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Controversy
As this news report from PBS shows, Claremont Lincoln University, a graduate school in California, is the first in the United States to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims in the same classrooms to educate the future leaders of churches, synagogues and mosques. Claremont Lincoln is actually the creation of a much older institution, United Methodist-affiliated Claremont School of Theology, founded in 1885.  It partnered with Southern California’s Academy of Jewish Religion and the Islamic Center of Southern California to form this new school. Students attending this school can get master’s degrees in divinity, rabbinic studies and Muslim counseling. You can watch the report here.   hmmmm… thoughts? Todd
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Controversy
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) offered some interesting advice to a viewer named Mohammad, who wrote in with a qualm in the Sept. 7 airing of Robertson’s show, “The 700 Club,” about fellow Christians reacting negatively to his name. “I have a problem: I find it difficult to tell people my name at restaurants and coffee shops,” Mohammad wrote in. “The minute they hear my name, I’m treated as a foreigner and a terrorist. I am a Christian, and it’s hard because it seems like some of the harshest vitriol directed towards me comes from Christians. What do you suggest?” Robertson’s advice? “You’re named after the founder of Islam, that’s where the Mohammad comes from,” replied the former television evangelist. “It’s a very popular name, but you’re in a country where Mohammad is not. Go on and get your name changed to, like, Mo or something.” via Pat Robertson Tells Christian Man Named Mohammad to ‘Change Your Name’, Christian News. hmmmm….
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Current Events
Oh the horror.  Oh the shock.  Ultimate-Guitar.com has this breaking news: Alice Cooper has revealed that he’s been teaching bible classes to kids. The godfather of shock rock works as a substitute teacher at his local church in Arizona, reports The Sun. He said: “You should see the look on people’s faces. ‘Alice Cooper teaching Bible class? But he’s the spawn of the Devil!'” The singer, whose real name is Vincent Furnier also said his father was a pastor and that inspired him to take up the classes. “Surely people get it by now – Alice is just a character,” he added. “Alice hates going to church, but I go every Sunday.” via Ultimate-Guitar.Com. // I always thought Alice Cooper was a strange name… turns out Vincent Furnier isn’t much better.  🙂 Todd
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Leadership
Interesting post over at ChurchLeaders.com.  They asked some very successful ministry leaders what they would do-over in their ministry.  Here are a couple of the responses:   Be more patient with people in the church, with other ministers and schools of thought. —Matt Chandler, The Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas   Not be so dogmatic and blunt. —Robert Emmitt, Community Bible Church, San Antonio, Texas   Is ‘dogmatism’ and ‘impatience’ a part of your ministry?  How do you bridge the gap between truth, patience, arrogance, and bluntness? These guys wish they had a do-over. What do YOU wish YOU had a ‘do-over’ on? Todd via ChurchLeaders.com
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Uncategorized
Tithing to mainline Protestant churches as a percentage of income is at its lowest level in at least 41 years, according to a new report, and churches are keeping a greater share of those donations for their own needs. Parishioners gave about 2.38 percent of their income to their church, according to “The State of Church Giving through 2009,” a new report being released this month by Empty Tomb inc., a Christian research agency in Champaign, Ill. Just over 2 percent of income went toward congregational finances, such as operating costs and building expenses. Only 0.34 percent of parishioner income went to what Empty Tomb calls “benevolences,” such as charities and seminary training beyond the four walls of the church. Those are new lows, at least going back to the first report in 1968. via The Washington Post. QUESTION:  Do you even have any idea what the average person in your church gives?  Is it more than 2.38%?
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Controversy
Interesting post over at Out of Ur recently… they ask the question as to whether or not you would attend a same sex wedding ceremony.  They use a quote from Al Mohler that says they he thinks it would be difficult for a Christian to attend:
The traditional Christian ceremony, as reflected in The Book of Common Prayer, asks if anyone present knows of any reason why the couple should not be joined in holy matrimony. That is not intended as a hypothetical question. It is intended to ensure that no one present knows of any reason that the union should not be solemnized, recognized, and celebrated…. To remain silent at that point is to abdicate theological and biblical responsibility. Even if the question is not formally asked in the ceremony, the issue remains. We cannot celebrate what we know to be wrong.
Interesting dilemma.  One I really hadn’t thought of. To be honest, I don’t know that I’m going to be invited to a same sex ceremony any time soon. But I bet my kids or grandkids will. How should they respond? Mohler says, “We cannot celebrate what we know to be wrong.” Agree.  But sometimes we do.  It’s just not same sex marriage we’re celebrating. When one of our kids or a family we know has a kid who has a child out of wedlock, it does put us in a somewhat awkward situation at times.  Do we celebrate this new child who was conceived ‘in sin’? That seems a little more pragmatic a thing for most of us to talk about than whether we’d attend a same sex marriage ceremony. After all, we can’t celebrate something we know to be wrong.  Right? Maybe I’m getting too caught up in the word ‘celebrate’.  But we deal with people everyday that have ugly sin attached to their lives:  they may be divorced, or a drunk, or a liar, or a thief, or a gossip, or a glutton, or may interpret scripture on an issue totally different than we do. Don’t get me wrong.  Taking a stand is important.  But so is not being a… well a word that I shouldn’t print here.  It seems like a fine line that most of us Christians don’t manage very well. Do you agree with Mohler’s statement?  And where do YOU draw the line? Would you attend a same sex ceremony?  Would you ‘celebrate’ at the baby shower of a baby conceived out of wedlock?  Aren’t these kind of the same thing only one is more social acceptable than the other? Call me crazy. Todd
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Current Events
As a prominent evangelical pastor and supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking heat for calling Mormonism a “cult,” a newly released poll says most Protestant pastors in U.S. agree that Mormons are not Christians. Three out of four pastors surveyed by Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research said they disagreed with the statement that Mormons are Christians. The poll was conducted in October 2010 but was not released until Sunday (Oct. 9). The poll of 1,000 Protestant clergy reflects a continuing a challenge for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, in connecting with evangelicals, who are a key GOP constituency. Reponses to the poll differed somewhat by denomination, with two-thirds (67 percent) of evangelicals strongly disagreeing that Mormons are Christians, compared to only 48 percent of mainline Protestants. via The Washington Post. OK… so let’s say that Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination.  Are you more prone to take on mormonism from your church’s pulpit?  If so, what will you say about Mormonism?  Is it a cult? How will you respond? Todd
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Outreach
Membership in an active church can present some incredible opportunities to travel outside the United States to faraway lands where your volunteer efforts can have a great impact upon the lives of local people. Many US churches do conduct active periodic mission trips to Third World nations in order to fulfill certain activities that without these volunteers would either be underdeveloped or nonexistent. However, even though this is a church activity, there are certain reasons why you should NOT participate including: Do Not Go If You Believe You Are Taking Jesus With You

Some of the worst experiences I have seen people have when participating in an overseas missions trip is the naïve belief that the volunteers are taking Jesus to a place where there are people that God has either forgotten or abandoned. Keep in mind that God does not need you to take Him anywhere. God is already where you are traveling to. In fact, God may be taking you to places so you can see His work personally. You need to make sure if you’re going on a mission trip that you also expect to see God’s action around you as opposed to coming through you.

Do Not Use A Missions Trip As A ‘Group Building’ Experience

If the group in which you are traveling has not already been thoroughly “built,” thoroughly trained and already possesses its own identity, do not expect the activity during an overseas missions trip to create such identity because this particular goal will only distract from the actual mission goal offering some form of help to the people and the location to where you are traveling.

Do Not Use A Missions Trip To Make Kids Excited About Jesus

One of the biggest problems I’ve seen throughout the years is groups taking mission trips that bring the wrong kids with them. This does not necessarily mean kids who are sort of non-committal in their belief about serving God but have not really caught on yet to its beneficial reality, because these kids usually work out in the long run. The kids I am talking about are the ones that are more concerned with experiencing the adventure of a lifetime rather than serving Jesus Christ. Mission trips that bring children looking for adventure, usually wind up with challenges because these kids wind up finding that adventure in all the wrong places.

Don’t Go On A Mission Trip To Just Swing A Hammer

If you have as a goal in going on an overseas mission trip so you can swing a hammer, hang drywall, install plumbing or some kind of other “construction-like” activity, save all your expenses and stay home. You can always volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and not spend a lot of money traveling clear across the world to do the same thing you can do at home. The most important activity that can really have a great deal of impact on another person’s life during any cross-cultural mission trip is building a relationship with the people you serve. What a great blessing is people who want to invest relationship capital when it may not be comfortable to accomplish this. Typically, people who go on mission trips who hide their giving hearts behind saws and hammers are viewed as contractors that make local people feel poorly about themselves since they cannot afford to pay for the construction completed.

Don’t Use A Missions Trip To Expose Students To Poorly, Downtrodden Third World Populations

Too often, goals set by well-intentioned church leaders and parents are to expose their children to the hardship of life experienced in undeveloped countries. Going on a mission’s trip with this thought in mind usually only reinforces the same stereotypes that kids originally had before they embarked on a trip. Kids on a mission’s trip need to hear from real people that are passionately building God’s kingdom, loving Jesus and are exactly where the Lord wanted them to be. A missions trip plan should be guided by lots of prayers that the stereotypes held by your kids are never reinforced but are quickly crushed and shattered from their once held beliefs.

Do Not Use A Missions Trip If It Is Believed To Be Just Something To Do That Is Somewhere Other Than Home

As a Christian, taking upon a “mission” is a lifelong commitment and not something that is just done once a year. A group experiencing a mission trip with the belief that such activity comes from a consistent mission that we are all on for life will arrive in the field with the correct spirit and heart in order to serve God. If not, the trip may actually do more harm than good if the participant believes that they should separate the “mission” from their everyday life back home.

Practice At Home Before You Preach On The Road

This is a follow-up from the statement above insomuch that people involved in a missions trip should not be going into the field to practice their Christianity. Practicing your Christianity should always begin at home before taking to the field. I cannot emphasize this more strongly. Sometimes kids have such arrogance that they believe themselves superior to the people they are serving and whatever they are offering will be well accepted by the people they have come to serve. This attitude does not necessarily contribute to participants on a mission trip giving the “first fruits” of time, talent and, above all, love.

Always remember that the battle does not belong to you but to God. (2 Chronicles 20:15)

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