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What Can Small Churches Do Together?

guest post

This is a guest post by Chris Bruno. He is the coauthor (with Matt Dirks) of Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion.


An Unlikely Partnership

Matthew grew up in an idyllic Scottish village by the sea. Mez grew up in institutions in Ireland, moving from foster home to children’s home to prison. No, this isn’t the opening to a Charles Dickens story.

Matthew grew up trying to avoid the Mezs of the world. Mez grew up trying to steal from the Matthews of the world. But God intervened to bring these two men to Christ and, ultimately, to an unlikely partnership.

Mez had replanted a dying church in the poorest community in Scotland, called Niddrie Community Church (it sounds better with a Scottish accent). The church is located in the middle of the worst “scheme” (low-income housing project) in Edinburgh, a community plagued by drugs and prostitution. But the congregation was composed of middle-class Christians who commuted in for Sunday services and left as soon as the benediction was given. Completely isolated from the neighborhood, Niddrie was regularly firebombed by antagonistic residents.

On his first night at the church, Mez was pulled over and arrested by the police, who couldn’t believe a thuggish-looking guy like him would be driving a nice car registered to a gentleman named Rev. Mez McConnell. By God’s sense of humor, Mez’s arrest gave him immediate street cred with his new neighbors. The church started to fill with unbelievers from the scheme, and it quickly became a vibrant hub of community life. Many people were redeemed and radically transformed by Christ. The difference between their old lives and their new was as stark as black and white.

Matthew had moved to America and planted a church in rural Kentucky called Bardstown Christian Fellowship (he says it sounds better with a redneck accent). He had a deep desire to return to Scotland to plant churches, but never felt released by God to leave his church in Kentucky. Then, at a pastors’ conference, he met Mez. Hearing about the incredible things God was doing in the schemes, Matthew saw a way to fulfill his dream and God’s calling: form a partnership between the two churches.

Niddrie Community Church needed funds and full-time workers to fulfill its vision to plant gospel churches across the schemes of Scotland. Reaching the residents of the schemes requires endless hours of intense personal counseling. So Bardstown Christian Fellowship began to recruit and send trained workers for long-term ministry at Niddrie.

Expanding the Vision

The partnership’s vision quickly began to expand. The partner churches asked, What would it take to plant or replant gospel-driven churches in the twenty neediest schemes in Scotland? The answer: a highly trained church planter and five full-time workers for each scheme, along with the financial resources to sustain them.

This was far beyond the capacity of two churches, so Matthew and Mez got to work finding additional partners. More churches soon signed on. Each church personally invests in one scheme church plant, sending money, long-term workers, and short-term teams. The church knows that if it doesn’t follow through on its commitments, a church on the other side of the ocean might not be planted or revitalized.

But this isn’t just about giving. The American churches feel that they are receiving as much as they give. After sending its first team, Bardstown Christian saw short-term missionaries come back from Scotland better equipped to reach the same kind of people they met in the schemes. Alcoholics and drug addicts started showing up at their Sunday services. Broken people with messy lives soon met Jesus through a group of Christians who, just a few years before, would have been very uncomfortable even talking to them. Matthew explained, “Making disciples in the schemes of Scotland helps us make disciples in rural Kentucky.”

Guidance from the First Century

These twenty-first century churches are imitating the church of the first century, when Gentile churches across the Roman Empire partnered together to invest resources, leaders, and prayer for the ministry of the poverty-stricken church of Jerusalem. This ten-year-long project consumed more of Paul’s time, energy, and emotion, than any other single initiative in his ministry. He saw it as a way to accomplish kingdom goals of fellowship, compassion, and evangelism that no single church could achieve on its own.

And even better, Paul saw it as a way each church could be blessed in its giving: “Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need” (2 Cor 8:14). Like Bardstown Christian Church discovered, true partnership is interdependent. It’s not just a way for bigger, wealthier churches to feel better about themselves by helping smaller, poorer churches. Everyone can expect to gain something from one another in partnership. Churches of all sizes can accomplish great things and benefit in amazing ways when they partner together for God’s glory.

In what ways might God be calling your church to partner with others?


Chris Bruno (PhD, Wheaton College) is the executive director of the Antioch School Hawai‘i and pastor for discipleship and training at Harbor Church. He spends most of his time leading a church partnership for theological education and church planting. He has written numerous articles and reviews and is the author of The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses and the coauthor (with Matt Dirks) of Churches Partnering Together.

 

September 2, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Church Ministry,Community,Evangelism / Missions,Life / Doctrine | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:15 am | 0 Comments »

Christ in All of Scripture – John 21:15–19

 

John 21:15–19

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”


Jesus didn’t hurry the process of Peter’s restoration. The Savior asked three times for affirmation of the apostle’s love, reflecting Peter’s three denials during Christ’s passion. Gospel surgery is free, but not always easy. Grace produces redemptive pain, not punitive pain. But pain is still painful. Indeed, the gospel brings an end to all deadening worldly grief. But the gospel is the beginning of enlivening godly grief (2 Cor. 7:10–11). The law condemns, the gospel convicts; the law creates self-centered tears, the gospel creates God-centered tears.

“Do you love me more than these?” It would have been easier on Peter had Jesus asked him, “Do you promise not to fail me again?” But Jesus knew better than to ask that question, because, of course, Peter would fail again (e.g., Gal. 2:11–21). Jesus is more jealous for our love than zealous for our works. If he has our hearts, he’ll have everything else.


This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.

 

September 1, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,Gospel Transformation Bible | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:28 am | 0 Comments »

Materialism: The Material Girl

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In this series of posts, the late James Montgomery Boice helps us avoid being “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) by unpacking the 5 major “isms” that dominate the modern world.


Get Rich or Die Trying

A fourth “ism” which is part of the “pattern of this world” is materialism. This takes us back to secularism, since it is a part of what secularism is. If “the cosmos is all there is or ever was or ever will be,” then nothing exists but what is material or measurable, and if there is any value to be found in life, it must be in material terms. Be as healthy as you can. Live as long as you can. Get as rich as you can.

When today’s young people are asked who their heroes or heroines are, what comes out rather quickly is that they have no people they actually look up to except possibly the rich and the famous—people like Michael Jackson and Madonna. And speaking of Madonna, isn’t it interesting that she is often referred to as “the material girl”? For some fans, Madonna apparently represents the material things of this world—clothes, money, fame, and above all, pleasure. This is what today’s young people want to be like! They want to be rich and famous and to have things and enjoy them. They want to be like Madonna.

Examining Evangelicalism

Are evangelicals much different? The older ones probably would not know a Madonna song if they heard it, but they might well be equally materialistic. Are they any different from those the poet T. S. Eliot, in his poem “The Rock,” described in this devastating epitaph?

“Here were a decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.” (1)

How different is the Lord Jesus Christ! He was born into a poor family, was placed in a borrowed manger at his birth, never had a home or a bank account or a family of his own. He said of himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). At his trial before Pilate he said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight. . . . My kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). When he died he was laid in a borrowed tomb.

If there was ever a person who operated on the basis of values above and beyond the world in which we live, it was Jesus Christ. He was the polar opposite of “the material girl.” But at the same time no one has ever affected this world for good as much as Jesus Christ has. It is into his image that we are to be transformed rather than being forced into the mold of this world’s sinful and destructive “isms.”

Notes

(1) T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909–1962 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1963), 156.

This excerpt was adapted from Whatever Happened to The Gospel of Grace?: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World by James Montgomery Boice.


James Montgomery Boice was senior minister of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for thirty years and a leading spokesman for the Reformed faith until his death in 2000.

The Biblical Foundation for Church Partnerships

guest post

This is a guest post by Chris Bruno. He is the coauthor (with Matt Dirks) of Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion.


A Challenging Prospect

Every Christian understands that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love, so you probably have a desire to display Christ’s love by connecting with other churches in your community. So you plan a park cleanup day together. Or a pastors prayer gathering. Maybe, if you’re daring, a joint Easter sunrise service. But to go beyond that, into long-term committed partnership? There are a hundred reasons why that wouldn’t work.

You have a limited amount of time, resources, and people in your church. Isn’t it possible to overcommit these God-given gifts by deploying them in ways God doesn’t intend? Your church has a unique theological and philosophical identity. What if you wake up and find yourself unequally yoked to another church that believes and behaves differently? You have a deep desire to reach people and influence them to see God the way you see him. Won’t there be people who are reached by your partnership ministry who decide to go to other churches or denominations? After all, you’re only half-joking when you call other churches “the competition.”

Learning from Paul

To answer those questions, we need to start by looking at Paul’s missionary strategies and practices. Once he had evangelized a city, established a Christian community, strengthened the saints in the church, and raised up leaders to guide the church, he called the church toward partnership in God’s greater kingdom. And there was one major task he recruited each of the churches he planted to carry out: collecting money for the poor in Jerusalem.

After spending ten years planting churches, strengthening churches, connecting churches, and collecting from churches, Paul finally decided it was time to deliver the big gift. This obviously wasn’t an impulsive effort. He traveled one thousand miles to take the collection to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17–20; 24:17), bringing with him representatives from at least three of the four regions where he had planted churches. The saints in Jerusalem received the gift with great joy and gratitude, but as Paul expected, he was arrested by unbelieving Jews soon after the gift was delivered.

What drove Paul to strive and strain toward a partnership of wildly different churches? What motivated him to risk his life delivering their gift? There are at least three key reasons that propelled Paul, and these still inspire most partnerships today:

1. Compassion

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, possibly with the goal of recruiting them into the partnership, he said, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Compassion toward the poor and suffering is natural for people who have experienced Gods compassion. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

2. Evangelism

When Paul delivered the Jerusalem collection, there’s a strong possibility that he was blessing not only needy Christians but also needy unbelievers. After he was arrested in Jerusalem, he testified before the Roman governor, Felix, and said: “I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult” (Acts 24:17–18). Paul may have given most of the collection to the church in Jerusalem, but he probably gave a portion of it to the temple for distribution to needy unbelieving Jews. Why did he do this? “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for [the Jews] is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).

3. Fellowship and Unity

When Paul described the Jerusalem collection, he used many words. Service. Gift. Privilege. But one of the most powerful is the Greek word koinonia (Rom. 15:26). Literally meaning “sharing,” this word is often translated as “fellowship.” Paul saw the collection as a unique way to draw churches together and display the unity of the Spirit.

This wasn’t natural, especially in the racially charged church of the first century. Paul continually challenged churches to pursue gospel unity among all Christians, both Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3; Ephesians 2), but the Jerusalem collection partnership was a powerfully tangible demonstration of how the gospel transcends race, culture, and tradition. Paul made this purpose clear: “For if the Gentiles have come to share in [the Jews’] spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings” (Rom. 15:27).

And not only did the collection unite Gentiles and Jews, it also bonded Gentile churches to one another. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about the collection, he told the story of the churches in Macedonia: “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:2–3). This “reminded the members of these congregations that they were partners in the gospel with one another, no less than with the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”When churches work side by side with one another, they are reminded of their union with one another in Christ.

In thousands of cities across the globe, churches large and small haven’t considered the amazing things God could do through them in partnership with others. He used kingdom churches to turn the first-century world upside down (Acts 17:6).

What will he do in the twenty-first?


Chris Bruno (PhD, Wheaton College) is the executive director of the Antioch School Hawai‘i and pastor for discipleship and training at Harbor Church. He spends most of his time leading a church partnership for theological education and church planting. He has written numerous articles and reviews and is the author of The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses and the coauthor (with Matt Dirks) of Churches Partnering Together.

 

Looking for a Large Print Bible?

ESV Bible headerFor many of us, a major concern when choosing a Bible is the size of the text. Regardless of age, having a text size and layout that’s easy on the eyes can vastly improve our overall Bible reading experience.

To learn more about what it takes to design and produce a large print Bible, I sat down with Brian Martin (Bible Production Manager) and A.J. Penney (Bible Typesetting Manager), both members of Crossway’s Bible Production team. Here is what Brian and A.J. had to say about the main goals for producing a large print edition and also the major challenges to the process:

Goals for a Large Print Edition:

We want to make the edition as helpful as possible to those who need larger print while maintaining a reasonable size and cost. So, to put it simply, readable text and feasible cost are the main goals for a large print edition.

Challenges to Producing a Large Print Edition:

We typically face three main challenges:

1. Readability:

The challenge of Bible typesetting is to take a very long document (the full Bible text) and present it as a normal-sized book. Because of the vast amount of content, the book you end up with has encyclopedic font size and layout. This is not conducive to casual reading or in-depth study.

With many large print editions that are on the market today you’ll notice that the font looks squeezed, as if you took a picture of a normal Bible page and pushed in the sides. And often that’s exactly what happened: as a solution to the encyclopedic font size and layout, a normal Bible has been enlarged and squished to fit on the page. The overall result is a crowded layout.

Therefore, the number that is reported as the font size doesn’t necessarily tell you whether a Bible is easier to read. Rather, a good large print Bible’s typesetting is intentionally designed to be large print, as opposed to being a “blow up” of a normal Bible.

2. Size:

It is almost always necessary to sacrifice portability. For example, there are a lot of variations on large print-wide margin-compact Bibles that are physically possible, but while some readers would be willing to carry around an extremely heavy Bible if it meant 12pt font and generous wide margins, this isn’t the ideal edition for the majority of people. (Have you ever seen someone toting their 10-pound personal ESV Pulpit Bible to church?) For us to offer such limited specialty editions, people would have to pay four to five times what they are accustomed to paying for Bibles. So it’s likely that the size, weight, and price of the edition would deter people from purchasing such an edition.

3. Cost:

Another challenge is that it’s impossible to make a large print edition that doesn’t cost a lot more than the average edition. A large print Bible is usually going to be larger in size and have a higher page count. The extra cost accumulates quickly not only from using more paper, but also printing smaller quantities than a normal Bible. This means that we’re always trying to find the right balance. We truly want it to be easier to read but, at the same time, use space economically on the page so that it isn’t excessively lengthy or large. We want the paper to have a high opacity, but more opacity means thicker paper, and a bulkier book block. Increasing trim size and page count also increase expense and will mean a higher retail price. It is a balancing act.

Thank you, Brian and A.J., for giving us a glimpse of the complexities of Bible production!


ESV Large Print Editions:

 

Large Print Personal Size Bible

Actual Type Size:

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  • 12-point type
  • 1,952 pages

 

ESV Study Bible, Large Print

Actual Type Size:

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  • 11-point type
  • 3,008 pages

 

Large Print Thinline Reference Bible

Actual Type Size:

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  • 10.5-point type
  • 1,248 pages

 

Large Print Compact Bible

Actual Type Size:

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  • 8-point type
  • 1,376 pages

 

Large Print Bible

Actual Type Size:

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  • 12.5-point type
  • 1,408 pages

 

Giant Print Bible

Actual Type Size:

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  • 14-point type
  • 2,000 pages

 

August 28, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:44 am | 0 Comments »