Friday, August 22, 2014
I’ve worked with a lot of church plants. And, I’ve been involved in two — as a planter. Every planter goes into the process hoping to see lives changed with the Gospel. Hoping to grow. Some work. Some don’t.
Why is that?
Well, of course, there are spiritual factors at work. Some sow seeds and others reap harvest. Sometimes God uses the plant in a unique way — that doesn’t produce huge numbers of attendees. And, frankly, sometimes the planter had no business planting. It was never really what they were called to do. It looked “exciting” from the outside — all the “cool” people are doing it, but God had a different plan for the planter’s life.
But, speaking specifically about strategic type of reasons a church plant doesn’t grow, I’ve observed a few things. Read more
Photo: North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:43 AM
This is the second post in a three-part series. Click here for the first post, Great Small Church Leadership Teams Aren’t Hired, They’re Built. The third and final post, outlining some of the advantages and challenges of training and hiring from inside the church, will come on Monday, August 25.
The #1 calling of a pastor is not to do the work of the ministry. And it’s not to fill people’s heads with bible information.
According to no less an authority than the Apostle Paul, it is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:12).
Believers want to be discipled – despite what it may look like at times. They always have, they always will. This generation is no exception.
When we put those truths together, it adds up to good news for Small Churches. Let’s find willing hearts. Train disciples. And build teams.
No, not every person we disciple will develop into a church leader. Not all of them are supposed to. Many of them won’t even stay in our church, but will be called to minister at other churches or (even better) in their neighborhoods. But some will be called to lead in their local church. And they can make great church leadership teams.
That’s what we’ve done in our Small Church. We don’t hire from the outside. We train from the inside. We fell into it because we couldn’t afford to pay “professionals”, but now we’d do it even if we could afford it.
No, it isn’t easy. I’ve been pastoring my current church for almost 22 years and it’s only been in the last 10 years or so that we feel like we’re doing it well. My hope is that you can learn from our mistakes, so it won’t take you nearly as long to do this well. Read more
What’s the Solution to Your Leadership Problem? [Video]
Photo: Trinity Episcopal Church, Fulton, Kentucky
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:23 AM
“Be ye kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32).
For good reason, young beginning pastors do not take the standard old texts for their first sermons. Few feel qualified to produce a full sermon on such subjects as:
John 3:16. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). Salvation by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Love one another (John 13:34-35). Forgiveness. The home. Kindness (see above).
That’s why beginning preachers almost always gravitate to the exotic texts. They find those strange little metaphors, unusual verses, and unfamiliar images and light on them.
Perhaps it’s easier to get their minds around such, I don’t know. One of my first sermons was suggested by “a house in a cucumber patch,” from Isaiah 1:8. That image had brought to mind an old bungalow where some relatives of ours used to live far out in the country, but which was later abandoned and soon completely covered by kudzu vines. Eventually, a massive mound of green vines stood there, hiding what used to be a house. What point my sermon made from that has long been forgotten.
Why didn’t I preach on grander (and safer?) subjects like the incarnation of Jesus, His miracles, His amazing teachings and sinless life, and of course, His death, burial, and resurrection? Answer: Any of those subjects would be so huge and I felt so small.
I could no more preach a full-length sermon on John 3:16 than swim the Atlantic. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:04 AM
As Nehemiah was leading the revitalization process in Jerusalem, some key moments emerged where he recognized the need to clarify the vision and keep the people focused. Like in chapter four, the work of the people to rebuild the wall is being ridiculed, and Nehemiah responds: "After I made an inspection, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, 'Don't be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes.'" (Neh. 4:14 HCSB)
Isn't that what vision is all about? Nehemiah appeals to the fact that what they are doing is bigger than they are. In other words, it's not about them. It's about God, and it's about fighting for each other. He makes it about the Lord and "us" again.
Granted, it's hard to find a real outreach focus in Nehemiah. However, we know from Scripture that God's ultimate purpose for Israel was to be a blessing to all nations, and even Jesus pointed out this intention in the Gospel of Mark based on the Old Testament; "Is it not written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?'" (11:17 HCSB) The problem is that Israel never really understood God's desire and intention when He chose them. Having said that, Nehemiah did provide an example of outward focus and ministry by abolishing the usury practices in chapter five. In addition, he didn't take advantage of the privileges of being a governor because he knew the burden was heavy on the people. Unlike former governors who took advantage of the people and were domineering, Nehemiah "didn't do this, because of the fear of God. Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of the wall, and all my subordinates were gathered there for work. We didn't buy any land. There were 150 Jews and officials, as well as guests from the surrounding nations at my table." (Neh. 5:15-17 HCSB) Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:00 AM
When I don’t have to watch lectures for class over my lunch hour, I like watching TED Talks. If you’ve never heard of TED Talks, learn about them here. Though some raise healthy cautions about the TED Talk concept, they get me thinking, which is always good (and dangerous).
Last year I watched a great TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan, world-renowned writer and speaker (among other things), on the topic of “willful blindness.” The video is at the bottom of the post if you’re interested.
What is “willful blindness,” you ask? Ms. Heffernan defines it, in short, as “information that you should know and could know, but somehow manage not to know.” It is a legal term, basically saying that you have chosen not to know.
It’s everywhere, she says, citing a number of different cases of corruption and abuse in business, religion, government, and otherwise. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:57 AM
Robby Gallaty. Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2013. 248 pp. $14.99.
Robby Gallaty is a friend of mine and a godly man who loves Jesus and wants others to love Jesus. His passion to help people live out the glorious commission of our Lord is evident in his life and in this book. But friendship aside, I read Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples as a pastor looking for a good resource to challenge me and those I’m discipling. In fact, I read it with a few guys from my church (Tim, Dan, Luis) and spent an early Friday morning talking through things we liked about the book as well as things we felt were lacking.
We all agreed Gallaty’s personal touch and well-illustrated writing make for an easy read. Growing Up is a resource accessible for just about anyone, and each of us read it in a few days. It’s organized in two sections. The first four chapters lay out our Lord’s call to be disciples who make disciples. These chapters highlight Gallaty’s personal transformation through discipleship, his recommendation to be in a discipleship group (a.k.a. “D-Group,” three to five people committed to 12 to 18 months of weekly discipling meetings), and the call to train ourselves for godliness in the context of discipleship relationships.
The remaining six chapters give practical prescriptions that should mark the lives of growing disciples. These chapters follow the acrostic C.L.O.S.E.R., each letter representing a spiritual discipline that helps develop a closer walk with Jesus. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:51 AM
Christian minorities in central India face a new threat as Hindu extremists in more than a dozen village councils have passed resolutions imposing restrictions on religions other than Hinduism.
The laws, passed under the guise of stopping false conversions, made Christian prayer, services and "propaganda" illegal, World Watch Monitor reported. The Bastar district president of the World Hindu Council, Suresh Yadav, told The Times of India that more than 50 village councils have banned all non-Hindu missionaries.
The state government of Chhattisgarh, where the tribal Bastar villages are located, has not intervened to strike down the rules but plans to monitor developments, according to the Times. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal told the newspaper that village councils were wrong to think they could pass resolutions that override constitutional protections. Pannalal noted that Article 25 of India's constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 7:44 AM
Thursday, August 21, 2014
In his recent interview with Jacob Stubbs ACNA Archbishop Foley Beech equated Anglican confessionalism with the recitation of the Creeds. In making that statement, he expressed what may be described as a revisionist reinterpretation of Anglican confessionalism. Anglicanism is confessional because the Church of England adopted a Reformed confession of faith—the Articles of Religion of 1571, also known as the Thirty-Nine Articles. While the Thirty-Nine Articles are the shortest Reformed confession of faith, the Articles are nonetheless such a confession like the French Confession of Faith of 1559. As Richard Begbie points to our attention in The Anglican Faith: A Layman’s Guide (1993), the Creeds are not a complete statement of the truth. They “are not so much a statement of what we are to believe as what to believe on such doctrines as are included in them.”
The Thirty-Nine Articles sets out the positions of historic Anglicanism on a number of key issues. These issues are not just relevant to the Church in the sixteenth century, they are relevant to the Church today. The argument that the Church has moved on since the sixteenth century is intended to befuddle and confuse Anglicans and to persuade them that it is acceptable to adopt positions on such issues, which are different from those of the Articles.
The two groups who are likely to make this argument are Anglo-Catholics and liberals. Anglo-Catholics do not like the Articles because they are in their estimation too Protestant and Reformed. Liberals do not like them because they consider them too orthodox. Basically the two groups do not like the Articles for the same reason: the Articles do not countenance their particular beliefs and practices.
The GAFCON Theological Resource Group identifies Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism as the two major challenges to the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies today. Both Anglo-Catholics and liberals champion the idea of a “continuously developing Anglican tradition.” This evolving Anglican tradition naturally gives a prominent place to their own beliefs and practices and their championing of it is entirely self-serving.
Those who subscribe to “three-streams, one river” theology also embrace the idea of a “continuously developing Anglican tradition.” The evolution of the Anglican tradition that they champion replaces the via media model of the Anglican Church of the nineteenth and twentieth century with a new model in which the Anglican Church is portrayed as convergence of three disparate theological streams—Catholic, Evangelical, and Pentecostal, and a reconstruction of the pre-Great Schism Church of the eleventh century. This new model reduces evangelicalism to an emphasis upon the Scriptures and Pentecostalism to an emphasis upon the Holy Spirit and gives a central place to the beliefs and practices of Eastern Orthodoxy and pre-Reformation, post-Tridentian Roman Catholicism. It may be described as Anglo-Catholicism in a new guise.
The old Anglo-Catholicism, liberalism, and the new Anglo-Catholicism all collide head on with the doctrine of the Thirty-Nine Articles and ultimately with the teaching of the Scriptures. The proposed canons of the Church of England of 1571 maintain that without any doubt the Thirty-Nine Articles “are gathered out of the holy books of the old, and new Testament, and in all points agree with the heavenly doctrine contained in them.” Canon A2 of the present day canons of the Church of England states: “The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.”
The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future (2008) states:
“While honouring the Creeds, Anglican orthodoxy also upholds the substance of the Protestant confessions, recognizing that they contain key insights into the truth of the gospel. In particular, it offers the Articles of Religion as an abiding contribution to the wider Christian church, and claims them as normative for its members.”
The 2008 GAFCON Conference in the Jerusalem Declaration states: “We uphold the Thirty-Nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and authoritative for Anglicans today.”
The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today (2009) draw to our attention that the Thirty-Nine Articles “have long been recognized as the doctrinal standard of Anglicanism, alongside the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.” It goes on to emphasize, “The authority of the Articles comes from their agreement with the teaching of Scripture.” It further emphasizes, “…acceptance of their authority is constitutive of Anglican identity.”
In North America we find old and new Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church in North America joining with liberals in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in their rejection of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Fundamental Declarations of the Anglican Church in North America equivocate in their acceptance of the Articles’ authority. To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism and Texts for Common Prayer, to which the ACNA College of Bishops has given its endorsement, are a repudiation of their authority and by extension the authority of the Scriptures. If the Articles are normative for Anglicans and form a critical element of Anglican identity, the GAFCON Primates were premature in recognizing the Anglican Church in North America as “a genuine expression of Anglicanism.”
One is forced to ask by what standard—the Thirty-Nine Articles? Or by the broader standard of the 1958 Lambeth Conference, which substituted the acceptance of the Creeds, a common structure for the Holy Eucharist, and the historic episcopate for the doctrine of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 as a unifying principle for the Anglican Church and made no mention of the Articles. By this standard, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church could be viewed as “Anglican.” Even the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church can be considered to meet these criteria. They accepts the Creeds on paper, share a common structure for the Holy Eucharist, and retain the historic episcopate, albeit “locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.”
In their Letter of Commendation in the Introduction to To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America maintain that the ACNA’s adherence to the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 is an adequate basis for the denomination’s claim to being Anglican. The Lambeth Quadrilateral was conceived as a foundation for re-union with the Roman Catholic Church, not as an outline of the essentials of Anglican identity. The Episcopal Church has made a similar claim. Under the four articles of the Lambeth Quadrilateral the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church could also be viewed as “Anglican.” The need for a more nuanced basis for Anglican identity, however, prompted the development of the Anglican Communion Covenant as well as the Jerusalem Declaration.
As Gillis J. Harp, professor of history at Garden City College, observed a number of years ago, Anglicanism in North America will not be on the road to recovery until it restores the Thirty-Nine Articles to their rightful place in the faith and life of the Anglican Church in Canada and the United States. As long as it fails to recognize the Articles for what they are—“a faithful testimony to the teaching of Scripture,” which excludes “erroneous beliefs and practices and gives “a distinct shape to Anglican Christianity,” it will continue on its present destructive course. In the Anglican Church in North America a new driver may have taken the wheel but the bus is stilling heading for the precipice.
In the same interview Archbishop Beech describes To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism as “missional.” “Missional” has become something of a buzzword in the twenty-first century. Its meaning varies with whoever is using it. From his statements Beech views the catechism as “missional” on the basis of Part I of that document. Part I takes a synergistic Arminian view of God and salvation and its presuppositions are not consistent with the faithful witness of the Articles to what the Scriptures teach. See Does the New ACNA Catechism Teach a Synergistic Arminian View of God and Salvation?
From a Biblical and Reformed view Part I of To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism represents a questionable depiction of the way of salvation. For those who do not accept its presuppositions, Part I is far from “missional.”
As one examines To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism, one encounters repeated departures from the teaching of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies or distortions of the same teaching and doctrine. One is prompted to ask how a catechism that repeatedly puts forward as the teaching of the Anglican Church what historic Anglicanism has viewed as false teaching serves the mission of a purportedly Anglican Church?
One also encounters sections of the catechism that permit those using the catechism to instruct inquirers in the unreformed Catholic beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. The same license is not extended to those who wish to instruct inquirers in the Protestant and Reformed beliefs of historic Anglicanism. Here again one is prompted to ask how a catechism that allows such teaching serves the mission of a purportedly Anglican Church?
The answer to both questions, of course, is that it does not.
The answer to both questions, of course, is that it does not.
In the interview Archbishop Beech identifies himself as an evangelical. He also claims that the Anglican Reformers and the late John Stott influenced his thinking. However, his promotion of To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism and Texts for Common Prayer belie these statements. The doctrine of both documents is clearly at odds with what the Anglican Reformers and John Stott believed in a number of critical areas. As my grandparents were fond of saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” One can say all kinds of things but if one’s actions do not line up with one’s words, what one says means nothing.
The actions of the ACNA College of Bishops have been speaking very loudly. What its actions are saying is that the ACNA bishops reject Point 4 of the Jerusalem Declaration and other key points. In rejecting these points, they are rejecting GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.
I am under no misapprehension that any of the GAFCON Primates read this blog. However, if any do, I would urge them to reconsider their recognition of the Anglican Church in North America and support a new initiative to establish an alternative jurisdiction to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, a jurisdiction which fully accepts the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican formularies.
The Anglican Church in North America may not be kept from going over the edge of the cliff. North American Anglicanism does not have to plunge into the ravine with it.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 3:08 PM
Because we live in a fallen and imperfect world, a world subjected to futility, leaders will face difficult and trying seasons. Budgets won’t be met. Teams will struggle. Strategic and tactical decisions will prove not to be the best. Plans won’t be executed as well as they should. Contexts will change. Some of the difficulties are out of our control; some are results from or reflections of our leadership. Godly and great leaders are far from immune to rough seasons in their leadership. In fact, difficult and tumultuous times are certain.
In the midst of difficult times, a leader’s voice and leadership are necessary. He or she cannot be silent. Leaders who communicate bad news well build credibility with the people they lead and those they report to. Here are three thoughts on delivering bad news well. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 2:12 PM
In 1997, Mark Thompson wrote in Churchman: 'If I am not mistaken there is a concerted attempt being made at present to redefine what it means to be an evangelical Christian. A number of prominent people around the world are trying to broaden the term, to encompass a variety of perspectives which were once quite alien to evangelical thought and practice.'
These were people whom, I’m fairly sure, would not subscribe to all the Reformation solas. Many of them did not believe in substitutionary penal atonement, or in the absolute authority – much less infallibility - of Scripture. They were certainly not complementarian. As far as I know, the churches they attended were not characterised by expository preaching or anything like a traditional evangelical ethos. So why would they use the word?
Eventually I was able to discern that by ‘evangelical’ they meant something like ‘I have some familiarity with, and appreciation of, the Bible’. To them, ‘evangelical’ meant, in a vague way, ‘Bible-related’. I suppose I should be grateful that we as evangelicals are associated in people’s minds with the Bible – there are certainly worse things. However it suggested to me that we have lost our grasp on the word ‘evangelical’. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 2:06 PM
I wonder whether you have ever played ‘The Dictionary Game’. On holiday earlier this year I was reintroduced to this very simple, amusing, and brain-stretching pastime. All you need are a good number of participants, some paper and pens, and, of course, a dictionary. One player looks through the dictionary to find a word which is unknown to the others. Each player is then invited to write a dictionary-style definition for that word. The definitions are collected; the dictionary’s answer is added to them; they are all shuffled and read out loud. Then everyone guesses which is the correct definition.
When we played the game with friends earlier this year, there were moments of near hysterical laughter – some of the definitions were bizarre, some outrageous. It was all good fun. Of course it is even more fun when one or more of the players give up trying to guess the dictionary’s answer and just go for the laughs.
But sometimes in real life I get the feeling people are still playing ‘The Dictionary Game’. Some very important words are being stretched beyond the bounds of all credibility. You have recognized the same thing, no doubt. Sometimes, of course, it does not matter that a word is being redefined. After all, ours is a living, developing language. None of us really wants to go back to Elizabethan English. But at other times much, much more is involved; the redefinition matters.
If I am not mistaken there is a concerted attempt being made at present to redefine what it means to be an evangelical Christian. A number of prominent people around the world are trying to broaden the term, to encompass a variety of perspectives which were once quite alien to evangelical thought and practice. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 2:01 PM
Liturgical worship is the rage among many evangelicals. 'Not so fast,' says a liturgical Christian.
The service was undeniably beautiful. Dedicated pastors and volunteers had planned it for weeks. There were banners, incense, and altar decorations. The sanctuary was packed: more than 1,000 folks overflowed the seats, latecomers standing along the sides and back. The congregation participated with gusto. But after receiving Communion, they marched out of the sanctuary. By the closing hymn, only a few folks dotted the pews that just five minutes before had been filled to bursting.
Some left to cram in work, but many in this particular group were on their way to that night’s parties. In another five hours, many would be passed out on the couches of friends or strangers, a few would be rushed by ambulance for alcohol poisoning treatment, and, most horrific, some would be sexually assaulting their peers or suffering such violence. It was the weekend, and the community in question was a Christian university. The school was by no means a place where only lip service was paid to Christian ideals: students eagerly participated in voluntary ministry, including planning that night’s service. So why were their late-night identities so disconnected from their church identities?
A growing number of evangelicals view failures of faithfulness as lapses in liturgical formation—or claim that participating in liturgical worship is key to transforming our character. Beginning with Robert Webber’s now-classic Ancient-Future series and continuing with such gems as Mark Galli’s Beyond Smells and Bells, the movement has produced much good work inspiring evangelicals to incorporate liturgical elements into their services. Calvin College professor James K. A. Smith’s multi-volume Cultural Liturgies project is fast becoming the most influential development of this stance. Given the depth and impact of his arguments, I focus here on Smith’s defense of liturgical evangelicalism. Read more
Rightly administering the Lord's Supper is a mark of a true church. It occupies a critically important place in the life of God's people as a memorial of Christ, the message of the gospel, and a means of his grace. Yet, even among those who share this perspective there remain differences in practice. I will address the frequency of the Lord's Supper in a later post, but I would first like to address the method of partaking of the bread and the cup; specifically, whether or not we should keep the bread and the wine separate (eating and then drinking) or combine the elements by dipping the bread into the wine and then consuming both together.
I know that some of you will read this and think that this is straining out a gnat, missing the forrest for the trees, or spending too much time on a trivial matter. But in my estimation this is an important matter we should consider seriously.
Let me say up front that there are godly and learned men who come to different conclusions after serious biblical and theological reflection. Unfortunately, I believe most simply do what they do (on either side) out of mere tradition or convenience. Read more
The Lord's Supper; For Sinners
The Lord's Supper: Open or Closed?
The Lord's Supper: Fencing the Table
The Lord's Supper: A Means of Grace
The Lord's Supper: Only in the Assembly
The Lord's Supper: How Often
The Lord's Supper: Wine or Welch's?
The Lord's Supper: Resources
Is it a Sin for a Christian to Drink Alcohol or Wine?
In this article series Joe Thorn offers a Reformed Baptist view of the Lord's Supper. For Reformed Baptists the Lord's Supper is not just "a bare memorial" but a means of grace. See the Reformed Baptist 1689 Second London Confession of Faith, Chapter 30."7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses. (1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)" This is essentially what the English Reformers believed, the Anglican formularies teach, and conservative Anglican evangelicals hold to this day.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:34 PM
Discipleship isn’t some mystical process performed in classrooms or monasteries. It’s simply helping one another follow Jesus. And because we don’t just follow Jesus at church, but in everyday life, making disciples is meant to be carried out in all arenas of life. Real simple, real-life discipleship happens in the grocery store as well as the sanctuary, in the backyard as well as the Sunday school classroom.
Understanding the real-life context of discipleship demystifies the process and propels all of us into our God-given mission. That’s why discipleship isn’t about perfection; it’s about authenticity. Here’s the difference. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:58 PM
The Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomes the unanimous request of The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina to “accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight of our ministry as a diocese during the temporary period of our discernment of our final provincial affiliation. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:47 PM
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
One New Testament book that especially emphasizes God’s astounding sovereign grace is Paul’s letter to the Romans. According to Paul, this grace makes both Jew and Gentile co-heirs of God’s kingdom with faithful Abraham (Rom. 4:16). It establishes peace between God and sinners who are His enemies (Rom. 5:2). Since only this grace is stronger than the forces of sin, it brings genuine and lasting freedom from sin’s dominion (Rom. 5:20-21; 6:14). Divine grace equips Christian men and women with varied gifts to serve in the church of God (Rom. 12:6). This grace ultimately will conquer death and is the sure harbinger of eternal life for all who receive it (Rom. 5:20-21), for it is a grace that reaches back into the aeons before the creation of time and, without respect to human merit, chooses men and women for salvation (Rom. 11:5-6). Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:55 AM
There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: . . . a time to plant and a time to uproot. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, HCSB)You are frustrated. Or hurting. Or just don’t know if you can take it any more.
You may be in a difficult relationship. You may be in a job you hate. You may be the pastor of a church, and things just aren’t going the way you had planned.
And you are thinking about quitting. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:46 AM
A self-aware shepherd should follow these three, pragmatic steps toward accurately identifying specific ministry skills he or she is lacking.
Perhaps you have a stellar reputation as an empathetic caregiver who quietly reads Scripture at the bedside of a sick or dying parishioner. Yet people may also know you as a mind-numbing, wake-me-up-when-the-sermon-is-over preacher.
You may parse Hebrew verbs but cannot decipher the myriad rows of numbers slathered across a spreadsheet for the upcoming annual church business meeting.
Maybe you believe a “strategic plan” in your ministry is an increase in your housing allowance and the installation of a new double sink in the women’s restroom.
Regardless of your quasi-divine reputation, look down. You do have feet of clay. While you excel at some theological tasks, you probably struggle in other areas. Consider this question: In what part of your ministry are you failing? Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:42 AM
Consider these 10 prohibitions when it’s time to end your sermon.
Have you ever heard Mark Twain’s take on sermon brevity?1
He valued it. Once he listened to a preacher for 5 minutes, and, subsequently, was ready to contribute $50. After 10 minutes more of the sermon, he reduced the amount of his contribution to $25. After 30 minutes more, he cut the sum to $5. At the end of an entire hour of oratory, when the plate was passed, he stole $2.
In light of dwindling attention spans, I give to you the following prohibitions when it’s time to end your sermon. I’m right there with you, confessing my transgressions and asking for help, hoping to end each sermon well. I implore you to join me and walk the path of thoughtful preaching, especially when it comes to the sermon conclusion. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:40 AM
Speaking the Truth in Love: Why Evangelism Isn't Intolerant
How can the Church carry on its God-given mandate in an atmosphere filled with spiritual indifference, at best, and militant opposition, at worst? In such a cynical environment, how can Christians effectively proclaim the gospel? And how do our perceptions of evangelism differ from those outside the faith? Read more
Keeping Compassion and Evangelism Together
While we cannot lead people to Christ apart from sharing the gospel message, it is unlikely our message will receive serious consideration if our lives contradict what we proclaim. Here is how to keep evangelism and compassion together. Read more
Four ways to make sharing your faith more natural. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:26 AM
The Episcopal Church has sold off to a Baptist church a property once used by a congregation that broke away from the denomination over theological differences.
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut sold the property formerly called Bishop Seabury Episcopal of Groton to a local Baptist church.
Stedfast Baptist Church, a congregation also located in Groton, purchased the property and last Friday made it their new home according to an Episcopal Church in Connecticut press release.
Bishop Seabury Anglican formerly owned the property, having left the Episcopal Church over the denomination's increasingly liberal theology, including on the issue of homosexuality. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 8:16 AM
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
If you're like me, there are days when I have to scratch my head at the state of our world -- days when I have to say, "How can that be true?" Sometimes I wonder if what I feel about our world matches up with what I know about our world. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:04 PM
The Assemblies of God enters a new era of world missions service that will look and feel much different than the world of 1914. What valuable lessons can the AG learn by drawing on its missiological knowledge accumulated during our history?
One hundred years ago, the Assemblies of God grounded its very purpose in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The often-quoted declaration from the second General Council remains quite remarkable: “We commit ourselves and the Movement to Him for the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.”
This statement of purpose reflected more than the optimistic exuberance of a small band of Pentecostal preachers. It symbolized their collective calling to take the gospel to the ends of the Earth, daring to believe in Jesus’ promise to enable them, by the Spirit’s power, to fulfill the task (Acts 1:8).
Advancing this vision, the third General Council adopted a formal statement in 1915 urging the movement to “exert all its powers” toward promoting the evangelization of the lost according to New Testament methods.1 To strengthen this commitment, the 1921 Council declared that it would seek “to establish self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing native churches.”2
This statement defined the strategic method by which the Assemblies of God would fulfill its mission of evangelization.
From a fledgling group of 300 people in 1914, the Assemblies of God has grown to more than 67.5 million members and over 350,000 local churches worldwide. One major factor that contributed to the success of our mission is the long-standing commitment to plant indigenous churches and train local leaders wherever missionaries serve. Though some may question whether the philosophy of the indigenous church remains adequate for our contemporary missional context, this method remains highly effective as we seek to fulfill the unfinished task of reaching the lost. Read more
A good introduction to the principles of indigenous church planting. These principles are applicable to the mission field in North America as well as the mission field outside of North America. Canada, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and the United States and its territories are culturally, ethnically, linguistically, and racially diverse with many unreached and unengaged people groups.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:56 PM
In my early 20’s, I worked for a Jewish businessman who knew I was a Christian interested in history. He was also sensitive to Protestant history because Protestant families had protected Jews in their homes during World War II. One day he invited me into his home and gave me a Bible printed in 1638. This Bible included a printing of the French Confession of Faith, unlike most Bibles from that era.
Years later, in the first church that I pastored, a history professor in attendance saw this Bible and called me over to him. He pointed to a signature on the bottom of the last page of the confession.
“Samy, do you know what this means?” he asked.
“I have no idea,” I said.
“It means this Bible was given in the seventeenth century to a young pastor named Jacques Lafon, who signed it to say ‘I commit myself to preach faithfully according to the gospel and the confession of faith,” he said, “You would not find this in any museum. Where did you get this Bible?”
I told him the story, and by God’s providence, the Bible has returned to the place where the confession was written, very close to where we are planting a church in an old theatre on the Rue de Nesle in the Latin Quarter of Paris. And it turns out, the vision of our church is to plant in a neighborhood with deep roots in the Reformation and to connect the people around us to this vision. Read more
The French Confession of Faith (1559)
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:30 PM
Hugh Palmer, from All Souls’ Langham Place, spoke on “Growing the next generation” at last year’s Equipped Ministry Assembly run by the East Anglia Gospel Partnership.
Well worth taking the time to be encouraged and directed back to the work of the gospel.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:22 PM
“I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
My immediate concern is always with the Lord’s church, but this principles applies everywhere.
I am pro-pastor. Always and forever. Anyone who reads the blog and knows me will agree that I honor the pastor. God made me a pastor at the age of 22, and I’ve been one ever since.
However, we have a problem.
In churches across our land tyrants can be found who call themselves pastors and demand to be obeyed. Such men are unqualified to do anything in the kingdom and must be dealt with by courageous men and women in the pews.
Otherwise, they will corrupt the gospel, destroy the church, wound the weak, and drive away many who need Christ.
In the Kingdom of God, leaders are required to be servants. Read more
Photo: Calvin Carter
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:17 PM
Whether you've been preaching 30 days or 30 years, every new Sunday brings unexpected dangers and blessings. Questions abound: Will God show up? Did I understand the text? Why didn't I devote more time to studying? How will this message change someone today?
Preaching isn't something anyone can master, because the goal is to allow God in his Word to master the preacher. Nevertheless we desire to grow in our passion and ability to proclaim the glory and truth revealed in the Scriptures. So we asked three TGC Council members—Bryan Chapell, Mike Bullmore, and Alistair Begg—to walk us through the glory and challenge of sermon preparation, which starts for the next week the moment you say the benediction after the service ends on Sunday.
Watch and listen as these ministry veterans discuss the danger of preaching a dead or distant man's sermons and the need to integrate homiletics instruction with biblical theology. And look out for Begg's catchy method that ends with praying himself hot. Watch now
Sermon Preparation [Video]
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:03 PM
I know the church is not a building. That is not to say, though, that the building is unimportant. A building says something about the congregation that gathers there; so, we need to pay attention to our facilities.
Listed here are fifteen facility issues I and my consulting teams have seen recurrently in churches, including established churches and church plants. Read more
The Journey, in which I am involved, uses rented facilities--the Curris Center on the campus of Murray State University. The rooms and areas that we occupy on Sunday serve other uses during the week. We have flag banners, sandwich board signs, and greeters at the two entrances guests use to enter the building--the main entrance on the first floor and the side entrance on the second floor. We have a children's ministry sign-in center and middle school ministry sign-in center on the first floor and a children's ministry sign-in center and a welcome center on the third floor. Banners and portable signs clearly mark each center, which typically has at least two or more people in attendance. Sandwich board signs on the first and second floors direct guests to the atrium stairs and the main elevator. We do not use paper signs or bulletin boards. We do use computerized announcements on large flat screen TVs, which are kept up-to-date. We have security people at all entrances to the children's areas and the one outside door, while unlocked in a case of a fire, is closely monitored. The doors in the children's areas are glass or have windows in them. We have no clutter. We set up every Sunday morning and put out only what we need. Everything is else kept in its storage totes. We put cover inserts in the electrical outlets in the preschool rooms. We vacuum carpets if they need it. Guest services is responsible for ensuring that restrooms have toilet paper, liquid soap, and paper towel. Guest services puts out hand lotion and sanitary napkins in the women's restrooms and mouthwash and breath mints in the men's bathrooms. We have no control over the lighting in the lobbies, which could be brighter. Guest services also makes sure that there are no overflowing garbage cans in the bathrooms and other public areas. If a mobile church can give this much attention to rented facilities it uses once a week, a church that has its own building can do even more.Photos: Curris Center, exterior and atrium
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 11:44 AM
Boko Haram's attacks in northern Nigeria have been well documented in the past year, but now its aim of forming an Islamic caliphate in the region is becoming a reality in the predominantly Christian Yobe and Borno States.
But while the British and American forces support the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq, the Nigerian Army struggles to combat the surprisingly sophisticated militant group with limited international support.
"The possible dangers for Nigeria and the region if this insurgency is not contained may have been underestimated, as has Boko Haram's military capacity," says Dr Khataza Gondwe, team leader for Africa and the Middle East at Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 10:22 AM
Monday, August 18, 2014
By Robin G. Jordan
If you are a clergyperson or layperson in the Anglican Church in North America and have been feeling uneasy about the direction in which the denomination is heading, you have every reason to feel that way. The direction of the Anglican Church in North America is clearer now than it have ever been. If you have harbored any hope that that the new Archbishop Foley Beech might be a reform Archbishop, his recent interview with Jacob Stubbs should have deflated that hope.
In that interview Archbishop Beech demonstrated that he clearly understood a main part of the job description of Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, that is, portray the ACNA in the most positive light that he can. Beech showed himself as adroit at ducking potentially controversial issues and redirecting the conversation to less controversial subjects—those about which he preferred to talk. His responses, like those of his predecessor, did not reveal a great deal about his own position on sensitive issues except where his position is already known. A number of his answers were a little too pat.
The College of Bishops elected Beech because its members recognized Beech for what he is—a “company man,” a “yes man,” someone who would not buck his fellow bishops and who would not try to take the denomination in a new direction. He could be relied upon to maintain the status quo.
Beech voted to endorse To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism with the rest of the College of Bishops. To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism teaches unreformed Catholic doctrine or permits its teaching. He is promoting the use of Texts for Common Prayer in his own diocese--the Diocese of the South. Texts for Common Prayer gives liturgical expression to unreformed Catholic doctrine and is open to interpretation as countenancing such doctrine.
Beech voted to endorse To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism with the rest of the College of Bishops. To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism teaches unreformed Catholic doctrine or permits its teaching. He is promoting the use of Texts for Common Prayer in his own diocese--the Diocese of the South. Texts for Common Prayer gives liturgical expression to unreformed Catholic doctrine and is open to interpretation as countenancing such doctrine.
Over the next five years you can expect to discover if you have not discovered already….
- Don’t believe an unbeliever can have a vital faith before he is made regenerate by the Holy Spirit.
- Don’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given exclusively at baptism.
- Don’t believe that Christ offers himself for the sins of the world through the words and actions of the priest at the Eucharist.
- Don’t believe that “the Eucharist is the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself….”
- Don’t believe that Christ is substantively present in the consecrated bread and wine at the Eucharist.
- Don’t believe that confirmation is a Biblical ordinance, much less a sacrament.
- Don’t believe that anyone can confer a special gift or grace by placing one or both hands on someone else.
- Don’t believe that anyone can be made a successor to the apostles by the virtue of his consecration as a bishop in a line of bishops going back to the apostles.
- Don’t believe that the Scriptures mandate a particular form of church government.
You’re in the wrong church!
If you do…
- Believe that the Thirty-Nine Articles contains the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with the Word of God and is as authoritative as God’s Word for Anglicans today as in the past.
- Believe that any interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles must take into full consideration “its original historical context and the original intent of its authors.”
- Believe that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
- Believe that only two sacraments are ordained by God—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- Believe that the sacraments “are God-given signs sending signals about God’s grace” and which “must be received and responded to as such….”
- Believe that the sacrifice of Christ was his once-for-all death on Calvary, and does not in way continue into the present, and that in the Eucharist we not only do not repeat that sacrifice, but also we do not enter in any way into Christ’s offering of himself.
- Believe that the only sacrifice that may be viewed as a legitimate part of worship in the Eucharist is “the responsive sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise that faithful communicants offer after receiving the bread and wine.”
- Believe that “the only element in confirmation which is necessary is the candidate’s personal response of faith to his instruction in God’s word.”
- Believe that ordination is the public recognition of the calling and spiritual gifts of the ordinand, at which the ordinand is formally set apart as a minister of God’s Word with prayer and laying on of hands.
- Believe that bishops and presbyters are first and foremost ministers of God’s Word, belonging to the same order and differing only in the office that they execute.
- Believe that only those who teach what the apostles teach can be truly said to be successors to the apostles.
You’re in the wrong church!!
However, you are in good company. The English Reformer did not believe what you don’t believe and believed what you do believe. Generations of reformed Anglicans did the same thing. A large number of reformed Anglicans do today. If they were in the Anglican Church in North America, they would be in the wrong church too.
What you see in the Anglican Church in North America is the result of Anglo-Catholic promotion of an unreformed Catholic identity for the Anglican Church and liberal promotion of the idea of a “continuously developing Anglican tradition,” an idea that Anglo-Catholics have also promoted. The theory of doctrinal development that dominates both Anglo-Catholic and liberal thinking is traceable to Tractarian-turned-Roman Catholic John Henry Newman.
Those who subscribe to the notion of the Anglican Church in North America as a model of a church in which three disparate theological streams—Catholic, Evangelical, and Pentecostal—flow together as one river have been strongly influenced by this idea. Upon close examination it is quite evident that unreformed Catholicism is the strongest of the three streams flowing in the Anglican Church in North America and the water of the other two streams has been diluted and polluted by this stream.
In the final analysis the three-stream topology does not accurately describe the Anglican Church in North America. Like Newman’s via media theory it provides a convenient screen for the unreformed Catholicization of the Anglican Church.
In the twenty-first century any church can identify itself as “Anglican.” Anglican has become a word to which whoever uses it can assign a meaning. It brings to mind this passage from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"
The Jerusalem Declaration with its recognition of fourteen tenets underpinning Anglican identity was an attempt to rectify this problem. The 2008 GAFCON Conference that adopted the Jerusalem Declaration called for the formation of a province in North America for the federation then known as the Common Cause Partnership.
The jurisdiction that was formed—the Anglican Church in North America—has shown that this attempt was an abysmal failure. While affirming the Jerusalem Declaration on paper, the Anglican Church in North America has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not affirm in practice what the Jerusalem Declaration upholds. For the Anglican Church in North America “affirm” is a word like “Anglican”—it means whatever the Anglican Church in North America chooses it to mean.
What would you do if you discovered that you were in the wrong church?
If you want to experience an “aha” moment about revitalizing churches, this research may be the near the top.
Most of you have heard the dire information and statistics about congregations in North America. Indeed, I have been among the purveyors of the negative news. For sure, the overall picture is gloomy. There is no hiding from that reality. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:25 PM
People often ask me how I was able to hire such a great leadership team in our Small Church.
My answer? We didn’t hire our team. We built it from the inside out. And we’re still building it.
Not one of our staff members was hired from outside the church – other than me. They were all attenders and members who stepped up as volunteers, who developed into leaders, who became staff members. Including my one full-time staff member. He’s been working at the church for 22 years and is now training youth pastors around the world.
And there are a lot of other churches around the country and the world with staff members, both paid and volunteer, who started or developed their ministerial skills at our church. Read more
Loosen the Lid: Let Your Small Church Thrive, Using Bubble-Up Leadership
Four Unexpected Benefits of a Small Church
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:19 PM
What does it mean to be a master in the art of living?
If you asked a hundred different people, you’d get a hundred different opinions. That’s understandable. It’s a vague question. But I read a James Michener quote recently about the art of living that I just can’t get out of my head.
I love his definition.
He says: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” - James Michener
I’m fascinated by this quote. I can’t help but think about how living congruently like this might transform the way we lead and love those around us. And at the same time, I can’t help but think very few of us actually live this way. Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:10 PM
The Importance of Persuasive Preaching
One of the preacher’s jobs is to persuade people away from worldly ways of thinking toward a biblical worldview. We are called to convince people that what the Bible says is true, that the implications of its truthfulness ought to matter to them, and that when its truthfulness is embraced it affects how they live every moment of their life. Since growing in holiness is a lifelong process, we need to call even the most mature Christian away from opinions that are out of accord with Scripture.
It would be nice if persuading our congregations of these things was as simple as constructing a sound argument. Unfortunately, even bulletproof logic can fail to change people’s hearts. In the midst of our sermons, we often think that we are articulating a biblical position with impeccable precision, all while the young professional struggles to see himself as a part of the story we are telling, the stay at home mom can’t see how this applies to dirty diapers, and the high school student is just plain bored. This happens every week to every preacher.
Therefore, the task of preaching requires more than theological accuracy, it requires congregational accuracy – as in accurately aiming your sermon at your congregation in such a way that persuades them to embrace the Bible’s view of life and this world. It doesn’t matter how sharp your arrow is if it’s not pointed at the target. Read more
What Shall We Preach? A Biblical Understanding Of The Gospel
How a biblical understanding of the gospel, focusing on God’s action and our response to it, will change how you preach.
The word “gospel” comes from the Old English gōdspel, comprised of gōd (“good”) and spel (“news, or story”).
This term identifies the best news the world has ever heard. The Greek New Testament words from which “evangel” derives (euangelion and euangelizomai) have roots in the Old Testament Hebrew word bāśar. This verb has to do with announcing good news and bringing news of victory, as in war.
This Hebrew word is most prominent in Isaiah 40–66, chapters that promise the coming of God’s kingly rule as the ultimate good news. It is rendered in the Greek translation of the Old Testament with the verb euangelizomai (cf. Septuagint of Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). Read more
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 1:02 PM
The Annual Moore College Lectures continue this week with special guest Professor Mike Horton from Westminster Seminary California. This year’s topic is “Lord & Life-Giver: The Holy Spirit Changes Everything”.
If you can’t be at Moore College for the lectures, you can live-stream them – or watch later. Recommended!
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:53 PM
Americans like the idea of church attendance much more than they actually like attending church. But they don’t want you to know that.
As has been the case for at least a decade, the number of Americans who say they attend church weekly, occasionally, seldom, or never has remained fairly static.
This is despite the “rise of the Nones,” where the religiously unaffiliated account for some 20 percent of the U.S. population.
A recent survey from Public Religion Research Institute, however, found that those numbers change dramatically when respondents answer online instead of over the the phone. Read more
What Numbers Count? Churches Need Accurate Scorecards
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:48 PM
Saturday, August 16, 2014
In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:
- Straight Talk about a Common Liturgy for the Anglican Church in North America
- Changing the World One Church at a Time
- #Ferguson: Why We Need More Multi-Ethnic Churches
- Four Questions for Better Communications In a Purpose Driven Church
- What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity?
- What Does It Mean to Say Jesus Was "Made Perfect"?
- 7 Examples of Tough, But Smart Leadership Decisions
- The Relational Pastor: Building Bridges, Not Barriers to the Unchurched
- Seven Positive Ways Christians Can Use Social Media
- Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 5:42 PM
During the past sixty years two major events have impacted the development of liturgies in the Anglican Church. The first major event was the 1958 Lambeth Conference’s endorsement of the recommendations contained in the Report of its Sub-Committee on the Book of Common Prayer. Among these recommendations was that the provinces of the Anglican Communion drop the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as its doctrinal and worship standard. This recommendation would have both negative and positive effects.
We have been seeing the effects of not having a more precise unifying principle than acceptance of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, a common structure for the Holy Communion service, and the historic epsicopate playing themselves out in recent years. The Anglican Communion has become an aggregate of provinces with only a past connection to the Church of England holding them together.
Due to the negative effects of the recommendation we tend to loose sight of its positive effects. One of its positive effects was that it would admit as acceptable a wider range of service options for Anglican congregations than previously. The 1958 Lambeth Conference would set its tacit seal of approval on a number of new liturgies then in various stages of development. They included the Church of South India’s The Book of Common Worship (1962) with its three orders for morning and evening worship.
The action of the bishops at the 1958 Lambeth Conference in regard to the acceptability of a broader range of forms of worship was not without precedence. In 1853 a group of Episcopal clergy under the leadership of William August Muhlenberg submitted a memorial to the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops. This memorial raised a very important question:
…whether the Protestant Episcopal Church, with only her present canonical means and appliances, her fixed and invariable modes of public worship and her traditional customs and usages, is competent to the work of preaching and dispensing the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men, and so adequate to do the work of the Lord in this land and in this age?
The conclusion of the memorialists was that the Episcopal Church was not competent to that work. They proposed that Episcopal Church recruit candidates for ordination from other bodies of Christians without requiring from “that entire surrender…of all the liberty in public worship to which they have been accustomed….” The memorial would prompt the strong opposition of both the High Church and Anglo-Catholic parties in the Episcopal Church. These parties viewed the memorial as a statement of solidarity with the denomination’s larger evangelical party.
The response of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops was to refer the memorial to a committee of bishops who presented their report to 1856 General Convention. E. Clowe Chorley in his The New American Prayer Book: Its History and Contents (1929) tells us what happened to this report.
They recommended the discretionary use of Morning Prayer, the Litany and the Ante-Communion as separate services; also the Holy Communion with a sermon. That, at other than the stated morning and evening prayer, ministers might use such parts of the Prayer Book and lessons as would "tend most to edification." The report further provided that diocesan bishops might set forth "such special services as, in their judgment, shall be required by the peculiar spiritual necessities of any class or portion of the population within said dioceses.Chorley also tell us how the larger Church reacted:
In response to a request of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies made in 1853 for a form of prayer for the Increase of the Ministry, the committee recommended the adoption of the following new prayers:
A Prayer for Unity
A Prayer for the Increase of the Ministry
A Prayer for Missions and Missionaries
A Prayer for the Young
A Prayer for a Person about to be exposed to special danger
A Prayer in time of public calamities, dangers, or difficulties
A Thanksgiving for deliverance of a person from any peril
A Prayer for deliverance from public calamities and dangers
A Thanksgiving for the recovery of a sick child
Outside these proposed additions the Prayer Book was left untouched so far as actual legislation was concerned, though the committee concurred in the view "that in adjusting the length of our public services, more regard should be had to the physical ability of both minister and people." To this end the House of Bishops expressed the opinion that the three Offices of Morning Prayer, Litany and Holy Communion might be used separately; that on special occasions the clergy might have discretion in the use of the Prayer Book and the choice of lessons and that the bishops might put forth special services to meet peculiar necessities, with the proviso that such should not supersede the Prayer Book "in congregations capable of its use."
The Church at large was not satisfied with the treatment of the Memorial and especially with the failure to embrace the opportunity to revise the Prayer Book. In 1859 the House of Deputies declared that the action of the bishops "had disturbed the minds of many in our Church," and asked them "to reconsider their resolutions and to throw the subject matter into such shape as will admit of the joint action of both Houses of Convention." This the bishops refused to do and defeated a motion in their own House to refer the whole matter of the Memorial and Prayer Book revision to a Joint Commission.
At the Convention of 1862 the House of Deputies resolved that the Litany be amended to include the new suffrage: "That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest." Strange as it may seem, the House of Bishops declared that such an addition was "inexpedient."
The Episcopal Church was not the only Anglican province in which the need for greater flexibility and variety in liturgical use was recognized in the nineteenth century. The Act of Uniformity Amendment Act of 1872 would authorize a number of changes in the worship of the Church of England. These changes included the use of shortened services of Morning and Evening Prayer on weekdays, the use of the services of Morning Prayer, Litany, and Holy Communion as separate services, and the preaching of sermons and lectures without the reading of common prayers or services appointed by the Book of Common Prayer preceding them.
In the opening decades of the twentieth century the 1926 Irish Prayer Book would incorporate similar provisions into its General Directions for Publick Worship. In addition to the Orders for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer the 1926 Irish Prayer Book would include two Alternative Forms of Evening Prayer.
The second major event was the 1962 Second Vatican Council which affirms in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy a number of principles that were to govern liturgical reform in the Roman Catholic Church. The liturgy was to be in the vernacular. The participation of the people was to be encouraged—“by acclamations, songs, actions, or silence.” The liturgy was to be marked by “a noble simplicity”: it was to be “short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions”—two distinguishing characteristics borrowed from the Anglican Church. It was to give expression to the liturgical principle, “less is more.” The liturgy was also to be flexible enough that the various population groups using it would have room to exercise their “spiritual adornments and gifts.” The 1962 Second Vatican Council would provide the impetus for a new era of liturgical development and experimentation not only in the Roman Catholic Church but also outside of that denomination.
In the main this liturgical development and experimentation has been beneficial. Anglican provinces have produced new liturgies that are more responsive to the needs of congregations using them, particularly in the critical area of reaching and engaging unchurched population groups in their respective communities.
While some critics of the new liturgies blame them for the decline in church attendance in the West, the evidence points to other factors accounting for this decline. Congregations using the older liturgies have themselves experienced the same decline. Indeed a number of those congregations are on the verge of closing their doors due to their failure to attract new members. A number of them have already ceased from having services and are for all intents and purposes dead.
This makes the Anglican Church in North America’s development of rites and services based upon these older liturgies, particularly The Book of Common Prayer (1928) and the Anglican Missal, even more puzzling. The ACNA Prayer Book and Common Task Force gives far more attention to the development of liturgies that are expressive of the pre-Reformation and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic heritage of the Anglo-Catholic movement and its beliefs and practices than it does to the development of rites and services that are suitable for use on the twenty-first century North American mission field and which conform to the teaching of the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies. The argument that it is a part of Anglicanism’s rich heritage recently made by ACNA Archbishop Foley Beech is a specious one. Both in and outside the Anglican Church in North America are Biblically-faithful, gospel-sharing Anglicans who do not regard this particular heritage a part of the true patrimony of orthodox Anglicanism.
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 5:16 PM