Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Recommendation: Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

The summer seems to be officially closing (top of the 9th inning maybe) as my kids started back to school this week. With the summer ending, I wanted to mention one of the best books I finished this summer: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies. I am usually cautious to say there is a book that every Christian needs to read (since that should be only true of the Bible), so I will just say this book is highly recommended. 

There is not much written on the topic of biblical discernment. A lot of books are published on great topics like evangelism, church leadership and prayer; these are certainly all needed. But nothing much has been written about the topic of spiritual discernment, which is a biblical responsibility for Christians and evidence of maturity, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14).

Challies reminds Christians that we have the responsibility to “test everything” (1 Thess 5:21). If you are not certain what that means or how to do it, I suggest his book. 

Also, I highly recommend Challies blog:

His blog is one of the few that I am certain to visit often. You will find a lot of good stuff there. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Encouragement for the Small Church

This marks the end of my summer blogging hiatus. I took a few months off from writing to devote more of my attention to my kids, which will probably be my typical pattern. Thirty years from now my blog posts will be long forgotten, but time spent with my family will not. 

During my summer hiatus I have been reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Most are familiar with Bonhoeffer for his heroic stand against Hitler, which ultimately cost him his life. Many have been impacted by his classic work The Cost of Discipleship. But few probably know Bonhoeffer as pastor of a small congregation. I really appreciated the picture of Bonhoeffer as a faithful shepherd to a small flock. Metaxas describes his work: 

“Bonhoeffer was responsible for two congregations, neither of which was large enough to support its own pastor. The Sydenham congregation numbered between thirty and forty...and the St. Paul’s congregation numbered about fifty, mostly tradesmen. Despite the small numbers, Bonhoeffer prepared his sermons as if he were preaching to thousands.”

Bonhoeffer approached his pastoral work, regardless of the size, with the principle that Paul lays out in Colossians: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24 ESV). 

Hopefully this is an encouragement to all smaller congregations. I am thankful to serve a smaller flock and many of my pastoral friends in ministry are in the same boat. Many believers in Christ faithfully attend smaller congregations for decades as well, without the prospect that their church will ever grow much in size. In all of this, the Lord deserves our best efforts. I’m certain that Bonhoeffer has no regrets that he gave his.