Giving Thanks in a Black Friday World


Dear Friends and Partners,

William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony called for the first Thanksgiving celebration to thank God for the freedoms, blessings, and protection the settlers had experienced.

Like many other holidays, our culture has hijacked Thanksgiving—shifting the focus to food, family, football, and the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Thanking God is largely lost.

How ironic, and yet how tragic, that Black Friday—known for being the biggest consumption day of the year—is the day that directly follows a day we are to thank God for what we have!

But there is some good news: many have realized this problem, and in 2012, a new holiday about giving back was birthed: #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday takes place the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving (this year is December 1st). #GivingTuesday encourages generosity toward many charities to fight disease, dig wells for those without access to water, and care for the environment.

But as believers, we long to give toward work that will do great things in Christ’s name for a Kingdom impact. We don’t want only diseases cured; we want Christ’s healing for the nations (Revelation 22:2). We want God’s Word and Spirit to dig wells in people’s souls so that the living water will satisfy their deepest thirsts (John 4:14). We want to build up Christ’s church and put His glory on display.

To do that, we would like to offer you a chance to give back in the spirit of #GivingTuesday and help us with a very real need. We’re on the verge of postponing a pastor training session because of a lack of funds. We had to do so last year in Ecuador, so this is a very real concern. Your generous gift this Thanksgiving will allow us to continue to build up this group of pastors in the Scriptures. In addition, it will be a great way to give thanks to God for His abundant blessing!

Cover_Concern for the Heart of GodTo thank you for your gift, we would love to send you a booklet Todd Kelly, our International Director, wrote called Concern for the Heart of God, which reminds us that the heart with which we serve is far more important to our Father than what we accomplish in ministry.

This Thanksgiving (and every other day of the year!) with all of our hearts, we thank God for you and your partnership in His amazing work.

With much thanksgiving in Christ,


Craig Parro





Please enter in “Comments Section” Giving Code: #IF 11/15

5 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell

Article originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition.

What if someone said your preaching was missing one ingredient that could undermine the effectiveness of your entire ministry? Sadly, this is the state of much preaching today that aims to be biblical but misses something essential to a full-orbed biblical Christianity: the judgment of God.

Some who seek to be faithful to Scripture unconsciously avoid preaching hell because of an underlying framework; others consciouly avoid it because they perceive their listeners don’t want to hear about it.

Here are five reasons why preachers, whether consciously or not, may avoid preaching judgment:

1. They have subtly bought into a version of the prosperity gospel. 

Even pastors who formally reject the prosperity gospel can be tempted to functionally believe it in their hearts and proclaim it from the pulpit. Our materialistic culture only compounds this danger. Instead of proclaiming eternal judgment, preachers blunt the sharp edge of God’s wrath out of a desire to highlight what can get out of Christianity.

2. They have idolized God’s love to the neglect, or denial, of his other attributes.

While Scripture is clear that “God is love” (1 John 4:16), it’s equally clear that he is holy, righteous, jealous, and just—the judge of the universe to whom all will give account. Our feel-good culture of positive thinking may not like to talk about negative things like death or hell, but God’s Word has much to say about it.

A couple of years ago there was a controversy surrounding the lyrics of the song “In Christ Alone.” Those compiling a PC(USA) hymnal wanted to remove the line “the wrath of God was satisfied” in favor of “the love of God was magnified.” Exalting God’s love to the exclusion of God’s wrath does the opposite of what it seeks to accomplish: it avoids the bad news and makes the good news optional. This is one reason why starting gospel presentations with “God loves you” can be unhelpful. Well, of course God loves me, many in our culture might think. I’m pretty special. Then they might close themselves off to hearing and embracing the gospel that rescues us from God’s wrath.

3. They have a tragically diminished view of God’s holiness.

The holiness of God is one of the most neglected doctrines in evangelicalism today. Both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle John received glimpses into the heavenly throne room and heard the content of heavenly worship: “Holy, holy, holy.”

Only when we see God in light of his blinding holiness can we understand how flawed rebels like us deserve his righteous wrath. When we lose a sense of God’s holiness, his judgment begins to seem arbitrary.

4. They have a pragmatic approach to ministry.

Many churches today run like businesses, basing their definition of success on metrics. Instead of prioritizing faithfulness to Scripture and making disciples, they focus on weekly attendance, bigger and better programs, and the amount of money in the plate. When the goal is padding numbers for a human definition of success, though, it’s not surprising some of the more “unsavory” doctrines—like hell—get left by the wayside.

5. They fear man more than God.

Once we begin fearing our neighbor more than our Maker, a desire to please people will shape the content of our sermons. As preachers we must pursue the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10), and let him define ministry success. In ministry as well as in all areas of life, these words ring true: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Prov. 25:25).

May our attitudes echo that of Paul: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

False Savior, False Salvation

In A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, J. I. Packer observes what happens if we neglect to preach God’s judgment on sin:

We cannot present Christ as a Savior from sin and the wrath of God. And if we are silent about these things and preach a Christ who saves only from self and the sorrows of this world, we are not preaching the Christ of the Bible. We are, in effect, bearing false witness and preaching a false Christ. Our message is “another gospel.”

A false Christ cannot save from God’s justice. Preaching a false Christ will lead, among other things, to false assurance. Indeed, proclaiming the good news while neglecting the bad undercuts the glory of the good.

Don’t Shrink the Story

It’s often easier to see where others ignore the obvious than to see where we do. Do we preach God’s judgment according to Scripture? Do we, like Paul, preach God’s kindness and severity (Rom. 11:22), Christ as Savior and the one appointed to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)? If we are failing to present a biblically balanced message of God’s judgment, then we must confess this sin to him. Believe in the God of judgment who is also the One who extends mercy to us in Christ. Preach and read Scripture expositionally to give weight to everything God so graciously communicates to us.

Cultural pressures and itching ears can make us forget the great privilege and joy that comes with preaching judgment—the opportunity to proclaim the excellencies of the One who took the judgment that we deserve upon Himself, making the true life we all long for available to us.

Let us faithfully proclaim His gospel and pray our listeners would look upon the Savior in faith to escape the wrath to come.

Before you go:


Leadership Resources and Vinegrowers: Partners in a Worldwide Movement of the Word


Colin Marshall (middle) joins Sean Martin (left) and Todd Kelly (right) at the close of the Regrowth Conference.

In September of 2015, Leadership Resources had the pleasure of hosting Colin Marshall of Vinegrowers Ministries (who cowrote the influential ministry book The Trellis and the Vine).

We’ve told you our side of the story and shared audio/video from the Regrowth Conference, and now it’s Col’s turn to share about the fantastic time we had together, both at the Regrowth Conference and on a ministry trip to Brazil. Below is an excerpt from his ministry’s latest newsletter, posted with permission.

Vinegrowers: Growing Disciples Growing the Gospel (Colin Marshall)In September I spent two very enjoyable weeks with my wife Jacquie in Chicago with the Global Ministries Staff of Leadership Resources International (LRI) on training leaders to multiply their ministry. Vinegrowers is developing a partnership with LRI.

Here’s one report that captures the heartbeat and strategy of the LRI team. It comes from David Merkh, a Pastor in Brazil who heads a movement called “Preach the Word” using the LRI training model.

Vine growing on the Amazon
“During the first week of August I led a team from our church to a river community on the Amazon which is right on the edge of an Indian reservation. It took 24 hours to get there from our home city Atibaia by plane, taxi, bus and a 5-hour boat trip.

We conducted a four-day Bible exposition workshop in the Psalms and Titus and had the graduation service to conclude our four-year cycle of training. There were 20 pastors, missionaries and lay leaders graduating, people of all backgrounds. The speaker at graduation was a 20-year old lay leader who started the course when he was 17. He has no formal (or informal, for that matter) theological training whatsoever. He preached through Acts 10 and did incredibly well! Here we were in the middle of the Amazon listening to this “kid” give a solid exposition of the passage, explaining and applying it clearly to our hearts! His name is Rodrigo. It was quite the celebration.74e702e7-c9e5-4998-bb96-62008d51c715

Rodrigo’s life is fruit of disciple-making. His pastor, Aleks is a Brazilian missionary to the Amazon who has been pouring his life into this young man (and others) and training him up as a leader in the church. The Vine is also growing in the jungles of Brazil!”

Most Pastors around the world have no formal training in teaching the Word to shepherd God’s people. We could call them “unreached Pastors”. With 40 years of experience LRI is helping to meet this need through their four-year cycle of workshops on how to do sound biblical exegesis and preaching.

LRI currently has training groups in 26 countries, with the goal of seeing such transformation from God’s word, and multiplication among church leaders that a movement of God’s Word begins. Typically they start with about 20 pastors meeting twice a year to study a book of the Bible, and after a few years those pastors are training hundreds to read and teach God’s word.

The work in Brazil began with 32 pastors, and after 5 years more than 1,200 pastors are being trained throughout the nation. And the work is still growing.

You can find out more about LRI on their website.

So why is Vinegrowers partnering with LRI?

We are both committed to inspiring a movement of the Word of God. A movement of Pastors making disciples through preaching the Word. And a movement of disciples making disciples by reading the Word with anyone who will listen. A movement of the Word from the pulpit to the pew to the homes and communities.

The Trellis and the Vine has just been translated into Portuguese and church leaders in Brazil are beginning to use it far and wide to encourage this disciple-making movement. I never imagined that our book would eventually be read in a village on the Amazon!

We’re not sure where this partnership is going but we share the same DNA and have a lot of fun together. Who knows where God will take us?

Six myths of discipleship

You can watch this short clip from one of Col Marshall’s Regrowth workshops in Chicago.

Please pray…

That God would use Vinegrowers and Leadership Resources International to equip young leaders like Rodrigo to preach the Word and build Christ’s church.

Here’s more information about what Vinegrowers does in graphical form:
Vinegrowers Church Leadership Coaching
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