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Hard Words, Good Words

Joe is the founding and Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL, and the author of Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Joe is a graduate of Moody Bible Inst. and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Jen have four children.

The following post was originally published on Joe's blog,


joe thorn

5 years ago I was assessed by a group of pastors for the Acts 29 Network. We had just launched Redeemer Fellowship and wanted to partner with like-minded brothers and churches who share our core theological convictions and approach to ministry. When I received the completed assessment a week later, welcoming us into the network, the brothers were careful to include thoughts on my strengths and weaknesses.

Hearing where you are weak is hard, but necessary. Hard, but good - if you have ears to hear it. One of the things they called me out on was how deficient I was in connecting with those outside of the church. Here is some of what they said to me.

Though you can articulate a missional-church philosophy, you are not effectively leading your church into mission. You can speak of activities and initiatives you want the church to pursue, but you do not talk joyfully and passionately about unbelievers you are engaging with the gospel. If you do not immediately begin developing your elders in the practice of personal evangelism and mission, you risk having a church that preaches the gospel but does not live it. We recommend taking your elder team through Jack Miller’s book “Outgrowing the Ingrown Church” and applying Miller’s grid of a pastor/elder as a “gospel pacesetter” in the local body.

It is easier to articulate a good ecclesiology than to act on it. Anyone can parrot the truth, but practicing the truth is less frequently attempted. I know this from my own heart and life, and by the grace of God I have been learning to not be satisfied with sound doctrine that is not also experienced. Pastors, we should frequently ask ourselves if we doing the work of an evangelist. Are we known among unbelievers in our cities? Are we taking every opportunity (and creating opportunities) to share the message of the cross with outsiders? Tomorrow I'll talk about the changes I made (repentance) in my life to move from theoretician to practitioner (hearer of the word vs doer of the word). 

I am so thankful for these brothers who said this, and even harder words to me though the assessment, for it helped to set me on a better path. The Lord gave me wisdom through these men, and I am better for it. Our church is better for it. Thank you God, and Acts 29.


Acts 29 holds assessments around the world for church planters. Our next assessment event is our Orange County Boot Camp on September 19-20. Below is a link to register for the event.



DJ Martin

on Nov 7, 2013 :: 8:58 am

I think this is great. A good, high caliber, assessment should be routine for all believers. It seems like that is the first part of discipleship (which is something we are all called to be and make) however, I think it's not done nearly enough.


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