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.

 

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

At the People’s Next Door blog, Keelan Cook recently dsicussed The Discipleship Spiral: Doing to learn, and learning to do. Keelan writes:

Some of you will be familiar with Grant Osborne’s work, The Hermeneutical Spiral. For those of you who are not, hermeneutics is the fancy name for interpreting the Bible, and Osborne wrote a book where he compared the process of interpretation to a spiral. The reader spirals back and forth from the text of Scripture to the context of everyday life, examining each in light of the other and spiraling upward to clearer and clearer understanding of both.

 

Discipleship works the same way.

 

Chad Burchett posted an article at the Southeastern Literature and Arts Magazine discussing why it is important for Christians to produce art.

Every Christian should be an artist. Although many Christians maintain that art is just not for them, their world is immersed in art—some of which they contribute. Intentionally or not, we all serve as constant collaborators in a world of art. As Francis Schaeffer pens in his book Art and the Bible, “All of us are engaged daily with works of art, even if we are neither professional nor amateur artists.” Whether we produce high art or popular art or just contribute the art of a well-lived life and a well-spoken tongue, we are all functional artists. Denying the arts extinguishes a vibrant part of your identity and mission.

 

One of the primary ways believers can engage culture is through art. Households that would not open their home to a gospel presentation or a door-to-door evangelist may welcome our art onto their walls or shelves. The same people who recoil from a Bible may embrace our books, watch our films, read our poetry, and admire our photography. By our art we have the power to engage thousands of lives which we may never interact with any other way. Art is a stewardship—a powerful instrument of cultural transformation that we can either intentionally wield for the glory of God or wrongly choose to ignore or misuse.

 

Chuck Lawless recently posted nine reasons you may need to consider a Doctor of Ministry degree. Dr. Lawless writes:

This post may surprise you, but I want to defend a degree that’s received a bad rap, in my opinion. I’m a professor who has been doing this work long enough to know that some people view the D.Min. degree as a watered-down doctoral degree. I’m sure it can be (as all degrees can be), but I know institutions that have really strong degrees – including where I serve now at Southeastern Seminary. Here’s why you might want to consider this option.

 

Scott Hildreth published an article at the Center for Great Commission Studies explaining how the issue of alcohol is about the mission, not the morality.

The use of alcohol among conservative Evangelicals has been in the news lately. Famous pastor confessed to abusing it as way of handling stress. Missiologist, Ed Stetzer, has observed that this new openness might come with an increase in similar issues.  (Click Link) We were once a “full abstinence people.” But recently, younger Evangelicals are moving away from the stances held by our predecessors.

 

I am regularly asked my position on this subject. Our school has a strict policy and it is enforced across the board. When our younger students come in contact with this policy they are full of questions. Their questions generally revolve around issues of morality – is it wrong to drink alcohol? Is it a sin? Is it a matter of wisdom or conscience?

 

I could answer the question in a number of ways, but honestly, I don’t feel a need to engage in exegetical exercises about what Jesus turned water into, or what Paul told Timothy to drink for his stomach. Frankly, I find those discussions unhelpful.

 

At the Intersect Project website, Dr. Brent Aucoin wrote that if we want to fight poverty, we need to resist the sexual revolution. Dr. Aucoin writes:

The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s has swept across the entire country and into the White House, the US Supreme Court, and even public bathrooms and locker rooms. As a result, it is easy for those who have resisted the revolution to lose heart and abandon the effort.

 

Although there are numerous reasons to maintain the resistance, one that may not often come to mind is the true war on poverty. Not the so-called War on Poverty launched in the 1960s by the United States government, but rather the one which seeks to truly, effectively and permanently liberate individuals and families from poverty. Those activists and individuals who are fighting what I call the real war on poverty know that poverty is not just an economic problem. They know that morals, customs and worldviews are significant factors in determining people’s economic state.

 

Jonathan Howe posted at Thom Rainer’s blog giving four reasons to welcome smartphone use in the worship service.

Smartphones have become ubiquitous in our culture. There’s no denying the influence of the smartphone on the rise of social media, changes in commercial marketing, and even the church.

 

Rarely a week goes by without me receiving an email, message, or tweet from a pastor or church leader asking about church apps, social media strategies, or mobile website functionality. “Don’t leave home without it” applies more to our smartphones than it ever did to American Express. And it applies when people are headed into their weekly worship service as well.