Archive for October, 2011

Over at Christianity Today, Andy Crouch explores the current trends in urban ministry in light of the migration of young people to the urban cores of larger cities.

Pope Benedict XVI, in dialogue with Martin Luther, addressed the question “How do I receive the grace of God?” on a recent visit to Germany.

VirtueOnline describes the top five warning signs of declining church health.



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Illustrating one of the reasons churches should be cautious when applying business and marketing techniques to their ministries, two “Mars Hill” churches in Seattle and Sacramento were involved in a branding dispute regarding their names and logos. Thankfully, the two churches stopped themselves before things got really ugly.

Amy Julia Becker reflects on what constitutes a “real Christian education.”

In The Wall Street Journal, Francis Rocca explores Pope Benedict’s skepticism regarding interfaith efforts to establish a “common concept of God.”

While it’s often fun to beat up on Christian Fundamentalists or the Religious Right, Timothy Dalrymple explores “What’s Right with the Religious Right.”

And just for fun, here’s an article by Kerry Webber called “Catholic Speed Dating Gone Wrong.”

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Preeminent historian Mark Noll examines the effects of Protestantism on the world in commemoration of the Reformation — while Halloween is usually celebrated on October 31st, it is also the date Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door to the Catholic church in Wittenberg.

Christianity Today presents an excerpt from N. T. Wright’s new book on Jesus (yes, another one). The excerpt provides a very nice summation of Wright’s Jesus-ology, and describes the new impulse in church life — one that emphasizes the life of the church in the present rather than the future life in heaven. As Wright says, “the church, the community that hails Jesus as Lord and king, and feasts at his table celebrating his victorious death and resurrection, is constituted as “the body of the Messiah.” This famous Pauline image is not a random “illustration.” It expresses Paul’s conviction that this is the way in which Jesus now exercises his rule in the world—through the church, which is his Body.”

Christianity Today also provides an interview with theologian Thomas Oden, who discusses his love affair with studying the church fathers.

Susan Stamper Brown critiques the “collectivism” of Sojourners president Jim Wallis and argues that “the same God who cares about poverty also cares about work.”

Micha Boyett Hohorst, over at the blog Her.meneutics, wonders “What if I don’t want to be a feminist?


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Bishop Daniel Martins, over at Confessions of a Carioca, offers his comments on the curious resolution made by the Episcopal church in the General Convention of the Anglican Covenant.

Christianity Today reports on the new challenges missionaries face in gathering donations for their ministries.

With Halloween around the corner, more and more Christian leaders are using horror imagery in their illustrations. The latest comes from Ministry Matters with an excerpt from the book “Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back Into the Body of Christ,” by Tyler Edwards.

U.S. Catholic explores whether a Catholic can take communion in a Protestant church.

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This week at work, I went to a lunchtime seminar where the president of our employee assistance program spoke about resiliency, and its importance in leading a long and fulfilling life.  He presented findings from a study he previously completed where he observed 500 cancer patients over a period of time.  He found that patients who had the following characteristics of resiliency lived longer than those who lacked such traits:

  • Have a positive outlook
  • Commit to a high physical well-being
  • Be a good communicator
  • Be a good listener
  • Have a work/life balance
  • Have close connections with others in your life
  • Commit to a personal value or spiritual position
  • Have great interpersonal skills and the capacity to negotiate conflict
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Be willing to engage in creative thinking and risk-taking
  • Have excellent problem-solving skills

Indeed, the above characteristics are good ones to have, but what struck me more was that many, if not all of these things, stem from concepts or attributes that God wants us to possess and instructs us about in scripture.  God calls us to maintain unity with the body of Christ and remain in community with each other, to speak words of truth in love to one another, and to take care of our bodies as they are holy temples He created in His image.  He wants us to experience things in moderation so that we might lead healthy and fruitful lives.

However, when the speaker got to the point about having meaning or value in one’s life, he stated that “Some people find their meaning in Jesus Christ, but this meaning doesn’t necessarily have to come from something spiritual”.

While I was genuinely surprised to hear him mention Jesus by name in the workplace, the second half of his sentence reinforced the presence of the secular society in which we live.  Man believes that he will have a successful life if he can achieve the ideals that he deems significant, and he will always try to create his own laws, wisdom, and happiness.  It reminded me that we live in a fallen world where people want to govern themselves independent of a higher being.  But as Christians, we know that when we try to take God out of the equation and fix our problems on our own, we will stumble and fall flat on the ground.  We can go about our lives trying to live out our own ideals with varying levels of success, but we will never find true fulfillment until we acknowledge the Lord as Savior, the One who created us and gave us our purpose.

The other part of the talk that I found particularly interesting was an experiment the speaker used to demonstrate another two components of resiliency.  We were shown a long combination of letters, and the speaker told us to remove with our eyes a certain amount of letters and identify the well-known word that remained.  We all sat there in silence for about 30 seconds, until the speaker interjected with:

“I’ve done this experiment with 7 year old kids who have already answered this in the time it’s taken you to even begin looking at the letters.  They are more cognitive, their minds are more elastic.”

The speaker was trying to illustrate the importance of engaging in creative thinking and risk-taking, and having excellent problem-solving skills.  His point was that a child’s mind has no preconceived notions, and is therefore easily flexible to interpret ideas or concepts for what they are without letting outside influences get in the way.  As a church, I think we also need to be aware of this.  We can become weary from the adversities that befall us in life, and we can let all of the outside “things” and “stuff” we pick up along the way inhibit our ability to cling to the Lord with our whole being.  God wants us to have faith like a child, to throw all of our doubts and concerns to the wind and to fall at His feet in complete surrender.  The more we surrender to the Lord, the more resilient we become, and the more resilient we are, the more capacity we have to play our part in building up the church.

It is crucial that we do not forget where our resiliency comes from.  For not only do we lack true resiliency without God, we are nothing at all without God.  The Lord is our resiliency.  He is our rock, our fortress, our strength, and our shield.

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” (
How Firm a Foundation, John Rippon, 1787).

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Thomas G. Long answers the question “Why do men skip church?” He argues against the notion that the feminine erosion of the church is keeping men away, instead arguing that men need challenges to keep their faith sharp–something they usually don’t find in American churches.

Rev. James V. Schall discusses the reasons for “losing the faith” in our current cultural context.

Christianity Today reprints a classic article from John Stott offering four ways Christians can positively influence the world.

Diane Montgomery offers advice for when “You’re no longer in love with God.

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Chuck Colson and Timothy George, in Christianity Today,  explore the effect of portrayals of polygamy on pop culture through such television shows as Sister Wives and Big Love.  Many conservative Christians in America have argued that the general acceptance of gay marriage in society will lead to ever-expanding notions of marital relations, and this article is no different. Interestingly, due to the negative effects of polygamy on women, Colson and George point out that the feminist movement will find allies with conservative Christians in the legal battle against polygamy. Culture warriors should get a kick out of that.

Carol Howard Merritt expresses her frustration with “emerging adulthood,” a term sociologists use to define the Odyssey years of the twenties because young adults “don’t have a marriage certificate or a mortgage.” Merritt believes we need new theologies of selfhood to understand adulthood as something separate from a career, family, or mortgage. Merritt does an admirable job of articulating the angst of most young adults, but nevertheless demonstrates the same confusion as most young adults about the notion of “adulthood.” People become adults when they take on responsibility, which is why things like a career, family, or mortgage are signs of adulthood. Sociologists believe young adults are extending their adolescence because they are choosing to forsake responsibility in favor of “discovering themselves” or “following their heart,” concepts which are intrinsically insular and focused on the self  (indeed, Merritt’s article is titled “Negotiating our notions of self”).  If young adults are serious about entering adulthood, then they should focus less on their selfhood and more on “other-hood” by taking responsibility for themselves and others.

On a lighter note, Jeff Kinley wonders if Jesus likes Halloween. It’s actually a serious piece that ends up addressing important issues such as the Fall, sin, grace, and Christian zombies. Yes, zombies.

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The blog Conciliar Anglican explores the differences between Confessionalism and Conciliarism within the Anglican tradition, arguing for the benefits of the Conciliar approach to church government and the formation of doctrine. Confessionalism is a belief in the importance of doctrinal teaching to hold a church communion together (such that anything that deviates from the confession of faith or creed would be considered outside the church), while Conciliarism is a belief in the authority of councils to decide and interpret spiritual matters.

Nathan Finn, over at the Baptist Press, offers advice to students on how to remain holy in college.

The National Catholic Register discusses the relation between the virtues of Justice and Mercy, exploring their special relevance in today’s cultural context.

On the CNNBelief blog, Scott Todd of Compassion International argues that the church is making progress in the fight against poverty. As Todd points out, the progress the church (and others) have made against poverty in the last 75 years is significant. We should take encouragement from it.

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The blog Creedal Christian reflects on the spiritual value of the Daily Office “as a means of grace.”

Thinking Christian wonders: Is it rational to believe in spiritual warfare?

Crisis Magazine explains “Why It’s Great to Be a Young Catholic.”

Christianity Today provides an excerpt from Mark Galli’s book “Chaos and Grace,” in which he describes the characteristics of a fully biblical Liberation Theology.

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Christianity Today reports on an interesting survey measuring the effect of Bible reading on Americans’ political beliefs. The survey’s conclusion? If you read the Bible regularly, you’re more likely to be a Democrat. The survey did not take into account the chicken-or-egg problem of the issue — whether people’s political beliefs affect their biblical interpretation or whether their biblical interpretation affects their political beliefs, but nevertheless the survey provides some interesting points about the role of the Bible in shaping our lives.

Thom S. Rainer provides some helpful advice to church leaders on ways to increase regular church attendance.

Catholic intellectual George Weigel argues that the reconstruction of the Christian roots of Western civilization will be fueled by lay members of churches, not their leaders.

Finally, Timothy Tennant, former Gordon-Conwell Theological seminary faculty member who’s now president of Asbury seminary, provides some non-provocative comments on a controversial question: Are Mormons Christian?


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