New research by Lifeway concludes most churches won't close for Christmas.
by Url Scaramanga
The folks at Lifeway have just released numbers from a survey they did among 1,000 Protestant pastors. They were asked, “Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Sunday this year. As a result, does your church plan to have services on the following days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day?”
6% - Christmas Eve but NOT Christmas Day
27& - Christmas Day but NOT Christmas Eve
63% - BOTH Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
This year Dec. 25 is a Sunday and that poses a challenge for some churches.
by Url Scaramanga
Back in 2005 Christmas fell on a Sunday, and many churches (but especially megachurches) decided not to open for services. At the time we ran a series of articles about the decision, the media coverage, and the public's reaction.
Well, once again December 25th is on Sunday and we're wondering how churches will respond to the challenge. For most congregations there is little concern. Sure, the number of people attending may be lower due to family commitments or travel, but even if 1/2 or 1/4 of the usual attenders show up the service may proceed.
The more significant challenge is for larger congregations that require hundreds of volunteers to operate on Sunday and significant offerings to pay for heat and electricity. Back in '05 one megachurch responded to the media firestorm about not opening by emphasizing its desire to honor families by giving volunteers and staff a day off.
Finally, the chart shows that 85% of megachurch attenders are white. And I’m guessing that stat is probably equally true about megachurch leaders as congregations and leadership usually reflect one another. (Sorta the way owners resemble their pets.)
In 2008 the census bureau reported that whites will be a minority in the U.S. by 2042, eight years earlier than last predicted. And that date may accelerate once again depending on immigrant birthrates. And in some parts of the country the date will be much earlier. The point is, if most megachurches remain 85% white they will find a shrinking pool of potential members as the population becomes increasingly brown.
Am I predicting the demise of the megachurch movement? By no means. I think these large churches will continue, and we cannot lump all megachurches into the same category. Not all megas were started in 1980 by a baby-boomer in a growing white suburb. And many will navigate into the future with wisdom and skill.
But the cultural and demographic conditions that have fueled much of the megachurch movement, multiplication, and growth are changing. And whenever a new movement tries to leap from one generation to the next there are some who don’t clear the gap.
Tullian Tchividjian shares how he survived the attempted coup.
Interview by Drew Dyck
Tullian Tchividjian knows all about filling big shoes. Not only is he the grandson of Billy Graham, but in 2009 Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) stepped into another pair of Shaq-sized sneakers. He succeeded the late James Kennedy as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Tchividjian's church plant, New City, merged with the larger Coral Ridge, but the honeymoon was short-lived. Seven months later a group of church members, headed by Kennedy's daughter, circulated a petition calling for his removal. On September 20, 2009, Tchividjian survived a vote to remove him from leadership.
Today Coral Ridge has largely moved past the conflict and is thriving. Tchividjian's energy and enthusiasm (some Coral Ridge staffers call him "the tornado") belie the recent ordeal. Drew Dyck sat down with Tchividjian to discuss how he endured those dark days, what he learned, and how he found light on the other side.
Some of the reasons you were opposed seem trivial. You didn't wear a robe, like Dr. Kennedy did. You weren't political enough from the pulpit. Was there something beneath those objections?
Not preaching politics was a big one. But yes, I'm sure there was something underlying those complaints. Part of it may have been an old-fashioned power struggle. There were people who had been in places of power under Kennedy who felt that this was their church, and they should be in charge of running it.
Research shows large churches are getting larger...but for how long?
by Skye Jethani
Megachurches are predominantly white, suburban, conservative congregations led by baby-boomer pastors. This is what an infographic about floating around the web lately has revealed. It's based on research compiled by Forbes, The Christian Post, and Leadership Network.
For the most part the stats look very positive for mega and gigachurches (yes, that is a term now being used). These massive congregations, unlike many other churches, are still growing. They're expanding staff, seeing increasing budgets and have an optimistic outlook.
But buried in the positive stats about megachurches may be signs of challenges ahead. Could a bubble be forming? And when it finally bursts will the mega-model be abandoned or severely reengineered? Are we seeing the maturation of the megachurch movement into a sustainable and long-term model for the American church? Or, like Wile E. Coyote, is the ground going to suddenly disappear under its feet? Let's look more closely at the numbers.
Boys' brains are being rewired by video games and online porn.
by Eric Reed
"Please, sir, may I have some different?" It's not "more" the average young guy wants today, it's different.
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo describes drug addiction as "wanting more," but guys today have what he calls arousal addiction, always "wanting something different." This never-ending stream of stimulation is behind the growing failure of males to connect with women socially or to succeed academically. They're dropping out of life.
Zimbardo cites excessive internet use, video gaming, and online porn as causes of this new addiction. By age 21, boys spend 10,000 hours gaming, two-thirds of that time in isolation. The average young man watches 50 porn clips per week.
"Boys' brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way, for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arousal," Zimbardo says. "They're totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, and interactively passive. And they're totally out of sync in relationships, which build gradually and subtly." This is creating a generation of young men who do not connect well in traditional teaching situations and who lack social skills especially with women.
Does the church need more fire and brimstone preaching today?
by Url Scaramanga
This clip of a sermon by Mark Driscoll has been getting a lot of play. Never mistaken for being soft or indirect, Driscoll shares his concern that too many people are editing God by picking which of his attributes they like and which they'd prefer to discard. "I love you," he says, "and I have to tell you the truth." The real fireworks begin at the 4:30 mark on the video.
The what-is-the-gospel discussion continues. The latest contribution to the conversation comes from the prolific New Testament professor Scot McKnight in his new book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Zondervan, 2011). In the preface, N.T. Wright suggests that McKnight is proposing a “revolution” in our understanding of the Good News. Whether the praise is overstated or not, McKnight’s work is a thoughtful and illuminating account of how the early church understood the gospel and its relationship to Jesus.
McKnight’s central critique is that contemporary evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the plan of salvation, or to the question of how an individual gets saved. McKnight is careful not to dismiss the importance of personal salvation or of justification by faith. But he contends that the plan of salvation is not the whole gospel, and that in equating the two, evangelicals have made a dangerous mistake.
McKnight writes that the gospel is “the salvation-unleashing Story of Jesus, Messiah-Lord-Son that brings to completion the Story of Israel as found in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.” McKnight starts with 1 Corinthians 15 to make his case, highlighting how the Good News includes, not only Christ’s saving work on the cross, but also the rest of the story: the Resurrection, the birth of the church, and the fact that we are moving forward to the “full consummation of the kingdom when God becomes all in all.”
3. Social action is a partner of evangelism. This, finally, is where Stott lands on the matter. He believes that social justice and evangelism “belong to each other and yet are independent of each other. Each stands on its own feet in its own right alongside the other. Neither is a means to the other, or even a manifestation of the other. For each is an end in itself.”
Here is where John Stott not only reveals his theological brilliance, but also his Christ-formed heart. He recognizes that forcing every facet of the Christian life to fit into a mission/evangelism framework is untenable, and insisting that social action somehow justify itself in relation to evangelism is to ask the wrong question. In other words, we are having the wrong debate. Rather than asking how justice fits into the mission of the church, we ought to be asking how justice fits into the life of every Christian. Stott goes on:
“The reason for our acceptance of social responsibility is not primarily in order to give the gospel either a visibility or a credibility it would otherwise lack, but rather simple, uncomplicated compassion. Love has no need to justify itself.”
For me, this is where the debates about social justice and the gospel go off track. Atonement-only advocates demand justice advocates justify their emphasis on social engagement at the expense of evangelism. And justice advocates demand atonement-only advocates justify their emphasis on evangelism rather than social engagement. But, using Stott’s logic, if evangelism or social activism is flowing from a heart of love and compassion, than neither must be justified. Love is it’s own justification.
Does the gospel only advance through human "preachers," or might God use other methods?
by Url Scaramanga
Stories of Muslims coming to faith in Christ because of a vision or dream are not uncommon. In fact, we have reported on such things in the pages of Leadership Journal. Naeem Fazal, pastor of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, shared with us how a vision of Christ was pivotal to his own conversion. While many praise these stories as evidence of God's providence and love for the lost, not everyone is ready to get excited. By "not everyone" I mean John Piper.
The Christian Post reported that Piper said, "Jesus coming to [Muslims] in their head, preaching the Gospel to them that they have never heard of before, and believing and being saved… that I am suspicious of… big time."
It's not the first time Piper has publicly questioned the validity of such stories. Two Leadership editors attended a talk by Piper at Moody Church in Chicago a few years ago where he also questioned the authenticity of people coming to faith through visions or dreams.
What exactly is Piper's problem? He doesn't like the fact that dreams or visions don't utilize a human communicator or preacher. He said:
“The Gospel needs to be heard. How shall they believe unless they hear and how shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach unless they be sent. That’s a pretty significant argument in Romans 10."