In Case You Missed It

Bruce Ashford recently posted a guest post at Chuck Lawless’ blog, sharing a way to make Scripture memory manageable and meaningful. Dr. Ashford writes:

It happens to most of us church leaders. Gradually, and without notice, we slip into the habit of viewing the Scriptures more as an object to be dissected than a spiritual feast to nourish our souls. As an antidote to this temptation, I recently wrote about a four-fold pattern of Scripture intake that helps us to receive the Scriptures as the nourishing word of for our souls. The four-fold pattern—read, reflect, pray, obey—is an adaptation and modification of an early church practice.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The People’s Next Door earlier this week explaining that church is not a spectator sport.

College football season is once again upon us. This week, I am traveling to do some missionary training and last night, I found myself laying in a hotel bed, listening to my team play their opening game on the radio. The Tennessee Volunteers, a top ten ranked team, were getting man-handled by Appalachian State, a nowhere near top ten team. Fortunately, the Vols snagged a “W” in overtime, but the whole time I was talking to the radio, telling the team what they should be doing.

 

This is how football works: a small handful of folk on the field, trying to win the game, while millions of us sit in an armchair and tell them what they are doing wrong. Truth is, I have never played football, but you would think I knew something about it by listening to me. After all the sports shows, commentators, and games I have watched, I think I know something about it. However, if you put me into that game, it would not take long to realize I do not.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams published an article explaining that God is greater than your fear of sharing the gospel. Nathaniel writes:

I know I’m supposed to share the gospel. But fear always seems to get in the way.

 

To wit: I once had a conversation with a staunchly liberal (and probably unsaved) lady in my town. I invited her to my church and mentioned how faith inspires us to love the least of these. As I walked away, though, I realized I had only wanted to talk about topics she wanted to hear. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with her worldview — namely, that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

 

On another occasion, I discussed faith with a deeply conservative (and probably unsaved) man. After I explained my interest in international missions, he said, “I hope you don’t leave the country. I hate any country that’s not America.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with his worldview — namely, the parts about Jesus saving us to share his good news to the ends of the earth.

 

In both instances, fear prohibited me from sharing parts of the gospel my listeners didn’t want to hear. So I stayed away from controversial topics. And both of them heard something less than the full gospel message.

 

Randy Mann shared the most encouraging post-sermon comment he has ever received.

Last Sunday, I received the most encouraging sermon comment I have ever received. It came from a 5 year old body (who I later found out was attending his first corporate worship service). He came up to me with his mom and said, “I really like what you said in your sermon today.” I asked, “Was there something special, or did you just like it in general?” He stopped for a minute and replied, “You made me think about Jesus.”

 

In a recent interview with Steve Noble about an article she wrote for The Exchange, Amy Whitfield tackled the question: “How should Christians use social media?” Follow this link to listen to the interview, or you can read highlights at the Intersect Project website.

I have a megaphone when I put something out on Facebook or on Twitter, but I don’t feel it in the moment. If I’m sitting in a room full of people, and I have a particular opinion about something but I know that it’s bombastic, or I know it could be hurtful, and I’m looking at everyone, then I know. I have some sort of check in my conscience that triggers me.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. George Robinson posted at the Center for Great Commission Studies discussing how the SBC has a baptism problem, and it’s not what you think. Dr. Robinson writes:

The SBC has a baptism problem – and it’s not what you think it is.  For several years Southern Baptist leaders have noted and lamented a decline in baptisms.  To the degree that baptism signifies life transformation by the power of the gospel, that is a problem.  However, the real problem may actually be hidden under the surface of current stats.  The real problem may in fact be what we’ve been counting all along.

 

The following quote from a 2014 Christianity Today article reveals the real problem few people are talking about.

 

“In last year’s (2013) Annual Church Profile, 60 percent of the more than 46,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reported no youth baptisms (ages 12 to 17) in 2012, and 80 percent reported only one or zero baptisms among young adults (ages 18 to 29). One in four Southern Baptist churches reported zero baptisms overall in 2012, while the ‘only consistently growing’ baptism group was children under five years old.”

 

Yes, it is sad when churches go an entire year without baptizing anyone.  But it is even more sad when many of the churches that are seeing baptism seem to be abandoning a key distinctive of what it means to be Baptist in the first place – regenerate church membership.  In our clamor to address one problem, we may actually be creating a larger one!  Timothy George refers to this as “the downgrading of baptism” in SBC circles.  He goes on to hit the proverbial nail on the head stating, “One can mount a robust biblical defense of believers’ baptism as a conscientious act of repentance and faith, and there are well-reasoned arguments in support of infant baptism, but ‘toddler’ or preschool baptism is something different, and relatively new in Baptist circles.”

The questions we ask will drive the response and subsequent strategy we follow.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next door asking: “Is your church part of the movement?

There is a growing movement concerning local missions in North America, and I saw evidence of it this past weekend.

 

The Reaching the Nations in North America summit was a high-water mark for me, because it demonstrated a swell of concern for what can only be seen as the providence of God providing Great Commission opportunities to our churches. The nations are in North America. People from all over the world are moving into our communities, approximately 45 million of them. So many of these people are coming from places where there is little-to-no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

It is no coincidence that God is plucking up millions from the hardest-to-reach places and placing them in the shadow of your church steeple.

 

Dr. Danny Akin posted at his personal blog explaining that changing the world begins with prayer. Dr. Akin writes:

The work of reaching and changing the world is, indeed, a work done on our knees. And, it is a work that takes on the nature of fierce and intense warfare. After all, one of Satan’s chief weapons is to cut off communication with God, communication that takes place in prayer. John Piper is certainly correct when he writes, “Prayer is meant by God to be a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom … not for the enhancement of our comforts but for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.”

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford published an article earlier this week giving four principles for political witness in our American Babylon.

The past decade has made one thing clear to evangelicals: the social, cultural, and political ground is shifting beneath us. We are not “winning the day” with our vision of the good life. Although we have seen some incremental progress on the pro-life issue, we are experiencing consistent regression on other issues that matter most to us, such as religious liberty, human dignity, gender and sexuality, and free speech.

 

In this moment of uncertainty as we find ourselves marginalized in an increasingly pagan public square, the Old Testament offers important lessons for us. Especially prescient is the story in Daniel 3 about three Jewish men—Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego—who are Babylonian captives under King Nebuchadnezzar. From these mid-level government officials, we learn four significant lessons about being faithful witnesses in a pagan public square.

 

Dr. Ashford also spoke last weekend in Nashville at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference. Dr. Ashford’s speech was quoted in an article from The Tennessean:

A Southern Baptist seminary professor called the current election cycle a “nearly unmitigated disaster” and a “colossal dumpster fire,” but he’s found a silver lining.

 

The polarizing 2016 presidential election has pushed some evangelical Christians to care less about what political parties and news outlets say they should believe and care more about how their views reflect the gospel, said Bruce Ashford, of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. Ashford shared his frank but hopeful remarks Thursday during the national conference for the public policy arm of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention.

 

“I say nearly unmitigated because I think it has taken something of this magnitude maybe to awaken many of us or most of us to the fact that we should not be beholden to any narrative,” Ashford said. “As I see it, every modern political ideology has idols working underneath it … I think this election has been unsettling enough that we might once again realize the gospel transcends and calls into question all of those things.”

 

Finally, last but not least, be sure to check out The College at Southeastern’s new website!

THE COLLEGE AT SOUTHEASTERN IS MORE THAN JUST A COLLEGE—IT’S A CALLING. Whether you become a lawyer, business professional, English teacher, missionary or pastor, God has a plan for you to be involved in his mission. This is a place where you can be trained both theologically and vocationally. Whatever you choose to study, we can equip you to live out the gospel in any career path.

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.