In Case You Missed It

Over at the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams shared a great post titled: “John the Baptist Died believing Character Matters,” which reminds us that our ultimate allegiance is to a crucified Savior. Nathaniel writes:

A prominent child of privilege had glaring personal weaknesses. He was overly image conscious, and he constantly got in trouble for indulging his hedonistic sexual desires.

 

On paper, he followed God. In practice, he did nothing of the sort.

 

Many of the people ignored his personal transgressions. But a well-known preacher called him out, at great personal cost.

 

This story sounds like it’s ripped from the headlines. In fact, it’s ripped from the history books. This is the story of Herod Antipas and his chief critic, John the Baptist.

 

At the People’s Next Door, Keelan Cook asks: Does your church have  family tree?

We replicate what we celebrate.

 

Everyone knows, buried deep in our bones, is a desire to be more and do more of what we praise. Truthfully, the idea is at the heart of the gospel and our purpose as people created to worship. We become what we worship, and we replicate what we celebrate.

 

This past week, I happened to see a video by Pillar Church in Dumfries, VA. Pillar is a great church just outside of DC, and I consider them a model for others churches when it comes to multiplication.

 

Our church is five years old, and multiplication was a high goal from the beginning. As a church plant, our membership naturally sees the importance of church planting and rallies behind the idea that multiplication is a better success metric than addition. Growing more churches is more important that growing our own church. The idea gets back to our gospel footprint. As we start new congregations here in the States or send missionaries to start new congregations across the world, we can impact far more areas with missions and mercy. The goal is the spread of the gospel.

 

Scott Hildreth posted earlier this week at the Center for Great Commission Studies reminding us that our place is here, and our time is now. Dr. Hildreth writes:

We are living through a very difficult time in our country. Friendships are being strained. Children are being exposed to embarrassing information. Hostility is oozing (maybe even spewing) from every pore and crack in society. Old wounds are ripped open and old enemies seem to be mounting again.

 

It is frustrating.

It is frightening.

It is nauseating and exhausting

AND –

It is also tempting to wish we did not have to live here or, that we were not living here, now.

 

This temptation leads us to search for safe places to hide until the storm is passed. We want to protect our faith, our families, our way of life. These reactions are normal and to be expected; however, I want to suggest that they should not be the Christian’s response to our current cultural crisis. Rather than wishing for a different life in a different place and different time, let’s embrace these challenges as God’s mission field. Nothing we are enduring has voided God’s mission nor will it derail His plan. However, we are his body and his mission must advance through us. Rather than hunkering down until the storm passes, let’s step out into the wild weather and recognize that God’s place for us is here and God’s time for us is now.

 

How shall we live as missionaries in this current society?

 

Dr. Nathan Finn recently shared a post with an important reminder about neighbor love and the upcoming election.

This year’s presidential election is unique in that both major party candidates are remarkably unpopular as individuals. It really is remarkable that so many Republicans and Democrats have spent so much time more or less apologizing for their support of their respective candidates. No doubt political scientists and historians will be studying this phenomenon for many years to come.

 

Thom Rainer posted at his personal blog giving five ways to stop the decline in your church.

Is there any hope for our church? Are we doomed to close the doors of this church after over a century in this community?

 

Those questions were two among many I received recently.

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that explained why churches are dying and declining faster today than historical norms. The article was more clinical and descriptive than hopeful and prescriptive. I promised I would follow up with suggestions and advice. This article is that follow up.

 

You should read this next sentence very carefully. The solutions are not easy. In fact, they will be such a challenge that many church leaders and members will deem them impossible for their churches.

 

That will be a shame.

 

But if you are willing to make changes, to make sacrifices, and to get out of your comfort zones, there is real hope. Allow me to explain by repeating the five challenges in the form of questions followed by my answers.

In Case You Missed It

Bruce Ashford recently posted a guest post at Chuck Lawless’ blog, sharing a way to make Scripture memory manageable and meaningful. Dr. Ashford writes:

It happens to most of us church leaders. Gradually, and without notice, we slip into the habit of viewing the Scriptures more as an object to be dissected than a spiritual feast to nourish our souls. As an antidote to this temptation, I recently wrote about a four-fold pattern of Scripture intake that helps us to receive the Scriptures as the nourishing word of for our souls. The four-fold pattern—read, reflect, pray, obey—is an adaptation and modification of an early church practice.

 

Keelan Cook posted at The People’s Next Door earlier this week explaining that church is not a spectator sport.

College football season is once again upon us. This week, I am traveling to do some missionary training and last night, I found myself laying in a hotel bed, listening to my team play their opening game on the radio. The Tennessee Volunteers, a top ten ranked team, were getting man-handled by Appalachian State, a nowhere near top ten team. Fortunately, the Vols snagged a “W” in overtime, but the whole time I was talking to the radio, telling the team what they should be doing.

 

This is how football works: a small handful of folk on the field, trying to win the game, while millions of us sit in an armchair and tell them what they are doing wrong. Truth is, I have never played football, but you would think I knew something about it by listening to me. After all the sports shows, commentators, and games I have watched, I think I know something about it. However, if you put me into that game, it would not take long to realize I do not.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams published an article explaining that God is greater than your fear of sharing the gospel. Nathaniel writes:

I know I’m supposed to share the gospel. But fear always seems to get in the way.

 

To wit: I once had a conversation with a staunchly liberal (and probably unsaved) lady in my town. I invited her to my church and mentioned how faith inspires us to love the least of these. As I walked away, though, I realized I had only wanted to talk about topics she wanted to hear. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with her worldview — namely, that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

 

On another occasion, I discussed faith with a deeply conservative (and probably unsaved) man. After I explained my interest in international missions, he said, “I hope you don’t leave the country. I hate any country that’s not America.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with his worldview — namely, the parts about Jesus saving us to share his good news to the ends of the earth.

 

In both instances, fear prohibited me from sharing parts of the gospel my listeners didn’t want to hear. So I stayed away from controversial topics. And both of them heard something less than the full gospel message.

 

Randy Mann shared the most encouraging post-sermon comment he has ever received.

Last Sunday, I received the most encouraging sermon comment I have ever received. It came from a 5 year old body (who I later found out was attending his first corporate worship service). He came up to me with his mom and said, “I really like what you said in your sermon today.” I asked, “Was there something special, or did you just like it in general?” He stopped for a minute and replied, “You made me think about Jesus.”

 

In a recent interview with Steve Noble about an article she wrote for The Exchange, Amy Whitfield tackled the question: “How should Christians use social media?” Follow this link to listen to the interview, or you can read highlights at the Intersect Project website.

I have a megaphone when I put something out on Facebook or on Twitter, but I don’t feel it in the moment. If I’m sitting in a room full of people, and I have a particular opinion about something but I know that it’s bombastic, or I know it could be hurtful, and I’m looking at everyone, then I know. I have some sort of check in my conscience that triggers me.

In Case You Missed It

Dr. Bruce Ashford posted an article earlier this week giving seven reasons to put down your phone and pick up a book. Dr. Ashford writes:

This week, my family and I leave for a one-week vacation. In addition to relaxing at the beach with my family (if “relaxing” is what one does with children ages 6, 5, and 3) and keeping up with the Republican National Convention, I intend to do some reading. For starters, I will finish reading two fine books, Os Guinness’ Impossible People and Anthony Bradley’s Black and Tired.

 

While my mind is on vacation—and therefore on reading—I thought I’d write a brief post about the rewards of reading. In previous posts on reading, I gave 5 Tips for Determining Which Books to Read (and Which Not to Read) and 4 Tips on How to Get the Most from Your (Non-Fiction) Reading. But in this post, I want to focus on some of the benefits accrued from building a life-long habit of reading. Among the many rewards, here are seven.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Walter Strickland writes discussing that if you are living for the weekend, you are working for the wrong reasons.

The song “Livin’ for the Weekend” was made and remade because it resonated with the American workforce. Each Monday, laborers punch the clock with the thrill of the weekend behind them and the dread of another workweek ahead. For many, five of seven days each week are a necessary evil, endured to pay the bills arising from a weekend of leisure. Many workers dream of becoming wealthy enough to escape the rigors and monotony of the workplace. For them, work is a curse to be escaped.

 

Jonathan C. Edwards posted an insightful article at his blog titled: “Thanks to Seminary, I’m Dumber than I Was.” Jonathan writes:

8 years ago I found myself in my first seminary classroom. I was nervous. I was hesitant. I was skeptical.

 

I was a lot of things.

 

Among all those things, I was arrogant. I thought it was going to be such a joy ride over the next several years as I earned a degree that certified I knew more than the average Christian and could speak with authority on a variety of topics.

 

The professor walked in and addressed the aspiring pastor theologians and said something I will never forget. He spoke eloquently about the glory of God and the majesty that is the Resurrected Christ. He spoke humbly concerning the deep things of our Heavenly Father and how that had changed him, humbled him, and made him forever grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus. He then said these words:

 

When you graduate from this institution, the goal is not for you to be smarter than you are right now. The goal is that you have less knowledge and have a deeper awareness of all that you don’t know. The goal is humility, not arrogance. In a sense, you will graduate dumber than you are. That’s the goal.

 

At the Blazing Center, Matt Rogers writes of his fear of falling off of his own platform.

Another week passes, and another painful story about a prominent pastor surfaces. The details vary, but I’ve noticed one common theme. It seems that the very traits that cause a man to rise to prominence invariably lead to his demise. The personality traits that allowed him to climb the mountain of ministry, and do so with relative success, often push him off the mountain on the other side.

 

A new pastor longs to do something great for God, and he does—but then this drive causes him to base ministry success on how prominent he feels and how big of a platform he has created. Another pastor’s charisma allows him to engage a new culture with ease—but then this charm fosters an improper relationship with a woman in the church. Or, a pastor is a savvy leader, knowing how to put money and people in play in a way to maximizes strengths and minimizes weaknesses—but then this ingenuity leads to underhanded financial practices that disqualify him from ministry.

 

It seems that this trend does not merely apply to those who have achieved some national level of fame. It’s not just those who preach to big crowds, write bestselling books, or are sought-after conferences speakers. Countless other pastors and ministry leaders crash every day. We’ll likely never hear of them, but I’d guess the process is much the same in every case.

 

At the Intersect Project, Nathaniel Williams gives four ways to pray for Baton Rouge.

Last Sunday, we awoke to yet another tragedy. Three law enforcement officers were killed and three more injured in Baton Rouge, mere weeks after the death of Alton Sterling.

 

As I saw the horrific news develop, I wanted to know how I could pray for this city reeling in pain and division. So I reached out to Katie Harris, a friend who serves in Baton Rouge with AmeriCorps. Since she lives and ministers within the city, I knew she’d be able to help me know how to pray.

 

She offered four ways I can pray for the city. I hope that these help you pray as well.

 

Chris Martin recently shared three ways the church can fight against worshiping work more than Jesus. Chris writes:

Everyone is always busy. We have so much to do all the time. We all have our reasons, right?

 

For some of us, we can’t learn to say “No” when others ask us to volunteer for projects or sit on boards. For others of us, it’s because of our kids, who “can’t drive themselves to band practice, you know.” Some of us, unfortunately, keep ourselves busy because it makes us feel important.

 

Then there are those of us who are too busy because we worship our work, no matter how much we enjoy it or hate it, because we worship the provision and security it provides.