Forty-nine Propositions or Imperatives
(Danger: this document has not been edited by my wife, editor extraordinaire)
1. Get serious—about God, your soul, your neighbor, your culture, and the world (missions) Avoid trivia. Time is short. See Matthew 6:33.
2. Exegete your soul; exegete the Word; exegete the world. Never stop. Never slacken.
3. Beware of worldliness in all is forms. See Luke 16:15; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1-2. Worldliness makes godliness seem strange and vice seem normal and appropriate (David Wells). Worldliness may produce great gains for merely human religion, but not for biblical ministry.
4. Don’t let the measure of your ministry extend past the measure of your character. That is, never sacrifice godliness for “effectiveness” or “relevance.”
5. Do not fear misery if it leads to sanctity. See Matthew 5:4; James 4:1-10.
6. Learn to lament—over oneself, over others, over one’s culture, and over the church. Do so with emotional honesty and with biblical hope, based on objective truth revealed in Scripture. See Psalm 88; Ecclesiastes 7:1-5; Romans 8:18-26.
7. In your lamentation, be open to repentance (Matthew 4:17). Do not fear teaching and preaching about repentance. All the prophets preached it, including Jesus. Repentance is “the first word of the gospel.” Without repentance, there is no gospel and no Christian existence. Without it, there is no hope for the church or the culture.
8. Remember that you are always a solider in a spiritual war (Acts 13:1-12; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Demons are real; they don’t like you; you must resist them and their leader and submit to God alone (James 4). On this, see Mark Bubeck, Overcoming the Adversary (Moody); Gary Kinnaman, Overcoming The Dominion of Darkness.
9. The biblical concept of truth is that a true statement corresponds with or matches objective reality. While human knowing is corrupted by sin, knowledge of the things that matters most—divine and human—is possible, desirable, and pertinent.
10. Philosophy is not the enemy of Christianity. To the contrary, the Kingdom of God needs women and men who are philosophically trained and passionate about God and God’s Kingdom. See Acts 17:16-34.
11. Anti-intellectualism is a cruel pox on the face of evangelicalism. It must be removed through teaching, preaching, praying, writing, and living in a way that the truth is rationally and passionately presented.
12. Apologetics is vital to the life of the church and the work of the Kingdom. Never lose your concern for this area of Christian learning. See Isaiah 1:18; Jude 3; Acts 17:16-34; 1 Peter 3:15-17; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
13. Postmodernism as a philosophy has nothing good to offer the church. Anything true it may affirm can be found in other more intellectually respectable philosophical systems. See Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay (IVP, 2000).
14. Postmodernity, as a set of cultural conditions, needs to be taken very seriously with respect to Christian living and mission. Understand its defining features. Do not be bewitched by its allure. Critically use it to advance objective truth for a lost world. For example, consider writing a blog that advances Christian truth in a thoughtful and shrewd manner. See Matthew 10:16.
15. Expose the fact/value dichotomy wherever it corrupts thought—in the culture, the church, and your own soul. Christianity is true, rational, knowable, and pertinent. It must not be banished to a subjective netherworld of personal faith, spirituality, and values that “work for me.”
16. Develop a deeply biblical worldview and teach this to others. See Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:1-2. The categories of creation, fall, and redemption are felicitous in this regard. See Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth (Crossway, 2004).
17. The Intelligent Design movement is thrusting a wedge between empirical science and philosophical materialism such that the evidence for design in nature may emerge apart from dogmatic and a priori restrictions. Learn about, teach about, and support this movement. See William Dembski, The Design Revolution (IVP, 2004).
18. Understand and reflect upon the inherent weaknesses of American evangelicalism: its populism, its celebrity orientation, its fear of tradition, creeds, and confessions, its anti-intellectualism, its too often mindless embrace of technology and popular culture.
19. Understand and reflect upon the inherent strengths of American evangelicalism: its emphasis on conversion, its desire to win as many to Christ as possible, its entrepreneurialism, and its respect for the Bible.
20. Learn from the historic creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Protestant Tradition. These can be found in The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.
21. Learn how God is using people from other cultures (both within your nation and beyond it) to advance his Kingdom. This helps one evaluate one’s own life, culture, and ministry. I have received invaluable insights from my African friends in this regard. See Phillip Jenkins, The Next Christendom, revised ed. (Oxford, 2007 ); The New Face of Christianity (Oxford, 2006)
22. The Ten Commandments summarize God’s law for believer and unbeliever. They are pertinent for all of life. Study them, teach them, and preach them in connection with “the whole counsel of God,” particularly the Sermon on the Mount.
23. Guard your heart carefully with respect to all sin, particularly sins related to money, sex, and power—the three that bring down the Christian leaders most often.
24. Make room for sabbatarian (Sunday) rest in your life. Otherwise, you will run on fumes and eventually burn out, taking yourself and likely many others down with you.
25. A well-integrated biblical system of ethics involves deontology, virtue, and consequences, as seen in the ethics of Jesus. See Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus (Wadsworth, 2003). This is in an indispensable part of a Christian worldview.
26. Christian leaders should research and develop cogent perspectives on pressing social issues such as abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, reproductive technologies, sexual ethics, war and peace, capital punishment, materialism, and the gender debates. This requires a sound knowledge of both facts and principles.
27. God evaluates us and our culture by how we have treated the last, the least, and the lost. See Matthew 25:31-46. This especially concerns the unborn, the infirm, the poor, the homeless, and the aged. They must be supported and protected through law, politics, the church, and culture at large.
28. The murder of Terri Schiavo in 2005 was a momentous event in American culture and ethics. Remember it; lament it; oppose the mentality that generated it.
29. The gender debate is critical in the church. Develop a biblical and logical view on the matter. Try to be civil with those with whom you disagree. See 1 Corinthians 13.
30. If you think that God equally gifts women in leadership, but does not let them exercise these gifts equally with men in the home and the church, then let that haunt you.
31. The pivotal traditionalist construct, “Equal in being; unequal in role,” is logically contradictory. Therefore, no theology of gender may be built on this faulty foundation. See Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Good News for Women (Baker, 1997) and her chapter in Discovering Biblical Equality (IVP, 2004).
32. “Create silence."—Soren Kierkegaard. Do not try to out-shout or out-entertain the world. Create truth zones, places where knowledge of God and the soul become possible.
33. Turn off as many televisions as possible. TV-B-Gone is helpful in this regard.
34. Dethrone the television from its centrality in the home. Put it in a less conspicuous place or banish it entirely.
35. Try to adjust your sensorium to receiving, treasuring, and presenting the truths that matter most. This means paying careful attention to one’s use of electronic media.
36. Periodically fast from food and entertainment in order to sharpen your spiritual discernment and to engage in constructive spiritual warfare.
37. Jazz is a wonderful art form, despite its lack of popularity today. There are spiritual and moral lessons to be learned from the history and practice of jazz, despite the carnality of many of its luminaries.
38. John Coltrane was the greatest saxophonist of all time. Sonny Rollins is a close second.
39. Kenny G is a crock. His success is evidence of a fallen world.
40. Preaching is “truth through personality”—Phillip Brooks—as is all of ministry.
41. If you preach, get serious about it. “Study until you are full. Think until you are clear. Pray until you are hot.”—Unknown African American preacher.
42. When you preach, do not let the sensibilities of postmodernity set the tone for your preaching. That is, resist the image-orientation; resist entertainment; resist silliness; resist the simplistic. See John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching.
43. When you preach, do not be tied to the clock. Preach the text as the Holy Spirit leads.
44. When you preach, emphasis the truth of Scripture for the glory of God. Don’t waste words. Keep your ego out of it. Use humor carefully and sparingly. See A.W. Tozer’s classic essay, “The Use and Abuse of Humor.”
45. When you preach, preach before “the audit of Eternity” (Kierkegaard), “the audience of One” (Os Guinness).
46. Make reading a high priority in your life and ministry. Recommend good books to people whenever possible—and from the pulpit (in your message and in the sermon notes). If you don’t read, you should not lead.
47. Beware of trendy books, Christian bestsellers, and “methodologies” that reek of social science efficiency. See Os Guinness, Dining with the Devil (Baker, 1993) and Prophetic Untimeliness (Baker, 2003).
48. Read classics and contemporary authors who are serious, rich, and deep. Consider these classical authors: Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, Luther, Jonathan Edwards, the Puritans as a whole, Pascal, Kierkegaard (but not his religious epistemology). Great Christian writers of the 20th century include: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Carl F. H. Henry, Walter Martin, and Francis Schaeffer. Several contemporary writers of note are: Os Guinness (read all of his books), Eugene Peterson, James Sire, David Wells, D.A. Carson, and John Piper (but not his views on gender).
49. Don’t use contextualization as a pretext for materialism.