Evangelism, the Gospel, and Renewal Pt. 5

Conclusion: Renewal In Me
Over the last year, God has used my reading on the Gospel and studying of past revivals to do a work of renewal in my own life. I have grown in greater clarity in the gospel, particularly the importance of getting the gospel “in the right order”– biblical, historical, salvific. This order keeps us from pulling Jesus out of his story and attaching him to our own personal, cultural, or political story. Instead, it demands that we readjust our lives to Jesus, receiving his call to come and follow him in his Kingdom. Getting (and passing on) the gospel in this order promotes a more biblical view of conversion and discipleship that I think produces health in the church. I’ve also come to greater clarity on the saving power of the gospel for our lives — personal, relational, societal. This has renewed my zeal for evangelism. It’s given me the language to better share the good news in conversation and in my preaching from multiple angles. The “gospel recovery” I have experienced in my own has been significant.

Also, my imagination has been stirred for what renewal could look like in our day. I am eager to continue reading and learning about revival. I am committed to the work of desperate prayer and humble repentance. I believe the preconditions for renewal are ripe, and I am working to lay the proper kindling in my own life and ministry for God to spark a new movement.

There are still many challenges we are facing in broader Evangelicalism– racism, deconstruction, denominational infighting, liberalism, Christian-nationalism, and scandal, just to name a few. And there are many challenges we face in our shifting culture– expressive individualism, digital formation (or digital deformation, you could argue), political polarization, misinformation, and economic instability, among others. But learning about renewal movements of the past has grown my optimism and hope that revival might be just around the corner.

Perhaps, what we are seeing now, the receding spiritual state of the West (disaffiliations and declining churches), only means the next wave of revival is out there gathering in power and volume getting ready to come crashing in. As James Burns said, “when the night is at its darkest, the dawn is on the way.” Through rethinking evangelism, recovering the gospel, and learning from renewals past, God has done significant work in my life and has grown my hope for the future of His church.


  • Sayers, Mark. Reappearing Church: The Hope of Renewal in the Rise of our Post-Christian Culture. (p. 49). Moody Publishers 2019. 
  • Burns, James. The Laws of Revival. (p. 29). Calvary Chapel of Philidelphia 2013.

Evangelism, the Gospel, and Renewal Pt. 4

Learning from Renewals Past
In Psalm 126:1-3, the Psalmist recalls a moment of renewal in Israel’s history and writes, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Our mouth was filled with laughter; our tongues with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘the Lord has done great things for them.” Then in verse 4, he prays for God to do it again, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the streams in the Negeb!”. I’ve made this Psalm a regular prayer of mine. It reminds us that what God has done in the past, he delights to do again.

As Richard Lovelace explains in his book Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal, revival comes in and out like the tide. The “ebb and flow is a part of the church’s experience” as it battles the darkness in the world and ushers in the kingdom of God. But as Lovelace points out, the more we study renewal movements of the past, the more we can learn about the preconditions, primary elements, and secondary causes as we seek renewal in our day. One specific renewal past that I find especially applicable to our day is the Wesleyan Revival of the eighteenth century.

Theological Assessment & Historical Reflection of the Wesleyan Revival
In Lovelace’s study of renewal throughout the Bible and church history, he speaks of preconditions. There are two essential preconditions present in almost every moment of spiritual renewal: 1) cultural/societal upheaval and 2) syncretism or stagnation among God’s people. If you think about it, these things make sense. They go hand in hand. The culture is in a rage, and the church has either been sucked into it or lulled asleep by it. Now, these two things alone don’t guarantee an awakening, but when they are coupled with humble repentance and desperate prayer among God’s people (often sparked by a key leader), God has the kindling he likes to work worth. In the case of the Wesleyan Revival, this is what we see.

John Wesley, born in 1703, was used by God to spark a movement that transformed England, spread around the world, and had lasting effects on the church that we are still experiencing today. Much like the United States today, Wesley’s world was in societal upheaval. The eighteenth century “ushered in an era of major cultural change and upheaval … [and] England was teetering on the verge of anarchy and chaos.” The rapid shifts England was experiencing were due to what historians call the Age of Reason and the rise of the Industrial Revolution. A subsequent spiritual, moral, and social collapse followed. Poverty, pollution, crime, alcohol abuse, prostitution, and child labor were all on the rise as many people left their families (and God) behind to move into cities and towns around factories. This caused one prominent religious leader in England to say, “the country had collapsed to the degree that was never before known in any Christian country.” Precondition #1 for renewal was in place.
What was the church in England up to in all of this? Well, it wasn’t in much better shape. Winfield Blevins writes, “there was an epidemic of spiritual laxity and even widespread immorality among some of the clergy… The result in the Church of England was rapid decline.” Renewal precondition #2 was also in place.

In the midst of all of this, God calls out a key leader, John Wesley. Wesley’s ministry follows the same renewal pattern we see throughout history. God uses Welsey to awaken the church to the holiness of God, call them to repentance, restore their joy in the gospel, and reinvigorate a whole generation of believers to leverage their lives for the glory of God. Wesley sought to recover the biblical and straightforward means of following Jesus, but this was not well-received by the Church of England, where he and his brother, Charles, were ordained as ministers. The Church of England interpreted Wesley’s ministry as being against the church’s traditions, but this was not the case at all. What Wesley was against was “dead, dry religion, cold ritualism, and the clericalism that discouraged non-ordained people from being involved in the life of the ministry.” Wesley hoped that God would use his ministry to bring renewal within the Church of England. When asked about his vision for the church he said, “I am fully convinced that our Church, with all of her blemishes, is nearer the scriptural plan than any other in Europe.” Even toward the end of his life, still an Anglican, Wesley said, “I will not separate from the Church, yet, secondly, in case of necessity I will vary from it, both of which I have constantly and openly avowed for upwards of fifty years.” Though Wesley died an Anglican priest, his ministry not only sparked a revival but gave birth to Methodism. By 1791, the year of Wesley’s death, the Methodist movement had grown into a church movement “with more than seventy thousand members in England and forty thousand in the new United States.” And this was only the beginning. God used Wesley’s Methodism to bring renewal across England, establish mission hubs across the world, and spark a revival in North America. By 1830, six million people attended a Methodist church. From 1880 to 1905, the Methodists in America planted more than seven hundred churches per year.

So what sparked all of this? What were the ways in which Wesley “varied” from “the dead, dry religion, cold ritualism” that God used to shake the Church of England from its cultural syncretism and spiritual slumber and spark a worldwide revival in the eighteenth century? It was Wesley’s ability to recover the biblical gospel, biblical discipleship, and contextual evangelism. For Welsey, the focus was on recovering the apostolic teaching found in the New Testament and the patterns of church life practiced by the early churches. Rather than going on the defense during the cultural shift of his day, Wesley led “a contagious movement that proactively engaged the culture, preparing the church to be a force of change in society rather than simply reacting to cultural change.” There was an intense focus on discipleship and community. Devotion to the scripture, confession of sin, growth in holiness, and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit were key areas of emphasis in Wesleyan discipleship. All of this worked out in the context of genuine relationships, or Christian-community. The Wesleyan discipleship process equipped and empowered everyday people to join in the mission of God right where He had placed them. Not only did the Weslyan recovery of biblical discipleship have massive ripple effects, but so too did the preaching ministry of Wesley. Over his lifetime, he preached over 40,000 sermons across the globe that resulted in thousands of people coming to Christ. But again, the goal of Wesley’s preaching wasn’t just decisions for; it was discipleship. Wherever Wesley or Wesleyan discipleship went, church planting followed. This, I believe, was the key to this revival spanning multiple generations, and why I think it is still rippling today.

Though I am not a Methodist (and I would disagree with Methodism on key points of theology), I deeply admire the Wesleyan movement and all it has to teach us. It was not a perfect movement; no renewal movements are. They are all full of mistakes, unintended consequences, sinful people, and led by imperfect leaders. This was certainly true of the Wesleyan revival. It’s well known that Wesley was not the best husband. His marriage was sacrificed at the altar of his ministry. Wesley, and Methodism, spent years caught up in a doctrinal battle regarding Calvinism and Arminianism. But to Wesley’s credit, he never allowed his debates with his contemporary George Whitfield (sovereign grace versus free grace) to distract from the mission of God.

All in all, if we are going to see a new renewal movement in our day, we need to follow the pattern of Wesley in the eighteenth century. Not because it offers some silver bullet, but because it shows us what God can do amid societal upheaval (and a slumbering church) when God’s people recover the biblical gospel in repentance and work to contextualize its message in dependent prayer.


  • Lovelace, Richard. Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, (p. 68). InterVarsity Press 1979
  • Blevins, Winfield. Marks of a Movement: What the Church Today Can Learn from the Wesleyan Revival. (p. 19). Zondervan 20019.
  • J. Wesley Bready. England: Before and After Wesley. (p. 19). Russell and Russell 1971.  
  • Jackson, Thomas. The Works of John Wesely. (p. 146). Baker Books. 1971 
  • Hunter III, George C. The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement. (p. 5). AbingdonPress 2011.
  • Sayers, Mark. Reappearing Church: The Hope of Renewal in the Rise of our Post-Christian Culture. (p. 49). Moody Publishers 2019. 

Evangelism, the Gospel, and Renewal Pt. 3

Recovering the Gospel and Rethinking Evangelism in my Context
How am I trying to work all of this out in my ministry context? Well, as a church planter in a rapidly growing suburb of a creative-class city in the hole of the bible belt (that’s a mouthful, I know), my church is working to multiply a family of churches across greater Austin. Our mission is to proclaim the whole gospel, for the whole of life, to the whole city. For us, gospel-centered discipleship is critical.

I believe that when we learn to see the gospel in “3D,” it ought also to change the way we view the church. In other words, there is a correlation in our lives between how big/important the gospel is to how big/important the church is. For example: Let’s say we only view the gospel as one-dimensional in our lives; it is only personal good news, then the church is simply a place I go to worship. The church is about me and helping me grow in my personal relationship with God. But as we’ve seen, the gospel is more, and therefore the church is more. See the chart below.

The Three Dimensions of the Gospel & Its Implications for the Church

Our identity and activity as the church flows from the gospel. We are a people who devote our lives to worship, discipleship in community, and missional living all because of what God has done in the world through Jesus; and what he is continuing to do in the world by the power of the Spirit through us until the day Jesus comes again.

The more fully we come to understand the reconciling work of Jesus in our lives, the more fully we will come to understand the beauty and significance of the local church. In other words, a whole gospel promotes strong conversions, which leads to deeper discipleship, producing healthy churches that live on gospel mission. The inverse is also true; if our lives aren’t fully immersed in the good news of Jesus and the company of his people (the local church), they will inevitably be immersed in a lesser message of our culture. We will become “disciples” of the American dream, of suburban culture, of a political party, or of whatever story we allow to dominate our lives.

This is why we are working so hard to plant churches that are discipling people in the whole gospel. The church isn’t primarily a building, religious non-profit, or worship service; it is a people who have been reconciled to God, to one another, and who are joining God in the reconciliation of all things. Our churches articulate who we are this way: We are a diverse, gospel-centered family learning and living the way of Jesus for the glory of God and the good of neighbor. By his grace, the gospel is bearing fruit among us (discipleship) and through us in our city (conversions and multiplication).

Evangelism, the Gospel, and Renewal Pt. 2

Recovering the Gospel: A Biblical, Historical, Salvific Message
To begin our recovery of the gospel, we must start from a biblical-theological perspective. The gospel comes from God, who is on a mission in the world. As Ed Stetzer writes, “God is on a mission, and Jesus is the embodiment of that mission.” Stetzer sums up well the overarching storyline of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God set on filling the earth with the knowledge of his glory. The mission is outlined in the creation narrative of Genesis 1 and 2. Humanity is positioned at the center of God’s created world; made to live in perfect relationship with God, with self, with others, and with all creation; tasked with stewarding all things to the glory of God; and invited to co-create with God in the earth for his glory and their joy. This is shalom, peace and wholeness found under the good rule of God. What a world!

Tragically, the creation plan of God turns into a redemptive plan following the rebellion of Satan and the subsequent fall of man. The results of the Fall are as such: God is violated, his law is broken, his mission is threatened, and his righteous justice is enacted. The effects of sin devastate humanity’s relationship with God, with self, with one another, and with creation. Genesis 3 to 11 shows us the result— the earth is filled with sin, division, death, and the dominion of Satan. Sin’s effects are crippling in a much more holistic way than we often view sin. Sin is not a narrow “missing the mark”; it devastates all areas of life in the world (personal, relational, societal). But there are glimmers of good news in God’s response to human sin. God curses, but he does not destroy. He deals with sinners rightly, but he promises to redeem. From Genesis 3 to Revelation, we see God patiently at work, willing the world toward reconciliation. His mission is to atone for sin, deal with Satan, defeat death, redeem a people, and restore his creation. The promise of redemption travels from Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, and through the voice of the prophets. With each covenant, the promise gets clearer. And with each covenant, God’s heart for the whole world gets expressed. Israel is to be a light to the nations, an example of what life looks like worshipping the one true God and living under his good rule. But Israel was never meant to be the final resting place for God’s mission. Israel’s failure and unfaithfulness to God and his mission remind us of this. The story of Israel points us to the coming seed of the woman who would bless the nations as their full and final Passover Lamb and victorious King whose Kingdom would never end. Jesus, the messiah, fulfills every covenant, every sign, and every motif of Israel. This redemption project of God climaxes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the person and work of Jesus, God purchases and purifies for himself a new people he calls his church. He puts his Holy Spirit within them and establishes with them a new covenant. The risen Jesus commissions his church to go into all the world and witness to the victorious work of Christ, the life-giving reality of the Spirit, and the coming rule and reign (and judgment) of God. The church is to be a people who give a foretaste (a representation in every place) of the coming Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. This witness is done in word and deed, spirit and truth, grace and power. The book of Acts shows us God’s purpose for his church. The Apostles’ letters offer us patterns and principles his church ought to work out in every place as it participates in God’s mission and awaits his promised return.

The mission of God will be consummated upon the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus appears again, he will raise the dead in Christ, judge the living and the dead, and usher in the new heavens and new earth. On this day, the mission of God will be complete, and the knowledge of the glory of God will finally fill the world. All things will have been reconciled in heaven and earth. The church will reign as co-heirs with Christ in the New City. We will enjoy the renewed creation; no more toil and tears. We will relate to one another in perfect harmony; no more division and destruction. And we will enjoy unbridled fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit forever; no more hiding, pretending, or doubting. Shalom will be restored. What a day that will be! The church (locally and globally) exists to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation (Mk. 16:17 [ESV)” until that day comes.
If we are going to proclaim the true gospel in our day effectively, we must first and foremost understand it from this biblical-theological perspective. Next, we must understand it as historical and salvific. Understanding the gospel in this order helps us cut through the fog and proclaim the whole gospel as good news for the whole of life.

The Gospel is Historical
As N.T. Wright says, the biblical gospel is not “a piece of advice about something you might or might not wish to do. It [is] news.” It is a word or a message about a real historical event. We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-9…
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul is reminding us this all really happened. The gospel is the message that God entered into real space, time human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s not mythology or mystic spirituality. It’s news, an actual historical event. Jesus really lived, really died, really rose again, really appeared, and he really ascended into heaven; doing all of this in real human history.

He was born among Israel in 4 BC when Augustus was emperor of the Roman empire, and Herod ruled over Judea. He lived a perfect, sinless, beautiful human life as Israel’s promised messiah. He had a massive following from all over Judea as he ministered from roughly 27 AD-30 AD. Despite his growing following and miraculous ministry he was, in the end, rejected by Israel and unjustly arrested and tried. He was sentenced to crucifixion under Rome, severely beaten, eventually killed, and buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. But on the third day, when some of his followers went to the tomb, they were surprised to find it empty. The body had not been stolen; it had been raised to life. The resurrected Jesus appeared to hundreds of people over a period of forty days before he ascended into Heaven before many eyewitnesses. The message of the gospel is that while the Jewish people in 30 AD were using the Roman courtroom to try Jesus for blasphemy and the Roman cross to unjustly kill Jesus, God was using it to atone for sins, to defeat death, and overcome evil. The gospel message is that God has acted in human history to defeat sin, death, and Satan through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And the good news of this message is that when one receives it and takes their stand on it (1 Cor. 15:1), it has profound salvific implications on our everyday lives (1 Cor. 15:2)!

The Gospel is Salvific
The news of Jesus’ victorious life, death, and resurrection has forever changed the world because the message carries with it redeeming power. Imagine for a second what things would have been like in the ancient world when word arrived to people in cities and towns, ‘your kingdom has fallen, and there is now a new king in charge.’ It would bring a whole new way of life; life in a new kingdom under the rule of a new king. So, what changes for us when we receive the news of the gospel and give our allegiance to King Jesus?

In Colossians 1:13-14, Paul tells us we are called into a new kingdom, where we learn a new way. He writes, “13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” By grace alone, through faith in the gospel, we are transferred out of a life/world of sin and decay into the kingdom of Jesus, where redemption, reconciliation, and forgiveness of sin is the new reality. The Christian life isn’t just about praying a prayer and going to heaven one day. It’s about learning and living into the reconciling realities of Jesus and his Kingdom. This journey of discipleship starts here and now and extends into all eternity.

Recall back to God’s mission and his work to restore and reconcile all things in Christ. Well, he is doing this in us, among us, and through us. As we learn to say “no” to the world and its agendas and say “yes” to Jesus and his way– we find redemption and reconciliation in him. The saving power of the gospel comes to bear on our lives in three ways. We experience redemption personally, relationally, and societally. This is what I call the three dimensions of the gospel.

First, the gospel is deeply personal in our lives. We must come to terms with the truth that God embarrassingly loves those he saves. This is true for all who believe. He doesn’t love a future version of you; if you have put your faith in him and what he has done for you, you are fully loved and accepted by a Holy God. The bible describes the personal dimension of the good news to us in many places. You have been “chosen in Him before the foundations of the earth” (Eph. 1:4 [ESV]); you are beloved (Jn. 3:16 [ESV]); you are now a child of God adopted into his family and receiving all the benefits of sonship (Gal. 4:4-7 [ESV]); you have been made right (justified) before God (Rom. 3:21-26[ESV]); you have been imputed with the righteousness of Jesus (Rom. 4:22-25 [ESV]); you are united to Jesus (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3-4 [ESV]); you are a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17 [ESV]); he has put his Spirit within you (Eph. 1:13-14 [ESV]); and on the cross, he has put to death all shame, guilt, and condemnation for your sins past, present, and future (Rom. 5:9, 8:1; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 10:10, 12:2 [ESV]). The gospel is profoundly personal and embarrassingly lavish. Learning to live in Jesus’ kingdom means continually growing in your relationship with God, learning to live into these benefits, and embracing the new identity he gives.

But the good news of the gospel isn’t one-dimensional; there is more. It’s relational. In Jesus’s kingdom, we are called to “put away all malice, deceit, envy, and slander (1 Pet. 2:1 [ESV])”. We are called to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and slander be put away…along with all malice. [To] be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32 [ESV]). Why is this how we are to relate to one another in the Kingdom of God? Because the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is not only victorious over the effects of sin separating us from God, but also over the effects of sin and Satan that tear us apart from one another. Ephesians 2:14-16 reminds us that “For he himself is our peace, who has made us one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…[reconciling] us… in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Jesus has accomplished this for us. He gives us reconciling grace and empowers us with His Spirit to walk in reconciliation, unity, forgiveness, and peace with one another. This is really good news for our marriages, for our families, for friendships. It gives us the confidence to forge deep relationships with other Christians. It compels us to seek healing where we’ve been wounded or have wounded others. It gives us hope to pursue reconciliation and unity across racial and cultural lines. Most importantly, it reminds us that there is no such thing as an individualistic Christian. When we come to Jesus in repentance and faith, we are adopted into God’s family, we become a member of his body, and we are joined together with his church. The gospel is not only profoundly personal (good news for me); it is also deeply relational (good news for us).

Finally, the gospel is societal in its saving power. We “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”. (Mark 16:17 [ESV]) As the gospel works in us and among us, it also ought to be working through us in the world. In Matthew 6:10, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are “ambassadors” of Christ and his kingdom, that “God is making his appeal through us,” and that he has given us the “ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, as Christians in this world, we do not sit back idly waiting on Jesus to return, nor do we rage against the world as culture warriors for Christ. Instead, we live and work in such a way that displays the Kingdom of God. We live and work as salt and light. We live lives marked by the grace and truth of Jesus. We point others to the gospel in word and deed. This has implications for how we work (unto the Lord, not man, [Col. 3:23 ESV]), how we steward our resources with generosity (1Tim. 6:18 [ESV]), and how we care for the needy with compassion (Matt. 25:40 [ESV]). It means we pray for the sick (Jms 5:14 [ESV]), care about the widow and orphan (Jms 1:27 [ESV]), speak about and engage matters of injustice (Isa 1:17, Amos 5:15, Jer. 23:5 [ESV]), and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39 [ESV]). To be clear, we are not to do all of these things alone. We do them together as his church, each using the gifts God has given. Remembering what God has done for us by his grace, he wants to extend through us in the world.

The gospel is the news about Jesus, who he is, what he has done, and what God is offering the world through him. And this message brings good news to every area of life (personal, relational, and societal). Effective evangelism in our day will require that the church 1) recover the biblical, historical gospel and make it central in the church, and 2) commit to winsomely and contextually proclaiming the whole gospel for the whole of life. Or, as I like to say, the church must show its neighbors the gospel in 3D.

Stetzer, Ed. God’s Mission has a Church: My Interview with Tabletalk Magazine. Christianity Today. 2014
Wright, N. T.. Simply Good News (p. 20). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. (p. 68). InterVarsity Press 1979

Evangelism, The Gospel, and Renewal Pt. 1

In January of 2021, God burdened my heart to begin to seek spiritual renewal in my life and in the church I lead. This led me to read about renewal, the state of the church in North America, and study past renewal movements. The 5 part series that follows is my personal assessment and application from my reading and reflection on evangelism, the gospel, and renewal over the last eight months.

Introduction: Our Problem and Opportunity
Western society is increasingly growing post-Christian, and churches in America are feeling it. Mainline churches are declining and younger generations are leaving the church at an alarming clip. Currently, one million young people, who grew up in the church, leave Christianity per year. It is estimated that thirty-five million youth who grew up in the church will disaffiliate from Christianity by 2050. That would mean a massive shift in the United States, dropping the percentage of Christians in America from roughly 70% in 2017 to 54% by 2050. Not only is there upheaval happening in the church, but we see it in American society at large. Our society has experienced a pandemic, racial tensions, political turmoil, and isolation over the last year. The result has been an intensifying polarization producing mistrust of governing authorities, media outlets, and even science/medicine. It does not appear these things are going away. But in this problem, there is opportunity. As culture shifts and our country continues to face political, economic, and societal challenges, there are great opportunities for revival. As Tim Keller points out, “instead of wringing our hands over the loss of influence…this decline should prompt us to examine ourselves, pray, and work toward a new missionary engagement with Western culture.” If we are going to see a spiritual awakening in our day, I believe it will require that we 1) rethink evangelism, 2) reclaim the biblical gospel, and 3) learn from previous renewal moments in our history.

Rethinking Evangelism: Biblically and Contextually
The chief task of the church is to tell the good news of Jesus. Evangelism in its biblical sense (euangelizo) is to bring or announce good news, to proclaim the message of salvation. In many ways, American Evangelicalism was born out of a commitment to this central task of evangelism. Unfortunately, our collective evangelism over the last two decades hasn’t borne the fruit we’ve hoped to see. I believe the primary reason for this is, as Darrell Bock says, “[we’re] in a fog on the gospel.” So, while the world is ripe for the good news, much of evangelicalism hasn’t been proclaiming it. Instead, some in evangelicalism have offered a therapeutic gospel, making God simply a life coach in the sky who is full of good advice but offers no actual demands on one’s life. Others have packaged a consumeristic gospel and worked to sell a product. About consumerism in the church, Eugene Peterson writes, “people can have all the promises and blessings the gospel is famous for without the [real] struggles of faith.” Still, others have truncated the gospel down to a get-out-of-hell-for-free card, leaving those who have prayed a prayer or checked a box unsure of what the gospel has to do with the rest of their lives. And finally, and perhaps most disheartening of all, there is a segment of American evangelicalism who have embraced a political gospel, in which Jesus is made nothing more than a special advocate in the great story of America.

None of these are the biblical gospel, nor is this biblical evangelism. And what is the result? Weak conversions lead to shallow discipleship, which produces unhealthy churches, which explains why we are seeing the trends of disaffiliation and declining churches. Due to this, we need to recover the gospel and rethink our evangelism. Suppose we can do both, reclaim the biblical gospel and begin proclaiming it in a winsome and holistic way. In that case, I believe we can experience renewal in the church and revival in our spiritually hungry days.

  • Great Opportunity: The American Church by 2050. The Pinetops Foundation, 2017.
  • Keller, Timothy. How to Reach the West Again, (p. 4). Redeemer City to City, 2020. 
  • Bock, Darrell L. Recovering the Real Lost Gospel. B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  • Peterson, Eric. Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son, (p. 24). NavPress, 2020.

Awareness & Intentionality this Fall

The Fall season reminds me of riding a rollercoaster. As a kid I had a love/hate relationship with rollercoasters. I loved the idea of them, but as soon as the rollercoaster started moving I wanted to puke. Sometimes, I feel the same way about the 3 month stretch of October, November, December. It’s like a 3 month rollercoaster. Bear with me for a second while I tease this analogy out.

During the month of September we feel excitement about what’s ahead. It’s kind of like waiting in line for the rollercoaster. Starbucks rolls out the PSL, football season arrives, and we eagerly await cooler days. We are excited. This is going to be fun! 

But now it’s October, and it’s time to get into the seat and click the seatbelt. The time has come. We know we’re about to go on a 3 month ride at high speed. There will be some unexpected twists and turns along the way. We will blow bast Halloween, make a quick turn toward Thanksgiving, and do a couple of loopty loops of decorating and redecorating our houses. But it’s not over. We hold on tighter because we know this ride is climbing to an eventual high point, at which we will drop rapidly through holiday shopping and parties until we eventually make it through Christmas, and come to an abrupt stop at the end of the ride. 

This is a ride our culture takes us on every year. And just like a rollercoaster, it is exciting, fun, full of laughs (and a few screams). But it can also, like a rollercoaster, leave our heads spinning. We can reach the bottom and feel disoriented. It often takes us the whole month of January to recover, and it’s February before we can reorient our lives again around Jesus, his church, and his mission. 

This is what’s ahead of us. I don’t think that God wants us to reject all of this, I think he wants us to be aware of it. He wants us to consider how we can “ride” the 3 month rollercoaster with Jesus beside us, the Spirit keeping us buckled in, all to the glory of the Father. 

SO, the question before us today is… how can we engage the next 3 months with awareness and intentionality? How do we stay oriented around Jesus, his church, his mission? What does it look like for Jesus to be our passion and the Spirit to be our guide? How can we be strategic in a way that helps those we are leading (our family, our MC) and those in our mission field (where we live, work, learn, play) to encounter the goodness and grace of Jesus?

Don’t Just Cast Vision, Coach Vision

Many leaders know how to cast their vision, but do they know how to help others discover vision of their own? One important aspect of the ongoing work of a church planter is helping people discover and live with vision. This means helping the people of your church, and especially the leaders of your church, gather an awareness of what is, what’s coming, and what could be. Why is this so important? So, often we get stuck in the ruts of life. We fail to see beyond what is right in front of us. We are busy, tired, and lack creativity. We are surrounded by noise.

What helps us get unstuck? What helps us tap into creativity? What helps us tune our ears to the work of God among us and the leading of the Holy Spirit within us? Vision. Slowing down enough to consider what is, what’s coming, and what could be. To gather vision is to ask: God what do you want for my day today? What is? What’s coming? What could be? What do you want for my week? What do you want for my month? What is happening this month? What’s coming into my life this month? What could be this month if I tuned my ears to your voice and yielded my life to your will?

Very few people are slowing down to do this on their own. This is why it’s critical that we do the ongoing work of helping people live with vision– especially leaders!

This is incredibly important the further into church planting you get. In the early days all there is to be excited about is vision. As your church starts maturing things get real. When things get real (real people, real issues, real challenges, real disappointments), we often get stuck.

Take my church, Redeemer, for example. We are 7 years old. About 2-3 years ago I realized that if we are going to have a disciple-making culture, we could no longer just cast the vision of the church as a whole, but we had to start helping our people (especially our leaders) establish vision in their lives. If the church was going to accomplish it’s vision, the people who make up the church must embody it in their everyday life– in unique and personal ways. This sent me on a journey to restructure the way I lead our staff, coached and trained our leaders, and think about discipleship as a whole. Empowering people with the gospel and in their God given gifts became central to my leadership.

I try and do this with people at every level at Redeemer. With our staff team we do an excessive every week called a “Monthly Window”, where each person takes 30 minutes to prayerfully listen for God to speak into their ministry month. This leads to empowerment, ownership, and accountability. With deacons and missional community leaders we pull them together every quarter for meeting we call “Leadership Collective” where we cast vision for the church as a whole, and also make space for them to pray/dream about their specific areas of leadership. They contribute and help shape the direction. With those I am discipling personally I am trying to ask good questions to help them think about what is and what could be in their family, career, and relationship with God.

To help others live with vision takes coaching skills. I had to learn to ask questions that drew things out of people. I had to be okay with doing more asking and less telling. But most importantly it takes a conviction. A conviction that people/leaders aren’t there to serve your church’s vision, but you are there to serve Jesus’s church (his blood bought, dearly loved, missionary family). It’s my job as a pastor to help people see what is in light of the gospel, what’s coming in light of their identity in Christ, and what could be in light of their God given gifts, passion, and opportunity.



After 5 Years of Missional Communities

It’s been a little over 5 years since we planted Redeemer. Which means I’ve been leading and multiplying missional communities for a little over 5 years now. This month at Redeemer we are taking time in our Sunday gatherings to reflect on how God has worked and what he has taught us 5 years into planting. This past Sunday I led us through a time of reflecting on what we’ve learned about missional communities. You can listen to the entire sermon HERE, but I wanted to share an excerpt below. For those of you in the trenches of leading MCs- I hope this will encourage you to remain faithful.

The stunning, magnificent, mysterious truth that the bible teaches is this… before the foundations of the earth God set forth to reveal his glory through the person and work of Jesus Christ— that he might gather for himself a people in every place through which his glory would shine in all the world. This is what we are caught up in. If you are a Christian this is your glorious reality. God doesn’t want you to simply show up and sing a few songs on a Sunday, give your 10%, and (if you have time) check a few other boxes like small group or Sunday school attendance. No! He’s made you a member of his body! You are saved to belong and exist in community. You are a stone in living, mortared into temple of God by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:17-22). And all of your life is to be a megaphone declaring the glory of God (Titus 2:11-15). And you can’t do this apart from community. Your life by itself isn’t that impressive— it’s not that glorious. That’s why you were saved into gospel-community! Community is God’s gift to you (by which you would grow in Christ) and it’s God’s gift to the world (a witness to his resurrection).

This is why we make such a big deal about missional communities! Missional Communities are our (imperfect) attempt- in a culture of individualism and consumerism- to call us back to the way of Christ, the apostles, and a New Testament reality of church.

Now that we’ve answered that question and unpacked that a bit, I want to reflect on some things we’ve learned over the last 5 years of launching and multiplying missional communities. We started Redeemer in the Summer of 2011 with 1 missional community that met at Josh and Lauren Reeves house. Since then we have multiplied over 15 MCs. Some of them have grown in health, bearing fruit, making disciples, seeing unchurched and lost people come in and witness the gospel realities of God’s people. Some MCs have existed for a season and were used by God during those seasons. We’ve launched some that have failed for a variety of reasons, yet we can look back and see how God was working even in our “failure”. We’ve launched some MCs that have gone on to be the seeds of a new church plant. And we hope that will continue to be the case in the future. In all of this, there are so many things that I have learned. But there are 3 things in particular that I want to share as points of exhortation reflection for us this week.

1)MC life is messy and it’s ordinary. And there is no escaping it.  Now this might be surprising to some of you… but you are a sinner. And I am a sinner. And when you get sinners together and ask them to commit to sharing life together as a family— devoted to Christ and devoted to one another— guess what people will do? They will sin against one another. They will disappoint one another. But guess what they will also do? They will love one another, forgive one another, care for one another, and disciple one another. Consider: Ephesians 4:1-6, 25-32.

 And all of this happens in ordinary life at an ordinary pace. Aren’t you thankful that our savior did all of his work in the messy and ordinary realities of planet earth? Isn’t that good news for us? Jesus (God in flesh) saw ordinary human life as the stage by which he would work. I just want to encourage you this morning if you feel a bit underwhelmed by your missional community. Will you trust the Spirit’s work? I’m convinced God does his best work in the messiness of ordinary life. Embrace this. Dig in. Let God work.

2)Making Disciples is an “all of life thing” and a “for all of life thing”. If “why do you guys do MCs?” is the number 1 question that I get, then “Do MCs really work?” is the question that is number 2 on the list. And although I am not always sure what is meant by this question… I think what people mean is— Can you really grow a church through MCs? And that’s a really tricky question. Because if you want to grow a church numerically and quickly in Western culture, the answer is no. There are much better strategies to get people to come to your church. But that isn’t the task that our resurrected Lord Jesus gave us, is it? No! He commissioned us to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them (new identity), and teaching them to obey all that he had commanded. Jesus isn’t just our savior who makes our life easy and painless. He is our Lord. And to be a disciple of Jesus is to submit all of our lives to the lordship of Chirst (it’s an all of life thing) and to invite others to do the same (this is a for all of life thing). SO, if you’re asking if missional communities work– meaning do they help us make disciples of Jesus– then the answer is a resounding yes! I can tell you that I am much more like Jesus today than I was 6 years ago before entering my first MC. I’m also much more aware of my sin and brokenness too! Let’s not confuse these two things. The way one grows in Christ is that they start to see all of the areas of life that are not submitted to His Lordship. And guess what helps us do this… life in community and on mission.

3)Idealism cripples a missional community. I want to be the first to confess that at times over the last 5 years my idealism for what missional communities should be has not served you well. There have been times that I have over structured and over strategized missional communities in a way that made MCs feel rigid. There have been times where what the holy spirit was doing or wanted to do in a group was stifled because leaders were trying to check all of the boxes that I was asking them to check. At times “doing mission” has felt like legalism in our MCs. We’ve tried to push every MC toward a common mission, which at times is needed, but in some situations was neglecting the work the HS was wanting to do in within a MC. I  want to ask for your forgiveness on behalf of your elders. We have repented of this idealism or “methedolatiry”. And we want you to know that moving forward we want MCs to be groups of people that love Jesus deeply and are committed to one another in a deep covenantal way. And as we are experiencing the fellowship of Christ we are holding it out generously to whomever the holy spirit might lead us to or bring into our community. There is not such thing as an ideal MC— every group of people is unique and every season of life is unique. It is the Holy Spirit’s guidance that we need. My commitment to you is to train and coach leaders toward this end. 

 I also want to exhort you to consider any idealism you might carry on a personal level. When we hold on to our ideals of what our community “should be”, or when we focus on what our community “isn’t” we’ve played right into the hand of the enemy. Remember, because of the fact that MC life is messy and ordinary (yet full of God’s glorious presence) it will fall short of our ideal community. Beware of comparing the people you are sharing life with to another group. Beware of comparing your community to a community that you had in past seasons of life. This will lead you to judging not loving. It will lead you to criticism, not care. It will lead you to disappointment, not hopeful expectation for what God is up to in your midst. This is not from the Holy Spirit. It is from Satan. It’s a form of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 4:3). Anytime you are feeling ill-will or hostility toward others brothers and sisters… you better believe that spiritual warfare is happening. 

So, church family let us beware of the deadly trap of idealism. As Bonhoeffer says, “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”

I have a 5 year old son. My 5 year old son is just now learning fix his own food, brush his own teeth, get himself dressed, etc. He’s matured and learned a lot in the last 5 years. And as his dad, I am really proud of him as he grows and matures into boyhood. That’s kind of how I feel as a leader. I’ve learned and matured a lot over the last 5 years of planting a church organized around missional communities. And I find great comfort in knowing that my Father is proud and pleased  with me (despite my mistakes/sin as a leader) as I grow and mature into who he is making me to be as his Son.  Leaders, will you join me in resting in that reality while you lead on?

Becoming a Church-Planting Church

Last week I led a couple of breakout sessions at the Acts 29 South-Central Conference on becoming a church-planting church. Below are some of my notes. If you are a pastor, planter, or future planter and want to talk more about becoming a church-planting church I’d love to hear from you.

1.Ask the Holy Spirit for a Unique Church Planting Vision…
Church planting is the Holy Spirit’s idea and he is the church planting expert (see Acts 13:1-3). Ask him for a unique church planting vision for your church. “We want to be a church-planting church” is a weak vision. The Holy Spirit always leads us to specific people and places. Ask him for a specific, unique vision for church planting. Church planting can’t be the goal… reaching more people and cities with the gospel must be the goal. The Holy Spirit has called us at Redeemer to give our time, energy, and money to plant as many churches as we can in Central Texas (specifically the northern suburbs of Austin).

Consider: What is he uniquely calling you to as a church-planting church? Ask: What cities do we want to see churches planted? Identifying the city could lead you to a planter there. Ask: Who do we know that could plant a church there? Identifying the planter could lead you to a city.

2. Don’t wait until your an expert (or a large church)…
Set a church planting expectation early in the life of your church. What better way to train a future church planter than letting them see the early days of church planting along side of you. At Redeemer, we brought on our first church planting resident when we were only 40 people, 3 missional communities, and met on Sunday afternoons in a sweaty, old church building. We weren’t experts or impressive, but we knew what we had to offer, and we wanted to train and send out church planters. Here are a few other thoughts….

  • Health is more important than size when it comes to preparing church planters
  • You don’t have to be an expert… share what you have to give, and allow a resident or potential planter to give to you and your church
  • There is a need for different types of residencies at different stages of your church (polishing school vs. developmental residencies)
    • Small churches can serve and be served by a developmental resident. Our first two residents at Redeemer never went on to plant a church, but they were both developed and are leading in critical roles to this day.
    • Large churches won’t have much opportunity or reps for a resident, so you only need to take on a guy within 12 months of planting for “polishing”.

Consider: What has God given us that we need to steward for church planting? Is it financial health, experience, leadership gifts, college students, facilities, reps?

3. Prioritize developing new leaders & multiplying communities (as much as you prioritize Sundays)
Early on in the life of a church plant the temptation is to put all of your focus on growing on Sundays. We often think we can’t do anything significant until we can get “critical mass”. I want to challenge you to prioritize developing leaders and multiplying communities from day one with as much focus as you put into growing numerically on Sundays. This will help you start and stay healthy, which will in turn help you multiply churches. A few things to think about as you do this:

  • Develop a pathway of development from disciple to planter (Example: Leadership Pathway)
    • this process must include learning communities, opportunities to lead within, and ongoing-personal development
  • Don’t just train young leaders, empower and release them. Allow them to fail…they just might surprise you and blossom.
  • Take inventory of your current focus as a church… what percentage of your leadership efforts (staffing, time, resources, energy, focus) are going toward growing Sundays vs. developing leaders and multiplying communities?
  • You must give of your money, staff, and people to raising up leaders if you want to plant churches.

4. Partner with others…
Don’t try and plant churches by yourself. Work with others in your city that have a common vision. Collaboration is a beautiful thing. Know your strengths, admit your weaknesses and limitation, and lean into the strengths of other churches. God might ask some of you to pioneer collaboration in your cities. Tell some other churches in town that your church feels called to plant a new church, and invite them to join in on the work. Dream together, work together, train a resident together, support a planter together. As our kingdom work increases our kingdom interdependence should also increase. Ask for help so that you can spread the “church planting bug” to others. Perhaps most importantly, remember the “why” we are planting churches….not to add to your church’s resume or to build your brand…. but to see more people and more cities reached with the gospel.

The 3 Types of Leaders In Your Church

In my last post I shared some of my learning on developing leaders. One of the keys to developing leaders is to provide people with baseline training, opportunities to lead, and on-going personal development as they lead. At Redeemer we seek to train all of our leaders using the same baseline content, but just teaching people content doesn’t equal leaders. You’ve tried this. It’s not enough. This approach leaves us frustrated as church planters. Again, we aren’t truly developing leaders until we offer them both opportunities to lead and on-going personal development as they lead. In this post I want to share a little more about how to begin to give opportunities to lead and personally development to those we are developing.

Step 1: Identify which type of leader you’re working with…

Let me be clear. I am not talking about the “leadership role” in your church this person is being developed for. I am talking about the leadership style of each person. How does this person go about leading others? How has God uniquely wired this person to lead others? If our goal is develop the person into a leader in God’s church, then we must first identify how God made this person to uniquely lead in God’s church. In my experience people lead in one of three ways. [For greater clarity I’ll apply these three ways of leading to leading a Missional Community. But this can be applied to any type of leader in your church you are trying to develop].

  1. Leading from the front. People who lead from the front a good communicators. They can clearly articulate vision and call people to the target. In a missional community context leaders who lead from the front will serve their group well by always organizing an effective weekly meeting. They know that the weekly meeting (or family meal) is the best place to cast vision and rally the MC. Chances are they will have an agenda for the meeting with clear direction for the night. Leaders who lead from the front are also usually good teachers. Not only will they see the importance of the MC meeting night for casting vision, but they will seek to inspire, motive, and encourage their missional community using the scriptures. People who lead from the front are usually confident and willing to lead. These leaders pull people forward. Others will learn and grow by hearing from this leader.
  2. Leading from behind. People who lead from behind lead by example. They are diligent, faithful, doers. There isn’t anything they are calling other people to do/believe that
    they haven’t first lived. These types of people find themselves in leadership positions not because of their natural born leadership skills, but because of their faithfulness over time. In a missional community context leaders who lead from behind are a model example to others in their MC. They are going to make disciples of others in real tangible ways- opening their home, leading on mission, giving of their time and resources. People who lead from behind are servant hearted and available to lead. These leaders push people forward. Other will learn and grow by seeing this leader in action.
  3. Leading from beside. People who lead from beside lead through relationships. They are great friends, excellent listeners, approachable, and gentle. In a missional community context these types of leaders are respected and loved by others they are leading because of the relational capital they’ve developed with others. A MC meeting night with this kind of leader will be highly relational and built around caring for and “checking in” with those in the group. Leaders who lead from beside are going to disciple others in their MC at a slower pace. They will do this through patient, loving relationship and lots of conversations. People who lead from beside don’t always see themselves as leaders and are usually reluctant to lead at first. These leaders walk people forward. Others will learn and grow through relational time with this leader.


Step 2: Provide the right opportunities and regular coaching

Identifying how God has uniquely gifted/wired each person allows you to give them the right opportunities to lead. This does not mean that only certain types of leaders can lead certain things. I believe all there of these types of leaders can effectively lead a missional community. It’s just important to know that each will lead a MC differently. This means you need to personalize coaching and development accordingly. It is important to empower people to lead out of the gifts and wirings that God has given them, yet helping them grow where needed. For example, consider which of these types of leaders would be best suited to lead a missional community of made up of brand new Christians? All of them would be great at it for different reasons. What’s most important is to use regular coaching to help them regularly assess their group health, share leadership with others where they are weak, and monitor their development/growth.

If you want to effectively develop leaders you must: 1) train everyone, provide regular opportunities to lead, and provide ongoing personal development/coaching in light of the types of leaders you have.

Hope this helps!