Monday, March 29, 2021

A Break from Blogging over Holy Week

I'm taking a one-week break from blogging over Holy Week. If you'd like to follow some of the other content and services I produce for my church during this time, you can find them at

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Saturday Synaxis

Come near, our Father, come very near to Thy children. Some of us are very weak in body and faint in heart. Soon, O God, lay Thy right hand upon us and say unto us, “Fear not”... Our Father, come and rest Thy children now. Take the helmet from our brow, remove from us the weight of our heavy armor for awhile, and may we just have peace, perfect peace, and be at rest. Oh! help us, we pray Thee, now... Lord Jesus, take from us now everything that would hinder the closest communion with God.

- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, March 26, 2021

Pastoral Resources: Conflict Management Handbook (Part 3)

(This is a series of notes that I assembled into a handbook for myself during my last year of seminary, in preparation for stepping into church leadership. I've found them helpful to keep in mind during church conflict situations, so I provide them here in the hope that they might prove similarly helpful to others.)

Part 3: How to Handle Confrontation & Conflict

What to Do When Confrontation over Sin Is Necessary:

The Matthew 18 Process:

·      - First go and have a one-on-one meeting to gently confront the person about his/her sin (v.15)

·      - If that doesn’t work, then go with two or three witnesses (v.16)

·      - If that doesn’t work either, present the problem to the congregation, in order that others in the congregation can try to win back their brother or sister (v.17)

·      - Finally, if that doesn’t work, cut off contact with the person (v.17)

How to Engage a One-on-One confrontation/discussion:

·      - Always remember that restoration is the goal of confrontation

·      - Talk in person if possible

·      - Plan your words

·      - Be quick to listen

·      - Bring hope through the Gospel

·      - Clarify the issues by asking questions

·      - Reflect/paraphrase back what the person is saying, in order to make sure you understand

·      - Be clear about showing agreement with anything that is good or right in the other person’s sentiments

·      - Talk from beside, not from above

·      - Help them examine and understand their root desires and motivations

·      - Use “I feel…” statements as much as possible—it’s both gentler, and harder to refute, when you ground your statements in your own experience and perception

·      - Be objective, as much as possible

·      - Be clear that where sin is involved, it cannot be ignored

·      - When you reference or quote the Bible, do it to build up, not tear down

·      - Go to great lengths to be gentle and loving, but not so far as to not be firm where sin is involved

·      - Ask for feedback

What to Do When Group Conflicts Start to Brew:

·      - Be quick with “clear the air” sessions to deal with misunderstandings

·      - Use questionnaires or other communication-methods to gather information, to find out:

o   The perceptions of those involved (how should things be going, and why, in your opinion, aren’t they going that way right now?)

o   The origins of the conflict

o   The substance of the conflict

o   The emotions involved

o   What stage the conflict is in

Running a “conflict management meeting” with both sides involved:

·      - Hold meetings on neutral ground (for instance, at a restaurant)

·      - Start the session with Bible study and prayer

·      - Make clear the goal of the meeting: finding a solution agreeable to all parties, if possible, and restoring harmony and peace in the Body

·      - Proceed in a calm & relaxed manner

·      - Project optimism about the hoped-for outcome

·      - Agree on the rules and norms for the meeting, such as:

o   Only one person talking at a time

o   Allow each side to articulate its own position (rather than having the opposition talk about their perception of the other side’s position)

o   No insults or name-calling

o   No unreflective criticism of someone else’s ideas or hopes for change

·      - Focus on the issues at hand, not on emotions or old grudges

·      - Identify areas of agreement & disagreement

·      - Consider possible alternatives, looking especially for short-term stepping stones toward larger changes in the future

·      - All ideas should be written down for future reference

·      - Discuss the pros and cons of each proposition

·      - Consider Biblical teaching and principles on the issue under consideration

·      - Motivate commitment to a new plan, if one can be decided upon

o   Make it a commitment both to the relationships with one another and to the tasks of the new plan

o   Put it in writing

o   Help the “losing” side save face by including as many of their words and sentiments as possible into the new plan

o   Celebrate the successful conclusion

·      - Afterward, monitor and evaluate the progress of the plan—follow up!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: J. Hudson Taylor & David Livingstone

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
J. Hudson Taylor: Basic Facts

- J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was born in Barnsley, England, and came to faith in Christ as a teenager. He committed himself to becoming a missionary to China, relying solely on God’s provision to get there.

- At the time of his arrival, Christian influence was limited to a few foreign settlements in port cities. Taylor pioneered the evangelization of the interior of China, many times going where no European had ever gone before. He founded a new organization, China Inland Mission (now OMF), which marked new innovations in the practice of Christian missions: (1) “faith missions” – relying solely on God’s provision of funds and recruits, (2) adoption of native dress and customs, (3) and the inclusion of many different denominations in one organization.

- Taylor was also known for his profound spirituality—he was a man of passionate prayer and of deep, restful faith in Christ.

- “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.” – Ruth Tucker, historian 

Timeline of Taylor's Ministry:

1854-55 – Taylor arrives in China for the first time during a period of civil war; begins his itinerant preaching but is poorly received

1856-60 – Adopts native dress; chooses to leave the Chinese Evangelization Society and become an independent missionary; meets and marries Maria Dyer; takes over the running of the Ningbo hospital

1860-66 – Takes a furlough in England for health reasons; while there he founds the China Inland Mission

1866-70 – CIM, complete with new recruits, begins its work in China; nearly meets with disaster at the Yangchow riots; receives encouragement and support from George Müller; Taylor experiences a deeper understanding of his life in Christ; wife Maria dies

1871-76 – Taylor makes several trips back and forth to England for health reasons and to raise support; marries Jennie Faulding

1877-84 – A treaty between Britain and China opens up new mission possibilities; CIM puts out the call for 70 new recruits; women begin to take active roles as pioneer missionaries 

1885-88 – Taylor goes to England and the US to draw more recruits to the expanding work; CIM is led to trust God for 100 new missionaries in one year (a 50% increase in the mission society)

1890s – Taylor administrates CIM while pioneer missionaries press on into the interior of China; they suffer a devastating blow during the Boxer Rebellion (58 missionaries killed), but draw the admiration of the world from their response.

1905 – By Taylor’s death, there were missionaries all over China, and CIM was the largest mission society in the world.

Quotes from J. Hudson Taylor:

“God’s work done in God’s ways will never lack God’s supplies.”

“Brother, if you would enter that Province, you must go forward on your knees.”

“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”

“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of His grace, power and love.”

“It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to China. With these facts before you and with the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home.”

“All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on his being with them.”

David Livingstone

- Livingstone (1813-1873) was a famous English explorer and missionary to south and central Africa. Unlike most explorers of the time, he often chose to live with no more than his native helpers had, and he showed great respect for African cultures. He hoped to aid the Africans by introducing “Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.” He aggressively fought against the continuing slave trade along the east African coast.

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. I never made a sacrifice.”