Thursday, April 27, 2017

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Prayer Book Revision in North America


By Robin G. Jordan

According to the GAFCON Theological Resource Group’s explication of the Jerusalem Declaration in Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today the 1662 Book of Common Prayer provides the standard against which the doctrine and liturgical usages of a province’s eucharistic rites should be measured. The further a particular eucharistic rite departs from this standard, the further it departs from authentic historic Anglicanism. The Anglican Church in North America, however, adopted a different standard, a standard which reduces the 1662 Prayer Book to one standard among a number of standards that may be used in measuring a rite’s doctrine and liturgical usages. These standards include the pre-Reformation Medieval Latin Mass and earlier eucharistic rites. In its standard the ACNA departs from that of GAFCON and authentic historical Anglicanism to embrace a standard compatible with Catholic Revivalist doctrine and liturgical usages. The 1662 Prayer Book is viewed as a standard only where it may be interpreted as embodying Catholic Revivalist doctrine and liturgical usages.

This standard is one of a number of ways that the ACNA departs from the Global Anglican Future Movement and authentic historic Anglicanism. As prominent Catholic Revivalist leader Jack Iker stated in so many words on returning from the first GAFCON conference, the ACNA would be marching to its own drummer, not to the beat of the GAFCON drum.

For North American clergy and congregations who are loyal to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies, such a loose standard is unacceptable. It permits the development of rites and services that go far beyond adaptation to local circumstances, in other words, indigenization, and which are in their doctrine and liturgical usages at odds with both biblical teaching and historic Anglican formulary principle. For these clergy and congregations the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies are the touchstone by which the authenticity of the Anglican character of a rite or service must be tested. They reject any revisionist reinterpretation of Anglicanism – liberal or unreformed Catholic – that, while pretending to accept this long-standing standard of doctrine and worship for Anglicans, in practice evades it.

The three eucharistic prayers that the Anglican Church in North America’s Liturgy Task Force and Bishops Review Committee have produced to date fall into this dubious category. These eucharistic prayers may employ textual material taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer but they and the eucharistic rite in which are found represent a significant departure from the doctrine and liturgical usages of the 1662 Prayer Book. Together with that eucharistic rite, they give liturgical form to a revisionist reinterpretation of Anglicanism.

The 1552-1662 Prayers of Consecration consist of eight elements – the Sursum Corda, a Preface, a variable Proper Preface, the Sanctus, a Prayer of Humble Access, a Commemoration of Christ’s death (amnesis), an Epiclesis, and the Words of Institution. To the 1662 Prayer of Consecration the Restoration bishops added the Manual Acts and a concluding Amen. The addition of these two elements is where the 1662 Consecration Prayer differs from the 1552.

In the 1552 and 1662 Orders of the Administration of the Lord’s Supper the Communion immediately follows the consecration. Both orders embody Biblical and Reformed doctrine. Dom Gregory Dix would begrudgingly acknowledge that with the 1552 Communion Service Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had created an order for the administration of the Holy Communion that effectively gave liturgical expression to the New Testament doctrine of salvation by grace alone by faith alone. The same observation is applicable to the 1662 Communion Service. Neither order contains anything suggestive of a sacrifice other than the references to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and our offering of our thanksgiving and praise and ourselves in response to that sacrifice.

While the 1552 and 1662 Prayers of Consecration are sometimes criticized for their narrow focus upon Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, this focus is consistent with the New Testament’s view of this particular event in salvation history. At the Last Supper our Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance of him, a remembrance of the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood for our salvation. According to the apostle Paul, when we share the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim his death until he returns. The bread and the cup are a participation in his body and blood, that is, in the benefits of his saving death. 1552 and 1662 Prayers of Consecration echo all these themes.

The only reference to sacrifice in the 1552 and 1662 Prayers of Consecration is to what our Lord did for us on the cross. The articulation of the Church’s response to that sacrifice follows the Communion and is an articulation of the Church’s response to the benefits of the sacrifice and the believer’s appropriation of its benefits by faith. In the 1552 and 1662 Communion Services the reference to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the articulation of the Church’s response are kept separate to avoid any confusion of the two – a problem which Cranmer encountered in 1549 Communion Service. This confusion is characteristic of all subsequent Prayers of Consecration that are modeled at least in part upon the 1549 Canon. This includes the three ACNA eucharistic prayers.

In the case of the three ACNA eucharistic prayers the confusion is not accidental but deliberate since a careful examination of the three eucharistic prayers reveals that they embody a doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice very close to if not identical with that of the Roman Catholic Church. According to this doctrine, through the priest Christ offers himself under the forms of bread and wine to God at every celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The sacrifice offered on the altar and the sacrifice offered on the cross are one and the same. This is the very doctrine that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformers rejected on solid biblical grounds. For the same reason the use of these eucharistic prayers is unacceptable to North American clergy and congregations who are loyal to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies.

The 1552 and 1662 Prayers of Consecration are also sometimes criticized for its apparent lack of an epiclesis. This criticism is unfounded. An epiclesis in its basic sense is a humble petition to God and the two Prayers of Consecration contain such a petition, “Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee….” The 1552 Baptismal Order has its parallel in the petition, “Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation….” Both petitions humbly ask that those receiving the sacrament benefit from receiving it.

While the 1552 and 1662 Baptismal Orders recognize that God has sanctified all water for the purpose of baptism by the baptism of his Son in the Jordan River, the Restoration bishops added the extraneous petition, “sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sin,” which is not only unnecessary but also unbiblical. It asks God to set apart what he has already set apart, suggesting as it does that God’s sanctification of water by his Son’s baptism was temporary and that God needs to renew its sanctification for each baptism. We find no passage in Scripture that remotely suggests that the early disciples offered prayer asking God to sanctify the water in which they baptized new converts or which otherwise provides precedence for the practice. Even primitive Catholic doctrine does not require such prayer in order for a baptism to be valid. This petition further seeks to explain how those receiving the sacrament benefit from receiving it, contradicting the connection that the Scriptures make between baptism and a clear conscience.

Archbishop Cranmer dropped the invocation of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the elements from the 1552 Prayer of Consecration because the practice has no basis in the Scriptures, as well as suggested that the elements underwent a change in substance when they were set apart for sacramental use. According to the Scriptures our Lord blessed the bread and the cup before he gave them to his disciples at the Last Supper. However, the Scriptures also tell us that he gave thanks to God over the bread and the cup before he gave them to the disciples. When the Scriptures speak of blessing, it is either referring to blessing God’s Name or blessing people. It is never refers to blessing inanimate objects such bread and wine or water. The Jewish practice at the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry was to bless God’s Name before breaking bread at the beginning of a meal and likewise to bless his Name before sharing the final cup of wine. When the Scriptures describe our Lord as blessing the bread and the cup, they are referring to this practice, which the Scriptures themselves make plain in describing him as also giving thanks over the bread and cup.

Typically criticism of the 1552 and 1662 epicleses boil down to their omission of an invocation of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the elements. In this regard the 1552-1662 Prayers of Consecration are far more Scriptural than eucharistic prayers that contain such an invocation.

A contemporary English eucharistic prayer modeled upon the 1552-1662 Prayers of Consecration might look something like this eucharistic prayer.
Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks and praise to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is indeed right, it is a good and joyful thing, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise, gracious Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

A special preface proper to the feast or season (see below) may be said.

Advent
You sent your Son Jesus Christ to redeem us from sin and death and to make us inheritors of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may with joy behold his appearing, and in confidence may stand before him.

Christmas; the Presentation of Christ in the Temple
You gave your only Son Jesus Christ to be born for us. By the work of the Holy Spirit he was made true man of the flesh of the Virgin Mary his mother. He was without sin, to make us free from all sin.

Epiphany
In coming to dwell among us as man, your Son Jesus Christ revealed the radiance of your glory and brought us out of darkness into your own marvelous light.

Lent
Your Son Jesus Christ was in every way tempted as we are; yet remained sinless. By his grace we are able to overcome our sinful desires and to live not for ourselves, but for our Lord who died for us and rose from the dead.

Passiontide; Holy Week
Though he is one with you and the Holy Spirit, your Son Jesus Christ humbled himself and was obedient, even to death on a cross, that we might have life through him.

Eastertide
But chiefly we praise you for the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ. He is the true Passover lamb who was offered for us and has taken away the sin of the world. By his death he has destroyed death; by his rising to life again he has restored to us eternal life.

Ascensiontide
After his glorious resurrection, your Son Jesus Christ revealed himself to all his apostles. In their sight, he ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us, so that we might also ascend to where he is and reign with him in glory.

Pentecost (or Whitsun)
By the sure promise of your Son Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit came down from heaven upon the apostles with the sound of a mighty wind and in tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit came to teach them and to lead them into all truth. He enabled them to speak other languages and gave them continuing boldness to preach fervently the gospel to all nations. By that gospel we have been brought out of darkness and error into the light and into true knowledge of you and of your Son Jesus Christ.

or

When your Son Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven and was enthroned at your right hand, he poured out the promised Holy Spirit on his chosen people. At this the whole earth greatly rejoices, praising your name with many tongues.

Trinity Sunday
You are one God, one Lord, not one person but three persons in one substance. What we believe of the glory of the Father, we believe also of the glory of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, without any difference or inequality.

Other occasions
Your Son Jesus Christ is the true high priest who has cleansed us from sin and made us a royal priesthood called to serve you forever.

And so, with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your glorious Name and join in their unending hymn:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

This anthem may also be used.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

This prayer of preparation may be said here or immediately after the declaration of God’s forgiveness following the confession of sin.

[We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your many and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table. But you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may cleansed from sin and forevermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.]

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in your loving mercy you gave your only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our salvation.

By this offering of himself once and for all time he made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and instituted and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue a remembrance of his precious death until his coming again.

Hear us, merciful Father, and grant that we who receive these gifts of your creation, this bread and this wine, according to our Savior’s command, in remembrance of his suffering and death, may be partakers of his body and blood.

On the night he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and, when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

The bread may be broken here

In the same way after the meal, he took the cup and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.

For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.

Renew us by your Holy Spirit, unite us in the Body of your Son, and bring us with all your people into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
The rubrics permit the optional use of the Benedictus with the Sanctus. The prayer of preparation is an adaptation of the 1552-1662 Prayers of Humble Access and corrects a longstanding criticism of the two prayers which is that they too narrowly define the cleansing power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. In addition to the basic elements of the 1552-1662 Prayers of Consecration, this eucharistic prayer contains three new elements – a Memorial Acclamation, a Petition for the Church, and a concluding Doxology. When desired, the prayer may be shortened by the omission of these three elements and may conclude with an Amen immediately after the Words of Institution. The Amen may also be omitted.

Thursday's Catch: "Protestant Creeds and Confessions" and More


Protestant Creeds and Confessions

The Reformation was a struggle over the essentials of the faith. First with Luther, and then with other Protestant traditions, the Reformers set biblical faith over against that of Roman Catholic teachings and the papal magisterium. Pointing to the Bible as the exclusive source of doctrine, Protestants nevertheless had to articulate their understanding of biblical teaching. In this sense, the Reformation confessions were a natural flowering of the Protestant commitment to the Bible. Read More

Pastoral Transition: Setting Your Church Up For Ministry Success After You're Gone

The church was here long before us, and it will be here long after us. Let's leave it better for the next pastor. Read More

9 Reasons That I Loved My Days as a Small Church Pastor

The first church I pastored had 19 attenders my first Sunday, and we averaged about 125 when I left there about 2½ years later (which actually made the church larger than the average church in the US today). Those days were a long time ago, but I still remember fondly the joys of shepherding that group of people.... Read More

Praying over the Music

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the church today accepts—and even intentionally engineers—distractions. If we always exercise with a playlist and await our restaurant meal with a video, we naturally expect sensory accompaniments to follow us to worship. And when it comes to the singular, quiet, unspectacular, and seemingly-sedentary activity of corporate prayer, we may reflexively seek something else to augment our experience. Read More

Four Elements of a Successful Podcast

As we begin year five of Rainer on Leadership, it feels like the proper time to look back over the past four years at what has made the podcast (and other popular podcasts) work. The “Religion and Spirituality” section of iTunes is by far the most populous category in the app, and Rainer on Leadership is consistently in the top 150. I’ve identified four elements of the podcast that I believe contribute to this. Read More

The Skeptical State of Bible Reading in 2017

Two surveys examine who studies Scripture, who doesn't, and why. Read More

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: What Does Evangelism Look Like in Your Day-to-Day Life?


As you go, wherever you go, make disciples of all people.

And the Lord added to their number....

What was behind the amazing growth of the Church in the Book of Acts? How did the Early Church grow—and grow so rapidly and with such diversity?

The 21st-century Body of Christ is exploding with evangelism-related resources. Christ-followers across the globe have immediate, at-your-finger-tips access to websites with seemingly unlimited links to articles and interviews, podcasts and video channels, even strategies for citywide collaboration.

Conferences, consultations, and cohort groups abound. Even as the Church declines in attendance it appears to be losing its upcoming generations and is now considered irrelevant, even dangerous, by our culture. Read More

Workplace Evangelism Abroad Begins with Workplace Evangelism at Home


I’ve had the privilege lately of seeing an increasing number of people at all stages of life express interest in joining the global mission of God through the IMB. Many wonder how they can be preparing to go. On one level, it’s very simple: current faithfulness in your assignments is the greatest predictor of future fruitfulness. So, faithfully serve where you are.

One critical arena of faithfulness is your evangelistic witness. Being a faithful evangelist in the workplace doesn’t mean having Bible verses at your desk or preaching in the break room. Some Christians seem to think they’re not being a faithful witness at work unless they’re sharing the gospel all the time. But that’s not true. Being faithful starts with performing your job to the best of your ability to the glory of God. That said, work can open doors to sharing the gospel, and we should be ready for opportunities when they happen. Read More

Doctrine and Theology of Two Ways to Live [Video]


Phillip Jensen unpacks the doctrine and theology of Two Ways to Live in six lectures – recorded last year, and just posted at phillipjensen.com. A wonderful resource. Watch Now

Wednesday's Catch: "When Should the Church Make Political Statements?"and More


When Should the Church Make Political Statements?

The church has been given a specific mission, and getting mired in the secondary questions of politics can divert our mission. Read More

8 Ways to Determine What Masters You

Jesus warned us that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13), but many of us struggle with this battle. It’s hard not to allow things other than the Lord to rise to the level of that which masters us. If you want to evaluate who/what really reigns in your life, maybe this grid will help you.... Read More

The Worst Consequence of Skipping Church

Gathering with God’s people is not first about being blessed but about being a blessing. It’s not first about getting but about giving. As we prepare to worship on Sunday morning, our first consideration should be “how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Read More

15 Really Strange Reasons Not to Attend Church

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Sorry Weber, Durkheim, and Marx: Educated Evangelicals Are More Religious

Pew finds that Christians actually don’t lose their faith in college. Read More

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The “E” Word: Why Many Avoid It, and How We Can Reimagine It


Part One in a new series.

If we are honest, we must say that in many senses, we've lost our imagination, passion, and direction for evangelism. We need to put evangelism back into our imagination. To some, I may sound like a broken record (if you are old enough to remember records!). But I honestly believe there is nothing more worthy of pushing into and prodding the Church towards as making evangelism part of our daily lives. After all, it was the last command of Jesus before His ascension!

But why do I use the phrase “back into our imagination”? A quick definition from Merriam-Webster tells us that ‘imagination’ means “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.”

Evangelism has fallen on hard times and this definition is apropos. When it comes to evangelism, our imagination has become dim and marred in many ways. Most of us know someone whose heart beats for telling people about Jesus, and when we are near them, we are reminded of how we are not them.

Truth be told, people are more likely to make fun of evangelistic methods than actually engage in evangelistic practices. Churches love discipleship and they love social justice, but if the Church is going to fulfill its mission of showing and sharing the love of Jesus in our world today, both of these need to link arms with evangelism. We have to tell people about Jesus. Read More

Church Planting Shifts, Part 3: Preparing Our People for Witness


In the past few weeks, I have talked about some recent church planting shifts that I have noticed, both through the lens of research and some through anecdotal observations.

The world today is still reasonably familiar for church planters; yet the scene is changing as secularism grows, presenting a new challenge to the mission and ministry of our churches.

The truth is, we are seeing more “nominal” Christian people self-identify as no faith (“nones”) instead of Christian. Since nominal Christians have been a key part of the church planting strategy for most Christians, it’s a shift that’s both new and challenging.

If we are to succeed in this new, more secular space, we need to do more than simply acknowledge this shift. Instead, we need to prepare for it, and this includes preparing our church people for the paradigmatic shift to come. Read More

Creating a Culture of Hospitality


Church doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. We all know that. In our busy and self-isolating culture, we have to make intentional, personal contact with each other if we want to be a real community. But how do we do it? Let me suggest one centuries-old method: invite people over.

There is something bonding about being in someone’s house. You enter their world. You see their interests and their style of life. You see their kids schedules and get a feel for some of the daily challenges they face. In other words, you step beyond the neutral-site church meetings and begin to understand them in context. That’s why a church whose members invite each other over can develop a stronger community. Read More

Peter Jensen: 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross...'


Horrible violence was not the fault of one side only in the Reformation struggle.

But that is no reason for us to forget the men and women whose stand for the Reformation of the Church of England in the interests of Biblical truth, cost them their lives. In particular, the fact that the three great episcopal witnesses, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer were put to death in Oxford during the years 1555 and 1556 is one from which we should draw courage and confidence. Read More

Tuesday's Catch: "Why It’s Easy (And Wrong) To Think Growing Churches Simply Won The Lottery" and More


Why It’s Easy (And Wrong) To Think Growing Churches Simply Won The Lottery

While there’s an element of divine providence in every story, growing churches don’t simply ‘get lucky.’ In fact, here are 5 things are true about most growing churches. Read More

What Can Church History Teaches Us about Wolves

Several years ago I did a series on heresies and heretics. Preparing the messages helped me understand church history better and more carefully articulate the orthodox faith. It also helped me notice some patterns (and non-patterns) related to false teachers. I discovered that church history can teach us a lot about wolves. Read More

8 Sins You Commit Whenever You Look at Porn

We know that pornography is an ugly and harmful sin. We know that those who indulge in porn have committed the sin of lust, but there is so much more to it than that. When you open your browser and begin to look at those images and videos, you are sinning in ways that go far beyond lust. Here are 8 sins you commit when you look at porn. Read More

Against the Sophists

If anyone is a shoo-in for the hall of fame of educators historically, it is Socrates. Socrates stands as a giant in the history of educational philosophy, and the importance of Socrates and of his ideas is not only for ancient history but also for today. Socrates was a man with a passion and a profound concern for salvation. Socrates was trying to save Greek civilization. The reason he was concerned about saving Greek civilization is because in his day a dreadful crisis had emerged that was a clear and present danger to the ongoing stability of Greece. It was an educational crisis that arose as a result of Sophism. Read More

8 Prayers You Should Regularly Pray for Your Pastor

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Finding Unity in Worship Styles Featuring Mike Harland - Rainer on Leadership #322 [Podcast]

Mike Harland is back to talk worship and this time Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss labels of music styles and if it’s possible to have a congregation unified about worship styles. Listen Now

8 Ways the Internet Can Hurt the Church

I’m grateful for the Internet. Via it, we can find available resources, communicate with missionaries, train international believers, and evangelize the global lost. On the other hand, here are some ways the use of the Internet has hurt the church.... Read More

Themelios 42.1

The Gospel Coalition just released the April 2017 issue of Themelios, which has 253 pages of editorials, articles, and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software. A print edition will be available for purchase in several weeks from Wipf and Stock. Read More

Monday, April 24, 2017

Are You Missing What God Is Doing While Holding Out For Something Bigger?


When we get to heaven will God ask some of us "Why did you look down on the ministry I gave you?"

God doesn’t always show up in our lives and ministries the way we want him to.

Because, even though we want to do great things for God, our definition of great isn’t always the same as God’s definition of great.

We all have great opportunities for ministry. Don't turn them down or belittle them when they don't match your expectations.

To illustrate how this often plays out in our lives, especially as pastors of smaller churches, let me piggyback off an old parable many of you have heard, and maybe even told. Read More

Monday's Catch: "3 Problems with the Benedict Option" and More


3 Problems with the Benedict Option

For a Christian The Benedict Option is no option at all. Here are three reasons why: It necessitates a revisionist view of history (which I’ll call a “racial” problem), lacks the gospel (or, the “Catholic problem”), and sacrifices religious freedom (a “Baptist” problem). Read More

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Read More

Post Tenebras Lux [Free Download] 

For a limited time a free download of Jeff Lippencot's symphonic work Post Tenebras Lux celebrating the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation is available on the Ligonier Ministries website. Listen or Download Here

The Prosperity Gospel — No Gospel at All

“What do you long for the most? The answer to this question will help you identify your god. Preachers of the prosperity gospel call people to turn to Jesus. But the motivation they give people is health, wealth, husbands, wives, jobs, promotions etc. Read More

8 More Reflections on Church Consultations

Just over four years ago, I published a post on “10 Reflections on a Decade of Church Consulting.” Here’s an updated list that now covers our most recent years of consulting as well. Read More

Five Common But Unreasonable Requests Church Members Make of Pastors

Though I have heard hundreds of strange and unreasonable requests made to pastors, five of them are common. In fact, most pastors will encounter all five of these requests in the course of their ministries. Read More
Pet funerals do provide an opportunity for ministry to a grieving individual or family and of outreach to unchurched pet lovers whom the individual or family invite to the funeral. The individuals or family itself my be unchurched. People do become attached to their pets and experience grief at the loss of their pet. The death of a pet can be one of those stressful times in which the individual or family that suffered the loss may be open to the gospel. When burying a much loved pet or interring its ashes, a few words on how God is the creator of all living things and how his providence extends to all his creatures is not inappropriate. Prayer then may be offered for the individual or family whose pet died. Simply being present can be a very effective way of ministering to the individual or family. I would not be too quick to dismiss such opportunities as an unreasonable burden on a pastor.
5 Reasons Immaturity Is Prevalent in the Church

Elephants in the room refer to obviously inappropriate or immature behaviors that remain unacknowledged and unaddressed. Read More

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Eucharistic Prayer for a Gospel-Shaped Celebration of the Holy Communion


By Robin G. Jordan

The following eucharistic prayer is inspired by the 1552-1662 Prayers of Consecration and incorporates material from several more recent Anglican and Lutheran eucharistic prayers.
Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks and praise to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is indeed right and a good and joyful thing that we should at all times and in all places offer thanks and praise to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

A special preface proper to the feast or season may be said.

And so, with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your glorious Name and join in their unending hymn:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy and gracious Father, in your loving mercy you gave your only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our salvation.

By this offering of himself once and for all time he made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and instituted and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue a remembrance of his precious death until his coming again.

Hear us, merciful Father, and grant that we who receive these gifts of your creation, this bread and this wine, according to our Savior’s command, in remembrance of his suffering and death, may be partakers of his body and blood.

On the night he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and, when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

In the same way after the meal, he took the cup and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.’

For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. .

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Renew your Church, heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit, unite us in the Body of your Son, and bring us with all your people into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
There is no credible reason that the proposed 2019 Prayer Book could not only have one or more such eucharistic prayers but also make other provisions for “Anglican Loyalists,” ACNA clergy and congregations who stand in the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism” and subscribe to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the historic Anglican formularies. The only reasonable explanation for the absence of such provisions from the proposed book is that the Liturgy Task Force, Bishops Review Committee, and the College of Bishops are pursuing a policy of deliberate exclusion targeted at Biblical Christianity, “Reformation Anglicanism,” and their adherents. The proof is the rites and services that have been authorized to date. The catechism and the ordinal are additional proof. With these three formularies the Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America is further entrenching its views and denying space to any other views beside its own, including the views of authentic historic Anglicanism.

Why are “Anglican Loyalists” reluctant to speak out against these developments in the Anglican Church in North America and to call for substantial changes in the catechism and the ordinal as well as the proposed 2019 Prayer Book? Do they fear that they will further jeopardize their already imperiled position in the ACNA? Do they believe that by compromising their theological integrity they can maintain a tenuous existence in the province? If that is indeed the case, one only has to look at what happened to Anglicans like themselves in the Episcopal Church and the Continuing Anglican Churches to see that they are deluding themselves. Unless they take steps to correct the present state of affairs in the ACNA at an early stage, there is very little likelihood that they will be able to do anything later on.

Also see:
Nearly All Working Texts for Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Online

Beware of Broken Wolves


Throughout Scripture the people of God are referred to as sheep and Jesus as the Great Shepherd. The natural enemy of the sheep is the wolf who “snatches them and scatters them” (John 10:12). Our Shepherd even warns us to beware of false prophets, who “come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Echoing this warning, Paul admonished the elders of the church:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert . . . (Acts 20:28)
Wolves often look like sheep, so to spot a wolf we can often look at what values and qualities are esteemed by a particular religious community. In Jesus’s day outward religiosity was prized, so the wolves looked like legalists. And in the early post-apostolic age, secret knowledge was valued, so wolves took the form of learned Gnostics.

The values of the evangelical community in America today are diverse, so it’s not surprising we have a broad diversity in the species of wolves we encounter. In our own age, health and wealth are precious, so some wolves take the form of preachers selling a prosperity gospel. We also seek to change the world for the better, so some wolves take the guises of “social justice” or “family values” advocates.

But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.”

These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Here are three reasons Broken Wolves are a grave danger to your family and to your local congregation. Read More

“The Bible Answer Man” Turns East: An Unlikely Conversion


It seems somewhat ironic that in the year that we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a leading Protestant would reject the central tenet of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura, and join the Eastern Orthodox Church. Hank Hanegraaff, known to millions through his radio program, The Bible Answer Man, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy on Sunday, April 9, 2017 in the Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I cannot say that I know Hank personally, though I have met him casually many times and appeared on his radio show perhaps 20 years ago. At that time I appreciated his straightforward answers to Bible questions that were called in from all parts of the country. Throughout the years he has been of great benefit to the body of Christ by exposing the false doctrines of the cults, in his defense of biblical history, and in his apologetic for Christianity over against other religions.

But in embracing the Orthodox faith, he has turned away from a basic tenet of the Protestant Reformation, Sola Scriptura—meaning that the Bible alone is our source of spiritual and doctrinal authority. Along with Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy accepts tradition (though not the authority of the pope) as an equal source of revelation along with the Scriptures. Several years ago when I attended an Orthodox service on a Sunday morning, the authority of tradition was present throughout: the kissing of icons, the prayers to Mary, and a ceremony venerating relics at the end of the service. If you ask, “Where are these rituals found in the Bible?” the answer they give is, “They don’t have to be in the Bible…we follow them because they are ours by the authority of tradition.” Read More

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Perseverance of the Saints


Writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end” (Phil. 1:6). Therein is the promise of God that what He starts in our souls, He intends to finish. So the old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance of the saints is this: If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.

We know that many people make professions of faith, then turn away and repudiate or recant those professions. The Apostle John notes that there were those who left the company of the disciples, and he says of them, “Those who went out from us were never really with us” (1 John 2:19). Of course, they were with the disciples in terms of outward appearances before they departed. They had made an outward profession of faith, and Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for a person to do this even when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing. Jesus says, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Jesus even warns at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that at the last day, many will come to Him, saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?” He will send them away, saying: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). He will not say: “I knew you for a season and then you went sour and betrayed Me. No, you never were part of My invisible church.” The whole purpose of God’s election is to bring His people safely to heaven; therefore, what He starts He promises to finish. He not only initiates the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit is with us as the sanctifier, the convictor, and the helper to ensure our preservation. Read More

10 Questions for Leaders to Ask Each Week


At the seminary where I teach, we are now completing end-of-the-academic year faculty evaluations. Annual evaluations like these are helpful and necessary. They push us to ask how we might improve over the next academic year.

Most leaders, though, would benefit from more regular evaluations – particularly self-evaluations. Even daily and weekly self-evaluations merit our consideration if we want to lead well, regardless of our position.

Listed here are ten questions to help you evaluate your life and leadership at the end of each week. Take some time today to do some assessment. Read More

Why I Use “We” More Often Than “You” When Preaching


Few people enjoy being “talked down to” or “preached at.” Superiority has no place in a believer’s life much less in the pulpit. Spiritual elitism is no better than everyday elitism. If the Pharisees are any example, it is worse.

Personal conversations have shown me that people really want to know if God has said anything, and if so, what? People hungry for God and people with only an interest will listen quicker if they know the person preaching or teaching is not “too big for his britches.” Pastors who are open about their personal foibles will gain a hearing quicker than those who act as if they are faultless.

But “wait,” someone says. “I never present myself as faultless. I know better.”

Perhaps we do not consciously think of ourselves as faultless, but if we have a heart of spiritual superiority we will not easily be able to keep it hidden. Sometimes our language can betray us. It is from the abundance of the heart, after all, the mouth speaks.

That is why I think the use of “we,” “us,” and “you” when preaching is important. Read More

Related Article
Preaching And Perspectives

Cease Squirming and Know That I Am God: Why Don’t We Share the Gospel?


We share the gospel because men and women need to know they are loved by God.

I’ve seen people squirm and fidget whenever the topic of evangelism is mentioned. Of course, the reasons vary from person to person. Read More

Here’s the Million-Dollar Answer to How Persecuted Christians Persevere


Under Caesar’s Sword researchers release final analysis of 25 countries.

When faced with persecution, Christians worldwide employ more strategies than just fight or flight.

Today at a DC symposium, 17 researchers released the final version of a $1.1 million study exploring how Christians respond to persecution in 25 of the hardest places for them to live. The findings of Under Caesar’s Sword (UCS), funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, were previewed orally in Rome in December 2015. Read More

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday's Catch: "Why Churches Lose Their Way" and More


Why Churches Lose Their Way

Joe Thorn discusses how congregations can rediscover the biblical basis of who they are and what they’re called to do. Read More

10 Facility Questions to Consider as You Go to Church This Weekend

Because we “regulars” at our churches also sometimes miss the obvious, here are some questions to consider as you go to church this weekend. They’re designed to help you see your church’s facility as a guest might see it.... Read More

5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Big Churches Than Small Churches

Consider this a friendly view from the outside looking in. Read More

Do Paul and James Disagree on Justification by Faith Alone?

Paul counteracts legalism, while James corrects antinomianism. Read More

7 Hallmarks of ‘Turnaround Pastors

If the possibility of taking most of the guesswork out of a pastor search intrigues you, read on. Read More

Should We Invite People to Belong Before They Believe?

A church that consists only of committed Christians probably has lost sight of its mission. Read More

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday's Catch: "Seven Essentials for an Effective Church Vision" and More


Seven Essentials for an Effective Church Vision

A clear compelling vision is an essential foundation for every ministry to be effective for the long-term. For pastors and other church leaders, it requires seeing into the future your church’s Kingdom role. And for a season, the leaders will point the people toward the vision until it is reached or expanded. The church’s mission is the Great Commission, but a specific church’s vision will clarify and inspire their unique role as they live out their own Great Commission journey. The vision clarifies what the church should do or not do. It sets the agenda, priorities, and budget for the future. It guides the leaders during their season of leadership. Read More

How to Become a 4 Generation Church

What does an ideal church look like in your mind? My version has the perfect blend of four generations, like most nuclear families do. A 4G church will have great-grandparents and toddlers loving each other without any trace of pretense. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about Catechesis

This is a guest post by Joe Carter, author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator, and anticipates the release of The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds. Read More
For North American Anglican clergy and congregations that stand in the tradition of "Reformation Anglicanism" The New City Catechism is an excellent resource for catechizing new believers, adults and children, in the Christian faith. The New City Catechism is thoroughly Biblical and Reformed in doctrine, unlike the Anglican Church in North America's To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, which takes unreformed Catholic positions on key doctrinal issues such as salvation and the sacraments. 
J. I. Packer on Why Your Church and Family Need Catechesis

Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. Read More

Six Ways To Preach Better Sermons And Enjoy It

Delivering a sermon is like delivering a baby only to wake up and realize you are pregnant again on Monday. It is amazing how Sunday comes with such regularity! Every seven days people are counting on you to deliver a fresh and powerful message. Read More

Churches, Social Media, and Customer Service

I recently came across the infographic below at Entrepreneur.com in an article related to the recent customer service woes of Cracker Barrel and United Airlines that I mentioned last week on the blog. While many of you may see the principles and stats in the infographic relating to the business side of customer service, there are several items applicable and translatable to local churches. Here are just four of them.... Read More

Steve Fogg On Building An Online And Social Media Ministry For Your Church From Scratch [Podcast]

How do you build an online and social ministry for your church…from scratch? Read More

7 Reasons to Ask Others about Themselves Every Day

Let me get right to the point. Church leaders (laity or clergy), I’m convinced you’ll lead your small group or congregation better if you follow these two simple steps each day.... Read More

We Need More "Parlour Preachers"

Do you have a burden for people to know and love Jesus more? If you are a Christian the answer here is certainly, “yes.” This is the great cry of our hearts. Though, we admit, the cry is often muffled and not attended with appropriate zeal. For a host of reasons, we find ourselves negligent in the work of speaking of Christ and his gospel to others. Read More

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nearly All Working Texts for Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Online


By Robin G. Jordan

As the proposed 2019 Prayer Book moves into the final stages of  completion, how are ACNA clergy and congregations that stand in the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism” going to respond to a Prayer Book which makes no room for that tradition in the doctrine and worship of the Anglican Church in North America? The rites and services of the proposed Prayer Book, which exhibit the influence of unreformed Catholicism in its Eastern Orthodox and pre-Reformation and post-Tridentian Western Catholic forms, are a repudiation of the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism.” What variations these rites and services permit do not go as far as giving space to the teaching and the liturgical practices of “Reformation Anglicanism.”

The Prayer Book that we use in the worship and life of the Church does make a difference. It shapes and reinforces what we believe. It serves as an authority to which we can appeal along with the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies in support of what we preach and teach. It can also weaken, undermine, and sabotage our beliefs. Its authority can be used to challenge our preaching and teaching.

The connection between liturgy and doctrine is a powerful one. It should not be underestimated. By liturgy I mean not only the set forms that a church employs in rites and services but also the customary practices.

Of the groups that form the Anglican Church in North America, the Catholic Revivalist wing appears to have greatest appreciation of the power of this connection. Securing an unreformed Catholic Catechism, Ordinal, and Prayer Book for the province are, in its view, necessary steps toward the transformation of the ACNA into an unreformed Catholic Church. The Catholic Revivalist wing appears to be well on its way to achieving this goal.

In spreading the gospel and reaching and engaging the unchurched in secular North America, the contemporary Anglican church faces numerous obstacles. The Prayer Book that it is required to use should not be one of these obstacles. However, the proposed 2019 Prayer Book, as it is presently taking shape, embodying the preferences of the province’s Catholic Revivalist wing as opposed to meeting the needs of the North American mission field, promises to be such an obstacle. As well as falling short in its conformity to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies, the proposed Prayer Book is seriously lacking in those features that are desirable in a Prayer Book for use on the mission field – flexibility, simplicity, brevity, understandability, and a wide range of variable options.

It is not too late for ACNA clergy and congregation committed to Biblical Christianity, “Reformation Anglicanism,” and the gospel to seize the initiative and to press for major revisions in the Catechism and the Ordinal as well as the proposed Prayer Book. Additionally, they would do well to push for the amendment of the constitution and canons to permit dioceses, networks, sub-provinces, and other groupings of churches within the Anglican Church in North America to develop and use their own Catechisms, Ordinals, and Prayer Books provided that these resources conform to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies. They have little to lose and much to gain.

Rural Matters: Part of God’s Plan to Transform Our Communities and Our World


Rural North America needs Jesus.

For many, particularly in the news media, Donald Trump has put a focus on rural America—specifically, white rural America. And, for many of us, our stereotypes prevail when we consider ‘rural America.’

Regardless, the fact is that we may be at a kairos moment in rural church North America. Rural churches are at a crossroads. They are facing a generational shift, which, if not navigated well and led by the Spirit, will lead to the dying of many churches.

Many denominations, networks, and pastors of large mission-sending churches today have taken rural America off their radar, choosing instead to focus on urban centers. Don’t misunderstand, it makes sense for denominations and networks to focus on cities, where the per capita population can produce the greater return for our investment of outreach and ministry resources. When we look at the Apostle Paul, he too seemed to have a strategy which centered on larger urban centers.

Yet, we can do more than just urban. However, by all outward appearances, many seemed to have left their strategy books for rural churches on a dusty shelf. But that’s not necessarily the case and, I would advise, should not be the case. The good news is that we can do both (and more). And Paul likely did minister to people in non-urban settings.

I, too, care deeply about the rural churches, and so should you. Read More

Wednesday's Catch: "5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Small Churches Than Big Churches" and More


5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Small Churches Than Big Churches

Different sizes of churches serve different functions. And they face different challenges. Read More

Episode 10: Should A Church Reflect Its Surrounding Community? [Podcast]

Does your congregation look like the people who live around it? If not, does it matter? How important is it that a church reflects its surrounding community? Listen Now

What Makes Your Church Your Church?

What makes your church your church? The distinctive elements within your building that tell the story of who you are as a faith community? Read More

8 Reasons Church Conflicts Burn Out of Control Quickly

As a pastor, I sometimes felt like I spent all my time putting out fires in the church. It might have been right for me to deal with the fires, but I seldom caught the fire before it started burning more brightly than I wanted. Here’s why the fires of church conflict often burn out of control quickly.... Read More

3 Steps to Cleansing Yourself of Legalism

My name is Brandon Cox, and I’m a legalist. At least, I still struggle with the remnants of legalism in my life. Read More

The Hottest Thing at Church Is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader

Despite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centered on the Bible. Read More

What Is Expository Preaching?

I have culled a sampling of definitions from some prominent authors who define exposition in their books on preaching. Although the list has a variety of definitions, I trust you will see many common themes emphasized here. Read More

Don’t Be Afraid to Preach

Pastor, don’t be afraid to do what God called you to do. Take a moment to reflect back upon your calling. When God called you, he called you to pastor, but the first inclination for most pastors is to preach. God made you into a pastor and a preacher. Read More

Please Stop Giving Bad Invitations

ome people call it “drawing the net” or an “invitation,” while others simply refer to it as an “altar call.” It’s typically a time of decision at the end of a sermon where people are invited to the front to counsel and pray to receive Christ. What methods do we see employed in the Scriptures? Read More

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

5 Reasons Reformation Anglicanism Is Relevant


The church is meant to be a beacon, marking out the safe path to true wholeness and hope. Sadly, however, the church today often capitulates to the world’s narrative without ever being aware of it. Our preaching can easily reinforce that we are what we do, telling people they must focus on doing things pleasing to God so he will continue to accept them. Yet true Christianity bases all its hope on what God has promised to do in, through, and for us because of his love—not on what we must try to do to earn it.

Here is the core message of Reformation Anglicanism. Forged in a time when the Western church had lost its way, its five characteristics illumine the authentic gospel once again for the 21st century. Read More

The Need for Church Replanting Featuring Mark Clifton - Rainer on Leadership #320 [Podcast]


Church replanting is becoming more and more of a need as more and more churches face death. More than 4,000 churches a year die every year, but through replanting, they can live again. Today, Mark Clifton joins Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe to explain how. Listen Now

Church Planting Shifts, Part 2: From Nominal to Secular


In part 1 of our series on subtle-yet-important church planting shifts, we dealt with the changing face of the church launch. As I mentioned, this includes a downscaling of the traditional launch mode to build up more core elements that will allow the church to go the long haul.

In part 2, I unpack the next trend: a shift from a focus on nominal Christians to more secular people, and how that affects church planting methodology.

Statistically, most people in America are nominal Christians. About half of the people in America call themselves Christians, but they don’t have any statistically discernable life change. Actually, as I’ve written, only about 25 percent of Americans call themselves Christians and have demonstrable engagement in that commitment. This reality, and its changing numbers, are essential to understand the future of outreach and evangelism. Read More

Tuesday's Catch: "Stay the Course: Keeping a Church Evangelistically Focused after the Launch" and More


Stay the Course: Keeping a Church Evangelistically Focused after the Launch

Church planting is similar to running a marathon. Read More

10 Times When Church Consulting Does Not Work Well

I’m a church consultant, but I make no claims that consulting always leads to success. In fact, here are times when consultations usually don’t produce needed change. Read More

A Sneak Peek at 'The New City Catechism' with Tim Keller [Video]

In this video, Tim Keller briefly explains why resources like The New City Catechism are so important for the church, especially in our "post-truth" age. Watch Now

‘Grace Alone’ 500 Years Later

A Catholic perspective. Read More

‘Grace Alone’: Luther Nails It

A Protestant responds to Catholic critiques of ‘Grace Alone.’ Read More

9 Healthy Responses to Criticism in Ministry

More often than not, pastors are criticized because they are leaders of the only organization that puts up with bullies. Read More

What We Gained When We Lost Our Hymnals

When our churches turned away from hymnals to instead sing lyrics projected on a screen, here is some of what we gained. Read More
Did we really gain posture? For ten years I worshiped with a church that used PowerPoint. Only a few people in the congregation lifted up their hands in praise or clapped in time with the music. Most stood with arms folded or hanging limply at their sides. Many did not sing. At least one member of my ministry team was honest enough to admit to the other members that he did not come to church to sing along with the band. He came to church to listen to the band! As for looking down at the hymnal, members of the congregation look down because they have not learned the proper way to hold a hymnal - at the same level as their eyes. If they hold the hymnal properly, their voices are projected outward instead of downward. It makes a tremendous difference in the way a congregation sounds.
The Revolution Demands Unconditional Surrender

Now that the moral revolutionaries are solidly in control, what is to be demanded of Christians who, on the basis of Christian conviction, cannot join the revolution? The demands have now been presented, and they represent unconditional surrender. Read More

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday's Catch: "If Your Church Is Healthy, Why Is It Still Small?" and More


If Your Church Is Healthy, Why Is It Still Small?

It's a valid question. I wish I had a tidy answer. But here's what I do know. Read More

Christ’s Resurrection and Our Justification

How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament? Read More

Five Ways Pastors Can Reverse Negative Statements in a Church

What can a pastor or church leader do to help move the congregation more positively? After hearing from pastors and church leaders, I can offer five suggested paths that have proved fruitful in other churches. Read More

4 Dangers of Bad Church Leadership

Your goal is to bring a discipleship model to your church that deeply changes people’s lives for the sake of the world. Read More

5 Key Principles Every Leader Should Master

If you were to focus on just a handful of key principles to master in leadership, which would you focus on? Read More

6 Reasons Catechisms Make Truth Stick

Many Christians have a hard time knowing how to make “gospel” and “discipleship” stick in our personal lives and relationships. We’re called to be disciples who make disciples, but how? In our desperate search to answer this profound question, we devote books, studies, podcasts, and resources to uncover how we live this out. Read More

One-on-One with Peyton Jones on "Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art"

"I think that every believer has this hidden yet reluctant adventurer inside of them." Read More

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hank Hanegraaff’s Switch to Eastern Orthodoxy, Why People Make Such Changes, and Four Ways Evangelicals Might Respond


Let’s follow Jesus, keep sharing the simple gospel, focus on the Bible, and think like missionaries in order to translate that truth to our modern context.

This past Sunday, the “Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff was welcomed into the Greek Orthodox Church. For a man who has built a valuable ministry on clear answers, this has sparked some questions within the evangelical community.

Now, I don’t know Hanegraaff, though I have benefited from his ministry at times. And I don’t know his motivations or concerns—though we get a glimpse of his reasons in the Christianity Today article on his change.

However, I have given thought over the years to the tendency of some to convert to Orthodoxy (for reasons that will become clear in a moment). Not all will fit the descriptions I give, and Hanegraaff may not, but perhaps it might give some context to Hanegraaff’s decision and to how evangelicals might respond.

Of course, I’m not giving every reason for every person, and this (already too long) article was started yesterday afternoon. Also, I’m not seeking to weigh in on all the complexities of Orthodox theology, but let me share a few observations that may be of help as evangelicals think through the issue. Read More

3 Things Chinese Pastors Can Learn from the Reformers


I became a Christian through an international mission organization and grew spiritually in a traditional Chinese house church. Coming from this background, when I read the Apostle’s Creed aloud on Sunday morning and say, “I believe the universal church,” a picture comes to my mind: the American church, Korean church, Singaporean church, Hong Kong and Taiwanese church, Chinese church and all the gospel believing churches in one body, the body of the universal church.

As we have seen in recent decades, the unregistered Chinese church has been blessed a lot by the universal church, engaged more with the global church network, and starting to contribute some itself to the big family of faith. As we contemplate the five-hundred-year anniversary of the Reformation, I am reminded that the connection and fellowship of churches can not only break through our geographical barriers, but can also cross the barriers of time. We can learn a lot from the Reformers, because we believe in the same God who created both the space and time.

As a current seminary student and as a minister of the unregistered Chinese church, here are three things I think we can learn from the Reformers. Read More

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Irresistible Grace


In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono- means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith.

In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace. It’s grace that works. It’s grace that brings about what God wants it to bring about. If, indeed, we are dead in sins and trespasses, if, indeed, our wills are held captive by the lusts of our flesh and we need to be liberated from our flesh in order to be saved, then in the final analysis, salvation must be something that God does in us and for us, not something that we in any way do for ourselves. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "The offence of the cross: Why extremists attack churches at Easter" and More


The offence of the cross: Why extremists attack churches at Easter

On Palm Sunday jihadists attacked Churches in the Egyptian cities of Alexandria and Tanta killing at least 49 and injuring many others. In India Christians were targeted by Hindu extremists in at least five separate locations on the same day. Read More

Nine Changes Churches Must Make or Die - Rainer on Leadership #319 [Podcast]

A recent post on the urgency needed in many churches struck a nerve with many readers. Today, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe unpack that post and talk about nine much needed changes for many churches. Listen Now

6 Things Christ Does with Your Sin

On this Good Friday, it is good to remember what the cross accomplishes. Here are six things Jesus does with sin.... Read More

Three Things We—and Our Sermons—Must Be This Easter Weekend

Erik Reed offers three things pastors and their sermons must be on Easter Sunday. Read More

Why Close Relationships Are Essential to Discipleship

What is the main barrier that keeps people from growing and maturing in Christ? The answer was unanimous: 'Isolation.' Read More

The Intrusive Neighbor

Most people today believe a "good neighbor" is one who causes no trouble, poses no interruption, and in general keeps to himself. The modern motto of a good neighbor is, "Do no harm." He works hard at making no interruption in the lives of those around him. This seems to be the general sentiment for many, and it misses the biblical mark by a mile. Read More