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Bahnsen - Stein Debate available for a penny

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In 1985, atheist promoter Dr. Gordon Stein and Christian apologist Dr. Greg Bahnsen met for a formal debate at the University of California - Irvine campus. This debate is one of the most famous Christian vs. Atheist debates that there are out there. I was first exposed to this debate in college and it is a classic. Every believer should listen to this debate.

Dr. Bahnsen was a pupil of Cornelius Van Til and promoted the concept of presuppositional apologetics. This debate is a great example of presuppositional apologetics and lets you get a better feel for the nature of presuppositional apologetics.

Covenant Media Foundation is currently offering CDs or Mp3s of the debate for $.01 - that's right - one penny. (They would like to offer it for free, but their "checkout" software will not allow it)

Order or download a copy of the debate here.

HT: Michael Riley

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Tony Snow on Lessons from Cancer

Monday, September 17, 2007

Most of us are familiar with Press Secretary Tony Snow. He has served as President Bush's Press Secretary for the last couple of years and has been a radio and television personality for long before that. Most of us are also probably aware that Tony Snow stepped down from being President Bush's press secretary last week as he continues to wage a battle against cancer.

Tony Snow has always come across to me as though he is a really nice guy who would I would probably enjoy being around on a personal level, but it also hard to tell how those perceptions match to reality. I have seen Mr. Snow on TV and listened to him on the radio, but I don't really know much about him. I do know that he claims to be a Christian and speaks of his faith openly. (Although, in this day and age where "Christianity" can mean almost anything and where public personalities often claim "Christianity" despite living lives that clearly contradict that claim, I don't tend to put a lot of weight behind the "Christianity" claims of public personalities.)

Anyway, I said all of that to say that Mr. Snow has written an article for Christianity Today entitled Cancer's Unexpected Blessings that is thought-provoking. I am not a fan of CT - in fact, I think that have generally betrayed the cause of Christ with their promotion of ecumenism and other things, and I think that Tony Snow has left out some things that would be helpful to clarify his actual beliefs in the article, but I found the article to be a good read.

Some excerpts that I thought were particularly good:

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.


We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.


He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.


What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand


When people are faced with the reality of the shortness of life, it often seems as though they begin to look at life differently - and, for believers, it often seems that it ends up in a more serious walk with Christ.

Would to God that we could realize that life is short for all us - not just those that have been officially diagnosed. James comments "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.

For some additional thoughts about death and cancer, read this thoughtful post by Pastor Chris Anderson about a friend who died of cancer and a discussion with his five year old daughter - "Why would Jesus let us die?"

Just other people's thoughts,

Frank

Some Greek and Hebrew Humor

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sorry I haven't put up anything substantial lately. I will try to get back to some real posting next week.

In the meantime, I found a couple links for those of us nerds who actually have taken some time to study Hebrew and Greek - and perhaps others of you will find funny as well.

I don't know much about the site over all, but I thought these were funny (and brought back some memories).


Abbot and Costello Learn Hebrew

and

Dr. Seusss Learns Greek

HT: Joe Fleener

Just my thoughts,

Frank

If Women Ruled the World

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mr. Rob Loach teaches French at Bob Jones University and maintains a blog called "ivmans blaque". The name involves two items of "inside information" - "iv" stands for "instant vacation" and "blague" is apparently a French word for "joke." As you can imagine, this blog is generally a humor blog, but he does occassionally post some serious things. I am not sure if I have ever met Mr. Loach, but he often manages to post things tickle my funny bone.

His post today, If Women Ruled the World, is one of those posts.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Quality Sunday School Material - I think not!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We are in the process of adjusting our Primary Church program and I have been looking for some better curriculum that more directly deals with text of Scripture and that is preferably self-contained lessons (in other words, one lesson is not necessarily dependent upon another lesson) and preferably chronological in its approach to the lessons.

I have looked at the places I would normally look for curriculum and have been, um, underwhelmed. So, I decided tonight to give the internet a try. Wow. My second site I came to was this site which claimed that you could prepare your Sunday School lesson in 5 minutes - and it showed.

From the "Sample Lesson" on Noah's ark:

"use the bible but translate the bible story into a simple language that the little ones can understand - dwelling more on the ark and rainbow rather than the reasons for the flood and the fact that no-one else was saved."


In the two prayers in the lesson, both of them omit the name of Christ.

When you look at all of the other age groups for this same sample lesson, you will find the same glaring omissions - no mention of the reason for the flood and no mention of Christ. (In fact, in the older ages, the curriculum goes out of its way to avoid the sinfulness that led to the flood by having the children read Genesis 6:13-6:22, but skipping over the entire section that explains WHY God sent judgment.

May God save His church from such Sunday School lessons.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

A Tribute to Pastor Mark Franklin

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Sunday (September 9), Pastor Mark Franklin of Hardingville Bible Church in Monroeville, New Jersey celebrated his 25th year as the Pastor of the church. In recognition of this special anniversary, the church had a special dinner on Saturday night and some special speakers came in for the services on Sunday - including Dr. Dave Burgraff (from Clearwater Christian College and Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary) and Dr. Tony Fox (formerly on staff at Northland Baptist Bible College).

I served as an Assistant at Hardingville Bible Church from August 1999 to November 2004, including spending the last year or so going through the Church Internship Program that Pastor Franklin has established at the church. There are a number of men in the ministry who previously served as Assistants at Hardingville Bible Church in the Church Internship Program of HBC. While most of us could not make it up to the services, many of us (and many others) sent up greetings to Pastor Franklin and the church on this special occassion. Below is a copy of the greeting that I sent up to Hardingville for Pastor Franklin on this special occassion.

________

Dear Pastor Franklin,

I regret that we are unable to be there for this special celebration of your 25th anniversary as pastor of Hardingville Bible Church. It is truly an honor to count you as a friend and a mentor in ministry and I rejoice with you and the church on this special occasion.

When Paul addressed the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, he told them that they were to "feed the church of God" When Peter chose to address the elders throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in 1 Peter 5, he also told them that they were to "feed the flock of God." In both cases, the words chosen by for describing this task was the word that has the idea of "to tend as a shepherd." When I think of men I have known who set an example for me in this regard, my thinking process starts with you and the way in which you been so careful to heed the admonition of tending for the flock like a shepherd.

One of the ways in which we tend for the flock is to make sure that the flock is well-nourished. A steady diet of Biblical truth is a key in providing nourishment to a congregation - and as anyone who has sat under your pulpit ministry can tell you, God has gifted you in a unique way in providing for that nourishment. I have had the privilege to hear the preaching of some of the most well-known and well-respected preachers in our country, yet I have none that have provided the consistent nourishment that flows from the pulpit at Hardingville on a regular basis.

Another way in which we tend for the flock is to make sure that the flock is well-protected. At Hardingville, this is accomplished by the grace of God and your watchful eye. You keep yourself aware of the dangers that are around so that you can send out a warning to the flock. You recognize that an educated flock is a safer flock, so you have taken the time to teach people about the errors that abound, so they might recognize those errors when you are not around.

A third way in which we tend for the flock is to make sure that the flock is well-led. Sheep have a tendency to wander and get lost or be aimless in their approach to life. Pastor, God has given you a great ability to get the sheep moving and lead the sheep where they should be. Whether this is individual sheep or the whole flock, you have exemplified leadership for me in a way in which I can only hope to emulate in some degree.

Pastor, I could go on (and did in earlier drafts), but I want you to know that I appreciate you as a Pastor. Not only are you a friend and a former boss, but when I think through my role as a Pastor, I often think about the lessons that I learned from watching and working with you. You have raised the bar for a number of us in the way that we look at serving as Pastor and I pray that you may continue to do so for another twenty-five years.

Thank you for your faithful example and your friendship.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone
Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury, Maryland
Hardingville Assistant (Aug 1999 - November 2004)

Dr. D. James Kennedy on Lay Evangelism and Church Growth

Thursday, September 06, 2007

In light of the recent passing of Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Christianity Today has re-posted an article (originally two-parts) written by Dr. Kennedy entitled, "The Coral Ridge Strategy".

The emphasis on the article is on lay evangelism - in particular, how God used the concept of lay evangelism (and the Evangelism Explosion method) to help grow Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

There are some interesting insights in the article about recruiting people for evangelism and the effect it has on the church.

I have a number of copies of Evangelism Explosion in my office, although I have never actually went through the program (although when I was a freshman at Bob Jones University, we did go through a similar course in Personal Evangelism class).

Anyway, I just thought I would highlight this article by Dr. Kennedy.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Hey, it's worth a try

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

If you have not yet signed up for Tim Challies' give away, click the link below for more details.

sept Giveaway

Review of Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger

It recently came to my attention that I never posted my book review of the book Simple Church over here at A Thinking Man's Thoughts. I realize that many of you may have already read this review, but at least some of my readers have not read it - or, if they have, they were not able to comment on it at SI due to the fact that they are not members at SI, so I am posting it here as well. (By the way, my review of When You Pray: Making the Lord's Prayer Your Own by Philip Ryken has already been submitted to SI and should be coming up at SI shortly.)

Book Review of Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger - review written by Pastor Frank Sansone

About the Authors
Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, a frequent speaker and church consultant and author of sixteen previous books, including The Unchurched Next Door, Eating the Elephant, and Breakout Churches.

Eric Geiger is the executive pastor of Christ Fellowship (formerly First Baptist Church of Perrine), a large, multi-cultural church in the Miami area.

Review of Simple Church
Simple Church is one more in a myriad of books that deal with the issues of church growth and effective ministry in churches. In Simple Church, authors Rainer and Geiger attempt to show that the key to vibrant churches is to do away with the complexity of multiple programs adapted for various purposes and instead to redesign the church around a single, simplified process. While Rainer and Geiger seem to overstate some of their research to make their point, Simple Churchhas some materials and insights that can be a help to pastors and leaders who feel like they have become managers of programs rather than ministers to people.

"Out of complexity, find simplicity." With this quote by Albert Einstein, Simple Church begins its push to encourage church leaders to simplify. In fact, on the first page, it promises, "This book will help you design a simple process of discipleship in your church. It will help you implement the model you have chosen. It will help you simplify."

The authors begin with the fictional story of "Pastor Rush" to exemplify a typical, harassed pastor struggling with too much to do and not enough time to do it. They then argue that "simple is in" (p. 8 ), using Google, Apple, Papa John's, and others as testimonies to the importance of simplicity and stating that while these organizations understand the value of simplicity, growing and vibrant churches know this as well. In other words, if you want to be a "growing and vibrant church," you will need to know this truth as well.

After arguing for simplicity in general, the authors then look at two specific churches—one that is "simple" and one that is not. After setting up the picture of what a simple church looks like in contrast to a non-simple church, they argue that "simple church leaders are designers, not programmers" (p. 59) and indicate that many churches need an "extreme makeover" in order to become "simple." They define a "simple church" as "a congregation designed around a straight-forward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth" (p. 60).

Following their "hunch" (p. 63) that "vibrant and growing churches" are streamlined and simple and that struggling churches are complex and cluttered with programs, they present research to test their theory.

After evaluating several churches they identified as vibrant churches with a simple process, they conclude that the four key elements in a simple church are "clarity," "movement," "alignment," and "focus." They used that information to develop a survey they referred to as the "Process Design Survey." The survey consisted of 20 statements to which the respondents had to indicate their level of agreement (from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree"). Their research then consisted of disseminating that survey to 407 churches—210 churches that had grown five percent a year for three consecutive years (the "vibrant churches") and 197 churches that had not grown or had declined over the same three-year period (the "comparison churches"). Using the results of this survey, the authors provide examples of simple churches, detail the four key elements of simple churches, and relate those elements back to the research, making application
to the readers.

Clarity, Alignment, Movement, and FocusClarity—They define clarity as "the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people" (p. 111). They challenge church leaders to consider the fact that "if the process is not clearly defined so that everyone is speaking the same language, there is confusion and frustration."

Movement—They define movement as "the sequential steps in the process that causes people to move to greater areas of commitment" (p. 139). They argue that "stagnant believers and congested churches go hand in hand" (p. 136).

Alignment—They define alignment as "the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process" (p. 168). They explain that "it is not enough to unite the church around the same what (purpose), but they also must be aligned on the same how (process)" (p. 168).

Focus—They define focus as "the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process" (p. 203). They exhort church leaders to focus on one thing. Also, they add that "while clarity, movement, and alignment are essential, they are meaningless without focus" (p. 203).

In the concluding chapter, the authors use Malachi 1 and examples from the medical field to urge church leaders to "Change or Die" (p. 229). They outline a four-step process (connected to the four key aspects of a simple church) for becoming a "simple church." They conclude by declaring that "the simple church revolution has begun" and by asking, "Are you in?"

Rainer and Geiger succeed in producing a readable book that deals with an important topic. The need for various aspects of ministry to function together should be evident to most pastors, but it is easy to hold onto specific programs long after they fit their main purpose due to traditional or pragmatic reasons. This book does a good job of challenging that paradigm and encouraging the reader to consider the "how" aspects of what is going on in the church. Church leaders are exhorted to refocus and pursue a unified process in which discipleship and spiritual growth are intentional rather than accidental.

The concepts about hiring staff with the "process" in mind are also interesting. I would hope that churches and pastors would understand the need to bring on staff that are a fit in ministry philosophy, but based on some of the examples given, I wonder how often hiring is the result of a person's talent or reputation instead of how he fits into the overall picture of what the church is trying to accomplish.

When it comes to areas of research, I have some concerns about statements regarding some of the conclusions of that research. For instance, several times the authors state that something is "vital" though even when the majority of "vibrant" churches have not indicated they "agree or strongly agree" (the standard the authors use throughout the book) with the statement the authors use to prove their point. While it would be accurate to indicate that there is a correlation in this area or that "vibrant churches" are more likely than "comparison churches" to do X or state X, to call something "vital" seems to raise it to a higher standard. For example, on page 148, the authors claim that "moving people through your ministry process is vital," and they give the statement they used to test that statement—"we are intentional about moving people from one program to another." The survey results to that question (on the next page) indicated that 37 percent of thevibrant churches "strongly agreed" or "agreed" with that statement compared to only 15 percent of the comparison churches. I wonder, "How can something be ‘vital' if even the majority of the churches the authors are promoting as ‘vibrant and growing' churches do not agree or strongly agree with the statement?"

When the reader looks at the survey results, he sees that there are some areas the survey does point out as being very important (such as having a class for new attenders), but in many areas the connections are not as strong as the authors try to indicate. The most blatant example of using statistics to make a point they do not make is found in regard to the statement "We limit the number of conferences and special events that we do as a church" on pages 216-217. Instead of following the pattern throughout the book of emphasizing the percentages that "agree" or "strongly agree" with this statement, the authors first point out that the "strongly agree" is 25 percent to 6 percent (vibrant versus comparison churches). If the reader looks at the actual data, he discovers that if he considers all three levels of "agree" with that statement, they are almost in a statistical dead heat (78 to 76 percent). (Due to the presentation of the data using bar graphs without corresponding numbers, it is difficult to be exact on any numbers except those
specifically mentioned in the book.)

Also helpful would have been to have the questions and resulting answers compiled together in an appendix. While the survey results are given, they are spread throughout the four chapters on clarity, movement, alignment, and focus. Placing the survey results together would have made it easier to evaluate the survey and its results and to consider other implications of the survey.

The book also seems to downplay the importance of Bible preaching and right doctrine. I recognize that early in the book the authors touch on this topic by saying, "Thom has written several books on the primacy of sound, biblical, and orthodox doctrine in growing churches" (pp. 14-15). As one reads through the book, he discovers that the focus is process-oriented and could conceivably work regardless of what a church preaches or teaches.

I found another feature to be disconcerting. As demonstrated through the churches highlighted throughout the book, there seems to be a general assumption that the main service(s) of the church are to be viewed as the way to attract visitors rather than to prepare saints. I realize that even fundamental churches disagree as to the nature of the Sunday morning service; but in every case, the process moved from the main service as a gateway to small groups or to ministry/service groups without asking whether the worship service should be the gateway for visitors to begin the process of spiritual maturity.

Simple Church is targeted at evangelical churches and pastors who are overwhelmed with the busyness of church and are looking for a way out. For this audience, the message of the book offers hope—hope that everything will get better if they become a simple church. While the authors agree in the second appendix that "ultimately it is God who brings growth and vitality to a local church" and "it is against the laws of research to assert causation" (p. 249), the book promotes the idea that if readers follow the authors' advice, their church can move from being a dying church to a vibrant and growing church.

If you are a fundamentalist pastor who has found himself more involved in managing programs than in ministering to people, the message in this book may be helpful to you. Consider the nature of the various programs in your church. Make sure they not only fit the purpose of your church but also contribute to the process of moving folks towards greater spiritual maturity.

I found the book to be readable, but the book's message could have been said in half as many pages. The authors clearly believe in the case they are making and make a strong case against the ministry schizophrenia that comes from incorporating fad programs from the latest conference. I found the material on "movement" to be particularly challenging since I've had to think through how to encourage people to move from being attenders to becoming more mature in Christ and eventually serving. I was also encouraged to implement a more detailed approach to dealing with new members or prospective members.

If you struggle with being overwhelmed in ministry, this book provides helpful suggestions for refocusing the ministry of your church and is worth getting a copy.

If you're not quite at that stage, the book provides a read that may help you to clarify how your church does ministry or to think through that process in your church and how you articulate that process.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

P.S.

Colin Adams has posted another good review of this book at Unashamed Workman for those of you who are interested.

Frank