Friday, September 29, 2006

A fifty year history of evangelicalism...

Mark Noll has some interesting and provocative insight in this CT article. Agree wholeheartedly or not, it is thought-provoking:

During the first half of the 20th century, the stress had shifted toward preserving traditions. At the middle of the 20th century, evangelicals began to move back toward a balance.

But have evangelicals today moved too far? Has an overemphasis on preserving tradition been replaced by an overemphasis on connecting to the culture? For such supremely important questions, it is, of course, too early for a historical assessment. When the balance shifts too strongly to one without the other, it is merely sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. But an evangelical resurgence that balances traditional faith and cultural relevance sounds a trumpet of salvation to the world.


Should we fret people leaving our church? Maybe yes, maybe no...

Closing the "back door" of the church is something that church growth pundits think we should be thinking about on a constant basis. There are some things we can do to keep people "with us" as this article attests. But, even Jesus had this problem...
Jesus, too, had a "revolving back door" in his ministry...Reach out to them, apologizing when needed, offering clarification and love when this is what's called for. But remember that when Jesus, God's Word made flesh, preached the gospel on this earth, most of his hearers did not accept his message. Some accused him of having a demon. One of his key leaders even betrayed him.

Jesus knew that God's kingdom would not expand by "pleasing all of the people all of the time." Instead the Kingdom expands as the relative minority of people who hear the gospel, live it, and in turn, give it away. Our task is to keep scattering the seed.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Tuesday morning evangelistic smackdown, viii

Cotton Patch Version of the Great Commission in Acts: “So those about him began asking, “Will that be the occasion on which you will take over the government?” He said to them, “You are not to get all worked up about timetables and events which the Father has under his own control. But as the Holy Spirit comes over you, you will get power and will be my agents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia, in the ghetto and across the land.”

Word study
: “Several years ago, I pulled down the Encyclopedia Britannica to read the article on frankincense, and I discovered that frankincense comes from a tree…The plantation workers slash it. They take sharp, heavy knives or hatchets and slash the bark of the tree, then cut away the bark below the wound, and wait while the tree bleeds its sap. The encyclopedia used an unfamiliar words to describe the drops of sap, saying that they are expelled in ovate form…primarily “egg-shaped.” But it also means “tear-shaped.” So the tree weeps its sap. Then the sap is left to harden. When it has hardened, the pieces are crushed, ground to powder, and dissolved in a solvent. Only when the tree loses its own life fluid can it make the world a better-smelling place. As Christians, our lives are like that. We are supposed to be a sweet-smelling savor in the nostrils of God, but we can accomplish that only by surrendering our own lives for His sake. (Dennis Kinlaw, We Live as Christ)

Annual % of church growth – 1900-2000

France 0.0
Britain 0.1
USA – 1.3
Honduras 2.5
Afghanistan – 3.6
Zambia 8.5
Saudi Arabia 10.2
Niger 11.6
Rwanda 11.7
Nepal 14.2

Kierkegaard, again! “What is needed is not professors but witnesses. No, if Christ did not need scholars but was satisfied with fishermen, what is needed now is more fishermen.” (Journals and Papers, I, 44)

A favorite Wesley bit of Latin: Vive hodie! (Live today). Letter, 21/9/60.

Barna’s Cold Slap of Reality today
: A new study by The Barna Group (Ventura, California) shows that despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years – and often beyond that. In total, six out of ten twentysomethings were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood.” (


Jesus leaders - what pastors were meant to be

Jim Martin, pastor of Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas:
Many people are cynical about the church. That’s not news. There are many reasons for this cynicism. Some are cynical because of a basic mistrust of the people leading these churches. Some feel burned after learning a leader was living an immoral lifestyle. Others have been burned by placing their confidence in some church leader only to be severely disappointed due to displays of anger, ego, manipulation, etc. In contrast to these experiences, many people today would find genuine Jesus leaders to be quite refreshing.
  • We are at our best when we practice what we preach.

  • We are at our best when Jesus – rather than our own ego – is front and center.
    Rest of article here.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Prophesying "in pirate"

I find this stuff. You decide.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Sam Brobst took a "Learning Your Spiritual Gift" course at Full Life Center, a charismatic church, and felt the Lord leading him to prophesy during meetings. But when Brobst opened his mouth the first time, he and others were surprised by what came out: pirate speak.

"We were in the middle of worship, when this voice rings out, 'Yar! Hear the word of the Lord — the Lord of the mighty seas!'" says one witness. "It was straight out of a Disneyland ride."

Brobst says he can't help it: when the Spirit moves upon him, he clamps one eye shut and his voice becomes gravelly and menacing. On a recent Sunday, he prophesied, "Avast ye, mateys! Hear the word from our Cap'n: No fear have ye of storms and scallywags, says ye? Argh! But I be seein' your true hearts. For I see below quarterdecks, says I. Ye be tremblin' in the face of scurvy dogs. But pay them no heed. For I be preparin' to pour down plenty o' booty upon ye. So be of cheer, me hearties! Ye be loved of the Cap'n."

The people of the church by now are accustomed to it, though first-time visitors often giggle.

HT: Locusts and Honey


Reformed gangsta rap

Arminians and Jay-Dub take the hits during this thing.

"No actual Arminians were harmed during this slideshow." Yeah? So what is with the blood on the ground there?

HT: Locusts and Honey

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Campolo...on conservatives

This is from a Tony Campolo interview.

Q. How do you feel about evangelicals becoming involved in environmental issues?

A. Evangelicals have tended to be conservative and that has led them to take positions that are anti-biblical. The environment is one. The God of Creation calls us to be good stewards of creation. I worry sometimes when the church becomes so tied into a political mind-set that it's more committed to the politics of a party than it is sensitive to what the Scripture teaches.
Tony, Tony. C'mon. "Tended to be conservative...[thus] anti-biblical"?

Dr. Campolo is so much better than this. Wants, along with Jim Wallis and company, to be the great Evangelical Middle in coming elections that he just can't stand not to take a swipe when one is not warranted. Conservative...anti-biblical. Cheap.

And, for whatever it is worth, some of us worry about the Campolo/Wallis crowd becoming so tied to a political mind-set that they are far more committed to the politics of the Democrats than what the Scripture teaches.

Be careful, Tony. Be very careful. You are becoming that which you are railing against - politically captive.

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Old geezers don't come to know Jesus?

Wrong, says Charles Arn. And I suspect he is right. Maybe it is the church that doesn't have a clue and is woefully unprepared for the coming "Age Wave."

Only 6.8 percent of those who become Christians and new church members are over age 50, and only 1.2 percent are over 60. In addition, two-thirds of churches with 1,000 or more members in the United States reported “1” or “0” senior adults added to their membership through “conversion growth” in the previous year.

One of three conclusions can be drawn …

    1) The older people grow, the more resistant they become to the Gospel; thus, fewer older adults convert.

    2) Churches allocate the bulk of their outreach resources to youth and younger adults; thus, fewer older adults convert.

    3) Evangelism strategies practiced by churches today are more effective for people in the first half of life; thus, fewer older adults convert.

From my involvement in older adult ministry for the last 11 years, I've observed that the first conclusion is completely untrue, the second is often true, and the third is almost always true.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Venezuelan President Cesar Chavez on the Devil

This is what the U.S. has to deal with in the United Nations. Makes it hard to take seriously...
The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.

"And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here." [crosses himself]

"And it smells of sulfur still today."

Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.

I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday's statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.

An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: "The Devil's Recipe." From the Drudge Report.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kerry - legitimately and seriously religious?

Update: This from James Taranto/Opinion Journal:

So here's Kerry's idea of "common ground":

Abortion opponents agree to accept that any woman who wants to abort her baby has an absolute right to do so (per Roe v. Wade), at taxpayer expense ("health insurance for everyone").

In exchange, Kerry and his fellow abortion enthusiasts have to say that they devoutly hope that the various big-government social programs, which they would support anyway, will reduce the number of abortions.

Sounds like Kerry gets the better end of this deal.

Is Kerry the real deal, or is this just a ploy for votes in the next presidential election? I think I know. But even if he is for real, is he relying too much on answers to the problems he points out that his political opponents will simply disagree with - too much government dependence for the poor, Kyoto treaty for global warming, condom demonstrations in grade school for reducing abortions?
Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Monday urged people of faith to work cooperatively on problems such as poverty, global warming and reducing the number of abortions - "godly tasks" that transcend the nation's culture wars.

In a speech laced with anecdotes of his own journey of faith, Kerry, a Roman Catholic, told students in a speech at Pepperdine University that "we can take up God's work as our own.

"Shame on us if we use our faith to divide and alienate people from one another, or if we draft God into partisan service," Kerry said. "As God gives us the ability to see, let us take up the tasks associated with loving our neighbors as ourselves."

Even with the nation riven over reproductive rights, Kerry said a shared goal should be reducing the high number of abortions. The first step, he said, it to accept the responsibility of making abortion rare.

"Even as a supporter of Roe v. Wade, I am compelled to acknowledge that the language both sides use on this subject can be unfortunately misleading and unconstructive. ... Everyone is worse off for it," the Massachusetts senator said.

The 2004 Democratic nominee is a potential candidate for the party nod in the next presidential election.

Kerry's remarks were among his most extensive ever on religion. He alluded to the 2004 election, saying his past reticence to openly discuss his faith allowed others to "draw the caricature for me. I will never let that happen again."


Monday, September 18, 2006

Reasons you shouldn't vote

My latest from AgapePress


Friday, September 15, 2006

And the most recent entry in our "Gimmick Evangelism" contest...

Alas, this apparently is no joke:
The image of Jesus in the froth left on the sides of an almost empty pint glass next to the words 'Where will you find him?' will spearhead the Churches' Advertising Network (CAN) festive campaign to encourage church-going this Christmas.
And who will be the first to say, "Yeah, but if it saves just one person then it will all be worth it..."?

Spare us.

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Students - how NOT to evangelize. Got it?

Outside of persistence try to forget this...

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Americans - more religious than we realized?

There are many ways to discern how religious America is. While I don't think that it is "morning in America" it is always interesting to get a perspective that seems to go against the notion that we are getting more secularized by the minute. This from the WashPost.
A survey released yesterday posits the idea that the United States -- already one of the most religious nations in the developed world -- may be even less secular than previously suspected.

The Baylor University survey looked carefully at people who checked "none" when asked their religion in polls. Sociologists have watched this group closely since 1990, when their numbers doubled, from 7 percent of the population to 14 percent. Some sociologists said the jump reflects increasing secularization at the same time that American society is becoming more religious.

But the Baylor survey, considered one of the most detailed ever conducted about religion in the United States, found that one in 10 people who picked "no religion" out of 40 choices did something interesting when asked later where they worship: They named a place.

Considering that, Baylor researchers say, the percentage of people who are truly unaffiliated is more like 10.8 percent. The difference between 10.8 percent and 14 percent is about 10 million Americans.

"People might not have a denomination, but they have a congregation. They have a sense of religious connection that is formative to who they are," said Kevin D. Dougherty, a sociologist at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion and one of the survey's authors. Baylor is a leading Baptist university, located in Waco, Tex.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Alice Cooper - biblical literalist

Who would have thunk? HT - Thunderstruck
"I'm a true believer in God and Satan. I may be one of the only people in the world that believes that Bible stories are literal. I literally believe that there is a character named the Devil who is definitely out for you and me. He's out there to get you and me to look away from Christ."
--Alice Cooper in the Toronto Sun

Warren vs. Olsteen on the prosperity gospel

I like Rick Warren. He's not inerrant or anything, but he is good. Gives away 90% of his income, has five great purposes for the church and has a heart for the poor and disenfranchised in the developing world. And hoorah! for the National Baptists. This from CT's blog:

Is this the Prosperity Gospel's hour? Or the hour of its critics?
Time's cover story, "Does God Want You to Be Rich?" makes no reference to the National Baptist Convention, but it's worth noting that the black denomination spent much of its annual convention last week attacking the prosperity gospel. "Black communities are suffering, while this prosperity-pimping gospel is emotionally charging people who are watching their communities just literally dissolve," Friendship West Baptist Church pastor Frederick Haynes told Dallas's WFAA.

That the prosperity gospel has a hold on a segment of American culture is not disputable. Time quotes its own poll numbers:
17 percent of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61 percent believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31 percent—a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America—agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. … Of the four biggest megachurches in the country, three—Joel Osteen's Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes' Potter's House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar's World Changers near Atlanta—are Prosperity or Prosperity Lite pulpits.

For Osteen, Prosperity Gospel isn't a pejorative term:

"Does God want us to be rich?" he asks. "When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it." Rather, he explains, "I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?"

On the other side is the guy whose church rounds out the "largest four" list:

"This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", [Rick] Warren snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"

It's smart for Time to make Warren the piece's chief critic of the Prosperity Gospel. (One of his favorite lines, "I don't think it is a sin to be rich. I think it is a sin to die rich," doesn't appear.) And it allows Time to make its most astute observation: one of the reasons that the prosperity gospel has been able to grow is because (particularly white, middle-class) evangelical churches have avoided talking about personal finances or social inequality.

Now, however, white, middle-class evangelical churches are starting to talk about personal finances and social inequality. So the question becomes whether Prosperity Gospel is as ascendant as Time suggests, or whether it's just an aberrant theology that's about to have an unprosperous future.

Its aberrant, and sinful. There.


Best video ever? Or...why the holiness movement doesn't believe in dancing! Or contemporary music!!

Yikes! Jonah Goldberg over at the Corner is suggesting this for his Best Video Ever contest. Double yikes!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Worst news of the day in popular culture - Veggie Tales losing faith...

This from Brent Bozell via WashTimes:
Maybe you're familiar with the computer-animated cartoon "Veggie Tales," a video series targeted at children ages 2 to 8, and which features moral and religious tales hosted by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. Beginning in 1993, the series was distributed on VHS tapes, telling biblical stories like the Battle of Jericho, David and Goliath and the tale of the Good Samaritan. Each show ended with a Bible verse.

And it's been a marketing phenomenon. Without any broadcasting or syndication on television, "Veggie Tales" has sold more than 50 million "Veggie Tales" DVDs and videotapes -- primarily, but quietly, through big chain stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Family Christian Stores. As their popularity spread, so did "Veggie Tales" T-shirts, plush toys and other products.

Eventually, someone in Tinseltown saw the commercial possibilities. Now, the news breaks that NBC (as well as NBC-owned Telemundo) will begin showing "Veggie Tales" cartoons on Saturday mornings for the new fall season....

But here is what should be news. The early word from producers is that NBC has grown increasingly fierce about editing something out of "Veggie Tales" -- those apparently unacceptable, insensitive references to God and the Bible.

So NBC has taken the very essence of "Veggie Tales" -- and ripped it out. It's like "Gunsmoke" without the guns, or "Monday Night Football" without the football.
Maybe somewhere in the near future Christians who want to make it big have to decide not to make it big. Keep your product and maintain integrity.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday morning evangelistic smack-down, vii

Effect Has Been Small
Martin Marty of the University of Chicago pulled no punches in describing contemporary evangelicalism in the Wall Street Journal some years back. “If you’re part of the evangelical subculture,” he said, “it’s your whole life….you go to church, you buy religious books, you watch the television programs. But if you’re not part of the subculture, you never know it exists.”

The subtitle of the Journal article reflect the author’s findings:

An Evangelical Revival is Sweeping the Nation But with Little Effect

Shunning the Sinful World

Effect Has Been Small

Shying from Involvement
(The Master Plan of Teaching, Friedeman)

The great end of life?
"The great end of life is not knowledge, but action. What men need is as much knowledge as they can organize for action; give them more and it may become injurious. Some men are heavy and stupid from undigested learning" (Thomas Huxley)

Perspective on “one of the greatest”
“I hate to meet John Wesley; the dog enchants you with his conversation, and then breaks away to go and visit some old woman!” (Samuel Johnson)

Full Time Christian Workers per Million People:
USA – 5,508,
Marshall Islands – 8,313.1,
Monaco – 7,738.8,
Samoa – 18,325.9,
Tonga – 10,147.5,
Afghanistan – 3.1,
Bangladesh, 26.3,
China – 82.4,
Czech Republic – 536.9,
Haiti – 559.5,
Japan – 185.5,
North Korea – 7.1. (World Christian Encyclopedia)

Confused? Ministering to the "confused"?
There is a confusion that leads to death and there is a confusion that leads to life. (Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel 16.52)


Monday, September 11, 2006

9-11 Photo Essay

Never forget.

God - on your side no matter what? Joel Osteen - taking the hard stands...

Get a load of Joel Osteen. My, my.
He’s the most popular preacher in the country right now - a best-selling author and the “most watched minister” in America.
But when asked yesterday about gay marriage during a trip to the bluest state in the land of the free - and the only one where same-sex nuptuals are legal - the Rev. Joel Osteen suddenly got sheepish.
“I don’t think it’s God’s best,” the handsome Holy Roller said of homosexuality. “I never feel like homosexuality is God’s best.”
When pressed on the issue, Osteen said, “I don’t feel like that’s my thrust . . . you know, some of the issues that divide us, and I’m here to let people know that God is for them and he’s on their side.”


"I have the highest respect for Islam..."

Compulsion in religion?
"There is no compulsion in religion," says the Qur'an. "We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint," says Steve Centanni, the Fox News correspondent who was kidnapped with cameraman Olaf Wiig. "Don't get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn't know what the hell was going on," he said. HT: CT Weblog
You is OK, news correspondents, to NOT have the highest respect for a religion that forces people to convert at gunpoint. Have we lost our minds?

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Friday, September 08, 2006

The Church and culture: Never give up!

My latest from AgapePress.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Trinity-sizing your menu?

Appears so, for NTS student Karl Jett...


Give up on the culture...for Jesus?

Great article by Stan Guthrie in CT. Do we give up on culture, or not? He highlights some recent writers.

• Likening culture to the weather, Frederica Mathewes-Green (March) counsels: "God has not called us to change the weather. Our primary task as believers, and our best hope for lasting success, is to care for individuals caught up in the pounding storm."

• Columnist Philip Yancey (November 2005) worries about "how tempting it can be—and how distracting from our primary mission—to devote so many efforts to rehabilitating society at large, especially when these efforts demonize the opposition. (After all, neither Jesus nor Paul showed much concern about cleaning up the degenerate Roman Empire.)"

• In July, Yancey warns of a "harsh fundamentalism" spreading not among Muslims, but among politically minded Christians.

Guthrie says, "Certainly these writers are making a perennially important point that evangelism and social ministry must never take a back seat to political activism. But we must also beware of going to the opposite extreme of a privatized faith. Christians are to be salt and light in all spheres of human life—even at the risk of occasionally offending our neighbors." (emphasis, mine)

Guthrie gives us this quotable (that we all ought to memorize): "Carl Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, said as much almost six decades ago in his classic book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. 'The battle against evil in all its forms must be pressed unsparingly,' Henry said. '[W]e must pursue the enemy in politics, in economics, in science, in ethics—everywhere, in every field, we must pursue relentlessly.'" (emphasis, mine)

Well, yes. Yes!

Guthrie concludes: "As we seek concrete ways to love our neighbors, Christians are right to fight sex trafficking, genocide, and aids. But doesn't Christ's love also compel us to speak compassionately against the new eugenics, gay marriage, and other attempts to redefine bedrock Judeo-Christian understandings of human nature and family life? We must fight evil in the public square—whether we are the political flavor of the month or not."


Man the oars! Purpose driven concept splitting Church!

This from the Wall Street Journal, no less.
But the purpose-driven movement is dividing the country's more than 50 million evangelicals. Some evangelicals... say it's inappropriate for churches to use growth tactics akin to modern management tools, including concepts such as researching the church "market" and writing mission statements. Others say it encourages simplistic Bible teaching. Anger over the adoption of Mr. Warren's methods has driven off older Christians from their longtime churches. Congregations nationwide have split or expelled members who fought the changes, roiling working-class Baptist congregations and affluent nondenominational churches.

Let's be reminded of Rick Warren's (actually biblical) purposes: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism. Let's be reminded of Jesus who, by his own admission, "marketed" his gospel to the Jews. Let's be reminded that if simple Bible studies are what some pastors desire today, maybe we should be ready to admit that "simple" - from everything Barna is reminding us about America's scriptural illiteracy - might be what is necessary.

I don't doubt at all that some, few churches are splitting over getting a biblical vision and some purposeful direction. That IS problematic for many of the 85% of churches nationwide that are plateaued and declining.

And, please, I don't know enough of Warren's day-in, day-out activities to defend his every sermon and ministry movement. But if churches are splitting over the purpose-driven book he sells and the excellent information given out at his seminars, then let them split.

I just don't want to be the guy arguing against worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism and mission statements like Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8.

And, by the way, bring on the modern music and preaching in Hawaiian shirts and sandals.


Saddleback Church

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Money - the root of all kinds of evil

And sometimes, the setting for the story is what hurts the most...

This was the lottery that nobody wanted to win. The day New York's Twin Towers were destroyed by hijacked planes, hundreds of widows were left destitute. As the full extent of the horror of 9/11 became evident, public donations poured in.

During the feverish days following the attack, Congress established a billion- dollar compensation fund, and grieving wives became overnight millionaires.

No one could have known that for many of them, the money would destroy their lives once again, attracting jealousy, resentful relatives and making them even more depressed. Some would become squandering, spendaholic widows, their payouts fuelling addictions which could not replace the husbands they had lost. Others would become embroiled in legal battles with their families, their lives eaten up by bitterness.

Some, vilified by the public, would even receive a cash windfall which attracted others' husbands. And, most pitifully, some would get very little at all - their spouses deemed worthy of only a pittance under a system which favoured the rich.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday morning evangelistic smack-down, vi

John Chrysostom, in reflecting on Paul’s approach to ministry says this:

"For Paul’s work found its source in power, mighty power, power that surpassed mere human diligence. For Paul brought three qualifications to the preaching of the word:

  • a fervent and adventurous zeal,
  • a soul ready to undergo any possible hardship
  • and the combination of knowledge and wisdom.

Even with Paul’s love of the difficult task, his blameless life would have accomplished little had he not also received the power of the Spirit.

Examine the matter from Paul’s own words: “That our ministry not be blamed” And again “For our exhortation is not founded on deceit, nor uncleanness, nor guile nor hidden under a cloak of covetousness.” Thus you have seen his blamelessness. And again “For we aim at what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of human beings.”

Without this Paul’s work would have been impossible. People were not converted by Paul’s miracles; no it was not the miracles that produced faith, nor did Paul base his high calling upon the miraculous but upon other grounds:

  • a man must be irreproachable in conduct,
  • prudent and
  • discreet in his dealings with others, regardless of the dangers involved, and
  • apt to teach.

These were the qualifications that enabled Paul to reach his goal." (Homilies on Ephesians 6). (HT: Ben Witherington)

Wrong questions – right questions Dr. Roger Parrott, Belhaven College in Jackson, MS., was speaking at the Wesley Biblical Seminary chapel last week. He said that those in higher education are notorious for asking the wrong questions.

Wrong – What is your major?

Right – What is your passion?

Wrong – What do you want to be when you graduate?

Right – How are you gifted?

Wrong – What would you be if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Right – If you could be exactly what God wanted you to be – why wouldn’t you be?

These questions, he says, set you on a quantum leap above what the world will be able to offer you.

Ouch! – on a couple of different levels "A man is castrated in order to make him a singer who can take higher notes than any normal man can take. And so with these preachers: from a Christian point of view they are castrati, are deprived of their real manhood which is 'the existential' - but they can take notes higher and more fascinating than any true Christian." (Soren Kierkegaard)

Wesley said, they did: “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore, spend and be spent in the work.” Spend themselves, they did! “Of the first 737 members of the Conferences to die [up to 1847], nearly half died before they were thirty years old, [and] two-thirds died before they had been able to render twelve years of service.” Says Robert Coleman, “No insurance company would ever have given them a ‘preferred risk’ policy.” (Coleman, Nothing to Do But to Save Souls)

Word study... from Dennis Kinlaw: “I recently pulled down a dictionary to trace the etymology of the English word, true. It comes from an old Indo-European word, treow, which meant “tree.” …I asked myself, How are those trees like truth? It suddenly dawned on me. Never have I gone to bed wondering where one of those trees would be the next morning. In all the years we’ve lived at that house, neither of those trees has moved. They don’t budge. That’s the way truth is. That’s the way God is. You can count on Him. He doesn’t change. Faithfulness and truth come together in Almighty God.

“In Hebrew, the word for ‘believe’ and the word for ‘faith’ come from the same linguistic root, which is also the source of the Hebrew word for ‘truth.’ That Hebrew root word is amen, which we use at the end of our prayers to mean, ‘Let is be so. Let it be true. Let it be unchangeable. Let it be established.’ The Hebrew word for ‘truth is emmenet, though it also appears in the contracted form, ement. It comes from that root word, Amen. In other words, the ancient Hebrews knew that truth does not change. It is something we can count on.” (Kinlaw, We Live as Christ)


Monday, September 04, 2006

Hmmm...Why men don't much like church

David Murrow highlights 10 things that men therefore fear about church:

1. Being outshone by women who thrive in the feminine climate.
2. Singing in public (look around next time the singing starts at the difference in engagement between men and women).
3. Having to check their minds at the door, not being able to ask questions or use their brains.
4. That the church will brain washing their boys into becoming sissies.
5. Having to become a super husband, their wives love Jesus who is already perfect so how can we compete with that?
6. Church is synonymous with homosexuality – from images in the media off the effeminate portrayal of clergy to sex abuse scandals and then we make man hug, sing and hold hands…
7. Getting less sex – church to them is portrayed as promoting a Victorian attitude towards sex and many Non-Christian men suspect that Christian mates get little sex as a result.
8. Having to get dressed up at the weekends – men like to be scruffy and not sure churches really allow that.
9. Men appreciate excellence and don’t expect to find it in a church.
10. There’s already an alpha male in residence called the pastor/minister/vicar – fears that he will never be able to use his own talents in any way that could possibly outshine the dominant male.

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Comeback churches

Turning a significantly declining church into a growing one (particularly one growing by conversion) is a rarity. But it can be done. Take a look at "Comeback Churches."

HT: (great website)

Comeback churches can return to evangelistic effectiveness. A good read from Ed Stetzer and Mike Dobson:
When we undertook our study of churches that went from decline to stagnation in a 5 year period, about 1% of churches qualified. Ten denominations shared their data for this research project and an average of 1% of their churches qualified. Moving a church to evangelistic effectiveness is hard work and takes wisdom, courage, and insight. Hopefully these resources will help you know how... and in 2007 ComebackChurches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and How Your Can Too! will be published. Until then, you can consult some recent books, read the articles from On Mission Magazine, and learn from other organizations involved in church revitalization. -Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Displaying the cross, or carrying it?

There is a difference.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

An editor is going to get fired at the New York Times?

Richard John Neuhas at First Things thinks so. They let a quote on medical research slip through describing a baby as, gasp, a person!
“The difference is that the heart and kidney belong to a single individual, while pregnancy is a two-person operation. And this operation does not run in perfect harmony. . . . A mother and her unborn child engage in an unconscious struggle over the nutrients she will provide it.” Two persons? Unborn child? So far the slips have not been noted in the “Corrections” section of the paper.


Christian witchdoctors? Christian cults?

This is a problem. I am reminded of the Kenyan missionary who told me one time that the biggest problem of Christianity in that nation were the 300 "Christian cults." Sort of a "Jesus - and..." dynamic. But, ah, having to warn your priests?
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Southern Africa's Catholic bishops have warned priests to stop moonlighting as witchdoctors, fortune tellers and traditional healers, and to rely on Christ for miracles.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, which represents bishops in South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, said on its Web sites some priests were adopting the traditional African practice of calling on ancestors for healing.

The bishops ordered priests to "desist from practices involving spirits", and to steer clear from witchcraft, fortune-telling and selling spiritual powers or magic medicines.

"The belief that ancestors are endowed with supernatural powers borders on idolatry. It is God, and God alone, who is all-powerful while the ancestors are created by him," said the pastoral letter to priests issued earlier this month.

Some Christian sects, like the South Africa-based Zion Christian Church, fuse traditional African beliefs about the power of the ancestors with orthodox Christianity.

Some things are just not meant to be grafted in. Wonder - does America have a similar problem. Say...God and mammon, for starters.