The Raging Waters In South Carolina

Dr. Derek Thomas is senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. He wrote the following update on the effects of the floods in South Carolina

Our church family has been at the center of the storm, with approximately a hundred homes having sustained damage of some kind, and half of these sustaining such serious damage that they may end up losing their homes entirely. There are families who have lost everything, leaving their homes in the darkness of a Sunday morning, in... Continue Reading

I Was Rebuked Without A Word

We can’t judge hearts simply by what we think we see as outward displays of emotion or activity.

Then everything changed. As the song ended and we were about to take our seats, and incidental to him sitting down turned slightly. His eyes were full of tears and his smile was full. I was gutted. I saw the man that I wanted to be; humble, free, focused, and full of delight in God.... Continue Reading

Speaking The Truth In Love: Five Deceptive Myths

We cannot truly love without speaking truth truthfully; and we can’t speak truth truthfully without loving intentionally and thoughtfully.

Obviously truth spoken in love is to be done thoughtfully, timely and with words carefully chosen, while creating an environment of love for effective communication. If a doctor knows you have a terminal condition and loves you he will not be silent. He will thoughtfully tell you the truth. Likely he will take you aside... Continue Reading

Saving Souls Takes Toll On Pastors’ Health

Full-time church ministry actually can kill the people who do it – but it does so slowly.

Some of the results may surprise even devout churchgoers: 54 percent of pastors find their jobs frequently overwhelming, and 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle. So while about half are overwhelmed and wonder if they should quit, another part of the study showed only 13 percent of... Continue Reading

Why Do We Not Save Christians?

They need help, and they have no good place to go

Today, Christians are under special threat in the Middle East. The possibility that Christian refugees will be able to go home and reconstruct their communities and lead normal lives is far lower than are the chances for their Muslim neighbors. The level of continuing discrimination and physical threat against them is high, and in Syria... Continue Reading

Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s

Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of their community

Churches largely catered to the needs of church members in the 1980s. We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches.  ... Continue Reading

The End of Homiletics?

By “homiletics” we mean nothing more or less than the applied convergence of biblical exegesis, the cure of souls, and ascetical theology.

Preachers who want to be interesting want to be interesting because they were taught that interesting is the summum bonum of Christian preaching. They weren’t told that, of course. Instructors in homiletics are not crass people, and they don’t teach people to be self-aggrandizing performers. Homiletics taught that by accident because, if homiletics is true to itself as a discipline, it... Continue Reading

Thoughts on Note-Taking During Sermons

Hearing a sermon is not like hearing a lecture. It is your meeting with the living Christ.

Ditching the note-taking preaching ethos both elevates sermons and properly diminishes them. It treats a sermon as proclamation aided by the Spirit, which gives the sermon a supernatural weight. On the other hand, by treating all words in a sermon as expendable to memory, it puts the preacher’s words in the right place compared to... Continue Reading

The Bithynian Option

Peter's letter to the Bithynians and the history of the Christian church in that particular region suggest several principles and insights for how to engage a fluid and foreign culture as resident outsiders

Ambassadors as a rule do not join municipal steering committees.  They are not citizens.  Neither do they move into caves and preach prophetic denunciations from a safe distance.  They live in the culture as representatives of a foreign power.  That is the essence and substance of the Bithynian Option.  It understands the Christian mission as... Continue Reading

I Hate the Fall

The only thing that comforts me in the midst of this dark and fallen world is the fact that God hates sin and evil even more than I

Dear friend, we all should hate sin and evil. We should hate the Fall. But even as we hate it, we have hope. God has answered the problem of evil by crushing his own Son. And one day, the Son will return to restore this world and make all things new. On that day, the... Continue Reading

Parachutes, Survivors, and a Challenge

In order to deal with the discomfort, sometimes the existence of abuse is doubted, and as a result, the existence of its survivors is doubted too.

If this is not “your” issue, I respect that. Then please don’t make pronouncements about what is or is not domestic violence out of ignorance. This is a life and death matter, and you don’t know who is listening and taking your words to heart. Do the research and weigh the evidence. Your attitude and... Continue Reading

Ministering to Pedophiles

Addressing the pedophile’s deception and showing what true repentance and ministry to them should look like

A pedophile who refuses to do these things is not repentant and should be put out of the church immediately. The pastor must also make it clear that any ministry the pedophile receives shall not come at the expense of his victims. Just as salvation comes first to the Jew, then to the gentile (Romans... Continue Reading

Handling Contentions in the Church

Here are eight things for pastors to keep in mind while seeking to navigate the trials and controversies that local congregations often face

Never simply give in to contentious or complaining congregants for the sake of peace. One of the biggest mistakes that pastors make is to give in to the demands of discontent or contentious congregants simply to keep them happy. By doing so, they inadvertently empower sinful congregants. If pastors give in on one thing for which... Continue Reading

When the Devil Points a Gun at You

As the gunman shouted to the Christians to make themselves known! What would you do?

These are important moments. People rarely focus on their death. And though the temptation is often to fear, fear that the next person I talk to could hate Christianity, we cannot stay silent. We must keep pressing and shining the light of the Gospel on this lost world. God is in the business of bringing... Continue Reading

Caught in the Spotlight: Christian Leaders Who Mishandle Sexual Abuse Disclosures

Instead of focusing time and energy in doing the right thing when a spotlight is turned on, many leaders will focus time and energy trying to get them turned off, or at the very least pointed elsewhere

Victims are marginalized when leaders demand that they not share their stories in the manner in which they have decided, publicly or privately. This tactic is deceptively clever because it attempts to paint a bold survivor as an insensitive perpetrator in a disgusting attempt to shame the survivor into turning off the spotlight and putting... Continue Reading

Don’t Try to Impress God

One of the easiest traps into which believers fall is the trap of trying to impress God.

Another way we try to impress God is through busyness. I am more and more convinced that there are lots of people out there, even in the church (and maybe especially in the church!) who think that they will either get into heaven by busyness, or will get a substantially greater reward of another kind... Continue Reading

The Fourth Person of the Trinity?

“Don’t try to stand in the place of God and do what only God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can do in someone’s life.”

While we want to be faithful as pastors and spiritually fruitful congregants to help those entrusted to our care–as well as members of the same body, we must ever guard against allowing ourselves to slide into a role that God hasn’t given to us–a role that only He possesses.   When I was an intern... Continue Reading

Calculated Killing of Christians in Roseburg?

When religion draws fire, look to God and the heroic example of Charleston's forgiveness

  If Christians are labeled as “haters” simply because they hold views derived from their Scriptures, the elevated rhetoric can, and indeed does lead to violent actions. It is inevitable. I am not saying we don’t criticize, but we must not demonize. When we demonize others — Christians, Muslims, gays, African-Americans or whomever — we... Continue Reading

6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians

About 20% of the US population has an anxiety disorder. That’s about one in five people, or 40 million adults.

So baseline, you’ll find more anxious people in a church than waiting in line to bungee jump. I don’t have hard statistics on this, but I think the incidence of anxiety disorders in a church congregation is higher than the 20% you find in the general US population. Plus anxious people tend to also be... Continue Reading

Have Church Your Way: The High Cost of the Worship Wars

Larger churches came up with a solution: two services, each with its own “worship style.” But it cost us in the end.

We’re building Burger Kings when we should be planting gardens and digging wells. We’re further indulging the carb-addicted, malnourished population with the same cheap fluff, instead of offering them a balanced meal of Word and Sacrament. Be hospitable, yes, but don’t dumb it down. Don’t make it easy. Trading the body and blood for donuts... Continue Reading

Homeschooled Children Do Not Grow Up To Be More Religious

Family climate, especially faithful religious devotion by both parents, delivered in a context of loving nurture, is more important than where a child goes to school.

So what does it all mean? Anecdotes and biased studies aside, it seems from this emerging body of work that homeschooling itself will not automatically produce adults who share the conservative political, religious and moral beliefs of their parents. The data also suggest that family climate, especially faithful religious devotion by both parents, delivered in a... Continue Reading

High School Rejects ACLU Bid to Block Prayer Boxes

A Louisiana school board rebuffed the ACLU at a meeting Oct. 1 when it passed a resolution calling the organization’s recent threats unwarranted.

“The board wishes to publicly reaffirm its intent to operate a successful school district in which equal access is recognized and the legal rights of all students are respected, including those of its students who wish to engage in student-lead, student-initiated religious expression,” the statement said.   (WNS)–A Louisiana school board rebuffed the ACLU at a meeting... Continue Reading

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the New Charismatics

A grassroots Christian movement is renewing charismatic faith for the twenty-first century.

For New Charismatics, gone are the days of an eschatological worldview where a bloodthirsty God requires militant pro-Israel support and violent American nationalism. Even as the 2016 GOP primary race heats up, we are more determined than ever to leave this behind for a God who looks like Jesus, that preacher of peace who taught... Continue Reading

Refugees and the Moral Crisis of Our National Debt

Because of our $18 trillion in debt, the U.S. is compromised in its ability to help with the refugee and other crises.

Area Middle East churches have invested themselves in working in these refugee camps, seeking to alleviate the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. International groups such as Samaritan’s Purse and Doctors Without Borders have been working tirelessly. And yet, the overall American response to this unprecedented crisis of displacement has been underwhelming. But, what can you... Continue Reading

The Prosperity Gospel Has Gone Viral

Here are a few ways that you can tell that you are nibbling at the hook of the prosperity gospel, without, perhaps, even knowing it

Regrettably, the prosperity gospel has gone viral. Being more nuanced and subtle than you may think, it is very active in the church. Like a computer virus it is draining vitality and productivity in the covenant community. And you know what the worst part is? You may not even know that you are impacted by it.   What... Continue Reading

6 Great New Books for Kids

Here, representing 6 different publishers, are some excellent new books for children.

In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—a best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth. With powerful illustrations by award-winning artist Don Clark, this imaginative retelling... Continue Reading

Did the Apostle Paul Use Profanity?

Is σκύβαλα a swear word, or maybe a rude word? Or is it unobjectionable?

With that in mind, I did a search of two exhaustive databases of ancient Greek literature (Perseus and Thesaurus Lingua Graecae) to see if σκύβαλα functions as a swear word in Greek. I discovered that nowhere in all of ancient Greek literature is there a clear example of σκύβαλα functioning as a swear word or... Continue Reading

Pretending No More

Playing dress up and pretending to be someone else is fun. But eventually children grow out of doing so. Or do they?

When someone asks how we are doing and we smile and say, “Fine,” but inside our heart is aching, we are in fact pretending to be someone else. When we act like our life is great while our world is crumbling down around us, we are pretending. When we fear to open up to others... Continue Reading

The Question Is Not Whether But Why?

Do Reformed Christians ignore the Epistle of James?

The question in the 16th century was never whether James is in the Bible but why it is there. As they worked out their doctrine of justification, sanctification, and salvation sola gratia, sola fide they concluded that James 2 is teaching the moral and logical necessity of love and good works not as part of the legal basis (ground) of our... Continue Reading

Brothers and Sisters

I'm afraid that in an effort to avoid inappropriate relationships between men and women, we have forgotten to foster appropriate ones

We don’t need more fences. We don’t need a stronger negative push against sinful sexual relationships.  We need to foster a different mindset altogether. The church needs to plow a counter culture. It needs a new axis on gender, orthogonal to the sexual one, that equips us to live affirmatively in male/female relationships in the... Continue Reading


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