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.

Why All Good Christians Should Celebrate Halloween

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in 2009. Since we are once again approaching Halloween, George Robinson’s (Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World Missions and Professor of Missions and Evangelism) thoughts on Christian participation (or not) in the holiday remain pertinent and helpful. 

October 31st. For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.** Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue. But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. Or do they? Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517. That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween. Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival. This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun. No pagan witches and goblins allowed. But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character. All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween. I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors. Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway. And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating. I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context. I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors. We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional. That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors. In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night. And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children. Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here: http://story4.us/offer). The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!). In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.

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[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).

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If you found this article helpful, also check out this casual conversation which took place at Southeastern Seminary in which Mark Liederbach sits down with George Robinson and Bruce Ashford to discuss how Christians should respond to the celebration of Halloween.