On October 31, 1517, a monk and professor named Martin Luther sent a document entitled Disputatio Pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum to the archbishop of Mainz. This Disputatio consisted of ninety-five theses for theological debate. Perhaps on October 31 or more probably a week or two later, Luther hammered the theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. Although the Protestant Reformation was a complex social movement with many causes, this event is frequently identified as the beginning of the Reformation.Continue reading.
“If only I could see God do something amazing, then it would be easier to follow him.” Has that thought ever occurred to you? It’s certainly crossed my mind from time to time! And yet, what we learn throughout the Scriptures is that, even when people did see God do something amazing, faithfulness wasn’t any easier for them.Continue reading.
“Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the LORD is among them!” That’s what a band of rebels from the tribes of Reuben and Levi declared when they revolted against Moses and Aaron before going on to demand, “Why then do you exalt yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3). The rebels were consumed by earth and fire the next day, suggesting that God may not have agreed with their assessment of the situation. And yet, we must admit that their question made some sense. God had, after all, designated all of Israel as a royal people and a holy priesthood (Exodus 19:6; 22:31; Leviticus 20:7, 26). If all the people participated together in kingship and priesthood, why were leaders needed?
This question becomes even more acute in the New Testament, particularly in the letter that we know as 1 Peter. Continue reading.
Íñigo López de Loyola—better known to us as Ignatius of Loyola*—passed from this life on July 31, 1556. He was a Spanish priest and a leader in the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. Roman Catholics have celebrated July 31 as his feast day since the seventeenth century.
As a Protestant, I may not celebrate the feast day of the founder of the Jesuit order, and I do not know whether or not he trusted wholly in the unearned merit of Jesus Christ to be made right with God. I have, however, found these words from his Spiritual Exercises to be helpful as a scholar and as a leader. Here’s what Ignatius had to say about responding to someone with whom you disagree:Continue reading.
In a grove of trees south of the city of Corinth stood the Asklepion, an ancient temple dedicated to the god of healing (pictured above). Every year, thousands of women and men made pilgrimages to this temple to seek relief for their bodies. Worshipers who believed that they received healing in this place left behind an odd sort of testimony to their experience. Continue reading.
This post on intergenerational diversity in the church is the second part of a two-part series. Click here for the first post in the series.
A Model for Movement toward the Discipline of Generational Diversity
If you look at your church and glimpse a lack of intergenerational ministry, it may seem at first as if the right response is to add a stack of new activities to your church’s calendar. Consider, however, that—according to recent research into the perceptions of pastoral ministers—nearly half of all ministers already feel as if they do not have sufficient time to accomplish all that their ministries demand. Furthermore, when ministry calendars become too crowded, church members can become so busy doing church that no time remains for them to be the church in their homes and communities.
With that in mind, I wish to propose an alternative possibility for the pursuit of intergenerational ministry—one that metamorphoses existing activities instead of adding additional programs. I have colloquially dubbed this alternative “the TIE Model.” Continue reading.
The Function of the Family in the Storyline of God
At the center of God’s story stands this singular act: In Jesus Christ, God personally intersected human history and redeemed humanity at a particular time in a particular place. Yet this central act of redemption does not stand alone. It is bordered by God’s good creation and humanity’s fall into sin on the one hand and by the consummation of God’s kingdom on the other. This story of (1) creation, (2) fall and law, (3) redemption, and (4) consummation is the story that Christians have repeated to one another and to the world ever since Jesus ascended and sent his Spirit to dwell in his first followers’ lives. This age-old plot-line should frame every aspect of our lives—including our ministries to families. Seen from the perspective of this fourfold storyline, here’s what becomes clear about family, family ministries, and diversity: From the beginning, the family has been a God-ordained means for the fulfillment of God’s purposes, but God’s plan for the family has always been to reach beyond the family to form a diverse community.Continue reading.
I delivered this paper on an expanded definition for family ministry in May 2017 at the HOUSE Conference in Australia, a conference sponsored by YouthWorks and themed around the intersection between family ministry and ecclesiology. This post is the third part of a three-part series.
A RENEWAL OF INTEREST IN INTERGENERATIONAL MINISTRY? YES AND NO
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, church leaders from a broad range of ecclesial backgrounds began to question the assumption that discipleship occurs most effectively when it is segmented generationally. In 1988, Roman Catholic educator James William White published an influential text calling for intergenerational religious education. Lutheran educator Ben Freudenburg called for youth ministries to provide three types of programming: home-centered, peer-centered, and intergenerational. Presbyterian youth minister Mark DeVries presented a “smorgasbord of ideas to equip parents and to create intentional intergenerational connections between youth and adults” in his book Family-Based Youth Ministry. The Search Institute even developed a survey to assess the intergenerational health of congregations. And yet, as the family ministry movement has grown, the parent-equipping component has tended to eclipse the forging of intergenerational connections, particularly in evangelical contexts. The intergenerational aspect of church-as-family has been overshadowed in practice by the dynamic of family-as-church.
Why is it that parent-equipping tends to eclipse intergenerational ministry in churches? Continue reading.
I delivered this paper proposing a revised definition for family ministry in May 2017 at the HOUSE Conference in Australia, a gathering sponsored by YouthWorks College and themed around the intersection between family ministry and ecclesiology. This post on a revised definition for family ministry is the first part of a three-part series.
1. A DEFINITION FOR FAMILY MINISTRY
In 2009, I developed a definition of “family ministry.” A few years later, I recognized that my definition for family ministry was incomplete. This paper serves as my retractatio of that original definition—not in the sense of a “retraction” or “rejection” but in the sense that Augustine of Hippo once used the term, a “re-treatment” in light of later reflection.
In late March, 1807, the British slave trade came to an end. One of the key figures in the battle against the British slave trade was an evangelical Christian named William Wilberforce.
Wilberforce was short—about five feet, three inches in stature—and suffered from poor health, but he was eloquent and witty. He became a member of Parliament at the age of twenty-one. Then, in the mid-1780s, he committed his life to Jesus Christ. Deeply convicted by his own patterns of arrogance and self-centeredness, he began to consider leaving his position in Parliament.Continue reading.
The Magnificent Moravian Failures Who Weren’t Failures at All
In the ninth century A.D.—four hundred years or so after the fall of the Western Empire—a prince in the land of Moravia asked the emperor of the Eastern Empire to send missionaries to his people. The prince’s motives were primarily political. He needed the support of the Eastern Roman Empire, so he asked the Eastern emperor for missionaries. Yet God worked through two Eastern missionaries named Cyril and Methodius to prepare people’s hearts and to preserve God’s Word in ways that produced fruit far beyond the borders of Moravia.
Cyril of Moravia died on February 14, 869, an utter failure as far as anyone at the time could see. Today, the mission of Cyril and his brother Methodius is still celebrated on February 14—though most people are, unfortunately, focused on a more obscure (and mostly legendary) saint by the name of “Valentine.”
Perhaps cards and candies given to your spouse to celebrate “Saints Cyril and Methodius Day” don’t have quite the same ring as the ones with red frilly hearts, but Cyril and Methodius have far stronger historical foundations to support their significance than Valentine has ever had. So, go ahead, be unique, celebrate missions, and make a St. Cyril’s card to give your sweetheart today.
Watch this video to learn more about Cyril and Methodius. Reflect on a few failures from your own life. Are there places where it seems like your best efforts were wasted? Looking back on these failures, has God perhaps redeemed some of them in such a way that you now see your efforts weren’t wasted at all? How might God in the future use other apparent “wasted efforts” in ways that you can’t quite see right now?
A few months ago, Justin Taylor interviewed four evangelical historians about the role of Southern white evangelicals in the American Civil Rights Movement. It is a lengthy and painful read, but it provides a much-needed perspective on white evangelicals’ persistent failure to challenge systemic racism. Here are a few excerpts:
Matt Hall: The unfortunate reality isn’t that evangelical theology in the South was muted when it came to racial justice, it’s that it was actively used to undermine justice and to perpetuate a demonic system. Continue reading.
Around twenty-seven thousand people racked up nearly one hundred thousand views of this blog in 2016. If you were one of them, thank you! Since there are no advertisements on my site, I don’t profit from any of the content. And so, if you’ve profited from what I’ve written, please consider purchasing a book (or two or three!) that I’ve written.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what happened on my blog this year:Continue reading.
Advent is the season when we meditate on experiences of waiting and silence in the Scriptures. By coming to terms with the waiting that we see in Scripture, we prepare our souls for those moments when God seems silent in our own lives. One of the ways we prepare ourselves for this silence is by recognizing that, even when we struggle with the silence of God, we are not alone. In the silence, we find ourselves in the company of past prophets who glimpsed God’s glory but who died before they saw God’s plans fulfilled. “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13).Continue reading.
Nearly everything I’ve taught or written in the past several years has been handwritten with a fountain pen before it was reduced to pixels for the purposes of editing and publication. As a result, I’ve owned more than a dozen different pens, scores of notebooks, and many ounces of ink. Many of my students have asked me where to start when it comes to writing utensils. And so, in case you’re interested in moving toward renewing the discipline of writing by hand, here are my personal favorite notebooks, inks, and writing utensils.
Pencils and Fountain Pens
Some fountain pen enthusiasts prefer multi-hundred-dollar—or even multi-thousand-dollar—pens.
I’m not in that category.
A few months ago, I sat down with my colleagues Kevin Smith and Kevin Jones to discuss the dynamics of discipleship and family ministry in African-American communities. Rev. Smith is the executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware. Dr. Jones is a scholar of the history of education and coauthor of the forthcoming book Removing the Stain of Racism. The resulting conversation with these men was fascinating, instructive, and challenging. If multiethnic ministry and racial reconciliation matter to you, these videos will help you to understand the unique opportunities and challenges that have resulted from the broken and beautiful story of enslavement and oppression, tenacity and triumph, that is woven through African-American history.Continue reading.
According to Daniel Montgomery and Jared Kennedy, effective leadership calls for the practice of five principles in the life of the leader:Continue reading.