Evangelicals learn to (heart) New York

Pastors have their own brand of insider humor, just like doctors, lawyers, accountants and other skilled professionals. The same is true for the missionaries, researchers and pastors who plant churches. Thus, Ed Stetzer once heard a veteran missions professor tell the following bittersweet joke at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. It went like this: How do you start a new Southern Baptist church in a big city up north? That's easy. You go into local grocery stores … [Read more...]

Churches late to Facebook party?

A mere three years ago, Diana Davis published a hands-on book for church leaders entitled "Fresh Ideas For Women's Ministry." When flipping through its pages, she said, one of the first things she notices is a missing word -- Facebook. She needs to rewrite the whole book to cover this reality gap. "That obvious, isn't it? It's so obvious that we ought to be using Facebook to tell more women about our Bible studies and prayer groups and retreats and things like that," said Davis, who has been … [Read more...]

Rome ponders iMissal app

When it comes to liturgical details, the Vatican has clear guidelines about sacred objects that are blessed for use during a Mass. "The Church has always sought," notes the Book of Blessings, "to ensure that all those things that are involved in any way in divine worship should be worthy, becoming and beautiful. ... Those objects that through a blessing are set aside for divine worship are to be treated with reverence by all and to be put only to their proper use, never profaned." This … [Read more...]

Symbols in the Texas hills

KERRVILLE, Texas -- The bracelet is both simple and a bit strange, since it consists of six or seven fishing lures connected end to end. Some people look at this piece of silver or gold jewelry in the James Avery line and they see fishing lures -- period. But other shoppers see the same item and they think of these words of Jesus: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." This is especially true if they have completed a United Methodist Walk to Emmaus weekend, or some other renewal … [Read more...]

SBC wrestles with corporate sin

Like most people born and raised in Biloxi, Miss., theologian Russell Moore grew up about 10 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. It cost too much to live near the water, but that didn't really matter since the sights, smells and rhythms of the coast defined the whole community. Driving away from his hometown has always been emotional, but the last time he pulled onto U.S. Highway 90 was different. Hurricane Katrina was terrible. Now, the locals are facing what some writers have called "Katrina … [Read more...]

Memory eternal: Healer for the healers

Some of the seminarians in the Bible Belt chapel were shaken when Dr. Louis McBurney described -- in gentle, but clear terms -- the hurdles and pitfalls that awaited them in their first churches. "I talked about ministers' problems and how, sometimes, professional counseling was what was needed," said the witty physician, whose counseling work was built on his evangelical faith, as well as psychiatric credentials from the Mayo Clinic. "When I was through, the seminary president strode to the … [Read more...]

Hiding behind pulpits

Reporter Louis Moore didn't know much about the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod when he began covering its bitter civil war in the 1970s. Nevertheless, as a Southern Baptist with a seminary degree he knew a biblical-authority battle when he saw one -- so he caught on fast. Soon he was appalled by the viciousness of the combat between "moderates" and "conservatives" as the 2.7 million-member denomination careened toward divorce. Things got so bad he told a Houston Chronicle colleague that if the … [Read more...]

Out the church door

At the last church she attended before dropping out, Julia Duin was not impressed with the service opportunities available to her as a single woman.She could do child-care work, greet people at the door or join the women in the altar guild. However, since her journalism work required frequent travel, Duin sought more flexible commitments. Perhaps she could play harp before services? Fill an occasional teaching role, using her seminary training or material from her books? After several … [Read more...]

Heaven, hell and funerals

Anyone who has lived in a minister's house knows that middle-of-the-night telephone calls often bring bad news. But for many pastors there is one kind of call that is uniquely painful. There are times when the shock of death is easier to handle than questions about eternal life. "It happens like this," noted the Rev. J. Gerald Harris, who became editor of the Southern Baptist newspaper of Georgia after 40 years in ministry. "A grieving widow would call and say with a broken heart and … [Read more...]

Sex, sin and surveys

It's becoming more and more dangerous for preachers to use the words "sex" and "sin" in the same sentence.Consider this question: Is sex outside of marriage a sin?Say "yes" and millions of believers who are sitting in pews will say "amen." But that same affirmation of centuries of doctrine will offend just as many believers and nonbelievers, giving them an easy excuse to avoid congregations they believe are old fashioned and intolerant."We have to recognize that our historic positions on sexual … [Read more...]