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An Encouraging Trend for Acts 29 Pastors

February 2, 2008

2 Timothy 2:2 “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”

1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

What beautiful and necessary scriptural passages these are for the church. While having rich meaning and specific application in their original context, they come together powerfully from two different original Apostles to encourage us and lead us into godliness. For young men, it says that you are not on your own! There is no need to learn everything from bleeding your own blood, from shedding your own tears and beating up on the people of God in the process. For older men, they add meaning and fruitfulness both to their work in the ministry and the wounds they have as a result.

In the church today, it says, “Young man! Respect and learn from those who have gone before you! Be humble in spirit and teachable in your mind.”

It says, “Old saints, the church needs you actively engaged as it prevails against darkness! Our young men and women need your servant’s heart, biblical guidance and an understanding ear.”

That is why I am so encouraged by recent developments between Acts 29 and some deeply godly men who I have long admired for their devotion to Jesus, their humility and their wise stewardship of the gifts they have been given. These men have been serving their churches and the church at large for many years and in the last few years they have begun directly influencing and ministering to leaders and members of Acts 29. I have been ministered to by each of these men personally as well as from a distance. It is partly because of this that I am so encouraged by the trend that we are seeing.

John Piper

John Piper has been a true and wonderful pastor to the people of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for many years now. He has spoken at countless events about the glory of God and the exaltation of the cross of Christ. I have been privileged to hear him speak in person on several occasions and his passion for Christ and the church is beautiful to watch. Through God’s grace and provision I stayed in his basement during the “Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World” conference and I got to sit with John in his living room for an extended visit after what should have been an exhausting conference. His passion for God is infectious whether it is in the big room or the living room.

Also speaking at the conference was Mark Driscoll, the Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. Piper took some heat from other Christian leaders for this, but he stood up on the stage and welcomed Mark. Driscoll has said on several occasions that Piper has been a shaping influence on him for some time now. By including Piper at Acts 29/Resurgence conferences he is able to continue to influence new pastors for the better. Thank you John for serving us.

CJ Mahaney

CJ Mahaney pastored Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD for 27 years and now serves as the leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries. He has a deep, emotional love for Christ and every topic turns back to the cross. His book Humility was one of those books for me that inclines your heart toward God and spurs your growth toward godliness. It was timely for me, and from one of the few men who could write a book with such a title. Last spring my family and I went through one of those life-changing events and my pride was at the center of it. The one man that God laid on my heart repeatedly was CJ Mahaney. So with faith (or compulsiveness) I packed the bags and my wife and I headed out to a Sovereign Grace Conference in Louisville so that I could talk with CJ. (No, I am not a stalker, just a broken man who needs guidance, encouragement and prayer.) In God’s providence, we were staying at the same hotel and we met up with CJ, Josh Harris and Mark Dever for a walk to the conference. It was only a few moments, but CJ was encouraging. He leaned in close as I told him of my pride, the damage it had done and my desire to be rid of it. With four words, he lifted weight from my shoulders. Excitedly he pointed out ‘evidences of God’s grace’ in the story, and he encouraged me that healing and restoration were on the way.

So it was with great rejoicing that I read in the Between Two Worlds blog, by Justin Taylor that through the fellowship and love of CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll had confessed areas of pride in his own life and ministry and that God was working mightily. In God’s mercy, CJ will be speaking at the Resurgence Text & Context/Acts 29 Boot Camp conference next month. Praise God! Please head over and subscribe to CJ’s blog. It will regularly bless you.

Mark Dever

Mark Dever is awesome. He deeply loves Jesus, is committed to the church and is just brilliant. Last spring I attended a 9Marks/Capital Hill Baptist Church Weekender. The goal of the Weekender is to model a healthy church for attendees. It runs from Thursday late afternoon to Monday around 10am and is limited to about 50 participants. I had already admired Mark and Capital Hill Baptist Church/9Marks, but during this weekend my admiration and respect grew 100 fold. They take the church seriously brother. They are all so dang smart, and yet teachable. During many of the sessions they would model a mutual submission to one another that I had not seen before. Not just politeness, but genuine respect. They are without a doubt the most intentional leadership team that I have seen. Not just in their activities but in their strong grounding to the word of God as the primary authority. There are many organizations that seek to be intentional in their process, but they are often pragmatic in their intentionality. They also exhibited elder care at a level I had not seen before. They prayed over and discussed dozens of church members at their elder meetings. And not in a superficial way. Capital Hill Baptist Church elders know their flock. And you know what else? They are funny. Dang funny actually. While they are very serious with the word of God, they are a lot of fun. The intelligent kind of funny, even. I had several opportunities to talk with Mark during weekend and each conversation was edifying and encouraging. (Oh, and I should have shut up a few times also.) But it was at the airport in Louisville after a Sovereign Grace conference that he said something that blew me away, showing such humility, such a deep heart for God, how he treasured his calling to his church, and how self-controlled he was for the sake of those he has been called to pastor. Now that I have you waiting for it, I can’t share it here. It was a statement of powerful conviction on his part prompted by the Spirit for my edification. I have shared it one-on-one with people, but not in a blog. It is not mine to put on such a public platform. What I will share is the fruit of it: I was humbled once again by Jesus and by Mark’s obedience. It embodied the spirit found in Philippians 2:3-4:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Pastors, we are not building our ideal church for us to worship in. We are called as pastors to declare the glories of Christ and to shepherd the flock. In shepherding the flock, sometimes we must lay down our preferences in loving the flock more than ourselves.

And that is why I am so encouraged by Mark’s appearance at the Acts 29 Boot Camp in Chicago. His appearance shows courage and biblical conviction. And, prayerfully, it will help bridge the divide between two camps of the orthodox, God honoring church. Check out this quote by Mark Dever from the conference (HT: Justin Taylor)

“Our differences are enough to separate some of my friends—your brothers and sisters in Christ—from you. And perhaps to separate them from me, now that I’m publicly speaking to you. And I don’t want to minimize either the sincerity or the seriousness of some of their concerns (things like: humor, worldliness, pragmatism, authority). But I perceive some things in common which outweigh our differences—which the Lord Jesus shall soon enough compose between us, either by our maturing, or by His bringing us home.”

This, as Scott Thomas (Acts 29 Network Director) said in his blog post, is cool. Just freaking totally cool.

Closing

This is why I am so encouraged friends. A young, orthodox, God glorifying, sometimes brash church planting network is being ministered to by older men who have gone before us. Men who love Jesus deeply, who love His bride and who are sharing their lives and passion with us. They are entrusting the truths they have heard from others and entrusting them to other faithful men, from the leadership to the young guy seeking discernment about God’s call to plant. And young men are subjecting themselves to the authority of older, God glorifying saints, seeking to learn and be shaped by them into godliness.

And both groups are seeking to clothe themselves in humility toward one another. And that my friends is much of the missing ingredient in the church today. Thank you John Piper, CJ Mahaney and Mark Dever (among others) for your ministry to us. Thank you to the leadership of Acts 29 and its members for embracing such godly saints who have much to teach us. Praise God!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2008 10:42 pm

    Word. Praise God for spiritual forefathers, not only from days gone by but those who walk the very paths we strive to walk in our own generation.

  2. iseethemoon permalink
    February 7, 2008 10:54 am

    thanks so much for this Jacob – i truly enjoy reading your site 🙂 i got a good report on you guys from David, Ben and Joshua a bit back . . . i was glad to hear it! Austin is a pretty rad place in desperate need of some extremely rad people – im glad you’re there . . .

    take care!
    natalie wofford

  3. jennifer permalink
    February 10, 2008 6:20 pm

    Just a question – may be a cultural thing? – but why do you guys regularly use the word “freaking”?

    If you look it up on any online dictionary it is related to a word I’m not gonna use here!

  4. February 10, 2008 10:39 pm

    Jennifer, thank you for your question. I don’t know if you will be checking back here for a response and you didn’t leave an email, so…

    It could definitely be a cultural thing, but it would be a major cop out to simply leave it only with that. Some cultures are just completely vulgar and we certainly don’t need to emulate them completely. And I also don’t think we should just walk around cussing.

    Now with that disclaimer aside, I do think that it is more acceptable in certain cultures, and it conveys differently in different cultures. In parts of South Austin I am a quite pious and pure for using ‘freaking’, while in other parts of the country, it is extremely vulgar. I also think that it is more than the word, but the manner in which it is used. When I use it, it is almost always as a positive euphemism (although not always). I grew up in Southern California, and as a response to “How you doing?”, we would often answer ‘bitchin’. It was normal in any setting to say it. In Texas, they don’t use it.

    Overall, I rarely use it in writing. When writing there are generally better ways to create effect. I was actually surprised that I had used it and had to double check.

    I don’t have too much of a problem with spoken secondary profanity (dang, darn, shoot, heck, etc). Even old Sunday School teachers would say some of those words. The question is where to draw the line with euphemisms, which are intended to be used for effect. In a small, country town it may take very little. In more ‘challenging’ areas, it may take more to create the effect.

    It seems that secondary profanity more often violates peoples social norms than anything else. They are just shocked at its use. As such, it is often a persons personality that is offended, not their spirit that is offended.

    The real words are used so often, that they aren’t even ‘profane’ anymore where I live. They have become common, and they have even lost their meaning. They lose the effect that they were meant to have when they become that common.

    Admittedly, some of this is the effect of incarnational ministry. It is easier to remain pure in the monastery than in the streets. As such, I walk in constant tension.

    Overall, on something like a blog, the readership can be broad. So I need to take more care. Thank you for bringing it up Jennifer.

  5. jennifer permalink
    February 11, 2008 4:28 pm

    I have come back to see if you responded – so thanks for taking the time to give me a detailed response. I will need some time to read thoughtfully and think about what you have said.

    It is hard to know where to draw the line. I guess I would prefer to stay away from “debatable” words altogether – as I can still manage to communicate quite ably without them – (and I don’t live in a monastery either!).

  6. February 12, 2008 4:28 pm

    Jennifer, I think you are wise to stay away from debatable words as it is clear that using them would violate your conscience and your understanding of biblical norms. And yes, you are clearly able to communicate without using them. As for me, and like other areas of my life, I need to be aware of my behavior and my speech. I am more sensitive to it thanks to your question. Blessings to you sister.

  7. jennifer permalink
    February 13, 2008 12:26 am

    Thank you Jacob. I have been impressed with the manner in which you have responded to me. It is good to be able to discuss differences in a courteous manner, and I thank you for extending that courtesy to me in your responses. God’s blessings to you also.

  8. Dennis Dalton permalink
    March 20, 2008 9:54 pm

    I’m a little late to the party here- sorry. As a 38-year-old who has spent nearly all of his adult life as an avowed and very vocal atheist, being late to the party is to be expected I guess. Anyway, to get to the point- I love the fact that you have had the opportunity to hear John Piper. I can’t tell you how much his writing has taught and encouraged me as I continue to discover the reality of living life as it was intended to be lived.

    Mr. Piper, through his writing, also introduced me to Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Although Bonhoeffer lived in the 1930-40’s his work, especially “The Cost of Discipleship” (original title: Nachfolge) could have been written in our time. He was years ahead of his time in understanding the meaning of being a follower of Christ. He was also years behind his time. He taught me how to see beyond the man-made dogma of institutional Christianity and see the reality of Christ himself- and the grace that allows me to live life to its fullest through faith in Him. I still attend a ‘traditional’ Christian denomitational church, but with a new perspective of how I, through my beliefs and my actions, can be a true disciple of the one who came to redeem us. If you get a chance, read this book!
    In Christ,
    Dennis

  9. March 23, 2008 8:17 pm

    Hello Dennis, thanks so much for stopping by. I am a former agnostic who wanted to be an atheist myself. I came to faith at 28 and read Bonhoeffer’s ‘Cost of Discipleship’ just a month or so before I came to faith. Combined with ‘Mere Christianity’ it was a potent 1-2 punch for setting the trajectory of my faith walk.

    I live just south of downtown. I would love to get coffee sometime if you are available.

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