BIBLE & 5 facts on how Americans view the Bible and other religious texts #PewResearch

by  , Pew Research Fact Tank, 4/14/17.

… Here are five key facts about Americans and their holy texts.

About a third of Americans (35%) say they read scripture at least once a week, while 45% seldom or never read scripture, according to 2014 data from our Religious Landscape Study

Three-quarters of Christians say they believe the Bible is the word of God. Eight-in-ten Muslims (83%) say the Quran is the word of God, according to the 2014 survey. Far fewer Jews (37%) say they view the Torah as the word of God.

Christians, who make up a majority of U.S. adults (71%), are divided over how to interpret the Bible. While about four-in-ten Christians (39%) say the Bible’s text is the word of God and should be taken literally, 36% say it should not be interpreted literally or express another or no opinion. A separate 18% of Christians view the Bible as a book written by men, not God.

In 2014, about four-in-ten Christians (42%) said reading the Bible or other religious materials is an essential part of what being Christian means to them personally. An additional 37% say reading the Bible is important but not essential to being a Christian, and 21% say reading the Bible is not an important part of their Christian identity.

Seven-in-ten Americans (71%) know the Bible teaches that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. A similar share know that Moses was the biblical figure who led the Exodus from Egypt, and 63% could identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, according to our 2010 religious knowledge survey. But fewer than half of adults (45%) could name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and only four-in-ten (39%) identified Job as the biblical figure known for remaining obedient to God despite extraordinary suffering.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5-facts-on-how-americans-view-the-bible-and-other-religious-texts/

PETER ON LEADERSHIP & “I have a special concern for you church leaders…”

“I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for— God has had it with the proud, But takes delight in just plain people.

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

1 Peter‬ ‭5:1-7‬ ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/1pe.5.1-7.msg

BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

30947170-BEE8-4C74-A6C9-D3F9DB5F852A

How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission. 

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53

CHURCH PLANTING & A Biblical 3 phase approach #BGCEfellows

by John Paul Thompson, Ph.D. Presentation given to the Fellows of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Wheaton College, 12/19/17.

When Jesus used the planting/sowing metaphor the object planted was “the word” (Mark 4:14), “the word of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19), “the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:31) or the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:24, 37).

When Paul declared, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth,” (1 Cor. 3:6), he is referring to planting the gospel, not planting local chruches.

Irenaeus, in 180 AD, coined the phrase church planting when he wrote, “the Church is planted like the Garden of Eden in this world.” He was speaking of the institution of the universal Church, not of local congregations.

Stefan Paas asserts that the classical understanding of church planting throughout church history was a three step process:

  • evangelizing (sharing the gospel)
  • gathering (forming community and discipling)
  • establishing (creating the institution and structure of the church)

Paas insightfully pushes back suggesting a return to the three stages without rushing to the third stage.

  • He suggests the the third stage is not always needed in communities that already have churches.
  • He challenges church planters to consider working with exiting churches.  Church planters could focus upon planting and gathering, encouraging new followers of Jesus and their gathered groups to become part of already established churches in the community.

NEED-MEETING & Luke’s commentary on Jesus’ words, “more blessed to give than to receive…”

“In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ‭‭ Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭20:35‬ ‭CEB‬‬

Read more at …. http://bible.com/37/act.20.35.ceb

LEADERSHIP & If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.

“If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.”

– Romans‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  Read more at … http://bible.com/116/rom.12.8.nlt

LEGACY & Leaving a Bigger, Better “Barn” & Combating Greed

“Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”

He (Jesus) replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?” Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’

“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” He continued this subject with his disciples. “Don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.

“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

“Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” ‭

Luke‬ ‭12:13-34‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Read more at … http://bible.com/97/luk.12.13-34.msg