Friday, July 20, 2018

Evangelism: Just Do Something

It’s high time we started sharing the gospel with the people around us.

Sometimes, when people read the word evangelism, they stop reading. They think it doesn’t matter to them and they move on to doing something else with their day.

Below I want to highlight a few things to help you, especially if you are a pastor or church leader, to find new, intentional ways to prioritize evangelism in the life of your church and ministry, as well as in your own personal life. Read More

Be Joyous in the Lord

We are called to proclaim the Glory of the Lord—our King Jesus, who is the glory of the Lord—to the nations and peoples. As we work daily in our jobs, at home with our kids, shop in our supermarkets, we should look to spread the Gospel, spread his wondrous works. And sometimes it’s easy to overlook this fact. We sometimes overlook it because of the busyness, work deadlines, sport practices for kids, and other things that are so routine that they can become an obstacle to seeing the vision that we all once had of helping to spread the gospel to all nations and peoples. Read More

5 Destructive Things We Say to Ourselves

There’s a conversation going on in your head almost all the time as a leader.

Let me guess. Most of the time it’s not pretty.

You rarely say these things out loud, because if you did, well first, it would be embarrassing. And second, you would never say anything remotely this negative to anyone else.

Except you say it to yourself all the time.

And that’s the problem.

So many leaders look like they have it all together on the outside, but they struggle deeply on the inside.

The challenge is negative self-talk. Way too many leaders carry on an internal dialogue of self-destruction.

There’s a major difference between words that are self-deprecating or self-destructive.

And way too many leaders live an interior life of self-destruction.

There’s a major difference between self-deprecating words and self-destructive words.

Here are 5 destructive things leaders say to themselves. I know, because I’ve said them to myself again and again until I learned how to stop. And some days, I have to learn this all over again.

If you struggle with these, guess what? You don’t need an enemy. You have one. It’s you.

So buckle up and see if you can relate.

You don’t need an enemy. You have one. It’s you. Read More
Negative thinking also keeps us from engaging in reacting out to the unchurched and nonbelievers in our community and engaging them.
Image: Outreach Magazine

Five Ways to Connect with Unchurched and Nonbelieving Folks

A loyal reader asked me last week to think about a series of posts on how to connect with the unchurched and unbelievers. I’ve written generally on these topics in the past (see, e.g., “Steps toward Evangelism” and “Ways to Get Outside the Christian Bubble”). Today, here are some more basic steps to accomplish this task.... Read More

Study: U.S. Churches Exclude Children with Autism, ADD/ADHD

Children with the greatest need for a supportive community were the most likely to feel unwelcome.

America’s religious communities are failing children with chronic health conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, depression, and conduct disorders.

And they have been doing it for a very long time, suggests a just-published national study following three waves of the National Survey of Children’s Health.

The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions. The odds of never attending also were significantly higher for children with developmental delays, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders. However, the study does not provide data for specific types of religious communities, such as evangelicals.

Sanctuaries were much more sympathetic to children with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, or vision problems. Those children were as likely to be in the pews as children with no health conditions.

But children with conditions that limit social interaction, who are often excluded from other social settings and have the greater need for a community of social support, were most likely to feel unwelcome at religious services. Read More

Related Post:
Religion and Disability: Variation in Religious Service Attendance Rates for Children with Chronic Health Conditions

Branded and Beaten

The children accused of witchcraft and murder

Sitting on a chipped wooden bench, the three-year-old swings her legs excitedly. Her sandals barely touch the floor as she watches a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.

It is hard to believe that Comfort is a witch.

Yet this why she and her two older siblings are now living in a emergency shelter in the city of Calabar, in the southeast corner of Nigeria. Read More
You may have read articles about the spread of the prosperity gospel in Nigeria and other African countries. GAFCON has condemned its spread in Africa and other parts of the world. But traditional African beliefs in witchcraft, magic, and curses are influencing the beliefs and practices of a number of African churches, in particular those associated with the Pentecostal movement. Self-proclaimed "prophets" are taking the place of witch doctors in a growing number of Nigerian communities and exploiting the superstitions of the people in these communities. One of the results is the cruel treatment of young children whom these "prophets" have identified as witches.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Five Sources of Funding for Church Revitalizing and Replanting -- Revitalize & Replant #050

Ministry requires money. Today Thom Rainer, Mark Clifton, and Jonathan Howe discuss five potential ways you can increase funding in your church in order to minister more to your community. Listen Now

What Ever Happened to Evangelism?

The other day I was speaking with a friend who lives on the other side of the country. We were talking about his experience witnessing to co-workers. He was excited—still coming off the high of participating in the privilege of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and wondering aloud why we Christians don’t do this all the time. Suddenly his jubilation ceased, and his voice took on a serious tone. He asked me, “What ever happened to evangelism?” Without him needing to explain, I knew exactly what he meant. Churches do not emphasize evangelism like they once did.

Together we reminisced about how in our youth our churches frequently called us to “share our faith,” witness to our neighbors, and be about the work of the Great Commission. But today that kind of talk has fallen out of favor in many churches. The single-pointed, Great Commission focus of evangelicalism, in most quarters of the movement, seems to have surreptitiously forked into a grab-bag of various causes.

Certainly, much attention is given to being “gospel-centered,” but the hard work of doing and encouraging lifestyles of explicit verbal gospel proclamation has taken a back seat. But if “evangelical” means anything, it means the gospel always rides shotgun. The church has undergone a change in its relationship to evangelism, and I think something has been lost there. But in many ways these changes have been for the better. Read More

All Episcopal Churches Must Now Bless Same-Sex Marriage

The last time the Episcopal Church met as a whole, in 2015, the church assembly voted to bless same-sex unions, but dioceses that wanted to remain true to biblical teaching were allowed to refuse to conduct the ceremonies.

That changed last week when the church voted to force all Episcopal churches to allow gay and lesbian couples to “marry” in the church.

The edict had overwhelming support.

The majority of the American Episcopal Church (93 dioceses) already allows gay marriage in their churches. This vote affects eight dioceses that did not allow for religious ceremonies to be conducted inside their sanctuaries.

Individual priests may decide whether or not to religiously bless any particular marriage ceremony. But should a priest refuse to bless a ceremony, the higher clergy—the bishop, in this case—will be obligated to suggest another priest to do the job. Read More

Related Post
Episcopal Church Dumps ‘Husband and Wife’ for ‘Two People’
With this vote General Convention further reduced the autonomy of  Episcopal dioceses and narrowed the options of Episcopalians who object to same sex marriage on Biblical grounds. If the remaining conservative dioceses chose to leave the Episcopal Church would it become the tipping point for the collapse of that denomination or would it lead to another round of deprivations and litigation? A number of dioceses are suffering from a shortage of clergy and a growing number of small Episcopal churches have no priest of their own and must share a priest with several other churches. In a denomination that has made the Holy Eucharist the central act of worship on Sundays and other occasions, these churches feel like second class citizens. 

Thursday's Catch: The Gospel in Suburbia and More

The Gospel in Suburbia: Living on Mission in a “Soul-less” Place

The deep power of the hope of Jesus Christ can overcome any amount of separation, not matter how soul-less we may feel our communities to be. Read More

Planting Churches in a Divided Land [Podcast]

Tony Merida talks with Lucas Parks and Andrew Elder about church planting in Northern Ireland. Listen Now

Do You Know the Most Dangerous Person in Your Church?

The most dangerous person at your church is the apparently smart guy who is unteachable. Read More

For the Pastor Knee-Deep in Immorality

Tim Challies offers advice to pastors hiding serious sin. Read More

7 Ideas for Improving Bible Engagement in Your Church

How to encourage a deeper experience of Scripture. Read More

3 Worship Tips That Are Easy to Forget

Since I’ve made a purposeful switch to speaking on Sundays more often than leading worship on Sundays, everything is suddenly louder when I lead worship. Preaching three Sundays a month and then leading worship one Sunday a month has been so good for my worship leading soul. Here are some things I’m discovering often go untouched.... Read More

How to Make the Bible Central in Small Groups

And the shift in leader training that makes all the difference. Read More

Unfriending Convenience

Why Christians are called to inefficiency in an age of easy living. Read More

Don’t Be Introspective. Examine Yourself.

There’s a fine line between self-examination and introspection. Self-examination is good. Scripture exhorts us to examine and test ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). So how might this important spiritual discipline take a turn for the worse? Read More

Is Your Sin Playing Possum

Our sin is similar to a possum playing dead. I like the way John Owen put it. Owen gives two ways in which we can think we’ve mortified a sin but it’s really only retreated for a season. Read More
The possums that raid my cat food dishes are pretty bold. They never play dead when I catch them red-handed, gobbling down what food is left in the bowls. They may retreat down the stairs of my back porch if I wave a broom in their face but as soon as I go inside, they return to finish the meal that I interrupted. The lesson that I have garnered from my dealings with these possums is that if you want to keep sin from returning, you have to adopt strong measures.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Pastoring Today: Leading the Church in Twenty-First Century

Pitfalls of the Novice Minister

Your first church job is going to stretch you in ways you won't anticipate. Read More

Why You Cannot Lead Without Integrity

Integrity is an essential component of leadership. Here are four areas of life that form the foundation of a leader’s integrity. Read More

5 Pastoral Emergencies That Aren’t Emergencies

Sometimes it feels like more people at your church simply equals more crises. Read More

Turning Your New Pastorate Into a Long-Term Pastorate

Having served my first church for more than a quarter of a century, I can testify that the first few years can lay a foundation for a long, loving, and fulfilling relationship between pastor and people. Ironically, my seminary training didn’t teach me the five key strategies that led to twenty-six years of fellowshipping with a congregation who became my second family. Allow me to share what I believe can help you do the same. Read More

9 Reasons Some Pastors Stay to Long

Yesterday, I posted on “Indications that a Pastor Has Stayed Too Long,” with particular attention on leadership of declining churches. Today, here are my thoughts about why some pastors stay too long. Read More

Seven Reasons Pastors Burnout [Video]

In this Rainer Report Thom Rainer identifies seven causes of pastoral burnot. Watch Now

Pastoral Burnout: Its Causes & Cures

The latest issue of 9Marks Journal is devoted to pastoral burnout, its causes, and its cures. Read Online or Download Free

When It's Time to Redesign Your Church Website

Depending on who and what you read, you can find different opinions on how often you should redesign or refresh your website. If it’s a website design company, the answer is probably “six months ago.” They like the business, after all.

I don’t think you should have a timeframe for website redesigns, though. It’s an as needed event and also one that should be carried out with much planning and intentionality.

Website redesigns should be carried out strategically and to meet a need. So if your church has one of these needs, then it may be time to refresh your site. Read More
Reevaluating and redesigning or refreshing your church website is something that I believe should be done on a regular basis. Thom Rainer points out that your website can stop people from visiting your church. Here is what he says about the importance of a well-designed website:
Church websites are more important than many people realize. Gone are the days when you can ask a youth group kid to quickly design a basic website that will meet the needs of your church.

A church website should be easy to navigate, and contain all the basic info any guests would need: contact info, service time(s), what to expect for parents, location, etc. Too often I see churches with poorly designed websites and in some cases, no website at all!
A well-designed website is essential to reaching more people in your community.

Wednesday's Catch: The Benefits of Church Planting and More

7 Ways Church Planting Will Benefit Your Church

Planting is not only key to fulfilling the Great Commission, but here are seven ways that planting also benefits the sending church. Read More

The Personal Use of Church-Owned Vehicles

Before you allow the personal use of church-owned vehicles, review these guidelines to reduce the church’s liability. Read More

How to Teach the Bible to Children Even When It Is Complex

Children can handle complex concepts when given the opportunity. They are often more able to learn more than we give them credit for. In light of this, I want to share a few thoughts on teaching children the Bible and complex theological concepts. Read More

The Single Greatest Challenge of Your Christian Life

Clearly “confessing” Christ will be the most demanding challenge these men will face in their entire lives. Confessing Christ will also be the single greatest challenge in your life as a Christian believer. Here are seven ways to practice this confession.... Read More

10 Ways to Resist the Devil

It is one of the Bible’s many sweet and powerful promises: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The question is, though, how do we do this? In very practical ways, how do we resist the devil? In Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks offers a list of ten ways the Christian can resist Satan’s temptations. Read More

8 Ways God Turns Temptations to Blessings

Just as a tree which is blown by the wind is settled and rooted deeper into the ground, the coming of a temptation simply settles the Christian deeper into divine grace. Here are eight ways God brings good from temptation. Read More

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Book of Common Praise 2017: A Review

By Robin G. Jordan

I recently bought a copy of the Reformed Episcopal Church’s The Book of Common Praise 2017 and examined it. For readers who may not be familiar with the Reformed Episcopal Church, it predates the Continuing Anglican Movement of the 1970s and later. The Reformed Episcopal Church was founded in the late nineteenth century when Bishop George David Cummins and a group of Evangelical Episcopalians broke with the then Protestant Episcopal Church and formed a separate jurisdiction. It has a long affiliation with the Free Church of England and is one of the founding entities of the Anglican Church in North America.

Overall I think that The Book of Common Praise 2017 contains a nice selection of hymns. The hymnal is is in a number of ways a decided improvement over The Hymnal (1940).

Among the strengths of The Book of Common Praise 2017 is that it contains a core of hymns from The Hymnal (1940), which are familiar to most North American Reformed Episcopal and Continuing Anglican congregations. It also retains the traditional language of these hymns.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 incorporates a number of the better hymns from The Hymnal 1982. It also incorporates a number of popular African American spirituals and gospel songs as well as “new” hymns. The latter include both older hymns that may be new to Reformed Episcopalians and Continuing Anglicans and more recent compositions that have proven their usefulness in worship.

Hymns and songs like “All creatures of our God and King,” “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,” “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,” “Church of God, elect and glorious,” “Come thou Fount of ev’ry blessing,” “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,” “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,” “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” “Go tell it on the mountain,” “He is born, the divine Christ-child,” “I have decided to follow Jesus,” “I want to walk as a child of the light,” "In Christ alone my hope is found,"  “Infant holy, Infant lowly,” “King of glory, King of peace,” “Let all things now living,” “Lift high the cross,” “My Shepherd will supply my needs,” “O God, we praise thee, and confess,” “O praise ye the Lord! Give praise in the height,” “O the deep, deep love of Jesus,” “People, look east. The time is near,” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” “Sing we now of Christmas,” “Sing praise to God who reigns above,” “Soon and very soon, we are goin’ to see the King,” “Still, still, still,” “Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord!” “We come as guests invited,” and “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!” will be welcome additions to the congregational repertoires of Reformed Episcopal and Continuing Anglican churches.

The Book of Common Praise 2017, however, does have a number of weaknesses.

In my experience most of the hymns in the Morning and Evening sections will never be used. I was surprised that Eleanor Farjeon’s hymn, “Morning has broken” was not included in the Morning section. It would likely have gotten far more use than a number of the hymns that are included in the Morning section.

Much more singable versions of the Phos hilaron than Robert Bridges “O gladsome light, O grace,” set to NUNC DIMITTIS, are available for congregational use. Examples are Christopher Idle’s “Light of gladness, Lord of glory,” set to QUEM PASTORES; William G.Storey’s “O radiant Light, O Sun divine;”set to JESU DULCIS MEMORIA and CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM; and Bland Tucker’s “O gracious light, Lord Jesus Christ,” set to CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM and TALLIS’ EIGHTH TUNE/TALLIS’ CANON. “O gladsome light, O grace” appears more suited for choir use.

One of the weaknesses of The Book of Common Praise 2017 is its Word of God section. Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard Version (1983) has a number of hymns that would have made good additions to that section. They are William Watkins Reid’s “Help us, O Lord, to learn,” H.C. A. Gaunt’s “Lord Jesus, once you spoke to men,” S. N. Sedgewick’s “Praise we now the Word of Grace,” and John F. Bowers’ “The prophets spoke in days of old.”

The compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 did not do their homework before they added the children’s hymn, “Thy gospel Jesus we believe” to the Word of God section. It is a First Communion hymn originally published in a late nineteenth century Roman Catholic catechism for preparing children for their First Communion. The Hymnal (1940) notes its suitability as a communion hymn at the end of the Holy Communion section. It is a frequently abused hymn that should have been retired. Compare the way it is performed by Missio in this video with the unimaginative way it is often sung in church.

The Service Music section contains no settings for alleluias and verses to introduce the Gospel. The practice of singing an alleluia and verse predates that of singing a sequence hymn. A cantor sings the alleluia; the cantor and congregation sing the alleluia together, the cantor sings the verse, and then the cantor and the congregation again sing the alleluia together. An alleluia and verse or an alleluia without a verse may be used to introduce the Gospel whether it is read from the pulpit, the steps of the chancel, or the midst of the congregation. The alleluia may be repeated (but not the verse) after the reading of the Gospel. An alleluia and verse or alleluia may be sung during the Christmas Season, the Easter Season (from Easter Sunday through Whitsun), and ordinary time (Epiphanytide and Trinitytide). An alleluia and verse or alleluia is a good choice for introducing the Gospel for a small congregation with limited musical resources. Among the alleluias in wide use today are John Schiavone's "Alleluia (Chant Mode VI)," Fintan O’Carroll and Christopher Walker’s “Celtic Alleluia,” the Caribbean “Halle, halle, halle,” the Native American “Heleluyan,” and Jacque Berthier’s “Taize Alleluia.”

I am also surprised that hymns and songs like the African American spiritual “Let us break bread together on our knees,” Cyril Alington’s “Ye that know the Lord is gracious,” the anonymous “Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him,” Sydney Carter’s “I danced in the morning/Lord of the Dance,” Richard Gillard’s “Brother, sister, let me serve you/The Servant Song,” Georgia Elma Harkness’ “Tell it out with gladness,” Richard Hutchin’s “The tree of life my soul has seen/Jesus Christ the apple tree,” William F. Jabusch’s “Open your ears, O faithful people,” Harry Loper’s “As Jacob with travel was weary one day,” Henry Ustic Onderdonk’s “How wondrous and great Thy works, God of praise,” James Quinn’s “Christ be beside me, Christ be before me (original version)” and "This day God gives me," Daniel L. Schutte’s “Here I am, Lord/I the Lord of Sea and Sky,” James E Seddons’s “Go forth and tell, O Church of God awake”and “Tell all the world of Jesus,” Susan Toolan’s “I am the Bread of Life,” Isaac Watt's "Come let us join our cheerful songs," Charles Wesley’s Ye servants of God, your master proclaim,” and Omar Westerdorf’s “You satisfy the hungry heart with gifts of finest wheat/Gift of Finest Wheat” were not included in The Book of Common Praise 2017. These hymns and songs have proven their usefulness in worship, appear in the better hymnals of recent publication, and would enrich the worship of Anglican churches, both large and small.

A number of these hymns and songs have multiple uses. For, example, “How wondrous and great Thy works God of praise” is a metrical version of the canticle Magna et Miribilia and may be sung before the Gospel or after the Post-Communion Thanksgiving in place of the Gloria in excelsis. It may also be sung at the conclusion of a service as a hymn of dedication or a mission hymn. “Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him” is a metrical version of Psalm 148 and may be put to the same uses.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 has a surprising number of Lutheran chorales and hymns for an Anglican hymnal.  At the same time a number of Anglican classics such as the seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest George Herbert’s “Come my Way, my Truth, my Life,” “Let all the world in every corner sing” and “Teach me, my God and King” have been left out.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 is also short on the hymns of the most prolific twentieth century Anglican hymn writers such as Michael Baughan, Carl P. Daw Jr., Timothy Dudley-Smith, Christopher Idle, David Mowbray, Michael Perry, Michael Saward, James Seddon, and Paul Wigmore. One category of church music that is noticeably missing from the hymnal is the hymns and songs of the Anglican global south—Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Central America, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Tasmania, and South America.

The Book of Common Praise 2017 has only a few metrical versions of the Prayer Book canticles. It would have greatly benefited from the inclusion of Michael Baughen’s “Come, rejoice before your Maker,” set to BEACH SPRING and RESTORATION; Edward F. Darling’s “Come, bless the Lord, God of our forebears,” set to EARTH AND ALL STARS - see The Church Hymnal Fifth Edition (2000), 688; Carl P. Daw Jr.’s “Be joyful in the Lord,” set to LEONI; “Blessed be the God of Israel, Who comes to set us free,” set to KINGSFOLD and FOREST GREEN; “Come, let us sing with joy,” set to OLD 124TH, “God’s Paschal Lamb is sacrificed for us,” set to SINE NOMINE and ENGELBER; “Let all creation bless the Lord,” set to MIT FREUDEN ZART; “Surely it is God who saves me/First Song of Isaiah;” set to RAQUEL and THOMAS MERTON, with IN BABILONE as an alternative tune; Timothy Dudley-Smith’s “All glory be to God on high,” set to KINGSFOLD and “Come, let us praise the Lord With joy our God proclaim,” set to DARWALL’S 148TH; David Haas’ “My soul is filled with joy/holy is your name,” set to WILD MOUNTAIN THYME/WILL YE GO LASSIE, GO; Christopher Idle’s “Bless the Lord, our fathers’ God,” set to ORIENTIS PARTIBUS; “Glory in the highest to the God of heaven!” set to EVELYNS and LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY; “God, we praise you! God, we bless you!” set to NETTLETON; Michael Joncas’ “O come and sing to God the Lord,” set to CLEARWATER - see As Morning Breaks (North American Liturgical Resources: 1985), pp 8-9; David Mowbray’s “Now lives the Lamb of God,” set to DARWALL’S 148TH; J. T. Mueller’s “My soul gives glory to the Lord,” set to MAGNIFICAT; Michael Perry’s “Blessed be the God of Israel Who comes to set us free, He visits and redeems us,” set to ELLACOMBE and MERLE’S TUNE;” “Come, worship God who is worthy of honor,” set to O QUANTA QUALIA and STAR IN THE EAST; and “Glory be to God in heaven, Peace to those who love him well,” set to LADUE CHAPEL and HYMN TO JOY; James Quinn's "Lord, bid your servant go in peace/Song of Simeon" set to LAND OF REST; Stephen P Stark’s “All you works of God, bless the Lord!” set to LINSTEAD, and “We praise you, and acknowledge you, O God,” set to THAXTED (Holst).

The compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 appear to assume that all Reformed Episcopal parishes have professional choirmasters; seasoned, well-trained choirs capable of providing the strong musical leadership needed for chant; pipe or reed organs and competent organists; the kind of acoustical environment suitable for chant, and congregations adept at singing chant.

The compilers of the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal Fifth Edition (2000) had a firmer grip on reality. They devoted an entire section of that hymnal to metrical versions of the Prayer Book canticles that could be sung to familiar hymn tunes—a boon for small congregations that lack the aforementioned resources.

The choice of tunes for a number of the hymns and the omission of suggested alternative tunes for any of the hymns will limit the usefulness of The Book of Common Praise 2017 for small Anglican churches with limited musical resources, particularly churches like my own that do not have an organist and which use a digital hymnal player. If a hymn tune or an alternative hymn tune is not included in the digital hymnal player’s master list of hymn tunes, the congregation will not be able to sing the hymn.

Large congregations with ample musical resources are the exception, not the rule in all Anglican jurisdictions in the United States. Unfortunately the compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 appear to have lost sight of this important fact of church life in North America: Most congregations are small and have limited musical resources. They, like the compilers of The Hymnal (1940), have produced a hymnal that is designed primarily for cathedrals, seminary chapels, and large parish churches.

One way that the Reformed Episcopal Church might rectify this shortcoming is to produce an electronic edition of The Book of Common Praise 2017, a set of CDs of the hymns, hymn tunes, and service music used in the hymnal, like the United Methodist Church did with The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) and its supplement, The Faith We Sing (2000).

A second option would be to create a website like RiteSong and Small Church Music from which churches can download either for a small fee or free of charge MP3s of the hymns, hymn tunes, and service music used in The Book of Common Praise 2017. Both options would make the hymnal more accessible to small congregations with limited musical resources.

The rationale that the compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 offer for adding “Amen” at the end of a number of hymns does not hold water. As the twentieth century hymnologist Erik Routley pointed out, the addition of “Amen” to hymns was a nineteenth century fad, an attempt to reshape all hymns along the lines of the Medieval Latin hymn which the promoters of this fad regarded as the ideal form for a hymn. See Erik Routley’s Church Music and the Christian Faith, “Amen,” Agape (1978), pp.96-99. See also Dean McIntire’s article, “Why Don’t We Sing Amens Anymore?” Dean McIntire summarizes Erik Routley’s essay on the liturgical use of “Amen” in his article.

The compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 also put a line after the third stanza of many hymns, which suggests that the hymn may be cut off after the third stanza. They offer no explanation for the line. If they are indeed suggesting that the hymn may cut off after the third stanza, they are encouraging a bad practice. It not only can mutilate the sense of the hymn but also it depreciates hymns as a part of the common prayer of the people.

Unlike the compilers of The Hymnal (1940), The Hymnal 1982, and other Anglican hymnals, the compilers of The Book of Common Praise 2017 do not mark with an asterisk those stanzas of a hymn that may be omitted without affecting the meaning of the hymn.

While The Book of Common Praise 2017 contains a hymn selection guide for the service of Holy Communion for the Sundays and feast days of the Church Year, the hymnal contains nothing to guide worship planners in selecting hymns for the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer when one of these services is the principal service on a Sunday or feast day as is often the case in small Anglican churches, which may have a Holy Communion service only as frequently as once a month.

While it may not have been intentional, the lack of attention to the circumstances and needs of small Anglican churches that is evident in The Book of Common Praise 2017 may exacerbate the low esteem of small congregations struggling to meet the unrealistic expectations of a wider ecclesial culture that views the large church with ample musical resources and full-time clergy as the standard of practice for the jurisdiction. Small churches, both Anglican and non-Anglican, are different from large churches. They require worship resources tailored to their needs and circumstances. The days of the “one size fits all” hymnal are past.

At the time The Hymnal (1940) was adopted, the average life of a hymnal was about 25 years. Today the average life of a hymnal is less than 10 years. The Hymnal (1940) is 78 years old. The Reformed Episcopal Church must be commended for recognizing the need for a replacement for The Hymnal (1940) not only in its own churches but also the churches of the Continuum, and taking a bold step to meet this need. Despite its shortcomings The Book of Common Praise 2017 will greatly enrich the worship of the Reformed Episcopal and Continuing Anglican churches that adopt it as their primary worship resource.

No hymnal is perfect. Every hymnal has its strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what these strengths and weaknesses are, enables those responsible for worship planning in their congregation to build on their primary worship resource’s strengths and to work around its weaknesses.

Twenty-first century congregations have the option of supplementing their primary worship resource with a collection of hymns and songs compiled locally, an advantage that congregations did not enjoy in the past. Music licensing resources like One License and CCLI make such an undertaking relatively easy.

Small Anglican churches can also network with each other to exchange information, ideas, and practical solutions, to develop worship resources, and to build up and strengthen their respective music ministries.

Image: Anglican Liturgy Press

Tuesday's Catch: Future Church Developments and More

Five Future Developments Coming to the Church - Rainer on Leadership #450

Churches of the future will have many of the same components of churches today, but there are changes that will take place. Read 

More 4 Painful Mistakes Multisite Churches Make Early On

Beth Coletti examines four painful mistakes that churches tend to make in the early days of launching new campuses. Read More

Does Your Church Reach Folks Who Don’t Look Like You?

If our church plants are to be agents of reconciliation, we should consider at least three things. Read More

7 Indications That a Pastor of a Declining Church Has Stayed Too Long

Some time ago, I posted, “Ten Factors that Help Long-Term Pastors Stay at Their Church.” Since that time, I’ve also worked with declining churches whose pastors have, in my opinion, stayed too long in their current place of service. Here are some of the clues that move my thinking in that direction.... Read More

How to Witness to a Distracted World

Effective Christian evangelism and discipleship requires us to be disruptive. Read More

Monday, July 16, 2018

Church Attendance Is Dying. Here’s What’s Next.

Church attendance is dying. Big time.

It’s not just reflected in the size of the decline, it’s reflected in the quality and nuances of those numbers.

At least two massive, seismic shifts are at work in our culture causing this. First, we’re moving from Christendom into a post-Christian, post-modern era literally in our lifetime.

Second, we’re in the midst of the biggest technological shift in human history. The digital disruption happening all around us. The digital disruption isn’t just coming. It’s here. And it’s changing attendance patterns at your church whether you recognize it or not....

We could add a third reason: We western Christians have been anemic in our mission over the last number of decades. But that’s kind of one of the main points I make again and again on this blog. So we’ve covered that before and will cover it again.

Regardless, people who used to attend regularly aren’t. Whole groups of people are gone.

So what does this mean for today and for the future church? Read More
In some parts of the Bible Belt in the United States the decline in church attendance may not be immediately discernible. On Sundays I drive past several churches whose parking lots are filled with cars. I also drive past a number of churches whose parking lots are empty. If I mistakenly believed as many folks do in my part of the Bible Belt that the region has a lot of churchgoers because it has a lot of churches, I might erroneously conclude that if I had driven past these churches at a different hour, I might have seen cars in their parking lots. Windshield surveys of church parking lots, however, are not a reliable method of measuring church attendance. It gives you only a very rough idea of attendance at a particular church. It does not account for such variables as less frequent attendance and first-time attenders. But it does reinforce the false impression that church attendance in the region is as strong today as it was in the past.

Research of church attendance in the region paints a different picture. More than 60 per cent of the population is unchurched. In Marshall County, Kentucky, in which Baptists may have the largest number of churches, only 24 percent of the general population attends a Baptist church. The research that I reviewed did not say how often those who reported that they attended a Baptist church went to church.

Monday's Catch:"9 Things That Worked In The Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today" and More

9 Things That Worked In The Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today

What got you here won’t get you there. What used to work in church... doesn’t. Read More

5LQ Episode 265: Why People Leave Your Church

In this episode of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast, Todd Adkins and Daniel Im are joined by Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. Listen Now
You may want to look at the research as it relates to your denomination, assuming your denomination was included in the research.
Baby Boomers Are Returning to Church

The rebellious generation may become the religious generation. Baby boomers, those born between the years 1946 to 1964, are becoming more involved in church. Read More

3 Ways To Become The Godly Elders Today’s Youth Need – And Want To Follow

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them. Read More

Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now

We've been doing this badly, folks. Here are three simple steps to help my generation of Boomers become better at discipling the next generation. Read More

3 Ways to Make Bible Engagement Easier

How do we engage with scripture so that we develop into consistent readers and doers of the Word? Here are three ways to make bible engagement easier.... Read More

The Smallest Stage

In our lives, we occupy several places where we invest our hearts and find joy. We can view these “stages” as concentric circles that radiate from the small, secret stage to the larger, more public stage. Read More

A Sober Warning from the Earliest Christians

What are the similarities between the situation of the early Christians and ours? Read More

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Episcopalians Take Step Towards Revising Book of Common Prayer

Clergy and lay deputies to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention have taken a key step towards a comprehensive multi-year revision of the denomination’s Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Such a revision may include gender-neutral language for God and same-sex marriage rites.

Prayer Book revision has been among the more controversial topics at the church’s triennial convention meeting in Austin, Texas July 5-13. Some deputies have advocated for gender-neutral language for God to be employed in the BCP, arguing that it makes the content more accessible and egalitarian. Other deputies oppose such changes, arguing that there is no groundswell of support among local parishes for a BCP revision. Others have questioned the practicality of pursuing such a major project during a time when the denomination faces significant decline in membership and attendance. The resolution appropriates $1,917,025 in total across the next three years for the revision process.

Officials from orthodox/traditionalist dioceses have expressed concern that prayer book revision could force dissenting dioceses to permit same-sex marriage. Currently, eight domestic dioceses do not permit such unions to be solemnized by their clergy or within their churches. Read More

Related Posts:
Episcopal Church Still Skidding Downhill
Episcopal Church Prepares to Tighten Screws on Traditional Marriage Proponents
Pushback on Prayer Book revision from Hispanics, young deputies [Video]
Deputies endorse incoherent Prayer Book revision resolution [Video]
PB revision last hurrah of Episcopal Church's Boomers [Video]
Bishops reject Prayer Book revision [Video]
Convention endorses supplemental gay rites, but budgets no funds for their drafting [Video]
Jesus remains the 'son' of God in Episcopal Eucharistic prayers [Video]
The three articles come from Juicy Ecumenicalism and the six videos from Anglican Ink. I am posting the  links to them together for easy reading and viewing. This development will impact not only the Episcopal Church but the other Anglican entities in the United States.  Whether it will spark another exodus of unhappy Episcopalians from the Episcopal Church only time will tell. While some Continuing Anglican churches may see an uptick in visits from disaffected Episcopalians, I don't think that Continuing Anglican churches should count on this development reversing their own decline. Rather they should focus on reaching out into the communities in which they are located and engaging the unchurched.  

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers #09

Can Preachers Make an Impact in a Post-Christian World?

Herman Bavinck’s advice to 19th century pastors still holds true today. Read More

9 Ways You Can Preach Like Jesus

If there’s anyone we should emulate in preaching and teaching it’s Jesus, right? But how? Read More

John Piper: Bible-Oriented Preaching Or Entertainment?

"There are few things that burden me more or refresh me more than saying what I see in the Bible. I love to savor it. And I love to say it." Read More

The Curse of Knowledge: A Preaching Death Trap – Part 3 of 3

Today we are asking the question, how can we avoid the curse of knowledge when preaching? We’ve seen in the last two posts that being aware of the problem is a great first step and knowing why we’re prone to it helps, but what do we do about it? I want to give you three simple steps you can take with each and every sermon you preach to avoid falling into the death trap of the curse of knowledge. Read More

How to Recapture the Crowd

Your time is short and you still have content to cover. The final verse of the passage is so critical to their lives and the stakes are so high. You must recapture their attention to the Bible, but how do you do it? Read More

Crafting A Strong Sermon: 10 Checkpoints

It's not "10 easy steps" to preaching, but practical help to make sure your work is sound and true. Read More

Restore Passion To Your Preaching: Three Essential Steps

You may think it can be hidden, but when you lose your passion for the pulpit your congregation can hear the difference. Recapture the fire! Read More

Can I Preach It If I Haven't Mastered It?

Should pastors preach on topics where they have no life experience or areas they haven't yet mastered? Read More

The Preacher as Mentor

Preachers exert a unique influence as messengers of God and mentors in the faith. Here’s how. Read More

Why Preach the Psalms?

The short answer to the “why preach them?” question is, “so that we all learn to pray them”. Unlike other parts of scripture, I take it that the primary reason we hear sermons on them is not simply to listen to the word of God (although we do that) but that we may learn to speak to God. So the question, “why preach them?” resolves into the question, “why pray them?” Read More

“Best of Preaching and Preachers” Episode 51: Preaching as Missions [Podcast]

In this episode of Preaching and Preachers, Zane Pratt joins Jason Allen in a discussion on preaching as missions. Listen Now

Must-Read Books for Preachers in 2018 (Recommended by Preachers and Church Leaders)

Looking for some must-read books for preachers because you are a preacher/pastor/church leader? Read More

Two Church Planting Startup Models

It is important to remember that ‘missiology’ is not a thing. It is things.

Some people say, “We just have to think missiologically.” But, they need to know that a missiology of a tribal people group in Papau New Guinea is very different than a missiology of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

As such, when we think missiologically, there is not one right way to plant a church, so it is worth looking at how churches are planted.

Let’s face it: sometimes, there is arrogance among church planters. Not you, but some of the others!

Often, this is just part of the entrepreneurial spirit that often accompanies people who start new things. Many times, new projects are started in order to ‘do right’ what previous starters ‘did wrong’.

In fact, you will find that frustration coupled with attempts to rebuild a broken structure often erupt into a drive to build something completely new. Building something new is good. But it isn’t good to plant a church for the wrong reasons, or to plant a church to show the world how it should be done right.

Today, church plants are everywhere, and cover a multitude of expressions and tracks. Let me share just two and talk a bit about the history that created the second. Read More

Related Posts:
Why Your Church Needs a Hispanic Ministry
How "Stretch" Assignments can Improve Your Leadership
Tips to Create a Missional Culture, Part 1

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8 Ways to Stop Biggering and Start Bettering the Church

Remember the Once-ler? From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss? He was a fairly normal guy who wanted to build a big business at the expense of the environment, so he kept “biggering and biggering” until all the trees were gone, the wildlife had vacated the landscape, and his business crashed.

The little children’s book seems to leave us with the impression that biggering is bad. But I’m not convinced that should be the big lesson.

The story is told of Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, that he once sat quietly through a board meeting listening to his executives brainstorm about how to get bigger. He suddenly interrupted the chatter with a declaration: “If we get better, we won’t have to worry about getting bigger.” Talk about an Aha! moment!

We can make the church grow, or we can watch the church grow, and the difference boils down to bettering instead of biggering. Read More

Image: Saddleback Church

The Dangers of Disobedience

Disobedience has consequences. Raising our four children I often think of the hymn, “Trust and Obey.” The refrain says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” Our 4-year-old knows these lyrics well, as he’s often reminded, “If you disobey then there will be a consequence. We’re always happier when we choose to obey.” Sometimes the consequences of disobedience can be painful. A friend tells of a family vacation to Florida. Her daughter wanted to come back home with a perfect bronze tan, but the vacation was only a few days long. Against her mom’s clear advice, the girl decided to skip the sunscreen and spent the entire first day on the beach under a cloudless sky. Of course, that’s all it took for her to get a sunburn that kept her in agony for days. “I tried to tell her,” my friend said to me, “but sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.” Read More

Related Posts:
How Satan Seduces Bitter Believers
The Damning Devastation of a Single Coddled Sin

Eight Reasons Evangelism Programs Often Don't Work

First, a caveat – I believe in evangelism programs. In fact, here are some to consider (Three Circles, The Story, Share Jesus without Fear, Two Ways to Live, or digital apps from Cru). On the other hand, here’s why I’m arguing in this post that evangelism programs often aren’t effective.... Read More

Related Posts:
The Great Commission Starts in Your Backyard
Poll: You're Probably Inviting Friends to Church

Friday, July 13, 2018

Five Key Things About Church Revitalization That Most Leaders Miss, Part 2

We need to patiently endure as leaders. Don’t give up.

Third, most revitalization does not actually work at first.

Another thing about church revitalization most leaders miss is that most revitalization does not actually work at first.

Church revitalization is often a process of two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes, it’s two steps forward, two steps back. And sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. This is not always due to the resistance of people, although this can play a major role.

You need to become accustomed to slow, steady success with frequent failure. Read More

Related Post:
Five Key Things About Church Revitalization That Most Leaders Miss, Part 1

How to Spot a False Teacher

While reasoned gentleness should be our default response to those with whom we disagree, we should nevertheless reserve strong words for false teachers to underscore the seriousness of false teaching and to protect those whom false teachers harm. When approaching someone then, we need to discern whether or not someone is a false teacher or not. And this is no easy task nor is “false teacher” a phrase we should use regularly. For by saying it, we mean that someone has doomed themselves to a life without forgiveness. Read More

Related Posts:
How to Engage in Gospel Polemics
When We Should Use Strong Words
Yes, Bruxy Cavey Is a False Teacher
Passing Down the Truth

Differences Between Salvation in the Qur’an & the Bible

Ultimately, it’s the only question that matters. It’s the question that everyone must ask. Failure to correctly ask and answer it results in eternal catastrophe. “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Every system, philosophy, and religion proposes some form of salvation. They all articulate a problem which must be solved in order for a person to experience salvation. What matters most is what a system teaches about salvation. Whenever we seek to understand a spiritual system, this is where we need to go. What must a person to do be saved?

Last month, the Cripplegate began a series looking at the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. We looked at a brief introduction to Islam and the textual origin and transmission of the Qur’an. In our second post we observed two critical differences between the God of the Qur’an with that of the Bible. Then, we looked at nine differences between the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Jesus of the Bible. In today’s post, we will examine the differences between the salvation proposed by the Qur’an and that of the Bible.

Just as with teachings covered in previous posts, it will be clear that the differences between the Qur’anic and biblical doctrines of salvation differ radically. An understanding of salvation in the mind of a Qur’anic Muslim will clash at every point with that of a biblical Christian. Read More

Friday's Catch: "5 Leadership Lessons I Learned Playing Settlers of Catan" and More

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned Playing Settlers of Catan

Beyond being an incredibly fun board game, Settlers of Catan, or simply “Catan” as we call it, can teach you a lot of lessons about life and leadership. Here are five about leadership I’ve learned from playing. Read More

5 Keys to Building Your Small Group Ministry

From clarifying your vision to defining a plan, these five keys will help you keep your small group ministry on track. Read More

Six Considerations for Selecting Mission Partners - Rainer on Leadership #449 [Podcast]

Churches are asked often to help fund or partner in missions. Today, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss how to make those decisions thanks to a post by Sam Rainer. Listen Now

Study Finds Openness to the Gospel In Generation Z

A major new survey of 4,087 British adults on their attitudes toward religious people revealed that those of Generation Z are less likely to have a negative perception of Christians than millennials are. Read More

The young are the most open towards Christianity, British study finds

In a major new survey – the results of which are released today* - over 4,000 people were asked about their feelings towards religion and only 10% of the public agreed with the statement that ‘religion is a negative influence on society’. In fact, 44% of people surveyed agreed that they have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity and half of British adults (51%) disagree that Christians are a negative force in society. Read More
May be I am missing something but the image that accompanies this article does not strike me as having any connection to the article. The article is about the positive attitude of young Brits toward Christianity not Americans protesting for religious freedom.