Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All Around the Web - February 25, 2014

Hershael York - Five Reasons to Plant Your Life in a Church and Stay There
1)  The longer you live in community with people, the more credibility you will have—unless you simply don’t earn and have credibility. Either way, they will know it.
2)  Only when you stay for a significant portion of time can you know for certain what the church has been taught and intentionally plan your preaching, alternating between testaments, genres, law and gospel, and homiletical lens so they learn a strategic grasp of the Scriptures and it’s redemptive-historical framework.
3)  Nearly every pastor will face a crisis of leadership in the church at a 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, and 9-year mark (give or take a year at each point).
4)  The temptation to preach old sermons at a new church setting is too great for some to resist, but rehashing old, familiar stuff will lead to spiritual dryness.
5) Moving is tough on families.

Radical - How Far is Too Far?

The Gospel Coalition - The Joy of Theology Reading Groups

Why Theology Reading Groups?

Though God has revealed himself in his Word and preserved that Word for thousands of years, so many of his people don't know it well. They haven't thought deeply about the wonder of the Trinity, the significance of the resurrection, or the promised return of their Savior. It's not that they don't believe it. It's that they largely defer to their elders and pastors to know it, believe it, and tell them it's true. Theology reading groups allow the believer to wrestle with verses and the truths contained therein. It helps audit the bad theology that has crept into all of our minds based on experiences or tired truisms that turn out to not be true (such as "God helps those who help themselves").
I wanted to see the people entrusted to my care know their God better and live lives reflecting joyful devotion to him. I wanted that for myself too. I also wanted to provide an environment where Christians would enjoy discussing truth and working out its implications together. In other words, the goal of a theology reading group is to get people reading, thinking, talking, and living in light of God's revelation.

Here's how you can begin.

1. Select the book. I chose Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I wanted a book that directed the reader to application with each truth. I also know Grudem has smaller works (Bible Doctrine or Christian Beliefs), but I wanted something that would offer a real challenge for all of us.

2. Plan the schedule. The book you choose will greatly shape the length of time it takes to cover the work. We scheduled the reading, including the appendix, to cover the span of 13 months. Perhaps in your context smaller time commitments would serve you better.

3. Set the expectations. Christians often attend Sunday school classes and other additional gatherings where their attendance alone is considered a win. I encourage you to raise the bar. In our case the expectations were twofold: (1) you always read before you come, and (2) you're always there unless you're out of town or in the hospital. Sounds strict, I know. But you'd be surprised how much people will step up when challenged.

4. Share the discussion. I launched the group with the clear expectation that I'd facilitate the discussion for two months. Then I'd assign all of us to a rotation of leadership each week for the remainder of the time. I'd also give feedback after each meeting. This approach keeps you from being the "answer man" and identifies potential future small group leaders, whether for theology reading groups or other areas of ministry.

5. Encourage regularly. You're asking people not only to read a book (something 28 percent of Americans didn't do last year), but also to read a significant book. It can appear daunting at first. I encourage them like crazy for the first three months. I find once they cross the three-month mark, however, their own excitement for what they're learning rubs off on each other and helps carry them to the end.

6. Pray for fruit. Some people will think theology reading groups make people proud in their knowledge and apathetic in their life—"They should read less and evangelize more." I disagree. Pray earnestly that people would be amazed at the God who created them, saved them, and promises to return for them. In simplest definitions, I define evangelism as taking your worship public. Pray that as people are amazed at God's love for them in Christ they'd grow contagious as Christians, whether they are talking to other believers or not.

The Gospel Coalition - The Danger of Forgetting How to Read the Bible
Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control? Even as I ask the question, I know I'm liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul's admonition: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew.

But how can we repent quickly and keep from hardening ourselves to God's voice as he calls us back to himself?

Leaders stumble for many reasons, and while I could argue that a zealous seminarian has little in common with a vain or depressed middle-aged leader, there is at least one common thread: My peers and my students can both stop reading the Bible as we should.

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: Is Russia really a “pro-family values” nation?
Russell Moore discusses his view of Russian government propaganda, abortions and the change in Russian adoption laws.

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