Repentance, Prayer and Stimulus Packages

<ed.note>Listening to President Obama’s Stimulus Package speech recently it struck me how fickle as citizens we are. It is so difficult for politicians to be leaders if we are not willing to be lead. I’ve often said that we have a crisis of leadership brought on by the crisis of followership. One of the toughest jobs for a leader is to point out the need for repentance. Obama broached the subject that we, as consumers — not just the bank leadership,  have acted imprudently and for that I’m grateful. It brought to mind the time of Solomon’s Prayer of the Dedication for the Temple of Yahweh. In a nutshell, he acknowledged that the people would walk willing into sin and begged God that when they had turned back to Him that He would hear their prayers. The people of Israel had pretty much the same challenges* as we do today. I’d urge us to learn from their experience and pray for our leaders and for each other — as well as those in other nations.</ed.note>

*A summary list (of the Second Chronicles account) I found on a site I googled by a Paul J. Bucknell:

1) Sin against a neighbor (6:22-23)
2) Defeated before an enemy because of sin (6:24-25)
3) No rain because of sin (6:26-27)
4) Famine, pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, grasshopper, enemies, whatever plague or sickness (6:28-31)
5) For God-fearing foreigner who pray (6:32-33)
6) Wage war against enemy (6:34-35)
7) When they sin and taken captive (6:36-39)

The Christian Chronicle Editorial Council on “Addressing a crisis of empty pulpits”

In some parts of the world, a preacher shortage is something to celebrate. Across Africa and Latin America, for example, people are being baptized at a rate that makes it difficult for preacher training schools to keep up with demand.

But here in the U.S., our assessment of the pulpit deficit tends to be grim. Across the nation, churches seek to fill empty pulpits. Many small congregations struggle to find enough money in their budgets to attract and retain a talented minister. – The Christian Chronicle Editorial Council

<ed.note>Flavil Yeakley was commissioned to study one school from which he found approximately 25% of Bible students could not begin preaching due to the debt burden they carried graduating from that Christian institute of higher education. I'd really encourage the Chronicle to work with the Christian Higher Education Foundation to do an online survey to determine how pervasive this is and their suggested remedies, if necessary.

Regardless, the Bible students need to be told of the possibility before entering the programs (counting the cost, I believe, is a Biblical admonition) — Is there a Churches of Christ Virtual Student Union which advocates on behalf of the economic best interests of the students — Facebook App, maybe?

Also see some of the earlier Letters to the Editor on similar themes (especially Ben Wiles and Darren Ray Reynolds). </ed.note>

The Problem with Living Sacrifices Is that They Keep Trying to Climb Down off of the Altar

Saul (Paul) of Tarsus to the congregation at Rome (mp3)

Romans in a nutshell:

On the one hand,

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members don't have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate one to another; in honor preferring one another; not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don't curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don't set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don't be wise in your own conceits. Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. (12:1-18)

yet on the other

For I delight in God's law after the inward man, but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?(7:22-24)

while

…it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy.(9:17)

Fortunately

…God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.(5:8)

and

Now it was not written that [righteousness] was accounted to [Abraham] for his sake alone, but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.(4:23-5:2)

New England churches struggle to fill pulpits UPDATED

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Trouble filling pulpits – Leaders stress need to reach out to domestic mission field

MANCHESTER, N.H. – More than a year ago, the West Keene church in southwestern New Hampshire advertised nationwide for a mature minister interested in a mission opportunity.

The 35-member congregation, about 40 miles west of Manchester, offered housing, utilities and a small stipend.

But only one man applied — and he turned down the job.

<ed.note>Note I left on Bobby Ross’s Facebook wall: Empty New England Pulpits Story — someone needs to do some research on how many folks can’t afford to consider the jobs due to crushing bible education debt; then consider studying Project MedSend’s model of providing student loan forgiveness for folks willing to do a specified “tour of duty”.

In addition to the wall note I would add: Further, books like Strapped and Generation Debt need to be considered. UPDATE: See this. CLOSE UPDATE Other stories in the Chronicle emphasized colleges closing in the Pacific NW; its time for Churches of Christ to put distance education in the first place of options rather than on insisting on relocation to a campus to get access to educational materials. These materials can do double duty for students in mission fields (like the NE) as global broadband builds out — especially in the form of wireless to smart phones. I should note also I truly appreciate the excellent reporting the Chronicle crew does! Tangent: Post on Alex Campbell as blogger by Greg Taylor over at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society site. Many other excellent resources available there ONLINE. </ed.note>

Christian unity – it’s the heart of the gospel and the hope of the world

<ed.note>Lyndsay Jacobs edits The Wider Church Newsletter – Number 10 – October 2008 Occasional news and updates prepared for Uniting Congregations in Aotearoa New Zealand with Christian Churches/Churches of Christ participation. Shared with all congregations and interested individuals.</ed.note>

Mention Christian unity these days and you won’t see a flicker of interest in the eyes of many Christians. Older folks, so used to putting their thinking and energy into ‘church union’, struggle to visualise an alternative to denominational cooperation or merger; younger Christians move freely amongst denominations but find it harder to see the ‘big picture’. Unity is seen as a fringe matter – something to tack on to your church life when everything else is attended to. But unity is a dimension of our whole Christian life. It is at the heart of who we are – individually, congregationally and as the people of God. We cannot preach love your neighbour when we practise ignore, compete with or put down your neighbour. Through its very structures the church contradicts the gospel – declares ‘neighbour’hood is impossible.

Christian unity is the will of God, the prayer of Christ, a major theme of the New Testament, a core understanding of the gospel and an essential mark of the community of faith. Divided church is an oxymoron. In this 21st Century we face unique challenges but we are called, as Christians in every century have been, to find appropriate contemporary ways to fulfill Christ’s prayer – or the world won’t believe.

More here.

A Communion Meditation: The Unity We Share at the Table – World Convention Sunday, August 3, 2008

<ed.note>My friend Clint Holloway, a church historian who specializes in the Stone-Campbell Family of Churches, wrote this meditation for the upcoming World Convention here in Nashville. I’ve added some information from the latest ChristiaNet to provide context.</ed.note>

At 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon August 3, 2008 those attending the 17th global gathering of the World Convention will come together for the closing worship service with President Dr C. Robert Wetzel bringing the message. This service has been seen as the culmination of convention and has traditionally included partaking of the Lord’s Supper as a witness to the unity we share at the table as the Stone-Campbell Movement and the body of Christ.

# # # #

Selections of John 17:20-23

Two hundred years ago, Thomas Campbell, a spiritual forefather of the Stone-Campbell Movement, looked around and saw the sin of division separating Christians one from another and destroying the fellowship God intended for his children. He wrote in the Declaration and Address:

(Prop.1) THAT the church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the scriptures…

(Prop.2) That although the church…must necessarily exist in particular and distinct…(congregations), locally separate one from another; yet there ought to be…no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought to receive each other as Christ hath also received them to the Glory of God…[1]

Two thousand years ago, Jesus looked around and saw the division of sin was separating God’s creation from Him and was destroying the fellowship God intended his children to have with the Father. Praying on the night before he was crucified, Jesus said,

I pray…for those who will believe in me…, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved me even as you have loved them.[2]

The mission of Christ was to bring us into that Father-Son oneness so we could enjoy the completeness of God’s love. Though we must worship in different congregations geographically separate from one another, there should be no unbiblical and uncharitable divisions between us. From Jesus’ prayer we learn there should be no sinful division to keep us from true fellowship with one another and with God. Our love and unity should witness to the world.

Nowhere is the unity between Christians and God more evident than at this table. At this table we lay aside our divisions and we repent of our sins. At this table we share with each other as Christians and we share with our Father. This is Communion.

Let us pray…make the unity we share at the table a reality in our times…

[1] Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address, Brown and Sample, Washington , PA , 1809, 16 (Emphasis mine).

[2] Selections from John 17:20-23, NIV (Emphasis mine – Clinton Holloway).

Final Call for Resources at the Global Leaders Forum of the World Convention (Christian – Churches of Christ – Disciples of Christ)

This is a final call for resources (books, curriculum, websites, DVD’s, music, children’s ministry, etc.) to be shared at the 3rd Global Leaders Event preceding the World Convention. Email us your information to be included in our resource handouts or send sample copies and/or 100 promotional brochures/fliers to be placed in the resource bags for the leaders and church workers from around the world who will be involved in this pre-event. Email info to worldconvclint@aol.com or send to World Convention, C/O: Clint Holloway, 1279 Brentwood Highlands Drive, Nashville, TN 3721. 

<ed.note>I’d particularly like to encourage folks to submit info re: utilization of open source software and web-based collaboration platforms.</ed.note>

IKnow Initiative: Freed-Hardeman Announces Partnership With Apple, Inc.

<ed.note>I was encouraged to see that the new prez, Joe Wiley, at FHU, where I did my undergrade work, is a techie. ( Abilene Christian, where I did my grad, is also mentioned. ) This article was in the latest "Alumnogram".</ed.note>

Freed-Hardeman President Joe Wiley has only been in office for a week, but he is already among the driving forces of Freed-Hardeman’s biggest technology announcement in its history.

Effective by the fall 2008 semester, Freed-Hardeman will give all students an opportunity to have an Apple MacBook and an iPhone or iPod Touch. Freed-Hardeman becomes one of three universities in the nation to combine the MacBook and iPhone/iPod as part of its academic curriculum. But according to FHU administrators, this is not about the equipment; it’s about the overall campus experience.

It’s about the FHU experience

“I have always tried to look at new, innovative ways of learning,” said Wiley. “I am a big believer in using technology to enhance learning.”

Following the traditional Apple products’ names, the university decided to call the program iKnow, releasing videos to the students on Friday in chapel similar to the Apple advertisements.

iKnow, which will cost students the equivalent of one additional hour per semester, has been in the works for about three years, according to FHU’s Chief Information Officer, John Bentley.

“We’ve been researching different solutions/programs for the last three years. We got serious about implementation for the fall semester when we saw that Apple was releasing their iPhone SDK and support for Exchange this past spring,” said Bentley.

With a post-doctoral fellowship in computer science, Wiley believed the program was an obvious choice.

“It isn’t something that I made up when I came here. IT has been working on it for a long time. The program is very well-thought-out,” Wiley said.

The program was designed to improve the students’ academic, social and spiritual experience while they are on campus. In an annual survey conducted by the university, the satisfaction for student technology had fallen over the past year. To improve satisfaction on campus and meet their growing expectations, the program was developed. While this will be a great tool for students, the iKnow initiative will also outfit the faculty of Freed-Hardeman University with the tools necessary to provide the best academic experience possible. The first year of the program, one quarter of the faculty will also receive MacBooks and the iPhone or iPod Touch.

“I believe this to be a great way to unite our campus community and help our students be competitive,” said Ashlee Hirsh, instructor at Freed-Hardeman University. “More importantly, it will challenge us as faculty to meet students where they already are and push us to provide an education that takes advantage of our students’ ability to multi-task and utilize technology. Beyond that, these tools will allow us to administer paper-less tests, take attendance, survey our classes and things I have yet to even think about. But what I think it will do that sometimes goes overlooked is it will allow us to stay in touch with our students personally, which continues to be a foundation of the Freed-Hardeman University experience.”

“The thought of every student having a laptop with the ability to be on the same level playing field is exciting for me,” said Dr. LeAnn Self-Davis, associate professor in the department of chemistry and engineering sciences. “While we have wonderful computer lab facilities on campus, knowing that I can now, without hesitation, make assignments with a heavy computer requirement makes this program wonderful.

“I think I may be more excited about the iPhone or iPod Touch part of this initiative. I love the idea of being able to survey our students and have instant feedback that will appear on the screen in our classrooms,” said Self-Davis. “When I am teaching a class of 40 to 50 freshmen chemistry students that are shy or intimidated about speaking out, this approach provides a much more interactive environment and provides a way for students to participate and make a difference in the learning processes in each class room.

Why Apple?

In a national survey by Student Monitor’s Lifestyle and Media Study in the fall of 2007, 31 percent of college students believe that Apple has the best laptop computers, compared to only 25 percent who preferred Dell, the next highest vote-getter. In another survey by Lifestyle and Media Study, 49 percent of students said they plan to buy an Apple computer in the next 12 months. Coming in second to Apple was still Dell, with only 11 percent of the votes.

“Going with Apple products seemed to be the best choice to provide the students with a better computer, better support, fewer problems and more peace of mind,” said Bentley. “It’s the technology the students want.”

The Information Technology Department believes the program will improve the student experience, as well as improve their learning outcomes, strengthen relationships and communications while building the university’s academic reputation.

The Specifics

Through iKnow, the students will receive a MacBook laptop computer, a choice between an iPhone or an iPod Touch, a protective computer sleeve, one replacement battery and the Information Technology Department will pre-load Apple’s Leopard operating system as well as Window Vista to meet the needs of every student. The computers will also have Office for Mac (2008) and Microsoft Office (2007). Each student will be given upgrades and additional software throughout his or her time at FHU. Upon graduation, they will receive CDs or DVDs of the current operating system and the current versions of Office. The students will keep the computer and phone when they graduate. They will also have the option to upgrade the MacBook to a MacBook Pro for a one-time additional $795.

“Research of traditional programs shows that there is a gap between providing technology and improving student learning outcomes,” said Bentley. “That is a gap that needs to be bridged.

“Just providing technology changes the way a teacher prepares to teach, but it does not change the way they teach. This program will enable FHU to do the research and provide the tools and the training necessary to enable teachers to fundamentally change the way they teach,” he said.

As the university continues to develop the iKnow program, they will work toward using it for social clubs, intramurals, library searches and a way to schedule and register for classes. They will try to develop applications to enhance security, admissions, advancement and IT’s help desk. They also plan to integrate with iTunesU.

Fifty percent of Freed-Hardeman’s students already have AT&T, the network provider for the iPhone, so students who do not have AT&T will be able to have an iPod Touch instead, which does not require a cellular network. The programs will cost incoming freshmen $349 per semester.

“Ninety-six percent of FHU students have cell phones, and the overwhelming majority of students already have cell phones with them in class,” said Bentley. “If those phones were iPhones, we would really have an opportunity to leverage that platform to advance some forward-thinking functionality.”

Current Freed-Hardeman students will have the opportunity to opt-in to the program. For example, students with four semesters left will pay a one-time $951 opt-in fee, then the standard $349 per semester to cover the cost of the computer, phone and all the benefits included through the university. The opt-in price will vary based on each student’s graduation target.

Freed-Hardeman is also having two of its IT workers, Chris Hodges and Eddie Anderson, certified by Apple, giving them access to Apple Support and certifying them to work on the computer on site rather than sending them off to Apple if problems occur.

The university plans to have at least 400 MacBooks ready for the Crow Hop Festival on May 2. The festival, which will feature the Avett Brothers on FHU’s campus, is designed for incoming freshmen to have an opportunity to come on campus for an event just for them. New students who choose to participate in iKnow will sign a contract at the Crow Hop Festival and be permitted to take their new computer home with them.

On Saturday, May 3, current students who choose to opt in will be able to pick up their MacBooks on a first-come, first-served basis. All iPhones/iPod Touches will be distributed at the start of the fall semester.

“This is a program designed to open avenues for the faculty and the students to communicate effectively and that will allow faculty to provide an environment that will benefit the students’ learning experience, and that really is the ultimate goal,” said Wiley.

Freed-Hardeman was able to create the program with the help Oklahoma Christian University, which offers its students MacBooks and will, like FHU, begin providing the iPhone/iTouch option for all this fall. Information was also received from Abilene Christian University who will be implementing a similar program.

For information about this press release, contact Caley Newberry at 731.989.6023 or 731.608.7747.

For information about the iKnow Initiative, please see http://www.fhu.edu/iknow

2008 Churches of Christ Ministerial Salary Survey

It is time to launch the 2008 Ministers Salary Survey. We value your input. The
information gathered in this survey is helpful to both ministers and churches.
Please note that for the 2008 Minister Salary Survey we have included
missionaries and church support staff in the survey. Before beginning the
survey, it may be helpful to have a pay stub from 2007 and a church bulletin.
Please remember to pass the survey link on to anyone else who may be
interested in participating in the survey. The link to the survey
is here. I hope that
you can complete the survey by no later than March
1.

Gratefully,
Charles Siburt
Vice President for Church
Relations
Abilene Christian University

Thinking Outside the Circle

Lyndsay Jacobs, Christian Churches NZ/Associated Churches of Christ in NZ, Uniting Congregations Partner Representative, in "The Wider Church – Number 7, July 2007 (Occasional news and updates prepared for Uniting Congregations in Aotearoa New Zealand with Christian Churches/Churches of Christ participation)" writes:

I am very encouraged by the way many union/cooperative churches are responding to their call to ministry and witness in this new century. But being effective parishes/congregations in this post modern, post denominational, post Christian, post Christendom era is a huge and constant challenge to us all.

IT IS A NEW WORLD. Like many others, I feel absolutely sure that trying to do what we’ve always done, but doing it better, JUST WON’T WORK. That is like looking through the wrong end of the telescope or trying to get ice cream into the cone through the bottom. It’s coming at things from the wrong end. That’s thinking ‘Inside the Circle’ – looking out from where we are. THE WORLD HAS CHANGED. We’re not where we were anymore.

The first (and major, huge) step for any congregation wanting to be real in 21st Century New Zealand, is to understand today’s community and HOW THE COMMUNITY SEES CHRISTIANITY and the CHURCH. We need to step outside our circles, see ourselves (our congregations) from the outside looking in. We need to think outside the circle.

I have prepared a one day or two evening discovery/action program for congregations which feel they’re ready, like Abraham, to explore moving into a ‘new country’. Let me know if you’re game. ( Contact info: lyndsaylorrainejacobs at xtra.co.nz, PO Box 211, Kirwee 7543, New Zealand. Ph: +64 (0) 3 317-8011. Mobile: +64 021 424516 ),