The most important skill needed for evangelism is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for church leadership is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for body life in the church is the ability to listen.

We focus way too much on what we’re going to say. We need to focus more on picking up on what others say.

The spate of celebrity suicides reminds us that there are hurting people that need someone to listen to them. So much violence, like the shootings at schools, could be avoided if people would listen to those who feel they have no voice. So many abuse victims could be protected if the people around them would listen.

How many problems in the church reflect a lack of listening? How many people fall through the cracks because we don’t hear what they need to say? How many young people are frustrated by their perception that the older generation doesn’t care about their situation? How many older people feel that their wisdom and experience is being cast aside in favor of the young?

People around us are dealing with much pain. They are dealing with much fear. They have guilt and regrets from the past. They have uncertainty about the future.

Listen. Truly listen to the people around you. Spend less time talking, more time listening. You may be surprised at the changes you’ll see.

Links to Go (June 7, 2018)

What I Must Change

  • I must change and be more obedient in sharing the gospel. I exhort others to do so, but I am disobedient far too much myself.
  • I must change and increase my time in the Word and in prayer. Too often, I let the tyranny of the urgent replace the priority of time with God. If I sound foolish, it is because I am, and because I have been.
  • I must change how I seek my identity. My identity should be first in Christ. And my identity should also be as a family man. My greatest titles are “husband,” “Dad,” and “Rad Rad,” not “CEO” or “Dr. Rainer.” Too often I seek the accolades of others instead of pleasing Christ and serving my family.
  • I must change the depth and breadth of how I love my local church. I must serve with greater joy, give with greater commitment, and worship with greater abandon.
  • I must change my involvement in denominational politics. Indeed, I must flee from denominational politics. My involvement breaks my heart and hurts my soul.
  • I must change from a posture of silence to one of courage when others are hurt, marginalized, and abused. My silence is too often a deafening endorsement of injustice and wrongdoing.

How Bishop Curry’s Sermon Revealed the Four Evangelical Tribes

I would summarise the tribes and distinctives in this way.

  1. Political -(liberal/conservative) – they use the culture to interpret the bible and always end up capitulating to the culture (whether of right or left). Their view of the church is more as a social/political club.
  2. Pragmatists (broad church) – they use the bible to interpret the culture in terms of theology, but the culture to interpret the bible in terms of methodology. As as result they end up engaging with the culture but far too often at the price of compromising with it. Their view of the church tends to be a more corporate view with the church being there to meet individual needs, or to provide resources for interdenominational ‘ kingdom’ agencies. They tend to have a low ecclesiology.
  3. Pharisees (separatists) – (I could not use this term because in most eyes it is a pejorative term and it would take too long to explain. But the Pharisees were the separatists of their day – and they were not all bad – many did have a love for God and his word – and many came to follow Jesus – so I feel it is a justified term). They use the bible to interpret the culture, but I think their methodology is unbiblical because they cede the culture to the devil. They have a high view of the church, but one which largely closes it to the culture.
  4. Puritans – They use the Bible to interpret both the culture and the methodology. This means that they engage the culture but often end up confronting it, because when culture and Scripture collide they don’t back down. They have a high view of the church but one which sees it as open to being in the world, if not of it!

Engaging Culture Well: How to Share Your Faith Critically and Contextually Today

  • Pursue Understanding
  • Build Relationships
  • Make the Message Relatable

The Best Explanation for Our Spate of Mass Shootings Is the Least Comforting

Indeed, it’s the pattern of elaborate preparation and obsession with the subculture of mass shooters that has led in part to my own advocacy of the gun-violence restraining order. While we don’t have sufficient details about today’s shooter in Texas to know if it would have made a difference, it’s a fact that large numbers of mass shooters broadcast warning signals of their intent to do harm, and it’s also a fact that family members and other relevant people close to the shooter have few tools at their disposal to prevent violence. A gun-violence restraining order can allow a family member (or school principal) to quickly get in front of a local judge for a hearing (with full due-process protections) that can result in the temporary confiscation of weapons from a proven dangerous person.

Almost seven-in-ten Americans have news fatigue, more among Republicans

Almost seven-in-ten Americans (68%) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days, compared with only three-in-ten who say they like the amount of news they get. The portion expressing feelings of information overload is in line with how Americans felt during the 2016 presidential election, when a majority expressed feelings of exhaustion from election coverage.

3 Ways to Normalize Bible Reading

  1. Don’t use Greek or Hebrew words when preaching.
  2. When illustrating a point, share about your personal Bible reading.
  3. Use the Bible to disciple others.

A Reminder That God’s Provision Doesn’t Equal God’s Pleasure

God wasn’t providing for the wilderness generation because he was pleased with them. In fact he loathed them. But he was providing for them because He is God and He is good. He’s still their Father. So he cares for them; and somehow I think He still loves them—even while He loathes them.

Growing Old Graciously

  1. I can commend the younger generation.
  2. I can pour into the younger generation.
  3. I can pick my critical shots.
  4. I can refrain from trying to reinvent myself.
  5. I can keep learning and growing.

‘Don’t worry, it’s my first husband’ – Wife stuns bloke after skull found in garden

A gardener who was stunned to discover a human skull while digging up potatoes was left floored when his wife calmly admitted it was her first husband.

Kansas man doesn’t regret giving up $1 million ticket

A Kansas man who returned a $1 million lottery ticket to a customer who left it on a store counter says he has no regrets about giving up the prize money.
Kal Patel, whose parents own the Pit Stop convenience store in Salina, returned the ticket to a longtime customer after tracking him down in his car.

Does your church show partiality?

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?” (James 2:1–7)

I think we need to hear the warnings in this passage. In today’s church, it’s not always money that we give deference to. Sometimes it’s training or occupation… though these are often closely connected with money.

Here’s the test: which potential new members get celebrated in your congregation? Are you jumping up and down about the recovering addict who is on food stamps? The single mom with no regular job? Do you look at the elderly widow and say, “What a great addition to our congregation”?

How about the lawyer with a stable marriage and three well-developed kids? The young articulate school teacher? The former missionary who is a talented song leader and Bible class teacher?

Does your church show partiality?
Strike that.
Do I show partiality?

Yes, I do. More often than I care to admit.

Do we have a good handle on what “outreach” means?

Do we know what outreach is? I know we think we know, but as I hear church people talk, I get the feeling that we don’t really have a good handle on what it is to reach out.

First off, I’ll admit that outreach is a funny word. Back when I was in college, we had a group called Mission Outreach. A student from Germany complained that there wasn’t a good word in German to express “outreach”; the same is true for Spanish. And I think many of us have trouble with the concept behind the word even if we have a general idea what the word means.

Churches mistakenly think that outreach is:

  • Trying to attract outsiders through improved buildings, special seeker services, and effective programs at the church’s site. This attractional model is very nice for us because it allows us to stay in a safe place while asking outsiders to step out of their comfort zone. Buildings, services, and programs are a nice complement to outreach, but they aren’t outreach.
  • Recruiting existing Christians to attend our church. Whether they be people who just moved to town or disgruntled members from other congregations, we often get excited when such people place membership with us. These new members come in already knowing how to “do church”; they are typically proclaimed to be a great addition to our church family. They are a great addition; any business prefers new employees to have experience and training. But let’s keep in mind that this isn’t outreach. The Kingdom isn’t growing; what was added to our numbers was subtracted somewhere else.
  • Performing service projects around town. This comes closer to being outreach. It definitely achieves the “out-” part of the word, which is an essential part of outreach. Like the things mentioned in my first point, service projects make a great complement to outreach and can be a vital first step in outreach. But if we don’t reach the point of telling people about Jesus, we haven’t really reached out. We’ve just handed out.

Outreach involves Christians helping those who don’t know Christ come to know Christ. It requires that we go out: out of our building, out of our comfort zones, outside of ourselves. And it involves a conscious, coordinated effort to achieve the goal of making disciples; that’s where the “-reach” part of the word comes in.

We go out to bring others in… not just in to us, but in to a relationship with God. If we aren’t doing those things (going out, reaching others), then we aren’t doing outreach.

Links to Go (June 4, 2018)

Why Church Members Are Attending Less Frequently

Some highlights from today’s Rainer Report:

  • Those who are more affluent have more options to do things other than attend church on the weekend.
  • Too many church members consider corporate worship optional.
  • Raising the bar of expectations for church members is key to higher attendance frequency.
  • The more involved people are in small groups, the more involved they will be in the life of the church.

5 Minutes After You Crash(When Sexual Sin and Adultery Destroy a Ministry)

It is a time to remember how desperately we need the Gospel of God. It is a time to remember how much we need God’s presence, his power, and his daily cleansing. It is also a time to pray for families and churches who have experienced such destruction. It is a time for all of us to remember how much we need the Lord.

The Least of These: Ministry with and to the Incarcerated

It is time for the church to be more engaged in criminal justice reform. We have a critical voice and need to use it. We have resources that can be used to empower those impacted by our criminal justice system. We are called to take care of the least of these.

The False Gospel of Expressive Individualism

In some circles, expressive individualism is being mixed with Christian thought. The logic goes a little something like this: “God is good. God made me. God gave me my desires. Since God is good and gave me my desires, then the desires I have from God must be good. And since God gave me these good desires, I have a right to express them.”

The ‘Educated Elite’ Isn’t Educated, and It Isn’t Elite

Combine academic ignorance with a worldview that too often unthinkingly and reflexively rejects religious traditions and traditional religious notions of morality, and you’ve got the recipe for exactly the proud, “elite” individualist Brooks describes. Or, to borrow a biblical concept, “claiming to be wise, they became fools.”
He is right that the “meritocracy is here to stay,” but he’s wrong that we “need a new ethos to reconfigure it.” An old ethos will do, one grounded in humility, true curiosity, and an openness to challenging ideas.

Seniors Are More Conservative Because the Poor Don’t Survive to Become Seniors

It’s well understood that millennials are significantly more diverse than prior generations. But there is something else driving the relative homogeneity of seniors: Poorer people are often hobbled by chronic illness, and succumb to premature death.

Billy Graham Makes Final Call to Trust Jesus in Last Will and Testament

“I urge all who shall read this document to read and study the Scriptures daily,” the will states, “and to trust only in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.”
Graham, who passed away this past February, also asks that his posterity “maintain and defend at all hazards and any cost of personal sacrifice the blessed doctrine of complete Atonement for sin through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ once offered, and through that alone.”

After Winning Championship, Youth Football Team Rescued a Couple Trapped Under a Wrecked Car On The Way Home

When the team, appropriately named the Boise Black Knights, came across the accident in Oregon, head coach Rudy Jackson pulled over and the team swarmed out of the car to rescue the couple.
They pulled out the man who was trapped first, then pushed on the side of the overturned car to raise it up enough for another player to rescue the woman stuck inside.