Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Job Opening at ERLC

Know someone interested in joining the ERLC team in Nashville? We are hiring a new Interactive Media Manager to join our communications team. This is creative role specializing in video and audio production, technical and logistical support for ERLC events, and social media engagement. This is a great opportunity to join a fun and dynamic environment, helping to shape the conversation on Christianity and culture.

Anyone that is interested can contact me directly at ddarling [at] A job description is available with more details about the position. The window to express interest in the role is limited so applicants should contact me soon.





Christians Around the Digital Water Cooler

When I got my first job in ministry right out of high-school, the internet was just starting to be a thing. I remember how excited I was when we installed our first broadband access at this growing church. Broadband back then meant “anything faster dial-up.”

It was a major accomplishment to simply have a website, with pictures, even! Social media wasn’t a concept, much less a job description. Most of the online conversations we had with colleagues and friends happened over email. A few of us rebels used instant messaging.

It is quite different now. The web has matured and is now at the epicenter of the marketplace. Not only do we have better broadband, we can watch five minute cat videos (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We also gather around a digital water cool on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other networks the kids tell me about.

Mostly this is fun and useful. Has there ever been a time in history where celebrities are as close to the people? In the old days, if I wanted to ask Tim Keller a question, I’d have to look up his church in the phone book (yes, a phone book). Today I can tweet him a question and get an answer.

Social media allows us to join tribes based on common interests. It can be leveraged for social good. And often drives conversation around important issues.

But social media can also bring out the crazy in all of us. Somehow even the best of us throw off restraint behind the keyboard and find a strange new hubris. We say things about people or even to people that we’d never say if the conversation was happening in flesh and blood. The most clever and the manipulative among us are able to form critical narratives about people with whom we disagree. Sometimes with a creative hashtag.

Followers of Christ need to continually think and rethink their social media engagement. We are presented with both opportunity and danger, peril and potential. Platforms can be powerful vehicles for delivering the timeless message of the gospel story, with all of it’s radical, paradigm-shifting impact. They can also fan the flames of self-righteousness and nurture the worst lusts: pride, anger and self-importance.

If you are active on social media, you’ll find it difficult to always pinpoint, exactly, where that line is between winsome and prophetic engagement on the one hand and snarky, flesh-building arguments on the other hand. Often what seems reasonable to the one tapping the keyboard comes like a cold slap to the recipient. We know our own blind spots and we’re often defensive when they are pointed out. But we can do better than we are doing.

Two things are true about Christians and social media:

  1.  If we love our neighbors and care about the shape of our cities, we cannot afford to withdraw from the conversations in the digital public square.
  2. We must work hard to engage our ideological opponents gracefully, even if it means enduring insult and withholding rhetorical retribution.

You’ll find no verse in the Bible about Twitter. But Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15, written to a marginalized Christian minority, might be a good guide:

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

To a people misunderstood for their radical devotion to a crucified Jew from Galilee, Peter presents two competing ideas: a willingness to unflinchingly articulate gospel-shaped arguments and a commitment a tone of civility and grace.

Because we believe each human bears the image of God, we cannot consider any person, regardless of what they believe, to undeserving of respect. We also must love enough to share the truth, even truth that pings the conscience.


What Are Your Goals for 2014? Here are mine

Yesterday I poo-poohed New Year’s posts on Twitter:

And yet here I am, today, sharing a New Year’s post. I thought I would share my goals for 2014. By making them public, it gives me some accountability and perhaps it will help inspire others to set some good, God-centered goals. New Year’s is a great time to reevaluate, to set aside the past, look to the future, and pray with Moses, “Lord, teach us to number our days so we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). So, without further ado, my five goals for 2014:

1) Get in better physical shape. Frankly, I’m probably in the worst shape of my life. I intend to get back in shape by losing weight and exercising. Weight Watchers has always worked for me, so I’ve signed up and will start attending weekly meetings and following the plan. Yes, I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me and it’s balanced and nutritional and reasonable, given my travel schedule and other factors. (and please, though I know you mean well, don’t send me your diet books, new formulas, or special powders. I’m sure they work wonders for you, but I’m not interested).

2) Continue pursuing my Master’s degree. Since I recently moved to Nashville, I recently transferred from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. SBTS has an extension center in Nashville and also offers convenient online and hybrid courses. I’ve already started one for this winter term. Studying takes extra work and takes away some other pleasures, but in the long run, it will be worth it both to honor the Lord with my mind and equip me for my current and future callings.

3) Spend quality time with my wife and kids when I’m home. This is something I honestly struggle with. It’s hard for me to be home when I’m home, if you know what I mean. It’s difficult to put down my phone and be present. It’s not that I think my work is more important than my family, it’s just that I really love my job and have struggled to shut it off when I walk in the door. I’ve done pretty well, I think, as a husband and father, but this is one area where I really need the Lord’s help. I know I have much room for improvement here.

4) Lead my team with intentionality, purpose and quality. This year I really want to equip and encourage the coworkers who work on my team at ERLC. I’m praying for the Lord to mold me into a leader worth following and a servant of those I’m called to follow. I have high hopes that this will be a great year for us as God uses us to represent Southern Baptists in the public square and to help equip Christians to think through important issues of ethics and culture.

5) Become a more intentional giver. I’m not sure what this will look like, but Angela and I both feel compelled to invest more in Christ’s Kingdom, where “moth nor rust does corrupt nor thieves break thru and steal”  (Matthew 6:19-20).



Top 10 Posts of 2013

This was a great year in blogging with a 75% increase in traffic. I thank each and every read who passed through and hope my words, in some small way, helped you grow closer to Jesus. I blogged about a lot of different things this year, mostly whatever ideas came to my mind, mostly at the intersection of faith and ministry and culture. Here were the top ten blogs, ranked by order of pageviews:

1) 5 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear From Her Dad

This idea came to me on a Sunday evening after a long day of ministry. Not sure exactly what sparked it, but I had no idea how huge it would be. Essentially I shared a list of things daughters need to hear from their fathers. As a father of three, these are things I try to practice on a regular basis.

2) 5 Things Every Son Needs to Hear from His Dad

This came on the heals of the above post. I had some parents wonder why I didn’t mention boys. So this is one for fathers of boys. Along with three daughters, I also have a son. Seems boys and girls have different needs, different “love languages” and so this one struck a chord as well. Like the above list, these are things I try to practice with my own son regularly.

3) How to Build Community In Your Church

This was a blog written, not to pastors or church leaders, but to the members. We often put too much of the responsibility for fostering community on the leaders with little expectation from church members. But it takes everyone giving and receiving in order for us to live out the gospel as Christ’s local body of believers.

4) Why Going to Church on Sunday is an Act of War

I was a bit melodramatic on this one, but I wanted to make a point that the simple act of getting out of bed and going to a Bible-believing, Christ-proclaiming church on Sunday is a more world-changing, revolutionary concept than you might imagine. Praising the name of Christ in your corner of the word is a powerful and bold statement.

5) 5 People We Should Pray For, Even If We Don’t Want To

I tried to think of the most despised groups of people in society, the folks that everyone agrees are worth mocking and despising. Of course you could create a much longer list or much different list than mine, but this did provoke some good discussion.

6) 5 Ways Adult Children Can Honor Their Parents

So, I was into lists in 2013. Well, here is a subject we don’t often discuss: how adult followers of Christ can honor and respect their parents. This is a really tricky and difficult subject. I hope I navigated the tensions well.

7) 5 Hard Truths for Parents

This post was born out of both my role as a pastor in a church with young families and my own role as a father of young children. There are some hard truths we need to accept about our children and about ourselves if we are going to create gospel communities in our homes.

8) 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Dad

I wrote this post in May of 2012, but it still got some good traffic. It’s easily the most read of any blog I created. In this blog I talk about the realities of fatherhood that are just foreign to those who don’t have children.

9) 5 Reflections on My First Year in Seminary

I was surprised at how the traffic this post generated. Apparently more people were interested in my first year of seminary than I realized. This post has reflections on seminary life, going to school as an older student, and how seminary and ministry intersect.

10) 5 Reasons We Don’t Share Our Faith

So why don’t Christians share the gospel? There are reasons beyond the simple causes like apathy or fear. There are theological reasons. This post was both personal and pastoral.




2013 – The Year That Was

I happen to think New Year’s Day is an underrated holiday. I like the reflection upon a year that was and the anticipation of a year that is to come. It gives us, I think, an opportunity to pray with Moses: “Lord, teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12).

2013 was for me a monumental year in many ways. There were several highlights. At the beginning of the year I was engaged in the second semester of my first year at seminary. After 13 years or so of being out of school, I had decided to pursue further theological education at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

In January, I had an op-ed published by CNN.

In March, I announced a new partnership with Leadership Journal. In April, I featured my first interview with renowned evangelical scholar and cofounder of The Gospel Coalition, D.A. Carson.


In May, I finished my first year, grateful for all I learned and how it shaped my preaching and writing ministry

In May I also had the privilege of offering the prayer before the Illinois General Assembly.

In July, I saw my fifth book releasedActivist Faithco-written with two of my friends, Dillon Burroughs and Dan King.

In August, I had the privilege of speaking in Canada for TGC Atlantic Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship and ministry with our brothers and sisters north of the border.

In September, our family made a huge move, as I stepped down as Senior Pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church and moved to Nashville, joining Dr. Russell Moore and the team at ERLC.

In December, we joined a new church as we continue to adjust to our new lives in Nashville.

So, as you can see, 2013 was a year of change for the Darling family. In all these changes, God is good and we trust His sovereign hand. We anticipate God’s grace in 2014 as He guides into more growth and change.



Do You Really Believe This? On Santa Claus, Jesus, and the Unbelievable

It is during this season, the glorious Christmas season, that my wife watches her favorite channel the most. Unfortunately for me, that channel is not one of the ESPN family of networks, but the Hallmark Channel. I’m generally a fan of Hallmark’s usually wholesome television programming, stuff you can actually watch with your nine-year-old in the room, so please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say.

Here it is: The endless string of Christmas rom-coms I’m forced to watch with my wife makes me want to channel William Wallace in Braveheart, rip off my shirt, and yell, ”Freedom!”

Maybe it’s the very simple plot lines (wealthy developer wants to tear down a small town’s sacred institution to build condos–oh, the horror–until a scrappy heroine saves the day with a pitched local campaign and then falls in love with the formerly evil developer), the overwrought sentimentalism, or the poor acting. Or maybe it’s just the difference between men and women. My wife can’t get enough of the Hallmark Channel at Christmas.

If there’s a message in every new Christmas special (and perhaps every Christmas movie ever made), it’s pretty simple: Do you believe? By “believe,” we typically mean that really joyful, spirited, wonderful people put their faith in Santa Claus at Christmas. And this faith injects a spirit into a normally grouchy, stressed, terrible world.

Christians have historically been all over the map with Santa, from denouncing him as a work of the devil (Santa = a rearranged version of Satan!) to moderate disgust, to passive participation. The latter is where I’d guess most evangelicals are now. And if you’ve read my work for long, you’ll know that I’m no Santa grouch. Like most parents, we make the annual pilgrimage to the mall to have our kids sit on the fat man’s lap. I’ve yet to talk to a prodigal who fingered Santa as the catalyst for his departure from the faith, so I think an honest engagement with Santa Claus is mostly harmless and fun.

But I want to circle back to the theme of most Christmas movies: Do you believe? It seems absurd to most rational people that a man in a red suit lives in a cozy home workshop at the frigid North Pole, and that he could possibly worm down every chimney and deliver gifts to good kids. It’s a pretty far-fetched idea. So rational people don’t actually believe it. Yet this part of Christmas makes us really want to believe it. Because, the story goes, if this were true, all would be right in the world.

Does that not sound just a wee bit familiar to another argument? I’m not suggesting the Santa myth is a perfect allegory of the Christian story or that to believe in Christ is the same as believing in Santa. We know the gospel narrative is not “be good for goodness sake” but that Christ was good for us, satisfying the law’s righteous demands and absorbing the punishment of a just God on our behalf.

But this question, Do you really believe this? Is this not the same question asked of us by the world about the Christian story? 

Of course, the substance of the Christian question is a more robust, more unbelievable premise than Santa: Do you believe God became a man, entered space and time, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was unjustly crucified, stayed dead in a rich man’s tomb for three days, and then miraculously was raised to life and is now the reigning King of the world? 

The Christian story is buttressed by solid circumstantial evidence (many infallible proofs), and yet it is an unbelievable narrative. Perhaps we American Christians have gotten so used to the gospel story that we’ve forgotten just how incredible it is. But an increasingly secular society is asking us the question, Do you really believe this? It’s not an intellectual question they are asking. It’s not a search for archeological proof. It’s a rhetorical question of near incredulity. You can’t possibly believe this. 

Because rational people, educated people, progressive people just don’t believe that this man Jesus was the Son of God, that there really was a virgin named Mary, that the ugly intersection of humanity and divinity at the cross really is the pivot point of human history. Young people spend their parents’ hard-earned money at our finest educational institutions learning just how preposterous this is. Scientists write strongly worded rebuttals to the biblical narrative, because things like this just don’t happen.

And yet …what if it were true? Imagine if the story the Bible tells about Jesus is not allegory or myth, but actual historical record? What if the 500 witnesses who saw the nail-scarred Jesus after his resurrection were right? If this is true, then the world really will be made right. Evil really has been defeated, and a new kingdom awaits those rescued by the King. Lamb and lion really will lie down together. All races will one day come together in praise of God’s glory. Creation will once again be restored from its tumult.

In other words, if the real story of Christmas, the Incarnation, is true, it changes everything. In fact, I would argue, even if you don’t believe it to be true, you might wish it to be true. Maybe this is why we cling to fantasies like Santa Claus, like the Disney fairy tales. It reflects within each of us a deep, heart-felt longing for things to be made right.

Could it be that the nostalgia for the good old times is really us missing our original home, Eden, before sin and death destroyed what God made perfect? Could it be that our hopes for a world where things are magical and beautiful is a yearning for heaven? Perhaps this inspired Phillips Brooks when he wrote the famous words of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and the line, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee (Christ) tonight.”

To believe in Santa defies logic, to be sure. But to believe in the Christian story is also to believe the unbelievable. Not that Christianity cannot be logically explained. Not that the wisest believing scholars haven’t given it weight. But at the end of the day, to follow King Jesus, to be a Christian, is to bow the knee to a baby turned man, God in the flesh, fully human and fully divine. And the question of Christmas becomes rhetorical: Do you really believe this? 

Yes, with my life, my heart, and my mind, I do. And I hope you do, too.



Saying Goodbye

Five years ago, I was honored to be chosen as the Senior Pastor for Gages Lake Bible Church. I was 29 years old and had little leadership experience. I had served on staff at a large church and had experience writing and editing, but had never been a pastor. Yet GLBC not only affirmed my call to the ministry, they opened up their arms and allowed me to grow as a father, a husband, and a Christian leader. In these five years I learned much about church ministry, theology, and life. Three of our four children were born during our time in Gages Lake. And some of our best friends are at Gages Lake. I owe much to this church. I am excited about my new future with the ERLC and Dr. Moore, but I will miss GLBC.

I will miss the long talks I had with good friends. I will miss preaching to the same people every week. I will miss seeing the gospel grow in the lives of people every week.

This church and these people were so generous to us. They were gracious. They were a refuge during very difficult seasons. They stood with us when we faced unfair attacks. They treated our children like family. They hungered for good preaching and teaching and loved the gospel with us. We were given infinitely more by Gages Lake Bible Church than we gave out.

So leaving is hard for us. Even though we are absolutely convinced of God’s direction in our new position at ERLC, saying goodbye to people you love is always difficult. This is how it should be. God’s purpose and plan for this age is the Church and specifically the local church. The Holy Spirit unites you to your fellow brothers and sisters as family. I believe that what happens on Sundays at Bible-preaching, gospel-centered churches is the most important thing happening in the world at that moment.

But here is the good news. Though we are leaving Gages Lake geographically, we’re not really leaving at all. We are still united forever in the family of God and we’ll spend all of eternity reveling in the goodness of the gospel toward us. And this work at Gages Lake was not my work, but God’s work. It was there when I arrived and will continue on after I’m gone.

I have no doubt that Gages Lake will continue to grow and prosper. There is great, great leadership in place and I couldn’t be prouder of the man God has called to take my place as Senior Pastor, Jay Lovelace. In God’s providence, He brought Jay and Cheyenne and their two boys, Jack and Cody to us so that when we left, Gages Lake would be in good hands. Jay is a first-rate preacher, he’s a great leader, a man of integrity and grace. He’s fun. He’s well-loved. And, he’s a Bears fan.

As we move forward in this new season of life, we will always be grateful for God’s good gift of Gages Lake Bible Church to us. You have enriched our lives in ways that only eternity will reveal. Thank you.