Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Book of Common Praise 2017: A Review


By Robin G. Jordan

I recently bought a copy of the Reformed Episcopal Church’s The Book of Common Praise 2017 and examined it. For readers who may not be familiar with the Reformed Episcopal Church, it predates the Continuing Anglican Movement of the 1970s and later. The Reformed Episcopal Church was founded in the late nineteenth century when Bishop George David Cummins and a group of Evangelical Episcopalians broke with the then Protestant Episcopal Church and formed a separate jurisdiction. It has a long affiliation with the Free Church of England and is one of the founding entities of the Anglican Church in North America.

Overall I think that The Book of Common Praise 2017 contains a nice selection of hymns. The hymnal is is in a number of ways a decided improvement over The Hymnal (1940).

Among the strengths of The Book of Common Praise 2017 is that it contains a core of hymns from The Hymnal (1940), which are familiar to most North American Reformed Episcopal and Continuing Anglican congregations. It also retains the traditional language of these hymns.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 incorporates a number of the better hymns from The Hymnal 1982. It also incorporates a number of popular African American spirituals and gospel songs as well as “new” hymns. The latter include both older hymns that may be new to Reformed Episcopalians and Continuing Anglicans and more recent compositions that have proven their usefulness in worship.

Hymns and songs like “All creatures of our God and King,” “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,” “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,” “Church of God, elect and glorious,” “Come thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,” “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,” “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,” “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” “Go tell it on the mountain,” “He is born, the divine Christ-child,” “I have decided to follow Jesus,” “I want to walk as a child of the light,” "In Christ alone my hope is found,"  “Infant holy, Infant lowly,” “King of glory, King of peace,” “Let all things now living,” “Lift high the cross,” “My Shepherd will supply my needs,” “O God, we praise thee, and confess,” “O praise ye the Lord! Give praise in the height,” “O the deep, deep love of Jesus,” “People, look east. The time is near,” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” “Sing we now of Christmas,” “Sing praise to God who reigns above,” “Soon and very soon, we are goin’ to see the King,” “Still, still, still,” “Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord!” “We come as guests invited,” and “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!” will be welcome additions to the congregational repertoires of Reformed Episcopal and Continuing Anglican churches.

The Book of Common Praise 2017, however, does have a number of weaknesses.

In my experience most of the hymns in the Morning and Evening sections will never be used. I was surprised that Eleanor Farjeon’s hymn, “Morning has broken” was not included in the Morning section. It would likely have gotten far more use than a number of the hymns that are included in the Morning section.

Much more singable versions of the Phos hilaron than Robert Bridges “O gladsome light, O grace,” set to NUNC DIMITTIS, are available for congregational use. Examples are Christopher Idle’s “Light of gladness, Lord of glory,” set to QUEM PASTORES; William G.Storey’s “O radiant Light, O Sun divine;”set to JESU DULCIS MEMORIA and CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM; and Bland Tucker’s “O gracious light, Lord Jesus Christ,” set to CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM and TALLIS’ EIGHTH TUNE/TALLIS’ CANON. “O gladsome light, O grace” appears more suited for choir use.

One of the weaknesses of The Book of Common Praise 2017 is its Word of God section. Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard Version (1983) has a number of hymns that would have made good additions to that section. They are William Watkins Reid’s “Help us, O Lord, to learn,” H.C. A. Gaunt’s “Lord Jesus, once you spoke to men,” S. N. Sedgewick’s “Praise we now the Word of Grace,” and John F. Bowers’ “The prophets spoke in days of old.”

The compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 did not do their homework before they added the children’s hymn, “Thy gospel Jesus we believe” to the Word of God section. It is a First Communion hymn originally published in a late nineteenth century Roman Catholic catechism for preparing children for their First Communion. The Hymnal (1940) notes its suitability as a communion hymn at the end of the Holy Communion section. It is a frequently abused hymn that should have been retired. Compare the way it is performed by Missio in this video with the unimaginative way it is often sung in church.

The Service Music section contains no settings for alleluias and verses to introduce the Gospel. The practice of singing an alleluia and verse predates that of singing a sequence hymn. A cantor sings the alleluia; the cantor and congregation sing the alleluia together, the cantor sings the verse, and then the cantor and the congregation again sing the alleluia together. An alleluia and verse or an alleluia without a verse may be used to introduce the Gospel whether it is read from the pulpit, the steps of the chancel, or the midst of the congregation. The alleluia may repeated (but not the verse) after the reading of the Gospel. An alleluia and verse or alleluia may be sung during the Christmas Season, the Easter Season (from Easter Sunday through Whitsun), and ordinary time (Epiphanytide and Trinitytide). An alleluia and verse or alleluia is a good choice for introducing the Gospel for a small congregation with limited musical resources. Among the alleluias in wide use today are John Schiavone's "Alleluia (Chant Mode VI)," Fintan O’Carroll and Christopher Walker’s “Celtic Alleluia,” the Caribbean “Halle, halle, halle,” the Native American “Heleluyan,” and Jacque Berthier’s “Taize Alleluia.”

I am also surprised that hymns and songs like the African American spiritual “Let us break bread together on our knees,” Cyril Alington’s “Ye that know the Lord is gracious,” the anonymous “Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him,” Sydney Carter’s “I danced in the morning/Lord of the Dance,” Richard Gillard’s “Brother, sister, let me serve you/The Servant Song,” Georgia Elma Harkness’ “Tell it out with gladness,” Richard Hutchin’s “The tree of life my soul has seen/Jesus Christ the apple tree,” William F. Jabusch’s “Open your ears, O faithful people,” Harry Loper’s “As Jacob with travel was weary one day,” Henry Ustic Onderdonk’s “How wondrous and great Thy works, God of praise,” James Quinn’s “Christ be beside me, Christ be before me (original version)” and "This day God gives me," Daniel L. Schutte’s “Here I am, Lord/I the Lord of Sea and Sky,” James E Seddons’s “Go forth and tell, O Church of God awake”and “Tell all the world of Jesus,” Susan Toolan’s “I am the Bread of Life,” Isaac Watt's "Come let us join our cheerful songs," Charles Wesley’s Ye servants of God, your master proclaim,” and Omar Westerdorf’s “You satisfy the hungry heart with gifts of finest wheat/Gift of Finest Wheat” were not included in The Book of Common Praise 2017. These hymns and songs have proven their usefulness in worship, appear in the better hymnals of recent publication, and would enrich the worship of Anglican churches, both large and small.

A number of these hymns and songs have multiple uses. For, example, “How wondrous and great Thy works God of praise” is a metrical version of the canticle Magna et Miribilia and may be sung before the Gospel or after the Post-Communion Thanksgiving in place of the Gloria in excelsis. It may also be sung at the conclusion of a service as a hymn of dedication or a mission hymn. “Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him” is a metrical version of Psalm 148 and may be put to the same uses.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 has a surprising number of Lutheran chorales and hymns for an Anglican hymnal.  At the same time a number of Anglican classics such as the seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest George Herbert’s “Come my Way, my Truth, my Life,” “Let all the world in every corner sing” and “Teach me, my God and King” have been left out.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 is also short on the hymns of the most prolific twentieth century Anglican hymn writers such as Michael Baughan, Carl P. Daw Jr., Timothy Dudley-Smith, Christopher Idle, David Mowbray, Michael Perry, Michael Saward, James Seddon, and Paul Wigmore. One category of church music that is noticeably missing from the hymnal is the hymns and songs of the Anglican global south—Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Central America, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Tasmania, and South America.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 has only a few metrical versions of the Prayer Book canticles. It would have greatly benefited from the inclusion of Michael Baughen’s “Come, rejoice before your Maker,” set to BEACH SPRING and RESTORATION; Edward F. Darling’s “Come, bless the Lord, God of our forebears,” set to EARTH AND ALL STARS - see The Church Hymnal Fifth Edition (2000), 688; Carl P. Daw Jr.’s “Be joyful in the Lord,” set to LEONI; “Blessed be the God of Israel, Who comes to set us free,” set to KINGSFOLD and FOREST GREEN; “Come, let us sing with joy,” set to OLD 124TH, “God’s Paschal Lamb is sacrificed for us,” set to SINE NOMINE and ENGELBER; “Let all creation bless the Lord,” set to MIT FREUDEN ZART; “Surely it is God who saves me/First Song of Isaiah;” set to RAQUEL and THOMAS MERTON, with IN BABILONE as an alternative tune; Timothy Dudley-Smith’s “All glory be to God on high,” set to KINGSFOLD and “Come, let us praise the Lord With joy our God proclaim,” set to DARWALL’S 148TH; David Haas’ “My soul is filled with joy/holy is your name,” set to WILD MOUNTAIN THYME/WILL YE GO LASSIE, GO; Christopher Idle’s “Bless the Lord, our fathers’ God,” set to ORIENTIS PARTIBUS; “Glory in the highest to the God of heaven!” set to EVELYNS and LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY; “God, we praise you! God, we bless you!” set to NETTLETON; Michael Joncas’ “O come and sing to God the Lord,” set to CLEARWATER - see As Morning Breaks (North American Liturgical Resources: 1985), pp 8-9; David Mowbray’s “Now lives the Lamb of God,” set to DARWALL’S 148TH; J. T. Mueller’s “My soul gives glory to the Lord,” set to MAGNIFICAT; Michael Perry’s “Blessed be the God of Israel Who comes to set us free, He visits and redeems us,” set to ELLACOMBE and MERLE’S TUNE;” “Come, worship God who is worthy of honor,” set to O QUANTA QUALIA and STAR IN THE EAST; and “Glory be to God in heaven, Peace to those who love him well,” set to LADUE CHAPEL and HYMN TO JOY; James Quinn's "Lord, bid your servant go in peace/Song of Simeon" set to LAND OF REST; Stephen P Stark’s “All you works of God, bless the Lord!” set to LINSTEAD, and “We praise you, and acknowledge you, O God,” set to THAXTED (Holst).

The compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 appear to assume that all Reformed Episcopal parishes have professional choirmasters; seasoned, well-trained choirs capable of providing the strong musical leadership needed for chant; pipe or reed organs and competent organists; the kind of acoustical environment suitable for chant, and congregations adept at singing chant.

The compilers of the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal Fifth Edition (2000) had a firmer grip on reality. They devoted an entire section of that hymnal to metrical versions of the Prayer Book canticles that could be sung to familiar hymn tunes—a boon for small congregations that lack the aforementioned resources.

The choice of tunes for a number of the hymns and the omission of suggested alternative tunes for any of the hymns will limit the usefulness of The Book of Common Praise 2017 for small Anglican churches with limited musical resources, particularly churches like my own that do not have an organist and which use a digital hymnal player. If a hymn tune or an alternative hymn tune is not included in the digital hymnal player’s master list of hymn tunes, the congregation will not be able to sing the hymn.

Large congregations with ample musical resources are the exception, not the rule in all Anglican jurisdictions in the United States. Unfortunately the compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 appear to have lost sight of this important fact of church life in North America: Most congregations are small and have limited musical resources. They, like the compilers of The Hymnal (1940), have produced a hymnal that is designed primarily for cathedrals, seminary chapels, and large parish churches.

One way that the Reformed Episcopal Church might rectify this shortcoming is to produce an electronic edition of The Book of Common Praise 2017, a set of CDs of the hymns, hymn tunes, and service music used in the hymnal, like the United Methodist Church did with The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) and its supplement, The Faith We Sing (2000).

A second option would be to create a website like RiteSong and Small Church Music from which churches can download either for a small fee or free of charge MP3s of the hymns, hymn tunes, and service music used in The Book of Common Praise 2017. Both options would make the hymnal more accessible to small congregations with limited musical resources.

The rationale that the compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 offer for adding “Amen” at the end of a number of hymns does not hold water. As the twentieth century hymnologist Erik Routley pointed out, the addition of “Amen” to hymns was a nineteenth century fad, an attempt to reshape all hymns along the lines of the Medieval Latin hymn which the promoters of this fad regarded as the ideal form for a hymn. See Erik Routley’s Church Music and the Christian Faith, “Amen,” Agape (1978), pp.96-99. See also Dean McIntire’s article, “Why Don’t We Sing Amens Anymore?” Dean McIntire summarizes Erik Routley’s essay on the liturgical use of “Amen” in his article.

The compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 also put a line after the third stanza of many hymns, which suggests that the hymn may be cut off after the third stanza. They offer no explanation for the line. If they are indeed suggesting that the hymn may cut off after the third stanza, they are encouraging a bad practice. It not only can mutilate the sense of the hymn but also it depreciates hymns as a part of the common prayer of the people.

Unlike the compilers of The Hymnal (1940), The Hymnal 1982, and other Anglican hymnals, the compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 do not mark with an asterisk those stanzas of a hymn that may be omitted without affecting the meaning of the hymn.

While The Book of Common Praise 2017 contains a hymn selection guide for the service of Holy Communion for the Sundays and feast days of the Church Year, the hymnal contains nothing to guide worship planners in selecting hymns for the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer when one of these services is the principal service on a Sunday or feast day as is often the case in small Anglican churches, which may have a Holy Communion service only as frequently as once a month.

While it may not have been intentional, the lack of attention to the circumstances and needs of small Anglican churches that is evident in The Book of Common Praise 2017 may exacerbate the low esteem of small congregations struggling to meet the unrealistic expectations of a wider ecclesial culture that views the large church with ample musical resources and full-time clergy as the standard of practice for the jurisdiction. Small churches, both Anglican and non-Anglican, are different from large churches. They require worship resources tailored to their needs and circumstances. The days of the “one size fits all” hymnal are past.

At the time The Hymnal (1940) was adopted, the average life of a hymnal was about 25 years. Today the average life of a hymnal is less than 10 years. The Hymnal (1940) is 78 years old. The Reformed Episcopal Church must be commended for recognizing the need for a replacement for The Hymnal (1940) not only in its own churches but also the churches of the Continuum, and taking a bold step to meet this need. Despite its shortcomings The Book of Common Praise 2017 will greatly enrich the worship of the Reformed Episcopal and Continuing Anglican churches that adopt it as their primary worship resource.

No hymnal is perfect. Every hymnal has its strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what these strengths and weaknesses are, enables those responsible for worship planning in their congregation to build on their primary worship resource’s strengths and to work around its weaknesses.

Twenty-first century congregations have the option of supplementing their primary worship resource with a collection of hymns and songs compiled locally, an advantage that congregations did not enjoy in the past. Music licensing resources like One License and CCLI make such an undertaking relatively easy.

Small Anglican churches can also network with each other to exchange information, ideas, and practical solutions, to develop worship resources, and to build up and strengthen their respective music ministries.

Image: Anglican Liturgy Press

Tuesday's Catch: Future Church Developments and More



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Monday, July 16, 2018

Church Attendance Is Dying. Here’s What’s Next.


Church attendance is dying. Big time.

It’s not just reflected in the size of the decline, it’s reflected in the quality and nuances of those numbers.

At least two massive, seismic shifts are at work in our culture causing this. First, we’re moving from Christendom into a post-Christian, post-modern era literally in our lifetime.

Second, we’re in the midst of the biggest technological shift in human history. The digital disruption happening all around us. The digital disruption isn’t just coming. It’s here. And it’s changing attendance patterns at your church whether you recognize it or not....

We could add a third reason: We western Christians have been anemic in our mission over the last number of decades. But that’s kind of one of the main points I make again and again on this blog. So we’ve covered that before and will cover it again.

Regardless, people who used to attend regularly aren’t. Whole groups of people are gone.

So what does this mean for today and for the future church? Read More
In some parts of the Bible Belt in the United States the decline in church attendance may not be immediately discernible. On Sundays I drive past several churches whose parking lots are filled with cars. I also drive past a number of churches whose parking lots are empty. If I mistakenly believed as many folks do in my part of the Bible Belt that the region has a lot of churchgoers because it has a lot of churches, I might erroneously conclude that if I had driven past these churches at a different hour, I might have seen cars in their parking lots. Windshield surveys of church parking lots, however, are not a reliable method of measuring church attendance. It gives you only a very rough idea of attendance at a particular church. It does not account for such variables as less frequent attendance and first-time attenders. But it does reinforce the false impression that church attendance in the region is as strong today as it was in the past.

Research of church attendance in the region paints a different picture. More than 60 per cent of the population is unchurched. In Marshall County, Kentucky, in which Baptists may have the largest number of churches, only 24 percent of the general population attends a Baptist church. The research that I reviewed did not say how often those who reported that they attended a Baptist church went to church.

Monday's Catch:"9 Things That Worked In The Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today" and More


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You may want to look at the research as it relates to your denomination, assuming your denomination was included in the research.
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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Episcopalians Take Step Towards Revising Book of Common Prayer


Clergy and lay deputies to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention have taken a key step towards a comprehensive multi-year revision of the denomination’s Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Such a revision may include gender-neutral language for God and same-sex marriage rites.

Prayer Book revision has been among the more controversial topics at the church’s triennial convention meeting in Austin, Texas July 5-13. Some deputies have advocated for gender-neutral language for God to be employed in the BCP, arguing that it makes the content more accessible and egalitarian. Other deputies oppose such changes, arguing that there is no groundswell of support among local parishes for a BCP revision. Others have questioned the practicality of pursuing such a major project during a time when the denomination faces significant decline in membership and attendance. The resolution appropriates $1,917,025 in total across the next three years for the revision process.

Officials from orthodox/traditionalist dioceses have expressed concern that prayer book revision could force dissenting dioceses to permit same-sex marriage. Currently, eight domestic dioceses do not permit such unions to be solemnized by their clergy or within their churches. Read More

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The three articles come from Juicy Ecumenicalism and the six videos from Anglican Ink. I am posting the  links to them together for easy reading and viewing. This development will impact not only the Episcopal Church but the other Anglican entities in the United States.  Whether it will spark another exodus of unhappy Episcopalians from the Episcopal Church only time will tell. While some Continuing Anglican churches may see an uptick in visits from disaffected Episcopalians, I don't think that Continuing Anglican churches should count on this development reversing their own decline. Rather they should focus on reaching out into the communities in which they are located and engaging the unchurched.  

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers #09


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Two Church Planting Startup Models


It is important to remember that ‘missiology’ is not a thing. It is things.

Some people say, “We just have to think missiologically.” But, they need to know that a missiology of a tribal people group in Papau New Guinea is very different than a missiology of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

As such, when we think missiologically, there is not one right way to plant a church, so it is worth looking at how churches are planted.

Let’s face it: sometimes, there is arrogance among church planters. Not you, but some of the others!

Often, this is just part of the entrepreneurial spirit that often accompanies people who start new things. Many times, new projects are started in order to ‘do right’ what previous starters ‘did wrong’.

In fact, you will find that frustration coupled with attempts to rebuild a broken structure often erupt into a drive to build something completely new. Building something new is good. But it isn’t good to plant a church for the wrong reasons, or to plant a church to show the world how it should be done right.

Today, church plants are everywhere, and cover a multitude of expressions and tracks. Let me share just two and talk a bit about the history that created the second. Read More

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8 Ways to Stop Biggering and Start Bettering the Church


Remember the Once-ler? From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss? He was a fairly normal guy who wanted to build a big business at the expense of the environment, so he kept “biggering and biggering” until all the trees were gone, the wildlife had vacated the landscape, and his business crashed.

The little children’s book seems to leave us with the impression that biggering is bad. But I’m not convinced that should be the big lesson.

The story is told of Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, that he once sat quietly through a board meeting listening to his executives brainstorm about how to get bigger. He suddenly interrupted the chatter with a declaration: “If we get better, we won’t have to worry about getting bigger.” Talk about an Aha! moment!

We can make the church grow, or we can watch the church grow, and the difference boils down to bettering instead of biggering. Read More

Image: Saddleback Church

The Dangers of Disobedience


Disobedience has consequences. Raising our four children I often think of the hymn, “Trust and Obey.” The refrain says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” Our 4-year-old knows these lyrics well, as he’s often reminded, “If you disobey then there will be a consequence. We’re always happier when we choose to obey.” Sometimes the consequences of disobedience can be painful. A friend tells of a family vacation to Florida. Her daughter wanted to come back home with a perfect bronze tan, but the vacation was only a few days long. Against her mom’s clear advice, the girl decided to skip the sunscreen and spent the entire first day on the beach under a cloudless sky. Of course, that’s all it took for her to get a sunburn that kept her in agony for days. “I tried to tell her,” my friend said to me, “but sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.” Read More

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Five Key Things About Church Revitalization That Most Leaders Miss, Part 2


We need to patiently endure as leaders. Don’t give up.

Third, most revitalization does not actually work at first.

Another thing about church revitalization most leaders miss is that most revitalization does not actually work at first.

Church revitalization is often a process of two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes, it’s two steps forward, two steps back. And sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. This is not always due to the resistance of people, although this can play a major role.

You need to become accustomed to slow, steady success with frequent failure. Read More

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How to Spot a False Teacher


While reasoned gentleness should be our default response to those with whom we disagree, we should nevertheless reserve strong words for false teachers to underscore the seriousness of false teaching and to protect those whom false teachers harm. When approaching someone then, we need to discern whether or not someone is a false teacher or not. And this is no easy task nor is “false teacher” a phrase we should use regularly. For by saying it, we mean that someone has doomed themselves to a life without forgiveness. Read More

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Passing Down the Truth

Differences Between Salvation in the Qur’an & the Bible


Ultimately, it’s the only question that matters. It’s the question that everyone must ask. Failure to correctly ask and answer it results in eternal catastrophe. “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Every system, philosophy, and religion proposes some form of salvation. They all articulate a problem which must be solved in order for a person to experience salvation. What matters most is what a system teaches about salvation. Whenever we seek to understand a spiritual system, this is where we need to go. What must a person to do be saved?

Last month, the Cripplegate began a series looking at the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. We looked at a brief introduction to Islam and the textual origin and transmission of the Qur’an. In our second post we observed two critical differences between the God of the Qur’an with that of the Bible. Then, we looked at nine differences between the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Jesus of the Bible. In today’s post, we will examine the differences between the salvation proposed by the Qur’an and that of the Bible.

Just as with teachings covered in previous posts, it will be clear that the differences between the Qur’anic and biblical doctrines of salvation differ radically. An understanding of salvation in the mind of a Qur’anic Muslim will clash at every point with that of a biblical Christian. Read More

Friday's Catch: "5 Leadership Lessons I Learned Playing Settlers of Catan" and More


5 Leadership Lessons I Learned Playing Settlers of Catan

Beyond being an incredibly fun board game, Settlers of Catan, or simply “Catan” as we call it, can teach you a lot of lessons about life and leadership. Here are five about leadership I’ve learned from playing. Read More

5 Keys to Building Your Small Group Ministry

From clarifying your vision to defining a plan, these five keys will help you keep your small group ministry on track. Read More

Six Considerations for Selecting Mission Partners - Rainer on Leadership #449 [Podcast]

Churches are asked often to help fund or partner in missions. Today, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss how to make those decisions thanks to a post by Sam Rainer. Listen Now

Study Finds Openness to the Gospel In Generation Z

A major new survey of 4,087 British adults on their attitudes toward religious people revealed that those of Generation Z are less likely to have a negative perception of Christians than millennials are. Read More

The young are the most open towards Christianity, British study finds

In a major new survey – the results of which are released today* - over 4,000 people were asked about their feelings towards religion and only 10% of the public agreed with the statement that ‘religion is a negative influence on society’. In fact, 44% of people surveyed agreed that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity and half of British adults (51%) disagree that Christians are a negative force in society. Read More
May be I am missing something but the image that accompanies this article does not strike me as having any connection to the article. The article is about the positive attitude of young Brits toward Christianity not Americans protesting for religious freedom.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Do Christians REALLY Need to Go to Church to Worship?


Do I really need to go to church as a follower of Christ? When Jesus talked with the “Woman at the Well” about places of worship, his point wasn’t that place was unimportant. Worshiping in “Spirit and truth” can be done anywhere, so we know it is not about the exact address. We know our place of worship is where the Spirit is and where truth is. Widely, worship is looked at as a personal choice and activity. In fact, that is quite true! We all have to choose to worship Christ. We all have a personal free will. But, what is missed is that gathering for worship seems to not be valued. Our worship services are more than an additional stop in a lifestyle of worship. They are the base camps to living life, connecting us to a story that’s bigger than us. Read More

Essential Latin for Reformed Christians: Filioque


The history is interesting, but the more important question is whether the Filioque is biblical. I believe it is. Let me just mention two places where I see this truth revealed in Scripture. In Acts 2, we read about Pentecost, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the church. In Acts 2:33, Peter says that Christ “has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” The Holy Spirit was poured out by Christ. No, it does not say “proceeds,” but the thought is the same. The Holy Spirit has come from Christ to be poured out on the church. There is also John 15:26 where Jesus says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” In this instance, there is a clear reference to the Spirit’s procession from the Father. Yet it should not be overlooked that Christ also speaks of his own sending of the Holy Spirit.

But what does it mean exactly to confess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son? What exactly is “procession”? There is mystery here. We can safely say what it is not. It is not the same as the begetting that we confess of the Son in relation to the Father. But beyond that, I find myself sympathizing with Donald Macleod in Behold Your God: “What this ontological procession actually is or what is meant by the Father and the Son spirating or breathing the Spirit, we simply do not know” (p.198).

Finally, does it really matter? For the sake of recovering unity with the East, could we not shelve the Filioque? In response, the East has far more problems than this that would stand in the way of rapprochement with biblical Christians. And it does matter, because despite the procedural issues which led to its acceptance in the West, the Filioque is biblical. Theologically speaking, it matters because it’s a matter of honour for our Lord Christ. As Donald Macleod notes, “To deny that the Son participates in the procession of the Holy Spirit is to reduce His status” (p.202). Read More

3 Errors of Musical Style that Stifle Community


It is ironic that music, an element meant to draw Christians together in mutual love and service (see Colossians 3:16) has become a force for significant division within the church. It just goes to show, I guess, that we can make a mess of pretty much anything. In their book The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out 3 common errors of musical style can stifle local church community.... Read More

Related Post
The Compelling Community
This article may be a repost. A search of my blog, however, did not produce a previous post. The 3 common errors that Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out apply to no particular form of music used in worship but are applicable to traditional, contemporary, blended, and other forms of worship music. This article is more about worship music practices than it is style of music.  Errors of musical style may not be the best way to describe what are essentially poor worship music practices.

How to Prepare for a Long-Term Tenured Revitalization - Revitalize & Replant #049 [Podcast]


Imagine if every pastor went into a revitalization with a determination to make it their final career stop. That long term view would be paradigm shifting. Listen Now

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Rethinking Vision in Church Revitalization

Your Church Is Not Your City’s Savior


It’s the other tale as old as time. A young pastor comes into a city or town to plant a church, convinced he will be the next church-planting “success story.”

Intent on staking out his territory in the city’s ecclesial landscape, he takes potshots at other churches in his sermons, emphasizing how his is different from all the others in town.

This tendency can show itself in many ways. I recently heard one example from a suburban church “launching a new campus” in an economically depressed area of their city. The pastor triumphantly declared that they would “reach the drug dealers,” “end the crime,” and “be the local church” in this community. Sadly, no mention was made of the faithful decades of ministry carried out in this community by bivocational pastors who don’t have the educational and financial resources this large church possesses.

This unfortunate—but oft-repeated—scenario has played itself out in hundreds of places, with disastrous results for God’s kingdom.

Jesus did not say that the world would know we are his disciples by our competition with one another; he said they’d know us by our love for one another (John 13:34–35). Therefore, the forward movement of the gospel depends, in part, on gospel-believing churches walking in unity with each other. Read More

How to Be Fully Present With Your Guests


Here are six practical ways you can make sure you’re fully present to your guests.

When you are not fully present with the guest, you’re saying to them:
  • “You are not important.”
  • “You are more of a task to be handled than a person to care about.”
  • “You will receive more robotic responses from me than personal ones.”
Inversely, when you are fully present with the guest in these four fields, they hear.... Read More

The Birth of Modern Protestant Missions


“Such a man as Carey is more to me than bishop or archbishop: he is an apostle.” This was the estimate that the evangelical Anglican John Newton once expressed about the Baptist missionary William Carey at the close of the eighteenth century. A blog post as recent as this year has a similar take on Carey: there he is described as “the man whom God used almost single-handedly to bring the Great Commission back to the forefront of the church’s thinking.”

The missionary’s opinion of himself was quite different, however. Carey was quite conscious that he did not merit being decked out with a halo like a medieval saint, something that evangelical tradition—following Newton’s lead?—has done. When he came to die in 1834, he gave explicit instructions that on his tombstone were to be placed the following words drawn from a hymn by Isaac Watts: “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, / On Thy kind arms I fall.” Human fallenness and thus the need for an ardent reliance on the Holy Spirit were constant themes in all that Carey wrote throughout his life. Read More

5 Dangers for Missionaries in Honor-Shame Contexts


Ministry within honor-shame cultures is a widely discussed topic today. The majority world and especially the East, as we’ve come to realize, doesn’t think the way we do. In a sense they work on a completely different operating system, which means Western missionaries must adapt our default language and “coding” when presenting the gospel.

Cultural awareness is the first step, though complete cultural adaptation doesn’t follow as the necessary goal. This is the case in any context, Western or otherwise. Inevitable perils lurk when anyone tries to contextualize the gospel message to a given culture. So while great strides have been made in evangelism as it relates to honor-shame contexts, the proverbial pendulum can swing too far.

Here are five dangers I see for those seeking to minister in honor-shame contexts. Recognizing them will hopefully protect us from unhelpful overcorrection. Read More

A First Step Toward Evangelizing More


Most North American believers don’t tell the Good News of Christ much. Many will never tell their gospel story to another person in their entire life. That’s tragic – and it’s a primary reason most churches are not reaching non-believers. We evangelicals have many programs to help us do evangelism, but I’m not convinced that programs are the best starting point. Instead, these texts from the Gospel of Mark tell us where we must begin.... Read More

Related Posts:
7 Signs That You've Lost Your Wonder over Jesus
Steps Toward Evangelism
10 Ways to "Jump Start" Your Personal Evangelism
10 Ways to Make Your Small Group More Evangelistic

Thursday's Catch: "Want To Reach New People? These 10 Habits Set Your Church Back" and More


Want To Reach New People? These 10 Habits Set Your Church Back

What is the first-time guest experience really like at your church? Read More

6 Things Pastors Do to Kill Church Growth

Over the last 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of consulting with hundreds of churches on leadership development, strategic planning, church construction and church growth. Most of the time, church leaders want to focus on what they should do to grow their church. In reality, the quickest way to get your church unstuck is to STOP doing a few things. Read More

7 Major Warning Signs When Hiring Staff

The hiring process is complicated, it’s honestly a study in human nature. Even done well, you never remove all the risks. But there are certain things you can watch for. Over the course of three decades of hiring experience, I have observed definite patterns and behaviors that either draw me in or drive me away from a potential staff member. Snap judgments and quick opinions are never wise, but there are specific caution flags that I’ve learned that should not be ignored. Read More

Three Pillars of a Strong, Dynamic Ministry

When it comes to leading a strong ministry and building a healthy church, it takes more than solid theology or smart strategy. In fact, it takes a combination of those, plus the Spirit’s leading and empowerment. I think of these three as pillars of a dynamic ministry.... Read More

How to Thrive as a Type-B Pastor

As a single pastor in a small church, there are always lots of things to accomplish: packets for kids camp, outreach planning, Sunday School material to order, and more. All of these things have to be done. I can spend a lot of time trying to make myself be someone that I am not, that Type-A who gets it all done, or I can learn to be the best me I can be. How can someone thrive as a Type-B pastor? Read More

Which Comes First: Repentance or Faith? [Video; Transcript]

In this brief clip from his teaching series The Whole Christ, Sinclair Ferguson addresses the relationship between repentance and faith. Watch Now

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why an Article Series on Reshaping the 1928 Prayer Book Services for Mission


By Robin G. Jordan

The Book of Common Prayer as authorized by the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1928, commonly known as the 1928 Prayer Book, is the preferred Prayer Book of many Anglican traditionalists in the United States. Its use is authorized in all of the jurisdictions of the Continuing Anglican Churches that were established in the 1970s or later. Its withdrawal from use with the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book was one of the factors that led to the formation of the Continuing Anglican Churches.

The 1928 Prayer Book is used in some dioceses and sub-provinces of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). On January 2, 2017 the ACNA College of Bishops adopted a resolution in which it supported the revision of the ACNA canons to permit the continued use of the 1928 Prayer Book under the authority of the local bishop after the final authorization of the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book.

The 1928 Prayer Book is also still used in a few parishes of the Episcopal Church.

The 1928 Prayer Book will continue to play a role in the worship of the Anglican churches in the United States for the foreseeable future. On this basis I do not believe that an article series on reshaping 1928 Prayer Book services for mission is entirely irrelevant in the twenty first century.

The 1928 Prayer Book, like all Anglican service books, has its weaknesses as well as its strengths. The 1928 Book was a compromise between the Protestant Broad Church school of thought and the Anglo-Catholic (or Catholic Revivalist) school of thought. These two schools of thought were main schools of thought in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the early part of the twentieth century. In a number of places the theology of the 1928 Prayer Book reflects what was in vogue at that time.

What is fashionable in ecclesiastical circles at a particular time in church history, however, may not be scriptural. We must always be wary of the very human tendency to adopt a particular system of thought and then search the Scriptures for texts that “prove” its suppositions, often ignoring the actual meaning of these texts along with any texts that contradict what we want to believe. This is one of the weaknesses of the 1928 Prayer Book but it is also the weakness of a number of Prayer Books. It reflects in these places a system of thought that upon close examination is not firmly grounded in Scripture. Scripture will not bear the weight of the suppositions that it makes.

The Bible, for example, does not tie the gift of the Holy Spirit, much less the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to the imposition of hands. J. I. Packer in Growing in Christ describes this notion as a “medieval mistake.” The medieval church adopted a practice and then sought to justify it from Scripture, often misinterpret Scripture passages or taking them out of context.

The seventeenth century Caroline divine Jeremy Taylor can be credited at least in part with the notion that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given at confirmation and his views are an example of how the Laudian High Churchmen fell prey to the errors of the medieval church.

Belief in two stage Christian initiation unfortunately was in vogue at the time of the 1928 Prayer Book’s adoption and would have its champions well into the twentieth century. American clergy were also unfamiliar with the works of Geoffrey Lampe and others debunking that theory.

Its doctrinal shortcomings should not present a major problem as long as we are diligent in interpreting the 1928 Prayer Book in accordance with Scripture and not the other way around and in teaching the congregation what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures should always be the lens through which we look at any Prayer Book and not a particular Prayer Book the lens through which we look at the Scriptures. In our explication of the 1928 Prayer Book we should focus on what the Scriptures say and where the 1928 Prayer Book and the Scriptures agree.

Because the 1928 Prayer Book was a compromise between two schools of thought, it is open to this kind of treatment. Each school had its own interpretation of the 1928 Prayer Book’s contents. For example, for one school of thought anointing the sick with oil was a sacrament; for the other it was an apostolic practice that we are free to emulate. The rite itself does not expressly adopt either position.

While the compilers of the 1928 Prayer Book and the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book used The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 as their model for their revision of the American Prayer Book, the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book compilers go well beyond the first Edwardian Prayer Book, much further than did the compilers of the 1928 Prayer Book. The Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book is far less reformed and far less Scriptural than the 1928 Prayer Book. Its departure from the widely-recognized standard of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is far greater.

In a number of places the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book not only embodies the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, it explicitly affirms it. It is hardly a comprehensive Prayer Book, a Prayer Book that seeks to embrace the entire range of thinking on doctrine and liturgical usages in the Anglican Church in North America. Even the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book were more inclusive of the various schools of thought in the English Church and the Scottish Church in the early twentieth century than is the Proposed 2019 ACNA Prayer Book is of those in the Anglican Church in North America in this century.

In the twenty first century all kinds of churches are needed to reach the United States’ growing unchurched population—large churches, small churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, new churches, revitalized or replanted churches, churches that are in a unique category of their own.

While we can no longer rely on our worship services as our sole means of outreach, they still play an important part in the mission strategy of an Anglican church. They continue to be a major entry point into the church.

The 1928 Prayer Book has its strengths and Anglican churches using the 1928 Prayer Book should make the most of them. We can use these strengths to reshape its rites and services for mission. The purpose of this article series is to help those occupying a position of leadership in an Anglican church that uses the 1928 Prayer Book to make its rites and services more mission-oriented.

Common Prayer, or Predictable Politics


As Western society continues its relentless purge of the pre-political, the body count keeps mounting. Yesterday's harmless activity—say, boys-only scouting—is tomorrow’s act of cisgendered heteronormative patriarchal oppression of the Other. Like some dreaded mutating bacillus, the political slowly but surely absorbs—and spoils—everything.

I was reminded of this recently when I was given as a gift the Folio Society’s edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Like all Folio Society volumes, the Prayer Book is a thing of beauty. And though the Prayer Book was, at least historically for my Presbyterian tradition, an instrument of social control through its imposition by the Act of Uniformity in 1662 (and thus scarcely pre-political in practical application), its content reflects a form of Christianity that ultimately reflected not so much the politics of Reformation England as the basic elements of historic Christianity and of earthly existence. Those elements include the God of the catholic creeds, and human life bookended by birth and death and lived in world full of the joys and sorrows, drudgery and delights, of ordinary, universal human experiences—love, marriage, illness, bereavement. There are services and prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that address all of these hardy perennials, connecting them to the Trinitarian God revealed in Jesus Christ.

That, I suspect, is one reason why the basics of the Prayer Book stayed in place for so long, with revisions being for many generations of the minor sort. Consensus on the fundamentals remained steady, and the changes were accordingly cosmetic. By contrast, the last century has witnessed liturgical change after liturgical change wrought by the various Anglican and Episcopal groupings around the world. None of these changes, as far as I can tell, embodies anything like significant improvement in either prose style or theological content. Tracing the revisions would no doubt prove a fruitful, if depressing, topic for a Ph.D. thesis, as the revisions witness to an age of restlessness and shortsighted obsession with the latest fads. Read More