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Current Events, Current Events, Start Here
Each week, my friend Matt Steen and I compile the top 50 stories that we think you should be reading in a publication we call Ministry Briefing.  Here’s a sampling of FIVE stories from this week’s edition:

Majority of Americans Identify as Christians

A new study found that 75% of Americans are still self-identifying as Christian, and 8 in 10 saying that they attend religious services. Of those who identify as Christian, half are Protestant and a quarter are Catholic. Of those who use the general classification of “religious,” 90% are Christian. Source: Christianity Today

Voters Nominate the Most Hated Words of 2014

In Lake Superior State University’s 40th annual list of words nominated for banishment by members of the public, over 800 entries were submitted before a final list of words were chosen by the committee based on them being overused or misused. The 2014 list included: bae, hack, foodie, Polar Vortex, enhanced interrogation, and “cra-cra.” Source: Chicago Sun Times keep reading
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Leadership
Is call to ministry important these days?  To be honest, I don’t hear the words ‘called to ministry’ much anymore.  Heard it all the time when I was growing up… either you were ‘called to ministry’ or your were not.  If you were ‘called to ministry’ and you decided at any point that God had you in anything other than a church role… well, then you had some ‘splainin’ to do. Perhaps the whole discussion of ‘calling’ broke down when the church started hiring so many specialists.  Sure, senior pastors are ‘called’.  But what about children’s pastors; and music pastors, and tech people; and first impressions staff… the list goes on and on. That’s why I was glad to hear about Andrew Warnock’s 9 minute interview with Matt Chandler on “Calling to Ministry.  It’s obviously a couple of years old… but great, none the less.”  Take a look and tell me what you think. Specificially… 1.  How important is ‘calling’? 2.  Tell us about your ‘calling. 3.  Do you require that people on your staff feel ‘called’?  What does that look like? I’d love to hear from you! Todd
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“You walk in entitlement, you will simply empower entitlement underneath you. You want to talk trickle-down effect? You got an entitled pastor, you’ll have an entitled staff. That then leads to an entitled laity, that leads to the death of a church.”
During a recent webcast, Chandler shared a story of a friend who came to pray with him before he delivered a sermon several years ago. The friend, Josh, put dirt in Chandler’s hands, poured water on the dirt and told him to rub his hands together. “Kingdom hands are dirty hands,” he told Chandler. “You want to serve the Lord, you’re always going to have dirty hands,” said Chandler. “You don’t get to a place, you don’t get to a size where your hands are clean, your heart is free from the heartbreak, loss, the celebration, the need for prayer, the desperation that comes from leading and walking with God’s people.” The direct influence of The Village Church will probably “vanish” in the next 100 years, he said, so the church’s focus should be on making a wider impact for the kingdom of God instead of building up itself. The Village does this, he said, by supporting missionaries and church plants. “I think the more clingy you are about what’s yours the more you reveal you have an unhealthy culture, and you’re a bit insecure, and when all is said and done, you trying to build the church is actually you trying to feel better about you,” said Chandler. He challenged those listening to become less self-focused by asking: How eagerly do you celebrate the successes of other local ministries? How easy is it for you to critique growing ministries and point out their flaws? Are men and women in your church maturing? Is your church making an impact for the kingdom beyond itself, and are you helping missionaries and other churches? Chandler also exhorted pastors to find their worth in God, not in their church’s attendance. // Good stuff. Todd Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/matt-chandler-to-pastors-entitlement-kills-churches-83826/#e7BU7bGuHZ7JmTPo.99
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Current Events, Leadership
In a very large announcement, Mark Driscoll writes today at the Acts 29 Blog: Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff. In light of this, I want to sincerely thank the people of Mars Hill for investing millions of dollars over the years in Acts 29 and the people of The Village for being willing to house the Acts 29 headquarters. As for myself, I want to humbly serve Jesus and his men in Acts 29 by doing whatever is best for them. Going forward, I will gladly remain on the Acts 29 Board supporting Matt, along with Darrin and whomever else Matt believes best fits the Board. Mars Hill gladly stays in Acts 29 as well. I’ll be spending much of my time going forward serving all of Acts 29, pastoring at Mars Hill, helping the Resurgence, writing books, organizing preaching campaigns, and doing media interviews.  You can read more here… Thoughts? Did anyone see this coming? Todd
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Controversy
In this clip, Matt Chandler reminds there is error in both the orthodoxy and evangelistic camps. Perry Noble agrees that doctrinal error needs to be called out but with some good suggestions for who and how. David Platt concludes with a great challenge about the importance of the purity of the gospel. The Elephant Room is coming up next Wednesday, January 25… You can register for one of the 65+ locations across the country here. Todd
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Leadership
Matt Chandler writes:  I was 28 when I became the pastor of Highland Village First Baptist Church (now known as The Village Church). I had had a rough go early on in my church experience, and at that time I was not fully out of my “disenchanted with the local church” phase. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure at the time that church membership was biblical. Despite that, the Spirit had made it all too clear that I was going to be pastoring this small church in the suburbs of Dallas. That was one of the many ironies of my life in those days. Highland Village First Baptist Church was a “seeker-sensitive” church in the Willow Creek mold and had no formal membership process, although they were actively working on one and wanted the new pastor’s input. I had a strong understanding of the church universal but wasn’t well versed—and, as I said, somewhat skeptical—about the church local. We started growing quickly with young and oftentimes disenchanted 20-somethings who usually had no church background, or bad church backgrounds. They liked The Village because we were “different.” This always struck me as strange because we weren’t doing anything but preaching and singing. If there is no understanding of local church membership, then who are we to submit to and obey? In conversations with these men and women I began to hear things like “The church is corrupt; it’s just about money and a pastor’s ego,” or “I love Jesus, it’s the church I have a problem with.” My favorite one was, “When you organize the church it loses its power.” Although something occasionally resonated in me with these comments (I, along with most of my generation, have authority and commitment issues), I found them confusing since they were being made to me by people who were attending the church where I was the pastor. Read more at The Resurgence. Question:  How does YOUR church handle membership?  Big deal or no deal?
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Leadership
At the recent Elephant Room conference, I was really impressed with the speakers and how they discussed their disagreements.  I wish the Body of Christ as a whole were mature enough to relate as well as these folks did. When we disagree in the church, our first tendency is to tear down or degrade the other person or ministry. There are tons of blogs that make their claim to fame on just that. But it takes maturity, and quite frankly, much more time and effort to reasonably discuss your disagreements with another brother. Take a look at these two great exchanges… the first between Matt Chandler and Steven Furtick; the second between Perry Noble and Mark Driscoll. And, I must say, James MacDonald does a masterful job at setting the tone. Don’t you wish this was more representative of the body of Christ as a whole? Please take a moment to leave a comment… Thanks, Todd
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Leadership
Justin Taylor has a great interview with Matt Chandler over at The Gospel Coalition website.  It’s been one year since Matt was diagnosed with a very serious form of brain cancer. Here’s a little from Justin’s interview…
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself on the evening of November 24, 2009, what would you have said to prepare Matt Chandler for the year ahead?
I think I would hug myself and just say, “He’s prepared you.”
What role has your theology played in sustaining you throughout this year?
I’m not sure how men and women without a strong view of God’s sovereignty and authority over all things handle things like this.
There were at least 3 meetings with my doctors early on where I felt like I got punched in the soul. In those moments when I was discombobulated and things felt like they were spinning out of control, my theology and the Spirit were there to remind me that “He is good and He does good”—to remind me that God has a plan for His glory and my joy that He is working. I was reminded that this cancer wasn’t punitive but somehow redemptive (Romans 8).

If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself on the evening of November 24, 2009, what would you have said to prepare Matt Chandler for the year ahead?

I think I would hug myself and just say, “He’s prepared you.”

What role has your theology played in sustaining you throughout this year?

I’m not sure how men and women without a strong view of God’s sovereignty and authority over all things handle things like this.

There were at least 3 meetings with my doctors early on where I felt like I got punched in the soul. In those moments when I was discombobulated and things felt like they were spinning out of control, my theology and the Spirit were there to remind me that “He is good and He does good”—to remind me that God has a plan for His glory and my joy that He is working. I was reminded that this cancer wasn’t punitive but somehow redemptive (Romans 8).

You can read the rest of the interview right here…
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Current Events
A great article from Associated Press writer Eric Gorski on Matt Chandler:  Matt Chandler doesn’t feel anything when the radiation penetrates his brain. It could start to burn later in treatment. But it hasn’t been bad, this time lying on the slab. Not yet, anyway. A little more from the article: Chandler’s lanky 6-foot-5-inch frame rests on a table at Baylor University Medical Center. He wears the same kind of jeans he wears preaching to 6,000 people at The Village Church in suburban Flower Mound, where the 35-year-old pastor is a rising star of evangelical Christianity. Another cancer patient Chandler has gotten to know spends his time in radiation imagining that he’s playing a round of golf at his favorite course. Chandler on this first Monday in January is reflecting on Colossians 1:15-23, about the pre-eminence of Christ and making peace through the blood of his cross. Chandler’s hands are crossed over his chest. He wears a mask with white webbing that keeps his head still when metal fingers slide into place on the radiation machine, delivering the highest possible dose to what is considered to be fatal and incurable brain cancer. This is Matt Chandler’s new normal. Each weekday, he spends two hours in the car – driven from his suburban home to downtown Dallas – for eight minutes of radiation and Scripture. At the hospital, Chandler sees other patients in gowns who get chemotherapy through catheters in their chests and is thankful he gets his in pills before going to sleep at home next to his wife. Chandler is trying to suffer well. He would never ask for such a trial, but in some ways he welcomes this cancer. He says he feels grateful that God has counted him worthy to endure it. He has always preached that God will bring both joy and suffering but is only recently learning to experience the latter. Since all this began on Thanksgiving morning, Chandler says he has asked “why me?” just once, in a moment of weakness. He is praying that God will heal him. He wants to grow old, to walk his two daughters down the aisle and see his son become a better athlete than he ever was. Whatever happens, he says, is God’s will, and God has his reasons. For Chandler, that does not mean waiting for his fate. It means fighting for his life. You can read much more here… Join me today as I pray for Matt. Todd
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