Friday, February 28, 2014

R Scott Clark: Non-Doctrinal Christianity Is Impossible

Imagine Mike. He’s an unusual mechanic. Where other mechanics find natural laws (such as gravity) unavoidable and even useful, he suspects them to be arbitrary, invoked in order to stifle his creativity. We can imagine how the story ends. Cars brought for repair are returned in worse shape than before. Mike goes out of business. Whatever Mike might think, the laws of physics are built into the nature of creation.
Non-doctrinal Christianity is impossible. The teaching of non-doctrinal Christianity is doctrine
So it is with doctrine in the Christian faith and life. Throughout Christian history, folks have proposed to do without Christian doctrine, the good and necessary inferences drawn from the implicit or explicit teaching of Scripture. Like Mike, some Christians have suspected that doctrine is just an invention, a way to control people. Such a position is just as false as Mike the mechanic’s. Doctrine is inescapable because it is revealed in Scripture and necessary to Christian faith and life. Keep reading

Phillip Jensen: An Unspiritual Churcdh

‘Spirituality’ is a term of great confusion today. Both inside and outside Christianity, people use the word in ways quite different to the Bible. This not only confuses Christians in what to expect from the Spirit of God but also confuses non-Christians about the work of God’s Spirit and the teaching of Christianity. For when Christians, in our confusion, misrepresent God’s word it is no surprise that non-Christians do not understand our message.

Non-Christians today commonly describe themselves as being ‘very spiritual’ while having nothing to do with organized religion or Christianity. This spirituality is a way of saying they are not materialistic atheists but it rarely has any theological content other than a vague mysticism. If it has any intellectual content it tends towards an anti-rational experientialism – feelings, experiences, awareness, asceticism, ascetics, pantheism, meditation and miracles. It also tends towards tolerance inclusive of all religious experiences and intolerance towards any theological propositions or exclusive claim to truth. It is naturally quite hostile to Biblical Christianity with its clear expression of theological truth claims about the uniqueness of Jesus and his way of salvation.

One of our joys and sorrows is the ability and inability of communicating the gospel in the language of the people – in this case English. The same word: ‘Spiritual’, has very different meanings. The common language is a bridge by which we can explain ourselves to different people. However, bridges are two-way thoroughfares – and a lot of traffic comes from the world into Christian understanding. Keep reading

Rick Warren: Churches That Change to Be Healthier Experience 5 Renewals (Part 1)

If you are being led to change the way your church serves God’s purposes, it is helpful to understand the process of renewal. Many leaders want to start by changing the structure of their church. However, this can be destructive for you, your leadership and your church. People don’t like to change unless their hearts have been warmed and prepared for change. We believe that when God wants to work in a church he takes it through five renewals.

I’m sharing the first two today and the other three in part two of this article. Keep reading

Dave Page: Why Those Who Help You Plant a Church Leave So Early

I had a dream of having friends I started the church with go the distance with me serving as ministry partners for forty years and then riding together off into the sunset much like Billy Graham has done with Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea. It didn’t happen.

Here’s what I know: Those who start the journey with you seldom finish with you. In the church planting world I call this principle THE LAW OF SCAFFOLDING. The people you start the church with are not the people you grow the church with. This is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a church planter. I am a highly relational person – a people person. I enjoy people and working together as a team to see changed lives. It was emotionally painful for me anytime somebody left the church. However, part of the process of growth was learning the law of scaffolding. Keep reading

Ed Stetzer: The Right Culture for Community

Church community is not a once- or twice-a-week event—it's a matter of doing life together.

Recently Eric Geiger and I wrote a new book that we believe is very important for the church. The book is called Transformational Groups. We use the word "groups" generically, not simply as a reference to small groups. It can refer to whatever group strategy you use for discipleship, whether that be small groups, missional home communities, Sunday School, or something else entirely. We are convinced that the church has emphasized the weekend worship service so strongly that they have often neglected the importance of groups. This is tragic because we are convinced that groups are God's design for making disciples.

Below I have included an excerpt from the book that speaks to the creation of the right culture for community to happen. Over the next few weeks I want to feature a few selections from the book that I hope are helpful to you, and I hope will help us recommit ourselves to the importance of groups in our churches. Keep reading

John Sandeman: Introducing God again: evangelistic course gets a new look

An Aussie-flavoured evangelism course, Introducing God, has been relaunched with new videos and course notes.

Introducing God is the brainchild of Dominic Steele, perhaps best known for founding “Christians in the Media”. It’s over ten years since the first Introducing God was run in a pub in Sydney’s Glebe. Since then it has used in hundreds of places across Australia.

“How is version two different except that I look older?” asks presenter Dominic Steele. “Yes, fashions change. And there a new set of dramas along with the messages.

“But some things are exactly the same- I am still profoundly committed to the biblical theology setting of Two Ways To Live … (an evangelism outline from the Sydney Anglicans) and placing that in the context of relationships.”

This means that the course tells the “big picture” of the Bible from the fall onwards. Other courses such as Alpha deal with the life of Jesus in the first episode.

“There a lot of ways you can proclaim Christ, but the simple message of Jesus as Saviour and Lord is hard for people to receive, unless you understand you are a rebel, and that there is an Almighty who you have rebelled against,” says Steele. Keep reading

Also see

Anglican Church League Questions Orthodoxy of Australia's First Women Diocesan Bishop

On 1 March 2014 the Anglican diocese of Grafton will consecrate its new Bishop. The consecration will be hailed as ‘historic’ as she will be the first female diocesan Bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia.

The fact that the diocesan Bishop will be a woman is of concern, especially considering therehas been no publicly available provision by the Grafton diocese for those who cannot in good conscience accept her episcopal ministry.

The matters raised in this document however are of more grave concern.Dr Macneil has made recent public statements regarding human sexuality and the Atonement that are unbecoming a Bishop in the Anglican Communion. At best they are unclear, requiring clarification. At worst they are a serious departure from Anglican historic formularies and the Scriptures.

The consecration of someone who holds these views is further evidence that parts of the Anglican Church of Australia are departing from the Apostolic faith.

We wish to state our full support of the Diocese of Grafton in its recent moves to deal openly,honestly and fully with claims of child abuse within the Diocese. We offer our support to any leader of the Diocese who will continue this approach. Our criticism of the appointment of Dr Macneil ought not in any way to be seen to impact on our view on this serious matter. Keep reading

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 6)

By Robin G. Jordan

In our examination of the remaining questions and answers on sacraments in Part II in Being A Christian: An Anglican Catechism, we will be looking at what the new ACNA catechism teaches about marriage and anointing of the sick. As we have seen so far, the new ACNA catechism teaches that confirmation, absolution, ordination, marriage and anointing of the sick are sacraments and confer sacramental grace. In its teaching on sacraments the new ACNA catechism favors the sacramental teaching of a particular school of Anglican thought, a school of thought that has its origins in the nineteenth century Tractarian and Ritualist movements, and is strongly influenced by the sacramental views of the Roman Catholic Church. This section of the new ACNA catechism contains five questions, three on marriage and two on anointing of the sick, and the answers to these questions.
128. What is marriage? 
Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, binding both to self-giving love and exclusive fidelity. In the rite of Christian marriage, the couple exchange vows to uphold this covenant. They do this before God and in the presence of witnesses, who pray that God will bless their life together. (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19; Mark 10:2-9; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39)
The Thirty-Nine Articles state that marriage should not be viewed as a sacrament. Rather it is a state of life “allowed in the Scriptures.” The Homily on Common Prayer and the Sacraments classifies marriage as a godly state of life, “necessary in Christ’s Church, and therefore worthy to be set forth by public action and solemnity by the ministry of the Church.” The marrage service in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer describes “holy Matrimony” in these terms:
[holy Matrimony] is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.
The 1662 Marriage Service goes on to give three reasons for which God ordained matrimony:
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name. Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body. Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined.
In the 1662 Marriage Service the term “covenant” is paired with the term “vow” and the two terms refer to the solemn promise that the couple is making to be faithful to each other.
O eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life: Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that, as Isaac and Rebecca lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, (whereof this ring given and received is a token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The 1662 Marriage Service uses the term “troth” to describe the faithfulness to each other, which the couple is committing themselves. It can refer not only this faithfulness but also to the commitment itself.
Forasmuch as N. and N. have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth either to other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving of a ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be man and wife together, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
While the definition of marriage in the new ACNA catechism uses the term “covenant” and the 1662 Marriage Service uses the same term, they do not appear to be using it in the same way. As we shall see, the new ACNA catechism does not take its teaching on marriage from the Anglican formularies—the Thirty Nine Articles, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the two Books of Homilies—but from Roman Catholic documents. 

Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19; Mark 10:2-9; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39 are cited in support of the catechism’s definition of marriage. It is questionable that this definition of marriage can be read out of these passages, which relate to God’s institution of the state of marriage, marital fidelity, and divorce. Matthew 19 pertains to marriage only in part. It includes a passage about becoming a eunach for the kingdom, a passage that the Roman Catholic Church claims provides the Scriptural basis for its teaching on a celibate priesthood. Protestants and Roman Catholics are divided over the meaning of this passage as are Anglicans among themselves.

A google search of terms used in the answer to question 128 yield some interesting results. The phrase “lifelong covenant” appears in the guidelines and liturgies for the sacramental blessing of same sex relationships authorized by a number of dioceses of the Episcopal Church. It crops up in articles on the Covenant Marriage Movement. It appears in a discussion of the similarities between the covenant theology of sexuality and Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” in John F. Kipley’s Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality. It also crops up in a Catholic definition of marriage on the Marriage Missionaries website: “Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman to give honor to God through the procreation and education of their children.”

The phrase “self-giving love” repeatedly appears in an explanation of the matrimony as a sacrament in Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, a 2009 pastoral letter by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This pastoral letter and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as we shall see, are the primary sources of the doctrine states or inferred in the answers to question 128-130. 
129. What is signified in marriage?
The covenantal union of man and woman in marriage signifies the communion between Christ, the heavenly bridegroom, and the Church, his holy bride. Not all are called to marriage, but all Christians are wedded to Christ and blessed by the grace God gives in marriage. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
In its discussion of the challenges to the nature and purposes of marriage, specifically divorce, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan  refers to marriage as “a lifelong covenantal union.” While 1662 Marriage Service speaks of the “mystical union” between Christ and his Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church uses the term “communion” to describe this relationship. An examination of Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan  and the corresponding sections of the Catechism of Catholic Church on the sacrament of matrimony reveals that the new ACNA catechism not only borrowed terminology from these documents but is also strongly influenced by their thinking. The answers to questions 128 -130 show the influence of Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan and the Catechism of Catholic Church to such extent that they may be described as a condensed version of the teaching in these documents.

The answer to question 129 claims that all Christians are “blessed by the grace God gives in marriage.” This view is found in Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan and the Catechism of Catholic Church and has its origins in the medieval view that marriage is “an instrument of sanctification, a channel of grace that caused God's gracious gifts and blessings to be poured upon humanity.” See John Witte’s From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (p. 92).

It is noteworthy that a number of liturgies for the blessing of same sex relationships in the Episcopal Church also use the term “lifelong covenantal union.”
130. What grace does God give in marriage? 
In Christian marriage, God establishes and blesses the covenant between husband and wife, and joins them to live together in a communion of love, faithfulness and peace within the fellowship of Christ and his Church. God enables all married people to grow in love, wisdom and godliness through a common life patterned on the sacrificial love of Christ.
In the answer to question 130 we find in a condensed form what Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach is the grace of the sacrament of matrimony.

Before we examine the questions and answers on anointing of the sick, we should first take a look at the origin of this practice and its development into a sacrament. Anointing the sick with oil was a common practice in the ancient Mediterranean world. It was known to the Greeks, Romans, and other Mediterranean peoples, as well as the Jews. The New Testament not only describes Jesus’ disciples anointing the sick with oil but also the Good Samaritan treating with oil the injuries of the traveler whom robbers had beaten and left for dead. Up until the ninth century the anointing was done by a priest, a layperson, or by the sick or injured person himself. It was not confined to the dying and was used in any serious illness or injury. It was sometimes repeated several times. A Protestant Dictionary gives this account of the further development of anointing of the sick:
In the ninth century (the beginning of the Middle Ages) the administration of the oil was confined to a priest, and gradually it became not a rite, from which restoration to health was hoped, but a preparation for death. For this reason it came to be called, in the twelfth century, the Last, or the Extreme Unction, because it followed after previous unctions at baptism and confirmation ; and very soon the expression Extreme Unction was identified with unction of one in extremity. Then followed its inclusion in the list of the Seven Sacraments, first drawn up in the thirteenth century. 
Combined with the Viaticum it thus became one of the institutions of the new religion into which traditional Christianity was resolved by Innocent III., the most salient features of which were Transubstantiation and the Confessional, supplemented by Extreme Unction and the Viaticum. 
By the thirteenth century anointing of the sick was believed “to strengthen the soul in the death agony against the temptations of the devil, to wipe out all the remains of sin, to remove all punishments still due,” and “sometimes to restore to health.” 

The 1549 Book of Common Prayer permitted the anointing of the sick if they desired it. The 1549 Prayer Book confined the anointing to “the forehead and breast only” and appointed the use of a prayer that “did not attribute any spiritual efficacy to the material and visible oil.” 
If the sick person desire to be anointed, then shall the priest anoint him upon the forehead or breast only, making the sign of the cross, saying thus, 
As with this visible oil thy body outwardly is anointed: so our heavenly father almighty God, grant of his infinite goodness, that thy soul inwardly may be anointed with the holy ghost, who is the spirit of all strength, comfort, relief, and gladness. And vouchesafe for his great mercy (if it be his blessed will) to restore unto thee thy bodily health, and strength, to serve him, and send thee release of all thy pains, troubles, and diseases, both in body and mind. And howsoever his goodness (by his divine and unsearchable providence) shall dispose of thee: we, his unworthy ministers and servants, humbly beseech the eternal majesty, to do with thee according to the multitude of his innumerable mercies, and to pardon thee all thy sins and offences, committed by all thy bodily senses, passions, and carnal affections: who also vouchsafe mercifully to grant unto thee ghostly strength, by his holy spirit, to withstand and overcome al temptations and assaults of thine adversary, that in no wise he prevail against thee, but that thou mayest have perfect victory and triumph against the devil, sin, and death, through Christ…. 
The 1549 Prayer Book was a transitional service book. The anointing of the sick was dropped from the 1552 Prayer Book. The Articles of Religion reject Extreme Unction as a “corrupt following of the Apostles.” 

The Ritualist movement would revive the practice of Extreme Unction in the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century, teaching in conjunction with this practice what the Roman Catholic Church taught about Extreme Unction. 

The practice of anointing the sick, not just the dying, would reappear with the charismatic renewal movement in the twentieth century. Charismatics would be divided in their understanding of the practice. Some viewed it as an apostolic practice while others viewed it as a sacrament. 

In the same period the Roman Catholic Church would expand its use of anointing of the sick. The Roman Catholic Church did not abandon its teaching about Extreme Unction but included that teaching in its teaching about what it now calls “the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.” It also retained the term, “Extreme Unction.” 
131. What is the anointing of the sick? 
Through prayer and anointing with oil, the minister invokes God’s blessing upon those suffering in body, mind, or spirit. (Matthew 10:8; James 5:14-16). 
Matthew10:8 and James 5:14-16 are cited to support the answer to question 131. Matthew 10:8 is a descriptive passage incidental to the narrative in this particular chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. The chapter itself contains nothing to suggest that Matthew’s intention was to establish a precedent with its inclusion. One certainly cannot read out of this passage that annointing of the sick is a sacrament. What the passage does tell us is that the disciples annointed the sick with oil. 

James 5:14-16, on the other hand, is prescriptive. The Greek word is προσκαλέω (pronounced proskaleō), “let him call,” is in the aorist imperative, and is a command. James 5:14-16, however, must be read within the context of James 13-18. 
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.Therefore,confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. [Or The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power] Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 
The main focus of James 13-18 is upon the prayer of faith. James 5:14-16 does not provide a Scriptural basis for sacramental anointing of the sick, much less Extreme Unction. Note also that those who are sick are directed to call for “the elders of the church,” not a priest. James 5:14-16 assumes a church has more than one elder. 
132. What grace does God give in the anointing of the sick?
As God wills, the healing given through anointing may bring bodily recovery from illness, peace of mind or spirit, and strength to persevere in adversity, especially in preparation for death.
A comparison of the answer to question 132 with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the effects of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick clearly shows a connection between the teaching of the ACNA catechism and that of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
IV. The Effects of the Celebration of This Sacrament
1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. the first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will.Furthermore, "if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
1521 Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.
1522 An ecclesial grace. the sick who receive this sacrament, "by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ," "contribute to the good of the People of God."By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, though the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.
1523 A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those eparting).The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house. 
In the answer to question 132 we have another condensation of the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The answer to question 132 is so worded as to not exclude teaching what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about Extreme Unction. 

In giving its approval to Being a Christian: A New Anglican Catechism, the ACNA College of Bishops clearly rejected the authority of the Anglican formularies and endorsed the sacramental teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. In our next article we will examine what the new ACNA catechism teaches about Christian ministry.

Also see
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 5)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 4)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 3)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 2)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 1)
What does the new ACNA catechism mean for Anglicans in North America? outside of North America?
What Does the New ACNA Catechism Teach about the Holy Spirit?
How Reliable Is the New ACNA Catechism?
Does the New ACNA Catechism Teach a Synergistic Arminian View of God and Salvation?
The New ACNA Catechism – A Closer Look
Tada! New ACNA Catechism Finally Online

Jonny Craig: 5 Things I’ve Learned as a Young Pastor in a Small Church

94% of churches in America are under 500 people. That’s a real statistic.

Go ahead, look it up.

This was surprising to me because most of the time it feels like we only hear about the largest 1% of churches. To be fair, those churches are creating amazing content and sharing incredible stories that need to be told. Those are churches doing Kingdom work and they deserve to be celebrated. We need that 1%. But we also need the 94%.

I’m a young pastor. Like a lot of young pastors, I had stars in my eyes as I entered ministry. My church will explode with growth. My book (that I’ve never written) will be a bestseller. I’ll be a regular on the conference circuit. These are common dreams for young pastors and I’m no exception.

As nice as dreams are, they don’t always match up with reality, and the reality is that I’m in one of those churches under 500 people. A great church. A healthy church. A Christ-centered church that I love deeply. A small church.

So I want to share some lessons that I’ve learned about being a young pastor in a small church. These aren’t necessarily lessons that are specific to being young, but from my experience, it’s we younger pastors who need a reality check. Reality is good, and here are 5 things I’ve learned that have helped me love the reality God has placed me in. Keep reading

Also see
Karl Vaters: Why Don’t Small Churches Grow? They Do. Then We Call Them Big Churches
Karl Vaters: Stop Thinking Like a Big Church

Eric Geiger: Simple Church Epilogue Part 1

Almost eight years have passed since the initial release of Simple Church, and to say that we are overwhelmed with the response would be a vast understatement. Our shock with the response is not a statement of humility (unfortunately) but the reality of the nature of the book. Let’s be honest—it was a nerdy research project. The research was extensive and the results were noteworthy; therefore, a book followed. But research books don’t tend to make anyone’s “favorite books” list.

Not only is the book a research-based book, but it is also loaded with “insider language.” Meaning we wrote the book for pastors and church leaders. The book is filled with the kinds of conversations we have during consultations, staff meetings, and strategy sessions with church leaders. We never thought regular godly church people would read the book or have the book given to them by a pastor in their church.

The book is far from perfect. It is definitely not infallible or inerrant. It is incomplete and incomprehensive. We simply reported on what we discovered in the research. Now after eight years of discussions and observations with church leaders, I am going to offer a series of blog posts on the five most significant lessons learned since Simple Church released. Here’s the first.... Keep reading

Joe McKeever: Heresies Inside my Church

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine….” “Preach the word….with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2,3).

For a pastor, the way to deal with bad theology in his church is always to preach the Word.
Just hang in there, year after year, teaching and preaching God’s unchanging truth. The changes in your people will come as you remain faithful.

The word “orthodox” means “right thinking.” Straight shooting. Sound doctrine. Solid reasoning.

We think of heresy as something the bad guys do, the “spiritual gift” of cults, and the aberration of the rebellious. After all, aren’t all heretics nuts? (We interrupt to recommend a book. A half century ago, Walter Nigg wrote “The Heretics” to establish that the great heresies in church history were the result of some pretty smart people with real grievances, and not ‘nuts.’ Reading it was life-changing for me. I checked and just now. A used copy or two is available, and new reprints are expensive. However, this is a great investment and the book will be a keeper.)

As Walt Kelly’s comic strip ‘possum Pogo once noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

There is enough heresy inside the walls of your church to start twelve new cults by breakfast.

In a half-century and more of churchmanship–pastoring, assistant pastoring,and denominational involvement–I have seen these heresies, beggars riding in king’s chariots, as the saying goes…. Keep reading

Trevin Wax: The Costly Freedom of Redemption

This spring’s Gospel Project for Adults and Students leads participants through the “Atonement Thread,” which helps people put the Bible together to see how the theme of atonement runs from Genesis to Revelation.

For the past several Thursdays, I’ve featured contributions from some friends who are examining the beauty of the atonement from different angles. Here’s how the series has shaped up so far:
Today, Bryan Loritts contributes an article on freedom as it relates to redemption.

Bryan Loritts is the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis and the author of A Cross-Shaped Gospel and editor of Letters to a Birmingham Jail.  Keep reading

Albert Mohler: The road ahead: challenges gospel ministers can expect

Writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul looks back on his ministry and declares satisfaction that he had finished his course. Paul would be the first to insist that his entire ministry was evidence of the grace and mercy of God, but he was assured that, by grace, he had finished his race.

Paul’s statement of completion must be the goal of every gospel minister. Our calling is not complete until we, like Paul, can know that we have finished our course. For most of us, the race still lies before us, and that makes our goal even more urgent.

When asked about my hope for the future of the church, I point immediately to the corps of young ministers now entering and preparing for ministry. One of the great counter-intuitive developments of our times is the rise of a generation of young ministers who are committed to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints,” and who are eager to run the race to Christ’s glory.

What challenges lie ahead? The race this new generation is called to run will include several unavoidable challenges that will demand the highest level of biblical fidelity and theological courage, matched to keen cultural sensitivity and a deep love for human beings caught in the maelstrom of late modernity. Keep reading

Cameron Cole: What We’re Saying When We Don’t Mention the Gospel

Two of my couple friends have moved to new cities in the last few months and tried out new churches with disappointing results. One couple attended a church with a conservative bent where the pastor spent the sermon railing against liberal churches and their position on sexuality. The other couple sampled a mainline Protestant church, where the pastor’s message was that we are the “salt and light” just by being ourselves.

The obvious problem at both churches: There was no Gospel in the message.

A nice lady gave me a series of CDs from her church that included her pastor’s five-week explication of Song of Solomon. He did a great job teaching on the meaning of each verse in context and ended with a passionate exhortation for everyone to commit more effort to improving his or her marriage.

It was a well-intentioned sentiment, but the sermons contained one problem: there was no Gospel in the message.

In most seasons, stories such as these disappoint me, but, given my life circumstances over the last quarter, they enrage me. I am literally left feeling ill. Keep reading

Kate Tracy: Muslim Nation Bans Christians from Using 19 Religious Words

Brunei expands Malaysia’s ban on ‘Allah', long used by local Christians, to other Islamic words other religions can no longer use.

Following a decision to implement Shari'ah law in the country, the Brunei government has banned 19 Islamic words from use by non-Muslims.

The words, which include Allahlong used by regional Christians to refer to God—and other words with religious associations, can no longer be used in reference to other religions after the new penal code takes effect in April, according to the Brunei Times.

The government also plans to implement strict punishment for crimes, including death by stoning for adultery and amputation of limbs for theft, Religion News Service reported in October. Those penalties will take effect in phases, beginning in April.

Brunei, an independent state bordered by Malaysia, is located on the northwest edge of Borneo Island in the South China Sea. Its population of 416,000 is 67 percent Muslim and ethnic Malay, and the country is ruled by a constitutional sultanate. Residents speak Malay, a language heavily influenced by Arabic. Keep reading

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brad Lomenick: 18 Steps to Better Brainstorming

There is a reason some organizations are more creative than others—it's because they are intentionalin creating the right environment for creativity to flourish. That’s what we strive for here at Catalyst—it's part of our DNA. And a big part of our creative process is our scheduled brainstorming meetings. In order to create the right kind of environment, we've established a code of behavior for those meetings. Try these 18 guidelines at your next creative summit. Keep reading
Debbie Downer is a slang phrase which refers to someone who frequently adds bad news and negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them....(Source: Wikipedia)

Outreach Magazine Names 2014 Resources of the Year

For the 11th consecutive year, Outreach magazine is celebrating some of the best outreach-oriented books and curricula by honoring them as Outreach Resources of the Year.

The 18 resources chosen to receive the distinction this year are highlighted in the just-released March/April 2014 issue of Outreach, which also delves into the issue of America's rising Hispanic church.

The Outreach Resources of the Year aim to highlight valuable resources for church leaders and bring deserved attention to resources that can help churches better engage in effective outreach to share the gospel and reach our communities for Christ.

More than 170 resources published between Nov. 1, 2012, and Oct. 31, 2013, were submitted to Outreach for consideration. Outreach editors narrowed the field to 112 and placed them in categories.
The magazine then asked an expert in each category to evaluate the resources and choose what they considered to be the best.

Each panelist independently evaluated the resources in his or her area of expertise and selected what he or she thought were the best. The experts chose how many resources to recognize in their respective categories, and whether to include any as "Also Recommended."

The 2014 Outreach Resources of the Year are.... Keep reading

Thom Rainer: Pastors and Mental Health

The issue of mental health and Christians is finally getting some attention. Among the Christians who have challenges, many pastors struggle with depression. We hear too frequently about a pastor committing suicide. And many wonder how such a tragedy could happen to someone whose life was committed to serving the Lord.

I love pastors. Indeed I converse with pastors via a variety of means every day. I know many of them are struggling. Many of them are depressed. And, sadly, many of them are reticent to say anything about their depression lest they be viewed as unfaithful to God and unable to help others. Keep reading

Also see
Perry Noble: Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?
Perry Noble, senior and founding pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina writes about hs own struggle with anxiety and depression in his new book Overwhelmed: Winning the War against Worry

SHOW Times: Building Christian Community With Facebook

Churches have multiple options for networking online: email newsletters, blogs and social media and each has strengths and weaknesses. For example, some people refuse to join Facebook or Twitter but will exchange information via email. Keep reading

Stephen J. Wellum: Reflections on the Great Commission

Everyone admits that our Lord Jesus’ command before his ascension to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28:18-20) is programmatic for the church. It has been rightly labeled the “Great Commission” for Christ’s church. If we are to be faithful and obedient disciples of our Lord, we cannot neglect what the Lord of the church has commanded us to do. With that in mind, I offer three reflections on the Great Commission devoted to this very important subject and the larger theme of global Christianity. Keep reading

Kyle Rohane: The Myth of the Average Millennial

Don't rely on statistics and stereotypes to reach my generation.

This morning I had a terrifying realization. I'd started the day in my typical fashion, by skimming my Facebook wall and Twitter feed to find an article worth reading—a friend-approved, literary jolt to motivate the hamster in my head to start its daily run. Scrolling through these articles is a bit like walking through a middle school hallway, with all the usual suspects: the nerds correcting everyone's theological grammar, the goths singing dirges of the church's imminent demise, the cool kids gossiping about some pastor's latest faux pas. 

I finally clicked on a link to one of those "How to Get the Average Millennial to Come to Church" articles, expecting a satisfying eye roll. Instead, my jaw dropped and I let out a tiny yelp. This average Millennial, the one that everyone's trying so hard to understand—it's me!

My heart started pounding as I read through the descriptors. "Average Millennials hold multiple degrees." Check. "They are technologically savvy." Check. "Many haven't been able to find jobs in their fields of expertise." Check. "They probably have amassed a sizable debt." Double check.

It was distressing to see myself fitting into the cookie-cutter Millennial mold. Articles such as these don't paint a pretty picture. According to them, Millennials are entitled couch potatoes, suffering from arrested development. They have an inflated sense of self-worth, and they think they can run a company the first day they walk into a new job.

Of course, Millennials have their retorts. "We aren't lazy; we were just dealt a bad hand." "Our parents told us we could be whatever we wanted when we grew up, and we believed them."
Back and forth it goes.

But as an "average Millennial," I don't feel entitled. I've worked as a laborer on a construction site and as an administrative assistant (read: receptionist) for an oral surgeon. I know the value of a hard day's work just to pay the bills. I also don't blame my current struggles entirely on my upbringing. What success I've had, I owe to the generosity of my parents, mentors, and church. How do I rectify these discrepancies?

The answer, of course, is that I'm not the "average Millennial." Nor is anyone else. I may share a few commonalities with other members of my generation, but I'm also unique.

The truth is, the "average Millennial" is a myth. Keep reading

Boko Haram attacks escalate in Nigeria

Islamic militants have killed about 200 adults and children in three attacks in Christian villages in northeastern Nigeria within the past 10 days, killing as many as 40 students at a boarding school Monday (Feb. 24) in Yobe, CBS News reported.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s appointment of new military leaders in December, 2013 and his declaration of a state of emergency in the region last May, have not stopped the violence.

In Monday night's attack at the secondary school, Boko Haram killed the students, all male, and burned the school to the ground, Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai told CBS news.

"Some of the students bodies were burned to ashes," CBS quoted Rufai. No girls were harmed, Rufai said. Keep reading

Also see
Call for investigation after churches bombed in Zanzibar

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 5)

By Robin G. Jordan

In this examination of questions 120 – 123 and the answers to these four questions in Part II of Being a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, we will be looking at what the new ACNA catechism teaches about absolution, and ordination.
120. What is absolution?

After repenting and confessing my sins to God in the presence of a priest, the priest declares God’s forgiveness to me with authority given by God. (John 20:22-23; James 5:15-16)
In the answer to question 120 we find a description of the Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic practices of auricular confession and priestly absolution. See Fredrick Meyrick’s article, “Absolution,” in A Protestant Dictionary.

Also see “Chapter VII: The Absolution in the Visitation of the Sick,” (p. 101), “Chapter VIII: Auricular Confession,” (p. 115) and “Appendix – Bishop Wilberforce and Dr. Pusey on Private Confession” (p. 215) in Dyson Hague’s The Protestantism of the Prayer Book and “The Voice of the Church of England on Auricular Confession” and Joseph Bardley’s “Confession and Forgiveness of Sins” in the Church Association Tracts (Vol. 1).

As we have seen in our examination of the four previous questions and answers in this section of the new ACNA catechism, the catechism takes the Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic position that absolution is a sacrament. While the new ACNA catechism avoids the use of the term “penance,” which the Thirty-Nine Articles identify as “a corrupt following of the Apostles,” and endeavors to avoid other language that is associated with the Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic teaching on penance, it is quite clear that the new ACNA catechism is referring to what Thirty-Nine Articles and the Catechism of the Catholic Church call “penance.”

In support of the answer to question 120 the new ACNA catechism cites John 20:22-23 and James 5: 15-16. Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics interpret John 20:22-23 as supporting their teaching on auricular confession and priestly absolution. Anglicans have historically been divided over the meaning of this passage. See Fredrick Meyrick’s article, “Absolution,” in A Protestant Dictionary.

In order to cite James 5: 15-16 in support of the practices of auricular confession and priestly absolution, one must ignore the plain meaning of the text, which encourages believers to confess their sins to one another and not to a priest.

Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine, a leading nineteenth century Evangelical in then Protestant Episcopal Church and author of Oxford divinity compared with that of the Romish and Anglican churches, pointed to the attention of a group of confirmands that, while the clergy of their church may have taught them to confess their sins to a priest, the same clergy should be confessing their own sins to the confirmands.
121. What grace does God give to you in absolution?

In absolution, God conveys to me his pardon through the cross, thus declaring to me reconciliation and peace with him, and bestowing upon me the assurance of his grace and salvation.
In the answer to question 121, the new ACNA describes the sacramental grace that it purports is conferred by priestly absolution. Compare this answer with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
I. What is This Sacrament Called?

1423 It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a "confession" - acknowledgment and praise - of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent "pardon and peace."

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God." He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go; first be reconciled to your brother."
Also see “VI. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation” and “IX. The Effects of This Sacrament” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
122. What is ordination?

Through prayer and the laying on of the bishop’s hands, ordination consecrates, authorizes, and empowers persons called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. (1 Timothy 1:5; 5:22; Acts 6:6)
Rather than giving a definition of ordination, in its response to question 122, “what is ordination,” the new ACNA catechism describes what it purports ordination does. Inferred in this description is the position that the catechism takes on ordination. As we have seen in our examination of the four previous questions in this section of the ACNA catechism, this position is the Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic position that ordination is a sacrament. This is a view of ordination that is not supported by the Thirty-Nine Articles as we have seen. It is not shared by all recognized schools of Anglican thought.

The longstanding disagreement among Anglicans over the nature of ordination is reflected in the language of the Ordinal in the Form and Manner of Ordaining Priests in the 1789, 1892, and 1928 American Prayer Books.
When this Prayer is done, the Bishop with the Priests present, shall lay their hands severally upon the Head of every one that receiveth, the Order of Priesthood; the Receivers humbly kneeling and the Bishop saying,

RECEIVE the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Or this

TAKE thou Authority to execute the Office of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the Imposition of our hands. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The alternative language was included in the Ordinal in these three Prayer Books in recognition that Anglicans disagreed not only about the nature of ordination but also about how the phrase, “Receive the Holy Ghost…,” used in the Ordinal, should be interpreted and understood.

In The Tutorial Prayer Book for the Teacher, Student, & General Reader, Charles Neil and J. M. Willoughby briefly state one recognized school of Anglican thought’s interpretation and understanding of this phrase:
Receive ye the Holy Ghost, etc. This formula consists of a prayer, an address, and a charge. The Bishop, by speaking these words, doth not take upon him to give the Holy Spirit, no more than he doth to remit sins, when he pronounceth the remission of sins; but by speaking these words of Christ ... he doth show the principal duty of a minister, and assureth him of the assistance of God s Holy Spirit, if he labour in the same accordingly.

(See also pp. 96, 322, n.) The words Receive ye the Holy Ghost, do not occur in any Ordinal prior to 1200 A.D.
Also see “Chapter XI: The Ordinal” in Dyson Hague’s The Protestantism of the Prayer Book.

The new ACNA catechism cites 1 Timothy 1:5 in support of the answer it gives to question 122: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Its relevance to the answer is unclear, even when read in the context of 1 Timothy 1:1- 20. It appears to have been included to suggest that the answer has a Scriptural basis.

1 Timothy 5:22 and Acts 6:6 appeared to have been cited because they refer to laying on of hands. In Freed to Serve: Training & Equipping for Ministry Michael Green points to our attention:
In Acts 6 it is not certain whether the apostles or the people lay hands on the seven;in any case it is not clear whether this ordination or an ad hoc measure to relieve a particular situation (p. 35).
We are invited to accept these Scripture passages as providing a Scriptural basis for the particular teaching in the answer to question 122 but is highly questionable as to whether they do.
123. What grace does God give in ordination?

In ordination, God confirms the gifts and calling of the candidates, conveys the gift of the Holy Spirit for the office and work of bishop, priest or deacon, and sets them apart to act on behalf of the Church and in the name of Christ.
In its answer to question 123 new ACNA ordinal further describes what it purports ordination does. Here again we have a view of ordination particular to one school of Anglican thought. It is not shared by all recognized schools of Anglican thought and is not acceptable to or compatible with their views of ordination. One such view of ordination is that it is a public ceremony in which the Church formally recognizes that a person has the calling and gifts for a particular office in the Church and formally bestows upon the person the authority to exercise that office. This view is reflected in the alternate language in the Ordinal in the Form and Manner of Ordaining Priests in the 1789, 1892, and 1928 American Prayer Books. It is also the view reflected in The Tutorial Prayer Book.

In the first article in this series, we took note of the three guidelines set out in the introduction to Being A Christian: An Anglican Catechism:
1. Everything taught should be compatible with, and acceptable to, all recognized schools of Anglican thought, so that all may be able confidently to use all the material.

2. Everything taught should be expressed as briefly as possible, in terms that are clear and correspond to today’s use of language. There should be as little repetition as possible, though some overlap is inevitable.

3.All the answers and questions should be as easy to explain and to remember as possible.
Our examination of the new ACNA catechism to date has shown that the introduction is mere window dressing, added to create a deceptively favorable impression of the catechism. The catechism is decidely Arminian in its view of God and salvation and Anglo-Catholic in its view of the sacraments. The material in the catechism is not material that all recognized schools of Anglican thought can use with confidence. The catechism also appears to presume that those who are studying it are fairly literate and have a good grasp of the English language. A number of the answers do not lend themselves to memorization.

In the next article in this series we will be examining the remaining questions and answers on the sacraments in Part II of Being A Christian: An Anglican Catechism. We will be skipping the questions and answers on ordained ministry. We will come back to those questions and answers later and examine them in a separate article on the new ACNA catechism’s teaching on Christian ministry.

Also see
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 4)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 3)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 2)
What does the new ACNA catechism teach about the sacraments? (Part 1)
What does the new ACNA catechism mean for Anglicans in North America? outside of North America?
What Does the New ACNA Catechism Teach about the Holy Spirit?
How Reliable Is the New ACNA Catechism?
Does the New ACNA Catechism Teach a Synergistic Arminian View of God and Salvation?
The New ACNA Catechism – A Closer Look
Tada! New ACNA Catechism Finally Online

Bill Ingram: What We Learned From a Failed Church Merger

It wasn't easy, but it taught us a lot.

Our church, Journey of Faith, has served the South Bay for over 100 years. We've always had a commitment to reach those who do not know Jesus Christ, both here and abroad. It was that commitment which led us to try and help New Joy, a struggling and dying church in nearby Bellflower, California.

New Joy, for numerous reasons, had been steadily declining since 1962. They had around 250 people back then, but had dwindled to 49 in 2008, having been without a senior pastor since 2005. Journey of Faith wanted to turn New Joy into a satellite campus for the main campus in Manhattan Beach, California. The plan was four-fold: fix the facilities, provide high quality worship, provide a weekly message on High Definition DVD, and provide a campus pastor who could shepherd the congregation and develop new ministries to reach the community.

Five years later, sadly, Journey of Faith decided to no longer support the Bellflower campus. The Bellflower campus never lived up to the expectations of Journey of Faith. Bellflower did not break the 100 person average Sunday morning attendance, has not shown signs that it will be able to become self-sufficient, and seems irrelevant to the community. So after much prayer, the Bellflower campus was launched as an independent church again.

The difficult journey of separating one church back into two has been filled with heartache, disappointments, and many tears; yet, we learned many lessons. Key to them were the differences in big church vs. small church thinking. For us, these lessons will guide our future endeavors to help struggling churches turn around and reach their community and world for Christ. Keep reading

Rick McDaniel: 5 Reasons to Attend Church Regularly

There is a disturbing trend I am noticing in churches. Maybe it is more in larger, contemporary churches than smaller, traditional churches. But since the majority of all churchgoers now attend larger churches this is of real concern. The trend is the decline in percentage attendance. In other words there are less people attending each church service in comparison with the number of people who call the church their home. For years a good percentage would be around 75%. Three out of every four people would be in church on any given Sunday. Now that number may well be 50% or even worse. Regular church attendance is extremely valuable, is very important and should be practiced by anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. A Christ-follower needs to regularly attend church. Not counting the times that you might miss for vacation or sickness or a particular work commitment you should be in church.

Church is not something that you do individually it is something that you do collectively. To be a follower of Christ is not just what you do by yourself it is what you do together with other people. We are what the Bible calls the "family of God." A family is by its very nature inter-dependent. What it means to be a part of a local church is that you're inter-dependent with other people in your church. There are strong reasons why you should come to church regularly. Keep reading

Chuck Lawless: 10 Questions for Leaders to Ask Each Week

At the seminary where I teach, we are planning now for the end-of-the-academic year faculty evaluations. Annual evaluations like these are helpful and necessary. They push us to ask how we might improve over the next academic year.

Most leaders, though, would benefit from more regular evaluations – particularly self-evaluations. Even daily and weekly self-evaluations merit our consideration if we want to lead well, regardless of our position.

Listed here are ten questions to help you evaluate your life and leadership at the end of each week. Plan now to consider these questions on Friday or Saturday of this week. Keep reading

More Pointers for Pastors and Lay Preachers - three articles and free ebook download

Tony Merida: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures

A Christ-centered understanding of Scripture should lead us to a Christ-centered philosophy of expository preaching. So, what exactly does it mean to “preach Christ?” Sidney Greidanus defines preaching Christ “as preaching sermons which authentically integrate the message of the text with the climax of God’s revelation in the person, work, and/or teaching of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament.”

To see Christ formed in our people, we should always emphasize, in our exposition, the unique person, work, and/or teaching of the Messiah. Graeme Goldsworthy expresses the heart of Christ-exalting exposition, saying, “It ought to be the aim of every pastor to bring all members of his or her congregation to maturity in Christ. But they cannot mature if they do not know the Christ in the Bible, the Christ to whom the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, give a unified and inspired testimony.”

I want to clarify four biblical reasons why the preacher should desire to preach Christ from the whole Bible. Keep reading

Marc Cortez: 4 Principles for Collaborative Preaching

Preaching is both a high calling and a nearly impossible task. If you read the literature on preaching, you see that the pastor is somehow supposed to be (at least):
  • a biblical scholar—mastering the original languages, exegesis, history, and biblical theology
  • a theologian—well versed in both historical and systematic theology as well as the major philosophies and issues of the day
  • a cultural anthropologist—exegeting the surrounding culture and the forces pressing on and shaping the church
  • a communicator—crafting oral presentations that can present all of this to interested but often distracted listeners and
  • a shepherd—knowing the flock well enough to know what they need to near now to continue growing as the people of God.
Good luck with that. Mastering one of those is difficult enough, but all five? And I’m sure we could easily make the list longer if we tried. Keep reading

Brandon Hilgemann: How to Handle Distractions While Preaching

What is the most distracting thing that has ever happened to you while preaching?

For me it was when I was a youth pastor at a church in New Mexico. I was preaching to a group of high school students.

In the middle of my message, a boy stood up, jump onto his chair and began to do what looked like an Irish jig. And before I could say anything, the chair flipped over, dropping the boy flat on his back. Everyone burst into laughter. Keep reading

Christ-centered Preaching and Teaching - Free eBook

Brad Waller: Discipling Every Age

For the first time in the history of our country, four generations are living and working together. There are the Traditionalists (born 1925–1945), the Baby Boomers (1946–1964), Generation X (1965–1980), and the next demographic explosion, the Millennials (1981–1999). Each of these generations has been uniquely influenced by the world in which they were raised.

The Traditionalists lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. Baby Boomers were introduced to the television during their birth years. Generation X was influenced by the arrival of twenty-four-hour cable news, where they witnessed the harsh effects of life in a fallen world at all hours of the day and night. The Millennials are growing up in a “virtual world” of social media, online classes, and technologies that seem to update by the hour.

With such generational diversity and all the challenges that come with reaching each demographic, how can the church effectively disciple each of these groups in a way that honors Christ? Keep reading