New J.I. Packer-Led Catechism

 

There’s a promising new contemporary Catechism now available.

From the Anglican Church in North America:

Led by the Rev. Dr J.I. Packer, the Task Force has developed a unique and powerful resource for helping inquirerscatechism-sidebar3-2 come to an understanding of the Christian faith, and for helping disciples deepen their relationship with God. Written in a “Question and Answer” format, this Catechism, in the words of Packer, “is designed as a resource manual for the renewal of Anglican catechetical practice. It presents the essential building blocks of classic catechetical instruction: the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue). To these is added an initial section especially intended for those with no prior knowledge of the Gospel; as such, this catechism attempts to be a missional means by which God may bring about both conversion to Christ and formation in Christ.

For non-Anglicans (such as myself), this new Catechism could be a great template for other church and denominational settings to create their own catechism, or simply modify it, easily omitting the distinctly Anglican aspects (which comprises a small part of the Catechism).

Also, the new Catechism should be a wonderful tool in church planting contexts, effectively addressing spiritual nurture and formation (church) and mission (evangelism) from the plant’s very beginnings.

Download the Vision Statement explaining why the contemporary Catechism was created, and download the Catechism here.

Minneapolis Needs (More) People

The Editorial Board for Minneapolis’ primary daily newspaper, the StarTribune, just published a compelling article outlining why downtownmpls15more people need to move into the city, and the short and long-term ramifications for failing to do so. If you live in the Twin Cities metro area and are a Christian (and I realize this excludes most of this blog’s readership), I urge you to carefully read the article and prayerfully consider the implications. And even if you don’t live in Minneapolis, or even a larger city, the article’s a worthwhile read, if only to get some helpful ideas on what makes cities sustainable and viable.

Tim Keller has championed the need for Christians to move into the city (especially see his article “A New Kind of Urban Christian” published in Christianity Today in 2006), and it’s a fine compliment to the StarTribune’s editorial.

“Total Church” and “Everyday Church” Book Deal

Two great books on church, mission, community, and the Gospel are on sale for a paltry $1.99 (e-book format) till August 6:ref=sr_1_1

While both are excellent, Total Church (which was published first) is essential reading, while Everyday Church is more “how to put it all together.”

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, the books’ co-authors, are experienced practitioners of a church planting group in England.  Both books are robust with biblically/theologically sound content.

Whether you’re a pastor/elder, aspiring church planter, small group leader, or anyone with any degree of influence in a local church, pony up the $4.00 for some great reading on minimal church centered on the Gospel.41pfFuqsViL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Japan + Jonathan Edwards = A Surprising Work Indeed

My oldest daughter, who is much smarter than her father, just forwarded me the latest monthly e-mail newsletter from Yale University. Honestly, I thought it was a joke, something straight out of The Onion.

I’m glad I was wrong.

The headline of one of the sections? “Global interest in Jonathan Edwards spurs new interest in Japan.” Japan? Jonathan Edwards? Together?

Yes. And it only gets better.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

For the American revivialist (sic) and philosopher who wrote A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton in 1737it would no doubt be equally surprising that the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan recently announced establishment of the Jonathan Edwards Center Japan, affiliated with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University….

The Jonathan Edwards Center Japan will serve as a research, education and publications hub for study of Edwards and early American history and develop links with the academic community in Japan, including, but not limited to, Sophia University, a private research university in Tokyo.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), pastor, revivalist, Christian philosopher, missionary, Yale College graduate, and president of Princeton University, is regarded by many as North America’s greatest theologian. He is the subject of intense scholarly interest because of his significance as an historical figure and the profound legacy he left on America’s religious, political and intellectual landscapes.

“Our plan is to pay sustained critical attention to Edwards’s and early American historical thought,” said Edwards scholar Anri Morimoto, a professor at International Christian University. “Jonathan Edwards was an important American theologian and, more specifically, America’s greatest contributor to catholic and philosophical theology.”

Kenneth Minkema, executive director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, observed,  “The establishment of the Jonathan Edwards Center Japan at International Christian University is a significant expansion of Edwards and early American history scholarship and will serve widely both academia and the church.”

This is an astonishingly encouraging development. The last I checked, Japan is a 1% Christian nation. Who would have ever predicted that interest in Jonathan Edwards would result in a university in Tokyo, along with the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, together creating a research center solely devoted to his thought? I’d like to think that Edwards himself would be surprised at this new development, but I’d probably, and gladly, be proven otherwise.

Many thanks to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University for their strategic partnership to make The Jonathan Edwards Center in Japan become a reality.

[Also seeYale, Jonathan Edwards, and My Daughter]

Using Keller’s The Reason for God for Group Discussion

Since Tim Keller’s superb book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (hereafter RFG) was published in 2008, I’ve used it to lead several discussion groupsImage. Attendees were mostly professing atheists, skeptics, and de-churched (and even two Muslims). I’m exploring starting another discussion group in Minneapolis, so I’m dusting off my well-worn copy and getting reacquainted with it.

How did I lead such a group? How can you lead a group?

Here are seven practical pointers to get you started:

  1. Read (and re-read) the Book–As you’ll be leading the discussion, you’ll need to be thoroughly conversant with Keller’s arguments. Read it carefully, pencil in hand for underlining and note-taking. Become so familiar with the book that you’re three steps ahead of everyone else. This isn’t to display one-upmanship. Rather, it’s to demonstrate you’re competent to facilitate a fluid discussion. Know the book.
  2. Give it Away--Don’t even think of making people buy their own copy. Here’s a rule of thumb: Buy as many copies you think you’ll need, and even then ensure you have several to spare. You don’t want an unexpected newcomer joining you in week 5 of the discussion empty-handed, sharing a book with a stranger. He likely won’t be back the following week.
  3. Download the Discussion GuideRedeemer City to City, a ministry arm of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NY, created a separate website for RFG, including a video trailer, discussion guide, and reviews. Download the reader’s guide and use it as a springboard for discussion, modifying it as necessary for your context.
  4. Choose Christians Carefully–Don’t open up your group to all of your Christian friends, no matter how well intended. Why not? Otherwise your group will be mostly composed of Christians. (And why would you want to do that?) Instead, carefully choose who you think might be a good addition to the group. Consider who’s eager to learn how to share their faith? Who loves people who don’t know Jesus? Conversely, consider who might hijack your group? Or  scare everyone away? Or be argumentative and divisive? (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) Yes, the book is also aimed at Christians who need to better learn to struggle with and express how doubt intersects with faith. A healthy ratio of group participants is a third Christian, two-thirds everyone else.
  5. Choose Place Wisely–Where do the people you’d like to be in you group meet during the week? Where’s a great third space to conduct a discussion group that’s neutral, high traffic, non-threatening? Previously I’ve chosen a public library and several coffee houses. The next place I’m considering is a well-known hipster bike shop with a well used cafe in a central part of the neighborhood. Conversely, where shouldn’t you meet? A church building is the death knell, as is an overly quiet place not conducive for lively discussion.
  6. Use MeetupMeetup is a great place to post your group. There’s a nominal fee, but it’s the best place I know (especially in larger cities) to promote your group and reach your target audience. Some categories I used to promote my group were atheist, skeptic, seeker, Jesus, agnostic, religion, Christian, God, spiritual, etc. Anyone on the group interested in those things will automatically be notified of the new group. People then contact you via e-mail for more information.
  7. Pray–After all the prep work has been done, it’s all in God’s hands. Forge ahead and be prepared for an interesting journey!

Traditional Church and Mission

N.T. Wright:

I am not, of course, saying, ‘Do traditional church well and mission will follow.’ Far too much traditional church has consisted of too much tradition and not enough church. What I am saying is, think through the hope that is ours in the gospel; recognize the renewal of creation as both the goal of all things in Christ and the achievement that has already been accomplished in the resurrection; and go to to the work of justice, beauty, evangelism, the renewal of space, time, and matter as the anticipation of the eventual goal and the implementation of what Jesus achieved in his death and resurrection. That is the way both to the genuine mission of God and to the shaping of the church by and for that mission.

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