In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the Intersect Project, Dayton Hartman shared how God can use heresy for our good.

Survey the evangelical landscape, and you’ll find a lot to be depressed about. Self-professed Christians are compromising on moral convictions for political expediency. Some are denying essentials of the faith to embrace political correctness. And then others are pandering a kind of theological ambiguity that speaks much and says nothing.

 

I recently heard someone say, “What a depressing time to be a Christian!” Well, I guess that’s true — especially with so many megachurch pastors wearing the ironically large hipster glasses. But it’s also entirely untrue. This particular Christian was lamenting what they classified as the rush toward heresy among once faithful evangelicals. In their estimation, these trends must mean the end of the church in America is drawing near. Two things are worth noting.

 

At the People’s Next Door Keelan Cook reminds us that “gospel-centered” must mean more than just the preaching.

Gospel-centered is one of those buzzwords today in evangelical Christianity. It, like so many others, has a great origin and a significant purpose. In a day when mission drift threatens to pull us away from our core purpose as Christian churches, terms like “gospel-centered”  (or “missional”) are calls back to our biblical foundations. However, when they stick, they soon become victims of their own popularity. In many ways, I fear this is happening to the idea of being gospel-centered as well. The term now falls into the foggy words category. Foggy words are those words we use in ministry circles that sound good but when pressed no one can really give you a clear definition. They often help more than they hurt for that reason. When it comes to gospel-centered, I think there are two ways that this term seems to shift in meaning.

 

Bruce Ashford posted an article at his personal blog with five ways to save free speech on college campuses.

During the past 18 months, college students have engaged in disruptive and even violent activities toward guest speakers whose ideas they considered offensive.

 

In response, college administrators have tended to capitulate to—or collaborate with—the demonstrators by disinviting scheduled speakers and disciplining students or professors whose views were considered offensive.

 

In fact, recent studies by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the National Science Foundation together reveal that approximately 90 percentof colleges and universities have policies that either prohibit or substantially restrict free speech that is constitutionally protected.

 

Americans should beware. Unless we act to safeguard free speech on campuses, this depressing trend will continue indefinitely until the censors have gained control not only of universities, but coffee shops, churches, and public squares.

 

What can we do to safeguard free speech on college and university campuses? Here are five ways that all of us can play our own unique role.

 

“To Tithe or Not to Tithe?” At the Intersect Project David Jones shared a New Testament guide to generous giving.

To tithe or not to tithe?

 

This simple question has been debated in small groups, in Sunday school rooms, over kitchen tables and in textbooks for decades. In my new book Every Good Thing, I address it at length.

 

We don’t have the space to address the question in detail here, but I’ll simply say this: It is difficult to apply Old Testament tithing laws in our own context. In fact, if we survey the New Testament, we’ll find that it does not prescribe a formal method or fixed amount for believers’ giving at all.

 

Nevertheless, the New Testament does provide several examples and principles of giving that can guide us in our stewardship and giving. These principles ought to encourage many (if not most) Christians to give far more than 10 percent to kingdom work.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared why Netflix thinks you’re bored and lonely.

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by . . . 

 

So sang the rock band America in 1974. Forty years later, lonely people are probably streaming Stranger Things.

 

At a conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal last year, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, offered a purpose statement for his entertainment juggernaut: “Fundamentally, we’re about eliminating loneliness and boredom. . . . That’s what entertainment does.”

 

Eliminating boredom and loneliness. Chew on that for a while, and you’ll realize that only one of these issues is truly a problem, while the other is actually an opportunity.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared an open “thank you” letter to Southern Baptists.

I don’t typically write a post specifically for my denomination, but I’m making an exception today. In the past few weeks, I’ve been with Southern Baptists in Maryland, California, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. They’ve been college students, pastors, church planters, laypersons, and denominational leaders. I’ve been reminded in these weeks of how much Southern Baptists mean to me, so I’m writing this thank you note to you.

In Case You Missed It

In a post at the Intersect Project, Scott Hildreth discussed three ways Christians can flourish in culture.

In a recent post, I explained how culture is a pathway for the gospel. With that in mind, how can Christians flourish in contemporary culture? Here are a few suggestions.

 

This week Aaron Earls posted at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door about how we need more “Thoughts and Prayers,” not less.

“Thoughts and prayers” have become an all-too-familiar restrain in American life. A somber, liturgical response to yet another horrific mass killing.

 

For those of deep faith and even sometimes those of little or no faith, those words are all we can muster after the initial shock. We share the words when no others will come. Hopefully, they come in the midst of actually empathetically thinking about the victims and emphatically praying for them. For many, however, those words are not welcome. They ring hollow for some who are desperate for specific, practical steps. Others regard them as ineffective, at best, self-deluding and hindering actual good, at worst.

 

So what should we make of the “thoughts and prayers” of millions offered up in the aftermath of a tragedy? Without a doubt, they are good. Even if you believe prayer is nothing more than talking to empty air, there are benefits to the prayers of others.

 

Brittany Salmon recently posted at the Intersect Project discussing how adoption and the pro-life cause is more than a political stance.

Our family stands out.

 

We can’t go to a grocery store without someone stopping and asking us questions about each of our children. For starters, we have identical twin daughters with bright blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Like typical four year olds, they are feisty and sweet with a touch of sass. The amount of commentary we receive on them alone is enough to write a whole other blogpost, but to add to the excitement we also have a son who doesn’t look anything like us at all.

 

You see, our son joined our family through the blessing of adoption. He is a beautiful, strong black boy. He is smart and kind and loves to laugh loudly at his sisters. Put that combo together in a grocery store and we’re magnets for conversation starters. Some people stare. Some people are kind. But our diverse family draws attention in a homogenous world in which we tend to surround ourselves with people who think, look and act like us.

 

One day while standing in the checkout line, a well-intended fellow believer approached our family and commended us on the pro-life stance we took by adopting. I smiled and said, “Yes, we are pro-life, but our son’s birth mom is the true hero; she’s the one who should be commended for her pro-life choice. We really are the lucky beneficiaries of her brave love.”

 

In a recent article at his personal website, Bruce Ashford discussed how Socialism suppresses society.

Several recent polls reveal a troubling trend: younger Americans have positive views of socialism and Communism.

 

Although this trend has been evident for years, a recent poll found that nearly half of Millennials say prefer Socialism or Communism over democratic capitalism, with upwards of twenty percent going so far as to consider Josef Stalin was a “hero.” In another poll, found 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-old respondents viewed socialism favorably, compared to only a quarter of Americans over 55. Yet another survey found that 43 percent of respondents younger than 30 have a positive view of socialism.

 

At his personal blog this week, Chuck Lawless shared ten times when it is wise to turn a deaf ear in ministry.

Charles Spurgeon, in his Lectures to My Students, wrote about the importance of church leaders having one deaf ear in ministry. The one open ear helps you to be wise in ministry, but the deaf ear helps you to avoid being unnecessarily burdened and frustrated. Based on Spurgeon’s writing, here are times to turn a wise deaf ear.

 

In Case You Missed It

At The Center for Great Commission Studies, Rebecca Hankins shared a post discussing ways you can serve internationally with the International Mission Board.

“Oh, no, no, I cannot take that. It is too dangerous in my country to have this,” the man responded, kindly but emphatically, as I offered him a New Testament in the official language of his native country.

 

His country’s laws did not allow people to give and receive Bibles. But when we were having this conversation, we were in another, more free country.  I quickly discovered that this man’s native language was not what I had originally offered him, but an indigenous language.

 

I quickly pulled out a copy of God’s Word in the man’s heart language. His face lit up. In spite of his earlier expressed fear, he was so excited to see this copy in his own language that he took it happily from me and left.

 

I will most likely never see that man again on earth. But because God led a group of college students (including me) to serve one summer, that man – and literally thousands of others – have their own copies of the Word of God. If it were not for this project, in all likelihood most of those people would not have access to God’s Word, much less in their own languages.

 

The Lord used that summer to get the gospel in the hands of thousands of people, and at the same time to direct my own life. His heart is for the nations, and His heart is for His children – all to His glory.

 

At Lifeway Social, Sam Morris shared about the history of social media, how it has changed, and how Christians can use it to grow God’s Kingdom. Sam writes:

My colleague Amy Whitfield and I often give talks on social media. We’ve found that it is helpful to give our audience a short history on social in order to catch them up to speed before discussing some its other – perhaps more technical aspects. Grasping the history of the tool, how its developed, and where it is now can help believers as they think through their social media usage.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently posted an article at his blog discussing seven political habits of highly Christian citizens.

We live in turbulent times.

 

The last ten years in American politics has proved to be as dysfunctional, mephitic, and polarizing as any decade since the 1960s.

 

Together, we are experiencing a breakdown in social cohesion, the escalation of race-related crimes and unrest, the rise of tribal politics, the erosion of democratic norms such as a commitment to freedoms of speech and religion, the inability of Congress to work together on matters of national importance, a loss of faith in the electoral system, and troubling trends toward authoritarian politics and public incivility.

 

Given the volatility of our situation, and the fact that our fellow citizens suffer because of it, how can Christians draw upon the deep resources of our faith to contribute politically to the common good? What types of political habits should we develop to help our nation over the long run?

 

I propose that Christians should cultivate at least seven political habits.

 

Recently a 19-member team from Southeastern Seminary went to Florida to help with hurricane relief. Here are some reflections from members of the team.

On October 15, the CGCS, in partnership with NAMB, sent a Hurricane Relief Mission Team to Immokalee, Florida for a week to aid those affected by Hurricane Irma. Led by Dr. Scott Hildreth and Dr. Drew Ham, the 19-member team spent their week serving in various ways for the sake of the gospel and bringing hope to those affected by the natural disaster. Even so, there were many eye-opening experiences and lessons for the team as well. Here are some thoughts and takeaways from several team members as they reflect back on the trip.

 

At The Intersect Project, Dr. Stephen Eccher shared about how Martin Luther transformed the workplace and the doctrine of vocation.

This month we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first flames of the Protestant Reformation. At the heart of the Reformation, Martin Luther helped to bring clarity to the gospel via his articulation of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. This expression was revolutionary. It not only helped to inspire changes to the church that were to direct the course of modern history, but it has also directly shaped much of what we know today as evangelicalism. Yet, Luther’s unveiling of the gospel was not the only thing that the reformer helped to change for both his world and our own. In particular, Luther’s recasting of the notion of priesthood, a consequence of his work to redress the divide that had existed between the clergy and the laity for centuries, offered a much-needed ecclesiastical corrective. It also transformed the workplace as well and brought meaning and purpose to the labors of all Christians who desired to work unto the Lord.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared about the recent Reaching the Nations conference held at Southeastern Seminary.

Only a few years ago, I thought this was an empty field. Millions of people moving to the United States, often settling in Bible Belt cities, and no real talk whatsoever of local churches (or even mission agencies) taking advantage of this good gift from the Lord. A seemingly impossible mission given to our church to go and make disciples of all nations, and now God has flipped the script. The nations are doing the going, and they are landing in a cul de sac down the street. And yet, a few years ago, it seemed like an empty field.

 

Certainly, this was partly my lack of perspective. I was largely ignorant to various attempts that were occurring. Several churches, agencies, and key leaders were already at work. But this past week at Reaching the Nations in North America demonstrated the radical growth that is occurring in diaspora missions here in the United States. The movement is spreading, and it is exciting to see all that has occurred in these few years. This was our second year to hold the summit, and for me, it was a chance to celebrate as I heard stories of all that has happened since last year.

 

The Baptist Press posted an article highlighting #RTN2017 and how migration is a divine opportunity.

This year’s Reaching the Nations conference brought together more than 500 people in person and via live stream to learn and grow in how to reach refugees and immigrants in North America.

 

The Oct. 27-28 event at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., occurred both as a catalyst and result of “a movement starting in local churches across North America — a genuine awakening to the amazing opportunity we have to reach the nations next door,” according to the conference planning committee.

 

More than 280 people attended the sessions in person with another 231 viewing online toward helping churches engage foreign-born people in North America. The conference was sponsored by Southeastern, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and Peoples Next Door, a research and equipping initiative for missions in North America.

 

Speakers included J.D. Payne, pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; SEBTS President Danny Akin; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and Chris Clayman, co-founder and associate director of Global Gates, a missions organization focused on large international cities.