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Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3, ESV).

In today’s church growth culture it is tempting to target groups that will facilitate rapid growth and financial stability.  This would essentially mean white, upper-middle class communities because they tend to be more “open” to church and have money.  Now, to be sure, white, upper-middle class people need Christ; however, the need for churches to survive (numerically and financially) tends to lead some of them away from reaching out in low-income areas composed primarily of ethnic minorities.

Now, if we are thinking about reaching a demographic just for the sake of church growth and financial stability, the last demographic we would be interested in would be children.  Of course, many churches reach out to children but some only as a means to an end—their parents.  But children are not a means to an end, and children’s ministry is not a game.  It is a serious endeavor for the expansion of the kingdom and the glory of God.  The Bible reminds us that “children are a heritage from the Lord,” and that “the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).  Jesus was thankful to the Father that He had hidden the truth “from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; . . . for such was your gracious will” (Matthew 11:25-26).

When the disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom, Jesus called a child to Himself and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4).  As a matter of fact, when people brought their children to Jesus so that He may lay His hands on them, the disciples rebuked the parents, as if to say that Jesus’ time is too important for children.  Yet Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:13-14).  So Jesus laid His hands on them and went away.  It is with this understanding in mind that Jesus said “whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6).

You see, children’s ministry is not a game.  Yes, parents have the primary responsibility to disciple their children, not the church.  No, children’s ministry is not a means to reach the parents, though we hope God will use children to reach their parents if they’re not believers.  Children’s ministry is important and necessary if we are going to encourage parents to disciple their children and if we are going to reach those spiritual orphans in our community whose parents are not followers of Christ.  For this reason, I rejoice with churches who desire to reach the children in non-white, lower-income, multi-ethnic communities with the gospel of Christ.  May the Lord grant us all favor in our communities as we seek to make Jesus known to all the children in our neighborhoods through our children’s ministries.  Would you join your church as they encourage parents to be disciplers and reach out to spiritually-orphaned children, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Categories : Commentary, Missions
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As American Christians, we’re not accustomed to suffering—at least not the kind of suffering we hear Christians are undergoing in other parts of the world that are hostile to the Christian faith.  Nevertheless, 1 Peter was written to Christians in Asia Minor who were in potential danger of experiencing suffering because of their allegiance to Christ.  Contrary to what we may think, because 1 Peter was written around AD 62/63 before Nero’s systematic persecution of Christians, it seems that the Christians in Asia Minor to whom Peter wrote were facing the potential of social persecution similar to what we Western Christians might face today from unbelieving citizens—in our homes, schools, workplaces, from government, etc.  How are we to prepare ourselves for such potential Christian suffering?

In saying that because Christ suffered that we are to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking, Peter reminds us that we are to arm ourselves much like military personnel might prepare themselves for battle by equipping themselves with the proper weapons for military action.  So then, how do we prepare our minds for righteous suffering?  How do we arm ourselves with the right way of thinking about righteous suffering regardless of the extent of persecution?  We preach truth to ourselves.  Here are some of the truths that Peter reminds us in 1 Peter are at our disposal:

1.  We have been called to righteous suffering (2:21).

2.  Therefore, we should not be surprised when we suffer for righteousness (4:12). 

3.  Righteous suffering is not a sign of God’s disfavor (2:20).

4.  Righteous suffering exposes what or whom we are trusting (1:6-7).

5.  The road marked with righteous suffering is the road that leads to ultimate blessing, but the evil way leads to judgment (3:3:8-17; 4:14).

6.  The road marked with righteous suffering is the road that leads to vindication, victory and glory (3:18-22).

7.  The road marked with righteous suffering is the road to holiness now (4:1-6).

Let us meditate on these truths in order to prepare our minds for action, so that when we do suffer for righteousness’ sake we are not taken off-guard.

Categories : Church, Missions, Sermons
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Jul
23

25 Ways to Engage Your Neighbors

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Josh Reeves, who is planting Redeemer Church in Round Rock, TX has a very helpful blogpost here on how to engage your neighbors.

See full list of 100 ways to engage your neighbors.

ht: Jonathan Dodson

Categories : Austin, Church, Missions
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Apr
08

This Sunday at High Pointe

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THIS SUNDAY MORNING – 10:30 AM
I look forward to finishing our study of Exodus this Sunday morning, Lord willing. I had mentioned last week that I was going to put it off, but after some prayer and consideration, I decided to move forward. The portion of last Sunday’s message that I did not get to was an application from 1 Peter. Since we are planning on beginning a study of 1 Peter on April 17, I decided to tackle that application at the appropriate point in that letter.

This Sunday morning we will conclude our study of Exodus by considering the idolatrous nature of our hearts. We will look at Exodus 32-34, the golden calf incident; however, we will not only focus on idolatry, but on God’s faithfulness to provide a way out of idolatry and toward the true worship of Himself. I pray that you will be able to join with us for this final message in Exodus. In preparation please read 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 and 2 Corinthians 3:4-18.

NEW LIFE Institute class began last Sunday. Fight Clubs: Fighting Sin Together. This class, led by Steve Whitlock and Brandon Rawlings, will consider how we can come together in groups of two or three to fight sin together. This is a class on gospel-centered discipleship. If you have not taken advantage of our previous LIFE classes, this is a great opportunity. I encourage you to join us this Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m.

THIS SUNDAY EVENING – 6:00 PM
This Sunday evening we will briefly look at our statement of faith and church covenant in order to remind ourselves why what we believe is important and why we actually covenant together as High Pointe. Following this brief time, we will enter into our quarterly members’ meeting. I cannot encourage you enough to make every effort to join us for our members’ meetings. It is during these times that we practice member care and report to the church the status of certain members that need special prayer and care.

We will also be updating the congregation on future mission endeavors, so please join us.

Categories : Church, High Pointe, Missions
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CNN reports:

The growing Hispanic population in the United States has reached a new milestone, topping 50 million, or 16.3% of the nation, officially solidifying its position as the country’s second-largest group, U.S. Census Bureau officials said Thursday.

From CNN Report, March 24, 2010

Read the rest of the story.

Categories : Missions, News
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Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, has stirred up great controversy within the evangelical world.  I have not read the book yet, but from all reports Bell is abandoning the evangelical gospel by denying hell and embracing universalism.  Please see the following posts and reviews to get caught up on the conversation:

From Albert Mohler:

Doing Away with Hell, part 1

Doing Away with Hell, part 2

We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology
(review of Bell’s book)

Southern Seminary Panel Discussion on Bell’s Book: Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Denny Burk and Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor

Selective Roundup of Several Reviews and Blogposts

Kevin DeYoung

God Is Still Holy and What You Learned In Sunday School is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins”

PDF version of Kevin DeYoung’s review above

As Dr. Mohler points out, this conversation is not new by any means.  Nevertheless, this conversation is generally motivated, not by a desire to destroy Christianity, but rather by genuinely good desires.  On the one hand, there are those who desire to rehabilitate Christianity.  Such apologist seek to “defend” Christianity from its secular despisers.  On the other hand, there is the existential motivation – the fact that people we love are going to hell if the gospel is true.  How have Christians approached this answer?  Christopher Morgan helps us think through this question in his, What is the fate of those who have never heard?

This is an important question that must be answered from Scripture, not matter what our personal feelings may be.  Come, let us reason together.

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Chinese New Year 2010 – Austin

And the number 5 big demographic trend in Austin is . . .

. . . Asian share skyrocketing.

Randy Robinson, city of Austin demographer:

The Asian share of total population in Austin almost doubled during the nineties, leaping from 3.3% in 1990 to almost 5% by 2000 and stands somewhere near the 6.5% mark today.  Like their Hispanic counterparts, the incoming Asians to Austin during the past 15 years are a much more diverse sub-population than what existed in Austin in the past.  For example, thirty years ago, if you were Asian and in Austin, chances are you were Chinese and somehow associated with the University of Texas.  Today, Austin hosts an Asian population that spans the socioeconomic spectrum and is sourced by several countries of origin, with India, Vietnam and China being the largest contributors, please see graph.

Austin has become a destination, for example, for Vietnamese households flowing out of metropolitan Houston.  This highly entrepreneurial population has opened new businesses, purchased restaurants, made loans available to its network and acquired real estate.  Emerging clusters of Vietnamese households are evident in several northeast Austin neighborhoods.  Please see map.

Amazingly, by the middle of the next decade, the number of Asians in Austin will more than likely exceed the number of African Americans.  While the general population of Austin doubles every 20 to 25 years, the number of Asians in Austin is doubling every ten years.

The question is what will the church do?  I thank God for the work of Austin Chinese Church, which is located exactly one mile South of High Pointe.  They are doing a great work right in our neighborhood.  Their English-speaking pastors are also working with us to help us reach the 218 peoples that live withing five miles of our buildings.  Nevertheless, the largest Asian population right where we are is Vietnamese.

I am convinced now more than ever that if the church is to truly reflect the heavenly assembly (Hebrews 12:18-25) and be a light in Austin, then the churches must reflect the fact that the gospel gathers together a diversity of ethnicities and cultures and unites them as one new man in Christ Jesus.  May the Lord grant us grace to capture this vision, His vision for His church.

Categories : Austin, Missions
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This morning I had the privilege of meeting with a group of brother pastors who have a heart for the area of Austin in which we are located.  We meet once a month to encourage one another and discuss strategic gospel advancement within our COA (circle of accountability-the area of Austin in which our churches are located and for which we have claimed particular accountability).  Last month we had some representatives from various school districts who shared with us some of the needs among public school students and families.  This morning we met to discuss the theological grounding for doing good in our city to the glory of God.  Below you will find some of the resources we used to ground our discussion:

John Piper on Evangelism and Social Justice

Mark Dever on Evangelism and Social Justice

Tim Keller on Evangelism and Social Justice, part 1, part 2

Keller on . . .

. . . what he does personally to engage in social justice.

. . . abortion and social justice.

. . . building generous justice into the DNA of a church plant.

. . . what is Hope for New York?

. . . how a pastor encourages his church to do justice in their community.

Other resources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories : Church, Missions, Resources
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And the number 7 big demographic trend in Austin is . . .

. . . geography of Hispanics, intensifying urban barrios along with movement into rural areas.

According to Ryan Robinson, city of Austin demographer:

Maps of Hispanic household concentrations from Census 2000 reveal the emergence of three overwhelmingly Hispanic population centers in Austin: lower east Austin (which also serves as the political bedrock of Austin’s Hispanic community), greater Dove Springs, and the St. Johns area.  Dove Springs shifted from being about 45% Hispanic in 1990 to almost 80% by 2000.  St. Johns went from being 35% to 70%–this radical transition is clearly evident on the streets of St. Johns, a neighborhood that once hosted one of Austin’s oldest African American communities.  Please see map.

The import of this trend is this: at the same time that ethnic minority populations are moving into the middle-class and are more capable than ever to live anywhere they choose, there are parts of the city where ethnic concentration is greatly increasing.  However, it is lower-income minority households that are most likely to participate in the clustering phenomenon.

As the Hispanic population increases, Anglo churches will need to adapt or die.  The question, of course, is how are they to adapt?  In the past, the approach has been to plant language churches; however, these churches only reach the first generation.  The children of the first generation become enculturated in the English speaking culture and prefer to take part in that culture.  Consequently, it is difficult for ethnic churches to survive, let alone thrive.

Churches will have to adopt new models to reach the Hispanic population while not abandoning their present locations to flee to the wealthier Anglo neighborhoods of the suburbs.  One church that is experimenting while maintaining fidelity to the gospel is Harvest Bible Chapel in Austin, under the leadership of Bryan Payne.  Bryan has led Harvest to have services in both English and Spanish simultaneously.  They presently meet in Reagan High School in the heart of a heavily populated Hispanic area of Austin.

Other models will need to emerge as well.  I praise God for the growth of the multi-ethnic church movement.  May the Lord continue to give His church direction, vision and great courage to risk for the sake of the gospel.

Categories : Church, Missions
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Overlooking Lake Travis

And the number 8 big demographic trend in Austin is . . .

. . . an increasingly sharp edge of affluence.

According to Ryan Robinson, city of Austin demographer:

Maps of Median Family Income from Census 2000 show an increasingly hard edge between affluent central Texas and less-than-affluent parts of the urban region.  While some forms of residential segregation have decreased markedly over the past few decades in Austin, the degree of socio-economic spatial separation has steeply increased.  The center of wealth in Austin has slowly migrated into the hills west of the city.  Please see Median Family Income maps one,two, and three in sequence to get a feel for just how much of an island of affluence exists in greater Austin.

This trend of wealth-creep out of the City creates an even greater burden for citizens funding services and facilities that are used and enjoyed by individuals from across the region.

Austin is becoming a more divided city, divided not just in terms of income but also in terms of cultural attributes, linguistic characteristics and political persuasions.  For example, precinct-level results from the 2004 Presidential election reveal a deep cleavage within the Austin urban area in terms of the residential location of Republicans (map) and Democrats (map) and the dividing line between Red and Blue Austin that roughly follows MoPac from south to north, illuminating the strong east to west political spatial dichotomy (map).

Unfortunately, this means that churches will be even more segregated as well if we are not careful.  Churches must fight against such segregation, for as Paul argues in Ephesians, the marvelous work of God’s grace in salvation through Christ is that God is bringing all things under the Lordship of Christ (Ephesians 1:19-23).  Through Christ, the dividing wall of hostility has been broken, bringing together formerly hostile ethnic parties into one new man (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Why?  Because through the church God is displaying His manifold wisdom to the cosmic powers (Ephesians 3:8-11).

I believe God is displaying His varied wisdom to the cosmic powers precisely by gathering together diverse of  peoples as one under Christ.  May we as the church display God’s wisdom not merely by celebrating diversity, but by celebrating the mysterious unity that occurs through the gospel when formerly hostile parties (black/white, rich/poor, male/female, democrat/republican . . .) are brought together into one family under our one Lord.

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