Blog Archives

Your Witness: Don’t Leave Home Without It

We go on vacation to get away from it all and “just be ourselves.” Believe me, the very last thing we should do on vacation is be ourselves–our impatient selves, our selfish selves, our undisciplined selves, our unkind selves. Here are six ways you can be a faithful witness as you travel.

Lifeway’s HomeLife magazine published this article back in 2001 when I was serving as pastor in the Cayman Islands, a popular vacation spot. You can find it here:

(Click the little box with an arrow and you’ll get a large enough image to read the print)




“How to Run a Christianity 101 Study”

I’m looking forward to the “Questions Next Door” conference this weekend. Here’s a promotional video.

 

At the conference, I’ll be leading a breakout session called “How to Run a Christianity 101 Study.” I’ll teach it at 4pm on Friday and repeat it at 11am on Saturday. It’s an introduction to The Anchor Course: Exploring Christianity Together. Participants in this breakout session will receive a copy of The Anchor Course while supplies last.

Find out more at www.questionsnextdoor.org




Free Access to My Sermon Illustration Database–and Other Resources

dogintuba

Whether you’re a preacher, teacher, or writer, every communicator needs fresh ideas that reinforce or highlight his or her points.  For decades I’ve collected illustrations and cataloged them by topic.  I’m making the database available to everyone.

Check it out at www.hillcrestaustin.info/sermonillustrations.

To use it, simply enter your desired topic in the Topic field.  If you enter multiple topic words, separated by spaces, you’ll find only those illustrations that address both topics.  We’ve found that it sometimes helps to use double quotes, with spaces, to get more exact results.  So, if you just enter the word sin, you’ll get all the illustrations under the topics of sin, sing, and single.  If you enter the word as “sin “ you are more likely to find what you’re looking for.

The Text field is helpful if you want to search within the text of the illustrations themselves.  So, do a search for “Tim Keller” and you’ll get all the illustrations that have “Tim Keller” in them.  (Again, use the quotes.  Just typing the words Tim and Keller will get you every illustration with both Tim and Keller somewhere in the text, but it might have nothing to do with Tim Keller — e.g., it may be an article about Tim Knight and Roger Keller.)

The ID# field is useful if you have found a specific illustration to which you would like to return later.  Just note that illustration’s ID# and then, when you want to return to that specific illustration, enter the ID# in the appropriate search field.

This database has evolved over the years to meet my own unique needs as a communicator, so you’ll have to take it as it comes.  Some entries include links to Kindle books that won’t take you to my Kindle content.  (You’ll get the author’s complete quote, though.)  Also, items clipped from a web page and copied into the database often preserve the formatting from the original source, which may make the entry look odd.  Despite the “raw” look to the entries, however, I hope you’ll still find some use from my database.

While I’m making stuff available for free, here is more content that has always been available:

Newsletters. All my newsletters since 2003 are available here.  “Winning Ways” is my devotional column that is sent by email every Wednesday, and “LeaderLines” is an occasional newsletter addressing issues of church leadership.  You can subscribe to either or both of these here.  The archive page has a search field that enables you to find a particular word or phrase across the entire collection of newsletters.  Please credit me as the author if you use my newsletters in your not-for-sale work.  If you want to use my content in your for-sale work, get my permission first (tom@hillcrestaustin.org).

Sermons.  All sermons delivered at Hillcrest since 2000 are available here.  In many cases, listener outlines and small-group discussion guides are included.  Please credit me if you use the sermons in your not-for-sale work, and credit Hillcrest if you use the printed material in your not-for-sale work.  If you want to use any of the content in your for-sale work, get my permission first (tom@hillcrestaustin.org).

Evangelism Material.  If you’re looking for ideas on creating a more evangelistic church, I have a 90-page guide available here.

For any questions on the use of the illustration database, please contact me at tom@hillcrestaustin.org.  My thanks to Paul Waldo for managing this database (along will all the other content on our church’s auxiliary website (www.hillcrestaustin.info).  For our church’s main website, go to www.hillcrestaustin.org.




“Make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is”

Since people don't want Christianity to be true, we have to make it first winsome with our lives, then attractive with our appeals, and then finally persuasive with our arguments. In that order.

This was Blaise Pascal's observation. In Tim Keller's latest post at Redeemer, he reflects on this insight from Pascal:

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.

Here's Keller's post:

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Blaise Pascal was a brilliant 17th-century French mathematician and physicist who had a dramatic Christian conversion experience and thereafter devoted much of his thought to Christianity and philosophy. He began to assemble notes and fragments he hoped would be woven into a book called The Defense of the Christian Religion, but he died just two months after his 39th birthday and it was never written. Those fragments, however, were published as Pensees (“Thoughts”), and it has become one of the most famous Christian books in history.

One of the most interesting of Pascal's Pensees is the one quoted above. Here Pascal looks holistically at how to present the Christian message to those who do not believe it. He begins with the psychology of non-belief. He says that people are not objective about religion (here meaning Christianity). They really despise it and don't want it to be true—yet fear it may be true. Some of these are fair-minded people who see good, well-thought-out reasons Christianity is not true. Others are not so fair-minded, and they just vilify and caricature it. But no one is neutral. People know instinctively that if Christianity is true they will lose control, and they will not be able to live any way they wish. So they are rooting for it not to be true, and are more than willing to accept any objections to the faith they hear.

How should Christians respond? Pascal thinks there are basically three stages to bringing someone on the way to faith. First, you have to disarm and surprise them. Many people hope Christianity does not make sense on any level. They especially enjoy hearing about professing Christians who are intemperate, irrational, and hypocritical—this confirms them in their non-belief. When, however, some presentation of Christian faith—or simply a Christian believer's character—comes across as well-informed, thoughtful, sensible, open-minded, helpful, and generous, then this breaks stereotypes and commands a begrudging respect.

After this, Pascal says, we should be somewhat more proactive. “Next make it attractive, make good men wish [Christianity] were true.” We might object to the term “make” and suggest that Christianity is already attractive, but that's to miss Pascal's point. Of course he isn't saying we should make Christianity into something it's not; rather, we should reveal, point out, and expose its existing features. But the phrase “make good men wish it were true” gets across that this takes determination and ingenuity. We must know our culture—know its hopes—and then show others that only in Christ will their aspirations ever find fulfillment, that only in him will the plot lines of their lives ever have resolution and a happy ending.

I'm glad Pascal calls for this because, understandably, in these conversations we want to talk about sin and the barrier it creates between God and us. Pascal isn't arguing against that. Certainly he isn't telling us to hide that. But do we take time to talk about the manifold and astonishing blessings of salvation? Do we give time and effort to explaining the new birth; our new name and identity; adoption into God's family; the experience of God's love and beholding Christ's glory; the slow but radical change in our character; a growing freedom from our past and peace in our present; power and meaning in the face of suffering; membership in a new, universal, multi-racial counter-cultural community; a mission to do justice and mercy on the earth; guidance from and personal fellowship with God himself; relationships of love that go on forever; the promise of our own future perfection and glorious beauty; complete confidence in the face of death; and the new heavens and new earth, a perfectly restored material world?

If we do this, Pascal gives us a very specific outcome to shoot for. If we've pointed out such things in an effective way, then some (though surely not all) will say, “If Christianity really can give that, it would be wonderful. Yes, it would be great if it were true. But of course Christianity isn't. What a shame!”

Only then will most people will sit through any kind of substantial presentation of the evidence and reasons for the truth of Christianity. Now Pascal says to “show that it is [true].” If they have not been brought through stage 1 (being disarmed and surprised by the lives and speech of believers) and stage 2 (seeing the great and attractive promises of God in Christ), their eyes will simply glaze over if you begin talking about “the evidence for the resurrection.” They will still expect Christianity to be at best useless and at worst a threat. But if Christianity has begun to make emotional and cultural sense they may listen to a sustained discussion of why it makes logical and rational sense. By “emotional sense” I mean that Christianity must be shown to be fill holes and answer questions and account for phenomena in the personal, inward, heart realm. By “cultural sense” I mean that Christianity must be shown to have the resources to powerfully address our social problems and explain human social behavior.

Only if their imagination is captured will most people give a fair hearing to the strong arguments for the truth of Christianity. Let's appeal to heart and imagination as well as to reason as we speak publicly about our faith in Jesus.

Find Keller's original post here.

 




“Tactics” Discounted to $2

If you’re a believer who wants help in the good work of discussing your faith with others, you’ll benefit from “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions.” And for now the e-book version is $2! Click the image to get it:




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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