Friday, August 31, 2012

Enrichment Journal: The AARP Generation Plants Churches

Rather than boomers putting their ministries on cruise control, now is the time for them to take a chance on church planting, to finish their careers playing offense rather than defense.

“Why would you give up your dream job?” The psychologist asked that question at our screening interview with U.S. Missions. I had spent over 6 years as director of doctoral studies at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He wanted to know why I would consider giving up such a position for a new adventure: church planting.

While people decide to plant new churches every day, it is not often they do so in their mid-50s after working in higher education, a role people often see as reserved for later in life. Even the church-planting poster issued by the Assemblies of God depicts an attractive couple in their mid-20s dressed in the casual style of today’s young adult. Having already pastored three churches, should we not have stayed at AGTS until I retired from my dream job?

We would have answered yes, had we not felt called to plant a university church in Berkeley, California, a city of 100,000, 10 miles north of San Francisco. This location, home of the University of California at Berkeley, would be our new home and the site of a new church reaching out to the Cal community. As the vision for Berkeley grew within us, we discovered something: Calling is not determined by age. While our custom is for younger people to plant churches, Peter quotes the prophet Joel: “Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17, NIV).

If the church is to reach its potential, it needs everyone. The world knows this. The CEO of General Motors, for example, is my age (55). Surely we do not believe a mid-50s person is capable of leading a major international conglomerate, but lacks the assets to start a new congregation? Perhaps we have used the young because they seem the most willing. After all, why would anyone with anything to lose risk it all on the uncertainties of church planting? Our journey indicates that older people have untapped potential in start-ups as well as in a variety of ministries. Just because you have an AARP card in your wallet does not mean you lack fire in your heart.

This article explores the potential of post-midlife people — the AARP generation — as church planters. While researching this subject, I contacted Ed Stetzer, a missionary strategist with the Southern Baptist Convention, and asked if anyone had conducted a study of older planters. His response was: “I do not know of anyone who has done research like that. Honestly, it is mostly a young man’s game.”1 His conclusion is ironic in a nation that is home to more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. The goal of this article is not just to review what is known about post-midlife planters, but also to encourage the AARP generation to be open to this option. Read more

8 Tips for Telling a Great Story

It's not enough to have a great story; you have to tell it well.

I don't claim to be a great storyteller, but I am the son of one. My 86-year-old father honed his story-telling skills in the finest school in America: the Appalachian Mountains. Below I list the tips I've picked up from him and other great storytellers I've had the privilege of listening to throughout the years. Storytelling is a vital component of good teaching and preaching. I hope these guidelines will improve your teaching as much as they have mine. Read more

Books: Francis Chan encourages Christians to reach out to others

Francis Chan, founder and chancellor of Eternity Bible College in California, is preparing with co-author Mark Beuving to release a new book titled Multiply, which seeks to inspire followers of Christ to encourage others to become disciples.

"Multiply is not a Bible study, it is about disciples making disciples," Chan told The Christian Post. "It was written with the intention that everyone who goes through the material will be encouraged and taught to pass this on to someone else.

"The Spirit of God is at work, this is what the future of the church needs to be about and we want to explain that biblically in such a way that all hear it and go, 'Yeah, that's clearly the Word of God.' And then pass this on to everyone who calls himself a follower of Jesus Christ." Read more

5 things I wish I had known as a young pastor

I left my breakfast meeting with a young pastor and realized, with a measure of sadness, that I was no longer a "young pastor." He was facing a number of ministry challenges that seemed very familiar to me.

As I shared with him some of the lessons I had learned, he remarked, "I wish I had known this three years ago." It occurred to me that the lessons I shared with him were ones that I wish I had been told when a small country church that allowed a rough, unrefined college student to get his feet wet in ministry. As I look back, there are (at least) five things I wish I had been aware of when I was just starting out.... Read more

'Mysterious' Baltic Sea Object Is a Glacial Deposit

A feature on the floor of the Baltic Sea that was discovered last summer by Swedish treasure hunters is making headlines once again. The latest media coverage draws upon an hour-long radio interview with Peter Lindberg, head of the Ocean X Team (which made the "discovery"), in which Lindberg delivers a string of cryptic and titillating statements about the "strange" and "mysterious" seafloor object his team has been exploring for a year.

Lindberg discusses various possibilities for what the object might be: "It has these very strange stair formations, and if it is constructed, it must be constructed tens of thousands of years ago before the Ice Age," he said in the radio interview. (The peak of the most recent Ice Age occurred some 20,000 years ago.)

"If this is Atlantis, that would be quite amazing," he said. Atlantis is a mythical underwater city referred to in ancient legends. Read more

Teen accused of blasphemy will leave jail, but can’t go home, lawyer says

Rimsha Masih is likely to be cleared of the blasphemy charge against her, but never will be able to return home, her lawyer says.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, who has taken up the defense of the young Christian girl whose case has renewed international debate about Pakistan’s notorious anti-blasphemy laws, said he is confident Rimsha will qualify for release on bail this week. The government, however, may ask the court to keep her in custody until tensions ease.

Naveed, a member of Pakistan’s Punjab provincial assembly, also hinted that the blasphemy accusations against Rimsha may have been motivated partly by overtures toward her older sister being rebuffed. Read more

Read also:
Muslims leaders back Pakistani Christian girl

Welcoming visitors

The language we use as we welcome people at church is significant. It says all sorts of things about us, and also sets the language we use in church for a considerable time into the future.

Here is an example. For a couple of years now a line I hear at the beginning of almost every gathering is “Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m [insert name]”. This introduction does many things. Most importantly, it says that we recognize there will be people in our meeting who don’t know who is up front, and we have thought about them and care for them. But it so quickly becomes part of the unchanging liturgy we employ and consequently members stop listening to what has been said.

In many ways the introducing of oneself is innocuous, but there are other things we say that I want us to think about because they are of greater significance. Read more

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Anglican Church in North America’s Commitment to Subsidiarity Is Just Talk

By Robin G. Jordan

We hear a lot of talk about subsidiarity in the Anglican Church in North America. For those unfamiliar with the term “subsidiarity” A. S. Haley offered this explanation in a recent article on his blog:
Subsidiarity is the idea that the affairs of an organization are dealt with at as local a level as possible, and that only those matters which truly affect the organization as a whole need to receive attention at the topmost level. (It is the principle on which PECUSA itself was founded, and which governed its affairs for the first 150 years of its existence.)
If the Anglican Church in North America actually practiced the principle of subsidiarity, however, and did not merely give lip service to it, the ACNA would have taken a quite different shape from what it has taken.

In an Anglican ecclesial body committed to this concept the constitution or its equivalent would recognize that the ecclesial body was a voluntary association of autonomous dioceses, which in turn were voluntary associations of self-governing congregations. It would recognize that the ecclesial body derived its authority from its constituent dioceses. They in turn derived their authority from the congregations forming them, and these congregations in turn derived their authority from Christ. As A. S. Haley has pointed out in several articles this was the thinking behind PECUSA.

A number of Anglo-Catholic bishops departed from this thinking in the nineteenth century. They would claim that all authority in PECUSA was derived from its bishops whom they asserted were the successors to the apostles. Instead of viewing the diocese as a creature of the congregations forming it and supporting and helping them in their mission, these bishops regarded congregations as creatures of the diocese, subordinate to the diocese and serving it. We are seeing the consequences of this departure played out in TEC and the ACNA today.

In an Anglican ecclesial body committed to the principle of subsidiarity the representation of each diocese in the Provincial Council would be larger and the Council would function as a central synod. It would attend solely to those matters that affected the ACNA as a whole.

The dioceses would retain the power to ratify constitutional and canonical changes rather than delegating that power to a Provincial Assembly. Such changes adopted by the Provincial Council would be presented to the diocesan synod or the equivalent of each diocese for its assent. If a specific number of dioceses assented to a change in the constitution or canons, it would go into effect. Some categories of legislation might require the assent of a diocese before they are binding upon the diocese, as in the Anglican Church of Australia.

As for the other purposes of the Provincial Assembly, they also would be undertaken at the regional and diocesan levels. Several dioceses would jointly sponsor and plan a regional mission conference; individual dioceses would conduct diocesan mission conferences. The various sessions of these conferences would be live-streamed on the Internet and recorded on video and the recordings distributed over the Internet.

Regional mission centers would be established to develop and distribute educational materials and training resources. Itinerant teams connected with these centers would conduct seminars and workshops within their respective regions.

An Anglican ecclesial body committed to the subsidiarity principle would not have centralized hierarchy with an archbishop at the top of that hierarchy. It would be more lateral in its organization. It would have a moderator, president or presiding bishop, or primus. This officer would have very limited functions and powers and certainly would not have the functions and powers that the ACNA canons and model diocesan constitution and canons assign to Archbishop Duncan or which Archbishop Duncan has arrogated to himself.

The ACNA constitution would prohibit not only the province from holding the property of local congregations in trust but also the dioceses and other groupings.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal would be recognized alongside the Thirty Nine Articles as the doctrinal standard of the Anglican Church in North America. The 1662 Prayer Book would be recognized as its standard of worship and prayer and the 1661Prayer Book as its standard of clerical orders. The dioceses would be free to develop their own worship resources consistent with these standards in addition to any service books adopted by the Provincial Council, as in the Anglican Church of Australia. Local congregations would be at liberty to determine for themselves what service books and worship resources they used.

The organizational principle that I find more often put into practice in the Anglican Church in North America involves taking decisions away from the local congregation and giving them to the diocese and taking decisions away from the diocese and giving them to the province. This is not pushing power down to the lowest possible level by any stretch of the imagination. It is quite the opposite. All the talk about the principle of subsidiarity in the ACNA is simply that—talk.

The Small Church Board: Support and Care for the Pastor: A Critical Role of the Church Board

The numbers are both shocking and tragic. Only one out of every ten individual who start their career in ministry will end their career still faithfully serving the church. One out of every four pastors will face a forced resignation sometime in their career. While many churches love and support their pastors’ there are always individuals who seem to think that it is their calling to criticize and undermine the ministry of the pastor. Even more tragic is when a church becomes toxic and becomes a meat grinder of pastors, destroying the ministry of one individual after another and leaving in their wake broken pastors and pastors’ families in their spiritual toxicity. However, this tragedy lies not upon the doorsteps of toxic Christians who attack the pastors, but upon the board’s failure to confront and discipline these antagonists within the church. Even more tragic is when the board becomes part of the problem, attacking and undermining the pastor so that there develops an adversarial relationship with the pastor.

This is not to say that the problems always reside on the side of the people or board. There are often pastors who likewise contribute to the conflicts and problems between themselves and the churches they serve. Instead of sacrificially serving the church, they become power-driven dictators who seek to use the church for their own recognition. However, thankfully, this is not what characterizes many churches and boards. While there are rogue people and boards (and even pastors), most people and church boards sincerely love their pastor and desire to support his leadership. When problems and frustrations arise (which they will, for that is a part of any personal relationship), they desire to work through the issues with love, grace and forgiveness. The question then is how does the board support the pastor as well as develop an environment where the pastor can grow and thrive. Read more

Invest in Others: 7 Steps to Develop Leaders

The greatest and highest calling of a leader is to replace themselves.

The Lord said to Elijah…anoint Elisha to succeed you as prophet. So Elijah went from there and found Elisha… Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

Then he left to follow and assist Elijah. ~1 Kings 19 Read more

Outreach Magazine: 11 Questions for (Not Just) Rural Church Leaders

Every place has a history. What is the story of your church’s community? Use these 11 questions to help you understand the culture of your community and how your church can be good news to the people in it. Read more

Jim Cymbala: What the Holy Spirit Can Do in Your Preaching

Dan Jones Awakens Wales by Clark Kelley Price
In times like these, we need the power of God more than ever.

Jesus said that the presence and work of the Holy Spirit resembles wind blowing in the leaves of a tree. What a perfect metaphor to describe a reality that no human can understand, much less control, but O how we long for the leaves to flutter when we preach! To that end, we spoke with Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Jim Cymbala to see what preachers can learn from his new book "Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit" (Zondervan, 2012). Why do preachers and their congregations need to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit?

Jim Cymbala: Christianity is in decline in America. A radical evaluation is needed of what we are doing and how we are going to turn the tide. That will require preaching that wins souls, brings glory to God, and strengthens believers to go out and share Christ. There is no hope without the Holy Spirit coming. Call it revival, call it renewal—I'm not talking about emotionalism or fanaticism—but something has to happen, and that something has to be from God's only agent on earth: the Holy Spirit.

Your book says the Holy Spirit is the forgotten member of the Trinity and the least preached about member of the Trinity. How should a pastor correct that deficiency?

It starts with time alone with the Lord to see where we are with the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit producing fruit in our lives? Is our preaching singed by his fire-like presence? In Jeremiah 23 the Lord says, "Is not my word like fire?" Without that fiery influence that burns and penetrates and removes dross and sin, our preaching is futile.

So it has to start with our walk with the Lord. Are we filled with the Holy Spirit? Are we being controlled by the Holy Spirit? Have we humbled ourselves before the Lord and let him work in us? The hardest part of the sermon is what God has to do in us, so that we can go up and preach with moral authority and spiritual power. Three points and a conclusion is not hard to do; what's hard is having a message that penetrates and gets rid of the junk that God wants to deal with.

That has to start with the minister, and then the Lord will lead. There is no formula; there is no paradigm. Everyone has their own way of preaching, but it starts with us: God, send the Holy Spirit and work in my life in a new way so that my church and my preaching resembles the kind of preaching in the Book of Acts.

So it is not enough just to pull out a systematic theology and preach on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

We have to preach about the Holy Spirit, obviously, but that can become merely intellectual. You can have correct doctrine about the Holy Spirit and not have him within a hundred yards of the church, it would seem.

So yes, preach about him. What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit? What were the promises? How could Jesus say, it's better for you that I leave? The disciples thought, No way, Rabbi. You're our teacher. You walk on water. You heal everyone. You always know what to do. It's better for us that you go?  Read more

Small Groups: Three Ways to Kill a Small Group

Avoid these sure-thing saboteurs

You’ve worked hard to prepare for your first small group: the invitations have been sent, the curriculum selected, the brownies baked. Everything you need for an amazing small-group experience! Except…it’s not that easy. It takes much more than good marketing to make a small group actually thrive. And if you aren’t careful, you can kill yours in three easy steps.... Read more

Atheists in the Pulpit — The Sad Charade of the Clergy Project

“It is hard to think of any other profession which it is so near to impossible to leave.” That is the judgment of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the world’s most famous living atheist, as he welcomes unbelieving pastors to join the Clergy Project, a group designed to help unbelieving pastors make their way out of the ministry. Apparently, some are not moving out very fast.

Dawkins explains that the Clergy Project “exists to provide a safe haven, a forum where clergy who have lost their faith can meet each other, exchange views, swap problems, counsel each other — for, whatever they may have lost, clergy know how to counsel and comfort.” Dawkins, who once held one of the world’s most coveted academic posts, has now reduced himself to addressing small gatherings of atheists and celebrating a motley crew of pastors who have abandoned the faith — even if some have not abandoned their pulpits.

The Clergy Project’s own statement is even more blunt, describing itself as “a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.” Most people, believers and unbelievers alike, are no doubt in the habit of thinking that the Christian ministry requires supernatural beliefs. That assumption is what Richard Dawkins and the Clergy Project want to subvert. More precisely, they want to use the existence of unbelieving pastors to embarrass the church and weaken theism. Read more

Read also:
The Hymns That Haunt Us

The Briefing: Word-watch: lessons from a naïve blogger

A few days ago I wrote a short article in which I used the word ‘submission.’ I’ve just now realized that by using this word, I was being a bit naïve. The realization of my own naivety came when I read Kara Martin’s helpful review of the book Fifty Shades of Grey on the Sydney Anglicans website. Kara’s review made me realize that what we Christians mean when we use the word ‘submission’ is often entirely different to what our non-Christian world thinks when it hears the word ‘submission.’ That’s because Christians and non-Christians are spending their time reading two very different books. As a result, Christians and non-Christians are having their passions and desires shaped by two very different worldviews.

As Christians, we have—or at least, we should have—our lives, our passions, our desires and our thoughts shaped by constant engagement with the Bible. The Bible speaks, again and again, about an infinitely loving God, whose Son Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed himself for our sake, to bring forgiveness of sins and to include us in his own intimate relationship with a loving heavenly Father. The Bible calls us to give our lives to this loving God, to rejoice in our status as God’s beloved children, and to respond in thankfulness and love to Jesus’ unfathomably great sacrifice. This is what the Bible calls ‘submission.’ This sacrifice-submission dynamic between Christ and his people is at the core of our lives, and it is also meant to inform the relationship between husband and wife.

But according to book-sale statistics, a huge proportion of our non-Christian friends are having their lives, their passions, their desires and their thoughts shaped by devouring a book whose view of human relationships is as far from the biblical vision as it could possibly be. This is a book which revels in sado-masochistic sexual deviance and abuse, and tens of millions are craving and consuming it as a form of entertainment. The popularity of this book means that our world is frequently hearing the term ‘submission’ in the context of the passive acceptance of sexual victimization. This, of course, means that when many of our friends hear us using the word ‘submission,’ their thoughts will automatically run to the degrading and damaging things they have filled their minds with. Read more

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Best from Outreach: Rural Outreach From the Inside Out

This article first appeared in the pages of Outreach magazine several years ago. Since then, some of these churches have welcomed new leadership, some of the pastors have embraced new opportunities. But there is a timeless quality to their experience: what we glean from them offers insight for other leaders in other places.

Chad McCallum has learned to milk a cow, operate a combine and even tap his toes to the tunes of Randy Travis and Rascal Flats. It’s quite a different life than this self-proclaimed city boy from Indiana was accustomed to before moving to Burnips, Mich., population 200, in 2000.

When he accepted the pastorate of the Burnips Wesleyan Church, McCallum joined 77 million other Americans living in small metropolitan and rural areas. Although a seasoned pastor already, his new appointment brought a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

Burnips, located 15 miles outside of Grand Rapids, is home to a 45-member Methodist church, post office, diner and a recently opened pizza parlor. The Wesleyan church, founded in 1923, has grown in attendance from 270 to 325 under McCallum’s watch, attracting mostly blue-collar workers and farmers to the church, which now offers two styles of worship: Bill Gaither-esque and a more up-tempo style with a live band. Read more

The Small Church Shepherd: Distinctives of Rural Ministry

For twenty years I served as a bivocational pastor of a small, rural church near Madison, Indiana. Hebron Baptist Church was about to celebrate its 150th anniversary when I first arrived as pastor. For many of those years it was a thriving, rural church, and some of long-time members could remember a time when they would open the windows in the sanctuary so overflow crowds could sit outside on blankets and participate in the worship service and hear the sermon. Unfortunately, those days were long past, and when I arrived in 1981 the church was in serious trouble. After my arrival a few members confided that they were about ready to close their doors but decided to try one more time to keep the church open. The problems they had were not uncommon for many small, rural churches. Read more

Where Did the New Calvinism Come From?

Justin Taylor recently revived Mark Dever’s 2007 series of articles titled “Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From?” This was a ten-part series that looked to the rise of New Calvinism and sought to discover the sources of a theological resurgence. Dever said,
Of course, theologically, the answer is “because of the sovereignty of God.” But I’ve never been convinced by hyper-Calvinism’s argument that because God has determined the ends, the means don’t matter. Means do matter. And as a Christian, as an historian who had lived through the very change I was considering, I wondered what factors had been used by God.
Dever originally offered ten of these factors.... Read more

The Spirit World Influences Every Human Being

Every human being is influenced by spirits from a different world. Even those people who don't believe in spiritual beings are nevertheless under their control. The reality of the spirit world is not based on human reason. It is based on fact. It is what it is. The fact that it is invisible to the human eye does not make it any less real.

Many people find some measure of satisfaction in denying the existence of spirits, especially here in the Western world. They do this either because it frightens them….or because they don't understand any of it….and they just simply refuse to believe in a world which cannot be proven to them scientifically.

Instead, they basically make science their religion. They stake their eternity on their scientific understanding. That even goes for those who doubt the reality of the immortality of the soul. They think they are right....or at least they hope they are right. They certainly hope there isn't a "bad eternity" for those such as themselves who are not Christians. They don't know it for a fact, but they are "wishing" that it will play out according to their personal opinions.

The Christian worldview has a message for those who reject the idea of a spirit world: "Your stubborn refusal to accept this teaching is in part the result of those spiritual forces which influence your thinking." It's true. Those forces really do exist. They even have a blindfold over your spiritual eyes. "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers." (2 Cor. 4:4) Try to picture that one.

Satan is the leader of the rebel forces. You may not believe in these forces, but they believe in you….they surround you….they in essence "control you." "Wait a minute," you say. "No one controls me. If anything, science controls my thought process."

OK. You think that you are scientific, but not spiritual. That's a natural and expected response. Who wouldn't think the same way….unless of course you came under the influence of God in the spirit world. The Scriptures explain it this way: "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) The "evil one" is a reference to the devil. Read more
Dan Dilzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

Teaching your children to love God's Word

One of our goals for our children is that they grow up with a love for God's Word, the Bible.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Since I want my children to grow up to be men and women of God who are complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work, they need to learn to receive their guidance for living and serving from the Bible. (Let me say here that I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and decisions, only that right now I am focusing on the Bible.)

David expresses in Psalm 19 his love for and need of God's Word, and he only had the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. How blessed we are to live in a time and place when we can easily obtain the entire 66 books of the Bible in our own language! We can do no less than share it with our children, teaching them by our examples and our words to learn it, to love it and to depend on it for direction as they grow and become responsible for their own decisions, no matter what their age. From the womb until the time they are young adults, there are things parents can do to help your child know, and ultimately love, Scripture. Read more

Eastern Orthodox Lose Two Evangelical Bridges

Resignation of Metropolitan Jonah follows death of Peter Gillquist

Metropolitan Jonah, by most accounts the highest-ranking, evangelical-friendly archpriest in North America's Eastern Orthodox Church, resigned under duress in July.

His removal has observers less concerned about his leadership shortcomings, which allegedly led to his removal, than about the widening gap between conservatives and the Orthodox Church.

"His efforts were the most explicit attempt by any Orthodox hierarch to join with evangelicals and other conservatives in a common social agenda," North Park University professor Brad Nassif said of Jonah's nearly four-year tenure as primate. Read more
Weston Gentry's characterization of Metropolitan Jonah and Peter Gillquist as "evangelical bridges" is highly questionable at best. Jonah, when addressing the ACNA Provincial Assembly on two occasions, urged the Anglican Church in North America to reject biblical and Reformation doctrine and to adopt Eastern Orthodox teaching in its place, in other words, to disown its historic Anglican heritage. This doctrine found in the classic Anglican formularies of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer,  the two Books of Homilies, and Alexander Nowell's Catechism is not only the basis of historic Anglicanism but also of traditional Anglican evangelicalism. Urging the rejection of such doctrine is hardly building bridges with evangelicals! Gillquist and those who accompanied him into the Orthodox Church of America abandoned evangelicalism for Eastern Orthodoxy. Eastern Orthodoxy in general is not interested in bridging any gaps with evangelicalism. Protestants, both evangelical and non-evangelical, are regarded as heretics. 

Children's Books: Slain missionary's daughter inspires new generation

It has been 56 years since Valerie Elliot Shepard's father died trying to share the gospel with a tribe of Ecuadorian Indians.

Jim Elliot was killed by the Auca Indians alongside four of his Wheaton College classmates but the brutality of the tribe did not stop Jim's daughter and wife from living with the very people who had killed him.

The tribe came to accept Jesus, and a new understanding of the love of God caused them to abandon their violent ways.

Now Valerie wants to share the experience of her unique jungle childhood amidst the Waodani people. Read more

Read also:
New Book by Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s Only Daughter Inspires Next Generation to Trust God in Adversity

Archbishop Peter Jensen: Men and women are different, and so should be their marriage vows

Marriage really matters. Thank God we are talking about it. As Professor Patrick Parkinson said in these pages last week, marriage is ''by far the most stable, safe and nurturing relationship in which to raise children''. However, fewer people are choosing marriage as a way of relating to someone of the opposite sex and fewer people are nurturing children in a family with marriage at its heart.

I can understand that. Individualism leaves us with little reason to join our life to that of someone else. Apart from that, for many marriage has become an arena of suffering, exploitation and disappointment. We choose to bypass it. Yet I would say that we need to go back to biblical principles and understand, improve and support marriage rather than abandon it. Read more

Read also:
Anglican Church denies new wedding vows are sexist
To love and to submit: a marriage made in 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Enrichment Journal: Smaller Churches Can Do it Better – How To Take Advantage of Your Size

On nearly all relevant quality factors, larger churches compare disfavorably with smaller ones."1 Christian Schwarz came to this startling conclusion after the most comprehensive study of church growth ever conducted, covering over 1,000 churches on 6 continents. The research and observations of others, along with my experience, confirm its validity.

In spite of fewer people, staff, facilities, resources, and programs, the average small church produces:

  • better fellowship.
  • better pastoral care.
  • better discipleship.
  • more involvement in ministry.
  • more persons called into Christian service.
  • more spiritual harvest.

Not all smaller churches (99 or less in attendance) are doing well. Many are discouraged, struggling, or declining. Some are located in communities with diminishing population, while others are ingrown and complacent. Many pastors are tempted to quit if they could find other means to support their families. How can pastors of smaller churches deal with these realities and take advantage of their size?

My purpose in this article is to encourage the pastors of smaller churches by showing them how their size can help rather than hinder effectiveness in ministry. Read more

Hindu nationalists attack Anglicans in Tamil Nadu, one dead

Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organisation, have been relentlessly attacking Christians in Kanyakumari District (Tamil Nadu). On Sunday, a man was killed and two more suffered serious injuries to the head. All three belonged to the (Anglican) Church of South India (CSI) in the village of Nadaikavu. Police filed a first information report against Dharmaraj, head of the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, and six other men. Fearing more violence, they deployed an additional 1,000 agents to patrol the area.

The first attack took place in the village of Sasthancode, where a local resident, Gnanamuthu, 50, had organised a prayer service at his home. The local CSI pastor and other 15 members of the Church were in attendance.

Just after the start of the service, a mob of RSS militants came to the house and began destroying the cars, participants had parked outside. Gnanamuthu and his son Johnson came out to stop them. Instead, they were attacked with sticks, and suffered serious injuries. Both father and son were eventually taken to a local hospital as the other Christians went to file a complaint at the police station in Nithiravilai. Read more

Greg Stier: 5 Reasons Why Christians Struggle to Evangelize

1. Fear

Sharing your faith is a scary prospect. You can lose face and friends as a result of communicating this "narrow-minded" message of the gospel even when you do so in love. When choosing between being accepted by others and sharing the good news with others too often Christians choose silence. Fear is the biggest culprit that keeps most Christians from evangelizing.

The Cure: "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6:19-20

2. Ignorance

There are many Christians who, down deep inside, want to share their faith but they honestly don't know what to say. Sadly, if you were to put a microphone in the face of the average church goer leaving a typical Sunday morning service and asked them to define the gospel message the answers could range from "um" to dumb. To add insult to injury far too many preachers have over-complicated the gospel to the point where even true Christians wonder if they are saved. They've added caveats and small print to John 3:16 and, as a result, many believers are confused by the clear and simple gospel that once they embraced with child-like faith.

The Cure: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…." 1 Corinthians 15:3,4. Read more

Thom Rainer: Listening to Negative People Will Make You Dumb

We all know those "energy drainers." They are the people that seem to have a perpetual cloud hanging over their heads. They have the keen ability to turn good news into bad news. Yes, they are the kind of people you avoid asking "How are you?" for fear they will give you an answer. Some are critics. Some are simply just negative people.

Brain Studies and Negative People

Minda Zatlin reports in Inc. magazine that new research in neuroscience demonstrates how negative and critical people affect us. She notes that "being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity – including viewing such material on TV – actually peels away neurons in the brain's hippocampus. That's the part of your brain you need for problem solving."

So what is the result of exposure to negative and critical people? "Basically it turns your brain to mush," the article notes. It has the same effect even if you are passively listening to them.

What's a Leader to Do?

Those in leadership positions are in a dilemma it would seem. Every position of leadership will always be exposed to negative and critical people. It goes with the responsibility. Read more

Read also:
Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain

What must I do to be a soul winner?

Jesus told His disciples, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). The implication is that if we are really following, we'll be fishing -- soul-winning. Jesus' last words were, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19). The Christians in the New Testament went everywhere, preaching the Word (Acts 8:4).

How, then, can you and I be effective witnesses for Him? Read more

The Trinity: what’s the point?

To be honest, the doctrine of the Trinity is something most Christians treat with a mixture of bafflement and embarrassment.

On the one hand, it is apparently bad maths. When you divide three into one, you don’t have one anymore. What’s that about?

On the other hand, it seems to be strange theology. The Bible is insistently monotheistic from the start. But then we have the New Testament naming Jesus as divine, and then introducing a third person, the holy Spirit. Are there three gods, or one? What’s that about?

I suspect most of us find it simply more manageable to just think of God the Father, and Jesus and the Spirit as something like his agents. Or, to not think about it at all. After all, what difference does it make? Let the theologians fight it out – after all, they have to have something to keep them off Facebook.

English pastor and author Sam Allberry’s new book Connected – Living in the Light of the Trinityis designed to help Christians to grasp something of the significance of the Trinity not simply as an abstract concept but in their everyday experience of God. It is, as Allberry insists, a teaching that is eminently practical. How could it not be after all? We are dealing with the very source of life – you would expect there to be all kinds of practical implications. Read more

Best books on Preaching

Adrian Reynolds at The Proclamation Trust has been posting a series of brief thoughts on the books on preaching. He’s up to number 7 in his list –

“When The Trellis and the Vine came out, many of us thought ‘this is an excellent book, but where is preaching mentioned or championed?’ The answer was – if only we knew it – that we were waiting for volume 2. And it was worth the wait.”

His posts so far:

1. I Believe in Preaching by John Stott,
2. The Glory of Preaching by Darrell Johnson,
3. Expository Preaching by Haddon Robinson,
4. The Priority of Preaching by Christopher Ash,
5. Preaching and Biblical Theology by Ed Clowney,
6. Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd Jones,
7. The Archer and the Arrow by Phillip Jensen & Paul Grimmond
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website

Monday, August 27, 2012

At Last! Changes in the ACNA Constitution and Canons Now Online

By Robin G. Jordan

The Anglican Church in North America’s Provincial Office has finally posted the amended ACNA constitution and canons on its website—over two months after the ratification of the changes to the two governing documents.  While these changes are not effective until 90 days after their ratification, this is not sufficient reason to delay their posting on the ACNA website. An informed general membership does not appear to be something that the ACNA leadership values.

A cursory examination of the amended governing documents shows that the changes proposed by the Governance Task Force and approved by the Executive Committee in January 2011 were incorporated into the documents as well as the amendments adopted by the Provincial Council on June 20, 2011. Presumably these changes were adopted by the Council at its June 2012 meeting so they could be presented to the Provincial Assembly for ratification with the amendments adopted in June 2011.

From all appearances the delegates to the Provincial Assembly at a carefully orchestrated evening business session rubberstamped the changes to the ACNA governing documents. The Provincial Office has yet to release a transcript of this meeting and to make public what transpired—how many delegates were present at the meeting, whether the delegates debated the merits of the proposed changes, and whether they ratified the proposals by acclamation, a show of hands, a voice vote, or ballot.

Delaying the release of this information for more than 60 days after the meeting gives the appearance of being motivated by a desire to reduce the likelihood of any dissent arising from the actions of the Provincial Council and the Provincial Assembly. Releasing it immediately after the meeting might result in the questioning of the Council members and Assembly delegates in regards to how they voted.

It also raises questions about the operation of the Provincial Office. We live in an age of rapid electronic communication. Yet the Provincial Office is functioning as if it was operating in the last century.

An unedited video record of the Provincial Assembly’s business session should have been made and posted on the ACNA website. The session should have also been live-streamed on the Internet. The general membership and the public should be able to see for themselves how the meeting was conducted and what happened at the meeting.

This serves four purposes:

First, it shows a commitment to openness and transparency, something in which the ACNA leadership to date is seriously lacking.

Second, it keeps the general membership and the public informed of developments in the ACNA.

Third, it provides a form of accountability.

Fourth, it reduces the likelihood of the manipulation of the proceedings at the meeting and the subsequent misrepresentation of what occurred.

All reports submitted to the Provincial Council, the Executive Committee, the College of Bishops, and the Provincial Assembly should also be available to the general membership and the public.

The lack of openness, transparency, and accountability in the Anglican Church in North America is a serious problem. It is not a problem that is going to correct itself. Rather it is a problem that, if it is not addressed, will grow only worse.

Thank God for Smaller Churches and Their Leaders

In a previous post, I wrote about the migration of people from smaller churches to larger churches. I noted several reasons for this trend, not the least of which was the growing urban and suburban population base in our nation. And that growth has come at the expense of the rural population. Today only 16 percent of our population lives in rural areas. Just a century ago, 60 percent of the U.S. residents lived in rural areas.

Such trends are real. The data cannot be refuted. But the reality of the trends does not diminish the value of smaller churches. Read more Quick Survey to Evaluate Your Church Guest Services

This was originally posted at Group’s Church Volunteer Central

On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “This needs definite work”… 5 being “We rock at this”) rate your churches greeting and guest services practices:
  • Our traffic volunteers or shuttle drivers have been coached to know that they are the first representatives of our church and as such should be warm and friendly to everyone.
  • The walk into the church is welcoming and cheerful. People know they are in the right place for a Sunday service.
  • Our traffic flow is well-designed and easy which makes visitors feel comfortable, not lost.
  • There are people whose only job on Sunday’s is to assist newcomers in finding their way around the church.
  • Before a service even begins, our first-time guests have been acknowledged or welcomed in some way.
  • We make welcoming visitors a priority at every service.
  • We send our visitors home with a tangible reminder of their time with us.
  • Our volunteers are trained to go above and beyond in the areas of friendliness and helpfulness.
  • Our church culture reminds every member that they have a part to play in welcoming newcomers.
  • Our senior leadership is empowered to make a personal contact with visitors at every service. Read more

John Calvin on Evangelism and Missions

From his own lifetime onward John Calvin has been a controversial person. One controversy stems from the accusations leveled against him by many that he was completely unevangelistic and unconcerned about missions. A. M. Hunter, in his book on Calvin's teaching, said, "Certainly he [Calvin] displayed no trace of missionary enthusiasm."[1] Some have even said that Calvin's teaching on predestination necessarily destroyed evangelistic fervor; "we are all familiar with the scornful rationalization that facilely asserts that his horrible doctrine of divine election makes nonsense of all missionary and evangelistic activity."[2] Others, however, have said: "One of the natural results of Calvin's perspective of predestination was an intensified zeal for evangelism."[3] Though some have used Calvin's teachings to excuse their apathy towards evangelism, a close examination of Calvin's historical context, his writings, and his actions would prove John Calvin to be a man truly committed to the spread of the gospel.

In order to understand John Calvin, or any other historical figure, one must understand the time in which the person lived and worked. Calvin emerged as a Reformation leader in 1536 with the publication of The Institutes of the Christian Religion and remained in leadership until his death in 1564. Thus, Calvin was a generation after Luther, and the Reformation, well entrenched in Germany, was spreading all over Europe. However, there was little organization among the churches that had split with Rome. Historian Owen Chadwick noted that
The problem now was not the overthrow of the papacy, but the construction of new modes of power . . . In breaking down papal authority, the Reformation seemed to have left the authority of the Christian ministry vague and uncertain.[4]
Protestant groups, who had been accustomed to strong central authority in Rome, were now only loosely organized and, though they claimed scripture for their authority, they disagreed on what the scriptures meant with regard to certain doctrines. By the time that Calvin gained prominence in 1536, Protestant churches were in great need of organization and structure in their doctrine and practice.

In addition to the disorganization within, there was a persecution from without. The scattered condition of Protestantism was only worsened by the intense efforts of the Roman Church to eradicate the Protestant movement. Protestant churches were struggling not only for their identity but also for their very survival. Calvin himself had to leave France for personal safety, and he wrote the first edition of the Institutes in response to the ill treatment of French Protestants. Identification with Protestantism brought immediate punishment, including torture and even death.

Obviously, Calvin's era was a time of intense difficulty for Protestant churches. The demands of the day led him to spend a considerable amount of his energy developing a church organization, writing theology, and training ministers. With such pressing needs one might understand if Calvin neglected evangelism or missions. After all, the church itself and its message must first be established. Moreover, preaching Reformation doctrine in areas other than the Protestant cities would mean almost certain death. However, even these pressing needs and problems, which would immobilize many churches today, did not stop the evangelistic efforts of Calvin and his followers. Read more

Enrichment Journal: Creating a Coaching Culture in Your Church

No matter the size of your church, creating a coaching culture can move your congregation forward in carrying out the Great Commission.

At its core, coaching is about relationships. It is about connecting people to their highest aspirations, potential, and passions. Coaching is a means by which we can help people plug in to their dreams, calling, and design, and help them discover the actions that will move them forward. Your church, too, is a place where these connections are made, or at least it could be.

What would it be like for those in your church to be really clear about who and how God designed them to be? How would it change the impact of your congregation on your community if those involved in your congregation were intentional about how God has gifted them, where their passions lie, and what they could do to leverage those gifts and passion for the betterment of their community? These are the kinds of benefits churches and other organizations are experiencing as a result of creating a coaching culture within the organization.

Reflection questions: How can you, as a ministry leader, better equip others to serve their faith community? What if the members of your congregation felt more ownership and responsibility for the ministry of your church? Read more

Read also:
Biblical Foundations of Coaching
The Art of Coaching: Principles, Process, and Core Skills
By All Possible Means: Faith Coaching as an Approach to Evangelism

Small Groups: Multiply the Good Life

Years ago, John Kim began leading a men’s Bible study with just ten guys. The momentum of the group exploded, and before any of us knew it he had 60 men weekly meeting in his house. John helped orchestrate a church-wide campaign, which resulted in 35 more men’s groups. Soon, almost 200 men’s groups came under his care.

John’s life was spiritually multiplied. There are solid principles, that follow the acrostic MULTIPLY, that have helped men like John and others to multiply exponentially the ministry under their care. Read more

Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow

If you’re looking for discipleship resources that will give direction to your approach, then Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley and Philip Nation ought to be on your reading list.

A research driven project, the book is based on the discoveries of an extensive research project launched by Lifeway in 2010 “to survey believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity.” Specifically, the research was designed “to uncover what kind of discipleship is truly transformational.” Building on the Transformational Church survey and the research behind Brad Waggoner’s book, The Shape of Faith to Come, the research focused on “major areas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.”

The combined research identified eight attributes of discipleship that point to spiritual health; biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer. The eight attributes are.... Read more

Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain

Exposure to nonstop negativity actually impairs brain function. Here's how to defend yourself.

Do you hate it when people complain? It turns out there's a good reason: Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session.

"The brain works more like a muscle than we thought," Blake says. "So if you're pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you're more likely to behave that way as well."

Even worse, being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity--including viewing such material on TV--actually peels away neurons in the brain's hippocampus. "That's the part of your brain you need for problem solving," he says. "Basically, it turns your brain to mush."

But if you're running a company, don't you need to hear about anything that may have gone wrong? "There's a big difference between bringing your attention to something that's awry and a complaint," Blake says. "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, 'Isn't it terrible?' This will damage your brain even if you're just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you'll become the target of the complaint."

So, how do you defend yourself and your brain from all the negativity? Blake recommends the following tactics.... Read more
"There's a big difference between bringing your attention to something that's awry and a complaint..." "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, 'Isn't it terrible?' This will damage your brain even if you're just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you'll become the target of the complaint."
A tip of the Canterbury cap to TitusOneNine

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Means of Persevering Grace

The Synod of Dort

Until the Arminian controversy in the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century, Calvinism did not have five points. Calvinism summarized itself in its great confessions and catechisms and never thought to reduce itself to five points. The Arminians, however, had five attacks on Reformed teaching, which they summarized in 1610. On the fifth point they wrote, in part: “But whether they [those incorporated into Jesus Christ] can through negligence fall away from the first principle of their life in Christ, again embrace the present world, depart from the pure doctrine once given to them, lose the good conscience, and neglect grace, must first be more carefully determined from the Holy Scriptures.” The Arminians in 1610 were uncertain about the doctrine of perseverance. But in the years that followed they increasingly taught that the truly regenerate could fall from grace and be lost.

Clearly the Arminians feared that the doctrine of perseverance would make Christians negligent, lazy, and self-indulgent. They saw the teaching as mechanical and automatic. They seemed to imagine that the Reformed taught that the Christian life was like a train running downhill. Just get it started, and it will easily run on its own momentum without any further effort. (Their fears may seem to be substantiated by the unreformed teaching of some today that Christians are in a state of “once saved, always saved” — no matter what they do.)

The great Synod of Dort (1618–1619) answered the Arminian doubts and fears clearly and helpfully. It reminded all Christians that God does indeed so preserve His own that they will not fall from grace. But He preserves them through the means that He has appointed, and, by His Spirit, He ensures that they make good use of those means. Read more 5 Ways to Grow Small Church Numbers

A regular question I get is “How do you grow a small church?”

In our current life situation, we are planting a church in the city in which we live.

We are currently a small church, made up primarily of immigrants from foreign countries.

■35 adults in attendance each week
■20 children under age of 14

Here are 5 steps we are implementing to grow that total number to 70.

This list focuses on ways to increase numbers in the small church congregation. As a church adds to its numbers, do not forget the actual work of evangelism: sharing the gospel message with those becoming part of your community of faith. Read more

Enrichment Journal: Evangelism in the Smaller Church

I stood alone, scanning the parking lot of my new church. It was 3 minutes before Sunday school and not a single car containing visitors had turned down the gravel lane. I thought of Zechariah 4:10, where God asked, "Who despises the day of small things?" (NIV). At that moment I despised the day of small things. My new post had a 35-year history and 33 people. Morale was low. Our building was secluded on the back of the property. Everything from the burnt-orange carpet to the peeling vinyl entryway to the crooked sign said, "Stay away."

Worship was stifled and awkward. I didn’t have a novel strategy to help the church grow. Evangelism programs I knew about didn’t seem to fit this congregation, and I was too inexperienced to make appropriate modifications. On that second week in September, I didn’t want to stay at Calvary Church. I wanted to eat a Sunday brunch and start packing. I might have, except for the tan Chevy I saw turning down the lane. I smiled, waved, and slipped inside.

As I remember, we had a banner day that Sunday. Our rule was: If it breathes, we count it. That day we counted 39 people. People seemed pleased with the turnout. That was 15 years ago.

Today Calvary Church is healthy and vibrant. Some transfer growth helped us along the way, though I have learned that people who drift in from other churches usually drift out in short order. A wise elder defined these short-termers as scaffolding. They help you build for a while, and then they fold up and move on. We experienced good growth as people moved into the community and became part of the church. But by far, the most solid growth came through personal evangelism and the joy of the new birth radiating from new believers. Read more

The Small Church Board: The Board in the Small Church Context

When we are first chosen to be on the board of a small church, we do not come without any preconceived ideas. Depending upon our background and involvement in the church, we arrive with expectations and ideas of what the church board is to be and do and what our role is within the board. However, if we come from another church or from a larger church we may soon find that our expectations are vastly different from how the board actually functions. When we become involved in the leadership we soon become confused about what our role is. The result is frustration and discouragement and, at times, discontentment as we question the way things are run.

Often the problem is that we have failed to properly understand the culture of the small church and the way it selects and trains its leaders and the expectations that people have of those called to serve on the board. Within every church there are both biblical principles and cultural expectations that serve to govern the people’s expectations of its leaders. A necessary part of leadership is not only understanding the biblical principles that govern our task, but the culture in which we lead. Read more

Small Groups: Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Church-wide Campaign

Church-wide campaigns are a powerful vehicle for connecting congregations into community and impacting spiritual growth. 40 Days of Purpose from Rick Warren, One Month to Live by Kerry Shook, and a number of other church-wide experiences prove the catalytic impact of a small group study aligned with a sermon series. Churches and their members will never be the same.

One size never fits all, especially in a church-wide campaign. When you invite all of your groups to do the same study that aligns to the weekend service, you might have just set yourself up for trouble. Your groups are made up of new Christians and non-Christians, “mature” Christians and critical ones. How do you meet the needs of all of your different groups with one curriculum? Read more

Ordinariate Watch: US Anglican Ordinariate Head Denies Favoritism Charges

Former TEC clergy dominate new U.S. Anglican Ordinariate

The head of the U.S. branch of the Anglican Ordinariate, Msg. Jeffrey Steenson, has denied accusations it has given preference to former Episcopal clergy in its ordination process. However, among its first class of priests, 16 of 19 are former Episcopal clergy, with only 3 receiving their formation and orders from the continuing church.

Questions and concerns about the implementation and interpretation of Anglicanorum coetibus have met the Vatican’s initiative to create a liturgical home for Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church. In an interview with PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Dr. Ian Markham, Dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary criticized the pastoral provision for Anglicans for sheep stealing.

“There was a perception that this was poaching by the Roman Catholic Church of Anglicans around the world. It was discourteous, it was stealing sheep, it was unecumenical,” he said, adding “It’s viewed as not recognizing the value of and integrity of our traditions.” Read more

10 Questions to Diagnose the Evangelistic Health of Your Church

Any good physician will make certain your physical exam includes at least three components. First, the doctor will want you to have thorough lab work. Second, all exams include a comprehensive look at your physical body. Third, the physician will ask you a series of questions that would lead him or her to know more about your overall physical and emotional health.

In my work with churches across America, I often ask a series of questions that help me assist the church to become more evangelistically focused. Recently, I took time to write down the questions I ask most often. Look at these ten questions to get at least some hints of the evangelistic health of your own church. Read more

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Religious Affections

Many years ago, in a wild and woolly period known as the First Great Awakening, colonial pastor Jonathan Edwards took on the tricky task of sorting out what place the “religious affections,” as he called them, have in the Christian life. Here’s what he said as a foundational tenet:
There are false affections, and there are true. A man’s having much affection, don’t prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection, it proves that he has no true religion.(Works of Jonathan Edwards 2:21)
Edwards wrote these words to help people process the revivals of the 1730s–40s, a series of spiritual awakenings when many people claimed their hearts had been profoundly stirred by God. Edwards’ beloved wife, Sarah, had herself fallen into a sort of rapture, feeling herself remarkably close to the Lord. Some “Old Lights” cried down these emotive expressions of faith, charging that they were nothing more than attention-seeking excesses. True spirituality was not expressive and swept up but modest and buttoned-down. This discussion on “spiritual ecstasies” became a referendum on the revival itself. Read more

Enrichment Journal: When Sheep Squabble--Dealing With Conflict in the Smaller Church

The small church revolves around the close relationships formed within the congregation. Because of this, many believe that a small church is a place where deeply caring people who love one another and mutually support each other gather to worship, where conflicts are nonexistent, and where “never is heard a discouraging word.”

While this is true of many smaller congregations most of the time, it is not true of every congregation all the time. Conflict is a reality that confronts a congregation regardless of how loving and caring the people are. The difference between a loving congregation and one settling into patterns of warfare is not the amount of conflict or the intensity of conflict, but the way they respond to and resolve conflict.

Loving churches resolve conflict with minimal damage to long-term relationships. Warring congregations allow conflicts to fester and grow. They never seek resolution and often add new conflicts to their existing problems.

Since conflict is a reality pastors face in small-church ministry, they need to understand the dynamics of conflict within the small church and develop godly methods for resolving it. While conflict can affect a church of any size, when it arises in a small church it can devastate the spiritual well-being of the congregation and undermine its ministry for years to come. Read more

Read also:
Managing Conflict in the Smaller Church

Love Your Neighbor. Get Your Vaccines

How getting routine shots benefits not just you but your entire community.

A few days ago, my 4-year-old got three injections in his suntanned, still baby-dimpled arms. I read over the warnings, signed my approval, and held him as he set his little face, determined to be brave, then cried when he felt the pinch. Yesterday, my husband and I bared our own arms to get tetanus boosters and the first in a series of three hepatitis A/B vaccines.

I’m one of the moms you might expect to oppose vaccines. We try to eat local and organic, don’t watch television, homeschool our kids, and wear natural fibers. My son was born into birthing tub with a midwife present. But in November we’re also moving to Malawi, where diseases like polio, typhoid, tetanus, and cholera are not theoretical. We need those vaccines.

When I type “vaccines” into Google’s search engine, it auto-completes with “vaccines and autism,” thus summing up what more than a fifth of Americans believe, despite the fact that study after study shows no link between vaccines and autism. More and more educated, middle-class parents are choosing not to vaccinate. As the New York Times Motherlode blog recently noted:

“in one Washington State county, 72 percent of kindergartners and 89 percent of sixth graders are either not compliant with or exempt from vaccination requirements for school entry, and at a Bay Area Waldorf school . . . only 23 percent of the incoming kindergarten class had been fully vaccinated.” Read more

The Threefold Use of the Law

The Reformation Study Bible contains 96 theological articles on a wide variety of subjects. Here is a helpful article that succinctly explains what is common called the threefold use of the law.... Read more