I’ve been reading the nativity story again and am captured by the sheer wonder of it all. It truly is the greatest story ever told. Next week I plan to write a blog post about Joseph, as I feel there are lessons to learn from his life that are little talked about today. So stay tuned for that post Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Last year a writer for Modern Reformation Magazine interviewed me. His questions covered a wide-range of subjects, some of which I’m asked about frequently.
Here’s the complete interview.
MR: In your opinion, what is the future of the emerging/emergent church movement? In what ways are you optimistic about the movement?
Frank: I’m not part of the emerging church movement nor am I part of emergent, so I’m not sure. I have talked with folks in the movement (or “conversation”) and they’ve seen it begin to splinter into a three different streams. One is toward a more liberal theology and outlook. The other is toward the missional church movement. And the third is toward a more postchurch theology and outlook.
MR: What does it mean to live a life of worship? How has worship shaped your understanding of God?
Frank: Worship doesn’t lead to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ leads to worship. Worship hasn’t shaped my understanding of God. The Lord Jesus Christ has. Knowing Christ intimately and exploring His riches leads to love, adoration, worship, awe, and sheer amazement. Living by Christ is a life of love and awe. He’s the most incredible Person in the universe. When we get a sighting of Him, we are forced to fall on our knees in adoration. This is more exciting and more real than what Christians typically mean when they use the word “worship.” So it’s been my experience anyway.
MR: What are your thoughts about Christian praise music? Is there a style of music or artist you prefer to listen to?
Frank: I was part of some of the cutting edge worship/praise movement. At first, it was thrilling. The music is captivating. But after awhile, it wears thin. Many of the songs are rooted in the Old Testament, “God is awesome, God is great, God is holy” etc. Few songs are about the riches of Jesus Christ in the New Testament and the depths of Christ. Further, many are what I call “7/11 songs” – 7 stanzas sung 11 times.
The best songs I’ve sung are those written by Christians as a group who are experiencing and exploring the riches of Christ together. These songs have great depth, power, and reality, and they reflect the richness of the body of Christ. I also enjoy some of the timeless hymns that speak profoundly about the glories of Christ, such as “Have you known Him, seen Him, heard Him?”
There’s an entire section in my book Finding Organic Church that explains how to write a Christ-centered song that moves beyond the shallows.
MR: What are your thoughts on preaching? What preachers do you admire? Do you find that modern preachers appeal to personal experience and narrative in their sermons (over biblical exegesis, exposition, etc)? What are your thoughts on Scriptural authority?
Frank: As George Barna and I have pointed out in Pagan Christianity, the modern “sermon” and New Testament preaching/teaching are two very different things.
As one who preaches and teaches, for me, the issue is life. Is the preacher/teacher speaking out of a revelation of Jesus Christ and are they sharing Christ, who is life, or something else?
I’ve often counted the number of times a person mentions Jesus during a message or sermon, and so often, the number is astounding. Sometimes He’s never mentioned in 60 minutes of preaching. Compare that over against how many times Paul of Tarsus mentioned the Lord Jesus in his letters. It’s mind-boggling.
For me, the issue is always: “Is this person giving me an ‘it’ or are they giving me a ‘HIM’ in their preaching?” But we cannot preach Him unless we know Him in the depths and unless we are captured by a sighting of His peerless worth.
I pray that God will raise up more preachers and teachers who can proclaim Christ in glory, power, and reality. A word that comes of out vision and experience.
A.B. Simpson once said, “Preaching without spiritual aroma is like a rose without fragrance. We can only get the perfume by getting more of Christ.”
I believe one of the greatest preachers of all time was T. Austin-Sparks. You can read his messages online. His message was Christ, through and through. He’s one of the men whose shoulders I stand on. A.B. Simpson was another giant in the land on this score.
As for the Scriptures, they reveal Christ who has been given all authority in heaven and earth. I believe they are authoritative, completely reliable, and inspired by God.
MR: What word of hope / challenge would you offer the growing younger evangelical movement? What word of hope / challenge would you offer the emergent / emerging movement?
Frank: The word of hope is also a challenge. To my mind, the choice for the body of Christ right now is not left vs. right. The future is found in a third path – a path of exploration rather than fortification. And that path is a person — the Lord Jesus Christ himself, our Northstar and Southern cross.
If the evangelical wing of the body and the emerging wing of the body do not return to a rediscovery of the centrality, the supremacy, the preeminence, the sovereignty and the absolute “Allness” of Jesus Christ, both are doomed.
Any hope for progress in the future is to return to Christ as “all in all.” And that’s always where God the Father and the Spirit are pointing their arrows . . . to know Christ deeply and intimately. And out of that knowing flows everything else.
Jesus Christ is Christianity, nothing more, nothing less. If we really get to know Him, we’ll never graduate beyond Him, for we will find that His riches are inexhaustible.
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