Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Story behind Alternative Forms of Service (2009)

By Robin G. Jordan

In 2006 and again in 2012 I posted on Anglicans Ablaze “A New American Prayer Book,” an article in which I identifies a number of characteristics that I believe are needed in a Prayer Book for use on the North American mission field.  The article was originally prompted by the publication of Services in Contemporary English from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662, a joint effort of the AMiA and the PBSUSA, in 2006. Two years later in 2008 An Anglican Prayer Book was published, a second joint effort of the AMiA and the PBSUSA. The late Peter Toon, then president of the PBSUSA, was the editor of these two service books.

In 2008 I launched the blog, Exploring The Book of Common Prayer, on which posted a number of articles critiquing An Anglican Prayer Book. I subsequently put together a rough draft of a Prayer Book in which I sought to incorporate the characteristics that I had identified in “A New American Prayer Book." The book was designed as an alternative to An Anglican Prayer Book. It stuck more closely to the doctrine of the Anglican formularies and the liturgical usages of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It incorporated features of some of the older Prayer Books from around the Anglican Communion as well as features and textual material from a number of the more recent Anglican service books. It also retained some of the better features of the American Prayer Book.

In 2009 I used this book to produce three more books—An American Prayer Book, Alternative Forms of Service, and Alternative Services.

 An American Prayer Book was a further refinement of the first book. I have posted a number of services from An American Prayer Book on Exploring The Book of Common Prayer. They include Prayers at the End of the Day (Compline), Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Alternative Forms of Morning and Evening Worship, A Penitential Service, and The Holy Communion. I also posted on that blog texts from An American Prayer Book. They include introductory and offertory sentences, canticles, collects, and prayers for various occasions.

Alternative Forms of Service was a response to the challenge of the doctrinal and worship standards articulated in the Anglican Church in North America’s Fundamental Declarations.  While recognizing the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as “a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline,” the ACNA Fundamental Declarations adopts as “the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship” the 1662 Prayer Book, “with the Books which preceded it.” This worship standard could be interpreted to include the Medieval Sarum Missal and the ill-fated 1637 Scottish Prayer Book—the infamous “Laudian Liturgy.” From the services of Holy Communion in Texts for Common Prayer it is clear that the ACNA's liturgical commission and its College of Bishops does interpret that standard to include these books.

Alternative Services was a proposed contemporary English revision of the 1956 Free Church of England Prayer Book. I have posted the Free Church ofEngland’s revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles on Anglicans Ablaze.  

In all three books I did my best to incorporate the characteristics identified in “A New American Prayer Book.”  Alternative Services was designed as a service book shaped for mission in the United Kingdom.

Alternative Forms of Services represents the kind of service book that North American Anglican churches need if they are going to be effective in carrying out the great commission, preach the gospel to the remotest corners of the United States and Canada, and make disciples of unreached and lightly reached people groups in these two countries. A large part of the population in the United States and Canada falls into these two categories. North America is the largest English speaking mission field in the world. It is also home to a number of ethnic groups that speak other languages.

Anglicans ablaze should describe all North American Anglicans—on fire for the gospel. Posting the three services of Holy Communion from Alternative Forms of Service (see the accompanying article, “Three Contemporary English Services of Holy Communion for North American Anglicans”) on Exploring The Book of Common Prayer is a part of my commitment to the building up of Christ’s Church in North America and beyond. I hope that these services prove useful.

Three Contemporary English Services of Holy Communion for North American Anglicans

In 2009 I compiled Alternative Forms of Service, a collection of services intended for the use of North American Anglicans. I have uploaded material from Alternative Forms of Service on my blog, Exploring The Book of Common Prayer. It includes:

The Holy Communion, First Order is a contemporary English revision of the 1662 Communion Service. The Prayer of Humble Access comes from An Australian Prayer Book (1978) and A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) and incorporates one of the recommendations of the Puritans at the Savoy Conference.

The Holy Communion, Second Order is a contemporary English adaptation of the 1549 Communion Service.

The Holy Communion, Third Order adopts the contemporary ecumenical pattern of the Holy Eucharist.

The First Thanksgiving in The Holy Communion, Third Order was taken from A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) and was derived from the Diocese of Sydney’s Experimental Sunday Services (1993).

The Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Thanksgiving are original compositions, incorporating material from various sources.

The Fifth Thanksgiving comes from The Book of Common Prayer (2004) of the Church of Ireland.

In First, Second, and Third Thanksgivings the epiclesis is muted as in the 1662 Prayer of Consecration. It takes the form of a petition calling upon God—an epiclesis in the basic sense of the word.

Like 1662 Prayer of Consecration the anamnesis of the First and Second Thanksgiving recall Christ’s death and passion. It does not include Christ’s other mighty works.

The Third Thanksgiving speaks of doing what Christ commanded and remembering all that he has done for us.

The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Thanksgivings have more developed anamneses.

The Fourth Thanksgiving contains the only epiclesis  that petitions God by the power of His Holy Spirit to sanctify the communicants and the bread and wine. I am planning to modify the epiclesis and I will post the revised Thanksgiving at a later date.

What is absent from all six thanksgivings is anything suggestive of eucharistic sacrifice, a doctrine that is not consistent with the biblical and Reformation theology of the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book. This includes the idea that we somehow participate in Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist.

The rubrics permit the use of other “authorized thanksgivings,” including thanksgivings that are not in the book.

If there is no communion, a collection may be taken before the Prayer of Intercession in the First Order or after the Prayers of the People in the Second and Third Orders and a hymn or other song may be sung and the service may conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, other authorized prayers at the discretion of the minister, and the Grace or the Blessing. A deacon or licensed catechist or reader may officiate at the service.

One or more Collects may be read after the Collect of the Day or before the Blessing, as in the 1926 Irish Prayer Book and the 1954 South African Prayer Book. A selection of suitable Collects is provided after the First Order. They include a number of Prayers for Mission. Other suitable Collects authorized by the Ordinary may be used.

For those who would like to use these three services of Holy Communion the introductory sentences of Scripture and offertory sentences at An American Prayer Book (2009): Sentences may be used with the services.  Additional introductory services may be found at the beginning of the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer at An American Prayer Book (2009): Morning Prayer and An American Prayer Book (2009): Evening Prayer. Canticles that may be used in the three services of Holy Communion may found at An American Prayer Book (2009): Canticles.

At An American Prayer Book (2009): Prayers for Various Occasions may be found six other forms that may be used for the Prayer of Intercession in The Holy Communion, First Order, and for the Prayers of the People in The Holy Communion, Second Order and The Holy Communion, Third Order. A selection of general confessions, occasional prayers, thanksgivings, blessings and endings also may be found at An American Prayer Book (2009): Prayers for Various Occasions.

Propers that may be used with the three services of Holy Communion may be found at An American Prayer Book (2009): Collects and Readings at Holy Communion. The Collects are largely drawn from An Australian Prayer Book (1978) and An English Prayer Book (1994). A number of the Collects have been altered. 

Ronnie Floyd: Pastors: How You Can End the Year Faithfully

With the holiday season looming, how can you end the year faithfully? In other words, Pastor, what should your focus be for these last few days of the year? You can lead aimlessly to nowhere or aim purposefully.

I would like to challenge you personally and professionally. Here are some challenges that I believe will help you end the year faithfully. Keep reading

Diana Davis: To Eve Or Not to Eve… There Is No Question

A Christmas Eve service can be one of your church’s most meaningful moments, and one of its largest outreach events of the year. Use these two secrets for planning a meaningful community-wide event to honor Jesus’ birth. Keep reading

Also read
Go Christmas Caroling

End is nigh for hymn books as churches go hands-free with new iTunes app

Hymn books could soon be a thing of the past as churches switch to high-tech services with the words on giant screens, assisted by an iTunes app.

The fashion for ‘hands-free worship’ has led to a decline in book sales. But it is said to have improved the singing, as congregants look up at a screen instead of down at the page.

Some vicars also prefer screens because they are less likely to spread germs and are said to be environmentally friendly. Keep reading

Greg Stier: 5 Hints for Using Humor When Speaking to Teenagers

Humor is a great tool to use when communicating God's Word to teeenagers (or anyone for that matter.) It breaks down barriers, captures attention and gets the audience's adrenalin kicked into high gear. As a result, teenagers are more ready to receive what you are seeking to teach them from God's Word.

With this in mind here are five tips for using humor when teaching teenagers.... Keep reading

Thom Rainer: The Importance of Groups in the Church: An Interview with Ben Reed

If a casual observer were to ask you: “Why should I have groups in my church?”, how would you respond?

Because “groups” aren’t just a church growth strategy. They’re not just the latest innovation. They’re not just something “cool” to do. They’re not just something to fill up people’s time.
Small groups are the heart of the church. Because without relational connections, the church isn’t the church. At best, without relationships, we are putting on a show. At worst, we’re wasting people’s time, energy, and resources. Relationships with people who want what’s best for us and who are headed in the direction we want to head . . . those fuel our faith. Keep reading

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Catholic Resurgence in the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G. Jordan

Historically the Thirty Nine Articles serve four functions. First, they are meant to establish the theological identity of the Anglican Church. They were drawn up to support the Anglican Church’s claim to be “a true apostolic church, teaching and maintaining the doctrine of the apostles.” Second, the Articles are intended to make the truth of the gospel safe—to protect the gospel from being lost to the church again as it was lost to the church during the centuries leading up to the Reformation. Third, they are meant to protect the church from false teaching. They are also meant to provide doctrinal standards for the interpretation of the Prayer Book. Fourth, they are meant to set the boundaries of the comprehensiveness of the Anglican Church.

Those who question the relevance of the Thirty-Nine Articles to the contemporary Anglican Church and dismiss the Articles as a relic of the past typically subscribe to doctrines and practices that are outside the boundaries of the comprehensiveness that the Articles set. The arguments they make against accepting the authority of the Articles are entirely self-serving. The Articles represent a major obstacle to their aspirations. They are far from disinterested parties.

If they cannot persuade the rest of the church to accept their claims that the Thirty-Nine Articles are no longer authoritative for Anglicans today, they may adopt the stratagem of interpreting the Articles in a way that disconnects them from their historical context and the intent of their authors. The Articles are claimed to sanction doctrines and practices that they do not sanction. This reinterpretation of the Articles has the effect of weakening their authority.

If they establish a large enough following in the church, its existence will also serve to weaken the authority of the Articles. Acceptance of their authority will become a cause for controversy, which will also have that effect.

Wherever the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles has been eroded (or, in the case of the Episcopal Church, never accepted), the Anglican Church has exchanged its theological identity for something else; the gospel has been obscured and even lost again; and false teaching has flourished. The limits of historic Anglican comprehensiveness have been ignored.

In the twenty-first century the major challenge to the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles comes from three quarters. The Way, the Truth, and the Life: Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future identifies two direction from which this challenge is coming—Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism. Since the second half of the twentieth century a major challenge to the authority of the Articles has been coming from a third direction—the theology of the convergence movement.

The theology of the convergence movement suffers the same weaknesses as the theology of the charismatic movement of which the convergence movement is an offshoot. In Keeping in Step with the Spirit J. I. Packer points out these weaknesses:
Charimatic theology by comparison looks loose, erratic, and naïve, and the movement’s tolerance of variations. Particular when these are backed by “prophecies” received through prayer, suggests a commitment to given truth in Scripture that is altogether too fragile.
In “Navigating the Three Streams: Some Second Thoughts about a Popular Typology” and “Revisiting the Three Streams” Gillis Harp has drawn attention to the problematic way in which leaders in the convergence movement interpret the Scriptures.

The emphasis of the convergence movement upon piety and practice over theological reflection mirrors the charismatic movement’s interest in the reanimation of inherited doctrinal and devotional traditions. An outgrowth of this development is a fascination with the early and Medieval churches which does not take into account that a number of the doctrines and practices of these churches have no real basis in the Scriptures. Unreformed Catholic doctrine and practice has come to increasingly dominate the thinking of the convergence movement.

The convergence movement also displays an aversion to the Reformation and Reformation theology. This may be attributed to the Reformation’s emphasis upon the primacy of the authority of the Bible as God’s Word written in matters of faith and practice; the submission of all thought, including prophecies, or special revelations, from the Holy Spirit, to the Scriptures; the use of Scripture and reason in the interpretation of Scripture; and the importance of the purity of doctrine and the consequent need for precision and care in its explication.

At the Reformation the Reformed Churches also rejected a substantial number of the practices and associated beliefs to which those connected with the convergence movement are attracted. The Reformed Churches rejected these practices and beliefs because they were not found in Scripture or they were not agreeable to Scripture. In embracing these practices and beliefs, those connected with the convergence movement give more weight to church tradition than Scripture.

The influence of convergence theology is quite evident in the Anglican Church in North America as is the influence of Anglo-Catholic theology. Their influence is discernible in ACNA’s Fundamental Declarations, its canons, its “theological lens,” its ordinal, and its trial eucharistic rites.

Compare what the ACNA’s Fundamental Declarations say about the Thirty-Nine Articles with what the Jerusalem Declaration says. The Fundamental Declarations identifies “seven elements as characteristic of the Anglican Way, and essential for membership.” It identifies the Articles as one of these elements:
We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.
Anglo-Catholics were quick to see in the Fundamental Declarations’ use of the phrase “…taken in their literal and grammatical sense…” affirmation of John Henry Newman’s reinterpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Romeward direction. Newman contended that this phrase in the Royal Declaration of Charles I prefixed to the Articles “relieves us from the necessity of making the known opinions of the framers a comment upon the text.” In interpreting the Articles we are free to disregard the original historical context and the original authorial intent.

The phrase “…expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time…” implies that these doctrinal issues are no longer the focus of theological dispute and have since the sixteenth century been settled. The resolution of these past controversies was not necessarily in favor of the positions taken in the Articles.

The phrase, “…expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief…” was originally “expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief…” but “the” was dropped. Its omission changes the entire meaning of the phrase. The phrase infers that what are contained in the Articles are only some principles of authentic Anglican belief. Others exist outside of the Articles. Where these principles may be found is not identified.

With its particular choice of language the Fundamental Declarations evade any actual acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Articles, effectively dismissing the Articles as a relic of the past. The Articles are noticeably missing from the Anglican Church in North America’s website.

The Jerusalem Declaration, on the other hand, declares the acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles as one of the tenets of orthodoxy underpinning Anglican identity:
We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
As Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today points out, the Thirty-Nine Articles are authoritative because they are in agreement with the Scriptures. The authority of the Articles is not the equivalent of the authority of the Scriptures. It is the authority of the Scriptures. Acceptance of the authority of the Articles forms an essential part of Anglican identity.

The failure of the Anglican Church in North America to genuinely accept the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles is one of a number of critical differences between the ACNA and the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. With the passage of time these differences will become more evident to Anglicans outside of North America.

The Episcopal Church has never accepted the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles. While it adopted a revision of the Articles in 1801, it never required clerical subscription to these revised Articles. Anglo-Catholic and Broad Church elements in the Episcopal Church sought to remove the Articles from the back of the American Prayer Book in the 1920s. The Articles were relegated to the historical section of the American Prayer Book in the 1970s. The attitudes of the Episcopal Church toward the Articles have helped to shape the attitudes of the present leaders of the Anglican Church in North America toward Anglicanism’ confession of faith. They are for the most part former Episcopalians.

The presence of these attitudes toward the Thirty-Nine Articles in the Anglican Church in North America; the lack of familiarity, respect, and approval for the doctrine and liturgical usages of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1661 Ordinal in the ACNA, and the degree to which Anglo-Catholic theology and convergence theology are prevalent in the ACNA go a long way in explaining why the ACNA has produced an ordinal and trial eucharistic rites that are not consistent with the Bible and the Anglican formularies. Rather they give expression to unreformed Catholic doctrine and sanction practices associated with this doctrine. What is being lost in this resurgence of unreformed Catholicism in the ACNA is the gospel and a faith and worship firmly grounded in the Word of God—Anglicanism’s true patrimony.

Tim Challies: 10 Steps to Preach From Your iPad

About a year ago, or maybe a little more, Paul Martin (the Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church) went away for a couple of weeks and left me to preach. Because I prepare my sermons digitally, I was finding it increasingly silly to convert them into the older medium of paper. They say that “while the cat’s away the mice will play,” so I took this as an opportunity to begin preaching from an iPad instead of a paper manuscript. I have been preaching from that iPad ever since.

There are many ways to go about it, but I will tell you about the system I have been using for the past year or so. I have found that it works very well. You need only two programs to do this: Pages and GoodReader (or Word and GoodReader if you use a PC). While I continue to use a full-size iPad, this system will work just as well with the Mini. Keep reading

Brad Lomenick: Building Bridges of Excellence

Winning the right to be heard starts with excellence. I’m not an expert, but I know this: building bridges takes a tremendous amount of time, requires precision and is costly and demanding.

Whether it’s the literal bridges we drive on or those we build in business, ministry, friendships and with coworkers, bridge-building is truly an art. And regardless of what we do, we are each called as followers of Jesus to build bridges. Sharing the gospel. Winning the right to be heard. Allowing those around us to discover the life-transforming power of Jesus in us.

Winning the right to be heard starts with intentionality and credibility. The power of a testimony often begins through your work, with few or no words spoken. You can have an amazing ministry just by loving and serving someone without any expectations or reciprocation. When it comes to lifestyle evangelism, connecting with your neighbor or developing a new friendship, there are some key things I've learned over the years that might be helpful. Keep reading

J. I. Packer: Engaging the Written Word of God

One of the most important theologians of the modern era, J. I. Packer sets out his beliefs about the authority of Scripture and the principles that should be applied when interpreting it. He addresses important topics such as responding to present-day views of Scripture, upholding the unity of the Bible, and addressing challenges in biblical interpretation. Pastrol leaders and those looking to engage more deeply with God's Word will appreciate the writings of this man whose practical wisdom and shrewd observations reinforce his significance in Christian thought and apologetics.

Purchase from Barnes & Nobles

Matt Smethurst: A Deeper Look at What the Bible Says About the Bible

The Bible makes many claims about itself within its text. What does it say?

There are only two options when it comes to knowledge of a divine creator: revelation or speculation. Either he speaks, or we guess. Christians believe that, thankfully, he has spoken. The God of heaven and earth has “forfeited his own personal privacy” to reveal himself to us—to befriend us—through a book.1 Scripture is like an all-access pass into the revealed mind and will of God.

By virtually any account the Bible is the most influential book of all time. No shortage of ink has been spilled on writings about it, against it, and in favor of it. But what does the Bible say about itself? Keep reading

Eric Geiger: The Spiritual Discipline That Impacts Everything

In our research behind Transformational Discipleship, we discovered that engagement in one particular spiritual discipline positively impacts engagement in every other spiritual discipline (giving, serving, sharing the gospel, fasting, praying, etc.). In other words, while the other spiritual disciplines are important, engagement in one of these (from a research vantage point) does not necessarily increase engagement in the others. But there is one spiritual discipline that increases activity in every other spiritual discipline.

And that spiritual discipline is ongoing engagement with God’s Word. Those who increase their engagement with God’s Word increase their participation in the other spiritual disciplines. Keep reading

What Encourages Belief in God? Amazing Sights of 'Planet Earth,' Says New Study

Researchers at the Association for Psychological Science have released a new study that suggests that awe - specifically brought on by nature - increases one's tendency to believe in God.

Psychological scientist Piercarlo Valdesolo of Claremont McKenna College and colleague Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California showed study participants either footage of BBC's "Planet Earth" nature documentary series or "neutral" news interviews.

After watching the clips, Valdesolo and Graham asked participants "how much awe they felt while watching the video, and whether they believed that worldly events unfold according to some god's or other non-human entity's plan."

The researchers said that the those who had watched "Planet Earth," a show which includes imagery of earth's waterfalls, canyons, jungles and mountain peaks, were more likely to believe in God and in more supernatural control than participants who had only watched the news. Keep reading
At Hope Church, one of the new church plants in which I have been involved, we found scenes from nature very effective as the background in the slides and video clips of the lyrics of songs used in worship. 

7 year-old Indian boy tortured and killed for being a Christian

A 7-year old boy has been tortured and murdered because of his Christian faith in northern India, Gospel for Asia reports.

The body of the boy, named only as Anmol, was found in a pond last week with shocking injuries that reveal he was subjected to torture before being brutally murdered.

He went missing on November 17 after attending Sunday school at a Believers Church near his home. His parents identified a body pulled out of a pond as that of their young son the next day.

Anmol's family has been a target for persecution since 2003, when his father, Harish, became a Christian after witnessing the miraculous healing of his older brother.

Many other family members came to faith, and Harish was known to be "one of the strong believers" of the local church. His family has received multiple threats of violence and even death as a result of their beliefs. Keep reading

Thursday, November 28, 2013

R. C. Sproul: Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle, Not A Holiday

It is a sure sign that we are sinners that we tend to be more concerned about what we do than what we are. That is, our guilt or peace oftentimes is the fruit of our own judgment of how often we commit a known sin, less often grounded in what we think and how we feel. I may hate my brother, but if I can keep myself from killing him, well, how bad could I be?

In Romans 1 Paul is setting about the business of explaining the universal guilt of men before God. There he answers the telling question, “What about the innocent native in Africa who knows nothing of Christ?” by affirming that all men everywhere both know who God is, and reject that knowledge. Before we have done anything we stand guilty, if only because our eyes tell us there is a God and our hearts hate that truth. Paul then, however, in describing the universal sinful condition of all men outside of Christ adds this condemnation—neither were they grateful. Keep reading
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you most humble and hearty thanks for all your goodness and loving kindness to us, and to all people. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your boundless love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and the hope of glory. Give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, for ever and ever. AMEN.

This version of the General Thanksgiving is taken from An American Prayer Book (2009). The General Thanksgiving was the contribution of the Puritan Edward Reynolds to The Book of Common Prayer of 1662. In 1643 Reynolds was one of the Westminster Assembly divines that drew up the Westminister Confession of Faith. In 1648 he became dean of Christ Church and vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford. In 1650 he lost the vice-chancellorship because, although he promised to obey the laws of the Commonwealth of England, he declined to subscribe to the oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth. He was subsequently ejected from his deanery. At the time of the Restoration in 1660 Reynolds was made a chaplain to Charles II and subsequently Bishop of Norwich.

Book Review: The First Thanksgiving

This week, millions of Americans will gather in extended families, eat to excess, and watch football in a state of pleasant drowsiness. The unluckiest among them will go shopping.

Most will not think much about Pilgrims or Indians, unless they have young children who dress up as such at school. In The First Thanksgiving, Robert Tracy McKenzie encourages Christians to think about Pilgrims and Indians, but not for any of the usual reasons. The Puritan Pilgrims who traveled on the Mayflower and landed on Cape Cod were not American patriots, capitalists, or believers in the freedom of religion as we typically understand it today. They weren't even first. Other Europeans had already organized thanksgiving services in Florida, Maine, and Virginia. McKenzie quips that what the early Plymouth settlers celebrated in 1621 could more accurately be called the “First American Protestant Christian Thanksgiving North of Virginia and South of Maine.”

The First Thanksgiving is actually only partly (even tangentially) about the feast that the Mayflower pilgrims celebrated in 1621. Larger sections of the book discuss McKenzie's Christian understanding of the discipline of history, the history and theology of the Pilgrims, and the evolution of Thanksgiving in the United States. Those looking for a simple and engaging narrative of the first thanksgiving might be disappointed (at least until they've read about two-thirds of the book), but there are good reasons why McKenzie, history department chairman at Wheaton College, constructs his story as he does. Keep reading

Also see
This Thanksgiving, Stop Idolizing the Pilgrims

J. D. Greear: 5 Secrets to a Bolder Life

Most of us would probably like to be bolder. We read the biblical stories of David and Goliath, or of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or of the apostles in Acts, and we think, “It’s great that they had such boldness, but how can I get that kind of fearless heart?”

One of the common strategies for boldness in our society is to visualize frightening situations, imagining them without all of the possible negative outcomes. I found this on a website about overcoming fear: “Imagine your fear as something very large: a monster, an animal, whatever. Have your fear say some of the things that go through your head when you start to feel afraid. As your fear is talking, shrink it down into something smaller than you. Then get back at your fear: yell at it; make faces at it; kick it around; put it in a cage. Do whatever it takes to make your fear seem small and less threatening.”

So is that it? Do we just re-cast our fears so that they don’t seem as threatening? This can work for some folks, but it has a limit—because no matter how much we imagine our fears as small and cuddly, there always is a possibility that our fears might come true. So for visualization to be successful, this kind of courage needs to be slightly delusional.

There has to be a better way. And in fact, the believers in Acts 4 show us five secrets to a bolder life.... Keep reading

Illustration: courtesy of Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Ed Stetzer: The Urgent Mission, a Devotional from J.D. Greear

Some estimate that there are 3 billion people who have little to no access to the gospel.

It's one thing to affirm the reality of hell in our heads, but it's another thing entirely to be gripped by this truth to the point it affects our actions. If we truly believe that people who do not know Christ will face eternity without Him in judgment, then certain implications follow. Right now, one third of the people on our planet claim to be Christians. Two thirds do not name the name of Jesus. Some estimate that there are 3 billion people who have little to no access to the gospel. There are more than six thousand Unreached People Groups.

As Christians, it is not enough for us to check off the box "Hell" on our list of doctrines. This truth is meant to change our lives. It's meant to give our mission a sense of urgency. God doesn't expect us to speculate endlessly about the fate of the unevangelized or the nature of hell. He expects us to believe what He has said and to get busy telling others about Jesus.

When it comes to missions, many people pray like this, "God, if you tell me to go, I'll go." Instead, considering the urgency of our mission, we ought to pray this way: "Here I am, Lord. Send me. Use my life as a seed to bring great harvest." You don't have to go overseas to be a missionary. You can be a missionary in your community. You can support those who do go to the hard places where people have never heard the gospel.

Your life will look different than mine. The Holy Spirit will use you in ways unique to your gifts and situation. But make no mistake. He will use you if you are surrendered to His plan and purposes. Don't deny the doctrine of hell, ignore it, or downplay it. Affirm the truth, and then surrender to God's global mission. Keep reading

Alister McGrath: A 'mere Christian'? Assessing C.S. Lewis after fifty years

Few can have failed to notice that this day marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis (1898-1963).

Throughout the summer, Lewis has featured prominently in literary festivals across the length and breadth of England. His home church - Holy Trinity, Headington Quarry, Oxford - arranged a modest celebration of the anniversary in September, and found themselves swamped by the public interest. Westminster Abbey organised a major conference to mark his religious significance, and were astonished and delighted when the 850 tickets sold out well in advance. The BBC - for whom Lewis gave four series of talks during the Second World War - has made frequent reference to Lewis in recent weeks, and will be highlighting his significance in a series of programmes dedicated to Lewis.

Why this interest in Britain, I found myself wondering? Conventional wisdom has it that Lewis is phenomenally successful in North America, while being a prophet without honour in the United Kingdom. Yet the response to the Lewis anniversary events in England suggests that this judgement may need to be reviewed. Lewis's star has risen in the media, popular culture and the academy. 50 years after his death, Lewis has become a figure of cultural, intellectual and literary significance in his homeland, without losing his appeal elsewhere.

This development would have taken Lewis by surprise. In the final years of his life, Lewis was given to expressing the view that he would be remembered at most for about five years after his death. He would be a spent force, culture having moved on in directions which would have left him behind. There is ample evidence that Lewis did indeed go through some such marginalisation in the 1960s. Many have noted the inadequacy of his response to John Robinson's hugely influential book Honest to God (1963), although this probably reflects his poor health as much as his inability to grasp the new directions in which British society was moving. Lewis might well have connected up with cultural anxieties of the period of the Second World War and its aftermath. But the new cultural mood of the 1960s had no place for Lewis's defence of the Christian faith, or his careful justification of the continuing value of older literary works and their embedded ideas and norms. The sales of his writings went into decline. Keep reading

Mike Ovey: Extinction in a generation?

Have a read of this report from the Daily Telegraph: ‘Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, warns Christianity “a generation away from extinction” in Britain. Clergy are now gripped by a “feeling of defeat”, congregations are worn down by “heaviness” while the public simply greets both with “rolled eyes and a yawn of boredom”, he said.’

Lord Carey goes on to say how in particular ‘we’ have let down young people and that we must deploy ministers to get children and youth back into church.

There’s much here to admire. Lord Carey may no longer be Archbishop of Canterbury, but it still takes courage for such an establishment figure to point out just how bad things are. But he’s quite right: Christianity is a generation away from extinction in the United Kingdom. This is something both very old and very new. Let me explain. Keep reading
I read Mike Ovey's comments on Lord Carey's warning with an eye to how they might apply to North America and the Anglican Church in North America. They prompt me to ask the following questions:

Is the Anglican Church in North America, to use Ovey's words, actually preaching the gospel?

Due to its present movement in the direction of unreformed Catholicism is the ACNA preaching something else?

Do the clergy and laity in ACNA churches know the gospel personally, understand it intellectually and care enough to share it?

Church Society Director Lee Gatiss responds to the Pilling Report on sexuality

"Church Society welcomes the publication of the Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, so that it can be discussed openly and publicly by the whole church.

Like the apostle Jude, in the Bible, we would prefer to discuss the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers to all, but feel constrained to respond to the teaching of those who are changing the gospel into an affirmation of immoral behaviour.

We call on the church to read the report prayerfully, and to weigh its teaching and recommendations carefully in the light of scripture's very clear teaching on sexuality, to which the Church of England is committed in its canons, doctrinal formularies, Synodical statements, and the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference. We particularly commend to people the "dissenting statement" in the report from the Bishop of Birkenhead, and thank him for its clarity and care. A further statement will be made in due course." Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society.

Click here for full Pilling Report and CofE statement (CofE website).

Click here for BBC News report: Church of England urged to offer same-sex blessings. Includes Lee Gatiss/Church Society quote.

Also see
Church of England report on human sexuality: Clergy should be able to bless same sex partnerships
Originally posted on EVNews, a service of the Church Society.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: November 27, 2013

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:
From yesterday:

Why Isn’t the Anglican Church in North America More Comprehensive?

By Robin G. Jordan

Those who claim that there is no single way to be Anglican are displaying the influence of Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism. Both Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism have sought to expand the boundaries of Anglican comprehensiveness beyond those set by the Thirty-Nine Articles. According to one liberal view Anglicanism embraces anything and everything that a church identifying itself as Anglican believes or practices. All the church needs is some kind of historical connection with the Church of England and the recognition of the See of Canterbury.

While the eighteenth century latitudinarians may have been the first to assert that Anglican comprehensiveness is broader than its sixteenth century limits, the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics were the most aggressive in pressing beyond those limits. They were intent on carving out a space for themselves in the Anglican Church. However, they were not satisfied to be one church party or faction among many. Their ultimate goal was to take over the entire church.

Their vision in the nineteenth century was to so Catholicize the Church of England that the Pope would readmit the English Church to the Roman fold. Their vision is still to Catholicize the Anglican Church. The Pope Leo XIII’ declaration of the invalidity of Anglican orders in 1896 and more recently Pope Benedict XVI’s creation of the Anglican Ordinariate have forced Anglo-Catholics to abandon the hope of reunification with Rome. In place of that vision they have settled for making Edward Bouverie Pusey’s theory of Anglicanism as a third great branch of Catholicism a reality.

In the second half of the twentieth century Anglo-Catholics found allies in the adherents of the convergence and Ancient Future worship renewal movements. The convergence movement began as a movement among evangelical and charismatic churches in the United States to blend charismatic worship with liturgies from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and other sources. The Ancient Future worship renewal movement is a particular expression of the convergence movement that has encouraged evangelical and charismatic churches to incorporate liturgical forms and other traditional practices into their worship. The convergence movement would lead to the formation of the so-called “convergence communions.” Convergence theology has strongly influenced the Anglican Mission in the Americas and the Anglican Church in the North America.

One of the developments in the convergence/Ancient Future worship renewal movement is a growing receptivity toward Catholic doctrine, order, and practice. While supposedly bring together the three streams of Catholicism, evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism into one river, the Catholic stream has proven to be the strongest current in the river. This stream is not the reformed catholicism of historic Anglicanism but the unreformed Catholicism of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

The Catholic stream is so strong that what is happening in churches in which the influence of the convergence/Ancient Future worship renewal movement is the strongest may be described as a Catholic resurgence. Among the characteristics of the convergence/Ancient Future worship renewal movement is a rather naïve, romantic view of the early and medieval Churches, a penchant for antiquarianism, and an aversion to the Reformation. These same characteristics marked the Anglo-Catholic movement and the Catholic revival in the nineteenth century.

Adherents of the convergence/Ancient Future worship renewal movement claim what they perceive as the bringing together of the Catholic, evangelical, and Pentecostal traditions is the work of the Holy Spirit. One of the implications of this claim is that the Reformation was not the work of the Holy Spirit. Historically evangelicals have understood the Reformation to be the Holy Spirit’s work and have traced the roots of evangelicalism to the Reformation and its recovery of the Bible and the gospel. This may explain in part the redefinition of evangelical and evangelicalism in convergence circles and their claims of the existence of “Ancient Evangelicals.” Evangelicalism is reduced to an emphasis on the Bible and evangelism.

Adherents of the convergence movement are not the only ones who claim that the Holy Spirit is at work in their movement. So do liberals. The nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics also believed that the Holy Spirit was at work in their movement.

A part of the appeal of convergence theology to North American Anglicans is its claim that the convergence of the Catholic, evangelical, and Pentecostal traditions the Holy Spirit is bringing about is taking place in the  the Anglican Church in North America and the concomitant belief that the leaders and members of the ACNA are particularly anointed by God. As well as meeting a need for meaning in people’s lives, these beliefs also appeal to a common human weakness—pride. North Americans in the United States have also long viewed themselves as set apart by God for greatness: They have in their own estimation a special destiny to fulfill.

What is emerging in the  Anglican Church in North America is a synthesis of Pusey’s theory of Anglicanism as the third great branch of Catholic Christianity and convergence theology’s notion of one river in which flows three streams. The two views complement each other in a number of ways.

How do these developments have any bearing upon comprehensiveness in the Anglican Church in North America? They are actually very pertinent to why the ACNA is not more comprehensive than it is.

Anglo-Catholics have a history of demanding room for their theological tradition in the Anglican Church while at the same time refusing to make room for other theological traditions. In the nineteenth century they tried to drive the evangelicals out of the Church of England. Through their intransigence in response to the plea of conservative evangelicals for modest revisions in the American Prayer Book they forced these evangelicals out of the Episcopal Church.

For Anglo-Catholics, as for liberals, tolerance is a one-way street. You can travel down it only in one direction. They expect, even demand to be tolerated but are quite intolerant themselves. They expect others to compromise but are unwilling themselves to compromise. Where they do compromise, it is on matters that are not of great importance to them.

Anglo-Catholics favor the kind of comprehensiveness, if it can be called that, which provides ample room for their beliefs and practices but affords very little room for the beliefs and practices of other theological traditions, which are not compatible with theirs. It calls for the acceptance or tolerance of Anglo-Catholic views and the dismissal of incompatible views. It is essentially saying that Anglo-Catholic views should be recognized over the views of other traditions because Anglo-Catholic views are right and the views of other traditions are wrong. It is not really comprehensiveness.

Those who adhere to convergence theology display similar attitudes to Anglo-Catholics. They expect tolerance of their views but they are intolerant of views not in agreement with theirs. They are persuaded that the Holy Spirit is uniquely at work in themselves and that they are fulfilling a divine mission. Those who do not agree with them are either spiritually unenlightened or blind or they are deliberately opposing God. Convergentists suffer from all the shortcomings of the Corinthian pneumatics even though they as individuals may not have experienced the baptism or release of the Holy Spirit and may not practice the sign gifts such as speaking in tongues.

Like Anglo-Catholics, convergentists believe that their views should be accepted or tolerated because they are right and those who do not share their views are wrong. Tolerance of their views includes not putting up an argument, staying silent, and going along with whatever they say or do.

In their tendency to ignore or minimize the differences between the Catholic, evangelical, and Pentecostal traditions, adherents of convergence theology overlook the fact the Catholic and evangelical traditions represent not only conflicting interpretations of Scripture but disparate views of the Bible and revelation. As I previously noted, they take a reductionist view of evangelicals and evangelicalism. The end result is that unreformed Catholicism tends to dominate their theological outlook as well as their piety and practice.

A notable trend in convergentist circles is to equate the Pentecostal tradition that is converging with the Catholic and evangelical traditions in the Anglican Church in North America with Eastern Orthodoxy and its pneumatology, and not with the twentieth century Pentecostalism and the charismatic and third-wave movements. Those who take this view appear to be trying to redefine the Pentecostal tradition and provide it with Catholic credentials. Twentieth century Pentecostalism has its roots in the holiness movement and Wesleyanism and ultimately the Reformation and Protestantism.

Adherents of convergence theology favor the same kind of comprehensiveness as Anglo-Catholics. It would make plenty of room for themselves and those who have similar beliefs and practices to theirs but would give very little space to those who do not. The latter group would be required to go along with the beliefs and practices of the other two groups. As I noted earlier, it is not really comprehensiveness.

You may have noted that I do not refer to convergentists as charismatics. The convergence movement is an outgrowth of the charismatic movement. However, those who subscribe to convergence theology are not all charismatics. They may have a continualist view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and they may have adopted the more free-flowing style of worship associated with charismatic churches. But they may not themselves have experienced the baptism or release of the Holy Spirit. They also may not practice the sign gifts. They do exhibit the tendency to view themselves as a spiritual elite, a tendency that marred the charismatic movement.

The limits of historic Anglican comprehensiveness are defined by the Thirty-Nine Articles. As J. I. Packer points out in The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, doctrinal requirements are kept down to the minimum and the maximum of flexibility and variety are allowed on secondary matters:
The Articles are in this sense minimal (they are the shortest of the Reformation confessions.) But they are meant to ensure that all Anglican clergy, whatever their views on other matters, should unite in teaching an Augustian doctrine of sin and a Reformed doctrine of justification and grace – should, in other words, unite in proclaiming what the Reformers took to be the New Testament gospel.
Within these limits, High Church Protestantism flourished alongside evangelicalism in the Church of England.

The “evangelical comprehensiveness” to which the Thirty-Nine Articles sets the boundaries is too restrictive to the tastes of Anglo-Catholics, convergentists, and liberals. They prefer a comprehensiveness the limits of which they themselves define and which benefits them the most. It is not inclusive of Anglicans faithful to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine and liturgical usages of the Anglican formularies. It leaves out those who from perspective of the Anglican formularies are genuinely Anglican.

The situation in the Anglican Church in North America in the early twenty-first century parallels that in the Episcopal Church in the early twentieth century. Anglo-Catholic elements in the Episcopal Church joined with Broad Church elements in that province to remove the Thirty-Nine Articles from the back of the American Prayer Book and to produce the retrograde 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics in the ACNA have joined with convergentists—the new Anglo-Catholics—in the ACNA to produce an ordinal and eucharistic rites that also can be described as moving backward—returning to the beliefs and practices of unreformed Catholicism.

This partnership also produced the Common Cause Theological Statement which would be adopted as the Fundamental Declarations of the ACNA—a document that equivocates in its acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles; includes the Medieval Sarum Missal, the partially-reformed 1549 Prayer Book, and the retrograde1637 Scottish Prayer Book in its standard of worship; and takes an Anglo-Catholic position on the necessity of the episcopate to the existence of the Church. The Fundamental Declarations effectively bars from the ACNA faithful Anglicans who are firm in their adherence to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies and are unwilling to compromise their beliefs.

The canons of the Anglican Church in North America also contain doctrine, both stated and implied, over which Anglicans historically have been divided. The Thirty-Nine Articles reject the Roman Catholic sacramental system but the ACNA canons accept it.

For those who were paying attention, a number of then Bishop Robert Duncan’s speeches were red flags warning them of what lay ahead. In the days before the most recent Lambeth Conference Bishop Duncan dismissed the Elizabethan Settlement as being no longer relevant to the contemporary Anglican Church and talked about the need for a “new settlement.”  The Anglican formularies—the Thirty-Nine Articles, the two Books of Homilies, and even the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the 1662 Ordinal—are an integral part of the Elizabethan Settlement.  The 1662 Prayer Book and the 1661 Ordinal are essentially the Prayer Book and Ordinal of the Elizabethan Settlement.  In later speeches he spoke about the need for regression in a time of crisis, for turning back the clock to an earlier time in the faith and life of the Church.

I personally question the genuineness of the Anglican identity of the Anglican Church in North America for the reasons I have outlined in this article. I do not believe that the ACNA can be viewed as Anglican because one group of faithful Anglicans who adhere to the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies are presently maintaining a tenuous existence in that body. They are making compromises which eventually will lead to the erosion of their Anglican identity. The ACNA has not made any major changes to accommodate them.

The existence of this group of Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America is not an indication that the ACNA is comprehensive in a true sense of the word.  It might be described as an accident. Some might describe it as providential but they are more optimistic than I am. The preponderance of evidence, when weighed, leads me to conclude that the days of this group of Anglicans are numbered. Those who exercise the most influence in the ACNA’s doctrinal and liturgical commissions and its College of Bishops are moving the ACNA in the direction of unreformed Catholicism. They are not making room for this group of Anglicans and their beliefs and practices. This group of Anglicans will, with the adoption of the ACNA Prayer Book and Catechism, be expected to conform more closely to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the ACNA. If they are unwilling to do so, they will be given the option to leave.

This kind of exclusion is exactly what happened to the same group of Anglicans in the Episcopal Church. They could privately hold to whatever beliefs they liked. However, they could not publicly practice their beliefs or pass them on to others. It is the kind of exclusion that should prompt the intervention of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. For reasons to which I am not privy the GFCA cannot bring itself to take such action.  The world once more will be treated to the spectacle of Anglicans suffering persecution in a purportedly Anglican church for being Anglican.

Photo: Overwhelmed by Grace

Karl Vaters: The #1 Rule to Help Reduce Church Clutter and Renew Effective Ministry

It’s not easy to create a culture of renewal, change and adaptability in a Small Church.

But it is essential.

As I mentioned in last Friday’s post about creating a change culture in your church, there needs to be a renewal process in place or the changes will be random, unsettling and ultimately, unsuccessful.

Today’s post is about the most effective renewal process I know for Small Churches.

I call it the Closet Rule.

When people have to live in small spaces, like apartment buildings, or renting a room in someone else’s house, they adapt to systems that allow them to have everything they need, without getting cluttered.
One of the first rules recommended by many de-cluttering experts is this: before you add a new item of clothes to your closet, toss out an old one.

Small Churches need to do the same thing.

The Closet Rule for Small Churches: Don’t add a new ministry until you’re willing to lose an old ministry. Keep reading

Photo: La Maison Charmante

Ed Stetzer: Continualist Christians: The "Third" Wave of the Holy Spirit

I've already written extensively on my continualist brothers and sisters and I thought it helpful to continue that series for a couple more posts.

I started this series during the Strange Fire Conference, to (I hope) provide some additional light in the midst of what became a lot of social media heat. (Honestly, 140 characters on Twitter is NOT the best place for theological conversations.)

The Mainstreaming of the Continualist View

One of the interesting results of the Strange Fire conference and book may be the point of John MacArthur's concern—the reaction shows that more and more evangelicals are, indeed, continualists. That's important for this post, so I thought it worth mentioning in the introduction.

Simply put, belief in the sign gifts seems to be a mainstream view now. (I'd not be surprised if it is a majority view, and plan to poll on that soon and to see how belief "in" relates to practice "of" those gifts.) Regardless, even organizations in a similar theological stream (Reformed) to John MacArthur, like The Gospel Coalition, are providing helpful analyses on the continualist movement. Pastors like John Piper are explaining their robustly continualist beliefs.

As such, I imagine that John MacArthur, as a convinced cessationist, felt a bit like Jerome who woke up "the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian." Thus, he spoke up and against this growing continualist influence and, of course, the debate was joined by others.

However, my approach has been to educate rather than debate. There's been plenty of criticism (and counter criticism) and that has been needed at times (in both directions). Of course, one of the important things we need to consider about criticism is this: do those being criticized recognize themselves in the criticism. (See my series on criticism here.) Keep reading

Perry Noble: Don't Go It Alone

The little old lady stepped onto the machine with a smile on her face, having no clue I’d exited the treadmill at maximum speed. She had no idea what was waiting for her the moment she hit that start button.

I saw her step on the treadmill, and then something on the television screen caught my attention. All of a sudden I heard the sound of a jet taking off and someone screaming, “Help!” at the top of her lungs. I glanced at the treadmill and saw this lady holding on to the arm rails with a look of terror on her face, her legs flying out behind her.

At that point she didn’t need someone to pray for her. She didn’t need to read a book titled Ten Ways to Escape the Treadmill of Death. She didn’t need advice or some sort of cute jewelry with a cross on it to remind her that Jesus is always with her.

She needed someone to come alongside her and unplug the treadmill!

I leaped off the bike, ran over and ripped the plug out of the outlet. Then I helped her sit down against a wall. The woman’s husband, who had been on the rowing machine at the back of the gym, ran over and thanked me for saving her life. I wasn’t sure I’d exactly rescued her from the jaws of death, but I was starting to grasp that she could have been in some trouble if I hadn’t been close enough to help her out.

As I walked out of the gym that day, I couldn’t get that woman out of my mind. I’m sure she’d shown up at the gym that day expecting to walk on the treadmill at a nice, comfortable pace for about 20 minutes and then go home and maybe even bake an apple pie.

But life didn’t turn out quite like she’d anticipated. She hit the start button, and before she knew it, she was in trouble—and quite unable to get herself out of the situation on her own. There’s no way she could have rescued herself. She needed help!

And so do we all....

Whatever the specifics, life happens. We all have those “treadmill moments.” And if we aren’t careful, those situations can send us flying off course, derailing us from the purpose God has for us. We wind up feeling trapped and helpless and alone.

How do we survive those tough times? Is it possible to live an unleashed life even when everything around us is falling apart? It is possible—but to do so, we have to be willing to let other people into our lives. God never meant for us to do life alone. Keep reading

Rick Warren: Ministry Leadership Is All About Serving Others

Jesus said in Matthew 20:26 & 28 (Living Bible), “Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like My own. For I did not come to be served, but to serve.” Then Luke 22:26, “But among you the one who serves best will be your leader.”

These two verses are the foundation for Christian leadership. Jesus said the exact opposite of what the world says as what a real leader is. In the world, you build a pyramid and you climb to the top. But Jesus said, “No, he who serves best leads best.” Servanthood is leadership. The better you serve the more God raises you up to leadership.

Leadership is not a matter of getting people to serve your interests. Leadership is a matter of serving the best interests of others. Jesus said, If you want to be great, you learn to be the servant of all.
God is much more interested in why you do what you do than He is interested in what you do. Check out your heart on these.... Keep reading

Chuck Lawless: Are Church Leaders Responsible for Church Members?

Several times, the Apostle Paul wrote about the church as the “body of Christ” (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 4:12; Col. 1:24). While this image is only one of dozens of images of the church in the New Testament, it is a most helpful one. Thinking and applying this image properly should lead us to consider several implications for the church and church leadership.... Keep reading

Greg Breazeale: How to Grow as a Preacher [Video]

Greg Breazeale, Senior Pastor of Metro East Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas, discusses how pastors must root their personal lives in the gospel to effectively preach it. Watch now

Dale Galloway: Making the Small Group Transition

Christianity Today calls it "The Great Small Group Takeover." Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow describes it as a "quiet revolution" happening across North America. Experts on church renewal usually link some form of small group vitality to the revivals and breakthrough churches they study.

Today's small group movement has already impacted many churches in your community. Congregations old and young, large and small have vibrant small groups. Their widespread influence has been documented in everything from Gallup polls to sales trends at local Christian bookstores.

For 30 years I've watched churches experience the miracle of dramatic life change that occurs when the Holy Spirit works through outreach-minded, caring small groups. I've seen Portland, Oregon, touched for Jesus Christ, where an eventual network of 500 trained lay pastors at New Hope Community Church provided effective, ongoing pastoral care to more than 5,000 people.

This return to New Testament community has shown up with many different faces-from Serendipity Groups to generic follow-on small groups that start spontaneously after Promise Keepers rallies. It doesn't matter what you call "social kinship units," as Peter Wagner describes them, but it does matter whether your church is experiencing their many benefits. Do you know how to help your church take part in what God is doing? Is your church experiencing the positive transformation that can happen as one-another ministry ripples through the body of Jesus Christ?

Small group ministry is not an option if people are to be cared for, nurtured, and equipped for ministry. If you follow the listed positive transitions in your church, you will be amazed at what God will do. These 14 principles have been tested and proven-often with exciting results-in hundreds of charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Keep reading