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.

In Case You Missed It

At his blog, Chuck Lawless shared why it is important for young pastors to talk with older pastors. Dr. Lawless writes:

If you read this blog regularly, you know I love to work with young pastors. I’ve spent the last 20+ years of my life equipping them. They have energy, passion, and faith that are remarkable. At the same time, many young pastors have written off older leaders because our churches haven’t been as healthy as they should be, or we don’t necessarily agree on every fine point of theology with them.

 

Young pastors, I challenge you to find an older pastor and have some conversations. I’m not even saying you need to find an older mentor (though I do think we all need older mentors); I’m simply saying, “Take an older pastor to lunch and talk.” Here are some reasons why.

 

Keelan Cook shared a post at The Peoples Next Door earlier this week explaining how immigration may soon beat a century-old record.

As of 2015, the United States had set one record in immigration, and it may be on pace to break another one.

 

According to the most recent data from Pew research, the United States is now home to over 43.2 million international immigrants. That is more than any other time in the country’s history. It also makes the United States the largest recipient of immigrants by a wide margin.

 

However, according to Pew, the US is tracking toward another milestone, one that has not been topped since 1890. This number is called “immigrant share,” and it is the percentage of the US population that is foreign-born. In other words, our total population is looking more and more diverse.

 

At the Intersect Project, Thomas West shared why we should listen to Lesslie Newbigin and rest by caring for our religious life, but also work by giving ourselves sound theological reflection.

We all know the feeling.

 

We approach the end of the summer and wish we’d spent it differently. Sure, we did some good things. But there were other tasks we never got to. Some of us wish we’d played more. Others of us wish we’d worked a little harder. Either way, we feel like we’ve wasted our summer.

 

How can you avoid that post-summer letdown? What tips will help you live a summer without regrets? In this article, let’s learn from the remarkable example of a remarkable man, Lesslie Newbigin.

 

At his personal blog, Dr. Danny Akin shared five things you should always do before you preach a sermon.

Sermon preparation is hard work, no matter how long you’ve been doing it, and no matter how good you are at it. It simply requires work. Many preachers have a hard time finding a rhythm for sermon prep. What works for some might not work for others, and I think this is generally okay. However, I do think there are certain practices that should be common to all who want to faithfully and powerfully preach God’s Word to God’s people. I can think of at least 5.

 

Krystal White posted at the Intersect Project website sharing the burdens and blessings of a working mom. Krystal writes:

To work outside the home or not to work? The world of motherhood is deeply divided on the answer to this question. Unfortunately this dividing knife often cuts both ways, leaving mothers second-guessing their choice to either stay home or stay in the workforce.

 

As a mother of two who works full time, I feel the tension, too. I often hear statements such as “my husband and I care enough about the spiritual health of my kids for me to stay home,” or “I had a great career once, but I chose the kids over my career.” Statements such as these can lead many working moms to become insecure and feel as if they were undedicated to their children and families.

 

This week at his personal website, Dr. Bruce Ashford shared an essay discussing how to create a learning environment shaped by the Great Commandment.

In this essay, I wish to reflect on the question, “What will it profit a seminary to gain thousands of students but lose its soul?” What will our seminary gain if we develop a world-class faculty, build an efficient administration, receive a clean bill of health from our accreditors, enroll thousands of students and fill their heads with knowledge, but do not instill in our students a love for God and neighbor? What will a faculty member gain if he builds a large student following, has an impressive list of publications, and demonstrates a mastery of his subject matter, if these things are not underlain by a genuine love for God and for his neighbor? In other words how do we ensure that we are “Great Commandment faculty members” who view every seminary relationship as a “Great Commandment relationship?”