Tates Creek Presbyterian won praise for its transparent investigation. Then it had to do it again.
Of all his ministry duties, Robert Cunningham most enjoys the academic responsibilities: reading, crafting sermons, writing on faith and public life, and working on his dissertation.
But the Lord had other plans for the senior pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Over the past three years, his congregation has undergone two independent investigations into separate allegations of sexual abuse from its past.
Cunningham had no special training for abuse cases or familiarity with best practices for handling abuse allegations. But he had a deep awareness of what he didn’t know and a sense of responsibility to lead his church through scandals it did not ask for. For three years, he has worked to build a culture of openness, care, and justice.
In a landscape marred by cover-ups, incomplete investigations, victim blaming, and denial, Tates Creek has emerged as a model for how churches should respond to allegations of sexual abuse.
Cunningham was in his sixth year as senior pastor when the first case emerged in 2018.
The 1,000-member congregation—large by Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) standards—was healthy, growing, and planting churches. The Savannah River Presbytery, the PCA’s governing body in southern Georgia, told Cunningham that former Tates Creek youth pastor Brad Waller had confessed to inappropriately touching young men at a Savannah-area church.
By then, Waller’s time at Tates Creek was a distant memory for the church. He had left over a decade before, and most of his students were long gone, too.
“It would have been easy for us to say, ‘Okay, that’s weird. Hate to hear that. Let’s just keep moving on,’” Cunningham said. Instead, ...
The latest “premium” text has a bright red cover, street art-inspired calligraphy, and a $300 price tag.
At first, social media users weren’t sure if it was an elaborate April Fool’s joke. It was, after all, April 1 when the billboard appeared above New York City’s Canal Street advertising a Bible with a $300 price tag.
The limited edition, art-inspired Good Publishing NIV Bible is described on its website as a “modern version of God’s Holy Word” and an “ambitious project, elevating the aesthetic to God’s Holy Word with artisan qualities.”
Those qualities include gold foiling on its “striking crimson red Soft Touch cover” and sustainably sourced paper. The title of each book was lettered by New York City artist Eric Haze.
“Rooted in humility with an ambitious mission, we set out to build a fresh, relevant brand around the best selling book in history–the Holy Bible,” says the Good Publishing Co. website.
Relevant magazine called it “Hypebeast-inspired content.” Commenters on Instagram asked if the Bibles had been autographed by God and quoted Jesus’ own admonition: “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
But so-called “premium” Bibles aren’t new. And while they may not carry the same steep price tag, a number of new and traditional Bible publishers are stressing the beauty of an old-fashioned book and the experience of slowing down to read at a time when so much of life is lived online.
“There’s a long tradition of Bibles being published, even hundreds of years ago, that were trying to use the finest materials to honor the legacy of the text,” said Tim Wildsmith, the pastor and blogger behind the Bible Review Blog.
Wildsmith, who reviews all kinds of Bibles on his blog, ...
Defining and discerning what missiology is—and how it can help you.
The gospel message never changes.
We can’t improve upon it.
It’s the once-for-all hope for humanity.
Cultures, however, are ever-changing. Communicating the gospel in a timely way in a given cultural context matters even more in a time of rapid change like today. Therefore, an ever-present reality for the church––from pastors and staff, to leadership in denominations, networks, and movements, and including all believers––is becoming more effective in communicating the gospel in culture. This is why the work of missiologists and the field of missiology matter so much. But what do we mean by missiology?
And what is the work of a missiologist?
What Missiology Is NOT
Let me start by describing things missiologists are not, though people often assume these traits describe the work of a missiologist.
First, missiology is not simply giving an angst-driven look at current church norms.
Sometimes missiologists are perceived in this way because they are constantly asking questions about how we can most faithfully and fruitfully engage in God's mission in this time. When we ask these questions, we sometimes find that the church is not being so faithful or fruitful. Most of us would rather see our church through rose colored glasses than really assess how we are doing. When the church is not being faithful at living an embodied mission or being fruitful in seeing people come to Christ, some may believe that missiologists who ask hard questions about these issues as being angst driven. No, they are simply doing their job.
Second, missiology is not merely being critical of what doesn’t work in the church.
Criticisms about the status quo can certainly arise when questions about faithfulness and fruitfulness ...
How worship pastors decide whether to sing to the Lord a new song.
“Learn these tunes before you learn any others,” John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing. “Afterwards, learn as many as you please.”
The specified “tunes” were those included in the 1761 publication of the early Methodist hymnal, Selected Hymns. Wesley’s seven directions for singing have long been included in the opening pages of the United Methodist Hymnal. They include exhortations like “Sing lustily and with good courage,” “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can,” and “Attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”
Wesley wrote his Directions for Singing for a different time, for a church usually selecting congregational music from a confined set of songs in printed hymnbooks. But this centuries-old guide helps establish a theological framework for a new project designed to help worship leaders evaluate a growing catalog of contemporary worship music.
The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Discipleship Ministries recently released CCLI Top 100+ Beyond, the latest iteration of a project begun in 2015, aiming to help leaders curate worship songs. CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International, which provides copyright licenses to use music from a vast library of artists; it ranks its most popular songs twice a year in the CCLI Top 100.
The UMC project offers a recommended song list, with a description of each song’s lyrics, theological underpinnings, musical difficulty, and a list of recording artists and alternate arrangements.
The list includes seven titles by Hillsong Worship and Hillsong ...
I urge Christians to pray for Muslims, for their salvation, for their blessing in Jesus Christ
I recently had the privilege of delivering the sermon at my local church. I took the opportunity to share from Acts 17:26-27,
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
As the author of a recent global survey revealing unprecedented turnings of thousands of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ, I used the opportunity to point out that it is God who determines the times and boundaries of the world’s peoples. I shared with the congregation that it is no accident that God has allowed more than 3 million Muslims to find their new homes here in the United States.
The reason for this relocation, I said, was so that “perhaps Muslim immigrants in America might reach out for him and find him.” For this divine appointment to be realized, though, requires us to acknowledge that God has also placed us here in proximity to more than 3 million Muslims, so that we would share with them the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
During the invitation, I invited the congregation to pray for Muslims, and for themselves, that God would use us to bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
One man, shoulders slumped, walked down the aisle to the altar where I was standing. As he took my hand, it was evident to me that he was weeping. “I lost my son in Afghanistan,” he said, “And I’ve hated those people ever since. But I know that I can’t follow Jesus and hate Muslims. I want to leave that hatred here today.”
Two authors encourage Christians to rededicate themselves to attentive, artful reading.
Among many evangelical literature-lovers (and likely many CT readers), Leland Ryken is a familiar name. Longtime (now emeritus) professor of English at Wheaton College, he is the author of numerous books, including The Christian Imagination and How to Read the Bible as Literature. In his latest offering, Recovering the Lost Art of Reading, he teams up with professional writer Glenda Faye Mathes to take on one of the ecclesial crises of our time (though not one that tends to make the headlines): By and large, Christians aren’t engaged in serious reading.
Ryken and Mathes set out to provide Christians with the reasons and tools they need to start reading again. Their overriding hope is that readers will find it easier to pick up a book and responsibly—indeed, artfully—lose themselves in it. (In this, their intentions overlap somewhat with those of Karen Swallow Prior in her 2018 work On Reading Well, although Recovering the Lost Art of Reading is a very different book.)
Ryken and Mathes describe their project as addressing “first the concept of reading as a lost art, then distinctive features of various types of literature and tips for reading them, and finally, ideas for ways to recover reading.” To put it more plainly, the book asks and responds to three questions: What is literature? Why should Christians read it? And what do they need to know (either about literature or about why they’re not reading it) before they can read it well?
While Recovering the Lost Art of Readingisn’t exactly literary criticism, it brings aspects of a literary-critical engagement to would-be readers and provides insight into things like the difference between literary and nonliterary uses of language, the ...
Why Your Children’s Ministry Leader Needs More Education and Training.
As both a professor and ministry coach, pastors and search committees often ask me, “How much education is really necessary for a children’s ministry pastor or director?” On the surface, that can be an easy query to answer by asking a few questions: Is the position full-time or part-time? What are the responsibilities? Does this position require the person to administer the sacraments, (such as baptism), which might require ordination? But the question can also be a complicated one, because behind it is an attitude of value toward ministry with children.
A few months ago, Ed Stetzer tweeted a question asking if church leaders should pursue a PhD. A colleague of mine at Wheaton College, Dan Trier, wrote an eloquent response regarding the importance and joy of further biblical and theological studies. But let’s be honest—it’s rare that people ask that question in reference to children’s ministry leaders.
In every discussion I have had, churches affirm that ministry with children is important and valued. Why else would the church pursue hiring someone to lead the ministry? But often, leadership in children’s ministry isn’t viewed the same way as leadership in other ministries. Children’s ministry leaders are hired for their administrative skills: ministry organization, volunteer recruitment, curriculum and supply ordering.
These needs are real, but, as I pointed out in a recent journal article that surveyed the past 40 years of trends in children’s ministry, we’ve assigned “backseat” status to children and their spiritual development in the church. While churches say they affirm ministry with children, they are more likely to be ambivalent about ...