In Case You Missed It

In a guest post at Art Rainer’s blog, Robby Scholes shared three important questions to consider before taking a job in a new city.

A career opportunity arises in a new city.

Met with a mix of excitement and anxiety, the first natural reaction is to imagine living in this new place. The new compensation package is larger than your current role, immediately driving assumptions about the lifestyle possibilities, opportunities for increased generosity, and new savings goals you will finally be able to meet by taking this new role.

 

You begin to think that taking the job is a no-brainer. Is it?

 

A new city means a new cost of living. Sometimes this works to your benefit and other times to your detriment. An increased cost of living could swallow the higher salary.

 

So before accepting the role, consider these 3 questions.

 

Sam Rainer shared a helpful post earlier this week discussing why every young pastor needs an old mentor.

“Sometimes the being is more important than the doing.” My mentor shared this wisdom at our last meeting. He’s in his mid-80s, about 50 years ahead of me. He retired from a church in Indiana and moved to Bradenton several years ago. I inherited him with my church when I was called as pastor two years ago. God gave me a spiritual heavyweight of encouragement with him. He sits a few rows from the back—prayerfully listening every week. Most in our church do not realize the wealth of maturity he brings to our congregation. He holds no formal leadership position in our church. He doesn’t need it because his prayers move mountains.

 

Every young pastor needs an old mentor. I know that’s not a new thought. I press the point because it’s hard to overstate the value of wisdom from someone 50 years older than you. Unfortunately, young pastors tend to dismiss the oldest generation of leaders. Not overtly, of course. Few would explicitly state they don’t want to hear from someone older. The dismissal comes more in the form of time. Our ears can only listen to so much before words start melting together. Podcasts, meetings, texts, phone calls, blogs, sermons—how many of them come from the oldest generation? If you’re like me, you tend to listen to people your age, maybe 10 years older. Listening to the oldest generation takes effort. It’s not efficient. My mentor talks slowly, with careful nostalgia. If I pay attention, what I hear is the greatest hits album of his ministry. It should be played over and over again.

 

At his blog Millennial Evangelical, Chris Martin shared about the strange burden of participating in social media.

Over the last year or so, I have become more discouraged about social media and what it is doing to us than I have ever been.

 

Often I think to myself, “The only reason I use social media any more is because it’s such an important part of my job.” Really, it’s central to my job.

 

Then, some weeks, what I see on social media encourages me and gives me hope for the medium as a useful tool for the Church.

 

One of my friends recently left social media entirely. He deleted all of his accounts and isn’t going to engage on Twitter, Facebook, etc. any more. I kinda wish I could bring myself to do that, but every time I consider it, I can’t.

 

It’s not that I can’t bring myself to leave social media because I have some sort of unhealthy addiction to it or because I need to be informed about what all of my friends are doing with their lives. (At least I don’t think that’s why.)

 

I think I can’t bring myself to leave social media because I have a sort of strange burden for it as a medium.

 

Earlier this week, Russell Moore shared about his writing process.

Because you are probably going to be called upon to write something at some point in your life. It may not be that you’re a writer, but you may have to write a loved one’s obituary. Or you may have to write a letter to a child or a family member. All of us are going to have to put down on paper or on the screen our thoughts at some point. Some people just do it much more extensively than other people do it.

 

So here’s kind of the process I go through. And again, I don’t commend it to anybody at all. This is just the way that I work. What I wish I could say to you is that I sit down and make out an elaborate outline, and then have note cards in front of me, and I go through each of note cards. That’s not how I work. What I have to do is spend a lot of time, first of all, reading in whatever area I’m going to be writing in, and then a lot of time just processing that. So just thinking. A lot of the most important writing time for me actually is not in front of the screen, it’s walking in the woods. Because that’s when I’m thinking through “Okay but what about this, and what about that, what about this idea, and what about that idea,” and sort of churning as I’m thinking through this. And for me, exercising – especially sort of meandering free exercising – is what helps to put all of that together for me.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless recently shared ten reasons (beyond fear) that believers don’t evangelize.

If you look at many studies about evangelism, you’ll discover that fear is a primary factor that keeps Christians from telling the Good News. Those fears might involve a fear of rejection, a fear of not knowing answers, a fear of others watching our lives more closely if we speak of Christ, or other possibilities. In addition to fear, here are some other reasons – perhaps surprising ones – that believers don’t evangelize.

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 Baptist Press, Tobin Perry shared the story of Allie Candler, a 107-year-old retired Southern Baptist missionary who is still a missions advocate.

She had committed her life to Jesus during a revival at First Baptist Church of Lockhart, S.C., two years earlier. But she still had matters to settle in her spiritual life. She remembers sitting in a revival meeting and listening to a preacher share about the “Stewardship of Life.” He then asked a question that would change her life forever. “You’ve been saved, but have you dedicated your life to Him?”
Candler, who was then sitting with the choir, came down to the altar and prayed, “I’m ready to be used if You can use me.”

 

At a Sunday service two weeks later, God specifically directed her toward missions. On the way home, she says Satan tried to dissuade her from telling anyone about her call.

 

“Devil,” she said, “I didn’t have anything to do with it. The Lord called me.”

 

That time may seem like just yesterday to Allie Candler, but in reality, it was more than 31,000 days ago. As America reeled from the Great Depression and Franklin Delano Roosevelt campaigned for the first time to be the nation’s president in 1932, God called a 22-year-old Candler into a lifetime of missions service.

 

Earlier this week, Chuck Lawless shared nine reasons why every church should adopt a North American church planter. Dr. Lawless writes:

I occasionally have opportunity to train church planters in North America. Based on my experiences with them, I believe every church ought to adopt and prayerfully support a church planter. Here’s why.

 

At The Gospel Coalition, S. Craig Sanders shared the story of how Andy Davis used expository preaching to revitalize First Baptist Church Durham, NC.

Before Andy Davis preached verse-by-verse through the book of Isaiah, he memorized all 1,292 of them. It’s a discipline he developed while working as a mechanical engineer in 1986, several years after becoming a Christian. To this day, fellow students from the doctoral program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recall seeing Davis walk the streets near the school as he committed entire books of the Bible to memory.

 

When Davis finished his PhD in church history in 1998, he accepted the call as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church Durham, North Carolina. Scripture memory and meditation sustained him as he withstood a powerful faction of deacons and committee chairs. In 2001, his opponents tried to drive him away after he led the church to change the bylaws to reflect biblical roles of gender and authority.

 

Now nearly 20 years later, the pastor and TGC Council member leads his thriving congregation the same way he did back when the cabal tried to oust him: verse-by-verse, expository preaching.

 

Marty Duren posted an article at the LifeWay Pastors blog which lists ten keys to being a better writer for an internet audience.

I approach the subject of writing as a writer with a lot of experience but no illusions of grandeur; hopefully no delusions either. My limitations are established as are my abilities. I know when I’ve turned a good phrase and crafted a good argument. I usually know when I should have hit “Trash” instead of “Publish.” My floor is littered with virtual paper-wads.

 

Many pastors and other church leaders have found another voice—as writers—by which they can expand their Kingdom influence online. Whether personal blogs, church websites, or articles for collaborative websites, many have experienced satisfaction through encouraging and teaching others through the written word.

 

An editor and writer by trade, this post has been on my mind for a while. This subject was included recent suggestion marathon on Facebook (or, a reasonable facsimile of the subject was).

 

If you are a pastor or church leader with a burden, passion, or passing interest in writing, I hope you will find these ten keys to being a better writer for an internet audience helpful.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Meredith Cook shared how contextualization can be risky business. Meredith writes:

The opening scene of the movie, The African Queen, depicts a white missionary couple leading a worship service for residents of an African village. If you’ve seen the movie, you may or may not have noticed the oddities about this scene. This worship service takes place in a building, the music is being led by a conductor and a woman playing an organ, they are singing in English, congregants are sitting in rows, and some are using hymnals.

 

These details may not seem unusual but it’s likely because this is exactly how you worship every Sunday (perhaps without the hymnal, though). However, if you watch the scene from the movie again, notice how none of the congregants are fully participating in worship. Most of them look miserable. While this is a hypothetical situation, a typical worship service in their culture likely would not use an organ or hymnals.  They wouldn’t be singing in English and they may be more likely to sit in a circle than rows. This is a work of fiction, but this scene is a great example of contextualization done poorly. Instead of letting the African culture determine the forms used in the worship service, the missionaries simply applied their own cultural norms to the situation without considering the new culture around them.

 

As I mentioned in my last post, contextualization is not something we can choose to do or not. Contextualization can be as simple as translating the gospel into another language, but it is usually more involved than that. And it should be more involved, because culture is not just what language we speak. Culture includes a myriad of qualities: our worship style preferences, how we relate to our leaders, what music we like, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, etc. Contextualization touches many aspects of culture. It is unavoidable and essential. There are significant benefits to doing it well—affirming culture, helping people understand the gospel in a way that makes sense to them, and giving us a broader perspective of the faith—but there are also some serious risks to avoid. To be clear, we won’t get contextualization right the first time nor every time, and the Lord will give us grace when we make mistakes. However, these are three things to be cautious of when doing contextualization.