Insights from the Evangelism Blogosphere
Christian Schwarz in his book, Natural Church Development, reports the first worldwide study of churches to see what makes them healthy. There have been many studies done, of course, about church growth and health, but this book is the first study that looked at all kinds of churches from all over the world to see if there were some characteristics common to all healthy, growing churches.
Churches with 1000 or more in attendance are the exceptions. By contrast, the rule should be churches of about 100 to 200 attendees who continuously help new churches to be born. This is demonstrably the most effective contribution a church can make to world evangelization.
Eighty-four percent of all churches that have done a church profile several times and have made measurable progress in view of their minimum factor have also experienced numerical growth. And without exception, wherever a quality index of 65 was reached in all eight areas – in other words, wherever the principles of natural church development have been applied in especially consistent ways – churches grow also quantitatively.
On average, smaller churches are the better churches. To say it in a simplified way: “The larger, the worse.” This pattern is so significant that it is difficult to see why no one else has come across this pattern. Instead some authors even proceed from the opposite thesis, namely “The bigger, the better.”
Since it seems to be a lost art, here is one good apology from a man who apparently needed to say "I'm sorry."
The following is the complete text of Mel Gibson's statement regarding his arrest for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol:
"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the L.A. County sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person.
"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said and I apologize to anyone who I have offended.
"Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry.
"I have battled the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."
Interesting, if not exactly friendly, interview by the BeliefNet crowd. I think this could probably be chalked up as an e-mail interview...I can't believe anybody is this quick nose to nose with a reporter. Read the whole thing...
We've done some polls here at Beliefnet, and a surprising number of Democrats at least say they are religious. Some 61 percent say they pray daily and 72 percent attend worship services once a month or more. How would you explain that?
Just curious: What percentage of them know which Testament the Book of Job is in?
You say that the Episcopal Church is "barely even a church." Why?
Because it's become increasingly difficult to distinguish the pronouncements of the Episcopal Church from the latest Madonna video.
And don't many people whom you would classify as belonging to the Church of Liberalism define themselves as Christian or Jewish? Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Michael Lerner of Tikkun claim to be applying authentic Christian and Jewish theology to political and social questions. Are such people not really Christians or Jews?
Yes, the percentage of liberals who define themselves as practicing Christians or Jews goes up in direct proportion to their proximity to elective office.
I cannot speak to individual cases--only God knows who is truly following Him--but claiming to be Jewish or Christian doesn't immunize one from bad ideologies. Some slaveholders claimed to be Christians, too. Howard Dean, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry all belong to a church that believes it's okay to stick a fork in a baby's head. To the extent one is practicing liberalism, one is not practicing the religion of our Father.
As a woman, do you long for that source of great fulfillment for many women: a husband, a family? Or do you see your life's vocation as primarily in the public arena?
As a journalist, do you long to have a sense of decorum? Or do you see your life's vocation as primarily asking strangers utterly inappropriate personal questions?
What does it mean to be a good Christian, and do you consider yourself to be a good Christian?
To believe with all your heart at every moment that God loved a wretch like you so much that he sent his only son to die for your sins. Most of the time, I'm an extraordinarily good Christian.
"She means it, every word." I doubt it. But she ought to sell some books.
If you're one of the 40 million readers of The Da Vinci Code, get ready to stretch your credulity still further. An author is about to claim that she is the living embodiment of the Holy Grail, a direct descendant of the physical union between Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. She's American, she's 43, and she means it - every word.
Interesting. Wonder who complained? The curfew busting bass guitarist's mom, perhaps?
ALBANY -- Organ music has long had a place in church. But what about the power chord?
There will be no more music -- rock, punk, ska or even polka -- coming from the basement stage at Trinity Methodist Church on Lark Street, where police say an ongoing program of youth rock bands turned the church into an illegal nightclub.
"That's not the image we are projecting," said the Rev. Maurice E. Drown, who has hosted the all-ages, no-alcohol shows since March. "They are really stretching it to find some way not to have the youth in here."
Police Chief James Tuffey, who sent officers to the church Wednesday to halt a concert of four bands and issue Drown a summons to City Court, said the church is breaking the law. "An organ recital is a church event. This is not a church event."
Tuffey said neighbors complained about noise and kids hanging around the church, which is located in the heart of the city's liveliest neighborhood, where a string of bars and nightspots keep the street busy well into the night.
The shows are the brainchild of the Rev. Joyce Hartwell, who moved her New Age Cabaret into Drown's church after it lost its North Albany location this spring. She said she uses young people's love of music to tap into their spirituality.
"You can't confine religion to one book or procedure," said Hartwell, who provides books on Christianity and other world religions, as well as art objects and drawings, as part of the "Artists All-Faith Center" in the church.
Alcohol, drugs and smoking are banned, and donations are taken at the door, said Hartwell, who ran an a similar operation on Manhattan's Lower East Side for more than two decades before coming to Albany in 2000.
HT: Tough Times
So I have studied...did I DO anything today?
"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 - "The Disturbing Dane")
WASHINGTON, July 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- Joni Eareckson Tada was among those gathered at the White House in support of President George W. Bush as he vetoed a bill which would have expanded federal funding of research using human embryos from IVF clinics to harvest stem cells. Joining fellow disability advocates, ethicists, researchers, theologians and legislators Mrs. Tada, a spinal cord injured quadriplegic for nearly four decades observed, I stand with countless Americans with disabilities who believe that our cause is not advanced when human life is sacrificed in hopes of finding a cure. People like me -- who are medically fragile -- are left vulnerable and exposed in a society that views human life as a commodity which can be experimented upon or exploited. Any research that destroys human embryos is an affront to Gods creative authority.
Still hard to figure out what its all about from this report. Still, interesting...
(CBS) CHICAGO Many theologians believe the Emerging Church Movement is the fastest growing group in Christianity. It has no national organization or coordination, so it's almost impossible to know just how big it is.
Some estimates say there are 20 million of these new faithful in the U.S. alone -- that's more than Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Mormons put together.
I have been lately trying to figure out the "Emerging Church" dynamic that is all the rage. Frankly, it sounds like the house church where I found the Lord (or...He found me!). At any rate, here are 12 tension points offered up by Andrew Jones and his interesting website.
1. The Statement of Faith and the Rule of Life.
Many emerging churches form and require commitment to a rule of life before they develop a doctrinal statement. This makes it look like doctrinal statements are undervalued and creates a tension point.
More about Rule of Life and new monasticism here or read the story of when I took a vow during my night of absolute terror. I think its really important to read and affirm the historic creeds, as I did recently in responding to some questions.
2. The Pulpit and the Table
The reformation moved the table to the side of the church and the pulpit to the middle. Emerging churches are often restoring the centrality of the Lords Supper - having services that mimic the Love Feast, or at least give prominence to the Eucharist. Good book on the subject called Mass Culture: Eucharist and Mission in a Post-Modern World, edited by Pete Ward.
3. The Sermon and the Story.
This is the tension of the proposition illustrated by narrative and the narrative that highlights a proposition
Preaching is often more narrative based so that the points or propositions can be processed in public, allowing greater accountability and ownership.
4. The Church and the Kingdom
Teaching about the Kingdom of God is emphasized in the emerging church - allowing a bigger picture of how the church fits in to the scheme of God's plan of reconciliation.
5. The Epistles and the Gospels
The gospels inform our missiology as well as the epistles. Emerging church people are insisting on seeing the epistles and the book of Acts through the lens of Jesus teaching and life, instead of the other way around. This is why I teach so much on the gospels and their relevance for church planting.
6. Static Worship and Dynamic Worship
Motion is again a factor in our worship. Worship happens often in navigable space, whether it is station to station, prayer walking, pilgrimage, or labyrinth-like journeys of worship such as the the gate to gate worship in the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles. This creates tension and suspicion with the stage led worship
7. Teaching to Agree and Teaching to Obey
Obedience-based teaching is emphasized and given preference. This does not mean that assentment to a set of beliefs is not important. In fact, I highly recommend the historic Christian creeds and more recent as a global . But Jesus said to make disciples of every nation, baptising them and teaching them to obey. We cannot afford to leave off those last two words.
8. The Scholar/Orator and the Reflective Practitioner
Training for emerging church is producing reflective practitioners who are hands-on leaders of new mission-shaped churches. Knowing how to deal with the demonic, start a church with no budget and knowing how to explain the gospel in the language of the hearer is more valuable than having an academic degree or the ability to give a great sermon. Changes in training methods and content are reflecting this.
9. The Teacher/Pastor and the Apostle/Prophet
Teachers and Pastors have given leadership to the church in a Christian context - where safe-guarding the sheep is the most important thing. But as the church begins to form in a post-Christian context where there are more goats than sheep, those gifted with apostolic and prophetic gifts are more equipped to point the way forward.
10. Theology and Missiology
Related to the previous tension point. As the gospel takes form in a new or post-Christian context, a biblical contextual missiology is given more space. Retired missionaries may become a huge asset to the emerging church.
11. Western and Global
Our global world is impacted by voices from all over the world. Theologians, missionaries and teachers, especially those from Africa, Asia and Latin America, are often suspect under a highly western-dominated educational system. I see this tension point as being one that is only just beginning - much of our future debates will find their root in the clash between west and east.
12. Old Media and New Media
This is still a huge tension point. It came up again yesterday when i was teaching and I am sometimes reluctant to bring it up without a lot of explanation. The emerging church is taking root in a new media world and the gospel is making sense to new media minds. Our communication is increasingly digital and online. I have some thoughts on new media here. Its really important to acknowledge that our new media is just a tool and that the virtual will never replace the actual/physical. As i said yesterday, technology supplements and assists us, and the internet is allowing greater reach, but nobody wants a virtual Christmas dinner.
ok - lets make it a baker's dozen
13. Single Leader and Team Leadership
The tension point is not so much male vs. female leadership (although there is a lot of discussion on it) but in the organic emerging churches there is a shift to a five fold ministry, and churches led by multiple elders rather than a single Senior Pastor.
Good op-ed in the LA Times. Doctrine is not everything, but it is something pretty important as the mainliners have learned. Probably learned too late. Pity.
When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.
When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.
"This new Superman may not be strictly American, but he's still unmistakably Western and terribly, terribly modern as he... sires a son... Before leaving Earth for five years in a mysterious exit unexplained to anyone, Superman and gal pal Lois Lane hooked up, as they say. Apparently Superman, like his dorky doppelganger, Clark Kent, is clueless when it comes to men and women, and failed to block certain speeding bullets from reaching their natural destination. Voila. When he returns to save the world, he finds that Lois has a 5-year-old son, Jason, and is living with---but is not married to---'the father,' Richard White. Perky Jimmy Olsen explains that, well, you know Lois! She just can't bring herself to consider marriage. All that yucky commitment and stuff. But having a kid out of wedlock is the superwoman way in Metropolis, as most places these days. Who needs a man?... In the absence of a satisfactory moral to the story, we are left to improvise. For my ration of popcorn, one thought emerges with clarity: When it comes to fathers, it's better to have an ordinary man on the ground than have to rely on a flighty narcissist who woos girls on rooftops, and then vanishes in search of self." ---Kathleen Parker
My take on Pentecost 2006.
Ms. Clinton and this columnist share a Methodist tradition. I am therefore reminded of John Wesley who encouraged all Methodists -- the rich, the middle class, and the poor -- to be involved in loving the impoverished. Once in response to some well-off Methodists who wanted to pay a physician to tend the sick with the obvious assumption that he could probably do more for the ill than they, Wesley was adamant:
... this would not excuse you: his going would not fulfill your duty. Neither would it excuse you, unless you saw them with your own eyes. If you do not, you lose a means of grace; you lose an excellent means of increasing your thankfulness to God, who saves you from this pain and sickness, and continues your health and strength; as well as of increasing your sympathy with the afflicted…
He also said that
All therefore who desire to escape everlasting fire and to inherit the everlasting kingdom are equally concerned ... to practice this important duty. It is equally incumbent on young and old, rich and poor, men and women, according to their ability.
It would be difficult to understand Matthew 25:31-46 any other way.
The poor don't need more help from the federal budget and American tax dollars. And they don't need more sermons from Ms. Clinton, Barack Obama, Howard Dean, and Jim Wallis. What they need is Clinton, Obama, Dean, Wallis, you and me to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Pentecost, remember?) and then move with that Spirit to the needy with compassion, accountability, personal responsibility, and God.
"North Korea is the most dangerous place on the face of the earth right now. You've got a country that I feel is kind of backed up against a wall. I like to hunt, and I know if you ever back a dangerous animal up against a wall and don't give that animal a place to turn or to run, you've cornered him, he's going to come at you. And I just have a sense that with North Korea we may be kind of at that point with these people. We have to treat this very, very carefully. You don't want to get into a shooting war with these people. These are not like the Iraqis that are going to cut and run - where the army will just kind of fold in front of the American advance. These are people that will come at you wave upon wave. And millions of people could be killed - not hundreds, not thousands, but millions."
· I believe that the United States needs to talk one on one with the North Koreans, eyeball to eyeball. We have had our armies facing each other now for over 50-some years. It's time that we talked to them face to face, and we got to find a way to resolve this. Now, the six-party talks - I don't believe these are going to be successful. They haven't been successful up to this point . . . So, if we're going to find a way to solve this thing, I think the United States of America is going to have to talk face to face with the North Koreans. Doesn't matter if we like them. We don't have to agree with them, but we need to talk to them face to face.
· I don't speak for the evangelical community. I'm not a spokesperson for them. I 'm just a preacher of the Gospel who happens to have gone to North Korea, that happens to have worked in North Korea, and has seen some of the problems firsthand in North Korea, who believes the only way we can resolve this is through prayer with God's help, and then talking with the North Koreans face to face. I think that's extremely important. We need a dialogue, period. Without that dialogue, this policy is just going to stay drifting in this diplomatic sea . . . I would love to see President Bush just drop what he's doing someday and just get on a plane and go there and sit down and talk to Kim Jong-Il face to face, and shake hands, and invite him to come to this country, and let him get on a train and go from San Francisco to New York, and let him see it from one end to the other. I think it would change his perspective of us.
I was raised in a house church.
The new study, based on interviews with more than five thousand randomly selected adults from across the nation, found that 9% of adults attend a house church during a typical week. That is remarkable growth in the past decade, shooting up from just 1% to near double-digit involvement. In total, one out of five adults attends a house church at least once a month.
Mark Tooley: Pentecost of Big Government. For the record, Mark is the bane of theological liberals, and of Methodist liberals in particular. The reason? He actually shows up at these left-of-center meetings and reports on them. Always nice to have someone like that around.
Any exegetical problems here?
Hillary Clinton, the lifelong Methodist, seems to take her denominational commitment more seriously. Jim Wallis enthusiastically introduced her as "someone who quotes Matthew 25 often, and she quotes it right!" By this reference, of course, Mr. Wallis meant that Ms. Clinton rightly understands Christ's supposed commands about enlarging federal welfare programs.
"I missed the Sunday school lesson about how we help the poor by giving tax cuts to the rich," Ms. Clinton observed sarcastically. "The budget is a moral document!" Ms. Clinton insisted, repeating an old religious left refrain. "Behind those numbers are decisions. How are we going to give a boost up the economic ladder when too many tools have been removed to make that happen."
Like others at the Mr. Wallis event, Ms. Clinton warned against the seductive allure of the religious right. "Don't let people get away with nice words," she implored. "Don't let them quote scripture to you."
It appears so.
Americans perceptions might be understandable concerning Islam. And a Mormon for president might be a tough journey for Mitt Romney. But what is with this public perception of evangelicals and the Oval Office?