Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Cape Town 2010 has been called the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2000 year history of the Christian movement (Christianity Today).  Four-thousand Christian leaders representing 198 countries attended the Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.  The Congress was brought together by a globalized leadership team from Africa, Egypt, Malaysia, India, North America and elsewhere.  Several thousand more leaders participated in the Congress through the Cape Town GlobaLink, Cape Town Virtual Congress and Lausanne Global Conversation.  Learn more about this gathering by watching this short documentary

John Stott Has Died

An architect of 20th-century evangelicalism shaped the faith of a generation.
Tim Stafford | posted 7/27/2011 01:37PM

Editor's Note: John Stott died today at 3:15 London time (about 9:15 a.m. CST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Homan said that Stott's death came after complications related to old age and that he has been in discomfort for the last several weeks. Family and close friends gathered with Stott today as they listened to Handel's Messiah. Homan said that John Stott Ministries has been preparing for his death for the past 15 years. "I think he set an impeccable example for leaders of ministries of handing things over to other leaders," Homan said. "He imparted to many a love for the global church and imparted a passion for biblical fidelity and a love for the Savior." This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Read the Article Here......

John Stott: The Man Who Wouldn't Be Bishop

Discernment and discipline have enabled him to touch lives worldwide.
By David Neff

Legacy of a Global Leader

Less known than Stott's earlier work is his ministry with Langham Partnership International.
By Tim Stafford

Evangelism Plus

John Stott reflects on where we've been and where we're going.
By Tim Stafford

Basic Stott

In this cover story from 1996, evangelicalism's premier teacher speaks on gender, charismatics, leaving the Church of England, the poor, evangelical fragmentation, Catholics, the future, and other subjects.
By Roy McCloughry

The Quotable Stott

Reflections on the occasion of John R.W. Stott's 80th birthday.
Compiled by Richard A. Kauffman

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


COMMENTARY: To rebuild church, stop looking for quick fixes

Dan Dick, Jul 22, 2011
By Dan Dick
Special Contributor

At what point do we finally wake up to the fact that there is no such thing as a lasting, transformative “quick fix”? The United Methodist Church has suffered through over 50 years of “church-in-box” programs that have produced poor results at best.

Disciple Bible Study came closest to delivering transformation, but ultimately “popular” did not translate into “effective.” Literally thousands of people have had wonderful, meaningful, enjoyable Disciple experiences. However, a variety of independent follow-up evaluations indicate that there is a very low retention rate, that few people adopt sustained spiritual formation practices, and few report any transformed behavior in their daily lives. I hear about the handful whose lives were completely changed, and I do not devalue any such experience—but unless Disciple has been an integrated component of a comprehensive developmental process of spiritual formation, it remains a pleasant experience for the vast majority.

No, our Bible studies, evangelism programs, stewardship campaigns, membership drives and Seven Habits, 10 Keys, 12 Steps and 40 Days remedies have done little to make us a city on the hill or a light in the darkness. Where this occurs, there is hard work, commitment, vision and prayerful discernment shared by the many rather than the few.

Look, if you set out walking in the wrong direction, and you keep walking for 30 or 40 years, depending on how far off course you are, it is going to take more than a few weeks or months to get where you need to be. Churches that have allowed worship to become passive edutainment, stopped doing any real invitational evangelism, ignored a focus on whole-life or financial stewardship, don’t promote adult education and spiritual formation, and don’t expect and require all members to be involved in hands-on outreach and service are not just making adjustments—they are faced with changing the entire culture. You won’t find the answer how to do this in a 200-page “We did it, you can do it too!” church leadership book.

And you won’t discover your answer in any lame “best practices” workshop, either. Turnaround churches almost all agree: They knew what they needed to do before they did it. It isn’t ignorance that fosters decline; it is apathy. Churches that truly want to grow do so.

Churches that want to serve do so. Churches that want to climb out of financial hardship do it. For every declining church you can name, there is a growing one just like it in most ways. The key difference? Declining churches expect their answer to come from the outside; growing churches take responsibility for their own solutions.

A tale of two churches

An example: two churches just eight miles apart. Both experienced membership decline from the 1990s through 2007—older people died or moved away, no new young families, giving decreased and both congregations supplemented their finances through fundraising dinners. In 2007, the respective attendance of the two congregations was 67 and 63.

Congregation A looked to the pastor and the annual conference for assistance and direction, wanting help “attracting young families and growing the church.” Congregation B recognized that they had very little to attract new people and that they weren’t doing anything proactive to reach out. A core group of 21 members made a commitment to invite at least one friend, neighbor, family member or colleague to a small group, a work project, a fellowship event, or worship each week.

2011—Congregation A, 41 in worship and on the verge of closure; Congregation B, 121 in worship and beginning a capital campaign to renovate and expand.

In over 200 years, one key of evangelism has remained constant: Personal invitation is the key to growth. Rarely do people come to a church and stay because of the preacher. Certainly it happens, and it happens enough that people pin their hopes on it happening in their church, but it is the exception, not the rule. Cold calling door-to-door has some limited success when launching a new church, but it has never been overly effective (even for the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose growth is dependent on families and friends).

Advertising in phone books and on billboards (and now websites) may catch a few first-timers, but if they don’t connect right away and form relationships, the retention is very low.

No, across the globe, churches grow because people who love their congregation want to share it with others. There is no short cut or magic pill to make a congregation grow.

Same goes with finances. The churches in the best financial shape do four things: They identify things worth spending money on, they ask people to give, they spend what they receive on those good things and then they ask for more. Poverty is never an issue. Fixed income doesn’t enter into it. Bad economy is never an excuse. Congregations give when there is something worth giving to. And paying the church’s bills and keeping the church out of debt isn’t good enough.

Do we really care?

People with expensive hobbies pay their bills and have money for the things they care about. The only reason I have ever found for a church being in financial trouble is that the members and participants don’t care enough to support it. Where the treasure is, there the heart is also. When people really care about something, they invest themselves completely in it. Those that don’t have the funds, find the funds or raise the funds. Those who can’t afford ask those who can.

The money is always out there—it all comes down to: How badly do we want it? How important is the work of God through our church to get us motivated to fund it? Healthy churches never waste time asking, “Can we or can’t we?” Their only conversation is, “How will we?” We can prayerfully hope that a huge bequest will drop in our lap, but that’s no way to build a plan. There is no stewardship campaign that will transform a local church’s financial picture. That happens through vision, sweat, strong relationships and a Spirit-directed faith.

Our other penchant is to wait until it is too late to turn anything around. We decline to a point where we have virtually nothing left, then we start looking for solutions. Denial is one of the greatest threats to our church health. Just as we can only deny our need to watch what we eat, exercise regularly, rest well, watch our blood pressure, etc., so long before we hit a point of crisis, we can only allow our congregational reality to decay so long before disaster strikes.

The hard reality is that our own health, vitality and future rest squarely with us—no one else will guarantee them for us . . . and what worked for one church is highly unlikely to work for us. We need a customized plan of learning, worship, giving and serving that fits us—that honors the unique gifts, skills, knowledge, talents, passions and experiences of our particular fellowship—and will generate an attractive energy that allows us to get excited enough about who we are and what we do that we want to tell and invite the world.

And such deep knowledge and integrated relationships take time. We better get started soon.

The Rev. Dick is director of connectional ministries for the Wisconsin Conference.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Circle of Protection

Today is another intense day of politics at the White House. The debt default deadline is fast approaching. The stakes for the nation are high as politicians can’t agree on how to resolve the ideological impasse on how to reduce the deficit before the nation defaults on its financial obligations.

Yesterday, before Congressional leaders were due at the White House for critical negotiations, I, along with 11 other national faith leaders, met with President Obama and senior White House staff for 40 minutes. We were representing the Circle of Protection, which formed in a commitment to defend the poor in the budget debates. Sitting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, we opened in prayer, grasping hands across the table, and read scripture together. We reminded ourselves that people of faith must evaluate big decisions on issues like a budget by how they impact the most vulnerable.

Continue reading this entry »

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Science cannot affirm the non-existence of God

Archbishop: Church Must Learn Language of Youth

Says Liberty and Science Are Two Dominant Values

MADRID, Spain, JULY 21, 2011 ( To evangelize young people, the Church must understand their culture, in which liberty and science are dominant values, say the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella said this Wednesday during the summer course "Young People and the Catholic Church: Points for a Youth Ministry for Today," which is under way this week at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

The archbishop's talk was titled "Young People and God, Young People and Jesus Christ, Young People and Eternal Life."

One cannot speak to young people of Christ, said the evangelization dicastery president, "without speaking of liberty, as the youth of today has placed it in his culture, but liberty must always be in relation to truth, as it is truth that produces liberty."

At the same time, he added, "one cannot speak of God to young people without knowing the culture of today's young people, which is scientific. Today's culture, its content, is full of axioms of science."

The Italian prelate clarified that the Church is "in favor of science, but the latter must be in favor of humanity and never against humanity."

"The time will come when science itself will ask for help from theology to know the realms of reality more amply, and to be able to give an answer to pain, to betrayal, to death," in short, "to the great questions, the questions of meaning," said archbishop Fisichella.

Archbishop Fisichella pointed out that "the interaction of science, personal life and ethics is necessary," and that one cannot live without the other.

By way of example, the archbishop gave the case of the director of the Genome project, Francis S. Collins, who has gone further into the language of God, because "true science puts you at the doors of the transcendent."

Archbishop Fisichella concluded assuring that one "can be Catholic and scientific at the same time. To experience scientific knowledge does not imply atheism. The scientific has its limits; it cannot affirm the non-existence of God."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Defend and Define Your Faith

Basic ChristianityDefends and Defines the Basic Claims of the Christian Faith
"We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, personally and unreservedly, to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. This is basic Christianity, the theme of this book."

With these words, world-renowned preacher John Stott embarks on a compelling study that first defends the basic claims of Christianity and then defines the proper outworkings of those main beliefs in the daily lives of believers. Here is a sound, sensible guide for all who are seeking an intellectually satisfying presentation of the Christian faith.

Named one of the Top 100 Books of the Millennium by World magazine and listed among Christianity Today's Top 100 Books of the 20th Century, Basic Christianity has impacted countless readers worldwide over the past fifty years. This special new edition continues the Stott legacy and includes helpful Study Questions for group discussion.

"Anything John Stott says is worth listening to. Anything he writes is worth reading. Basic Christianity is not only a classic must-read for every believer; it is truly a blessing preserved on the written page for the enrichment of this generation and those to come." --Anne Graham Lotz

Paperback; 184 pages


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Congratulations to the Republic of South Sudan

Republic of South Sudan

Africa's 54th state

declared its independence on the

9th of July, 2011

We promise to support you
in prayer, material and talent.


Message as Spoken
Reading: Hebrews 5:14-6:1,2; 12:11,12; 2:10; 3:8
It is almost a commonplace with us, that the great feature of the dispensation in which we live is the gathering out from the nations of the members of the Body of Christ, and then the bringing of them on to as full a measure of maturity as is possible. It is not only the salvation of souls, and it is not only the collecting of believers into a spiritual Body. It is afterward, their coming to full growth, which represents the supreme interest and concern of the Lord in this dispensation. I think that is perfectly clear as being a great feature of this time; that maturity is the desire of the Lord for His people; full growth, completeness. Surely this is unmistakable when you read the Word of the Lord along that line. That immaturity is widespread is also, I think, unmistakable. That the Lord is moving in the midst of His own people to bring as many as will go on with Him to fullness, into that fullness, is  also a thing which I think is patent. Many questions will arise, but those we must, for the moment, set aside.

We know the widespread immaturity, we know that there are multitudes of saved ones who are the Lord's people living in the shadows of immaturity, who will not pay the price and go on with the Lord, and we might be tempted like one of old to say, "What shall this man do?" And the Lord would say, "What is that to thee?" In other words, "It is not for you to make the immaturity of other people your standard, but what I desire is to be the thing which governs your own thought and occupies you entirely."

So, this being the purpose and will of God, completeness and fullness, we recognize the meaning of all that the Lord is doing. But before touching that more fully may I come back to one or two simple, basic realities, to remind you of these things. That the child of God, the believer, is a new creation. That the believer has an entirely new set of faculties which are spiritual faculties. That man by nature, in his natural state at its best, has no standing whatever in the realm of the things of God. That the believer is not one who has come to change an attitude and become full of Christian interests of which he or she was devoid formerly, and now all other interests, rather than being personal or worldly are Christian interests and activities. That is not the believer. The believer is one who has become possessed of an entirely new set of spiritual faculties and is a new spiritual entity; a different species of being, an entirely different creature, and that these spiritual faculties by which alone the things of God can be known and entered into, have to be developed, have to grow, have to come to a place of spiritual efficiency, just as in the natural child who has its faculties in birth and there has to be steadily a development of those natural faculties.

The faculties of sight, hearing, have to come under control, and every sense of the child has to be developed and brought to as high a state of perfection as possible. Its understanding, observation, and so on. So the believer, being born from above, a new creation, is born with an entirely new and different set of faculties from that with which we came into this world by nature, and it is those spiritual faculties and senses which have to be developed to make us full grown, spiritually efficient in the Lord.

That is very simple and elementary, and yet it is discriminating in a way that many need to have discrimination made, and it is to these saints that the Apostle Paul writes when he says "to those who have their senses exercised," and he says that to these, strong meat is the right kind of provision. He is deploring that after years they are still unable to have strong meat because their senses and faculties have not been developed. If the Lord is really bent upon — as one of His supreme objectives in this age — bringing believers, the saints, to full growth, to spiritual maturity, then He will consider nothing too great a price to reach His end, and that will explain all the mystery of His ways with His children, and all the strange things which happen which sometimes seem to be God working against His own interests, and to us, very often it looks as though the Lord were working against our interests and doing everything quite wrong. But the Lord is prepared to take risks. I am just putting it that way — risks, even with Himself in the mind of poor finite people whose understanding is so limited, and involving Himself in a good deal of misunderstanding, if only thereby He can reach His end.

He dwells in eternity, not in time. He can afford to ignore the misunderstanding of poor man knowing that He has the end in view, and eternity before Him, and that it is worthwhile using a brief moment of time, even though in that moment He may be entirely misunderstood, so long as He reaches an end which is eternal and justifies Him to the hilt. What did the Lord again and again tell His people of old under the hands of their enemies and His enemies? Those against whom He stood, against whom He had taken an attitude which was beyond reconciliation; yet He delivered His people into their hands, and for years His own were under the tyranny of God's own sworn enemies.

Looking at it from one standpoint you would say this is a contradiction, and surely these enemies of the Lord and all others looking on who hated the Lord would say, "You see the Lord could not do what He wanted with them so He has washed His hands of them — the Lord was unable to get His own and so He has abandoned them." That is what Moses brought to the Lord on one occasion. He, the Lord, took that risk. He let the heathen laugh and jeer and look on and sneer at Him and say He has proved a failure, unworthy of trust, while He let His people remain in the hands of the enemies again and again. Jerusalem trodden under foot and every one passing by saying, this is the result of their trust in Jehovah. The Lord reproached by what He did, and yet He considered it worthwhile that all that should be in order to get His ends.

The ways of the Lord are past finding out and they must never be judged according to our human standards; and the Lord allows catastrophe to overtake, but with an end in view, something which when it comes will justify Him up to the hilt, and you will see what we thought was the weakness of God, has proved His strength; the breakdown has proved His supremacy; the foolishness of God has proved His wisdom, so He will be justified in the end. So in this question of growth by exercise you have that whole principle involved. This exercise is not introspective self-analysis. Some people think that when they have turned their eyes inside and become self-conscious, self-analytical, and studied their inside a great deal, circling round their souls, asking questions about themselves — that that is exercise. That is not spiritual exercise. That is what we have said it is — it is all self-consciousness, and all self-consciousness leads to paralysis, bondage, weakness and defeat.

If you look at this word where the exercise is referred to, you will find that this exercise is that which comes upon us in experiences which God produces. "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." By what? By the chastening which God takes up with them. God deals with you as with sons if you suffer chastening. As sons He brings you to maturity. The way the Lord handles you; that is the exercise.

The Lord may get you off activities and shut you up to inactivity, and you go through an awful time and say the Lord has forsaken you, all has gone wrong. What really is it? Why, it is growing pains! Has it not proved to be growing pains? In the long run it was not all wrong, it was all right. You came to know the Lord whereas before your whole life was taken up with things. You have been shut up and you came to know the Lord inwardly and you have come to a state of spiritual efficiency which is so much greater that you can now meet the external situation. He has been misunderstood, but He was working unto your efficiency, exercising us unto efficiency. These, the growing pains, are terrible. You cannot help anyone who is suffering from growing pains, and you must stand aside and see them going through.

So through numerous and various directions this growth takes place by the painful exercise produced by the way the Lord is dealing with you. Chastening — a poor English word. It is child-training or discipline. Take the word disciple; one who comes into association with someone in order to learn, and the Disciples were chosen that they might be with Him in order to learn. That is discipline, learning. We do learn through suffering. Even the Lord Jesus was made "full grown" in this sense, complete, through suffering. We take the same way unto full growth. It is child training, discipline, learning by way of experience. That is chastening. Making us sons out of children, full grown men out of infants. I feel that we want to have more faith in the dealings of God with us along this line. It is painful, sometimes anguish. What is the Lord doing? Why is it there is so little space between one thing and another? It does seem that the Lord is pressing to get us quickly to full growth, to get us to the place where we learn something.

The right attitude to take towards every trial which the Lord allows to come upon us, every fresh and difficult thing, is — what is it that the Lord has in view for us to attain to by this experience? It is not to destroy, but to build up. Not to take from, but to increase. Not to restrict, but to enlarge. Down in the deep place is some treasure of the Lord to be discovered. Some of us can say "Yes, we have found it like that." We have gone into deep places, found fullness there and come to know the Lord. Do you see the one thing that is in view in this passage on exercise? "To discern"; it is spiritual intelligence that the Lord has in view. There is a spiritual history going on for some which is the counterpart of that illustrated in the days of the Lord in His flesh. The Disciples with the Lord as their Head are gathered out a little company to Himself. In fellowship to learn. Then He gave to them, conferred upon them official authority, jurisdiction, to go out and exercise His Headship in the creation. To fulfil His government; to administer His government in the world. There you have, in brief, the whole of the meaning of this dispensation. The only real thing was that the Lord was Head, but as for them, everything was merely official, not spiritual. They broke down on that point, but it seems the Lord has set up an illustration of what was to come spiritually afterward — the Church which is His Body — and a spiritual training by discipline, chastisement, to know Him in order that by that maturity and spiritual intelligence He might form for Himself an administrative instrument by which He will govern the universe in the ages to come.

And beloved, the believer is not just a machine that is going to be taken hold of by the Lord and made to do things. People seem to think it is the height of humility to say you are just a cog in the machine. What does it do? A cog goes when everyone else goes, and has to do what the rest do. You are not a cog in a machine. We are chosen individuals to make us individually the centres of His own spiritual intelligence, to know Him for ourselves; not detached from one another, but it does mean we know the Lord, and if we are all governed by the same Spirit we shall not work at variance, we shall work together with one mind if the one Spirit is triumphant in all of us. But He wants His children to be individually the centres of His own spiritual knowledge, spiritual intelligence, and then bringing us together in the one Spirit, working the one work, thinking the one thing, He will get for Himself an instrument to govern the nations in the ages to come: an intelligent instrument which has come to know the Lord's heart by experience.

For that, the faculty of spiritual perception, understanding is necessary. The natural man cannot know these things, only the Spirit discerns. This faculty of spiritual intelligence, spiritual knowledge, the inwardness of everything, has to be developed so that we know the Lord within. Every experience deeper than the last so that we are out of our depth, we have not the resource in ourselves to meet the situation and therefore, in the deep experience, we come to receive the more that is in Christ and having received it by sheer necessity of the situation we have grown that much.

Exercise can produce growth or hardness — the forty years in the wilderness were forty years of exercise. "When they tried me," etc. God brought them under discipline, a regime of child-training, into situations where no human resource could meet the need and everything had to be out from Himself, and a great opportunity of discovering the Lord, and so therefore a greater administration of the Lord in meeting the situation which men could not meet. All that which was intended to develop in their case worked out a hardening. Their attitude was, "these difficulties prove You are cruel and unkind, everything but that You are dealing with us in love." And so they hardened their heart under the exercise that was to prove them. You cannot come into a large place unless you have capacity. We can pass through deep experiences which the Lord allows, and we can take the attitude "This is not kind," "It is cruel of the Lord."

We can take one of two attitudes toward the ways of God with us; we can get bitter, sour, hard; or we can have the enlargement by exercise, development by exercise, to develop capacity, to bring us into the large place that we may be intelligently His instrument for governing under His Headship in ages to come. Things that enter into our history we cannot always fathom, but the explanation which we can give is that, whatever there may be as second causes, the Lord is Sovereign and He thinks it worthwhile sometimes to allow what the world would call the most terrible thing to overtake for the time being, and it would seem that His Name and interests suffer through that thing, but through that thing He brings His people to a place of maturity and they get to know the Lord for themselves. Through these terrible things we find the Lord produces something that is very much more worthy of Himself in the life of His children. That is His justification, His vindication: if He could do it in any other way He would.

In the long run He does get spiritual maturity among His people, where they know Him. He would get us to a place where we know the Lord and we have our senses exercised to know. The Lord give us grace to accept all His dealings with us in the light of His great purpose.

First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazine, Mar-Apr 1933, Vol. 11-2

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Dear Praying Friends,

Eileen and I have been up in the northeast of Japan for the past month now serving as CRASH Tono Base Camp Manager, Safety Officer and Church Liaison Officer. At present, we have 30 volunteers from the U.S,, Canada, So. Africa and Uganda serving through the base camp which presents us with many logistical challenges daily in keeping all the volunteers housed and fed as well as coordinating in getting them also deployed daily to the coastal disaster hit areas. 

As the CRASH Liaison Officer, we also have the task of coordinating our relief and recovery efforts through local pastors and churches here in Tono Shi, Iwate Prefecture, which also presents a separate set of challenges as there are few solid, evangelical churches in this area. We have a number of important meetings with key pastors in the next week (Pastor Kondo - 3.11 Network, Pastor Chiba -Conservative Baptist, Pastor Miura - Tono Bible Church) and would appreciate it if you would pray with us that we would see some good, long-term partnerships formed with these pastors and their churches in the days ahead.

We are thankful for the opportunity to serve the Lord here in Iwate Prefecture in the aftermath of such a devastating natural disaster in bring hope to the hopeless. We are particularly blessed to be working along side the local church to be an encouragement and help to them at this time of need. But also, to have the privilege of working along with the many Christian young people who are coming from all over the world as volunteers to serve the Lord here with us.

Thank you for your continuing prayers for us and the efforts of CRASH to bring healing and hope to the people of Iwate Prefecture and the Tohoku region.

In Christ and for His Glory, Jim and Eileen Nielsen TEAM-Japan