Ministry Success & The Great Commission

A two-fold assumption is often evident when believers are evaluating the effectiveness of churches, ministries, movements, and denominations. The assumption is, first, that the Great Commission is the standard of measurement and, second, that effectiveness is measured by the number of people who are hearing the gospel or are being brought into worship services.

Certainly it’s exciting whenever thousands or tens of thousands are gathering for worship and hearing the gospel. If they’re doing so in multiple locations linked by cutting edge video technology—well, many of us see that as progress into a new and wonderful future for the body of Christ.

But, to understate, exciting and wonderful in our estimation is not always exciting and wonderful in God’s—even when our hearts are in the right place. Four principles argue that if we’re going to evaluate churches, ministries, and movements in a way that approximates God’s evaluation, we’ll have to consider more than the Great Commission, understood as number of souls reached. Read more about Ministry Success & The Great Commission

“Whatever it takes”: My Summer at Minnesota’s Gigachurch

Yes, Minnesota has a gigachurch. The baffled reaction of most hearers notwithstanding, it’s true.

For the unconversant, a “gigachurch” is one with average weekly attendance of at least 10,000. The United States has about fifty in total; about half of the states have none. Churches that reach this size frequently have wide-ranging reputations, with many people near and far at least cognizant of the church’s existence. In contrast, mentioning Minnesota’s gigachurch often triggers perplexed looks even from long-time Minnesotans. Yet this church is perhaps America’s 12th largest, with average weekly attendance currently twice the gigachurch threshold.

Over this past summer I became drawn to discover who this inconspicuous colossus is. And so a fascinating journey began. Read more about “Whatever it takes”: My Summer at Minnesota’s Gigachurch

From the Archives: Roller Coaster Faith

There are basically two ways to ride a roller coaster. The first is to resist the ride. You can press your feet against the floorboard and arch your back. You can grip the handle bar so hard your knuckles turn white. You can tense your jaw, tighten your abdominal muscles, and scream bloody murder as you descend the precipitous drops and are flung around the death-defying turns.

Somewhere in my rather limited experience of roller coasters, I discovered a second approach. You can actually relax on a roller coaster. Really! You can loosen your grip on the bar, relax your jaw, legs and abdominal muscles. In fact, you can take a roller coaster ride in the same physical condition and mental state of a couch potato.

Obviously, your physical state will have no influence on the roller coaster. No matter how tense or relaxed you may be, the roller coaster will not alter its route one inch or adjust its speed one iota. Either way, you will be delivered to the platform on time and in one piece. You cannot control the ride, you can only control the rider. Read more about From the Archives: Roller Coaster Faith

Following in the Footsteps of Faith: God is Faithful Even When We Are Not!

Alright, so Abram has left everything in order to serve the one true God. He has been shown the Promised Land, and experienced God’s promise of an heir. He has “called on the name of the Lord.” But now his faith is going to be tested (Gen. 12:10-20).

Isn’t that how faith is though? You feel the tug of the gospel—the conviction of the Holy Spirit. You fall on your face before Holy God, acknowledging your sinfulness in comparison with His perfection. You place your trust completely in the finished work of Christ. You are riding a spiritual high. But then comes the first major hurdle. Maybe it’s a health issue, death in the family, loss of a job, or just an emotional downturn. Whatever it is, you find yourself in the crucible, with extreme pressure being exerted on your young faith.

One of the greatest truths we can learn as Christians is that God’s faithfulness to us does not hinge on our faithfulness to Him. Let’s see how it played out in Abram’s life. Read more about Following in the Footsteps of Faith: God is Faithful Even When We Are Not!

The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 10)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at Read the series so far.

Chapter Six (continued): The Place of Women

Women in the Synagogue

Nothing is said about women in listing the requirement of ten men as the bare minimum for the establishment of a synagogue. The express instructions about the process of Gentile conversion to Judaism focus on male proselytes, but the mention of female proselytes in the Mishnah de facto establishes that female Gentiles could also convert to Judaism. And though women could convert to Judaism, this does not necessarily indicate that women were allowed to become a part of the synagogue. Kaufman Kohler, renowned Jewish scholar and President of Hebrew Union College, asserted matter-of-factly,

Women could not be members of the synagogue, though they seem to have performed synagogal functions of their own, and so prominent women were elected as mothers of the synagogue (‘Mater Synagogue’)…. They attended the service…, but could take no part in the common service.1

Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 10)

Nazareth and the Royal Line

Although the Christmas tree has pagan origins, Christians have embraced its beauty for centuries as an important centerpiece of Christmas décor. I suggest that the Christmas tree branch should stir us most. Why is that?

Although we associate Christmas with Bethlehem, our Lord was conceived and reared in the small village of Nazareth in Israel’s northern province, Galilee. This is where Mary and Joseph grew up and lived. This is where an angel appeared to Mary and announced that she would mother the Messiah. This is where Joseph received a vision in a dream, assuring him that Mary truly had conceived while yet a virgin. The espoused couple travelled to the original city of David, Bethlehem, leaving what might be called the new village of David’s heirs, Nazareth. Read more about Nazareth and the Royal Line

SharperIron is Back Online

As you can see, we’re back!

Our regular content schedule will resume shortly.

Some things to be aware of

  • If you have registered at SI, your old password will no longer work. If we had a valid email address for you, you have probably already received notification of this, but in my tests, the automatic email link won’t work. Regardless, you can launch the reset process here.
  • For any problems logging in, please send a message using the site contact form (category: technical problems or account/password)
  • A few parts of the site haven’t been completely restyled yet. So we’ll be under construction for another week or two.
  • Feel free to post question, missing features, error messages, etc. in this thread.
Read more about SharperIron is Back Online

Extended Downtime at SI

Starting this weekend, SharperIron will be offline for week or so. The plan is to resume normal(ish) acitvity on Monday, December 1.

Not to create a panic or anything but… we’ve been hacked. Though SharperIron was not consciously targeted, the server was infiltrated as part of an automated hacking spree known now as Drupalgeddon (theologians have not yet weighed in on the eschatological significance). The short version of that story is that engineers of the Drupal Content Managment System (which we use here at SI) discovered a major security vulnerability in the current version and posted and announcement along with an update to correct the problem. Unfortunately, for lots and lots of Drupal users around the ‘net, hackers unleashed automated exploitations of the vulnerability less than 8 hours from the time of the announcement.

SI did not update within that 8 hour window. (I’m usually looking at Drupal news once or twice a week at most.)

At first, it appeared we’d been missed, but last week evidence was discovered that the initial hack did indeed reach us.

So, as they say, “mitigation” is in progress.  Read more about Extended Downtime at SI