cross training

A good friend of mine is currently working through a five-year program to qualify as an elder in the United Methodist Church. She described it to me during our hike a few weeks ago (during which, incidentally, we got so wrapped up in our conversation we completely missed the markers for the trail we’ve hiked at least twice a month for the better part of a year and ended up on the horse path dodging huge piles …


in opinions, censorship

Last week a megachurch that has faithfully subscribed to Christian Standard for years decided to cancel their subscription because of a few recent articles from the “In Opinions, Liberty” column.

To call this ironic is an understatement.

The whole point of this new feature is to spark discussion on ideas in the spirit of the “in essentials, unity” slogan we like to quote. But instead of welcoming thoughtful dialogue on some non-essentials, this Christian church apparently wants to shield its members from thinking about them. And I’m appalled—not as a Standard Publishing girl, but as a believer.

For one …


future tense

For the past two days I’ve been privileged to be part of a group of 25 Christian church leaders gathered to discuss the future of the church. (Special thanks to Christian Standard, Orchard Group, and Provision Ministry Group for sponsoring the event.)

Yesterday morning we broke into groups of six to dig into the question of the church’s future, especially the next ten years.

Some were very optimistic: “I think we are moving toward our greatest opportunities to share the gospel.”

Some were less positive: “We don’t have a shot at global evangelism unless we …


how to spice up your church newsletter

Between the new project I’m doing for Standard, my regular Buzz column, managing Christian Church Today, and compiling weekly news about the NACC and its speakers, I read a LOT of church newsletters.

They typically include the same things—a note from the senior pastor promoting the new sermon series, announcements of baby dedication day or a youth group fundraiser, small group sign-up info, a link to the church’s Facebook page, an ad for some program created by Dave Ramsey, a quote from some book written by Max Lucado.

Predictable. A bit …


amass media

Occasionally bloggers will invite their readers to share links to the other blogs they read in hopes of finding some new favorites. Commenters often use the opportunity to not just share their must-reads but to promote their own blogs.

I am pleased to now offer you this same opportunity for shameless self-promotion, but for a different purpose. (My Google Reader currently has 423 unread blog posts. When I start asking you for additional “fun” reading suggestions you’ll know I’ve struck oil in my driveway and retired.)

But back to the purpose: in a few weeks, Christian Standard is going …


new to you friday–my name is jen and…..

A few weeks ago, Christian Standard published an article by Brian Jones on “why churches should euthanize small groups.” It caused a bit of kerfluffle (75 comments and counting–check it out here) and is interesting since Brian is speaking at the Small Groups Ministry Conference at CCU in April.

But irony is fun, and I resonated with many of Brian’s thoughts. Small groups have never done it for me, but a 12-step group might. As I noted in the original post, the radical honesty and equally-radical acceptance demonstrated in many of these groups is crucial to overcoming addictions—and it should be more a part of …


more at stake

There is a perception out there that the Christian Standard avoids the hard issues or publishes a “party line” of predictable opinions. As one leader said, “It is narrowly focused in the ghetto of the Restoration Movement.”

I find this ironic because I also read the many letters and website comments that roll into the CS offices criticizing the topics the editors choose to cover or the positions they take.

Here’s a sampling just from current stuff:

“Anyone who would shun small groups, I believe, is of a legalistic nature and is looking for attention” (in response to Brian …


new to you friday—book it

This week I was reminded once again that I really need to make more time for reading.

I spent Tuesday through Thursday in sunny Orlando with the Christian Standard contributing editors team (arriving home just in time to scrape an inch of snow off my car at the airport). As always, I was challenged, inspired and encouraged by our time together. As always, I left with the names of six more books I need to read.

As long as I’m updating my list, I’d love to hear your suggestions as well. What magazines and blogs consistently give you new …


brotherhood, can you spare a job?

We’ve all heard the statistics.

Thousands of churches close each year, 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month, and 50% of pastors would leave if they could. (Good stuff at the link, including a typo about “abstinent elders.” Pretty sure they meant obstinate. What are the stats on bloggers who can’t spell?)

Many groups have formed to solve these problems, including two new ones within our own fellowship of churches. The Just One Challenge, spearheaded by the presidents of our 33 colleges and universities, encourages church leaders to preach on Matthew 9:38 and …


growing like Jesus

Christian Standard recently asked me and seven other contributing editors to consider the various ways Jesus grew—“in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”—and to share how we’re growing in one of those areas.

Here’s my answer–don’t miss the other excellent responses on the CS website.

This spring I tagged a few days onto a California business trip so I could spend time with friends.

First I had coffee with John, who shared his recent decision to leave a safe ministry position and start a new church. “I waited years to discover this calling, and just tried to stay faithful until I saw …