If you're a church planting leader, my friends at Exponential have a helpful resource called Stories of Sifted, where leaders are sharing the struggles they face in the midst of church planting. The daily stories reflect the top 7 issues church planting leaders shared in a 2011 national survey that I shared with you here on the blog. You can download the free report here. The Exponential Conference, Sifted, is coming up April 23-26 in Orlando and is also based on this theme.
First They Came for the Catholics: Obama's Contraceptive Mandate -- Timothy George & Chuck Colson
Three years ago, when we co-authored the Manhattan Declaration, we predicted that the time would come when Christians would have to face the very real prospect of civil disobedience--that we would have to choose sides: God or Caesar.
Certainly for the Catholics and for many of us evangelicals, that time is already upon us.
We would urge you, therefore, to raise your voice against this unjust mandate that violates our first freedom as Americans. First, please sign the petition to President Obama prepared by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which we have posted at the Manhattan Declaration site, demanding that the President extend exemptions from this onerous mandate to all religious employers.
Second, write to your representative and your senators in Congress.
Third, sign the Manhattan Declaration. Join with 500,000 people who have committed to "fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."
Fourth, pray. Pray that God would soften the hearts and minds of the president and the leaders within his administration so that they would reverse course.
If our goal is to make disciples who make disciples (to be fruitful and multiply), then this must be on our lips constantly. I tell those who aren't even followers of Jesus yet, that we desire to see communities like ours across the world doing the same thing. So, when they join our community as a follower of Jesus, they've already been discipled to know that we desire multiplication.
But it doesn't stop there. We continue to talk about it as a group and continue to seek to hear from the Spirit on his timing and his power to send us out. The best way I can describe this is by relating it to your child. Do you desire to see your child stay in your house until they die? Or do you desire to see them leave the house and have a family of their own? Do you then wait until they are 18 and spring this on them and then kick them out? Or, do you continue talking to them about it, train them and seek for them to be ready when the day comes to leave your house and go and be fruitful and multiply with their new family? This is the same thing we need to be doing with our church families. We need to seek to see them grow in maturity and grow in the gospel so that they too can lead a family of missionary servants to live out the effects of the gospel with those around them.
There is an exception for every rule, but please be exceedingly slow to write about or evaluate situations of church discipline from a distance. Virtually all instances of church discipline that I know of have layers of complexity, pain, history, sin, personalities, and just plain old messiness. And there are two sides to every story.
Discipline done wrongly can be harmful and hurtful. But criticizing the discipline from a distance, without an awareness of all the facts, can damage the reputation of the church of Christ and her leaders.
In addition, let's remember that those who call most loudly and consistently for repentance among some pastors--often with legitimate criticism--are sometimes the least to model repentance when they themselves may be engaged in gossip or slander.
My dilemma in giving specific examples here is that it would do precisely what I'm trying to avoid--discussing local church discipline situations publicly.
The third infographic in a series, this one projects the books of the Bible in a periodic table format. Very clever and useful.