The Only Professionally-Designed Ministry Simulation You’ll Ever Find!

A few years back through our Summit Christian Leadership Center, we developed a leadership training experience that is the first of its kind in the seminary world:  The Sweetbriar Baptist Church Ministry Simulation.

Our faculty and students have all been delighted and surprised at how powerful and effective this experiential learning environment is for helping participants strengthen their leadership skills.  Several dozen students have completed the simulation over the past few years, and each of them rave about how beneficial it was for them.

We still have five slots open for the next installment of Sweetbriar Baptist — to be held January 16-20, 2012. We’re so excited about this new resource that we’d like to make a special offer to our alumni and supporters.

If the church you lead (or attend) will agree to take up a special offering for our Students’ Scholarship Fund, you can send two participants to Sweetbriar at no charge.  This is a great learning experience for vocational or non-vocational church leaders!  The personalized feedback you get from our faculty will encourage you with your leadership strengths and give you real direction for how to improve in areas where you need to grow.

Time is running out, and space is limited.  Call Gail Banz today at 215-368-7538, ext. 139 or email for more information.

Why Pastors, and Not Professors, Are the Answer to Biblically Illiterate Congregations

Those of us who teach Bible and theology in Christian colleges and seminaries learn quickly to live with chastened hopes of making a significant impact on the church in America today. I am well aware that any influence I might ever have on believers outside my local church is indirect. That is, in shaping future pastors, church planters, missionaries, teachers, and counselors, I do have the joy of influencing believers all over the world through the graduates of our seminary. But my teaching and writing, especially the academic side, while necessary, is not what will transform churches.

Yale University theologian, Miroslav Volf notes that in his context of mainline liberal churches, theologians are completely irrelevant to the average churchgoer. He observes that while scholars address other scholars and students, the church is listening to other voices:

Theologians are on the sidelines. Like the streetcorner preachers of yesterday, they find themselves talking to a crowd too hurried to honor them with more than a fleeting glance.

“Theology, Meaning and Power,” in The Nature of Confession, ed. Timothy Phillips and Dennis Okholm (IVP, 1996), 45.

Now, the situation may not be as dire in conservative, Bible-believing churches, but the principle still applies to some extent. It’s not the college and seminary professors that will change the church. Pastors who faithfully preach and teach the Word to their congregations in the power of the Holy Spirit are the ones who will be the most instrumental in significant change. They are the ones who must keep their fingers on the pulse of the people in the pew and counter the various influences of error today. While professors can fulfill their role in training ministers, no one should live with the illusion that they are more important to the average Christian than they really are.

God Does Not Want to Know What We Think

We live in a culture where everyone has their say, where I can press the interactive buttons and register my view on television, where I can set up a blog and proclaim my views on anything and everything to the world, where the most friendly thing we can say in welcoming newcomers is ‘We want to know what you think’, but dare I say it – God does not want to know what we think. He wants us to know what he thinks.

Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching (Christian Focus, 2009), 35.

Like Barry Manilow Tickets at a Biker Gang Fundraiser

It is a fact that falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true.  It is when the stab comes near the nerve of truth, that the Christian conscience cries out in pain.–G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton lived a few decades before Neo-orthodoxy hit its stride and 70 years before Neo-orthodoxy’s expression in the emerging church reared its ugly head. Chesterton probably wrote these words about theological liberalism, but liberalism never used the sophisticated tactics of Neo-orthodoxy, which uses the same language as orthodoxy, but means entirely different things. Neo-orthodoxy’s use of words like sin, salvation, atonement, etc. areparasitic, stealing the orthodox terms, while gutting them of their meaning.

The emerging church is just the latest dress of Neo-orthodoxy mixed with postmodernism. While not every practice of emerging churches is wrong (some are a corrective of the errors of the traditional church and the seeker-sensitive church), the theology of many emerging churches is thoroughly Neo-orthodox. And as Chesterton says above, this makes the theology of the emerging church downright dangerous. It is error of the most devious kind. As one of my apologetics professors often says, if you want to kill a church, preach neo-orthodox doctrine. Every church that lets it in the door ends up dying.

What compounds the threat of emerging postmodern theology is its tendency to change the locks as soon as it gets in the door of a church. As soon as it starts infecting the host with its venom, it declares discernment and biblical critique to be mean-spirited, Pharisaical, and judgmental. This tactic immediately precludes any attempt to judge all things by Scripture. In no time, the hip, young emerging pastor (or “life coach” as they are wont to call themselves) becomes the sole authority, and coolness becomes the measure of all things. The very thing that would save the church, biblical authority and discernment, is cut off at the knees.

One of my favorite contemporary authors, Carl Trueman, sums it up best:

Of course, if we pause for a second and reflect, it will become clear that errors which are a million miles from the truth — denial of the resurrection, say, or of the deity of Christ — are unlikely to deceive most Christians or do much damage to the church.  Errors which are nearly there, nearly true, nearly within the pale of orthodoxy, perhaps which even use the language of traditional orthodoxy in nearly the same way as the orthodox do, are much more difficult to discern and to handle; and Matt. 24:24 seems to indicate that the deadliest falsehoods are akin to this kind. What a shame that the modern evangelical aesthetic regards exposing and opposing such as distasteful, divisive, and about as welcome as a prize of a couple of Barry Manilow concert tickets in a raffle at a biker gang fundraiser.

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