Friday, December 23, 2011

Good Perspective on Santa

This is a short but good point on Santa in American culture. More could be said than the one recommendation given by the author of the following article. St. Nicholas is someone who can be explained knowing some of the history on him, say from a solid evangelical professor like James Parker III at Southern Seminary who wrote an article along the same lines.

http://pastormark.tv/2011/12/22/what-we-tell-our-kids-about-santa

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Church Planter Info

Some church planters out there will be interested in this article:

http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/21/5-things-we-now-know-about-suburbia/

The Brookings Institute researched movement trends in the US. It seems the suburbs are more diverse, which anyone in a metro area would already know, but this gives you numbers. It may help you to think through some outreach strategies that are going to reach the suburbs now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Isaiah 7's "God with us" Immanuel

It's interesting that several commentators on Isaiah 7, in major evangelical commentaries, go along with apologizing for Isaiah 7:16. Expositors, NAC. This verse in no way indicates that Isaiah had to have a child or Ahaz had to have a child. If anything it is vague enough to include a child later, even the Christ child. God has already rejected Ahaz, there is no reason that he has to prove something to him by having an immediate fulfillment of verse 16. While verse 16 is a part of the preceeding, it is best to take it as a later fulfillment, along with teacher John Oswalt, in his work on Isaiah 1-39.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Do Pastors Actually Do?

I'm actually a missionary right now, but a lot of people over the years have said to one another, what do pastors do with their time? To give you a rough idea, whoever you are asking, I can reflect on my pastor days and share what those men are doing typically:

BY WEEK OF YEAR--

1. Prayer for those who are sick in their congregation. (10 minutes to 5 hours)
2. Prayer for those who are wandering away from following Jesus in visible ways. (30 minutes to 5 hours)
3. Sermon passage and topic choosing (with more prayer and study). (0 minutes to 15 hours)
4. Sermon passages study, to make sure you know you're not off track. (5 to 15 hours)
5. Sermon writing. (10 to 25 hours depending on difficulty, knowledge, jokes, illustrations)
6. Sermon study and re-thinking it. (minimum 3 hours to 10 hours)
7. Administrating teams. (0 to 10 hours)
8. Evangelism or Evangelism Training or Special Events for Evangelism. (1 to 20 hours)
9. Administrating budget/economic planning. (0 to 16 hours)
10. Sunday School/Small Group/Men's Group/Women's Group leader training. (1 to 10 hours)
11. Checking up on what is happening in culture and their particular missions agencies they associate with. (30 minutes to 4 hours)
12. Materials checking/obtaining. (0 to 3 hours)
13. Other. Depends on size of church and needs. (0 to 10 hours)
14. Counseling. Depends on extensiveness of it and research. (0 to 10 hours)
15. Meeting people. (1 to 10 hours)
16. Mission Agencies Meetings. (0 to 5 hours)

Occassionaly, 17. Weddings and Funerals. (0 to 20 hours, normally more work than you get paid for it, as an example if you do a good custom order of service and message it could take 20 hours, which is half of some people's work week, but people often give you 100-200 dollars, which no one could actually live on and is somewhat weak.)

There you go, that week could be 40 hours or 70 hours. More than likely it is edging 50 to 60 hours per week....

Also, it should go without saying, but a pastor's work schedule is different than his congregants because you're working on their 'days off' or their 'days of rest.'

Friday, November 18, 2011

Culture Making -- a short review

Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making offers a number of useful insights on the fact that we should view our American landscape as many "cultures" rather than a unified "culture." He also identifies the ability of typical persons to make or influence culture by personal insight, influence, family insight, family influence, and then other organizations or outlets. He has a 3 person, 120 person, and then crowd sized group commentary on what is possible at each level of culture. The book aims to be a distinctively Christian culture encouragement. He advocates new culture rather than recycling pop or secular cultural items/themes. He claims that is what made the church great in its heyday through centuries. Some parts of the book are a bit hard to keep reading in, and others provoke your imagination. I would recommend it as a resource on thinking through how cultures develop and bringing an awareness of what is and isn't possible in making culture. I'm not sure how some of the biblical illustration he uses match the author's original intent at points. But I appreciated his effort in looking around. He is candid in the book about his personal success and failure at making culture, that is apprecicated. Some parts of the book are very helpful to a pastor in sermon application. More could be said, but I'll just give it a general recommendation, not your first book to buy but definately one to buy at some point. Be cautious at some points, as though his theological awareness is well appreciated, yet at times I wonder if he has neo-orthodox tendencies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why Start Churches?

This is an excellent article from a rising scholar on North American missions (including Texas), that engages that question.

http://northtexasbaptist.org/do-we-really-need-another-church-here

Blessings to you,

David

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lunch time thoughts on Consumer Income and Missions

This article came out based on Labor Dept. statistics: here. The general idea is that 2011 like 2010 had lower consumer income and lower spending. Food out, entertainment, and giving to charity took the big hits while money was transferred to gasoline and increased food prices.

It makes one wonder. In our missions participation, our missions partner denomination says that national level giving has remained at a level that drops slowly the past few years. How is this impacting the Great Commission? If the trend remains as it often does in the American context, since things normally regress, how will it affect international missions 5-10 years out?

Worth exploring in more depth...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Boredom

When it comes to that fog or lack of interest at work, apparently there is solace in community. It turns out that reputable poller Gallup reports 55% of workers are not engaged with their work. (mid 2005) in the USA. Interestingly, The Guardian paper reports 33% of UK'ers are bored at work most of the day. (early 2003)

Human resource and staffing experts reported at 45% of respondants that they had lost people who were bored at their work in one past survey.

What is boredom? This article explores the matter. The sense of boredom the article goes with includes a tedious or fatigue related attitude. So it isn't necessarily lack of something to do or being inactive per se.

It seems like part of this can be overcome with living for Christ in purpose. Philippians 1 addresses some of this challenge to a believer in Jesus. Paul was fatigued (he had plenty to do though) with his missions efforts, not because they were boring but because he knew something better awaited. He changed his perspective and refound his purpose when God convicted him and he felt it necessary to keep up his work efforts, so that others could benefit for his King's glory. Indeed, the above article says focusing on others can help overcome boredom. That sounds like a very decent Christian response, and exactly what helped Paul to have some earthly good later in life.

The Lost Generation - Why People in their 20's and early 30's have been humiliated by the recession

As far as it goes with economics being largely social science with math brought in to track trends or remove false assumptions, there is an interesting piece that came out on how those who are in their 20's and 30's have been facing hard times in this economy. On my day off I've been pondering some of these trends.

It is here on this link. (May also be found here.) In essence, those who are graduates are not getting jobs in their fields and are instead entering service sector jobs that don't pay as well and every year drain down their level of expertise they had when they graduated. When things do eventually improve, it says, they are going to have to compete with those who are fresh out of training / school, who may have an advantage. That is why the article calls it the lost generation. It has been my experience that many of my friends in their 20's and early 30's are in the exact bind of this article. That's the only reason I posted this, is because I believe it is a real social phenomena in the consciences and angst among young adults after college, and occassionally after high school. There is also an article out today tracking a trend in one state, that 40% of new jobs in Texas (which seeminly broke the recession job killing...) were filled by legal immigrants, 40% by illegal immigrants; leaving only 20% of the impressive jobs number going to non-immigrants. Many legal immigrants are highly skilled or receiving status through a company that needs their abilities so they are helped through the process (tedious as it unfairly is). Still, it seems odd that is going on with so many talented university grads available as well. Regardless of what one thinks about such issues, the bottom line is that social effects are being felt by the 20's to 30's demographic as they are sidelined nationally, in every state, by businesses not hiring as much in general and by lack of experience holding them out of the few positions available.

Perhaps in the first article that explains why many graduates of high school and college are just living with mom and dad still there. In the Christian culture commentary area, this Census data and economic perspective creates an additional commentary on Al Mohler's ideas about this age demographic staying in "play time" mode (put off marriage, buy toys longer, etc). Even if Mohler's thesis is true (not saying I agree really) the current problem is even if people of that age want to move on, they are structurally unable to do so. I can't stand the victim mentality, but in truth these are literally victims of economic hardship decisions in businesses. If they aren't getting jobs, or at least jobs that pay well enough to support oneself with medical insurance, mortgage costs, car costs, hospital bills, utilities, college debt, and so on, then they're just trying to survive. You can hardly be hard on someone who is just trying to make it and who is continually dogged by unattractive long-term options in this climate.

This is some social phenomena that reveals an interesting perspective of what is going on in a generation seeking its place in a different USA. One economist from Harvard in the study said that generation will be 'scarred' by all of this. Sounds like he is right on, people are already getting burned by the situation with lasting production possibility frontiers decreasing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

1991

In 1991 a NASA satelite that did Upper Atmosphere research was launched from the Space Shuttle. Now with the Shuttle retired and the satelite about to fall to somewhere on earth in the next three or four days, another milestone related to 1991 has hit. According to the USA Today reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman, American have changed their religious beliefs since WWII in a way that has had impact over the past twenty years in a noticeable dent. This long term result is that now she says we can sing "Gods bless America" rather than "God bless America" since "the folks who make up God as they go are side by side with self-proclaimed with believers who shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices." George Barna underlines that unfortunate trend, stating that "310 million people with 310 million religions" is an appropriate description of the American landscape. In 1991, still 49% of US adults in a typical week attended a church service. Today it is 40%. In 1991, 24% of adults polled hadn't been to church in six plus months. Now it is 37% of adults 20 years later. A consequence Cathy says, quoting Barna is that: "for every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age, and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing." She summarizes his research that has recently come out that argues 7% of those polled in 2011 can even agree with 7 essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith. If I remember Barna correctly, this is extremely basic teaching that is not receiving consensus; things like truth is not completely relative because of God's revelation the Bible, Jesus Christ is Savior, and the devil is an actual spiritual being not a fiction. To sum it up people now say they believe in God or are Christians, but then believe whatever they want. As an aside, even as in the Christian church there are leaders like Webber who want an ancient-future connection, bringing back historic teachings for worship, all of a sudden the culture is not interested. The only exception is if they are customizing their beliefs, and don't care about the guidance of those ancient sources. Cathy calls the phenomena "hopscotch spirituality." It is a "'designer' society. Other #s: 8% less people attend Sunday School, 5% read their Bible outside of church less, and 7% less define God as the all-knowing, all-powerful ruler; compared to 1991 versus today. This is an interesting trend. Surely it is a missiological challenge, especially also in how to make decisions in church planting/Christian philosophy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Satisfaction with How Things are Going by Americans

While I'm not 80 or even 90% sure how this affects every area of presenting the gospel and outreach yet, though I would love to read more, this steep decline in perception is very very relevant to church planting. The # now stands at 11% which has only happened a few times, and in recent history in late 2008. New results show:
Click here for Gallup poll.

It's worth thinking about practically. The top leaders of the downshift as expected in the current climate are 1. economy. 2. jobs. 3. federal deficit.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Army Suicides Rise

Just a quick blog post on something that stood out related to ministers. It is too sad, but those defending the country from threats abroad face much stress. Being away from family, being shot at, having a restricted language barrier in foreign counties, and much more. Apparently there is a high point in July 2011 among Army suicides. The link is here. For chaplains, this means readiness and preparedness to assist other Army professionals to reach out to soldiers. It means seeing the tough combat perspective from God's encouragements in the Word. This will require wisdom and seeking deliberate application to lead them to serve God through the struggles. It is a tough ministry, but one well worth it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Low Morale Politically - US citizens prerevolutionary

An article appeared here from a major polling site. The article details a recent poll showing that 46% of US citizens polled think that Congress is corrupt. Another interesting fact is that only 6% of those polled ( a # that keeps coming up in different polls, so it likely very accurate ) approve of the job Congress is doing. Only 17% of US citizens think the government is operating with the consent of the governed. Is it any wonder then that only 29% of those polled thought members of Congress were not corrupt. The citizens are realizing that: not only are many or most Congressmen and women no better than their constituents in civility, morality, and virtue in general, but in fact they're worse. Sex scandals. Cheating on taxes. Lying under oath. We almost expect federal politicians to just tell you what people want to hear in order to get elected. Then nothing seems to be accomplished that everyone wants. If you were dating or courting someone like that as a potential spouse, you would call them disingenous and break up. Unfortunately we can't do that.

I honestly view it this way: God has called us to submit to the governing authorities. (Romans 13). So there is a real challenge to the Christian believer to support their government. There is a challenge because of our type of government, which I'll touch on. Interestingly, Paul writing Romans 13 lived under Nero the Emperor who was no friend of Christ followers. How do we see our situation as citizens and as Christ followers then?

Yet we are a government by the people and we should seek to change it in the ways we can do so. The problem of unhappines though is very complex and I don't have the answers to it.

The question then is "whose government?" If the government is of the citizenry, whose citizenry? Americans are deeply divided on many issues: Government of the people who get hand outs? Government of the rich businessman or woman? Government of the left leaning, pro abort another 30 million children in the womb? Government of the fiscal conservative who doesn't believe in carrying through the promise? Government of the laissez faire? It's no wonder that no one is happy or even content! If none of these groups get their way, they are going to be unhappy. Perhaps the fact that none of them do get their way is contributing to the unhappiness. Appealing to a vague virtue that everyone might agree with means little, because everyone now expects that the politicians in power's favored sub-culture will benefit financially and with getting an honest ear for several years. Perhaps we just live in a jaded America....

There are believe it or not practical considerations on this for a pastor. If morale is so low it can mean a number of things, both pro and con to preach on during such times. It can also affect how to do outreach substantially, such as themes. Much more could be said about these last two areas.

Friday, August 5, 2011

USA Credit Rating

It turns out that S&P decided to lower our credit rating as a nation to AA+ from AAA. The article link shows that S&P made a mistake on the exact amount of debt, however, even so the burden of the debt in the long-term seems significant. Moody's and Fitch did not give the same low rating, yet that could change. It is reported that if those agencies agree with the S&P downgrade, then the cost of borrowing for the country and for mortgages and individuals (incl. corporations) would rise. This would slow business apart from other major factors. Interestingly, the weakness of the Eurozone created a situation where US debt was still in demand, as a safe haven asset. For the time being there appears to be a situation where we have a reputation of being better than the rest of the options for safe haven. Still, it cannot be passed by that if S&P is correct that debt would consume 88% equivalent of GDP by 2021, that we have major systemic problems ahead.

Consider: millions upon millions of baby boomers retire out of preference. Millions more are out of work and essentially retired. Those numbers go up. Millenials are too young to take up the slack. The gen inbetween is small. Who is going to prop up paying back the debt and who is going to pay the promises to the boomers that has been borrowed on by other government expenses? There is a dangerous imbalance of commitments against monies coming in. If the Boomers can contribute to a slowed housing market as they sell second homes, downsize, and prepare for retirement savings and days; by knocking small percentages off of what otherwise would be growth, they will also contribute (through no fault of their own per se...) to a stunted economy. This is not a good situation. Especially when they are drawing off their stocks from 401(k)'s and so on.

Why is this relevant to Christian faith? Well again missions funding (Mt 28) will take a hit as giving drops in some churches. Who will pick up the slack internationally? People will be hurting in situations so here and in Europe not much will likely increase (unlike book of Philippians response). Of course, in the foreseeable future, the government will be able to pay them, even if it is an amount less useful due to inflation or lack of adjustment to price increase. Longer term that is up for grabs. As far as ministry opportunities, they would exist from this. Then you have the malaise about us that is culturally pervasive to factor into everything from a sermon to a conversation to witnessing methods. A skeptical and jaded society may arise. Or one that is less reliant on material may arise. Maybe some of both. The kind of situation will certainly be humble, and not wished on anyone. Yet it will have cultural impressions effects.

There's a lot that could play out of this long-term.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weather and Church Growth

It is interesting to think about, but weather does play into church growth. In honor of the 109, 109, and 108 for Tues-Wed-Thurs in Dallas, Texas I'm using a couple minutes of my lunch break to just share some thoughts about this. It might be tempting to believe that in Canada and far Northern parts of the USA excluding the Northwest, evangelism in some forms outside of friendships is limited by cold weather. If there is ice covered by snow covered by ice then some more snow, and it remains below freezing, then you might not want to go 'door to door.' As obvious as this sounds, it might explain the trouble trying to reach people in colder climates in North America over 150-200 years. Not only might the French Quebequios be cold to evangelicals, but over time it could be a worse and worse reaction, since there aren't mediating influences. They can just hang onto traditions without much challenge. The internet changes some of this, as does global connectivity, but a personal challenge is harder to come by there.

In the South, with particular sights on Texas, this thought would not seem to hold. If from June to August many years (not all) you have temperatures in the 100's, people aren't going to use the plethora of outdoor outreach options as much. Yet there are still a large # of churches, many of which began before the advent of A/c in every house. Since then they've picked up people moving from around the US to Texas, and notably in Texas other places too causing rapid growth on top of that like Pakistan/India/Mexico, who at times trust Christ (or already know Him others) and join those long existing churches (if they are still viable, alive churches anyways). That kind of reactive receipt of people is a nice plus for those over time. Still what of intentional, proactive outreach? It has to be creative. Of course, the summer months are where people check out emotionally and mentally from church in the South. So perhaps 100+ is less of an issue for Texas, whereas in the nose to the grindstone months in Canada, the church is limited. This would explain some of their lack of engagement with other traditions, beliefs, and such; beyond reading about them or traveling elsewhere over centuries.

It would be interesting to see if anyone else has done research on this sociological aspect of the Great Commission.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What was Cornelius Van Til?

I was reading some from C. Stephen Evans on Epistemology and the Ethics of Belief. He was speaking about the failure of Internalism. One of his comments was "internalism shares a failing with deontological conceptions of justification. Even if it should be the case that it is intuitively evident that a belief is justified, it does not follow logically that the belief is likely to be true." He goes on to say that "the appeal of internalism may lie in the confusion between being justified in holding a belief and being able to justify a belief, which we noted ..., must be clearly distinguished." (219). It is interesting though, that Evans does not show his assertion by any justification. Can he justify his belief? Not really.

If we appeal to externalism, such as Plantinga and Alston, then are we not just arguing over what constitutes a justified belief? How can we gain any real certainty from passing fads of what it takes to be justified? If we say a well functioning cognitive faculty as Evans quotes (from Plantinga I think), then will there not always be 'stupid' charges back and forth that the one who disagrees with the majority or the en vogue will certainly be not well functioning? Or is it to be obvious things, like they are well-behaved and have normal conversations which offers the warrant. And that they tend to be accurate over time? Is this not evidentialism just on steriods?

Hmm... Any thoughts....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

James K.A. Smith Gets It Wrong

In his useful work on postmodern thought, Who's Afraid of..., Smith reveals in several ways his thought that Protestant churches which fall into a "Primitivism" category reject creeds and catholic (little c) statements (129). There is simply a leap back to the 1st century practices and the work of the apostles, even the revelation of Christ, but no "traditions of men" are used. This seems a bit biased. After all, if Smith is acquainted with many new church starts in the Protestant vein he would know better. While he might be right about some seeker starts, he can't be right with all of them. Many of those simply do not care for creeds. But they aren't anti-creedal as he says. The half seeker or non-seeker starts, which mark the motion of the future of Christianity in the US, don't fall into that category. Many are highly creedal. I am thinking of several starts now that simply don't fit his mold.

Does Mormonism Matter for Presidential Candidate?

An article posted here deals with this question.

Friday, July 8, 2011

North America as Mission Field

It has become so critical in our time to see that new works need to be initiated in North America so that the good news about Jesus can get to people where they are living and working. As part of this effort, the North American Mission Board has some promotional videos about their work. They are actually very informative about this and also disaster relief work they do. Check them out there.

Especially of interest to genuine change in our time is the video on the barber from Norwich, Ct.

Blessings,

David

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cash Home Buyers at High Percentage Affects Planting Strategy

The market before us:

Cash buying. Feb 2011.

Cash buying. June 2011.

This means people are anxious and worried whether they say so openly or not, when it comes to homeownership, retirement, paying for childrens future at college, private school, and so on.

This equates to uncertainty for those who are renting on whether they want to buy or are able to buy depending on job changes and risks of loss of job.

This equates to low level giving by some who have not learned to trust God thru it all and adjust spending.

This trend means that people are mobile in their metroplex. They may rent wherever it makes sense or is close to work rather than where they want to live long-term. People are shifting locations, or if they can't sell their home if they are underwater, they are looking to downsize if they can get out of it by chance/hope. This factors into how to minister to such persons or how to try or not try to catch up to them as they transition around.

This trend means that the economy is not as strong as these articles make it seem as if cash is propping things up. It is, but only from a risk perspective. These buyers are suggesting they'll make back their investment. However, the larger millenial generation isn't into buying right now only the smaller Gen x. They'll have to wait a while to make it back, except by rent. They will be extended on their own monies.

Much to consider even beyond this...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why a 'Church' Might Not Grow

Some churches don't grow because they are in areas that are evacuating. Some don't grow because they don't reach those who are newly arriving around them. Others don't grow because outreach is not favorable to them, but only keeping those who already know each other as the priority at all costs. But at the heart of some, they may not grow if they pray this prayer:

Our Father who is in heaven
Hallowed be our name
Our kingdom come, our will be done
On committees as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our errors (notice there is not a mention of turning from 'sin')
As we forgive others their errors
Lead us not into temptations our tradition (denom.) despises (but others are ok...)
Deliver us from evil (except our favorite sins such as gossip, slander, malice and backbitting)

Amen (let it be).

Hmmm...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting 2011

The SBC 2011 was a meeting held in Phoenix, AZ the past few days, in order to continue international and national missions giving and planning. Other news discussed in that meeting include funding, upkeep, and progress reports from evangelical seminaries and a committee on ethics/religion.

A new first vice president was elected whom I hear is being positioned for a potential president of the SBC meeting in 2012. This individual apparently excites a number of the messengers to the SBC for a return to some historic Baptist principles in some areas, according to the 9 Marks breakout session Tuesday night at 9pm.

Kevin Ezell previously senior pastor of Highview Baptist Chuch in Louisville, KY and now the new president of the North American Mission Board presented a report/challenge for more church planting as a way that NAMB can impact our culture. He also brought in a solid line-up of testimonies of what giving to missions in Canada/the USA can do to help people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This included a man who was being discipled by a church planter in Norwich, CT that is a barber. The barber in turn shares the gospel with some of those visiting his shop and one man who trusted Jesus as his Savior was present to share about that. This type of multiplying effect is one result of cooperative giving to the SBC. He also brought a number of missionaries along with him that were ready to reach their areas through loving others by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Speaker Louie Giglio was present to challenge SBC'ers to preach about the Holy Spirit, who points us to Jesus Christ. Instead of relying on just calls to missions, we ought to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in believer's lives in order to give the impetus and passion to share the gospel even more than at present. We don't have to go overboard talking about the Spirit's work, in order to spend necessary additional time on that person's work in salvation/the church. He also brought out that he is now pastoring, which is a major change from his parachurch ministry days including representing at Passion and One Day events around the USA.

Speaker Rick Warren did a solid job bringing out the role of a church in church planting. He used some of his field tested and approved research to pepper the message, giving people a good sense of the kind of work he recommends. This message offered insight into how God calls us to reach people with the good news of Jesus by the means of church planting. It was challenging and useful. He revealed how God has laid it on his heart to be involved with churches internationally and how Saddleback church is sponsoring members to go out and begin church planting work in CA and to the ends of the earth. Apparently, they have been undertaking a major project of reaching every nation with missionaries. This has gone well with a group helping him to carry out this good task which he mentioned from the stage. In my personal opinion, it was very refreshing to hear a man used of God to plant a church speaking about church planting being a priority.

Attenders seemed to include a good portion of laypersons, and then a significant chunk of Southern Seminary and Southwestern Seminary students/grads within the past five or so years.
Many of those attending were wearing suits and traditional outfits. Considering it was 108 Fahrenheit on one of the convention days this was quite a feat for them, going from building to building and restaurant to building! Others were dressed more casually. The largest group was probably pastors and families. There was not a tremendous proportion of parents there with children, presumably they were left with relatives at home. The Kidzone was packed out, especially the preschooler area which was full from the beginning.

Personal observations: there was a leaner, more slim lined convention process. This presumably is saving the convention money for missions work. Trade offs are in this though, as you might guess.
The gospel was preached. The convention seemed very gospel focused in a clear way. In addition, a letter from Billy Graham was red which encouraged attenders to keep sharing the gospel. Also, technology was highly in use in the form of blackberrys, ipads, and more. People were tweeting and facebooking the convention, and texting one another about topics.

Book-signings: there were a number of major authors there willing to talk and interact. Craig Blomberg is one I saw. David Platt also was there.

I found a lot of people were warm and willing to meet others and pray for / bless them. Even Rick Warren and David Allen and Frank Page and Tom James and Paige Patterson and Mark Dever were very warm, friendly. Others were encouraging such as Ezell.
Many of the pastors were also warm and very friendly to those around them. They seemed to bless others in small and big ways through encouragement and presence.
Danny Akin had a solid point during that breakout on the importance of affirming Scripture's claims about itself. I always appreciate that thoughtful reflection, which really is a reminder to us all to take all of God's Word as relevant, authentic and profitable (and massively powerful to move the church forward). He also was big on expository preaching along with other panel members. This was a good word. Certainly when a pastor holds out the Word of life it will do great things since that is where the power lies.

All in all, the SBC in general was informative. The convention itself accomplished a lot of work. Glad to be a part of a great missions sending convention like this one along with the many challenges by the SBC President, and other guests to press ahead with the work. There are a lot of people working diligently, and with perseverance to further the gospel, loving on people, and helping change the mentality that missions don't have to happen in North America. Certainly they do, and the statistics by population increasingly put us in one of the most unreached parts of the globe with the gospel. This might be hard to believe in some cities, but others which are less popular for planters or missions teams are without much of a gospel witness. Hopefully the church planting emphasis will pay off for the SBC as far as spiritual investing. It is necessary to help the convention to continue to exist well into the 21st century as populations shift demographically and entire cities change, while some churches don't know how or won't reach out to those changed areas. Thankfully many wise churches pastors and convention thinkers are looking to plant churches to reach those who for whatever reasons may not step foot into another place.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What was Jerusalem like in Jesus time?

I found a very interesting article by Time magazine, which offers some perspective on this question. What was the temple like? What was the size and scope of the city? Click here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Paying Off Debt

This past week I had the opportunity to teach godly principles on paying off debt. This article records how at the national level the debt ceiling is quickly being reached. Click here. It is surprising that even Timothy Geithner believes we need to limit borrowing. This tells you the tremendous amount of money we owe on a regular basis as a country. Proverbs 22:7. We need to become stronger by eliminating debt and focusing on strategic budgetary cuts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thought Police

It seems that Apple has tried to be the 'thought police' to a perfect American tolerant of all but Christians viewpoint again:

Click here for the article.

Exodus International is as far as I can tell a well-known national agency. It doesn't cure anyone of anything, but offers an alternative expression that happens to be in line with the Christian tradition for those interested in getting away from one way of living and stepping onto the selective way of Christ instead. Is there a reason that Apple is selective in its allowance of applications? This is one more example of why neutrality in culture, or tolerance, or business is a pure myth like a 'unicorn' existing. Apple is no more neutral than Exodus or than LGBT. Apple just has bent to the pressure of the side it is favorable to. You know, I have heard that there are some tablet alternatives coming out from Samsung and also Blackberry that are faster...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spending Priorities as We Look Back on the Year

According to Ken Hemphill, a former seminary President, and now professor; income for overseas missions work through six hundred agencies, inter and denominational, totaled 2.9 billion in 2002. What else received more money than seeking and saving the lost souls of humankind in 2002? Movie tickets received 9 billion. 38 billion was spent on various state lotteries. 23 billion was spent in domestic pet related stores. He then asks the question: if these are staggering insights, what will we do with them? A good question....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

One of the worst things about society in the US -- unspoken, assumed segregation in churches, by nearly every background. When I was in graduate school many of the professors pointed this error out, rightfully so, that the most segregated place in America is the church on Sunday morning (referring to churches across the USA). It's sad that the God who created all peoples can't be the focus of worship by all peoples together in specific local churches. Sure there are major exceptions, though sadly they are not all that common. The general rule is observed by churchmen and women, and thank the Lord for new believers who don't follow the same rule and are willing to be formed by Jesus Christ and the Father as the potter (Jeremiah 18).

What has happened is sad for a more important reason than many think too: Christians who have gifts from God by the Holy Spirit (encouragement, service, mercy, teaching, leading, administration, evangelism, etc.) tend to use them only with people like them. The whole church is in more poverty for it, spiritual and emotional poverty. Christ sent Paul the Apostle (and others) out to the Gentiles to bring in the nations, to bring in those who would trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to the church. Together they build the church up, serving as the body of Christ (one in this role, one in another). The NT churches were from the beginning combined congregations of peoples. The gift of tongues back then was probably largely for proclaiming the gospel to make this merging happen and to translate in the congregations (for a limited time during the change in covenants it would appear).

There is hardly a "church" out there that will admit it is segregationist, but they are behind the closed doors when they make decisions, how they talk about the 'others' that are out there. IN Texas the impossibility of holding to that error and following Christ at the same time is being pressed to a point.

This link shows that Texas is no longer an Anglo state. For the vast majority of churches of various denominations, that means adopt Christ's call to bring in all nations to your church and/or denomination by fishing --or-- pretend you don't know how to fish - therefore - cease to exist by demographic predictions.

The solution seems simple. Follow Jesus' command to bring in all people who will trust Him from the nations and bring them into the fold. Will this happen? Not sure. It'll be great to see (with a holy zeal, and knowledge of Matthew 28:19-20) the Christ-rejecting social clubs in various inter and denominational church buildings who don't take Matthew 28 realistically sell their buildings to vibrant new churches that don't go by the wayside of history's blunders. It would be greater if they'd turn from their present disregard (accidental or deliberate) of other peoples, but ... unfortunately that is not likely for the majority of local congregations. So those non-profit 501(c)3 buildings are going to belong to Jesus' Great Commission in 2011/forward one way or another. Irony of ironies thanks to a good US rule on non-profit property.

Yep, the people they couldn't genuinely put in leadership or other positions because of their ethnic background are going to get the buildings that belonged to God and were taken from him anyways. Those are the ones who are going to buy out those structures and return the praises of God to being in their walls again, rather than merely tradition epithets void of Great Commission fire.

What will the Texas church look like in the future? The ones that still exist as congregations and the ones with buildings are going to be from various nations. God has a sense of humor, and it is worth smiling about.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Multiculturalism Thoughts of Continental Politicians

There is an interesting trend in Europe. Major politicians are saying that the multiculturalism model has failed, especially in their respective countries. Check this trend out:


Click here on Cameron's remarks.

Click here on Sarkozy's remarks.

Apparently Merkel also made similar comments.

It raises some questions for the US. When will this paradigm shift get here too? Which way will the US swing as a result of the paradigm shift? How will that affect change business, family, chuch, and economics?

As an update to the above information, Foxnews reports 2-18-11 at 5:50pm cst, on this development in Europe. They had guests comment on it including the Weekly Standard, with the general impression that Europe differs from the US multicultural experience. Still their reasons weren't fully explained before moving onto another topic. It is interesting to see how many things predicted to not have effects elsewhere tend to, especially traveling from the Continent over to the Atlantic coast in cultural imports. Time will tell.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Use is Freedom of Speech if you Can't Use it

A major news outlet had an article touching on how a John 3:16 ad painted on a player's face was too offensive for Fox to show to the audience of the Super Bowl 45. See here. Perhaps they were trying to dodge other controversial ads that may try to ride the coat tails of one that isn't, but it raises a question. If the thought police at a network can block even advertising on television, or for that matter radio, what use is free speech? Is free speech now only available on sympathetic small radio stations or the non-viewed TBN health and wealth channel? Is free speech only available in public parks and door to door in a neighborhood? The medium of our time is internet. To this point it is largely free to sharing the gospel, but there have been times when large website companies have done the same type of thing with restricting Christian advertising (a la google on ads a few years back, which I think finally reversed itself). The second and third biggest mediums tv and radio seem to be free only to an extent. All of this is merely to raise the question: what value is freedom of speech unless it can be heard in major forums of the day?

On the same link above, there is a discussion on a Doritos commercial and Christians. It seems that in this situation the advertising cuts both ways. I don't know that that Doritos thing bothers me at all, in fact, pastors joke about that among themselves. Pastors wouldn't (in the vast majority of cases) take that Doritos commericial seriously. It seems that either ad, the John 3:16 , or the Doritos one, could be shown in a country such as ours. But... neither is allowed. This underlines the question again about what it means to say we are free to speak in a digital age, beyond talking to someone walking their dog in a local park, lol. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What was so important about Acts 15:20?

At first thought, if you've read it before, it doesn't seem like it stands out. But there is a huge interpretive key in Acts 15:20. What should Gentile believers in Jesus do in relation to the Law of Moses? The early church council interpretive key was to hold them to pre-Law standards. While the 'strangled meat and from blood in meat' stopping comment by James seems random, it certainly is not. If you go to the book of Genesis, before the Law was given in chapter 9, you'll find that God made all meat available for man to eat, except not to eat it with its lifeblood still in it. That's not the main thing I want to weigh in on though, but the fact that they leap back previous to the giving of the actual Jewish Law, to the early days with Noah and his family. Just as Paul leaps pre-Law to say that Abraham the patriarch was justified by faith, faith allowed him to have God's righteousness simply credited to his account (chapter 15 Genesis). If you are wondering how to handle the Law as a Gentile Christian, you've got a strong indicator from the way the early church did as well in Acts 15:20. Just some thoughts on understanding your Bible...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Housing Markets

I suspect that a link to Bloomberg news about housing starts being low is due to the fact that a huge generation is retiring or seeking to retire (thus saving and selling), and an interested but smaller following generation or two is not able to eat up the surplus. Why build which is expensive when you can buy one of the many lower priced homes? For a link to the news article click here. This is a socio-economic factor dealing with population, choices by age, and unemployment numbers still being higher than they should be.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Watching God's Provision Unfold

It has been amazing the past six months watching how God provides and stretches faith. In my life, seeking to plant a new church for a growing area, it is a God-send and yet a challenge to see my faith have to grow. There are days when you have to apply seriously the day has enough of its own concerns, and trust Jesus to work out the needs being met with church provision. The bigger the challenge, even with some unanswered "how" to get there questions, have resulted in bigger returns on what God is able to do in my understanding. It would be easy to sit back and watch others grow in this way, in a comfortable pew somewhere that no real promptings have to be dealt with, but getting into the action has forced me in ways I could not predict to wrestle with assurance of God's interest in seeing us grow, and get confirmation in this assurance of God's working, of how God is good and brings things at the perfect timing showing His wisdom.

There has also been a great boost to my awareness of how God uses many advisors to strengthen a person's successful working in an area. The lone ranger pastor idea seems so far from relevant, almost absurb now. Not just any advisors will do though. Every Joe and Jane has an opinion and would love to give you advice. That's not what I'm talking about. I mean talking to people who have been there in the thick of action, who have grown in their walk with Jesus Christ through things that take increased faith for the kingdom, and can share wisdom with you that is still smoking because its so hot off the press. It's been amazing to see how much more there is to learn from competent coaches in areas I thought I knew something about, or was unaware of the need for more. SO being stretched is a good thing when it comes to this thrill ride known as church planting. I just pray that God is greatly blessed and His name is honored among people who are His and grow in their love for Him through the work, or who are just getting to know Him for the first time. May it be in great measure for kingdom benefit! Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Discipleship

When it comes to Christianity, we can never lose touch with the fact that we are all to be disciples of Christ. We are discipled through relationships and we make disciples through relationships, focusing on the news of and reminder of the facts of the faith. These facts including assurance of salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit, and similar themes. An interesting blog, especially for those interested in the topic of discipleship is listed below:

Right here.

Blessings,
David