At the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry, he issued what we most often call the Great Commission for his followers to go into all the world and share the Gospel. Acts 1:8 is often cited as the biblical basis for sending missionaries but it echoes the Great Commission command to go to the whole earth and bear witness. It is a basic tenant of the Christian faith that believers are to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
In The Great Digital Commission: Embracing Social Media for Church Growth and Transformation, Caleb J. Lines begins by addressing the continued need for evangelism in the world today. Many congregations are in decline, particularly in mainline Protestant denominations, because too many churches have become social clubs or platforms for political agendas. Our main concern as Christian communities needs to be what it always has been, sharing the good news that Jesus welcomes all and is the only path to salvation. Evangelism needs to make a comeback in both personal, face to face contact in the real world and online using every social media platform. Lines points out that 84% of American churches have a website and/or a Facebook page so most recognize the need to reach a digital audience. Some of those websites are dated and many Facebook pages are used sporadically or often not at all. Fewer congregations can be found using Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
From the Inside Out: Reimagining Missions, Recreating the World by Ryan Kuja
Ryan Kuja grew up watching cartoons interrupted by commercials from the Christian Children’s Fund. I remember those commercials from my childhood as well. Young children, starving to death with distended bellies, surrounded by flies and narrated by compassionate voices designed to elicit a donation. Some organizations asked for a donation, others wanted you to join the organization, make a monthly pledge, sometimes in exchange for pictures or letters from a child you would personally sponsor. As a 7-year-old watching cartoons, Ryan Kuja wanted to do something. Adults either look away, change the channel, or do the good Christian thing and write a check (or today use their credit/debit card or PayPal from their phones). Continue reading →
The Bible tells one story. I’ve been harping on that message for years. From one end to the other the Bible tells the story of how a holy God relates to people that are sinful, fallen and broken. At the center of that story is Jesus. Zondervan now offers a study Bible centered around that theme, appropriately titled The Jesus Bible. Continue reading →
Anson Hugh Laytner is a retired Jewish rabbi. One’s initial reaction might be “This is not Christian theology.” Firstly, Laytner anticipates a Jewish and Christian audience. He describes himself as a skeptical but spiritual person thus the intended audience may go beyond Christian or Jewish to include anyone struggling with questions and looking for answers. More to the point in this context, Christian theology grew out of Hebrew history, ritual, literature and Jewish theology in the first century. Laytner is aware of the relationship. As he begins a section describing Radical Monotheism he mentions the Tanakh and then inserts in parenthesis “the Jewish Bible, similar to the Christian Old Testament.” The search for meaning and understanding is practically universal among people everywhere and Laytner’s process may benefit any reader wrestling with the same issues. Continue reading →
I understand the significance of high production value. Our desire is to bring the very best before God in his house. A congregation expects, as well they should, for the preacher to be prepared. Sermon prep begins on Monday or Tuesday (and sometimes weeks or even months in advance) not on Saturday evening or before church on Sunday morning. Bible teachers and worship leaders, soloists, music directors, choirs and praise band members are all expected to put in time working together and practicing. And in this day and age you need the crew in sound, projection and lighting to go over the program, discussing transitions and the order of service. There is nothing wrong and in fact there is a lot right about devoting time and energy to prepare for worship. But what has slowly happened over the past 20 or 30 years, from my point of view, is that worship has morphed into a spectator sport. Authentic worship is not something we are to sit and watch. I don’t know who said it first but the term I like to use for that activity is worshiptainment. I do not believe that is what God desires. Continue reading →
My first impression when the UPS driver handed me the box was that of a big heavy book. The dimensions are not particularly large but it is thick, a hardcover book coming in at over 1,500 pages. The cover is filled with illustrations and brightly colored to attract children’s attention and advertises over 750 images. The NIrV Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids leaves out many features that adults would find helpful, like center column references and footnotes on each page. The complete Bible text, in the New International Reader’s Version, is included but not too much other stuff. There are illustrations with captions on roughly every other page but verse numbers and superscript letters indicating footnotes can be a distraction to children. The format is single column so it looks a lot like a chapter book that elementary students are just being introduced to. The target demographic is 4 – 8 years of age but I’m hopeful my 10-year-old will be interested and give it some time and attention. Continue reading →
The Gospel of Self, How Jesus Joined the GOP is written by Terry Heaton and details his role at CBN and The 700 Club. Before we used terms like fake news and every single person had a voice via social media, the Christian Broadcast Network entered a new frontier of sorts by not only reporting the news but by shaping the way people thought. CBN in general, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club in particular, played a profound role in shifting the Republican Party to the right back in the 1980’s. While Robertson was in front of the camera Terry Heaton was behind the scenes and very much involved in making the things Robertson talked about a reality. Heaton believes today’s Christian Right is the end result of work they did together back then. Continue reading →
Every now and then I post a book review (expect one during the next few days) that has a disclaimer at the bottom. That disclaimer explains that I received the book free of charge in exchange for publishing a fair and honest review. It doesn’t have to be a positive review but I choose to receive books based on title and description that I expect to enjoy or learn something from. I’m not trying to brag; I’m here to extend you the same offer. Continue reading →
Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb by Keith Giles
Giles is an intelligent writer that has done his homework and presents his case well. He is right in saying that Americans have their politics wrapped up in their Christianity. There is no morally right political party and pinning all of your hopes and dreams on any party platform will leave Christian believers disappointed. Let’s begin by analyzing what he does a good job of in this book. Continue reading →
I know what some of you must be thinking by now: Clark Bunch lauds the praises of every book he reviews. Between pastoring, seminary classes, raising a family and so forth I don’t have a lot of “extra time” for reviewing books. The truth of the matter is that I’m very selective. If the title or short description seems New Agey, short on theology or otherwise flaky, I don’t accept that book for review. With very few exceptions, the books I have chosen to review on The Master’s Table are ones that I expected to get something out of and would have enjoyed anyway. I’m not a professional reviewer and don’t waste my time reading books I don’t like. Continue reading →