Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts

Friday, March 01, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Making Merchandise

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

As long as there has been a people of God in the world, there have been those who looked to take advantage of them. The Israelites had their false prophets, and Peter warns the young church to expect their share of false teachers. He says, as the translators of the King James Version so eloquently put it, “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.”

Tom: But of course the trick is always identifying such people, isn’t it, Immanuel Can? I mean, what does that look like in the real world?

Monday, February 12, 2024

Anonymous Asks (289)

“How can we know the Holy Spirit is present with us when nobody is expressing strong feelings?”

Some Christians — often women, let’s be honest — evaluate the spiritual temperature of a religious gathering by its perceived emotional intensity; by whether participants spring a leak while praying, singing or sharing their thoughts. If they had their way, there would be a box of Kleenex in every pew and we would take our spiritual temperature by how often they need replacement.

Is this actually a biblical idea?

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Stuck in the Middle with You

“Clowns to the left of me,
  Jokers to the right,
  Here I am
  Stuck in the middle with you.”

— Stealers Wheel, 1972

Doesn’t it seem these days like the world has divided right down the middle? We’ve got Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, Brexiters and Europhiles, open borders advocates and controlled immigration people, social justice warriors and free speech advocates, the politically correct and the deliberately controversial, individualists and collectivists … and on, and on, and on.

Iron and clay, maybe.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Too Hot to Handle: Past the Man to the Message

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Roughly eight years ago now, I watched a couple of Mark Driscoll videos and commented on them here. Driscoll, once dubbed “one of the nation’s most prominent and celebrated pastors” by no less than Forbes magazine, took a tumble about a decade back, resigning from his pastorate at Mars Hill Church in Seattle over accusations of arrogance and a “domineering style of leadership”. He reappeared in Phoenix around 2016, after which I lost track of him.

Driscoll’s sermons were edgy and frank, his style ultra-modern. Immanuel Can sent me a link to one of his more recent videos this week, and not much about the man has changed in the last decade, except maybe the addition of a beard and the affectation of some “manly man” stage gear: faded jeans, boots and an outdoor work jacket.

Tom: I’m not sure if you are aware of this, IC, but a decade ago Driscoll’s favorite schtick was to trash the Christian men in his audience while lauding the women and feminists, especially single mothers. He seems to have done a complete about-face, and is now encouraging Christian males to be “traditional men”, and pointing out ways in which the church has been regrettably feminized.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Going to the Dogs

“They are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.”

Our late Shih Tzu was not a silent dog, but he was probably as close as you’ll ever get. He almost never barked, and when he did, about the most you’d get from him was a polite, solitary “Arf.” If you didn’t respond to that, you were on your own.

A non-barking dog is world’s greatest pet when you live in an apartment and want to maintain some sort of decent relationship with your neighbors. But our little guy would not have made much of a watchdog.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Diluting the Faith

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Salvation Army founder William Booth once said, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be: Religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, politics without God, and Heaven without Hell.”

Author Daniel Sweet believes American Christianity is already there. One of the problems Sweet identifies is the dilution of the faith almost exactly the way Booth described.

Tom: What do you think, IC? Any of Booth’s formulations ring true to you? I’d argue politics was always without God, but other than that …

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Divorce: What We Don’t Know

I’ve been thankful to see a few posts from Tom on the subject of divorce, and I’ve been encouraging him to research and write more. We, in the church, need information about this.

I’m afraid we’re not very wise on this. Time was when divorces were rare. Back then, what tended to happen is that if a person got divorced, they just left the church — end of story. Maybe one of the partners hung around … especially if he or she was presumed “innocent” in the event. But for the most part, divorce was just an uncomfortable subject, a Pandora’s Box that churches just didn’t want to open.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

In Which I Equivocate

Your local church is dull.

To be fair, they probably can’t help it. They wouldn’t know how to be any other way. It’s who they are: older, more traditional, kind of set in their ways, and it seems to suit them. Sure, the Bible teaching is sound and Christ-centered, but the singing is dreary and antiquated. You’re not looking for charismatic excess, but a little genuine emotion once in a while would be nice.

Shouldn’t true faith transform the heart as well as the head?

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Old Guy with the Ponytail

I saw an episode of The Fresh Prince of Belair recently.

Don’t ask.

Man, remember that show? At one time it was all the rage. The jokes seemed so clever, so cutting-edge. It seemed like suddenly every kid on the playground was sliding his pants down, turning his ball cap around, and trying to talk like Will Smith.

“Yo, yo, Homes … whaddup? How you gonna play me?”

** Cringe **

Friday, October 13, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Five Bad Reasons (2)

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Liberal Christian blogger Benjamin Corey claims more believers — especially older ones — are becoming “LGBTQ-affirming”, and this Pew poll appears to back him up. Whether this is due to social pressure, a fear of being thought intolerant or just plain old battle fatigue remains to be seen.

Tom: Corey lists five reasons he believes Christians are changing their minds about homosexuality. Immanuel Can and I are fisking his arguments for orthodoxy. We’re not finding much ...

Friday, October 06, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Five Bad Reasons (1)

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

More Christians are becoming “LGBTQ-affirming”, says blogger Benjamin Corey, basing his claim on this Pew poll.

This comes right on the heels of a Harris Poll commissioned by GLAAD which appears to indicate — much to the chagrin of LGBTQ advocates — that affirmation of same-sex relationships by unsaved millennials is trending in the opposite direction.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Disaster of the Misled Middle

“Better to have an enemy who slaps you in the face than a friend who stabs you in the back,” goes the old saying.

It’s true. And the worst part is it that when your friend stabs you, he’s stabbing from behind your defenses already. An enemy’s danger you can see coming; a friend’s you cannot. An enemy you can fight with all you’ve got. But when it’s a friend that one must fight, there’s grief, self-doubt, hesitancy, restraint and a profound sense of loss at every step. You hang on longer to hope of a reconciliation, of healing and of forgiveness, even when those things don’t appear. That’s why friends can hurt friends in ways no enemy can.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Churches in the Crosshairs

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Last week, IC, Bernie and I discussed the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Toronto, Canada, which consisted of 8,000 Catholics, Buddhists, Baptists, Bahai, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans and indigenous spiritualists. They gathered to complain about Donald Trump and disseminate tactics for effectively infiltrating evangelical churches in order to convert us to the globalist / ecumenicalist cause.

Since they’ve been so kind as to warn us of their intentions in advance, I thought maybe we could consider how best to keep them out, or perhaps how to bring them in while thwarting their efforts.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: The Church and Fatherhood

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Last week I came across a U.S. federal government site designed to be a resource for fathers and families. While of course we applaud any such effort in a period when the family is relentlessly under attack from all sides, it seems obvious secular governments are not well-equipped to teach the more spiritual aspects of fatherhood.

Fathers do not exist simply to pay the bills and do the heavy lifting around the house. The last time we talked, we compiled a list of fatherly responsibilities from scripture, and it was not a short one. God did not intend fathers to be dispensable, whatever our society may think.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Anonymous Asks (261)

“Why do some churches grow while others die?”

This is one of those questions for which there is no single definitive answer, especially given the way denominationalism has complicated something God made comparatively simple. First century churches were multi-ethnic, their membership driven by common faith and physical proximity rather than theological hair-splitting or spiritual consumerism.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Whole Gathering

Pick out from among you seven men of good repute …”

When was the last time your local church “read out” or excommunicated someone?

I know some churches that have never done it. Even in churches that have, for most it’s been a very long time, to almost nobody’s regret. In these litigious days, telling a brother or sister they are no longer welcome in the fellowship of the saints is not an action in which anybody is particularly enthusiastic about participating. Nor should it be: there is plenty of financial risk involved, as well as the potential risk to testimony if a person so excluded elects to push back in a public way and the church’s version of the excommunication narrative is called into question by people incapable of understanding its purpose.

Who jumps at handling a hot potato like that? Nobody with a keen sense of self-preservation, that’s for sure.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Mismeetings of the Christian Church

“Blest be the tie that binds
 Our hearts in Christian love:
 The fellowship of kindred minds
 Is like to that above.”

So sang the congregation.

And they sang it every Sunday.

They sang it whenever it was announced that they had a visitor or new congregant come among them.

A nice gesture, wasn’t it?

Friday, May 12, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Debby Boone Theology

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

“It can’t be wrong, when it feels so right.”

— Debby Boone, You Light
Up My Life

Immanuel Can: Okay, Tom. Remember that song?

Tom:hated the song, but I was wildly infatuated with Debby. I think I even had her poster on the wall in the basement bedroom I shared with my younger brother. I could just barely slide a female pop star (completely and decorously attired, I hasten to add, in a beige dress that did up at the neck and went down to her ankles) past my parents because “She’s a Christian!” Of course, I was all of sixteen at the time. Sadly, nothing permanent came of that little obsession: Debby has since married a fellow believer and, unlike many celebrities, has stuck with it going on forty years now. Good on her.

IC: Uh … right.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

A Church Without Wings

In one of the towns in which I lived as a child there was a church that called itself “Berean”. I’ve noticed quite a few such establishments, and I wonder if many people know what it actually means.

It’s a reference to a group of ancient Jews who lived in a town called Berea, and who were among those who experienced the early ministry of the apostle Paul. They listened to the gospel Paul preached; and yet they didn’t just trust it. They checked it out for themselves, comparing his New Testament teaching with the word of God in the Old Testament. Acts says that they “received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Christ-Shaped Empty Space

Regarding last week’s post about spiritual narcissism, one further thought has been with me lately.

The attraction to following a single, charismatic, spiritually-talented man is an interesting case of misdirected spiritual longing. As human beings, and especially as sons of God, we are constituted for the destiny of eternal relationship with a Man. He is our legitimate spiritual leader and source of spiritual food, the rightful head of every direction we’re going, and the source of all our future hopes and blessings. To be given over to serving him is our highest and best destiny, and even now we have a longing for that — a longing God gives us, and which we must have.

It’s a longing for our Shepherd … the Good Shepherd.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Virtual Christianity

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

James Smith’s Los Angeles Review of Books has a piece up called “How to Find God (on YouTube)” about a gang of “apostles” and “prophets” we discussed in this space last year.

Tom: You may remember our conversation about Independent Network Christianity (or INC), the post-Pentecostal charismatic internet church movement from California. (By “post-Pentecostal”, I mean that they are signs-and-wonders focused, as you might expect, but have no connection to denominational Pentecostals like the Assemblies of God. They are total freelancers.)

How do you feel about autonomous “Christian” movements, IC? Are they suspicious by definition?

Friday, February 17, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Collect Yourself

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: How much Jordan Peterson have you been watching lately, IC?

Immanuel Can: A fair bit, actually. The guy’s an interesting cat.

Tom: Good. I was afraid I’d have to come up with something original. :) Have you seen him express his thoughts on identity politics?

IC: Yes. It seems to me he’s very strong on the view that one should sort oneself and one’s own life and relationships out first, before getting involved in any sort of collective. So he’s saying to our generation of young people, Don’t focus on complaining about how unfair the world is, or on mobilizing others to do likewise, unless you’re also prepared to address the obvious areas of need for improvement in your own life. Makes sense.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Honoring the Spirit

The congregation I was in last weekend was singing this new song:

“Holy Spirit, come invade us now
 We are your church
 We need your power …”


These people believe the Spirit of God is outside of believers, and has to be called on to “invade”? They think the church of God does not actually have the Spirit of God already?

Surely not! But why were they singing such nonsense?

Monday, January 16, 2023

Anonymous Asks (232)

“Are home churches biblical?”

The first church in Jerusalem was made up of many smaller home gatherings. The Jewish believers displayed their new Spirit-empowered unity by “attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes”. Some commentators suggest the words “breaking bread” in Acts 2 simply refer to sharing an ordinary meal in common. It is certainly possible to construe them that way; however, breaking up into smaller groups gathering in private homes to remember the Lord Jesus would simply have been good strategy.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Choosing a Church

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Woodcrest Church has a helpful “Denomination Selector”. No, really, I’m not kidding.

The survey* asks the user to agree or disagree with a series of 24 statements along the lines of the following:

  1. There is one God
  2. Godhead exists as three distinct Persons
  3. The Bible is free from error


  1. There a literal Heaven and Hell
  2. The preferred day of worship (or Sabbath) is Sunday
  3. People receive charismatic gifts today (tongues, prophesy)
  4. A woman can serve as a pastor or a church minister


and so on.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The pendulum swings. Even Christians are not inclined to be creatures of moderation, it seems.

At one end of the arc, believers sit docilely in pews being entertained. Assuming the pastor is not merely a well-packaged platform presence of minimal substance and that he genuinely possesses a spiritual teaching gift, he is the only one who gets to exercise it. At best, the performance holds our interest. At worst, we find ourselves constantly checking the time.

At the other extreme it’s a bit chaotic and unpredictable: men and women “share”, digress, pontificate, tell stories and interrupt each other to such an extent that impartial observers would be hard pressed to distinguish between spiritual gifts, natural impulses and mere gleeful enthusiasm at the opportunity to actually DO something in the church for once.

Few churches find the sweet spot between hierarchy and anarchy, between boredom and bedlam.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Wheat and Weeds

I was talking to a close friend last week. He’s serving as an elder in a local congregation of believers. A man of their gathering has raised an issue; he feels very strongly that certain forms of worship are simply out of court for Christians. But the form he most particularly dislikes is one that scripture never even really talks about one way or the other. In fact, if I told you what it was, you’d likely be very surprised; it’s something that Christians have done routinely for a long time now.

My pal was struggling with how to handle this guy.

The objector is pretty strong on his beliefs, and he’s not at all happy that the elders are not jumping to his side instantly. But my friend is more thoughtful and scriptural in his convictions; and I think he senses that the objection is more a matter of personal preference than of principle.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Dying Church

John Garner is convinced churches in America are dying. Raised Episcopal, he concedes he hasn’t been inside a church building in quite a while, and neither has anyone he knows from his own generation. Why might that be? Garner observes, “I’m not sure if it’s Covid, a lack of people my age, or just general laziness.” His musings on the subject can be found here, along with useful links to self-reported attendance data from a variety of denominations.

As a reasonably unprejudiced onlooker, my first instinct is to suggest Garner’s problem may be a lack of a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ (whose name does not appear once in an article about the church of which he is Head).

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (22)

One of my seven “sniff tests” for heresy is that an author strings together impressive lists of verses unquoted and out of context, but a closer look shows most or all have nothing to do with the points they are alleged to support. Paul Ellis’s The Silent Queen serves as a great example of this technique, and I promised to do a second post examining his “evidence” that the Christians of the New Testament permitted women to participate in church meetings in exactly the same ways men did, and that Paul taught this as normative.

That’s the context here.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Digital Christianity

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

USA Today has a story about Christ Fellowship in McKinney, Texas, a church that is all-but-entirely online.

Download a worship program if you like. Stream a sermon and share your own thoughts about it in real time through live chat. Donate online or swap goods and services with your fellow believers. Sing along with a tablet hymnal, if that’s your cup of tea.

Tom: This is not merely an evangelical thing. Catholics with iPhones can download a “confession app” to speed up their next visit to the local parish priest.

Are we starting to reach the level of self-parody, Immanuel Can? Or do you see some value in a digital church?

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

What Makes a Church a Church?

Asked in an online forum last week: Is our social media community a church?

Interesting question, and one that almost nobody would have posed with any degree of seriousness prior to COVID. But if you think lurking in a Zoom meeting is “gathering” in anything remotely approximating the biblical sense (and apparently many Christians do), then it’s not unreasonable to ask how far you might take the concept of virtual church.

Naturally, a spate of comments followed.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

If you tell me, I forget.
If you show me, I remember.
If you involve me, I understand.

— Old Teaching Axiom

In his recent post on the subject of platform preaching, Tom writes, “For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that one-man platform ministry is the way to go, not because I believe it to be the most scriptural model, but because it’s what we’re all doing and I see little hope for wholesale change.”

He just doesn’t see any reasonable prospect that we can be induced to reevaluate our conventional church behaviors to the extent of questioning the value of platform ministry.

Well, Tom and I usually agree. But not on everything. Not on this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things …”

The COVID church life interregnum served at least one profitable purpose: it stopped all our programs and activities dead in their tracks, and forced anyone with critical faculties to give at least a cursory examination to their validity and usefulness.

That was a long overdue exercise. But when governments finally pushed the “continue” button and allowed us to unlock the doors of our buildings, many Christians couldn’t wait to climb back on the hamster wheel and begin spinning again.

Some of the more reflective folks did not. I do not believe they are necessarily being carnal.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Church ‘Problematics’ (Part 2)

Yesterday we considered a newly-coined word: “problematics” (and its relatives “problematize” and “problematization”). Social Justice advocates are transforming both secular institutions and churches by showing us we have problems. These problems are all related to racism or discrimination of some sort, and they are invariably systemic.

For the Social Justice advocate, it is not a question of whether we are racist, but in what particular ways. In making this assumption, they neatly sidestep the obligation to prove their case, hoping we will make it right along with them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Church ‘Problematics’ (Part 1)

This article is a short “heads-up” for church leaders and other decision-makers who are currently dealing, or will soon be dealing with issues of race, ethnicity and other so-called “equity” issues in the church. There’s a serious danger here, and you need to be aware of it before it arrives.

Because after it arrives, it’s almost too late.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

The Rapture and the Imprecatory Psalms

All true Christians are believers, but not all believers are Christians.

That is in the Bible. Abraham wasn’t a Christian. Christianity belongs to the time following the ministry of the Lord Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the inauguration of the church. That’s when the disciples became Christians. You don’t read the word “Christian” in the Old Testament, nor is a Christian described. What you have is godly or ungodly Israelites; those who believed God and those who didn’t; the wicked and the righteous in Israel — and of course some Gentiles saved as well.

The position from which a godly Jewish believer would look at things and the stance of an equally godly Christian looking at things are quite different.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Church Is Too Easy

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Our friend Skye Jethani is at it again, causing trouble and making us think.

If I may sum it up, Mr. Jethani’s concern this time out is that church has become so easy that we approach it on autopilot. Comfortable seats, convenient schedule, digestible three-point sermons with pre-organized PowerPoint handouts. He wonders if maybe we might be better Christians if we had to actually try at little. If we had to be a little more like the Lord Jesus himself in the way we communicate truth.

Tom: Does that sound like a fair representation, Immanuel Can?

Friday, September 02, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Off the Rails or On Track?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

A convert to Catholicism asks the question “When did the Church go off the rails?” His answer, rather unsurprisingly, is that it didn’t.

Tom: But he brings up an interesting point, Immanuel Can, and that is that if we look at the writings of the church fathers prior to the point at which the canon of scripture was finally fixed in the late fourth century, we find that the seeds of what Protestants consider major error were already planted in the church; things like papal authority, apostolic succession, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, holy tradition, faith and works, the intercession of saints and the doctrine of purgatory.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: A Change in the Whether

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Crawford Paul, who serves as an elder in an Ontario local church, has written a short post entitled “Consider Moving Your Prayer Meeting to Sunday”.

Tom: Now I’m not sure, Immanuel Can, how many churches in North America still have weekly meetings dedicated pretty much exclusively to prayer. It may not be a large number. Mr. Paul’s suggestion seems to be generally well received. But it does bring up the question of how much flexibility churches have in such matters, assuming we are using scripture as our guide, of course.

We might start by asking what constitutes a local church in the first place.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A Change Is Gonna Come

Umm ... not effective?

So sang Sam Cooke.

I guess he’d know. He was writing his soulful anthems back in the ’50s and early ’60s in places like Mississippi and Chicago — not the easiest places for a young person of his particular shade of skin to be. But things were changing then, and in retrospect, those who didn’t know they were changing and who thought they could keep things the way they were forever were just spitting into the wind.

Yes, change is gonna come. And you can’t change that. You’ve just got to be ready and react smartly when it does.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

The Change Is Gonna Do Us Good

Where is Kodak these days? Remember that company? It used to have its name on most of the cameras and film that you saw around. Kodak was an empire, an institution. Now where is it?

And how about Blockbuster Video? Seen any of those stores around lately? They used to be on every corner.

Laura Ashley clothing? Napster music service?

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Minding Our Own Business

Our church just got a flow chart. It’s our very first.

Congratulate us. We have a new hierarchy, with the elders and lead pastor pegged in at the apex, then a sort of “Christmas tree” pattern downwards, with levels for “administrative pastors” and “pastors of family life and missions” and then various lay designates like Sunday School supervisors and teen ministry functionaries below them. (The congregation itself didn’t make it onto the diagram, but I think we’re assumed to be down there somewhere.)

And … oh yes … Someone Else is missing. I just can’t think of who he is.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Immasculate Conception

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Last week we discussed the problems faced by children who grow up without fathers. If it were just an issue within society, that’s one thing, but evangelicals are increasingly being called upon to aid, abet and even validate single motherhood in the church.

Tom: I’ve just referenced three cases (and there are many more like them) where so-called Christians are looking to justify these sorts of choices and normalize them in Christian circles.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Minimizing the Damage

Most elders, pastors and church leaders would agree that formulating an appropriate corporate response to the purported pandemic has been among the most difficult and divisive issues they have ever had dropped in their laps. No matter which way they went, some Christians were going to disagree with official church policy. A non-trivial number of congregants have parted ways with their brothers and sisters over it, and some are still mulling their options.

The question for church leadership is how to minimize the damage.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Faith and the Fatherless

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Single motherhood is the new “normal”.

Government programs of various kinds have made possible a generation (or more) of children, many of whom know no father but the state. The Washington Post reports that by age eighteen fully half of children today will have lived some period with a single mother.

And increasingly, evangelicals are being called upon to aid, abet and even validate single motherhood.

Tom: IC, are there predictable consequences to growing up fatherless?

Friday, April 29, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: A Hot Mess

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Young pastors in American churches are a dying breed. So says Eric Conn, and he’s got a major 2017 study in hand from the Barna Group to prove it. The number of U.S. pastors under forty is currently half what it was in 1992, while the number over sixty-five has tripled. The Barna report concludes, “It is urgent that denominations, networks and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource and deploy more younger pastors.”

Tom: That’s a highly debatable conclusion, but not a surprising one. What’s interesting to me, IC, is not so much Barna’s “Aging of America’s Pastors” article, but Conn’s analysis of it. As someone who’s been there, he described vocational ministry as “a hot mess”.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The View from the Ground

The story of Balaam is remarkable on several levels. Its lessons are important enough for the writer of Numbers to devote three full chapters to them. Moses would later cite God’s reversal of Balaam’s failed attempt to curse his people as evidence of his love for them. Joshua would cite it as evidence of God’s ability to deliver them. The prophet Micah would say it is evidence of God’s righteousness. In Nehemiah, the story of Balaam and its consequences would inspire the returned exiles to separation and holiness. In the New Testament, Peter, Jude and John would make reference to the way of Balaam, the error of Balaam, and the teaching of Balaam.

The story of Balaam matters for multiple reasons, and the talking donkey is actually the least of them.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Inbox: Sucking the Life Out of ‘Vampire Churches’

R.J. sent me an article this week and asked me what I thought.

I read the title: “Vampire Churches”. Instantly, visions of caped characters sweeping across the congregation, making “Nyuh ha ha” noises all the while sprang into my mind. I could see them clamping eager fangs on the swooning portly matrons of row three, their stodgy husbands standing by and intoning, “This is just not on!”

I read a little further. The article seemed passionately worried about the defection of pop writer Anne Rice from Catholicism. Strangely, I was not as troubled as the author about that.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Of Folds and Flocks

The Lord Jesus used the model of a flock when foretelling Pentecost and the formation of his church. He said this flock would need only one Shepherd, meaning himself. He thereby ensured his sheep would be brought safely home at the end of the day. None of his flock would be missing and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it, for he gave to each believer eternal life and no one could pluck them from his hand.

In this teaching the Lord was preparing his Jewish disciples for a hiatus in God’s program for establishing Israel as the head of the nations.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Why Your Pastor Won’t Help You Now

Michael O’Fallon, host of the very worthwhile Sovereign Nations podcast, says he’s perplexed.

Some time ago he discovered a very nasty kind of false teaching was creeping into the churches in his denomination, a false teaching prepared in the fires of Marxism but now channeled by respected evangelical sources. It seemed obvious to O’Fallon that the first people who would be concerned and who would have a stake in understanding the danger would be those charged with maintaining sound doctrine on behalf of the church.