What will church cultures look like in America as it transitions into the post-Christian era? Pivotal for my understanding of a fresh perspective on church life was the study of Gordon Fee’s 967-page book God’s Empowering Presence (1994)—his careful and thorough study of the 169 references to the Spirit in the Apostle Paul’s letters. He […]Read More
Most traditional mainline Christians are still in the Sacred-Canopy Culture that prevailed through previous American history. After World War II the Modern Scientific Culture challenged the traditional. Mainline ministers oriented themselves to addressing that new culture. Traditional churches were on the defensive. But in recent decades young adult Americans have moved on to the Post-Modern […]Read More
A life without a heart is not worth living. Our hearts are the key to the Christian life. It is in the heart that we come to know him and learn to live in his love. And yet life has taught all of us to ignore and distrust the deepest yearnings of our heart. These […]Read More
When I was Professor of Administrative Sciences, I taught the senior capstone course Strategic Management. I still read the Wall Street Journal and Business Week to stay up with how corporations are changing their strategies for keeping up with the fast-paced changes in technology. For example, it is amazing how much impact Amazon has had on its competitors. It is following a disruptive strategy that is forcing big changes in other retailers. Many retailing jobs are already gone, and more will disappear as stores close and chains retrench.
A similar reorganization is happening in churches.
Strategy comes from the Greek word strategos, the general in charge of an army. The general determines when and where to fight the battle and then positions his troops to the best advantage. That’s strategy. Tactics are how the various units then achieve their assignments.
It has been very frustrating for me over the last 30 years to observe how few pastors and church leaders have any inkling that so many traditional church bodies today are carrying out a strategy developed centuries earlier. Most churches that still value their European heritage are implementing a village strategy. We really need to move on to a suburban strategy for ministry among people who do not know each other and judge congregations by what they experience there.
At their first church convention, the earliest disciples made a policy decision. They announced it in a letter to the rest of the church with this phrase: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . . “
Have you ever seen or heard of a church today that announces a decision with that phrase, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us that . . .”? I haven’t. I suspect you haven’t either.
I think traditional Protestant churches today no longer think of the Third Person of the Trinity as a vital part of our spiritual life. Yes, he was important in Bible times. But we don’t expect much from him today.Read More
The church I serve has the purpose statement “To Make and Grow Disciples.” We leaders work hard at bringing about that result. We all agree we have a long way to go.
When that statement was finalized, I quibbled with the wording. Making and growing disciples is the work of the Holy Spirit, who calls, enlightens, sanctifies and gathers all believers together in the Christian church. There is no disagreement with this classical statement of the role of the Third Person of the Trinity. But organizational purpose statements are supposed to be pithy and short. Do we really have to add the complication of the Spirit’s role in discipleship and church life? Yes, I think, for several reasons.Read More
In the fourth century the Christian church took a turn that still handicaps traditional churches today. The Roman emperor made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Most consider this a good development. Institutional Christianity then took on explosive growth.Read More
The most-read blog this past half year (5,198 readers) was Re-Discover the Forgotten Gospel. So, what is the full Gospel? This is a serious very practical question for Protestants today. Here is a very serious biblical answer, set forth in serious doctrinal format of ten theses to be defended. But first this summary:
To preach only salvation for eternity is to present only half the biblical Gospel. The rest is God’s grace in sending the Spirit to make our lives better now with what the Spirit produces, his Spiritual fruit of changed emotions in our lives. By grace, we are saved eternally and by grace, we can live better now.Read More
The steep decline that so many mainline churches are experiencing today was the subject of my book I published earlier this year, What Happened to our Churches, where I examined the rapid decline that so many mainline churches are faced with today.
This now well-recognized withering is especially widespread among mainline Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches. We are church bodies that value our Reformation heritage and share the background of being state-sponsored churches back in Europe. This heritage places us at a great disadvantage in the current American culture.
I just published my next book, Encourage Adventures in Step with the Spirit which focuses on our need to embrace new ministry practices. I advocate that the most basic change is to give more attention to the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal and church lives. What that looks like and how to do so is the emphasis in this second set of blogs.Read More
I’ve heard it many times: “It was a life-changing experience.” Such is a frequent comment from participants in short-term mission trips through our church and other mission agencies. For some it is taking a step in faith and discovering rewards. For others this is a reaction to first encountering poverty in under-developed countries. For one […]Read More
The charismatic movement of the 1960s through 80s touched many congregations in mainline denominations. So did conflict, as traditional pastors and church members encountered something not in our Reformation traditions—experiences of speaking in tongues, as practiced in Paul’s time. Considered a gift and blessing, this experience is expected for membership in Pentecostal churches. I was […]Read More