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But What About…?

But What About…?

Have you ever looked at the Christian faith and wondered, “But what about…”? We all wrestle with difficult life questions. How does Jesus respond to our “what abouts?”

In this podcast Bill Gorman is joined by Ben Beasley, interim campus pastor at the Leawood Campus. They explore the upcoming sermon series “But what about…?”, which addresses tough questions head-on. Bill and Ben discuss their own difficult questions, emphasizing the importance of patience, charity, and epistemological humility in working through doubts and questions. They also share their hopes for the series, which includes guiding listeners toward a humble confidence in their faith and a healthy model for addressing tensions.

Join us as we dive into this thought-provoking sermon series with an aim to know Jesus more and be his hands and feet in our community and world.

Romans: Real Rescue

Romans: Real Rescue

Where do you turn for rescue? Life can feel like a turbulent storm, tossing us amidst uncertainty and doubt. But deep within our hearts, we yearn for a way out, a glimmer of hope that can rescue us from the challenges we face. 

It is in these moments that the timeless words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans come alive, offering us a profound message of rescue, redemption, and restoration. In this book of Scripture, we encounter the truth that God is the ultimate Rescuer. 

We have all fallen short, trapped in a web of sin, and separated from our Creator. Paul’s letter to the Romans reveals God’s incredible rescue plan that has transformed lives and altered the course of history for the last 2,000 years—and it can do the same for you. 

Sunday, August 13 is the beginning of a new sermon series covering the first five chapters of Romans. Lead Senior Pastor Tom Nelson sat down with Bill Gorman on TheFormed.Life Podcast to discuss how the book of Romans has impacted them personally, what they hope this series will provide to the congregation, and even a little peek into how the teaching series are selected at Christ Community. 

Introducing the Christian Standard Bible

Introducing the Christian Standard Bible

At Christ Community we treasure the Bible—it is one of our five church values. Starting on Sunday, August 13, 2023 we will adopt the Christian Standard Bible (the CSB) as our primary Bible translation, in place of the ESV (English Standard Version).

Over the years, we have recognized and celebrated the abundance of exceptional Bible translations available in English. We have encouraged our congregation to engage with any number of these translations for personal reading and study.

We have also always had a primary translation, a specific translation that serves as our primary source for preaching, teaching, and writing. Our decision to update the primary translation is not driven by trends or fads. In fact, in the over 30-year history of Christ Community, we have only made a few updates to our primary translation. This will mark the third change in 34 years. 

Our commitment to the highest view of Scripture as the inerrant, inspired word of God guides us in this process. When Christ Community launched in 1989, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) was our primary translation. Then in the early 2000s when the English Standard Version (ESV) was first published, we updated our primary translation to the ESV. Now two decades later, we are adopting the Christian Standard Bible, first published in 2017, as our new primary translation. 

 

Why update our primary translation?

As language evolves and new and improved translations become available, it is essential for us to assess the landscape and consider whether there might be a translation that is not only accurate in its scholarship and handling of the original languages, but also more readable and reflective of contemporary English style.

While the ESV has served us well with its excellent scholarship and accuracy, we asked ourselves if there might now be another translation that could provide a high level of accuracy while also offering a more contemporary English style. After careful consideration, we believe the CSB accomplishes just that.

 

Why the CSB?

All translations exist on a spectrum from formal to functional. Translations on the more formal (sometimes called “word for word”) end of the spectrum focus on the meaning of individual words and seek to preserve the word order of the original as much as possible. Translations on the more functional (sometimes called ‘thought-for-thought”) end of the spectrum focus more on the meaning of the phrase, sentence, or thought that is communicated by the individual words, and then render that phrase, sentence, or thought as clearly as possible in the target language.

Here’s a chart that shows where various translations fall on the spectrum.

(Source)

 

The translators of the CSB have taken a mediating approach between formal and functional which they call “optimal equivalence.” Here’s how they describe their approach: 

The CSB uses optimal equivalence as its translation philosophy. In the many places throughout the Bible where a word-for-word rendering is understandable, a literal translation is used. When a word-for-word rendering might obscure the meaning for a modern audience, a more dynamic translation is used. The Christian Standard Bible places equal value on fidelity to the original and readability for a modern audience, resulting in a translation that achieves both goals (from CSB Introduction).

New Testament scholar Mark Strauss who reviewed the CSB for the theological journal Themelios lauds this “optimal equivalence” approach. He writes: “This mediating approach helps to maintain readability and clarity without sacrificing important formal features, such as metaphors and word-plays.”

Let’s take Amos 4:6 as an example. The metaphor “cleanness of teeth” in Hebrew indicates a lack of food—not dental hygiene. One’s teeth are “clean” because there isn’t any food to eat. Here’s how different translations approach this verse:

As part of their “optimal equivalence” philosophy, the translators of the CSB have taken what they call a “gender accurate” approach They write: 

Recognizing modern usage of English, the CSB regularly translates the plural of the Greek word ἄνθρωπος (“man”) as “people” instead of “men,” and occasionally the singular as “one,” “someone,” or “everyone,” when the supporting pronouns in the original languages validate such a translation. While the CSB avoids using “he” or “him” unnecessarily, the translation does not restructure sentences to avoid them when they are in the text.

This example in Romans 8:12-14 highlights how these different versions translate adelphoi (which can mean simply brothers or brothers and sisters depending on the context) and huios (“son”). 

 

The ESV translation “under translates” adelphoi as “brothers” only. The CSB and NET recognize that Paul is writing to a congregation of men and women and therefore accurately translate adelphoi as “brothers and sisters.” However, they both retain the “sons of God” because of the theological significance of sonship.

The NASB20 also recognizes that Paul is writing to a congregation of men and women and therefore accurately translates adelphoi as “brothers and sisters.” However, it takes a mediating approach to huios. It retains “sons” but adds “daughters” in italics. The italics indicate that this word is not found in the original language but is added for clarity of meaning.

The NIV11 also recognizes that Paul is writing to a congregation of men and women and therefore accurately translates adelphoi as “brothers and sisters.” However, it makes the more gender-inclusive (in contrast to a gender-accurate) move of translating huios as “children of God” making the “sonship” concept more opaque. 


Reading level and reading aloud

Another important factor in Bible translation is reading level. The CSB is designed to be readable for grade 7 and above (ages 12 and older) making it more accessible to our children and students as well as those in our church family for whom English is a second language. 

Additionally, in our conversation on TheFormed.Life Podcast with Dr. Coover-Cox, who serves on the CSB translation oversight committee, she noted that CSB translators also paid particular attention to the sound of the translation when read aloud. They wanted to produce a translation that was not only beautiful to the eye but to the ear as well. 

 

How did we approach the process of updating our primary translation?

In the fall of 2022, the senior pastor and campus pastors tasked me with conducting an in-depth study of available translation options, thoroughly examining their strengths and weaknesses.

I then presented my findings to them for initial evaluation. After gathering their input and feedback, the Elder Leadership Team reviewed the information. In April 2023, the elders voted to move forward with the CSB as our new primary translation. 

We firmly believe that the CSB is an outstanding translation choice for Christ Community. While no translation is perfect, the CSB manages to bring together the best of both translation approaches—word-for-word and thought-for-thought—into one translation that is not only ideal for study but also a delight to read.

If you’d like to learn more about the CSB check out these resources.

 

 

Three Things I Learned from Tim Keller

Three Things I Learned from Tim Keller

The first time I heard Tim’s voice was on a pair of cheap earbuds in a noisy Caribou Coffee in Deerfield, Illinois. I was a first-year seminary student and was there studying with some friends. At some point, I took a break from studying and that’s when my friend Josh waved me over to his table. “You ever heard of Tim Keller?” he asked. “No,” I replied. He all but forced me to sit down and put his cheap, and not super-clean, earbuds in my ears. “You’ve got to listen to a few minutes of this sermon!” So after wiping off the earbuds, I put them in and started listening. To be honest, I don’t remember what sermon it was or what it was about. Part of me was just thinking: How long do I have to listen before I can take this guy’s earbuds out of my ears? What struck me in that moment was Tim’s thoughtfulness and winsomeness. 

I didn’t know it then but that borrowed-earbud moment introduced me to someone who would profoundly shape who I would become as a pastor and preacher. Apart from Tom Nelson, our Senior Pastor at Christ Community who I have known for over 20 years, no one has more profoundly influenced my pastoral ministry and particularly my preaching, than Tim Keller.

Tim died on May 19, 2023 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. In appreciation for him and his impact on me and so many others, I want to share three things Tim taught me through his writing, preaching, and teaching.

 

The Gospel: The A-Z not just the ABCs

First, Tim taught me that the gospel is not just the ABCs of the Christian life. It is the A-Z. He taught me that we never get beyond the gospel, we only go deeper into it. He writes in his book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City:

The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians, and then Christians mature by trying hard to live according to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.  

The work of discipleship and spiritual formation is engaging practices, habits, and routines that remind us of, and shape us with, the gospel in every facet of life. 

 

The City: An opportunity not just an obstacle

Second, Tim opened my eyes to the reality that city centers are not obstacles to gospel ministry. They are incredible opportunities for gospel influence. Growing up in a suburb of St. Louis during the 1980s and 90s, I typically thought of “downtown” or the “city center” primarily as a place that was difficult to navigate as well as potentially physically dangerous and spiritually detrimental.

In fact, if you had told me as a high school student that my first permanent pastoral position after seminary would be leading an effort to plant a church campus in downtown Kansas City, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But Tim’s teaching on the city captured my imagination and transformed my affections. In my beat-up, well-worn, spiral-bound copy of the Church Planter Manual from the Redeemer Church Planter Center, Tim writes:

Because of the power of the city, it is the chief target of the forces of darkness, because that which wins the city sets the course of human life, society and culture. …if the Christian church wants to really change the country and culture, it must go into the cities themselves, and not just into the suburbs or even the exurbs. Three kinds of persons live there who exert tremendous influence on our society.… They are: the elites who control the culture and who are becoming increasingly secularized; the masses of new immigrants who move out in the mainstream of society over the next 30 years; the poor, whose dilemmas are deepening rapidly and affecting the whole country. 

This, along with Tim’s compelling teaching on Jeremiah 29 as a vision for Christians seeking the flourishing of the city, transformed not only how I thought and felt about city centers but gave me a picture of what sort of church was possible in the city. 

 

The Church: Evangelism not just formation

Third, Tim showed me a “third way” between “seeker-sensitive” church services and “believer-focused” worship gatherings. Tim challenged church leaders to always speak and act as if non-believers were in the room. The goal isn’t to make the service comfortable for those who don’t yet believe, but rather to make it comprehensible for those who don’t believe. He wrote in Center Church:

Contrary to popular belief, our purpose is not to make the nonbeliever “comfortable.”…Our aim is to be intelligible to them…. Seek to worship and preach in the vernacular. It is impossible to overstate how insular and subcultural our preaching can become. We often make statements that are persuasive and compelling to us, but they are based on all sorts of premises that a secular person does not hold. …So we must intentionally seek to avoid unnecessary theological or evangelical jargon, carefully explaining the basic theological concepts behind confession of sin, praise, thanksgiving, and so on. In your preaching, always be willing to address the questions that the nonbelieving heart will ask. Speak respectfully and sympathetically to people who have difficulty with Christianity.  …Listen to everything that is said in the worship service with the ears of someone who has doubts or struggles with belief. 

Tim didn’t just write about this as an ideal. He lived it out in every sermon he preached. Through his preaching, I learned from Tim that there is a way to engage people who are skeptical about Christianity while continuing to encourage and equip those who are followers of Jesus.

 

Conclusion

When I heard the news he had died, tears welled up in my eyes. I knew that he was sick. I knew that he would die soon. But I was still surprised by the emotional impact on me when he actually died. While talking to one of my best friends about the impact that Tim’s had on us, he paused and reflected that there are thousands of other people across the country and around the world who are having similar conversations about Tim’s impact. I’m deeply grateful to Jesus for the gift of Tim Keller. I miss him already. Thank you for all you taught me, Tim.

Fresh Insight into the Ten Commandments

Fresh Insight into the Ten Commandments

Someone once said insight isn’t primarily about getting new information but about seeing old information in fresh ways. This happened to me recently with the Ten Commandments. Our tendency is to view the Ten Commandments as merely a set of prohibitions.

But a closer examination of them reveals three things that help us gain fresh insight.

 

The Ten Commandments remind us who God is


First, these commandments remind us who God is. He is the rescuer! This is vital! Notice how the Ten Commandments begin in Exodus chapter 20.

And God spoke all these words, saying,  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:1–2 ESV

If we miss God’s identity as the rescuer, we will completely misunderstand the purpose and heart of the Ten Commandments. God did not give Israel these commandments while they were in Egypt and say, “Now if you keep these perfectly, I will rescue you from Pharaoh and bring you into the promised land.” No! In his grace and mercy, God has compassion on the plight of his people and he rescues them. It is only after they have been rescued that he gives them the gift of the commandments as part of his covenant agreement with them.

Even more than revealing that God is a rescuer, these commandments reveal the kind of God it is who rescues like this. Sandra Richter writes in her outstanding book, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament:

In its place in redemptive history, the law served to sketch the profile of God to a fallen race who no longer had any idea who God was or what he defined as “good.”…This god [sic] was different, and what he expected of his people was different as well. This is what the Mosaic law brought into focus and Israel’s world. It was a very good thing.

 

The Ten Commandments remind us who we are


But that’s not all. The Ten Commandments also remind us who
we are. We are no longer slaves! We are the rescued! That is our new identity; we are rescued people. The commandments then define our identity and way of life as people who have been rescued by grace. These words to live by are not a means of salvation or rescue, but obedience to them can shape the identity of those people who have been rescued.

The moment we start viewing the Ten Commandments as primarily about making God happy with us, we have missed the heart of God. It is true that we express our love to God through our obedience to him. But we do this because we are already secure in his love for us.

In the original moment of their giving, the Ten Commandments served to make God’s people distinct in the world. They served as an identity marker. This fact is the foundation for the third insight.

The Ten Commandments remind us how to act

Not only do they remind us who God is (the rescuer) and who we are (the rescued), the Ten Commandments also reveal how to act like rescued people.

In their fascinating and hopeful book, The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation, Jim Wilder and Michel Hendricks explain that God has created our brains in such a way that we are constantly asking Who are my people? and How should I act right now to be like them? Here is how they unpack this:

Through infancy and childhood, the brain is designed to develop individual identity through attachment to the parents and other caregivers. Around age 12, the brain undergoes a structural change that balances individual identity with group identity. From this point on, our group identity is a key player in the formation of character. We are formed by our strongest attachments and the shared identity of our community. Our brains are wired this way.… 

Our brains were designed to respond to group identity in order to help us act like “our people.” … every one-sixth of a second our right brain tries to answer the question, “Who am I? How do my people act now?” If my control center is working smoothly, my circumstances are integrated with my group identity. I spontaneously act with joy and peace. If my control center desynchronizes, I forget who I am and how to connect with those around me. I stop acting like myself. Even though I am a Christian, I stop acting like one. My brain has cramped.

When we fail to build the character of Christ into the identity of our community, we easily forget who we are. We become salt that’s not salty, and our character lacks the savory flavor of transformation.

So, then, far from being a way to earn favor with God, the Ten Commandments are God’s gracious gift that reveals who he is and how to act like his people. 

So how is it to act like God’s rescued people? What are we to do? What are we to be like?

Rescued people don’t have any other gods. They don’t look to anyone or anything else for their rescue, hope, and satisfaction. The rescued bear God’s name and identity with wholeness. Rescued people receive God’s gift of rest as a reminder that they have been rescued. They aren’t slaves anymore. They can stop and rest. Rescued people treat their parents with honor, respect, and kindness. Rescued people don’t murder people with their hands or in their hearts. Rescued people joyfully receive and practice God’s design for sexuality even when it can seem counterintuitive and is countercultural. Rescued people respect the fruits of other people’s labor and refuse to steal in any way. Rescued people tell the truth even when it hurts, and they refuse to use the truth in ways that harm others, such as gossip. Rescued people are content with what God has given them. They don’t look down on others who have less or envy those who have more. 

That is how it is for us to act as God’s people who are salt and light, pointing others to the rescue we have found.