Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Churches keeping secrets
by Aaron Menikoff (9Marks, 29 Apr 2009)

It was interesting to read the uproar last week about the salary Manhattan's famous Riverside Church offered its new pastor. The church is infamous in evangelical circles for its pastors that have stretched evangelical tenets to their breaking point--Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 30's and 40's, William Sloane Coffin in the 70's and 80's. It started as a Baptist church but its membership policies were broadened in the 1930's. Today, Riverside describes itself as "interdenominational" and is formally associated with the United Church of Christ and American Baptist Convention.

Some members of the church are upset that they were unaware that this historically congregational church offered its new Senior Pastor a compensation package that far exceeded the previous pastor, James Forbes.

What I find interesting is Juan Gonzalez's description of the brouhaha in an piece he wrote for the Daily News. He cited one long-time member of Riverside who said that Congregational churches "have complete transparency on finances." Apparently finishing this member's thought, Gonzalez quipped, "Baptist churches, on the other hand, tend to keep vital information among key church leaders."

(read more)

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Monday, 27 April 2009

Not even close? Is America becoming a post-Christian culture?
by Albert Mohler (27 Apr 2009)

In his blog entry, Mohler reflects on two articles by Newsweek (Jon Meacham) and USA Today (Stephen Prothero), talking about the decline of Christianity in America today. The Apr 13 cover of Newsweek read, "The decline and fall of Christian America," sparking off a host of feedback and comments from the Christian camp.

Related articles
Post Christian? Not even close (USA Today, 27 Apr 09)
Making Sense of the Newsweek Article (Bock's Blog, 10 Apr 09)
Newsweek - The end of Christian America (Mohler's response, 06 Apr 09)
The end of Christian America (Newsweek, 04 Apr 09)

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Shepherd the Flock
by John MacArthur, 27 Apr 2009

What is the pastor’s responsibility, besides preaching and studying?

The answer to your question lies in the title you used—pastor. That title is rich with meaning and sets out the chief responsibilities of a godly minister.

One of Jesus’ favorite metaphors for spiritual leadership, one He often used to describe Himself, was that of a shepherd—a person who tends God’s flock. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects—responsibilities that belong to every church leader. In fact, the word pastor means shepherd.

Peter wrote these words to elders who would have been familiar with sheep and shepherding:

I exhort the elders among you . . . shepherd the flock of God . . . exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

To give you a more complete picture of your pastor’s role, here’s a look at the nature of sheep, the task of shepherds, and how they compare to the pastor’s role among the church. Note the principles of church leadership it contains—they determine what should fill a pastor’s schedule.

(read more)

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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Song - From ashes to beauty by The Vine Band

1. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
Is on me now
To love, to speak, to heal, to preach
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
Is on me now
Giving life

You turn ashes to beauty
Mourning to dancing
Anguish to songs of praise

Pour Your Spirit over me
Let Your love rain down
Would You take these hands of mine
And use me
Pour Your Spirit over me
Let Your love rain down
Would You take these feet of mine
And lead me

2. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
Is on me now
To go, to free, to give, to feed
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord
Is on me now
Spreading love

You lead me to the poor
That’s where You are
You lead me to the weak
That’s where You are
You lead me to the lost
That’s where You are
Lord I want to be
Where You are

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The giant story
by Mark Galli (CT, 22 Apr 2009)

Mark Galli interviews Rob Bell, founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, on his new book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians.

Bell's response when asked how he would present the gospel on Twitter:
I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.
Is this really the gospel? What do you think?

(read more)

See related article:
Not the gospel of Jesus. Not anywhere near it (Greg Gilbert's response, 9Marks, 01 May 09)

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Riverside Church lawsuit
NY Daily News, 22 Apr 2009

Call it the stimulus package from God.

Manhattan's Riverside Church - one of the country's most illustrious religious institutions - is paying its new senior pastor, the Rev. Brad Braxton, more than $600,000 in annual compensation.

That's twice what Braxton's predecessor, James Forbes, one of the country's best-known preachers, was getting after running Riverside for more than 18 years.

It amounts to almost 10 times what William Sloane Coffin, the legendary anti-Vietnam War clergyman, was paid in his last year as senior minister at Riverside in 1987.

Braxton was selected in a vote of the congregation last fall and is to be officially installed Sunday.

A group of church dissidents claims the members were never told about the lavish package.

Those dissidents filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court last week to stop Braxton's installation, revealing a growing divide among the church's 1,500 members.

The Wall Street-like package, the dissidents say, is outrageous for a man of the cloth - especially when you consider Riverside's long history of advocating social justice.

Church sources say it includes:

  • $250,000 in salary.
  • $11,500 monthly housing allowance.
  • Private school tuition for his child.
  • A full-time maid.
  • Entertainment, travel and "professional development" allowances.
  • Pension and life insurance benefits.
  • An equity allowance for Braxton to save up to buy a home.

    On top of that, Braxton immediately hired a new second in command at more than $300,000 a year.

    (read more)

    Related articles
    New Riverside pastor's compensation splits congregation (NYTimes, 22 Apr 09)

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    Sunday, 19 April 2009

    Miss California responds to same-sex marriage question

    Related articles:
    Miss California and the politics of sexual redemption (20 Jul 09)
    Miss Calif. gets heroine's welcome at SD church (27 Apr 09)

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    Saturday, 18 April 2009

    Song - Take it all by Hillsong United

    1. Searching the world
    The lost will be found
    In freedom we live
    As one we cry out
    You carried the cross
    You died and rose again
    My God
    I’ll only ever give my all

    2. You sent Your Son
    From heaven to earth
    You delivered us all
    It’s eternally heard
    I searched for truth
    And all I found was You
    My God
    I’ll only ever give my all

    Jesus we’re livin' for Your Name
    We’ll never be ashamed of You
    Whoa o oh
    Our praise and all we are today
    Take take take it all
    Take take take it all

    Running to the One
    Who heals the blind
    Following the shining light
    In Your hands
    The power to save the world
    My life

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    Friday, 17 April 2009

    Youth ministry and mentoring
    by Chris Folmsbee (Jesus Creed, 17 Apr 2009)

    An article about the perceived lack of mentoring in youth ministry and amongst pastors in general. I posted some comments below.

    (read more)

    Generally there is a lack of a mentoring culture across churches & denominations in Singapore, both in lay ministry among members, and further more so in full-time ministry among staff and pastors.

    Some possible reasons (of course I'm over-generalising here):
    - sometimes it's a time & effort issue, as in most people just don't have the time, and perceive that it takes too much effort. Senior pastors and senior lay members focus on macro-level issues, and don't have the capacity and skills needed to spend time with fresh young men and women.
    - it's also a Asian culture, mentality thing. Most Singaporeans are also pretty private about their lives, and we seldom confront or admonish in public, hence lack of accountability structures.
    - lack of foresight as well as not seeing the importance, need and urgency of mentoring future generations. Many young pastors or full-time staff grow or emerge amongst the ranks incidently, or mainly because they were exceptional in their faith journey, maturity, experience, giftings, etc.
    - pastors and leaders do not often model this in their own lives, hence it flows down to the congregation.
    - many churches hire staff and pastors with the given expectations that they are already proven in ministry, gifted, experienced, mature, ready to lead and run ministries. This assumption tends towards throwing new staff/pastors into the deep end, and expecting them to take ministries and run, and excel without much hand-holding or guidance.

    There is an urgent need for mentoring to permeate both from bottom-up and top-down. Both through my own life experience and with guiding biblical principles, all of us, especially full-time pastors need to have Pauls, Barnabas-es, and Timothys in our lives, to fully function and serve as God intends. We need Pauls, older mature and faithful men, to guide and mentor us. We need Barnabas-es, peers, friends, colleagues, to support and encourage us. We need Timothys, younger men who are earlier in their journey, whom we can invest and pour out our lives into.

    I leave you with 3 Scripture passages which have proven a guide and reminder to myself.

    1 Tim 4:16 - Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    1 Thes 2:8 - We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

    2 Tim 2:2 - And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

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    Wednesday, 15 April 2009

    Women's advocacy group AWARE picks new president
    by Alicia Wong, CNA, 16 Apr 2009

    SINGAPORE: The new guard sealed its leadership grab in women’s advocacy group AWARE yesterday when one of their own, Ms Josie Lau Meng Lee, was appointed president.

    The executive committee of the group was meeting one week after its then newly-elected president and older member Claire Nazar abruptly resigned.

    Ms Lau holds a senior position in DBS Bank as vice-president for its cards. Her husband, TODAY understands, is associate member Dr Alan Chin who helped count the votes at the society’s annual general meeting (AGM) on March 28.

    The AGM made news when nine of the 12 seats on the society’s Exco went to new faces, including the positions of vice-president, honorary secretary, honorary treasurer and assistant honorary secretary.

    read more)

    Related articles:
    New exco wants to bring AWARE back to its "original cause" (CNA , 24 Apr 09)
    AWARE president says will not step down despite pressure (CNA, 20 Apr 09)
    AWARE president gives first media interview since appointment (CNA, 18 Apr 09)

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    What year was Jesus born?
    by PJ (15 Apr 2009)

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    Monday, 13 April 2009

    Fighting words about the Bible
    by Al Mohler (13 Apr 2009)

    Mohler comments on Tom Krattenmaker's USA Today article, "Fightin' Words", where he quotes
    If the Bible is the literal word of God, Ehrman asks, how could it be inconsistent on so many details large and small? Let's start with an example appropriate to the just-concluded Easter season marking the Savior's death and resurrection: As Jesus was dying on the cross, was he in agony, questioning why God had forsaken him? Or was he serene, praying for his executioners? It depends, Ehrman points out, on whether you're reading the Gospel of Mark or Luke. Regarding Jesus' birthplace of Bethlehem, had his parents traveled there for a census (Luke's version) or is it where they happened to live (Matthew's version)? Did Jesus speak of himself as God? (Yes, in John; no, in Matthew.)
    (read more)

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    Doctrine is practical
    by John MacArthur (Shepherds Fellowship, 13 Apr 2009)

    I have in my library a book by the spiritual father of a quasi-Christian cult. It argues that structured doctrine and systematized theology are contrary to the spirit of Jesus’ ministry.

    The idea that Christ is anti-doctrine is a foundational belief of that cult. But no idea is further from the truth. The word doctrine simply means “teaching.” And it’s ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20).

    Unfortunately, cultists aren’t alone in their bias against doctrine. Some evangelicals have almost the same perspective. Because they view doctrine as heady and theoretical, they dismiss it as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical.

    People often ask why I emphasize doctrine so much. Now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.

    Of course, practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But if there is a deficiency in preaching today, it is that there’s too much relational, pseudopsychological, and thinly life-related content, and not enough emphasis on sound doctrine.

    The distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.

    The pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). We teach truth, we teach error, or we teach nothing at all.

    (read more)

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    Saturday, 11 April 2009

    Song - You have shown us by Martin Smith
    CompassionArt - Creating Freedom from Poverty

    1. You have shown us O God what is good
    You have shown us O Lord what You require
    You have heard all our songs
    Of how we long to worship You
    Yet You’ve told us the offering you desire

    To do justly, to love mercy
    To walk humbly with our God
    You said to do justly, to love mercy
    To walk humbly with You God

    2. You have shown us the riches of Your love
    You have shown us Your heart for those in need
    Lord you’re opening our ears to the cries of the poor
    You have called us to be Your hands and feet

    To the oppressed and the broken
    To the widow and the orphan
    Let the river of Your justice flow through us

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    Friday, 10 April 2009

    The Cross

    The Cross to me is certain salvation. The Cross is that which I ever adore. The Cross of the Lord is with me. The Cross is my refuge.
    Thomas Aquinas
    The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther's, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.99.

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    Thursday, 9 April 2009

    Singapore's born-again Christians thrive
    by Philip Lim, Agence France-Presse, 09 Apr 2009

    SINGAPORE (AFP) – Believers gather at the New Creation Church every Sunday for upbeat services conducted in ultra-modern surroundings that are helping make Christianity the religion of choice for Singaporeans.

    The venue, a plush 1,200-seat auditorium equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual systems, is on the third floor of an upmarket shopping mall in the city-state's business district.

    "Say not what you can do for God, but what God has done for you," preacher Lawrence Lim told a rapturous congregation during a recent service which opened with rousing hymns played by a seven-piece rock band.

    "Amen," the churchgoers replied in unison.

    Singapore, a predominantly ethnic-Chinese Buddhist society of 4.6 million, has seen a boom in recent years in born-again Christian movements, which experts said people perceive as modern institutions reflecting their personal aspirations.

    While Taoism and Buddhism are the traditional belief systems in Singapore, most people adopt them as a matter of birthright, rather than choosing to follow them as spiritual life codes.

    "Those who have converted (to Christianity) were probably not very entrenched in their original faith," said Mathew Mathews, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore.

    "People want to move out from traditional concepts of religion to a more 'classy' image with things which mirror our popular culture and are congruent to their own works and expectations," he said.

    New converts are encouraged to bring in more recruits, helping boost the number of Christians in Singapore.

    According to a 2000 census of Singapore's 3.6 million native inhabitants, Christians accounted for 15 percent of the population aged 15 years and older, up from 10 percent in 1980.

    Buddhists and Taoists accounted for 51 percent in 2000, Muslims 15 percent and Hindus four percent. The rest belonged to other religions or were atheist.

    (read more)

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    Wednesday, 8 April 2009

    The most evangelistic church in America?
    by Sarah Pulliam (CT, 08 Apr 2009)

    The megachurch pastor who faced backlash for praying at the President's inauguration talks to CT about politics, a new magazine, and the economy.

    In his interview with Sarah Pulliam on CT, Rick Warren said
    In the past 10 years, Saddleback has baptized over 20,000 new believers. We are, without a doubt, the most evangelistic church in America. There are churches that are bigger than Saddleback, but there are no churches that reach more people for Christ than Saddleback. There are no churches that send as many people into the missions field. There’s not a church that has sent 8,000 people into the missions field.
    See related article:
    The most evangelistic church in America? (PJ, 08 Apr 2009)

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    The posture of prayer
    by Challies, 08 Apr 2009

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    The challenge of Islam - a Christian perspective
    by Albert Mohler (08 Apr 2009)

    Mohler comments on Obama's speech to the Turkish government, regarding the United States and Islam.

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    Sunday, 5 April 2009

    Never Let the Gospel Get Smaller

    As we approach Holy Week, let us seek to quieten our souls and attune our hearts as we prayerfully reflect on the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Perhaps like myself, especially for those who have been Christians for a long time, you may have celebrated Good Friday and Easter several times, and after a while, it becomes just an annual tradition or custom, or a mundane and common event that comes and goes, something that is more meaningful for pre-believers or new Christians. Let the words of this article by John Piper speak to you as he exhorts us to “never let the gospel get smaller.”, 17 Mar 09

    Here is a simple exhortation that I have been trying to implement in our family:
    Seek to see and feel the gospel as bigger as years go by rather than smaller. Our temptation is to think that the gospel is for beginners and then we go on to greater things. But the real challenge is to see the gospel as the greatest thing—and getting greater all the time.
    The Gospel gets bigger when, in your heart,
    • grace gets bigger;
    • Christ gets greater;
    • His death gets more wonderful;
    • His resurrection gets more astonishing;
    • the work of the Spirit gets mightier;
    • the power of the gospel gets more pervasive;
    • its global extent gets wider;
    • your own sin gets uglier;
    • the devil gets more evil;
    • the gospel's roots in eternity go deeper;
    • its connections with everything in the Bible and in the world get stronger;
    • and the magnitude of its celebration in eternity gets louder.
    So keep this in mind: Never let the gospel get smaller in your heart.

    Pray that it won’t. Read solid books on it. Sing about it. Tell someone about it who is ignorant or unsure about it.

    Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel ... For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor 15:1-4)

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    Saturday, 4 April 2009

    Rethinking the Meaning of the Cross for Christian Discipleship
    Tony Lim, 17 Oct 2007

    Evangelical spirituality or Evangelicalism has always emphasised the importance of the cross. Indeed John Stott argued that “the cross is at the centre of the evangelical faith. Indeed….it lies at the centre of the historic, biblical faith..” Stott pointed out that JI Packer called the atoning death of Christ for sinful rebellious humanity as Evangelicalism’s distinguishing mark.

    (read more)

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