In Case You Missed It

Chris Martin published an interesting article at his blog discussing some statistics showing that many American Christians do not find Bible reading or church attendance to be essential. Chris writes:

That Instagrammed photo of your girlfriend with her Bible and coffee the other morning was probably staged…so kinda like every other perfectly groomed post upholding our never-ending pursuit of social acceptance and apparent perfection.

 

When you imagine “a week in the life of a Christian” you might imagine a church visit, an occasional Bible reading before bed, and some community involvement after school or work. However, this is not likely the case, if American Christians act in accordance with what they find essential to their faith.

 

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center published some data on what American Christians value in everyday life. The data is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read the summary here or the full report here. Today, I want to look at just one of the graphs they provide.

 

Bruce Ashford posted earlier this week arguing that the “G.O.(W.)P. should reject “Colorblind” politics. Dr. Ashford explains:

Early in the 2016 election cycle, GOP chairman Reince Priebus declared that the GOP was “likely to have the most diverse presidential primary field in history—of either party.” If diversity is considered in terms of the varied ethnic heritages of the presidential primary candidates, he was right. And yet, 90% of the voters in GOP primaries this year have been white.

 

Reflecting on this reality, Stanford sociologist Corey D. Fields recently argued in the New York Times that “the image of black Republicans that the G.O.P. disseminates may actually dampen enthusiasm for the party–not only among the black electorate in general, but also among black Republicans themselves.”

 

Brooke Davidson recently posted a great article at the SEBTS Women’s Life blog titled: “Beauty in the Wait.” Brooke writes:

Question: Have you ever felt like you were the living version of the game Jenga? One piece is pulled from you at a time, and you never know which piece will be the one that sends you crashing down. Watching and waiting. With that being said, please never forget who is pulling out those “Jenga” pieces. He’s not only pulling them out, but holding them, (your feelings, hopes, and dreams) in the midst of it all. Thank goodness we don’t have to do this all alone, right?  A verse that I’ve held close to my heart for the last ten years is Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.” That verse has helped me through many situations, but has never meant as much to me as it has in the past few months. There were times when everything seemed to be falling apart all around me, but the Lord was so constant and clear. If you are reading this and you feel like your life is falling apart, let me encourage you to wait on the Lord. Put your hope in Him, because He will sustain you!

 

Aaron Earls shared recently how the miscarriage of his child made him more pro-life.

I’ve never not been opposed to abortion. As a kid, I remember my grandmother being arrested for praying and protesting outside of an abortion clinic. As a student of philosophy, I found the pro-life arguments to be much more sound, coherent and persuasive. The arguments in favor of abortion always seemed too reliant on unfounded assumptions.

 

As a Christian, the Bible spoke clearly and frequently about the value of life and the need for those in power to speak for the voiceless. Biblical justice seemed to demand a pro-life stance. As a father, I could not imagine choosing to end the life of one of my children before they were born. I loved them from the moment I knew they were growing inside of my wife.

 

But my pro-life stance deepened more than I thought possible when I became the father of a child who never made it out of the womb. At this point, abortion advocates likely would point to two differences they believe to be relevant. I’ve encountered both of these arguments in discussions about abortion, so I want to address each.

 

At his personal blog, Art Rainer recently shared 11 Bible verses for the anxious leader.

You’re going to announce an organization-shaking decision that won’t be popular with everyone. You’re about to have that conversation you’ve been avoiding for months. You aren’t sure if you are going to have a job this time next week. From performance to personnel issues, the reasons for a leader’s anxiety are innumerable. Like many leaders today, you may find yourself feeling immersed in anxiety. And you desperately desire to come up for air.

 

You want to breathe again. God knew that anxiety would find its way into our lives. So He talks to us about it in the Bible. So if you find yourself immersed in anxiety, take the next few moments and consider what God is saying to you about it and the situation you are facing.

 

Here are 11 Bible verses for the anxious leader.

 

At The People’s Next Door blog earlier this week, Trevor King shared 7 reasons for covenant church membership. Trevor writes:

In Ephesians, Paul writes, “So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, andmembers of God’s household, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone,” (Ephesians 2:19-20). In the next chapter he goes on: “This is so that God’s multifaceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens,” (Ephesians 3:10). We’re not foreigners, but family. We’re not united around demographics, but around Christ Himself. We’re not idle, but making known the Wisdom of God to the world.

 

So, who are the members of God’s household? Who is this church that makes the Wisdom of God known? Who are the former strangers who are now citizens?

 

Enter covenant church membership. The idea of the church is wrapped up in the idea of covenant and, as the church, we must be able to articulate the whatand why of membership.

 

One of the best explanations of covenant membership comes from Pastor Sam Storms: “Covenant membership is simply the way in which an individual is known to be committed to all others in a local body of believers and how all others are known to be committed to that individual. Covenant membership is simply the way in which an individual makes known his/her covenant commitment to the Elders as spiritual leaders and how the Elders make known and fulfill their responsibility to shepherd and lead and protect the flock.”

While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are 7 reasons why we need covenant church membership

In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook poses the question: “If a lady in a hijab walked into your church, how would you respond?” Keelan writes:

I fear this post has the potential to ruffle feathers, but that is not my intent. Instead, my hope is that you will take the question in earnest in order to search your heart. I have been doing the same.

 

A while back, I ran across an article, in which a lady wore a Muslim head covering in order to gauge the response of a Christian church. She was a Christian, but she was curious what kind of response a Muslim, who may be interested in Christianity, would receive. The article was posted on the website for the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies. The Zwemer Center is an academic center at Columbia International University, a fine Christian university, that exists to provide research and training concerning Christian witness to Muslims.  It is a good resource for the church.

 

According to the article, the experiment did not go well. To be fair, the article only mentions the incident briefly, and there is no way to know the details. I have no desire to beat this church up in a post, but it made me think about how most churches would respond in this instance. I would hope that most churches welcome strangers, even ones who are different than them. Unfortunately, I see the rhetoric swirling around in the United States today about immigration and refugees, and I fear the worst. I am afraid Christ’s church, scattered across the country in local congregations, may often be more influenced by this rhetoric than by the Scriptures on these issues.

 

In a recent post at his blog, Bruce Ashford lists 8 reasons why abortion is detrimental to society.

In the midst of the carnival-like atmosphere of the 2016 election cycle, evangelicals run the risk of allowing one thing to slip their attention: Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic acceptance of Planned Parenthood’s endorsement and Planned Parenthood’s heightened efforts to expand its abortive territory.

 

In light of Planned Parenthood’s aspirations to recruit and train “tens of thousands” of persons to further its mission, how should evangelicals respond? In short, we should continue to seek both legal reform and cultural renewal, and should do so not only by articulating the Bible’s teaching about human dignity but also by enumerating the ways abortion corrupts society.

 

Brad Hambrick posted a helpful article about how he talked to his boys after the transgender talk at their public school. Brad writes:

My boys attend a local public elementary school. With the current debates that are occurring in North Carolina regarding legislation around transgenderism and public restrooms, the school’s CNN Kids news program did a story on the debate (May 10th edition). I read the video transcript and found the discussion on the role of public restrooms in modern politics to be interesting and informative.

 

Knowing that many other families will be having conversations around this subject, it seemed as though it would be beneficial to reflect on the conversation I had with my boys; not as a prototype to follow, but as a sample to vet.

 

Here are a few preliminary thoughts that I won’t go into in as much detail, but I believe are relevant.

 

In a recent article at the Intersect project, Nathaniel Williams discusses a homeless Gospel in a partisan world.

I’m accustomed to seeing Donald Trump Twitter tirades. I’m not, however, accustomed to seeing Southern Baptist theologians as the object of those tirades.

 

Opinions of Donald Trump aside, when was the last time a Republican Presidential nominee publicly went after an influential Evangelical leader? I can’t think of an example. Republicans used to actively court Evangelicals, not crucify them.

 

And the cordial feelings tended to be mutual. Though the Republican Party has never aligned perfectly with Christian teaching, conservative Evangelicals could generally rely on the party to produce candidates who valued life, character and religious freedom.

 

Yet that assumption has been slowly eroding, and Trump’s tweet seems to be the nail in the coffin. The gospel no longer fits neatly into a political party (if it ever did at all).

 

At his blog, Thom Rainer recently listed five questions prospective pastors rarely ask search committees (but should).

“This church is nothing like the search committee described. They said they were ready for change. They are, as long as it doesn’t affect them!”

 

The sentence is a direct quote from a pastor commenting on my blog. And many other pastors have expressed similar sentiments to me.

 

Of course, not all prospective pastors deal with pastor search committees. Still, the pastors inevitably have someone who interviews them, such as elders or judicatory bodies.

 

It is critical that prospective pastors ask questions about the church. There are five questions, however, which are rarely asked. These questions could be key toward avoiding some of the unpleasant surprises many pastors encounter.

In Case You Missed It

Amber Bowen recently posted an article at the Intersect Project website discussing human value and the pro-life ethic. Amber writes:

What does it mean to be pro-life?

 

The term “pro-life” has a narrow meaning in our current context and political discourse. Typically, when we say someone is pro-life we mean that they stand up for the rights of the unborn and oppose abortion.

 

While being a voice for the unborn is a significant part, that issue alone does not encompass the whole of being pro-life. We must be careful not to mistake the whole for the part.

 

The scriptures open up our narrowly focused definition, reminding us that all life is precious and should be defended. This is true of the unborn child at the earliest stages of development, a child with special needs, a wayward teenager bent on ruining her life, orphans, the homeless, refugees, immigrants, minorities, the elderly.

 

What do all of these examples of life have in common? What is the common thread of value that runs between them? The theologically correct answer is that they are each made in the image of God and are the crowning work of his creation. Our society, however, has proposed other bases for the value of human life.

 

Even though Christians may cognitively believe that humans have life because of the imago dei, I believe if we dusted for the fingerprints of these alternative bases of value we would be shocked by how scattered they are throughout the Church and within our hearts.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The Peoples Next Door explaining how languages are more important than we think.

Languages are fascinating.

 

For all of you who endured through Spanish or French in high school, you may disagree with me, but there is a reason that we take foreign languages in school. Language is a fundamental part of being human. It is one of the irreducible components of every society. Every culture, every group of people, communicates through language. It may be English, it may be any one of thousands of foreign languages, or it may even be sign language. Everyone that can communicate does so with language.

 

That makes language very important, and we need to keep that in mind as we do ministry in the United States today. I am a firm believer that good ministry can happen across language barriers. Language can often be an excuse for not reaching out to our new, foreign-born neighbors. It should never be so, and even when we do not know their language, we can still begin to engage. However, we desperately need to realize how important language is to culture, because it has a huge impact on discipleship and missions.

 

Language does not merely express what we think it affects how we think.

 

Language is a means of expressing the content of culture, but it is so closely tied to culture that it is often hard to distinguish between the two. The two work in tandem, developing one another and shaping one another. Just like culture, language affects our worldview. It shapes the categories for our thinking, and it determines how we process information.

 

At his blog The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls writes: “Culture gives Christians a choice: hypocrite, bigot, or weirdo?”

As western culture becomes more post-Christian, those seeking to follow Christ will find themselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. We will essentially be in no-win situations. Do you want to be a hypocrite, a bigot, or a weirdo?

 

“Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.”

 

We’ve all heard that statement and we’ve heard it as an excuse for a whole host of things. Why don’t you come to church? Hypocrites. Why shouldn’t Christians have a part in the cultural discussion of marriage? Hypocrites.

 

Make no mistake, we’ve seen Christians act hypocritically. Just recently, we can point to Josh Duggar and other Christian leaders whose immoral lives have been exposed, all the while they preached the importance of biblical morality.

 

There are very real cases where self-professed followers of Jesus have failed to live up to the standards they championed for others. Many in culture have gleefully pointed to these instances and concluded, “If Christians refuse to live according to their own values, why should anyone listen to them?”

 

The hypocrisy of one Christian is used as a means to dismiss the positions held by other Christians. If that pastor cannot remain faithful to his wife, Christians should not speak on issues of marriage.

 

So hypocrisy is worthy of scorn, sure. But what about those trying to live out their ideals?

 

Southeastern Baptist Seminary provost, Dr. Bruce Ashford recently discussed some of his favorite books, as well as some books he is reading right now with Matt Smethurst at The Gospel Coalition. Matt writes:

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scences glimpse into their lives as readers.

 

I corresponded with Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, about what’s on his nightstand, books that have shaped his thoughts on politics and culture, his favorite fiction, what he’s learning about life and faith, and more.

 

Tim Challies recently posted a list of helpful resources to kick-start your theological library.

It’s no secret that building a quality theological library is a very expensive proposition. Compared to popular-level books, theological works come at a premium cost. But I’ve got a secret to share with you that will help kick-start any theological library: You can build an electronic library of excellent theological journals and magazines without spending a dime. These journals are full of excellent articles by top writers, scholars, and reviewers. Some are targeted at academics while others are written with a general audience in mind. There is something for everyone!

 

In just a moment I will give you a long list of journals and magazines that are freely available to download. Before I do that, though, you need to make sure you have an information management system that can store and search Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. I recommend Evernote as a system that will allow you to not only store and search the files, but also to read and annotate them, though annotation may require an Evernote Premium subscription. Once you download the files you can add them to your information management system which will, in turn, allow you to search them and use them for reading or research. Click them, download them, store them, use them. It’s that simple. (Alternatively, you can just download them as you do any other file and read them that way.)