The SBC, Pastors, and Politics

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I was recently interviewed by Christine Wicker for an article titled “Younger Southern Baptists seek a less partisan approach to political engagement”. The piece was originally posted at RNS and The Washington Post picked it up soon after. Here is one quote:

Like a lot of Southern Baptists who are struggling to keep believers and attract new ones, Capps would like to see a “convictional kindness,” an approach that’s more winsome than confrontational.

“This generation is not going to be known for standing outside abortion clinics with picket signs,” he said. “I want us to be the generation that says, ‘We will adopt these children or we’ll stand beside you and help you raise those children.’”

You can read the whole thing here or here. I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute!

I Am The Door

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This is from a section of my sermon “I Am the Door” preached this past Sunday at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, NC. You can watch the video here.

All of us long to connect with God. The history of humanity combined with the countless religions stand as a testimony of our longing to connect to our maker. All religions have notable teachers that offer steps to God. But, the uniqueness of Christianity from all other religions is rooted in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

While all other religions have teachers that show the way to salvation, only Jesus claimed to actually be the way to salvation. In John 10:9-11, Jesus proclaims:

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So, while all other religions offer people a way to connect with God. In Christianity, God comes to us. In other words, Jesus is the sole means by which people (sheep) may enter the safety of the fold or find luxurious pasture. Jesus is the only way to receive eternal life and true nourishment of the soul.

Just as sheep find all of their needs met when securely in a fold under the care of a shepherd, so the sinner will find all the nourishment his soul needs when he enters eternal life through Jesus.

Other religions claim that to connect with God you must go on a pilgrimage, achieve personal peace or tranquility, give a certain amount of alms, avoid certain foods, perform a certain number of good deeds, or pray a certain amount of times a day in a certain way. While other religions tell you ‘here is the way to God’, Jesus comes and says, I am the way to God. I am the door.

May you enter and find rest, security, and nourishment.

Fifteen Trends for Churches for 2015

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Over the weekend Thom Rainer presented 15 trends for the church for 2015. They are presented in reverse order of their potential magnitude. His predictions are below:

15. A rapid increase in bi-vocational church staff. We have noted the growing trend of bi-vocational pastors. We will see in 2015 an accelerated trend of other church staff becoming bi-vocational.

14. The tipping point of churches eliminating Sunday evening worship services. We see the number of U. S. churches offering a Sunday evening service to dip below 5 percent of all churches in America. In other words, this service will become almost extinct.

13. More emphasis on congregational singing. In many of our churches, both traditional and contemporary, you can hardly hear the congregation sing. There will be an increased emphasis on intentionally bringing the congregants into worship through singing.

12. Growth of verbal incarnational evangelism. Incarnational evangelism is simply defined as presenting the good news through our Christ-like lifestyle to non-believers. There will be an increased emphasis to share the gospel verbally as well as demonstrating a gospel witness through our lifestyle.

11. The waning and reconfiguration of denominational structures. This trend is already taking place, but it will accelerate in 2015. Denominational structures will continue to get smaller and more streamlined, and churches will not be able to expect the same type of resources they have received in the past.

10. Congregations growing in favor in their respective communities. Churches are transitioning from being an island in the midst of their communities to being a real and positive presence. As church members seek to serve their communities in a plethora of ways, the communities will see these churches more as valued partners.

9. Continued flow of people from smaller churches to larger churches. There will be a continued increase in the number of attendees in churches with an average worship attendance of 1,000 and larger. Churches with an attendance of 400 to 999 will be collectively stable in attendance. And the number of people attending church in congregations with an attendance under 400 will decline.

8. More partnerships between denominations and churches. Of course, not all churches belong to a denomination. For those that do, denominational entities typically created the resource or mission opportunity and churches would follow their lead. In 2015 we will see more “bottom up” partnerships, meaning that churches lead the partnerships, but denominations participate in them. That is particularly true for seminaries. That issue is thus a separate trend, noted in the number 7.

7. More focus on theological education in local churches. I am not among the pundits who believe that seminaries will become extinct. They still have a vital role for training ministers. I do see, however, a continued shift for more theological education taking place in local congregations. The successful seminaries in the upcoming years will seek to partner with churches rather than compete with them.

6. The tipping point for a plurality of teaching pastors. In the recent past, churches that had more than one regular preacher or teaching pastor were an anomaly, and they were usually very large churches. In 2015 multiple teaching pastors will become normative, and they will be pervasive in smaller churches as well.

5. Continued increased in the number of multi-site churches. Two years ago, the multi-site movement in America reached a tipping point. Their growth will continue unabated in 2015.

4. The beginnings of prayer movement in our churches. I am seeing the growth of more and more organizations dedicated to prayer in the local church. I am observing this passion become a greater emphasis with pastors, particularly Millennial pastors.

3. The tipping point for small groups. The evidence for the efficacy of small groups in the local church is too overwhelming to be ignored. I see a new movement of “groups” taking place that will be similar in growth as the Sunday school movement was in the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.

2. Increased difficulty in matching prospective pastors with churches with pastoral vacancies.This trend is growing and frustrating to both pastors and those in churches seeking pastors. It is particularly frustrating for those churches that use the pastoral search committee model. I will not be surprised to see that model begin to change in 2015.

1. Smaller worship gatherings. The era of the large worship gathering is waning. Churches that are growing will likely do so through multiple services, multiple venues, and multiple sites. This trend will accelerate through the growing influence of Gen X and the Millennials.

“God With Us!” Charles Spurgeon on Isaiah 7:14-15

In 1854, Charles Spurgeon preached a Christmas Eve sermon on Isaiah 7:14-15. A portion of that sermon has been turned into this video. You can read the whole sermon here.

A Time To Speak

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Today, December 16th, a panel of Christian leaders will gather at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee to discuss race, the church, and what we can do from here. The Lorraine Motel is a significant location for this event. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed at the Lorraine Motel. Today, it is the National Civil Rights Museum in the United States and will be the host for this event.

Here’s a brief explanation from the event’s organizer, Pastor Bryan Loritts:

“We want to boldy declare there is hope…The grand jury’s decision not to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown has left many in our nation angry, saddened and hopeless…The fact that such heart-wrenching decisions have taken place some 50 years after the civil rights movement have left the children of those who marched in such places as Birmingham and Selma wondering if justice has not only been delayed, but has she finally and permanently been denied.”

A number of well-known Christian leaders will aim to bring their wisdom and love for the gospel in this discussion panel. As Ed Stetzer has said, “We want to listen well, dialogue on the issues, and point to Jesus.” Here are the pastors and leaders slated to take part in this discussion:

  • Bryan Loritts, pastor of Fellowship Memphis
  • Trillia Newbell, writer and author
  • Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis
  • Eric Mason, pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia
  • John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary
  • Thabiti Anyabwile, assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
  • Voddie Baucham, pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas
  • Albert Tate, pastor of Fellowship Monrovia in Monrovia, California
  • Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, South Carolina

The event is not open to the public, due to our location and our limited time there, but anyone can watch online on Tuesday afternoon from 4pm to 6pm CT (5pm to 7pm ET). It is expected to be widely viewed and discussed – so join in. The discussion will be honest and Christlike, and the hope of the panelists is that the viewers will benefit from their time together.

Click here to visit the website. 

The Powerful Story of a Christmas Truce

Perhaps you have heard the story from Stanley Weintraub’s book Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce?

In December of 1914 something amazing happened along the Western front during World War 1. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began exchanging Christmas songs across the trenches. Essentially, they were battling each other with season’s greetings, at some points individual soldiers walked across enemy lines bearing Christmas gifts. On Christmas eve and Christmas day both sides agreed to a truce, an unofficial cease fire. These enemy war units ventured into what they called “no mans land”, neutral territory, to share their rations of food and sing Christmas carols together.

What a beautiful picture. Enemy troops coming together under the banner of Christmas. Coming together in peace to celebrate with one another. Just a small taste of what’s to come when Christ returns. As Isaiah 2:4 reads:

“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

In a world of chaos and war, where the effects of sin ripple through our lives and our lands – we all long for peace. And every now and then, we catch a glimpse of what is to come.

The ERLC National Conference: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage

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Watch the ERLC National Conference live here!

The ERLC National Conference begins today, October 27th. During this conference, the speakers will address “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches.

During this conference, speakers will equip you to defend marriage in the culture and strengthen marriage in the church by preparing you to address issues like:

  • How do we effectively minister to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender?
  • How has the divorce culture impacted marriage in our communities and our churches?
  • What does sexual faithfulness look like for a same-sex attracted Christian?
  • Why did God create marriage and why did he design it for the common good?
  • How should a pastor counsel a same-sex couple that wants to join his church?
  • How can churches minister to those who are single, dating, divorced or celibate?
  • How can Christians show the love of Christ to gay family members or neighbors?

Join all of us in attendance at the ERLC to explore what the gospel means for the future of marriage and sexual identity. The conference will be live streamed here: http://live.erlc.com/

“How Should Christians Engage in Culture?” with Andy Crouch

Andy Crouch talks about how Christians need a better understanding of scripture in order to engage culture well. This video is from Ministry Grid.

What is the Meaning of Work?

Here is my latest sermon in our series on Ecclesiastes at The Fellowship

Are some Christians being unfairly shamed out of the public sphere?

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Alan Noble is the managing editor and co-founder of Christ and Pop Culture and is an assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Noble recently wrote a thought provoking article on Christians and the public square for The Atlantic titled Is Evangelical Morality Still Acceptable in America?

Is evangelical Christian morality still viable in American public life?

…There is a fear that in an increasingly secularized society, there will be less tolerance for people who wish to act upon their deeply held religious beliefs, except in narrowly defined, privatized spaces. This is a fundamentally American concern: Will I have the right to serve God as I believe I am obligated to?

Often, Christian claims to religious liberty are framed as homophobia and misogyny, rather than disagreement grounded in morality.

Often, the Christian defense of what they believe is their religious liberty is framed as fundamental hatefulness, homophobia, and misogyny, rather than disagreement grounded in morality. Much to the shame of the faith, a few who claim to be Christian really are motivated by hate. Those who disagree with them see little point in engaging with them on these issues, which is understandable, but it’s unfair and counterproductive to extend that attitude to all evangelical Christians. If the evangelical worldview is deemed invalid in the public sphere, then the public sphere loses the value of being public. American discourse will be marked by paranoid conformity, rather than principled and earnest disagreement. And our ability to prophetically speak to one another and to our nation’s troubles will be restrained.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc