In Case You Missed It

At The Gospel Coalition, Trevin Wax shared an article discussing when churches should address current events.

When does a current cultural event necessitate a change of plans in your Sunday morning church service?

 

That’s a question that I’ve been pondering in the aftermath of the Charlottesville protests a few weeks ago. The event took place on a Friday night, escalated on a Saturday, and culminated with a terrorist attack.

 

On social media, multiple people counseled churches on how to respond the next morning. Some called for condemning white supremacy and Neo-Nazis by name. Others offered prayer for pastors who were revising their sermons or penning statements to read before the church. This sentiment popped up a few times: If your church doesn’t address this tomorrow, find another congregation. The social media fever implied that failing to speak on the issue indicated you were taking the side of white supremacists.

 

I am the primary teaching pastor in my congregation. On that Saturday night, I spoke with two other pastors on staff. We decided that one of the pastors would speak from Ephesians 3 before the Lord’s Supper, emphasizing reconciliation at the table of the Lord, who has broken down the wall between Jew and Gentile. Since I was already in the middle of a sermon series on Exodus, I found a few places in my sermon where a condemnation of racist ideology fit well.

 

In other churches, pastors took different approaches. Some posted thoughts on Facebook. Others made a statement during the service. Others incorporated the events into a time of prayer.

 

But the bigger question remains: when should a church change its program in order to address a current event?

 

Here are some principles I’ve considered for future occasions. These are my initial thoughts, and I welcome counsel from others in the comments.

 

In a post at Southeastern Seminary’s Center for Great Commission Studies, Dr. Alvin Reid discussed how life is a mission trip.

When our daughter and son were 15, each respectively left the country on a mission trip, Josh to Costa Rica, and then Hannah to Thailand a few years later. They have since been on many, and Josh has led more than one as a student pastor.

 

Have you ever been on a mission trip? If so, did you ever take such a trip to another country? Imagine for a moment your church gathered this coming Lord’s Day as usual, but this day would be anything but normal. Today the entire congregation is loading buses following the final morning service. Passports in hand, you head to the airport and board as a group. Why? Your entire congregation is heading to a city in Asia where the gospel has never been proclaimed. You have decided as a congregation to do something adventurous, something quite revolutionary for your church.

 

At the For the Church blog, Micah Fries posted an article showing how your sanctification depends on loving the church.

We live in a culture that prizes materialism and autonomy. And, while we love to speak about how Christianity is counter cultural, the truth is our churches often reflect these cultural realities more than we care to admit or even recognize. When materialism is controlling our behavior, we treat the church kind of like we treat shopping for blue jeans. When we shop, we look for the best looking store, that offers us the most comfortable fit and asks of us the smallest price.

 

So, too, when it comes to the church.

 

At the Intersect Project, Michael Guyer shared a letter to an indecisive teenager.

Congratulations. With each passing day, you get one step closer to your high school graduation. This will be a big moment in your life. I hope you will be able to enjoy this accomplishment. I would encourage you to take some time to reflect on all that God has done over this season of your life. Take time to thank those who have played a pivotal part of it—I know I wish I would have done more of this myself.

 

You are about to make some big decisions that will have major implications for your life. You are probably all too aware of this every time someone asks: “What are your plans after graduation?” I remember getting that question myself. For a while I didn’t have an answer. And there are only so many ways you can say, “I don’t know.” I know you’ve been struggling with this because you are unsure of what is best for you. Will you go the traditional college route? Or will you pursuing training to enter the workforce? On the one hand, a college degree is seen by many as the new high school diploma. Everyone assumes that you will go to college and get an undergraduate degree. Yet, there are also great careers available to those who pursue associates degrees, vocational training or apprenticeships. I know you have heard from a number of different people on this issue, but I wanted to share a few thoughts with you that I hope will be helpful to you.

 

Recently Dr. Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern, addressed the Defense Intelligence Agency as a guest lecturer in Washington, D.C. with a lecture entitled, “The Greatest Military Leadership Challenge of Our Day: Cultivating the Warrior Sustaining Military Power.” You can read more about his talk in this story from Lauren Pratt.

 

In Case You Missed It

At The Intersect Project, Dawn Johnson Mitchell shared 3 ways you can pray for public school educators.

The smell of cafeteria food is in the air. The sound of squeaking sneakers echoes through hallways. And yellow school buses pepper the highways.

 

This means one thing: School is back in session.

 

As the new school year begins, educators need your prayer. In working with veteran and novice teachers for over a decade, and from my own experiences as a classroom teacher, here are three specific ways you can pray.

 

The classroom use of personal technology by students is a hot topic in college and seminary classrooms. In this post at his personal blog, Dr. Jason Duesing shares his views on the topic.

In the 1980s, one of my television heroes was the debonair Alex P. Keaton. My admiration for APK centered not just for his quick wit and conservative politics, but mostly because he had a watch that was also a calculator. I don’t recall at what age I first acquired the same watch, but when I did I remember some anxiety about whether my teachers would allow me to wear it to school or in class–lest they think I was covertly doing pre-calculus on my wrist.

 

How to handle media use in the classroom has been a topic of discussion among educators at all levels for the better part of the last two decades, or more. And, when our culture entered an era of annual technological upgrades and the condensing of multiple devices into fewer things to carry, the collective academic fretting only increased.

 

When I first started teaching and was not much older than the students, I resisted the trend of allowing more and more devices and sought to control and limit all use of non-class-related technology by professorial fiat. However, some time ago, I changed my thinking and chose instead to embrace this brave new world and try my best to redeem it for constructive (or at least entertaining) purposes.

 

Micah Fries shared a post at his personal blog discussing white supremacy and moral equivalency. Micah writes:

“White supremacy is wrong. It is anti-gospel and ought to be opposed with every fiber of our being. You cannot love Christ and claim racial superiority.”

 

“Yes, but what about Black Lives Matter (BLM)? Or antifa?”

 

This conversation, or some variation of it has played out repeatedly across the country over the last few days. What should we do with it? Is it a valid question? Is there moral equivalency between the two arguments?

 

As we begin, let’s state upfront that, generally speaking, any group who employs violence and/or anarchist behavior in resistance to the rule of law should be considered to be on the wrong side of the Bible. This is true of white supremacists. This is true of the Alt-Right. This is true of BLM. This is true of antifa. This is true of those employing said behavior disconnected from any group. This is true of any yet to be named group. With rare exception, followers of Christ abhor disobedience to the rule of law, and particularly reject violence to accomplish those means.

 

In a post at the Baptist Press, J.D. Greear explained how believing is seeing.

Imagine that you’d been blind your whole life and, suddenly, through some medical miracle you regained your sight. How would you prove to someone that you are now in the light?

 

It’s not that you can logically prove the existence of light. It’s not that you can explain how the medicine worked. It’s simply because you can now see everything else because of that light.

 

John’s Gospel presents Jesus that way. It opens by saying that Jesus is the light that came into the world. God’s Word “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory” — the kind of glory that could only belong to God (John 1:14).

 

In a guest post at Thom Rainer’s blog, Jonathan Howe shared seven qualities of an effective church communications coordinator.

Church communications is a burgeoning field. And the position of church communications director/manager/coordinator has become ubiquitous in many large churches. But it’s not just the large churches that are looking to fill this role. Mid-size and small churches are realizing the importance of having a singular person responsible for their church’s communications and social media.

 

So what should a church look for when finding a full-time, part-time, or volunteer communications coordinator? These seven qualities should be evident in that person.

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.