Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How to Grow a Small Traditional Church

While taking a break from doing homework for my Japanese 202 class, I did Google search on the topic "how to grow a small traditional church." The search yielded a number of articles. Here are six  articles and a video that I believe are the most useful.

How a traditional church can grow again [Video]
Can the Small, Traditional Church Grow?
Five Things You’re Doing That Won’t Grow Your Church
Seven Reasons Some Church Members Don't Want Their Church to Grow
Grow It or Close It? Is There a Third Option for Struggling Small Churches?
Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing
Jesus Loves The Traditional Church

What articles have you found on the Internet, which may be helpful or encouraging to pastors and other leaders of small traditional churches?

On the Net: "Cities and Multiculturalism: Two Trends in Church Planting Today" and More

Cities and Multiculturalism: Two Trends in Church Planting Today

God can be at work in more than one place at a time. Read More

Seven Ways to Get Members More Involved

Most of us who lead churches have regular attenders who aren’t involved in the congregation. These folks sometimes frustrate us because we can’t imagine why genuine believers just sit on the sideline. Rather than get frustrated, try this strategy to move them toward involvement.... Read More

5 Types of Goals Ministry Leaders Must Avoid

“Should ministry leaders set goals?” is a question I am often asked. The question is about ministry leaders setting a target for something they want to see the ministry achieve collectively. “Yes, they should” is my typical response, but that response deserves an asterisk. Actually five asterisks. Here are five big mistakes ministry leaders make when they think about setting goals. Read More

To Enjoy Him Forever

While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, “I really enjoyed that!”—which is immediately followed by, “Oh! I shouldn’t really say that, should I?” I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, “Doesn’t the catechism’s first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?” Read More

3 Killers of Effective Leadership

If you could ask just two questions—one personal and one related to your leadership—what might they be? Read More

15 Things Pastors Need to Stop Right Now

Pastor, I love you. I want nothing more than for you to be all who God wants you to be. So this might hurt a little. Read More

Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

he anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Read More

How To Know What Your Audience Is Thinking BEFORE You Communicate

Ever wonder what your audience is thinking as you give your sermon, talk or speech? Why not find out ahead of time? Read More

Study: Female Pastors Are on the Rise

And so are our impossible expectations for them. Read More

Monday, February 27, 2017

How the Entitlement Mentality Crept into Our Churches

In 1974 Burger King made a bold move to take market share from McDonald’s. At the time, McDonald’s made burgers en masse. If you wanted a special order, you had to wait interminably while it was cooked separately.

I remember. I’m a ketchup-only kind of guy.

So Burger King announced that each order would be cooked at the time of the order the way the customer wanted. Their new slogan was “Have It Your Way.” Burger King, at least at the time, understood the consumer entitlement mentality.

So what does this story have to do with our churches?

It provides a brief historical backdrop of the mentality that has crept into our churches, where many of our members think church is a place where I can always “have it my way.” For now, let me share some key reasons many of our congregations have become more like country clubs than churches, a place where some members demand their way instead of serving and self-sacrificing. Read More

5 Ways Porn Lies To You

There’s a lot of porn in the world. When I first began to write the articles that would become Sexual Detox, this sin was still lurking in the shadows. Few people knew just how deep and deadly it was. Nearly a decade later, we get it. We know now that nearly every boy and a great many girls will be exposed to it, struggle with it, and even become addicted to it. So every now and again I like to return to the topic, hoping to offer hope. Today I find myself considering porn’s ugly lies. Read More

The Design and Scope of the Atonement

In an age wherein the ground of theology has been saturated by the torrential downpour of existential thinking, it seems almost suicidal, like facing the open floodgates riding a raft made of balsa wood, to appeal to a seventeenth-century theologian to address a pressing theological issue. Nothing evokes more snorts from the snouts of anti-rational zealots than appeals to sages from the era of Protestant Scholasticism. Read More

7 Reasons Pastoring a Church is Harder Today

I’m sure that pastoring a church has always been difficult. At the same time, though, it seems much harder today than it was 35+ years ago when I started in full-time pastoral ministry. Here’s my assessment about why the task is harder.... Read More

3 Keys to Difficult Conversations in Ministry

In The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven Sample says a great leader has to shoot his own horse.

Here’s the context: Sample grew up on a farm. His dad didn’t know how to farm, but that was his dream, so the family went for it. When it came time to kill an animal for any reason (mainly for food), his father would get help from the neighbor, who would kill the animal for him.

But one day, their horse misstepped and broke its leg. It was not reparable, so they knew they had to put the horse down, even though it broke their hearts. Sample’s father went to the neighbor to ask for help and the response he got was (and I think you need to read it with a Deep South accent), “Son, I’d sooner violate a man’s wife than shoot his horse! You gotta shoot your own horse!”

I guess that’s a part of country living I’ll never understand, but the principle Sample talks about has never left me. He said there are certain things a leader has to do, that you don’t want to do, but no one else can do for you. Read More

What is Biblical Preaching? Meeting the Needs of the People

“I’m just one beggar telling another beggar where I found bread.”

As a seminary student, I was assigned a book on preaching called Building Sermons to Meet People’s Needs. This book has taught me so much about how to plan my preaching throughout the year. When I’m planning my preaching, whether I’m planning to look at a New or Old Testament book, or do something more theological, it’s based on the needs I see in the church calendar. It’s based on the needs of the people I serve—out of a desire to shepherd and love them for Jesus.

I know this idea might be unpopular with some, just as I know there are some who believe that expository preaching is the only biblical way to preach. And I respect that. I just don’t believe it to be the case. I do believe in rooting everything I preach in Scripture, but I don’t believe we need to necessarily go through a text verse-by-verse, week-by-week, until you come to the end of a book. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but I don’t think we can say we must do it this way. Why? For a couple of reasons. Read More

No, "Saul the Persecutor" Did Not Become "Paul the Apostle"

A ‘sticky’ misconception I keep coming across both in the church world and in the seminary world is the notion that God (or, specifically, Jesus) changed the name of a certain figure of importance that we now typically refer to as “St. Paul.”

In a recent sermon, I heard, “Just like Saul the persecutor can become Paul the apostle, God is gracious to us....”

On an exam by one of my brightest students, I found written, “It is Saul, who is re-named as Paul, who is the primary messenger of the gospel....”

From a church member who came from a Roman Catholic background, I was asked, “Wait…you mean Jesus didn’t change Saul’s name to Paul on the Damascus Road?”*

The problem is that such a view, however common it may seem (just search for ‘Saul-Paul name change’ to find loads of posts on the apparent significance of this event), is not accurate. I hate to ruin the fun. Read More

How Not to Spread Lies in a Social Media Age

With the advent of social media and its collision with an incredibly acrimonious election season, it’s a fight to distinguish truth from slander on Facebook, Twitter, and online news sources. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who sends you online articles disparaging a particular politician or public figure. Maybe you follow folks on Twitter who retweet inflammatory messages. A man was arrested at a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., that one of my family members regularly visits, all because he believed incendiary messages that alleged the pizzeria was a front for a political child sex ring.

Closer to home, I too have friends and loved ones who share with me unsettling rumors from both sides of the political aisle. I’m regularly tempted on social media to believe things that sound true, especially if they fit my political preferences. Thankfully, despite the contrast between our modern age of social media and the flow of information during biblical times, we’re not left as orphans without instructions for separating facts from gossip. Read More

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Use Your Catechism, Silly

This ongoing Reformed resurgence is an exciting, unexpected development. It has been a joy to watch people from all backgrounds, cultures, and nations discover and delight in those heart-stirring truths. Yet I think many have failed to take advantage of a resource that is theirs by virtue of their newfound theology.

Part of the joy of being Reformed is entering in to an existing, defined stream of theology. This gives us access to a thorough reference library that answers many questions and clarifies many conundrums. When we are uncertain about matters of faith or practice, it should be our habit to consult this library of creeds, confessions, and catechisms, for in it we learn what Reformed believers have long held to be true. By accessing this library, we appeal to the established, historic body of truth that forms the Reformed tradition. Of course, these resources are not equal in authority to the Bible and their purpose is to explain Scripture rather than to replace or overrule it. But still, they provide crucial wisdom and guidance.

In what follows I’ll show how appeals to this reference library can be tremendously helpful. Read More

Related Articles:
Resources for Learning Your Catechisms
B.H. Carroll and Robust Confessionalism
A catechism written in Latin by Alexander Nowell... Together with the same catechism translated into English by Thomas Norton.
Good advise from Tim Challies to which I must add one caveat...provided that your denomination's catechism is biblical, theologically sound, and Reformed. Unfortunately both the catechism of the Episcopal Church USA and the catechism of the Anglican Church in North America do not meet these requirements. For those who are interested, I have provided a link to the Parker Society's edition of Alexander Nowell's Catechism, which was authorized by Convocation and used in the Church of England during the reign of Elizabeth I. It meets the foregoing requirements.

Saturday Lagniappe: "10 Questions to Diagnose the Evangelistic Health of Your Church" and More

10 Questions to Diagnose the Evangelistic Health of Your Church [Podcast]

Evangelism in the church is waning, so today we cover 10 questions you can use to determine the evangelistic health of your church. Also, the “bee-line to the cross” quote is Spurgeon after all. Listen Now

What are these "Five Solas" and Why Do They Even Matter? An Interview with College Church Pastor Josh Moody

Solas are essential to understand if we are to understand the Reformation.... Read More

Keep Learning to Lead

As I’ve led others over the last several years, I’ve gleaned several lessons that might help others (especially in a ministry context). Here are a few I’ve learned, am learning, and probably will have to learn again. Read More

8 Reasons Why You Need Regularly Scheduled Testamonies in Your Worship Services

I believe strongly in regularly (that is, once a month or once each quarter) using testimonies in a church’s worship services. Here’s why.... Read More

Satan Wants to Blackmail You

That little secret you try to keep hidden from everyone, even from God. Satan knows about it. Read More

To Give a Good Answer, Sometimes You Have to Change the Question

Our culture has moved so far from a biblical worldview that we can’t expect people we talk to about the Gospel to understand even where we’re coming from. It’s foreign. And strange. And odd. Read More

When Coffee Isn’t Enough: Reflecting on Relationships & Gospel Witness

The most valuable resource we can offer is the Gospel.... Read More

Evangelical Critics: Franklin Graham’s Evangelism Won’t Work in Vancouver

Canadian pastors debate whether Trump baggage will hurt local outreach efforts. Read More

Friday, February 24, 2017

Have We Lost the Soul of Evangelicalism

Recently, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight posted a lament of sorts for the evangelical movement. Scot is distressed by the tone of conversations he sees online, where “everybody’s a prophet because, so they think, they are speaking to truth to power,” when in reality “they’re yelling in a barrel full of self-appointed prophets.”

But his lament goes beyond the loss of online civility to certain signs that he says portend “evangelicalism’s demise.” Read More

Related Article:
The Soul of Evangelicalism: What Will Become of Us

Why Narnia Isn't Allegorical

Tim Challies’s excellent post this week on why Narnia’s Aslan is not the same as the divine characterizations in William Paul Young’s The Shack offered a literary side-note that addresses a pet peeve this English major and Lewisphile has held for a quite a while—the incorrect use of the word “allegory.” I address some of the ways people erroneously apply the allegorical sense to Jesus’s parables, for instance, in my book The Storytelling God, but in general, I notice more and more people referring to things that are simply symbolic or metaphorical as “allegorical,” making allegory a sort of catch-all category. But the history of literature does not allow such a sloppy application.

Did C. S. Lewis write allegory? The answer is not as obvious as it seems. Because modern readers define and interpret allegory so loosely and broadly, it has become common to speak of the Narnia stories as allegories of the Christian faith (or at least to speak of the first book in the series as an allegory of the gospel story), or to speak of Lewis’s Space Trilogy as allegories of spiritual origins and conflict. But the fact is that C.S . Lewis published only one true allegorical work: The Pilgrim’s Regress. Read More

Illustration: Pauline Baynes

The ‘Unintended Consequence’ Overtaking the Multisite Church Movement

As the country moves away from cultural church attendance—less than 36 percent went weekly in 2014, down from almost 40 percent in 2007—it leaves behind empty or near-empty buildings, Tomberlin said.

Since Millennials are less likely (28 percent) to attend church weekly than those born before 1945 (51 percent) or Boomers (38 percent), and since mainline Christianity continues to shrink, that trend will likely continue.

However, evangelicalism has remained fairly stable in America. About twice as many evangelicals (58 percent) as mainline Protestants (33 percent) attended church weekly in 2014. And Protestants are launching church plants faster than they’re closing the doors on old buildings, LifeWay Research reported in 2015.

So the transfer of church buildings from declining congregations to new plants seems to make good practical sense.

In practice, though, it’s a lot stickier. Read More

Church Member! Fight to Attend Your Church Weekly!

Fight? Attend Church? Weekly? Church member? Yes, indeed! We live in such a swirlingly busy age with countless distractions and endless entertainments and overly-busy schedules. How easily and how quickly it can be that the gathering together with the people of God in your local assembly can be missed one week because of a scheduling conflict. And then it becomes easier the next week. And the next. And so on. So the title is intentional and the motive of this essay is pastorally & compassionately exhortational: FIGHT and make it a priority to attend your local church on a weekly basis.

I understand things come up. Illness happens. Vacations occur. There are providential workings of God that may cause a child of God to miss church. But please hear this: missing church should not be the norm; it should be the exception. It is your local church where Christ promises to walk amidst His people and bless them by speaking to them and ministering to them in very real and special ways.

Additionally, this essay is for the true Christian. This is not just another paper urging the unsaved to just ‘get to church’. This essay is for those whom God has saved and who have obediently committed themselves to a local church and submitted themselves to the leadership of that church. This is an essay for the saved to reorient the focus on the Lord and on His church because this in our culture can distract and disrupt and cloud our minds at times. Read More

The Cure for a Lack of Fruit in Our Christian Lives

The Westminster Confession of Faith insists that Christians may be “certainly assured that they are in the state of grace” (18:1) and goes on to assert that this “infallible assurance of faith” is “founded upon” three considerations:
1. “the divine truth of the promises of salvation”

2. “the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made”

3. “the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are children of God” (18:2).
The possibility of “certain” and “infallible” assurance is set against the backdrop of medieval and post-Reformation Roman Catholic views that paralyzed the church with an “assurance” that was at best “conjectural” (wishful thinking), based as it was on rigorous participation in a sacramental treadmill. Few epitomized the contrast more starkly than Cardinal Bellarmine (1542–1621), the personal theologian to Pope Clement VIII and ablest leader of the Counter-Reformation, who called the Protestant doctrine of assurance “the greatest of all heresies.” What, after all, could be more offensive to a works-based and priest-imparted system of salvation than the possibility that assurance could be attained without either? If Christians can attain an assurance of eternal life apart from participation in the church’s rituals, what possible outcome could there be other than rampant antinomianism (the belief that God’s commandments are optional)? Read More

My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ

But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.

I couldn’t believe it when I opened my email.

Inside my inbox was an invitation to the 120th anniversary celebration of a church in Osaka—a church founded by my great-grandfather, a 19th-century Presbyterian missionary. The minister had Googled my great-grandfather’s name, and apparently my own name had popped up, along with the text of a speech I had given in Tokyo a few years earlier just after leaving my job as a top official of an international organization in Paris. The topic was “National Identity and International Pressures: Are they compatible?”

I had given hundreds of speeches during my diplomatic career without mentioning my great-grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander. But the challenge of maintaining a cultural identity in the face of a rapidly shrinking world was something he and his adopted countrymen surely would have understood. My hosts posted the speech online, forever linking my name with my great-grandfather’s in cyberspace.

When I read the email, I felt something pulling me toward Japan and the story of my great-grandfather’s struggles and triumphs there. Before long—and against all odds—his example would help launch my own journey of faith. Read More

Half of Hispanic Christians Worry About Deportation Under Trump

Pew: Latino Protestants most likely to rate Trump a ‘terrible’ president.

Even before President Donald Trump pledged to double down on policies against undocumented immigrants living in the United States, many Hispanics were already praying for protection.

Half of Latino Christians worry about themselves or someone close to them getting deported, according to Pew Research Center data provided to CT. And more than 4 in 10 have “serious concerns” about their place in America under Trump. Read More

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Triumph and Tragedy of Anglicanism’s First African Bishop

Chances are you’ve never heard of Samuel Ajayi Crowther. His story has largely gone untold in the Western Church, and yet we could learn a great deal from his heart for the lost and his commitment to biblical missions. From the time of his boyhood conversion, Crowther understood the gospel at a deeply personal level and worked tirelessly to bring that gospel to his own countrymen. A rough contemporary of Spurgeon, Crowther became one of the most influential figures in African missions. Read More

Why Your Church Should Be Intentionally Multi-Generational, and Why It's Hard to Do

Many churches consist of one primary generation, and that’s not the healthiest church. At the same time, though, growing an intentionally multi-generational church is not easy. Take a look at these reasons to be a multi-generational congregation, and then be aware of why it’s hard to get there. Read More

T.C. Hammond: Original Sin and Condemnation

The ninth Article introduces us to the important controversies of the sixteenth century. Already in Article VI we have been introduced to the problem of the source of authority which was widely agitated in those days. Now we are faced with an indication of the great cleavage in doctrine which separated the Roman Catholic Church from all the churches of the Reformed faith.

Whenever a major issue like this is presented for solution it is most important to pay attention to the precise language employed. It is particularly valuable where possible, to notice the passages in which identical terms are used in contradictory senses by both parties. Had sufficient care been taken to observe this salutary rule much misconception would have been avoided. Read More

For Lent, give up Lent

A friend of mine was recently asked by a local youth pastor, “What’d you give up for Lent?” My friend quipped, “Lent.”

I can’t help but notice a growth in evangelicals who want to celebrate Lent by “giving something up.” I’ve heard of Christians giving up sugar, soda, Angry Birds, and Netflix (ok, I made up the last one—I’ve never heard of anyone giving up Netflix). For some evangelicals, apparently Lent is the new New Year’s. Those old resolutions were dropped by Feb 10, so time to dust them off and start over on March 1.

.That is a bad idea. Here are a three reasons you should give up Lent for Lent.... Read More

Seven Tips for Guest EMail Follow-Up

Email is one of the easiest ways to initiate a connection with first-time guests to your church. However, many churches either fail to use it or fail to maximize its capabilities if they do.

Here are seven tips to maximize your church’s use of email to follow up with first-time guests. Read More

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On the Net: "Love Is Not a Secondary Matter" and More

Love Is Not a Secondary Matter

It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of love. Nothing is more basic to true spirituality than this singular virtue. Nothing is more central to Christian living. At the very heart of authentic discipleship is love. Without love, we are nothing. Read More

Why Christians Must Stand Against Anti-Semitism

Several dozens anti-Semitic threats and acts of vandalism have occurred over the past few weeks, causing Jewish Americans throughout the country to fear for their safety. Read More

Do Catholics and Protestants believe in the same God?

Unity, motherhood and apple pie are things people are reluctant to speak against. Pope Francis recently returned from Lund, where he celebrated a joint service with a branch of the Lutheran Church to mark the beginning of celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Read More

The Typographical Reformation

The English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) once said that the three greatest inventions during his lifetime were gunpowder, the mariner’s compass, and printing. Gunpowder forever changed the nature of armed conflict and introduced an era of savage warfare that is with us still. The compass enabled Columbus, Magellan, and other navigators to discover the New World and map it with precision. The printing press brought about an explosion of knowledge, the expansion of literacy, and a revolution in learning that touched every aspect of European civilization, not least the church. Read More

Six Main Traits of Preacher Eating Churches

A preacher eater church has a series of short-term pastors, and those departing pastors have few positive words to say about them. As my pastor friend noted, “That church will eat you alive.” Read More

5 Commitments Every Pastor Needs to Make

Your church is a lot bigger than you. It will remain long after you are gone. With that in mind, be a legacy leader. Read More

A Curious Clue About the Origins of the New Testament Canon

Although most discussions about the development of the canon focus on the patristic period (second century and later), there is much canonical gold yet to mine from the pages of the New Testament itself. Unfortunately, this step is often skipped. Read More

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On the Net: "A Disturbing Trend in the Church—And How You Can Help Reverse It" and More

A Disturbing Trend in the Church—And How You Can Help Reverse It

The local church will remain incomplete, lacking vital ministries and gifts, until those missing parts of the body come back home. Read More

4 Obstacles to Church Multiplication

If we really are intent on bringing the world to Jesus, whatever model we choose must be infinitely reproducible. Read More

One on One with the Small Church Pastor who "Took Over" the SBC Pastors Conference to Highlight Smaller Churches

An "average" church pastor is the president of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. Read More

Deadly Doctrines: Facing Evil Like Snakes and Doves

Since its earliest days, the church has been plagued by false teachers and deadly doctrine. Never has there been a period of rest, a time when Christians could relax their guard. Read More

The Folly of Trying to Measure Success In Christ’s 'First Shall Be Last' Kingdom

We need to measure what we can manage, but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking we have more control than we do. Read More

Pastor, Keep A Close Watch On Your Life and Illustrations

Sermon illustrations. They can make or break your message. Read More

How to Subtly Abandon Your Bible’s Authority

Christians in the West, face a number of explicit threats to the authority of Scripture. But explicit threats alone don’t weaken our trust in the Bible. Subtle threats—those that creep in unnoticed—also foster skepticism. Read More

Why Africa Needed Its Own Study Bible

And why Americans might want one too. Read More

Monday, February 20, 2017

5 Innovation Tips for Any Church, Any Size

When church leaders think “ministry innovation,” one of the first churches that comes to mind is Life.Church, based in Edmond, Oklahoma. Here are some of the best tips for the agile church from Life.Church’s innovation leader and Outreach magazine columnist Bobby Gruenewald. Read More

Soli Deo Gloria: To God Alone Be the Glory

Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. At the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace. Read More

5 Unfair Criticisms People Levy At Strategic Church Leaders

If you’re a church leader who thinks strategically, you’re probably going to get criticized. Maybe even more than you ever dreamed.

For some reason, being strategic is often viewed as being unspiritual in the church. Why? Read More

Six Reasons to Send Daily Email Reports about Your Bible Reading

If you’ve read about my Bible reading strategy, you know that I send an email every day to a few friends to report what I’ve read in the Word (now, in fact, I’ve turned these emails into the daily devotions I post on this site). I’m not arguing that you should write what I write, but I do think there’s value in writing a simple daily email that includes.... Read More

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Seven Steps to Getting the Unchurched Interested in Your Church

A shift has occurred in the culture. Unchurched people have always been open to a personal invitation to church, but that openness is now more for problem-solving in the community than a worship experience at a church building. Almost two-thirds of the unchurched are willing to attend a church event to make the community safer, and over half are willing to attend a church-sponsored community service project. That’s not to say invitations to a worship service no longer work. The best approach is a both/and strategy. Invite them to both a church service project focusing on community issues and also a church worship service.

In order for you to draw the interest of the unchurched, you will need to have tangible action items. I suggest seven steps, but you may change some or add more given your church’s particular context. Read More

7 Questions That Can Help You Crush A Plateau And Gain Momentum

Chances are you would like what every leader would like—momentum.

All of us hit both personal and organizational plateaus. As much as we think momentum should be a permanent state, it never is. No one lives in a state of momentum all the time.

So if you hit a plateau or fall in a rut, how do you get out of it—both personally and organizationally? Read More

The pernicious evil of the prosperity gospel and the theology of the cross

Several years ago now I was travelling down a road in Nigeria on which, at almost every corner, there stood a church with a name that promised their members, and all who would join them, success, victory, wealth and happiness. One that has stuck in my mind was 'The Winners' Church'. It seemed as if I was in the very home of the prosperity gospel! Yet so many in the surrounding streets, and those going in and coming out from these churches, seemed anything but prosperous, successful or even happy. I asked my guide, 'What do they do when reality hits and they are not healed, or do not become wealthy, or are struck by tragedy or the ordinary disappointments of life? How do they cope with suffering and even persecution?' 'They go to the next church', she said. 'The Spirit may be at work in the next one.'

Of course the prosperity gospel is not just a feature of aspirational Christianity in the majority world. It is alive and well and destroying lives in Western countries too. In fact there are very large churches which, in one way or another, are making similar promises right here in Australia. They attract the crowds and even Christians from other backgrounds want to be associated with them, or so it seems. It may well be they welcome such association because they desperately want to present themselves as mainstream and respectable. 'We are evangelical, just like you.' Read More

Preaching Christ: The Resurrection

As Easter Sunday rolls around each year, preachers everywhere wonder, “How can I preach a fresh sermon on the resurrection?” “How can I preach something that doesn’t sound just like last year, and the year before, and the year before....?”

This crisis is often caused by focusing too narrowly on the facts of the resurrection narratives in the Gospels. If all we do is narrate the historical facts of the resurrection, then, yes, we’re going to sound as if we’re on “loop.” However, there are a number of ways to “freshen up” our resurrection sermons so that they’re not just the “same old, same old.” In fact, I’d go further and suggest that we have a duty to ensure that such a glorious truth does not become mundane through our inability to think more imaginatively and creatively. Read More

Why Trump wants you to hate the media

If you watched President Trump's astonishing press conference on Thursday, you might be forgiven for concluding that the most urgent problem facing America is that the media "is out of control." Some media "is fantastic," the president allowed. But on the whole, journalism is plagued by "false, horrible, fake reporting."

It's clear that America's new President has chosen his new best enemy. Now that the campaign is over and it's not very useful to drive the crowds into a frenzy of hatred against Hillary Clinton, Trump has found the new direction in which to focus his supporters' animosity. But this time, the anointed enemy serves an even more useful purpose.

On Friday, he made his point even more directly, tweeting "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!"

(He later deleted the "SICK!" part -- while adding @ABC and @CBS.) Read More

Related Articles
With 'Fake News,' Trump Moves From Alternative Facts To Alternative Language
Trump's Attack on Media as 'Enemy of the People' Has Historic Echoes
Trump Calling Media “Enemy of the American People” Reminiscent of Stalin, Mao
Trump’s news conferences look a lot like Putin’s. Should you worry?
‘That’s how dictators get started’: McCain criticizes Trump for calling media ‘the enemy’

Saturday Lagniappe: "How Your Spiritual Gifts Correlate to Meeting People’s Needs" and More

How Your Spiritual Gifts Correlate to Meeting People’s Needs

For every need in the life of a person who does not know Christ, there is a spiritual gift that helps reach that person for Christ. Read More

When Ministry Is Unglamorous

We don’t always get to select our opportunities—sometimes our ministries are handed to us by the Lord, and sometimes they are as far from glamorous as you can get. Read More

Filling the Seats On Your Bus

When hiring for a position on your ministry staff team, what are the key attributes you look for? Read More

4 Theories of How a Leader Becomes Controlling

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. Read More

Teach Them: The Necessity of Faith in Christ

Our children must learn that they can receive Christ and His salvation only through faith. Read More

4 Essentials of Running Your Church Website Well

I have been working on church websites for about sixteen years. I have worked with hundreds of organizations, some of them through many iterations of their sites, and I’ve noticed a thing or four that are common among effective sites. Read More

Trump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC

Prestonwood Baptist diverts denominational giving over concerns about Russell Moore’s ERLC. Read More

Friday, February 17, 2017

We Can Whine About the New Generation or Worship with Them – But We Can’t Do Both

We need to remember how devalued we felt when previous generations told us our music was too loud, our clothing was silly and our questions were inappropriate.

Why don’t people wear their Sunday Best for church any more?

A lot of older churchgoers (that is, my generation) seem to be worried about that lately.

I’d like to respond to that question with a couple of my own.

When did the members of my generation become such old fogeys? And why do they care so much about something that matters so little?

Yet that is part of a growing sentiment from my peers. Read More

6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs

Lin Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, wanted to understand how and when gender stereotypes develop, and especially the old stereotype that boys are smarter than girls. The results of her study were stark. “Among the 5-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general show large positive biases towards their own in-groups, the girls became less likely than boys to attribute brilliance to their own gender.” Already by age six, children begin to develop the idea that girls just aren’t quite as smart as boys.

This stereotype soon collides with a second—that the fields of math and science demand a special kind of innate brilliance. Because girls have absorbed the stereotype that they possess less of this talent, they tend to steer or be steered away from those fields. This “double whammy of stereotypes—that men are more likely to be brilliant, and that brilliance is required in some fields—creates an atmosphere that makes women feel unwelcome, and pushes them away.”

It is an interesting study and one parents—especially parents of young girls—would do well to consider. I want to use it as a springboard to discuss a related issue. Read More

What Is the Relationship Between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility?

The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical. But Scripture offers us considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonize within the plan of redemption.

The first step in understanding the compatibility between God’s sovereignty and human will is to recognize that they are not mutually exclusive, and Scripture makes this absolutely clear. In God’s design, human responsibility is clearly not eliminated by God’s sovereign control over His creation. That’s true even though evil was included in His grand design for the universe even before the beginning of time, and He uses His creatures’ sin for purposes that are always (and only) good. Indeed, in His infinite wisdom, He is able to use all things for good (Rom. 8:28). Read More

8 Suggested Videos to Include on Your Church Website

I don’t write this post as a technological wizard (because I’m not one . . .), but as a guy who looks at websites simply to learn about churches. In that context, here are some types of BRIEF videos I’ve seen that added much to the site, in my opinion.... Read More

5 Critical Flaws of the One-to-One Discipleship Model

Because of the imprint of the Paul-Timothy model, we unquestioningly assume the one-on-one relationship as our reference point in discipling relationships. But with the hindsight of thirty years of discipling in microgroups, the following are my reflections on some of the limitations of the one-to-one discipling dynamics. Read More

When Evangelism Really Isn’t That Hard

Director of the BGCE Evangelism Initiative offers a guide on where we begin.

We do not take Jesus to anyone. He is already present, at some level, in everyone’s life.

How could it not be so given the omnipresence of God? Furthermore, because He is a God of love, He is near every person you meet, loving and wooing him or her.

We do not go to bring Jesus to anyone; instead, we go to make explicit what He is already doing implicitly. Read More

Free Online Seminary Level Course on the Reformation

Thanks to the generosity and permission of Carl Trueman—Paul Woolley Chair of Church History and professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, as well as the author of Luther on the Christian Life—and The Master’s Seminary, you can basically take Professor Trueman’s course online for free. (You just don’t have to take any tests, write any papers, or get any credit!)

I have posted below the heart of the course syllabus, along with all of the lectures, filmed at The Master’s Seminary in January 2017.

Over at the Evangelical History blog, I have posted Professor Trueman’s bibliography for further reading. Learn More

Thursday, February 16, 2017

8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them.... Read More

Expositional Imposters

Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as “preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all. Read More

Boring Church Services Changed My Life

While I fought to keep my eyes open, the gospel pressed deep into my heart.

I’ve never really had a moment in my life—39 years—when I wasn’t going to church. My parents got engaged and married in the church. I was born into, raised in, and baptized in church.

My parents, first-generation Christians, were devout church-goers. We went every time the doors were open—and many times when they weren’t. My father, a plumber, volunteered thousands of man-hours helping build church buildings. My mother volunteered, worked as a secretary, and later served as a preschool teacher.

Since the age of five, I sat in church services: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I wasn’t allowed to draw. I was required to sit up straight—no fidgeting. And I wasn’t allowed to fall asleep.

Up through my teenage years, I thought of church as a bit boring. Sure, there were some life-changing, soul-stirring messages at summer camp or a special service. But for most of my life, including my years as a pastor, I did pretty much the same thing every week: singing familiar hymns or choruses, standing up and reading Scripture, listening to a sermon. Read More

Five Reasons to Recommend Books to Your Church Members

I’ve been privileged to work for a voracious reader and also be pastored by one. These men have modeled godly leadership for me, but have done something else, too—they’ve taught me to love learning.

We say it often on the podcast—“A lifelong leader is a lifelong learner.” And while formal education (like you would find at a seminary like Midwestern) and ongoing ministry training (like we provide at Church Answers) are useful, personal development through the discipline of reading is also of great benefit.

As a pastor or church leader, you obviously play an important role in the spiritual development of fellow church members. But you can also develop members personally through the simple act of recommending books to them on a regular basis. Here are 5 reasons why.... Read More

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Is Church Growth a Solution Looking for a Problem?

The apostles addressed a broad range of church issues, but no New Testament writer ever told a church to get bigger.

We’ve invested a lot into the art and science of church growth in the last 50 years.

It makes me wonder. After such a massive output of time, energy, research and money, have we become like the proverbial man with a hammer who sees everything as a nail?

Is that why church growth is always the go-to answer for every challenge? Because we can’t afford it not to be?

Has church growth become a solution looking for a problem?

To address this question, let’s look back to the early church. Read More

A Note to 20-Something Church Leaders

If churches are to grow and develop in the next 100 years, we will need to raise up younger leaders. If you are a 20-something, perhaps you aspire to, or are on a trajectory toward, church leadership. As someone who has had to grow into a position of senior leadership, I want to share a few thoughts with you in the hopes that you will walk this path carefully—always in step with the Holy Spirit and the way that God has wired you.

But first, here is an important observation about how older leaders see you. Often, many older leaders lack faith in the ability of younger leaders to last for the long haul. Let me be honest and say sometimes their fears are justifiable. As a younger leader, you will need to demonstrate godliness, faith and commitment through your ministry involvement.

But the future of our churches depends on the transmission of our faith from one generation to the next. It’s true that leadership can be a gift of the Lord, regardless of age, but I also firmly believe that it is something that can be developed in every person’s life if he or she is intentional and committed to the process. Read More

My Unusual Preaching Feedback Team

The impact five dead prophets have on my sermon preparation each week.

I am pleased to introduce a most unusual sermon feedback team: 5 dead prophets. Nothing gets past them, which is why I keep them at the table. Their insights get to the heart of the matter, transcending mere praise or criticism. I invite you to experience the cross-pressure and promise of our conversation. I hope it will make your sermons more fruitful and faithful. Read More