Thursday, December 05, 2019

A Most Deadly Theology


It was a disturbing headline: “Church of Canada May Disappear by 2040, Says New Report.”

Yes, it is being forecast “that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040.” This was said by Neil Elliot who authored the report commissioned by the church and delivered in an address to the Council of General Synod in Ontario.

The report was based on five different methodologies of analysis, all giving the same dire prediction. The freefall that has already taken place is stunning. Membership in the Anglican Church fell from a high of 1.3 million in 1961 to just more than 357,000 in 2017.

While there were many appropriate reactions to the report, including calls for the church to put forward a more robust and creative witness for Christ, one rector took solace in the words of former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who once said that “the church is not ours to save.” Reflecting on the statement, the rector concluded: “We are only called to be good stewards of what we have been given. God will do what God will do.”

If that thinking rules the day, the prediction of the death of the Canadian church will come true. Why? Because it is among the deadliest of theologies when put forward in this manner. Read More

6 Ways Pastors Can Encourage Other Local Pastors


I’ll not soon forget the pleasant surprise of that phone call.

The manager of a men’s clothing store in my town informed me that an anonymous someone was purchasing me a suit and tie—my choice from the entire store. The suit I chose served me for years.

By a little gentle arm-twisting, I found out the name of the generous family. To this day, I hold them in a special place in my heart.

A year or so later, when a businessman set up a fund in the church for me to minister to people as I saw fit, I passed along the favor. Read More

What to Do with Advent – Pt. 1


We’re now in the season of Advent, the liturgical season leading up to Christmas. The word Advent means, literally, “coming” – and this season helps us not only remember the expectation for the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago but to prepare ourselves with expectation for Jesus’ coming again in glory.

If, like me, you lead worship at a church that observes this season in some way, you’re probably wondering what kind of songs work as Advent songs and what you’re supposed to do during this liturgical season. Here are some suggestions for ways you can help your congregation prepare for Jesus’ coming over these next few weeks. Read More

Americans See Religion as a Force for Good, Except in One Area


Most adults in the United States believe churches have a positive impact in our society, but they still don’t want them involved in politics.

A Pew Research study found a majority of Americans say churches and religious organizations do more good than harm (55%) and strengthen morality (53%) in American society. Half (50%) say churches mostly bring people together.

More than 3 in 5 Christians see religion playing a positive role in those areas—do more good than harm (70%), strengthen morality (67%), and mostly bring people together (64%).

Even many religiously unaffiliated see religion as a force for good. Around 3 in 10 say religion does more good than harm (31%), strengthen morality (29%), and mostly bring people together (26%). Read More

Measles Deaths 'Staggering and Tragic'


More than 140,000 people died from measles last year as the number of cases around the world surged once again, official estimates suggest.

Most of the lives cut short were children aged under five.

The situation has been described by health experts as staggering, an outrage, a tragedy and easily preventable with vaccines.

Huge progress has been made since the year 2000, but there is concern that incidence of measles is now edging up.

In 2018, the UK - along with Albania, the Czech Republic and Greece, lost their measles elimination status.

And 2019 could be even worse.

The US is reporting its highest number of cases for 25 years, while there are large outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine.

The Pacific nation of Samoa has declared a state of emergency and unvaccinated families are hanging red flags outside their homes to help medical teams find them. Read More

Related Articles:
Measles Makes Body 'Forget' How to Fight Infection
Measles: How a Preventable Disease Returned from the Past
Measles Numbers Were Bad In 2018. This Year, They're Even Worse
Progress Toward Regional Measles Elimination — Worldwide, 2000–2018
Churches can play a role in countering the spread of measles in the United States and elsewhere through dessimination of accurate information regarding immunization, provision of transportation for unvaccinated families to vaccination centers, and advocacy for greater access to vaccines for highly communicable and potentially life-threatening diseases like measles. Loving your neighbor includes caring about the health and well-being of your neighbor's children.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Spread of Unitarian Universalism


Your Neighbor Is Probably a Unitarian Universalist

Most Americans are Unitarian Universalists. They just don’t know it. Only 0.3 percent of Americans identify as members of the denomination, but its belief system has come to define our culture. The central message of the UU church is that you can believe anything you want—except that there are objectively right and wrong beliefs. Read More

Will All Be Saved?

Will all be saved? There are few questions as sensitive as this one. It is sure to provoke an emotional response. For many, to answer “no” is to compromise the very character of God. A God who does not save everyone cannot be a God of love. In response, sometimes evangelicals rattle off texts that say Jesus is the only way or texts that teach the doctrine of hell, all the while neglecting the heart of the matter: the character of God himself. In this issue, pastors and professors alike look at the claims of universalism and show that the reason they fumble is first and foremost because they compromise attributes of God like justice and, yes, even love. Whether you are a churchgoer, pastor, or theologian yourself, it is only a matter of time before someone you love wrestles with universalism. It might even be you. So, prepare now. Read the Latest Issue of Credo Magazine

Hellfire, Brimstone and Youth Ministry

Talking about hell is not a scare tactic. It’s showing love at it’s most elemental form. It’s saving a generation from the wrath of God and delivering them into the loving arms of Christ, both now and forevermore! Read More

Sometimes Mergers Work; Sometimes They Don't


Post-Merger Ministry Is a Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance

Our congregation needed to adjust in several ways after a larger church adopted us. Read More

What We Learned From a Failed Church Merger

It wasn't easy, but it taught us a lot. Read More

'Food Pharmacies' In Clinics: When The Diagnosis Is Chronic Hunger


There's a new question that anti-hunger advocates want doctors and nurses to ask patients: Do you have enough food?

Public health officials say the answer often is "not really." So clinics and hospitals have begun stocking their own food pantries in recent years.

One of the latest additions is Connectus Health, a federally funded clinic in Nashville, Tenn. This month, the rear of LaShika Taylor's office transformed into a community cupboard.

"It's a lot of nonperishables right now, just because we're just starting out," she says, but the clinic is working on refrigeration.

It's not that patients are starving, Connectus co-director Suzanne Hurley says. It's that they may have a lot of food one day and none the next. That's no way to manage a disease like diabetes, she says.

"I can prescribe medications all day, but if they can't do the other piece — which is a decent diet and just knowing they're not going to have to miss meals," she says, "medications have to be managed around all of those things." Read More

Also See:
Nearly 700,000 SNAP Recipients Could Lose Benefits Under New Trump Rule

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

How the Economy Is Impacting Churches


As retail stores hope the holiday shopping season gives their bottom line a lift, American Protestant pastors are less sure the economy is helping their congregation this year.

Around 2 in 5 pastors of Protestant churches in the United States (41%) say the economy is having no impact on their church, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The rest are nearly split on whether the effect is positive (30%) or negative (26%).

“Fundamentally, the U.S. economy is in a similar place that it was a year ago,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Yet pastors are less optimistic about this outside influence on their church than they were in 2018.”

While the 30% of pastors who believe the economy is having a positive impact is more than triple what it was in the first part of this decade, it’s down sharply from the 45% who felt the same way in 2018. Read More

Related Article:
Evangelical Giving Holds Steady Despite Tax Reform

What Church Leaders Must Know for 2020: An Interview with Dave Travis of Generis [Podcast]


Wouldn’t you like to know what the future holds for your church? Special guest Dave Travis from Generis joins Thom and Sam Rainer as they jump in their time machine and discuss issues and trends church leaders must know for 2020. Listen Now
"The future of smaller churches is better than we think."

The New Math of Church Mergers


An option once seen as a failed strategy is now giving many congregations a new lease on life.

In 1981 Lyle Schaller said, “Mergers are usually losers. We had a rash of congregational mergers in the 60s, and the churches or denominations that pushed those have pretty well backed off; the merger system didn’t work. The feelings of historical identity generally prove to be too strong.”

He wasn’t alone; most pastors saw merging with another church as a worst-case scenario. A dying church would attach itself to a healthy church, dragging both down in the process.

But now mergers are back on the rise. Thanks in large part to the innovations of the multisite movement, they have become a viable, even positive, option for churches on the brink of closure—and for many that are doing just fine. According to a 2016 Barna study, 89 percent of churches that underwent a merger or acquisition reported a positive result. We spoke with Jim Tomberlin, founder and CEO of MultiSite Solutions, about why more churches than ever are entertaining the merger Read More
Among Schaller's findings was that when two weak churches merge, the result is a weak church. Yoking two or more weak churches together with one pastor serving the yoked churches--a common practice in mainline denominations--led to one church receiving more attention from the pastor than the others.

Scandal Roils the Anglican Church in North America


Anglican Ink has posted two articles related to the scandalous events that are affecting the Anglican Church in North America. One story involves the dean of St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Tallahassee, Florida and the other story the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Great Lakes. When the ACNA was launched, many ACNA'ers naively assumed that the new province would be free from that sort of thing. They were quick to dismiss out of hand any reports of misconduct by top ACNA clergy. Too often those drawing attention to alleged misconduct were accused of not being "friends of the ACNA" and of making false allegations. 10 years later the ACNA is proving to be just as vulnerable to the misdoings of clergy as have other Anglican entities which have been affected by scandal.

Anglican Church of Canada in a State of Collapse


Jeff Walton spins the Anglican Church of Canada's statistics report for its House of Bishops.

The Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC), counterpart to the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, will cease to exist by the year 2040 according to numbers recently reported by the denomination. Even more dramatically, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is on the verge of overtaking the ACoC in attendance.

“There is no sign of any stabilisation in our numbers; if anything the decline is increasing,” noted the Rev. Dr. Neil Elliot in a statistical report presented to the Canadian House of Bishops. “Some had hoped that our decline had bottomed out, or that programs had been effective in reversing the trends. This is now demonstrably not the case.”

The report includes the first comprehensive set of official statistics since the early 2000s. Data confirms anecdotal stories from across much of the Canadian church that Anglican Christianity is vanishing there. In 1962 (the height of Anglican participation) the ACoC reported more than 1.3 million members, out of a total Canadian population of approximately 18 million, seven percent of Canadians affiliated with the Anglican Church. By 2017, Canada’s population had risen to more than 35 million (+94%) but only 357,123 members were counted on the rolls of the Anglican Church there, 1 percent of the population. Read More

Related Articles:
Latest Anglican Church of Canada membership and attendance statistics
'Wake-up call': Anglican Church of Canada may cease to exist by 2040, says report
Church of Canada may disappear by 2040, says new report
Anglican Church of Canada Faces Extinction by 2040, new Report Reveals
‘Wake-up call’: Canadian church hears statistics report on membership decline

Monday, December 02, 2019

Monday's Catch: No Ordinary Christians and More


There Is No Such Thing As An Ordinary Christian

God wants his children to know that there is no such thing as an ordinary Christian. If you have called on the name of the Lord, you are not ordinary in God’s eyes. Read More

5 Myths about John Calvin

Like many larger-than-life figures in the history of the church, the memory of the French Reformer John Calvin has been subjected to various distortions that amount to urban legends. Read More

Domesticating Death

There are some (nay many!) in the church today (not to mention the world!) who seek solace in making death something less than our enemy. “Celebrations of Life” for the deceased in lieu of proper funeral services are requested even of reformed pastors by reformed parishioners in reformed churches. Faithful saints of God seek to conceal their sadness, put on a happy face, and focus solely on the positive.... Read More

Beware the Technological Imperative: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate and there are many things that can be “improved’ through technology, but that doesn’t mean technology is right for everyone. Read More

Six Reasons the Multi-Venue Church Model Will Experience Rapid Growth

The multi-venue model is not new, but it is gaining momentum. I define multi-venue as worship gatherings at the same site beyond the Sunday morning services or beyond the same worship center or sanctuary.... Though the model is not new, there seems to be a perfect storm accelerating the growth of the multi-venue approach. Here are six components moving the model forward. Read More

What’s the Point of Reading the Bible, Anyway?

The point of the Bible is not to fill your head with knowledge. The point is to fill your heart with wonder. Read More

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday Lagniappe: Countdown to Christmas and More


Christmas: Not the Way We Would Have Done It, Lord!

God rarely does anything as we would have done it or expected it. In the 8th century B.C., God told Israel, “Your thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, when God got ready to put His earth-saving plan into effect, we may expect it to be different. Vastly different from how we would have done it. Read More

The 10 Christmas Commandments

Kyle and Matt discuss five things TO DO and five things NOT TO DO during Christmas at your church...let's just call 'em the 10 Christmas Commandments. Please note: The views expressed are the views of the one that expresses them, not necessarily both knuckleheads on the pod. Listen Now
Why the fuss about the three wise men? First the Bible does not specify how many magi, or wise men, visited the infant Jesus. Second, the Bible tells us that the magi did not visit the infant Jesus on the night that he was born but several months after his birth.
Unadorned Clay Pots: The Best Gift for the Lonely at Christmas

Are you one of those people who make a list and stock Christmas gifts the whole year through? If not, you will probably spend the last few weeks before Christmas worrying about what present will please your relatives, particularly those you don’t know well because you don’t see them very often. Yet the best gift of all, the one that literally changes lives, is the simplest. And, like an expensive fragrance, its effects last for a long time. I’ll come back to this later. Read More

Religious California Town May Hold Lessons for Living Longer

People in the area live 8 to 10 years longer. Read More

Should Christians Be Vegan

Christians have not been prominent among the rapid growth in those moving towards a vegan diet in recent years, but David Clough argues they have strong faith-based reasons to reduce or eliminate animal products in their diet. Read More

Animals Targeted in ‘Occult’ Attacks in Hampshire

Occult symbols have been painted on a killed sheep and on the door of a church in a spate of attacks in the New Forest which are believed to be linked. A sheep and two cows have been attacked as well as well as Satanic symbols painted on the door of St Peter’s Church in Bramshaw, Hampshire. Read More

Preaching Interview: Matt Hensley [Podcast]

Matt Henslee sits down with Dr. Barry McCarty for an interview to discuss preaching in rural churches. Listen Now

Reaching a New Generation with the Bible

We can no longer depend on methods that worked 20 years ago. Read More

Four Suggestions for Making Your Way through the Old Testament

Josh Philpot offers four suggestions for making your way through the Old Testament. Read More

A Revolutionary Prayer Life

Somewhere near the top of the list of questions that send most conversations amongst Christians into a tailspin is this one: “So, how’s your prayer life?” Read More

45 Recipes Grandma Stole from Her Church Friends

You and your church may find these recipes from Taste of Home useful during the holiday season and throughout the year. Read More

Judea, Suburbia, to the Ends of the Earth

Suburban America is a strategic mission field. Read More

Door-to-Door with a Difference

Given that so few people in our communities engage with the Church or formal religion, it is surprising when we expend so much of our evangelistic efforts at ‘bringing them to us’. Do we put on gospel services regularly and just expect people to find their way into an alien building to partake in the strange ritual of a church service? Events in neutral buildings such as cafes or restaurants are easier for visitors to come to, but this still depends upon someone being invited. The issue is – how do we reach out to the unchurched, how do we undertake the equivalent of ‘cold calling’ in our day? Read More

Sharing Jesus with your Hindu Neighbour

Have you got Hindu neighbours or workmates? Would you like to share your faith with them but wonder where to start? Read on. You might be the only follower of Jesus your friend has ever met. If you don’t give it a try, maybe they won’t have another opportunity. Read More

Top Tips for Sharing Jesus with Muslims

Brother Silas, a missionary with the London City Mission has spent the last 30 years sharing Jesus with people from Muslim communities, both in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Here are his top tips for beginning gospel conversations with Muslims. Read More

Sharing Jesus with your Sikh Neighbour

Mark Pickett offers ten tips for sharing Christ with Sikhs. Read More

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers #54


5 Ways--No, 6--To Lull Your Listeners To Sleep

There's nothing like a good snoozer of a sermon. But what does it take to preach a sermon that makes your listeners fall sound asleep? Read More

Exegeting Your Audience

Pastors, it is important to know and understand your audience. The truth of Scripture never changes, but the way we communicate that truth should if we want to be truly effective in reaching people with the Gospel. So here are a few quick tips for exegeting your audience.... Read More

3 Questions to Help You Apply the Bible to Today

We must preach the biblical text to the point that people see how it comes to bear on their lives today. If we fail to do this, we have failed to preach. So how can we do this well? How can we apply the Bible to today in our preaching? I have found that asking the right questions of the text makes all the difference. Read More

How to Preach Without Chapters and Verses

In our last article we explored a new way to think about Bible study. This week we’ll look at the implications our “read first” approach has for how we preach the Bible. Read More

A Contagious Pulpit

I remember Haddon Robinson saying that a mist in the pulpit will result in a fog in the pew. It seems so obvious to say it, but there is a strong connection between what is going on in the preacher and what will go on in the listeners. This is true both positively and negatively. Here are some examples with brief comment.... Read More

Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps

Here are those four simple steps that lead to a church’s self-destruction. Read More

Protect Your Church in One Simple Step

The church that remains faithful to God is the church that remains faithful to the Word of God. The healthy church is the preaching church. Read More

6 Bullet Points on Preaching

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about preaching, but I think the majority of it can be grouped under six main headings or ideas. You could, of course, extract specific teaching points from each one, but I think there’s value in looking at them in a broad sense. Here is what Paul says about the preaching of God’s Word.... Read More

The Kind of Preaching God Blesses

There are some books on preaching that are meant for preachers. These are books that teach the nuts and bolts of preaching, that are full of practical tips and illustration. There is a place for such works. There are other books on preaching that are meant for all Christians. These are books that describe the power and priority of preaching in the Christian church and in the Christian life. Steven Lawson’s The Kind of Preaching God Blesses falls squarely in the second category. This is a book for all of us whether we preach weekly, preach occasionally or never preach at all. Read More

8 Ways Expository Preaching Changed Our Church

Faithful expository preaching meant that the Word of God is presented as the words of God. It sounds funny to write it that way, in tautology, but this was earth-shaking news. Every word of Scripture was pure ‘truth’ and ‘argument’ of God, flowing out upon people, forcing they either accept or reject His holy position. The light had dawned: expositional preaching was the only preaching that had any power. Faithful preaching could only be expositional preaching. Read More

Store Away The Criticisms For Tuesday Morning (And 3 More Great Suggestions)

One of the most dangerous times for a pastor are the hours following his Sunday sermon. Read More

10 Reasons I Don’t Use Negative 10-Point Lists In Preaching

A tongue-in-cheek commentary on a popular preaching style. Have you ever used it? How'd it work for you? Read More

Staying Sharp as a Preacher: The Power of Illustration

One of the keys to staying sharp as a preacher is to continually hone your powers to illustrate and to apply biblical texts. This need is often expressed to me by preachers and students of preaching with this question: “Where do I find good illustrations?” The answer is what I have come to call my watchword for preaching, rhetoric, and simply being a literate person in general: “Read widely, live observantly, and look up stuff.” Read More

The Secret To Picking The Best Illustration? It's Right In Front Of You!

We must think deeply about how our illustration choices affect how our congregation hears our sermon. Read More

Are You A Pastor Stuck On Hurry?

Hurry is an enemy of learning. Leaders are always looking ahead for the next hill to climb. But sometimes we must pause and make ourselves fully present in the moment so we don't miss God's subtle, but important lessons. Read More

Sermon Critique

The routine of preparation and delivery can subtly pull us into complacency, which will keep us from ever giving our best for the glory of God. Opening ourselves to meaningful critique of our sermons will help us avoid complacency and refresh our drive for excellence in preaching. Read More

How To Do Bible Study Without Chapters and Verses


We’ve been making the case over the last few months for rediscovering the power of Bible reading. In many ways, simple and straightforward reading has been the forgotten practice in the modern era of the Bible. We contend that reading whole books remains the first and most natural thing to do with the Bible.

But what about all the other things we do with the Bible? What about Bible study? Should we still be taking closer looks at smaller parts of the Bible? And does this “read first” approach have any implications for how we preach and teach the Bible? We’ll start this new mini-series of articles by taking a closer look at what it means to study the Bible. Read More

Related Articles:
How Personal Application Can Derail Your Bible Reading
How We Receive Guidance From the Bible’s Story What Is Immerse?
The Story Behind Immerse
Video Story: Immerse at Southern Wesleyan University [Video]
Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience [Video]
The Bible was not divided into chapters until the early 13th century. It was not divided into verses until the mid-16th century. See the Wikipedia article "Chapters and verses of the Bible." When you read an Immerse Bible, you experience the Bible as would have Christians in the first thirteen centuries of Christianity.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday's Catch: Entry Points, Middle Doors, and More


Create New Entry Points

Congregations cannot stand by passively and expect people to walk through the front doors of the church on Sunday morning. Churches must break the traditional rules of evangelism and provide multiple, creative, and easily-accessible entry points to faith communities. Read More

When Churches Say No

Why have people come to expect that the answer to anything new in the church is No? Perhaps it’s because the church sends a thousand subtle messages of being closed to new people, new ideas, and new experiences without even realizing it. Not only are some churches saying No to new ideas, they are also saying No to new people without being aware they are doing so. Most congregations think of themselves as friendly, welcoming communities, open to ideas and new people. But in reality outsiders and newcomers often feel closed out and shut down. The church thinks it’s saying Yes, when in fact it is saying No. Read More

Understanding Resistance to Change in Churches [Podcast]

In this podcast Thom and Sam Rainer discuss an incredibly common topic and major pain point for many churches: change and why resistance to change exists. Listen Now

A Mother And Daughter On Homelessness, Humility And A $6-A-Week Grocery Budget

The day before Ashley Baker turned 16 years old, she moved into a Dallas motel with her mom. They were newly homeless. Sandy, Ashley's mother, then 44, had just left a troubled marriage, scraped together what money she could and left home with Ashley. For the next two and a half years, they were homeless. They recounted the challenges they faced during a recent StoryCorps interview in Dallas. Read More
Note how a church played an important role in helping this homeless mother and daughter to find a new home.
25 Best Christmas Nativity Crafts for Kids in Your Children’s Ministry

With so much to do this time of year, we know that you’re looking for easy Nativity Christmas crafts that also have a wow factor! And…we know that you want to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas. That’s why we found nativity crafts–and not just any craft. Here are 25 of the best nativity Christmas crafts we found for you on Pinterest and the internet. Enjoy! Read More

Where To Find Great Video Production Blogs

Knowing the top five video production blogs online and how they can help you, will ensure that you know exactly where to go when you have questions about how to create and edit your video production. Read More

Impeachment, Impatience, and Our Call to Follow Christ

As you watch the impeachment hearings, think through whether remaining silent is going to hinder your gospel witness. Read More

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Give Us This Day Our Daily Catch


With the oceans no longer teeming with life, scientists and missionaries alike challenge Christians to faithfulness in the face of daunting odds.

Last month, the United Nations released a sobering report about the state of the earth’s oceans. The 1,200-page document, issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reported warming water temperatures and sharp declines in fish populations and warned that ocean levels could rise up to three feet by the end of the century.

That’s in stark contrast to early history as accounted in the Bible, pointed out Bob Sluka, the lead scientist of A Rocha’s Marine and Coastal Conservation Program. “Genesis 1 talks about the oceans teeming with life in abundance,” he said. “The only place these days to really see that is in marine protected areas.”

The report is a first for oceans and a wake-up call, said Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at the internationally-acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. “What this report says, at the highest level, is that the ocean has been buffering the impacts of climate change for decades, and that buffering has a limit,” Van Houtan said. “Even though it has an immense ability to absorb and buffer heat and carbon from us, our industries, and our activities, it cannot do that indefinitely.” Read More

What You Believe Affects How You Live


Surrounded by the Colorado mountains, Lauryn Maloney-Gepfert is teaching people how to walk. Or rather, I should say, she is teaching people how to walk…again. The physician’s assistant developed a program called Neuroplastic Functional Training (NFT) and the results are nothing short of miraculous. People with debilitating injuries were beating insurmountable odds. Patients whose prognosis was lifelong paralysis, who were told that, at best, they might be able to feed themselves, were now fully functioning, walking, even getting up from the ground unassisted.

They relearned how to walk through Maloney-Gepfert’s whole-person approach. She found that recovery was indeed possible, but it had to include all aspects of a person’s being. Her method focuses on physical movement (the body), neuroplasticity (the brain), and one more element – the mind.



She explained that patients begin the healing with mental barriers that impede their recovery. These barriers inhibit the brain from changing and, as a result, keep the body from moving. Someone who hears she will never walk again and accepts that message inhibits her brain from relearning how to function.

Maloney-Gepfert discovered that what we believe about ourselves affects how our brain neurologically functions, which quite literally affects how we live. Our minds consciously choose what messages it accepts about ourselves, which changes our brains, which changes how we live. In other words, a vital factor in whether a paralyzed patient will ever walk again is what she believes. Before she can go from immobile to fully-functioning, she has to believe that she will walk again.


As I heard these miraculous stories, I thought of how much this applies to spiritual change. Our minds choose what we will believe, which changes how we think, and changes how we live. Read More

Thursday's Catch: Understanding the Growth of Non-Religious Affiliated Americans and More


What to Understand about Christianity’s Decline in America [Podcast]

Last month, Pew Research Center published survey data from 2018 and 2019 on religion and Americans. The big takeaway: the number of non-religiously affiliated Americans was growing; the number of Christians was declining. Here’s how they summed it up.... Listen Now

Seven Important Scorecards for Revitalization [Podcast]

Measurements are important. Numbers tell us where we have been and where we might be headed. Thom and Kevin take this episode to discuss 7 important metrics that should be included on a church revitalization scorecard. Listen Now

Should Your Church Stop Having a Stand and Greet Time

What is it about this stand and greet time that many guests don’t like? Here are the seven most common responses, again listed in order of frequency. Read More

Keeping Your Advent Preaching Fresh [Podcast]

Kyle and Matt are all by themselves on this episode. No special guests, just the two of us waxing eloquently on ways to keep your Advent preaching fresh. Whether you're a hard-core Text-driven guy or all-in on all things Advent, you'll find something for you on this chat. Enjoy! Listen Now

Pray for Christians in These Five Countries Where the Persecution Is Extreme

Did you know one of the most common requests of persecuted Christians is that people would pray for them? Around the world today, Christians are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. They may not have the ability to write us letters and ask for our prayers, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if our persecuted brothers and sisters were also those who received the most support through intercessory prayer. Here are five countries where the persecution of Christians is considered the most extreme. Open Doors has provided several helpful suggestions for how to pray for people in each of these countries. Read More

55 Years of Evangelism... We Still Have a Ton to Learn

At the Luis Palau Association, we’ve spent the last 55 years talking about evangelism. In the last year, we’ve decided to stop talking about evangelism. Why? Because positioning ourselves as learners enables us to discover some of the best ways people are evangelizing today. Read More

Surviving the Holiday Season


Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most stressful holidays of the year. When I was involved in child welfare work in Louisiana, we saw a spike in referrals during this time of the year. There are a lot of reasons why these holidays can be stressful. It is my hope that these three articles will be helpful to not only pastors and their families but also to the members of their congregations and those who are not yet a part of a local Christian community. 

7 Tips for Peace During the Hustle and Bustle of the Holidays

Thanksgiving and Christmas make up a wonderful time of the year—one that’s especially meaningful for the church. However, these holidays can also leave a pastor completely exhausted. How can you enjoy the holidays and avoid exhaustion? Here are a few tips.... Read More

How to Handle Family Conflict This Holiday Season

We are broken people, which is why the first and most essential step for handling family conflict is to constantly remind ourselves that our homes are broken because we are all sinners. The most important tool for handling family conflict is to keep your focus on Christ and to constantly search his Word to understand his commands for you and your family. But you should also keep certain principles in mind as you deal faithfully with family conflicts this holiday season. Read More

Holiday Hosting Hacks That Free Your to Serve

Entertaining during Thanksgiving and Christmas can be stressful but a lot of pressure can be eliminated with a little planning and by keeping our daily focus Jesus’ command to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Here are a few tips to get organized and prepared so we’ll have room to do what Jesus calls us to do. Read More

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday's Catch: The Effects of Decreased Church Attendance and More


How a Decrease in Attendance Frequency is Affecting Your Church

A phenomenon is impacting churches across the United States. Maybe your church is an anomaly. But most churches—regardless of size and denominational affiliation—are experiencing a decrease in attendance frequency. Attendance frequency measures how often a person comes to church. For example, an “active” member was once considered someone who came twice, or even three times a week. Today an active member is considered someone who comes twice a month. Read More

Jesus Came to Proclaim Good News to the Poor. But Now They’re Leaving Church.

It’s well-established that the gap between the middle class and those who earn the highest incomes in the United States has grown wider over time, spurring partisan responses over how or whether to address income inequality. But there’s a facet of this issue that should be particularly worrisome to Christians: Many of the poorest Americans are abandoning church en masse. By stepping away from church communities, the people who are most financially strapped also end up losing out on social networks and social capital—which can make their economic situation and outlook even worse. Read More

Young Adults Feel Isolated and Anxious

As Americans gather with family and friends this week, many young adults in the United States and around the world report feeling lonely and isolated. Only a third of young adults around the world say they often feel cared for by those around me (33%) and often feel someone believes in me (32%), according to a survey from Barna and World Vision of 18- to 35-year-olds from 25 countries. Read More

What’s Next for the Multisite Church?

In a short time, one church in multiple locations has become a new normal. A pioneer of the model predicts where it’s headed. Read More
While the number of multisite churches have grown exponentially in recent years, it is an exaggeration to characterize them as a "new normal." The number of non-multisite churches still exceeds that of multisite churches. As has been noted in several articles posted on Anglicans Ablaze, there is also a trend away from multisite churches.
Is Positive Psychology All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

To many of its followers, the movement is a godsend, answering a need to belong to something larger than themselves and holding out the chance of better, fuller lives through truly effective techniques backed by science. To its critics, that science is undercut by positive psychology’s moralizing, its mysticism, and its money-spinning commercialization. But how valid are these concerns, and do they matter if positive psychology makes people happy? Read More

With Joel Olsteen, Kanye Drops a Clue about His Faith and His Kinship with Trump

This past Sunday, Kanye West appeared in front of perhaps his biggest church audience yet: Lakewood Church of Houston, pastored by Joel Osteen. West wore a blazer and crew neck sweater — a more conservative outfit than his typical fashion-forward attire. Answering a series of questions that felt more suited for a midday Christian talk show, West revealed a tidbit that goes a long way toward explaining why Kanye is Kanye. Read More
Kanye West's recent conversion has prompted a slew of articles on the Internet. This article offers some insight into his religious background. New Thought not only has connections to Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science but also E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, and the Word of Faith movement.

Called to Discipleship, Called to Community

Why the Christian Life is a Call to Community

The mom with three small children, the overseas missionary, the 50-year-old caring for aging parents, the one who’s chronically sick—they’ll tell you there’s no cookie-cutter shape for community. But one thing’s for certain: we need each other. Read More

7 Practical and Everyday Ways to Encourage

he ability to encourage others is an essential skill for any leader. The desire to encourage others is an essential disposition of the heart for any leader. In fact, if encouragement is not a natural part of your leadership, you may unintentionally push people away from you rather than draw them to you. Read More
Encouraging others, whether they are fellow Christians or non-believers, is a part of Christian discipleship. It is not something that only church leaders should be expected to do.
12 Vital Reasons Each of Us Should Be Part of A Church

Do you really need to be involved in a church? Can’t believers just worship Jesus on their own? Why do we need to be involved in “organized religion?” It seems like a growing trend that many Christians don’t believe they need to be part of a church. Read More

The 3 Kinds of People in Every Church

In Judson Edward’s book, The Leadership Labyrinth, he describes 21 paradoxes in ministry. He defines the ‘relationship paradox’ in this way: the people who like you the most will be the ones you try least to please. He then writes that these three kinds of people fill every church. His insights are quite helpful. Read More

Partnering for Mission


How to Select a Mission Partner

How do you begin to select a mission partner with so many out there? What do you say when you’re inundated with requests? I’ve created three filters that help on the front end. There is more to selecting a mission partner than these filters. However, with three simple requirements, you can eliminate most requests without sounding harsh with a quick “no.” Read More

How an International Partnership Could Benefit Your Church

Insofar as our churches join in the discipleship of other nations, our church members will also be discipled. Jesus poured himself out that we might go and do likewise. This—this!—is the joy-filled, upside-down, counterintuitive way to pursue Christlikeness. It will take time. Years are needed to cross geographic, linguistic, cultural, and traditional barriers. Those who’ve experienced success say it takes at least three years of intentionality to see real fruit in both church bodies. But it’s worth it. Read More

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Reaching and Revitalizing Rural America: Overcoming Misconceptions, and Answering the Call (Part 2)


Misconception #2: Idyllic Life

The second misconception is that rural America is doing fine, while the inner cities alone are in decline. Though the general population of rural communities is diverse, there are challenges that are increasingly pervasive and common among many of these people groups. This is due in part to national trends in population migration. Over the past century, the U.S. has seen ongoing urbanization. In 1900, roughly 35 percent of the population lived in metropolitan areas. Today, that number is 86 percent. Urban sprawl has overtaken many formerly rural counties, transforming and reclassifying them. Fewer than 50 million people currently live in the 1,976 counties that remain classified as non-metro today, and the collective population within those counties is shrinking.

The result is a smaller American countryside comprised of slower-growing counties with a reduced and stagnant economic potential. Despite a resurgence of jobs and rising wages since the economic downturn of 2008, recovery in rural America is slower. In fact, rural employment rates remain below pre-recession levels.

A 25 percent decline in rural manufacturing caused 700,000 jobs to disappear between 2001 and 2015, with many of these jobs moving overseas. The jobs that do exist offer significantly lower salary rates than those in urban places.

Rural areas are also lagging in education and healthcare. Even as national education levels increase, there is a widening gap between the number of urban and rural dwellers with college degrees.

The Demographics Research Group at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia reports that since 1990, college graduates living at the center of the nation’s 50 largest metro areas soared by 23 percentage points, while in communities 30 miles away, the rise was merely 10 points. The gap grows as one continues to move further out from the city. This is due in part to the relocation of those who obtain degrees to find more economic opportunity. Read More

Core Convictions about Prayer


To experience God in our midst we must be people of prayer. To be people of prayer we need to know what prayer is. From the example of David in Psalm 109, we can see that prayer is the total offering of oneself to God for everything that is needed. Because of this people of prayer affirm several core convictions. Read More

Related Articles:
You May Not Know What to Pray, but the Holy Spirit Does
How to Pray for the Global Church
How to Pray for Your Pastor
20 Ways to Pray for Worship Leaders
A Simple Method for Church Leaders to Pray One Hour a Day
You Pray the Lord’s Prayer. But Do You Understand It?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Five Reasons Rural and Small-Town Churches Are Making a Comeback


The obituaries of rural and small-town churches are premature.

Indeed, we continue to see clear evidence of hope and promise for both the churches and the communities. While the need is still great in the cities and more urban populations, we cannot ignore God’s work and opportunities in less populous areas.

What is taking place to give us such optimism and hope? Allow me to share five reasons. I must admit I was surprised at some of the research I found on this topic. Read More

Is It OK to Confess That Jesus Descended into Hell?


If your church has ever recited the Apostles’ Creed, you’re probably familiar with that awkward feeling you get when you come to the part that says “he descended into hell.” Numerous questions come to mind. For example:
  • Why would he do that?
  • Did he suffer there?
  • Where does the Bible say this?
  • Doesn’t Luke 23:43 explicitly say that Jesus went to paradise when he died?
And so on. Unanswered questions like these have led some Christians to simply remain silent when their congregation recites this part of the creed. Other churches have chosen to delete the phrase altogether. Indeed, no other line of the Apostles’ Creed has received so much pushback from modern evangelicals. In 1991, theologian Wayne Grudem wrote an article titled “He Did Not Descend into Hell: A Plea for Following Scripture Instead of the Apostles’ Creed.” His arguments have been echoed by many others.

Now clearly, if the Apostles’ Creed is at odds with Scripture on this point, we should go with the source that’s God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). At the same time, the Protestant view of sola Scriptura has never denied the role of creeds and confessions. Indeed, Protestant confessions like the Belgic Confession and the Thirty-nine Articles explicitly affirmed “the three creeds”: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian. The Heidelberg Catechism structures many of its questions and answers around the Apostles’ Creed. So despite not being inspired, it would seem that with a creed as ancient and basic and widely confessed as the Apostles’ Creed, you would need a pretty good reason to disagree.

Do we have such a reason in this case? Matthew Emerson thinks not. Emerson is a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, executive director for The Center for Baptist Renewal, and blogger at Biblical Reasoning. And in his new book, ‘He Descended to the Dead’: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday, Emerson argues that the doctrine of Christ’s descent, besides being the ancient faith of the church, rests on a firm biblical foundation and has great practical significance. As such it ought to be retrieved by those who don’t currently confess it, and better understood by some who do.

This is a book every evangelical and Reformed pastor should read, especially those whose churches recite the Apostles’ Creed. Not everyone will agree with Emerson’s answer. But it deserves to be considered, and it has the potential to bring greater unity and understanding to the body of Christ.

In this review, I want to draw out three points about Christ’s descent from Emerson’s book. Read More
This controversy is not new. It goes back to the eighteenth century if not earlier. See E Clowes Chorley's The New American Prayer Book: Its History and Content

Is youth ministry a BIG strategic focus in your church? It should be!


Youth ministry is often dismissed as something less than strategic in far too many churches. Some even view it as a kind of glorified babysitting. In their thinking, teens need just enough games and God to keep them coming back....until they are old enough to make a difference in the church.

The unspoken implication is that teenagers aren't "real members" until they are old enough to have jobs, give offerings and serve in the big boy/big girl roles of the church.

But Jesus didn't wait for the disciples to get out of their teen years to appoint them as "real" apostles. He appointed them to lead the charge while they were still in their teen years.

Do you find that hard to believe? Then check out Matthew 17:24-27 where Peter, Jesus and the disciples go to Capernaum but only Peter and Jesus pay the Temple Tax. If you cross reference this passage with Exodus 30:14 you'll see that this particular tax, originally the Tabernacle Tax, was only applicable to those 20 years and older.

All the disciples were there but only Peter and Jesus paid the Temple Tax. That means that, 11 of the 12 apostles, were teenagers when they began to follow Jesus.

Why in the world would Jesus choose mostly teenagers to lead the charge for the most important mission in history? Wrestle with that question!

How can you utilize and mobilize the teenagers in your youth group for community-wide impact like Jesus did? Wrestle through that question too!

Here's a few realities to think about as you do.... Read More
Young people assumed adult responsibilities at a much earlier age in past centuries than they do today or they did in the last century. Adolescence is a relatively modern development.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Why Church Planting in Rural Areas is Urgently Needed


Part One: The State of Things

“Rural America has become the new inner city,” recently reports one popular news source.

From the earliest days of my own ministry training and down through the years the message has been: the church needs to focus on the cities. “The Apostle Paul did cities.” “Rural areas are already adequately churched. The future of culture, power, and decision-making is determined by the metropolitan areas.” “The city is where it’s at. The rural areas will do fine on their own.” Indeed, it’s considered hip to live and minister in the inner city. A church planter who goes to the city is considered a missionary so fundraising makes sense. However a church planter who “settles” for a small town risks being considered as settling for less meaningful ministry, and fundraising will be a more difficult sell.

The myth and mystique of Mayberry still lives on in the American psyche as the idealized version of “real America”. All is well in Small Town, USA. The data, however, paint a different picture.

What do we mean by “rural”? There’s no one definition. “Areas with a population center under 50,000” is sometimes used. “Micropolitan” is used to describe rural statistical areas; and some suggest that if the town has a Starbucks it’s not rural, but if there’s a Subway in the gas station it’s rural.

Fundamentally, rural is something of an ethos, not just a statistical construct, so hard boundaries and rigid categories don’t really apply. Rural also implies a state of remoteness–a feeling of being isolated from mainstream culture, and being at least somewhat removed from a practical availability of goods and services. Simply put, rural is what is not urban, and it’s what needs intentional resourcing.

This is not to say that cities are no longer important. They are. Nor is it to say that urban ministry isn’t still needed. It is. Yet, it is to say that there are critical needs in non-urban areas that are being overlooked, and that these needs can best be met by multiplying healthy rural churches. Let’s look at four of these critical challenges. Read More

Related Articles:
Go Big or Go Home: Reimagining Rural Church Planting
Rural Matters: Placing Rural Church Planting Back on the Map
3 Reasons We Need Rural Church Plants