Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why Don't We Follow All of the Old Testament Laws?

It’s pretty common these days for people to dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they follow some of the rules in the Bible and ignore others.” The challenge usually sounds something like this: “When the Bible talks about certain sexual behaviors as sin, you quote that; but when it says not to eat shellfish or that you should execute people for breaking the Sabbath, you just ignore it. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what suits you best?

I’ve found that this objection carries a lot of weight, and not just with non-Christians. Many Christians have a hard time answering it … which is why we just secretly hope it never comes up.

One of the most helpful ways to think about this is to look at the types of laws there are in the Old Testament. The 16th-century Reformer John Calvin saw that the NT seemed to treat the OT laws in three ways. There were Civil Laws, which governed the nation of Israel, encompassing not only behaviors, but also punishments for crimes. There were Ceremonial Laws about “clean” and “unclean” things, about various kinds of sacrifices, and other temple practices. And then there were the Moral Laws, which declared what God deemed right and wrong—the 10 Commandments, for instance. Read More

Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?

Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe—namely, Easter—was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.

The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival.

Of course, even if Christians did engage in contextualization—expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people—that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of "Good Friday," but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so.

But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism. Read More

4 Tips for Choosing Leaders in Seasons of Growth

Accountability and counsel are essential to a church planter. In the early days of a new church plant, you’ll likely experience one of two temptations when it comes to leadership. One is to hastily construct a leadership team with a board, positions and policies. The other is to fly solo with no accountability at all. Both are extreme approaches and dangerous for a church planter. Here are a few things I learned the hard way that may help you in developing your leadership structure. Read More

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5 Good Habits That Will Improve Your Bible Study

Communication is probably one of the most important aspects of growing in a relationship. A husband and wife, child and parent or employer and employee will grow in their relationship if communication is kept open.

When there is no communication, a relationship could enter a stagnant state or even shrivel away. Every believer is called to grow in the area of spiritual devotional because this is our way of communicating with our God.

There are various ways that God speaks to us, but the most common way is through His Word, so to grow in Bible reading and Bible study will help us listen to God better as we talk to Him through prayer.

There is no substitute for partnering with God's Spirit to bring life to His Word. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we find inspiration and revelation through the Bible, but we can also do our own small part to improve our Bible study. Here are five simple practices that will help improve our Bible study. Read More
I recommend three other habits. First, pray before you study a particular passage from Scripture. Ask God to speak to you through the passage. Second, approach your study of a particular passage from Scripture with the expectation that God will indeed speak to you through that passage.  When we open our Bible, we are opening a door into a room in which God is waiting to meet with us. Third, before studying the passage, read it aloud to yourself. During the course of the study read the passage out loud again and again, listening for something new or for confirmation of what you have already heard. Read the passage one last time before you conclude the study. I also caution against relying too heavily on commentaries. Consult the commentaries after you have studied the passage and compare your findings with what the writers found in their study of the passage. Avoid reading a commentary before you look at the passage. It will influence how you understand it. 

Pray for One Another

“Father, please bless them, I pray.” Ever prayed like this for someone? I have. And it always seems dissatisfying and insufficient. “Is that the best I can pray for them?” I sometimes wonder. “Shouldn’t I be more specific?”

When I pray such a generic prayer, I often wince at the similarity it has to the champion of all nonspecific prayers: “And please bless all the missionaries everywhere.”

Honestly, without some teaching on the matter, I doubt that any follower of Jesus prays well for other Christians. But I do think intercession for others is something any Christian would want to improve. Read More

A Simple Way to Boost Your Church’s Community Reach

So your church has a website and Facebook page—perhaps even Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Or maybe you’ve gone all out—podcasting your messages or building an app for iOS or Android. Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way. Here’s the question, though: When you welcome people to your church, are you mentioning the helpful, online content you’re publishing? Are you making the most of the opportunity that we now have through social media to connect with people daily? Read More

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

7 Subtle Signs Your Church Is Dying

How do you know whether your church’s best days are behind it?

It’s a question that all leaders should ask—even leaders of growing churches.

As with almost everything in life, there are subtle signs your peak may be near or you may be cresting past it.

Other times, the signs of death are evident to everyone but the leaders.

If you recognize the signs early enough, you can reverse the trend, regain your energy and momentum and run with enthusiasm into a new season.

Let the signs go unattended long enough, and things could be very different.

A few weeks ago I talked to a good friend who had just finished dozens of meetings with leaders of small, struggling churches. Like me, his most recent context has been a larger church. I asked him what he discovered.

He told me of meeting after meeting of well-intentioned, Christ-loving people who were now in their 70s leading churches with just a few dozen remaining attenders. Time and again, my friend said, these leaders would tell him they never intended to take their church down this road.

It just happened.

So how do you know your church is dying?

What are the earliest warning signs?

Here are 7 I’ve seen and watch for constantly in our church. Read More

7 Vital Steps Prior to Implementing Major Change

As a pastor and leader, I am continually dealing with change. Everyday. Change is a part of life – for all of us.

Some change occurs without us doing anything. In my context, we adjust our Easter calendar every year – without much thought of whether we will or not. Sometimes it’s in March – sometimes April. And, there is nothing we do to influence this change. There are lots of other examples of this.

Some change is so routine it requires little thought or preparation by the leader. For example, leaders will move and new leaders will replace them – almost naturally over time. If you’ve been in leadership for very long at all you’ve probably seen dozens of leaders in the organization change.

But, when making major change – change which impacts everyone – change which may be controversial – there are some steps to take before you begin to implement the change. Failing to understand this or do most or all of these, in my experience, could derail the effectiveness of the change.

I am going to share steps I take. You may have a better system in place. If so, please help me learn from you. But, certainly steps must be taken in advance of major change. It’s naive to think otherwise. Read More

The Future of Music in the Church

Music changes in every generation and we should appreciate it.

It may be a generalization to say the church today has three generational expressions, but I think we can work with it. You can walk into most churches and recognize quickly what generation it falls into. Most of today’s churches fall into one of these categories related to worship style. Read More

5 Ways To Protect Your Kids At Church

Stories about the abuse of minors seem to be a regular topic on the evening news – with one disturbing allegation after another. Churches are no exception to these accusations and need to take steps to create a safe place for their children and youth. Church leaders needs to recognize the huge responsibility they have to keep their kids safe and take the necessary steps to guard against child predators.

We all think of church as a safe place, but the reality is abusers prey on the vulnerability of such environments. Abuse can happen anytime and anywhere. Read More

On the Net: "How to Keep the People You’re Reaching" and Much, Much More

How to Keep the People You’re Reaching

There are only two ways to experience net growth as a church: reach new people, and keep the people you reach. And you must focus on doing both of these. Read More

Church Leverages Boomers for Kingdom Impact

Aging Boomers present new challenges for churches, who now must balance ministering to younger Boomers, who often do not consider themselves to be seniors, and their Builder Generation parents, many of whom are still active and involved in the same churches and ministries as their own children. Read More

7 Sins of Baby Boomer Believers

I’m a baby boomer, born in 1961. As the oldest of my generation has moved into retirement and the rest of us begin to think in that direction, we’re all aware of some of the failures of our generation. I know I can’t paint the entire generation with one brush, but I confess here some of our sins – and pray that we’ll spend the rest of our lives correcting them. Read More

Pastoring Shouldn't Be This Hard (With 4 Steps to Make It Easier)

Our obsession with numerical growth may be the unseen culprit behind a lot of burnt out pastors and unhealthy churches. Read More

Preaching on Homosexuality: 7 Points to Consider

Those in ministry are familiar with the saying, “The pulpit drives the church.” The tone of the pastor will be the tone of a church and the emphasis of the pastor will be the emphasis of a church. That makes what a pastor says on any subject very important. Read More

5 Methods for Fighting Half-Hearted Prayer

The Puritans were prone to give five methods for fighting our natural tendency to lapse into half-hearted prayer.... Read More

Seven Digital Disruptions in Churches

Over the last 20 years, I can look back and see massive digital changes. There has been so much change in such a short period, so many digital disruptions in the church. Read More

Why and How Your Church Should Utilize Facebook Ads

Outreach and marketing for churches are way more intricate than they used to be. I’ve found Facebook to be a valuable resource for reaching people in my community, and I hope this post will help you to leverage Facebook ads to reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Read More

Forget Being Culturally Relevant – The Church Needs to Be Contextually Real

Chasing relevance makes our churches look the same in ways we should be different – from each other and from the culture. Read More

Should More US Churches Host Mandarin-Language Services?

China has overtaken Mexico as the No. 1 sender of legal immigrants to America. Read More

Amplifying Evangelism—Doing Evangelism in the Workplace

Integrating evangelism into our workplaces is critical. Read More

More Americans Agree Christians Face Intolerance But Complain Too Much About It

Survey suggests tone matters when advocating for religious liberty. Read More

Poll Casts Doubt on Britain's 'Christian' Beliefs

A new analysis of data by polling organisation YouGov has found people in Britain are more likely to believe in ghosts than in God – and Christians are more likely to believe in aliens than in the devil. Read More

Mexico: Evangelical Christian Beaten and Imprisoned after He Refused to Convert to Catholicism

A Christian man was beaten and imprisoned in Mexico in what has been described as "the latest instance in a long trend of persecution". Read More

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Eucharistic Prayers of the Holy Communion, Second Order

By Robin G. Jordan

Among the distinguishing characters of the two eucharistic prayers that may be used in the Holy Communion, Second Order, in A Prayer Book for North America is that, like the 1552-1662 Prayer of Consecration, they are centered on Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper and his suffering and death on the cross and the redemption he purchased there by his blood—what the Lord’s Supper, according to the New Testament accounts, was inaugurated to commemorate. While all kinds of additional interpretations of the Lord’s Supper have become attached to the ordinance over the centuries, this understanding is the New Testament understanding of the ordinance. It is the understanding that Cranmer restores in the second Prayer Book of Edward VI—the reformed Prayer Book of 1552, peeling away the various reinterpretations of the Lord’s Supper that had overlaid it. What we have seen since the nineteenth century is a pronounced tendency to once more overlay that understanding not only with past misinterpretations of the ordinance but also new ones as well.

Both prayers have dual anamneses. The primary anamnesis is the Post-Sanctus and the Words of Institution. They recall Jesus’ saving work on the cross and the Lord’s Supper’s inauguration. The secondary anamnesis follows the Memorial Acclamation that concludes the Words of Institution. It introduces the second epiclesis in which the minister in his role as the tongue of the worshiping assembly asks God by the power of the Holy Spirit to continue his sanctifying work in the communicants. The minister is not asking God to work through the medium of the consecrated elements but through the Holy Spirit.

Both prayers also have dual epiclesis. The first epiclesis humbly asks God  to grant that those eating the bread and drinking the wine in obedience to Jesus’ command, in remembrance of him, will be participants in the body and blood of Christ. They will receive the benefits of his saving work on the cross. The minister is not asking that the communicants receive these benefits through the medium of the consecrated elements. The elements do not convey their virtue in some mystical way (virtualism) any more than they are transformed into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (transubstantiation) or infused spiritually with his body and blood (consubstantiation). Rather in eating the bread and drinking the cup, the believer’s spiritual feeding upon Christ is made tangible to him. This feeding is continual. It is not confined to the Lord’s Supper. However, the consumption of the symbols and tokens of Christ’s love for his people, makes it palpable to the believer. His faith is aroused, confirmed, and strengthened. It is by faith that he appropriates the benefits of Christ’s saving work. This was Cranmer’s mature understanding of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It is the sacramental theology of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571 and The Book of Common Prayer in its 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 editions.

What is also notable about the two prayers is that they include no petition invoking the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine. While the Canon of the partially-reformed First Prayer Book of Edward VI, the Prayer Book of 1549, contained such an invocation, Cranmer dropped it from the Prayer of Consecration of the 1552 book. His reason was three-fold. First, it suggested that Christ was in some way present in the elements themselves after their consecration, a view which Cranmer regarded as contrary to Scripture. After having instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus refers to as wine the contents of the cup which he had previously described as the blood of the New Covenant, showing that he was speaking figuratively. Second, throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit descends upon people, not inanimate objects. Invoking the Holy Spirit’s descent upon bread and wine was not a practice agreeable to the teaching of the Bible. Third, throughout the Bible the invocation of God’s blessing is reserved for people, not inanimate objects. Where the New Testament accounts refer to Jesus’ blessing of bread, they are referring to the Jewish practice of giving thanks over bread by blessing God. These accounts use blessing and giving thanks interchangeably.

The two prayers contain no oblation of the bread and wine either before or after the Words of Institution. In the Western tradition the moment of consecration was believed to occur during the Words of Institution. Like the 1552-1662 Prayer of Consecration they contain nothing suggestive of the medieval doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice. They also contain nothing suggestive of the 1958 Lambeth doctrine which maintains that the eucharist is a participation in Christ’s ongoing sacrificial activity. Both doctrines have been shown to be contrary to God’s Word.

The two prayers also contain no oblation of “our bodies and souls.” Cranmer moved this oblation to a position after the distribution of the communion where it is a fitting response not only to Christ’s saving work on the cross but also to Christ’s offering of himself as spiritual nourishment to the believer, symbolized and made tangible in the meal of the Lord’s Supper. 

Resurrection: The Story of New Life through Church Planting

What Tim Thorlby describes as "church planting" in this article is a form of church revitalization. A struggling church is provided with a tranfusion of new blood.  In any case it is working. Read More

Also see
Love, Sweat nd Tears: Church Planting in east London

5 Times Change is Hardest to Lead

Change is hard – almost always. Sometimes change is harder than other times. And, it’s then where leadership is tested most, tensions mount and people are more likely to object.

In my experience, if a leader knows these times it helps prepare to approach the change.

Change is necessary. While change may produce conflict, without change there will also be conflict. When people sit still – when growth stalls – people complain. Therefore, since change is necessary and inevitable, understanding these scenarios before we attempt change may help us lead change better.

Here are 5 times I’ve discovered that change is hardest to accept and implement.... Read More

Three Biblical Practices for Prayer

Jesus was in the habit of praying. And if it was important to him, it’s important to us. Though we can find many lessons throughout the Bible on how to pray, here are just three elements of prayer that we can put into practice now. Read More

An Alternative Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration

An Alternative Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration is now on the  A Prayer Book for North America website. The following comes from the introduction to the prayer.

"This Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration may be used as an alternative to the prayer in the Holy Communion, Second Order. Like that prayer, it has two epicleses. The first epiclesis is a petition that those eating the bread and drinking the wine will be partakers of Christ’s body and blood, an allusion to 1 Corinthians 10:16. The second epiclesis is is taken from Philippians 1:27. It asks  God, by the power of his Holy Spirit, to help them to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ and to grant them grace to stand firm in one spirit, contending as one for the faith of the gospel.   

"Like the prayer in the Holy Communion, Second Order, this prayer does not contain an invocation for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine nor does it contain an oblation of any kind.

Unlike that prayer, it has no special prefaces. While this feature makes the prayer particularly suitable for use in the season after Epiphany and the season after Pentecost, it may be used year around. It is a good choice for a congregation worshiping in a non-traditional setting or targeting a population group that is more comfortable with a simple or informal celebration of the Holy Communion. It is also a good choice for mission conferences and similar gatherings."

Follow this link to A Prayer Book for North America.

Photo: A flowering dogwood tree. Note the cross-shaped flowers.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Holy Communion: Second Order - A Service of Holy Communion in Modern English for Today's Congregations

The Holy Communion, Second Order is now on the A Prayer Book for North America website. The following comes from the introduction to the service.

"The Holy Communion, Second Order is designed for use in a variety of worship settings—both traditional and non-traditional. It may be tailored to the circumstances of the congregation using it.

"The Sentence of Scripture, the Collect for Purity, and the Gloria in Excelsis may be omitted at the beginning of the service and the minister may greet the people immediately before the Collect of the Day, permitting the restoration of the simplicity of the original entrance rite in the Western tradition.

"Three Bible readings may read. The sermon may be preached before or after the creed. The Apostles’ Creed may be used in place of the Nicene Creed and the creed may be omitted on weekdays.

"The Prayers of the People may conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

"The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration has two epicleses—a brief petition before the Words of Institution in which the minister prays that those eating and drinking the bread and wine may share in Christ’s body and blood and a petition after the anamnesis in which the minister prays that by the power of the Holy Spirit God will make the communicants increase and overflow with love for each other and “all the peoples of the Earth and strengthen their hearts so that they will be pure and blameless in God’s presence at Christ’s second coming. The phrase “share in his most precious body and blood” in the first epiclesis is taken from Holy Communion, First Form, in the Prayer Book of the Church of England in South Africa (1990) and is an allusion to 1 Corinthians 10:16. The second epiclesis is adapted from 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13.

"The exordium that begins the Post-Sanctus is a “recognition and joyful exclamation of God’s blessedness,” acknowledging that God is “the fullness and source of all blessing.’” Blessing God is not only a part of the Jewish synagogue services but also Jewish table prayers. Jesus, when he gave thanks to God over the bread and the cup at the Last Supper, would have blessed God for the bread and the wine.

"The people’s parts in the prayer are the responses in the Sursum Corda, the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, and the concluding Doxology.

"Consistent with Reformed theology the prayer contains no invocation of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine nor oblation of any kind.

"Communion immediately follows the consecration of the bread and wine. The bread may be broken during the Words of Institution or immediately before the Communion. During the Communion hymns, songs, and anthems may be sung.

"After the Communion a period of silent reflection may be observed. If the Lord’s Prayer has not been said at the conclusion of the Prayers of the People, it is said after the Communion. The congregation joins the minister in saying one of two prayers of dedication and thanksgiving. If the Gloria in Excelsis has not been sung earlier in the service, it may be sung after this prayer. Or a suitable hymn or song may be sung. The service concludes with a parting Blessing and an optional Dismissal."

Follow this link to  A Prayer Book for North America.

A New Form of Church: Committed to Multiplication

Church plants done right always reproduce.

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with a handful of some of the most innovative church leaders in the U.S. to discuss a new form of church. Prior to this meeting, I was convinced that multiple sites were more productive than church planting. After this meeting, I’ve changed my mind; church planting has more potential than multiple sites – if it is the DNA of a church and not just a part of it. Why? Because church plants have the potential to reach geographically far beyond the reach of multiple sites and because church plants done right always reproduce, whereas most multiple sites do not. This meeting was a huge eye-opener for me. It made me want to be a planter again. Read More

The Most Important Role of Denominations in Church Planting

How to focus on church planting from the national level

It's important to remember a very important group related to church planting: denominations.

Denominations play an important role in facilitating church planting. Not all church planters are denominational, but most are. So, they need to find ways to relate well to their denomination. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on how denominations need to make some changes in order to help promote church planting among their own churches.

So what’s the most important role of the denomination at the national level? Read More

Church Planting in a Secular Society: Two Approaches

How do you plant churches in a secular society? In part, you have to find out what type of secular people are in your community. Then, you discover which church planting approach is best to reach them. Read More

Aslan’s Song of Stewardship

God has given us stewardship as a gift, granting the responsibility to manage his house and the availability to partner with the divine in that remarkable task. Read More

10 Common Ways Churches Get Off Mission

The Lord has called his people to be on gospel mission for the sake of his glory. Most churchfolk will readily acknowledge this, and yet many churches have drifted away — often subtly — from thinking of themselves as missionaries in their respective communities and beyond. Here are some common ways churches engage in “mission drift.” Read More

On the Net: "7 Questions to See if Easter Really Matters to You" and More

7 Questions to See if Easter Really Matters to You

Yesterday, we gathered with our churches and families on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I trust you had a great day. What Easter really means to us, though, is not determined by what we did yesterday; it’s how we live every other day. Use these questions to decide how much the resurrection really means to you. Read More

Six Reasons Why Your Church’s Offerings May Be Struggling

Leaders of churches who can communicate a clear and compelling vision are more likely to see increases in church offerings. Read More

Three Ways Ministry Leaders Think Strategically

How can a ministry leader learn to think more strategically? Here are three practical ways to think more intentionally about local church ministry.... Read More

7 Criteria to be a Good Change Agent Leader

The process of change isn’t easy. And, it doesn’t happen overnight. Some leaders move too fast. Others move too slow. Plus, not every church, business or non-profit will tolerate change – or at least to the level prescribed by a leader. The leader needs to know when to push and when to leave things alone for a while. Read More

Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon

If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies. Read More
Bookmark for next year
How Do the Sacraments Help Us?

R. C. Sprouls explains how the sacraments help us. Read More

5 Ways to Measure Life Change in Your Youth Ministry

The intangible side of youth ministry deals with life change. How do you measure what’s going on in someone’s mind or heart? While there is no solid science, here are a few ways you can start measuring life change. Read More

The Holy Communion: First Order - A Contemporary Version of the 1552 Service of Holy Communion (REVISED VERSION)

Over the weekend a number of revisions were made in the texts and rubrics of the service of Holy Communion posted on A Prayer Book for North America on Holy Saturday.The changes to the rubrics were primarily made for greater clarity. The optional prayer that may be said when the the collection is received was moved to the Notes after the service. This change was made in recognition that optional texts printed in the service are often used irregardless of whether their use is appropriate under the circumstances. "Through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" was added to the Preface of the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration and the special prefaces were modified to reflect this change. Their modification enables the prayer to flow more smoothly. A shorter alternative special preface for the Feast of Pentecost, or Whitsun, was added.

Photo: Easter Pansies

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Holy Communion: First Order - A Contemporary Version of the 1552 Service of Holy Communion

The Holy Communion, First Order, is now on the A Prayer Book for North America website. The following comes from the introduction to the service:

The Holy Communion, First Order is a contemporary version of the 1552 service of Holy Communion. The 1552 service represents Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s mature thinking on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and embodies the biblical and Reformation doctrine of justification by grace alone in Christ alone. It was first used during the reign of Henry VI, suppressed by his Roman Catholic older sister Mary, upon his death, and revived upon the ascension of his Protestant older sister Elizabeth I to the English throne. It would be the Holy Communion service used during the reigns of James I and Charles I. The only changes to the service were that the 1549 Words of Distribution were added to the 1552 Words of Distribution in 1559 and the Declaration on Kneeling omitted.  

“The 1662 service of Holy Communion is substantially the 1552 service with addition of the manual acts to the Prayer of Consecration, the 1559 Words of Distribution, and an Amen after the Words of Institution. The Restoration bishops also restored the Declaration on Kneeling. It is the reformed 1552 Prayer Book in its 1662 edition that forms along with the Articles of Religion of 1571 and the Ordinal of 1661 the Anglican Church’s authoritative standard of doctrine and worship, second only to the Bible.

“This contemporary version of the 1552 service of Holy Communion incorporates a number of features introduced in later rites. “Minister” is used throughout the entire service. The initial Lord’s Prayer, originally a private devotion of the priest, has been dropped. An optional Sentence of Scripture may be said or sung at the beginning of the service. The congregation joins the minister in saying the Collect for Purity. Our Lord’s Summary of the Law may be substituted for the Ten Commandments. Both the Ten Commandments and the Summary of the Law may be omitted.

“Three Bible readings may be read. The Gloria Tibi may be said before the reading from the Gospel.  An optional congregation response may be used after each reading. A pause for silent reflection may be observed after each reading. A psalm, a psalm portion, or a canticle may be sung or said after the first reading. Metrical versions of the psalms and canticles may be used. If three Bible readings are read, the reading from the Gospel may be introduced with an alleluia or a suitable hymn or song. The Sermon may be preached before or after the creed. The Apostles’ Creed may be substituted for the Nicene Creed. On weekdays the creed may be omitted. A hymn or song may be sung after the Sermon.

“Alternative forms for the Prayers may be used and may be concluded with the Lord’s Prayer. An optional prayer has been provided for use when the collection is received and the form of the Prayers printed in the service is not used.

“The Exhortations in the 1552 service have been replaced with two shorter optional Exhortations.  

“The selection of special prefaces has been expanded. An alternative Sanctus may be used. The Prayer of Humble Access has been revised to eliminate any suggestion that the bread cleanses the body and the wine the soul. An alternative Prayer of Humble Access has been provided. The congregation may join the minister in saying the Prayer of Humble Access. The exordium “all glory to you” has been added to the Post-Sanctus.

“The 1559 Words of Distribution may be substituted for the 1552 Words of Distribution and an optional Amen may be said after the Words of Distribution.

Other versions of the Gloria in Excelsis may be used. A suitable hymn of praise may be substituted for the Gloria in Excelsis. Other suitable Blessings may be substituted for the parting Blessing printed in the service.”

Leading the Twenty-First Century Church: "Shifting Gears" and Much More

Shifting Gears

One of the key qualities of effective leaders is being flexible. Your role as a leader is always changing as your organization grows. It’s like driving a car. The greatest amount of energy is spent in actually starting it up. As the car speeds up, it has to keep shifting into higher gears. But in the end where it goes depends on the driver. In the same way, your function as a leader changes the more your organization grows. Here are a few ways a leader’s position can change. Read More

What Did You Expect, Leader?

One of the greatest struggles in leadership is dealing with and reconfiguring expectations of it, while we are in it. Read More

12 Keys to Attracting Young Leaders

You want young leaders on your team? Here are a few KEYS I think young leaders are drawn to.... Read More

Six Things You Inherit as a New Pastor at an Established Church

Considerate pastors understand what they are inheriting before people stop introducing them as the “new pastor.” Here a few examples of the things you inherit as a new pastor of an established church. Read More

6 Ways to Boost Your Confidence

Everyone wants to follow a confident leader. But many in leadership positions find themselves unable to provide this. They are under-confident leaders. For those who consider themselves under-confident, the obvious question that arises from this post is, “How do I move from under-confident to confident?” One of keys to this answer is to develop a more accurate view of leaders and their leadership. Read More

Four Practical Ways Leaders Can Live Out the “One Anothers” of Scripture

The Bible supplies the clearest guidelines for how to get along with peo­ple. Leaders can improve their people skills immediately by obeying the “one another” commands found in the New Testament. Read More

Leaders Can’t Avoid Conflict

Conflict is no stranger within the local church.The goal is not to practice avoiding conflict, instead we all need to become good at resolving conflict. Read More

3 Reasons Pastors and Their Wives Should Have Close Friends in the Church

In 12 years as a pastor’s wife, the one ministry manifesto I’ve heard repeated more than any other is You can’t have close friends in your church. This prohibition is handed down to seminary wives and passed around ministry families like gospel truth. Church people might be objects of ministry. They may be burdens or blessings. They may be acquaintances, neighbors, fellow laborers even. But they can never be friends. This is a lie. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "Effective Preaching for Easter" and Much More--UPDATED

Effective Preaching for Easter

As I prepare for my sermon on Easter, our church will look into Luke 24. We’ll consider the resurrection by using the story of Jesus’ interaction with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. But there is so much more to preaching than just picking a passage and whipping together an outline. For Easter, I want to encourage pastors to consider these four principles for effective preaching. Read More

How to Invite People to an Easter Service

Easter is one of the most attended days of worship for Christian churches. A temptation exists for people to not extend invitations to neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances because they assume people will just attend any way. Not true. We need to be active in reaching out to those around us. Read More

How Will You Win Them: An Easter Warning

There is no other word to speak on Easter other than the gospel. Why? Because it is common need of every human walking about on the planet. Read More

Nine Considerations for Church Members This Easter

Christians have an opportunity to make an eternal difference in the lives on those who attend their Easter services. Read More

Why Does Christmas Get a Season, but Easter Only a Day

Easter isn’t a big enough deal for evangelicals in the West. Read More
Trevin Wax’s question is applicable to Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans, and others whose denominations use a liturgical calendar. They may light the Pascal Candle throughout the Fifty Great Days of Easter and use white paraments on the Lord’s Table and the pulpit but how many are singing Easter hymns and carols on the Sunday before Ascension Sunday (and even on Ascension Sunday) and hearing sermons on the Resurrection. Except for the lighting of the Paschal Candle and the change in liturgical colors most Sundays of Eastertide do not differ from the Sundays after the Feast of the Epiphany or after the Feast of Pentecost. While every Sunday may be Resurrection Sunday, how many churches in practice really celebrate the Resurrection every Sunday? How many sermons address the implications of the Resurrection as well as the Cross for believers and non-believers?
Easter: What about Monday?

We all know about Easter Sunday (resurrection) and Good Friday (crucifixion). Some know about Maundy Thursday (Last Supper). But do you know about Easter Monday, the day after Easter? Read More

Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus [Video]

Discussing Jesus’ resurrection in a skeptical context and more. Read More

Holy Saturday: Did Jesus Descend into Hell?

Harry Farley examines what is one of the most controversial aspects of the Apostles' Creed. Read More

Prostitute or Faithful Servant? Who Was Mary Magdalene?

Mary Magdalene. She was the prostitute who washed Jesus' feet, right? Wrong. Read More

Hindu Extremists Attack Anglican Church

Four Hindu extremists have been arrested by police in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu after they vandalized a newly built church. Read More

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Anglican Church in North America—a Dynamic Force for the Evangelization of North America?

By Robin G. Jordan

While it may not be feasible to start new Anglican congregations in every community across North America, it is within reach to start Anglican missional communities in most of those communities. A missional community is a flexible expression of church. It does not own a building. Its main point of contact with the neighborhood or network of relationships that it is seeking to reach and engage is not a public service of worship. It is typically the size of an extended family—mum, dad, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, fiancĂ©es, girlfriends, and boyfriends.

The primary focus of a missional community is making and forming disciples. Unlike conventional expressions of church missional communities do not expect potential disciples to come to them. They go to the potential disciples. They take seriously Jesus’ words, “going, make disciples of all people groups.”

Missional communities put into practice the principles of “simple church.”  Whatever they do serves the discipleship process. Both their short-term and long-term goal is to produce fully-functional followers of Jesus.

Fully-functional disciples are capable of reproducing themselves, of making and forming disciples like themselves, who are in turn capable of making and forming more fully-functional disciples. They are self-feeders, nourishing and sustaining themselves from God’s Word. They fully use their natural talents, learned skills, and spiritual gifts in the service of their Lord and for the advancement of the Gospel. They are bright lights shining in a dark and shadowy world.

I believe that missional communities will play a vital role in the evangelization of North America in the twenty-first century. Any denomination that is committed to fulfilling the Great Commission will encourage their formation and support their work.

The Anglican Church in North America’s proposed Prayer Book currently under preparation with its emphasis on the sacerdotal, sacramental ministry of the priest is not the kind of service book that will help the laity fulfill the role envisioned for them in its constitution and canons. Rather it will keep God’s people in a state of overdependence, spiritual immaturity, and servility. It is idolatrous in that it assigns to the priest a role that is Christ’s and Christ’s alone—that of intermediary between God and his people and of dispenser of God’s grace. It is not the kind of service book that will encourage the formation of missional communities, much less support their work.

The proposed Prayer Book currently under preparation looks not to the church of the New Testament as its model for the Anglican Church in North America but to the church of the early high Middle Ages, to a time when the traditions of men had taken the place of the Word of God as the Church’s standard and rule of faith and practice. One might say that those who are preparing the proposed Prayer Book and who are approving its rites and services have substituted a vision of their own for that of the constitution and canons. But it is more likely that what the constitution and canons envision was incorporated into these documents solely for appearance’s sake. The rites and services of the proposed Prayer Book reflect the real vision of the province of those who now occupy the place of power in the province, a vision that they have held from the start.

The signs were there for those willing to see them—the positions which the Common Cause Partnership’s original theological statement took, Bishop Duncan’s call for a new settlement to replace the Elizabethan Settlement, Bishop Akerman’s call for a new Oxford Movement. Duncan now chairs the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force and Ackerman serves as its special consultant.

As the proposed Prayer Book moves closer to completion, it becomes more and more evident that it will not serve the needs of modern-day Anglicans who are faithful to the Bible and the Anglican Formularies and committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It is a Prayer Book designed for a time now past. It is not designed for the twenty-first century North American mission field. It is a Prayer Book that reflects the particular interests of one wing of the Anglican Church in North America, its theological thought and its liturgical ideas. It is a party book. At its heart is a vision of the Anglican Church reshaped along the lines of the supposedly undivided Church of the early High Middle Ages in the eleventh century before the East-West Schism. Douglas Bess in his history of the Continuing Anglican Movement equates this particular vision with “an extreme form of Anglo-Catholicism.”

The English Reformers regarded the Bible as the Church’s ultimate standard and rule of faith and practice. This was not the Bible interpreted through the lens of men’s traditions but by Scripture itself. Their vision of the Church was a Church that conformed to the Scriptures in its teaching and practices. While those who sought refuge in Geneva during the Marian persecutions differed in their interpretation of Scripture on such matters as church polity and vestments from those who sought refuge in Zurich, the two wings of the reformed English Church shared this common vision of the Church. This vision of the Church is also the vision shared by the adherents of biblical Anglicanism. It is a Church ruled by the Bible and the Anglican Formularies, which derive their authority from the Bible.

What we see in the Anglican Church in North America is an unacknowledged conflict between biblical Anglicanism and Catholic Revivalism. On three fronts Catholic Revivalists have made substantial gains. These fronts are the province’s episcopal bench, its Catechism, and its proposed Prayer Book, which includes the province’s Ordinal. The resulting losses to biblical Anglicanism are not trivial. They greatly affect the capacity of the province to fulfill Jesus’ commission to go and make disciples of all nations, to spread the gospel to the remotest corners of the earth. They rob the province of one of its greatest assets—a biblical faith. Without such a faith the likelihood of the province becoming the dynamic force for the evangelization of North America, which its leaders like to claim that the province is, is negligible. This will become increasingly evident with the passage of time. 

Photo: A field of steal-thistles

J.D. Greear: Helping Your People Glimpse the Vision

The slightest glimpse of what “can be” creates more willingness to change than any sermons we can preach. If you want a ministry filled with people coming up with mission ideas faster than you can facilitate them, give people a glimpse of what can be and help them feel what God wants it to be. You don’t have to give them a detailed blueprint, just a taste of what you know God wants. Read More

What Kind of Churches Can Challenge Our Culture with Credibility? [Video]

We want the gospel of Jesus Christ to be compelling to our neighbors. We want to capture hearts and minds. So how does it happen?

Timothy Keller, author of 'Center Church,' offers two key traits of churches that challenge our culture with credibility. It won't just happen with the evangelism of conservatives or the justice of liberals. View Now

Why Churches Struggle with Follow-Up – Rainer on Leadership #210 [Podcast]

On today’s episode, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss a recent post on guest follow-up and offer some tips on how to improve it in your church. Read More

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 25:12 — 23.1MB)

How to Preach a Terrible Easter Sermon

Like the spirits who plagued the Demoniac, my mistakes in Easter-preaching have been legion. The subject is always lively, but the preaching is sometimes grave! So in a deeply ironical tone, neither to be copied or encouraged, here are seven ways to preach a terrible Easter sermon. Please, I beg of you, do not try this in your pulpit this Sunday. Read More

Also see
Resources for Sermon Preparation

Amplifying Evangelism—One Way to Amplify Our Gospel Witness...Unplug!

Evangelism is not possible until we engage those around us

A couple of months ago I was riding on a train in Chicago and noticed that almost everyone riding near me had ear buds in. Instead of interacting with others, they were in their own little world. A couple of days ago I was on the other side of our world, walking down a main street in Sydney, Australia. And it was exactly the same. Ear buds were jammed in many people’s ears, including mine! There was very little human contact.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not anti-technology. I still love music. But, if we are going to bear the good news of Jesus to a world deeply in need of His love, we need to unplug. We need to have face-to-face encounters and conversations. We need to have human contact and choose to unplug more often. Read More

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Prayer Book for North America: Rites and Services for the North American Mission Field

By Robin G. Jordan

This is to announce the upcoming launch of A Prayer Book for North America, an online collection of rites and services for the North American mission field. The project has two purposes.

The first purpose is to offer alternatives to the unreformed Catholic rites and services of the Anglican Church in North America, alternatives that are agreeable to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the Anglican Formularies and which stand in the heritage of the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement. The rites and services that Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has produced to date and which the College of Bishops has approved reflect the strong influence of Catholic Revivalist thought upon those two bodies.

In basing these rites and services on supposedly ancient models, the Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force is not completing the work of the English Reformers as at least one blogger asserts on the Internet. The liturgical reforms that the English Reformers introduced were intended to bring the rites and services of the English Church into line with biblical teaching and practices. For the English Reformers the Bible was the ultimate standard and rule for faith and practice.

The English Reformers were not so fascinated with the past that that they misinterpreted Scripture in order to justify the revival of unreformed Catholic teaching and practices. This kind of antiquarianism was a characteristic of the seventeenth century Caroline High Churchmen, the eighteenth century Non-Jurors, and the nineteenth century Ritualists, and is a characteristic of modern-day Catholic Revivalists. It is a form of revisionism to attribute this characteristic to the English Reformers who rejected such teaching and practices on firm Scriptural grounds and then use it to rationalize significant departures from what the English Reformers believed and valued.

The second purpose is to offer rites and services that embody the kind of flexibility needed for the North American mission field and which make allowances for the varying circumstances of the congregations and missional communities using them.

Missional communities may be described as “local, flexible expressions of church, not dependent on typical church buildings or church services.” The primary focus of a missional community is making and forming new disciples of Jesus Christ among a particular neighborhood or network of relationships.

Although worshiping communities may assume varied forms of church in response to a changing culture, their primary focus is worship, not outreach and mission. While worship can energize outreach and mission, a worship focus can also result in a group that is not outward-looking and mission-oriented.

The kinds of worship resources that congregations and missional communities need on the mission field are forms of service that will help them to reach and engage the spiritually disconnected and unchurched. This includes forms of service that are uncomplicated and easy-to-understand, are participatory, and may be lay-led.

Most of the rites and services that Prayer Book and Common Liturgy Task Force has produced to date and which the College of Bishops has approved require the sacerdotal and sacramental ministry of an ordained priest. This requirement greatly limits their usefulness. They reflect the unreformed Catholic view of the role of the priest in the life of the parish church in which the priest functions in persona Christi, as “another Christ” for his parishioners, offering the sacrifice of the Eucharist on their behalf and dispensing grace to them through the sacraments.

This view differs significantly from that of the Bible and the Anglican Formularies in which the primary role of the presbyters, or elders, of the local church is to proclaim and expound God’s Word.

What is notable about the ministry of the Word both in the Bible and the Anglican Formularies is that it does not require ordination, only calling and appointment by those exercising public authority in the church. In the Anglican Communion today we see wide use of authorized lay persons as ministers of the Word both intentionally and out of necessity.

What expressions of church congregations and missional communities will assume in the twenty-first century will vary from locality to locality, from region to region. In congregations and other groups that seek to make and form disciples of Jesus Christ, however, gathering around God’s Word on a regular basis is likely to be a key component in the discipleship process. With this in mind, A Prayer Book for North America will include a range of formats for gatherings centered on the proclamation and exposition of the Word. 

The Character of the Christian: Respected by Outsiders

Today we conclude our series on the character of the Christian. We have been exploring how the various character qualifications of elders are actually God’s calling on all Christians. While elders are meant to exemplify these traits, all Christians are to exhibit them. I have wanted us to consider whether we are displaying these traits and to learn together how we can pray to have them in greater measure. Today, as we wrap up, we will tackle what it means for elders—and all Christians—to be well thought of by outsiders. And, of course, we will ask why it matters. Read More

Leading the Twenty-First Century Church: Four Articles

Why Ministry is Harder Than It Was a Decade Ago

Ever feel like ministry is harder than it was a decade ago? You’re not alone. Read More

People Won't Commit to the Church Any More? Don't You Believe It

The way people make commitments is changing. Unhealthy churches whine about it. Healthy churches do something about it. Read More

12 Ways to Build Trust with a Congregation

I’ve met many church members who no longer trust church leaders. Often that distrust is unjustified, but sometimes it’s valid. If you want to gain and grow your congregation’s trust, here are some ways to do that.... Read More

Three Types of Friends Every Leader Needs

Some have lamented that leadership is lonely. The unique pressure and responsibilities that leaders face can push some leaders to isolation. But wise leaders reject the temptation to remove themselves from others. Great leaders know they need others for both encouragement and wisdom. Here are three types of friends that every leader needs.... Read More

Three Mistakes to Avoid in Good Friday Preaching

While there are a number of ways preaching the cross can go wrong, here are three key mistakes to avoid in your preaching of the cross this Good Friday. Read More

Four Reasons You Need a Communications Plan for Your Church

Most, if not all, churches have a plan for their worship services. Hopefully your church has a plan for discipleship. And many churches have a long-range plan. But what about how you communicate to members and guests? Do you have a plan for that? Read More

The Message of Islam vs. The Gospel of Jesus

Questions about relations between Muslims and Christians continue to receive widespread attention in the media and society at large. In particular, “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” has become especially controversial among Christians in the United States. Responses have often been polarizing, with one side insisting the answer must be affirmative and the other vehemently denying this. But the question itself is highly ambiguous and conflates different issues in an unhelpful manner. Thus, rather than trying to answer directly whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, it’s more helpful to consider similarities and differences in the beliefs of Muslims and Christians, noting areas of both agreement and disagreement.

There are some clear similarities between Christian and Muslim beliefs. For example, both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic religions that maintain the universe was created by God, that God has given humanity a special revelation, and that there will be a final judgment.

But there are fundamental differences as well—differences that take us to the heart of the Christian gospel and the New Testament teachings about Jesus Christ. What follows is a very concise introduction to some aspects of Islam and Christianity, focusing on several significant points at which the Christian gospel is different from what Islam traditionally has maintained. Highlighting differences shouldn’t be taken as minimizing important similarities between the religions. Since the basic differences concern the core of the gospel, though, appreciation of similarities must be framed with awareness of the differences. Read More

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Champion a Church Plant

While this article was primarily written for a Southern Baptist readership, most of the ideas that Diane Davis suggests may be used to encourage church planters irrespective of the denomination with which they may be affiliated. 

My mother and her parents were involved in a church plant around the time I began elementary school. In later years I learned from my mother that she and her parents had taken an active interest in missions. One of her closest friends in high school, the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, would become a missionary to China. 

The pastor of the first Episcopal church my family attended after we emigrated to the United States had been a missionary to the Philippines. The Episcopal church that my mother, my three nieces, and I attended on holidays here in westernmost Kentucky was the last Episcopal church planted in this region. It was a young church that held its services in a wooden A-framed building and its Sunday school classes in a large trailer. 

Since the mid-1980s I have been involved in a number of church plants—two Episcopal church plants, a United Methodist church plant, and two Southern Baptist church plants. The most recent Southern Baptist church plant might be more accurately described as a non-denomination church plant.

I learned one thing from my involvement with the first Episcopal church plant. It was that Episcopalians are inclined to view new church plants as poor relatives due to their status as subsidized missions. The kind of support that they offered new congregations took the form of hand-me-downs and discards. They did not realize that a new church plant is on the forefront of the mission field and that faded vestments, bent processional crosses, dented smoke-blackened censors, and torn dog-eared hymnals and prayer books were not going to help a new congregation to reach and engage the unchurched. 

We became a dumping ground for everything that was cluttering their sacristies and storage rooms. The most helpful gift we received was a one-time grant of money that enabled us to buy a brand-new upright piano. The electric organ that one church donated was broken. What I learned from this experience was that the kind of encouragement and support which a church offers to those pioneering a new congregation should convey the message that we value you and what you are doing.

As for the second Episcopal church plant, while the bishop had sanctioned the new work, the rectors of the two Episcopal churches in the area at which it was targeted refused to acknowledge its existence. The area was experiencing explosive population growth and could have easily supported a third Episcopal church. One church had gone to three services on Sunday morning and a fourth service on Sunday evening. The other church had launched a third service on Sunday morning but had encountered difficulties due to having outgrown its rector's leadership ability. It would subsequently discontinue the third service. A number of their church members referred derogatively to the new church's members as "happy-clappy Holy Rollers."  This was a reference to the charismatic leanings of the members of my former church's healing and prayer ministry who had started the new work. 

My experience with my first Southern Baptist church plant was quite different. Volunteers from other Southern Baptist churches helped the church planter and his wife to conduct a community survey which enabled them to gauge interest in a new church in their target area and identify any unmet needs that the new church might meet. Volunteers from New Orleans Baptist Seminary helped to conduct the worship services and to lead the small groups. Volunteers from other Southern Baptist churches helped to staff the new church’s Vacation Bible School. The message that we received was that we and what we were doing were highly valued. Take time to read Diane Davis' article and to consider how you and your church might encourage  a church planter.

Photo credit: Bridge Church, Madisonville, Louisiana