Church & Ministry

Is Variety the Issue? A Response to Jeff Straub

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?

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Marketing Gimmick or Means of Grace?

Within broad Evangelicalism today, words like community and small group are fired around with unprecedented frequency. For instance, Rick Warren and company are now following up their “40 Days of Purpose” program with “40 Days of Community.” On the website introducing the program, groups1.gifWarren says, “You cannot be what God made you to be, you cannot do what God created you to do … without other people… . We were made for each other, God made us for a family. Small groups provide such a family” (link here). In response to this statement, churches have often taken one of two approaches. The first is to embrace all things small groups carte blanche. They see concept of community as the deliverer of the church, the key to giving the church the impact in the world God intended it to have. Unfortunately, in many of these scenarios, community is not defined theologically; therefore, soon the small group degenerates into nothing more than a pop-psychology session. Far too often, in this type of environment, the use of Scripture is replaced with statements prefaced with “Oprah said …” or “I read in People magazine …” Sadly, this brand of counsel does little to biblically solve the problems of the sobbing couple sitting on the love seat.

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Thoughts on Diversity and Scripture

A couple months ago, I presented some thoughts on developing a philosophy of Christian higher education. In light of the discussion of Joy McCarnan’s book review, as well as the fact that diversity and higher education are so closely associated, it seemed to be a good time to reflect on what Scripture says about diversity. The purpose now is to focus on Scripture instead of criticizing specific actions by certain individuals or organizations. If any passages appear to be taken out of context or are misinterpreted, please don’t hesitate to point them out. I welcome suggestions and criticisms. This article is a work in progress about my own views and does not represent the position of any particular college or seminary.

So then, what exactly does the Bible say about diversity and humanity?

God places the highest value on human life.

God created the human entity in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27; James 3:9). Every man and woman of all time is a valuable creation of God. Each person is made in God’s image. Even though this image is marred, the human being is most important to God. Christians should value everyone as precious.

God does not view individuals differently because of their external appearances (1 Sam. 16:7; Rom. 2:11). God knows each person’s heart. One’s outward appearance does not change his or her standing with God. Christians should never prejudge another person on the basis of external characteristics (James 2).

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Three Lines in the Sand

Note: “Three Lines in the Sand, Part 4,” has been removed.

Friends, I have been grieved from the start that this article series that I had hoped would help with a desired unity between Type A, B, and C has, in fact, done just the opposite. The failure is mine. First, I spent too much attention on the differences between Type B’s and A’s. Second, I spent too much attention on differences between myself and several other ministries. Third, some of the details I gave were not precise. I did not intentionally lie, but I missed “the” pure picture on several statements.

All of that has produced an ugly spirit that has floated over this article almost from the beginning. I am the writer, so I will take the blame here. I am so very sorry. I have asked God to forgive me, and I ask you all to do the same.

If anyone wants the last installment of “Three Lines in the Sand,” write me offline, and I can give it to you. It may be that we can post this some other time after prayer, reflection, and a clear sense that the writing is both accurate and presented in the best manner. I just believe Satan is using this, and the good is being hurt by the negative that’s coming out of this.

I clearly blew it here. As we got into this, I thought I could clean it up as I went. That was the wrong approach.

I pray for your forgiveness,

Joel

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Three Lines in the Sand, Part 2

In the first part of this presentation, I suggested incorrectly that the issue that resulted in several churches pulling out of the IFBAM was Calvinism. The issue actually was something different. My apology to Dave Doran of Inter-City Baptist Church, the IFBAM, and anyone else that was hurt by that incorrect analysis. We’ll try to do better with “the facts.” Straight Ahead…..Joel

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