South Philly Church Plant

Please pray for a new church planting endeavor in South Philadelphia. One of our elders, Will Turner, parachuted into the Point Breeze neighborhood a few years ago with his wife and four young children. To say that this is a challenging area in which to live would be an understatement. And frankly for most people it might not be a desirable neighborhood. My wife and I have been part of a small group Bible study at the Turners' house for over a year. They have made many connections and built relationships. Today, August 24 is the third preview service with community cookout in anticipation of a fall launch once a suitable meeting place has been obtained. Your prayers would be appreciated for the Turner family and for Redemption Church and for God to raise up co-workers to labor with them in South Philly. http://redemptionchurchphilly.com/

The Hubris of Faux Fundamentalists

One of my alma maters recently announced it will be closing after 38 years of training men and women for ministry.  Personally I am saddened by its impending closure yet rejoice in how God used and blessed the school. I have not been associated with the seminary for several years and have no special insight into the reasons of its closure. The reasons given by the school include a decline in student enrollment and financial constraints.  Predictably, some more separated and discerning brethren cannot control their distasteful triumphalism and have almost revelatory insight into the real reasons the school is closing. Against my better judgment I attempted to post on one consistently negative blog given to regular rants. Although posts were accepted that could barely hide their glee and with predictions and wishes that more compromising schools would close, my post my denied.

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A Compelling Case for Amillennialism

Sam Storms’ new book “Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative” presents a compelling case for amillenialism. Notice I said compelling, not conclusive. Whatever position you hold, think you hold, or have to hold because of where you serve, you should wrestle with Storms’ presentation.  He is one of many former dispensational premillennialists who have surrendered their long cherished and strongly held position. In Storms’ case, he studied under the dispensational fathers – Ryrie, Walvoord, and Pentecost (p. 10) at Dallas Theological Seminary where he received his Th. M.  He was finally persuaded that “there was no basis in Scripture for a pretribulational rapture of the Church” which led many of his friends to believe that he “was well on [his] way into theological liberalism” (p. 12).

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Urban Grace – Church Planting Internships and Partnerships

Have you been praying about urban church planting? This week, March 5-8, Calvary Baptist Seminary is hosting Advancing the Church, a biennial conference which this year features D. A. Carson as keynote speaker. Grace Church of Philly will be among the exhibitors to speak with prospective church planters interested in doing internships in Philadelphia and to meet pastors interested in church planting partnerships. Present at our table will be elders and interns from both church plants (University City in West Philly and Feltonville in North Philly).  This would be a great opportunity to speak with someone from our leadership team or leaders in training. You will meet men from different ethnic backgrounds and students and graduates from different institutions of higher learning who have accepted the challenge of laboring together for the advance of the gospel. We'd love to see how God might work to bring others to labor alongside us. Or just stop by for a free pen!

Helping “Issue Christians” Move On

Ed Stetzer has a good article on helping "issue Christians" move on. The particular issue in this case was prophecy details. We see this problem not only in churches but on scandal blogs which exist solely to attack other Christians (under the guise of defending the faith of course). The issues and terms (Lordship Salvation, Calvinism, etc.) are defined to make anyone who disagrees appear disobedient to Scripture. I suspect that below the surface often lurk undiagnosed issues and disorders and that championing issues in which they are experts provides a dose of self-esteem and sense of righterism. They have no trouble calling brothers in Christ clueless, liars, and of ill repute. They demand answers to inquisitorial questions for which no answer will suffice. If these issue Christians come to your church they may be able to be helped if teachable. If they are bloggers with too much time on their hands and most of their comments are their own or from anonymous people, they are best ignored.

 

How Much Can We Disagree on Eschatology?

Recently I was briefly involved in an online discussion regarding Sam Storms’ change in his millennial view from premillennial to amillennial. There have also been recent videos discussing the importance of eschatology in the life of believers and church life.  Several years ago Thomas Schreiner changed his view from amillennial to premillennial in his study of Revelation 20. Much of my training was in dispensational schools and I have no bone to pick with my dispensational brothers. Yet three years ago when we planted a church there were a few men committed to church planting who held to different views on eschatology. We decided not to enshrine a detailed eschatological position in the church’s doctrinal statement, which for some was a sure sign of compromise or flabby theology.

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Sandy Hook and Human Evil

When we look at the Sandy Hook tragedy, the question we should be asking is "‘what is wrong with humanity’ that we can commit such atrocities?" If the discussion does not go beyond ‘gun control’ or ‘mental health’ then our solutions will be superficial. People murder other people because they choose to unleash their hate, their anger, and their envy. Read more here at the Gospelfirst.

Also check out this Youtube video by a member of Grace Church, Dr. Chuck Williams, professor at Drexel University, who appeared on O'Reilly Factor last week discussing the correlation (not causality) between violent films and violence and how those who are already emotionally fragile can be pushed over the edge.

Grace Church of Philly – University City Update

We continue to experience God's blessing at Grace Church. Next March will be the 3rd anniversary of Grace Church – University City site in West Philly. We have pretty much outgrown the hall we are renting. We use the same space for our worship services and our fellowship meal each week (see photos). So after the service we tear down the chairs and set up tables. It's a little chaotic but it works out okay. We are looking at another rental space a few blocks away at a Lutheran Church. We would appreciate the prayers of God's people.

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Mission Tourism Season Begins

Mission tourism continues to boom even in times of economic crisis. Almost daily I receive emails or hear appeals from individuals, churches, and schools that are preparing for summer “missions trips” to send summer “missionaries” to far flung places to minister to those to whom they cannot speak without an interpreter, to build relationships with those they will never see again, and to do for others what they often can or should do for themselves. What seems to be most important is the experience of the mission tourist. What seems to be missing is asking about outcomes for the recipients of mission trips and whether the hosts were confirmed more deeply in their dependence on naively generous Americans.

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Leakey will be history first

Paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey has predicted the end of skepticism regarding evolution. According to news articles his “family claims to have unearthed ‘much of the existing fossil evidence for human evolution.’" The account of Mark Twain's premature obituary comes to mind. He allegedly commented – "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Since we’re doing predictions, I predict Leakey will be history long before skepticism about evolution disappears. And I hope he changes his mind before then. Let's see. Believe the Bible or believe Leakey?  Believe Leakey or 40 biblical authors? I decided long ago to believe someone who lived, died, and rose again rather than men who died and are dead. No doubt Leakey’s a brilliant man. But he’s no prophet.

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