Saturday, October 31, 2015

Looking Beyond the January Primates Meeting

By Robin G. Jordan

As Allen Haley points out on his blog, there are five possible outcomes to the January Primates meeting. The first possible outcome Haley lists is that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada will acknowledge their departure from the teaching of the Bible, admit their error, and agree to bring the their doctrine and practices into line with the Bible’s teaching.

This outcome Haley does not think anyone believes is going to happen. It could happen but it is highly unlikely. He then lists four other possible outcomes, none of which involve a change in the present direction of these two provinces.

The GAFCON and Global Primates who met in Cairo I presume considered all of these possible outcomes before they decided to accept Archbishop Welby’s invitation to the gathering.

I do not view as credible Archbishop Wabukala’s claim that the defense of the Anglican Church in North America and what it represents requires their presence at the meeting. The ACNA is not a particularly sterling example of Anglican orthodoxy and spiritual dynamism to make such a claim. From a theological perspective the ACNA in its official doctrine shows a marked leaning toward unreformed Catholicism of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox varieties.  Despite the seeming appearance of life and vitality in certain segments of the ACNA, the jurisdiction also exhibits characteristics associated with North America’s declining Continuing Anglican Churches.

The survival of the ACNA is not tied to the outcome of January Primates gathering. Other factors beside the outcome of the meeting will determine the success or failure of the ACNA. Some of these factors are external and others, internal. 

I suspect that this group of Primates has other motives for going to the gathering, including motives of which they may not be consciously aware or at least willing to admit to themselves. Among those motives they do not want to bear the blame for the breakup of the Anglican Communion, which blame the liberal provinces would be only too glad to shift away from themselves to the conservative provinces. The outcome of the meeting will also provide the same group of Primates with justification for the next step that they choose to take.

 Haley also comments on the fading of Anglicanism. Its vanishment can be attributed in large part to the influence of three movements—the Anglo-Catholic movement, the liberal movement, and more recently the convergence movement. All three movements have sought to change the identity of the Anglican Church to one consistent with their theological views and therefore more to their liking.

Anglicanism may be compared to an old family photograph displayed on the mantelpiece. Every time you look at the photograph, the more faded the photograph appears and the more indistinct are the faces of the people in the photograph.

The GAFCON movement with the Jerusalem Declaration and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans sought to arrest this process. It called the churches, provinces, and dioceses of the Anglican Communion to return to the touchstone of historic Anglicanism—the Bible and the Anglican formularies. But at the Cairo Global South Primates meeting the GAFCON Primates who attended that meeting further contributed to Anglicanism’ disappearance. They failed to stand up for the confessional nature of Anglicanism. They extended their unqualified support to a jurisdiction that in its formularies is opposed to confessional Anglicanism, taking positions that are not in line with the teaching of the Bible, much less the doctrine of the Anglican formularies.

In his October Pastoral Letter GAFCON Primates Council Chairman Archbishop Wabukala refers to restoring the Bible and the gospel to the heart of the Anglican Communion but makes no mention of the Anglican formularies. Among the four main purposes of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, which together with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1662 Ordinal form the longstanding doctrinal and worship standard of historic Anglicanism, is to safeguard the truth of the gospel. This reference constitutes a significant shift in emphasis—a shift away from the GAFCON/GFCA emphasis on the Bible and the Anglican formularies.

It points to a major weakness of the GAFCON position on the Anglican formularies. How many of the Primates who attended the Cairo meeting fully accept the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. The GAFCON Theological Resource Group maintains in Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today that acceptance of their authority is constitutive of Anglican identity. If acceptance of the Articles is the sin qua non of Anglican identity, how many of these Primates are really Anglicans. They may be creedal Christians. They may hold a Biblical view of marriage and human sexuality. But are they fully Anglican? Do they accept the Protestant and Reformed principles of the Anglican Church based on the Holy Scriptures and set out in the Anglican formularies, particularly the Articles?

The actions of these Primates at the Cairo meeting suggests that the answer to these two questions is “no.” They may style themselves as Anglican. When it comes to meeting the essential condition for being Anglican, however, they do not meet that condition.

Neither, it must be pointed out, do their liberal counterparts in the Episcopal Church (USA), the Anglican Church of Canada, and other provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Acceptance of the Articles involves more than claiming to believe what they teach. It entails taking active steps to defend and advance the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in them. These steps include discountenancing the teaching and practices of supposedly Anglican ecclesial bodies, which conflict with these principles. They do not include rewarding with a seat on a council of the Anglican Church a Primate whose jurisdiction’s teaching and practices as set out in its formularies are at variance with the very same principles. Indeed they are antithetical to these principles.

Here is the nub of the problem. What real basis is there for fellowship between the various ecclesial bodies styling themselves as Anglican when they do not agree on a wide range of issues including the Anglican formularies? Even conservative “Anglicans” are divided among themselves on a number of these issues. The GAFCON/GFCA solution to this problem was to come up with a common confession to form the basis of fellowship between such bodies. This is a sensibly approach as long as the common confession forms the actual basis of their fellowship. In the case of members of the GFCA the Jerusalem Declaration appears to be less and less the basis of their fellowship. Rather a common position on marriage and human sexuality appears to have taken its place. The GAFCON Primates have shown too greater willingness to make exceptions for the Anglican Church in North America, effectively undermining the basis of that organization’s fellowship. The Jerusalem Declaration’s position on the Thirty-Nine Articles has been greatly damaged and weakened.

Perhaps the time has come for clergy and congregations that fully accept the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies to organize their own communion with the touchstone of historic Anglicanism as the basis of their fellowship. 

Why the Reformation Isn’t Over [Video]

Why is being protestant so important at a local church level? The reformation at its heart was pastoral protest regulated by the word of God. The practical difference today is the centrality of the cross, the word of God, assurance for the believer, and pastoral care within the structure and identity of local churches. Watch now

3 Ways Social Media Can Help Curb Church Decline

There are many reasons why people attend church less frequently nowadays, but all too often churches aren’t even aware that this is happening. How can this be? Most churches track how many people attend every week, but not so many count how often each person attends. Lots of people are now leaving the church gradually, by attending less often. It may seem intrusive to keep track of how often your members attend, but decreasing attendance frequency is one of the biggest reasons why churches decline. Read more

Saturday Lagniappe: Four Articles and One Video

Five Church Trends for 2016 [Video]

On this week’s episode of Church Answers Live, I discussed five church trends to look for in 2016. Watch now

8 Local Church Ministry Trends to Consider

I watch church trends. The last few years have been an interesting journey for the church in the United States. As I observe the work of the church in our country, I’ve noticed eight trends that we should all consider. Many of these are difficult to quantify by a research project but they are all having an impact on the landscape of ministry. Read more

10 Ways To Be A Life-Long Learner

Imagine you asked twenty people in your circle of influence (professional, personal, social, and religious domains) to describe your number one strength. Well, last year that’s exactly what I did, looking to discover my singular strength that was not merely subjected to mere self-opinion, but grounded in certainty and objectivity. Read more

Do Pastors Wield Too Much Power?

Several years ago during our weekend services I realized how much power I wielded as a pastor. I’ve served in vocational ministry over 35 years and I knew intuitively that my position brought with it power over people, but not until then did I understand a unique power my position, and every pastor, carries. Read more

Ditch the Preaching “Rules” For Principles

Thirty minutes, sixty minutes, or somewhere in between? Use notes or no notes? Set structure? Pulpit, table, or nothing? Standing or sitting? Paper Bible or iPad? Preach through books of the Bible or topical series? Altar call or no altar call? Humorous illustrations or no humor? These questions, an many others, are asked by pastors today. We have countless decisions to make on how we prepare and deliver sermons. Read more

Friday, October 30, 2015

Did the GAFCON/Global South Primates Sell Out North American Anglicans at Their Recent Cairo Meeting?

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Psalm 146: 3-4 ESV

By Robin G. Jordan

In its formularies, in its fundamental declarations, its canons, its catechism, and its proposed Prayer Book, the Anglican Church in North America takes doctrinal positions that are not in line with genuine Biblical Christianity as well as authentic historic Anglicanism. In the same formularies the ACNA has adopted an exclusionary policy toward the beliefs and convictions of Anglicans whose theological views are in line with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies.

In their refusal to publicly recognize and acknowledge the existence of this problem, much less its seriousness, Archbishop Iliud Wabukala and the other GAFCON and Global South Primates who attended the Cairo meeting have lost their credibility as champions of Biblical Christianity and historic Anglicanism in the Anglican Church. Their talk of intervening on the behalf of excluded groups comes across as just that—talk.

The existence of the problem is indisputable. Its seriousness is beyond question. The evidence is there in the Anglican Church in North America’s formularies.

The Anglican Church in North America takes a position that is the same as or close to that of the Roman Catholic Church on a number of key issues, for example, the essential nature of the episcopate, the order of salvation and the number of sacraments.

The Anglican Church in North America’s formularies do not simply permit clergy and congregations to subscribe to these positions among others. They make these positions exclusively the official doctrine of the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction’s canons require that its clergy conform to this doctrine, teaching it to their congregations as well as subscribing to it themselves.

When Archbishop Wabukala and the other GAFCON and Global South Primates that met in Cairo recognized the Anglican Church in North America as a partner jurisdiction of the Global South provinces and seated Archbishop Foley Beach as a voting member of the Global South Primates Council, they condoned the ACNA’s exclusion of confessional Anglicanism from its official doctrine. They revealed themselves not to be champions of Biblical Christianity and historic Anglicanism. Rather they came out of the closet as its opponents!

Actions do speak louder than words. Their actions showed that their championing of Biblical Christianity and historic Anglicanism are empty words. They gave their unqualified support to a jurisdiction that in its formularies opposes the Protestant and Reformed principles of the Anglican Church based upon the Holy Scriptures and set out in the Anglican formularies. They failed to defend these principles, much less to advance them

Their actions were a major setback for the cause of confessional Anglicanism in North America. They showed that the GAFCON and Global South Primates who met in Cairo are unreliable allies if they can be considered allies at all.

Weekend Roundup: Six Articles and One Podcast

Is the Reformation Over?

We are faced with a host of people who are defined as Protestants but who have evidently forgotten altogether what it is they are protesting. Read more

Why Churches Are Stuck in the Past – Rainer on Leadership [Podcast]

On today’s episode, we discuss a recent post on churches who are stuck in the 80’s. We also chased a rabbit and ended up discussing a few sitcoms. Read more

Want to Grow? Things Will Have to Change

Growth and forward momentum are created by significant catalytic changes. Read more

3 Simple Ways to Build Trust in Your Church

When it comes to leading your church well, however, it is important that the pastors and church leaders work hard to build up trust in the church. Read more

The Main Reason Pastors Count People Is Not as Noble (or Sinister) as You Think

Pastoral ministry has plenty of challenges with very few immediate rewards. But seeking affirmation through numbers is a dangerous game. Read more

5 Ways to Deepen Your Preaching

If you are a fellow preacher, trying to climb this vast and steep mountain alongside me, I hope these five reflections about what I'm learning might be helpful to you. Read more

How to listen to a sermon

I admit it. I'm not a good listener. I'm so accustomed to preaching most Sundays that I struggle listening to others (and my wife will undoubtedly affirm that). So, I'm a bit hesitant to talk about how to listen to a sermon, except that I'm really talking to myself as much I am to you, the reader. So, you're welcome to eavesdrop on these suggestion.... Read more

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How the Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Will Impact North American Anglicans

By Robin G. Jordan

Rough seas lies ahead for Biblically faithful, genuinely Anglican, mission-oriented clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America. They need to batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of the storm.

Under the provisions of Canon II.2.1 of the Anglican Church in North America until the adoption of a Book of Common Prayer in the ACNA clergy and congregations in that jurisdiction may use the authorized Books of Common Prayer of the originating jurisdictions. Among the originating jurisdictions that have an authorized service books of their own are the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of the Province of the Southern Cone, the Anglican Church of Rwanda, The Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican), and the Reformed Episcopal Church.

The American Anglican Council, The Anglican Communion Network, The Anglican Network in Canada, and Forward in Faith – North America, however, did not have an authorized service book of their own. Clergy and congregations in these ecclesial organizations used one of the authorized service books of the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church.

Whether the provisions of Canon II.2.1 apply to the authorized services books of the last two jurisdictions is debatable. They are not originating jurisdictions of the Anglican Church in North America. A strict interpretation of the provisions of Canon II.2.1 would prohibit their use.

In any event when the proposed Prayer Book currently in preparation is formally adopted, whatever services books are presently being used by ACNA clergy and congregations will no longer be authorized. The ACNA canons make no provision for their continued use.

Clergy and congregation who do not agree with the unreformed Catholic teaching and practices countenanced in the proposed Prayer Book will have no choice but to use it. To do otherwise will constitute a violation of the ACNA canons.

Presumably the ACNA catechism will be incorporated into the proposed Prayer Book along with such rites as have not yet been completed. This means that clergy and congregations who do not agree with its teaching will be required to teach what it teaches. The ACNA catechism departs in a number of places from the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Anglican formularies--the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and the Ordinal of 1662.. 

The doctrine of the proposed Prayer Book, including the catechism, will be the official doctrine of the jurisdiction. Teaching anything beside what it teaches will also constitute a violation of the ACNA canons.

Under the provisions of the governing documents of the Missionary Dioceses of CANA East and CANA West in the case ofa mission the bishop may at the present time “permit whatever degree of autonomy and deviation from the usual Anglican order of worship… which he deems appropriate for the particular group.” The adoption of the proposed Prayer Book will take away this authority from CANA bishops and will require them to permit only the use of the proposed Prayer Book. CANA will no longer be able to authorize its own rites of baptism and confirmation.

The proposed Prayer Book is not designed for the North American mission field. Its use may prove a significant hindrance to CANA missions and may reduce CANA’s effectiveness as a church-planting network.

CANA is not the only group of churches that will be negatively affected by the adoption of the proposed Prayer Book. Two other groups will be greatly impacted by this change. The first group of clergy and congregations are those who fully accept the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Anglican formularies. They will be required to accept and teach what are in the words of the 1662 Ordinal “erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s word.” They will be required to follow practices associated with such doctrines.

Essentially they will be forced to compromise their own beliefs and convictions in order to participate in the Anglican Church in North America. They will be prohibited from passing on those beliefs and convictions to future generations.

In other words, the proposed Prayer Book implements a form of theological exclusion—one that goes further than the ACNA’s fundamental declarations with their insistence upon the acceptance of an Anglo-Catholic/Roman Catholic view of the episcopate as being essential to the very existence of the Church. This view, as the late Peter Toon pointed out as early as 2006 in an assessment of the Common Cause Theological Statement, “excludes the majority of Anglicans since 1549 who have recognized other Churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian etc) as genuine churches with genuine presbyters, even if lacking the good thing of the Episcopate.” The ACNA fundamental declarations were taken from the Common Cause Theological Statement.

The target of this theological exclusion are conservative Evangelical Anglicans and other confessional Anglicans particularly those who are Biblical and Reformed in their theological outlook.

The second group of clergy and congregations that the adoption of the proposed Prayer Book will greatly impact are those seeking to reach and engage the unchurched segments of the North American population. The proposed Prayer Book is seriously lacking in the kind of flexibility needed for the mission field in the twenty-first century.

The teaching embodied in its rites and services and articulated in its catechism proclaims a different gospel from that of the New Testament. It includes that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross must be offered again and again in the celebration of the Mass. The gospel that it proclaims is not the gospel that transforms lives. It is a gospel of sacraments and good works.

Do You Have a Zombie Church?

There are Zombie churches among us. Undead churches where undead persons feast. Where genuine life has been lost, and in its place is something … scary. Lifeless.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, zombies are dead corpses that imitate life. They are infected, living dead, and they feed off the living. Zombies act like they are alive, but they are not. Zombie churches might not look any different from healthy churches, but they are missing one key ingredient: life.

Jesus is the source of life. When we get disconnected from Jesus and what He is doing in the world around us, we become disconnected from life. Just because a church loses its connection doesn’t mean it closes its doors.

Think of zombie churches as churches that have been infected. They are contagious. Instead of offering people a real, transforming relationship with the Creator of the universe, they offer hollow rituals and pointless routines. All the motions seem right, but something is missing. Read more

Four Major Ways Pastors Hinder Church Revitalization

Nine out of ten churches in North America are declining, or they are growing slower than the community in which they are located.

Nine out of ten churches need revitalization.

Many times the pastor is a major contributor to the failure to revitalize. Read more

What Is Reformation Day?

A single event on a single day changed the world. It was October 31, 1517. Brother Martin, a monk and a scholar, had struggled for years with his church, the church in Rome. He had been greatly disturbed by an unprecedented indulgence sale. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Let’s meet the cast. Read more

Reformation Reminders: Rome & Her Desecration of Christ

This Saturday, October 31, commemorates nearly 500 years since one of the greatest movements of God in church history; the Protestant Reformation. Up to the time of the Reformation, much of Europe had been dominated by the reign of Roman Catholicism. To the populace was propagated the idea that salvation was found under Rome and her system alone.

But as the cultural and theological fog cleared in Europe and beyond, God’s people gained a clarity that had been mostly absent for centuries. The Reformers gained this clarity from keeping with a simple principle: sola scritpura, or, Scripture alone. As they searched the word of God, they discovered that Rome deviated radically on the most critical points of biblical Christianity. With one mind, God’s people discerned from Scripture that, tragically, Roman Catholicism was a desecration to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, nothing has changed. To my evangelical and Catholic friends, it’s important that we no longer erroneously say that Roman Catholicism differs from Scripture only on minor points of doctrine and history. As the Reformers saw clearly, and will be demonstrated here, the differences could not be greater.

In keeping with that movement of God by the word of God, here are a few reminders of how Rome is a desecration to Christ.... Read more

The Reformation Gave Us a Seat at the Table

Next to justification, there was no issue more fiercely debated during the Reformation than the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Although the Reformers did not always agree among themselves as to the meaning of the Supper, they were unified in their opposition to the Roman Catholic notion of transubstantiation. Using categories from Aristotle, Catholic theologians taught that the substance of the bread and wine were changed, while the accidents remained the same. Thus the elements were transubstantiated into the actual body and blood of Christ, but still retained the outer appearance of bread and wine.

According to Catholic teaching, when Jesus held up the bread and said “this is my body” he meant “this loaf of bread is my actual, real physical flesh.” The Reformers all agreed in deriding this view as nonsensical (the seventeenth century preacher John Tillotson was the first to speculate that there was a connection between the Latin phrase hoc est corpus meum [“this is my body”] and the magician’s formula hocus pocus). Protestants have argued that Jesus was employing a figure of speech in the Upper Room. Just as “I am the good Shepherd” did not mean Jesus tended little animals that go baa-baa, and “I am the gate” did not mean Jesus swung on hinges, and “whoever believes in me…out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” did not mean that the disciples would rupture a valve with H20, so “this is my body” did not mean “this loaf is my Aristotellian defined flesh and bone” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). Read more

Should Christians take part in Halloween celebrations?

Jesus-loving, Bible-reading, well-meaning Christians disagree about whether it is appropriate for a believer to participate in Halloween activities. Those who think that Christians shouldn’t participate in any way cite the holiday’s roots in the pagan celebration Samhain. Those who think Christians can engage with Halloween celebrations point out that there’s nothing inherently wrong with carving gourds and begging for candy.

These kinds of disputes are not uncommon in the history of the church. In Biblical times, believers argued about all kinds of things like food, festivals, celebrations, and rules (for example see Colossians 2:16). So what guidance does the Bible give us as we think through how to respond to Halloween? (Full disclosure: we carve pumpkins and go trick-or-treating in my house). Read more

Midweek Roundup: Fifteen Articles

Hidden from the Wise

...when God saves someone, it is never their wisdom or accomplishments that save them but rather their simple, child-like faith in the truth of the gospel. Read more

It Takes a Daring Faith to Pray for Success

For leaders, there’s a model prayer in the book of Nehemiah. Remember Nehemiah? When he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, he prayed for four months. This was not just a casual prayer. Instead, it gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray, study the book of Nehemiah — particularly this prayer. Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah.... Read more

Bigger Fixes Nothing (Seven Unexpected Steps Towards Church Health)

Here's what two reality TV shows taught me about bringing innovation, health and joy to broken churches and pastors. Read more

Nguyen: Reloading the Leadership Team

Mission means sending (and replacing) your best. Read more

8 Things To Keep In Mind When Budgeting

Recently a Senior Pastor friend of mine attempting to lead his church of 180 in growth asked if I had any thoughts I could share with his governing board about crafting an effective budget for their church. Since I know this is something many of you are thinking about right now, I thought you might appreciate listening in on the conversation. Read more

Six Reasons Why Pastors and Church Leaders Must Be More Courageous Today

If I could choose one more course for ministry training and preparation, it would be “Courageous Leadership.” I hear from so many pastors and staff who are trained well in the classical disciplines, but who are ill-prepared for the real world of church ministry. Read more

Why So Many Church Leaders Struggle With Their Faith

One of the most difficult aspects of Christian leadership is keeping your relationship with God fresh and alive. Read more

7 Random Suggestions for Younger Leader

If you can learn and practice some of what I’ve learned early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience. Read more

A Theology of Eldership

My concern is that the purpose and function of eldership has not always been adequately thought through. Read more

That Stat That Says Pastors Are All Miserable and Want to Quit (Part 2)

Stop spreading statistics that, if they were right in the first place, are over 20 years old—even the man who did the study agrees! Read more

Border Crossing: Outreach Carnivals with Diverse Neighbors

'Tis the season for fall festivals and trunk-or-treat. Especially if you’re welcoming diverse neighbors, make sure your church knows how to party with a purpose. Read more

Church going millennials are defying our commitment-phobe stereotype

An Evangelical Alliance report looking at the views and experiences of young adults in the UK Church has shown that 94 per cent of millennial Christians are committed to a church and 89 per cent are attending weekly. Of that number, 84 per cent serve in their church in one way or another. Read more

Generous faith: Giving to charity a priority for millennial Christians

Christians aged between 18 and 37 are "extremely generous" and giving to charity is a top priority for them, a new survey shows. Read more

3 Existential Reasons Against Affirming Homosexuality increasing number of Christians wish to accept the authority of the Bible while affirming homosexuality in the church. I’m not convinced of their reasons. The new books don’t have new arguments, just old ones already addressed. And the acceptance of homosexuality in the church seems to be read back into the Scriptures through cultural narrative and personal experience. Read more

Hundreds of same-sex marriages annulled in Italy

Hundreds of same-sex marriages have been annulled in Italy after the Council of State removed their legal status. Read more

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Strategic Church Planting: Your Master Plan

Once you’ve heard God’s personal call to plant a church that impacts the world for His Kingdom, the wrestling begins. God, did I hear you right? Where do I plant? How will we raise the funds? Doubts, fear and lack of clarity can delay or even stall your church plant. After much prayer, one of the best steps you can take to bring clarity and action to your calling is to develop a Master Plan.

A Master Plan is simply a long-range strategy for achieving your objective. Once created, it becomes a treasured tool for sharing your church plant with potential partners. Whether someone is considering joining your launch team or supporting you financially, they want to see your strategy, your budget and your timeline. Every time you cast vision to a potential partner, you’ll hand them a copy of your Master Plan. Read more

Is God a She?

The new bishop of Gloucester, wants to “gently challenge” us all not to refer to God as “he.” Lee Gatiss reflects on this provocative headline grabber.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper at the weekend, Rachel Treweek joined others who are saying that the Church of England should use both male and female pronouns when referring to God. She personally prefers, we are told, to say neither “he” nor “she”, but “God.” “Sometimes I lapse, but I try not to,” the bishop told the Observer.

“In the creation narratives, we’re told that God created human beings in God’s likeness, and then it goes on to talk about male and female. If I am made in the image of God, then God is not to be seen as male. God is God.”

This is a very old discussion, of course, with precursors in the early church debates with heretical gnosticism. Julian of Norwich (a woman, of course, despite the name!) spoke of God as our Mother. It has been a commonplace in feminist reinterpretations of theology over the last 50 years. As another contributor to The Guardian put it earlier this year when the latest campaign on this issue seemed to get going again, “For many of us with a theological persuasion the debate about gender-specific pronouns for the Divine is as dated as a fondue set and flares, but apparently to some normal people this is not the case.”

Others have addressed these issues before. But since it is again topical, it is worth another look. There are perhaps two main issues here, I think. One is about theology proper, about who God is. The other is about how we know about God, about the doctrine of revelation. But above them both is the issue of power. Read more

Keller, Piper, and Carson on Why the Reformation Matters Today [Video]

In 1517 a young monk and theology professor named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a German church door—and the world has never been the same. Protestants mark this anniversary every October 31st, and TGC will devote its entire 2017 National Conference to remembering and celebrating the 500th anniversary of this momentous event.

But what meaning does the Reformation have for us today? What is its ongoing relevance our lives and ministries? TGC president Don Carson kicks off a new roundtable video discussion with this question. Watch now

Tuesday Roundup: Nine Articles and One Podcast

The Spiritual Significance of Smell

Our sense of smell is powerful because it points to a spiritual reality, and that reality points both backward and forward. Read more

How to Increase the Number of Volunteers in Your Church – Rainer on Leadership #169 [Podcast]

Volunteers are crucial to many ministries in the church. Without volunteers, many ministries would simply not function. So what do you do to get more volunteers in the church? We cover that and more in this episode. Read more

10 Principles of God Leadership

How would we lead if we led as God inspired us to lead? What does godly leadership look like? Read more

Language, Literature, and Culture Formation

A strong culture has a fervently held ideology, and a strong culture intentionally teaches people their beliefs and values. The two are clearly related. If a group of people really believes something, they cannot help but teach their beliefs to others. Read more

Choosing the Right Seminary

Here are seven questions to ask before choosing a seminary. Read more

Hating Family

The strong language of hate is what causes many readers to stumble over Jesus’ words in Luke 24:26.... Read more

The Right Culture for Community

The church needs to make getting small a priority. Church-health proponents are reminding pastors that the bigger the church gets, the smaller it has to get. Read more

Circles of Relationships

We often spend time in the wrong relationships. Read more

Halloween draws focus of new study

When it comes to Halloween, most Americans don't have a problem celebrating the spooky holiday, a new study shows. Yet, one-third say they avoid Halloween or its pagan elements. Read more

Another evangelical church demolished in Muslim-majority Sudan

There are growing fears for Christians in Sudan after another church was destroyed. Read more

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ten Steps to Deal with Inward Drift in Established Churches

By almost any metric, the majority of North American congregations are established churches. They often include discouraged leaders and frustrated members. Conflict in these churches is often normative.

So how does a church move from an inward drift to an outward focus? Though I provide ten succinct steps, I do not want to leave the reader with a false impression. I am not suggesting that these steps are necessarily sequential, nor am I suggesting that they are a quick-fix for any and every congregation. Read more

Could paganism make a comeback? It's not as crazy as it sounds.

We live in a post-Christian era, we're told. But being defined by what you're after doesn't tell us what you're about. Spiritual longings go deep in the human heart — the New Atheists remain much less popular than the self-consciously spiritual Oprah Winfrey — and it remains to be seen to what spiritual calling the current era will respond.

Maybe... paganism?

Every once in a while you see a trend story about pagan revivals. This time, it seems to be going on in Iceland. Ironically, the idea of time going in cycles is a venerable pagan doctrine.

So, could we go back to paganism? This is more than an idle question. Our era is still — much more than we care to admit — very much defined by Christian ideals, which — much more than we care to admit — were very much defined in opposition to pagan ideals. Looking at the pagan worldviews that once ruled Europe should give us some insight into the West today, and, perhaps, its future. Read more

Monday Roundup: Six Articles

5 Signs Your Character is Slowly Imploding

Here are five signs I’ve watched in my own life and seen in the lives of other leaders that help me determine if my character is in check or if it’s slowly imploding. Read more

Seven Thoughts about Retiring Pastors Who Stay at Their Churches

A lot of baby boomer pastors are retiring. Concurrently we are seeing many of these pastors retire and stay in the church where they retired. Frequently, I am asked my thoughts on this issue. Allow me to share seven of those thoughts in this post. Read more

Preaching That Unleashes the Bible’s Power

Why expository sermons should make up your church’s main diet. Read more

Eight Reasons Expository Preaching Is the Power for the Pastorate

The only way for any of us to stand in the long and honorable legacy of gospel preachers is through expository preaching. Why? I offer eight concise reasons why expository preaching is the power for the pastorate, whatever your situation. Read more

7 Ways Women Can Grow in Studying and Teaching Scripture without Seminary

Here are seven ways to grow and equip yourself.... Read more

What Is the Missional Church? (Part 3)—God-Empowered Love

The world should be able to recognize the Church in an instant because of how the Church loves people as they have been loved by God. Read more
Also see "What Is the Missional Church? (Part 2)—The Missional Manifesto, Continued."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Archbishop Wabukala, Enough, Already!!

By Robin G. Jordan

In his October Pastoral Letter GAFCON Primates’ Council Chairman Iliud Wabukala is unrestrained in his glowing praise of the Anglican Church in North America. He goes on to use as justification for the GAFCON and Global South Primates’ acceptance of Archbishop Welby’s invitation to a Primates’ meeting in January what he perceives to be happening in the ACNA.

Archbishop Wabukala gives every appearance of basing his appraisal of the Anglican Church in North America on a few showcase ACNA gatherings to which he has been invited.

Has he taken time to examine To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and the rites and services of the proposed ACNA Prayer Book? Both the ACNA catechism and the proposed ACNA Prayer Book depart from the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican formularies. Both countenance unreformed Catholic teaching and practices.

Has he considered the implications of the formal adoption of the ACNA catechism and the proposed ACNA Prayer Book—how it would exclude from the Anglican Church in North America clergy and congregations faithful to authentic historic Anglicanism, to the Bible and the Anglican formularies?

If the GAFCON movement really stands for the restoration of the Bible and the gospel to the heart of the Anglican Communion, then it needs to take a good, hard look at the jurisdiction that it birthed.

Five Most Effective Outreach Approaches [Video]

On this week’s episode of Church Answers Live, I discussed five highly effective outreach methods for churches. Don’t forget to join us every Thursday at 3:00 PM Eastern for Church Answers Live. Watch now

Impediments to the Gospel-Centered Life

I have a perma-grin because of the renewal of gospel-centered thinking and living. This recovery is not something new but something biblical (1 Cor. 15:3). Paul tells the Philippian church that they are to have their entire life calibrated by the gospel. The truth of Christ’s doing and dying for them is not to be on the periphery but in the center. The gospel is to be the life-blood of the church. It is the touchstone for all of life and ministry.

We know that this is not always the case–even as much as we want it to be so! When we look at the church in Philippi, a church that was in relatively good shape, there was still a problem of selfishness that needed to get dealt with (Phil. 2:15-18, 2:3-4, 3:1-8, 4:2-3). How then can we who delight in and desire more gospel renewal, identify potential gospel parasites? In other words, what are some impediments to being calibrated by the gospel? Read more

Friday, October 23, 2015

Six Reasons Why 'There Are No Small Churches' Isn’t True

The world is filled with small churches. Refusing to acknowledge that reality isn't encouraging, it's condescending.

“There are no small churches.”

I've heard that all my life.

But it's not true.

Of course there are small churches. Lots of them. And it's okay, not just to acknowledge that reality, but to celebrate it.

Here’s why. Read more

10 Leadership Mistakes in Transitioning a Church

Some years ago, Thom Rainer and I co-wrote, Eating the Elephant: Leading an Established Church to Growth. In that book, we talked about several mistakes pastors make when trying to lead their church toward growth. Our Lawless Group research since then has revalidated those findings and pointed out others.... Read more

A Theology of Worship

There is nothing more important in life than worship. We all worship something or someone. The only question is whether we will worship the right One in the right way. At University Reformed Church we want all of life to be worship to God (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31). He is worthy to receive glory and honor and power (Rev. 4:11). In particular, we want our worship services on Sunday to be pleasing to Him. We want our corporate worship on Sunday to inspire and instruct our all-of-life worship Monday through Saturday. To gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day to worship at God’s throne under the authority of God’s word is our solemn duty and joyful privilege.

It is with that supreme goal in mind that our church holds to a number of values when it comes to corporate worship. The list below is far from comprehensive or complete. Rather, it is meant to provide a brief summary of the most important principles undergirding our theology and philosophy of worship. Please consult the numerous appendices to see many of these points spelled out in further detail. Read more

Also see
A Brief Theology and Philosophy of Worship University Reformed Church

What Can Churches Learn From School Shooters?

Malcolm Gladwell is a master at scrutinizing social trends and providing plausible and compelling explanations for how and why people do what they do. His latest feature for The New Yorker, “Thresholds of Violence,” puts school shootings under the microscope and attempts to explain how young men—many of whom, surprisingly, come from stable upbringings and don’t have any noticeable psychopathic tendencies—could ruthlessly plot and execute plans to open fire on a group of people. Read more

Weekend Roundup: Fifteen Articles and One Podcast

Transitioning a Senior Adult Church to One Who Reaches all Generations – Rainer on Leadership #168 [Blogcast]

On today’s episode, we discuss a recent post on senior adult churches who are wanting to reach a younger generation and the consequences of not being willing to change to do so. Read more

If the Bible Rarely Talks about It, Does That Mean It’s Not Important?

In my theology classes, we often find ourselves wrestling with questions about which the Bible has relatively little to say. And students always wonder if that means these issues aren’t that important. If the Bible doesn’t have much to say about it, should we? Read more

Sovereign Grace in the Wilderness

Unhindered by man and unrestricted by Satan, the sovereign grace of God irresistibly overcomes every obstacle to the salvation of His chosen ones. The conditions in the lives of the elect do not have to be just right in order for God to bring them to Himself. Read more

Reformation Sunday

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has free Reformation Sunday materials available for you. Learn more

How Thorough Is Your Reference Check?

Check if these six key pieces are on your forms. Read more

7 Things You Must Do TO and FOR Your Small Group Leaders

Whatever you want to happen in the lives of the members of your small groups must happen in the lives of your leaders first. Read more

Are Smartphones Making Christianity Too Convenient?

Jesus is taking up too much space on my phone. Read more

Let's Rediscover Discipleship

I recently had the opportunity to write the foreword for Robby Gallaty's newest book on discipleship. Read more

How to Recognize Spiritually Receptive People In Your Community

Pastor, you’re surrounded by dirt. To be more precise, you’re surrounded by soil – all kinds of soil. In your community, you have people who are ready to respond to the Gospel and people who aren’t. Your job is to isolate the good soil and plant your seed there. Read more

Why Evangelism Should Focus On Receptive People

It’s a waste of time to fish in a spot where fish aren’t biting. Wise fishermen move on. They know that fish eat at different times of the day in different places. To apply this to ministry, you need to focus on the most receptive people in your area. Read more

Selective Evangelism

If your church could reach more people for Christ by focusing on one “people group” in your community, would you do so? Read more

How to Use Block Parties to Reach New People

Our church conducts a lot of Block Parties. So many we decided to get our own Block Party Trailer. Recently I was asked if Block Parties are effective or just something else to add to a long list of things that keep Christians busy, but not bearing fruit. Here’s a few reasons why I think Block Parties are a great tool in the outreach strategy of a missional church.... Read more

Pew: Churchgoers Least Likely to See Science and Religion in Conflict

Survey finds 'surprising number of topics' where faith does not influence views on science. Read more

Islam is 'dangerous', say over half of US protestant pastors

Islam is polarising opinions among American pastors; most evangelicals see it as a violent and dangerous faith, while the majority of mainline pastors associate it with peace, love and compassion according to LifeWay Research. Read more

Study: Pastors grow more polarized on Islam

Protestant pastors are increasingly polarized about Islam, with a growing share labeling the Muslim faith violent while a sharply rising minority calls it spiritually good, a new study shows. Read more

Churches burgled in Germany to fund Islamic State terror

Churches and schools in Germany were burgled by a gang of robbers to fund Islamic State terrorists, a court has heard. Read more

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Four Reasons You Need a Leadership Pipeline

To develop leaders on a broad scale, a leadership pipeline is important. A leadership pipeline aides in systematically and intentionally developing leaders. Read more

The Attractions and Dangers of Passive Sanctification: Two Articles

Five Attractions of Passive Sanctification

Passive sanctification is an error that has stalked and hurt the Christian church and many Christian lives through the years. The basic idea is that personal holiness is achieved without any personal activity, without any physical effort. Rather, holiness is received the more we are enabled to yield, to give up, or to believe. Read more

Ten Dangers of Passive Sanctification

Having highlighted Five Attractions of Passive Sanctification, here are ten dangers that accompany this error. Read more

Why and How to Memorize an Entire Book of the Bible

Andy Naselli has written two posts for Gospel Coalition that share what he learned about why and how to memorize an entire book of the Bible from the sixteen months he spent memorizing 1 Corinthians. He then recited 1 Corinthians to his church as a sermon.

Why? 14 Reasons to Memorize an Entire Book of the Bible
How? 11 Steps to Memorizing an Entire Book of the Bible

Thursday Roundup: Eight Articles

The Post-Modern Church Leader’s Survival Checklist

The good news is you can thrive—not just survive—in today’s church culture if you pursue the right things. Read more

Seven Ways to Involve Older People in Your Church

I’m not that old – I’m 54 – but I increasingly realize that I’m not young, either. Sometimes I, too, long for what I thought were the “good old days.” At the same time, I realize the importance of being involved in a local church today. I may not speak for all older folks, but here’s how you could get me more involved in your church’s ministry.... Read more

Preach as if You Would Die & Go to Heaven When You're Finished

If it were revealed to you that you were about to preach the last sermon you would ever give, how would you preach and what would you do different? Read more

Questions To Ask The Text

One of the challenges of Bible reading, and preaching for that matter, is that we often start with the wrong questions. As a result, we often miss the message of the passage. Even more, we miss the central themes of Scripture, and end up with something sub-biblical. Read more

Coping with a Rapidly Changing Culture

The situation of the believer presents at least three unique challenges. Read more

Gospel Conversation in an Age of Texting, Tweeting, and Distraction

And so I was both encouraged and challenged to read Sherry Turkle’s New York Times article “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk” about her research on how technology is harming conversation. A professor in the social studies of science and technology at M.I.T., Turkle focuses on “what has happened to face-to-face conversation in a world where so many people say they would rather text than talk.” Read more

‘We cannot be silent,’ Mohler says in new book

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, issues a call for faithful, biblical witness in his latest book, “We Cannot Be Silent,” that he says is ever more urgent in the wake of these landmark events. Written in late 2014, the book -- to be published by Thomas Nelson Oct. 27 -- examines the rise of the homosexual movement, the path to same-sex marriage, the emergence of transgenderism, and the sexual revolution’s imperilment to religious liberty. Read more

Boko Haram suicide bombings widespread in Nigeria

Weather and logistics have slowed military progress against Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries. And suicide bombings that are increasingly commonplace may well continue regardless of military progress, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told Al Jazeera English news. Read more

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Church is Not a Drive-Through Restaurant

Because of cultural influences on the church in America in our time, we tend to treat the church like a drive-through restaurant. We think to ourselves, “It will always be there and it will always have what I want, when I want it.” So, some of us attend worship once a week, some twice a month, and, sadly, some of us only occasionally. We come to get something and to leave. If it is not there, we go somewhere else. Others of us treat the church like any ordinary social club, a PTA meeting, a family reunion, or a gathering of friends. We come expecting to talk about work, football, and the latest gossip. We do all of this because we are sinners to be sure, but also because we are products of the world around us. Read more

The Reformation & the Rediscovery of Christian Assurance

But, the sad reality is that Roman Catholicism still plagues its adherents with the lack of assurance. The promise of heaven is something that Rome simply cannot give her devotees. Rome’s doctrine confirms this: “No one can know with a certainty of faith…that he has obtained the grace of God” (Council of Trent, 6th session, paragraph 9). Cardinal Robert Belarmine wrote, “The principle heresy of Protestants is that saints may obtain to a certain assurance of their gracious and pardoned state before God” (De justificatione 3.2.3). Christ’s sacrifice opens the possibility to heaven, but the sinner must rigorously work towards that possibility. And even then, the possibility remains only that.

Rome has many other teachings which demonstrate her heresy of jeopardizing assurance. Purgatory, for example, is a teaching that must exist in a system of progressively earned righteousness. Though heaven is possible for those who “die in God’s grace and friendship,” they must yet be purified, or purged, in Purgatory for an indefinite amount of time. Some learned Catholics you speak with today will portray a nervousness over that indefinite duration.

If you listen carefully to contemporary Roman Catholic theologians, you will hear of assurance only in relation to those who have been canonized as saints. For example, when pope John Paul II and John XXIII were declared saints in April of 2014, one Catholic official said that the declaration affirms that these men are in heaven. For Roman Catholicism, saints are individuals who have been canonized by Rome’s official declaration. They are said to have possessed heroic virtue, performed two miracles (one after their death, which is said to confirm their place in heaven), and are nominated by the church. The saints, then, are usually the only individuals who are said to be in heaven. “The title of saint tells us that the person lived a holy life, is in heaven, and is to be honored by the universal Church.” Read more

Midweek Roundup: Six Articles

Seven Great and Seven Bad Experiences of First-time Church Guests

If you want to make an immediate difference in your church, read these fourteen brief experiences. The readers at responded to an informal Twitter survey about their experiences as first-time guests in churches, both good and bad. Read more

5 Ways For a Church Member to Leave a Church Well

As a church leader, you can’t guarantee people will follow these steps (or steps like them), but you can guide them along in the journey, helping them to exit well. Most people want to do the right thing. They’re just not sure how. As a leader, you can help them. Read more

Giving Is Low—Are You Neglecting the Topic?

Why people should hear us talk more about generosity. Read more

Tenn. assoc. disfellowships church with female pastor

A Middle Tennessee Baptist association has voted to withdraw fellowship from a congregation that called a woman as pastor. At issue: the association's requirement that cooperating churches adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message. Read more

Iranian man beaten unconscious in German refugee camp for converting to Christianity

Officials in Hamburg-Eidelstedt, Germany, have said they are investigating the incident after it took between 15 and 20 people to pull the attacker away. Read more

Church attack routs thousands of Indonesian Christians

Authorities in Indonesia’s Aceh region have started to tear down churches following last week’s religious violence that left at least one person dead and forced thousands of Christians to flee. Read more

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

Over the years I have received lots of emails asking how we did certain things as a church meeting in a school. I am blessed to pastor a church now with an amazing facility, but my roots are deep in churches meeting in schools. It’s a unique ministry and opportunity. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers. Read more

Is My Church an Endangered Species?

Responding to the cultural and economic threats many congregations will face.

There's a cultural and economic storm underway. Unless we respond to this coming tsunami, churches like mine will soon be as rare as printed newspapers, landline phones, and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Churches like mine—small to mid-size denominational churches with a mortgage and a pastoral salary in a large metropolitan area—will start disappearing in the next couple of decades. Sorry to be the bearer of ill tidings. But it's happening.

Fifteen years ago, my church was less healthy than it is today. It had half the attendance it has today. But we could afford to pay our mortgage, upkeep on the building, and two full-time salaries, while giving a good percentage to missions and funding all the ministries.

Today we have double the attendance, more volunteers, and a healthier mission and ministry. But we have to do more with less every year. Why? Here are three reasons. Read more

Tuesday Roundup: Nine Articles and One Podcast

Six Tips to Stay in Ministry for the Long Haul

In my 15 years of ministry, I've seen too many women come and go. Read more
While written for women in ministr, this article offers tips that apply to men as well as women.
Herman Who?

Much of the debate in the media about fundamentalism and radicalisation would be solved if all involved developed a commitment to responsible hermeneutics. Read more

C. S. Lewis on the Theology and Practice of Worship

C. S. Lewis may seem like an odd subject for study when it comes to the theology and practice of worship. Read more

Evangelism, Outreach, and the Internet – Rainer on Leadership #167 [Podcast] 

On today’s episode, we discuss nine practical and easy ways churches can use the internet and online communities to share the gospel and reach out to those far from God. Read more

8 Ways to Stay Hungry for Missions after a Short-Term Trip

It’s been several weeks since your summer mission trip. You returned on a post-trip high. Your closeness to God, your focus on the Great Commission, and your dedication to sharing God’s mercy were at an elevated level. How’s it going now? Read more

New Catholic Church statistics reveal cultural shift away from ordination

The number of Catholics around the world is growing but the number of ordained priests is not keeping up, new statistics show. Read more

Religious freedom abuses at risk of increasing in Vietnam

Religious freedom in Vietnam could be at risk of greater restrictions as the draft Law on Belief and Religion is finalised this month. Read more

Hardline Indonesian Muslims call for closure of Christian churches in Aceh

Hardline Muslims in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province on Sunday demanded the local government close 10 Christian churches, just days after a mob burnt down a church, leaving one person dead and several injured. Read more

Report: Christianity contracting in MidEast, Africa

Rise in militant Islam cited as primary cause in worsening situation. Read more

Iraqi priest tells how ISIS forced 100,000 Christians to flee from Mosul in just 24 hours

Last June, Islamic State militants forced 100,000 Christians to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul in a single night. Read more

Monday, October 19, 2015

Global South/GAFCON Primates accept invitation to Primates' gathering

The group of Global South and GAFCON Primates that met in Cairo have issued a communiqué in which they state that they will be accepting Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s invitation to attend a Primates’ gathering this coming January. 

According to George Conger’s sources the first agenda item this group of primates is proposing is "a Communion-wide response to the recent actions of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada in changing the received doctrine and discipline of the church on issues surrounding homosexuality.” 

But do they really expect to accomplish anything? They must realize that the liberal primates are not going to support any proposal to censure the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. 

Surely they are not expecting a major breakthrough.

Calling for the inclusion of this item on the meeting agenda, I suspect,  may be these Primates’ way of justifying their attendance at the gathering and of mollifying their various constituencies.

They can always blame the lack of progress on the issues of marriage and human sexuality on the intransigence of the liberals while pointing to the progress on other issues.   

Are You a Good Match for a Church? Seven Major Questions to Ask

Numerous articles have been written about questions a pastor should ask before going to a new church. After listening to hundreds of pastors, I have developed my own list of major issues that a pastor should consider. Some of the pastors I interviewed shared with me why they viewed their ministry as a joyous match. Other pastors told me the reasons their current or former pastorates had been unmitigated disasters.

Throughout this process I saw seven major patterns emerge. I translate them here as seven major questions. While these questions are typically suited for a pastor who is considering a church, they also could be helpful to the pastor evaluating his current ministry. Church members who are in the process of looking for a pastor might find them helpful as well. Read more