Tuesday, August 20, 2019

How Long Should a Service Be?

By Robin G. Jordan

On his blog Chuck Lawless has posted seven evaluative questions that he offers to the students in his pastoral ministry classes when they ask him, "How long should a worship service be?" These questions are useful in deciding what should be included in a service and what should be trimmed from it.

As I have pointed out in a number of posts, a common obstacle that North American Continuing Anglican churches face in reaching the unchurched and lightly-churched population of their communities is the length of their Sunday services. These services as a rule are too long. While the regular attendees of a Continuing Anglican church may not experience the services of the 1928 BCP as tedious, visitors do, not just young people but older people too. The length and tiresomeness of the Prayer Book services is one of the main reasons that they do not return for a second visit. It is also one of the main reasons that they are not likely to recommend the church to their family and friends after a visit.

The chief reason for their length is that those planning the services do not take advantage of the 1928 BCP's rubrics that permit the omission of a number of elements from the services of Morning Prayer and Holy Communion. The fault, however, is not entirely that of the worship planners. The congregation may have become so accustomed to the inclusion of various optional elements in the service and unauthorized additions to it that they are likely to complain if these optional elements and additions are omitted. The church may also have a pastor, supply priest, or other service leader who does not appreciate the need for brevity in the Sunday service.

In this post I am going to suggest several ways of shortening the service of Morning Prayer which is often the primary Sunday service of Continuing Anglican churches that do not have a priest of their own--a not uncommon situation in Continuing Anglican jurisdictions as aging priests retire from active ministry due to declining health and shrinking congregations are unable to pay the stipend for a part-time priest, much less a full-time one. They are:

1. Omit the opening hymn and eliminate a procession with processional cross and torches. A procession is traditionally a part of the entrance rite of a service of Holy Communion, not Morning Prayer.

2. Use only a single opening sentence of Scripture. Isaiah 57:15 is a good penitential introduction to the General Confession that follows. Serving as a penitential introduction was the original purpose of the opening sentences of Scripture at Morning Prayer.

3. Omit the long Exhortation and use the shorter Invitation to Confession. Pause after the Invitation to Confession to give the congregation an opportunity for self-examination.

4. Substitute a metrical version of the Venite for the prose text in the Prayer Book service and use it it as the first opening hymn of the service.

5. Limit the Psalms to one. Sing Henry Greatorex's "Glory be to the Father" or a metrical version of the Gloria Patri after the Psalm.

6. Substitute a short metrical version of the Te Deum, Benedicite, or Benedictus es for the prose texts in the Prayer Book service.

7. Place the sermon or homily immediately after the Second Lesson and not at the end of the service. When the sermon or homily is stuck on the end of the service, visitors are often too exhausted or bored to give their full attention to the message.

8. Substitute a short metrical version for the Benedictus Dominus Deus or Jubilate for the prose texts in the Prayer Book service.

9. Use the Apostles' Creed rather than the Nicene Creed. It is not only shorter but is traditionally used at Morning Prayer.

10. Take advantage of the rubric, "And NOTE, That the Minister may here end the Morning Prayer with such general intercessions taken out of this Book, as he shall think fit, or with the Grace," and substitute for everything that follows this prayer from Forms of Prayer to be used in Families:
...accept, O Lord, our intercessions for all mankind. Let the light of thy Gospel shine upon all nations; and may as many as have received it, live as becomes it. Be gracious unto thy Church; and grant that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may serve thee faithfully. Bless all in authority over us; and so rule their hearts and strengthen their hands, that they may punish wickedness and vice, and maintain thy true religion and virtue. Send down thy blessings, temporal and spiritual, upon all our relations, friends, and neighbours. Reward all who have done us good, and pardon all those who have done or wish us evil, and give them repentance and better minds. Be merciful to all who are in any trouble; and do thou, the God of pity, administer to them according to their several necessities; for his sake who went about doing good, thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
11. Sing a closing hymn. If a collection is taken, it may be taken during this hymn.

12. Conclude the service with this prayer from Forms of Prayer to be used in Families:
The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace, this night and evermore. Amen.
What suggestions do you have?

Your Church Needs More Time for Personal Testimonies

If you’re reading this, you probably have a strong view of expositional preaching, corporate prayer, and the church ordinances (baptism and communion). You also might get nervous when someone emphasizes the value of personal experience. It might send a small shiver down your theological spine.

After all, you don’t want experience to crowd out exposition. I get it. There are a lot of cautions and concerns we might justifiably have about people giving testimonies. Nonetheless, we should consider implementing personal testimonies, that is, the practice of remembering God’s wondrous works and celebrating his mighty deeds in our lives and churches. Read More
Personal testimonies is an element that is frequently missing from Anglican services of public worship--at least here in the United States. Personal testimonies not only glorify God, they also build up the faith of those attending a worship gathering. They let the Body of Christ know how God has been working in its members.

Tuesday's Catch: From Church Split to Church Plant and More

From Church Split to Church Plant

Healthy steps toward forming a church plant after a church split. Read More

Church Planting Shifts, Part 3: Preparing Our People for Witness

Our call is to help all Christians more faithfully and fruitfully share the gospel in a society that is less nominally Christian, and more intentionally secular. Read More

Ministering to International Students

God has chosen this moment to bring hundreds of thousands of international students to our shores. Read More

The Power of Biblical Hospitality

Four characteristics that distinguish biblical hospitality from merely entertaining guests. Read More

Hell Is More Than a Choice

My concern is that statements like “God doesn’t send anyone to hell” or “The people in hell want to be there” are misleading when made the main focus of our apologetic on hell. As I hope to show, they capture something true, but they also run counter to clear biblical statements and risk making hell seem more bearable than Scripture presents it. Read More

How to Make a Theological Argument

Have you ever wondered how to make a theological argument? While many tools can help us make arguments, there are four overlapping steps to making a theological argument. Here they are.... Read More

Six Reasons Pastors Must Become Change Leaders [Podcast]

Determining the correct pace of change is often the most important aspect of leading change—because change is needed in nearly every church situation. In this podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss why change is essential and how to do it well. Read More

Am I Truly Born Again?

Four evidences that you are new. Read More

One of the Least Wanted Traits of a College Roommate--Being an Evangelical Christian

As college freshmen move on to campus in the coming weeks, some may be praying their roommate is not an evangelical Christian. Read More

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Priest to the Temple or, The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life

Being desirous (through the Mercy of God) to please Him, for whom I am, and live, and who giveth me my Desires and Performances; and considering with my self, That the way to please him, is to feed my Flock diligently and faithfully, since our Saviour hath made that the argument of a Pastor's love, I have resolved to set down the Form and Character of a true Pastor, that I may have a Mark to aim at: which also I will set as high as I can, since he shoots higher that threatens the Moon, then he that aims at a Tree. Not that I think, if a man do not all which is here expressed, he presently sins, and displeases God, but that it is a good strife to go as far as we can in pleasing of him, who hath done so much for us. The Lord prosper the intention to my self, and others, who may not despise my poor labours, but add to those points, which I have observed, until the Book grow to a complete Pastoral.
So the celebrated seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest George begins his classic work, A Priest to the Temple or, The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life. The complete work in modern spelling is found in The Sweet Remains of That Singer of the Temple George Herbert. Sweet Remains also contains Izaak Walton and Barnabas Olney's biographies of George Herbert, Jaculum Prudentum, or Outlandish Proverbs, a collection of proverbs by George Herbert, and a collection of Herbert's letters. Readers who are unfamiliar with the vagaries of seventeenth century English spelling will find this edition of The Country Parson more readable.

Monday's Catch: What a Famous Poet Can Teach Rural Pastors and More

Salisbury Cathedral
What a Famous Poet Can Teach Rural Pastors

Stephen Witmer suggests just three reasons (admitting that there are many more) we should read and re-read the seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest George Herbert's only published prose work, A Priest to the Temple or, The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life. Read More
A Priest to the Temple or, The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life is available for reading online on the Project Canterbury website. I must admit that I have read this classic work numerous times. For the same work in modern spelling, see the article, A Priest to the Temple or, The Country Parson: His Character and Rule of Holy Life.
Celebrating The Essential Role Of The Historically Small Church

Let’s help today’s small churches be as great as yesterday’s small churches. Read More

The Power of Small Church Outreach

Leverage your advantages to reach your community. Read More

Trends in New Hispanic Church Plants

As with most other church plants, new Hispanic church works see exponential growth during the first few years. Read More

Millennial Men: Dispelling the Myth of the Unreachable Generation

The belief that Millennial men are part of an unreachable generation is a myth. Read More

8 Reasons Why We Preachers and Teachers May Be More Boring Than We Think

I admit that I debated whether to write this post – primarily because I might be unknowingly describing my own teaching and preaching. At the same time, I don’t want to suggest that most preachers and teachers are boring. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. My point here is to challenge all of us—beginning with me—to consider these issues/reasons as we preach and teach. Read More

How to Pray in Spiritual Warfare

This article is part of the How to Pray series. Read More

How The Church Became “Missional”

In the past few columns ... we’ve looked at Mark’s critique of the missional movement and his proposal for a different outlook. Today, I’m putting his critique in wider context, to show how missiology moved from what was essentially a church-centered view to a mission-centered view in the past seventy years or so. Read More

Reviving Evangelism for the Next Generation

A majority of practicing Christians do not consistently support evangelism, and almost half of millennial Christians believe it is flat-out wrong to evangelize. Now what? Read More

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday's Catch: Rural Church Replanting and More

4 Keys to Replanting Rural Churches

There are no-name places all over the nation. These are places the rest of the world has forgotten about (it’s called fly-over country for a reason). But in these places are people serving God faithfully who want to see the Kingdom of God expand. Not to mentions scores of people that need Jesus. Read More

Why Are There So Few Resources For Churches Under 50?

If you’ve learned something practical about pastoring a very small church, we need to get that information out to others. Read More

What Should Pastors Know About Generation Z?

Five experts discuss the ways this emerging demographic is helping them rethink preaching, parenting, and service. Read More

Six Reasons Why the Minimization of Numerical Metrics Is Dangerous [Podcast]

Metrics have a bad reputation in some churches. In others, they’re too much of the focus. In this podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss why you should take a balanced approach to metrics. Listen Now

Is There a Difference between Pastors and Elders? (1 Timothy 3)

This article is part of the Tough Passages series. Read More

7 Reasons Why Pastors Must Invest in a Few Young People--and How to Begin

I listened intensely today as I heard a great, mature preacher talk about the influence of his pastor as he grew up. This pastor gave a young man time, energy, and prayers – and now decades later, this preacher remains grateful and faithful. Here’s why we pastors must invest in at least a few young people.... Read More

The Two Biggest Influencers in a Child's Life

Children are heavily influenced as they grow up. Who influences them the most? Read More

Video Switchers: How to Enhance Your Livestream or Video Production with Multiple Cameras and Effects

A video switcher is an important component of video production and livestreaming. But what exactly is a video switcher and what value does it provide to videographers, vloggers, and other content creators? Read More

Overcoming the Fear of Evangelism

Some of you don’t struggle with such things. That’s awesome. I’ve envied you before. But for those who like me have experienced butterflies in the stomach at times when you think about speaking the gospel to the lost, here are a few things that help me. Read More

5 Actions of Faithful Evangelists

As a Christian you want other people to get saved. You know that God uses means in the salvation of others and you want God to use you but you might not know how. Here are five actions of faithful evangelists. Read More

Thursday, August 15, 2019

W. H. Griffith Thomas: "A Sacrament of Our Redemption"

An Enquiry into the Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament and the Church of England

W. H. Griffith Thomas wrote two books on the Lord's Supper, "A Sacrament of Our Redemption" An Enquiry into the Meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament and the Church of England, and a shorter work, What Did Our Lord Mean? Notes on The Holy Communion. Both are available to read online or download on the Internet Archive website. "A Sacrament of Our Redemption" (Second Edition) is available to read online on the Church Society website. As Griffith Thomas notes in the Preface of the first edition of "A Sacrament of Our Redemption,", "The present little work is offered as a slight contribution to the cause of Bible truth and genuine Church doctrine on this important subject." Both are works are recommended reading for anyone who wishes to learn more about the historic Anglican understanding of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Should the Church Strive to Be Relevant?

A friend once told me about seeing an advertisement for a new church that had launched in town. Printed on the ad in bold lettering were the words, “Relevant to your life.”

“I knew immediately to steer clear of that church,” my friend said emphatically.

While no one wants to be in a church that’s irrelevant to their life, the idea of “churches being relevant” can elicit a negative response for those who associate it with gimmicks, pageantry, and shallow messages short on the gospel.

But it shouldn’t be this way.

The Bible paints relevancy as a godly attribute that’s required for disciples to communicate the gospel of Christ to an ever-changing culture. But just like any attribute, relevancy can be twisted beyond its God-given intent and misused by sinful people.

Here are three reasons churches should strive to be relevant and three pitfalls to avoid when doing so. Read More

3 Non-Negotiables for Revitalizing a Dying Church

Pastors Bobby Owings and Brian Moss share a penchant for going to places no one else wants to go.

For them, it meant being called to lead dying churches—congregations in steep decline, or even on the brink of shutting down.

When Owings came to Surf City Baptist Church (SCBC), located in a resort town near a military base on the southern coast of North Carolina in 2009, each Sunday service had around 50 people in attendance—on a good day.

Today, Owings preaches four sermons each Sunday to a total of around 500.

Moss entered the ministry in 1999 after nearly two decades in the information technology industry. His first pastorate—at Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland—brought him to a church that boasted around 30 for a weekend service.

He’s still at Oak Ridge, along with around 1,200 more members than he started with.

Owings and Moss shared a few vital actions churches must take if they want to not only stay alive, but also be effective. Read More

Using Part-Time Ministry Leaders in a Revitalization or Replant [Podcast]

When a staff member leaves, most churches automatically search outside the church for a replacement. In this podcast Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe offer a different perspective on staffing. Listen Now

7 Characteristics of Constructive Criticism

Here are some ways to determine if criticism is actually constructive.

Constructive Criticism

You’ve heard the term. As a leader, I hear it all the time.

If you’re a leader then you’ve certainly had people offer criticism. Some even say they are just giving “constructive criticism.” Or they believe so at the time.

Most of my pastor friends have heard, “Pastor, let me give you a little constructive criticism”—sometimes just as they are about to deliver the weekly message.

So, what does “constructive criticism” mean?

I’m thinking we often misuse the phrase. Read More

Am I Really a Christian?

How do I know if I’m really a Christian?

That’s an eternally important question, and yet, sadly, it’s one that many Christians struggle to answer. They may not realize that it’s possible to have assurance, or perhaps they’re looking for assurance in the wrong places or in the wrong ways. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in the dark when it comes to our standing before Him. He wants His children to know that they belong to Him.... Read More

3 Overlooked Ways to Do Pre-Evangelism

Most of us need another strategy to reach unsaved people around us. If ever there was a time when “people were ready to receive Christ” (and I doubt it was ever that simple), those days are gone. But how do we start?

Here are three strategies for pre-evangelism that might help your friends move from “Are you crazy? Christianity is ridiculous, narrow-minded, homophobic, and stupid!” to “Well . . . maybe I need to rethink this” to “OK, I’ve not been fair in the ways I’ve pigeonholed religious people” to “All right, I’ll take a look at that book about God you gave me.” Read More

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

W. H. Griffith Thomas: The Catholic Faith: A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Church of England (New Edition)


While an apologetic preface s always unnecessary, a few words explanatory of the writer's aim may rightly be allowed.

This Manual represents an endeavour to answer two questions: (l) What is the Church of England? (2) What does the Church of England teach? The answers to these questions are found, first, in the Prayer Book and Articles considered in their plain and obvious meaning. An attempt is then made to indicate the fundamental principles of the Church of England, to show how those principles are expressed in the formularies of doctrine and worship, and to point out what the principles imply and involve in the life of those who are bound by them. It is also shown that the Prayer Book and Articles need consideration in the light of their origin and compilation, and in view of the circumstances which gave birth to their present form. The Church of England formularies are thus seen to be the direct outcome of great movements of thought and life in the English nation.

The treatment of the various subjects is necessarily brief and incomplete, but an attempt has been made at least to touch upon all essential matters.

The substance of the book represents teaching given in the course of parochial work, in Confirmation Classes and Sermons, together with some theological lectures to missionary candidates and congregations in various localities. All possible care has been taken to verify the statements made, but in a book of this kind it is obviously necessary to deal with results rather than with processes. As the book represents the reading and study of several years it is impossible to acknowledge indebtedness in detail, but special mention must be made of help and suggestion derived from several Manuals of Doctrine and other similar books. After working over the ground myself I naturally consulted other works, and I gladly acknowledge my indebtedness for suggestions even when I could not agree with particular interpretations. I refer especially to The Church Catechism Explained, by Rev. A. W. Robinson; Confirmation Lectures, by Canon Barnes Lawrence; The Prayer Book and the Christian Life, by Archdeacon Tiffany; and The Church Catechism, by Canon Stowell. The summary of Church History in Part II. is intended to be a brief statement of the link of connexion of the Church of England with the Church of Apostolic days, and an explanation of how she has come to be what she is. It is mainly a bare narration of facts based on several well known works. Litton's great work, An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, has been referred to and used throughout. For twenty years past that book has been a constant and treasured companion.

While I am of course responsible for the general treatment and conclusions of the Chapter on the Ornaments Rubric in Part III., I am greatly indebted to the criticisms of a friend who does not wish his name mentioned, but whose knowledge of this thorny subject is thorough and reliable.

I submitted to several friends the first draft of the synopsis of this work, in order to obtain the benefit of their criticisms. Among these I must mention Canon Stuart and Canon R. C. Joynt, of whose great pastoral experience I naturally wished to avail myself for the greater usefulness of the book. To Canon Barnes Lawrence I am particularly grateful for his trouble in reading through the entire manuscript and for giving me the benefit of his sound judgment and valued criticisms.

It remains to express the hope and prayer that this endeavour to show what it means to be an English Churchman may be blessed of God to the confirmation of members of the Anglican Church in "the faith once delivered to the Saints" as it now stands embodied in the Word of God and enshrined in the Prayer Book and Articles of the Church of England.


OPPORTUNITY has been taken to give the book a careful revision, to consider some of the recent Church problems, and to make modifications and additions in the list of works recommended for reading.
This edition of W. H. Griffith Thomas' The Catholic Faith: A Manual of Instruction for Members of the Church of England was published by Longmans, Greenman, and Co. in 1920 and is available for reading online or free download in several formats on the Internet Archive website. It is an excellent introduction to the faith of the Reformed Anglican Church. It is also available as a free e-book on Google Books.

Wednesday's Catch: Church Planting Shifts and More

Church Planting Shifts, Part 2: From Nominal to Secular

In this second part of his series on church-planting shifts Ed Stetzer unpacks a shift from a focus on nominal Christians to more secular people, and how that impacts church-planting methodology. Read More

How to Get Ready to Plant a Church During Seminary

Planning to plant a church? Here are some things to consider. Read More

5 Strategies for Implementing Successful Changes in Ministry

In this article Fran Trascritti discusses some principles that may be helpful for any leader in managing changes they initiate. Read More

9 Places to Find Church Workers

Many churches I know struggle with finding workers. It seems that no matter how hard they try, they can’t find all the workers they need. If that describes your church, think about looking in these places for workers.... Read More

Is Your Confession of Faith Too Narrow? 3 Questions

Which doctrines should be included in a church’s or evangelical organization’s confession of faith? Read More

Valuing Convictions Over Opinions

We can get opinions from anyone, but only convictions from God truly matter. Read More

The Preacher and Rightly Approaching the Bible [Podcast]

In this podcast Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary. talks with Matt Smethurst, the managing editor of The Gospel Coalition and the author of a recently released book titled: Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word. Listen Now

Is It a Waste of Time for Seminary Students (and Pastors) to Learn the Biblical Languages?

It’s that time of year again. A few weeks ago, a new crop of seminary students began the grueling month-long experience of Summer Greek. And, like all seminary students before them, they will begin to ask the question of why studying these ancient languages even matters. After all, a few years after graduation all will be forgotten. In the midst of a busy pastoral life, who could possibly maintain proficiency in the languages? Read More

Discovering Your Call to Music Ministry

Music ministry is one of the most vital ministries in the local church and should be viewed as a sacred office. Discovering your call begins with a DESIRE to be used by God to impact the local church and the world around you. Read More

The Church Isn’t Missional?

In my last article, I began to point out some problems in Mark’s conflating of different philosophies under the “missional” definition. I want to step back, however, from any further critique so that we can hear why Mark is questioning the missional understanding of the church and then consider what view of the church he proposes instead. Read More

What Unlikely Converts Can Teach Us About Evangelism (and Ourselves)

People generally accept the gospel gradually. Evangelism, like gardening, is a process, and it often involves many participants. The gospel is for everyone. And the task of evangelism includes every Christian—even those you’d least expect. Read More

Two Complications to Know About the Coptic Church in Egypt

Rachel Cohen examines the two complications that pose the greatest contemporary obstacles for the Coptic Church and the implications for evangelical Christians. Read More

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

W. H. Griffith Thomas: The Work of Ministry

During my five years at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, it fell to my lot to deal with the various aspects of ministerial life and service which are usually included in the term Pastoralia. This involved weekly addresses in Chapel on Saturday evenings, weekly lectures on Pastoral work, addresses at the openings of Terms, and occasional informal Conferences on some of the more outstanding ministerial and pastoral problems.

This book embodies the substance of what was then given, and it is reproduced in the hope that those to whom it was originally delivered may like to have a record of what I have reason to know were occasions not without interest ; and also that younger brethren in the ministry may find it of some service to compare their own experiences with what they see here as the result of a ministerial life extending (alas ! now) over twenty-five years.

If some readers should feel surprise at observing that several aspects of ministerial life are not dealt with in these pages, they may perhaps be reminded that my opportunity for treating Pastoral life and work extended at most to only thirty weeks each year, and that therefore with (as a rule) but one address and one lecture a week, it was impossible to cover more of the ground.

If, too, any brother in the ministry should be surprised at the comparative absence of reference to problems of Biblical Criticism and of scepticism, and to ways of meeting them, it ought to be said that these were dealt with in the Wycliffe Hall work by means of other courses of lectures.

Occasional repetitions may also provoke comment.The explanation is that the entire substance of the book was not given every year and, so, certain subjects were discussed under two or three different headings. But it is hoped that the prime importance of such topics as Prayer and the Bible will be a sufficient justification of any such repeated treatment.

One more word of personal explanation seems necessary.Some may think the various sections are unduly brief, but they have been kept so of set purpose. It was thought best to make the book as inclusive as possible, and considerations of space alone necessitated brevity. But far more than this: the book is intended primarily for clergy, and brevity with a view to the reader's own meditation, study, and elaboration appeared in every way best fitted to further the work of the ministry.

Ever since my thoughts were first turned in the direction of the ministry, now well over thirty years ago, I have felt a great attraction for all questions dealing with preaching, methods of ministerial work, and problems of teaching and service ; and I have read as widely as opportunity has permitted various volumes of Lectures on Preaching and Pastoral work. These chapters are therefore indebted directly and indirectly to very many writers whom it is now impossible to recall and name. But the Bibliography found at the end of this work and the references in certain chapters will serve to show something of the sources and extent of my indebtedness, and also to indicate what may be commended for consideration by brethren in the ministry.

The book is divided into three general sections. Part I. deals with the Man himself ; Part II. discusses his Work; then in Part III. an endeavour is made, by way of personal application, to consider the Man in relation to his Work. It has been impossible to keep these sections rigidly separate, since the Bible and Prayer Book teaching about the Minister necessarily touches on his Ministry as well. But, speaking generally, Part I. is intended to represent the ideal ; Part II. is concerned with actual methods of work; and Part III. with the bearing of the man on the work and of the work on the man.

It only remains for me to say with what joy (and I hope profit to myself) I have recalled in writing these pages the happy occasions on which I met the Students in the delivery of the addresses and lectures here recorded. The earnest attention of those Saturday evenings in Chapel, and the keen interest and animated discussions of the Friday evenings in the Library will never be forgotten by me, and will be cherished among the happiest times of my life at Wycliffe Hall. As I write these words I realize that we are now scattered far and wide, over England, the Colonies, and the Mission Field ; and I hope if any of my former students should see these lines, they may be reminded of old days and be led to pray that both writer and readers may make a full proof of their ministry.
So wrote W. H. Griffith Thomas in the preface to The Work of Ministry. Published in 1910, Griffith Thomas' The Work of Ministry is still a valuable resource for Anglican ministers, ordained or licensed. For those using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer its sections on reading the liturgy are particularly helpful.

Redeeming Rural

Regardless of how few people live in an area, every person is in search for and in need of redemption.

A couple weeks ago the Laxton house couldn’t agree on a movie for family movie night, so my wife clicked on Hoosiers. Now, a movie as old as Hoosiers certainly raised my children’s eyebrows—and even complaints—since they weren’t born in the century that churned the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the storyline of the 50-year old Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) who moves to rural Hickory, Indiana to coach the Hickory Huskers. Through a battled journey, Dale victoriously leads the Huskers to the echelon of Indiana High School basketball—the State Championship.

Underneath the grand storyline (main plot) is a subplot. And this subplot has stuck with me as I continue to think, dream, and plan for rural ministry through the Rural Matters Institute at the Billy Graham Center. What’s the subplot you ask? Redeeming Rural. In this post, I want to outline three redeeming (wrongs made right) elements seen in the subplot and exhort the church today to enact a similar redeeming quality in their mentality, ministry, and mission to rural areas. Read More

Americans' Opinion of the Church Continues to Fall

Increasingly, the church has a reputation problem and it is affecting evangelism of those on the outside and retention of those who grew up on the inside.

According to recent surveys from both Gallup and Pew Research, more Americans than before have a negative opinion of church. Read More

What Is The Gospel?

The Gospel is more than the “first step in a staircase” of truths. It is better likened to the hub of a wheel, the central reality around which all of life is arranged. It is not a basic truth from which we move on to deeper truths, but is the central truth from which all other truth flows. Whether you are just beginning to investigate Christianity, or are a life-long follower of Christ, the Gospel is the one, single thing you must grasp if your life is to be all God designed your life to be. Without the Gospel, life becomes distorted in many, many ways. With the Gospel, life is set to a path toward beauty and wholeness.

So what is the Gospel? The hard news of the Gospel is that the universe and everything in it is wearing down all the time, and we are more sinful and broken than we realize. The freeing news of the Gospel is that God, through the person and work of Jesus, plans to restore both the universe and his people to their original beauty and glory. Following are three big truths of the Gospel—truths that are foundational for all other teaching about faith and life. Read More

6 Distinguishing Marks of a Call to Gospel Ministry

If there is anything else a man can do other than preach, Martyn Lloyd-Jones maintained, he ought to do it. The pulpit is no place for him. The ministry is not merely something an individual can do, but what he must do. To enter the pulpit, that necessity must be laid upon him. A God-called man, he believed, would rather die than live without preaching. Lloyd-Jones often quoted the famed British pastor Charles H. Spurgeon: “If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.” In other words, only those who believe they are chosen by God for the pulpit should proceed in undertaking this sacred task.

“Preachers are born, not made,” Lloyd-Jones asserted. “This is an absolute. You will never teach a man to be a preacher if he is not already one.” It was clearly the case in the life of Lloyd-Jones. He realized he was not joining a volunteer army.

What constitutes this call to preach? Lloyd-Jones identified six distinguishing marks of this divine summons to the pulpit. He himself had felt the gravity of each of these realities weighing heavily upon his own soul. He believed the same spiritual forces should come to bear on all preachers. Read More

What Will Your Church’s Legacy Be?

An encouraging new study reveals an increase in church multiplication. Here’s what we’re learning—and how your church can be a part of this kingdom call.

“When the master returned from a long absence, he rewarded his two faithful servants and said to each of them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’” —Matthew 25:21–24

Most, if not all, church leaders know this Scripture well. Jesus’ hard-hitting parable focuses on the legacy our faithfulness yields. In the same way, most leaders today are also wrestling with what has become a familiar question of impact: “If your church were to shut down tomorrow, would your community even notice?”

Scripture and questions like this help us focus our energies. Instead of thinking only about our own needs and church, we realize the eternal potential of reaching out beyond our church walls and into our communities. In many ways, it’s the difference between a church “having success” and “leaving a legacy.”

Bottom line: We all want to make a kingdom impact both now and when we leave this earth. We all want to be called “good and faithful servant.” But what does this kind of eternal legacy look like? And how can you as a leader—regardless of the size or context of your church—make this kind of impact? Read More

3 Warning Signs Your ‘Multisite Church’ Isn’t One

Are your multisite campuses truly one church in multiple locations?

When multisite is done right, healthy churches reproduce more disciples of Jesus. Unfortunately, my experience is that multisite churches are rarely one unified church meeting in multiple locations. Instead, what I find is that many multisite churches are connected through one leadership structure, but beyond that, they are splintered in their ministry strategy.

There are several common warning signs that I commonly see when a multisite church, well … isn’t. Read More

One Question Every Church Planter Should Ask

There are, of course, hundreds of good questions to ask before planting a church. But there is one that is too often and too easily forgotten.

It’s a question that should be asked by every church plant team, every church planter, every sending agency, and every mother church before plans are finalized and the plant is launched.

And it’s a question we can’t answer ourselves. The question must be asked, not of the Bible or in our hearts, but in and among the area into which we are hoping to plant a church.

Here’s the question: “What other gospel work is already going on?”

To be sure, we can answer this question, in part, by doing our own research—googling churches, investigating websites, checking denominational databases. We may be able to discern on our own that there is not another good, gospel church within 10 or 20 or 100 miles of our desired location. Or we may be able to identify a target population that speaks a different language than the other churches in its immediate vicinity. But still, there is no substitute for asking the Christians on the ground what the needs are (or aren’t!). Read More

Monday, August 12, 2019

Developing a Positive Vision for Your Church

By Robin G. Jordan

In his article, “What Do You Do If Most of Your Church Members Do Not Live in the Community,” Thom Rainer describes the plight of what he describes as “ex-neighborhood churches.” However ex-neighborhood churches are not the only churches whose members don’t live or near the community in which the church building or other meeting place is located.

Since the 1970s a number of breakaway groups from the Episcopal Church have formed new congregations after leaving that denomination over prayer book revision, women’s ordination, and more recently gay ordination and same-sex marriage. These new congregations have not been particularly community-oriented. Rather they have focused upon reaching other disaffected Episcopalians who live in a wider area. This has not proven a very effective strategy for growth. Even though it has not yielded the results that the churches who adopted this strategy hoped it would, it continues to influence their thinking and forms a serious obstacle to their ability to make the critical transition to being a community church, a church which is a missional presence in the community, resembles the community, opens positions of leadership to members of the community, contextualizes its ministry for the community, and prays for the community.

The radical decisions which Thom Rainer identifies that ex-neighborhood churches must make if they are to experience revitalization and growth are also the same decisions that these churches must also make if they wish to flourish. It means abandoning the mindset which sees the church as a safe haven for Episcopalians and other Christians who are disaffected from a church or denomination or as a means of propagating a particular praxis, or way of practicing the Christian faith.

An important step is to develop a vision for the church which is based upon what the church stands for, rather what is against. This would appear to be a non-brainer. But surprisingly significant number of churches formed by breakaway groups fail to recognize the importance of having a positive vision if they hope to reach and engage unchurched people, a vision not just on paper but one to which they are wholly committed and which influences every decision that they make.

Church leaders seeking to develop a positive vision for their church may find these resources helpful:

How to Develop a Church Mission/Vision Statement
Crafting a Church Vision Statement
The Five Cs of a Healthy Vision Statement
A Unique Approach to Casting Church Vision
The Power of Clarity in Your Church’s Vision
Five Reasons It’s Okay to Borrow Another Church’s Vision Statement

The Protestantism of the Prayer Book

"The title of this work explains its object. It is to demonstrate the essential Protestantism of the Book of Common Prayer, and to give to loyal Churchmen a series of reasons for their honest attachment to the Church of England. The word Protestant is a term of which no Churchman should be ashamed ; and he who sneers at her Protestantism, may well he suspected of disloyalty to the Church. No one can read the history of the Reformation without recognizing the fact that the Church of England is nothing if not Protestant. Not only her Articles, but all the services of the Prayer Book were drawn up by Protestants in the true sense, and intended for the establishment of Protestantism. While we rejoice in the catholicity of the Church of England, and recognize with gladness the fact that she is a true branch of the one holy catholic Church, which she herself has defined to be the blessed company of all faithful people, we also know that her very being is essentially and continuously a living protest against the falsities of Rome, and not only that, but against all forms of error, practical and doctrinal, Unitarian, Socinian, Pelagian, Arian.

The Church is Protestant, not merely in that she presents a powerful disclaimer both in her Articles and liturgy against the perversions of Popery, but Protestant equally in her standing protest against other forms of error which, by negation or subtraction, have perverted the truth. It is, however, in the sense of protest against Romanism, or Popery, Roman corruptions in doctrine, and Romish trivialties in ritual, that that word Protestant is mainly employed in this work."
With these words the Rev. A. Dyson Hague begins the Introduction to his classic work on the Book of Common Prayer, The Protestantism of the Prayer Book, first published in 1890. The enlarged, revised edition of The Protestantism of the Prayer Book, with a Preface by the Rt. Rev. J. C. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool and a leading nineteenth century Anglican Evangelical, is available on the Internet in a variety of formats at Internet Archive. The third edition is available for download in PDF format at McMaster University's MacSphere website.

Monday's Catch: Small Groups, Missional Communities and Micro-Churches and More

Church Planting R&D: Part 3 - Small Groups, Missional Communities & Micro-Churches

Some churches are small as a deliberate decision toward the commission of disciple-making. Read More
Also see Church Planting Research and Development: Part 1 and Church Planting R&D: Part 2 - Collegiate Church Planting
How to Talk to Your Kids about Sexual Abuse

Talking to children about difficult topics can be terrifying for parents, yet such conversations must take place. We cannot act like our world is not fallen and in need of redemption. There are evil people in the world that intend to do harm to others. If we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves (which must necessarily include the children that God has entrusted to us), then we must also warn them about evil in age-appropriate ways. Read More

Mark Galli Takes On the Missional Movement

Before I critique Mark’s critique of the missional understanding of the church, I want to give a fuller account of what he says is wrong with the missional movement and then in the next column lay out his proposal for a more biblical understanding of the church. Read More

What Do You Do If Most of Your Church Members Do Not Live in the Community

Is it an impossible situation? To call any situation impossible is to deny the power of God. But it is a very difficult situation, one that rarely ends well. A few radical decisions have to be made.... Read More

Why the ‘Invitability’ of Your Church Is Important

How confident are you and other members of your church to invite friends to your church? Read More

Guarding Your Heart in the Pulpit

What steps can you take for guarding your heart in the pulpit? Consider these recommendations.... Read More

5 Different Ways to Prepare a Sermon: Pastors Share Their Secrets

Wherever you are in your experience in preaching, this article should be helpful to you. You’ll get to see five different pastors share what a week of sermon prep looks like for them. Read More

3 Great Values of Small Group Life

In my observation, the best and most enduring stories of life change are connected to some form of small group experience. Read More

3 Strategies for Cultivating a Congregation That Lives Sacrificially

Of the eight signposts of a maturing disciple, the signpost “Obey God and Deny Self,” may be the most important. Obeying God is tied to practicing the other attributes. Read More

Why Muslims Love Mary

Followers of Islam admire the mother of Jesus. But can she be a bridge to Christianity? Read More

The Posture of Prayer: A Look at How Buddhists Pray

Defining prayer in Buddhism is challenging because the prayer rituals are varied in practice just as the fundamental doctrines and tenets are varied across the different Buddhist sects. Buddhism in Thailand looks different from Buddhism in Nepal. And, Buddhism in Nepal looks different from Buddhism in the East. Here’s a quick overview of the various Buddhists sects and how they practice prayer differently. Read More

Friday, August 09, 2019

The Church Association Tracts from 1860 to 1918; J. T. Tomlinson's Collected Tracts on Ritual and Other Writings

The Catholic Revival of the nineteenth century provoked a vigorous response from the Church of England's Evangelical wing. This response included the formation of the Church Association and the publication of Church Association Tracts on a variety of issues. The objects of the Church Association were:
To Uphold the Doctrines, Principles, and Order of the United Church of England and Ireland, and to counteract the efforts now being made to pervert her teaching on essential points of the Christian faith, or assimilate her Services to those of the Church of Rome, and further to encourage concerted action for the advancement and progress of spiritual Religion.
A number of the Church Association Tracts are available for download on the Church Society website here and here and those interested in learning about the position of the Church Association on these issues would benefit from reading them. Volumes I-V of the Church Association Tracts are also available on the Internet Archive website here.

J. T. Tomlinson's Collected Tracts on Ritual, Vol. I and Vol II are also available on the Internet Archive website here and here as well as Tomlinson's Queen Elizabeth's Crucifix here and The Prayer Book Articles and Homilies: some forgotten facts in their history which may decide their interpretation here.

Friday's Catch: The Twenty-First Century--the Great Century of Omission? and More

The Great Century of Missions Ended Over a Century Ago: Will Our Age Be the Great Century of Omission?

The People of God must boldly proclaim the gospel message both here and abroad. Read More

How to Thrive in a Post-Christian World

Here are six practical things your church can do to thrive in a post-Christian world. Read More

The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

I know the summer can be a challenging time. But I’m here to tell you it can also be a fantastic opportunity to reach your community for Christ! Read More

Separating Myth From Truth in the Generations

A researcher who specializes in the differences between generations took the stage at the 2019 Global Leadership Summit and said that the Millennial generation is splitting into two groups. Read More

Church Design Help for Non-Designers with Raj Lulla & Ben Lueders [Podcast]

In this Unseminary podcast Ben Lueders and Raj Lulla talk about why good design is important in churches and what churches should be thinking about design-wise as they communicate to people in the congregation and community. Listen Now

Five Updates on Pastoral Attire

Pastoral attire seems to be a hot issue in almost every church. In this episode Thom Rainer and Jonathan How discuss the response to another recent podcast on the subject and provide a few updates. Listen Now

4 Advantages of Advanced Planning for Sermons and Teaching Series

I plan sermon series and the general direction of sermons within a teaching series several months in advance, and here are four advantages.... Read More

7 Tips to Eliminate Boring from Your Sermons (and Avoid Writer's Block)

Preachers, if you’re bored by your message, it’s a virtual guarantee your audience will be as well. Read More

The Ultimate Guide to Sermon Illustrations: How to Enhance Your Preaching By Showing Not Just Telling

Sermon illustrations allow you to take your sermon to the next level. Instead of just telling people the truth of God’s word, show them. Read More

Beware Of Over-Hyped Intros!

Your introduction is not the place to proclaim the global impact this one message (via this one messenger) is going to have, or even has had. Read More

Most Churchgoers Say They Must Deny Self to Follow Christ

A majority of Protestant churchgoers believe making sacrificial decisions to serve Christ is essential to their faith, and most try to avoid situations that might lead to immoral thoughts or actions. Read More

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Thursday's Catch: White Nationalist Terrorism and the Gospel and More

White Nationalist Terrorism and the Gospel

White nationalism is not just another ideology, in a world filled with competing opinions. White nationalism is a manifestation of an ancient evil that we as Christians, of all people, ought to recognize immediately. White nationalism emerges from what the Bible calls “the way of the flesh.” This is a form of idolatry that exalts one’s own creaturely attributes, making a god out of, for instance, one’s ancestral origins or one’s tribal culture. This is not incidental to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but is precisely what the gospel everywhere in the Bible confronts and condemns. Read More

Jesus, Deliver Us from This Racist Evil Age

We believe in a Savior who redeems, a Spirit who reconciles, and a gospel that is the antithesis of white supremacy. Read More

Becoming a Multiethnic Church Is Costly, But Worth It

When the Bridge Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, made an intentional move to become multiethnic, we started losing people. Read More

Don’t Assume White Is ‘Normal’

Even Christians have a perception of what is normal, common, or acceptable—and it often elevates the comfort and experiences common to white people while devaluing the dignity and perspectives of people of color. It causes the dominant group to see the ethnic minority as “other” and never fully part of the community. Kwon calls this “white cultural normativity,” and it has poisoned many of our churches and affects our members in painful ways. When we treat people not like us as “other,” making assumptions based on differences, we’re guilty of what Scripture calls the sin of partiality. Read More

10 Signs Your Church's Burden for the City Is Growing

Most churches, I’m afraid, are inwardly focused. Turning a church outward is not easy, but these signs are at least hints that the congregation’s heart is moving in the right direction.... Read More

Should We Change the Name of Our Church [Podcast]

When churches are looking to revitalize, a name change is often on the table. In this podcat Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe we discuss whether or not you should change the name of a church as part of a revitalization. Listen Now

Does God Want Everyone to Be Saved? (1 Timothy 2)

God’s will for every person on the planet is for him or her to repent and believe in the gospel. Some, by grace, will respond. Read More

10 Hardest Lessons for a Pastor to Learn

Pastors have to learn many lessons the hard way, some of them again and again until finally they take. Here are my top ten. Read More

We Shepherd Sheep, Not Beasts of Burden

Recently a friend asked a question about ministry. Then I read an article that touched on a similar topic. As I considered both the question and the article, I realized that they intersected with a concern that I have. Read More

When Corporate Worship Is Just Singing

Are we singing too many worship songs? And does the singing of songs eventually have an adverse effect on our hearts? Read More

To Slow Global Warming, U.N. Warns Agriculture Must Change

Humans must drastically alter food production in order to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report from the United Nations panel on climate change. Read More
Also see "6 Pressing Questions About Beef and Climate Change, Answered" and "Chew On This For Earth Day: How Our Diets Impact The Planet. Why post links to these articles on a blog committed to building up Christ's Church in North America and beyond? If we truly love our neighbors, we should also be concerned about how food production and other human activities are affecting the climate and the quality of life of human beings around the planet. Getting involved with community groups and organizations concerned about climate change is one way of building bridges to the community. It will help members of the community who are concerned about climate change see the local church in a different light. Sharing the concerns of young people related to climate change is also an effective way of reaching them. The Baptist Campus Ministry here at Murray State University discovered this when it opened its doors to a student group concerned about the environment. Adopting a largely plant-based diet and eating less meat is also healthier way of living and one of the ways we can take better care of our bodies.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Wednesday's Catch: Sola Scriptura and Christian Charity and More

Sola Scriptura and Christian Charity

The sufficiency of Scripture is a precious tenet we must defend, especially in a pluralistic culture that denies the uniqueness of Christian revelation and the exclusivity of the gospel. But I also believe this tenet is one of the most misused and misunderstood doctrines in evangelicalism today. Read More

Pastors, Invite Newcomers to Lunch

We’ve all heard the old adage about the revolving church door. People come in and, before we know what happened, they leave, never to return. But what if this didn’t have to be the case? How do we treat those visiting or relatively new to our churches in ways that make them know we are glad they came? Although there are lots of ways to do this, I want to briefly look at one routine event: mealtimes. Meals are great ways to get to know people and extend hospitality. Read More

Don’t Trust in Your Christianity

Here are eight deadly ways we can look, feel, and act like Christians without actually trusting in Christ. Read More

College Ministry 101: Changing Religious Landscape Prompts Campus Shifts

As new freshmen arrive at college this fall, they may find a campus ministry different from what reached previous generations. Read More

How to Teach Kids the Bible to Capture Their Attention

How would you like to be a Bible teacher that captures kids' attention? A teacher that kids look forward to hearing? A teacher that kids can't wait to learn from? You can be. Here are 10 tips that can help you be a great kids' Bible teacher. Read More

The ‘Jeykll and Hyde’ Church: The Long Journey Back to Our Mission

Why does it seem the church is unable to be who she is called to be? Read More

Nine Reasons Christians Fail to Evangelize [Video]

In this Rainer Report Thom Rainer examines why Christians are failing to evangelize. Watch Now

10 Ways to Build an Evangelistic Church Culture

A church is likely to be enthusiastic about evangelism as its pastor. Building a culture of evangelism takes time—years or even decades. Read More