In Case You Missed It

In a recent article at the Intersect Project, Dayton Hartman shared how God can use heresy for our good.

Survey the evangelical landscape, and you’ll find a lot to be depressed about. Self-professed Christians are compromising on moral convictions for political expediency. Some are denying essentials of the faith to embrace political correctness. And then others are pandering a kind of theological ambiguity that speaks much and says nothing.

 

I recently heard someone say, “What a depressing time to be a Christian!” Well, I guess that’s true — especially with so many megachurch pastors wearing the ironically large hipster glasses. But it’s also entirely untrue. This particular Christian was lamenting what they classified as the rush toward heresy among once faithful evangelicals. In their estimation, these trends must mean the end of the church in America is drawing near. Two things are worth noting.

 

At the People’s Next Door Keelan Cook reminds us that “gospel-centered” must mean more than just the preaching.

Gospel-centered is one of those buzzwords today in evangelical Christianity. It, like so many others, has a great origin and a significant purpose. In a day when mission drift threatens to pull us away from our core purpose as Christian churches, terms like “gospel-centered”  (or “missional”) are calls back to our biblical foundations. However, when they stick, they soon become victims of their own popularity. In many ways, I fear this is happening to the idea of being gospel-centered as well. The term now falls into the foggy words category. Foggy words are those words we use in ministry circles that sound good but when pressed no one can really give you a clear definition. They often help more than they hurt for that reason. When it comes to gospel-centered, I think there are two ways that this term seems to shift in meaning.

 

Bruce Ashford posted an article at his personal blog with five ways to save free speech on college campuses.

During the past 18 months, college students have engaged in disruptive and even violent activities toward guest speakers whose ideas they considered offensive.

 

In response, college administrators have tended to capitulate to—or collaborate with—the demonstrators by disinviting scheduled speakers and disciplining students or professors whose views were considered offensive.

 

In fact, recent studies by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the National Science Foundation together reveal that approximately 90 percentof colleges and universities have policies that either prohibit or substantially restrict free speech that is constitutionally protected.

 

Americans should beware. Unless we act to safeguard free speech on campuses, this depressing trend will continue indefinitely until the censors have gained control not only of universities, but coffee shops, churches, and public squares.

 

What can we do to safeguard free speech on college and university campuses? Here are five ways that all of us can play our own unique role.

 

“To Tithe or Not to Tithe?” At the Intersect Project David Jones shared a New Testament guide to generous giving.

To tithe or not to tithe?

 

This simple question has been debated in small groups, in Sunday school rooms, over kitchen tables and in textbooks for decades. In my new book Every Good Thing, I address it at length.

 

We don’t have the space to address the question in detail here, but I’ll simply say this: It is difficult to apply Old Testament tithing laws in our own context. In fact, if we survey the New Testament, we’ll find that it does not prescribe a formal method or fixed amount for believers’ giving at all.

 

Nevertheless, the New Testament does provide several examples and principles of giving that can guide us in our stewardship and giving. These principles ought to encourage many (if not most) Christians to give far more than 10 percent to kingdom work.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared why Netflix thinks you’re bored and lonely.

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by . . . 

 

So sang the rock band America in 1974. Forty years later, lonely people are probably streaming Stranger Things.

 

At a conference sponsored by the Wall Street Journal last year, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, offered a purpose statement for his entertainment juggernaut: “Fundamentally, we’re about eliminating loneliness and boredom. . . . That’s what entertainment does.”

 

Eliminating boredom and loneliness. Chew on that for a while, and you’ll realize that only one of these issues is truly a problem, while the other is actually an opportunity.

 

At his personal blog, Chuck Lawless shared an open “thank you” letter to Southern Baptists.

I don’t typically write a post specifically for my denomination, but I’m making an exception today. In the past few weeks, I’ve been with Southern Baptists in Maryland, California, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. They’ve been college students, pastors, church planters, laypersons, and denominational leaders. I’ve been reminded in these weeks of how much Southern Baptists mean to me, so I’m writing this thank you note to you.

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.

In Case You Missed It

At the Intersect Project, Christy Britton shared a post about being enslaved to sin titled “The Thief and I.” Christy writes:

It was my first trip to Kenya. I was still adjusting to the culture shock when our team arrived at a boy’s juvenile detention center outside of Nairobi. Our van parked, and lots of young boys of all ages approached us with machetes in hand. My initial fear vanished when we discovered that the boys had been using the machetes to cut grass. As we mingled with the group of welcoming boys, we were told that most of them were thieves. They had lived as street kids, and they survived by stealing.

 

Our team divided the boys into small groups so we could interact more personally with them. I’m a mother of 4 boys, and I was shocked to realize how much these boys reminded me of my own. They were curious and funny and full of energy. We opened the Scriptures and taught them some stories. Then, we gave the boys a chance to tell us their stories.

 

After hearing several boys share, I assumed we were done. But then a tall, skinny boy stood up to speak to our group. He introduced himself as Elvis and started to explain his predicament. “I’m a thief. I like to steal and I’m good at it. But I don’t want to like it. What’s wrong with me? Will you pray for me that I won’t want to be a thief?”

 

His words stunned me. Initially, I was shocked at how openly he talked about his sin. But then I began to see how freeing it was for him to do so. That day, in a children’s jail and with the voice of one of its prisoners, God taught me about the freedom that comes in Christ.

 

Shaq Hardy shared a post this week highlighting seven ways Paul shows us how to live by faith in Romans 1:8–17.

At the end of Romans 1:17, Paul says, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Faith is believing what God says about salvation and trusting in God for salvation. With that said, Paul shows us how to live by faith in these 7 ways in Romans 1:8-17.

 

Brent Aucoin posted at the Intersect Project highlighting Thomas Kidd’s recent visit to Southeastern Seminary. Dr. Aucoin writes:

Dr. Kidd’s lunch and evening presentations were engaging and entertaining, but more importantly provided necessary correctives to the historical scholarship of two important American religious and political figures, George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin. In both his writings and his presentations, Dr. Kidd is showing young, budding Christian scholars how to serve the church while also engaging the American academy professionally and with integrity.

 

In a post at The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax highlighted Martin Luther’s ‘parasite’.

This month marks the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, long considered the start of the Reformation. Luther is a hero to me and many other Protestants for his courage, his conviction, and his rediscovery of the truth of justification by faith alone.

 

It may seem out of place to interrupt our celebration of Luther’s legacy by discussing some of the darker aspects of his life and thought. That’s how some reacted earlier this week when I tweeted a link to an article called “Luther’s Jewish Problem,” which lays out in all its awfulness the anti-Semitic turn of Luther in his later years. I agreed with the article in saying that we must look this evil square in the face and not explain it away.

 

The truth is the truth. And truth is not served by hagiography and exalted biographical sketches that minimize our heroes’ flaws. I believe Luther, who never minced words regarding sin and evil, would recommend we not minimize his sins.

 

At The Baptist Press Dr. David Dockery shared about the Reformation and Baptist life.

The Lord blessed me with the wonderful privilege of growing up in a Christian home — a faithful, Baptist home. Sundays included Sunday School, church services, afternoon choir practice as well as Bible Drill, Discipleship Training and Sunday evening after-church fellowship. It was generally a very busy day. Wednesdays included church suppers, prayer meetings, mission organizations, committee meetings and choir practice.

 

During the week there were opportunities for outreach visitation, WMU and other activities. Summer calendars were built around Vacation Bible School, church camps and other church-related events. My family planned weeks and seasons around church activities. Our heroes were Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and Bill Wallace of China.

 

But apart from a world history course as a high school student, I do not recall ever hearing stories about the Reformation, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin or other early 16th-century Protestant leaders in any church-related activity.

 

My guess is that my experience parallels that of many other Baptists. Why, then, should Baptists pay attention to the many events and programs taking place this year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for we are not Lutherans nor Anglicans nor Presbyterians. Yet, whether we realize it or not, many of our core convictions as Baptists have been influenced or shaped by those 16th-century thinkers.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared about reaching the Nations in North America.

For those of you who are not aware, this weekend a conference is happening here at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to discuss one of the most important issues facing the church in North America today: how we will discover and engage the scores of internationals coming to our communities with the gospel. The summit is a joint endeavor of several missions agencies, state Baptist conventions, and other organizations who all see the need to train and equip our local churches for cross-cultural ministry right here in our own backyard.

As Keelan mentioned in his article, Southeastern is hosting a conference this weekend on Reaching the Nations in North America. If you can’t be here in person, be sure to check out the livestream at sebts.edu/streaming.