Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The fire of Jesus and the patience of Paul

Trevin Wax:

If you were to pick someone in the New Testament who most resembles a ”hellfire and brimstone” preacher, it would probably be John the Baptist, the prophet who baptized Jesus, and about whom Jesus said no one greater had been born. We like to caricature offensive evangelists as if they are weirdos holding up signs saying, “Turn or burn!” But the testimony we receive about John isn’t far from that. His words are pointed; his call to repentance is clear; his clothing is strange. The way John prepared the way for the Lord was by denouncing all kinds of sin: personal, social, and sexual. He called out the immorality of the king and lost his head for it.

Aside from John, Jesus best fits the description of a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, even more than Paul. Just read the New Testament and you’ll often find the red letters to be more fiery than the letters of Paul.

Getting Bored With the Right Things

Jared Wilson:

Whether it’s outrage about the sinful state of popular media—whatever new scandal the news people want you to get mad about—or fear about the declining state of our political process—”It’s the Democrats!”; “No, it’s the Republicans!”; “No, it’s politicians!”—or just the crushing anxiety of everyday demands and stresses, in the flesh we are like the disciples in that boat, thinking the skies are crashing down on us as if God is not in control, as if all sin will not be judged, as if justice will not prevail, as if the church will not endure, as if the Spirit is not ever-present and all-powerful, as if our hopes are pinned to what happens to our bodies and bodies politic. But when it comes to the things of the gospel, we can barely keep ourselves awake.

But not Jesus. He has the right priorities. When it comes to the temptations of earthly things, the temporal stresses of cultural idolatry, he is practically stoic, uninterested.

How to Prevent Brotherly Love

Erik Raymond:

If we are going to persevere this brotherly love amid adversity we need to know what the problem is. What impedes brotherly love? What derails it? What suffocates it?

In short: selfishness.

Ministering to the Mobile

Nick Batzig:

During the first three years, I allowed myself to become sinfully frustrated by this aspect of our church plant; it felt like I was trying to do college ministry while having to establish a local church. On one occasion, while venting my frustrations, a friend looked at me and said, “What are you complaining about? Think about foster care parents. At best they hope to love the kids they are entrusted with, move them on to a better home and never see them again.” It was like getting hit in the face with a bag of bricks. That was a turning point for me. Instead of viewing the situation as something negative, I learned to view it from the perspective of a foster care parent. In addition to learning to change the perspective by which I viewed the situation, I began to realize all the benefits of ministering to a mobile community, such as the military. Here are 5 benefits about being in a place where you minister to the mobile military.

The missing conviction of developing leaders

Eric Geiger:

If we look at Moses and Joshua, his successor, we see conviction for developing leaders in one and lacking in the other. And we also see that the implications of either possessing or lacking a conviction for development are huge.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan’s put Brian Croft’s Practical Shepherding series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Preston Sprinkle:

Most people answer this question either with an adamant “Yes!” or passionate “No!” Too often, though, both sides fail to understand or represent the other side. Not everyone who says that the Bible contains contradictions is an angry, arrogant, card-carrying atheist. And not everyone who believes there aren’t any contradictions is a backwoods, unscientific, raging fundamentalist with his head in the sand.

 The God of Justice Hates False Reports

Kevin DeYoung:

lease, please, please, let us be more careful with our words. Let our blogs be based on knowledge and our tweets be founded on facts. Let us be among the last to speak our minds if we are not one of the first to know the truth. Let us not confuse a social media scroll with actual research. Hearing a report is not the same as the right to speak.

10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know

Yes!

Do You Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with God?

Erik Raymond:

What is so troubling to me is how many professing Christians have a similar relationship with God, let’s call it a dysfunctional relationship. In every counseling situation and in an alarmingly high rate of regular conversation with Christians, I have observed that many people do not pray regularly, read their Bibles devotionally, or prioritize the Lord’s Day gathering of the church.

Being an iceberg pastor

Andrew Haslam:

But there is one rule that I think ought to underpin every pastor’s understanding of his calling, which is that he needs to be an iceberg. What do I mean? Simply this: that whatever public ministry he engages in (that bit above the surface) needs to be built upon a lifetime of preparation, growth, character, learning, and reliance on God (the mass under the surface). Public prayers ought to be a taste of how he prays in private. Preaching ought to be the cream scraped off the top of his brain.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there are 13 books by A.W. Tozer on sale for $3.99 each:

Also on sale is A Life Observed by Devin Brown ($2.99).

But Jesus didn’t say…

If you only read one article today, you can’t go wrong with this one by Karen Swallow Prior.

15 Doctrines That Ought to Bring Comfort In Suffering

Derek Rishmawy:

One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming.

Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule

Russell Moore:

In my mind, I was upset because I was protective of the reputation of evangelical Christianity. I thought: “Are you so ignorant that you’ve never heard of Augustine or Justin Martyr or Blaise Pascal or Carl Henry?” And, years ago, I thought I was protective of my home state. I thought, “Yes, I think maybe William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams read more than I do.” But in both cases, I was wincing at a personal slight. I’m a born Mississippian and a born-again Christian. When one insults these categories, one is insulting me—and I didn’t like it.

Every pastor needs a theology coach

Joe Thorn:

Many of us have seen recent, and very public, theological train wrecks driven by pastors who do not appear to be under the coaching, or tutelage, of seasoned theological leaders. As I observe and talk with pastors from different denominations and networks I can’t help but get the impression that many pastors limit their theological investment to seminary (if they went to one), or the occasional doctrinal issue. This is dangerous not only to ourselves, but to the church as well.

7 Things I Learned From Going Viral

Aaron Earls:

Having become temporarily “Twitter famous” (which is one step below Internet famous and still another step below reality TV show famous), here are 7 things I learned from going viral.

Don’t Be A Commentary Junkie

Ryan Higginbottom:

Let’s be honest: a good Bible commentary is awesome. A scholar spends years studying a book of the Bible, gathering wisdom both from centuries of Christian history and from his own encounters with God in his Word. Then you get a chance to peek over his shoulder! Commentaries can be a great blessing from God.

While they can be terrific as a reference, commentaries are a poor substitute for studying the Bible yourself. I understand the temptation to rely on commentaries. The research! The analysis! The footnotes! But when we become enamored with the work of a Bible scholar, we miss out on the beauty of the Bible’s author.

What do true teachers do?

true-teacher

What do all faithful teachers have in common? What separates a good teacher from a bad one? And what do they actually do?

It’s easy to become confused about this. After all, there are plenty of speakers and teachers who are technically excellent. They are captivating personalities and incredibly gifted, yet they are a total train wreck.

Assuming the primary issue is understood—after all, the Scriptures place little emphasis on an individual’s abilities and focus almost entirely upon his conduct and character—there is really only one thing that determines if a teacher is a true one, a faithful one: how firmly he holds to Scripture. Martyn Lloyd-Jones made the point well in Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John:

The most important test is the conformity to scriptural teaching. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” How do I know that this is a scriptural test? All I know about Him, I put up to the test of Scripture. Indeed, you get exactly the same thing in the sixth verse of 1 John 4 where John says, speaking of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” The first thing to ask about a man who claims to be filled with the Spirit and to be an unusual teacher is, does his teaching conform to Scripture? Is it in conformity with the apostolic message? Does he base it all upon this Word? Is he willing to submit to it? That is the great test.

Your ability to teach matters, make no mistake. But what’s more important than your ability that you hold fast to the Scriptures. That you grab hold and never let go, no matter how tempting it may be (or how popular it may make you). Pastors, bloggers, conference speakers and authors should always be the first to say, “Do not simply take my word for it. Check the Scriptures—listen to them above me.” He doesn’t encourage closing the book, nor turning off your brain. He doesn’t imply infallibility in his ministry. He is subordinate to the Word of God. He conforms and submits to it.

That’s what a true teacher does.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian by Ron Gleason (paperback)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • What Is Reformed Theology? teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

This. Is. The. Day.

Michael Kelley:

The statement is simple: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Despite its simplicity, the rejoicing of the day is contingent upon the weighty assumptions packed into the first section. It’s only by embracing what’s between the lines of part A that we can really get to part B. Here’s what it might look like.

How to become gluten intolerant

This is shared in good fun (note: the last 30 seconds or so are a bit gross):

The Seed of Divorce

Tim Challies:

I recently sat with a group of young adults, men and women in their late teens and early twenties, and we spoke about singleness, dating, and courtship. Eventually the conversation advanced to marriage and to both the joys and the difficulties of marriage. We realized together that as these young adults are considering relationships and begin to pursue marriage, they are wondering how they can divorce-proof their marriages. Many of them have grown up surrounded by divorce and its effects. Some are afraid of commitment because they are afraid they may not be able to keep that commitment.

The latest Star Wars trailer

Jesus, the Gentle Pastor

Jared Wilson:

These words of Christ really minister to me. The immediate context is this: Jesus has resurrected and he is issuing warnings and promises to his disciples. He is consoling them about his soon departure, saying he is going to send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. He’s going to keep speaking to them, only now through the Holy Spirit, primarily through the Spirit-inspired new covenant Scriptures.

Links I like

Links

Inerrancy Is Not a New Idea, Just Ask Irenaeus

Brandon Smith:

…the idea that Scripture is without error isn’t something fundamentalists cooked up in a lab a century ago. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, lays out a very explicit inerrancy-like view of Scripture when battling the Gnostics who taught the errancy of Scripture.

A Legacy Worth Leaving

Ray Ortlund:

The following is a letter my dad wrote several years before his death, which he left in his desk, where he knew we would find it.

2 Real Reasons People Don’t Go to Church

Aaron Earls:

People give all types of reasons for why they no longer attend church. Most of those given mask the real reasons someone becomes a former church member? It’s the same motivations for virtually every other human decision: pain and pleasure.

If you associate church with pain or church with interfering with your pleasure, you probably won’t go. Those are the real reasons why you don’t go to church, but they still shouldn’t be what keeps you out. Here’s why.

Our Preachers Still Need Our Prayers

Gary Millar:

In the book of Acts, it’s hard to miss the fact that the apostles gave their attention “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). But what does this actually mean? Up to this point in Acts, there hasn’t been that much praying (so, for example, it isn’t even completely clear whether 2:42 means ‘they prayed’ or ‘they kept going to the temple’). But in Acts 4:24-30 we see that when the church prays, it prays for the preaching of the apostles. And although I can’t prove it, I suspect that from this point on in Acts praying for the impact of the apostles’ preaching is considered a complete no-brainer.

Wreckages and Seeds and All the Difference in the World

Lore Ferguson:

The difference between wreckage and seeds though, is that one falls apart and produces nothing, and one falls apart and produces everything. And it is important to remember the difference and to keep on remembering it.

 

The primary (and peculiar) task of the Church

business-of-church

Why does the church exist? Is it to clothe the naked, feed the sick, liberate the oppressed? Is it wrong for churches to do this? Not at all; in fact, it is quite good and necessary to our Christian witness. But they’re not the main thing.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues in Preaching and Preachers, those things are good, but they are symptoms of a greater problem. A sin problem. The problem of being separated from God. And so, it falls upon the church to bring people into a right relationship with God. He explains:

It has come into the Church and it is influencing the thinking of many in the Church—this notion that the business of the Church is to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions. My whole case it that to do that is just to palliate the symptoms, to give temporary ease, and that it does not get beyond that.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing to palliate symptoms; it is not, and it is obviously right and good to do so. But I am constrained to say this, that though to palliate symptoms, or to relieve them, is not bad in and of itself, it can be bad, it can have a bad influence, and a bad effect, from the standpoint of the biblical understanding of man and his needs. It can become harmful in this way, that by palliating the symptoms you can conceal the real disease. . . .

The business of the Church, and the business of preaching—and she alone can do this—is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner. This is specialist work, it is the peculiar task of the Church. The church is not one of a number of agencies, she is not in competition with the cults, she is not in competition with other religions, she is not in competition with the psychologists or any other agency, political or social or whatever it may chance to be.

The church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform. (30-32, formatting mine)

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

They will know you by your… porn?

This piece by Jared Wilson hurts, but it’s necessary to read:

We may flood to the area hotels next month and outwardly demonstrate a solid witness for the gospel, and then put a black eye on the church, thinking viewing pornography in our hotel room is easy, confidential, and inconsequential. Will the church stun the managers of the Rosen Shingle Creek with its porn consumption next month?

Sex, God, and a Generation That Can’t Tell the Difference

Chris Martin:

Grossman quotes Robert Jones, the CEO of PRRI as saying, “Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about issues they see as complex.” That’s where this idea of the “don’t judge generation” comes from. It’s true, Millennials seem reluctant to make blanket black-and-white moral pronouncements about complex issues, and that’s exactly how they are judgmental. Millennials don’t just keep from making black-and-white statement themselves, they think that it is morally reprehensible and “discriminatory” for anyone to make black-and-white moral pronouncements about these issues.

The only thing Millennials are black-and-white on when it comes to matters of sexual morality is that you aren’t allowed to be black-and-white on sexual morality.

Tools for Making War Against Spiritual Warfare

Jason Garwood:

If we are going to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ then we must equip our soldiers with appropriate tools to do battle. Soldiers who are unequipped or even ill-equipped with no tools, or faulty tools, will do great harm to themselves and others. If we as disciples who make other disciples (this is, after all, our commission) are going to win the battle against the flesh and the enemy, we must make war.

A Good Assistant Pastor Is Hard to Find

Jason Helopoulos:

A good assistant pastor must be marked by the same things as any other pastor. He must possess a love for God, his Word, and his people. He needs to be strong and winsome, a teacher yet teachable, a man of prayer and action. Yet, he also must possess additional qualities. He is not only called to serve the congregation, but also the senior pastor. Whatever his “job description” may be, he must understand that he is assisting. This is essential. Here are some things a good assistant pastor is marked by, traits that, Lord willing, I will strive to acquire more and more of in my life and ministry.

If Pixar made a Star Wars movie…

…would it be something like this?

HT: Stephen Altrogge

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots (LOTS!) of Kindle deals today from Zondervan:

Be sure to also grab What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Edward T. Welch, which is free today.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung’s latest, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, officially releases today and Westminster Bookstore has a great sale on it for the next few days: $10 for a single copy; $8 each when buying five or more; $6 each when purchasing a case (60). Look for a review really soon!

Leading strong-willed people

As a strong-willed person (and the parent of a couple of strong-willed little people), this was really helpful.

Rolling Stone and the Culture of Lying

Russell Moore:

Rolling Stone magazine printed serious criminal accusations against a campus group, accusations the periodical now admits are completely false. Despite all of this, both the article’s author and the magazine editor will keep their jobs according to the publisher. This matters, and matters to far more people than just those on the campus of the University of Virginia or even to the target demographic of Rolling Stone. Behind this scandal is a larger point. In our society, it’s become acceptable to lie about people and ideas, as long as the crisis created is in line with a perceived social good.

Should We Give the Death Penalty to Adulterers?

Mike Leake:

We don’t burn witches anymore. And I imagine all of us celebrate this fact. But what is your justification for saying that the Old Testament no longer applies on these issues? This is an important question because how we answer this determines whether we’ll give muddy responses to contemporary issues related to morality.

10 Pointers for “Untrained” Preachers

As a mostly untrained preacher, I really appreciated reading these ten tips from Peter Mead.

Quiet the Fear, Do the Work

Jon Bloom:

Being strong and courageous was not some kind of self-confident swagger for Joshua. It was trusting God’s promises more than his own strength and acting on that trust. Courage meant faith-filled action in the face of fear.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of this week’s pastoral resource deals from Crossway:

On Preaching and Cultural Buzz

Mike Leake:

Everyone in your community is buzzing about a local reproduction of a classic movie. Every conversation seems to be about this big event, it clearly has captured the heart of your people. What should a pastor do? Do you plod along preaching through your series on the Gospel of Mark or do you take a break and do a topical sermon related to this new movie that has everyone buzzing?

The Crown of Thorns

Nick Batzig offers a short, but powerful, devotional.

Pay Much Closer Attention

Kevin DeYoung:

Almost everyone has flown on a plane before. So you’ve all sat through those opening instructions from the flight attendants about what to do in the event of an emergency. They say the same thing on every flight, every day, on every airline. And every day, on every flight, on every airline, almost no one pays attention to the message. I’ve flown several times in the past couple months and I can’t recall seeing anyone looking at the flight attendants or giving one second of thought to what they were talking about. No one pays attention to these instructions.

Why I Will Gladly Bake You A Cake, But Won’t Bake Your Wedding Cake

Stephen Altrogge:

This puts me in a difficult predicament. You see, I really do love you. I don’t mean that in a, “We are the world,” kind of way. I mean I really love you, as a person. Please ignore what people like Pat Robinson, Phil Robertson, and the political pundits on Fox News say. I’m a Christian, and one of the things that is supposed to define me as a Christian is true love for other people. Yes, I know, there are times when I do a terrible job of loving others. I get angry in traffic, cuss people out in my head (not out loud – what would other Christians think?), and have a hard time getting along with certain people. But I’m changing, ever so slowly.

What Happened in Kenya?

This is good and helpful stuff from Joe Carter.

Don’t invite them to church this weekend

church-weekend

For a lot of churches in the West, Easter weekend is treated not unlike SuperBowl Sunday. It’s the big show, a grand production. Kind of like a regular Sunday with a bit of extra “oomph”—which most often comes in the form of horrifically graphic video clips from a movie for which we may or may not have appropriate licensing, though occasionally it also involves laser light shows, motorcycle stunts, and an extravagant giveaway or two.

This is the weekend where we’re encouraged to invite our friends, our families, our neighbors, and bring them to church. It’s the weekend where they’re for sure going to hear the gospel preached and perhaps even the Lord might save them!

But you know something? I’m not sure it’s always a good idea. In fact, in some cases, maybe the best thing to do is to not invite them at all.

  • Don’t invite them to church this weekend if they would be surprised to learn you’re a Christian.
  • Don’t invite them if the gospel wasn’t preached last weekend.
  • Don’t invite them if you wouldn’t invite them next weekend.

That’s not what they need. They don’t need to go to a church where they’re not going to hear about Jesus, and they don’t need to be invited to church on one weekend if you wouldn’t invite them any other time.

Some of us should, definitely, invite our friends to church this weekend, next weekend, and every weekend, as long as Jesus is consistently proclaimed. But for many of us, maybe we need to take a few steps back. Maybe we should invite them into our lives first, and share the gospel with them as we begin to share ourselves. Let them get to know a Christian and win them with the good news, rather than potentially confuse them with a big show.

 

Links I like

Links

Toronto Gospel Alliance

If you’re in the Toronto area today and have the opportunity, be sure to go and join with with fellow believers to celebrate Good Friday from 7-9 PM at the University of Toronto.

I Am Barabbas

This is really great stuff from Michael Kelley.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today is $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (Hardcover)
  • The Atonement of Jesus Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (Audio download)
  • The New Birth Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (Audio and video download)
  • By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • Shadow Of The Cross by Walter Chantry (Paperback)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance

I’d be interested to hear some responses to this piece.

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Donald Macleod:

The sufferings of his soul, as the old divines used to say, were the soul of his suffering, and into that soul we can see but dimly. Public though the cry was, it expressed the intensely private anguish of a tension between the sin-bearing Son and his heavenly Father: the whirlwind of sin at its most dreadful, God forsaken by God.

Peddlers vs. Pastors

Pat Aldridge gives guidance on how to identify a peddler vs a pastor of God’s Word.

A Snapshot of Christ Singing that Makes Me Sing

Erik Raymond:

Can you imagine this scene?  This is a precious time of singing with the Lord Jesus as he proceeds out to walk the lonely path to Golgotha to purchase redemption for sinners like me and you.

As we now stand on the other side of the cross we look forward to the reunion with all of the saints, together in the presence of the Lamb.

Think about this for a moment.

Links I like

Bacon_Ads_Blue_Logo_1000x458

The best thing to happen in advertising since bacon

Advertising is a necessary evil for many bloggers who want to keep their sites up and running. Today, Beacon Ads is making advertising easier—and more delicious—than ever as they become Bacon Ads!

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of great deals today:

Also, Westminster Bookstore has just started carrying eBooks from the fine folks at Reformation Heritage Books with more than 100 titles priced at $1.99 until April 13th. You can also get A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones for $4.99 as part of this sale.

America’s muddled morality about the unborn

Trevin nails this.

Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon

Erik Raymond:

As a pastor I often get the question, “Do you have any advice for helping my kids to benefit from the sermon?”

This is a question that I really appreciate because it recognizes the importance of the preaching of the Word of God and our reception of it. It recognizes that even the children are to hear, and to best of their ability, understand what is being preached.

What follows are some things that I have done as a Dad and also as a pastor.

Theologians to know and read

This is good:

The many hairstyles of David Beckham

I saw this on Twitter last night; it is a delightful piece of artwork:

beckham-hair

You can also buy prints of it here.

A Clean House and a Wasted Life

Tim Challies:

I love productivity. At least, I love productivity when it is properly defined—as effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. By this definition, each one of us, no matter our vocation, ought to pursue productivity with all the vigor we can muster. And if you do that, it is inevitable that along the way you will accumulate some mess. You cannot focus your time, attention, gifts, energy, and enthusiasm toward noble goals while still keeping every corner of life perfectly tidy.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • God’s Love by R.C. Sproul (paperback)
  • Jonathan Edwards Teaching Series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)
  • Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God (ePub)
  • Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (ePub)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

5 reasons your church should be smaller

Tim Suttle:

For years it has bothered me that, although the majority of churches in America have fewer than 300 people, most church leadership advice comes from pastors of huge churches. The assumption that bigger is better pervades the church leadership culture. What if that’s the wrong tack? Here are five reasons your church might be better off focusing on faithfulness instead of success… even if it that means it will Shrink.

Dating non-virgins

Richard Phillips:

Here is the dark side, I think, of the chastity industry: it creates the sense that anyone who has failed sexually is broken and unclean.  But this is a repudiation of the gospel.  Would it be better if he or she had waited until marriage for sex?  Of course it would, and we should not downplay the value of sexual purity for singles and youths.  But we do believe in forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. Don’t we? It is one thing if the person is still practicing sexual sin and folly.  But if the person is genuinely repentant and committed to honor the Lord with his or her body, then we rejoice in the redeeming grace of our Savior.

LifeWay pulls “heavenly tourism” books

And about time, too. Now if Christian publishers would stop producing them.

7 Things I’ve Learned In 30+ Years Of Pastoral Ministry

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1980, when I came on staff as a pastor-in-training in our church. I was ordained in ‘81, and became Senior Pastor in ‘82. In the last 30+ years I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and feel like I still have a long way to go. I don’t consider myself an expert on pastoral ministry, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order) to encourage you. So here we go…

Why White People Don’t Like to Talk About Race

Barnabas Piper:

I grew up in inner-city Minneapolis and had the chance to interact with people from many different cultures. When I was twelve my family adopted a black baby girl, my sister Talitha, which opened my eyes even more to the ways minorities are treated differently. My high school football team started multiple Southeast Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and Native Americans. Interactions about racial and cultural differences were normal for us. They weren’t always pleasant and it wasn’t the perfect melting pot, but it was a context in which openly discussing race was ok as long as it was done with respect. I appreciated the chance to learn, observe, listen, and ask questions. I graduated and moved to lily-white Wheaton, Illinois for college. My first week on campus I was roundly chastised by a fellow student, a J. Crew type and Northface type, for referring to a friend as “black.” I was told it was “racially insensitive”  I realized I had entered a different world, one where well-intentioned whites were both clueless and and stuck when it came to race issues.