Monday, April 30, 2012

ACNA receives two AMiA bishops

TJ Johnston and John Miller not Congo bound

The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) has received two bishops from the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) as honorary temporary assistant bishops.

The Rt. Rev. T.J. Johnston will serve as an assistant bishop to the Rt. Rev. Foley Beach of the Anglican Diocese of the South and the Rt. Rev. John Miller will serve as an assistant bishop to the Rt. Rev. Neil Lebahr of the Gulf Atlantic Diocese, Anglican Ink has learned.

A memorandum of understanding dated 18 April 2012 endorsed by Bishops Johnson and Miller and by Bishop Leonard Riches and Charlie Masters on behalf of the ACNA states the agreement serves to “provide a temporary jurisdictional connection” and will last for 180 days, with an interim review at the 90 day mark. Read more

Related article: Former Anglican bishops encouraged by meeting with Archbishop Duncan

It’s Okay to Be an Uncool Church

Is your church defined more by its reaction to “boring” churches than by its response to a needy world?   Read more

9 Keys to Reaching College Students

There are three well-established facts regarding Christianity and college students that ought to capture the attention of any Gospel-loving pastor:

1. College is a time of unprecedented openness to all things, including the Gospel;

 2. Many of the great “awakenings,” both major and minor, in our history have started through college students; and

3. There is a disturbing absence of this age group in many of our congregations.

We learned the following nine lessons along the way as our college ministry grew and flourished in an area that features many prominent universities. Read more

Which Country Believes in God the Most, Least?

A recently released report from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows which countries have the most, and the least, belief in God by population percentage.

The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation, was found to have the highest percentage (84 percent) of people who "know God really exists and ... have no doubts about it," and the lowest percentage (less than one percent) of people who said they "don't believe in God" at all. Read more

Am I God's Servant or His Advisor?

Charles Spurgeon expressed it well for anyone who is waiting upon God to do something. "My situation is urgent," writes Spurgeon, "and I cannot see how I will ever be delivered. Yet this is not my concern, for He who made the promise will find a way to keep it. My part is simply to obey His commands, not to direct His ways. I am His servant, not His advisor. I call upon Him and He will deliver me."

What about you? Are you God's servant, or His advisor? Read more

Evangelicals condemn burning of Qurans by controversial Florida pastor

Evangelical leaders strongly condemned the burning of Qurans by Florida Pastor Terry Jones on Saturday in protest of Iran's continued imprisonment of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

Jones burned copies of the Quran and an image depicting Muhammad on Saturday evening in front of his church Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., where about 20 people gathered to witness the event, reported. Gainesville police were stationed near the church and patrolled the area. Read more

Deadly explosions during church services at Nigerian university

Attackers armed with bombs and guns opened fire at church services at a Nigerian university, killing about 20 people as worshippers tried to flee, witnesses and officials said.

"Explosions and gunfire rocked Bayero University in the northern city of Kano, with witnesses reporting that two church services were targeted as they were being held on campus," said a report from the AFP news agency. Read more

 Related article: Pastor, 20 Worshippers Killed in Nigeria Church Attacks

Viewpoint: Why North American Anglicans are the way they are

In my experience many North American Episcopalians/Anglicans, even from very good orthodox churches, have only a rudimentary concept of what lies between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 - and, worse, little desire to learn. Here are seven reasons (among many) why we are the way we are.... Read more

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Joint Communiqué from Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje of P.E.A.R. and Archbishop Bob Duncan of ACNA

April 30, 2012

To All Confessing Anglicans in North America: Greetings in this happiest of seasons,  when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of what it means to live as people who have been “raised up with Christ.” (Colossians 3:1‐4)

We have just completed a rich week of blessing and encouragement at GAFCON’s Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’ Leadership Conference at St Mark’s Church in Battersea, London. We joined 200+ delegates from over thirty nations as we listened to God’s word, worshipped, prayed, studied, and talked. It was deeply encouraging and challenging to share with people who serve Christ faithfully with great sacrifice in the face of revisionist opposition or outright persecution from the unbelieving world. We thank the Lord Jesus for his faithfulness and for the Gospel by which people are being saved and his Church is growing.

While in London, we had the opportunity to talk at length together about the continuing  turbulence from the separation of the Anglican Mission in America from its founding church, the Anglican Church of Rwanda. The House of Bishops of Rwanda has recently declared the establishment of a Missionary District in North America (PEARUSA) as its only continuing work on this continent and has offered a deadline of August 31 for  clergy and churches to determine their future jurisdiction. There are three options available: remain with Rwanda through PEARUSA, transfer to another Anglican jurisdiction through letters dimissory, or follow the Anglican Mission into its new venture. Provision and procedure for each of these options is available or is being  developed as rapidly as possible. (These materials will be available through the website as they are developed.)

At the same time, there has been a great deal of confusion recently around the issue of  the resigned bishops of the AMiA, their relationship with Rwanda, and their possible relationship with ACNA. We write this communiqué together primarily to address that confusion.

1. Archbishop Rwaje and the House of Bishops of Rwanda have established April 29 as the deadline for the resigned AMiA bishops to declare their intention for future jurisdiction. Having declared their intention, he is willing to work with those bishops seeking letters dimissory to another jurisdiction in the weeks and months ahead.  (April  29 is simply a deadline for declaring intention and direction.)

2. The Anglican Mission is seeking canonical residency in the Church of the Congo, and those bishops and clergy that have applied for letters dimissory to the Congo are being processed according to standard Anglican procedure.

3. Several AMiA bishops have approached the ACNA, through diocesan bishops or directly with Archbishop Duncan, concerning transfer into ACNA. Archbishop Duncan has established a clear path for this process:

• Following normal transfer process, any bishop seeking transfer must initiate the request with Archbishop Rwaje. He will respond individually to each bishop appropriate to his situation.

• An AMiA bishop received into ACNA will be received in the following manner:

 o   Graciously and willingly, as the Lord has received all of us, and with the understanding and expectation that God’s love constantly transforms and renews us into the image of Christ

o   Into a diocese or diocese in formation, that is, through proper ecclesiastical interaction between Rwanda and the diocesan bishop

o   As an assisting bishop, which does not automatically seat one in the ACNA College of Bishops

o   Able to give episcopal care to former AMiA churches and clergy that follow them
into that diocese, under the blessing of the diocesan bishop

o   Prepared to engage a process of full reconciliation with all parties wounded through the actions of recent months

In these matters, we are united in heart, soul, mind, and action.

This has been a painful and difficult time for many.  Nevertheless, we are confident that the Lord, in his sovereignty, is building his church, and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. We are confident that this will ultimately redound to the Glory of God, in this life and the next. We rejoice at the growing closeness and partnership within the GAFCON provinces and particularly between our respective provinces. We rejoice at our growing joint missionary effort through PEARUSA. We can honestly say that we pray for our brothers and sisters in the AMiA, asking God’s grace to be fully poured out on them and the Gospel to be proclaimed faithfully through them. We pray for further reconciliation and friendship, as the Lord gives grace.

Finally, brothers and sisters, be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might. Continue to serve the Lord in faith and humility. Pray for us, as we pray for you.In the love and truth of Christ,

Archbishop Robert Duncan

Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje.

Little Guys Can Do Big Things

Small church doesn't equal small message.

I go to an Episcopal church. We have liturgy. Our pews aren’t padded. We don’t do Powerpoint. We don’t have a visitor’s welcome center. Our website? Kinda lame. Our communications budget? A single line item for a phone book ad, which we cut. A communications committee has started and failed multiple times in the last five years.

We’re what you call a normal church. One of the little guys.

I say that so you understand I’m not from one of these cutting edge churches with communications directors and flat panel TVs and sermon graphics. We’ve got an admin assistant, and Janice puts together a mean newsletter.

So understand where I’m coming from when I say this: There’s hope for the little guy.

The people in this book talk a big talk. And many of them walk the walk. But for us little guys, it’s a little overwhelming. They’re debating microsites and we’re still high-fiving that we even have a website.

But don’t let that scare you away. Don’t let that intimidate you.

The truth is you’re already communicating. Don’t let the fact that you’re little stop you from making it better. 

Here are some ways the little guy can step it up.... Read more

Big Fish & Small Towns

The surprising benefits of ministry in out-of-the-way places.

Some 2,129 people live in Hayward, Wisconsin. At least that's what the little green sign says coming into town, though it hasn't changed since the 2000 census. Our small Northwoods community isn't on the way to anywhere. It's a destination point. Locals say it's not the end of the earth, but if it weren't for the trees, you could see it from here!

Soon after arriving from southern California 20 years ago, I discovered that small town ministry includes some unique challenges. Read more

Consistency Counts

Statistically, this is the time of year when most people abandon the goals they set just a few weeks ago, giving into the idea that change is either hopeless or just too hard. We often give different names to the reasons for our failures.... Read more

Great Vision, Bad Execution – 6 Common Mistakes

It’s a delight to watch teams get clear on the future. But it’s a fright to see that hard work of visioning go south when it comes to execution. If the work of visioning can be compared to taking a journey, there are six mistakes I see most.... Read more

How To Establish A Family Worship Time

Recently the Lord has been speaking to me about teaching people how to "do the stuff" on a practical level. Today I am going to teach about how to have a family worship time and how even the most untalented person musically can still lead their family in worship.

Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You.

It is important that we lead our families in worship. We need to model to our spouses and to our children that worship is not just something that is done on Sunday and maybe Wednesday night. Do you want your home to be a place where the Spirit of God is welcome? Well then start a family worship time. God inhabits the praises of His people. Do you want your children to experience more of the presence of the Lord in their lives? Then establish a practice of worshiping at home. I will give you some basic tips on how you can start. It is not as hard as you think! Read more

Why Some Believe, Others Don't? New Study Offers Answer

One of the reasons why some are less inclined to believe in God than others is that they choose to think analytically rather than depend on their gut feeling, two researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada have claimed in a new study
 Researchers Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan agree that although religion is a big force in the world, we know very little about it. "We are trying to fill this gap in our knowledge," Norenzayan said in the report of their study published in the Friday's edition of the Science journal. Read more

Churches Pray for Victims of Child Abuse on 'Blue Sunday'

Churches across the country will be holding services dedicated to spreading awareness of the abuse and neglect of children in the United States.

Known as "Blue Sunday," the annual event taking place this Sunday will involve churches giving prayers for victims of child abuse, as well as prayers of support for those who rescue such children. Read more

Participate in Blue Sunday on April 29th

Orthodox Anglicans committed to unity

The conference, held at St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, brought together 200 leaders of the FCA to discuss the future of the movement.

The FCA grew up out of the 2008 GAFCON conference of orthodox Anglicans and their strong opposition to the liberalisation of Anglicanism in parts of the Communion, particularly North America.

In a closing statement of commitment on Friday, FCA leaders said their two goals were to proclaim and defend the Gospel throughout the world, and to strengthen the church worldwide by “supporting and authenticating faithful Anglicans who have been disenfranchised from their spiritual homes”. Read more
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has yet to offer a satisfactory explanation for the need for a "closed-door conference" under a "media blackout." The FCA includes the same folks who recently objected to the lack of openness and transparency in the leadership of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

“Better Together” Book Review

Several years ago my church, The Oaks Fellowship, was approached by a pastor of another congregation about turning his church into a campus of ours. I was asked to meet with the pastor to evaluate the opportunity and report back to The Oaks. The church had a great property and they didn’t owe much money, but the congregation had shrunk to below 60. The pastor realized that he had stayed too long. He had seen what The Oaks had brought to his community and wanted to partner with us.

I remember listening to him tell me all this and thinking, “I wonder if there is a book about this somewhere?” At that time there wasn’t, so I called as many churches as I could to get legal and practical advice. The process of studying models and listening to stories was a long one, so when I saw that Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird were going to be releasing a book on church mergers, I was elated. Read more

Concerns grow that UK will force religious groups to participate in ‘gay marriage’

Despite government assurances to the contrary, concerns continue to grow that religious institutions will be forced to participate in “gay marriages” in the UK under soon-to-be issued rules. Secularist campaigners are openly questioning the right of Christians to be involved in the debate, while one Catholic bishop warns that the pressure is growing to keep Christianity strictly a private matter. Read more

Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Clergy on Table at Methodist General Conference

The United Methodist Church's (UMC) General Conference is currently taking place in Tampa, Fla., and will feature its continuing debate on gay clergy and same-sex marriage. Some have suggested that, in order to keep its membership from dwindling, the Methodist church must come to a compromise on its long-held doctrines on such issues.

Nearly 1,000 delegates, 40 percent of whom live outside the United States, are present at the General Conference, which happens once every four years. At each assembly for more than 40 years now, the UMC has debated its position on homosexuality. The conference, which takes place between April 24 and May 4, announced that this year there are more than 70 petitions on homosexuality, many of which seek to rewrite articles 161F and 161B in the 2008 United Methodist Book of Discipline that address homosexual clergy and same-sex marriage.

The UMC supports the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, and requires clergy members to adhere to "the highest standards of holy living." According to the church, "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."

The debate on those issues is centered on a decades-long drop in membership the Methodist church has experienced, with numbers down to 7.8 million members in the U.S. Gay rights activists have suggested that in order to attract young Americans, the church needs to loosen its stance on homosexuality and recognize gay unions and clergy. Conservatives, however, are warning against abandoning or revising long-held church doctrines. Read more

Subjecting Local Congregations to Off-Site Control

In the New Testament, no one ever served as a spiritual leader for a congregation that he wasn't also feeding. God's Word prescribes no leading where there is no feeding. Every "elder" in the New Testament was required to faithfully teach the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:24), and to serve alongside the believers in that particular congregation. The word "elder" in the New Testament is interchanged with the words "overseer," "pastor," and "bishop."

Biblical church leaders must manage and lead not only in administrative tasks, but more importantly, in "prayer and the ministry of the Word." (Acts 6:4) Safe leaders in a church are those whose primary passion and calling is prayer, the proclamation of the Gospel, and the teaching of the Scriptures. The church is not a business, even though it has necessary financial matters to conduct. The church is a spiritual organism. You cannot lead a spiritual organism with people who are less than qualified spiritually....or who are as absent from the family as a "deadbeat dad." Whatever other abilities they may have, their spiritual qualifications are what determine whether or not they are safe to lead and fit to feed.

At one point in history, Christians began to experiment with "out-of-town" church officials who were given authority over congregations which they were not personally feeding. Bad idea. God's blueprint is the way to go. Congregational ministry needs to produce strong leaders from within who are fully capable of serving and supervising their own congregation. Every New Testament church had a plurality of on-site overseers; that is, a plurality of pastors or bishops or elders (whichever term you prefer) who were active disciples in that particular congregation. Read more

America Is Addicted To Porn (INFOGRAPHIC)

In March we featured an infographic about Internet pornography statistics. Here is an infographic about pornography in America. The statistics are tragic: ""The average age of initial pornography exposure is just 11." Read more

'Angry Queers' vandalise Mark Driscoll's church

Police are investigating reports that several young adults wearing masks smashed windows at Mars Hill Church in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday.

The attack on Pastor Mark Driscoll's church was believed to by members of a pro-gay group called "Angry Queers".

The damage to the historic stained-glass windows of the Portland church was estimated to be at several thousand dollars, reported. KOIN said it had received an email from a group identified as "Angry Queers" accusing Mars Hill Church of being "notoriously anti-gay and anti-woman". The group allegedly targeted Pastor Driscoll, who has a strong stance against sexual relations outside of the confines of heterosexual marriage.

It is not known what exactly the group was trying to achieve in its alleged act of vandalism against the church, but a spokesperson for Mars Hill, Justin Dean, described the attack as "sad". Read more

New look for Fresh Expressions mission course

The Fresh Expressions introductory mission course has been given a makeover in time for the spring and summer.

The new look Mission Shaped Intro (MSI) is being launched on 1 May. It features six freely downloadable sessions exploring ways in which churches can rediscover and re-imagine church around the question: "why should we create fresh expressions of church?"

Each 90-minute session looks at the ever-changing nature of communities and why the church needs to rethink its approach to these communities in meaningful and relevant ways. Read more

FCA Leaders Conference concludes

Media Release 
Leaders Conference, London
23 to 27 April 2012

The movement begins its mission

GAFCON 2008 declared it was ‘not just a moment in time but a movement of the spirit’. Now, at a conference in London, 200 Anglican leaders committed to mission and mutual support.

The Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem established a Primates Council representing the majority of the world’s Anglicans and set up a global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans as a movement within the Communion.

The leaders met at St Mark’s Battersea Rise in London for five days of prayer, planning and plenary sessions. Seminars ranged over key topics such as evangelism, family, economic empowerment, the Gospel, church and spiritual leadership under pressure.

Opening the event, GAFCON/ FCA Chairman Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya, told the delegates they were called to “a great prophetic purpose at this critical point in the life of our communion.” The Archbishop outlined the extent of unbiblical teaching in the communion and declared “The heart of the crisis we face is not only institutional, but spiritual.”

“After some 450 years it is becoming clear that what some have called the ‘Anglican experiment’ is not ending in failure, but is on the verge of a new and truly global future in which the original vision of the Reformers can be realized as never before” the Archbishop said.

 In a plenary address, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali concluded that the Anglican “Instruments of Unity” have failed dramatically and that the FCA is called to model an alternative way for the churches of the Anglican Communion to gather and relate to one another in such a way as to carry out the Great Commission in the coming decades.

In their final conference ‘Commitment’, the leaders resolved to work together in an ever?strengthening partnership, to stand by each other and to engage in a battle of ideas on behalf of the Biblical Gospel.

The next Global Anglican Future Conference was also announced. The event, with invitees including clergy and lay people, as well as bishops, is scheduled for May 2013.

“One delegate came up to me and said ‘Now I know that I am not alone’. Though they are the majority, the orthodox often feel isolated.” said FCA general secretary Archbishop Peter Jensen. “There are people everywhere who believe the same gospel, preach the same thing and stand for the same truths. That is the dynamic of this conference. People who felt powerless have now been given confidence.” April 27, 2012 AD.

Statement and Commitment
 If the second goal of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is to provide aid to faithful Anglicans who have been forced to disaffiliate from their original spiritual homes by false teaching and practice, how does the FCA propose to help such Anglicans who cannot affiliate with supposedly Anglican ecclesial bodies like the Anglican Church in North America due to false teaching and practice in these bodies?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali: No FCA break with Canterbury in the works

Fellowship of Confessing Anglican leaders meeting at St. Mark's Battersea heard Bishop Michael Nazir Ali say that the intention of the FCA is not to break with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion but they will continue to support orthodox dioceses and parishes in liberal and revisionist provinces like the US and Canada.

Despite a media blackout, VOL has learned that the 200 global Anglican leaders including archbishops from Australia, (Peter Jensen) Nigeria, (Nicholas Okoh) Kenya, (Eliud Wabukala), the US (ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan) and Latin America (Hector "Tito" Zavala) and a slew of bishops from the US and Global South, FCA's goal is to ensure that orthodoxy prevails and those who are suffering as a result will be supported and given spiritual and ecclesial aid even though the days of cross border "violations" has ended.

While it has not been publicly raised, the intention is that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will, in time, be recognized as a legitimate province of the Anglican Communion. Read more

Measuring What Matters

Despite the barriers, churches are finding effective metrics of soul transformation.

Measurement has been a troublesome thing for the church for two thousand years." That's how Jim Mellado of the Willow Creek Association responded when I asked about measuring congregational success. "It's incredibly hard to measure transformation in a heart," he continued, "and that's what we're all after."

No matter how you state the ultimate goal of your ministry, it is difficult to measure the things that truly matter. 

When I began writing this, oil was still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from a drilling accident at the Macondo site. It was being described as the worst environmental disaster in history because of the widespread effect on the Gulf and its shoreline. Now the oil has stopped flowing and the most intense cleanup work is complete, but the incident is far from over.

Several storylines remain, including investigations to determine causes and assign financial liability, and debates over what restrictions to impose on future offshore drilling.

Measurement is an important subplot in this story. In the weeks after the blowout, two measures received a lot of attention: the number of days that it took to cap the well and the amount of oil that had escaped into the environment. The first was easy to quantify but of little value to anyone except the media. The second, the amount of oil, was much more difficult to measure and hotly debated. It caused me to wonder: Does it matter? Apart from sensational headlines, how does the quantity of oil from Macondo make any difference for the future? The official government estimate is that 4.9 million barrels leaked into the Gulf, but apart from the size of the fines assessed, this measure has no impact on the most important issues for the Gulf Coast.

What actually matters going forward? It matters if beaches are clean so that families can enjoy vacations on the Gulf. It matters if it is safe to eat fish and shellfish from various parts of the Gulf. It matters if there are steps we can take to protect the environment or accelerate the recovery.

The measurement challenges facing the church have many parallels to the Gulf oil spill. The things that matter the most—transformed lives, ministry effectiveness, spiritual growth—are the hardest to measure. So we settle for metrics that are easier to obtain but much less meaningful. Read more

Bill Hybels on Church Planting Willow Creek: I Did a Lot of Scrambling

Megachurch pastor Billy Hybels' first five years of establishing a church in a Chicago suburb was one of the hardest experiences in his life, he told Christian leaders at the Exponential conference.

"I did a lot of scrambling. In the first five years it was like 25, 100-yard dashes a day," Hybels told those attending the second day of the three-day church planting conference at First Baptist Church Orlando.

Hybels, 60, founded Willow Creek Community Church 37 years ago. He led services at Palatine's Willow Creek Theater before the church moved six years later to its current location in South Barrington, Ill. Read more

Related article: Church Planters Share Stories of Being 'Sifted' at Exponential Conference

The Old Testament Is a Story of Providence

The story of the Old Testament is nothing if not a story of divine providence. On every page, in every promise, behind every prophecy is the sure hand of God. He sustains all things, directs all things, plans all things, ordains all things, superintends all things, works all things after the counsel of his will.

This is not a small theme in the Old Testament. Providence is not merely an implied truth, deduced from a handful of obscure passages. No, the doctrine of divine providence is the soundtrack of Scripture. It is everywhere present even if at times you are not consciously aware of it. Like the book of Esther where God’s name is never mentioned but everything from a beauty contest (2:18) to a king’s insomnia (6:1-3) serve to advance God’s purposes. The God of the Bible is a big God who does not leave things to chance. He does not simply react; he predestines. He does not merely turn hard situations for our good; he ordains hard situations for our good. Our God is never confused and never caught off guard. His will, to quote Augustine, is the necessity of all things. Read more

AMiA heading back to Africa

The leader of the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) reports that his group has moved under the oversight of the Anglican Church of the Congo.

“This week, I received an official letter from Archbishop Henri Isingoma of the Anglican Church of the Congo, receiving me as a Bishop of the House of Bishops in his Province and offering us a new canonical residence,” Bishop Chuck Murphy reported to his followers on 13 April 2012.

However The Church of England Newspaper has not been able to confirm the veracity of Bishop Murphy’s claims with Archbishop Henry Isingoma of the Congo, nor has the AMiA released a copy of the letter from Kinshasa cited in its announcement. Read more

Bombings in Nigeria continue against Christians

Suspected Islamic extremists attacked a TV viewing center in Jos, Nigeria, April 24, in a Christian area of the city where a crowd had gathered to watch a soccer match.

At about 10:15 p.m. at the viewing center, one of many such establishments popular for watching soccer in Nigeria, attackers drove past the site and threw an explosive device at hundreds of Christians watching soccer, eyewitnesses told Compass Direct News.

Some 10 minutes after the bombing, security agents evacuated the injured to a nearby hospital. Medical personnel at the hospital were treating at least four people under strict supervision of police and other security agents.

Soldiers and police under Nigeria's Joint Military Task Force charged with keeping peace in the country's embattled Plateau state cordoned off the area around the establishment. Authorities have not commented on whether the Islamic sect Boko Haram is responsible for the attack. Read more

Book Notice: How to Read the Bible Through a Jesus Lens

This is a charming little book that gives an overview of every book of the Bible and how it relates to Jesus. Williams says: “Reading the Bible through the Jesus lens is reading it the way it was intended. It keeps our reading, understanding, teaching, and preaching properly focused on God’s grand redemptive program that centers on his own son. Seeing how each biblical book makes its own unique contribution to that redemptive focus enables us to see these diverse materials with much more confidence and accuracy. the Jesus lens ensures that our exegetical bowling balls stay within the lane and don’t go crashing over into areas where they can cause a lot of damage to the faith of believers and to our ability to use the bible fruitfully in our service to God (p. 9). Read more. View videos

Potted Proverbs: We don't believe in the Big Bang!

I'm not talking about the dawn of time and all that bewildering Cosmology stuff that lots of clever people like to think about with their calculators at hand. 

I'm talking about what so often happens at the end of home groups:

We've finished reading and thinking about the Bible together. We've been amazed at how brilliant / surprising / strange / terrifying God is. We've been challenged deep down to think about how we can serve Christ better. And then the leaders says: "Right, what shall we pray for?" And then comes the Big Bang! The sound of Bibles closing around the room. Read more

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Theology Matters…No, Really It Does

What songs should we choose for the worship service? What should we do for our fall campaign? How many minutes should the sermon be? How should we organize the chairs in the worship center?

The list could go on.

Pastors are constantly faced with practical questions. What to do has become the driving force of ministry, and as a result we spend our time trying to figure out how to do it. A vast majority of seminars and conferences today are focused on the “how”. Strategy is the name of the game and the equipment for playing is resourcefulness, creativity and innovation.

When faced with a question of what to do we immediately turn to the equipment above. Unfortunately, what this often means is that our strategy is determined by us, rather than God. In a sense, we lead as functional deists, believing God has left us to do his work in the here and now. By including one key piece of equipment in our strategic method we can help reorient our “how” under the authority and guidance of God. The piece of equipment that needs to be added is theology.

There seem to be two common reasons that theology is a lost piece of equipment in the strategy game. Read more

Six Ways to Give Your People False Assurance

As a pastor, I interact with a lot of people who struggle to have confidence in the authenticity of their conversion. To their mind, their sin clings closely and their failings are always at hand. Most of the time, I find that these are faithful brothers and sisters who need comfort and reassurance.

But there’s another group of people in many of our churches that are much more worrisome: those with a firm but unfounded belief that they are genuinely converted. Perhaps you know they type. They know the right words. They stay free from scandalous public sin. And they are moral people. But they have no true fruit, no evidence that God’s converting Spirit is at work within them. And oftentimes there is an untreated area of secret sin. Read more

Read March-April 2012 9Marks Journal: Conversion in Theological Perspective

The Ugly American — Sex Trafficking and Our National Humiliation

The sexual revolution of the last several decades has transformed any public conversation about sex and sexuality. The revolutionaries directed their attention to the dismantling of an entire edifice of sexual morality that had been basically intact for well over 2,000 years.

At one point in the sexual revolution, efforts were made to legalize prostitution as a "victimless crime," a term that anyone could recognize as an oxymoron. Most of these efforts went nowhere in the United States and most of Europe, though "progressive" law enforcement officials often looked the other way and did little to curb the market for illicit sex.

Then something truly interesting started to happen. Influential forces in society began to notice the scale and magnitude of the market for sex. Law enforcement officials started to acknowledge the fact that women, along with under-age girls and boys, were being "trafficked" through international networks of gangsters. By the end of the last decade, American officials were aware that sex trafficking was taking place in cities large and small. Women, along with boys and girls, were being kidnapped in far parts of the world and on the streets of American cities, to be sold into what could only be considered as sexual slavery. Read more

A Fresh Look At Morning Devotions

You get up in the morning, groggy and sleepy eyed. Maybe you take your shower and have a cup of coffee and then for many Christians it is off to do your "morning devotions". You may find a quiet place in the house if that is possible, or go to your computer and look up a devotional like Spurgeon's Morning and Evening or Oswald Chamber's My utmost for His highest or if you are really hip then you go and read Greg Laurie's devotional. Yet all of it seems to no longer speak to you or you seem like you are just going through the motions and it is not having an impact on your spiritual life. Well I hope to give you a fresh look at how to approach your morning devotions and may some new ideas about what really is the purpose of morning devotions. Read more

Churches May Be Forced to Rent Their Facilities to Gay Couples

The city of Hutchinson, Kan., is mulling over a proposed law that would force some churches in the community, regardless of their religious convictions, to rent their church halls to gay couples for events.

The proposal came about after the Kansas Equality Coalition encouraged the Hutchinson City Council to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the city's human relations code. The law would make it illegal for churches that rent their facilities to the public to prevent anyone from renting their facility based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

"If a church has a parish hall that they rent out to the general public, they could not discriminate against a gay couple who want to rent the building for a party," states an eight-page document from the city's Human Relations Commission that explains the law. Churches can choose to be exempt from the law, but only if they stop renting to the public and rent only to their members. Read more

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh: Christian UK can show leadership to Christian world

Britain’s drift away from its Christian moorings is impacting its ability to support Christians being attacked in other countries, the Archbishop of Nigeria has warned.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh made the comments during a meeting at the House of Lords on Tuesday night where he gave a report on widespread attacks against churches in Nigeria. Read more

Doctor Michael Ovey's Plenary Talk at the London FCA Leaders Conference

Revd. Dr Michael Ovey, Principal of Oak Hill College, gave the plenary talk on the second morning of the London FCA Leaders Conference. View a video of his talk

Media Conference with Archbishops Wabukala, Okoh and Jensen at the London FCA Leaders Conference

At a media conference, Archbishops Wabukala, Okoh and Jensen took questions about the section of the GAFCON Primates Council's statement dealing with the Primates Meetings of the Anglican Communion. The GAFCON Primates Council has called for Anglican Communion Primates Meetings to have an elected chairman. Hear media conference audio

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

12 Months, 12 Religions

A young Christian practices 12 faiths in one year and his surprising conclusion.

29-year-old Andrew Bowen became a Christian in high school, but says that he took "a nose dive into fundamentalism. It just ignited a furnace in me." His journey with God since then has been challenging. When his wife experienced a complicated pregnancy that ended tragically, Bowen says he plunged into a "two-year stint of just seething hatred toward God."

Last year he decided it was time to explore what he really believed. He began Project Conversion. With the aid of religious mentors, Bowen practiced 12 different religions each for one month including: Hinduism, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhisim, agnosticism, Mormonism, Islam, Sikhism, Wicca, Jainism, and Catholicism.

His journey is reported by Amanda Green on the Religion News Service blog. It's well worth the time to read. Not only does Bowen's attitude toward religion reflect that of many younger people, but where he lands may surprise you. Read more

Visit Andrew Bowen's website

Loch Ness Monster Sonar Photo Creates Buzz (PICTURE)

Has Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, finally been captured on film? Marcus Atkinson certainly thinks so after seeing an image on his sonar equipment that could prove Nessie's existence.

Atkinson was in the Loch's Urquhart Bay when the sonar equipment first spied an unknown image that was 75 feet long and almost 5 feet wide. It followed Atkinson's boat for almost two minutes, leading him to believe he had finally seen the Loch Ness Monster. Read more

NYC church policy challenged in court filing

The New York City ban on religious worship in public schools violates both the free exercise of religion and the prohibition on government establishment of religion, a Southern Baptist entity and other groups contend in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in federal court.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission joined local and national religious organizations in the April 20 brief that urges a federal court in New York to invalidate a Board of Education policy that bars churches and other faith groups from meeting in schools. The brief, written by the Christian Legal Society, also calls on the court to permanently block the policy from being enforced.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the ban was constitutional, affecting dozens of churches, including seven Southern Baptist congregations, that used public schools for corporate worship. Some moved their meetings to other facilities. Read more

Walk-through tabernacle replica in Israel reflects atonement

As the little girl stepped forward to pull back the ornate curtain, her eyes widened.

"Are we going to die?" she asked.

She and hundreds of other Jewish children take it seriously when they enter the Holy of Holies at the tabernacle in Eilat, Israel's southernmost city. Read more

Christians forced to flee northern Mali

Christians in Mali are in a “desperate plight” following last month’s military coup, Barnabas Fund has warned. 

Government forces collapsed in the north following the coup, allowing separatist and Islamist rebels to seize control of the country’s three northern regions.

 Around 215,000 people have been displaced from their homes, many of them crossing into Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Read more

Anglican Church in North America and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Dialogue—Report on the Discussions (2010-2012)

In 2010 representatives of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)1 began a series of theological discussions. Foundational to the dialogue was the mutual recognition that we share a high regard for the authority of the Holy Scriptures and a commitment to the continuing validity of the great tradition of creedal faith and life. LCMS and ACNA representatives agreed on an initial series of four meetings, beginning in the fall of 2010 and held in the spring and fall over two years. Because the ACNA includes congregations in Canada as well as the US, the LCMS decided to invite a representative of its partner church, the Lutheran Church—Canada, to participate in the talks. The themes of the first four meetings have been, in order: “The Background and Identity of Our Churches,” “Authority in the Church,” “Theological and Societal Challenges Facing the Church,” and “The Practice of Ministry: Worship and Catechesis.” Read more

A Global communion for the twenty-first Century

The unprecedented challenges to Anglican identity forced upon us by the revisionist scriptural interpretation have in the mercy of God, given us an historic opportunity to rediscover the distinctive reformed catholicity of our Communion as shaped so profoundly by the witness of the sixteenth century Anglican Reformers.

Our aim of a renewed, reformed Anglican Communion will not be sustained if we are unwilling to support and encourage those who are gifted to do the training and the theological heavy lifting so essential to give depth and penetration to our vision both within the Church and beyond it. We need to recover the vision of the Anglican Reformers, of ordinary believers knowing scriptures and being nourished by biblical teaching. Equally we need leaders, lay and ordained, able to give a robust defense of apostolic faith in the global public square. If we do not, secular ideologies which have so powerfully shaped liberal and revisionist Christianity in the Communion will tighten the grip. The Lord our God cannot allow it. He calls us to move on. Read more

View a video of Archbishop Wabakula's opening address
Unfortunately Archbishop Wabukala fails to explain what he means by "reformed catholicity." To Anglo-Catholics it means one thing; to Reformed-Evangelicals, another. Did Archbishop Wabakula have in mind the GAFCON Theological Resource Group's explanation of "reformed catholicism" in The Way, the Truth, and the Life, with its emphasis upon the three historic Creeds and the Protestant Confessions, including the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion? Or something else?

Archbishop of Canterbury to lose worldwide Anglican role under traditionalist plans

The Archbishop of Canterbury could be stripped of his role as figurehead of the worldwide Anglican Church, leaders representing 40 million churchgoers have signalled as they launched a scathing attack on a liberal drift within the Church. Read more