Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Conversation: Tim Keller, John Piper, D.A. Carson - Part 2

Here's the second part of the conversation between Keller, Piper and Carson. Keller does most of the talking but they deal with two extremely interesting aspects to the spreading of the Gospel. The first is about the value of "events" that may be designed to spread an awareness of the Church in the community but often don't bear much fruit. Such as many favour "Kids Klub" - a children's activity group usually on Saturdays. The second interesting part of the discussion concerned how prospective pastors should be selected.

Tim Keller:

“I just agree completely. Actually if you were running a tutoring programme for kids at a local school – and lots of Christians are involved in such programmes – you are hoping that such relationships would bring evangelistic fruit. Maybe some kids come to faith or some families come into the church – that would be great – but if you don’t see much evangelistic fruit immediately you shouldn’t think that there isn’t indirect evangelistic fruit – that is to say the witness to the whole community of the church’s heart for the kids is still giving a witness to how Christ’s love changes people and motivates them for sacrificial service and therefore you shouldn’t really be adding up conversions by looking at a particular programme and say that is not being evangelistically fruitful. It would be great if it was direct but if not it is still going to be evangelistically fruitful in the larger scheme of things. Besides that it is not loving the kids if you say – well if I say; “If I love my neighbour I am going to share the faith with them”. If a wind knocks a tree into my neighbour’s house then I am going to go over and pull it off their house whether they believe or not. And it would be horrendous if you gave the impression that your mercy ministry is linked to whether they respond or not”.

John Piper:

“Would you say it was loving to go and pull the tree of their house with no mental design or intentionality that your hope will come across?

Tim Keller:

“No of course not”.

John Piper:

“Because people have gotten in my face when I have said the hope and the design and the pursuit of the deed – they would say that is manipulation”.

Tim Keller:

“Well that should be your design. You still don’t have to make it conditional – that’s not the same thing. Love isn’t conditional on you hearing and responding to the Gospel. My love can still be motivated by desire that they hear and understand the Gospel and those are two things so to collapse them isn’t quite fair.

John Piper:

"Which is why it is so crucial I think to maintain the belief in ultimate reality because the person who really loves somebody and says if they don’t believe in Christ then they will suffer forever HAS to have that design! Has to have that longing in every good deed they do – even if it doesn’t pay off – they are hoping it will, to their dying breath they are hoping it will”.

Don Carson:

“And also shape their praying and their priorities and praising and everything else! That’s right”.
Tim Keller:

"Another subject? Okay let’s see – which one did I volunteer for? When I am looking for a pastor on my staff (if I am part of a search process by which we are looking for) I think this is a position where I tend to think in triplicate. The Prophet-Priest-King metaphor. Christ’s work as prophetic, priestly and kingly. The prophetic aspect is that we want someone who really understands the Gospel and is theologically sound. You might say that the kingly aspect is that I want someone who has gifts that match the job. The fact is that all pastoral jobs are different. You have pastors in small churches, specialist pastors in large churches, pastors who namely preach and teach or pastors who are largely doing one on one work – and so the kingly aspect is that I want gifts that fit the role. The prophetic aspect is that I want the man to be sound theologically.

The priestly or existential aspect (and here’s what I am looking for) is that a Gospel-changed heart is not the same as a moralistic changed heart or cheap grace. A heart that basically says God loves everybody but doesn’t look at the costliness of grace. Moralism doesn’t believe in grace – but basically believes that you are getting God’s blessing through work. I would say that a moralistic heart tends to be morally serious but lacks joy and lacks a deep level poise and peace – it has a real unhappiness all the time. The cheap grace heart lacks moral seriousness and what we would call “fear and trembling before God” and even fear and trembling before both good and bad trembling. Being humbled by the bad circumstances and being amazed by the good ones or moral seriousness. I do think the Gospel that I am simultaneously justified and accepted and yet sinful and deserving hell apart from grace gives me both a humility and boldness.

The boldness is this affirmation and deep peace – “I am not condemned!” – but the humility comes from this sense that we cannot just demand things from God because I am a sinner saved by grace. That Gospel character is the hardest thing to get and there are folks who theoretically understand the gospel and are pretty skilful and yet don’t show that character. That’s not to say they aren’t saved – I just don’t think that Gospel penny has dropped. That is what we are looking for more than anything else in pastors. I would say it’s not rare – but it doesn’t grow on trees even amongst sound, skilful people. So – what do you think?

John Piper:

“Well it doesn’t grow on trees!”.

Tim Keller:

“And it’s a little hard to explain to people why we pass over them. If we pass over them for that reason then I have an obligation to talk to them about it”.

John Piper:

“Just to help draw us out – are there questions or ways in which you would try to discern that in someone? How do you get it out? Have you got a week in with them? Discerning that level of spiritual maturity?”.

Tim Keller:

“Well see – you have to watch them interacting with other people. Resume and interview can give you the other two. You can discern both knowledge and views and you usually by references and interviews you can get a pretty good idea of what the person’s skills and gifts are. You can get to be with the person in some situations and learn the reason why – even though we’ve really only done this with church planters. My denomination at Redeemer has developed an assessment centre to look for church planters only – you spend 3 or 4 days with a person and his wife along with other candidates. You can see them interacting with each other and others in a social situation as you ask them questions and give them case studies and they start to let their guard down a little bit and become themselves. Now if you ask me what I am looking for – even that would be a challenge but how do you find it? You really can’t find it through a resume or though an interview. You have to rely on other people to know them.

Don Carson:

“I think that goes for the 3 spheres of our understanding in the ministry, its not a fourth thing – its something that touches everything.

The Bible says that one of the criteria for a pastor is being able to teach on some level and that means having something to say and having something to communicate. On the other hand I can recall an amount of Biblical scholars who know a vast amount about the Bible and are very good communicators and yet aren’t even believers. Then there are others who have a fair grasp of theology and really do think they are believers yet the Gospel hasn’t quite penetrated their lives to the way they put things together and you find it’s not quite Gospel-centrered.

So the “able to teach” criterion that is mentioned in 1st Timothy 3 has to be fleshed out but of the relational matters of teaching as a pastor – how you approach woman, an older man, rebuke those who have a whole load of money – all of those things start to work out in dynamic and relationships – and after a while you can’t always separate teaching and how the Gospel is working out in your life is manifest on all those fronts all the time".

art 3 to follow ...


07000intune said...

You are probably realising my temper is getting shorter with evangelicalism. Am I being too strong here? Here is Jordy's original post and here is my reply.
Does anyone know a thing about tongues? How about baptism of the Holy Spirit? Well last night I went to a church that stressed the importance of both experiences. This church lead a discussion at the end of worship. After the discussion they all prayed over me and were ORDERED to use their prayer language (tongues). Now I did my research on this and tongues are actually linked to demonic activity. According to a pastor i respect, the gift was used to communicate the gospel to another in their own native language. It wasn't supposed to be used as "jibberish" where no one interprets it.

Now that being said I have to confess. I had the most amazing experience last night at this church. But worship gotta little crazy. people were doing things that absolutely could have been demonic. it sucks though cause i would rather have a nutty christian than a pious one any day. After worship we had a female lead discussion on FEAR. FEAR FEAR FEAR. I have the spirit of fear. How am I ever going to get rid of it. Will someone help me. I feel so defeated. I feel like Im ashamed of Jesus. I feel like the load sits on my own shoulders. I feel I'll be found out as a fake sooner or later. Please soemone calm me down. I thank you in advance.
If Ike is correct...then sometimes emotional problems need emotional solutions.
Spiritual problems need spiritual solutions. Sometimes the emotional ones get dealt with in the same package.
The cool thing is if we've asked Jesus into our heart, then He gives us His peace which acts as an umpire in our judgements.
If what Ike is saying is true, then it will give you a Jesus type peace. If however it is a spiritual matter, and you genuinely do fear letting go and jumping feet first into the things of Christ, what builds faith is the Word.As read, or preached. Try downloading some of Rob Rufus sermons, free from Hong Kong City Church, see my blog links by clicking on my title above and finding my blog.
If you decide for Christ deep in your innards, there is such a prayer as "Lord, help my unbelief"
He will only be too delighted to answer that one.
As for tongues, in the context of giving yourself to Christ in worship and praise, they are not demonic. No demon wants to worship Christ. That other preacher is speaking out of evangelicalism...which is a strange cultlike belief that manages to stress belief in the total inspiration of the Bible, while exterminating any attempts to walk in huge chunks of it under the general principle that God who is supernatural ceased doing supernatural things sometime after Acts was written.But God is the I AM, not the I was, and He is the same today as He was in Jesus day.
Calling evangelicalism a cult seems strong, but if you are going to fundamentally change one of the Names of God in your belief system, that is what you are effectively doing...creating a cult-like, more manageable god in your own image, because you don't want a particularly close relationship with the real one.
So evangelicalism is not in fact Biblical.Or perhaps Biblical with major denials in force.It is more like the faith of the Sadducees, who Jesus deliberately chose to antagonise with miracles...especially on the Sabbath...
The truth is, since the huge wave that began around 1906,the church discovered that evangelicalism had robbed the church of most of its power in the proclamation of the gospel...which according to the gospels and the epistles, was to be with signs and wonders following.Since that time, the largest growth in the worldwide church has been through Pentecostal and Charismatic believers. Even mighty preachers such as Billy Graham cannot match the millions and millions growth in both open and closed nations by believers who have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The other internal evidence you have already is : did it feel right. The meeting you went to obviously felt right. Even though at present it is still a shock to the sense God's Presence there, the love for God, and the love for the Brethren. This also is a great internal umpire.

Dan Bowen said...

I'm certainly with you Chris, in getting a short temper with evangelicalism! I think Jesus did too ... hence the overturned tables and the whips! Traditionalists can't claim a lack of knowledge for their views, they are people of the Word or so they claim! I don't think you're being too strong at all. We may be truly people of grace but this mixed gospel of Old and New Testament has had it's day long enough.

Sheila said...

Read your blog entry today...I confess, for all my respect for Piper, etc., I cannot imagine an "interview, resume process" for a pastor!!

(I know...Harvest is a ::smallish:: 90+ percent of all churches here in the US - under 200 or so members. That must be it. We haven't gotten big enough to be non-relational.)

We have long been in the process of appointing another elder, after a painful experience of the one we'd set in before, abandoning the entire church, without prior notice. This was in 2006.

As senior pastor, my husband would not be able to wrap his mind around, say, taking out an add in whatever newspaper Christendom uses to advertise for such things, and "interviewing" for another elder.

In the intervening years, God has added to us a couple of men who meet the Biblical qualifications, and we've been growing in relationship with these men all this time.

The qualifications for pastor/elder are far MORE organic than rote...they can't be quantified beyond having a good reputation, and being "apt to teach". Otherwise, you have to know the person, and that takes boatloads of time.

Love the prophet, priest, king metaphor, though. That's all true. I just cannot see, for the life of me, how a resume can prove ANY of its existence in the heart of a man!

One wise man of God - a well-known musician, and dynamic teacher of the Word (I won't say who, because I can't stand name dropping!!!) told us, over lunch, years ago, "Only appoint elders who meet the Bible's standard, and I would personally add one more standard: don't appoint an elder whose wife does not get along with your wife, and don't appoint an elder who you wouldn't go on vacation with!!"

"Well said", thought I. :-) We have a few couples who would pass the "wine and cheese" test with flying colors! (otherwise known as the fellowship test)

Great food for thought, Dan.