Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Eucharistic Prayer for a Gospel-Shaped Celebration of the Holy Communion

By Robin G. Jordan

The following eucharistic prayer is inspired by the 1552-1662 Prayers of Consecration and incorporates material from several more recent Anglican and Lutheran eucharistic prayers.
Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks and praise to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is indeed right and a good and joyful thing that we should at all times and in all places offer thanks and praise to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

A special preface proper to the feast or season may be said. .

And so, with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your glorious Name and join in their unending hymn:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy and gracious Father, in your loving mercy you gave your only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our salvation.

By this offering of himself once and for all time he made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and instituted and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue a remembrance of his precious death until his coming again.

Hear us, merciful Father, and grant that we who receive these gifts of your creation, this bread and this wine, according to our Savior’s command, in remembrance of his suffering and death, may be partakers of his body and blood.

On the night he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and, when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

In the same way after the meal, he took the cup and, when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.’

For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. .

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Renew your Church, heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit, make us one in the Body of your Son, and bring us with all your people into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
There is no credible reason that the proposed 2019 Prayer Book could not only have one or more such eucharistic prayers but also make other provisions for “Anglican Loyalists,” ACNA clergy and congregations who stand in the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism” and subscribe to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrinal and worship principles of the historic Anglican formularies. The only reasonable explanation for the absence of such provisions from the proposed book is that the Liturgy Task Force, Bishops Review Committee, and the College of Bishops are pursuing a policy of deliberate exclusion targeted at Biblical Christianity, “Reformation Anglicanism,” and their adherents. The proof is the rites and services that have been authorized to date. The catechism and the ordinal are additional proof. With these three formularies the Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America is further entrenching its views and denying space to any other views beside its own, including the views of authentic historic Anglicanism.

Why are “Anglican Loyalists” reluctant to speak out against these developments in the Anglican Church in North America and to call for substantial changes in the catechism and the ordinal as well as the proposed 2019 Prayer Book? Do they fear that they will further jeopardize their already imperiled position in the ACNA? Do they believe that by compromising their theological integrity they can maintain a tenuous existence in the province? If that is indeed the case, one only has to look at what happened to Anglicans like themselves in the Episcopal Church and the Continuing Anglican Churches to see that they are deluding themselves. Unless they take steps to correct the present state of affairs in the ACNA at an early stage, there is very little likelihood that they will be able to do anything later on.

Also see:
Nearly All Working Texts for Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Online

Beware of Broken Wolves

Throughout Scripture the people of God are referred to as sheep and Jesus as the Great Shepherd. The natural enemy of the sheep is the wolf who “snatches them and scatters them” (John 10:12). Our Shepherd even warns us to beware of false prophets, who “come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Echoing this warning, Paul admonished the elders of the church:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert . . . (Acts 20:28)
Wolves often look like sheep, so to spot a wolf we can often look at what values and qualities are esteemed by a particular religious community. In Jesus’s day outward religiosity was prized, so the wolves looked like legalists. And in the early post-apostolic age, secret knowledge was valued, so wolves took the form of learned Gnostics.

The values of the evangelical community in America today are diverse, so it’s not surprising we have a broad diversity in the species of wolves we encounter. In our own age, health and wealth are precious, so some wolves take the form of preachers selling a prosperity gospel. We also seek to change the world for the better, so some wolves take the guises of “social justice” or “family values” advocates.

But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.”

These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).

Here are three reasons Broken Wolves are a grave danger to your family and to your local congregation. Read More

“The Bible Answer Man” Turns East: An Unlikely Conversion

It seems somewhat ironic that in the year that we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, a leading Protestant would reject the central tenet of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura, and join the Eastern Orthodox Church. Hank Hanegraaff, known to millions through his radio program, The Bible Answer Man, converted to Eastern Orthodoxy on Sunday, April 9, 2017 in the Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I cannot say that I know Hank personally, though I have met him casually many times and appeared on his radio show perhaps 20 years ago. At that time I appreciated his straightforward answers to Bible questions that were called in from all parts of the country. Throughout the years he has been of great benefit to the body of Christ by exposing the false doctrines of the cults, in his defense of biblical history, and in his apologetic for Christianity over against other religions.

But in embracing the Orthodox faith, he has turned away from a basic tenet of the Protestant Reformation, Sola Scriptura—meaning that the Bible alone is our source of spiritual and doctrinal authority. Along with Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy accepts tradition (though not the authority of the pope) as an equal source of revelation along with the Scriptures. Several years ago when I attended an Orthodox service on a Sunday morning, the authority of tradition was present throughout: the kissing of icons, the prayers to Mary, and a ceremony venerating relics at the end of the service. If you ask, “Where are these rituals found in the Bible?” the answer they give is, “They don’t have to be in the Bible…we follow them because they are ours by the authority of tradition.” Read More

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Perseverance of the Saints

Writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end” (Phil. 1:6). Therein is the promise of God that what He starts in our souls, He intends to finish. So the old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance of the saints is this: If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.

We know that many people make professions of faith, then turn away and repudiate or recant those professions. The Apostle John notes that there were those who left the company of the disciples, and he says of them, “Those who went out from us were never really with us” (1 John 2:19). Of course, they were with the disciples in terms of outward appearances before they departed. They had made an outward profession of faith, and Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for a person to do this even when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing. Jesus says, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Jesus even warns at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that at the last day, many will come to Him, saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?” He will send them away, saying: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). He will not say: “I knew you for a season and then you went sour and betrayed Me. No, you never were part of My invisible church.” The whole purpose of God’s election is to bring His people safely to heaven; therefore, what He starts He promises to finish. He not only initiates the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit is with us as the sanctifier, the convictor, and the helper to ensure our preservation. Read More

10 Questions for Leaders to Ask Each Week

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

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

Listed here are ten questions to help you evaluate your life and leadership at the end of each week. Take some time today to do some assessment. Read More

Why I Use “We” More Often Than “You” When Preaching

Few people enjoy being “talked down to” or “preached at.” Superiority has no place in a believer’s life much less in the pulpit. Spiritual elitism is no better than everyday elitism. If the Pharisees are any example, it is worse.

Personal conversations have shown me that people really want to know if God has said anything, and if so, what? People hungry for God and people with only an interest will listen quicker if they know the person preaching or teaching is not “too big for his britches.” Pastors who are open about their personal foibles will gain a hearing quicker than those who act as if they are faultless.

But “wait,” someone says. “I never present myself as faultless. I know better.”

Perhaps we do not consciously think of ourselves as faultless, but if we have a heart of spiritual superiority we will not easily be able to keep it hidden. Sometimes our language can betray us. It is from the abundance of the heart, after all, the mouth speaks.

That is why I think the use of “we,” “us,” and “you” when preaching is important. Read More

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Preaching And Perspectives

Cease Squirming and Know That I Am God: Why Don’t We Share the Gospel?

We share the gospel because men and women need to know they are loved by God.

I’ve seen people squirm and fidget whenever the topic of evangelism is mentioned. Of course, the reasons vary from person to person. Read More

Here’s the Million-Dollar Answer to How Persecuted Christians Persevere

Under Caesar’s Sword researchers release final analysis of 25 countries.

When faced with persecution, Christians worldwide employ more strategies than just fight or flight.

Today at a DC symposium, 17 researchers released the final version of a $1.1 million study exploring how Christians respond to persecution in 25 of the hardest places for them to live. The findings of Under Caesar’s Sword (UCS), funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, were previewed orally in Rome in December 2015. Read More

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday's Catch: "Why Churches Lose Their Way" and More

Why Churches Lose Their Way

Joe Thorn discusses how congregations can rediscover the biblical basis of who they are and what they’re called to do. Read More

10 Facility Questions to Consider as You Go to Church This Weekend

Because we “regulars” at our churches also sometimes miss the obvious, here are some questions to consider as you go to church this weekend. They’re designed to help you see your church’s facility as a guest might see it.... Read More

5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Big Churches Than Small Churches

Consider this a friendly view from the outside looking in. Read More

Do Paul and James Disagree on Justification by Faith Alone?

Paul counteracts legalism, while James corrects antinomianism. Read More

7 Hallmarks of ‘Turnaround Pastors

If the possibility of taking most of the guesswork out of a pastor search intrigues you, read on. Read More

Should We Invite People to Belong Before They Believe?

A church that consists only of committed Christians probably has lost sight of its mission. Read More

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thursday's Catch: "Seven Essentials for an Effective Church Vision" and More

Seven Essentials for an Effective Church Vision

A clear compelling vision is an essential foundation for every ministry to be effective for the long-term. For pastors and other church leaders, it requires seeing into the future your church’s Kingdom role. And for a season, the leaders will point the people toward the vision until it is reached or expanded. The church’s mission is the Great Commission, but a specific church’s vision will clarify and inspire their unique role as they live out their own Great Commission journey. The vision clarifies what the church should do or not do. It sets the agenda, priorities, and budget for the future. It guides the leaders during their season of leadership. Read More

How to Become a 4 Generation Church

What does an ideal church look like in your mind? My version has the perfect blend of four generations, like most nuclear families do. A 4G church will have great-grandparents and toddlers loving each other without any trace of pretense. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about Catechesis

This is a guest post by Joe Carter, author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator, and anticipates the release of The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds. Read More
For North American Anglican clergy and congregations that stand in the tradition of "Reformation Anglicanism" The New City Catechism is an excellent resource for catechizing new believers, adults and children, in the Christian faith. The New City Catechism is thoroughly Biblical and Reformed in doctrine, unlike the Anglican Church in North America's To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism, which takes unreformed Catholic positions on key doctrinal issues such as salvation and the sacraments. 
J. I. Packer on Why Your Church and Family Need Catechesis

Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. Read More

Six Ways To Preach Better Sermons And Enjoy It

Delivering a sermon is like delivering a baby only to wake up and realize you are pregnant again on Monday. It is amazing how Sunday comes with such regularity! Every seven days people are counting on you to deliver a fresh and powerful message. Read More

Churches, Social Media, and Customer Service

I recently came across the infographic below at in an article related to the recent customer service woes of Cracker Barrel and United Airlines that I mentioned last week on the blog. While many of you may see the principles and stats in the infographic relating to the business side of customer service, there are several items applicable and translatable to local churches. Here are just four of them.... Read More

Steve Fogg On Building An Online And Social Media Ministry For Your Church From Scratch [Podcast]

How do you build an online and social ministry for your church…from scratch? Read More

7 Reasons to Ask Others about Themselves Every Day

Let me get right to the point. Church leaders (laity or clergy), I’m convinced you’ll lead your small group or congregation better if you follow these two simple steps each day.... Read More

We Need More "Parlour Preachers"

Do you have a burden for people to know and love Jesus more? If you are a Christian the answer here is certainly, “yes.” This is the great cry of our hearts. Though, we admit, the cry is often muffled and not attended with appropriate zeal. For a host of reasons, we find ourselves negligent in the work of speaking of Christ and his gospel to others. Read More

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nearly All Working Texts for Proposed ACNA Prayer Book Online

By Robin G. Jordan

As the proposed 2019 Prayer Book moves into the final stages of  completion, how are ACNA clergy and congregations that stand in the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism” going to respond to a Prayer Book which makes no room for that tradition in the doctrine and worship of the Anglican Church in North America? The rites and services of the proposed Prayer Book, which exhibit the influence of unreformed Catholicism in its Eastern Orthodox and pre-Reformation and post-Tridentian Western Catholic forms, are a repudiation of the tradition of “Reformation Anglicanism.” What variations these rites and services permit do not go as far as giving space to the teaching and the liturgical practices of “Reformation Anglicanism.”

The Prayer Book that we use in the worship and life of the Church does make a difference. It shapes and reinforces what we believe. It serves as an authority to which we can appeal along with the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies in support of what we preach and teach. It can also weaken, undermine, and sabotage our beliefs. Its authority can be used to challenge our preaching and teaching.

The connection between liturgy and doctrine is a powerful one. It should not be underestimated. By liturgy I mean not only the set forms that a church employs in rites and services but also the customary practices.

Of the groups that form the Anglican Church in North America, the Catholic Revivalist wing appears to have greatest appreciation of the power of this connection. Securing an unreformed Catholic Catechism, Ordinal, and Prayer Book for the province are, in its view, necessary steps toward the transformation of the ACNA into an unreformed Catholic Church. The Catholic Revivalist wing appears to be well on its way to achieving this goal.

In spreading the gospel and reaching and engaging the unchurched in secular North America, the contemporary Anglican church faces numerous obstacles. The Prayer Book that it is required to use should not be one of these obstacles. However, the proposed 2019 Prayer Book, as it is presently taking shape, embodying the preferences of the province’s Catholic Revivalist wing as opposed to meeting the needs of the North American mission field, promises to be such an obstacle. As well as falling short in its conformity to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies, the proposed Prayer Book is seriously lacking in those features that are desirable in a Prayer Book for use on the mission field – flexibility, simplicity, brevity, understandability, and a wide range of variable options.

It is not too late for ACNA clergy and congregation committed to Biblical Christianity, “Reformation Anglicanism,” and the gospel to seize the initiative and to press for major revisions in the Catechism and the Ordinal as well as the proposed Prayer Book. Additionally, they would do well to push for the amendment of the constitution and canons to permit dioceses, networks, sub-provinces, and other groupings of churches within the Anglican Church in North America to develop and use their own Catechisms, Ordinals, and Prayer Books provided that these resources conform to the teaching of the Bible and the principles of the historic Anglican formularies. They have little to lose and much to gain.

Rural Matters: Part of God’s Plan to Transform Our Communities and Our World

Rural North America needs Jesus.

For many, particularly in the news media, Donald Trump has put a focus on rural America—specifically, white rural America. And, for many of us, our stereotypes prevail when we consider ‘rural America.’

Regardless, the fact is that we may be at a kairos moment in rural church North America. Rural churches are at a crossroads. They are facing a generational shift, which, if not navigated well and led by the Spirit, will lead to the dying of many churches.

Many denominations, networks, and pastors of large mission-sending churches today have taken rural America off their radar, choosing instead to focus on urban centers. Don’t misunderstand, it makes sense for denominations and networks to focus on cities, where the per capita population can produce the greater return for our investment of outreach and ministry resources. When we look at the Apostle Paul, he too seemed to have a strategy which centered on larger urban centers.

Yet, we can do more than just urban. However, by all outward appearances, many seemed to have left their strategy books for rural churches on a dusty shelf. But that’s not necessarily the case and, I would advise, should not be the case. The good news is that we can do both (and more). And Paul likely did minister to people in non-urban settings.

I, too, care deeply about the rural churches, and so should you. Read More

Wednesday's Catch: "5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Small Churches Than Big Churches" and More

5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Small Churches Than Big Churches

Different sizes of churches serve different functions. And they face different challenges. Read More

Episode 10: Should A Church Reflect Its Surrounding Community? [Podcast]

Does your congregation look like the people who live around it? If not, does it matter? How important is it that a church reflects its surrounding community? Listen Now

What Makes Your Church Your Church?

What makes your church your church? The distinctive elements within your building that tell the story of who you are as a faith community? Read More

8 Reasons Church Conflicts Burn Out of Control Quickly

As a pastor, I sometimes felt like I spent all my time putting out fires in the church. It might have been right for me to deal with the fires, but I seldom caught the fire before it started burning more brightly than I wanted. Here’s why the fires of church conflict often burn out of control quickly.... Read More

3 Steps to Cleansing Yourself of Legalism

My name is Brandon Cox, and I’m a legalist. At least, I still struggle with the remnants of legalism in my life. Read More

The Hottest Thing at Church Is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader

Despite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centered on the Bible. Read More

What Is Expository Preaching?

I have culled a sampling of definitions from some prominent authors who define exposition in their books on preaching. Although the list has a variety of definitions, I trust you will see many common themes emphasized here. Read More

Don’t Be Afraid to Preach

Pastor, don’t be afraid to do what God called you to do. Take a moment to reflect back upon your calling. When God called you, he called you to pastor, but the first inclination for most pastors is to preach. God made you into a pastor and a preacher. Read More

Please Stop Giving Bad Invitations

ome people call it “drawing the net” or an “invitation,” while others simply refer to it as an “altar call.” It’s typically a time of decision at the end of a sermon where people are invited to the front to counsel and pray to receive Christ. What methods do we see employed in the Scriptures? Read More

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

5 Reasons Reformation Anglicanism Is Relevant

The church is meant to be a beacon, marking out the safe path to true wholeness and hope. Sadly, however, the church today often capitulates to the world’s narrative without ever being aware of it. Our preaching can easily reinforce that we are what we do, telling people they must focus on doing things pleasing to God so he will continue to accept them. Yet true Christianity bases all its hope on what God has promised to do in, through, and for us because of his love—not on what we must try to do to earn it.

Here is the core message of Reformation Anglicanism. Forged in a time when the Western church had lost its way, its five characteristics illumine the authentic gospel once again for the 21st century. Read More

The Need for Church Replanting Featuring Mark Clifton - Rainer on Leadership #320 [Podcast]

Church replanting is becoming more and more of a need as more and more churches face death. More than 4,000 churches a year die every year, but through replanting, they can live again. Today, Mark Clifton joins Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe to explain how. Listen Now

Church Planting Shifts, Part 2: From Nominal to Secular

In part 1 of our series on subtle-yet-important church planting shifts, we dealt with the changing face of the church launch. As I mentioned, this includes a downscaling of the traditional launch mode to build up more core elements that will allow the church to go the long haul.

In part 2, I unpack the next trend: a shift from a focus on nominal Christians to more secular people, and how that affects church planting methodology.

Statistically, most people in America are nominal Christians. About half of the people in America call themselves Christians, but they don’t have any statistically discernable life change. Actually, as I’ve written, only about 25 percent of Americans call themselves Christians and have demonstrable engagement in that commitment. This reality, and its changing numbers, are essential to understand the future of outreach and evangelism. Read More

Tuesday's Catch: "Stay the Course: Keeping a Church Evangelistically Focused after the Launch" and More

Stay the Course: Keeping a Church Evangelistically Focused after the Launch

Church planting is similar to running a marathon. Read More

10 Times When Church Consulting Does Not Work Well

I’m a church consultant, but I make no claims that consulting always leads to success. In fact, here are times when consultations usually don’t produce needed change. Read More

A Sneak Peek at 'The New City Catechism' with Tim Keller [Video]

In this video, Tim Keller briefly explains why resources like The New City Catechism are so important for the church, especially in our "post-truth" age. Watch Now

‘Grace Alone’ 500 Years Later

A Catholic perspective. Read More

‘Grace Alone’: Luther Nails It

A Protestant responds to Catholic critiques of ‘Grace Alone.’ Read More

9 Healthy Responses to Criticism in Ministry

More often than not, pastors are criticized because they are leaders of the only organization that puts up with bullies. Read More

What We Gained When We Lost Our Hymnals

When our churches turned away from hymnals to instead sing lyrics projected on a screen, here is some of what we gained. Read More
Did we really gain posture? For ten years I worshiped with a church that used PowerPoint. Only a few people in the congregation lifted up their hands in praise or clapped in time with the music. Most stood with arms folded or hanging limply at their sides. Many did not sing. At least one member of my ministry team was honest enough to admit to the other members that he did not come to church to sing along with the band. He came to church to listen to the band! As for looking down at the hymnal, members of the congregation look down because they have not learned the proper way to hold a hymnal - at the same level as their eyes. If they hold the hymnal properly, their voices are projected outward instead of downward. It makes a tremendous difference in the way a congregation sounds.
The Revolution Demands Unconditional Surrender

Now that the moral revolutionaries are solidly in control, what is to be demanded of Christians who, on the basis of Christian conviction, cannot join the revolution? The demands have now been presented, and they represent unconditional surrender. Read More

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday's Catch: "If Your Church Is Healthy, Why Is It Still Small?" and More

If Your Church Is Healthy, Why Is It Still Small?

It's a valid question. I wish I had a tidy answer. But here's what I do know. Read More

Christ’s Resurrection and Our Justification

How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament? Read More

Five Ways Pastors Can Reverse Negative Statements in a Church

What can a pastor or church leader do to help move the congregation more positively? After hearing from pastors and church leaders, I can offer five suggested paths that have proved fruitful in other churches. Read More

4 Dangers of Bad Church Leadership

Your goal is to bring a discipleship model to your church that deeply changes people’s lives for the sake of the world. Read More

5 Key Principles Every Leader Should Master

If you were to focus on just a handful of key principles to master in leadership, which would you focus on? Read More

6 Reasons Catechisms Make Truth Stick

Many Christians have a hard time knowing how to make “gospel” and “discipleship” stick in our personal lives and relationships. We’re called to be disciples who make disciples, but how? In our desperate search to answer this profound question, we devote books, studies, podcasts, and resources to uncover how we live this out. Read More

One-on-One with Peyton Jones on "Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art"

"I think that every believer has this hidden yet reluctant adventurer inside of them." Read More

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hank Hanegraaff’s Switch to Eastern Orthodoxy, Why People Make Such Changes, and Four Ways Evangelicals Might Respond

Let’s follow Jesus, keep sharing the simple gospel, focus on the Bible, and think like missionaries in order to translate that truth to our modern context.

This past Sunday, the “Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff was welcomed into the Greek Orthodox Church. For a man who has built a valuable ministry on clear answers, this has sparked some questions within the evangelical community.

Now, I don’t know Hanegraaff, though I have benefited from his ministry at times. And I don’t know his motivations or concerns—though we get a glimpse of his reasons in the Christianity Today article on his change.

However, I have given thought over the years to the tendency of some to convert to Orthodoxy (for reasons that will become clear in a moment). Not all will fit the descriptions I give, and Hanegraaff may not, but perhaps it might give some context to Hanegraaff’s decision and to how evangelicals might respond.

Of course, I’m not giving every reason for every person, and this (already too long) article was started yesterday afternoon. Also, I’m not seeking to weigh in on all the complexities of Orthodox theology, but let me share a few observations that may be of help as evangelicals think through the issue. Read More

3 Things Chinese Pastors Can Learn from the Reformers

I became a Christian through an international mission organization and grew spiritually in a traditional Chinese house church. Coming from this background, when I read the Apostle’s Creed aloud on Sunday morning and say, “I believe the universal church,” a picture comes to my mind: the American church, Korean church, Singaporean church, Hong Kong and Taiwanese church, Chinese church and all the gospel believing churches in one body, the body of the universal church.

As we have seen in recent decades, the unregistered Chinese church has been blessed a lot by the universal church, engaged more with the global church network, and starting to contribute some itself to the big family of faith. As we contemplate the five-hundred-year anniversary of the Reformation, I am reminded that the connection and fellowship of churches can not only break through our geographical barriers, but can also cross the barriers of time. We can learn a lot from the Reformers, because we believe in the same God who created both the space and time.

As a current seminary student and as a minister of the unregistered Chinese church, here are three things I think we can learn from the Reformers. Read More

TULIP and Reformed Theology: Irresistible Grace

In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono- means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith.

In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace. It’s grace that works. It’s grace that brings about what God wants it to bring about. If, indeed, we are dead in sins and trespasses, if, indeed, our wills are held captive by the lusts of our flesh and we need to be liberated from our flesh in order to be saved, then in the final analysis, salvation must be something that God does in us and for us, not something that we in any way do for ourselves. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "The offence of the cross: Why extremists attack churches at Easter" and More

The offence of the cross: Why extremists attack churches at Easter

On Palm Sunday jihadists attacked Churches in the Egyptian cities of Alexandria and Tanta killing at least 49 and injuring many others. In India Christians were targeted by Hindu extremists in at least five separate locations on the same day. Read More

Nine Changes Churches Must Make or Die - Rainer on Leadership #319 [Podcast]

A recent post on the urgency needed in many churches struck a nerve with many readers. Today, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe unpack that post and talk about nine much needed changes for many churches. Listen Now

6 Things Christ Does with Your Sin

On this Good Friday, it is good to remember what the cross accomplishes. Here are six things Jesus does with sin.... Read More

Three Things We—and Our Sermons—Must Be This Easter Weekend

Erik Reed offers three things pastors and their sermons must be on Easter Sunday. Read More

Why Close Relationships Are Essential to Discipleship

What is the main barrier that keeps people from growing and maturing in Christ? The answer was unanimous: 'Isolation.' Read More

The Intrusive Neighbor

Most people today believe a "good neighbor" is one who causes no trouble, poses no interruption, and in general keeps to himself. The modern motto of a good neighbor is, "Do no harm." He works hard at making no interruption in the lives of those around him. This seems to be the general sentiment for many, and it misses the biblical mark by a mile. Read More

Friday, April 14, 2017

7 Reasons We Take the Cross for Granted

I had been a believer for about four years, and I was in Israel for the first time. When we visited one of the possible sites for the crucifixion of Jesus, I was shocked to see people just wandering by the place as if nothing happened there. In fact, a large, loud, busy, smelly bus station in front of that place dominated the scene. People just came and went, day after day, month after month, ignorant of, or simply ignoring the crucifixion.

Then, I didn’t understand how that happens. Now, four decades later, I realize that all of us sometimes wander past the cross as if it doesn’t matter. Here are some reasons that happens.... Read More

What Jesus Really Endured on the Cross—A Medical Perspective

Even though Jesus died relatively soon, the 18 hours of his passion were filled with unbelievable trauma, pain and suffering. Read More

Why We Call the Worst Friday ‘Good’

It was the single most horrible day in the history of the world.

No incident has ever been more tragic, and no future event will ever match it. No surprise attack, no political assassination, no financial collapse, no military invasion, no atomic detonation or nuclear warfare, no cataclysmic act of terrorism, no large-scale famine or disease — not even slave trading, ethnic cleansing, or decades-long religious warring can eclipse the darkness of that day.

No suffering has ever been so unfitting. No human has ever been so unjustly treated, because no other human has ever been so worthy of praise. No one else has ever lived without sin. No other human has ever been God himself. No horror surpasses what transpired on a hill outside Jerusalem almost two millennia ago.

And yet we call it “Good” Friday. Read More

What Do Expiation and Propitiation Mean?

When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two rather technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words. Read More

Why We Should Be Inviting Our Non-Christian Friends and Neighbors to Church at Easter

More people are open to Gospel conversations that you might think.

It’s Easter season, and perhaps you’ve already begun inviting your neighbors to attend church with you on April 16.

I’ve asked Moody Church to join me in being “faithful for four,” to find four people to pray for and invite to Easter services. Actually, I’ve called all the pastoral staff of Moody church, asking them to call their leaders, who then call other leaders, who then call everyone.

Most churches are designing their services (or, in my view, should be) with the idea that you will bring your non-Christian or unchurched neighbors and friends with you on Easter weekend. It’s a great opportunity to reach out, and in fact, many might be very open to that invitation.

In fact, research has shown that 78% of people who don’t attend church would be willing to engage in a faith conversation if asked. The stats tell us that the good news may in fact be news that people are looking for. Read More

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Three Actions Churches Can Take in Times of Crisis

The past few weeks have been quite eventful for the communications teams at Cracker Barrel and United Airlines. In case you’ve missed it, Cracker Barrel faced a deluge of complaints following the firing of a server named Nanette Reid. Her husband posted about it on the Cracker Barrel corporate Facebook page, and Internet pranksters created the #BradsWife movement.

Then a video surfaced this week of a passenger on a United Airlines flight being physically “re-accommodated.” Mainstream news and social media sites have been filled with stories and hot takes on everything from the passenger’s past (in which many stories had incorrect information) to the standard airline practice of overbooking.

Both companies are still fighting these crises, and from many (or most?) perspectives, they are losing the battle when it comes to public opinion. These companies will likely recover over time. They will likely hire PR firms to win back customers and improve their public reputation. It’s what big companies do.

But what if this had been your church? What if your church was faced with a scandal or legal issue that called for crisis communications? Are you prepared? Some are, but many churches are not. And their responses to crises often fall into three categories.... Read More

If there is no Resurrection – you’re following a Dead Christ

A report came out this weekend stating that 25% of British Christians don’t believe in the resurrection, whilst 10% of non-religious people did! Read More

Related Article:
You can't be Christian if you don't believe in the resurrection, says former Queen's chaplain

Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?

The historical evidence contradicts this popular notion.

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

The Best Way To Avoid Pastor Burnout? Equip The Saints

Neither information or inspiration is enough. Pastors need to help congregations turn it into perspiration. Read More

3 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Good Friday Sermon

Preaching Christ and him crucified is central to the job of any gospel minister (1 Cor. 2:2). Good Friday drives this home perhaps more than any other day in the church calendar. On that day, the preacher’s task is to proclaim and explain why the bloody spectacle of the murdered Son of God is “good news.” How is such an apparent moral rupture the centerpiece of God’s great act of atonement, of reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19)? 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

8 Kingdom Steps to Christian Maturity

Church movers are focused on making a difference in society—a real difference. We believe that if we move our church, we change the world. Why? Because the church changes people. And people, as ambassadors of Christ, shape our neighborhoods, cities and nations.

When I say “move your church,” I don’t mean move the building. And I don’t mean move the weekly gathering, either. I mean move the people. Move the whole body, and individual members of the body. Eventually, they’ll move others, who move others, and so on.

OK, but move them where? Read More

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday's Catch: "Remembering the Rural: Do Modern Church Plants Focus too Much on the City?" and More

Remembering the Rural: Do Modern Church Plants Focus too Much on the City?

Yes, Christians evangelized cities in early Christianity, but not only cities. In fact, there is quite a bit of (overlooked) historical evidence that the earliest Christians had a robust mission to the countryside. Read More

Only In a Small Church: Sometimes You Gotta Kill Cockroaches

Principles that make sense in a big church don't always work in a smaller one. Read More

Pandering to Millennials

Should churches change for the sake of the rising generation? Read More

The Crucifixion and Old Testament Prophecy

If we look at the intricacy of the drama of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion, we see that some amazing things took place so that Old Testament prophetic utterances were fulfilled to the minutest detail. Read More

3 Overlooked Traits of Effective Church Leaders

Ask yourself: ‘Is the church, ministry or organization I lead structured to react quickly to a changing world? Read More

3 Martian Tips for Contextualization

Lessons from the NASA team who manages the Mars rover. Read More

Monday, April 10, 2017

‘I am the Good Shepherd…’

Elections remind us how much we long for a leader who will bring us justice and peace, protection and prosperity. However, on every occasion our aspirations are dashed as leaders reveal their flaws and failures and self-interest. No one proves to be the leader we long for.

There is one exception: Jesus, who said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

We tend to view shepherds as romantic figures who spent most of their time cuddling lambs and roaming hillsides with faithful dogs. However, that is a false picture of a shepherd in Israel. They lived dangerous lives. Read More

Why Christians Can Celebrate Passover, Too

A Response to ‘Jesus Didn’t Eat a Seder Meal.’

Recently, Christianity Today published an article entitled, “Jesus Didn’t Eat a Seder Meal: Why Christians Shouldn’t Either” by rabbis Yehiel E. Poupko and David Sandmel. The article argues that Christians should refrain from participating in Christian Seders as a matter of historical and ecumenical respect. We disagree on both points.

There is great interest today by Christians to learn more about and participate in Seders to help them better understand the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. In particular, knowing more about the Seder helps Christians explore the Jewish background of the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus, whom we know was a first-century Jewish teacher, and his disciples, who were also Jewish. Both Jesus and his disciples would have grown up observing the Passover in whatever fashion Jewish people living at the time observed the feast.

We agree with the rabbis regarding the importance of caution in the way the sacred traditions of the Jewish faith are handled.

We also agree that Jesus did not celebrate the Passover the way Jewish people commonly observe the festival in the 21st century. However, the Last Supper accounts in the Gospels record a number of themes and practices held in common with the Passover Seder. Perhaps the Last Supper should be viewed as a primitive Seder, which was used by Yeshua as the backdrop for his claim to be the fulfillment of the types and prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures for a greater Lamb, a greater redemption from bondage (to sin), and a new perspective on salvation through his shed blood. Read More

The Lie Of Inspiration (5 Reasons Waiting Almost Never Makes You Better)

So you’ve got that next sermon series to write, a project to push forward, a video to release or that book you’ve wanted to write that you should (finally) begin.

If you’re like most people before you start you ask yourself: do I feel like it? Is today the day?

Again, if you’re like most people, the answer to that question 99% of the time is “No.”

It’s as though we’ve elevated inspiration to a mythical level, and it’s killing us. Somehow we’ve fallen for the belief that all great art, literature or inventions are birthed out of a eureka moment that has eluded us again today.

And so we tell ourselves that maybe inspiration will hit tomorrow. Or if not tomorrow, then next week. And then, when we’re inspired, the ideas will just flow through us as we assemble a masterpiece.

You know what that is?

That’s a massive lie. That’s exactly what that is.

If you’re waiting for inspiration to push you to your next breakthrough, you’ll be waiting a long time. Read More

A Catechism—with OUR Kids?

“Catechism—with our kids?”

Years ago that was my response when someone suggested we begin doing a catechism with our very young, very active boys. But, to my amazement, it was a truly wonderful experience.

We used a version called Catechism for Young Children, a highly simplified version based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The first questions are quite easy, and the answers so short that even an 18-month-old can answer triumphantly “God!” when asked “Who made you?” and “Everything” to the second question, “What else did God make?” We discovered our kids loved the question/answer dynamic; to them it was almost a game, through which they could experience a legitimate sense of achievement. Read More

7 Ways Christians Waste Their Lives

Undoubtedly, you know someone who has wasted their life. It’s beyond unfortunate to watch someone with crazy gifts and talents who can’t get out of their own way.

But, what about you? Are you wasting your life? Are you fully engaged with your God-given purpose? Those in the former group need to know it’s never too late to live with meaning. And for those in the latter group, people who waste their lives share some commonalities. I want to share some of those with you. Here are seven ways to waste your life. Read More

7 Evangelistic Things to Put on Your "To Do" List This Easter Week

Today begins a new workweek – the week before Easter. If you are a follower of Christ, be sure to put these things on your “to do” list this week, and then prayerfully do them! Read More

Just Give Me Jesus: A Closer Look at Christians Who Don't Go to Church

Barna examines the ranks of 'spiritual but not religious' Americans.

When you ask someone about their faith, expect to hear a qualifier.

Of course, there’s “spiritual but not religious,” a category that 11 percent of Americans now fall into, according to Barna Group research. (The figure could be at least double that if applied to all without a particular religious affiliation, often referred to as the “nones.”)

But even Christianity comes with caveats. Some try to change up the term by saying, “I’m not a Christian, but a Christ-follower.” Read More

Saturday, April 08, 2017

10 Ways to Provide A Welcoming Environment for Your Guests this Easter

On Easter Sunday, April 16, we will welcome many visitors to our worship gatherings. A lot of these guests will step into a church service for the first time. Many, I suspect, do not call themselves Christians. Guests notice and usually comment on how loving a fellowship is (or is not) by their willingness to welcome newcomers. If your church already welcomes guests well, then praise God for His work among you and continue to remind your members about the preciousness of others. The following are just 10 ways we can help guests feel welcome and at home each Sunday, but especially this coming Easter Sunday when so many will visit your church for the first, and possibly, last time. Read More

Carl George And Warren Bird On How To Break The 200, 600 And 1000 Attendance Barriers [Podcast]

What does it take for churches to break through the 200, 400 and 600 attendance growth barriers?

Carl George and Warren Bird literally wrote the book on it, and share some of the surprising obstacles church leaders face and outline how to overcome them to reach more people. Listen Now

The Value of a Small Church: Personalized Major League Coaching

Schools, sports and megachurches recognize the value of breaking into smaller groups for learning, coaching and relationships. So why do we devalue it in smaller churches?

I’m taking my family to a bigger church.

I doubt if there’s a small church pastor that hasn’t felt the pain of those words.

I was reminded of that pain while getting re-acquainted with a friend over coffee recently.

My friend is a semi-volunteer staff member at a church that used to be a very-big-verging-on-mega-church, but through a series of bizarre circumstances the church has lost a lot of people and is now a small church in a big building.

Here’s a story he told me about some of the pain their church was experiencing now that it was no longer big. Read More

Why Are Young People So Into Healing Crystals?

Millennials say gemstones don’t just look cute on T-shirts — they also offer a flexible, inclusive spiritual practice.

Demand for crystals has surged in recent years, fueled by celebrity endorsements and a New Age resurgence in major cities and the fashion and beauty industries. Crystals have been a “mounting trend” on Etsy over the last decade, Etsy merchandiser Emily Bidwell told Refinery29 last January (the popularity of gemstone druzy jewelry, beginning in 2007, “gave way” to consumer demand for quartz rock crystals, pendants, and geode motifs, Bidwell said). Last December, international trend forecaster J. Walter Thompson noted “mystic beauty” — a category that includes spirituality-themed beauty products infused with crystals — in the company’s 2016 Future 100 Trends Report.

Though crystals first became a hot item during the 1970s, the new target consumers for crystal purveyors are in their twenties and thirties. Brands are “repackaging the cues of mysticism and gems, connecting them to well-being products for a hip Millennial audience,” Lucie Greene, worldwide director of trend forecaster JWT Innovation, told the Huffington Post last year. And they’re reaching a hip, urban, and diverse clientele along with young celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Katy Perry, and Miranda Kerr. In 2016, L0s Angeles’ Crystal Matrix shop owner, Patricia Bankins, said that her predominant demographic has become “a lot of young people” (30 years ago, “middle-aged women and a few gay guys” were the most likely patrons to attend metaphysical classes, Bankins told the Los Angeles Times).

Though Millennials aren’t exactly known for being religious — just half born between 1981 and 1996 believe with certainty that God exists, while only four in 10 say religion is very important in their lives, according to a 2015 Pew study — crystals aren’t purely a material trend. According to some experts, younger generations are opting for spiritual practices like crystal healing because it allows them to mix elements from multiple faiths and ancient traditions into an individualized spiritual practice. Read More

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Jesus Didn’t Eat a Seder Meal

Why Christians shouldn’t either.

Passover has a special allure for Christians. It is on the night of Passover, as all Israel is offering the pascal Lamb and eating matza (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs on the slopes of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that Jesus of Nazareth meets with his 12 disciples for the Last Supper. This may be the best-known Passover meal.

Both of these meals—Jesus’s Last Supper and the first Passover meal—are launch events. Each of them inaugurates a new religious civilization. Thus, for the believing Christian, it is no coincidence that Jesus convenes the disciples at the very moment of the Passover meal to signal that this meal is the fulfillment of and successor to that first Passover meal, and that like the first one, the Last Supper inaugurates a new faith community. For most of Christian history, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, replaced the Jewish Passover Seder.For Jews, however, the most important Passover meal is the very first, described in Exodus 12. It is the meal by which Israel celebrates its liberation from the pagan culture of Egypt/Mitzrayim by serving the One God and bringing an offering to the One God. That first Passover meal is eaten home-by-home, family-by-family. The guest list consists of all the members of the family, men and women, old and young, wise and foolish, learned and ignorant, boys and girls. In other words, present at that first Passover offering was the whole Jewish family in all of its delight and complexity. When Jews today celebrate the Passover, they are reenacting that moment and connecting with all Jews across time and space who have been celebrating the Passover Seder for millennia.

The re-emergence of Christian interest in the Jewish Passover and especially the Seder is due, in part, to the American context. Our social and political culture, where people are free to practice their faith freely as well as freely explore other faiths—has made it possible for Jews and Christians to satisfy their innate human curiosity and to come to know the other as never before. This ethos is felt nowhere more powerfully than in the encounter that takes place between Christianity and Judaism in Christian Holy Week and Passover, which fall in the same week approximately three out of every four years. This interest can be traced to the emergence of post–World War II Jewish-Christian dialogue, in which the “model Seder,” led by a knowledgeable Jew, emerged as an opportunity to use the Passover/Easter connection to teach Christians about Judaism, but also because Christians wanted to better understand the Jewish background of their faith. But these well-intentioned goals were the victim of their own success. Increasing numbers of Christians wanted to have that experience, even if there were no Jews around to lead it. And so what began as an effort at interreligious and historical understanding morphed into a tradition for many churches’ Holy Week celebrations, so that in some settings the Seder has become a form of Christian worship. This trend has been exacerbated by the increased recognition of the Jewishness of Jesus and a desire among some Christians to do what Jesus would have done—good and faithful Christians want to experience a Passover meal like Jesus. In evangelical settings, the promotion of Christian Seders by those who identify as messianic Jews and other such affiliations has also contributed to its growth.

So this is a phenomenon that cannot be denied, but it is one that most Jews find particularly troubling. Read More

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

3 Big Mistakes to Avoid This Easter

Easter will soon be here, and I’m confident you are deep into prayer and planning. But here’s my question for you:

What do you want to be different about Easter this year?

If you don’t do anything different, you won’t experience anything different. What is your vision for Easter? Are your plans clear?

There is still time before the weekend of April 16 to have the greatest kingdom impact possible. There is still time to work on all that you are praying for.

For far too many church leaders, Easter is secretly a great disappointment every year. Not because of the attendance—that’s usually very strong—but because so few visitors return the following Sunday.

That is frustrating.

I’ve not met anyone who has had all the “answers” to solve the great post-Easter exodus, but I’ve learned some mistakes we can all avoid. Avoiding them will help you move in the right direction. Read More

Related Article:
8 Practical Ways to Celebrate Easter

The Most Important Lesson Older and Younger Ministers Can Learn from Each Other

I'm not as old as I used to be.

I just turned 57. A mere 25 years ago, when the average pastor's age was 44, my current age would have made me an older minister.

Today, with the average pastor being 54, I'm in middle age.

In recent years as I’ve traveled and spoken with thousands of ministers, I've had a unique view of how ministers on both sides of the age gap treat each other. Some of those relationships have been great. Some... not so much.

At times, we seem so far apart, we might as well live on separate planets. But, beneath it all, we share more in common than most of us realize.

Young or old, we love Jesus, we love people, and we have a passion for our calling. But we sure approach our calling in very different ways.

The factors that make a young/old relationship either great or bad are as complex as the people involved, but I've seen one reason rise to the top, leaving all other factors in the dust.

How we listen to each other.

Specifically, things go much better when we listen like this.... Read More