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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cranking it Down

I need to take a long break from blogging.  I have been blogging almost non-stop from early 2010 having put up over 250 postings.  From 2002 or so through 2007 I ran a clergy listserv informally known as KNS or the Kittanning News Service that kept Pittsburgh clergy informed about the growing apostasy affecting the Episcopal Church.  Toward the end of its time it was designed to aid in the re-alignment of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  I think it was largely successful.  So that's about 10 or so years of being a news maven and it's time to take a long break.    

Recovering the Missional Passion of the Church

by Ed Stetzer 

In order for the church to recover its missional passion, we must reclaim our lost sense of the awesome, overarching glory of God's mission. Most Christians do not deny the orthodox doctrines of Scripture. We grasp the fact that God has revealed himself to us as Lord and King. But to borrow the words of author David Wells, the modern church has been "caged" by a diminishing of who God really is.

We have turned to a God we can use rather than a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our need rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction-- not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace. Everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well.

We have shrunk God down to our size. We have limited the scope of his mission in our minds. We have unwittingly bought into the idea that progress is more important than redemption.

And this is chiefly why our zeal for evangelism and the gospel has been undermined-- not because we don't care, not because we don't know what to do. We have simply replaced God's purpose for the world with our own purpose for the world. Even when we serve and help and give and share, we too often do it from a sense of obligation or a desire to impress. We have become a church steered by many different motivations but all too rarely by a singular desire to glorify God. Wells is right: "We will not be able to recover the vision and understanding of God's grandeur until we recover an understanding of ourselves as creatures who have been made to know such grandeur."

The message that emanates from the life and work of the apostle Paul, who was without argument the most productive missionary in the history of the church, is that we cannot hope to be either faithful or effective in kingdom service while being overly concerned about our own needs.

On two occasions he called himself an "ambassador." That's a pretty important job. Where I grew up in New York, those were the people who didn't have to pay parking tickets. They mattered. And Paul said, "We are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20). Yet the only other time we read him referring to himself by that title, he said he was an "ambassador in chains" (Eph. 6:20). Yes, he was an ambassador-- just as we are-- yet that ambassadorial role, representing King Jesus, did not mean Paul was without hardship.
No one survives the harsh, abusive treatment he endured without living for something bigger than himself. We might assume, then, Paul was simply that devoted to the people he was called to serve. His compassion for them, his selfless interest in them, his desire that they experience the fruit of the gospel-- all of these must have come together to make him an unstoppable force.

Well, yes, Paul was devoted to the churches and the people who comprised them. He possessed an uncommon zeal to see others convinced of gospel truth and redeemed through God's eternal mercy and grace. But it wasn't concern for his neighbors that ultimately motivated Paul to such extremes of spiritual exertion and sacrifice. It was Jesus' love that "compelled" him (2 Cor. 5:14). "To live is Christ," he said (Phil. 1:21).

And we, too-- if we wish to be faithful to our calling-- must live supremely for the glory of God and what he is doing through his Son in our world.

If we are not on this mission, then we must ask ourselves what we're doing here. Are we just working to make the church a more acceptable place to our friends and neighbors? Are we looking for a nice place to socialize on Wednesday nights? Are we turning spiritual cranks and pulleys because we think the church is 
supposed to do those things, because we feel better about ourselves when we do them?

The only thing that really matters is this: our God has a mission. That's why he sent Jesus here on subversive terms. And that's why he established the church-- churches like yours and churches like mine-- to join him on mission to reestablish his glory over all creation.

This is why God has given his church the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," so that "whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). To people in the world who live chained to the notion that their desired ambitions can be achieved on earth, the church possesses their liberating answer. They are no longer forced to exist in the bondage of living from experience to experience. For some this "bondage" takes the form of workout gyms, corner offices, organic food stores, and all the apparent trappings of success. But for others it means gambling losses, broken relationships, wasted opportunities, prescription drug abuse. For many it's a roller-coaster mix between the two, a frantic navigation of highs and lows. And for all it's a life that leads away from ultimate purpose and permanence.

Through the gospel those individuals who are "bound" in spiritual darkness can be "loosed" from what has held them captive-- redeemed from their slavery. God's plan for overthrowing the devil's dominion, freeing its hostages, and advancing Christ's kingdom is for the church to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in both word and deed. That's how he pursues his plan of bringing all creation under his authority and deriving glory for himself in the process.

May this be the purpose behind all our subversion.

When we grasp the enormity of this calling and our role within it, we will begin trusting the Spirit to empower us to engage the lost, serve the hurting, and live "sent lives" as Christian believers united in kingdom purpose. We will live out the difference that Jesus makes in our hearts not because people expect it but because it shows what our God can accomplish. We will talk with others about the power of the gospel not just because they're lost but because our Lord and King is glorified in finding them.

Begin your plan of action there, and get ready to see what happens around you when God starts making progress.

From here  

Ten Ways Ordinary People Became Good Leaders

by Thom S. Rainer

The literature on leadership can be discouraging. After reading multiple case studies, theories, and biographies, one can be left with the impression that good leadership is next to impossible. It is limited to those who have the attributes of Superman without the aversion to kryptonite.

I recently compiled a list of good leaders (a few I would characterize as great leaders) who, by most definitions, are common, ordinary people. They were at the middle of their classes in grades. They really did not and do not have charismatic personalities. They had no family or demographic advantages. And none of them, to my knowledge, were outstanding in extracurricular activities.

But now they are doing very well. It’s as if a switch turned on at some point in their lives. They decided that they would no longer be addicted to mediocrity. Instead, they decided they would make a difference. Yet they had few of the innate gifts associated with good or great leaders.

So I wrote down a list of more than twenty characteristics of these men and women. And, somewhat to my surprise, I noted that all of them had ten characteristics in common. Though statisticians would argue that I found correlative factors, I really believe that most, if not all of these characteristics, are causative.

How then do many common people become good or great leaders? Here are the ten characteristics.

1. They determined that their integrity would be uncompromised. They did not cut corners or cheat. Though others around them were smarter, more forceful, and more creative, they never compromised in their work and lives. They saw their integrity and reputation to be priceless gifts that could not be forfeited.

2. They worked hard. Often when others around them played or wasted time, these leaders continued to work. If they had an employer, they felt like they were stealing from the company unless they gave their best efforts. If they were self-employed, they knew that other companies would eat them alive if they did not work hard.

3. They took responsibility for themselves. You will never hear these leaders blaming their employers. You will not hear them complaining because someone else in the organization was recognized or received a promotion. Stated simply, they did not blame others or circumstances. They believed that they lived in a great nation where they had multiple advntages to get ahead.

4. They were decisive. They learned that slow decision-making was poor leadership. They knew that analysis paralysis could kill an effort. Instead of living in fear of making the wrong decisions, they moved forward just as soon as they had sufficient information, not complete information. They saw smart people failing to make prompt decisions because they were enamored with more and more information and data.

5. They read a lot. While many of their peers spent dozens of hours each week watching meaningless television, these good leaders were reading books, articles, and anything they could to make them a better person and a better leader. Like the impoverished Abraham Lincoln reading books by dim candlelight, these ordinary men and women became extraordinary through their constant and continued learning, regardless of the sacrifice.

6. They have genuine humility. These leaders have learned humility the hard way. Growing up, they were well behind their peers academically. Most did not excel at sports or other extracurricular activities. None of them were nominated as “most likely to succeed.” In their early days in the workforce, they found themselves surrounded by more talented and smarter workers. They didn’t have to work at humility; it was thrust upon them.

7. They seek mentors. Their desire to improve, along with their humility, led them to seek mentors. Most of these mentoring relationships were informal, but they still were intentionally sought. These leaders were unashamed to admit they needed help from an outside perspective, or advice from someone who might be smarter.

8. They avoid ruts. These leaders would be the first to volunteer for an assignment in a new area. They intentionally avoided getting too comfortable in one area. As they broadened their horizons, they became more effective leaders.

9. They have a sense of humor. These overachieving leaders always take their work seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Their humor helps them to avoid stressing out when everything does not go their way. They are thus able to handle difficult situations with calm and poise. Others follow their example, and thus give credence to this happy and placid leadership style.

10. They are goal setters. At some point, I would love to see a major leadership study done on goal setting. It seems to be directly correlated to strong leadership. These “common” men and women were no different. To the person, you could ask them what their goals have been in life, and what they are now, and receive a quick and cogent answer. They would readily admit they didn’t always achieve their goals. But that was not deemed as failure. The common leaders simply reset their lives with a new set of goals.

Keep in mind that I am looking at common men and women who became good, and even great, leaders. I am not talking about the smartest, the best educated, or the most articulate. These are common men and women who are now extraordinary leaders.

There are countless men and women who are wonderful leaders. Among them are a large number who are not the smartest, not the most educated, not the most articulate, and not the most charismatic. That reality should give many of us great hope. We can be good leaders anyway.

From here 

and here 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Encouraging Words on Pope Francis from an Anglican Evangelical

Retired Anglican Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Southern Cone, the Most. Rev. Gregory Venables, a friend of the new Pope, has this to say on Facebook:

Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Grow a Disciple-Making Culture in Your Church

By Godwin Sathianathan 
I owe a significant debt to four men and three churches who, over the years, became my spiritual fathers and families. These wonderful people walked alongside me through troubling and joyful times. They prayed with me, mentored me, and laughed with me. They celebrated my victories and wept with me when my dad unexpectedly died. They counseled me when I began to explore pastoral ministry and spoke the Word to me when I became discouraged. They reminded me not to take myself too seriously, and they lovingly pointed out sin in my life. God only knows where I'd be and who I'd be without his grace working through them.
Today I am a pastor and long for my church to grow in this kind of intentional disciple-making. Discipleship at its core is the process of growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That sounds simple. But what does it actually look like? And how do pastors lead their churches in discipleship? A good place to begin is Jesus' last words to his disciples: "go . . . make disciples . . . baptizing them . . . and teaching them" (Matt 28:19-20). Three contours of discipleship culture emerge from this passage.

Clarifying the Contours of Discipleship

1. Disciple-making is an intentional process of evangelizing non-believers, establishing believers in the faith, and equipping leaders. 
"Make disciples" implies intentionality and process. Disciple-making doesn't just happen because a church exists and people show up. It is a deliberate process. Considering the modifying participles of "going . . . baptizing . . . teaching" help us recognize this process. It must include evangelizing (going to new people and new places), establishing (baptizing new believers and teaching obedience), and equipping (teaching believers to also make disciples). How does your church evangelize, establish, and equip?    

2. Disciple-making happens in the context of a local church
It's a community project, not just a personal pursuit. And that community must be the local church, because Jesus has given her unique authority to preach the gospel, baptize believers into faith and church membership, and teach obedience to Jesus. Disciple-making doesn't just happen in coffee shops and living rooms. It also happens in the sanctuary where the Word is sung, prayed, read, preached, and displayed through communion and baptism. Jesus didn't have in mind maverick disciple-makers; he had in mind a community of believers who, together and under the authority of the local church, seek to transfer the faith to the next generation. Does your church view disciple-making within the context of the church, or only as a solo endeavor?

3. Disciple-making is Word-centered, people-to-people ministry. 
When Jesus said "make disciples" we cannot help but remember how he made disciples: three years of teaching twelve men on the dusty road. Disciple-making, then, is the Word of God shaping men and women within life-on-life relationships. It's demonstrated in Paul's relationship with the Thessalonian church: "being so affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (1 Thess 2:8). This is gospel-driven, Word-saturated, intentional one-anothering. It is men and women regularly teaching one another to obey what Jesus commanded. And it goes well beyond watching football and having inside jokes with Christian friends. How would you evaluate your church's Word-centered people-to-people ministry?

Creating a Culture of Discipleship
If these three contours are essential ingredients for a discipleship culture, how do pastors lead their churches in growing that culture? Here are seven ways:
1. Preach disciple-making sermons. 
Pastors are not called to preach convert-making sermons or scholar-making sermons. They are called to preach disciple-making sermons. This means that they must craft sermons that will evangelize, establish, and equip. This means that they are teachers, pleaders, and coaches from behind the pulpit. Sermons also disciple through modeling careful exegesis, keen application, and prayerful responses to the passage. After we preach, congregants should understand and feel the text at such a level that they long to be more obedient disciples.

2. Shape disciple-making worship services.
Every church has a liturgy, whether you call it that or not, and every liturgy leads the people somewhere or disciples the people toward something. The question is where. The non-sermon elements of a worship service—songs, prayers, scripture reading, testimonies, and tone—contribute to the formative discipling of your congregation. Does your worship service lead people in thanksgiving for God's gifts and goodness? Does it disciple people in confession and repentance? Is there an element in your worship service that offers assurance of salvation? Does your service lead people in celebrating our future hope? Thinking through these components with your worship director will strengthen your disciple-making services.

3. Invest in a few disciple-makers.
We've heard it before, but let me say it again: Jesus and Paul ask their disciples to invest in a few who will in turn invest in others (Matt. 28:18-19; 2 Tim 2:2). Pastors, choose a few men you can pour your life into and intentionally disciple for a period of time. Create a simple but effective format to accomplish this task. For example, meet with a few men twice a month to discuss sections of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, confess sin, and pray for one another. Keep it relational. At the end of your time together, ask each man to choose a few men with whom he can do the same. The benefits are manifold. You are obeying Jesus' disciple-making command, you are cultivating a disciple-making culture through strategic multiplication, and you are investing in those who may become your future elders.     

4. Make small group Bible studies central to your disciple-making strategy
Many churches offer small groups like a side item at the buffet, but few offer it as a main course. While Sunday school and other teaching venues certainly disciple people, small group Bible studies are unique in that they achieve multiple discipleship goals. After your corporate worship gathering, consider making small groups ministry your next priority. This means identifying and training mature leaders to shepherd and disciple their members. It also means providing a clear vision for your small groups ministry. For example, our church asks our groups to commit to three disciple-making values: Bible, community, and mission.

5. Raise the bar of church membership
Unfortunately many Christians don't realize that joining a church is a vital step of discipleship. When you join a church, you are not joining a social club; you are publicly declaring your faith in Jesus and joining yourself to a group of Christians in life and mission. In view of this, pastors should view membership as discipleship and accordingly bolster their membership process and expectations. Instead of making it easy to join your church, make the process more involved. Get your elders teaching multiple sessions on the gospel, central doctrines, the importance of church membership, and your church's operating convictions (baptism, for example). Broach tough subjects such as divorce and past church history during membership interviews. Finally, ensure membership actually means something for members. What unique privileges, roles, and responsibilities do members have in your church? Are your members actually joined together in Word-centered people-to-people ministry, as they promised when they became members?          

6. Confront sin and practice church discipline. 
Like church membership, discipline is neglected by some churches. Much like encouragement and
affirmation are key components of disciple-making, so too are exhortation, confrontation, and if necessary more elevated measures of corrective discipline. God uses all of the above to make disciples and protect disciples within local churches.

7. Read disciple-making books with your leadership. 
Let me recommend four books for your disciple-making arsenal. The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall outlines a practical vision for disciple-making. One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm will equip you with the motivation and tools to read the Bible regularly with others. Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman is the best lay-level book on the subject I've read and will help you understand how membership rightly practiced is discipleship. And The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer calls elders to lead the way in disciple-making.  

Growing a disciple-making culture at your church might sound daunting. It's hard enough to make disciples within a small group Bible study, but a church with all its complexities, systems, and baggage? Yikes. Here's a piece of advice: start small, keep it simple, and focus on areas where a little investment will go a long way. For example, you may want to invest in a few who will do the same with others. Start with your elders. Or perhaps you want to focus on ramping up your small groups ministry. Start by training your current and new leaders around key biblical values that encapsulate discipleship.
Whatever you decide to do, may you find tremendous energy and courage to make disciples from the bookends of the Great Commission: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Godwin Sathianathan is an associate pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts.

From the Gospel Coalition Blog 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Eight Questions To Assess Your Evangelism

By Matt  Queen

A lady once criticized the evangelism methods used by Dwight L. Moody, the famed 19th century American pastor, to win people to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In response Moody replied, "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" Moody's critic answered, "I don't do it." Moody quipped, "In that case, I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."

Like Moody, I would rather be a criticized personal evangelist than a non-evangelistic critic. Sometimes another's critique of our evangelism is biblically warranted. At other times critical comments about our evangelism discourage us without cause. Perhaps the evangelistic enterprise would be served best if before 1) we critique and/or question the evangelistic practices of someone else, and/or 2) our evangelistic practices are critiqued and/or questioned by someone else, we sternly look ourselves in the mirror and say, "I question your evangelism!"

What questions might a believer ask himself in order to assess his evangelistic practices? In "Tell It Often–Tell It Well," Mark McCloskey offers three essential questions every believer should ask himself in order to assess his evangelism and its methods biblically. In addition to McCloskey's three questions (which are enumerated first in the list below), I suggest five additional questions. A believer's response to each of these questions assists him in discerning 1) whether or not someone else's critique of his evangelism proves warranted, and 2) what aspects of his evangelism fall short of the biblical ideal and need adjusting.

Concerning your practice(s) of evangelism:

1. Does the New Testament teach it?

Evangelism finds its origin in the New Testament. A believer who assesses his evangelistic practices should begin by ensuring his evangelism conforms to the evangelistic doctrines, instructions and principles found in the New Testament. McCloskey offers a few follow-up questions that frame the context of this particular question for personal evangelistic assessment. These questions include the following: "Is my approach to evangelism grounded in theological convictions regarding salvation, the Gospel, and evangelism? Is it grounded in the certainties of God's plan to redeem a lost creation, the lostness of man, and responsibilities of our ambassadorship?" Because it serves as the authoritative and foundational source for evangelism, the New Testament must inform the reasons for and way(s) in which a believer evangelizes.

2. Did the first century church demonstrate it?

The first-century church initially received the Great Commission of our Lord, who passed it down to all ages of His church. For this reason a believer interested in assessing his evangelism should consider the philosophy, practice, and pattern of the apostolic church. To assist someone in this dimension of his evangelistic assessment, McCloskey suggests the following supplemental considerations: "Has my philosophy and practice of evangelism been modeled by the first-century church? Have the theological realities that drove the first-century church to proclaim the Gospel with boldness and sensitivity caused me to develop similar patterns for communicating my faith?" Biblical evangelism results from one's evangelistic consistency with the philosophy, practice and pattern of the early church.

A personal evangelist faces temptations to adopt worldly, even sinful, standards in order to gain a hearing and become relevant. Nevertheless, he must be convinced that an evangelistic lifestyle incorporates a lifestyle of biblical holiness. While not every evangelistic approach practiced today can be found in Scripture, an evangelistic practice consistent with Scripture conforms to its standards of holiness, as the first-century church practiced it.

3. Does it work?

While a believer should evangelize with all excellence and purge ineffective practices, McCloskey has something else in mind here. He frames the intended meaning of this assessment question by offering another: "Does my philosophy and practice of evangelism make me effective in getting the Gospel out to as many as possible, as soon as possible and as clearly as possible?" In other words, does what you believe about evangelism encourage or hinder your practice of it? No matter how "biblical" someone perceives his beliefs to be, any belief that deters him from evangelizing inevitably will lead him to deter others from evangelizing.

4. Does it ground itself in the authoritative command of Jesus found in the Great Commission?

McCloskey suggests we ought not to ask ourselves, "Why are men not coming to us?" Rather we must ask ourselves, "Why are we not going to men?" Though many symptoms prevent us from going to men with the Gospel, they all result from disobedience to Jesus' authoritative command in the Great Commission.

In his day William Carey confronted such disobedience when he published "An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens." He contended that all believers have a duty to obey the Great Commission of our Lord.

Evangelism is not the result of mere coincidence. Evangelism rarely occurs when someone relegates it to a pastime activity. Evangelism ensues when a believer in Jesus Christ submits himself to the authoritative command of Jesus and disciplines himself to make disciples.

5. Does it demonstrate urgency considering the reality of heaven and hell?

Concerning the reality of heaven and hell, evangelism can be described in terms of two, opposite extremes -- either lethargic or urgent. Though most evangelicals identify themselves as believing exclusivists, those who exercise a less-than-urgent kind of evangelism appear as practicing universalists. If heaven and hell really exist and someone's eternal destiny in one or the other depends on whether or not he repents of his sins and believes in Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection for salvation, how then will he believe and be saved if he does not receive the Gospel by means of evangelism (cf., Romans 10:14–17)? An unbeliever will not be saved on the basis that we have heard and now believe -- he must hear the Gospel of Christ in order to believe! Therefore, ensure that you exhibit an urgency to evangelize as many as possible, as soon as possible and as clearly as possible.

6. Does it consider the role of the Holy Spirit?

According to the Bible, a personal evangelist and the Holy Spirit cooperatively partner with one another in the evangelistic enterprise. Evangelism that fails to depend upon the Spirit of God has a tendency to become manipulative. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit does not evangelize on His own apart from the evangelistic witness of a believer. Rather, He assists a believer in the proclamation of the Gospel to an unbeliever. For these reasons a personal evangelist should rely on the evangelistic role of the Holy Spirit in preceding (e.g., Acts 10:19–22; Acts 8:27–35), empowering (e.g., Acts 1:8;Acts 6:10), and emboldening his witness (e.g., Acts 4:8–13; Acts 4:29–31), as well as convicting an unbeliever of his sin and need for Christ (e.g., John 16:8–11) and sealing him for salvation after he hears the Gospel and believes in Christ (e.g., Eph 1:13–14).

A believer who evangelizes without utilizing a helpful technique may experience frustration. However, a believer who evangelizes without depending on the Holy Spirit will find failure.

7. Does it incorporate the Scriptures?

The previous assessment questions appeal to evangelism that incorporates a biblical model derived from the New Testament, the practice of the first-century church, and the Great Commission. This question, on the other hand, helps a believer assess the extent to which he includes the Scriptures in his Gospel presentation. Hearing the Word of Christ is prerequisite for biblical faith (Romans 10:17). Evangelistic proclamations in the New Testament overwhelmingly incorporate the Scriptures (e.g.,Luke 24:14–32; Acts 2:14–41; Acts 3:11–26; Acts 4:1–12; Acts 7; Acts 8:4, 35; Acts 13:13–49; Acts 16:25–32; Acts 17:10–13; Acts 18:5, 28; Acts 20:27; Acts 26:22–23; Acts 28:23–27). When he evangelizes, a personal evangelist often summarizes the Gospel in his own words or in the words of someone else (if he utilizes a witness training model). Whether he uses his own words or the words of another, a personal evangelist should ensure that his evangelistic proclamation incorporates and structures itself around the Word of God.

8. Does it call for a decision?

A personal evangelist does not evangelize merely to convey information about Jesus. Rather, a personal evangelist evangelizes in order to call people to faith in Jesus. An evangelistic presentation must include a call for decision for at least two reasons. First, evangelistic presentations recorded in the New Testament include a call for unbelievers to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation and to repent of their sins (e.g., Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14–15; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 14:15; Acts 26:20). Second, unbelievers do not know how to respond to the Gospel apart from receiving instruction through an evangelistic invitation (e.g., Luke 3:10–14; Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30). For these reasons, ask yourself, "Does my evangelistic proclamation emulate those recorded in the New Testament?" Also ask yourself, "After I present the Gospel to an unbeliever, does he know how he can receive the Gospel?"

Though not an exhaustive list, the previous eight questions can assist believers in both evaluating and articulating a biblical philosophy of evangelism.


Matt Queen is assistant professor of evangelism & associate dean for doctoral programs in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first was posted at, a Southwestern Seminary website

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reconciliation: More than Kum ba yah

Reconciliation has been at the forefront of Anglican news these days – especially in the blogosphere.  The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby made his first staff appointment.  He created and staffed a new position, Director of Reconciliation and he appointed a veteran of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Rev Canon David Porter to fill it.  Porter most recently had been on staff at Coventry Cathedral. 

Last week a reconciliation conference titled "Faith in Conflict" at Coventry Cathedral (endorsed by Abp Welby) featured the rector of the ACNA parish Truro Church Fairfax VA, Tory Baucam, and his new found friend the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, Shannon Johnston, as keynoters.   This attempt at reconciliation between these ACNA and TEC leaders is causing much discussion and nervousness at least among realigners.

I’d love to know how Tory’s bishop the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey feels about his new found friendship and how Tory's old friend John Yates, rector of Falls Church, feels about it as well especially since Bp Johnston and his cronies took over Yates' $25m facility in recent months.

To me reconciliation means more than just glossing over differences holding hands and singing Kum ba yah.  Check out my recent post titled "The Cost of Compromise".  

We’ll see how it all plays out.   

A Steady Obedience in a Single Direction

 “A steady obedience in a single direction”, such was the take away phrase I got from Archbishop Duncan’s message this morning at Holy Communion.  One hundred Anglican deacons, priests and bishops (2) from the Pittsburgh area gathered at Trinity Church Washington for a clergy day to hear from our bishop and his leadership team as they engaged the clergy of the ACNA diocese in discussing our future together. 

The theme of much of the day was shaped by the hymnody, poetry and sayings of George Herbert whose feast day we celebrated today – translated from yesterday.  Canon Mary Hays, Archbishop Duncan and others interspersed Herbert’s witticisms throughout much of what they said.  Two were Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.and Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along”.

Bishop Duncan steps down in exactly sixteen months as Archbishop of the ACNA and will return for “a season” (2-3 years?) as exclusively the Bishop of Pittsburgh before retiring.  The bishop also told us that “as long as I am useful I will serve when I cease being useful, I will step down.” There has never been time of when our bishop has not been useful and I doubt there ever will.   

The interesting part is that Bishop Frank Lyons will also step down about the same time Bishop Duncan comes back to Pittsburgh full time and by the time he retires as diocesan bishop all the current generation of senior clergy leaders in the diocese will be retired or near retirement, Bishop John Rodgers, and priests Canon Mary Hays, Geoff Chapman, Don Bushyager, Mark Zimmerman, yours truly, Karen Stevenson, John Fierro, Doug Blakelock, John Heidengren, Scott Homer, John Macdonald, Laurie Thompson are most likely all fine’.  The next bishop will probably come from the next generation of leaders.  Since all ACNA bishops by canon are to be male and since most ACNA bishops are being raised up from within their serving diocese, who of the next generation of clergymen are willing and able to take up the mantle of episcopal leadership in our diocese?  Jonathan Millard, John Bailey, David Rucker, John Cruikshank, and Paul Cooper all come to mind.  Who else?  We shall see in God’s good time.        

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Cost of Compromise

By John MacArthur - Feb 25,

Martin Luther wasn’t prone to compromise. He famously said in his sermon “Knowledge of God’s Will and Its Fruit”:

The world at the present time is sagaciously discussing how to quell the controversy and strife over doctrine and faith, and how to effect a compromise between the Church and the Papacy. Let the learned, the wise, it is said, bishops, emperor and princes, arbitrate. Each side can easily yield something, and it is better to concede some things which can be construed according to individual interpretation, than that so much persecution, bloodshed, war, and terrible, endless dissension and destruction be permitted. Here is lack of understanding, for understanding proves by the Word that such patchwork is not according to God’s will, but that doctrine, faith and worship must be preserved pure and unadulterated; there must be no mingling with human nonsense, human opinions or wisdom. The Scriptures give us this rule: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

It is interesting to speculate what the church would be like today if Luther had compromised. The pressure was heavy on him to tone down his teaching, soften his message, and stop poking his finger in the eye of the papacy. Even many of his friends and supporters urged Luther to come to terms with Rome for the sake of harmony in the church. Luther himself prayed earnestly that the effect of his teaching would not be divisive.

When he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door, the last thing he wanted to do was split the church. Yet sometimes division is fitting, even healthy, for the church. Especially in times like Luther’s— and like ours—when the visible church seems full of counterfeit Christians, it is right for the true people of God to declare themselves and defend the truth.

Compromise is sometimes a worse evil than division. Second Corinthians 6:14-17 isn’t speaking only of marriage when it says: Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Satan, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. Sadly, this familiar command to separate is frequently both misunderstood and violated.

But Paul is not giving believers license for legalism, sectarianism, or monasticism. Instead, he’s drawing on an analogy from the Mosaic law.  In Deuteronomy 22:10, the Lord commanded the Israelites, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Those two animals do not have the same nature, gait, or strength. Therefore it would be impossible for such a mismatched pair to plow together effectively. They would be unequally yoked.

Paul’s meaning is clear: believers and unbelievers are two very different creatures and cannot work together in the spiritual realm. He called for separation in matters of the work of God, since such cooperation for spiritual benefit is impossible.

We sometimes tend to think of the early church as pristine, pure, and untroubled by serious error. The truth is, it wasn’t that way at all.

From the very beginning, the enemies of truth launched an effort to infiltrate and confuse the people of God by mangling the truth and by blending lies with Christian doctrine. Attacks against the truth regularly came not only from persecutors on the outside but also from false teachers and professing believers within the visible community of the church. 

That was the case in the Corinthian church, where false teachers brought with them a quasi-Christian syncretism of gospel truth, Jewish legalism, and pagan mysticism. They were eager to blend the people of God with the pagan worshipers, and the truth of Scripture with the lies of Satan.

That kind of spiritual blending is exactly what Jude warns against in the third verse of his short epistle. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Through the pen of Jude, the Holy Spirit urges us to exercise caution, discernment, courage, and the will to contend for the truth.

Notice what we are supposed to be fighting for. It is not anything petty, personal, mundane, or ego related. It’s not mere wrangling between competing ideologies. It’s not a campaign to refine someone’s religious creed or win denominational bragging rights. It’s not a battle of wits, or a game of any kind.

What we are called to defend is no less than “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” He’s talking about a serious struggle to safeguard the heart and soul of the truth itself and unleash that truth against the powers of darkness. 

Compromised truth has no hope of rescuing the eternal souls of men and women who have been unwittingly ensnared by the trap of devilish deception.

This is a battle we cannot wage effectively if we always try to come across to the world as merely nice, nonchalant, docile, agreeable, fun-loving people. We must not take our cues from others who are perfectly happy to compromise the truth whenever possible for “harmony’s” sake. Friendly dialog may sound affable and pleasant. But neither Christ nor the apostles ever confronted serious, soul-destroying error by building collegial relationships with false teachers. In fact, we are expressly forbidden to do that (Romans 16:172 Thessalonians 3:62 Timothy 3:52 John 10-11).

Infiltrating churches under the guise of tolerance and cooperation is one of Satan’s most cunning ploys. He does not want to fight the church as much as join it. Undiscerning believers who partner in a common spiritual cause with unbiblical forms of Christianity or other false religions open the door wide to satanic corruption. The appearance of unity, no matter how enticing, is not worth sacrificing the clarity of the gospel.

Furthermore, embracing those heretical systems falsely reassures their followers that all is well between them and God, when actually they are headed for eternal damnation. Partnering in a spiritual enterprise with unbelievers helps Satan muddy the doctrinal waters, and it cripples our ability to preach the need for repentance.

Scripture is clear about how we are to respond when the very foundations of the Christian faith are under attack: our duty is to contend, not compromise.
From here