Church & Ministry

Book Review - Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley (part 1)

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A couple of pastor friends of mine encouraged me to read Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley when I had no intentions of every buying it or reading it. The tagline of the title is: “Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.” So, automatically, I was already skeptical because I don’t want to create a church that anyone would love to just “attend.” I’ve been beating the missional drum with our church about being the church rather than merely attending the church. So, my first impression by just reading the cover was “Creating Churches that Attract Customers, Not Disciples.” But in spite of my skepticism, I took their advice and got the book.

It’s easy reading since Andy Stanley is a very conversational communicator. He writes like he’s having a conversation with you. He preaches that way too. It certainly has appeal and makes for easy reading. The book is broken up into five sections, the first one being a personal account of his life as the son of Charles Stanley. He also for the first time, opens up with candor and honesty about the rift in his relationship over his dad’s divorce in the 90’s. All of this information is setting up the background for the launch of North Point Church which has become THE church that the un-churched love to attend.

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Trusting the True Shepherd

You don’t have to spend much time in the Christian blogosphere before you encounter the stories of those who have been hurt by the Church. These first-person narratives are often raw and unsettling—they include details that most of us would rather not know, and ones that once we do, we can’t easily erase from our minds. These stories are unusually transparent and reveal a pain that is clearly lingering. Because of this, it’s easy for some to discount them as exercises in self-absorption and unhealthy introspection. After all, shouldn’t we leave the past in the past? Can’t we just move on?

And we could do that, we could let things lie if spiritual abuse weren’t an ever-present reality, if it didn’t regularly make headline news. We could move on if pastors didn’t tell seventeen-year-old girls that they were “God’s gifts” to fulfill them sexually. If victims of such abuse were not made to feel that they were somehow responsible or that they would hurt “Christ’s cause” to speak about it.

And I guess we could leave well enough alone if spiritual abuse didn’t cut both ways. If ministries didn’t routinely supplement budgets by underpaying staff with the caveat that they’ll be eligible for welfare. If pastors’ wives and children weren’t targeted for the sake of simply existing. If 1,700 pastors didn’t leave ministry every month—many out of despair and discouragement.

But they do.

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What Does "Unworthily" Mean?

Chris Anderson and friends recently launched a new blog at ChurchWorksMedia.com. Starting today, the blog will appear in our SI Blogroll. To mark the occasion, we commend the article below as a sample of what you’ll find there.—Editor

Gathering with the Lord’s church to remember Christ and His work is a vital part of Christian worship and an edifying exercise for both the corporate body and the individual Christian. Yet, Scripture protects the Lord’s Table in 1 Corinthians 11:27, where we are warned not to partake “unworthily” (KJV) or “in an unworthy manner” (ESV). That’s important—so important that people can suffer illness or even death for doing it (v. 30). But what does it mean?

For many, it means bondage. Countless believers have spent their entire lives afraid to partake of the Lord’s Table because they doubt their own worthiness. Communion has become a time when they remember themselves rather than (or at least more than) Christ. They’ve been trained (in part due to the KJV’s translation, in part due to careless teaching) to focus on their relative obedience or disobedience in the days preceding the Table. The result is pride, or despair, or fear—but not worship! Gordon Fee explains:

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Book Review - The Great Evangelical Recession

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The sands are shifting. The times are changing. And like an ant on the edge of a sand trap, the American Church can sense something is happening. Ask any observer of evangelicalism—inside the Church or out—and you will hear some explanation for the problem. Some point to our own failings, and others point at the encroaching tide of secularism. It’s our smug self-satisfaction, or it’s the bold advance of the homosexual agenda. But something is wrong, and change is afoot.

Although many recognize that times are changing, few see anything as dramatic as a recession on the church’s horizon. But this is exactly what author John S. Dickerson expects. His book The Great Evangelical Recession paints a stark picture of what the American church will face in the next 20 years. Dickerson draws on his experience as a first-rate journalist as he uncovers six trends which together spell the end of church as we know it. And by the end of the first half of his book, the reader will be convinced that, whether we like it or not, change is coming. But Dickerson is more than just a journalist: he is also the senior pastor of a growing church in Arizona. He offers the church six corresponding solutions to the big trends that are targeting us as Christians in the 21st Century. And while his solutions are not easy, they have the potential to transform the church in ways that will enable it to stay true to its mission no matter how devastating the cultural changes may be.

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