Tuesday 30 March 2021

9Marks Journal (March 2021) on How to Build Up Your Church

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available from here, looks at ‘How to Build Up Your Church: A Guidebook for Members’.

In the Editorial Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘For years now, 9Marks has argued that church membership is not just a status, it’s a job. By joining a church, you’re not joining a club, you’re stepping into an office. Jesus has given you work to do, and he’s given you the competence and authority to do it.

‘Most 9Marks Journals aim at pastors and church leaders. This one was written for members. Its purpose is to lay out some of the essential elements of that job. So we called it a guidebook…

‘Many other things in the news and the culture wars might be grabbing your attention right now. But amidst all that, don’t forget to spend time with your kids, be a good neighbor, work hard for your employer, and – our point here – work to build up your church. Aside from caring for your family, it might be the most important thing you can do to make a difference in the world around you, to say nothing of doing eternal good in people’s lives.’

Friday 26 March 2021

Nick Roark on How (Not) to Preach the Old Testament Prophets

There’s a short but helpful piece by Nick Roark, here, on ‘How (Not) to Preach the Old Testament Prophets’:

1. Don’t preach about the prophet. Preach the message of the prophetic book.

2. Don’t focus exclusively upon Israel. Highlight God’s glorious global purposes for all nations.

3. Don’t just preach divine judgment. Point to Christ and the bright hope of the New Covenant.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Theos Report on University Chaplaincy during the COVID–19 Pandemic

A new report from Theos has been published, looking at the role and contribution of university chaplains and faith advisors who have been on the frontline of the pandemic:

Simon Perfect, Relationships, Presence and Hope: University Chaplaincy during the COVID-19 Pandemic (London: Theos, 2021).

Here are some paragraphs from the Theos website:

‘Throughout the pandemic, chaplains and faith advisors have been supporting the isolated, comforting the bereaved, and providing pastoral and spiritual care to anyone who needs it.

‘In universities, chaplains have faced a massive health crisis among students. In November 2020, a survey of 4,193 students conducted for the National Union of Students found that 52% said their mental health was worse than it was before the pandemic, but only 29% of those people had sought any help.

‘This report captures the experience of higher education chaplaincy during the pandemic, drawing on interviews with 16 chaplains from universities across the UK. It explores the unique contributions of chaplains during this time, the challenges they have faced, and what lessons can be learned by chaplains and employers.’

A pdf of the full report is available here, and an executive summary is available here.

Friday 19 March 2021

Lausanne Global Analysis 10, 2 (March 2021)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdfs of individual articles as below.

Gina A. Zurlo and Todd M. Johnson

Is Christianity Shrinking or Shifting?

Since November 2012 when our first LGA issue was published, Christianity has become even more truly global. The center of the church has shifted from the North to the South, and there’s a growing influence of non-western Christianity. Todd Johnson and Gina Zurlo, editors of the World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, have written about what a truly global Christian family means in our first article, ‘Is Christianity Shrinking or Shifting?’

Steve Sang-Cheol Moon

Reaching Generation Z with the Gospel

There’s another demographic trend in recent years, and this is the rise of Generation Z. This is the youngest – and perhaps final – generation in our world to have distinctive characteristics. But who are the Gen Z-ers – and how can they be reached with the gospel? Steve Moon, Founder and CEO of Charis Institute for Intercultural Studies, suggests three concrete steps to help us progress from knowledge to action in his article, ‘Reaching Generation Z with the Gospel’.

CJ Davison & Richard Coleman

Racism and the Great Commission

Our next article, ‘Racism and the Great Commission’, is part one of two articles from the Lausanne YLGen Empower team. This article brings together a wide range of voices from across the world on the globally pressing topic of racism, and especially how it relates to the Great Commission.

Jenny James Taylor

The Holy Responsibility of Journalism

Unconscious biases, whether generational, racial, or vocational, impact the practice of journalism. But as a Christian journalist, Jenny Taylor uncovers the roots of journalism in the Christian values of freedom, justice, and truth in her article, ‘The Holy Responsibility of Journalism’. What would it look like to restore journalism ‘as a sacrament of all that we value’?

Dave Deuel

A Workplace for Mephibosheth

The final article in this 50th issue of LGA is by Dave Deuel, Lausanne Catalyst for Disability Concerns and Academic Dean Emeritus for The Master’s Academy International. In ‘A Workplace for Mephibosheth’, he shows how only a small fraction of persons with disabilities globally are employed. How can we transform workplace culture – and the world – by employing those with disabilities?

Friday 12 March 2021

Theology in Scotland 28, 1 (2021) on Theology in a Time of Covid-19

The articles in this special issue of Theology in Scotland all originate from an online conference, ‘TheoCon: Theology in a Time of Crisis 2020’, organised by the University of Edinburgh. Individual articles are available as pdfs from here.

Joanna Leidenhag

Guest Editorial

David Fergusson

Theology in Lockdown

Rebekah Lamb

Christian Consolation and Theology’s Task Today

John L. Bell

Theology and the Arts: The Corona Crisis

Christopher Southgate

Singing and Dancing in the Cruellest Month: A Reflection on Theology and Poetry in a Time of Covid

Andrew Root

Time-famine, Resource Obsession and the Good Life in a Pandemic

Jonathan C.P. Birch

Review Essay: When the Dancing Turned to Mourning: Theological Responses to the Pandemic

George Newlands

Rev Prof G.W.D. Shaw OBE (1928-2020)


Wednesday 10 March 2021

Whole-Life Mission for the Whole Church

Mark Greene and Ian J. Shaw (eds.), Whole-Life Mission for the Whole Church: Overcoming the Sacred-Secular Divide through Theological Education, ICETE Series (Carlisle: Langham Global Library, 2021).

The above collection, to which I contributed three chapters, grew out of a joint project by Langham Partnership and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity with theological educators around the world.

Mark Greene, one of the editors, introduces the concerns of the book in a short article here.

Here is the publisher’s description:

‘The sacred-secular divide permeates our churches, our seminaries, and our lives. By perpetuating the false belief that there are some areas of life that are not important to God, some callings that are second-class, and some spheres of society that are not worth engaging, the sacred-secular divide diminishes our understanding of God, discipleship, missiology, and the gospel itself.

‘Seeking to liberate the global church from the power of this dichotomy, Whole-Life Mission for the Whole Church provides theological educators with the tools they need to combat the sacred-secular divide in the very realm where it is so often generated: the classroom. Filled with contributions from practitioners around the world, this book contains a wealth of insight into both the nature of the problem and the possibilities for its solution. The approaches suggested here are biblically rooted, contextually appropriate, and experientially tested, offering an excellent resource for educators desiring to transform their institutional cultures, curriculums, and classrooms into environments that envision, empower, and liberate the whole church for its role in the mission of God.’

Further information is available from here.

Tuesday 9 March 2021

John Piper on Providence

John Piper, Providence (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020).

Crossway have made available a substantial volume (over 700 pages) by John Piper on the doctrine of providence.

Here’s the blurb:

‘The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.

‘John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence – from Genesis to Revelation – to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.’

Further information is available here, and a pdf of the book can be downloaded here.

Monday 8 March 2021

Tim Keller on Faith in the Face of Death

A friend and colleague directed me to a helpful and moving piece in The Atlantic, by Tim Keller, ‘Growing My Faith in the Face of Death’.

He writes about his and his wife’s response to his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer:

‘My wife, Kathy, and I spent much time in tears and disbelief. We were both turning 70, but felt strong, clear-minded, and capable of nearly all the things we have done for the past 50 years. “I thought we’d feel a lot older when we got to this age,” Kathy said. We had plenty of plans and lots of comforts, especially our children and grandchildren. We expected some illness to come and take us when we felt really old. But not now, not yet. This couldn’t be; what was God doing to us? The Bible, and especially the Psalms, gave voice to our feelings: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?” “Wake up, O Lord. Why are you sleeping?” “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”’

He notes that ‘religious faith does not automatically provide solace in times of crisis, and that a belief in God and an afterlife ‘does not become spontaneously comforting and existentially strengthening’. In fact, such beliefs, if we have them, ‘are often abstractions’. ‘If we don’t accept the reality of death, we don’t need these beliefs to be anything other than mental assents.’

Keller writes that, for him, ‘theoretical ideas about God’s love and the future resurrection had to become life-gripping truths, or be discarded as useless’.

What’s required, he says, is ‘both intellectual and emotional engagement: head work and heart work.’

The rest of the piece, which can be read here, goes on to describe what that has looked like for him and his wife.

Saturday 6 March 2021

Centre for Public Christianity (March 2021)

The Centre for Public Christianity has posted two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts, one (here) in which Francis Spufford ‘talks about heartbreak and loss, hope and eternity, in his latest novel, Light Perpetual’, and one (here) in which ‘best-selling children's author and publisher Susannah McFarlane tells… the story of her journey from atheism to Christian faith – which began in her 50s when she met her birth mother for the first time.’

Friday 5 March 2021

Biblical Counselling UK on Care in a Covid World

Recognising that ‘the pandemic of 2020-21 has brought a unique and serious set of challenges to the church in the UK’, Biblical Counselling UK has a set of articles and other resources here on various topics related to caring for each other in a Covid world.

Thursday 4 March 2021

John Stott 100 Years

‘2021 marks one hundred years since the birth of John Stott, an English Anglican who impacted evangelical Christianity in the 20th Century more than any other individual.’

Supported by several publishers, a new website has been launched by Langham Partnership – John Stott 100 Years – focusing on the literary legacy of John Stott.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Evangelical Alliance UK on the Missing Generation

The Evangelical Alliance UK has just released a report on the ‘missing generation’.

Some paragraphs from the Introduction set the scene:

‘They are known as the connected generation, the snowflake generation, the generation most talked about and talked to. Throughout coronavirus they have been criticised for their lack of social distancing and commended for their compassion and creativity. They are often at the forefront of the clamour for change in society and will be amongst the most affected by recent events.

‘Equipping the church to reach this generation of young adults and championing intergenerational unity is vitally important. We believe the whole church is stronger, healthier and richer when filled with all ages, and we tell a powerful story to the world when we model a united church of young, old and everyone in between.’

Further interviews and articles are available from here, and a pdf of the report is downloadable here.

Monday 1 March 2021

Mission Frontiers 43, 2 (March-April 2021)

The March-April 2021 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles on the topic of ‘Insider Movements’.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Rick Wood’s Editorial, which set the scene:

‘What is it about Insider Movements that is so controversial and makes so many people in the church and mission world uncomfortable? Is it simply the fear of syncretism or is something else going on?

I think some of the problem comes down to the fact that as human beings we like clear categories and definitive boxes with bold labels to put things and people into. We do not like being forced to deal with the gray areas where people don’t fit easily into neat categories or boxes.

‘The reality is that regardless of the label we put on the box, we are always going to have variations of what is in the box. Most people would assume that people in the box labeled “Christian” are followers of Jesus vs. something else like Muslim or Buddhist and they would generally be correct. But within every Christian box there will be an amalgam of faithful followers of Jesus and merely cultural adherents. It is a mixed box.’

The issue is available here, from where individual articles can be downloaded.