This posted in adapted from an earlier post on this site, first composed on October 31, 2014.
Tonight is Halloween. A couple of my kids will likely be going door-to-door getting candy, and we'll probably be handing out candy to neighborhood kids from our door as well. But October 31 is significant for more reasons than just this. October 31 is also "Reformation Day" - the day in 1517 when a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany and sparked what we now call the Protestant Reformation. (For a recommended introduction to Luther's 95 Theses, check out this book.)
Here's what Philip Schaff, a noted church historian, says about the significance of the Reformation:
“The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.”
If your'e looking to brush up a bit on Reformation history, check out this post from Ligonier Ministries. This post shares a bit more about the history of the Reformation and key players in it. I encourage you to take a few minutes on this Reformation Day of 2018 and check it out.
Here's the post: "The Reformation and the Men Behind It" by Stephen Lawson
Please note the usual disclaimer, that my recommendation of this article is not necessarily an endorsement of everything else on the site where this was posted. As always, read both discerningly and graciously, and with the Bible as your final authority.
If you ever check out the footer of this site, where we highlight the top 5 posts of the previous month, you'll have seen "What is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism? And How Does it Stack Up against Biblical Christianity?" has been on a #1 streak for a while (a long while!). And it's understandable why.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) is often called the "default religion" of many Americans - whether they consciously articulate it or not. And MTD is definitely NOT a direct overlap of biblical Christianity. To understand the "background noise" that informs the perspective of many Americans - even American Christians - one needs to understand MTD.
If you've not checked out the post, you can do so here.
So as a nod to the popularity of this post, I'm officially going to "retire the jersey." I'll leave the post just as it is on the site and will include it in the "retired jersey" category of this site's "Library" page. However, moving forward I'll no longer include it in numbers 1-5 of each month's top posts (even though it continues to rank highly among the website "hits" for individual posts), thus allowing room for other posts.
Interested in other posts that have gotten a lot of traffic on this site recently? Click here to check 'em out!
Interested in seeing all of the "retired jersey" posts up to this point? Here they are:
Based on the number of "hits" each month, here are the top 5 posts here on the Brookside Institute blog for the last six months - January 2017 through June 2017. Take a minute to scroll through the list below and either catch up on things you may have missed or revisit things that were especially helpful.
Every now and then I try to take some time and reflect on why the intentional teaching ministry of the church remains important. Whatever shape it takes, why is equipping and a teaching in the church, for the church, and by the church valuable?
At least one reason is the growth of secularism, pluralism, and "indifferentism" in America. Very simply stated, secularism is a worldview that pushes God to the margins. It's fine to believe in God on your own, the secularist may say, just don't bring any religious ideas or reasoning into the public square. Pluralism flows out of the reality that we are surrounded by people who believe very different things than than us - and it often goes a step further to say the no one religion can be exclusively true. "Indifferentism" (this is my term, I think) tries to explain the religious apathy of the "nones" and "dones" - those who adhere to no single religious expression (the "nones") or those who have "tried out" some religion and - for whatever reason - didn't stick with it.
So what does all this have to do with catechesis - an intentional and systematic approach to teaching in the local church? Here's what:
I recently ran across a 2009 article where Christian apologist, speaker and author Ravi Zacharias talks about "Defending Christianity in a Secular Culture." The whole thing is good, and I encourage you to read it.
In a few places throughout the article, Zacharias draws attention to the value of equipping the church, in the face of a secular culture that is increasingly hostile or indifferent towards Christianity. Below are some short quotes from the article where we see this:
(This is an updated version of a post I initially composed on July 22, 2014.)
I've recently gotten a few questions from people asking very specifically how they can get emails with updated posts from the Brookside Institute blog, without having to remember to check in periodically on their own. They want to stay in the loop, but they won't always remember to go looking for new content. And when they do remember, they may not be near a computer or it may not be a convenient time.
I love this question. I love it that people want to stay in the loop, and that we're providing valuable enough content that people want to stay engaged.
Here's how I respond to this question:
There's no way that I know of to get emails specifically from the Brookside Institute, providing updated content as new posts are published. (If I'm missing something on this, someone please let me know!) However that doesn't mean there's no way to conveniently stay in the loop. The solution is to subscribe to something called a "feed reader" that will collect the content (the "RSS Feed") you want from sites you subscribe to. Then, you simply monitor your feed reader and can conveniently stay up to date on the content you've chosen to subscribe to.
Below I've included some detailed steps on how to subscribe to an RSS Feed and have it collected into a feed reader. Before I get into that, though, let me briefly share WHAT an RSS Feed is and WHY subscribing to the RSS Feed can be helpful.
For much of the second half of April, I was helping train pastors in Zambia as part of the Hope Center Pastor Training School near Serenje. While I was there and teaching through "1-2 Timothy & Titus, with Special Emphasis on the Doctrine of the Church," the topic of teaching and preaching came up. After all, it's tough to work through these books of the New Testament and NOT talk about these things!
I love how the pastors - on their own - brought up the importance of teaching and educational environments, in addition to and alongside the important role preaching plays in the life of a church. These interactions with the pastors have stayed fresh in my mind since then.
For those of you who follow this site a bit more closely, you've likely noticed I've not been posting much in April. The reasons? There's about 13 of them, actually, and they're pictured above - the pastors I had the privilege of being with again as part of the Hope Center Pastor Training School in Serenje, Zambia. (Don't worry, I'm hoping to being posting regularly again soon!)
The intentionality of this Training School is impressive, and I'm excited to be a small part of what God is doing to raise up godly, equipped leaders in Zambia. Here's a glimpse of what the Pastor Training School involves:
In 2016, Brookside Church is reading through the Bible - we're calling the series "365" to encourage people to spend time DAILY reading through a guided Scripture plan. (You can find out a lot more about what we're doing here.) And since the Brookside Institute is all about championing biblical literacy (along with theological formation, for the purpose of living on mission), I love pointing people towards this 365 Series and considering how the Institute can align with things over the course of the year.
All this is why I'm so excited about how the Institute will be "leaning in" to the 365 Series throughout 2016. Throughout the year, we'll be creating resources and offering "one and done" seminars designed to help people move into and through the Bible as they track along with the 365 reading guide. Be sure and access what we've already done - and stay aware of what's coming - by tracking along here. (And check back periodically, as things will continue to develop as the year goes on.)
And the Brookside INstitute needs your help as we do this!
Specifically, we'd love to hear from YOU as we prayerfully and thoughtfully consider which topics to address through resources we produce and seminars we offer. Here are some things you can get back to us about:
Even if your question feels "broad" to you or you don't feel like you can quite word it perfectly, please don't let that keep you from submitting questions, thoughts, and ideas that can help us offer resources and seminars that (at least kinda) get at the things that would help you out.
So bring it on and help us out. You can submit ideas/thoughts/questions in the comments section below, or feel free to email me directly at email@example.com and submit them that way, if you'd prefer a greater level of anonymity. (No questions will be tied back to the "author" of the question in any public environment.)
By way of disclaimer: You probably already know this, but please understand that time and focus constraints may keep us from answering every question (either by way of resource or seminar). I look forward to hearing from you!
Pastor and author A.W. Tozer is famous for saying that "What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
I, for one, happen to think Tozer is on to something with this statement. And so part of my goal - both as a Christian disciple and as someone who teaches a fair amount of Bible & theology - is to build a strong foundation around a biblical view of God AND continually be returning to and reinforcing a robust, "big," and accurate picture of who God reveals Himself to be. And that means I love it when authors, pastors, and teachers help bring various truths about God to life in fresh, vivid ways.
Recently J.D. Greear helped do this for me, bringing God's ability and His generosity together in some cool ways. Check out this quote, from Greear's Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send (Zondervan, 2015), p. 187:
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.