Need a good current sermon illustration for this Sunday?

You’ll be sure to find something that will spice up and add to this weekend’s message in the July issue of Ministry Briefing.

Maybe a statistic like half of all Americans will have some form of mental illness in their lifetime (according to the Center for Disease Control).

Or that Americans spend about $3,000 every minute on pornography.

Or maybe something a little more light-hearted, like the mix-up over hashtags at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Houston. The official promoted hashtag of the event was #SBC13, but it turns out that #SBC13 was also the official hashtag of the Sports Bra Challenge in New York City.This led to awkward tweets such as: “That was incredibly uplifting!” #SBC2013 and “I can’t tell if that pastor was glaring or staring at me” #SBC2013.

Order your copy today. 

Lesbians and abortion

Check out this Australian TV commercial, then check out this interesting twist from an article at Charisma:

Michael Brown writes:

What if the “born gay” fallacy was true and it was possible to identify a “gay baby” in the womb? Would the flaming liberals who so fiercely cling to a woman’s “right to choose” affirm her “right” to abort a gay fetus?

But for the sake of argument, and to go along with the absurd premise of the commercial, what if homosexuality was innate and there was a test to identify gay babies? Would it be acceptable to abort a gay fetus? Where would liberals stand on this moral issue?

As I noted in my book A Queer Thing Happened to America, “In 2008, Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler created a firestorm of controversy when he suggested that if it was determined that people were born homosexual, then perhaps a treatment for homosexuality could be found.  Gay activists were outraged by his comments (is anyone surprised?), and he even came under attack from conservatives who felt he had capitulated to the ‘born that way’ theory.

“But let’s think about this for a moment: If it is OK to put a girl with gender identity disorder on medication to delay the onset of puberty, then, as a teenager, to offer her sex-change surgery, then to put her on hormonal medication the rest of her life, why would it be wrong to look for a medical ‘treatment’ for homosexuality? And why would it be wrong to begin such treatment in the womb?

“Why is one treatment—a far more radical one!—fully acceptable while another one—far less radical and invasive—unacceptable? Why is one, which involves genital mutilation, applauded as progressive while the other, which does not affect the physical body at all, considered regressive? …

“If a gay person could be saved the stigma of rejection in a heterosexual world and could have new desires that would allow him or her to have offspring with the person he or she loves simply by getting a series of injections, wouldn’t it be worth it?”

All such talk, of course, is completely off limits (simply stated, if homosexuality is not a sickness, it doesn’t need a cure), but if gay activists want to push their “born gay” argument, then it’s only fair to ask if it’s morally acceptable to abort an allegedly gay fetus. Why not?

What a complex and complicated world we live in.

Thoughts?

Todd

Be happy you live in America.

According to MentalFloss.com, you get to enjoy freedoms that now everyone in the world can.  Here are some of the more obscure bans around the world:

1.  In France, ketchup is banned from schools.  (I wonder what they put on their “French” fries?)

2. It is illegal in Iran to have a mullet.  (They are a ‘decadent’ western men’s hairstyle… and I can’t say that I disagree).

3. Bangladesh has a total ban on plastic bags.

4. In Singapore, you need to have a prescription to chew gum (and yes… even the prescription gum is sugarless)

5.  Danish parents have to chose from a list of 7000 approved baby names when naming their newborn.  Anything that is not on the list must seek state church approval.

Read a few more here.

GO USA.

Todd

Being skeptical of the skeptics

Brilliant words from Seth Godin that most church leaders need to remember:

Here’s the thing about proving skeptics wrong: They don’t care. They won’t learn. They will stay skeptics. The ones who said the airplane would never fly ignored the success of the Wright Bros. and went on to become skeptical of something else. And when they got onto an airplane, they didn’t apologize to the engineers on their way in.

I used to have a list, and I kept it in my head, the list of people who rejected, who were skeptical, who stood in the way. What I discovered was that this wasn’t the point of the work, and my goal wasn’t actually to prove these folks wrong, it was only to do the work that was worth doing. So long ago I stopped keeping track. It’s not about the skeptics. It’s about the people who care about, support and enable.

Instead of working so hard to prove the skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers. They deserve it, after all, and they’re the ones that are going to spread the word for you.

Do you need to stop focusing on the skeptics in your church.

Stop trying to prove your point.

They won’t care (or acknowledge it when it turns out you’re right).

Instead, enjoy the work you’ve been called to do… the work that’s ‘worth doing’.

Read more here.

Todd

Flashback 1979: Promo for Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth

The promo, of course, starring Orson Welles

So… was the earth in great trouble in 1979?

And are we in worse trouble now?

Or did Hal Lindsey just laugh all the way to the bank on that one?

Todd

Nine marks of an abusive church

Taken from Ronald M. Enroth’s book:  Churches that Abuse

(1) Control-oriented style of leadership

Pat Zukeran explains: “The leader in an abusive church is dogmatic, self- confident, arrogant, and the spiritual focal point in the lives of his followers. The leader assumes he is more spiritually in tune with God than anyone else…. To members of this type of church or group, questioning the leader is the equivalent of questioning God. Although the leader may not come out and state this fact, this attitude is clearly seen by the treatment of those who dare to question or challenge the leader…. In the hierarchy of such a church, the leader is, or tends to be, accountable to no one. Even if there is an elder board, it is usually made up of men who are loyal to, and will never disagree with, the leader. This style of leadership is not one endorsed in the Bible (emphasis mine).”

(2) Spiritual elitism

Abusive churches see themselves as special. In his book, Enroth explains that abusive churches have an “elitist orientation that is so pervasive in authoritarian-church movements. It alone has the Truth, and to question its teachings and practices is to invite rebuke.”
(3) Manipulation of members
“Spiritually abusive groups routinely use guilt, fear, and intimidation as effective means for controlling their members. In my opinion, the leaders consciously foster an unhealthy form of dependency, spiritually and interpersonally, by focusing on themes of submission, loyalty, and obedience to those in authority,” explains Dr. Enroth on page 103 of Churches That Abuse.
(4) Perceived persecution

To explain this identifying mark, Zukeran writes: “Because abusive churches see themselves as elite, they expect persecution in the world and even feed on it. Criticism and exposure by the media are seen as proof that they are the true church being persecuted by Satan. However, the persecution received by abusive churches is different from the persecution received by Jesus and the Apostles.
Jesus and the Apostles were persecuted for preaching the truth. Abusive churches bring on much of their negative press because of their own actions. Yet, any criticism received, no matter what the source–whether Christian or secular–is always viewed as an attack from Satan, even if the criticisms are based on the Bible.”
(5) Lifestyle rigidity
Zukeran explains this mark as “a rigid, legalistic lifestyle of their members. This rigidity is a natural result of the leadership style. Abusive churches require unwavering devotion to the church from their followers. Allegiance to the church has priority over allegiance to God, family, or anything else. There are also guidelines for dress, dating, finances, and so on. Such details are held to be of major importance in these churches.
(6) Suppression of dissent

Abusive churches discourage questions and will not allow any input from members. The “anointed” leaders are in charge, PERIOD!

Enroth explains in his book that: “Unwavering obedience to religious leadership and unquestioning loyalty to the group would be less easily achieved if analysis and feedback were available to members from the outside. It is not without reason that leaders of abusive groups react so strongly and so defensively to any media criticism of their organizations.” (p. 162)

(7) Harsh discipline of members

Virtually all authoritarian groups that I have studied impose discipline, in one form or another, on members. A common theme that I encountered during interviews with ex-members of these groups was that the discipline was often carried out in public — and involved ridicule and humiliation,” writes Dr. Enroth (p. 152).

(8) Denunciation of other churches

According to Zukeran’s article on Enroth’s book, “abusive churches usually denounce all other Christian churches. They see themselves as spiritually elite. They feel that they alone have the truth and all other churches are corrupt…. There is a sense of pride in abusive churches because members feel they have a special relationship with God and His movement in the world. In his book Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth quotes a former member of one such group who states, “Although we didn’t come right out and say it, in our innermost hearts we really felt that there was no place in the world like our assembly. We thought the rest of Christianity was out to lunch….A church which believes itself to be elite and does not associate with other Christian churches is not motivated by the spirit of God but by divisive pride.”

(9) Painful exit process
Finally, Zukeran explains that abusive churches have “a painful and difficult exit process. Members in many such churches are afraid to leave because of intimidation, pressure, and threats of divine judgment. Sometimes members who exit are harassed and pursued by church leaders. The majority of the time, former members are publicly ridiculed and humiliated before the church, and members are told not to associate in any way with any former members. This practice is called shunning.

Many who leave abusive churches because of the intimidation and brainwashing, actually feel they have left God Himself. None of their former associates will fellowship with them, and they feel isolated, abused, and fearful of the world.”

Read more here at thewartburgwath.com

Do you agree with this list?  Have you ever been a part of an ABUSIVE church?  Which of these 9 marks was evident to you and caused you to leave?

Todd

Americans don’t like the word ‘religious’ anymore

We’re no longer “religious.” We’re “holy.” We’re “faithful.” We’re “spiritual.” We talk about what “the gospel compels us to do” or “gospel living.” Or “sabbatical living” and “God-oriented behavior.”  That’s according to a new story in the Washington Post today:

On one side of the spectrum are people such as prominent liberal scholar Diana Butler Bass, author of last year’s “Christianity After Religion,” who says the word “religion” is laden withnegative, hurtful and political baggage. The 20 percent of Americans who now call themselves unaffiliated with any religious group see religion as much too focused on rules.

On the other side are people such as super-popular shock pastor and writer Mark Driscoll, an evangelical conservative whose sermons have such titles as “Why I hate religion.” He preaches that the institutional church has wrongly let people feel good about themselves for their actions (such as going to worship services) instead of what they believe (which should be the Bible’s literal truth, in his view).

A member of Driscoll’s church produced one of early 2012’s most shared videos, “Why I love Jesus but hate religion,” which has been watched more than 25 million times. Set to cool music, it opens with a young man asking, “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Later, it characterizes most churchgoers as hypocrites and religion as a Band-Aid and “like spraying perfume on a casket.”

Last month, the president of the country’s largest “ex-gay” ministry blamed “religion” for the failure of his organization, Exodus International, which had claimed that its programs could make gay Christians straight.

“I believe the major failure of Exodus is that it promised to be completely different from the religious system that caused so many of us so much pain and yet became a religious institution of rules and regulations focused on behavior, sin management and short on grace,” Alan Chambers said in announcing Exodus’s end.

Jon Acuff, a popular evangelical motivational speaker, wrote in his blog a couple of years ago about a quest for new language, and he remarked on what he does if someone he doesn’t know describes him as “into religion.”

“Like any good Christian, I immediately said what we’re supposed to: ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not into religion, I’m into Jesus. I’m a Christian,’” Acuff wrote in the popular blog Stuff Christians Like.

Hundreds of Christians responded on his blog with words they use when asked their religious preference on Facebook. “Jesus is in charge of Everything.” “Jesus is my saving grace.” One person cited John 3:16, which says God gave his “one and only son.”

What’s going on? Is this about semantics or something more important?

Click here to find out and read more.  :)

QUESTION:  How does the word ‘religious’ strike you these days?

Why leadership really isn’t all that sexy…

Tom Lin says:

“Our culture today places a premium on avoiding suffering. Celebrities and our culture says ‘we want to do some good, but it’s not going to cause me a lot of suffering and it’s certainly won’t cost me my life. The American church isn’t helping much either as we make Christian leadership into a sexy thing, something cool, easy and shallow. We don’t want to engage with suffering ourselves and we certainly don’t teach our youth to engage in suffering…But when we look at scripture, God invites leaders to suffer. When Jesus calls leaders in the Gospels do you notice He always seems to ask leaders to die to the things they care most about.”

Thoughts?  You agree?

Read more and watch Tom on video here…

Todd

19 year old Senior Pastor in Alabama

He’s just 19, the Courtney Meadows has been preaching since he was six.

And now he’s the senior pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church in White Hall, AL.

Take a look at the story here.

So… is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Is 19 TOO young for this type of position?  Why or why not?

Thoughts?

Todd

Is God anti-gay?

It’s the hot topic of the moment. Christians, the church and the Bible seem to be out of step with modern attitudes towards homosexuality. And there is growing hostility towards those who hold a different view. So is God homophobic? And what do we say, and how do we relate to to both Christians and non Christians who experience same-sex attraction.

Thoughts?

Todd

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