Church Planting, Variety, and Elijah

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In The Nick of Time
by Jeff Straub

Last week, my colleague and friend, Kevin Bauder, challenged my notion that North American church planting is little more than a preference for variety. He argued that people ought to choose churches out of a sense of biblical obedience. They implicitly make a covenant with a church that they believe teaches and practices what the Bible prescribes. He also suggested that while some places have an abundance of biblical churches, other places are woefully under-churched. Moreover, whole ethnic communities within North America—the Hmongs, Somalis, etc.—are virtually unreached. Of course, he is right on all three points. He has made a good argument for North American church planting, even in Atlanta, if one can find an area that evidences a legitimate need. One needs to keep in mind, however, that only mature Christians will be able to enter the kind of covenant Dr. Bauder suggests. Many believers are not mature in the faith and de facto choose churches for a variety of other reasons. The sheer number of church choices is a testament to the desire for variety. To go back to my ice cream illustration, the very fact that a flavor is on the menu suggests that it sells. If it does not sell, it disappears quickly from the list!

Expanding on Dr. Bauder’s good ideas, I would like to suggest appropriate general categories within a North American context where church planting ought to be considered seriously.
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A "Mega-Acquisition" Every Believer Can Afford

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A Study of Godliness and Contentment from the Pastoral Epistles

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6, KJV).

The last time I wrote for SI, I wrote about something big—mega-ministry. I tried to show that God can do great and mighty things in and through us, no matter the size of our congregation. Today, I write about something else that is big. In the passage I quoted above, the apostle Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The word great is the Greek word “megas,” and the word gain speaks of “an acquisition.” Most of us will never be able to participate in a multi-billion-dollar corporate acquisition, but according to this verse, godliness with contentment comprises a “mega-acquisition.” By God’s grace we can and must have godliness with contentment in our lives.

The Importance of Godliness

Godliness is a reverence and respect for God that manifests itself in a life that brings glory to His name. There’s hardly a week that goes by that we are not made aware of some case of moral collapse in the family of God. The practice of godliness is the need of the hour for every believer. Notice some things Paul said about godliness in his two letters to Timothy.

Prayer is a necessary practice for godly living.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul said, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Godly people will make prayer a priority in their lives. I often ask the people at Calvary Baptist Church what they think is the most important thing we do. Some say evangelism. Others say discipleship. I always remind them that prayer is the most important thing we do.

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Why Love? Part 1

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I am by nature an angry person. Most people who know me well would deny that. In fact, my friend Jason Janz often tells people, “Brian’s a lover.” That statement is true now, but it is true only by the grace of God working in my life. Anger, incidentally, serves me well when it comes to the protection of the Gospel or to why_love1.jpgthe defense of those I love. I can harness that energy and express it under control, hopefully for the glory of God. Of course, I still fail in that area too … miserably sometimes. One of my seminary professors often said that his children had never seen him lose his temper. I wish I could say that. But again, by God’s grace, I have learned to control that sudden display of fierceness. I can say confidently that I am generally now “not soon angry” as my calling requires.

What does anger have to do with love? Those are both attitudes/emotions/actions that can be used by the flesh or by the Spirit. When I lash out in unbridled anger, I am living for myself. The same can be said of improper love—they are both lusts of the flesh. However, the proper use of anger and the proper demonstration of love both require something in common … death.

It is no mistake then that the ultimate expression of love required a sacrifice. Jesus died to self in His most noble act of love on the cross, where He traded our sin for His righteousness. Oh, brothers and sisters in the Lord, meditate on that thought!
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A Call for Qualified Book Reviewers

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Bowker, the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information, reported that in 2005, 172,000 new titles and editions were published in the United States. The preliminary count of books published in the category of “Religion” was 9,222. This statistic is almost double the number from 1993. This fact indicates “all too clearly that mania scribendi is a well-established characteristic of our age.” [1]
books.jpgConsidering these statistics, a few questions enter my mind. First, “Do we [2] need to be aware of everything that has been printed?” It’s very interesting to see the rise and decline of numbers and consider the world events that took place during those years. In some cases, it’s obvious that some publishers took advantage of current events in order to sell more books.

In 1960, in the Introduction to his book titled A Treasury of Books for Bible Study, Wilbur Smith wrote the following:
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Islamic Infrastructure

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A former Muslim wisely observed, “Islam is not just a religion. It is a lifestyle imposed by force.: We in the western world need to comprehend some of the differences of daily life and conduct among those who were brought up as Muslims.
islam.gifInstructions for Muslim social patterns are not set forth in the special “revelation” of the Koran. Most of what Muslim children are taught concerning how they should live is in attempted imitation of the lifestyle of the prophet Mohammed. His life preferences and decisions are considered a model for all Muslims. Written records of his actions and sayings were gathered two centuries after his death in the Hadith, and through the centuries those patterns have been interpreted and declared binding by recognized local religious leaders. The summation of teachings is called Sharia or Sharia law.

As a religious teacher, Mohammed had little success, assembling only 120 followers by the time he was 40. Only after Allah supposedly directed that previous revelations of the Koran, promoting peaceful coexistence with others, were no longer to be followed and that Christians, Jews, and all infidels (non-Muslims) could be killed in jihad (holy war) and that booty could be taken (Sura 9:29) was there real growth in the number of his followers. It appears to us in western culture that their life-model or social model is seriously flawed.

Concepts and patterns of desert tribal life have persisted generation after generation as a result of intensive teaching and strict enforcement. According to Muslim worldview, humankind is divided into two distinct groups, Muslims and infidels. Infidels consist of two kinds, those living apart from Islam and those willing to live among Muslims, usually thought of and treated by Muslims as subordinates or, at times, as slaves. Read more about Islamic Infrastructure

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Is Variety the Issue? A Response to Jeff Straub

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In The Nick of Time
My colleague, Jeff Straub, has published a plea in which he combines two of the great loves of his life: church planting and ice cream. He sees American Christianity as a magnificent, ecclesiastical ice cream parlor offering multitudinous varieties. Drawing from his personal experience of Atlanta, Georgia, he wonders whether we can continue to justify church planting efforts in North America when so much of the world has no gospel witness at all. Would we not use our limited resources most wisely if we put them where the need was greatest?

Dr. Straub and I certainly agree about the need for worldwide missions. The world’s most populous nation (China) has very little gospel witness and few New Testament churches. The Muslim countries have hardly been evangelized at all, even where the preaching of the gospel is permitted. The so-called “10/40 window” is home to billions (yes, billions!) of people who have never even seen a Bible or heard the name of Jesus. Most of Latin America remains under the darkness of unreconstructed Catholicism or the blindness of the most virulent forms of Pentecostalism. Though Western Europe used to have gospel churches, it no longer even remembers what that means. Vibrant churches have survived in the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe, but they are still a bare remnant, and their churches are rapidly being corrupted by American marketers. Dr. Straub is absolutely correct that for sheer numbers, North America is the capital of professing Christians. The rest of the world confronts us with a shocking need.

Should the pressing need overseas lead us to plant fewer churches in North America? Dr. Straub and I part company in our answer to that question.
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Pastors Practicing Homosexual Behavior

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My Interview with H.B. London

london2.jpgDue to the fact that several high-profile pastors in Evangelicalism have resigned over the issue of homosexual behavior, I called H.B. London at Focus on the Family to conduct a brief interview with him for SI. He is vice president of ministry outreach/pastoral ministries at Focus. As a fourth-generation minister, he understands the heart and hurts of pastors and has been helping them for the past fifteen years.

JJ: With the latest high-profile pastoral resignations over homosexual behavior, is this a bigger problem than we may realize? Are a large number of pastors dealing with this?

HB: I guess that if you looked at it across the board, it would be a lower percentage engaged in homosexual practices than the general population. We have a crisis line for pastors, and we get 400 to 600 calls a month, many of them dealing with moral failure. I would say that about six percent of those are dealing with homosexual behavior.

JJ: Why did you start helping pastors in this way?
HB: My father was a prominent minister, and when I was 16, he had an affair that demolished our family. At that time, I had no idea that God would use me to help men and women who were going through the same thing.

JJ: It has been reported that you are helping Ted Haggard. How is that going?
HB: I am the point person on the restoration committee. We’ve been working tirelessly to come to a conclusion on a severance package, a restoration agreement, his lifestyle, further education, and continued counseling.
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Christian Law Association—The SharperIron Interview | Part 1

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gibbs.jpgI recently had the privilege of interviewing David Gibbs III, attorney for the Christian Law Association (Seminole, FL). I conducted four interviews with Dr. Gibbs and Matt Davis, another attorney for the Gibbs Law Firm (Seminole, FL). This interview is actually the third one in the series. The first two interviews are about the Terry Schiavo case; Dr. Gibbs was one of the lead attorneys on the case. We will air those interviews closer to the two-year anniversary of her death. The fourth interview, which will air in two weeks, details three recent legal issues: the Hovind case, the Ligonier case, and the Bob Gray case.

gibbs_book.jpgThis interview covers the background of CLA and includes the personal testimony of both attorneys. I asked them several questions regarding law school, their philosophy of jurisprudence, and the state of American law.

Jason Janz

Listen to the interview (41:11 min., 37.71 MB).

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