Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Heart of a Church Planter: An interview of Pastor Darryl Dash of Liberty Grace Church (Toronto)

Barely 2% of the citizens of Toronto make a claim to being born again. With a population of 5.5 million people in the Greater Toronto Area, you can do the math. We need conversions in Toronto and that means we need churches.

One of my real joys in life has been watching many churches get birthed in this city over the last 15 years. There was a time when so little was happening, but now the tide is begining to move in the right direction. Praise the Lord.

What a joy it was for me then, when my good friend and fellow Toronto-lover, Darryl Dash, decided to venture into planting a new church. It was a bold move. Near a stage in life when some pastors are deciding to settle into what looks secure, Darryl was willing to risk it all. That takes some serious courage and I cannot wait to see how the Lord is going to use my brother.

Darryl is still in the formulating stages of the plant of Liberty Grace Church, but based on my own experiences of planting I thought it a great time to throw him some different kinds of questions to help you see how the Lord can work on a man in this situation. I hope you enjoy reading his answers as much as I did.


What has happened in your soul so far in this church planting effort?

I heard someone say that church planting will reveal every idol you have. I’ve found that to be true this year. I’ve been humbled as I’ve seen my insecurities, fears, and drivenness surface, and as I’ve realized again that I control nothing. So, on one hand, I’ve been humbled.

The flip side is that I’ve found God’s grace to be so rich as it’s met me in my need. I’ve found joy in the middle of some pretty hard stuff this year, and I’m learning lots.

Earlier this year a church planter told me that church planting is the overflow of one’s relationship with Christ. That was during a particularly tough period when I had no overflow. It’s different now. I get it, and that’s what I keep reminding myself as we church plant.

What has become particularly alive to you in God's Word since you made the decision to plant in Liberty Village?

So much. I was reading 2 Corinthians 5 this week, and it was leaping off the page to me. Acts has come alive for me.

The four main passages I keep coming back to are these:

“Thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation” (Romans 15:20). This reminds me that our focus is to preach the gospel to people who have never heard.

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6). This reminds me that the gospel turns the world upside down.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). This reminds me that ministry entails suffering.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This reminds me of Christ’s presence and enablement in the process of making disciples.

What has surprised you so far?

I think I was naïve about the level of spiritual attack. I’ve also been surprised at how well God has provided, which is where I’m tempted to doubt Him. I’ve been surprised by some of the idols that have surfaced in my life.

Do you think the plant might fail and are you personally prepared for that?

I hope the church plant won’t fail, but yes, that’s a very real possibility, and it (along with the money question) is the main battle I faced as we moved into church planting. I found myself wrapping up my reputation and desire to prove myself into what I was doing. It’s an ongoing struggle, but I’ve had to come to the point, repeatedly, of bringing those struggles to the gospel.

I’ve had to redefine failure as disobedience. That sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. I almost didn’t church plant because I was afraid of failing. I realized I sounded a lot like this guy: “I was afraid, and I went and hid your money in the ground” (Matthew 25:25). Not a good thing!

This church plant may fail, but I’m still committed to church planting, and to suffering. There’s no turning back.

What has the Lord been teaching you about prayer over the last year?

He’s been teaching me that I have a long way to go! The honesty has been greater. Guilt-motivated prayer is less of a struggle because I’m so aware of my dependence. He’s also been teaching me to intercede a lot more for other church planters.

If you could write the script, what would your life look like ten years from today?

I’d still be church planting, but more in the background as others are discipled to lead. I’d love to be part of a church planting movement, along with others, that’s transforming Toronto in a significant way. I’d love to be ten years deeper in my relationship with God, and more committed than ever to loving my wife.

How have your convictions about the local church changed over the last year of planting?

Overall, my ecclesiology hasn’t changed. I do have one new conviction: every church should have church planting at its heart. That sounds self-serving, but I think it’s true. I didn’t get that a few years ago.

When do you hope to officially launch? Can you give us any details on your plans?

We’re working and praying toward a public launch in the early Spring (before Easter 2013). We’re currently meeting every other week, and in January we start meeting every week. Right now we’re focused on building a Launch Team and beginning to do evangelism in the community. We’re moving into the community, and we’re starting a Christianity Explored course early next year. Please pray for us!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: The Conviction to Lead (25 Principles for leadership that matter)

 A lot of us have been waiting a long time for Al Mohler to write this book. If you know anything of his tenure as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the remarkable events that marked his first years there in particular, then you will know why.

Mohler has written a great volume on leadership that distills Biblical truth, experience and the wisdom of others into 25 very readable chapters. The book is a must read for anyone who leads in any capacity.

Last year I had the opportunity to spend several days with a small group of pastors, all of whom were leaders in their respective groups or geographical areas. This was a game-changer for me. Being together, thinking through issues, sharing strategies, and listening to other leaders reinvigorated my own leadership like nothing has. The Conviction to Lead was like a pleasant walk back into those sweet days.

Tim Challies has provided a list of great quotes from the book and his own review here. I would commend those to you if you want more of a taste. But whether you are a pastor, professor, manager, business owner, small group leader or father, I simply urge you to buy the book and read it. Then start the hard, yet thrilling work of serving others with your gifts of leadership.

(This book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dying to Self

My friend, Sheri Russell, sent along this poem to me this week which she copied out of an old Mennonite school book. I thought it quite encouraging and with her permission, share it with you.

It was timely for two reasons. The first was its relation to sermon I preached on Sunday on why delighting in God is the best thing you can do for everyone around you. The second was the stunning revelation from a friend of mine that while preaching recently at a nearby church he was surprised to discover that no one there had ever heard of the Biblical category of death to self. 

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set aside,
and you do not sting or hurt at the oversight,
but your heart is happy, being worthy to suffer for Christ,
that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of,
when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, 
and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, 
but take it all in patient loving silence,
that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any unpunctuality, 
or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance,  
spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured it,
that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate,
any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God,
that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself,
and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly,
finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart,
that is dying to self.

-Author unknown.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Love Test

Do you really love the people of your church?

If you are a Christian, you have to. There are no exceptions for this.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1 ESV)

Let's take the Love Test.  It is one thing to say you love every member of your church, but the Bible tells us what that will look like. Rate yourself. Do you really love your church family?

The Love Test
(Answer True or False for each question.)

  1. You are gladly inconvenienced and you do not react in anger when taken advantage of. You happily put up with people.
  2. You are actively generous with your time and stuff toward other people. You look for ways to go low and serve.
  3. You don’t sit around wanting what other people have and you don’t wish evil and loss on them. You pray for God to bless your friends and enemies.
  4. You don’t parade your accomplishments in front of other people. You’re embarrassed when anyone draws attention to you instead of the Lord
  5. You don’t get all puffed up over your supposed achievements. You’re glad to go unnoticed. You know who deserves the credit for any good in you.
  6. You are not bossy and domineering with people – you listen carefully.
  7. You don’t demand that things get done your way but are flexible and quick to see others points of view.
  8. You are not quick-tempered nor easily offended by what other people do. You brighten the room. You’re not a grump!
  9. You never hold a grudge. You have a terrible memory for all the ways people have failed and offended you.
  10. You don’t get excited about sinful things or find joy in others failures.
  11. You get fired up when people live according to the Bible.
  12. You do all you can to protect others from shame and embarrassment, even when they royally mess up. You can be trusted.
  13. You are not the least suspicious of people and simply always think the best of their motives - regardless of how they are acting.
  14. You always expect that the Christians around can live even more for God.
  15. You refuse to stop being an optimist when it comes to others. You just won’t stop believing in the Christians around you no matter what they do.
All I have done here is take the famous love chapter from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, and give each description of what love is its own explanation. 

How did you do? Did you pass the test?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: I Am Second – Real Stories. Changing Lives.

Perhaps you have seen one of the I Am Second videos? They involve a person in a black T-shirt under one light essentially giving their testimony of faith in Jesus. Doug Bender and Dave Sterrett have now produced a book by the same title.

You know, I love the effort folks like this make to get out the real testimonies of folks whom God has saved. There is a kind of messiness to it all that demonstrates the reality of conversion. We really are sinners who have been saved by grace and not our own doing.

You can read of athletes Josh Hamilton and Bradie James, musician Brian Welch, and many others. There are a host of videos on their website.

One weakness of the project, though, is the assumption that the testimony of a famous person will result in lots of other people getting saved. As much as I admire these guys for their goal, that is just not the way it works. In fact, this kind of thing (using the wealthy or famous or beautiful to win the lost) can really send false messages. Jesus is not about making your life better. Nor is He somehow validated since a famous dude followed Him. 

That makes me question the usefulness of the project. Every Christian should ask himself some serious questions if he feels more excited that a pro quarterback “got saved” than his fellow church member’s kid.  This little review doesn’t allow the time to develop these thoughts further, but I think this is one of the ways technology has changed us and gotten us a little off course.

So, as glad as I am for the motives of these brothers, I am not as convinced of the usefulness or wisdom of the end product. I am sure God will use it to save some, for His Gospel is too powerful and glorious to not bear that kind of fruit. But I think somebody should spend as much money producing videos of unknown saints in India who turned from idolatry to serve the Living God. That story is just as, if not more, important.

(This book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Revelation is Done. What’s Next at Grace Fellowship Church?

Sunday, October 28 I preached my last sermon in the Revelation series, Stand and Conquer. That made for 28 sermons on the 22 chapters of this remarkable book. Preaching it changed me. One of the deepest ways I was affected was in my personal confidence in the canon of Scripture. I have never been one to wrestle with big doubts about the Bible’s authenticity and reliability, so I was somewhat surprised when I stood back to evaluate what the big takeaways were for me personally in preaching the book.

The Revelation so wonderfully “ties all the loose ends” of the Bible’s redemptive storyline, that my certainty in the Bible as a whole skyrocketed. Those that suggest the Bible was written by men as some product of an elaborate conspiracy to delude the masses have always amused me. Try getting ten men to agree on anything, let alone a religion!

The more I read it, the more the single voice of God’s Holy Spirit is heard in the Bible. Real men, with real personalities and real hang-ups, were used of God to write His real thoughts… without error. It is a wonderful miracle. And this miracle was confirmed again and again as I preached my way through the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The more Jesus was revealed, the more whole Bible made sense. Praise God.

Now, as for what is next, here is the plan.

We will enjoy the preaching ministry of John Ensor this Sunday morning. John is in town to speak at the Pregnancy Care Centre Banquet on Saturday night. We are humbled and happy that he is able to stay over and preach for us on Sunday.

Sunday night will continue our series on the Ten Marks of aHealthy Church. This week we will talk about the Gospel and its centrality in the life of a church. I can’t wait!

On November 11 I will begin a small series on Delighting in God. If you are new to Grace Fellowship Church then you will have observed this little motto on almost everything we produce: Delighting in God to the Glory of God for the Good of All People.  That is more than a catchy phrase to us. It sums up the Christian life. But "dead mottos the delighting Christian do not make!" That is why every few years we like to go back and remind ourselves what this life is all about. This is big picture stuff that I hope is going to change us and re-focus our living. Pray God is with us.

After this series we will take a couple of weeks in December to meditate on Jesus, not just on His coming, but on what He did when He came and what He will do when He returns.  Following that, the New Year will start a new series on the Lives of Saul and David. I have longed to preach this series for years. There is so much here in the lives of these men that teaches us about God, the fear of man, Godly risk, the fruit of sin, how to worship in trials and suffering, true love – the list could go on. I think this extended look at these men from the OT narrative will do a lot for us as Christians. I want our church to be full of men and women who have a heart after God.

So, that is where we are going. I trust the Lord is in it. As always, all of these plans are framed by the robust theological truth of James 4:15 “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Why Am I Going to “ The Works of God: God's Good Design in Disability” Conference?

1. To be reminded that sin and suffering are in the world.
When I was forced to start thinking about disability back in 2001, it was not long until I realized that all of us are disabled. That is what sin does. Being around my family and friends living with disability reminds me of the New Jerusalem and the day when all suffering will end. Events like this make me spiritually sober again.

2. To connect with a few choice brothers.
There are some brothers who will be at this conference that I long to fellowship with. They are men who think Godward thoughts about disability and who have similar ideas about how to build the church so that she becomes a place where disability is embraced, not rejected. I have no idea where these conversations will go, but I cannot help but be very hopeful the Lord will use our time together to do some good things for the church at large.

3. To learn how to love my son better.
I need teaching. Disability is a part of our lives 24/7 and there are brothers and sisters that know so much more than I do and love so much better than I do that I simply need to be around them. I need to know how to live out the Gospel more effectively under my own roof.

4. To learn how to make our church a safer refuge for the disabled.
I think we have done a lot of good things as a church to embrace those who are different from us, but I am certain there is much more to do. We are still a relatively young church and there are a thousand ways we need to mature. This is one of them. I am praying that the preaching and fellowship around the conference will fill my small brain with a million good ideas.

5. To be encouraged.
I love my disabled friends. Our journey into the world of special needs has taught us that there is often more honest joy and laughter here than in the all the air-brushed fancies of the “normal” world. God’s surprising grace is found when my Down Syndrome friend tackles me in a joyful hug or when my Williams Syndrome friend uses big words to warmly greet me. Joy surges in my heart when I watch the young couple lovingly hold and smile and talk to their severely affected, non-communicative daughter – knowing she will likely die soon from her disabilities. The Gospel draws into greater focus when I observe happy, humble, loving couples who have faced the daunting task of raising a person who requires massive investments of time and attention. I could go on.

It may be too late for you to join us at the conference, but here is the information.

November 8, 2012 in Minneapolis, MN.
Bethlehem Baptist Church (North Campus)
5151 Program Avenue
Mounds View, MN 55112

Here is a partial schedule of the day:

7:15 AM          Check-In, Registration, Bookstore and Exhibits Open

8:30 - 9:30       John Piper - When Jesus Meets Disability: How A Christian Hedonist Handles Deep Disappointment

10:15 - 11:15   Speaker Panel with Guthrie, Lucas, Talbot and Piper

2:45 - 3:45       Mark Talbot - Longing for Wholeness: Chronic Suffering and Christian Hope

4:00 - 5:00       Greg Lucas - Parenting When Your Heart is Continually Crushed

At 5:30 PM, the Bethlehem Baptist Church Disability Ministry will host an evening of conversation and prayer that all are welcome to attend.