In Search of a Unified Theory of Everything, Part 5

[see parts 1-4 for context]

Explicitly or implicitly, every church or ministry is answering the following questions:

  • Worship: What should we do in our corporate gatherings?
  • Preaching: How should we communicate God’s word effectively?
  • Counseling: How do we help people change, heal, and grow?
  • Leadership Development: How do we train and release leaders?
  • Mission: What is the mission of God and how do we participate in it?
  • Community: How do we connect people to one another in redemptive, life-giving, disciple-making communities?
  • Cultural Renewal: How do we help people glorify God in their everyday vocations?
  • Children’s Ministry: How do we help parents disciple the next generation?

In too many churches and ministries, these questions are answered in isolation from one another. What we do in worship becomes disconnected from what we’re doing in counseling; our efforts at cultural renewal don’t interface with our vision for preaching; our children’s ministry is disjointed from our community groups.

But: if we answer all these questions starting from a correct, biblical anthropology, we will develop a holistic, gospel-driven ministry that is unified in its approach, thorough in its scope, and deeply transformative in its results.

  • Worship: If humans are loving, desiring, worshiping beings, then the goal of our corporate gatherings should be to form people in the language, cadence, and habit of Christian worship. We do not start worshiping at 9 AM on Sunday mornings; we come to church already worshiping. So the church’s goal is not to ‘give people a good experience’ or fill their heads with information, but to form them as worshipers – and to direct and reorient their worship Godward.
  • Preaching: if humans are loving, desiring, worshiping beings, then our goal in preaching is always doxological. Every sermon exists to dethrone idols and exalt the majesty and mercy of the Triune Creator God. As John Piper has said, preaching is “expository exultation.” It is an act of worship, and it exists to spur worship. Right worship always leads to right behavior and right feelings.
  • Counseling: if humans are loving, desiring, worshiping beings, then the goal of counseling is to expose false worship (idolatry) and spur repentance and faith (true worship). Every sin problem and negative emotion is rooted in idolatry. Counseling is the work of specific gospel application – applying the good news of the gospel to the particular lies and lusts affecting a specific human heart.
  • Leadership Development: if humans are loving, desiring, worshiping beings, then the work of leadership development is the work of forming and releasing new desires. Leaders are people who worship God wholeheartedly, and are equipped to help others worship God wholeheartedly. The work of leadership development is gospel work – helping leaders to worship God instead of idols and teaching them how to do the same for others.
  • Mission: If humans are loving, worshiping, desiring beings, then being on mission means inviting people to worship God. But as Harold Best has so aptly put it: “Nobody does not worship.” We’re not calling people to start worshiping; we’re calling them to start worshiping God. This small anthropological realization leads to massive changes in how we engage non-Christians.
  • Community: If humans are loving, worshiping, desiring beings, then community exists to help us orient our loves rightly. Christian community must be formative. It must be deeper and broader than just Bible study or fellowship or prayer or accountability or equipping. It must be community that forms us more deeply in gospel identity and moves us out together in gospel mission.
  • Cultural Renewal: If humans are loving, worshiping, desiring beings, then cultural renewal comes as humans engage their vocations with a love for something higher than money or success or fame or security or fulfillment. When work is loved as an end in itself, or when work is a vehicle for self-love, culture suffers. When work becomes a means to the end of loving God and glorifying him in all of life, culture prospers, humans flourish, and vocations that promote sin and suffering are eradicated.
  • Children’s Ministry: If humans are loving, worshiping, desiring beings, then raising kids is ultimately a work of desire-shaping and love-focusing. Our goal is not to produce kids who know the Bible or like going to church or obey their parents. Our goal is to raise children who love rightly: whose deepest desires are for God, his glory, his mission, and his kingdom. Basic behavior training – shaping good behavior and disciplining disobedience – is a means toward cultivating a teachable and soft heart, not merely a tactic to secure obedience.

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  1. I look forward to what you have to say about children’s ministry from this perspective. In my long, narrow experience in Christian education, I find Christian schools and children’s Sunday Schools to be the most poorly thought-out structures of the evangelical church. Perhaps children, who haven’t learned to pretend to be rationally-driven yet, are even more formed by these sloppy structures than adults who can step back and excuse an ugly structure, deferring to good intentions behind the poor execution.

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