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59 Responses

  1. Dallas says:

    We have a kid’s devotional for our daughter called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, the Who Has a Problem With Grace post made mine sing last night.

  2. Dan from Georgia says:

    Lots of good links here! I left a comment at internetmonk about grace and how some people frequently call out cheap grace. My comment said that the father of the prodigal son must have been practicing cheap grace because he didn’t point out his son’s sins or berate him, but just welcomed him home.

    And no questions asked too!

  3. Dallas says:

    I think part of the key to that is that “cheap grace is the grace we before on ourselves”. The grace we bestow on ourself is not that grace that has been bought for us, or that saves us.

    “Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. “

  4. Michael says:

    Thanks, guys…EricL gets most of the credit for digging these up.

  5. Em ... again says:

    i’ll have a busy day trying to digest all these great links… maybe i’ll save them for tomorrow afternoon when my road is closed so that someone can move a house 2 miles… didn’t there used to be a law that this had to be done between midnight and dawn or some such?

    thanks to EricL and Michael for another Tuesday’s fare … (if my books were worth publishing, i’d hand them to Eric to do it :smile:)

  6. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Actually there is no such thing as “cheap grace” – grace is 100% free if you listen to the Apostle Paul.
    To say cheap means you paid or contributed to it in some small way.

  7. Josh the Baptist says:

    A new Narnia movie? YEs!!!

  8. Dallas says:

    It may not be what Bonhoeffer meant, but I conceptualize cheap, as in cheap knockoff. The grace that we give to ourselves is about as cheap as those off brand transformers they sell at dollar stores. The knockoff grace that we will give ourselves is an ugly imitation of the the genuine (and free) grace of God. Though it is free for us, as Bonhoeffer points out, it has cost God much.

  9. EricL says:

    Em @5, not trying to drum up business, but I do help authors get their books published through my Public Author services ( ) I also gladly give free advice to those who want to do it all on their own, since I like to help fellow writers. Contact me there if you want.

  10. Dan from Georgia says:

    Honestly, loved the quiz for Calvinists link. Of course after about ten comments the crabby Christians came out the woodwork.

  11. Dan from Georgia says:

    And just for the record I have some OPINIONS on the Calvinism versus Arminianism debate, but I take no position and the Lord is fine with that.

  12. Em ... again says:

    stout theology … is it just me? it seems that there is a surfeit of handwringing over church strength here this week. isn’t 2 Tim 3:12-17 clear enough … or is it allegory – again?

    btw – stout as in fat and in need of nothing? might be … 🙂

  13. Em ... again says:

    Ericl, thank you if i thought i had something worth the time and money i’d be contacting you in an eye blink
    i always feel a bit guilty when Michael says to support Eric 🙂
    it makes me feel that i should get down to business, sweat out the editing and reworking that would make what i’ve written worth someone’s time to read – i write because i have the time and, i guess, the inclination, but my librarian cousin and my teacher daughter are both politely lukewarm about my two novels and the biographical novel that i wrote about my grandparents is really for family only … the biggest payback has been the research capability on-line now… i’ve become fairly knowledgeable on the PBYs of WW2, a little knowledge of the war in the South Pacific and what folks were up to in the Missouri Kentucky area in the mid 1800s of the Civil War era – better to be a nosey old lady googling online than from behind her lace curtains at the neighbors

  14. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    I might venture to suggest that the stout theology piece and the death of white Christian America piece have some possible conceptual overlap. What’s been weird to consider is that it seemed as though the social gospel of the later 19th century had some postmillennialist inspirations and some manifest destiny inspiring it and that, well, the theonomists a century later drew some inspiration from postmillennialism but that became scary for people with more mainline associations as if, wait for it, their own denominations had never been motivated by any kind of postmillennialist theocratic impulses.

    But it can seem like it was still the same basic thing but with blue state and red state platforms respectively–conflating the Anglo-American interests in a stable empire with the “Christian” thing to do. Every once in a while I see associates who tilt left and right fretting about the other folks without seeming to realize that there’s enough post-millenialist rationalization of what, to me, amounts to American exceptionalist cultural imperialism that passes itself off as Christianity to go around.

    Collapsing civic religion of the red and blue varieties into evangelicalism or mainline Protestantism respectively doesn’t seem too surprising and to the extent that those blue state and red state civic religions have less influence in the United States it’s a little tough to feel bad for either of the groups.

  15. Surfer51 says:

    One of the better collection of links currently on the net!

    Good job guys.

  16. Jtk says:

    Again I ask (I don’t believe I ever received an answer before–does someone have one?):
    If “evangelical” Christianity falls or fails, what are our options?

    -denominational Christianity?
    -fundamentalist Christianity?
    -some OTHER term we haven’t made up?

    Are not ALL non-denominational Christians “evangelical?”

    I really get lost in the labels, sometimes.

  17. Jtk says:

    I couldn’t care less that society and the church are less white.

    Less “evangelical” meaning they believe in the essentials of the Bible-centric Christian faith, now I care deeply about that.

    If you replace “stout/conservative theology” in the article with “modern worship music,” the article seems irrelevant. As it should.

    Although referencing demographics (in which 85% of evangelical kids lose their faith in college), it doesn’t say ANYTHING about evangelism in church growth. I don’t care how good your theological statement, you either need to breed a church (have lots of kids that adopt your beliefs), to offer enough programs to attract people your way (90%-99% of church growth is transfer membership, so this doesn’t really move the overall needle) or go do evangelism! Somehow. Some way.

    I can’t think or another option, can you?

    Your creed, your music style, how clean your church bathroom is will only get so far.

  18. Jtk says:

    And on Michael’s and my favorite subject that brings about angry faces or cricket Chirps…

    Half of all refugees are Muslim?

    I’m pretty sure WAY more than half of those worthy of refugee status are Muslim. Makes sense.

    Perhaps we as a nation should be grateful for OUR immigrants. Our brown skinned immigrants are qualitatively different than the brown skinned immigrants that Europe receives from N Africa.

    And we as a nation are pretty good (relatively at least) at assimilating people. Particularly Muslims.

    I won’t bother to find the study, as many wouldn’t read it or believe it.

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “If “evangelical” Christianity falls or fails, what are our options?”
    When you sit up and look at it, evangelicalism really is not a thing so to speak. I don’t know if you ever saw the 50s movie The Blob – but I kind of look at evangelicalism as The Blob that has oozed down the path swallowing up churches who then become identified as the blob / evangelicalism. So you ask, if evangelicalism fails, what is left?

    Individual or groupings of churches.

  20. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Less “evangelical” meaning they believe in the essentials of the Bible-centric Christian faith, now I care deeply about that.”

    Whatever would happen, I would hope that the churches become more, well actually solely Christo-centric.

    “… it doesn’t say ANYTHING about evangelism in church growth.” This is a personal thought so take it for what it is worth. If churches would consider the development / training of their current members into deeper discipleship as “church growth” instead of numerical growth – then you would see the numerical growth as you desire.

    Why would I want to become a Christian after all you evangelism efforts if every Christian I know is a shallow ‘convert’ at best. The best “church growth” program is a highly developed catechism class for adults. Require all members to go through a doctrines and apologetics class – this is church growth and the numbers will follow.

    The problem is that church leadership take their current members for granted and are always out looking for the new convert — who they will then let wither in the pew.

    As I said, just my personal thought.

  21. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Require all members to go through a doctrines and apologetics class ”

    I meant to insert “of at least 2, perhaps 3 years duration.”

  22. Josh the Baptist says:

    While I don’t think it will provide numerical growth, I do think MLD has accurately stated a weakness of “evangelicalism”.

  23. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – it is not a weakness of evangelicalism alone – it is a weakness of the church. We require nothing of converts to be allowed to call themselves Christian – and this is why they are in the front door and out the back – and why non believers run into so many people who say “yeah, I used to go to church.”

    The numerical growth will follow in that when witnessed to the non believer will hear a better case for Christianity than “hey come listen to my pastor – he’s cool.”

  24. Josh the Baptist says:

    I agree that it would be a better church and a deeper conviction, but there would have to be a sharp decline before the slow growth that you are speaking of begins.

    But I may be OK with that, honestly.

  25. Dallas says:

    I’m not really sure that you need to require anything, or that you necessarily need to see a steep decline. If you started throwing together a curriculum for something like that today, and had the people to facilitate it, I think you would have plenty of people who would jump at the opportunity. If it’s as good of an idea as you think (and rightly implemented I agree) then the fruit of those first groups should draw others as well.

    I think that more people than we realize crave a robust education in the faith. If you build it, I think that they’ll come.

  26. Josh the Baptist says:

    “I think you would have plenty of people who would jump at the opportunity.”

    Not been my experience. I’ve been actively trying something similar for the past two years. Getting anyone to commit another minute of their time is like pulling teeth.

  27. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I agree with Josh – because we let them think it is their choice to learn the faith and have responsibilities.
    The Apostles were told to go out and make disciples by teaching them – I think that throws the responsibility one the individual Christian to be discipled and taught. Since the subject matter is to be all things Jesus, this would be inexhaustible and should be lengthy and comprehensive.
    And I think it should be done in the church…. otherwise it’s going to just be Beth Moore type how to live your life stuff (not to pick on Beth Moore – fill in the blank of a person of your choice.)

  28. Dallas says:

    I guess experiences will vary, I guess I just find it surprising. Years ago I was in a church that offered a Hebrew class, it was a church of about 200 at the time, and managed about six people, that’s not a huge number, but I think significant for what was being offered.

    I will say that I think that a 2-3 year commitment is a little much as one chunk and would probably be best handled as a series of shorter classes covering the same time frame.

    I do think that it would just be a matter of getting the ball rolling though.

  29. Josh the Baptist says:

    The time I was asking for was 12 weeks.

  30. surfer51 says:

    Hebrews 3:6 says:

    “But Christ as a son over his own house, whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

    It plainly tells us that “we” are Christ own house.

    Which we know is the Church, us and every other Christian.

    We collectively are the Church.

    Living stones built one upon another, growing together by what each joint supplies.

    Walking together in community and not lone rangerism. (1 Peter 2:5)

    Not some construct of men.

    No denomination, no organizations, but the Christians that are in them can only be rightly called the Church.


  31. Josh the Baptist says:

    Human nature will always move towards less commitment.

  32. Michael says:

    The whole point of the articles on the end of white Christian America is that we have lived in a culture for a very long time that assumed Christian values whether one was Christian or not.

    That is rapidly eroding and soon will be gone.

    It’s the glue that held everything together…what do we do when the glue is gone?

    This has innumerable political and social ramifications…

  33. Josh the Baptist says:

    Now, oddly enough, I just finished a book from 1912 which would seem to argue otherwise: Roland Allen’s – Missionary Methods.

  34. Michael says:


    Chuck said near the end that what we are seeing now vis a vis immigration was inevitable.

    Sharing facts with folks didn’t work, perhaps consequences will…

  35. Dallas says:

    Sorry, you got my mind working on this.

    If it was me, I would probably not waste my time early on older entrenched membership, and look to your newer believers who can still feel the hunger pangs knowledge that others might have started to ignore. If you can even manage two or three people who would be interested, start there. I don’t know exactly how I would break them down, but I probably wouldn’t start with anything longer than maybe a six week to 3 month commitment for a first class, and move from there depending on how the class needs dictate.

    You would ideally have multiple people equipped to facilitate these classes, so that if you get positive word of mouth in the congregation going that you can start rotate a new group in when additional interest arises.

    Those little seeds at the beginning can mean everything. There was a church that we collaborated with in the past that had a group of about six or seven guys who were new believers, who were super passionate about being taught and serving, and these guys were instrumental and resussicating a dying church.

    Sometimes it doesn’t take much. Just someone who is willing to pour his time and effort into another life. Josh, you seem to be more than willing to do that, I trust that God will deliver you some people to invest yourself in.

  36. Dallas says:

    surfer51, agreed. I personally feel that the denominations, organization, theologies, leadership structures, etc have served to obscure the ekklesia of Christ. We have the tendency to want to build those man made structures rather than just be what we have been called to.

  37. Em ... again says:

    it isn’t the shallow Christians that have caused the decline in white Christian America IMV – it is the decline, as noted, in societal respect for the Church … i don’t think catechizing for membership is the answer to that … we need more leadership that fears God, perhaps?

  38. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    To be clear on my initial point to Jtk way up there was what defines church growth – I don’t think it is numerical – I think it is growing the Christian, which I do believe will result in a numerical growth.

    The 2 are not the same in my book – but numerical growth is definitely equivalent to church growth with the many.

  39. Dallas says:

    Em, more educated congregations should lead to more people who are able to guide others. We need to stop blaming leadership for so many of the problems in Christianity today, not because they don’t deserve, but because we need less people who spend all their time leaning on and waiting for “leadership” .

  40. Em ... again says:

    #39-point taken… that doesn’t change the fact that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom… and when i think of “leadership” i am not thinking of the pastor laboring and honestly doing his best… i am thinking of seminaries and denominational headships… the ones who are tasked with teaching and mentoring our shepherds… from where i sit, they seem to foster personality and a successful corporate organization above God – what good is knowledge – even of God – without understanding? IF you remotely understand God, you will be in awe (fear) of His holiness and have a humble gratitude for and dependence on grace… IMNSHO 🙂 Proverbs 4:7; 9:10

    sorry – a sermon slipped out of me there

  41. Em ... again says:

    “more educated” congregations are not necessarily good ambassadors – without reverence, from what i’ve observed folk with only a pride in what is known of doctrines, do not draw folk to God…
    i think – dunno – that if the leadership has an active “fear” of God, it is catching and that trumps doctrines in drawing others to the Faith
    yet that fear is dangerous, impotent at best, without an understanding of holiness and grace
    should have been Proverbs 9:10 – in fact the proverbs are saturated with that advice

  42. Dallas says:

    Had a previous comment that was swallowed by the internet, oh well. I agree, especially with your first statement (sermon). I think it actually kind of falls in line with what I responded to surfer51 with.

    Ideally I think that education and relationship should go hand in hand. I think that it helps to keep the info from being too sterile. You are right, we don’t purely need more education, but it is part of the puzzle.

  43. Em ... again says:

    amen, Dallas, amen

  44. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    When I speak about catechizing the people, I am saying that we need to educate the pewsters in a formal manner so they know what they believe (doctrines class) and why they believe it (apologetics class) – it has nothing to do with seminaries nor denomination headquarters.

    We have got to stop letting the laity think that their hour in church is enough

    Someone above said that they thought 2 yrs may be too much — why, that is what we require of the kids to get confirmed?

  45. Michael says:

    MLD and I are in agreement @44…

  46. Josh the Baptist says:

    I agree as well. In fact, don’t stop at two years.

    But requiring such would make numbers drop even more so than now. Could be better for the long term health of the church though.

  47. Dallas says:

    MLD, I didn’t mean, and don’t think I said that it was too long, just that I would format it as multiple shorter classes rather than one that was a consistent two year commitment. I just think that it would be something that an adult with potentially changing circumstances over a significant time period might more easily complete.

    If it was something less formal where a mature brother was just walking one on one with the newer believer, I think that the 2-3 year course could work fine, but once things get much bigger than that logistics get complicated.

  48. Josh the Baptist says:

    My thought was taking the Master Plan strategy from Robert Coleman.

    Basically, you take like 12 people and teach them, then they in turn teach others.

  49. Anne says:

    Interesting article re: Black Lives Matter.
    I am a supporter here in Portland. The chapter here is called Don’t Shoot Portand and also act advocates on behalf of the mentally & other disabled, homeless, etc who have experienced high rates of police violence here. I was amazed by the fervent prayers offered at meetings, before rallies, etc asking not only for wisdom, protection for themselves but some of the most passionate/ compassionate petitions I’ve heard for wisdom, protection of police, and those that hate that I’ve ever heard in my life. Closest I’ve been to anything like church in many years. The real BLM mission statement includes calls for peace and unity. Although from media both mainstream and social any black person protesting racism or police misbehavior is labeled BLM. In case ya’all didn’t know?

  50. Anne says:

    Oh, also BTW the national founders, the leader here in PDX & and in many places are all women. And just because someone is wearing a BLM Tshirt doesn’t mean they represent. Anyway all this to opine that I never heard anyone pray on behalf of those who hate them or might seek to persecute them with such passion as these sisters in PDX. Then again their very lives may depend on their prayers being answered.

  51. Em ... again says:

    before i pontificate here… half the folk at my husband’s graveside service were black and i have a black granddaughter in law… she fights issues with feelings of discrimination even when there are none – understandable
    the root problem is respect and it goes both ways and i know that pontificating like i’m doing won’t solve it… but 🙂
    if your child is out at night and he/she is under 18, you’re part of the problem…
    the governor of Wisconsin telling parents (mostly mamas and that complicates things) to get your kids off the street if you have to drag them home by their ears hits the target IMV…
    if we were able to focus on a generation of kids, mostly black, but others also and discipline them, to bring them to pride in proving to themselves that they aren’t underprivileged, but ignorant of what they can do…?… the theory isn’t new, but the application has been sparse…
    tough love has been misunderstood and, perhaps misapplied? i don’t know, but i do know that kids raising themselves can’t do a very good job of it… failures do not find solutions in tantrums – real and constructive power comes from training and challenge leading to competence… self respect has to be earned and arrogance doesn’t make a good substitute…
    it almost seems that there is a conspiracy to thwart a change in this standoff we’re watching now and, yet, in theory the answer is so simple – train our children in the way they should go
    perhaps the question then is, who’s going to train the children?

  52. Steve Wright says:

    We created a set of three classes – not mandatory – but with the idea of informing the church sort of like if he had membership. Each of our three pastors taught one class – one was on the history of our church (and a little on CC in general since we are one). The second was on the doctrines we believe and the third was on ministry philosophy and practice.

    The interest was below minimal. In fact, most of the people who did come were people who had been here for more than a decade.

  53. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    It’s tough. This is why I advocate for mandatory education — but it doesn’t work at my church either – the people need to be catechized to the fact that they need to get into a catechism class – and that doesn’t happen.

    My class gets smaller and smaller as people move or die – the next batch has not interest (they think they have rights 🙂 )

    I remember when I was at OHCC I used to teach 3 classes – New Believers, Doctrines and Appologetics. Those who completed New Believers moved readily into the next 2 classes – but to get a substantial number to complete the new Believers waas quite the trick

  54. Em ... again says:

    old J Vernon McGee had a couple stock phrases to the effect that one had to get the cookie jar down where the kiddies could reach it and another, where the rubber meets the road…

    given that churches are a mix of sheep and goats and most folk aren’t theologically inclined – or any other kind of logically inclined for that matter – there is probably a problem of too much sweets in order to please those goats, maybe? – not sayin it’s right… 🙂

  55. Dallas says:

    Ok, well I guess personal experience doesn’t necessarily tell the whole picture, I could definitely be wrong. Just curious, probably the three churches that I have spent the most time in were under five years old whenever I was there, do you suppose that the fact that they all could probably have been considered church plants, would skew the attitude?

  56. JTK says:


    So you would add 2 church growth formulations to mine.

    1). Birth and raise kids effectively in your church.
    (One downside: 85% of evangelical kids lose their faith in college right now in the US.

    2). Recruit transfer membership from another church
    (Downside: this promotes consumerism, competition between churches not unity, and a hireling mentality)

    3). Evangelism OUTSIDE the church walls
    (Problem: few do this)

    4). Evangelism that you mentioned about inviting a friend to church to hear the amazing pastor.
    I don’t generally consider this “evangelism,” but I bet this is the most common form in America. (Problem as I see it: it CAN build the culture of a celebrity pastor, when it is really the job of the members of church to see it grow; I don’t really see this kind of evangelism in the Gospels, but I’m not opposed to it).

    5). Internal training, education and discipleship.
    MLD, you imply the above 4 methods can create shallow disciples, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, although often #2 does.

    I hadn’t considered #5 in church growth, but saw it as just what churches naturally do. They certainly should. Great addition.

    I don’t know if you’ll see this, it’s so much later than the date of the original posting.

  57. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “2). Recruit transfer membership from another church. This one I totally reject – this is not church growth – if they come from First Baptist to my church, the church has not grown one bit. We go out of our way to avoid this.

    I think I told the story before thatwe were trying to grow our pre and day schools and someone came up with a program to offer discounts to employees at both of the Lutheran high schools in our area. At our board meeting, our pastor pointed out that if we did this then those parents may feel an obligation to leave their church and come to ours as it would be the home for their children’s schooling and that it would be classic sheep stealing.

  58. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My point about #5 was – when I say church growth what is the first thing that comes to your mind – butts in the pews or furthering the growth of the true church – the individual Christian?

    What did we used to say here 10 yrs ago – nickels and noses? That is not church growth. Besides, only the Holy Spirit can grow the church – everything else is just methods and marketing.

  59. Em ... again says:

    #58-“… when I say church growth what is the first thing that comes to your mind – butts in the pews or furthering the growth of the true church – the individual Christian?

    What did we used to say here 10 yrs ago – nickels and noses? That is not church growth. Besides, only the Holy Spirit can grow the church – everything else is just methods and marketing.”
    worth repeating 🙂

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