Daily Archives

March 20, 2018

Five Things that Keep Churches from Change

Being a representative of Christ in a lost world requires change. Leading a church into revitalization is a daunting task. It takes much prayer, grace, and strength. Churches that need revitalization have often drifted into a place of complacency. The change they need often comes about because of a cathartic moment. Desperation is quite the motivator. The pastor who leads a church into renewal is doing a great service for the kingdom of God. But it is helpful to understand why churches resist change. I want to look at some of the things that lead to crisis, understanding that if the signs are recognized early enough, it may not come to drastic measures. First, self-focus. I’ve said many times that the church is God’s mission to the world. So a lot of time is spent making sure the church is what it should be. A large portion of the New Testament is Paul focusing on how churches and leaders should operate internally and outwardly. There is nothing wrong with self-awareness and examination. We need to take care of family, right? But because we are human, we have a tendency to create environments to fit our comforts. This happens to individuals,…

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Ministries Can Do Better Than Inclusion-Rider Diversity

Rather than wait for outside demands, faith-based organizations should proactively pursue representation as part of their mission. Once Oscar winner Frances McDormand ended her acceptance speech with the two words “inclusion rider,” so many people Googled the phrase that inclusion became the most-searched word of the night on Merriam-Webster’s site. In the entertainment industry, a rider refers to special provisions of a contract; in this case, the agreement would require producers to involve a certain level of underrepresented groups in the cast and crew in order for a prominent performer to take part. The concept was proposed by Stacy L. Smith, director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in the Hollywood Reporter in 2014, as a way to have “women, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of LGBT and marginalized communities who are traditionally underrepresented be depicted on screen in proportion to their representation in the population.” Earlier this month, actor Michael B. Jordan of Black Panther became the first A-list actor to promise he would adopt the inclusion rider in contracts through his company, Outlier Society Productions. The aims of the inclusion rider, in the context of the film industry, seem straightforward: to incorporate more diversity on screen…

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Keeping the Sabbath Saved My Marriage, My Ministry, and Probably My Life

I used to think resting from work was selfish, until I considered the example of Jesus. Nearly 10 years ago, as a college pastor at the University of Oregon, I toiled nearly 80 hours a week doing the “work of the Lord.” No boundaries. No rhythms. No intention. No rest. Every crisis was my crisis. Every complaint was my problem. Everything and everyone came to me. The long and short of it. I began to burn out. And I knew there was a problem when I started hoping I would burn out. Burnout offered a way out of all the insanity. Though I had never thought it possible, I was, in Paul’s words, beginning to “weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9). The cost was high. I constantly got sick, my marriage was struggling, and my ministry became misery as I went frantically from crisis to crisis. Flannery O’Connor has this little throwaway line where she speaks of a priest who is “unimaginative and overworked.” That was me. There was only one problem: The ministry was thriving. People were getting baptized. Students were repenting. The group was growing. It all came to a head one Saturday morning. After an 80-hour workweek,…

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Turkey Wants to Keep American Pastor Behind Bars for Life

American officials and supporters say Andrew Brunson has been “unjustly imprisoned” under false charges. Turkish prosecutors demanded life imprisonment for jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson in an official indictment presented to Izmir’s 2nd Criminal Court on Tuesday. Arrested without bail since October 2016, Brunson is accused of being “a member and executive” of the Islamic movement led by self-exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused of orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup attempt to overthrow the Turkish government. According to the semi-official news agency Anadolu Ajansi, the formal indictment also charges the pastor with establishing links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and obtaining espionage information for political and military purposes. If the indictment is accepted by the court, formal trial proceedings are expected to be set in motion against Brunson. To date, neither the pastor nor his lawyer have been allowed any access to the legal file of investigations conducted by Turkish authorities into his case. Commenting on the indictment, the two vice chairs of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga, said: USCIRF urges President Trump and others in the administration to redouble their ongoing efforts to secure Pastor Brunson’s release. No…

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How a Humble Evangelist Changed Christianity As We Know It

Churches were divided. Believers eschewed cultural influence. Liberal modernism was on the move. Then God made Billy Graham. The first time Ruth Bell saw her future husband, he was dashing down the dormitory steps two at a time. Now there's a young man who knows where he's going! she thought. But in fact Billy Graham had no idea where he was going; no idea that he would travel the planet preaching the gospel to more people than anyone in history. Ruth's second impression, however, was spot on target: “He wanted to please God more than any man I'd ever met.” This desire, more than anything, set him apart. In an era when evangelicals lived expectantly in the shadow of the Second Coming, Billy Graham was odd in hoping the Lord would tarry: “I sure would like to do something great for him before he comes.” The Lord did tarry, and Graham made the most of it. If there were a Mount Rushmore for English-speaking evangelists, Graham would be the fifth in granite, alongside Whitefield, Finney, Moody, and Sunday. For the most part, it's easy to imagine why huge crowds pushed and shoved to hear them preach. George Whitefield—short and cross-eyed,…

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