Saturday, November 29, 2014

No Future for Confessional Anglicanism in the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

The roots of a number of developments in the Anglican Church in North America go back to the Common Cause Partnership—a coalition of conservative Anglican organizations that was established in 2004. The original members of this coalition were the Anglican Communion Network, the Reformed Episcopal Church, the Anglican Mission in AmericaForward in Faith North America, the Anglican Province of America, and the American Anglican Council. The Anglican Province of America would subsequently drop out of the alliance after a planned merger with the Reformed Episcopal Church fell through. The coalition would draft a theological statement in 2006. The Common Cause Partnership would lobby the global South Primates to support the formation of a new Anglican province in North America. Its efforts would see fruition in the Jerusalem Statement issued by the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference.

As early as 2006, if not earlier, it was evident that the various organizations forming the Common Cause Partnership were not committed to the Anglican confessional formularies. This included the Anglican Mission in America. In its Solemn Declaration the AMiA appeared to commit itself, its clergy, and its congregations to the Anglican confessional formularies. But by 2006 it was becoming increasingly evident that this commitment was largely rhetorical.

The Common Cause Theological Statement equivocated in its acceptance of the Thirty-Nine Articles as the Common Cause Partnership’s doctrinal standard, treating the Articles as if it is a historical document rather than a living formulary. The wording of the Common Cause Theological Statement implied that the Articles were not the only doctrinal standard for the Common Cause Partnership. The Common Cause Theological Statement did not identify what these other doctrinal standards were and appeared to be alluding to the amorphous body of Catholic tradition to which John Henry Newman appealed in his infamous Tract 90.

Rather than recognizing the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as its worship standard, the Common Cause Theological Statement adopted a worship standard that consisted of the 1662 Prayer Book and all the liturgical books that preceded it. Such a standard included all the liturgies that survive in manuscript form or are described in the writings of various historical Church figures from the earliest days of the Church to 1662. This is a very broad and nebulous standard that permits the modeling of modern-day liturgies upon the unreformed liturgies of the late Middle Ages as well as the partially reformed 1549 Prayer Book and the retrograde 1637 Scottish Prayer Book.

The Common Cause Theological Statement also took a decidedly partisan doctrinal stance on the issue of bishops. Evangelical Anglicans have historically taken the view that bishops are not essential to the existence of the Church. This was the view of the sixteenth century English Reformers. They found no warrant in the Scriptures for a particular form of church governance. They would retain bishops because the Scriptures, while not prescribing episcopacy as the sole form of government for the Church, did not prohibit bishops as a part of whatever form of government that the Church adopted.

The form of church government that was adopted was modeled on that of the Swiss Reformed Churches. With the exception of the Church of Geneva in which the Company of Pastors governed both the church and the city, the magistrates in Zurich and the other Protestant Swiss city-states had authority over the churches in the city-state. The magistrates selected the pastors of the city-state’s churches. The pastors in turn served as the conscience of the magistrates.

In the case of the reformed Church of England the magistrate was the reigning monarch. Bishops in the reformed Church of England served as officers of the Crown, deriving their authority from the Crown. No episcopal elections could be held except at the instigation of the Crown. Only Crown-nominated candidates could be elected bishops. Even archbishops could be suspended by the Crown and royal commissioners appointed to perform most of their duties. The laity in the form of the Crown and the Parliament played a substantial role in the government of the Church. Bishops were bound by the law as were other ministers.

On the other hand, Anglo-Catholics and those who share their views of bishops take the position that bishops belong to the essence of the Church. The nineteenth century Anglo-Catholic movement maintained that the Church did not exist without bishops. Its adherents did not regard as churches ecclesiastical organizations that did not have bishops. They also took the position that bishops were above the law. They maintained that councils and synods derived their authority from the episcopate and the episcopate was not bound by their decisions. Episcopal compliance with ecclesiastical canons was purely voluntary, not obligatory. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral with its insistence that the “historical episcopate” was necessary to Church reunification reflects their thinking. The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops that adopted the resolution was dominated by Anglo-Catholic bishops. The Common Cause Theological Statement took the Anglo-Catholic position.

The seven points of the Common Cause Theological Statement would be incorporated into the Anglican Church in North America’s provisional Constitution and draft Constitution as essential to its understanding of “the Anglican Way.” All congregations and clergy desiring to become a part of the denomination would be required to subscribe to these seven points. Under the provisions of the provisional and draft Canons so would ecclesiastical organizations desiring to enter into mission partnership with the Anglican Church in North America.

The provisions of the final version of the canons would expand the requirement for clergy to subscribe to these seven points to include conformity to “the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church.” This would includes not only the doctrine stated or implied in the canons themselves but also future doctrinal statements. Among the doctrinal statements the Anglican Church in North America has produced so far are its ordinal, its trial services of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion, its catechism, and its proposed rites for admission of catechumens, baptism, and confirmation.

The late Peter Toon took issue with a number of the points of the original version of the Common Cause Theological Statement. See the accompanying article, “The Fundamental Declarations of the Anglican Church in North America: The Insights of the Late Peter Toon.” Toon proposed the substitution of a modified version of the Church of England’s Canon 5A in place of that statement. The Jerusalem Statement identifies the words of Canon 5A as giving expression to “the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism, which defines our core identity as Anglicans.” While the final version of the Common Cause Theological Statement addressed one of Toon’s concerns, it failed to address the others.

For those who may be interested in the background to the original version of the Common Cause Theological Statement, the new Provincial Dean of the Anglican Church in North America, REC Bishop Ray Sutton, claims to have authored that document.

The problems identified with Common Cause Theological Statement’s positions on the confessional Anglican formularies and bishops were brought to attention of the Common Cause Governance Task Force and the Provisional Provincial Council. The presentation of these concerns elicited no response from Common Cause Governance Task Force. The Anglo-Catholic members of the Provisional Provincial Council threatened what amounted to a walk-out if any changes were made to the seven points of the Common Cause Theological Statement incorporated into the draft Constitution. The only change they would permit was the correction of the date of the Thirty-Nine Articles from 1562 to 1571.

The leaders of the Common Cause Partnership to a large part constitute the present leaders of the Anglican Church in North America. As the College of Bishops they control who may join them as leaders of the denomination. Under the provisions of the ACNA canons the College of Bishops confirms the election of new bishops, in some cases selects new bishops, in other cases vet candidates for appointment or election as bishops,and receives bishops from other denominations. The College of Bishops has also played a significant role in the development and modification of the ACNA governing documents as well as influenced how the denomination’s form of governance actually works. There is a growing discrepancy between how the denomination’s form of governance is supposed to work according to the ACNA constitution and canons and its actual operation. The College of Bishops has arrogated to itself powers not given it by the constitution or canons nor recognized as inherent in that body or its members. It has also usurped the role of the Provincial Council in a number of key areas. It has shown little regard for constitutionalism and the rule of law.

The Anglican Church in North America has produced a number of doctrinal statements to date. The College of Bishops has not only influenced the content of these statements but has also endorsed them as a body. They therefore can be said to represent the mind of the College of Bishops. These statements show a consistent pattern of not fully accepting the Scriptures as the canon or functioning rule of faith and life for Anglicans and the Anglican confessional formularies as the standard of doctrine and worship for Anglicans. They not only mandate or sanction Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practice but also take a permissive attitude toward Orthodox and Roman Catholic doctrine and practice. At the same time they exclude historic Anglican doctrine and practice and the Biblical and Reformed teaching upon which they are based.

The College of Bishops did not go to the trouble of incorporating a particular theology and its related practices into the official doctrinal statements of a denomination for no reason. What they have done goes well beyond ensuring that the Anglo-Catholic theological perspective and Anglo-Catholic liturgical practices “will be permitted, protected, and honored” in the Anglican Church in North America. It makes room for the beliefs and practices of only one school of thought in the Anglican Church in North America, a school of thought that has no commitment to historic Anglicanism and the Biblical and Reformed teaching that forms its doctrinal foundation and constitutes the core of Anglican identity.

In his article, “Three Steps in a Language Audit” Eric Geiger draws attention to the problems associated with “multiple definitions for the same sounding word.” “Anglican” and “Anglicanism” has become such a word. When a word is “constantly thrown around without any definition,” the word “gives the false impression of alignment when in fact multiple directions exist.” With the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans sought to define “Anglican” and “Anglicanism.” But it has been quite evident from the outset that Anglican Church in North America is not on the same page about the definition of “Anglican” and “Anglicanism” as the GFCA. In the doctrinal statements that the Anglican Church in North America has produced so far, the ACNA has established its own definition of these two terms. It is a definition that does not give a central place to the Anglican confessional formularies and the Biblical and Reformed teaching upon which they are based.

Those who dismiss the seriousness of these developments need to think again. The College of Bishops has essentially outlawed in the Anglican Church in North America any theological perspective but an Anglo-Catholic or philo-Orthodox one. The College of Bishops has in essence banned from the Anglican Church in North America clergy, dioceses, networks, and congregations that seek to uphold the doctrine of the Anglican confessional formularies and to maintain the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church.

In The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future the GAFCON Theological Resource Group identifies Anglo-Catholicism along with liberalism as a major challenge to the authority of the Scriptures and the Anglican confessional formularies in the global Anglican Church. Since the nineteenth century the Anglo-Catholic movement has sought to counter and undo the reforms that the Anglican Reformers implemented in the sixteenth century. Chief among these reforms was the recovery of the gospel and the basing of Church doctrine and practice on Scripture, not tradition.

Those who take comfort in the thought that the College of Bishops cannot enforce such a ban are assuming that its enforcement would require dramatic steps that would in turn precipitate the secession of clergy, dioceses, networks, and congregations from the Anglican Church in North America. The possibility of such an exodus would deter the College of Bishops from taking such actions.

But the reality is that the longer clergy, dioceses, network, and congregations remain a part of the Anglican Church in North America, the more difficult it will be for them to extricate themselves from the ACNA.  Clergy, dioceses, networks, and congregations that have experienced the trauma of breaking away from the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada,  or the Anglican Mission in America are also not going to be easily persuaded to break with their new denomination.

The College of Bishops can take its time in eliminating what it clearly views as an undesirable element in the Anglican Church in North America by a gradual process of attrition. Bishops in the Anglican Church in North America have the final say as to who may receive theological and ministerial training, what training they may receive, and where; who may be ordained; who may be licensed to minister in their dioceses; who may be received as a minister of the diocese and whether they must receive additional training and/or undergo re-ordination; who may be appointed or called as pastor of a congregation in their dioceses or networks; and who may plant new congregations, what kind of congregations they may plant, and whether a new congregation may be admitted to the diocese or network and under what conditions.  As previously noted, the College of Bishops has the final say as to who may become a bishop of a diocese or network.

The ACNA constitution and canons contain no provisions that prevent an Anglo-Catholic or philo-Orthodox bishop from discriminating against any group or individual who does not share their particular theological perspective. Indeed the College of Bishops has endorsed one doctrinal statement after another that has the effect of institutionalizing such discrimination in the Anglican Church in North America.

In any event ACNA bishops have shown negligible respect individually and collectively for constitutionalism and the rule of law, it is doubtful that the addition of anti-discrimination provisions to the ACNA constitution and canons at this late date would keep them from discriminating against those whom they have so far sought to exclude from the Anglican Church in North America. I am not talking about theological liberals but Anglicans who subscribe to the doctrine of the Anglican confessional formularies and the Biblical and Reformed teaching on which they are based and are committed to a Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical vision of the Anglican Church.

I have covered in this article what may be familiar ground by now to some of my readers from previous articles. But I believe that it is necessary to reiterate what I written elsewhere to provide a complete picture of the present situation in the Anglican Church in North America for those who have not read these articles. This situation has grown worse over the past five years and can be expected to continue to do so over the next five years.

There is clearly a need for further Anglican realignment in North America. Clergy, dioceses, networks, and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America, which are committed to upholding the Anglican confessional formularies and maintaining the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church need to be exploring their future options.

I see three ways forward for these groups and individuals. Here again I am not covering new ground. First, they need to network with each other and establish a voluntary association of clergy and congregations within the Anglican Church in North America. Second, they need to ally themselves with like-minded and sympathetic groups and individuals outside the Anglican Church in North America. Third, they need to establish an alternative structure to the Anglican Church in North America for clergy and congregations that cannot in good conscience remain a part of the ACNA.

The need for such a structure has become more pressing with each doctrinal statement that the College of Bishops has endorsed. The College of Bishops shows no sign of reversing its exclusionary policy toward Anglicans who subscribe to the doctrine of the Anglican confessional formularies and the Biblical and Reformed teaching on which they are based and are committed to a Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical vision of the Anglican Church. The evident willingness of GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Eliud Wabukala and the Global South Primates to overlook the Anglican Church in North America’s purely rhetorical commitment to the Jerusalem Declaration and Statement as the confessional basis for Anglicanism and to extend their unqualified recognition and support to the ACNA despite this exclusionary policy has offered no incentive to the College of Bishops to modify their policy and to take the ACNA in a more comprehensive direction.

See also
The Fundamental Declarations of the Anglican Church in North America: The Insights of the Late Peter Toon

The Fundamental Declarations of the Anglican Church in North America: The Insights of the Late Peter Toon [Link now working]

I originally posted this article on September 20, 2011 - three years ago. The essay "Does 1662 rise as 1928 falls?" has since that time been removed from the Internet. and the website taken down. I did not discover until Sunday evening that the link to the article was not working. I have corrected the problem. What Dr. Toon wrote about the original version of the Common Cause Theological Statement to a large extent applies to the final version of that statement, the seven points from which were subsequently incorporated into the Anglican Church in North America's constitution as the ACNA's Fundamental Declarations. 

In August 2007 the late Peter Toon wrote an essay entitled “Does 1662 rise as 1928 falls?” in which he speculated upon the sudden popularity of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer at that time and the possible outcome of this popularity. Among the reasons that he surmised as accounting for the 1662 Prayer Book’s sudden popularity was that the Common Cause Partnership had no future or meaning without the active support of the Global South Provinces, which had constitutions based upon the historic Anglican formularies and which in a number of cases used the 1662 Prayer Book. The Common Cause Partnership would have an easier walk with the Global South Provinces if the CCP adopted the same formularies as those Provinces.

The Common Cause Partnership, however, had no intention of recovering the authentic Anglican Way, as Dr. Toon would hopefully speculate in his essay. Its adoption of the classic formularies, as the passage of time has revealed, was purely cosmetic. The CCP was seeking to give the appearance of accepting the authority of the classical formularies. The Common Cause Theological Statement was so written that the entities forming the alliance could in actual practice evade their authority. The Theological Statement contained a number of major concessions to the Anglo-Catholic entities in the alliance. It also reflected attitudes toward the classic formularies that the Common Cause Partners as former Episcopalians had brought with them from the Episcopal Church. This became all too evident with the formation of the Anglican Church in North America and the adoption and ratification of its present governing documents and the approval of its new ordinal.

The former Common Cause Partnership would gain what it coveted—the recognition of the leading Global South Provinces. Their primates would endorse the newly formed Anglican Church in North America as “a genuine expression of Anglicanism.” Since that time the leaders of the ACNA have been pushing the limits, not only within that ecclesial body but also outside it, seeking to see how far they can go without causing an outcry from the member churches of the ACNA or the Global South Provinces. Far from leading a recovery of the authentic Anglican Way in North America, the leaders of the Anglican Church in North America appear to be set on leading the ACNA even further away from historic Anglicanism. The College of Bishops approved an ordinal that authorizes the use of ceremonies and ornaments long associated with doctrines and practices that the classical formularies reject. By its authorization of these ceremonies and ornaments the ordinal sanctions the associated doctrines and practices. Read more

Effective Leaders Use a Rifle Approach More than a Shotgun

I talk to so many leaders who get so frustrated because they never seem to accomplish as much as they set out to do. Most of the time the reason is a fairly simple one.

They used the wrong approach to the work.

Many times as leaders we try to accomplish too many tasks in one day. We don’t create a realistic checklist — just an overwhelming mass of things we “need” to do.

It makes us feel ineffective in all our tasks. Read more

Seven New Trends in the Pastor Search Process

If there is anything consistent about the current state of how churches find and call pastors, it is the inconsistencies of the process for each church. It is inconsistent by denomination and by each church individually.

I have the opportunity to interact with a number of churches looking for pastors, and with pastors who are being considered by churches. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed changes and trends in the process. Let me highlight the seven most frequent changes I’ve discovered. Read more

HCSB: Pursuing 'Optimal Equivalence'

In the world of Bible translations there are two primary models or theories for bringing the ancient text into contemporary language. One is usually referred to as formal equivalence (or “literal” or “essentially literal”). The other is referred to as “dynamic” or functional equivalence.

Formal equivalence involves trying to make a translation that changes as little as possible from the original, or source, text. Word order changes are only made when necessary to make sense in the translated, or target, text. That includes keeping the order of clauses the same if possible. Grammatical structures are also kept the same if possible. For example, an effort is made to translate a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb, and a prepositional phrase with a prepositional phrase. Effort is also made to translate a word or phrase the same every time it occurs.

Translating idioms is a challenge for any translator. Formal equivalence prefers to keep the idiom the same if it “makes sense” in the target language, but this is a debatable issue. Versions that favor formal equivalence sometimes retain a idiom that some readers think does not really make sense or worse, miscommunicates. Such is the case with “stand in the way of sinners” in Psalm 1:1 and “cleanness of teeth” in Amos 4:6. Read more

Spurgeon's 3 R's: A Useful Method for Evangelism

A few months ago, I led my church in a community evangelism effort. Our outreach was a little old-fashioned: we knocked on doors and talked to people, hoping the Lord would draw some to himself through the gospel.

Executing door-to-door, “cold call” evangelism has many challenges in the modern context. Rejections of the gospel run the gamut from angry to flaky: One man told me that he hated religion, hated religious “zealots” like us, and believed hell was built especially for those of our ilk. Another woman said that she adhered to Jewish religion in which her father taught her that faith in any object, “even a rock,” would punch her ticket to heaven. None of my questions about the monotheism of the Old Testament and the Torah’s prohibition of worshiping idols made a dent in her rejection of Christ. I even told her that the Scripture called Jesus the rock, but she at last politely said goodbye and returned inside the door to her cats.

Still, I am thankful that God’s gospel can subdue the rebellious heart, whether seething or silly. Read more

Friday, November 28, 2014

3 Steps in a Language Audit

Multiple definitions for the same sounding word led to confusion and frustration. The same is true in an organization. If important language is not defined over and over again, people construct multiple interpretations of the essential words in an organization. Common terms, without definition, can actually create more confusion than alignment.

Here is how it happens in many settings: A leader or leadership team starts to use a word or phrase, and that word or phrase gains traction in the organization. Others realize that the word is important in the culture, and they start using it to show they are on board or to show how something they are doing fits into the bigger picture. Over time, the word or phrase can lose its original intent and can mean different things to different people. The word is constantly thrown around without any definition, and this gives the false impression of alignment when in fact multiple directions exist.

In a ministry context, this can happen with words like “discipleship,” “gospel,” or “mission.” In any leadership context, this can happen with language used to describe mission or values. Read more

4 Ways a Christian Leader Should Know "What Time It Is"

If influencing others is a key component of leadership, then Christian leadership will be about influencing people spiritually, leading them in a direction that helps them become more like Christ.

I’ve always liked Henry and Richard Blackaby’s definition of spiritual leadership:
“The spiritual leader’s task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be.”
Most leadership books focus more on principles than people, and this is one reason so many of these books seem out-of-date so quickly.

To think of leadership in terms of timeless principles is easy, but we do well to remember that the tasks of exercising leadership and exerting influence do not take place in a vacuum. They are by nature contextual; that is, they require the use of wisdom in applying principles to various and often-changing contexts.

In this sense, then, Christian leadership is never timeless. Instead, it is a timely application of God-given wisdom regarding specific decisions that must be made in particular moments in time.

Over the next few weeks, I want to return to this topic of Christian leadership. My particular focus is on an essential but sometimes neglected component of Christian leadership: the ability to know “what time it is,” in order to have a clear understanding of the times. There are four spheres in which Christian leaders should know “the time,” and I look forward to fleshing these out in subsequent posts. Read more

4 Cs of Building a Team Parts 1 and 2

4 Cs of Building a Team Part 1

A wise leader obsesses over having the right players on the team. A team filled with the right players is exponentially more effective than a team filled with the wrong players. Whether hiring employees or recruiting volunteers, I find it helpful to have a general framework from which you view potential team members.

Two of the most common frameworks are the Three (or Four) Cs and the Four Es. Chick-Fil-A, Northpoint Community Church, and Bill Hybels all utilize the three Cs or a similar variation. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, popularized the Four Es. Even if you do not systemize these in your recruiting, I believe they are helpful to keep in mind as you build a team. Allow me to offer some insights from these two frameworks.... Read more

4 Cs of Building a Team Part 2

To help ministry leaders think about how they recruit people to join their teams, I thought it would be helpful to look at two frameworks commonly used in recruiting/hiring. One that has been particularly helpful to me is the Four Cs: character, competence, chemistry, and conviction. I addressed the first two, character and competence, yesterday. So we’ll continue today with three and four. Read more

Don’t Waste Your Christmas – Rainer on Leadership #082 [Podcast]

This week we are joined on the podcast with one of the premier hymn writers of our day: Keith Getty. The Gettys are kicking off their Joy: An Irish Christmas tour this weekend, and Keith was gracious enough to join us for a quick taping of the podcast earlier this week.

As a special bonus to our listeners, The Gettys have provided a free download of the MP3s and sheet music for Joy Has Dawned and Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven. Click here to download.

Some highlights from this week’s episode include.... Read more

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 26:14 — 24.0MB)

5 Reasons for Musicians and Church Leaders to Love Carolling the Story

The ever-approaching beat of Christmas is enough for many church musicians (and their staff, family, and pastors) to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and lacking in creative freshness. We have to work harder, produce better, innovate wider, and handle over-committed volunteers and their opinions. All the while we're stressed, budget-squeezed, and of course, must still deal with all the usual personal and family pressures while wondering how on earth we can find a "new angle" on the Christmas story.

As a local church musician and composer who's involved in an annual touring Christmas production, I offer several instructive principles for this highly anticipated time of year. Read more

The Right and Campus Rape

Calling in the cops is not enough.

It’s been a terrible semester at Mr. Jefferson’s University. Suicides. The apparent kidnapping, rape, and murder of Hannah Graham. And now this: allegations of not one but at least three gang rapes at one of the University of Virginia’s most prestigious fraternities: Phi Kappa Psi.

The latest horror story to emerge from UVA was chronicled in Rolling Stone by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Her story, filled with multiple accounts of rape and sexual assault in and around Rugby Road, the university’s fraternity row, reveals an almost unbelievably dark underbelly to fraternity life at UVA, where I teach sociology.

In the face of stories like this, the reflexive response of many on the right has been way too dismissive. We are told of a “vast feminist-industrial complex that is addicted to institutionalized panic” on such matters. In an article touching on sexual assault, George Will contends that “victims proliferate” because victimhood has been made “a coveted status that confers privileges.” And Camille Paglia inveighs against “hysterical propaganda about our ‘rape culture,’” propaganda which does not come close to capturing what’s happening most of the time on the nation’s college campuses: namely, “oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”

I understand, and share, my fellow conservatives’ concerns about the ways in which federal and university responses to the sexual-assault crisis can trample the rights of the accused in cases of sexual assault. Both here at UVA and elsewhere, media reports suggest that students — usually men — are being suspended or expelled without due process. And the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is pushing a minimal “preponderance of evidence” standard for sexual-assault cases that would lead to even more miscarriages of justice. What’s more: Conservatives are certainly right to point out the ways in which alcohol-fueled hookups on college campuses muddy the waters of justice around cases of assault.

And yet: I cannot shake the image of “Jackie” being serially raped on a broken glass table by a fraternity gang a few hundred yards from my office at UVA, perhaps by men who have taken a class by me, especially knowing that her rapists have paid no legal or educational price for their heinous deeds. My own sense of horror and outrage is only deepened by what I found out yesterday: In my Sociology of the Family class, in an anonymous survey, seven of the 103 female students that I am teaching reported that they had been “forced into a sexual act against [their] will,” and an additional 33 of these students reported that a “UVA friend” has experienced such a violation. So, in one large class at the University of Virginia, fully 39 percent of the female students report having been directly affected by forcible sexual assault. To be sure, there are important debates about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, but UVA’s experience indicates that there are more cases of campus rape than many might expect. Read more
Sexual assault and rape is all too common on and off campus in college towns.Unfortunately there is also a tendency to blame the victims for what happens to them. Local churches can work not only to make the community safer for young women away from home for the first time but also to help the victims of sexual assault and rape.

Help! There are Pagans in my Youth Group!

When my oldest daughter was ready to enter our church youth group, I found myself in a series of discussions with members who had decided to not allow their children to attend. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but this caught me off-guard. Was it because they disagreed with what was being taught in our youth ministry? No. Was it a distrust of our youth leadership. No. Was it a rejection of the whole idea of youth ministry? Partially. But for the most part, it was the fear of negative peer influence on their children. There were clearly “bad kids” in the youth group that could unduly impact their child’s spirituality. This made the church youth group a dangerous place.

Since that time, I have talked with other parents who have chosen this particular viewpoint. And still others have committed to the youth group for a time, then pulled out their children after they experience some un-Christian behaviors among their church peers. While I can understand and respect the responsibility to protect our children from bad influences, bullying, or the making of corrupt friendships, I can’t support the abandonment of a church youth ministry. So, let me offer some random thoughts on this point of disagreement.... Read more

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: Gateway to the Holidays

Many nations have special days for giving thanks. In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is always the fourth Thursday in November.

Wherever we are in the world, there are at least two requirements for any sort of thanksgiving to happen: something we’re thankful for and somebody to thank. As obvious as that may seem, it’s amazing how many people can say, “I’m thankful for . . .” in a sort of generic way without admitting, or even realizing, that God is there to hear their thanks. And they’re certainly not giving him credit for whatever it is they’re grateful for.

We who are Christians, though, know that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). And when Paul prays that the Ephesians would be “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18–20), everything reminds us that not every good gift seems happy at the moment. Read more

True Peace With God Comes on God's Terms

We all long for peace. We all want to be at peace with God and men. The problem is that we usually want that peace to be on our terms. So we strive against men and battle against God until we feel that we have achieved what feels to us like peace.

John Owen knows this temptation and in his great book Overcoming Sin and Temptation he includes an entire chapter on the theme. He gives his reader this charge: “Do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks it, but hearken to what God says to your soul.” For many pages and through many chapters he has been instructing the reader on battling against sin. He has given specific instructions on how to put sin to death. And he concludes with care: Expect to hear God speak peace to your soul, but be very careful you do not speak that peace to yourself until he does.

Here is the slow march of his argument.... Read more

Give Thanks in All Things: Four Articles

Full Bellies, Thankful Hearts

God designed your stomach and your heart to be intimately connected.

Eat your food!” That’s what many of us were told as children. “There are starving children in Africa.” It turns out, however, that we can better contemplate the needs of starving children once our own bellies are full.

Especially at this time of year, it might seem incongruous to think of those in need while we load up on Thanksgiving goodies for ourselves. I know I feel a twinge of guilt while rushing out the grocery store and past the food drive donation box.

Yet gratitude and compassion go hand in hand with full bellies. Recent studies show that we find it easier to turn our eyes to those who are less fortunate when we have enjoyed some abundance ourselves. As Christians, we are designed to both enjoy and share God’s good creation with gratitude and compassion. Read more

Why You’re Not As Grateful As You Think You Should Be

My suspicion is that most of us are not nearly as grateful as we should be.

You have a lot. I have a lot.

We put on a good face for Thanksgiving, and maybe even update our Facebook statuses outlining our gratitude.

Sometimes we make a list (public or private) of what we’re thankful for, but deep down…there’s a discontent.

And if you’ve read this far, you know it.

So many leaders (and people) I know have a gnawing dissatisfaction that leaves us feeling less grateful than we know we ought to.


In light of all we have and God’s faithfulness, why are you not more grateful?

There are at least three things that kill gratitude.

Here are 3 things that show up in my life and the lives of other leaders I track with.

Identify and keep them in check, and gratitude grows. Leave them unattended, and gratitude dissipate.... Read more

3 Steps to Being a More Thankful Person

Ever wonder the secret to being thankful?

I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content.

We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude.

How do we do that? Read more

Complaints or Thanks?

Every day of your life you’ll find reasons to complain, and every day of your life you’ll have reasons to be thankful. Notice the distinction: you’ll FIND reasons to complain and you’ll HAVE reasons to be thankful. These two themes, complaint and thankfulness, tug at the heart of each of us. They form fundamentally different ways of viewing the world because they’re rooted in fundamentally different ways of viewing yourself. Read more

7 Important Reasons to Thank Your Worship Leader Today

For over a decade our church struggled to find someone we could rely on to lead our congregation in worship week after week. We had some help on and off, but no one who was able to stay consistent over the long term.

Then he blessed us with two great leaders in a row. First with Travis Martin, then with Ami Garcia. Because of them, we’ve had dedicated, teachable and talented worship leadership for several years now. Thank you Travis for laying such a great foundation. Thank you Ami for what you’ve built on that foundation. Our church is better because of you.

If your church has someone who is willing to lead your congregation in worship consistently, humbly and reliably, you need to take time to thank them on a regular basis.

Actually, don’t just thank them. Encourage them. Support them. And run interference for them.

This also applies to youth workers, children’s ministers, seniors leaders, and others. But I’m focusing on worship leaders today for one simple reason.

There is no ministry in our churches under more attack today than our worship departments and their leaders. Often with so-called “friendly fire”.

Yes, at times they are part of the problem. But, more often than not, they’re the unfairly-accused victim. Read more

2.5 Million Children Are Homeless in US, New Data Reveals

A historic number of America's youth – 2.5 million children – are homeless according to a report recently released by the National Center on Family Homelessness. These children, the report shows, are victims of a number of variables that contribute to homelessness including single motherhood, racial disparities and low household incomes.

The report, based on data compiled from the U.S. Department of Education and the Census Bureau, reveals that many of the nation's homeless children are on the verge of losing their housing, don't have a fixed residence, are living in places not designated for human beings, or are living in some kind of temporary housing. Many homeless children's circumstances are tied to problems plaguing their families.

According to the report, "Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are Black or Hispanic." Read more

GAFCON Chairman's 2014 Advent Letter

During this Advent Season we shall be preparing for the joyful celebration of the first coming of our Lord Jesus, but let us also rejoice that we have the promise of his second coming in glorious majesty as Lord, Saviour and Judge, and be willing to stake our lives on what we do not yet see, the fulfilment of the promises of God.

It was this confidence that kept the Apostle Paul from despair despite all the setbacks and suffering of his apostolic ministry and with deep insight he cuts right through earth bound ways of thinking when he writes ‘For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18).

This is a truly radical perspective. It brings our lives into line with what is ultimately real and gives us a hope that is not defeated by immediate challenges and loss. This is true whatever the crisis that confronts us and we must continue to pray for those whose lives have been devastated by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but the difference biblical hope makes is seen most clearly when persecution and violence are unleashed. Read more
In his Advent Letter Archbishop Wabukala is critical of the irresolution of his fellow Anglican Primates and Bishops who argue that the maintenance of “visible unity” within the Anglican Communion is more important than the upholding of doctrinal unity. Yet Archbishop Wabukala and the Global South Primates who participated in the investiture of ACNA Archbishop Foley Beech and recognized Beech as “a fellow Primate of the Anglican Communion” did exactly what he is criticizing his fellow Anglican Primates and Bishops of doing—putting the maintenance of visible unity—in their particular case, with the Anglican Church of North America—before the upholding of doctrinal unity. The Anglican Church in North America in a number of key areas in its official doctrinal statements falls short of the “clear confessional basis in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration” to which Archbishop Wabukala refers in his Advent Letter. The Jerusalem Statement and its official commentary Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today emphasize the importance of the historical Anglican confessional formularies as doctrinal and worship standards for Anglicans. The Anglican Church in North America in these key areas in its official doctrinal statements deviates significantly from these standards. While Archbishop Wabukala is to be applauded for calling his wavering fellow Primates and Bishops to order, his action loses its moral force in light of his own wavering and that of his fellow Global South Primates in regard to the doctrines and practices of the Anglican Church in North America.

Erwin Krautler, Brazilian Bishop, Urges Ordination Of Married Elders As Priest Shortage Grows

The largest Roman Catholic geographical district in Brazil, located deep in the Amazon along the Xingu River, has more than 800 Catholic congregations but only 27 priests.

Bishop Erwin Krautler, prelate of Xingu (pronounced Shin-goo), has argued that the situation calls for drastic measures. In April, he took his case to the Vatican, where he met with Pope Francis. Recently, Krautler and Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a friend of Pope Francis, presented the idea of ordaining married community elders to Brazil’s National Conference of Bishops, which is now in the process of forming a commission to delve deeper into the matter.

Krautler said he counted himself among a group of bishops, mostly in the developing world, who see the ordination of such elders as a potential solution for the countless rural congregations that cannot receive the sacraments, including Communion, marriage and baptism.

“The situation of Xingu is not an exceptional situation,” Krautler said. “All of the Amazon has the same problem of very few fathers for a large number of communities.”

Krautler said Pope Francis has encouraged open dialogue on the issue and urged bishops at the national level to come up with “courageous” proposals to address the priest shortage. Read more

Hundreds of Islamist extremists mob a Christian school

Literary class in Bangladesh; 2014

Hundreds of extremist Islamists attacked a Christian school in Bangladesh, which welcomes children of all faiths, in response to locals who were outraged by rumors stating the school was forcing Muslim children to convert to Christianity.

On the morning of November 5, an Islamist mob attacked the South Korean funded Steve Kim Mission School located in Konabari town. Speaking with World Watch Monitor, an authority from Love Bangladesh Mission said the mob comprised about 200 people.

The students were not physically injured, but 12 of its 14 members of staff were beaten. Sumitra Kunda, 25, a female teacher endured a serious head injury. Another teacher, John Prokash Sarker, said that he managed to run away from six madrasa students, armed with knives and machetes, after being forced out of his classroom. Read more

Photo: World Watch Monitor

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

10 Reasons to Be Thankful

In the Book of Galatians, we find the apostle Paul was astonished and unsure of what to do with the Galatian believers. At one point, they were overwhelmed with God’s grace expressed toward them. But they had drifted from grace and were attempting to earn God’s approval and qualify themselves to stand before Him with works of the law, with adherence to a religious calendar, and with circumcision. When they were in awe of Jesus, they received Paul well and expressed great love toward him. But now that grace no longer stirred their hearts, they were fighting amongst themselves and treated Paul like an enemy. They had lost their awe and appreciation for Jesus, so he asked them: “What happened to this sense of being blessed you had?” (Galatians 4:15).

Paul knew the root of the problem was a loss in their sense of blessedness. The root of the problem was a loss of awe and wonder for Jesus. Whenever we lose a sense of how much Christ has blessed us, we fight more and serve less.

A loss of awe for Jesus will manifest itself in our lives. Paul wanted to see the Galatians’ awe for Jesus recaptured. So throughout the letter, Paul gave them a long list of ways the Lord had served them, of how the Lord had blessed them. From the first four chapters of Galatians, here are ten ways the Lord has blessed you if you are His.... Read more

Quick Study: Be Thankful In Tough Times

When the Apostle Paul says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord,” he doesn’t say to only be joyful in good times. Even when times are tough, the Bible teaches we can be joyful if we follow this simple strategy.... Read more

Create a Research and Development Fund

Budget for unexpected ministry opportunities.

In my own ministry experience, I have found that the best ideas for new ministry often come in the middle of a budget year. A new evangelism or outreach ministry idea, for example, suddenly energizes lay leaders, who approach the staff for funding. Or the church is approached by outside partners, such as a school or youth center, with a community ministry idea. Or a community crisis, or a new need, may present itself, and the church is asked to respond.

In the middle of the budget year, how can you respond? One option is to simply say: "It's not in the budget, wait until next year." But that approach has costs: It may throw a wet blanket on the energy lay leaders have for a new ministry, or it may allow the budget calendar to block the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Here's another way to respond to mid-year opportunities: develop a ministry research and development (R&D) fund. Funds either are set aside in the annual budget as a line item, or through a separate fund established with money that carries over from year to year.

Your church might use a ministry R&D fund for the following kinds of expenses.... Read more

3 Ways to Develop Your Church Leaders Without Having More Events

Leadership has become the hottest topic among growing church leaders these days. And I think for good reason. There is a healthy and ever-increasing awakening to the reality that programs don’t grow people, people do. And the more you are in the business of really making disciples, the more leadership development moves from periphery to central; it becomes a real need AND a felt need issue!

But the first problem in execution is again the over-reliance on events and programming. Churches quickly start leadership development classes or events only to overwhelm further, the busiest people they serve. Many first takes at leadership development become a recipe for insanity!

What then are some alternative solutions? What are ways to develop leaders IN church without creating more events AT church? Read more

How To Get Thing Done: Deal With Interruptions

The trouble with a series on productivity is that it can just keep going forever. Our work is never complete and we never fully master the best use of our time and opportunities. Our God-given calling to do good to others does not end until our lives end. Until we take that final breath, we will never run out of opportunities to bring glory to God by doing good to others. We are always learning to do this better, and always learning to make better use of the tools that promote it.

I am going to close this series today, and do so with a few thoughts on the day-by-day battle of right priorities. Already you have looked at planning and daily workflow and the best way to use your various tools. And this is all well and good until life happens. And then suddenly there are interruptions all around—emergencies to respond to, children who need attention, bosses who make their demands, clients who need your response at this very second. It’s like the whole world now conspires to mock your attempts to bring order to your life. You planned to clean your house today, but your friends are hurting today and seeking your counsel; you planned to prepare the sermon this morning but a member of the congregation called and said, “I really need to talk;” you had the day blocked off to catch up with clients, but the boss asked you to attend a meeting.

How can you deal with all of these interruptions? Read more

The Dangerous Task of Expository Preaching

Since the inception of the Church on the day of Pentecost, the “sermon” has been a central part to the worship experience. The history of the sermon is quite intriguing. The communication of ancient wisdom and tradition passed down and delivered into the hearts and minds of the congregation is the task of the preacher. The preacher’s responsibility is to proclaim “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” However, in our culture, preaching a sermon is often a lost art and practice. Many churches prefer “conversations” as opposed to an outright monologue.

Now, we must be honest with ourselves. Just think about the ridiculous nature of preaching for a moment. People take an hour or so out of their week to listen to an oral presentation from an ancient book that contains documents that are over 2,000 years old. Now, why would one subject themselves to such torment? No doctor is suggesting that they should return back to the methods of Hippocratic medicine. We have advanced beyond the knowledge of ancient Greece. So why would a preacher suggest that we govern our lives by the writing of ancient Israel?

Perhaps this is because most preaching today is not really “preaching the ancient wisdom” but more along the lines of motivation and self-help. We’ve advanced beyond preaching a sermon. Our culture is driven by “tweets” that contain no more than 140 characters, therefore, in order to communicate information, our preaching must contain one-liners, quick turns of phrase, and “5 Simple Ways to (_fill in the blank_).” In the busyness of our day, many feel that they don’t have the time to sit and listen to an oral presentation for 30-45 minutes.

In light of this reality, the “sermon” is reduced down to the equivalent of a McDonald’s Dollar Menu burger. It’s quick, easy, and cheap. It will fill you up for a bit but after a while, you will need something more filling. You can only live off one-dollar burgers for so long until you begin to get sick. Read more

Back to Broadus: Why Pastors Still Consult This Preaching Classic

Pick up a book on expository preaching, and you’re likely to see multiple references to John A. Broadus. The book he wrote on preaching had its origin over 150 years ago, and since 1870, it has stayed in print and undergone multiple revisions.

What has given Broadus’ work such staying power?

Today, I’ve invited Roger Duke to answer a few questions about Broadus’ legacy. Roger is the editor of a new compilation of Broadus’ sermons, Prince of the Pulpit. As one who has benefited from Broadus’ work, I was honored to contribute the foreword. Read more

Small Churches by the Numbers

Small churches are more likely to plant daughter churches than are large churches … and other interesting facts. Read more

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Church Leaders Need to Stop Playing H.O.R.S.E. with Each Other

I love learning the best ideas, methods and principles that I can find from as many people as possible.

But, no matter how good their idea is, no matter how well it’s working at their church, I’ve learned the hard way that my church isn’t their church. Because of that, I’d like to pass this simple principle on to you today, so you don’t have to learn it the hard way like I did.

We need to stop playing H.O.R.S.E. with other churches and church leaders.

For those who don’t know what that means, H.O.R.S.E. is a game basketball players like to challenge each other with. The first player tries a trick shot, then the other players have to duplicate it. If they do, they stay in the game. If they don’t, they add a letter until they’ve spelled H.O.R.S.E. and they’re out.

This happens in the church all the time.

We go to a pastoral leadership conference, where we hear about a church that’s discovered a new way to do a certain kind of ministry, so we go home and try to duplicate their trick shot, only to fail miserably. Then we wonder “what’s wrong with me and my church that we couldn’t pull it off?”

After trying and failing enough times, many ministers find themselves leaving ministry entirely because they couldn’t duplicate the success of others. But we’re not called to duplicate the success of others.

Learning principles from other churches is great. But trying to copy their methods, programs or style is just the church version of H.O.R.S.E. Read more

Ed Stetzer: Do Small Churches Need Self-Assessment?

Facts are our friends, and we need to use them with care. A church assessment is about giving you the facts you need, even if a lot of people don’t recognize that. Churches of all sizes, even small ones, should engage in some form of assessment because it is necessary, legitimate and beneficial. Read more

The Single Best Way to Lead Change in a Very Traditional, Old or Resistant Setting

I speak about change regularly. And you deal with change almost every week, if not every day.

The #1 question/conversation that comes up after one of my talks goes something like this:
Well, that’s great that you could lead change where you are. But you need to understand my context. My church is so (fill in the blanks here) old…traditional…resistant that I don’t know where to start. Sometimes I think it’s impossible. Is it?
I love that question.

One of the great consistencies in almost two decades of church leadership for me, is change.

We’ve changed everything, moving from three very traditional, dying mainline churches to a vibrant church that’s reaching unchurched people. And in between, everything has changed: our locations, our structure, our worship, our governance, our team and even our denominational affiliation.

So…is a church or organization ever too old, resistant or traditional to change?

My answer is that change is possible anywhere. That actually, it’s necessary. And at a bare minimum, change is worth the best shot you’ve got.

So is there a secret ingredient that can help you lead change in a traditional context far more effectively?

I think there is.

Before I share it, a few nuances for all of us. Read more

The State of Theology: Heaven? Yes! Hell, No.

In a bleak moment in a bleak text, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has the Madman declare:
‘Where is God gone?’ he called out. ‘I mean to tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun?’

The Madman continues to lament, “Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker?”
This infamous “God is dead” speech by Nietzsche underscores the implications of a world without God. Nothing awaits but darkness. Nietzsche was carrying out liberalism to its logical conclusion. A tamed god is ultimately a god of our own making. A god of our own making is really no god at all. Read more

Why Every Sin Is a 'Gateway' Sin

Marijuana is widely regarded as a "gateway" drug, which leads some users to experiment with more serious drugs. In a similar way, every time we sin against God's commands, we commit a "gateway" sin. That is to say, our sin often leads us to engage in other types of sinful behavior.

Sin becomes a gateway for the human soul to receive "the stuff of hell" rather than "the stuff of heaven." Just consider how this plays out in everyday life. A sinful thought makes it easier to spend more time dwelling on unholy things. Sinful words make it easier to become even more unrighteous in the way we speak. And sinful deeds become a gateway to various types of sinful behavior.

In that sense, we never really live a "neutral" spiritual life even for a moment. We are either "flowing down the river" of sinful desires, or we are flowing in the wellspring of God's living water. And the most miserable people on the planet are those who know the Lord, and yet still pursue certain sins with premeditation. It feels like you are trying to go in two opposite directions. No wonder such behavior produces deep agony and restlessness within the soul of a believer. (see Psalm 32:1-5)

The ultimate "gateway" sin is unbelief. This sin opens the floodgates for every other sin under the sun. And so when a person repents of his sin and trusts Christ for salvation, the "gateway" of unbelief is closed, and the flood of God's living water comes rushing into the soul. Belief in Jesus as Savior is the only gateway to a relationship with your Creator. (see John 14:6) This connection with the Lord through faith brings forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and a friendship with God. What could be better? Read more

6 Joys and Perils of Full Time Ministry

1. The joy and peril of being on the inside track.

I think it was CS Lewis who said that everyone thinks there is an “inner circle” and everyone thinks that someone else is a part of it and they are not. Being in full time Christian ministry allows you the opportunity to peer behind the curtain at the inner workings of other Christian ministries, churches, conferences, and, at times, the personalities of leading Christian figures. This is a joy: you get to see the inner workings. You get to be in the inner circle. You get to meet some godly people and rejoice at how God is using them.

But this is also a peril. You get to see the inner workings of Christian ministries, churches, and meet some Christian leaders who do not always appear to be as godly as their reputation. Cynicism, disillusionment, sarcasm, hardness towards spiritual vitality at a personal level, can all set in from knowing more about the inner workings of something that other people celebrate. Read more

Is Your Church Ready? Deepak Reju on Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse

The stats are staggering. And the safety of our children is at stake.

So what’s your church doing about it?

Deepak Reju’s new book, On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse (New Growth), is a brilliantly helpful resource aimed at instructing and empowering churches to respond to this quiet crisis. With 25 endorsements from a diverse range of leaders, On Guard is widely praised and tragically needed. After introducing us to the issue, Reju presents eight practical strategies for protecting against abuse and three for responding to it.

I corresponded with the pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., about why churches are so vulnerable, what makes his strategy uniquely effective, how a church can get started, and more. (After reading, watch our roundtable video discussions on “Preventing Sexual Abuse in the Church” and “Caring for Victims of Sexual Abuse” featuring Justin Holcomb, Scotty Smith, and Trillia Newbell.) Read more

Pakistani man shoots niece for listening to loud music

A Pakistani man shot dead his teenage niece because she was listening to loud music, police said on Tuesday.

Muhammad Gullistan, 30, found his niece alone at her home on Sunday in Chakwal, 90 km (56 miles) southeast of the capital, Islamabad.

"Muhammad Gullistan visited the house while her family was away," police officer Qaisar Abbas told Reuters. "He asked her to turn the music down but she refused and they had an argument. He shot her with a 33-bore pistol."

Women are murdered every day in Pakistan for perceived slights against conservative social traditions. The crimes are so common, they rarely rate more than a paragraph in newspapers. Read more

See also
Indonesian women’s rights under siege
Turkish President Says Women Shouldn’t Be Considered Equals

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Signs You Belong to a Great Church

No church is perfect, but there are some biblical blueprints that dictate whether or not a church is fulfilling its God-given mission as the bride of Christ. The reason a church cannot be perfect is because we as humans are flawed. Inevitably, the second any one of us step inside a church building, we in fact have contaminated the idea of perfection. Regardless of the human imperfections, here are 10 signs you belong to a great church. Read more

Three Trends in Local Churches That Are Accelerating

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are aware that I share major trends in local churches in America on an annual basis. I write about these trends the first week in January, and I plan to do so again in 2015.

I watch the trends throughout the year. I am curious to see how accurate my predications are; and I desire to see if there are any major shifts taking place.

Among the trends I noted, I see three of them that are growing at an accelerated pace. To use the words of Jim Collins, they are in the midst of the flywheel effect. Indeed, it looks like they may shape the way churches function for years to come.

Please note that I provide these trends as observations without offering qualitative assessments. Indeed, I confess that I am not fully certain about the impact of these trends in our churches in the years ahead. Read more

Rich Gorman: Outreach from the Ground Up

When Rich and Dori Gorman first came to Chicago’s Edgewater community in January 2011 to plant a new Community Christian Church campus, the couple knew no one in the dense (roughly 300,000 people in three square miles) and diverse (a diaspora of Somali, Burmese, Bhutanese, Bosnian, Russian, Nepali, Iraqi and Latino immigrants, Euro-American and African-American communities, and an LGBT community) area. Since 2012 when Edgewater officially launched, the campus has become a multiethnic, multinational group of 140 regular attendees as the Gormans have focused on what Rich calls the five P’s (Power, Pennies, Parties, Pain, Person of Peace). Read more

Want to Be Missional in the Way of Jesus?—Don’t Make These Five Mistakes

Living on mission is important, and Christ must be the center of the missional Christian's message.

One of the attractions of the “missional” label is the inherent affirmation of Christ’s mission in and to the world. If we are followers of Christ, then part of that mission must include the idea that we want all people to know Him.

The term “missional” came into prominent use in the late 20th century as an adjective describing the activity of God’s people in the world for His mission. Today, the term has taken on broad meanings by such diverse and often contradictory voices that, to some, “missional” has become virtually meaningless.

I’ve been working on my chapter for a forthcoming book on the meanings of missional. As I write, I am increasingly convinced that the word has value—but we have to define what we mean by mission.

Or, better yet, let Jesus define it. Read more

Gospel-Centered Evangelism

Ninety-four percent of local churches in America are not growing.

This should break our hearts. This statistic means that more and more people in America don’t know the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. This fact will increase divorce, addiction, injustice, greed, sexual immorality, idolatry, oppression, and a multitude of other sins that destroy people’s lives. We need evangelistic local churches, fueled by Christ-followers who see themselves as missionaries. We need “Good News” local churches filled with “Good News” people.

So what does high-definition evangelism look like? Here are three characteristics of gospel-centered evangelism for a multiethnic world.... Read more

See also
7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America

Photo: Erick Hodge

More than 700 million women worldwide were child brides

The United Nations agreed on Friday that all members should pass and enforce laws banning child marriages, resolving to end a practice that affects about 15 million girls every year.

The committee of the 193-nation General Assembly that deals with human rights adopted by consensus a resolution urging all states to take steps to end "child, early and forced marriage."

There are now more than 700 million women who were married before their 18th birthday, many in conditions of poverty and insecurity, according to UN statistics. Read more

See also
To Young to Wed

Photo: (c) Stephanie Sinclair/VII/

Bangladesh pastors arrested for preaching

Two pastors in northwestern Bangladesh could each face two years in prison if convicted of "hurting religious sentiments."

Police arrested the pastors Nov. 9 along with 41 people listening to their preaching at a rented house in Nabinagar village 186 miles northwest of Dhaka after at least 100 Muslims disrupted the meeting and began "jabbing" at the church leaders' faces, sources said.

The 41 listeners, who were detained along with their children, were released that night. The pastors of Faith Bible Church of God were not released on bail until Nov. 17. They were charged with "hurting religious sentiments" and luring Muslims to convert by offering money. The church leaders deny both charges.

"We did not tell anything to anyone that might hurt religious sensibility," one of the pastors, said. "We did not offer any money to anyone to be converted to Christianity." Read more

Graphic: CIA Maps