Tim Keller, the Prodigal Son(s) and The Modern Church

Tim Keller, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, has recently come out with a new book called the Prodigal God. The book is an examination of Jesus’s parable commonly called the prodigal son, found in Luke 15:11-32.

He points out in the book that both the sons care more about what they can get from the father, than they do about their relationship with him. The younger might be more brash, but the old is more subtle and in the end unwilling to change.

The thing that I have found interesting is that Keller points out that Jesus was surrounded by more people who would fall into the brash Younger Brother category.

The question that I am wrestling with is how do we interact with the older brothers and the younger brothers? To be more specific how do we learn to forgive apologetic younger brother and still try to show the older brothers that they also need to be forgiven. Forgiveness is something that people want. Take for instance yeasayer’s track on the Dark Was The Night album:

“So your wishing that you never did all the embarrassing things you’ve done? and you wishing you could set it right?”

Do most Non Christians even think that grace–forgiving and forgetting mistakes–is something that Christians do well? If not why? What are we preaching instead? What are we living out instead? What crap has taken the place of the message of Christ forgiving people no matter how deep or stupid or life altering their mistakes.

Carboard Testimonies

I found this video on the plow.

My Jesus is weak.

I must repent, I have a defective view of who Jesus is. My defect is not that I put too much into my view of Jesus, but too little. I know in my head that he is my propitiation, but his propitiation is too weak. I know the doctrinal truths of the historic creeds, but nothing of the passions which necessitated them.

Maybe I am not the only one guilty, but I am guilty. I am supremely guilt of seeking to be like the Apostolic Church in some respects but not others. I with, all my heart, pray that I will find “favor with all the people”, yet my prayers reveal that I do not care enough about speaking “the word of God with boldness” I have foolishly pitted God’s word against itself.

I have placed favor with the people over and against speaking the word of God boldly.

I am not interested in people, because I do not think that I can really bring these people anything that is really powerful. I think that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is weak, and therefore it is not important enough to mess up the status quo, of my life. I doubt what the Ghost can really do.

How does this fall out in my life, I sit in the coffee shop I smile and am polite to people, but I am afraid of messing up the status quo, I have friendly conversations, but I have no confidence in what Jesus can do.
When I have no confidence in what he can do, I, in effect, have no confidence in who he really is.

Jesus is the king yet I think of him as middle management. He is the Truth yet I think he is just a good idea.

Please help me, pray that Jesus would forgive my ignorance about him, and that I might have confidence in who Christ is and what he can do.

Lets Talk About:What Size Should a Congregation Be?


Growing up Ive attending churches that range from 400+ to less than 15. When I started seminary 2 years ago I thought that a church over 300 was wrong, if not sinful. Then I sat down with Luke and read that it turns out that the first church had at least 1000 people in it, so I began to re-examine the value judgments I put on church-size.

I wrestling through this issue I came across an article written by Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. He has some great incites about how we judge a church by its size.

big church

Here is the first thing that he lays out church size can have more influence in shaping the culture of the church than denominational affiliations.

“The difference between how two Presbyterian churches, one of 100 people and one of 2,000 members, function may be greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Pentecostal church of the same size. The staff person who goes from a church of 400 to a church of 2,000 is making a far greater change than if he or she moved from one denomination to another.”

Secondly he notes that people moving from one size church to a church of a different size cannot expect the same culture.

“Every church size presents the pastor with particular obstacles and opportunities for biblical functioning peculiar to the category. For example, smaller church sizes make discipline and accountability far easier than it is in larger churches. However, it is easier to practice lay ministry and the priesthood of all believers in larger churches, where pastoral care must be done on a large scale by lay leaders. Smaller churches tend to acquiesce to clericalism. To use another example, larger churches in general have something of an advantage in evangelism; they can provide more “doors” into the church through their numerous programs. Also, many (not all!) non-Christians feel too visible to visit smaller churches.”

Small Church

One of his most volital statements is this article is that “There is no ‘best size’ for a church.”

He argues:
“Each size presents great difficulties and also many opportunities for ministry that churches of other sizes cannot realize (or, at least, not as well.) If you truly think there is an ideal size, it is most likely because you tend to emotionally value some biblical aspects of the church more than others or because you are unbalanced in your own concept of what Christ desires from the church. Only together can churches of all sizes be all Christ wants the church to be.”

Finally in the article Keller lists out a number of principles about churches as the grow.
The whole article can be found here: Leadership and Church Size Dynamics

So what are your opinions about church-size? Do you agree or disagree with Keller? Why? What are the biblical reasons for your view of church size?

Mcarthur-0, Pagitt-0, Wormwood-1

Mcarthur and Pagitt Do you ever feel sometimes like you wish CS Lewis was still writing the Screw Tape Letters. Lewis would have a field day with all the factions in the media discrediting each other.

“My Dear Wormwood,
In your last letter to me you expressed how excited you have been by all the public attention many enemy pastors have been getting recently. I would have to wholeheartedly agree. Yet, I must remind you that out of all the things which our commander most fears, it is the unity of the enemy forces. Fortunately for us, in the last 60 years we have seen much of that unity fall to the way side. Instead they have picked up what some of the enemy calls ‘secondary issues’. Wormwood, our tools might have changed in the past years, the pen has been replaced by the pixel, but do not forget your mission to divide, discourage and destroy as much of the enemy forces that you possibly can.

You affectionate uncle,

The other day while I was reading a post on the Emergent and Evangelical debate I saw a link to a youtube video that consisted of two Men that both profess Christ. One was John Mcarthur, and the other was Doug Pagitt. Both men went onto a national news network, that has no connection to the church, I would see this as similar to Paul’s interview at the Areopagus. To their credit these men both tried to communicate the essence of Christianity, as best as they understood.

But here is what bothered me: we are told not to take out brother into a earthly court to settle matters of disagreement, and what do i see but two pastors having a debate on CNN.

Paul says in 1Cor 6:4-6:
“So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?”

Right or wrong on the issues that divide them, both were wrong in going before the court of public opinion for an answer that should be settled in house.

Cut in Half By Sitting on the Fence

FenceYesterday I posted on the idea of multiple church services, I did so to get some feed back from people that I thought would have some good things to say on the issue. I email some friends asking them to give me some feedback, on the topic. One of those friends suggested to me that I was opening the door to some dangerous stuff. I was talking as if I was a non-partial observer, but in fact I’m not. Some would see this conversation as one leader critiquing another leader’s decisions.

Christ wants his church to be knit together in love. I did not think enough about my Savior’s wishes for his church before I posted. I repent of my short sidedness. I cared more about hits to my blog than about the unity of Christ’s church.

Colossians 2:1 “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Jesus with the Painters and the Poets

Studio Space
How does your church interact with people in the Arts?
I think that many people say “well, we don’t.” Some might even argue that a church that has values or encourages visual artists are in danger of breaking, the Second Commandment.

Yet if we take a closer look at the Old Testament we can’t help but realize that God instructed the people of Israel to be very creative. God cares a great deal, about the way things look. In Exodus 25 and following he lays does instructions about how the Tabernacle should look. He goes into great detail about how things should be put together, and then he says “you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them.”
The word skillfully here can also be translated inventive or even ingenious. Its a adverb stating that the cherubim which are going to hang in the curtains should be the best. God is telling the Israelites to do a good job. A few chapters later he even goes as far to say that he has empower certain people in Israel with the skills and artistic ability to make art worthy of God’s Tent of meeting.

Of course things are a little different now, but if we say that God gives still people the ability to compose songs for his glory. Couldn’t it be possible that He has given other people gifts that allow them to craft visual beauty, like Bezalel and the other artists of Exodus?

Some big churches like Marshill that are now getting into the fine arts and having gallery space, but they have 6000 people in and out every week.

How do smaller churches communicate that the Visual Arts are important?

At our church we have have Arts Coffee houses, were the Artists in our church have put stuff together, but we have not really pursued much of the Artistic community.

One church that I really like is Sojourn in Louisville KY.

They recently moved into a new building which acts as studio, gallery, and even performance space. They even have a yearly film fest utilizing their space.
These guys are doing something right, they are truly calling out to artists and saying “Jesus, cares about Art. He wants to see creative visual expressions.”

I hope to check out their space one day if I ever get down to Louisville.

Information and a list of upcoming events at the 930 Art Center can be found at their website.

Christians and their Castles

“When belonging in the social hierarchy of the local church becomes a greater desire than becoming Christ to our neighbors outside the church we have returned to the glum decor of the castle walls. Hiding in fear of losing a kingdom we never had or were called to build…”

Great post over at setnservice.

An Exciting Time of Year

So this is my first year where I will continue to be working in a church both through the summer and the fall.
Alot of exciting things are happening at City Reformed.

  1. We had a great turn out our first sunday back with students. The total attendance was somewhere around 150, which I think makes it our biggest service since launch.
  2. Our Small Group Ministry is going well. We are planting two new groups this fall, and adding a second group that will have child-care.

Please be in prayer for our congregation, but more importantly, please be praying for a Christ-honoring expansion of His kingdom in our region.

I Love Lawrenceville

Man do I love Lawrenceville. Bohemian, meets yinzer, meets Somalia.
Im sitting in Crazy Mocha, one local walks in and a few others notice, and greet him. Young Urban Professionals quietly read their Post-Gazette,while young college girls chat away by the front window. One guy walks in, he has tribal sleeves, gaged ears that look about as big a saucers, his pitchblack dredlocks barely miss the floor– He is warmly greeted, and gets prompt service.