Welcome to the September/October issue of Equip for Ministry. We hope that you will find it helpful and encouraging. There are a number of conferences and training events listed for your information and the solicitation of your prayers. You will also find numerous beneficial resources through our advertising and articles.
We continue to hear comments such as: “What CE&P has to offer is the best kept secret in the PCA.” The word “secret” always puzzles and confuses us because through staff and regional trainers, we are constantly in local churches, training and consulting. Plus, we try to keep churches aware of our resources through our seminars, brochures, website, etc.
Our Christian Education and Publications mission statement is to help you “know the Lord, know the Word, know the world, and know yourselves.“ Christians are constantly bombarded with things of the world that seek to hurt us, knock us off course, or trip us up in our Christian lives. We do not live in a vacuum, we either confront the world or it confronts us. Although, thinking biblically and strategically should be our strong suit, trends reveal that we generally think much the same as non-Christians. One of the sad results of that is it is not always easy to distinguish Christians and non-Christians.
Several participants at our recent PCA General Assembly thanked us for challenging them through the pages of Equip for Ministry to read and think biblically. I have always appreciated when someone says, “You have certainly made me think.” Of course thinking is not an end in itself but a means to knowing and serving the Lord better. If we encourage readers to that end, then we have succeeded in our mission.
In the early part of the 20th century, the church retreated from the world, isolated itself from challenging the ideas and issues of that time, and as a result became irrelevant to the world. Instead of challenging the world and penetrating it with the Gospel of truth, the church withdrew its influence and walled itself off from the world. However, God raised up great men of reformed and evangelical faith such as J. Gresham Machen, Carl F. H. Henry, Billy Graham, John Stott to sound the call of the Gospel in the marketplace. Since the 1940s a few more Christians have emerged from hiding to do the same, but in miniscule numbers.
Christians must be disciplined to think holistically about life. They must become kingdom-oriented people who not only can come alongside one another for encouragement and stimulation, but can also confront the world and its ideologies. We must not attempt to preach and teach the Gospel in a vacuum. People must understand how the Gospel penetrates all areas of life. We cannot hide our lights under a basket.
The lead article in this issue, “A Better Way to Handle Abuse”, was written by Ken Sande, the director of Peacemaker Ministries. He has helped a number of our PCA churches and institutions deal with conflict from a biblical perspective. We have sold Peacemaker materials in our bookstore for a number of years and worked with Ken in our conferences. Although the article recently appeared on PCANews.com, we chose to print it because local church leaders need to deal with this topic in the context of their ministry. We addressed the issue at our 2002 Children’s Ministry Conference, but it needs to be considered more broadly. Read the lead article and encourage others in your church to do the same.
“In Case You’re Asked” continues to address basic questions relating to authority, truth, and the Word of God. The topic of the “sufficiency of Scripture” has much significance to us, but it can also lend itself to some abuse, if we are not careful. The four main book reviews in this issue are carefully chosen to build on that theme. They should be high on your priority list of books to read.
We continue to be challenged by which books to review in Equip for Ministry. We receive many fine books well deserving of reviews, but because of limited space, we have to make choices. We pray about which books we believe to be strategic for you in your life and ministry. We do offer broader selection of books through our CE&P bookstore, which is accessible by phone and the Internet (1-800-283-1357 and www.cepbookstore.com).
Reading is simply one of those things that we must do if we are to grow spiritually and learn more clearly how to think God’s thoughts after him. In one of the books reviewed, Engaging God’s World, Cornelius Plantinga reminds us that we do not automatically think like a Christian nor do we automatically know what to think about. We must learn and encourage others to do the same. I coined a phrase several years ago, “If we only think what we have thought, then what we think is what we have thought.” We must be growing in our thought and Christian life. Thinking biblically and living out those thoughts are God’s avenues for challenging the world’s ways.
Our prayer for this issue, as with all others, is that you will take the time to read the content and then find means of living more fully and wholly for the Lord. Our mission and calling are to serve the Lord’s purpose to this generation. We will be grateful for any opportunity to challenge and assist you in this calling.