In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Amber Bowen discussed why Christians should actually listen to atheists. Amber writes:

What can we learn from the atheists’ perspective about us?

 

“Sometimes it’s good for us to actually listen to the atheists…. We hear, ‘You’re atheist, I’m going to plug my ears and I’m going to attack.’ So we’re always on the defensive, and we’re never on the listening side.

 

“One of the big problems we have — especially in this day and age — [is that] we’re really, really obsessed with forming our opinions about things. (‘Am I on this side, or am I on this side? Do I have this view, or do I have this view?’) And we’re really, really set on figuring out the rightness of the issues that we don’t ever take time to stop and examine our own hearts. We’re busier forming our opinions than we are at looking at our hearts.

 

“So… I’m going to throw out some big names: Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Camus, Derrida — you guys should be shivering right now. These are hardcore atheists. These are the bad guys, right, in terms of Christian worldview… But in reality, I think that these guys function for us like the prophets of the Old Testament, or even like Jesus to the Pharisees, or like Paul saying to the churches, ‘Your works are dead. Why are you having Jesus plus all your works?’ or like James who criticizes cheap grace or the practice of favoritism in the church. These people are calling out things, and they can see things that we can’t because we’re within it. So we benefit from actually stopping our defense, listening to them and examining our hearts.

 

Earlier this week, the B&H Academic blog shared a post by Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merkle, and Robert Plummer discussing a (brief) history of Text Criticism.

Even within the New Testament (NT) itself, we have evidence that the individual NT documents were copied by hand and that these copies circulated among the churches. In Colossians 4:16, Paul writes, “When this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”

 

Over time, the early church grouped selections of inspired writings and copied them together. By the mid-second century, the four canonical Gospels and Paul’s letters were apparently grouped and copied as units. Not much later, the entire NT was grouped and copied as a recognized body of inspired writings. The earliest extant canonical list we have of the NT (the Muratorian Canon) has been dated to AD 190.

 

As early Christians copied, recopied, and copied copies (all by hand), small variations were inevitably introduced into the manuscripts. And, although Church Fathers sometimes speculated about copyist errors or the original reading of manuscripts, it was virtually impossible to codify accurately such discussion until one could reproduce a text without any variation. Thus, after the printing press was introduced to Europe in 1454, possibilities for comparing manuscripts with an unchanging standard arose.

 

Aaron Earls recently posted at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door discussing why Americans change churches. Aaron writes:

At some point in their lives, half of Americans have searched for a new church to attend.

 

A new survey from Pew Research examines the attitudes surrounding the move and come away with some very interesting findings. Here are five takeaways for Christians hoping to understand the current American religious environment.

 

Keelan Cook recently shared why your community should affect the way you do ministry.

Methods in local church ministry and mission are too often based on the perceived goals of the church instead of the unique nature of their community. Before I sound too critical, I believe many local churches have noble goals, but they are often more self-serving than the church ever realizes. Many churches focus on growth and now diversity as success metrics. These are not bad things. In fact they are good things, but a poor understanding of them can subtly replace more biblical success metrics, such as making good disciples and multiplying gospel witness in the community. For instance, is it better to have one larger church in a city or multiple smaller churches? That is a hard question to answer. And when we talk about diversity, we often have a shallow understanding of that term. Sometimes, a church simply wants different colors of skin. They are not looking for real cultural diversity, or language diversity, or age diversity, or economic diversity. In fact, many churches are simply trying to figure out how to do church the way they want to and convince other kinds of people to come do it that way with them. This is not real diversity.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared 6 go-t0 sources for political news and opinion.

For Christians who wish to be informed on matters of significance in the political arena but who are pressed for time, this article offers six “go-to” sources for political news and opinion. The first four sources are secular outlets; I follow them to keep abreast of breaking news and a variety of perspectives on the news. The last two sources are distinctively Christian outlets that provide conservative evangelical opinions on current events and political developments.

In Case You Missed It

Alan Cross recently interviewed Dr. Bruce Ashford for his podcast When Heaven and Earth Collide. At SBC Voices, Alan writes about what they discussed.

In this interview, we start by talking about what God might be doing in regard to immigrants and the worldwide refugee crisis – a question that I asked everyone that I interviewed at the Southern Baptists Convention in St. Louis. However, Bruce immediately took us down some unexpected roads into a fascinating discussion involving the worship of God, mission, and the glorious light that God was committed to shine upon Himself through the nations of the world. There are things that I heard in this interview that I had not thought about before – or, at least I had not put it together the way that Bruce did. In seeking to develop a biblical perspective on immigrant and refugee ministry, this type of discussion is exactly what is needed.

 

We talked about Revelation 5, 21, and 22, Isaiah 60, and about what his local church, Summit, in Raleigh-Durham, is doing to engage and serve the nations that have come to them. Bruce serves there as an elder. We went on to talk about the witness of the church in our nation, the need for immigration reform and what it might look like, what justice drenched in mercy would be in this situation and why we need it. We also talked briefly about the incredibly unproductive nature of the current political discussions on immigration. You’ll be interested in what Dr. Ashford had to say about that.

 

At the Intersect Project’s website, Amber Bowen writes on how contemporary art can be the Christian’s unlikely tutor.

And there I was: in the “Citta’ Eterna.” Not to see the glories of ancient Rome or the works of the Renaissance masters. Instead, I was headed to the MaXXI — a famous contemporary art museum.

 

I lived in Italy for four years, immersed in its culture and masterpieces. I then moved back to the states and began to study contemporary philosophy. My studies sent me back desirous of exploring an Italy I hadn’t experienced before through contemporary art. And everyone pointed me to the MaXXI.

 

My best Italian friend is an expert in contemporary art criticism and preservation. We met in Rome for the day and she accompanied me through a breathtaking gallery of 21st century art and architecture, explaining background information, particularities, techniques and perspectives. Most of all, she showed me why she loves contemporary art as a Christian. Through our conversation that afternoon, I gained a greater appreciation for contemporary art. More importantly, I discovered that we Christians can learn important lessons from this art.

 

Keelan Cook shared a post at The Peoples Next Door discussing the dangers of hyper-connectivity for the missionary.

I have the unique fortune of training a good number of missionaries in my role at the seminary and through the church I pastor. It is a real blessing to be a part of equipping young families and singles to uproot their lives and move for the sake of the gospel. A regular component of this training is the use of media in the life of the missionary. Our generation (and all following) are now digital natives. The internet is an assumed part of life for all of us, and most of us are connected every hour of the day and night.

 

The internet has changed missions. Think back to the beginning of the modern missions movement. A move to the mission field virtually severed ties with anyone at home. Certainly, the missionaries maintained as much connection as possible, but that came in the form of letters that took months to deliver and then months more for response. The missionary calling was one of intense separation from church and family, and most often intense isolation from other believers or people from your culture. It was total immersion in a land where no one spoke like you, looked like you, acted like you, or believed like you. This is simply how missions worked all the way up to the middle of the 20th century. Eventually telegraphs and then telephones made more immediate communication possible, but this was extremely limited by location. With air travel, short term teams allowed a physical connection back to church and family in a way that was not possible before.

 

The Baptist Press published an article by Nathan Finn discussing the importance of those who are faithful in pastoral ministry whose work might be unrecognized outside of their communities. Dr. Finn writes:

Kentucky farmer-writer Wendell Berry once gave a lecture wherein he distinguished the “boomers” from the “stickers.” Boomers are the restless, ambitious types who believe the path to prosperity is leaving home and embracing a world of innovation and big cities. Stickers, on the other hand, aspire to maintain their roots in the small towns and country places that nurtured them.

 

Berry was thinking about the future of rural farming and rural America, but his ideas cause me to think about the future of the church and pastoral ministry.

 

As Southern Baptists, we have our own version of pastoral boomers and stickers. The boomers leave their small-town or rural churches, are educated in college and probably seminary, and then head off to serve churches located in the suburbs or the city center. Their prayerful desire is to make a significant Gospel impact in these places of dense populations and cultural influence….While I’m grateful for pastoral boomers, over the past few years I’ve found myself thinking more and more about the stickers. They also normally attend college, though seminary may or may not be in the offing. Many of them are solo pastors, perhaps even bivocational. Instead of heading to more “strategic” settings, pastoral stickers invest themselves in small-town churches and rural congregations — often close to where they were raised.

 

Were early Christians communist? Read as Dr. David Jones discusses in this article at the Intersect Project.

Were early Christians communists?

 

That’s what some Christians conclude when the read about the early Christian converts in the book of Acts who practiced a type of voluntary communal sharing. Acts 2:44–45 reads,

 

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

 

Additional details are recorded in Acts 4:32–35:

 

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

 

Some contemporary believers have suggested that this instance of communal sharing in the early church presents a model for all Christians to follow. Christians should be communists, they say.

 

Indeed, the communal sharing in Acts reflects the biblical ideal of provision for believers (see Psalm 37:25–26) and embodies the principle of lending to those in need (see Deuteronomy 15:7–8; Luke 6:34). Yet the example of communal sharing in the early church is not a viable model for contemporary Christians. Here are a few reasons.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Jamie Dew shared a post on his personal blog about doubting…and why it happens to us all from time to time. Dr Dew writes:

I’ll admit it. I have had my moments when I wondered if it’s actually true. In fact, I’ve had more than just moments. Those who know me best know that it’s been the seasons of wondering and questioning that ultimately led me to studying apologetics and eventually philosophy. Before I knew it, I had become an academic.

 

Here’s one thing I’ve found. Believers tend to think something is terribly wrong if they have doubts about their faith. “Perhaps”, they think to themselves, “doubt indicates that there is something wrong with Christianity, the Bible, or even Jesus.” And since they don’t want to insinuate that anything is wrong with Christianity, the Bible, or Jesus, they suppress and conceal their doubts. And in the off chance that they actually talk about their struggles with fellow believers, they might be scolded for their uncertainty as if they have failed morally.

 

Here’s another thing I’ve found. Doubting is NOT—no matter what some might think—an indicator that there is something wrong with Christianity, the Bible, or Jesus. Doubting is an indicator that WE are limited as knowers. Doubting, uncertainty, and questions are not a result of some problem with Christianity. These are the results of our humanity. That is, they are part of the human condition and are shared by people of every worldview perspective. It’s just part of what it’s like to be a human and something that we all—no matter what worldview we hold to be true—have to deal with.

 

Having said that, let me say three things: Relax, Reflect, and Research.

 

At his blog The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls recently wrote an article discussing how nostalgia looks forward, not backwards.

Nostalgia may be the dominant force in modern culture.

 

Popular TV shows long since cancelled are receiving new life. Gilmore Girls is coming to Netflix almost 10 years after the show’s run on network television ended. Other shows are being rebooted or recast. Virtually every hit movie is a derivative of something that was successful in the past. Whether it was a book, TV show, comic book, or movie, the completely original film seems rare these days. It can be tempting to write off nostalgia as nothing more than the last gasps of an extended adolescence. We want to relive joys from our younger years and recapture cherished memories.

 

In a way that may be true. After all, nostalgia can be used as a replacement for honoring the past through traditions by simply commoditizing it. Within the church, nostalgia is often used as an excuse to avoid doing the hard work of understanding modern culture and simply calling people to embrace a bygone era. But that is only part of the story. Nostalgia is more than a pining glance backwards. In reality, it is a longing look forward that is simply misplaced.

 

At the Southeastern Women’s Life blog, Bekah Stoneking shared a post titled When God Calls, Just GO. Bekah writes:

“Professional ministry” never crossed my mind.

 

Though I grew up in the church and though a lot of my friends in college were pastors or pastors’ wives, it never clicked for me that people actually went to school to “do” ministry. I suppose I thought that everyone just served the church alongside whatever else they did (shout out to my parents, an engineer and a nurse, who are excellent examples of doing just that!)

 

Before I graduated from college, I felt like God was leading me to go to seminary (a rather foreign concept) and as I researched schools and degrees, I became overwhelmed. And whenever I’d think about what I’d do after seminary, I would become confused because I had no idea where I fit in. For a few months, I tried to press on, talk to friends and pastors, and make a plan but the more I searched, the more I realized that I was a woman.

 

What do women in seminary do? What do women in professional ministry do? I felt particularly gifted in teaching and public speaking but…what does that mean?

 

It didn’t make sense so I just pressed “pause” and stopped talking about it. I got  into a good groove teaching second graders in a wonderful school district, serving in my local church, and spending my summer and winter breaks D-leading at youth retreats. Then one November morning, I met a friend for breakfast. When she sat down, she quietly leaned across the table and said, “Bekah, I think God talked to me in the bathroom. I’m supposed to ask you when you’re going to seminary.

 

Well.

 

Okay then.

 

At The People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook shared how the Spirit is the source of our supply.

Ministry to others comes from the overflow of a heart filled with the Spirit.

 

You have heard it before. I have too. I have preached it before, but it is worth repeating. Ministry to others comes from the overflow of a heart filled with the Spirit. If we are to be the kind of ministers that God asks us to be, then we will only do so by abiding in him. Seminary student, aspiring to the ministry, hear these words: ministry is not simply about how much you know. Pastor, remember the demands of ministry and family cannot serve as excuses for distance from the Father. Such is a recipe for disaster in all areas. I was freshly reminded of this while studying Mark’s gospel with my church. In the fourth chapter, Mark makes a statement. It is small and subtle, so it is easy to pass over. Nevertheless, it is a principle that rings true and serves as a guide to the minister.

 

“Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured and added to you,” states Jesus in a conversation with his disciples (Mk 4:24). These words come at a transition point in a teaching discourse by Jesus, and they serve to tie together much of the previous thought on hearing the word of God and the responsibility that brings. At the beginning of the passage, Jesus delivers the parable of the sower. He cautions listeners about the manner in which they receive the word. There are multiple ways to receive God’s word but only one that produces fruit. “But the ones sown on good ground are those who hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop: 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown” (Mk 4:20). The admonition of Christ is to be open to the word, to hear it with gladness, welcome it, and let it do it’s life-producing work in your heart. Fruit grows in the lives of those who receive the word rightly.

 

Dr. Chuck Lawless recently shared ten ways to listen better as a church leader.

All church leaders have church members who want to talk with us at times. Sometimes it’s an emergency. At other times, it’s a longer-term need. Many of us, though, aren’t the best listeners. Here are some ways to do better.