Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Should We Study Theology?

I'm a few weeks into my new theology class through Moody Bible Institute's distance learning program, and am really enjoying the content and discussion to this point.

The class is "The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit," taught by a retired Pastor/Contractor who's been in ministry for about 30-40 years in various capacities. Our class has people from various theological streams and it has caused some disagreements already, but always ends cordially with the teacher smoothing everything over.

There are people of the Wesleyan persuasion, reformed persuasion, dispensational persuasion, catholic, etc.. Some have been saved a number of months, some for a decade or so like myself, and then others for several decades. So it's quite a mixed bag.

The class has challenged me to study more in depth, to think more critically, and to know what I believe, why I believe it, and be able to explain to others why they should too. These are not traits or characteristics that most men have or desire to have. If it doesn't include drinking alcohol or watching sports, most of us men would much rather take a pass. And that's not to say that drinking alcohol or watching sports are wrong or should be avoided entirely. I enjoy a nice glass of wine or good beer when having dinner with my wife, and occasionally will catch important games that matter primarily in the post-season. But for the most part, most men, or should I say, most 'Christian' men don't really desire to know their Bibles all that well. They leave it to the "professionals."

So what's caused this? In my own experience, what has caused me to dig into my Bible was seeing other men that I "respected" dig into theirs. And when I say other men, I mean "men." Masculine, non-effeminate, heterosexual, one eyebrow, meat eating men. The kind who you'd want with you if you were gonna get jumped on your way home from bible study at 10 pm in the alley behind your house. Now there's something to consider! (Can you tell I grew up in Chicago dealing with these scenarios?)

And I firmly believe this begins from the pulpit. Do we have real men leading in most churches in the US? Do these men like the UFC? Do they hunt and like to kill things? Can their wives beat them up? Do they love their wives as Christ loved His bride? Do they disciple their children like God does His? Are they passionate about Jesus and His gospel? Do they portray Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, or is he just always the humble Galilean peasant who took a beating and was killed by stronger men, then tell you to go and do the same? What about the Jesus of Revelation. Sword protruding from His mouth as He comes to slay His enemies! Now that's a masculine man!

Don't get me wrong, we need the whole Jesus from scripture. But why is it that we mostly only hear of the weaker, softer Jesus who laid down His life as a ransom, (as portrayed by them) and not about the Lion of the tribe of Judah Jesus who will slay those who oppose Him in the end??? Could it be that a lot of Pastors better relate to the former Jesus, and not the latter one? Just a question.

I thank God that I've been in churches, some for over ten years, that were led by men who who were "men." They loved the Lord, their Bibles, their wives, children, and spoke in a way that made me want what they had.

I'm also thankful for many leaders and churches in the emerging church movement. Not emergent, but emerging. (Click here to understand the difference.) These men and churches have been very effective in reaching the most unchurched in our land; men between 18 and 30. These churches are filled with men in this demographic. I cant' explain it all, but see some common denominators that begin in the pulpit. To see some of these churches, look at my list of churches under 'churchville' to the left.

So back to the question at hand..."Why should we study theology?"

I believe the answer to my question is because we're men, and that's what "men" do!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Meeting "The Man"

On January 29th and 30th, my wife and I, along with some close friends, headed to Deerfield, IL, for a 2-day church planting conference hosted by Acts 29. Acts 29 is a church planting network that seeks to help equip Men to plant, and re-plant, church planting churches.

The co-founder, and President of A29 is Mark Driscoll. Mark is the Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and author of several books. He planted Mars Hill in the fall of 1996, with around 12 people in his home. Today, Mars Hill averages around 7,000 in attendance every Sunday. Truly a work of God!

I became acquainted with Mark Driscoll in the late 90's when my marriage was rocky...my holiness was invisible...and my god was myself. I was driving home from Chicago late one Saturday night, when I tuned in to WYLL to see what they had on. This was a Christian talk station, that occasionally had something on worth listening to. This night would alter the course of my life forever.

The program that was on was a live call-in show called 'Streettalk.'(No longer on) It was hosted by guy named Leif Moi. Leif was a general contractor, Pastor, and host of this program which aired every Saturday from 11pm - 2am Chicago time. Well, Leif happened to be a Pastor at a young, newly planted church in Seattle named...yeah, you guessed it...Mars Hill.

Leif had a co-host come in periodically to help in out or cover for him if he needed the night off, and his co-host's name?...yes again...Mark Driscoll. The two would speak to Men in ways that I didn't think Pastors were allowed to talk. Little did I know Jesus, Paul, the Apostles, and Prophets had been speaking to Men like this for thousands of years, unbeknown to me.

Well, since then, I've spent countless hours being molded, rebuked, corrected, convicted, and whatever else good preaching is suppose to do by Driscoll, and have followed the life of his church and other ministry endeavors with great delight. Ministries like Acts 29 and The Resurgence. Mark is also on the board of the Gospel Coalition, headed up by D.A. Carson and Tim Keller.

The Lord has used Mark in my life to do great and mighty things. And for that, I will forever be thankful. When I spoke with him at the conference, I relayed this message to him and he was as humble as I've ever seen any man be. My wife and I both found Driscoll to be very kind and friendly. He even gave my wife a closed fist 'high-five' when he found out that we have 8 kids. I think he even told her that she 'rocks.'

I thank God that after using Driscoll to draw me close to Christ with much needed hard words, He then led me to a solid church, led by another Pastor named Mark, who would've known, Mark Jobe at New Life Community Church in Chicago. There the Lord brought Men into my life who would disciple me and prepare me for useful service in the kingdom of God. Mark, Mike, Asa, Dave, that would be you. I spent the better part of 12 years at New Life and am forever thankful to those Men who God is using mightily in the Windy City!

So all in all, the conference was extremely insightful, but the highlight of it all was finally, after all these years, getting to meet the General. You know, he even told me that him and Leif have recently talked about doing Streettalk or some form of it again. Well, if they do, I pray that some guy out there screwing up his life and not loving his wife will just happen to tune in on his way home from work, and maybe, just maybe, alter the course of his as well!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Church Planting with Acts 29...

This past week, my wife and I, along with some close friends packed up our bags and headed up to Deerfield, IL., on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, for a two-day church planting conference hosted by Acts 29.

This trip was kind of like a "third heaven" experience for me, because it was 10 years in the making.

Acts 29 is a church planting network co-founded by Mark Driscoll. Yes, the Mark Driscoll. (Just type his name in the search box at the top of this blog to see other postings about him and you'll know that I'm a big proponent of his, and have been for over 10 years.) I'll post about my personal thoughts, and put up a photo with him in a later post.

This church planting "bootcamp," as Acts 29 calls them, was very, very insightful, and comes highly recommended for all current Pastors, and anyone interested in possibly planting a church some time down the road. See their website for a full list of topics that are covered, doctrinal beliefs, current churches, etc., etc.. You can also subscribe to their free 'podcast' and listen to previous bootcamps from previous locations.

At this conference, on top of meeting and conversing with Mark Driscoll, I was also able to meet and converse with other Men who have taught me much about life and church planting thru the years.

Men like Darrin Patrick, who serves as VP of Acts 29, Dr. Ed Stetzer, Scott Thomas, director of Acts 29, Dr. Mark Dever, founder of 9marks ministry, and Tyler Powell, asst. director of Acts 29.

These Men were first class in all respects. Polite, courteous, intelligent, and willing to converse with people until they felt all their questions were answered.

Some topics we heard teaching on were:
  • Leading the Mission
  • Preaching the Mission
  • Kingdom focused Church planting
  • Missional and Biblical Church planting
  • Church planting evangelism
  • Vision for Church planting
  • Q and A concerns for church planting wives
To see upcoming bootcamps, and other venues to hear these men at, visit their respective websites.

Thanks to the Acts 29 team for a first-class church planting experience. The gospel was proclaimed unashamedly!