The Faith of the Coptic Christians

Recently, Scott Hildreth, Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies, wrote about the faith of the 21 Coptic (Egyptian) Christians killed by ISIS. Here is an excerpt from his post: 

The 21 men who were killed on the beach in Libya were killed BECAUSE of their professed faith. The sadistic evil doers made this profession on their behalf before the murders. Their captors confessed that these men were “people of the cross.” In this testimony I hear the echoes of Daniel’s enemies who said they could not find any fault in him unless it was his faith. These men were killed because their captors believed they were Christians.

I can assume (and yes, it is only an assumption) that these Islamic extremists would have pressed for, and been content with, these men converting to Islam. Based on my knowledge of these types of situation, I imagine these men were provided opportunities to renounce their faith and embrace the faith of their captors. Clearly they did not. They were murdered because they were men “of the cross.” On the basis of this testimony through the lips of their captors, and their lifestyle “not loving their lives even unto death,” Southern Baptists (and the rest of the Christian world) are right to hallow these men as martyrs and identify with them as brothers in the faith.

Our show of solidarity is not a declaration that the entire Coptic community is Christian. Rather, it accepts the testimony of these 21 men as valid based on profession and demonstration. We accept the testimony of a Baptist and would mourn their martyrdom even if we had not known them personally, though we all know that many who carry the label Baptist are not regenerate. In the same way, it is good and right that we identify with our brothers “of the cross” whose lives were taken because of this testimony.

Our solidarity with them does not make an entire people group Christians, and was never intended to do so. But based on what we have seen from a clear witness in front of a watching world, that same solidarity should also not be interpreted as cowardly or in any way abandoning the faith.

May these men receive the reward of their faith and may the Lord judge their murders with justice and most of all, may he grant to us all the faith to face whatever opposition we will with the same faithfulness they demonstrated on that Libyan beach.

Read the full post and comments here.

The Phases of Church Leadership: Vision Development

I am continuing a series of posts concerning five phases a church needs to learn and experience in order to either move toward or remain in a state of growth and health. These phases form a never-ending loop that should be repeated over and over again. The more intentional church leaders are at working through these five, the more intentional the focus and coordination of their ministry will be.

I have already introduced the first two phases. Churches need to work through Assessment and Identification. Next, based on the study and reaffirmation of the biblical standards for the church, the data and observations from the Assessment conducted, and the new profile of Identification developed, it is time for the third phase: Vision Development.

In a series of previous posts I shared several critical abilities for missional church leaders. I recommend you go back and read them. These abilities are actually key strategies and steps for Vision Development. In the way of a reminder, I wrote about the need to: Understand the Mission, Establish a Biblical Vision, Build Bridges of Leadership, Handle Change and Conflict Well, and Pray with a Missional Heart. Let me add to those discussions here.

It is vital to not only recognize the difference between the mission and a vision as a leader, but to help the average member in the pew to get it also. In this discussion, the mission is the unchanging purpose of God for His church while the vision is the specific, contextual plan to fulfill that mission. Think of train tracks (predetermined, unchanging pathway to a predetermined destination) versus the actual building of a train. What specific “train” needs to be built in order to run on the rails in your context?

Through Assessment and Identification, the church defines the biblical principles by which the church should operate as well as an understanding of who the church actually is and how removed from that scriptural ideal it actually is. This plumb line provides the end goal for the current vision.

Then through backward planning, church leaders can map out the necessary programs and even special projects that will move them down the tracks. These vision components must be based upon the discovered biblical foundations and evaluated by whether they lead to the proper quantitative, and more importantly, qualitative, goals that ultimately lead to the end goal.

For example, we are not always certain whether large numbers alone are pleasing to the Lord. We can be certain, however, that personal transformation leading to fruit and producing discipleship, brings glory to God (the ultimate end goal). Church leaders, therefore, should define what personal transformation means, how to identify it and what it looks like. Then, a plan of what needs to be taught and practiced in order for that to occur can be determined. Finally, the needed programming and event schedule and curriculum can be established. This process not only provides the parameters for planning but the criteria for further assessment as well. Train building, not bumper car collisions!

Once the leadership is on board and the train is ready to roll, phase four kicks in. This is often the most difficult phase. It is called Adjustment. Next time!

 

They Loved Not Their Lives

The news of the murder of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya reminds us all of the sacrifice these saints, and their families, made for the King and his kingdom. Yet, their sacrifice testifies to their overcoming faith in the King who will, one day, overcome all his enemies. Will Taylor, assistant program coordinator for college students at the CGCS, connected the death of these 21 to the testimony of martyred Karen Watson (Iraq 2004). Here’s an excerpt:

Amidst sadness and heartbreak for families and those affected, I’m also challenged to reflect about my own devotion to Christ. Take a moment and read Karen Watson’s own Epithet. An IMB missionary, she was killed by unknown assailants in Iraq in March of 2004. You can find her whole story in this free resource made possible through the IMB. Before going, she left this note to her pastor enclosed in an envelope.

Read the full post here.