Speaking at Christ Community Tonight

If you are in the greater Kansas City area, come join Matt tonight as he speaks at Christ Community Church. This event is free and open to the public. Matt will speak on gospel-centered productivity and have a time of Q&A. You can find full details about the event here and you can RSVP here.

Tom Nelson, author of Work Matters, is the senior pastor of Christ Community Church. Pastor Nelson’s book provides helpful counsel for those seeking to better understand the theology of vocation and apply it in their own life.

Come join the folks from Christ Community for an evening of discussing faith and work together. See you there!

Go Slow to Go Fast

From Executive Intelligence, quoting Irene Rosenfeld, former CEO of Frito-Lay:

Because we know speed is of the essence, too often we immediately start moving without first taking the time to think about what we’re trying to accomplish.

There are hundreds of stories about this. Everyone is trying to act quickly, but too often they run out to solve a problem without fully understanding what problem they are trying to solve. This creates a lot of organizational angst which slows things down and leads to all sorts of issues regarding job satisfaction and work-life balance.

Four Points on Faith and Work from Keller’s Every Good Endeavor

I’m going through Keller’s Every Good Endeavor again and taking some notes. Here are four central points from my overall summary of the book (quotes are, interestingly, from the dust jacket — which for most books does a great job of highlighting the core points):

  1. A Christian view of work is “that we work to serve others, not ourselves.”
  2. We can indeed have “a thriving professional and balanced personal life.” This is a Christian goal, not just a worldly goal (though, due to suffering and the priorities of the gospel, sometimes it is not possible for some seasons – and that does not mean we are sinning or disobedient).
  3. Excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace all matter and are to be done as acts of worship — not just self interest.
  4. We are able to — and called to — serve God through the secular arena as well as the ministry arena.

Why are these points so important, and why have I focused in on these? Here’s why.

Point four addresses the dichotomy between “sacred and secular” that robs work of meaning for so many people. It is life giving and liberating to realize that Christ can be served through the so-called secular tasks of reconciling bank statements or taking out the trash just as much as in ministry work.

Points two and three address issues which I find Christians sometimes disputing due to a some incorrect views of the fall, human nature, and God’s expectations of us. Because of the fact that we live in a fallen world, some Christians fall into the notion that we are to work only for a paycheck. Sometimes it is reasoned that life is so hard that the most you can expect out of your job is to provide for your financial needs. To seek meaning in work is just not possible or, at best, a nice bonus only available to a select fortunate few.

But that view treats us as merely economic beings. It is an overly reductionistic view of people. Since we are social, intellectual, and spiritual as well as economic, work needs to tap into those capacities as well. This is part of how God has designed work. The fact that the fall really screwed things up does not deny or remove this reality. It simply means that in each of these realms we will have hardship as well as success — not that we should reduce work to merely the economic dimension.

I would submit that one reason life does feel so hard sometimes, in fact, is because of employers who try to treat people as merely economic beings. If employers did a better job of managing to the whole person, quality of life for everyone would go up.

More could be said here, but the statement affirming the possibility of “a thriving professional life” affirms this reality (as does the rest of the book) that it is indeed possible to thrive in our work beyond just the economic side of things, and that it is good and right to seek this as Christians. So also creativity, passion, and excellence in our work are right, and in fact part of how we find meaning and purpose in our work, when done for the glory of God, because these things especially tap into our social, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions.

Finally, point one is the foundation of any truly Christian view of work. In the world, work is often viewed as something we do ultimately for ourselves. This often results in work that may benefit the company (in the short-term), but doesn’t really give the customer what they actually need (and want).

Of course, self-interest is not wrong in itself. But a Christian view of work is that we work for more than ourselves and even more than our families. We work for the good of everyone (cf. Jeremiah 29:7, which applies to us as Christians because we are in exile, 1 Peter 1:17) — especially the good of the customers our organization services.

This means that it is not enough to simply work in order to make the sale or get the paycheck. We have to work in such a way that people will truly be benefited. If doing our work in a certain way will earn the money, but not truly benefit the other person (perhaps by cutting corners on quality), we are not doing our work in a Christian way. Christians in the workplace should seek profit, but they should also seek more than profit. 

If more people worked this way, the entire world would be a better place. And, perhaps, if we worked this way from distinctly Christian motives and were tactful and winsome about our faith, more people would ask us for the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), and the gospel would spread more fully throughout our vocations (that’s the meaning of a close reading of Matthew 5:16 and Ephesians 5:8-17; for more on this in the Ephesians passage, see Peter T O’Brien’s commentary).

 

John Stott on Christian Ambition

A great quote on ambition from John Stott, via the blog That Happy Certainty:

Ambitions for self may be quite modest. . . . Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world? No. Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honour, and accorded his true place, which is the supreme place. We become ambitious for the spread of his kingdom and righteousness everywhere. (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (IVP, 1993), 172–173).

Was the Seahawks Final Play in the Super Bowl as Bad a Call as Most People Are Saying?

With just one yard to go in order to pull ahead of the Patriots in the final seconds of the Super Bowl, most people have found the Seahawks call for a pass to be inexplicable. Why pass on that play when you can run the ball with Marshawn Lynch?

I don’t think the play was a good call. And, as a huge Patriots fan, I’m super glad things turned out the way they did.

However, when evaluating that play call after the fact I think that there’s a slight distortion that comes about due to hindsight. Here’s why.

If the Seahawks had only one play to get into the end zone, then passing instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch would make little sense.

But the Seahawks had three plays left to score. So it could be argued that it wasn’t unreasonable to try a pass, when you are looking at this from the perspective of three plays, rather than just one.

In other words, due to the fact that the play failed, it’s easy to end up evaluating the situation as though this single play was to be their only chance to score. Of course, that’s how it turned out, but they didn’t know that. When you look at the situation from the assumption, which they had at the time, that they would have three opportunities, then throwing one pass play and then switching to the run can make a bit more sense.

Of course, that perspective doesn’t take into account the risk of throwing an interception that comes with a pass play.

And so, we are back to where we started: it was indeed a bad call, given the abilities of Marshawn Lynch.

My point, though, is just that it’s easy to assess this call in a way that accidentally implies the Seahawks knew they only had one play to get into the end zone. When you look at it from the perspective of thinking they likely would have three opportunities, it is at least a slightly smaller blunder than it can seem at first.

 

 

Come to Together LA This February

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I’m very excited about the TogetherLA conference, which will be this February 26 – 28 with Tim Keller as the keynote speaker.

Tim Keller has helped call our attention back to the importance of cities in the mission of God. But what does it look like to actually love your city (in this case, LA)? That’s what this conference is about.

The aim of the conference is thus to “engage pastors, ministry leaders, non profit leaders, lay leaders, and marketplace leaders on what it means to love Los Angeles.”

I love the fact that it is for people in all areas of life, not just ministry. Christians in every type of vocation are called to engage and love their city for the glory of the gospel. TogetherLA is thus seeking to bring together Christians from every sector of society to learn about what this means for whatever vocation they have.

It is also bringing together an amazing and diverse range of speakers. Here is part of the description from the website:

At this event we will hear what churches and church planters are doing.  We will learn about partnerships in the city and ways to partner together.  We will discuss how social problems impact LA.  We will learn how LA is integral in shaping culture and why culture is important.  We will hear from leaders in the entertainment, arts, political, and business community.  And we will discover how the men and women of LA, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics and African Americans are loving and engaging their city for the Gospel.

The conference will be divided into four parts:

Thursday:  The Church (church planting, church partnership, church renewal, and so forth)
Friday morning: Social problems in Los Angeles
Friday afternoon and evening: Culture and Los Angeles
Saturday: Faith and work

This conference will be an incredible opportunity for equipping and encouragement for those who are in LA. And even beyond that, it is in itself a model for how all of us, in any city, should be seeking to ask and answer the question of how we can love our cities most effectively.

You can learn more about the conference at the website, and register online.

Here is the trailer for the conference:

And here is also a brief video of Tim Keller talking about why you should come to TogetherLA:

Sam Storms on Insecurity in the Pastorate

Sam Storms, from his post What I Wish I’d Known: Reflections on Nearly 40 Years of Pastoral Ministry:

10. I wish I’d known about the destructive effects of insecurity in a pastor. This is less because I’ve struggled with it and more due to its effect I’ve seen in others. Why is insecurity so damaging?

• Insecurity makes it difficult to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of others on staff (or in the congregation). In other words, the personally insecure pastor is often incapable of offering genuine encouragement to others. Their success becomes a threat to him, his authority, and his status in the eyes of the people. Thus if you’re insecure you likely won’t pray for others to flourish.

• Insecurity will lead a pastor to encourage and support and praise another pastor only insofar as the latter serves the former’s agenda and doesn’t detract from his image.

• An insecure pastor will likely resent the praise or affirmation other staff members receive from the people at large.

• For the insecure pastor, constructive criticism is not received well, but is perceived as a threat or outright rejection.

• Because the insecure pastor is incapable of acknowledging personal failure or lack of knowledge, he’s often unteachable. He will resist those who genuinely seek to help him or bring him information or insights he lacks. His spiritual growth is therefore stunted.

• The insecure pastor is typically heavy-handed in his dealings with others.

• The insecure pastor is often controlling and given to micromanagement.

• The insecure pastor rarely empowers or authorizes others to undertake tasks for which they’re especially qualified and gifted. He won’t release others but rather restrict them.

• The insecure pastor is often given to outbursts of anger.

• At its core, insecurity is the fruit of pride.

In summary, and at its core, insecurity results from not believing the gospel. The antidote to feelings of insecurity, then, is the rock-solid realization that one’s value and worth are in the hands of God, not others, and that our identity expresses who we are in Christ. Only as we deepen our grasp of his sacrificial love for us will we find the liberating confidence to affirm and support others without fearing their successes or threats.

How People Change: A Conference January 23-25 in Jacksonville, FL

This January 23 – 25, Paramount Church in Jacksonville, FL is having a conference on “How People Change” with Tim Lane.

My friend John Fonville is the preaching pastor at Paramount, which is hosting the conference. John is one of my favorite preachers in the whole world because of his relentless gospel-centeredness.

I am excited about the work that their church is doing (you can check out their website to learn more). This conference would be a great opportunity to both experience the great work they are doing there and learn about how to create lasting change in your life.

Here is the description of the conference:

What does it take for lasting change to take root in your life? If you’ve ever tried, failed, and wondered why, you need to come to How People Change. Tim Lane will show us the biblical pattern for change in a clear, practical way you can apply to the challenges of daily life. But change involves more than a biblical formula: you will see how God is at work to make you the person you were created to be. That powerful, loving, redemptive relationship is at the heart of all positive change you experience.

The conference includes five sessions with Dr. Lane: two sessions Friday night, and three on Saturday morning. Each session is followed by Q&A time where you will be able to ask Dr. Lane your questions.

Learn more and register at the website.

Christians Need History, and Christians Need Heroes: Princeton Seminary (1812-1929)

My friend Gary Steward has just released his book Princeton Seminary (1812-1929): Its Leaders’ Lives and Works

It has endorsements from JI Packer, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor, and others. Here’s a short description:

Many of the key ideas of the modern era, and Christian responses to them, were formulated at the time of “Old Princeton.” Gary Steward introduces us to the great men of Princeton Theological Seminary from its founding to the early twentieth century, together with some of their most important writings.

Why does this matter? Because, as Gary says at the beginning of the video trailer for the book, “Christians need history, and Christians need heroes.” Gary’s book introduces you to many great, but often overlooked, heroes of the church whom we need to hear from again today.

I’ll let Gary tell you more about that, and the book, in this video: