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, Dr. Nathan Finn answered a few questions about the relationship between spiritual formation and mission from a new book, Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church, which he co-edited with Dr. Keith Whitfield.

In recent years, evangelicals have pursued a more holistic Christian mission and participated in discussions about spiritual formation. Yet these two important movements have developed independently and rarely intersected.

Nathan A. Finn and Keith S. Whitfield want to change that. In Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church (IVP Academic, 2017), Finn and Whitfield bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and ecclesial traditions to address the relationship between spiritual formation and mission.

Nathan A. Finn (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University, where he also serves as dean of the School of Theology and Missions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, mission, spiritual formation and cultural engagement.

 

At his blog, The Wardrobe Door, Aaron Earls posted an article discussing how “coasting” only becomes an option in the mind of a Christian when we forget we are trying to draw closer to a person. Aaron writes:

How much did you enjoy coasting down a hill on your bike as a kid?

 

You can put your feet off to the side (or on the handlebar if you’re feeling really daring) and let gravity do all the work. Enjoying the wind against your face is the reward for all the effort you spent pedaling up.

 

As a kid, that was one of the greatest feelings, but sometimes things can go wrong.

 

Once, I was going too fast down a hill. I hit a bump, flipped over my handlebars and rode upside down for a few feet before crashing into a briar patch.

 

Attempting to coast spiritually, has put many Christians in a similar predicament without their even realizing it. Coasting is not an option for the Christian.

 

Over Easter weekend, a fascinating conversation took place on Twitter among several well-known evangelical women writers discussing the ideas of Christians building “platforms” and “brands.” Since that original conversation, several blog-posts have been written discussing this topic further. Below, are a few of these:

 

 

In Case You Missed It

Barnabas Piper shared a post at his personal blog earlier this week reminding us that life is not lived online. Barnabas writes:

I live my life online. So do you, probably. We share everything – every event and crisis and first day of school and pretty plate of food and new place we visit. We are compelled to comment on everything, or at least to like it so the poster knows we are engaged. We share intimate family moments and difficult personal ones. We are authentic in the least vulnerable way possible. The online way.

 

Because life is not lived online. In fact, online is not a place or a thing. It is real but is an alternate reality. No matter how “real” we seek to be online it is never really life. Because life is lived here and now with people in places thinking thoughts and saying words and doping actions. That is life.

 

Life is not actually a public affair. It is not for the consumption of others. Yet we seek to shove our lives into the public alternate reality of social media for all to see. We are confused. The term “friend” no longer means friend. We calculate the significance of our moments by likes never considering if we liked the moment. We take the vulnerable moments of grief, pain, struggle, anger, and confusion – moments to be tended with as much care as an infant in the NICU – and expose them to the elements of that other universe, the online one.

 

At The Peoples Next Door, Keelan Cook shared a post discussing foggy words that can sidetrack the mission.

In order for us to engage people in outreach we need to do life with them and be intentional about loving on them.

You may have actually heard that statement come off some pastor’s lips in a sermon. But think about it, what does it actually mean? You filled in all kinds of meaning behind those phrases. Your meaning may have been absolutely biblical, or perhaps it was way off base. Often, our goal in crafting this language for our mission is noble. We want to find a way to articulate aspects of what it is we are all called to do. Unfortunately, because so many of these words are vague, they get used in all kinds of ways.

 

“In recent years the foggy word ‘work’ has become popular. This least common denominator includes all kinds of activities. Preaching, teaching, healing, theological training, broadcasting, building, and chicken raising-all are work. Ardent church planters like the Southern Baptists, addicted to the idiom, even when they begin a church in some town in Mexico are likely to say, “We have opened a work there.” Wherever used, the word hides what is being done.”

 

That is an excerpt from a book written in, wait for it… 1970.

 

In fact, the author goes on to say, “Similarly the words friendly interest, response, outreach, encounter, and the like are so vague and cover so many activities that they tell little about the increase of congregations.”

 

The author was Donald McGavran*, and he hit the nail on the head. In the church and missions, we love using foggy words to describe our “work.” We have been doing it for at least 47 years now, and I bet we have been doing it a lot longer. McGavran’s warning about our vocabulary is as salient today as it was back then. It is easy for us to cloud our own understanding of our mission when we apply vague terms uncritically and imprecisely.

 

At the North American Mission Board website, Dr. Danny Akin shared a post reminding us that last words are lasting words. Dr. Akin writes:

Last words are meant to be lasting words. They are meant to make an impact and leave an impression. As the Lord Jesus prepared to ascend back to heaven, He called His disciples to Himself and said these words: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20, HCSB). These well-known words of our King are often referred to as the Great Commission. Their greatness is found both in their content and in the one who spoke them. These words are nothing less than a strategic mandate for the Church of the Lord Jesus to passionately obey until He returns again to consummate all things. So, we are told to make disciples. You would think this would be an easy assignment, but my 35 plus years in ministry have convinced me that this is an area where the Church has stumbled about in confusion. Too often we have settled for cheap substitutes that have produces anemic followers of the crucified Galilean. How few there are in our churches who truly deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).

 

Dr. Nathan Finn posted an article at The Gospel Coalition explaining why we should consider living near our churches.

I love the universal church, which includes all believers everywhere. But over the years I’ve become firmly convinced that the local church is ground zero for worship, formation, witness, and service. Local churches are contextual expressions of the one body of Christ. The church is the people, not the building. To use old-fashioned Baptist language, the church building is the meetinghouse. Wherever the people are, there the church is. On the Lord’s Day, and perhaps other times, we’re the church gathered. When we leave the meetinghouse and head out into the world as individual disciples, we’re the church scattered.

 

For most of us, it’s easier to be a meaningful part of the church gathered—and to partner with the rest of the church scattered—when we live in the same community where our church’s building is located. I believe it’s ideal to live near your church’s gathering place for the kingdom’s sake.

 

At The Intersect Project, Doug Ponder published an article titled: “Fear Not, Little Flock“. Doug writes:

Fear and worry and anxiety run deep in us all. We’re afraid of being alone, of being unloved, of being abandoned. We’re afraid of looking dumb. Some are afraid of losing; others are afraid of success. We’re afraid of taking chances, but we’re also afraid of missing that “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Most are afraid of economic hardship — and the fear never seems to go away no matter how high the dollars stack. We’re afraid of hurting others, and we’re afraid of being hurt. Singles are afraid they will never marry; married couples are afraid their spouse won’t stay forever. We’re afraid of growing older; we’re afraid of dying young.

 

No one really likes fear, but it’s the air we all keep breathing. It is as if the world is fueled by fear. Indeed, not a few industries profit from our fears. Insurance salesmen come to mind, but so do politicians, who practically depend on fear to run their campaigns. The candidate who taps into our deepest fears almost always wins the election.

 

At his personal blog, Art Rainer shared ten Bible verses to start off our 2017.

For some, a new year means a new start. It’s a natural point in our lives when we consider what we desire to see happen over the next twelve months. Maybe you desire to be a better leader. And this is the year. Maybe you desire to get your finances headed in the right direction. And this is the year. Or maybe you desire to spend more time with God. And this is the year.

 

I am sure that you have high hopes for 2017. You are setting goals and making plans. And this is good. But there is no better place to start this fresh year than in Scripture.

 

So, here are 10 verses to start your 2017