Modern Discipleship

Each Sunday, I spend a few hours at church around people who are “like me”. Depending on the week, I am either running the sound system, singing in one of a number of groups, or playing with our worship team. I have small conversations with other parents of little ones, sharing the joys and pains of the week and looking ahead to the next chance we will get to hang out. However, a growing suspicion in my mind keeps popping up: how “like me” are these people? How many of them do I even know what their occupation is? Go ahead, count off your own list. I didn’t even get past my first hand.

As Christians, we are commanded to make disciples; to involve ourselves in the lives of others for the betterment of all towards a common goal – to be more like Christ. How are we doing? I will be the first to admit it: miserably.

I came across the following article from Modern Reformation on discipleship that expresses what I think much better than I can usually articulate, so please take a moment to read it through:

I’m fascinated by the parts of the Bible that leave us to wonder what happened when the story is over. For example, how did the formerly demon-possessed man live after he moved out of the cemetery, gave up his chains, and returned to family and community? How did Lazarus live once he’d removed the wrappings? What was Zaccheus’s life like after he started giving the money back to those he’d robbed? And how did that prodigal son and his snarky older brother work out their future in their father’s house?

We can all speculate on what happened next because we know that something happened next, because we know something important about Jesus: he makes disciples. Christian faith and experience take on a form in the world. That form, which we call Christian discipleship, is the next chapter, the next act, the next destination in the ongoing experience of belonging to the living Christ.

(read more here)

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The New Tolerance Must Crumble, Says Don Carson

MINNEAPOLIS — Have we already forgotten Kim Davis? “It shows how quickly the news cycles spin things out and leave them in a dust heap in the rearview mirror,” said theologian Don Carson. “A bare six months ago the nation was full of talk about ‘the woman from Kentucky.’”

Davis, 50, that “woman from Kentucky,” as some may remember, is county clerk for Rowan County. Her story, said Carson, is worth pulling from the heap and revisiting as an opportunity for believers to think through complex issues of Christian faithfulness in a declining culture.

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The Church is an Embassy, Not a Social Club

Here’s a question for you: Do you need to attend church to be a Christian? What about being a member of a church? Is that necessary for a believer to grow and mature as God intends?

To hear many Christians talk—and this would probably be the opinion of many more if you could read their thoughts—the idea of being a vital, connected member of a church seems strange, unnecessary, maybe even a little antiquated. After all, if the goal is to grow as a Christian—to learn more about God, to understand and act out our faith more consistently—why should we think the church is so important? The best Bible teachers on the planet podcast their preaching; there are energetic parachurch organizations where a Christian can serve well; and a small group meeting in a home provides excellent opportunity for fellowship. Really, when you get right down to it, what good is a hidebound, outdated thing like the church? And why should I be a part of one?

The answer, to put it simply, is that the church isn’t just an invention of Christians who were trying to fulfill certain needs—fellowship, teaching, and so on. It’s much more than that. In fact, the Bible seems to hold the local church out as a unique organization, one unlike any parachurch organization, any other ministry, or any other institution in the world. It is, by Jesus’s own royal prerogative, the embassy of the kingdom of heaven to this rebellious world. This reality is mostly lost on Christians today, and yet that’s essentially how the Bible describes it.

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The Island of Misfit Joys: Church Culture and Christian Intellectualism

Melissa Cain Travis

2015 has been a year of paradox for me. It has been a season of personal growth that has brought unprecedented intimacy with God, yet the result of that intellectual and spiritual development has deepened an ever-present sense of aching isolation that I experience within local church community. As a student immersed in the world of Christian academia, I hear similar confessions from my peers, who are scattered around the country. When we gather in video hangouts, online discussion forums, or annual meetings, the conversation and fellowship is so very rich, and we openly express our gratitude for the level of community modern technology has made possible. But at the end of the day, it isn’t quite the same as being able to gather with kindred spirits, in person, on a regular basis, and we talk about that fact with sad resignation.

At the conclusion of the last live class session of my fall…

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Why Celebrate Advent?

Once upon a time, there was a season in the church year known as “Advent.” The word comes to us from the Latin for “coming.” The purpose of the season was to anticipate the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting.

As early as the fourth century AD, Christians fasted during this season and ended their fasts with celebrations either of the arrival of the wise men or of the baptism of Jesus. For many Christians today, the most familiar sign of Advent is the lighting of candles—two purple candles, followed by a pink and then another purple—on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

Advent has fallen on hard times, though. In the Protestant and free-church traditions, the loss is somewhat understandable; we Baptists in particular tend to be suspicious of anything with origins in ancient or medieval tradition. Yet even in congregations that closely follow the rhythms of the church year, the meaning of Advent seems in danger of being misplaced. By the closing week of November, any sense of waiting has been eclipsed by the nativity scene in the lobby, the tannenbaum in the hall, and the list of Christmas parties in the newsletter.

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Seven Reasons to Celebrate Advent

I grew up in one of the branches of the church that did not celebrate Advent. Before the leftover turkey disappeared from the refrigerator, we were in full-blown Christmastide through December 25.

I was in my twenties before I was introduced to the tradition of Advent, and it frankly did not have much appeal right away. What was the value of four weeks of longing and expectation? It seems so contradictory to the prevailing atmosphere of festive, cheery glow in the shopping malls.

But I have grown to love Advent. And though it is not a mandated observance in Scripture, there are profitable reasons to consider making Advent part of your holiday rhythm. Here are seven potential benefits of observing Advent.

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25 Things Dads Are Hardly Told To Do For Their Daughters, But Should

I’m not a father and I never will be. But I am a daughter, and I have two dads: one biological, the other, by marriage.

Over my short 23 years on this Earth, I have come to understand that the daddy/daughter bond is something special. So special, that a father’s actions and love have a pretty strong chance of molding who his daughter will become.

Inspired by writer Roxane Gay’s response to a nervous father of a daughter, I’ve compiled a list of the things I believe all dads of daughters should know to make sure his influence is the best possible kind, from my personal experiences and through the many experiences of other daughters.

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