Thursday, January 31, 2013

3 reasons why some churches don’t grow (that you don’t usually hear)

Don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong.

Your vision might be clear. You’ve got a good sense of what the community needs and aren’t overwhelming everyone with programs. You and the entire congregation are praying fervently. You’re passionate about reaching people and equally passionate about the gospel. As far as you can tell you’re faithfully proclaiming the Word and living in light of it… and yet your church isn’t growing.

What’s going on?

Reading some pastors’ thoughts about church growth, you’d think that if your church isn’t growing, it’s because (despite your protestations), you must have some secret sin causing God to withhold His blessing. It’s the same game Job’s friends played, where instead of comforting him, they accused him of disobedience to God.

And yet.

What’s the deal? Is a church’s lack of growth a result of some unspoken sin on the leadership’s part? Is numerical growth always a sign of God’s blessing upon a local church?

I’m not so sure.

There seems to be a lot of pressure for pastors to have “successful” ministries—and by successful, what’s really meant is to have big numbers. While numbers are not wrong (they can be very good, in fact), we’ve got to be careful about how we think about church growth, and what it means to be successful as a church. And while I don’t entirely disagree with the points raised in the link above, they’re incomplete.

There are at least three other crucial factors that need to be considered when asking why some churches don’t grow... Read more

Free eBook – Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Families are complicated. Just think of your own extended family. It’s a mess, right? Churches are made up of multiple messy families. Worse yet, those families are expected to work together as a great big extended family. And the pastor is supposed to preside over it all. Oh yeah, and the pastor’s own nuclear family is a part of this great big family. So should we be surprised when there are problems? This book will explain how to navigate the treacherous waters of family systems and make your church stronger in the process.

Download from Exponential

Leadership Journal: Radical Calling

David Platt on being a pastor and a prophet, at the same time.

It had all the makings of a viral YouTube video—only YouTube hadn't been invented yet. And David Platt is sure glad it hadn't been. Here's the scene: a preteen Platt takes the stage at a youth group service to deliver his first sermon. He walks on stage carrying a Bible and a water bottle. Before saying a word, he fills his mouth with water and spews it all over the front row. "If you're lukewarm," he squeaks, "that's what God thinks of you!" Platt chuckles as he recalls his debut. "What a horrible start to preaching," he says. "There's no way I should have been given an opportunity to preach a sermon at that age, but I was. Guess I had a prophetic, or pathetic, edge from the beginning."

The prophetic part stuck. At 27 Platt became the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, making him the youngest megachurch pastor in American history. A few years later he wrote Radical, a jeremiad against the American Dream, which hit The New York Times Bestseller List. Now in his mid-thirties, Platt is more committed than ever to reaching unbelievers and challenging complacent Christians. Drew Dyck and Marshall Shelley talked to Platt about his calling, his passion for disciple-making, and why he still feels he has "no clue" what he's doing. Read more

Anglicans in Seychelles appeal for help after storms

Anglicans in the Diocese of Seychelles have appealed for prayer and financial support after being hit by flooding.

The Primate and Bishop of Mauritius, Archbishop Ian Ernest, took to writing to members of the Anglican Communion as the crisis has gone largely unreported in the global media.

The heavy rains have caused widespread flooding and triggered landslides on the main island of Mahe, where the majority of the Seychelles’ 85,000 inhabitants live. Read more

CALL TO PRAYER: Boy Scouts & Scouting Sunday

Little did I know when I called on Southern Baptists to dedicate 2013 as a year of prayer for spiritual awakening that we would have so much to pray for so early into the New Year.

When I received a call from the Boy Scouts two weeks ago asking for a face-to-face meeting, I somehow knew it would not be good. They wanted to let me know -- along with leaders of other conservative religious groups (Mormons and Catholics) -- of a probable change in their long-standing policy against allowing openly practicing homosexuals into positions of leadership in their national scouting organization.

I was gravely distressed. But, what was even more distressing was to hear how far down the path toward change they had already traveled. After a time of prayer and consultation with several other leaders, including our SBC president Fred Luter, I sent a letter asking them to reconsider. On Monday (Jan. 28), I was on a conference call with three of their top leaders. What a distressing moment! I learned that their recommendation to the full board was already formalized before we were even informed a change was being considered.

Is there a ray of light at the end of this tunnel? Is there a silver lining to this ominous cloud hanging over an organization I have lauded and loved? Yes, there is. Read more

Read also
Royal Ambassadors to Replace Boy Scouts If Policy Change on Gay Leaders?

Children and the culture of pornography: 'Boys will ask you every day until you say yes'

The death of 13-year-old Chevonea Kendall-Bryan has driven the debate on the sexualisation of the young to fever pitch, but what will we do about it?

There is a storm coming. I can feel it as I stand on a street corner in south London, thinking about my daughters. Lily and Rose are both 11 years old. One is crazy about dogs, the other loves owls.

They are at that tender age when the hormones have begun to stir, and they could be stomping around the room like furious teenagers one minute but snuggling up for a cuddle the next.

The girls are fast approaching 13, the age that Chevonea Kendall-Bryan was when she leaned out of one of the windows on the fourth floor of a block of flats on this street. A boy she knew was down here on the ground, but this was not Romeo and Juliet. Far from it.

Chevonea had been pressurised into performing a sex act on him, and he had shared a phone clip of her doing so with all his mates. She threatened to jump from the window if he did not delete it. Then she slipped and fell 60 feet to the ground, dying from massive brain injuries.

Her mother says she will now campaign against what is happening to young girls in our society. They are certainly under extreme pressure, having to cope with a world more brutal, more demanding and far more overtly sexual than anything their parents knew. Read more

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Marks of a True Church: Pure Administration of the Sacraments

The second of the three marks of a true church is the pure administration of the sacraments.

The two sacraments that Christ Himself instituted are baptism (Matt. 28:18–20) and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26–29). Because of our continuing struggle with sin, the visible Word of the sacraments supplements the audible Word of the gospel preached, for God “hath joined [the sacraments] to the word of the gospel, the better to present to our senses, both that which he signifies to us by his Word, and that which he works inwardly in our hearts” (Belgic Confession, Art. 33). As the preaching of the gospel creates faith, the sacraments confirm that faith within us (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 65), just as circumcision did for Abraham, being “a seal (confirmation) of the righteousness that he had by faith” (Rom. 4:11). Read more

Thirteen Terms for “Pastor”

I guess “pastor” is the more common name used in congregations. You can say, “pastor,” and most people know what or whom you are referencing.

But the times are changing. And so is the name. Read more

United Kingdom: MPs back equality changes to stop Christians being sacked

Greater protection for the marriage beliefs of Christians has gained the overwhelming support of MPs.

MPs voted 86 to 31 in favour of amending the Equality Act to protect “conscientious beliefs on marriage”.

The proposal was contained within a Ten Minute Rule Bill moved by Conservative MP Edward Leigh.

The vote comes a week before the second reading of the Government’s Same-Sex Marriage Bill. Read more

Read also
Catholic bishops outline gay marriage opposition in MP briefing
Gay marriage: churches which opt out could lose 'Big Society' role, Roman Catholic bishops fear

SBC's Page urges Scouts not to change policy on gay leaders

Southern Baptist leader Frank Page took part in a conference call Monday (Jan. 28) with Boy Scout leaders and urged the organization not to change its policy on homosexuality, days ahead of a vote on the proposal that has led to significant pushback from the Scouts' base of support.

Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, took part in the conference call which included Wayne Brock, chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America (B.S.A.); Wayne Perry, president of the B.S.A.; and Tiko Perez, national commissioner of the B.S.A. Roger S. "Sing" Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, also took part in the call and gave Baptist Press a summary of the conversation.

The Boy Scout leaders said during the conference call they are facing pressure -- both internally and externally -- to change the policy, which prohibits open homosexuals from leadership positions. Page, though, told them that pressure should never trump principle, and he added that he could no longer laud the Scouts for standing on principle. Read more

Read also
Boy Scouts Were Pressured by Corporate Sponsors to Change Policy on Gays
Royal Ambassadors may emerge as missions-focused alternative to Boy Scouts

Presiding Bishop denounces schismatics as terrorists and murderers

 A spokesman for Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has denied suggestions that her sermon denouncing as terrorists and murderers those who did not share her views on the polity of the Episcopal Church was directed at Bishop Mark J. Lawrence or the members of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

Speaking to national church loyalists at a special convention held 26 Jan 2013 at Grace Church in Charleston, Bishop Jefferts Schori characterized her opponents as “wolves” and false shepherds. Read more
This is not the first time that the Presiding Bishop has broken God's commandment not to bear false witness.

Free Church of England Orders recognised

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have recognised the Orders of the Free Church of England under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. The Measure gives the Archbishops authority to determine whether the Orders of any Church are 'recognised and accepted' by the Church of England.

The recognition of the Orders of the Free Church of England follows approximately three years of contact between the bishops of the Free Church of England, the Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Commission, which recommended that the Orders of the Free Church of England be recognised. That recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops.

When someone who was originally ordained in the Free Church of England or any other church whose Orders are recognised under the Measure wishes to minister in the Church of England, the first questions to be considered are those of whether the person concerned is suitable for ministry in the Church of England and if so, whether any further training is necessary. Where those questions are resolved satisfactorily, the Archbishop of the relevant Province can decide to give the minister permission to officiate in the Church of England without re-ordination, either permanently or for a specified period. Read more
 h/t Bispo Josep Rossello of the Igreja Anglican Reformada do Brasil

Only Once in About 30 Days

I began this year with a desire to be a better personal evangelist. By God’s grace, I’ve preached the gospel each Sunday I’ve been in the pulpit. But I don’t want my evangelism to be limited to the pulpit; I want to do the work of an evangelist as well. More, not less, proclamation is needed.

So, what’s happening with that desire? Well, I think I’m learning (again!) two vital lessons. Read more

Phillip Jensen on The Gospel Partnerships

Phillip Jensen was interviewed for St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in 2011, and the video has just been posted online.

In the 8 minute clip, he speaks of the Gospel Partnerships in the UK – and the need for all the UK churches to get behind one central leader.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Glory of Plodding

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency. Read more

5 Questions Every Prospective Member Wants Answered

It’s important to encourage attenders to join your church — because they’ll never grow spiritually without a commitment to live out what the Bible teaches while in a relationship with others.

As you encourage church membership, it’s important to keep in mind these five unspoken needs prospective members are looking for your church to meet. Read more

Why Sinning Will Never Quench Man's Thirst

You are out in the middle of the ocean....all a small boat....and dying of thirst. You know that drinking the saltwater will not solve your problem, but only make it worse. So what do you do? You could get a momentary fix by drinking it, but that will only make your thirst stronger. Or you could resist the urge to drink the saltwater.

This is man's dilemma in the real world. He has a thirst for something refreshing which will satisfy his soul....but he also experiences cravings to quench the thirst of his sinful nature. Should man give into temptation and get a momentary fix, or resist the urge to drink the "saltwater" of sin? It seems that man is in quite a predicament.

The biggest problem with sin is that it violates God's law and His standard for us. But another huge problem is that it never delivers the desired outcome. So sin is really just a big phony....and a fake....a counterfeit. It pretends to have this great solution for your thirst. So you drink....and oops, your thirst just skyrockets. Thanks sin for lying to me about your real effect. And boy did I buy it....hook, line and sinker. Read more
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

Baptist Leaders Predict 'Mass Exodus' From Scouts Over Gay Leader Decision

The Southern Baptist Convention expressed extreme disappointment Monday to news that the Boy Scouts of America will likely approve admission of professed homosexuals as scout leaders, with officials close to the SBC predicting a mass exodus out of Scouting by Baptist churches.

A vote on the matter by BSA is planned during an executive meeting in Irving, Texas, the first week of February.

"This is a catastrophic decision for the Boy Scouts of America. In order to placate their East and West Coast appendages, they are tearing out the heart of their Midwest and Southern support. This decision will lead to a mass exodus of traditional, orthodox Christianity from the Boy Scouts, including thousands of Catholic, Baptist and other traditional faith congregations," Dr. Richard Land, speaking in his role as head of SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told The Christian Post. Read more

Morally Straight? The Transformation of the Boy Scouts of America

The comprehensive scope of the moral revolution America is currently experiencing is likely to surprise many Americans when they realize that the Boy Scouts are now swept up in the revolutionary tide.

Word came yesterday that the Boy Scouts of America is poised to change its policy preventing the participation of openly homosexual scouts and leaders. According to a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, the group may make the formal decision to end the policy as early as next week.

This announcement comes just six months after the B.S.A. board declared that it would not reconsider the policy. Deron Smith, B.S.A. national spokesman, said last July that a special committee established by the B.S.A. board had unanimously recommended keeping the policy. Smith said that the committee “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.” Read more

Interracial Dating Decreases with Church Attendance (Except for One Denomination)

Interesting research from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The notion of Sunday mornings being "the most-segregated hour in America" may be longstanding. But recent studies took this idea further and examined how those who attend church most often are least likely to ever have dated or married someone from another race.

Except for one Christian denomination. Read more

Christian Convert Fights Proselytism Verdict in Algeria

Photo: Morning Star News
Christian Not Even Notified of His Conviction; Accuser Absent From Hearing

The attorney for a Christian shocked to learn that he had been convicted of pressuring a Muslim to leave Islam said after an appeals hearing last week that the verdict was utterly unfounded.

Mohamed Ibaouene, 36, learned on Dec. 11 that he had been convicted in absentia on July 4, 2012 by a court in Tigzirt, sentenced to one year in prison and fined 50,000 dinars (US$635). His appeal hearing last week took place in Tindouf, where he held a position with an international business concern, and where a machine operator approached him to ask if he was a Christian.

The machine operator, a hard-line Muslim identified only as Abedlkrim M., later accused Ibaouene of pressuring him to renounce Islam under Algeria's controversial Law 06/03, which restricts religious practice of non-Muslims.

Ibaouene denies the charge, saying the 27-year-old Muslim was the one pressuring him to change his religion, and that Abdelkrim M. leveled the accusation only after Ibaouene, a convert from Islam, refused to renounce Christ. Read more

American Anglican Council calls on Presiding Bishop to retract her ‘over the top’ remarks

Photo: ENS
The American Anglican Council has called on TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to retract statements made in her sermon in South Carolina on the weekend.

See Canon Phil Ashey’s comments – and the sermon to which he refers.

See also A S Haley’s analysis of the South Carolina ‘continuing‘ Episcopalians’ Convention.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website

Monday, January 28, 2013

Prayer: A Warrior’s Weapon

In Daniel 10, the prophet receives a word from the Lord (v. 1) — a vision of conflict that stunned him with its greatness. So Daniel set himself with tears and fasting and prayer to seek the meaning of the vision, and for three weeks he wrestled in prayer over this vision and sought to know God’s will.

After three weeks he went out to the banks of the Tigris River (v. 4). There he had a vision that was so awesome he could hardly bear it. To make matters worse (in v. 10), a hand reached out and touched him so that he shook terribly on his hands and knees. Then the voice said (vv. 11–12): “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you…. Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

Now this is immensely important for understanding prayer. Notice the words: “I have come because of your words.” Put that together with the words in verse 11: “I have been sent to you.” That is, God sent him. So the point is that God answered Daniel’s prayer as soon as he began to pray three weeks ago. “From the first day that you humbled yourself before your God your words [your prayers] have been heard, and I have come because of your words [your prayer].”

So this heavenly being has come because Daniel prayed and humbled himself before God and fasted. And the three-week delay was not because God took three weeks to hear. What was it then? Read more

Last Chances for Churches to Reach 50 Million Americans

My generation was the largest generation. It was the generation businesses and churches wanted to reach. We were the sixties generation. The self-indulgent generation. The “me” generation. The Vietnam generation. The Watergate generation. The Civil Rights generation.

And now we are the dying generation.

I’m not trying to be morbid or sensational. I’m simply reporting census realities. We were born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest among us is 67 years old. Mortality is inevitable. We are shrinking in numbers.
During the baby boom that followed World War II, more than 76 million live births were recorded in the United States. At the time we were the largest generation in history. We have since been supplanted by the nearly 80 million Millennials born between 1980 and 2000.

But here is the harshest reality about my generation. We estimate that only about one-third of Baby Boomers are Christians. That means that 50 million adult Americans in this generation are unchurched and have yet to be reached with the gospel of Christ.

And time is running out. Read more

Boy Scouts Likely to Approve Gay Leaders in Major Policy Reversal

The Boy Scouts of America announced today, under pressure from questions raised by The Christian Post, that the organization is likely to allow professed homosexuals to become scout leaders and that a vote on the matter is scheduled at the group's executive meeting in Irving, Texas, the first week of February.

When asked about the change by The Christian Post, BSA officials confirmed the major policy reversal just days before Scout Sunday, February 3, an annual event held in many churches around the country to promote and encourage participation in scouting. The organization originally planned to make the announcement at the Boy Scouts of America Annual Meeting in May.

A source who has knowledge of the situation told The Christian Post last week that the BSA's top executives had met with top leaders at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, among others, over the last few weeks to inform them of the possibility of this policy shift. Read more

In Defense of Church Hoppers

Some Christians' spiritual baggage makes it harder to find a church home

hey irritate many pastors, who label them "consumers." Church leaders have characterized them as immature, shallow, goosebump-seekers with a serious case of arrested spiritual development. Are church hoppers people with commitment issues who sample the congregations as if they were visiting one free-range church potluck?

Church hoppers get a bum rap, and it's time for us to seriously consider these believers and why they struggle to maintain a long-term relationship with a local body. Read more

Iran sentences U.S. pastor to 8 years in prison, group says

An Iranian judge has sentenced an American Christian pastor to eight years in prison after he was tried for his religious beliefs, a U.S.-based religious group said Sunday.

Saeed Abedini was swiftly sentenced by a member of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Court, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, an organization founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson.

CNN was not immediately able to confirm what went on in the court proceedings. Read more

Launch of ‘Common Prayer’ — February 6th

The Archbishop of Sydney’s Liturgical Panel and Anglican Press Australia are launching new Common Prayer: Resources for gospel-shaped gatherings on Wednesday February 6 at 4:00 pm.

The venue is the Chapter House at St Andrew’s Cathedral and an invitation has gone to all Rectors and members of ministry teams. RSVP Friday February 1 to Andrew Eisenhauer on 8268 3316.

(Copies of Common Prayer will be available for purchase on the day.)
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Why Did the Pharisees Hate Jesus So Much?

It may well be in the calculus of evil that the only character faring worse than a Nazi is the Pharisee. These were the original black hats. In each of the gospel accounts they are the no-accounts, the very foil of Jesus Himself. We, because we are sinners just like them, ascribe to the Pharisees every conceivable sin that we think ourselves not guilty of. We may have to confess to this sin or that, but at least, we tell ourselves, we aren’t like those guys. In our scapegoating narrative we think that when Jesus showed up the Pharisees hated Him for the simple reason that He was good and they evil. He walked down the street, and they hissed and sputtered. He healed a puppy and they kicked it.

The truth is that the Pharisees did hate Jesus, and He rightly isn’t known for showing them a great deal of grace. He called them out for their hypocrisy. He exposed their inner tombs. But the hatred they felt for Him wasn’t mere sour grapes at His approval rating, nor was it as principled as mere evil versus good. It was rather more craven. They hated Jesus not because He called them names, but because He threatened their security, prestige and income. He was going to ruin everything they had worked so hard for, and getting everybody killed. Read more

Pastor Saeed Removed From Iran's Evin Prison, Whereabouts Unknown

Alarming news over the trial of American Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran has emerged, with his family sharing that he has been removed from Evin Prison without Iranian authorities disclosing his whereabouts.

After two days of trial, Judge Pir-Abassi, a notorious "hanging" judge in Iran, apparently told Pastor Abedini's lawyer, Dr. Naser Sarbazi, that he would see to the pastor being moved from his current ward in Evin Prison in Tehran to another ward, where he would receive better medical treatment.

When his family attempted to visit him on Thursday at the prison, however, Iranian guards told them that he was not there. His present location remains undisclosed, Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, said in a statement. The law group is currently representing Abedini's two children and wife, Naghmeh Abedini, who he married after converting to Christianity in 2000. Read more

Why Mormons Do Better Youth Ministry Than We Do

In light of the skyrocketing popularity of Mormonism in the United States helped along by the Broadway Musical, "The Book of Mormon", Mitt Romney and your nice Mormon neighbors I thought it would be good to recycle this five year old article I wrote. The thesis? Mormons do better youth ministry than the average Protestant church! Read on and see if you agree with me…

"Let's face it. Most of us look at the clean cut Mormon missionaries that peddle the streets of our city and knock on the doors of our houses as somewhat out of date. Although they are kind and well spoken young men, when they knock on our doors we either don't answer or tell them we are already Christians who reject Mormonism and bid them good day. We think to ourselves how "behind the times" these young people are forced to be when they are required to do door-to-door evangelism for their religion. We reflect on how grateful we are that we have the truth once and for all delivered to the saints. We may even think about how much more superior our youth ministry strategies are compared to theirs.

Or are they? Read more

Small Is the Call

The really good news about the adventure of Christian service

Sandra and her husband don't frequent local thrift stores for clothing bargains or gently-used shoes. Occasionally on date nights, though, they'll pop into one in search of … single mothers.

Thankfully, they're not human traffickers. Rather, they're Christians who are itching to partner with a God who is actively engaged in the world today. Sharing God's heart for these women and their children, Sandra and her husband pay for the women's purchases and then take them to a supermarket to buy them the groceries they need.

Though these Friday night adventures are counterintuitive to the kinds of messages we're fed in our culture about living to please ourselves, as they've offered themselves in kingdom service, Sandra and her husband have tasted a kind of life that really is life.

Of course God's invitation to adventure necessarily looks different in each circumstance. Read more

Boko Haram Kills 23 People in Nigeria for 'Disobeying' Sharia Law

Islamic terrorists suspected to be from the Boko Haram group have launched another wave of attacks in Nigeria, killing at least 23 people who they deemed to have been breaking Sharia Law.

The two separate attacks occurred on Monday and Tuesday in north-east Nigeria, and targeted people selling pork, which Muslims are forbidden to eat, and a group engaged in gambling, which is also against Islamic law, BBC News reported.

Boko Haram has made it their mission to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state and drive out the nation's Christians, who make up half of the country's population, by any means necessary. In the last few years they have bombed churches, killed pastors and gunned down close to 1,400 people since 2010. Read more

Read also
Malaysia 'Bible-Burning Festival' Over Use of 'Allah' Threatens Country's Stability
Eritrea Officials Arrest 10 Church Leaders; Christians Fear Increase in Persecution

A lawsuit on homosexuality to monitor

A Ugandan homosexual rights organization has filed a federal lawsuit against an American pastor claiming his biblical views on homosexuality have influenced many citizens in their country and resulted in crimes against humanity.

Massachusetts pastor Scott Lively has been accused by the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) of inciting the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda.

During a hearing, which took place in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Jan. 7, Lively was accused of "violating the law of nations" and "crimes against humanity" as well as conspiracy and various "civil rights" crimes. In the filing, SMUG listed a number of violent acts committed against homosexuals in Uganda that they claim Lively's speeches against homosexuality have incited.

The suit seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, exemplary damages, attorneys' fees, and a "declaratory judgment that the Defendant's conduct is in violation of the law of nations" as well as "all such other and further relief that the court may deem just and proper." Read more

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Biggest Factor in Successful Small Group Ministries

What changes everything in small group ministry? What’s the one thing that makes the biggest difference?

I’ve written about this many times in the last several years, but it’s clear to me that the one thing that changes everything is senior pastor support. To be clear, I’m not talking about moral support. I’m not talking about “I believe in what you’re doing” kind of support. And I’m not talking about simply being a believer and participant (as a leader or a member) in a small group.

Those are all good things. But they’re not ultimately the one thing that changes everything.

The one thing that changes everything is when a senior pastor truly becomes the small group champion. Way more than a figure head or a front man, senior pastors that truly become small group champions actually lead the public charge for small group participation. Read more

Pastor Saeed Abedini Shut Out of Court Proceedings as 'Sham' Trial Continues

On day two of American Pastor Saeed Abedini's trial in Iran, news has emerged that the Iranian-born pastor has not even been allowed to attend the day's proceedings.

"It's unlike any judicial system in the world," Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, said in a press release shared with The Christian Post on Tuesday.

"Pastor Saeed and his attorney were shut out of today's proceedings. Not permitted to attend his own trial. We have been told that the court summoned other pastors to testify today. We do not yet know what was said in court, but we do know that the Iranian government often uses threats and intimidation to get the testimony it wants," Sekulow added.

The law group has called the trial a "sham," especially considering that the pastor's lawyer in Iran was only allowed 24 hours to speak with the defendant before court proceedings began. Read more

What are signs that a church should watch out for that indicate a decline in church growth is coming?

With three simple numbers you can forecast your worship attendance one year from today. It's quite easy, and surprisingly reliable.

But before we talk about how … let's consider why. Is there value in looking into the future? Or, as Marty McFly discovered, is it just plain trouble to mess with Father Time?

Actually, I am a firm believer in forecasting for the simple reason that if our forecast indicates a potential problem, we can do something to keep it from happening. For example, suppose your forecast indicated that your worship attendance would be down by 10 percent in one year. If you could do something to prevent that situation, wouldn't you? I hope so.

So, let's look at how we can cheat the calendar and peek into the future. It requires three numbers: your visitor volume, your visitor retention, and your back door. Read more

Traditional understanding of marriage 'not discriminatory'

The Church of England has said it will continue to raise concerns about legislation to redefine marriage.

The Government has today published legislation to enable same-sex marriages in England and Wales.

The legislation is due to be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 5 February.

Conservative MPs, who are divided over the plans, will be given a free vote.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will allow same-sex couples to take part in civil marriage ceremonies.

Religious marriage ceremonies will also be permitted where this has been approved by a religious institution.

Couples already in a civil partnership will be able to change the definition of their relationship to marriage.

The Government has given assurances of protection for religious organisations not wishing to conduct same-sex marriages, but churches remain sceptical. Read more

South Carolina loyalists defy ban on using diocesan name and shield

Episcopal Forum of SC attacks judge's ruling as "bizarre"

The loyalist faction within the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has unleashed a torrent of abuse against Bishop Mark Lawrence and the diocesan leadership as well as Judge Diane Goodstein following her order of 23 Jan 2013 blocking them from using the name, symbols or seal of the diocese.

Compliance with the court’s order has also been spotty. On Wednesday, Bishop Charles vonRosenberg told Anglican Ink the loyalist group would comply with the court’s order, and a spokesman for the South Carolina steering committee, Holly Behre, told the Associated Press they would honor Judge Goodstein’s ruling and will adopt a name that will comply with the spirit of the court order until the matter is resolved.

However compliance with the Order, which went into effect at 5:11 pm on Wednesday has been slow. The group’s website did not remove the shield or the claim to be the Episcopal Dicoese of South Carolina until later Thursday. Read more

Read also
Episcopal Leader to Visit 'Continuing Episcopalians' in Breakaway SC Diocese
SC Circuit Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order to Protect Diocese's Identity

Malicious prosecution warnings for Episcopal clergy

Newark firm writes to TEC clergy about their risks under Title IV

A bulk email offering assistance akin to a pre-paid legal services plan has refocused the Episcopal Church’s attention on flaws within the new Title IV Ecclesiastical Discipline canons.

A 17 January 2013 email from CanonLawyer, Inc., an organization set up by long-time General Convention deputy and the former chancellor of the Diocese of Newark, Michael Rehill, elicited a wave of chatter amongst the clergy of the Episcopal Church after it warned of the risks of malicious prosecution under the new code. Read more

Poll shows a double standard on religious liberty

Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups — particularly gays and lesbians — are trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the public square.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday (Jan. 23), reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon.

“They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.” Read more

The Briefing: Using biblical words in biblical ways

David PetersonTwo decades ago, one of my lecturers at Moore Theological College was a great example of the practice I spoke about on Wednesday: using biblical words and concepts in biblical ways.

David Peterson made us aware that inadequate attention was paid in much Christian theology to the use of holiness terminology in the New Testament and specifically regarding sanctification. Soon after I graduated, he published the fruits of his labour in Possessed by God: A New Testament theology of sanctification and holiness (Apollos, 1995).

This seminal paragraph sums up the book’s key thesis.... Read more

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Marks of a True Church: Pure Preaching of the Gospel

The most fundamental of the three marks of a true church is the pure preaching of the gospel. Apart from the gospel preached, there is no church.

We see this in the example of our Lord, who began His earthly ministry by preaching—“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17)—and concluded it by sending out His apostles to preach and continue His work—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20). Read more

Can I Be an Effective Pastor if I Don’t Like Management?

Pastors are not managers, at least in a corporate-business-world-publicly-traded-company-sort-of-way. But pastors are shepherds. And shepherds manage sheep.

Leading a church involves management. Perhaps you’ve had the privilege of attending a meeting discussing the finer details of administering the Lord’s Supper. If so, you probably recognize the importance of the managerial role in the church.

A church hierarchy assumes management. And most churches—even congregations with smaller staffs—are not completely flat. For instance, I’ve never seen a church intentionally give the same level of authority as the senior pastor to the student pastor. Maybe some might be better if they did (of course, some might devolve into chaos.). Even at the most basic level, churches require management. Who pays the bills? When does the meeting start? Who is responsible for snow removal? Who fills the baptistery? What is our policy? Those are basic managerial questions. Most churches are more complex.

Some senior leaders in the church gravitate towards being more like a senior writer or senior analyst. These leaders are recognized for their intellectual contributions but do not have managerial oversight. Many teaching pastors have this type of role in the church. Other senior leaders prefer to manage the minutia and deal with people issues. Many executive pastors have this type of role. Most pastors, however, must both teach and execute.

The vast majority of pastoral roles include management. So, can church leaders be effective if they don’t like management? Yes, but they must compensate in these ways. Read more

Viewpoint: Infant Baptism and 5-Point Calvinism are Limited

Note to readers who disagree with the views expressed in this article: I will consider for publication on Anglicans Ablaze a thoughtful and well-written response to the article. It should not exceed 2000 words in length.

Some spiritual practices and doctrinal positions held by Christians have definite limitations....and must be handled with care, lest people get the wrong idea about what it means to be spiritually reborn....and what it doesn't mean....and what the Bible means when it states that "God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

There are many mature Christians in the world today who believe that Scripture supports the questionable teachings of infant baptism and/or 5-Point Calvinism. I say "questionable" teachings because millions of their fellow believers (including mature believers) question these doctrines and find no support for them in Scripture. Read more
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

Hispanic Churches, Historically Spanish-Speaking, Adopt More English To Appeal To U.S.-Born Latinos

For 19 years, Vanessa Pardo dutifully followed her parents to church on Sunday mornings, reciting prayers to padre nuestro and studying la Biblia, trying to figure out how the parables of Jesus applied to her life as a member of Iglesia de Cristo en Sunset, a booming Spanish-speaking congregation in this South Florida suburb.

While other kids her age drifted away from the faiths of their childhoods, Pardo was sure she believed in God. But as the daughter of Colombian and Nicaraguan immigrants, she wasn't sure she fully understood him in Spanish, her second language -- and a distant one at that.

So when the Protestant congregation instituted a controversial effort last year that included encouraging youth like Pardo to switch to worshipping separately in English, it immediately piqued her interest. She just had to break the news to her parents. Read more

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Latino Children: A Majority Are U.S.-Born Offsprings of Immigrants

Ethnic congregations up 66% for Southern Baptists since '98

The number of non-Anglo congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention has jumped by more than 66 percent since 1998, according to the North American Mission Board's Center for Missional Research.

Just over 10,000 congregations (10,049) of 50,768 congregations in the convention identified themselves by an ethnicity other than Anglo in 2011, the most recent year for which detailed data on ethnicity is available from LifeWay Christian Resources' Annual Church Profile database.

In 1998, non-Anglo congregations totaled 6,044.

"It's clear that Southern Baptists have been multi-ethnic and are becoming an even more multi-ethnic convention of churches," said Joseph Lee, senior pastor of Connexion Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., a mostly Korean Southern Baptist congregation. "The trend is gaining speed week by week. For example, the ethnic churches grew from zero to more than half of the total number of churches in our county in the past 10 years." Read more
How diverse is the Anglican Church in North America? How effective is the ACNA in reaching population segments other than the traditional constituencies of the Episcopal Church--affluent, educated, and Anglo?

Court blocks loyalist convention for Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina

The First Judicial Circuit Court in South Carolina has issued a Temporary Restraining Order forbidding any “individual, organization, association or entity” from using the name, symbols or seal of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina – save for Bishop Mark J. Lawrence and the trustees of the diocese.

The 23 January 2013 order handed down by Judge Diane Goodstein effectively blocks the Episcopal Church and its allies from electing a bishop and standing committee for the minority faction loyal to the national church for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.

However, canon lawyer Allan Haley notes the ruling does not prevent those in the diocese who wish to remain affiliated with the national Episcopal Church “from meeting, but they will have to adopt a different name.” Read more

Read also
SC Judge Bans Episcopal Church From Using Breakaway Diocese's Identity for Now
SC judge issues restraining order against TEC

Books: PREACHER, Keep yourself from Idols

Tidball’s book is neither radical nor novel; it will not teach you anything you didn’t already know nor will it take you long to read. However, unlike other books on idolatry, this one is targeted. It is like a laser-guided missile that strikes right at a minister’s heart. And for that reason alone, it is worthy of every preacher’s time. Read more

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Doubt-Killing Promises

Even though Charles Spurgeon lived about two hundred years after John Bunyan, I think Spurgeon regarded Bunyan as a friend. He said the book he valued most, next to the Bible, was The Pilgrim’s Progress. “I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire.”

Perhaps one of the reasons Spurgeon resonated with this classic was its realistic portrayal of depression, doubt, and despair. Spurgeon and Bunyan, like their Savior, were men of sorrow, acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). When Bunyan went to prison for preaching the gospel, his heart was almost broken “to pieces” for his young blind daughter, “who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides.” Spurgeon’s depression could be so debilitating that he could “weep by the hour like a child”—and not know why he was weeping. To fight this “causeless depression,” he said, was like fighting mist. It was a “shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness.” It felt, at times, like prison: “The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Spurgeon felt what C. S. Lewis describes after losing his wife, in one of the most honest and painful passages I have ever read. Lewis said that when all is well and life is happy, God seems present and welcoming with open arms. Read more