Posts by Jeff Robinson

Q&A with Bryan Chapell on Christ-centered preaching

Bryan Chapell serves as the president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., as well as professor of practical theology there. He is the author of several books, including "Christ-Centered Preaching" and most recently "Christ-Centered Worship."

Chapell delivered the E.Y.Mullins Lectures on expository preaching at Southern Seminary March 30-April 1 and while he was here Towers had a chance to interview him.

How profound an impact did transitioning to a Christ-centered approach to preaching have on your life and ministry?

Bryan Chapell: I think the primary thing that changed for me was identifying the motivation and enabling thing for love for Christ rather than simply preaching imperatives for people. My early task was getting people to do the things that they don't want to do and ultimately, believing that preaching is getting people to love Christ so much that they have a new heart, new affections and desire to do what He calls them to do; their calling actually becomes their passion rather than what they are resisting. By encouraging people with God's love for them, they are actually strengthened for service to people.

How did this change you?

Chapell: I think there was a time when I believed that it was the job of the preacher to beat the people about the head and shoulders with the Bible to get them to straighten up. But that was not my personality; I think my personality is more gentle and caring, but I somehow had it in my mind that beating people over the head was what preachers were supposed to do and to be a faithful preacher, I really just kind of needed to get after people and that was my job and God called me to be faithful to do that.

In a sense, I felt like discovering grace in all of Scripture as the motivating power of the Gospel actually brought me back around to my true self. I didn't have to be somebody I wasn't to try and get somebody to straighten up. In fact, I could be my truer self of seeking to love people, seeking to be gracious toward them and encourage them, and even when I had to challenge them to do it in a way that says, "But it's because of a love for you," and it's not because I feel like you are not going to be honoring me or not respecting me or not listening to me (if you don't change). So, my motive came more from my care for them, rather than my own ego building.

In preaching the Old Testament, how can we avoid tacking on the Gospel in an artificial way?

Chapell:  I think there are two basic ways, and these have multiple subdivisions, but two basic ways, I think. One is to identify where an Old Testament text fits in God's redemptive plan, so as we are looking at God's unfolding of the revelation of His plan of redemption, the primary purpose, (for example) of the story of Sampson, is not "If you have long hair, you will be strong." There is something in that story about people abandoning God, but God not abandoning them. As that message is maintained, we begin to understand that God is showing His revelation of redemption. For everyone to do what is right in his own eyes is not a way out of the human condition. Human kings are not a way out of the human condition. Obedience to the law is not a way out of the human condition. Ultimately, the path out of fallen humanity has to be a divine path and so you begin to see all the texts of Scripture as unfolding God's path toward redemptive provision in Christ.

One way of not just doing tag-on sermons is showing where the text fits in God's redemptive plan. That is the macro approach. I think the micro approach is to identify, "Where is grace evident in the passage? How is God revealing His provision for humanity of a rescue that they cannot provide for themselves?" Somewhere that is going to be in the text. God is saying, "I am providing what these people cannot provide for themselves." It may just be food for the hungry or strength for the weak or rescue for the hopeless, but in some way, God is saying, "I am providing for you what you cannot provide for yourself." And in that sense, a grace principle is being shown that we can say has its fullest revelation in what Christ has done.

Sometimes people fear that this is doing eisegesis,that this is imposing the New Testament on the Old, and I simply reply, "I live on this side of the cross. I know where the story goes." So, for me to say, "Here God is showing the seed of His grace in order for me to understand what the full bloom will be," is okay to do. I can present the revelation of what grace is here, showing that it has its fullest representation in Christ because I know Christ has come.

How important is it for us to preach what your classic book "Christ-Centered Preaching" calls "the fallen condition focus" in all our sermons?

Chapell: The Holy Spirit did not inspire a text just for our information. There was a purpose behind each text and He is saying that there is something behind our fallen condition that requires the provision of God to correct the human dilemma. If you begin by looking at a text and saying, "What's wrong here? Why did the Holy Spirit write this?" you are forced to say that He is not just giving God-inspired words so you will be a better person and you will fix the problem yourself.

By identifying the fallenness, you are forced to come up with a divine solution and that divine solution is going to force you to think redemptively about the text and that ultimately is saying Christ must provide something that humanity cannot provide for itself. So, identifying the fallen condition focus, if you will, is identifying the hole that the divine grace of God must fill. Thus, the Gospel comes into play no matter where you are (in Scripture).

You published a book last year titled "Christ-Centered Worship." Do you think evangelicals have been asking the wrong question in the so-called worship debates? We have spent a lot of time debating contemporary vs. traditional, but wouldn't it be better to ask "Whom are we worshiping in our churches?"

Chapell: We get very divided over style, which is basically, "Does my preference win over your preference?" versus the question of what is the purpose of worship.

If you look at church worship through the ages, across traditions, there is a very consistent pattern. There is a beginning of adoring God, recognizing His greatness and goodness. And whenever you recognize the greatness of God, the automatic human response is, "If He is that great, I begin to recognize that I am not." Adoration of God leads to confession which leads to the need for understanding, "Isn't God going to help me in this?" The answer is yes, He provides His grace. When we understand His grace, we give thanks for that, we want more instruction: "Lord, now tell me how I can live for you." And then we desire to live for Him and that Gospel pattern is the way the church has worshiped through the ages.

As we begin to think about what a church's ministry is, it is not simply to tell that Gospel story to its own people, but to think missionally as well.  Given those whom God has called us to minister to, how do we make sure they know the Gospel in our worship? That's not just satisfying personal preference, because then you're not honoring the greatness of God. Nor is it failing to be aware that, just as I might relate the Gospel different to a high schooler than I might to an attorney, there might be some variations in the way the Gospel might be presented for a missional purpose. The basic Gospel pattern won't change, but the way in which I might frame it or phrase it could well change, depending on those to whom I am speaking.

In "Christ-Centered Worship," I am very much calling for the leaders of churches to identify "Who is here and who needs to be here?" In answering that question, I ask, "How do we best frame our worship according to Gospel patterns to minister to those people?" We can't forget either group: if we only minister to those who are here, we have no outreach; if we only minister to those who are not here, then we actually lose those whom God has called us to build up in the faith.


New book by Plummer provides excellent primer for Bible interpretation

What is the Bible and how should we interpret it? What determines the meaning of the text and can it have more than one meaning? Is the Bible all about Jesus and do the commands of God all apply to believers today? How did we get the books of the Bible?

Have you ever been asked these questions? Or perhaps you have wondered about these issues yourself. If so, Robert L. Plummer, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided a brand new book that will answer all these and many more fundamental questions about God's Word.

The book, "40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible"(Kregel), was released last week and has already begun to make a major impact in the publishing world: it jumped to No. 1 among hermeneutics books offered on during its first few days of publication.

"I envisioned the book as an introductory textbook for a hermeneutics class," Plummer said. "In my hermeneutics class at Southern, I use a variety of texts that seek to answer a number of important questions, but I wanted to get all that into one book. I tried to think about the most common questions I get from students or from laypeople. I wanted to get all those into one place in a way that was accessible, clear accurate and manageable in 5 to 10 page answers to questions.

"I also wanted to provide something that could be used in a study group with each chapter having five questions and a bibliography of suggested further reading. I wanted to write a book that would benefit both students and laypeople alike and I definitely think it will."

The book is divided into four parts and each deals with a major issue of Bible interpretation, including:

  • Text, canon and translation. Here, the book deals with basic issues such as how the Bible is organized, the inerrancy of Scripture, who determined what books would be included in the Bible and choosing the best English translation.
  • Approaching the Bible generally. Here, the author provides helpful sections on how the Bible has been interpreted throughout the history of the church and gives some basic principles on how to interpret Scripture accurately.
  • Approaching specific texts. Key questions in this section include those dealing with different literary genres in both Old and New Testaments.
  • Issues under recent discussion. The author concludes his survey of Bible interpretation by dealing with current issues ranging from issues such as biblical prophecy, Biblical Criticism and "Speech Act Theory" to theological interpretation of Scripture.

Plummer's works is the second volume in the "40 Questions Series" published by Kregel, a series edited by Southern Seminary graduate Benjamin L. Merkle, who serves on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Merkle is author of the first book in the series, "40 Questions About Elders and Deacons." Upcoming volumes include works by two other Southern Seminary faculty members: "40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law" by Thomas R. Schreiner and "40 Questions About Election and Atonement" by Bruce A. Ware.

"40 Questions" is an excellent book for use in a local church setting and will benefit anyone with fundamental questions about the Bible, its history and how to interpret it. Plummer has more than achieved his goal of providing a clear, compelling and accessible volume on understanding God's Word more accurately. Any book that has that as its goal is worthy of occupying a place in every thoughtful Christian's library.


Mohler to SBTS grads: You won’t finish what you start

Christian ministers are not professionals who take their degrees into the world seeking success as it is typically defined, but instead are deployed for a task of Gospel proclamation which they will not finish, R. Albert Mohler told the 205th graduating class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Friday.

Preaching from 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 and Revelation 5:6-10, Mohler told the 231 graduates that they have completed advanced degrees, but they will never receive applause from the world.

"Those who graduate from this school today, though rightly congratulated, and being sent out to put everything they have, everything they are, everything they have learned, and everything they hope for, on the line for mission and ministry in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler said.

"They are not starting careers. Indeed, this may end their careers. They are not newly-minted professionals. In fact, they may be largely useless in the eyes of the secular world. They are now deployed for a life of ministry that runs counter to the wisdom of the world.

"The call to the Christian ministry is a profoundly counter-cultural reality. The conventional wisdom just does not fit. As children, we are taught the adage that we are not to start what we cannot finish. But these ministers of the Gospel will never really finish anything, and they are not very qualified to start anything."

Southern's graduates will join a long line of faithful Gospel ministers who gave preached the Word across the globe and have served the Kingdom of Christ in anonymity. All ministers are building on a foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, a project that will not be finished until Christ returns, Mohler pointed out.

"They will toil and serve and witness and teach and preach and lead and build, but they will die with more undone than done. Some will serve long, some may serve only a short time in this earthly life, but they will serve a cause they cannot complete; they will tell a story they cannot conclude.

"The American dream does not fit this calling. That dream calls for years of preparation to be followed by formal qualification, decades of professional accomplishment, and a happy retirement. Our hope today must be that these ministers of the Gospel will never retire, for the ministry is never accomplished. They may in due time be redeployed, but never really retired - never ready to rest and merely collect a pension or cash in their retirement accounts and live a life of leisure. They are to serve to the end, learn to the end, teach to the end, and be faithful to the end.

Some will be called to minister in difficult places, some will suffer on behalf of the Gospel and some may be martyred for their faith, Mohler said, but for this they will receive a profound reward in the next life.

"This vision transforms the Christian ministry from a profession into a calling that makes no sense according to the wisdom of the world," he said. "The vast majority of Christian ministers and pastors have served without the slightest attention of the world, completely lacking in its accolades and attention. They preached the Word, in season and out of season, evangelized, baptized, taught, tended, wept, and cared - and they were laid in humble boxes and lowered into to the waiting earth. And all is well."

Mohler's entire address is available in audio and video format at and a complete manuscript may be accessed at


New School at SBTS thriving after one year, Stinson and Mohler tell trustees

It has been one year since The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary founded the School of Church Ministries and dean Randy Stinson told trustees on April 20 that the new school has gained significant strength during its first year.

In the spring of 2009, Southern merged the School of Church Music and the School of Leadership and Church Ministry to form the new school. At the spring meeting of Southern's board of trustees, President R. Albert Mohler Jr., interviewed Stinson on the school's first year of existence.

While some had criticized the seminary for combining the two schools as a de-emphasis on church music, Stinson pointed out that the merger actually helps Southern to serve local churches better because the school is now turning out music ministers who also have pastoral and theological training.

Southern began to rethink the mission of its music and leadership schools when it learned that more than 80 percent of music ministers in Southern Baptist churches serve in dual roles, roles such as youth or children ministry, that demand pastoral and theological expertise, Stinson said.

"What we decided to change was how we were training," Stinson said. "In the past, the focus had been on music performance. We have had very competent musicians who have graduated from this institution, but they weren't necessarily as pastorally qualified as they should have been.

"So, what we decided to do was not quit training musicians, but train theologically-grounded, pastorally-qualified worship leaders for the local church. That is a very different vision, but it doesn't mean we've quit doing something, it means we've improved it."

The school has added degree programs, including doctoral degrees, in areas of worship leadership and family ministry to serve the needs of churches more effectively, Stinson said. One of the major emphases that makes Southern's new school unique is its Family Equipping Model, Stinson said, which seeks to train local churches how to equip families to disciple their children in the home.

"We think that discipleship is best carried out in the local church through families and that parents are the primary disciple-makers of their children and that is infused in all of our degree programs," Stinson said.

One of the great strengths of the new school is its faculty, Stinson said. Professors in the School of Church Ministries have become leaders in the evangelical discussion about family ministry through teaching, speaking and writing books, he said.

"We have the right faculty and we can deliver what we are promising," he said. "They have the right vision. They have the right training. They are writing books. That is a great strength for the school now."

In other business, trustees:

  • Presented gifts to outgoing trustee chairman Mark Dever and Steve Collier, who has served on the board for 10 years. Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has served on the board since the mid-90s and been chairman since 2008.
  • Presented a resolution honoring Mohler for his service on and leadership of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force over the past year. The GCR task force has been charged with helping the SBC to carry out the task of missions with greater effectiveness.
  • Granted tenure to two professors: Timothy Paul Jones as associate professor of leadership and church ministry and Shawn Wright associate professor of church history.
  • Elected Greg Brewton the Carolyn King Ragan Associate Professor of Church Music Care.
  • Promoted several faculty members from assistant to associate professor: Jonathan Pennington, Carl Stam, Randy Stinson and Troy Temple.
  • Extended the contracts of three faculty members: David DeKlavon, Charles Draper and Temple.

Jones book receives Christian retailers’ award

Timothy Paul Jones' book, "Christian History Made Easy," this week won a prestigious award from a major Christian retailing entity.

Jones' 2009 work received the 2010 Christian Retailers' Choice Award in the Christian Education category. Jones' 2009 book, from Rose Publishing, provides a 220-page summary of the entire sweep of church history from the time of Christ through the modern day .

Gretchen Goldsmith, CEO of Rose Publishing, said she is deeply pleased to see Jones' work honored in the broader community of Christian publishers.  Jones serves as associate professor of leadership and church ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"Dr. Jones has a unique ability to communicate theological material in a way that is accessible and lay-friendly," she said. "His blend of humor and solid historical research contributed to the appeal of ‘Christian History Made Easy.'

"He envisioned a book that would combine the best of church history for people living in the Internet age and this wonderful full-color book is the result. We at Rose Publishing congratulate Dr. Jones. We have heard from many readers who agree with the judges' criteria, expressing the ‘impact it had ...including the ability to speak to hearts and evoke emotion, open minds to new ways of thinking and encourage and affirm Christlike living.'"

Jones has authored numerous books, including "Conspiracies and the Cross," and "Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's ‘Misquoting Jesus.' The work for the primer on church history began many years ago, Jones said.

"This book developed very differently than any other book I have written. This book actually began more than a decade ago, when I served as the pastor of a tiny congregation in rural Missouri. This was a church of farmers and factory-workers with a few school-teachers and military personnel mixed in. I wanted them to dig deeply into theology; so, I worked to discover how I could teach them theology in a way that was enjoyable and interesting.

"What I discovered was that, when I told the stories behind theological truths, the people were fascinated and they saw the real-life relevance of theology. So, I developed a series of studies that taught theology by working through the stories of church history from the apostles to today. I photocopied the study and, as much as possible, included pictures, maps, questions, and quite a bit of humor.

"Even then, I envisioned a full-color version of the study that would look like some of the colorful slick-paged books about military vehicles that I used to devour as a child. This past year, I had the opportunity to turn that vision into a reality in the book that's become ‘Christian History Made Easy.'"


3 questions with: Phil Newton

Phil Newton serves as senior pastor of South Woods Baptist Church in Germantown, Tenn. Newton planted South Woods Baptist on April 19, 1987 and has served as senior pastor for 23 years since.

1. How would you prioritize issues in bringing about biblical change in a local church?

Phil Newton: First, I would teach the Gospel. I know that sounds so basic yet we make a mistake in thinking that all those attending our churches understand the Gospel. Moreover, we must help them learn to articulate and apply the Gospel. In the process of expositionally teaching the Gospel, you are helping your congregation to think biblically. Once they begin thinking biblically, then it is not as difficult to bring about biblical reformation.

Now, to a few priorities: First, prioritize expository preaching. Take the congregation through books of the Bible, explaining and applying the text week after week. Second, slowly work to implement changes in the worship service, such as adding Scripture readings, times for confession and intercession and doctrinally rich hymnody (whether old hymns or newer ones is not the issue).

Third, work on raising the bar of leadership qualifications. Apply consistently an expectation that church leaders will meet the qualifications found in Acts 6, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Whether or not you are able to shift to a plurality or pastors, or elders, is not as great a matter as the character of leaders in your church. Fourth, once strong leaders begin to function in the church, tackle church membership issues. This will include church discipline and developing a legitimate church roll.

2. What has been the most difficult change you have made at South Woods?

Newton: The most difficult change was moving toward a Gospel-centered ministry. By that I mean, the Gospel ultimately driving and shaping everything that is done in the church. Whatever programs or ministries the church has must further the Gospel or reflect the Gospel or they must be removed. We met with stiff opposition as the Lord worked this change in my life and the church practice. If I were doing it over I would (1) try to be more patient in bringing people along and (2) invest time in teaching men the basics of the faith. I did the latter a couple years into the transition and found it immensely profitable.

3. What should a church planter emphasize during the first year or two once the church has launched? What about a new pastor in an established church?

Newton: The church planter is establishing his and the new church's identity in the community. What are they known for? What are they about? That's what he must focus early on so that the community recognizes that the church is about the good news, humble service, healthy relationships centered in the Gospel and passion for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. To do this the church planter will not only spend lots of time teaching the Word in corporate, small group and private settings but he will also need to model the Christian life. So, major on teaching, building relationships, fostering healthy worship and ministry and serving others in the community.

The established church is already known for some things in the community. The new pastor must discover what these things are, evaluate them in light of Scripture and then slowly work toward biblical reformation. He does not need to make radical changes in the first couple of years. He needs to invest in building relationships with his people, excelling in pastoral care, helping them to delight in God's Word, showing them responsibility to take the Gospel to the world and giving them a vision for the church as "a display of Christ's glory" (to borrow Mark Dever's phrase).


How to begin in the pastorate? Patience, patience, patience, Rose says

When a young minister is beginning his first pastorate, Tony Rose said there are two realities that may help him to be patient and avoid finding himself wearing the label "former pastor:" there is the ideal church you desire to have and then there is the church that you have actually been charged to shepherd, and the two rarely are the same.

Rose was elected pastor of LaGrange Baptist Church in LaGrange, Ky., more than 16 years ago. When he arrived, the congregation had just been through a difficult season of controversy that arose through the circumstances which had fueled the former pastor's exit. Bitterness and division abounded. There was no theological compass.

Over the years, Rose has patiently preached verse-by-verse exposition from God's Word and has carefully - "Too slow for some," he says - shepherded the flock and watched God bring about change.

It wasn't until 10 years into his tenure, that Rose led the church through its first profound change: a transition to a plurality of pastors. This came after nearly one year of teaching from the pulpit and member forums on the topic.

In 2005, LaGrange built a spacious new worship facility and moved from the building in which it had worshiped since 1895. Upon moving from the old building, the church even reverted to using its original name - LaGrange Baptist Church. It had been called "Dehaven Memorial" for more than 100 years previously.

In between the polity change and the new building, the church handled three difficult discipline cases and, though it had performed church discipline at some point in the past, Rose estimates it had been 60 to 100 years since the last case had come before the body at LaGrange.  To many, church discipline was a brand new concept.

What was the key to making these major changes without implosion? Three things, Rose said: God's grace, confidence in the Word and patience on the part of church leadership to allow the first two factors to work within the body.

"We want to have the same church that God wants in His revealed Word, but then we have to back all the way up to where our present church is and shepherd them faithfully from that point," Rose said. "I think there is often a lot of struggle in making change because we want it too fast."

A biblical approach to church discipline, which Rose views as a front-line issue, was pursued only after he had taught carefully on it. Rose said each case has led to others joining LaGrange due to the body's desire to be faithful to Scripture, even the more difficult doctrines.

"Church discipline was a tough, tough thing," Rose said. "But every time, we have had people join because of church discipline. They were visiting our congregation during those times and they had been in congregations where it had been mishandled or nothing was done about (open sin) and they said, ‘This is the kind of church I want to be a part of.' That was a pleasant affirmation from the Lord. There are costs to it, but there are also blessings in it."


Danger: Implement change with care, FBC Durham pastor says

It was a "traditional" Southern Baptist church, with its tradition entrenched firmly in the soil of 1955, an age that gave America the roadside luncheonette, waitresses on skates, the beehive hairstyle, "I Love Lucy" and Fortune 500 efficiency as the doctrine which served as the standing or falling of the church.

Founded in 1845, the same year as the birth of the Southern Baptist Convention, this church was home of a proud traditionalism, one that preferred being "in the neighborhood, but not of it," big on numbers, small on discipleship.

Worse, some in the congregation said they had begun to find errors in the Bible. And the church, a congregation for which the term "deacon" was a synonym for "elder," had just elected its first female deacon.

This was the congregation Andy Davis inherited when he was elected pastor of first Baptist Church of Durham, N.C., in 1998.

In the dozen years since, Davis, who received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998, has learned many valuable lessons, but perhaps none more important than this: the church that stops changing is, like the roadside luncheonette, dead.

"The immense danger is not reforming the local church," Davis said. "If we do not reform the local, we are out of step with Jesus Christ, who is always rebuking us, correcting us, changing us. The great threat to a local church that doesn't constantly reform by the Spirit of God and by the Word of God is that Christ will come and remove the lamp stand from its place in judgment. ... The church that stops reforming is dead."

In his dozen years at the church, Davis has sought to shepherd the congregation patiently toward a more biblical view of church through verse-by-verse biblical exposition. Davis has watched God work to transform the congregation from a dying future corpse into a vibrant, unified and effective body.

"The greatest display of the glory of God I have ever seen in my life and in my ministry has been in the reformation of a local church - First Baptist Church of Durham, N.C.," Davis said. "It has also been the scene of some of my lowest points as a minister of the Gospel, some of my most painful encounters and some of the most bitter struggles, as well."

Addressing the topic of implementing biblical change in a local church at the 2008 national Founders Conference in Owasso, Okla., Davis said every pastor faces the dangers of:

1. Forgetting the centrality of God in implementing biblical change

"The church is God's," Davis said. "For He bought it with his own blood (Acts 20:28) ... We need to keep central God's interest in it, His power over it and His right to command it. God is zealous over His church. A pastor must keep the glory of God central in all things."

2. Relying on self

Just as God is sovereign in the salvation of a sinner, Davis said, so does He bring about change within His church. Pastors must look to God for the strength and resources to shepherd the church - and not inside themselves - he said.

3. Failing to rely on the Word of God alone

God changes human hearts through the preached Word, Davis said. Pastors must put their confidence in the Spirit's working through the Word and they must forsake pragmatic gimmicks and unbiblical techniques to bring about change, he warned.

"It is not about marshalling enough people in your corner to bring about reform," he said. "Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) is still true in the reformation of the local church."

4. Marginalizing prayer

Pastors must beg God to bring reform to a body, he said, because prayer keeps man in his proper place of utter reliance on God. "Don't focus on technique or strategy," he said. "Get on your knees and ask God to reform His church. Prayerlessness is arrogance, unbelief and disobedience."

5. Becoming prideful of accomplishments once reform has come

Davis pointed to the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, noting that the Pharisee had forgotten the correct answer to Paul's question in 1 Cor. 4:7: "What do you have that you did not receive?" A reforming pastor must avoid cultivating sinful pride in his heart once God has brought about change, he said, and must humble himself continually before God and others.

6. Fearing man more than God

Davis said he wrestled with the sin of cowardice throughout his early days as a pastor while the church was undergoing reform. This fear leads to a failure to trust God and pushes the pastor toward anxiousness about such factors as what people will think of him and losing his livelihood through being fired, he said.

7. Mistaking non-essentials for essentials

While all doctrines are important, not all are of equal weight, Davis said. Pastors must use wisdom to avoid cowardice on the one hand and contentiousness on the other, he said. "You need to be careful where you put the line in the sand," Davis said. A faithful pastor must focus on essential issues.

8. Impatience

A pastor who would implement biblical change in a church must patiently teach his congregation and give God time to work through His Word, Davis said. Preaching the Word is like farming, he said: a seed does not grow into a fully-mature plant within a few hours, but takes much time.

9. Discouragement

Spiritual depression is like poison to a minister, Davis said. "Satan is on every street corner selling poison to every minister," he said. "Satan knows that our weapons are powerful and that if we get the full Gospel array on us with the Word of God in our hands, he will lose. So, Satan keeps you on the sidelines in discouragement."

The remedy? Martin Lloyd-Jones offered the best cure, Davis said, when the 20th century English Presbyterian said, "Stop listening to yourself and start preaching to yourself."

10. Not developing men as leaders in the church

A pastor must train up godly men who will boldly stand for the truth and encourage him in implementing biblical change, Davis said, because, "reformation is led by godly men."


My father’s son: Brand making name in country music

In his song "Walking in My Father's Shoes," Craig Morgan sings lovingly of a father who taught his son how to be a man by example: "He taught me so many things, even when he wasn't trying to," one line recalls.

Country music has a cherished tradition of emphasizing the often complex relationship between fathers and sons.

On the positive side of the ledger, it has celebrated the fathers who were worthy of emulation.

In one of his most beloved hits, "A Father's Love," George Strait croons about the love between a father and son, typifying it as "a love without end, amen." The song ends by comparing an earthly father's love to that which the Heavenly Father possesses for His people. President George H.W. Bush, a lifelong country music aficionado, called Strait's song his favorite because it reminds him of a treasured relationship with his own sons.

On the negative side, country has also mourned deeply those fathers who were MIA.

Hank Williams, Jr., has often written songs that reflect wistfully on the tragic legacy of his father, Hank Williams, Sr., a legend who died at age 29 after little more than a half-decade of hit-making and hard-living. The elder Williams left a legacy of womanizing, drunkenness and drug abuse that no son would benefit from emulating.

More recently, in the Billy Currington hit "Walk a Little Straighter, Daddy," a son pleads with his alcohol-dazed father to "walk a little straighter daddy, you're leading me." The boy grows up and concludes, "My old man is still like he was, but I love him anyway and if I've learned one thing from him it's my kids will never have to say: ‘Walk a little straighter daddy.'" The song is an emotional reminder of the unspeakably profound stewardship involved in fatherhood.

Owen Brand, son of Chad Brand, professor of theology at Boyce College and Southern Seminary, is in position to write a song of the decidedly more joyful variety about his father's legacy and personal impact. At 27, the younger Brand is a rising country music talent who, alongside musical heroes such as Haggard, Cash and Jennings, places Chad Brand as the most influential man in his life.

"My dad has taught me about great theology and early on, he sat me down and taught me about good music," Brand said. "Dad and I are very close and he been a great influence on my life and my music."

Owen Brand's musical pilgrimage began some 13 years ago at age 14 after his father introduced him to classic rock and country artists such as the Beatles, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and challenged him to assess the worldviews communicated in each. Owen soon took up playing guitar, another of his father's longtime pleasures, and at 14 played his first paid gig.

"When I was 13 I got my first guitar for Christmas and I started playing in bands a couple of years after that, all local stuff," Owen Brand said. "My first gig was at an opening of a Burger King in South Carolina at age 14. We got $40 apiece for it and each of us got a cardboard Burger King crown."

These days, Brand is not playing openings for hamburger joints, but is fronting, as lead singer and guitarist, his own group known as "Firebrand," a band that includes his wife, Whitney. Brand also regularly plays shows as a freelance guitarist for other groups. His travels are often rigorous and have taken him in recent years from the southernmost tip of the U.S., Key West, Fla., to the upper northwest, including the Dakotas and the Rocky Mountains.

Firebrand performs cover tunes of classic country and Southern rock artists, but also sings original songs that Brand has written. Brand writes in the classical storytelling vein of old country music. In the fall, he plans to record his first full-length original album with famed producer Elliott Mazer, who has worked with such folk rock legends as Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.

The elder Brand, who also plays guitar and loves classic country, says he was awakened to his son's significant musical gifts long ago and has watched them gain momentum like a Southern Railway engine in a Boxcar Willie song.

"I think Owen has been gifted by God," Chad Brand said. "When he first learned to play, we would play together and I would play ‘Proud Mary' or something like that. I would play the cords and sing a little bit and he said, ‘I'll never be able to do that.' Within six months, he had far outstripped me. He is incredibly gifted both as a guitarist and a vocalist."

In recent months, when Owen is home from the road, the two Brands have played and sung gospel songs in church together at Northside Baptist Church in Elizabethtown where Chad Brand serves as pastor. Most recently, they dueted on Josh Turner's hit "Long Black Train."

Owen Brand says he is drawn to country music because of the genre's ability to communicate stories that relate to both the hard times and good times that form the metanarrative of everyday life. Country music, with its close historic ties to gospel and blues music, is an excellent means for communicating the fallenness of the world and every man's need for divine grace, he said.

"The book of Job is the perfect wrap up of country music," he said. "Look at the book of Job and tell me that's not every CM song you ever heard? Job didn't have a pickup truck, but if had, it would have been stolen. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about.

"The world we live in is fallen. If I'm out there singing my songs in these clubs and restaurants on Saturday nights and I can cause people to ask the right questions and seek wisdom from someone in their lives like their pastors, then that would make me happy.

"If you were to take a theological example of what I am talking about, think about Jonathan Edwards' first delivery of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." People were crawling over the pews to be saved and he told them, ‘No, go home and come back next week.' That's how I feel about writing and singing. If, when I play and sing, somebody gets to a point to where they want some answers they are going to go ask the people who can point them to the answer."

Working in an industry in which the artists often live out the honky-tonk songs they perform, how does Brand hope to make an impact as a follower of Christ? First and foremost, he wants both his fans and fellow artists to witness something different in his daily life.

"You have to be around sinners if you are going to speak to sinners," he said. "But you have to be in the world, but not of it. I get a chance every time I play to lead by example. Often, people will want to buy me a shot (of an alcoholic beverage), and I say, ‘Give me a Diet Coke and I'll be fine.' By the end of the night, I'll have 12-15 Diet Cokes lined up on the stage. You'd be surprised how people notice that.

"When you are up playing in front of people, they are watching everything you do. So, they notice when you aren't drinking and you are able after the set and to interact with and be gracious to the fans."

Further plumbing the father-son theme, how will Chad Brand, who often attends his son's performances when they are within close proximity, help his son avoid the dark underbelly of the entertainment world?

"I encourage him to avoid the dark side of the music industry," Chad Brand said. "I probably had to do that more in the earlier days than now, because he has really found his own footing. I don't really feel like I have to tell him what to do at this point, because he isn't caught up in the dark side of the music industry at all."

Having his wife and infant son-named Buck Owen Brand after Buck Owens, who pioneered the Bakersfield country sound- on the road with him much of the time provides  natural, and much-welcomed, accountability. Dad, he said, will always be there as well.

"It is a hostile environment," he said. "I have really good structural foundation build into my life. I have a great family. I have a really solid relationship with God and my family, and of course, with my dad. I am very thankful for these relationships."


Latest SBJT examines Calvin’s legacy at 500

John Calvin is many things to many people.

To Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great reformer from Geneva was a hero to be admired, a man whose system of theology was "the nearest to perfection."

To Pentecostal televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, Calvin was a man in league with Satan who "has caused untold millions to be damned."

And there are opinions of Calvin (1509-1564) that occupy various points along the spectrum between those two poles. But, as the emotion-laden debate over Calvin's life and theology itself  attests, one thing the reformer will never be to the history of the evangelical church is an insignificant figure.

Essayists in the latest edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology agree in their examination of the life and legacy of this crucial and controversial figure more than 500 years after his birth.

Four members of Southern's faculty and two guest essayists parse several aspects of the 16th century reformer's ministry in Geneva, including his biblical preaching, his missionary endeavors, his pastorate, his gifts as a teacher and his view of justification by faith.

In his opening editorial, journal editor Stephen J. Wellum calls Calvin "one of God's gifts to the church," and touts his massive impact on the church in the wake of the Protestant Reformation.

"It is hardly an overstatement to say that Calvin's influence upon the church and upon the world has been enormous," Wellum writes. "Many consider him as probably the greatest of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, and that is quite a statement in itself."

Shawn D. Wright, associate professor of church history at Southern, plumbs a line that is seldom considered in Calvin studies, one that was nonetheless central to Calvin's self-identity: John Calvin as a pastor.  Calvin shepherded churches for nearly three decades as a pastor, though most mistakenly view him as primarily a scholar and theologian, Wright points out.

"Ministry consumed Calvin's life," Wright writes. "After his ‘sudden conversion' to the Lord, as he called it, Calvin's life-except for an aborted attempt to be a reclusive scholar-was consumed with the labors of a pastor."

Some have argued through the years that Calvin and his theology are anti-missions. Nothing could be further from the truth, Michael A.G. Haykin argues in his essay on Calvin and missions. Haykin serves as professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern.

Calvin was deeply concerned about the conversion of his native country, France, Haykin contends. Many ministers went out from Calvin's Geneva to spread the Gospel in that country.

"It has been estimated that by 1562, some 2,150 congregations had been established in France with around 2 million members, many of them converted trough the witness of men trained in Geneva," Haykin writes. "The growth is enormous when one reckons that at the time of Calvin's conversion, in the early 1530s, there were probably no more than a couple of thousand evangelicals in France."

David Puckett, associate vice president for doctoral studies and professor of church history at Southern, takes a look at Calvin, the teacher, and examines his most famous work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, along with his Bible commentaries.

"These writings are crucial for understanding Calvin's work as a teacher, because they preserve the daily component of Calvin's spoken labor as he prepared students for ministry," Puckett writes.

The journal also includes an essay by Haykin on the plethora of books that have been written about the reformer in recent years and also includes a panel discussion by several Southern professors and other evangelical historians assessing the importance of John Calvin.

Other essays include an article on Calvin's preaching by Steven J. Lawson and another by Paul Helm comparing Calvin's doctrine of justification by faith with the controversial views of popular New Perspective scholar N.T. Wright.

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