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Showing posts from April, 2008

SBC needs to get back to the basics

Last week, the results of the 2007 Annual Church Profile were released, and the results were not good. Southern Baptists reported a decline in both total membership and total baptisms. Membership in our 44,000 churches has gradually tapered off over the past decade and is now showing measurable attrition. Baptisms have declined 7 of the last 8 years, and are at their lowest level since 1987.

The release of these figures has sent the Southern Baptist blogosphere into a frenzy. Now, I know the kingdom of God is a lot bigger than the SBC, but as a pastor in an SBC church, I would be remiss not to comment on these findings.One of the first bloggers to offer analysis was Ed Stetzer, Director of Lifeway Research. Stetzer observed three issues that seem to rise to the top and help explain our denominational decline. First, he said, we’ve been steadily losing denominational leaders, most notably among the younger generation. Second, we’ve become known for our frequent infighting. Many of our m…

If God called me home today...

If God called me home today, what would I have to show for my life? I know my eternity is secure, for I've trusted wholly in the blood of Christ for my forgiveness. But have I stored up any treasure in heaven (Mt. 6:19)? Have I performed any deeds of lasting value, like gold, silver, and precious stone (1 Cor. 3:12)? Would I hear those tender words from my Lord, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Mt. 25:21)?

I ask this question, not because death appears immanent, but because Robert Murray M'Cheyne was exactly my age today when the Lord took him home. M'Cheyne was a Scottish minister who lived from 1813-1843. He is one of my greatest heroes of the faith. And in just 29 short years, he accomplished more for the kingdom of God than most people who are twice his age.

Despite several battles with illness, M'Cheyne remained a man of deep devotion, compassion, self-discipline. At the age of 24, he pastored a church with 4,000 members. In 1939, he spent six month…

The American mission field

"You are now entering the mission field." This message has been posted above the exits doors of countless church buildings. And there's a lot of truth in it. Perhaps now more than ever, as illustrated by David Wells:
"The United States," writes Gordon Melton, "is currently home to more than 1,500 different religious organizations - churches, sects, cults, temples, societies, missions," each the primary focus of spiritual allegiance for its adherents. Some of the more conservative Christian groups continue to speak of America as a Christian country, or at least that it should be... The reality, however, is that America is the world's most religiously diverse nation now and from a Christian point of view it is as fully a mission field as any to which churches now are sending their missionaries. This is true, not only because of the arrival of these new immigrants with their diverse religions, but also because of the post-modern decay in American cult…

Favorite Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes (or paraphrases) from the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference and Band of Bloggers seminar. You can download all the messages for free on MP3 at the T4G website.

"According to John 17:13, If you denigrate doctrine, you are a killjoy" - Ligon Duncan

"Christ's blood creates a deeper lineage than our genes" - Thabiti Anyabwile

"Soft preaching makes hard people. Hard truth will make a soft person" - John MacArthur

"We have the only profession in the world where we can take no credit for anything we do" - John MacArthur

"It's not about how cool you are. It's about how clear you are." - John MacArthur

"An evangelistic spirit unmoored from theology will lead to liberalism" - Mark Dever

"Pastors have the only job with a report card that comes after we're done" - Ligon Duncan

"The gospel could not be more kind. It is grace and kindness to tell the truth and t…

Racism and the gospel

As reported by Tim Challies, Tuesday night's message at Together for the Gospel was on the topic of racism. It was led by Thabiti Anyabwile.

This issue of racism came up for me several months ago when preaching through John 4. In that chapter, Jesus rejected social norms and the prejudices of His day by talking to a Samaritan woman. This event was shocking because (1) she was a Samaritan and (2) she was a woman. She had two strikes against her before she even arrived at the well! But Jesus approached her with love, humility, and respect. Neither the woman (Jn. 4:9) nor the disciples (Jn. 4:27) could understand why Jesus would talk with her, but Jesus recognized she was created in God's image, and that He had come to seek and save lost people just like her.

As I watch Jesus minister to this Samaritan woman, I am forced to ask myself, "Is it possible that I have racial prejudice?" My immediate answer is, "No, of course not! I've been born and raised in a culture…

The courage to be protestant

Eerdmans has just released a new book by David Wells called The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World. It's the summary and culmination of his last 15 years of research and writing.

Wells is a deep thinker, and is very perceptive when it comes to identifying problems and offering gospel-centered solutions for the contemporary church. Though humble and soft-spoken, he is a theological heavyweight who takes powerful swings at both the seeker-sensitive and the emergent church models.

Here are some endorsements for his latest work:

"David F. Wells speaks for a great many commentators inside and outside the evangelical camp when he contends that American evangelicalism is sick at soul . . . His work is being hailed as a bombshell by evangelical leaders who hope it will wake up American evangelicals and alert them to their peril."
-- The Christian Century

"David Wells is one of the most profound Christian thinkers of our time …

A review of the HCSB

Someone recently asked me what I thought of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). This translation was published in 2003 and is doing quite well. In fact, it ranked #7 in Bible translation sales in February, beating out The Message and my own personal preference, the New American Standard Bible (you can see the full report on the CBMW Gender blog).In the introduction to the HCSB, the editors list four goals:
to provide English-speaking people across the world with an accurate, readable Bible in contemporary English to equip serious Bible students with an accurate translation for personal study, private devotions, and memorizationto give those who love God’s word a text that is easy to read, visually attractive on the page, and appealing when heardto affirm the authority of the Scriptures as God’s inerrant word and to champion its absolutes against social or cultural agendas that would compromise its accuracyIn his book How to Choose a Bible Version, Robert Thomas gives a mixed r…

7 trends for the modern american church

Last Saturday, I attended the "Equipped for Excellence" conference in Riverside. This annual event is organized by the Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association and hosted at Cal Baptist University. The conference began 17 years ago as a Sunday School Teacher Training workshop, and has evolved into quite a large-scale teaching conference. This year, attendance surpassed 1500 - what I believe is a new record for "E for E."

There were three things I really enjoyed about this year's conference. First, the fellowship with other church members. A total of seven members from our church attended. It was so good to spend the whole day with them, traveling together, singing together, eating together, and learning together. It made the day not only a time of personal enrichment, but of mutual edification and team building.

Second, I appreciated the organization. From publicity, to registration, to meals, to speakers, to handouts, the whole event was executed almost flawle…

Still growing

Kirk Cameron recently published a biography called Still Growing. I enjoyed reading this review by Tim Challies, and thought you might as well. It gives some interesting details about his life as a movie star, and how he came to faith in Christ. Kirk now spends much of his time doing evangelism alongside Ray Comfort through the Way of the Master.

Time saving trick

I think “hidden text” is one of the most under-appreciated features in Microsoft Word. It’s become an invaluable tool in my weekly lesson planning and Bible teaching. First, let me explain how to create hidden text, and then I’ll demonstrate how to use it.
To create “hidden text,” you first need to select the text you want to hide. Then go to Format > Font. A little window will pop up, and one of your “Effects” options is to create “hidden text.” Once this button is checked, your highlighted text will be hidden both on your screen and in your printed documents. However, you can easily view hidden text on the screen by clicking the “Show/Hide paragraph” button on the Standard toolbar.Why is this helpful? I first heard of this feature a couple years ago while reading a discussion thread by some teachers. One of the teachers said they used “hidden text” when creating a True/False or multiple choice test. They would create the test with blanks, and then “hide” the answer key right in th…

The deity of Christ

No, this chart does not represent the number of foreclosures in California. It shows the number of active members in the group known as "Jehovah's witnesses" across the United States. Jehovah's witnesses have grown exponentially in the last few decades, but their denial of Christ's deity has remained the same. Are they wrong?

We can't afford to be wrong about Jesus Christ. In 1 John 2:23, we are warned that "whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." If we deny or disregard the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, we have denied the Son and called Him a liar. And tragically, those who deny the Son "do not have the Father." God has no part with them. If on the other hand we accurately confess Christ, we have a wonderful promise that we "have the Father also."

So, who is the Son, and how can we make sure we're believing in the right one? Was Jesus mere…