Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey

The First Council of Nicaea

Third study of the state of American theology, examining 34 beliefs, released by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research.

American evangelicals are “deeply confused” about some core doctrines of the Christian faith—and the fourth-century heretic Arius would be pleased, according to a new survey.

For the third time, Ligonier Ministries has examined the State of Theology in the United States, conducted by LifeWay Research and based on interviews with 3,000 Americans. The survey, also conducted in 2014 and 2016, offers a detailed look at the favorite heresies of evangelicals and of Americans at large.

Ligonier wanted to know what Americans “believe about God, salvation, ethics, and the Bible.” Read More

Also See:
Lord, Have Mercy on 67% of Us
Evangelicals' Favorite Heresies Revisited by Researchers

Eugene Peterson: The Jesus Way Vs. The American Way

In this short excerpt from his book The Jesus Way, Eugene Peterson encourages Christians to attend not only to the “the truth” and “the life” of Jesus, but also to “the way” of Jesus—and he explains why he believes that the way often followed by North American Christianity and its consumer-driven churches is not the Jesus way at all. Read More

Also See
Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

The Irresistible Connection Between the Old and New Testaments

Jesus reading from the Old Testament in the synagogue 

Why Andy Stanley's “unhitching” robs Christianity of power

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus finishes a long series of parables by asking his disciples, “Have you understood all this?” They reply, “Yes.” Then Jesus closes his teaching, saying, “Therefore, every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (13:51–52).

Like many Matthew scholars, I think that the “new” that Jesus refers to is his teachings passed on to his disciples, as with the immediately previous parable. The “old,” then, refers to the Scriptures that Jesus has on his lips throughout the gospel: the Law of Moses and the psalms of David and the words of the prophets. Not all Christians have received the old as “treasure,” however. At least since the time when Peter and Paul carried the good news of Jesus beyond the boundaries of Israel, Christians have struggled with the Old Testament (OT). Some outright reject the OT. Others simply ignore the OT unless it somehow illuminates a passage in the New Testament (NT). Whether through disdain or neglect, Christian history tells us that many Christians have not found the OT a “treasure” to their faith.

Within this long tradition stands Andy Stanley, who received some sharp criticism earlier this year for claiming in a sermon that Christians should “unhitch” themselves from the OT. But, to be fair to Stanley, many preachers and teachers have unhitched themselves in practice from the OT, even if they have not made that clear in the stark way that Stanley did back in April.

Thus, while I find Stanley’s position troubling, I also think it provides an opportunity for us to consider the place of the OT in the life of the church and the Christian. Given that Stanley’s comments pushed this topic to the fore in recent months, I begin my reflection on this topic by offering some comments on his recently published book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, which elaborates on some of his preaching from earlier this year. After looking carefully at Stanley’s work, I want to offer some positive comments on the OT within Christianity. Christians have good, biblically based, irresistible reasons for treasuring the OT. Read More

4 Keys to Making Sense of Those Troubling Bible Stories

Anyone who has spent any time in the Bible could probably compose a list of stories that leave them baffled or reeling. Many committed followers of Jesus feel quietly conflicted about Christianity’s holy book—particularly the Old Testament. Tales of warfare, genocide and violence against women could not seem any farther from the “good news” that brought them to faith.

What does a person committed to the gospel of Jesus and the sacredness of Scripture make of stories that seem to reflect the worst of humanity—sometimes even implicating God in the horror? In what sense does a story like Jephthah’s daughter function as inspired literature?

These are vitally important questions; they invite us to take a deeper look at what the Bible is and how its pieces fit together. Following a few basic reading practices can help us find our footing as we navigate some of the Bible’s darker chapters. Read More

Don’t Expect Unbelievers To Act Like Believers

It is something I see again and again, and something that baffles me every time: People who expect unbelievers to act like believers. So often I see Christians acting surprised that their non-Christian friends or family members are acting like non-Christians. John Owen addresses this in his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation. The book deals with the subject of mortification, of putting sin to death, and Owen dedicates one chapter to explaining why only Christians can behave like Christians. Read More

Monday, October 15, 2018

What Trees Teach Us about Life, Death, and Resurrection

God Loves Trees

Other than people and God, trees are the most mentioned living thing in the Bible. There are trees in the first chapter of Genesis (v. 11–12), in the first psalm (Ps. 1:3), and on the last page of Revelation (22:2). As if to underscore all these trees, the Bible refers to wisdom as a tree (Prov. 3:18).

Every major character and every major theological event in the Bible has an associated tree. The only exception to this pattern is Joseph, and in Joseph’s case the Bible pays him its highest compliment: Joseph is a tree (Gen. 49:22). In fact, Jeremiah urges all believers to be like a tree (17:7–8).

The only physical description of Jesus in the Bible occurs in Isaiah. “Want to recognize the Messiah when he arrives?” Isaiah asks. “Look for the man who resembles a little tree growing out of barren ground” (53:2, paraphrase mine).

Do you think trees are beautiful? You’re in good company. God loves trees, too. By highlighting every sentence containing a tree in the first three chapters of Genesis, one can get a pretty good sense of what God thinks about trees. Nearly a third of the sentences contain a tree.

Genesis 2:9 declares that trees are “pleasing to the eye.” This aesthetic standard does not waver throughout the Bible. Whether God is instructing his people on how to make candlesticks (Ex. 25:31–40), decorate the corbels of the temple (1 Kings 6), or hem the high priest’s robe (Ex. 28:34), the standard of beauty is a tree (and its fruits). If we were to examine the most comfortable seat in a home today, odds are that it faces a television. In heaven, God’s throne faces a tree (Rev. 22:2–3).

In Genesis 2, God makes two things with his own hands. First, he forms Adam and blows the breath of life into his nostrils (v. 7). Then, before Adam can exhale, God pivots and plants a garden (v. 8). It is here, under the trees, that God lovingly places Adam, giving him the job of “dress[ing] and keep[ing]” them (v. 15, KJV). The trees have their only divinely established tasks to accomplish. God charges them with keeping humans alive (Gen. 1:29), giving them a place to live (Gen. 2:8), and providing food to sustain them (v. 16).

Strangely enough, Scripture continuously portrays trees as things that communicate. They clap their hands (Isa. 55:12), shout for joy (1 Chron. 16:33), and even argue (Judges 9:7–15). What makes this pattern especially odd is that creatures that obviously do communicate—such as fish or birds—are virtually mute in the Bible. Over the thousands of years people have been reading the Bible, this has been passed off as mere poetry. But in the last two decades, tree scientists have discovered something fascinating about trees: They really do communicate. They count, share resources, and talk with each other using a system dubbed the “Wood Wide Web.”Read More

Monday's Catch: Faithfulness and More

Faithfulness: God's Goals + Ordinary Actions = Extraordinary Results

It’s great to dream big dreams. It’s greater to be consistent in the small, mundane tasks that make those dreams possible. Read More

7 Bad Decisions Leaders Make When in Decline or Plateau

Much of what I’ve learned in this post though I learned through suffering through my own bad decisions as a leader during periods of decline or plateau. I’d love for you to learn from my experience. Read More

Baptism in the Early Church

Some conclusions from historian Everett Ferguson’s magisterial 975-page tome, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Eerdmans, 2009).... Read More

How to Be an Effective Worship Leader to All Generations

To be a good worship leader, you may think that it is your job to offer a wide variety of music styles to keep the congregation happy. But, there are two problems with this.... Read More

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers #20

Four Destructive Mindsets That Can Wreck Your Preaching

The way we think about ourselves effects the outcomes we see in life. This is never more true than how we think about our preaching. Read More

What Is a Bad Sermon and How Do I Recover from Preaching One?

Pastor, you are a Christian first. If you did not carry out your calling effectively, rest in the finished work of Christ and in the knowledge that you are a child of God by faith alone. Read More

5 Great Ways to Continually Develop as a Preacher

Do you want to develop as a preacher? Of course, you do. That’s why you’re reading this. But if you’re like most pastors, it’s hard to know where to start. Read More

How To Engage The Whole Congregation

All of us have a propensity to want to communicate in our own preferred style. But what if your style doesn't reach everyone? Read More

9 Preaching Mistakes You Must Avoid

From preparation to delivery, keep an eye out for these preaching traps. Read More

Is Your Preaching Stained With Blood?

American Christianity is far less bloody than it used to be. Why? Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: Church Recalibration and Much More

Renewing Your Church: Recalibrating Your Vision to Create Sustainability

I narrowed the process of church recalibration down to four phases. Read More

3 Characteristics of Scrappy Churches

Can the smaller and mid-sized church survive in the world seemingly dominated by larger churches and megachurches? Read More

Marks of a Biblical Church Part 1: What Makes a Church a Church?

Contrasted with a biblical mark (or required attribute), there is no one definitive model for a biblical church that can be prescribed as the way to be the church. Churches need to look different according to their cultural context. Flexibility in our ecclesiology is good and necessary, but there is an innate danger in our flexibility, namely, the inability to define or recognize a biblical church. Read More

Why Christians Don’t Go to Church (and Why They Must)

A new survey finds the reason people avoid going to church is more often for practical or personal reasons, rather than lack of belief. Read More

5 More Reasons To Go To Church In Person: Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, Taste

When all our senses are involved we learn more, engage more, enjoy more, contribute more and remember more. Read More

7 Reasons People Are Not Leading Who Could Be

Just as there are not enough people working who should be working – there are not enough leaders who should be leading. Read More

What Changes with a Move from a Church of 50 to a Church of 150

All churches have leadership challenges, regardless of size. Small churches are not easier to lead than large churches. Large churches are not easier to grow than small churches. But they are different. When pastors move from one size church to another, they have to adapt. Read More

The Problem with Evangelistic Programs

A strict diet of evangelistic programs produces malnourished evangelism. Just as eating sugar can make us feel as if we’ve eaten when we haven’t, programs can often make us feel as if we’ve done evangelism when we haven’t. So we should have a healthy unease with programs. We should use them strategically but in moderation, remembering that God did not send an event, he sent his Son. Read More

The Solution to American Tribalism is … Belief in Satan

As belief in Satan diminished, it coincided with belief in moral relativism, evil became ephemeral, and we lost any yardstick to measure evil. Even worse, evil became whatever I or my tribe was fighting against, not an instrumental evil, but itself the ultimate evil. Read More

Friday, October 12, 2018

Witchcraft Casts an Ever-Widening Spell on Millennials

If you’ve noticed an increase in references to witches and mysticism lately, that’s not just because Halloween is approaching. Surveys, social media sites and product branding indicate an increase in people who practice or are interested in witchcraft. Trend-spotters say millennials—especially young women—are drawn to Wicca, astrology and new-age spirituality.

About 1 to 1.5 million Americans label themselves Wiccan or pagan, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. That’s more than the membership of some mainstream Christian denominations in the United States.

The rise in witchcraft is likely more than a trend, according to Carolyn Elliott, founder of Witch magazine. “We are in the midst of a beautiful, occult, witch renaissance,” she says. Her comment appears to be in line with the ever-increasing reach of the occult into the general population. In a series of three surveys conducted from 1990 to 2008, Trinity College watched Wicca rise from 8,000 practitioners to 340,000 over the course of those years. Now, as Pew reported in 2014, that number has risen to as many as 1.5 million. Read More

Also See:
Millennials prioritize owning a home over getting married or having kids
As Halloween approaches, the annual debate among American Christians over whether they should observe Halloween is once more going into full gear. While Halloween,  Hallow Even, or All Hallows' Eve, is observed on the eve of the ancient Celtic festival of Samain, they are not the same festival. "Hallow" is an archaic word for saint or holy person. In Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, and the United States a number of churches are named All Hallows Church or the Church of All Hallows. While a number of practices associated with Samain have migrated to Halloween, this fact is not sufficient reason for Christians not to observe All Hallows' Eve. Indeed it is fitting for Christians to gather to remember the faithful who have gone before them on All Hallows' Eve and to celebrate their lives with a candle light service and various festivities.

For those who may be interested in learning more about how today's occult practitioners are appealing to Millennials, I have included a link to an article "7 Traits of Magical People" on the Rebelle Society: Creatively Maladjusted website.

How to Create an Inviting Culture in Your Church

Anything having to do with religion or the church can be really uncomfortable for most people to talk about. Maybe the only experiences people in your church have ever had with talking about church or inviting someone are downright painful.

So, rather than reliving an uncomfortable experience, they do nothing. They shy away. Not because they don’t want to invite people to your church, but because they don’t know how.

Instead of getting upset with your people, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to invite. This doesn’t have to be a weird thing. And you have the chance to show your people that. Inviting can become a normal part of your church’s life.

Here are five simple ways you can create a culture of invitation within your church. Read More

Preparing to Teach Bible Study

Somewhere I read that G. Campbell Morgan, the great British pastor and expositor, would read through a book of the Bible at least forty times before teaching it. Any less and he felt unprepared.

We pastors often set aside a few days on the church calendar for an intensive Bible study on a particular theme or book of Scriptures. Our denomination–the Southern Baptist Convention–has for many years promoted a “January Bible Study” or “Mid-winter Bible Study.” This time–January, 2019–it will be Revelation 2-3, “The Letters to the 7 Churches of Asia Minor.”

I’ll be teaching this for several days at a church near Birmingham, Alabama, and hopefully another place or two. But months in advance, I’ve been working on it, trying to learn all I can in order to feel competent to teach it. Never mind that I’ve taught through Revelation several times and preached sermons on these seven churches in the past. None of that means much at the moment. The challenge is not to dig out old notes and rehash ancient messages, but to listen anew for what the Holy Spirit is saying through His always-up-to-date Word. The Word does not change, but its application to our daily lives is as fresh as it’s possible to get.

Furthermore, I’ve changed. I’m not the same person as decades ago when I pastored churches. So, I open the Scriptures and tackle this delightful project with excitement about what the Father has in store.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how this Bible study develops.

Here are some parameters I’m setting for myself and which I urge upon others who set about to teach a portion of God’s Word. Read More

Three Reasons God Says to Forgive Others

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).

It’s possible that you are carrying some deep wounds that you’ve carried for months, maybe even years. When you think about the person who hurt you, it’s still as fresh as if it happened this morning. The pain is still there, and you’re still filled with resentment. You say, “Why in the world should I forgive that person who hurt me so much? You have no idea how much they hurt me. Why should I offer grace to that person?”

Let me offer three reasons for making that choice.... Read More
I thought that this post was timely one due to the noticeable lack of forgiveness that American Christians are manifesting in our time. Animosity toward others appears to have replaced forgiveness of others in the hearts of self-identified followers of Jesus who taught his followers to ask God to forgive them as they forgave others. I have come to believe that we are living in a time of testing in which God is weighing our faithfulness to him as he did the people of Israel.

A Guide for Skeptics Intrigued by Jesus

It’s no novelty to observe that we in the West inhabit an increasingly secular culture, and yet there’s still reluctance to fully write off Jesus. Whatever people think of the movement that bears his name, Christ still features prominently in our cultural consciousness as someone we can’t simply ignore, let alone jettison. We may be done with religion, and we may be done with Christianity. But we’re not yet done with Jesus. Read More

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Is Church Planting a ‘Young Man’s Game’? [Podcast]

Is church planting a “young man’s game”? We often hear that it is. Some might think, I’m too old to plant a church.

Perhaps this suggests that younger leaders have more energy to start something new, or that they connect better to unchurched people. Both might be true.

But young leaders make a lot of mistakes. They can lack perspective. They can be motivated by the wrong things, like setting out to prove something or to be known and praised.

In addition to the pressure of ministry, young leaders may also be newly married or have young children, and this season of life will make planting even more challenging in most cases. Moreover, some young planters haven’t yet experienced much suffering in life. Older pastors are usually better at sympathizing with wounded people, and providing skillful and gracious pastoral care for them.

So, are younger guys better suited for the hard grind of church planting? To help us consider this issue, we’ve invited an old man on the podcast. Today, I’m privileged to welcome my brother, friend, and mentor, the gray fox himself, Steve Timmis.

Steve is the CEO of Acts 29, and has been involved in church planting for a long time. He’s an elder at The Crowded House Church in Sheffield, where we recorded this podcast. Listen Now

Related Podcast:
Needed: Theologically Driven Church Plants

When Disaster Strikes...

9 Ways to Pray for Victims of Hurricanes and Recent Storms

Too many believers, I suspect, watch the news about victims of recent storms, but then fail to pray with compassion and fervor for them. Here are some practical ways to pray for them.... Read More How 

Churches Can Spot and Stop Human Trafficking After Hurricane Michael

Christians are uniquely poised to help in the wake of disaster. Read More

How Faith Impacts Post-Disaster Resilience - and What the Church Can Do

Faith has proven central to the way many disaster survivors make sense of and cope with catastrophe, but research shows not every survivor employs it the same way. Read More

6 Signs It Might Be Time to Build

There’s a growing trend of churches starting Thursday night services or alternative venue opportunities to reduce the impact of space and facility constraints.

Sometimes building additional square footage is not only the best option, but it may also be the only option left. A lack of space can stunt a church’s growth and frustrate both visitors and your committed attendees. The trick is to identify the potential barriers or constraints to growth and eliminate them before they stop you in your tracks.

Here are six signs that you might be running out of space. Read More

The False Gospel of “You Be You”

“You do you.” It’s a phrase that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among Generation Z (children born after 1999). One New York Times article explains it as a contemporary version of the encouragement, “Just be yourself.” However, unlike “Just be yourself,” “You do you” is not just a phrase a parent uses to encourage her child on the first day of school. “You do you” has become the slogan for a generation that prides itself on individual expression. It’s a statement of one’s individual right to judge what’s best for himself, regardless of what others say or think.

From the sexual revolution to gender identity to everyday life decisions, “You do you” is the message teenagers are sending to the world today in order to declare that no one can tell them what to do or who they should be.Read More

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Is Corporate Worship a Spiritual Discipline?

Most of us do not associate corporate worship with the word discipline. Perhaps this is because we view discipline as something that starts with our resolve, and we know that worship starts with God’s revelation. God reveals Himself to us, and we can’t help but respond to Him, right? So how could we say that corporate worship is a discipline? Let’s start by defining the phrase, “spiritual discipline.” Read More

Don't Sing Noisy Songs

In American evangelicalism, we have been conditioned to believe that just because we show up to church on a Sunday morning, that God is present to bless and He is pleased with what is going on. I think we need to think through that a little better, for God is not after our lips or hand motions, but our hearts. Many churches think intentionally, and some even pay a staff person, to create a good 'atmosphere' of Sunday morning worship. I do believe careful thinking about worship is important, but I also know it's possible to have a service that moves the people emotionally and is simultaneously offensive to God.

Yes, I wrote that: offensive to God. So offensive that He might just say "I hate it" or "take away from me the noise of your songs." Again, this isn't about volume, but hypocrisy. The Hebrew word for 'noise' in this text carries the connotation of 'multitude'. I think what it is communicating is that the songs being sung were just layers of empty noise not because of the style or words of the particular song, but because of the lack of honesty in the heart. There may have been a lot happening musically, but there was no substance to the worship. Instead, the songs just piled up in such a way before God that they were like a burden to Him.

Is God weary of your worship? Read More

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Europe’s Oldest Intact Book Is Discovered Inside the Coffin of a Saint

Saint Cuthbert
Europe's oldest intact book has been discovered after being closed inside a hermit monk's coffin for over 400 years. It will go on display at the British Library as part of an exhibition featuring prized manuscripts like the Lindisfarne Gospels and Beowulf. The show is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see how medieval Anglo-Saxons depicted their own culture through early writings

. Among the precious materials is the Stonyhurst Gospel, a small book that holds a lot of history. Also known as the St. Cuthbert Gospel, this Latin copy of the Gospel of John was discovered inside the coffin of St. Cuthbert, a hermit monk who died in 687 CE. It's said that his body was found incorrupt decades after his death and this led to a cult that placed sacrifices around his remains.

Sometime after 698 CE, a small red book made its way into St. Cuthbert's tomb along with other offerings. The book, a rare surviving medieval manuscript, was removed from his coffin in 1104 CE and transferred to Durham Cathedral, where it was kept as a separate relic. In 2012, The British Library acquired the 1,300-year-old text, which still retained its original binding and pages. Read More

4 Ways to Expand Your Gospel Influence

Sometimes when you’re serving in a rural context, there’s a temptation to feel you aren’t “making an impact.” Perhaps you look at the numbers and become discouraged, especially when you see fellow pastors baptize more people on a Sunday than your church has in worship attendance.

Perhaps we should shift our mindset. Since ministry rhythms are slower in a rural context, it’s possible to expand your gospel influence to include those outside the congregation you serve. As important as local church service is, remember we are called to reach the community as well.

I had a pastoral mentor say to me, “As a rural church pastor you also serve as a community pastor.” That struck me. Even though I serve a local church, I’m also called to serve as a pastor to the community.

Because rural communities are smaller, many people will automatically recognize you as a leader. So what are some ways you can expand your gospel influence beyond the four walls of your local church? Read More

A Shared Worship Ministry

Developing a Partnership between Sermons and Songs

It’s Sunday morning. The music leader sits down as the pastor walks to the pulpit to start his message. He begins this way: Turn with me to Colossians 1:15-20 and let’s read God’s Word together.

As the congregation joins the pastor reading this passage, the worship leader thinks, If only I had known that was his text today! I have a great song set that would have set that up perfectly! And something just like that happens in church after church, Sunday after Sunday.

It can be better than that.

I once heard a pastor say to a worship leader, “You sing about Jesus and I’ll preach about Jesus and the rest will take care of itself.”

It can be better than that, too.

How can it work? What can pastors and worship leaders do to make a more meaningful connection between the congregational worship and the sermon? Does it matter? Read More
This is not just a problem in Baptist churches. It is also a problem in Anglican and Episcopal churches. 

Tuesday's Catch: Caring for Abuse Survivors and More

How the Church Can Care for Those Seeking Healing from Abuse

All the recent revelations of sexual, physical, emotional abuse and the violence all around us are opportunities for our faith to provide haven. They are also opportunities for the church to be an incubator where the very being of our personhood might come back to life again. Read More

10 Ways to Recognize a Sacred Cow in Your Church

We often use the term “sacred cow” to describe something in a church that no one will criticize and is not likely to change. With this post, I want to accomplish two things: (1) further define “sacred cow” so we can recognize them, and (2) lead you to ask if your church has any sacred cows – including ministries you may lead. In a future post, I’ll give attention to how to address these issues. Here are some ways to recognize sacred cows. Read More
Also see 5 Options for Dealing with Sacred Cows in Your Church and Sacred Cows to Be Aware of in Your Church.
The Technological Discipleship Gap

New digital technologies have potential to either advance the gospel or sow destruction. Read More

Kingdom Patriotism

When we are captivated by the great treasure of Christ and his Kingdom, we’re positioned to winsomely invite others to join us. Read More

Monday, October 08, 2018

Is Worship Nostalgia Killing Your Church?

8 Ways Nostalgia May be Killing Your Church

Nostalgia is sentimental remembrance of previous times or significant events that continue to stir happy or meaningful personal recollections. It can be a healthy time of reflection as long as its primary purpose is to remind how the past laid the foundation for the present and future. If, however, those remembrances result in an excessive yearning and compulsion to return to the “good old days,” then nostalgia may be killing your church.

The word nostalgia is derived from the two Greek words: nostos, meaning homecoming, and algos, meaning pain. The medical professionals who coined the word in the late 18th century were describing an emotional and physical condition, not the current meaning of wistful thoughts of earlier times. In its original definition, nostalgia was viewed as a crippling condition that rendered sufferers incapacitated by despair or intense homesickness.[1] Read More

Time Doesn’t Heal Sexual Assault If Victims Are Silenced

How churches can help victims decades after assault.

Research indicates that when abuse victims feel like they can’t or shouldn’t talk about their experiences, their trauma can worsen.

“It does appear that withholding disclosure, or not telling about abuse or assault when one wants to tell is related to worse psychological symptoms, as is delayed disclosure,” according to University of Chicago criminology professor Sarah E. Ullman, in her book, Talking about Sexual Assault: Society’s Response to Survivors.

Indeed, many victims suffer in silence, since “studies indicate that only one half to two-thirds of adult women disclose their sexual assault experience to someone at some point in their lives.” Read More

Indonesian Churches Pray for Thousands Dead and Missing

Some village churches moved a kilometer in resulting mudslides.

Update (Oct. 8): An evangelical church near the coast hardest-hit by Indonesia’s recent earthquake and tsunami, Bethany Fresh Anointing Church in Palu, resumed worship on Sunday and Monday.

The congregation praised God for keeping their building standing and prayed for the two dead and two missing from their body.

“We pray for our town, and we pray for our leaders,” a lay leader named Bernard told CT. “We pray and praise and worship. We [are] always in the presence of God.” Read More

Monday's Catch: Bullying, and Much More

What Does the Bible Teach Us About Bullying

Bullying happens more frequently than you might think. According to the American Medical Association, by the time students finish school, nearly half of students have been bullied at one point or another. It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Read More

7 Early Warning Signs That Your Church Has A “Front Door” Problem

How do you know if you aren’t attracting enough people to your church? If your church has plateaued or is in decline, is the problem that you’re not attracting enough visitors or that you aren’t keeping those who are already attending? What signs will lead you to discover the problem? Read More

16 (Nearly Free) Ways to Increase Community Awareness of Your Church

If the people in your community don’t know that your church exists, they won’t ever join your church. Read More

Resurrecting a Dead Church

How can we proclaim to a neighborhood that the gospel has the power to defeat death and hell—but it couldn’t keep our church from closing? Read More

One of the Most Destructive Statements a Church Member Can Make

If you have served in church leadership for several years, you have likely heard this statement: “You know who pays the bills at the church.” Read More

Leader: Establish Authority before Exhibiting Authority

New leaders often forget to establish their authority before making major changes. Read More

Your Facebook Account Has Not Been Hacked – But Your Credibility Might Have Been

If we can’t be trusted to get verifiable facts right, how can we be trusted about a story that rests on the fact of a dead body rising from the grave? Read More

Credo Magazine: Holiness

The latest issue of Credo Magazine is online. The focus of this issue is holiness. Read Online or Download

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Mistakes in Church Planting

In April 2016, Dan Rockwell posted a piece on his leadership blog called “The Five Biggest Mistakes New Leaders Make.” I’ve been reflecting on this since I attended a Church Planting Pipeline Roundtable in Atlanta where we talked about leading potential church planters or interns in the pipeline, and what it’s going to take to plant 1,200 healthy churches every year.

What are the five biggest mistakes new church planters make? Read More

Why The Church? Six Preaching Points

It's popular today to meet with friends at a coffee shop and call it "church." Popular, but wrong.

It’s difficult to stand in defense of the church when there are so many examples of dysfunctional churches around us. But sometimes, as preachers, we need to remind our own congregations that the Church is vitally important. We were designed for community, but also something beyond mere community — we were designed for the church.

Many people will object, and nearly everyone has gruesome tales of hypocrites, self-righteous blowhards and sexual predators. I get it. Some parts of the North American church are desperately sick, and in many cases the church hinders the spiritual growth of believers. But before we allow our people to have coffee and croissants at Starbucks and call it church, I’d like to suggest that God has given us a few clues about what He thinks makes up a church. The bottom line is this: Church is God’s idea, and we ignore it at our peril.

These points could be the start of a series, or they could be rolled into one powerful message. Perhaps you have other observations, but here is one man’s list of at least six vital parts of a real church.... Read More

Related Article:
Forget it. I'm Going to the Pub.

Pastors Should Like People (Not Just Love Them)

Affection should be a part of ministry. It was for Paul:
  • “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8)
  • “being affectionately desirous of you … because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
Affection isn’t quite identical to kindness or even love. In these verses, for instance, affection involves yearning (Philippians 1:8), desire, and dearness (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Put it this way: to do ministry well, you need to not only love people, but like them. You need to give your heart to them.

But amidst the strains and seasons of ministry, it is easy for affection to cool. Just as in a marriage, romance does not keep on happening all by itself; you have to be intentional to keep kindling it. So also pastors, we must be intentional to keep kindling affection (for instance, yearning, desire, dearness) in our ministry relationships.

How do we do it? Here are a few ideas. Read More

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers #19

How to Preach Conversationally

What is conversational preaching? What does it look like to preach in a conversational tone? There are many different styles and methods to use when we preach – proclamational, authoritative, narrative – to name a few. And we may employ any number of these styles throughout a preaching career and even in a single sermon. But the tone that, I believe, should pepper our messages is a conversational tone. This article will explain the importance of conversational preaching and how we can utilize it. But first it’s important to define it. Read More

A Quick Shift That Will Dramatically Improve Your Preaching

There may be no higher calling than to stand before God’s people to proclaim his Word. If you can’t get excited about that, you may need to step aside for someone who can. Read More

How to Preach: An Epic Guide to Everything You Need to Know

After a decade of ministry experience, studying preaching, teaching preaching, and writing a few books on the subject, I’m convinced that all great preaching involves three phases. Read More
A good introduction to sermon preparation, delivery, and evaluation.
Aim For The Ear

Do you preach as a would-be writer or do you preach as a preacher? Read More
If you are a writer like I am, you will have to work really hard at aiming for the ear when you preach. It is an entirely different way of communicating.
The Sunday Sermon Is Not a TED Talk

The TED Talk has become a very popular information bank—owned by a nonprofit nonpartisan foundation designed to deliver information to people. According to TED, information is built upon the most important thing in the world—ideas. So, how is preaching a sermon different than delivering a TED Talk? TED Talks are approximately 18 minutes in length while sermons are often longer. It’s more than the length of the talk that distinguishes a Christian sermon from a TED Talk. Read More

Seven Preaching Topics You Should Repeat Often

Don't be afraid of repeating yourself. Repetition is the mother of learning -- and sometimes a pastor's best friend. Read More

Contagious Pulpit Boredom

God is not boring. The Bible is not boring. So why is some preaching boring? Read More

Why Great Sermons Also Include Listening

Listening is a lost art in our culture, so how should we listen to a sermon? Read More

What Are Your *pulpit Cooking Options*?

Peter Mead works the "feeding the flock" metaphor 10 different ways. Read More

Do You Pray Against Temptation?

“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Jesus kneels in the garden of his agony and directs his men to pray, not just against sin, but against temptation.

On the front-end of the greatest temptation of his life, he charges his disciples — not once but twice (Luke 22:40, 46) — to pray against temptation. Forty long days of fasting in the wilderness must now feel like child’s play compared to the test he’s about to endure. His hour has come.

He faces the single greatest test in the history of the world: Will the sinless God-man suffer torture-to-death for the sins of the rebels he loves? And yet, as his own great temptation begins, bringing such agony that sweat falls from his head like drops of blood (Luke 22:44), he turns to his men twice to say, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40, 46). Read More

Why Is the Great Commission in the Bible?

Matthew 28:18-20 is not just a familiar passage to most of us, it is our missions anthem. In this scene, Jesus has his followers, His disciples gathered around him, and before he ascends he could tell them anything, but he sends them among ALL nations to make disciples…Jesus entrusts His disciples with a worldwide task! It is easy to cheer for and generally support the Great Commission, but why is it in the Bible? Read More

5 Questions That Will Help You Start Your Day with a Missional Mindset

Most people I know want to be more missional. We want to be at the center of God’s activity and to introduce the lost to Jesus. We want to be useful to others and help them experience God’s love.

Unfortunately, we get too busy. Before we know what happened, the day is over. . . then the week is over. . . then the month is over. When we look back, we have done little to lead others to Christ.

This post will not change your behavior. Sorry, I can’t promise those results. Your behavior, and the responsibility for it, is yours alone. However, this post will give you 5 questions you can ask and answer each day that will prepare your heart and mind for missional living. Read More

Also See:
Missional Routines

Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday's Catch: Netflix's Narnia Chronicles Series and More

Netflix Signs Deal to Develop 'Chronicles of Narnia' Series, Films

Aslan is on the move again—this time, to streaming-entertainment giant Netflix. Read More

Why Andy Stanley Is Right about Reaching Post-Christians

If you want to reach post-Christian, post-modern people—in other words, the next generation—how do you do it, effectively? Read More

8 Ways to Battle ‘Comfort Idolatry’

One of Christianity’s greatest idolatries today is also one of the most subtle and insidious: the idolatry of comfort. Read More

What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies”?

“The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.” Read More

Michael Fletcher on Leadership

Outreach Magazine interviews Michael Fletcher, leadership consultant, senior pastor of Manna Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina and author of Empowering Leadership: How a Leadership Development Culture Builds Better Leaders Faster (Thomas Nelson, January 2018). Part 1 Part 2

Finish the Mission: Empowered by the Spirit

What should we do to focus on mission? I’d suggest that churches share Christ and serve the hurting locally, plant churches nationally, and adopt an unreached people group globally. I think you should lead your church to be a missional, missions-minded, gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered church. Read More

Talk About Jesus without Sounding Religious [Podcast]

“Evangelism is a life before it’s a task. It’s a question of being before it becomes an agenda of doing. Don’t allow techniques to take precedence over theology, or human strategy to replace trust in God’s Word, or programs to replace reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Becky Pippert Listen Now

Thursday, October 04, 2018

When Church Planting Looks Foolish

We Christians are a foolish lot.

Think about it: in a busy, fast-paced world where there’s always something to be done, where we experience constant pressure, and where efficiency rules the day, we take time to gather with other people every Sunday. We sing, listen to a sermon, and go out of our way to spend time with people afterward for lunch or during the week.

In a world that preaches consumerism and teaches us that people are useful insofar as they benefit us, we pursue reconciliation with those who’ve wronged us. We love those we don’t particularly like—in fact, we endeavor to seek their good, even when it’s costly.

To the outside world, none of this makes sense. Why are we giving up our precious Sundays to spend two hours singing stuffy old songs and listening to some guy go on about a historical figure who died 2,000 years ago? Why would we make time for people we just met? Why would we remain friends with people who add no perceived value to our lives?

More than this, why do we continue to plant new churches in a world that wants nothing to do with Jesus? It just doesn’t make sense. It’s foolish. Read More

The Art of Vision Casting: 7 Critical Keys

A lot of people have great vision. But you’ll never see your vision become a reality unless you communicate it well to others. Many great God-given dreams die in the vision-casting stage. In fact, there are seven particular things you need to make sure your people understand in the process of sharing your vision with them. Read More

How Two Small Churches Are Reaching Their Community with a Cross-Cultural Partnership

Mike Waddey began praying the minute he pulled into the parking lot at First Baptist Church in Maury City, Tennessee.

Waddey had come to Maury City (population 665) to interview for the role of pastor at First Baptist. He was familiar with church life in rural America, having been a pastor in Cottage Grove, one of the smallest towns in the state.

But Maury City was going to be different.

From the parking lot, Waddey noticed about 100 people gathered in a park across the street. That was more people than the population of Cottage Grove.

Most of the folks were Hispanic. And Waddey didn’t have much experience with cross-cultural ministry. So he started asking God for help—even before he was called to First Baptist.

“I don’t speak Spanish,” he prayed. “And if there is a large Hispanic community here, I want to be able to reach them.”

Not long afterward, Waddey’s prayers were answered. Read More

Image: Pastor Mike Waddey, Facts & Trends Lifeway

Why Staying in Your Church Long Term Is Good for You

In my experience, it usually takes about three to four years to really start to get to know people. Then they leave the church. They move away or have a disenchantment of some kind and are gone. We are still Facebook friends. We may text from time to time, but we are not in each other’s lives anymore. And so they must reset the relationship clock at a new church.

I have pastored one church in a city-center neighborhood of Chicago for 14 years. Yet in reality, I have overseen about seven different churches. Graduation, marriage, a job transfer, cost of living, or just “the itch” causes recurrent waves of people to ebb and flow. I have heard other pastors call it “the churn” or “hugging a parade.” We are in the beginning stages of remodeling our building, and I have wondered if we should install a revolving door at our entrance for an object lesson.

Sometimes a curious thing happens right before people’s departure—a significant new detail in their story comes out. For example, “Pastor, I have to confess, I’m drinking every night to deal with the stress.” We start to address that together. Then, they move. Or, a friend in your church confesses a secret pornography addiction. When you try to go deeper into the heart and provide accountability, their family decides to check out another church because they don’t believe their needs are being adequately met. This is discouraging. And the sad fact is that they have to start the process of being known at that level all over again.

It seems like there’s often a transition just when I start to piece together the deeper interplay of personal sins, past hurts, and personality quirks that can only be achieved after years of walking with each other. They are gone just when the real work of community is beginning. Read More

Find a Bible Reading Plan That's Right for You

Bible reading plans can help you grow as a follower of Christ. They guide you through reading the Bible, so that you can see God’s plan for this world and why it matters.

An intentional Bible reading plan also helps you stay committed. The regular cadence of reading, studying and applying God’s Word will help you develop Bible reading as a habit — something you work into your everyday routine.

Going through a reading plan makes sure that you don’t just camp out on your favorite Bible passages. Some of the stories in the Bible will surprise you. Some passages may puzzle you. Some verses you’ve never seen before will jump off the page. The element of surprise as you read through the entire Bible is one of the great reasons you should consider a reading plan.

But most importantly, it’s life change that we’re after. You’re not following a reading plan just to check off your Bible reading for the day. You’re meeting with God, who inspired the words of this Book. A reading plan that keeps God’s Word in front of you in a systematic and consistent way is a tool that God can use powerfully in your life.

But there are so many plans available. How do you decide? Let’s discover the right Bible reading plan for you by looking at what they offer. Read More

Family Ministry Fun for the Holidays

In what ways are you engaging your families this year? In our crazy busy world families are looking for ways to build memories with their children more than ever. This year as you plan to engage families here are a few design ideas for the things you may offer. This list has come together over the 8 years I have been on staff with Quail as I have polled parents. While the Christmas concerts and services are awesome, and should be attended, I do not think they substitute a place for families to engage one another, laugh together and fellowship with other families. I know what you're thinking, Christmas is less than three months away and you want me to design something new?! No, even I am not that crazy. My goal is to spark ideas that can accent your existing activities or formats to engage families and provide a platform to invite extended family members as well.

Here's what we do. Read More

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

How to Not Hear the Holy Spirit

“I feel like the Lord is leading me to do it.” Those were my friend’s parting words to me. I told him not to follow this leading, but he’d had an experience he “really felt was from the Lord.” I tried to explain what the Bible had to say about his choice. In fact, many had. But, he had an experience, and he wasn’t budging. So off he went—into his error, out of the church, and away from Jesus.

This situation it so common in churches across the spectrum that you could probably fill in details from similarly painful conversations. Add to that our culture’s commitment to an expressive individualism that exalts actualizing our desires above conforming to God’s, and we’ve set the stage for rough times when trying to convince someone that what they “feel led to do” may not be the Holy Spirit at all.

No wonder some respond to this problem by simply denying God’s Spirit speaks to us today. My point here is not to debate that point, since others have done so (e.g., here and here).

Regardless, the Scriptures admonish us to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). And there are some ways we should all be able to agree one cannot do that. Here are four. Read More

Six Major Tax Mistake Ministers Make

If you’re in ministry, you need to have a tax accountant who understands ministry income taxes. It can save you a lot of money and headache. In today's Rainer Report Thom Rainer offer this and and other helpful advice. Watch Now

The FAQS: Christians and the Moral Threat of Sex Robots

What just happened?

A Canadian company has announced plans to open a robot brothel in Houston, where customers can rent a sex robot by the hour. While similar brothels are currently operating in such countries as France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Scotland, and the United Kingdom, this would be the first such operation in the United States. Read More

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

America's Hidden Mission Field: Why We Need Rural Churches

Most Christians in the United States probably wouldn’t think to send church planters to Loving County, Texas.

But according to the 2010 U.S. Congregations and Membership Study, almost nobody goes to church there. Only six of the county’s 82 residents had ties to a local congregation, according to the study, which collected data about the number of churches and regular attenders from religious groups in every county in the U.S.

Many of the least churched regions were in rural America—where about 14 percent of the U.S. population lives, according to Pew Research. Esmeralda County in Nevada, for example, had only one church with 23 people—in a county of more than 700 people.

Counties in Colorado, North Dakota, Vermont, Maine, and Nebraska are also among the least churched in the country.

And perhaps more surprisingly, other Bible Belt counties join Loving as being among the least churched places in the U.S.—like Mississippi’s Issaquena County, Virginia’s Dickerson County, and several counties in Kentucky. Read More

Also See:
Six Important Insights about Bible Belt Christianity