Morning Roundup 3/27/14
Tough to hear, but increasingly important to realize.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This is the first line of the first amendment in the United States Constitution; religious freedom was clearly a legal priority of the men who drafted the Bill of Rights. Yet, 225 years later, the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project has said the United States places a "moderate" level of restrictions on religious practice compared to the other countries in the world. According to Pew, the U.S. saw a marked increase in hostility toward religion starting in 2009, and this level remained consistent in the following years.
What does this rating actually say about the state of religious freedom in the United States? At first glance, one might assume this is bad news for religious folks in the land of the free, but that may not actually be the case. Especially in comparison with the rest of the world, the United States still has fairly robust protections for spiritual practice.
To get a sense of how the United States stacks up against other countries, take a look at Pew's interactive chart of religious restrictions in the world's 25 most populous countries from 2007 to 2010. If you select "2009" in the list of years at the top of the graph, find the circle representing the U.S., and then select "2010," you'll see a noticeable increase in the country's level of religious hostility. The two axes represent two separate rankings: "government restrictions," which is a tally of legal actions that have limited religious practice in some way; and "social attitudes," which is a measure of negative or violent attitudes that citizens have expressed toward their religious peers.
Thanks, Dave Jenkins, for this review on Transformational Church.
One of the most encouraging trends in recent years has been the movement away from a pragmatic approach towards ministry to one that is driven by a biblical-theological framework. While studies on the Church abound—namely on what is wrong with it what is often missing in the discussion on the Church is talk about how the Church can improve its process of making disciples. It is easy to criticize the Church for its many failings it is much harder in my estimation to provide a solid framework that helps pastors and ministry leaders learn and grow as leaders. Added to this is the manta that "numbers matter" and so ministry leaders focus on having the biggest budget, building and so on to the neglect of the people they minister to. What has been needed is a resource that aims to help pastors and ministry leaders move from both ditches I've mentioned to caring not just about the bodies, budget and buildings, and so on but to focus on accountability, discipleship and spiritual maturity. Thankful seasoned Pastors and authors and lovers of Christ's Church—Drs. Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer know the struggles, weakness and demands of ministry and what pastors and ministry leaders face as they lead local churches. In Transformational Church Creating A New ScoreCard For Congregations Drs. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer have written a book in my opinion truly game changing in that it takes the focus off of us and more on Christ and His people.
The authors writing about transformation note that, "We treasure the concepts of transformation because radical change is the heart of the Christian message and because the power of the gospel changes everything—lives, churches, and communities" (1). They explain, "Transformation is the mechanism and the gospel is the means. The gospel is itself power; paul says it bears fruit and grows (Col. 1:6). The gospel changes us, our churches, and then the world. That's why it matters and matters most" (7). Behind this new approach to changing the scorecard is the belief that, "We believe one of the most important measurements is ensuring that men and women are being changed by the power of the gospel. Ultimately it is what every church wants—more people redeemed and forgiven by grace through faith in God" (25).
To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism—Anglican Church in North America
My friends at the ACNA have a new catechism.
Two thousand years ago in Israel, the man who is God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth, led his followers into a life-giving relationship with himself and his divine Father, and was executed for being a revolutionary. Risen from the dead, he charged his followers to make disciples throughout the whole world, promising that he would be with them and equipping them for their mission with his Holy Spirit. The New Testament presents the essential witness and teaching of Jesus' first emissaries, the Apostles, who proclaimed his truth with his authority. The faith of Christians today, as in every age, is shaped and defined by this apostolic account of Jesus Christ.
Within a century of Jesus' earthly ministry, Christian congregations could be found from Spain to Persia, and from North Africa to Britain. By this time, the catechumenate for would-be Christians (from the Greek katecheo: "to instruct" – a period of 1-3 years' instruction leading to baptism at Easter) had become established Christian practice. This pattern of Christian disciple-making continued for some centuries before falling into disuse, as nominal Christianity increasingly became a universal aspect of Western culture.
The Reformation era saw a vigorous renewal of catechesis (instruction within the catechumenate) for both adults and children among both Protestants and Catholics. But catechesis has been in serious decline since the eighteenth century, and much of the discipline of discipling has been abandoned altogether in today's churches
Anglican pastor and movie reviewer Thomas McKenzie discusses the film industry's influence with me on this episode of The Exchange. McKenzie reviews movies at oneminutereview.com. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.