Stanley and Hybels

I attended the Leaders Gathering in Bracknell yesterday with the elders from church. Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley were doing some Q&A’s on leadership, and Stanley spoke on communication. Here are some of the highlights:

BH – “you’ll never harvest more than you sow”

AS – “a healthy marriage and healthy family, lived out before a watching world, are evangelistic – they are the salt and light in our culture”

AS – “if people are going to invite people to our services, they must be of high quality”

AS – on preaching “write down your goal in communication; then ask if your approach matches your goal” ; “approach is everything – truth with the wrong approach will meet a dead end” ; “we can’t make people fall in love with author [of Scripture], but we can set up the date”

AS – 5 good questions to ask when preaching:

  1. Who is this all about really?
  2. What’s my burden?
  3. Where’s the tension?
  4. Do I own it?
  5. Am I allowing the text to speak?

Lots of good insights – would certainly recommend Stanley’s book on communication entitled Communicating for a Change. 


Going Deeper

Read this beautiful prayer in The Valley of Vision this morning entitled “The Deeps”

Lord Jesus,


Give me a deeper repentance,

a horror of sin; a dread of its approach;

Help me chastely flee it, and jealously to resolve that my heart shall    be thine alone.


Give me a deeper trust,

that I may lose myself to find myself in thee,

the ground of my rest, the spring of my being.


Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself

as Saviour, Master, Lord, and King.


Give me deeper power in private prayer,

more sweetness in thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth.


Give me deeper holiness in speech, though, action,

             and let me not seek moral virtue apart from thee.


Plough deep in me, great Lord,

        heavenly Husbandman,

        that my being may be a tilled field,

        the roots of grace spreading far and wife,

        until thou alone art seen in me,

        thy beauty golden like summer harvest,

        thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no Master but thee,

        no law but thy will,

        no delight but thyself,

        no wealth but that though givest,

        no good but that though blesset,

        no peace but that though bestowest.

I am nothing but that though makest me,

I have nothing but that I receive from thee,

I can be nothing but that grace adorns me.


Quarry me deep, Dear Lord,

and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

A note for preachers

Here’s a powerful quote from John Chrysostom (nicknamed Golden Tongue for his preaching abilities):

“when you applaud me as I speak, I feel at that moment as it is nature for a man to feel. I am delighted and overjoyed. And then when I go home and reflect that the people who have been applauding me have received no benefit, and indeed that whatever benefit they might have had has been killed by the applause and praises, I am sore at heart, and I lament and fall to tears, and I feel as though I had spoken altogether in vain, and I say to myself, What is the good of all your labours seeing that your hearers don’t want to reap any fruit out of all that you say?”

Facebook isn’t the problem – you are

In the last 6 months I’ve heard a number of seminars, and read a few pieces, about how Christians should engage with social media. The general tone has been negative – Social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter) encourages narcissism, shallow relationships, idealized (read false) self presentation, gossip etc etc. I hear little commending the positive uses to which social media may be put – such as encouraging others, sharing news and information, promoting a Church and their upcoming events, linking friends to other helpful resources. For every negative use to which Facebook can be put, there is a positive. Add to this the ubiquity of Facebook among Generation Y and below, and we need to stop fighting against it and start thinking about positive use of it. At the end of the day the problem is not Facebook – it’s you. Sin is the reason we’re self-centred, proud, and nasty, not Facebook. Any Christian who has a strong doctrine of creation and common grace will see that with all things there are positive uses to which humans can put things and negative (the wider internet would be a good example), but at bottom the misuse of something is not a problem with the thing itself – it’s a sin problem in us. Let’s stop blame-shifting and externalising like little Luddite Pharisees, and let’s start thinking about positive ways to use and redeem creation and culture.
Incidentally, if you want a helpful read to start you thinking see Tim Challies The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion. His theological underpinning in the first chapter is excellent in spelling out in clear terms the doctrine of creation, the imago Dei, and the effects of the fall. Overall I’d have liked a few more suggestions on positive engagement (again the tone is slightly negative) but that’s a personal opinion on emphasis rather than any disagreement with the content.

Borrowed Capital

Cornelius Van Til spoke about the way in which non-Christians say/do/stumble upon lots of good things by virtue of common grace. He used the analogy of borrowed capital. The non-C speaks truth and does good because he’s living in God’s world, sucking in God’s air, functioning by God’s grace. Each and every good is only ever achieved by drawing upon God’s ‘capital’.  Here it is briefly in his own words:

“To be sure, the non-Christian does not self-consciously borrow the Christian‘s principles. Like the
prodigal son, he lives on the father‘s substance without owning this to be the case [Lk 15:11–16]. But
as the prodigal was able to live and prosper  in spite of being a prodigal so also the non-Christian
scientist can describe the uniformities of nature in spite of his worship of Chance”
For a startling example of an atheist consciously doing this see this TED talk by Alain de Botton:

Church Dating

I’ve been reading Josh Harris’ excellent Stop Dating the Church recently with one of our students. One of the highlights is the description of church-daters as being:

  1.  me-centred
  2. independent
  3. critical

I’m sure this description brings people to mind for us pastors. He’s go on to say that such an attitude is harmful to the individual, their brothers and sisters, and the wider world. He also includes a great quote from Spurgeon in the book as follows:

“What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick.”

It is, as I say, a wonderful little book to read with young Christians, and has many excellent insights into making the most of our new family. In Harris’ words “don’t be a consumer, be a communer.” Epic!

How to Win Friends and Influence People

ImageI found an old copy of this book, originally published in 1936 and found it more enjoyable, and less cheesy/manipulative than I’d feared. If you’re a leader it’s certainly worth thumbing. Here’s his principles:

Part 1: Techniques for handling people

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation
  • Arouse in the other person an eager want


Part 2: Six Way to Make People Like you

  • Be genuinely interested in others
  • Smile
  • Remember a name
  • Be a good listener – encourage people to talk about themselves
  • Talk in terms of the other persons interests
  • Make the other person feel important – do it sincerely


Part 3: Win People to your Way of thinking

  • Avoid argument
  • Show respect for the other opinion – don’t say “you’re wrong”
  • If you are wrong admit it quickly and emphatically
  • Begin in a friendly way
  • Get the other person saying “yes” quickly
  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
  • Let the other person feel the idea is theirs
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
  • By sympathetic to their ideas and opinions
  • Appeal to the nobler motives
  • Dramatize your ideas
  • Throw down a challenge


Part 4: Be A Leader

  • Begin with honest praise and appreciation
  • Call attention to mistakes indirectly
  • Talk about your own mistakes first
  • Ask questions instead of giving orders
  • Let the other person save face
  • Praise any small improvements
  • Give others a fine reputation to live up to
  • Use encouragement. Make faults seem easy to correct
  • Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

Change is inevitable

Change is a function of existence in time – it’s inevitable. Leadership is about positive change. Just to illustrate the inevitability of change I stumbled across an amusing excerpt from a J.John sermon on this – here’s what he said:

“We live in a world of change – it used to be that:

  • A big Mac was a large rain-coat
  • Crumpet was what you had for tea
  • Going all the way meant staying on the bus to the depot
  • A joint was a piece of meat
  • And grass was mown!

Everyone is affected by change – change is inevitable, except from a vending machine!”

Better before Bigger

Andy Stanley has a great leadership podcast that’s well worth subscribing to. He has lots of really excellent practical tips and insights for leaders of any sized organisation. Here’s one particular illustration he gives which I like:

“In the early 1990s, the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A restaurant was facing stiff competition from the upstart Boston Market restaurant. Chick-fil-A leaders were in a meeting, brainstorming, trying to figure out how Chick-fil-A could get bigger, faster. Company founder Truett Cathy pounded on the table and said, ‘I am sick and tired of listening to you talk about how we can get bigger. If we get better, our customers will demand we get bigger.'”

This ties in with something I read in Howard Schultz autobiography Onward. Schultz is the CEO of Starbuck and states in his book “success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become.” He was aware that he and his team had taken their eye of the ball, so obsessed with numbers, they’d forgotten what they were all about – great coffee.

As Christian leaders we are about a great God and great message. Define success by numbers and you may end up compromising the quality of our God and our message about him. Focus on him as the highest standard of quality, and proclaim him as best you can, and people will demand more.


Baptism and the Covenants

I delivered a paper this week at the Carey Minister’s Conference entitled “Baptism and the Covenants.”

The general outline of the paper was as follows:

– The old, old story: consistent reformed covenant theology = paedobaptist

– Thesis: consistent reformed covenant theology = baptist

– A covenant is: “an oath bound, oath certified assurance of irrevocable grace and promise” – Murray

– The story of the covenant: cov. of redemption, adamic, cov. of grace, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New

– The Newness of the New Covenant

  • climax of the story – the eternal king is on the throne, the law is internalized, a family blessing the nations
  • Calvin’s 4 antitheses on 2 Cor 3 – external vs internal (v. 6a); death vs life (v. 6b); condemnation vs righteousness (v. 9); temporary vs eternal (v. 10-11)
  • Owen on Heb 8 – “all with whom this covenant is made are effectually sanctified, justified, and saved”

Signs of the Covenant

  • circumcision – signifying national promise (nb. faithfulness of parents irrelevant to reception of sign); typological projection toward Christ; spiritual circumcision (BUT beware: prophetic application of rite does not necc. equal exposition of its meaning)
  • baptism – signifying death and ress (Rom 6; Col 2); cleansing (1 Cor 6; Eph 5). A sign of spiritual new birth.
  • relationship between the two – Col 2:11-12 (see my article here: Essentially spiritual circumcision performed by Christ is the fulfilment of that which physical circumcision anticipated. Baptism corresponds to spiritual, not physical circumcision.
  • For those who think baptism replaces circumcision note both are going on in the early church (Acts 15, 16, Gal)


  • Is God less kind? (Zwingli) – nope…NC much better promises
  • Acts 2:39 is a covenantal formula. Yes, but what exactly is the promise – that if you repent you will receive forgiveness and the Spirit – and it’s for all those who are far off
  • What about warning passages (eg. Heb 10:29)? Some thinking about how language works and speech-act theory. Warnings are means by which believers are kept
  • What about 2 Pet 2:1? Addressed on the basis of confessed faith – phenomenological faith
  • What about Jn 15?  Calvin says “many are reckoned by men’s opinion to be in the vine who in fact have no root in the vine”

– Critiques

  • everyone is a credo-baptist – reformed paedo-baptists just remove it one generation
  • consistency of confessions – cf. for example WLC 31 and 166, and CSD:2:P2 and CSD:1:17


A consistent covenant theology, tracing the narrative of God’s dealings with men, climaxing in the wonderful promises of the NC is a baptist covenant theology recognising the discontinuity between OC and NC as expressed in Jer 31, 2 Cor 3, Heb 8.


Looking at this outline is looks very sparse indeed – that’s notes for you. Hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll be able to listen to the paper online.