Philip Nation

Philip Nation

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. He earned a master of divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a doctor of ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as teaching pastor for the The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, Tennessee.

His works include Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. He is also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, he has written the  small-group studies Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

Why Communication Skills Are Crucial for the Church

An area often highlighted in the literature regarding leadership is the ability to communicate goals to the organization. For a leader to lead, communication must take place in some form for members of the organization to know what action must come next, or what knowledge needs to be learned. Leo Hindery Jr. works in the fields of television and print media. Having served as an executive in numerous media companies, including serving as the chief executive officer for AT & T Broadband, Hindery has a unique position to speak about communication. He stated, “A leader cannot lead without being able to articulate his vision. This means having the ability first to think straight and then to express thoughts and ideas clearly and directly. And a leader must give brain and heart equal access to his tongue.”[1] Hindery’s position is that the leader must be able to communicate both passion and information. Certainly, sufficient literary weight exists behind this idea.

John Maxwell has written dozens of books and articles on the issue of leadership. In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he teaches that communication by a leader must include both information and inspiration. His thesis is that the “non-connecting” leaders only transfer information around the organization. On the other hand, leaders that connect with the organization at a deep level are able to move people to action through right information and encouragement. He has constructed an “Inspiration Equation,” which aligns knowing, seeing, and feeling so that followers will move forward with the leader. He wrote,

Greek philosopher Aristotle understood this and commented on it in The Rhetoric. In the context of persuasion, he identified the most important element as pathos, the communicators’ ability to connect with the feelings, desires, wishes, fears, and passions of their listeners. It’s a way of giving people reassurance, of letting them know they can trust you, of telling them they should listen to you.[2]

The ancient philosopher obviously believed in the power of communication in that he wrote an entire work on the idea of rhetoric. However, as Maxwell writes, the content and ability to communicate well is key.

Malcolm Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker, has authored several best-selling books about the nature of change and leadership in organizations, including Blink[3] and Outliers.[4] In his book The Tipping Point, he discusses what must take place for a significant cultural or organizational movement to occur. Throughout the book, he discusses the three key factors of a tipping point, and one of them is the “Stickiness Factor.” He wrote, “The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes.”[5] By using television shows for children, such as Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues, Gladwell established the need for communicators to distinguish between the details that engage and those that distract. Gladwell leans into his knowledge of advertising and shows how new characters, seemingly awkward pauses, and repeating questions all add to the stickiness of a message.

Gladwell wrote, “We all want to believe that the key to making an impact on someone lies with the inherent quality of the ideas we present.”[6] Instead, he concluded that the real need of a communicator is to adjust the form of communication that will fit the circumstances. Leaders must become masters at knowing what form will connect with their audiences or followers. For the makers of children’s television programming, the balance between repeating elements of a story and the introduction of new characters must be found in order simultaneously to keep their audience and provide educational value to the show. In business, little difference exists in that a manager must find the ways to best communicate in their environment.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin makes the case that every member of an organization can be indispensable and also can lead in some capacity. In order to do so, a person must engage in the “culture of connection,” because one cannot succeed in isolation. He wrote, “If you can’t sell your ideas, your ideas go nowhere. And if you lie about your ideas, we will know and we’ll reject them. The Internet amplifies both of these traits. The new media rewards ideas that resonate. It helps them spread. If your work persuades, you prosper. And the new media punishes those who seek to mislead.”[7] Once again, the ideas of John Maxwell seem to return into the process that a leader must both inspire and inform. Godin’s caution is that it be done with absolute honesty in order to engender loyalty for the leaders, salesman, or manager.

The communication acumen required for serious leadership is evident in that great leaders are generally known as effective communicators. The literary sources highlighted are but a small sampling of a significant theme that runs throughout much of the written work regarding leadership.

Within the church, communication is likewise a fundamental part of leadership. In a business, in politics, and other pursuits, the leader often fills the role of the ultimate authority for the work. Not so with the church. Or, perhaps I should say, it should not be so with the church. Rather, leaders in the church are operating under the authority of Christ, who is the Head of the church. So, leaders are required to communicate His message while Jesus is not physically present with us. To that end, leaders in the church should be dutiful in sharpening their communication skills.

[1] Dormann, Letters from Leaders, 124–25.

[2] John Maxwell, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), 201–02.

[3] Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown, and Co., 2005).

[4] Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success (New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown, and Co., 2008).

[5] Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Boston, Mass.: Back Bay Books, 2002), 25.

[6] Ibid., 131.

[7] Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2010), 210.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

Can God Save My Marriage?

Can God Save My Marriage?

I’ve heard that question posed in so many different ways. The answer is a solid “yes.” But the real question people want to know is not “Can God…?” but “How can God…?” My answer to the how is that God will save your marriage but only along with you as His grace empowers confessional and redemptive living.

As we look at the Bible, there are no explicit passages that give a seven-point plan for saving a marriage that’s in trouble. Instead, we have various beautiful passages that deal with the foundation, roles, and reason for the marriage relationships. We find very quickly from scripture that the core of marriage is simple: it is a covenant of love. So, let me point you to two passages as reminders of this core.

1. The Source of Love — 1 John 4:7-12
The passage from John teaches us that “God is love” (v. 8). You and your spouse did not dream up love. Neither did Shakespeare for his plays or the latest Hollywood romantic comedy movie. Love originates from the very character of God and would not exist if not for Him. Of course, our love for our spouses is horribly flawed. So, we must allow our character and thus our love be defined by the character of God. You must not allow the latest self-help book, the sappiest made-for-TV movie, or any episode of Dr. Phil define love for you. It is only from God’s nature that we learn about love.

In the passage from 1 John 4, we learn that God’s love transforms us (v. 7). Love is revealed most perfectly in Christ’s sacrifice (v. 9-10). It calls us for an action from us (v. 11). True love is defined by our Creator and revealed by our Savior. We must reject the silly notions of the world that love is only sappy emotions, romantic gestures in the dark, and a spouse who will serve you day and night. It is defined by the very nature of God, who is redemptive. Can God save your marriage? Yes… so do this: Define, refine, and/or redefine marriage by the character of God through the gospel’s power.

2a. The Context of Love — 1 Corinthians 12 and 14
2b. The Activity of Love — 1 Corinthians 13

The two ideas of love’s context and activity are too closely related to separate. The three chapters of 1 Corinthians 12-14 describe how the church relates together. Put it in the funnel and let it become more specific for marriage and we discover powerful truths for troubled relationships. Chapters 12 and 14 describe how any spiritual gifting and power is to be used for the benefit of other believers. Love is active, not sappy.

In another book, Paul reminds us that marriage is a mysterious relationship (Ephesians 5:32-33) but there is a reason for it. Marriage is a temporary picture of an eternal reality. The covenant relationship we have with a husband or wife displays God’s grace available for salvation through Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross. 1 Corinthians 13 warns us against ego, seeking only self-satisfaction, and just being religiously busy. Instead, we are to use our God-given, grace-induced gifts for building up others and caring for their needs. Service is the context and result of love. Clearly from 13:4-7 we see that love starts with the heart and chooses to make service a priority.

Can God save your marriage? Absolutely. You must take the long view of life so that you will opt for service over a demanding attitude. A love born from God’s character will allow you to see your spouse through the lens of eternity; knowing what lasts and what does not. You will see your husband or wife not just in the current circumstances but as a person to serve and help be more like Jesus Christ.

Choose love. Choose service. Choose Christ. The covenant of marriage displays the saving work of Jesus. Your marriage will be constantly on edge until you root your life in the eternal reality of God’s salvation.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

8 Keys to Recognizing Spiritual Growth

An assignment without a means of measuring success normally ends in frustration or abandonment. In the church, our work is to make disciples. But can you really measure discipleship?

A strong case can be made that it is ludicrous to attempt to measure transformation in a person’s life. Nevertheless, there are biblical injunctions that halt our progress into sin and prescriptions that lead us toward spiritual maturity.

In the Transformational Discipleship project led by LifeWay Research, we did not set out to randomly create objective measurements against which a person’s life would be deemed infantile, growing or mature. However, we did uncover attributes that indicate spiritual growth and/or the desire that growth is occurring.

The research revealed eight factors at work in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity. We refer to them as the attributes of discipleship. They are not necessarily new ideas, but they stand out as key ideas in the lives of North American Protestants.

1. Bible engagement

It should go without saying believers will be engaged in studying the Scriptures. However, leadership must often begin restating the obvious. Transformation can be recognized in people when their minds are sharpened by the Bible, their perspectives are shaped by the Bible and their actions are directed by the Bible.

2. Obeying God and denying self

Discipleship is the process of obedience to one who is in authority over you. In our study, we found people progressing in their faith prioritize God’s desires over self-will. Transformation can be seen in them, because they progressively set aside earthly delights for Kingdom priorities.

3. Serving God and others

Just as Jesus said He had come to serve and not be served, so must believers. The choice to serve others is just that—a choice. It highlights a maturity of soul that we allow the needs of others to trump our own. Transformation is evident when personal needs, and even life goals, are set aside for the needs we see in others.

4. Sharing Christ

Inherent in being a disciple of Christ is the making of other disciple makers for Christ. Even with the need to live out the effects of the gospel, maturing believers know speaking about the message is a necessity. Transformation is evident when we talk about the source of it.

5. Exercising faith

Can you measure a person’s faith? Probably not. But you can see it when it is put into action. Believers participating in the research noted they knew the importance of living by faith as opposed to living by personal strength. Transformation is seen in believers when risk aversion is set aside and lives are characterized by faithful obedience to God’s will.

6. Seeking God

People become disciples of Christ because they intend to follow Him and become like Him. A continuous hunger should arise from this life. It is referred to in Scripture as our “first love,” and believers are commanded to return to it. Transformation is seen when our desire is to know God more deeply and experience His work more fully.

7. Building relationships

Our faith is personal, but it is not intended to be private. Jesus established the church for our collective good and our collective growth. After all, humans are naturally relational. Spiritually, we are no different. As believers, our horizontal relationships with others should develop just as our vertical relationship with God does. Transformation is occurring when relational maturity is evident in our lives.

8. Unashamed

The research noted believers felt it appropriate and even necessary for others to know them as Christians and be held accountable for a life exemplary of that name. Transformation is evident when a believer is unashamed in presenting his own life as being aligned with Christ.

The adage is “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” At the very heart of Christianity is the work of making disciples for Christ. It should never sit at the fringe of our lives or the church. Through work like that of Transformational Discipleship, we are able to better recognize when we are effectively reaching toward that goal.

This article first appeared in Facts&Trends magazine. For more information visit

Transformational Discipleship Assessment

The Transformational Discipleship Assessment crafted from LifeWay’s discipleship study is being used by churches in urban, suburban, rural, domestic and international locations to discover how their church is doing in the realm of discipling believers. To learn more, visit Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

Can I Trust the Bible?

On Sunday, I finished up the message series at our church on “Real Questions People Ask.” It has been an important series for our church family as we have dug into the ideas of God’s sovereignty, the suffering we face, sexual ethics, and the importance of the gospel reaching all the nations.

In the last message, I was aiming to answer the question “Can I trust the Bible?” As you get to the end and I take my tour through the Bible, you can find the list of all the books of the Bible and the references I make in an earlier post here.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

20 Ways to Do Ministry That Cost Zero Dollars

Church leaders are tempted constantly with the idea that everything the church does has a dollar amount attached to it. When we lean in this direction, we are simply wrong. The work of making disciples, evangelizing the lost, and effecting growth in the church can be done with zero money involved. Here is a short list of different things you can do as a church leader just to remind you that much of what we do does not cost any money. It is stuff that we can do as leaders and lead the membership of our church to do as well.

  1. Disciple someone
  2. Visit local business owners
  3. Befriend the school principal
  4. Pray with people
  5. Start a new Bible study group
  6. Volunteer with the hospital chaplain
  7. Hold an open Q&A group at your home
  8. Visit with the neighbors whose homes border your church property
  9. Train your church staff and lay leaders to be effective in their work
  10. Call all of your church’s Bible study leaders and encourage them
  11. Make the rounds at a local Assisted Living facility
  12. Volunteer to read stories to kids at a local library
  13. Call every person who has visited your church this year and invite them back
  14. Start an accountability group to read the Bible and pray for one another
  15. Make some new friends in your neighborhood
  16. Visit with local law enforcement officers and first responders
  17. Ask the mayor how you can pray for him/her and partner in the community
  18. Study diligently to prepare yourself to answer the tough questions of our age
  19. Present a verbal witness of the gospel to as many people as possible
  20. Invite everyone involved with the above 19 actions to worship services and Bible study groups

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

10 Reasons to Read Ecclesiastes

At The Fellowship, we are currently in the midst of a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes. The question that a number of people have asked is “Why?” Here are ten of my reasons as to why I wanted us to study the book of Ecclesiastes together.

1. It shows life as it truly is. No where does the Teacher try to hide the reality that life is hard and we need hope.

2. The phrase “under the sun” reminds us of the limitations of everything we encounter

3. The section of 5:1–8 reminds us why being silent before a holy God is an amazing blessing.

4. It is a great apologetic for our time to prove that life is meant for more than what we can see.

5. Whether you are rich or poor, the book applies to your life.

6. We need the reminder that our just God overcomes our unjust world.

7. The teaching that it is good to enjoy life here on the earth.

8. Attempting to understand the deep meaning of the Hebrew word hebel (translated meaningless, futility, or vanity) is an inspiring pursuit.

9. The reminder that when God is intrinsically involved in your work life, it holds greater meaning.

10. It is in the face of life’s brutality that we discover the blessing the God has placed eternity in our hearts.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

7 Tips for Creating Time to Think

In our hectic world of go, Go, GO!…it seems difficult to simply find time to sit down and think. In my own life over the last few months, I have felt the pressure of three different jobs, being overrun with the need to produce content (which I have not), and not abandon my family in the process.

Oftentimes, I do not have time to sit and think simply because I overcommit. Being a publishing director for LifeWay is my full-time job. Being a teaching pastor and elder of The Fellowship is my bivocational ministry. This summer, teaching Christian Leadership as an adjunct professor for Union University has been an addition to it all. So, when you are busy…and we’re all busy...we need principles we hold to in order to simply think, dream, and strategize.

With some of my team, I recently shared seven ways that I am trying to implement more brain time into my life. Here they are:

1. Make it part of your job. “Thinking is necessary for your job” seems like a silly statement, but it’s a necessary one. Otherwise, we simply complete tasks non-stop and never come up with a new idea.

2. First things first. Don’t allow the menial tasks of the day to take precedence over the opportunity to see ahead, hear what’s really going on, and think through priorities.

3. Reframe circumstances by asking “Why?” five times. Work is never done in a vacuum. When we experience success or failure, we need to know what contribute to either. Asking “why” at least five times will show you the context, circumstances, and contributing factors as to how you got to the end result.

4. Create a “thinking hour.” The concept comes from this article by Scott Young. He encourages one hour per week. It should be doable, but I try to do it every other week. You have to schedule it and keep it on your schedule.

5. Hibernate. Multitasking is one of the great enemies of thought. If you need to put in some brain time, close down email, power off your cell phone, and shut out the world for a time.

6. Get moving. Physical activity often provokes new thinking. Simply take a walk around the building or around the block. Give your physical vision, hearing, and other senses a workout so your brain can reframe what you need to dwell on.

7. Have loose & tight goals. If you set aside time to think, have an idea about what you’re thinking about. I encourage our team to know the difference between daydreaming and strategy. We need both. Go into your thinking time with a view of which you need at the moment.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

Why Gutenberg Printed the Bible

Johannes Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press in the 1400s. With it, he helped revolutionize the Western culture world. The first book of significance he printed was the 42–line Gutenberg Bible, which took him years to finish and ultimately bankrupted him. He recorded why he endeavored on the work (source). It is a great reminder to all people of faith as to why we should never give up on the work of God’s mission.

God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His word can not reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books which confine instead of spread the public treasure.

Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world by her word no longer written at great expense by hands easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine.

Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men.

Through it, God will spread His word; a spring of pure truth shall flow from it; like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light hithertofore unknown to shine among men.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock

7 Ways for Teaching Leadership

I believe in the old saying: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If you don’t believe it, then I would invite you to intentionally lead poorly for a season and then report to the rest of us what happens. Now, yes, for my theologically-minded friends, I know that everything really rises and falls on God’s providence, justice, and grace. Yes, I will give you that. So, with that as the foundation, we can then move on to all understand the power of leadership. And, the necessity of it.

Without leadership, what will the church look like? Not the church. Leadership is inherent to God’s intention for the church. Leadership is included in the Romans 12 list of spiritual gifts. We are told in Ephesians 4:11 of five different roles of leaders within the church: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul taught about the two positions of elder and deacon for the body of Christ; one as a servant leader and one as a lead servant. (I will write about that distinction later.)

At what I see currently, we need more leaders. Or we need to better train the leaders we already have in our churches. Have no doubt about it: there are leaders in your church. They do not have titles, but they lead. They may not be on the board or a committee, but they have influence. The only issue is whether or not we train them well. Let me give you a few ideas about teaching leadership.

1. Put it in the priorities. If you do not have new leaders stepping into responsibilities, it is likely because they do not know how. You teach your way out of every problem. The lack of leaders can be solved in two ways: prioritizing the need in verbal communication and through relational discipleship. So make it a part of who you are.

2. Fight consumerism. The movement out of consumerism requires an application of the truth. We are to be leaders in the culture and not merely consumers within the religious establishment. Leadership begins as a new perspective before it is a new behavior. You must move people from consumption to production.

3. Actually teach. Just as “living like Jesus” alone is not evangelism, “living for the kingdom” alone is not discipleship. You must put together a plan to communicate the principles and work of leadership. So read the entire Bible, buy good books, talk to veteran leaders, and put together a plan to talk about it. Some of the books I would suggest include:

  • Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders
  • The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk
  • Basic Christian Leadership by John Stott
  • The Disciple Making Pastor by Bill Hull
  • Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon
  • Pastoral Care by St. Gregory the Great
  • Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby

In teaching, leaders must speak the truth to followers in order to affect change. Be clear about the current environment, needs, and how involvement as a leader can change things.

5. Train leaders to also be theologians. In leadership, the truth precedes method. Otherwise, we thoughtlessly stumble into a way to do church. To put new leaders on a missional pathway, they must be able to contend for the truth before they know how to be counter-cultural with their lives. Don’t be afraid to tackle the hard subjects and use large words. As my friend Ed Stetzer says, “If people can learn how to order stuff at Starbucks, then they can learn theological language.”

6. Understand the relationships of major disciplines. There is a relationship of theology, missiology, and ecclesiology that must be observed and understood. Currently, you can stir up a great debate among scholars if you ask which of these comes first. Normally, theology and missiology compete for the title. It is not likely the territory that you want to wade into early on with your blossoming leaders. Instead, help them to understand the relationship between the three arenas and how they are all necessary in the life of the church.

7. Make a plan. Just remember that it does not have to be a perfect plan before you start. I am reminded of a man who once told Dwight Moody that he did not like the way he did evangelism. Moody replied, “Well, sir, I like the way I do evangelism better than the way you don’t do it.” For now, just get going. Work hard at having a great plan so get a head start on that great plan by training some leaders for the work right now.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

Image Credit: ©Thinkstock/g-stockstudio

Spiritual Disciplines in a Digital Age

The digitally connected world has given us access to more information and less understanding. It puts me in contact with more people but provides less relationally to these contacts. Our technology allows me to see everywhere but not to visit. It is as if the Disney movie “Wall-e” is beginning to happen.

As I’ve done a great of thinking, teaching, and writing about spiritual disciplines, I feel a certain press to ask people to go analog for a while so they can more deeply connect spiritually to God and others. But, what if the digital age can be helpful? I think that it can and I’d offer a few ways to leverage digital tools for the work of spiritual development.

Constancy in your Bible reading. Each generation believes that they are busier than the last. Whether or not we are correct, many of us would admit that there is less Bible reading now than in generations before. Through Bible apps on smart phones and online Bible study platforms, we can now access Bible reading without carrying a leather-bound copy with us everywhere. Additionally, the digital age gives us immediate access to numerous Bible reading plans. Leverage these assets to make your personal Bible reading more consistent.

Notes that go everywhere. I have numerous physical notebooks on my shelves where, in the past, I’ve written Bible studies (and sermons), outlined passages, and recorded lessons I’ve learned from the Scriptures. Now, I can record them digitally and sync these lessons across every digital device I own. Platforms such as Google Docs and Evernote allow me to find them with a simple search rather than scour through the pages of several Moleskine notebooks. Even though I still carry a notebook everywhere because writing helps me think. Recording these lessons digitally allows me to revisit them more easily in times of need, reflection, and thankfulness.

Journal as you go. The digital resources also give me an instant way to record what I’m experiencing, learning, and discerning from God right now. With a smart phone or a laptop, I’m able to immediately journal so that lessons are not loss on my inconsistent memory. Instead, I jot it down and then can expand on it over time. Physical notebooks have done the same for a long time and now we have new tools to help us.

Reminders. I often grow weary of the dings and buzzes from my smart phone. But we can use them to our advantage rather than be abused by them. Set up your calendar that has a daily or weekly reminder about a study to accomplish or person to encourage. If you’re seeking to memorize a scriptural passage, your devices can alert you to the verse multiple times a week or a day. Use your device to remind you of what is most important rather than just allowing it to push random news alerts to you.

Magnify your voice. Social media platforms can make you sympathetic or a huge jerk. They can help you be active for the sake of others or a hacktivist who just posts the latest hashtag related to a tragedy. Technology like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs (like the one you are reading) helps to magnify your voice. It helps you to not cloister your spiritual journey but share it with others. Make the decision that technology will be leveraged to benefit others rather than just a megaphone to shout at others.

Connect the spiritual to… everything. The world is spiritual. We too often lose that truth. It becomes easy to divide our spiritual growth into a category that really does not include work, recreation, entertainment, politics, and a myriad of other issues. But, we are spiritual beings in a world created by God for the purposes of serving His spiritual kingdom. Technology should link everything together and everything has a spiritual implication. As you see news alerts, it should drive you to prayer. As you encounter worldviews, it should help you to think about the culture in a biblical manner. Facebook posts of a person’s bad news should drive you to serve the one in need. And on the list can go. We should be reminded that people are more than the avatars they use and the pixels of their posts.

Bridges that create relationships. In the end, use technology to connect in the real world. Share your stories of growth in such a way that it leads to face-to-face meetings to share burdens. As you encounter disagreements with people online, seek to meet them so you can know their story and share your hope. As you discover needs and the biblical truth that meets the need, get out from behind the screen and do something.

The use of technology in the digital age holds the same temptations as those who write in notebooks and sit in their personal libraries. We can hide behind the screen or the page. Don’t do it. Instead, recognize that your spiritual life is for the benefit of others. Go and live it out in the real world.

Original post here.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

6 Key Questions for Bible Study

As a pastor, I’ve consistently encouraged believers to engage the Bible. I’ve pleaded with people to read it, memorize, and share it. But one thing that I often failed to do was teach people how to properly study it. In a recent message, I shared six questions that will help you study and understand any passage. They come from my book “Habits for Our Holiness” in the chapter about how to properly engage the Bible.

1. God question: How does the passage reveal God’s character?
2. Salvation question: How does the passage reveal God’s redemptive plan?
3. Context question: How did the passage apply to the original hearers?
4. Personal question: How does this truth affect my relationship with Christ?
5. Sin question: In what ways do I rebel against the truth of this passage?
6. Mission question: What is the impact of the passage on the church?

As you work through passages in your personal devotional life or for public teaching, I hope that these questions will keep your thoughts God-centric as you explore His Word.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.

5 Changes to Become a “Going” Church

The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28 is familiar. Too familiar. With its familiarity, we face the temptation of it losing its impact. Let me remind us what it says,

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Recently, I shared with our church five changes and one empowering reminder that we need to keep in mind if we are to follow Christ’s commission to us.

Change #1: Move from working as campus chaplains to advancing as kingdom missionaries

  • Churches are not to hide on campuses.
  • We are told to “go” or “as you are going.”
  • Wherever people are is where we are to be.
  • The church campus and gatherings serve as launching pads, not as a monastery.

Change #2: Move from participating in religious programs to becoming lifestyle disciple-makers

  • Programs are the paths of least resistance because disciple making is mess.
  • Programmatic growth is the last vestige for sterile ministries.
  • We want relationships that result in eternal transformations.

Change #3: Move from a perceived home field to active global engagement

  • The mission of God includes our community but does not end with our community.
  • God calls the church to the world.
  • God calls our church to be a global sending center.
  • God calls every believer to be a global missionary.

Change #4: Move from creating consumers of religion to community builders of the church

  • Baptism is the public declaration that you have surrendered your life before God’s sovereignty.
  • It is secondarily a public alignment with the church family.

Change #5: Move from being knowledge junkies to Jesus followers

  • Too often, our knowledge has outpaced our obedience.
  • It is easier to desire behavior modification from masters of biblical trivial pursuit. But that is not discipleship.
  • “The gospel of sin management has produced vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else.” – Dallas Willard
  • Jesus wants followers. He began the apostles’ work with “Come” and ended his training with “Go.”
  • The gospel gives us the beautiful potential to be people who imitate Jesus.

 One Empowering Reminder: The authority and presence of Jesus is what makes all of this a reality.

  • Jesus has all of the authority and promised to never desert us.
  • None of the five changes are possible by our own wit and self-determination. Jesus, however, loves to do the impossible.