In Case You Missed It

At The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision, Jimmy Scroggins shared eight suggestions for handling patriotism and the gospel in American churches.

I serve as a pastor in a multicultural church in a multicultural city where many attendees are not American citizens. While I still want to incorporate patriotic elements in our worship services from time to time, I want to be careful not to explicitly or implicitly conflate American patriotism with the gospel of Jesus. Over the years, I have developed some thoughts about how to do this in an appropriate way. Perhaps you will find the following to be helpful.

 

Thom Rainer shared a post at his personal blog this week discussing five surprising discoveries about growing churches.

Do you want the bad news first or the good news first?

 

I always ask for the bad news first. I can’t enjoy the good news knowing that a report of bad news looms in the next few statements.

 

So I gave you some bad news in my Monday post. I shared with you the statistical reality of the death spiral. Once a church declines below 100 in average worship attendance, its rate of decline accelerates. In other words, the church declines faster and faster.

 

In this article, I share some good news. The news is about the growing churches in our study. As a review, you can look at the details of our research at my blog post on June 28, 2017. Simply stated, we conducted a random sample of 1,000 churches with data from 2013 and 2016. The margin of error of the research is +/- 3.1 percent. It’s an accurate study. It’s a very accurate study.

 

So let’s take a few moments and look at the churches whose average worship attendance grew from 2013 to 2016. Here are five of the surprising discoveries from this research.

 

At The Intersect Project, Dr. Chip McDaniel shared: “Education: A Modern-Day Jubilee

Every day, we face real-world economics issues such as poverty, systemic inequity in housing or farm loans, education or health care. Yet piecing together a Biblical teaching concerning such economic issues is a difficult task for a variety of reasons.

 

First, we tend to focus on what the Bible says about the spiritual side of our existence. Second, we have to wrestle with apparent contradictions. For example, how are we supposed to resolve the seeming contradiction in the teaching of selling all to give to the poor (Luke 18:22) with you always have the poor around (Mark 14:7) or the one who does not work should starve (2 Thess 3:10)?  Third, another difficulty arises when we try to factor in the Old Testament. Its teachings are certainly for our benefit, but so much of the content speaks to the physical aspects of Israel’s history. The Law is, after all, a founding document providing a framework for a physical nation — a constitution, if you will. So, it might seem even harder to develop concrete action steps from the Old Testament than the New Testament.

 

What I’d like to do in this article is to look at a specific Old Testament institution and see if there are any principles that might speak to our 21st century Western Church context. I suggest that the Old Testament practice of Jubilee might inform the present to a degree. I say principle and not directive because the transition between Old Testament practice and New Testament appropriation needs to pass through the filter of the shift between God’s dealing with a physical nation and His calling out of a spiritual nation (see 1 Peter 2:9). God is not expecting any nation today to observe a year of Jubilee.

Earlier this week, Dr. Bruce Ashford shared ten go-to books on religious liberty and its enemies.

Here are ten books I recommend to pastors, professors, and students who wish to gain a better understanding of religious liberty and the threats against it. I will describe each book and then rank its level of difficulty on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult. A Level 1 book is one you could give to any friend or family member. A Level 5 book is one that would be required in a PhD seminar. The list is also organized with the more accessible books at the beginning of the list and the more challenging books at the end.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared nine ways to be encouraged in difficult ministry days.

Ministry is tough. Sometimes, it’s difficult enough that we would back away were it not for our sense of calling. Here are some ways to be encouraged in even those hard days, though.

On Disciplined Writing, Part 1: How to Get Started Writing

By: John Burkett

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Burkett is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition and Director of the Writing Center at SEBTS.  This is the first installment of three. This is an edited version of a post which originally ran in 2009.

Why write on writing? I have been asked to write on writing because reading is one half (the listening half) of a conversation, and because writing is a valuable practice that helps shape our thinking, reading, writing, yea, even our souls. Being literate–in the Bible, in our culture, in your vocation–includes not just ability and training but also practice in reading and writing, often becoming a joy-filled practice. Since “practice” is an inherently “religious” word, I often use it to express the stronger meaning of “spiritual discipline,” our focus here.

Since many writers begin writing with “forced” practice (where motivation is external) and only later become interested in the theory of writing, I will proceed along this “natural,” developmental process, first discussing three informal writing disciplines, second a Christian theory for writing, and third “praxis” or how theory helps us negotiate the “rhetorical situation” consisting of audience, action, and author. An assumption in all of my suggestions is that to write well we need to write often, even joyful noise. Let’s begin with three writing disciplines that, if we persist, will take us intellectually and spiritual farther than we can know.

Writing Practice 101: Three Writing Disciplines.

1. Keep a Spiritual Journal. While journaling is not the only kind of writing, it is often the most enjoyable and helps people become comfortable expressing themselves (for no one is watching or listening, right?). One favorite way to keep a spiritual journal is to “Bible study with a pen.” The best Bible-study tool ever invented is pen and paper, so if you, my dear reader, ignore all else I write, try this: Bring pen and paper to your next devotional Bible study, and see how far your sentences will take you in Holy Writ.

While you read the Scriptures, you can record fascinating word studies, cross-references, allusions, personal applications, personal prayers, and how God through the grace in Christ is answering your prayers. Few things are more exciting! As you write and develop confidence, you may wish to compose your own psalm, proverb, or epistle. The important practice is disciple-like discipline, a practice that will give you much joy as you proceed.

As a personal testimony, if redemption of the mind is a process, for me (and for many others) it began in college with free writing in a journal, with the struggle to perceive and describe what I read, felt, saw, and experienced with others and with the Lord.

2. Write Personal Letters. If you enjoy the social outlet of communicating with an attentive audience, you should consider making letter writing your writing discipline. For instance, on Sundays you may spend the Lord’s Day writing a letter or two to friends, family members, or missionaries whom you support and pray for. This practice may mean supplementing (or dropping) that text-messaging machine and investing in a more intimate relationship with your readers. Much like a journal with a direct audience, in a letter you can share all that’s appropriate, develop valuable relationships, and become a better writer to boot.

3. Imitate Your Favorite Authors. While it’s true that “the good reader writes the book,” as developing writers we should read with a certain question in mind. Your friends and professors will ask, “What does it mean?” but you should also ask of your favorite books, “How can this author help me to become a better writer?” In fact, the classical practice of imitatio (imitating great authors and orators) was (until recently) the dominant mode of advanced writing instruction, helping students to learn to write stylized, emphatic, or poignant phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.

The idea of imitatio is not to imitate the meaning but to imitate the form of a fine sentence, paying attention to sentence structure, such as balanced coordination, parallel phrasing, punctuation, use of modifiers, and sound and rhythm. In a journal (or anywhere you write), consider imitating your favorite sentences by your favorite speakers and authors.

Writing is like running: the hardest step is the one out the door, so seek to set a routine; for instance, set aside a time each day or each week wherein you just write.topodin