For a number of years now, churches have latched on to the “leadership training” fad. The idea is that everyone is a leader, and needs to be trained as such to be more effective in the kingdom. Really? Is everyone a chief? If so, where are the Indians? Those who claim everyone is a leader have to have a pretty thin definition of leader. Yes, everyone has influence in someone else’s life at some point, but that does not make them a leader or require that they undergo leadership training.

Despite the fact that I don’t think everyone is a leader, I wouldn’t be bothered by all of this leadership training if churches were also focused on theological training. In my experience, however, people being trained in leadership are getting virtually no theological training at all. People well-versed in leadership couldn’t exegete their way out of a paper bag or tell you the first thing about the Bible’s teaching on justification. Let’s get first things first. Theological training is a necessity for every Christian. Leadership training is a luxury.

Evangelism is scary for many people, including myself.  Many Christians find it difficult to start a discussion on spiritual things.  Others fear that they’ll be pummeled with objections to the faith that they don’t know how to answer.  Many fear rejection.  As a result, we’ve invented new methods of “evangelism” that don’t require us to actually talk to anyone.  I’m thinking of “friendship evangelism” and “love evangelism” in particular.

The premise of friendship evangelism (also known as relationship evangelism or lifestyle evangelism) is that people will be attracted to your way of living (your holy behavior, your happiness, how you treat others, etc.), prompting them to ask you what your secret is, and predisposing them to become a Christian.  At that point, you share the gospel with them.


We often speak of the need to “forgive yourself.”  While I understand what is meant by this phrase, it is unintelligible on the Christian worldview.  People speak of the need to forgive themselves in the context of feeling guilt for something they did (or failed to do).  They recognize the need to eliminate this guilt and get on with their life – to stop beating themselves up for their failure.

The problem with this notion is that it’s not possible to forgive oneself.  Forgiveness is something only a third party can grant to you.  You can no more forgive yourself than you can give something to yourself.  On the Christian worldview, the ultimate source of our forgiveness is God Himself.  We will never stop feeling guilt if we are looking to ourselves.  The solution for guilt is not self-forgiveness, but divine forgiveness.  If we continue feeling guilt after we have repented of our sin, that is evidence that we have not truly believed that God has forgiven us – because once God forgives and we believe He has forgiven, the conscience ought to be quieted (Heb 9).

stripesAs a continuationist, I believe God is still in the healing business.  I’ve known of several people who have experienced miraculous healings.  And yet, I can name more people who have died from diseases than those who were healed.  As a young Christian I was always confused by this.  I heard many messages in which it was proclaimed that God has promised us healing so long as we will believe.  Indeed, it’s often said that Christ’s atonement not only secured our salvation, but our healing as well.  An appeal is made to Isaiah 53:4-5 which reads:

But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. 5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed. (NET)

If Jesus’ atonement secured our healing just as it secured our salvation, and both can be received by faith, then why do so many who have received salvation by faith not receive healing?  Is it because they lack faith?  Is it because they have not prayed enough?  Perhaps in some instances, but clearly not all.


Jesus CounselorThe modern approach to evangelism is to tell people how much God loves them, and that He can fix their broken lives and heal their emotional wounds. While this is true, too many Christians stop here. They make no mention of Jesus’ lordship over our lives, the coming judgment, or the forgiveness of sins.

No one continues to visit their counselor after their emotional problems have been resolved. When we only present Jesus as the solution for our emotional needs – a divine counselor – we should not be surprised when people try Jesus, and then move on to other things once they “feel” better.

excitementIf there is any word that is overused and overemphasized in Pentecostal circles, it is “excited.”  All my Pentecostal life I have heard ministers, worship leaders, and prayer leaders talking about their personal excitement, and our need to be excited for Jesus.  This message has never sat well with a melancholy person like myself.  But it’s not just me.  This sort of message is absent from the Bible as well.  While the Bible does say we should be joyful, joy is not the same as excitement.  Even if it were, the Bible clearly describes other not-so-exciting emotions that Christians will experience as well.  It not only tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but also to weep with those who weep.

There are definitely times that we should experience excitement as a follower of Jesus.  There is, after all, much to be excited about: forgiveness, eternal life, seeing Jesus, etc.  But excitement will not be characteristic of our entire Christian life, and neither should it be characteristic of every church service.  I’ve seen many excitable Christians who eventually fall by the wayside.  Excitement is never enough to carry a Christian to eternity.  While not ignoring excitement, we need to focus our attention on commitment, faithfulness, and perseverance.  Excitement waxes and wanes, but a commitment characterized by faithful endurance will pass the test of time.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; 3 but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’ … 6 When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:2-3, 6, NET)

It’s often said on the basis of Genesis 3:6 that Adam was with Eve when the serpent tempted her, and stood by idly, doing nothing (bad Adam!).  If you read the context closely, however, this is not the picture being painted.  The temptation and the Fall were separated in time, and Adam was not present with Eve during her temptation.  As Charles Powell has pointed out, when Eve was speaking to the serpent regarding the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (TKGE), she describes it as being “in the middle of the orchard” (Genesis 3:3).  This geographical referent is telling, for if the temptation had taken place at the same point in time and same location as the Fall, then Eve would have been standing near the TKGE and should have described it as “this tree” in the same way I would describe my computer (which is obviously right in front of me) as being “here” rather than “there.”  By referring to the TKGE as being in the middle of the garden, it’s clear that Eve was not in the midst of the garden when the serpent tempted her, and thus not by the TKGE.  

There is a gap in time between Genesis 3:5 and Genesis 3:6.  Only later, when Adam and Eve were together again and journeyed to the middle of the garden, did Eve behold the fruit of the TKGE and see that it was good for food, attractive, and would make her wise as the serpent said.  Then she ate the fruit, gave some to her husband, and the rest is sad history.

In The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited Scot McKnight argues that the gospel being preached in evangelicalism today is a truncated or distorted version of the original.  Some think the gospel is justification by faith, while others identify it as the saving work of Christ.  However it is characterized, the gospel is understood to be all about personal salvation.  While that is surely part of it, the gospel is much more.[1]

McKnight argues that the gospel as preached in the NT consists of four elements:

  1. The story ofIsrael
  2. The story of Jesus
  3. The plan of salvation
  4. The method of persuasion

We cannot make sense of the method of persuasion apart from the plan of salvation, and we cannot make sense of the plan of salvation apart from the story of Jesus, and we can’t make sense of the story of Jesus apart from the story ofIsrael.  All four elements were integral to the preaching of the gospel in the early church.  


Some have made the claim that an acrostic of the accusation Pilate wrote above Jesus’ cross spells “YHWH.” (example).  There is at least one reason to seriously question the claim, and a second reason that proves it false.  Let me deal with each in turn.

One reason to question this claim is the fact that we cannot be certain what was actually written on the titulus (the placard on which the victim’s crime was recorded) above the cross.  The evangelists do not present us with a single version of what was written:

  • Matthew: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews” (27:37)
  • Mark: “The king of the Jews” (15:26)
  • Luke: “This is the king of the Jews” (23:38)
  • John: “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews” (19:19)