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Can Preachers Make an Impact in a Post-Christian World?

Herman Bavinck’s advice to 19th century pastors still holds true today.

In post-Christian Britain—a culture where few people listen to any kind of public speaking, sacred or secular—Rev. Michael Curry’s royal wedding sermon succeeded in capturing the public imagination in a way that few had expected. For many Brits, the royal wedding’s most unexpected outcome was that a sermon, of all things, could spark a national conversation on race. “Who would have thought,” the response went, “that preaching could actually be engaging?”

At present, it seems as though preaching—in its quality and significance—is often held in low esteem, both within and outside of the church. The common reaction in the British media to Rev. Curry’s preaching is a good example of this. Reflecting on his sermon, one opinion writer in The Guardian noted quite frankly, “I had not expected to be moved.”

Within the Christian community it might be said that the internet, which offers us instant access to a small pool of exceptionally gifted preachers, has produced a general culture of dissatisfaction with preaching. Although few of our local preachers can preach at that superstar level, many of us nonetheless hold them to that unattainable standard. In 2018, it is common for Christians to be enthusiastic about one or two preachers, who are almost never their own pastors, rather than about preaching in general.

T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach has put forward that current day preaching is not particularly good, and that most churchgoers do not expect it to be. In his argument, the typical 21st-century sermon is a rambling, inarticulate, and unsuccessful attempt to say something that is somehow connected to the Bible. This is the case, ...

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How Do I Get Connected? A Conversation with a Hasidic Israeli Jewish Man

The relationship connection throughout all of the Lord’s promises was the same.

“How do I get connected?” The question was a text from an earnest Hasidic (ultra-orthodox) Israeli Jewish guy named Aviel.*

After a series of casual conversations, he made a theological comment about God and time. That was the introduction for deeper discussion. How could anyone know God? His religious orientation was around what he must do to connect with the Lord. My perspective was a little foreign to his way of thinking.

Although we met in Israel, both of us grew up in the United States. We were introduced to ideas about God through Judaism, though our ways of doing religion were pretty different, even before I believed in Yeshua (Jesus). Interestingly, as children we both wanted to know the Lord and to be his child.

Aviel texted me a Hebrew quote about God’s children from a passage early in Jeremiah 31. It spoke of God’s love for his children who returned from captivity in northern Mesopotamia. Since Aviel introduced Jeremiah, I was free to suggest something from the same chapter in response. With his permission, I sent Jeremiah 31:31-34, speaking of the new covenant relationship.

He immediately saw the words “new covenant” and asked what it meant. I tell Christians we shouldn’t assume other people know the Bible, even a religious Hasidic Jewish guy. And, no, I’d never heard of a “new covenant” in the Hebrew Bible before I believed in Jesus.

So I wrote, “It speaks of God’s promise for a new covenant RELATIONSHIP. Though offered to Jewish people, it’s for individuals. The text speaks for itself in context. God offered a covenant with our people that promised renewal of his faithful love.”

Aviel immediately understood but wanted to think about ...

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Five Key Things About Church Revitalization That Most Leaders Miss, Part 2

We need to patiently endure as leaders. Don’t give up.

Third, most revitalization does not actually work at first.

Another thing about church revitalization most leaders miss is that most revitalization does not actually work at first.

Church revitalization is often a process of two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes, it’s two steps forward, two steps back. And sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. This is not always due to the resistance of people, although this can play a major role.

You need to become accustomed to slow, steady success with frequent failure.

Revitalization doesn’t usually occur with a sudden swarm of new believers zealous for sharing the gospel knocking down the doors of your church. It’s slow, steady success with frequent failure. It’s making the right choices, helping organize things well, leading from a spiritual perspective, and helping the church through revision.

Revitalization is frequent failure. There are many things that don’t work in church revitalization. If that freaks you out, you are probably going to really struggle with church revitalization.

One church where I led as interim pastor years ago was at a crisis point. It was near bankruptcy, but we were able to turn it around and get it healthy again. Then, the church hired a pastor and the pastor came in with an attitude of “I’m here and this is my plan.” He neither wanted to love the people nor wanted to walk with the people. His ideas shattered some of the unity we had worked towards as a church.

In the end, he got discouraged because he couldn’t figure out why the people weren’t doing what he wanted. Here’s the key that he missed: Revitalization usually doesn’t work at first. It’s a series of struggles, sometimes ...

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Poll: You're Probably Inviting Friends to Church

The more often people go, the more likely they are to invite someone to come along.

America’s Protestants like to invite their friends to church.

At least once in a while.

Nearly two-thirds of Protestant churchgoers say they’ve invited at least one person to visit their church in the past six months, according to a new report from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

“It’s a fairly easy thing for churchgoers to do,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “In any six-month stretch, there are major Christian holidays and often other special events that are perfect occasions for churchgoers to invite friends and acquaintances.”

Church invitations fairly common

For the study, LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month.

Churchgoers were asked how often they’d invited an individual or a family to attend a worship service with them at their church in the last six months. They could include repeated invitations to the same people. Invitations counted even if they were turned down.

Seventeen percent say they extended an invitation. Twenty-one percent extended two invitations, while 25 percent extended three or more. Nine percent say they don’t know how many invitations they extended.

Three out of 10 say they didn’t invite anyone (29%).

“That’s a pretty substantial number,” said McConnell. “For a number of churchgoers, inviting people to church isn’t on their radar.”

Church invitations are harder to come by in some parts of the country. Forty-two percent of churchgoers in the Northeast say they hadn’t invited anyone, while 37 percent of Midwesterners skipped the invitations. By contrast, only 24 percent of Southerners and 26 percent ...

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