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Six Ways Men Can Support Womens Discipleship

Male clergy and laity who want to enable womens ministry often don't know how to get involved or what to do.

#AmplifyWomen is a two-month-long series running on CT Women, designed to generate a new conversation about women’s leadership and discipleship. In the last four weeks, we’ve addressed ecclesial accountability, mentorship, platform, and hospitable orthodoxy. Today, Trillia Newbell invites men in the church to support women’s discipleship.

When I first became a Christian at the age of 22, there were two things that I couldn’t wait to do: learn about the Lord and share about him with others. As I dreamed about my future, I determined that I wanted to become a biblical counselor. I told a pastor about this desire, knowing that it would require more education through a counseling program, most likely at a seminary. His response to me was, “Well, you are probably going to be a mom.”

He was right. I did become a mom, one of my greatest joys and gifts in my life. Still, his statement deterred me from pursuing a counseling degree. Although I don’t hold any grudge against that pastor—he was doing the best to counsel me at the time—nonetheless his initial response was ill-advised and unhelpful.

My experience reflects a larger, more widespread challenge inside the church: Male clergy and lay leaders have the power to impact and support women’s discipleship, but many of them (by their own account) fall short. “When you consider how many ministries and committees depend upon the genius, generosity and sweat of our sisters,” writes pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, “it’s almost criminal that most any pastor you meet has no plan for discipling the women of his church apart from outsourcing to a women’s ministry staff person or committee.”

When men don’t ...

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Thu, 25 May 2017 07:00:00 PDT
Some Quick Thoughts on House Churches: The Good, the Bad, and Why You Should Be Open to Them

They appeal to certain church planters and in certain contexts.

Discerning House Churches

The house church discussion is always an interesting one. People can be very passionate about house, simple, and organic churches, and that can limit some important discussions.

Some say, “Of course, that’s the best way—that’s what is in the New Testament!” And, actually, they are right about the New Testament. However, it can be tricky to evaluate something that you are convinced is the only right way.

On the other hand, house churches are far from the norm in the English-speaking Western world. And, as such, unfamiliar for many. To be honest, many readers will have had experiences with house church people that is less than positive. (I hear often from pastors about disgruntled or theologically-odd people ending up in house churches.)

The fact is, there are healthy and unhealthy expressions of house / simple / organic churches. There are good expressions, and I’ve written lots on that, but I’ve run into plenty of the bad ones.

Healthy and Unhealthy Expressions of House Churches

Let’s be clear from the front. Even if you had a bad experience with someone, there are many healthy expressions of house churches.

First, many are excellent in discipleship. They focus on the simple elements of discipleship, which enhances the effectiveness to rapidly reproduce.

Second, house churches often release believers into areas of leadership and service at a higher rate than other models.

Third, house churches are simple and stripped of all the glitz and glamor. As a result, people are reached with the gospel through relationships.

Neil Cole, who is intimately involved with the house church movement and has the best and most winsome writing on the subject, often says, “What ...

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Thu, 25 May 2017 06:00:00 PDT
How Government Support Saved Me

Signing up for food stamps changed my view of poverty in America.

Just a few months ago, my family stopped qualifying for government cheese.

It came as a little bit of a surprise to me—I had, after all, been a part of the WIC (women, infants, and children) program for almost seven years, starting with my first child. My daughter was born two months early due to life-threatening complications and I was never able to breastfeed. WIC supplied the formula, an expense that would have been a huge blow to our family’s finances. As my husband and I took turns getting our graduate degrees, WIC provided us with milk, cheese, eggs, and a few other essentials, and when we were support-raising missionaries living in immigrant and refugee neighborhoods for three years, we used our WIC vouchers along with all of our neighbors.

Two years ago when my second child was born, I wasn’t able to work, and while moving across the country, our only car broke down. By the time we finally found an apartment to live in and a job for my husband, we didn’t even have enough money to buy curtains for our windows. We applied for food stamps, or SNAP, along with WIC, and I don’t know what we would have done without it for those few months. I felt sweet relief being able to go to the grocery store, swipe my card, and purchase food for my family. Each time, I was incredibly grateful for my country.

In light of where my family is now, it’s important for me to take a moment and remember those feelings—both the stress of not having money to buy essentials and the gratitude for any small breaks. We now own a home, my husband is working full-time as a therapist, and I work as a part-time freelance writer. I suppose we are an American success story. We no longer qualify for WIC or SNAP. We ...

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Wed, 24 May 2017 06:04:00 PDT
The Type of Leaders a Small Town Church Needs

Lessons from a Small Town Pastor

A pastor or church planter in a small town who wants to make a long-lasting impact on the community will need a strategy to develop good leaders. What should you be looking for?

Leaders Who Are Reliable

Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 to, “Entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” You can't "entrust" things to people without knowing you can trust them! And this is not something you can learn in an interview.

Finding out if people are reliable takes time. You have to invest in them and watch to see what they do with what they've been given. Jesus said that those who are given more are those who have been "found faithful." Don't skip this simply because you really want them or need them. These are people, God's people, who are being led, and He wants reliable people leading them.

Leaders Who Love Your Small Town

If you bring leaders in from the outside without vetting them for your context, you are playing a dangerous game. A love for your small town is imperative for everyone who is a leader on your team. Snarky comments and cynicism that come from someone who feels ‘stuck’ in your small town will cause long-lasting damage to the ministry you are trying to build. If they don’t love your small town, don’t give them a platform from which to trumpet their poor attitude.

Leaders Who Love Your Church

Leaders who don’t share your vision for the church you are leading can be very harmful. However, many pastors and church planters I meet don’t have a clearly defined philosophy of ministry or a process of making sure potential leaders agree with it. If you are only looking for doctrinal alignment, things will get ugly fast. There ...

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Wed, 24 May 2017 06:00:00 PDT
20 Truths from 'Break Open the Sky'

Saving Our Faith from a Culture of Fear

What if our growing unease about truth and the symptoms we feel, whether mere anxiety or full on fear, is actually an invitation take a hard look at our faith? What if our fear, whether corporate or personal, is really an opportunity to reason together, to consider the state of our faith, to reflect on its nature, to sift through its presuppositions and explore its implications? What if truth has been knocking for some time—maybe for years—but ever more furiously now in these urgent times? (22)

Could it be that the message of Jesus has been so muted through the ages that it has left many of us bereft of the joy, peace, and blessing we set out to find? (34-35)

Jesus inaugurated something revolutionary back then and still offers it today. He presents a radically new and disconcerting version of faith, not to offend, but to jolt us sufficiently so that we will reconsider—radically reconsider—what is most important in life and how to live that out. Jesus's version of faith doesn't come naturally. it is hard won, but not by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, self-help style. It is a gift, but accepting it requires courage. It is available to those brave enough to accept God's invitation to take and eat with the confidence that he will neither slap their hands nor send them the bill. (37-38)

By conferring blessing upon those widely thought to be undeserving, Jesus put into motion an idea so revolutionary that today we are still seeking to understand it. He showed us that the reason for divine favor is not us but solely him. (45)

Accepting that we are loved for no other reason than the God of the universe loves us—it's in his very being and nature to do so—is the hardest thing ...

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Tue, 23 May 2017 13:00:00 PDT
The Most Hated Woman in America Remembers a Culture War Without Heroes

Netflixs Madalyn Murray OHair biopic explores the divisive legacy of one of the country's most influential atheists.

There’s something exhilarating about “playing devil’s advocate”—you get to poke holes, and you don’t have to mend any. Perhaps that’s why most of the combatants in the “culture war” spend more time railing against alleged evils (whether it’s gay marriage or prayer in public schools) than they do supporting positive proposals. It also makes for more entertaining political theatre.

This principle is at the heart of the Netflix biopic The Most Hated Woman in America, which tells the story of the provocative and bristly Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of the American Atheists and a key player in a landmark Supreme Court decision that prohibited mandatory Bible-reading in public schools. The film focuses on the sordid end of O’Hair’s life in an effort at detailing how the prickly and provocative behaviors that landed her a national platform also provided her a host of personal and professional enemies. But Melissa Leo makes for far too likeable of a grumpy grandma for the point to really stick. Instead, the story of O’Hair’s rise to national stardom provides a fascinating and important look at the flaws of both sides of the “culture war.”

The documentary portrays O’Hair as a passionate “non-conformist” willing to pick a fight anywhere she can find one, from joining a lunch counter protest against segregation to railing against the convictions of her devout Christian father. After one fight culminates in a controversial Supreme Court decision, she discovers that people are willing to support her work, and she begins building a platform and securing financial support to found American Atheists. Before long, she’s ...

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Tue, 23 May 2017 10:00:00 PDT
Shame, Guilt, and Fear: What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most

Churches may be emphasizing the wrong selling point of the gospel, suggests LifeWay.

Many Americans are more worried about their reputation than their conscience.

They worry less about guilt and fear and more about avoiding shame, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Shame has become particularly powerful in American culture in the internet age, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. A single mistake or embarrassing moment posted on social media can ruin a person’s life.

“What’s our biggest cultural fear? Shame,” he said. “What’s surprising is not that personal freedom, ambition, and doing the right thing are valued by Americans. It’s that risk to our reputation is what matters most.”

Mixed motivations

Shaming has been a part of American life since the days of The Scarlet Letter. Set among the Puritans, the novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, a young mother forced to wear a scarlet “A” after committing adultery, considered a crime at the time. But Americans gave up on public shaming of criminals in the 1830s, according to journalist Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

Since then, Americans have been more concerned about issues like guilt over wrongdoing, said McConnell. That’s shaped how churches have presented their faith to the public, he said.

LifeWay Research wanted to know if guilt is still a major issue for Americans. That might affect how Christians talk about their faith, said McConnell, since Christianity also addresses needs such as shame and fear.

“We wanted to know: Are churches addressing the issues Americans care about most?”

Researchers asked 1,000 Americans three questions to discover their feelings about fear, shame, guilt, and other issues.

  • Which of these feelings do you seek to avoid the most?

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Tue, 23 May 2017 09:42:00 PDT
We Actually Dont Need a Trinitarian Revival

Attempts to teach a better understanding of the Trinity may do more harm than good.

Rumors of the death of Trinitarianism, even rumors of its dearth, have been grossly exaggerated.

This is not to ignore the problems, failures, errors, and weaknesses that sometimes attend it. We don’t need to suppress any evidence in order to reject the drastic diagnosis. When I look around churches and the theological scene today, I see areas of weakness and suggestions for how evangelical Christians in particular can enter into our Trinitarian birthright more fully, more fluently, and more fruitfully. But I have never been able to embrace the idea that the state of the doctrine of the Trinity in contemporary Christian life is so threatened that drastic action is necessary.

The everything-you-know-is-wrong diagnosis fails to distinguish between primary and secondary Trinitarianism. The distinction is a very helpful one. Primary Trinitarianism (the term seems to have been coined by Lutheran theologian Robert W. Jenson) is the underlying reality of the presence and work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the life of the church. Anyone who is born of the Spirit and testifies that the Father so loved the world he gave his only-begotten Son (John 3:14–16) is fluently speaking primary Trinitarianism. That person is giving an account of the triune structure of salvation history itself in the Bible’s own language.

If they were to theologize on top of that, they would begin speaking secondary Trinitarianism. In short order they would bring forth words like Trinity, three, persons, and essence; helpful terms that are just a step or two from Scripture itself. As the need arose, they would pursue questions about how the three persons are one God, and how their temporal appearances in salvation history related to ...

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Tue, 23 May 2017 07:00:00 PDT
Evangelism and Movements: July CPLF Gathering

Church Planting Leadership Fellowship is open to denominational and network leaders of church planting.

For the past few years we have hosted a gathering of denomination and network church planting leaders from across North America to consider process and practices of church planting. We call this group the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship, and it’s a partnership between Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, NewChurches.com, and LifeWay Research.

This is a growing peer group, specifically focused on those who are leading church planting efforts in their denomination and/or network. It regularly features leaders who represent around 75% of all North American evangelical church planting in a given year.

In the past we have featured speakers like Tim Keller, Rick Warren, Linda Stanley, Neil Cole, Dhati Lewis, Leonce Crump, Derwin Gray, and many, many others. What makes this gathering so special, though, is not just the learning we get (though it’s pretty spectacular), but the opportunity for peers to sit down and learn from each other.

Our next gathering will be focused on Evangelism and Movements. In fact, this is one of the reasons Daniel Im and I recently wrote 1,000 Churches: How Past Movements Did It—And How Your Church Can, Too.

During this gathering – on July 25 & 26 in Wheaton, Illinois – we will discuss what it takes for your denomination or network to increase its evangelism efforts and create a movemental culture for planting and multiplication.

Here’s the lineup for this year:

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Tue, 23 May 2017 06:00:00 PDT
Pew: Black Protestants Show Strongest Support for Paid Maternity Leave

A look into Christian views on paid leave and how the church can help new parents.

Alongside arguments for maternity leave centered on health, wellbeing, and economics, a pro-life case for paid leave has slowly developed within the church.

Now, research shows that Christians are actually more likely than the average American to support paid parental leave—as long as they aren’t white.

The vast majority of black and Hispanic believers, at higher levels than any other demographic, say new moms and dads should be offered paid leave from work, according to the Pew Research Center.

Pew data provided to CT revealed that 90 percent of black Protestants—a number that includes evangelicals—and 85 percent of Hispanic Catholics think mothers should get paid leave. White evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants, meanwhile, showed lower levels of support than average, with just over three-quarters endorsing paid leave for moms.

“As a result of a history living with injustice, I imagine black Protestants—and likely black people in general—have a greater awareness that many working women cannot afford to take unpaid leave after giving birth or adopting a child,” said Patrice Gopo, a writer on race and parenting.

Gopo previously wrote for CT Women about the need to expand the “mommy wars” conversation:

When we talk about “motherhood,” we usually are talking about that small minority: primarily white women with a spouse and a certain level of financial means. Our limited scope ignores the reality that many women in the United States (and the world) are not in positions to make these choices. And for women of color able to make these choices, they may come to that position much differently than their white counterparts.

Overall, people still ...

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Mon, 22 May 2017 06:14:00 PDT
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