In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Christy Britton explained how with human trafficking, awareness is only the beginning.

January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking may seem like an abstract topic. But millions of vulnerable people are bought, sold and kept in captivity all over the world — even in your city. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.

 

As image bearers of the God of justice (Isaiah 30:18), we reflect his heart for the oppressed. It’s our responsibility to be aware of the plight of captives and labor for their freedom.

 

This month social media and news outlets are sharing statistics and stories aimed at drawing your attention to the presence of human slavery in our world today. While awareness is critical, it’s just the beginning of our fight to end the global slave trade.

 

International Justice Mission (IJM) president, Gary Haugen, says, “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.”

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Alvin Reid shared how to give an effective missions testimony.

I’m fresh off a couple of mission trips this past summer, one to Chicago and another to Kiev, Ukraine. Early this fall, we heard testimonies from members of our Young Pros ministry from these and several other trips. I LOVE such testimonies. I love hearing about how people are taking the gospel around the world.

 

But there’s a problem. We’ve all been there–the missionary testimony is perhaps enthusiastic, but definitely rambling. The person sharing is not a public speaker, after all (in most cases), and so he/she tends to be a bit scattered. I’ve been guilty myself. How do we stay focused and give effective testimonies briefly – to allow others to share as well – and powerfully?

 

The Intersect Project interviewed Lauren Pratt about serving the church with the written word.

Some vocations allow you to clearly see how God uses your work for his glory. A surgeon saves lives.A teacher prepares children for a lifetime of learning. A construction worker builds homes that provide shelter from the elements.

 

In other vocations, the connection seems less clear. What if your work involves typing words on a screen? What if you spend most of your working hours in an office, scribbling on a notepad or moving words around in sentences?

 

Lauren Pratt is the News and Information Specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and many of her days involve such tasks. Recently, we had a chance to chat with Lauren about writing. In our conversation, you’ll see how God can use her work for his glory — and how he can use yours, too. Here’s our conversation.

 

In a recent article at his blog, Thom Rainer shared about the new normal for church security.

We recently experienced a new tipping point for church security.

 

A tipping point is the critical juncture in evolving developments that leads to a new and, often, irreversible state. We call that new state “the new normal.”

 

In church security we have witnessed two major tipping points. Though child sex abuse in churches was not new, it reached a new level of awareness and response when Pope John Paul II called an emergency meeting with the U. S. cardinals in 2002. We knew then the issue was serious and pervasive.

 

We reached a second major tipping point in November 2017 with the church shootings at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Among the 26 people killed were nine members of one family. Church leaders and members across the nation began to realize that if it can happen in Sutherland Springs, it can happen anywhere.

 

I recently conducted a social media survey to ask church leaders and members to share what their churches were doing for church security. I then went to the Church Answers community (ChurchAnswers.com) for more in-depth responses. Here are some realities of the new normal as articulated by these respondents.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared ten ways to spend more time with God.

I don’t know many church leaders who think they spend sufficient time with God. Our lives are busy, and it’s tough to add more responsibilities to our plate. Here, though, are some ways to spend more time with God, beginning today.

In Case You Missed It

In a recent post at the Intersect Project, Dayton Hartman shared the cure for a hopeless Christmas.

The Christmas season is marked by hope. Well, at least it is supposed to be. But instead of decorating their homes a la Clark Griswold, enjoying Christmas parties and watching cheesy Christmas movies, I’ve noticed among many believers a pervasive pessimism regarding the present and the future.

 

Yes, we live in difficult times culturally and politically. However, our celebration of the incarnation (Jesus’ first coming) ought to drive us toward hopeful anticipation of the consummation (Jesus’ second coming). In short, our eschatology ought to bring hope, not despair.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Alvin Reid shared about how to teach believers to share Jesus using the Sharing Jesus book.

This past April my book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It was released by B&H Academic. Response has been amazing. So many pastors, students pastors, college and small group leaders have used it.

 

It’s designed to help everyday believers share Christ naturally through everyday conversations. B&H also made an incredible landing page that features an 8-week challenge to help the reader grow in their witness, free videos for each chapter and some role-playing videos as well.

 

In a recent talk at Southeastern Seminary both Michael Bird and Bruce Ashford shared responses to the Benedict Option. In this post, Alysha Clark shares a recap.

Christians can be peaceful public nuisances or counter-cultural practitioners for the common good, argued Michael Bird and Bruce Ashford in a recent Southeastern Seminary event.

 

Christianity has long held a position of privilege in the West. For a long time in Europe and the United States, Judeo-Christian values formed the normative framework for ethics and morality, and belief in God (even merely nominal belief) served as an asset for advancement in society and securing public favor.

 

Suddenly, it seems, this is no longer the case. Over the last 50 years, and especially the last 25, the West has become increasingly post-Christian and marches toward militant secularism, where belief in God is synonymous with immorality, where religious language has become flagged as hate speech and where the phrase “religious freedom” has become code for bigotry. Christians may feel the earth has given way under them and fear they will be swallowed up by the increasingly emboldened progressive secularism.

 

Numerous cultural thinkers have offered their analysis of the religious situation in the West and proposed a wide array of solutions. Some seek to dive into national politics and try to effect change and restore Christian morality through legislation and the judiciary. Some live as spiritual exiles in a foreign secular culture and want to preserve Christian culture through individual practice. Others, in the words of James Davison Hunter, aim to create a faithful presence of Christian disciples who seek to work for the common good of society and serve as a witness of the kingdom of God.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared about sexual assault and the scandal of repentance.

During his lengthy tenure as an evening commentator on CNN, Larry King often posed two questions to pastors and theologians who came on as guests.

 

First, is Jesus the only way to God? This was Larry’s way of seeing if the Christian representative would insist on the uniqueness of Jesus no matter how offensive that claim might come across in a pluralistic world. You mean good people from other religions might be condemned?

 

The second question came from a different angle. Could a serial killer, or someone like Hitler, or a rapist, or a pedophile receive forgiveness and wind up in heaven? This was Larry’s way of seeing if the Christian representative would insist on the offer of grace, no matter how offensive that pronouncement might come across in a world that demands justice. You mean abhorrently wicked people might repent and be saved?

 

Larry King is not a Christian. But he knows where the scandalous power of Christianity is found. It’s in the narrowness of insisting on universal, eternal condemnation for all sinners who fall short of God’s glory, and in the broadness of calling everyone to repent of their sins, trust in Christ and be saved. Everyone, even the “vilest offender,” in the words of the old Isaac Watts hymn.

 

The “vilest offender” today is the person who engages in sexual assault and abuse.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared eight reasons why he chooses to be a friend to his pastor.

I’m excited to be a part of our church in Wake Forest, Restoration Church, and I love my pastor. I’m proud of him and enjoy working beside him. I’m also honored to carry some of his burdens for him. Here’s why all of us need to be a friend to our pastors.

 

In Case You Missed It

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared an article discussing when churches should address current events.

When does a current cultural event necessitate a change of plans in your Sunday morning church service?

 

That’s a question that I’ve been pondering in the aftermath of the Charlottesville protests a few weeks ago. The event took place on a Friday night, escalated on a Saturday, and culminated with a terrorist attack.

 

On social media, multiple people counseled churches on how to respond the next morning. Some called for condemning white supremacy and Neo-Nazis by name. Others offered prayer for pastors who were revising their sermons or penning statements to read before the church. This sentiment popped up a few times: If your church doesn’t address this tomorrow, find another congregation. The social media fever implied that failing to speak on the issue indicated you were taking the side of white supremacists.

 

I am the primary teaching pastor in my congregation. On that Saturday night, I spoke with two other pastors on staff. We decided that one of the pastors would speak from Ephesians 3 before the Lord’s Supper, emphasizing reconciliation at the table of the Lord, who has broken down the wall between Jew and Gentile. Since I was already in the middle of a sermon series on Exodus, I found a few places in my sermon where a condemnation of racist ideology fit well.

 

In other churches, pastors took different approaches. Some posted thoughts on Facebook. Others made a statement during the service. Others incorporated the events into a time of prayer.

 

But the bigger question remains: when should a church change its program in order to address a current event?

 

Here are some principles I’ve considered for future occasions. These are my initial thoughts, and I welcome counsel from others in the comments.

 

In a post at Southeastern Seminary’s Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Alvin Reid discussed how life is a mission trip.

When our daughter and son were 15, each respectively left the country on a mission trip, Josh to Costa Rica, and then Hannah to Thailand a few years later. They have since been on many, and Josh has led more than one as a student pastor.

 

Have you ever been on a mission trip? If so, did you ever take such a trip to another country? Imagine for a moment your church gathered this coming Lord’s Day as usual, but this day would be anything but normal. Today the entire congregation is loading buses following the final morning service. Passports in hand, you head to the airport and board as a group. Why? Your entire congregation is heading to a city in Asia where the gospel has never been proclaimed. You have decided as a congregation to do something adventurous, something quite revolutionary for your church.

 

At the For the Church blog, Micah Fries posted an article showing how your sanctification depends on loving the church.

We live in a culture that prizes materialism and autonomy. And, while we love to speak about how Christianity is counter cultural, the truth is our churches often reflect these cultural realities more than we care to admit or even recognize. When materialism is controlling our behavior, we treat the church kind of like we treat shopping for blue jeans. When we shop, we look for the best looking store, that offers us the most comfortable fit and asks of us the smallest price.

 

So, too, when it comes to the church.

 

At the Intersect Project, Michael Guyer shared a letter to an indecisive teenager.

Congratulations. With each passing day, you get one step closer to your high school graduation. This will be a big moment in your life. I hope you will be able to enjoy this accomplishment. I would encourage you to take some time to reflect on all that God has done over this season of your life. Take time to thank those who have played a pivotal part of it—I know I wish I would have done more of this myself.

 

You are about to make some big decisions that will have major implications for your life. You are probably all too aware of this every time someone asks: “What are your plans after graduation?” I remember getting that question myself. For a while I didn’t have an answer. And there are only so many ways you can say, “I don’t know.” I know you’ve been struggling with this because you are unsure of what is best for you. Will you go the traditional college route? Or will you pursuing training to enter the workforce? On the one hand, a college degree is seen by many as the new high school diploma. Everyone assumes that you will go to college and get an undergraduate degree. Yet, there are also great careers available to those who pursue associates degrees, vocational training or apprenticeships. I know you have heard from a number of different people on this issue, but I wanted to share a few thoughts with you that I hope will be helpful to you.

 

Recently Dr. Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern, addressed the Defense Intelligence Agency as a guest lecturer in Washington, D.C. with a lecture entitled, “The Greatest Military Leadership Challenge of Our Day: Cultivating the Warrior Sustaining Military Power.” You can read more about his talk in this story from Lauren Pratt.