Following Jesus in his shame this Christmas season

“No room, we’re all sold out,” said the keeper of the Hampton Inn. It was 2 AM this past February 15. The borrowed Suburban was full of sleeping family, and snow was falling. Exhausted, we needed to crash for a few hours before continuing the roadshow west. Half an hour later, similar rejections had been offered by Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn (not Express), La Quinta, and a few suspicious mom-and-pops with "cornhusker" in the title. I had no choice but to get back on the interstate, shaking the dust off my feet, sipping Red Bull, and resolving that in the future I would 1) make reservations and 2) avoid college towns on Valentine’s. Perhaps my misfortune reminds you of Christmas pageants past, and if that’s the case I’m sorry to tell you that your pageant got it wrong. You're not alone. It’s a culture-wide problem that our misconception-ladled nativity portrayals obscure our vision of the Christmas story and thus addle our application of what God wants us to

see. -------------- We envision a Hollywood-style scene where Mary’s labor begins on the outskirts of Bethlehem, initiating a mad rush for a hotel room (in the absence of a hospital), but after being turned away by hostile innkeepers the couple finds a soft bed in the stable, just in the nick of time. But actually, there was no hurry. There was no innkeeper. In fact, there was no inn. And there probably wasn’t even a stable, as such. None of this is in the Bible. Only when we begin clearing these misunderstandings out of our Christmas picture can we see what is really there. And what we see is that Christmas isn't only an invitation to sovereignty, it's also an invitation to shame. Luke’s description of Christ’s birth is succinct: “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in…

Encouragement from God's sovereignty in the tyrants, gossipers, hopes, and fears of the Christmas story.

In the thick of this most wonderful time of the year as we are, it's easy to get overwhelmed with special foods, special music, special readings, special parties, special services, etc. But as we reflect on our theology of the nativity, all the accoutrements of Christmastime start pointing to God, and every bit of tinsel and tune begins to serve as an invitation to worship. An invitation that resonates throughout the Christmas story is an invitation to sovereignty; an invitation to see the mighty hand of God guiding the course of history and our lives too. Consider how Luke’s account begins: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of

the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” - Luke 2:1-5, ESV ----------- After 400 silent years, God suddenly is carrying out a new stage in his work. With angelic announcements to Zechariah and Mary, Luke 1 shows God preparing for a very special birth. Then, mentioning Caesar Augustus, Luke puts these events against the background of Roman history. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar is murdered and his nephew comes to power. Brilliant, prudent, and ruthlessly ambitious, Octavius uses his vast abilities to consolidate the power in himself, completing the dismantling of democracy begun by Julius. Under Octavius the Roman Republic becomes the Roman Empire. Octavius then becomes the first emperor of Rome, the ruler of all the known world, and is addressed as “Lord Caesar Augustus” – the emperor with the attributes of God. Emperor Augustus rules the entire known world, delegating to governors or client kings the management of individual territories.…

Training pastors for the 10/40 window - are seminaries the answer?

Recently I’ve talked to seminary administrators from the U.S., the U.K., Latin America, India, the Middle East, and Australia, who all agree: theological education is in crisis. Seminaries and Bible Colleges are unable to pay for their campuses, faculties, and administrations. Graduates are saddled with debt. Churches can't find anyone prepared for the ministry they need. Globally, the majority of pastors don't have any training at all. No one denies the vast need; the issue is finding the right model to meet it. The current ones increasingly aren’t working. Without claiming to have solved theological education’s global crisis, I have labored to develop strategy to impart specific goals in training a certain kind of pastor to spread the gospel through a certain kind of church. So, over a few posts, I want to reflect on current models for global theological education and to what extent they may or may not make sense for training church planting pastors in cities of the 10/40

window. 1. Traditional Seminary Model The most well-known strategy for theological education is the traditional seminary model. Think of DTS, SBTS, WTS, TEDS, etc. Top-notch scholarship. Bricks & mortar. Big libraries. A wide selection of programs. For generations, this model has been the default for those wanting to seriously prepare for ministry. Should we, in the 10/40 window, try to recreate one of these institutions? Should we be striving toward Westminster Karachi or Trinity Tehran? It’s tempting. One reason, of course, is that myself and several of my team members know this model from the inside out, having benefited from through the many years of our own studies. The depth and breadth of the traditional seminary program is hard to surpass. The burden of proof is on the guy who thinks he has a better curriculum than the exegesis, Bible, theology, and ministry courses that make up traditional seminary degrees. Beyond curriculum, seminaries add value as communities of learning,…