Thursday, June 30, 2016

On the Net: "Issues in the Future of Evangelicalism" and More

Issues in the Future of Evangelicalism

The future of evangelicalism includes harsh realities for churches. Read More

5 Multisite Ministry Malfunctions

Before you launch a campaign and strategize with your team, take note of these potential multisite malfunctions that our team has witnessed in our work helping churches find their staff members. Read More

The Primary Trait that Leads to Church Growth

Hustle. If you want to see your church grow, you must hustle. This may sound generic to you. “Ok, Jeremy. I need to work hard. Thanks for this stunning advice.” Yes. Hustle. It’s that simple. Read More

4 Lessons the Haystack Prayer Meeting Teaches Us

An often overlooked monument at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts marks one of the most important events in the history of the world. Read More

Why I Am Not Egalitarian

I've got just two articles remaining in this series I’ve titled “Why I Am Not…” Week by week I am describing why I have rejected some theological positions in favor of others and my purpose is not so much to persuade as it is to explain. There is a story behind every position I hold and each of these articles tells one of those stories. I have already told why I am not atheist, Roman Catholic, liberal, Arminian, paedobaptist, or dispensational. Today I want to tell why I am not egalitarian. Read More

The Trinity debate in 200 words

I’ve been asked by several people to explain the current Trinity debate in a way that someone without seminary training can understand. In other words, no Latin allowed. I want to do that today because I sense a frustration in many people that read blogs but feel left behind. So here is my attempt to simplify the issues (in 200 words!) so that you read the Scriptures with these categories in your mind. Read More

Early Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Staff Member

How can we get out in front and recognize the early warning signs of a good staff member starting to head in the wrong direction? The starting point is to know what to look for. Read More

10 Ways to Have a Reproducing Culture

Reproducing cultures reproduce leaders. Read More

3 Ways to Recover Enthusiasm for Your Current Role

Intuitively we know that if we just bounce from role to role, we won’t really make a long-standing impact. The apostle Paul challenged believers to keep their zeal and enthusiasm (Romans 12:11). Thus, wise leaders continually stir up passion for their current roles. Here are three practical ways to do so.... Read More

9 Hidden Factors That Influence Your Leadership More Than You Think

What hidden factors threaten to make or break you as a leader? Read More

7 Signs of Dangerous Ministry Burnout

Perry Noble on seven warning signs that you’re rapidly approaching ministry burnout. Read More

Preacher’s Toolkit: Should I Learn Hebrew and Greek or Is Bible Software Enough?

Now that we have computer programs like BibleWorks, Logos, and Accordance, why do pastors and Bible teachers need to study the biblical languages? Read More

Blog spotlights 'evergreen' evangelism principles

Southern Baptist pastors looking to equip their churches in evangelism have a new tool to employ. The North American Mission Board has launched a blog to bring attention to "evergreen" principles that are working in some of the most evangelistic Southern Baptist churches in North America. Read More

Women who attend religious services five time less likely to commit suicide, study says

Women who regularly attend religious services are five times less likely to commit suicide in comparison to those who never attend services, researchers have found. Read More

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Research: Unchurched Will Talk about Faith, Not Interested in Going to Church

Americans who don't go to church are happy to talk about religion and often think about the meaning of life, according to a new study released today (June 28).

They're also open to taking part in community service events hosted at a church or going to a church concert, the research revealed. But only about a third say they'd be interested in going to a worship service, and few think about what happens after they die.

Those are among the findings of a new online survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans from LifeWay Research. The survey, conducted in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., found more than half of Americans who don't go to church identify as Christians.

But they are mostly indifferent to organized religion, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

"Unchurched Americans aren't hostile to faith," he said. "They just don't think church is for them." Read More

Also See
Unchurched will talk about faith but aren't drawn to worship
Your Unchurched Friends Want to Know About Your Faith

On the Net: "The Holy Spirit as Seal and Pledge" and More

The Holy Spirit as Seal and Pledge

God’s seal is not, like the great seal of the United States, an emblem to be impressed on paper. God’s seal is His Holy Spirit, who is God Himself present with His people. To be sure, God has given us also outward signs and seals of His ownership. In baptism God seals us by giving us His name; in the Lord’s Supper we have the spiritual seal of His presence in the sacrament. Even these seals have a power beyond the outward sign: the reality of God’s presence provides the blessing. But God gives a seal that is even more than these gifts of blessing. His final seal is the gift of Himself. Read More

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

I have learned if you want to have a culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common paradigms necessary. You have to think certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward. What are some of those paradigms? Read More

The Secret Things Belong to God (Evil, the Will of God, and the Cross)

Believers will always have questions about the will of God. Read More

Heresy and Humility — Lessons from a Current Controversy

As Harold O. J. Brown warned, the gates of hell often come very close to the church. Confusing the questions endangers the church, and no faithful theologian would willingly risk that danger. Read More

A Reply to Dr. Mohler on Nicene Trinitarianism

I believe some friendly clarifications are in order by way of response, in the hope that these will help focus and shape future discussion in a productive and amicable manner. Read More

Do You Want to See Your Church's Future? Look to Its Past.

How a congregation's history can light its way forward. Read More

Seven Reasons the Church Secretary Position Is Disappearing

Hear me clearly. I am not diminishing the worth of church secretaries. I am simply noting a trend that few people are articulating. The position of church secretary is disappearing. Here are seven reasons why.... Read More

When a Christian Feels Dry: A Simple Practice

I believe one of the great disciplines of the Christian faith is meditation. I am not speaking of meditation as many speak of it today. It is not the mind-emptying meditation of Eastern religions or the monotonous humming meditation of mysticism. Christian meditation fills the mind, so the soul is moved. And as Christians, we seek to fill our minds with and see our souls move by the person of Christ. Read More

Incarnational Ministry: Living Big in Small Places

Jesus’ public life was an outgrowth of his subterranean existence as he lived among people in the margins. Read More

5 Reasons We Struggle to Be a ‘Friend of Sinners’

Out of all of the names of God in the Bible, there is only one that is actually attainable by you and me—’friend of sinners. Read More

A Leading Anglican Theologian Exposes the 'Third Way' Myth

Myths are not necessarily old. A new myth is being invented by Anglican church leaders who claim to be orthodox and even evangelical. They tell us that differences between Christians about the acceptability of same-sex relationships are secondary issues and the Church should therefore follow a ‘Third Way’ which maintains unity in contrast to, on the one hand, the liberal insistence on homosexual practice as a right and, on the other, the historic understanding that this is an issue of core doctrine and therefore leads to broken communion if there is not repentance. Read More

Why the Arguments for a Third Way Do Not Work

This morning I was listening to a sermon preached recently at an Evangelical Anglican church that argued for a third way between the conservative and liberal approaches to the issue of human sexuality. This third way would consist in being willing to live with difference over this issue in the same way that we manage to live with differences in the church over a whole host of other issues. Read More

Russia's Proposed Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church

Evangelicals protest the law, which would severely limit where and how Christians share the gospel. Read More

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the Net: "Priests or Presbyters?" and More

Priests or Presbyters?

Robert Evans is preparing for his ordination - but is he going to be ordained priest, or presbyter? Read More

12 Signs Your Church May Be in Trouble

I realize this post may be discouraging, but it’s necessary. If we don’t recognize warning signs of a struggling church, we sometimes wait too long to try to fix the problem. Be aware of these signs that your church might be in trouble.... Read More

3 Challenges in Urban Ministry

Urban ministry engages depravity, longevity and community. Read More

Matt Chewning on Planting a Church From Scratch…in Boston [Podcast]

Of all the things Boston is known for, being kind to church planters is one NOT of them. But Matt Chewning heard a call, left a career in corporate America and started Netcast Church. Matt shares the ins and outs of how his church has become one of the fastest growing churches in New England. Read More

4 Reasons I Believe “Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly”

If a wrong player is added to the team, the collective culture and effectiveness of the team is harmed. Read More

5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential. Read More

5 Reasons Why Teenagers Need Theology

As a Jesus-following teenager, I believe studying God’s character is what teenagers need in order to face our terribly complicated world. It’s what will give us lasting hope to face our future with a firm commitment to God’s truth. Read More

Social Media – Enemy or Friend

There is no use complaining about social media. Like wealth, it is here to stay. Like wealth, it is very useful. However, like wealth, there are dangers. Like wealth, social media is a very helpful servant but a dominating and potentially destructive master. Read More

PCA Goes Back to Where It Started: Women’s Ordination

Meanwhile, the shrinking PCUSA makes plans to recover its identity. Read More

The Theology of Donald Trump

Four words that reveal what his followers really believe. Read More

Monday, June 27, 2016

Resources for Learning to Sing the Psalms

By Robin G. Jordan

One of my readers asked me if I knew of any good instructional recordings on how to learn to chant the Psalms. This prompted me to search the Internet for resources that might be helpful to her and other readers interested in learning to chant the Psalms. Listed below are some of the resources that I found and which I think may be helpful. I have also listed a number of resources for those interested in singing metrical Psalms.

All three methods of singing the Psalms – plainsong, Anglican chant, and metrical Psalms – have a long history in the Anglican Church. Of the three methods, Anglican chant requires an SATB choir. Plainsong and metrical Psalms can be sung by a unison choir, small ensemble, or soloist. All three methods require the right kind of acoustical environment. Plainsong and Anglican chant cannot be sung in an acoustical environment with the wrong resonance or no resonance at all. While metrical Psalms are less dependent upon the acoustical environment in which they are sung, they will not sound as they ought to in a poor acoustical environment. A number of early metrical Psalm tunes are based upon chant.

Psalmody Project Study Materials:

Lists several websites that may be helpful to those seeking to learn how to chant the Psalms.

This site has videos in which several plainsong Psalm tones are demonstrated. You can pick up the tones from listening to them. I recognized a number of the tones.

The Manual of Plainsong, 1902 edition:   

This manual contains the English Book of Common Prayer (1662) offices set to Gregorian tones. It provides pointing for the Psalms as well as the canticles and the other parts of the offices.

An introduction to the Psalms and Psalm singing

The basics of chanting a Psalm.

Sing the Psalms video: Wednesday Psalm 147 1-11:

This video provides the text of Psalm 147 and demonstrates how to chant the psalm.

How to Read and Sing Gregorian Chant:   

Some of the lessons on this website devoted to chanting the Psalms in Latin may be helpful.

A discussion of Anglican chant on the Musica Sacra forum.

A good list of psalms available for hearing on Youtube.

Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD:

The description of the book and the CD on Amazon.Com:
Chanting the psalms, or psalmody, is an ancient practice of vital importance in the Christian spiritual tradition. Today many think of it as a discipline that belongs only in monasteries—but psalmody is a spiritual treasure that is available to anyone who prays. You don’t need to be musical or a monk to do it, and it can be enjoyed in church liturgical worship, in groups, or even individually as part of a personal rule of prayer. Cynthia Bourgeault brings the practice into the twenty-first century, providing a history of Christian psalmody as well as an appreciation of its place in contemplative practice today. And she teaches you how to do it as you chant along with her on the accompanying CD in which she demonstrates the basic techniques and easy melodies that anyone can learn. “Even if you can’t read music,” Cynthia says, “or if somewhere along the way you’ve absorbed the message that your voice is no good or you can’t sing on pitch, I’ll still hope to show you that chanting the psalms is accessible to nearly everyone.”
I have not reviewed the book or listened to the CD so I cannot comment on how helpful they might be.

An introduction to Archbishop Parker’s Psalter—a metrical Psalter prepared by Elizabeth I’s first Archbishop of Canterbury. .

An introduction to the nine tunes Thomas Tallis composed for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter.

An article I wrote on the early metrical Psalters used in the Elizabethan Church. It includes a link to a selection of Archbishop Parker’s metrical settings of the Psalms sung to Tallis’ tunes, a link to the whole Psalter, and a link to Sternhold and Hopkins Old Version.

The whole Psalter translated into English metre : which contayneth an hundred and fifty Psalmes ; the first quinquagene:

The first edition of Archbishop Parker’s Psalter.

A New Version of the Psalms of David in Metre:

Tate and Brady's New Version was used well into the nineteenth century and formed a large part of the repertoire of the “village quires” along with the hymns of John Newton, Isaac Watts, and John and Charles Wesley.

Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts:

The texts of the Psalms and hymns written by Isaac Watts.

On the Net: "7 Times the Speed of Change Can Be Faster than Normal" and Much More

7 Times the Speed of Change Can Be Faster than Normal

There are unique opportunities where change can be introduced and implemented quicker than other times. Read More

5 Surprising Reasons People Leave Your Church

Why do people leave even when you’re making progress at your church? Simple. The people who are at your church today are there because they like it the way it is. Change that (even for the better), and some will leave. Read More

How to Handle Difficult People

Mike Ayers shares what he has learned in 20 odd years of pastoring. Read More

Episode 76: Finding the Right Sized Launch Team

How many people does it really take to launch a new church? Listen Now

The Most Unexpected Source of Pain in Our Church Planting Journey

Put simply, it’s the hurtful words and dismissive postures I’ve felt from other pastors and ministry leaders.... Read More

Episode 75: Leading Your Church Plant on the Road To Multiplication

Begin setting your sights on moving your church plant toward multiplication. Listen Now
A new church plant that does not reproduce within the first five years of its own launch is not likely to reproduce in its entire lifetime.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a Church)

Birthing a new church is not without pain. Read More

The Calvinist’s Ultimate Concern

Calvinists are people whose theology is dominated by the idea of God. Read More


Perhaps you’ve heard of the acronym “FAT” when recruiting volunteers. When you are looking to build your team, start by asking who is.... Read More

Stop Trying to Graduate from Leadership Basics

When leaders attempt to graduate from the basics there are at least three negative implications.... Read More

Eight Time Drainers of Pastors and Staff (and Eight Solutions)

Let’s look at some of the greatest time drainers of pastors and staff, with suggestions about improving each of them. Read More

How to Preach For Seekers Without Dumbing Down the Message

Preaching should be both theologically deep—and wide. Read More

When Did Churches Start Celebrating the Fourth of July?

As we approach the Fourth of July, many pastors in America struggle with whether and how to acknowledge America’s independence, without blending Christian worship and civil religion together. Especially during times of war, churches have historically embraced patriotism in America. But sometimes that combination has given the impression that our commitment to nation is the same as our commitment to Christ. Read More

Your Youth Pastor Should Totally Be a Millionaire by Now

Discipling adolescents isn't all Ping-Pong and Pixy Stix, you know. Read More

10 Ways We Balk at God's Blessings

We love His blessings at first, but sometimes we don’t like them later.... Read More

What Does Jesus Have to Do with Jihad?

Did you know Jesus is prominent in Islamic eschatology? Read More

Christians buried nearly 1,400 years after they died

Some of Britain's earliest Christian converts have been buried in a church, nearly 1,400 years after they died. Read More

How the Orthodox Church is struggling for post-council unity

The much-trailed Holy and Great Council meeting of the Orthodox Churches – billed as a Pan Orthodox Council but failing to secure the attendance of four of the 14 self-governing Churches – has concluded with resounding affirmations of unity and calls for the protection of Christians in the Middle East. Read More

Orthodox leaders make passionate plea for persecuted Christians in Middle East

World leaders of the Orthodox Church have spoken out in support of Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East. Read More

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Resources for Praying the Daily Offices

By Robin G. Jordan

Here are some resources to enrich your praying of the Daily Offices.

Table of Lessons
In his examination of the lectionaries of the historic Prayer Book in “Reading the Bible as a Church” (Anglican Way, October 20, 2013) Gavin Dunbar draws attention to the problems of the office lectionary of the 1928 American Prayer Book and its 1942 replacement.
Though not without virtues, the lessons are often far too short – narratives and arguments reduced to fragments, with large passages of the Old Testament never read at all – and the selection of lessons for special occasions is imperceptive.

In 1871 the 1662 Prayer Book’s Table of Lessons was revised. The readings from the Apocrypha was reduced in number and were limited to three books—Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, and Baruch. The books of the Apocrypha which were known to contain false teaching such as Tobit and Second Maccabees were avoided. Tobit countenances the practice of magic (Tobit 6:5-7). Tobit also teaches that sinners may obtain forgiveness of their sins by giving alms to the poor (Tobit 4:11; 12:9). Second Maccabees teaches that the living may make atonement for the sins of the dead with offerings of money (2 Maccabees 12:43-45). The New Lectionary, adopted in 1871, reflected the discomfort of English Churchmen of the time with the use of readings from the Apocrypha in public services of worship.

In 1922 the Church of England’s Table of Lessons was revised again. This time the number of readings from the Apocrypha was increased. Readings from the Apocrypha on Sundays were authorized for the first time. Before 1922 readings from the Apocrypha were confined to week days and holidays—a standard which Anglican theologian Roger Beckwith notes is “a norm worth remembering”

The 1922 lectionary was “the first installment in the Prayer Book revision” that produced the ill-fated 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, which Parliament twice rejected due to its Anglo-Catholic doctrine and practices. The new lectionary reflected the growing influence of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England during the 1920s.

In 1922 the Canadian Church also adopted the new English lectionary. Where it differed from the English Church was that it avoided readings from the Apocrypha on Sundays unless canonical alternatives were provided. In this way Anglo-Catholics who used readings from the Apocrypha in their public services of worship and Evangelicals who objected to their use in public worship were able to use the same lectionary. The alternative readings for Sundays are found at the end of the Canadian version of the revised English lectionary in the 1958-1962 Canadian Prayer Book.

In 1926 the Church of Ireland revised its Prayer Book and its Table of Lessons. While the Church of Ireland generally followed the revised English lectionary, it replaced the readings from the Apocrypha with readings from the canon of the Bible, particularly the Revelation to John. Unfortunately 1926 Irish Prayer Book’s Table of Lessons is not available online.

The canticle Benedicite Omnia Opera was a fixed element of the ancient cathedral office of Lauds and was recited or sung year round. It deserves far greater use than it generally receives. Among the reasons that it has fallen into disuse is its length and the custom of using it only in Advent and Lent. This custom is a late development. The rubrics of the 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 Prayer Books, the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, and the 1928 American Prayer Book follow the ancient practice and permit the canticle’s use throughout the year.

To encourage more frequent use of the Benedicite, the rubrics of a number of Prayer Books permit the shortening of the canticle in one of two ways. The rubrics of the 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book permit the omission of the words “praise him, and magnify him for ever,” from the Benedicite except after verses 1, 2, 17, 18, 26, and 32. They also permit the recitation or singing of the first and last sections of the Benedicite on weekdays. Rite I of the 1979 American Prayer Book permits the omission of the second and third sections of the canticle on Sundays as well as on weekdays.

Here is Ralph Vaughn Williams' glorious setting of the Benedicite sung by the Hart House Chorus at its 2001 spring concert. Here is Vaughn William's Benedicite performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Waynflete Singers, and Choir of Winchester Cathedral. Here is his Te Deum in G performed by the English String Orchestra and the Christ Church Cathedral Choir. And the Benedictus Dominus Deus from Vaughn Williams' Service in D minor and sung by the choir of St. Michael at the North Gate, Oxford.

The Anglican Service Book contains traditional language versions of the canticles from the 1979 America Prayer Book. They include Cantemus Domino; Ecce, Deus; Quaerite Dominum; Surge, Illuminare; Kyrie Pantokrator, Dignus es; and Magna et mirabilia. The canticles may be used in one of two ways. One of the Old Testament canticles may be read or sung after the Psalms at Morning Prayer and one of the New Testament canticles after the Psalms at Evening Prayer. Or one of the Old Testament canticle may be read or sung after the First Lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer or one of the New Testament canticle may be read or sung after the Second Lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer.

Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings
The Book of Offices and Prayers for Priest and People, first published in 1896, contains a selection of useful prayers. Frank Colquhoun’s Parish Prayers is a classic. It has prayers for almost every occasion.

The Traditional Anglican Church of Canada website has on its Resource page a helpful Index of Prayers and Thanksgivings in the Book of Common Prayer (Canada 1962). It is designed to help churchmen to find prayers and thanksgivings in the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book for private devotions.

The Anglican Service Book includes a traditional language version of the Prayers and Thanksgivings section of the 1979 American Prayer Book.

Noonday Prayer
The Anglican Service Book also includes the office of Noonday Prayer, or Sext, in traditional language.

Those who wish to close their day with prayer have several options from which they may choose. The 1914 Protestant Episcopal Church's Book of Offices, the 1928 Proposed EnglishPrayer Book, and the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book  have an office of Compline. So does The Anglican Service Book. 

Saturday Lagniappe: "God Has a People for His Name: Seven Lessons from Europe" and More

God Has a People for His Name: Seven Lessons from Europe

Noël and I recently returned from three weeks in Poland, Switzerland, and Italy, where my task in each setting was to give expositions of Scripture. Here are seven experiences that linger in our minds, and are bearing fruit for the way we do ministry. Read More

7 Big Church Assumptions that Unintentionally Hurt Small Churches

Some small church pastors have stopped looking for help from their big church counterparts because they're tired of being hurt. It doesn't have to be like this. Read More

7 Reasons Why Very Large Churches Get Stuck

This is the conclusion of a series of articles on why churches of various sizes get stuck. This article is on the very large church. For the purposes of this conversation, we’ll be focusing on churches 3,000 and larger. This category reflects less than half of one percent of all the churches in the country. Read More
Check out the other three articles in this series. Links to these articles may be found at the end of this article.
10 Ways to Reach More People Without Investing a Dime

How do you start growing now, even with zero dollars? Read More
This article is repost from earlier in the year. If you have read it, I would recommend reading it again. Something may catch your attention that you may have escaped your attention the first time you read it. Or you may have made a mental note of something only to have the events of the day push it out of your mind.
One of the Greatest Questions We Can Ever Ask

Given the universal, pervasive sinfulness of human beings, how can anyone ever be in a right relationship with God? More particularly, how can a human being ever be in a right relationship with a holy God? More particularly still, how is it possible for a just God to justify a sinner? That is one of the greatest questions we can ever ask. Read More

Church Leaders and Learning: Are You Learning Fast Enough?

Biblical and Spiritual leadership principles do not change. But the challenges of leading churches in the 21st Century are quickly changing and requires leadership that can keep up with the change. Read More

A Quick Checkup on Leading Down

No matter how big your team is, or whether they’re volunteers or employees, it’s beneficial for you as a leader to take some time and assess how well you’re leading those that follow you. That’s why I have three simple tests to help you gauge the health of your leadership and point you towards opportunities for greater health. Read More

The Main Message of Your Bible

The Bible declares its main message right at the dawn of human history: After God made all things “good,” everything went bad as a consequence of the evil that entered the world through human sin. In order for everything to be made right again, God designed a plan to rescue humanity and the broken world from sin’s corruptions. Read More

A Short History of Bible Clutter

How did our Bible pages get so cluttered? Read More

10 Things Successful Children's Ministry Leaders Do on Monday Mornings

Monday morning. It follows a weekend of ministry while simultaneously ushering in a new week of ministry opportunities. Successful children's ministry leaders know how important it is to start their week off strategically and not just stumble through it. Read More

Character in Leadership — Does it Still Matter?

In the coming weeks, we are going to be learning a great deal more about the presidential candidates. But it’s also increasingly true that we’re going to be learning a great deal about ourselves as evangelical Christians in America. Perhaps we had better brace ourselves for what we’re going to learn. Read More

Mosque-building satirical rumor exposed as lie

A rumor promulgated by satirical news-like websites and blogs that the Southern Baptist Convention and at least one cooperating state convention are building Islamic mosques is being exposed as a lie. Read More

Majority of white evangelicals don't believe US is a Christian country

The majority of white evangelical protestants in America don't believe the US is a Christian country, according to new research by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Read More
An interesting study would be how this belief is affecting their view of politicians and their voting patterns.

Friday, June 24, 2016

On the Net: "Nine Ways to Make a Terrible First Impression" and More

Nine Ways to Make a Terrible First Impression--Rainer on Leadership #236 [Podcast]

On today’s episode, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss an article by Art Rainer on how to make a poor first impression and apply it to churches. Impassioned discussions on proper handshake etiquette and hugs are also included. Listen Now

Go Ahead, Evangelicals: Use the P-Word

Only some believers are ordained. But all are priests. Read More

What It Takes To Be An Evangelical Leader

This is an interesting little excerpt from Iain Murray’s recent biography of John MacArthur. In his Introduction Murray seeks to show what makes a man a leader among evangelicals. He offers a five-point answer.... Read More

The Future of the SBC—Is Not White

Southern Baptists will not both grow and remain a majority white denomination. Read More
Ed Stetzer's observations apply to all denominations in North America, not just the Southern Baptist Convention.
6 Ways to Build Unity in Your Church

If Satan can get us fighting against each other, we become neutralized and of little use to the world. Read More

Why the Trinitarian Controversy Was Inevitable

Recently, there has been a major clash in the Reformed and evangelical blogosphere on the doctrine of the Trinity. While others have covered the ins and outs of the controversy with some depth, I am more interested in why this clash is happening, and why it is happening now. Michael Bird has said that this is about to be a “miniature civil war”. While that may be an exaggeration, the clash was inevitable for several reasons. Read More

7 Signs That Great Leadership Exists

How do you recognize a part of an organization in which great leadership exists? Read More

10 Questions for Six-Month Spiritual Checkup

In each of the previous two years (2014 and 2015), I’ve offered a six-month spiritual checkup for believers. This coming Sunday marks the halfway point of 2016, so it’s a good time for this year’s check up and goal-setting for the rest of the year. Maybe you can use these questions to guide your check up.... Read More

6 Ways Leaders Can Find Their Next Great Idea

How I run across new ideas, and how you can too. Read More

The Plight of the Falling Pastor

Scott Sauls on why leaders wander—and how churches can help them stay on the path. Read More

Why You Should Stop Ripping Off Other Preachers (The Led Zeppelin Scenario)

Preachers, write your own stuff. And if you didn’t, tell people you didn’t. Read More

Is Your Worship Service Upside Down

Our church worship gatherings ought to be welcoming and comprehensible to unbelievers who are present, but many churches actually structure the entire worship service around them. There is no real biblical precedent for this, and furthermore, it’s not the most effective way for your church to reach lost people, anyway. Read More

The Mysterious Nature of God’s Calling

It had to happen in a classroom filled with students. The difficult question was asked: “What should I look for in a personal call?” Read More

How to Become Holy

Sanctification is the lifelong process by which we become holy. But there are five specific ways we strive to become holy. Read More

How to Resist Sins of Conformity

Sins of conformity happen when, because of the pressure to fit in, you adopt the sinful action or inaction of a group. Read More

3 Ways to Come Clean and Get Rid of Guilt

If you’re really going to recover from the hurts, and habits, and hang-ups in your life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt – how to live with a clear conscience. Read More

The Nations Have Come to Our Cities

We cannot overlook the influx of "the nations" ready for the gospel. Read More

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Guide to Praying the Daily Offices

I originally posted this article five years ago on the Western Kentucky Anglicans blog. I have checked the links and replaced one of them. 

By Robin G. Jordan

In this article I offer a basic guide to praying the Daily Offices. The four offices with which Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America will be most familiar are the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, the service of Noon Day Prayer, and the service of Compline, or Prayer at the End of the Day. Some may be familiar with the Lucenary, or Lamp-Lighting Service, called the Order for Worship in the Evening in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer; others may be familiar with the Litany, or General Intercession, used as a separate service.

What to Pray. The Daily Offices do not require an ordained minister to lead them. They may be led by anyone.

Any individual, twosome, or group desiring to pray the Daily Offices will need to first decide what office or offices they will pray, how often, when, and where. They will need to decide what service book they will use. They will need to decide whether they will use music and if so what music and who will provide it. They will also need to decide whether their praying of an office will be accompanied by a Bible study, sermon, or teaching, and who will lead the Bible study, what Bible study materials they will use, who will preach the sermon, or who will give the teaching.

Where to Pray. The Daily Offices may be prayed in a wide variety of settings. They are not limited to use in church buildings. Some settings, however, are more conducive to praying the Daily Offices than others.

In the Medieval monastic church in which the whole cycle of Daily Offices was sung throughout the day and night, the congregation, which was also the choir, was divided into two sections who faced each other across a broad central aisle. The congregation was the monks living in the monastic community to which the church was attached. The Psalms of the Daily Offices were chanted antiphonally, from side to side.

The split chancel seen in a number of Gothic style churches with choir stalls that face each other across a center aisle is modeled upon the Medieval monastic church. It is not a good arrangement for corporate worship in the Twenty-First Century. The choir stalls clutter the chancel and form a visual barrier between the Lord’s Table and the congregation. Since the members of the choir are facing each other, they do not provide the kind of leadership and support that the congregation needs from the choir for congregational singing. The voices of the choir are carried away from the congregation. To compensate for this problem, some choirs may turn to face the congregation as far as narrow choir stalls and kneelers will permit them to do so.

The split chancel, however, is the best arrangement for singing the Daily Offices when those singing the Daily Offices are both the choir and the congregation. This is seen in English cathedral service of Evensong. The people sitting in the nave are not the congregation. They are not expected to take part in the service, except to join in the hymns, which technically are not a part of the service. They are simply an audience. The men and boys in the cathedral choir and the dean and any assisting clergy are the congregation.

The Daily Offices do not center upon the Lord’s Table. When the Daily Offices are prayed in the main body of a church and the chairs of the congregation are moveable, it is highly desirable to arrange the chairs in rows facing each other across a center aisle and place a reading desk and a lectern in the center aisle, facing each other. The rows of chairs should not be very long. Two or three short rows on each side are preferable to two long rows. The purpose is to create a compact worship space and to unite the prayer.

If the congregational seating is not moveable, it is preferable to find an appropriate size space in the church in which moveable chairs can be arranged in this fashion rather than sit one behind another in pews in the main body of the church. If the group praying the office has no choice but sit in pews in the church’s main body, the members of the group should sit closely together at the front of the church and not scattered around the room. A lectern holding a Bible may be set in the middle of the chancel or immediately front of the pews in which the group is sitting.

An alternative seating arrangement is to sit in a semicircle around a lectern holding a Bible.

In praying the Daily Offices with another person or in a small group in a private home or similar setting sitting in straight-backed chairs set out in one of these arrangements is preferable to sitting around a room on overstuffed armchairs, love seats and sofas. The latter tend to swallow their occupants and to hamper their breathing, reading, and singing. Some folks have difficulty sitting erect, the best posture for recitation or singing the Psalms and canticles, and other folks must struggle to extricate themselves from this type of seating. A few folks might doze off. The acoustics of sitting rooms and lounges are not designed for the Daily Offices and the scattering of the members of the group around the room exacerbate the problem. If only two people are praying the office together or the group is small, they may wish to sit at a dining room or kitchen table.

If the group has no choice but use a living room or lounge, they should sit on the edge of the arm chairs, loveseats, and sofas, and as close together as possible. I am not suggesting that everyone squeeze together onto the same couch rather that they sit near to each other. This contributes to the unity of the prayer. Squeezing together on the same coach would also impede breathing, reading, and singing. It might inhibit prayer in other ways. The study of proximics, the ability of people to tolerate the close proximity of other people, show that people vary in how comfortable they are with the close proximity of other people. Some need more space around them than do others. If another person moves into this space, their comfort zone, they experience anxiety and may become agitated. They will become focused upon the proximity of the person invading their comfort zone and not on God.

One option that groups may wish to try is sitting or kneeling on the floor and praying the office Taize style. A cylindrical pillow placed behind the thighs can help prevent loss of circulation and “pins and needles” that accompany kneeling for any length of time. Alternately one can kneel astraddle a wedged shaped pillow or even wooden block. In a Taize style prayer service the service leader and any musicians sit in the midst of the group. At Taize the brothers kneel or sit in a block and visitors kneel or sit on either side of them.

When praying the office outdoors, a group should sit close together. On a windy day they will have difficulty hearing each other and even on a windless day the open space around them will absorb their voices.

Those praying the Daily Offices alone should find a quiet place where they can pray unhurriedly and undisturbed. When their circumstances do not permit them to do so, they should take whatever steps that they can to minimize distractions. A young Roman Catholic woman with whom I worked for a number of years locked herself in one of the men’s restroom in the back of the office building out of which we worked. There were two men’s restrooms in a back hall, which had locks on the doors. The women’s restrooms in the same hall had no locks. They had individual stalls with locks. The thick concrete block walls of the men’s restroom muffled most background noise. Few people used the hall except to go to the restroom or to leave the building. In some cases turning to face a wall to reduce visual distractions may be all that someone can do. Even in the midst of noise an office will help to create its own atmosphere.

I have prayed the Daily Offices, sitting at a picnic table in the open or under a picnic shelter, walking along a gravel road in the woods, or sitting cross-legged among the tall grass on an overgrown dirt road.

How to Pray. We should allow ourselves plenty of time to read each office. We should not rush through an office at a gallop or even at a canter. We should take our time. If we come to the conclusion of an office and we feel out of breath, we have rushed through the office. Our reading of an office should be prayerful and even meditative. We should provide time for the words to sink down into the deeper levels of our minds and into the depths of our hearts.

We are meeting with God and we do not want to rush into His presence, gabble our prayers, and then rush out again. Through Jesus Christ we are not just entering into the throne room of the King but into His presence-chamber, the reception-room where the King meets privately with His family members, friends and intimates, those closest to Him. This is a great privilege and we should take care not to squander it.

God speaks to us through His Word—through the Psalms, the lessons, and the canticles. He speaks to us through the prayers and in the silences. If we sing hymns or other songs, He speaks to us through them too. We need to be silent and still, as well as read, pray, and sing with a listening heart, open to His voice.

Even if we are praying the Daily Office alone, we should read the Psalms, the lessons, the canticles, and the prayers aloud. This was the practice of the old monks. When we read the Morning or Evening Prayer aloud, we are not only seeing the words as we read them but we are also hearing them. The old monks took with seriousness what the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ…” (Romans 10:17). We are listening to God with both our ears and our eyes. We are also listening to him with our heart.

Reading the office aloud also engages both sides of our brain while reading it silently engages only one side—the visual learning side. If circumstances do not permit us to read an office aloud, we should read it sub-vocally, under our breath.

My experience is that when I read an office silently, my mind moves too quickly and I adopt a hurried pace. I do not focus on God as well as I do when I read the office aloud. I am also less apt to pray the office from my heart. I do not benefit from reading the office silently in the same way that I benefit from reading it aloud. On the other hand, if I read the office very softly or in a barely audible whisper or even mouth the words, I pray at a slower pace and benefit as if I were reading aloud.

In A Priest to the Temple, or The Country Parson, His Character and Rule of Holy Life seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest George Herbert describes a number of ways a parson gains holiness in the character of his sermons. One of these ways has applicability to reading Morning and Evening Prayer and the other Daily Offices.
Secondly, by dipping, and seasoning all our words and sentences in our hearts, before they come into our mouths, truly affecting, and cordially expressing all that we say; so that the auditors may plainly perceive that every word is heart-deep.
We dip and season the words of the prayers of the office in the prayer of our heart and then pray them from the heart. This points to an important truth. Our praying of the Daily Offices must be a part of a life of prayer and not our prayer life in its entirety.

To this end a spiritual discipline that goes hand in hand with praying the Daily Offices is the practice of the presence of God. We live every minute of our lives actively mindful of God’s presence with us. God is for us not a remote figure in a distant galaxy that is light years away from us. He is our ever-present companion, always at our side. We share our thoughts and feelings with Him throughout the day. We enjoy constant fellowship and communion with Him. He is the loving Father to whom we go with our joys and sorrows, our struggles and our triumphs. He is the One to whom we pour out our troubles, to whom we admit even our most secret desires and urges. He is the One to whom we speak our first word upon rising from our bed in the morning and our last word upon going to bed at night. He is the One to whom we speak in the silence and the stillness of the night.

We should pause for self-examination after the Invitation to Confession. We should review the events of the day, and confess to God in the secret place of our hearts our offenses against him and against others, the things that we did, and the things that we did not do, the evil thoughts and the sinful desires that we entertained in our hearts, everything that comes between us and God. We should ask the Holy Spirit to show us those things that we may be hiding from our selves, those things that we did or did not do and which we do not want to admit even to ourselves, much less to God. We should unburden ourselves to God. When we pray the General Confession, we should pray it from a heart that is truly repentant and desirous of God’s forgiveness.

We should pause for silent reflection and prayer after each Psalm, each lesson, each canticle, and each collect or prayer. God may speak to us through the Psalm, lesson, canticle, collect or prayer or in the silence that follows it. He may speak to us in response to our silent prayer.

When we pray the Daily Offices alone, we may wish to pray aloud after silent reflection during these pauses. Some people may be comfortable reflecting aloud too. When we read the Suffrages that precede the Collect of the Day, we may wish to pause after each Suffrage and then pray silently or aloud for whomever or whatever the Suffrage brings to mind.

God may draw to our attention a particular word or phrase in a Psalm, lesson, canticle, collect or prayer. The word or phrase will “shimmer” as those who practice Lectio Divina describe the experience. We mull over the word or phrase silently in our mind, turning it this way and that way as we might a gemstone, letting the light strike it at different angles. We may simply repeat the word or phrase over and over again in our mind, letting it wash over us. For those occasions we might wish to keep a notebook with us and to jot down the word or phrase in the notebook. At regular intervals throughout the day we mediate upon the word or phrase and then pray to God about whatever our meditation on the word or phrase brings to mind.

We should provide an opportunity for those present to share prayer requests and concerns and to offer spontaneous petitions and thanksgivings, either silently or aloud, immediately before the occasional prayers and thanksgivings or during them.

Whether we are praying an office in a small group, with another person, or alone we should observe a period of silence at the conclusion of the office. During this period of silence the Holy Spirit will minister to us. This period of silence may lead to further reflection and/or to further prayer.

The silence at the conclusion of Compline begins the Great Silence, which in monastic communities lasts through the night until the first word of the night office or the dawn office, depending upon the rule of the monastery. A group attending a weekend church campout and retreat would normally retire for the night after Compline. The campfire would be banked and the stillness of the Great Silence would settle upon the campers.

Praying on a clear night under the wheeling constellations in the night sky or in the very early morning, as the sun is rising, are experiences not to be forgotten. They are times when we see God’s handiwork around us and the words of the Psalmist are on our lips.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? (Psalms 8:3-4)
Preparation. Praying the Daily Offices does require some preparation. How much preparation will depend on the office, the service book, and how the group plans to pray the office.

The different parts of the service will need to be assigned to different members of the group. The role of the service leader is to lead the service, not to do everything in the service. The readings should be assigned to other members of the group, as may the Suffrages, the Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings, or the Litany, if the Litany is used. This assignment is not something that should be done at the last minute, grabbing someone as he walks into the room. Each person needs to be assigned his part well ahead of time so he can read it over before hand and practice it. The service leader needs to explain how each part fits into the whole service and how the group needs to work together so that each part flows smoothly out of the preceding part.

The lessons in the Bible need to be marked with a ribbon and a slip of paper with the verses on it. If the service is Morning or Evening Prayer, the Collect of the Day will need to be marked with a ribbon in the service book and two of the Daily Collects selected, traditionally the Collect for Peace and the Collect for Grace at Morning Prayer and the Collect for Peace and the Collect for Aid against All Perils at Evening Prayer.

The Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings that will be used will also need to be selected. This should be done by the service leader in advance. Traditionally these Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings are limited to no more than seven, the number of petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. Some care and thought should be used in their selection. The news web sites on the Internet can be helpful in choosing the Occasional Prayers and Thanksgivings: they draw to our attentions concerns for which we may wish to pray. One of the Occasional Prayers should always be for the mission of the Church.

If the group is using music, the service leader will need to select what music is to be used in consultation with the musician or musicians. If the group is using CDs, MIDIs, or MP3s, after making the selection of music, the service leader may need to assign someone to play the music at the appropriate times in the office and make sure that they have the recordings and the equipment to do so. The service leader may or may not be the person in the group who leads the singing. This will depend upon the gift mix of each member of the group. In some groups the same person may lead the service and the singing and in other groups two or more persons may perform these roles. The service leader, however, has overall responsibility for the service, which includes ensuring that everything done in the service contributes to the prayer of the group. Nothing should be left to chance.

The use of music in an office may also require the preparation of songs sheets, a song booklet, overhead transparencies, or multimedia slides.

A well-prepared group will pray with much more confidence than a group that does its only preparation a couple of minutes before it begins praying. The desire for spontaneity is not an excuse for failing to take the trouble to prepare ahead of time. The Holy Spirit, after all, brought order out of chaos, and the Holy Spirit is present in a well-put together, well-executed service. Advanced preparation does not stifle the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Holy Spirit works through careful and thoughtful preparation.

Racing through a long string of collects with machine gun rapidity and without any real thought to what is read is not spontaneity or the Holy Spirit. It is also far from prayerful.

How to Recite. The Introduction to Celebrating Common Prayer offers these suggestions:

Whether singing or speaking, there are different ways in which psalms and canticles can be treated. Some of the psalms, such as the more personal or penitential ones, are perhaps best spoken by a single voice. Others may be recited antiphonally (different individuals or groups taking alternate verses). Other psalms may be recited together: this is particular appropriate for the canticles. The asterisk at the half-way point indicates that a short pause is appropriate.

An asterisk is used in the 1928 American Prayer Book, 1979 American Prayer Book, 1985 Canadian Book of Alternative Services, as well as Celebrating Common Prayer. In 1559 English Prayer Book, 1662 English Prayer Book, 1926 Irish Prayer Book, 1928 Proposed English Prayer Book, 1978 Australian Prayer Book, 1980 English Alternative Service Book, and 1985 Alternative Irish Prayer Book a colon is used in place of an asterisk. In reciting psalms antiphonally it is best to switch voices at the asterisk or colon: one side reciting the first half of the verse; the other side, the second half. The practice of reciting Psalms responsively with a leader and the group taking alternate verses or half verses is one of the most monotonous methods of reciting the Psalms and should be avoided.

Ideally the Psalms and the canticles should be sung. However, a group may not have the music leadership or the acoustical environment for good chant. One option is to sing metrical versions of the Invitatory Psalm and the canticles in place of the prose ones. Another option is to sing hymns or worship songs in place of the canticles. If hymns or worship songs are substituted for the canticles, they should echo the themes and imagery of the canticles. A third option is to sing responsorial settings of the Invitatory Psalm and the canticles. In a responsorial setting a cantor or small number of voices sings the verses and the congregation sings a repetitive refrain. All three options may be combined for variety.

In English village churches in the nineteenth and twentieth century the choral recitation of the Psalms and canticles was developed into a true art form. The first step to singing them to a plainsong tone, which is the simplest form of chant and which can be sung unaccompanied, is to recite them together. A group that regularly recites the Psalms and canticles together can over time learn to chant them together. Chanting the Psalms and canticles, however, does require a particular type of acoustical environment with just the right kind of resonance.

Groups that do not have musicians will find a number of CDs, MIDIs, and MP3s that are now available for small group worship. They include split worship tracks and accompaniment CDs. The Community of Celebration’s Come Celebrate CD set includes settings of the Invitatory Psalms and the canticles.

“Open Worship.” Some groups praying the Daily Offices may wish to include in an office a time of “open worship.” Appropriate places in the services of Morning and Evening Prayer are after the second lesson or the prayers or Bible study, sermon, or teaching. A Bible study that follows a service of Morning or Evening Prayer is technically not a part of the service. Depending upon the service book the group uses, a sermon or teaching may or may not be regarded as a part of the service. The rubrics of the service book will indicate where a sermon may be preached or a teaching given. In a time of “open worship” hymns and worship songs may be sung, testimonies shared, hands may be laid on the sick with prayer, spontaneous praise and thanksgiving may be offered, and so forth. It is a time of ministry and sharing as well as worship.

How a group prays the Daily Offices will vary with the character of the group. One group may recite the Psalms and the canticles and make considerable use of silence for reflection and prayer. Another group may sing a metrical version of the Venite or Phos hilaron and hymns or worship songs in place of the canticles and have a time of “open worship” after the prayers.

Anglicans and Episcopalians seeking to adopt a biblically faithful and authentically Anglican way of being followers of Jesus Christ and members of One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church will wish to adopt the Daily Offices, particularly Morning and Evening Prayer, as the basis of their daily prayer, not only as the basis for private prayer but also for public prayer as historically has been the tradition of the Anglican Church. The liturgical movement of the 1960s and the Prayer Book revisions of the 1970s undermined the historic position of the two services of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican Church. If we desire to see a renewal of genuine Anglicanism in North America, we must work to restore the services of Morning and Evening Prayer to their rightful place as regular services of public worship in the Anglican Church alongside of the Holy Communion.

This Anglicans and Episcopalians desiring to recover this part of their Anglican heritage can do so in their own homes, if not in their churches, forming small groups for daily prayer. Lent and Easter are good seasons for launching these groups. If dozens of such groups spring up, more groups are bound to follow, and we may yet see a revival and reinvigoration of the Daily Offices in the North American Anglican Church. In time these small communities of prayer may become the nuclei of an entire new generation of churches—churches that have a renewed understanding and appreciation of the Anglican Way and of common prayer.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

No Room in the ACNA for Anglican Traditionalists

By Robin G. Jordan

What is noteworthy about Archbishop Foley Beach’s State of the Province Address to the Provincial Council is what it does not mention.

First, it contains no mention of the need for the amendment of the ACNA canons permitting the continued use of the 1662 English, 1928 American, and 1962 Canadian Prayer Books and liturgical books based on them such as the Reformed Episcopal Church’s The Book of Common Prayer (2003) and the Anglican Mission in America-Prayer Book Society USA’s An Anglican Prayer Book (2008) after the finalization of the new ACNA Prayer Book. The canonical provision that all ACNA churches must use the new ACNA Prayer Book once the book is finalized is still in force.

Second, it contains no mention of the need to revise the draft ACNA Prayer Book, to eliminate a number of its undesirable features, and to incorporate alternative rites and wording for the use of clergy and congregations that adhere to the doctrinal and worship principles of the classical Anglican formularies—The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571 and The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 and the Ordinal of 1662.

Third, it contains no mention of any plan to incorporate the Anglican Network in Canada’s modern language version of the 1552 Holy Communion Service into the draft ACNA Prayer Book.

Fourth, it contains no mention of the need to revise the ACNA Catechism to bring its doctrine into line with the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the classical Anglican formularies.

Fifth, it contains no mention of the need to revisit the question of women’s ordination particularly in the light of the recent abandonment of women’s ordination by the Latvian Lutheran Church.

While flirting with Russian Orthodoxy and High Church Lutheranism, the ACNA leadership seems all too eager to turn its back on classical Anglicanism.