Church & Ministry
Posted 1/17/17 at 11:19 AM | George Sarris
In a recent interview with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Tim Keller was asked a question that both Christians and non-Christians wonder about at one time or another.
I’m troubled by the evangelical notion that people go to heaven only if they have a direct relationship with Jesus. Doesn’t that imply that billions of people — Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus — are consigned to hell because they grew up in non-Christian families around the world? That Gandhi is in hell?
As usual, Tim’s response was perceptive and satisfactory . . . as far as it went. However, he never really answered the question. Instead, he ended his comment by suggesting that there is an answer, but that answer is hidden in the mystery of God.
There is still the question of fairness regarding people who have grown up away from any real exposure to Christianity . . . I don’t think it is insurmountable. Just because I can’t see a way doesn’t prove there cannot be any such way. If we have a God big enough to deserve being called God, then we have a God big enough to reconcile both justice and love. FULL POST
Posted 12/23/16 at 12:06 PM | Marvin Thompson
You know that there is something deeply, spiritually wrong when a person who sands up for Evangelical theological purity is asked to apologize because that stance “does not represent their political views” (1/28/2016 editorial at baptistmessage.com); is offensive and “…demonstrated a [‘disrespectfulness’] toward more conservative leaders and Trump supporters” (Christianity Today article by Kate Shellnutt on 12/23/2016). The object of Southern Baptists and evangelical ire is Russell Moore.
Remarkably, Moore, as the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is being criticized for betraying the role of that position because he was outspoken and made critical remarks towards fellow Southern Baptists and evangelicals who were Trump supporters. But what exactly were the grounds of Moore’s outspokenness?
Consider the ethics portion of his title. Now reflect on what he was saying during the electoral season about the ethical challenges of the candidate and the rationalization, even bald unbiblical justification for abandoning long standing evangelical moral and ethical standards. Shellnutt quoted him in her article: FULL POST
Posted 12/22/16 at 12:10 PM | George Sarris
The world changed when Jesus was born and time itself is now measured in relation to that event!
Every person and event occurring before Jesus was born, we identify as BC - Before Christ. And, every person and event occurring after his birth, we identify as AD - Anno Domini, which is Latin for, “In the Year of our Lord.” Even the alternative designation of BCE and CE used by some modern authors, archeologists, museums and others not wanting to specifically acknowledge the implications of the dating formula must admit that the “Common Era” began with the birth of Christ.
What we will be celebrating on December 25 was actually the pivotal event of history!
But why did this Person have such a significant impact on the world? As Christians we sometimes overlook who He really was. The message that is at the heart of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world!
The angel who appeared to the shepherds on that glorious night to announce the birth of the promised Savior did not say, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for some of the people,” or even “for most of the people.” The angel said, FULL POST
Posted 12/15/16 at 3:43 PM | Mark Ellis
By Mark Ellis
Noted author and preacher Francis Chan urged believers not to waste their lives on fruitless pursuits, but to join with him and others focused on planting churches among the remaining unreached people groups of the world.
“We have to mobilize to get the Gospel to these people,” Chan declared at the Finishing the Task conference December 8th at Saddleback Church.
“But the other thing we’re accomplishing is helping people not to waste their lives. They are doing something you know God wants. You know it has eternal significance,” he told a group of mission-minded leaders at the conference.
Chan said following the command of Jesus given in Matthew 28 is the ultimate antidote to a purposeless existence. “How many people wander through life wondering if they wasted it?” he asked.
“But this is not a waste; it’s straight out of Scripture.”
Chan also spoke at the same conference in 2015. “Last year this conference impacted me in a big way. I went home and told my staff I’m not taking another speaking engagement this year unless it has to do with reaching unreached people groups,” he noted. FULL POST
Posted 12/15/16 at 1:39 PM | Sophia Mixon
We live in trying times, but as church communities, we must always prioritize the call to welcome the stranger, whoever they are – so what is your church doing? If you think greeting newcomers at the passing of the peace or pasting an “all welcome” sign on your door is doing enough, you’re falling short and it’s unlikely you have many new faces coming through your doors. It takes more to present a welcoming face to the community.
To live in the spirit of inclusion is to the throw the doors open wide, but that takes many symbolic acts. If your church is hoping to grow its membership or just bring more community members by for a visit, these simple strategies may help you demonstrate your openness.
Beyond Youth Group
Keeping youth in church after confirmation age or past high school graduation and attracting young adults are two keys to maintaining a living, thriving church – so where are all the young people? It’s a tricky question that can only be answered by looking more closely at our broader culture and how we speak to that culture as a church community.
For youth still at home with their parents, church often falls by the wayside because the family is busy pursuing what Michelle Anthony calls the “abundant life.” In trying to be part of too many things, the family pulls focus away from God and the church loses priority. When parents don’t model the importance of participation in church life, children don’t learn to center their own spiritual lives. FULL POST
Posted 12/14/16 at 6:00 PM | Mark Ellis
By Mark Ellis
Hajira* was raised in a prominent, loving, Muslim family in the Middle East. Her father is one of the top religious authorities of the state, an enforcer of Sharia law.
“We all were strict in Sharia law and the religious practices,” Hajira told Bibles4Mideast.
Her brother commanded a militant group “protecting” Islam and taking immediate action against its enemies. He is also trained as a sharp shooter.
One evening her family, along with their cooks, drivers and servants, went out to the desert to enjoy an evening bonfire under the moonlight. It was an annual tradition, and this year, they set up camp near some rocky hills.
After dinner she went for a short walk through the desert with her brothers and sisters. Her father and mothers remained near the bonfire with the servants.
“While we were walking, I knew something bite my leg,” she recounts. “We saw a big snake moving fast after biting me.”
It seems the snake was partially covered with sand, and in the darkness she inadvertently stepped on it. “My brother took his revolver and shot the snake at once and killed it,” she told Bibles4Mideast. FULL POST
Posted 12/14/16 at 12:20 PM | David Fournier
If you’re a Christian, you likely seek out Christian communities. Primarily Christian communities tend to be closer knit. You’ll see your friends and neighbors at church and send your kids to a Christian school. These communities also tend to be safer places to live. However, you shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. There’s a surprising amount of crime that happens in Christian communities, and we’re often the innocent victims who could have done more to prevent it.
7 Percent of Americans Don’t Lock Their Doors
In 2014, the Huffington Post took a randomized poll of Americans all over the United States. They found that seven percent of Americans leave their doors unlocked when they exit their homes for the day. That might seem like a small percentage, but out of a population of 319 million people, that’s more than 22 million people who leave their doors unlocked across the country.
The study also showed that 23 percent of Americans said that they rarely lock their doors when they’re home, leaving it wide open for perpetrators. This is a little more understandable since the vast majority of home invasions occur when the residents aren’t home, but it’s still surprising that such a large number don’t fear their surroundings. FULL POST
Posted 12/5/16 at 1:37 PM | Mark Ellis
By Mark Ellis
Baroness Caroline Cox, a member of the House of Lords and important voice in the British Parliament for religious freedom throughout the world, narrowly avoided an attack by armed Islamist Fulani herdsmen on November 14th.
Baroness Cox and Bishop Stewart Ruch III were visiting Jos Plateau State where Islamist cattle herdsmen have become as great a threat as the infamous terror group Boko Haram.
Only thirty minutes after Cox and her team left the village of Lo Birin, armed men came into the valley, the only way out of the village, and started shooting at vehicles. Many of those wounded or killed were young people driving back from a wedding.
Rev. Gyang Boyi witnessed the attack and believes the attackers were targeting Baroness Cox and her group.
“The Fulani Herdsmen killed the traditional ruler [in July, in a similar ambush]. We thank God you escaped this,” Rev. Boyi told Cox, according to Global Christian News.
Cox’s team of eight included David Thomas, Corinna Loges, Sam Maison and Helen Gilbert, with Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART). FULL POST
Posted 11/28/16 at 12:57 PM | Marvin Thompson
The 2016 presidential election is over and all true Christians must pray sincerely for President-Elect Donald Trump. That is required by scripture and anything else will be willful disobedience to God. Christians do not have the luxury of pouting and expect to be excused for disobedience because of what they perceive to be a natural reaction to disappointment, for that would not be righteous indignation, but sin - pure and simple. Be upset, be angry, and be disappointed, but do not sin.
Being a Christian means being theologically and morally consistent regardless of circumstances. We serve an unchanging God. He was the same in the past as he is today, and as he will be forever. The famous Hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness says “There is no shadow of turning with thee.” Throughout the ages this notion of a steadfast and sure God has been an anchor for the faith of believers everywhere, in every situation, and at every stage of life. That is, until now.
For all that has happened within the Christian community during the presidential election campaign season, the most important revelation is the theological and moral crises facing the Church. The Church is theologically confused and morally compromised as never before. We have seen the long standing bulwark of biblical morality toppled for political expedience as moral relativism and religious hypocrisy invade the confines of orthodoxy, aided and abetted by evangelicals. Such ecclesiastical treachery must not be allowed to linger or the community will be corrupted for a generation. FULL POST
Posted 11/22/16 at 2:42 PM | Mark Ellis
By Mark Ellis
He was uncertain and purposeless when he immigrated to the UK from Iran as a Muslim. But eight years later, God is using Shapoor to build His kingdom among the refugee population.
“When I was a Muslim I didn’t believe God could talk to ordinary people and have any relationship or use ordinary people,” Shapoor told a ministry leader with Pioneers.
When Shapoor began to read the Scripture for the first time, it changed his life. “When I came to Christ and read the bible I found out God has a heart for sinners and everybody,” he says.
After Shapoor first believed, God filled him with a contagious zeal to spread the Gospel. “When I saw this unconditional love and the grace of God in my life I couldn’t keep this Good News to myself,” he told Pioneers. “Because we came from darkness to light we don’t keep this to ourselves. As you receive freely, give freely to other people.” FULL POST