Distinct

distinct-coverI can’t wait for the start of our new series, Distinct, this Sunday at Restoration City.  We’re going to devote the next seven weeks to talking about the ways the gospel shapes our relationships with one another as followers of Jesus.  It’s all aimed at leading us to friendships with one another that are totally different than anything else the world offers.  In short, we should be distinct.

Community is such a buzzword in our culture yet so many of us are starving for friendships.  We’re looking online, at the gym, at work, at happy hour, in our apartment communities or in the local coffee shop.  All too often, we’re looking and not finding.  Or if we are finding, we’re settling for relationships that are so shallow that they’re hardly worthy of being called friendships.  And our souls are shriveling.

Sadly, we don’t always find friendships in the church being all that different.  Maybe slightly more sober, with less cussing and a little more Jesus.  But are we really living out Jesus’ commands for our lives?  I’m not sure.  But I can’t wait to spend seven weeks asking God to grow us in this area.

If we’re following Jesus in our friendships, people who don’t know Christ should look into our church and be astonished by how we love one another.  They should look at the depth of our relationships and our joy in one another and be captivated.  There should be people coming to Restoration City simply because they want in on our kind of friendships.  And in the course of their time with us, they should see that our community is shaped by our King.  What makes us distinct isn’t that we’re nicer people, it’s that we’re being transformed by the Spirit and conformed to the gospel.

I’m praying these will be seven culture shaping weeks for us at Restoration City.  I’m not after head knowledge about community and friendship.  I’m asking God to deepen our relationships and conform them to the truths of the gospel.  I’m ready for this series.  I need this series.  I can’t wait to see what God does with it.

Young Preachers, Pay Attention To Donald Trump

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If you want to learn something about longevity and effectiveness as a preacher, keep your eyes on Donald Trump.

Love him or hate him, the Donald is on quite a roll these days.  He’s surging in the polls and his face seems to be everywhere.  It almost seems like the more outrageous his statements become, the bigger his brand gets.

He has become the poster child for a culture that rewards shock value, at least in the short run.

His rise is emblematic of a trap that snares so many young preachers.  It’s one I’ve fallen into from time to time.  If you say some outrageous things, tell some borderline stories and use some edgy language to “keep it real”, you’ll probably get some attention for yourself.  It’ll feel great in the moment and you’ll laugh at voices that urge you to build your ministry on something deeper.  After all, your numbers are soaring.

That’s where Trump comes in.  He’s headed for an implosion.  His campaign is a lot like spring break – short, raucous while it lasts and filled with regret afterwards.  You don’t want the same thing to be said of your ministry!

Don’t settle for short term notoriety when God wants you to have long term impact.  Real impact is rooted in years of faithfulness, humility, work and grace.  It doesn’t come through one killer illustration.  It comes through dozens of faithful sermons.  Real impact requires a deep foundation in the Word of God.

It’s the Word of God that revives souls (Ps. 119:25), is living and active (Heb. 4:12) and is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16).  The gospel doesn’t need gimmicks, only faithful heralds. Yes, tell the story of grace creatively, authentically, engagingly, winsomely and with every ounce of strength God provides.  Great truth deserves a great presentation.  But keep Christ the center, feed your sheep the eternal words of God, root them in the gospel and pray God would be pleased to bear fruit.  Teach them that good theology and the abundant life go hand in hand.

Don’t be the Donald Trump of preachers.  Learn patterns when you’re young that pave the way for decades of effective, gospel shaped preaching.