Archives For Discipleship

From Christianity Today:

When was the last time you read a book? For almost 1 in 4 of us, it was more than a year ago, according to Pew Research. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978. In America, we have a literacy problem. But more concerning to me, we have a biblical literacy problem. Americans, including churchgoers, aren’t reading much of any book, including the Good Book. 

Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.

Because we don’t read God’s Word, it follows that we don’t know it. To understand the effects, we can look to statistics of another Western country: the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many could not identify common Bible stories. When given a list of stories, almost 1 in 3 didn’t choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and over half (59 percent) didn’t know that Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible.

British parents didn’t do much better. Around 30 percent of parents don’t know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

But it’s more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.

Read it all.

From Sam Storms (our New Wine 2016 speaker):

In 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster

authorized its bishop to produce a service for blessing same-sex unions, to be used in any parish of the diocese that requests it. A number of synod members walked out to protest the decision. They declared themselves out of communion with the bishop and the synod, and they appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican primates and bishops for help.

Packer was one of those who walked out.

When asked why he walked out, he answered, “Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth.” In other words, it was Packer’s confidence in the functional, life-directing authority of Scripture that led to this decision.

“My primary authority,” wrote Packer, “is a Bible writer named Paul. For many decades now, I have asked myself at every turn of my theological road: Would Paul be with me in this? What would he say if he were in my shoes? I have never dared to offer a view on anything that I did not have good reason to think he would endorse.”

Here we see that, for Packer, affirming biblical authority is meant not merely to provoke a debate but to give ethical direction to life. Regardless of what personal preferences one might have, irrespective of the cultural trends in play at the time, the Bible is the ethical standard by which Christians such as Packer judge their responsibility.

What’s Really at Stake

Packer then proceeds to exegete Paul’s thought in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 as justification for his decision to lodge this protest. There are only two ways in which we might miss Paul’s point and his directives. One is to embrace an artificial interpretation of the text in which Paul is conceived as speaking of something other than same-sex union.

The second approach, notes Packer, “is to let experience judge the Bible.” Experience suggests that homosexual behavior is fulfilling to some; therefore, the Bible’s prohibition of it is wrong. But the appropriate response is that “the Bible is meant to judge our experience rather than the other way around,” and “feelings of sexual arousal and attraction, generating a sense of huge significance and need for release in action as they do, cannot be trusted as either a path to wise living or a guide to biblical interpretation.”

What is at stake in such a debate is the nature of the Bible itself. There are, notes Packer, fundamentally two positions that challenge each other . . .

Read it all.

Gimmicks and God

June 18, 2015

From Timothy George over at First Things:

Ed_Young_41Perhaps there is a more excellent way between the do-nothing and the do-anything approach to evangelization. The Christian church has always existed in tension between the poles of identity and adaptability. It can go to seed by swinging too far in one direction or the other. When the church becomes so self-referential, it loses any sense of mission. But when it becomes so assimilated to the culture, it loses the Gospel. In speaking of the fading fortunes of the mainline, historian George Marsden has said, “Liberals have learned that it is difficult for the church to survive, if there is nothing that makes the church distinct from culture.”

But this principle is not limited to one religious tradition. The recent Pew Research Center’s report on the surprising decline among Catholics in America indicates that this is not solely a Protestant problem. And, while evangelical and Pentecostal churches fared better in the Pew study, the danger signs are there for them as well. Accommodation is a two-way street. The Gospel can be lost whenever Christianity becomes too casual and worship is reduced to entertainment, no less than when it follows the siren lure of secularism. Many megachurches have a mini-Gospel where the emphasis is more on attracting people than retaining them for discipleship and service. Mark Noll was once asked whether he thought a campus revival he had witnessed was genuine. He said: “Come back and ask me that question in ten years.”

Two recent books shed light on this theme. In Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, Mack Stiles defines evangelism simply as “teaching the Gospel with the aim to persuade.” The focus should not be on programs or events. Biblical evangelism happens, Stiles argues, not when crowds are attracted to a church for some spectacular experience but rather when the members of the church are sent out into the world to bear witness to Christ.

Brian H. Cosby is a bright young Presbyterian pastor who has thought deeply about these matters, especially about how the church should reach out to the rising generation. In his book Giving Us Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Church, Cosby offers some counter-cultural advice for everyone called to the ministry of the church:

I maintain that the ‘How to’ of being faithful to God in worship and ministry is demonstrated through the ordinary, historic, and apostolic means of grace, particularly, ministry of the Word, prayer, and sacraments.

If God has already provided the ordinary means of growing in grace as we find in His Word, why do we think that we have the right or the greater wisdom to invent new ways through entertainment-driven, success-oriented worship and ministry?

I plead with you not to be tempted with success, professionalism, or the fading fads of our entertainment-driven culture. Rather, pursue Jesus as the all-satisfying treasure that He is and strive to faithfully feed His sheep through the means of grace that God has already provided His Church.

A church based on gimmicks is not likely to develop deep-soil disciples who demonstrate “a long obedience in the same direction.” The question for every evangelist and every church ought to be: “Is the method we are using worthy of the Gospel we are proclaiming?”

Read it all.

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to announce that we are bringing our New Wine Conference back to St. Andrew’s April 14-16, 2016!

What is New Wine?

New Wine is an opportunity for the St. Andrew’s family along with other friends from many other congregations to gather in an encouraging environment to get recharged and refreshed in our faith. Our time together with revolve around worship, Word and ministry.

Our theme this year is, God’s Empowering Presence and I am pleased to announce that Sam Storms has agreed to be our speaker. Sam is currently the Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. Sam is on the board of both Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary, and also serves as a member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition. Previously, Sam has also served as the President of Grace Training Center at Metro Christian Fellowship in Kansas City, and as associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. Sam has also established Enjoying God Ministries, which serves the larger church. Many of you will be familiar with Sam through his books, several of which we stock in our bookstore, Common Grounds.

Who Should Attend?

YOU!

Whether you attend by yourself, with your friends or your family, you need to be here. While the conference is held at St. Andrew’s we expect folks from churches across the region to participate. Our last New Wine Conference had folks from 27 different churches participating!

What’s the Program?

Worship ::

Everyday will begin in and end with times of extended worship led by praise team members from across our community.

Teaching ::

You will have many opportunities to hear His Word. Each day begins and ends with a plenary session. In between there will multiple breakout sessions offered. These sessions will be led by a variety of gifted Christian leaders.

Ministry ::

At New Wine, you will have opportunities to experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. There are regularly scheduled times and trained ministry teams to lead people into times of healing, equipping and release.

Is There Anything for Youth and Children?

Yes!

High School ::

Grab a coffee or water and come on over to the youth venue for worship, talks and small groups – but most importantly lots of space to meet God.

Middle School ::

An action-packed program of worship, talks, discussion groups, seminars, crazy games, and all the other usual New Wine madness!

Preschool & Elementary ::

a fun-filled weekend that includes great teaching, crazy games, arty crafts, plus the chance to make new friends and catch up with old ones.

Nursery ::

A loving, safe and caring environment with trained, supervised care-givers

Registration

We’ll have more details soon about registration rates and we’ll let you know when registration opens.

I hope that you’ll join Jacqui and me for a great family weekend!

For the Kingdom,

+Steve

Christianity’s Weirdness

February 18, 2015

Christians are by definition a ‘peculiar people.’  Peculiar is different than bizarre.  Sometimes we forget the distinction.  The author of this article uses ‘weirdness’ in the way I (and St. Peter) would use the word, ‘peculiar’.

Once we lose touch with the weirdness of Christian faith, it is inevitable that we end up with a form of Christianity that is virtually indistinguishable from the wider culture.

So what are some signs that we have lost touch with the strange Otherness of Christianity?

Here are some suggestions in no particular order – feel welcome to add your own:

Read it all.

 

Day of Healing Prayer

February 6, 2015

20150214Healing-PrayerWe (SAMP) are offering prayer ministry for all those who are seeking spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental healing and restoration. In this time we will seek to connect everyone with the power and presence of Jesus Christ in song and praise, teaching, and prayer ministry.  We would love to have you join us!

The details:

– Saturday, February 14
– 9.00am – 12:30pm
– Continental breakfast at 8:30am

There is no cost for the Day of Healing Prayer but we ask that you register. For more information, contact Nick Wood, NWood@WeAreStAndrews.com or 843.284.4316.

From Housewife Theologian:

What are your convictions? Are they true? Does it matter? The writer to the Hebrews emphatically exhorts them to persevere by holding fast to their confession of hope, as a covenant community, and to do it without wavering (Heb. 10:23). What is your confession? Is it the confession of hope based on God’s promises that has been faithfully delivered in his word and proclaimed by the church for over 2,000 years? Do we confess that Jesus is Lord? Who is Jesus and what does it mean that he is Lord?

The office of the pastor is important. He is proclaiming God’s word to his people in an authoritative way. The preached word is a means of grace by which God’s people are sanctified. What is the state of theology of American pastors? What would that survey look like? Probably a lot like this one. That is why it is so important for laypeople to understand their responsibility as theologians as well. Like the title of Dr. Sproul’s book, Everyone’s A Theologian. That survey interviewed 3,000 theologians. Many of them are terribly poor theologians. The results should be informative for pastors.

What is the state of your theology? Every week we are called out from our ordinary work to gather together as a peculiar people: God’s church. By grace, we are receivers of God’s promised blessings in Christ and we are sent back out with a benediction. A Christian without conviction should be an oxymoron. And yet we need to be warned to hold fast to our confession because there are many opposing forces. Our sinful natures are tempted to waver. We need theological stamina! We get that by actively engaging in God’s word, training ourselves by it, and exercising our faith. We are new creations who are given a fighting faith to persevere.

Read the rest.

Will God Protect My Children?

September 30, 2014

Well worth the read.

We don’t come to Christ because of guarantees of health, wealth, or protection from physical danger. We come to him because he is Lord. We don’t become Christians because of fringe benefits; we become Christians because Christianity is true. We come to Christ and bow our knee knowing he loves us enough to die for us. We come to him knowing that his plan, whatever that may be, is full of love, purpose, and wisdom. We come to him because of the guarantees of the life to come, not the guarantees of this life.

Read it all.

From Eric Geiger:

A local church is on the planet to make disciples, not merely help people “make decisions” for Christ and then leave them alone and uncared for.

Sadly, in some churches people are led to “receive Christ” but are not challenged to grow in their new journey with Him. In these churches, leading someone to faith is treated like “the end,” as if the church has fulfilled her responsibility when someone becomes a Christian. But the moment of salvation is “the beginning” of new and eternal life, the beginning of living in a new kingdom and serving a new King, the beginning of knowing Christ.

Thankfully, the Lord continues to raise up leaders who are committed to shepherd people beyond the moment of salvation. They understand that the Lord uses the body of Christ not only in the moment of justification but also in the process of sanctification. There are two essentials for a local church to have effective ministry to new believers:

Read the rest.