The recording from C.J.’s message Sunday at Covenant Life Church is now avaliable:
Don’t Waste Your Sports
1 Corinthians 10:31
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Covenant Life Church; Gaithersburg, MD
57:34 run time; 13.2MB MP3
Listen, download, or watch the message at dontwasteyoursports.com
Recorded late in 2001 at a Covenant Life Church parent-youth meeting, this fifth clip in our “C.J. + Carolyn on Parenting” series provides an opportunity for the couple to explain some of their most humbling mistakes. Grant Layman’s question was simple and direct: “What sins have you personally confronted in yourselves in regard to parenting?”
5. Fear + Unbelief in Parenting (3:46)
Other clips in the series:
1. Gospel-Centered Parenting + Young Children (9:27)
2. The Gospel + Parental Sin (2:39)
3. The Gospel + Discipline (5:37)
4. Teaching Children to Love the Church (10:59)
If you step out the doors of Capitol Hill Baptist Church
, walk across the parking lot, and hike up a long hallway of stairs, you’ll arrive in the office of my good friend Mark Dever. There his massive study claims the entire second story of his home, the walls hidden by bookshelves.
But Mark’s study is more unusual than you think.
Entering Mark’s office, you immediately become aware of people. Mark is rarely alone in his study, and it appears he likes it that way. His sermon preparation is unlike anything I’ve seen as he enjoys interacting with the flurry of staff and interns buzzing around his desk. And on more than one occasion, Mark has prepared entire sermons in the church parking lot—not to avoid people, but to better tap into the stream of staff, interns, and church members cutting between the church and his study! But when the parking lot is not ideal for sermon prep, Mark moves back into the study, where the stream of staff and interns continues. Mark’s (quite unusual) study arrangement makes a loud statement about his care for people, his desire to train others, and his love of friendship.
The second thing you notice about his study is the books. Books are everywhere, floor to ceiling. Though his study is large and his walls are hidden by bookshelves, I would guess Mark’s collection of books exceeded the shelf space in the mid-1990s. When the shelf space was exhausted, the books kept coming, the horizontal arrangement stopped, and vertical piles of books began to accumulate. Though there must be some organization to the maze of books, I cannot tell you what system it follows (probably only Mark knows).
Third, you will notice his love of music. There is always some form of music playing in his study, which is not unusual for a study. But his eclectic musical interests are bizarre and distracting. You could hear classical music followed by a Maranatha! worship chorus from the early ’70s, then a singing nun (no joke!), Keith Green, opera, and jazz. Often when I’m in his study I ask him to turn the music down or to change it to something, well, less annoying and distracting.
On June 6, 2007, I joined the staff and interns at 9Marks in Mark’s study. We sat among the books and silenced the music, and I turned the microphone on Mark to hear about his life and ministry. We were scheduled to talk for one hour but extended it to another hour (and could have gone a third without any problem). The full interview recording can be downloaded from the 9Marks website here
Although I had explored many of the topics in the interview with Mark before, the Q&A uncovered a stream of information I had never heard before. I commend the entire interview, but I especially wanted to highlight a few excerpts here for pastors.
The god of Options
This first excerpt reminds me of the many pastors I have met who are distracted from serving joyfully in the present by thinking continuously about future options. These pastors are often unaware of how their consideration of the future affects their souls each day.
In answering a question about his future at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Mark’s response included the phrase “the god of options,” which I found wise, and have since used (when appropriate) to care for other pastors. I think as pastors read the rest of his response, this phrase will remind them that, regardless of God’s will for your future, and without eliminating the real possibility of future transition, you can be certain that God’s will for you this day (and in the foreseeable future) is to serve him with gladness right where you are.
: Do you plan on staying at Capitol Hill Baptist Church?
: Lord willing.
: Lord willing what?
: The rest of my life.
: As a member of the pulpit committee, Matt Schmucker remembers a particular statement you made in that regard. You said to Connie, “The next place we go, we’re buying...
: …cemetery plots.” Because we had been moving around and wherever we lived my heart got entangled with the people. I just hated moving and it was just horrendous for me. I had been studying the Puritans and realized that the basic model was to just stay someplace—like a marriage to a congregation. It is not exactly the same, it is not sin to leave it necessarily, but you don’t assume churches are a career ladder you are climbing. You are at one church for two years to work on some skills and when you run out of your bag of tricks you move to another church for three years, they hear all six of your sermons and then you move someplace else. No, I would like to know their children and their grandchildren. So I made clear when we were talking to the pulpit search committee that if I came I was intending, Lord willing, to stay. I had no further plans and actually planned to have no further plans.…
I remember, during a Wednesday night church potluck very early during my time here, I got my food and sat down. An older woman (probably in her mid-70s, late 70s at the time) who had been at the church for decades gets her meal and sits down right next to me. She looks at me and says, “I don’t like young preachers.”
: And you are probably 33 years old?
: Thirty-two or 33. And I just looked at her. I said, “Really?” She said, “Yep. Of course I’ll make an exception in your case.”
: Did you ask for an explanation why?
: I just started eating my food and then I said, “I guess you expect to outlast him at the church, don’t you?” She said, “Yep. Always have.”
And then I took some more food and then said, “Well, I think you may have met your match.”
: Oh, outstanding.…Thank you for the compelling example you provide of a commitment to this church, and provoking other pastors to follow that similar attitude and approach. You introduced me to the description of Puritan pastors, that they were “looking for a place to settle.”
: A great example of that is when John Cotton, I think it was when John Cotton died, their church needed a pastor and began negotiating with the First Congregational Church up in Ipswich. Both churches entered a season of prayer for their pastor, John Norton, coming down to Boston. So it was not at all a kind of cloak-and-dagger secret committee goes and attends, tries to scout out the talent, and then steals them away. It’s two families, two congregations, praying about where would this brother be best used—which is a great way to approach it.
: What are the unique joys of pastoring?
: Well, for me, that would include that specific decision to stay here. It was a great opportunity to destroy the “god of options,” which I think young men and women who are successful in our culture tend to be addicted to.
I watch young people in this church when they are 25 and they don’t want to do anything that closes any options. At 27, 31, 33, the same thing. At some point life begins forcing itself on you and you have a wife and kids and some options just close. But I think the young folks in our culture who are doing OK by the world’s standards are enslaved to worshiping at the altar of this god of options.
So by saying I wasn’t interested in going anyplace else, I meant to send out a wide signal to say, “Please don’t tempt me by asking me about other options, because this is going to be slow, hard work and it’s worthy of a life.”
August 22, 2008 by Tony Reinke
Categories: C.J.+Carolyn | Parenting
Sifting through stacks of audio recordings, we keep an ear out for recordings of C.J. and Carolyn together on the topic of parenting. There aren’t many of these recordings (to date only two), but those we have found are being evaluated and excerpted here.
This fourth audio clip in our series was recorded late in 2001 at a Covenant Life Church Tuesday night parent-youth meeting. Covenant Life pastor Grant Layman moderated the panel, which included C.J. and Carolyn and two of their daughters, Nicole and Janelle.
Today’s clip focuses on these questions: How do parents transfer a love for the local church to their children? How does making the church family a priority shape the priorities of the immediate family? How does this priority affect a child’s involvement in sports and other activities? Plus, C.J. reveals how this priority in one father—and a desire to marry that father’s daughter—helped to inaugurate Covenant Life Church.
4. Teaching Children to Love the Church (10:59)
Other clips in the series:
1. Gospel-Centered Parenting + Young Children (9:27)
2. The Gospel + Parental Sin (2:39)
3. The Gospel + Discipline (5:37)
Ministry expectations can spread a pastor's energy thin as his duties expand in all directions. So how does a pastor serving alone prioritize his life and ministry to ensure that he is faithful to what is most important? During a Pastors College Q&A meeting this winter, a visiting pastor asked C.J. the following question.
: With 18 to 20 hours of study a week, small-group training and leadership, parent-teen leadership, generational leadership, etc., for a guy like myself who is pastoring by himself, what do we do? Obviously we should preach on Sundays at the gathering, but where do we back off? And how do we gauge our family hours?
: Your challenge will be the consistent temptation to compare yourself unfavorably to other pastors and other contexts. You hear about other churches and what they are accomplishing, and you can be tempted to think this is immediately transferable. Always look behind the immediate illustration to the history behind that church. That is too often what we don’t do. So realize that behind that other individual is a body of experience and a number of years. That church didn’t begin the way you now see it. And that is no small challenge for someone who is serving by himself in pastoral ministry, but it is your challenge, and it is one that I think you can walk wisely through.
Your priorities at present sound like they are in place.
(1) First is the priority of caring for your own soul before God, cultivating affection for the Savior, and growing in your appreciation for his death on the cross for your sins.
(2) The second priority is caring for, serving, and leading your wife and children.
(3) Then we arrive at preparation for the Sunday meeting. If I were to open your planner and study your calendar, I would want to see reflected in your schedule a sufficient number of hours to prepare for the Sunday meeting. This meeting must be your priority because, until you have a team around you, this is the most effective way you can serve the entirety of the church as it exists now.
From my experience, the demands of counseling often most forcefully intrude upon your preparation for serving the church on Sunday. Identifying and training those capable of serving as small-group leaders would be, I think, your next priority. I would train them in biblical counseling so that they can help you with pastoral ministry and free you to devote more undistracted time to preaching and leading on Sunday. Given the strategic role they play, I wouldn’t be simply training these small-group leaders in generalities, but developing a specialized training program for those individuals so that they can assist you in detailed counseling situations. Although you may be required in the toughest cases, finding capable small-group leaders will relieve much of the counseling burden that single-staff pastors cannot carry themselves.
And at this point there are ways I think you can specialize, depending on the makeup of your church. But you don’t have to think in terms of official, formalized ministries. For example, you may consider developing a class based on a book like Age of Opportunity
to train parents and teens for a period of time without the obligation of creating a formalized, ongoing parent-youth ministry.
That is what I would recommend for someone in your present situation. I want to address the immediate pressing needs of your church that aren’t being addressed through Sunday and that can’t be addressed adequately through small-group leadership. Then asking, “How can we create a way to effectively address those pressing needs temporarily, without obligating you to create an entire ministry?”
And then, primarily, you must be particularly aware—which I am sure you are—of this vulnerability to compare yourself to other churches. You must guard your heart carefully, because if you don’t pay careful attention to your heart, there will be a cumulative low-grade discouragement in your soul. I am jealous that you serve the Lord with gladness in this season of the life of your church, and not postpone this joy for some future time when you are surrounded by a pastoral team. Whatever season we find ourselves in—whether a staff of 20 or a staff of one—I am jealous for all of us that we “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2 ESV).
August 13, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
An endorsement for Joshua Harris’s book I Kissed Dating Goodbye
(Multnomah, 1997) has come from an unlikely source: Donna Freitas, a feminist and liberal professor of religion at Boston University.
In the August issue of Christianity Today
, Freitas is interviewed in the story “Zipping It,” which spotlights the rising interest in modesty and relational caution at one liberal college. Students, Freitas says, are growing disillusioned by the cultural status quo and being drawn towards modesty and sexual purity.
Near the end of the interview, Freitas discusses her course, her textbooks, and the surprising effect it all is having on her students. “Almost all the students were as liberal as liberal can get,” she said. But after reading a book on modesty, she said, her class began talking of modesty positively, as a virtue, and began to discern the vulgarity of the campus. She says, “I actually had students who for their final project proposed a modesty club. I’m sitting here thinking, This is Boston University
At different points I have received flack from scholars for the in-class resources I use. You’re not supposed to teach Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye [and others] because they’re not “ivory tower material”—except that it’s in these books where robust conversations are happening about the things students care about. I’m a feminist and a liberal, but this is something beyond ideology. It’s not a Left or Right issue. It’s about responding to young people who are struggling. It’s a mistake of many people to tense up about ideology in the middle of this kind of conversation. Part of my job is to figure out what professors do about the issues students are struggling with. They want modesty. And we can give them rich resources on modesty. So why don’t we then?
To learn Josh’s book is included in the college curriculum at Boston University is shocking and thrilling! But these words also reveal that students at a liberal college are questioning the cultural and campus standards of relationships and sexuality. As I reflect on my conversion in 1972, I can relate to their disillusionment with the status quo of dating and relationships.
Upon my conversion from the drug culture and into the church, I found myself perplexed at the apparent absence of the church’s critique of cultural dating standards and an absence of a biblical alternative. From my limited perspective, the evangelical church seemed to leave unchallenged numerous assumptions about dating and its importance before marriage, failing to sufficiently recognize the temptations to selfishness and sexual sin present in the culture of dating.
At the inception of Covenant Life Church in 1977, we sought to teach and apply a biblical alternative to the sinfully selfish and lustful approach to relationships that characterized many of us prior to conversion. We sought to preserve sexual purity, to apply the gospel message, to teach the “one anothers” of Scripture in light of relationships between men and women, and to protect and preserve the emotions of a woman for her future husband and of a man for his future wife.
So from the beginning of the church we were responding to this seeming widespread acceptance of dating by the evangelical church and seeking to build an alternative in theology and practice. We were young (I was in my early 20s), zealous, and no doubt arrogant as well, in our reaction to what we observed in evangelicalism at the time. Having previously come from the drug culture of the world, and having sinned and felt the consequences of that sin, we desired something relationally distinctive, informed by Scripture, not culture.
Little did I anticipate that, decades later, Joshua Harris would make his way to Covenant Life Church having just finished his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye
. Joshua’s book was one of the first in print to challenge these cultural assumptions and provide a biblical alternative (along with Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity
). And after having written the book, Josh transitioned into a church that had already modeled the content of his book for the duration of his own lifespan. It was a sweet providence that God would place him in a church in wholehearted agreement with the teaching of his book.
When Joshua wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye
, I told him he was writing a conversation-defining book for the church. Years later, it remains that very thing. It has now for several years defined the discussion for those who agree with the book, and for those who disagree, within the church. It will continue to shape the substantive discussions within the church (provided the discussions do not drift into unnecessary debates over the use of the word “dating” or whether one agrees with all the practices Josh recommends). May this book continue provoking discussions within the church about gospel-centered relationships and what Scripture reveals as the wisdom of God for Christian relationships prior to marriage.
But little did I anticipate how this book would affect a liberal classroom, transcending liberal/conservative animosity, and provoking students to challenge cultural and college campus assumptions about relationships. Perhaps they—like those of us saved from the drug culture many years ago—have felt the sting of the cultural dating status quo, the effect of sin, and are looking for something different.
May the church and its pastors take note of a Boston University classroom and be freshly challenged to start substantive discussions, and to challenge the cultural assumptions of dating relationships and sexuality prior to marriage.
Today we announce the launch of the C.J. Mahaney sermon archive. The goal of the archive is to create individual webpages where particular messages are permanently archived in a trio of formats: video, audio, and transcribed text.
At each sermon archive page, you’ll be able to...
(1) watch a short excerpt,
(2) watch or download the full-length video,
(3) listen to or download the full-length audio, and
(4) read a transcript of the entire message.
C.J.’s Psalm 42 sermon, delivered at the 2008 New Attitude conference, is the first to be added to the archive, with more messages to come. Stay tuned.
The Troubled Soul: God’s Word and Our Feelings
May 25, 2008
New Attitude Conference; Louisville, KY
August 6, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Humility | Sports
I’m back from a wonderful, memory-filled vacation with my family in Tennessee. The blog silence is now (so fittingly) broken with a story from the world of sports.
On Sunday, Washington Redskins legends Art Monk and Darrell Green were inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. There was a lot of predictable pageantry, with a surprising twist in the speech by Monk.
Now I assume there are knowledgeable sports fans reading who are either unfamiliar or minimally familiar with Art Monk, given that he played many years ago (1980-1993). But I couldn’t be more familiar with the receiver--having lived in the D.C. area all my life, having been raised in a Redskin home, and having watched almost every Redskin game during that era. I probably saw 800 of Monk’s 953 catches as a Redskin (and I saw all of the 65 catches in playoff games).
So if you’re looking for stories and stats about Monk (or arguments for why he should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago) give me a call! But this post is not about stories and stats.
What I most appreciated about Art Monk in his speech Sunday was his evident humility and love for the Savior, both of which were on full display. They were on display through his son’s introduction, and they were on full display in and through his own speech. But they have not been on full display for a broader audience. Some of the most impressive comments appear to have been selectively excised from the video highlights and sound bites.
Art Monk was introduced by his son James Monk Jr., whose words are a loud statement of what he observed in his dad off the field.
You know, growing up as a son of Art Monk is something that I would never ever change for the world. And as his son, there's always been this question I could never escape, that I could never avoid, that I could never get away from and that was: Do you want to be like Art when you grow up? Now, you think such an easy question would have such an easy answer. Let me tell you a few things that go into answering this question …
James Monk Jr. concluded the short introduction with this answer:
So to answer the question, do you want to be like Art Monk when you grow up, my answer is I'd rather be like Dad. Dad, thank you for being the man of God that God has called you to be, and for raising me in the same way. As your best friend, as your admirer, as your biggest fan and as your son, I want to tell the whole world that I love you and I'm truly honored and blessed to induct you into the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I read these words with tears in my eyes.
Art Monk stepped to the podium next to deliver his induction speech. His words are worth reading carefully. He said,
… Getting here did not come without controversy, as I'm sure it did with some of the guys sitting behind me. But through it all, I'm here with a greater appreciation for something that not every player is able to achieve and for the people who stood up for me and spoke out on my behalf. …
What I’ve tried to convey to those who were upset about the process was that I was okay with it. But in all due respect, that as great as this honor is, it’s not what really defines who I am or the things that I’ve been able to accomplish in my life. …
And even now as a Hall of Famer, the one thing I want to make very clear is that my identity and my security is found in the Lord. And what defines me and my validation comes in having accepted his son Jesus Christ as my personal savior. And what defines me is the Word of God, and it’s the Word of God that will continue to shape and mold me into the person that I know he’s called me to be.
So I’ve learned a long time ago never to put my faith or trust in man, for man will always fail you. Man will always disappoint you. But the Word of God says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And He will never fail you.
And that is what I live by and what I stand on. Being included into this fraternity is a pretty humbling experience for me. I always grew up seeing these guys as giants and legends who make significant contributions to the game of football. And it’s pretty hard for me to believe that I’ve now been included as part of them. Growing up I was never voted the most likely to succeed. And there was never anything about me that would have given anyone the impression that I would have played in the NFL, let alone to be standing here.
There’s a scripture that I think about almost every day and I’ve come to personalize it to my life. It says: “Lord, who am I that you are mindful of me?” [Psalm 8:4]. And the Apostle Paul says, “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were born of noble birth” [1 Corinthians 1:26]. And when I look at my life and how I grew up, I certainly had none of those qualities or benefits.
But I understand and I know that I’m here not by, in, and of my own strength—but it’s by the grace and the power of God upon my life, who I know gave me favor along the way, and who provided opportunity and room for me to use my gifts.
So I am very grateful to receive this honor, and I can stand here before you and say, “Hey, look at me, look at what I did.” But if I’m going to boast, I’m going to boast today in the Lord, for it’s because of him that I’m here and I give him thanks and glory and honor for all that he has done for me.
Art Monk’s words reveal humility, are theologically informed, and are mindful of an eternal perspective (as were Darrell Green’s).
From my view in the cheap seats, too many pro athletes who profess Christ appear theologically ignorant, have little or no involvement in the local church, and have no pastoral oversight in their lives. Monk’s speech appears to be the fruit of good pastoring. If more professional athletes participated in churches where sound doctrine was taught, there might be more examples like Art Monk and Darrell Green.
But I want you to notice that early in the speech Monk mentions the controversy over his postponed induction to the Hall of Fame. For seven years he was denied entrance into the Hall, though his stats were obviously as good as other receivers already in the Hall (such as Michael Irvin, who was inducted in 2007). And Monk addressed the controversy head-on, but with humility. After a long and controversial wait, we hear a humble man who places his trust beyond the reach of man, and who doesn’t live to be honored by men.
Monk’s speech reflects the words of Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
The quiet sports star stepped in front of thousands of fans and used the moment, not for self-congratulation, but to glorify God. Standing beside a bronze bust of himself, his speech is no celebration of human achievement, but of amazing grace. In a place built to enshrine human achievement, Monk reminded us all of human weakness.
Sunday Art Monk provided a compelling example for fathers and their children of true greatness—humility before God. I try to seize these moments as teaching moments for my soul and my son. And I am freshly provoked to provide my son with a similar example of humility.