Beautiful Daughters and Impure Sons: Who Does the Modesty Debate Really Hurt?

In a few short months, spring will be here and then summer and arguments are going to take place across our homes. Daughters will want to wear things that father’s suggest aren’t appropriate. Youth Pastors will break out slogans like “Modest is Hottest” when going over the rules for trips involving fun in the sun. I wish the church were free from debate on the issue, but it is often the center of every summer youth trip. I can’t think of a single issue that caused more tension in the nearly 20 years I spent as a student pastor.


I have both a daughter and a son who are perhaps too young to feel the sting of this debate but as they grow older, they will hear many things and so I write mostly for them. You see the debate often stings both our girls and our guys because it reinforces negative perceptions about what it is to be male and female. If I can, I want to wade in and address this issue not by proposing a modesty rule (please read all of the post), but by proposing that Jesus should guard the hearts of both our girls and our guys when it comes to what we wear and how we view others.

First let’s talk about why a simple clothing rule isn’t enough (notice I didn’t say necessary, please read the entire article). For starters lets just imagine that you can put the same bathing suit on two different people and it is completely possible that your heart will be tempted towards lust with one and repulsion with the other. There is a difference between a hairy overweight old man in speedo’s and cowboy boots and a male model wearing the same thing… the same is true for an attractive young girl vs an overweight grandmother wearing the same designer two piece. Neither the outfit, nor the skin it reveals, prompt lust… It is already in the heart of the one lusting! It simply doesn’t help our daughters to tell them to “cover up” because their flesh is like kryptonite to young boys.  May of them struggle with their body image as it is. For the most part, they already compare themselves to other girls, super models in magazines, and have a part of themselves that they think is ugly. I can’t think of a genuine benefit derived for our daughters by treating all girls/ body types the same.  Before you set out to stone me, read the rest of the article.

Let’s also imagine for a moment that lust isn’t a particularly male issue. I know that guys are stimulated visually, etc. but many of our girls experience lust issues that are very similar to how our boys are visually stimulated. If we are honest, it has never been a single gender issue! We do our girls a huge disservice when we imagine that only boys deal with lust and treat it like an exclusively male problem. Our girls can privately feel even more ashamed and never seek help with their temptation to lust. In this generation, more than ever, the conversation about lust is one that must take place with both our daughters and our sons.  That might be news to you, but I challenge you to research it. (I wish I had listened sooner to parents of daughters who said that this was just as much a valid issue for their daughter as their sons).

Now imagine the negative stereotype that we reinforce with both our girls and boys when we make such a big deal about how boys are so easily tempted into sinful lust. When you teach them the solution is not to flee, but for girls to wear more clothes, you treat them as if they have NO control over the situation at all. I choose to teach my son and daughter that they have NO control over what other people wear, but they CAN control where they look and they should start by seeing where there mother and I choose to look (we still go to the beach where other people don’t obey “the one-piece” rule).  I do this because I think the real issue is in their heart and it doubly damages their heart when we place the emphasis on a rule concerning what someone else wears. First they can deny any real responsibility for their own lust and second because now they get to feel superior to someone else who dresses like a “skank.”

Finally, I want to imagine that the best way to address lust in one individual is not to put more clothes on another. This simply doesn’t solve the problem, it masks it. That would be like looking at the mirror, realizing you are naked and need clothes and painting clothes on the mirror… You are still naked! All you have done is cover the law that exposes the real sin that is in your heart and in the process you put a false law on someone else.  I read a book one time by a woman who lived in the middle east and she commented about how a man stared her up and down lustily while she was wearing a burka! His lust, was his lust and it wasn’t her fault. It’s apparent that no matter what you wear some people will choose to lust (this is particularly true in a generation that has been exposed to pornography over and over again). Keep Reading.

So now lets address 3 things that are present in this debate from a biblical perspective because ultimately for the believer, God’s Word should guide our actions and reactions.

1. The bible has a lot to say about authority.  (We won’t cover everything but we will hit a few highlights. ) We are reminded by Paul in Romans 13 that all authority ultimately flows from God. This begins in the home where we are to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Ephesians 5:2). So if our dad or mom asks us to wear something “less revealing,” while we live under their roof, the moral, right thing to do is to change our clothes. Doesn’t matter if you think they are wrong, or they don’t understand that it’s the style, or what other reason you might have. The real question is, will you obey the authority placed over you?

It is not different if your church has a rule about bathing suits or mixed bathing or whatever it is. If you disagree with the leadership on how they exercise that rule, have a conversation about it. Appeal through the appropriate channels by going to leadership over you, but most importantly abide by the rules and respect the authority over you. In this context you may find that there is very good reason for the rule. When I was a youth pastor, it was simple, I didn’t want the job at looking at all of our daughters and determining if their swim suit is too revealing or not. A simple clothing rule allows female leaders (who may have differing opinions) a consistent standard to coach girls through as a matter of respecting authority on youth trips. (Of course you should also have standards for guys as well, that the male leaders should oversee.) Does this prevent lust? I imagine that it doesn’t. It simply gives us a standard we can appeal to. Just like principles of public schools who don’t want the job of examining everyone’s leggings or saggy pants, sometimes it is better for the organization as a whole to have a dress code for both girls and guys. If you are going to participate in a function of that organization, you should submit yourself to their dress code.  I am very appreciative of parents, girls, and guys who acknowledge the struggle of leading a group this age.

2. Let’s talk about modesty from a biblical perspective. Most often we refer to 1 Timothy 2:9-10 when we talk about modesty in the church: “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). I think a few things are apparent in these verses. First, modesty here has nothing to do with swimsuits. Second, it’s in a list that gives us a clue to what the word modest might mean. It is included with words like self-control, gold, pearls, costly attire. Paul is addressing the “over dressing” of women in church. Modesty in this context is “don’t flaunt your wealth at church so people will look up to you.” The take away would actually be to wear less jewelry, less expensive clothes, do less with your hair, etc. so that your focus is on worshipping God, not seeking the attention of others.

While this passage doesn’t directly relate to modesty in a lust context, it does give us a good guideline to examine what we wear in light of our own hearts. When you pick out clothes or even apply make-up to say, “Hey look at me!” you place too much emphasis on your appearance. It’s good to put in a little time into your hygiene and some thought into your clothes. There are even good reasons for dressing up But when your heart’s desire is overly focused on garnering the attention of others rather than exalting God, you are looking for your esteem in the wrong direction. You will never be truly satisfied with what others think of you. Only when you are satisfied in Christ will you begin to overflow into these works that Paul talks about.

Biblical modesty is found just as much in what you do as what you wear.

Biblical modesty is found just as much in what you do as what you wear. we should want our girls and guys to be modest in this sense. Pay less attention to “dressing to impress” and more attention to “serving God by serving others”

On a very practical side note (because my daughter & son may read this one day).  Physical beauty is fleeting (James 1:11). That is why there are make-up artists for movie stars and many have had plastic surgery. We all age! The character of a life submitted to Christ will always attract the right kind of folks and will maintain a level of beauty that surpasses anything that make-up and clothes can do. It doesn’t matter what’s in your DNA or your body type, good works will always look good on you (1 Peter 3:4).

3. Finally, let’s address lust. This seems to be where this whole debate started. Let’s understand that lust is a problem for girls and guys. If we are honest, it has been this way for a long time. We know of at least one Egyptian woman from antiquity that had the hot’s for a certain guy named Joseph (Genesis 39). Then there was also the woman from Proverbs 7.  So it’s not like the Bible doesn’t mention female lust at all. It is in there and even more grossly represented in passages that I didn’t feel comfortable listing here. Lust is not a male only sin.

So I think first, we should recognize lust as something that we may be tempted too. With that in mind we are told by Paul that believers will always have a way of escape from their temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). We need not use the excuse that, this is just what guys do. Or that we can’t help ourselves. If you are a believer you have control over your body and your thoughts. We can choose to flee this temptation (1 Corinthians 10:14). In fact this is exactly what Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife approached him (Genesis 39:12). Paul says to flee sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18). He reminds Timothy to “flee youthful passions and desires” (2 Timothy 2:22). Paul addresses lust in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 and he says that you have control over your body and that to deny this reality is to ignore God! In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus addresses lust he says that we are to fight it to the extent that we would cut out our eye or cut off our hand (notice that he doesn’t say that we should put the burden on someone else). We must flee temptation! We must control our own bodies through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us! We must commit to radical means to root this form of idolatry out of our lives! This is the counsel of scripture on dealing with individuals who are prone to lust.

I grew up in a Christian home. We talked a lot about God. My mother gave me the “Birds and the bees” talk when I was very young, perhaps too young to understand what she was eluding too (I am thankful for her attempt at what must have been a very awkward conversation). However, later when my heart was awakened to be attracted to girls I didn’t have any guidance from my father on how to guard my heart from lust, or that it was even possible. I struggled for a very long time in a cycle of lust and guilt. It was easy to judge girls as being “skanks” for what they wore and who knows, maybe they had their own heart issues, but it didn’t do my heart any good to remove the sin label from my heart and place it judgmentally on theirs. I wouldn’t find freedom until I dealt with the lust in my heart on Jesus’ terms. That is what I long for most for our sons and daughters, that they would deal honestly with their sin and temptation before our Savior.

So if I were to wade into this debate for the sake of my son and daughter, I would say, “Submit to whatever authority is over you. Examine what you wear and why you wear it so that you might reflect a godly character more than you seek personal attention. Flee temptation to lust. It may seem like you are powerless, but if you are a believer you have the Holy Spirit of God in you and He is more than enough!

Your comments and thoughts are welcome. Please keep them civil and to the point. Please also read the entire article before you comment. I didn’t cover anything exhaustively so I’m aware that the issue is bigger than a 2500 word essay.

You may also be interested in this blog post:

How do you Respond when your child tells you they have viewed pornography?

7 Reasons I Ask Students to Evaluate My Messages

I meet with a group of young men and women on Friday’s to evaluate the previous weeks message and to help prepare the message for the coming week. It’s a tedious process in that it takes more time preparing an element of the message with this group than it would in isolation. But I’m convinced that this practice is good for the students on the team as well as for me.

seven reasons

I’ve run into a little bit of push-back on the first element of what we do, which is evaluate the previous week. Some folks in ministry are of the mindset that sermons are not to be evaluated. I disagree, but I understand the sentiment. To be clear, I do not ask the students to judge the content of the scripture, but the content of the entire message and how effective the message was at explaining the scripture. I don’t ask them to judge the movement of the Holy Spirit, but I do ask them to judge me. I ask them things like, “Was I knowledgeable about what was being presented?” “Was the message biblical?” “What was the main point of the message?” etc. This evaluation is really helpful. Here are seven reasons why.

It demonstrates to the students what to look for in a well presented biblical message. Most of the students who gather with me are there to learn how to prepare messages. By evaluating me, through a template of questions they learn what area’s of preparation are important and where they are exhibited in the delivery of a message. These questions then become a preparation guide for when they are ready to deliver their own biblical message.

It prepares the students to be evaluated. The students that evaluate me will also be sharing biblical messages at some point and will themselves be evaluated. By having a standard evaluation process in place they are prepared to be graded on the human aspect of delivery in the same way that I expect to be graded. I can truly evaluate them without having to maneuver on a scale of positives and negatives. They will stand or fall in each category according to their presentation, not my over-sensitivity to their feelings.

It keeps me accountable. I picked or allowed the questions on the weekly evaluation based on aspects of human delivery that every speaker needs to be accountable for. Who tells the pastor that his message wasn’t biblical, or that he filled 3/4 of his time with personal stories, or that he skipped application, or that he missed the gospel? If he doesn’t train his people to expect the right things and gives them a structure and freedom to approach him it will never happen. In the last few weeks I’ve heard sermons/ podcasts where the pastor labored over “extra-biblical” points and preached from word’s not really present in the passage. Those pastors would have benefited from genuine feedback earlier in their ministry to keep them on point, as it was they seemed smooth enough in their delivery that most folks didn’t notice that what they heard was just an opinion passed off as biblical knowledge.

It helps me see how my student leaders think. On the evaluations they share tons of relevant information. I find out which illustrations were clarifying and which ones were confusing. I learned through this process that my students really benefited from hearing my personal stories of struggle and victory in Jesus as I had been applying these truths to my life. Putting a greater value on these illustrations where applicable has made me a better communicator and more approachable by the entire group. I noticed after a shift in my teaching style that students began approaching me anonymously after each message about issues in their life. My ability to pastor students through the struggles they were facing dramatically increased because they saw me as someone who had flaws, but found the solution.

It Creates Better Message Hearers. When students on my team evaluate a message they begin to re-process the message over again. They think through the entirety of the message a few days after the fact and review the specific applications, challenges, etc. By this time they have had an opportunity to react to the message. This raises the bar of expectation. If the message was clear and there was a response needed, how have they responded? This creates an accountability loop for them. They now have to think about the message longer than the original 30 minutes in which they heard it and the Holy Spirit often takes what was said on a Wednesday and replays it in their hearts on a Friday so that the effect of dwelling on the message is greater than if they had not given it a thought beyond Wednesday.

It Demonstrates That I Have Room to Improve. I think it is fair to say that I want to offer God my best. If he has called me to be a communicator then I want to be the best communicator that I can possibly be. I want people to understand His Word. So I diligently study the scriptures, I diligently study those I present to, and I diligently study the effect of God’s word on their life through my preaching. The Holy Spirit can always take the worst sermon and make something great out of it, I would also like to think that He will work on me too through His word and His people.

It Teaches Students to Work. Far too many ministers rely on the Holy Spirit to bail them out of a lack of preparation. This overly mystical view of God misses the point that He calls and equips people for the work of ministry. That ministry, especially in the case of teaching and preaching requires prayer and preparation. Again, I’m not asking students to evaluate God’s Word, or the Work of the Holy Spirit, I’m asking them to evaluate my preparation and presentation. I’m modeling part of the work of ministry.

In our model students evaluate messages I teach. We work together on messages that I will teach. We work together on messages the student will teach. The students teach messages and are evaluated by the group. They get more practical hands on training on how to present a message than I ever got in any of my seminary classes on sermon preparation.

3 Things to Do After You Graduate

So you’ve just graduated! Congratulations! If you’re like me, everyone is asking about what you will be doing next. Maybe you have plans to attend a college or university. Maybe you are stepping out into the armed forces or a career field. Or maybe you just don’t know yet. Regardless of where you are I want to offer you three great pieces of advice that I wish someone had told me along the way.

  • Be intentional with the friends you want to keep. After graduation people have a tendency to go their own way. The things you once had in common like homeroom, the football team, etc. tend to slip into the background. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to lose your friends, but you do need to be intentional about the ones you want to keep. With Facebook, Twitter, and Google +, it’s a lot easier to keep up with the day to day stuff in the life of your friends, but you need to take it a step further. Create a list of friends that you don’t want to lose touch with (I would keep the list down to 3 to 5) and make the effort to connect on a monthly basis with a lunch, coffee, or phone call. Make the personal contact beyond what you see on social media and it will go a long way in preserving your friendships. Don’t wait on your friends to initiate contact. Be the one to get something going.
  • Thank the people who helped you along the way. Have your parents supported you? Did you have a teacher that made the difference for you? Often times the only thing these people hear from us are our gripes and complaints. Take time to show them your appreciation. Go beyond the thank you card and either make or buy them something nice. It can be a good meal together at a nice restaurant, time helping your teacher redecorate the room, or even a thoughtful gift. Give back generously to those who supported you along the way.
  • Remember where you came from and encourage others. Keep up with your alma mater. Is there an alumni office or an alumni page on Facebook? Stop by and keep up to date on everything that is happening. Show up for alumni events. Encourage others who are still taking classes. Wear your team colors and stop back in from time to time to see how things are going. Support your school with both volunteer hours and financially.  Sometimes you will find that the connections you have made with the faculty and staff at your alma mater are still helpful beyond graduation.

Congratulations on making it this far! Keep pressing on. Some of the best days in your life are ahead of you!

3 Tips for Using Smart Phones in Corporate Worship

First off you have to know that I’m perhaps the worst person in the world to write a blog post about smart-phone etiquette in church. Simply put, I’ve broken all the rules. I’m the pastor who heard a phone go off while he was speaking, eyeballed the crowd in a judgmental manner, only to realize that it was MY phone going off, and sheepishly reminded everyone to turn their phones to “off” or “silent”… I’m that guy! I was once caught using Instagram FROM the baptismal pool… ok, I was just kidding on that one, but you get the picture… I’m bad. On the other hand, I am a pastor and I care about people. I care about you.  I want you to experience and enjoy a real and meaningful relationship with God. That’s not just my job, it’s my calling. So while etiquette usually takes into account the feelings and perceptions of those around us the aim of this post is to help us think deeply about our use of, or abstinence from, smart phones in worship. Rather than listing out a series of “best practices” I thought it most practical to lay our some basic guidelines that keep loving God and loving our neighbor at the center of our thoughts on the issue.

3 tips for using Smart Phones in Corporate Worship

Phones are just tools and as tools they can either help us or hurt us, but it really depends on how we use them. To ban phones all together might be oversimplifying the issue and cause us to miss a few real blessings along the way, however to use them incessantly to record events or interact with others who are not in the room may cause us to miss everything entirely.

Be Fully Present. However you use your phone, when it comes to worship, be fully there. If you find that you are distracted by your phone turn it off, on silent, or leave it in the car. However, if the bible app helps you fully engage or if your pastor posts interactive notes on line or even if you take notes with an app that allows you to write notes and record audio to be played back later… use it. The key is how you use your phone. If it takes you to another place mentally, then leave it behind.

Be Respectful of Others. You’re not the only one there. If you choose to use the technology on your phone in a way that helps you be fully present, make sure your presence doesn’t become a distraction to others. If at all possible turn your phone to off or silent. Ask the people sitting beside you if they mind if you take notes on your smart phone or tablet. If someone tells you that they are distracted by your device or you notice the children in your section are peering over trying to see what you are doing, you will want to accommodate others and put up your device or move to a less kid friendly section. If you need to use your phone to call a friend who was supposed to meet you at the service, step out into the foyer or perhaps even outside so as not to be a distraction to others.

Don’t Judge How Other People Use Their Phone. It’s easy to judge others for how they use their phones. We tend to be harsher on others for their bad manners than we are on ourselves. The truth is we seldom have the whole story. Unless you know for a fact that someone is playing a game on their phone, assume they have a legitimate reason for having their phone out, such as taking notes, reading a bible app, looking up words they don’t understand, etc.. If you are distracted by someone’s use of a phone, either politely ask them to refrain from using it or to use it elsewhere, “Excuse me sir, I can’t hear the pastor while you are talking on your phone, can you take your call in the foyer or outside please?” (Wish I was kidding).  Or perhaps you could change sections. Obviously if it’s your kids who are using the phone in church you have a lot more leeway in sequestering phone use and dictating what is acceptable and what isn’t.

A few books that have helped my thinking on this issue are Emily Post’s Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online and Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning which is a book geared towards educators but has significant crossover into the ministry world and of course The Bible which should be our ultimate guide when understanding how to approach God and encourage one another. I’m also greatly indebted to about a dozen folks who took time to comment on  Facebook post in which I asked the question “What about smartphone use at church? Can I check in on FB? Tweet? Use my Bible App? Etc. what’s acceptable and what’s not?” As I glanced back over this article I couldn’t help but notice how several of their comments had slipped into my own thought process on this issue and made their way into this post.

What did I miss? What are some of the apps or practices you use to help engage in the worship service? What are some of the biggest distractions and pitfalls with using smart phones in church? Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Reflection on Being Your Pastor and Friend

Today I am reflecting on the years I have spent in ministry and counting it a blessing to be considered a friend to so many. I’m celebrating four years serving in my current ministry context and nearly fifteen years in ministry all together (counting the near eleven years I spent with my first church). Recently I was listening to a Tim Keller Podcast in which he made a statement that pastors have a unique privilege and responsibility to be a friend to those to whom they minister and as such they often make friends with people who given ordinary circumstances they would never be friends with…

I find this to be true in my own life. I have the awesome opportunity to walk with people of all walks of life through some of life’s most painful and sacred moments.

There have been moments when we were all scared or saddened by life’s events. I have been in the room when we got the news of cancer. I’ve done my share of funerals and hugged the necks and held the hands of the grieving. More than enough times I’ve been called up late to the hospital when their has been an accident.  Too often I’ve held a broken infants in my hands. I’ve seen the tragedies of life and walked with families through the worst parts. I have been one of the few who were ever welcomed into the world of the hurting and I have found that you don’t walk through the valley without developing some kind of kinship.

There have also been moments of joy beyond expression. I’ve held hands and plunged you beneath the water and pulled you back to the surface in baptism based upon your confession of Christ. I’ve been in the room when they said the cancer is in remission. I’ve held healthy newborns and helped sneak an air-horn into graduation ceremonies. I generally get the best seat in the house when it comes to weddings and among other things I get to say, “you may now kiss the bride.”  I’ve shared in some of the happiest moments that life has to offer and found that you don’t reach the summit of the mountain without developing a friendship along the way.

Beyond sharing these moments with you I have prayed with you and for you. I have poured myself out and asked God to allow me to pour some more. To this end I spent years of my life studying His word so that I might be a competent expositor, leader, administrator, communicator, teacher, counselor and ultimately a better friend. I have begged God that I would clearly speak the truth even when you might not count me as a friend because of it. Because my greatest desire for you is to present you complete to Christ.

I’d be a fool to think that friendship is a one-way street. Through the years as you have made me a part of your family and welcomed me into your homes. I have been blessed beyond measure by your friendship. I have learned valuable lessons.  I have eaten vegetables from your garden, dear meat from your freezer and mullet from your cast net. Along the way I confided some of my own fears and insecurities. You have loved me, been to my wedding, held my children, and hugged me and celebrated my birthdays (though sometimes I would like it to pass in obscurity) and anniversaries.  Thank you for being a faithful friend to me and counting this pastor as your friend.

Finally A Way Forward in Authentically Expressing the Gospel Through Social Action

In order to keep this post brief I am using a few theological words to express my understanding of the root issue.  Much like doctors conversing over a particular condition of a patient would use medical terms in discussing the issue with one another.  To get a more sensible break out of my thought process without the theological back story (like a doctor talking to a patient) skip to the second gray block quote below… 

Encounter God in the City: Onramps to Personal And Community Transformation by Randy White is the book I have been looking to read for over a year now.  I didn’t know that this was the book I needed, but I am very grateful now that I have found it.  Randy does an excellent job of carrying the balance of how to express the gospel through social action.

For far too long I’ve been reading authors who have heavily influenced by peculiar reading of the Sermon on the Mount.  Not that such a reading is without warrant or precedent in Christian history, however many of the authors who are proposing a “Sermon on the Mount” hermeneutic are living in a reactionary state against a type of rigid premillennial fundamentalism that has taught that the world is getting worse, causing followers to withdraw influence from the market place and create a separatist movement complete with its own knock-off “Christian” music sub culture.  In essence they claim that rather than engaging the world with the gospel, many churches have effectually created fortresses to protect the Christian sub-culture from the world.  The allegation is that our churches have become islands in the community rather than a shaping force… I understand the problem and often agree with their assessment of where we are (or at least where we were headed). When we focus so exclusively on gospel content that we forget to express the gospel, there is a problem.

But where many of these authors and my friends who follow them go wrong is that they throw stones at the institution and forge a reactionary trail that is full of expression, but not always “gospel” expression.

In general its a juvenile reaction to finding out that you were taught a different position or way of thinking.  Rather than cautiously moving forward assessing the new information in light of your current beliefs, you abandon your previously held beliefs and focus on the “new truth” with a nearly exclusive focus.  Think of the young man who comes back from college a Calvinist.  Suddenly Calvinism is all he knows and without guidance he is likely to become a hyper-Calvinist and forget evangelism because of his angst against a pastor or teacher who didn’t cover Romans 9 in Bible study.  The same thing is now happening with the social aspect of the gospel.  There is a social aspect to sharing the gospel.  But we haven’t been teaching about it in many mainline churches and now the reaction is to jettison the doctrinal aspects of the gospel in favor of pure social action… Its a juvenile over-reaction to a faltering world view…

Are you a Forward or Backward Thinker? More on this issue Here.

With “mission” emerging (no pun intended) as one of the predominant way to proclaim this new sense of expressing the gospel through social action this leads to the questions… What makes “mission” Christian? Essentially, at what point does social concern translate into gospel message?

Many have used words like “mission” and “incarnational” unfairly to mean work amongst the poor or less fortunate.  Lets be clear the mission is to make disciples (Matthew 18).  The incarnation was about God becoming man and walking among “sinners” many of whom were poor, many of whom were not.  The ultimate goal is the glory of God (Philippians 2).

We miss the mark when we replace the word “poor” for “sin.” (Though poverty is an issue in its own right, it is not the central issue, but rather the expression of the root issue of sin.)  I know that many times and in most places people are bound in poverty by oppression (the sins of others).   I know the world groans under the curse and oppressive poverty can be understood as the mark of sin on the world, but the issue remains… removing poverty does not remove sin.  Feeding a man or teaching a man to feed himself are worthwhile goals (and even maybe gospel oriented goals), but they are not the end.  To be called mission or missional we must be reconciling men to God by pointing to the work of Jesus on the cross otherwise the faith we are trying so hard to evidence by our deeds is no faith at all (Matthew 7:22-23… and that’s in the Sermon on the Mount).

Randy White expresses an awesome way forward in reaching our cities with the gospel.  He understands that incarnational isn’t just about getting your hands dirty, but sitting with sinners for the sake of demonstrating and authentically sharing the gospel.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in urban ministry.  The retail price is $15.00 (Paperback), I got my copy for $10.20 at  I gave it five stars.

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The Newest Musician on My I-pod

Ok… So its not rap, but this is what I am listening to these days on my Ipod.  I got the chance to hear Mandi Mapes play at Student Life’s Refuge event for student pastors and was blown away by the transparency and depth of her lyrics… not to mention awesome vocal and musical tallent.  I’m definately a fan.  She has a few songs available for download on Itunes.  Unfortunately not the ones here.  But awesome none the less.