Monday, June 3, 2013

All Around the World - June 3, 2013

Reformation Theology - John Knox the Preacher |

What made Knox this kind of preacher? He had natural gifts, of course, but not more than some others who never made such an impression. 'I am not a good orator in my own cause,' he once wrote to his mother-in-law. When it came to preaching it was not his own cause. 'It hath pleased God of his superabundant grace to make me, most wretched of many thousands, a witness, minister and preacher.' His authority came from the conviction that preaching is God's work, the message is His word, and he was sure the Holy Spirit would honour it. This was the certainty which possessed him. I do not say there were not moments of doubt, but at the great crises the Holy Spirit so filled him that nothing could deter him and the result was the transformations that occurred even in the most unpromising and hostile circumstances. In the summer of 1559 when he first returned to St Andrews, warning was sent to him by the bishop that if he dared to preach the next Sunday there would be a dozen hand guns discharged in his face. His friends advised delay, but he went ahead and took for his text Christ driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple. The famous painting of the scene by Sir David Wilkie captured something of that day, June 11, 1559, and the effect of it at the time can be seen in the number of priests of the Roman Church who confessed the faith.

It was due to a similar crisis that we have the only sermon Knox ever prepared for publication. The text was Isaiah 26:13-21 and it was preached on August 19, 1565, in St Giles. The previous month Lord Darnley had married Queen Mary and was declared King. Darnley has been described as a man who could be either Catholic or Protestant as it suited him, sometimes he went 'to mass with the Queen and sometimes attended the reformed sermons'. On this particular Sunday he sat listening on a throne in St Giles and, while he was not directly mentioned in the sermon, it so infuriated him that Knox was instantly summoned before the Privy Council and forbidden to preach while the King and Queen were in town. Part of Knox's response was to write down the sermon as fully as he could remember it. It is the only Knox sermon that has survived, and in its conclusion he has these memorable sentences:

'Let us now humble ourselves in the presence of our God, and, from the bottom of our hearts, let us desire him to assist us with the power of his Holy Spirit . . . that albeit we see his Church so diminished, that it shall appear to be brought, as it were, to utter extermination, that yet we may be assured that in our God there is power and will to increase the number of his chosen, even while they be enlarged to the uttermost coasts of the earth.'

Thom Rainer - Seven (Hopefully) Helpful Hints after Seven Months of Visiting Churches |
  1. Please have plentiful signage on the outside and inside. You can easily forget that we first-time guests don’t have a clue where to park or where to enter. Most of the churches did not help us either. In one church the signage was so bad, I was uncertain if I was still on church property. Take another look at all your signage from the perspective of a first-time guest.
  2. Many of your websites are terrible. Please make them user friendly. I want to see the worship times clearly on the home page. I want to be able to find the church’s physical address. I want to know what the church believes. I found out a lot more about potluck meals and senior trips than I did doctrine and worship times. Most of the websites were designed for those who knew a lot about the church.
  3. Show me where guests park. I recently humorously chastised a pastor for not having parking spots for guests. He thought he had me when he took me to a place that had 12 guests parking places. I then asked him how a first-time guest would locate these spots. His meager response was telling: “Oh.”
  4. Most of us will need to find a restroom. Please make them clear and obvious. Okay, that especially applies to someone my age. It seems like, in many churches, we have hidden restrooms so well that even Indiana Jones couldn’t find them. I am thankful for a church member who gave me clear directions to the restroom; I just wish it had been the men’s room.
  5. Show me how to follow along in the Bible. I am the exception among most guests in that I always bring a Bible. But I watch preachers closely as they begin to preach from a particular biblical text. Very few told me to turn to a pew Bible. Some did put the text on the screen; that was helpful. Most made little effort to help guests follow along with the specific passage that was being preached.
  6. Help me to know how to connect to a small group. You will likely lose members who attend worship only. You will likely keep those members who are in small groups or Sunday school classes. It’s that important. Since it’s that important, it should be mentioned in every worship service, particularly for first-time guests. It was mentioned in only two worship services of the churches I attended over the past seven months.
  7. Help me know how to join the church. As a first time guest, it is not likely I will join the church my first visit. But I do want to know how someone joins the church. I would like to know the process for membership. I only heard that information from one of the churches I visited.

Randy Alcorn - Christian Universalism

Ligonier - Husbands, 8 Admonitions to Love Your Wife |

1. Love Her Heart - Emotional Love
2. Love Her Mind - Intellectual Love
3. Love Her Body - Physical Love
4. Love Her Soul - Spiritual Love
5. Love Her Relationships - Relational Love
6. Love Her Humanity - Realistic Love
7. Love Her Calling - Supportive Love
8. Love Her Maker - Theological Love

Ed Stetzer - Is there a Future for the SBC? Some Pre-Houston Reflections |

What Happened to Denominational Loyalty?

The SBC is a convention of churches, not a hierarchical organization. We do not have a pope or a college of cardinals. We do not—or should not—blindly follow a cult of personality.

The purpose of the SBC, according to the founding documents, is as a “corporation… created for the purpose of eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians, for the propagation of the gospel, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.” That’s a noble purpose.

However, the value of such denominational partnership seems to be increasingly on the decline among churchgoers.

LifeWay Research conducted a study of Protestant churchgoers who had attended more than one church as an adult. We were looking for reasons adults chose their current church when changing churches. The most important factors were the beliefs or doctrine of the church, the preaching, and the authenticity of members. Only half indicated that denomination was important—ranking 13 out of 19 possible factors. Denominational loyalty doesn’t seem very important, and as I talk with leaders from across the spectrum of denominations, they are working hard to discern what the future holds.

When you look at it generationally, the trends don’t look good. In a 2010 study of Protestant pastors, LifeWay Research found the majority were pessimistic about the future of denominations. Only a couple of subgroups of pastors differ significantly. Pastors age 65 and older are less likely to agree that the importance of being identified with a denomination will diminish over the next 10 years. Fifty-four percent of pastors age 65 and older agree with this statement, while 67 percent of pastor ages 55-64 agree.

The strongest differences, however, are seen across responses of pastors of different size churches. Seventy-two percent of pastors of churches with 250 or more in average worship attendance agree with the statement concerning the diminishing importance of denominations. This is compared to 64 percent of pastors in churches of 100-249 attendees, 62 percent of pastors in churches of 50-99 attendees, and 53 percent of pastors in churches of less than 50 attendees.

So, there is a loyalty challenge. No question.

Justin Taylor - Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions: A Conversation with David Berlinski | This is a lengthy, but good interview. 

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