Monday, October 31, 2016

'Sola Scriptura'...

Next Monday, October 31, is the four hundred and ninety-ninth anniversary of the day Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The door served as a university notice board.

Papal indulgences, designed to raise money for the renovation of St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, offered a pay-plan for the ‘satisfaction’ element in the church’s teaching on salvation. Grounding his theses on the unique and supreme authority of the Scriptures for our knowledge of God and salvation, Luther questioned the pope’s authority and the abuses in the sale of indulgences.

Today and over the next four Wednesdays I plan to touch on key elements of what is known as the five ‘solas’ or ‘alones’ of the Reformation: ‘Scripture alone’, ‘faith alone’, ‘grace alone’, ‘Christ alone’, ‘to the glory of God alone’.Read More

Related articles:
What Is Reformation Day?
Why Do We Celebrate the Protestant Reformation?
Is the Reformation still necessary?
Reformation Day Reflections for Today's Church
Martin Luther: All for the Gospel
Looking at Wittenberg in the Time of Martin Luther

On the Net: "Eight Reasons Many Bible Belt Churches Are in Trouble" and More

Eight Reasons Many Bible Belt Churches Are in Trouble

There are thousands of churches in the Bible Belt. Sadly, too many of them are not adjusting to the changing realities of the area. They still act like it’s 1975. Here’s why.... Read More

Do You Have a Zombie Church?

Six signs a church lacks true life and how to cure it. Read More

Why Christians Can Be Calm in a Crazy World

Here are four reasons Christians can stay positive and calm even when our world seems to be falling apart. Read More

3 Common (yet Foolish) Excuses for Delaying Leadership Development

Leadership development is deeply countercultural in an instant gratification culture. And while leaders intuitively know they are responsible to develop others, many leaders often neglect the essential and offer foolish excuses instead. Read More

Leading by Listening

I admit that I’m not a very good listener. I tend to have multiple things on my mind, and they hinder my ability to hear well. I’m learning, though, that I MUST listen if I want to lead well. Maybe you need to listen like I do.... Read More

4 Unintentional Ways Your Purpose Is Getting Hijacked

Your purpose – the whole reason you went into ministry in the first place – can quickly get lost in the juggling of email, meetings, budgets and day-to-day fire-fighting. Read More

The New Evangelical Minority

If the Southern Baptist church can’t be bigger, Russell Moore wants it to be better. Read More

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why Did the Reformers Conclude that Reform Was Urgent and Necessary in the 16th Century?

The church is always in need of reform. Even in the New Testament, we see Jesus rebuking Peter, and we see Paul correcting the Corinthians. Since Christians are always sinners, the church will always need reform. The question for us, however, is when does the need become an absolute necessity?

The great Reformers of the sixteenth century concluded that reform was urgent and necessary in their day. In pursuing reform for the church, they rejected two extremes. On the one hand, they rejected those who insisted that the church was essentially sound and needed no fundamental changes. On the other hand, they rejected those who believed that they could create a perfect church in every detail. The church needed fundamental reform, but it would also always need to be reforming itself. The Reformers reached these conclusions from their study of the Bible. Read More

Related article: 10 Things You Should Know about the Reformation

Saturday Lagniappe: "Don't Waste the Opportunity: 4 Reasons You Should Go Trick or Treating This Weekend" and More

Don't Waste the Opportunity: 4 Reasons You Should Go Trick or Treating This Weekend

New poll asks "What are pastors telling their congregations?" Read More

Four ways to deal with annoying church members

Whether the thorn in your side is an annoying yet well-meaning personality or a controlling and dangerous deacon, there are several actions we can take to move our hearts toward compassion and love for these souls. Read More

19 Possible Motive-Triggers for Pornography

Often triggers and motive are treated as two distinct things, and there are differences. But those differences are more akin to two sides of the same coin than apples and oranges. In this post you will examine the things that trigger your sexual sin and the motives attached to those triggers. Read More

Should You Pastor a Church You Would Never Attend?

Should you take a ministry position in a church you wouldn’t otherwise attend? Read More

Eight Ways Pastors Can Cultivate Long-Term Tenures

Generally, long-term pastor tenures are better than short-term pastor tenures. The context where the pastor ministers can impact the tenure. The church body can impact the tenure. And the pastor can impact tenure length. Below are eight ways pastors can cultivate their own long-term tenures. Read More

4 Ways Worship Leaders Can Serve Tech Volunteers Better

No matter if you are very close or you barely know the tech guy (or gal) in your church, as a worship leader you can always find new ways to serve them – and with them – better. Read More

Church Communication Blind Spots

Sometimes we have blind spots in our church communication. Read More

8 Tips for Making Your Meals Missional

Following the pattern of Jesus, shared meals can be an occasion for disciple making. Read More

Friday, October 28, 2016

On the Net: "What Does a Healthy Small Church Look Like?" and More

What Does a Healthy Small Church Look Like?

Numbers can help us understand some things about the health of a church. But they’re not the only thing. Read More

The Illegal Cookout That Sparked the Swiss Reformation

Who would have thought that an unassuming plate of sausages could ignite a revolution? Read More

8 Thoughts on Christians and Halloween

I have studied spiritual warfare for many years, so you might assume that I strongly encourage believers to avoid anything related to Halloween. That’s not exactly the position I take.... Read More

6 Phrases Young Leaders Can Use to Build Trust

For young leaders, building trust starts with incorporating a few phrases in their communication with team members. These phrases demonstrate respect for their team members, a foundational element for building trust. Read More

5 Truths from 10 Years of Discipleship Research

Scott McConnell just celebrated ten years of leading LifeWay Research. We recently met to discuss all he has learned about discipleship, from a research vantage point, in his ten years of leading this important work. Here are five big truths from ten years of discipleship research..... Read More

Trump Ends Evangelicals and Catholics Together

This election, many of evangelicals’ GOP allies across the Tiber are leaving for Clinton. Read More

Thursday, October 27, 2016

On the Net: "Ten Reasons Why Theology Matters" and More

Ten Reasons Why Theology Matters

Most Christians agree theology is important, but can't articulate why. These reasons can help. Read More

The Doctrine of Scripture

The Reformation was built upon the Bible, so we should not be surprised to find in the Reformers a robust doctrine of Scripture. One helpful construct to unpack the doctrine of Scripture involves four key terms: authority, necessity, clarity, and sufficiency. Read More

7 of the Most Dangerous Leadership Mindsets I’ve Observed

A leader could be doing everything else right and one flawed mindset can overshadow – jeopardize all the good leadership principles we know. Read More

The One Vital Ingredient Your Preaching Is Missing: Imagination

What if you’re not tapping into the power of the imagination and your ministry is suffering because of it? Read More

Preach in a Mild State of Panic

I want to question those who advocate full manuscripts and memorized outlines. I invite preachers to consider another way: Stop trying to master a set of notes. Fill yourself with more Scripture, ideas, applications, and illustrations than you could possibly use, then pray, and see what happens. Read More

10 Ways to Improve Announcements

As a pastor, I always struggled with the best way to do announcements. Whatever we did, it never felt right. Over the years, I’ve noted what other churches have done – and I’d do announcements differently than I ever did back then. Here are some suggestions for doing announcements well.... Read More

3 Growing Needs in Missionary Education

Missionaries need a biblical, theological, and missiological foundation. Read More
As missionaries to their community and region, church members also need training.
Russell Moore: If Religious Right Is Not Able To Re-Focus On The Gospel It Deserves To Die

Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has launched a strong attack on the religious right, saying that it must refocus on a "gospel-centred" evangelism instead of merely pursuing political ends. Read More

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The State of Theology: Suspicious Of Authority

One of the most crucial conversations during the Reformation concerned the marks of the true church. This is understandable. Prior to the Reformation the only church was the Roman Catholic Church. (In the West, of course, as the Orthodox Church dominated the East.) Then along came the Reformers, who raised the question: What is the true church?

Two marks consistently popped up in the discussion: the preaching of the Word and the right ordering of the sacraments. John Knox learned these two marks from Calvin and from his time in Geneva. When he returned to Scotland and served in a significant role in establishing the Church of Scotland, Knox made explicit a third mark, that of church discipline. For Calvin, and the other Reformers, church discipline was implicit in the right understanding of the church’s faithful administration of the sacraments. The Lord’s Supper, practiced aright, necessitated the practice of church discipline, they would argue. Knox made what was implicit explicit when he named church discipline a third mark of the true church.

This look back at the Reformers’ discussion of the marks of the true church raises a fascinating question: What would the Reformers think of the response to this statement regarding the local church’s right to exercise church discipline? They would likely be both confounded and dismayed. How can anyone be unsure on something so crucial? Further, how can only 13% get this statement right? We, too, should be confounded and dismayed. Read More

On the Net: "500 Years After Reformation, No Meeting of Minds Between Catholics And Evangelicals" and More

500 Years After Reformation, No Meeting of Minds Between Catholics And Evangelicals

Evangelical theologians have released a "statement of evangelical convictions" about Roman Catholicism in advance of the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation next Monday. Read More

The One Thing Needed for Latin America’s Reformation

In the West, the main problem has often been liberalism—subtracting from God’s revelation. But in the Global South, our main problem has been heresy—adding to God’s revelation. Read More

When Churches Get the Disappearing Blues

From my observation, here are steps churches take which nullify their witness and shut down their outreach and end their usefulness in the community. Read More

Five Ways to Stop the Decline in Your Church

If you are willing to make changes, to make sacrifices, and to get out of your comfort zones, there is real hope. Read More

My Church Stinks!

What if church size wasn't the primary – often the only – measure of church health? How many pastors would still say “my church stinks" then? Read More

Week #6—What Christians Should Ask of Government: To Not Play God

This is a manuscript from Jonathan Leeman’s class “Christians and Government,” which he is currently teaching through at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. There will be 13 weeks in the class. Here is the course schedule, to be published as it’s taught. Read More

7 Hard Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

Pastors need to know these. Read More

10 More Thoughts about Today's Preaching

Last year, I posted some thoughts about today’s preaching. Here are some additional reflections.... Read More

Cradle Christians: Protestants Keep the Faith Better Than Catholics or Nones

Pew examines which parents successfully pass their religion to their kids—and whether mom or dad mattered most. Read More

Evangelicals are for Trump, Clinton, and Others

Party affiliation is a much stronger predictor of voting preferences than faith. Read More

Doctor Strange: The Most Theological Marvel Movie So Far

Atheists are really going to hate the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Doctor Strange, the Benedict Cumberbatch-fronted action epic about a superhero who can subvert time and space takes a dim view of the faithless, instead presenting a new dimension to the comic book world which allows for souls, spirits and even eternal life.Read More

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rural Church Planting and Coaching Church Planters: November CPLF Gathering

If you're a church planting leader in your denomination, you should join us for this gathering.

"What’s unique about planting in rural settings? What’s the state of rural church planting? Also, how do we coach and care for church planters effectively? What are the best practices?"

The Church Planting Leadership Fellowship will be focusing on these topics at its next gathering on November 14-15 in Nashville.

"If you help lead church planting at a denomination, network, judicatory, state convention, or other level, this is a gathering for you." Learn More

Digital Theology

Articles on the challenges of technology used to start with a long list of statistics proving the seriousness of the moral, spiritual, relational, and cognitive problems resulting from the digital revolution. I hardly need to waste ink or space on such matters now. Everyone knows by personal experience and observation how many and how massive the problems are. And the vast majority of Christians are concerned enough to want to do something about it. But what can we do? Read More

10 Reasons You Must Treat Each Person Differently

I spoke alongside Tim Elmore at the ETCH conference and heard him give a great illustration on the difference between life-giving and life-grabbing leaders. According to Tim, life-giving leaders view leadership like chess and life-grabbing leaders view leadership like checkers. As you know, in checkers, all the pieces are the same. In chess, the pieces are different from one another with different strategic strengths. A leader who views leadership as a game of checkers treats all the people the same, while a chess-playing leader understands that people are different and should be treated differently. A wise leader knows it is foolish to treat every person the same. Here are ten reasons you must treat each person you lead differently. Read More

How to Find Your True Calling —An Interview with Exponential’s Todd Wilson [Podcast]

Wonder if you’ll ever find your real calling? Are you called to ministry? How would you know? An ex-engineer with the US nuclear navy, Todd Wilson answered a call to ministry, founding Exponential and many other things as a Kingdom entrepreneur. His latest venture is to help leaders find their true calling, and in this episode, he tells you what to look for to find your calling. Read More
I have know at least one pastor who cleaned offices at night, planted a new church, and preached the gospel on Sunday. Since I knew him, he has planted a second new church. 

Good to Great: Speaking How You Speak, Not How You Write

Meet Jon. Jon is a great pastor. He really is. He loves Jesus. He loves people. He is intelligent. He is witty. He is calm under pressure. He leads Bible study well. Not only does he tell people he will pray for them, he actually does! But after four years of paid full-time vocational ministry, Jon is still battling with a key part of his work as a pastor. His preaching just isn’t where he wants it to be. And if his church is honest, it isn’t quite where they would want it to be, either.

It is not his exegesis. He has clearly spent hours in the books. He has translated the Greek, he has read the commentaries, he has cross-checked what Calvin has to say. And it isn’t the length of his sermon. He has read Saving Eutychus, and doesn’t want to be the guy who kills a parishioner! Yes, he is a 20-minute man through and through. But something isn’t quite right.

Here is the problem: when he speaks, it feels like he is reading an essay, rather than talking to people. The words are always good. The logic is always sound. It is just… well, let’s be honest… a bit boring! Read More

Ten Things You Should Know about Interpreting the Bible

Today we look at 10 things we should know about how to interpret the Bible (or conversely, how not to interpret it). But before we begin, it’s important to remember that the Bible is not an answer-book that provides ready-made explanations for all problems or solutions to puzzling questions. When I run into a problem with my computer, I click the Help button and find a topically organized list of solutions to virtually every difficulty I may be facing. But the Bible did not come to us with an Index of topics or a Table of Contents. With that in mind, we begin. Read More

Monday, October 24, 2016

Six Reasons Congregational Singing Is Waning

This blog has several million viewers every year, and many of them are not believers. They are watching your interaction with one another.

I know I am touching on several sensitive subjects in one post: the loudness of music; lighting in the worship center; music preferences; and performance versus participatory singing.

But here is the clear reality in many congregations: congregational singing is waning in many churches. In some churches it seems to have disappeared altogether. Read More

JC Ryle: A Faithful Anglican [Audio]

Lee Gattis examines the lessons we can learn from the example and ministry of J. C. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool. This talk was given at the Church Society Conference 2016 this past June. Listen Now

On the Net: "Autopsy of a Financially Deceased Church" and More

Autopsy of a Financially Deceased Church

As we hear the stories of churches that find themselves scraping the bottom of their checking account, worried if they will financially survive, you tend to uncover some common themes. Read More

3 Mistakes Churches Make When They Talk Money

Ministry leader wants to spread the biblical message of generosity in order to grow generous givers. Read More

3 Ways Ministry Leaders Must Live as Stewards

As resources are generously given to the church, ministry leaders are responsible to ensure they are leveraged to advance the mission the Lord has given His people. Here are three ways ministry leader must live as stewards.... Read More

7 Hints You’re About to Make a Bad Leadership Decision

Have you ever made a bad decision in leadership? Read More

5 Simple Steps to Recruit Volunteers In a Small Church

It's hard to disciple people when you can't even find volunteers. This simple process can help small churches do both better.Read More

Insecurity and Assurance of Salvation

We are fragile mortals, given to fears of every sort. We have a built-in insecurity that no amount of whistling in the dark can mollify. We seek assurance concerning the things that frighten us the most. Read More

What Does it Mean to Fear God?

We need to make some important distinctions about the biblical meaning of “fearing” God. These distinctions can be helpful, but they can also be a little dangerous. When Luther struggled with that, he made this distinction, which has since become somewhat famous: He distinguished between what he called a servile fear and a filial fear. Read More

Is Your Gospel an Urban Legend?

If you talk a big game about "the gospel," but don't live like it's true, the people you do life with will begin to suspect you don't actually believe it. Worse yet, they may begin to disbelieve it themselves. Read More

10 Ways to Help Your Small Group to Be Holy

Small groups are increasingly a big deal today. Pam and I love our small group, led by College@Southeastern student Trevor Forbis. We might be the senior adult department in the group, but we feel loved and appreciated. Here are 10 ways you might lead your small group to be what God calls us be: holy. Read More

The Key to Evangelism in the 21st Century

In our progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage unbelievers with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes. Read More

Is Your Church Ready for the Future?

How do we winsomely and effectively communicate that “Jesus is Lord” to people who believe preference trumps all? Read More

5 Predictions About the US Presidential Election

Amidst all the discussion around the 2016 Presidential election, here are five (kind of) predictions I see around the election and (best of all) for the church. Read More

C. Peter Wagner (1930-2016), Some Thoughts on His Life and Passing

Missiologist, missionary, writer, teacher, and Church Growth specialist. Read More

'Behead The Unbelievers': The Threats Faced By Christian Refugees In Germany

The persecution of Christian refugees living in a German reception centre has prompted drastic measures to reduce religiously-motivated violence, Open Doors reports. Read More

Friday, October 21, 2016

5 Crucial Challenges to the American Megachurch

Warren Bird: Five unique challenges that face megachurches—and what all church leaders can learn from them. Read More

5 Things the Seeker Movement Got Right

Actually, these are more like five “right ideas” or five “right tracks” the “seeker sensitive” church growth movement started down before it veered hard into a fuller blown consumerism and became the attractional church. The yes, but‘s will be a reflex for most of my readers (as they are for me), and I have tried to anticipate them in my explanations, but for the most part, this really is a post about some good gifts the seeker church of yesteryear has given contemporary evangelicalism. Read More

Going for Growth: How Strong Is Your Church

The October/November 2016 issue of Focus, the magazine for the Anglican Church Southern Queensland, is now online. It may downloaded in PDF format here. Articles include "Moving Ahead in God's Mission," the cover feature, "How Noosa is growing its church attendance," and "Monthly is the new weekly."

Do You Get Nervous Before You Preach?

He waited for me to pause from reviewing my sermon manuscript before the service began. As soon as he saw an opening, he asked, “Do you still get nervous before you preach?” Read More

Most Evangelicals Now Think Politicians' Personal Immorality Does Not Matter

Most white evangelicals now think politicians' immoral acts in their personal lives do not affect their behaviour once in office. Read More
Despite their championing of what they describe as "family values," US evangelicals show the growing influence of post-modern culture upon their thinking

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On the Net: "The Context for the Sexual Revolution" and More

The Context for the Sexual Revolution

When we look at the sexual revolution, we must honestly ask, how did all this happen? As noted in previous essays, the sexual revolution did not emerge in a vacuum. Modern societies created a context for moral revolution that had never before been available. In other words, certain cultural conditions had to prevail in order for the revolution to get the traction it needed to succeed. Let’s consider a few of the cultural factors that led to our current situation. Read More

5 Emotional Intelligence Hacks That Can Immediately Improve Your Leadership

Your emotional intelligence (or lack thereof) is already affecting far more than you think at work and at home. Read More

10 of the Greatest Leadership Questions Ever Asked

One of the best skills a leader can develop is the art of asking the right questions – and, even better – at the right times. Read More

10 Books Every Church Preacher Should Read

If you are a preacher then why not read one of these before you plan your next sermon series? If you're a member of a congregation, you could even buy your minister one of these as a Christmas present.... Read More

Five Ways for Churches to Utilize Facebook This Christmas

How can you leverage your church Facebook page to engage as many people as possible with the good news of the birth of Christ? Read More

Reclaiming Evangelism: Why Christians Need to Recover Their Passion for Christ

U.K. ministry leader explores evangelism's embarrassment, exclusivity, and entrepreneurial nature. Read More

Here's Another Reason Millennials Are Leaving the Church

A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) suggests that divorce is a significant factor in provoking millennials to leave the church. Read More

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Secret to Getting Nonbelievers to Check Out Your Church

LifeWay Research recently polled thousands of nonbelievers about what it would take to get them inside a church. When I thought about it, the results made perfect sense, but most church leaders never consider these possibilities. Read More

10 Reasons Transfer Growth Can Be a Problem

First, a caveat: I know there are times when transfer church growth is necessary and right. We need to be serving in a church near where we live, and we need to be in a church that preaches the gospel. It makes sense to me to move our membership to reach those goals. Nevertheless, transfer growth can be a problem. Here’s why.... Read More

6 Things Church Leaders Need to Know About Small Churches

Big churches matter. Small churches matter. When we work together, Jesus can do amazing things through us.

Ninety percent of the churches on earth are under 200 people. Eighty percent are under 100. There may be no segment of the church that is more normative. But they may also be the most misunderstood.

Here are six truths about small churches that I wish every church leader knew and took into account.... Read More

Photo: St. Mark's Anglican Church, Benton, Kentucky

The State of Theology: Who Is the Christ We Are Following?

The single most crucial question of all time may very well be: Who is Jesus Christ? The identity of Christ is likely the most crucial issue any one will ever face. A great deal hangs in the balance when it comes to the question of the identity of Jesus. We learn in Scripture itself and we see the lesson echoing through church history that in order to have a right understanding of the work of Christ, we must have a right understanding of the person of Christ. Read More

5 Reasons Preachers Need to Use Good Grammar

I want to be careful with this post, as I recognize that all of us have different opportunities for education. I don’t want to offend any readers. Still, though, I want to get a discussion on the table.

Here’s my point in this post: we who preach the Word should strive to use the best grammar when we speak. I am not asking for formality, and I’m certainly not asking for perfection – but I am suggesting that we give more attention to the way we speak. Here’s why.... Read More

The Missing Elements of Modern Worship

I once paid a visit to one of the most mega of America’s megachurches. It’s a church whose pastor is well-known, a church known for its innovation, a church held up as a model for modern evangelicalism. I went in with as open a mind as I could muster. I left perplexed. I was perplexed not by what was said or done in the service as much as what was left unsaid and undone.

Since that visit I’ve had the opportunity to attend many more churches and, as often as not, they have been similar, missing a lot of the elements that used to be hallmarks of Christian worship. Here are some of the missing elements of modern worship. Read More

When Sin Keeps You from Prayer

The other day I preached on prayer and received a helpful comment from a church member. They mentioned the way in which sin keeps them from prayer; and how, over time, the guilt over sin makes it quite difficult to pray. I think this is a problem for many of us. Here are some thoughts to navigate a path of prayer through the fog of guilt. Read More

On the Net: "What Christians Should Do For Government" and More

Week 3—What Christians Should Do For Government: Be the Church Together

his is a manuscript from Jonathan Leeman’s class “Christians and Government,” which he is currently teaching through at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. There will be 13 weeks in the class. Here is the course schedule, to be published as it’s taught. Read More

3 Ways to Increase Alignment on the Team You Lead

How can leaders work to increase the alignment on the teams they lead? Read More

Twelve Key Reasons for Church Staff Conflict

Conflict is certainly not unique with church staff. But among the several reasons for staff conflict, there are some that seem to be more pervasive with these relationships than others. Read More

5 Steps to Discern a Change in Ministry Assignment

How do you know when God is closing one door in ministry and opening another? Read More

10 Tips for Leading Kids to Christ

If you are seeking to influence little ones toward Christ, you might find these ten tips helpful.... Read More

Young Priests 'Too Scared" to Perform Exorcisms

Priests in Italy are finding it difficult to encourage young clergy to take up the rite of exorcism, one of the country's top practitioners has warned. Read More

Hundreds Of Christian Refugees Beaten And Sexually Abused In German Refugee Camps

Hundreds of Christian refugees have been beaten and sexually abused in German refugee camps, a report by the persecution charity Open Doors revealed. Read More

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On the Net: "4 Misleading Ways to Measure Church Health…And a Guide That Can Help" and More

4 Misleading Ways to Measure Church Health…And a Guide That Can Help

When you have the wrong measure of health, you build the wrong plan to move forward. Read More

Big Cities Need Great Small Churches, Too

Alongside big churches, we need an explosion of smaller, niche churches to infiltrate neighborhoods and challenge us to think differently. Read More

Most College Students Are Leaving the Church. Here's How This Congregation Is Bucking the Trend

What helped a tiny campus church plant become the fastest-growing flock in Tallahassee? Read More

50 Years Ago Today: The Split between John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones

On Tuesday, October 18, 1966, an event took place that shook British evangelicalism—on the nature of the church and the basis of gospel unity and purity—with reverberations still being felt today. Read More

Why Study Church History?

The study of church history, however, is meant to provide more than just inspiration. Serious reflection on the past protects us from error, reminds us of God’s faithfulness, and motivates us to persevere. Read More

An Illustration of Repentance

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has an excellent definition of repentance in Question 87: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.” Read More

7 Signs Your Volunteer Team is Thriving

These seven characteristics will help your volunteer team move in the right direction. Read More

5 Ways Ministry Has Changed in 20 Years

How has ministry changed? What’s so different about being a pastor today versus 20 years ago? Read More

5 Destructive Lies About Pastors

It is totally wrong to make categorically false statements about pastors because you know a few negative examples. Read More

PRAY: An Alternative Model for Group Prayer

An innovative, four-part strategy for praying in public, especially in Sunday and home groups. Read More

7 Reminders for Pastors and Ministry Leaders who use Social Media

The way you use it matters... Read More

PREACHING MATTERS: Discipleship Training in the Gospels

What is a Gospel, and what are the Gospel authors trying to do? Can you give us some examples of how the Gospels train us? How does the authors' structure in the Gospels help us understand what true discipleship involves? What difference will this make to the structures and strategies in our churches? Watch Now

Hillary Clinton On The Christian Faith That Shaped Her Politics

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Hillary Clinton, then First Lady, spoke about the importance of her Christian faith and how it shaped her as a person. Read More

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Do Not Add to the Offense of the Gospel

Somebody said once that evangelism, true evangelism, is only this—one beggar telling another beggar how to find bread. There’s nothing that should make me boastful about my faith. I recognize that my faith is a result of the grace of God. And so we must understand that when we’re talking to people, we’re called to be gracious and kind. The fruit of the Spirit that the New Testament calls us to exhibit includes gentleness, meekness, patience, and love. That’s the spirit in which we are called to communicate to people. Read More

The Provocative People of Proverbs

I feel sorry for those people who spend all day on social media snarking at others. Do they just sit there hour after hour, following people they despise, then throwing barbs their way? That must be an awful way to live. Some people seem to shrivel where there is peace and thrive where there is contention. The book of Proverbs warns us about people like that, people who love to incite conflict and hate to resolve it. Lou Priolo highlights a number of them in his excellent book Resolving Conflict. These are the provocative people of Proverbs. Read More

The Pro-Life Movement's Fatal Attraction to Trump

The pro-life forces are not in an enviable position. In this election, they have a choice between a Democrat who is a staunch advocate of abortion rights and a Republican who claims to share their views but whose life suggests he has nothing in common with them.

For conservatives, abortion has become the last resort in rationalizing a vote for Trump. If Hillary Clinton makes one or more Supreme Court appointments, they believe, the chance of overturning its abortion decisions will be gone, perhaps for good. Trump, by contrast, has promised to name conservative justices, defund Planned Parenthood and ban partial-birth abortion.

But the pro-lifers' allegiance to Trump requires a huge leap of faith. In the first place, why do they trust that he'd keep his word? In the 1990s, he described himself as "very pro-choice." This year, asked about abortion, he said, "At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way."

He is practically at war with House Speaker Paul Ryan and several other prominent Republicans. Who's to say that as president, he wouldn't reverse himself on abortion to make a deal with Democrats? Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "Why It Matters that the Reformers Were Pastors" and More

Why It Matters that the Reformers Were Pastors

The Reformation and its leading figures often conjur images of ivory tower scholarship. It’s easy to forget that many of the Reformers were pastors, and that the Reformation was aimed at reviving dormant local churches. Read More

Seven Reasons Not to Have Multiple Styles of Worship - Rainer on Leadership #267 [Podcast]

In this first part of a two-part series on worship styles, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe look at why we shouldn’t have multiple styles of worship at our churches. Listen Now

Five Reasons to Have Multiple Styles of Worship - Rainer on Leadership #268 [Podcast]

Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe conclude their two-part series on multiple styles of worship in this episode. Listen Now

Church of England Could Soon Remove Legal Requirement For Regular Sunday Services

The Church of England is considering moves to abandon the legal requirement to hold regular services of morning and evening prayer in parish churches because of declining congregations. Read More

Letter to the College of Bishops

I am publishing here, with permission, a letter that has been sent to all members of the College of Bishops prior to their next meeting to decide what proposals to bring to General Synod in February. Read More

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Conundrum Christians Face This Election Year

By Robin G. Jordan

The number of women who allege that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made unwanted sexual advances toward them has grown to eleven. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, claims that the Trump campaign is accumulating evidence to disapprove their allegations and will release this evidence at “the appropriate time.” He is parroting Trump himself who has made a similar claim. At least one news article has asked what do Trump and Pence mean by “the appropriate time.” The implication is that if strong evidence of Trump’s innocence exists, now is the time to produce that evidence, not at some future date.

I am reminded of how Trump strung along the media with the promise of making a public statement retracting his long-time support of the Barack Obama birther conspiracy, only to use this promise to keep himself in the headlines and its eventual fulfillment to showcase a new hotel. He cynically exploited the media to gain free advertising for the hotel. I cannot help but suspect that Trump is doing something along those lines with his promise of evidence that will exonerate him of the alleged sexual abuse.

I can think of very few reasons that Trump would otherwise delay the release of such evidence. The first reason is that such evidence does not exist and the Trump campaign needs time to gather a body of plausible information that may lend credibility to Trump’s protestations of innocence or his allegations of ulterior motives on the part of the women making the allegations against him.

The second reason is that the Trump campaign is hoping that if they drag out the matter long enough, it will cease to be a political liability. Trump has survived a number of firestorms of his own creation during his 2016 run for the presidency.

The third reason is that Trump’s attorneys are preparing one or more libel cases against the women and the media and they do not want their cases subject to public scrutiny before they go to court. In that event “the appropriate time” would be in court.

In addition to having allegedly sexually-abused at least eleven women, Trump is alleged to have not given to various charities in the aftermath of 9/11 as he claimed. First in the primaries and now in the general election Trump has made one false statement after another. In doing so he has destroyed his own credibility. His well-documented inability to tell the truth is what makes these allegations reasonably believable.

In latest speeches Trump has returned an earlier theme of his speeches in the primaries, presenting himself as a savior who will keep the nation from descending into chaos. This theme along with his dishonesty and untruthfulness, his history of adultery, the growing number of allegations of sexual misconduct made against him, his own admissions of not paying taxes, of entertaining lustful thoughts about his own daughter and other women and of acting on those impulses in several instances, his poor record of charitable giving without strings attached or his benefiting in some way, and his furious attacks on the women who have made allegations against him should be ringing alarm bells and setting off warning lights in the minds of Christians, evangelical and otherwise.

Christians have only one savior. His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus himself warned against false Christs, false messianic figures that would appear in the time between his ascent into heaven and his return in glory. Jesus described himself not just as truthful but as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus did not avoid paying taxes. He taught that to entertain lustful thoughts towards a woman was the same as acting on such thoughts. Jesus commended those who showed charity toward the poor and condemned those who withheld it. He taught his disciples to turn the other cheek, to not let the sun go down on their anger lest the devil exploit it, to love their enemies, and to do good to those who hate them.

Before he began to run for the presidency of the United States and to court the evangelical vote, Trump supported gay marriage and abortion. Some Christians have supported Trump out of the belief that if Trump is surrounded by strong advisers, a Trump presidency could be instrumental in regaining ground lost in the culture wars. But since the primaries Trump has shown that he does not pay attention to advisers. He may listen to them for a while and then go back to doing things his way.

If anything may be gathered from the last few months, it is that if Trump was elected president, he would be out of his depth. Thin-skinned and volatile, with a short attention span, prone to fits of rage, and known for holding grudges and going out of his way to make life miserable for anyone who crosses him in any way, he would not be able to provide the country with stable leadership.

Trump’s selection of Mike Pence as his running mate offers no reassurance of stability. While Pence has reiterated his support of Trump over and over again and has repeatedly defended him, there is evidence of disagreement between Pence and Trump on a number of key issues. Pence gives the appearance of playing to Trump’s base with an eye to a future presidential run in which he will need their support.

Where does this leave Trump’s Christian supporters? They may wish to distance themselves from Trump and to pursue other options. Should Trump by an unexpected turn of events occupy the White House, I believe that they will soon discover that he does not have their interests at heart. Trump has been wooing them for their vote and not because he shares their world view and values. Whatever dispute or disputes in which Trump is embroiled at the time and how his own interests might benefit is likely to influence his choice of Supreme Court justices.

Why Evangelicals Are Divided over Trump

Democrat and Republican, conservative and liberal, red states and blue states—the political divides in our country tend to fall into binary structures. The ones we are most familiar with tend to be firmly established, and we often know, through intuition or experience, what side we align with.

But over the past few months there has been a new political divide, an intramural division within American social conservatism. And this discord has been felt most prominently within the evangelical wing of this movement.

Evangelicals are not a monolithic entity, and there have always been differences and disagreements on politics. Still, within the social conservative faction (which accounts for around 60 percent to 75 percent of evangelicalism) there has been a general sense of unity. At least there was before this election season. The candidacy of Donald Trump has caused a split within this group that has grown increasingly rancorous as we inch closer to the election.

Even by the standard of partisan politics Trump is a uniquely polarizing figure. Before this year few people could have predicted he’d bisect socially conservative evangelicals into warring camps. Read More

Related articles: 
Why I’m Neither Optimistic Nor Pessimistic About American Politics
Seeking Clarity in This Confusing Election Season: Ten Thoughts

6 Ways to Transform Your Reading of the Gospels

The gospels stand at the very heart of God’s Story, and how we read them really matters for our Christian life, for our grasp of our place in the Kingdom of God, and for our understanding of the “gospel” as reflected in those gospels.

Yet, the gospels can be a bit challenging to navigate at points. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke follow roughly the same overarching narrative line, they also differ in numerous ways in terms of emphases, what they include, and the audience they address. John takes a different approach altogether from the other three. Further, some of the cultural dynamics we encounter in the gospels may seem foreign, and aspects of Jesus’s teaching can seem esoteric if we don’t understand what is going on in context.

Over the next few blog posts I want to focus on 6 guidelines for reading the gospels in a transformative way. Read More

3 Keys to Engaging a Post-Church Culture

Lessons from this year’s Outreach magazine/LifeWay Research survey of large, fast-growing churches. Read More

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why Didn’t the Reformers Unite?

It was 1529. Various reform movements were at work, purifying the church in Wittenberg, Strasbourg, and Zurich.

It was clear some of the leaders knew one another: Martin Bucer first heard Martin Luther in Heidelberg in 1518 when both were still Augustinian monks. Luther and Huldrych Zwingli knew of one another. Publicly, Zwingli praised Luther, calling him a “Hercules” and a “faithful David” who fought the Lord’s battles. These leaders knew that each worked in the midst of challenging political contexts. Luther’s situation in Germany was intense. Charles V demanded the German princes submit to his leadership and work against the Lutheran reformation. In response, the princes issued a formal appeal against the emperor’s demand.

Protestantism was born that day.

Zwingli’s situation wasn’t much easier. The previous five years saw a number of reforms come to Zurich. While the city council supported Zwingli, he was attacked by a group of radical reformers, the Anabaptists. To the Anabaptists, Zwingli wasn’t going far enough in following the Bible, especially when it came to the nature of the church and candidates for baptism. Bucer, on the other hand, was able to navigate the politics of Strasbourg a little easier. On the edge of the Holy Roman Empire and without Anabaptists, Bucer patiently sought incremental change. Read More

Six Thoughts on Bulletin Inserts

In the comments section of last week’s post on dying practices in church communications, an astute reader mentioned bulletin inserts.

While I wouldn’t classify this as a dying practice, there are some concerns with bulletin inserts. However, since every church bulletin/worship guide/handout is different, sometimes there are benefits to bulletin inserts. And sometimes there are problems with the inserts.

Let me start with the merits of having one or two specific bulletin inserts.... Read More

Hundreds Of Christian Students At Liberty University Say 'No' To Donald Trump

Hundreds of students at the top US evangelical Christian university, Liberty, have come out against Donald Trump.

The Republican nominee has been controversially backed by Liberty's own president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

The students have formed a new group, Liberty United Against Trump. In an open letter that has already had hundreds of endorsements, they say they do not wish to champion Trump. They only want to be champions for Jesus Christ. Read More

Evangelicals Without Standards - UPDATED

Lanny Davis must be dizzy from the déjà vu.

Davis was a famously stalwart defender of Bill Clinton during the scandals of the 1990s. Little did he know that the excuses and rationalizations made for Clinton then would be repurposed by some of Clinton's harshest and most moralistic critics for a Republican presidential nominee.

Such are the gymnastics that Donald Trump requires of his most loyal evangelical backers. One day, historians will puzzle over how a man representing the mores of a debased celebrity culture became not just the nominee of the Republican Party, but the candidate of the religious right. After the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged of Trump bragging about an act of attempted adultery and getting away with groping women, representatives of “values voters” jumped most eagerly to his defense.

In a weird and depressing year, this has to rank among the strangest and most dispiriting phenomena. The salt has lost its savor as the price of a place at the table on the Trump Train. Read More

Related articles:

The Allegations:
New: Trump Faces Another Accusation — This Time, He Looked Up Models’ Skirts
New: Trump accuser: He touched me 'wherever he could find a landing spot'
Make-up artist who sued Donald Trump in 1997 harassment case says ‘p---y’ grabbing is ‘exactly what he did to me’
A Timeline of Donald Trump's Creepiness While He Owned Miss Universe
Teen Beauty Queens Say Trump Walked In On Them Changing
Donald Trump’s Creepy Stewardship Of The Miss Teen USA Pageant
In Donald Trump, I See My Own Attacker
Trump faces more groping allegations
Donald Trump Faces Accusations Of Inappropriately Touching Women
Palm Beach Post exclusive: Local woman says Trump groped her
People Magazine writer claims Donald Trump physically and sexually abused her during 2005 interview: 'It wasn't just talk in my case'
Physically Attacked by Donald Trump – a PEOPLE Writer’s Own Harrowing Story
Four women accuse Trump of inappropriate touching
More Women Come Forward With Donald Trump Groping Allegations
Four Women Accuse Trump of Inappropriately Touching Them Years Apart: Reports
Donald Trump once joked about wanting to date a 10-year-old girl, as five women claim the GOP candidate groped them
The Allegations Women Have Made Against Donald Trump
SEE IT: Donald Trump says if he wasn’t caught cheating on his ‘beautiful wife’ Ivana with girlfriend Marla Maples, life would’ve stayed 'a bowl of cherries’ in 1994
Lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of raping 13-year-old girl gets December hearing

Trump's Response:
New: Trump goes full Breitbart
New: Trump warns that Clinton and international banks are plotting 'the destruction of global sovereignty'
New: Trump: The Suffering Messiah Of The Alt-Right
New: Feeling Burned by Media, Trump Turns Up Heat
New: Trump hasn't sued a newspaper for libel in decades, records show
New: Trump Debuts 3-Part Defense Against Sexual Abuse Allegations
Trump Calls Sexual-Assault Claims Conspiracy to Defeat Him
'New York Times' to Trump's lawsuit threat: Bring it
Trump staunchly denies sexual-assault allegations: 'These vicious claims ... are totally and absolutely false'
Trump Attacks Female Accusers; Blames Clintons, Press
Trump Threatens To Sue His Female Accusers
Trump Suggests He Didn’t Assault People Writer Because She Wasn’t Hot Enough to Assault
Donald Trump on accuser: 'Take a look at her ... I don't think so'
Trump against the world
Walking into a room full of young women in various states of undress is not a propriatory right. It is the misuse of one's position as the sponsor of a beauty pageant. It is the kind of behavior reported by victims of sexual abuse: the perpetrator walks into the victims' bedroom when she is dressing or undressing or into the bathroom when she is taking a bath or about to take one. Note also Trump's response to the allegations of the women who are reporting that he made unwanted sexual advances toward them. He is not satisfied to deny the allegations but threatens the women with retaliation in the form of a law suit and spins their allegations as a part of conspiracy involving them, the media, and the Clinton campaign.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ministering to Millennials by Leveraging the Relational Power of Healthy Churches

We need to lean away from the church-as-business model and into the church-as-relational-community model. Love God and love others. Read More

Related article:
Why Millennials Won't Build the Kinds of Churches their Parents Built

The Top Ten Worst Church Guest Experiences

“Our church is really not for you.”

Yep. That comment was really made to a church guest by a church member.

Unbelievable. Read More

The State of Theology: Does Even the Smallest Sin Deserve Eternal Damnation?

Of the 47 statements included in The State of Theology study for 2016, undertaken in partnership with LifeWay Research, the responses to one statement stood out. Most of the responses tended to even out over the spectrum. Each statement tended to garner slight majorities. The results show slight majorities either getting a belief right or, in most cases, getting a belief wrong. But not statement 17, “Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” This one sparked a reaction. Read More

Chuck Swindoll on How He Interprets the Scripture and Stays Fresh in Leadership [Podcast]

Few preachers have the legacy that Chuck Swindoll has.

Author of many books and thousands of sermons, Chuck discusses his most recent book, Searching the Scriptures, and the method he uses to stay fresh in preaching and leadership. Listen Now