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7 Confidence Boosters In Evangelism Our evangelism-less experience doesn’t spring from ignorance; it springs from a lack of boldness and confidence in Christ.

7 Millennial Traits That Baby Boomers Need To Learn Millennials are flooding into corporate America, and many baby boomer managers, entrepreneurs and leaders are re-evaluating what it means to be a millennial–what their needs and passions are.

Christian Media Barely Reaching Beyond The Faithful – Christian broadcasters have a devoted following, with about two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals saying they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis. Christian books have a similar use by churchgoers and evangelicals and Christian movies remain popular, with about 4 in 10 Americans having seen one in the last year. But many Americans ignore Christian media. 

Secular Society And The Allure Of Isis – Although having a greater stake in one’s own community may help to deter some from experiencing the kind of alienation that can lead to the embrace of radical ideologies, the fertile ground for religious terrorists coming from the West is far more likely to be the secular character of Western culture itself.

You’re Not Crazy Serving Christ gets hard. Harder than we expected. Harder than we can endure, even for one more day. We are tempted to think, “No way can this turn out well. My life – the only one I have – is going to end up on the junk pile. I must be crazy to be out here doing this, taking these risks, getting hammered with this criticism, paying this price. The body count in ministry is high, and I’m the next casualty. How on earth did I ever get here?”

A Brief History of “Missional” – Just because we talk about being missional doesn’t mean we are. It is easier to talk about missional living than it is to live it out.

Disciple Making

A Discipleship Problem?

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What’s our problem in the church these days? There is no lack of research or books written regarding this question. However, as I have read and thought through some of the issues being raised about today’s church in the West, there is one quote that continues to come back to my mind again and again. It is by Mike Breen in his book Building A Discipleship Culture.

Breen writes:

We don’t have a missional or leadership problem in the Western church. We have a discipleship problem.

Is Breen correct in his assessment? Is discipleship the key?

Whenever I think about discipleship, I think of Jesus leading his small group of disciples as he taught them, encouraged them, prayed with them, empowered them, and sent them out to declare that the kingdom of God had come. And he did so, as Robert Coleman aptly writes, “for the salvation of the multitudes.”

We have to ask therefore, if we as a church are making disciples? And if we say we are, then are we seeing the gospel spread? Because if we are truly making disciples, then I believe we will, over time, begin to see the multitudes reached. It is disciples who make disciples. This means that if you are a follower of Christ, then you have been commissioned to help others follow Christ. Jesus’ disciples, in following Him, became “fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19).

So since it is true that it is disciples who make disciples, this means that it is not a one person job. It is for all followers of Christ. Ed Stetzer has recently written that when it comes to making disciples, you can’t mass produce them. “God did not plan for one person to disciple an entire church,” writes Stetzer, “and He didn’t design us to grow via mass discipleship.” Discipleship involves the whole body of believers. It’s not all on the shoulders of the pastor.

Paul told Timothy that “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This is discipleship. It’s teaching others to teach others. We must pass what we know to others.

I don’t think I have written anything here that the majority of believers in a church do not know or have not heard before. The question is, “Are we doing this?” Are we making disciples who make disciples? And we may need to ask ourselves if discipleship really is a major problem in today’s church. You might not think that discipleship is the issue.

Regardless of what you might think today’s problem in the church might be, I pray that you (and me) not become too critical, but humbly realize that God is still in the process of building His church. And remarkably enough, He is using us to do it! The church is His Bride and though it is blemished at the moment, we know that God makes all things new.

 

Social Media: Starring In Our Own Show?

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Profound thoughts on social media from Mike Cosper in his book, The Stories We Tell: How TV And Movies Long For And Echo The Truth

One way to understand social media is as a vehicle for self-broadcasting. When we post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’re projecting an image of ourselves to the world. 

Our presence on social media is a story we’re telling about who we are, and like the production of a reality TV show, it’s all about the editing. What we share and don’t share on social media is shaped by how we want the world to see us. With the click of a button, we can open and close doors of connectivity. No awkward conversations. Rare repercussions. Easily managed, easily edited lives.

Social media also provides a profound illusion; our mobile devices are designed to make us fell like the whole digital world is all about us. Our tailored choices about who we want to hear from (and who we don’t) are in place already. We open an app and feel “connected,” when in fact we haven’t connected at all; we’ve actually disconnected from the people immediately around us. 

At any moment, we can escape into a private world that’s tailored to us and that is eager for our next picture, our next status update, our next link–a world complete with a built-in system of rewards for worthy content: retweets, likes, and so on. On the web, we all star in our own show. We glory in ourselves. 

 

Book Review: The Stories We Tell

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Once upon a time…. Those words always seem to capture our attention. Why? Because we love a good story. And the reason why we love a good story, according to Mike Cosper in his book The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo The Truth, is that “we have a great storytelling God.”

It’s not just that we love stories, but it is stories that help us “to know who we are–to understand ourselves and our place in the world. We are made in the image of a storytelling God.” And this is why Cosper writes this book. He has personally been overtaken by the story world of TV and cinema and as a result, has discovered that the “grand narrative” of salvation history “subsumes and encompasses all the other comings and goings of every creature–real or fictitious–on the earth.”

Cosper provides illustration after illustration of movies and TV shows, many of which I have not watched, and “how they reveal the heart’s longing for the gospel.” Cosper does not presume to know the intentions of the writers or directors, but this much is evident to him, “if art is accurately depicting human life, it will reflect both humanity’s brokenness and the heart’s longing for eternity, beauty, and redemption–all of which are found in the gospel.”

Reading The Stories We Tell caused me to become aware of several things. First, I became aware again of just how powerful stories are. A simple night at the movies has the power to touch our deepest emotions. Just consider the recent release of American Sniper. When the final credits roll in this film, people leave the theater with a solemness that only a story can create.

Second, because story is so powerful, I need to work at becoming a better story teller. Specifically, I need to become a better gospel story teller. The gospel is not just a series of facts, but a story of rescue which has the power to replot our lives and the lives of those we encounter.

Third, if what Cosper writes is true, then there is the opportunity to allow the stories found in movies and TV to open doors for us to share the gospel with others. Stories are more than entertainment. The stories people are drawn to reveal to us that they have a longing for hope along with a hero to save the day.

As we think about what draws people to story, we must include ourselves in that discussion as well. Why do we like certain movies and TV shows? What do the stories we enjoy tell us about our own hopes and dreams? I think that we will find that we are like everyone else in this fallen world. “We long for an ultimately satisfying embrace,” writes Cosper, “that welcomes us as we are for who we are.” Ultimately, that embrace is found in the gospel.

Finally, Cosper has helped me to realize that it can be profitable to watch a good movie or TV series. “For centuries,” writes Cosper, “people have gathered and told tales meant to inspire hope and shed light on the struggles of life. They’ve told about men who conquered dragons and raised mountains, who rescued damsels and rose from the dead. Our hearts swell when we hear and see these stories.” The good news for us who believe, however, is that as we “hear these stories of life, death, and resurrection,” we know “in our hearts that it really did happen.”

I don’t suspect that movies and TV are going to disappear anytime soon in our culture. Therefore, I found reading Cosper’s book both helpful and enlightening. It’s a reminder of how good the story of the Bible is and how it “tells us that life, indeed, is heading somewhere. There’s an end to the story, and it’s an end that by God’s grace can be an experience of the greatest good and the most satisfying glorification that we’ll ever know.”

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book for this review through Beyond the Page.

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A Bestselling Book On Tidying Up!The top-ranked book in the self-help section of the New York Times bestsellers list is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. That’s right, a book on tidying up has become a bestseller. I suppose anything with “life-changing” in the title is going to attract attention, but that doesn’t fully explain its popularity.

How to Think About Persecution When You’re Not Very Persecuted In light of the brutal murder of 21 Christians in Egypt this weekend, I received a good question yesterday about suffering: “How do we apply the passages on persecution when we in the West don’t have much of it?”

Answering “No” To One Of These Questions Will Kill Your Evangelism – Evangelism is a scary word for many Christians. Whether it’s because we fear rejection, feel unqualified, or are uncomfortable with making a truth claim in a pluralistic culture, we often shy away from evangelism, either by retreating to the realm of personal testimony or by avoiding spiritual conversations altogether.

12 Fiction Books That Will Shape Your TheologyWhen we think about the role of reading in our spiritual formation, we generally think of non-fiction books that help us understand scripture and theology, but fiction powerfully shapes the ways in which we think faithfully about God and the world.

The Wake-Up Call That Is ISIS: Who In The Church Is Answering? – Just go ahead and ask the 21 Coptic Christians who knelt before ISIS, who are waiting to be beheaded, for their heads to literally roll because they are “people of the Cross” — and yeah, the Cross may not make you friends with ISIS or the self-help gurus or any of the feel-good channels … or the people down the street, across the lunch aisle or across the office.

4 Ways To Involve Everyone In Evangelism – Many people have slipped into the mindset that evangelism is a gift that some believers have and others do not. The reality is that when someone becomes reconciled to God, He sends them out to reconcile others. That’s not a gift—we all have the responsibility to take Christ to others.

Detroit Man Walks 21 Miles A Day To Work

Analyzing God?

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While reading Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment With God, I was halted by a personal discovery of his. Writing about his research for Disappointment With God, he comments: “After two weeks of studying the Bible, I had a strong sense that God doesn’t care so much about being analyzed.”

“God doesn’t care so much about being analyzed.” So what does this mean? Do we dispose of  any serious thinking and discussing of God’s nature and actions? I don’t think so. Plus, if that were so, then Yancey’s book goes against his own conclusion.

What I think Yancey is pushing us to reflect upon is not whether we should do theology and think about God and who He is, but the way we do it. Martin Luther wrote that one must grow “worried when people become scholars through writing lots of books—but do not have the slightest idea what it means to be Christian.” Such scholars were termed by Luther to be theologians of glory. These scholastics spent a great deal of time in speculating about God, but they did not know him.

“What God wants,” writes Yancey, “is to be loved.” Not loved because  He is in need, but to be loved because it is our need and His passion. Our estrangement from God is what God seeks to reconcile. And He does so by the cross. For it is by the cross that we know what love is. John writes that this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Walter von Loewenich has written that it is the cross that “leads a person out of his or her spectator stance and propels him or her into the decision of faith.” In other words, when considering the cross, it cannot just be “analyzed,” but moves those who are Christ-followers to a deeper relationship with God characterized by trust and obedience.

I believe we ought to think deeply about God. We should not be afraid of theology as it is the task of the community of God. But Yancey does well at calling us to remember that our task of “studying God” is more than just attaining some facts. It’s about pushing us into a deeper love relationship with our Creator. Doing good theology should leave us in a sense of awe of who God is and what He has done.

May we, as we grow in the knowledge and grace of God, declare the words of Psalm 100…

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

When Does Theology Cease To Be Theology?

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When does theology cease to be theology?

Just as the church ceases to be the church if it is not missionary, theology ceases to be theology if it loses its missionary character. We are in need of a missiological agenda for theology rather than just a theological agenda for mission; for theology, rightly understood, has no reason to exist other than critically to accompany the missio Dei. So mission should be the theme of all theology

-David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 494

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One In Three Americans Worry About Sharia Law Being Applied In America – As President Obama seeks to ramp up military action against the terrorist group known as ISIS, Americans remain uneasy over the place of Islam in the United States and in the world.

You Should Be A Worldly Saint“Worldly Saints” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s the perfect title for what God calls Christians to be. We must be worldly—enjoying creation, loving friends and family, and excelling in our cultural tasks.

Hannibal Lecter Changed My Views On Salvation – Why don’t we choose Jesus? According to John, it’s this: we hate the light. Our deeds are evil. In other words: it’s in our nature. As I began to pour over these verses, my view of salvation transformed. 

What About The Crusades? For all the times we’ve lamented the Crusades, how many of us know more than two sentences about them? Isn’t it wise to know at least a little something about the Crusades before we borrow them to get an advanced degree in self-recrimination?

The Score Of Our Lives – If we were honest, most of us would admit we wished our lives were set to a soundtrack written by Hans Zimmer — the most epic, romantic thing imaginable. But, alas, they are not. 

Pete Carroll And The Pain Of Leadership – During the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, some were speculating if Pete Carroll should be considered one of the greatest coaches of all time…but….

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