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[Cfamily]Singles: A Vital Part of Our Churches, Part 2
« Reply #968 on: August 02, 2018, 01:00:18 AM »

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Singles: A Vital Part of Our Churches, Part 2

It’s time to stop looking upon single people with suspicion and instead thank God for them.

Yesterday, I talked about the problem that many churches have when it comes to treating the singles in our churches as whole and equal to the marrieds. Notably, however, singles have been critical to the spread and influence of Christianity. Today, I want to discuss where we go from here.

So what do we do? Below I share three ways we can integrate singles fully into the life of our churches.

First, be careful with your language.

One of the problems we have is our language. For example, when we talk about our churches, we often ask things like, “Are you a family-centered church?”

What does this even mean? Most of us would recognize there are many different kinds of families in life and in the church. There are blended families. There are single-parent families. There are nuclear families, traditional families, multi-generational families. You might know you mean to include all of them when you say “family-centered,” but most people are going to imagine a nuclear family – two parents and their children – when you say it.

You might even mean “families” to include singles, but almost no one is going to hear that.

Similarly, it is incorrect to describe our churches as having “singles and families.” This makes it seem like the single people are on the outside. When I’m talking about issues of race and ethnicity, I usually include several different examples of races and ethnicities. I might say “Thank God for people of African American and Anglo and Latino and Asian backgrounds, and many others.”

In the same vein of thinking, I might say, “We thank God for single people and married people and blended families.” Include some other people in your list. ...

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Source: Singles: A Vital Part of Our Churches, Part 2

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[Cfamily]Missionary Identity
« Reply #969 on: August 03, 2018, 01:00:14 AM »
Missionary Identity

The reality is, Christians are interlopers. We are strangers and foreigners.

As Christians, I believe we should always be more driven by our missionary identity than we are by our national identity, our political identity, our environmental identity, our social identity, or even our church identity.

Don’t get me wrong. We ought to love our church. (I know I love my church.) And the Church (with capital C) is the bride of Christ, destined for eternity with God. But here on earth, we must face the reality that our culture is not to be our primary identity.

Our culture is a mission field. We must see ourselves as people on mission. This is not our home. This is our mission field. Therefore, we all must see our vocations as mission—as kingdom work.

Strangers in a Foreign Land

First Peter 2:11 tells us that we are strangers and exiles. This land is not our home. But part of the challenge is that a lot of people want to fight for their homeland instead of acknowledging that we’re supposed to have the mindset of foreigners and exiles.

Let’s put this into the facts that we know about our population. If the percentage of people who are nominally Christian is shrinking and nominal Christians become Nones, then we are dwelling in an increasingly secular land.

As a result, we need a re-emphasis on gospel clarity. Being labeled Christian no longer means a ‘social Christian,’ but instead is someone who’s been changed by the power of the gospel, if indeed you have. This is a vital theological shift in the way we are viewed and should view our land.

Understanding these shifts is necessary in part because we live in an age of outrage. People in our land get ticked off over things that they don’t like. This calls us to gospel clarity. And missionary identity, seeing ourselves ...

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[Cfamily]Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers
« Reply #970 on: August 04, 2018, 01:00:17 AM »
Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers

Survey finds most Protestants believe God wants them to prosper financially. But views diverge on whether they must tithe to receive it.

For some Americans, dropping a check into the offering plate at church is a bit like having a Discover Card.

Both offer a cash-back bonus.

About a third of Protestant churchgoers say their congregation teaches that God will bless them if they donate money.

Two-thirds say God wants them to prosper. One in 4 say they have to do something for God to receive material blessings in return.

Those are among the key findings of a new study on “prosperity gospel” beliefs from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month.

Researchers found more than a few churchgoers believe giving to God leads to financial rewards, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“A significant group of churches seem to teach that donations trigger a financial response from God,” said McConnell.

A controversial topic

The belief that God gives financial rewards in exchange for offerings is a central part of the so-called prosperity gospel, which offers a “direct path to the good life,” as Duke professor Kate Bowler puts it.

That belief is both controversial and fairly commonplace.

LifeWay Research found 38 percent of Protestant churchgoers agree with the statement, “My church teaches that if I give more money to my church and charities, God will bless me in return.” Fifty-seven percent disagree, including 40 percent who strongly disagree. Five percent are not sure.

Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churchgoers (53%) are most likely to agree. Churchgoers with evangelical beliefs (41%) are more likely to agree than those without evangelical beliefs (35%).

African-American (51%) and Hispanic churchgoers (43%) are ...

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Source: Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers

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[Cfamily]Four Lies That Keep Us from Church
« Reply #971 on: August 05, 2018, 01:00:14 AM »
Four Lies That Keep Us from Church

These common untruths prevent us from fully participating in the body of Christ.

After Hurricane Katrina passed through my state in 2005, I was selected to be a research subject for a study conducted by Harvard Medical School. At regular intervals following the storm, researchers called to ask me a set of questions about my mental and emotional health, as well as my social support system. Each time, the caller asked: “How many people in your community would you be comfortable asking to borrow a cup of sugar?” I would answer: “Let’s see, about 100?” That question was always followed by: “How many people in your community would you be comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with?” I would answer: “The same.”

My answer to those two questions is an important clue to my identity. The reason I have such a sizable collection of sugar-lending, accessible friends is because I belong to a local church. The truth is, never once—in storm or sunshine—have I been alone in the world, and no Christian ever has, at least not in the deepest sense. Our identities hinge on the precious truth that belonging to Christ means we also belong to everyone else who belongs to him. In Christ, we are not simply individuals; we are joined to what Peter calls a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9).

In our individualistic culture, to say that my identity is necessarily connected to the people in my church is hardly popular. Our unbelieving friends and neighbors often reject the significance of membership in a local church and minimize it as a “personal choice.” Although those of who profess faith might distance ourselves from this secular, postmodern perspective, nonetheless we, too, sometimes find ourselves vulnerable ...

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Source: Four Lies That Keep Us from Church

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[Cfamily]Renewing Your Church: His Greatness Through Your Willingness
« Reply #972 on: August 06, 2018, 01:00:14 AM »
Renewing Your Church: His Greatness Through Your Willingness

God is using the revitalization of the church to demonstrate his glory.

If the mission is to advance the gospel and grow the kingdom, we can’t afford for churches to die at the same rate that we plant new ones. The call of revitalization has to become a priority. God placed that call in my life four years ago.

In February of 2014, I was on staff of a church plant in a suburban area of Columbia, SC. In order to supplement our income as well as help a church in need, my senior pastor and I began working with an inner-city church providing pulpit supply. When my pastor felt led to focus solely on the church plant, the leadership asked if I would stay and lead Rosewood Baptist Church, an 80-year old facility in the heart of downtown Columbia.

After prayer and good counsel, my family and I committed ourselves to Rosewood, a decision that would place me in the hardest, most fulfilling ministry I have ever been part of. I fully believe that God takes us through something to bring us to something so we can do something.

The culture of Rosewood was inwardly-focused and consumer-driven. A small group of long-time members had taken unhealthy possession of the church. It fulfilled every negative stereotype of a dysfunctional church. It had a history of treating their pastors as employees and grinding them up. Each of the last four pastors had left in the shadows of dissension, scandal, or dysfunction.

The focus on missions had been reduced to a small, weekly food pantry. The discipleship focus was limited to a few Sunday School classes that existed more for social interaction than biblical instruction.

The church’s negative reputation was well known in the community. Through decades of denying every request to use the facility, the church had isolated itself while earning a reputation that was as ...

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Source: Renewing Your Church: His Greatness Through Your Willingness

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[Cfamily]The Other Benedict Option: Humility
« Reply #973 on: August 08, 2018, 01:00:15 AM »
The Other Benedict Option: Humility

What a sixth-century monk can teach all of us about public engagement

In sixth-century Europe, unprecedented chaos gripped the dying remnants of the Roman Empire. As Europe entered a period of political chaos and moral decline, a young Christian by the name of Benedict started a movement that would radically reshape Christian habits of life for more than a millennium.

His primary contribution was fairly basic, perhaps even pedestrian: He offered a clear and orderly way to organize Christian monasteries, penning what came to be known as The Rule, which detailed how monasteries should run, down to meal times and organization charts. But these monasteries, stabilized and fortified by TheRule, would eventually become agents of subtle social change and guardians of a rich and vibrant faith amid the political chaos and cultural decline of the proceeding centuries.

In 2017, journalist Rod Dreher argued that we find ourselves in a circumstance not so different from Benedict’s: a moment of social upheaval and decline in which “serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives” but must focus on nurturing “creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them.” Building on the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who argued for the relevance of Benedict’s preservation of Christian moral reasoning over 30 years ago, Dreher contended that this would involve painful but necessary shifts in mindset for evangelical Christians.

The ensuing discussion has been well-documented in CT’s pages. Supporters of the “Benedict Option” contend that it is essential to evangelical public engagement in an increasingly post-Christian environment, while critics have argued that ...

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Source: The Other Benedict Option: Humility

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[Cfamily]Bethel Church Survives Redding Carr Fire, But Still Faces Heat
« Reply #974 on: August 09, 2018, 01:00:15 AM »
Bethel Church Survives Redding Carr Fire, But Still Faces Heat

Social media debate on intersection of disaster relief and theology echoes Osteen-Harvey episode.

The main campus of Bethel Church, the nondenominational megachurch known for its charismatic practices and chart-topping worship ballads, has been spared threats by a wildfire raging in and around the congregation’s hometown of Redding, California. However, a different kind of firestorm—theological and social—has continued to stir online.

The Carr Fire, which began July 23 when a vehicle’s “mechanical issue” sparked the blaze in nearby Whiskeytown, had charred more than 131,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 residences by Friday morning, making it one of California’s top 10 destructive fires. More than 30,000 residents have been displaced and six people—including two firefighters, as well as two children and their great-grandmother—have been killed, the Sacramento Bee reported. At least a dozen others have been injured.

It didn’t take long for the maelstrom to make its way online, where Bethel supporters shared prayers and prophesies while the church’s critics pointed out what they view as overpromises of God’s favor. The digital discussion also rekindled a debate that may be a new normal for big-name churches in the face of disaster: How much help is enough?

One does not need to look far on social media or in more niche corners of the Christian blogosphere to see the flurries of judgment. But Bethel has held its theological ground, prophesying rain, commanding calm winds, and inviting divine intervention.

Competing narratives of God’s modus operandi and the power of faith increasingly cloud the digital air in times of intense heartbreak—a cautionary tale of how Christians of different strands respond to crises and to each other amid them. ...

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Source: Bethel Church Survives Redding Carr Fire, But Still Faces Heat

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[Cfamily]What We Lose When Hymnbooks Disappear
« Reply #975 on: August 10, 2018, 01:00:12 AM »
What We Lose When Hymnbooks Disappear

Tangible objects of faith play an essential role in binding a community of believers together.

When I was in Sunday school in third grade, my teacher seemed ancient. Each Sunday, with hair a bit askew, he’d pump our hands as we walked in the door because he was so glad to see us. We’d earn full-size Snickers bars for Bible memorization, and he’d take us on a fishing trip at the end of the year. His wife would sit down next to a tinny classroom piano, and we’d sing hymns at the close of each class.

But the crowning glory of that year was receiving a hymnal of our very own, with gold embossed lettering, to continue our Christian education at home. It became a coveted object, one valued for its history. It signified our growing belonging to the church. Yet once in my possession, it simply sat atop the piano only my mother could play.

We are formed by the hymns and songs we sing. We are (perhaps more than we realize) formed, too, by the tangible objects of our faith. We are people of the book—not just people of the Word of God, but also people who have been corporately, theologically, devotionally, and socially formed by hymnbooks.

It is this history that Christopher N. Phillips artfully articulates in The Hymnal: A Reading History. This book is the only large-scale history and literary reading of hymnals, those “small companion[s]” that traveled with parishioners from church, home, and school. Phillips leads us like an artful detective through the early reading practices and religious life of the 18th and 19th centuries, in America and across the Atlantic.

Creating a Visible Identity

From our modern vantage point, perhaps we might see hymnals as outdated accessories of a worship service. But hymnbooks have served (and still may serve) a larger purpose. These books were the way children ...

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Source: What We Lose When Hymnbooks Disappear

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