White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

WHI-1122 | Whatever Happened to Bible Study?

On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts begin a five-part series on discipleship. This particular program is inspired by a recent Vacation Bible School program at a Houston area megachurch that wowed thousands of kids with a week of entertaining skits and musicals rather than with any traditional forms of Bible study. But is this really the best way to master the message of this particular book? Are we really making lifelong disciples, or just amusing the sheep?

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MUSIC SELECTION

Andrew Osenga

PROGRAM AUDIO

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RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Gospel Commission
Michael Horton
Recovering Scripture
Modern Reformation

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Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Your pastor has probably been contacted recently and encouraged to publicly endorse candidates for elected office this coming Sunday, October 7th. Is it wise for him to do so? Should ministers stand up to the “tyranny” of the IRS, or is endorsing candidates and their policies an abuse of their office?

Dr. Brian Lee is the pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Washington, D.C. He has recently written an article that challenges Christians to reconsider how churches should act in the public square. Dr. Lee is a regular contributor to Modern Reformation magazine, and we commend this article to you.

For the faithful, Sunday worship is a respite from the cares of the world, a time and place offering peace, unity, and refreshment for the soul. What are the odds, with election season in full swing, that worshipers streaming into church this Sunday are looking political advertisements here, from the pulpit?

That’s what Jim Garlow and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are urging preachers to deliver. ADF is promoting October 7th as “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” and is asking ministers to dedicate their sermons to explicit politicking. According to an online pledge, sermons should evaluate the presidential candidates according to “biblical truths and church doctrine,” and make a specific endorsement. Launched in 2008, over 500 pastors signed last years pledge, though promotion of the event seems to peak in election years.

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NPR story on Truth, History & Wikipedia

This is a fascinating story from NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. Lot’s of implications on a host of issues related to our view of truth and history in a Wikipedia age. 7 mins long, well worth your time…

Wikipedia Politicizes Landmark Historical Event

WHI-1121 | Parenting with Discipline & Grace

On this program, Mike Horton sits down with special guests Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, authors of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. Elyse and Jessica discovered that much of their parenting was based on the power of guilt rather than the gospel of grace. Recorded before a live audience in Southern California, the authors share stories of parenting and childhood, and offer a better way for exhausted moms and dads to see God at work in the lives of their children.

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Home Schooling
Michael Horton

MUSIC SELECTION

Zack Hicks

PROGRAM AUDIO

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RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Give Them Grace
Fitzpatrick & Thompson
Family Driven Faith
Voddie Bauchham
Comforts from the Cross
Elyse Fitzpatrick

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An Urgent Request from China

UPDATE (9/28/12): I received this email from my contact in China.

Do continue to pray for the Seminary.  I was just informed that our new location was “searched and investigated” by the police.  Luckily, we did our homework and they didn’t find anything.  But I was told the police still think “something was fishy” about the place when they left, and who knows when the next surprise attack would come.  Needless to say, the students are all very shaken up and wonders if the school should shut down for awhile.  Church leaders and I will brainstorm on this, but in the mean time, please urgently pray for this new development.

Then, our original place was surrounded by police squad cars and when the church members there demand an official answer on why they had to search the Church in such a grand scale, the police told them that they are investigating “a murder”, yes, a murder, I kid you not.  And due to the seriousness of the investigation they had to surround the church and do a thorough investigation.  Again, thanks that we left so they didn’t find anything.

I am leaving soon for China, I am at peace, but I wanted all of us to pray for the students there as they are young and most of them haven’t personally experience persecutions like the Christians before them, and are pretty shaken up.

Please continue to pray for our friends who live and minister under the threat of persecution and death.

—–

Our readers may recall the overview I gave of my opportunity to teach a course in an underground seminary in China.  The school continues to attract growing numbers of aspiring pastors, teachers, and missionaries from all across China.  Our brother overseeing the seminary there has asked for prayer: for his health, but also for immediate concerns facing the churches (and seminaries) with the upcoming power-transfer in the nation’s leadership.  I told him that we would post this concern and I hope that you are able to take a moment to remember our brothers and sisters at this time.  I’ve removed any names that would identify the location:

As I am rehabbing my feet I have received an emergency news from China.  The entire district…is on high alert because of the transfer of power in China.  The Chinese model is “peace at all costs” during the transition of power to show that everything is calm and well, and this “peace” is created by a very strong-armed approach by the government, especially the police force that monitors all kinds of illegal activities.  Unfortunately, orthodox underground seminary is an illegal activity in China and the Church of…has received news that the police will have “major plans” to sweep through the area.  The Church, in emergency actions, has moved all of their training programs to remote locations, and that includes my seminary.  We have been moved to a very rural area where all you see is pretty much farmlands around us (but ironically with High Speed Bullet Train running right through the middle of it), and we are told we will stay here until the transition of power is done (which is towards the end of October.)  A couple of churches has already been swept by the police but praise the Lord the training programs have already moved and they have found nothing.

Also to be very safe we’ve decided to ask the non-Asian teachers to move their courses later, as there was a course that is going to be taught by a non-Asian, but was informed that the course will be move till later.  Another problem this has created is living and studying condition.  While we are able to move our student body over to a new church, but we are unable to move the library.  Also, the students are asked to sleep on the floor for the next two months.  One can imagine the tough physical strain this puts on the students, as well as the lack of resources for students to enhance their studies.  Please continue to pray for the safety of the school for the next two months, and that the students are able to adjust physically to a tough environment.

Unintended Consequences

A veteran youth minister evaluates the state of youth ministry and “big church”–he doesn’t like what he sees:

We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is … empty churches.

What Pastor Marino says is not necessarily new, but it is helpful to have a man who has spent his entire ministry working with youth to say these things. Equally eye-opening are the comments that follow his post where other youth ministers either applaud or argue his premise. In response to one, Marino says:

The blog article comes from a seminar I put together a few years ago for the Urban Youth Workers Institute. Interestingly, when I did the seminar people over 35 would sit with their arms folded and youth workers under 25 would literally be standing and cheering. I can say that they resonated with what I was saying.

I think most pastors would agree that youth and children’s ministries are some of the most difficult to navigate as a church, especially for those of us in churches that are intentional in our efforts to catechize our children and include them in the worship of the church. [For more on the treacherous nature of children’s ministries, especially, see this fine post.] Let us, then, add Pastor Marino’s council to that of others like Christian Smith and Kenda Creasy Dean: rigorous theology, Word and sacrament ministry, and service to others forms not just the basis of our adult pilgrimage but also our young adult pilgrimage. As Dr. Barnhouse said, “What you win them with, you win them to.”

WHI-1120 | Your Own Personal Jesus

It is often said that Christianity is a relationship not a religion. But is this statement accurate? What are people really saying when they boil the gospel down to the idea of a “personal relationship with Jesus”? Why does this approach appeal to so many Christians in our time? On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts interact with this popular idea and compare it to Scripture.

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Gnostic Worship
Michael Horton

MUSIC SELECTION

Zac Hicks

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RECOMMENDED BOOKS

What is Faith?
J. Gresham Machen
Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Tullian Tchividjian

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To Make the Word of God Fully Known

On Family Feud, the mystery hidden for surveys and responses when revealed to competing families is the hope of glory.  With every game, contestants can be seen eagerly awaiting every “top answer” uncovered, as fortunes hang in the balance.  Especially engaging is the moment in the “triple money” round, when the very last guess awaits a final judgment: it’s either on the board—in which case, the family lives on to enter the “fast money” round—or it gets the “X” and the family is banished from the stage, cast away to forever consider what might have been.

It provides a wonderful image of Final Judgment.

How interesting then to have one day viewed this set of responses written on the games show’s book of life: “If you were to get to Heaven, what would you expect to see?”

Here were the top six responses:

 

The set of answers requires little commentary, beyond this: What…not Gandhi?  Seriously, look at the answers.  Especially pastors and preachers: Look at the board!  It breaks the heart.

In Colossians, Paul says his “stewardship from God” is “to make the word of God fully known” (Colossians 1:25).   May the image of these top six answers motivate us all to truly strive to make the word of God fully known.

A final note: These last five weeks I have been treating Family Feud as a “cultural text”―and as a demonstration of kind of thinking done in the field of cultural hermeneutics.  Toward this end, I want to commend Kevin Vanhoozer’s Everyday Theology How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2007) to WHI listeners and MR readers.  In making the word of God fully known, it is not only essential to know and share God’s word, but also to understand the word-deprived world in which its hearers are situated.

I hope you have enjoyed this short series of Family Feud posts.

—-

James Gilmore is the co-author of the bestselling book, The Experience Economy. A prolific speaker and popular business consultant, Jim has also been a guest on White Horse Inn and has recently written for Modern ReformationJim is a Batten Fellow and Adjunct Lecturer at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He is also a Visiting Lecturer in Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, where he teaches a course on cultural hermeneutics.

 

 

 

Sanctification and Worship

If “all of life is sacred,” as a popular saying goes, then what’s the significance of going to church? The Reformation got rid of the division between Christians who worship (monks) and those who work (laypeople), but only in our individualist-expressivist culture has this downplaying of worship become a grand distortion. Calvin College professor James K. A. Smith’s recent article in Reformed Worship succinctly and insightfully untangles this amazingly practical issue. Here is an excerpt:

Christian worship gathered around Word and table is not just a platform for our expression; it is the space for the Spirit’s (trans)formation of us. The practices of gathered Christian worship have a specific shape about them—precisely because this is how the Spirit recruits us into the story of God reconciling the world to himself in Christ. There is a logic to the shape of intentional, historic Christian worship that performs the gospel over and over again as a way to form and reform our habits. If we fail to immerse ourselves in sacramental, transformative worship, we will not be adequately formed to be ambassadors of Christ’s redemption in and for the world. In short, while the Reformers rightly emphasized the sanctification of ordinary life, they never for a moment thought this would be possible without being sanctified by Word and sacrament.

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What happened to God?

The 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth in 2009 gave rise to a year of debate about the world-historical significance of the French Reformer. Everything from politics and economics to art and philanthropy were cited as having been influenced (even “transformed”) by Calvin’s life and work. Much of what was claimed was highly debatable, though it does make for interesting discussion.

But what seemed to be missing from most of the Swiss city of Geneva’s marketing materials for the anniversary celebration was reference to Calvin’s very practical and immediate impact on the church and its ministry, such as the reforming of idolatrous Roman aspects of worship, the establishment of the “consistory” or body of elders to care for and govern the local church, and the centralizing of Word and Sacrament for Christian ministry.

With the quincentennial of the Reformation approaching in 1517, I anticipate the same kind of lively discussion about Luther’s legacy. What was his impact, after all this time? That’s a good discussion to have, one that is already underway. How fascinating it is to note that the person closest to the truth at this early planning conference in Germany was a Roman Catholic architect! Sometimes truth comes from the strangest of places . . .

It was an evening with a lot going on at many levels, although not once did Luther’s core premise come up – that man is saved by faith and grace alone, and that the pious acts that Catholics thought could help played no role in salvation. The word “God” was seldom used during the evening, and if memory serves, the name “Jesus Christ” wasn’t mentioned a single time.

The question that remained unanswered at the end was: what is the 500th Anniversary celebration in 2017 actually going to be about? Revisiting and strengthening evangelical faith? Or a festive and soon-forgotten occasion with colloquia, ceremonies, entertainment?

Which is not to say that what the nine distinguished “outsiders” told EKD representatives was stupid. On the contrary: it was a sum of what a broad spectrum of society feels towards religion. And God didn’t come into it.

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