Check out

The pastor’s example of evangelism
Steve Lawson calls pastors to evangelize in four areas, beginning with themselves.

Where are all the brothers?
Alex Chediak asks Eric Redmond why African American men are so turned off the church.

The real skill of sermon preparation
It’s not what you think, but I think he’s right.

New Code of Ethics for Pastors
Regardless of the source, what do you think about the content? Or even the idea?

Should every pastor be a counselor?
Bob Kellemen responds to my post about pastors who don’t counsel.

Battling the bitterness of parenting a disabled child
Christine Hoover: “On October 16, 2006, my oldest son was diagnosed with autism. That word — autism — spoken over my son and over my life on that day sent me into a year-long spiral of grief and confusion.”

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.

12 Differences Between Scottish and American Churches

I’m often asked, “What are the differences between Scottish and American churches.” Obviously this is a very difficult question to answer because there is such a wide diversity of churches in both countries.

However, speaking in the most general terms, let me give twelve basic differences I’ve noticed in my five years in the USA. And I’m basing this not so much on own church here in Grand Rapids but on the exposure I’ve had to many Christians, churches, ministries, and conferences across multiple States – although most of it’s been in the Reformed tradition.

1. American churches are bigger: Scottish churches maybe average between 50-80 regular attenders, many are far smaller, and most of them are declining in size. There are far more large churches in the USA, and churches on the whole are bigger

2. American churches are richer: Obviously this follows from #1. However, I’ve been stunned at the incredible generosity of wealthy Christians in the USA. I’ve especially seen this in the donations to the Seminary, but churches also greatly benefit from the large hearts and wallets of those whom the Lord has blessed with material wealth and steward that gift for His glory.

3. American churches are younger: It wasn’t until I came here that I realized how disproportionately few young people there are in most Scottish churches. Why? See #4.

4. American churches have a greater stress on Christian education: The widespread lack of Christian schools in Scotland partly explains the lack of young people in Scottish churches. American Christians make Christian schools or Christian home education a top priority in their lives.

5. American churches are more complex: There are far more meetings, activities, clubs, Bible Studies, Youth Groups, etc., in America. Scottish church life is relatively simple. Many churches simply have a midweek prayer meeting in addition to two Sunday services.

6. American preachers use more paper: There’s much more reading of sermons in American pulpits. Most Scottish preachers take some limited notes into the pulpit, but they don’t seem to depend on them so much. Consequently, Scottish sermons are less polished but maybe more personal and passionate.

7. American sermons are more lecturely: Most American sermons are teaching sermons for Christians. In Scotland, while one sermon is usually a teaching sermon for Christians, the other is usually preached specifically to the unconverted. There’s expositional teaching in these evangelistic sermons too, but it’s clear that they are preached primarily for the conversion of lost sinners.

8. American churches are more diverse: Although most American Christians wish for more ethnic and cultural diversity in their churches, there is certainly more than in most Scottish churches.

9. American pastors are more specialized: Most Scottish churches have one paid pastor. And that’s it. No more staff. That means Scottish pastors have to be generalists, doing everything. American churches have larger staffs that result in more specialization, and sometimes the strange phenomena of pastors who only preach but never visit or counsel the sheep!

10. American churches have more pastors who are “Doctors”: While Scottish Christians value education, they are quite suspicious of ministers who pursue doctorates. This is partly historical – academics ruined our Seminaries – and partly because they’ve seen the damage that ambition to be a professor can do to a person. That’s why, when I was given my D.Min. I put it in the bottom drawer and didn’t tell anyone in my congregation. I didn’t even tell my parents!

11. American churches are more optimistic: I don’t think this is so much a spiritual trait as a national characteristic. Americans in general are a more optimistic, can-do people (is this changing?), resulting in more welcoming, friendly churches.

12. American sermons have more jokes: Thankfully not true in my own church, but wearisomely true in many churches.

So, anyone want to immigrate? Which way?

Check out

That awkward moment when we speak the Gospel
“I’ve done a little research and can confirm to you that there is not one documented case of someone dying, or even being severely injured, by awkwardness.”

Scorn profits the blogger, but costs the Kingdom
Timothy Dalrymple: “We may profit from writing scorn, but the kingdom pays the cost.  Scorn is corrosive.  It cuts us off from fellow believers who could teach us many things.  And it hardens the world’s caricatures of Christians.”

Does the Psalmist believe in the afterlife?
Excellent pocket-size Old Testament theology from Denny Burk.

Reflections from a prolific blogger
Thoroughly enjoyable piece of writing from Sarah Bessey: “Blogging has changed my life, my spirituality, my opinions, my relationships, my heart, my mind, and I make no apologies for that (even if “blogging” is an excessively ugly word.) God has used this medium to profoundly change me, yes, but somehow, weirdly, he’s also managed to include a few other people in that, and now I feel like I’m part of a bigger story.”

Hack your introversion and visit someone in hospital
Eric McKiddie: “Nothing felt more wrong to me than visiting someone in the hospital that I didn’t know, and sensing the pressure to make them feel better in 15 minutes or less.”

Church History and Israel’s Future
I’m one of the decreasing numbers of non-premillennialists (I’m an optimistic amillenial) who believe that ethnic Israel still has a major future place in God’s plans. Nathan Busenitz makes me feel a bit less lonely with a great selection of quotes from others in church history.

Captivated: The Movie

If you’re reading this blog, and you probably are, you need to watch this movie. Even if you’re not reading this blog, you need to watch this movie. Runner-up for “Best Documentary” at the recent San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, Captivated is all about “finding freedom in a media captive culture.”

Mediatalk 101 leader, Philip Telfer, takes us on a nationwide tour of experts, families, and individuals, to demonstrate not only the problems of techno-media slavery, but also how God’s Word addresses the unique challenges we face today.

Visit the website for more information and some nice discount offers on purchases of two or more DVDs. Why not buy a batch for your church or school, or arrange a showing? What will you get for your money?

  1. Expert commentary: wide range of insightful commentary from scientists, doctors, theologians, journalists
  2. Hope-filled testimonies: numerous inspiring stories of how individuals and families have been delivered from techno-media slavery
  3. Diversity of contributors: lots of gender, age, and racial variety in both the commentary and the testimonials
  4. Professional filming: high standards of photography and audio that make it a real pleasure to watch and listen
  5. Wide suitablity: I watched it with my wife, two daughters (8 & 10), and two teenage sons (14 & 15) and we were all “captivated” from beginning to end
  6. Gospel focus: the film progressively moves towards the Gospel and sets forth Christ as the ultimate deliverer of all captives.

I have no financial interest in this film and I was not asked or paid to write this review. I just think it’s a tremendous resource for churches and families who need all the help they can get to produce Christ-captivated lives.