Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Ministry Archive



February 2014



Daniel Renstrom on Multi-Generational Worship

Written by , Posted in Ministry, Music, Theology

JWMHDaniel Renstrom is a good friend of mine and one my fellow elders at First Baptist Church of Durham. Daniel’s primary responsibility at FBCD is serving as our worship pastor. He is an experienced worship leader and Bible teacher who has ministered in a variety of contexts, including local churches, collegiate ministries and conferences. Daniel has also released a number of worship albums, most recently “Jesus Wants My Heart,” which is intended for family worship and teaching the gospel to children through music (pictured on the left). You can check out all of his albums on iTunes.

Today, Daniel has written a short essay for theTGC Worship blog at The Gospel Coalition. His post, titled “Multi-Generational Worship,” is a helpful discussion of what ought to unite congregations when they gather together for corporate worship. (Hint: it’s not music preferences.) I especially like the following illustration:

I don’t think anyone has ever gone into a country club and said in amazement, “How did all these people find each other…this is amazing!”  No one ever wonders what brings country-clubbers together.  It is obviously their wealth, their love for refined leisure and their desire to play golf or tennis.  So it’s actually not that amazing at all that they’re together.  I’m afraid you could walk into many of our churches and make similar observations. This is the old people church with the organ and hymnbook. This is the young people church where people wear skinny jeans and the music is loud. It’s just easier to divide that way.

It is indeed “just easier to divide that way,” and many churches have done just that. And I agree with Daniel that this sort of division is a scandal in the body of Christ that does not reflect the gospel we all profess to treasure. I hope you will read his entire post.



January 2014



On Trying to be a Missional Family

Written by , Posted in Family, Ministry, Missions, Spirituality, Theology

The Finns want to be a missional family. Leah and I desire for our family ethos to reflect a key truth that is helpfully summarized in the “Missional Manifesto“: “God is a sending God, a missionary God, who has called His people, the church, to be missionary agents of His love and glory.” We want our words and deeds to point others to Christ. We want our family to be a lighthouse for the kingdom to our neighbors, friends and extended family.

In recent months, Leah and I have been talking more and more about practical ways that we can proclaim Christ, serve others and promote shalom in our context. We want to be good missional stewards of our blessings, including being a part of a thriving congregation that gathers in one of the most ethnically diverse and culturally eclectic cities in the South and being a part of a seminary community that is focused upon equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission. Our current season in Jackson, Tennessee, where I am on sabbatical for six months, has proven to be a helpful time for us to reflect on how we can be more intentional in cultivating missional priorities upon our return to North Carolina this summer. We have loads of ideas, some of which might even come to fruition! But I thought I would share some of the initial steps we have begun to take.

First, like most Christian parents, we want to form our children in such a way that we point them to Christ and teach them a biblical worldview. But we also want to build mission into our family’s DNA so that, Lord willing, it one day carries over into each of our children’s spiritual DNA. I blogged several weeks back at Between the Times about how we are teaching our children to pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission as part of our daily family worship time. We want the Finnlings to feel the burden of the world’s spiritual lostness, even as we pray that they would recognize their own lostness and need for the saving work of Jesus Christ in their own lives. Perhaps as they learn more and more about the world that God so loves, they will also come to understand his love for them and his desire that they be saved.

AnnieLottieJarMore recently, we have designated a mason jar to be our “Annie and Lottie Jar”  for missions. Like many Southern Baptist families, we give every year to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for global missions. But this has always been a decision that Leah and I make: “So, how much do we want to give this year?” But beginning with 2014, we want to also collect money year round in our Annie and Lottie Jar. Money collected between January and Easter will be added to our Annie Armstrong giving, while money collected between Easter and December will be added to our Lottie Moon giving. This will allow us to give more and also encourage the Finnlings to give toward Great Commission advance. You can see a picture of our Annie and Lottie Jar to the right.

Like many families, we have recently begun sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Our children were involved in this decision and are excited that the Lord will use our gifts to help with Sonjita’s education and physical health, introduce her to the gospel and sound biblical teaching and protect her from those who would exploit her in various ways. The latter is important because Sonjita lives in a nation where child slavery and human sex trafficking are perennial threats. As an added bonus, Sonjita is around the same age as our two oldest children, so they already feel a connection with her. We look forward to watching Sonjita grow up, from a distance, and we are eager to pray for her physical and ultimately spiritual wellbeing. (By the way, if you are skeptical of child-sponsorship ministries like Compassion International, I would recommend you read this helpful article from the June 2013 issue of Christianity Today.)

Lord willing, these are the first steps toward a much more intentionally missional lifestyle for our entire family. It is our hope that our family’s future is an increasingly missional future filled with regular gospel hospitality, family service projects, family mission trips, generous giving of time and resources (both planned and spontaneous) and ongoing evangelistic conversations with non-Christians. I’d love to hear from readers how the Lord is leading your family to live out a missional vision in your context.



January 2014



The Benefits of a Church Membership Class

Written by , Posted in Ministry

Yesterday, I wrote on the benefits of a church membership class in my weekly post at Between the Times. I’m a firm believer that new member classes are a contextually appropriate way for churches to help safeguard a regenerate church membership and get their congregation’s spiritual “DNA” inside of a prospective member. In my post, I also interact with a helpful post by my friend and Southeastern Seminary alum Matt Capps. Matt works for LifeWay Christian Resources, where he is the brand manager for the immensely popular curriculum The Gospel Project.



December 2013



Andy Crouch on Christianity and the Pursuit of Justice

Written by , Posted in Culture, Ministry, Theology

Playing GodAndy Crouch has the best discussion of the relationship between evangelism and social action that I have ever read. You can find it in an excursion at the end of chapter four in his new book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (IVP, 2013). I have copied two of my favorite paragraphs below.

As for the question of why we should work for justice in a world that is passing away—well, the world is passing away. Our work for justice should no more be based on the idea that humanity will somehow progress on its own merits to utopia than proclaiming the good news about eternal life should be based on the idea that someone who accepts Jesus into their heat will never die. The Christian hope is not for a gradually improving world any more than it is for a fountain of youth. But Christian hope overcomes the forces of despair and decay in the midst of this world, and provides foretastes of the coming kingdom where anyone who will receive the Lamb’s sacrifice will be raised to life, and where the glory and honor of the nations will be presented as offerings to the King of kings. Hope for a life beyond this life, and a world of shalom beyond this world of injustice, is the greatest resource for the work of justice here and now. Christian hope for a world made new is not an alternative to doing justice—it is the most essential resource for it.

Christians who truly want to seek justice cannot afford to let “justice” be reduced to the lowest common denominator we may be able to agree on with our neighbors. To do that would be to surrender to gods that are not real gods—to assent to the serpent’s promise that apart from relationship with God we can be like God, knowing good and evil. We can work for common goals for uncommon reasons. Because we believe every one of our neighbors is an image bearer, however broken their relationship with the One whose image they bear, we will find much common ground for working for justice and freedom. The things our neighbors seek are good; they are just not ultimate goods. We can work alongside them for the good while worshiping the One who alone is good.

I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of Playing God. For a fine classic treatment on this topic, check out John Stott’s 1975 book Christian Mission in the Modern World, which was reprinted with a new introduction by Ajith Fernando in 2008. The latter was written in the wake of the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974.



December 2013