Published March 11th, 2017 by

Is there hope for a zombie church? The short answer is a resounding YES!

Look at these lavish promises Jesus holds out to churches He said were dead and/or in the process of dying — zombie churches:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7 ESV)

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

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Published March 9th, 2017 by

So, if zombie churches are sucking the life out of Christian communities and if Jesus goes to war againstzombie church, does the average Christian fill some role in that unfolding judgment?

First, I want to reiterate that churches belong to Jesus and not us — He wars against zombie churches (Revelation 2:16) and we do not — period. If a death-blow falls on a zombie church it is Jesus, with His shocking white hair and flaming eyes Who comes against them by the word of His mouth — Jesus is the zombieslayer.

But, it’s plain throughout the Scriptures that each one of God’s people fills a role in the Church as members of His Body.… Read the rest

Published March 6th, 2017 by

Back in the 1980s, as a young Christian involved in the various youth movements of the time, it was very common to hear people speak of this or that church being “dead.” Entire geographical areas were also written off as lifeless: “the church back east is totally dead, man.” That was a common post-mortem among the 20 and 30-somethings in those days. It always struck me as wrong to speak of this or that church as “dead,” when there were certainly genuine born-again Christians involved — I mean, if some of the individuals in a church are abiding in the Vine, how can we say the entire fellowship is dead?… Read the rest

Published March 4th, 2017 by

I recently read a wonderful post by church-planter Joel Littlefield: Aren’t There Already Enough Churches?  He asks and answers “one of the most common questions a new church planter might hear…  ‘Aren’t there already enough churches in this town?’” Not all church planters or denominations engage in that level of reflection before going into a place where a vibrant Christian community already exists — they just get the call, parachute in, and get on with the work. Others simply want to live the ministry dream and don’t consider the impact their vocational choice may have on a wider community of Christians.… Read the rest

Published February 26th, 2017 by

A long time ago — it seems like a couple lifetimes — anyway, a long time ago I spent a good part of the day with Massey Shepherd in the living room of his home down near Land Park in Sacramento. He had just moved there after retiring from The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, his wife had passed away, and his daughter wanted to have him nearer to family. Denise drove me down with the kids in our 1967 Chevy Bel Air, dropped me off at the house, and was off to do some shopping. I found him sorting and shelving hundreds and hundreds of books — he was tired and told me he appreciated the opportunity to take a break.… Read the rest

Published January 19th, 2017 by

Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds by Chris Brauns

Let me begin my post about this book with one of the endorsements from the back cover:

Offenses will come. It’s a given. Unpacking Forgiveness wisely prepares us for the aftermath. Grieving the loss of our six children in a van accident and then being reminded of that loss throughout thirteen years of subsequent battles forced us to search the Scriptures concerning the issue of forgiveness. Chris not only has confirmed answers that we had found but has thoroughly sorted out what it takes to be right with God and man.

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Published November 29th, 2016 by

I recently introduced this series of posts on the Spiritual Disciplines and we’ll begin with a couple of definitions. I’ll follow-up with my own observations and insights — then we’ll move on to identify the disciplines themselves.

Donald S. Whitney in his modern classic, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes:

The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth. They are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times.

John Piper calls the Spiritual Disciplines “grace-empowered habits, and Spirit-empowered disciplines.” Piper’s careful wording is so helpful here if we are to avoid blurring the Biblical doctrine of  justification with the ongoing process of sanctification.… Read the rest

Published September 23rd, 2016 by

91dmb9o48clI had the opportunity to attend the Andrew Fuller Conference at Southern Seminary this past week. On my flight home, I read a book I’ve been looking forward to for years — D.A. Carson’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

I was first drawn to this book through a couple of podcasts and/or interviews of Dr. Carson when it came out. The book recounts the rather ordinary, yet significant life of his father Tom, a Baptist pastor1 in French Quebec through the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. There are a number of reviews of the book out there and I’ll link to a few at the bottom of the post.… Read the rest

Published September 10th, 2016 by

haykinBack in June of this year, Nancy Guthrie messaged to tell me that she was reading a review copy of a forthcoming book and I was quoted in it! Well, that was exciting news. I wrote Good Mr. Baxter about 25 years ago and it has remained in obscurity for the most part. I was just happy to see that someone read it and found something of value. You can find my semi-immortal words on page 49 of Dr. Michael Haykin‘s Eight Women of Faith!

This is my mini-review of his biographical sketches of eight historically significant Evangelical women, in one volume.… Read the rest

Published September 6th, 2016 by

501c3-300x246Over the past few years, I’ve learned a little bit about Section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS tax code: the tax-exempt status for religious and other charitable organizations. I began blogging about these matters in a previous post Family, Finances, and the Faith: Nepotism In The Church. By the way, I’m still learning so please point out any errors in this post in the comments below and I’ll thank you in advance.

If we survey history objectively, we have to admit that the Church in the United States enjoys a privileged relationship with the government compared to many other nations — tax exemptions on property and financial assets are not a Constitutional right (those are guaranteed to individuals) but a blessing bestowed by a government that was formed out of the nightmare of state-run, coercive churches that suppressed religious freedom.… Read the rest

Published September 1st, 2016 by

autopsy-of-a-deceased-church-12-ways-to-keep-yours-alive_2525018From Thom Rainer’s book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, the author lists some tell-tale signs to alert us that our church is in trouble. Here are the most telling, in my opinion:

  • “The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.”
  • “There was no attempt to reach the community.”
  • “More and more emphasis was placed on the past.”
  • “The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing.
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Published June 2nd, 2016 by

I’ve been struggling over the past year and a half, trying to get a routine down — to optimize my time and get some real work done. I am essentially self-employed now, even if I’m not earning a living by my efforts. Nearly forty years with the US Postal Service and twenty-four years as a bi-vocational pastor kept me working and focused, so there was an imposed structure to my day with objectives and goals to meet, as well as work to be done. Now, I have to plan  my own workday, thankful that years of working for the USPS, Denise’s years of contracting and employment,  the generosity of others, and personal planning have provided the financial foundation for labors of love that don’t necessarily pay.… Read the rest

Published June 7th, 2015 by

SP11Occasionally, I provide pulpit supply, filling in for a pastor who needs a break for whatever reason. I’ve only done this a few times over the years, but always enjoy it.

In July, I’ll be talking about the Gospel and Paul’s reminder to Christians at Corinth to stand in/on the Gospel message or “word” he had preached or “proclaimed” to them, years earlier:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1–2 ESV)

Here’s how the New International Version words it:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.

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Published May 6th, 2015 by

leading_on_emptyLeading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro is a book for burnouts. I picked it up back in February of 2013, when I finally realized I was experiencing long-term exhaustion (the formal diagnosis). I was a classic case — I didn’t know I had arrived at burnout, until I was actually coming out of it. A friend pointed me to this text as a classic on the subject, specifically written for Christians.

The book was not overly helpful for me, because I had stumbled into solutions or had recognized and addressed many of the symptoms already. It did help me to make sense of the troubled waters I’d just passed through and gave me a few tips or reminders to get back on course.… Read the rest

Published April 1st, 2015 by

Clock

It is an old joke, one that is still told too often. You go up to your pastor and say, “I wish I had your job; you only have to work one hour each week.” It is likely your pastor will laugh or smile at your comment. In reality your pastor is likely hurt by your statement.

Or, put another way: Here’s a good-natured, self-deprecating jab via Dick Lucas:

“The Christian minister: six days invisible and one day incomprehensible.”

Personally? This one hit closest to home:

Myth #7: The pastor’s workweek is low stress compared to others. I believe pastors have one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on earth.

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Published March 27th, 2015 by

Nope, you don’t want to believe everything you read. Christianity in America, particularly the Evangelical stream, is certainly under pressure from all sides. But, is the situation as dire as some like to think? Joe Carter takes on the doomsday crowd , beginning his factcheck on this nugget of conventional wisdom:

In a recent interview in which she announced she had joined the Episcopal Church, Rachel Held Evans said,

“Just about every denomination in the American church— including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates.”

Many Americans, both within and outside the church, share Evans perception of the decline of denominations.

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