Sunday, March 28, 2010

Laughing With by Regina Spektor

Pretty sure I'm going to use this in a sermon someday.

Laughing With by Regina Spektor

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Powerful message captured on amazing camera

If you really loved me you would buy this for me:

I'm joking.  Kinda.  What I'm not joking about is how amazing this camera is, and how powerful the following story is.  Wow.  Double Wow.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II was used to shoot the following powerful video by Newspring Church which is the real reason for this post.  Watch it:

Nobody wants cancer.  But God is still God, and God is still good.  Powerful.

What is the meaning of Easter?

Many Americans Miss Meaning of Easter

A new study released last week by the Barna Group reveals that a majority of Americans see Easter as a religious holiday, but fewer identify the resurrection of Christ as the underlying meaning.

From February 7-10 of this year, 1,005 adults were interviewed by telephone regarding their opinions relating to Easter and what the holiday means to them. The research discovered that:

* Two out of three Americans (67%) view Easter as a religious holiday.
* Only 42 percent linked Easter to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
* Two percent said that Easter was about the "birth of Jesus."
* Three percent described Easter as a celebration of spring or a pagan holiday.
* Eight percent said that Easter means nothing to them or that they do not celebrate the occasion.

The study also revealed that members of the Boomer generation (age 45-63) were more likely to describe Easter as a religious holiday than other age groups — 73 percent compared to 58 percent of Mosaics (age 18-25) and 66 percent of Busters (age 26-44). Interestingly, only 66 percent of Elders (age 64 and over) described Easter as a religious holiday.

For the complete report go to The Barna Group.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mark Driscoll on the Day of Atonement from Mars Hill Church

My first time experience flying Southwest Airlines

First, it should be stated that we own Southwest Airlines stock (ticker LUV).  And I am a Southwest Rapid Rewards member.

This past week was my first experience with Southwest Air.  I had heard about them, and I loved their business model.  I have always thought them to be a solid company in an industry known for very poor operations.

So we got some tickets from Minneapolis to Denver (and back) to give it a test since they are fairly new in our MSP market.  Boarding worked well, though was a bit panic inducing since we were traveling with a 7 month old infant for the first time.  Thankfully we found out we could gate check a car seat and stroller and they would only count as "1" against our bag total.  We have a Graco SnugRider Infant Car Seat Stroller.  We like the SnugRider because it is light and compact and our Graco Sungride 35 Infant car seat attaches to this stroller.

So we push our stroller through the airport, and when time comes to board our plane to Denver, we gate check the stroller and car seat as we were told to do.  When we arrive in Denver, we discover that one of the rear wheels has been smashed so hard by something that it has bent the solid metal axle, and is causing the stroller to be difficult to push.  But we are in a hurry, and it looks like we can bend the axle back when we get back home, so we make haste to get out of the airport without making a stink.  Thankfully we didn't need the stroller while in Denver, we were able to borrow my brother-in-law's Bob Revolution Stroller they recently got for their child.  BTW, the Bob Revolution Stroller is an AWESOME stroller.  I got to use it a number of times during our visit.

So we are thinking it must be a random accident that our stroller was damaged.  I mean after all, the baggage handlers in the Southwest Airlines commercials all seem nice, competent and moderately professional.

On our return trip to Minneapolis, we again push our now damaged stroller, which frustrates us throughout the process of our check-in and getting to our gate.  The stroller pushes hard because of the bent wheel fighting to go a different direction than the other three wheels, but it beats nothing for sure. 

Upon arrival at our gate (C-28) we are met by a mass of humanity that had been snowed in at DIA with the heavy snow that had fallen Tuesday into Wednesday of this week.  We get in line in standard Southwest cattle call fashion and again we gate check our stroller and car seat as we enter the plane.  We then proceed to sit at the gate in the airplane for the next 95 minutes.  Yes, at the gate.  Not even waiting for de-icing, or in line to take off.  Full plane sitting at the gate.  Our 7 month old son is good for about 90 minutes.  The flight between Denver and Minneapolis takes about 90 minutes, so on the way out things went great.  Unfortunately, we hit the 90 minute point and still had yet to shove off.  So the next hour involved a crying squirming grumpy infant.  Thankfully those near us were gracious.  Thankfully for our sanity as parents, he fell asleep about 1/2 way through the flight.

So upon our arrival at Minneapolis (the Humphery Terminal) they hand us our stroller as we get off the plane.  We notice right away that the stroller is now really jacked up.  Now not only is the back wheel bent from the flight out to Denver, but now the front wheel on the same side is bent in multiple places as well and is no longer pointing forward like it was designed to.  On the front of the stroller, there are two wheels on each side that are parallel to each other like  |-| but now that front set looks like \-/ and twisted about 15 degrees off its proper axis.  We complain to the Southwest staff at the gate as we exit, and they tell us we need to talk with the Baggage Claim Office.

So now the stroller is really hard to push and does not want to go straight.  Ever had that really bad shopping cart at the grocery store?  That was us with luggage and a grumpy infant.

Southwest Airlines - where your bags fly free but we'll beat the crap out of your gate check stroller.

So my wife goes to the Baggage Claim Office to file a complaint while I retrieve our luggage.  Their response to our complaint was to tell us it is our fault for buying a nice stroller.  "You should just use one of those umbrella strollers" is an exact quote.  Customer Service FAIL.  We beat the crap out of your stuff, now we're blaming you.

My wife asks at the Baggage Claim Office if there is a system in place to alert the management of the baggage handlers for Southwest that this damage is occurring.  Lady kinda blows my wife off and says she'll let them know.  Doubt it.  Once is a mistake, but both flights causing damage and something is seriously wrong.

And as if that isn't enough, when they were unloading our plane they somehow managed to "jam" the bag conveyor in back, which meant we had to wait about 45 minutes for our bags to come out.  Mine came out before the jam, but my wife and son's were stuck somewhere in bag purgatory for a period. 

So I have sent a note to Southwest, and am hoping for a response.  We will see what they say.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read in 2010

By R. Albert Mohler | President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. 
From Preaching.com

Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell (Baker Academic)
The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future by Robert Darnton  (Public Affairs)
Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck  (Moody Publishers)
Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton  (Baker Books)
The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne (Matthias Media)
Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell D. Moore (Crossway)
Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: the Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt (Crossway)
Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views, edited by J. Matthew Pinson (B&H Academic)
Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults by Christian Smith with Patricia Snell (Oxford Univ. Press)
The Young and the Digital: What Migration to Social-Network Sites, Games and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future by S. Craig Watkins (Beacon Press)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pastors who don't believe in God

The following article is sickening and gut wrenching, but important.  For the record my sermons are online at where you can see my beliefs, but so that I'm fully clear:

I believe in God
I believe in the Holy Spirt
I believe in Jesus Christ
I believe in the Trinity
I believe the Bible is the Word of God
I believe Jesus lived, died and rose again
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe I am an sinner in need of Savior
I believe the only way to Heaven is through Christ
I believe in a literal Heaven and Hell
I believe that Christ will return and will judge all of mankind
I believe that Christ died for my sins as a substitute, making right my relationship with God the Father for all eternity, freeing me from the eternal wrath I deserve
I believe that Adam and Eve lived and that through their original sin that we are all tainted by sin
There is more to my beliefs, but that is a good start in light of the following article.

Dr. Albert Mohler posted the following on his blog earlier today:

Preachers Who Don’t Believe — The Scandal of Apostate Pastors

Are there clergy who don't believe in God? That is the question posed by a new report that is certain to receive considerable attention -- and rightly so. Few church members are likely to be disinterested in whether their pastor believes in God.

The study was conducted by the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, under the direction of Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. Dennett, of course, is one of the primary figures in the "New Atheism" -- the newly aggressive and influential atheist movement that has gained a considerable hearing among the intellectual elites and the media.

Dennett is a cognitive scientist whose book, Breaking the Spell, suggests that belief in God must have at one point served an important evolutionary purpose, granting an evolutionary advantage to those who had some belief in an afterlife as compared to humans without such a belief. The reality of death, Dennett surmises, might well have been the precipitating factor. In order to make life meaningful in the face of death (and thus encourage reproduction), Dennett suggests that primitive humans invented the idea of God and the afterlife. Now, he argues, we have no more need of such primitive beliefs.

Interestingly, Dennett also proposes a new interpretation of theological liberalism. Noting that many modern people claim to be Christians while holding to virtually no specific theological content, Dennett suggests that their mode of faith should not be described as "belief," but rather as "believing in belief."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When to send for your pastor

A while back I was digging around some old files in our church and found a really neat brochure for the church from the early 1950's, shortly after our current building was constructed.  Below is one of the last pages from this document, typed as they originally made it:

Your relationship with your church will be infinitely more creative and helpful all around if you recognize your responsibility to call your pastor when you want him, instead of trusting to infrequent or irregular calls by him on you.  Call your pastor as you would your doctor, when you want him!  He will come at any hour, day and night, to be of service.  Following are some particular times when you will want to call your pastor.  Do this and your life will be enriched.

1.  When a loved one is seriously ill and facing death.
2.  When a friend or relative continues to be despondent following the death of a loved one.
3.  When you are facing surgical operation.
4.  When you are facing adjustments to a physical handicap.
5.  When you are going through a long convalescence.
6.  Following the birth of a baby.
7.  When you desire to join the church.
8.  When you have begun to worry about excessive drinking, or when a loved one is drinking excessively.
9.  When you are having difficulty in your marriage; don't wait too long!
10.  When you are choosing a life-work and feel uncertain about your choice.
11.  When you are choosing a life-mate, and have doubts about your choice, or when you are planning your marriage, plan lots of time to counsel with your pastor.
12.  When you, as a parent, are concerned about either of the above decisions for your son or daughter.
13.  When you are discouraged and life has lost its meaning.
14.  When a loved one has become despondent for no obvious reason.
15.  When the behavior of a loved one shows marked and rapid change, whether it is toward excessive misbehavior or excessive interest in religion; both are indications of serious personality disturbances.
16.  When you have some anniversary, some great family day or joy or celebration, your pastor ought to be called for moments of high joy, as well as for difficult moments.
17.  When you have anything you honestly feel a need to discuss with your pastor, call him!  Don't wait for him to call you!

Justice eating peas, rice cereal and carrots

This is the kind of video that mostly only grandmas are interested in watching, but if you like watching infants eat, give it a run! Nearly 13 minutes of messy faced goodness!  I do recommend clicking through to Vimeo and watching it at full screen size to get the best detail for viewing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Joe McKeever article on 10 reasons small churches tend to stay small

Sermon Central has an excellent article from Joe McKeever that I highly recommend clicking through and
reading all of.  Some snippets below from that article.


I send these observations forth hoping to plant some seed in the imagination of a pastor or other leader who will be used of the Lord to do great things in a small church. The "ten reasons" that follow are not necessarily in the order of importance or prevalence, and there are probably other reasons individual churches might not be growing, simply because no two churches are alike.  But this is the way they occurred to me, and the order seems right.

1. Wanting to stay small.
"We like our church just the way it is now." While this attitude usually goes unspoken—it might not even be recognized by its carriers—it's widespread in many churches. The proof of it is seen in how the leaders and congregation reject new ideas and freeze out new people.

2. A quick turnover of pastors.

3. Domination by a few strong members.
The process by which a man (it's almost always a man) becomes a church “boss” is subtle and rarely, if ever, the result of a hostile takeover.

4. Not trusting the leaders.
The determined-to-stay-small church is far more concerned about the dollars and cents in the offering plate than about the lost souls in the community. This church would never step out in faith and do something bold to reach the lost and unchurched, and if they did, unless their mindset changed, they would then harass their leaders into the grave demanding an accounting of every dime spent. Instead, small churches should elect good leaders and—within reason, as mentioned earlier—trust these leaders to do their work.

5. Inferiority complex.
Want your church to reach people and expand and grow? Get your eyes off what others are doing. Many of them, to tell the truth, are declining at a rate so fast it can hardly be measured. You do not want to take your cues from them. Ask the Lord, "What would you have us to do?" Then do it.

6. No plan.

The typical, stagnant small church is small in ways other than numbers. The church with no plan—that is, no specific direction for what they are trying to do and become—will content itself with plodding along, going through the motions of "all churches everywhere." They have Sunday School and worship services and a few committees. Once in a while, they will schedule a fellowship dinner or a revival. But ask the leadership, "What is your vision for this church?" and you will receive blank stares for an answer.

7. Bad health.
An unhealthy church is known more by what it does than by a list of characteristics and attributes. A church that runs its preachers off every year or two is unhealthy. A church that is constantly bickering is unhealthy. A church that cannot make a simple decision like choosing the color of the carpet, adopting the next year's budget, or accepting changes in an order of worship may be unhealthy.

8. Lousy fellowship.
This overlaps with the last point, but it deserves a spot by itself. For my money, the best thing a church has to offer individuals and families in the community—other than the saving gospel itself—is a place they will be loved and welcomed and made part of an active, healthy family. It's what we mean by "fellowship."

9. A state of neglect permeates the church.
Not always, but often, a dying church shows signs of its weakening condition by the disrepair of its buildings and the neglect of its appearance. The interior walls haven't been painted in years and bear the collective fingerprints of a generation of children. The carpet is threadbare, the piano's keys stick, the pulpit chairs need reupholstering, and the outside sign is so ugly it would be an improvement if someone knocked it down.

10. No prayer.
It's tempting to make a little joke here and say, "Such churches do not have a prayer," but they could if they chose to. When King Saul was bemoaning the woes that had descended upon him as a result of his rebellion against God, one of his chief complaints was that God no longer heard his prayer. "He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer..." (I Samuel 28:6) Luke tells us, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1). Pray or quit. Those seem to be the alternatives.

The best solution would be for those stagnant, dying congregations to awaken and get serious about becoming vibrant again. This would mean taking the unprecedented step of doing whatever it takes to re-establish their witness and presence in the community. Unfortunately, in almost every case I know personally, this doesn’t happen. The leaders would rather see their church disappear from the earth than to do anything new or different.

That is as sad a sentence as I've written in a long time.

So what are you going to do?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Teacher's Victory

U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez has ruled against a San Diego, Calif., school that required one of its teachers to remove signs celebrating the role of God in American history from his classroom walls.

Westview High School math teacher, Bradley Johnson, had banners hanging in his classroom for 17 years. But, the signs — with phrases such as "In God We Trust" and "All Men Are Created Equal, They Are Endowed by Their Creator" — were ordered to be torn down during the 2007 school year by the principal. The district, however, permits other teachers to hang Buddhist, Islamic and Tibetan prayer messages on their classroom walls. Johnson filed a lawsuit alleging the order was a violation of his constitutional rights.

The federal judge, in his ruling, declared: "May a school district censor a high school teacher's expression because it refers to Judeo-Christian views, while allowing other teachers to express views on a number of controversial subjects, including religion and anti-religion? ... On undisputed evidence, this court holds that it may not.

"That God places prominently in our nation's history does not create an Establishment Clause violation requiring curettage and disinfectant for Johnson's public high school classroom walls. It is a matter of historical fact that our institutions and government actors have in past and present times given place to a supreme God."

"[While teachers in the district] encourage students to celebrate diversity and value thinking for one's self, [they] apparently fear their students are incapable of dealing with diverse viewpoints that include God's place in American history and culture," Judge Benitez stated.

In response to the school district's claim that Johnson's patriotic banners might make a Muslim student, for example, uncomfortable, Judge Benitez said, "An imaginary Islamic student is not entitled to a heckler's veto on a teacher's passive, popular or unpopular expression about God's place in the history of the United States."

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, commented on the case they filed for Johnson: "It was refreshing to read an opinion that does justice to our nation's history, rather than rewrite it."

The judge concluded in his ruling that Johnson was entitled to a declaration that the school violated his constitutional rights and ordered the district to pay nominal damages of $10 per defendant plus Johnson's attorney's fees and costs. Benitez also ordered the school district to allow Johnson to immediately rehang the signs. []

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Church "Growth" Stats

The 2010 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches reports membership gains over the past year in the Catholic Church (1.49%), the Assemblies of God (1.27%), and the Church of God (Cleveland) (1.76%). A decline in membership was reported by the Southern Baptist Convention (0.24%), the United Methodist Church (0.98%) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1.62%). For further information and stats about other denominations, visit the 2010 Yearbook online.

Total church membership reported in the 2010 Yearbook is 147,384,631 members, up 0.49 percent over 2009.
The top 25 churches reported in the 2010 Yearbook are in order of size:
1. The Catholic Church, 68,115,001 members, up 1.49 percent. 
2. Southern Baptist Convention,16,228,438 members, down 0.24percent. 
3. The United Methodist Church, 7,853,987 members, down 0.98 percent. 
4. The cult of false religion known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 5,974,041 members, up 1.71 percent. 
5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no membership updates reported.
6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc, 5,000,000  members, no membership updates reported.
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,633,887 members, down1.62 percent. 
8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no membership updates reported. 
9. Assemblies of God (ranked 10 last year), 2,899,702 members, up 1.27 percent. 
10. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 1(ranked 9 last year), 2,844,952 members, down 3.28 percent. 
11.  African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no membership updates reported. 
11. National  Missionary Baptist Convention of America,  2,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
11. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. 2,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
14. The Lutheran Church-- Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,337,349 members, down 1.92 percent.
15. The Episcopal Church, 2,057,292 members, down 2.81 percent.
16. Churches of Christ, 1,639,495 members, no membership updates reported.
17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
17. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no membership updates reported.
19. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,400,000 members, members, no membership updates reported.
20. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1,331,127  members, down 2.00 percent.
21. Baptist Bible Fellowship International (ranked 22 last year), 1,200,000 members, no membership updates reported.
22.  The cult of false religion known as Jehovah’s Witnesses (ranked 23 last year) 1,114,009members, up 2.00 percent.
23. United Church of Christ (ranked 22 last year), 1,111,691 members, down 2.93 percent.
24. Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), (ranked 25 last year), 1,072,169 members, up 1.76 percent.
25. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (ranked 24 last year), 1,071,616 members, no membership updates reported.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rules for Quitting

From Ben Arment via Seth Godin originally quoting Dick Collins (phew!):

When people quit, it’s not usually because they’ve run out of resources or because they’ve faced an insurmountable obstacle. It’s because they were mentally defeated. The worry, fear, and rejection all became too much to bear.

In Seth Godin’s book The Dip, he quotes ultra-marathoner Dick Collins on persevering through difficult races:
“Decide before the race the conditions that will cause you to stop and drop out. You don’t want to be out there saying, ‘Well gee, my leg hurts, I’m a little dehydrated, I’m sleepy, I’m tired, and it’s cold and windy.’ And talk yourself into quitting. If you are making a decision based on how you feel at that moment, you will probably make the wrong decision.”
We have to do the same thing. We have to make rules for ourselves, conditions for quitting. We have to decide now before we go any further so that when times get hard (and they will), we can endure through them.

We have to give our will a chance to stand up to our whim.

Bill Hybels on preaching sermons about sex and sexuality

Sermon Central has a great article by Bill Hybels, founding and lead pastor of Willow Creek Church in South Barrington, Il.  In this article Hybels shares some whys and how to's on preaching about sex and sexuality.  He gives some great wisdom and ideas.  Read the full article at Sermon Central.

The conclusion:

Preaching on the subject of sex is one of the hardest things to do, so it would be much easier to dodge it. Then I'd have no personal soul searching, no controversy, no possibility of offending people. But there would also be no rescuing people from the devastation of misused sexuality and no leading them to the joy of God's intentions for this gift.
I've discovered when I preach on sex, invariably I go home encouraged. The last time I spoke about marriage, I talked afterward with numerous couples who echoed what one said: "We're not going to settle anymore for less than a satisfactory sexual relationship. We're going to work on this, with a counselor if necessary, until we flourish in our physical relationship. We don't want to frustrate each other to the point that we have an affair we may never get over."
When I preach about sexual purity, I often hear from people who have been convicted by the Holy Spirit and have determined to put impurity away. I spoke with a new Christian from our fellowship who had been living with a woman for three years. I told him that as painful as it would be, he really had no other choice but to separate. I listened to him and prayed with him and promised to help him walk through the experience.
As he left, he said, "I can't thank you enough for forcing the issue, because there's one side of me that's screaming, I don't want to cut this off! and the other side of me says, But I have to. I just needed someone to put the pressure on me. Thanks for doing that."
That's what happens when we preach—humbly, prayerfully, and lovingly—the truth about sex.

Profiling the Millennials

A new report published last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life® shows that young adults today are less religious than former generations were when they were in their 20s. Of the so-called Millennials — those born after 1980 — only 74 percent have a religious affiliation. The research also revealed that the rate of religious affiliation increases with age:

* Eighty percent of Generation X (born 1965-1980)
* Eighty-seven percent of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
* Ninety-two percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945)
* Ninety-five percent of the Greatest Generation (born before 1928)

While "religious affiliation" seems high, only 18 percent of Millennials say they attend worship services every week, and only 21 percent of Gen Xers. Just 26 percent of Boomers said they attended worship services weekly when they were in their 20s.

Other characteristics of Millennials are: confident, liberal, upbeat, open to change. They embrace multiple modes of self-expression: three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site; one-in-five have posted a video of themselves online; four-in-ten have a tattoo (for most who do, one is not enough — half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18% have six or more). They treat their hand-held gadgets almost like a body part with eight-in-ten sleeping with a cell phone glowing by their bed. Click here to read more about other millennial characteristics.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sweet Rube Goldberg Project

OK Go - This too shall pass

Abortion and the Race Connection

Below is the first portion of a post by Justin Taylor - I recommending clicking through to read the whole thing:

Piper’s Preaching on the Abortion and Race Connection

The NY Times and the LA Times have both run stories recently about a controversial new billboard campaigned (pictured to the right) on how abortion is making black children endangered. For more information, see the website Albert Mohler has a helpful roundup here.

What are the statistics leading to this angle? In her 2006 book The Politics of Abortion sociologist Anne Hendershott writes that “the statistics on race and abortion are indeed a concern for anyone who cares about the African American community.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 43 percent of all African American pregnancies end in abortion. Since 1973, the number of abortions by African American women has totaled nearly twelve million. Every day in the United States, more than 1,500 African American women choose to end their pregnancy through abortion. Although African Americans represent only 12 percent of the American population, they account for more than 35 percent of all abortions. As a result, the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 per year) for African American women is 2.9 times that of white women. Put another way, for every 1,000 African American women, 32 have abortion, as compared with 11 for every 1,000 white women. Comparing the number of abortions per 1,000 live births by race, we find that the abortion/birth ration for white women is 184 abortions per 1,000 live births; for African American women, it is 543 abortions per 1,000 births. (pp. 31-32)
Now some of you may know that I have a longstanding interest in John Piper’s preaching on abortion. Preachers often make two sorts of mistakes, it seems to me, in preaching on abortion: on the right (but not exclusively) there is a tendency to include preaching about abortion at the same level as supporting political positions and the call to recover a “Christian America” (or a “progressive America”); on the left (but not exclusively) there is a tendency never to mention abortion, though other social sins (racism, exploitation, injustice etc.) are spoken about freely and frequently.
In my opinion, Piper achieves a remarkable balance here: prophetic, persuasive, passionate, non-political sermons on abortion.
So I thought it might be helpful to work through some of his sermons to see the connection between abortion and racism. Since 1990 he has preached each year on abortion (on Sanctity of Life Sunday, around the time of the Roe v. Wade anniversary) and since 1998 he has preached each year on racial harmony (around the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday). And the two topics have converged at several points throughout the years.

For example, in his 1994 sermon Piper explained the theological link:
These two issues [abortion and racism] are about God and about the nature of man created in the image of God. What we believe about God and his majesty, and what we believe about the meaning of being human in relation to God will make all the difference in the world how we think and act about abortion and racism—if we really believe what we say we believe.
Both abortion and racism treat God’s supreme creation without contempt and most be abhorred by those who seek to magnify the Creator.
Piper knows that to link the two explosive issues is to invite misunderstanding and criticism. Nevertheless, in his 2007 sermon he makes clear that he is not associating the two in a “sly or subtle way,” but rather in an “open and intentional” way. He clarifies that his aim is not to “equate” the two, but rather to “associate them. “It’s not a biblical declaration; it’s a cultural observation.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Church Birth Control by Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer shared the following on his blog and it was originally written for Outreach Magazine:

Seems to be that churches must be on some powerful birth control. They are not reproducing. And I don't get why.

It's natural. It's normal. It's essential. And we all know how to do it. But somewhere along the way, church reproduction and multiplication became unusual or strange in North America. And I am not happy about it.
The Church is the most powerful institution in the world. Where no electricity and running water exist, you will still find a church that is planting churches. When governments grow corrupt and economies crash, the Church still stands and plants more churches. Nothing in the world and nothing in the last two millennia of history can compare to the Church. It advances best by exponential and explosive multiplying. But not here.

The Church matters. It is God's agent of change for the hopeless. It is how He delivers transformation to a hurting world. Through the Church, God unfurls the banner of mercy and announces the kingdom of grace. He has assembled the Church to tell and model the most important issue in life--how to spend all of eternity with God Himself.

God has chosen the Church to make known His multifaceted wisdom to all in authority (Eph. 3:10). Whether a power in the heavenly realm or an authority on the earth, the Church is where God rolls out His message. It is used by God to speak to the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich, the hopeful and the hopeless.
We believe in the Church not only because of what we have seen, but because of what Christ can do next. He constantly amazes us at how lives are changed through the Church.

That is why church multiplication is so vital, and why I love church planting so much. Depending on how you count, I have personally planted five. Each time I learn about a church being planted, I get ready to witness lives changed. I prepare myself to hear about cities touched by God's grace. I feel assured that entire nations will be transformed by the Gospel. Church planting is almost the most effective evangelistic strategy in the world.

What's the most effective? Church multiplication movements. When churches plant lots of other churches, our witness advances exponentially. The Gospel goes viral. We need that kind of movement today. One that cannot be controlled, confined or contained.

[Church researcher and author] Warren Bird and I have a new book coming out in May called Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers (Jossey-Bass). By our definition, a church multiplication movement happens when churches:
-Multiply at a 50 percent rate (100 churches one year become 150 the next year)
-Reach 50 percent of their new people through conversion (they are reaching the lost)
-Multiply to the third generation of churches (parent, child, grandchild)
Yet I feel like a tired husband in yet another round of false labor. Everyone is talking reproduction, but not enough churches are having babies.

I hope and pray to see a church multiplication movement in North America during my lifetime. I love local churches and know that God is moving in them. But we need more churches that want to see more churches planted.

Conferences, books and articles can point the way, but only God can change the heart. We have a lot of right information, but we haven't made enough application. It will take a passion for reaching people far from God and a willingness to sacrifice for multiplication. It will even require a new kind of surrender. But I challenge you to take up the work of supporting

Friendship in ministry

Craig Groschel - founding and lead pastor of LifeChurch shared this on the Swerve blog:

Dear Church,

Thank you so much for treating me like a normal person. I feel that you honor the “office” of the pastor but love and accept me as a person.
I don’t take this for granted. Many of my pastor friends tell me that they feel lonely in ministry. Many have explained that other pastors in town are difficult to get to know and trust. Others have expressed deep hurts from friendships-gone-bad with people in their churches.

My family feels loved and accepted and not judged by the church. Some people may act differently around us because they are “with the pastor.” Our family enjoys when you are yourself and let us be ourselves. I’m especially grateful when you don’t put unrealistic expectations on my children and love them as regular kids.

We’ll always try to be a good and faithful example of Christ, but we’re grateful when you love us even though we occasionally fail.

I’d love to hear your perspective of friendships in ministry.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Failing leadership

A failing system is always easier to manage than one that's moving too fast for a bishop to control it. At any district meeting, I'd guess that four-fifths of those present are failing. But in a leadership vacuum, the wrong people are usually those who step up and take charge. We've got to discipline ourselves to stop those who are failing from controlling the conversation and policing the good news. We've got to notice, name, and nurture those whom God uses to produce good fruit. 
- Will Willimon @ Off the Agenda