The book of Acts is about the church in formation, the mission of Jesus unfolding, and a gospel of the Holy Spirit. It is an action-packed book, so much so that a friend recently said to me, “Someone could easily make a movie out of it.” It is full of suspense, imprisonment, shipwreck, and of course Jesus’ followers living their faith out loud. It’s a refreshing and invigorating book.
In their 2010 year-end report, the Barna Group identified six major patterns emerging among Christians in America: 1) The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate. 2) Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented. 3) Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life. 4) Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating. 5) The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church. 6) The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible. Much could be said (and done!) about each of these. In response to the drift away from outreach and missions, as mentioned in the second point (and echoed by Jerry Rankin), we put together this list of 30 practical steps church leaders can take to see that their congregations stay alive and true to the global mission of God.
Near the end of his extraordinary life, William Carey was becoming a household name in England. Biographies were being turned out to an eager public. Even mementos of Carey’s life were prized as almost sacred objects. One day a friend of Carey’s was going on and on about the fame of the “Father of Modern Missions.” Carey interrupted him sharply saying, “When I am gone, speak no more of Mr. Carey. Speak of Mr. Carey’s Saviour.” Carey wasn’t the last missionary to become a celebrity, and his rejection of such misplaced attention, his “He must increase; I must decrease” attitude is refreshing. But the whole story underscores a dangerous tendency in ministry.
Bronnie Ware, a palliative care expert, has compiled a list of the five most common regrets expressed by dying people. 1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 2. I wish I didn’t work so hard (expressed by every male patient) 3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. 4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I hear many statements from good-loving Christians like, “I follow so and so,” “I listen to so and so everyday,” “My favorite pastor is ____,” “I wish our pastor was more like ___,” “Have you heard of ____?” Celebrity pastors are normal pastors who have been elevated to a status level either because they have a big church, wrote some books, or are on TV. It is good that the Word is getting out, but really how much Word is getting out about the Bible compared to the word getting out about some super pastor? So, in no particular order, here are seven theses to keep in mind…