Music and Worship

(Volume 25, Issue 7, December 2019/January 2020) As a pastor, I have long been an interested observer of the ever-changing ebb and flow of music as related to the church and, specifically, worship.  As a Baby Boomer, I have personally experienced the birth of “rock and roll,” the “English invasion” spearheaded by the Beatles, and all that has followed.  This radical shift in secular music in the 1960s and 1970s was quickly mimicked by the Christian community in the late 1960s as believers attempted to reach a generation that was “turned-on and tuned-out” to the values and lifestyles of past generations.  It was assumed, first by a few but eventually by many, that the best way to engage this new, rebellious generation was to accept and adopt many of its philosophies, methods, and especially its music.  What would later be termed Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was born on the...

New Calvinism – Part II

(Volume 21, Issue 2 March/April 2015) In the first paper on the subject of New Calvinism we explored some definitions and examined the essential ingredient of the movement which is the co-mingling of Calvinistic theology with at least openness to charismatic practices. I believe this to be the unique and defining characteristic of New Calvinism. It is the one feature that all involved have in common. However, there are other traits that are shared by many of those immersed in the system. To these we will now turn. It should be remembered that those promoting neo-Calvinism are not monolithic in every aspect, and some of the features mentioned below would be true of any number of evangelicals who are neither Calvinistic nor charismatic. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to find these identifying marks embraced by adherents of the movement. Serious about theology and Christian living This is the most...

New Calvinism

(January/February – 2015, Volume 21, Issue 1) There is a great deal of interest and confusion about a movement within conservative evangelicalism sometimes called “New Calvinism” or Neo-Calvinism. As with many movements it is not monolithic and therefore describing its teachings is not always easy. Some have labeled virtually everyone who is a member of the Gospel Coalition or speaks at Together for the Gospel conferences as a New-Calvinist but that is surely painting with too broad a brush. Some hail Neo-Calvinism as a breath of fresh air that has united the passionate ministry of the Holy Spirit with the solid doctrines of the Reformation. Others see it as a dangerous departure from the faith which opens the door to aberrant teachings of extreme Pentecostalism. While some fear the movement, others cheer it. Therefore it is important to take a careful look at what New Calvinism is and what...

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today – Part 2

(December 2011/January 2012 – Volume 17, Issue 6) In the first part of this study, we examined together the history of the social gospel as it presented itself in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then documented a resurgence of the social gospel agenda as found at the present time.  The original social gospel movement began as an appendage to the emerging liberalism that started in Germany and ultimately swept through the Western church.  As the growing liberal movement matured, it left behind most doctrinal distinctives held by earlier Protestants and eventually came to be defined by social action.  Today a new wave of social involvement, as a major tenant of church ministry, is flowing through evangelical churches, changing the very nature of church dynamics and outreach.  The issue at hand is not whether Christians should be involved with their culture, but to what extent attempting to...

The Social Gospel, Yesterday and Today – Part 1

(October/November 2011 – Volume 17, Issue 5) One of the important issues which the church has always had to address is that of its role in society. In the Old Testament, the Lord chose Abraham to be the father of a called-out race of people. Years later, the Lord would establish the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. Detailed laws and regulations were given to Israel at the time including how that nation was to be governed, how poverty was to be dealt with, how widows and orphans were to be helped and how injustices were to be corrected. All of these matters were addressed almost exclusively within the context of the nation of Israel, with relatively minor concern for the surrounding nations. The Old Covenant would continue to be in force throughout Old Testament history until finally superseded at the dawning of the church age in Acts...

Inside the Insider Movement and More

(August/September 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 4) In the 1970s, as I was being trained at Moody Bible Institute for future ministry, there was a consensus among evangelicals that Roman Catholicism taught a false gospel and therefore those within the Church of Rome (at least those believing Catholic doctrine) were in need of evangelism.  Some mission organizations focused much, if not all, of their efforts on Roman Catholic countries throughout the world.  The idea that Catholics were not truly Christians began to erode as various evangelical leaders stepped up to challenge this view and as others actually defected from their Protestant roots to Roman or Eastern Orthodoxy. This was followed by a major shift, at least in the minds of many, in 1994 when Charles Colson and Father John Neuhaus united leaders from both traditions around their now famous “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document which, in essence, stated that...

Edinburgh 2010

(April/May 2010 – Volume 16, Issue 2) Those knowledgeable of current church history and missiology in particular are probably familiar with Edinburgh 1910.  It was considered to be the greatest missionary conference to that date and subsequently has proven to be the most influential.  In honor of its centennial, four major conferences are planned for 2010, having been in development since 2005 (along with many smaller venues), all connected with and under the umbrella of Edinburgh 2010.  The first will be in Tokyo, May 11-15.  Edinburgh is next up on June 2-6, followed by Cape Town, October 16-25 and finally Boston, November 4-7.  Each conference is somewhat independent, with different rosters of speakers, papers and agendas; however they are working in cooperation and will be sharing their research and attempting to set directives and initiatives for future world outreach. Edinburgh 1910 It is significant for our analysis of these...

The Challenge of Pragmatism – Part 2

(May 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 3) A Blast from the Past Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others from the Emergent camp write and speak winsomely about what they are offering, but history, not to mention Scripture, suggests great caution must be exercised at this point.  Church historian Iain Murray reminds us that 19th century “liberal theology very rarely presented itself as being in opposition to Scripture.  On the contrary, its exponents claimed the authority of the New Testament for the view that Christianity is life, not doctrine.”  Some using this line of reasoning, like the eventual Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, could say, “An atheist who lives by love is saved by his faith in the God whose existence (under that Name) he denies.”  It was living by love that mattered, not what one believed about God. Nineteenth century liberal theologian Schleiermacher went so far as to bar...

The Challenge of Pragmatism – Part 1

(April 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 3)  If there is a common religion to be found within the Western world it surely is pragmatism – the religion of “what works?”  Pragmatism has no cathedrals; it follows no liturgy, hires no pastors and cannot be found in any listing of denominations, yet it is woven into the very fabric of the Western church.  Whether we are talking about mainline, Pentecostal, Fundamentalist, Emergent or Orthodox, it does not take much observation to realize that pragmatism is interlaced throughout each tradition.  To attempt to remove pragmatism is to pull a thread which could very well unravel the whole structure of Christianity and church life as we know it today, yet to pull on that thread we must.  The problem is that far too many of us are willing to use any approach available to accomplish our goals, even if those approaches and/or...

Pastoring With Both Eyes Opened – Part 2

(January 2009 – Volume 15, Issue 1)  In our last Think on These Things paper the issue of the two major enemies facing pastors was being discussed. There the enemy of internal conflicts within the body of Christ was the subject. In this paper we will turn our attention to the external enemy of false teaching. False Teaching Perhaps the most ignored promise found in the New Testament is 2 Peter 2:1-3: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep....

Pastoring With Both Eyes Opened – Part 1

(December 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 13)  What attracts men to the pastorate? It is rarely prestige, power or money (especially the latter). In most cases it is love, love for Christ, love for people and love for the Word of God. The typical Bible college or seminary student can hardly wait to leave the academic world and enter the ministry where hungry and thirsty souls are awaiting his exegesis of the Word and his compassionate shepherding of their lives. With great enthusiasm and pure (as far as he can discern) motives he enters his first pastorate with visions of changing hearts, building a powerful and God-honoring church, and having an impact on the world for the cause of Christ. He steps into the arena of the church to be used by the Holy Spirit to help form the people of God into Christlikeness – and so he should. But...

This Little Church Had None

(November 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 12)  Ever since my college days I have enjoyed the study of philosophy. It is fascinating to delve into the reasoning of thinkers like Plato, Descartes or Kant and study how they piece life together. However, I have always deliberated on these philosophies from a biblical vantage point. That is, I have found their ideas interesting yet largely flawed in light of the teachings of Scripture. But I have often thought, as I examined the writings of such philosophers, about the reaction of unbelievers to the same concepts. For one thing is very noticeable about philosophies – they are constantly changing. As each new philosopher comes along he rejects the previous philosopher. Each generation considers the last generation, with its set of ideas, systems of thought and social structures, as passé, seemingly not recognizing that the next generation will cast the same censorious comments...

Willow Creek’s Big Adventure

(December 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 12)  It has been a tough year for the Willow Creek Community Church, the flagship congregation of the “seeker-sensitive” movement. Most know that Willow Creek has set the pace for 30 years in its redesign of the local church. More recently Rick Warren, and his Saddleback Community Church, have stolen the spotlight from Willow and, to some degree, eclipsed its influence on new paradigm churches. But rest assured, Willow, along with its Willow Creek Association, which boasts 12,000 member churches from 90 denominations, is still charting the way for those who look to felt-needs, surveys, the latest innovations and market strategy, instead of Scripture, for their structuring of the local church. When Willow speaks, church leaders listen. When Willow marches out a new product or method, churches around the globe fall in line. Whatever Willow promotes others emulate. So, as I said, it...

Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?

(June 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 6)  Tinker Bell was dying. Her little light had all but flickered out and Peter Pan stood helplessly by. What could be done to save Tinker Bell? Peter had no medicine and there was no doctor in the house. But Tinker had an idea: she thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies. Peter immediately cried out to all the dreaming children everywhere, “Do you believe? If you believe, clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.” As the dreaming children all over the world clapped, Tinker Bell revived and was soon as healthy and robust as ever. Apparently sometimes, at least with imaginary fairies, all that is needed for flourishing health is having enough people believe in you. I wonder if this approach could be adopted by the evangelical church community – or perhaps already has been. If enough Christians believed...

The Market-Driven Church – Part 4

(September 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 9)  Counterfeit money is recognized by those who know how to identify the real thing. Before we examine the gospel message found in the new paradigm churches, it would be best to examine the gospel message found in the Bible. The gospel message in a nutshell is this: Harry (to use Willow Creek’s name for the unsaved) is a sinner, in full-blown rebellion against God (Rom. 3:23; 5:1-12). While some Harrys are outwardly religious and some even desire the gifts and benefits that God can supply, no Harrys truly seek after God or desire Him (Rom. 3:10-18). As a result of Harry’s sinfulness he is under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18), faces future judgment (Heb. 9:27), will die both physically and spiritually (Rom. 6:23) and will spend eternity in hell (Rev. 20:11-15). It is because of Harry’s hopeless plight, and the fact that...

The Market-Driven Church – Part 3

(August 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 8)  We Are Driven Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, has written the definitive book promoting the market-driven concept of evangelism and church growth. The Purpose-Driven Church, which admittedly has a considerable amount of practical and helpful advice, nevertheless is laced with a felt-need philosophy that undermines, in my opinion, the value of the whole book. It is Warren’s view that in order to reach the lost we must begin with their felt needs (p. 197ff). He writes, “ anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart” (p.219). In order to discover the felt needs of the Saddleback Valley citizens he orchestrated a community survey of the unchurched (p.139). Once those needs were discovered, a program was implemented to reach the community by offering Jesus Christ, the gospel, and the...

The Market-Driven Church – Part 2

(July 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 7)  David Wells bemoans concerning the new paradigm church, “Much of it…is replete with tricks, gadgets, gimmicks, and marketing ploys as it shamelessly adapts itself to our emptied-out, blinded, postmodern world. … There is too little about it that bespeaks the holiness of God. And without the vision for any reality of this holiness, the gospel becomes trivialized, life loses its depth, God becomes transformed into a product to be sold, faith into a recreational activity to be done, and the Church into a club for the like-minded” (Losing Our Virtue, by David Wells, p. 180). Damaging accusations; are they true? The standard rhetoric coming from new paradigm churches is that they teach the same message, the same gospel, as the more traditional evangelical churches, they differ only in methodology and philosophy of ministry. Lee Strobel (former Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church)...

The Market-Driven Church – Part 1

(June 2000 – Volume 6, Issue 6)  At the first tee, with great optimism and hope, I take a mighty cut at my Top Flight #2. I eagerly look up, fully expecting to watch that little white ball soar 250 yards straight up the fairway, only to find that I have hooked it into the woods on the left. Determined not to repeat such an “uncharacteristic” performance, I correct my swing a bit at the second tee only to slice the ball into the water on the right. By the third hole, I’m sure, I have all the bugs worked out. Taking a swing that Tiger Woods would envy, and that blows leaves off trees fifty yards away, I am amazed to find that I have topped the ball, causing it to dribble harmlessly almost to the ladies’ tee about twenty-five yards away. Frustrated, fully humbled, and deciding that keeping...

The Kingdom of Emergent Theology – Part 3

(November 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 11)  In our last two papers we have examined the emerging church’s distortion of the kingdom and its impact on the gospel. In this paper we will explore what Scripture teaches about the kingdom of God. A Biblical Understanding of the Kingdom Acts 1:3 informs us that during the 40 days in which Jesus was making appearances following the resurrection He spoke to the apostles concerning the kingdom of God. We are uncertain about exactly what He said but we know the kingdom was at the heart of His discussions with them during that time. In verse six Jesus is preparing to depart the earth and they have one question for Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel ?” While we do not know precisely what Jesus had told them about the kingdom we do pick up...

The Kingdom of Emergent Theology – Part 2

(October 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 10)  Having seen in our last paper the emerging church distortion of the kingdom of God, we move on this time to discuss its effect on the gospel. The Effect on the Gospel It is not surprising with this understanding of the kingdom of God that David Gushee in a recent Christianity Today article asks, “Is it permissible to reopen the question of salvation?” While Gushee follows up his question with some things worth pondering, he states that when “Jesus was asked about the criteria for admission to eternity, he offered a fourfold answer: love God with all that you are, love your neighbor (like the Samaritan loved his neighbor), do God’s will by obeying his moral commands, and be willing, if he asks, to drop everything and leave it behind in order to follow him.” While Gushee is confusing salvation with sanctification –...

The Kingdom of Emergent Theology – Part 1

(September 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 9)  It has been claimed that Sigmund Freud enjoyed telling his followers a story of a pastor who visited an atheist insurance agent who was on his death bed. The family had asked the pastor to share the gospel with their dying loved one as they waited in another room. As the conversation continued longer than expected there was hope that the pastor was being successful in his mission. When the pastor finally emerged from the bedroom it was discovered that the agent had not converted to Christ but he had been able to sell the pastor an insurance policy. While Freud used the illustration to warn his fellow psychoanalysts to stay true to their beliefs, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, from whom I obtained this account, has another application to offer. While a most unlikely source (in my opinion) to offer the...

The Emerging Church – Part 3

(June 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 6)  How those professing to be believers understand the message of the gospel will determine how they view their mission in this life. Since the emergent church sees the gospel not merely as the redemption of lost souls but also as the restoration of the planet and salvation from man’s inhumanity to man, they comprehend their task as Christians differently from that of most evangelicals. They call it “missional”. Emergent Mission: Missional Missional is a term that seems to be drawn from the writings of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin who pops up all over emergent literature. It is difficult to pin down a good definition of missional, but it seems to mean that as Christians we exist to serve. We serve by loving and living in such a way that we bless those around us. But more than that, we are to be engaged in...

The Emerging Church – Part 2

(May 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 5)  Our worldview will determine how we process information and in turn what we believe. In theory, at least, Christians should possess a biblical worldview shaped by the study of Scripture. In actuality, too often our philosophy of living (worldview) is formed by other forces around us including our culture. This is an accusation often cast at the evangelical church by the emerging church leaders. They say that evangelicalism has been shaped by modernity – that what we believe is not drawn so much from Scripture as it is from the Enlightenment. This indictment should not be cast aside too quickly; there is some truth to it. We must ever be careful that we trace our beliefs to Scripture and not take detours constructed by men. But having read the specific allegations coming from the emerging camp, I find that most do not hold...

The Emerging Church – Part 1

(April 2006 – Volume 12, Issue 4)  The emergent church is a rather slippery name for a rather slippery movement. By slippery, I mean that the movement is so new (originated in the late 1990s), so fragmented, so varied, that nailing it down is like nailing the proverbial Jell-O to the wall. There are no official leaders or headquarters; some have said that there are thousands of expressions yet only a few churches have sold out to the concept; and even those claiming the name can’t agree on what is going on. Brian McLaren, the closest thing to a spokesperson for the movement so far states: Right now Emergent is a conversation, not a movement. We don’t have a program. We don’t have a model. I think we must begin as a conversation, then grow as a friendship, and see if a movement comes of it. Having said this, there...

Revival

(January 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 1)  Revival is hot right now. If you read any Christian literature, especially magazines, listen to Christian radio or watch Christian TV, you know this is a subject that is on the front burner of evangelicalism. In doing research on this topic I turned to the web site of Christian Book Distributors to run down a couple of books on the subject that I had been wanting to purchase. I was a bit surprised to discover that CBD listed 156 books on revival. These are books that are currently in print, and are being sold by this one outlet. This does not include many books that they do not carry nor the many hundreds that are out of print. Revival is hot and it is easy. Who could say a word against fit? It is like putting down motherhood. Go into any Christian circle...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 7

(September 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 7) Promise Keepers is one of those organizations that many people seem to believe is above scrutiny. It seems so good, so well intended, so above criticism, that many become angry if one challenges it — even with an open Bible. Therefore, one must expect criticism when examining the movement with any level of discernment, and this is as it should be. Exhortations in sound doctrine and refutations of those who contradict (Titus 1:9) are just as open to biblical critique as Promise Keepers. The issue is this: When our thoughts are examined do we have a solid biblical base on which to take a stand? If we do not, we must repent of our positions, realign them in light of Scripture and teach truth. With these thoughts in mind we need to deal with some of the common criticisms we have faced, and...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 6

(August 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 6) Even though its goals are commendable and its efforts to create godly men are herculean, it would appear that many others, besides ourselves, are uncomfortable with Promise Keepers. We are concerned because of the methods used, the ecumenical nature, the Charismatic influence, the constant psychobabble and Promise Keepers’ legalistic nature. These are grave and important issues that cannot and must not be easily dismissed, either by Promise Keepers or by individual believers. We must ever strive to follow the example of the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). Within this paper on the men’s movement known as Promise Keepers, we desire to discuss some final (if somewhat less important) concerns: The Promise Keepers Small Group System One of the primary ways that Promise Keepers hopes to reinforce their views and to develop godly men is through the use of small group “Bible” studies, known as...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 5

(June/July 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 5) The Teachings of Psychobabble Promise Keepers appears to have two primary goals: 1. To develop godly men — “Promise Keepers is a Christ-centered ministry dedicated to uniting men through vital relationships to become godly men who influence their world” (Men of Action, Fall 1993, p4). 2. To unify Christians and churches — “We believe that we have a God-given mission to unite men who are separated by race, geography, culture, denomination and economics” (Ibid). In an earlier study (Promise Keepers an update, Part II) we examined in detail the ecumenical nature of Promise Keepers and found its stance in this area to be unbiblical. It is the subject of developing godly men that we wish to address at this time. We applaud Promise Keepers’ stated desire in this area and we do not wish to question their motives. Our concern is with the...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 4

(April 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 4)  Charismatic Underpinnings What does an organization, such as Promise Keepers, who has a primary goal of breaking down the walls of denominationalism teach? So far in our studies it would appear that they teach: 1) A core of five or six basic doctrines. While Promise Keepers may adhere to the following doctrines, how much time is really devoted to instruction concerning the inspiration of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement or the bodily resurrection of Christ? Since Promise Keepers is not primarily an evangelistic organization, even the doctrine of salvation by faith is probably seldom mentioned. 2) General encouragement toward the keeping of the Seven Promises. If “controversial” doctrines must be avoided and if the core beliefs are seldom taught, what do the Promise Keepers do at their rallies, Wake Up Calls and small group Bible studies? They...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 3

(April 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 3)  Progressive Sanctification In our first paper on the Promise Keepers’ movement, we examined the areas in which we believe that Promise Keepers are doing a good job.Then, in our last paper, we began to point out some areas of concern, the first of which is Promise Keepers’ ecumenical nature. The leaders of Promise Keepers either do not understand, or have purposely chosen to ignore the biblical doctrine of separation.As we have seen, the Scriptures clearly teach that the child of God is to note those who teach error, refute them, reject them, remove them, and stay away from them — depending on the circumstances. We are not to cozy up to false teachers, yet Promise Keepers has chosen to disobey this crystalline teaching of the Word of God and invite those who believe in rank heresy to join them. There would be no...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 2

(January 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 3)  Within our last paper we pinpointed several areas in which we find agreement with the Promise Keepers’ movement. In our remaining studies on Promise Keepers we will examine our areas of concern. Author Thomas Hardy said that he had a friend who could go into any beautiful meadow and immediately find a manure pile (The Master’s Plan for the Church, p22). We do not want to be like Hardy’s friend. It is not our desire to nit pick, nor do we want to ignore something of great value while concentrating on the few problem areas. We want others to be fair and gracious with us, so we, in turn, strive to do the same — understanding full well that even the best of ministries are imperfect. Having said all of this, we nevertheless, have deep concerns about Promise Keepers. We are not searching...

Promise Keepers (an update) – Part 1

(February 1997 – Volume 3, Issue 1)  Midwest Today magazine opens its coverage of Promise Keepers with these important questions: “How faithful to the Word of God is the Promise Keepers men’s movement? How close of an association do its founders and board members have with the Charismatic fringe? What theology is really being espoused by its guest speakers, and its numerous books, videos and other materials that carry the Promise Keeper imprimatur?” It then adds, “These and other legitimate questions have largely been overlooked as this evangelical men’s group attracts uncritical and enthusiastic press coverage, and its ranks of members swell with every big conference it holds.” It is the intention of this paper, and those that follow, to carefully examine the above questions. That Promise Keepers is successful is beyond question; however, whether it is a movement of God, that honors the Lord and should be supported by...

Promise Keepers – Part 2

(February 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 4)  Paul warns Timothy that a time would come when people would seek teachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear. PK is just such an organization. Our last newsletter dealt with the fast growing movement known as Promise Keepers. We praise PK for its goal of producing godly men. But we are greatly concerned with its view of sanctification. Scripture clearly teaches that godly people (we find no distinction in the Biblical instructions for men or women — we both grow through the same means) mature as they feed on the Word of God (I Pet 2:2).We become adequate and equipped for every good work as we allow the Word to change us (II Tim 3:15-4:3). In the context of this last passage Paul warns Timothy of the time coming when people will seek teachers that give them what they want...

Promise Keepers – Part 1

(January 1995 – Volume 1, Issue 3)  While PK’s goal of developing godly men is commendable, the lover of truth will quickly realize that its approach is unbiblical. It is altogether doubtful if modern day Christianity has ever seen anything like the men’s movement known as the Promise Keepers. Started in 1990 by Bill McCartney, head football coach at the University of Colorado, it has had unparalleled growth. The first major PK conference in 1991 drew 4200 men. By the summer of 1994 seven rallies were scattered throughout the country — each drawing as many as 60,000 Christian men. 1995 will see conferences in 12-14 cities with an expected 600,000 in total attendance. The four year old organization already has a staff of 120 and annual budget of $22 million. It has regional offices in 9 states and processes 5000 pieces of mail and 10,000 phone calls per day. In...

Mystical Youth Ministry

(May 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 5)  Ministering to young people has never been an easy task and that is certainly true today. How are we to engage over-stimulated teenagers with the truth of the Word of God without boring them to tears? God’s people have contemplated this question since the invention of the teenager. Many programs and philosophies have come and gone. Some appear successful for a time only to fade away when more carefully analyzed or a new generation becomes immune to currently accepted techniques. The youth rallies sponsored by parachurch organizations such as Youth for Christ have been touted as both the beginning of aggressive and effective ministry and the beginning of the end of the very same. Proponents point to the great turn outs and obvious interest of that generation of young people. Opponents wonder if all that was accomplished was conditioning youth to want entertainment...

Entertainment – Part 3

(April 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 4)  A Backlash Many see this entertainment form of worship, which we have been discussing, as a fad that will pass through our land and ultimately vanish over the horizon. If so, it will leave behind a scorched earth full of discouraged and bewildered believers who will not know where to turn next. But some are already flying the coop. Donald G. Bloesch reported recently in a Christianity Today article outlining the early signs of a backlash to the seeker-sensitive services so popular today. Evangelical Protestantism is in trouble today as an increasing number of business and professional people are searching for a new church. The complaint I hear most often is that people can no longer sense the sacred either in the preaching or the liturgy…. Worship has become performance rather than praise. The praise choruses that have preempted the great hymns of...

Entertainment – Part 2

(March 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 3) If entertainment has become a way of life, it has permeated all aspects of society and culture. If, in fact, so much that the American people say and do is defined by entertainment (as we argued in our last paper), then we are not surprised to find that entertainment has encroached upon the church as well. After all, even the best of churches are comprised of redeemed sinners who have been shaped all too much by the world in which we live. And although Scripture clearly warns us not to be conformed to the world’s mold (Romans 12:2), that battle unfortunately is not easily won. The reason being, at least in part, is that we often define nonconformity to the world in terms of externals – how we dress, what we eat or drink, where we go – while ignoring the philosophy of...

Entertainment – Part 1

(February 2001 – Volume 7, Issue 2) One is tempted, when dealing with such a subject as entertainment, to immediately face the current issues as related to the matter at hand. We are anxious to explore the place entertainment plays in our society, its encroachment upon the church, and its impact on the changing face of corporate worship. But to do so would be not only premature but superficial. It is important first to lay a foundation upon which we can build and inspect. We need to travel down the road of the past to understand how we, as a society, got to the present. Having made that journey we would then be wise to take stock, consider precautions, and contemplate some adjustments. All of this before we discuss entertainment in the context of the church. If you will bear with me, this will not be a study of Scripture,...

Emergent Books

(May 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 5)  A note from Pastor Gilley: I have recently completed reading a number of books related to the emergent conversation. This month’s TOTT paper will be composed of my reviews of these books. Finding Our Way Again, the Return to the Ancient Practicesby Brian McLaren Brian McLaren, the most recognizable name in the emergent church movement, signals a shift, or at least a new emphasis within emergent, toward ancient practices of earlier periods of church history. As usual, McLaren believes the church has lost its way due to its refusal to follow God’s leading. The church has become “proud and unteachable” but fortunately a few “humble and teachable” people (guess who?) are pointing out the right path (pp. 150-151): “When the community of faith realizes it has lost its way, it begins looking forward by looking back…It looks to its ancient practices to help...

Church Discipline and Church Growth

(October 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 10)  Undoubtedly the most neglected and misunderstood activity that any church can undertake is that of disciplining its members. Our society equates love with tolerance. “Live and let live” is its mantra; “What right do you have to judge me?” is our challenge. These attitudes, of course, have infiltrated the minds of Christians. Couple that with the fact that most Christians have never witnessed biblically-based church discipline and we can readily understand why even solid believers are unnerved at the mere mention of the “D” word. Nor am I aware of any church growth seminars espousing discipline as a means to draw the masses. As a matter of fact, church discipline is antithetical to the seeker-sensitive movement since a goal of church discipline is purity, which is not an attractive feature to most unbelievers and even many Christians. It should, therefore, give us serious...

Building Up the Body

(July 2004 – Volume 10, Issue 7) One of the most insightful of recent books concerning the church is actually written by an unbeliever. Alan Wolfe, a social scientist, has been observing the changing American religious scene for years. Last year he shared his research in The Transformation of American Religion. The message of his book is that “religion in the United States is being transformed in radically new directions.” Wolfe claims, “Talk of Hell, damnation, and even sin has been replaced by a nonjudgmental language of understanding and empathy. Gone are the arguments over doctrine and theology…. More Americans than ever proclaim themselves born again in Christ, but the Lord to whom they turn rarely gets angry and frequently strengthens self-esteem. the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else.” If Wolfe’s assessments are on target, what would be the catalyst for...

Biblically Based Youth Ministry

(June 2007 – Volume 13, Issue 6)  Missing Ingredients I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, for Thanksgiving at the Romines when I was offered my first glass of sweet tea – that is, real southern-style sweet tea. I was in love. What an amazing concoction! I proceeded to drink the rest of the pitcher. Before that day I had tried tea a thousand times but I never cared much for it. It did the job of thirst quenching well enough but that’s about where my desire for it ended. Once I tasted this sweet potion (must have been one part tea and one part molasses) I realized that all tea before this time had been missing something: the right flavor of tea and a whole lot of sugar. Something is missing in modern evangelical youth ministry. To tell the truth, it seems many things are missing. What would a group...

Ancient-Future Faith, Its Practices

(July 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 7)  In a recent sermon dealing with the emergent/emerging church, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle and self-described emerging church leader, identified four lanes in which the emergent/emerging movement is traveling. In the first lane are emerging evangelicals who believe in basic Christian doctrine, such as the Bible being God’s Word and Jesus dying for our sins. They also tend to form the “hip, cool church,” according to Driscoll. Pastors who may fall in this category include Dan Kimball and Donald Miller. Without taking much time to debate with Driscoll at this point, I would certainly challenge the notion that Donald Miller is a supporter of basic Christian doctrine. Kimball, on the other hand, does hold to certain doctrinal positions such as the three ancient ecumenical creeds, but would not want to drift much beyond them. Traveling down the second lane are...

Ancient-Future Faith, Its Beliefs

(August 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 8)  In his most recent book Finding Our Way Again, The Return of the Ancient Practices, Brian McLaren, the most recognizable name in the emergent church movement, signals a shift, or at least a new emphasis within emergent, toward ancient practices of earlier periods of church history. As usual, McLaren believes the church has lost its way due to its refusal to follow God’s leading. The church has become “proud and unteachable” but fortunately a few “humble and teachable” people (guess who?) are pointing out the right path: “When the community of faith realizes it has lost its way, it begins looking forward by looking back…It looks to its ancient practices to help it reset its future course.” This means that the church, in order to find its way again, must look to and adopt the early church (not New Testament church) traditions and...

Ancient-Future Faith Or Do All Roads Lead to Rome

(June 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 6)  Rumors are starting to circulate that the emergent church movement is running out of steam. After making the biggest splash and the most noise of anything in the Christian community for many years it appears to be approaching exhaustion. Some like Rob Bell and Erwin McManus who are clearly in the “emergent conversation” have denied their involvement. And people seem a bit tired of hearing about postmodernism, its rejection of universal truth and its promotion of relativism. After all, how long can people live questioning the obvious and denying reality? These things play out nicely in philosophy class and in college coffee shops, but have serious limitations in the real world. Maybe it is time for the emergent ship to leave the dock and make way for the next fad. But before we begin to make funeral arrangements for the emergent church it...