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[Cfamily]20 Truths from Small Church Essentials
« Reply #840 on: March 28, 2018, 01:00:13 AM »

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20 Truths from Small Church Essentials

Just because a church is small, doesn’t mean it’s broken.

Karl Vaters’ new book Small Church Essentials: Field-Tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250 has just released and it’s a great read for pastors and leaders of smaller churches. Karl has been a small church pastor for 30 years, is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us (2013), and travels extensively to churches and conferences to speak about leading a small church well. Below is what I found especially helpful.

1.Church leaders often wring their hands over the “problem” of small churches, and how to turn them into big churches. Like most prejudices, however, our problems with small churches aren’t what they seem. Just because a church is small, doesn’t mean it’s broken (pg. 10).

2.Just because we don’t have a kickin’ worship band does not mean we’ll settle for passionless worship (pg. 43).

3.On average, about one-third of the big church principles can be applied in a church of 200 and about one-fourth in a church of 100 or fewer. To know which third to keep, I have to understand how big churches and small churches are different (pg. 50).

4.In bigger churches, the individual people and their personalities have a smaller impact on the whole. The challenges are more about crowd dynamics than personality quirks. That outspoken, sometimes embarrassing church member who might shift the entire mood of the room in a small church causes no more concern in a big church than how to answer that awkward email the pastor gets every week. The impact is much smaller (pg. 59).

5.Small churches need to prioritize relationships, culture, and history (pg. 62).

6.In bigger or newer churches, the culture ...

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[Cfamily]Save Your Soul: Start Gardening
« Reply #841 on: March 29, 2018, 01:00:12 AM »
Save Your Soul: Start Gardening

For me, local creation care offers an antidote to cultural chaos.

We live in a cultural moment defined by divisiveness and chaos. Every day there is something new to be afraid of, something to fix or to save. School shootings, economic instability, and political upheaval all engender feelings of powerlessness and discouragement. If I turn to social media to look for some semblance of comfort or joy, I find infighting and dissension. There’s no perfect antidote for all this pain, but nonetheless, as winter fades and light extends longer into our days, I can’t help but turn with anticipation toward garden season.

Although planting a garden might seem like an insignificant act, it offers us something deep and enduring: a reminder of God’s sovereignty over the earth and a practical, incarnational way to participate in his created order. “The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility,” writes Wendell Berry. “To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”

Last year, my husband, John, and I decided to plant a small vegetable garden on our deck. My kids joined in, and throughout the spring and summer, we delighted in every new cucumber and every new pepper. In the process, I discovered the timelessness of gardening and why it matters for our particular moment.

First, in a culture driven by immediacy and instant gratification, gardening forces us to cultivate patience.

Each time I worked my fingers into the dark rich soil and planted a few vegetables, I had to wait. Eventually, when something popped off the vine, my kids and I ran to examine it. Then we’d wait some more and watch for it to ripen.

In Galatians 4, Paul writes about the fullness of time. ...

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[Cfamily]Lord, Have Mercy on 67% of Us
« Reply #842 on: March 30, 2018, 01:00:13 AM »
Lord, Have Mercy on 67% of Us

A Lenten research roundup of what Americans think of sin.

Pope Francis warned this year against “fake fasting” during Lent.

“We must pretend,” Francis said with a smile during a Friday mass in February. “That is not showing others that we are performing acts of penance.” Those who fast should reflect on their sins and ask God for forgiveness, he said.

Most Americans don’t observe Lent. But that’s not because they think they’re sinless.

In fact, 2 out of 3 Americans confess to being a sinner (67%), according to LifeWay Research [full infographic below]. The rest don’t see themselves as sinners (8%), don’t think sin exists (10%), or preferred not to answer the question (15%).

While a few of the self-confessed sinners don’t mind being one (5%), most say they are either working on being less of a sinner (34%) or depending on Jesus to overcome their sin (28%).

“Almost nobody wants to be a sinner,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

More women (33%) than men (22%) say they depend on Jesus to overcome sin, as do more Protestants (49%) than Catholics (19%) and more evangelicals (72%) than non-evangelicals (19%). About half of those who attend religious services at least monthly (51%) say they depend on Jesus, compared to 15 percent of those who go less frequently.

In 2016, a LifeWay study for Ligonier Ministries found that 65 percent of Americans think that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. Americans with evangelical beliefs were less likely to agree than those without evangelical beliefs (54% vs. 68%).

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said people have the ability to turn to God on their own initiative (79%), while nearly the same amount soundly rejected ...

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One-on-One with Pastor Colin Smith on “Heaven, So Near – So Far: The Story of Judas Iscariot”

If a person really belongs to Jesus, he or she will persevere in faith

I am happy to welcome Colin Smith to The Exchange today. Colin is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard, a multi-campus church in the Chicago suburbs, and the teaching pastor for the daily radio program called Unlocking the Bible. We also have an academic partnership with Colin and The Orchard, offering master’s degrees through a partnership with Wheaton College. Colin recently wrote Heaven, So Near – So Far: The Story of Judas Iscariot.

Ed: Colin, why did you write a book about Judas?

Colin: I wrote the book because there are a growing number of people who are abandoning the faith that they once professed. I’m not just thinking about people in general, but specific people. Like, for example, a guy who was brought up in a Christian home, but no longer has an interest in the faith. Or a person who really extended herself in Christian ministry, but got disappointed and now no longer wants anything to do with Christianity. Or a couple who have experienced great difficulties in their lives, and they’ve moved away from a faith that they once professed so brightly.

I wrote it because I want to see people like these brought back to living faith in Jesus Christ.

Ed: Don’t you think it’s possible that Judas might be in heaven?

Colin: [Smiles] You know, Ed, that is the question I’m asked more than any other in relation to this book. I think part of the motivation is that if people can believe that Judas might be in heaven, it opens the door to believing that everyone will be in heaven.

But there is no way in the world that Judas is in heaven, and there are three scriptures that speak very clearly to this. First, on one occasion, Jesus said to the disciples, “One of you is a devil” (John 6:70). ...

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Source: One-on-One with Pastor Colin Smith on “Heaven, So Near – So Far: The Story of Judas Iscariot”

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Billy Graham and the Presidents: Lessons in Spiritual Counsel and Friendship

One evangelist's influence on our nation's leaders

The Billy Graham Center Archives has just recently announced the opening of two new collections on the ministry of Billy Graham and the work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). This opening comes at Graham’s wishes after his recent passing on February 21st.

The first collection, #580, was released on March 19th and contains records taken from the BGEA’s Montreat office from 1940 to 1948 and 1950 to 2012. It is comprised of letters, sermons, reports, memoranda, transcripts, clippings, and manuscripts and contains details regarding everything from the activities of the BGEA to the planning of evangelistic campaigns.

The second collection, #685, features more records from the BGEA’s Montreat office. Amongst these items are the VIP Notebooks, most of which document Graham’s personal relationship with every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. This collection’s opening has been postponed until November 7th to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billy Graham.

Up until now, discussions surrounding Graham’s involvement with the U.S. Presidents has been of interest to many people. Over the span of decades, this one man’s counsel of our nation’s leaders was highly influential.

Most notable was Graham’s disregard for partisanship in these interactions; politics aside, his heart was to serve leaders working in a position that brought with it untold amounts of pressure and stress. His ambition was to share Christ’s gospel with those who needed it most—nothing more, nothing less. Below are examples of the sorts of encouragement, spiritual council, and friendship that Graham was able to provide several presidents with:

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Source: Billy Graham and the Presidents: Lessons in Spiritual Counsel and Friendship

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[Cfamily]When Life Burst Out of Death
« Reply #845 on: April 02, 2018, 01:00:14 AM »
When Life Burst Out of Death

A theological imagining of how the Big Bang echoes Easter.

Ironically, in defense of biblical faith, some Christians denounce the Big Bang—a theory originally rejected by many in the scientific community on the grounds that it smuggled a biblical view into science. Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître first proposed the theory in 1927 and called it the “cosmic egg” or the “primordial atom.” “Big bang” was a later phrase suggested by British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who opposed the theory.

The Vatican, for its part, was so thrilled by Lemaître’s theory and its progressive verification in the scientific community that Lemaître himself had to contact the Vatican to plead that it desist from making scientific proclamations, a domain beyond its magisterium. The Vatican complied, and the attitude of global Christendom toward the Big Bang has been largely ambivalent ever since.

So, if the notion that the universe exploded from a single point was first conceived by a Christian and considered by the Catholic Church to align beautifully with the message of the Bible (primarily with the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, “creation out of nothing”), how might this scientific idea continue to contribute to theology?

Well, I believe the clue is right there in the name Lemaître gave to his theory: the cosmic egg. With which holiday in the Christian calendar are eggs associated? Easter, of course. And so here is the parallel: For the scientific community and for Christian believers, respectively, the Big Bang and the resurrection of Jesus postulate as the vanishing point of their worldviews a privileged, unrepeatable, radically timeless moment in which light burst forth out of darkness, heat burst out ...

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[Cfamily]6 Ways to Survive the Grief of Childlessness
« Reply #846 on: April 03, 2018, 01:00:14 AM »
6 Ways to Survive the Grief of Childlessness

In a time of loss and lament, here’s how I found spiritual solace.

When I was 19, a doctor said words I hoped never to hear: “You won’t ever be able to carry your own child.” I was too stunned to cry; all I felt was numbness. It took a few days for the shock to turn into myriad emotions—sadness, frustration grief, shame, anger, and loneliness. As I processed my diagnosis, my mind was assaulted by self-doubt and lies from the enemy. I thought, “If I can’t even fulfill the basic duties of a woman, what good am I?”

Childlessness touches the lives of many women and the precious people who love them. Infertility alone affects approximately 12 percent of the US population—that’s over one in ten couples. According to estimates, roughly 15 to 20 percent of all pregnancies in the US will end in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage in known pregnancies under 12 weeks is one in five. This data doesn’t encompass couples who have lost children to illness or accidents, nor does it take into consideration single women who desire to be mothers.

Even though I have experienced only one of the forms that childlessness can take, I’m well acquainted with the grief of being unable to have a biological child. For women like me who want to be mothers, childlessness contradicts what we know about the created order of the world. We have godly desires to parent. Our physical composition tells of this truth. We have breasts to feed a newborn; we have a uterus to grow a fetus. Our bodies were intentionally designed to fulfill God’s mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.”

However, the fall continues to taint; things aren’t the way God originally designed them to be. Women who can’t bear children often choose redemptive alternatives—fostering, ...

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Source: 6 Ways to Survive the Grief of Childlessness

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[Cfamily]Good Friday, Billy Graham, and the Transcendent Gospel
« Reply #847 on: April 04, 2018, 01:00:12 AM »
Good Friday, Billy Graham, and the Transcendent Gospel

The truth presented to us in scripture should tell us something about not only who we are but who our neighbors are: image bearers of the Father in heaven.

Today is Good Friday; the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross. This sacrifice—the greatest outpouring of love this world will ever know—earned us our freedom from the bondage of sin.

Without the pain, loss, and sorrow of Good Friday, we could never know the intense joy of Easter morning. Rev. Billy Graham knew this himself:

“Yes, it was a tragedy Jesus had to die—and the reason He had to die was because of us. There was no other way for our sins to be forgiven, and no other way for heaven’s door to be opened to us. He was willing to do this because He loves us, and He doesn’t want us to spend eternity apart from Him.”

Rev. Graham dedicated his life to the importance of this day: an encounter with the crucified Christ changes everything. When Jesus bore the burden of our sins on the cross he paved the way for us to accept his free gift of forgiveness and ultimately be reunited with him.

Like a shepherd gathering his sheep, there isn’t a distance our heavenly father wouldn’t have ventured—no wilderness He wouldn’t have braved—to bring us back to himself.

A Global Ministry

Billy Graham understood the importance of going the distance for the gospel. He traveled the world spreading the good news about Good Friday and the joy to come on Easter Sunday. Since the 1940s, Graham’s crusades have visited more than 250 cities worldwide, reaching an estimated 215 million people.

Every single one, a precious child of God.

It’s no secret that each of Graham’s visits to these places brought unique challenges and areas of difficulty.

His visit to South Africa in 1973 comes to mind. For a period of almost 50 years, the nation was wrapped up in a ...

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Source: Good Friday, Billy Graham, and the Transcendent Gospel

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