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Are Corporations People Too?: Hobby Lobby and Religious Liberty

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Who would have ever imagined that a craft store chain owned by a Christian family would be at the center of a Supreme Court case about sexuality, abortifacient drugs, the role of corporations, and religious liberty? Oral arguments were heard today in the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The central point of the case is whether or not the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian bookstores, has the right to exercise their religious freedom in opting out of the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employer-provided health plans to offer emergency birth control drugs at no charge to their employees. The Greens have objected on religious grounds that such emergency birth control options are tantamount to abortion and that providing abortion-inducing drugs is a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs. Read More »

Methodism: John Wesley’s Plan to Bring Christ’s Holiness to the World

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What is Methodism?

Methodism is a Protestant denomination that emerged within Anglicanism during the 1700s that sought to inspire a deep evangelical ethos within the Church of England. Because they originally were methodical and highly disciplined in their approach to the Christian life, they were labeled “Methodists” by their opponents, a name which stuck. John Wesley, who did more than anyone to establish Methodism, did not initially intend it to become a separate denomination. As the movement matured, however, it became clear that significant differences emerged between Anglicanism and Methodism, a point which led to an official separation after Wesley’s death in 1791. Read More »

Top 10 Questions about Your Church’s Ministry with Teenagers

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If I were a senior pastor I would print the following list of questions, and I would take it to staff meeting for discussion. I would expect discussion to involve everyone. For example, I would expect those in ministry with children to consider how 12 years in their program will address question #1. I would expect those in adult ministry to have much to say about questions #7-9. I would expect those who lead senior adult ministry to address question #10 with creativity. And of course, I would keep the youth pastor at the heart of all the conversations. Read More »

Congregationalism: Self-Governing Churches “Gathered” Under Christ’s Rule

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What is Congregationalism?

In church history, the term Congregationalism refers to that form of ecclesiastical polity (or church governance) that envisions the spiritual authority of the church to reside in the local congregation. According to Congregationalists, Christ is the head of the church; he does not rule it through intermediary institutions that are above the church (such as bishops or presbyteries, bodies which are external to the local church). Rather, He rules each individual congregation immediately through his Word, the Scriptures. Because Christian believers are endowed with the Holy Spirit, they can rightfully interpret the Scriptures, “covenant” together under Christ’s kingship in local congregations, and ordain ministers who will faithfully lead them according to the Scriptures. Read More »

Do Not Neglect the Table: A Reminder to Parents

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I remember wondering why I could not have the little piece of bread and the small cup of juice that my friend Noel was able to take. I did not question my parents on that Sunday morning, but later asked my mom and she explained that Noel had given his life to Jesus, and you could only take the Lord’s Supper after you had become a Christian. She then explained the Lord’s Supper and the gospel. It was the beginning of my searching and as I was further exposed to the gospel (particularly one night at the parsonage at Falls Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina) eventually on June 14, 1981 my mom led me to the Lord and I put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Read More »

Godless Churches

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Recently, the New York Times ran an article citing scientific evidence that demonstrated that attending church is good for your health. The study revealed that people who regularly attend church, on average, live two to three years longer than non-attenders. This was one of a number of studies recently with similar results. Read More »

The Rap on Rap

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Recent furor over a panel discussion on rap at the NCFIC has ignited a controversy in the Christian cyber community. Tragedy is not lacking in some of what has been uttered. At the outset, I confess that I have neither the rhythm nor the quickness of mind to be a rapper so I do not participate just as I do not plan to treat my campus to my rendition of “O Holy Night” this Christmas. But contrary to the panel, I have used Christian rap in chapel and will not hesitate to do so again. I also initiated a jazz degree in Southwestern’s School of Church Music. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Revelation

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The book to end the Book is an incredible book. Some look at it as a road map through which they can navigate modern events. Therefore they go slow. They stop to gaze at the magnificent visions in Revelation, and as they gaze they wonder exactly why it is written this way. They poke and prod, they squeeze and mix, until what is extracted from this vision becomes a blend of modern events glazed over with speculation and hope. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Parables

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The parables of Jesus are go-to texts in preaching. They are so familiar, so convicting, so artful that they just beg to be preached. However the familiarity of the text can lull us into exegetical slumber: the state in which we never rethink our approach to understanding them. And what’s worse, the exegetical slumber leads to a homiletical boredom. If we think the text is predictable then we will preach it predictable ways. So, here are features of parables that we need to attend to while preaching parables. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Preaching Prophecy

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If the prophets are the leftovers of preaching, the Minor prophets are the vegetables—the really, really, last resort in text selection. With the exception of Jonah, rarely is a Minor prophet a go-to text. Why is it that these major chunks of the Old Testament are largely neglected? Three reasons come to mind. Read More »

Church Revitalization: Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

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There is a conversation that is getting louder in Southern Baptist circles, and it is one that I am very excited about. The SBC website says we are a network of over 45,000 churches with nearly 16 million members, but the reality is that we have a great percentage of churches that are plateaued or declining. I have seen statistics showing between 70 to 80 percent of our Southern Baptist churches are at this point. Any honest observation would admit there are many sick, dying, or even dead-and-just-do-not-realize-it-yet churches. Read More »

ObamaCare, Contraception, and the War on Women

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What is the war on women? The phrase has been used by various political groups to characterize attitudes related to the perspective on women’s roles in the home and workplace. In recent days, the idea of a war on women has been used to describe the debate over whether or not the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., ObamaCare) should provide all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives to women at no cost to them. The typical accusations of a war against women have been lobbed against conservatives who seek to limit the government’s role in providing contraceptives. Read More »

On Being a Pastor’s Kid, Part Three

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I love pastor’s kids (PK’s). I loved being one, and I love having them. I don’t mind the term PK and still wear it with pride. So far in this brief series, the first article focused those who are not the parents of pastor’s kids, and the second article addressed those who are. In this last article, I want to talk about being a pastor’s kid. Read More »

Are Christians ever excused from teaching and obeying clear commands in the New Testament?

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A forgotten, but surprisingly prescient, approach to questions regarding the necessity and future of Baptist denominational identity can be gleaned from the words of John A. Broadus (1827-1895) when he addressed the American Baptist Publication Society’s 1881 meeting in Indianapolis.

Broadus, one of the founding professors and later president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s first seminary, titled his sermon “The Duty of Baptists to Teach their Distinctive Views.Read More »

Presbyterianism: Carrying the Torch of “Reformed” Ecclesiology and Theology

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Last month when we examined Anglicanism, we noted that the denomination’s uniqueness originated in the way its founders sought to unite the best of Protestantism and Catholicism. They sought, in other words, a middle way between “Geneva” and “Rome.” This month we turn our attention to a group that sought to identify itself only with Geneva’s “Reformed” church: Presbyterianism. Read More »

On Being a Pastor’s Kid, Part 2

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Without question, the foundation of “training up a child in the way he should go” begins in the home. Being a pastor and a parent is not more difficult than any other parent in society. Like all parents, pastors are responsible for laying the groundwork for the spiritual welfare of their children. The complication comes when the roles of pastor and parent are seen in contradiction to each other. In reality, a pastor demonstrates his merit as a minister through his effectiveness as a parent. Read More »

Wholly Bible: Why Genre Matters in Preaching

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Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin’ trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Preaching a sermon demands a lot of thought. There is the exegesis of the text, which demands quite a bit of time and energy. Then there is the exegesis of the audience. How will the listener receive what God has said? In all of this, who has time to consider the genre in which the text was written? This is where Willie Nelson helps us. Read More »

Are unbelievers most helped by believers who trust the Bible?

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A forgotten, but surprisingly prescient, approach to questions regarding the necessity and future of Baptist denominational identity can be gleaned from the words of John A. Broadus (1827-1895) when he addressed the American Baptist Publication Society’s 1881 meeting in Indianapolis.

Broadus, one of the founding professors and later president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s first seminary, titled his sermon “The Duty of Baptists to Teach their Distinctive Views.Read More »

Pastoral Pitfalls: 5 Guidelines for Personal & Church Finances

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Every semester when I talk to my students about the many pitfalls that ministers need to avoid, I ask them to name the most dangerous areas where a minister could make a catastrophic mistake. Inevitably the number one answer is some sort of sexual sin. As we continue the conversation, especially if I ask them to give examples of reasons why someone could be fired or asked to resign from a ministry position, the next common answer is mishandling of money. Read More »

Text-Driven Preaching and Sermon Form

All preaching rests upon certain convictions about the nature of God, the Scriptures, and the Gospel. James Barr said he doubted whether the Bible itself, regardless of one’s view of inspiration, can furnish the preacher with a model for sermon form and content that could be conceived as normative.1 Such a statement is clearly informed by a less than evangelical view of biblical authority. Contrast this with Haddon Robinson’s statement: “Expository preaching, therefore, emerges not merely as a type of sermon—one among many—but as the theological outgrowth of a high view of inspiration. Expository preaching then originates as a philosophy rather than a method.”2 Read More »

Stop, Drop, & Pray!

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If you have walked in Christian circles for any amount of time at all, it has happened to you. An individual confides in you about a prayer need in his or her life and requests that you would pray for them. How do we respond? I’ve never heard anyone say, “No, I don’t have time for that, but good luck.” Of course not, we normally quickly respond that we will pray and go on about our business. Sometimes we remember the request and pray about it quickly, but I will confess there have been times in my life that I have completely forgotten about the matter and have been unfaithful in my commitment to pray for my brother or sister. In essence, I have lied to someone. I told them I would do something and failed to do it. Read More »

On Being a Pastor’s Kid, Part 1

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Being a pastor’s kid is no harder than being anyone else’s kid. It’s just different. For too long we’ve used the image of a fishbowl as though that’s a bad thing. I am a pastor’s kid, I am married to a pastor’s kid, reared four pastor’s kids, my oldest son is married to a pastor’s kid, another of my boys is engaged to a pastor’s kid, and three of our four boys have expressed a call to Christian ministry, increasing the possibility of future pastor’s kids in our family. We like pastor’s kids in our home! Read More »

An Altar Inscribed “To the Unknown Preaching Method”

On any given Sunday in today’s preaching pantheon, one can observe a diverse group of devotees, some paying homage to the chapel of “creativity,” others sitting at the feet of the “culturally relevant.” Some are transfixed at the nave marked “narrative,” while others have their hearts strangely warmed at the chasse of “pop-psychology.” There is never a shortage of worshippers at the “new homiletic” altar, and the “topical” shrine always receives its share of Sunday patrons. Fearful that some as of yet undiscovered homiletical “method” might be missed, the gatekeepers of the pantheon have installed an altar inscribed “to the unknown preaching method.” It is that method which I declare unto you. Actually, the method itself is not “unknown” at all, and like the true church on earth, it has always had its practitioners in every era of church history. In fact, it is the oldest method in the preaching pantheon, having been used by the earliest preachers as far back as the apostolic era of the church. It is called “expository preaching.” Read More »