Friday, October 31, 2014

Reformation Day and the English Reformation


By Robin G. Jordan

Today Friday October 31 is Reformation Day, a day for Anglicans faithful to the Bible and the Anglican confessional formularies to commemorate the Protestant Reformation—what may be the greatest movement of the Holy Spirit since the time of the Apostles.

The English Reformation was a part of the Protestant Reformation. The English Reformation may have evidenced its own peculiarities but it was an integral part of the larger movement.

The English Reformation extended over the reign of five English monarchs—Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth I, and James I. Some historians would argue that it continued into the reign of Charles I and even later.

During her brief five-year reign Mary would restore the Roman Catholic Church in her realm and would burn a number of English Protestants at the stake as heretics, ordinary common folk as well as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and other leading figures of the Edwardian Reformation. A number of English Protestants who would play a prominent role in the Elizabethan Reformation went into hiding or fled to Europe. Those who escaped across the Channel found refuge in Geneva and Zurich. In these two cities they drank deeply from the wells of Reformed theology.

The large number of Protestant martyrs who came from ordinary walks of life itself showed the extent that Protestantism had taken hold upon the hearts and minds of the English people in the short reign of the godly prince Edward VI.

What did the English Reformation accomplish? Here is a partial list.

  • Translation and publication of the Bible in English
  • Translation and publication of the works of the Continental Reformers in English
  • Recovery of the New Testament gospel and the New Testament doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone
  • Restoration of the Bible as the canon or functioning rule of faith and life
  • Repudiation of Papacy—the belief that the Bishop of Rome is the divine instituted head of the whole Church on earth
  • Repudiation of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass
  • Repudiation of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, and relics
  • Repudiation of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrine of the veneration of Mary and the saints
  • Repudiation of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrines of apostolic succession, holy orders, and sacraments
  • Repudiation of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation
  • Removal of images, reliquaries, and holy water stoups from English churches
  • Replacement of stone high altars placed against the east wall of the chancel with wooden communion tables at the entrance to the chancel or in the nave itself
  • Use of the vernacular in the rites and services of the Church
  • Revival of Biblical expository preaching
  • Recovery of the communion of the people in both kinds
  • Repudiation of the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation
  • Authorization and use of a communion service giving liturgical expression to the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith
  • Revival of congregational singing in the form of metrical psalmody and Scriptural paraphrases
  • Abolition of ceremonial and vestments associated with the pre-Reformation Medieval Catholic and post-Tridentian Roman Catholic doctrines of the Mass and transubstantiation
  • Authorization and use of a Biblical and Reformed catechism
  • Enactment and enforcement of Biblical and Reformed standards of doctrine and worship in the form of the Book of Common Prayer of 1552, 1559, and 1604; the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571; the two Books of Homilies of 1549, 1563, and 1571; the Ordinals of 1552 and 1559; and the Canons of 1604
  • Creation of a widespread Protestant culture in England

Today is the day for Anglicans faithful to the Bible and the Anglican confessional formularies to call upon like-minded Anglicans to recommit themselves to the Biblical and Reformed principles of the English Reformers and to uphold those principles in our own day. May the candle that Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley lit with their martyrdom burn brightly in this century, in North America and around the world.

Photo: Martyrs' Memorial, Oxford - tripwow.tripadvisor.com

The Perils Facing the Evangelical Church


When we consider the predicament that the evangelical church of the twenty-first century faces in America, the first thing we need to understand is the very designation “evangelical church” is itself a redundancy. If a church is not evangelical, it is not an authentic church. The redundancy is similar to the language that we hear by which people are described as “born-again Christians.” If a person is born again of the Spirit of God, that person is, to be sure, a Christian. If a person is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit, he may profess to be a Christian, but he is not an authentic Christian. There are many groups that claim to be churches that long ago repudiated the evangel, that is, the gospel. Without the gospel, a gathering of people, though they claim otherwise, cannot be an authentic church.

In the sixteenth century, the term evangelical came into prominence as a description of the Protestant church. In many cases, the terms evangelical and Protestant were used interchangeably. Today, that synonymous use of the adjectives no longer functions with any accuracy. Historic Protestants have forgotten what they were protesting in the sixteenth century. The central protest of the Reformation church was the protest against the eclipse of the gospel that had taken place in the medieval church. Read more

Is the Reformation Over?


Ask a Protestant today what is the biggest threat to orthodox Christianity today, and he might mention nominalism, the sexual revolution, or old fashioned liberalism. But if you would have asked a Protestant the same question a hundred years ago, he would have almost certainly mentioned the Roman Catholic Church. Until fairly recently—we are only talking about a few generations—Protestant and Catholics in this country were, if not enemies, then certainly players on opposing teams.

Today, much of that animosity has melted away. And to a large extent, the thaw between Protestants and Catholics has been a good thing. Protestants and Catholics have found themselves to be co-belligerents in the culture war, defending the unborn, upholding traditional marriage, and combating moral relativism and secular humanism. And in an age which discounts doctrine, evangelical Protestants often share more in common theologically with a devout Roman Catholic steeped in historic orthodoxy than they do with liberal members of their own denominations. I personally have benefited from Catholic authors like G.K. Chesterton, Richard John Neuhaus, and Robert George. I have respected the Catholic Church for taking principled, unpopular stands on moral issues.

And yet, the theological gulf between Protestants and Catholics is still wide and in places very deep. If we care about the doctrines that were most precious to the Reformers we must not dare to assert that the “Reformation is over,” as if all the theological hills have been laid low and all the dogmatic valleys made into a plain.

Below are a number of points which still separate Catholics and Protestants. No doubt, many Roman Catholics don’t actually believe (or even know) what Catholic theology states. I am not claiming to know definitely what Catholics think and practice in all these areas. But by seeking to understand official church documents we can get a good idea of what Catholics are supposed to believe. And what they should believe include a number of points sola Scriptura Protestants cannot affirm. Read more

Francis Schaeffer 'indispensable' to SBC


The late Francis Schaeffer was known to pick up the phone during the early years of the Southern Baptist Convention's conservative resurgence. Paige Patterson knew to expect a call from Schaeffer around Christmas with the question, "You're not growing weary in well-doing are you?"

Patterson, a leader in the movement to return the SBC to a high view of Scripture, would reply, "No, Dr. Schaeffer. I'm under fire, but I'm doing fine. And I'm trusting the Lord and proceeding on."

To some it may seem strange that an international Presbyterian apologist and analyst of pop culture would take such interest in a Baptist controversy over biblical inerrancy.

But to Schaeffer it made perfect sense.

He believed churches were acquiescing to the world, abandoning their belief that the Bible is without error in everything it said. A watered-down theology left the SBC with decreased power to battle cultural evils. To Schaeffer the convention was the last major American denomination with hope for reversing this "great evangelical disaster," as he put it. Read more
The only "conservative resurgence" in the Anglican Church in North America, if it can be called that, is not a return to the Scriptures as the canon or functioning rule of faith and life for Anglicans and to the Anglican confessional formularies as their doctrinal and worship standard, to which 2008 Global Future Conference called Anglicans, but a revival of what Douglas Bess, historian of the Continuing Anglican Movement, describes as "an extreme form of Anglo-Catholicism that seeks to reconstruct Anglicanism on the model of the pre-Great Schism period of the eleventh -century, undivided Church." Its adherents view this period, the early High Middle Ages, as the golden age of Christianity.

Reformation Then and Now, Here and There


The message read simply enough: "We invite you to address us, October 23 to 25, on the theme 'Reformation Then and Now.'" But the origin of the request gave me pause. It came from Presbyterian churches in Singapore that trace their roots to conservative American Presbyterians, circa 1950. Beyond traveling halfway around the world, there stood a more daunting challenge. How could I draw lessons from the Reformation, for a body of churches living in an Asian, Westernized, prosperous, polyglot, polyethnic culture that I barely understood? What could I say about the Reformation to believers so far removed from Luther and Calvin?

The character of the Reformation is so distant, so alien to Singapore, an island state without German or Catholic roots. Their religious interlocutors are not a single, society-dominating, gospel-fuddling church, but an amalgamation of Taoists, Muslims, Hindus, and syncretistic, shape-shifting Buddhists. Read more

Luther's Ninety-Five Theses: What You May Not Know and Why They Matter Today


If people know only one thing about the Protestant Reformation, it is the famous event on October 31, 1517, when the Ninety-five Theses of Martin Luther (1483–1586) were nailed on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in protest against the Roman Catholic Church. Within a few years of this event, the church had splintered into not just the “church’s camp” or “Luther’s camp” but also the camps of churches led by theologians of all different stripes.

Luther is known mostly for his teachings about Scripture and justification. Regarding Scripture, he argued the Bible alone (sola scriptura) is our ultimate authority for faith and practice. Regarding justification, he taught we are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit. We are neither saved by our merits nor declared righteous by our good works. Additionally, we need to fully trust in God to save us from our sins, rather than relying partly on our own self-improvement. Read more

Free Reformation Day Friday - Free eBooks, Audios & Videos


In celebration of Reformation Day, for the first time ever we're replacing our usual $5 Friday sale with Free Reformation Day Friday. Until 11:59pm ET on Friday, October 31, 2014, you can download the following digital resources for free. Learn more

Halloween and the Dark Side — What Should Christians Think?


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

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

See also
Day of the Dead Gets New Life

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ed Stetzer: Strategy Matters in Fast Growing Churches


I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anyone who became a pastor so that they could spend their time worrying about strategy.

Those of us who are pastors and church leaders generally invest in ministry because we love people, not because we love spreadsheets and flowcharts. We love ministry because we want to see people move from where they are to where God wants them to be. There are very few things in life more powerful.

Seeing broken people become whole in and through Jesus really is amazing. However, church leaders do themselves—and the churches they lead—a huge disservice when they neglect strategy because they are not naturally inclined to it. Many pastors and church leaders are not necessarily strategically inclined, and because of that they ignore it or intentionally neglect it.

In our research on the Fastest-Growing and Largest churches in America, however, we have found that strategy really matters. Churches which are rapidly growing, and which maintain that growth, place a premium on intentional and strategic leadership. Read more

Krish Kandiah: Why I've changed my mind about Halloween


There are a lot of horror stories circulating around Halloween; and some of them even come from the church. Some Christians are fearful of vigilante violence from disgruntled pre-schoolers who might egg their houses if there are no sweets on hand. Some are nervous of their children trick or treating at strangers' houses and being given chocolate bars with razors in them. Others bemoan the commercialisation of our calendar with Halloween now the third biggest grossing festival of the year. But the biggest fear is the celebration of evil being a satanic entry point into young impressionable lives. As a parent of five children I recognise the dilemmas facing mums, dads and carers across the country. Which costumes would I be comfortable with them wearing? Do I forbid them from joining in the trick-and-treating? What do I do when their zombiefied friends come round? Which of their regular TV shows do I now turn off?

I want to explore three paradoxes of Halloween which are leading me to perhaps, controversially, change the way I handle the festival with my family this year. Read more

Five reasons to trust the Gospels


The four Gospels of the Bible provide the foundation of Christian belief. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record the life of Jesus while on Earth: the famous nativity and crucifixion stories, and also what Jesus taught and how he behaved.

Orthodox Christians treat the Gospels as historical books: they are recording what actually happened – miracles, healings, resurrection and all. But some centuries ago this belief started to be questioned. Now, it's commonly believed outside (and sometimes inside) the church, that modern investigation has shown the Gospels to be unreliable, or fundamentally altered, or made up many decades after the events.

More recently, some Bible scholars have become sceptical of the sceptics: and become more robust in defending the Gospels as trustworthy and reliable historical records of what Jesus said and did. Here's a very short introduction to a few of these ideas. Read more

7 Marks of a Deeply Deadly Sin


Not all sin is the same. While every sin places you under the wrath of God, and while any sin is sufficient to create an eternal chasm between God and man, not every sin is identical. In chapter 9 of his work Overcoming Sin and Temptation, John Owen wants you to think about that besetting sin in your life to consider if it is an “ordinary” sin, or if it is one that is particularly deadly and that, therefore, requires something more than the usual pattern of putting sin to death. The deadliness of a sin is not related so much to the category of that sin, but to how deeply-rooted it is in your life, and to how you have responded to God as he has revealed it to you.

Here are seven marks of a deeply deadly sin. Read more

Church Leadership Basics: Seven Articles


4 Tasks of the Senior Leader

One reason leadership can make a person feel isolated is the weight of responsibility on the one who claims to be the senior leader in an organization. Whether in the business world, in non-profits or in churches, there are some things that happen in any organization that senior leaders help determine — whether intentional or not. In each of these cases, inactivity determines them just as much as activity.

The weight of that responsibility can be overwhelming at times, but it’s unavoidable to a point. It comes with the position.

Successful senior leaders are cognizant of their input in them and place intentional energy towards them. Read more

7 Common Ways to Lose the Support of Senior Leadership

s a rule, I’m pretty hard on senior leadership. Having been in such a position for over 25 years I know the bad side of senior leadership. I’ve witnessed it and, in full candor, I’ve been it.

My goal is always to improve senior leadership for all of us. That’s a chief goal of this blog.

But, what about supporting senior leadership?

And, the support from senior leadership for those attempting to follow?

Those are equally important topics in leadership. Any good senior leader knows he or she is nothing without the people on their team. So, that requires confidence in the people trying to follow senior leadership.

What causes senior leadership to lose confidence in people they are trying to lead?

How do you lose the support of senior leadership? Read more

5 Suggestions When the Senior Leader is Unpopular

Making the right decision isn’t always appreciated. If a leader is going to do anything of value, it will involve risks and be subject to the opinions of others.

There will be days, weeks and seasons where it feels as if everyone is against you — even though you know, because of insight you have — that others don’t have or because of a calling of God — that you are doing the best thing for the organization.

These are hard days for the leader. I once wrote about the loneliness of these times in leadership HERE.

How do you respond when your position of senior leader is not that popular? Read more

The Most Important Leadership Characteristic

In their landmark leadership book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner share that the most important leadership characteristic is credibility. Based on extensive research over two decades, they boldly claim that “more than anything, we want leaders who are credible. People must be able to believe in their leaders.”

To Kouzes and Posner, credibility is the overarching leadership characteristic that describes a leader who is honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. Read more

3 Keys To Pushing Past Your Personal Leadership Ceiling

Hit any leadership ceilings lately?

You know that moment when you realize you need to grow but you just don’t know how?

Welcome to the club.

We all feel that as leaders.

After 19 years of leading a church, I feel like I hit them quite regularly.

I was talking to a friend the other day who said like he felt he had stopped making progress as a leader. I was shocked, because I saw the progress he was making very clearly. He just couldn’t see it.

He’s been in his current position for a couple of years now and with the same church for 6 years. It’s often in that window that you start to feel like you are hitting a ceiling you can’t break through.

It got us into a great conversation about how you grow as a leader when you’ve been doing something for a while.

Here are three things I’ve learned about my personal leadership ceilings and how to break through them. Read more

7 Of My Most Repeated Leadership Nuggets

I meet with pastors weekly either in person or online. It fuels me to invest in younger leaders and always challenges me as I learn from them. I’m a better leader because I intentionally invest in other leaders.

(There’s a hint for some of you more seasoned leaders.)

It always seems the so-called wisdom I share gathers in seasons. When I say something to one pastor I usually end up repeating it to another. It could be that the nugget is in my schema or it is another way God stretches and teaches me so He can use me. I learn best with repetition.

But, eventually, once I’ve repeated it several times, I write it down. Then it becomes ingrained in my memory bank.

(There’s another hint there.)

This post is a collection of some of the more recent nuggets.... Read more

Sleep: The Secret Leadership Weapon No One Wants to Talk About

If there was a secret weapon in leadership, would you use it?

Most of us would say ‘absolutely’—as long as it’s ethical.

So here’s a leadership weapon almost no leader will talk about. In fact, in some circles, it’s embarrassing to talk about.

Sleep.

More specifically, getting enough of it.

In more than a few high octane leadership circles, barely sleeping is seen as a badge of honour (I can run on 4 hours a night!)

But what if your lack of sleep wasn’t a badge of honour at all?

What if your lack of sleep is undermining your leadership? Making you worse, not better?

And what if it’s not just taking a toll on you at work, but also at home…making you a worse parent, spouse and even friend? Read more

7 Social Media Myths (That You Probably Think Are True)


According to a recent study 83 percent of marketers are still confused about social media marketing, a situation not helped by the sheer amount of misinformation circulating around the web.

Here, for example, are 7 social media myths that you may well believe to be true. Read more

Are Millennials Leaving the Church Because of Homosexuality?


While many of the specific reasons for an individual church’s or denomination’s decline are complicated, there are two over-arching reasons for extended drops in membership and attendance – the lack of orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxy (right actions).

To ignore one or the other will undoubtably lead to decline, regardless of how well we think we have the other handled. That is of particular importance because of the way both sides have treated the issue of homosexuality. Read more

How Cars Created the Megachurch


And put churchgoers in the driver's seat

Of the 150 or so acres making up Willow Creek Community Church’s main campus, a full 8 acres are devoted to buildings. Parking lots cover more than 28. That ratio demonstrates just how important cars are to most churches today.

Though Willow Creek is now a multi-site church, it still calls South Barrington, Illinois, home. Population? 4,656, Each weekend, most of the church’s 20,000 attendees drive on to the main campus using three major entrances, swelling the suburban village’s population for a few hours on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. People arrive by car from all over Chicagoland. The fact is undeniable: for megachurches, cars are essential. Read more
My reaction to this article was, "This may be true for megachurches in the United States. But is it true for megachurches outside the United States where car ownership is less common and where people rely on mass transit and other forms of transportation, including their own two feet?" Christians outside the United States may wish to study what has contributed to the growth of megachurches in their own locality. Such a study will give them a better understanding of the megachurch phenomenon in their part of the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Is Reformation Day All About?


On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Friday is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation. Read more

How Christians Will Know They Can Join Hands With Rome


With Reformation Day coming up, this is a good time to recall why the Reformers departed from Roman Catholicism. In our day especially, it seems that many Christians have history-amnesia when it comes to the importance of what God did through the Reformers. During the Reformation, great confusion existed regarding what was, and was not, the true church of Christ. Rome had asserted itself as the true church for centuries, and continues to do so today. However, as the Reformers recognized then, Christians must follow in step today by recalling that joining hands with Rome is a departure from Christ.

To be clear, this is not to say that everyone who sits in a Roman Catholic church is not a Christian. What it is saying is that several changes must occur before Roman Catholicism, by the book, can be considered biblical Christianity. And the men and women of the Reformation understood this, hence their necessary break with Rome. In their case, and ours, joining Christ necessitates breaking with Rome and coming under Christ means coming out from under Rome.

Christians will know that it is time to join hands with Rome when it does the following.... Read more

Four things evangelicals get wrong about Halloween


Imagine the scene. A pitch-black night. Half a dozen semi-feral kids, dressed to terrify. A old lady in a phone box. The pack of assorted ghouls hidden in bushes around it, waiting to jump out and scare the liver out of her when she'd finished.

It's the dark side of Halloween, all right, that and the whole occult thing.

I confess: I was one of them. I remember feeling very daring in my white sheet with holes cut in it for eyes (I assume I had asked my mother for permission). I also remember the growing sense of unease as the old lady stayed on the phone and the whispered discussions among the rustling leaves. Had she seen us? Was she too scared to come out? Could she be calling the police?

We were not cut out for villainy. We stood up sheepishly and apologised to her when she emerged. She was very gracious and asked if we did anything on Sunday afternoons. No, we said, too demoralised for quick thinking; and so it was that my brothers and I joined a small Brethren assembly at four o'clock every Sunday for the next few years.

Every year, at about this time, there's a outbreak of evangelical hysteria about Hallowe'en. All that stuff about witches and ghosts, and the more fashionable zombies – it can't be healthy, surely? So we claim that it 'celebrates evil', we manufacture worries about children being out by themselves in the dark knocking on strange doors, and run Light Parties instead which are terrifically cheerful. There's nothing at all wrong with Light Parties; my own church is doing one. But here's why I think evangelical churches have got things a bit wrong. Read more

See also
My First American Halloween
Scarier than Halloween
One All Hallows Eve I dressed as Padrig, the apostle to the Irish and Ireland, and went from house to house, carrying a staff topped with a cross. At each house I offered to invoke God's blessing on the house's occupants. I don't remember being turned down by anyone. Take time to listen to this beautiful version of "The Deer's Cry", or St. Patrick's Breastplate, sung by Angelina Davis. For the lyrics of this hymn and story behind it, see "Deer's Cry or St. Patrick's Breastplate." To my way of thinking it is the perfect hymn for the Eve of Hallowmas.

14 Questions Church Leaders Should Ask about Church Finances


A consistent theme I have seen in many churches is in the area of church finances. Many church leaders operate out of a mode of scarcity instead of abundance. While I realize that churches cannot and should not spend foolishly, too many church leaders just don’t recognize that God has provided more than they think.

Often the issue is not lack of funds, but unwise choices of church expenditures. There are many reasons for this reality; I plan to address them in a future post. Read more

McKeever on Preaching: Three Articles


How much is preaching worth?

“I solemnly charge you: preach the gospel; persist in it whether convenient or not….” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

I’m worn out this Monday morning. In the last 7 days, I have preached in Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. (That would be New Orleans, Charlotte, Charleston, and Albertville.)

In the process, I logged almost 2,000 miles in my little Honda CR-V.

I met a thousand new friends, and was able to visit with and encourage many pastors whom I was meeting for the first time.

They paid me, too, in case anyone wonders. Actual money.

Several questions linger on this (very early) Monday morning.... Read more

Daring to Preach the Same Message Twice

As a young pastor, I couldn't repeat a sermon any more than I could eat yesterday's breakfast again. Each sermon was a one-time thing. When it was over, it was gone forever.

But then, invitations began to come in to preach in churches pastored by friends who thought I had something worth sharing with their people. That's when I had to get serious about repeating a sermon. After all, my friends' members hadn't heard my stories or sermons. Anything I did would be new to them.

Those early attempts to preach repeats in my late 20s and early 30s were fairly pathetic, I think. Since my sermon notes were always one thing and the actual sermon something else entirely, nothing in writing told me what I had preached the first time, so I couldn't reproduce it verbatim. I had to go from memory, or better, get with the Lord anew on that sermon.

These days—I'm now 70 and retired—almost every sermon I preach is on a topic I've preached before (with the occasional exception; hey, I'm not living on reruns here!). As a result, I have more or less figured this thing out, at least to my satisfaction. Maybe pastors will find something of benefit here. Read more

What audience feedback means—especially to preachers

Billy Joel gets it.

This veteran entertainer does something I find fascinating.

According to The New Yorker (October 27, 2014), Joel “grew tired of having to look out at the fat cats in the two front rows, the guys who’d bought the best seats, and then sat there projecting a look of boredom that (says)…’Entertain me, Piano Man.'”

It was dampening his own enthusiasm, and that of his band, to have the non-responsive on the front rows. He wanted the fans nearest him to be enthusiastic participants in the evening’s activities.

That’s why “Joel’s people stopped selling the two front rows and instead send the crew into the cheap seats before the show to hand out tickets to people of their choosing.”

“Joel believes it helps buck up the band.”

I can believe that.

Every preacher knows. Read more

Biblical Literacy by the Numbers: Fixing the Problem


Engaging with Scripture can begin to solve our biblical illiteracy problem, but how do we engage with Scripture?

Faithful and Fruitful: How Do We Fix the Problem?
Of course, you already knew that reading the Bible helped you to grow. It's actually doing it that's a challenge. So what are some ways churches are helping people to engage the Scriptures more intentionally? Based on our work with churches, we've seen a few patterns. Those producing the most fruit concerning Bible engagement do the following.... Read more

Survey: heaven, hell & a bit of heresy


Most Americans believe in heaven, hell and a few old-fashioned heresies.

Those are among the findings of a new study of American views about Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Americans also disagree about mixing religion and politics and about the Bible. And few pay much heed to their pastor's sermons or see themselves as sinners, according to the online survey of 3,000 Americans commissioned by Orlando-based Ligonier Ministries.

Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries, said the study was intended to "take the temperature of America's theological health."

Ligonier founder and chairman R.C. Sproul noted, "What comes screaming through this survey is the pervasive influence of humanism." Read more

Pray for Christians who are ‘living in Babylon’ this weekend


Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, calls for prayer for persecuted Christians on the Barnabas Fund Day of Prayer, this Saturday, November 1st:
“The fires of anti-Christian persecution rage on around the world. Through most of the Middle East, and in large parts of Africa and Asia, our brothers and sisters continue to suffer discrimination, ill-treatment and violence because of their love for Christ. Research has estimated that around 200 million Christians – about 10% of the total number – are disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their faith…”
See also www.livinginbabylon.org

And the Australian Christian Lobby is calling for churches to stand in prayer with their persecuted brothers and sisters on November 2nd – Solidarity Sunday.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10 Reasons Why Friends and Family Struggle to Believe the Gospel


Southeastern Seminary, where I work, challenged all students, staff, and faculty to share the gospel at least once a day during the month of September. Based on my experiences that month, in addition to years of sharing Christ with family members, here are my thoughts about why my family and friends struggle with believing the gospel. Read more

The Beauty of the Cross: 19 Objections and Answers on Penal Substitutionary Atonement


The cross of Christ has always been a scandal and an offense. As a symbol of social shame in the Greco-Roman world, the idea of a Crucified God elicited scorn from the cultured elites. For 1st Century Jews, a crucified Messiah was a nonsensical contradiction in terms. Even today, speaking of Jesus’ death as the saving center of history provokes a quizzical response both in the pews and the marketplace. Beyond that, there has been a wide variety of debate around just how Jesus’ death saves us within the church itself. Historically, there has been no binding ecumenical statement on the issue comparable to those on of the Trinity and the person of Christ. The result is that many different approaches to explaining the way the death Christ exercises a saving function in the economy of the Triune God.

Though widely-held by Evangelicals and Protestants of all stripes (and even some Catholics like H.U Von Balthasar), among the most controversial views is that of “penal substitution” or “penal representation”, PSA for short (penal substitutionary atonement). At its heart, the idea is that Jesus’ death on the cross was the divine means of dealing and dispensing with the guilt incurred by sinners who have rebelled against the true God. Humanity through its sin violated the divine law, wrecking God’s intended shalom, bringing down condemnation upon them, and alienating them from proper relationship with God. God being just as well as loving and merciful sends the Son, Jesus, as an innocent, representative person, the Godman, to take responsibility for human sin and suffer punishment on behalf of sinners. Or rather, he suffers the legal consequences of sinners, the judgment and just wrath of God against sin, thereby relieving them of guilt, bringing about reconciliation. Roughly.

As with just about any idea in theology, there has been no little confusion around this issue, provoking a number of criticisms and responses over the years. Now, I happen to be convinced on the basis of Scripture that some form of penal substitution is at the heart of Jesus’ saving work on the cross. I thought it might be helpful, then, to have some sort of post dedicated to listing and answering most of the standard objections against the doctrine, as well as engaging some of the modern objections against it. Mind you, this post is not intended to be extensive in every sense. I will not and cannot go into detailed exegetical arguments establishing the doctrine according to a number of key texts, nor establishing the long-range biblical theology that undergirds it. I think the case is there, but I will point you to resources for that along the way and at the bottom of the post.

That said, I do want to engage some of the broadly theological objections against it, as well as correct popular caricatures of the doctrine along the way. I have to say that a number of the issues that people have with penal substitution are quite understandable when you consider some of the silliness that passes for biblical preaching on the subject in popular contexts. Those who affirm the doctrine as true and beautiful do our hearers no benefit when we defend misshapen, caricatured versions of the doctrine. I’ll try to do my best to avoid that in what follows. Read more

The Mirage of "Golden Age" Christianity


Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age skewers the notion that secularism is the result of a straight-shot progression from religious superstition to objective rational belief in science. His historical survey delves into the complexities of the historical record, and along the way, he shows how easy it is to interpret history as a way of justifying our own biases. Read more

See also
The Problem With “The Problem With the Church Today...”
The mirage that a segment of the Anglican Church in North America, including a large number of its leaders, are chasing, the purported "golden age" to which they are seeking to return the Church, is the early high Middle Ages,  the period before the East-West Schism in the eleventh century.
Graphic: stanford.edu 

Believing the Wrong Story


Earlier this year, a Japanese war hero died. His name was Hiroo Onoda, and he was a Japanese imperial soldier who fought in WWII. When the opposing military landed where Onoda was stationed, most of his colleagues were killed or surrendered. Onoda, however, fled with three other soldiers into hiding in the jungle. That was February 28, 1945. He would not emerge from hiding for 29 years.

He continued hiding because he thought the war was still going on, though in reality it ended just months after he had fled into hiding. In October 1945, Hiroo and his companions saw a leaflet announcing that Japan had surrendered, but they ignored it because they thought it was propaganda and not trustworthy. More leaflets were dropped from airplanes toward the end of 1945, but they did not believe these either. So they kept hiding, kept striving, kept fighting.

As the years passed, one of Onoda’s companions left the others to surrender, and two were killed in shootouts with police. For 29 years, Onoda lived on the run, lived as if the battle was still raging. He believed the wrong story and it radically impacted his life.

Many in our churches believe the wrong story. They have an erroneous view of the Lord and of His world. When we believe the wrong story, there are devastating implications. We chase things that don’t matter. We fight battles that are meaningless. Many in our churches even believe the wrong story about the Bible. Even among people who read the Bible every week, who sit in a kid’s ministry, a student ministry, a Sunday school class, or a small group—some fail to see the real story of the Bible. Church leaders are constantly teaching a story, and there are two common, yet inaccurate stories heralded in churches. Read more

New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies


Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines.

ost American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.

A survey released today by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries “reveals a significant level of theological confusion,” said Stephen Nichols, Ligonier’s chief academic officer. Many evangelicals do not have orthodox views about either God or humans, especially on questions of salvation and the Holy Spirit, he said.

Evangelicals did score high on several points. Nearly all believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead (96%), and that salvation is found through Jesus alone (92%). Strong majorities said that God is sovereign over all people (89%) and that the Bible is the Word of God (88%).

And in some cases the problem seems to be uncertainty rather than heresy. For example, only 6 percent of evangelicals think the Book of Mormon is a revelation from God, but an additional 18 percent aren’t sure and think it might be. Read more
To those who believe that the Anglican Church in North America addresses the problem of erroneous beliefs with To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism, it must be pointed out that the new ACNA catechism actually contributes to that problem, directly stating or implying beliefs that are not consistent with the teaching of the Scriptures or the doctrine of the Anglican confessional formularies. Texts for Common Prayer and the proposed ACNA rites for the admission of catechumens, baptism, and confirmation likewise directly state or imply such beliefs.

Does My Local Church Have Authority to Declare That I Am Not a Christian?


A new Lifeway survey found that 9 in 10 evangelicals say no. Here's how Christian leaders responded.

Jesus may have given the apostle Peter, representing the church, the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19). But 9 in 10 self-identified U.S. evangelicals told LifeWay Research—which just published a study on evangelicals' theological awareness—they don’t believe the church has such authority. Here’s how theologians and other experts answered the question. Answers are arranged on a spectrum from “yes” answers at the top to “no” answers at the bottom. Read more

The State of Theology: New Findings on America’s Theological Health


Earlier this year, Ligonier Ministries commissioned a survey of 3,000 Americans in partnership with LifeWay Research. The survey quantified Americans’ theological knowledge and awareness. A combination of true and false statements was used to test participants. The survey addressed core doctrinal topics and issues, such as the Bible, salvation, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, sin, the Trinity, man, hell, and the nature of the church. In our desire to serve the church in fulfilling the Great Commission, these findings help to point out common gaps in theological knowledge and awareness so that Christians might be more effective in the proclamation, teaching, and defense of the essential truths of the Christian faith.
The sanctity of truth is a guiding principle for Ligonier because we stand on the Word of God. While there is moral collapse around us leading to political capitulation, the pressing issue is the collapse in orthodox Christian theology. Our crisis is profoundly theological in nature, not methodological. If we want to see an awakening in our generation, the church must boldly proclaim the truth. Read more

Two per cent of Anglican priests don't believe in God, survey finds


As a prerequisite for the job of being a Church of England priest, it would seem not unreasonable to expect a belief in God to be fairly essential.

But this is not the case, according to a poll of Anglican clergy which found that as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.

It is 30 years since David Jenkins, then the Bishop of Durham, caused controversy by casting doubt on the resurrection, but it appears that such unorthodox views are widespread amongst Britain’s priests.

In addition to those who describe God as a human creation, the YouGov poll found that three per cent believe there is some sort of spirit or life force and 9 per cent argue it is impossible to imagine what God is like.

Clergy were significantly more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs the older they were and the longer they had been in the ministry. Nearly 90 per cent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with only 72 per cent of those who became priests in the 1960s, the research discovered. Read more

See also
Church of England: One in 50 clergy don't believe in God
The bad news is that the Church of England has left clergy and bishops "relatively free to deviate from doctrine without punishment." The good news is almost 90 per cent of clergy ordained since 2011 believe in God.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Theologian for the Ages: John Calvin


John Calvin (1509–1564) is easily the most important Protestant theologian of all time and remains one of the truly great men who have lived. A world-class theologian, a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, and a valiant Reformer, Calvin is seen by many as the greatest influence on the church since the first century. Apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands as the most influential minister of the Word the world has ever seen. Philip Melanchthon revered him as the most able interpreter of Scripture in the church, and therefore labeled him simply “the theologian” (J. H. Merle d’Aubigné, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, Vol. 7 [1880; repr., Harrisonburg, Va.: Sprinkle, 2000], 82). And Charles Spurgeon said that Calvin “propounded truth more clearly than any other man that ever breathed, knew more of Scripture, and explained it more clearly” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Laus Deo,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached by C. H. Spurgeon, Vol. 10 [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim, 1976], 310). Read more

Ten Reasons Why I’m Not Giving Up on Local Churches: A Plea for Revitalization


The naysayers are at full throttle. “Local churches are dying!” “Churches are no longer relevant.” “The church is full of hypocrites.” “I don’t need the institutional church.”

The naysayer nabobs of negativity are in full force. It’s easy to give up. It sadly can be easy to believe God has given up on our churches. But He has not. I am convinced He has not.

My son, Sam Rainer, posted here his reasons why we should not give up on established churches. Indeed, he wrote an entire book on the topic. Allow me to add my own postscript with ten more reasons. Read more

Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission


What if a crisp October wind blew through “the way we’ve always done things” at Halloween? What if the Spirit stirred in us a new perspective on October 31? What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission?

What if spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all things included Halloween — that amalgamation of wickedness now the second-largest commercial holiday in the West? Read more

Inerrancy and Church History: Calvin and Luther


Both Martin Luther and John Calvin spoke often of their view of Scripture. Luther’s understanding of biblical inerrancy, like his predecessors (in the early church and middle ages), grew from his belief in the divine inspiration of Scripture. As Lutheran historian Robert Preus summarizes, “Luther’s notion of biblical infallibility arose from his firm belief that the Bible is the Word of God and that God spoke to him there powerfully and authoritatively” (Preus, “Luther and Biblical Infallibility,” in Inerrancy and the Church, 110).

Also like his historical forerunners, Luther does not dedicate a particular volume or treatise to articulating a formal doctrine of Scripture; his commitment to divine inspiration is assumed throughout his writings. Nevertheless, as Preus observes, “one can find scores of statements of Luther’s in which he expressly asserts that Scripture is God’s Word” (Preus, 110). Furthermore, Luther’s commitment to biblical inerrancy followed the tradition established in the early church through the middle ages. That is, Luther believed that Scripture could not contradict itself and that it was truthful in all it affirmed—in matters historical, geographical, scientific, and spiritual. Read more

3 Ways Technology Enables the Mission of the Church


Technology is a resource the church must wisely steward to accomplish the Great Commission.

The technological-ification of the church is a huge issue, and every congregation and every pastor needs to take advantage of technology in order to enable the church’s mission.

I believe technology is a resource that we can use for God’s glory. Here’s three ways technology enables the church’s mission. Read more

Secularism grows as more U.S. Christians turn ‘churchless’


If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.

How does 38 percent sound?

That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones. Read more

Graphic: Barna Group

Church Revitalization Video Consultation Registration Closes at Midnight Tonight


Thom Rainer offers his apologies

I apologize. I really want to keep the registration open to my video consultation on revitalizing churches. But we have to limit the number so we can move forward with a webinar for a finite number in the near future.

One person asked me if we will offer the video consultation in the future. The answer is "most likely" but the bonus material will not be there, and it could be a year from now before we offer the consultation again.

Learn more about what you will be missing.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: October 25, 2014


In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

FCA Chairman's Latest Pastoral Letter Ignores Widening Doctrinal Gap Between ACNA and FCA


By Robin G. Jordan

In his October pastoral letter FCA Chairman Archbishop Iluid Wabukula persists in ignoring the elephant in the FCA living room. One is hard put to see how he can keep pretending that the elephant is not there. It is a very large elephant. Its trumpeting is growing noisier and noisier. The louder it trumpets, the more determined he and other FCA leaders appear to ignore it.

Sooner or later, however, Archbishop Wabukala and the other GAFCON Primates will have to face up to the growing doctrinal disparity between the Anglican Church in North America and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, its failure to fully accept the Bible as a canon or rule of faith and life and the Anglican confessional formularies as its standard of doctrine and worship, and its deliberate exclusion of Anglican Reformed doctrine and practice from its own formularies. The elephant may have been easier to ignore as a calf. But now it is a full-grown bull elephant with tusks that can gore and feet that can trample.

Overlooked in his remarks about the Anglican Church in North America is that GAFCON called for the establishment of an alternative province to the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church at the urging of the Common Cause Leadership Council. It was not entirely a GAFCON initiative. The Common Cause Leadership Council lobbied GAFCON to take this action to give legitimacy to its own efforts to create an alternative jurisdiction to these two Anglican provinces.

Also not mentioned in the pastoral letter is that the Common Cause Leadership Council had signaled with its adoption of the Common Cause Theological Statement that the Common Cause Partners forming the alternative province were prepared to chart their own course. Upon returning from the 2008 Global Conference that adopted the Jerusalem Declaration, Common Cause Bishop Jack Iker in an interview stated:
“… while it is clear that there is no future in The Episcopal Church for traditional Anglo-Catholics, there will be a secure, respected place for us in the province being birthed. Our theological perspective and liturgical practices will be permitted, protected and honored. Our succession of catholic bishops will be secured.”
Bishop Iker further stated:
It is important to remember that the direction of the province that is envisioned will be under the Common Cause Partnership, and for this reason, we must look primarily to the wording of Theological Statement agreed upon by Common Cause some time ago [emphasis added]. There are some slight differences in wording and emphasis in that document from the final statement that came out of the Jerusalem meeting. Suffice it to say that Anglo-Catholics in the future will continue to regard the 1662 Prayer Book, the 39 Articles, liturgical practices, and the Councils of the patristic church just as the Oxford Movement did under Pusey, Keble, and Newman, our fathers in the faith.”
The rest of the interview may be found here.

At the Provincial Council meeting held before the inaugural Provincial Assembly at which the final draft of the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America was adopted, when CANA Bishop Martyn Mimms pointed to the need for changes in the proposed ACNA fundamental declarations to make them more acceptable to evangelicals, the Anglo-Catholic Council members essentially threatened to go their own way if any alterations were made to its provisions.

The only change Anglo-Catholic Council members would agree to was changing the date of the Thirty-Nine Articles from 1563 to 1571. Since the proposed ACNA fundamental declarations equivocated in their acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles, this change was purely cosmetic, even though the 1571 version of the Articles excludes the Lutheran view of the eucharistic presence.

Since that time it has become increasingly evident that a significant number of the ACNA bishops see the Articles as a historical document that they can do with what they wish. Bishop Iker’s statement that the direction of the new province would NOT be determined by GAFCON and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans has proven to be the case.

Needless to say despite these developments Archbishop Wabukala and other FCA leaders cling to the mistaken belief that the Anglican Church in North America is walking in step with the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. It boggles the mind trying to make sense of their obstinate refusal to take notice of the widening gap between ACNA doctrinal positions and FCA doctrinal positions and the ACNA's exclusion of confessing Anglicans adhering to FCA doctrinal positions. If they have any concerns about developments in the ACNA, they have not expressed these concerns publicly in any meaningful way. FCA leaders have not given confessing Anglicans being frozen out  of the ACNA due to their full acceptance of the authority of the Bible and the Anglican confessional formularies any reason to believe that FCA leaders are cognizant of, much less sympathetic to their plight. 

Photo: thehindi.com

When Jesus Says Stay


He wanted to follow Jesus. He wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to live a life of radical obedience. But Jesus told him to stay, not to go. Do not follow me. Read more

Sorcery in the Sanctuary: Witchcraft (Part Two)


Witchcraft is more than pagans daunting pentacles in the park, rather it is using manipulation of powers to bring about one's own (instead of God's) desire. Scripture tells us that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and it has been continually repeated throughout history.

It is not different today as we find undiscerning Christians engaging in ceremonies within our congregations, offering up incense (prayers) to false gods and manipulating their will over God's will. In much the same manner as Saul, we engage in forbidden practices, deceived into thinking we can use these methods to expedite answers from God.

I first saw the laminated Dream Cards which consisted of symbols to help one interpret the message of their dreams, never expecting to find them labeled as "Christian" on Facebook. Read more

10 ways Christians can engage with Halloween


October 31 is a tricky one for Christians.

For some, it's a bit of light-hearted fun and an excuse to eat an absurd amount of sweets, for others, it signifies something darker.

Whatever your thoughts, it's good to be prepared and to engage with what's going on in your community, so we've put together a list of ways you can do just that.... Read more
The church in which I am presently involved participates in Trail of Treats sponsored by the Murray-Calloway County Parks & Recreation in conjunction with a local radio station, Froggy 103.7. Trail of Treats is held in one of Murray's parks and is a community Halloween celebration. The kids are provided with a safe environment in which they can trick or treat. They walk a trail around the park and get candy and goodies from businesses, clubs and other organizations along the way. Another local church with which I am acquainted hosts a Corn Maze, a maze stamped out in a cornfield next to the church's building. The church is in the rural countryside.

The church in which I was previously involved was also a rural church. One year the youth group put on a Fall Festival for the kids in the community with games, face painting, and treats. Another year the church sponsored a bonfire, weiner and marsh mellow roast, and hayride that was open to the community. Among the findings of the community needs survey that the pastor who planted the church conducted with the help of a student short-term mission team was the lack of recreational opportunities in the community.

6 Steps to Prevent Fraud


Protect your church from fraudulent activities.

Keep the following six steps in mind to help prevent fraud from occurring at your church.... Read more

Church Revitalization – Rainer on Leadership #077 [Podcast]


Church revitalization is needed in almost any church. Churches don’t have to be near death to be in need of revitalization. So this week, we discuss this growing need and offer a few solutions and encouragements to those leading their churches to new life. Read more

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:29 — 18.8MB)

See also
Seven Reasons Some Churches Experience Revitalization (While Others Don’t)
The Biggest Challenge for Me in Leading Church Revitalization
Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church
7 Vital Components of Church Revitalization
God is Bigger

There's been some confusion


I don't want you and your church to miss out.

I have recently heard from some pastors and leaders who didn't realize that there is another step to joining the revitalization consultation. I take full responsibility for any confusion there might be.

Simply put: On Monday, October 27 at 11:59 PM Central, the opportunity to purchase this consultation will end.

If you have not purchased the consultation, you will still have access to the three free videos, but YOU WILL MISS.... Learn more

Nuts and Bolts of Leadership: Seven Articles


Three Kinds of First Impressions Leaders Make: The Sponge, the General, and the Magnet

Do you want to be the type of leader who makes a great impression the first time you meet someone? Would you like to have loyal followers because they like you and trust you? If so, stick with me for the rest of this article.

The majority of my readers are church leaders: pastors, church staff, and lay leaders. But these principles of first impression leadership apply to any leader in any setting. And the first impression you give sets the stage for your future leadership, for better or worse.

Here then are the three types of leaders. The metaphors I use are self-evident. Read more

How to Lead Change When You’re NOT The Senior Leader

If you were in charge, everything would be different, wouldn’t it?

But you’re not. At least not yet.

So how do you effect change when you’re NOT the senior leader? How do you lead change when you’re a staff member or simply a volunteer? Read more

3 Problems with Setting Small Goals

If you lead a team, you don’t serve the team or the individuals well if you offer them easy or boring goals. Even worse if you offer them no goals at all. If you fail to rally them around a God-inspired, overarching vision, you fail to lead them well. Here are three problems with small goals.... Read more

Three Essentials for Leadership Fruitfulness and Longevity

I admit that I like lists. I also notice that the Bible is full of lists, starting with the Ten Commandments. Paul has lists of attributes in I Timothy 3 and Titus one and Peter has his own list of leadership qualities in I Peter chapter 5. Additionally, we have lists of the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit in Galatians chapter 5. So making and using lists has a biblical basis.

It’ s probably true, though, that there is no end to the making of lists. Some of us like to create a daily “Do” list to remind us of what needs to be accomplished. Some of us list things that we want to achieve over a longer period of time to help us grow, reach our God-given potential and be the best leaders we can be. Then there is the “Bucket List” of things we want to do before Jesus calls us home.

I’m going to guess that some reading this might hate the idea of lists and break out in an allergic reaction just thinking about it…just kidding. I know it’s probably not quite that bad.

I often think about, and work at, keeping things simple in my life and ministry. Simplicity is one of my current key values. So, in the name of simplicity, following is my short list of just three things I consider fundamentally foundational to leadership fruitfulness and longevity, which I believe every leader aspires to. Read more

Three-and-Done: Why Ministry Leaders Quit and 3 Books That Can Help You Beat the Odds

Most ministry leaders, specifically pastors, tend to leave their ministry after 3 to 4 years. It is an unfortunate statistic that limits a ministry’s ability to flourish. I have heard from several ministry leaders regarding this issue. Here are some reasons why ministry leaders quit after 3 year.... Read more

To Be a Great Leader, You Absolutely Must Be a Reader

If you’ve ever been to Israel, you know there’s a real contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of water and full of life. There are trees and vegetation. They still do commercial fishing there. But the Dead Sea is just that – dead. There are no fish in it and no life around it. The Sea of Galilee is at the top of Israel and receives waters from the mountains of Lebanon. They all come into the top of it and then it gives out at the bottom. That water flows down through the Jordan River and enters into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea takes in but it never gives out. That’s why it’s stagnant. The point is, there must be a balance in our lives to stay fresh with both input and output. There’s got to be an inflow and an outflow. Read more

Before You Respond to that Email, Pause

Someone sends you an email message or a text, and you’re unsure how to respond. It’s about a complex negotiation, or a politically sensitive situation. Or maybe it’s just from a person who unnerves you.

For a moment, you pause. But for most of us, most of the time, that pause doesn’t last long. Instead we react, feeling the need to immediately craft a response. And often we then hit “send” without fully thinking. The result: an awkward or incomplete message that causes the recipient to pause, then react, often starting or continuing a cycle of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Yes, people today expect and want an instantaneous reply to any message. We often accommodate them because delay feels like a violation of modern-day social norms.

But there are many times when we should not immediately reply. And the truth is, we usually know them when they come. That’s what that initial pause is about. The key is to heed it.

There is a simple two-step method to making the pause work for you. First, buy yourself some time to think. Second, follow the four simple C’s of effective communication that help determine how best to respond in terms of the context, content, channel, and contact. Read more