Mobilizing the Church. Transforming the World.

How Do We Defend and Commend Our Faith?

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2-men-talkingI’ve always been concerned for people who are far from God. When I first engaged with the Christian faith as a pre-teen I was taught that it is every Christian’s responsibility to share their faith. Over time it became more than a duty, it became a deep concern for others.

Through the years this burden for others has not ceased but has become stronger, particularly as I’ve experienced friends and loved ones rejecting the truths of my faith.

I’ve attempted to think deeply about truth, life, relationships, and spirituality. I have been willing to step back from my cherished faith assumptions and re-evaluate, examine, and question. This has not moved me away from my Christian beliefs but has in fact solidified my convictions about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the Gospel.

Today I think I am more open than ever to critically examine what I believe. But honestly, the more I do, the more I discover what I have come to believe is enduring truth, that which I continue to find in my orthodox Christian beliefs.

Over the past 10 years I have been a serious student of culture, both in the West and around the world. Most of this research was in the context of missions and particularly church planting, and most of my work over the past 2 decades has been centered on church planting, both locally and globally. However, over the past year I have begun to think more about culture and how it relates to religion, politics, and economics. I hope to start a new journey in my blog now of reflecting on what I see and learn in culture.

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that my country, the United States of America, is decreasingly a Christendom culture influenced predominantly by Protestantism (like it was in the first 200 years of our nation.) But it is increasingly becoming a pluralistic culture influenced by many ideologies. In fact, the privileged place that Christianity once held is being attacked and replaced by not only secularism, but almost anything other than Christianity. This influence is becoming evident in legislation, politics, economics, education, as well as religious practices.

The question I ask myself today, more than ever, is this: “How do we, as members of the Christian faith community, properly offer what we take to be the blessings of our faith, to others? How can we both defend and commend our faith without needlessly offending our friends and loved ones and exacerbating the tensions now being posed by pluralism, and particularly secularism?”

Yes, the message of the cross will always be an offense to some, but how do we share it without us being the offense? If you have thoughts, I would love to hear your comments.

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A Social Network Christmas: The Nativity Through the Eyes of Facebook

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How to Plant a Church

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Just a Ride on the Subway

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This is one day that I wished I had been on the NY Subway! This is too cool!

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Church Planting in America

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Every church planter I talk to tells me a similar story, “We’re going to do something different.” I say “OK,” and then when they get going this is what I see.

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Understand Your Host Culture

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Buck Birch is a friend and church planter in Russia. He offers a very encouraging blog post on “Enjoying our Host Culture.” Every church planter should be thinking about their “host culture” even if they are living and planting in the U.S. Our mission is to take the gospel into a “host” culture in a relevant and meaningful way.

We must love the culture in which God has placed us (see Buck’s post). However, we must remember the words of Jesus in John 15:17 – we are to be in the culture but not of the culture. We must love the culture and appreciate the beauty of the culture (a reflection of the image of God) without becoming “inculturated” and assimilated into the culture.

We must always remember that we are pilgrims (aliens) in this world. We’re only passing through. Our true home is yet to come. But in the meantime, God has given us all things richly to enjoy. Enjoy the culture, but be an agent of grace and transformation in YOUR host culture. Our aim as church planters and church planting leaders is to create biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-cultural communities of faith. Check out what Buck has to say!
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First and Never

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Ministry (and life) today is full of “firsts” and “nevers.” Seth Godin captured this well in his blog post today. As ministry leaders we need to keep this in mind not only for ourselves, but for the people whom we lead. Seth says:

…We keep discovering firsts, the biggest viral video ever, the most twitter followers ever, the fastest bestseller ever… And we constantly discover nevers as well. There’s never going to be a mass market TV show that rivals the ones that came before. There’s never going to be a worldwide brand built by advertising ever again either. And Michael Jackson’s record deal is the last one of its kind…

Read Seth’s blog post and think about how this applies to church and ministry life. What are the “firsts” and “nevers” that you have experienced? What are the “firsts” and “nevers” the people in your congregation are experiencing? These are powerful thoughts!
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10 Types of Emerging Church

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Very interesting summary of the different types of churches being planted today. Thanks Andrew for sharing your observations and experience.

10 Types of Emerging Church That Will No Longer Upset Your Grandfather by Andrew Jones.
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More Observations About Millennials

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The Pew Research Center is helping us understand more about the millennial generation. These are mostly twenty-something adults. Our church is focused on reaching the 30 year old male so this is vitally important information for us. Maybe you will find it helpful too.

Here are 3 more big things you need to know about the Millennials:
  • They are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of adults in the nation’s history: 18.5% are Hispanic; 14.2% are African American; 4.3% are Asian; 3.2% are mixed race or other; and 59.8% (a record low) are white.
  • They are the first generation in human history who regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding.
  • They are the least religiously observant young adults since survey research began charting religious behavior.

Unfortunately, most churches in the U.S. are declining in attendance. This typically results when our churches are unable to reach the emerging generations and/or the changing communities around them. We must know and understand this new generation, and we must adapt our methods to be increasingly culturally relevant while always remaining Biblically faithful.

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Do You Know the Millennials?

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Pew Research has recently released some interesting data about Millennials. Just so you will know, Baby Boomers are now ages 46-64, GenX’ers are now ages 31-45, and Millennials start with teens and go up to 30 years of age.

One interesting fact about these Millennials is that they are more inclined toward trust in institutions than were either of their two predecessor generations (Boomers & X’ers) when they were coming of age. What are the implications of this for the church?

Another important observation is that they are starting out as the most politically progressive age group in modern history. In the 2008 election, Millennials voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by 66%-32%, while adults ages 30 and over split their votes 50%-49%. In the four decades since the development of Election Day exit polling, this is the largest gap ever seen in a presidential election between the votes of those under and over age 30.

From a generational standpoint in the U.S., twenty-somethings are the most unreached segment by the church. We need to know these young adults and discover ways to reach them with the gospel.
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