Doing Away with the Flavor of the Month

written by JD

I often hear from church planters in North America:

Of these 37 local churches, there are no gospel preaching churches in this community.

These churches are not Reformed enough (Or, These churches are too Reformed.).

They preach the gospel, but it’s not really deep. Just John 3:16 kinda stuff every week.

These churches are too formal.

Their music is Baptist Hymnal stuff. I’m talking 1975, not 1991; that doesn’t appeal to young families (Or, Their music is too contemporary. They need more hymns.).

When will we realize church planting is an apostolic work of evangelism that results in new churches (see Acts 13-14)?

In our Baskin-Robbins of Christianity, why must our church planting actions come from the desire to provide another choice of flavor to long-term Kingdom citizens?

The four billion remain.


My new podcast, Strike the Match, launched last week. Subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.


Shedding Light on Sustained Exegesis

written by JD

Over the years, I have heard sermons (including mine) that contain lengthy exegesis of Scripture. While all good preaching is exegetical preaching, sustained exegesis over fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there is difficult to follow and falls short in effective communication. Some of the world’s best preachers even enter into the mode of lengthy sustained exegesis from time-to-time. If given the choice of hearing someone explain Scripture or tell stories, we should always chose the former. However, illustrations are very important in pulpit communication.

While my preaching style has changed over the past twenty years, I have always tried to follow a model of using illustrations in the introduction and conclusion and one illustration per major point. While I do not always follow this model, I do make an attempt at it. There are times when I am unable to find the right illustration for the truths that flow from the text. When this happens, I do not have an illustration. I do not want to force it.

Spurgeon once said illustrations are like windows into what the text is saying. Don’t worry. No one will accuse us of narrative preaching if we pepper illustrations throughout our messages. Illustrations help the contemporary listener understand what the first century listener both heard and understood. If illustrations are windows, then we regularly need to add them to our messages and allow some light to shine in for our people!


My new podcast, Strike the Match, launched last week. Subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.


Kairos and Oversleeping

written by JD

I recently read this article describing a once booming Chinese business district in New Orleans.  From the 1870s-1930s, the city was home to a substantial enclave. While the Chinese are still located in New Orleans, this article reminded me that much can happen in 60 years.  My guess is that if you had asked someone at the turn of the 20th century if the Chinese enclave would be around for the next 40 years, the answer would have been yes.

Though I only have anecdotal evidence, I was told a large population of Hmong in Pennsylvania packed up and moved to Wisconsin in a short period of time. I also heard of a few thousand Vietnamese in Louisville gathering their belongings (almost overnight) and moving to another location in the country.

Societies shift. People move.

The United States is home to the third largest number of unreached people groups in the world. Only a few people are waking up to this reality. Most remain asleep.

It would be horrible if while we are just waking up to the reality of unreached peoples in our backyards, they are gone before we get out of bed.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Col 4:5, ESV).


My new podcast, Strike the Match, launched last week. Subscribe at iTunes or through RSS.


Who was St. Patrick?

written by JD

Strike the MatchRuth Tucker writes, “Shrouded in legend and glorified by sainthood, Patrick, Ireland’s great fifth-century missionary is one of the most misrepresented figures in church history” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 37).

On this first episode of Strike the Match, we are discussing, “Who was St. Patrick and what can we learn for today?” I felt this would be a very appropriate topic with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner.

My guest is Dr. Ed Smither, professor of intercultural studies at Columbia International University. Ed’s next book is Missionary Monks, so he has much to share about Patrick.

Find out more about Ed on Twitter or his blog.

If you have not read The Confessions of St. Patrick, let me encourage you to do so during this time of the year.  It is a brief work and offers a glimpse into the life and work of this missionary.  You can get a free pdf of the book HERE or you can read it on-line HERE.

Make sure you subscribe to this podcast at the RSS or iTunes links below. I would greatly appreciate your ratings and comments.

If you are receiving this post in your inbox, you may need to click on Download Now to listen. The media player does not show up in emails.


On Theological Education

written by JD

One of my greatest blessings has been the opportunity to complete two theological degrees.  Closely related to this blessing was when I served as a college and seminary professor.  I am pro-formal theological education. I am thankful for the academy. I continue to serve as an adjunctive professor.

However, one of the great challenges to North American pastors, when it comes to our responsibility of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12), relates to the educational model in which most of us were trained.

While the classroom is an important component to training, it is only one component to a much larger approach for the development of healthy global disciple makers.

Unfortunately, the Church has historically embraced the classroom as the best–and usually the only—model of disciple-shaping and leadership development.  Such should come as no surprise. This same model is what is found in our public, private, and collegiate educational systems.  It is a way to educate the masses. It is not efficient, but it cranks out the numbers.  For years, our teachers lectured to us. We took notes, wrote some papers, took some tests, and (hopefully) passed our courses–then forgot most of it. Theological educators were trained to imitate this model.

Though most pastors do not go to seminary to become professors, this model is displayed to them and carried to churches.  It’s what I experienced in K-12; it’s what I experienced in my undergraduate studies, too.

We reproduce what we know; we know what has been modeled before us.

Theological education has been advocating for field-based training for decades. However, we have a system that is grounded in the unspoken assumption that the development of leaders happens best in a sterile laboratory (i.e., classroom). The assumption holds that the transfer of knowledge is believed to be the paramount task.  As long as we provide the cognitive components, right action will result.

Within our hearts, most of us pastors—and seminary professors—know the classroom is not the best context for learning. Though we know the transmission of knowledge is important, we understand that intellectual development alone does not make a good leader.

We know our model is broken; it has been broken for a long time. But tradition and accreditation standards are powerful. They have established the channel in which theological education is expected to run.

We struggle with what needs to be done to better equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  We desire to see the multiplication of leaders and churches, but deep down recognize our expected paradigm is inadequate to best position the Church for such movement.

We face a great challenge. We know that more of our training needs to be field-based, hands-on, involving mentorships/coaching, and accountability. However, the problem is that we have never been trained in (or observed) such a model.  Maybe this is why we neglect the Coleman Treasure. We went to class for facts and experienced ministry divorced from our classroom activities. Somehow along the way we wed portions of the intellect and the practice.

The easiest thing for most of us to do with our churches is to reproduce the model we know: gather as many people into a classroom, lecture to them, tell them to go and do as they are told, and move on to the next lesson in the syllabus the following week.

We reproduce what we know; we know what has been modeled before us. Are we comfortable with this in light of the four billion? If not, what’s the next step for theological education?


Make sure you subscribe to my new podcast and avoid missing an episode of Strike the Match: iTunes or RSS


But What Do You Think?

written by JD

Many people will not share their thoughts about an issue until they have thought about what someone else thinks about the issue.  They major in thinking about the thoughts of others. They are always looking over their shoulders because they do not feel that it is safe to think for themselves and share.

And, wow, if they think differently than their heroes. . . .

Seeking the wisdom of godly others is good, healthy, and wise. Wisdom is found with many counselors.  However, only thinking after someone else thinks is not.

Did you hear what he said? Yes, and doctor so-and-so said.

Let me check out what she says and I’ll get back to you.

I will only reTweet what he Tweets.

I will only say as much as he says; he’s smarter than me.

Love God with your mind by using it for His glory (Matt 22:37).  You have much to contribute to gospel advancement. Not everyone is an eye or an ear (1 Cor 12:14), but we all have a brain.

Think and share with discernment. It’s a stewardship issue.



Last week, I launched a podcast, Strike the Match. Stay tuned for the next episode this Friday, “Who was the Real St. Patrick and What Can We Learn from Him?” My guest is Dr. Ed Smither, missions history professor at Columbia International University.


Christian Persecution

written by JD
“‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Rev 6:10, ESV) .

Last month, Open Doors USA, Advocacy Director, Kristin Wright noted that 2014 was the year for the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era. The expectation is for things to get worse. Each month:

  • 322 Christians are killed for their faith
  • 214 church buildings and other properties are destroyed
  • 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (e.g., beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, forced marriages)

On Sunday, Franklin Graham warned that persecution is coming to Christians in the United States. Many of us have been saying this for sometime. While we are still a long way from the oppositions found in the countries that made the top 50 watch list, we are observing a slow erosion to our freedoms.

Stay in-the-know. Know God’s world.

Stay in the Book. Know God’s Word.

Here is a paper I wrote on a New Testament response to persecution. I pray that it will be of assistance to you and those you lead in these last days.



Last week, I launched a podcast, Strike the Match. Stay tuned for the next episode this Friday, “Who was the Real St. Patrick and What Can We Learn from Him?” My guest is Dr. Ed Smither, missions history professor at Columbia International University.



Building a Flying Car for Your Church has Never Been Easier

written by JD

There is a reason we do not have the widespread use of flying cars in the United States.  It is not a matter of technology, an airplane is basically a flying car. It has never been easier to build a flying car–some already exist. The major issue is that our culture of transportation and organization will not support them at the moment.

Our highways and interstate system are not designed for flying cars when it comes to civilian usage. Governors of our airways are already stressed out and trying to figure out what to do with the rise in drones. Imagine the disruption if just several hundred automobiles took to the air?

To have flying cars would mean an entirely new way of doing things. New rules of the road and air would have to be developed and adopted. The rural areas would likely do well, but the cities would be a massive challenge. Taking off, landing, communications, parking, parking space size, age restrictions, and insurance are but a few issues that would have to be addressed.

One of the most challenging things you will face as a leader in your church, agency, or organization is cultural and organizational shifts.  We live in a time when global contextual challenges are disrupting centuries old paradigms for the way we have done ministry in the West and engage the nations. We find ourselves needing flying cars, but the support structures are not in place.

Until we lead others with God’s Word into a world filled with numerous pressure points and wisely make the necessary shifts along the way, we will continue to remain in our cars on the ground.

We can easily build the flying cars necessary to reach the four billion. However, if we do not do the difficult work of leading and praying for the necessary cultural and organizational shifts, we may get off the ground once or twice but will soon find ourselves grounded.


Strike the Match Episode 0

written by JD

Strike the Match I am thankful the day has finally arrived.  Strike the Match is now public.

I don’t know who created the idea of an “episode 0,” but I like it. It allows for a test run to work out the bugs. 0 says, “We’re not there yet; please be patient with us.”

Since you are readers of my blog, I wanted you to have the first exposure to this new resource.  It is not available on iTunes or any other podcast site yet. However, such subscriptions are coming.

Check out out Episode 0 (see player or download below) and please help spread the word. I’m excited for what is coming in future episodes. Episode 0 gives you a look at the story behind this podcast and where it is going.


I Know; Therefore, I Do

written by JD

I feel; therefore, I do.

I like this philosophy. Zeal is there. Passion is there. Motivation is there. It’s easy to get ‘er done.

But what happens if the feeling is not there? That’s when it becomes difficult.

I know; therefore, I do.

If it ever comes down to feelings or knowledge, knowledge wins every time. It is the wise thing to do when we know what God has spoken.

My feelings may wither and fade, but the Word of our God will stand forever (Isa 40:8).

Look for It