In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Diane Ellis explained why she and her husband decided to homeschool as a missionary couple.

Back in seminary, my husband and I began to think about options for educating our children. In the forefront of our minds was our desire to serve the Lord in overseas missions. We knew at least for the foreseeable future that we would be moving around quite a bit before settling at the place where God would lead us.

 

At that time, homeschooling was just beginning to become popular, and there were limited options for curriculum. But after doing some research and spending time in prayer, we decided to give it a try for one year. Not only did we want to be intimately involved in the spiritual and academic formation of our children, we also wanted to give them a stable learning environment that would not change every few months. My husband was pastoring a church during those days, and homeschooling was perfect for our lifestyle. We had flexibility to schedule the children’s education around his ministry and travels, and could take full advantage of opportunities for field trips, homeschool co-op meetings, park days, music lessons and sports activities in the community. Our children were able to actively participate in our ministry, whether visiting the nursing home, accompanying dad on visits, or spending time at the park with a family needing encouragement during the week.

 

Each year for several years, we re-evaluated our decision to homeschool. We wanted to make sure our children were getting a great education, that we were adequately involved in the community and church, that we had a balance of relationships with believers and unbelievers, and that we were not missing some key components in our children’s development. What started out as a one-year probationary period turned into 25 years of teaching and supervising our children through their formative years.

 

We eventually moved our family to Brazil, where we have served as missionaries for 22 years. We never did find that place to “settle,” as we have moved nearly every five years to new locations, not including our furloughs back to the US for sharing our ministry. But homeschooling was a constant in our children’s lives, which prepared them for college and life after college.

 

Aaron Earls posted an article at his personal blog The Wardrobe Door discussing how C. S. Lewis warned us about non-denominationalism. Aaron writes:

While most branches of American Christianity are shrinking, one strand continues to grow—non-denominationalism. But is that the most healthy situation for the faith?

 

According to a newly released Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who identify with a Protestant denomination has fallen 20 percentage points in just 16 years, from 50 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2016.

 

Meanwhile, those who claim to be a non-denominational Christian have almost doubled in the same time frame, from 9 percent to 17 percent.

 

The future continues to look less and less tied to denominational affiliation. Among college freshmen, “other Christian” has jumped 10 points in the past 20 years—the only affiliation to see significant growth.

 

Today, 15 percent of college freshman identify that way, second only to Catholic at 23 percent, which fell 13 points.

 

Dr. Benjamin Quinn posted an article at The Intersect Project reminding seminary students not to waste the jobs they have right now.

As a professor at the College at Southeastern and Southeastern Seminary, I have the privilege of working with students, many of whom are preparing for a future in vocational ministry.

 

Many of my students work during their time here in Wake Forest. They serve as janitors, waitresses, store clerks, IT — anything to pay the bills and support their families.

 

I like to ask them about their work. Occasionally, students will say something like, “I’m just doing this job until I can get a ministry position.” They view their work now as nothing more than a means to a paycheck. They’re biding their time until they get a job with a church.

 

Sometimes, the implications are more severe. “If I just had a job in the church or an easy position,” they think, “I wouldn’t have to put up with all these knuckleheads I have to work with.”

 

Do you resonate with these statements? Are you, too, biding your time until you get a ministry job? Do you grow weary of working with difficult people? If so, I want to urge you to reconsider.

 

At his personal blog, Sam Rainer discussed why sermon preparation is not devotional time.

Every Monday morning, I swivel in my desk chair—praying, pondering. Yellow legal pads fill with chicken scratch in a language only I understand. About fifty Mondays a year, around 3:00 p.m., I start to wonder if I’ll have anything worthwhile to say the following Sunday. The other two Mondays I’m on vacation.

 

I know it’s the Holy Spirit, but many weeks it feels like sheer luck. My sermon comes together, and cogent points begin to form. I’ve heard of some pastors using their sermon preparation as a devotional time. For me, that could never happen. I sweat too much when I write sermons. I’d get dehydrated.

 

Sermon preparation is not—and should not—be used as devotion time. Sermon writing is devotional to an extent. Both involve prayer. Both elevate Scripture. Both require the work of the Holy Spirit. But they are different.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford shared a post at his blog discussing how Lesslie Newbigin changed his way of thinking.

As a Christian citizen of the United States, it is clear to me that I am living in an increasingly post-Christian society. The majority of Americans no longer consider traditional Christian doctrine (e.g. original sin) or traditional Christian ethics (e.g. sexual morality) plausible in the modern world. Christians who do not abandon these beliefs are increasingly considered morally inferior or even hateful.

Given the fact that the United States is a democratic republic, the beliefs of citizens affect the lives of other citizens socially, culturally, and politically. This reality makes it increasingly important for us as Christians to figure out the best way to comport ourselves in the public square. I consider three thinkers especially helpful for this task: Richard John Neuhaus, Lesslie Newbigin, and Abraham Kuyper. In this post, I wish to articulate what it is about Newbigin’s life and writings that is helpful for us in our 21stcentury American context.

In Case You Missed It

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a post discussing how the genuine kindness of Fred rogers has made him a new unlikely hero in our current culture.

In 2005, sandwiched between the Iraq War and the Great Recession, the internet provided Americans a needed respite in the form of Chuck Norris facts. But our hyper-partisan culture has found a new unlikely hero—Mr. Rogers.

 

Earlier this week, Jason Duesing shared an article at Preaching Source highlighting the preacher’s role as missionary.

In recent years our family survived our “Angry Birds” season of life. For a period of time our kids could not get enough of this game, to the extent that we even had an Angry Birds birthday party along the way. If you have played this game, you know that the key to advancing is trajectory. How you aim the angry bird makes all the difference for achieving maximum effect. While hopefully not angry, the key for the preacher as missionary also is trajectory. In what direction the preacher points, the church follows.

 

That said, it isn’t enough for a preacher to herald the importance of missions. He must underscore its importance biblically and encourage his people to be world Christians just like him. So, more than merely pointing to the ends of the earth, the preacher should also go there and take others with him.

 

In short, the preacher as missionary is an exemplar of one who champions the end goal of the gospel and those called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet, this is not another hat he must wear but is the natural outgrowth of his dedication to the gospel and his desire to see the nations reached.

 

Inevitably, when the preacher is leading in the trajectory of missions, well-meaning church members will ask why it is that we need to emphasize and fund long-range global mission efforts when there are so many lost people right here at home. This is a question of stewardship and deserves a good answer, and the preacher as missionary should readily give it.

 

At The Intersect Project, Laura Thigpen shared four ways to walk with those who weep.

Silence accompanies Grief, as does Loneliness. These unwanted tenants take up residence in all our lives for a time. And each us will long for companions to come and sit with us while these unwanted guests are present. All of us may not be in seasons of deep grief, but we all know someone who is. The Christian life demands that we respond to others who grieve, but not in the way it has become so common.

 

For various reasons, I have experienced grief in my life that never truly leaves. I have come to realize that the pangs of grief may subside, but the cause of my grief will never go away. I will always be grieving, to some extent. And I’m not alone. For this reason, brothers and sisters in Christ must hold up one another’s arms, walk alongside and shoulder one another’s burdens as we grieve — for we all will grieve, and we all will desire someone to help us grieve.

 

I’m grateful to have such brothers and sisters in my life. Sometimes we sat in silence; other times we talked. Sometimes we wept together; other times we laughed. But what I have treasured most about the ways others have entered into grief with me is their resolve to grieve with me, to feel what I feel in a small way, to be burdenedby the destructive effects sin has in our world with me, to carry out the call to “weep with those who weep.” It is a blessing to have brothers and sisters so willing to follow this command, but it can be terribly burdensome when brothers and sisters do not.

 

Are you willing to “weep with those who weep” — to be there when someone is experiencing grief? Here are four practical steps to carry out this important call.

 

This week at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin wax looked at why C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity received bad reviews.

Mere Christianity is a strange book to become a modern Christian classic, partly because it wasn’t intended to be a book in the first place.

 

The work began as a series of radio addresses Lewis delivered during WWII. Next, these “broadcast talks” were printed as small pamphlets. A decade later, they were compiled into the book we know it as today. (What’s more, it wasn’t Mere Christianity that put Lewis on the map; The Screwtape Letters propelled Lewis forward in both the UK and the United States, eventually landing him on the cover of Time magazine.)

 

Still, few books in the 20th century have cast such a long shadow as Mere Christianity. I have multiple books on my shelf that give a nod to Lewis when making a case for Christianity in the 21st century: from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian to Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Today, Lewis’s book has its own biography–written by George Marsden–as one volume in a series on influential Christian books!

 

But despite the book’s influence today (more than 70 years after the talks were delivered and 65 years since it first showed up in print), early reviewers felt little fondness for Lewis’s work or his vision of Christianity. Some of the initial feedback was negative.

 

In a post at the Baptist Press, Paul Akin shared the number one reason missionaries leave the field.

The most common reason missionaries go home is not due to lack of money, illness, terrorism, homesickness, or even a lack of fruit or response to the Gospel.

 

Regretfully, the number one reason is due to conflict with other missionaries.

 

Yes, you read that correctly.

 

From my own personal experience on the field and after five years training, equipping, and sending missionaries, I have witnessed this truth firsthand. In all my travels around the world, I’ve spent countless days with missionary teams of all types, sizes, and makeups and one reality remains true: none of them are perfect.

 

Dr. Joe McKeever’s blog is always a treasure chest of information gathered over his many years of faithful service in ministry. This week, he shared two posts which were related in that they discussed his long-practiced habit of journaling.

In the first post, Dr. McKeever shared something he always tells students about writing.

Writing a journal is like taking a 30-minute slice of your today and sending it ahead into the future.  I’m big on journaling.  Journals, we are told, are not so much for our children–who presumably are living the same life we are and have little curiosity about how we view today–as for our grandchildren and theirs.  In time, my journal will be looked upon as something of a record of “the life of an ordinary Baptist preacher in the 1990s.”  I’ll not be around to know it, but in doing those journals–I’m through with journal-keeping except on this blog, something that I wouldn’t exactly call journaling–it has often been with a view toward the future.  There’s a strong witness for Christ throughout all 56 volumes.

In this next post, he shares more about journaling, and why (no matter what we are writing) we should record the good experiences along with the painful ones.

Recently, when a friend began telling of the rupture in his congregation that resulted in his sudden departure, astonishingly some six or eight years after the event, I could see the pain was still fresh, the wound yet open.  I told him, “Start writing.  You need to get this out and on paper.”

 

He protested, “I can’t.  Those people are still around and I don’t want to stir it up again.”

 

I said, “You don’t have to publish it.  Just write it for yourself.

In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Dr. Nathan Finn answered a few questions about the relationship between spiritual formation and mission from a new book, Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church, which he co-edited with Dr. Keith Whitfield.

In recent years, evangelicals have pursued a more holistic Christian mission and participated in discussions about spiritual formation. Yet these two important movements have developed independently and rarely intersected.

Nathan A. Finn and Keith S. Whitfield want to change that. In Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church (IVP Academic, 2017), Finn and Whitfield bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and ecclesial traditions to address the relationship between spiritual formation and mission.

Nathan A. Finn (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University, where he also serves as dean of the School of Theology and Missions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, mission, spiritual formation and cultural engagement.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls posted an article discussing how “coasting” only becomes an option in the mind of a Christian when we forget we are trying to draw closer to a person. Aaron writes:

How much did you enjoy coasting down a hill on your bike as a kid?

 

You can put your feet off to the side (or on the handlebar if you’re feeling really daring) and let gravity do all the work. Enjoying the wind against your face is the reward for all the effort you spent pedaling up.

 

As a kid, that was one of the greatest feelings, but sometimes things can go wrong.

 

Once, I was going too fast down a hill. I hit a bump, flipped over my handlebars and rode upside down for a few feet before crashing into a briar patch.

 

Attempting to coast spiritually, has put many Christians in a similar predicament without their even realizing it. Coasting is not an option for the Christian.

 

Over Easter weekend, a fascinating conversation took place on Twitter among several well-known evangelical women writers discussing the ideas of Christians building “platforms” and “brands.” Since that original conversation, several blog-posts have been written discussing this topic further. Below, are a few of these: