One skill most professors and seminaries are good at teaching pastors is exegeting scripture. This is a needed and necessary skill. Most pastors or weekly speakers at evangelical churches are fairly adept at this.

I want to post here for a few minutes about a skill we need to improve in. That skill is the exegeting of culture.

It needs to be said, though, we start with theology and scripture and let those direct and drive our sermons. In addition to that, we’d do well to do a little anthropological digging as it regards our people and where they are coming from related to the biblical message and walking in faith.

For a case study loosely based on this premise, see Acts 17 and how Paul approached the philosophers and other thinkers on Mars Hill.

This skill has to do with knowing the context of the culture around us and what society thinks or believes (and our congregation specifically) regarding different biblical texts or topics. Some would call it “knowing your audience.”

That being said, we do need to be careful and not put too much sermon prep time or stock into this. In the past, most communicators have relied heavily on recent surveys or statistics. We can spend too much time on it in an effort to be trendy or hip. Or we can put too much stock in it and be discouraged before we step up to share God’s Word. So we need to be balanced in our approach.

With some of the tools available to us today, however, we can get information from our own people that is more fresh and more current than the latest Gallup or Barna poll. Investing 10-15 minutes in some well-worded questions to be sent out to people within our congregations in preparation for a sermon can uncover a wealth of information and insight for us as communicators.

Our goal in this is simply to find out where culture and our people are at so we can lead them through the text and to where God wants them to be. And when I say “them,” I mean their thoughts, their attitudes and their actions.

I like to use the analogy of GPS or a mall map. Before we can find out where we want to go, we need to find where we’re at.

Think of exegeting culture as the “You are here” dot on a mall map.

Let’s do this alongside the needed and valuable biblical exegesis; not in place of it. If we do, I think it can assist us in helping God’s people to grow and walk humbly with God.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


Faithfulness and Fruitfulness

I was at a conference recently and was just reviewing my notes today.

There was definitely one thought that caught my attention and has stuck with me.

Transformation = grace + truth + time

I know in church world, we tend to focus on truth and sometimes interject grace, but often forget or neglect the idea of time. We want God to work and we want to see it happen now. We want people to get it….now.

I was also at a local pastors gathering recently and that was a predominant theme. We may or may not have vented some frustration over lack of life change. We dialoged about the tension between faithfulness and fruitfulness. We have a great deal of control over the first and often obsess about the second. It’s over the fruitfulness aspect that we have frustration and over which we have little control.

Let me share a few verses that may bring some needed to perspective and some necessary encouragement to those of us impatient people in church world leadership.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Underline and underscore the thoughts of doing God’s work, doing it “in the Lord,” and seeing a harvest, “at the proper time.” The proper time is determined by the One called the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2), not by us.

So stand firm in speaking the truth and doing it in a grace-giving way. But don’t forget that it takes time for those we lead to “get it.” So stand firm. Rely on God and His strength. Remember…

Transformation = grace + truth + time

Don’t forget that God is the One who brings about life transformation. And keep sharing God’s love, God’s truth, and God’s grace.

Life Together

I read a quote recently that got me thinking and it may do the same for you in your ministry as well.

“There is no life change without life exchange.”

The more I ponder this, the more true I think it is.

Consider two passages of scripture.

“God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,”

2 Corinthians 5:21

In other words, Jesus’ life for mine. This is the heart of the Christian life (see also Galatians 2:20).

But ponder more of God’s words.

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us,”

1 Thessalonians 2:8

Let’s look at these one at a time.

With whom do I need to exchange my life for salvation according to 2 Corinthians 5:21? Trusting Jesus is really trusting in his life for mine as a perfect substitute.

With whom do I need to share (exchange) my life with to see spiritual impact according to 1 Thessalonians 2:8? The short answer is those whom I share the gospel with. In other words, it’s sharing at a deeper level than just a few truths. It’s sharing in a practical, personal, and intentional way. And it’s about sharing the gospel and life with believers and unbelievers alike. It’s not one or the other.

And so it seems if we want to spiritually impact others, one way we do that is by sharing life with them. Not little snippets or trite sayings, but the intense, tough parts that get to the heart of life, who we are as people, who we are called to be as Christ followers, who God is, and what he has promised to do. It seems serving others is about sharing hours together, not just 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there. Really sharing life is more like a crock pot and less like a microwave.

So chew on these ideas for awhile. And if you want to impact others and lead them to all God has called to them, throw open the doors of your life and share it with those God puts on your heart to influence.

If you want to go deeper, what are one or two new ways can you share life with a believer or unbeliever this week? Think about that, then put it down in your life to do it.



Ministry for the Long Haul

I have been chewing on something lately.

I recently taught on some passages where Jesus did ministry with the disciples, equipping them, and then directed them to minister and serve others. Some have called this the. “Showing and Equipping” model or the “lecture/lab” model. But whatever you call it, there is an undeniable pattern of Jesus modeling, equipping, and directing his followers in ministry.

Now I have had quite a bit of exposure to pastors in church world. Whether it’s at pastors conferences or in my local pastors network or friends in full-time ministry, there is a common thread or theme if you will. And that is, “I’m tired of doing ministry alone. We don’t have nearly as many volunteers as we need.”

So let’s put those two thoughts together. What if, as church leaders, we took time where we do ministry to take some of the people we want to develop with us. They see us loving and leading people and then we equip them at some point to do the same. After this, we lead them to serve on their own.

How might God expand our influence and ministry because of this?

How could God use Jethro’s words to Moses in Exodus 18:17-27 to inspire us to action?

How might we implement the equipping that God calls pastors to in Ephesians 4:11-12 into our daily and weekly habits?

What a difference it might make. It could be used by God to be the difference between burnout and meaningful, fruitful ministry.

Something for us all to chew on.

The Transforming Work of Christ


“Change your apartment. Change the world.” fictional commercial character Brad Bellflower (played by Jeff Goldblum) sputs on T.V.

This over-sensationalized slogan is meant to be funny and at the same time not.

In a world of over-sensationalization, generalization, platitudes, and hype, I purport that God changing us can change the world.

First, let’s get our thoughts firmly grounded in something super fluid, our culture.

Reinhold Niebuhr has written about several ways we can view culture as developing Christ followers.

  • Christ against culture
  • Christ of culture
  • Christ above culture (Niebuhr, Christ and Culture)

Author and theologian D.A. Carson has taken these designations, fleshed them out, and summarized them by saying our lives as Christians aren’t so much about Christ against culture, but about Christ transforming culture (Christ and Culture Revisited).

As God changes us (Romans 8:28-29, 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:16-17), since we are transformed spiritually and we are in the world but not of it, the world has changed. It’s about spiritual transformation brought about by Jesus in us and by us being smack dab in the mtransformationiddle of contemporary culture.


Dennis Prager recently gave a talk to college graduates
challenging them to, “Battle yourself, not culture.”

We don’t need the right person in office, first we need the right Person on the thrones of our hearts. We need to let God lead us right in the middle of this culture.

As God transforms us, others will see it and may be curious about how this transformation happened.

What If…

Just a few, quick ideas to get you thinking.

There’s a song some of you may remember from an old T.V. show.


Here’s a thought, what if that place wasn’t a bar, like in the T.V. show; but a church, a gathering of believers?

And what if the song writers struck on some thought and emotion that God placed in each of us, the longing to be loved, cared for, and known?

The Bible is chocked full of examples that show that real community is what mankind wants. And God’s intent for his church is to meet part of that universal need. God created us to connect with him and one another.

Final thought, what if we as church leaders started leading our people to work together and started leading our churches to be these kind of places?


If we did, this idea might not just be a hope, but start becoming a reality.

May we trust God to work in our lives and help us to be who he wants us to be.

Discipling Others

There’s something about getting a critical mass of people.

It’s like when I was leading a student ministry. Teens would show up and there would be a handful of people. Invariably they would ask, “Where is everybody?” as if myself and the other people already there were either invisible, chopped liver, or both.

What they were saying or even thinking and unable to put their finger on was, “Where is the critical mass of people I know that would tip this over the edge to being a great get together?”

Jesus got a critical mass of men that he invested his life into. We call them the disciples today, but no matter what you call them, they were used by God to change the entire course of human history after the resurrection of Jesus.

Consider Mark 3:13-19.

It is there, after a night of prayer, that the Lord Jesus Christ chose 12 men to follow him.

Jesus chose a few. He discipled this critical mass of people and unleashed these Spirit-filled, world changers. And the world has never been the same.

And it was this handful of men, that God used to turn the world upside down (see Acts 17:6).

And we as leaders need to take to heart what Margaret Meade once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

When are we going to start picking some people to disciple? To invest in? To do ministry with?

How should we get started?

Time and eternity will tell the tale of leaders’ lives that were lived following in Jesus’ footsteps.