Creature of the Word

The Reformers viewed the gospel as not merely one thing among many in the life of a church but rather the means by which the church exists. When the gospel is rightly declared and applied to God’s people, the church becomes “a creature of the Word.” She understands, embraces, and lives out the reality of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in more than her doctrinal statement. The gospel impacts all the church is and does.

Creature of the Word lays out this concept in full, first examining the rich, scripture-based beauty of a Jesus-centered church, then clearly providing practical steps toward forming a Jesus-centered church. Authors Matt Chandler, Eric Geiger, and Josh Patterson write what will become a centering discussion piece for those whose goal is to be part of a church that has its theology, culture, and practice completely saturated in the gospel.

The Creature of the Word Church Campaign is a year-long movement of examination and growth. The hope is for churches to become more centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Broken into 12 parts, each corresponding to a chapter in Creature of the Word, the campaign is designed to help churches audit and assess their various ministries, from preschool to the pulpit, in order to be saturated with the Word of God in all that they do.

It won’t be an easy process because we all have challenges and struggles, but we urge you to open up your life and ministry for evaluation this coming year. To take part in the campaign, we invite you to work through the monthly assessments and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

To download the monthly assessments, click on your selection below.

Go to the Creature of the Word Facebook page

Order the paperback version of Creature of the Word here

Order the Kindle version of Creature of the Word here

Creature of the Word Church Campaign Downloads:

 

Jesus changes the game. In so many ways Jesus-centered ministry is counterintuitive to our natural thinking. We have seen that Jesus says life only comes through death, and that gain only increases through loss. The game is to decrease so that Jesus can increase.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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The Church as Creature of the Word, Part 3

How do we practically get consumer driven churches to shift their “culture” to experience transformation and to become a Creature of the Word?

Part 3 of this series, The Church as Creature of the Word, continues with a discussion among authors Eric Geiger, Matt Chandler, and Josh Patterson.

Josh: Truth be told, our church has a lot of consumers too. The irony is that the more we hit the consumeristic culture, the more people come to consume that message. This is a battle in the culture of our society, not just our church. The great thing is, God has brought transformation. People say, “I once was this, but now I’m moving towards this.” You always want people to walk away with the aura of Christ, not the personality of the person witnessing.

Matt: If you’re the lead pastor, what you’ve got to do is point to things that are of first importance. I want to bring as much attention to Jesus Christ as I can – not to me, not to us, not to our church, etc. There’s a certain baseline for comfort here. I want us to be lean as we seek to plant other churches and point people outside of us.

If you’re on staff or a lay person at a consumer driven church, know this: almost everyone has an opinion on what the pastor ought to be doing. Adding your voice probably won’t get you anywhere. People I listen to are people who I know love me and are in the trenches with me. They’re not in the stands judging how I’m fighting, but they’re fighting along with me. Be your pastor’s biggest fan. Serve him and walk alongside him and then float him stuff. There’s a way to respect and honor the position while being honest about what you hope God will accomplish through him in that place.

For guys considering joining church staffs, you’re not hired to set culture or theological positions. Deflect as much as you can and point to Jesus always about everything.

How do you bring about change when a practice is no longer effective, but for some, is a matter of theology?

Eric: Theology, philosophy, and practice matter, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same culture in every church. Think in terms of a house. The foundation is theology. The philosophy is the walls of the church. It needs to be in harmony with the theology, but there is some freedom in the philosophy of the church. “What are we going to value most?” You can move the walls in your house, but it’s hard and takes time. The practice is the finishing and furniture. You can move it around. You’ve got freedom.

What are we changing? Theology? Philosophy or practice? We need to know the difference. For philosophy, we need to know that it’s challenging. We’re moving the walls. To do it in a healthy way, you have to tie the philosophical change to the theology. We’re making a shift philosophically because of this, because of what we believe. 

You can dissect the culture by looking at heroes and stories. You can change a culture by heroes and stories. Is Jesus the hero of the church? What is celebrated is cultivated. Point to the things you want to see happen more. Celebrate the stories of people living on mission, living in community, etc.

Josh: I think this is the pivotal piece of the book. If there’s a disconnect between the theology and practice, then the people don’t know how to put the pieces together.

Eric: The older we get, the more humbled we are. When you “move the walls,” affirm anything that is affirmable. Find values in the former culture you want to move over to the new culture, brag on them, and show how they’ll be better realized in the new culture. Affirm the past. Don’t just assume that everything is broken. Point from the wall to the foundation. “You built this because you believed this. We’re going to build another wall because we share the same heartbeat.” Then, have the discipline to stick with it despite the criticism.

Matt: Every church is different. Wisdom is, “you honor what is old.” You talk about opportunity rather than making it seem like everything is broken and doesn’t work. I know young guys who make things worse by their rhetoric, ignorance, and arrogance. We refused to “pasture” the older saints. We had coffee with older men and said, “We need you.” We moved as slowly as we could, to honor the past while pushing forward into the future. Don’t define yourself by what you’re not. Have a compelling vision of what Christ is calling us to do.

What is a resource for examining what your church culture is? 

Eric: We’re going to launch in January on the Creature of the Word FaceBook page an annual audit. We’ll go through it for a year, making it private, but helping church leaders assess the culture of their church over a year.

This series concludes with Part 4. You can read the previous parts of the series here: Part 1; Part 2.

Read more from Trevin here.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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The Church as the Creature of the Word, Part 1

Part 1 of a 4-part series.

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed the book Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger. Many books today encourage pastors to be focused on Jesus in their preaching and teaching. But Creature  goes beyond the teaching ministry and instructs church leaders on creating a gospel-centered culture in the church, a culture that shapes all levels and areas of ministry.

Today, I’m glad to welcome Matt, Josh, and Eric to the blog for a brief conversation about the book.

Trevin Wax: The subtitle of the book is The Jesus-Centered Church. “Jesus-centered” is going to be new language for a lot of leaders who are used to hearing about “gospel-centered” everything. What do you hope this book’s focus on Jesus will communicate to pastors and leaders?

Matt Chandler: Our hope in using the term Jesus-centered is to create some distance between a phrase that has been used so much it’s become a junk drawer in many ways. We want to remind people that Christ is the head of the Church, and everything about how our church functions and operates should reflect the new life we are given in Jesus.

Trevin Wax: I pointed out in my review how this book benefits from having three authors with unique gifts. How did your particular strengths and weaknesses as leaders influence the insights you each contributed to the book? How has the Lord challenged you personally through the “iron-sharpening” process of working together?

Josh Patterson: We all enjoyed the process of approaching this book as a team. God has designed His Church to be made up of various members, all essential, to the building up of the body to maturity. We wanted this variety represented in the book.

All three of us have different gifts, strengths and weaknesses which helped us form this book in a unique way. We hope it has resulted in a balanced perspective on the nature, design and function of the Church both theologically and practically.

Personally, it has been a rewarding and edifying experience. We spent a considerable amount of time dreaming, talking, praying, pushing back on one another, and shaping our thoughts and words. In short, the entire process solidified our brotherhood as friends and encouraged our hearts to love the Church even more.

Trevin Wax: Many pastors are talking about being focused on the gospel in one’s teaching and preaching ministry, but this conversation hasn’t always made it past the pulpit and into important conversations about a church’s culture. What happens when ministry philosophy and church practice is disconnected from or in contradiction to the church’s theological commitments?

Josh Patterson: The phrase, “Jesus is the most important part of my life,” is uninformed at best. If we read the New Testament correctly, then Jesus doesn’t get relegated to a part of piece of life. He has come and boldly proclaimed that He is life, not a slice or sliver of it.

So, in the same manner, a church cannot compartmentalize Jesus to a certain aspect of her life and function. Ironically, many churches preach and teach Jesus from the pulpit or in Sunday School, but find Him strangely absent from other areas. We wrote in the book about the need to have a clear understand of how theology drives philosophy, which in turn informs the church’s practice.

We all face the temptation to let our pragmatics or practice drive our ministry philosophy. The danger here is that we can begin to drift theologically. But, the more immediate implication is that our people cannot see how our theological convictions are relevant to how we actually operate and function as a body. All of this has an impact on the church culture.

A church culture that is saturated in the gospel of Christ rightly understands that He is the life and breath of the Church in each and every aspect from theology to daily practice.

Trevin Wax: You give attention to the role of community in the church fulfilling its purpose. Some churches tend to fluctuate between an “authenticity” that excuses sin or a “righteousness” that breeds hypocritical living. How does being Jesus-centered challenge both those cultures?

Eric Geiger: The best way to answer this question is to look at the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry. He repelled hypocritical Pharisees and attracted sinners who recognized their need for Him.

In the same way, when a congregation is focused on Jesus, it becomes the kind of place where sinners come and find transformation. It’s a safe environment for people to be honest about their ongoing battles with sin. At the same time, we don’t excuse sin. We fight it fiercely.

The church that fails to focus on Jesus will excuse sin – either the sin of legalistic self-righteousness or the type of rebellion seen in the prodigal son. Gospel-centered community exists with the grace-filled tension of receiving sinners while simultaneously making war on sin.

Trevin Wax: What is your hope for pastors and other church leaders who read Creature of the Word?

Matt Chandler: My hope is that our theology (rightly understanding who God is) will drive how we organize and operate as a church. I fear that at times our practice drives our philosophy that in turn shapes our theology. This is backwards and dangerous. Our right understanding of God and His revealed word should shape our philosophies of ministry which should in turn determine our practice. I hope this book helps church leaders in this area.

Read Part 2 of this series here.

Read more from Trevin here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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The Church as Creature of the Word, Part 2

Part 2 of a conversation with authors Eric Geiger, Matt Chandler, and Josh Patterson about their recent book, The Church as Creature of the Word.

This post is features Eric Geiger, vice-president of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay.

Eric is putting forth a leadership challenge about the atmosphere and culture of your church.

Opening illustration: The culture of mountain climbers at Mount Everest. It takes weeks and months of planning and preparation. The mountain-climbing culture turned bad. A man, David Sharp, was hiking his way back down from Everest, through the “death zone.” He sits down to rest in Green Boots Cave (named for a man who perished there with green boots). 40 mountain climbers making the ascent, seeking to achieve their dream, pass by David Sharp, who is dying. All 40 passed by him, but left him to die in order to not abandon their journey. The mountain climbing community was riveted by the events. Some blamed systems (lack of evacuation plans, rescue teams, etc.). But the founder of Everest mountain climbing said it was the culture of the mountain climbing community that was wrong.

You can tell what is of first importance, not by looking at the confession, but at the culture. It’s not your confession of faith of your church, but the culture of your church that reveals what is of first importance.

There’s a difference between simply believing the gospel in your confessional statement and standing on the gospel in your church culture.

Culture is massively important. It’s the overpowering alpha male in the room. If there is a conflict between your confession and your culture, the culture typically wins.

If your confession says the grace of Jesus is big enough for any issue or any sin, but your culture is closed and cold and looks with disdain on people who open up about their struggles, then people needing grace will not find it.

If the confession says we will live as missionaries, but the culture of the church determines success by how many events take place at the building in a week, then the culture will trump the confession.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

Your church’s culture is your church’s personality. It’s the values and shared beliefs that drive the behavior of your people.

The church in Galatia is a good example. They drifted from their confession in their culture. Any time we seek to supplement the grace of God, we supplant the grace of God. They moved toward a culture of creating “levels of righteousness.”

A true, healthy church culture has alignment between the confession and the practice of the people.

You’ve got to inspect your church, to see if the gospel has made its way into the fabric of the church. An example: Budgeting season. Discussions about giving are good. Is the gospel impacting that discussion? If people are not being generous, then perhaps the culture is drifting from our confession that “though He was rich, He became poor for your sake.”

Another example: You need volunteers for children’s ministry, etc. You can do a campaign and a ministry fair. But what if we should first ask, “What’s the culture of our church?” Have we brought people back to the reality that God stepped onto this earth, grabbed a basin and a towel, and served us by washing our dirty feet?

The need is to come back to the gospel in order to influence the culture of the church. The culture is always teaching. We need more than a confession immersed in Jesus. We need a culture immersed in Jesus.

Read Part 1 of this series here. To read Part 3, go here.

Read more from Trevin here.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The True Heart of the Father

There is a magical thing that happens in homes all over the world. When you have a child, you want your child to crawl, and then you want your kid to walk. My first child, Audrey, pulled herself to the coffee table. When she got to the coffee table, she began to bounce on her knees, and then she began to coast along. From there she started letting go and just being wobbly. At that point we began to get excited about the fact that Audrey was about to walk. Eventually she took her hands off of the coffee table, and we watched physics in motion.

God has created children, specifically young children, with gargantuan heads and tiny little bodies. So when Audrey let go of the coffee table, her gigantic head fell forward and suddenly she had a decision to make. She could stick that foot out to catch herself or she could die. So she stuck her foot out, and then she had momentum. It was step, step, step, fall. Do you know what we did? We exploded in celebration. We picked her up, spun her around, and kissed her face. Then we sat her down and pleaded with her to walk toward us again. After that we began e-mailing, Facebooking, taking pictures, tweeting, and all sorts of other things to get the word out that Audrey was walking. We did that with our son, Reid, and we’ve done that with our daughter Norah.

What I have learned as I watched all of our friends have children is that there is always an epic celebration around the kid walking. This is news to be declared. “This kid is walking!”

For all the people I have watched go through that process, I’ve never seen anybody watch their kid go step, step, step, fall and then say out loud, “Man, this kid is an idiot. Are you serious? Just three steps? Man, I can get the dog to walk two or three steps. Honey, this must be from your side of the family, because my side of the family is full of walkers. This must be some sort of genetic, shallow gene pool on your side of things.”

No father does that. Every father rejoices in the steps of his child. The father celebrates the steps of his child. I think what we have here is a picture of God celebrating us walking. So we step, step, step, and fall, and heaven applauds. At what? At the obedience of taking those three steps. The Father in heaven is crying, “He’s walking!” “She’s doing it!” And maybe the Accuser’s saying, “No, he only took a couple of steps. That’s nothing.”

But the celebration is in the steps, even if there are still falls. Here’s what I know about all of my children: they start to walk farther and farther and farther, and they begin to skip, they begin to run, they begin to jump, they begin to climb, and they begin to tear the house up. It’s beautiful. I knew even when they were step, step, step, falling that that process was the beginning of what would result in climbing trees, dancing, and sprinting. Knowing in my mind what’s to come, the three steps and the stumble were a celebration.

Moralists see the fall and believe that the Father is ashamed and thinks they’re foolish. So, more often than not, they stop trying to walk because they can’t see the Father rejoicing in and celebrating his child.

Church of Jesus; let us please be men and women who understand the difference between moralism and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful to preach the dos and don’ts of Scripture in the shadow of the cross’s “Done!” Resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ crucified. We are not looking to conform people to a pattern of religion but pleading with the Holy Spirit to transform people’s lives. Let us move forward according to that upward call, holding firmly to the explicit gospel.

What we see in the Father’s heart in the Bible is its immensity, its bottomless depths. God’s heart is as complex and unfathomable as he is. Shouldn’t we stand firm in the gospel we believe and proclaim so that we reflect the bigness of God’s heart for a fallen world? The cross of Christ and his resurrection are cataclysms of the unsearchable judgments and affections of God. It is this immense gospel that spurs Paul to pray:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

The Scripture’s complementary perspectives of the gospel on the ground and the gospel in the air help us comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love. Neither perspective dilutes the other but rather shapes our vision of God’s saving purposes to the epic scope of biblical revelation. We are after a gospel that is resolutely centered on the atoning work of Christ and scaled to the glory of God. Let the explicit gospel drive us to worship with all “the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19) and in awe of both God’s immense, universe-subsuming glory and his deep, personal love for sinners. May we never assume that people understand this gospel but, instead, let’s faithfully live out and faithfully proclaim the explicit gospel with all the energy and compassion our great God and King has graciously given.

Read more from Matt here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Chandler

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.