Pastor's Blog

I am the Teaching Pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN, married to Sarah, raising four children (Rachel, William, Lydia, & Kate), and seeking to honor God in all things. I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology from MTSU, and my Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies and Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament and Greek from...
I am the Teaching Pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN, married to Sarah, raising four children (Rachel, William, Lydia, & Kate), and seeking to honor God in all things. I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology from MTSU, and my Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies and Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament and Greek from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Church Planting Is for Wimps

The book Church Planting Is For Wimps is not, as you might guess from the title, your typical approach to the topic of church planting.  As his subtitle notes, the author, Mike McKinley, admits that he is a messed-up person.  Immediately, the (honest) reader can relate.  McKinley served on the staff of Capital Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.  In 2005, God called him to revitalize Guilford Baptist Church, Sterling, VA.  This book is a recounting of how God used McKinley to accomplish this feat.

McKinley writes openly and honestly, with humor and insight.  He has a knack for keeping the reader involved in the story.  Of course, the title communicates much sarcasm since the book is the story of a church revitalization as opposed to a fresh plant; but McKinley in no way communicates disdain for church planting.  The book is a must read for those praying about church planting or revitalization.  While there are plenty of wisdom nuggets to be found in the book, I want to share the following three:

1)  Beware of contextualization: while certain aspects of contextualization have their place, it does seem to be the newest catchphrase for the "homogeneous unit principle"--you know, the "pick your social demographic and appeal . . . to them" (p.20) model.  This form of contextualization is problematic for at least two reasons: it caters to the flesh rather than the spirit, and it steers God's people away from a gospel-centered unity.  As McKinley noted, "People favor people who favor them.  They favor goods and services tailored to their tastes and how they want to perceive themselves.  Niche marketing works." (p.17).  But, as he went on, "if you look at what the Bible says on this subject, you'll see that one of the glories of the gospel is that it reconciles people that could never be reconciled without it." (p.18).

2)  The preaching of God's word must be central: McKinley reminds us that if we fail to preach the word of God, then we fail altogether.  He wrote, "the one thing that Christians and non-Christians need is the Word of God.  It is alive and powerful, and it's what our churches need." (p.53).  He encourages the church planter to never allow the the preaching of the Word to be decentralized by a plethora of pragmatic and administrative details.

3) Beware of "obessing over church size": McKinley spoke plainly on this point, "Let me be straightforward.  The obsession with church size is killing many church planters.  I used to drop in occasionally on a gathering of local church planters.  There was a running tension in the group--everyone either subtly bragged about the size of his church (while trying to seem like they weren't) or made excuses for it." (p.107).  He warns us of the clear and present danger of numberitis.

While these three points fall short of all that Church Planting Is For Wimps relates to the reader, they do serve as a launching point for those interested in further helps in the arena of church planting and revitalization.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Guest — Ben
Sounds like an interesting book. I actually went to McKinley's breakout session at T4G 2010. He really has a multicultural church!... Read More
Friday, 03 December 2010 18:23
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Ben, those are some thoughtful questions. First off, there are a variety of factors to take into account. For example, since the... Read More
Sunday, 05 December 2010 16:23
Guest — Ben Simpson
Jeremy, I just saw your reply. I thought I had set it up to email comments, but I guess it didn't work. Two other barriers to ch... Read More
Thursday, 09 December 2010 14:31
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The Unquenchable Flame

The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, written by Michael Reeves, the Theological Advisor for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship.  Reeves has written a concise and comedic history of the sixteenth-century Reformation.  To use the adjectives "concise" and "comedic" to describe a history book may seem oxymoronic, but both words fit the bill.  Not only this, Reeves' account is accurate, balanced, and thoughtful.

Space would not allow for sharing all of the most significant points that this little book brings to light, but I must note at least the following four:

1)  The Reformers, while far from perfect in a variety of ways, risked all for the sake of returning the Church to a biblical understanding of the gospel: grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, God's glory alone.

2)  Opponents of the gospel hate God's word.  The Roman Catholic Church and its devotees feared the translation of God's word into "common" languages more than anything else because they knew it would lead to the questioning of their authority regarding church tradition and popish dogma.  We can find a correlation with today.  Today, many professing Christians hate the expositional preaching of God's word either out of fear or flat out boredom.  Those that fear it do so because it challenges their traditions and preconceived notions of God, not to mention that it brings them face to face with some of the most difficult texts in Scripture such as, "He who endures to the end will be saved." (Matt.24:13); and "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him." (John 6:44).  Those that find it boring usually do so because they want their flesh fed (John 6:25-27) or are simply indifferent (1 Cor. 2:14).

3) The heart of the Reformation was not political but religious.  Now admitedly, the radical fringes were quite political, and even the mainstream reformers found themselves inextricably intertwnined in political issues.  The heart of the Luthers, Calvins, and Zwinglis, however, was one of religious intent.  For the likes of these, the Reformation was about the truth of salvation.

4) Related to the previous point, the heart of the Reformation was justification by faith alone.  If all other things could be agreed upon, yet it remains that the marked difference between Catholic and Protestant was and is the doctrine of justification by faith.  Luther said, "Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed." because it is the belief "on which the church stands or falls".  Reeves concurs, "Justification was what made the Reformation the Reformation." (p.176).  It is here that the line must be drawn and maintained.  For the Catholic, justification by faith is the process of becoming more holy and thus becoming more worthy of salvation.  For Reformers, justification by faith is the declaration of God that the sinner, whille still a sinner, has been given the righteousness of Christ.  The argument may seem to be a mere wrangling over words, and at one level that is true; but it is so much more than that.  What is at stake when one wrangles with these hot-bed words?  The gospel itself.  The Catholic side says one must develop a righteousness, with God's help, that will result in salvation.  The Reformer says one must simply receive the righteousness of Christ by God's grace through faith in Christ, which results in salvation.

In conclusion, we must ask with Reeves and many other contemporary figures, "Is the Reformation over?  Reeves, and I with him, give a resounding, "NO!"  As long as the enemy continues to lead so many (including Protestants) into the error of thinking that the sinner can muster up a righteousness of his own in order to obtain salvation, the Reformation must continue to cry, "Solus Christus!"

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Guest — Ben
Jeremy, I've not read the book, but it sounds interesting! Number 2 is incredibly critical for our present situation. I pray tha... Read More
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 12:08
Guest — Ben
Sorry, I meant "numbers 1&3" in that 4th sentence.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 12:09
Guest — Jeremy Vanatta
Right on Ben. Number 2 was mostly an inference from what Reeves was saying. Regarding Number 1, Reeves admitted several imperfecti... Read More
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 14:12
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Essential Things or Not: Do All to the Glory of God

Perhaps one of the greatest struggles for followers of Jesus Christ is the very real tension between essential and less-essential matters within Christianity.  If the The Threshing Floor is going to be of any use to anyone (not the least of which, me), then we must bear in mind that some wheat kernels that fall to the ground are less essential than others.  When we speak of essential matters, most Christians are referring to the most fundamental truths of Christianity.  Truths that would render Christianity quite unremarkable and quite impotent if they were ignored or adjusted.

What are some of these essential truths (also referred to as core or fundamental truths)?  To name only a few, we should mention: the sovereignty and holiness of God; the sinfulness of man; the virgin conception of Jesus, His substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection; His Second Coming; justification of the sinner by faith in Christ alone; and the sanctification of all those who are genuinely His.

What, then, are some of the less-essential truths (also known as non-core or secondary truths)?  Again to name only a few, we should mention: Sabbath-keeping; frequency of Lord Supper observance; food choices; clothing choices; alcohol consumption; tattoos; styles of music; speaking in tongues; and the list could go on and on.

On all of the essential truths, Christians must be inflexible and vigilant as the assaults of the enemy are relentless here.  We can in no way deny these truths without denying the very core of Christianity itself. But what should Christians do with the less-essential truths of Christianity?  Paul's instructions to the Corinthians can be especially helpful here.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Paul writes about the less-essential issue of meat that has been sacrificed to idols.  Should a Christian eat or not?  Many believers would immediately answer, "No way!  Don't eat it!"  But Paul instructs us differently.  He actually says, "Eat" (v.25), although we should be able to answer "Yes!" to at least two questions:
1)  Is it helpful to my neighbor? (1 Cor.10:23-24; Rom.14:13-19)
2)  Does it bring glory to God? (1 Cor.10:31)

If the answer to either question is no, then the Christian must not partake.  If, however, the Christian's conscience is clear on these two points, then he may proceed, all to the glory of God.  I pray this helps us in at least some small way to navigate the often confusing maze of truth.
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Guest — Nick Nokes
I really enjoyed this one. Keep up the good work!
Monday, 06 December 2010 21:18
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Thanks Nick. I pray God uses it in our lives for His glory.
Tuesday, 07 December 2010 05:47
Guest — Brad
One of the scariest things I see happening within the American Church today is the addition that is taking place concerning first ... Read More
Friday, 10 December 2010 13:55
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Threshing It Out

Some may wonder why I've chosen "The Threshing Floor" as the title for my new blog.  To explain, I must first describe what a threshing floor exactly is.  In pre-modern cultures, the threshing floor is a flat surface made of dirt or stone where the harvested wheat stalks are brought so that the wheat grains can be separated from the chaff.  The workers smack the wheat stalks against a hard surface until the grain heads are removed.  They then grab their winnowing forks, scoop up a load of the wheat/chaff, toss it into the air and let wind and gravity finish the job.  The chaff is blown away by the wind and the good grain falls to the threshing floor.

For many years, people have used the threshing floor as a metaphor for life.  Just as the wheat must be separated from the chaff before it can serve any good purpose, so too must truth be separated from falsehood, especially as it relates to our Creator God.  This is the sole intention of "The Threshing Floor."  Here we will strive to separate the truth from fiction when it comes to any number of biblical issues, for there is more at stake than many may realize, even our very souls.

So I hope you join me here on The Threshing Floor as we thresh out the truth.

For His Glory,
Jeremy
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Guest — Ben
I'm looking forward to reading what you put forth. May God bless this medium for His glory and our edification!
Saturday, 20 November 2010 22:26
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A Whole New World

Well, here goes.  I've resisted the blogging world for some time.  I've come close via my Facebook account but never an actual blog.  So this will be the beginning of a beautiful thing perhaps.  I am new to how these work exactly.  Therefore, I ask for much patience as I strive to set it up and use it for the glory of God and the building up of people.
For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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