Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a Muslim home, but came to faith in Christ after a search for meaning and truth. He tells his conversion story in a new book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. I had the chance to interview Nabeel today for my weekly Leadership Journal blog. This is one of the questions I asked him:
Posts Tagged ‘grace’
- Category: Church Life, Friday Five, Leadership
- 3460No CommentsPreaching+as+a+Craft+to+Be+Cultivated.+2014-01-03+23%3A03%3A23Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3460
I love preaching. I love the act of preaching and I love listening to preaching. There is something wild and mysterious and beautiful about God’s Word flowing through a flawed man empowered by the Holy Spirit as a primary delivery method for spiritual change.
This week I had the chance to interview Matt Woodley, managing editor of PreachingToday.com, an excellent resource for pastors and church leaders. Our conversation was wide-ranging, really. I queried him on plagiarism, fact-checking pastors, etc. But my favorite part was reading Matt’s thoughts on the act of preaching itself. Here’s a question I asked him:
If you could give one piece of advice to an up and coming pastor or church leader about preaching, what would you tell him?
Love preaching. It is a craft like mending shoes, fixing cars, throwing a curve ball, writing poetry, performing surgery, teaching British literature, and so on. You can grow as a preacher. So apply yourself to the craft. Learn from other preachers. Read good sermons (and reading is better than listening). Get feedback. And for Christ’s sake (and I mean that literally) stop being so defensive about your preaching! My gosh, it’s not like a sermon is your child or something. But when it comes to preaching, decide right now that you will be a lifelong learner of the craft.
But on other hand, don’t take your preaching too seriously. You aren’t primarily a preacher. You are a child of God. You are a member of the body of Christ. You are a friend, spouse, and parent. Your identity is not wrapped up in how well you preached last Sunday. So read and do lots of stuff that have absolutely nothing to do with your role as a preacher. Preachers who just preach are really boring. Be an interesting person, do interesting stuff, go to interesting places.
- Category: Church Life
- 3406No CommentsFrom+Pulpit+to+Pew%3A+On+Joining+a+New+Church2013-12-04+05%3A00%3A00Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3406
After five years in the pulpit and 30 years prior growing up in, working, and serving in my home church, I found myself in the oddly new position of looking for a place to worship. And so our quest for a new church began as soon as we moved from Chicago area to Nashville. After years of looking askance at those who “church shop”, I was in the buying mood. We felt it was important for us to find and get settled in a church as soon as we could, but we knew our search must be spirit-directed and guided by prayer. Our criteria was pretty simple:
- It must be a church that preaches and teaches the Word of God (in a systematic, deep way.) We’re big on gospel-centered, expository preaching and teaching.
- It must be proudly Southern Baptist.
- It must be close to our house. In my pastoral experience, I’ve found greater distance from home to church usually prevents the type of community and closeness needed to become an essential part of a local body.
We also had some other criteria, but things that are not as much “deal-breakers” such as church culture, children’s ministry, welcoming atmosphere, friends who go there, etc. One thing we were determined not to do was choose a church based on flimsy things like the color of the carpet or the flavor of the coffee. We want to worship where God would have us worship, meaning we knew we wouldn’t find a church that exactly matches our preferences–and this is good because the point of worship is not me, but God.
So I created a spreadsheet of about 8 churches to visit, based on referrals from friends and web research and other criteria. Our plan was to visit all eight, then circle back and do second visits, just to get another look. But halfway through our search, something happened. We found a church we not only liked, but felt God calling us to join: First Baptist Church of Mt. Juliet. Angela and I went one after the first Sunday and said, “It’s okay if we just say we like this one and stay here, right?” And so we did.
There are a few reasons we feel compelled to worship at FBMJ. First, we just had a sense, after worshipping there, that this was the place for us. It was amazing, after talking with Pastor Andy Hale and his team, just how much we track with where God is taking this congregation: the desire to take the gospel to the community, to exalt Christ and seek His glory in all we do. Secondly, we really enjoy Pastor Andy’s preaching. By “enjoy” I don’t mean, “we found someone who politely affirms everything we believe so we leave feeling good.” By “enjoy,” I mean, we are fed by the rich, deep truths of Scripture every week. We’re challenged, convicted, and brought to repentance and confession weekly. Third, we have good friends who are involved at FBMJ. Jonathan and Beth Howe are longtime friends. Beth is the new director of children’s ministry at FBMJ. It’s helpful to have at least one family that you know very well attend church with you. Fourth, this church is close to our home, so we can be involved in activities and begin to build relationships with this body of believers.
Those are just a few of the reasons we like our new church home. There are many more. Mostly, though, we’re glad to join, get involved, to give and to take, to love and be loved, to nurture and be nurtured.
It’s a bit of a strange feeling sitting in a pew after being in the pulpit. I’ll admit there is a part of me that wants to get up and preach, but I know in this season of life God is wanting me to hear preaching rather than deliver preaching. And yet there is some relief in enjoying worship as a church member and not a church leader. Plus, I’m grateful to serve an organization at ERLC whose mission is to serve the Church.
What I’m most encouraged by is God’s work in every community, every corner of this world, building His church in big and small ways. There is much hand-wringing and debate about “the future of the Church”, but we have this sure promise from Jesus:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18 (ESV)
- Category: Culture
- 3367No CommentsThe+courage+to+be+civil2013-10-21+18%3A54%3A56Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3367
Today, on the ERLC blog, I continue my series on civility and courage:
How do Christians navigate the tension of civility and courage?It’s easy to grow discouraged by the way we often get it wrong, but rather than embracing cynicism, we should do our part to model civility through engagement, humility and prayer.
In an interview with Christianity Today, ERLC president Russell Moore said: “I hope to speak with convictional kindness. I hope to speak of a holistic vision of human dignity and human flourishing rooted in the kingdom of God—and to do so in a way that is grounded always in the gospel. I don’t view people who disagree with me as my enemies or my opponents. I hope to speak with civility and with kindness and in dialogue with people with whom I disagree.”
We can’t stop every instance of incivility, but we can begin by setting a good example for our friends, family and anyone in our sphere of influence. I’m particularly sobered by the way my own children watch the way I engage issues and the words I use when talking about public figures. What am I teaching them about respect and dignity? Extending this out to our social networks, churches, community groups and small groups, let’s use our platforms, however big, to demonstrate a gospel-centered approach to truth-telling.
- Category: Culture
- 3360No CommentsPeter%2C+Revolutionary%2C+Sellout%2C+Champion+of+Grace2013-10-15+18%3A54%3A46Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3360
Yesterday on the ERLC blog, I continued my series on speaking with grace in the public square:
For several hundred years, basic Judeo-Christian values have held a dominant place in Western culture. But things are changing. While the Church is experiencing explosive growth in the Global South, the West is rapidly becoming post-Christian. For many followers of Jesus, this new reality is unsettling. Suddenly, long-accepted views on issues like marriage and sexuality are now viewed as intolerant, even bigoted.
Though the post-Christian paradigm is new in America, it’s not new in the history of the Church. There are very few moments in history where the surrounding culture affirmed the Church’s values. God’s people have always been a counter-cultural movement. Jesus, in his final discourse on the night before his arrest, warned his disciples about the possibility of social marginalization and physical persecution:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:18-20).
“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” –these words are as relevant to us as they were to the disciples. But they are words that don’t exactly go down easy. It’s human nature to want to be liked and yet, the call of Christ is, at some level, to embrace the role of a subversive, an outsider, a revolutionary. The gospel upends the dominant social order, always confronting and provoking.
So the question for followers of Jesus is not if we’ll face opposition or why we’re facing opposition, but how should we react when the culture winces at our message?
In my view, we typically adopt one of two equally misguided attitudes. We are tempted to worship at the altar of acceptance and willingly jettison core Christian teachings. The last several years have seen the rise of novel interpretations of Scripture, hoping to align shifting sexual mores with biblical values.
At the other end of the spectrum there is an equally dangerous posture. This is the temptation to proudly wear the badge of cultural provocateur. In this worldview, controversy is king and no rhetorical weapon is left unsheathed in the war of ideas.
But are these the only two choices for a follower of Jesus? I believe there is a third way, a more biblical approach to engaging culture. We see this modeled in the life of one of the most enigmatic characters in Scripture: Simon Peter.
In a 24-hour space of time, Peter was both the provocateur and the culturally timid. He pledged undying loyalty to Jesus and in a fit of defensive rage, lopped off the ear of a Roman soldier. And yet it was also Peter who sheepishly denied the Lord, not once, not twice, but three separate times. He was both a zealot and sellout in the same night.
- Category: Culture, Leadership
- 3353No CommentsSpeaking+with+Grace%3A+The+gospel+and+the+way+we+speak2013-10-07+14%3A01%3A40Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3353
Over at ERLC.com, I’m in the midst of a series of blog posts on speaking with grace in the culture. Here’s the second in this series:
Mark DeMoss is a longtime public relations consultant who has represented some of the most well known evangelical figures such as Jerry Falwell and Chuck Colsen. DeMoss has also served as an adviser for several presidential candidates.
In 2009, conservative DeMoss teamed up with liberal Lanny Davis to create the Civility Project. Both men, informed by their Christian faith, were deeply convicted by the caustic rhetoric consistently employed by both sides of our political divide. The two men sent letters to every sitting member of Congress and every governor with a simple request. Would each public servant sign this simple pledge?
I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
I will stand against incivility when I see it.
The Civility Project spent several thousand dollars and launched an extensive PR campaign. But after two years, DeMoss and Davis shut down the effort. Only two politicians signed on: Virginia Congressman Frank Wolff and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman. In an interview with the New York Times, DeMoss expressed his disappointment, particularly with his own tribe: “The worst emails I received were from conservatives with just unbelievable language…some words I wouldn’t use in this phone call.”
It’s easy to react to this story with typical outrage at Washington. It’s easy to be cynical about the American politician. But maybe we should ask ourselves if the problem of incivility is simply a fault of the political class or a reflection of the larger culture?
Some evangelicals use the state of political discourse to advocate withdrawal from politics. But, if we’re to embrace the full impact of the gospel, we’re to love our world like Jesus loved the world. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6), we’re told to pray for God’s will to happen “on earth as it is in Heaven.” The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t just a ticket out of hell for believers, but the reversal of the curse, the sign that death, sin and the enemy have been defeated and that Christ is coming back to renew and restore his world. The Church, then, serves as a window into a future kingdom.
A few years ago I read a book that really helped me consider a third way. City of Man, written by two political veterans, Michael Gerson and Pete Wehner, advocates principled, but wise engagement. I had the chance to interview both men on my blog. I asked Gerson why weary evangelicals should still care about politics and culture:
“Because the Bible teaches that God is the author of history and isn’t indifferent to the realm of politics and history. In addition, politics can have profound human consequences. It matters whether the state is a guardian or an enemy of human dignity. The idea that people of faith can take a sabbatical from politics to collect their thoughts and lick their wounds is a form of irresponsibility. It is, in fact, an idea that could only be embraced by comfortable Christians. Particularly for the weak and the vulnerable, there is no sabbatical from the failures of politics.”
This thinking lines up with Jeremiah’s instruction to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Thousands of miles from their homeland, a minority in a pagan culture, God’s people were instructed in Jeremiah 29:7 to plant roots in in a world that was not their home: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
This is a great call not to be indifferent to the plight of their communities and their nation. Loving our neighbors and our cities means we should have an active role in shaping society. In this way, applying our understanding of Scripture to cultural questions obeys the command to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31). By “seeking justice and loving mercy” we demonstrate our obedience to the God we love (Micah 6:8).
In recent years, evangelicals have reprised the phrase, “common good” to communicate the goals of civic engagement. Christians should not keep quiet in the face of suffering. We should be voices for the voiceless, motivated not by the pursuit of power, but a genuine desire for the welfare of our cities. Sometimes this means interfacing with issues with widespread cultural agreement. But at other times it requires a certain gospel-infused courage to tackle issues that cut against the cultural grain.
It’s beyond the scope of this particular blog series to examine the specific issues of importance. Rather, I’d like to talk about the way we speak. If the gospel compels us to love our communities, then it’s not enough to let our voices be heard. We must commit to applying the gospel to the very words we chose.
- Category: Culture, Life, Preaching, Random Observations
- 33381 CommentGrace+Makes+the+Medicine+Go+Down2013-09-25+10%3A00%3A12Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3338
One of the things that confounds me, as a parent, is the refusal of my kids to take their medicine, even as they are crying out in pain. It’s particularly annoying in the middle of the night (you know, those few nights when it’s actually me getting up instead of my long-suffering and faithful wife, Angela).
It’s quite illogical, really, for kids to refuse medicine that not only has the power to relieve their pain, but also can heal them of the sickness or injury that is making their little lives miserable. And yet, there a kid squirms, mouth closed, head shaking in refusal. As good parents, we practically have to hold them down and force the medicine down. Then we have to tell them that this medicine–the medicine we just forced down their mouths–is for their good. Trust me, we tell them.
But just when I begin to shake my head in disbelief at my kids’ lack of logic, of trust, of common sense in all of this, I’m reminded of my own attitude toward God’s good medicine. How often do I refuse what God designs for my good, because in my childishness I think I know better than He does what is best for me. It even may be at the same time I’m complaining to God about pain in my life. And so God, because He’s a good Father, often has to force the medicine into my soul.
Now to be sure, sometimes God’s medicine, like the medicine we get from the drug store, doesn’t taste very good. Even when the label assures you it is “cherry flavored,” the aftertaste reminds you it is still medicine. Even if you tell your kid it tastes like bubble gum, they know it really doesn’t. It’s like this with the hard medicine God asks us to drink. Yes, He gives us grace in trials. Yes, we have the body of Christ to help us endure the worst of life. And most importantly, yes, we have the hope of future resurrection, where faith will be sight, where these decaying bodies will be transformed into eternal ones, perfect and fit for heaven.
Still, pain hurts. The Fall continues to crush every area of life. Even Jesus wept at death. Paul longed to shake off the dying flesh and be with Jesus. Jeremiah lamented. David vented and wept and longed for renewal.
So Christian maturity is not so much the fiction that medicine tastes good, that trials really aren’t that bad after all, that to follow Jesus means unending prosperity and happiness in this life. Maturity is more about perspective, putting away the childishness that refuses the sovereign medicine of trials, allowed by the Father, ordained because of His loving desire to mold us to be more like His Son. It’s saying, with a wry smile, “I may not like what God is making me drink now, but I trust Him. I will accept it.”
We don’t always do this perfectly, which is why we need grace. The grace of One who did take that cup of suffering, not because it would make Him better, but because by accepting this cup, we might be renewed. He trusted the will of His Father so that we could taste the grace of forgiveness and experience resurrection.
- Category: Guest Post
- 33087 CommentsGuest+Post%3A+Finding+Grace+in+the+Ordinary+by+Michael+Kelley2013-09-04+05%3A00%3A43Daniel+Darlinghttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.danieldarling.com%2F%3Fp%3D3308
Michael Kelley is one of my favorite writers and speakers. He’s the Director of Discipleship for Lifeway Christian Resources. He wrote one of the most raw and poignant books on faith and suffering I have ever read: Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal, about this journey through his son’s rare form of cancer. Now he’s back with another fantastic book, Boring, Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. You can follow Michael at @_MichaelKelley .
I’ve asked Michael to share a guest post with us about this new book. At the end, find out how you can win one of two copies he’s generously agreed to give away.
I’ve never met a president. Or saved a child from a burning building. Or climbed Everest. I don’t run in powerful circles or tweet nuggets of wisdom adored by millions. My office walls don’t have pictures with me and the Queen of England or medals from my wins at the Olympic Games. Perhaps if I were an international man of mystery, I’d look over and see a picture of me standing next to a world leader at that ceremony when I was awarded some token for my bravery. Then I could turn and see another wall full of mementos and trinkets collected from my adventures. Instead I’m looking at four family pictures, a calendar, and a particularly fierce-looking rendering of a black and yellow fire- breathing dragon laying waste to a castle.
A regular life isn’t bad, necessarily. In fact, a certain kind of bliss accompanies the “normal” life. There aren’t a lot of surprises, and for a guy who has a to-do list for every day (with the last item on that list being “Make tomorrow’s list”), a lack of surprises can be very comforting. What is more, an ordinary life actually affords an opportunity to love things like pictures from an eight-year-old of dragons and castles. In an ordinary life, your existence becomes papered with moments like these.
And yet . . .
And yet there are those days that just feel boring. The routine becomes monotony, and you find yourself refreshing your e-mail over and over again, waiting for something—anything—to break up the ticking of the clock. You feel something inside of you, something that appreciates the life you have, but at the same time wonders if there’s something more. Something that you’re missing. I feel that way sometimes.
The truth is that we will all spend 90 percent of our time here on earth just doing life. Just being ordinary. If I were writing a self-help book, I might follow that realistic, slightly demotivating statement up with something like: “Break out of the ordinary. Pursue your bliss. Go skydiving. Do something important. Carpe diem.” The same motivation, in Christian terms, might read: “God’s will is that you have a life of adventure. Get out there and make an eternal difference. Do something big for God.”
All of those statements are true in a sense; all of them can be appropriate. What those statements communicate is that we should be focused on Jesus and expanding His kingdom. That should be our priority. Those statements challenge us to recognize that we only have a limited time here on earth, so we need to make sure we spend our time doing things that matter. However, implicit in an exhortation like “do something big for God” is the notion that we are currently not doing stuff that matters, and we have to abandon that insignificant stuff to break out of the rut—chase the dream . . . be the man . . . overcome obscurity . . . all that stuff.
Chasing dreams isn’t the problem. Neither is maximizing what you have to make a difference in the world for the sake of Christ. The problem is in our definition of significance.
People tend to believe that the pathway to significance is paved with the big, the showy, and the grand. The people who are most often lauded as influential are the ones doing the big, impressive things with their lives. Consequently, those same people cannot involve themselves in these mundane details of life. Indeed, the mundane details are like anchors that weigh a person down from the bigger and the better. So moving toward a life that matters involves moving past the details that don’t.
But what if we’re wrong? What if “bigness” is not an accurate measure of significance? What if the whole idea of “ordinary” is a myth? And what if a life of great importance isn’t found by escaping the details but embracing them? What if God actually doesn’t want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find significance and meaning inside of it?
That’s what this book is about. This book is for the stay-at-home mom and the office job dad. It’s for the regular church member and the ordinary citizen. It’s for the person who has ever looked at the seemingly mundane details of life and wondered if they are really doing anything that’s worthwhile. It’s for all of us ordinary people who are following an extraordinary God. My hope, as you read the first half of this book, is that you would be awakened to the myth of the ordinary as you see and extraordinary God who is constantly moving and working. Then, as you move into the second half of this book, I pray that you might see the greater purposes in a few specific, but often ordinary, areas of life that we tend to push to the margin. And maybe, when we get to the end, we will have begun to see God, and life, in a whole new way. Perhaps we will have begun to see that there really is no such thing as ordinary when you are following an extraordinary God.
Michael is giving away two copies of Boring to the first two people to comment on this post (not counting trackbacks or spam).