Monday, September 15, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Monday Special Edition: September 15, 2014

In this Monday special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Eight Things Pastors Do When Their Churches Are in a Slump

The meaning of “slump” is more evident in sports. When a baseball player, for example, is in a slump, we surmise that he is not hitting as well as he was earlier in the season.

For churches, however, there is no clear definition. Indeed, some leaders wonder if it is even right to say that a church can get in a slump. Still, some pastors say they church is in a slump if they are not connecting as well with members as they once were. Others declare a slump if attendance or offering numbers are down. Still others have a more subjective sense of a slump that defies a clean or clear explanation.

But many pastors will tell you about times when their churches were in a slump. Some will admit that the slump is present tense. So I asked a number of pastors how they react when this reality hits them. What do they do to lead their churches out of this perceived slump?

The pastors shared with me eight consistent responses. I list them in the order of frequency that I have heard them. Read more

Are Church Planters Skirting Inner-City Life for the 'Sexy' Urban Mission Field? [Video]

Minister D.A. Horton Talks Church Planting, Urban Missions and Diversifying Churches & Seminaries

Contrary to a time when urban areas were abandoned in a rush of white flight to the more racially-homogenous suburbs, eager and excited church planters are now flocking to cities like L.A. and NYC, holding up the banner of God's call in Jeremiah 29:7 to "seek the good of the city." But, according to urban apologist and former church planter D.A. Horton, his peers mostly seem intent on seeking the welfare of the safe and gentrified urban areas.

Horton is also a former pastor and previously served as executive director of ReachLife Ministries. He currently works as the national coordinator of Urban Student Missions at the North American Mission Board, or NAMB.

NAMB is among numerous organizations and networks (like the Orchard Group and Acts 29) that are on mission to evangelize and revitalize cities by training, supporting and sending (usually male) Christians who say they feel called to start a church. With so many new churches being planted and launched (read about a few here, here and here), some observers have expressed concerns that the movement has become a fad. Others, like Horton, have noticed that amid the influx of Millennial-led churches to major cities, some leaders appear to be avoiding, or overlooking the inner city — frequently marked by poverty, high crime and afflicted education systems.

Horton, who is developing a new mission in Los Angeles, shared in a video discussion with The Christian Post his thoughts and experiences regarding church planting and urban ministry. He also spoke of his desire to see contributions from more Christians of color in both Christian academia and the church.

Below is a transcript of CP's interview with Horton, followed by a video discussion. Read more

8 Ways Your Church Can Be More Welcoming to Guests

Having served in the local church the past two decades, one of the first things my wife and I did after our recent move was eagerly hunt for a new church home. To our surprise and disappointment, we’ve experienced a rather lukewarm reception at the churches we’ve visited.

But our experience as newcomers has allowed me to see churches from a different perspective. Here are some things that would help make your church more welcoming to visitors like us. Read more

Theological Impatience

Theological impatience is one of the most troubling features of our generation. Examples of impatience in everyday life abound – measuring your progress against that of the person in the adjacent supermarket queue, tutting at the slowness of a microwave dinner – but far more inisidious is the way this everyday impatience now manifests itself in the way we do theology. Assuming, as we are often told, “the means is the message” (that is, the physical way in which you communicate something forms an important part of what you communicate), we would expect that: if theology is done in blog comments and tweets and Facebook posts, then it would be surprising if that did not make us theologically impatient. This is true of what we write, as Matt reminded us on Friday. And it’s also, perhaps less obviously, true of what we read. Read more

5 Real Reasons Most Dreams Never Come True

I talk to a lot of frustrated people in my work. I meet a lot of people chasing after something — yet never seeming to find what they are seeking. I think many times — and most of us are prone to doing this — we make excuses rather better than we make progress. And there are reasons that is the case.

Here are 5 of the real reasons most dreams never come true.... Read more

It’s Never Too Late to Start Over, Part 2: Get Going Again

God is a God of second chances and fresh starts. And if you’re alive and breathing and reading this post, God obviously isn’t finished with you yet. Don’t quit, and don’t give up, even when you’ve experienced failure. Instead, allow God to use failure to move you forward.

In my last article, I talked about five reasons we often experience failure, and today I want to share with you the four ways to recover from failure and move forward. Read more

Selecting the Right People

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the importance of picking the right people. No decision, it seems to me, has more long-range consequences than having the wisdom to invite the right people to be among those closest to me.

In my role as a leader developer, I’m always observing people with a view to their future potential because I believe that one of the most important jobs of a leader is identifying, recruiting and developing the next generation of leaders. Read more

See also
3 Reasons To Hire For Potential Over Experience

Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel To Yourself

I love to find and share practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life—ways other Christians live out their Christian faith day-by-day. As I speak with people, as I read books, as I listen to sermons, I am always looking for these tips which I call “faith hacks.” I am going to share another one with you today. It comes from Jerry Bridges and deals with the important disciplines of preaching the gospel to yourself. Read more

Four Steps for Taking a Personal One-Day Retreat

Life gets busy. There are certain times of the year that feel busier than others. If we are not careful, busyness gradually becomes both an idol and a substitute for effectiveness. Instead of advancing the kingdom we can easily wind up managing the mayhem. Scheduling and taking a personal one-day retreat is tool to avoid this temptation. Here are four steps to consider when taking a one-day retreat. Read more

Why We Need Both Clarity and Courage in Preaching

Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation.

Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear.

Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing. Read more

Why Do Christians Worship on Sunday?

From creation onward, the people of God worshiped on the seventh day of the week. This was a “creation ordinance” that the Creator Himself established by His example, with the intent that His creatures would follow it. He worked six days and called His image-bearers to work (Gen. 2:15); He rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:11; 31:17) and called His image-bearers to rest. He signified this with His benediction, setting apart the seventh day as “holy” (Gen. 2:3)....

When Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, things changed. Christ, the second Adam, “finished” (John 19:30) the work that the first Adam failed to do (Rom. 5:12-19). Because of that pivotal event, the church determined that for Christians under the new covenant, the day of worship and celebration of the Lord’s grace in Jesus Christ was to be the first day of the week, Sunday: “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, [the Sabbath] was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath” (WCF, 21:7). On this day, we are reminded of and participate in the glorious reality that we have already entered God’s rest (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 4:10) and that we await the experience of the fullness of this rest in eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22). We now assemble corporately for worship and enjoy a foretaste of our eternal rest, then go out into the kingdom of this world to work for six days. So why do we worship on Sunday and not Saturday? Read more

Out of context – five of the most misused Bible verses

The Bible is brilliant. Full of incredible wisdom, and more than that, a book that is somehow alive; the clearest way in which humanity can hear from God. Taken as a whole, it communicates the heart, character and nature of God, and gives us an understanding of his relationship with humanity. However, thanks to a helpful 13th century Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bible is divided into the chapters and verses by which we quote and reference it today – and that's where the trouble can start...

While chapters and verses are helpful in navigating the Bible, they can also lead us to pull out short phrases out of context – at which point it's a lot easier for us to make the words mean what we want them to. Sometimes the original meaning translates; at other times it subverts slightly (one of the main reasons that atheists claim the Bible contradicts itself) – and sometimes it completely changes our understanding of biblical wisdom – and even of the character of God. Here are just a few examples of some of the most popular – and some might say most misused – Bible verses, along with a suggestion of what they might actually mean in context. Read more

See also
Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages (#2): Craig Blomberg
Was Jesus Wrong?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

4 Things Millennials Need From Their Church

It’s no secret that millennials aren’t exactly flocking to churches these days. There are theories and statistics, but the fact remains the same: Our churches aren’t a place millennials tend to call home.

Instead of tackling the problem on a grand scale—instead of diving into theories and ideas as to the cause and the solution—I want to move in closer, to what millennials need from us in our churches today. While I’m not a millennial, and while this is not a comprehensive list, these thoughts are derived from some of the conversations I’ve had with millennials about this very topic. Read more

Did John Calvin Believe in Free Will?

Eavesdropping on theological conversations is one of my favorite things to do. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t set out to eavesdrop . . . it just happens. Whether I am in line at the bookstore or minding my own business at the coffee shop, I can’t help overhearing those exciting conversations about theology.

I must admit, sometimes it is hard to stay quiet. For example, my internal combustion starts when I hear two zealous, freshly minted Calvinists talking about John Calvin and how he took down Jacob Arminius. Maybe it is time to set the record straight: Calvin and Arminius were not fencing opponents. In fact, Arminius was born just prior to Calvin meeting his Maker. I know, quite the letdown. History is not always as clean as we want it to be.

That brings me to another eavesdropping favorite. Two Calvinists strike up a conversation, and I just happen to be nearby. As they express their love for the doctrines of grace, I then hear them describe the difference between, say, Calvin and Arminius: the former rejected free will and the latter heralded free will. Though they don’t know it yet, pitching the long-standing debate this way leaves them open to the all-too common objection that we are just a bunch of robots. Maybe it is time for the eavesdropper to speak up. Read more

A Critical Leadership Error and 4 Ways to Approach It

There is one critical error most leaders make at some point. I make it frequently. If you’re leading – you probably do also.

We forget that people are trying to follow.

We get so caught up in our own world that we forget people we are trying to lead are trying to follow. We “think” we know where we are going — and we assume they do also — almost at times like they can read our minds. Read more

Small Church Ministry: A Stepping-Stone Or a Place to Stand?

You know that pastor you run in to at church conferences who’s always looking over your shoulder to see if there’s someone better to talk to?

A lot of us may be doing that to the church we’re pastoring.

In a recent comment on, a reader named Tom Burkholder wrote this: “As a bi-vocational pastor for over 23 years there are very few fellow ministers who do not see small churches as stepping stones instead of real long-term ministries.”

I responded to him this way:

“That’s a great point about stepping-stones, Tom. I think one of the big reasons many Small Churches stay unhealthy when they don’t need to, is that too many pastors aren’t putting their heart into the Small Church ministry they have.

“Instead, they’re looking for something bigger – or they put all their energy into making their Small Church bigger, instead of healthier. This makes the church they are supposed to be pastoring feel overlooked and neglected. That’s not a great recipe for a healthy ministry or a healthy church.Read more

Is It Appropriate to Serve Communion to Shut-ins?

It is most certainly appropriate for the elders of the church to serve communion to members who are, for health or other reasons, unable to attend the gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Before we get to how and why, however, let me list a few caveats. First, the sacraments are given to the church, and are under the authority of the local church. We ought not, if we are shut in, arrange a private communion ceremony on our own. Neither should a non-elder, except perhaps in the most dire circumstances, serve communion to a shut in. Read more
It is not the Reformed practice to reserve the consecrated bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. Reservation is also not the practice of historic Anglicanism. Article 28 decries the practice, noting that it was not ordained by Christ. The Canons of 1604 make no provision for the reservation of the consecrated elements. The rubrics of the 1662 Communion Service direct that any left-over consecrated bread and wine should not be carried out of the church but should be reverently consumed immediately after the blessing by the priest and such communicants as the priest calls to him. The 1662 Prayer Book permits the celebration of Holy Communion in the houses of sick persons and provides lessons for such celebrations. The Convocation of Canterbury in 1885 declared that reservation was contrary to the order of the Church of England as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer and that reservation for any purpose was inconsistent with the rule of the Church of England. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 1900 refused to allow any tampering with this prohibition. Among the reasons that Parliament rejected the Proposed 1928 English Prayer Book was that it permitted the practice of reservation.

10 Things Every Small Group Leader Needs to Know

There are a few things every small group needs to know. Battle hardened veterans and wet-behind-the-ears alike, every small group leader needs to know these things.

10 things every small group leader needs to know Read more

California Baptists Expels 'Third Way' Church

The California Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Board voted Thursday (Sept. 11) to withdraw fellowship from a church whose pastor says he believes homosexual acts are not always sinful.

In a unanimous vote of the 35 members present (six were absent), the board voted to withdraw fellowship from New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., for holding beliefs contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message. Article XVIII of the BF&M defines marriage as "the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime." Article XV states, "Christians should oppose ... all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography."

Board chairman Montia Setzler sent word to Cortez of the board's decision on Sept. 12.

Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Church in Riverside, Calif., said the board was acting as the "convention ad interim" in taking the action. Article VI, Section 1 of the CSBC Constitution gives the Executive Board the "authority to act for the Convention between its sessions."

This is the first time in 74 years of existence that the convention has withdrawn fellowship from a church, Setzler said. He added that the CSBC once opted not to receive Cooperative Program gifts from a church. Read more

Tens of Thousands of Christians and Muslims Flee Fighting as Boko Haram Captures Key Town

Church leaders in Nigeria have said that tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims are on the run as terror group Boko Haram captured the key northeastern town of Michika and engaged in separate battles with the Nigerian and Cameroonian armies that left hundreds dead.

"Several churches are in ruins and tens of thousands, mainly Christians, are running to escape Boko Haram," Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, social communications officer in the archdiocese of Abuja, told Fides News Agency.

"Boko Haram is determined to eliminate every sign of Christian presence and many churches have been destroyed or torched. Last week in a village in the area of Maiduguri, Boko Haram took over the parish for its local headquarters."

He added that among the Christians fleeing the violence are also Muslims.

"Some are chiefs of villages and towns, others are Muslim religious leaders (Emirs) who cannot identify with what is being committed by Boko Haram," the bishop explained. Read more

Friday, September 12, 2014

12 Cultural Trends Church Leaders Can't Ignore (But Might)

When you lead an organization — especially when you are responsible for leading an organization like the local church — there is a temptation to ignore trends or minimize the impact they will have on how you operate.

It’s so difficult to gain and keep momentum, that when you have some momentum it becomes tempting to ignore the changes around you because they might force you to rethink your method.

But the truth is that your method (your strategy, your approach, your plan) is not sacred; the mission is sacred.

Andy Molinski calls it global dexterity: The ability to adapt behaviours across cultures without losing who you are in the process.

Leaders who are willing to reconsider the methods to preserve the mission are usually the ones who succeed long term.

While there are dozens of trends that are impacting the church, the trends outlined below are what I would call ‘organizational sleepers’. Read more

Six Symptoms of a Dysfunctional Church – Rainer on Leadership #071 [Podcast]

This week cover symptoms often found in dysfunctional churches. As I state in the preface to the podcast, the list is not meant to be critical but eye-opening. There is hope for our churches, and that hope is found in Christ.Read more
You'll need to go to the website to play the podcast in a new window or to download it. Due to technical difficulties with my Internet Explorer browser I was not able to create links as I usually do.

Christian, Do You Make It Your Daily Work?

If you read what I’ve written here today, it will deepen your hatred for sin and spark your love for holiness. At least, I think it will. All I’ve done is summarize chapter two of John Owen’s classic Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a book that has been precious to generations of Christians as they have battled sin and pursued holiness. Read on!

Here is Owen’s thesis for the chapter: “The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify [“kill” or “put to death”] the indwelling power of sin.” In other words, Christians battle sin and put it to death. They battle sin every day until the day they die. They never stop. They never let up.

And so Owen asks you:
“Do you mortify?
Do you make it your daily work?
Be always at it while you live.
Cease not a day from this work.
Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
And then he gives 6 reasons you must keep putting sin to death. Read more

Encourage One Another – Giving Grace With Your Words

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

Yesterday I received a kind note of encouragement from a friend. It was only about three sentences in length but the Lord used it to stir some much-needed strength in my soul.

Receiving the note led me to open up my Bible and dig around to see what the Lord says to us about encouragement. As I read passage after passage, I was struck by how vital this expression of love is for God’s people. In one sense, encouragement is like oxygen in the life of a church. It keeps hearts beating, minds clear, and hands inspired to serve.

Because encouragement is so important to the church, God doesn’t merely recommend it, but He explicitly commands it (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11; Hebrews 3:13). Read more

What Does the Church Most Need Today?

What does the church most need today? In answering this important but rather general question, Psalm 81 is uniquely important and helpful. This psalm obviously contains beautiful promises and clear directions to help the people of God. But careful study of this psalm will deepen our appreciation of it, increase its value for us, and show us how distinctive it is for helping the church. Read more

3 Big Ideas and 7 Tips on How to Read the Bible in Church

So you thought your job was simply to read the Bible passage? That’s easy—you check you have the right passage, you look over it a couple of times and then you get up and read. Surely that’s all there is to it. But I’d like to suggest that there’s a whole lot more to reading the Bible than simply standing up front and saying the words. Just as we are no better off if we haven’t understood the Scriptures we have read, we’ve wasted our time reading the Bible aloud if no one has understood what we have said. Read more

Does Islam Encourage Violence More Than Other Religions?

New Pew survey examines who says yes and no.

As debate continues over President Obama's assertion about the religious nature (or lack thereof) of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, a new Pew Research Center study finds that more Americans across the board believe that Islam encourages violence more than other religions. Read more

The Truth Behind ISIL

Two questions for today: Is ISIL Islamic? Is ISIL a State?

President Obama objects to the name ‘Islamic State’ (IS) because he says it’s neither Islamic nor a State.

This may well be good politics and wise diplomacy in a time of great world crisis. However, as truth is 'the first casualty of war' so truth has little to do with either politics or diplomacy. The patron of all politically wise diplomats is the man who asked the rhetorical question “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Read more

See also
Obama is wrong: Ten Koranic verses that prove ISIS is Islam
Sorry Mr. President, ISIS Is 100 Percent Islamic
FRC Urges President Obama to Act Decisively, Emphasize Centrality of Religious Liberty in Foreign Policy
President Obama Misleads the American Public and Betrays Our Fundamental Principles of Human Rights and Religious Freedom in His Speech Last Night
Iraq: Girls as young as three sold as sex slaves
Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon
Maher: ‘Naive’ and Wrong to Say Islam Isn’t More Violent Than Other Religions

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze 9/11 Commemorative Edition: September 11, 2014

In this 9/11 commemorative edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

9/11 in New York City: Liberty and Prayer for All

Thirteen years have passed since the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers. We remember that day as if it were yesterday. Two years ago I wrote on our reflections on 9/11. Much has changed, yet what matters remains the same.

Now the Freedom Tower is complete and is renamed One World Trade Center. Other parts of Ground Zero are newly opened to the public, including the 9/11 Museum. The skyline of lower Manhattan looks more hopeful. Additional building projects add to economic vitality in that part of the New York City. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

The proposed Ground Zero victory mosque, much discussed a couple of years ago, is still not advancing at this time. Many people have forgotten about it. The issues seemed so complex. Do people have a right to build worship centers wherever they wish? Are the Muslims in New York City being treated equal to the Christians and Jews? What is the special attraction to building a mosque at Ground Zero where people of the Muslim faith killed 2,753 people in the name of their Allah? Many of their victims were Muslims, too.

New York City is a center of great liberty. The Statue of Liberty represents our City in many ways, including that there are more than 200 mosques operating throughout the five boroughs of the City. And it is not difficult to build another mosque. Many politicians argued that the City needed to welcome one more mosque, even at Ground Zero, to prove our deep commitment to Liberty. However, the victory mosque plan is probably dead now, for apparent economic reasons – although there is an ironic spiritual background to the mosque's delay or demise.

In fact, the Ground Zero mosque story is filled with spiritual irony. In one irony, the leaders of the effort were focused especially on their plans for just one building site on which a part of one of the hijacked airplanes had landed. While the location is two short blocks from the World Trade Center, it was still part of the attack site that some Muslims consider a victory over "infidels" – and thus worthy of a victory mosque. Other sites were offered close-by, but without a physical link to the 9/11 attacks, and the mosque organizers Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan were not interested. While they publicly insisted on the liberty to build a mosque wherever they chose, the symbolism of an oppressive "victory" was essential. So it turns out that the real issues were spiritual, not legal, not liberty.

In another spiritual irony, the forward purposes of the proposed mosque were contrary to liberty. While seeking to exploit our American devotion to religious liberty, Daisy Kahn and her imam husband were planning to use the Ground Zero mosque to promote strict adherence to their Muslim religious law, "sharia law," as the sole basis for social and cultural life in America. In an extended, relaxed meeting with Daisy Khan and others, I personally asked her why their group wanted to teach sharia law at their proposed mosque. She answered that on the one hand many 100,000s of tourists come to Ground Zero and want to understand 9/11 and need some explanation, some wisdom. On the other hand, Ms. Khan said, "American democracy is so utterly chaotic that it needs the structure and stability that sharia law would bring." Immediately I responded to Ms. Khan that for her sake – and for my wife, daughter, and all other women – I would pray earnestly that her plans to promote sharia law at Ground Zero would fail. So far, my prayers are answered.

Please give me prayer and the "chaos" of our American democracy any day. Read more

Is the US Safer 13 Years After 9/11?

As the United States marks the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a nationwide poll has found that many Americans do not feel any safer today. The sentiment has been echoed by a number of politicians who continue ringing the warning bells on terror group ISIS and the rise of Islamic extremists who have the means to attack the U.S.

A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday found that 47 percent of Americans believe that the country is less safe now than before 9/11. Read more

Photo: Amy Dreher

House Church Critiques of the Megachurch: 3 Ways to Make it Better

House churches can learn from megachurches, and megachurches can learn from house churches.

Some people are passionate about the debate between megachurches or house churches. This can be good, but passionate people tend to be enthusiastic to the point that they can exaggerate their position—even when research and data do not back up their claims.

For example, some assert that people are leaving megachurches in droves and are headed toward house churches en masse.

Statistically, there is no real evidence of that.

I was recently asked about house church critiques of the megachurch, recorded what I said, and my team turned it into this brief (and narrowly-focused) article.

So, let me share some thoughts on how that conversation might be made better—from a friendly outsider's perspective. Read more

Photo: FBCJAX/Wikimedia

Three things the Church can learn from the iPhone 6 launch

In a packed auditorium in California a congregation is forming. It is a sacred space. People wait in anticipation for the latest revelation from their leader. Many have travelled long distances and famous faces line the congregation as well as the stage. Today's sermon is delivered, without notes, with energy and enthusiasm. The congregation is in a responsive mood full of whoops and cheers, was that a "Hallelujah" I heard?

They have come with one purpose – to be the first to experience the future. It's a diverse group of worshippers from around the world and different spheres of society, young and old. Finally, the moment the assembled worshippers have been waiting for arrives. Salvation from mediocrity and bad design – the iPhone 6 is released. There is even a call forward as those who been granted admission to this exclusive gathering are invited to get their hands on these heavenly devices.

Full disclosure here. I am technophile. I am writing this article on an Apple MacBook Pro and I was one of the millions eager to find out about the latest release from Apple's event yesterday. But perhaps, as in the whole of life, there is opportunity for a little theological reflection on the iPhone 6 launch event? Read more

How to Protect Your Church from Lawsuits

In today’s litigious society, no organization is exempt from a potential lawsuit, including the local church. Church leaders know the damage a lawsuit causes a church. Trust is lost. Reputation is tarnished. Often, a backlash by the surrounding community is felt, and not just by the involved church. Neighboring churches feel a portion of the weight as well.

While lawsuits are not completely avoidable, here are a few guidelines to help church leaders prevent litigation.... Read more

3Tips on Leading Laterally

When most people hear the word leadership, they think of the relationship between the leader and those he/she is responsible for, serves, and shepherds. But when we understand leadership as Oswald Sanders describes it—as “influencing others”—we must include “leading laterally.”

By lateral leadership I am referring to leading your peers, those you serve alongside but don’t report to, and they don’t report to you either. Lateral leadership may be one of the most challenging aspects of leadership because it is not always clear who is responsible for the decision, who should initiate, or who should take the lead. Lateral leadership is definitely more art than science.

Lateral leadership is the Achilles heel of some leaders. Because they lack the ability to influence, garner support, and relate well to their peers, they are unable to move things forward as their area of responsibility is more interconnected to the entire organization/ministry than they acknowledge.

So how does one lead well laterally? Read more

Pastors, Your Church May Forget About You, But God Never Does

Do you ever feel like the people in your church overlook you, forget about you, or become so familiar with you that they take you for granted? Most pastors do. Here is the great news: God never forgets about you.

There have been many days each of us has struggled with feeling forgotten. I think most pastors may feel more taken for granted than forgotten! Pastor, remember, the longer you are in a ministry, the more seasons you face. Next month, I will have been here for 28 years. Trust me, I know about the ups and downs, the ebbs and the flows, and the various emotions you go through.

We have to trust the Lord, knowing He never forgets about us! Read more

You Can Preach a Good Sermon Without Love, But Not a Great Sermon

Can you preach a good sermon without love?

I was at a gathering of pastors, and the gust speaker said, “You can preach a good sermon without loving your people, but you will never preach a great sermon without loving them.”

I immediately wrote the phrase down and chewed on it for a while.

Can pastors really preach good without love?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it is true. Read more

Articles on Home Groups from Matthias Media

The September Home Group Leader's Monthly Digest has several good articles. Two appear in its web edition, "Making hard calls in ministry" and "Helping home groups grow closer".

See also
The Discouraging Problem of Poor Attendance

“I’m your bible study leader – read my mind”

A friend was once in what she called ‘bible study by mind-reading’. The leader had some questions – and the right answers – on a piece of paper, and the group was only allowed to look at Question 2 when it had correctly answered Question 1. ‘Correctly’ meant using exactly the same words as on the paper. After half an hour of the group circling round, trying to get the answer exactly right, my friend exploded. ‘Oh, just tell us what the right answer is and we can move on to the next one.’ And so they did. And so the exercise of guessing what was in the leader’s mind happened again.

I think I put that down to the inexperience of the leader, who had come from a well-taught church, where group bible seminars were important, and followed a clear curriculum. There had been a prep. session, covering the questions and the answers. But this inexperienced leader, perhaps nervous at making theological errors, hadn’t realised that when a group happens it has a life of its own, and some flexibility needs to come into the planning.

Over the cycle of the study itself, there are three kinds of questions we can ask.... Read more

Focus Small Groups on Community Service

Start a new initiative through which each small group in your church commits to a long-term service project to help the community. Read more

15 Things You Need to Know About Unchurched People Today

If you’re like many Christians, you have an authentic desire to share your faith with people who don’t yet follow Jesus. I know I do.

One of my deepest longings is that every person would come to know the love and salvation that Jesus extends to them.

Our vision at Connexus, where I serve as lead pastor, is to be a church that unchurched people love to attend — a vision we share with all North Point strategic partner churches.

But unchurched people are changing.

Even since I started ministry 18 years ago, there’s been a big shift in how unchurched people think. Particularly here in Canada, we are a bit of a hybrid between the U.S. and Europe. Canadians are less ‘religious’ than Americans, but less secular than Europeans.

Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman have outlined helpful characteristics of unchurched people in UnChristian, and David tackled it again in You Lost Me. I won’t repeat those characteristics here. (Both books are fantastic reads.)

Post-modernism has a deeper toe-hold here than in almost anywhere in America, except perhaps the Northwest and New England, where it might be about the same.

Here are characteristics of unchurched people that I’m seeing today. Read more

Evangelism: 3 Circles & Engage24

For too many church leaders, one of the most challenging areas of mission is engaging our people in evangelism. We can point to many causes for this, but many times the lack of evangelistic effectiveness goes back to leaders not providing a clear pathway forward and simple first steps in sharing the Gospel.

The North American Mission Board's pastors' task force highlighted these challenges and their findings in their report in May. For the report, click here. Also see a related video here and Baptist Press story here.

Turning around our evangelism and baptism decline will take some serious soul-searching and a long-term approach. But there are also some things every pastor can do right away to rekindle Southern Baptists' evangelistic fervor. Read more

See also
Should Satan Be Part of Evangelism and Early Discipleship?
What is your church doing to teach every person engaged in your church how to share the Gospel? What is it doing to challenge its people to act on what they have learned?

Signs of Spiritual Awakening in Japan

Japan is known by many to be a difficult mission field. But for those who know missions in Japan well, the phrase “hard mission field” is merely a euphemism for a grimmer expression that was previously used about Africa, one that has been recently applied to Japan: “the missionary’s graveyard.” One would expect such a bleak designation to be used in reference to a land known for physical hardship or violent persecution, and there have been martyrs in Japan’s Christian history. That is not the case today, however. Religious worker visas are readily available, and the Japanese often politely thank missionaries for coming to their country.

This missionary graveyard reputation does not result from missionary deaths; rather, it results from the death of missionary careers. Serving for years amid great spiritual oppression with little to no apparent spiritual fruit has led numerous missionaries and entire agencies to abandon Japan or transfer the work to another field. Supporting churches and sending agencies have often discouraged missionaries from pursuing ministry in Japan. The words of one recruiter for another mission field summarize the thoughts of many: “Japan had its chance.”

Meanwhile, Japan is more spiritually needy than ever. Remarkably high suicide and depression rates attest to the inward longings and deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. The people long for refuge from earthquakes and nuclear catastrophe and desire rescue from rampant bullying and sexual exploitation. Read more

Cardinal: U.S. ‘Creed’ on Gay Marriage Like Sharia Law

Cardinal Francis George, head of the Catholic archdiocese of Chicago, said the levers of power in government, education, entertainment, and media are enforcing a “public creed,” a “fake church” that requires all citizens to approve of gay marriage and related sexual anomalies or be punished by the State, just “as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”

Cardinal George, who was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2007-10, made his remarks in his Sept. 7 column for the archdiocesean newspaper. In his commentary, the cardinal explains that America, despite social frictions at certain times, had always strived to ensure religious freedom and respect for different religions. Read more

See also
Tim Keller on the Disappearing Umbrella Over Conservative Christians

Saudi anti-Christian sweep prompts calls for US involvement

Dozens of Christians arrested at a prayer meeting in Saudi Arabia need America's help, according to a key lawmaker who is pressing the State Department on their behalf.

Some 28 people were rounded up Friday by hard-line Islamists from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the home of an Indian national in the eastern Saudi city of Khafji, and their current situation is unknown, according to human rights advocates.

"Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy," Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told "It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments."

In Friday's crackdown, several Bibles were confiscated, according to reports from the Kingdom. Read more

Updated: A frightening, far-reaching new world of terror threats since 9/11

Even as smoke rose from the World Trade Center, as people clawed through rubble at the Pentagon, there was one name -- and one name only -- synonymous with terror in the United States.

Al Qaeda.

Times have changed, and the terror landscape has changed with it.

Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden, is gone, killed by U.S. commandos in a 2011 Pakistan raid. The group he notoriously commanded no longer dominates. Sure, Ayman al-Zawahiri makes an occasional pronouncement, but other groups have garnered more than their share of chilling headlines for acts such as the failed underwear bomb plot on a Detroit-bound jetliner, the Westgate Mall siege in Kenya and the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

In short, al Qaeda has a lot more competition these days -- including from groups it inspired, it partners with and that splintered from it.

Fifty-nine groups on the U.S. State Department's list of "Foreign Terrorist Organizations." Some of them stand out for what they've said and done in the 13 years since the September 11, 2001, attacks, as well as for how Washington and its allies in the West have reacted to those actions. Here's a look at some of those organizations.... Read more

See also
New: Boko Haram have 'surrounded' Nigeria's Maiduguri, say elders
Nigeria air and ground attacks to reclaim town from Boko Haram
ISIS Giving Nigeria's Boko Haram Advice on Establishing African Caliphate
People Flee Advancing Islamic Militants in Nigeria
Boko Haram gaining ground in Nigeria
Syria and Iraq
ISIS' 'Cultural Cleansing' of Mideast Christians Ignored by Complacent Americans, Robert George Complains
I am a 14-year-old Yazidi girl given as a gift to an ISIS commander. Here’s how I escaped.
20 Facts About Baghdadi, the Elusive ISIS Leader
Recipes From the Islamic State's Laptop of Doom
Who are the Islamist militants we are trying to stop?
Captured ISIS Suicide Bomber Reveals There Are Many Foreigners Fighting; UN Reveals 'Acts of Inhumanity on Unimaginable Scale'

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: September 10, 2014

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

8 Ways to Deal With the Emotions of Change

In previous posts I shared about the way people respond to change. One post share the “Absolute Most Common Objection to Change“. Another post shared “7 Common Emotions to Change“. And, there were actually 8 emotions. :) No one seemed to catch that.

With each post I was asked for some feedback on how to address those reactions. Emotions are unpredictable and unique so there’s probably not one answer here — or an easy answer. But, there are some things you can do — much as you would when dealing with emotional issues in any relationships for any reason.

Here are 8 ways to react to the emotions of change. Read more