Why write a book?

churchinoutChurch Inside Out is a book designed to help churches get outside of their own four walls in order to help others find their way in. Why write something like this?

  • I’ve been blessed to be able to visit many churches in many different places. Big churches. Little churches. Churches in areas with lots of Christians. Churches in areas with few Christians. I’ve been able to observe, and much of what I’ve written comes from things I’ve observed.
  • I’ve grown in understanding about some things. Doesn’t mean that I know more than others, but I definitely know more than I used to. And I’m sure I know more than many Christians about some things, just as others know more than I do about certain topics.
  • I’m blessed to be able to read and study widely. My life situation, my field of study in college, the jobs I’ve had over the years, the availability of materials on the Internet… all has worked together to allow me to glean ideas from Christians I’ll probably never meet. In this book, I try to share some of those ideas.
  • I firmly believe that God wants to work through his church to bless this world. I firmly believe the church can do great things through the power of God. No church is doomed to be what it has been; every church has the potential to do great things with God’s help.

Those are some of the reasons I decided to write this book. I remember a quote from a Keith Green album jacket:

If I’m worthy, let me be heard. If I’m heard, let me be worthy.

That’s not exactly how I feel. Mine would be:

Lord, please use me, what I say, and what I write, to allow others to hear you. Not me, but you.

Links To Go (May 16, 2016)

Israeli Christians Think and Do Almost the Opposite of American Evangelicals

In 1949, the state of Israel was formed to be a haven for the world’s decimated and traumatized Jewish population after World War II. Ever since, American Christians have largely supported the modern-day Zion; in 2013, 82 percent of white evangelicals believed that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews.
In contrast, only 19 percent of Christians actually born, raised, and living in Israel believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Significantly more than half (66%) believe this is not literally true, while another 9 percent don’t know what to think.

Seven things I’m learning about transgender persons

I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn — in part because I want to understand the way God has made us. For me, this is a theological quest as much as a biological inquiry or a political cause. How about you?

Gender Identity vs. Personal Identity— What is It and who Decides?

Leaving aside altogether the issue of people who are sadly born with deformities, such as being born with both male and female genitalia, it ought to seem axiomatic to all of us, as it is to many many scientists, notably biologists (and my wife is one), that while many factors go into making up personal identity, when one discusses gender identity, at the most fundamental level it has something to do with how gender in part determines one’s identity. One isn’t a man merely because ‘that’s how I feel about myself or think of myself’, one is a man in part because that’s what my sexual nature, my chromosomes etc. tell me.

7 Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church

Such is the case with the Church and marriage. I am grateful for the foundation the Church gave me in regard to marriage. It was a good study guide. But there some things on the test I did not learn until marriage began. So I am going to give you some answers to the test that some of you might not expect to see. Here are a few truths about marriage I never heard in church.

The Family Idols

All of us must examine our hearts to see whether we give more time and affection to our spouse or children than we do to Christ. If we get angry that we are being asked to examine this aspect of our lives in this way then it is probably a mark that we have more family idolatry in our hearts than we would like to admit.

Singing Is A Sacrament

Wright’s observation is perceptive. He reminds us of a great truth: when we are fully engaged in singing, when we are expending our breath (spirit, wind) in honor of God, the Divine Breath is within us. The Apostle Paul makes this point in Ephesians when he links the Holy Spirit with singing. “Be filled with the Spirit,” he says (5:19). Being filled with the Spirit and singing to God are necessarily related. In a word, hymn singing is—or ought to be—sacramental.

Gender gap in religious service attendance has narrowed in U.S.

While affiliated women are less likely to attend services weekly in recent years (33%) than they were in the mid-1980s (40%), affiliated men’s attendance patterns have been much more stable over time. If anything, affiliated men have recently become more likely to say they attend services weekly; 24% of affiliated men said this in the mid-1990s compared with 28% in the current decade.

Using Video Well

The web was built on words.
And words, of course, are available to anyone who can type. They’re cheap, easy to edit and incredibly powerful when used well.
Today’s internet, though, is built on video. Much more difficult to create well, far more impactful when it works.

24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing

Ten years ago, my first novel Prep came out. Three novels later, here’s what I’ve learned about the publishing industry and writing since then.

’70s High School Art Project Mistakenly Valued At $50K On ‘Antiques Roadshow’

The Antiques Roadshow episode aired in January, and PBS released a correction note in February. (The story comes to our attention now thanks to The Washington Post and the CBC.)
A viewer recognized the jug as the work of one of her friends — Betsy Soule. Soule verified that, indeed, it was her student handiwork.

Church Inside Out is here

IMG_5650It rained styrofoam peanuts and snowed polystyrene flakes. Books and workbooks came out of the box, and a dream became reality. The first copies of Church Inside Out had arrived.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a book that I feel that I’ve put a lot of myself into. Helping the church improve its outreach and discipleship efforts is very important to me. This book/workbook set is my contribution to this effort. I hope to have the chance to go through the material in person with congregations through the seminars Hope For Life (a Herald of Truth ministry) provides.

I hope you’ll take a few moments and look at the material. 21st Century Christian has posted sample pages of both the book and the workbook.

Workbook Cover
You can find the book sample here: https://www.21stcc.com/pdfs/samplepages/9780890989159.pdf

Workbook Cover
You can find the workbook sample here: https://www.21stcc.com/pdfs/samplepages/9780890989166.pdf

You can order the book from the 21st Century Christian website. You can arrange for seminars focused on Church Inside Out by contacting Bill Brant at bbrant@heraldoftruth.org. There is no charge for the seminars. Churches need only cover my expenses and allow me to update your congregation/leadership on what Hope For Life is doing in the world.

Links To Go (May 13, 2016)

Not my words. Not my thoughts. Not necessarily my opinion. But these are articles that others have written that made me think or made me laugh.

How the CIA Took Down a Democratically Elected Leader For the Good of Bananas

The root causes of the civil war are plenty: The feudal caste system inherited from the Spanish way back in the 1800s. The lack of education for a vast majority of the population (well at least the mestizo and native populations). And, of course, the CIA backed coup that overthrew the democratically leader of the county back in 1954. As I stressed in my article, “Why DO they hate us? Here are 7 Pretty Good Reasons,” the United States is NOT the sole reason for the ills of this world. Far from it. However, just like in the Muslim world, we certainly had a hand in creating said ills. A pretty big hand.

What It’s Like to Live On Less Than Two Dollars a Day

“Many Americans have spent more than that before they get to work or school in the morning,” write sociologist Kathryn Edin and her co-author, H. Luke Shaefer, in $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. “Yet in 2011, more than 4 percent of all households with children in the world’s wealthiest nation were living in a poverty so deep that most Americans don’t believe it exists in this country.”

Has the Obama administration learned anything from last deportation raids?

Advocacy groups on Thursday urged officials to abandon the practice, fighting the tone and tenor of the raids, which involves immigration agents going into the homes of immigrant women and children and carting them away. Mass deportations are seldom carried out on this scale, let alone targeted at a vulnerable population that has grounds for asylum.
“Instead of addressing the terror and civil rights violations the New Year’s raids caused, DHS is spreading them,” Tania Unzueta, legal and policy director for the advocacy group Mijente said in a statement. “The raids show how much of what Donald Trump promises is already occurring under this administration.”

Stop using God as an excuse to marry someone else

I know sometimes being faithful to God and trying to save your marriage is not enough. Marriage is hard and sometimes Christians break their promises to God and to their mate. Divorce happens and God hates it. After all, it takes two committed to Jesus. Not just one. And I am sorry for those of you who never wanted to end your marriage but your mate did. But that is on them. It was not what God wanted.
So stop using God as your excuse to get out of a marriage you no longer want to be in.
Repent. Be faithful to God’s call.

Edging Toward Enchantment: Miracle Stories

“Basically,” I said, “our church tends toward disenchantment. Because of our education and wealth. Beyond a literary analysis, we don’t know what to do with a miracle story like this. But my experience out at the prison and with Freedom is very different, much more enchanted. I don’t know what to do with that disjoint. I just want to make the observation that the disjoint exists. It’s my opinion that this is one of the least discussed fractures in the church, the fracture between the enchanted church and the disenchanted church, which is often correlated with education and socioeconomic status. Is it possible to overcome this divide?”

Baptism Is Not the Goal!

In the church, we often garner the mentality of baptize them now, ask questions later. We don’t focus enough on the disciple-making process. We focus on the 5 steps of salvation, but not so much on what it means to be a runner. We view the finish line as the baptistery. When, in truth, that’s just the starting line. What happens, all too often, is that we end up with a lot of baptized individuals who drop out of the race because they were never properly trained. If we think that making a disciple is only about baptism, then we have failed miserably in our approach.

Postmodernism and Historical Continuity

Postmodernism is self-absorbed. Modernism was too. No matter what your worldview is we will find a way to be self absorbed. Modernism was self-absorbed in the sense that we thought we had the ability in ourselves to figure out things outside ourselves in an absolute sense. Postmodernism is self absorbed in that it assumes what is going on inside me and about me is absolutely all that matters and that what is external to self really doesn’t matter a whole lot if at all. This attitude expresses itself in moral relativism, that there are no moral absolutes…that I am my own ultimate authority. It assumes that what I experience and how I see things is how it has always been.

Motherhood is Missional

“Children tie the mother’s feet.” That is an old Tamil proverb that means children keep mothers from doing what they want to do. I can sympathize with the feet-tied feeling when my four kids join forces to do away with the interruption-free moments that I envision for myself.
I was first introduced to this saying through Amy Carmichael. Amy was not the biological mother for any of the hundreds of children she nurtured. She was their mother, however, because Jesus caused her to be fruitful and multiply spiritually as she discipled the orphans and children she rescued from slavery and death. Amy saw her feet-tiedness as opportunity for the gospel because she understood what was really going on. God wasn’t tying her feet with all of those children, he was opening doors for the gospel to be proclaimed in India.

Gender Specific Blessings: Bolstering a Biblical Theology of Gender Roles

The Lord does not eradicate gender distinctions in his work of redemption; he empowers men and women to live as God intended. Therefore, as we read the Bible we should be aware of the gender-consciousness that parallels the contours of redemptive history. At the same time, as we join in the Lord’s work we should submit our personal narratives to his macro-narrative; our private desires should be conformed to his design. With regards to complementarity this includes pursuing God’s blessing in ways that fit our unique calling as men and women. While the rest of the world (and many Christians) may find this odd, this is the way of our Creator. And as he said of the day when he made mankind male and female: “It is very good.”

Take the Lid off of Your Church

Here are a few questions I am constantly going through:

  1. For Revolution to become twice the size we are now, what do I need to start doing? What do I need to stop doing? What things will keep us from getting there?
  2. If we were twice the size we are now, what things would we do differently?
  3. What things are we doing right now that need to be tweaked? What things need to go to a new level?
  4. What new leaders do we need to raise up?
  5. What leaders need to be challenged to go to a new level?

My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked

But the old-school media’s slow evolution has helped to create a culture of impunity and silence. Amazon paid millions to work with Woody Allen, bankrolling a new series and film. Actors, including some I admire greatly, continue to line up to star in his movies. “It’s not personal,” one once told me. But it hurts my sister every time one of her heroes like Louis C.K., or a star her age, like Miley Cyrus, works with Woody Allen. Personal is exactly what it is — for my sister, and for women everywhere with allegations of sexual assault that have never been vindicated by a conviction.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” In Emojis Is Absolutely Cute

Early last year, Twitter proudly introduced emojis that celebrated the coming of the newest installation to the Star Wars Saga — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Thanks to Disney, we can all now enjoy the excitement, action, and wonder of this movie — courtesy of cute little emojis! (I don’t know where to get these custom pictographs, but I want them in my phone, stat!)

The Two-Degree Rule

church kitchenYesterday I shared the link to an article by Kevin Harney about using existing ministries as outreach ministries. I thought the ideas presented there were excellent and fit well with the ideas in Church Inside Out.

Harney makes a great statement at the opening:

Churches, by nature, are selfish. Because the church is made up of people, and people are fundamentally self-serving, the church ends up expending much of its time, money, and energy on those who are already part of the family of God.

Yes. Exactly. I think a case in point is the proliferation of short-term mission trips. Churches that balk at sending $5000 to a missionary will easily spend $25000 to take their members to visit that same missionary.

But Harney isn’t talking about mission trips; he’s talking about church events:

I began thinking about the amazing things that could happen if local churches would vector their time, creativity, resources, and ministries out into the community. I call this the “Two-Degree Rule.” The idea is that we would take the effective and plentiful things we do for ourselves and simply direct these same things out into our community.

Your monthly church meals become meals for the whole community. Your funeral ministry expands its reach to include people in your community who don’t have a church home. Baby showers are held not just for church members but also for needy families in your town.

You get the idea. And it’s a great one. Start dreaming about how to transform your “inward” ministries into “outward” ministries.