Book Review: Saturate Field Guide

After reading Jeff Vanderstelt’s book, Saturate, last year, I was quick to grab a copy of his new release with Ben Connelly, Saturate Field Guide.

In SaturatSaturatee, Jeff practically works out what it looks like to live for Jesus in the everyday stuff of life. He tells personal stories of his community taking God’s call to live as a family seriously. These ideas are expanded in Saturate Field Guide.

“Can you imagine every city, neighborhood, school, extracurricular activity, office, retail center, and industrial hub proclaiming the glory of Jesus in words and gracious deeds?” This is the question Vanderstelt and Connelly put forward in the introduction.

This field guide is eight weeks long and is focused on being disciples who make disciples. Vanderstelt and Connelly’s goal is for the reader to be saturated with the good news of Jesus. But they don’t stop there. The field guide is refreshingly practical. Every week is divided into six sections: “Start,” “Read,” “Think,” “Pray,” “Do,” “Meet,” and “Rest.” There are questions, activities, prayers, and exercises that will push you to becoming a disciple who makes disciples.

There is no doubt in my mind that eight weeks devoted to living in community as “family, missionary, servants” will not only change your heart, but your neighborhood. Saturate: Field Guide is a resource that I myself will use, and it is a resource that you can benefit from whether you just began your relationship with Christ yesterday or you’ve been following him for a while.

*This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review.

Should Your Church Pursue Ethnic Diversity?

Our world is filled with racial tension and strife. How will the Church respond? Countless churches have already responded with indifference. They are comfortable with the status quo and they suppose their methods are biblical. Other churches recognize the problem but are fastened in fear, uncertain of how to act. A few churches have taken a leap of faith. They believe the Bible addresses this issue and that the gospel is the answer.

For the past few years, the dialogue on multi-ethnic churches has been encouraging. Recently, J.D. Greear (pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina) announced that he is accepting a nomination for the Southern Baptist Convention President. Of the four biggest passions God has placed on his heart (read the rest here), one is “To platform and equip non-Anglo pastors and members.” J.D. regretfully wrote, “The SBC is not yet known for being a diverse group.” And while this is the current reality, he desires “that diversity might become a hallmark of our denomination.” The tide is shifting in the SBC; I pray this continues.

I am a Christian, half Indian and half Filipino. In God’s sovereignty, my parents migrated from their respective countries to attend the University of Minnesota. Years later, I was born in a small rural town located in southern Minnesota. For eight years we were one of the few token Asian families in our church. Then we moved to Kansas City and it was much of the same. My picture of the Church was primarily made up of white believers.

Then all at once, my picture changed. I remember the first time I realized multi-ethnic churches were possible. I was visiting my sister’s family in Chicago, and the church they were a part of was introducing new members to the congregation. The pastor asked each member to say ‘hello’ in his or her native language. Out of the twenty or so new members, I heard seventeen languages spoken. This moment was a beautiful turning point. I saw the beauty of ethnic diversity in the Church, and I couldn’t forget the sight. It is a critical need for Christians today to visualize the Church accurately; all nations, all tribes, all peoples, all languages.

Here are a couple reasons we should pursue ethnic diversity in the Church:

  1. Racial division in the Church directly hinders God’s plan for global redemption.

The power of the gospel is clearly seen as it crosses racial lines. For the Church today to divide along racial lines is out of step with the end result where all nations will worship God together as one family. As the gospel crosses social, cultural, and economic barriers, the Church should be a reflection of the community it inhabits. We see this in the climax of the New Testament. John has a vision of the new heavens and the new earth, and at the throne room a congregation from every nation, tribe, people, and language worship the Son (Revelation 7:9-10). If the work of Christ on the cross obliterated racial division, we in the Church need to ask ourselves the question as to why our churches look so different from the congregation described by the Apostle John. We should desire every family in our neighborhoods to hear and respond to the gospel because this desire is the same as God’s.

  1. Ethnic diversity points to the centrality of Christ.

What is at the center of your church? If Christ is the center, then he will draw all the nations to himself. After all, we are all one in Christ (Galatians 2:11-21). He does not discriminate, instead, he unifies by the shedding of his blood for all nations. It is inconsistent to proclaim that Christ has created a new humanity while at the same time tolerating racial barriers in the Church. The road to racial reconciliation leads through the cross; the place where we die to ourselves for the sake of our brothers and sisters. For too long there has been a gap between the Church’s talk and walk on this issue. Gospel-centered ministry bears the fruit of reconciliation. We seek reconciliation because God first sought reconciliation with us.

Now the question must be asked, is this even possible for all churches? The idea that your church will represent all 196 nations is unrealistic. There are areas in the United States and around the world where ethnic diversity does not exist. However, your church should be a reflection of your neighborhood. This should develop from the leadership to the members. The New Testament does not shy away from this. The leadership of the early Church was multi-ethnic (Acts 13:1).

So should your church pursue ethnic diversity? Yes! God is the perfect Creator, and he is in the business of crafting mosaic masterpieces. Is your church an accurate reflection of the community it inhabits? If not, pray and pursue ethnic diversity! Consider the joy of working and laboring together with brothers and sisters from different cultural backgrounds for the glory of Christ. Together, let’s put the gospel on display and ask God to build our churches “as it is in heaven.”

4 Lessons I Learned from Dr. Alan Tomlinson

When I began my theological studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I had only heard stories of Dr. Alan Tomlinson. In many ways he was a legend to me, and rightfully so. I know of no other man with as many near death experiences as Dr. Tomlinson. I still remember the first time I met him in person. As I sat down and ate my Chick-fil-A sandwich at the new student orientation luncheon, he sat beside me. Wanting to get any advice I could before starting seminary, I asked him what books I should read to prepare for my studies. He suggested, How to Read a Book, The Grammar Book, and The Memory Book. And those books were great, but they would pale in comparison to the preparation I would receive over the next few years. Sitting there that day, I had no idea God would use Dr. Tomlinson to change the trajectory of my life.

After sitting through New Testament with Dr. Tomlinson, I quickly figured out what he was all about. Learning the Biblical languages and understanding the first century context were his bread and butter. It all sounded great to me, after all, I wanted to “do the right thing.” But after taking Elementary Greek and, well, not doing so well, I didn’t think I had it in me. But that didn’t stop Dr. Tomlinson. Some how, some way, he caught wind that I wasn’t taking Intermediate Greek with him the next year. After a brief, two hour, meeting in his office he had done it. He gently dragged me kicking and screaming into the first century.

I say gently for this reason: after sharing about my struggle with Greek, Dr. Tomlinson offered to tutor me in the summer so I would be caught up with the other students. I took him up on that offer, and it changed my life.

Here are four lessons I learned from Dr. Tomlinson.

  1. Remain teachable.

Dr. Tomlinson is one of the brightest men I know. With most, that knowledge leads to a prideful, critical attitude. It’s not so with Dr. Tomlinson. He consistently told us in class, “There isn’t a day that goes by where the Bible doesn’t correct me.” No matter what stage of life you are in, whether you have your Ph.D. in Systematic Theology or you have never taken a seminary course, choose to be a lifelong learner.

  1. Remember, God is powerful through your weakness.

One Wednesday after class I approached Dr. Tomlinson in need of some guidance. I was preaching that evening to students at the church I was serving at, and I simply felt inadequate for the task. Dr. Tomlinson guided me to 2 Corinthians and gave me the following encouragement, “Michael, remember, God is powerful through your weakness.” This moment altered my perspective of ministry. If you feel inadequate for the task God has called you to, remember “[his] grace is sufficient for you, for [his] power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corin. 12:9).

  1. Give your life to those around you.

We live in a culture where most pastors and professors are inaccessible. This was not my experience at Midwestern and there is no better example than Dr. Tomlinson. He consistently misses his lunch break because he is engaging with students. He made his choice years ago; his life would be spent pouring into others. Dr. Tomlinson’s character impacted me even more than his knowledge of first century Rome. Are you accessible? Are you approachable? Pour out your life to those around you.

  1. Know your limits.

When my last year of seminary started, I was in over my head. Enrolled in Intermediate Greek, Elementary Hebrew, and Theological German, I overestimated what I could do. When Dr. Tomlinson found this out, he directed me to “go straight to the registrar and drop one of them in a New York minute!” You can imagine what I did.  I walked straight to the registrar and dropped one of them. It’s possible he saved my life that semester; he certainly saved my sanity and GPA.

Know your limits. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll end up doing everything halfway. There is no need to rush through life trying to be as busy as possible. Learn to say no. Work hard and simultaneously rest in the finished work of Christ.

These are just four lessons I learned from Dr. Tomlinson. His legacy can be seen in the countless lives changed over his decades of faithful ministry. I’m sure his students over the years could compile an endless list of lessons. Maybe one day it will happen. Either way, I am forever grateful for my time with Dr. Alan Tomlinson at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One Book A Week

During my seminary days at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the children’s pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church challenged me to read a book a week in 2014.  After reading 56 books in 2014, I followed his advice again for 2015.  Here are the books I read this past year:  (The red ones are books that I will definitely pick up again.)

  1. Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards
  2. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  3. The Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges
  4. The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World by John Piper and Justin Taylor
  5. Community by Brad House
  6. Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson
  7. Organic Church by Neil Cole
  8. Letters to a Birmingham Jail by Bryan Loritts
  9. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman 
  10. Reason for God by Tim Keller 
  11. Right Color Wrong Culture by Bryan Loritts 
  12. Total Church by Steve Timmis and and Tim Chester
  13. Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile
  14. Scary Close by Donald Miller
  15. Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis 
  16. Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson
  17. Deep Influence by T.J. Addington
  18. Why Cities Matter by Justin Buzzard and Stephen Um
  19. Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt
  20. Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler
  21. The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen
  22. The Many Altars of Modernity by Peter Berger
  23. Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies by Nijay Gupta
  24. Reading Backwards by Richard B. Hays
  25. The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Adler
  26. A Walk Through the Bible by Lesslie Newbigin
  27. A Light to the Nations by Michael Goheen
  28. Bible and Mission by Richard Bauckham
  29. Living at the Crossroads by Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew
  30. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
  31. A History of Christian Missions by Stephen Neill
  32. Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson
  33. Power Through Weakness by Tim Savage
  34. The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn
  35. Confessions of a Lioness by Mia Couto
  36. Contagious Disciple Making by David and Paul Watson
  37. Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper
  38. A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China by Rodney Stark
  39. The Hiding Place by Corrie Tenboom
  40. No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage
  41. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  42. United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity by Trillia Newbell
  43. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
  44. Risk is Right by John Piper
  45. The God Ask by Steve Shadrach
  46. Viewpoints by Steve Shadrach
  47. Benaniah by Cliff Graham
  48. David by Cliff Graham
  49. Ittai by Cliff Graham
  50. Eliahba by Cliff Graham
  51. Ten Men Who Changed the World by Danny Akin
  52. Adoption by Russell Moore

go and make disciples…

Disciples

The Great Commission has been on my heart and mind for a couple of weeks now.  It’s such a simple command and promise…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We all know these verses so well!  Some of us have even memorized them and “hidden them in our heart.”  The problem is that these words are so well hidden, I think some of us have forgotten to actually obey them!  Hear me out, I have found myself looking for ways around this command instead of looking for ways to obey this command.  Maybe you’re in the same spot as me.  If that’s you, what are we going to do?

Last night I was at our monthly college-age worship night.  Pastor Eric was preaching on the Great Commission and let me tell you, God spoke mightily to everyone in attendance.  As Eric spoke on our need to “go to the nations,” these were his words…

“Just like we should never be satisfied with a little bit of Jesus, the nations will not be satisfied with a little bit of Jesus.”

Let that sink in.  We should never be satisfied with a little bit of Jesus.  But how many of us are?  How many mornings do I wake up and get into a little bit of the Word.  How many nights do I go to bed with a just a little bit of prayer?  How long will the Western church (myself included) be satisfied with a little bit of Jesus?  Let us awake from this slumber and be satisfied by the well that won’t run dry,  the Son of Man, Jesus himself.

Maybe you already know the statistics.  Maybe you already know the fact that there are 2.9 billion people on this planet that have literally NO ACCESS to the Gospel of Christ.  These people do not need a little bit of Jesus.  These people need Jesus in all of his glory, who was the perfect and spotless lamb, who died for our sins.  They will not hear about freedom from sin, they will not be reached with the truth of Jesus, they will never know, unless we go.

Today my prayer is this… “God, give us tears for our sins.  Forgive us for being so shallow in prayer, so thin in our grasp of holy [truths], so content amid perishing neighbors, so empty of passion and earnestness in all our conversation.” And let us go, and make disciples, of all nations. AMEN

In Christ,
Michael

the next chapter

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     I am 22 years old, and I am writing this from my mother’s basement.  I’m not sure why it’s always referred to as “mother’s basement…” but that’s another blog post.  Can I just state the obvious and say that this is not where I thought I would be in life five years ago?  Forget five years ago, this isn’t where I thought I would be eight months ago.  It is so hard to balance being content in the Lord and yet still be eager and ready for the next stage of life.  The reality is that I have at least two years of seminary left before I even think of moving out.  Two more years.  It seems like forever, but if I’ve learned anything in life it’s that time keeps marching on… these next two years are going to go by fast.

     In light of that, here are my goals for the next five years: (not in any particular order)

  • Start mountaineering. (I want to climb up a mountain! Ice axe and crampons and all!)
  • Learn Greek. (This will take an act of God.)
  • Move out. (And everyone said, “Amen.”)
  • Get into the phD program at University of Edinburgh.
  • Am I allowed to say get married? (No shame…)
  • Start pastoring a local church.
  • See Coldplay live.
  • Get coffee with Josh Garrels. (It WILL happen!)
  • Start writing regularly.
  • Spend more time with my nephews.
  • Be more kind, gentle, loving, compassionate.

     I think this is a good starting point.  Will you join me in prayer now?  I really do believe that God has life changing plans for us!  God, thank you for who you are.  That you have invited me into your story.  That you’ve given me a part to play.  I ask that I would be so sensitive of your Spirit, that I might walk in all that you have for me in the years to come! In Jesus name, Amen!

-Michael