A few years ago, at the recommendation of C.J. Mahaney, I read The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson.
Carson exposits select passages from 1 Corinthians, explaining how the cross affects our understanding of preaching, the Holy Spirit, factionalism, Christian leadership, and being a world Christian. I’d highly recommend it for any Christian leader who believes “Christ crucified” defines not only our message but our methods of ministry. Here are a few quotes that impacted me:
Replacing The Primary with the Secondary
“It is at least possible that we are the generation of believers who will destroy much of historic Christianity from within – not, in the first instance, by rancid unbelief, but by raising relatively peripheral questions to the place where, functionally, they displace what is central.”
Are we Drawing Crowds or Converts?
“If the church is being built with large portions of charm, personality, easy oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences, and people smarts, but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” we may be winning more adherents than converts.”
Broadening our Musical Palate
“Must we have fights over church music? We should have the best, the most God-centered, the most truthful, the most edifying. But must it all be in one style? Is there nothing to be gained from wide exposure to the company of saints in many parts of the world who have expressed their adoration of the Savior with richness of hymnody we can never exhaust, but which we ignore to our detriment?”
Leaving the Gospel Behind
“Do not think that you can adopt the philosophies and values of the world as if such choices do not have a profoundly detrimental impact on the church. Do not think you can get away with it. Do not kid yourself that you are with it, and avant-garde Christian, when in fact you are leaving the gospel behind and doing damage to God’s church.”
The Inconsistency of Admiring the World
“It is idiotic – that is not too strong a word – to extol the world’s perspective and secretly lust after its limited vision. That is what the Corinthians were apparently doing; that is what we are in danger of doing every time we adopt our world’s shibboleths, dote on its heroes, admire its transient stars, seek its admiration, and play to its applause.”
Strategic Planning or the Cross?
“All of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements – but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.”
If you haven’t read this yet, put it on your reading list. You can get it from Amazon here.