What “Tables” Would Christ Turn at Watermark

To get the full understanding of this post, you need to listen to last week’s message.  When I asked everyone at the end to share their sense of where, if anywhere, Christ would clean house at Watermark, I mentioned that you could write down, “He would be bothered that we have built/are still building facilities” if you wanted to, but that this is an issue our leadership has continually considered and spoken to in the past.  I also mentioned that I would post something here that captured our thoughts, as well as re-post some links to mesages where you could hear us talk about this specific topic again.  For those who like to listen/watch more than read, check out the messages linked here from 3/28/2010  and 9/12/2010.

For all readers, below are some brief thoughts laid out for you.  From our perspective, the question is not, “Should Watermark ever have/continue to build facilities?”, but, “Is everything this church has being used to maximize the glory of God?”  This is always the question.  Paul tells us, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:33b).  What you do is often not nearly as important as why you do it.  I can’t think of anything that would offend God if you did them in faith because you have purposed to reflect on and respond to His world in yieldedness to His Spirit and for the purpose of loving Him/loving others.

Questions about buildings are not primary questions. Whether or not to build/expand is only asked as a strategy question related to the best way to serve God and love others given our current circumstance.  As we have continually asked the Lord to lead us and how to best steward our property, we have never received any answer that involved selling our property/land, nor have we ever felt like the thing Christ would have us do is stop maximizing the use of our property.  

We don’t believe that buildings are an accurate way to judge success, and likewise, we don’t think the fact that we have buildings/are willing to put more buildings on our campus means we are out of touch with the Spirit.  The Spirit is not as concerned about physical buildings as He is about spiritual buildings.  Today, His Spirit dwells in His people, not in buildings.  If spiritual people use physical materials to serve, equip, help, and reach others, then those physical structures are a source of spiritual good.  If the physical building is used for any other purpose, no matter how beautiful it is, then it is a distraction more than a dwelling place for God.

We are neither for nor against buildings.  We are for the Spirit transforming us into servant leaders who increasingly walk in the fullness of God’s intention for us.  We measure our success not by our prosperity or our poverty, but rather by our purposeful, radical surrender to Him.  We want to measure our success by our ability to be and make disciples…living stones being built up to a spiritual house, as a holy priesthood, using physical stones when appropriate to make physical buildings useful for eternal things.

One analogy I have used before (see again 3/28/2010 message) is that of a medical school. Hopefully everyone would agree that we as believers should care for one another. Similarly, when people are sick, we employ physicians to nourish those people back to health to the best of their ability.  We love the idea of training people to be “doctors” that are equipped to help others in crisis.  A necessity in equipping our “doctors” well is building “medical schools” where they can be trained.  
 
We agree that it would be wrong for a school to build as many buildings as it could just so it could have bragging rights as the biggest medical school in the country.  However, enlarging the campus of a medical school would be right if the school were being used to unleash hundreds, if not thousands, of doctors whose skills and knowledge of how our bodies function could be continually honed to train other doctors, and therefore bring physical comfort and health to others.

Our hope is that the facilities on Watermark’s campus will be maximized with men and women who are both filled with and yielded to the Spirit.  In turn, even more men and women can be trained, not just to minister to people’s medical needs, but to be faithful in ministering to people’s hearts as well.  This is a training campus; we are equipping the saints for the work of the service (Ephesians 4:11-13). We pray that God would keep showing us what He would flip in our lives to make us more useful to Him, and that as we would continue to love each other, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:24), we would increasingly be temples/buildings that He is pleased with.  Praying with you and looking for more encouraging conversations in the days ahead.

None of the cards that I have read from last week mentioned the building being something Christ may “take on” if He came into our midst, but since I told you I would reflect on why we believe building is right for us now, I wanted to get this post up before the week was out.  I may have fun with several of the answers we did receive in the days ahead, but for now, suffice it to say there was nothing overwhelming mentioned by anyone as obviously out of sync with God’s desire for us.  I am sure there are thousands of little choices we make every day that need radical attention, and I am committed with you to get to listen more attentively every day.

Father, we ask for You to keep coming in, speaking up, turning tables, and moving us toward your intended purposes for our lives.

Psalm 139:23-24,

Todd

Final Thoughts on “Should I go to seminary and what about DTS?”

Let me close with a great little riff by Tozer. 
 
“Your calling,” said Meister Eckhart to the clergy of his day, “cannot make you holy; but you can make it holy. No matter how humble that calling may be, a holy man can make it a holy calling. A call to the ministry is not a call to be holy, as if the fact of his being a minister would sanctify a man; rather, the ministry is a calling for a holy man who has been made holy some other way than by the work he does. The true order is: God makes a man holy by blood and fire and sharp discipline. Then he calls the man to some special work, and the man being holy makes that work holy in turn….”
 
Every person should see to it that he is fully cleansed from all sin, entirely surrendered to the whole will of God and filled with the Holy Spirit. Then he will not be known as what he does, but as what he is. He will be a man of God first and anything else second. We Travel an Appointed Way, 59-60.

Bullet Answer #10 on “Should I go to seminary and what about DTS?”

10.  A call to ministry is not the same as a call to seminary.  But, A CALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST IS A CALL TO LEARN. The word disciple means “learner.”  The problem with too many professing Christians is that they are not disciples.  Degreed or not…be a LEARNER/DISCIPLE.  I have repeated this many times throughout all 10 points.  Bottom line: be God’s man; don’t do anything just to get a job.  Make yourself more marketable by discovering, developing and deploying your gifts with great purpose and passion.  If you believe seminary is the best place to be developed, then run there. But a call to ministry is no more a call to a seminary than a call to ministry makes a man holy.  A holy man makes his ministry holy.  There is no holy job that will regenerate a cold distant heart from God and there is no degree that will make you love Jesus more.   Pursue intimacy with Christ and faithfulness infinitely more than any degree.  Pharaohs always find their Josephs.  Be a Joseph.

Bullet Answer #9 on “Should I go to seminary and what about DTS?”

9.         I never went to DTS full-time…it would not have been right for ME.  However, I was grateful for what I learned from every class I was able to take/audit/listen in on,  and I continue to learn from resources that many guys down there have written and made available.  Scholars make learning possible for men like me.  I remember John Hannah, Distinguished Professor of Historical Theology, telling me, “Don’t do what I did. I have committed my life to study things and synthesize them for you so you don’t have to.”  I am unspeakably indebted to scholars who allow me to glean from the harvest of their hard work.  May the Lord continue to raise up more scholars for His people and may His people be always led by shepherds who are either scholars themselves or who humble themselves continually at the feet of those who are committed to scholarship.  (1 Peter 5:5-6)

Bullet Answer #8 on “Should I go to seminary and what about DTS?”

8. You don’t want to work at a church that will hire you only if you have been to DTS (or any seminary for that matter).   The kind of church that will hire a man simply because he is “degreed” is the kind of church that wants to appear well-led, not a church that must be well-led.  Similarly, if a church would not consider someone because they do not have a degree from a seminary, DESPITE an obvious qualification of life and commitment to continual learning, it is likely a church that believes that the unbiblical idea of  “clergy/laity distinction” is real and necessary.   I agree with Paul that our lives are the best letters of accommodation (2 Corinthians 3:1-6a) and with Peter that we are a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9) who should be led not by degreed men, but by men who separate themselves by degree of personal holiness and giftedness.  The two are certainly not mutually exclusive, but neither are they mutually required.

Bullet Answer #7 on “Should I go to seminary and what about DTS?”

7.      I do not hire folks because they have been to or are going to any seminary.  The easiest thing to teach someone is theology and Bible.  I hire guys that have shown a history of faithfulness, teachability and passion for the King and his Kingdom.  DTS can teach theology and Bible (and they do well), but not the other stuff.  Bottom line, love God and love others…your gifts will make room for you; make sure your heart makes room for Him.

No surprise that I’m not the only one who has been asked the Seminary question

I’ll post my next couple of thoughts soon, but meanwhile it looks like I am not the only one who has been asked this question. 

A friend just sent me a link from Piper…His response is below and it looks like we have shared many of the same things…my point #9 which is soon to be posted, talks about why I am glad some Christ followers are led to pursue lifelong academic disciplines…and it is similar in heart to Piper’s comments about Don Carson. 

Here is the link   http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/2414_should_pastors_get_phds/ and here is his answer to the question “Having been through PhD studies, would you recommend other pastors pursue this course of education?” 

You mean, already-pastoring pastors or planning-to-be pastors? I’ll answer both.

If you’re already a pastor, I wouldn’t get a PhD. It’s a lot of work, and the payoff is really small. Really small.

When I say really small, I don’t mean studying the Bible is small payoff. But the way most PhD programs are set up it is small payoff. Because you have to read so much junk in order to get your PhD. You have to become an expert in what other people are saying, most of which is wrong.

Most of the stuff that is written in the world isn’t true. And a PhD has to be an expert. And so you have to read gobs and gobs of stuff that is unhelpful.

Now I think somebody should do that. I’m glad there’s a Don Carson who seems to read everything under the sun, and therefore has the capacity to respond helpfully.

I’m totally committed that there needs to be a layer of academic scholarship that is aware of what’s out there and is teaching and writing. So, yes and amen.

That’s not what the pastorate is, though. The pastorate is not mainly the place where you have to know every wrong thing that’s being said about some slice of biblical theology. The pastorate is a shepherding of people from the Word.

So now back to saying something positive: if a PhD program is set up—and there are some!—to really let you work on the Bible for three or four years and on understanding its larger implications for life and reality, then, on your way towards the pastorate, that could be gold.

But mine wasn’t set up that way. And when I was done with those three years I had a piece of paper, the German language, and an appreciation for academic theology; but I had not grown much at all, except what I got on my own.

So it is possible to do stupid PhDs for the piece of paper. I would much rather you do a wise PhD—that is, go to a place where they really let you study the Bible mainly. Yes, you’ve gotta read other stuff. But you want to come out of there with three years’ worth with a big, large, strong, robust, deep grasp of God and his ways in the world, not just a little tiny slice of what a thousand wrong people are saying about some teeny verse in the Bible. That’s just a sad use of three years.

And if you’re a pastor, set yourself to study the Bible and take courses. But don’t worry about a degree for goodness’ sake.

I’ve not even opened the tube in which my diploma exists since 1974! I haven’t opened it! It’s in the drawer. Nobody asks about it. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. (Maybe that’s an overstatement.)

Bullet Answers #5 and #6 on “should I go to seminary and what about DTS?”

5.         DTS has good men looking to pour their life into young men and women who want to be faithful.  However, like most places poisoned by tenure or any place that doesn’t continually evaluate leadership at all levels…you undoubtedly will find some  that have gotten “comfortable in the job” or are “going through the motions” more than “going for it” and passionately looking at each new semester, student, Sunday, etc…with expectation that God is  going to do something great.  See again point 3 about teachers/professors/mentors v. academic tracks and let me restate that this is an issue ANYWHERE systems are in place that protect leaders from regular evaluation and review.

6.         DTS does a good job of teaching Bible and theology…and make no mistake about it, the theological framework that you are taught matters.  I could not  in good conscience encourage someone toward a place of learning that does not deal courageously, humbly and consistently with every passage of Scripture in both OT and NT.  (2 Tim 2:15 is there for a reason)   Spiritualizing the coming reign of Christ and the literal fulfillment of God’s promises to  Israel is both unnecessary and creates a Pandora’s box of issues, including an inability to call others who ‘spiritualize’ even more central truths of  The  Faith to account because it can rightly be pointed out that they are applying the same hermeneutic as you are, only in a different place that addresses a different topic you happen to be more sensitive  to.  Our job is to be sensitive to the truth that God is able to do what He said He would do and not come up with creative explanations for how He really did  fulfill His  word without really fulfilling His word.   Theology flows out of Scripture and what flows  out of Scripture is determined by how you learn to rightly divide Scripture.

But REMEMBER, rightly dividing Scripture is  only half the battle…. it is up to you to find a CONSTANT expression of your bible and theological knowledge while you are there. If you don’t have an ever present outlet for your learning you will become dead, irrelevant, bored, puffed up and shortly thereafter finding yourself  wondering where the “abundant life” that Jesus offers is.

Bullet answers 3 & 4 to question: Should I go to seminary and what about DTS?

3.         If you are going to join a structured process…I can attest to the goodness and soundness that defined much of my time at DTS.  I am largely out of the loop down there now…but I am sure now it is like it was then…choose your classes based on those passionate about teaching and pouring into their students.  In other words, take professors as much if not more than classes. It won’t take long asking around before you keep hearing the same names from other students about who is doing a great job redeeming your time in the classroom.  Remember you are there to learn, not be affirmed by their degree…so take classes from men that inspire you to learn.  I would say this about any seminary/place of learning not just DTS.

4.         You are always going to be responsible for your own heart…seminary neither kills nor helps your heart.  Your own walk with Christ and attentiveness to availing yourself to the different means of grace outlined in God’s word determines your hearts health.  Many guys have struggled greatly in their walk with Christ while at DTS…my guess is they would have struggled greatly had they not been down there.  Many guys have grown in their love for and usefulness to Christ while at DTS…my guess is that they would have continued in obedience and faithfulness wherever they were.  If you go to DTS thinking it is going to be the means through which you take ground in your walk for Christ…you will be disappointed and discouraged.  God uses His word to transform us…but information does not always lead to transformation.  Meditation, application and consecration to God’s word lead to transformation.  The day you start to treat your bible like a text book or your learning as a task you are in trouble.  Learning is a means to the end…not the end.  “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.”  Proverbs 19:8.  Keeping understanding is harder than getting knowledge.  DTS will help you learn…faithfulness and attentiveness to the Holy Spirit in the context of Biblical Community with other faithful men is where wisdom and understanding come from.

Is Seminary Nescessary? Answers 1 and 2.

First 2 of 10 bullet point responses to the question …”What do you think about me going to seminary and what would you say about Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) in comparison to other options.”

1.    Any place that can help you learn more of God’s word is a good place…DTS will definitely expose you to God’s word, theological discussions and provide a structured accountability to be processing INFORMATION.  Transformation (the goal in all learning)  is always your business.  I am not a believer in the idea that you need a sheepskin to be effective in ministry (or business for that matter) but you do need to KNOW your bible, understand history, and be able to apply learnings to life.

2.    If you are disciplined you can get all that info without going through their, or anyone else’s structured process.  What you can find on line today is amazing.  www.bible.org has more information/learning opportunities than you have time.  www.colsoncenter.com is a gold mine…if you want to be able to fluently represent a biblical worldview drink deeply from Colson’s work.  William Lane Craig’s www.reasonablefaith.org is an incredible wealth of debates, articles, information and lectures….mark it as one of your favorites.    www.equip.org has great articles to get you thinking on current issues and wrestling with your theological positions, application and convictions.  Proverbs 12:27  “… but the precious possesion of  a man is diligence.”  If you are diligent and disciplined you are set.  READ often.  READ well (avoid the junk and pop stuff). Dig in the word.  Be a “man of one book”….and spend time with the above sites, the right books AND the right people (trusted friends and other passionate believers/mentors) discussing and wrestling through topics with  you AS YOU FAITHFULLY discover, develop and deploy your gifts in daily ministry and that will beat any degree from anywhere.  There is no shame in having to get that in seminary….and there is no necessity either.