Monthly Archives: October 2008

In the Blogosphere

Joseph is a single-issue evangelical: the Father of Jesus, the cries of the helpless, and change you can believe in.

Why choose between being a pastor and a scholar?

Discipleship is the new evangelism.

Are you proud that you’re not self-righteous? Think again.

Abraham Piper lists 22 simple ways to improve your blogging.

Al Mohler on the rift between the Schullers at the Crystal Cathedral.

An excellent article on praying the psalms.

Top Post this Week at Kingdom People: Is Your Small Group Open or Closed? 

Coming up next week… We’ll take a look at Scot McKnight’s new book, The Blue Parakeet, as well as a book about Christian perspectives on politics.

Posted in In the Blogosphere | 1 Comment

Book Review: Beyond Smells and Bells

It’s probably not a good idea for me to read too many books like Mark Galli’s Beyond Smells & Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy. (Paraclete, 2008).

After all, I have long desired a closer following of the church calendar. I have written of my love for more liturgical forms of worship. My experience worshipping with semi-liturgical Baptists in Romania whetted my appetite for more thoughtful worship.

Beyond Smells & Bells is a short book that appeals to two kinds of people. For those already in liturgical churches, Galli’s brief book will either explain to you for the first time how the liturgy intends to form you spiritually or it will renew your love for liturgy. For those not in liturgical churches, Galli’s book works as an apologetic for more thoughtful liturgy. Even though a posivite apologetic for liturgy is not his intention, Galli’s work accomplishes this promotion in an indirect way.

Galli writes that his book is for ”those who find themselves attracted to liturgy but don’t quite know why.” That’s me! So if the book is written for people like me, it’s no wonder I enjoyed it.

What I appreciate about Beyond Smells and Bells is how Galli builds on the work of Robert Webber without making liturgy out to be more important than it is (which Webber tended to do at times). Galli cautions against seeing the liturgy as a “magic potion”. He realizes that even as some people connect with God through the liturgy, others find it a terrific place to hide. Galli affirms the importance of worship space, but …

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Book Review: The New Media Frontier

The blogosphere is changing the world.

Am I exaggerating? Maybe. After all, there are plenty of people who have never seen a blog. Many people give you a blank stare if you ask them what a “blogger” is. But there is no doubt that the way we obtain information in this Internet age is changing, and the blogosphere is a big part of that information revolution.

Blogging has democratized the way we access information. It has also democratized the way we publish information.

The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ (Crossway, 2008) illuminates the promises and pitfalls of engaging in this new media. Especially helpful is the Christian focus that this book brings to blogging.

John Mark Reynolds starts off the book by describing the difference between “live” and “preserved” discourse. He shows how the world has moved from “live” performance to “preserved” performance. Now this pendulum is swinging back towards “live” performance. Maintaing the balance between instant communication and preserved communicatio is of the utmost importance.

An interesting phenomena that Reynolds does not address: ”live” performance sometimes leads to “preserved” performance. Take American Idol for example - direct performances (“live”) that (hopefully) lead to recording contracts (“preserved”). Or the success of bloggers (“live”) who wound up writing “preserved” discourse for this book!

Matthew Lee Anderson warns us about the blogosphere. He sees a number of deficiencies in online communication and so he points out some dangers that should be avoided. Of primary concern is the way that connecting online is inferior than connecting face to face. Likewise, the emphasis in blogging is on posting and publishing. You cannot simply “be” an …

Posted in Blogging Tips, Book Reviews | 1 Comment

Is Your Small Group Open or Closed?

Blue Laws are history now. Most retail businesses and restaurants are now open for business on Sundays.

But I wonder how many small group / Sunday School / adult Bible fellowship classes in our churches are actually closed on Sundays. Of course, these classes are meeting every week. But how open are these classes to visitors? Do these small groups welcome people into their fellowship?

Here are some ways to show visitors that your class is “open” on Sundays, and not closed to outsiders.


Are parents able to drop their children off at their classes on time? Does the adult class start on time? If your start time is 9:00, but all the members know that things don’t really get going until 9:15, then your visitor (who might even arrive a few minutes early) feels like everyone knows a secret they don’t. How to fix this problem? Start on time. Or at least start your fellowship on time, so that a visitor doesn’t face the awkwardness of an empty room.


Who do you set out chairs for? Leave enough empty chairs so that your visitors will feel they are expected and welcomed, not an intrusion.


Some classes laugh at the idea of wearing name tags. “We all know each other,” they will say. But such a mindset betrays the fact that the class is already closed to outsiders. We don’t wear name tags for each other; we wear name tags for visitors. If everyone has a name tag, then a …

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No Worrying Allowed

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
- Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:25)

Webster defines anxiety as “a troubled feeling about what may happen in the future.”

As Christians, we know what the future holds, and we know who holds the future. Therefore, Jesus urges us not to be troubled about the immediate trials, because our minds should be set on the world to come.

Worry is always a sure sign that our thoughts are immersed in the here and now rather than our role in the kingdom of God. Anxiety clutters our minds with thoughts that take our eyes off Jesus.

The person who worries about weighing too much (or too little) will find himself consumed by thoughts about food: what to eat, how to diet, calories.

The person preoccupied with clothing will always be thinking about what to wear, the colors that he looks best in, and the cost of the new outfit he longs for.

The person absorbed in money will be anxious about his income, his financial situation, and his job security.

If we were half as concerned about the Kingdom of God and laying up treasures in heaven as we are about the insignificant things that mean nothing in the face of death and eternity, we would be able to change the world!

The way to turn …

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | 4 Comments

Right Praying is Right Wanting

“Praying is not about getting God to give us what we want;
it is about learning to want what God wants to give.”

– David deSilva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer, 114.

Posted in Quotes of the Week | 5 Comments

You Will Be Unfashionable Next Spring

Check out this YouTube sneak peek of Tullian Tchividjian’s book, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different.

Unfashionable is a terrific book. Here are some quotes worth pondering:

“My hope and prayer is that this book, in some small way, will mobilize a generation of God-saturated-missionaries who will live against the world, for the world.”

“By continuing to pursue worldly relevance so emphatically, Christians will ironically render themselves completely irrelevant to the world. There’s an irrelevance to pursuing relevance, just as there’s a relevance to practicing irrelevance. To be truly relevant, you have to say things which are eternal, not trendy.”

“God’s ultimate purpose for Christians is not bringing them out of this world and into heaven, but using them to bring heaven into this world. As we hallow God’s name and do God’s will in how we think, feel, and act—as we live unfashionably—the power of Christ’s resurrection flows through us, and as a result, we bring heaven’s culture to earth; we give people a foretaste of what’s to come. In this manner we continue the work Christ began and will one day complete.”

“There’s no such thing as Christian individualism; it’s an oxymoron. The church is meant to be a God-formed community of people who have abandoned the notion that life can and should be lived in isolation. Christians are connected people—connected with each other by God the Father, through God the Son, in God the Spirit.

“This is why we make a …

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The Best of Kingdom People (Year 2): Top 5 Posts

Here they are! The top most-visited Kingdom People posts during my second year blogging.

1. Saddleback Civil Forum Video & Transcript
August 17, 2008
When I collected the YouTubes together of the Saddleback Forum, I had no idea that Google would push me up to the top of the heap on the Search Engine. Since August, more than 100,000 people have watched come to Kingdom People to watch the Forum.

2. Steven Curtis Chapman on Larry King Live
August 8, 2008
The Chapman family provides an incredible witness for the power of the gospel.

3. My First Interview with N.T. Wright (Transcript and Podcast)
November 19, 2007
Last November, I traveled to Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky in order to do a podcast interview with N.T. Wright about all sorts of topics that his readers / critics wonder about.

4. My Second Interview with N.T. Wright (about Surprised by Hope)
April 24, 2008
Last Spring, I had another opportunity to interview N.T. Wright. This time, we talked about his book, Surprised by Hope and some questions that his readers / critics have about the book.

5. The Peter Enns Controversy
March 29, 2008
Last Spring, professor Peter Enns was suspended from teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. I tried to give a brief overview of the controversy in this post.

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The Best of Kingdom People (Year 2): 6-10

Since Kingdom People is turning 2 this week, I am ”rerunning” links to the top 25 most visited posts from the previous year. We’re in the Top Ten now… some of these are posts that were published in other places.

6. Our Ears Still Itch
March 2008
My first article for Christianity Today. “That church down the street isn’t the only one pandering to the congregation.”

7. Finger-pointing, Divisions, and the Decline of the SBC
May 1, 2008
My post about the membership decline of the Southern Baptist Convention was picked up by Baptist Press.

8. Colson the Catechist: A Culture Warrior Sets Out to Explain Christianity’s Essential Doctrines
April 2008
My Christianity Today review of Chuck Colson’s new book, The Faith.

9. My Series on John Piper’s The Future of Justification
December 20, 2007
Who would have thought that an 18-part series on John Piper’s theological book The Future of Justification (in response to N.T. Wright) would be interesting to so many people?

10. Five Reasons the Emerging Church is Now Receding
February 5, 2008
“We’re seeing the receding of a movement that has served its purpose – reawakening evangelicals to the necessity of the Church and the importance of being the Church to the world.”

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Book Review: Foreign to Familiar

Sarah Lanier’s Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot – And Cold – Climate Cultures (McDougal Publishing, 2000) is a helpful little book for anyone involved in cross-cultural ministry. A seasoned missionary, Lanier recounts many stories that help provide insight into the reasons why people react in distinct ways in different cultures. The book describes some of the differences between what Lanier calls “hot-climate” and “cold-climate” cultures. 

Here is an example: cold-climate cultures are task driven while warm-climate cultures are relationship driven. We in the West tend to think about getting something done and getting it done on time. Those in warm climate cultures consider the entire event. In some places it is offensive to arrive to dinner on time (because it makes it seem like you are only arriving for the task and not the relationship). In other places it is offensive to arrive to dinner late (because it makes you seem like you are not respecting the other person’s time.)

Lanier also shows how the type of communication differs from culture to culture. After all, in a hot-climate culture, communication takes place indirectly. It seeks to maintain the atmosphere of friendship, whatever the cost.

The only weakness of Foreign to Familiar is also its strength. The strength of the book is its brevity and immediate accessibility. But in the interest of brevity, Laner makes major generalizations, and therein lies its only weakness. 

Still, as an introduction to understanding the differences between different kinds of culture, Foreign to Familiar is terrific. Pick it up and start learning how to navigate the murky waters of contextualization!

written by Trevin Wax  …

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