By: Mark Tidsworth
Perhaps the most disturbing development in 2016 was watching the forces, rhetoric and actions of hate escalate. To deal with the hate movement, churches need to become love extremists.
By: Mark Tidsworth
Churches are tasked with developing human beings into disciples of Jesus, in collaboration with the Holy Spirit. Is your church aware of and focused on this unique and clear calling to help believers walk the walk?
By: Bill Wilson
Going through airport security can leave people discombobulated. Similarly, many congregations are discombobulated by the challenges of being a 21st century church. We need a recombobulation area.
By: Barry Howard
A drum tree, composed of 34 drums from different eras, stands amid First Baptist Pensacola's Christmas décor. It's a reminder that our faith calls us to march to a countercultural cadence during this hectic season.
By: Brent McDougal
In an already divided America, it's harder to cultivate relationships with people from different ethnic, political and social groups. Here are 6 ways you can turn that around.
By: Jim Kelsey
During Advent, we reflect upon the moment when the story of God's love went from being related to us to actually being embodied among us. And we are to embody this story that has so captured us.
By: Molly T. Marshall
Like breathing itself, hope is an intrinsic practice that sustains life. Hope helps us see beyond the present limitations and craft a different narrative for the future.
By: Bill Wilson
Pounded by the waves and roiled in the sand and stones, ordinary glass bottles and containers wash up on beaches, transformed into pieces of art. And they offer six illustrations for what it means to be the church.
By: Mark Tidsworth
Whether we recognize it or not, Christians are declaring with every word and action 24/7 what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can no longer neglect our calling and expect to be relevant.
By: Barry Howard
Many worthy charities, missions and ministries need financial help, but it's not possible to support all of them. Here are 10 tips to help you be smart and generous in your giving.
By: Barry Howard
Your church will be healthier if members are equipped to be good theologians. There are two categories of theology: folk and academic theology. Both are extremely important to the health of the church.
By: Matt Sapp
Constant updates. 24/7 cable news. Alerts on our smartphones. This information overload hits all of us. Distractedness is killing our souls, but you can take steps to turn it around.
By: Christina Embree
Intergenerational ministry is not a new craze. It's a practice that dates back to Christianity's origins. While age-appropriate ministry still has value, we can find ways to both in our churches.
By: Ron Rolheiser
People are both big-hearted and petty, open-minded and bigoted, trusting and suspicious, saint and narcissist, warm and cold. The question is to which heart and mind are you linked?
By: Leroy Seat
Ten years ago, a man entered an Amish school and shot 10 girls, killing five and leaving one with a severe brain injury. The Amish community's response of grace and forgiveness is a lesson for all.
By: Nick Lear
Most adults in churches have grown so used to what we do that we don't realize how weird church is for the vast majority of people, even more so for children and young people. And many of them leave when they're adults.
By: Mitch Randall
The techniques of a capitalistic marketplace have penetrated the church and are instilled in many Christians' everyday lives. In our efforts to keep up appearances, we're lying to ourselves and to God.
By: Stuart Blythe
Social media reveals that Christians viscerally hold different views on ethical issues. However, we must find other places to express those differences than only social media. Maybe church is a good place to start.
By: Barry Howard
Our nation takes extraordinary security measures that would have been unthinkable and excessive 15 years ago. In our post-9/11 world, how can Christians take proactive steps to be 'salt' and 'light'?
By: Paul Beasley-Murray
The word 'disciple' occurs frequently in the Gospel and Acts, but not in the letters of Peter, Paul, James or John. A disciple represents an individual, but the plural of disciple is church.
By: Nick Lear
When seeking how to approach life's complexities, do you read the Bible looking for answers or for wisdom? It may seem like an esoteric exercise in semantics, but your answer reflects how you approach life.
By: Mark Tidsworth
When it comes to church, there are driving questions behind and underneath everything we do. Of these two question sets - one foundational, the other organizational - which one drives your church?
By: Logan Carpenter
Sometimes, church seems like a place where we skirt around hard questions of our faith. Instead, churches should welcome questions, explore what Scripture says and admit when we don't know the answer.
By: Barry Howard
Does your church need to be revitalized? It is a process of restoring a healthy vision, good congregational morale and a sustainable model for engaging in mission and ministry. Here are 12 healthy trends.
By: Ron Rolheiser
We are good-hearted people, but if we're honest, we find it hard to love our neighbors. We don't turn the other cheek or love our enemies. We struggle, mostly unsuccessfully, to wish our enemies well.
By: David Hull
Personal fitness trackers are in demand and are a great way to measure our fitness goals to reach 10,000 daily steps. What if you could wear a spiritual fitness tracker? What would it measure?
By: Matt Sapp
Biblical prophets provided historical context and perspective to the passionate concerns of the day. During our tumultuous times, who are your modern-day prophets?
By: Christina Embree
While age-appropriate ministry within the church is necessary and valuable, children and adults can still learn together in church. After all, even adults can learn something from the children's sermon.
By: Neville Callam
Steve Harmon's new book, "Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future," calls for the kind of receptive ecumenism without which the church can hardly be fully the church.
By: Barry Howard
Religious liberty allows people to worship freely without fear of persecution and protects citizens from compulsory religious participation. It's also a freedom we too often take for granted.
By: Jerrod Hugenot
Taking risks can be good. When churches feel more like circling the wagons than trying anything approaching adaptive change, it shows throughout their ministry and the way they share the gospel.
By: Renée Embree
Growing your church or ministry is good. It's not all about the numbers but about helping people know the God who loves them. Here are 6 ways your church or ministry can begin to flourish.
By: Christina Embree
We often start conversations with what's wrong with society. Instead, what if we focused on God's goodness? We don't have to ignore what's wrong, but we need to change the conversation's tone.
By: Barry Howard
Memorial Day is not just another "day off" but a day to remember those who have lost their lives in the military service of our country. Rather than a time to celebrate, the day offers us a chance to reflect.
By: Mark Tidsworth
Over the centuries, as church and culture and government blended, the word "member" took on a new meaning in church life. Members focus on rights and privileges. Members volunteer; disciples serve.
By: Stuart Blythe
Four interdependent areas contribute to moral formation. Individual volition is at the core of such formation. For Christian moral formation, it's the individual will in relationship to God.
By: Barry Howard
Confession is good for the soul, they say. So here are 10 confessions from one pastor about what he believes about church and ministry after 37 years of service.
By: Larry Eubanks
Many Christians accept the basics of Christianity but still reject Jesus' overall teachings. They advocate violence toward enemies, do little to help the poor and discriminate against foreigners and minorities.
By: Christina Embree
Parents have a significant influence on their children, but it's not exclusively a parent's job to disciple their children. It is corporately the church's role to disciple children.
By: Robert Guffey
In the swift stream of our times, we all seek a lasting peace. There's only one source. It's the love and grace of God, which will open the doorway to heaven on earth and fill your life with the gladness of God.
By: Paul Beasley-Murray
The reading of the Scriptures had been downgraded in our churches and our homes. Our congregations are becoming increasingly biblically illiterate. Therefore, we need to bring back the Bible to church.
By: Matt Sapp
The churchyard cross has seen better days. While it may need fixing, the cross actually fixes us. It reminds us that God's peace is stronger than war and God's love stronger than hatred.
By: Michael Helms
Lawmakers are eager to pass laws to keep our nation 'Christian.' Tennessee, for example, wants to make the Bible the state book. Instead of forcing the Bible on people, what if we lived out its commandments?
By: Colin Sedgwick
Some Christians wouldn't dream of missing a service; ask them to do some work, and they won't be found. Others are eager activists, but they neglect to nurture their souls. The trick is getting the balance right.
By: Joe LaGuardia
Scripture tells us that it is good to meditate on God's Word, but how do we dig into its teachings? The next time you study a Bible passage, ask yourself these three questions.
By: Arthur Brown
Being Christian and being Muslim are not the same. We don't have identical understandings of the God we worship. However, Christians can reject the bigotry of judging others and build bridges of respect.
By: Matt Sapp
Quitting gets a bad rap. We equate quitters with losers. However, it's actually a very Christian thing to do. Consider quitting some of these things, and you'll have more room for something else.
By: Bill Wilson
Ten words - and they're not the only such words - cause heartbreak, pain and betrayal in peoples' lives. But the Bible with its incredibly honest and sobering view of life declares these words will not win.
By: Robert Guffey
Most people don't go to church for one of four reasons. If Christians are to reach people for Christ, especially those for whom God and church are not important, we are going to have to do it through love.
By: Barry Howard
Destructive storms disrupt and uproot communities, often causing massive damages and casualties. However, we can learn valuable lessons to rebuild after the storms pass. Here are seven.
By: Guy Sayles
Faith communities make it either more or less likely that people will be able to live out their faith. You can't nurture peacemakers in a community that uses attack as its main way of relating to culture.
By: Greg Mamula
If a church isn't meeting your child's needs, should you leave in order to find a church that's more entertaining or dynamic? Before you do, consider these three questions.
By: Nick Lear
A performance by a master magician can be an evening filled with surprises and entertainment. However, magicians can provide thought-provoking lessons for Christians. Here are five of them.
By: Barry Howard
The pulpit is a place to accent the privilege and responsibility of choosing our leaders, not a place to dictate the decision. Here are four steps for pastors who want to encourage good citizenship from the pulpit.
By: Michael Shaw
Why can't Jesus be cool? The truth is: We don't want Jesus to truly impact our lives. We don't actually want to carry a cross; we want all the bits of Christianity that we like, but none of the stuff that makes it hard.
By: Greg DeLoach
We are far too guarded with our smiles. In a world deafened by traffic noises, acerbic political discourse and mean-spirited exchanges, we need more smiles of kindness.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
The most "Bible-minded" cities are found in the southern United States, the Barna Research Group found. The annual survey found all of the top 10 cities were located below the Mason-Dixon Line.
By: Larry Eubanks
In almost all religions, there are those who are recipients of God's favor, and those who aren't. The problem is that we think we know who the blessed ones are and who they are not.
By: John Pierce
The United States is plagued with 'ceremonial Christianity,' which baptizes national allegiance and political ideologies in the language of faith. And Jesus' teaching is lost in the process.
By: Griff Martin
We're pretty good at worshipping Jesus, but he desires more from us. He desires obedience. In other words, imitating his life, taking his teachings and living and making them our teachings and livings.
By: Ron Rolheiser
Having the truth is one thing, speaking it in a place and a manner that's helpful is quite another. Simply put, it isn't always helpful or charitable or mature to throw a truth into someone's face.
By: Barry Howard
Holidays can be dark days emotionally for many of us. Grieving is healthy as long as you are moving through the grief process as opposed to becoming stuck in your grief.
By: Logan Carpenter
We're well into the Christmas season. Squished in with hope, joy and peace are parties, shopping, obligations, family gatherings and more. Know what you need? An invitation to the Slow Club.
By: Greg DeLoach
We're all living in-between addresses. It is not where you are from or even where you are going that matters most, but where you are right now. And Advent reminds us of that.
By: Philip Jenkins
Does the Bible speak? If so, how? Human beings are very good at reading into a text what they want to get out of it. We see things not as they are, but as we are.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
The desire for spiritual growth among Christians is not translating into significant commitment to practices facilitating this development, a survey finds.
By: Chuck Summers
Nature has its own pace and doesn't tend to rush things. We could learn something from nature. Our rush through life keeps us from experiencing what God has in mind for us here and now.
By: Nick Lear
Many Christians approach discipleship with this attitude: What's the minimum I have to do to get by? Instead, we should offer our lives as "living sacrifices by striving for excellence in whatever we do.
By: Larry Eubanks
Interpreting Scripture is a wonderfully complicated endeavor because the Bible is a complex compilation of literature. Even when a verse has a clear meaning, there may be more we need to know.
By: Elizabeth Evans Hagan
We love a good game of us vs. them. We stake the claim of the divide with no possibility of middle ground. But what happens when you get to know a "them," and they become more like an "us"?
By: Christina Embree
Not only are your kids watching you, but they are also copying you. Like a serious game of "Simon Says," your children are learning what is normal in life by watching your actions.
By: Randy Hyde
Downloading a new operating system to your computer mirrors church life. Our old way of doing things is comfortable and familiar, but doing God's work requires time, effort and exploring the unfamiliar.
By: James Gordon
Martha often gets the short end of the stick in the biblical account where Jesus visits Martha and Mary. But these women represent the two sides of discipleship - ministering to others and devotion to God.
By: Larry Eubanks
Most churches have religious bullies, and they're often our leaders. They do everything our discipleship programs tell them they should do - and yet they can be the meanest persons you'll ever meet. Why?
By: Christina Embree
Social media has a huge impact on teens, with some checking their social media accounts 100 times per day. But parents can take some practical steps to help their kids navigate the digital world.
By: Barry Howard
In the novel-turned-movie "The Martian," an astronaut stranded on Mars must learn to grow potatoes for his survival. His task illustrates 12 lessons for the church and its survival.
By: Matt Sapp
The problem for a lot of us isn't that we don't want to pray, but that we don't know what to pray for, and we're not sure what to say. Check out these three suggestions to pray more boldly.
By: Zach Dawes
To ensure a vibrant Christian witness, academic theologians and congregational ministers must continually work together to bridge the gap between doctrine and daily life.
By: Barry Howard
To build a healthy marriage, a minister and spouse cannot be naïve to stress factors. They should take steps to navigate these challenges with faith, discernment and intentionality. Here are 10 tips.
By: Heather Skull
When a discussion about religious dogma takes over from the practical application of faith, something's gone wrong. Corrie ten Boom once illustrated this point with a gift of chocolate.
By: Christina Embree
Young people often leave church because they have no connection to the larger church body. While there's no magic bullet, intergenerational worship can provide that link.
By: Ron Rolheiser
We too easily and too frequently get the wrong focus befitting both Christian discipleship and human maturity. For the main part, our own salvation will take care of itself if we focus on the needs of others.
By: Larry Eubanks
A docked ship is safe, but that doesn't mean it's sound or seaworthy. Like that ship, many Christians feel safe about going to Heaven but that doesn't mean their behavior is sound.
By: Drew Smith
The strongest obstacle to the life-changing experience of God in worship is our own self-centeredness and self-absorption. So what do we need to do to experience genuine worship?
By: Jim Kelsey
Churches must disciple people in the same way we raise our children. We don't sit our kids down for a weekly lecture. We walk with them through their lives, helping them draw lessons from their successes and failures.
By: Roger Olson
Some churches relate to God horizontally through fellowship and healthy relationships; other relate to God vertically through worship and spiritual practices. They key is to find the balance.
By: Larry Eubanks
Few of life's dilemmas can be solved by ready-made answers. People aren't machines, and neither is life. Jesus knew that developing discernment in others was far superior to giving them point-blank directions.
By: Bryan Brock
Lego buildings are fascinating structures. All those different-colored blocks connecting together to make one structure. But when it comes to church, we prefer everything and everyone to be the same.
By: Guy Sayles
Legendary UNC Coach Dean Smith had a three-prong philosophy for his teams: play hard, play smart, play together. And that's not a bad philosophy for churches, too.
By: Drew Smith
While the actions of giving up private property by the early Christians may have been something radical, the reality is that these actions were actually normative for Christian identity and community.
By: Rupen Das
What does righteous mean? The average church member likely associates it with being blameless or holy. Righteous can also be understood as an obligation in the context of our social relationships.
By: Barry Howard
Our ancestors envisioned a nation in which liberty and justice would be for all people. Some folks, however, have reduced 'liberty' to a license for self-centeredness and 'justice' to mere retaliatory action.
By: Barry Howard
As you celebrate the unrivaled freedom we enjoy in the U.S., celebrate your religious liberty by exercising your freedom to worship. And respect the freedom of others to choose when or if they worship.
By: Joe LaGuardia
Common Core provides national benchmarks for students. With so many churchgoers lacking basic bible knowledge, many churches must take a Common Core approach from the pulpit.
By: Robert Guffey
Far too many Christians think far too little about what it means to be a Christian. Their priorities focus on power, consumerism and celebrity, rather than Jesus' way of humility, kindness and grace.
By: Guy Sayles
Effective leaders need two important skills when leading a church. They need to be able to motivate members to take a hill and they need to be able to discern which hills to take.
By: Jim Somerville
Factories make coffeemakers. Those coffeemakers don't make more coffeemakers; they make coffee. If they don't, their factories go out of business. Churches are disciple-making factories. What do their disciples make?
By: Mark Tidsworth
Do you feel like you're playing a hide-and-seek game when you look for God in the institutional church. Before you walk out altogether, consider these three questions. They may just save your spiritual life.
By: Guy Sayles
More than any argument for the truth of Christianity, what persuades me over and over again is the immediate and inescapable presence of Jesus. We relate to him as a here-and-now reality.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Michael Okwakol, senior pastor of a Baptist church in Uganda and president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, talks about challenges for African churches in a new EthicsDaily.com Skype interview.
By: Bill Wilson
Churches used to be a source of entrepreneurship, but many have abandoned that spirit and are in survival mode. Instead of being a green-light church where ideas are born, they're stuck in yellow and red.
By: Logan Carpenter
Review Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program, and you'll see the organization expects a lot from those who attend. They are family who hold each other accountable. The church could learn from them.
By: Ircel Harrison
It's not enough to identify and disciple leaders for the church. Leaders need to invest their time to mentor young leaders who will in turn invest their time training the following generation.
By: Bill Wilson
Weekly church attendance is in serious decline as loyal members attend less frequently than before. Here are 10 of the most frequent places they go on Sundays when they're not in church.
By: Bill Owen
You may feel cramped in the window seat of a flight, but you have a great view of the world. The aisle seat offers far more comfort. Metaphorically speaking, many churches prefer the aisle seat.
By: Mark Tidsworth
Many Christians see the process of growing as disciples as personal, private and individualistic, believing they don't need a community of faith. Here's why playing the John Wayne type won't work.
By: Bob Browning
Jesus couldn't ignore the plight of those who were being exploited, especially by the religious leaders. He accepted his mission to be an advocate for the poor and powerless. We also have no higher calling.
By: Greg DeLoach
We filter our email to weed out unwanted solicitations, but the church should be a place where all are welcome and no one is filtered out. Yet churches have many filters that need to be jettisoned.
By: Greg DeLoach
Now that every other person has a phone with a camera, the world's awash in selfies. Church can include groups of "selfies," too, but God has called us to reach out to our neighbors.
By: Guy Sayles
Devotion to the church often keeps company with doubts about the church. While we can be greatly discouraged and hurt by people at church, it's also where we discover God's grace.
By: Barry Howard
Without any long-term objective to your church's mission strategy, your church could be encouraging a sense of entitlement that trends toward continual poverty. Here are five steps to break that cycle.
By: Bob Browning
Do you believe people need to hear what you have to say? Peter, the leader of Jesus' disciples, did. However, he learned that before he could find his voice, he must first be willing to listen to Jesus.
By: Joel Snider
You know the blessings within the Beatitudes. When you reverse them, you discover curses for those who ignore those blessings. These curses help you better understand the road map that Jesus gave you.
By: Thomas Kidd
Is it easier to live out biblical Christianity if you attend a small church or a large one? The truth is neither model is better than the other. Each comes with its own tradeoffs. Here are three.
By: Joe LaGuardia
As younger adults become increasingly independent, they have the potential to take more ownership in local churches. And local churches must be willing to let them lead.
By: Britt Hester
Lent is about more than the practical benefits of giving up vices and taking up virtues. It's a time to pay attention to your life and determine where you are on your journey.
By: Barry Howard
Does your church need to re-evaluate how to best use its resources for the poor and vulnerable? The author of "Toxic Charity" examines the ineffective approach taken by many churches and nonprofits.
By: Molly T. Marshall
To reach the fullness of the unique human identity purposed for us, we must focus attention on God's self-revealing in Christ and the ways he continues to shine through faithful sisters and brothers.
By: Mark Tidsworth
Developing each other and ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ is one of the unique roles of God's church. Here are three ways your church can begin to develop disciples.
By: Colin Harris
In our current theological climate, many defend the rightness of a particular belief against alternatives. But a faith community loses its ability to nurture when rigid beliefs replace a vital, growing faith.
By: Dennis Atwood
The game-ending final play in this year's Super Bowl has a lesson for churches: Huddling is important, but execution is even more critical. Churches must move beyond their walls and get out into the world.
By: Larry Eubanks
Everyone wants to be a disciple, but no one wants to become one. Discipleship is for those who give themselves completely to it, and ask nothing from it except the privilege to be allowed to continue.
By: Roger Olson
While the doctrine of creation out of nothing is not directly taught in Scripture, it's an essential teaching. Without it, other revealed truths cannot be maintained or defended.
By: Justin Smith
Like Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights," many Christians like "the Christmas Jesus best." We're called, however, to joyfully follow Jesus in every season and through any circumstance.
By: Colin Harris
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Al Mohler recently divided Christians into two camps, but this "divide-misrepresent-conquer" technique does little to advance community in the Christian family.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Barry Howard, senior minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, writes columns featured on EthicsDaily.com. His favorite Bible verses are from Romans 12, calling us to be transformed by grace.
By: John Weaver
As climate change continues, it is the poorest in our world who will suffer the most. If we are to call ourselves a gospel people, we cannot ignore the condition and well being of creation.
By: Colin Harris
No matter how authentic and spectacular our Advent celebrations are, if we fail to embrace the life to which incarnation invites us, we have participated in only half of the celebration.
By: Roger Olson
Worship planners and leaders must think of hymns as theological expressions and choose them with discernment, especially when the lyrics may be obscure to most people.
By: Seth Vopat
We define truth as an effort to make the world in Christ's image, but that concept is not found in the gospels. We want a convenient faith, which fits nicely into our overbooked schedules, not a faith that requires intention.
By: Rod Benson
Conversion, which lies at the heart of evangelical faith and experience, is not primarily about escape from judgment in the afterlife, but about aligning our lives with the principles and priorities of God's kingdom.
By: David Fitch
The term "the way of Jesus" has become increasingly popular. While it's meant to emphasize practical everyday Christian life, different groups have co-opted it to mean different things.
By: Bill Wilson
Much of what we call faith and commitment is actually a thin veneer of religious ritualism that withers at the first hint of stress. To hear the Spirit's voice, we need to go deeper. Like Paul, we need to go to Arabia.
By: Barry Howard
Pastors have been showered with thank-you notes, homemade goodies and gift cards during Pastor Appreciation Month. But there's one thing you can do to ensure your pastor feels appreciated.
By: Matt Sapp
It's budget time for most churches. This is a time for spiritual self-assessment as your church organizes your plans to accomplish God's dreams. What does your budget say about your priorities?
By: Griff Martin
To see the importance of friendship is to acknowledge one of the deepest and most sacred places in our lives. Sadly, many adults miss out on the blessing of having a best friend. Who's yours?
By: Mike Harton
Jesus spent most of his time on this earth ministering to the poor and disenfranchised. However, when it comes to issues affecting the poor today, many of his followers show little sympathy.
By: Joe LaGuardia
The fastest growing churches are those with contemporary worship, a founding pastor or both. Church attendance, however, is at an all-time low. That's what happens when many of us hop from church to church.
By: Brock Ratcliff
Contrary to what others may think, Common Core is not an invasion by the federal government into our children's classrooms. And Common Core has a lesson for your church.
By: Sara Powell
When the electric company trims your trees, you may not like the end result but their work keeps electricity flowing when you need it. What trimming needs to take place in your life to let God work?
By: Larry Eubanks
Some church discipleship programs overlook an important task given to humans: to take care of God's creation. We are called to care for each other as well as the plants and animals in need of protection.
By: Drew Smith
Jesus' power to do miracles may be credited to his faith in God to work miracles through him. The Gospel of Mark shows Jesus as the example of faithful discipleship.
Jesus, in other words, taught his followers how to “talk to God in a different way.”2 Has he done that for you? When the storms of life rear their ugly heads, are you prepared to meet Jesus because he has taught you to pray? That doesn’t mean the storms won’t come up. They most assuredly will. But it does mean, I think, as Vivian Greene has said, that “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
We have been created, you and I, in partnership with our Creator-Redeemer God, to help bring our world into right relationship with God. That has to do with more than just getting to heaven. Far more. It speaks to how we take care of the earth God has created and given us, it determines how we relate to others, especially those who are different from us. It expresses itself in every facet of our being. We live – right now, you and I – in God’s faith story.
By: Peter Dunn
In contrast to the Western world, most of the churches in the global south have experienced dramatic growth. All churches can gain from discipleship programs that engage church members' needs.
By: Guy Sayles
We classify and separate ourselves and others according to characteristics. Rich vs. poor. Republican vs. Democrat. Sinner vs. saint. It doesn't have to be like this. We can choose a better way.
On this Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church, I believe that God’s Spirit is working within this congregation possibly to conceive and give birth to an alternative worship service that taps into the different kinds of gifts, different kinds of service and different kinds of working at UBC to worship the same Spirit, the same God and the same Lord.
By: Michael Helms
Why do so many youth leave the church after leaving home? We spend a lot of time telling them what to believe, but not enough time educating them about opposing views and helping them think.
By: Griff Martin
When Maya Angelou passed away, many remarked that she had so much more to teach us. But when leaders depart, those whom they touched can continue to apply their words and deeds.
By: Trevor Barton
How do we help the countless at-risk children in our schools? We can begin by seeing them not as problems to be pushed into the corners, but as people to be welcomed into our hearts.
By: Barry Howard
Whether it's in their own neighborhood or halfway around the world, First Baptist Church of Pensacola has focused its ministries on investing in the lives of children.
By: Colin Harris
Rather than a fixed and final doctrine, theology is an ongoing and evolving process of refinement, but the need to be right is often more important than the desire to seek a clearer understanding of the truth.
By: James Gordon
The submission of all our nature and the integration of all our life into adoration and self-giving love describes a deep rootedness of mind and soul in the love of God. That's the core of worship.
By: Brett Gibson
When it comes to laying a spiritual foundation in the livers of children, it's not the church that has the primary influence – it's the family. Here are eight steps to get your preschooler on the right path.
By: Matt Sapp
Many of us live as if faith was only an intellectual exercise, but faith is more than intellectual assent to a set of propositions. Here are three things we often forget about faith.
By: Joe LaGuardia
Churches often measure their growth by how many people they get in the pews on Sunday morning, but is that really the best way to measure the spiritual health of a congregation?
By: Colin Harris
What's our best protection against the distraction of sideshows that use the language of faith to disguise all manner of injustice and discrimination? Growing mature disciples.
By: Bill Wilson
For many, the U.S. church experience is akin to an addiction to a poor substitute for the gospel of Jesus. All of us crave a church that will cater to us. It's time to break the addictive cycle.
By: Barry Howard
Many people have relied upon Bible reading plans or devotional books for their daily devotionals. However, online resources can be a practical source of material, too.
We are the salt of the earth, from Jesus’ perspective, and the light of the world. And he says “are”... “You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world.” Not will be, not might be, not even “I want you to be or should be.” The verb is not future tense, it is present. Nor is it dependent on our ability to be good. It is a God-given reality, a matter of divine grace, and there is no way we can get around it. We cannot escape it, we cannot avoid it or try to slip around it, explain it away or certainly deny it. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Still, what does it mean?
So let us mark it and mark it well: we are bound together by our devotion to Christ. Nothing else – nothing else – matters. The light of Jesus’ presence illuminates our deeds and encourages us to unite in him, even when we disagree. It is the only way to be church. It is the only way to be followers of the One who gave his life for us. It is the only way to live out the promise of our baptism, to be united in Christ.
By: Gordon King
While many of us can have high standards of personal morality, we can simultaneously be perpetrators of social evil in this broken world. How will the church help the wounded?
Oddly enough, it was when Isaiah gave up in his despair – essentially calling a spade a spade when he said that he had no clue as to what to do next – when his own ideas of what was needed were given over, and his own sense of purpose was shredded and put away, that he then found room in his heart for God to give him a new vision for his people.
One of the greatest gifts you can give those you love is to share with them the potential you see in them. Let those around you know of the talents, skills, abilities and gifts you believe they possess, and offer your help as they develop them. [ ]Every person needs a support group, a loving, encouraging community where their dreams can be planted and grow. Shouldn’t the church be one of these places?
I sometimes wonder what would happen if, instead of inviting others to come and debate, to come and be lectured, a community of Christ followers might invite others to come and see them live out their faith by affirming the sanctity of all human life by caring for those among us regardless of age, race, ethnicity, social economic class, and sexual orientation. I wonder what kind of witness we might have if we cleaned up our own sins before we condemned the sins of others. Wouldn’t that be an appealing witness? Instead of “love the sinner and hate the sin,” why don’t we first ascribe to this dictum: “Love the sinner, and hate our own sin”?
By: Chuck Queen
Some folks eschew church, claiming they're spiritual but not religious. But authentic spirituality requires community. For Christians that means learning how to be the body of Christ.
By: Seth Vopat
We instantly connect with friends wherever they are with a simple text, so why can't our relationship with God be as close? Perhaps it's time to look again at those Scriptures that talk about God's distance.
By: Keith Herron
We live in a society that's spinning like an out-of-control merry-go-round. How do we stand firm? These 3 activities will help you to stay grounded in our fast-paced world.
By: James Gordon
We anxiously cling to the familiar. We must choose between insulated safety with the familiar or risk exposure by being open to that which might shatter us. The latter is the path of grace and faith.
Many millennials have trouble connecting to church. They want – but don't often find – honesty and transparency. Here are 14 truths about Christmas for millennials and others seeking truth.
Good people who do good work can completely miss what God is doing. Are you willing to challenge your religious certitudes by asking weightier and more honest questions?
As we move through Advent's preparation for the church's celebration of that first birthday we call Christmas, we look forward to reliving the joy of the new life that has changed the world in so many ways.
Many of us feel forced to travel toward Christmas in the fast lane in a culture focused on shopping and accumulating. Advent encourages us to go slow and breathe in the scenery.
Where is God when bad things happen? To the person who is hurting, our canned religious answers seem hollow, shallow and often insulting. Suffering is no respecter of persons.
To follow in the path of Jesus calls for risky social engagement that seeks to meet and understand, to engage and help, to welcome and embrace "the other." The choice is yours.
Jesus seemed to be testing the commitment and resolve of these would-be followers, and he was not afraid to trim down the roster. In fact, he told the crowds to estimate or count the cost before following him. [ ]Jesus’ point, is that anything in life that is worth doing and worth doing well is going to cost something, and we should anticipate that cost in our decision-making.
Embracing Jesus’ values and lifestyle will inevitably put us at odds with family members, friends and the prevailing philosophies and patterns of our culture. At times, we’ll feel as if we are swimming upstream. Only the highest level of commitment to God through Christ will keep us focused and determined to remain faithful.
We – you and I, this church, this community, this city – can we say we have arrived, that we have reached our final destination? Of course not. We live each day in the midst of a divine promise. How we share that promise with those who come after us makes and forms the true essence of our faith and gives us the purpose for our living now. God’s promise has no expiration date.2 But now, for this period of time when you and I live and move and have our being, the fulfillment of that promise is in our hands.
A study following a group over 75 years to learn what makes us happy and fulfilled revealed their findings recently. What were the secrets? Well, they've been in the Bible all this time.
We don't have physical DNA of Jesus, but what if we could test for spiritual DNA? If a crime-scene analyst could test you, how close would your spiritual DNA match Jesus'?
Change is an essential part of any institution, including the church. When it comes to education, churches must choose between changing to the latest trend or seeking true transformation.
Plenty of books explain how to be a faithful disciple of Christ, but Paul reminds us with one verse: We continue to live in Christ just as we first received Him. But what does that mean?
Keeping track of attendance and finances is important, but we should practice spiritual discernment that pushes us to consider how we are growing as sisters and brothers in Christ.
Jesus was always calling his followers into a community in which they were to find a new way of existing in the world that demonstrates the ethics of God's rule. Here are four of his calls to action.
Ministers face a delicate dilemma when sharing their knowledge with their congregations. Here are five suggestions to help you discern the boundary between caution and dishonesty.
When church members say they can't find a place to plug in, it may have more to do with the way the church empowers members than with the lack of available opportunities.
The Bible is more accessible than ever, but who's reading it? The primary goal of engaging the Bible is more to live right than to practice sound doctrine.
As superior as he was to most other baseball players, Mickey Mantle didn't exercise his gifts to the fullest. It's not about how we compare to others, but how we use the gifts given to us.
All parents have struggled with the fear that they could make their children hate church if they forced them to go. Here are 4 grace-filled reasons for taking your kids to church.
Hollywood's programs about our faith, such as The History Channel's "The Bible" miniseries, may be flawed, but these visual representations remind us what a radical faith we have.
Tokens, a theological variety show, unites "really good music and really good theology" without ruining both of them, says Lee Camp in the latest EthicsDaily.com Skype interview.
Many churches have preconceived ideas about what Scripture already says. Here are three ways pastors can lead their churches to read Scripture again – for the first time.
Christianity is booming in South Korea, a nation of 50 million. Grace Ji-Sun Kim talks about the state of the Korean church in a new Skype interview with EthicsDaily.com.
For pastors and laypersons alike, balancing a spirit of sensitivity and compassion while speaking prophetically about today's issues isn't easy. Being one often risks the other.
Many churches don't see college ministries as a great investment. While ministering to college students offers little to no payout, churches are about making disciples, not filling sanctuaries.
A myopic focus on the Jesus truth reduces the gospel to a proposition to be believed. We need to expend just as much energy considering what exactly the Jesus way is.
If you're going to be good at something – whether it's golf or math or art – it will require years of patient practice. Why should we expect love to be any different?
A Mother's Day custom at one church, which honored the mom with the most children, became a controversy between the two finalists. Here's how one pastor solved it.
Choir rehearsal is a joy on some days, a challenge on others. And that makes it much like life. Some days we're obedient to the Spirit, and others we're doing our duty.
How does your church celebrate Mother's Day? Is it a time for nostalgia or gentile respect for the influential role of mothers? Or does it go deeper?
Everyone seeks a church that really worships, that really knows how to praise God. While we don't know exactly what worship is, we are always quick to point out what it isn't.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" 50 years ago today, addressing the need for nonviolent action to overcome the nation's deeply rooted racism.
Most ministers rarely stay long at churches. Many move on in search of greener pastures. Many congregants feel they must defend their turf. What if those attitudes changed?
Do you want to improve your ministry visiting people in the hospital? Here are five things one pastor learned when he was faced with a three-week hospital stay.
Many churches and their members complain about schools, youth and teachers. And why not? It's easy to do. But it's time to stop criticizing and to start offering solutions.
Like assembly lines mass-producing millions of Ford Model Ts, today's churches are seeking the right formula to mass-produce growth. But people are not material objects.
Many congregations are so focused on survival that they've grown blind to the call to propagate and reproduce leaders, but they're putting their future at stake.
Rotary is an international service organization with the motto of "Service Above Self." Here are six ways your church could mature if it were more like the Rotary.
When three Alabama churches collaborated to help a local school, it also offered the congregations a chance to develop new friendships from another part of town and enlarge their worlds.
Just like we wish the guy who lifts 500 pounds in the gym would go away while we're working out, do we react the same way toward spiritually mature believers?
As he urged a joint session of Congress to tackle immigration reform, President Obama's State of the Union address highlighted the importance of faith leaders.
Discipleship involves following Jesus in taking people alive for God so they become part of God's love, truth, peace, hope, and joy in the world. It means following Jesus in liberating people from oppressive forces and systems—including cultural, social, political, economic, and religious forces and systems—that trap and cripple them. Discipleship involves following Jesus in living as God's good news and work for freedom, healing, peace, love, justice, joy, and hope. This meaning of discipleship—following Jesus—in "people-catching living" gives the term "catch and release" an entirely new meaning.
Your church's building use policy reflects your church's vision. Does that policy communicate the spirit of a crucified Christ or that of a self-absorbed congregation?
Churches often avoid dealing with discomforting questions about the issues of the day. By trying so hard to be nice, they miss their calling to engage in moral reflection.
We have to look at our ministry in new and different ways, and it may require that we consider doing it in ways that we’ve not thought of before. But there will always be one constant. If we do not measure everything we do – everything – with the plumb line of love, nothing else will square.
Jesus didn't follow John the Baptist's expectations of who he should be. Instead, he followed the Holy Spirit's leadership. Will you follow your path or someone else's?
A new report releases an ambitious set of findings about the effects of divorce on children, urging church leaders to do more for the health of churches and the next generation.
We place a value on everything, whether it's our time, our health or our family. The sum of these decisions reflects whether we believe life is about us or something much bigger.
We live in a world where we praise the powerful and show kindness only to those who can do something for us. What if we gave the world the things that mean the most to us?
God loves you. You can't do anything about it. You can't make God love you more. You can't make God love you less. All you can do is receive the gift.
Churches that do the best job of finding their next pastor have one thing in common. In the latest Skype interview from EthicsDaily.com, find out what Bill Wilson says that is.
Many assume they need to get their lives together before they approach God. But God comes to us as we offer him our mess and invite him into the midst of it.
When authors develop a strong point of view, readers can relate to their characters. If you think people need to follow your point of view, you're likely not employing Jesus as your life's editor.
How does what EthicsDaily.com offers connect to a trend in local church life? Zach Dawes, new managing editor of EthicsDaily.com, explains in our latest Skype interview.
Change isn't easy. When it happens in church, we either adapt to it or use it as a springboard for innovative and effective ministry. Here are 7 areas where that can happen.
Is your church led by staff or controlled by staff? When staff leadership is unhealthy, it's often at the heart of church conflict. Try these 4 habits to build a healthier leadership culture.
What will the new year hold for us? It will depend on whether we choose to live in fear or work toward relationships of trust and a commitment to each other's well-being.
Christmas is about a lot of things. What if it's also a disclosure of who God is that enables us to see a Christmas in every birth and the possibility of incarnation in every life?
My reading of the New Testament tells that Jesus' followers are headed into life as God means it to be. Our destiny is to become our authentic selves by becoming like Jesus.
Whether we engage actively with social media or not at all, its possibilities present Christians with a range of theological issues to ponder. Steve Holmes concludes his series on social media.
Real power, the power of the kingdom, is found in humility, and in service to others.
ou see, we’re not called to be God’s bouncers, to keep the church clean and pure. We are messengers of the grace that only God can give to those who find it.
The work of the minister responsible for educating church members has changed over the years. No longer simply administrators, they are expected to grow disciples.
A papyrus fragment that some say shows that Jesus was married has created a global flutter. In today's itchy-ear culture, it's tough for sound teaching to compete with wild myths.
Why did a papyrus fragment with the teeny words "Jesus" and "wife" create a media stir? Such texts receive publicity in proportion to the attention given to today's controversial issues.
A small fragment of ancient papyrus contains a tantalizing reference to Jesus as a married man.
Can you sum up the Bible's overarching message in 10 words or fewer? No matter how many or how few words we use, our expression of the biblical message will be incomplete.
The Bible is such a hopeful and helpful book because, from it, we hear the very voice of God speak to us.
So I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps what Jesus means, by inviting his listeners to eat his flesh and drink his blood, is that they are, in accepting him, to take all of him, every last morsel, to immerse themselves completely in his presence, to fully engage in his way of life and to follow him without reservation.
If younger adults were more aware of the fiscal realities facing the church, could they be persuaded to share more of the costs?
Being a Christian is not mainly ideas we have or beliefs we affirm; it is a whole way of life. Christians are people who are learning, by experience, to do all of life in the Jesus-way.
Those who look to the Bible for guidance fall into two camps. One views the Bible as a template to decide right and wrong; the other as an evolving journey to understand God's purpose.
Jesus issues this loving invitation: “Remain in me. Abide in me. Make yourself at home in me just as I do in you.”
By all appearances, we’re doing what God wants, that which would make Jesus happy. But we need to be aware of, and careful of, the possibility that appearances can be deceiving.
During this season of Lent, let us hear with open ears and courageous hearts what Jesus told his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” How will we respond to this challenging invitation?
We often make great plans about how we want to serve God – and then expect God to show up and bless them. Instead, we need to show up for God's plan.
May the words and demonstration of Jesus’ powerful teaching release us out of our bondage and into the freedom of God’s glorious grace!
Repent and believe. That is the invitation that Jesus gave to His would-be followers at the beginning of His earthly ministry. That is the invitation that Jesus gives to His would-be followers today. Will we accept this invitation?
(RNS) God may hold the whole world in his hand, but persecuted Christians can now hold an entire seminary library on a fingertip.
(RNS) Ask Mormons if they are Christian, and their answer often starts with a sigh.
PARIS (RNS) A decade ago, Rene Lebouvier requested that his local Catholic church erase his name from the baptismal register.
The desire for practical ways to make life better seems to be common in today's churches. We want Christ, but we don't want the difficulties of following Christ.
WILMINGTON (RNS) William McNeill remembers two things about sitting in the pew at Singletary United Methodist Church in Dublin, N.C. as a boy.
The one who entered the world in weakness and vulnerability came to reveal a way of life that has the power to transform everything. But do Christians know where Jesus is?
Christians have differing views on what the inspiration of Scripture means. Those who suggest the text is as much a human creation as a divine one aren't less faithful in their belief in God.
WASHINGTON (RNS) How would you feel about taking a razor blade to a Bible? Thomas Jefferson, apparently, didn’t have any qualms about it.
We can usually find something in the Bible that will support our own ideological perspective. Whatever your ideology, are you willing to let the Bible speak to you?
Today is Christ the King Sunday originally known as, the Feast of Christ. The celebration was put in place in 1925 when Pope Pius the XI realized secular society was losing interest in church participation. This holy day is a celebration of Christ’s reign in the world and a day to offer Christ to the community.
(RNS) Why do young Christians leave the church?
BAY MINETTE, Ala. (RNS) An alternative sentencing plan that would give inmates the choice between time in jail or a year in church will be delayed.
JERUSALEM (RNS) Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls are now available in digital form to anyone with an Internet connection.
BAY MINETTE, Ala. (RNS) A new alternative sentencing program offers first-time, nonviolent offenders a choice of a year in church or jail time and fines.
(RNS) Pop quiz: Who said “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up”?
Church marketing makes it seem easy to become a disciple of Jesus. If truth in advertising were to prevail, we have to admit that this Jesus-following thing isn't easy.
(RNS) Mormon founder Joseph Smith may have declared all churches to be wrong, even apostate, but he also defined Mormonism as an inclusivist faith.
BALTIMORE (RNS) A recent Sunday service at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore ended with an apology.
Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples. How are we in fulfilling Jesus’ great commission? How are we in making disciples who in turn can make disciples of Jesus?
BEVERLY, Mass. (RNS) No sooner had 29-year-old Graham Messier joined a small group at his church earlier this year than he found himself breaking an American taboo.
(RNS) “Thor,” is the kind of cinematic legend where the only word that truly seems to fit is “epic.”
NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Bible scholars are buried in a 20-year project to codify the thousands of changes that crept into the early New Testament.
Too many churches have decided that loving God doesn't require attention to social issues. They fret more about church decor than they do about war and peace.
(RNS) As Christians worldwide celebrate Easter, they will follow a familiar chronology: Jesus rose from the dead on “the third day.”
WASHINGTON (RNS) Under fire for criticizing a popular theologian, the U.S. Catholic bishops said they must occasionally assume the role of referee.
Green Day's rock albums have provided scathing commentaries not only of the government but also of the church. Evangelicals would do well to hear and consider Green Day's critique.
WASHINGTON (RNS) The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned a book by Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a prominent feminist theologian.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) As a student at Aquinas College in the 1980s, David Lincoln was on track to become a Roman Catholic priest.
(RNS) A Smithsonian museum is restoring the “Jefferson Bible,” a unique volume the third president cut and pasted himself.
Reflecting the voices of Christian leaders from 198 nations, the Lausanne Movement's latest declaration states two themes – the need for "radical" discipleship and for cross-centered reconciliation.
Some people, even Christians, don't want to imitate Christ. To do so would mean following his radical ethic of love, his call to nonviolence and his message about sharing with the poor and practicing forgiveness.
Instead of focusing most of their energy on church activities, British Christians can learn to live out their faith in the places they spend the most time, the head of a Christian agency says.
Nine major African-American denominations are working together for the betterment of their collective churches and the African-American community.
Is it off limits to ask questions about the Bible? Searching for the truth requires asking serious and difficult questions. And even Jesus reminded us that the truth will set us free.
Owning a tower of Bibles or displaying a giant version for the coffee table may appear impressive, but the Bible's true message doesn't seep out by osmosis. We need to take time to read it.
(RNS) A disgruntled investor has sued Bible.com, saying the website’s name alone should make it more profitable than it is.
(RNS) The ACLU has filed two federal lawsuits alleging discrimination over a nose ring and lack of books other than the Bible.
JERUSALEM (RNS) A huge sycamore tree that some believe was climbed by Zacchaeus is the centerpiece of a new tourism campaign.
You don’t need me to tell you that you can make scripture say just about anything you want it to say. People often turn to the Bible to back up their arguments, as if that is what the Bible is for.
(RNS) A megachurch in Lawrenceville, Ga., was named the fastest-growing Protestant church in America.
Welcome to the hard sayings of Jesus where Jesus pushes hard against a common sense level of faith and demands more than any of us are willing to give. What you do with these words is up to you, but I doubt you feel comfortable with them.
TORONTO (RNS) “Hell is a half-filled auditorium,” wrote the poet Robert Frost.
Early Christians understood that being a disciple of Jesus included humility, inclusivity, forgiveness, compassion and surrender to a greater good. Today, many versions of Christianity exist that don't resemble this way.
(RNS) Protestant and Catholic women in the United States have grown unhappier since stores have stayed open on Sunday.
The Bible can often be a very familiar yet very surprising book for many of us. While various writers and teachers can expand our appreciation for Scripture, what lessons have we learned directly from the Bible?
But faith is not found in its definition, as remarkable as that definition may be. It doesn’t do any good if it stays on the pages of your Bible or is kept on your tongue. It has to translate into something beyond just the definition. Faith is not a definition, it is a relationship.
If you ever wonder why some people take issue with the Bible, wonder no more. Our reading from Luke’s gospel provides us the perfect example. It is just chock full of contradictions, and these contradictions come straight from the mouth of Jesus.
While the term 'evangelical' has many applications, some have hijacked the word, when it's capitalized, to denote an identifiable movement in Christian history known more for its political positions than its doctrine.
Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion triggered the oil crisis in the Gulf, we've heard from politicians, media commentators, BP executives and so-called expert analysts. Here are the views of someone who works there.
Rather than just accepting the reality of the oil catastrophe in the Gulf, what lessons can we learn to be more proactive and progressive? For starters, here are five to help us be better custodians of our planet.
Predictions about the impact of the oil spill on the Gulf seem to change several times a day. Rising up to meet the challenges presented by this crisis could require more perseverance than any of the prior storms.
Lot's wife has been dismissed throughout history as a vain and materialistic woman who deserved her punishment. Maybe we should see her as we see the rest of us: a human who falls short of the glory of God.
When the early Christians gave up their possessions for the good of others, it was more than an expression of genuine generosity. They modeled the norm for Christian identity and community.
"Church and state should be separate." That six-word sentence is found in all three versions of the Baptist Faith and Message which is the confession of faith of many Baptist churches.
Authentic Christian living tends to be a more powerful and persuasive influence than sermons, songs or religious programs. People are more interested in the genuineness of personal faith than in doctrinal purity.
Two philosophical styles play out in most churches. One is concerned with the preservation of the material assets and the status quo. The other is more focused on information and ideas. Where are you?
Some people wonder whether God exists. Others struggle with why He allows suffering. But did you ever think life would be far less aggravating if we did not have to take God into account?
In our age of information technology, it's easy to take in information. However, we need to do more than watch information to stretch our minds. So take some time to read a few good books.
Numerous statistics suggest that many children now in our Baptist churches will walk away from worship and church life by the time they are in their 20s. So seeing some of them recite the Lord's Prayer was encouraging.
One of the most precarious tasks a preacher faces is that of being a prophet. Being prophetic is part of a healthy sermon diet; it cannot be the only item on the menu.
The Bible is not an answer book but can prompt us to ask the right questions – if we approach it honestly, openly and humbly as well as grounded in the unconditional love and justice of Christ.
Most scholars agree that Mark's Gospel ends with the women fleeing the tomb in fear and no sighting of a resurrected Jesus. While some may see this as problematic, it fits with the author's intent to show how one follows Jesus.
Paul was not into one-man-bands or church situations where one individual tries to possess and express all spiritual gifts. Paul says that the church is comprised of many members with a variety of gifts, all working together to strengthen God’s kingdom.
A new model of church is emerging, and it doesn't fit the traditional definition that's focused on building, people, location and programs. These groups tend to have four characteristics in common.
God has so arranged the body of Christ to give honor to the inferior members that there may be no dissention within the body and that the members may have care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer with it. If one is honored, all are honored together.
If a Kentucky bill to allow Bible courses in schools becomes law, two outcomes are likely. Christians will not approve of a true academic study of the Bible, or classes will favor certain religious views over others.
When we are at places or in situations that offer us feelings of joy and happiness, we don't want to return to the real world. We prefer the mountaintop experience like Peter, but we can never stay there.
The language in which our Bibles are read can have more of an influence on the theology we derive from the reading than we are willing to admit. Reading in Spanish can offer a different interpretation than English.
When life's anxiety and confusion swirl around people like a raging blizzard, too many clergy and churches only add to the storm. Will we remember our calling to be a shelter in the storm?
My grandfather had a certain contempt for preachers. When he learned I was going to become one, he begged me to reconsider. And when he realized I was determined, his advice was simple: Be like Buster.
It is not the book that changes us but the God who lives and breathes and has being within our hearts. But it is that book that opens us up to such a redeeming God. So the more time we spend with it, the more time we spend with the Holy... and that’s a good thing, right?
Jesus' custom was to attend church but he broke the customary way to worship. Are we comfortable with worship that has become part of our routine or that compels us to change our communities?
People come to church every week craving a connection to a God who can absorb their anxiety, calm their fears and inspire them to hope. How does your church help people cope with life's challenges?
For Mary, the temple was a place of letting go. And do you know why she had to do it, why Jesus had to let her know that he had a calling to fulfill that would be more important than even is love for her? Because of you, that’s why. And me... and all those whom he came to save. And for that, we can be most grateful.
When I got up this morning, I had this sensation that I was being watched. No matter what I did – brewing coffee, checking headlines on the computer – I sensed other eyes watching me. Who was it?
The interchange between clergy and laity can be a delicate balance. Pastors have a few things they wish congregants understood to help encourage healthier relationships. Here are seven.
As mission-driven Christians who live in a market-driven culture, the reflective disciplines of Advent keep us alert to stealth forces like materialism, busyness, greed and indifference.
Why attend church? Well, back in 1917, Teddy Roosevelt, America's 26th president, provided 10 reasons in an interview to Ladies Home Journal. Here's what he had to say.
What a great church! How great each and every person is! We are woven together and used together by the spirit of Christ that makes us one. Together, we are the church. Together, what in God’s name can we not do?
Seeds are often inconspicuous. Change is noticed. Seeds are planted in relative obscurity. Crops are noticed at harvest time. Loving people privately in obedience to Jesus Christ will always be necessary before their lives and situations will change. Loving must happen before discipleship can be effective. Loving must happen before people will believe what is printed on a bulletin or tract. Loving must happen before what we sing and preach about can take root and grow into a harvest for God.
One of the most troubling and ignored commands of Jesus is the order to love our enemies. How can we do it? We can look to three primary actions and reactions that Jesus took toward those who were his enemies.
What's your idea of a dream life? Most of us think of a dream life as an upgrade in our circumstances, a life with fewer challenges and greater comfort and convenience. But is this God's dream for us?
People need to know that God's love is real, so let's be the Church. Let us live like people who believe that God loves, forgives, and welcomes every soul thru Jesus Christ. Let's call people to trust God's new reality of redemptive love and resurrection hope by our living. Let's challenge the sin system of self-centeredness, self-righteousness, alienation, oppression, and death. Let's be the Church of Jesus Christ by doing what the Church is called to do. Then people will know that God's love/life is real!
The Conservative Bible Project believes modern translations of the Bible, and even some textual matters, are tainted with a liberal bias. Their plan is to rewrite the Bible so it reflects a more conservative viewpoint.
We’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. I’m pretty certain we don’t want to follow Joe Paterno at Penn State. That would be a formidable task to undertake, to be sure. But we can’t skirt a larger task, for you and I work in the shadow of the Master. We are to share His words, and we are to do His work. We are to be His hands and His feet.
Domestic violence is still shockingly common and found too often in the church. Such violence is not an issue of anger management or marital strife; it is ultimately a matter of power.
Some ministers are quick to see God's judgment in calamity, but they work from an incomplete picture of God. As a result, they teach too many people to live under God's scorn rather than his grace.
Rather than letting life's seasons pass meaninglessly and letting life become "vanity," the writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to maximize the opportunities within each one of them.
The New International Version Bible is set for an update, and a translation battle is brewing. Whoever controls the words used in a translation controls how we are able to think about theological issues.
Kudzu has choked the southeastern United States since it was first introduced here. Has most mission work by American Christianity behaved like out-of-control kudzu?
Against the odds, a small sparrow protecting her young took on a turkey vulture perched on a church steeple. May we have the same sacrificial courage.
Some church leaders blame low birth rates for denominational dips. If you take evangelism seriously, making more disciples should have nothing to do with procreation.
The church is Jesus to a world in need of prophetic voices, serving hands and feet, and compassionate hearts. Yet we have forgotten that the body of Christ should also be broken.
Whenever Jesus – then or now – sees others, he looks upon them with a spirit of compassion. The only difference is that now he depends on you and me to be his eyes, his hands and feet, to reflect his presence, and to show his sheep a better way of life and where the Shepherd is. To do so, we’ve got to be willing to put up with the inconveniences. Even more, we have to be passionate about being compassionate. After all, it goes with the fame.
Not all churches that drop "Baptist" from their names are going incognito. For one congregation, it was a way to choose a name that established their identity instead of enthroning a denomination. (Photo: Marcia Manning)
A fundamental tenet of Christianity is the belief in the inspiration of scripture. When examining the idea of inspiration, we must ask: Why did the writers of the books of the Bible write and why did they write what they wrote?
Any discussion about the nature of the denominational structure that does not begin with a biblically precise view of the church is bound to lead to more, not less, misunderstanding.
We have been raised in a society where it has long been assumed that religion and power go together. But, as a new survey suggests, the church’s days as the hub of power in society may be numbered. That may not be so bad.
Do our churches resemble a religious version of a country club or the beloved community spoken of by Martin Luther King Jr.? Have we chosen inward-focused church busyness over outward-focused Kingdom business?
To read the Bible faithfully, we should come to understand its writings as historically situated texts written by historically situated human authors who had their own views of God, humanity and the world.
My involvement in an interfaith group and the friendships that developed led me to reflect more sharply on the implications of believing in Jesus Christ as God's unique embodiment and revelation in the midst of a pluralistic world.
But when the pains of contractions begin there is a complete and utter disruption of life-as-usual. Chaos prevails, not order. Panic, not reason. Other plans have been made; they’ll have to be pushed aside. Something larger and stronger – something inevitable and unchangeable – is now in charge. The birth will occur – not neatly, not logically or in straightforward fashion – but in “messy waves of fear and pain, plateaus of waiting and spikes of recognition and joy that culminate in new life.”
Numbers often function as the yardstick of a church. Increased numbers lead to an increased budget, which leads to increased ministry opportunities. It's often championed as the paradigm for a church's success, but is it the paradigm for faithfulness?
Searching for a church home is a big decision. It's even tougher when the entire nation's watching you. No matter what church the First Family joins, for some it will be the wrong choice. Maybe we should let them worship in peace.
When you show up, it is not about how much you do, as Mother Teresa said, it’s how much love you put into what you do. How much you are willing to follow the one who loves you beyond all measure and imagination.
When Paul says every knee ought to bow, it's not as a ritual of religious homage. It's a physical act that serves as an ethical symbol of the way one is choosing to live one's own life as we serve others before ourselves.
Other than the role of Judas, the most challenging part to fill in First Baptist Church of Pensacola's Easter pageant is the role of the thief. Few have volunteered for the part twice, but you can't have a true Easter pageant without him.
Befriending brokenness and putting it under the blessing of God do not necessarily take away the pain, but it lets the light in. Through the grace of God, human suffering becomes not an obstacle to the joy and peace we long for, but the means to it.
Some people become churchaholics, going to four or five meetings a week for church-related events. Some feel compelled to do this. Others feel it’s their calling. Some attend out of guilt.
Facebook and other social networking platforms enable people to reconnect with old friends and stay connected forever. What’s the implication for faith communities?
Print publications are disappearing as more Americans go online for their news. With fewer young adults attending religious services today, are churches heading down the same path?
All too often, many “church shoppers” become frequent “church swappers.” Searching for a church home is a crucial life decision. Here’s one pastor’s perspective on what to look for in a church.
Americans have been led to think that all they have to care for is their own selves. And that turns out to be a lot of people in this country—people who have bought into, whether upon deep examination or casual and almost unconscious commitment, a comprehensive philosophy of self-interest.
The same thing that is happening in the broader culture will happen in churches, too—more options, more models, a network of niches, rather than a predominant church form.
Here are the five lessons churches must learn from newspapers, television and retail if churches are going to survive as a viable social institution.
Randy Hyde: "We all know that occasionally churches have been victimized by gunmen. The latest took place last year in a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tenn. But does anyone honestly believe that allowing worshipers to shoot back is the answer?"
Here is a question related to what the lawmakers in Arkansas are considering: “Would Jesus carry a gun to church?” I think most of us would certainly answer no to this question. But the issue over guns in church raises a larger question about our infatuation with violence that is directly contrary to Jesus’ message and life of non-violence.
The greatest lesson we can learn from our experience in the SBC is to embrace the good experiences and to try to avoid duplicating the bad experiences. The old saying that “those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it” is appropriate, but once one has studied history, he or she must take action in the contemporary world.
Former pastors, ministers and staff members at Second Baptist Church in Little Rock gathered there recently on the church’s 125th anniversary to dialogue about ministry.
Showings of “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism” in two tiny south Arkansas towns hit home.
Jesus declares that the ancient prophecy of Isaiah was coming to life as he read it. The theme of his life would be one of service to the unwell, distressed, oppressed and impoverished. This is what happened, but Jesus also had a message. It was one that spoke of freedom, the restoration of the divine in human life, the power of forgiveness and a place for us all in the purposes of God.
Hopefully, none of us will have a harrowing experience like the passengers on Flight 1549. But you never know when you are going to get caught in an emergency situation. If you suddenly find yourself facing potentially traumatic circumstances, remember the lessons learned from that falling, and later floating, plane.
Even as we speak of discipleship as costly, we must also view it as liberating. The call to the two sets of brothers to leave what they know, what gave them comfort and security, is at the same time a call to find liberation and hope in something that is transformative.
If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, what would he say to the growing missional church movement?
The theology at work here goes something like this: When you win God is with you, but when you lose, you are on your own. Of course, it doesn't always work out so well for winners.
During his inaugural address, President Barack Obama quoted the Apostle Paul, but it was really a Peter moment.
The church needs to recommit herself to sharing the light and warmth of the gospel in a world that is cold and uncaring. The work of the church never ends. It's a good thing, too, because even though the church is made up of forgiven sinners, were it not for the church, the body of Christ would resemble a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle with no pieces connected.
Recently, I wrote that an effective ministry entrepreneur needs to acquire specific knowledge, cultivate certain values and develop competent skills to be effective in ministry. Two of these skills are being able to read or discern the culture in which one ministers and then to use that culture to influence belief.
Though we are definitely not living in the worst of times, we are certainly experiencing the toughest economy in recent years—a challenging time to keep your business afloat, a challenging time to maintain your job, a challenging time to make ends meet. But the worst of our times can bring out the best in us.
I let someone go from the church the other day. Not an employee. A parishioner. And a friend.
Fundamentalists are not the only type of Christian that appeals to biblical authority. More than a few theological progressives and liberals throughout history and even today make arguments based on biblical injunctions on a regular basis, especially in the political arena.
The alternatives here are not between leaving Jesus in or out of the gospel picture. Jesus figures centrally in both options, but in much different roles. In one he is the decisive object of faith. In the other he is the decisive figure who points to the object of faith by his words and deeds and who invites others to be a part of the new thing that God is doing.
If we are ever to find meaningful answers, we must stop asking meaningless questions.
Our drum tree serves as a holiday reminder that God calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer, receiving our formative cues and motivation from the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.
A deeper and prolonged financial crisis will likely result in a survival-of-the-fittest scenario among local and national faith organizations, which, in turn, will reshape the religious ethos for years to come.
Chronic worry betrays something significant about Christ-followers--we don't really believe in the sustaining power of God in Jesus Christ. It shows we are "practical atheists" who say we believe in God, but when the chips are down really only believe in ourselves, our talents, our efforts.
You probably never heard of Folliot Sandford Pierpoint. One beautiful spring day in 1864 Folliot was out walking the countryside, admiring the blue sky reflected in the ocean, the ambling Avon River with its brilliant array of flowers so striking. He was overwhelmed with what God had created. There in the fields he began to write a poem.
What about putting at least a minimum number of acts of charity on one's daily "to-do" list and committing oneself to checking them off when they are completed?
We recant our faith in practice when we fail to love our neighbors and our enemies, when we neglect the poor and oppressed, and when we use abusive power against others.
As a pastor and follower of Jesus, the teachings of the Bible and the initiatives of Christ are constantly re-formatting my lifestyle, calling me to leave behind the errant ways of my past so that I might live more authentically, more passionately and more faithfully.
Jesus does not command us to forgive others as an act to which we begrudgingly submit. Rather, Jesus understands the power of forgiveness to transform enemies into friends.
Many of us who seek to minister to "the least of these" do so by giving our time, talents and funds. Sometimes we work in or donate to soup kitchens, clothes closets or other charitable ministries. Seldom do we realize that our compassionate response may be undermining the road to recovery for an individual or a community in need of redevelopment.
The Bible tells the story of God's desire for a different kind of world than presently exists in any generation or culture.
Jesus will break bread in the eschatological banquet and share with those oppressed by the social structures of the world.
My story begins with the Synoptic Problem. I hope you'll keep reading anyway.
The cross for Jesus was doing whatever was necessary to fulfill what God had sent him to do. What he had sent him to do was to call us back to God, to heal our relationship with God, to restore where the breach had been, to take it away and make us at peace with God.
A bunch of Pharisees descend on Jesus, trying to trick him into giving a wrong answer. This is "gotcha" journalism, first-century style.
Halloween serves as a warning to those Christians who would gladly give over the particulars of their faith into the hands of culture.
A lot of preachers take Monday off. I know, I know, there's the old saw about how a preacher only works one day a week, so he not only takes Mondays off but the rest of the week as well. Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that one ...
I don't know about you, but just about everything I know about sin, salvation and redemption I learned from Johnny Cash.
The Lord's Prayer calls us to venerate the name of God in our discipleship.
Rev. Mark Woods, editor of Britain's Baptist Times, examines economics across the pond and "the glorification of greed in popular culture."
Do we love God and care about God's concerns? If not, then please defend your values legally, politically, or otherwise, but do not call them "Judeo-Christian." They are not.
Juxtaposing this image of accomplishment against the tears of a broken person and shattered family reveals the superficial nature of politics and leadership. Admissions of weakness are the death knell of a public servant. They are fodder for opponents to start a raging fire of public anger designed to raise new leaders.
"Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism" won the award for best documentary at the International Black Film Festival of Nashville over the weekend.
The black church must make sure its own artistic voices are welcomed there, said panelists at a recent workshop on the church's relationship to media and the arts.
The gospel's adversaries are not interested in honest discussion or answers, but in trying to impugn or divide so as to marginalize believers.
I believe this parable uses a business analogy to point out how extravagant and important grace is.
A strange thing happened while I was standing in line on the first day of early voting: Civility broke out among us.
Most of us need a place—a physical yet sacred space—where we can go to devote ourselves to a focused encounter with the very presence of God. Jesus himself spent considerable time around the Temple in Jerusalem. He recognized and utilized its value as a center for the people of God to encounter the life-changing presence of God.
Migrants are easy targets on both sides of the borders. Not since the days of Jane and Jim Crow has the U.S. government had a policy in place that systemically brought death to a group of people based on their race or ethnicity. Our deterrent policy is killing Hispanics.
As Christians, we have every reason to see the crisis of confidence in the world's institutions as an opportunity to be reminded of what is most important and Who it is that truly holds our future.
The first thing I want you to see in the story is this: Sometimes Jesus gives us assignments that seem to be impossible ...
We Christians really are the only Bible that some people will read.
The world changed forever on July 16, 1945. Somewhere in the remote basin of the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico, the first nuclear bomb was detonated. Though this was just a test, secretly and simultaneously two other nuclear bombs were being prepared for wartime deployment.
I feel it in my bones. Now that the economists, the stock brokers and the bankers are losing fortunes and losing faith we are all paying attention. Not to the things we normally do in the most pleasant month of the year: baseball playoffs and political campaigns and weekend football. We are all paying attention to our shrinking resources.
To some, Solomon's request for wisdom was admirable, and God's decision to grant him this and the wealth he did not ask for was a confirmation of the goodness of his request. To others, his response was manipulative.
Dr. Melvin Cheatham is an accomplished neurosurgeon. For much of his early career he felt that his drive for success had more to do with his own rise to stardom and material wealth than with providing care to suffering humanity. Long hours were taking such a toll on his body that he was told by a physician that his high cholesterol would likely kill him before age 50. It gave him a wake-up call.
Public education advocates say a Bible course curriculum recently recommended by four Texas education board members is too evangelistic and that such public school courses should provide a broader perspective of the Bible.
Earlier generations of fundamentalists and evangelicals conveniently ignored the social dimensions of Jesus' message and heaped condemnation on the heads of these men and women for promoting a "false gospel" which they claimed deviated from historic Christianity. But the new evangelical "political gospel" is even more a departure from the tenets of the Christian faith.
Editor's Note: Beginning today, each Friday we'll publish a sermon chosen from the nearly 2,000 free sermons housed at EthicsDaily.com. Today's sermon on Philippians 2 comes from Keith Herron, senior pastor of Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.
The nation's financial crisis calls for a twofold response. One is pastoral; the other is moral.
What does one do when the stock market keeps diving, gas prices keep rising, and all that experts can agree upon is that nobody knows when or how this economic free fall will end? Many are consumed by rumor, worry, stress and fear. Lost jobs, income and savings are a gloomy reality. Some of us are more OK than others, but everybody is affected.
Like many Americans, our presidents have expressed their dependence on God and sought God's blessing. Some presidents have been very private about their faith. Others have been accused of parading their piety. Of course, discerning Christians listen to pious presidential statements with caution, hoping for integrity and watching for evidence of authentic faith in personal practices and public policies.
Rosh Hashanah is the season wherein Jews are supposed to have great resolve and great hope. There are too many negative forces that tell us that we cannot do it. There are too many excuses for not being the type of Jews and human beings that we really and truly ought to be.
Robert Parham of EthicsDaily.com has issued a clarion call for faith leaders in America to speak out on the economic crisis. I second his motion … with a few reservations and stipulations.
I've been a professor of Old Testament for 16 years now, and in my profession you run into some very strange and, often, ridiculous interpretations of the Bible. I decided I would do a series called "Stupid Bible Tricks" to highlight several of these low moments in hermeneutics. Some are simply silly. Others are downright outrageous. Still others are becoming increasingly dangerous as their popularity spreads, and common sense is replaced by a mechanistic and almost magical view of scripture.
Most religions focus on one god, one deity, or one central spiritual leader.
There is no doubt that Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies. Moreover, there is no room for negotiation with Jesus on this point. No intelligent person can present a persuasive argument against taking his command seriously. Indeed, while we attempt to evade Jesus' clear teaching by placing limitations on his command, specifically related to who we love and how much we love, these limitations cannot be accepted by those who seek to follow the teachings of Christ with great sincerity.
There's been lots of bad news this past week. Hurricane Ike ran ashore over Galveston, Texas, and folks as far away as Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky felt its force. The collapse of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was quickly followed by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the eventual bailout of American International Group (AIG). All the while, our country is tossed into turmoil of a different sort.
The pastor of my church asked me to speak about naturalism and theism at our Wednesday night supper, in part to lay some groundwork for his discussion of creationism and evolution the following week.
It's pretty tempting, after the commemoration of the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001, to make the case--based on Jesus' teaching about forgiving an offender 70-multiplied-by-seven times--that serious Christians ought to figure out how to extend that forgiveness to brother bin Laden and his Al Qaeda accomplices.
"I like Ike" might have been a spiffy sounding campaign slogan during the U.S. presidential elections of the 1950s. But mention the name "Ike" today and you're more likely to invoke images of Haitian peasants carrying their meager belongings on their heads while wading through waist deep flood waters, residents of the Florida Keys anxiously boarding up their homes and businesses while evacuation buses make their rounds, or Dr. Steve Lyons giving the latest hurricane update on the Weather Channel.
For nine years now, far underground land spanning Switzerland and France, the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built has been under construction.
A few years ago, as I was teaching on Jesus' command to love our enemies, a very perceptive young man asked me, "How far should we go to love our enemies?" Not only was this a thought-provoking question, it was one I had never seriously considered until that moment.
Sometime around the middle of August, James Dobson's Focus on the Family released a video urging Christians to pray for rain. Not rain to end the drought in the Southeast and other places, but rain to drown out a political message. The video encouraged Christians to pray for rain during Barak Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver on the last night of the Democratic National Convention.
These days you don't have to drive too long before you'll come across a hybrid car. High gasoline prices are finally having an effect. SUVs are out and hybrids, as well as other high mileage vehicles, are suddenly very much in demand. We simply can't afford the gas.
Anyone who is even slightly observant about the happenings in our world must draw the conclusion that there is indeed great suffering across God's creation.
Like many Americans, my attention recently was on the Olympic Games. I heard a report that more workers were coming to work too tired to be productive, because they have been staying up late watching the events.
By now the Bigfoot story is no longer big news. It was all a big hoax.
I must have been about 10 when I first went to Disneyland in Southern California around 1968. Going to Disneyland was a dream come true for me. My parents scraped and saved to make this trip possible.
In an earlier column, I wrote about how we discover contentment through the experience of God's continual presence, the present that God gives us to live today and the relationships God brings into each of our lives. For followers of Christ, however, there is a paradox in our discovery of contentment.
Muslims plan to construct over 180 mosques in Germany. The birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, Neo-Orthodoxy, Dietrich Bonheoffer's Confessing Church and Pope Benedict XVI, it is also the location of almost 1,000 Baptist churches and the Baptist World Alliance's 2008 youth conference.
One reason 11 a.m. Sunday remains the most segregated hour in America is because many church members want it that way, according to a recent article by CNN.
We live in a restless and discontented world. Each day we are confronted with problems and circumstances that test our peace and contentment. We worry about financial problems, health problems and family problems. We are anxious about raising our children, succeeding at work and maintaining a certain standard of living.
An earlier column talked about several converging crises--energy, economy and environment. Since then the price of gas has gone down! Proof that I was wrong. Not!
There may have been mosquitoes in the Garden of Eden, says a Southern Baptist seminary president, but they didn't become a pest until after Adam and Eve committed Original Sin.
This Friday, the attention of the world will turn to Olympics. Extensive media coverage will be given to exceptional athletes--the talented swimmers, gifted gymnasts, Dream Teams and so many others.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most familiar and beloved parables told by Jesus. Yet the danger in knowing the story too well is that we have often understood the story apart from its original social context, leading us to miss the shock the parable had on its first audience. While the parable can stand on its own as a good story about one person showing compassion to another, hearing it as the first hearers did opens to us the real sting of the tale.
The church shooting last Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn., was a nightmare I have long feared. Churches, like schools, are easy targets for madmen wishing to inflict harm on defenseless people.
What do you think of when you hear the term church?
When I was in seminary, the institution I attended experienced a radical shift to the far right. During those days I witnessed a theological battle that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. On one particularly rough day, my Hebrew professor came into class and made one statement that has stuck with me ever since. "Theology is never the issue. It is always the weapon. Power is the real issue."
It's not unusual to get a phone call and be asked, "Are you busy?" Now that question is tricky. Of course I stay busy. If I'm in the office, I'm not doing crossword puzzles.
Critics say a song being sung this summer in Southern Baptist Vacation Bible Schools across the country includes faulty theology about the Trinity and the Bible.
A little over a year ago, the Missions Committee offered a small way we can impact our community. They sponsored "piggy banks" for each Sunday school class asking for loose change offerings to benefit God's Pantry.
I'm 26 years old and I have, thankfully, already passed through my quarter life crisis.
Admittedly, I was never a fan of Jesse Helms, the conservative (an understatement) longtime Senator from North Carolina that just recently died on July 4. His funeral was Tuesday at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh and was attended by the powerful politicians from both the Democratic and Republican Parties with whom he either forged alliances or did battle with during his 30 years in the Senate.
For over a century debates have raged over the ability of the Bible to tell us about the world, particularly how the natural world, and beings that inhabit this world, came into existence.
Not too long ago, a friend from another religious tradition asked me to summarize my "take on Jesus." This is the reply I shared.
Several years ago, while on a family trip to London, we were making our way up from Trafalgar Square to St. Martin's Place. As we headed toward the National Portrait Gallery, I glanced at one of the many statues that surround this area of Britain's capital. My glance at the stone monument, however, quickly turned into an intense focus and reflection on the words below the figure carved there. The words read, "Patriotism is not enough." The woman whose representation was situated atop that citation was Edith Cavell.
Good and gracious God, you have given us the privilege and the responsibility of living in the most resourceful land in the world. From sea to shining sea most of us enjoy unparalleled freedom, comfortable homes, nutritious meals, preferred vocations and unique religious liberty.
During the Friday evening worship service at the CBF annual meeting in Memphis, the CBF director of missional church ministries began his presentation by saying, "I love church." He then invited the participants to repeat the phrase in unison. I'm not much into cheerleading, so I didn't open my mouth. I just couldn't bring myself to say the words. Let me tell you why.
For someone who has never had a life-threatening illness or injury, I feel like I am well acquainted with death.
Churches in the African-American tradition are familiar with "talking back." This give-and-take between the pulpit and pew offers immediate and affirming feedback with "that's right," "come on now" and "preach it" in response.
People sitting in church pews with knowledge about complicated social issues but who use it only to enrich themselves are a wasted resource for the Kingdom of God, a former tax lawyer turned fair-tax activist told a Baptist Center for Ethics audience last week.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of visiting many predominant Euro-American churches. Without fail, some well-meaning person would usually approach me and ask a question that literally left me speechless.
What does it mean to be Christian? The word, as far as we know, is first used in Acts 11:26, when the disciples are called Christians at Antioch. The term itself means one who follows Christ. But in our modern society, where Christianity has been so intertwined with American culture, the word has lost its original meaning, and its common use clouds our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
What do Karen Armstrong, Kathleen Norris and Anne Rice have in common? Actually, they share several similarities. They are all white women born in the 1940s who have been heavily influenced by the Catholic tradition and are prolific and acclaimed English-language authors.
Last Friday, a judge in Lake County, Illinois granted the petition of 57-year-old Steve Kreuscher to change his name to In God We Trust. His legal first name is now "In God" and his legal last name is "We Trust."
"When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:1-3, NRSV)
"Ain't Gonna Study War No More" is one of those old songs we don't hear sung much these days. It comes from some of the very insightful and meaningful verses in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (The first four books of the New Testament Bible.)
In our last episode of religion and politics on the campaign trail we left Sen. John McCain rejecting the endorsement of John Hagee. McCain found out that Hagee thought the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves, because they would not leave Europe and move to Israel.
The newest textbook controversy isn't about Harry Potter or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," but a volume that has divided public schools for 150 years--the Bible.
Having recently read Matt Taibbi's book about John Hagee's church, I was startled to read of what passes for phophetic language. The conspiracy theory about Al Gore working secretly with global warming folks to take over the Unites States stayed with me. I was reminded of other Religious Right conspiracy theories that have brought with them "amens."
We are in the middle of a very serious epidemic in this country. No, the Centers for Disease Control have not issued any warnings, and doctors and healthcare professionals have not reported any outbreak of disease or plague. But the epidemic we face is real, powerful and very dangerous. It is an Affluenza epidemic.
At least 20,000 African-American men packed the streets of St. Louis on the first Sunday in June, marching one of the historic Annie Malone May Day Parade routes through "The Ville" and ending in Tandy Park.
Perhaps it's who I am, but when I sit in church trying to follow the sermon, I am often stunned by the blandness of many Sunday-morning homilies.
In announcing the 50 millionth Bible printed by the Amity Printing Company of Nanjing, China, the head of religious affairs announced that Chinese Bibles will be made available at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Special worship services will be provided in whatever language necessary.
Somewhere a preacher is preaching. He shakes his fist at the ceiling as he describes the wrath of God. That wrath has come, he tells his attentive congregation, on the crest of a terrible storm. God has shown his power and his might by smashing a wall of wind and water into villages in the troubled country of Myanmar.
Reading sacred texts about an all-loving and all-powerful God raises questions and concerns when that image is compared to the realities of life. All have faced, or will face, tragedy, misery and death. Events will occur that appear unfair, leading most of us to question if any sense of cosmic justice truly exists.
My husband and I recently built a new house. We had aspirations of being as ecologically responsible as possible, but we were thwarted at almost every step.
The church remains the last bastion of segregation in America not primarily due to prejudice but because of power, says civil-rights advocate and author Will Campbell.
Every morning, all across our country, in big cities and small towns, students come trudging through the doors of our schools. Some come eagerly, anticipating each day; some come reluctantly, overwhelmed by challenges too great for them. Some come from homes where books are read and learning is encouraged; others come from daunting family situations.
I was sitting on my porch this past week reading the Monday edition of our local newspaper, enjoying very much an article about a married couple who spent their lives traveling the U.S. driving trucks. It truly is a great story of love and partnership between husband and wife.
A friend of mine was telling me of his latest adventure of faith. The church he pastors has a sign on the main road of their small town. They posted this message: "The Sum of Christianity is Love God, Love Your Neighbor. The Rest is Doctrine." My friend said that message caused unexpected controversy in the Christian community of his town. One minister took out an ad in the local paper attacking the message and the church that posted it. Others communicated their criticism in more direct ways.
When you read the Gospel narratives, do you ever notice how Jesus sees and hears those people ignored by others? Whether a blind beggar, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years or a hungry crowd, Jesus either sees them when others don't or he sees them quite differently than others do. These encounters inform us that Jesus had an intentional consciousness of those around him.
According to Wikipedia, the roots of Mother's Day may go all the way back to celebrations of motherhood by the ancient Greeks. In 16th century England, the custom developed of observing Mothering Day on the 4th Sunday in Lent. On that day, people would return to their "mother church" where, naturally, they would likely encounter their mothers.
What is more mystifying--the things that occupy our attention or the things that should occupy our attention?
United Methodists would have changed church rules calling homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching" this year had it not been for delegates from overseas, a conservative activist claims.
In Luke 12 Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who had plenty. In fact, the man had so much grain that he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. This rich man believed that because of his new windfall he was set for a life of ease and pleasure. Yet, in a shocking twist of events, the man's life came to an unexpected end, and his abundance was wasted. He had assumed that his surplus of grain would keep him comfortable for years to come, but instead his life was demanded of him that night, and his excess became useless.
I recently traveled to Romania, where Buckner International enables churches to give shoes and socks to orphans who live in group homes. Meeting these children to give them humanitarian aid was amazing. Considering the country is less than 20 years removed from the dictatorial reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, it is all the more remarkable.
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's former minister, continues to be a factor in the ongoing presidential campaign. His recent media blitz has put his theology and social views on the front burner. I find it interesting to hear his views characterized as representative of Black Liberation Theology.
Curiously, churches have lagged far behind institutions of higher education and corporations in paying attention to environmental responsibility and sustainability in constructing buildings. In some conservative Christian circles, the recent obsession with creation(-ism) has led to a great deal of talk but very little walk in creation care. In some liberal circles, environmentalism has become a new creedalism, but with little or no impact on the design and construction of church facilities.
Scientists are in wide agreement that global warming is real. Carbon dioxide and methane gases have increased in our atmosphere over the years and scientists believe these are mostly to blame for the warming phenomena which are causing more frequent extreme weather, disappearing glaciers and ice cover in both the Arctic and Antarctic Sea regions, and a rise in the ocean's temperatures.
In reading the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, I cannot help but draw one fundamental conclusion about the essence of God: God is love. From Genesis to Revelation, the pages of the Bible sing forth that God is love. If this is true, then we must conclude that the primary characteristic of God's kingdom is also love. While we speak about God's kingdom coming in power, it is in the power of love that God's kingdom transforms the world.
Just ask Kermit the Frog, who sang about it. Or the Jolly Green Giant, about whom the following was sung:
Chris Hedges has lived an interesting life so far. He is a graduate of Harvard divinity school and once considered a career in the ministry. He eventually ended up in journalism where he served for two decades as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and National Public Radio. In 2002 he shared the Pulitzer Prize with a team of writers for coverage of global terrorism.
At the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus makes nine statements that would be enough to offer us a guide to living the way God would have us live even if they were the only extant words of Jesus we had. Each statement promises blessings if we live according to what is demanded by Jesus. Unfortunately, his demands are not easy, as he tells us that to find blessings we must be poor, be mournful, be meek, hunger for righteousness, be merciful, and endure persecution in the name of Jesus.
There's a valuable teaching tool for pastors and religious educators willing to take a little political risk: Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," say two congregational leaders who have shown the film in Baptist churches.
The "Atlantic" magazine has a cover title of "Which Religion Will Win" with an artistic question mark designed out of a crescent moon intersecting with a crucifix atop a globe. One of the issue's major articles examines the competition between Christianity and Islam for adherents in Nigeria, "God's Country," Africa's most populous country.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former President Clinton, reported late Friday afternoon that they made since 2000 more than $109 million and gave $10.25 million to charity.
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is currently offering an exceptional production of Tom Dudzick's humorous play, "Over the Tavern." The story line is about a Catholic family in the 1950s that literally lives over a tavern. The characters, Chester and Ellen, are struggling to raise their four children, including two teenagers, a son who has down syndrome and a son who doesn't want to be Catholic.
On Friday, April 4, the world remembers the 40th anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King's legacy is large, and much of the progress we have made in race relations, although still inadequate, is due to his unwavering belief and commitment to justice, freedom, and equality for all.
I have been pondering this issue of sexual predators in the church. Much of the conversation has revolved around larger denominational structures, rather than local churches. I think that has happened for at least two reasons. Pedophilia was for the most part perceived as a Catholic issue. It was too convenient to ignore the imagery of non-married clergy and altar boys. Huge court cases and enormous financial settlements only served to reinforce our prejudices. It has now become apparent that issue is an iceberg in the Baptist ocean as well.
The media is blamed for a lot that is undeserving, but one place cable, networks, newspapers and the Internet do come up short is in-depth reporting on church polity and oratory in the varied worship services.
In the opening of Mark's Gospel, after his baptism and temptation, Jesus announces that the kingdom of God is at hand. The way in which the author narrates this proclamation as Jesus' first words in the story suggests that Jesus' central message throughout his life was about the kingdom of God.
EthicsDaily.com editorials and columns expressed opposition to the war in Iraq before the war in Iraq, when TV news show pundits, politicians and too many preachers either crusaded for the war or said too little in opposition. Our opposition was rooted in the rules of just war.
I know it's not new, I guess I am just more aware of it. But it does seem to be more prevalent. I am talking about anger and hate filled language spoken from American pulpits.
The number of dead Americans in Iraq passed 4,000 this week. It was almost lost in the midst of the Easter holidays. I only knew one of those 4,000, but it changed my view of the families that have lost, the soldiers who fight and the awful cost of war.
Last week Barack Obama did two remarkable things. First he risked speaking directly to the reality of racism in America and American history. Obama framed his remarks with his signature phrase of "the audacity of hope." He claimed that his populist candidacy for the presidency is proof that audacious hope has a place in today's America.
As Easter approaches this year, Australian Christians and Australian churches will retell and reflect on the great gospel events--the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we look back on the gospel story that, more than any other, gives meaning and purpose to all we do, it is important also to look to the present and future and to re-examine our motives and priorities in the light of the central gospel event.
Sunday Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is viewed by believers just about everywhere as the foundation of Christianity. They assert that by raising Jesus from the dead God has defeated death and secured for all who have faith the gift of eternal life.
The writer of the Gospel of John has John the Witness (a.k.a. John the Baptist in the other Gospels) saying, upon seeing Jesus approaching him:
Suffering is at the heart of the Christian gospel. The Gospels themselves are stories, with long introductions, about the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus calls us to choose suffering for the sake of His kingdom as He himself chose to suffer for the Kingdom of God. We say that His suffering redeems us--but how?
What color was Jesus? Was it skin pigmentation that determined Jesus' message or was it the prophetic imagination that defined his mission? Are pigmentation and imagination separable or inseparable? How is it that we remake Jesus in our own image?
When I was working on my Ph.D. in Edinburgh, Scotland, I would often take breaks from my writing and roam Auld Reekie, as Edinburgh is affectionately known. One of my favorite places of respite from the grind of writing a dissertation was the National Gallery. There I could view in peace the creative works from the great artists of history.
"Git out the old six-shooter, Ma, we're goin' to church." That might sound like it's from a Hollywood western, but it may not be fiction for long.
Unless a 21st century Moses comes down from Stone Mountain with a new commandment about global warming, don't expect the majority of Southern Baptist clergy to tackle the issue of human-induced climate change. Scientific consensus simply isn't enough to trigger responsible moral action for those who demand the absolute certainty of divine revelation.
On Feb. 22, the Justice Department revealed that an internal ethics review conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the CIA's use of waterboarding.
A British Bible society is launching the first-ever study Bible highlighting more than 2,000 verses that emphasize God's concern about injustice and the poor.
The Los Angeles Times recently featured a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The results offer a snapshot of faith in America--although "home movie," might be a more accurate description of the report. People of faith in America are on the move--it's like a pilgrimage.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Americans entered into a daily existence that much of the world already experienced; living with the continual threat of terrorism. Yet, since that tragic day, we have been gripped by the oppressive power of fear, a fear that the media and our political leaders want to consistently bring to our attention. While appropriate measures of security are necessary to defend against violence, fear only suppresses our desire to live with a sense of hope, and it essentially leads us away from living life with faith in the face of fear.
I was listening to NPR the other day and learned of a prayer movement called Light the Highway that runs prayer vigils along Interstate 35 from Texas to Minnesota. The group asks God to do away with systemic poverty, drug addiction and hopelessness, along with other plagues like homosexuality and abortion.
Midway through the Sermon on the Mount there is the passage from Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear."
The expression, "there at the beginning," took on special meaning for me this past week. I was witness to the birth of a new movement in Alabama, a movement which has the potential to redefine the way faith communities confront social concerns in our state. The movement has a name: the Alabama Faith Council.
Like every other Baptist gathered in Atlanta, I was so pleased at the experience from participating in the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. I was unsure whether to come at first, not knowing what to expect or what to think about what might come of this meeting, but I was told by one of my elder mentors that I needed to be there. As usual, the wisdom of my friend was right on target and I am grateful to God for the chance to see it with my own eyes and to hear it with my own ears.
Most readers of the Gospels are familiar with Jesus' confrontations with demons. Throughout his ministry, Jesus encountered many individuals who were said to be possessed by unclean spirits; spirits who were in direct opposition to Jesus' mission, but who ultimately could not stand against the power which Jesus thrust upon them. While these stories convey various levels of meaning, there is one in particular that suggests that Jesus' political mission opposed the arrogant power of empire.
I am writing this short article in the afterglow of the Atlanta event that celebrated the New Baptist Covenant. The overall response from the Canadian contingent, even though our participation was more as observers than egalitarian partners, was that the speakers were inspiring and the workshops stimulating.
To an outsider, the main impetus for the New Baptist Covenant, supported by 30 Baptist denominations and groups in North America might seem clear: an opportunity for the Baptists of North America to re-group after the years of controversy centered on the Southern Baptist Convention and its withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance.
The New Baptist Covenant meeting was, without doubt, the most inspiring, uplifting, heart-warming and stimulating meeting in my lifetime. It was also the first time I've been proud of being a Baptist in at least 30 years.
The Florida Board of Education should discount a letter from the top official of the Florida Baptist Convention opposing the approval of language for the new science standards that reads: "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence."
January's historic Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a new movement in Baptist life. Those of us who were fortunate enough to attend enjoyed three days of fellowship and reconciliation with Baptist brothers and sisters from all walks of life, absolutely incredible, God-inspired preaching, and chances to learn about ways to help heal those who have been broken by our sinful world.
One of the sad facts about American Christianity is that many Christians are ignorant of the political nature of Jesus' message. Preferring to see Jesus in only spiritual terms, and his message as only about salvation and heaven, we often miss the significance of Jesus as a political figure.
The New Baptist Covenant Celebration was a great success. Bringing together Baptists from various denominational communities, theological traditions, ethnicities and geographic locations was an unprecedented venture.
The New Baptist Covenant meeting was a wonderful gathering of like-minded Baptists. I have been invited to reflect and evaluate the meeting, consider what the future might hold for this kind of meeting and provide suggestions for local and hemispheric actions. Let me start with an evaluation using the name of the meeting:
If everyone obeyed the Ten Commandments and New Testament, there would be less need for laws to be enforced by the government, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said Sunday in a Baptist church.
Anyone who has been around Baptist preachers very long knows that the old simile about us being like manure is embarrassingly true: spread us around and we do a little good, but get us all together and we stink to the high heavens.
I was privileged this past week to participate in a truly historic event. Baptist groups from all across North America, even from around the world, gathered in Atlanta for a three-day show of Christian unity. The event, dubbed a New Baptist Covenant, brought together white Baptists, African-American Baptists, Hispanic Baptists, Asian Baptists and others. We all joined hands and lifted our voices praising God. And we prayed, prayed for a return to traditional Baptist principles.
The New Baptist Covenant gathering in Atlanta exceeded all my expectations, and I hope it marks the beginning of a new day for Baptists in North America.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a time to think of sacrifice. It is a time to think of willing sacrifice. We give something up; usually physical in nature to appreciate the sacrifice of the cross and to sharpen our spiritual vision for Easter, which is just around the corner.
Fifteen thousand pastors and laypersons representing churches across the land met last week in Atlanta under the banner of the New Baptist Covenant to offer a progressive voice for Baptists. All Baptists in North America were invited, and every major group signed on except Southern Baptists.
It has been a pesky problem from the very beginning. Adam, who walked with God in the cool of the garden, could not follow one simple proscription. Abraham, called by God to be the progenitor of a great nation, lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own hide. Moses, chosen from among all the people of the world to receive God's law, could not follow simple instructions like hitting the rock once instead of twice. And let's not forget about King David. In a single stroke, David managed to mangle four of the Ten Commandments.
Former Vice President Al Gore delivered the most energetic, substantive and potentially transformative speech made by a Baptist to a Baptist audience in 30 years.
Why are Baptists so often viewed as narrow, intolerant, politically naïve and prone to internal warfare?
One of the world's most famous Baptists, Jimmy Carter accepted Christ at age 11 and began teaching Bible lessons 65 years ago.
The first Sunday of February is Transfiguration Sunday, followed by Ash Wednesday ringing in Lent. It is a reflective time to wrestle with sin and rediscover our need for salvation.
For the greater portion of my professional life, I have felt more at home outside of my denomination than within it. I guess it can be expected when you're from a divided family.
Announcing success before an event is risky, even foolish business. But in the Pauline tradition of being foolish for Christ's sake and forsaking the wisdom of the world, which warns against naming success in advance during problematic times, I want to announce that the New Baptist Covenant next week in Atlanta is a success based on what it has already accomplished.
Back in November of last year Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent letters for financial information from six of the countless mega-church television preachers. The senator was widely portrayed as persecuting these millionaire preachers. The offended preachers surrounded their auditors with lawyers and let the senators, IRS and anyone interested know that they were not responding to such insolent questions.
Polite conversation encourages the avoidance of discussing religion and politics. It is for good reason. In the history of the world, more blood has been shed and more lives have been lost by the way these forces have conspired together, short of any other factor except a blatant quest for raw absolute power.
"God is in His Heaven, and the hypocrites are in His church." Now before you send me hate mail about being anti-Christian, I am only paraphrasing the results of a LifeWay Research survey on church affiliation. LifeWay is part of the Southern Baptist Convention headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.
North American Baptists will soon have one of the best opportunities in our history to address the racial divisions that have too long defined us.
The end of this month marks an historic event for Baptists in North America.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of its most memorable decisions in the Roe v. Wade case. That decision viewed laws that banned abortion as violations of constitutional rights to privacy and gave women the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Since that decision, the issue of abortion has been center stage in each election campaign for president, and the debates that have raged have divided the United States along entrenched partisan lines to the point where both sides feel so passionate about their views that they have mischaracterized the other side's position.
The Christmas Season has once again come and gone. Presents have been opened and exchanged, decorations have been stored for another year, and resolutions have been made to start the New Year. The ever-familiar Christmas story lives on in our hearts and minds, narrating for us the incarnation of God into the world in the person of Jesus. Yet, while we celebrate and retell the story with feelings of warmth and comfort, from its beginning to its end the story is a narrative about the rejection of Jesus as a stranger and alien in a foreign land.
Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore will speak at a luncheon scheduled for Jan. 31, 2008, from noon to 2 p.m., in Atlanta, in the Thomas Murphy Ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center.
(Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly) Christmas, despite what the calendar says, isn't over. And the star--"star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright"--that shone over Bethlehem won't go dim until it gets its proper due on Epiphany on Sunday.
If you've been alive the last two weeks, and will continue to be alive in the upcoming two weeks, you'll see a lot of stuff on TV, online, and in print about the pressure to make--and keep--the bane of January's existence: New Year's Resolutions.
During the Christmas holidays, several news outlets carried an article about Rudy Giuliani reading the Christmas story at a children's home in Harlem. The heart-warming headline was followed by a story explaining that he is following up on a 14-year tradition. Every December Giuliani goes to the children's home to read "Twas the Night before Christmas."
The holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is the most intensely charitable time of the whole year. Church and civic groups gather clothes, food, and toys for needy families. Volunteers make their way to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Busy shoppers dutifully drop their change into Salvation Army buckets.
The power of our communities lies in the ideals of our common humanity. To continue to live in separate villages whose cohesiveness is ephemeral at best, or in gated communities of homogeneity, will only enhance everyone's poverty.
Every year at Christmas I take a week of vacation either before or after the holiday. This year I took off the week before. Knowing that things might be hectic in the church office I thought I had everything lined up and taken care of related to adopted Christmas families, the weekly food program and everything else that takes place during the week. I really needed a break to get myself ready for Christmas.
As a child I would go to bed on Christmas Eve so excited I could hardly sleep. Of course, part of the problem was that the last words I heard from Mama before I went to bed were "Go to sleep now; Santa Claus won't come if you're awake." So I went to bed terrified that I wouldn't be able to sleep and certain that if I didn't sleep then there would be no gifts for me.
Through the years I have enjoyed observing countless living nativity scenes during the holiday season. Most of these scenes are staged on the lawns of church campuses or they are incorporated into annual Christmas pageants. Many of the scenes include both human characterization and a menagerie of live animals.
As we make our way to Christmas Day when millions of Christians worldwide celebrate the birth of Jesus, perhaps it's worth asking, "Who is Jesus?"
The Kingdom that Jesus taught is ultimate reality--reality that cannot be transgressed without dire consequences. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23.)
A story is making the rounds in religious news about a recent address by Phillip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University to the Evangelical Theological Society in November. Jenkins argued that Africans are often able to read the Old Testament in a more productive way because of close connections between the culture of ancient Israel and their own present cultures.
As I was leaving the Opryland Hotel at the end of my volunteer shift at the 76th annual general assembly of the United Jewish Communities, an elderly man walking with his wife stopped me to ask why there were so many people wearing kippot (yarmulkes). Pointing to my kipah he said, "For a moment I thought I was in Israel."
The Christmas season has arrived again and the hustle and bustle of the holiday rush will occupy our time and thoughts over the coming weeks. Yet, another event is beginning to seek our attention that will captivate our minds for the next year; the 2008 presidential election.
John Mayer's song called "Waiting for the World to Change" has been my head as I think about Christmas. Mayer writes compelling lyrics about how we often feel like we don't have the power to change our world. "Now we see everything that's going wrong/with the world and those who lead it/we just feel like we don't have the means/to rise above and beat it." So we keep waiting, Mayer says, waiting for the world to change.
This Christmas season has been tragically scarred by a series of senseless violent acts. Shopping malls and churches are the latest venues for troubled individuals to take out their frustrations on the innocent.
I am a supporter of the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant. I hope the meeting will enhance Baptist relationships and Baptist witness. Still, I see a potential problem with the political image it may present.
I have been trying to come up with a parable for the Christmas season. I wanted to write a story that would capture the mood of this strange religious time we live in. But before I could even get my imagination cranked, reality came along with something much better than any thing I might dream up.
Every year when December hits, we hear a lot about John. That's John, as in the strange and hairy man screaming as loud as he can that we've really messed up the world, and we all better get our act straight before it's too late.
In many churches, food is as commonplace as pews, choir robes and altar calls. In fact, potluck is as much a part of the Christian vernacular as prayer, peace and pastor. Therefore, the call to eat for the benefit of others is an important one in the life of a Christian and a Christian community.
The man who asked Republican presidential candidates if they believe every word of the Bible in Wednesday's CNN/YouTube debate says he wasn't satisfied by any of the answers he heard.
'Tis the season to go crazy.
Creeds developed early in the history of the church. "Jesus is Lord" may well have been the earliest one. The Apostle's Creed came later, followed by a number of creeds developed and approved by church councils. Most early Protestants continued to generate creeds.
Christmas is not your birthday--unless you're Jimmy Buffet, Clara Barton or Jesus, that is. But you already knew that.
Now that Thanksgiving is over it's time to begin preparing for Christmas in earnest. Unfortunately with the arrival of the season also comes the accompanying lunacy. I refer of course to the annual battle to save Christmas. The decision by many retailers to use the inclusive language of "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas," has become the latest battleground for conservative Christians' war on culture.
The nurse who greeted us in the emergency room was pleasant and efficient. I could not help noticing, however, the colorful tattoo on her right forearm. Below the tattoo were two additional figures, which looked like Chinese characters.
Sitting around the dinner table with friends talk turned to the war and our frustrations with so much that is wrong with our world. Someone said they were tired of politicians who kept up the shell games of half-truths. Another volunteered that they were tired of worrying about economy and oil and terrorism and the bleak future. Someone said they were just tired of saying goodbye to some special people who had made their own journey just a little easier. The more we talked, the more hopeless we became.
Did you hear the one about the Christian going into the coffee shop?
There is no doubt that 21st century America is more religiously diverse than any previous century. This may be due mostly to the 1965 Immigration Act that abolished an immigration policy that was exclusive to European immigrants.
Veterans Day creates a ministry dilemma. As a pastor and religious leader, how can I be faithful in teaching what I believe to be central to following Christ and yet not unduly offend others?
Since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, conservative evangelicals have served as a formidable political force. Comprising over one the third of the electorate, evangelicals voting in concert have faithfully delivered numerous victories to conservative candidates.
Last month I watched the events in Jena, La., unfold with particular interest. Jena is hometown to one of my aunts. I have friends from college and in Louisiana life who grew up in Jena and who have family living there now. I was born in Alexandria, about 30 miles away.
A story that appeared recently in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution set me to thinking about the ethics of attending church as a "seeker."
Economics is like a game of musical chairs. There are not enough chairs in the world for everyone to have as many as they would like. But rather than play music and race to the nearest chair, we have an auction, and those with the most money buy their chairs while those without are left standing.
Fear is a great motivator. Nothing gets folks moving like a good jolt to the adrenal system. Marketing gurus understand this very well. That's why so much of what we are offered for consumption, from mouthwash to politics, is wrapped in fear.
In the year 313, Roman Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan. This decree, which came as a result of Constantine believing that the Christian God had given him victory over his enemy, and thus sole power in the Empire, reversed the persecution that had been sporadically carried out against Christians.
Just as exciting as Messiah College students being able to take classes from yours truly, this fall also brought undergraduates at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary the opportunity to concentrate in homemaking while earning a humanities degree.
Theological declarations of blame follow terrible disasters.
Over and over in the Old Testament, we are admonished to be kind to "the widow, the orphan, and alien." In the New Testament Christ admonishes us to welcome the stranger: "When I was a stranger you took me in…whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine, so also you do for me."
In the late 1970s, I was a not-yet-30-year-old pastor with four or five years of grassroots ordained experience under my belt. I was serving a congregation of fewer than 50 members in south-central Los Angeles, in a converted restaurant located in a community whose racial makeup was rapidly transitioning. Whites had long since made their flight from the economically declining neighborhood to points westward, seeking enclaves of homogeneity.
There have never been many of them, but every now and then God manages to refresh the earth in general and the faith community in particular with the presence and the preaching of a prophet. I am not referring to some soothsayer who claims to be able to predict the future.
A Web-based group calling themselves TopVerse.com recently conducted a survey asking Christians to identify their favorite verses. The reason for the survey was to speed up an online search feature offered at the site.
A controversial anti-abortion activist says California wildfires are God's judgment on a new anti-discrimination law that some conservative Christians say promotes homosexuality in public schools.
I feel so cliche coming home from a visit to Germany with scores of pictures of the magnificent kirches, churches, at the center of every hamlet and city across Deutschland.
Time was when a vacationing Baptist could drop in on any church in the South and pick up a copy of the same Sunday school quarterly used back home. Today, more churches have ceased shopping exclusively at the company store, turning to a variety of publishers and formats catered to the needs and interests of their classes.
Fred Thompson exemplifies civil religion--religion that honors the nonspecific idea of the little "g" God and requires nothing more than a nod in political speeches. Civil religion is the opposite of authentic religion.
When Jesus uses the word Mammon, he gives it a nearly demonic connotation--or at least a spiritual connotation distinct from simply "cash"--that sets it up as an alternative to God in a way that Caesar, for example, doesn't have to be.
Recent allegations against Oral Roberts University raise larger issues concerning the influence the university has around the nation.
I saw the Halo youth-ministry story that everyone's commenting on when I picked up a copy of the New York Times at the airport on Sunday.
Let's face it: Global migrations in the 21st century will not disappear just because of wishful thinking.
The National Council of Churches, America's leading ecumenical group, charted a new course by selecting a long-time educator and ecumenical leader to head a newly restructured and downsized organization.
What's a Christian to do during the political "crazy season"--i.e. the race for the presidency of the United States? When asked, I usually answer in terms of what a Christian should and should not do.
I have been saddened with all the discussion of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's homemaking degree. It seems such a waste of energy and resources that have once more distracted Baptists from the mission of Christ Jesus--to be the hands, voice, and presence of God in a needy world.
On Sept. 16, Latino church groups demonstrated in front of the Georgia state Capitol against the failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and against the provisions of Georgia's Senate Bill 529.
I invite readers of EthicsDaily.com, their fellow church members, friends and the multitude of goodwill Baptists to sign "The Nazareth Manifesto" found in Luke 4:18-19, where Jesus announced his agenda.
Gracious God, as we celebrate our nation's Independence Day, we approach you with hearts that are simultaneously brimming with gratitude and weighted with concern.
When members of the PGA Tour think of integrity, they inevitably think of Joe Durant. Durant, who began his professional career in 1987, has competed on the Nike Tour and PGA Tour since 1993. And while Durant enjoys winning a golf tournament, he doesn't let his status as tour professional interfere with his priority commitments to his faith and his family.
In the rural church of my upbringing, we didn't observe Advent. We jumped directly from Thanksgiving to Christmas. In our close-knit congregation, the non-negotiable liturgical dates on our church calendar other than Christmas and Easter were Church Conference after worship service on the first Sunday, Gospel Singing on the fourth Sunday night, Revival during the second full week in August, and Homecoming the last Sunday in July. Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Passover, and Pentecost were nowhere to be found.
Churches and faith-based organizations are usually among the first and most generous to respond to communities and individuals who are in crisis. After storms, earthquakes and even tsunamis churches have responded by sending money, volunteers and supplies.
My first week as pastor at First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., will be unforgettable. My wife, Amanda, and I arrived at our temporary residence on Monday, July 4th. Little did we know that the celebratory fireworks of Independence Day would be followed by an explosive outbreak of tropical weather in the Gulf later that week.
On Sunday and Monday evening, March 7-8, viewers nationwide watched as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" built one of their largest and most sophisticated homes to date. And that home, located in Center Point, Ala., was built for a family with a significant family need. I am still fascinated by the story of why and how they accomplished this enormous feat.
In the early weeks of the NFL playoffs, a player who has become renowned for his antics on and off the field was cited and fined by the NFL for mockingly "mooning" the fans of the opposing team. For the totally uninitiated, "mooning" is a gesture where the perpetrator bends over and flashes his or her hind side as a put down to another group or individual.
Not long ago, while traveling through a community in northeast Alabama where I served as a minister in the 1980s, my wife and I drove down the street where we used to live, and "the wall" was still there. There was an interesting story behind the wall, and perhaps the story surrounding "the wall" is worth telling.
Every election year, pastors are faced with the challenge of how to address political issues fairly and legally from the pulpit. While some on both the left and the right attempt to hijack the pulpit in order to support their cause or their favored candidate, many of us in ministry strive to encourage members to participate in the political process without instructing members about how to vote.
How did you become a Christian? How do you describe your conversion story? How can you better help others understand the decision to become a follower of Christ?
Restoration is a ministry initiative that is often neglected. Due to brokenness, miscommunication, and disconnection, restoration needs to occur in many dimensions of human relationships: Between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings, between colleagues, between classmates, between team members and between neighbors.
The journey from Advent to Christmas is one of my favorite seasons of the year. For centuries, Christians have engaged this season with both contemplation and celebration. The deeper I venture into this journey, the more I discover this to be a multi-faceted season of opportunity.
Throughout the Bible, there are a variety of statements urging people of faith to be faithful witnesses, in both conversation and action, before those who are not yet a part of the community of faith.
Meet Scooby, a 6-year-old dog who belongs to the Farris family in Corbin, Ky. Since Scooby's story appeared in several newspapers and on many of the national television networks, Scooby is now the most famous dog in the Commonwealth.
This year as you approach Holy Week, try meditating on the whole story of Jesus' passion. Take time to listen to the voices of the crowd. Hear again the words of Jesus and ponder his days in Jerusalem.
To deal proactively with the harsh reality of war, we should say our prayers, support our troops, exercise our freedom and stand firm in our faith.
During an interim season, the current staff will have additional "interim" assignments, and quite often an interim minister will join the ministry team and help guide the church through the transitional season. Most of the church's ministries can continue during an interim season, but a church should travel at a much slower pace.
The Revelation is one of the most relevant books in the Bible, especially if it is received as a book of encouragement or a book of worship. That's right! Encouragement and worship. Those seem to be the overarching themes of the book when it is considered in its original context.
How long has it been since you read the prophets? In the Old Testament, the prophets are considered the covenant spokespeople of God. Often, the prophets are misunderstood to be "foretellers" who predict what will happen and when. Actually the prophets are "forth tellers" who confront the people of God with the truth of God.
The Gospels are pivotal in helping us understand the fullness of the love of God. If you have not read the Gospels lately, you might be missing what life is all about.
The Psalms have often been called the hymnal of the Old Testament. This collection of Hebrew poetry contains 150 entries that include liturgical expressions of worship, capsules of Hebrew history, honest prayers and disturbing exclamations of lament.
Often I am asked, "What can I do to grow as a Christian?" Several things may help you grow in your faith, but one of the most important is reading the Bible every day.
There are many reasons why winter is often considered an emotional downer. Some counselors attribute this wintry melancholy to post-holiday stress, while others believe it has more to do with isolation caused by blustery weather.
God sent his Christmas gift special delivery as a babe in a manger. The Son of God was not a celebrity messiah, but the Savior who lived to reveal the ways of God to people just like you and me.
Your Advent journey goes beyond what happens at your church services. Advent is a season for preparing your heart, mind and soul for the coming of Christ. Such preparation involves participation in worship, designating time for quiet meditation and reading daily Advent devotionals.
It's that time of year again! The frantic holiday season is about to begin. In our over-commercialized culture, Thanksgiving Day has become the kickoff for the Christmas blitz. Unless you take charge of your holiday schedule, you will succumb to clever advertisements and cultural expectations.
Theology is "thinking about God." When I attend church, I want to be surrounded by other people who are practicing and processing their theology.
However you define or describe postmodernism, the reality of its growing impact on our culture and on the work of the church within our culture requires the church reaffirm its mission, re-think its strategy, and re-equip its membership for a new era.
Churches are prone to make mistakes. Although these mistakes may afford short-term numerical growth, they inevitably diminish the overall health of a congregation and taint the integrity of a local church. Some of the mistakes are major and some are minor.
The number of people who have Alzheimer's disease is growing. Families and congregations who are well-informed about Alzheimer's disease are better prepared to recognize and respond to someone who has the disease.
The Internet has been described by critics and doomsday prophets as a "pornographic cesspool" and as the "demonic beast" of the apocalypse.
When you read the Gospels, it is surprising how many questions were asked of Jesus, both by his disciples and other inquirers. Consider the following intriguing questions that were posed to Jesus.
This is an excellent season to get out and enjoy the beauty of the "rocks and the trees." Here are some activities that could get you and your family out to enjoy the "beauty of the earth" this autumn:
Although expressions of forgiveness do not always require the forfeiture of penalty or restitution, authentic forgiveness does require the relinquishment of vengeance by the offended, and it does seek the reformation of the offender.
I have often listened as church members voiced their best intentions of attending church and Sunday school, but then I have watched as travel plans, minor aches and pains, or the lure of a round of golf or another trip to the lake deter them from faithful attendance and participation.
Children who attend Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, worship services or confirmation classes learn important lessons and stories that help shape their faith and values for their adult years. Children, like adults, may not immediately understand the significance of many of those stories, but through repetition, reflection and experience, the interpretation and application of the biblical stories gradually become more meaningful.
The Exodus journey is the central story of the Old Testament. This ancient adventure teaches us many relevant lessons about walking with God in the postmodern era.
Stories from the Bible often have several different angles of interpretation. The story of Noah, for example, is a story that we learned as children and that we continue to reflect upon as adults.
After the death of a loved one or friend, individuals often want to offer a memorial gift to acknowledge their sympathy to the surviving family members and to honor the memory of the deceased. There are many different ways to provide a memorial gift. How do you choose an appropriate gift?
While we were driving through a popular vacation village, I noticed a sign near the entrance that boasted it to be "One of the Top 100 Retirement Communities in the U.S." The homes did look attractive and the sign gave the village some distinction, but it certainly takes more than a sign and an attractive building to constitute a community—just as it takes more than a sign and an attractive building to constitute a church.
How do you handle your own pain and suffering? Whether you are experiencing the physical pain of illness, the emotional distress of grief, or the spiritual affliction of persecution, your suffering must be put in perspective or you may become a nagging complainer.
When I took a human anatomy course during my junior year in high school, our class learned to identify the left and right hemispheres, the synapses, the cerebral cortex, and the meninges.
During the summer months, I usually re-read the Psalms and the Proverbs. These collections comprise a part of the biblical literature known as "Wisdom Writings."
"Catch a wave!" I've seen this slogan on television commercials, and on signs in beachfront stores and surf shops. It appears on t-shirts, caps, posters and swimwear.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag ..." We recite these words in classrooms, at ballgames and at civic gatherings. During these days of debate and conversation concerning certain words within the pledge, do we listen to all of the words and take them seriously?
There are many lists of church bulletin bloopers that are circulating on the internet. On one copy of these humorous mistakes, I found a comical entry that read, "Church Bored Meeting this Sunday at 4 o'clock."
In the rural South, where I grew up, if you were about to speak out of turn or to speak negatively about someone, an older adult would usually interrupt you with the reprimand, "Hold your tongue."
Father's Day has come and gone, but the importance of parental nurture, tough love and firm discipline remains.
Summer is here and so is the busiest travel season of the year. When you are traveling, whether visiting friends or going on a family vacation, do you attend church services? If not, you may be missing a unique opportunity to have a different kind of worship experience.
Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. This important holiday is not just another "day off" but a day to remember those who lost their lives in military service to our country.
It's baseball and softball season again, and the local fields in our community are full of energetic boys and girls who are eager to hit a homerun or make a double play.
Some people attend church regularly. Some attend church sparingly. Some do not attend church at all. As a minister, I have observed a variety of motives that lead individuals into active church participation. What are your reasons for going or not going to church?
"Sin" is a big word, much bigger than most of our small notions about it. Sin has been described as "giving in to temptation," "missing the mark" and "trespassing against God or other human beings." The Bible has a lot to say about sin.
During Jesus' life and ministry, he regularly advocated and practiced the discipline of private, personal prayer. For Jesus, public prayer had a didactic purpose. For example, Jesus offered a model prayer in teaching his disciples to pray. Then, Jesus specifically instructed his disciples, "But when you pray, go into your room, and close the door" (Mt 6:6).
A couple of years ago, Bo Prosser, minister of education at Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., teamed up with Charles Qualls, now associate pastor at Second Ponce De Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., to produce a motivational book for church leaders.
When some people think of Jesus, they may assume that he spent his time with the most reputable and righteous people of his day. A careful reading of the Gospels might change our thinking and introduce us to the real Jesus, the one who is constantly found associating with "sinners."
April 15 is not a date that usually appears on the Christian calendar. It is tax day, the deadline for filing personal income taxes. Is there a biblical and historical precedent for paying taxes?
Christmas is always on Dec. 25. Why isn't Easter on the same date every year?
A historical narrative of the week we now observe as Holy Week is found in John 12-20. During Holy Week, Christians of different denominations around the world will unite to reflect on the events which led to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a desk calendar for Christmas. It was one of those page-a-day calendars where you peel off a page each day of the year. This type of calendar comes in many varieties. I have seen such calendars featuring daily devotions, favorite recipes, inspirational sayings and popular cartoons.
Airline passengers were asked to disembark from planes, exit the airport, then re-enter through the security checkpoint a second time. The lines were long. Most passengers tried to be cordial and cooperative but some were irate.
Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a new study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
Parents say it to children. Teachers say it to students. And the Bible says it to us. "Please pay attention." Inattention will get you into trouble.
I remember looking forward to Valentine's Day when I was a child. In our school, Valentine's Day and Christmas were the only two occasions when parties were allowed.
I learned some of life's most valuable lessons in Sunday School. I know that best-selling author Robert Fulghum argued that all he really needed to know he learned in kindergarten.
Visiting the sick has traditionally been a ministry for both clergy and laity. People of faith feel a spiritual responsibility to visit the sick, especially those in the hospital. When Jesus told a story about compassionate ministry to his disciples, he used an example of ministry to the sick: "I was sick and you visited me."
Recently, while attending a major sporting event, I noticed a peculiar sign near the gate as I gave my ticket to the gate attendant. In bold black letters the sign read, "Absolutely No Re-entry." In other words, if you come out, don't expect to get back in.
In Luke 1:46-56 we find a story culminating in Mary's song, the first Christmas music on record, so to speak.
The green wreath contains four purple candles surrounding one large white candle. The day is Dec. 2. Only one purple candle is lit this day: the candle of peace. This marks the beginning of Advent.
Each Sunday parishioners gather in their local churches to worship God by singing hymns, saying prayers, experiencing sermons and engaging in other parts of the liturgy. Every dimension of the worship service is important.
When I was a child we would sing, "I've got that old time religion in my heart, way down inside." What is real religion? And how do you get it "way down inside"?