"You can be just as 'man pleasing' and 'fleshly' in extemporaneous and informal religious exercises as in preestablished and formal ones -- perhaps even more so -- especially if you are proud of being informal."

- Dallas Willard
"Not Possible, Biblical or Healthy"

Is Church Membership Really Required?:

Leaving the church is not simply leaving a club. When you walk away, you dismember yourself from the body. Jesus and the rest of the body sorely miss you, and bleed after your departure. You cut yourself off from your only source of life and nourishment. Like an amputated hand, you will slowly bleed out, wither, and die.

I hear you complaining already. My, he's being a bit dramatic. I'm a member of Christ; I just can't find a local church I like. I'm a member of the universal church, just not of any one in particular.

I want you to understand that being a part of the universal church without submitting to a local church is not possible, biblical, or healthy.
Plus this.
Every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. The letters themselves are addressed to local churches. They teach us how to get along with other members, how to encourage the weak within the church, how to conduct ourselves at church, and what to do with unrepentant sinners in the church. They command us to submit to our elders, and encourage us to go to our elders to pray. All these things are impossible if you aren't a member of a local church. (See 1 and 2 Corinthians, James, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter for references.)

Asking where the Bible commands you to be a church member is like asking where the USGA rulebook for golf insists you be a human. The whole book is addressed to the church.

[Hat Tip: Jared]

"Your Chains Have Been Loosened and You Are Now Free"

This is from World Mandate, Antioch Waco's yearly missions conference, from 2012. Our own Bird does the photojournalism for them every year.

This is just . . . amazing. I don't know how anyone can watch it and not be moved.



Why Our Church Is Changing Its Name

There’s an old joke about Baptists. “How many Baptists does it take to change a lightbulb?” Answer, spoken in an indignant tone: “Change? What do you mean change?!?! We don’t change.”

The truth is that we all change. The Bible is all about change. (2 Corinthians 5:17, for example.)

God changes a man’s name from “Abram” to “Abraham”, which means “father of many”. And then he fulfills that promise, and that childless man becomes the father of nations. He changes Jacob’s name to “Israel.” Jesus changes Simon’s name to “Peter”. Saul begins using the Greek name “Paul” after he begins preaching to non-Jews.

Names are important and even personal. Ancient people believed that to know someone’s name was to have power over them. A name represents a person’s character and nature. There are reasons that people think long and hard before they pick a baby’s name. A baby will often be named after someone positive, and will not be named with the same name as someone negative, like an old boyfriend or an infamous dictator.

There are good reasons to change names. In my own denomination, the "Annuity Board" became "Guidestone Financial Resources", "Baptist Book Stores" became "LifeWay Christian Stores", the "Sunday School Board" became "Lifeway Christian Resources". The Southern Baptist Convention recently studied its own name and finally recommended that churches be allowed to use the name "Great Commission Baptist" to refer to the denomination. Why? Because the names were no longer accurate reflections of what they did or who they were for.

Likewise, our church's name was not an accurate reflection of who we are in terms of chronology, style or vision. Our old name was: "The First Baptist Church of Bulverde".

In the Bible, God changes names as a way of setting people aside for a purpose. He also names them according to what they are going to be, not what they were. We are changing our name for many reasons.

The first reason is that the name is not an accurate reflection of who we are.
We are Baptist, but we are not “first”, at least not in chronological order. Another Baptist Church was actually the “first” Baptist church in this area. Also when people visit a “First Baptist Church” they are probably expecting an older, more traditional type church. We no longer fit that image. We have been in the process of changing for several years now and we needed a name that was a better reflection of who we are and who God is making us to be.

A second reason for the change is confusion. Many people cannot tell the difference between our old name and our sister church. We love Bulverde Baptist Church and are thankful for them. There is very regular confusion between the two that causes problems, like when funeral flowers get delivered to the wrong place or when someone shows up for counseling at the wrong church. (Specific examples would make this a very long blog post!)

The third and biggest reason is that we need a name that says something about who we are now. This is an exciting time for us! Like a baptism, it’s a new beginning. Jesus was always God’s son, but when Jesus was baptized, he was leaving the carpenter’s shop and beginning the mission God had for him. Similarly, we are the same church, but we are a renewed community. We will always have our history, but now we enter into our future.

The new name is “Grace Fellowship: A Baptist Community.” This Sunday we will have a special service to celebrate the new name. On that day our new sign will be unveiled and we will “Go Live” with the new website and new identity.

Notice what our new name says. “Grace” is God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration given freely through Jesus Christ. We are a people who have experienced God’s grace in our own lives and want to share it with others. We are a church for all kinds of people. “Fellowship” refers to the meaningful relationship that we have with God and with each other because of God’s grace. “A Baptist Community” says that while we are proud to be Baptist, you don’t have to be Baptist to be come here. “Community” says that being here means that we live real lives together. We are much more than a place that you attend once a week.

Changing Names: MLK SR. and My Church

Today is Reformation Day. I get great joy out of wishing everyone I meet "Happy Reformation Day" every October 31st and telling them that this is my second favorite Holiday of the year. (My favorite being Resurrection Day. Now if I could just figure out how to rename "Christmas" with a word that Starts with an "R" and ends with an "tion" it would be a perfect top 3 list. Add a poem and it's a sermon outline. :-)

Of course, when people ask me what I'm talking about (which is what I'm fishing for) I joyfully tell them about Martin Luther, I pause the required beat for politeness, and then say, "No, not Martin Luther King, JR. I'm talking about the original "Martin Luther". And I'll act all offended that the guy who bore that name originally isn't getting his due.

Now in truth, I think it's pretty cool that a man who brought a different kind of reformation to our country was also named Martin Luther.

But did you know that wasn't his name originally? The man we know as "Martin Luther King, Jr." was born "Michael King, Jr." ON January 25, 1929. Little Michael was named after his father who was an influential black preacher. Read more about "Michael King, Sr."

In 1931, at the age of 32, Michael King, Sr. became the new Senior Pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church. After a trip to Germany, where he was inspired by the life and work of the original Martin Luther, he came back and changed his name to "Martin Luther King, Sr." and changed his son's name (then 5 years old) to "Martin Luther King, Jr."

HE CHANGED HIS NAME. As an adult. After he had been in ministry for years, and the lead pastor for 3, he changed his name. That's a big deal. Can you imagine doing that yourself?

And what a name he picked. What a legacy to live up to. By choosing that name he was saying something, both about what he wanted to become himself and what he wanted his son to do.

His ceiling became his son's floor.
His father pointed his son toward ministry and towards the struggle for civil rights. (For more detail on how the father inspired the son, read the first comment of this post.)

Wow. Martin Luther King Jr. lived up to the name of his father and their mutual namesake.

Our church is also changing it's name. As I look back through history, I am appreciating more and more name change is a significant tradition, both Biblical and Historical.

Our church name change has been a long time coming. It was the right thing to do. For a long time I've been dwelling on the old name and why we needed to leave it behind. Martin Luther King Senior and Junior remind me that it's time to look forward to the new name and what it means about who we are and who we are becoming.

Tossing the Comfort Zone Meter

The term "comfort zone" has long rankled me, because it's become such a cliche. But overall I think I agreed with people who said things like "God wants you out of your comfort-zone", or who would share testimonies of how they "stepped out of their comfort zone" to be used by God.

But I wonder . . .

Recently I heard a person speak who has lived a life of great risk for the spread of the gospel. He spoke of those he has known who have lived abundantly within the passions and gifts that God has given them, and - I don't have his exact words or even the context - he made the point that we should do what God has gifted us to do, what he has given us a passion to do.

This set me to thinking. Are we mistaken if we we think that "whether or not I'm in my comfort zone" is a true measure of "whether or not I'm following the Lord"? I think we are.

Yes, many things we may find ourselves doing as Christians will be hard and uncomfortable. But there is no Biblical standard that I can think of that measures our usefulness to God based on how the Comfort Zone Meter™ is reading. In scripture the standard is how we are running the race; are we walking in the flesh or in the spirit? Are we abiding in Jesus and bearing much fruit or are we in a far country? And along those lines, how "comfortable" was the prodigal son in the pigpen? His coming back to the Father was heading directly toward his "comfort zone".

Doing things outside of our CZ does not (necessarily) please the Lord. In fact, I know that often times when I am doing something outside of what he's gifted me to do, I stink at it. He has gifted me in certain ways, at least based on my understanding and the internal witness affirming this to me, along with the verbal affirmation of others. I know that when I'm exercising my gifts well, far more rarely than I'd like, sadly, I don't feel uncomfortable. I feel exhilarated.

From a physical standpoint, Paul lived about as uncomfortable a life as you can imagine. But have you noticed that when he's recounting the beatings, shipwrecks, cold, hunger and other deprivations that he has experienced for Jesus, there is a background echo of joy in his writing?

Paul lived way outside of what I would consider my comfort zone. But I think it was right in the middle of his. If you read between the lines, he sounds like he's having a blast.

I'm throwing my comfort-zone meter away, and praying that God gives me the courage to exercise the gifts he's given me in a lifestyle of risk and devotion. I have a feeling that entering into a life like that, for one who is a fully-devoted follower of Jesus, would be extremely - I know this doesn't sound like the right word to use here - comfortable.

I'm open to correction on this.

"All His Breakers and His Waves: Our Church, Suffering, and Stubborn Faith"

Read this from Jared, the hub of the Thinklings wheel who pastors a church in Vermont. And then pray. A short excerpt is below:

I confess that all last week, I felt God was being unfair and mean. You see, the Sunday before last the elders laid hands on Richard in our church service and anointed him with oil (per James 5:14). After a few months of encouraging reports in his battle, Richard suffered a seizure a couple of months ago that increased doctors’ concerns. A few more experimental treatments were suggested. Richard declined the only chemotherapy they said might work, as it ravaged his body once before in a way he determined worse than cancer. His most recent scan a couple of weeks ago shows the tumor in his brain is growing rapidly. He is out of medical options. They have given him a few months. But we’re not even to the part where I got mad at God for being mean yet.

So we laid hands on Richard and anointed him with oil, explaining to the congregation that this wasn’t magic or any kind of miraculous guarantee. We are trusting God — pleading with God — for Richard’s healing, but we totally understand that God doesn’t normally do that in the way we’re asking. So, like Daniel’s friends declared in Daniel 3:17-18, we know God is able to deliver Richard; “but if not,” we are committed to worshiping this God anyway. We know that in the end, Richard’s own prayer of faith will heal him and God will raise him up (per James 5:15).

Two days later, very early Tuesday morning, my phone rang. I know when my phone rings this early, it is not usually good news. I was not prepared for this news, however. On the other end was Elder Dale. He said he was up north in the hospital with two of our members, Jeff and Anne. Anne has been struggling with bizarre symptoms of nausea over the last month or two and local doctors have not been able to figure out what is wrong. After the last late-night ER visit, Jeff requested a CT scan. The words Dale said to me on the phone still sit in my ears like lodged rocks: “brain tumor.”

Random Thoughts & Questions On Essential Doctrines

What are the essential Christian doctrines? I'll define "essential" by saying it's anything that, if missed, would cease to be normal to true Christian life and belief in any real sense.

- Belief in God
- Belief in Christ's deity and humanity
- Belief in the gospel as explained in 1 Cor. 15:3 & 4
- Repentance

What else? I hesitate to say belief in the Trinity because believing implies a basic comprehension of something believed, and I would think that most Christians don't have a basic comprehension of Trinitarian theology.

I also hesitate to say baptism, though it's difficult to find an example of a non-baptized Christian in the New Testament (thief on the cross excepted).

What am I missing? Is there something on my list that doesn't belong? This is all just off the top of my head. In other words, this isn't a very well thought out post. :-)

Another thought: in Hebrews 6 the author says that the "foundation" is "repentance from dead works," "faith toward God," "baptisms," "laying on of hands," "resurrection of the dead," and "eternal judgement."

I can see the "foundational" nature of the other things on Hebrews' list, but in what sense is laying on of hands foundational? Does anyone teach that?

This is just some stuff to chew on and discuss, if anyone's interested.

Why Is It Always Revelation(s) That They Want to Study?

Mike over at Borrowed Light poses this question: Why Is It Always Revelation(s) That They Want to Study?

So, this unchurched guy comes in my office and tells me that he has started reading the Bible. I’m excited but I almost know what he’s going to say next.

I pause and wait for him to articulate what I know is coming…

The silence is broken. And my assumption is correct. He has chosen to begin his study in Revelations. (It is of course mandatory that you call it Revelations instead of Revelation when you pick this as your first book).

And I sit and wonder why anyone would begin with arguably the most difficult book in the entire canon of Scripture to begin his study. I assume Hollywood, coupled with our fixation on the world blowing up, is largely to blame. Yet I wonder if there isn’t another, not so obvious reason, why folks choose difficult Old Testament passages or Revelation to begin their study. Perhaps a hidden Jesus is safer and more attractive.

Deal With Jesus Directly

So, I counseled this confused looking fella as I normally do. I told him to stop his reading in Revelation and take up the Gospel of Mark. That probably sounds like I’m saying that Mark is better than Revelation and that I’m encouraging people to be red-letter Christians only. Not the case.

Let’s be honest and confess that this dude is doing everything backwards anyways. It shouldn’t just be him and Jesus alone in a room with an open Bible. He needs the church. He needs to study God’s Word alongside of God’s people. That’s ideal.

But he’s likely to insist on continuing as a lone ranger; and this largely because He hasn’t yet been reconciled to God and henceforth other believers. So if he must study the Bible on his own I want him to deal with Jesus directly. Not through shadows. Not through allegory. Just the bare Jesus of the Gospels.

Let him deal with Christ and be haunted by the Nazarene. Let him figure out how Mary’s son can calm a raging sea with the word of His mouth. Cause him to be confronted with the screams of the crowd saying, “Crucify him”. And leave him with the centurion’s confession, “Truly this man was the Son of God”.

He must be confronted and transformed by this Jesus. Then maybe he’ll get his tail in church and gather with other believers where we can start working through the Old Testament and Revelation.
Mike hits on a couple of themes that resonate with me. One is the exhortation to not be a lone-ranger Christian. The other is beginning Bible study with the Gospels. Thirdly, his description of the book of Revelation as "arguably the most difficult book in the entire canon of Scripture".

I have to admit, I absolutely love the first three chapters of Revelation and the last two (or four) chapters - especially 21:5 "Behold, I lam making all things new.” But I have not grown to appreciate like I should what's in the middle.

Millennials and the Church

There's been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere and elsewhere about the recent Rachel Held Evans article Why Millennials are leaving the church. I've hesitated to get into this discussion for several reasons:

  • One is that this discussion isn't new to me. I comment about it quite often and have been having a running conversation with myself and anyone who will listen to me about this for years. And I haven't come up with any hard and fast answers
  • In our fractured and tribal online culture these types of conversations quickly devolve into "Lemons are yellow, you idiot!", "No, no, 1,000 times no! Limes are green!"
  • I don't like banging away incessantly at the church. I love the church. I think, to quote Spurgeon and more recently Matt Chandler, the church is the "dearest place on earth". I don't feel safe telling Jesus that his fiance is ugly and smells bad. Because he might snap me like a twig.
  • All kidding aside, I know the church has problems. But sitting around taking potshots at the church, if one is not careful, can easily lead to a lifestyle and mindset of "sitting in the seat of the scoffers".
  • I've read the New Testament. The church has always had problems. And Christ has always loved her and is presently perfecting her
  • I've lived awhile. I don't get this generational naming, as if "millennials" are any more unique than any other generation. My generation doesn't even have a name (snugged just between baby boomers and generation X) and, trust me, we aren't special at all. Plus I've been to a gazillion graduation ceremonies and youth events through the years. Everyone's generation was going to be the one to set everything to rights. I don't believe it.
  • I don't disagree with everything RHE says or agree fully with everything her detractors say, which makes me feel that I must be breaking several fundamental laws of the blogosphere . . .

All that being said, I thought I'd post an excerpt from RHE, then two responses from people who appear to be millennials themselves, then leave a few thoughts of my own and then let anyone who wants to have at it in the comments.

First, this excerpt from Rachel's article:
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.
Jake Meador responds: The Rise of the Chicken Little Evangelical Blogger:
There have been many times in our history where the greatest hindrance to joining the church was that getting baptized could lead to imprisonment, torture, or even death. And through all that, the church has endured. But in the minds of certain Christian bloggers, privileged white millennials and their nebulously defined intuitions and impulses pose a greater threat to the long-term flourishing of the church than the Colosseum.

Such an astonishing display of vanity calls to mind one of Chesterton’s finest quips: In The Everlasting Man, GKC tells the story of a conversation he had with an author named Grant Allen who wrote a book titled “The Evolution of the Idea of God.” Upon hearing the title, Chesterton remarked that it would be far more interesting to read a book by God titled “The Evolution of the Idea of Grant Allen.” So it is with this latest iteration of the “Christianity must change or die,” crowd.

Just to be clear: The problem is not with the simple (and obvious) observation that the church changes over time. Of course it does–it’s a human institution. The problem is with this preoccupation certain millennials have with how the church will change alongside millennials at the expense of asking the far more important question, which is how millennials will change to conform to the church.
Among his main points, Meador references a quote from the exasperating John Shelby Spong who said "Christianity must change or die" about fourteen years ago, and then notes that Spong's Episcopal church is doing it's best to die quickly, despite its very intentional pursuit of conformance with the culture.

Next I give you Aaron Armstrong's The real secret of keeping millennials in the church:
Do millennials have doubts that go beyond pat answers? Yep. Do they have a hard time with the biblical view of sexuality? Absolutely. Do they really struggle with what the Bible says about how the world came to be? Totally.

But the real reason millennials are abandoning the church isn’t because they’re dissatisfied with the answers to any of these questions. And it’s not because they can’t find Jesus in the typical evangelical church.

The reason many leave is they don’t know Jesus.

Evans’ take is one, ultimately, of cultural accommodation. It’s an approach we’ve seen fail again and again. When the mainline denominations abandoned historic orthodoxy in favor of theological liberalism, it gutted their churches. There’s a reason these congregations are hemorrhaging, and it’s not because their beliefs are offensive to the average person on the street.

There’s a reason the so-called Seeker movement was a largely an exercise in futility, and it’s not because it was producing vast numbers of strong, theologically-sound, mission-minded believers.

In fact, many of the millennials who are leaving the church are simply following the example of the previous generation of nominal believers. Christianity didn’t really make that much of a difference in their parents’ lives, at least from what they could see, so clearly there’s nothing to it.

So for all the damning talk of millennials not being able to find Jesus in our churches, the reality may be they don’t know what Jesus to look for.

You want to keep millennials in your churches? Here’s what you do:

Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about the Son of God, who came and lived a perfect life, who died on the cross for their sins, and who was raised from the dead in victory over Satan, sin and death. Give them the opportunity to repent and believe!

Teach with conviction.
Squishiness and arrogant uncertainty is so tired, especially for a generation that’s been fed a steady diet of it. Tell them the truth about God’s Word; teach them sound doctrine with conviction.

Live out your beliefs
. What you believe works itself out in what you do. If you really believe the truths of Scripture, live in light of them. Evangelize passionately. Serve others joyfully. Let millennials see that your beliefs aren’t just intellectual thoughts, but convictions that drive all you do in life.

That’s the secret of reaching and keeping the millennials. And it’s no secret at all. So what are you going to do with it?
Some of my thoughts:

I can't possibly express to you how much I care about this topic.

That being said, I don't think that the phenomenon of young people leaving the church is anything new.

I am for the church changing, as long as that change brings the church closer to the gospel message of Jesus, friend and Savior of sinners.

I'm for backing off from sophisticated marketing and bait-and-switch tactics (please!).

I think it's funny that RHE says that Millennials have better BS meters than older generations. Based on what? Everyone thinks their BS meter is highly tuned.

To be fair, I think millennials are, perhaps rightfully so, more cynical than my generation, but we've all gotten more cynical.

Ironically, the marketing techniques that have gotten so incredibly advanced, omnipresent and effective in our age have added to this cynicism. We're promised stuff all the time, not just in the church but even more so in our wider culture, and after a while this wears on the soul.

Millennials have also lived with the tyranny of choice in almost ever aspect of their lives for so long, along with the narcissism-enhancing technologies of our day. Are we surprised that they church shop, morals shop, and worldview shop, and often change all three as often as they change out their smartphone?

The church will have to quit playing around and stand solidly for truth and real love in this slip-and-slide of a world in which we live.

Parents shouldn't depend solely on youth group to give their sons and daughters a firm foundation. Our children's faith-training is primarily our responsibility.

Young people have to be allowed to grapple with doubts, to understand that the battle for truth is worth it, to be given the best answers we can give them, and to embrace mystery when necessary.

Young people need to see real gospel-picturing marriages and holy lives from those of us who have gone before them.

Student ministries should measure success by how their students are faring ten years down the line, not by how many kids came to the worship event last Friday or camp last summer. And, for goodness sakes, teach them well the essential beliefs they'll need for faith survival.

Our young people must also be given opportunities to sweat, to be in danger, to experience the God we worship in real life hard ministry, rather than just in classic youth group fun and games or over-sheltered home life with mom and dad. Trust me, they'll attack real ministry and service with joyful energy if given the chance.

How To Write A Worship Song (In Five Minutes Or Less)



I have to admit I kind of like the end result.

Rick Warren, Back In The Pulpit

Rick Warren Preaches First Sermon Since His Son’s Suicide

The Warrens spoke honestly about their spiritual struggles with Matthew’s mental illness. “For 27 years, I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness. It was the number one prayer of my life,” Rick preached. “It just didn’t make sense why this prayer was not being answered.” Kay spoke of how she couldn’t even read certain Scripture passages about hope for months after Matthew’s death.

Rick and Kay shared publicly for the first time about how they found out that Matthew had died. On the morning of April 5, both of them had a sense of foreboding that Matthew was not doing well. At 10 am, Rick was at the doctor’s office. He had just been diagnosed with double pneumonia, and so he decided to ask his brother-in-law to give the upcoming sermon, entitled, “What to do on the worst day of your life.” At home, Kay put on her necklace that said, “Choose Joy.” Neither of them could shake the feeling that something was wrong, so the two of them went to Matthew’s house to check on him. His truck was in the driveway, but the house door was locked, and no one was answering. They wept together as they waited for the police to arrive. Then their worst fears were confirmed.
I can't imagine what this must be like and I have nothing profound to say. May God continue to pour grace on the Warrens.

Oompa Loompa Pegasus Unicorn Land

"So if your expectation of your local church experience is that you're going to find a perfect place; if you're a guest and you've stumbled into maybe your sixth church in ten years thinking 'maybe this is it', let me help you. We're not.

We're not. You are on a quest for the unicorn brother, you will not find it. In fact, beyond that, you are looking for an oompa loompa on a unicorn that also has wings. You will not find it. There are no perfect churches, and if there happened to be one, would not your arrival jack that up? Would not you showing up at Oompa Loompa Pegasus Unicorn Land actually destroy the perfection of that place? Yes!"

- Matt Chandler from his July 21st message: What Is Our Mission
Said as only Matt Chandler can say it.

Yes. People are messy. Christians are messy. You are messy. For those of you who have gotten discouraged or disillusioned with the church, I beg you to find a place that preaches Christ and him crucified, and dive right in. Because by stepping away from the church you have stepped away from Jesus.

I've never known a Christian to thrive (or even survive) once they have separated themselves willingly from the body of Jesus.

Convicting



"Who ever said that what we believe as Christians would be popular?"

I think this post by pastor Mike Ayers is necessary reading. I recommend reading the whole thing, but this section especially hits the nail on the head:

1. Who ever said that what we believe as Christians would be popular?

Jesus certainly didn’t. In fact, He said that if we stayed true to our most deeply held values for His name’s sake, we would be hated (Matthew 10:22).

So we need to get past the notion that our values will always be well received culturally. There may have been a time when that was so, but the world is increasingly moving away from many of our moral traditions. In fact, in several social arenas our beliefs are maligned as outdated, judgmental, and intolerant.

This fact shouldn’t surprise us, nor should it cause us to feel defeated. Quite possibly one of the new qualities Christians in the U.S. will need to develop in the years to come is the courage to be OK with not being liked… and possibly even being hated.

How To React To Today's Decision

The following is from Jared's post at Gospel Driven Church, where he quotes material from the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission. I think this is good advice.

Teach your congregation to avoid anger, outrage, or despair.
Jesus tells us marriage has existed as a male/female one-flesh union “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:8). This means marriage is resilient, regardless of what any culture does to minimize or redefine it.

Love your gay and lesbian neighbors.
They aren’t part of an evil conspiracy. They are, like all of us apart from Christ, seeking a way that seems best to them. Be kind, and respect all persons as image-bearers of God.

Preach and teach on the integrity of conjugal marriage.
Don’t assume your people understand the gospel foundations of marriage. Take this opportunity to point to the formation of healthy, gospel-shaped marriage cultures within your congregation.

Repent of the ways our congregational cultures have downgraded marriage.
If your church hasn’t addressed divorce, cohabitation, or fornication through proclamation and discipline, now is the time to repent and rework.

Make your marriage convictions clear in your confession of faith.
If your church assumes a definition of marriage, your confession of faith is now irrelevant. Defend your religious liberty by making your congregational convictions clear in your statement of faith.

Stop laissez-faire wedding policies.
Your church building is not a public space and your church ministers aren’t justices of the peace. Make clear that you will marry, and host weddings, only for those who have accountability to the people of Christ and to the Word of God.
Yes.

If you're like me, today's decision was not surprising at all, and neither will I be surprised when that time comes that same-sex marriage is the law of the land in all fifty states, which I expect it will be.

This is a huge issue, and it's an issue that is sadly dividing Christians, often along generational lines. It isn't, however, the end of the world. I think this cultural trend is going to result in some very interesting times for the church in the coming years. But the church has survived far worse, and it will always survive, and, if persecution comes, it will do what it always has done. Thrive.

Jared Wilson: The Introvert Pastor

Tony Reinke over at Desiring God has posted this interview of our own Jared: The Introvert Pastor.

It's been great seeing what God has been doing in, through, and for Jared these past years. Jared has become an important voice for Gospel centrality in the blogosphere, his local church community as well as churches nationwide, and increasingly through his published works.

Now if we can just get the hub of the Thinklings Wheel to post a bit more in this space. He's been almost Blo-like recently.

:gwah:

Random Question

So, remember several years ago when the Emerging/Emergent church was emerging?

Well, what happened? Did it finally finish emerging and do we now just call it "church"? Or are the days long gone when church could consist of a faith maze, a fourth-century latin chant, followed a peace-ripple and then a response time in which you would finger-paint your desire for covenant membership on the worship-wall?

All kidding aside, I'm actually curious and not trying to be snarky. What happened? Back in that day the Christian blogosphere - which was a smaller pond where even a shoestring blog like ours could make a splash - was exploding with emerging/ent talk. The watchbloggers were out in force, newspaper in one hand and MacArthur in the other, and the emergers were dredding themselves up spectacularly and getting their left calves cross-tatted. Those were indeed heady days.

I kind of miss them.

Set The Table

Pastor Steve Bezner writes on hospitality here. An excerpt:

So about ten years ago we decided to make the table a significant place in our home. We put Sharpie markers in the drawer of our table and invited each of our guests to sign our table.

Yes, that's right, they sign it.

Not on top, but underneath. They get on the floor and sign whatever they want.

This created quite a stir for the first few guests. People honestly believed we were playing some sort of practical joke. But, eventually, we would coax them under the table and they would see other signatures.

And so they would sign.

Ten years later that good table gave up the ghost. Sadly, we didn't think to take pictures of the bottom of the table. But we're on our second table now, a table that once belonged to my grandmother. JB [Steve's wife] has reupholstered the chair cushions and we have moved the Sharpies to a new home.

And our guests are now signing here.

When you sit across the table from someone, there is an inherent sense of community immediately fostered. Inhibitions drop quickly. Laughter ensues. I almost always ask new friends, "What is your story?" You'd be amazed at the answers that question brings. Some answers are short, but most are twenty or thirty minute stories that tell us more than we might ever gain in a year of Sunday school classes or social get-togethers.
I love the idea of guests signing the table. I've long thought that it is significant that meals together play such a large role in the narrative of scripture. From Abraham preparing a meal for his three heavenly visitors to the solemn, hurried, dark and awe-filled feast the night the angel passed over, to Elijah and the widow with her never-ending handful of flour and cup of oil, to all the meals our Lord attended with the sinners, tax collectors, and national leaders he befriended, to his Last Supper, to fish on the beach, to the love-feasts of the vibrant early church and finally to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Scripture is replete with meals.

I think they are more important than we believe. And that is one reason why our culture, our flesh, our ancient enemy, our schedules, our fast-food appetites and our sloth war against the beauty of a simple meal and fellowship.

It is of such things that the Kingdom is built.

Bookends of a Pastorate Well Served

John Piper's first and last sermons as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church:

Audio: The Wisdom of Men and the Power of God - July 13, 1980

Video: God Raised Your Great Shepherd from the Dead
- Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013


Naming Your Church Plant

Yancey Arrington provides good guidance to young church planters on naming their church. Observing how styles come and go, that what sounds cool and edgy today might sound horribly dated tomorrow, Yancey gives two words of advice:

1. Clear beats cool.

2. Use the word "church".

- If the name of your church sounds better on the album cover of a 90′s metal hair band than your bulletin, you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.

- If the name of your church would only work for people who majored in Ancient Near East Languages or know how to work Google Translate, you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.

- If the name of your church leads people to think you’re more likely a cult instead of a church, you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.

- If the name of your church doesn’t use the word church because you are a church but not a church because church today isn’t church but the church you lead is a church because…[sigh] you might want to consider renaming it before you go to press.
Bonus track: here's a Lark News article from a few years ago about student ministries forgetting what their name means:
SYRACUSE — When Rhett Wilson became youth pastor at LifeWay Church, he inherited a youth group name nobody could explain: GetReady 7:35. The youth group had been using it for five years, but almost the entire pastoral staff had changed and nobody could remember what it meant.

“We know the youth used to have prayer early Saturday morning,” says Wilson. “Maybe it means 7:35 a.m.”

Others surmise the 7:35 refers to a Bible verse, or to the time on Wednesday nights when the group used to meet. Wilson tasked youth group members with looking up all chapter 7 and verse 35s in the Bible. They didn’t come up with anything that fits.

Youth groups across the country are finding themselves in the same predicament: sometimes their names outlast their leaders and memories.

Get Wi’dit 4:11 in Ft. Lauderdale doesn’t know if their name refers to 411, as in where to get critical information, or a Bible verse.

“I think it’s Ecclesiastes 4:11,” cracks the associate youth pastor. That passage reads, “And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone?”

Two youth groups — The Call 5:16 and Higher 37 — have posted online requests asking former youth group members what their names mean, so they can retire them with dignity.

At Youth Group 720 in Seattle, the current youth pastor confesses he doesn’t know what exactly it means.

“The previous guy explained it to me one time, but I forgot it,” he says. “It may mean two full revolutions, or maybe it’s a Bible verse. Maybe it was his membership goal.”

He laughs.

“We still use it because it sounds skateboard-y,” he says.

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