“United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity” by Trillia Newbell

My friend Trillia Newbell has just released a book titled United: Captured by God’s Vision for DiversityTrillia’s writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published at Desiring GodTrue WomanThe Resurgence, The Gospel Coalition, and more.

N_185Trillia is currently the consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Newbell is also the Lead Editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

United is going to be a helpful book for the life of the church. Once you hear Trillia’s heart you will see why…

Is racism still a problem in this country in 2014?

To be honest, it’s easy to feel discouraged about where we’re at today, and—in those moments—I have to remind myself about the progress that has been made, most especially in broader society. We know that civil rights leaders of fifty years ago fought hard, risking life and limb, to overturn the “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws. Those leaders hoped that blacks and whites would enjoy life together and that blacks would no longer be subjected to discrimination and hate crimes. This was the dream for the entire nation. Martin Luther King Jr. famously shared his dream that “one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” America has clearly come a long way since the 1960s. Our public facilities, parks, pools, and educational facilities—once segregated—are now filled with a variety of ethnic groups enjoying the benefits of their liberties. Yet our churches too often remain separate but equal.

After so much progress in society, why does the church remain relatively unmoved?

N_185_authPerhaps we are all tired of the conversation about race. It doesn’t take much to recognize that our country continues to be divided along racial lines. Perhaps it seems that the country is moving toward unity, but it’s a façade—just check your local news. And though our society may want to move on, we can’t, and neither can or should the church. Maybe our churches remain segregated simply because it’s comfortable. There’s nothing malicious to it; we are just more comfortable with “our own.” But also, it might be because diversity and racial issues are scary. Talking about race and racial reconciliation can be downright terrifying. No one wants to offend, and in our politically correct society, who would blame you? If you say the wrong thing, ask the wrong question, or call someone by the wrong name, will they be angry? Are you black or African-American? Chinese or Asian? Hispanic, Latino, or Mexican? This is an explosive topic, and sometimes it seems that the wisest course of action is to avoid it at all costs.

You believe it’s vitally important to fight through the risks and the discomfort in order to fully live out the Gospel of Christ.

Yes. We can so clearly see throughout Scripture that God celebrates the diversity of His creation. He does not distinguish between races: He created man in His own image, sent His Son to save the world, and saves anyone who believes. God calls Christians to be imitators of Christ and to walk in love. If He doesn’t show partiality, neither should we. The problem with the current church model and experience for most of us is that while we affirm these truths with our lips, Sunday morning reveals a different story.

Your father played a big part in shaping your desire to embrace diversity.

Absolutely. I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap as a young girl while he told stories about being beaten for not standing to sing “Dixie” at a sporting event and about the torture and pain that many blacks experienced in the South. He’d end his sobering stories, which never failed to rile me up, by saying, “But, Trillia, we need to love everyone regardless of race or religion.” As a result, I grew up wanting to accept everyone, despite my own rejection at times. It was how my father raised me—to love those who hate you.

How did becoming a Christian shortly after high school change your perspective on identity?

What I discovered as I grew in my Christian faith was that my identity is not solely that I am a black female, nor is it dependent on what others think of me. My identity is in Christ. When I find my identity in Christ and not in outward appearance, there’s satisfaction. I’m satisfied in Him because He loves me. I finally understood that my identity is not my own—my identity isn’t about me. But it’s one thing to know this truth; it’s another to understand it and have opportunities to apply it. I am thankful that I have found those opportunities within my church and throughout my walk with Christ. Understanding that my identity is no longer in my blackness, what I do and don’t do, or how others view me has been incredibly freeing. This knowledge allows me to enjoy my relationship with Christ and my relationships with others. It has also provided me the opportunity to enjoy my identity as a black woman in a better way. Being black is a part of my identity. But it isn’t my entire identity.

What would you say is the clear benefit of diversity?

By building into diverse relationships, we display the reconciliation and redemption of Christ to a world that is broken and divided. True unity is found first through being reconciled to God and then to each

March 3, 2014 at 8:05 am Leave a comment

Free eBook: “The Scarlet Thread Through The Bible” by W.A. Criswell

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Download the free eBook The Scarlet Thread Though The Bible by W.A. Criswell as a gift from The Gospel Project.

There is a scarlet thread that runs throughout the Bible and it is the binding that holds the pages of the Scripture together. That great scarlet thread is redemption through Jesus Christ. In this book, Criswell traces the scarlet thread of redemption from the blood of covering after the fall in the Garden of Eden to the blood-washed multitude standing before the throne of God in eternity. The content of this eBook was originally delivered as a sermon by W. A. Criswell at First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas. In his introductory remarks Dr. Criswell said:

400x_scarletthreadcover“The sermon is as if a man stood on the top of a great height and looked over the whole creation of God. As Moses stood on the top of Mount Pisgah and saw from afar the Promised Land, so this message tonight. We are standing as it were on a great and lofty eminence. And we are looking over the entire story of human history from its beginning in the eternity of the eternities, in the unknown distant ages of the ageless past, and as it reaches forward to the great incomparable consummation of the ages that are yet to come.”

To download the free eBook of The Scarlet Thread Through The Bible by W.A. Criswell, click here.

February 25, 2014 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

5 Benefits of a Membership Class

This post was originally posted at The Ministry Grid.

POUR-OUT-300Joining a local church is an important decision. As pastors and leaders we need to not only help people understand that, but we also need to properly shepherd them through the process of uniting with a local church body. However, according to LifeWay research 64% of churches either have nothing to assimilate new members, or no systemic plan to move people towards membership. This is where a church membership class can be beneficial.

1. Membership Classes Help Guard the Purity of the Church

In our culture the statement “I am a Christian” can mean ten thousand things, therefore it is important to make sure as humanly possible that everyone desiring membership in your church understands and believes the gospel. It is not uncommon to hold a membership class and find that some have never heard the gospel clearly articulated – even people that grew up in church. For this reason it is beneficial to hear someone’s testimony along with their understanding of the gospel before they join your church. A membership class provides a church the opportunity to explain the gospel for the benefit of the attendants evangelization or edification.

2. Membership Classes Help People Understand the Church

Membership classes help everyone in the church enter “on the same page.” I believe that a prospective member should know what the church believes on essential and non-essential doctrines, how a church works, and how it makes decisions. Therefore, communicating the church vision, core values, and explain its ministry philosophy can be an important aspect of helping someone make the decision to join the church. By implication, teaching these things can also help people learn what they can expect from the church leaders, processes, and its ministries.

3. Membership Classes Help People Plug In to Serve the Church

Membership classes are also an effective environment to plug people into serving the local church. When someone first joins a church it can be difficult to figure out where to get involved. Too many churches just assume that a new member will automatically want to get involved in ministry and will know how to do so. In a membership class people should learn that the church expects them to get involved, and learn of entry level opportunities for service.

4. Membership Classes Help Guard the Unity of the Church

Most churches emphasize membership expectations in their membership class. Not only can churches raise the bar of membership by holding a class, but also by talking about what would happen if church members did not live up to membership covenant and expectations. Being clear in the membership class as to what the church expects goes a long way in setting the church member relationship on the right path. It is important to note that the membership class can serve to preempt potential church discipline issues.

5. Membership Classes Help People Assimilate Into the Church

The membership class is an opportunity to encourage prospective members to get to know other potential members of the church as well as leaders in the church. Obviously, the primary purposes of a membership class are church orientation and teaching doctrine. However, relational orientation to the churches leaders and other potential members should not be overlooked. The significance of connecting with others in the class can pay dividends for a long time to come.

Conclusion

Perhaps you are involved in or are a leader a church that doesn’t currently offer a membership class.  The good news, according to Chuck Lawless in his book Membership Matters, is that most church leaders face little opposition when starting a required or encouraged membership class. It has also been noted by Thom Rainer, in his book High Expectations, that churches who require or encourage membership classes have a much higher retention rates than churches that do not.

The writers of the New Testament always assumed that the local churches to whom they were writing had a clear understanding of who was a member of the church and who was not (1 Corinthians 5:2; Colossians 4:5; Galatians 6:10). Church membership classes are one of the most effective ways to examine, assimilate, and clearly demarcate new members into a church family.

January 23, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

The Exclusivity of Jesus Christ

The necessity of preaching Christ in a world hostile to Him:

Proclaiming the message of eternal salvation in Christ alone unquestionably evidences undiluted arrogance, gross insensitivity, and religious bigotry – unless the message is true. Then, proclamation of the only true hope is the most important and loving message that a person can communicate, and failure to do so evidences incomparable callousness, gross negligence, and religious selfishness. The determination of whether evangelical preachers who proclaim salvation through Christ alone are guilty of religious bigotry or are admirable for religious altruism hinges entirely on the question of the truth of their message. That question Jesus answers with clarity: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”

Bryan Chapell in Preaching To A Shifting Culture.

January 20, 2014 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Know More Orphans Conference

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On March 7th & 8th, Altar 84 is hosting a conference at The Church at Brook Hills called Know More Orphans.” Here is the conference theme:

The Church has always been God’s plan for building his kingdom, and this includes securing justice for the poor and most vulnerable. Altar 84 desires to work intimately with the Body of Christ to care for the least of these, the orphan. On Friday, March 7th and Saturday March 8th, 2014, Altar84’s kNOw More Orphans Conference will seek to unite the church community for the call to care for orphans and vulnerable children – right here and around the world. The conference will provide AWARENESS of God’s Word and his command to take ACTION.

If you are interested in leading your church to care for orphans and building a church culture of adoption and foster care, I encourage you to consider this conference. The speakers for this conference include David Platt, Russell Moore, Tony Merida, Rick Morton, and more. I will also be leading a breakout session on orphan care and the teaching ministry of the church. I hope to see you there! To find out more click here. 

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January 14, 2014 at 8:10 am Leave a comment

On Reading Books

Al Mohler recently published a helpful article titled “Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books“. Dr. Mohler establishes good guidelines to energize your reading life.

1. Maintain regular reading projects. Mohler strategically reads in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. Mohler constantly reads works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies as he works through books of the Bible.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. “Identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development.”

4. Get some big sets and read them through. “Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set…You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.”

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. Mohler allows some time each day, when possible, for enjoyable/recreational reading.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them yours. “Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled…learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.”

Read the whole thing here.

January 3, 2014 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

Charles Spurgeon on being Christ-centered

“Don’t you know, young man, that from every town and every village and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? So from every text of Scripture there is a road to Christ. And my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, now, what is the road to Christ? I have never found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if ever I do find one, I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it.”

Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), 49.

January 1, 2014 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

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