• Church & Ministry •
August 30, 2005
“It came on Mississippi like a ton of bricks,” said Gov. Haley Barbour. The Governor was not exaggerating. Hurricane Katrina has left a path of death and destruction that reaches from Alabama to Louisiana, and the full extent of the devastation will be unknown for some time. Communications are still out in most of the region, and emergency personnel have been unable to reach most of the effected areas.
The Associated Press is reporting at least 55 deaths due to the storm — thirty in a single Biloxi apartment complex. The death toll is almost certain to rise as rescue teams spread through the region. Millions are without power and thousands have been left homeless. Families are grieving and many souls are suffering. This is a time to weep with those who weep — and to both pray and help.
HOW TO HELP: I recommend the disaster relief program of the North American Mission Board [SBC]. NAMB is the nation’s third-largest disaster relief agency, and their disaster relief ministries are both effective and trustworthy. NAMB and its teams have been asked to provide 300,000 meals a day by mid-week, and up to 500,000 per day by the end of the week. Here is a link for information and donations.
THE UNFOLDING TRAGEDY: The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, The Weather Channel, The Times-Picayune [New Orleans], The Washington Post, The Sun Herald [Biloxi, Mississippi], The Clarion-Ledger [Jackson, Mississippi].
August 29, 2005
Hurricane Katrina spared the city of New Orleans her worst, but the city has suffered a great deal. The same is true for cites like Mobile, Alabama. The worst has been experienced by the Mississippi Gulf coast, where the city of Biloxi took a direct hit from the storm, which was a Category Four hurricane when it landed.
We need to pray for those on the ground in effected areas, and for their family members and loved ones who have yet to hear of their condition.
My guest on The Albert Mohler Program today will be our friend and guest host Dr. Russell Moore, a native of Biloxi. He is among those waiting to hear from family. We’ll be talking about how Christians should be thinking about this powerful storm.
HURRICANE KATRINA UPDATE: The Weather Channel News Coverage, Projected Path of the Storm [The Weather Channel], CNN Hurricane Coverage.
TO HELP: North American Mission Board Disaster Relief Update. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is preparing for a 300,000-meal response within 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. This comes at the request of the American Red Cross. The Disaster Operation Center at NAMB opened this morning, and an Incident Command Team (onsite command post) has been activated. Currently, 25 Southern Baptist feeding units have been requested by Red Cross and four by Salvation Army. Preliminary site locations have been identified in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and each feeding unit has been asked to bring clean-up/recovery, shower, and communication units with them.
August 28, 2005
Hurricane Katrina is now a Category Five storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, threatening to bring massive destruction to a region ranging from Alabama to Louisiana. We need to pray for those in the path of this dangerous storm.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
Psalm 46:1-7, English Standard Version
HURRICANE LINKS: National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Weather Channel, CNN Weather, Fox News Weather, The Times-Picayune [New Orleans], North American Mission Board Disaster Relief [SBC], New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Google News on Hurricane Katrina.
August 25, 2005
Once again, I had the honor of preaching the Opening Convocation address for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. I preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. The message, “By the Mercy of God: Why Would God Call People Like Us to a Ministry Like This?,” is now available on-line as an audio file.
August 23, 2005
August 19, 2005
August 18, 2005
I had to hear this one for myself. Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has called for an ecumenical council to convene in order to resolve the question of biblical interpretation in the church. Calling for the global council, Bishop Hansen called upon Pope Benedict XVI, leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and mainline Protestant leaders to convene the council in order to stem the tide of what he called “fundamentalist” readings of Scripture.
“Christianity is in the midst of a global identity crisis because we have not addressed ecumenically the questions of authority and interpretation of scripture,” Hanson told the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly last week. Religion News Service reported that the bishop also “called for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches to come together to combat a ‘fundamentalist-millennialist-apocalypticist reading of Scripture.’”
Christianity certainly is “in the midst of a global identity crisis,” but that crisis is the result of theological accommodation and confusion — not biblical literalism. In this context, biblical literalism is code language for any assertion of biblical authority or biblical inerrancy.
The RNS report also included this: “Although Hanson did not elaborate, mainline churches traditionally are uneasy with literal readings of Scripture, particularly in fundamentalist churches, regarding the end of the world and political unrest in the Middle East. In addition, mainline churches have been divided over what the Bible says about hot-button issues such as homosexuality and women’s ordination.”
The claim that the ELCA, along with most other liberal Protestant denominations, is deeply divided over issues like homosexuality is truly an understatement. The liberal denominations long ago liberated themselves from anything close to a literal interpretation of Scripture. Over the past half-century, various heresies, aberrant beliefs systems, and theological movements have found a safe home under the umbrella of the “mainline” denominations. Now, Bishop Hansen want to convene a global council to combat literalist interpretations of the Bible.
There once was a time when the great councils of the church defended theological orthodoxy. Whatever happened to Nicaea, Chalcedon, and Ephesus? We can only imagine where this bizarre council might meet. The Council of Greenwich Village? Harvard Yard? Riverside Drive? I suggest the Council of Laodicea. The possibilities are endless.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: Hanson’s address is available in video format, courtesy of the ELCA.
August 8, 2005
Thom Rainer thinks that most Christians have no clue about how unchurched people really think. Given Christianity’s mandate for evangelism, this represents a big problem. In The Unchurched Next Door, Rainer and his research team consider the real issues involved in reaching unchurched Americans. His findings will surprise many Christians–including many pastors–and offer vital insights as the church looks forward into the twenty-first century.
August 1, 2005
Christianity Today has published an important series of articles on church discipline. Given the absence of biblical discipline from the life of most congregations, these articles are urgently-needed reminders of what is st stake. The six articles are by different authors, and raise a number of issues. All are worth reading.
1. How Discipline Died by Marlin Jeschke, July 22, 2005.
The church’s history of dealing with problem persons in legalistic fashion is responsible in large part, I believe, for the present distaste for the term church discipline. Discipline is still the watchword of high-school basketball or children’s music lessons, but has become objectionable in the church lexicon. For that reason, I have resorted to the term discipling. Evangelism and mission seek to make disciples of people, bringing them into Christ’s way. But it doesn’t make much sense to bring people into Christ’s way in the first place if the church then fails to make every effort consistent with the gospel to bring back into Christ’s way those who are straying from it.
2. Shaping Holy Disciples by Mark Dever, July 25, 2005.
Spiritual disciplines can seem like a human-potential wellness campaign, only expressed in spiritual terms. Church discipline sounds like excommunication, which sounds judgmental. Many want their antinomian liberty, their freedom to have a life that’s not known by others. They don’t want to be open and honest with others; they don’t want people inquiring about their lives. It’s not just our modern, affluent, individualistic American culture; it’s the sinful human heart. We desire to discipline ourselves only for those ends that we like. And we do not want other people to have that kind of authority in our lives.
3. Spheres of Accountability by John Ortberg, July 26, 2005.
Church discipline is really about the spiritual health of the whole body. In larger churches, people can start to think of it simply as scandal avoidance. But the lack of appropriate administration is really a failure of love and a compounding of sin: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt” (Lev. 19:17). Discipline does not merely protect the church from contamination: It builds and strengthens the bonds of love.
4. Keeping the Lawyers at Bay by Ken Sande, July 27., 2005.
A church that has done its work both biblically and legally will not have to look over its shoulder fearfully as it seeks to restore wandering sheep. Instead, it will be able to minister confidently and boldly as it works to guard its people not only from predatory wolves, but also from the plague of division and divorce that so often cripples our witness for Christ.
5. Healing the Body of Christ by David Neff, July 28, 2005.
So when we talk about the church, we are not talking about a voluntary society of people who share compatible religious views or similar religious experiences. We are instead talking about those who are related by (re)birth into a new family. We are talking about the body parts of Christ. Our relationships to each other (the horizontal) do not exist apart from our relationship with God in Christ (the vertical). Indeed, it is our vertical relationship with Christ that makes possible our horizontal relationships with each other. The vertical constitutes the horizontal.
6. Our Uniquely Undisciplined Moment by Thomas C. Oden, July 29, 2005.
Whenever laity or clergy are disciplined, it seems to modern eyes, and especially to the secular press, like overbearing legalism, moral insensitivity, and exclusivism. If any constraints are put on reception of Communion, it appears undemocratic. When church trials have sought to call voluntary believers to accountability to their own voluntary decisions and commitments, the press paints a picture of social injustice. Any attempt at accountability, even for the worst abuses, looks to modernity like oppression. Believers understandably wonder: How can meaningful church discipline be recovered in a culture that prefers no accountability at all?