Archives For Personal Commentary

I am coming up on 12 years of blogging (in March). So much of what I have written here has been biographical for me, from my journey as a seminary student, to engaging in Southern Baptist life, to life as a pastor and serving the local church, and my passion for gospel centrality. Over the past couple years, I have blogged less and less for two primary reasons: (1) I wanted to spend more time offline living out my faith in the trenches of ordinary life, and (2) the past couple of years have been a demanding season of growth and transition that necessitated more time away from the computer.

With that said, I have been encouraged by friends to share about the journey of the past few years, specifically as it relates to neighboring and life on mission. I believe I am at a place in life right now where I can take time to blog about these matters, much of it in real-time, as I continue to pursue a life of making disciples, loving neighbors, and developing gospel community.

My plan is to not have much of one. Rather, I will post personal commentary, quotes from resources I am reading, sermons or videos I found helpful, and life on the block. My approach will be that of a practitioner, proven to fail at times, but determined to press into the life Jesus has called us as His disciples.

While I would hope that such a topic would pique the interest of a wide number of people, I realize I may be writing to a rather small number of people. My hope is that all of you would be encouraged and that this tribe would grow.

 

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Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah, I realize that I have not been on this here blog in a long time. The days of blogging twice a day have morphed into blogging twice a year, or so it seems. I am not making any predictions about future blogging plans, but I can at least say it is my hope to write more in the weeks and months to come. About that personal update . . .

Seven years ago last week I moved to Southwest Florida to join the pastoral team at Grace Baptist Church (Cape Coral, FL). I cannot begin to tell how you much I have grown and learned during this time. It began as a “baptism by fire” when my fellow pastor Tom Ascol was struck by lightning, and it really did not slow down from there. During this season of ministry, a church planting network was started (2009), a new daughter church was planted (2010), an international collective was started (2012), and a non-profit organization was formed (2014).

My roles and responsibilities seemingly piled up year after year, pressuring me to gain more clarity and direction in my life and service within the local church. In order to bring alignment and focus to my work and support, I formed Gospel Systems, Inc. in the spring of 2014 as a non-profit organization to house both The Haiti Collective and PLNTD Network. In our early stages, it was the consensus of our board as well as elders of Grace for me to transition full-time to leading GSi at the beginning of 2015, completing a six-month transition where I would help lead our elders to find a new pastor to replace my work.

As this transition was completed, I came away with a real sense of gratefulness in what God had done. But at the same time, I went through a period of wrestling that proved to be one of the most profound times of brokenness in my life. God used this time to reveal His faithfulness and my utter dependence on Him in massive ways, and He also made it clear that the transition was not complete. He was calling us onward and forward.

Over the past several months, we prayed for God’s leading and direction with this re-commissioning of sorts. At the beginning of May, we became convinced that we should relocate to the Nashville, TN area, specifically the town of Spring Hill. While we do not have a definite timetable, our plans are to move within the next couple of months and set up a new office for GSi in Tennessee (while keeping the one we have here in FL,) where I will continue to focus on building The Haiti Collective and PLNTD Network.

We are excited about this new chapter in our lives, and we are also very sad to leave our church family, neighborhood, and city that we have called home for the past seven years. Our hearts are heavy, our minds are filled with memories of what God has done, and our lives are marked by so many who have embraced us with open arms.

Brister 100 Logo for MailchimpWe also would ask that you pray for us. We are venturing out in faith to lay hold of all that God has in store for us, and we would humbly ask that you consider joining us for the journey ahead. I have created a website called The Brister 100, which is a network of 100 individuals, families, organizations, or churches who we are asking God for in order to partner with us and support us in this new chapter of our lives.

I have been blogging here at this site for over a decade now, and Lord willing, I intend to continue in the future. Throughout this time, I have chosen not to go the advertising route or charge people for anything I share (documents, articles, or other resources). Having said that, if any of you have benefited from what I’ve attempted to contribute, I would humbly like to ask you to be a part of The Brister 100 and consider supporting us as we move forward with what God has called us to do.

Here are some specific ways you can connect with us:

1.  Sign up for the Brister 100 e-newsletter to stay connected with us.
2.  Commit to support the Brister 100 financially on a monthly basis.
3.  Share with others you know about this opportunity and invite them to learn more.

For those interested, here is a 4-minute summary where I explain more about this transition and re-commissioning season in our lives. Thank you for praying for us!

If you’d like to receive updates via e-newsletter about B100, please fill out this little form.

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You Are My Son, and I Love You

Tim Brister —  February 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

Today was the start of baseball season in Southwest Florida. After opening ceremonies, my two boys played a double header as part of the festivities. It was the first time my 5 yr old son to go head-to-head with the pitching machine. At his first at-bat, he surprised himself with a line drive past the third baseman, and I was super excited and proud of him. The following three at-bats did not fare too well as he struck out all three times.

As someone who has always been highly competitive, I always want my boys to do excel in whatever they do, including playing baseball. The downside to that, and the temptation I have struggled to avoid, is responding to them based on their performance. If they perform well, they see the pleasure of their dad. If they make mistakes and struggle, they hear the disappointment of their dad (“c’mon son!).

As a Christian who believes the gospel should permeate every area of my life, there are more and more blind spots that I’m learning to see more clearly. When it comes to baseball, I realized that my sincere attempts to make them better players was not honoring the gospel. My response to them was based on their performance (good works), and their identity as a baseball player was more dominant in their thinking than being my sons.

Today, I started to make a change and repent of this legalistic approach to coaching my boys. I want my boys to know, more than anything else, that they are my sons, and I love them. And that love is not based on what they do or do not do, but because of who they are. They are mine. So every time they get ready to play the game, I pull them aside and have a talk with them. Before when I stressed a litany of techniques, I am learning to look them eye-to-eye and tell them, “Son, I am so proud of you. No matter what happens, how well you play today does not change how much I love you and delight in being your dad. I just want you to have fun and enjoy the game.” After a kiss on the forehead, I sent them off to do their best, and the smile that begun on my face transferred to a shy grin on theirs.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a huge success by any standard. I don’t think there has been a more viral fundraising strategy that has saturated the streams of every person on social media. However, along with this success, there has also come some scrutiny over how this non-profit allocates its money for the causes it represents.

For example, as I came across my news feed on Facebook, someone had posted this article from Red Flag News where it is reported that 27% of the donations to ALS actually goes to research and cures. This, of course, is intended to be unacceptable for nonprofits. Then they proceed to do the financial breakdown of the salaries of organizational leaders to add fuel to the indignation, along with the mention that 14% of their incomes goes to fundraising.

Of course, what this is supposed to do is question the integrity of the organization, raise suspicion about its legitimacy, and call for more accountability and probes into its operations. In contrast, the article proceeds to talk about other organizations where the overhead is remarkably low, and one even where it is said that 100% of the money you give goes directly to the cause (high quality foods). Ah, yes, this is what we want, right?

But wait.

You see, that is exactly what I thought.

Until I started leading a nonprofit organization of my own.

Have you ever considered what an organization looks like where 100% of your money goes to the cause with nothing going to the organization? Have you ever wondered how the organization supports itself? How the leaders get paid? How the word even gets out that this organization exists and why its causes are worthy of your support? Most often we don’t because we are stuck with the “we want nonprofits with low overheads where all of our money goes to the cause” with little thought to the capacity of the organization or its ability to actually solve problems, change lives, and make lasting change.

Would you want a gift to an organization where 100% of your gift goes to feeding the poor if the organization making it happen only feeds a few children? Or would you want to give to an organization where a smaller percentage of your gift goes to the poor but the organization has a scale exponentially larger because you not only invested in the cause but the high-quality organization that is making it happen at massively larger capacity than the 100% gift organization? What matters most? The giving purist with little to no change or the powerhouse changing the world?

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DELIGHT

Tim Brister —  February 10, 2014 — 1 Comment

  • In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. – Psalm 119:14
  • I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. – Psalm 119:16
  • Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. – Psalm 119:24
  • Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. – Psalm 119:35
  • for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. – Psalm 119:47
  • Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. – Psalm 119:77
  • If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. – Psalm 119:92
  • Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. – Psalm 119:143
  • I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. – Psalm 119:174

What’s your relationship to God’s ways? Delighting in His testimonies.
What’s your relationship to God’s Word? Delighting in His law.
What’s your relationship to Christ’s kingly rule? Delighting in His commands.

May our Christian lives be marked with a dominant delight in God!

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I grew up in a churched culture. From the time I left the hospital until I graduated high school, I was put through every program, participated in every activity, and was faithful to every event our local church had to offer. Children’s church, R.A.’s (Royal Ambassadors), Bible Drill, Children’s & Youth Choir, Puppet Ministry, Youth Group/Ministry, Sunday School, Discipleship Training, Christmas/Easter Dramas…you name it, I was in it.

I was converted at the early age of 8, right in the middle of all the busy life a committed church-goer. Looking back, however, one of the most glaring (and I would add scandalous) omissions is that my church never taught me how to live. I knew how to do a ton of religious things, not the least of which was checking off the boxes on my tithe envelope, but when it came to living out my faith as a disciple of Jesus, I really had no clue. I just knew how to get in the system and let the system do its thing.

The System and Spirit Within Christendom

What this system has produced, rather unintentionally I might add, is a spirit of consumerism through the culture of Christendom. In this system, who you are (identity) is defined by what you do (performance). I am a Christian because I go to church, and the fruit of my faith is manifested in my participation and religious performances. This system works within Christendom because Christianity and culture has been syncretized so that being religious or good is tantamount to being a disciple of Jesus.

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My World of Mind Mapping

Tim Brister —  September 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

I get asked about this all the time. I have referenced my mind maps in the past here on the blog (and a lot more on Twitter), but I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to explain what I do or why I do it. I started using mind mapping software when I purchased my first iPad several years ago. Like many of you, I’m a visual learner. Those who work around me know that if I could have an 8 foot whiteboard with me everywhere I go, I would use it all the time! Given that I often work in places where whiteboards don’t exist, I had to have another way to develop my thoughts. Enter the world of mind mapping.

When I started mind mapping, I didn’t consult with best practices or read blogposts like this on what and how to do it. I simply needed a place to explore and develop my thoughts, especially in a non-linear way. For linear thought development, I use my Moleskine journals (which I still use on a regular basis). However, I have come to find that most of the work that I’m doing requires non-linear thought development that is more organic and free flowing. Over time, I have come to see how mind mapping has served as a useful tool in just about every area of my life.

Looking over 100+ mind maps, I have use if for all kinds of things, including sermon notes, project planning, gear inventory, vacation planning, book outlines, ministry systems, baseball training (for my son), neighborhood outreach, Bible study, charting transitions in life and church, life assessment, conferences/retreat outlines and talks, and so on. Rarely a day goes by that I’m not mind mapping something! Basically, if there is something you need to think through, you ought to consider using a mind map.

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He Laid Hold of Their Feet

Tim Brister —  September 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Romans 10:14

What comes to your mind when you think of the twelve disciples Jesus chose to follow Him? In most cases, I would venture to say the first thing that comes to mind is how ordinary they were. Nothing special here, right? When we consider their actions and responses to Jesus, in most cases they came across clueless, and at times even heartless. In the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry at the cross, they appeared to be disillusioned and lost.

But when we factor in the entire story, we see that these are men whom Jesus chose to entrust His mission. They would be men who, in the power of the Spirit, would preach the gospel and thousands would be saved. They are men who would be used by God to perform miracles, and through their powerful ministry considered more than mere men but even gods at times. More than that, these men were eyewitnesses of Jesus. They knew firsthand the One who conquered death and felt the scars on His hands and feet.

I can’t imagine what must have been going on in their minds when these things happened. When Peter preached Jesus and thousands were converted, don’t you think he was tempted to become a celebrity preacher? Don’t you think when the disciples healed the sick and raised the dead, they did not battle a sense of prideful exceptionalism along with self-promoting platforms from which they can boast of their accomplishments? What was it that kept them from being destroyed by pride and brought down by self-deceit?

I believe a significant reason for their faithfulness and perseverance in the mission was due to the fact that Jesus got to their feet so that what God does through them never got to their heads.

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Truly Getting the Gospel

Tim Brister —  September 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

The Bible is living and active (Heb. 4:11), inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16), and given for the purposes of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. The Bible is all about God’s story of redemption centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the church where I serve, we say the gospel is all about (1) who Jesus is, (2) what Jesus has done, and (3) why that matters.

The gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16), and that power is demonstrated not only in our past rescue, reconciliation, and redemption but also in our present faith, hope, and love. Christians who truly get the gospel discover its power again and again on a daily basis. They get it in all three areas of text, context, and subtext because the gospel changes everything. The “living and active” nature of the Word is doing its effectual work as the Spirit convicts, renews, and reforms our lives in ways that demonstrate the transforming power of Jesus.

Text • Context • Subtext

The text addresses biblical revelation. God reveals Himself through His written Word and in His Son, the Word made flesh. The gospel is the message, the text above all texts, that reveals God’s sovereign purposes in history to unite all things in Christ. Truly getting the gospel means we understand that the gospel is normative and supreme in God’s dealings with us, and we humbly submit to the authority of God’s Word and what it says about us and our need for Him. We are committed to knowing the gospel truly and articulating it clearly because God has spoken on the issue definitively.

The context addresses life orientation. These are matters pertaining to what lies outside of us and how our lives relate to them and orient around them. Context includes our relationships to other people, daily circumstances, seasons of life, spheres of existence, etc. Truly getting the gospel means we recognize that context is the place where the gospel is applied. Living in light of the gospel is learning to work out our new identity in Christ in specific places, in specific situations, and with specific people so that the reign and rule of King Jesus is manifested in His Lordship through the context of our existence.

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When it comes to the Great Commission, there are basically three responses a church can have. A church can do nothing, something, or one thing.

Doing Nothing

A church that does nothing believes the Great Commission does not apply to them. In other words, they make the argument that the command of Jesus to His disciples then was for a particular people in a particular time and has no direct implications to Christians today. Therefore their church members are off the hook, so to speak, when it comes to making disciples. The exceptions to this principle are the “great” Christians who obey the command of Christ to make disciples. The “great” aspect of the Great Commission refers to the elite special forces of the Christian faith which, of course, excludes most, if not all, of us.

This response also attempts to use seemingly good theological arguments to make their case. God is sovereign, and He’s got the whole salvation thing under control. He does not need our help. If He wants more disciples, He will make it happen. This argument, although is partly true, actually does not really appreciate the sovereignty of God as it is revealed in Scripture. God is not only sovereign over the ends but also the means as well. God will make it happen, and He will do so by making it happen through means—through His people who are called to join Him on mission. Playing the sovereignty card on doctrinal table is an ungodly way to justify disobedience to the commands of Christ.

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