Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Softer Face of Calvinism

Reformed theology is more irenic and diverse than you think, says theologian Oliver Crisp.

Few figures in church history have been so much loved or hated, admired or despised as John Calvin. Calvinism—the theological orientation bearing the French theologian’s name—has also had mixed reception. Reformed theologian Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, says Calvinism and the Reformed tradition is more diverse and amiable than is often thought. CT assistant online editor Kevin P. Emmert talked with Crisp about his new book, Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology (Fortress Press), and the landscape of Reformed theology. Read more
Here are a few snippets from the interview:

"As Christians, we believe Scripture is the norming norm, the ultimate basis for theological judgments. The catholic creeds of the first few centuries of the church are a secondary tier of norm that witnesses to Scripture. Then we have confessions that represent particular church bodies, like the 39 Articles of Anglicanism—which are very Reformed, I might add—and the Westminster Confession for Presbyterians. Confessions are a third tier of witness, norms that stand under Scripture and the catholic creeds. It seems to me the work of particular theologians are a step below the confessions, because confessions represent the common mind of a particular ecclesial body."

"No one theologian, however important, can trump the voice of the church expressed in the creeds or confessions. Of course, the works of certain theologians have informed the confessions and can be very helpful. But they stand under the confessions. That’s the framework that informs my book and my thinking on how we should make theological decisions. And this isn’t just my view. John Calvin’s works aren’t the historic norm in Presbyterian churches; the Westminster Confession is. And Thomas Cranmer isn’t the norm for Anglican churches; the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion are."

"In the book I give a lot of attention to Bishop John Davenent, one of a number of early Reformed theologians who held to a universal atonement—that Christ died for everyone, not just the elect. He was an eminent theologian, the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and later the Bishop of Salisbury. He was chosen by King James to head the British delegation to the Synod of Dort, where we get the Five Points of Calvinism, including the doctrine limited atonement—that Christ died for only the elect. He signed the canons in good faith, believing they were consistent with his own views. At face value, that seems odd, given the story we usually hear about Dort and its Five Points. But if you look at the documents, it seems that Davenant was right and that there is indeed wiggle room. And there was no requirement in the 39 Articles for limited atonement. In fact, the 39 Articles, usually thought to be a good Reformed document, allows for universal atonement. So Davenant had no problems with either document."

Beyond “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone): A guest post by Enoch Wan

“Sola gratia” (grace alone) is one the basic beliefs of the Christian faith, summarized in the “five solae” during the Protestant Reformation. It was a key doctrine of Christianity and a trademark of Protestantism in comparison to Roman Catholicism and other religions. However, “sola gratia” (grace alone) is historically pertaining to the doctrine of salvation (soteriology) only. Yet theologically, the “unmerited/gracious relationship” (in Chinese 恩情 en-ching) between God and God’s people transcends time and space and circumstances.

Let us expand our horizon beyond the “sola gratia” of the Reformation and selectively describe the “unmerited/gracious relationship” between God and God’s people in point form below.... Read more

Time Is Running Out

Secure Your Spot Today

First, let me thank you for the great response to the video consultation. I am so hopeful for those church leaders who made the investment of money and time to view this series.

Yesterday at my blog, I noted four types of church leaders who will not lead their churches to revitalization. They are: fearful leaders; leaders in denial; comfortable leaders; and coasting leaders.

With nine out of ten churches in need of revitalization, and many more needing to go to the next level, I am incredibly excited to share with you this information on church revitalization. Learn more

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One-day On-site Consultation with Thom Rainer Surprise Bonus!

7 Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization (While Others Don’t)

I have a great love for local congregations. To be sure, I’ve never been in a perfect church. They just don’t exist.

But I still love local churches.

One of my greatest joys in the past several years has been to see and work with churches that have experienced significant turnaround. While that turnaround is typically evident in attendance numbers, it is much more than that.

I recently categorized those reasons some churches experience revitalization. I then compared them to churches that have not been revitalized. I found seven differences between the two sets of churches. These are the seven traits unique to the revitalized churches.... Read more

Multi-Site or 'One-Service-Only?' A Question of Evangelistic Faithulness

This is the first of four posts on whether the multisite can be a wise application of biblical ideals set out for the church. From the outset, we want to be clear that we are very concerned with the pragmatic and consumeristic approach that many multi-site churches take. We appreciate concerns raised by Jonathan Leeman and others to that end–concerns we hope these posts make obvious that we share. These blogs should not be construed as a defense of all multisite practices (this will become obvious), but rather an attempt to deal with the question of whether it is ever possible for a church to utilize a multi-site strategy in pursuit of the objectives the Lord Jesus has given to his church. 

To that end we’ll attempt to answer four questions: 1. Is multi-site evangelistically effective? 2. Is multi-site a biblically sound model? 3. Is multi-site pastorally helpful? 4. Does multi-site encourage or discourage leadership development?

Today’s issue: evangelism. Read more

See also
Is Multi-Site a Biblically Sound Model?

Church Growth Is Not an Exact Science

It’s easy to spot an unhealthy church that won’t grow.

Lack of vision, inadequate systems, poor planning, unfriendly people and more will doom a church to irrelevance very quickly. Spotting such churches is obvious and easy, especially for anyone who has spent much time in pastoral ministry.

It’s much harder to spot a church that will grow. Or a healthy church that may not grow.

Take the examples of Church A and Church B.

Both churches are doing everything they should do to promote growth. They’re healthy, vibrant, and contextually valid. They have Godly leaders, enthusiastic volunteers, a compelling vision, challenging, but doable goals… everything needed for a healthy, growing church.

Sure, they each have their problems. No church is perfect. But the problems are minor.

Church A grows.

Church B doesn’t.

Pastor A holds seminars on how to grow your church like they grew theirs.

Pastor B calls goes to Pastor A’s seminar to find out what Church B is doing wrong. Pastor B comes home with a list to work on. They work on the list. It doesn’t help. Read more

See also
Forget Being Culturally Relevant – Let’s Get Contextually Real

Church of England: One in 50 clergy don't believe in God

One in 50 Anglican clergy in the UK believes God is merely a human construct, according to a new survey today.

Just eight in ten believe there is a personal God and a further three in 100 believe there is some spirit or life force.

And in spite of two millennia of Church doctrine based on determining the mind of God through the Scriptures, nearly one in ten believes: "No-one can know what God is like." Read more

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: October 22, 2014

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

The New ACNA Archbishop’s Take on the Anglican Tradition: Three Observations

By Robin G. Jordan

In his sermon at his investiture earlier this month ACNA Archbishop Foley Beech made a number of remarks that deserve comment.

Archbishop Beech made this rather sweeping statement, “You know, Anglicanism has never been uniform – it is actually always been one of our strengths as a movement and as a Tradition of Christian Faith.”

This statement is not entirely accurate. It represents a particular interpretation of Anglican Church history, one that makes selective use of primary and secondary sources and concludes from this cherry-picked evidence that Anglicanism historically has been quite diverse in its beliefs and practices. This interpretation of Anglican Church history is then used to justify a wide diversity of opinion and creed in the present day Anglican Church. It is associated with theological liberalism.

Uniformity in belief and practice was a major concern in the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I and would also be at the Restoration. A number of Acts of Parliament imposing such uniformity were passed during this period. The same period produced the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, the 1604 Book of Common Prayer, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It would also produced Alexander Nowell’s Catechism of 1563, Archbishop Mathhew Parker’s Advertisements of 1566, the Articles of Religion of 1571, also known as the Thirty-Nine Articles, the proposed Canons of 1571, the Canons of 1604, the Royal Declaration of 1628, and the abortive Canons Ecclesiastical of 1640. It also produced the Second Book of Homilies, which was fully published in 1571 and which, along with the First Book of Homilies of 1547, was appointed to be read on every Sunday and holy day.

Even when latitudinarianism with its relaxed attitude toward belief and practice may have been the dominant philosophy in the Church of England, it did not enjoy official sanction. While variances in belief and practice did exist in the Church of England during this period, it is a bit of a stretch to claim that a characteristic of historic Anglicanism is its diversity, or lack of uniformity.

It is even more of a stretch to assert that it is one of Anglicanism’s strengths. The nineteenth century Tractarian movement’s departure from the official teaching of the Church of England and its reinterpretation of the Church’s formularies would cause divisions in the Church of England, which persist to this day. The Protestant Episcopal Church would experience similar divisions over the Tractarian movement’s revival of pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic beliefs and practices and its introduction of post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrinal and worship innovations. Theological liberalism made serious inroads in a number of Anglican provinces in the twentieth century, including Beech’s former province, leading to a major split in the Anglican Communion in the twenty-first century.

While Archbishop Beech may claim that uniformity is not a characteristic of Anglicanism, this is certainly not the position of Anglican Church in North America as evidenced in its doctrinal statements to date. These doctrinal statements include its fundamental declarations, its canons, Texts for Common Prayer, To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism, and its proposed rites for admission of catechumens, baptism, and confirmation. What latitude they offer is unidirectional. It is decidedly biased toward unreformed Catholic belief and practice and against Protestant.

The larger part of the sermon was devoted to expounding what Archbishop Beech described as “Four Marks of Continuing a Spirit-filled Movement” or “Four Marks of Modern Anglicanism.” They were repentance, reconciliation, reproduction, and relentless compassion. It should be noted that these marks are among the distinguishing characteristics of any spiritually healthy believing Christian, church, denomination or network of churches. They are not particularly to any one movement or faith tradition. Here again, Beech is not making an entirely accurate statement. 

Four Kinds of Church Leaders Who Will Not Lead in Revitalization

You’ve heard my dire statistics from time to time. For example, nine out of ten churches in America are either declining or growing more slowly than the community in which they are located. So the overwhelming numbers of our churches are losing ground in their respective communities.

Among the one out of ten churches that are doing okay, there is usually room for improvement. Church revitalization, then, is really for most leaders.

So why aren’t more church leaders being intentional in leading church revitalization? As I have conversed with church leaders, I have found four types of church leaders who are resistant to leading church revitalization. Read more

Do You Lack Vision?

Are you one of those people who attempts to put things together without using the instructions? You realize that says something very telling about you, right?

Manuals typically begin by instructing you to verify that you have all of the parts and tools necessary to complete the project. They recommend that you read the entire plan before beginning. They tend to feature step-by-step images so that you can visualize where you are and what needs to happen next to finish the piece.

If this sounds like a metaphor for life, that is because it is. A vision is a picture of where you want to be. It’s the ultimate goal statement. Churches, corporations, and organizations all have vision statements that communicate their mission and their values. Even individuals and families can have vision statements that illustrate their commitment, purpose, and life goals. Read more

Prince of Translators: William Tyndale

William Tyndale (ca. 1494–1536) made an enormous contribution to the Reformation in England. Many would say that he made the contribution by translating the Bible into English and overseeing its publication. One biographer, Brian Edwards, states that not only was Tyndale “the heart of the Reformation in England,” he “was the Reformation in England” (Edwards, God’s Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale and the English Bible [Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1999], 170). Because of his powerful use of the English language in his Bible, this Reformer has been called “the father of modern English” (N. R. Needham, 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power, Part Three: Renaissance and Reformation [London: Grace Publications, 2004], 379).

John Foxe went so far as to call him “the Apostle of England” (John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000], 114). There is no doubt that by his monumental work, Tyndale changed the course of English history and Western civilization. Read more

More Than "Just As I Have Never Sinned"

A helpful way to remember the important biblical term “justified” is with the phrase “just as if I’d never sinned.” And that is certainly part of what it means to be justified. All our sins are forgiven, and we stand pure and blameless before God. But “justified” actually means much more than that. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington explain (from their work, “The Bookends of the Christian Life”).... Read more

4 Reasons to Speak the Gospel to One Another

The reformer Martin Luther – a preacher of the gospel and no stranger to a fight – once said that knowing the gospel and teaching the gospel is so necessary for discipleship that we must beat it continually into our heads[1] (he had a fierce way with his metaphors). Luther knew this gospel-beating was needed greatly because of our fight against the three enemies of Christian growth – the devil, the flesh and the world – all of which are working daily to weaken Christians with lies and temptations. If this fight is an everyday reality – however overt or subtle it may seem – it would follow, then, that the best counter-offensive would be to have the truth of the gospel sink deep into our minds and hearts on a daily basis. We need to be hearing and speaking the gospel with each other proactively, and, I would propose, in the tradition of Luther, having it spoken right to our faces.

Part one of this article will be to discuss why we need to speak the gospel to each other. Part two will offer a few suggestions on how to speak the core doctrines of the gospel, and conclude with some encouragement toward speaking with spontaneity and without fear. For the purposes of this article, I will be talking about speaking the gospel primarily with Christians. While speaking the gospel to unbelievers is crucial for the Great Commission (and some of the ideas here could have crossover in evangelism), here I am concerned only with the necessity of speaking it to believers (Eph. 4:15; Heb. 3:13). Read more

7 Performance Characteristics of a Great Team Member

I love team dynamics and organizational structures. I have written many times about what makes a healthy team, my expectations of team members, and elements to build health into your team.

I previously wrote 7 Traits of a Great Team Member.

But, how does a great team member perform on a team? I’m not sure I’ve talked specifically about the performance characteristics I believe make a great team member. How do they act on the team? Read more

How To Get Things Done: Task Management

As I continue this series on getting things done, I want to remind you of our definition of productivity: Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I would like to briefly address that “good to others and glory to God” because I know it can be a little bit abstract. Read more

OmniFocus for Mac free Download

Pastors, Deepen Your Walk and God Will Broaden Your Influence

Every pastor wants to make a significant impact with his life and through his ministry. This passion and vision is true regardless of the size of the ministry you lead today.

When I was younger, I wanted to make a difference in a major way. I still do today. When I was in a smaller church, I wanted to have an impactful ministry. I still do today.

What is the secret? Read more

A Word Can Be Worth a Thousand Pictures

Why the pulpit—and not the screen—still belongs at the center of our churches.

Long ago the apostle Paul wrote, “God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21, NRSV used throughout). Preaching, he implies, is essential to God’s purposes. At the same time, Paul tacitly acknowledges that preaching hardly looks like a sensible means to God’s ends. Just words? And inevitably imperfect words at that. Foolishness! Foolishness even then.

But had Paul lived today, in a culture as visual—and as increasingly inattentive to extended verbal discourse—as ours, might he have spoken differently? Might he have said that God has decided to use the foolishness of our feature films, our advertising, and our visual art to save those who believe? Read more

See also
A Tale of Two Weekends
You may need to register to read the first article.

Biblical Literacy by the Numbers Part 2: Scripture Engagement

Biblical literacy cannot exist without regular Scripture engagement.

It's All About Engagement
The bottom line is that too many Christians are simply not reading and studying their Bibles. This goes beyond simple trivia questions aimed at revealing how few facts we know about our Bibles. American evangelicals increasingly lack a spiritual depth. Our lives betray a lack of Christian character. We don't seem to be very Christlike to a watching world. So what do we do about it?

There are several things we can do to reverse biblical illiteracy here in America. At LifeWay Research, we define Bible engagement as "allowing God, through His Word, to lead and change an individual's life—one's direction, thinking and actions." When we compiled all the data from our most recent study on Bible engagement, we found this maxim to be true: Engaging the Bible impacts one's spiritual maturity more than any other discipleship attribute. In fact, "reading the Bible" topped our list of things we found impacting spiritual maturity (followed by such things as praying for unbelievers, confessing sins and asking God for forgiveness, and witnessing to an unbeliever).

With research showing Bible engagement being so important to life change and spiritual maturity, is there any doubt our failure to read our Bibles impacts everything? The Holy Spirit works though the Scriptures, leading us to maturity in every area. That can't happen if we are not in the Word. Read more

Morning to Evening by Green Carpet Players

Digital Album

Includes high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Paying supporters also get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app.

With your download you will also get a pdf of LEAD SHEETS and a pdf of liner notes.

We are so happy this music is free, but if you feel that you must make a contribution for such good music, know that it will be used for the worship ministry of Redeemer Church of Knoxville, for future creative projects, and a portion of proceeds will go to help feed the poor and homeless of Knoxville through Food in the Fort. Learn more

See also
Rise O Buried Lord by Green Carpet Players
See the track listing for the MP3, lyrics, and download for each song on the album.

Small Group Ministry Roundup: Three Articles

Ed Stetzer: Reaching Your Neighbors Through Groups

Groups are at the core of the mission of the church. Small groups, done right, are simply communities on mission together. However, a common struggle of groups comes in participating together as a disciple-making, evangelistic community. One of the easiest ways to use your group as a catalyst for evangelism is to invite your neighbors to your group.

Some people would not think of attending a church service, but would gladly go to a small group meeting where you were either hosting or attending. If they are already active in a local church, affirm them. If they are not, those are the neighbors you can pursue spiritually.

In addition to inviting neighbors to weekly group meetings, here are some practical ways members of a group can work together to reach out to neighbors. With a little forethought and planning, your Bible study group could host an event in your neighborhood with the intent of being on mission together. The members of your group can assist you. And along the way, they’ll discover what it means to live on mission in a community.

I hope these ideas will serve as a jumping off point for many others that work best in your community. Use your own creativity to make welcoming environments where people can connect. Read more

Organic Growth Through Host Groups

Sagebrush Community Church in Albuquerque, N.M., never planned to open a campus in Belize. But Sagebrush discovered a multisite model utilizing home-based host groups that has already launched one additional campus. Read more

Proactive and Reactive Prayer

In a recent post, having noted that the Bible’s prayers are often focused on calling on God to fulfil his promises, I asked the question:

Does your small group spend time praying for God to be active and fulfilling his promises to establish the New Jerusalem?

Our standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) in home groups don’t help us much in this regard. Whilst I love the fact that we share prayer points around the group—it is a great way to express care for each other—which of the following might stand out as a prayer point that would be statistically rare in your group.... Read more

Is Your Negative Online Behavior Killing Your Ministry Opportunities?

What is it about the internet that seems to bring out the jerk in so many people? Ministers included.

If you have a habit of using the internet to vent, even if it’s to vent against things you feel need to be denounced, be aware of the unintended consequences attached to it. It’s the new normal for pastoral search committees and church leaders to check out our online behavior when deciding to partner with someone in ministry or hire their next pastor.

The biggest reason people pass someone over? A mean, critical or overly judgmental spirit in online conversations.

That’s one of the takeaways from Thom Rainer’s recent podcast about ministers and the way we interact online. People don’t want to work with ministers who regularly exhibit negative online behavior.

Even if people agree with the content of what we’re saying, they can be turned off by the attitude with which we say it. So speak your mind. And speak it passionately. But be careful about the tone with which you say it. Read more

See also
Using Social Media as a Christ Follower: One Principle and Three Questions

3 Definitions of "Secular" and Why They Matter for Our Mission

Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age has been praised for its thorough analysis of how we arrived at the “secular” moment in which we live, a world where the biggest shift is not simply in what human beings believe or disbelieve, but what is believable.

Before reading this book, I considered “secular” as a synonym for “non-spiritual” and used the term as an antonym for “sacred” or as an adjective to describe an increasingly non-religious Western world. Taylor’s work challenged me on the meaning of “secular” by offering three reference points for secularity, showing how the term can take on different meanings. Read more

Catholics' revised report shows 'deep division'

Differences between the interim and final reports from a meeting of Catholic bishops in Rome reflect "deep division" within the church's hierarchy regarding homosexuality, a seminary professor has noted.

"Deep division appears obvious," Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in written comments. "How broad the division is difficult to say. ... Some bishops appear captured by western cultural notions that stress sexual freedom rather than a freedom that comes by obeying the clear teaching of Scripture."

Riley, a research fellow with Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said culturally conservative bishops generally come from the global south and east while liberal bishops tend to come from the north and west. Read more

Photo: Baptist Press

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I've Been Overwhelmed by the Response!

Here's What You Might Have Missed...

Wow. It's been an incredible ride these past few days. I am so thankful for the way so many of you are responding to the video consultation. As one pastor said: "It's like Thom is in our church speaking directly to us."

You still have a few days left to sign up. Let me, at this point, share what you have missed or, better stated, what you will see when you sign up. Learn more

10 Ways Church Leaders Deal With the Brutal Facts

Jim Collins was correct in his book, Good to Great: stagnant organizations that want to grow must be willing to face the brutal facts. Until leaders admit reality, there is little hope of pressing forward. Denial of the past and present seldom leads to a bright future.

My church consulting experience tells me that many leaders and members of non-growing churches do not recognize the reality of their church’s direction. When our team helps them face reality, the responses are mixed. While these designations are arbitrary, I categorize those responses as either “frustration” or “fortitude.” Look at these descriptions, and see where you are as you face the reality of your congregation. Read more

Toward Viral: What Exponential Growth Might Look Like: The Summit Church

Exponential growth requires sacrificial planting, and The Summit Church shows that.

The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham has been planting churches in both North America and Internationally since the beginning. Over the years they have planted 23 churches in North America and 47 churches internationally. They have recently made an intentional shift in strategy to be a sending church. This means they will train a planter and send him out with 20+ people to plant a new church in a new city.

Their strategy is to plant multiplying churches by raising lead planters, training them, and sending them out with a team of people from our church. They identify potential church planters and putting them in a leadership development pipeline. At the end of that, most will go through a 9-month residency where they remain on staff while being trained to plant, refining their vision, raising money, building a team, and developing a strategy before they're sent out. Read more

CNLP 006: How to Grow Your Small, Mid-sized or Large Church By Effectively Positioning Your Team —An Interview with Tony Morgan [Podcast]

Ever wonder what helps and hinders the growth of your church or organization?

You’re not alone.

In this episode, we reveal how your volunteer and staff team can hinder your church from growing, or how a great team can fuel its growth—whether you’re involved in a very small church or a very large one. Read more

Why You May Be Tempted To Neglect Your Church

Every pastor encounters people who have given up, or are tempted to give up, meeting together with God’s people. At any given time just about every church has some people who are in danger of drifting away, and no longer participating in the life of the church. To do so is to directly disobey Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This passage warns us not to neglect local church fellowship and participation, and also hints at the reasons we may do so.

Here are two reasons you may be tempted to neglect meeting together with God’s people. Read more

Unchurched Americans Most Resistant to Evangelism Outreach in 20 Years, Survey Finds

A new study from Christian Research company Barna Group reveals that unchurched Americans are the most resistant to outreach efforts by the church and friends than they've been in 20 years.

Data collected from 42,855 interviews show that 47 percent of U.S. adults who do not attend church said they were open to being invited to church by a friend – down from 65 percent in 1993.

However study results indicate that personal invitations from friends are the most effective way to draw church visitors compared to other outreaches. Read more

Photo: Fox40 Video Screencap

The Decline of Decline? Alarming Rate of Mainline Protestants Leaving Church May Be Slowing Down

There has been a lot of attention paid lately to the alarming numbers of a decreasing membership in mainline Protestant denominations in the United States in recent years.

Denominations like The Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA) have annually reported losses in membership and attendance figures for their churches.

However, the denominations are not losing members at as high of rates as in 2013, according to their spokespeople. Read more

Photo: Matt Rhodes/The Falls Church Episcopal

Idaho Pastors Face Jail Time, Thousands in Fines for Not Performing Gay Weddings

Two ordained Christian pastors in Idaho have filed a federal lawsuit and a motion for temporarily restraining Coeur d'Alene city officials from forcing them to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies or face prosecution for violating "non-discrimination" laws.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed the lawsuit and the motion on behalf of Donald Knapp and his wife, Evelyn, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel and have been required by city officials to perform gay ceremonies or face months in jail and/or thousands of dollars in fines.

The city says its non-discrimination ordinance requires them to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies because the courts have overridden Idaho's voter-approved constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Read more

Monday, October 20, 2014

Church Revitalization: Low Hanging Fruit and Practical Examples

Fourth Video Now Live

This journey has been incredible for me! I have been able to consult with your churches through three videos, and now the fourth is available. You can still view all the videos here.

Now I am making an opportunity to let you take the training to the next level. We are introducing a 15-module video consultation on church revitalization. It is the most thorough presentation on church revitalization I've ever done. It might be the most thorough ever done.

Of course, we made the first four videos available to you at no charge. We shared rich content with you. And we understand that not every person can be involved in a paid (but still relatively inexpensive for a consult) consultation. I'm just grateful you joined me this far. I pray you and your churches are blessed by our work.

For those of you who are ready for much deeper information and consultation, get ready for a few weeks of incredible insights. That's the good news.

The bad news is that we will keep this registration open for only a week. Then it will close. It will go away. We can't re-open it for you, at least for several months.

Why? Learn more

Zurich Revolutionary: Ulrich Zwingli

Other than Martin Luther, Heinrich Bullinger, and John Calvin, the most important early Reformer was Ulrich Zwingli. A first-generation Reformer, he is regarded as the founder of Swiss Protestantism. Furthermore, history remembers him as the first Reformed theologian. Though Calvin would later surpass Zwingli as a theologian, he would stand squarely on Zwingli’s broad shoulders. Read more

How to Shape Your Church’s Culture

Perhaps the single most helpful development from leadership studies to aid the church in Great Commission work is the study of organizational culture. In fact, in his groundbreaking work on organizational culture, Edgar Schein notes that “leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin.” Leaders neglect the reality of their church’s organizational culture to their own detriment.

Shifting the focus away from pragmatic church growth methodologies, organizational culture studies allow a church to analyze the extent to which it is being faithful to the Scriptures. Pastors Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro call the church’s organizational culture “the most important social reality” in the church. Read more

Strategy Matters: The Importance of Strategic Thinking in the Church (Part 2)

Strategy matters, even when it comes to something like sermon prep.

Sermon Prep Strategy
Not only are we seeing churches take their groups seriously, in regard to strategy, we are also seeing new and intriguing trends in respect to sermon preparation. In my mind this is a particularly unique, and helpful, phenomenon.

In an era where too much emphasis is placed on the super-pastor, it seems to me that moving sermon prep from a solo effort, to a team enterprise can have some helpful results. It would seem that a number of churches who are being blessed with growth are seeing the same things. Read more

Inerrancy and Church History: The Middle Ages

In a previous article I sought to show that although the word “inerrancy” was not used to describe Scripture until rather recently, the concept of an error-free Bible is found among the early church fathers. Theologians in the medieval church also affirmed the complete truthfulness of Scripture. Here are a few examples. Read more

New Music from Crowder [Video]

David Crowder has released his newest music video. It is, as expected, quite wonderful. Take a moment to listen to “Come As You Are.” Watch video

Neon Steeple Track Listing 
The track listing for the album Neon Steeple includes lyrics and mp3 sound recordings. The sound recordings may be downloaded on I-Tunes. Originally posted on

Catholic Synod closes without any major shift on homosexuality or divorcees

The Pope hit out at "traditionalists" yesterday after his attempt to make the Catholic Church less hostile to the homosexual community failed.

At the end of the two-week Extraordinary Synod on evangelising the family, it was also clear that Pope Francis will struggle to push through any reform on marriage and divorce at the open synod in Rome in October next year.

Without any softening of the Church's current position, clergy will be expected to teach that homosexuality is a tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil. In the pews, they will also continue to have to turn away devout Catholics from receiving communion if they've had a civil marriage after a divorce, even when they were the innocent party in the divorce. Read more

Photo: Paul Haring/Catholic News Service/RNS

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: October 18, 2014

In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Abalze:

a word to those on the journey

Many Christian organizations, as they think about their treatment of gays and lesbians, and their theology of sexuality more generally, are “evolving,” or “in process,” or "on the journey." And make no mistake, this is a journey on a one-way street: no Christian group is moving from greater to less tolerance of same-sex relationships.

So let’s imagine that a given Christian organization takes its journey from A to B. A is believing that sexual activity between people of the same sex is wrong because it is forbidden by Scripture and/or by Church teaching; B is believing that such sexual activity is not necessarily forbidden (not “intrinsically disordered”) and can, under the same conditions of faithfulness that have traditionally governed opposite-sex unions, be blessed by the church.

Let’s also assume that God has not changed His mind about sexuality.

So as we try to evaluate this imaginary Christian organization, we can see what has happened in one of three ways.... Read more

See also
A Church in Exile: Hillsong's Shifts on Homosexuality

Was Driscoll's Board a Problem?

Outside Insight: Some say it’s the new norm. Others don’t consider it biblical.

As Mark Driscoll leaves Mars Hill Church, one question may continue: Will the Seattle megachurch’s governance help or hurt as it moves forward? Read more

Photo: Mars Hill

20 Ways to Be Refreshing in the Local Church

There are few epitaphs I would rather have engraved on my tombstone than Paul’s words of commendation to Philemon, “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philemon 1:7). Oh, how I love Philemons and want to consistently be one!

It has been my pleasure to serve in the local church with some individuals that are truly “refreshing” to the saints. When you meet them, you know it! They are like an oasis in the midst of a desert. I walk away feeling encouraged, joyful, and spiritually stimulated. Unfortunately, they are an endangered species and much harder to find than should be the case.

I routinely examine myself by asking, “Do others consider me refreshing?” I wish that I could more routinely answer, “Yes.” I challenge you to ask yourself that same question and answer it honestly. I wonder, what would it be like if even one in ten of us were striving to be a refreshment to others in the local church? If that was part of our ministry aim, what kind of significant impact could that have upon our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

How do you refresh the hearts of the saints? It is only possible by one who knows the love and grace of Christ in such a way that it overflows to those around them. It is consistently present and abundantly evident. As I have inquired of those who I find to be such a refreshment to my own soul, they almost always testify that this gift, which they manifest, is something that they have deliberately sought to develop and nurture. Here are twenty practical ways that you can seek to nurture this refreshing gift in the midst of your own local church. Read more

What Is It That Breaks Your Heart?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was so moved by the plight of black people in America that he gave his life leading a civil rights movement. Mother Teresa was so crushed by the poverty she saw in Calcutta that she spent her life there ministering to the poor. John Knox was so burdened for the souls of the people of Scotland that he prayed to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die.”

Moses saw the suffering of his Hebrew brothers and sisters and it moved him to reject his royal upbringing and ultimately lead them across the Red Sea to freedom. David was touched by the broken and outcast who were fleeing Saul’s kingdom to live in the caves that he became the great shepherd-king of Israel. Paul was devastated over the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as Messiah to the point that he bordered on wishing himself to be accursed if it would mean saving them.

What breaks your heart? Read more

Nuts and Bolts of Leadership: Eight Articles

5 Ways to Excel In Your Ministry and Leadership

God is more concerned with your progress than your perfect performance. The very nature of discipleship is progressive. God’s purpose is that you become more and more like His Son, Jesus, and He will use your entire life to work that process out. As ministry leaders, we are not exceptions. We are examples. If we aren’t growing and challenging ourselves to move to the next level, personally and professionally, we can’t lead a congregation or a team to do so.

Excellence, in and of itself, isn’t a core value at our church. We’d rather launch things imperfectly than wait for perfect conditions, which never really arrive. Having said that, excelling or growing and improving is another matter. While we don’t have to have reached perfection to serve God, we must be willing to grow. Some Pastors and leaders excel and grow, while others don’t. What makes the difference? The Bible mentions at least five factors that cause us to excel.... Read more

When Leaders Are Too Individualistic

One of the most helpful books that I’ve read on leading in an organization is Scott Eblin’s The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success. Eblin points out that “40 percent of new executives fail within eighteen months of being named to their positions.”

That’s an incredible statistic. Read more

7 Critical Questions to Assess Your Team's Energy

Maybe because I am getting older, I am more aware of my own energy level. In recent years, I have become more guarded in what I give my energy to. It has been easier for me to say “no” to certain things because the energy required is more than I am willing to give.

Are you aware of your own energy level? Of the energy level of your team? Are you wasting energy that isn’t moving your organization forward? Energy is one of the great resources of the team you lead. Do you regularly check the energy level of your team?

It might be time for you to pause, look, and take an energy check-up.... Read more

Does Your Team Respect, Trust,and Like Each Other (and You)?

The healthiest teams share mutual trust and respect and like each other. They trust each other, have respect for one another’s contribution to the whole, and enjoy each other. Because such a team is so healthy, those that the team is designed to serve benefit. If one or more of the three (trust, respect, like) is missing, the team and those the team is designed to serve suffer.

One of the reasons that healthy teams are so rare is that it is common for one or more of the three to be missing. We know this from personal experience, outside of the teams we serve on. There are likely some people you trust and respect but don’t really like that much (I know you love them; I am talking about liking them). In the same way, there are people you really like but don’t necessarily trust or respect fully. The people you are closest to, those you long to serve alongside, are likely those you trust, respect, and like.

While there is overlap, trust often relates to character, respect to competence, and like to chemistry. Read more

5 Reasons Why Ministry Leaders Should Pay Attention to Their Budgets

I actually like budgets. And I recognize that this makes me weird and in the minority of ministry leaders. For most, budgets are boring and painful. The number-filled documents sap life from the leader. It is something to be avoided.

But a budget is much more than numbers on paper. Budgets reveal a story. They provide unbiased, unfiltered insights into the ministry, and discloses the state of ministry leaders’ major concern areas. Budgets can help ministry leaders lead more effectively. Allow me to provide 5 reasons why ministry leaders should pay attention to their budgets.... Read more

3 Battles Every Leader Loses…Every Time

Most days you try to win battles as a leader, don’t you?

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.

But there are several battles leaders lose…every time. Even if you desperately try to convince yourself you’re winning.

Fighting any of those?

Your might be. How would you know? Read more

How To Get Things Done: Organization & Systems

I am now deep into this series on getting things done, but before I go any farther, I would like to pause for a quick review. I began this series by explaining what productivity is and why it matters [Part 1]. Then I had you look at your life from a high-level perspective so you could divide it into areas of responsibility [Part 2]. Once you defined those areas of responsibility, you listed specific roles and projects within each of them, and then you worked on some brief mission statements that define what you mean to accomplish in each of them [Part 3]. In the most recent article I explained the four categories of tools required for top productivity, and told you the ones I use [Part 4].

Today I want to explain and demonstrate what your areas of responsibility have to do with your tools (and why you will be missing out if you skip the hard work of defining those areas). As it happens, they have everything to do with one another. Your tools will only be as helpful as your understanding of your areas of responsibility and the duties and roles that fall within each of them. In other words, your tools function best when you combine them with a thorough understanding of your responsibilities.

Over this article and the ones that follow, I will help you use your tools to develop a system that will help ensure you give appropriate attention to each of your areas of responsibility. That word system may sound intimidating, so let me begin by distilling that fear factor. Read more

8 Ways to Make your Communication Stick

Whether you are a seasoned leader, college student, author, professor, CEO, politician, or pastor, we all have to learn to communicate well. Whether we are speaking to thousands, speaking to our staff, giving a report, making a speech, teaching your kids soccer team, or addressing your company, it’s imperative as leaders we know how to communicate. To make our point. To deliver a message.

And communicating is much easier said than done. Actually it’s the saying part and the doing part that make it difficult.

So here are some tips that might make communicating a bit easier for you and a bit more enjoyable for those listening. To make it stick. Read more

Eight Causes of Pastoral Ministry Slump

The “slump” metaphor is used often in sports. The baseball hitter is in a slump because he has not gotten a hit in 15 at bats. The football quarterback is in a slump because he has only completed eight passes in the past two games.

But pastors can get in slumps as well. Admittedly they are not as easily recognizable as sports slumps. There aren’t really any metrics to tell us that a slump is in progress.

Still, pastors know when they are in slumps. They recognize their preaching is not as effective as it has been. Their relationships to some church members may be strained. Perhaps no one has joined the church for a while. Or maybe the Monday morning blahs have intensified lately.

Sure, the pastoral ministry slump is subjective if not vague. But it’s real. And every pastor experiences it. So I asked several pastors what they viewed to be the causes of slumps they experienced. Here are their top responses in the form of direct quotes. Read more

20 questions a pastoral candidate should ask a search committee

After the committee has grilled the pastoral candidate and the tables are turned, what information should he want from them?

Pastors toss me this issue regularly. Somewhere in the archives of our website, I’m sure we’ve dealt with this subject. However, with over 2,000 articles and no index of these things, I suggest that they google “McKeever + (subject),” and see what comes up. Usually, if I’ve written on the subject, it’ll show up in the results.

That said, perhaps it’s time to say a few more things about this. Read more

The pastor said, “No, we don’t believe the Bible.”

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) and “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

Let’s see what you do and I’ll decide for myself whether you believe the Bible. Read more

Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge

How well do American Christians know their Bibles? Hint: not well.

America can be proud of many things: our innovation, generosity and entrepreneurial spirit are unsurpassed. Yet when it comes to our nation understanding one of the greatest gifts ever given to humanity—the Bible—we're moving from dumb to dumber ... and it's no laughing matter.

Both inside and outside the church, there is a problem. Non-Christians don't have even the general idea of the Bible they once did. Christians are not seeing the life change that real Bible engagement brings. The result is a nation in spiritual free fall, and while most cultural analysts point to such culprits as church leadership scandals and government failings, the true answers start with the foundational Word of God—if we'll take seriously the challenge, look to best practices in the research, and faithfully and fruitfully engage the Scriptures. Read more

21 minutes of Alternative worship music

The fact that Christian Punk, Metal and Alternative music exists should come as no surprise to lovers of Christian music.There is an entire scene dedicated to bands who not only openly identify as Christian but whose core audience is made up of people who love the Alternative music genres and want to be sure they are listening to Christian bands. Some of these guys play worship (devotional music as opposed to music that just has a Christian message), some of them don't.

21 minutes of that would be easy to find.

The artists in the playlist below are a little more interesting. Well known for something other than faith, and here singing five very different styles of worship, you may be surprised at some of the names below. Some may be new to you. Some may never have come out publicly as Christians. But listening to these five tracks might convince you that God has been working in and through them, and will hopefully help you to connect with the Lord while enjoying some of the finest talent the Alternative music world has to offer.

Please rise, and turn to the YouTube page in your hymnbook. Read more