Tell the Truth

Since God has commissioned believers to evangelize the lost, we cannot underestimate the importance of the subject Will Metzger discusses.  In his own words, Will Metzger describes his desire to “offer a new outline of a God-centered gospel for the training of Christians to share their faith with non-Christians” (Metzger, 11).  Thus, Will Metzger is responding to the need for comprehensive training for the task of evangelism.

In his introduction, Metzger shares his personal need to come to conclusions regarding his responsibility to fulfill the great commission, and the most Biblical method to fulfilling that responsibility.  He desires to evaluate all evangelistic methods in light of the Bible. Metzger very effectively fosters in his readers the desire to come to firm conclusions regarding the preeminent responsibility of evangelism.

To accomplish his goal, Metzger divides the book into four sections.  In the first section, he discusses the content of the whole gospel.  Within this section Metzger begins by discussing the importance of witness in lifestyle and in word in chapter 1.  Some contend that a pure lifestyle apart from verbal declaration completely fulfills one’s duty to witness.  Others exclude the necessity of living righteously, emphasizing the necessity to preach the gospel without living it.  Metzger accurately points out that exclusion of either aspect of witnessing comprises only part of the believer’s responsibility.

The second chapter discusses the content of the gospel, analyzing various imbalanced and impractical approaches.   Some of the most outstanding discussions include a “me” centered gospel, a method-centered approach, and the exclusion of teaching about the punishment of hell and the justice of God.  Metzger cites various contemporary tracts that demonstrate the imbalances he reports.  He concludes by asserting that Biblical truth alone sets the standard for evangelism.

The following two chapters are entitled, “The Gospel Recovered” parts 1 and 2.   At the very outset he suggests five pillars of gospel truth and the proceeds to illustrate these pillars on a chart that elaborates on each point.  His points are listed in the following order: Who is God?God-Centered Living, Self-Centered Living,Jesus Christ: The Way Back to Life, Your Response: Coming Home.  This chart will be used as template that is often referred to throughout the book.

The second of the fourth major sections is entitled, “To the Whole Person.”   Metzger begins this section by pointing out that many profess the gospel, but do not truly possess the gospel.  Then he analyzes the expected response of the whole person intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally.  Metzger examines contemporary imbalances to each aspect of man’s person.  For example, he points out the danger of over-intellectualizing the gospel, or over emotionalizing it to the exclusion of the necessary tenants of the gospel message.

 In the next section entitled, “Wholly by Grace,” Metzger discusses in some detail the necessity of grace for salvation.  The author dedicates three chapters to the necessity and work of grace in salvation. Finally, the section ends with a discussion of worship as a response to God’s grace being applied.

The fourth and final section discusses the character and communication of the person who has been commission to witness – every believer.   He begins by discussing the major contemporary issue of pluralism and tolerance in post-modern society.   While Metzger’s discussion of these issues is not lengthy, it is very well organized and helps his readers to gain a sufficient grasp of the problems of pluralism and tolerance in evangelism.  This portion is followed by short discussions of subjects related to evangelism such as reasoning with people, speaking to the conscience, and common fears in witnessing.

Finally Metzger ends the book by designating many pages of instruction on how to effectively communicate.  Since Metzger has already established the message to be presented, he teaches people how to converse in a way to create the opportunity for the gospel to be presented. He points out that the diversity of culture will factor significantly on the approach taken in witnessing.   This is followed by instruction on getting started and bringing a conversation from discussing common interests to personal beliefs as well as being a good listener.  Charts are included to aid in understanding and instruction.

In this book, Metzger makes significant contributions that readers will find very instructive, helpful, and enlightening.  First, Metzger alerts believers to the imbalances in contemporary approaches to evangelism.  He accurately points out the fallacy of “me-centered” thinking that is infiltrating evangelistic efforts.  His compelling examples throughout contemporary Christianity should cause people to think about the motivation and focus of their own evangelistic endeavors. Also, Metzger identifies a common trend in churches toward a method-centered approach to outreach, rather than a message centered-approach (Metzger, 41).  This shift results from pragmatism becoming the standard of implementation rather than the truth of God’s Word.  Finally, Metzger points out that the Biblical motivation for evangelism remains the believer’s accountability to Almighty God, rather than self-fulfillment or drawing large numbers.  Believers would do well to heed Metzger’s warnings regarding the imbalances of contemporary approaches to evangelism.

Second, Metzger endeavors to establish a theological foundation for evangelism rather than merely producing another “how to” manual.  Clearly, Metzger desires to be both Biblical and practical.  For instance, he points out the importance of presenting God’s love and justice in a balanced way (Metzger, 39).  He also speaks to the importance of grace in salvation, the necessity of the law for the conviction of sinners, among other theological comments.

Third, the author emphasizes thoroughness and clarity in the presentation of the gospel.  He effectively argues that the careful presentation of the gospel is necessary since the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  This remains the main thrust of the book: the need for comprehensiveness in evangelism including the message, the believer, and the lost person.

While Will Metzger makes many positive and helpful contributions, several areas will demonstrate Metzger’s shortcomings.    One example of this is when he speaks of the concept of the carnal Christian (Metzger, 79). Metzger suggests that labeling someone a carnal Christian will lead to false security.  While there may be an element of truth to this assertion, it remains unclear from his writing whether or not Metzger denies the existence of the carnal Christian, or whether he is merely concerned with the issue of labeling someone as such.  Whatever the case, Metzger falls short of clarity in this instance.

Metzger also errs in his use of 1 John as tests of assurance.  Although this remains a common view of 1 John, this view ignores the clearly stated prologue in the first chapter of John’s first epistle.  The purpose of 1 John is found in verse 3-4, namely, to teach us how to have fellowship with God and thereby experienced fullness of joy.   This approach to 1 John comes directly from the stated text, rather than imposing ideas on the text that do not explicitly exist.

 The book also presents an imbalanced view on man’s free will, making the false assumption that the doctrine of man’s free will comes from a list of improper motivations (Metzger, 124, 143), rather than an honest look of the whole counsel of God.  Metzger fails to address some of the valid theological arguments of the proponents of free will, such as the multitude of commands God gives requiring a choice to obey.  Also, he seems to unilaterally discount the idea of free will without suggesting alternatives such as a limited free will.  In a far more balanced approach, many hold that the God’s providence, election, and predestination work in cooperation with man’s limited free will rather than in opposition to it.  This view honors the paradox of Scripture and respects God’s ways as incomprehensible to man.

Despite Metzger’s short-comings, his book provides important insight and thought-provoking ideas that will prove very helpful to the believer who is serious about reaching people with the gospel of Christ.   The reader of this book will be confronted with full responsibility of the great commission and the complete message of that commission. The practical instruction will provide more tools for evangelism.


Confessions of a Pastor: When Preaching “Slumps”

220px-Cal_Ripken_Jr._in_1993As a boy I had the privilege of growing up watching of the all time greats of baseball, Cal Ripken, Jr., while he was in his prime. He was known as the “iron man” because of his consecutive game streak, beating Lou Gerig’s long time record of 2130 games and he still holds this record to this day. Cal’s work ethic and perseverance  to the game of baseball also extended to his defensive abilities — as a shortstop he was equally admirable for his faithfulness. Ripken was unusually great offensively, too — especially for a shortstop — and all of us as boys idolized him.

But I remember one particular year when Cal was in a hitting slump and it was lasting a very long time. I even remember the year – 1992. Cal was trying everything to get out of his slump- that year I recall that he tried three different batting stances, one that was so awkward and unnatural looking that I felt he had a better chance of hitting the catcher behind him than the ball in front of him. As I admiringly observed Ripkin’s baseball career as a boy, I observed several of these occasional hitting slumps. But Cal always recovered from them, faithfully.

In a way, pastors go through occasional preaching slumps, too. At least the faithful ones do. It’s easy to have a collection of 10 or more sermons and preach the same ones all over the country, complete with “zinger” illustrations and everyone lauds you as a great preacher. However, the faithful, expository preacher will sometimes feel a great sense of freedom and power in the pulpit, but sometimes he will not.

I do need to be clear, here. I’m not talking here about the failure to preach the text of God’s Word– a preacher has no excuse for such a failure, rather I’m talking about the subjective element of preaching that many preachers would describe as “freedom in the pulpit.” The Apostle Paul explains it best when he asks the Ephesians to pray “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, (Eph 6:19 NKJ)” Paul must have gone through these “slumps” as well and he knew the power of prayer.

I have a couple of initial thoughts on this toward preachers and listeners:

1. Fellow pastors, we must be faithful to “preach the Word” regardless of whether or not we have a sense of freedom. We are accountable to the Lord for this.

2. Listeners, whether or not your pastor has as much freedom to preach as you have previously observed or not, if he is faithfully preaching the text you CAN glean great truths from it. In fact, I personally feel that one of the reasons pastors might go through preaching “slumps” is to teach God’s people to appreciate the faithful exposition of the Word. Mature Christians know how to feed on the steak regardless of how well it is seasoned.

That said, there does seem to be some causes for preaching slumps and some helps for preachers to get out of them (although I do feel the Lord is ultimately in control of this as the “bestower” of freedom in the pulpit). Likewise, a church member can either provide help for his/her pastor or he can actually make matters worse. In upcoming posts we’ll discuss how a preacher gets into a “preaching slump,” what steps he can take to get out of it (Lord willing), and how a concerned church member can help (and keep from hurting) the situation.

What’s On the Horizon?: Implications of the SCOTUS ruling on Gay Marriage

UnknownWhy am I weighing in? I’ve always avoided addressing political issues and getting into political debates on social media. Why now? As I scroll through my news feed of Facebook, I’m often seeing  one of two extremes from Christians. On the one hand I’m seeing an un-Christlike, trite, often inflammatory, and usually underdeveloped response that falls short of goals that would truly honor Christ. From other Christians, I’m seeing little or no response at all. The latter is safer and more understandable than the former and I don’t desire to condemn silence since there are multiple motives for silence– some noble and some not. But SCOTUS has put Christians, and particularly pastors in a very difficult position by essentially linking religion and state. So as a Christian, I hope to provide a balanced, kind, and well-developed Christian perspective.  As as pastor I pray that these posts may be used as a resource to equip God’s people to prepare, think, and respond appropriately. Because I’ve been asked various sincere questions by Christians, some of whom are members of the church I’m privileged to pastor, and because silence carries its own potential consequences, I  really feel I can’t keep silent on this, though I respect the decision of other Christians who may have that luxury.

I appreciate much of the sentiments in this blog:

Dear Homosexual, I’m Sorry: An Open Letter from a Christian

After my initial post, which was intended merely to provide some guidance for responding correctly as a Christian (and how not to respond as a Christian). I’ve been thinking through all of the various implications of the SCOTUS ruling. I want to address this issue in a reasonably comprehensive manner, so in order to do that, I need to continue to address, in a very general way, the various implications of this verdict before getting into the details in future posts.

1. Biblical: The US law of the land clearly contradicts Scriptural truth (again).

Addressing this Biblically is more involved than meets the eye. Three realities need to be considered. 1)Personal experience, rather than the Bible is the basis of authority for many. 2) Professing Christians have misused the Bible in the past to propagate non-moral agendas that have now created a barrier. 3) Some advocates of homosexual marriage are now openly attacking the Bible by misusing Scripture to undermine its own authority. Example: The citing of polygamy in the Old Testament to undermine the frequently stated Biblical definition of marriage. This then is going to require its own blog article.

2. National: This decision has confirmed that we are no longer a Christian nation.

I think many Christian’s have had the mindset that the gospel will help us “take back America.” While this could be an inadvertent result the gospel’s work in the lives of individuals, this was never the intention of the gospel. God has never called Christians to establish a Christian nation. Furthermore, God has never promised to restore the United States to a God-fearing nation. It is high time that Christians live the gospel and proclaim the gospel, not for the purpose of restoring America, but for the furtherance of God’s heavenly kingdom as He sovereignly sees fit.

Recommended article: 4 Things Jesus Did Not Die For

3. Legal: The Supreme court has reached new heights of “over-reach” by choosing to re-define marriage.

The five supreme court justices essentially acted as an oligarchy, establishing a law, and re-defining an entire concept that does not exist in the constitution. This has essentially established a precedent that even homosexuals should be very concerned about. We are losing our democracy. Dr. Al Mohler has done an excellent job in explaining the far-reaching implications of this decision. I’ll refer you to the following blog articles:

First article from Al Mohler

Second article and audio briefing from Al Mohler

4. Cultural/Social: The problem of viewing people within a country according ethnic and social communities.

There is currently this euphoric sentiment that the SCOTUS decision promotes unity, peace, and harmony. It does not.

Our culture has shifted from promoting the need of “individual rights” to promoting the need for the rights of various ethnic and social communities. This move is a shift from viewing every individual citizen (including those who have chosen a homosexual lifestyle) as a part of a unified country to a nation that is fragmented by various “communities.” This is a “divide and conquer” approach, by those with a socialist (not necessarily homosexual agenda) and will not bring true unity, despite all of the celebrating. The best examples are the decisions of President Obama and Hillary Clinton to endorse gay marriage after stately opposing it in the past. I submit that these recent decisions do not result from evolution, but pragmatism.

The decision has also sanctioned one of these communities as the “gay community.” I’m going to argue that this is not merely a result of gays lobbying for freedom and equality, there is another agenda here and way of  thinking that has been accepted over time. How did our culture move this direction?

This video interview addresses this very well: Is Gay the New Black?

5. Liberty: This ruling will require Christian state officials, responsible for approving marriage documents to either violate their religious conscience or resign.

So what if a state official has a religious conviction against gay marriage? Rule of law dictates that he must issue the license. The state official has already lost his/her liberty. But it won’t end there. It will move next to any organization receiving federal funding. Rule of law will require them not to discriminate, they will surely loose federal funding.

What about religious institutions such as churches? We might be ok for a while, but when this verdict fails to actually bring the harmony and unity that it so desperately desired, the culture will go after those they view as the source of the problem and churches will likely lose their tax exempt status — for starters.

Will pastors be penalized for refusing to sign a marriage license of homosexuals? The Supreme Court says no, and the news pundits say no. They have protected our right to teach our own beliefs. But what currently hangs in the balance is not our freedom to teach, but our freedom to live and practice in matter consistent with our teachings. This verdict has made marriage a right, not just a liberty under rule of law. This may require pastors and churches to be either Biblical or lawless.

Ultimately the Christian should expect persecution and trust that God will give us the grace to handle it as it comes. However, we certainly ought to live as prudently as possible. We’ll explore various options.

6. Family: Children face (inevitable?) exposure to ideas they may not be ready to process, and schools will likely be required to educate students on all of the options. 

To my knowledge no civilization in history has attempted to define marriage the way the SCOTUS has and we don’t know the ultimate impact it will make on society. I’m most concerned for my children and what they will be facing in the days ahead. How do we protect, prepare, and equip them?

7. Unknown: Because the SCOTUS verdict is unprecedented, there are certainly unforeseen implications. 

We rely on history to warn us of the future consequences of the decisions we make. But no history exists to project potential outcomes. It is a bit scary.

I’ll be addressing much of this in further detail in coming posts. Until then, let’s remember some simple yet profound words from Scripture:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Pro 3:5-6 NKJ)

4 Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist (part 1).

Jonathan_EdwardsSo with only a little over a decade of ministry experience, I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on pastoral ministry. I have, however, noted over the years several temptations either by taking stock of my own thoughts or observing the pitfalls of others in ministry.

1. A pastor must resist the temptation to make his ministry his idol.

There is no question that ministry is important, the spiritual needs of people are great, and my responsibility before the Lord is real. But I must be careful not to make the ministry the Lord has given me an idol in my life. How can I avoid this, you ask? Avoiding the following temptations will help.

2. A pastor must resist the temptation to make his position his identity.

I’ve seen this. A pastor finds his identity in his position, rather than maintaining his identity in Christ. The pastorate is my calling, my responsibility, even my position, but it can not be my identity. My value is based on who I am IN CHRIST, not based upon the fact that I’m a pastor. The size of my ministry does not equal my value.

3. A pastor must resist the temptation to worry about people in his care.

I’ve always been a little envious of those who have “happy-go-lucky” personalities who don’t usually struggle with worry. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Add the legitimate care of the ministry to the equation and it is sometimes hard to balance concern and worry. The answer is prayer. When I’m tempted to worry about church members, I must pray instead, and take action as God directs. I recall from my childhood singing a little chorus: “Why Worry When You Can Pray. This is sound advice.

4. A pastor must resist the temptation to focus on God’s working through him to the exclusion of God working in him.

Counseling, preaching, teaching, advising, and leading are all energy expenders. It is easy to desire for God to work through me, which is godly desire, unless it is to the exclusion of desiring God to work in me. Time alone with God and thinking, reading, and praying for personal, devotional enrichment is a helpful antidote to this pitfall. Jesus had to get alone with his Father and away from the crowds, how much more do we as pastors need this.

Coming soon… 4 more Dangerous Temptations a Pastor Must Resist. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this–whether you are a pastor or not!