Can the ARP Church Regain Our Strength — Or Are We Too Old?
Can the ARP Church get stronger in our old age?
Hello, my name is Charles Eugster. When I turned 75 my friends began to pass away. People were getting older around me, but I was just getting ready to retire.
Then at 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me where muscle used to be. I looked like a wreck. I started to consider the fact that I was probably going to die soon.
So in my late-80s I joined a bodybuilding club.
There’s no research into bodybuilding for the over-80s, so it’s been an experiment. With weight-lifting and protein shakes, my body began to change. It became broader, more v-shaped, and my shoulders and biceps became more defined.
I’m not chasing youthfulness. I’m chasing health. People have been brainwashed to think that after you’re 65, you’re finished. We’re told that old age is a continuous state of decline, and that we should stop working, slow down and prepare to die. I disagree. To me, a 65-year-old is young. I turn 92 this year. It is a frightening prospect – the law of averages is against me, and, yes, one day something will happen and that will be it. But until that day comes, I’m going to carry on working on my abs.Read More
5 Things We Do Today Instead of Preach the Word — by James MacDonald
I wish I could tell you that most pastors are preaching the Word. I can’t—some are not. Here are five things we may choose to do instead of preach the Word.
1. ENTERTAIN: “Music, drama, and video, felt needs, topics, more stories”
2. SHARE: “There are some things I just want to share with you today . . .”
3. WOO: “Careful, careful, don’t offend, always comfortable, never pressured, just a pinch of truth, when they’re ready to handle it.”
4. INTELLECTUALIZE: “I’ve been thinking and researching this in the original languages . . .”
5. ABBREVIATE: “Twenty-minute sermons”Read More
The Collapse of the Liberal Church — by Margaret Wente
Something began changing in the 1960s. Liberal churches decided that traditional notions of worship were out of date, even embarrassing. They preferred to emphasize intellect, rationality and understanding.
As the United Church found common cause with auto workers, it became widely known as the NDP at prayer. Social justice was its gospel. Spiritual fulfilment would be achieved through boycotts and recycling. Instead of Youth for Christ, it has a group called Youth for Eco-Justice.
Mardi Tindal, the current moderator, recently undertook a spiritual outreach tour across Canada to urge “the healing of soul, community and creation” by reducing our carbon footprint. Which raises the obvious question: If you really, really care about the environment, why not just join Greenpeace?
According to opinion polls, people’s overall belief in God hasn’t declined. What’s declined is people’s participation in religion. With so little spiritual nourishment to offer, it’s no wonder the liberal churches have collapsed.Read More
Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church — by Bill Blankschaen
I love music. Truly I do. I love to sing. But you wouldn’t know it on Sunday morning when I’m visiting your church.
I’m not talking to all of you, of course. I’m sure many churches, maybe even yours, get it right. I just haven’t been there that often, I guess.
Frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe all the “seekers” are enjoying it, but I’m finding it hard to sincerely engage in anything resembling worship.
Instead of feeling the joy of joining with other believers in offering praises to the Almighty, I often feel insulted, bored, and disconnected from 2,000 years of worship history. And just when I think that maybe it’s just me having a selfish and sinful attitude — a very real possibility — a flamboyant electrical guitar solo breaks out. I’m left deciding whether to waive my iPhone and buy the t-shirt or just shut up and go home.
As best I can sort through my own muddled and messy thoughts, I think there are three things that really bother me about the worship music in many Evangelical Christian churches today . . .Read More
An Obituary for the American Church — by Mike Breen
There is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because he was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this). So in American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: Grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal…but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.
For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in his day, he was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) how people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. No one wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences. That’s not something you see too often in American churches.
I suspect it’s because riven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire to this kind of celebrity status . . .Read More
Five Confessions of a Failed Church Planter — by John Thomas
There are five major–and painful–confessions that I am ready to own up to: Prayerlessness, Lack of Personal Focus, Lack of Gospel Centeredness, Lack of Honest Critique, Lack of Partnership.
Looking back, any one of these errors was enough to sink the ship. There are dozens of other failures that I could note. These seem to be the most egregious; the ones that had they been dealt with at the time would likely have made the difference between failure and viability.
It’s my hope and prayer that these confessions will help those who are in the throes of leading a plant or those who will lead a plant in the future, not to make the same mistakes I made along the way. It is also my hope that the Lord will continue to raise up an army of men who will, in spite of the odds, take up the banner of church planting for the glory of God!Read More
The Church of the Living Dead — Sardis
Gospel passions build great organizations, but carelessness let’s them slide into Christian obscurity and Kingdom irrelevance.
Consider the Kingdom Mission of Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale. Gospel passion made them grow, but carelessness left them useless for the Kingdom of Christ. The current fight within the ARP over Erskine is a work of sweat and prayer to keep our Denominational College and Seminary off the list of the spiritually irrelevant.
The Church at Sardis was fast becoming irrelevant to Christ’s Kingdom.
Evangelistic zeal had dried up. Fervent prayer was marginalized. A commitment to discipleship was replaced with commitments to programs and fruitless busy-ness.
None of these things were concerns for the Church at Sardis. They had become content with previous spiritual victories. They made their boast in their glorious history, not the Lord, and they lost Christ’s vision for their community.
They looked alive, but Jesus said they were dead. They had a reputation for being alive, but they were spiritually dead. They were the church of the living dead.Read More
10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church
Any healthy church must have some level of inward focus. Those in the church should be discipled. Hurting members need genuine concern and ministry. Healthy fellowship among the members is a good sign for a congregation.
But churches can lose their outward focus and become preoccupied with the perceived needs and desires of the members. The dollars spent and the time expended can quickly become focused on the demands of those inside the congregation. When that takes place the church has become inwardly obsessed. It is no longer a Great Commission congregation.
In my research of churches and consultation with churches, I have kept a checklist of potential signs that a church might be moving toward inward obsession. No church is perfect; indeed most churches will demonstrate one or two of these signs for a season. But the real danger takes place when a church begins to manifest three or more of these warning signs for an extended period of months and even years.Read More
The Glory of Plodding
It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.
Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.
Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders.
Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.Read More
The Future of the PCA — Is the Decline of the PCA Different from the ARP?
The PCA will probably continue to decline in the decade to come. Some of the reasons are sociological and demographic; others are theological. Some are intrinsic to our PCA identity, and cannot be changed.
Most of our PCA churches are rural and have less than 100 members. As the rural countryside declines, the rural churches will decline, too.
Ten years ago, because of congregations leaving Liberal denominations for the PCA, we foolishly boasted that the PCA was growing at a rate of five percent per year. Membership grew from 2002 to 2006 by 27,056 which is only 1.1% over four years, or .27% per year.
At our General Assembly in Orlando in June of 2009, it was reported that the PCA had experienced NEGATIVE growth (for the first time) in 2008.
Growth by receiving conservative churches came to an end when the Evangelical Presbyterian Church began, because the EPC, while conservative, also admits churches with women elders and deacons.
In the decades ahead we will probably continue our decline.Read More