The S-word Chapter 3 of The God-Wild Marriage

2 07 2012

I am using The Inkling to introduce you to each chapter of my new book, the God-Wild Marriage.

Chapter 3: the S-word

God-Wild Marriage

Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

John Piper

My Katie is in all things so obliging and pleasing to me that I would not exchange my poverty for all the riches of Croesus.

Letter to Stifel from Martin Luther

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Colossians 3:18

… submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:21-24

Several years ago, Liz and I had the privilege of watching the celebrated Israeli actor, Topol, perform live as Tevye in his stage masterpiece, Fiddler on the Roof, at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs. It was, to say the least, a stunning performance by one of the most talented actors of our generation.

The movie version of the play first hit the cinemas in 1971 and was an instant blockbuster. The movie won three Oscars. Topol was nominated as “Best Actor.” Since that time Topol has played the role of Tevye over 2500 times in stage performances around the world. He has said in numerous interviews that “of all the stage performances” he’s ever done, the role of Tevye is the one he was born to do. No one can play the part of Tevye quite like Topol. Of all the memorable dialogue, one of my favorite exchanges is between Topol and Mendel, the rabbi’s son:

Tevye: As Abraham said, “I am a stranger in a strange land…”

Mendel: Moses said that.

Tevye: Ah. Well, as King David said, “I am slow of speech, and slow of tongue.”

Mendel: That was also Moses.

Tevye: For a man who was slow of tongue, he talked a lot.

What makes Fiddler on the Roof so meaningful? I believe it’s the role of Tevye. Tevye and his inner struggle to understand the changing culture in Russia at the turn of the century. Tevye, as father, provider, family sage, and village leader, is the role that makes the play work. The production team would agree—the original title of the play was not going to be Fiddler on the Roof, but Tevye.

But what would happen to the production if Topol wasn’t allowed to play Tevye, and instead had to play Mendel? What if, from time to time, Topol was asked to play Yente, the matchmaker? How ridiculous! What would be the result if each actor or actress could just decide to change characters and roles whenever they desired? Even in the middle of the production? The result would be chaos!

And chaos is the correct word to describe most marriages today! Most couples don’t have a clue what role they are to play in a marriage relationship. The American culture has increasingly become androgynous. Men are told to act more feminine, and women are told be more masculine. The culture has told us for the past forty years that men need to “get in touch” with their feminine side and listen more, and that women need to “wear the pants” in the home and be more assertive. There are aspects of the stereotypical man and woman in Western culture which have needed to change, and for those, we applaud. But the result has been, in many ways, role confusion, resulting in marriages in disarray.

This week, I talked to a friend of mine who told me about the dissolution of his marriage—one that I would have once thought to be strong and vibrant. The conversation led into the particular counselor he and his wife had chosen during their time of difficulty. I knew the counselor. I knew from experience that this “Christian” counselor often pushed men hard about changing, but rarely—if ever—challenged the domain of the woman. With no biblical understanding of roles and the need for both genders to be transformed, he has brought great confusion into many marriages.

But God is not confused. In Ephesians 5, He is clearly spelling out that He has created divine roles and a divine order for the marriage. And these roles, if obeyed, can result in a marriage according to God’s order that results in a wildly loving and exciting relationship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in writing about these roles, describes it as the “rule of life.”

God establishes a rule of life by which you can live together in wedlock: ‘Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands love your wives.’ (Col 3:18,19) With your marriage you are founding a home. That needs a rule of life, and this rule of life is so important that God establishes it himself, because without it everything would be out of joint. You may order your home as you like, except in one thing: the wife is to be subject to her husband and the husband to love his wife.1

Paul begins the introduction into our roles as husband and wife with one of the most dreaded words in the English language—the S-word, submission. “…submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

Let’s be honest. Submission has a bad reputation! I’ve been in a lot of Christian book and gift shops and never seen a plaque with the words, “Submit to one another,” or “Submit to your own husband.” I’ve never, ever seen it. I doubt I ever will. The perception of submission created in our world is of an “Archie Bunker husband” constantly railroading, manipulating, and making derogatory remarks to the “Edith” wife of his life—treating her as a doormat and bimbo, who hasn’t a clue how to think on her own. Words like “doormat,” “slave,” and “clueless” come readily to mind. Our culture has bombarded us with a worldview that defines submission as inferior.

But the misunderstanding flows both ways. Women, not willing to surrender to Christ and their husbands’ leadership, and also men unwilling to understand that submission cascades down through love and respect. I once had a man in my office who began our discussion about his poor marriage with the words, “If she would just submit like the Bible says, we wouldn’t have all these problems. I’m the leader and she needs to fall into line!” This is not the kind of attitude that we’re talking about.

A more 21st century word that I would prefer to use is the word “support.” Wives are called by God to support their husbands. Support him in his job, support him in his vision, support him in finances. Support him raising the children. Support captures the meaning and spirit of Paul’s meaning.

We Are all Equal

The problem has been a postmodern, post-Christian culture that has increasingly defined roles in the home as either superior or inferior. (And not all for bad reasons. I’m not negating the fact that there are certainly men who abuse their role and women who have been deeply hurt by such chauvinism.) Yet our passage is not speaking of equality—the equality of the man and woman is a given. We are all created by God’s design for a purpose as children of God that are equal in the eyes of God. Paul has given clarity to our egalitarian status before God clear in his letter to the Galatians:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

The Bible is crystal clear that we are all created equal in God’s eyes. Our gender is a gift from God, given sovereignly by God, and has no bearing on our worth before Him. When we place our faith in Christ as our savior and Lord, we are all, male or female, baptized into Christ with the same spiritual status. Regardless of our sex, we, as fellow followers of Jesus, are all one in Christ.

But, due to sin and the works of the devil, our culture and the church have redefined submission in ways never intended by God. John Piper notes, “It is a great sadness that in our society—even in the church—the different and complementary roles of biblical headship for the husband and biblical submission for the wife are despised or simply passed over.”2 Thus, let’s look at what submission is not before we gaze into the beauty of what it was meant to be.

Submission is not:

  • Having no opinion of your own
  • Having no say in making decisions and always agreeing with your husband
  • Having to walk in fear of disagreeing with your husband
  • Acquiescing to sinful choices knowingly made by the husband
  • Allowing abusive behavior (whether physical, spiritual, or verbal)

So what does submission mean? “Submission” in the Greek is hupotasso, and means “to place underneath, to be subject, to obey.”3 Dr. George Knight III, dean and professor of New Testament at Knox Theological Seminary explains, “the meaning of hupotasso, used consistently in the charge to wives, is the same as its meaning in [Ephesians 5:21], that is submission in the sense of voluntarily yielding in love.”4 I love this definition of submission, “voluntarily yielding in love.” It is as much an attitude as an action, and it involves both parties. It’s extremely important to note that verse 21 precedes verse 22: submitting to one another in the fear of God. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. The man has a responsibility to yield in love to the wife just as the woman yields to her husband. It is interesting that the mutual submission of the man and woman is dependent on a mutual submission “as to the Lord.” In other words, we can’t submit to one another without first submitting to Jesus.

Read more in The God-Wild Marriage by Dr. Steve Holt

1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 28

2 John Piper, This Momentary Marriage, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2009, p. 99.

3  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, 5293.

4 Dr. George Knight III, Chapter 8 “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church,” p. 168 in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois 1991.

Epic Times Require Epic Prayer

27 06 2012
Pastor Steve Holt’s Thoughts on the Colorado Fires

In the spring of 1940, the Nazi regime controlled almost all of continental Europe.  On May 10th, Hitler launched his forces against France and Belgium. The assault was over in two weeks and the British army found itself trapped and encircled in the small port city of Dunkirk. 

The British army was stranded, outnumbered, outgunned and the only salvation was a full evacuation over theEnglish Channel. This successful withdrawal, in which almost every soldier was saved, has been well documented through countless books.  It is described as the ‘miracle’ of Dunkirk and Winston Churchill himself called it “a miracle of deliverance.”

A few months later on August 13, with Nazi attacks on the British airfields and radar stations, the Battle of Britain had begun. These attacks on the airfields continued until August 24 and the RAF (Royal Air Force) suffered greatly. Almost 25% of their pilots were lost then and, if the Germans had continued these attacks, the RAF would surely have been destroyed. But German military leader, Goering, then changed tactics, switching the attack from the airfields to the control centers, which sustained major damage, severely compromising the command infrastructure.

On September 7, the Blitz began upon the population center of London. German bombers appeared in force over London and for the next fifty-seven nights, night-time raids pounded Britain’s cities in an attempt to break the will of the British to fight. Not only did the spirit of the British people remain unbroken, but it could be said that the spirit of the German leadership is what suffered.  Hitler and Goering suspended operations and the English were given time to reorganize and regroup.  

Something had changed and something had happened that didn’t make sense in both cases.  When one reviews the facts and studies the history of that year, the two momentous events were the “miracle” of Dunkirk, and the amazing halt of bombings in the Battle of Britain. But, there is one thing that ties the two together, that is, for the most part, overlookedin our history books – the unprecedented decision made by the reigning royal, King George VI, to call the whole nation to prayer. This he did two days before Dunkirk and seven days before the Battle of Britain.  Churches all over England were packed as people flooded to their respective parishes and cried out to God for deliverance.
Epic times require epic prayer.  Colorado Springs is in an “epic time” to quote our mayor, Steve Bach. And now is the time for epic prayer.  Never has our city experienced such devastation.  The past twenty-four hours have been epic in our city as the Waldo Canyon fire has spread from the mountains into Colorado Springs.  Hundreds of structures have burned to the ground.  Over thirty thousand people have evacuated with tens of thousands more evacuating tonight.

Jesus gave us one of the most unbelievable promises ever given to humankind when He said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened.”  He knew that we would face situations in our lives that required divine intervention.  He understood the frailty of our lives.  Jesus knew that we would experience times when, without His power, we would be doomed.  So He gave us this promise accompanied by a provision.  The provision of prayer.

Last night and this morning at Mountain Springs Church, we cried out to God for an epic move of His hand of deliverance upon our city.  We cried out for rain.  We cried out for His hand to move.  We cried out for His power to be released upon our city, firefighters, our city leadership, and over nature, that these unprecedented fires would be extinguished.  Even as we prayed the rains began to come, but not enough.

Men and women, let me challenge you to join us in prayer.  All of us have been touched by this epic event. We all know people who have lost homes, been evacuated, or are packing their homes due to pre-evacuation notices even as I write.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stop and pray.  Gather your family, your church, your small group together and pray.  Now is the time.

Epic times require epic prayer for epic results!  Join us in prayer today.

Pastor Steve

Shouting Aloud Allowed. Chapter 2 of The God-Wild Marriage

18 06 2012

I am using The Inkling to introduce you to each chapter of my new book, the God-Wild Marriage.

chapter 2: shouting aloud allowed

God-Wild Marriage

While God is everywhere, He is not everywhere manifested. He is most ‘at home’ in praise and, being at home, He manifests Himself best as God. When you or I choose to make God at home through praise, we invite Him to act ‘at home.’

Jack Taylor

To be sure, we have many challenges to overcome, but isn’t there a way we can use marriage to draw us to God rather than allow it to dull our senses and lead us into a practical atheism … Rather than letting marriage blunt our spiritual sensitivities, can we use it to awaken our souls in new and profound ways?

Gary Thomas

… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Ephesians 5:19-20

I was hanging out with my seven-year-old son, Josh, one day by a campfire when he said, “Daddy, is my voice going to change one day?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

“Why?” he asked.

As I was pondering exactly how much of the testosterone tale I needed to tell him at his tender age, he very excitedly announced, “Well, when my voice changes, I’m going to speak Japanese!”

We have four children who have passed through the unsettling, often-conflicted years childhood experts call “adolescence.” If you’re a parent, you know how crazy those years can be. Among the many physiological changes during this time, one of the more dramatic (to the child) and humorous (to parents) is the voice change. You know it’s happening to your son when you call home and a man whom you’ve never met answers the phone. You know your boy is changing when, as he sings along to a song on the radio, he tries to hit those high notes and it sounds like he just got hit by a truck.

But we all know that the changing of our child’s voice is a sign of growth and maturity. Scientists and pediatricians tell us that the voice box is a structure at the top of the windpipe that is made of cartilage. Stretched across it are two vocal cords, which are a bit like elastic bands. As air is expelled from the lungs, it passes between the vocal cords, making them vibrate. As a young boy grows, testosterone increases in the body, causing the cartilage to grow larger and thicker. During adolescence, the vocal cords also thicken and grow 60 percent longer. Now when they vibrate, they do so at a lower frequency than before. With the release of more testosterone, the facial bones grow, creating bigger spaces within the face. Larger cavities in the sinuses, nose, and back of the throat give the voice more room in which to resonate, thus deepening the voice further.1

Even though we may laugh whenever our kid’s voice breaks or croaks, we know this is the natural result of a gradually maturing body. It’s not only natural, but healthy. A healthy child will grow physically, and with growth will come a tonal change to one’s voice.

In a similar way, as we mature in giving control of our lives and marriages to Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our voices will also change. God wants our tongues! God wants to have control of what is admittedly the most difficult area of our life to control—our tongue, our communication with Him and with our spouse. But this is difficult—especially in the marriage relationship.

27 Minutes a Week?

One researcher found that “the average married couple actively communicates on the average of just twenty-seven minutes a week.”2 Unbelievably, most couples “exchange the most words on their third date and the year before a divorce.”3 Most marriages rise and fall on the use, lack of use, misuse and abuse of the tongue. Obviously, most couples are not communicating very well. (But they are shopping. The average married couple shops six hours a week!)

Communication is risky. Experts say that how a couple communicates, how they use their tongues with each other (I know what you’re thinking, but that’s not what I’m talking about—wait for Chapter 6), is one of the most important indicators of a happy or unhappy marriage. In Twelve Hours to a Great Marriage, the authors list several verbal “risk factors” that can damage a relationship the most:

  • having negative styles of talking and arguing (for example, putting each other down, refusing to talk or yelling)
  • having a hard time communicating, especially when you disagree
  • not being able to handle disagreements

These risk factors are the ingredients in a simmering brew of eventual marital misery and disaster.5 But it is in learning to tame our impulsive tongues and intentionally expressing our hearts in more positive and loving ways that we can see God transform our dying, atrophying marriage into a great one.

Surrendering Your Heart and Tongue

Just after His command to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul provides us with the first indicator, the first step into the Jesus-honoring, wild Spirit-empowered marriage, by saying, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

Read more in The God-Wild Marriage by Dr. Steve Holt

Marriage: Where does it begin? (pt. 2) Chapter 1 of The God-Wild Marriage

31 05 2012

Over the next couple of months, I will use The Inkling to introduce you to each chapter of my new book, The God-Wild Marriage.

Chapter 1: The Power to Be Out of Control

God-Wild Marriage

A journey is like a marriage. 

The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.

John Steinbeck

Only God can satisfy the hungry heart of man.

Hugh Black

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…

Ephesians 5:18

I like being in control. As an athlete, I captained most of the teams I played on. As a senior in high school, I was the student body president and enjoyed telling the principal how to run the high school. (You think I’m kidding? I’m not.) Then I got married.

Marriage changed everything.

Liz doesn’t like to be controlled. It took me about one day into our honeymoon to realize that I had signed up for a world that was frighteningly different than any other. We were in Hawaii and I wanted to get up early on the first day, hit the beach, go snorkeling, and then dive off some nearby cliffs. I thought it was all so ordinary. Wouldn’t anyone want to begin a honeymoon in such a way? Fat chance.

My wife wasn’t going to be controlled.

Liz was exhausted. The wedding ceremony less than 36 hours earlier and a torrential rain storm and flood just before we left Tokyo, coupled with an eight-hour flight to Hawaii, was enough to keep her in bed for at least one day. I couldn’t relate.

For me, it was a case of “You only come to Hawaii once, let’s get rolling.” It was time for fun on the beach, adventure and action! But for Liz, it was a time to recover and relax—her way. A heated argument inaugurated our first day of marriage. I lost, she won. So much for my ways; so much for my control.

All of us want to be in control of our lives. All of us want our way— because it’s the right way, right? All of us are enslaved to cultural bondage and a need for control that has infused and impacted our thinking, making it virtually impossible to understand God’s design for a wildly fruitful marriage. This was no less true in biblical times than it is today. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he referred to a cultural axiom stating that “every Roman man must have a concubine for pleasure, a mistress for adventure, and a wife for progeny.” Western culture is no different.

Marriages today are indeed out of control. The typical couple walking down the aisle is guaranteed a marriage that will last about seven years, a span of time that is less than the life of your washer, dryer, or refrigerator. As unbelievable as it may seem, the divorce rate in America has increased by over 200 percent in just the last 40 years.1 The Pew survey on marriage, the largest ever conducted, found that nearly 40 percent of us think marriage is obsolete.2 (It is interesting that of those who said marriage is headed for extinction, only 5 percent said they don’t want to be married.3 Hmmm.) If you’re the product of a broken home, your chances for a tumultuous, difficult marriage are even greater.4

As one who regularly counsels couples, I can tell you the family in general, and marriage in particular, is in real trouble. Couples are ditching their commitment to marriage at an alarming rate, even those who attend church—especially those who attend church. According to the Barna Group, those who call themselves “born-again” Christians have a higher rate of divorce than non-believers (27 percent compared to 23 percent). Those who label themselves “fundamentalist” Christians have the highest divorce rate of all, at 30 percent.

I once asked my mom if she had ever thought about divorcing my dad. “No, I’ve never considered divorce,” she replied, “but murder? Yes.” She was being humorous, but the struggle was real and is real. In just this past year, Liz and I have been continually shocked to watch many of our close friends filing for divorce. Many a morning this past year, we have sat across from each other at our breakfast nook and wept over and prayed about dear friends who are leaving their commitments to marriage. Discussing with these couples how and why they have decided to break up has been heart wrenching.

Every marriage is hard. Every marriage is a battleground. You may be feeling just this way right now. Your marriage has not turned out to be what you had hoped and dreamed. The “storybook” romance you thought you were signing up for has actually turned into some kind of Shakespearean tragedy. Your Prince Charming has turned into a frog. Your relationship with your spouse is an endless foray into either verbal arguments, quiet distance, or both. You probably have felt at times like you have a marriage lost in space—your husband is from Mars; your wife is from Venus.5

Read more in The God-Wild Marriage by Dr. Steve Holt

Marriage: Where does it begin? (part 1)

8 05 2012

God-Wild Marriage

Marriage, as God designed it, doesn’t begin with your spouse; it doesn’t even begin with you. It doesn’t begin with better communication, better sex or a budget. It begins with God!

When Liz and I first got married over 26 years ago, we had never heard any clear teaching nor were we aware of God’s main design and purpose for marriage. We winged it the best we could, stumbled through many a stupid decision, fought like Italians (apologize to all Italians reading this blog) and fumbled forward with much sin and grace. It has certainly been a dangerous adventure.

But throughout our journey we have tried hard to understand each other, follow Jesus and figure out the way to joy and power in our marriage. It’s not been easy. It’s probably been one of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of our life. Liz is definitely the most complex and unpredictable person I’ve ever met…or lived with.

Yet through it all we have discovered that God has a design, plan and vision for every marriage. He has put you together with that weird person for a divine mission. He has made you His project of building oneness with your spouse. It hurts, it’s not easy; but it’s God’s way of molding you into His image.

God’s design for your marriage is that it might be His main vehicle for you and your spouse to experience His dangerous, extravagant love, forgiveness and power. For the initiated (married) and for those about to be initiated (engaged), God wants to meet you through your spouse. God has destined your marriage to be the place where His power and holiness are revealed at the deepest levels.

God has a design for marriage that may be surprising. If we will follow His design, we will experience the unpredictable, overcoming and joyful life He wants for us. God has provided us with His roadmap for the wild adventure of a marriage that begins and ends with Him.

The God-wild marriage is found in the Bible. In Ephesians 5:18-33, the Bible’s most dangerous passage on marriage, He reveals to us the blueprint for a happy, joyful, wild and crazy marriage relationship. Over the next few weeks, the Inkling will look at short snippets from my book, The God-Wild Marriage and attempt to tackle such thorny issues as:

  • Why marriage?
  • How a husband must really love his wife by entering her world?
  • What is God’s purpose of sex and why God wants us to really enjoy it?
  • Why a wife must learn to support and respect her husband?
  • How mission focuses a husband and wife’s purpose?
  • How to find God’s power and joy to create the atmosphere of your marriage?
  • How to overcome darkness by fighting the demons seeking the destruction of your marriage?

You are invited on this God-wild, dangerous journey—the journey of God’s design for marriage. Buckle up for the adventure of your life!

“In time The God-Wild Marriage will become a classic, but for now it is an anointed look at what God intended His Institution — marriage —to be.”

– HB London

Pastor to Pastor Emeritus, Focus on the Family

President of H.B. London Ministries

Order Steve’s book this weekend at Mountain Springs Church.

Thoughts on the “Priorities in Fast-Growing Church Plants” by Ed Stetzer

22 02 2012

Priorities in Fast-Growing Church Plants

by Ed Stetzer


Ed Stetzer is director of LifeWay Research and missiologist in residence at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds two masters and doctoral degrees and has written dozens of respected articles and books including Planting Missional Churches, Breaking the Missional Code, Compelled by Love, and Comeback Churches.

Church plants that grow faster are also intentional about their outreach priorities. For example, 80 percent of fast-growing churches put 10 percent of their budgets toward outreach and evangelism compared to 42 percent of struggling churches committing this percentage. Fast-growing churches also use more contemporary worship styles that are more culturally relevant to the unchurched people they are trying to reach.

Other significant findings that differentiate fast-growing church plants from struggling church plants during the 3-year period following launch include:

  1. Only 9 percent of fast-growing church planters are given salary support past 4 years; 44 percent of struggling church planters are supported past 3 years.
  2. 63 percent of fast-growing church planters raise additional funding for the church plant. Only 23 percent of struggling church planters raise additional funding.
  3. Planters leading fast-growing church plants are given more freedom to cast their own vision, choose their own target audience, and they have more freedom in the spending of finances.
  4. Fast-growing church plants have multiple paid staff. Two paid staff members was a majority among the church plants.
  5. A majority of fast-growing church plants utilize two or more volunteer staff as part of the church planting team prior to public launch.
  6. Fast-growing church plants utilize more seed families than struggling church plants.
  7. Fast-growing church plants use both preview services and small groups to build the initial core group.
  8. Fast-growing church plants that use preview services used three or more of these services prior to public launch. A large contingent of these churches use over five.
  9. Fast-growing church plants have children and teen ministries in place at time of launch and offer at least three ministry opportunities to first-time attendees.
  10. 57 percent of fast-growing church plants teach financial stewardship during the first 6 months from public launch. By contrast only 40 percent of struggling church plants teach financial stewardship.


My thoughts on Dr. Stetzer’s article:

  1. Finances matter.  The church planter must prioritize either raising support or being bi-vocational for the first four years.  Otherwise the financial pressure is too great on the church planter’s marriage and family.
  2. It usually takes between three and four years for a church to have the finances to support a pastor full-time.
  3. Team leadership is crucial.  Building a strong leadership team is crucial in the start-up.  If the planter can’t mobilize a team before he starts, he will often have a difficult time building a team after he’s started.
  4. From the beginning, the church planter must call people to serve.  He must be able to mobilize the growing team and deploy people into their gift areas.
  5. Excellence matters.
  6. The church planter is the visionary leader and must be gifted in vision casting and in faith.

What’s missing in Dr. Stetzer’s research:

The key element missing in Dr. Stetzer’s article is the spiritual component.  When we study the planting of churches in the book of Acts we see the emphasis upon spiritual power, not methodologies.

What makes a great church plant?

  1. Great churches are built through the releasing of God’s power, resulting in changed lives.  The #1 priority of the church planter is the proclamation and demonstration of the kingdom of God.  God’s kingdom changes and transforms lives, one person at a time.
  2. Great churches are built on prayer.  Men whom God mightily uses to plant strong, dynamic churches are men of prayer.  Prayer is a hallmark of their church plant.
  3. Great churches have a passion for winning the lost.  They will try new things and think missionally; they will line up people and resources around God’s heart for those who are not yet in the fold.
  4. Great churches are built on the strong teaching of God’s Word.  Men who plant churches that impact their communities are men who can open the Bible, teach with authority and see lives changed through their teaching.  They are winsome, joyful and compassionate in their teaching.
  5. Great churches with dynamic power speak often of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  They are used to release the Spirit’s work in the lives of the believers.
  6. Great churches are built by men of faith who, in turn, surround themselves with teams of men of faith.  Men of faith attract men of faith.  Faith moves mountains.
  7. Great churches are doctrinally strong.  Doctrine matters.  New believers must be grounded in what they believe and who they believe.  Doctrine classes and strong doctrinal sermons are key.
  8. Great churches give.  You show me a church that is growing and I’ll show you a church that gives.  The stewardship principle is always true: faithful in a little always results in faithfulness in more.  In every church plant, God gives a little bit at a time. If the church is faithful in giving, God promotes it with greater resources.

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,


History of Christmas: The Star

23 12 2011

This is the final entry from my most knowledgeable friend Bill Petro on the history of Christmas.  Enjoy.

The Star of Bethlehem has puzzled scholars for centuries. Some have skeptically dismissed the phenomenon as a myth, a mere literary device to call attention to the importance of the Nativity. Others have argued that the star was miraculously placed there to guide the Magi and is therefore beyond all natural explanation. Most authorities, however, take a middle course which looks for some historical explanation for the Christmas star, and several interesting theories have been offered.

The Greek term for “star” in the Gospel account, is the word “aster” which can mean any luminous heavenly body, including a comet, meteor, nova, or planet (wandering star). The Chinese have more exact and more complete astronomical records than the Near East, particularly in their tabulations of comets and novae. In 1871, the astronomer John Williams published his authoritative list of comets derived from Chinese annuals. Comet No. 52 on the Williams list appeared for some seventy days in March-April of 5 B.C. near the constellation Capricorn, and would have been visible in both the Far and Near East. As each night wore on, of course, the comet would seem to have moved westward across the southern sky. The time is also very appropriate. This could indeed have been the Wise Men’s astral marker. Comet No. 53 on the Williams list is a tailless comet, which could well have been a nova, as Williams admitted. No. 53 appeared in March-April of 4 B.C. — a year after its predecessor — in the area of the constellation Aquila, which was also visible all over the East. Was this, perhaps the star that reappeared to the Magi once Herod had directed them to Bethlehem in Matthew 2:9? Comets do not display all the characteristics described in the full Nativity story. A planet or planets seems more likely.

The astronomer Johannes Kepler noted in the early 17th century that every 805 years, the planets Jupiter and Saturn come into extraordinary repeated conjunction, with Mars joining the configuration a year later. Since Kepler, astronomers have computed that for ten months in 7 B.C., Jupiter and Saturn traveled very close to each other in the night sky, and in May, September, and December of that year, they were conjoined. Mars joined the configuration in February of 6 B.C. The astrological interpretation of such a conjunction would have told the Magi much, if, as seems probable, they shared the astrological lore of the area. Jupiter and Saturn met each other in Pisces, the Fishes.

In ancient astrology, the giant planet Jupiter was styled the “King’s Planet,” for it represented the highest god and ruler of the universe: Marduk to the Babylonians; Zeus to the Greeks; Jupiter to the Romans. The ringed planet Saturn was deemed the shield or defender of Palestine, while the constellation of Pisces, which was also associated with Syria and Palestine, represented epochal events and crises. So Jupiter encountering Saturn in the sign of the Fishes would have meant that a divine and cosmic ruler was to appear in Palestine at a culmination of history.

Meanwhile, new research on the star based on recently available astronomy software and historical research on 1st century Jewish historian Josephus‘ manuscripts is being conducted and collected at

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian