The below excerpt is from Pastor David’s book, Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live (88-90).

Following Jesus necessitates believing Jesus, and believing Jesus leads to proclaiming Jesus. Consequently, a privatized faith in a resurrected Christ is practically inconceivable. Yet privatized Christianity is a curse across our culture and the church today.

Multitudes of professing Christians say (or at least think), “Jesus has saved me. Jesus’ teachings work for me. But who am I to to tell other people what they should believe? Who am I to tell others that their belief is wrong and my belief is right? Even more, who am I to tell them that if they don’t believe in what I believe, they will spend forever in hell?”

I completely understand this feeling. I remember standing one day in a sea of people in northern India. If you’ve never been to India, just think people. Lots and lots and lots of people. Approximately 1.2 billion of them, to be precise, over 600 million of whom live in northern India. Crowded streets and urban slums are surrounded by seemingly endless villages that span the countryside. Economic disparity runs rampant as more people live below the poverty line in India than the entire population of the United States put together.

But India’s poverty is not merely physical; it’s spiritual, as well. The church partners with whom we work in India estimate that approximately 0.5 percent of the people in northern India are Christians. In other words, 99.5 percent of the people in northern India have not believed in Christ for salvation.

Knowing this, I looked around me one day in that crowded sea of people and thought to myself, Who am I to travel all the way over here to tell these people what they need to believe? Who am I to tell them that all of their gods are false, whether they’re Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, or any other gods, because Jesus is the only true God? And who am I to tell 597 million non-Christians who surround me at this moment that if they do not turn from their sin and trust in Jesus, every one of them will spend eternity in hell?

It felt extremely arrogant, completely unloving, and uncomfortably brash to claim that 597 million Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs around me at that moment would go to hell if they didn’t trust in Jesus. And absolutely, such a claim would be arrogant, unloving, and brash–unless it is true.

If Jesus were just another religious teacher on the landscape of human history, offering his thoughts and opinions regarding how people should live, then it would definitely be arrogant, unloving, and outright foolish for me (or anyone else) to travel around the world telling people they need to either follow Jesus or face hell. But Jesus is indeed more than just another religious teacher, and Jesus is indeed the resurrected God, Savior, and King who alone has paid the price for sinners and paved the way for everlasting salvation, so telling people everywhere about Jesus is the only thing that makes sense. It is the height of arrogance to sit silent while 597 million Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs go to hell. It is the epitome of hate to not sacrifice your very life to spread this Good News among every person you know and every people group on the planet.

 

This Good Friday, April 18, David Platt will spend 6 hours leading people in studying God’s Word in an annual gathering called Secret Church (inspired by his time with the underground church). This year’s topic, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” will cover a wide range of activities and issues that affect our everyday routines, asking how the gospel impacts it all. For example, how does Christ’s death and resurrection change the way we date? What role does the gospel play in our jobs? Does the good news of Jesus change our view of sports? Social media? As believers, we’ll be challenged to better follow Christ and to better point others to him. And for unbelievers, the gospel will be clearly explained.

You’re probably already thinking about the many reasons you have to participate, but you may not know how. We can help you there…

Secret Church 14 will take place in Birmingham, AL, but thanks to modern technology, that’s not the only location you’ll be able to join in. With a computer and a good internet connection, you can host a simulcast from anywhere in the world!

  1. You can host as a church along with all these host churches (which you could potentially join if you live nearby).
  2. You can host as a small group. Registering as a small group between now and April 4th makes you eligible for a 5-piece giveaway.
  3. You can apply to participate in the simulcast for FREE if you are serving as a missionary overseas. MORE INFO…

If you choose option one or two, there is a small cost (it comes out to about $10/person), but this includes a nearly 200 page study guide to help you follow along that night and refer to it all later on. To join in live, you’ll need to begin at 6pm Central on Good Friday. However, if that poses a problem for you, you can delay, pause, and rewind the simulcast just like you would a DVR. Additionally, you’ll be able to watch for 30 days following April 18.

And if you can’t participate in this Secret Church simulcast, you’ll always be able to access the teaching portion of the night (though the prayer and worship will be cut out) FREE OF CHARGE when it is posted on Radical’s website with all the other past Secret Church topics. May of these studies will serve you as a great tool as you make disciples, since they cover key elements of our Christian faith.

So REGISTER for the simulcast or check out the past resources, but whatever you do, we don’t want you to miss Secret Church on your hunt for good disciple-making tools.

“The Cross and Everyday Life”

This post originally appeared on the Redemption Hill Church blog. HT: Sovereign Grace Ministries blog

I’m not a “natural” evangelist.  I don’t know if anyone really is, but some of my friends are certainly much more godly and gifted in this area than I am. But I want to learn.  I want to grow.

Perhaps you are like me.  Perhaps you want to learn evangelism as well.  Here are a few steps I believe anyone can take.

1.  Begin by prayer.  Even the most reticent evangelist can begin to pray for opportunities and boldness.  After a month of praying for opportunities, I trust that God will answer our prayers.

2.  Begin by gracious friendliness.  If a spontaneous, full throttle declaration of the gospel message feels daunting, start by building a habit of gracious friendliness with those around you.  Ask your waiter how his day is going.  Give your neighbor a handshake rather than just a wave.  Ask your co-worker if you can get them a coffee, and then ask them if their family is well. A habit of gracious friendliness can pave the way for a more developed friendship.

3.  Build a friendship out of those friendly interactions.  If one of the spontaneous conversations seems more interactive than others, follow up with a second and third conversation. Then take the step of doing something together with them. A family pizza night, lunch with a co-worker, seeing a movie together, a Saturday morning basketball game–you can pick the activity that you seem to have in common.  You might also invite some of your Christian friends to join you–building a friendship with a non-Christian is less daunting as a group effort.

4.  Look for an opportunity to ask your friend about his beliefs.  A conversation could begin with “What gets you through your week?” and lead to “I’ve realized that with all I have to do at work, praying is crucial.”  Or you might find that if you ask them, “So, how you are you really doing? Anything you’re worried about that I can pray for you about?”–they might open up.  This might be moment to talk about your hope in Jesus and why you trust in Him.

5. Don’t view the friendship as a task to be completed. You’re not just their friend until you can share the gospel message once and check “evangelism” off the list.  You are…their friend.  Continue to be their friend.  In one of your (ongoing) conversations, ask them if you can share with them your belief in Jesus and invite them to respond and if they don’t…continue to be their friend.  Love them, and serve them, and keep having conversations.  Ask them about their objections to Christianity and try to answer…and keep being their friend.   A quick caveat here, if your friend categorically and emphatically rejects the Christian message and forbids you from speaking about it with them,  you may want to continue as their friend, but also be looking for other opportunities with more receptive listeners.  But, don’t give up easily, patient friendship may break down many barriers in the end.

It is clear in the Scriptures that God has called us to be witnesses to our Savior in this world.  I know I have much to learn about being a witness.  But God is a patient teacher.  I’m trusting Him to lead me one step at a time.

I pray you will join me as well.

Note from the editor: This blog post was originally published here on the Christian Leadership Alliance blog on March 7, 2014.

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APic.Chan_-225x253CLA President, Tami Heim, recently interviewed Francis Chan, who will be a keynote speaker at the 2014 CLA National Conference in Dallas (April 14-16, 2014).

Chan is the best-selling author of books includingCrazy LoveForgotten God, and Erasing Hell, as well as the host of the BASIC.series (Who is God & We Are Church). He has also written children’s books: Halfway HerbertThe Big Red Tractor and the Little Village, and Ronnie Wilson’s Gift.

Currently, Chan is working on a church planting movement in inner city San Francisco. Recently, he joined with Pastor David Platt to co-author a new book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples (David C Cook, 2012), and to launch a nationwide discipleship movement called Multiply (multiplymovement.com). Chan is also the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, and founder of Eternity Bible College. He lives in northern California with his wife, Lisa, and their five children.

What inspired you and David Platt to start the Multiply Movement?

I was traveling with my family, and we were pretty set on living in Asia. I was in Hong Kong after we were looking at apartments and schools for the kids, and I had a strong sense that the Lord was telling me I had not finished what I started in America and needed to go back and complete that before going anywhere else.

That work relates to discipleship and the way we do church. Currently, people expect their pastors to lead their friends to the Lord and for the church staff to disciple them. Meanwhile you have this whole army of people who attend services and Bible studies but aren’t out doing evangelism or discipleship.

I felt led to help equip people to make disciples. It was a massive vision, but I didn’t want to go out in the flesh and find people to make it happen. I asked the Lord to bring people to me so that I knew it was really from him.

One of the first guys I met when I came back was David Platt. We had read and were impacted by one another’s books, so there was an instant connection. I asked him what was on his heart. It was the exact same thing on my heart — making disciples who make disciples.

The more we talked, the more we thought, “Why not do this together?” That was the start of the Multiply Movement.

How is the Church doing in discipleship today?

Bluntly, we’re doing terribly. When Jesus said go make disciples of all nations, he wasn’t saying form circles and disciple one another. There was a world of people who had not heard of him. His point was to get to them. Jesus wants his story known all throughout the world. He gave us that responsibility.

So let’s take your average church, say of a hundred people. On any given week how many shared the gospel with an unbeliever? One? Maybe two? That’s terrible. Jesus was looking at the small group of people on the mountaintop — specifically those eleven disciples — and telling them to get this message to everyone on earth. He said he would fill us with his Spirit to do that, yet most go a whole year without ever sharing the gospel.

What’s is the lie, the stronghold holding the church back?

In a nutshell, we don’t expect people to do it. We’ve set up a system that says bring people to church and let the pastor lead them to the Lord. Bring your kids to church and let childcare workers teach them Scripture. Bring your youth to the church and let professional youth pastors guide them through their teenage years. It takes the responsibility off of people.

It got to the point that people were even asking me: “Pastor will you come to work with me and share the gospel with my friend?” And it’s like, oh, no. You do it. I know they’re saying, “I hear the way you speak, and you speak better.” But Paul said he didn’t come with eloquence for he didn’t want to empty the cross of its power. There’s something powerful about a simply spoken message.

I fault leaders like myself who at the time didn’t really think through how to equip the saints for works of service. Instead I just did it myself and hired a staff that would do it for them. Now that we’re trying to release the average person to go share the gospel, we find that there’s a lot of insecurity and people feeling ill-equipped for the job.

What’s the breakthrough that can cause a seismic shift in that thinking?

It starts with placing responsibility back on people. Just think, what if I had told my five kids, “Hey, you guys can just live here as long as you want. In fact, I’m going to build a swimming pool and batting cages and a golf course in the backyard.” As long as I allowed them to stay, without getting a job or their own place, they would likely take the path of the least resistance.

There’s a reason why God allowed the early church to be scattered. They made disciples everywhere they went.

We have to think through the structures we’re creating and the message those structures send. We must create new structures that require people to go out and launch new works, making disciples on their own.

Your book Crazy Love says the love of Christ compels us to go. Where’s the disconnect?

We are bombarded with messages urging comfort and safety. That’s what our flesh desires. We seek security through where we live or how much money we have in the bank. We’re so clouded by the world’s messages that we can’t see straight. We try to make American principles biblical principles. We’ve created a Christianized version of “the American dream.” We are tainted by the world, and it’s a fight every day not to conform.

People could read Crazy Love and for a moment say, “I want to live for eternity,” but they will hear contrary messages within a minute of putting the book down. Every day we’re pushed towards complacency and selfishness.

We’re pleased you’ll be speaking at CLA Dallas 2014. Do you have any closing thoughts for leaders who comprise CLA?

Probably a lot of these leaders are like me. We’re doers. We get frustrated at people who sit around the church and talk, talk, talk, but don’t do. It drives us crazy. Look at Christ (1 John 3:16–18). He came. He sacrificed. We should do the same.

But because I want to get a lot done, I can sometimes do that in the flesh. If I don’t rest in the Lord, and enjoy him as I should, my action doesn’t spring from my identity and enjoyment of Christ. When that happens, I end up getting the glory rather than Jesus. People say, “Oh, look at what Francis has done and what he accomplished.” People see only my actions. Instead, if I focus on Christ with thanksgiving, people see him. I would urge all leaders to be careful of that. Once we get away from time in the Lord’s presence, we are just doing things in the flesh. We are not abiding.

The second thing I would say is to make sure you absolutely, radically, passionately love and help build the local church. I can get frustrated with the church [universal], and sometimes want to do the work apart from her. Yet that’s not what Christ called us to do.

I would ask nonprofit leaders to stay close to and come under the leadership of the church. If all the workers just go off and do their own thing apart from the church, the church just gets weaker and weaker. However, Christ came to build the church. Let’s be the church’s champion.

Note from the editor: This blog post by Carolyn Mahaney originally appeared here at the girltalk blog on October 22, 2013.

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Destination matters; not just how we feel along the way.

Take the whooping cranes, for example. A lone whooping crane, or batch of inexperienced flyers, may enjoy the breeze and the scenery every bit as much as the whoopers who follow an older bird, but they all have to land some time. And it matters where they touch down.

“So what is our destination?” we may well ask. What is the end goal of older women teaching younger women?

Faith. Patience. Love. Purity. Steadfastness. Progress. (Heb 13.7, 2 Tim. 3:10, 1 Tim. 4:12-15)

That the word of God may not be reviled. (Tit. 2:5)

That we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Tit. 2:10)

We are to imitate and follow godly women so we might reach Destination Godliness.

But if we are honest, we sometimes want more sympathy than steadfastness out of discipleship. We prefer more understanding, less exhortation. A little more comfort and a little less correction.

So we tend to drift toward the “What you? Me too!” friend who makes us feel OK about our shortcomings. We prefer friends who can relate to our struggles, who are “real” about their faults. But we may keep our distance—and even judge—the woman who seems godlier, more “together” (we say, a tad derisively) than we are.

We may like to talk, even debate, serious theology, but resist inquiry into how that theology is working out in our home, our work-place, or our parenting. We may shower likes on blog posts where women share faults and failures as if they are badges of honor, but pass over an article or book that we fear may make us feel bad about ourselves.

We sometimes have a take the sugar hold the medicine approach to discipleship.

But this is not to our benefit. “Who is the friend who will be a real blessing to my soul?” asks Charles Bridges: “Is it one who will humor my fancies and flatter my vanity?….This comes far short of my need. I am a poor, straying sinner with a wayward will and a blinded heart, going wrong at every step.”

The authors of the epistles see our need. They don’t laugh off faults and failures. Rather, they repeatedly, relentlessly remind us that a life transformed by the gospel should look like it. They exhort us, by the grace of God and in reliance upon the Holy Spirit, to stay on course, press forward to maturity, and make progress toward the goal. And if we are to reach our destination, they tell us, younger women need to follow older women. (More to come on who these older women are, anyway. Not all of them have white hair.)

While it is a wonderful blessing to have friends to walk with us, we also need friends who have walked ahead of us. We need women who have weathered storms and passed landmarks of godliness to teach us how to make progress in our faith. We need godly, older women to help us reach our destination.

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Carolyn Mahaney is the editor-in-chief of girltalk, and has written three books: Feminine Appeal, Girl Talk, and Shopping for Time

Note from the editor: This blog post by Greg Gilbert originally appeared here at The Gospel Partnerships blog on January 16, 2014.

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Workplace Evangelism

Don’t you wish telling people about Jesus were as easy as the stories make it sound sometimes?  I mean, it would be fantastic if people would just walk up to you at work and say, “There’s something different about you.  Tell me why!”  Sadly, though, occurrences like that aren’t very common. Most of the time, we can be as kind, gentle, loving, caring, humble, patient, good, and downright wonderful as we want.  And still our co-workers will just assume that we especially enjoyed our breakfast that morning.  There’s an old saying often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:  “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.”  That sounds nice, but it’s nonsense.  You simply can’t preach the Gospel without words.  After all, the Gospel is good news, and that means that sharing it requires saying something!  If the people around you—in your neighborhood, in your workplace—are ever going to know the Gospel message, they’re not going to learn it just from watching your life well-lived; you’re going to have to tell them.

But how do you do that, especially in an environment where taking time out to talk about “religion” is probably not well received?  Happily, being a Christian—and talking about Jesus—at work doesn’t have to be an awkward, obnoxious affair.  Simply by remaining aware that even on the job you are an ambassador for the King, you can both create and take advantage of opportunities to introduce people to Jesus.  Here are some suggestions for how we as Christians—as Christians who work—can share the Gospel with people at work.

1.  Just do good work as a Christian.  When you get a chance to speak the Gospel to one of your co-workers, make sure you’ve already been backing that up by being a good and faithful worker yourself.  After all: whatever you do for your job, the fact is that you are ultimately doing it for the King!  In light of that, build a reputation as a person who works with purpose, creativity, kindness, and encouragement.  Then when you do find an opportunity to have a Gospel conversation, people will see reflections in you of the character of your great King.

2.  Learn to put God on the table.  Yep, just throw Him out there in your conversations!  Let people know in natural, easygoing, confident ways that you are a Christian.  When somebody asks you what you did over the weekend, for crying out loud, mention that you went to church!  When someone invites you to do something outside the office and you can’t make it because of an engagement with your church, don’t just mumble, “Sorry, I can’t come. I’m already engaged.”  Say, “Sorry I can’t come because I’m scheduled to work at my church’s event this weekend.”  You don’t have to be irresponsible or obnoxious about it.  Just make sure you identify yourself publicly with Jesus.

3.  Build relationships beyond the office.  Strive to break through the personal/professional boundaries that can form between you and your co-workers.  Of course, you shouldn’t let your relationships become inappropriate in any way.  But if you’re going to share the Gospel with someone, eventually you have to be able to talk to them about something other than work.  So break the barrier and just ask someone to grab a cup of coffee after work.  Ask questions that go beyond the shallow chitchat that can mark the workplace.  Show people that you care about them as people, and not merely as workers.

4.  Use the witness of the church.  As you build relationships with people, look for ways to involve other Christians from your church as well.  One of the greatest witnesses to the Gospel on the planet is the love that Christians have for one another.  If you and some friends from church are going to spend time together, invite one of your co-workers along.  Invite them to worship services or Bible studies.  Let people see what it’s like for a group of Christians to gather together and take their faith seriously.  Many non-Christians have never seen anything like that before, and experiencing it can raise all kinds of good questions in their minds.

Workplace evangelism gets a bad rap sometimes.  People assume that it has to be a tactless, awkward disruption.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can do good work, make your faith known, talk to your co-workers about their lives, and invite them to meet other Christians—and it can be as natural as simply becoming friends with someone.  As an ambassador of the Kingdom of Jesus, you should always be wise and winsome.  Look for opportunities to make it known that you’re a follower of Jesus, but don’t be arrogant or obnoxious about it.  Take advantage of openings in conversations and be willing to defend your faith when necessary, but do so in a way that attracts people rather than repelling them.

Will conversations about spiritual things sometimes be awkward?  Yes, of course, and Christians have to be ready for that.  But think about it.  God may have deployed you in your particular job, with all its potential for awkward conversations, precisely because He wants you to handle those kinds of conversations.  So be wise and winsome, but don’t let that morph into worried and wimpy.  Speak about the King, even at work.  After all, He’s already promised to be with us to the very end of the age!

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Greg (@greggilbert) is the Senior Pastor of Third  Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He earned his B.A. from Yale University and his M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of What is the Gospel?, co-author of Preach: Theology Meets Practice, co-author of What Is the Mission of the Church?, and most recently, author of The Gospel at Work. He also often writes for  9Marks Ministries.

Note from the editor: This blog post by Mike McKinley originally appeared here in the November-December 2013 issue of the 9Marks Journal. HT: The Gospel Coalition

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Let’s be honest. When churches talk about “reaching out across socioeconomic boundaries,” they are talking about middle class (and wealthier) people reaching out to poorer folks. You don’t see many rundown churches in economically depressed areas starting outreach programs for Volvo-driving soccer moms who live in housing developments with names like “The Pines at Oakbrooke Gables.” I don’t know, maybe they should.

In any case, a lot of churches find the socioeconomic barrier to be the most difficult one to overcome in their evangelism. Ethnic barriers, by contrast, are more obvious, and mature congregations will sensitively work to ensure they don’t create division in the church. But so-called class differences can be more subtle. People from different socioeconomic backgrounds might look the same and speak the same language but still have a very difference experience of daily life.

Few LessonsSoup_Kitchen

Here are a few things I’ve learned from leading a church that’s trying to reach out to folks from different backgrounds.

1. We’re not all that different.

It’s often intimidating to try and build relationships with people who experience life differently, especially in things that can seem so important: clothing, work, education, expectations, living arrangements. But in reality, such matters are a tiny fraction of what makes us who we are.

You probably have a tremendous amount in common even with people who seem very different from you. Everyone—perhaps with the exception of a few Brits I’ve known—wants to be loved, known, and accepted. We all love our children and are grateful to people who are kind to them. We are all prone to worry about what the future holds. But most importantly, we are all “in Adam” and in desperate need of a Savior (1 Cor. 15:22).

Churches who want to reach out across socioeconomic boundaries need to make their first step toward others on the basis of these commonalities. It’s fairly simple: treat other people with unfeigned sympathy and respect, as fellow travelers to the grave (to steal a phrase from Dickens). This approach will help prevent the sense of condescension that spoils a lot of well-meaning attempts to reach across class lines.

2. It helps to be a blessing.

You really don’t want to build your outreach solely on the basis of giving people things—food, money, gas cards. Those things can be helpful, but if that’s all you do, you’re giving people the chance to come for just the handout and remain unchallenged by the source of the love behind the handout. Still, you can use resources the Lord has given you to help build connections with others. A few examples:

  • Christianity Explored course for people from the local homeless shelter begins with a home-cooked meal in a church member’s home. For some people living in a shelter, it’s real blessing to eat a home-cooked meal in someone’s dining room. It feels normal; it feels good. It’s much easier to start conversations and build relationships over a good meal.
  • A grandmother is opposed to her child participating in our youth outreach because she’s suspicious of Americans. When we dropped her granddaughter off after a meeting, we sent her with a couple of bags of groceries from our food pantry. After that, we were greeted with smiles when we dropped by to pick up her granddaughter.
  • A local restaurant closed down for an evening and asked us to invite poor and needy people in for a meal. About 75 people enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner, an experience they’d never have been able to afford. Members of the church built relationships over laughter and good food. The gospel was presented, and an evangelistic Bible study grew out of that dinner.

In each of these cases, we leveraged our resources to bless people, connect with them, and eventually share the gospel.

3. Environment matters.

If you want to reach out to people less affluent and privileged than you, look around at your church and your everyday life. Try to imagine how someone less fortunate than you (sorry, I’m running out of euphemisms) might perceive them.

Do your sermon illustrations assume everyone has been to college? Or owns a car? Or has access to a computer or cable TV or designer clothing? These things speak volumes to people about whether or not they’re truly welcome to be part of your congregation.

Is your house—its size, neighborhood, furnishings—intimidating to someone with few resources? Would it immediately make them feel uncomfortable or shabby? If so, you will probably have to work through extra layers of defensiveness in order to reach people.

Is your home in a location where poorer people (who may not have a car) can walk or take public transportation? If not, it will be more difficult to be hospitable.

4. Know who you are talking to when explaining the gospel.

Finally, if you want to reach out to people with different backgrounds, consider how you’re explaining the gospel. To be clear, the message must remain unaltered. All men, women, and children need to hear of their sin, God’s holiness, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the need for repentance and faith. But you may need to find new methods of delivering that message for people who aren’t comfortable with the English language or with reading as a way of gaining information.

If I’m sharing the gospel with an educated professional, I may well invite him to read a book with me in order to help him investigate the claims of Christ. And some poorer folks with education also enjoy reading. But we need other ways of communicating for people who aren’t readers. Two examples: use videos (like Christianity Explored) or stories (I like the ones being used at Soma Church) to communicate the movements and themes of Scripture.

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Mike McKinley is the author of Church Planting is for Wimps (Crossway, 2010) and Am I Really a Christian? (Crossway, 2011).

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