Cradle To CrossAs we celebrate another Christmas this week, I want to take a few moments to share some thoughts with all who will take the time to read this, especially to my non-Christian friends…

Those of us who profess to be Christians don’t always act like the Christ we claim to adore. We are sometimes impatient, angry, hurtful, and even downright mean to others. We do stupid things that we ought not do. We fail to do some things we should. We disobey the commands of the Lord we claim to follow. We have days where things seem to be on the right track and where our thoughts, words and deeds faithfully represent Christ, and then there are other days when we stumble and fall far, far short. Unbelievers looking for such inconsistencies to discredit the faith and reject Christianity don’t have to look too far at times to see so-called believers acting in very unchristian ways.

To my non-Christian friends, please accept my apologies for such inconsistencies. Know that I along with another billion+ Christians around the globe deal with the same struggles you do, the same temptations, the same desires to do what is expedient or easy or pleasurable or selfish or acceptable to those around us, even when such desires are at odds with what our Lord Jesus Christ commanded and modeled in his time on earth. We are human like you.

We are imperfect.

We won’t be perfect this side of heaven, either. Since we aren’t perfect, our churches aren’t perfect. But we know that if we abide in Christ and his Word, surrendering daily to his lordship and leadership, then our lives today ought to look more like Christ than they did a year or two ago. Our lives a year or two from now ought to look more like Christ than they do now. So please try not to judge us (or at least our Lord) by the momentary ups and downs of our day-to-day lives. Look at the pattern of our lives over the long haul and see if we are becoming more like our Lord. If we are – good. If we aren’t – tell us. We need to know. Please understand that we are a work in progress and God isn’t through with us yet. Also know that not all who attend a church or have some Christian background in their family or history have had a life-changing, living experience with Christ. Without that, there is no chance such a person will grow in Christ-likeness over time because they aren’t through relationship with Christ the new creation he promises to make of all who are truly his. In the midst of our imperfection, remember this…

Jesus is perfect.

He is perfect even if we are not. Don’t reject him because of our poor imitation of him. He is worthy of all of our lives, all of our focus and attention, worship and service. If his followers don’t represent him well and you are therefore tempted to reject him, please first go to the only faithful and true written source that reveals him perfectly – the Bible – and seek him. If you seek him, you will find him. Read the Gospel of John if you haven’t done so. You’ll find that his time on earth 2000 years ago was also surrounded by imperfect followers who messed up like his current followers do. But that makes him all the more different and holy and glorious and worthy. He is the focus of our faith – not us. He is the perfect one – not us. He is the object of our worship – not us. He is the one we are all called to yield our lives to that we may gain the eternal life only available through him.

I wish we Christians weren’t known so much for what we’re against as for what we are for. Our passions on social and political issues can be unhelpful distractions that shift the focus away from Christ and to other topics subject to extreme, divisive emotions. I’m as guilty as anyone in this. There are times when I know better, but I sound off anyway about some issue when I ought to just keep my mouth (and my keyboard) quiet. But I beg of you not to reject the perfect Jesus revealed in the Bible because of imperfect followers like me.

At Christmas we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world – God himself in the flesh. He came to live a perfect, sinless life, to die a horrible, cruel death on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and to rise again to provide a way for imperfect, sinful people like you and me to be made right again with the God from whom we were/are estranged. He offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who turn from their sin and place their trust solely in him – in what he did for us that we could not do for ourselves. All who come to him in repentance and faith then embark on that unending journey in this life to grow in holiness and become more like him. All of his followers are at various points on that journey.

It’s nice to hear the Christmas story and to imagine a sweet little baby in a manger. Who doesn’t like babies? But Jesus didn’t come to stay a baby. He came to be the Savior of all who will surrender their lives to him. He is the only way to real life. He is the only path to true peace. He is the only one perfect and worthy of all we have and all we are. He is the only one who can forgive sin and grant eternal life. He is the only one all of us will face on a coming day of judgment.

My plea this Christmas for my non-Christian friends is this: look past us imperfect Christians and look to our perfect Savior, Jesus Christ. He is worthy – not only at Christmas, but every day – now and for eternity.

ChristianBeliefs-GrudemMy pastor, Mark Williams, and I are team teaching over several months a class based on Wayne Grudem’s book “Christian Beliefs.” (See my earlier book review here.) We haven’t been recording the sessions throughout, but since I had an acquaintance on Twitter ask for a transcript or summary, I thought I would record this one and post the audio and study handout I prepared. The full audio is 53 minutes long, so grab your favorite beverage and get cozy as you listen to it. The audio follows the study notes posted below the recording, so it should be easy to follow along. There may be a few moments where comments from others in the room are difficult to hear since I was recording from my cell phone, but you should be able to hear nearly everything.

The subject of the session is “What Is Man?” In it we explore a number of Bible passages related to the creation of man, our purpose in life, and what it means to be made in the image of God. I invite your comments here or on YouTube or Twitter.

For the record, our church is Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, USA – a 200-year-old Southern Baptist church in downtown Louisville. You are invited to check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is the audio. The 2-page study handout is below and is available here as a PDF if you like.

What Is Man?

Based on Chapter 7 of Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem

Psalm 8:4 – “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:1-9 – How Majestic Is Your name

Genesis 1:26-31; 5:1-2; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9 – God created man in his image

Why do we exist?

When a creator/inventor creates something, it is made to fulfill a purpose.

Genesis 1 speaks not just to our description of being in God’s image and likeness, but to our purpose of reflecting and representing God, filling the earth with his likeness.

Westminster Larger Catechism (prepared for the Church of England & Church of Scotland in 1647), has as its first question: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”

Isaiah 43:7 – “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

John 15:8-11 – How we glorify the Father and experience full joy

To give God glory is to give him honor and praise. All creation exists for God’s glory (“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands” – Psalm 19:1), but only humans made in his image can do so consciously and by choice. We fulfill our purpose as humans only when we reflect God as his image bearers and bring glory to him.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

“The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.” – Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 442

An image or likeness of something can never be that which it reflects, but it can point to it. It can remind us of that which it reflects and stir emotions, thoughts and actions appropriate to what/who it reflects. This is our opportunity as God’s likeness and image in a sinful world – to represent and point to God.

Partial list of aspects of our likeness to God:

God is personal, rational, spiritual, intelligent, creative, ruling, moral, relational, communicative, emotional and immortal. One made in his image will reflect these characteristics (and more).

Humans as the image of God:

Adam and Eve were created perfect (Genesis 1:26-31). Sin diminished God’s image in them and all humanity thereafter, but it did not remove it. We are still His creatures and the highest of His creation, but we are unable to mirror His holiness on our own. Through regeneration He enables us to begin the process of reclaiming His fuller image in our lives, “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). This image won’t be fully realized until we are made new in the new heaven and new earth yet to come.

Jesus as the image of God:

“He is the image of the invisible God” – Colossians 1:15

John 14:5-11 – the relationship of Jesus and the Father

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” – John 14:9. To know what God is like, look at Jesus.

Hebrews 2:5-9 – Jesus the perfect Son of Man

Mankind’s possible states as it relates to the image of God:

  1. Perfectly reflecting the image of God from the moment of existence. Only Adam and Eve experienced this (and then only temporarily). This is not an option for anyone since the Fall.
  2. Fallen, lost in sin, still God’s highest creation, but woefully lacking as a reflection of God’s image because of sin. This is everyone’s initial condition since the Fall.
  3. Regenerate, saved by grace through repentance and faith, becoming more like God’s image through sanctification (growing in holiness). See 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 5:19-24. This is possible for all.
  4. Fully sanctified and glorified, perfectly reflecting God’s image. This is the ultimate destiny of all who are saved by God. “When he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). This is assured for all God saves.

Our responsibilities as humans created in God’s image:

Be like God. Reflect him. Represent him. Fulfill our purpose as shown in Genesis 1.

Glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Help restore his people and his earth to the way they were meant to be.

“If we ever deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life.” – Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 450

Hymn: “Thou Art Worthy” by Pauline Michael Mills, 1963

Thou art worthy, thou art worthy,

              Thou art worthy, O Lord.

To receive glory, glory and honor,

              Glory and honor and power.

For thou hast created, hast all things created,

              Thou hast created all things;

And for thy pleasure, they are created,

              Thou art worthy, O Lord.

[Note: Of course, when you listen to a recording of yourself speaking, you inevitably discover things you said unintentionally or poorly. For example, in listing the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23, I said “selfishness” when I meant to say “self-control.” Oops.]

Buzz ESN Playbook - click image to download

Buzz ESN Playbook – click image to download

Playbooks – whether for sports teams or businesses – contain a variety of tactics and detail to help those using them perform at their best in accomplishing their objectives. Playbooks continue to gain in popularity and use by community managers for online communities. They are useful both for those managing external communities as well as internal communities used by employees of a business.

I’ve known for years that we’ve needed a playbook at Humana to better document our efforts at managing and growing a successful enterprise social network (ESN). We’ve certainly been successful with our ESN (called Buzz) even without a written playbook for its first five years, but there has always been room for improvement. After all, having things only in my brain with just a few written pages to pass on to others who have had to manage Buzz when I’m away is not a solid, long-term plan.

It was, therefore, a top priority for me once I hired Brenda Smith in March of this year to have her devote a significant portion of her first few months with us developing a great playbook. I had some ideas of what needed to go into it. I shared with her all the documentation I had cobbled together for Buzz through the years. We researched other publicly available resources related to playbooks. We spent many hours discussing the playbook and debating its contents and organization. She did the writing, though, and all the heavy lifting. As she had drafts ready, we laid them out on a large conference room table and went through it changing the contents, structure, details, etc., until we finally landed on the playbook we’re happy to share with you today.

The brilliant idea of how to organize it was completely Brenda’s. While I had previously shared with her my love for Rich Millington’s work and his book Buzzing Communities, Brenda had the insight to arrange the playbook by the major categories Millington uses in that book. We also debated the option of arranging it according to the components of The Community Roundtable‘s Community Maturity Model (CMM). While we still use the CMM in the playbook for evaluation of our maturity (and we share those evaluation results in the playbook), we decided to stay with the Millington framework for the overall structure.

So what is in our playbook? Here are the major sections, with many of them including levels of detail around objectives, strategies and tactics:

  • Introduction (history of Buzz and role of the community manager)
  • Overall goal of Buzz and how it integrates with the company’s values and goals
  • Road map
  • Growth
  • Content
  • Moderation
  • Influence and relationships
  • Events and activities
  • Business integration
  • User experience
  • ROI
  • Community Maturity Model assessment
  • Daily tasks
  • Weekly tasks
  • Biweekly tasks
  • Monthly tasks
  • Quarterly tasks
  • Annual tasks
  • On-demand tasks
  • Reports

Of course, we have removed from the publicly available version of the playbook all sensitive or proprietary data. For example, we removed the details of the ROI calculation, although we still include the overall percentage result. We have removed roadmap details, internal URLs, administrative access login detail, internal phone numbers, etc. So the actual internal version of the playbook is about 10 pages longer than this 50-page playbook, but you still have all the detail in this public version that you need to get your mental juices flowing about what a helpful playbook for your organization and community might look like.

One of the greatest joys I get professionally is when I feel like I make a small difference in some way in the field of enterprise social networking. That is why I started the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in 2013 and it is the reason I’m eager to share this Buzz playbook with you now. Will our playbook be exactly what you should use for your community? No. But reading through it will certainly give you some food for thought that you can take back to the key stakeholders in your organization and use to develop a great resource that fits your need.

So it is with a bit of a sense of being a proud papa and with great thanks to Brenda Smith that we offer this playbook to our ESN-loving friends and acquaintances around the globe. Click the button below to view and download our Buzz ESN Playbook. Please share your thoughts in comments here or with us on Twitter – @JeffKRoss and @brendaricksmith. What would you change, add or remove?

And if you missed the #ESNchat from Thursday, October 1 when we discussed playbooks, be sure to peruse the chat archive (and follow @ESNchat.)

Enjoy!

DownloadBuzzPlaybook

12TipsForSuccessfulESNI’m pleased to let you know that I recently completed a series of posts discussing my top 12 tips for building a successful enterprise social network (ESN). You’ll find them on my LinkedIn profile page and at the links below. Each post is an update of the original 2014 post on the subject that appeared on this blog.

Enjoy!

  1. Have a Full-Time Community Manager From the Start
  2. Commit To It
  3. Get Executive Buy-in and Participation
  4. Have Rules, But Don’t Overdo It
  5. Pick a Good Platform, But Don’t Focus On the Technology
  6. Avoid ‘Big Launch Syndrome’
  7. Encourage Business and Non-Business Content
  8. Integrate Your ESN Where People Do Their Work
  9. Make It Easy To Access
  10. Train, Train, Train
  11. Set Goals and Track Progress
  12. Never Be Satisfied – Keep growing

ChristianBeliefs-GrudemOne of my modern heroes of theological writing is Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary. I recently read one of the several books he has written and which his son, Elliot Grudem, edited – Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. I read it because my pastor and I are team teaching a class using the book as our guide over the next four months. It’s a small, 159-page paperback that is quickly read and digested.

On the other end of the depth spectrum is Grudem’s 1290-page Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine which has kept many seminarians and pastors occupied for countless hours of study (myself included). I’m nearly finished reading the monster and will write another review soon this month when I complete it.

In between the small paperback and the large volume is yet another middle-sized book, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, a 528-page condensed version of the larger Systematic Theology written by Grudem and edited by Jeff Purswell. So, the reader can certainly pick the size and depth of study he wishes to undertake from tackling the original, massive Systematic Theology, to the subsequent half-sized but still meaty Bible Doctrine, or the latest and much simpler Christian Beliefs. And for those not even inclined to invest the few hours it takes to read Christian Beliefs, you can cut right to the 6-page laminated book summary of either Systematic Theology or Bible Doctrine. Hopefully, though, your interest in biblical theology warrants more than a 6-page cheat sheet – nice to have around, but not all you need to know on the subject.

So, given that background of relevant Grudem texts, let’s get back to the subject of this review – Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

As the subtitle suggests, this book focuses on 20 Christian doctrines (or teachings) considered basic to the Christian faith. To include 20 topics as well as a few historic confessions of faith and a list of recommended reading in 159 pages demands that only a few pages be written per doctrine. Because of this, the book is appropriate for someone new to the faith or wanting a refresher across the spectrum of doctrines included. It will not (nor is it intended to) provide an in-depth look at any of the 20 doctrines included. By comparison, Systematic Theology has 57 chapters of about 20 pages length each in addition to the confessions of faith and other appendices in its nearly 1300 pages. You get what you pay for.

Still, as a guide for further exploration of what the Bible teaches, the book serves a valuable purpose of pointing the reader to a variety of biblical texts for each of the topics discussed. As Grudem does so well in all of his writings, he presents a faithful explanation of what each doctrine is and a sound, biblical basis for all conclusions drawn. He never shies away from presenting dissenting opinions by those in various faith traditions, being careful in the appendix listing further reading to provide some background about each author’s theological tradition and perspective. The book is not intended to present biblical teachings from any one particular denominational perspective; it intends to answer the question of what the Bible teaches on the subjects – a healthy approach that ought to cross denominational biases.

Like his other texts, the starting point of Christian Beliefs is Grudem’s discussion of the Bible as the word of God. If the Bible is the authoritative basis for beliefs, then its authority and reliability is crucial to establish up front before using biblical texts as the basis for additional doctrinal positions. The full list of 20 doctrines covered is as follows:

  • What Is the Bible?
  • What Is God Like?
  • What Is the Trinity?
  • What Is Creation?
  • What Is Prayer?
  • What Are Angels, Satan, and Demons?
  • What Is Man?
  • What Is Sin?
  • Who Is Christ?
  • What Is the Atonement?
  • What Is the Resurrection?
  • What Is Election?
  • What Does It Mean to Become a Christian?
  • What Are Justification and Adoption?
  • What Are Sanctification and Perseverance?
  • What Is Death?
  • What Is the Church?
  • What Will Happen When Christ Returns?
  • What Is the Final Judgment?
  • What Is Heaven.

In addition are the appendices that include a few historic Christian confessions of faith and Grudem’s recommended reading list, plus an index. Each chapter concludes with a few questions for review and application that are good for personal reflection or for group discussion.

I suspect that most churches have members who are differently inclined to tackle the three Grudem’s works mentioned above, from the quick Christian Beliefs to the weighty Systematic Theology. I still have a desire to take about a year to walk through Systematic Theology with a small group at some point in the future. Laymen can handle it. We need not “dumb down” theology as though the preaching class are able to understand things that the people in the pews cannot. We are all led by the same Spirit of God into the truth of His word, and God can surely speak to whomever He pleases regardless of position or formal theological education. In fact, if I had the benefit of a few current study Bibles and works like Systematic Theology when I attended two seminaries decades ago, I may have been just as well off studying those on my own as spending five or more years in the classroom, but I digress…

As for recommending Christian Beliefs, I do recommend it to those new to the Christian faith, those new to Protestant faith (as opposed to Roman Catholic), those interested in the faith, or to those wanting a quick refresher on important biblical doctrines. Then, assuming your appetite is whetted, advance to either Bible Doctrine or, better yet, Systematic Theology for an incredible, long-term, more in-depth study of what the Bible teaches on the above and many additional topics.

For further reading:

BibleDoctrine-Grudem     SystematicTheology-Grudem