Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Is a Cult?

As I write about the theological characteristics of cults, I think of my own ten-year involvement in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Deliverance from the organization and salvation came when I acknowledged my spiritual condition (Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1) and placed my faith in the Christ of the Bible (John 20:28). Assurance of eternal life was found in Him alone (1 John 5:10–13). I also am reminded of many friends who have been delivered from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cults.

How many cults there are today cannot be stated precisely. It has been estimated that there could be as many as five thousand worldwide, with 150 million adherents (The Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, Harvest House Publishers, 1999, p. xvii).

With these statistics, Christians certainly cannot ignore the existence of cults, and their adherents should be viewed as a significant mission field. Many persons in these groups once attended, or were members of, mainstream Christian churches. Read more
In adding to and subtracting from the teachings of the Bible, in multiplying the requirements for salvation beyond faith in Jesus Christ, and in claiming to be the only true church, the Roman Catholic Church qualifies as a cult, an observation that the sixteenth century English Reformers made. 

Reformation Day Free Download: R.C. Sproul’s Luther and the Reformation

“On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther tacked up 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg. With this act, he hoped to provoke a discussion among the scholars about the abuses of the indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. He was not trying to create a public furor by any means, but within a fortnight, these theses had spread through the country like wildfire. The last thing Luther had in mind was to start some kind of major controversy, but nevertheless major controversy did begin.” Read more

Lutherans to Be Invited Into Catholic Church?

Collared Lemming,
 Credit: Don Reid, Wildlife Conservation Society
Lutherans could be invited to join the Catholic Church in the same way that Anglicans were invited to in 2009, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said October 29.

Anglicans can re-join the Catholic Church through groups called ordinariates, which allow them to keep many of their traditions such as married bishops while being absorbed into the Roman Catholic Church.

In an interview with Zenit, on the sidelines of a Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, Koch began his statement about Lutherans by saying, “Anglicanorum coetibus [the document describing the ordinariates] was not an initiative of Rome, but came from the Anglican Church.” This is dishonest. Rome saw that the Anglican Church was divided, and swooped in to take advantage of it. Even the archbishop of Canterbury was taken by surprise. The whole thing was planned and coordinated by the pope. It certainly was an initiative of Rome. Read more

Read also:
Vatican open to a Lutheran Ordinariate

Dennis Canon dead in Virgina

Supreme Court lets stand ruling voiding the power of denominational property trusts

The Virginia Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that held the Dennis Canon has no legal effect in property disputes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In an order released last week, a three-judge writ panel of the Supreme Court refused to hear the Diocese of Virginia’s cross-appeal in the case of The Episcopal Church v. The Falls Church and left standing Fairfax County District Court Judge Randy Bellows ruling the Episcopal Church’s national property canon is not binding on the civil courts of Virginia.

In legal documents filed in response to the appeal by The Falls Church following the March 2012 ruling by Judge Bellows, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia asked the Supreme Court to overturn a portion of the judge’s ruling. It argued the “Circuit Court erred by holding that Va. Code § 57-7.1 does not validate trusts for the benefit of a hierarchical church and by rejecting a constitutional challenge to that interpretation.” Read more

Read also:
Va. Supreme Court Grants Breakaway Anglican Congregation's Appeal

Christians persecuted throughout the world

The latest bombing in Nigeria shows how Christians are increasingly suffering for their faith – and how their plight is being ignored

Imagine the unspeakable fury that would erupt across the Islamic world if a Christian-led government in Khartoum had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese Muslims over the past 30 years. Or if Christian gunmen were firebombing mosques in Iraq during Friday prayers. Or if Muslim girls in Indonesia had been abducted and beheaded on their way to school, because of their faith.

Such horrors are barely thinkable, of course. But they have all occurred in reverse, with Christians falling victim to Islamist aggression. Only two days ago, a suicide bomber crashed a jeep laden with explosives into a packed Catholic church in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, killing at least eight people and injuring more than 100. The tragedy bore the imprint of numerous similar attacks by Boko Haram (which roughly translates as “Western education is sinful”), an exceptionally bloodthirsty militant group.

Other notable trouble spots include Egypt, where 600,000 Copts – more than the entire population of Manchester – have emigrated since the 1980s in the face of harassment or outright oppression.

Why is such a huge scourge chronically under-reported in the West? One result of this oversight is that the often inflated sense of victimhood felt by many Muslims has festered unchallenged. Take the fallout of last month’s protests around the world against the American film about the Prophet Mohammed. While most of the debate centred on the rule of law and the limits of free speech, almost nothing was said about how much more routinely Islamists insult Christians, almost always getting away with their provocations scot-free. Read more

After Darkness...Light

A six minute video from John Piper for Reformation Day (October 31st). It’s a brief look at the legacy of John Calvin – as well as a reminder of the aims of Desiring God.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

28 Resources for Planting Churches

I received an email this morning from my good friend Phil Peterson asking about resources for a church planting initiative.
I’d appreciate your help. The short-answer is I’m looking for recommended contacts, resources, ideas on church-planting models, criteria for candidates, and whatever else you think would help me coordinate our church-planting initiative.
Here’s my response to Phil with links to this blog. I hope you find it helpful… Read more

Free Ebook: With Me – Relational Essentials for a Discipleship Ethos

Character and wisdom are shaped in the mentoring relationships of a “with me” culture. And relationships at this level do not just happen. They are on-purpose relationships whereby skills, resources, knowledge and experience are transferred and exchanged on a relational journey. No less than four types of mentoring relationships come into play in disciple-making cultures.

For too long, the most essential tools for disciple making have been neglected. Nothing can substitute for the Jesus-way of inviting others to be with us as we do life. As important as Bible study, preaching, small group involvement and practical service is to disciple making, nothing can substitute for the ethos of apprenticeship and mentorship that come when a leader invites another to join in on doing life with himself or herself.

In With Me, the intentional aspects of disciple making—the tools, resources, attitudes and actions—are presented with real-world situational stories and examples of the principles and practices at work.

Download from Exponential
Originally posted on the website.

Matters of Opinion: Hallowing Halloween

A few years back, our local Christian radio station ran a poll asking whether Halloween is spiritually harmful. The response from a predominantly evangelical audience here in Ohio was two-to-one against Halloween. This did not surprise me. It is now popular in some Christian circles to repudiate any celebration of All Hallows Eve—Halloween.

"We all know what day is coming," said a young woman in the choir of the Rhode Island church my wife and I attended when I was working on my doctorate. "And I think we need to be in prayer that the evil powers and principalities be held in check over this next weekend." Halloween fell on a Sunday that year, making the event seem all the more sinister. On the calendar of events for the Christian college where I teach, October 31 sits in a dark square with no acknowledgment that there is anything special about the date.
"It's Satan's Holiday, Dr. Rearick," affirmed one of my students. "Didn't you know?"
Well, no, I didn't know. And I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Impostor and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his. Read more

Our Presumptuous Calling

Who am I to teach all nations and feed Jesus' sheep?

Not long ago I was on the phone with Gary Moon and Dallas Willard. Dallas and I are to speak at a conference in early 2013 that Gary is coordinating. The title of the conference is taken from the last chapter of one of Dallas' books: "Pastors as Teachers of the Nations."

"Part of the feedback we're getting is that the title seems a little presumptuous," Gary said. "What do you think?"

Dallas's response was unapologetic. "That's exactly right," he said. "It is presumptuous. Look at the final instructions Jesus gave to his followers. He told this tiny little group to spread throughout the entire world—uninvited—and help every single human being become a follower of his. They were to teach everybody his teachings. Who else would even dream of saying such a thing, let alone expect it to actually happen? This is the most presumptuous idea in the history of humanity."

I had never thought about Jesus in this light before. Because I "church-ify" him so often, the Great Commission tends to be one more of those put-it-on-a-church-plaque statements. But when I think of Jesus as a real person, making a claim about how important his understanding of reality is, it struck me. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." That would be a lot of authority. Nobody else ever said that. Socrates never said that. Confucius and the Buddha never said that. Dear Abby and Oprah never said that. Jesus did. Read more

Small Groups: Childcare Evaluation

Discuss the quality of childcare offered at group meetings.

Note: Give this evaluation to group members to start a healthy conversation about the quality of childcare at group meetings. Collect the evaluations and determine which areas were rated lowest, or simply have group members share their scores with the group as you discuss each area.

Rate on a scale of one to five your group experience in regards to childcare. Then talk about what your group can do to improve weaknesses and maintain strengths.... Read more

CofE considers single diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales

The Church of England is considering creating a new single diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales.

The planned diocese would replace the existing dioceses in the region - Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield.

Details of the reorganisation have been released by the Dioceses Commission today following a period of consultation with the three dioceses.

The single diocese would be called the Diocese of Leeds, whilst also being known as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. Read more

How to share Christ with your Hindu friends

If you've traveled most anywhere in the United States recently, you've likely had contact with a follower of Hinduism, a religion that is becoming a major factor on the American religious landscape.

Witnessing to Hindus can be daunting. A seminary student described his effort to reach out to a Hindu, saying, "They have all of those gods. I just felt ... helpless."

With 330 million gods, a Hindu's simple response can be, "How can we be wrong, if we accept that everyone is at least partially right?"

Still, increasing numbers of Hindus around the world are trusting Christ. The church in India now encompasses more than 70-million people, the world's eighth-largest Christian population.

To initiate sharing Christ with a Hindu, consider these four steps.... Read more

Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans: October Pastoral Letter

A Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman of the FCA Primates Council to the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

Download letter in PDF

October 29, 2012

The day we give special thanks for James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1885

My dear people of God:

Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Primates’ Council has just concluded its October 2012 meeting in Dar es Salaam where we witnessed the blessing of God in a number of key areas:

• In the increase of our numbers
• Through the achievements of our April meeting
• By the testimonies of those who are joining with us
• In the new funding provided for our communication efforts
• Through our decision to meet again in a Global assembly
• By the recognition that we are not alone in this spiritual battle

We gathered in this historic city grateful for the faithful witness of the Anglican Church of Tanzania during these challenging times. The Most Reverend Valentine Mokiwa, Bishop of the Diocese of Dar es Salaam and Primate of Tanzania, welcomed us. We were made aware of some of the current difficulties facing Tanzania and committed ourselves to prayer for protection for the Church and peace and prosperity for all of this nation’s citizens.

During our meeting we were vividly reminded of the costly struggles of so many of our fellow Christians, whether facing violent persecution, natural disaster or spiritual conflict with competing ideologies. Such struggles have shaped our intention to use the next Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON2), now to be anticipated in October 2013 (rather than May as previously indicated) to stand in solidarity with all of our oppressed sisters and brothers and to study the theme of declaring the gospel of God ‘in the midst of much conflict’ (1Thessalonians 2:2).

We were pleased to welcome the Most Reverend Henri Isingoma, Primate of the Anglican Church of the Congo as member of the Primates’ Council. We are thankful for his faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his embrace of the tenets of the Jerusalem Declaration and his enthusiastic support for the work of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

We reflected on our meeting in London this past April when we gathered 200 leaders from 31 countries and enjoyed outstanding fellowship. We received excellent theological and biblical material that is now published on the GAFCON website. We also heard remarkable testimonies of leadership under pressure from around the Communion. But perhaps the most telling quote was from a Nigerian bishop who said, ‘Now we know we are not alone.’ That is at the heart of our calling as the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – to provide an authentic Anglican community for those who have been alienated for whatever reason.

As a result of the increased aggressiveness of the revisionists there are now those in every province and beyond who wish to stand with us and who need our help to stand for Christ: in Recife (Brazil), in South Carolina, in the Church of Scotland, in Ireland, in England, in Australia and many more. We received reports from various FCA affiliates and rejoice in their faithful witness in the face of tremendous pressure and were delighted to receive an application for the establishment of an FCA affiliate in Australia.

We were also reminded of the need for prayer for those who will gather in Auckland, New Zealand, for the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. In particular we prayed that they will avoid compromise and have the courage to declare boldly the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is good news for all people at all times and in all cultures.

We also rejoiced in the news that we have now received funding to expand our Communication efforts and look forward to more regular communication between our various constituencies and the ability to be able to share the remarkable stories of courageous and costly discipleship. We are also hopeful that this will also be a means by which we can be more effectively mobilized for intercession for one another and the communities that we serve.

From our very inception we have always understood that our fight is not with any particular person, political party, program or province but rather we are engaged an age-old battle for the soul of the Church.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, … Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (1)

At its heart we are engaged in a spiritual and theological struggle and we were unanimous in our commitment to renew the FCA Theological Commission with Provincial representation and a revised mandate that will provide theological resources to address areas of current concern.

We concluded our meeting with a glorious service of evening worship at the Cathedral of St Albans in Dar es Salaam. As we sang the familiar words of the evening hymn “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended” (2) we gave thanks that “The Voice of Prayer is Never Silent. Nor dies the strain of praise way!” We are indeed not alone!

In Christ’s love and service,

The Most Reverend Eliud Wabukala
On behalf of the FCA Primates Council

1. Ephesians 6:12-20
2. Psalm 42:8, John Ellerton, 1870

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thom Rainer: Leaders Who Don't Delegate

The business leader just turned 50. He had advanced in his organization primarily through his relational skills. He was easy to like and most people felt comfortable with him. To this point in his career, his relational skills were sufficient. He had really been more of a manager than a leader. He thus depended on others to make decisions; he would carry them out with a good attitude and a good work ethic.

The First Sign of Problems
The problems began when he was promoted to a position that was clearly one of leadership. He was now expected to make decisions. He was to take initiative instead of waiting on others to move. He now had people who worked under him who waited on him to make critical decisions.

He failed. He seemed frozen in making decisions. He would not let others under him help him. He treated his new level of leadership as if he was still a manager who carried out tasks. He perceived it was his responsibility to do everything, rather than to see that everything got done.

He failed to delegate and thus he failed in his new job. Read more

Roger Salter: A Wasted Heritage

The wealth of Anglican belief and spirituality is immense and appealing. It stems from Holy Scripture and is defined in the Book of Common Prayer, The Articles of Religion, and The Ordinal (as Aquinas says of the creed, and we may say of our standards, they "are not added to Scripture but extracted from it").

And then there is the vast amount of literature consonant with the classic Anglican Way - Biblical, doctrinal, devotional, pastoral, and homiletic. Anglicanism has been earnest and industrious in the propagation of the gospel and Christian knowledge the world over. Its endeavors have been appreciated by believers of different traditions, Protestant and Catholic.

The Church of England and its off-shoots have been instrumental in spreading the Word of God and the message of his grace to countless "people of every kind and type". There is a profound richness in the Anglican blend of Scripture, liturgy, sacramental administration, and pastoral provision, all deeply imbued with an acute awareness of the magnificence of God and the mightiness of his grace.

Anglicanism has ministered effectively to those within the fold and those in the fields of world mission. Home and abroad the churches of the Anglican Communion have labored with sympathetic friends in the faith to make Christ accessible and join souls to God. There has been no Golden Age (better times, yes) and much evidence of checkered history in the Anglican corner of the Lord's vineyard, but it has been, under God, initially the shaper, and latterly the heir, of an invaluable heritage that, restored by God, has the potential to address mankind very powerfully with the message of the Lord recorded in Scripture and relayed by the Spirit. The great need in our time is for Anglicanism to embrace and activate the bequest that has been entrusted to us as "a witness and a keeper of holy Writ" (Article xx). We are to adhere to, proclaim, and protect the content and integrity of Holy Scripture. We may not deny, deviate from, or doctor, one whit of revealed doctrine. Rather, we are to grow into and firmly grasp every utterance of the Spirit preserved for us in God's Book. Read more 

The pain of goodbyes and the joy of hellos

Churches matter!

The local congregation is the true church of God, and local church ministry must be the centre of our ministry. But we live in a city where one in five people have moved suburb in the last five years, where there are good churches in most suburbs, and where members made choices about which church to attend for fleeting reasons, making their commitment to any particular congregation much looser than the minister desires. And so it is an all too common occurrence that people leave a congregation to join another.

What should we do? Read more

Church Society urges Synod to reject Women Bishops measure

The Council of Church Society has written this week to members of General Synod urging them to vote against the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure at the Synod meeting on Tuesday 20th November.

Contents of letter:

Dear Synod member,

Re: Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure

I am writing in my capacity as the Chairman of the Council of Church Society to urge you to vote against the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure at the General Synod meeting on Tuesday 20th November.

Church Society represents a substantial body of clergy and has a longstanding patronage interest in 113 parishes across the country.

The Society's members are loyal Anglicans, committed to ministry within the Church of England and faithful to historic Anglican doctrine, most importantly, the supreme and final authority of the Bible as God's written Word. We adhere in good conscience to the Bible's teaching on male headship in the family and in the church and accordingly cannot accept women as bishops.

The proposed legislation does not provide adequate protection for all those in the Church of England who endorse Church Society's position and for whom legislation in favour of the consecration of women bishops, without such protection, would give rise to fundamental issues of conscience.

In particular, our Council and membership contain a substantial body of ordinands, younger clergy, lay leaders and laity all of whom subscribe fully to the Society's position, such that their ministry within the Church of England will be threatened by the proposed Measure, if it is enacted. It would be immensely damaging to the Church of England and to our country if the ministries of such men and women were seemingly rejected by our beloved national church. It would also put us significantly at odds with most of the provinces, and the vast majority of Anglicans, in the global Anglican Communion, who do not have female bishops.

Clause 5 of the draft Measure fails to set out safeguards which protect the position of those holding the biblical convictions summarised above. All it contemplates is the drawing up of a Code of Practice, when legislation alone would firmly establish and enshrine all necessary safeguards.

In addition, Clause 5(1)c offers no adequate protection. This clause, as amended last month, would, on one reading, remove the need for onerous and difficult enquiries into whether or not, as a matter of theological conviction, the ministry of a prospective male minister is consistent with the position of the relevant parochial church on the issue of the consecration or ordination of women. However, the new wording of Clause 5(1)c is unclear in meaning. It is therefore unclear how it should, or could, be applied in practice. This is unsatisfactory.

For the reasons outlined above, I strongly encourage you to vote against the draft Measure. There is no other just or reasonable alternative and not to do so would amount to a failure, for no good reason, to respect the consciences of many loyal Anglicans.

A vote against the draft Measure would not, of course, amount to a vote against women's ministry per se. There remain many areas of church life where women's ministry is immensely beneficial and can be exercised in ways which are consistent with the Bible's teaching on headship and the roles of men and women.

Yours sincerely,

James Crabtree,
Chairman of Church Society Council

Albert Mohler: Christianity and the Dark Side — What About Halloween?

Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Hermann Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant? Read more

Attack on Nigerian Church Kills 8 and Wounds Dozens

 A suicide bomber drove a vehicle full of explosives into a Roman Catholic church during morning Mass in northern Nigeria on Sunday, killing at least eight people, wounding more than 100 and triggering reprisal attacks that killed at least two more.

There was no claim of responsibility, but the bombing was similar to others by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which has attacked churches, security forces, schools and other institutions, killing thousands of people over the past several years in its quest to create an Islamic state in Nigeria. The nation’s population of about 160 million is evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

The bomber drove the vehicle into a wall of the packed St. Rita’s Roman Catholic church in the Malali area of Kaduna, witnesses said. The wall was blasted open and scorched, with debris lying around, they said. Read more 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Two Conditions for Starting a New Ministry

One of the challenges of church planting is staying lean. I became a Pastor under a programmatic mindset – offer enough things and more people will come. Thankfully, I came across a good book long ago that helped to shift my thinking. Instead of a list of programs to attract people, what we really need is a simple process for growing people.

Programs can easily become dead weight and create the drudgery of having to “find volunteers” to staff them. But processes scale with growth naturally. Nonetheless, there will still be times to determine how to best reach out to a new group of people – students, seniors, divorcees, etc. How do you know when it’s time to pull the trigger on launching a new ministry? I have two criteria… Read more

Small Group Ministry versus Leading a New Kind of Tribe

Traditional small group ministry might seem like a leap ahead of the lecture-based classroom in terms of relationship-building, but the rate of change in our surrounding culture still far outpaces the rate of change within the church. Small group ministry is changing. Again. And Rick Howerton, one of the few guys I read religiously concerning group life has written an excellent guide for embracing this change in his new book, A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic.

In a traditional small group environment, small groups are a new way of organizing the church, assimilating people into the church, and expanding in number outwardly. But Rick challenges our traditional approach, and even our terminology, choosing to term groups “Christian micro-communities.” It’s not that they are entirely Christian – in fact, genuine Christian micro-communities do and should include people still far from God. Though Rick doesn’t use this phrase in the book, I think he echoes what has been weighing on my heart lately – how to include people and help them to belong to a community, even before they believe. Read more

ACNA News: Archbishop authorizes a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders

Archbishop Duncan has appointed the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, Bishop of the REC Diocese of the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic to lead a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders. The Task Force will lead the College of Bishops through a thorough study regarding the ordination of women to Holy Orders.

At the inception of the Anglican Church in North America, the Lead Bishops unanimously agreed to work together for the good of the Kingdom. As part of this consensus, it was understood that there were differing understandings regarding the ordination of women to Holy Orders, but there existed a mutual love and respect for one another and a desire to move forward for the good of the Church. This commitment was deeply embedded in the Constitution and Canons overwhelmingly adopted by the Inaugural Assembly (2009).

In respect of the two integrities concerning Holy Orders, three matters were specifically agreed in Constitution and Canons.... Read more
This is the Archbishop Duncan's response to the calls from the Anglo-Catholic dioceses of All Saints, Ft. Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin for the imposition of a moratorium on the ordination of women. At this year's Assembly Forward in Faith North America adopted the strategy of gently pressuring Duncan to take steps to impose such a moratorium, hoping to exploit the deference Duncan enjoys with leaders and members of the ACNA as founder of Common Cause and the ACNA's first archbishop. Duncan himself supports women's ordination. Leaders and members of the ACNA on both sides of the women's ordination issue are strongly committed to the position of their side. There is a very real possibility that the ACNA could unravel over this issue.

Eid al-Adha 2012: Muslims Around The World Celebrate The Holy Festival And The Hajj Pilgrimage

Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, which began on Thursday evening and continues until the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The festival starts on the 10th day of the last Islamic month on the calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah, this year landing on Thursday or Friday, depending on the region.

Eid al-Adha commemorates Muslim God Ibrahim’s sacrifice of his only son, Ishmael, to Allah as an act of obedience. Allah spared Ishmael after seeing Abraham's devotion and instead gave him a sheep to kill, according to stories in the Bible’s Old Testament and the Torah. Read also

Read also:
5 things to know about the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha

Following Jesus Yet Still Hindu or Sikh? Mission Leaders Weigh In on New Communities

It doesn't sound right: someone claiming to be both a follower of Jesus Christ while still identifying himself as a Hindu or Sikh. But some respected missiologists are defending the new communities in India called Yeshu Satsang as biblical.

Formed as a direct response to broken relationships that Hindus or Sikhs in India who convert to Christianity often must endure, members of Yeshu Satsangs seek to follow the Bible while still retaining their cultural identity as Hindu or Sikh, and thus retaining harmonious relationships with their family members and community. The communities are also a pushback against Western ways of worshipping Jesus that is seen as "other" and foreign to the community. A Yeshu Satsang can loosely be defined as a gathering of Jesus followers whose members are socially still identified as Hindus or Sikhs.

"Even though [they have] rejected the word and practices of church, they have retained a theological identity of church while seeking to retain their Hindu and Sikh socio-religious identity," explained Darren Duerksen, director and assistant professor of Intercultural Studies at Fresno Pacific University, at the recent North American Mission Leaders Conference in Chicago. Read more

The Holocaust Happening Right Under Our Noses

Photo: Vonath Chandar
In some countries, hearing “It’s a girl” is no cause for celebration--it's a death sentence. A new film captures global gendercide

A burial mound in Tamil Nadu, India, holds the bodies of eight infant girls. Each of them was strangled at birth by their mother, who desperately wanted a son—so much so that she was willing to kill until she finally got one.

“Why keep girls when keeping them would be difficult?” the mother asks plainly.

Like a punch in the face, this is the opening scene of It’s a Girl, a new documentary about a modern-day holocaust happening right under our noses. Shot on location in India and China by Shadowline Films, the hour-long film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and even of mothers who would kill for a son.  Read more

How to share Christ with your Muslim friends

Muslims aren't just people "over there" in the Middle East and parts of Asia. They live in major cities across the U.S. and many smaller towns as well. More are arriving daily and the vast majority want to live quiet lives making a living for their families.

To many Southern Baptists, evangelizing Muslims in this country may seem to be a daunting task best left to professional missionaries and skilled pastors. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sharing Christ with people who represent some of the rapidly growing faiths in America (these include Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists) doesn't have to be scary or complicated. Most people of another faith are quite open to hearing about Christianity. Learning a few simple steps and having conversations with adherents of other faiths about Christ actually is quite simple. Read more

Oak Hill College: The pain threshold

Rico Tice, the architect of the Christianity Explored courses, has a thing about pain. He says that when we’re explaining the gospel to people, we have to steel ourselves to cross a couple of thresholds which we find awkward and embarrassing, but unless we do so we will compromise the message.

One is that we must have the courage to open the Bible with people. If the authority and power of the gospel is God’s and not ours, then we have to use his given message. It looks weird to explain a book to people, but it has to be done.

A second lies in the area of the consequences of sin. Nerving ourselves to talk about sin, righteousness and judgment, knowing we will look foolish, is the way to the cross.

There are others he mentions, but there is one that has become quite sharp for me as we look back to the last Passion for Life, and look forward to the next in 2014. Read more

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spiritual Warfare: Satan in the Suburbs

Satan. Lucifer. Beelzebub. The devil. Whatever you want to call him, most of us treat the adversary as though he is a biblical fairy tale
.Historically, it seems as though Satan gets too much play or none at all. We either blame everything (including burnt toast) on him, or nothing. Rarely have we dealt with him in the middle, knowing he’s against us, but understanding our Father is greater.

For my life, I’ve mainly dealt with the devil as an afterthought. I have believed in Satan because as the song goes … the Bible tells me so, but I have never believed that he influences my everyday life. He’s there, but don’t mention him.

Here is what I have found out, practically, about the devil as I have tried to live out the mission of making disciples in my suburban neighborhood.... Read more

Read also:
Spiritual Warfare Prayer

Four Bible Passages About Teamwork

None of us are strong in every area. Some of us are gifted as preachers but not gifted as counselors. Some of us are strong leaders but not so good at details. Some of us are good at building relations yet we’re not strong managers.

And that’s actually good. If you were good at everything, you wouldn’t need the rest of the Body of Christ. Your church needs every member involved in ministry—not just you.

Good teamwork is necessary in all areas of life—our families, our businesses, our communities. Paul reminds us in Romans 12 that bodies don’t function well unless they work together.

Neither do churches. Your congregation needs to work together as a team. Here are some specific passages to teach your members.... Read more

Shot Pakistani girl recovering fast in UK: father

The father of a Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education said on Friday she would "rise again" to pursue her dreams after hospital treatment.

Malala Yousufzai, 15, was flown from Pakistan to Britain for specialist treatment after the October 9 attack, which drew widespread international condemnation.

The father Ziauddin Yousufzai and other family members arrived in Britain on Thursday to help her recovery.
"They wanted to kill her. But she fell temporarily. She will rise again. She will stand again," he told reporters, his voice breaking with emotion.

Malala has become a powerful symbol of resistance to the Taliban's efforts to deny women education. Public fury in Pakistan over her shooting has put pressure on the military to mount an offensive against the radical Islamist group. Read more

Megachurch 'Come and See' Movement Fizzling?

The number of megachurches may have exploded in the U.S. over the last few decades but the landscape is changing and people are seemingly less attracted to the big box churches or the "come and see" experience, two pastors observed.

"The megachurch is kind of like the great shopping malls of America," said Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during a forum Tuesday. "They emerged at the same time and for the same reason and with the same mentality. And the malls haven't disappeared but there are a lot of them being shuttered and not a new mall has been built in America of any size in the last eight years and none are now planned because the retail activity shifted to different kinds of centers.

"We're not getting our ecclesiology by watching that but it does tell us that the 'Field of Dreams' vision is gone – if you build it, they don't necessarily come and they shouldn't."

What Mohler is seeing is a different missiological context in which people today are visiting churches by invitation more than anything else. Read more

Books: The Foreign Mission Field Two Minutes Away

Mass migration to the West is destroying old missions distinctions

David Boyd, a pastor from the suburbs of Sydney, sat on the floor of a smoke-filled room in rural Nepal, and spoke to the village elders through his interpreter and friend Gam. Peppered with questions about the "Jesus way," he marveled at the opportunity to share the gospel with this unreached people group, a privilege denied to previous missionaries. How was this unlikely door opened? It wasn't through a short-term missions trip or a Western missionary, but through Gam, a Nepalese migrant who became a Christian at Boyd's church in Sydney.

J. D. Payne, professor of evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wants to show the West that God is orchestrating the movements of migrants like Gam to help fulfill the Great Commission. Whereas other recent books about immigration have focused on political or ethical debates, Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and Mission (InterVarsity Press) instead seeks to educate Westerners about the tidal wave of migrants coming to the West, and so challenge them to reach one of the world's most important (and overlooked) mission fields.

The statistics of migration alone are enough to give pause for reflection. In 2010, the United States was home to 43 million international migrants, 20 percent of the world total and 30 million more than the next largest migrant host. Nearly 41 percent of the world's migrants live in the West, among them more than one million international students and another million refugees. Moreover, the Southern Baptist Convention–affiliated International Mission Board estimates there are 361 unreached people groups (defined by most as less than 2 percent evangelical) living in the United States, ranking the United States behind only India and China for the highest number of unevangelized people groups within its borders.

The world is on the move—and through migration, many "distant mission fields" are now in American neighborhoods, sitting at the same stoplights and waiting in the same grocery lines. Read more

The 'triple jeopardy' facing Britain

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has warned of the danger to the nation if the Government disregards Britain’s moral and spiritual heritage.

The bishop was speaking at the launch of his new book, Triple Jeopardy for the West: Aggressive
Secularism, Radical Islamism and Multiculturalism, at All Souls Church in central London last night.

He said that radical Islam, multiculturalism and aggressive secularism were “real dangers” to Britain. Read more

Paul Barnett: Modernity

Twice in the Bible we read of God ‘dwelling with us’.

The first looks back in time when ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14) and the second looks ahead when ‘God will dwell with us’ (Revelation 1:3). We live in between the two, looking back to the first and forward to the second.

Modernity is an enticing idea. It suggests that all our hopes are located in the time that is ‘now’. But when you think about it modernity is whenever you live. When the wheel was invented it was modern times, or the dishwasher, or the iPad.

Modernity is always moving – on and on, faster and faster. Go to any electronics outlet and the products are different from just a few months back. Cameras do different things, likewise TVs, and computers. I have the sense of being left further and further behind, helpless to catch up. The machines seem to be getting more complicated. By the time I reach step 4, I have forgotten step 2. Anita loves gadgets and can’t wait to open them. Mine stay in the packet, sometimes for months. Read more

Letter from the Global South Primates Steering Committee to Bishop Mark Lawrence

Dear Bishop Mark Lawrence,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Several of the Global South Primates met recently as we gathered in Singapore for the Installation of Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah as the new Bishop of Singapore.

We were saddened, but not surprised, by the news of your inhibition and possible deposition by the TEC. We all want to assure you and the Diocese of South Carolina of our continuing prayers and support. We thank God for your stand for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! We are proud that you are willing to suffer for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Please be assured that we are with you, and that our Lord is also proud of you and our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of South Carolina.

May the Lord bless you!

Yours in Christ,
+ Mouneer Egypt
The Most Revd Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
Chairman, Global South Primates Steering Committee

+ Ian Mauritius
The Most Revd Ian Ernest
Primate of the Indian Ocean
Bishop of Mauritius
Hon. General Secretary, Global South Primates Steering Committee

The Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh (All Nigeria)
The Most Rev. Bolly Lapok (South East Asia)
The Most Rev. Stephen Than (Myanmar)
The Most Rev. Henri Isingoma (Congo)
The Most Rev. Hector Zavala (Southern Cone)
The Most Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala (Kenya)
The Most Rev. Daniel Deng (Sudan)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

R. C. Sproul: Misunderstanding Vatican II

I think Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) and similar efforts to make common cause with Roman Catholics are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of where the Roman Catholic Church is theologically and what it actually teaches. There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church has changed since the sixteenth century. But the changes have not closed the gap between Rome and Protestantism. Indeed, the differences are greater now. For instance, the formally defined proclamation of the infallibility of the pope and all of the Mariology statements have come since the Reformation. Neither has Rome backed down from any of the positions it took in the sixteenth-century debate. In the updated Catechism of the Catholic Church, released in the mid-1990s, the treasury of merit, purgatory, indulgences, justification through the sacraments, and other doctrines were reaffirmed.

I think this misunderstanding has been driven primarily by confusion over the significance of Vatican Council II (1962–65). It was only the second ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church since Trent, the other being Vatican Council I (1869–70). So, these councils are rare events, and the church and the world were surprised when Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II.

The statements produced by Vatican I referred to Protestants as schismatics and heretics. In marked contrast, the rhetoric of Vatican II was kind, warm, and appeasing. Protestants were called “separated brethren.” John’s passion, which he set forth in a pastoral letter, was that the Lord’s sheepfold would be one. There should be unity under one shepherd, he said, with all Christians returning to Holy Mother Church under the Roman pontiff. John was seen as kind, avuncular, and warm, so people jumped to the conclusion that Rome had changed its theology. However, many overlooked the fact that John ruled out any debate about justification at Vatican II. Read more

Enrichment Journal: Writing on the Wall: The Future of the Church and its Mission

In the movie, Lonesome Dove, Danny Glover portrays Joshua Deets, a cattle-drive scout whose job is to ride ahead of the drive and survey the terrain. Largely responsible for the success and safety of the drive, Deets would inform the team of any obstacles, dangers, enemies, or resources that lay ahead. By assessing the upcoming path, he could help the trail boss make an informed decision about how to navigate the way to the trail drive’s destination.

Deets’ role is reminiscent of the tribe of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32 — men who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (NLT).1 Today, church leaders must act as scouts, fervently asking the Lord for discernment into how they can best practice biblically faithful ministry in their cultures and contexts.

Here are the facts: North America is the only continent in the world where the church is not growing. In North America, the church is in decline. Some even claim it is dying. Most denominations — including evangelical denominations — are shrinking.

While the global spread of Christianity and its explosion in the Global South needs to encourage us, our leaders must ask themselves: What must the North American church become and do in this season of decline?  Read more

Español: Advertencia de peligro: El futuro de la iglesia y su misión

Church panel under pressure to name new Anglican leader

A secretive group choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans, is under pressure to break a deadlock in their talks and reach a decision, nearly a month after an announcement was expected.

The choice of the next head of the worldwide Anglican Communion comes at critical time for a church threatened by a rise in secularism and long-running divisions over senior women clergy and homosexuality.

The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury will have to contend with the risk of a schism over sex and sexuality. Liberal church leaders in the United States and Britain are at odds with more conservative figures in places such as Africa. Read more

CMS launches appeal to train church leaders

Church Mission Society is appealing for donations to fund the training of more church leaders around the world.

The organisation said that in some of the places it was working, 95 per cent of ordained ministers had only had a few weeks of training.

"It seems unthinkable – yet, around the world, far too many churches have leaders not yet properly equipped for their God-given role," said Reverend Joseph Steinberg, Director of Mission Stewardship at CMS.

The funds raised will be used to give more ordained ministers a biblical grounding and practical knowledge to help them in building God's kingdom. Read more

Andy Stanley: The Church Can Be Deep and Wide

A little over a year ago, Angie and I started planting Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas, and one of our biggest hopes is that it’s a church that unchurched people love to attend. So Andy Stanley’s newest book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend caught my attention. I pre-ordered it and devoured it once it arrived. I found the book to be both deep… and wide.

Andy opens with the deeply personal side of how North Point Ministries came into existence – the whole story including his experience at First Baptist Church in Atlanta, his parents’ high-profile divorce, and a church split. But don’t buy this book just to be “in the know” about such things. Instead, buy it because of all that follows – tremendous wisdom from one of this generation’s great church leaders.

I jotted a few notes down to share with my own leadership team, such as… Read more

Professor: Some Millennials Harmfully 'Reworking' God's Image

A professor has spoken with concern about how some Millennials have "reworked" the Image of God in order to stop fighting the culture wars.

Dr. Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., told those gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that this "reworking" distorts historic Christianity.

"Some of the so-called Millennial generation is finding the Gospel of Christ and the body of ethics it animates is a reproach. So God must be reworked," said Strachan.

"The message of salvation through judgment that propelled the historic church to preach and act and love must be reworked into a declaration of God's absolute and total love without concern for its holiness."

Strachan lamented that this reworking transforms God into "the great acceptor of all" without regards to matters of sin and forgiveness.

"Like a boyfriend in a pop song, God becomes the one who is so sublimely loving that he would never ask you to change," said Strachan, who stated that this results in a "weakened church" and a "comatose Gospel." Read more

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Study: Obedience is a challenge for believers

Making personal, sacrificial decisions in order to better obey Christ is a key attribute to an individual's spiritual growth, according to a survey of American churchgoers by LifeWay Research. Yet, the study also found less than one-third of churchgoers strongly agree they are following through in specific aspects of obedience.

"Obeying God and Denying Self" is one of eight attributes of discipleship identified in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research. Each of the eight attributes consistently shows up in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity. The study produced the Transformational Discipleship Assessment, which measures an individual's spiritual growth in each of the eight areas of development.

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said the Obeying God and Denying Self attribute "does not measure a specific list of sins to avoid. Rather, it gauges whether an individual has an obedient posture. Read more

Thom Rainer: 5 of the most difficult challenges pastors face

Serving as a pastor may be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Indeed, it may be an impossible job to do in our own strength.

I know. Before I was LifeWay's president or a seminary dean, I served as pastor of four churches.

I have heard from countless pastors in countless churches. Their stories are similar to mine. So I asked the question: What specific part of being a pastor is the most difficult for you? Let's look at five tough challenges for pastors. Read more

Serve until Christ returns - Dr Michael Youssef

Leading The Way founder and president Dr Michael Youssef has called upon Christians to occupy themselves with the work of the Lord until His return.

“We need to stop running to the hills in white robes, but do everything we can to tell the world about Christ before He returns,” Dr Youssef told more than 1,000 people at Westminster Chapel.

His message at the event, hosted by Premier Christian Radio, was inspired by Luke 19 where Jesus says ‘Occupy till I come’. Read more

The Briefing: Jesus Is …Beyond Fiction

I cannot believe how often educated people pull out the claim that Jesus probably never existed. Except that it’s not PC to say so, it really deserves the title of Old Wives Tale!

Down in my neck of the woods, Gospel for the Gong has been running a “Jesus Is ________.” month of mission. [More info here.]

Jesus once asked his followers, “Who do people say that I am?” and “What about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:28-29).

We’re using an internet site (, social media, T-shirts, business cards and public preaching at our churches to continue that conversation today. We’re asking people to ‘fill in the blank’ in that sentence above.

So as I said, it astonishes me how boldly people claim “Jesus is fiction”. Read more

Mediation call in gay clergy row

ONE of the world's most outspoken evangelical leaders has lent his support to a congregation facing eviction by the Church of Scotland after it quit the Kirk in protest over gay ordination.

Dr Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, has voiced support for the 500 worshippers at St George's Tron in Glasgow and their minister Dr William Philip, who faces losing his home, and has called on the Kirk to halt its legal action.

In a letter to The Herald, Dr Jensen describes the failure to reach a solution as a "shame" and urges the Kirk to mediate with the congregation, the first full body of traditionalist minister and parishioners to leave en masse over the issue of gay clergy.

Dr Jensen is a controversial and influential figure among global conservatives and has been quoted as saying that "the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary so-called heterosexual man".

He is a leading force in the conservative Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Read more