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.

 

Back to School thoughts from Dr. Alvin Reid

Over the past couple of weeks at his personal blog, Dr. Alvin Reid shared a series of three posts, each relating to different groups who will be starting a new semester at Southeastern: Seminary Students, College Students, and Seminary Professors.

In his first post, he shared eight suggestions for eager new seminarians:

I remember a cold, windy day in January, 1982. My wife Michelle and I arrived in Fort Worth as newlyweds with everything we owned in a small U Haul trailer. We moved into our little one bedroom, furnished apartment with little materially but great dreams spiritually. I hobbled on crutches from a knee operation. We were broke, but we were called, and that was enough.

 

That was 35 years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. If you are a brand new seminarian, I have a few things I hope will encourage you to help you for the next few decades.

 

Next, Dr. Reid wrote to college students, exhorting them to not waste their (college) life.

Last week I wrote a post to encourage new seminarians as they begin their journey. I had some friends ask me to do something similar for incoming college freshmen, so here you go. NOTE: This is written first to our new students at The College at Southeastern, and then to any student starting out at an evangelical school. These generally would apply to a student starting at a state school as well, but I added a final point for these students.

 

This fall I teach an evangelism class in our college. I’m also speaking several days at Oklahoma Baptist University and at William Carey College, and I’ve had the joy of speaking at many Christian colleges over the years. I love the excitement (and to some extent, the apprehension) of college freshman. I saw a study a few years ago that said the loneliest people in America are college freshmen. I want to encourage you and push you to think of ways to enjoy college while not wasting these valuable years.

 

Finally, Dr. Reid shared a post with a simple prayer for seminary professors.

In our Southern Baptist Convention we have developed a fellowship of professors who teach evangelism as all or part of their role in academia. My friend Tom Johnston at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has been instrumental in this group’s growth and connectivity. This year I’m blessed to serve as president of the group, known as SBC Evangelism Profs.

 

I sent an email to all the professors the other day. I included a prayer I will be praying for them and for me as we go through this academic year. While applied to evangelism profs, I think it’s appropriate for faculty at any confessional school committed to the great commission. It’s simple, like me. Perhaps it will encourage you.