Thursday, November 30

Regarding The GARBC And Cedarville: A Final Word

Jesus instructs His followers to be "wise as serpents ... innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). Following some rather intense emails and impassioned comments, I have come to the conclusion that yesterday's article regarding the GARBC and Cedarville left many to label the post unwise, and my motives impure. Therefore I have withdrawn the original post and deleted the comments. I cannot ignore the truth of Proverbs 11:14, " ... in an abundance of counselors there is safety." Safety, in this case, is a good thing.

While some may misinterpret my decision as "backing down in the face of confrontation," let me assure you this is not the case. Here is why I have decided to withdraw yesterday's post:

1) Although Scripture certainly instructs us to "earnestly contend for the faith," I have come to the conclusion that the meta is not the best platform or forum for doing so. As this blog approaches its one year anniversary, I must admit that rarely (if ever) has my "contending for the faith" led anyone to reform their theological position or view. The blogosphere, for all its strengths, carries with it an inherent weakness -- the absence of face-to-face conversation and contact. Just as there are certain conversations you would never carry on via the telephone, I have determined there are certain "contentions" that should not be discussed via the blogosphere. I believe yesterday's post fits into the "should not be discussed in the blogosphere" category.

2) Contrary to the impression I may have given, I am not anti-Cedarville. In fact, I would still recommend this institution to any of our own young people who were looking for a quality liberal arts Christian education. While it is true that Cedarville is to be held accountable by its constituency (NT local churches), I most likely left the impression that I was the one holding Cedarville accountable. This, let me assure you, was not my intention.

3) Some have misconstrued my words as an act of ill-will toward fellow believers. This accusation grieves my heart, and necessitates the withdrawal of the aforementioned post. I am a pastor, and with my position God has granted me a greater sphere of influence. Yet with greater influence comes greater responsibility. A pastor is to be "above reproach," and in an effort to guard my personal, ministerial, and journalistic integrity, I find it necessary to remove yesterday's post. Regardless of whether my view is right or wrong, appearances do matter -- especially for those in pastoral ministry.

While I cannot undo what has already been done (and I cannot un-read what's already been read), I can guard what appears here at The World From Our Window in the future. And with the lessons I have learned in the past 24 hours, I have every intention of 'blogging on' with a renewed sense of responsibility and purpose. I hope you all will hop on for the ride.

May God be glorified and His people edified by ALL that is written here.

Grace and Peace,

Ken

P. S. -- Comments are closed for this post. Feel free to email me (via the email button on my profile page) with any questions or comments.

Wednesday, November 29

The GARBC/Cedarville Issue Suddenly Becomes Much Clearer

This post has been withdrawn, and the comments deleted. An explanation is available HERE.

Thank you for your understanding.

Ken


Tuesday, November 28

Al Mohler: "The Nativity Story" -- In Season and On Message

Al Mohler reviews this soon-to-be-realeased nativity reenactment HERE.

Go ahead and take a peek at Mohler's commentary ... I think you will be pleasantly surprised -- not that Al Mohler dared to attend a "movie," but that he was encouraged by what he saw:

"My family and I attended a media screening for The Nativity Story last night. Here is my instant review -- the movie is in season and on message. In other words, the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.

The gospel accounts are the starting point for any telling of the story, of course. At the same time, there is no comprehensive biblical narrative that fills in every detail. We are left with huge questions. Joseph is described in the New Testament merely as a "righteous man" who believed God and obeyed angelic visions. When Mary is found to be "with child," Joseph decides the put her away privately, rather than to defend his own honor through a public accusation against his betrothed bride. Beyond these facts, we know little of Joseph the Carpenter. Yet, as a character in this movie, Joseph is almost as developed as the character of Mary.

The movie presents invented dialogue and situations including a focus upon Mary's parents and family, the village of Nazareth, the emergence of Joseph, and Mary's relationship with her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.

Invented scenes include an imagined version of the pilgrimage to Bethlehem (including a river crossing scene, complete with a threatening snake) and representations of the brutal oppression of the Jews by King Herod the Great -- a character who can hardly be imagined as more evil than he actually was. The film also attempts to convey the messianic hopes of the Jewish people, suffering under multiple levels of oppression.

Mike Rich, the screenwriter who wrote the script, explained his decision to expand the story: "The only way to tell the story was to try and take that foundation in Matthew and Luke and expand upon it, while at the same time being very faithful to the spirit, tone, and content of those Gospels." The same is basically true of nativity plays presented in churches across America."
Too bad the fundamentalists will miss out on this ... until its DVD release, that is!

PS3's, Voyeurism, and Self-Righteousness

I'm pretty sure (just a guess on my part) that Dan Edelen of Cerulean Sanctum posted this great post after reading and commenting on Tim Challies' great post. I highly encourage you to read Tim's article first and then read Dan's. I am not promoting these articles as a blog fight because I believe that Dan's article has little to do with what Tim posted, but is a reaction to the general attitude of Christians in general over these types of topics.

I think both articles are great! And they look at this cultural phenomenon from two different and necessary perspectives. God help us to be appalled by the sinfulness of man, not the man over there, but the man in here. And may we not only grieve over the degradation of our society, but may we pray and live in a manner that demonstrates that we truly believe in Jesus Christ, salvation, forgiveness, judgment and hell.

Monday, November 27

Hear Rick Warren's Disturbing Syria Comments For Yourself

You can do so, HERE.

Joseph Farah, of WorldNetDaily has uncovered an audio recording of Warren's unsolicited comments concerning the peacefulness of Islam and the moderation of Syria's government. Regarding Warren's comments, Farah states ...

"It's not a press release from the Syrian government that Rick Warren can deny. He didn't make these remarks under duress. He spoke these words of his own free will. By the way, this audio clip is not taken out of context. It represents the entire content of what Rick Warren and his team produced, posted on YouTube, then removed once I linked to it and questioned him about it in an e-mail.

It's not a case of someone twisting his words. Rather, it's a case of twisted ideas expressed in words."

Such alarming and disturbing comments (as Warren's) are often the result of pastors leaving the Gospel behind in pursuit of political and social agendas. Let us not forget that the Church has been called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, to live it out before an unbelieving world, and to call the world to repentance and faith in Jesus. That is our mission, and that is our charge.

May God keep us from transforming our ministries into global band-aids.

Real Evidence From A Real Life: Your Labor Is Not in Vain

Returning from a brief Thanksgiving blog hiatus (which included lots of fun and food with family and friends), here a real-life story of God's amazing and conquering grace in the lives of a family in our church.

God brought Kevin and Jen to our church three years ago. Upon their move from Pennsylvania they searched for a nearby church with an AWANA ministry, and came for a visit. They have been attending since.

One of my first conversations with Kevin was an explanation of a verse of Scripture -- not a specific verse -- but what a verse was! Kevin is now the head usher at our church. In the words of that overused cliché, "they've come a long way, baby." And it's all because of God's saving and sustaining grace!

Each Tuesday before Thanksgiving our church sets aside a night of worship and praise. What follows is Jen's contribution to our Thanksgiving Praise service -- a real-life testimony intended to encourage all who are involved in local church ministry. God used AWANA leaders, Sunday School teachers, greeters, and even a teen Christmas drama to influence this family for Christ. May we never overlook the simple fact that "our labor is not in vain in the Lord." Here is real-life proof:

My testimony is in the form of an acrostic which spells out G-I-V-E T-H-A-N-K-S. These are different blessings from the Lord, which I have received and am thankful for.

G -- is for God's guidance in my life. My family and I moved here to Illinois three years ago from Pennsylvania because of Kevin's job. However, God had a much greater purpose in mind for our move. We have since discovered that God has guided us here to Delhi not just for a job, but more importantly so that we could hear the Gospel and come to know Christ as our Savior. It amazes me that God directed our path to Delhi even though we were not yet His children. He had everthing planned out and in order for us!

I -- is for independence. I'm thankful I live in a free country where I can open my Bible, read it, talk to others about Christ, and worship God here at DBC (Delhi Baptist Church) without fearing imprisonment or death. Independence also represents freedom from sin. Because of God's gift of Jesus, I can live in peace knowing that I am no longer a slave to sin. Christ has taken the punishment for my sin, and in doing so, I have been set free.

V -- is for victory. 1 John 5:4-5 reads, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." These verses are a great encouragement and blessing to me because they remind me that "greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world." I can stand strong in the Lord knowing that although Satan seems to be ruling here on earth, I am on the Lord's side, and ultimately He will cast Satan into the Lake of fire ... and Christ will victoriously reign in His kingdom -- a kingdom free from sin, hatred, greed, and evil.

E -- is for endless grace. As I think about all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me, I cannot help but feel so totally and utterly undeserving. I am nothing more than a sinner. However, in God's gracious eyes, I am a precious treasure to Him. He shows an infinite amount of grace of which I cannot even begin to express verbally. Not only has He gracously provided me with daily food, clothing, a home, love, and friends, He has also blessed me with a beautiful family. He has given me a wonderful husband who encourages, loves, and supports me in all aspects of my life. He is a faithful husband, an involved and loving father, a responsible employee, and a God-fearing man who seeks to be a bright Christian light for others. Furthermore, God has graciously blessed me with two beautiful, healthy boys. Joey and Matt, I am so grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to be your mom. I love you guys very much, and I absolutely enjoy watching you grow and mature.

T -- is for timing, God's timing. During the past fifteen months my family has been going through an extreemly discouraging situation. Most people (including myself) hope to avoid these difficult times. However, during these times I have been given some great growth opportunities. I have grown in patience and in the Lord. I have had to give up my control in this situation and put my trust in the Lord. I've come to realize that God is the One in Control -- not me -- and it's His timing, not mine. I have come to realize that what our family is desiring may never happen, but in this I can still find peace because I know that God is actively in control of my life and will do what's best for me and my family.

H -- is for humility. I am thankful for the humility Christ showed countless times while here on earth, beginning with Him leaving His throne in heaven to be born in a tiny, smelly stable ... all the way to the end of His earthly life when He was betrayed, mocked, spit upon, beaten, and nailed to a cross. A cross upon which He took my sin. A cross upon which He was temporarily abandoned by His Father. And this was all for me. It is so ironic that the most humble act in history was made by the greatest King of kings.

A -- is for amazing hymns. It wasn't until we began attending DBC and being surrounded by so much music that I developed a love for hymns. One of my favorite ways to worship God is by singing praises to Him. Whether it's Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, My Tribute, The Bible Stands, or any of our other favorite hymns, they are full of solid doctrine that helps feed me with God's truth.

N -- is for new creature. Galatians 2:20 says, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God ..." And 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." I am so thankful for my new life in Christ. I am thankful for the opportunities the Lord gives me to serve Him and further His kingdom. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who works in my heart every day. I am thankful for the new convictions I hold since becoming a Christian. I am thankful that my sinful past is in the past, and that God chose to forgive me of my sins rather than holding them against me. But most of all, I am thankful for God sacrificing His Son so that I could be declared a righteous new creature in Christ.

K -- is for keeping His promises. If God was a God who did not keep His promises, I would be unable to go through life with any real hope. I could never have hope in seeing Christ, or in knowing that I would have a home in heaven someday. If God did not keep His promises, I would constantly be doubting His Word. But praise God, our God does not change His mind. Once I believed on Christ, I became a child of God forever. My name is in the Lamb's Book of Life, and it will never be removed. I do not worry about sin removing my name from that Book or about Satan snatching me from my Father's strong hand. God's Word has stood the test of time, and it will continue to do so for all eternity.

S -- is for salvation. I have a story I want to share -- a story that reminds me of my salvation. On election day of this year, Kevin, the boys, and I were on our way home. The fog was very dense that evening; even with the headlights on, it was difficult to see the road ahead of us. After passing the middle school, Kevin and I saw blinking red lights up ahead. As we stopped, we noticed that a car had stopped in the middle of the roadway, and an elderly woman was wandering around in the middle of the street. She was noticeably confused, anxious, and on the brink of tears. We asked if she needed some help, and she told us that she was lost and could not find her way home. She was very scared and helpless ... and she needed someone to help her.

After realizing she was in no condition to drive, Kevin offered to drive her (in her car) to her house. She graciously accepted Kevin's offer, and off they went in search of her street (I followed them in our car so that Kevin would have a ride home). To make matters worse, neither Kevin nor I had any idea where her street was located; however, another passerby did know the location of the street. So Keven followed the leader who knew the way, and then I followed Kevin. When we arrived at the woman's home, we were surprised to find that we had only traveled three blocks.

As I look back on that evening, it illustrates how I came to know Christ as my Savior. The leader who knew the location of the street represents Jesus Christ who knows -- and is The Way to my heavenly home, and Who opened my eyes to Himself. Kevin, in this story, represents you -- my Delhi family -- who showed love for a lost soul by using God's Word to teach me the way and the truth. And the lost, confused lady who was unable to find her way home represents me before I accepted Christ. I was lost just like she was.

However, there was a major difference between the lost woman and myself -- she knew she was lost and was actively searching for help. I, on the other hand, had no idea I was lost. I considered myself a Christian because of my baptism, church membership, and adherence to the Golden Rule. I thought all those things made me good enough to gain heaven, but in reality I was lost in a dense, blinding fog, just like the woman in the story.

Not until the Lord led our family here to Delhi that I heard the truth preached and came to understand that I was lost. He has rescued me from my lost state, providing me with the path that leads me to my heavenly home. For this I am eternally grateful.

As I reflect back over the many blessings I have in the Lord, I see one constant factor -- God's enormous and everlasting love. God loved me even before I was born; He loved me while I was living in sin and not on His side; He loves me now; and I know He will continue to love me forever. His love is unimaginable and indescribable -- it is something that I am so very thanful for.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, November 24

Community: Part #2: What Small Groups Are NOT

Community: Part #1: Another Word For Fellowship?

I don't believe that most churches are truly building biblical community. Even most churches that have some type of small group ministry are failing to fulfill the biblical commands. Nevertheless I don't believe that we should call small group ministry a failure nor write it off as a fad. I believe history proves that small groups in homes have been effective and helpful in building community. Here are a few reasons churches have rejected small group ministry.

  1. Satisfaction with the status quo. (Our church is a family. Everybody knows everybody. We are doing just fine.)
  2. Fear of change. (Where would we fit it in? We can't give up our Sunday Evening Preaching Service or our Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.)
  3. Fear of decentralizing the leadership and teaching of the local church. (I heard of a church doing small groups that had one group start speaking in tongues and another group start their own church down the street.)
  4. Fear of compromising. (We don't do anything that "seeker-sensitive" churches started doing first.)
  5. Fear of the past. (We've tried something like this before and it failed.)
So these churches keep doing what they've always done. And for the most part the people in them do not have deep, spiritual, transparent and authentic relationships with anyone. I think something needs to be done. Is small groups THE answer? Is it the ONLY answer? No. Small groups aren't a cure-all for a lack of community or a lack of godly, accountable relationships. But I do believe they have a biblical and historical foundation that is sound. Unfortunately many of the current models and philosophies of small group ministry are unsound. And after looking at many of these current models I can understand why many have rejected them. So before I look at what small group ministry should be I want to clearly define what it shouldn't be.

They are NOT to be a Christianized Recovery, Therapy or Support Group!

We are told that people have a need "to belong". "People need to be known, loved, accepted and cared for unconditionally. People need a safe place to share their hurts, hang-ups and bad habits. A place of healing where they will be affirmed and supported for the wonderful people that they are." This has just enough truth to be the very dangerous concept that it is. Of course we are to know, love, care, help and support others. These are biblical commands! But we are not to do this in an environment of unconditional affirmation where we just listen and give accepting, loving and supporting statements. We must not forget the biblical commands of teaching, admonishing, confronting, edifying, and exhorting. Confronting and admonishing aren't very affirming or accepting! The therapeutic model is not to be our model. We must follow the biblical model and mandates. I reject the therapeutic model and I hope you would as well.

They are NOT to PRIMARILY be a stopgap for the loss of members and attenders!

Pastors and church leadership are continually looking for ways to keep people from leaving their church - it's called "closing the back door". Assimilation is a key concept in church growth seminars. Church growth experts tell us that there are three primary factors that ensure a newcomer will stay in a church. These factors are friendships, a ministry, and a small group. "Remember, new people need to sense that they are needed and the best place for this to happen is small groups." Unfortunately the Bible doesn't talk about assimilation. It assumes that the regenerate will be baptized and joined to the local church. In fact, a "convert" that didn't join a local church or get actively involved was unheard of in the New Testament. The emphasis on assimilation and "keeping" people is misplaced. The Bible never commands us to do anything to "keep" people! We are so worried about attendance and getting people to return to a service that we forget the responsibility we have to minister to them. And sometimes being ministered to isn't fun or pleasant. So using small groups as member retention or member assimilation is unbiblical. It might be a nice side benefit, but I reject it as a model and I hope you would as well.

Coming soon - Community: Part #3: What Small Groups ARE

Thursday, November 23

Community: Part #1: Another Word For Fellowship?

It seems that Christians universally agree that the Bible commands fellowship. As members of the Body of Christ we have been given great responsibility for one another. Some of the biblical commands are:

  • "Love one another" John 13:34
  • "Live in harmony with one another" Romans 12:16
  • "Comfort one another" 2 Corinthians 13:11
  • "Serve one another" Galatians 5:13
  • "Bear one another's burdens" Galatians 6:2
  • "Teaching and admonishing one another" Colossians 3:16
  • "Encourage one another" 1 Thessalonians 4:18
  • "Build one another up" 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • "Exhort one another" Hebrews 3:13
  • "Stir up one another to love and good works" Hebrews 10:24
  • "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another" James 5:16
These are not just guidelines to live by when believers gather together. These are commands that we must be proactive in obeying. All of these commands are given with the assumption that we will be spending time together. In fact, we cannot obey these commands unless we are regularly gathering together (Hebrews 10:25).

It is from these verses that Christians have found the biblical purpose of fellowship. But the emphasis on fellowship is not a recent phenomenon. Since the birth of the Church on Pentecost Christians have been regularly gathering in homes for fellowship - "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart," (Acts 2:46). This continued as an integral part of the early church until the time of Constantine (A. D. 313). At that time churches began to build buildings to gather in and the emphasis on the home gathering began to fade. Yet small groups continued to be an intermittent part of the church in groups such as the Anabaptists and the Wesleyans. Now in the last twenty years the purpose of fellowship has been recieving a lot more attention with the rise of a renewed emphasis on small groups.

Now, thanks to the Emerging influence, the emphasis has subtly shifted from fellowship to community. Postmoderns claim to desire deep, authentic relationships akin to the monastic tradition of old. They are seeking more than just weekly fellowship, they desire to live together in true biblical community. There is also another stream of Christianity that is emphasizing the cell group as the foundation for the local church, even to the extent that the entire local church rarely gathers together at one time.

So what are churches to do? Most, if not all, of us would reject the communal or monastic approach to community. But what do we do with the cell movement? What do we do with small groups? Is this small group emphasis just another evangelical fad? Is there lasting value in this type of ministry/program? Is it biblical? And if we reject small groups in homes how do we fulfill the biblical commands of fellowship? Are adult Sunday School classes (also called Adult Bible Fellowships) enough?

What if we already have small groups in our church, does that mean that we have community? Is this emphasis on community just a different term for fellowship or are we missing something? The Emerging writers seem to think so. They would believe that small groups, as found in most churches, aren't creating biblical community. Dan Edelen of Cerulean Sanctum agrees with their assessment and goes to great lengths to point out the Church's deficiencies in this area and give practical advice on how to make changes. I highly encourage you to read all that Dan has written on this topic!

I would agree with Dan and others. Most churches are failing to create biblical community. When churches that I know talk about fellowship they are referring to All-Church Potluck's, Monthly Sunday School Class Get-Together's, going out to eat after the church service, or having people over for coffee and cake (all good things by the way). They are talking about activities and surface friendships. They are NOT talking about fulfilling the biblical commands and building deep, accountable, sharpening relationships that impact daily living.

Community: Part #2: What Small Groups Are NOT

Wednesday, November 22

Would You Be Satisfied If God Doubled What You Have?

Here is a heart-searching Thanksgiving quote from the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon:

"You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled."
May God in His grace, teach us the truth of 1 Timothy 6:6, "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

P. S. -- I will soon be posting a highly encouraging piece for Pastors, Missionaries, Sunday School and AWANA teachers who are seeing little fruit for their faithful efforts. Stay tuned for proof that "your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

Tuesday, November 21

Purpose Driven The Organization Is No More

This too shall pass, we have often said, referring to the short-lived fads of today. Well according to this article in Christianity Today, it seems as if Rick Warren's Purpose Driven business venture has closed its doors:

"The Purpose Driven Life remains number two on the cba hardcover bestseller list. But Purpose Driven the organization is over. Created amid the unprecedented popularity of Rick Warren's book, Purpose Driven ministries has lost its CEO, seen its staff reduced by a third, and significantly drawn back its services. No longer a separate entity, it is being overseen by the staff of Saddleback Church, where Warren is senior pastor.

"Purpose Driven as an organization, in a sense, really doesn't exist anymore," Jon Walker, Saddleback's pastor of strategic communications, told CT.

The most notable change will be to Purpose Driven Church conferences, which have trained more than 300,000 pastors in church growth. Saddleback will still host the annual conference at the Lake Forest, California, megachurch in May. But smaller conferences will be held less frequently. In addition, there will be no more nationwide 40 Days of Purpose campaigns, Walker said, though the program will be offered to churches individually.

Saddleback considers January 2005 to be the beginning of Purpose Driven, which grew as Warren's book sold millions upon millions of copies—25 million to date.

"The success of The Purpose Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose was a God-sent wave for which we are grateful, and we tried to be good stewards of the blessing," Walker said. "However, it was inevitable that their popularity would crest and then settle into a long-term ministry of support."

Purpose Driven carried out the first round of layoffs in July, while Warren preached in 14 countries across Africa and Asia. Saddleback leadership had hoped the cuts would be enough. Warren and his wife, Kay, even donated $2 million to cover a deficit at Purpose Driven and hopefully save a few jobs.

But a second round of layoffs couldn't be avoided. From a peak of 160 employees, Purpose Driven laid off 30 staff members while another 24 positions were eliminated through attrition ... "

It seems Saddleback Church's executives initiated Warren's P.E.A.C.E. Plan in anticipation of the Purpose Driven decline.

While it is not my intent to be overly-critical, one is left to wonder what new venture Rick will pull from his sleeve once his P.E.A.C.E. plan begins to lose steam.

Get Your Black Friday Ads Early

Because we should be good stewards of the resources God has so graciously granted us, Black Friday should be a must-shopping-day for believers! Don't laugh ... I mean it!

Seriously ... there are thousands of good unbelievable deals which, in the words of my wife, "will save you lots of money!"

To help you formulate your Black Friday strategy early, check out the ads HERE. Here you will find the Black Friday specials for stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, and many others.

Consider this an early Christmas gift from The World From Our Window contributors to you. Now go get that pencil and begin making that list!

P. S. -- For those of you who are 'grinchy' and 'scroogey' ... I am not advocating materialism (our Treasure is Christ alone) but good stewardship (because we treasure Him, let us invest our resources wisely)!

Music: A Personal Grid of Appropriateness: Part #3

Music: A Personal Grid of Appropriateness: Part #1
Music: A Personal Grid of Appropriateness: Part #2

I find two biblical principles in Colossians 3:16:

  1. God-honoring music is filled with Scripture
  2. God-honoring music will teach and admonish believers
Many would like to add the Overarching Variable Principle.

  • God-honoring music should be clearly and distinctly different from the world's music.
One interesting aside is that this last principle usually trumps the first two principles. If a song is filled with Scripture and is teaching and admonishing believers, but sounds in any way like contemporary worldly music, it is inappropriate.

Out of the Overarching Variable Principle flows some personal convictions:

  1. God-honoring music must emphasize beats 1 & 3. (Therefore any "rock" beat that appeals to the flesh is sinful.)
  2. God-honoring music will have a melody line. (Therefore hip-hop or rap music is sinful.)
  3. God-honoring music will not have electric guitars or drums. (Therefore all "contemporary" forms of music are sinful.)
These convictions flow out of a desire to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and Romans 12:2. But instead of leaving room for liberty and freedom in the personal application of these Scriptures many Christians elevate these three personal convictions (and/or others like them) to the same level as Scripture. They believe that any violation of the above convictions is not just a violation of personal convictions, but a violation of Scripture and is therefore sin.

Others take a less condemning approach, yet seem to believe that their understanding of "beautiful music" will be universally held by all. One proponent puts it this way:

"As R.C. Sproul teaches, beauty is not subjective. It is objective. The asthetic [sic] value of certain types of music is greater than others. Is the hymn 'Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee' asthetically [sic] superior to 'Shine Jesus Shine'? I certainly hope everyone would think so. The world will be listening to composers such as Bach, Mendolssen(sp), Beethoveen [sic], Bliss,etc. (of which many old hymns are set to) until the end of time. The asthetic [sic] value of this genre of music is superior to the pop-culture music of today which will come and one day go, while others will not."
This assumes a standard by which we could judge aesthetic beauty. But the Bible gives us no such standard and to search for one bears no fruit. Therefore we are left to a human standard that this man believes is universally agreed upon. Unfortunately not all agree. What do we do with the person that just doesn't "get it"? Is he in sin? Is he worldly? Is he carnal? This is where the elevation of personal preferences and convictions is so dangerous. We will break fellowship and even call into question someone's salvation over these kind of non-biblical issues!

He also assumes that this music is so aesthetically superior that it will be listened to "until the end of time". I'm not sure anyone listens to anything older than classical music, which demonstrates that all styles/types of music are temporary. Some just last longer than others.

My intent with this series has been to try to demonstrate the fundamental points of difference. Since there has been little discussion from those who would disagree with me I will consider this discussion ended. If at a later time some would want to resurrect this discussion I will gently and lovingly point them to this series. So if you have anything to add, please say it now.

Monday, November 20

This Is What Calvinists Are Fighting For

Thanks to Dan Burrell of Whirled Views, for allowing us to eavesdrop on a recent conversation he had with Paige Patterson concerning the growth of Calvinism among Baptists (the SBC specifically). Both Dan (whom I believe holds a Doctorate) and Paige (whom I know holds a Doctorate) treat Calvinists -- and non's -- fairly and respectfully.

You can listen in on their conversation HERE.

As I stated via a comment in response to Dan's post, I am convinced that the watershed issue many Calvinists have with non's concerns the presentation and proclaimation of the Gospel message. Here's my comment (which you can read on Dan's site HERE):

Dan,

You — and Dr. Patterson — have treated both sides fairly. As a Calvinist, I sincerely appreciate your willingness to do so!

It is most likely true that we on the Calvinist side of the debate spend too much time squabbling over doctrinal minutae, but we tend to do so because, in the words of my preacher-father, “Right beliefs produce right behavior … and right doctrine produces right duty.”

There is one brief point I would like to make: the Gospel is the watershed issue here–not Calvinism or non-Calvinism. Yet (and I speak here with great fear and trepidation!) I have found the “gospel” of many non-Calvinists to be no Gospel at all — and I believe this is the point of contention Calvinists have with some non’s.

As you so eloquently stated, the Gospel calls for true repentance, conversion, and Lordship. Any other gospel minimizes or ignores these Gospel truths, transforming the glorious Gospel of Christ into a man-centered, man-contrived message void of the Spirit’s work. Such a gospel has no supernatural power and offers no lasting hope.

This, I believe, is the ultimate concern of the Calvinist — that we proclaim a pure Gospel, totally dependent upon the Spirit of God to convince, draw, and secure the salvation of men.

So while we may debate — ummmm … discuss — the finer points of God’s decrees and man’s depravity, let us come to a firm agreement on the Gospel, proclaiming it in all its God-glorifying, Holy Spirit-enabled power!

It's really all about the purity of the Gospel -- over which there should be no debate!

Music: A Personal Grid of Appropriateness: Part #2

My first post in this short series gives you my personal grid for appropriateness. Many might agree with both the biblical principles and personal convictions. But I find many who want to add an extra-biblical principle to the discussion. They are not satisfied with the two biblical principles I mentioned from Colossians 3:16.

  1. God-honoring music is filled with Scripture
  2. God-honoring music will teach and admonish believers
They would like to add at least one more principle to this list. I will call it the Overarching Variable Principle.

God-honoring music should be clearly and distinctly different from the world's
music.
At first glance you would whole-heartedly agree with this principle, yet you might think it a little redundant. Any music that is filled with Scripture and teaches and admonishes believers would obviously be clearly and distinctly different from the world's music. But that is not the point of this principle. This principle seeks to set up a certain type/style of music, apart from the words, as inherently godly. [I am not going to get into the debate concerning the morality of music. If you want to read more about this, see this post and this post by Neofundy.] The following are some of the personal convictions that flow out of this principle.
  1. God-honoring music must emphasize beats 1 & 3. (Therefore any "rock" beat that appeals to the flesh is sinful.)
  2. God-honoring music will have a melody line. (Therefore hip-hop or rap music is sinful.)
  3. God-honoring music will not have electric guitars or drums. (Therefore all "contemporary" forms of music are sinful.)
Christians who hold to this Overarching Variable Principle are seeking to adhere to 1 Thessalonians 5:22, "Abstain from every appearance of evil" and Romans 12:1, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed." I believe Dan Lucarini clearly states their position in his book Why I Left the Contemporary Music Movement:

"I believe our desires to have CCM styles in the church come directly from this sinful nature...When we bring rock music styles into the church we violate this principle of abstinence from the appearance of evil. We are guilty of:

  1. Embracing a form (or a carrier) of evil, because CCM imitates the same worldly music and performance styles that are used alongside all kinds of immorality.
  2. Indulging our fleshly lusts and polluting our thought life.
  3. Committing treason against the Lord by aiding and abetting the enemy in the war against God's principles and precepts.

Application: We should avoid all music styles that could be associated in any way with today's evil and immorality. We should not use them in church or in our private lives."

When we call all forms of modern musical style "evil" because of their association with the current culture, than we are left asking the question, what musical style ISN'T associated with the world? I believe one proponent answers the question rather clearly: "I reject Euro culture. I reject 10th to 15th century Euro culture. I reject present American culture. I reject Asian culture. I reject African culture. I accept essentially 16th to 18th century Euro culture and 19th century English culture." What would he do with the Jewish culture of Jesus or the Apostles day? What musical style were Christians worshiping to before the 16th century? His reason for holding to the musical style of this time period. "Why? The Bible." Huh!?!?

This line of reasoning leads us to two possible conclusions:

1. There is a musical style that was never associated with an ungodly culture and is godly for all times and all cultures. (Many would say that this exists in the classical music style of 16th to 18th century Europe.) Therefore there is only one acceptable musical style - period. Any other musical style is sinful.

OR

2. You can use any musical style of any time period as long as it is removed far enough from any current association with the world. Therefore the classical musical style of 16th & 18th century Europe were inappropriate to be used at that time, but are now appropriate because enough time has passed that all "worldly" connections are gone. In about 200 or 300 years it will probably be appropriate to use Rock and Hip-Hop music because their associations with evil will have passed away.

Sunday, November 19

Book Review: Catch Fire

I recently picked up a copy of Catch Fire: A Call to Spiritual Awakening and have had a chance to interact with Brenton Barnett over e-mail. Barnett operates Relevant Bible Teaching and a blog by the same name. His book chronicles the Biblical call for revival.

Barnett begins by re-examining the call for revival. He answers some important questions like Who is revival primarily intended for? and What are its effects? He then goes on to introduce the verse that will work as the thematic hanger as it were for the entire book. "[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The following sections take their theme from this verse:

  1. If My People Will Humble Themselves...
  2. If My People Will Pray...
  3. If My People Will Seek My Face...
  4. If My People Will Turn From Their Wicked Ways...
  5. Then I Will Hear, Forgive, and Heal Their Land.
Each section begins by defining the terms and grounds for further discussion and then Barnett discussion how Christians should apply each of these conditions to our lives so that we can experience revival in our own lives.

My two favorite chapters were "chapter 2: Cease Operating on Human Strength and Ingenuity" and "chapter 8: What is True Repentance?" In chapter two Barnett focuses on the difference between ministry work done in our own power and ministry work done in the power of the Holy Spirit. The first breeds no lasting results or revival while the second is the God-ordained means for lasting change and revival. The key verse for chapter two is Luke 18:27, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."

In chapter eight Barnett says, "Clearly, the Biblical teaching is that it is when God manifests kindness, grace, and love to us that we are moved to change. There is nothing like a free gift to reveal pride and self-sufficiency, the archenemies of sanctification. Pride wants to earn God's blessing. God wants to give them freely. Pride wants to discipline and beat self-will out of the soul. God wants to grant it by faith. What did God do to move us to a restored relationship with Him?" He gave His Son for our redemption (163).

He concludes by noting this method for revival is not new or complicated. Rather it's simple, but because of our sinfulness we fail to do it. If you are interested in an in-depth look into Biblical revival check this book out.

Soli Deo Gloria

Arminians Targeting SharperIron?

Enough already! This is beginning to bug the total depravity out of me -- and I can bite my tongue no longer.

What's going on at SharperIron? Are the IFBx Arminians making a concerted effort to hijack the conservative fundamentalist forum with their man-centered theological views? It seems to be true ... and here's the evidence:

An attack on God-initiated saving faith is initiated by Darin HERE.

An attack on any kind of purposeful, definite atonement is instigated by Grady Henley HERE. By the way, Grady's post appears to be cut and pasted borrowed from the anti-Calvinist, KJV 1611 only site HERE.

A surprising poll result shows that only half of poll participants believe that man is totally depraved -- meaning that regeneration must precede faith HERE.

According to another poll, less than half of poll participants believe in a purposeful, definite atonement HERE.
By the way, Larry Rogier of stuffoutloud has been defending the historic, reformed Baptist view quite effectively and eloquently.

Thanks Larry, for a job well done. I have nearly joined you in articulating a defense of the historic doctrines of grace, but I find myself continually exasperated with the lack of well-reasoned and well-written anti-Calvinistic views (see much of the spelling and grammar in the aforementioned posts). Simple theological terms are being redefined and Calvinistic straw men are consistently erected -- making honest and profitable dialogue a near impossibility.

Those of us who embrace the doctrines of grace do so because we believe a high view of God demands it. We are not driven to such views by arrogance or a we're-smarter-than-you attitude ... so why is everybody always picking on us???!!!

Why not soothe the hurt feelings of your Calvinistic loved one with the perfect Christmas gift: a "Calvin is my Homeboy" teddy bear [click here]. And if you are feeling a bit mischievous, why not purchase this "I made the right choice: say no to Arminianism" teddy bear [click here] for your favorite SharperIron hijacker Arminian?!

Thursday, November 16

Rick Warren Comes Clean Concerning Syria Visit and Comments

In honor of journalistic fairness, I am posting the contents of an email I recently received (8:05 PM, Central Standard Time) from pastors.com in regards to Rick Warren's recent Syria visit and disturbing comments.

Because I want to be as fair as possible, I will offer no commentary in response to Warren's comments.

The first note is a letter from Rick himself; the second is a press release from Larry Ross.

Dear Saddleback Family,

Tomorrow our team heads home from a three-nation P.E.A.C.E. plan tour of Germany, Syria, and Rwanda. Our trip began with a P.E.A.C.E. Plan briefing for 44 Christian missions organizations we’d gathered in Atlanta.

In hindsight, I wish we’d been better prepared for our visit to Syria. We would have handled some meetings differently, watched our words more closely, and been more aware of the agenda of their state press. We wanted to just slip in and out, but that’s nearly impossible for me to do anymore. It’s been a learning experience. Be sure to read the press release at the end of this note that gives you all the details.

Why did we go to Syria? The simple truth is that I was invited by my neighbor, Yassar. When we arrived, our first event was a home cooked meal with 20 of Yassar’s family. Then, we were shown many of the historical Christian sites in Syria: the road to Damascus where Paul was converted, Straight street where the Holy Spirit led Paul, the house where Ananias prayed for his healing, the wall where Paul was let down in a basket to escape the Romans, the tomb of John the Baptist and the oldest Christian church building in existence.

Next, my neighbor arranged for us to meet some key Christian leaders, Muslim leaders, and government leaders - including the president of Syria. Franklin Graham has had years of experience with Lebanon and Syria, so I asked him what to say to the Syrian President. Franklin told me, “Thank him for protecting the freedom of Christians and Jews to worship there.”

As we left, the official state-controlled Syrian news agency issued some press releases that sounded like I was a politician negotiating the Iraq war by praising the Syrian President and everything else in Syria! Of course, that’s ridiculous, but it created a stir among bloggers who tend to editorialize before verifying the truth. Does it seem ironic to you that people who distrust Syria are now believing Syrian press releases?

In our meeting with the president, I explained (as usual) the Saddleback P.E.A.C.E. Plan, and he gave us permission to send teams to Syria.

Friends, I am aware that inaccuracies, misquotes, and misperceived motivations get reported about me in the press daily. Most of the time, I just ignore them. Jesus said, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” (John 15:18 - NCV)

I love the paraphrase of Matthew 5:11-12 (Msg): “Count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

Just don’t believe everything you read on the Internet or hear in the media.

I love you all and I’m praying for this weekend’s FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OFFERING. I’m excited about getting back home to see you!

Pastor Rick

PRESS RELEASE

Kigali, Rwanda, November 16 – Dr. Rick Warren, best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life and founding pastor of Southern California’s Saddleback Church, concluded a four-day pastoral visit to Syria earlier this week as part of a three-nation pastoral training and PEACE Plan tour. The trip began last week in Germany, where more than 5,000 church leaders gathered to hear Dr. Warren give an overview of a plan to mobilize local churches to attack the global problems of poverty, disease, illiteracy, corruption and spiritual emptiness. Similar training with church leaders in Rwanda continues this week.

Contrary to reports by the official state-controlled Syrian news agency, Dr. Warren was in Syria to meet with and encourage the country’s key Christian leaders; dialogue with top Muslim leaders; and promote religious freedom. Leaders who met with Dr. Warren included the Patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church; the leader of the coalition of Evangelical Churches of Syria; and the pastor of the world’s oldest standing church dating back to 315 AD; and Mufti of the Arab Republic of Syria Sheikh Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun.

Dr. Warren’s visit to Syria was neither official nor political, but rather came out of a promise to his Muslim neighbor in California. While discussing over their backyard fence Warren’s frequent international travel, the neighbor asked him to visit his home country of Syria, with its many sites sacred to Christians and church history that date back 2,000 years.

Many Americans don’t realize that both Christianity and Judaism are legal in Syria. In addition, the government provides free electricity and water to all churches; allows pastors to purchase a car tax-free (a tax break not given to Muslim imams); appoints pastors as Christian judges to handle Christian cases; and allows Christians to create their own civil law instead of having to follow Muslim law. Every Christian with whom Dr. Warren’s team met -- including those in the city of Malula, where they represent two-thirds of the population -- expressed gratitude for the government’s protection of their right to worship.

“Let there be no doubt about our support for President Bush, our troops in Iraq and the war on terror,” he told the Mufti. When asked if American opinion had turned against the Iraq war. Warren replied, “Yes --The New York Times reported that 80 percent of Americans indicated in Election Day exit polls they now oppose keeping troops in Iraq.” Later, Dr. Warren’s team was told by a Syrian official that it would be a mistake for American troops to immediately pull out.

Because Dr. Warren often meets with presidents of nations he visits, his neighbor also arranged a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Dr. Warren sought counsel in advance from Syrian experts in Washington, and was told that Syria’s state-controlled media would likely distribute press releases after the meeting, which they did.

“The Syrian government has long had a bad reputation in America, but if one considers a positive action like welcoming in thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq, or the protection of freedom to worship for Christians and Jews in Syria, it should not be ignored,” Dr. Warren said from Rwanda. He further explained that in terms of religious freedom, Syria is far more tolerant than places like Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, and nations identified in the U.S. Commission Report on International Religious Freedom. "Muslims and Christians have lived side by side in Syria for more than a thousand years, often with mosques and churches built next to each other,” he added. “What can we learn from them?

“I believe it is a mistake to not talk to nations considered hostile -- isolation and silence has never solved conflict anywhere, whether between spouses or between nations,” Dr. Warren concluded. He further shared his experience in Rwanda, a country that is experiencing peace after years of conflict by emphasizing reconciliation instead of retaliation. He noted that, as a pastor, he always urges couples in conflict to keep talking to each other -- no matter how angry they are. As long as they keep talking, there is hope for a resolution; but if they refuse to even talk, divorce is inevitable.

Other issues Dr. Warren discussed with Syrian religious, academic and governmental leadership included the importance of civil dialogue among religions; possible student exchange and academic cooperation with Christian universities; and Saddleback Church’s “P.E.A.C.E. Plan” to train local churches to attack poverty, disease, corruption, illiteracy, and spiritual emptiness in cooperation with businesses and governments.
I will leave this post open for comments, asking all to respond to Warren's words with Christ-like grace -- even if you disagree with his handling of this situation. I also reserve the right to respond to any of our readers' comments.

The Doctrine of Particular Redemption: "The Lord Who Bought Them" | Part 2

Summary: So far I have demonstrated that lexically the word "world" does not denote by itself (that is without further modification from context) every individual who ever lived past, present, & future. The context will decide whether this is the intended meaning. My lack of clarity on my basic premise caused confusion in the comment section (and here). Some asked for an example of someone using the "The text says 'world' so we believe in universal redemption argument" without exegeting the text and context. Dr. Jerry Vines preached a sermon which Strange BaptistFire and Dr. James White have critiqued and in which he uses a similar argument. Also, some moderate Calvinists and non-Calvinists Baptists at SharperIron use this argument as you can see from this thread and this comment in particular.

Introduction

The purpose of this post is simply to provide a detailed exegesis of this passage. My goal is not to explain away what the text says, but to explain the text. Whenever I begin to discuss this doctrine with people, the first response I often get is "It's not in the Bible." However, they fail to interact with the exegesis of the passages under discussion. I would encourage one of my moderate Calvinist or Arminian (or non-Calvinists Baptists) friends to offer some exegesis of the pertinet passages. Furthermore, let's agree that both sides hold to sola scriptura.

2 Peter 2:1-"The Lord Who Bought Them"

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)
First, notice there is an OT context being alluded to. Peter says, "false prophets also arose among the people." These prophets are en tw law. Thus these are not people who are coming from outside of Israel, but are members of that chosen nation. Hear the guidelines Moses gives for those claiming to be prophets.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
The first test is "Did the prophecy come to pass?" and the second test is "Does the prophet suggest leaving the Lord?" Most important, notice the ultimate cause behind the false prophets arising in the people. "For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Thus it can be deduced the same is true of the 2 Peter passage. These are reasons for these false teachers. First the people must test the doctrine of the false teachers and then ask, "Are they trying to convince us to leave Jesus the Lord?" Keep this last test in mind for the last clause.

Second, these teachers try to "secretly bring in" (pareisaxousin) their own destructive opinion, heresy, or dogma (aireseiV apwleiaV). These words focus on the damning nature of the teachers' doctrine. If you believe what these teachers are saying then you will be damned (or already are) because believing these types of heresies is a repudiation of the truth of the gospel and a denial of the Lord. The next clause is what causes the "problem." The clause in Greek reads "kai ton agorasanta autouV despothn arnoumenoi." This phrase is governed by the main verb ("secretly bring in"). I would suggest with support from Daniel Wallace that the word arnoumenoi should be taken as temporal result. Wallace describes this usage as "It is similar to the participle of purpose in that it views the end of the action of the main verb, but it is dissimilar in that the participle of purpose also indicates or emphasizes intention or design, while result emphasizes what the action of the main verb actually accomplishes" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics 637 cf. 638-639).

Thus the result of their teaching damning heresies is they deny the Sovereign Lord (despothn). Remember now that these false teachers are in the covenant community of God's people. If they are teaching, they have probably been baptized and had some influence on the congregation for a time before secretly introducing these heresies. They have made a profession of faith. What's the result of their teaching? Peter says, "These people claim the blood of Christ, but if you teach these heresies you are damned." These false teachers repudiate the Lord who they claim paid the price for their sins. Their actions betray the true state of the heart. Remember part of the test of a true teacher (or prophet) is do they encourage the people to stray from the Lord.

Further, the extent of the atonement really is not the point of this passage. Peter is not trying to make a positive statement one way or the other. He is not saying, "You false teachers! Christ shed his blood for you!" Rather he says the false teachers deny the Lord by their false teaching. Gary D. Long also had done a study on the word agorasanta which is helpful. He states:
[O]f its thirty occurrences in the New Testament, . . . [agorazo] is never used in a soteriological context (unless II Peter 2:1 is the exception) without the technical term "price" ( . . . [times]--a technical term for the blood of Christ) or its equivalent being stated or made explicit in the context (see 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Rev. 5:9; 14:3, 4) . . . . When it is translated with a meaning "to buy," whether in a soteriological or non-soteriological context, a payment price is always stated or made explicit by the context . . . in contexts where no payment price is stated or implied, . . . [agorazo] may often be better translated as "acquire" or "obtain" (Long Definite Atonement, 72 quoted in Robert Reymond's A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith 700)
Dr. Long also offers this helpful translation/paraphrase: "Christ, the Sovereign Lord, acquired . . . the false teachers (spots and blemishes, II Pet. 2:13) in order to make them a part of the covenant nation of God in the flesh because he had created them, within the mystery of his providence, for the purpose of bringing glory to himself through their forordainment unto condemnation (see II Pet. 2:12; Jude 4)" (Ibid., 76-77 quoted in Reymond 701).

I would be happy to field any exegetical questions or discussion but let's keep it limited to that. In another posts, I will offer my interpretation of different passages and then we can discuss those. May the Lord be blessed.

Soli Deo Gloria

Out-Of-Touch Pastors ... A Monumental Problem

Rick Warren is back in the news -- again.

According to Ingrid Schlueter, Rick Warren (while on a recent visit to Syria) "expressed admiration of Syria, and the coexistence he saw between Muslims and Christians, stressing that he will convey this image to his church and country."

While Rick has seemingly become obsessed with his "global giants" agenda (leading him to make such disturbing comments), his latest Ministry Toolbox highlights a pastors.com article that claims a majority of today's pastors are out of touch ... with sports, movies, and celebrities.

According to this article, out-of-touch (with contemporary culture) pastors is the real problem with today's evangelicalism. Here's a portion of the article:

Among ministers, there were no dramatic differences among denominational groups (Methodists, Baptists, etc.). In general, mainline ministers tend to feel slightly more informed about books and movies than do evangelical pastors, but the other findings are quite similar.

There are some differences according to age, however. Younger ministers (under 45) feel more informed about sports, the Internet, music, clothing and fashion, celebrities, and video and computer games than do older ministers. However, this is also true among the people attending their churches – younger churchgoers feel much more informed about these areas and others in today's culture than do older people.

Among the laity, how informed they are about the culture does not vary significantly according to how long people have attended their current church, whether they are involved in a mainline or evangelical congregation, how often they attend or whether they are in a volunteer leadership position within the church.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, pointed out that the survey raises the question of whether churches are having an impact on how people interact with culture.

"There's a long-term debate within Christendom about what is an appropriate level of involvement in popular culture. Some Christians believe separation from the world is part of godly behavior, while others believe involvement in the world is necessary in order to reach out to the world," Sellers observed. "Either way, one might logically expect church involvement to change how a person looks at culture – either becoming more involved in order to have more effective outreach or becoming less involved as they seek to lead a less worldly lifestyle.

"But the data shows no difference in cultural awareness according to how frequently people attend church, how long they've been there, or whether they are in a leadership position," Sellers said. "This raises the question of how much churches actually impact how people live their daily lives."

Sellers also noted that one criticism people often have about churches is that they are out of touch with the world around them. "The data shows ministers are, generally speaking, not all that informed about the culture in which they seek to minister. The people in the pews feel much more informed about the Internet, movies, videogames, and other expressions of popular culture than do their pastors. People are definitely impacted by the culture they consume – the Web sites they visit or the music they listen to, for instance. Pastors need to be informed about what's out there in order to understand how the culture is influencing the people they are trying to reach," Sellers said.

While I am not advocating an ministry of irrelevance (in which pastors bury their spiritual heads in the sand of anti-cultural "holiness"), cultural relevance can unwittingly become irreverence -- leading to Scriptural irrelevance.

I happen to believe the greatest ecclesiastical danger is not being out-of-touch with culture, but being out-of-touch with Scripture. Wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, November 15

Rock, Chalk, WHO????


The third ranked team in the country got it handed to them this evening. Who was this team that surprisingly defeated this NCAA basketball powerhouse? Oral Roberts University!

Our dear friend Ken Fields is in serious need of our comfort, encouragement and prayers this evening. His powerhouse team collapsed in the face of America's most well known charismatic institution. Perhaps Ken will need some sort of "healing" from the opposition this evening.

Who is talking smack now???

A Plea For Help ...

Last week I accepted an invitation to author a couple of youth Sunday School lesson commentaries for a leading Baptist Sunday School curriculum publisher (Regular Baptist Press). Having been assigned the unenviable topics of homosexuality and abortion, I find myself feeling overwhelmed and underqualified!

So ... here is where you all come in: what resources have you found helpful in supplementing your Bible study on the topics of homosexuality and/or abortion?

Please, I am begging you, help me ... the work is due December 8. I have already found considerable resources at monergism.com for both the homosexuality and abortion topics. So if you have any additional web (I am continually amazed at the amount of profitable and practical theological resources on the world wide web) or print resources (books would be especially helpful), please leave a comment or shoot me an email through the email button on my profile page.

Thanks in advance for your help. You -- The World From Our Window readers -- have always responded to my many pleas for help, coming to my rescue with the right information in just the nick of time.

You all are the best readers any blogger could hope for!

The DELIBERATE CHURCH

[This is a very timely post considering the fact that Ken is offering this book as a prize in the post just below this one. I had already written this and was just waiting for a good time to post it. My review of this book might influence you to participate or to abstain.]

My reading reports continue with a word concerning Mark Dever's book The DELIBERATE CHURCH: Building Your Ministry On The Gospel. The following is a brief synopsis of the book in its own words followed by what I believe the strengths and the weaknesses are.

Foreword (D.A. Carson): "A few years ago Mark Dever gave us Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Despite the feel of the title, this book was far removed from the kind of pop sociological analysis and managerial assessment with which we are often barraged. It was a book deeply embedded in biblical theology. Many pastors and churches have benefited from the faithfulness of its probing reflection. But suppose you live and serve in a local church that is far removed from the healthy profile developed in Nine Marks: what then? How do we get from here to there? Talking about the Nine Marks, and thinking through the biblical texts that warrant them, surely constitute part of the response. Nevertheless, the book you hold in your hands goes beyond that simplification to help pastors and other leaders lead a church toward spiritual health and growth.

Mark's Preface: "Paul [Alexander] took things that I've taught and written, things he's heard me say many times and questions he's heard me answer from visiting pastors, and he added his gifts of time, organization, clear writing and thinking ability--along with some of his own ministry experiences--and he produced the first draft of this book...It's in this present volume that Paul and I try to lay out some bottom-shelf 'best practices' or 'tips' for living out the ecclesiology represented in these other books [Nine Marks of a Healthy Church; Polity; A Display of God's Glory; A Theology for the Church]."


If you haven't read Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, than read that book before reading this one. The first is more philosophical and foundational while this one is extremely practical (even down to the agenda for an elders meeting). If you are a pastor or church leader this would be an excellent book for you to read. If not, you might lose interest rather quickly.

The book starts off with a bang by talking about The Four P's. "When I was interviewing with Capital Hill Baptist Church before they called me to be their pastor, someone asked me if I had a program or plan to implement for growth. Perhaps to this person's surprise (and perhaps to yours too!), I responded that I didn't really have any great plans or programs to implement. I was just armed with four P's--I would preach, pray, develop personal discipling relationships, and be patient." I found this chapter highly valuable and encouraging, especially what he has to say about patience. "Most of us think only about five or ten years down the road (if that). But patience in the pastorate requires thinking in terms of twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty years of ministry. If you're a young, aspiring pastor who has yet to receive from a church an external call to preach, choose wisely. Go where you can envision contentedly putting down roots for the rest of your life, and commit." Amen! I believe most pastors aren't planning long-term ministry so therefore most of their goals are short-term. There is a difference between growing redwoods and growing poplars. Mark's books are written from the standpoint of long-term, redwood-growing, mature disciple-building church ministry. These principles and practices will take years of work before the real fruit will be seen.

Chapter 2 talks about Beginning the Work. He agrees with John MacArthur's philosophy of beginning your pastoral tenure by clarifying the gospel. "That is, when we assume the Gospel instead of clarifying it, people who profess Christianity but don't understand or obey the Gospel are cordially allowed to presume their own conversion without examining themselves for evidence of it--which may amount to nothing more than blissful damnation." Next he talks about cultivating trust through expositional preaching, personal relationships, and humility. Then he gets even more practical by discussing how to clean up the membership rolls and conduct reverse membership interviews. There are some good insight to be gleaned from this chapter.

In Chapters 3-5 he covers the topics of Doing Personal Evangelism, Taking In New Members, and Doing Church Discipline. As a young pastor there were many good practical insights, yet some of this might just be review for many. I found this first section (Section 1: Gathering the Church: Chapters 1-5) to be the most interesting and helpful for me.

In Section 2--When The Church Gathers: Chapters 6-12 Mark deals with many aspects of the corporate worship and gatherings of the church. He talks about the Roles of the Different Gatherings, the Role of the Ordinances, and Music. Again he shares much practical wisdom. He begins by letting the reader know that Capitol Hill Baptist Church follows the Regulative Principle when it comes to corporate worship. "The Regulative Principle states that everything we do in a corporate worship gathering must be clearly warranted by Scripture. Clear warrant can either take the form of an explicit biblical command, or a good and necessary implication of a biblical text. The Regulative Principle has historically competed with the Normative Principle...The Regulative Principle forbids anything not commanded by Scripture, whereas the Normative Principle allows anything not forbidden by Scripture."

Sections 3 & 4 deal with Gathering Elders and When Elders Gather. This section builds a brief biblical background for plurality of elders and then gets into the nuts and bolts or elder rule. It was interesting to read how Dever and MacArthur differ in some areas concerning elder rule. He does get very detailed in these sections which will be very helpful to some and very redundant to others.

Overall this is a very helpful and practical book that I highly recommend to every pastor, especially young pastors or pastors in their first church.

Answer This And Win A Free Book!!

We truly appreciate you -- our faithful and forbearing readers!

Because we are quickly embarking upon the holiday season of "peace and good will to men," we here at The World From Our Window want to prove our holiday good will with a bit of fun and free stuff for you! Well -- let me rephrase that -- lots of fun for all, and one free item for our lucky foreordained winner.

Up for grabs is a brand-spankin' new copy of Mark Dever and Paul Alexander's book, The Deliberate Church (which, by the way, is a must-read for anybody active in local church ministry).

Now ... here is the kicker: to obtain the free book, you must be the first to correctly identify the author of the following quote. There is only one rule: you cannot use a search engine (or any other world wide web helps) to find the identity of the author. In other words, no googling. Don't even ask ... you are on the honor system. Please leave the correct answer as a comment in response to this post. I will announce the winner of The Deliberate Church on Thursday.

Let's get at it, and remember -- no googling! For those of you who are tempted to cheat, remember this: "he sees you when you're sleepin', he knows when you're awake; he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake ..."

The quote: "God is subtle, but He is not malicious."

Now it's your turn ... good luck providence! And Merry Christmas to our winner!

P. S. -- If you do google for the answer ... feel free to admit your need to cheat via the comments ... but don't even hint at the answer or else you will find your stocking stuffed with coal!

Tuesday, November 14

Music: A Personal Grid of Appropriateness: Part #1

I am sick and tired of the church music and worship debate. With that being said, I continue to discuss it because it continues to be an issue of separation and heated debate for churches and individual believers. Therefore, it is an important issue that must be discussed.

I view personal listening habits and corporate worship as two separate yet related issues. Which means I would allow more liberty and freedom in personal listening habits. Therefore, I listen to music in my car and in my home that I wouldn't use in a corporate worship setting. The Bible gives principles for ALL music - personal or corporate. But, the greater biblical emphasis is placed on the corporate worship setting. This leads me to a verse that many use as the foundation for their "grid of appropriateness".

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)
I believe this a great verse to use and these are the principles I have gleaned from it in regards to corporate worship music. (The phrase "one another" is important to see in regards to understanding this verse as a foundation for corporate worship.)

  1. God-honoring music is filled with Scripture
  2. God-honoring music will teach and admonish believers

These are the biblical principles. They govern ALL music for the believer, but are specifically applied here to the corporate setting. So when I choose music for corporate worship it must be Scriptural and put in the format of teaching and admonishing believers.

Some personal convictions about corporate worship that I have come to as a result of studying totality of Scripture are:

  1. The music must match the message. (If the biblical message is joyful, the music should be joyful, and vice versa.)
  2. The music should never overshadow the message (by being too loud or too distracting).
  3. The song must be singable for people of all generations. (Some songs violate this for the younger generation and some for the older generation.)
  4. Most of our songs in worship should be focused on God while allowing room for some songs to be sung to God in response.

The problem with these three personal convictions are that they are open to numerous personal interpretations. What does it mean for the music to match the message? What does joyful music sound like? What does reverent music sound like? What music is distracting? What type of music is singable? All of these points fall under the category of personal preference as I seek to apply them to each song. What I think appropriate you might think inappropriate by the very same standard! That is the crux of the issue when it comes to worship and music. You and I might agree on every principle, yet argue over their application. I have yet to find two people of any position that would totally agree with anyone else on every point! That is why I strongly believe that we need to allow for personal liberty and freedom, not just among believers, but among churches.

[My posts generally tend to be more practical, as this one is. For a more scholarly handling of this subject please read this post by Neofundy over at NeoFundamentalist.]