Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: July 31, 2013

On this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Michael Jensen: It’s not cricket: an Anglican Theology of Mission

Cricket can solve its own problems, and it is not my task to offer the International Cricket Council advice. But what of the C of E – that Church which one wag has suggested has been ‘loving Jesus with a slight air of superiority since A.D. 597’? What does mission for our Church look like in the world in which the idea of an institutionalised Christianity has all but faded away? Even today, if we are to be honest, we sit together munching on the fruits of the Empire period, gathering on now-priceless parcels of land meted out by the government in the nineteenth century – in vineyards that we did not plant, harvesting grain that we did not sow. So we need to ask: given the historical association of Anglican mission with Empire, is there a place for an Anglican theology of mission in the post-colonial world?

It’s a good question to ask, because Anglicans have always been the church of the establishment, whether formally or informally. But we should avoid passing over the really impressive story of mission that has gone on under the banner of the Church of England for the last two centuries or more. It’s a story of real courage, creativity and sacrifice. The missionaries of the last two centuries frequently found themselves at odds with the secular authorities, and not infrequently with ecclesiastical authorities. Governor Arthur Phillip imagined that his chaplain would play his role in instilling in the convicts a moral sense; but Richard Johnson was seeking to change hearts for Christ, not simply to keep the peace. The extraordinary mission strategist Henry Venn, one of the first to use the expression ‘indigenous church’, fought nobly against the West African slave trade. He envisaged what he called the ‘euthanasia of missions’: meaning that mission agencies should see themselves as aiming to hand over responsibility to local, indigenous leadership. The reality is that while the Church of England was the church of the establishment, its faith was never simply the civic religion of Englishness. The best missionaries of this church always knew that simple institutionalism was not enough for the church to be truly a church of Jesus Christ. They welcomed interdenominational co-operation for the cause of Christ – in the case of Johnson and those that followed him, with Methodists like Samuel Leigh.

An Anglican theology of mission, therefore is in the strange position of having to reckon with the way in which Anglicanism at its best has risked its own established position and its own monopoly on Christ. Such an account would have recognise that deep in the DNA of Anglicanism is the understanding that the Anglican Church exists for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ and his kingdom, and not the other way around. Read more

3 Distinctive Aspects of Biblical Faith

I think the whole concept of faith is one of the most misunderstood ideas that we have, misunderstood not only by the world but by the church itself. The very basis for our redemption, the way in which we are justified by God, is through faith. The Bible is constantly talking to us about faith, and if we misunderstand that, we’re in deep trouble.

The great issue of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century was, How is a person justified? Luther’s controversial position was that we are justified by faith alone. When he said that, many of the godly leaders in the Roman Catholic Church were very upset. They said, “Does that mean that a person can just believe in Jesus and then live any way they want to live?” In other words, the Roman Catholic Church reacted fiercely because they were afraid that Luther’s view would be understood as an easy-believism in which a person only had to believe and never had to be concerned about bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. It was crucial that those who were involved in the Protestant Reformation carefully define what they meant by saving faith. So they went back and did their studies in the New Testament, specifically on the Greek word pistein, which means “to believe,” and they were able to isolate three distinctive aspects of biblical faith. Read more

God Is Faithful to Preserve His Own

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Philippians 1:6 develops the theme of God’s preserving grace—which ensures the perseverance of His own—in three points. Read more

Why Preaching Is Still Relevant [VIDEO]

Whether you've heard it, seen it, said it, or thought it, chances are you've encountered this sentiment in the 21st-century West. How should churches respond to our culture's allergy to preaching and preachiness? Is there a wiser, more effective alternative to the old-fashioned pulpit monologue?

In this new video, John Piper, Voddie Baucham, and Miguel Núñez discuss the place of preaching compared to other forms of communication today. "Preaching will always be relevant because there is no higher or better opinion than the voice of God," Núñez contends. "As long as we are creatures and he is the Creator, we're going to be in need of what he has revealed." Read more and view video

Evangelism and Email

It’s official. I no longer like e-mail.

That wasn’t always the case. I still remember discovering e-mail for the first time. My computer modem was as large as a vintage radio and as loud as a jet engine, but it allowed me to contact friends at a moment’s notice, at any time of the day or night. “You’ve got mail!” were welcomed words back then....

My biggest concern about e-mail, though, is that this medium makes it possible to send messages without ever talking to each other. I have in my archives dozens of messages from friends who write regularly, but whose actual voices I have not heard in years. Why pick up the phone when I can just send an e-mail? At least this way I know I will not get a busy signal or an answering machine. I am a strong introvert, but I still fear that face-to-face conversations have sometimes been unintentionally sacrificed on the altar of e-mail convenience. Read more

3 Ways to Prepare to Share with Other People

The New Testament Book of Acts includes a story from the life of Philip that can give us guidance today as we seek to reach unbelievers with the gospel.

Philip had been ministering in Samaria when an angel appeared to him with a different assignment. He should leave Samaria, and travel south to a road connecting Jerusalem with Gaza. Luke comments that it was called “the desert road” (Acts 8:26). On this road, he came upon a political official returning home to Ethiopia.

Philip’s attention was taken as the man was sitting in his chariot reading audibly from Isaiah’s writings. The narrative tells us the official—a eunuch in Queen Candace’s court—had been to Jerusalem to worship. Doubtless, he had heard from the passage but did not have understanding of it.

The man’s lack of understanding was the bridge Philip walked over to start a gospel conversation. You can check out the entire story in Acts 8:26-40. Read more

Also read
Persevering in Evangelism: Reflections on a godly stranger
Have we become too comfortable to share the Gospel?

Four Thoughts from Non-Christians about Christians

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about how non-Christians perceive Christians. The article was based on an interchange with one non-Christian lady on this blog. I was surprised at the number of responses, including those from a number of non-Christians. I am grateful for all who responded.

A few Christians were concerned that I might be compromising my beliefs and convictions by writing the post. To the contrary, I still hold firmly to the exclusivity of the gospel and the mandate to evangelize. But, while I am convicted about the never-changing message of the gospel, I am concerned how we messengers sometimes treat others who don’t believe as we do.

For now, I have provided four examples of what non-Christians are asking of Christians. They were all comments at different points on my blog. Each section represents a different non-Christian. Read more

Christians learn to tell 'The Story'

Because the number of people who have a basic understanding of the Bible "is shrinking in America," Jerry McCorkle said he began to explore a new way to share the Christian faith with all people.

The result is "The Story" (, an evangelism and discipleship tool to help relay the overarching story of the Bible –- creation, fall, rescue and restoration.

"What we're trying to say is that Jesus is the reality," said McCorkle, executive director of Spread Truth Ministries ( based in Bloomington, Ill. "We need to know this big story, and we need to craft it in such a way that it taps into the deepest desires of their heart." Read more

Healthy Members, Healthy Group

If you want to have a healthy small group, it goes without saying that its members need to be healthy. So a good way to move yourself and your group toward well-being is by assessing each individual’s level of health. Once this is established, you can help one another set goals for growth and can encourage one another in the problem areas.

The following questions are geared toward helping you and your each member of a group go through this process. Each member should answer individually. Then the results can be discussed with the group. Read more

Design Your Connection Strategy with Unconnected People in Mind

When you set up your connection strategy, did you stop to think about the folks you were hoping to connect? You need to. And don’t make the mistake of expecting the newest or least connected people in your congregation to have your sensibilities or priorities. When you design your connection strategy you need to keep the priorities and interests of unconnected people in mind.

Here are four keys to connection that will help you evaluate your strategy.... Read more

Protecting the Church Offering

Earlier this month, an entire offering from an evening church service was stolen when the church board member counting it momentarily stepped away, according to NewsChannel 3. It's reported that he heard a door slam and then discovered the money was gone.

One step of fraud prevention is to require more than one person to be present while counting an offering, but this case shows that two people present may help with more than fraud prevention. It can also help protect against people who may know or see where the money is counted and might sneak in while someone is looking away. Read more

Transportation safety crucial for churches

While police haven't determined whether anyone is to blame for a bus accident that killed four and injured 33 Indianapolis church members en route from a summer youth camp, GuideStone Financial Resources recommends churches take specific safety steps before planning road trips.

"It's not enough to address safety concerns on a case-by-case, trip-by-trip basis," said Jim Welch, GuideStone's director of property and casualty product development. "The church is responsible for putting protections in place for transportation for all ministries, on all trips. It requires leadership commitment, resources, time and consideration. Each is critical for success." Read more

Odd Fox News Interview Lifts Reza Aslan’s Biography on Jesus

Reza Aslan, the author of “Zealot,” a provocative new biography of Jesus, has found an inadvertent ally in generating book publicity: Fox News.

In an interview on Friday that was by turns bizarre and uncomfortable, Lauren Green, a host from “Spirited Debate,” a weekly Fox News webcast, pressed Mr. Aslan on the question of why, as a Muslim, he would choose Jesus as his subject. Read more

Will Talking About Biblical Marriage Soon Be Classified as Hate Speech?

A growing number of Christians, and especially religious liberty advocates, are voicing serious concern that publicly expressing the biblical belief that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman will be classified as "hate speech."

Ryan T. Anderson, who is the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation, believes that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's comments in a recent TV interview about how the push to redefine marriage may threaten religious freedom is only the tip of the iceberg. Read more

Albert Mohler: Who Am I to Judge? The Pope, the Press, and the Predicament

Pope Francis pulled a surprise on reporters when he walked back to the press section of his Alitalia papal flight from Brazil and entered into an open press conference that lasted more than an hour. The Pope gave the press what Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton offered as presidents—a casual question and answer session that was on the record.

The biggest headline from the Pope’s remarks was not what he had to say about the scandals at the Vatican Bank, but what he said about homosexuality and, in particular, homosexuals in the priesthood. The key sentence in the Pope’s remarks is this: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”

The papal remarks put the international press into a frenzy. Headlines across the world announced a revolution in Roman Catholic moral teaching, a changed position on homosexuality, or at least an historic “new openness” on the issue of homosexuality. Read more

Also read
Media Criticized for Misrepresenting What Pope Francis Said About Gays

Penn. Lawsuit Seeks to Stop County From Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

A lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania Tuesday seeks to stop one county from continuing to violate state law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The suit was filed by the state's Department of Health against D. Bruce Hanes in his role as the Clerk of the Orphans' Court of Montgomery County. Under state law, marriage is defined as a "civil contract by which one man and one woman take each other for husband and wife," but the petition says Hanes announced on July 23 that his office would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Read more

Turkish government pursues anti-Christian policies

After 12 years, Turkey closes the door on American church volunteer

After 12 years serving a church in Turkey voluntarily and peacefully, Jerry Mattix suddenly is on the country's blacklist.

Officially, the government has deemed Mattix a threat to national security. Yet the police have told him he is "welcome" to apply for a visa.

Such is the perplexing state of affairs in Turkey's southeast province of Diyarbakir, where Mattix and several other once-welcome Christian foreigners have become personae non gratae. Read more

Ancient Byzantine Church Turned Into Mosque in Turkey

It was in Turkey that the followers of Jesus were called "Christians" for the first time in history, but this nation is making efforts to erase its Christian past, as reflected in the conversion of an ancient Byzantine church into a mosque.

The Hagia Sophia Museum, a former Greek Orthodox church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, was used this month for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, reports International Business Times.

The mufti of Trabzon was joined by local Muslim residents for the Islamic prayers in the 13th century church building on July 5. The Christian murals have been covered with curtains, and the bell dome is being used as a minaret. Read more

Nigeria: 24 die in blasts in Kano's Christian area

Multiple explosions at a bar and entertainment area in a Christian quarter of Nigeria’s northern and mainly Muslim city of Kano killed at least 24 people, a hospital official said Tuesday.

Lt. Ikedichi Iweha, a spokesman for the Military Joint Task Force, said earlier Tuesday that 12 people died at the scene and ‘‘a couple’’ of people were wounded in Monday night’s attack, which he blamed on suspected members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram network.

But the spokesman for Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital said its mortuary had 24 bodies brought from the scene and another hospital. The teaching hospital also was treating nine people wounded in the blasts, said spokesman Aminu Inuwa. Read more

Also read
Bombs in Nigerian Christian district kill at least 12
Bomb Blasts Hit Christian Area of Kano, Nigeria Killing at Least 12

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Understanding the Gospel Gap

I'm convinced that many Christians live with a big gap in their understanding of what God has done for them. Most people understand that Jesus died so their sins can be forgiven, and most people understand that He died so they can have a future with Him in eternity, but I've found that few understand what Jesus has provided for them today.

This "Gospel Gap" subverts our identity as Christians and our understanding of the present work of God. It undermines every relationship in our lives, every decision we make, and every attempt to minister to others. So over the next four weeks, we're going to tackle the "Gospel Gap." Today we'll diagnose the Gap, using 2 Peter 1:8-9, and in the following weeks we'll look at three types of spiritual blindness that result from it. Read more

Jesus Has Not Left the Building

There are times I wish we could capitalize letters verbally.

One of the main speakers at a conference I attended this week stated his case, including some lines about "the church shrinking these days." Did he mean his local church, lowercase c? Or did he mean the great, grand, beautiful capital C Church, the one encompassing millions of believers the world over, the one that has lasted for generations and generations, withstood dark ages and bright ones, the one Jesus said he would build and nothing would prevail against? I don't know, and the comment wasn't clarified. But recently I read an article about why millennials are leaving the church, and my heart had the same reaction.

Whose church are we talking about here?

And, maybe more specifically, whose Bible are we reading here?

The great debate is whether we conform our churches (local) to the wind blowing through culture, conforming our language, tone, and practice to what the culture oracles demand; or whether we, against our natural drift toward sinfulness and selfishness, stand firm and build our local churches around the core tenets of the Word of God.

So maybe the question I want to really ask is this: whose Jesus are you following? Read more

Why Did They Crucify Jesus?

Among the many sweet sounding platitudes in our day, one I hear often is that Jesus was killed for being exceedingly inclusive and kind. He was crucified for welcoming the outcasts, it is said. He was murdered for hanging out with prostitutes and half-breeds. He was killed because he was so courageously loving and his enemies just couldn’t take it anymore.

Much is true in these statements. Everyone who truly knows Christ will embrace his amazing grace, celebrate the expansiveness of his mercy, and shudder to be among those who do not know what it is to be forgiven or what it is to forgive. But this does not make the platitude true; neither does it make it harmless. Many Christians, many churches, and not a few once proud Christian institutions have so swallowed our culture’s values that sentimentality now passes for theology and slogans get mistaken for exegesis.

For the facts of the story—which the gospel writers everywhere try to belabor—are that Jesus was crucified for his God-like behavior and his outrageous claims to deity. Read more

Whatever happened to the wrath of God?

Talk about the “wrath of God” kindles all sorts of images in the minds of contemporary Americans. Some immediately think of a powdered-wig Puritan, preaching about sinners dangling over hell as a spider over a flame. Some conceive of a hellfire-and-brimstone revivalist warning sinners to repent or perish. And some picture an angry cult group, protesting with signs announcing whomever God is said to hate that day.

But as distant as the wrath of God seems from our talk, just imagine singing about it.

At “On the Square,” the web commentary of the conservative Christian journal First Things, evangelical historian Timothy George notes a recent dust-up in the Presbyterian Church (USA) as the mainline denomination’s hymn selection committee decided to leave the popular contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone” out of the church’s hymnal.

At issue was the song’s use of language about the wrath of God in relation to the atonement. The hymn’s writers, Keith and Kristen Getty, composed the hymn to include the words, “And on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied…” Read more

Also read
No Squishy Love

Reza Aslan's Fox News Interview Video on New Book 'Zealot' Goes Viral

Reza Aslan, author of the highly-controversial, newly released book Zealot, recently partook in a tense online interview with Fox News' Lauren Green in which he was questioned about his Muslim faith and his reasons for writing a book about Jesus' life.

The interview consisted primarily of a back-and-forth between Green and Aslan in which Green sought to clarify why Aslan chose to write a book about Jesus - the man 2.18 billion Christians around the world herald as the messiah - when he himself is a Muslim.

 In the interview clip, Aslan seeks to argue that it is his Ph.D. in religious history that prompted him to write Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, a book describing Jesus' life on earth. Read more

GAFCON prayer bulletins available

A series of prayer bulletins is being issued in the weeks leading up to the October conference.

This allows provinces, churches, organisations and individuals to read about the preparations and to uphold GAFCON in prayer.

Download the first bulletin in pdf format here.

Trends: USA: Are religious liberals in the ascendancy?

The number of religious conservatives in the US is declining with every generation, a new report has concluded.

The study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that one in five Americans (19%) are religious progressives, while 28% are religious conservatives. Over a third (38%) were religious moderates and 15% were non-religious.

Although religious conservatives still outnumber religious progressives, the institute noted the latter were significantly younger and more diverse. Read more

Also read
Can a Religious Left Rival the Christian Right?

Eritrea Punishes High School Students for 'Commitment to Christ'

Eritrean authorities have arrested 39 high school students for their Christian faith, excluding them from a graduation ceremony and subjecting them to beatings and hard labor.

According to Christian support organization Open Doors, the students, including 11 girls, have been arrested for their "Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ" after completing a four-month military training required in Eritrea. The 39 students were selected from 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake who graduated on July 13.

"The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water" at the SAWA military training center, the organization reported in a press statement. "Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they 'fail to renounce Christ.'" Read more

Monday, July 29, 2013

Four Keys to Planning for Church Health

Based on both research and anecdotal evidence, I estimate that nine out of every ten churches in America are growing at a slower place than their community—if they are growing at all. That is not a good sign for the church in America.

Through the feedback I’ve received on this blog over the past two years, it has become overwhelmingly evident that the spiritual health of churches and pastors is of great concern. Many have asked how to transform the churches in the 90% that are not growing into ones like the 10% that are.

This is no easy task, but it can be done. Read more

Listening to God’s Word in the Church

If spiritual life comes through the Word of God (Isa. 55:10–11; Rom. 10:17; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:23), why not skip church with all its hassles and just devote yourself to studying the Bible? Think of the time you would save, not to mention the relational trouble.

Or, better, why not download the three best podcast preachers every week and listen to them? Chances are that they are better preachers than old Pastor Bob down the street anyway. Can I get an “Amen”?

I suspect most Christians would have a vague sense that there is something wrong with this counsel. But the fact that we expect so little from our preachers in terms of biblical exposition, the fact that precious few seconds are devoted to actually reading the Bible in our weekly gatherings, the fact that we give scarcely a thought to not staying up late Saturday night so that we’re not drifting off in the middle of Sunday’s sermon all suggest that we don’t really apprehend the tight link between listening to the Word in church and our individual and corporate growth as Christians.

For starters, God’s Word creates the church, not detached Christians. It creates a group of believers who are covenantally united in one Lord, faith, baptism, and remission of sins. “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:38, 41; 4:4; 6:7). God’s Word actually creates local churches. It unites you and me to other Christians, and the local church is the place on planet earth where we demonstrate and practice our Word-created unity.

You will find, therefore, that Bible understanding and Bible living work best in the context of church membership. Here are seven reasons our growth should be centered on listening to God’s Word in the context of the local church.... Read more

You Asked: Is All Scripture from the Lord?

Doug L. from Rockwall, Texas, asks:

How do we understand 1 Cor. 7:12, when Paul says, "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)," when all of Scripture is meant to be from the Lord? How do we make sense of this in light of the debates on inerrancy and authority of Scripture?

We posed this question to Dane Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College), Bible publishing director at Crossway in Wheaton, Illinois, where he lives with his wife, Stacey, and three boys. He is the author of A New Inner Relish, Defiant Grace, Zeal without Knowledge, and Mark: A 12-Week Study. Dane blogs at Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology. Read more

The Briefing: Helping poor readers in home groups

From the title you might think this article is about helping people who have English as a second language, or people with poor literacy skills, or even people suffering from dyslexia. The sort of people, in other words, that you don’t want to embarrass by asking them to read a passage out loud in the group.

Such group members do indeed sometimes need a bit of consideration. But I’m not talking about them.

I’m talking about people who don’t struggle at all with the English language; people who might have postgraduate degrees in law or English; even people who might work with words professionally every day. They could be the ones in your group who read the Bible out loud immaculately; even long lists of Hebrew names don’t seem to faze them.

So why do they need help? It’s because they are poor readers of a different type. I’m talking about people who don’t carefully read the Bible text in front of them. Read more

Out of Ur: Bigger Chunks of Bread

For being people of the Word, we sure don't read much of it

It has dawned on me: we claim to be a people “of the Word.” But we read the Bible in chunks that are too little. We read slices of our daily bread, when we ought to digest whole loaves. Read more

New Book 'Zealot' Receives Criticism for Author Having Muslim Agenda

A new book exploring the life of Jesus on earth has received criticism from some who argue the author, Reza Aslan, is a Muslim and therefore should not be considered an authority on Jesus' life.

Aslan, who has previously written No god but God, claims to have used historical sources to meticulously compose his new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which he describes as a biography of Jesus' life in Nazareth, years before his death and resurrection as the son of God.

The book paints an image of Jesus as a zealot and a violent revolutionary leading a revolt against Rome, and often contradicts the teachings found in Scripture, as well as the teachings of Christianity. Read more

Trends: Exclusive: 4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work

Exclusive: Working-class whites are gloomy about future amid rising income gaps, racial shifts

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.

As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused — on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.

Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor." Read more

Pope blames church for Catholic exodus

Pope Francis issued blunt, soul-searching criticism Saturday of the Brazilian church's failure to stem the "exodus" of Catholics to evangelical congregations, challenging the region's bishops to be closer to the people to understand their problems and persuade them that Catholicism is not "barren, fruitless soil."

In the longest and most important speech of his four-month pontificate, Francis drove home a message he has emphasized throughout his first international trip to World Youth Day: the need for Catholics, lay and religious, to shake up the status quo, get out of their stuffy sacristies, and reach the faithful on the margins of society or risk losing them to rival churches. Read more

Also read
Pope Francis 'Will Not Judge' Priests for Sexual Orientation, Reaffirms Catholic Stance on Homosexuality, Women, Abortion and Sin
Pope Francis: Gays Shouldn't Be Marginalized, Ban on Women Priests 'Definitive'

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: July 27, 2013

On this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:
From yesterday:

Worldview: Change shakes 'House of Islam'

As Muslims in the Arab world observe Ramadan, the annual month of fasting that began July 9, they face violence, chaos and growing uncertainty about the future.

Have the hopes invested by so many in the Arab Spring finally died? Many think so...

The mind and the heart, meanwhile, are the unseen cradles of another, far more profound revolution. It has begun not just in the Middle East but throughout the Dar al-Islam -- the global "House of Islam" that encompasses 1.6 billion Muslims from West Africa to Indonesia. Read more

Also read
God is Doing Something Historic

6 Commitments for Growing a Church with Unity

One of the reasons why Saddleback church has grown over the years is because we have maintained a harmonious atmosphere. When there is a church that is loving, it attracts people like a magnet. When a church really loves, really offers love to each other and those who are welcomed into it, you’d have to lock the doors to keep people out. Because Saddleback is a loving church, we continue to reach out and we continue to grow.

Growth is automatic. All living things grow and if a church is alive and living, it will grow naturally. The question, if a church isn’t growing, is, “What is keeping it from growing?” If you remove the barriers to growth in your ministry or in the church as a whole, it will automatically grow.

A simple reading of Romans 14 reveals six ways that we are to build each other up rather than tearing each other down. Read more

How to Hear a Word from God

The Letter to the Hebrews begins off reminding us of a stunning and remarkable fact – God spoke. And not only has God spoken, but he has done so “at many times, and in many ways.” And in these last days, he has spoken by a new and infinitely greater way of speaking. He has spoken by His Son.

Have you heard this Word from God? Now, you might have read this Word, but how often – if at all – have you heard it? Read more

Leadership 101: A Look at the Basics

Why Teams Rarely Rise Beyond the Level of Their Leader

Leaders: If you’re frustrated at the level of your team or vendor’s performance, then look no further than the mirror. Only in vary rare cases will a team perform better than the level of their leader. Why? Because it’s the leader who sets the boundaries, deadlines, and guidelines. It’s the leader who creates the culture, and sets expectations. As a result, no matter how gifted or creative a team is, if the leader is incompetent, insecure, or inexperienced, the team can only work within that framework. Read more

Don’t Take That Job or Promotion

It’s the American way. Keep moving up the ladder. Success is measured by how far you climb. Your self-worth depends upon it.

You’ve heard those clichés. Perhaps you’ve been pressured by those societal pushes. Granted, a number of people continue to move from promotion to promotion, better pay to better pay, and they thrive in their new challenges.

But for a number of people, that next job is a disaster waiting to happen. It could be in another organization, or it could be a promotion where you are right now. And though it’s not always considered “the American way,” sometimes the best thing you can do is say no. Read more

10 Tips on Managing Church

Advice on how to approach the many details of ministry. Read more

Five Qualities to Look for When Hiring — Rainer on Leadership [PODCAST]

This week, we explore five qualities to look for when hiring a new team member. These qualities apply to any level of employment and in both church and secular hiring processes.... Read more and play or download podcast

Ten Insights to Help Us Better Relate to Others

We make people choices every day. We decide whom we will invite to lunch. We make our meetings shorter when the person with whom we are meeting is a complainer. Our choices tell us who gets our call, emails, and texts. Our people choices determine our spouse and people we hire.

Anthony K. Tjan recently wrote an article in Harvard Business Review that provides the guidelines to understand people. The article is very helpful. But we must caution that these guidelines do not necessarily mean we are to avoid those who don’t measure up on all ten points. To the contrary, as Christians we are called to relate to people who might not “normally” be our best friend. We are to have big hearts that have room for a host of hurting people.

Nevertheless, his points are definitely insightful and helpful to help us understand people better, even ourselves. Here is my summary of his ten points. Read more

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?

I recently wrote a post based on a survey I did on a pastor’s workweek. I also included better research and more accurate information from five-year old data from LifeWay Research.

In this post, I want to approach the issue from a slightly different perspective. I want to ask the question: How many hours must a pastor work each week to satisfy the congregation? Ultimately, I prefer to hear from pastors and church members and get their perspective. Read more

Guest Post: Learning to Ask for Help

Somehow in the midst of younger and more idealistic days, I came to believe that anyone doing full-time ministry, counselors, and especially anyone living overseas, was above the problems of everyone else, that these people didn’t struggle with normal human pain or sin. I’m not exactly sure what is to blame for this, but I do know that I sauntered into full-time ministry wearing some very rose-colored glasses. Read more

10 Tactics to Set the Next Pastor Up for Success

You’ve made your decision; it’s time to resign your pastoral position. Or perhaps it’s been made for you; either submit a “constructive resignation” or be terminated.

How do you set the stage for the next pastor to succeed? Read more

A Pastor and His Wife

Perhaps the most important decision a pastor makes in his life and ministry is choosing the woman who will become his wife. Through my years of pastoring and leading churches, I have always found that a pastor and his ministry will not surpass his marital relationship in terms of healthy growth. If his marriage is healthy, his ministry has a much greater probability of being productive and effective. Conversely, if his marriage is unhealthy, his ministry will be extremely limited and affected greatly. Read more

3 Challenges of Being a Pastor's Wife

Ministry can be hard on families. The constant burden of loving and leading a local church is taxing, and the pressure a pastor feels inevitably impacts his wife. In recent years, my wife has frequently facilitated groups for pastor’s wives. As she has interacted with them, she has found the three most common challenges to be.... Read more

How Demons Are Like the NSA

The Bible doesn't directly address the ways that demons know about humanity, but I think we can find a clue in Job 1:6-7: "The Lord said to Satan, 'From where have you come? Satan answered the LORD and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.'" As fallen angels, demons possess intelligence, express emotion, and exercise will. They also have a broad range of experience from directly observing and dealing with humanity for eons.... Read more

Also read
'What Are Ghosts?': Author Jason Lohman Explains the Paranormal and Why Christians Shouldn't Fear
Demonologist Lorraine Warren Discusses New Movie 'The Conjuring' Exorcism and Faith
Pastors Take Biblical Approach to Subject of Spiritual Warfare, Devil in Upcoming Book

Social Media and the Church

Sinner in the Hand of Angry Saints

One of the weaknesses that may come from communicating via social media is that we not only speak in short hand, but react in short hand. That is, our answers haven’t the time or characters to be nuanced, and so neither is the thought that goes into them. Our minds are less a well-ordered shelf of careful books, more a stack of broad-brushed memes. Read more

Is Social Media Making Us Narcissistic?

I hear people say all the time that social media is making us more narcissistic, but I’m not sure I agree with them.

I mean, I guess its possible we have actually become worse as a people group from overexposure to pictures of other people’s food. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe we haven’t. Maybe social media didn’t make us more self-centered or narcissistic, maybe it just revealed the way we already were. Maybe we’ve been this way all along.

Maybe the problem isn’t social media. Maybe it’s us. Read more

Where the People Are

Why even bother with social media? Read more

Why Keeping it Short Makes You More Likable (on and off Social Media)

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Social media experts will tell you to “keep it short and sweet” because we are all looking for content that fits our lifestyle. We take information in sound bytes, between meetings or before bedtime or while we wait for a friend at a coffee shop.

This means, if you’re rapid-fire tweeting several times in a row because you can’t get your thoughts to fit in 140 characters, you’re doing it wrong! Read more

Which kind of Facebook user are you?

Facebook may have over a billion active monthly users but while some seem to live out every second of their lives on the social media network, others have hardly touched their accounts since registering.

Optify has created this amusing infographic identifying nine different types of Facebook users, from the newbies who 'like' pretty much everything, to the "over-sharer" who updates their status with zeal and shares even the things we'd rather not know.

Check out below to see which one you relate to most.... Read more

Key UK conference planned for November

Reform and the Anglican Mission in England are organising a conference for Anglican evangelical leaders in November.

“ReNew will be a two day conference with the aim of advancing Anglican Evangelical ministries for the salvation of England.”

Speakers include Hugh Palmer, William Taylor, Richard Coekin, Mike Ovey and John Richardson. Details here.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Oak Hill Commentary magazine — Summer 2013

The latest issue of Oak Hill’s magazine is available for download.

Check it out.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

What do your non-Christian friends and family think of your faith? How do they see you? Does that response differ at all from how they felt just five or ten years ago?

It's hard to dispute that American culture is growing more hostile to Christianity. One proper response is to recognize that it's normal: Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble (Jn. 16:33). And countless brothers and sisters around the world and throughout history have experienced not just a cultural tide turning against them, but even floods of opposition and persecution.

Yet what is normal for most Christians certainly doesn't feel normal to us. Given how the ground is shifting underfoot, I'd suggest that Robert Louis Wilken's book The Christians as the Romans Saw Them can shed a little light on our situation.

As we hear increasingly heated censures of the sharper edges of our beliefs and practice, it's worth listening to what some astute pagan observers thought about Christianity in its early days. How do ancient critiques stack up to today's challenges to the faith? Read more

NYC BBQ Restaurant Responds to Claims It Booted Church for Homosexual Sermons

A popular BBQ restaurant in NYC has responded to claims that it chose to stop hosting a local Christian church's worship services due to sermons regarding homosexuality.

Hill Country Barbecue Market, an eatery located in New York City's lower west side, said in a recent statement on behalf of its public relations firm, Baltz & Company Inc., that it chose to discontinue its relationship with The Gallery Church, a local Christian ministry, due to an "unanticipated community response" from the local neighborhood. Read more

Also read
Christian church evicted from NYC restaurant for preaching against same-sex relations

Religious freedom – a secondary right?

The First Amendment is a promise that we are free to live holistically, according to the dictates of our conscience. Last month, however, the First Amendment was subjected to assaults seeking to force the fully free exercise of faith into the most private of places: our homes and houses of worship.

The intent is simple and fatal: redefine the meaning of religious freedom, making it a secondary right when exercised in the public square or marketplace.

If religious freedom becomes a secondary right, how will it affect you and your family? What challenges would you face if pressured to choose between your religious convictions and your job, business or livelihood? Read more

Also see
The erosion of religious freedom [PODCAST]

Air Force Censors Chaplain Over 'No Atheists in Foxholes' Essay

A Christian chaplain currently serving at the Air Force Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska could face punishment for posting a religious column on the base's website.

Lt. Col Kenneth Reyes wrote an essay titled "No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II" and posted it on his page on the site, called "Chaplain's Corner,"reports Fox News Read more

Also read
STARNES EXCLUSIVE: Chaplain Ordered to Remove Religious Essay From Military Website

Gay Marriage Proponents on a Roll -- Push for More Successes

Gay marriage court win in Ohio may spawn new suits

Two gay men who successfully sued to get their out-of-state marriage recognized in Ohio despite a state ban are at the forefront of what supporters and experts believe will be a rush of similar lawsuits aiming to take advantage of an apparent legal loophole. Read more

Concern over David Cameron's plans to promote gay marriage abroad

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is calling upon family campaigners around the world to resist David Cameron's plans to export same-sex marriage. Read more

David Cameron: 'I want to export gay marriage around the world'

David Cameron has said he wants “to export” gay marriage around the world. Read more

Oxford Dictionary to Change Definition of Marriage to Include Gays

Oxford English Dictionary, the world's largest dictionary of the English language, has announced that the definition of the term "marriage" will be adjusted to include same-sex couples now that it is legal for homosexuals to wed each other in England. Read more

NSW Premier wrong to push for same sex marriage

The NSW Council of Churches today reiterated its call to Premier Barry O’Farrell not to lend support to a push to legalise same sex marriage in New South Wales. Read more

NSW set to back same-sex marriage

A NSW Liberal politician who supports gay marriage has said he is ''grateful'' to Premier Barry O'Farrell for setting up an inquiry that yesterday cleared the way for NSW to introduce a bill to legalise same-sex marriage. ''This is what democracy is about,'' said the Liberal member for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith. Read more

Pa. gay couple marries as county defies state ban

Five same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses Wednesday in a suburban Philadelphia county defying a state ban on such unions, but the governor's spokesman said the local officials lack the power to suspend state law. Read more

California's Supreme Court Denies Request to Halt Same-Sex Marriages

California's Supreme Court ruled in a closed session on Tuesday to deny the request of a San Diego clerk to halt same-sex marriages in the state. Read more

Clerk Requests to Halt Same Sex Marriages in San Diego, Calif.

A San Diego County, Calif. clerk responsible for issuing marriage licenses has requested that the state's Supreme Court halt same-sex marriages, pending clarification on the legal standing of Proposition 8. Read more

Nigerian Christians Urge State Dept. to Label Boko Haram as Terrorist Group

Organizations representing Nigerian Christians have called on the United States to officially recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist group at a press conference on Thursday in the nation's capital.

Leaders from the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria made their case, sharing that they have tried to get the Islamic jihadist militant organization in Africa to be labeled a terrorist group by meeting with members of the U.S. Congress, drawing up petitions, and working with other organizations, including several American groups. Read more