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October 20, 2014

Rainer
By Thom S. Rainer

I have a great love for local congregations. To be sure, I’ve never been in a perfect church. They just don’t exist.

But I still love local churches.

One of my greatest joys in the past several years has been to see and work with churches that have experienced significant turnaround. While that turnaround is typically evident in attendance numbers, it is much more than that. 

I recently categorized those reasons some churches experience revitalization. I then compared them to churches that have not been revitalized. I found seven differences between the two sets of churches. These are the seven traits unique to the revitalized churches:

  1. The leaders and members faced reality. One of the reasons most churches don’t experience revitalization is their unwillingness to “look in the mirror.” Denial leads to decline which leads to death.
  2. Many in the church began explicitly praying for God to revitalize the church. I know of a leadership group in one church that prayed every week for over two years. The church is now in true revitalization.
  3. The churches had an explicit and clear focus on the gospel. Preaching became clearly gospel-centered. Ministries became gospel-centered. And many members began intentionally sharing the gospel, which brings me to the next reason.
  4. Members did not just talk evangelism; they did evangelism. I did not see a specific approach or methodology to share the gospel in these congregations. It was clear, however, that there was a more focused intentionality on sharing Christ than in many previous years.
  5. Many members in these churches began focusing on serving Christ through the church rather than seeking their own preferences. Another way of stating it is that these members became other-focused rather than self-focused. This attitude seemed to be directly connected to their prayers for revitalization.
  6. These churches raised the bar of expectations. Thus membership in these congregations became meaningful. Members moved from spectators to participants.
  7. The churches developed a clear process of discipleship. The members became more immersed in the Word. There was a clear and cogent plan to help members grow in their walk with Christ.

Do not count me among those who have their heads in the sand about the state of congregations in North America. As many as 100,000 churches are very sick or dying. Many more also need revitalization.

I hope you can join me for a video consultation on church revitalization at RevitalizedChurches.com. It will almost be like I’m at your church offering you guidance and hope toward the future. You can click here to sign up for the four-part overview of the series at no cost.

Yes, I remain an obnoxious optimist about local churches. I am seeing too many indicators of His work to believe otherwise. Let me hear from you. And I hope to see you in the video consultation on church revitalization.

What are your perspectives on the need for church revitalization? What do you think might be missing in many churches?

October 13, 2014

Truth Remains is a church history ministry endeavoring to remind believers of the great sacrifices that faithful men and women made in previous generations so that we could have access to the Word of God.

The halls of church history are covered in the blood of countless martyrs who gave their lives to defend, proclaim, and preserve the very same Bible that we hold in our hands today. Truth Remains teaches that history through educational media and interactive events featuring a rare collection of first edition 16th – 17th century Bibles.

Truth Remains

Why Study Church History?

Robert Shindler, a close associate of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, noted, “It is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.”

In the minds of many, church history is a dry subject to be tolerated if necessary. This attitude comes from the belief that the past is irrelevant and only what is happening now is worthy of consideration. But Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, 

“That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us.”

Several times in Scripture we are told to learn from the things done in the past (1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4) and this is especially true regarding church history. In a day when much of the contemporary church is enamored with new innovations and discoveries, even when it comes to theology, a study of the past brings valuable perspective to the present. There is much to be gleaned from a history full of battles for the truth.

Truth Remains

English Bible Translation

One of the most thrilling stories in church history is that of the English Bible. The men who gave their lives to translate the Bible into English are not household names but the bloody price they paid fueled the Reformation and shaped the modern world, enabling countless Christians to enjoy the privilege of owning and studying God’s Word in English. 

Out of Darkness; The Story of the English Bible is a four-part mini documentary, produced by Truth Remains, that tells the story of God’s careful preservation of Scripture through the centuries. You can watch part two on the 1560 Geneva Bible below, or you can take a few minutes to watch all four parts here.

In just a few weeks, the Truth Remains rare Bible display will be hosted by Southern Seminary for The Expositor’s Summit. If you are planning to attend, be sure to stop by and touch the very pages William Tyndale and John Rogers died for.

For more information about Truth Remains, visit our website or contact us here.

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October 06, 2014

Books at a Glance

Our staff of highly-qualified pastors, professors, and theologians reads and summarizes 1 – 2 books every week and will give you the 7-10 page book summaries so that you can learn the main points, arguments, and lessons from each book in the time it takes you to read a 7 – 10 page article! If you’ve ever wished that you had more time to read, then this is a perfect fit for you! Click Here to Get Access to These Book Summaries: www.BooksAtaGlance.com

We All Know that You Should Read More Christian Books…If Only You Had the Time, Right?

You’re busy…we’re all busy! But you also feel this constant pressure or guilt that you really should be devoting more time to learning, studying, and reading more quality, Christian books that will help you grow in knowledge and in your walk with the Lord. Now, with our book summaries, you will learn from these quality Christian books…without making your already busy schedule busier at all! With our mobile-friendly website, you’ll easily be able to read these summaries from your smart phone or iPad while you’re on the train, at the coffee shop, on your lunch break, or while waiting to get your oil changed! Click HERE to learn more, in less time!

With Books At a Glance, You’ll Stay Up to Date with New Books!

Keeping up with all the new books that come out is a daunting task, for sure! And for those of us who are always eager to keep current with the newest and best of Christian literature, it can often feel like you’re fighting a losing battle…but no longer! Because Books At a Glance stays on top of this for you, we are your one-stop-shop for all things “Christian Books.” You can now easily keep current and not miss out on any of the new, good Christian books out there. Go to www.BooksAtaGlance.com right now to start getting these notifications of new books and our book summaries!

 Go to www.BooksAtaGlance.com Now to Save Time and Learn More!

September 29, 2014

Michael HortonMichael Horton is the author of over thirty books and this excerpt which comes from his new book, Ordinary, releases October 7. You can now follow Michael on Twitter. 

Download a free study guide at ordinarybook.com.

Think of the things that matter most to you. How do you measure your relationships? How do you “measure” your marriage, for example? When my wife and I talk about our relationship, we often have different takes on how things are going. Looking back over the course of our married years, we have seen many ways in which the Lord has bonded us together since our first year together. We can see steady growth and identify ways in which we’ve deepened in our relationship.

But when we shift our focus to the short-term, the week-to-week, it becomes harder for us to get an accurate gauge on how we are doing.

And it’s those ordinary moments filled with seemingly insignificant decisions, conversations, and touches that matter most. This is where most of life is lived. The richest things in life are made up of more than Kodak moments.

Is it any different when you are raising children? The mantra among many parents today, especially dads, is “Quality Time.” But is that true? Think about all that happens in those mundane moments that are unplanned, unprogrammed, unscheduled, and unplugged. Nearly everything! Nicknames are invented, identities and relationships are formed. On the drive home from church, your child asks a question about the sermon that puts one more piece of the puzzle into place for an enduring faith. Everyone in the car benefits from the exchange.

The problem is, when people enter adulthood, they soon discover that a memorable experience will not compensate for a shallow understanding of what they believe and why they believe it—over years of everyday exposure to and participation in the communion of Christ with his people. Nevertheless, it’s precisely the ordinary ministry, week-in and week-out, that provides sustained growth and encourages the roots to grow deep.

In many ways, it’s more fun to be part of movements than churches. We can express our own individuality, pick our favorite leaders, and be swept off our feet at conferences. We can be anonymous. Yet this movement mentality keeps us restless and makes ordinary life in and submission to an actual church seem intolerably confining.

OrdinaryAnd terribly ordinary.

We need to recover not only sound doctrine, but sounder practices that serve to deepen us—and succeeding generations—in the new creation that God has called into being. We need to question not only false teaching, but false values, expectations, and habits that we have absorbed, taken for granted, and even adopted with a veneer of piety.

And who knows? Maybe if we discover the opportunities of the ordinary, a fondness for the familiar, and marvel again at the mundane, we will be radical after all.

Learn more about Ordinary or download a free study guide at ordinarybook.com.

September 22, 2014

Memorizing Scripture has become a bit old fashioned in recent years. With smartphones putting every Bible translation at our fingertips, we can simply search for a passage when we need it. But having the Bible at our fingertips is different from having it on our minds and in our hearts. 

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head and didn’t know why? Often a single word or phrase is all it takes. From there, the song just seems to spring forth. That same thing can happen when the cadences of Scripture are running through your head.

Growing in ChristYour mind uses the tools it has available. As a child, it’s the vocabulary you acquire—gaining new words for objects and experiences. As we grow older, we use stories and metaphors to make sense of our lives. And with age, we have the opportunity to choose what tools we add to our mental toolbox—God’s Word is one of them.

When we memorize Scripture, we make it available at any time, not just at the swipe of a smartphone. God’s words can be on our minds and in our hearts when we wake and when we lie down, when we go for a run and when we stand in the shower. Scripture can permeate our thoughts at times when smartphones can’t. If we choose to memorize them, God’s words can accompany us as we walk down the street, and our thoughts can meditate on them as we drive down the highway—all while keeping our eyes up.

Thinking biblically means having God’s Word working in us and through us. When we memorize Scripture, we invite God to speak into our hearts in times of both joy and sorrow, excitement and struggle. God’s Word goes to work, humbling us and encouraging us, and straightening us out when we get crooked.

But memorizing Scripture also becomes a blessing to others. When God’s Word is in us, God can encourage others through us. When we find ourselves talking with friends and neighbors, God’s Word is readily available, not at hand, but at heart. Not in our pockets, but on our lips. We can speak God’s words readily and with love, not while fiddling with a smartphone. Scripture has the potential to become a part of our everyday conversations, making us a blessing to others.

Figuring out how to memorize Scripture is where most people give up. That’s why The Navigators developed Growing in Christ and the Topical Memory System. They don’t push rote memorization. They are designed to immerse you in Scripture by studying each memory verse. You won’t simply memorize the words, you’ll wrestle with the meaning. You’ll be able to quote the verse, but you’ll also know the verse’s context. That way, God’s Word isn’t simply in your head—it’s in your heart.

If you’ve always wanted to memorize Scripture but don’t know where to start, take a look at Growing in Christ. If you want to dive deeper into God’s Word but don’t have a good strategy, the Topical Memory System can get you going.

Memorizing God’s Word is a secure investment. It can’t be lost or taken from you. It won’t grow old or become outdated. And unlike your smartphone, it will never be obsolete.

September 15, 2014

Jonathan K. Dodson is the founding pastor of City Life church in Austin, Texas. His new book is The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (resource website here).

In the Huffington Post, writer Cindy Brandt recently declared she “kissed evangelism goodbye.” Many have joined her in the break up. According to one survey, two out of every three active Christians today have all but abandoned evangelism. In slight contrast, another study noted marginal rises in evangelism but concluded, “we need a lot more evangelizing going on…” Regardless of how the statistics shake out, many people find evangelism hard.

Good Reasons Not to Witness

The typical evangelical response to an ebb in evangelism is to beat the evangelistic drum louder. Leaders preach the Great Commission more, tell us to value comfort less, and ask us to consider the cost by “considering people’s eternal destiny.” But appeals to guilt, sacrifice, and an “eternal perspective,” even if biblical, often fall on deaf ears. These responses are superficial.

The fact is people often have really good reasons for not evangelizing. Some of those reasons include the evangelists. The popular impression of evangelism isn’t positive—impersonal and uncaring, preachy and self-righteous, bigoted and hateful. None of those impressions would stick with Jesus.

If we are going to experience a renaissance of evangelism, we must treat people less like projects and more like persons, distinguish evangelism from proselytizing, and value others’ perspectives instead of rejecting them out of hand.

An upside down triangle symbolizes the downward
pull of the defeaters and the urgency of addressing them.

Defeating Defeaters

However, evangelistic concerns can quickly turn into evangelistic defeaters. Good concerns to not come across as impersonal, preachy, intolerant, or shallow can defeat us from sharing good news. As a result, people don’t get to hear about the victorious work of Christ to defeat sin, death, and evil to make all things new.

There is a defeater underneath the defeaters—fear of what others think of us. “The fear of man is a snare but the one who trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 18:25). We can avoid all the evangelistic pitfalls and still refuse to speak about Christ because we are afraid of what people will think about us. Instead, we can preach a fresh gospel by using gospel metaphors—personally discerning and culturally sensitive ways to communicate grace.

Seeking Intimacy, Tolerance, Approval

Our search for intimacy in relationships seems to never end. Even the best friendship or marriage isn’t enough for our insatiable demand to be noticed, loved, and cared for. We all want a place where we can be ourselves and know that we are accepted. When we begin to discern that a person is seeking intimacy, we can explain that, through union with Christ, people can enter into the most intimate, loving, unbreakable, fulfilling relationship known to humanity, which can bring deep healing and joy.

Many people are seeking tolerance. Classical tolerance says every belief has a right to exist. New tolerance says every belief is equally true. Classical tolerance is spot on. New tolerance is inconsistent. This discussion alone can be an illuminating conversation that deepens mutual respect and admiration between people.

Others will simply not like the exclusive claims that Christianity makes. However, before scoffing at their perspective or trying to crush their worldview, ask questions to get on the inside of their perspective and appreciate their views. Build bridges not walls.

What my dad and mom thought about me as I was growing up meant a lot. Their thoughts and opinions could crush or lift me in a moment. The truth is that we seek approval from others all the time. As you get to know someone, you might pick up that they need to hear the gospel of adoption, that God the Father offers an undying approval in his Son Jesus. This can radically change people’s view of God, and thrill them with the hope of a Father’s love.

Don’t kiss your evangelism goodbye; just give it a facelift.

Get Jonathan’s free ebook “Four Reasons Not to Share Your Faith.” 

September 08, 2014

Books at a Glance

There are so many good books to read; it’s nearly impossible to keep up with them all…if only they didn’t take so long to read! With book summaries offered by www.BooksAtaGlance.com, you will get 1-2 book summaries (7-10 pages) every week that you will read in approximately only 10 minutes each.

What Are Christian Book Summaries & How Will They Save You Time?

Books at a GlanceModeled after the “Executive Summaries” so familiar to the business world, a book summary condenses the theme, thoughts, and arguments of every chapter of a book, so that you can learn the main points of the book in only the time that it takes you to read the 7-10 page summary. Consider the time that this will save you!

You’ll Never Waste Money on the Wrong Book Again

Have you ever bought a book, read it, and then wished you hadn’t wasted the time or money on that book? We’ve all done this, and it’s a frustrating feeling, but when you read the book summaries offered by www.BooksAtaGlance.com, you will be thoroughly familiar with the content of the book, so that you can make a wise decision when it comes to purchasing books.

Easily…Keep Current with the Newest, Best, and Most Significant Christian Books

We here at Books At a Glance are very serious about selecting new, theologically sound, informative, and relevant books from the top Christian publishers to summarize. Keeping up with all of the new books can be daunting and impossible, and we simplify that process for you. What’s more is that all of our summaries and reviews are written by well-qualified scholars pastors, and this service is heartily endorsed by our board of reference.

Keep Up with Culture & Contemporary Religion

ScreenWhether it’s the smiling pastor of a mega church who proclaims the “Prosperity Gospel” in a new book, the claims of Islam, how homosexuality is working its way into the Christian church, a new cultural or theological movement, or just the newest “fluff Christian” paperback, it is vital for you to keep up with these kinds of topics for a few reasons: 1) so you aren’t duped by their tactics, 2) to sharpen your overall discernment, and 3) to know how to help fellow parishioners keep from falling prey to the enemy

Your Go-To Source for All things Books

In addition to getting access to 1-2 book summaries per week, you will also have access to book reviews, author-interviews, and our author blog. By keeping up with these easy-to-read summaries and reviews, you will easily keep current and on top of what’s newest in Christian publications.

Get Immediate Access to Christian Book Summaries Delivered Right to Your Inbox

Go to www.BooksAtaGlance.com and register to start receiving all these valuable content pieces right away. Your learning and knowledge will increase exponentially…without being a constraint on your time!

Go to www.BooksAtaGlance.com NOW and get started learning today!

Books at a Glance

September 01, 2014

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Clarifying The Bible is an AMAZING resource! Mitch has provided an enriching way to dive into the Scriptures for anyone, no matter where you are in life. I’ve seen personally, from a small group setting to one-on-one, how this resource can open up our understanding of God’s Word in a way that drives you to want more of Jesus. My wife and I love it!”

TEDASHII: Hip Hop Artist, Reach Records; Radio Host, #SERIUM

Clarifying the BibleClarifying The Bible by Mitch Maher is a DVD presentation with an accompanying workbook. In just two hours you and/or your disciples will be introduced to the Bible like never before. The presentation takes viewers on an exciting journey from Genesis all the way to Revelation. Laymen and leaders of all stripes love it.

Take a few minutes (or all 29—we promise you won’t regret it) and watch Mitch teach on the Apostle Paul’s letters. See if you don’t believe Clarifying The Bible would be great for you and those to whom you minister.

Mitch MaherMitch, the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Katy, TX, has taught this material live in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Florida. He’s taught it at churches, discipleship ministries, and even home Bible studies. Everywhere he teaches Clarifying The Bible the refrain is the same, “I wish somebody had taught me this years ago!”

Purchase your copies today, available in digital or hardcopy, and/or invite Mitch to speak at your church or ministry. Check it out at clarifyingthebible.com.

Read what various leaders have said about Clarifying The Bible.

“Clarifying the Bible equips and frees men and women to engage the Scriptures with a passion and freedom. It’s a powerful presentation and inspires all who hear it to make Biblical study a lifelong passion. I’ve personally seen people move from Biblical apathy to passionate students of God’s Word after engaging Mitch and Clarifying The Bible. Exciting stuff!”

JOHN BRYSON: Pastor, Fellowship Memphis; Executive Board Member, Acts 29; Author, College Ready and 33 The Series

“Mitch brings incredible clarity to the entire Bible in a way that gives both new believers and seminary graduates a greater ability to comprehend and appreciate God’s Word. I gained more understanding in two hours of Clarifying The Bible with Mitch than in my previous 10 years studying the Word on my own. This is a treasure for those who are hungry to know their Bibles.”

KENNON VAUGHAN: Lead Pastor, Harvest Church in Memphis; Founder and President, Downline Ministries

“For college students I haven’t found a more clear and concise resource that gives such a solid framework through which to understand the storyline and structure of God’s Word than Clarifying The Bible. I’ve had Mitch come teach at our summer training projects, shown his video in countless discipleship groups, taught these principles and lessons several times, and I still want more!”

TAYLOR TOLLISON: Campus Director of Campus Outreach, Tennessee Tech University

“I grew up in church, son of a pastor. I have worked in churches for years and paid quality money for a fantastic seminary education. And yet, no resource has so concisely framed the narrative of Scripture as Mitch’s work in Clarifying The Bible. I watch it regularly. I teach it often. I have given this to many leaders and friends. It should be in the hands of every follower of Jesus that they might know, teach, and embody the Gospel more and more.” 

WILL RAMBO: Teaching Pastor, The Orchard, Tupelo, MS 

Here’s the website again: clarifyingthebible.com.

August 25, 2014

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By: Nathan Eshelman, Author
Gentle Reformation
D. Min. Admissions Counselor, RPTS

I have been a fan of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for many years. I love the art of language and the skill it takes to document the ever changing and living tongue of the anglophonic people.

This week all nerdly eyes were on Oxford as they announced the word of the year. This is an annual event at which a new and influential word is chosen based on how it has come into the language. Sure, it’s not the Superbowl, but some of us get pretty excited about these things.

Did you hear what this year’s word is? Selfie.

Yep. Selfie.

What is a selfie you might ask? The OED defines selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Why is this so interesting? The selfie is not just a way of putting yourself out there for the tweeters of the world to see. The selfie is a reflection of the corporate fallen heart of mankind.

Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Notice Jesus’s presupposition? You love yourself. Isn’t the selfie merely a symptom of the problem that Jesus here illustrates? Man loves himself. Woman loves herself. This is foundational. As fallen beings, our focus of love is not first and foremost towards God. It is not towards neighbor secondly, where both Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:39) tell us love is to be directed.

Instead we love ourselves. Self-love is a symptom of man’s fallen heart. The selfie illustrates our need for the gospel. We do not know ourselves as we ought. We do not see a fallen heart and guilt before God. We see our selfie as wonderful and exceptional. The philosopher and poet, Shel Silverstein, wrote:

If my face could only twist,
Then I could give my cheek a kiss
And whisper in my lovely ear,
“You’re so beautiful, my dear.”
And look into my eyes and see
Just how much I’m in love with me.

Personally, I am glad that selfie is the word of the year. It allows us to talk about human nature due to Adam’s rebellion so long ago. William Perkins, the father of Puritanism, said, “For you will never be filled with the good things of God till you are emptied of self-love and self-liking. For this cause let us purge and empty ourselves of all our own righteousness that God may fill our hearts with his grace.” (Exposition of the Apostle’s Creed)

Selfie is an ugly word for sure. The word is symptomatic of our ugly fallen hearts which are in need of the grace offered by the one who emptied himselfie to the point of death, even death on a cross.

So let’s be honest- we are selfish selfies. May we find grace to deny ourselfies as we cling to Christ that he might cure our selfish fallen hearts.

Selfie

August 18, 2014

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Tracy finally reached the end of herself. For twenty-eight years she had been in a relationship with a cheat and a drug addict. Her life was “…a roller coaster, loads of ups and downs. Some times I ask myself when will I ever get off? I have had enough.” She became desperate for the strife and pain to come to an end. Tracy had never been to church and really didn’t know many Christians. Later, she put it this way: “I believed in God, but I thought to become a Christian you had to be perfect. Christians were good people who looked down on us.”

Caroline grew up in a rough part of Edinburgh. Her first experience of church was going to Sunday school as a child. “When I was younger I went to Sunday school because we got free sweets.” As a young teen she turned to drugs and alcohol. “I discovered cannabis, we soon discovered ecstasy and alcohol…I got into the habit of jumping from one relationship to another, always feeling lonely. I just went through life feeling something was missing.” She became pregnant while in a short-term relationship. The father got in trouble with the law and was sentenced to life behind bars. Her only release was more drugs.

Female Outreach WorkersTracy and Caroline both live in schemes, housing developments in Scotland. And both of their lives took a sudden and unexpected turn. Caroline’s friend Tasha encouraged her to start going to a Bible study. Tracy’s husband experienced an extraordinary salvation and encouraged his wife to come to church with him. Both Caroline and Tracy encountered the person of Jesus through the witness of his church. They have been transformed.

Tens of thousands more unreached and unsaved women live in Scotland’s schemes. Many are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some are trapped in prostitution. Others have experienced a life of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Most are struggling just to provide a safe and loving home for their children.

Female Outreach Workers are essential to successful gospel ministry in Scotland’s schemes. 20schemes is actively recruiting women who will make a two-year commitment to this unique mission field, and join one of our church-planting teams.

Our vision is to see healthy, gospel-centered churches planted or revitalized in housing schemes all across Scotland. There is a desperate need for biblically faithful women to join the work—to befriend and disciple women just like Tracy and Caroline, and to be a part of what God is doing to build his church where there is no church.

Would you pray about joining us? We are praying for many faithful women to begin the journey of becoming a Female Outreach Worker with 20schemes.

To find out more about how you can partner with 20schemes, or to apply to join us, visit 20schemes.com.

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