Growing churches is a desire among many Christian leaders. Whenever there is a huge increase in the number of attendees, people get excited. They rev up their engines to make Church run as efficiently as possible. They go on hyperactive mode to ensure that all the respective departments are up and running, able to meet the needs of all age groups. The moment the number drops, worry rises. Giving drops and panic rises. The focus then shifts overwhelmingly to one concern: How do we grow the Church? Here lies one of the biggest misconceptions in Church growth. Numbers do not necessarily reflect a healthy Church. The key to Church health is not numbers but discipleship. Author Alan Briggs provides four chapters on foundations and six principles to execute the way of discipleship. The key is how to start a movement and not simply a one-off project. Briggs looks at some movements in history and notes the need to avoid models in favour of principles. We also need to avoid the three obstacles of kingdom building:
Tendency to build kingdoms for self
Tendency to build idols of security for self-preservation
It has been often said that the young is the future of our society. In churches all over the world, the young are also the future of the leadership of the Church. How the children and formed when young often becomes the way they help lead the Church in the future. What then are the factors to guide them? How can the leaders of today help the formation of the leaders of tomorrow? How can we navigate the complex realities today for an unknown tomorrow? If adults are already facing difficult challenges, how can we expect the young to tackle their generational challenges if we do not lead by example? This book's premise is that teaching Christian Formation is an imperative, not an option. We need to help them understand spiricual formation and that learning happens at all ages. We need to be guided by important theologies and appropriate theories. We need a repertoire of creative methods and to be committed to the spiritual disciplines like prayer, and spiritual transformation. We need to teach not merely to download information but to work toward spiritual transformation and growth. This means working toward maturity and be anchored in Christ. It also means discipleship. The book is subdivided into five sections.
One of the most common concerns among Christians is the lack of understanding how faith plays out in the world of work and in the jobs we have. Some have called it a Sunday-Monday divide while others have simply wondered how relevant is Sunday faith with regard to the other six days. While there are many books already written on the integration of faith and work, and many seminaries offering workplace ministries and marketplace theologies, this new study and application Bible offers a biblical look and varied applications about how the Bible speaks into the world of faith and work. With a foreword from renowned preacher and teacher Tim Keller, four thought-provoking essays from David Kim, Richard Mouw, Nancy Ortberg, and Jon Tyson, this study Bible presents a combination of doctrine, application, and ways to cultivate community. Keller begins by describing Christians in terms of the "gathered church" and the "scattered church." The people of God are Church together on Sunday and also a Church going out into the world on the other six days. He is convinced that the Bible speaks a lot about faith and work. David Kim adds by pondering what it means to see the gospel changing everything. He sees it as three redemptions: 1) Our motivations; 2) Our Relationships; and 3) Our world. Through redemption of our motivations, we are given a fresh vision of why we work. Through redemption of our relationships, we appreciate how the gospel transforms relationships. Through redemption of our world, knowing that God cares for our world will give us added impetus to do whatever we can to bless and to make this world a better place for all. Some features of this application Bible includes:
Life is viewed like a paradox because of our limited perspectives. Every situation has multiple interpretations. Every interpretation is subject to changing contexts. When we view life as a paradox, it keeps us humble and open to different understanding. This is what author Krish Kandiah has done for us. By looking at key characters in the Bible, he helps us to learn the nuances of Christian teachings throughout the ages. Simply put, there are no simple answers to the difficult questions we encounter through time. Take suffering for example. Can we explain it or understand why it happens? For if we can understand all the things of God, surely, we will be God. The author begins with the following definition of a paradox: "A paradox, just to be clear, consists of true statements that lead to an apparent or real contradiction in logic or intuition." The key thesis in this book is this:
"Paradoxology makes a bold claim: that the paradoxes that seem to undermine belief are actually the heart of our vibrant faith, and that it is only by continually wrestling with them – rather than trying to pin them down or push them away – that we can really worship God, individually and together."
Digital devices have become ubiquitous throughout the world. It has redefined how we communicate, how we interact, and how we live. For many people, technology has become so integral that one cannot live without it. An outage could easily shift people to panic mode. Its attractiveness can become an addiction in itself. In faith matters, digital media and technology has not only redefined how we practise our faith, it is taking us on a whole new direction. This means we need to learn how to engage this new environment wisely and appropriately. This new digital era has invaded and affected the way we learn, do outreach, teach Christian Education, do Church, and share faith concerns. This is why we need to take the technology seriously and to think of constructive ways to engage with it, about it, and through it.
Our society runs mainly for gains and for profits. From balancing the budget to increasing annual revenues, organizations are constantly looking at ways to stay in the black. Public listed companies would use monetary devices to measure the profitability of a company. The key financial advice is to make more money. This is the default mode. Even non-profits like churches are on a constant lookout for funding and for donations to run their organizations. Here's the shocker. What many churches teach about money are often at odds with what Jesus teaches. In fact, the teachings of Jesus would rip apart our thinking; expose our lack of faith; and reveals our deepest fears. For Jesus has called us to turn the other cheek; to let others take our shirt as well; and to give to all who asks. Many of us prefer to take exceptions rather than wholehearted acceptance of such teachings. There are many reasons why.
Many people have tried to answer it. Many have provided it. Yet, the questions keep coming. At all times, through the centuries, and probably throughout the future as well. The question of pain, evil, and suffering continues to be asked in spite of the many answers. Why is that so? Perhaps, the most plausible explanation is that suffering is in itself a complex and unique one. Complex because there are no easy answers. Unique because every suffering is different from all the rest. Even the same person encountering suffering will have different moments of inexplicable pain, all of which are unique in themselves. Yet, the fact remains that even when suffering cannot be easily understood, one can still share about the experiences and difficult lessons learned.
For author Robert Wise, this question still grips him. First published 40 years ago, this book covers personal encounters with the pain of seeing a friend die of brain cancer. It also includes 40 years of reflections about the wars around the world, unjust killings, and the mayhem occurring all the time at different places. It launches Wise on a quest for answers to look for hope in the midst of pain and suffering. Instead of answers, he discovered something better: Working with the best answer during the crucial stages of our lives. In a nutshell, when there is no miracle, take what we know, and move from there. What we do not know we wait. What we cannot know, we trust. This book is essentially about his periods of discernment after each episode of pain and suffering. He begins with a personal description of what miracles mean and how God is absolutely free to work through both miracles, divine interventions or other means. He addresses the question posed in the book's title directly by urging readers to avoid any forms of self-deception that artificially covers the reality of pain and suffering. He summarizes the whole point of the book through his professor's words: "Rather, each of us takes the best answer we can find at the moment and just lives with it. As years pass, what can't really be explained has a way of working down into one's life pattern, bringing the unacceptable into some order of sanity and propriety. If we are blessed, we find a grace that will assure us that what couldn't ever be really explained was in the end redemptive." (30)