links: this went thru my mind

Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]

“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”

Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]

“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”

Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”

Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]

“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”

Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill

“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”

Ministry: Joe’s 10 Iron-clad Rules for Success in Ministry (some of which need more ironing than others)

“So, you’re new in the ministry?  And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend.  Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”

links: this went thru my mind

Bible translation: The Politics of Bible Translation

“… all translations are on a spectrum of more or less formal and more or less dynamic. Now one more complication: each translation will vary for individual words or phrases or clauses. Each of these Bibles is good. Let’s use them all, and rejoice that we have such wonderful access to the Bible.”

Discipleship, small groups, spiritual development, & transformation: Small Groups & the Transformed Life

“What do transformational small groups look like, and how do we make our groups more effective?”

Humility, learning & legalism: The Philosopher [required reading]

“The great apostle Paul once worried that he might have been wrong. It’s a sobering thought.”

Prayer: What Americans Pray For and Against (Per Max Lucado’s LifeWay Survey)

“Who prays? Men are less likely to talk to God than women: one in five say they never pray (22 percent), vs. 1 in 10 women (11 percent). Roughly 20 percent of whites (19 percent) and Hispanics (20 percent) say they never pray; in contrast, only five percent of African Americans say the same.”

Singles: To the Church, about Singlehood [essential reading]

“Not all members of the body of Christ are called to marriage, but all are called to be part of the body of Christ. We are complete in him alone and we are all adopted into one family no matter our place in society or our relationship status. We have to create a culture that celebrates, embraces and encourages individuals whether married or not.”

links: this went thru my mind


Church, discipleship, small groups & transformation: * The Surprising Truth About Discipleship and Spiritual Disciplines; * Is Church Too Easy? [essential reading]

* “… groups play an important role in the spiritual lives of the people in our churches. What will surprise you is just how important that impact is.”


* “If our goal is to ‘teach people to obey’ all that Jesus commanded, then we may want to rethink our commitment to comfort on Sundays.”

Churches of Christ & humility: Eating in the Church Building

“Bottom line. The Church of Christ has done and is doing some great things. At the same time, we have done many wrong-headed, incorrect, ungodly things. We need to recognize this fact, and admit to ourselves and the world that we are as fallible as any church ever.”

Jesus, nonviolence & pacifism: The Pacifism of Jesus: Reclaiming Christianity’s Challenge [essential reading]

“It may seem odd, even totally counter-intuitive, but following the words of Jesus should be hard. If it is a ticket to earthly dominance, to preservation of the status quo, we have to ask, ‘Is this really the gospel?'”

Independence, others, self & unity: Forgive Us For Our ‘Go-It-Alone’ Attitude

“Enable us to know great joy as forgiven people, united as followers of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

LIFE group guide: baptism’s four compass points


NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 22) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.


Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To note the company that baptism keeps, giving it meaning, as related by the authors of the Four Gospels.


These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  … Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20 NRSV)

•  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16.15-16 NLT)

•  He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. … Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. (Luke  24.46-47; Acts 2.38; 3.19 CEB)

•  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.5-8 NIV)


Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Tell us about your experience in the use of a compass. Did one ever help you get “un-lost?”

2. Tell us about someone’s baptism that was especially meaningful to you or deeply moved you.


These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. How is it the rest of Matthew 28.18-20 flows into, and out of, the “due north” word “disciple?”

2. Mark 16.9-20 was likely not a part of Mark’s original Gospel, but is, nonetheless, ancient teaching. In several different English translations, note the explanatory footnotes of this text.

3. What words in the four sets of texts above stress how baptism is for all people, everywhere?


These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. “Baptism is meant to be part of the beginning, not the end, of becoming a Christian?” How so?

2. What does it mean to be a “disciple?” Why do we tend to use the word “Christian” instead?

3.  One person says baptism is a matter of immediacy and urgency. Another says it’s not to be rushed into, but must be approached with premeditation and preparation. Weigh in, allowing the four sets of texts above to determine and shape your perspective.

4. Which of the four main thoughts concerning baptism above is easiest for you to grasp? Most challenging? Most comforting? Why?

5. When is a person truly “ready” for baptism? When are they not ready?


These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Are you ready right now to learn of Christ, lean on Christ, line up with Christ, and live by his Spirit? Well then, decide to be baptized into Christ today.

2. Compose a prayer that centers on how you will live out the meaning of your baptism.