Book Review, Counseling, Gospel Spirituality

BOOK REVIEW: Depression: The Way Up When You’re Feeling Down

Many of us have been haunted by depression. The first resource I recommend someone struggling with depression is Ed Welch’s booklet. It is only 32 pages and thus can be read in one day. Even though it is short, it gets to the heart of the problem of depression as well as providing gospel solutions and practical tips on how to fight when depressed.


Welch begins by explaining how depression is ultimately a spiritual problem. He argues “Depression reveals us, not just the chemical composition of our brain,” (27). When we are depressed we can’t trust our feelings. Many times we don’t feel like doing anything. When we are numb we are to “learn another way to live,” (4). The new way of living is to “believe and act on what God says rather than feel what God says. It is living by faith,” (4). When we are depressed and debating what our feelings are saying and what Scriptures says, Welch explains that “Scripture wins,” (4).

Next, Welch asks, “What is your depression saying?” and “What does it mean?” He acknowledges that our feelings teach us about our perceptions of our circumstances. Exploring our feelings can teach us that we are afraid or ashamed or angry. Hunting why we are depressed should reveal what is wrong with our heart. Ultimately we are to identify what is wrong and grow by trusting the Lord. Maybe we have made an idol out of something and he is calling us to trust him while not obtaining what we want. Ultimately we are to faithfully respond, “I know that my Redeemer is with me, and I will humbly wait for his deliverance,” (17).

Exploring the condition of our heart leads us down a path asking a series of “why” questions.  However, Welch explains that we should follow the path that leads to God if we want to come up out of depression. The more we can look at the “whys” of our depression through a gospel lens, the more accurately we can diagnose the condition of our hearts and find hope in Jesus. He explains, “If you think about what your depression is saying and it takes you all the way to your relationship with Christ, then don’t stop on that journey until you have heard something good,” (20). Welch also comments, “Remember that if you have put your faith in Jesus, you are forgiven, adopted, beloved, and delighted in. You must start thinking the way God thinks, not the way you think,” (20).

Welch closes with eleven practical tips on how to battle depression as well as a charge to not give up. I particularly like the sixth tip: “Each day, speak or write something that can be an encouragement to others. You have a calling. There are people to love, to care for, to help,” (20). I also appreciate the eight tip: “Keep a sharp eye out for grumbling and complaining,” (20). Welch acknowledges, “Depression is hard. No matter what its origin, it doesn’t leave without a fight. But don’t be discouraged. There are good reasons to enter into the fight. Changes are guaranteed (Phil. 1:6),” (23).

Counseling, Gospel Spirituality

BOOK REVIEW: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Contemporary culture has a plurality of opinions of how to view human identity. For some, self-esteem is the ultimate virtue to achieve. The spirituality of many is that if they could only have a higher view of themselves then they would be happy. However, the Bible has better news. Tim Keller’s “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” is important because a wrong view of personal identity is leading to wasted unhappy lives.


Keller’s work is a booklet made up of 46 short pages and three chapters. It can be read in a lunch hour. He opens by asking, “What are the marks of a heart that has been radically changed by the grace of God?” (5). Next, Keller unpacks 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7. He explains that different than most cultures throughout history “Our belief today – and it is deeply rooted in everything – is that people misbehave for lack of self-esteem and because they have too low a view of themselves” (10).

Regarding the problem of our natural condition he says, “Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God,” (15). The solution is to avoid the trap of seeking self-esteem by other people’s standards. Rather, “Paul is saying something astounding, ‘I don’t care what you think and I don’t care what I think,’” (31). The result is not needing to think too much or too highly about ourselves. Keller says, “A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person,” (33). The way to live this way is to allow the verdict of the gospel to lead our performance versus the other way around. In other words, “Self-forgetfulness takes you out of the courtroom. The trial is over,” (43). Joy is found through living according to our gospel convictions. Joy is found through gospel-humility. Joy is neither found in self-hating or self-loving, but rather self-forgetting.

This is a tremendous read for anyone struggling with depression. Counseling is a very helpful process, but as people delve deep into heart issues there can be a tendency to become self-absorbed. This process can rob our joy because our eyes are too much on ourselves. His booklet is also helpful for those believing the flesh and the world about where to find happiness. Giving ourselves over to our sinful desires does not lead to joy. Keller’s booklet is a reminder we all need that self-forgetfulness rather than self-esteem is the pathway to joy.

Church History

A History of Baptist Cooperation


Local autonomy has always been part of Baptist history, but so has cooperation.  Throughout our history, local Baptist churches have been the ultimate authority for their own congregation.  Baptist churches hire their own pastors. Baptist churches install their own Elders and Deacons.  Baptist churches develop and approve their own budgets including making decisions about missions giving.  However, we also have a history of cooperation with other churches.  Typical Southern Baptist churches cooperate through local county associations, state conventions, and the national Southern Baptist Convention.  These contemporary efforts are grounded in a history of cooperation found in the earliest Baptist churches.  I have recently published a book about an early Baptist named Thomas Patient (HERE) who both planted the first Irish Baptist churches but also cooperated with other like-minded Baptist churches.


First London Confession of 1644 

The seeds of a vision for cooperation were laid in Baptist’s early statements of faith.  The earliest Particular Baptist confession of faith was the First London Confession of 1644.  Seven churches came together to publish the confession in order to distinguish themselves from the Arminian Anabaptists and place them within the broader English Reformation.  The confession was modeled after the Separatist Confession of 1596.  The London Baptists confessed a biblical reformed faith.  They also confessed congregational convictions as well as believer’s baptism by immersion.  But, they also emphasized cooperation.  Article XLVII of the First London Confession of 1644 states, “And although the particular Congregations be distinct and severall Bodies, every one a compact and knit Citie in it selfe; yet are they all to walk by one and the same Rule, and by all meanes convenient to have the counsell and help one of another in all needfull affaires of the Church, as members of one body in the common faith under Christ their onely head.”[1]  Article XLVII of the First London Confession of 1644 is modeled heavily after the Separatist Confession of 1596’s Article 38.  These seven churches actually modeled their convictions by publishing the confession.  They were from different churches but were also committed to working together, therefore they needed to distinguish the doctrine that unified them.  The First London Confession of 1644 became a tie that bound them together.  Thomas Patient was one of the men who signed this early confession.  Later he left London in order to spread the gospel in Ireland.  Patient then ended up planting the first Baptist churches in Ireland.

5th Monarchist in Ireland

Thomas Patient went to Ireland as an army chaplain with Oliver Cromwell’s invading force. During the English Civil War the King had been executed and the Parliamentarian forces eventually made Oliver Cromwell their leader against the Royalist forces.  The non-conformists like the Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists sided with the Parliamentarians.  However, as the war progressed a debate arose regarding Cromwell’s office.  Some wanted to make him King, but most were strongly opposed to that title and that type of authority.  Therefore, the Barebones Parliament in 1653 settled on an office of Lord Protector.  However, many of the non-conformists were enraged by that title because God was their Lord Protector.  Leaning on passages like Daniel 7 they argued their hope was in a messianic kingdom.  Bell explains, “For many, the Protectorate looked uncomfortably similar to the monarchy that God had so recently called them to overthrow.  The Saints were extremely dissatisfied.”[2]  They believed elevating Cromwell to a title of Lord Protector would conflict with their allegiance to their heavenly king.

During these years Thomas Patient was in Ireland expanding the Baptist movement, but also remaining in cooperation with the other London Baptists.  For example, he was a signer of a letter sent from the Irish Baptists on June 1, 1653 to the London Baptists.  In the letter they suggested a national day of prayer, requested continued correspondence, asked for a list of other like-minded churches in London, and asked the London Baptists to send representatives to Ireland to help instruct their new Baptist churches.  During these years the heat over the Lord Protector title continued to heat up.  However, William Kiffen saw things differently.  He had served as a pastor with Thomas Patient in London.  Both had signed the First London Confession of 1644 representing their church.  Kiffen simply saw the Protectorate as another government to appease in order to preserve religious tolerance.  Therefore, he sent a letter to the Irish Baptists rebuking their criticism of Cromwell and pleading with them to submit to the Cromwellian government.  In his letter Kiffen contended the Protectorate was both a legitimate government and had preserved the country from chaos.

Even though Kiffen was more influential than Patient he did not operate like a Catholic Pope demanding they defuse their heat.  Rather, Kiffen approached them as a fellow Baptist and pastor seeking to persuade them to think differently about the implications of their criticism of Cromwell.  Patient and the Irish Baptist heeded Kiffen’s admonition and their relationship with the Protectorate improved.  The incident is a great example of loving correction, but also humble cooperation.  Due to humble cooperation rather than authoritative mandates the fledging movement was able to avoid becoming too political and enabled them to improve their relationship with Cromwell.

Lessons for Contemporary Baptists

These types of historical accounts provide examples for Baptist today.  W.T. Whitley explains, “from the beginning Baptists were not ‘Independents’; they always sought for fellowship between the different churches, and they were very successful in arranging for permanent organization.”[3]  Even though Baptists should champion our convictions about local autonomy, we should also celebrate our convictions about cooperation.  Torbet explains, “Their purpose was framed by a desire to have fellowship between local churches and to carry on evangelistic work.”[4]  My role as pastor of Redeemer Church is first to the local church, but we also seek to be involved with the Denton Baptist Association.  The DBA has supported the planting of our church and now we are working with the DBA to plant other churches.  As Baptists our doctrine and history are to commit to the local autonomy of our church.  However, our doctrine and history also call us to cooperate together to spread the gospel.

[1] William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1969), 168-169.

[2] Mark R. Bell, Apocalypse How?: Baptist Movements During the English Reformation (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2000), 153.

[3] W.T. Whitley, A History of British Baptists (London: Charles Griffin and Company, 1923), 53.

[4] Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, 3rd edition (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1963), 43.

Church History

Soul Competency or Regenerate Church Membership?

Baptists have long asked the question, “what does it mean to be a Baptist?” E. Y. Mullins was the president of The Southern Baptist Seminary and argued that soul competency was Baptists’ “mother principle.”[1] Other ideas about religious liberty and oppositions to confessions of faith spring from the Mullins’ teachings on soul competency. However, the father of the Irish Baptist movement would disagree with Mullins’ conclusions. Thomas Patient planted the first Baptist churches in Ireland and did so for different reasons than soul competency. The doctrine that led to Patient establishing those first Irish Baptist churches helps Baptists understand what it really means to be a Baptist.


Lessons from Patient’s Relationship to Government

Baptist have long advocated for religious liberty. However, Patient had a relationship with governments that call into question our assumption that all Baptists have always advocated for religious liberty. Thomas and Sarah Patient came to the American colonies in the 1630’s. They held to the New England faith which was marked semi-separatism and congregationalism. But, while in New England they wrestled with a debate over believer’s baptism versus infant baptism. Patient became convinced of believer’s baptism and a warrant was issued for his arrest.[2] Even though he experienced religious persecution for his baptistic doctrine, there is no record of him using the experience to advocate for religious liberty.

Patient has a second note-worthy experience with the government in 1650. John Owen preached a sermon before parliament on February 28, 1650 titled “Steadfastness of Promises, and the Sinfulness of Staggering.” Owen explained, “there was, for the present, one gospel preacher for every walled town in the English possession of Ireland.”[3] In the sermon he requested funds in order to send pastors to Ireland to preach the gospel. Thomas Patient was one of the men who went to Ireland as an army chaplain. Therefore, this is an example of the British government funding a Baptist pastor to go to another country to serve as both an army chaplain and to plant baptistic churches! This is not our contemporary understanding of a separation of church and state. This Baptist pastor was willing to take government funds in order to plant Baptist churches.

Charles Fleetwood was installed as the Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1651. He was an Independent, but he welcomed Baptists into leadership. Brown explains that by 1655 “at least twelve governors of towns and cities, ten colonels, three or four lieutenant-colonels, ten majors, nineteen or twenty captains, two salaried preachers, and twenty-three officers on the civil list”[4] were of the Baptist faith. They had risen to political prominence, but their goals seemed less about religious tolerance and more about nudging the balance of power in their favor. In fact, these realities led to other groups becoming suspicious of the Baptists, which was a factor in Fleetwood losing his position to Henry Cromwell in 1655. Patient appears to have been part of a push for a Baptist religious settlement rather than being an advocate for religious liberty. This is another example from his ministry of the early Baptists not advocating for religious liberty even though they were in positions of political power.

Lessons from Patient’s Organizing Principles

Even though Thomas Patient did not hold to our contemporary understanding of religious liberty, he did plant the first Baptist churches in Ireland. If soul competency and religious liberty were not hallmarks of his ministry, what did he organize those churches around? A letter sent in 1651 from his church to another congregation helps answer the question. Patient and eleven men from his Baptist church sent a letter to another congregation rebuking them for joining together in “fellowship with such as do fundamentally differ in judgement and practice; to witsuch as agree not with you about the true state of a visible Church, nor the fundamental Ordinances thereof.”[5] Patient organized his church around the doctrine of believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership. Further, he and his church rebuked another congregation that did not likewise organize their church according to the same doctrines.

Patient received criticism for his positions on baptism and how to organize a church. As a result, he wrote a full-length book on the doctrine of believer’s baptism titled On the Doctrine of Baptism, And the Distinction of the Covenants.[6] In his book he made the case that “it is the duty of every man that believes and repents, to be baptized.”[7] In his book, Patient makes no mention of religious liberty. Further, he did not write a book on religious liberty as the organizing principle of Baptist churches. Rather, he advocated believer’s baptism by immersion as the doctrine by which Baptist church should organize. According to Thomas Patient, being a Baptist meant holding to believer’s baptism by immersion.

Conclusions for Baptist Identity

This historical evidence should add to the conversion over Baptist identity. The history is clear that Baptist (particularly American Baptists) have long advocated for religious liberty. This history is to be understood and celebrated. As Baptists, we should continue our ministry of advocating for religious liberty. Our efforts are right and good. Our efforts are also part of our history. However, soul competency and religious liberty are not our “mother principle.”[8] Our identity is linked to our conviction the Bible teaches that genuine converts are to publicly profess their faith in Christ by being immersed. Those who are baptized by immersion as believers are the ones who should make up the visible church. Therefore, believer’s baptism by immersion and regenerate church membership are the Baptist distinctions.

[1] E. Y. Mullins, The Axioms of Religion, Library of Baptist Classics 5 (Nashville: B & H, 1997), 79.

[2] Records and Files of the Quarterly Court of Essex County Massachusetts, vol. 1. 1636-1656, (Essex Institute: Salem, Massachusetts, 1911) 52.

[3] Thomas Russell (ed.), The Works of John Owen, D.D. vol. 1 (London: Richard Baynes, 1826), 91.

[4] Louise Fargo Brown, The Political Activities of the Baptists and Fifth Monarchy Men in England During the Interregnum. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912) 136-137.

[5] John Rogers, Ohel: A Tabernacle for the Sun: or Irenicum Evangelicum, An Idea of Church-Discipline. (London, 1653) 302.

[6] Thomas Patient, On the Doctrine of Baptism, And the Distinction of the Covenants. (Henry Hills: London, 1654).

[7] Patient, On Baptism, 5.

[8] Mullins, The Axioms of Religion, 79.

Church History

The Irish and Baptist Identity

The Irish Baptists inform our understanding of what it means to be Baptists because they have an undisputed beginning. I recently wrote a biography of Thomas Patient who planted for the first Irish Baptist churches (HERE). One of the challenges for Baptists is to pinpoint our beginning. Baptist historians have struggled to identify when and where the movement actually began. Some have tried to link a trail throughout church history from the time of Christ into the English Reformation. Others have claimed it began on the European continent with close links to the Anabaptist tradition. Still others argue the Baptist movement comes directly out of the English Reformation. Beginnings are significant because they inform identity. For example, if our beginnings are closely linked to the Anabaptist tradition then Anabaptist doctrines should help us understand what it means to be a Baptist today. However, the Irish Baptist movement is uniquely helpful because their beginning is undisputed. Their undisputed beginning informs their identity which then informs the broader Baptist identity.


The War Spreads to Ireland

The British Civil War of the 1640’s and 1650’s was largely a political dispute over the powers of the Monarch and Parliament as well as a religious dispute over what is the most biblical form of church government. The Protestants largely sided with the Parliamentarians. Out of the religious dispute arose many of the modern Protestant denominations including the Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Each of these camps argue for a particular form of church government. As the conflict progressed Oliver Cromwell rose to power overseeing the Parliamentary forces. He defeated the Royalist forces and took charge of England. However, in 1649 he invaded Ireland. Included in his effort was an attempt to spread the Protestant gospel to the Catholic Irish. Parliament funded a number of ministers to serve as army chaplains to preach the Protestant gospel of faith alone to the Irish. Thomas Patient was serving as a pastor with William Kiffin in one of London’s reformed Baptist churches and chose to accept the call to bring the gospel to Ireland.

Thomas Patient’s Irish Ministry

Even though Thomas Patient is a little-known figure from church history, he lived an interesting life and was a faithful example for contemporary Baptists. He traveled to New England as part of the Pilgrim migration to the new world. However, while in the American colonies he became convinced through reading Scripture and listening to debates that the biblical mode of baptism was by immersion and it should be reserved only for believers. His new-found conviction for believer’s baptism by immersion went against the colony’s doctrine and a warrant was issued for his arrest so he fled back to England. While in London he began pastoring with William Kiffen and they together signed the First London Confession of 1644. That statement of faith defined their church’s doctrine as Protestant, reformed, and baptistic. These are the doctrines he took with him to Ireland.

While in Ireland he began preaching with other ministers at a prominent cathedral in Dublin. He also travelled the southeastern portion of the country preaching the gospel. During these early months of his ministry he founded a church in Waterford utilizing the doctrine of believer’s baptism by immersion. This congregation was so committed to the doctrine that they wrote a letter to the people attending services at the cathedral in Dublin urging them to separate over the issue. A group did indeed separate and formed a church in Dublin based on their convictions about believer’s baptism by immersion. Both congregations, therefore, held to the doctrine of regenerate church members. They taught only those genuinely converted should be baptized and thus become members of their churches.

Many became critical of Patient’s teaching so he wrote On Baptism in order to advocate believer’s baptism by immersion and regenerate church membership. His book is one of the earliest known full-length treatments of the Baptist doctrine. Citing the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, he explained that Christians should obediently follow all of Jesus’ teachings including being baptized. Patient noted the term “baptism” “doth in proper English signify to Dip.”[1] He also explained that the one being baptized is to be a “taught and repentant person.”[2] Related, he wrote “Faith and Repentance go before baptism.”[3] Tenderly, Patient calls on his readers to “obey the word of God’s command”[4] and be baptized by immersion professing their faith in Christ.

Clear Baptist Distinctives

The Irish Baptists teach all Baptists some helpful lessons. First, our key organizing doctrine is believer’s baptism by immersion and the related doctrine of regenerate church membership. Baptist identity is about adhering to those doctrines. Baptists are people who believe in believer’s baptism by immersion and regenerate church membership. If someone does not hold those doctrines then they are not a Baptist. Baptist brethren, your key doctrine is believer’s baptism by immersion.

Second, our distinct doctrine is not soul competency or religious liberty. Patient would not have identified with E. Y. Mullins teaching about soul competency because he rebuked people for not holding to a biblical view of baptism. In fact, he urged them to leave a church and start a new church around the doctrine. Further, even though Baptists have long held and rightly held ideas about religious liberty, Patient would also not have identified with all those ideas. He went to Ireland funded by the English Parliament in order to start Baptist churches. Further, while in Ireland he sought to bring about a government that mandated a Baptist view of church government. The organizing principle of the initial Irish Baptist churches was not soul competency or religious liberty but rather believer’s baptism by immersion and regenerate church membership. Baptist brethren, you should hold to a number of other doctrines but you must also hold to regenerate church membership.

Third, Patient came to his convictions about baptism by interpreting the Bible which was the same way he came to his convictions about other doctrines. Patient, therefore, was first a Protestant then an Evangelical and only then a Baptist. If someone holds to Baptist doctrine it would contradictory to also hold to Catholic doctrine or liberal doctrine. Baptist brethren, you must first be a Protestant and an Evangelical before you can be a Baptist. Thomas Patient and the Irish Baptists teach contemporary Baptists fundamental lessons about our identity.

[1] Thomas Patient, On the Doctrine of Baptism, And the Distinction of the Covenants. (Henry Hills: London, 1654), 8.

[2] Patient, On Baptism, 17.

[3] Patient, On Baptism, 17.

[4] Patient, On Baptism, 179.

Church History

Irish Lessons for Church Planters

Tucked away in the religious history of Ireland is a profound lesson for church planters. I recently wrote a biography of Thomas Patient who planted for the first Irish Baptist churches (HERE). Guys who plant churches breathe the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). The history of the Irish Baptists teaches us the virtue of planting churches committed to regenerate church membership. The original Irish Baptist churches were started because of the doctrine of believers’ baptism and thus regenerate church membership. Those churches were planted in the 1650’s and remain faithful gospel witnesses today.


The Story of Thomas Patient’s Irish Ministry

The lesson is only understood as part of the story of Thomas Patient. He was a British Particular Baptist who served with William Kiffin in London. Kiffin was one of the most significant figures in the establishment of Reformed Baptist Churches in England. In addition to pastoring the church, Kiffin was a successful businessman. He was part of a rising merchant class gaining considerable wealth in his day. Together, Kiffin and Patient represented their church by both signing the First London Confession in 1644.

Patient’s ministry was primarily during the period of the English Civil War, which was driven by both political and religious concerns. The Civil War period gave greater freedoms to Protestants who rejected the episcopal view of church government. During this period saw the rise of the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. These denominations came about over different interpretations of how churches should be organized and how churches should relate to the government.

During this period Oliver Cromwell rose to lead the Parliamentary forces against the Royal forces. Eventually the war expanded from England and into Ireland. John Owen joined Cromwell in Ireland then came back to England in order to call more ministers to spread the gospel to Ireland. Thomas Patient answered that call and went to Ireland as an army chaplain.  While in Ireland he joined other preachers teaching at a prominent cathedral in Dublin.

The Founding of the First Irish Baptist Church

However, in addition to preaching in Dublin and ministering to soldiers, he also travelled throughout eastern and southern Ireland sharing the gospel message to the Irish. In 1650 he effectively gathered a group of converts in Waterford into a church. This church became the first Baptist church in Ireland. It was established on baptistic convictions as evidenced by a letter they wrote to the congregation in Dublin in 1651. In this letter Patient’s congregation rebuked those in the Dublin congregation who held to believer’s baptism yet “joined in fellowship with such as do fundamentally differ in judgement and practice.”[1] They admonished the Dublin believers that if they joined in church fellowship with those who did not practice the ordinance of “dipping Beleevers”[2] then they would be “guilty of their sin of disobedience.”[3] Patient’s congregation believed the doctrine was significant enough to leave one congregation for another. They also, therefore, believed it was significant enough to organize around. A group heeded the admonition and formed a congregation in Dublin.

As a result of the division, Patient went to great lengths to defend the doctrine. He ended up publishing one of the first full-length books advocating believer’s baptism. In his book he thoroughly examined scriptures that Baptists still use to advocate our doctrine. Patient expounded the ministry of the Apostles in Acts and linked it to Jesus’ Great Commission call by concluding “Faith and Repentance go before baptism.”[4]   He also made a distinction between baptism and circumcision explaining the latter as a “Covenant in the flesh.”[5] Patient was striving to make the point, “That there was never a Covenant of eternal life, made with any but with such as did and do believe, all along till Christ, not since.”[6] He made the point that baptism serves to “confirm our Regeneration”[7] therefore should be reserved for those profession faith in Christ. His goal was to see Christians “obey the word of God’s command.”[8]

The first Irish Baptist churches were founded around the doctrine of believer’s baptism by immersion.  As a result, those churches were officially made up of regenerate members.  The visible Baptist churches were born-again believers in Christ.

Lessons for Contemporary Church Planters

Church planters should never seek to divide congregations. However, church planters do have a unique opportunity to establish their congregations on a faithful ecclesiology. One lesson from Patient’s Irish ministry is for church planters to do the work of firmly establishing their doctrine of the church. Church planters should know the key passages, hold ecclesiological positions, advocate for how they inform their practical ministry, then organize their churches accordingly.

Another lesson is  church planters should utilize the pastoral tool of believer’s baptism and regenerate church membership. Like Patient, I have found the doctrine incredibly useful in planting church. In addition to clarifying someone’s conversion and beliefs about the gospel, it enables a pastor to use the gospel to inform all aspects of church life. Conversion is based upon the gospel, but so is the obedient step to be baptized. Further, baptism helps someone draw a line in the sand and commit themselves to the congregation. Baptism can set expectations for a young believer.

As I studied the Irish ministry of Thomas Patient I could not help but think he would have registered his church on the Nine Marks website! I was particularly pleased to learn that those congregations are still in existence today…over 350 later! If the goal is to plant a church that lasts, follow Thomas Patient’s lead and plant a church committed to regenerate church membership.

[1] John Rogers, Ohel: A Tabernacle for the Sun: or Irenicum Evangelicum, An Idea of Church-Discipline. (London, 1653), 302.

[2] Rogers, Ohel, 302.

[3] Rogers, Ohel, 302.

[4] Thomas Patient, On the Doctrine of Baptism, And the Distinction of the Covenants. (Henry Hills: London, 1654), 17.

[5] Patient, On Baptism, 39.

[6] Patient, On Baptism, 93.

[7] Patient, On Baptism, 168.

[8] Patient, On Baptism, 179.

Church History

The Virtue of Reading Ordinary Christians

Reading about the lives of ordinary Christians gives hope for how to have an impact on our generation.  Many read about the luminaries, but there is a virtue to reading about ordinary Christians in the past.  Reflecting on the history of ordinary Christians helps preserve our faith, deepen our theology, deeper our understanding of contemporary culture, and is fun.  Yes, fun can be a virtue.  Yes, history can be fun.


Reading History Preserves Our Faith

I have recently published a book on Thomas Patient (HERE).  Prior to my research I had never heard of Patient.  In many ways, he was an ordinary Christian rather than one of the luminaries of his generation.  In my research I had difficulty determining his family of origin.  It was also difficult to determine his date of birth.  He was a common man.  Little has been written about his life, even within Baptist studies.  However, his story built my faith.  His journey was inspiring.  Patient left his native England for a difficult journey to the American colonies.  He embraced the New England faith only to have his convictions change on the issue of believers’ baptism.  As a result, a warrant was issued for his arrest causing him to flee back to England.  He was a man whose biblical convictions led to greater hardships in his life.  As I first learned of his trials I was also dealing with some hardships due to my biblical convictions.  I saw this man “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), which in turn inspired me to greater faithfulness.

Reading History Deepens Our Theology

When Patient returned to England he eventually connected with William Kiffin.  While pastoring with Kiffen he helped shape the First London Confession of 1644.  This confession was the initial Particular Baptist statement of faith.  It was modeled after the separatist confession (A True Confession) of 1596.  Most of the articles in the 1644 confession mirror the 1596 confession.  However, the Baptists expanded their treatment of the triplex munus Christi.  They also add articles on the nature of faith and the gospel.  Further, they also clearly defined their doctrine of believers’ baptism by immersion.  Taking the time to compare those confessions deepened my theology on each issue.

After traveling to Ireland, John Owen returned to England and preached a sermon titled “Steadfastness of Promises, and the Sinfulness of Staggering” to Parliament on February 28, 1650.  Owen proclaimed in his sermon that in Ireland there was only “one gospel preacher for every walled town in the English possession in Ireland.”[1]  He then explained the Ireland “mourneth and the people perish for want of knowledge.”[2]  As a result, Parliament designated funds to send ministers to Ireland.  Thomas Patient answered the call to carry the gospel to the Irish.  As an ordinary Christian, I was inspired by Owen’s and Patient’s evangelistic fervor.  As I read Owen’s sermon and saw how Patient took the difficult road of being both an army chaplain and a church planter my zeal was stoked.  I was in the middle of planting a church and was encouraged that I was doing what Christians have always done.  I was getting to participate in the same mission that Owen and Patient did so many generations ago.

While in Ireland, Patient wrote one of the earliest full-length books on the doctrine of believers’ baptism.  He faced controversy over the doctrine and wanted to explain his position.  He worked to simply provide “clear Scripture evidence”[3] to make his case.  In addition to explaining and apply Bible passage after Bible passage, Patient addressed the theology of the covenants.  In many ways, the Puritans were still in a season of solidifying their views of the covenants.  As I studied Patient’s views I found many unconvincing.  Even though I hold to believers’ baptism, I rejected many of the ways he sought to distinguish covenants in the Old and New Testaments.  However, instead of hindering my theological development while wrestling with Patient’s views, I found reading this history only deepened my theology.

Reading History Deepens Our Insights About Our Contemporary Culture

As the Protectorate fell apart, Patient returned to England.  He then experienced the persecutions of the Clarendon Code resulting in a time in jail.  Patient refused to submit to the Book of Common Prayer and continued to lead outlawed congregations.  These laws gave me a perspective that we are not persecuted in America and Canada.  We might be vilified, but pastors are not thrown in jail for organizing their churches according to their biblical convictions.  However, it also gave me historical warnings that persecution can come to America and Canada.  Watching closely the religious liberty laws being debated and handed down is an imperative for all ordinary Christians.

Reading History is Fun

The enjoyment of history is in my blood.  My father used to take us to Civil War battlefields for our vacation.  In case you are wondering, I actually loved it!  I also loved every second of traveling to another country to find primary sources on Thomas Patient and then spending hours and hours writing this new volume.  However, I am not foolish enough to believe that everyone will find researching history to be fun.  But, we all love good stories.  Good history is about telling good stories.  Even young children have fun learning about the lives of past Christians.  The historical Christian luminaries are inspiring.  But, the common Christians can be just as edifying.  Reading the history of Thomas Patient is an encouraging journey for today’s ordinary Christians.

[1] Thomas Russell (ed.), The Works of John Owen, D.D. vol 1 (Richard Baynes: London, 1826), 91.

[2] Ibid, 91.

[3] Thomas Patient, On the Doctrine of Baptism, And the Distinction of the Covenants (Henry Hills: London, 1654), ii.

Bible, Church, Gospel Spirituality, Preaching

Thankful for R.C. Sproul

Yesterday an evangelical giant went to be with the Lord. Like many in my generation who have sought faithfulness to the Scriptures, yet also needed substantive answers to genuine questions, as well as longed for a passionate spirituality I found refreshing water in the teaching of R.C. Sproul.


My first experience with Dr. Sproul was through the book “Holiness of God.” As a young man struggling with youthful sins his book was a needed weight that buckled my sinful flesh under the gravity and majesty of God’s holiness (Exodus 33:19-23). I not only heard God’s call to righteousness (Leviticus 11:44) but also saw its beauty (Isaiah 6:1). Last year our small group leaders used to classic book to apply God’s holiness to our church’s spirituality.

From that book I have spent years digging through Ligonier’s exhaustive catalogue on topics ranging from the Bible to theology to apologetics to church history and to the spiritual life. There were times when I was struggling to find answers to questions in my church, but found them in the ministry of R.C. Sproul. Many in my generation were marked by the cynicism of grunge music, but then found hope in substantive ministries like Ligonier.

Now that I am teaching every week I find my research leads me over and over again to articles and sermons founds at The content is always faithful to the text, accessible, and and insightful. The videos, sermons, articles, and lectures on that site are a lasting gift to the church.

When my soul was weak I found strength in R.C. Sproul’s teaching. When my mind was troubled I found truth in R.C. Sproul’s exposition of the Bible. When much of the teaching in our churches was shallow and running from doctrine, we found the beauty of a sovereign gracious God through the ministry of R.C. Sproul.  Today he is experiencing his reward of dwelling with God while singing with the saints, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). Well done good and faithful servant.

Bible, Devotional Reading, Gospel Spirituality, Missional Living

Bring Hope to Your Hopeless City

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)


Ronald Reagan described America as a city on a hill because it is the hope of immigrants from for a better life. Do you remember the second Godfather film? There is a great scene after young Vito Corleone flees Italy. He comes through Ellis Island yet must be quarantined due to an illness. His little hospital room faces the Statue of Liberty. The sick little boy sits in his room looking at Lady Liberty and begins to sing a hopeful little Italian tune. Even in his sickness he was hopeful that America would provide him a better life. Lady Liberty was lighting the way!


A city on a hill is distinct from those below it. Further, its height communicates superiority in some way. The city above is better than the city below. But, how does the city above relate to the city below? The city above is a hopeful symbol to those below by beckoning them to something superior. Jesus is saying the city on a hill is a symbol of hope. The Statue of Liberty is about hope. Likewise, the church is to be a symbol of hope to the hopeless around us.


Our marriages don’t have to be perfect, but they should provide hope for the marriages around us. Our parenting doesn’t have to be perfect, but we should be able to give hopeful advice about how to do it according to the Bible. As employees we should provide a hopeful way forward by being more ethical and Christ-like than others in our office. Christians and the Church are to be symbols of hope for a hopeless world.


The gospel is the key to this hope. The gospel is how marriages parents and employees become symbols of hope. Couples dads and middle-managers should strive toward clean righteous living. They should carry out their duties with excellence and transparency and grace. Living according to the Law is a blessing and gives others hope. However, husbands mommies and clerks are all going to blow it. Yet, the good news of the gospel is that God forgives and restores bad husbands lazy parents and dishonest salesmen. As we transparently confess our sins to God we are also able to openly acknowledge our failings to others. We can walk in this freedom because God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Living according to the gospel, especially when we fail, gives hope to those around us. Living according to the gospel enables us to be a city set on a hill! Neither unattainable perfection nor phony religion is going to bring hope to our city. Rather, walking in the light when we blow it highlights our hope on the gospel. Walking in the gospel is how we bring hope to our city.


Is there a part of your life you are keeping in the dark? Is there a failing that you are refusing to confess to the Lord or others? Have you blown it and now want to quit due to the condemnation you feel? Believe the gospel to the degree of bringing sin to the light. Bring hope to those around you by radically believing the gospel…especially when you fail!

Bible, Devotional Reading, Gospel Spirituality, Jesus

Jesus is Deeper Still

Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


Jesus is a lot of things. He is a King who sees into the future gives us direction on the way we should go. Jesus gives us order. He is also a Prophet who knows what is best and gives us teachings on how we should live. Jesus gives us the truth. But, he is also a Priest comforting us when we are in pain, giving us the right emotions and feelings when we need them.



The first glorious implication of God being with us is that when we are suffering through pain…we have a Jesus that will comfort us. We don’t just have a King who will bark orders at us, or a Prophet who will scream sermons at us, but a Priest who will sympathize with us and comfort our hurting souls.


When we are hurting, Jesus loves us to the degree that he will feel our pain with us. Jesus will identify with your situation when you are struggling. Please hear me, when you are in pain, Jesus feels compassion for you. Immanuel-Jesus is a co-sufferer with you.



But we don’t naturally believe this when we are in the middle of a painful moment. We don’t instinctively believe God is with us and for us and will comfort us when we suffer pain. This is the great act of faith through pain. Believing he is with us is the first step of surviving pain. Believing he will comfort us is how you not only survive but also mature through pain. At our weakest moments if we look up to him for aid he receives the glory. When we confess our need of him, he becomes the hero. We need him to survive pain.



Betsie ten Boom suffered through many painful moments in her life. She lost her mother while she was a child and lived with her father and siblings in Amsterdam. Many of you might have read of her family in her sister’s book titled “The Hiding Place.” The ten Booms’ were devout Christians and had a history of serving those in need in their community. When the Nazi’s invaded they converted a portion of one of their bedrooms into a hiding place for Jews fleeing for their lives. Eventually they were discovered and send to prison. Ten days after arriving in prison Betsie’s father died. Betsie and her sister Corrie were later sent to a concentration camp. Sadly Betsie’s struggles continued and she died in the Nazi concentration camp. Before Betsie passed her sister reports that she taught her, “there is no pit so deep that god is not deeper still.”



Do you believe that? Do you believe that in your deepest pains? Do you believe in your darkest moments, God will be right there pouring out compassion on top of your soul and thus seeing you through those sorrows?



But how? How does Priest Jesus comfort us in pain? Hebrews 4:16 teaches us to “draw near” to him in order to receive his gracious and merciful comfort. Drawing near is the opposite of pushing away. What Hebrews is saying is that when we are in pain we are to go towards Jesus not away from him. We shouldn’t push him away, but draw closer to him.



If you want to survive and even thrive through pain, you will only be able to do it if you believe he will comfort you…believe to the point that you draw closer to him rather than push him away. Do you believe that he will comfort you? If so, believe to the point of drawing near to him.



Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is with us and for us. He is our comforting priest during seasons of pain. He will comfort you so draw closer to him rather than push him away.