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How to Shepherd Your Flock in a Politically Charged World

Everything gets politicized these days. It’s never been easier for churches to also get caught up in waves of political enthusiasm and social activism.

So, what should a pastor do when their fellow church members see needs and want to meet them, see injustice and want to stop it, or see a good cause and want to support it?

First, we should rejoice! When a church does a good job equipping people to think and live as Christians in a fallen world, the people become like rivers overflowing the banks of the church gathered (the lake). The landscape changes when there are lakes and rivers. But not all lakes need to be rivers.

So what do you do when one person wants their passion to be the primary passion for the whole church?

There are no easy answers to this question because every church and every community and every activist is a different mix of personalities and passions. But here are some principles to keep in mind.

1. Demote the political sphere while encouraging your politically active members.

For too many in our society, politics is everything. In This Is Our Time, I write about the politicization of everything, where politics has become a religion. Our country is still faith-filled; it is just that today our faith is misplaced. Too often, it’s directed toward government, not God. And many of our frustrations come when we realize government can’t ultimately save us. It was never meant to. Peggy Noonan writes: “When politics becomes a religion, then simple disagreements become apostasies, heresies. And you know what we do with heretics.”

All around us are people who believe the myth that politics is the only real place where you can effect change or transform the world. When you think that laws are the most important factor in changing the world, then every battle must be fought to the end. Otherwise, you’re sacrificing the cause!

The gospel challenges that myth. It tells us that the political sphere is just one area in which change can take place. It helps us put the political in a broader context, to realize that it is not everything. All gains are temporary, but so are all setbacks. Even if we lose a political cause, we can still be faithful. We are called always to witness, not always to win.

With all of this in mind, pastors should demote politics to its proper place, while simultaneously encouraging Christians who are active in their community. Understanding that the political sphere is not ultimate does not mean we should retreat. We cannot be indifferent, hoping to enter our houses of worship or our closets for prayer, as if holiness is all personal and private. No, the apostle Peter calls us to holiness and honor as a way of being on mission in this world. “Holiness is not supposed to be cloaked in the chambers of pious hearts,” says theologian Vince Bacote, “but displayed in the public domains of home, school, culture, and politics.”

2. Be aware of how quickly the uniting factor of a congregation can become a cause rather than the cross.

Once you have demoted the political sphere to its proper place and encouraged your church members to remain active, you should keep an eye on what is at the center of your preaching and teaching. It is easy for the unifying factor of a church to become what we do for others instead of what Christ has done for us.

A church’s unity for a cause can eventually displace the cross. The gospel is still there, but it’s no longer in the center. Something else is uniting the church – a political cause, social work, a community ministry.

Why does this matter? Because we want long-term fruitfulness in our communities.

When you put the gospel at the center, various ministry opportunities will come alongside as demonstrations of the power of Christ’s work on the cross. But when you put a cause at the center, various ministry opportunities may flourish for a time but then wither away, because they are no longer connected to the source of life that can sustain such activism.

3. Guard the platform of your church.

As a pastor, you’ve probably received multiple self-invitations to take “just a few minutes” of precious platform time to give a report or make a congregation aware of a need. Whether it’s people spreading Bibles around the world, missionaries coming home from furlough, medical missionaries providing essential healthcare or pro-life opportunities… everyone wants just a few minutes. Except for the congregation. They expect you to say “no” and protect them from the countless ministry opportunities that could be presented every week.

Do your congregation a favor and guard the platform of your church. Only put activities in the bulletin that correspond to your church’s mission and presence in the community. You can’t be a megaphone for every single thing people in your church want to promote.

4. Observe your church’s particular gifts and passions, and provide opportunities for community involvement.

Right now, our church is involved with tutoring elementary school students down the street. We’re helping plant a church in Cincinnati. We’ve celebrated when families have adopted children from overseas, and we’ve hosted fundraisers to help them offset the cost. We’re assisting refugees being resettled in our area.

These are ways that our church is ministering to the community. Enough people in the congregation were involved in the need for the church to realize it could help facilitate some of this good ministry.

J. D. Greear lays out three approaches to individual ministries – Own, Catalyze, and Bless. He explains it this way:

To “own” a ministry means we staff and resource it directly.

Those we “bless” are those we know our members are engaged in, but as an institution we have little interaction with them other than the occasional encouragement.

But the third category, “catalyze,” is where we put most of our energy. When we catalyze something, we identify members with ideas and ask them to lead us. We come alongside them, adding our resources, networking power, etc. We serve them. And that means sometimes they don’t do things exactly the way I would prefer. But in the long run, an empowered church catalyzed to do ministry will do more gospel-good in the community than if the church owns and staffs all its own ministries.

5. Publicly affirm and bless the kind of activism you want to see.

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Lift up examples of people who are the kind of activists you want to see.

When you hear of people in your congregation doing good in the community, don’t be shy in letting the rest of the church know. What you celebrate, you become.

 

Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources and publisher for the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Translation. A former missionary to Romania and current pastor, Trevin hosts a blog at The Gospel Coalition and his latest book is This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in the Light of the Gospel (March 2017, B&H Publishing).

 

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Get Ready, Salem Church Products Is Hiring

Salem Church Products is hiring and YOU could be the one to join our team, or you could know the perfect person who could come on board making in impact in tens of thousands of churches on a regular basis. We are looking for the right person who will fit the role as a Web Developer.

Here are some details for you:

1. RVA
If you don’t know what that is quite yet, no worries, I’ll fill you in. It stands for Richmond, VA, and it’s where we are located. So yes, you will be working with us in beautiful, sunny, RVA. It’s the capitol of Virginia, but it just has that small town feel. It’s such a great place to be as a single person, or a married couple with or without children.

2. Fun
Oh my. Let me count the ways.

  • Team lunches.
  • Team building times.
  • Company parties.
  • Ultimate frisbee teams.
  • Ping-Pong tournaments.
  • Free caffeine – Keurig (25+ choices) and soda machine (with La Croix now!).
  • Daily snacks.
  • Random blessings of free donuts, subs, pizzas, chick-fil-a, and more.
  • Don’t get me started on our Christmas party. Whew…it’s good!

3. Team
20 out of 20 people here at SCP agree that this is just the best company to work for. Does it get better than that?

4. Values
I love working for a company that has values such as:

  • We look for ways to encourage each other. We celebrate each other’s wins and have each other’s backs.
  • We are known as people who get things done. We take ownership of our work.
  • We are proactive in confronting challenges. We run towards problems with creative solutions.

5. Work
Alright, now here’s where it gets fun. To be a Web Developer with SCP, we’re not just looking for anyone. We’re looking for someone who can decipher the following:

  • CSS (random letters)
  • HTML (now I know this has to do with the web!)
  • ASP.NET (more random letters)
  • C# (does this mean you have to have a music degree?)
  • PHP (here we go again with the random letters)
  • Coldfusion (Do you need a physics degree)
  • SQL Server (Squool server??? as in crossing guard or cafeteria experience perhaps)
  • TSQL (enough with these letters…who really knows what they mean anyway?)

6. Impact
Get ready to have your mind blown. Do you want your work to make a difference? Everybody wants to have an impact right? Well this job will put you in a position to impact…are you ready for this…hold on…here we go:

  • 30,000+ churches on a weekly basis
  • over 1,000,000 monthly visitors that come to the sites you will be developing!

Come on! That is a significant impact you can be having.

So there you have it. If you think this position is a good fit for you, then click on the link below. You’ll find more details for this position and instructions on how to apply.

Web Developer – Salem Church Products

 

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Great Church Media Deal for April

I’m excited about what I get to share with you today. Playback Media, a site designed to equip churches with powerful visuals, is having a great sale on motion and still backgrounds. So for only $10, you will be able to pick up 8 motion backgrounds, 8 still backgrounds, and 1 countdown to use in your service. That’s 89% off the regular price!

This theme pack is called the “Rising Songs” Collection, and is a perfect option to use this time of year. Whether you need a beautiful Welcome slide, a Goodbye slide, or a blank slide to put your own words on, then this pack has you covered. You can find the pack here. Be sure to head on over to Playback Media and check out all the other great content they are offering.

Here is a sample of what is included in the collection:

 

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Not So Fast – Easter Is Not Over

Well, in regards to family photos, easter baskets, peeps, and plastic eggs, yes, Easter is indeed over. And in a large part, thank goodness! But the celebration that Jesus is alive, that He conquered the grave, that He is alive and reigning is not even remotely close to being over. This is something that we, as believers in Jesus, get to celebrate every day of our lives. And why wouldn’t we? This good news changes everything. This good news gives us hope. This good news changes how we treat our families, friends, coworkers, and strangers. This good news changes the way we use our time, our money, our resources. This good news changes everything.

Here are two powerful mini movies that can help communicate this message with your congregation.


Need by Freebridge Media


Go After Easter Challenge by Hyper Pixels Media

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Top 10 Hymns You Should Sing This Easter

What are some words that come to mind when you hear the word “hymns?” Do you think of these words? Old. Boring. Stodgy. Irrelevant. If so, then I’d love to offer an additional perspective for you.

You see, I used to be there with these identical mindsets. I grew up going to church with my parents singing from hymn books, and wondering what in the world I was doing singing songs that were hundreds of years old. In college, I committed my life to Christ and I was a part of a tremendous church singing some hip, rockin’, relevant songs: not too many hymns (if any at all). So, what were those hip, rockin’, relevant songs we were singing? You know. The greats! Songs like, Shine, Jesus Shine, Victory Chant, It’s Amazing, and Lord I Lift Your Name on High. We were a rockin’ church! One thousand people doing the secret hand-clap at just the right moment on Shine, Jesus Shine was always an epic moment!

But, where are those songs today? I hate to say it, but they are gathering dust. Now, do not get me wrong. Those songs had a time and a place. They were fun, exciting songs…for the time. As hard as it is to hear, (trust me, I’ve been there), those hip, rockin’ relevant songs we’re singing today…likely won’t be around in five years. It’s just like culture: out with the old and in with the new.
But, hymns…hymns! They have stood the test of time and rooted themselves into our minds and our hearts as timeless songs that will likely be sung to the end of our lives and beyond. We don’t exactly drive down the road blasting 90.5 Hymn FM (that is a completely fictional radio station I just made up…if it’s actually real…sorry about that). So, why is it that hymns are still around, and should we be singing them?

My vote (a couple of years ago my vote would have been different) is that a great number of hymns are more relevant and impactful today than many of the songs we currently sing. Now, by all means, I love a lot of the worship, heart, and passion in the current worship music scene today. I’m not arguing against this. I’m arguing for us to also include more of the ancient. I am leaning this way because of where we are today as a culture. We are in an ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-developing culture that thrives on what is new. If it happened a year ago, that’s old news. If it happened five minutes ago and you didn’t catch the update on social media, then you are out of the loop and dated.

The hymns that have stood the test of time were written by men and women with a solid biblical theology that stood strong in the midst of the ever-changing currents of culture. The words are rich with meaning. They are dripping with Biblical references, if we take the time to look. Many are not mere opinions, but Biblical truths that are being expressed in song. If we naturally lean towards the thought that we only want to sing what top artists are singing, then I encourage us to see that some of our favorite artists, Chris Tomlin, Bethel Music, Hillsong Worship, Paul Baloche, Third Day, David Crowder, Israel Houghton, Passion Band, and Matt Redman, are ALL singing and have recorded hymns for the benefit of exalting the name of Jesus.

Let me encourage you this Easter season to slow down, focus your eyes on the cross and the empty tomb, and grab hold of a hymn that has been sang for hundreds and hundreds of years. Read the words and be captured by the depth, theology, and truth behind many of these ancient tunes. When our hearts are on God, and we sing these hymns to His glory, hands will be lifted high in surrender all around the sanctuary.

Here they are, in no particular order, the Top 10 Hymns You Should Be Singing This Easter.

1. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
2. Amazing Grace
3. It Is Well
4. How Great Thou Art
5. Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery
6. Blessed Assurance
7. I Surrender All
8. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
9. Nothing But the Blood
10. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Let me know what you think, and what songs you are singing this Easter!

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