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

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Book Review: Irresistible (Stanley)

Once upon a time, there existed a version of Christianity that was irresistible. Over the years, however, errors and accretions have piled up, reducing to a shadow what was once a robust proclamation of the Good News of Jesus. But now, there’s a way that the Church can return to its roots and make the gospel great again.

No, this isn’t another book about the corruptions of Catholicism that the Protestant Reformation overcame; it’s the story of American Protestantism, which has sadly lost its way in the wilderness of the Old Testament and a “Bible-before-Jesus” approach to sharing Jesus. Continue reading

Some Brief Reflections on Christian Leadership

In many circles, leadership is a common buzzword. Politicians, company executives, social scientists, pastors, teachers, professionals, generals, people who give TED talks, and seemingly everyone else is talking about leadership—what it means and how it works.

I must confess that I too am interested in leadership; from my desk, I count no fewer than seven different books with “leader” or “leadership” in their title.1 While I’ve found such books to contain much valuable information, I’ve recently been reminded of my need to revisit the Scriptures in order to learn what it means to be a God-honoring leader.2

In particular, I’ve been reading and reflecting on three passages in the New Testament on the expectations and qualifications for Christian leadership: 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.3 Through these reflections, I’ve come to understand Christian leadership as involving four primary characteristics: service, order, holiness, and confession. Let me explain each. Continue reading

October 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival

Welcome to the October 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival—and Happy All Saints’ Day!

I’m honored to be hosting this honorable event on this sacred day of remembering all those who have gone before in faith. Before we get on with the business of remembering all the best Biblical Studies articles from this past month, first the business of future carnivals.

  • Bob McDonald will be hosting the November 2018 carnival (due December 1, 2018).
  • Christopher Scott will be hosting the December 2018 carnival (due January 1, 2019).

As carnival Godfather Phil Long has made clear in recent months, we need additional volunteers for future carnivals—especially for January 2019 and forward. If you’re interested in hosting, contact the good doctor (email, @plong42) and let him know your availability. And speaking of Phil, I want to thank him for continuing to curate these carnivals.

Now, on to the main attractions, which have been categorized in the following groups: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, New Testament, Early Christianity, Reading Phil Long, Theology and Hermeneutics, Book Reviews, and News. Happy reading! Continue reading

Should I Hide When Mormons Come Knocking?

One of the great privileges of serving in the local church is the opportunity to hear intriguing questions from congregants. A couple of weeks ago, I had such an experience after talking about evangelism. The topic of door-to-door Mormon missionaries  came up, and eventually our conversation turned to how to interact with non-Christian missionaries—and if they should be shown any sort of hospitality at all. One participant in the conversation mentioned that they do not allow non-Christian missionaries into their home on the basis on 2 John 10-11, which says:

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” 2 John 10-11 (ESV)

I’ve always made it a point to be frank with door-to-door people of any sort. If I have time or you sound interesting, I’ll listen; if I’m busy or unlikely to be interested, I’ll quickly let you know. When it comes to non-Christian missionaries (people such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses), I’ve been known to chat for a moment or two, even occasionally inviting them to step onto my porch for a few minutes. In light of this information from 2 John, I wondered if I had been unknowingly violating a scriptural teaching. Continue reading

February 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival

Welcome to the February 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival!

This 144th Biblical Studies Carnival marks the twelve year anniversary of these events. I’m honored to be facilitating today’s overview of the very best that the Biblioblogging world has to offer.

Over the next several months, these fine people will be hosting the carnival:

If you’re interested in signing up to host a future Biblical Studies Carnival (or just want to have a conversation with a truly pleasant person), contact Phil Long (email, @plong42). Hosts are needed for June, July, August, October, November, and December. Speaking of Phil, I want to thank him for continuing to coordinate these carnivals, and for allowing younger scholars such as myself the opportunity to host.

In lieu of categorizing this month’s posts into 12 categories and having 12 representative articles for each, I’ve organized them into Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, New Testament, Early Christianity, Reading Phil Long (an homage to our Godfather of Biblical Studies Carnivals), Theology and Hermeneutics, Book Reviews, and News. Happy reading! Continue reading

Book Review: The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence (Fleischer)

Did God command Israel to commit atrocities when conquering the Promised Land? Does He approve when people go to war in His name? Is the God of the Old Testament truly a homicidal maniac, as some have said?

In The Old Testament Case for Nonviolence, Matthew Curtis Fleischer tackles these questions—and much more—with a thorough and contextual reading of the Old and New Testaments. Fleischer marshals evidence that says no to these queries, at least in a nuanced sense. His chief argument in defense of God’s character is the concept of incremental revelation: that in order to best reveal Himself (in the person of Jesus for the work of the Church), God incrementally revealed His ethical expectations and character throughout the Old and New Testaments. Continue reading

A Proposal: Application

This post is part of a proposal for approaching theology from the perspective of history.

Women in the Apostolic Fathers

As an application of this approach, I want to quickly examine conceptions of women which appear in the early Christian writings known as the Apostolic Fathers. To keep this example as brief as possible, consider one instance where a female character appears in the apocalyptic account known as the Shepherd of Hermas (c. 100-150 CE).4 In Vision 2.4.3, Hermas records being told by an angel the following: “And so, you will write two little books, sending one to Clement and the other to Grapte. Clement will send his to the foreign cities, for that is his commission. But Grapte will admonish the widows and orphans. And you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church.” Continue reading

How to Approach Difficult Bible Passages

As a teacher, I am regularly asked about Bible passages and the theology they convey. Sometimes the questions are straightforward; other times, not so much. Some time back, for example, as I was innocently trying to lead our community group through Romans 8:18-30, I was asked how to interpret verses 29-30 in light of that not-at-all-discussed-among-Christians topic of Predestination and Freewill. It happens.

The vast majority of the time, I am more than happy to dig into a text and explain what I think and why. Having been privileged to study under some brilliant Biblical scholars (and having read many more), I am all too eager to hold forth on the Scriptures, and I genuinely hope that my discussion helps those listening. However, in the past several years I have discovered a more fruitful approach to addressing these questions: walking through Bible passages with people and training them how to read and interpret wisely. Continue reading