Tedd Tripp on parenting @ The Crowded House

Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart – the best-selling, gospel-centred book on parenting purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US – recently visited us in Sheffield to talk about parenting.Tripp’s latest book is Instructing a Child’s Heart purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US which is also available in the States as a DVD. I’ve included a promo video at the end of this post.

Here are my notes on Tedd’s talk to us in The Crowded House …

‘Above all else, guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.’ (Proverbs 4.23).

Parenting must be heart-centred for the heart is the wellspring of life.  The heart in the biblical terms is not simply the seat of emotions. We think, discern, fear and so on with our hearts. Our heart is our inner self. (1 Samuel 16.7; Deuteronomy 10.12; 1 Chronicles 28.9; Proverbs 3.5-6; 2 Chronicles 16.9; 1 Kings 8.57-58.; Matthew 15.8, 17-20;
Luke 6.43-45.)

It is not enough to tackle behaviour through manipulation (bribery, shame, threats etc.). When we only tackle behaviour:

1. The real need is not addressed.
2. We present a false basis for ethics (selfish ethics)
3. The heart is being wrongly trained. E.g. we might teach children to fear others.
4. The gospel will not be central. When we manipulate we appeal to idols in the child’s heart (appealing to pride, greed etc.).
5. Manipulation shows  our idols of our hearts (our idolatrous desire for pride, control, ease, convenience, fear of man).

Where to go with this?

1. The Bible reveals hearts (Hebrews 4.12).

2. There is always a ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ of behaviour. But we confuse the ‘when’ and the ‘why’. We answer the ‘why’ question by saying ‘when’ – i.e. pointing to circumstances – when the answer is in the heart.

3. We all have a profound need for grace (Ezekiel 36.25-27). Help your children understand their need for the gospel.

We need to help our children understand thir hearts and their need hearts. It’s not that we never address behaviour. If a child is hitting his sister we don’t wait for heart change! But we must have a bigger vision a long-term focus on the heart.

Under five-year-olds
Two-year-olds do not have sufficient self-awareness to address heart issues with them. But we can teach them to live under loving authority and introduce the biblical language of the heart and its motivations.

Most parents give away their authority before even their children go to school as we negotiate with them and let them override our decisions. We shouldn’t teach five-year-olds to be decision-makers – we should model good decisions and obedience to authority. Teach them that it is a blessing to live under wise and loving authority.

How can we regain authority when we have given it away? Start with instruction. ‘Mum and Dad gave gained some new insights from God’s word that will help us as a family. Sorry we didn’t see this before.’ So start with instruction and then set new parametres.

Five to twelve year-olds

We often address behaviour because behaviour is visible. But doing the right thing for the wrong motive is hypocrisy. We also expose our hypocrisy: ‘I can’t believe you’re so selfish!’ = hypocrisy. Instead we can share our common need and our common hope in Christ. We’ll never got to the grace of the gospel if we’re manipulating behaviour.

Goals with our Teenagers

1. Internalization of the gospel. We want them to embrace God’s truth as their own living faith. Shepherd their interaction with God’s word – not just reprimanding, but taking them to God’s word. ‘I didn’t write this book –
this is God’s word.’ Helping them are the vitality and relevance of God’s word.

2. Shepherding through the inevitable periods of doubt. Don’t panic, but talk openly about doubts.

3. Developing a relationship that leads to mutuality as adults under God. We need to move from parent instructing child, to a mutual relationship of care.

Three foundations for teens from Proverbs 1

1. Fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1.7). Show the greatness and excellence of God.

2. Remembering your parents’ words (Proverbs 1.8-9). Remind them that no one loves them like you do. Their friends are fickle, but parents love and sacrifice no matter what.

3. Disassociation from the wicked (Proverbs 1.10-19). The attractiveness with the wicked is camaraderie – a sense of belonging. Make home a great place of belonging.

Instructing a Child’s Heart is also available as a DVD.

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Six words to leaders

I read Paul’s farewell exhortation to the leaders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20 this morning. As it happens, we have a leaders’ meeting this evening at which I’m handing over some leadership to others so it felt timely. Here are six things I want to highlight with my leaders …

1. Both feed and guard the flock (28-31)

What do leaders do? ‘Guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock.’ (28) Leaders do the positive work of feeding, teaching and instructing the flock. But they also do a negative work of guarding and watching over the flock – warning, rebuking,  correcting. And it’s this element that Paul seems to emphasis. Perhaps because we have a tendency to shrink back from confrontation …

2. Never shrink back (20, 26-27)

‘I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear.’ (20) Don’t make it your aim to be loved. You often hear stories of leaders who are deeply loved by their flock. That’s a wonderful thing when it happens, but it’s a dangerous aim because you may shrink from telling people what they need to hear. More often than not, those leaders who are now so  loved have come through periods of conflict when their message was opposed. Your aim is to ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’

3. Trust grace (21, 24, 32)

‘I entrust you to God and this message of his grace’ (32). Of course we preach grace. But in reality we often find it hard to entrust people to grace. We want to hedge them around, to protect them, to steer them. From good motives, we can add layers of obligation that become legalism. Paul’s message is ‘the wonderful grace of God’ (24) and so his only ‘obligations’ are ‘the necessity of repenting of sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus’. (21) [For an attempt to show how we are sanctified by faith and repentance alone and therefore a pointer to a faith-based approach to pastoral care see my book, You Can Change.]

4. Guard yourselves (28)

‘Guard yourselves and God’s people’ (28).  The first three points are about our ministry. The second three are about our own lives. We are to guard God’s flock. But first we are to guard ourselves. Never let the busyness of ministering to other keep from ministering to your own heart. As Robert Murray M’Cheyne famously said: ‘The greatest need of my congregation is my own personal holiness.’

5. Sacrifice (24, 33-35)

‘My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling other the Good News about the wonderful grace of God’ (24). The only life worth living is a life spent serving Jesus because Jesus is the only thing worth living for (Matthew 13:44). Verses 33-35 and striking. Paul works to suply his own needs. And then he works some more so he can help those in need.

6. Shed tears (19, 31)

‘I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears’ (19). ‘Remember the three years I was with you – my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you’ (31). I am convinced that tears are a good sign of authentic ministry. Do we love your flock so much that we weep for them? Let’s ask God to open our hearts and give us a love for people.

C.J. Mahaney on grace and the adventure of leadership

I’ve just got back from the Radstock conference – more of that in due course. At the conference Mike McKinley (a church planter in the States, a Radstock trustee and part of 9Marks) recommended a talk by C. J. Mahaney. So I listened to it on the way on home and I highly recommend it. The title is Leadership and the Adventure of Grace. I was driving so I couldn’t take notes! But, expounding 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, Mahaney addresses our attitude to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ however in need to correction they may be (and the Corinthian church was certainly in need of correction). In particular he calls on us:

— to look at people from a divine perspective – they have been called by God

— to recognise God’s prior work in their life before we focus on what still needs to be change

— to express thanks to God for what he is doing in people’s lives and communicate that gratitude to them

— to look for signs of grace before we look for areas that need correction

— to recognise the Christian life is described as ‘walking’ so don’t get frustrated when people are not running – sometimes just facing in the right direction is victory!

He also warns leaders not to get frustrated when the congregation don’t get after a four week sermon series what you’ve been working on for months!

All done with Mahaney’s usual passion, humour and humility. But don’t take my word for it …

Geek spot: By the way, I found the MP3 on my BlackBerry and downloaded to my phone. I then plugged in the mini FM-transmitter I normally use with my iPod so I was able to listen to it through my car radio. Those of you under 30 may not find this remarkable, but when I was at university twenty years ago only one student had a computer which was one more than the faculty had (I’m afraid we rather scorned him for it because he was the rich think kid), mobile phones hadn’t been invented and only the miltary were using something called the internet. The idea that I can now hear about a talk while away from home and then immediately listen to it in my car – it still amazes me!

Creating communities of grace

Here’s my final post based on my talk on ‘Communities of Grace’ to the Evangelists Conference.

How can we create communities of grace? Let me suggest seven ideas:

(1) Make the connections

We need to teach grace. We need to often speak, pray and sing of the cross. But we also need to make connections with people. Plenty of people believe in justification by faith for the final day, but doubt justification by faith for the next. On a Monday morning in the workplace they are still trying to prove themselves, to find identity in their achievements. We need to paint a picture for people; to show them what grace in action looks like; to fuel their imaginations, tell stories.

(2) Welcome the mess

Welcome messy communities. Welcome messy people. Obviously you’ll want them to change, to become more like Jesus, to be set free from their slaveries. But don’t make your welcome dependent on change. Don’t suppress conflict. Don’t hide problems.

(3) Stop pretending

Don’t hide your own problems. You’ll need to exercise some discretion. Let everyone know you struggle. Let some people know what you struggle with. A break through moment in our context was when I confessed long-standing sin to a small prayer meeting. I didn’t do it to create a break-through moment, but that was the outcome. Other people suddenly felt able to confess their sin and it has led to a time of change and accountability throughout the community.

(4) Stop performing

Don’t put on a show. Don’t push people to perform, to produce results, to get it right all the time. Give people permission to fail. We’ve realised that polished Bible studies and articulate prayers disenfranchise semi-literate people.

(5) Eat and drink with broken people

The Son of Man who receives all authority in Daniel 7 comes eating and drinking (Luke 7:34). Jesus eats and drinks with sinners. It’s a powerful expression of community. We think we are enacting grace if we work among the poor, if we serve them. But we are only half way there. It is not really grace because we still act from a position of superiority. We think we are humble when we serve. But we have missed the dynamic that is going on. What we really proclaim is that we are able and you are unable. I can do something for you, but you can do nothing for me. Think how different the dynamic is when we sit and eat with someone. We meet as equals. We share together. We behave as friends. We affirm one another and enjoy one another.

(6) Give people time to change

I think there are some tensions and questions here, but we need to give people time to change. How long did it take for you to become perfectly like Jesus? Of course, you’re still changing. There are some sins we’re prepared to work on over a lifetime, but there are others where we demand instant change. Why is this? The answer, of course, is that we want them to become respectable. We don’t want a messy community. So we say, ‘You’re saved by faith, but to become part of the church (e.g. to be baptised) you need to change your life.’ So which is it? Are we saved by works or are we saved by works?

(7) Focus on the heart

What’s your agenda for change? All too often we focus on behaviour. We can list the behaviours we would like someone to stop or start. But Jesus says our behaviour comes from the heart (Mark 7:20-23). Our focus needs to be on the heart. Our job is to help people love God and treasure Christ. In Philippians 1 Paul says the aim of his ministry among them is their joy (1:25-26). He wants them to find joy in Christ – only then will people turn from the pleasures of sin. I do need to describe a life that pleases God. But my job is not to go round telling people to reform their lives or change their behaviour. My job is help people find joy in Christ.

How communities of performance impede mission

How do communities of performance impede mission?

Communities of Performance Communities of Grace
talk about grace, but communicate legalism people can see grace in action
unbelievers can’t imagine themselves as Christians unbelievers feel like they can belong
don’t attract broken people attract broken people
the world is seen as threatening and ‘other’ people are loved as fellow-sinners in need of grace
conversion is superficial (people are called to respectable behaviour) conversion is radical (people are called to transformed affections)
people are secretly hurting people are open about their problems
people see faith and repentance as actions that took place at conversion people see faith and repentance as daily activities
the gospel is for unbelievers the gospel is for both unbelievers and believers

Communities of Performance Verses Communities of Grace

More from my talk to the Evangelist’s Conference.

Is your community a community of performance or a community of grace? Try these diagnostic tests …

Communities of Performance Communities of Grace
the leaders appear sorted the leaders are vulnerable
the community appears respectable the community is messy
meetings must be a polished performance meetings are just one part of community life
identity is found in ministry identity is found in Christ
failure is devastating failure is disappointing, but not devastating
actions are driven by duty actions are driven by joy
conflict is suppressed or ignored conflict is addressed in the open
the focus is on orthodoxy and behaviour (allowing people to think they’re sorted) the focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)

In performance-oriented churches people pretend to be okay because their standing within the church depends on it. A ‘sorted’ person is seen as the standard or the norm, and anyone who is struggling is seen as sub-standard or sub-Christian. In this kind of environment to acknowledge that you’re struggling with sin is difficult and distressing.

But this is the opposite of grace. Grace acknowledges that we are all sinners, we are all messed up people, all struggling, all doubting at a functional level. But grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome, all are Christians (there are no lesser Christians).

Imagine such a church for a moment. Here is Andrew: he sometimes uses po rn because he struggles to find refuge in God. Here’s Pauline: she sometimes has panic attacks because she struggles to believe in the care of her heavenly Father. Here’s Abdul: he sometimes looses his temper because he struggles to believe that God is in control. Here’s Georgina: she sometimes has bouts of depression because she struggles to believe God’s grace. When they come together they accept one another and celebrate God’s grace towards each other. They rejoice that they are all children of God through the work of Christ. And they remind one another of the truths each of them needs to keep going and to change. It’s a community of grace, a community of hope, a community of change.

Do we ‘live’ grace?

I recently led a seminar at the Evangelists’ Conference on ‘communities of grace’. The talk I think will be available online. In the meantime I’ll blog some of the content. Here’s how I introduced the topic.

According to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 God chooses the poor, the broken, the messy, the marginalised. And he does so to demonstrate that salvation is all of his grace. No-one in heaven will be able to say, ‘God saved me because of my intellect or my wealth or my nobility.’

The problem is that this is not a description of conservative evangelicals in the UK. We are predominantly middle-class. The leaders of our churches are predominantly middle-class graduates. The leaders of our movement are predominantly ex-public school. We are the strong, the wise, the noble.

So what’s gone wrong? Could it be that we’ve not truly understand the grace of God or that we don’t truly live the grace of God?

Someone wrote an email to me last week. The email said that in evangelical churches people struggling with depression are regarded as lesser Christians; they are stigmatized. It was written by someone who is a staff member at a prominent evangelical church. In other words, this is our sort of church.

Will a person suffering with depression feel like they belong in your church? I think it will depend on your view of grace.

When God stepped into the story: reflections on Ian McEwan’s ‘Atonement’

I’ve just finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan. (I’ve not seen the film.) The book is beautifully written with the amazing sustained descriptive passages that are characteristic of McEwan. It’s the story of a teenage , Briony Tallis, whose false accusations lead to a young man, Robbie, being wrongly imprisoned for se xual assault. Robbie and Briony’s older sister, Cecilia, are in love so Briony’s act destroys two lives. By the time Robbie is released, the second world war has begun and he has been conscripted. He and Cecilia, who has forsaken her family to become a nurse, meet only briefly before he is send away to France. As Briony realises what she has done, she endeavours to atone, leaving the privileges of her up-bringing and the pursuit of literature at university to devote herself to nursing during the war.

But she cannot self-atone.

On this first really fine day of May she sweated under her starchy uniform. All she wanted to do was work, then bathe and sleep until it was time for work again. But it was useless, she knew. Whatever skivvying or humble nursing she did, and however well or hard she did it, whatever illumination in tutorial she had relinquished, or lifetime moment on a college lawn, she would never undo the damage. She was unforgivable. (Ian McEwan, Atonement, Jonathan Cape, 2001, 285.)

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Spiritual experiences in the night

Not sure what it is, but many of my most profound spiritual experiences, or at least my most intense spiritual thoughts, come to me in the middle of the night. It might be the dark; it might be the quiet. Though they are not the result of time spent in contemplation. I usually wake with the thoughts fairly fully formed in the my mind. So perhaps they are the after-glow of dreams?!

Last night I had a strong conviction that, while in recent years I have come to a greater sense of how my sin is ridiculous and pathetic, I need a much stronger sense of its evil, horror, spite, darkness. I need to be repelled by my sin. I want to be brought low so that God might lift me up. I want to be horrified at my sin so that I might flee from it into the arms of God.

But I also suspected that such insight might crush me. I thought of Isaiah seeing the holiness of God in the temple and crying out, ‘Woe to me’.

So my prayer in the small hours was this. First, that God would give me as much of a sense of the evil of my sin as I can presently bear. And, second, that he would match a realization of my sin with a corresponding realization of his grace so that I could bear it.

Steve Timmis on communities of grace

Here are my notes on Steve’s second talk at the Dwell London conference. (Dwell London was co-hosted by the Porterbrook Network and the Acts 29 Network with around 200 church planters or aspiring church planters.) Remember they are my notes so they may not be a true reflection of what he said.

In the 1960s Dr Bruce Tuckman, Professor of Educational Psychology at Ohio State University,  identified four now widely recognised phases of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing.

You can avoid some of the problems and trauma of the storming and norming phases by building in the dynamic of grace at the forming phase. Make grace the DNA of your church plant. That’s what Paul is trying to do in 1 Timothy.

1. The need of a stand out godliness (3:1-14)

The false teachers in Ephesus were trying to lead people away from the gospel of grace. There was a strong Jewish element in their heresy (with a focus on the Law of Moses). It was also a world-denying philosophy. In other words, it was a law-based, performance-related ethic of works. Therefore, by definition, it was bad news.

So one of Paul’s strategies is to appoint people who have real-life, street-level, tangible holiness.

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