In Case You Missed It

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a post discussing how the genuine kindness of Fred rogers has made him a new unlikely hero in our current culture.

In 2005, sandwiched between the Iraq War and the Great Recession, the internet provided Americans a needed respite in the form of Chuck Norris facts. But our hyper-partisan culture has found a new unlikely hero—Mr. Rogers.

 

Earlier this week, Jason Duesing shared an article at Preaching Source highlighting the preacher’s role as missionary.

In recent years our family survived our “Angry Birds” season of life. For a period of time our kids could not get enough of this game, to the extent that we even had an Angry Birds birthday party along the way. If you have played this game, you know that the key to advancing is trajectory. How you aim the angry bird makes all the difference for achieving maximum effect. While hopefully not angry, the key for the preacher as missionary also is trajectory. In what direction the preacher points, the church follows.

 

That said, it isn’t enough for a preacher to herald the importance of missions. He must underscore its importance biblically and encourage his people to be world Christians just like him. So, more than merely pointing to the ends of the earth, the preacher should also go there and take others with him.

 

In short, the preacher as missionary is an exemplar of one who champions the end goal of the gospel and those called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Yet, this is not another hat he must wear but is the natural outgrowth of his dedication to the gospel and his desire to see the nations reached.

 

Inevitably, when the preacher is leading in the trajectory of missions, well-meaning church members will ask why it is that we need to emphasize and fund long-range global mission efforts when there are so many lost people right here at home. This is a question of stewardship and deserves a good answer, and the preacher as missionary should readily give it.

 

At The Intersect Project, Laura Thigpen shared four ways to walk with those who weep.

Silence accompanies Grief, as does Loneliness. These unwanted tenants take up residence in all our lives for a time. And each us will long for companions to come and sit with us while these unwanted guests are present. All of us may not be in seasons of deep grief, but we all know someone who is. The Christian life demands that we respond to others who grieve, but not in the way it has become so common.

 

For various reasons, I have experienced grief in my life that never truly leaves. I have come to realize that the pangs of grief may subside, but the cause of my grief will never go away. I will always be grieving, to some extent. And I’m not alone. For this reason, brothers and sisters in Christ must hold up one another’s arms, walk alongside and shoulder one another’s burdens as we grieve — for we all will grieve, and we all will desire someone to help us grieve.

 

I’m grateful to have such brothers and sisters in my life. Sometimes we sat in silence; other times we talked. Sometimes we wept together; other times we laughed. But what I have treasured most about the ways others have entered into grief with me is their resolve to grieve with me, to feel what I feel in a small way, to be burdenedby the destructive effects sin has in our world with me, to carry out the call to “weep with those who weep.” It is a blessing to have brothers and sisters so willing to follow this command, but it can be terribly burdensome when brothers and sisters do not.

 

Are you willing to “weep with those who weep” — to be there when someone is experiencing grief? Here are four practical steps to carry out this important call.

 

This week at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin wax looked at why C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity received bad reviews.

Mere Christianity is a strange book to become a modern Christian classic, partly because it wasn’t intended to be a book in the first place.

 

The work began as a series of radio addresses Lewis delivered during WWII. Next, these “broadcast talks” were printed as small pamphlets. A decade later, they were compiled into the book we know it as today. (What’s more, it wasn’t Mere Christianity that put Lewis on the map; The Screwtape Letters propelled Lewis forward in both the UK and the United States, eventually landing him on the cover of Time magazine.)

 

Still, few books in the 20th century have cast such a long shadow as Mere Christianity. I have multiple books on my shelf that give a nod to Lewis when making a case for Christianity in the 21st century: from N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian to Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Today, Lewis’s book has its own biography–written by George Marsden–as one volume in a series on influential Christian books!

 

But despite the book’s influence today (more than 70 years after the talks were delivered and 65 years since it first showed up in print), early reviewers felt little fondness for Lewis’s work or his vision of Christianity. Some of the initial feedback was negative.

 

In a post at the Baptist Press, Paul Akin shared the number one reason missionaries leave the field.

The most common reason missionaries go home is not due to lack of money, illness, terrorism, homesickness, or even a lack of fruit or response to the Gospel.

 

Regretfully, the number one reason is due to conflict with other missionaries.

 

Yes, you read that correctly.

 

From my own personal experience on the field and after five years training, equipping, and sending missionaries, I have witnessed this truth firsthand. In all my travels around the world, I’ve spent countless days with missionary teams of all types, sizes, and makeups and one reality remains true: none of them are perfect.

 

Dr. Joe McKeever’s blog is always a treasure chest of information gathered over his many years of faithful service in ministry. This week, he shared two posts which were related in that they discussed his long-practiced habit of journaling.

In the first post, Dr. McKeever shared something he always tells students about writing.

Writing a journal is like taking a 30-minute slice of your today and sending it ahead into the future.  I’m big on journaling.  Journals, we are told, are not so much for our children–who presumably are living the same life we are and have little curiosity about how we view today–as for our grandchildren and theirs.  In time, my journal will be looked upon as something of a record of “the life of an ordinary Baptist preacher in the 1990s.”  I’ll not be around to know it, but in doing those journals–I’m through with journal-keeping except on this blog, something that I wouldn’t exactly call journaling–it has often been with a view toward the future.  There’s a strong witness for Christ throughout all 56 volumes.

In this next post, he shares more about journaling, and why (no matter what we are writing) we should record the good experiences along with the painful ones.

Recently, when a friend began telling of the rupture in his congregation that resulted in his sudden departure, astonishingly some six or eight years after the event, I could see the pain was still fresh, the wound yet open.  I told him, “Start writing.  You need to get this out and on paper.”

 

He protested, “I can’t.  Those people are still around and I don’t want to stir it up again.”

 

I said, “You don’t have to publish it.  Just write it for yourself.

In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Hannah Jane Adkins recently shared why Christians should care about Women’s History Month. Hannah writes:

During the month of March, you’re probably engrossed in March Madness or relishing the first days of spring. These are good things. But have you paused to ponder about Women’s History Month?

 

Women’s History Month is a time to reflect on women’s contributions to society. As Christians looking through the lens of the Gospel, it is vital to see the impact of those who have gone before.

 

Why do we need Women’s History Month? The truth is that we don’t often think about the impact women have made on the church, on our lives or on the culture as a whole. But all of us, whether consciously or subconsciously, have been directly influenced by mothers, grandmothers and other women in our lives.

 

We experience freedoms because of women we will never know. Our faith has been influenced by women in the Bible and throughout church history.

 

Women’s history, then, is shared history. We must learn about our past to see how it affects the present and how it will continue to affect our future.

 

Why, then, should Christians care about Women’s History Month? Here are three key reasons.

 

Dr. Joe McKeever shared a post at his personal blog discussing some things a pastor needs to communicate to new staff members.

Let’s say you’re the pastor of a growing church.  The church has just brought in a new minister to assist you in leading the congregation.  He/she might be a worship pastor, minister of music, student minister, or in charge of education or pastoral care.

 

One of the best things a pastor can do with the incoming minister is to make him/her aware of your expectations.  You will want to think them through and write them out, then share them after you both have agreed that God is leading him/her to your church.  Give the person the printed copy and don’t lose your own.  This may be necessary if the time comes when you have to deal with a rebellious or lazy staff member.

 

In sharing these, do it graciously, not dictatorially as though you are going to be looking over their shoulder all the time.

 

You could even follow this by asking for their expectations concerning you.  I guarantee you they have them.  They will expect you to deal with them as ministers of the gospel, to give them room to do their job, to pay them well and protect them on their off days, and to support them when the criticism is unfair.  If  the new staffer is expecting something from you which was not spoken and never implied, you want to know that up front before you get too deeply into the employment process.

 

What follows are things I shared with our staff members in six churches over forty-two years.  Some of them evolved, while some of them were there from the first.  The list is not complete, but only things I recall at this vantage point.

 

At The Baptist Press, Scott Hildreth shared about calling out the called. Dr. Hildreth writes:

I am begging pastors and student pastors to pray for God to call your people into ministry. It is also an appeal for pastors to make time in their sermons and schedules to call out the called. Christianity Today released a statistic several weeks ago showing that only one out of seven senior pastors are under 40. I wonder if it is because we have stopped making appeals for people to respond to God’s call to ministry.

 

Here are a few important points for any pastor who is willing to accept this challenge.

 

Art Rainer recently shared four financial reasons why people don’t go to the mission field.

There are roughly three billion people in the world with little to no access to the gospel. And many of those people will live and die without ever hearing the name of Jesus. If you are a Christ-follower, this fact should be one of the driving motivations for you to go and share this good news that you have heard and received.

 

Unfortunately, some people who are willing to go to the nations, are held back because of financial reasons. Whether you are in this place because of poor decisions or not, they need to be addressed. Let’s look at four financial reasons why people don’t go to the mission field and what you can do about it.

 

At his personal blog, Dr. Chuck Lawless recently posted a list of ten leadership time wasters.

If you’re a leader, you know the importance of using time wisely. That doesn’t mean, though, that most of us use time well. Here are some of the most common leadership time wasters, in my opinion.

 

Dr. Bruce Ashford recently shared a helpful post discussing five ways to get the most out of a book. Dr. Ashford writes:

It’s sad, but true. I had already graduated with a Ph.D. before I really learned to get the most out of a book. It’s not that I hadn’t read many books or hadn’t read them with serious intent. I had been a serial reader since I was a small child. I had studied books in order to prepare for exams, evaluate them for critical reviews, or interact with them in research papers or journal articles.

 

But I had not really learned how to get the most out of a book.

 

Only when I started teaching undergraduate reading seminars at The College at Southeastern did I learn to read a book for all it is worth. In those “History of Ideas” seminars, I led students to read many of the greatest books ever written, including great works of fiction (e.g. Dante, Virgil, Milton, Chaucer), philosophy (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Marx), history (e.g. Herodotus), and theology (e.g. Augustine, Aquinas, Erasmus, Luther).

 

As my freshmen and sophomore college students wrestled with reading some of the greatest books ever written, I realized that I needed to teach them the art of deep reading as well as critical evaluation.

 

In order to help my students, however, I knew I needed to improve my own ability to get the most out of a book. So I read Adler and Van Doren’s How to Read a Book, and I labored to develop my own set of principles and practices. These principles and practices apply not only to the so-called “great books,” but to contemporary books.

 

In order to convey the five principles, I’m going to focus on how to read a non-fiction book for all it is worth, and the examples I use will be from contemporary texts.

In Case You Missed It

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax posted an article discussing the blessing of weather that confounds the control-freak. Trevin writes:

One of the greatest temptations in a technological age is to imagine that human beings create truth rather than receive it. Through scientific inventions and social media re-inventions, we suffer under the illusion that reality is something we can determine rather than something we must discover.

 

As C. S. Lewis put it: in ancient times, “the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.” In a technological age, however, “the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique.” 

 

“Subduing reality to our wishes” is the promise of technology, right? And even if we do not put our faith in this technological solution to human problems, we live in ways that further the illusion that we are ultimately in control—from our social media personas, to the heating and cooling of our houses, to the tailoring of our phones to our own needs.

 

At the Center for Great Commission Studies, Scott Hildreth shared five reasons (with solutions) which might cause evangelism to not get the emphasis it should.

There is little doubt that God’s mission and mandate for his church centers on evangelism. This means that, no matter what churches are doing, the primary objective must be clearly and plainly communicating the gospel. Our message is good news – God loved our sinful humanity so much that he gave his only Son. Anyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

Carl F. H. Henry once wrote: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time.” Most Christians know this is true; however, we are consumed with other activities and forget the importance of evangelism. Below give 5 reasons for this misplaced focus and then give some recommendations.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls shared a helpful reminder that we as Christians should stop making ourselves the hero of Bible stories.

For most movies, the protagonist or main character is also the hero, the person you are meant to identify with and want to emulate. Why is that?

 

Well, you naturally feel sympathy toward the person at the center of the story. It’s very difficult to constantly see the world through one person’s eyes and not view their perspective as right or at least defensible.

 

This creates a perpetual temptation for the Christian. Inescapably, we see life through our own eyes. We are the protagonists of our story and we naturally want to make ourselves the hero as well.

 

When you read a Bible passage, with whom do you initially identify?

 

Joe McKeever shared a post at his personal blog discussing twenty things which pastors should not love too much. Dr. McKeever writes:

“Do not be excessively righteous or overly wise” (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

Most of us would not include those excesses in a list of which to be wary.  But for most, I imagine the list might look more like this…

 

Chris Martin posted an article discussing how Americans feel better about most religions, but not Evangelicalism.

This week, the Pew Research Center released some data about how Americans feel about various religions, and how these feelings have changed from 2014 to 2017.

 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the data—and the focal point—is the comparison between how Americans felt about religious groups in 2014 versus 2017…every single religious group increased its reputation among Americans except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Yes. Americans warmed up to every religion over the course of the last three years except for one: Evangelical Christians.

 

Chuck Lawless posted at his blog sharing eight things which North American believers can learn from believers around the world.

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them.