Pastors come in all kinds of colors and shapes and sizes. Personally, I am a below average preacher who heralds an exceedingly above average Gospel.
For my first nine years of ministry, I spent myself sourcing the highest quality content I could find from the Scriptures, from apologetics, systematic theology, and philosophy. I drew on the best the world had to offer in leadership, psychology, finances and marketing. I devoted myself to helping my people become the most exemplary Christians they could possibly be—all the while praying for God to pour out his power so that we could be the greatest self-help group on steroids the planet had ever seen.
For the glory of God, of course.
Then I burned out. In the following period of rest I ran across an old, bald former seminary professor giving some tediously titled talk called “Preaching the Gospel.” And before most people knew who he was, Tim Keller shattered the grid that held together my sense of how Christianity worked.
Conversion is a funny thing. The Saints of centuries past used the phrase “more fully converted” to describe the turbulent experiences of being sanctified by the gospel. As a pastor, that’s a lot like what I went through.
Did you know there is an entire movement in the church over the last ten-plus years where the gospel of Jesus is converting masses of well-meaning Christians away from a self-help approach to religion, and to a life that actually prizes Jesus and believes the gospel?
Imagine the shock—as my zealous eyes opened to the truth—that I had been subtly telling Christians that their bibles and lives were primarily about them and how they could please God.
I repented. I called as many of my old students as I could find, and shared how the gospel was functionally missing from my Christian life all those years and how Jesus hadn’t only saved me from my sin, but had provided a righteousness that satisfied what I previously thought was an insatiably holy God.
This is where the term “fire in your bones” comes from. The gospel makes you pray different. Makes you preach different. Makes you love different. The gospel breaks you in ways you weren’t breakable before and grows you in ways you weren’t growable before. The gospel gives you eyes to see Jesus in ways that make you think he’s been hiding right under your nose every time you read your bible, except you just didn’t know it.
So now, multiple times a week, I began preaching the gospel from every passage. And this below average preacher suddenly had people asking for resources to see the gospel in their bibles the way I did—asking, “What commentary did you read?”
Except that there were no resources. It was God, and me, and my bible.
It turns out that there are hundreds of pastors with a story just like mine. Pastors who ache for a resource to point their people to that would help them see the gospel of Jesus in every passage of the bible. And here is our opportunity to serve the church: The resource we are aching for—that gold mine of gospel-centered teaching—currently exists in the filing cabinets of gospel-centered preachers all over the world.
The most common way in all of history to create a new resource is to publish a book. But if you remember what Tom wrote last month, we’re standing at a unique point in church history. We have the most viral message in history in one hand, and the most powerful distribution system in history in the other.
I take it as a very high privilege to build this resource for the church. It’s just like God to take a below average preacher and give him a calling like this. Years from now when the church is benefitting from gospelthread, all we hope to say is that we are unworthy servants who have only done what was our duty.