What is the Gospel?

What is the gospel? It’s such a simple question, but answering it correctly is essential to healthy church ministry. Simply put, the gospel is the news of what God has done to save sinners in the death burial and resurrection of Christ.

Tim Keller says, “All human problems are ultimately symptoms, and our separation from God is the cause.” (1)

So, let’s get this straight: racism, poverty, and homelessness are all symptomatic. None of them is the ultimate problem. The ultimate problem is that human beings are separated from God because of their sin.

And this means that the only thing that can rescue humanity is to be made right with God; to be reconciled to him. And here’s the rub: nothing we do can reconcile us to him. This means we can’t be saved by housing the homeless or feeding the hungry. A man cannot reconcile with his brother enough to get himself reconciled with God too.

I’m not saying those things are unimportant. I’m saying they are so important that we must defend a clear definition of the gospel because the moment we water the gospel down into social work is the moment any hope of mortifying racism and pushing back poverty vanishes. 

The center of Jesus’ first appearing wasn’t social justice, it was to come and bear the wrath of divine justice as a payment of sin. When Jesus Christ ascended there were still poor people in Jerusalem and Jewish-Gentile relations were strained. But, there wasn’t a single person who couldn’t be reconciled to God. Jesus did what he came to do. He came to reconcile us and, having ascended, he has given the ministry of reconciliation to his church.

So, where does doing social good factor into all of that? This is where we have to differentiate between the gospel (we can be reconciled to God through Christ) with the effects of the gospel (our new life in Christ makes us reconcile with our brother, feed the hungry, etc.). 

John tells us that Christians who claim to love God but hate their brother are lying, and this ought to cause us to consider whether we’ve believed in the true gospel if our lives remain unchanged. But, on the flip side, those who redefine the gospel along the lines of doing social justice have left the true gospel. In other words, they no longer believe in justification by faith alone. Now, justification is based on works. And once that happens to a church, put a fork in it. It’s done. 

So, let’s ingrain the true gospel so deep that nothing will dislodge it. Let’s preach Christ and him crucified so that sinners can be reconciled to God. And let’s not be those who claim to love God while hating our brother, or despising the poor.

(1) Keller, Timothy. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (p. 29). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

What is Baptism?

The following post is written to help facilitate a discussion with baptism candidates of Lake Wylie Baptist church. It is by no means an exhaustive document on baptism.

Ordained by Jesus:

The final chapter of Matthew’s gospel records Jesus commissioning his disciples following the resurrection. Read Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 28:16–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

We recognize baptism as one of two special rites, or ordinances, given from Jesus to his church. The other ordinance being the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. The first reason that we take baptism seriously is because the church received the rite of baptism from her Savior. Jesus himself was baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17)

Meaning of Baptism:

Baptism is a means of outwardly identifying oneself with Jesus. It’s a physical proclamation that by God’s grace and your profession of faith in Christ you have been joined to Christ, washed of your sin, and empowered to live for Christ.

Read Colossians 2:8-15

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:8–15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Going down into the waters of baptism symbolizes that, just as Christ died, your old life has been crucified and buried with Christ. Here’s what that means. You used to live for yourself. There are two ways we used to live for ourselves:

  • Perhaps you did this by trying to gain the approval of God and others through obeying rules. This is a religious way of living for yourself. You don’t love God for God’s sake, but only for what he can give you.
  • Others of you have lived for yourself by ignoring God and others. You tried to please yourself by throwing off authority and living by your own standard. This is an irreligious way of living for yourself.

Going down into baptism symbolizes that in Christ you have died to these old ways of living and you have trusted Christ’s life and death as your only hope before God.

Coming up out of the water demonstrates that, in Christ, you have been raised to life. Whereas you were spiritually dead to God, now you have been regenerated. You’ve been born again (1 Peter 1:3). You’ve been called out of darkness into God’s light (1 Peter 2:9).

Who is a Proper Candidate for Baptism?

Baptists read the New Testament and understand baptism to be the first act of obedience for those who have received the new birth. You may have heard the term “believer’s baptism”. Here’s are two prominent baptisms in the New Testament. In both cases, baptism follows conversion.

Acts 8:36-38

Acts 16:31-33

Beyond the apparent pattern we see in Scripture, another issue is at stake. In the Old Testament God gave Abraham circumcision as a physical sign that one was a member of the covenant community (Genesis 17). If baptism is to be the New Testament sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:20), then baptism must certainly follow conversion because only those who are converted by grace through faith in Christ are partakers in the New Covenant.

Have you professed faith in Christ? Then you are a proper candidate for baptism.

Why do Baptist Immerse People Instead of Sprinkling or Pouring Water?

The short answer to this question is that the Greek word for baptism (baptiz0) was a word that means “to immerse.”

Read Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 3:13–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

John was baptizing in a river, and Matthew tells us that Jesus “came up out of the water.”

Read Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: 

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter 

and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, 

so he opens not his mouth. 

33  In his humiliation justice was denied him. 

Who can describe his generation? 

For his life is taken away from the earth.” 

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 8:26–40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

If pouring was the proper mode of baptism why did they wait until they approached a body of water? The answer is that baptism is to be understood as an immersive event. While sprinkling or pouring may convey the idea of purification or washing, nothing fully pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord as being immersed and raise from the waters of baptism.

Why Require Baptism for Church Membership?

Here’s a bold question for you. Why would a church accept into full membership someone who was unwilling to obey the first command of Jesus to a new believer? Ok, I know that might make you wince, but I think it reveals an important issue. We live in a post-denominational age where church membership doesn’t feel important to many. We also live in a consumer driven society. We buy what we want and leave the rest. We pick and choose. Jesus’ command for the church to baptize believers into local churches challenges our apathy to church membership. It preaches a gospel against our consumer goals. Baptism is a small, yet significant, way we bow the knee to Jesus. We want membership in a local church and baptism to have rich meaning and deep significance.

One More Thought:

Baptism isn’t a first order doctrine like the atonement or the Trinity. We experience wonderful fellowship with brothers and sisters who disagree with us on the finer points of baptism. Christians don’t primarily unify around baptism. We unify around the gospel. While our local churches must organize around a single interpretation of baptism, we never want to be a church where baptism takes precedence over Jesus.

Once you’ve worked through these passages and feel like you understand our church’s position on baptism get back in touch with Pastor Jonathan for some follow up discussion.

Hope for a Worried Heart: Philippians 4

downloadBefore reading on grab your Bible and read Philippians 4.

How do we rejoice when our hearts are full of worry? The Philippian Christians knew what it was to worry. They were believers in an increasingly hostile land. Their mentor Paul, the apostle who brought them the gospel, was in jail, and he might never get out. And yet Paul told them to rejoice always and to never worry. Seriously? Rejoice always? This from the guy who is in jail. This from the guy who is going to die very shortly. This to the church that is experiencing trials and tribulations. Rejoice always?!?

When you throw out a theological bomb like that, you better be prepared to provide a robust answer to objections, and you better be prepared to explain how asking people to rejoice when they are suffering is even a reasonable request much less a logical one. Really, it sounds almost cruel.

What is Paul’s hope for a worried heart? How can Paul ask them to rejoice always? In Philippians 4 Paul delineates three truths that are essential for the Christian life.

In verse 5 he tells us to think like Jesus is coming back, because he is. For Paul this is the hallmark of his theology of suffering. We have seen this in every chapter of Philippians. If you asked Paul when he was saved, you’d get a complicated answer. Paul was convinced that his salvation was secured at the cross, decades before, when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Paul, however, was also convinced that he was saved on the Damascus road, where he met the real Jesus for the first time and believed in him. But Paul was sure that his salvation would not be complete, would not be fully realized or really real until Jesus accomplishes what his resurrection promised, actual eternal life for all those who are in Christ. And for Paul that will only happen when Jesus returns. That is what the coming of Jesus represents: the Lord is at hand! And when believers are certain that their rescue is at hand, it frees their hearts from worry. Christians can rejoice through anything, if they know that their rescuer is right around the corner.

Not only should we think like Jesus is coming back, because he is; Paul tells us in verses 6 and 7 that we should also pray like we have a heavenly father who cares about us, because we do. The subject of prayer and worry is tricky business. Many Christians experience what it is like to not have their prayers answered. Many Christians have wondered why God seemed so silent from heaven at seemingly the most important of times. If we read widely in Paul’s writings on prayer, we see that Paul is convinced of three things. First, he is convinced that prayer really does change the world. Paul is clear; there are things that God will not do if we do not pray and ask him to do them. There are also things that God only does because we pray, and sometimes only because we pray with regularity and fervency. That is a mind-blowing reality. Isn’t God unchanging? Doesn’t God know all things in advance? We don’t know the mind of God, so we will likely never know what God is doing in every situation, but Paul’s admonishment is clear. If you are anxious, pray!

Second, when it comes to prayer Paul is convinced that prayer changes us, and as we grow closer to God and the knowledge of him and deeper in the gospel, our prayers change to be more in line with his heart and his mission.

Third, Paul is convinced that God answers prayers like a loving heavenly father and not like a genie. Many times, instead of answering the prayers that we pray, God answers the prayers that we would have prayed if we knew what God knows and loved what God loves. This means that sometimes our prayers are not answered because we have not asked consistently enough yet. It also means that sometimes our prayers are not answered because we are asking for the wrong things, and God is working to change our wants and thus change our prayers. But finally, it means that sometimes our prayers are not answered, because even though our hearts were right and we prayed ‘enough,’ God is not granting that prayer, because he, as an all-knowing, all-powerful, heavenly father, knows better. And he isn’t giving us what we prayed for. Rather he is giving us what he wants for us. So when we feel anxious, we must pray our hearts out, but our rest and our hope are not in that we “prayed enough.” What saves us from anxiousness and worry is resting in the knowledge that we are praying to an all-powerful, all-knowing heavenly father, who has promised us a rescue in the return of his Son.

After encouraging us to pray like we have a heavenly father who loves us, Paul tells us in verses 8 and 9 to protect our minds by dwelling on godliness, because God wants you to have peace. Here, Paul is clear. There is a direct correlation between what we dwell on and our anxiety level. When we train our minds (“practice these things”) to think on the gospel and God’s mission in the world—to think about what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, then the “God of peace” is with us, and we have peace and not worry. And, of course, Christ is all of these things. He is the epitome of honor, justness, purity, loveliness, commendation, excellence, and praiseworthiness. Dwell on Jesus and have the peace of God. Jesus was God’s peace brought to earth to reconcile all men unto himself.


  1. How would you feel if, while you were suffering through a major life-changing crisis (cancer diagnosis, loss of a spouse, etc.), one of your Christian friends said to you, “You should rejoice and not worry”?
  2. Everything in this passage is related to the central fact that “the Lord is at hand.” Write down how the return of Jesus shapes the way we:
  • Rejoice in the Lord always.
  • Display reasonable gentleness to all people.
  • Pray about our anxieties.

Finish by meditating on Man of Sorrows

“Man Of Sorrows”

Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid

Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father’s will
He took a crown of thorns

Oh that rugged cross
My salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Praise and honor unto Thee

Sent of heaven God’s own Son
To purchase and redeem
And reconcile the very ones
Who nailed Him to that tree

Now my debt is paid
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin
Has no hold on me
Whom the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed

See the stone is rolled away
Behold the empty tomb
Hallelujah God be praised
He’s risen from the grave


One of the great treasures of my ministry was the time I spent serving alongside Ed Gravely. For close to 4 years we wrote small group curriculum for Christ Community Church. This blog series is adapted from my archive of curriculum we wrote concurrently with the pulpit ministry of CCC. If any writing in these posts is pleasant to read I’m sure Ed deserves the credit.

Other posts in this series:

Where is Your Hope? Philippians 1

Hope for a Troubled World: Philippians 2

Hope for a Divided Christianity: Philippians 3

Hope for a Painful Past: Philippians 3:12-21

Hope for a Painful Past: Philippians 3:12-21


Last week’s lesson was probably some of the toughest material in all of Philippians. Paul’s harsh words for the false teachers forces us to answer some harsh questions. What are we worshiping? Where do we put our confidence? What makes us think we are better than other people? Is it our looks? Our ability to make money? Our fame? How healthy we eat? The success of our children? Is it our political views? Or maybe what we really worship about ourselves is seeing ourselves as the victim. Or the persecuted. We can find a way to worship even that.

Before reading on grab your Bible and read Philippians 3:12-21.

Philippians 3:12-21, then, is Paul’s commentary on the bombs he drops in Philippians 3:1-11. Paul spends those first eleven verses rabidly calling us to something better. He calls us to worship Christ and glory in Christ and put no confidence in our flesh. Paul explains that to the Christian, salvation is in one moment, the moment of faith, trading our record for the record of Christ, trading our accomplishments for the accomplishments of Christ, the one who was perfect, always obeyed God, and never sinned. For Paul, the gospel is trading away everything that gives us confidence for the confidence that the God of the universe loved us so much that he gave his only son to die for us, to take our punishment, and to give us eternal life right now. The gospel is that Jesus’ record, his resume, his accomplishments all became ours and our punishment all became his.

What Paul does then in Philippians 3:12-21 is unpack all that for the Philippians. In verses 12-13 Paul softens the blow by confessing that he too is still a work in progress when it comes to putting no confidence in his flesh and counting everything else as “dung.” In verse 13, Paul goes on to explain what it looks like for him, a person with a horrible (painful and sinful) past to give all of that baggage up, to follow Christ, and to put no confidence in his flesh. He says, “I forget what is behind.” The question we have to answer then is this: How can we Christians forget what happened in our past? To this point Paul has been clear. We can forget out pasts because we are justified. We have complete forgiveness in Christ and complete acceptance by Christ, and we are new creatures with renewed minds.

In verse 14 and then again in verses 20-21, Paul explains moving from the past to the present. He says that despite his past, “I press on toward the goal, eternal life with Jesus.” The question we have to answer then is this: How does the knowledge that eternal life is ours change the way we relate to our past and our present? Of this Paul is clear too. The certainty of our salvation puts everything else into an eternal perspective: what we think of as “reward,” what we anticipate as “best in life,” how we think about our bodies (life, death, health, etc.), and how we think about this world.

In verses 16-18 Paul shares just exactly how we are to go about giving up all things for Christ and counting them all as loss. He says, “Join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Paul is clear. Living the Christian life in a real Christian community gives us hope for escaping our past and following Jesus. In other people who follow Jesus we find examples, we find accountability, and we find encouragement.

  1. Can you describe a moment when all of the values /goals in your life changed significantly?
  1. Read Philippians 3:12. What is it that Paul is trying to obtain? The answer is found in the preceding verses.
  1. Read Philippians 3:12-14. As we try to be like Paul and “press on” in following Jesus we will fail plenty of times. Can you name a specific time you have struggled and failed as a believer?
  1. As we begin to realize our own struggles and become honest about those struggles with other people, what hope does Philippians 3:12-13 offer us?
  1. Read Philippians 3:14-21. How can these verses apply to your small group, church?

One of the great treasures of my ministry was the time I spent serving alongside Ed Gravely. For close to 4 years we wrote small group curriculum for Christ Community Church. This blog series is adapted from my archive of curriculum we wrote concurrently with the pulpit ministry of CCC. If any writing in these posts is pleasant to read I’m sure Ed deserves the credit.

Other posts in this series:

Where is Your Hope? Philippians 1

Hope for a Troubled World: Philippians 2

Hope for a Divided Christianity: Philippians 3

Hope for a Divided Christianity: Philippians 3


Paul in Philippians 2 calls the church of Jesus to unify around the message and mission of the incarnate and crucified God. But what about Christians and churches who preach a different message or who are on a different mission? How should we relate to them? Paul in Philippians 3 tells us how we are to think about those people and their message, and he is not polite.

The Apostle Paul had a nasty history with false teachers. He had been harassed, beaten, and run out of town more times than he could count by Jews who were angry at the spread of Christianity. Then, at the end of the first missionary journey, Paul began to run into something worse. A heresy developed among the early Christians. There was a strong, vocal minority of Christians who still believed that Jewish practices were necessary for people to be saved. “Yes,” they would say, “you must put your faith in Jesus to be saved, but you also must be circumcised (if you are male) and you must keep the Law of Moses in order to receive the grace of God.” Paul called that teaching a false gospel (Galatians 1) and actively opposed them to all the churches. The early Christian leaders quickly met and unanimously decided that these so called “Judaizers” really were a false gospel and sent letters to all the churches denouncing them (Acts 15).

It is in this context that Paul writes to the Philippians to encourage them to unity around the message of the incarnate and crucified Jesus, but to be on the look-out for those people who call themselves Christians, but really do preach another gospel. His opening words in Philippians 3 are as strong as they are instructive: “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh (a telling reference to circumcision and the Judaizers).”

Before reading on grab your Bible and read Philippians 3.

Given Paul’s history with this early Christian heresy, how are modern readers supposed to read and think about Philippians 3 in the age of mass media? Paul’s words in Philippians 3 do three things: First, they put us on our guard. We are to be on the look-out for those who would teach another gospel. Paul uses the words “those who mutilate the flesh” to describe those Christians who were preaching that circumcision was required for salvation, and he says we are to be on our guard against them.

Second, Paul’s words help us see false teaching clearly for how insidious and dangerous it is. He uses powerfully strong language in Philippians 3. He refers to these false teachers as “dogs” and “evil doers” and describes their practices as “flesh mutilation.” We know that Paul had the greatest of compassion on unbelievers. He literally gave his life so that pagans might hear the good news of Jesus, but when it came to Christians who twist the gospel for selfish and personal gain and Christians who preach a gospel that changes the true message and mission of the church, Paul’s intensity level went through the roof.

Third, Paul’s teaching in Philippians 3 helps us tell true teachers from false teachers. He tells us that true teachers worship Jesus and false teachers worship themselves. He tells us that true teachers preach loss for the sake of Christ, and false teachers preach gain. And finally he tells us that true teachers preach the sufficiency of Christ and his resurrection. False teachers preach that God is a means to some other end.

The challenge in taking Paul’s words and delivering them to a modern audience is getting your group members to see that though it is easy to spot some false teachers, they exist for a reason. False teachers exist today because our natural inclination is to love their teaching. We have to constantly preach the gospel to ourselves in order to combat our love for false teaching. Our hearts naturally long to worship ourselves. Our hearts long for rewards, accolades, and merits. Our hearts naturally hate grace. And our hearts are hard-wired to love things other than God. Christians are idolaters too, and we are especially good at taking the gifts that God has given us and falling so in love with them that we begin to see God as simply the gift giver and not the ultimate prize himself. Paul says, “I will give up everything, so that I might gain Christ.” For Paul, Christ is the end, not a means of getting a better career, a happier life, or a stronger marriage. True teaching proclaims that Christ is all sufficient for all our needs.

  1. Read Philippians 3:1-3. Paul contrasts his worship of Christ with those who place their confidence (or worship) in themselves. How can you tell whether someone worships Jesus or themselves?
  2. Read Philippians 3:3-8. Paul sends a very strong message in these verses. It almost sounds like Paul hates everything he accomplished before Christ. What message do you think Paul is trying to get across in this section?
  3. What does our culture ascribe ultimate value to? Offer some suggestions and then follow up by taking a few minutes to consider what you are personally giving highest priority to in your life. Contrast this with the value that Paul ascribes to Christ.
  4. Read Philippians 3:8-11. How does Paul’s emphasis on the suffering and resurrection of Christ change the way we think about this life?

 One of the great treasures of my ministry was the time I spent serving alongside Ed Gravely. For close to 4 years we wrote small group curriculum for Christ Community Church. This blog series is adapted from my archive of curriculum we wrote concurrently with the pulpit ministry of CCC. If any writing in these posts is pleasant to read I’m sure Ed deserves the credit.

Other posts in this series:

Where is Your Hope? Philippians 1

Hope for a Troubled World: Philippians 2

Hope for a Troubled World: Philippians 2


The people of Philippi understood strife. They knew what it meant to live in a troubled world. The city was birthed four hundred years before Paul’s letter arrived there as a military garrison of Philip II, the renown conqueror and father of Alexander the Great. Three hundred years later the city was the site of the Battle of Philippi, the military campaign that ended Rome’s bloody civil war fought over the assassination of Julius Caesar.

The strife continued when the missionaries came to Philippi. This Roman colony was already unfriendly to non-citizen Jews. Many historians believe that the reason Paul went “outside the city” looking for “the place of prayer” was because Jews weren’t even allowed to meet inside the city in synagogues (Acts 16). So when Paul, the Jewish Christian missionary, came to the city and began stirring up trouble by preaching the gospel and casting out evil spirits, the people of Philippi formed a mob, beat the missionaries badly, and threw them in jail. You can read about how God miraculously rescued Paul and Silas from prison in Acts 16.

Before reading on grab your Bible and read Philippians 2.

With all the strife in Philippi, what could a Roman citizen living there have as their ultimate hope? Another military conquest? They had that, and their strife continued. Financial success? Philippi was one of Europe’s richest cities in Paul’s day, and their strife continued. A strong government? They were a colony of the strongest government in the world, and their strife continued. The people of Philippi needed a more enduring hope for the troubled world in which they lived, and so do we. We live in a world that is at war. Mass murder is taking place right now all over the planet. What ultimate hope do we have to offer the people of the world? American military intervention? A strong US economy? A powerful America? Though all of those things can certainly be a blessing from God, none of them are an enduring hope. The world was filled with strife long before America came along, and if the Lord continues to delay his judgment, the world will be filled with strife long after we are gone. The message of Philippians 2 is that God’s hope for a troubled world is his church.

When the missionaries first arrived in Philippi, they offered the people of the city a completely different kind of hope in the midst of their strife. They offered the Philippians Jesus Christ. Paul tells his jailer, who is about to commit suicide, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your whole house!” And then God used Paul and Silas to plant churches all over the city to be God’s arms to serve those in need and to be God’s mouth to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole city. By the time Paul writes this letter to the Philippians years later, the gospel is thriving there through the preaching and serving of the churches. When Paul takes pen in hand to write Philippians chapter 2, he is calling these churches to continue to be God’s hope for their city. In a very real sense, God’s hope for the whole world is his church!

This is why in Philippians 2 Paul calls the Christians in Philippi to continue to unify around the mission of the church of Jesus Christ which is God’s mission in the world. In doing so, Paul answers three questions for them: “What is the message of the church?”; “What is the purpose of the church?”; and “Who are the missionaries of the church?”

What is the message of the church? We preach the incarnate and crucified God, Jesus Christ. What is the purpose of the church? We are on the mission that God is on to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the whole world. Who are the missionaries of the church? God is calling all of us to be sacrificial servants who follow Jesus. These three, Paul argues, are the source of the unity of the church. We rally, not around ourselves and our wants, rather we rally around a message, a mission, and sacrificial service.

  1. Have you ever felt hopeless? What are some situations that cause people to loose hope?
  1. How does the incarnation of Jesus give hope to a troubled world?
  1. Read Philippians 2:12-18. Why do churches struggle with division? What will keep a church unified? (Hint: It’s gospel and mission)
  1. Read Philippians 2:19-30. List out the commendable qualities of Timothy and Epaphroditus that Paul displays to the Philippian church. Contrast these qualities with those we normally associate with celebrity or fame.

One of the great treasures of my ministry was the time I spent serving alongside Ed Gravely. For close to 4 years we wrote small group curriculum for Christ Community Church. This blog series is adapted from my archive of curriculum we wrote concurrently with the pulpit ministry of CCC. If any writing in these posts is pleasant to read I’m sure Ed deserves the credit.

Other posts in this series:

Where is Your Hope? Philippians 1


Encouraging Women’s Ministry in the Church

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see God growing a desire in the ladies of Christ Community Church to minister to women. They are planning an event for March 5, 2016 from 10am-12pm and if you’re a lady in the North Meck area, you should definitely attend. They have a guest speaker, a worship group coming in, and best of all, it’s totally free.


The other day I watched this video of Melissa Kruger, a local Charlottean, talk about how to encourage women’s ministry in the church. It’s a wonderful Q &A, and one that could benefit any church.

RTS Charlotte: Faculty Forum with Melissa Kruger from Reformed Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

Opening Questions

What does Women’s Ministry look like at Uptown Church? (3:21)

How do you encourage women to teach women? (7:55)
What advice do you have for women who would like to go into women’s ministry? (10:10)
What are job prospects for women graduating from seminary?  (This one also provides a little insight into my husband’s first job as a youth pastor…not the ideal job fit!) (12:19)
What advice would you give future pastors as they think about women’s ministry in their churches? (16:00)

Questions from the audience:
How do you set up a mentoring program? (19:45)
How does a Women’s Leadership Team relate to the Session? (22:15)
What are some ministry options for women after graduation? (24:51, see also 12:17)
If you’re the first on staff for women’s ministry, how do you get started? (28:44)
How is the prayer team set up and organized? (31:21)
How do you get involved in women’s ministry while raising a family? (31:51)