The Challenge of Church Planting

This post is part of an ongoing series looking at church planting.

Obviously, church planting is not all fun-and-games. There are plenty of challenges inherent in starting a new church, including those of: Continue reading

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Does Church Planting Overly Innovate?

This post is part of an ongoing series looking at church planting.

As commonly framed, Christianity often has problems with new things. Whether it’s new ways of thinking about Jesus (as during those pesky Christological controversies in the early Church), framing theology (like during the Reformation), using academic scholarship to inform faith (as in the modernist-fundamentalist debates), or thinking about human sexuality (like in many contemporary churches), Christianity and newness don’t always get along. Continue reading

Why Plant a Church?

This post is part of an ongoing series looking at church planting.

Of course, there are already a lot of established churches. So why do people plant new churches?

First, church planting represents a tangible way for Christians to fulfill the Great Commission, to “make disciples of every nation” (Matthew 28:19-20). No place on earth is 100% churched. While there are plenty of locales with lots of churches, in no area does every belong to a church (let alone attend one on a regular basis). For example, St. Louis is a traditionally Christian city, with large numbers of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Pentecostal churches. Yet something like 80% of people living in St. Louis did not attend any sort of church last weekend.5 Continue reading

What Is Church Planting?

You’ve seen them in your community. They’re popping up in old buildings, fields, and other empty spaces. They show up with catchy names and make lots of loud noise, often attracting quite a crowd in the process. But what are they? Where do they come from? And why are they here?

I’m talking, of course, about church plants—when a new local church begins where none had previously existed. Continue reading

How to Tell If a Sermon is Good

Every week, millions of people around the world situate themselves in moderately uncomfortable seating and listen to someone talk at them for an extended period of time. I am, of course, referring to Christians who attend church services and listen to sermons. While Christian denominations differ on all manner of doctrine and practice, the proclamation of a message is accepted as standard practice by Christians worldwide.

Now, sermons vary quite a bit. They differ in title (sermon, message, homily, lesson), length (from 5 minutes to hours), style (read, Spirit-inspired, off-the-cuff, practiced), emphasis (as the central focus to a prelude to something else), and content (topical, exegetical, series, stand-alone, visionary, reactionary). Furthermore, as anyone who has attended church more than a handful of times can tell you, sermons also vary greatly in quality.

Some sermons are extremely boring, filled with clichés, poor teaching, and dragging on for what seems like an eternity. Other messages are highly engaging, composed of amusing anecdotes, motivational testimonies, and powerful calls to action. Some sermons are theologically rich, rooted in solid exegesis, overflowing with biblical wisdom, and founded on timeless truths. Other times, sermons are theologically destitute, bereft of meaningful insights, rarely referencing the scriptures, and lacking identifiably Christian content. Continue reading

The Resurrection

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Continue reading

SSP: The Contents of Patrick’s Bible (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.

Gospel Writers

Gospel Writers

Patrick’s overarching approach to the scriptures in hand, I now turn to some more specific considerations of his citations from the Old and New Testaments. Of central importance for Patrick were the Gospels (primarily Matthew and Luke), Pauline Epistles (especially Romans and the Corinthian correspondences), and the Psalter.[1] To briefly touch on the value of these writings for Patrick, the Gospels served not only as the source for knowing Christ Jesus, but also provided the missionary impetus which guided Patrick’s life. His quotation of Matthew 24:14 and 28:19-20 in Confessio 40 stands as the clearest example of how these biblical texts provide the foundation for Patrick’s life and work.[2] Continue reading

SSP: The Vulgate

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Scriptures of Saint Patrick of Ireland.

Vulgate

Vulgate

The second major Latin version of the Bible circulating in the Middle Ages was the Vulgate. Commissioned by Pope Damasus in 383 CE, the Vulgate is commonly attributed as the work of Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus or, as he is better known, Jerome.[1] Jerome’s real contribution to the Vulgate came through his translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament (contra the Vetus Latina, which was largely translated from the Septuagint).[2] His revision of the Vetus Latina New Testament was just that—a revision—and in some of the later portions of the New Testament, even that term seems a bit strong for the way in which Jerome used the Vetus Latina to produce a “new” translation.[3] This leads to the complication that, for later portions of the New Testament, it is often quite difficult to distinguish between the Vetus Latina and Vulgate versions.[4] Continue reading