Saturday, April 19, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: April 19, 2014

In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Musings on Archbishop Wabukala's Easter Message to Confessing Anglicans

In his GAFCON Easter Message Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, makes a remarkable statement: “…confessions of faith, whether they are the ancient catholic creeds or later statements such as the Church of England’s Thirty-nine articles cannot be seen just as historical documents to be reinterpreted as we wish.”

But this is how the Thirty-nine articles are seen not only in the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada but also in the Anglican Church in North America. They are viewed as a relic of the past that contemporary Anglicans can disregard or reinterpret as they choose. For example, the new ACNA catechism distorts the meaning of Article 25.

North America does not have an Anglican province that fully accepts the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies. Consequently, it does not have an Anglican province that is truly carrying out the Great Commission. The two are inseparable. 

Resurrection and Judgement

In this third instalment the point of discussion will be centred upon the relationship between the resurrection and judgement. It may seem odd to associate resurrection with judgement, especially in a world that considers ‘judgement’ as some kind of swear word, but Jesus’ resurrection actually has much to say about judgement. Keep reading

...crucified, dead, and buried, he descended into hell... [Video]

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament scholars Andreas K√∂stenberger and Douglas Moo. Dr. K√∂stenberger looks at the role of Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus's burial, the rules for burial at the time, and what we know about first-century tombs. Dr. Moo answers the question of where Jesus was between his death and his resurrection, focusing on 1 Peter 3, which says that Christ preached to spirits in prison. Is this a reference to Jesus descending into Hades?  Watch now

2 Barriers to Empowering Leaders

As the leader you are not the most qualified person on your team for every decision, every initiative, or every aspect of the team’s collective work. There are others the Lord has placed on the team who are more uniquely gifted and prepared to lead specific functions.

For example, the senior pastor may not be the most gifted to spearhead pastoral counseling or lead a new initiative. Or the team leader may not be the most creative or the best designer of systems that undergird the organization.

The team is stronger and her impact is greater when the leader of the team recognizes the gifting surrounding him/her, hands leadership to others, and graciously places himself/herself under their direction for specific initiatives and functions. Keep reading

Four Reminders for Those Who Might Be Unhappy in Their Present Places of Ministry

By my warped standards, it was not a good day. After nearly nine years serving as president and CEO of LifeWay, I have learned that criticisms are a part of the life and leadership I have. But the critics on this particular day seemed more numerous and more unrealistic in their expectations.

I’d had enough. I wasn’t sure I wanted another day of this job.

One of the members of my executive team came in my office. He too had a rough day. I was no help to him. When he asked me if I thought it was all worth it, I cynically responded, “I’m not so sure.”

How stupid could I be? Thousands of people would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I am blessed beyond measure. Yet I was whining, complaining about something so relatively small. And even worse, I was offering no hope to one of my own leaders. My leadership stunk! I was ashamed of myself.

I have given myself these four reminders in the past, but I needed to rehearse them again. I needed to hear them again. Keep reading

Vital Signs: 3 Bad Tests Pastors Use to Measure Ministry

How do most churches measure the health of their ministry? Very few leaders have an accurate method. Most rely on an unhealthy test to determine whether or not they are leading well. Have you ever used any of these three tests? Keep reading

10 Areas of Training Pastors Need in the 21st Century – Rainer on Leadership #051 [Podcast]

Pastors receive a great deal of training in seminary and Bible colleges. But even the most scholarly pastors do not learn everything they need to know in a higher education environment. Like any other field, there is always a share of on-the-job training that you only learn once you are in the field. This week, we discuss 10 of those areas in which pastors will likely receive no formal training but still need in order to be the most effective pastor possible. The 10 areas are.... Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:22 — 19.6MB)

The Easter Invitation: Calling People to Decide What to Do with Jesus

As I write this, millions of Christians and church leaders are getting ready for Easter weekend, and it’s a huge opportunity for the church to spring into action to invite and welcome lost people to hear the gospel. And so as we Pastors prepare to preach about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we desperately need the power of God – the same power that raised Jesus from the dead – to be at work in and through us.

The resurrection of Jesus was the greatest demonstration of the power of God in all of history. Let me explain why. Keep reading

8 Ways our View of the Bible Impacts Preaching

Nothing is more important for the long-term health of a Church than its preaching, and nothing more impacts preaching than a preacher’s view of the Bible. Keep reading

The Three days each Week the Pastor Should Turn off his Computer

(This is for pastors on the subject of sermon preparation.)

The most vulnerable time for any sermon is in the couple of days prior to its delivery.

At those times, the pastor does not need to be getting criticism or additional input from helpers (like myself!) or further ideas from deep study. This is when he needs to be putting the finishing touches on his message and getting it ready for delivery. Keep reading

Worship Leaders, Lead In Awe This Easter!

One quiet morning a few weeks ago, I decided to take some time to pray alone in our sanctuary. But as soon as I sat down on the front row, my mind began racing about all the stuff that still needed to be done before our Easter services: “How will the lights be set?” “Where will the extra projectors be placed?” “How will we transition between the songs and videos?”

Then suddenly, a still small Voice broke through to my cluttered mind and said, “Dwayne, where’s the awe? Why can’t you simply be still and know that I am God? Here you sit in my presence; yet your attention is captivated by technical details. They’re important, but they’re secondary to your primary responsibility as worship leader. As you stand and lead all those people on Easter, the most important thing you can do is be in awe of me.”

Needless to say, I was convicted and challenged by the Lord’s gentle rebuke that morning. And it drove me to dig deeper into God’s Word about this idea of awe. Here are a few things I discovered… Keep reading

15 Ideas for Songs this Easter [Video]

I asked Nils Holmgren from Tokai Community Church and Rob Booth from St James Kenilworth to share some ideas for new songs that churches could learn in the build up to Easter.

Below are their suggestions. I have no doubt that somewhere in the 15 songs below you will find one that will go down well in your church. Keep reading
Remember that Easter is more than one Sunday. It is a whole season. 

Starting a women’s led women’s Bible study

Talk to your pastor and ask him if you could put together some ideas about having a women's Bible study, following the suggestions below. Pray for God's guidance as you prepare your plan. Keep reading


Why You Should Consider Offering a “NearlyWed” Class

It’s that time of year—weddings, weddings everywhere! If your church is serious about ministering to young adults, here’s a fresh idea: Plan an 8-week seminar, titled “It Takes Three”, for engaged or newlywed couples every spring and fall.

The class meets during your church’s Sunday School or small group hour, in an attractive, easy-to-find room of the church. A consistent leadership team hosts, mentors, promotes and plans the seminar, but the Bible teacher changes weekly.

Prayerfully select eight church members to prepare and present a relevant Bible class about an assigned topic, such as communication, intimacy, commitment, parenting and praying together. Instructors are respected couples or individuals. Their purpose is to teach God’s basic principles for marriage, using Bible, multiple handouts and visuals, current technology and personal testimony. Keep reading

The First 7 Questions I Ask When Evaluating a Small Group Ministry

I get a steady stream of emails asking for help with small group ministries. I also find myself sitting down with small group pastors and senior pastors when I’m at conferences (or when ministry teams stop in to see me in Vegas).

It’s fun and I love the opportunity to help. But I thought it might help you to know that I ask the same basic diagnostic questions in almost every case. Yes…there are exceptions and yes, the answers lead me to different follow up questions. But the set of first questions is such a pattern I thought it might help you to see what they are. Keep reading

Social Media and the Sufficiency of Scripture

Social media has opened up a wonderful new way in which Christians can express spiritual unity despite physical distance. As we repost awareness-raising reports written by Christian organisations about the persecution of Christians in Syria, we rightly feel a sense of solidarity with brothers and sisters all over the world who are as keen to raise awareness as we are. When a Christian friend posts about his sick daughter, within minutes our non-Christian friends can see that a whole bunch of us are praying for healing and strength.

But Christians are no less prone to abusing God’s good gifts as anyone else. The online world can just as easily facilitate expressions of Christian division as it can spiritual unity. In mediums where truth can seemingly be determined by consensus, popularity may become a highly sought-after tool through which factional agendas are furthered. Such popularity can be wrought and maintained by the subtle (or not-so-subtle) defamation of those with whom our agendas conflict. Keep reading

See also
Top 10 Ways to Win at the Internet

Free Ebook – Narrow-Minded Evangelism: ReThinking Evangelism…& The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is one of the best-known and most quoted scriptures in the Bible. But, what if we have it all wrong? What if The Golden Rule was never meant to be a simple and safe mantra—recited to children to get them to see the importance of sharing their toys with one another? What if we’ve looked at that verse too narrowly and missed Christ’s point altogether? What if The Golden Rule is really a profoundly dangerous mission statement—to be embraced by Christ followers and lead people away from the broad way that leads to death and back onto the narrow way that leads to life? In this FREE resource, and using The Golden Rule as a mission statement, pastor and author Arron Chambers shares the keys you and your church can use to help more lost people find the narrow way that leads to life. Keep reading

Download from Exponential

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Good Friday Propers from An American Prayer Book (2009)

The Collects

Almighty God, in your great mercy look upon this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.
An English Prayer Book (1994), altered

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the church is governed and sanctified, receive our prayers which we offer to you for the many different members of your holy church so that every one of them in his vocation and ministry may truly and devoutly serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
An English Prayer Book (1994), altered

Merciful God, you have made all people and hate nothing that you have made, nor do you desire the death of sinners but rather that they should be converted and live: have mercy on the Jewish people and all who do not know you, or who deny the faith of Christ crucified. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart and contempt for your Word; and bring them home to your fold, blessed Lord, so that we may all become one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN.
An English Prayer Book (1994)

The Readings

The Epistle

Hebrews 10:1-25

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

   “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
      but a body have you prepared for me;
    in burnt offerings and sin offerings
      you have taken no pleasure.
   Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
     as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

   “This is the covenant that I will make with them
      after those days, declares the Lord:
     I will put my laws on their hearts,
      and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

    “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, brothers,since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The Gospel

John 19:1-37

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

    “They divided my garments among them,
        and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

The Cross Is Not a Celebration of Suffering, But of Jesus’ Victory Over It

There is nothing noble about suffering.

Pain, sorrow, poverty, sickness, disease, violence and death have no redemptive value.

They are not a part of God’s plan to save the world. They are what Jesus came to save us from. We need to remember that this weekend.

This Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we will have remembrances and celebrations of the cross. Some crosses will be backlit and draped with cloth. Others will be decorated with lilies. We will sing songs about the Wonderful, Beautiful Cross. All of that is good.

But let me encourage and caution my fellow pastors about something as we honor and praise what Jesus did on the cross. We must leave no room for misunderstanding. Let’s be very clear that this is not a celebration of violence and death, but of Jesus’ victory over it.

I’ve never known a church to glorify violence on purpose. But over the years I’ve heard far too many sermons and watched too many passion plays that seem to emphasize the pain and violence of the cross as if pain was the point.

Pain was never the point.

The cross did not become glorious until the tomb was empty. Keep reading

What Do Expiation and Propitiation Mean?

When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two rather technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words. Keep reading
This excerpt is from R.C. Sproul’s The Truth of the Cross. Download the digital audiobook free through April 30, 2014.

Crucified With Christ—Calvary

“One of the reasons we exhibit very little spiritual power is because we are unwilling to accept and experience the fellowship of the Savior’s sufferings, which means acceptance of His cross.” —A.W. Tozer

“May I see your I.D.?” These are familiar words to us today in our security-conscious world. Before boarding an airplane, the most important item we must have in our possession is some legitimate form of identification. Otherwise, we won’t be allowed on the flight.

Someday at heaven’s gates, we will be checked to make sure we have the correct “identification” as well. I call it our Easter I.D. When we have a correct Easter I.D. we live our lives in view of his, the way God wants us to—as “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

The events in that final week of Jesus’ ministry on earth—the Garden, the Cross and the Resurrection—serve as a roadmap of reassurance for us. When we have a correct Easter I.D. we do more than simply believe in Jesus Christ; we identify with him and correlate the events in our lives to the events in his. Keep reading

Jesus’ Thirst and Our Spiritual Rehydration

Those who gathered around the cross, on that dusty hill, could feel Jesus’ raspy cry reverberate in their own dry throats: “I thirst!” These are the words of One whose vitality was almost dried up to death. Yet, in those words we witness the thoughtful tenderness of the Good Teacher as He breathes these words into Scripture for our edification (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The words I thirst reveal rich truths about their speaker. Keep reading

3 Big Questions Kids Ask on Good Friday

Good Friday is a weighty and somber reminder of Jesus’ suffering and death. How do you explain these difficult truths to kids?

You’ve got one minute to explain the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Ready? Go.

This is a part of Christian parenting in a nutshell, isn’t it? Kids ask us big questions at random times, and we have a brief moment to engage their ready hearts.

Are we ready for the questions that come with Good Friday? As John Wooden put it, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” So let’s prepare! Let’s ask God to ready us to engage our children. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to open their hearts to ask questions and to hunger for Christ. Keep reading

The Two Paths Out of Trials

There are two paths for people to take in the midst of trials. They can take the path of self-reliance or the path of trusting in God.

The path of self-reliance sometimes sounds like angry recriminations against God, sometimes an upbeat can-do attitude. But in both cases God is rejected. Maybe he didn't cause the trial, but he surely could have prevented it. So he is charged, convicted, and imprisoned.

The path of trusting in God, admittedly, is difficult. It takes a childlike humility, like staring down at a piece of loathsome brocolli but trusting your mother when she says it's good for you and eating it. The trial doesn't make sense. It hurts. You don't think you deserve it. But you trust that, yes, God has assigned it, and so you accept it. You trust that he has something better in store--something somewhere in some way, though it's hardly perceptible right now. Keep reading

Holding Fast to Truth in a Doubting Age

Assaults on truth are nothing new. In the dock before Pilate, Jesus said he came into the world "to bear witness to the truth." To which Pilate mocked: "What is truth?"

The irony is thick in John 18:38. The Roman prefect missed the truth, even as Truth incarnate stood before him. Then again, Pilate may not have missed anything. He may have known too well what Jesus offered him and, unwilling to follow the king of the Jews, hastily dismissed him from his presence.

Not much has fundamentally changed since that fateful day. The question of truth continues to color theological, ethical, and political debates—and to plague human hearts. Christians need to have a good answer to Pilate's question. Keep reading

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yes, My Church Still Calls It Easter – Here are 5 Reasons Why

I wish Easter wasn’t called Easter.

It would be great if everyone knew it as Resurrection Sunday. But they don’t.

Our church uses both terms. But Easter is our go-to. Especially when we invite people to join us.

Some ministers believe it’s outright wrong, even unchristian, to use the word Easter at all. If your church doesn’t use the word Easter, I’m not arguing that you should.

But before you criticize us for it, I hope you’ll hear me out.

Here are five reasons why we call it Easter. Keep reading

Photo: St. Mark's Episcopal Day School Austin

The Flesh and Bones of the Resurrection

The last instalment looked at how Jesus’ resurrection shapes our thinking on sin and death. This instalment discusses the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Now the first thing to affirm is that Jesus’ resurrection really was bodily. Thomas was able to observe and touch Jesus’ hands and side (Jn. 20:27). Jesus himself declared that he was ‘flesh and bones’ and not some ghost (Luke 24:39). Jesus was even able to eat (Luke 24:43). And lets not forget that the tomb itself was empty.

In a world that has always been sceptical about the resurrection this great truth must continue to be proclaimed. The temptation to alter what the Scriptures say must be resisted just as strongly. And so even though most find it absurd to think that Jesus rose from his tomb (let alone that every dead corpse will one day rise!), attempts to make the message more palatable should be rejected — Jesus rose bodily!

Having said this, the focus in what follows will not be on the reality of the bodily resurrection (this is taken as given), but rather on its significance. Again, as in the previous instalment, amongst the many aspects that could be explored, two will receive consideration: Jesus’ bodily resurrection in relation to our own bodily resurrection, and Jesus’ bodily resurrection in relation to creation. Keep reading

See also
Easter: It really happened! But so what?

Preach the Word

In the original Table Talk, a collection of informal theological conversations at Martin Luther’s dinner table, the German Reformer gave the following advice to a young minister: “When you are to preach, speak with God and say, ‘Dear Lord God, I wish to preach in Thine honor. I wish to speak about Thee, glorify Thee, [and] praise Thy name. Although I can’t do this well of myself, I pray that Thou mayest make it good.’”

This simple prayer provides a tiny glimpse into Luther’s theology of preaching. More importantly, it underscores to pastors in every age that faithful preaching must be about God, for the glory of God, and in utter dependence upon God.

First, the content of our preaching must be centered on the nature and works of God (2 Cor. 4:5–6). Evangelical preaching today can often be shallow, therapeutic, and man-centered. It commonly lacks theological substance and gravitas. Personal stories and amusing anecdotes crowd the sermon, leaving God as an afterthought. The gospel, the grand theme of Scripture, is vague at best.

Biblical preaching, however, always and unmistakably makes the triune God and His marvelous works of creation, providence, and redemption the main subject matter. God is the main subject of the Bible, and thus should be the central focus of our preaching. Why is Peter’s Pentecost sermon, for example, so powerful and memorable (Acts 2:14–41)? Why were so many who heard it “cut to the heart” with Spirit-wrought conviction? It is because Peter’s sermon boldly and skillfully directed the people’s attention to almighty God, His Word, and the fulfillment of His redemptive purposes in Christ. Moreover, it is in light of God’s mighty acts of judgment and salvation that the Apostle clearly communicated the need for sinners to turn from their rebellious ways and receive Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Keep reading

The 3 Levels of Dynamic Preaching

Did you know that for musical arrangements, composers write more than just the notes to be played?

They also write the strength with which each note should be performed.

These markings are referred to as the “dynamics” of music.

A composer might write a pp, meaning pianissimo or “very soft,” or a ff,meaning fortissimo or “very loud.” There are multiple marks all meant to tell the musician roughly how strong or soft a note is meant to be played.

These dynamic markings make all the difference in a song. The best songs do not stay at the same level.

The dynamics of all great songs rise and fall from the forcefulness of a shout to the gentleness of a whisper.

I believe that preaching is very similar.

Great preaching doesn’t stay on one level. Great preaching is vocally dynamic. Keep reading

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question....

If Paul were ministering today, would he use video?

This is an important question, and it’s not one that is as clear cut as you might think. Many who have embraced video venue gatherings point to Paul as their example. Because he was all about becoming all things to all people in the hopes of winning some to the gospel, he would surely use any (non-sinful) means at his disposal to extend the reach of the gospel.

That’s generally how I’ve seen the argument go, anyway. (I realize I’m probably oversimplifying a bit.)

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one. Keep reading

See also
Screen Saver: When our church went multi-site, video venue helped us transition to live preaching

Churches challenged to start 100,000 new Bible study groups

LifeWay Christian Resources is challenging churches to start 100,000 new Bible study groups by the end of this year.

The new groups initiative is a partnership between churches, state conventions and LifeWay.

It's designed to help longtime churchgoers jumpstart their faith and to help new believers grow spiritually, Bruce Raley, director of church education ministry for LifeWay, said.

Whether they meet on Sunday mornings or during the week, small groups are the best way to learn the habits of faith, such as prayer, Bible study and serving others, Raley said.

"Discipleship takes place best in the context of a relationship," he said. "And relationships are most likely to develop in a small group."

So far, about 17,000 new groups have been registered at, which includes guides for starting new groups, resources for new leaders, and promotional materials. Keep reading

See also

Wales: Bible college to close due to lack of trainees

A Bible college in south Wales that has taught new church leaders for over 120 years is in danger of closing as not enough people come forward to enter the clergy.

St Michael's College in Cardiff has been training new ministers since 1892. It currently receives a £150,000 annual grant from the Church of Wales, but falling ordinand numbers have caused a financial crisis.

Currently, the college has only 18 residential students, 38 non-residential students and 20 full-time staff.

The situation has been further exacerbated by a £1.7 million refurbishment of the college's facilities completed in 2009. Keep reading

Photo: Patrick Comerford

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: April 16, 2014

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

4 Do's and Don'ts for Engaging New Guests

In what I do, if I don’t know how to communicate with people I don’t already know, I won’t be very successful.

I have an occasion to speak to strangers frequently. Thankfully, our church attracts dozens of new visitors each week, I’m invited to speak other places often, and I encounter new people daily through this blog. I’m learning (it’s a continual process) that there are some specific ways I should and shouldn’t speak publicly to someone who doesn’t know me well. Most of these are true to any audience, but especially for an audience of visitors or strangers.

Here are 4 do’s and 4 dont’s when talking to people you’ve never met. Keep reading

3 Ways Your Church Facilities Communicate “You’re Not Welcome”

Growing up, anytime guests were coming to visit, we would “clean house” to get ready. The more important the guest, the more we cleaned up.

Every church (no matter the size, median age, location, or resources) can quickly communicate a lack of concern for visitors by the way they keep their facilities. Here are three quick ways to display a lack of welcoming hospitality.... Keep reading

Southern Baptist Pastors Hope to Revitalize Hundreds of Churches in Decline

About 800 to 1,000 Southern Baptist congregations cease to exist annually, largely due to a stagnant vision among the leadership and lack of impact within their communities, says a church planting director. However, church leaders say the closures are often the symptom of a greater problem.

"Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and, or disconnected from Scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church," Joshua Hedger, director of Center for Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, told The Christian Post.

Although the Baptist convention opened 1,300 new churches last year, Hedger says they are not gaining enough new ground and will rely on church planters to create a movement that will hopefully put an end to dying congregations. The church revitalization process usually involves new leadership taking over a declining church, who then implements a strategy on how to grow the congregation again.

"In some churches, a simple change in leadership and culture takes place," Hedger said. "Some fully shut down and allow a new church to take over their facilities, assets, and people. Others find themselves anywhere between those two extremes." Keep reading

5 Huge Benefits of Being a Multi-Generational Church

Many churches either have lots of families or lots of college students, but not both. Here are some reasons to pursue a church of multiple generations worshiping and serving together.

Have you seen the car commercial that talks about having “this or that” and how much better it is to have “this and that”?

That commercial illustrates how I feel about the local church I get the privilege of leading. We’re planted in the heart of the University District in Seattle, and what started simply as a college ministry has become something far more complex and messy—yet beautiful.

Many of the churches in our area swing far to one side of the pendulum: they are either comprised of mainly families, or they have few families but a large group of college students. Rarely does a church have much of both, but by God’s grace, we do. Keep reading

Why Theological Study Is for Everyone

Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, this is something I tell my church often. And the looks I get from some surprised souls are the evidence that I have not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by lay people is important.

Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead.

But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone. Therefore, I remind my church that theology—coming from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (word)—simply means “the knowledge (or study) of God.” If you’re a Christian, you must by definition know God. Christians are disciples of Jesus; they are student-followers of Jesus. The longer we follow Him, the more we learn about Him and, consequently, the more deeply we come to know Him.

There are at least three primary reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian. Keep reading

The Importance of Multiplying Yourself as a Church Leader [Video]

Micah Fries tells the story of a pastor of large, successful church who didn’t measure his success by church size or ministry tenure. He measured it by the three younger leaders he mentored each year who then went on to mentor 3 younger leaders apiece the following year. He viewed leadership multiplication as the key to success. Micah shares three principles for how to do this well and the impact it will have for church health. Watch now

Read more about Ministry Grid and how it can help you equip leaders in your church.

Six Leadership Tasks for Easter

This coming Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter – perhaps better understood as “Resurrection Sunday.” Some believers will celebrate with meals and family get-togethers. Some will gather with the largest church crowds they’ve seen all year; others will join small groups to rejoice quietly in places where gathering is life threatening.

I wonder, though, if we sometimes celebrate the resurrection one Sunday a year and really don’t let its truth affect our lives. Here are six steps Christian leaders might take this week as we focus on Easter and live out its truths. Keep reading

Photo: First Baptist Church North Myrtle Beach

Ten Reasons Some Pastors Don’t Desire to Go to an Established Church

In an earlier article this week, I shared several trends in the employment of pastors. There was some discussion and interest in my comment about established churches having greater difficulty finding pastors who meet their criteria. In this post, I want to open that discussion a bit more.

Please hear me well. I have a heart for the established church. Indeed, I see one of God’s callings in my life to have some influence in the revitalization of established churches. But we can’t begin to address issues until we have honest and transparent discussions. In that light, I offer today some of the reasons pastors have shared with me, explicitly or implicitly, why they don’t see God calling them to established churches. Keep reading

2 Key Words for Pastors This Easter

As your Easter services are quickly approaching, I thought I would share a few thoughts for church leaders around two key words: assimilation and transformation. Though one does not necessarily lead to the other, they are both important. Keep reading


Seven Easter Declarations People are Dying to Hear

“God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for HIm to be held in its power” (Acts 2:24).

It’s Easter, preacher. What are you preaching?

Don’t preach about Springtime, as much as we all love it. This is not the day for that.

Don’t make the analogy about how Easter eggs speak to us about new birth and all that foolishness.

Stay on track.

You have the greatest message on the planet; try not to weaken it with trivialities.

Tell your people–and all those whom the Holy Spirit will send this Sunday, not yet “your people,” but potentially so–that death could not hold Jesus Christ, that He is risen from the dead, and what that means to them. (Never forget that every sermon has two parts: What? and So what? The “what” is the message of Easter; the “so what” is the application.)

So, what exactly does the Easter event mean? I’m glad you asked. Keep reading

What Actually Happened on Resurrection Day? A Clear and Simple Account

Many detractors of the Christian message claim that the four accounts of Jesus’ resurrection contain discrepancies that are irreconcilable and so fatal to the Gospels’ authenticity and truth. Contrary to these claims, the extraordinary events of that amazing day can be told in a clear and simple account.

It was Sunday, the 5th April AD 33[1], and the action began around dawn with exactly three women involved. Keep reading

Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon

If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.

1. Don't say Jesus died when he was 33 years old.

The common assertion seems reasonable that if Jesus "began his ministry" when he "was about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) and engaged in a three-year ministry (John mentions three Passovers, and there might have been a fourth one), then he was 33 years old at the time of his death. However, virtually no scholar believes Jesus was actually 33 when he died. Jesus was born before Herod the Great issued the decree to execute "all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under" (Matt. 2:16, ESV) and before Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C. If Jesus was born in the fall of 5 or 6 B.C., and if we remember that we don't count the "0" between B.C. and A.D., then Jesus would have been 37 or 38 years old when he died in the spring of A.D. 33 (as we believe is most likely). Even if Jesus died in the year A.D. 30 (the only serious alternative date), he would have been 34 or 35, not 33 years old. No major doctrine is affected by this common misconception. But don't damage your credibility by confidently proclaiming "facts" from the pulpit that are not true. Keep reading

How to Work Ahead on Sermon Prep

It's Saturday afternoon, and your sermon is half-done, at best. Your normal sermon prep time got crushed this week by a big funeral on Tuesday, a crisis counseling situation that consumed Wednesday and Thursday, and your wife's minivan breaking down Friday. And now on Saturday, supposedly your day off, you slump in front of the computer puzzling over the main point and application of the text, and straining for the creativity to write a clear, engaging sermon manuscript.

Ever have one of those weeks?

God helps us preachers in those desperate moments. But clearly this kind of compressed, last-minute prep has serious drawbacks. And if we prepare our messages this way every week, we're more likely to serve junk food sermons rather than the nutritious, expository feast that our congregations need for spiritual health.

Some gifted preachers can regularly wrestle down a text and craft solid sermons on an abbreviated schedule. But most of us mortals need ample time. We need time to puzzle over interpretive issues, time to pray over application, time to pick others' brains, and time for our creative engines to produce helpful illustrations, introductions, and conclusions. We need time to marinate in the passage of scripture. Keep reading

The Assumption We Cannot Afford

We ended another year of women's Bible study last Tuesday: eleven weeks in the epistles of John and eleven weeks in James. Fifty-four different churches were represented in our enrollment this year. A couple thousand more women podcast from around the country. At the conclusion I was deluged with cards and e-mails from participants expressing their gratitude, reflecting on what they had learned, and, almost uniformly, uttering a confession I have heard so often that it no longer surprises. I still waver between joy and discouragement as I read that confession on card after beautiful thank you card. I still vacillate between celebration and grief each time it turns up in my inbox. I still hesitate between thankfulness and frustration every time it is spoken to me over coffee. Their confession is this:
I've been in church for years, but no one has taught me to study my Bible until now.
I remember confessing the same thing myself almost 20 years ago. It is gratifying to know that our efforts at Flower Mound Women's Bible Study to help women know the Bible are changing the way they understand their God and their faith. But it is terrifying to me that so many women log years in the church and remain unlearned in the Scriptures. This is not their fault, and it is not acceptable. Keep reading


Take God at His Word: Kevin DeYoung on the Character of Scripture

Your Bible is evidence that the Maker of the universe is a God who initiates, who reveals, who talks. There are, after all, only two options when it comes to knowledge of one's Creator: revelation or speculation. Either he speaks, or we guess.

And he has spoken. The Lord of heaven and earth has "forfeited his own personal privacy" to disclose himself to us—to befriend us—through a book. Scripture is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God.

By virtually any account the Bible is the most influential book of all time. No shortage of ink has been spilled on writings about it. But what does Scripture say about itself? In his new book, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Crossway) [20 quotes], Kevin DeYoung cuts through the fog of contemporary confusion to offer a readable and constructive defense of the clarity, authority, sufficiency, and beauty of God's written Word.

I spoke with DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, about bibliolatry, threats on the horizon, and more. Keep reading

Barna: 6 Bible Trends for 2014

Barna's annual survey in partnership with the American Bible Society just released 6 scripture-related trends for this year.

Be sure to read the full summary. (It has infographics! Everyone loves infographics.)

Without further ado, here are 6 trends that will impact your congregation this year.... Keep reading

Is the internet making us lose our religion?

A new study claims that the internet is one of the main forces behind more and more Americans losing interest in religion.

Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, published his paper "Religious Affiliation, Education and Internet Use" in the MIT Technology Review on Friday.

He uses data from the University of Chicago's General Social Survey to show that those with no religious preference numbered 10 per cent of the US population in 1990, but that jumped to 18 per cent in 2010. This amounts to approximately 25 million people.

Mr Downey also notes that the Protestant percentage of the US has dropped from 62 per cent in 1990 to 51 per cent in 2010. In 2010, over half (53 per cent) of the population spent at least two hours per week on line, and 25 per cent were online for more than seven hours.

At the same time, he points to how internet use has gone up from essentially zero per cent in 1990 to 80 per cent in 2010. He also notes that the percentage of university graduates in the US has increased in that same time from 17 per cent to 27 per cent. Keep reading