In Case You Missed It

At The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision, Jimmy Scroggins shared eight suggestions for handling patriotism and the gospel in American churches.

I serve as a pastor in a multicultural church in a multicultural city where many attendees are not American citizens. While I still want to incorporate patriotic elements in our worship services from time to time, I want to be careful not to explicitly or implicitly conflate American patriotism with the gospel of Jesus. Over the years, I have developed some thoughts about how to do this in an appropriate way. Perhaps you will find the following to be helpful.

 

Thom Rainer shared a post at his personal blog this week discussing five surprising discoveries about growing churches.

Do you want the bad news first or the good news first?

 

I always ask for the bad news first. I can’t enjoy the good news knowing that a report of bad news looms in the next few statements.

 

So I gave you some bad news in my Monday post. I shared with you the statistical reality of the death spiral. Once a church declines below 100 in average worship attendance, its rate of decline accelerates. In other words, the church declines faster and faster.

 

In this article, I share some good news. The news is about the growing churches in our study. As a review, you can look at the details of our research at my blog post on June 28, 2017. Simply stated, we conducted a random sample of 1,000 churches with data from 2013 and 2016. The margin of error of the research is +/- 3.1 percent. It’s an accurate study. It’s a very accurate study.

 

So let’s take a few moments and look at the churches whose average worship attendance grew from 2013 to 2016. Here are five of the surprising discoveries from this research.

 

At The Intersect Project, Dr. Chip McDaniel shared: “Education: A Modern-Day Jubilee

Every day, we face real-world economics issues such as poverty, systemic inequity in housing or farm loans, education or health care. Yet piecing together a Biblical teaching concerning such economic issues is a difficult task for a variety of reasons.

 

First, we tend to focus on what the Bible says about the spiritual side of our existence. Second, we have to wrestle with apparent contradictions. For example, how are we supposed to resolve the seeming contradiction in the teaching of selling all to give to the poor (Luke 18:22) with you always have the poor around (Mark 14:7) or the one who does not work should starve (2 Thess 3:10)?  Third, another difficulty arises when we try to factor in the Old Testament. Its teachings are certainly for our benefit, but so much of the content speaks to the physical aspects of Israel’s history. The Law is, after all, a founding document providing a framework for a physical nation — a constitution, if you will. So, it might seem even harder to develop concrete action steps from the Old Testament than the New Testament.

 

What I’d like to do in this article is to look at a specific Old Testament institution and see if there are any principles that might speak to our 21st century Western Church context. I suggest that the Old Testament practice of Jubilee might inform the present to a degree. I say principle and not directive because the transition between Old Testament practice and New Testament appropriation needs to pass through the filter of the shift between God’s dealing with a physical nation and His calling out of a spiritual nation (see 1 Peter 2:9). God is not expecting any nation today to observe a year of Jubilee.

Earlier this week, Dr. Bruce Ashford shared ten go-to books on religious liberty and its enemies.

Here are ten books I recommend to pastors, professors, and students who wish to gain a better understanding of religious liberty and the threats against it. I will describe each book and then rank its level of difficulty on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most difficult. A Level 1 book is one you could give to any friend or family member. A Level 5 book is one that would be required in a PhD seminar. The list is also organized with the more accessible books at the beginning of the list and the more challenging books at the end.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared nine ways to be encouraged in difficult ministry days.

Ministry is tough. Sometimes, it’s difficult enough that we would back away were it not for our sense of calling. Here are some ways to be encouraged in even those hard days, though.

In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams shared how churches can best serve autism families.

1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. These numbers suggest that families all around you wrestle with this issue. They’re in your neighborhoods, schools, family reunions and churches.

 

Yet most of us know little about autism. In a recent post, we sought to remedy this problem by sharing what autism parents wish Christians knew about autism. But this article left me with a lingering question: How can churches serve autism families?

 

This is not a theoretical question. As a pastor, I want to know — so my congregation can be prepared to serve anyone who walks through our doors.

 

To answer this question, I reached out to fellow Christians who parent children with autism. Here are five broad lessons from their responses.

 

Earlier this week, Thom Rainer shared five terrible reasons to enter vocational ministry.

I’ve seen too many people in vocational ministry fail to launch.

 

Perhaps “launch” is not the best term, because they may stay in ministry for many years. But they never seem to do well. They never seem to have a peace. They seem like they are always trying to prove something.

 

I recently went through my old seminary pictorial directory. I was able to locate 47 people I knew in seminary who I know where they are today. Of that 47, only eight remained in ministry. If you are doing the math, that is an 83 percent dropout rate.

 

Vocational ministry is a calling. It is not just another vocation. If you enter ministry for the wrong reasons, you will not likely do well. Indeed, you will not likely make it.

 

What are some of the terrible reasons to enter vocational ministry? Here are five of the most common failures.

 

Cody Cunningham shared a post at The Intersect Project discussing four reasons pastors must address faith and work.

Addressing issues of faith and work may seem insignificant to some pastors. After all, there’s usually some crisis in the world that you need to address publicly or some particular struggle within the congregation to which you need to give attention. And with all that goes on in most churches, we often neglect seemingly mundane issues (like how the gospel affects our work).

 

But this topic is far too important to be ignored. Here are four reasons why pastors and church leaders should regularly address how faith intersects with the workplace.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared his three big fears in parenting teenagers.

On Sunday, I baptized our oldest son Timothy. He also turned 13. I mention the baptism before the birthday because it matters more.

 

But I don’t want to give the impression that the thirteenth birthday is insignificant. It’s the year that English-speakers move into what we call the “teen years.” We officially have a teenager at home, a soon-to-be eighth grader who is about to overtake me in height (admittedly, not a hard marker to meet!).

 

Last week, a friend asked me about my biggest fears in parenting during this next phase of life. Here are the three that came to mind.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford shared a post at his personal blog discussing a dozen (or so) things we will never regret doing with our kids.

Like most mothers and fathers, we are acutely aware of our own flaws and shortcomings as parents. Compounding the problem, we are facing the fact that our small children will soon be adolescents and, before we’re ready for it, they’ll be grown and off on their own. So, in light of how precious our children are, and how short our time with them will be, we sat down to write out the things most important for us to do with our children. In other words, the things we will never regret doing with our kids. Here is our list.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook addresses the question: What exactly is the normal Christian life?

I have a friend from Iran. He has a fascinating story. Formerly a Muslim, he and his wife left Iran on a false asylum account, claiming it was for freedom. They lived for a while on an island in the Mediterranean where my friend was introduced to a Persian Christian community. It had been started by Baptist missionaries, and my friend was downright irate that Iranians would convert to Christianity. He was, after all, a devout Muslim and a leader in the mosque. So, he decided to engage the group, attending periodically and hoping to dissuade the conversion of Iranians to Christianity. Over time, however, something surprising happened. My friend was confronted with the gospel and it began to tear at his heart. Before long it was too much, and the spirit of living God gave new life to my friend. That’s where the story gets interesting.

Bruce Ashford: A Helpful Series on the Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right

At the SBC Annual Meeting earlier this month, messengers voted affirmatively on a resolution denouncing “alt-right white supremacy” in a nearly unanimous vote.

Many people might still have questions about what exactly the “alt-right” movement is and what it stands for.

Dr. Bruce Ashford, Provost, Dean of the Faulty, and Professor of Theology and Culture at Southeastern Seminary has written an incredibly helpful series of posts which explain what the “alt-right” movement is, and how evangelicals should respond to it.

An Evangelical Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right

An Introduction to Alt-Right Ideology

A Profile of 5 Alt-Right Leaders

A Response to FAQs about the Alt-Right

An Evaluation of the Alt-Right