Saturday, December 09, 2017

Nine Questions to Ask Yourself to Prepare for 2018


Most people say they hate Mondays, but I’ll be honest, I love them. Mondays give me an opportunity to start the new week with a blank slate. If last week went poorly, I have the chance to start over and refocus. This is also the reason I love the first day of the month. So, as you can imagine, like most people, I love the turn of the page that signifies a new year. It’s a chance to step back, take stock, look at things I want to change, and refocus on what matters the most.

Unfortunately, we often stumble out of the blocks on our “New Year’s resolutions,” don’t we. The problem is that we get started on New Year’s Day. You may have stayed up too late and therefore slept late on the first day of the year. I live in Alabama, so our New Year’s Day is devoted not to work, but to college football. Most of us have goals related to weight loss and there is no worse way to get started than snacking while watching football all day.

What I started doing a couple of years ago was to abandon the idea of New Year’s resolutions and instead start thinking about what I wanted to focus on for the next year in early December. Then I started implementing changes that would make progress on my goals before the new year begins. What this allowed me to do was to get out of the habit of thinking the new year would magically change me into a new person.

To help me think about what I need to focus on in 2018, I sat down last week and I wrote a list of questions I needed to think through. Walking through these questions helped me to think about what needs to change, what I need to refocus on, and what I need to plan. (I picked up a few of these questions from others, though I cannot remember where, and others came from personal experience.)

Here are 9 questions I am asking myself heading into 2018. Read More

What Expository Preaching Is Not


Expository preaching explains what the text means by what it says, seeking to exhort the hearers to trust and obey the God-intended message of the text. It is preaching in which the point of the message is rooted in, aligns with, and flows from the primary meaning of the sermon text.

I believe expository preaching is the most faithful way to preach the word of God. Understanding and practicing expository preaching helps the preacher rightly handle the word of truth. But it is also important to understand what expository preaching is not, as well as what it is.

Many preachers reject expository preaching, without really knowing what it is. Others seek to practice it, without really knowing what it is. But you should not react to a caricature of expository preaching. And you should learn a craft before you try to practice it.

Here are fifteen myths about expository preaching that should be exposed to help the preacher rightly understand and faithfully practice expository preaching.Expository preaching is not whatever someone calls expository preaching. There is a growing interest in expository preaching these days. This is an encouraging fact; inasmuch as biblical preaching is the first step to true revival. Many preachers claim to be expositors now, wanting to be a part of the trend. Beware, much preaching that is called expository preaching simply is not. Read More

Pope Francis Says Our Father Is Poorly Translated


In a video series for Italian television network TV2000, Pope Francis said that “lead us not into temptation” is a poorly translated line of the Our Father.

“This is not a good translation,” the Pope said in the video, published Dec. 6. “I am the one who falls, it's not (God) who pushes me toward temptation to see how I fall. A father doesn't do this, a father helps us to get up right away.”

He noted that this line was recently re-translated in the French version of the prayer to read “do not let me fall into temptation.” Read More

Also See:
Pope Francis Suggests Changing The Words To The 'Lord's Prayer'

Three Biblical Frameworks for Faithfulness in the Post-Christendom West (Part 2)


Call. Context. Commission.

Yesterday, I discussed our call to action as we seek to follow Christ in a post-Christian culture. In an age where Christians are concerned over cultural change, we need to begin by rediscovering our call to mission and identity as the people of God. Today, I briefly highlight our context and our commission as we follow Christ today. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe:"Engaging Singles During the Holidays" and More


Engaging Singles During the Holidays

Some singles can’t afford to go home. Others have no family left or are estranged from their families. Whatever the reason, they find themselves alone during the holidays. This reality gives the church a unique opportunity to build relationships with singles outside the church and love the singles in their church during the holidays. But to do so, we have to be willing to change our mindset from the perfect American family-only holiday that we so often envision to a messy, open celebration of the family we have through Christ and an open invitation to those who are still caught in sin’s curse. Read More

Three Common Idols in Churches

Here are three common idols in churches that every church leader needs to know and turn away from. Read More

15 Ways to Manage Your Time Wisely [Infograph]

With the New Year just around the bend, it’s time to reevaluate your productivity and see how you can retool to refine and improve. Excellent church time management is possible, even for the busiest pastors, staff, or church communicators. How can you successfully manage your time? Read More

The Heresy of Orthodoxy: When Was the Earliest Complete List of New Testament Books? [Video]

In this video Andreas K√∂stenberger and Michael J. Kruger discuss the earliest complete list of New Testament books. This discussion is the fourth installment in a video series based upon their book, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (Crossway, 2010). Watch Now

Week of Prayer for International Missions, Day Five - Forgotten Refugees

North Africans fleeing from violence and famine are finding nothing for them in Europe. IBM missionaries are offering them the hope of the gospel and ask your prayers for these "forgotten" refugees. Read More

Forced to Flee: Worldwide Refugee Movement [Infographic]

From war-torn countries to natural disasters, the reasons people are forced to pick up their lives and families and abandon their homelands vary widely. Reality is, however, that refugee movement is on the rise with no signs of slowing down. The infographic below presents some of the latest available information on the worldwide movement of displaced peoples. Read More

The Hopelessness of Cremation Rituals Creates Gospel Urgency

A week before my grandmother passed away, I stood on the banks of a holy river in Kathmandu and watched a son and father cremate their mother and wife. The raw emotion and despondency I saw on their faces was crushing. Read More

The Offense of the Gospel and the Offense of Roy Moore

Christians in the state of Alabama are experiencing a painful identity crisis. Roy Moore impresses many around the country as an ideological warrior for a brand of conservative Christianity that has little to do with Jesus Christ and the New Testament. Never mind about the Sermon on the Mount, Moore flies under the banner of God, Country, and Guns. Read More

Friday, December 08, 2017

10 Keys to Maximizing Your Church Facility - Rainer on Leadership #387 [Podcast]


Tim Cool returns to the podcast today to discuss facility issues churches often face and how you can tackle them in 2018. Listen Now

If You Want Your Church to Be More Like Christ, Preach the Gospel


Preach Christ in all Scripture, because only by seeing him will we become like him - the purpose for which we were created and redeemed.

Q: Why is it necessary to preach Christ in every sermon?

A: Because without seeing Christ, we will not become like him.

When asked to give an answer for why preaching Christ is necessary, there are many biblical answers I could give. Because:
  • This is how the apostles preached in Acts.
  • The Scriptures were inspired by the Spirit to lead us to Christ.
  • The Father wants to glorify the Son in redemptive history and revelation.
  • Scripture teaches us how all creation and redemption center on Christ.
Still, to my thinking the most powerful reason for preaching Christ, is the transformative effect of seeing Christ. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 puts it,

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Read More

The Most Important Part of Your Sermon


“The entire sermon is important!” I know some of you had that instinctual reaction to the title of this article. I agree. The entire sermon is important. Each part is connected to the others and is a part of a greater whole. I am on board with you. But I want to argue that one part of the sermon is more important than the others.

A good joke has several parts, but if not told correctly, will not have its intended affect. It’s not the punchline that makes a joke good, but the setup. If you botch the setup, the punchline will fall flat. Likewise, in a sermon, the most important part of the message is not necessarily the gut-punching gospel truth you are sharing, but the introduction of the sermon that leads to it. Of course I believe the gospel is what has the power to save, not the introduction; however, if your listeners jumped off the train before you arrived at the station, it will be of no reward that the station is beautiful. It is precisely because I believe the gospel is the all-satisfying truth that Jesus is Lord and saves sinners by His grace that I want to insure we actually carry our listeners to it.

I had a seminary professor once say, “You have to begin in Nashville before you head to Jerusalem.” His point was that if you do not meet listeners where they are and engage them where they live, you will have a hard time getting them to the truths of the Bible, and more particularly, to the relevance of the cross of Christ for their lives. The introduction of the message is what helps listeners know where you are going and whether or not they want to go with you. In this regard, the first five minutes of your message may be the most important of all of them. In light of that, I want to give you two areas to focus on as you prepare and deliver your sermons. Read More

13 Things a Pastor Should Never Say to a Congregation


In addition to the obvious no-no’s, such as profanity, heresy, racism, sexism, and the like, no pastor should ever be heard to utter any of the following from the pulpit. Read More

10 Ways to Pray for Your Community


Frankly, I think the North American church is weak. I love the church, and I know there are strong, faithful, Great Commission-oriented churches on our continent – but I think we generally lack the power of God on what we do. One reason for our lack of power is our lack of prayer. Here are some practical ways to counter this problem by praying for your community.... Read More
This article, I believe, you will want to share with the other members of your church or small group. I am.

Three Biblical Frameworks for Faithfulness in the Post-Christendom West (Part 1)


Call. Context. Commission.

We live in a moment of cultural turmoil in the West, perhaps particularly in the United States. The shift to a post-Christendom age means that we as Christians need to rediscover our mission and identity as the people of God in a place that is increasingly foreign and, at times, hostile. This is different from the culture most of us came of age in, and it is one many did not expect to have arisen so quickly.

The result is a fairly discombobulated or disorienting feeling—a sense that things have changed so rapidly that there is a temptation to fear that this is only the beginning.

I have written extensively on the trends that have informed this culture change and the kinds of leaders, preaching, and evangelistic practices we need to explore in light of this shift. More importantly, I have consistently argued that this decline in cultural Christianity can be, in part, a blessing for the church—an opportunity for us to distinguish nominal from authentic belief.

I want to continue with this theme by providing Christians with three biblical frameworks that can help us make sense of this cultural change and ministry effectively in the years to come. I will address our call today and go into our context and our commission in Part 2 (tomorrow). Read More

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Latest Podcasts from Revitalize and Replant with Thom Rainer


Should a Church Replant Change Its Name? - Revitalize & Replant #018

Conventional wisdom may say “change the name, start fresh.” Today, we explain why that often is bad advice. Listen Now

Revitalize After a Church Split - Revitalize & Replant #017

Church splits are often nasty. Trying to pastor a church after a split is heard. Trying to revitalize one after a split is even harder. Listen Now

Image: K Wolfram

A Sound of the 17th Century May Soon Ring Out Across the Grounds of the James Fort


Researchers at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project and the B.A. Sunderlin BellFoundry in Ruther Glen, Va. are reconstructing a bronze bell from the Jamestowne Colony’s church.

“We’ll be able to hear that bell again — an original sound of the 17th century, which is really cool,” said Merry Outlaw, curator with Jamestown Rediscovery. “There are lots of things we can touch, but to hear a sound our forbearers heard at Jamestown is rare and compelling.”

The Jamestown Rediscovery team has conserved a few fragments of the bell, Outlaw said. The biggest shard was uncovered during the 1906 construction of the sea wall that separates the fort from the James River. Three more pieces were discovered between 2003 and 2008, during the excavation of the Confederate Fort that once stood on the site. Read More

Also See:
Ruins of Oldest Protestant Church in America Found at Jamestown
Jamestown Unearthed: Archaeologists explore 400-year-old church
Jamestown Churches
The oldest Protestant church in America was built at Jamestown. It was an Anglican church. The Prayer Book used at this church would have been the 1559 Prayer Book, which the Jamestown settlers brought with them to the New World.

Bradley Nassif and David S. Yeago on Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy


The Reformation, Viewed from the East

An Eastern Orthodox theologian assesses Luther’s famous doctrine of ‘sola fide.’ Read More

When East Meets West

A response to Bradley Nassif's suggestions for Protestant and Orthodox communion. Read More

10 Reminders for Every Pastor


...allow me to steer your thoughts today, pastor, back to the moment of your own calling and ordination. As the years progress, it is easy to drift. Not necessarily morally or ethically, but drift by way of why you are doing what you do. And in that vein, allow me to share some of those most basic of basics that I shared with our candidates three weeks ago, that I once again reminded myself of, and of which we all need to never drift. Read More

11 Ways to Pray for Yourself Every Day


One of the key elements in prayer is petitioning, or praying for yourself. Some people shy away from such prayers, thinking that it violates humility and draws attention to themselves rather than God.

Yet, it’s absolutely biblical. In fact, Jesus petitioned the following the night before He was crucified: “Father…glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was” (John 17:5).

If Jesus needed to pray for Himself, then I certainly need to pray for myself. That said, ponder these eleven personal requests I’ve started bringing daily to God. Read More

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

8 Assumptions Pastors Can't Make In A Post-Christian Culture


The so-called Christian culture is going... going... gone. We need to get ready for what’s next.

I’ve never lived in a predominantly Christian culture.

But lately, I’ve been travelling a lot through the Bible Belt, so I’m seeing what a Christian culture looks like for the first time in my life. Churches on every corner, Christian radio and TV on more than one station, and worship songs as background music in a restaurant where almost every table says grace before they eat.

But it also feels like I’m seeing something before it’s gone forever. Like when I was a college student catching a second-run movie at an art house theater where the film was scratchy and missing a few frames. You knew it was on its last legs.

If you want to see what a predominantly Christian culture looks like, take a trip through the Bible Belt. But do it soon. Like the autumn leaves, it won’t be there much longer.

We can mourn that. We can fight that. Or we can get ready for what’s next.

For those living in the Bible Belt and wondering what’s next, you don’t need to look any further than the non-Bible-Belt parts of the world, where we’ve been ministering within a predominantly secular culture for decades. (For me, born and raised in Canada, then living all my adult life in California, I’ve always practiced my faith and ministry as an outsider to the dominant culture.)

One of the first things we need to change are our assumptions. Especially as pastors and church leaders. Specifically, we need to stop assuming these eight things of people – whether they’re unchurched, new to the church, or even long-time attenders. Read More
I live and minister in the Bible Belt in the southern United States. The culture that you would see in the Bible Belt if you took a trip through this part of the country is superficially Christian. It wears a Christian veneer but if you probe beneath the veneer, you discover that it is not as Christian as it appear to be on the surface. True, there are churches everywhere but do not be deceived by the ubiquity of these churches. A much larger percentage of the population is unchurched than the percentage of the population which attends church. Among the segment of the population that attends church a high percentage are cultural Christians. One's social and political standing in the community is still to a large extent tied to church attendance. Not only is there a large unchurched population that needs evangelizing, there is also a large church-attending population that needs evangelizing too.

10 More Signs That a Church Has Settled for Mediocrity


Several years ago, I posted on “Signs of Mediocrity in a Church.” Today, I add to that list other signs I’ve seen as a church consultant. Read More

Evangelical Christians Are Sick


The movement is driven by a painful awareness that the heart—each of our hearts—is desperately wicked.

Revivals like Cane Ridge are the most dramatic illustration of the point made in the first essay in this series. Historian Perry Miller called Puritan faith a version of Augustinian piety, a piety that is found in the best of American evangelicalism. As Miller put it in talking about the Puritans:
As long as it remained alive, its real being was not in doctrines but behind them; the impetus came from an urgent sense of man’s predicament, from a mood so deep that it could never be completely articulated.
Evangelical Christians at their best suffer from a sickness of soul with a genesis in this “urgent sense of man’s predicament.” They instinctively feel Jeremiah’s lament that “the heart is desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). They feel the weight of failure, of weaknesses, of inadequacy, of sins. The burden makes their whole body ache and groan. Between them and God lies a deep chasm they cannot bridge. Across the chasm, they glimpse the beauty of God’s holiness, and they despair. If they attempt to cross it, it will only lead them to plunge into darkness. And even if a miracle planted them suddenly on the other side, into the very presence of a holy God, they know it would be their death, for they know that no sinful human being can look on the face of God and live (Ex. 33:20). Read More

Four Considerations for Baby Boom Pastors


I am one of you.

We are the generation born between 1946 and 1964. Until the Millennials came along, we were the largest generation in American history. Our influence is still great.

But most of us are surprised our older years arrived so quickly. We can remember when we didn’t trust anyone over the age of 30. Now we think 30-somethings are kids. Many of us have difficulty dealing with this phase of our life and ministry. Older age was for “those people.” It never was supposed to be about us.

And now we are here. Our ages range from 54 to 72. We are in our fourth quarter. How do we end well, especially if we are in vocational ministry? Allow me to make four suggestions. Read More

Recommended:
On Being a Lifelong Learner
In the region of the United States in which I live, there are many small churches that cannot afford to call a younger man to pastor them even part-time but which would greatly benefit from the fourth-quarter ministry of a retired pastor or someone pursuing a late life vocation as a bi-vocational minister. The ministry of this individual may prove to be a hospice ministry. But as my pastor counseled me when he released me to preach at one such church, even dying churches need to hear the preaching of God's Word.

William Taylor, Peter Adam, and Paul Carter on Preaching


PREACHING MATTERS: William Taylor, Preaching at Christmas [Video]

How do we prepare to preach at Christmas time? With such a familiar message, what is most important to say? Watch Now

Still Learning How to Preach After 50 Years Preaching!

In God’s mercy and kindness I began preaching with a firm commitment to the Bible, to Evangelical Christianity, Reformed theology, to Puritan piety, and to expository preaching. Read More

What to Do after Preaching an Unusually Bad Sermon

Every pastor knows the feeling. They’re not listening. The Spirit isn’t moving. The sermon isn’t flowing and this can’t end fast enough.... Before you hand in your resignation and begin to look up classes at the local community college here are 6 things to do first. Read More

When Is a Child Mature Enough to Make a Profession of Faith?


Is there a minimum age for baptism?

That’s the essence of a question asked of Mark Driscoll, pastor of The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In the video, Driscoll and his wife Grace answer a question from one of their members who wrote that her 4-year old daughter asked to be baptized. The writer asked Driscoll if that was a good idea considering the girl’s age.

The Driscolls said they also had a child who asked for baptism at around the same age. They consented after asking several questions of their son to find out if his conviction was true and if the child understood his profession of faith.

Driscoll said he initially discounted baptizing his son at such a young age because children often seem interested in something but due to immaturity the enthusiasm doesn’t last. As he put it, “Sometimes kids say, ‘I want to be a pumpkin or an astronaut.’ Ok, we’ll see tomorrow.”

The Driscoll’s advice is that parents are in the best position to determine a child’s heart and should make that decision. To help them in their conclusion he says if a child’s profession and evidence of faith appear true, there is no reason not to allow baptism or the taking of communion. Read More
For Anglicans who practice paedobaptism and subscribe to the doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the question of when a child is mature enough to make a profession of faith arises at two different times - when considering the child for admission to the Lord's Table and when consider the child for presentation to the bishop for confirmation. Historically Anglicans have required examination of the child by his or her pastor and by the bishop or his representative (e.g., archdeacon) and not relied solely upon the decision of the parents. 

Evangelical vs. Born Again: A Survey of What Americans Say and Believe Beyond Politics


Less than half who claim either label have evangelical beliefs. Most likely: African Americans.

For all the handwringing over what the term evangelical means in the political moment of Donald Trump and Roy Moore, only 1 in 100 Americans would take on the term if it had nothing to do with politics.

Meanwhile, the label is primarily a political identity for only about 1 in 10 self-identified evangelicals.

Overall, 1 in 4 Americans today consider themselves to be evangelicals. But less than half actually hold evangelical beliefs.

And when defined by beliefs and not by identity, evangelicals are less white (58% vs. 70%), more black (23% vs. 14%), and more likely to worship weekly (73% vs. 61%). However, they are not more likely to be Republican or Democrat.

These are among the findings of a groundbreaking survey of Americans with evangelical beliefs, released today by LifeWay Research. Read More
What passes as "evangelicalism" in North America should not be confused with the classical evangelicalism of Charles Simeon, J.C. Ryle, Dyson Hague, J. I. Packer, Roger Beckwith, John Stott, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Michael Green, Alister McGrath, and other leading Anglican evangelicals.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

5 Grave Dangers For Any Local Church


Grave danger… is there any other kind?

That may seem over-the-top or a bit dramatic for a blog post intro. Most of us who are leaders in the church are not nearly as intense as Kaffee or Jessep, our work doesn’t require us to carry weapons, and we aren’t often in a courtroom.

But as I think about the gospel story, it is dramatic. It is about life and death. When it comes to the local church, the stakes are high and we do stand post for the Kingdom!

We don’t have to get weird about it, but there are grave dangers that we face as we do our part of leading the mission forward. It’s easy for church work to become “business as usual.” Therefore, it’s wise and helpful to reflect on the depth of five dangers that can really hurt your church. Read More

The Need for Culturally Agile Leaders in Church Planting


The mission of God knows no cultural boundaries

We’re in one of the best times in history to start globally-minded churches in North America—churches that are rooted in North American cities, but effectively minister to and minister through global citizens. This isn’t just for cities like New York or Chicago. Immigration and the rise of the information-based economy are turning cities like Tulsa and Minneapolis into globalized cities.

Leaders of church planting organizations and networks are realizing that the global reality is changing how they should now lead and develop church planting strategies for North America.

In business and economy, we’ve seen global organizations work towards increasing the cultural-competency of their corporate leadership. As the CQ (cultural IQ) of corporate leadership rises, so will the need for cultural-competency among next-tier leadership. These organizations want leaders who can effectively and efficiently produce consistent results whether in Boston, Brussels, or Beijing. They want leaders who have high cultural agility, the ability to quickly, comfortably, and effectively work in different cultures and with people from different cultures. Read More

The Seven Deadly Sins of Guest Services


Everything we do as a church speaks. The question isn’t if we’re sending a message with our guest services, but what message we’re sending. Your guest services write the introduction to the sermon. So what kind of introduction are you giving? Read More

Recommended:
Nine Surprises in Worship Services that Made Guests Return

Teaching Children about the Lord’s Supper


The elders of our small church convened many years ago to examine our seven-year-old son for admittance to the Lord’s Table. I sat behind his right shoulder as he fielded numerous questions about the Christian faith and his grasp of the sacraments. Then one of the elders asked, “Young man, when we eat the bread and drink the cup, are we eating the literal body of Jesus Christ? Are we drinking His physical blood?” Our son paused for a moment. He turned slowly as he looked back over his shoulder at me with widened eyes, his face crinkled in perplexity, and then he faced the elders again as he resolutely shouted, “No!” The good elders heartily affirmed his rejection of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

This scenario, though varied as to time and circumstance, has been reenacted for hundreds of years in Reformed churches. While Scripture does not provide a specific age for partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the historic and widespread agreement has been that a child’s participation requires a credible profession of faith and understanding of the sacrament. Question 177 of the Westminster Larger Catechism says that while baptism is to be administered “but once . . . and that even to infants,” the Lord’s Supper is different. Participating in the supper by faith serves as “spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.” Faith is nourished through the sacrament only as the gospel is preached and believed. Read More
In the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion historic Anglicanism adopts a Reformed view of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. It rejects the both the Lutheran doctrine that with the sacrament of Holy Communion God imparts the faith needed to receive the blessings of that sacrament and the Roman Catholic doctrine that Christ is substantially present in the consecrated bread and wine of the sacrament . In order to benefit from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion, it teaches that the communicant must receive the sacrament rightly, that is, with a repentant heart, charity toward others, and a vital faith. In this view infants and small children are not appropriate recipients of the sacrament of Holy Communion. While this view does not exclude children from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion before they are confirmed, it does require the children's minister to determine whether they are able to receive the sacrament rightly before admitting them to the Lord's Table. While it would be hoped that all who are presented to the bishop for confirmation are able to receive the sacrament rightly, this has in the past and to this day not always been the case. Confirmation - the act of laying on of hands as an expression of goodwill with prayer for the daily increase of the Holy Spirit - has become separated from the profession of faith.

The Church’s Fate Is Not Electoral: Our Roy Moore Moment


In Alabama on December 12—a week from today—large numbers of evangelicals will cast their vote for Roy Moore, many of whose defenders do not even bother to deny that he is a serial sexual molester of underage girls. The evidence against Moore is so overwhelming that if evangelicals are going to posit the existence of a vast conspiracy to frame him, they owe Dan Brown an apology.

How did we get to this point? That’s a question with a long answer, but a short answer might be: by neglecting our eschatology—and the lesson of Chuck Colson. Read More

Monday, December 04, 2017

Four Reasons the Homogenous Church Is Declining and Dying


When you are in your worship services next Sunday, look at the people around you.

Do they all look like you? Do they all come from the same economic backgrounds? Are they are about the same age?

If so, you are in a homogeneous church. As the old homogeneous unit principle implied, “We attract people who are like us.” That principle was a point of contention and debate for decades. Is it descriptive (a reality observed), or is it prescriptive (a strategy pursued)?

I contend that the healthy church in America will be neither. Indeed, I contend that the homogenous church is declining and dying.

Why? Here are five key reasons. Read More

Also See:
The Church Visitor I Didn’t Want as a Member

It’s Time to Emancipate our Theology from Western Culture #AlwaysReforming


While teaching a course at a leading reformed seminary, I referred to African American theology. One of my students objected, “There is no such thing as ‘African American theology,’ there is only ‘theology proper.’”

I asked, “Would the library of this seminary carry a book on theology from a cultural perspective?” He emphatically said, “No!” Later, I held up a book from the library.

Its title: Scottish Theology.

What my student did not realize is that all theology is contextual—historically and culturally determined. What he called “theology proper” developed in a Western context. Accordingly, while it addressed the true nature of salvation, etc., this “theology proper” also addressed Western cultural concerns. Read More

9 Ways Your Church Can Help Your Pastor to Continue to Grow


No Christian leader should stop growing, but it happens. We get so busy in the day-to-day “stuff” that we fail to feed ourselves well. Here are some ways you can help your pastor continue to grow.... Read More

5 Good Reasons to Use the RMM Bible Reading Plan in 2018


December is often the time when people begin thinking about their devotional ambitions and plans for the following year. As in the field of weight loss, it isn’t really about “finding the right plan” as much as it is about having a plan and sticking to it. Any devotional approach that has you breathing in Scripture and breathing out prayer is a good one. That being said, here are 5 good reasons to consider using the RMM Bible Reading Plan in 2018. Read More

The M'Cheyne Bible Calendar - The Standard One Year Version
I have used a number of Bible reading plans over the years. Robert Murray M'Cheyne's plan is one of them. It is a plan that I definitely recommend to Anglicans Ablaze readers.

What the Bible teaches about sexuality: A threefold vision


In order to renew anything, we must have a vision for what it is intended to be, for what’s gone wrong, and for how to bring about transformation. The following will establish that threefold vision for sexuality.... Read More

The Antidote to Anemic Worship


Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years, sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A.W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.

Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments or ordinances form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some see evangelism as the heart of worship and therefore plan every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.

Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the Word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place. Read More

Imagine No Religion? It’s Harder Than You Think


When Lennon released “Imagine” in 1971, his vision of a religion-free world was less a dream and more a growing consensus. To be sure, the atheistic regimes of the day were far from “living life in peace,” but sociologists found it easy to “imagine no religion” in a rapidly modernizing world. The logic was simple—in Western Europe, modernization had bred secularization. That trajectory would continue, and where Europe led, the rest of the world would follow.

There was only one problem with this “secularization hypothesis.”

It was wrong. Read More

A Generation in Japan Faces a Lonely Death


Cicadas, every Japanese schoolchild knows, lie underground for years before rising to the earth’s surface in summer. They climb up the nearest tree, where they cast off their shells and start their short second lives. During their few days among us, they mate, fly and cry. They cry until their bodies are found on the ground, twitching in their last moments, or on their backs with their legs pointing upward.

Chieko Ito hated the din they made. They had just started shrieking, as they always did in early summer, and the noise would keep getting louder in the weeks to come, invading her third-floor apartment, making any kind of silence impossible. As one species of cicadas quieted down, another’s distinct cry would take over. Then, as the insects peaked in numbers, showers of dead and dying cicadas would rain down on her enormous housing complex, stopping only with the end of summer itself.

“You hear them from morning to evening,” she sighed. Read More

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Warning: Christmas Is Coming!


It’s coming. The signs are already appearing, and you should consider yourself warned. Your family is about to be attacked. No, it won’t be the physical attack of terrorism, a hurricane, or a forest fire. No, this attack is much more subtle, seductive, and attractive, but infinitely more dangerous.

Your family is about to be attacked by a holiday season.

Maybe you’re thinking, What in the world is Paul Tripp talking about? Let me explain. The Advent season is upon us. It should be a gloriously peaceful time of remembering God’s ultimate response to his lost and rebellious image-bearers. That response wasn’t to condemn, but to give the ultimate gift of grace—the gift of himself—in the person of his Son. But instead of a peaceful season of worship and celebration, Advent has devolved into a spiritual war with your family at the center.

I have no problem with beautiful decorations, family feasting, or giving gifts. The Christmas season can be a time when families gather again, renew relationships, and express love for one another. But I’m concerned because there is a war for which story will define our children’s beliefs about who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about.
There is a war for which story will define our children’s beliefs about who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about.
Every human being lives out of the meaning of some defining story. The Advent season has become a battle between two stories—one seductive and attractive, but fundamentally untrue; and the other deeply humbling, but what every person everywhere needs. Read More

Recommended:
10 Things I'd Do Differently as a Pastor During the Christmas Season
5 Ways to center Your Family Around Jesus This Christmas

Charles Dickens Still Haunts Christmas


How a 19th-century story informs the modern holiday spirit.

At 31 years old, Charles Dickens was already a novelist of international renown. He’d also hit upon a career slump—a string of three commercial flops—and needed to deliver a hit to escape mounting financial pressures.

In the winter of 1843, the author struck on the idea of a Christmas ghost story that would be released in time for the holiday. However, his late-fall moment of inspiration left him almost no time to get his book to press—only half a dozen weeks for the story to take shape, for an illustrator to supply drawings, and for the printers to supply them to stores.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is the story of those six weeks of breakneck creativity during which Dickens wrote perhaps his most beloved work. The movie is a thoroughly pleasant, sometimes funny, and occasionally reflective story with a PG-rating and storybook aesthetic that recommend it as the go-to family film of this holiday season. Read More

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Official Trailer)

Organizational Insights from the Harvard Business Review


How Coca-Cola, Netflix, and Amazon Learn from Failure

Why, all of a sudden, are so many successful business leaders urging their companies and colleagues to make more mistakes and embrace more failures? Read More

Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies

Many strategy execution processes fail because the firm does not have something worth executing. Read More

Turning Potential into Success: The Missing Link in Leadership Development

Organizations around the world are failing on one key metric of success: leadership development. Read More
Many organizational insights obtained from businesses are also applicable to churches. These three articles contain such insights. To read additional articles from the Harvard Business Review, you must subscribe to the HBR.

The Exclusivity of Christianity


What happens to a person who dies without hearing the gospel? Do they go to Heaven? Do they go to Hell? That question is being discussed in our Sunday School classes, pulpits and in the local coffee shop more often than we may realize. Does the Bible teach the exclusivity of Christianity? Is Jesus the only way to be reconciled to God? The troubling reality is evident by the wide variety of answers that are given to these questions. With an often watered down gospel message preached on the television and radio, coupled with a soft message of God’s judgment, the result is staggering and may be the cause for so much controversy over this old debate. In order to fully address this question, it is important that we examine several key issues surrounding this question. Read More

Why You Should Let Go of ‘Let Go and Let God’


Laziness is a familiar vice. Given the option, most of us prefer the quick and easy way to the slow and hard. Bodily health? Temperance and exercise are too burdensome; just give us a pill. Auto maintenance? Why pay for transmission flushes or tire rotations when you can just buy a cheap fuel additive? Test prep? Why build regular study habits when you can cram the night before? Until human nature changes, there will always be a market for snake-oil salesmen peddling a quick fix.

But what about sanctification?

Given human nature, it’s worth asking whether there’s a quick fix on the market—some version of “How to Become Holy in 3 Easy Steps” that’s much less strenuous than what Eugene Peterson (using an original phrase from Friedrich Nietzsche) called a “long obedience in the same direction.” According to Andy Naselli, there is. It’s called “higher life theology,” and he spends about 100 pages critiquing it in his new book, No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It’s Harmful. Read More

5 Crucial Ways Your Gratitude Impacts Your Attitude As A Leader


Ever notice the leaders you’re most attracted to tend to be the most grateful?

At least that’s true for me.

Grateful leaders make the best leaders.

And yet being in leadership can make you ungrateful…quickly.

You feel a pressure few others feel and have responsibilities that will never fit into a job description.

You carry a weight around with you wherever you go.

It can wear you down.

One of the disciplines I’ve had as a leader is learning how to become grateful and stay grateful.

Sometimes the best way for me to do that is to remind myself why grateful leaders make the best leaders.

Here are 5 reasons why that’s true. Read More

Recommended:
The Death Of News, Re-Tribalization And The Future Church

4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Exercise


When I took my first pastorate, a frequent comment from my congregation was, “You're too skinny to be Southern Baptist. We'll do something about that!” I must admit, over the past five years, remaining healthy has been an uphill battle.

Unfortunately, full-time pastoring can be physically taxing. Long hours sitting at a desk and attendance at prayer breakfasts tends to work against us. From the deep recesses of our studies we cry, “I'm called to the ministry of the Word and to prayer! Both are sedentary. Being out of shape is just an occupational hazard.”

Do pastors get to pass GO and collect $200 when it comes to exercise? Are these excuses valid? Below are four reasons pastors—and all Christians—should consider exercise as a regular part of their weekly activities. Read More

Five Key Sources for Sermon Illustrations and Why They are Important


Preaching is a grind I welcome every week. Expositing God’s Word is one of the toughest but most rewarding aspects of being a pastor. You can’t treat preaching like a sprint, rushing to get a response on Sundays. It’s more like a marathon, a paced lope in which long strides are made over time.

Illustrations are not the most important part of a sermon. The meat is the exposition of the text—always. The illustrations add spice and flavor. Nobody wants to eat just spices for dinner. But then, meat without flavoring is bland. In most cases, sermons need a little flavor.

Illustrations also help the listener to understand your points, especially the more abstract or theological ones. You know those technical manuals that “help” you put together cheap furniture? That’s your sermon without any illustrations. They may get the job done, but nobody will enjoy them.

Where do I get my sermon illustrations? I have five key sources. Read More

Keith Getty on How Congregational Singing is an Act of Witness [Video]


We asked Keith Getty, Christian song writer, and author of Sing: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, "How is congregational singing an act of witness to the world?" Watch Now

How to Improve Your Church Website's 'About Us' Page


Church visitors are most likely to first encounter your church through your website after doing an online search. So what does your website say about your church?
Did you know that 94% of people cited poor web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website,” says church communications and PR specialist Steve Fogg. “Imagine that for your church?”
The ‘About Us’ page on your website is often the ‘go to’ place visitors readily seek out to quickly learn about your organization. Does this page help visitors instantly know who you are as a church and what you believe? Can visitors find this information on your website in under 20 seconds? These are important questions to consider as you review your website’s viability and effectiveness. Read More

Recommended:
4 Church Website Options for Your Digital Front Door

Image: Church Tech Today

Unlocking Eight Motivational Triggers for Evangelism and Discipleship


How can we "spur one another on toward love and good deeds”?

We all want to make disciples but, sometimes, even when we’re doing everything we know how, we still don’t see a significant change in the people we lead. We know we can’t change people; yet, we deeply desire to see them wholeheartedly following Jesus.

How do we activate people’s internal motivation so that they are engaged and have a personal desire to change? More specifically, how do we effectively motivate people to choose to follow Jesus—whether it’s for the first time through evangelism or for the hundredth time through discipleship?

The secret to effectively motivating people is recognizing that different people are motivated in different ways. I know that sounds simple and straightforward, but unless we are very intentional about how we communicate, we will subconsciously try to motivate people in the same ways that motivate us. When that’s the case, we can preach God’s Word or share the gospel until we’re blue in the face and still not see people launched into a life-changing pursuit of Jesus.

So, what are the different ways that people are motivated? Let me share eight motivational triggers and how they can be utilized to activate people in discipleship and evangelism. This list is taken from a blog post by Jason Sannegadu and, while it is by no means exhaustive, it provides a helpful starting point for us as we develop a deeper understanding of the different types of motivation. Read More
Let us not forget that while we may go to great lengths to motivate people, drawing upon our knowledge of what motivates them, unless God is working in them to will and to do what is pleasing to Him, our efforts will not have lasting results if they have any results at all. This is not to say that we should not make the effort for the Holy Spirit may be prompting us to do so. But it is to say that the final outcome and the extent of that outcome rests in God's hands.

Three Dangerous Trends Affecting Christianity in North America

The Siege and Fall of Jerusalem

The Scriptures warn us against placing our trust in political leaders instead of God. Yet this warning is going unheeded in North America.

Michael Flynn Isn’t the Only Guilty One

Michael Flynn, fake news, and an opportunity to ask why Christians are often the target audience.

Michael Flynn pled guilty today to lying to the FBI regarding his interactions with the Russian government—and is now cooperating with the investigation. Flynn’s guilty plea is a vindication of those who have objected to the “it’s all fake news” claims.

Mike Flynn just told you this is not fake news.

Now, that does not mean that everything else alleged is true, but it does raise the question again: Why are Christians so often the target audience for fake news?

Let me explain the connection. Read More

The Nonpartisan Solution to Our Roy Moore Problem

The lesser of two evils principle says when faced with selecting from two immoral options, the one that is least immoral should be chosen. But the Bible makes it clear that we are not to choose any immoral option. As Paul says, “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

This lesser evil principle twists the Catholic moral teaching about the principle of double effect, the claim it’s permissible to cause a harm as a side effect of bringing about a good result when it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end. Whether evangelicals should hold to this doctrine is debatable. But it a gross misunderstanding to claim this principle justifies voting for a sexual predator simply because the molester opposes abortion. Read More

The Sinner Next Door and the Banality of Evil

What if sexual and racial sin has become so normal—even among evangelicals—we don’t even think of it as abnormal any more? This morning at The Federalist, we find an article titled “Why Alabamians Should Vote for Roy Moore”, which opens thusly:
. . . [E]ven if Roy Moore did what he is accused of doing, Alabamans are within their rights to vote for him, and they shouldn’t let Democrats and Never Trumpers shame them into not voting.
To remind you, dear reader, Moore has been accused, basically, of pedophilia, as an adult male who regularly sought out underage females, girls as young as 14. You may not find those accusations credible—full disclosure: I do—but this author is saying the credibility is beside the point. And here we fold our hands under our chin and say, “Do go on.” Read More

Image: Public Domain

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Facebook Syndrome: Alive and Well in Our Churches


In the sixties we had a phrase which we used to describe the kind of person that Pastor Joe McKeever writes about in this article. If you were around in the sixties, you may remember it. "He's a real downer." He was the guy who could not keep his negativity to himself. He had to rain on someone else's parade. He was also master of the backhanded put-down, the compliment that was really a humiliating remark.  Read More

Five Ways to Connect Your Church to Your Community - Rainer on Leadership #385 [Podcast]


Dean Inserra joins us today to explain how City Church Tallahassee has used community events and organization to connect church members to the community. Listen Now