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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

Here’s a snapshot at how Tim Keller prays… I try to do petition in the morning. I try to do repentance in the evening. So I try to pray in the morning and in the evening. In the evening I look back on what I did wrong and repent. But in the middle of the day I try to catch myself and I look for four kinds of emotions. I always pray in the morning, “Lord make me happy enough in the grace of Jesus to avoid being proud, cold, scared, and hooked.” Now, in the middle of the day I get it out and say, “Have I been proud, scared, cold, or hooked in the last 3-4 hours. And the answer usually is “Yeah.” And then I say, “How do I bring the Gospel to bear on that? How does the grace of God deal with it?” And you try to catch yourself in those feelings. So basically finding problem feelings and inordinate desires, catch them when they’re happening, try to deal with them with the Gospel right there. I call that “Quick Strike” on my idols around noon, if I can remember it. And repentance at night and petition in the morning. So I try to get into God’s presence three times a day. via Reformissionary: Tim Keller on Preaching to Himself. Seems like a good plan to me.  Do YOU have a plan for how you pray, or do you just do it?  

I can see pastors all across America, sitting in their basements in their underwear, sorting and trading these: I can hear it now… I’ll trade you a John Calvin for a Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Are you crazy?  No way.  But I’ll trade you a Driscoll, Chandler, Noble, and Furtick for a Tim Keller. OK… sounds like a fair trade. Let the games begin. BTW… you can order them from… They release TOMORROW!  Here’s all the geeky details: Patterned after the all-American baseball card, Theologian Trading Cards provide essential information about the major teachers, leaders, and trouble-makers throughout the history of the Church. At a glance you will have access to information regarding 288 important figures in church history, including when and where they lived, their contribution to the church, and enduring significance. Each figure has been placed on the roster of one of 15 ‘theological’ or ‘historical’ teams; this aids readers in discovering the practical, chronological, and theological connections between figures. Examples include the Orthodoxy Dodgers (heretics); St. James Padres (Church Fathers of the Patristic Era); and the Wittenberg Whistle-blowers (Early Reformers and later Lutheran Church). Theologian Trading Cards are perfect for students taking a church history course who want a memorable study aid to help them retain important information about select individuals in the church, as well as non-students who just want to learn or want to begin a hobby of card collecting.

Leadership Journal recently interviewed both Tim Keller and Andy Stanley.  Both have recently written books on reaching communities. But Andy and Tim are very different from each other in their approach. This LJ article shows the differences and the similarities that you might find interesting:
Geographically, New York and Atlanta are less than 900 miles apart. Culturally, they occupy different universes. New York is fast-paced, cutthroat, and secular. Atlanta, by contrast, is southern, faith-friendly, the last big loop on the Bible Belt. • Like the cities in which they minister, Tim Keller and Andy Stanley are markedly different as well. Stanley is a pragmatist, a leader’s leader known for his vision and commitment to creating environments where the unchurched feel welcomed. Keller, on the other hand, is a professorial presence, a skilled theologian who effectively addresses the doubts of intellectual urbanites. • Both have new books explaining their distinctive ministry philosophies. Tim Keller’s tome is Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Zondervan, 2012). Andy Stanley’s magnum opus is Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend (Zondervan, 2012). • We spoke with Keller and Stanley about what they’ve written. Their answers uncovered some deep differences—and surprising similarities.
First, the book trailers: Read the article here…

…To reach people we must appreciate and adapt to their culture, but we must also challenge and confront it. This is based on the biblical teaching that all cultures have God’s grace and natural revelation in them, yet they are also in rebellious idolatry. If we overadapt to a culture, we have accepted the culture’s idols. If, however, we underadapt to a culture, we may have turned our own culture into an idol, an absolute. If we overadapt to a culture, we aren’t able to change people because we are not calling them to change. If we underadapt to a culture, no one will be changed because no one will listen to us; we will be confusing, offensive, or simply unpersuasive. To the degree a ministry is overadapted or underadapted to a culture; it loses life-changing power. More GREAT Keller quotes here… in fact… we website that is devoted to them!

OK… now that I have your attention. An interesting piece over at the Resurgence website this morning where Tim Keller talks about “Evangelistic Worship”. Overall, it’s a really well-written piece. But this is the ‘callout’ on the post. A quote by Tim Keller:
The only way to have non-Christians in attendance is through personal invitation by Christians.
While I know the point that Tim is making (especially about making worship ‘comprehensible to unbelievers’). His point about people not inviting non-christians to church UNLESS the worship is ‘comprehensible’ is the main takeaway of this piece for me. The importance of Christians actually inviting people to a church service that they can understand cannot be underscored. But if Tim is saying that invitation is the ONLY way that unbelievers end up in church, that MAY be overstated. We have people nearly every week that kind of wander in.  They’re new in the community.  They’re experiencing a life-crisis.  They see our sign and are curious.  They see and advertisement.  The come across our website.  Could be any number of things. So… if I have to disagree on anything with Tim Keller, I guess I’ll choose this.  He is so freakingly brilliant on everything. And… even if I’m taking Keller totally out of context, I’ll stand by my statement… Tim Keller is wrong. [waiting for lighting strike]
via Evangelistic Worship | The Resurgence.

Gabe Lyons and Tim Keller had a very interesting webcast last week. The topic: Living in a “post-Christian” world. Here are some quotes captured by The Christian Post: Tim Keller: “My understanding of how you reach a culture is Christians have to be extremely like the people around them, and yet at the same time extremely unlike them… If Christians are not unlike they won’t challenge the culture, but if they’re not like, they won’t persuade the culture. Now, hitting that middle ground is hard.” “Before the coming of Christ believers were culturally different…Christ comes, and now you can be a Christian in every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Jesus gets rid of the ceremonial laws and all those things that made Christians culturally strange. In that sense, [now] your neighbor is like you.” “There’s got to be a balance. On the one hand … traditional Christian marketplace ministries have put all the emphasis on spiritual support, and that’s fine and very important…But rather than just simply evangelizing, recycling and nurturing people inside their vocation, they ought to be asking ‘how does the gospel affect the way in which I do my work, how does it shape my work?’” Gabe Lyons: “The difference between a pre-Christian setting is a lot different than a post-Christian world. We’re dealing with a lot of baggage here in America… People don’t feel like they have a lot of needs – they don’t feel ‘down and out.’ [So] instead of only focusing on the ‘down and out,’ which can be easy for a lot of churches, how do you start focusing on the ‘up and in’ – those who have money, who live in the kinds of homes they’ve always dreamed of living in… I think this is a new place we have to discover what it looks like to pioneer the gospel going forward in this moment and it’s not going to look necessarily like it did pre-Christian years.” “In an industrial city, work matters so much to so many people. But they are many times doing it without a purpose – they’re doing it to make money to keep up. What I think is unique about the Christian calling is understanding that the kind of work and vocations and occupations we take on really do relate to sense some purpose and mission.” “Being a Christian is not only making a decision to follow Jesus but it’s how we live our life today” like “people who are called instead of just looking at” a job as just a job.” via America’s Got Baggage? Approaching A Post-Christian World with Tim Keller, Gabe Lyons, Christian News, The Christian Post. What do you think? I find Tim Keller’s thoughts about the balance being very important to be vitally true.  And it’s a balance that’s hard to find in our ever-changing culture (to be sure)… I also thought Gabe’s thought on the church needing to reach the ‘up and in’ crowd to be interesting.  Many of our society are in the ‘up and in’ crowd.  But many times the church takes the ‘low-hanging’ fruit of the ‘down and out’.  NOTE:  BOTH groups are important, but it’s much easier to respond to someone in crisis than someone who’s still climbing the ladder. What are your thoughts?