Many people are aware of the 10/40 window, but have you heard about the missional emphasis on the 4/14 window? Luis Bush and others are stirring the church to consider a stronger focus on this "window" in the days ahead.
Here’s a chapter written by an unknown early Christian to an unbeliever named Diognetus that is well-worth the three minutes it will take you to read it. This evangelist and apologist refers to Christians as “a new race or way of life” (Diogn. ch. 1). In chapter 5 he unpacks the distinctiveness of Christians.
Churches tend to approach culture from one of three perspectives: Isolation, Domination, or Incarnation. Isolation takes place when a church is so far removed from culture that it can no longer communicate the Good News in effective ways. If isolation takes place in a complete way, it usually leads to a church that totally dies out. However, most cases of isolation simply result in a church that has limited impact on people and society.
"Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a for, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me." Ever since I read Jim Elliot's journal as a young college student and discovered this quote...
It is not uncommon for pastors to be distressed over a discussion that suggests worship attendance is the key reflector of church health (see my post of April 17, 2012). They may respond with something like: “We are not an old-fashioned 'attractional' church, and don't define success on how many people come to us. We are a 'missional' church, and define our success on how many people we go to.”
One of the Church Growth Movements contributions to our understanding of evangelism is the discovery of the principle of receptivity. This principle basically states that people vary in being open and closed to the gospel message. Thus, people who are open to the gospel message today may not be tomorrow. Those who are closed to the gospel message today may be open tomorrow.
Pastors and church leaders have experienced the frustration of seeing someone make a personal decision for Christ and then quickly disconnect from church. Why is it that people connect with Christ but not a local church? How can local churches be more effective in keeping new believers?
A church is a living organism. It's natural for an organism to grow. And it's natural for a church to grow. When a church is not growing it is quite likely that something is wrong. In the United States a healthy church will see between 5 - 12% growth in worship attendance each year.
So here on the eve of Biola’s Conference “Israel the Church and the Middle East Crisis” I’m flushed out of my long blog hiding (or lethargy). That’s right, my maiden venture to blog-country is urged by some real angst in my heart about neglect of Israel. Now, Israel-angst of this kind is a subgenus to a larger malady I’ve seen around me in evangelicalism for some time—Eschatolitis—a form of the passive neglect of doctrine in general, but in this case, the doctrine of the End Times.
“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” How many (hundreds of!) times have you heard that line rolled out? The good part about the alleged saying is that we do need to communicate that we truly believe the gospel through what we do. People need to see the gospel as well as hear it. If you have any doubts about this, please refer to my post from a few days ago on “justice and mercy” ministries. But there are two problems with the way this quote is normally used. First, it is often used by people who are oriented toward social concern but who are less comfortable with verbally proclaiming the good news about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in him alone. Such hesitancy to share the gospel verbally simply will not do if you even remotely consider yourself to be a biblical Christian. Second, Francis of Assisi apparently never said it.
Over the past five months the Overseers (translate: “Elders” or “Pastors”) at Whittier Hills Baptist Church have been thinking and praying about ministries of compassion and justice and the relationship of such activities to gospel proclamation. We have recently completed a position paper in which we collectively lay out what we believe the Bible teaches on this topic. We also address a few practical issues in the paper. We will be using this document in the future to help guide ministry decisions as we interact with those who are poor, oppressed, and marginalized. I’m linking you to our paper with the permission and encouragement of our leadership team. We hope that this paper will be a help to other churches, ministries, and individuals to think carefully and biblically through this important--and sometime controversial--topic. You are free to use this paper (or sections of it) in any way you consider appropriate in your respective areas of ministry.
Todd Billings is one of evangelicalism’s brightest up-and-coming pastor-scholars. From missions work in Uganda, to a Harvard Ph.D., to an adopted daughter from Ethiopia, Billings is advancing many of the projects dear to evangelicalism. You may have seen his wonderful cover article for Christianity Today (October 2011) on the theological interpretation of Scripture. In November 2011 he published the distillation of nearly a decade’s sustained reflection on a theme that is central to the gospel: the believer’s union with Christ.
Marc Vandenbrouke set down the book he was reading on the café table. In one hand was the cigarette that beckoned to him with smoldering nicotine. That was his life disintegrating into acrid smoke. Marc had been reading about the revered Buddha, Siddhartha, but the monk had taught him nothing about the meaning of his own life. He had also turned to Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. These had all failed him. They told him he was a nothing, a parasite in an otherwise lovely ecosystem. Marc couldn’t even explain to himself why he, a human being, was significantly different from the chair or his cigarette. His thoughts were futile, his feelings were nonsense, and his choices, as his teachers had told him, were merely illusions based in chemical reactions taking place within the fat tissues of his skull. Was knowledge truly impossible? Did no one have a way to explain existence? Ah, well, here’s a phone call to relieve him from the brief sojourn into morbidity, despair and the meaninglessness of his life.
Imagine meeting weekly for 3 – 4 months over coffee or tea with someone who is eager to discover what a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. Conversations focus on understanding the Bible, salvation, the Holy Spirit and resurrection, righteousness and justification, peace with God and the peace of God, the realm of grace, freedom from punishment and the freedom in discipline. They are true conversations, not lectures. You have a guidebook, your “Traveler” gets a Traveler’s Notebook. We have often found that the Traveler has not really begun the journey. He or she has never surrendered to Jesus, and we can help them understand better what salvation is, and commit to Jesus.
There is always a tension between the purity and unity of the church. How do Christians decide how much weight to put on certain beliefs? Here is how I think we need to figure out how to plant flags wisely.
I was living with my family on the north edge of New York City on September 11, 2001. The entire nation was stunned and outraged by the attacks on the Twin Towers. The shock reverberated across the nation. The effect on those living in New York was something else altogether.
What are the sure signs that you are a authentic Christian? Bible reading, praying, church attendance, right answers to theological questons, concern for social justice, and acts of service, are all necessary to grow in Christ. But none of these is definite evidence that you are truly a child of God.
SHAME REMOVED; HONOR RECEIVED, PART 3 --Jesus' interactions with people in the Gospel of John...and today This is the third part of a series that looks at events in the Gospel of John in which we find Jesus interacting with various people who need help—physical help and spiritual help. In John 4, Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman. It is interesting that John records this interaction right after his interaction with Nicodemus. The Samaritan woman could not be more different than Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a male Jew, a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, and was Israel’s teacher (3:1, 10). He was the epitome of the best of the best that Israel had to offer.
This past Wednesday night I participated in an outreach along with Talbot colleagues Gary Manning and Alan Hultberg at the Uptown Whittier YMCA. The outreach was in support of a new campus plant for Whittier Hills Baptist Church in one of many “downtowns” here in the Los Angeles basin (but referred to in Whittier as “uptown” rather than “downtown”). People from the uptown community received invitations either on the street—I went out twice along with two of my daughters and some others from the church—or by mail. We told people that the purpose of the forum was to respond to the recent upturn in the media of discussions about what happens after death. The turnout to the event was good and the responses were encouraging.
Church leaders occasionally talk about the Rule of Four. Here is how it works. If you know 50 people, and each of them knows 50 more people, you have 2,500 friends of friends. If each of them knows 50 more people, you have 125,000 friends of friends of friends. And, if each of them knows 50 others, you have more than six million friends of friends of friends of friends.
I spoke to a gathering of pastors this last month on the topic of Healthy Churches. I suggested to the pastors that there are four, perhaps five, types of churches in a health paradigm. First, there are Hospice Churches. These churches are extremely ill, having declined in worship attendance for a decade or longer, and most likely will close. God can, of course, perform a miracle and restore hospice churches to health, but this is rare.