In Case You Missed It

At Lifeway’s Worshiplife blog, Dr. Joshua Waggener shared three “R’s” for Worship Ministry.

Have you ever noticed that just when you think you have found the best way to lead worship in your church, some issue arises that distracts from worship itself? For example, you may recruit a talented new worship leader for your ministry only to find out that his or her musical abilities came across as too “showy” and distracting. Or perhaps you found that perfect song or technological tool that you just knew would engage more of the congregation, but it fell flat. In fact, the response from the worshipers was underwhelming! Or even worse, instead of appreciating your initiatives, some folks in the pews began pushing for worship done “my way or the highway,” sending you back to the beginning in your quest for “unified worship.”

 

How should we address these issues that arise in our worship ministries? What should we focus on amid worship conflicts?

 

You may be surprised to hear that Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian church—at least in part—to deal with worship issues head on. He begins his letter by addressing divisions over leadership in the church. Unfortunately, these divisions caused issues with how the church practiced the Lord’s Supper, how they used spiritual gifts in worship, and who they focused on.

 

What can we learn from Paul’s instructions to the struggling church at Corinth? Let me suggest three “R’s.”

 

Jeremy Bell shared an article at the Intersect Project titled: “Bernie Sanders and the Offensive Gospel.”

The recent episode between Senator Sanders and Russell Vought, presidential nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, has made headlines. If you missed the controversy, Sanders rebuked Vought for an op-ed in which he claimed that Muslims “have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” Here’s a sample of Sanders’ response:

In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world…. I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.

Many Christians are appalled and outraged at the comments that Senator Sanders made to Vought at the Senate hearing. Vought is asserting a basic Christian belief about salvation.

 

However, are we Christians really surprised that Senator Sanders attacked Vought’s Christian values? Are we really caught off guard that the gospel is offensive to those that don’t believe in Jesus Christ? Why are we so often surprised when attacked by the unbelieving world?

 

Don’t misread my intentions for this post. I fully support religious liberty. I hold firmly to the U. S. Constitution. I believe all people have the right to believe in and not be hindered by others for their religious convictions. I am convinced that Christians in America should speak up for freedom of religion. However, we should be prepared for more incidents and attacks like the one Vought experienced by Senator Sanders. Why you ask?

 

In an article at The Biblical Recorder, Keith Whitfield and Micah Fries shared how “better together” is not just a catchphrase; it is a reality.

The 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting has come and gone. This family gathering has become for us a highlight every year.

 

With all our differences, when we gather as a convention, we see again the ways God uses us together, in our country and around the world.

 

The reports from each entity remind us how blessed we are to have such gifted leaders stewarding these organizations, what a privilege it is to cooperate with so many people (those we know and the thousands we don’t) in Great Commission work, and how the Lord has used us over the past year. And, we share and hear reports outside the meeting hall about what the Lord is doing in the local contexts where we and our friends serve.
We leave again this year believing we are, as one of our friends says, “better together.”

 

Nathan Finn posted at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the recent call from Southern Baptists to defund and investigate Planned Parenthood.

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held its annual meeting in Phoenix. If you’ve been following the news, you might be forgiven for thinking that Southern Baptists only addressed two topics last week: renewing our commitment to evangelism and the much-discussed resolution denouncing the “alt-right” and other forms of white supremacy. But as is the case with every annual meeting, far more happened than the bits that were emphasized by the media. One resolution in particular is worth noting, even though it has unfortunately garnered little attention outside the halls of the SBC annual meeting.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, Southern Baptists unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the defunding and investigation of Planned Parenthood. The resolution’s adoption was greeted with sustained applause and even a few cheers from the messengers. It was an important moment that demonstrates how committed the SBC has become to the sanctity of human life and the pro-life cause in the public square.

 

At his personal blog, Walter Stickland reflected on #SBC17, alt-right white supremacy, and racial reconciliation.

At the risk of not “striking while the iron is hot,” I’ve decided to reflect on the Alt-Right developments at #SBC17.  The annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) never fails to generate attention—this year was no exception.  The media buzzed with developments leading to the adoption of Resolution 10 On the Anti-Gospel of Alt Right White Supremacy .

 

On Tuesday the messengers (or representatives) of SBC churches elected not to take a stand on Alt-Right white nationalism before arriving at a unanimous decision to denounce it on Wednesday afternoon.  As I reflect on the ups and downs of the process between Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ve concluded that, in a perfect world, the resolution would have been and adopted in some form on Tuesday afternoon, but the conversation would have ended without consequence.

 

H.B. Charles Jr. shared this week about being a faithful steward of his other pulpit: social media.

The pastor lives under a divine charge to preach the word. He does not have the right to proclaim his own message. He is a herald assigned to declare the message of the King.

 

Every pastor has multiple responsibilities. But the pastor’s primary, central, and definitive function is to preach the word of God. A faithful pastor will not compromise the centrality of the pulpit.

 

It is my desire and determination to be a faithful pastor. Therefore, I strive to guard the dignity of the pulpit that has been entrusted to me. How I live, study, and preach are shaped by the fact that I stand in the pulpit as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a high privilege and a heavy responsibility.

 

As a local pastor who also travels to preach in other churches, this sacred calling is doubly impressed upon me. A pastor’s stewardship of his pulpit extends to others he invites to preach to his congregation. When a pastor invites another pastor to preach at his church, it is never a light matter. There are huge spiritual implications involved.

 

When I stand in the pulpit – be it in the pulpit where I serve as pastor or as the guest speaker in another church – I must speak as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. I have one responsibility, which is to be faithful.

 

Lately, I have been thinking much about how this stewardship from God applies to another “pulpit” where I often speak. Social media.

 

Trillia Newbell posted an article at her blog this week discussing why race is a topic worth speaking about.

Editors are constantly encouraging me to develop a catchy introduction that captures readers’ attention right away to encourage further reading. And so when I was thinking through sharing thoughts about why writing on race and ethnicity can be difficult, I literally thought I’d just skip the introduction and get straight to the facts. Why do that? Because writing about race is so incredibly hard. Some even go so far as to question the need to read and process material about race.

 

I have been told that speaking and writing about race could hurt my ministry. That publishers may not be able to publish me because my “platform” would be hindered by my communication on the topic of race. But for me, it’s more than a topic. Race, racial reconciliation, racial harmony, you name it, is about people made in the image of God. It’s not a topic that I can just ignore. And, as a black female in predominantly white spaces, I face the reality of my ethnicity every single day. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s simply reality.

 

In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Jeremy Bell reminds us that as Christians, we should take care of our bodies.

The doctrine that humans were created in the image of God matters for how Christians navigate a variety of cultural issues—racism, bioethics, abortion, homosexuality and moral responsibility, just to name a few. This truth, the imago Dei, provides Christians with a correct worldview that all people are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) on the basis of their image–bearing. According to this doctrine, human beings are special because we are created beings that exist as both body and soul. Regardless of your capabilities, you are valued by God because you have been created by God as an embodied soul.

 

However, I fear that we have not fleshed out what the imago Dei means for us as individuals. We have created a culture that focuses mainly on the soul while forgetting the body — a sort of Christian Gnosticism. I am convinced that the Christian community needs to focus on both the body and the soul in order to honor God as his image–bearers.

 

What do I mean by this? Christians need to practice taking better care of their bodies in order to honor God as created beings. In other words, Christians should consider pursuing healthy eating habits, exercising regularly, drinking more water and avoiding harmful substances. The Christian understanding of body and soul from Scripture obligates us as created beings to be good stewards of the bodies that God has given each of us. However, we are to honor God with our bodies not as a means to earn God’s grace, but as a means to express our gratitude for the grace he has already shown us through Jesus Christ.

 

Here are three reasons that you should take care of your body because you have been created in the image of God.

 

Spence Spencer posted an article at his personal blog Ethics and Culture discussing the question: “What is an Evangelical?” Spence writes:

The furor around Hillbilly Elegy has largely died away. Much to nearly everyone’s surprise, a populist won the election. Many of his votes came from people who claim the title evangelical.

 

The exit poll results that indicate 81% of so-called evangelicals voted for Trump have been used as a cudgel against theologically conservative Protestants, many of whom identify as evangelical.

 

As Robert Wuthnow notes in his recent book, Inventing American Religion, however, there are significant differences between theological belief and political identity. The pollsters have tried to cross that boundary, but there are indications that the political label evangelical may not provide a strong theological indicator.

 

At Christianity Today, Hannah Anderson shared an article discussing how brainy women benefit the church.

“Why do you always have to analyze everything?”
I’ve heard this question many times, but I remember the first time someone posed it to me directly. I was 11 years old, in the fifth grade, and standing in the hallway surrounded by my classmates. I don’t remember who asked it, but I do remember that the question was quickly followed by an unsettling chorus of assent. To that point, I’d enjoyed the process of learning and felt free to excel academically. But something shifted in that moment.

 

Although I didn’t realize it then, our collective understanding of intelligence—and my perception of my own intelligence—had been taking shape for several years. A recent study by Lin Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, reveals that children as young as six are already forming views about the nature of intelligence, including associating it with masculinity. Standing in that hallway was the first time I remember questioning whether being a “smart” girl was a benefit or a social liability.

Reporting on Bian’s research, Ed Yong of The Atlantic notes that society’s tendency to associate intelligence with masculinity can create hurdles for women.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently published an article at his blog discussing the Bible’s four essential teachings about politics.

When we ask the question, “What is a Christian view of politics?” we can be tempted to jump straight to party platforms and policy issues. That is, of course, how the conversation proceeds on the radio shows and cable news networks: “What is a Christian perspective on immigration reform?” “Why do Christians oppose abortion but support the death penalty?” “How could a Christian support So-and-So for the presidency?”

 

But if we jump straight to these sort of issues, our perspective will be fragmented and incoherent. Instead of beginning with questions about isolated policy issues and party platforms, it is helpful to ask what the Bible’s master narrative says about politics itself.

 

That’s right. Even though the Bible is composed of 66 individual books composed by many different authors, its composition was guided by one Divine Author who formed those books together into one story. That story is the true story of the whole world, a story that tells where the world came from, what went horribly wrong with it, and how God will one day set it aright.

 

If we want to understand a Christian view of politics, therefore, the first thing we need to do is look at clues from the Bible’s main storyline. One way to tell the story is to divide it into four acts—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. In this article, I will do exactly that, and will briefly relate each act to the notion of politics.

 

At Thom Rainer’s blog, Jonathan Howe shared four elements of a successful podcast.

In the past two weeks of the Rainer on Leadership podcast, we have experienced two of our top three days ever on the show in terms of downloads. For this, we are obviously grateful to our listeners.

 

As we begin year five of Rainer on Leadership, it feels like the proper time to look back over the past four years at what has made the podcast (and other popular podcasts) work. The “Religion and Spirituality” section of iTunes is by far the most populous category in the app, and Rainer on Leadership is consistently in the top 150. I’ve identified four elements of the podcast that I believe contribute to this.

 

In this post, Art Rainer gives five major reasons why church giving declines.

God has designed us, not to be hoarders, but conduits through which His generosity flows.

And this generosity should be evident by the way we give to our local church. Unfortunately, churches often experience a reduction in giving. Their members and attendees withhold or reduce their giving.

 

Why does this happen?

 

Here are a few reasons to consider

 

In an article at the website of the International Mission Board, Scott Hildreth shared about how the Cooperative Program enables local congregations to participate in God’s mission. Dr. Hildreth writes:

Some may wonder how the Southern Baptist Convention is different from other denominations. There are many ways, but one of the most obvious is our basic structure and our funding system. From the early days of the convention, Southern Baptists looked for a structure that supported our belief in the importance of the local church while also enabling the churches to fulfill the Great Commission through many different ministries. The Cooperative Program is the result. Over the years, the details and complexity of the convention have changed, but this program has served as a key tool for our growth.

 

The beauty of our Cooperative Program outshines the motto: “We can do more together than we can do alone.” There is no question that the Cooperative Program has allowed Southern Baptists to achieve a lot. It is the financial driving force—some might even say, the lifeline— for the expanse and success of the SBC. The creation of a unified budget, along with the expectations of regular contributions, allows our boards to plan their work without being encumbered by the constant need to raise all of their support.