Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category
Posted on October 15th, 2014 by David Burnette
We’re excited to announce that Early Registration for Secret Church 15 is now open!
Simply go here to register for SC15 as a church, as a small group, or as an individual. The last day to get early registration pricing is January 25th. For those who have participated in Secret Church in the past, please note that this year’s gathering will not take place on Good Friday. Instead, the date for this upcoming gathering is Friday, April 24, 2015. Beat the end-of-year busyness by registering now.
David Platt will be speaking on “Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” In case you missed the topic announcement earlier this year, here’s a summary of what you can expect followed by a video that talks about the purpose behind Secret Church:
The culture around us is constantly changing, and successive changes are often accompanied by significant challenges. So how does the call of Christ compel us to respond to these challenges? How does a Christian respond to the rapid rise of so-called same-sex marriage and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? How does a Christian live in a world of sex slavery and rampant pornography, a world where babies are aborted and widows are abandoned? How does a Christian think in a culture of pervasive racial prejudice and limited religious liberty? What does a Christian do in a church that exalts prosperity amidst a world of extreme poverty? During this Secret Church, we will explore biblical foundations for answers to these questions and come to significant conclusions regarding how Christ calls every Christian to engage culture with a firm grip on the gospel in the church and a fervent passion for God’s glory in the world.
When we think of mission work, our minds may most naturally go to the African bush, the Indian slums, or the Arabian deserts. We probably don’t think of Tokyo high rises.
At less than one percent evangelical Christian, Japan’s 120 million natives make up the second largest unreached people group in the world. Don’t be fooled by the neon lights illuminating the bustling streets – Japan is a dark country. Some have even dubbed it “the missionary’s graveyard,” not because violent persecution is common there, but because ministry burnout is. In Japan, after spinning their wheels for years, many missionaries find themselves stopped dead in their tracks.
One reason that ministry there has been so difficult is its material excess. Contrary to the hunger, sickness, and poverty that so often opens doors for ministry in developing nations, Japan seems to have it all. Blinded by worldly ambition and distracted by excessive busyness, the Japanese obliviously wander on, “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
At the same time, they may soon be ripe for a huge harvest. Their immense spiritual need is starting to come to a head as they work themselves to death (literally – they call it karōshi), fight a losing battle with depression and suicide, tragically give themselves to sex trafficking, and realize that their advanced technology and infrastructure is no match for nuclear disasters, typhoons, and earthquakes.
Pray for the Japanese. Pray for the worn out missionaries among them. Pray for a massive harvest. And pray for more laborers to go to this forgotten field.
Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Jonathan
To acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with David Platt’s teaching on missions, here is a collection of videos in which he talks about different aspects of it. While these videos do not offer a comprehensive theology of missions, we hope they will compel you to go to God in his Word and to the lost in the world.
Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Jonathan
As many of us are leaving summer behind to return to school or get back into a regular routine at work, Matt is doing no such thing. Life is different for him. Matt lives in Central Asia and was sent out to serve mid-term by The Church at Brook Hill. Mid-term is described as a period of anywhere between two months and two years. For him, school looks more like learning a foreign language, and monotonous routine . . . well, there’s not much of that.
We asked Matt some questions about his life in Central Asia. Our hope is that his words might challenge those of us tempted to simply survive the next test or deadline. Our lives are intended for more than intention-less routines driven by purposeless attitudes. When we realize that God desires to use us to bring the nations to Himself, and when we hear of brothers and sisters whose devotion to Christ means harsh persecution, we see everything differently. The reality is, we have so much more to live for than the weekend.
Here’s what Matt had to say . . .
What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?
Time and time again, my team and I have been surprised at how quickly God answers the prayers of us and our supporters back home, and His answers to these prayers are often even better than we knew to ask for! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask Him to act in big ways to help us reach lost people. He desires and is worthy of the worship of all peoples and is actively working in hearts and lives all across the world.
What has been the most difficult part of your time there?
It has been difficult being part of a new team re-engaging a minority people group that has not been worked with for several years. Due to the difficulty of gaining access to our people’s homeland, we are in the process of establishing a business in a nearby country where there is a significant population of our people. This poses many challenges such as learning a minority language with few immersion experiences, balancing business and ministry responsibilities, and justifying to the community why we as Western businessmen spend so much time with this minority people and are learning their language.
Can you give us your highlight of the trip?
One of the biggest highlights so far has been growing closer as a team and becoming more like a family. Being part of such a small team, we spend a lot of time together, and the Lord has used that in teaching us more of what it means to be the body of Christ. Praying, worshiping, and having fun together, holding one another accountable, and being united in a common vision has helped us to encourage one another during the difficult times and overall thrive in our first year on the field.
What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?
Utilize the time before you leave the U.S. to establish routines of engaging lost people where you are currently. Often times, we get caught up in enjoying the benefits of Christian community so much that we rarely put ourselves in places where we are surrounded by the lost. Going mid-term is a weird balance between a sprint and a marathon; the routines you are able to establish before arriving on the field will help you to make the most of the time you have in your new context.
What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?
The way that is most obvious and yet often over-looked is to actively pray for that person, their ministry, and their people. Be proactive in asking for ways to pray for that person and in regularly praying for their boldness and evangelism opportunities. Also, we love hearing from friends, family, and supporters about what is happening back home and how we can be praying for them.
What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?
I often feel like I am sitting on the front row watching Him prepare the harvest of these people in a way in which only the Creator of the universe is able! In our first month on the field, He answered our prayers by providing a language teacher, national believer, and friend all with a single person whom He had burdened to return to his family and country (at the risk of his life) to help reach his people with the gospel of Christ. The things we’ve seen happen over the past year are more than coincidences; no doubt the Lord is doing the same type of things in unreached people groups all across the world!
What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?
Extreme persecution is normal, expected, and worth the risk for the believers in this part of the world. Coming from a place, like the U.S, where it is “safe” to be a Christian, it is still difficult to fully understand what these national brothers and sisters experience everyday in living and dying for Christ. That being said, the Lord is using these terrible acts to bring others to faith, grow the church, and advance the gospel of Christ to the most difficult to reach people and places in the world.
Posted on September 16th, 2014 by David Burnette
It may sound like a contradiction, but it’s true: serious theological errors usually contain a good dose of the truth. That’s why we fall for them.
Most Christians know to reject a teaching that openly rejects God’s Word, but when the truth is slightly twisted or simply downplayed—maybe even with Bible verses attached—it’s easier to get caught off guard. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to Scripture’s foundational teachings, like Christ’s atonement. Your answer to the question, “What did Christ accomplish by his death on the cross?” has massive implications.
In Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, you can see a list of some of the most influential theories of the atonement in church history (SC 6 Study Guide, 14-15). One of those theories is called the Moral Influence Theory, which is the idea that Christ’s death on the cross was primarily a demonstration of God’s love intended to move sinners to repentance. So what could be wrong with that? Isn’t the cross supposed to demonstrate God’s love to us? Well, yes, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to Christ’s atoning work. Consider just a couple of the problems with the Moral Influence Theory.
God’s Word clearly teaches that we have sinned against a holy God, and the penalty for that sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). However, if we subscribe to the Moral Influence Theory, it’s not clear how our sin gets dealt with. The cross may deeply affect us, even moving us to change our behavior, but that won’t remove our guilt before God. We have sins that need to be forgiven (Eph 1:7) and a debt that needs to be cancelled (Col 2:14). A Righteous Judge cannot simply overlook this. It’s no surprise, then, that the Moral Influence Theory rejects the idea that our sin requires a payment, thus calling into question God’s perfect justice. Also, as Michael Horton observes, “A moral example or influence need hardly be God incarnate” (1). Clearly another atonement theory is needed.
If we want to be made right with the holy and just God who is revealed in Scripture, our sin debt must be paid. Gratefully, Christ’s atoning work has done just that. Peter tells us that Christ died in our place, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18). The name of the theory that best accounts for this view of the atonement is sometimes called the Penal Substitution Theory. As the name suggests, Christ’s atonement paid sin’s penalty (Penal) in our place (Substitution). God is both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in his Son (Rom 3:26).
To be clear, seeing Jesus as our substitute doesn’t mean his atonement is not also a deeply moving demonstration of God’s love, nor does it mean that there weren’t other purposes for Christ’s death (like disarming the “rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15). But unless a sinless, sufficient sacrifice is made for our sins—something only the divine Son of God could do—our guilt remains and none of the other benefits of Christ’s death will work for our eternal good. No mere demonstration of love, however great, will wipe our record clean.
Not even if it moves us to tears.
– For more on Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, go here.
(1) Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, 504.
Posted on September 8th, 2014 by David Burnette
If leading others through Secret Church material seems intimidating, or if you’re looking for a Bible study to do with your small group, we’ve designed a simple resource to help. Check out the new Small Group Discussion Guide for Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life (SC 14).
The Small Group Discussion Guide breaks down 4.5 hours of teaching from SC 14 into a 6-week study that is designed to be used along with the video and Study Guide for SC 14. The Discussion Guide is free for anyone who purchases 5 or more SC 14 Study Guides or a SC 14 DVD. (The cost is $5.00 to order the Discussion Guide by itself.) To get those resources, you can go here.
To download a free sample of Week 1 from the Discussion Guide, go here.
You can use this resource to lead another individual, a small group, or a large class through the material in Secret Church 14. Each week contains the following sections:
This Discussion Guide breaks the Secret Church 14 study into six sessions. The Watch/Fill In portion will tell you how much of the video to watch during each session and what portion of the study guide will be used during that session.
Week at a Glance
The Week at a Glance section will give you a general overview of the material you will be studying each week.
Key Takeaways and Verses
Every week, the Discussion Guide will provide a few key takeaways from the study as well as key verses to help you guide the discussion following the video portion of the study.
Explaining Terms and Concepts
This section of the Discussion Guide is a resource to unpack terms and concepts used during the Secret Church study.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
Questions for discussion and reflection are provided to help your small group think through and apply the concepts studied each week.
For Further Study
Each week a list of resources is provided for the leader and participants for further study on the content covered in that session.
— To learn more about Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life, go here.
Posted on August 25th, 2014 by Jonathan
The following is from Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ.
We should boast in the cross . . .
1. Because the cross confronts us with who we once were. (Eph 2:1-5)
- The cross reminds us of how horrible sin is.
- The cross reminds us how humbling grace is.
2. Because the cross comforts us with who we are now.
- We are alive to God. (Rm 6:8-14)
- Sacrifice: He died our death.
- We were dead; now we live!
- We have an advocate before God. (Rm 8:33-39; Heb 7:23-25)
- Propitiation: He endured our condemnation
- We were afraid; now we are friends!
- We have access to God. (Heb 4:14-16)
- Reconciliation: He suffered our separation
- We were cast out; now we are invited in!
- We are adopted by God. (Rm 8:15-17)
- Redemption: He suffered our separation.
- We were slaves; now we are now sons!
3. Because the cross teaches us what it means to be saved.
- The cross makes clear our justification. (Gal 2:15-20)
- Christ died for us.
- We are not working for righteousness, but from righteousness.
- The cross makes possible our sanctification. (1 Cor 1:18)
- Christ now lives in us.
- We are not in debt to Christ; we are indwelt by Christ.
- The cross makes certain our glorification. (Rm 8:28-30)
- Christ is coming back for us.
- We are not living for this world; we are living for the world to come.
4. Because the cross shows us what it means to love. (1 Jn 3:16-18; Jn 13:35)
- In the church . . . we unite around the cross.
- Among the lost . . . we proclaim the cross.
- Toward the poor . . . we embody the cross.
5. Because the cross reminds us that our safety is not in this world.
- We do not fear suffering. (Matt 10:26-31)
- We are free to suffer. (Phil 1:29-30; Col 1:24)
6. Because the cross keeps us from wasting our lives in this world. (Phil 3:7-11)
- This world has nothing for us.
- Christ is everything to us.
7. Because the cross grips us with a vision of the world to come.
- Jesus has identified the ultimate problem. (Rev 5:1)
- We stand before a holy God hopeless.
- We stand before a holy God helpless.
- Jesus has paid the ultimate price. (Rev 5:5-6)
- He is a conquering Lion.
- He is a suffering Lamb.
- Jesus has fulfilled the ultimate purpose. (Rev 5:7)
- Jesus now deserves the ultimate praise. (Rev 5:8-14)
- Our song will be new.
- Our worship will be never-ending.
Posted on August 21st, 2014 by David Burnette
What does it mean to be part of an Unreached People Group (UPG)? How do unreached peoples stand before God? What is our obligation, as followers of Christ, to those who have no access to the gospel?
The following outline provides a good summary for these kinds of questions. The outline was taken from Pastor David Platt’s sermon titled “Our Obligation to the Unreached,” and is based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 1-3 about man’s inherent sinful condition. To access the sermon in its entirety, including the outline below, go here.
Who are the Unreached?
- A people group among whom there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage the people group with church planting.
- Technically speaking, the percentage of evangelical Christians in this people group is less than two percent.
How Many People Are Unreached?
- Over 6,500 people groups are unreached . . .
Including at least two billion individual people
- Over 3,000 are also unengaged (meaning there is currently no evangelical church planting strategy under way to reach that people group) . . .
Including around 200 million individual people
What Does It Mean To Be Unreached?
- Practically . . .
You do not currently have access to the gospel.
Unless something changes, you will likely be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel.
- Biblically . . .
You have knowledge of God.
You have rejected God.
You stand condemned before God.
You have never heard the good news about how you can be saved by God.
Why Must We Go To The Unreached?
- Because their knowledge of God is only enough to damn them to hell.
- Because the gospel of God is powerful enough to save them forever.
- Because the plan of God warrants the sacrifices of His people.
- Because the Son of God deserves the praise of all peoples.
To learn more about unreached peoples, visit Joshua Project.
Posted on August 20th, 2014 by David Burnette
Have you ever read about Jesus’ miracles in Scripture and walked away thinking, “If only I had seen that, I would never again be ashamed of Christ?” Or maybe it’s one of God’s mighty works in the Old Testament–like Israel’s rescue from Egypt–and you think to yourself, “How could they experience that and still disobey?”
At one level, it’s natural to want to experience unique demonstrations of God’s power and grace. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to be there when God split the Red Sea in two? And who wouldn’t pay to see Lazarus come stumbling out of the tomb covered with four-day-old grave cloths? Surely our struggle to trust God would get much easier if we could only see these things with our own eyes . . . right?
Diagnosing the Sin Problem
The idea that simply eye-witnessing a miracle would catapult us into a new level of trust and obedience misses the teaching of Scripture, not only on the role of miracles, but even more fundamentally on the nature of faith and the blinding effects of sin. To say, “If God would only show me____, then I would trust him,” implies that our unbelief is due to a lack of evidence. But that’s not how the Bible diagnoses man’s sin problem.
Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-32 that all men rebel against God because they prefer idols, not because they lack proof. In fact, it’s because we already have proof of God’s power and divine nature in creation that we are “without excuse” (20). God has made these things “plain,” yet we suppress the truth (18-19). Our “ignorance” flows from a hard heart. (Eph 4:18).
More Than Floating Furniture
Maybe you’ve heard an atheist claim that he would gladly believe in God if only God would perform some great miracle right before his eyes–like causing a table to levitate. God could do that, of course, but as Christians we should know better: it takes more than floating furniture to change the heart. People reject the light because they love the darkness (Jn 1:19). We need our eyes enlightened, even after we’re saved (Eph 1:18). It’s no wonder, then, that Scripture is overflowing with examples, both of godly saints and of rebellious sinners, who sinned blatantly after firsthand experience with God’s miraculous power.
Noah got drunk after being rescued from a worldwide flood (Gen 8:20-21). Abraham lied about his wife after God spoke to him directly (Gen 20:2). The children of Israel saw Mt. Sinai enveloped in smoke and darkness, and they responded by demanding that Aaron make them an idol in the form of a golden calf (Ex 32). The trend continues in the New Testament. Some Jews who watched Lazarus walk out of the tomb refused to submit to Jesus and instead headed straight for the chief priests and Pharisees (Jn 11:46). Nine out of ten lepers who were cleansed by Jesus didn’t even go back to thank him (Lk 17:11-19). And as for the disciples, they didn’t always fare much better. After distributing bread and fish to over five thousand people, they seemed clueless as to how Christ would feed a smaller crowd only a short time later (Matt 15:33). Talk about missing the point!
Perhaps Peter serves as the most striking example. This leading apostle was on hand for Jesus’ entire earthly ministry, including Christ’s transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8). He saw all the miracles and he even walked on water (briefly). Yet, on three different occasions during Jesus’ trial, this same Peter adamantly denied that he even knew the Lord of glory. Being an eyewitness did not ensure Peter’s faithfulness.
Believing and Seeing
None of these examples should be taken as a slight against miracles. One reason God performed miracles was to bear witness to the message of his salvation (Heb 2:4). Jesus pointed to his signs and wonders to convince John the Baptist that he was truly the Messiah (Matt 11:2-5). Likewise, God frequently reminds Israel of his mighty works of salvation in order to bolster their hope in him (Ps 105). Still, we’re mistaken to think that simply seeing supernatural events would cure our struggle to trust God.
Unbelief can only be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s witnessing a miracle, understanding the gospel, or simply grasping a truth from God’s Word, we are dependent on the Spirit to see truth rightly and to love the truth that we see. This is the same Spirit who empowered the fearful and doubting disciples—those who had watched Jesus’ perform miracles—to give their lives for him after Pentecost. He will continue his transforming work in us too as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).
So the next time you long for some supernatural proof of God’s presence, Christian, remind yourself that God has given you something greater than signs and wonders. You have his Spirit and his Word, yes “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). There is no need to look elsewhere in your struggle to trust and obey. Finally, hear the encouragement Christ gives to those who have never seen him with their physical eyes: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).
Posted on August 13th, 2014 by Jonathan
The following prayer was originally posted by Rick Phillips on Reformation 21.
Our Father in heaven, the sovereign and almighty God, the faithful covenant-keeper and Savior, we plead to you on behalf of our suffering fellow believers in Iraq. Cast your eye upon them and have mercy to uphold and defend your flock. Overthrow the evil of their persecutors and strengthen the faith of those suffering tribulation for the name of Jesus.
Father, as of old you caused the enemies of your people to destroy one another in answer to the plea of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:23), so now bring discord, division, and self-destruction to the jihadist slayers afflicting your people. Lord, as once you parted the Red Sea to make safe the way of Israel fleeing from Pharaoh’s host (Ex. 14:21-22), open a path to safety for your people fleeing in distress. Our God, your Word foretells that Satan will make war on the church, all the more because he knows that his end is near (Rev. 12:12). But as you promised, intervene supernaturally to provide a refuge in the wilderness for the church our enemy is seeking to destroy (Rev. 12:14-16). Cause your suffering people to conquer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; strengthen their testimony to Jesus, even under threat of death (Rev. 12:11).
Our loving Father, Jesus foretold that his people would be hated by all nations and delivered up to tribulation (Mt. 24:9), as we see happening to the saints of Iraq. Do not permit them to fall away or betray one another, and keep their love from growing cold (Mt. 24:10, 12). Hear the cries of Rachel in Iraq and Kurdistan, weeping for her children (Jer. 31:15).
God of grace, have mercy on our fellow sinners who persecute your people in the name of a false god. As once you turned the heart of Saul of Tarsus when he was the chief tormenter of your church (Acts 9:4-5), and as Jesus pled for you to forgive those who tortured him upon the cross (Lk. 23:34), now have mercy on those who crucify and behead the saints in Iraq. Reveal your grace and glory to them so that they might repent, believe, and be saved.
Finally, Lord, send your Spirit to inspire Christians who live in comfort and ease, that we might honor the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters by living boldly for Jesus, that we might abominate in ourselves the sins of hatred, lust, and idolatry that we see working so terribly against our brethren, and that we might live more soberly and prayerfully for the cause of Christ in this evil world.
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