting the cat out of the bag. When someone asked what he does, he would respond by telling them he led a non-profit community-service organization that helps people of every cultural or economic background from every age group. He does teaching, counseling, visiting, and shares meals with people setting them on a trajectory for a brand new life. He helps hundreds of people so that they can then turn around and do it for others.

When people get really excited, then he tells them he is a pastor, explains what the church is and how it is all about building us up in Christ who shed his blood to give us new life.

No matter what your current job is, our callings are all the same. Your job is to represent the reign of King Jesus in the world, call others to enjoy his reign by surrendering to him who died on the cross and rose from the dead, and get to work equipping others to represent him in the world too. You can do that as a teacher or as a janitor, a student or a doctor, a farmer or a fireman.

If you work in IT, you can tell people, “I get the awesome privilege of displaying the creativity and order of God in the incredible world of computer technology!” If you are a fireman, you can tell people that you love to rescue people from the fire, because your love for others in need is inspired by Jesus rescuing you from the fire. You are a teacher, because God made a beautiful world for us to explore and you want others to know how God made us to enjoy it. You are a nurse, because you want to show people that the brokenness of our bodies is not the purpose for which we were made. You stay at home with the kids, because you want to pour out your life for your children’s joy as Christ poured out his life for us.

It may sound cheesy, but it is only cheesy because you haven’t embraced it as your identity. Shouldn’t Christ be the reason we all do our work? It certainly isn’t for money, because God said he would provide everything we need to be faithful (Matthew 6:33) and to enjoy the world he made (1 Timothy 6:17).

How can you rethink your family and career identity to line it up with what you were made for, with what will last for eternity? You were bought with a bloody price to be made a child of God the Father and sent as an ambassador in the world. Immerse yourself more in these truths, experience them more fully with your church family and over time you will find it easier to talk about them with others.

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.