Category Archives: New Release

Let the Children Worship

The following extract is taken from Let the Children Worship by Jason Helopoulos, new at Christian Focus Publications. Jason encourages the church to embrace the important part children play in the life of the church and unfolds the enormous blessings to be found in having them present in the worship services of the congregation. He points out how the struggles are temporary – whereas the blessings can be eternal.

9781781919095

Wisdom for Parents

Let’s face it, bringing our children into corporate worship is not always easy. Squirming kids, rustling papers, the eyes of others, and a host of other problems often accompany children in worship. Unfortunately, some parents identify Sunday mornings with the most difficult part of their week. I understand. As a family, we have lived it. In no way do I want to dismiss the challenge and at times frustration, but I hope you will see the struggle is well worth it. As Christian parents, we desire above all else that our children would know, love, delight-in, serve, and honor Christ. The more they encounter Him through the means of grace, the more likely we will witness this blessed outcome. Corporate worship, as we detailed in chapter two, is above all else a meeting with God in the person of Christ by His Word and by the Spirit. Including our children in this weekly encounter can’t help but be a good thing for their souls.

Real challenges confront us as we bring our children into corporate worship, but they are not insurmountable. I want to offer some practical and “Mom-tested” tips as you attempt to do so.

Treasure the Lord’s Day

God knew our need for rest. In the very act of creation, He ordains one in seven days for rest and worship (Exod. 20:8-11). This day highlights our week. As Christians, we live from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. And the highpoint of the Lord’s Day is gathering together with His people to offer holy worship. Help your children by focusing on this moment throughout the week. Talk about Sunday morning worship all week long. Help your children to see that each week begins with this privilege (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:24-25). And when the day arrives, model excitement about it. If Mom and Dad reluctantly go to church, then the children will reluctantly go as well. If Mom and Dad criticize the preacher, sermon, or others in the church, then the children will most likely criticize as well.

Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let’s act like it. Talk about how wonderful the day promises to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put a smile on your face. It’s o.k. to smile on Sunday mornings!

Prepare Appropriately

Many of our problems on Sunday morning stem from issues before we even arrive at church. Tired children and tired parents create fertile ground for cranky worshippers. Be boring on Saturday nights. Send your entire family to bed early. Friday nights can be filled with late-night activity, but Saturday nights should routinely be safeguarded. Sleepy heads make for drowsy worshippers. Lay out Sunday morning clothes the night before, so there aren’t complications with finding an outfit that fits well, looks right, or is ironed. This is especially helpful with teenage daughters!

On Sunday mornings, wake your family up with plenty of time to spare. Try not to arrive late or even a few minutes before the service. Rushing out the door at home and rushing in the door at church has discombobulated many children and stymied many worshippers.

On the car-ride to church talk about the passage that you will hear preached, sing a hymn together, and converse about the things of God. This helps to prepare the way for worship. If a visiting missionary is scheduled to share or the Lord’s Table is going to be observed or any other unique moment is scheduled to occur in the service, take time in the car-ride to discuss it. This sets the mood and helps them understand and appreciate moments in the service. I practice this with my children, who love the personal interaction and it has the added benefit of not only helping them to prepare for worship, but also helps me.

Implement Family Worship at Home

A family that worships together at home finds it much easier to worship together in corporate worship. A child will find it natural to hear and read the Word of God, sing hymns, confess their sins, and pray. It also helps our children learn to sit still, understand the importance of worship, and focus during prayer. For too many children, worship at church seems foreign, because worship at home is absent.

Many churches preach expositional sermons. This means that you know what you will hear read and preached in the week’s service—the next passage. Other churches may preach topically but publish in advance the passages on which the preaching will focus. Some families find it helpful to read the upcoming sermon passage during the week. Read and converse about it around the dinner table and during family worship. The children will then possess a familiarity with the text the pastor plans on preaching. This knowledge will give them some things to listen for in the sermon. My son, when five and six years old, always delighted in expressing his “knowledge” about the Sunday sermon text. He would often lean over during the service with that kind of child “whisper-scream,” “I know that story! I know about that!” It delighted this Father’s heart, as if I didn’t know and hadn’t led him through it earlier in the week for that very reason.

Start Early

Many believe it is more challenging to introduce a three-year-old to corporate worship then a twelve-year-old, but this is simply not true. A three-year-old is in the formative years of training. They are not yet “set in their ways” and remain quite teachable. They want to please Mom and Dad, though at times it does not seem like it! A twelve-year-old possesses his or her own thoughts on what should be expected and “endured.” This creates far more challenging issues than wrestling with a three-year-old to sit still. All this to say: it is far easier to begin with small children, so start early. Keep reminding yourself that a few months of struggling with a three or four-year-old teaching them how to sit still in corporate worship yields benefits for the rest of their lives.

Some of us came to this conviction late. Our children may have already reached their teenage years and we regret they weren’t in corporate worship with us earlier. If you find yourself in this place, keep reminding your heart and mind that God’s grace is sufficient. Do not be “hard” on yourself. You didn’t ruin your children and this doesn’t make you a “bad parent.” Yet, I would remind you, if your children still reside in your home, it is not too late to start. Don’t wait. Begin now and seize the years remaining … Buy a copy of Let the Children Worship, for more gems of wisdom for parents.


“In Let the Children Worship, Jason Helopoulos instills a sense of anticipation of what will happen as children are not only blessed by their presence among the body of Christ but also bless us with their presence.”

Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author of Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series


About the Author: 

Jason Helopoulos is assistant pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, and a guest blogger at The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Leah, are parents of two young children, Gracen and Ethan. Jason is also author of A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home

Jason Helopoulos

Where to Buy:
Let the Children Worship is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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Creation Sings with Carine Mackenzie

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  • Learn about the Creation story
  • Hear how God speaks to us
  • Beautiful colour illustrations throughout
  • For 8-12 Year Olds

Listen as the heavens declare the glory of God. Watch as the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1) And Learn from the one true God, as his work shows you who he is and what he is like. Powerful, Creative, Just, Merciful. Creation sings about him! God’s work declares God’s truth! In Creation Sings, see how each day of Creation links in to Old and New Testament stories that teach us more about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – the Creator.

Inside Creation Sings

About the Author: 

Carine MacKenzie’s talent for retelling Bible stories has meant that children from all over the world have been given the opportunity to discover Jesus Christ for themselves. Carine’s 150th book 365 Great Bible Stories was released in July 2011. She has sales of several million books and lives in Inverness, Scotland.

carine1

Where to Buy:

Creation Sings: How God’s Work Declares God’s Truth is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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The John Owen Collection

9781781919064

John Owen is amongst the best known of the Puritans (1616-1683). He was a profound and thought provoking pastor-theologian. Death of Death in the Death of Christ is the latest in the John Owen Collection from our Christian Heritage Imprint and has a number of features to assist the reader in getting to grips with John Owen’s writings:

  • The text has been divided into chapters.
  • Subheadings inserted. The contents pages include primary and secondary subheadings to aid navigation.
  • The style and placement of biblical references has been made consistent with modern practice.

Description:

Death of Death in the Death of Christ was John Owen’s first masterpiece. Written from seven years of studying and reflection by one of the greatest minds in theological history, its exploration into the Scriptural perspective on the doctrine of universal redemption is yet to be answered or paralleled.

From the foreword by Sinclair B. Ferguson:

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ ranks among the best known, and indeed may actually be the best known, of the dozens of books that flowed from the pen of John Owen during his four decade long career as an author. Whenever there is a renewed interest in what lies at the heart of the gospel, these pages have a tendency to be rediscovered and re-read. It seems that each generation needs to discover them anew. Weigh carefully what you read; compare it with Scripture. Allow Owen to challenge your thinking. For this is a book to make you think.

Where to Buy:
Death of Death in the Death of Christ is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

Buy Now:

Other titles in the John Owen Collection:

full size image The Person of Christ: Declaring a Glorious Mystery—God and Man by John Owen9781845502096 9781857924749 9781857924756 9781845505998 9781845509743

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New Release – The Read/Mark/Learn Series – Luke Volume 1

9781781919118

Read / Mark / Learn is a small group Bible study series that is designed to equip people to study God’s Word for themselves. The latest in the series focuses on the Gospel of Luke.

  • Perfect for groups
  • The newest addition to a trusted resource by St. Helen’s Bishopsgate

In an era that claims that the Bible can say what you want it to say, it is important to re-establish the truth that you just can’t – if you explain the Scripture with honesty, fairness and in context. Each study establishes the context, aim, structure and lessons of the passage. It also shows links with the Old Testament and practical applications and suggestions. There are also conversational discussion starters and suggested questions for leading a Bible study.

Read/Mark/Learn: Luke Volume 1 by William Taylor reviewed: 

“Dive in, devour and delight in the wisdom offered in this essential resource for developing a thoughtful and biblical Christianity. In particular, this Luke edition balances sharp theological insight with precise invitations for discipleship and growth.”

Daniel Montgomery, Lead Pastor, Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky

“This volume arose out of the regular preaching ministry at St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London, and its homiletical genesis is often apparent … a wonderful and helpful example of its kind. I hope it circulates widely.”

D.A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois

“Read Mark Learn has taught hundreds of us over the years to know our Bibles and our God better.”

Hugh Palmer, Rector, All Souls Langham Place, London

About the Author:  

William Taylor

William Taylor is the minister of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate, London.

Other titles in the Read/Mark/Learn series:

97818455036289781845503611

Where to Buy:
Read/Mark/Learn: Luke Volume 1 is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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Multiplying Churches

The following extract is taken from Multiplying Churches, new and updated from Christian Focus Publications. Written from Acts 29’s years of experience, Multiplying Churches unpacks how church plants can be used not only to reach people with the Gospel, but to encourage an entire church family to be actively involved in doing so. This serves as a timely reminder that mission needs to be our identity rather than our event.

Contributors include: Matt Chandler, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester.


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Motive: Grace-filled church planting

MATT CHANDLER

Church planting is becoming trendy. There was a time when it was what the weirdos did on the fringes of evangelicalism. It was the province of misfits and malcontents who wanted to do something different. But increasingly church planting is becoming mainstream. Now the church-planting world is populated by cool dudes. In many ways this is a hugely encouraging development. But it comes with certain dangers. Church planting has become a way to make a name or build a kingdom for yourself.

WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVES?

What is it that drives us? What is the anchor for the church planter and his team? It is the gospel. For all other motivations will fail you. The difficulty of the work, the sinfulness of your own heart, the desire to be applauded and the longing to be seen as a success are all powerful forces. They will chisel away at us. We may start finding our worth by how many people show up each Sunday. We may begin to expect a type of entitlement that God considers offensive rather than the humility that understands that we are the servants of all.

So a key question you need to process in your own heart is this: What are your motives? Whether you are investigating church planting or already moving towards planting or an existing church that wants to get into planting, you need to ask what it is that is really driving that desire. We need to wrestle when we see things that are inconsistent with a gospel motivation. We must confess and repent of them.

This will require a type of humility among the leaders of leaders that I have found to be rare. For it is in our weaknesses that the gospel is often seen most clearly.

Some time ago I received an unhelpful, negative email. I knew the Bible says I should respond with gentleness. So I typed up a kind and gracious response, and then copied in the elders of my church. Later Brian Miller, our lead pastor and chairman of our elder board, came to my office and said: ‘I’m so proud of you, Matt. I think that type of godliness is rare. I so appreciate it.’ In that moment I could have puffed up and thanked him. I could have pretended that I had sought the Lord in prayer and felt that what this brother needed was compassion. But that would have made me a liar. It would have represented a false kind of strength that is built on me and not Christ. So instead, by the grace of God, I took the opportunity to confess my sinful attitudes. Together Brian and I prayed for heart change. It was an opportunity for me to build my foundation again on Christ instead of trying to build it on me. We must get over ourselves! As John the Baptist said: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).

You need to do the work of evaluating the motives of your heart for they will spring up often and surprise you. Do not be surprised by your surprise. Be willing and diligent to do the hard work of confession and repentance. You are not above it. When Luther said that all of life is repentance he meant that there will be an on-going discipline in your life of confession and repentance. It means there will never be a day for you when you are not in need of saying, ‘Oh, I have done it again. Help me, Lord.’

And if you can anchor your heart in the gospel, then if it takes you thirty years to grow a church of three people you might walk in holy discontent, but you will not walk in sinful discontent. I think we are going to be surprised in heaven at who is well rewarded and who is not. That is because the Lord sees the heart. He knows our faithfulness. He does not celebrate bigness over smallness. He is the God who said: ‘Gideon, if I let you beat that army you’re going to get big-headed. So I’m going to cut down your army.’ ‘It’s still too big. Cut it down further. You need to know it’s just me who wins the battle.’ This seems to be the habit of the Lord – paring down and then working for the glory of His name.

So may your motives be as pure as possible. And may you be quick to repent when they are not.


“From the heights of biblical theology, to the plains of who does what, these brief chapters are again and again both practical and wise.”

Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church and President, 9Marks.org, Washington, DC

“Fifteen years ago, the church planting movement was in its infancy. Today, many things have been learned but new challenges lie ahead. Therefore I am glad for the new edition of this book, in which those early lessons can be reviewed and the new horizons faced.”

Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City


Where to Buy:
Multiplying Churches: Exploring God’s Mission Strategy is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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New Release – The Big Ten Series

The Big Ten: Critical Questions Answered is a Christian apologetics series which addresses ten commonly asked questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity. Each book, while easy to read, is challenging and thought-provoking, dealing with subjects ranging from hell to science.

Our first two titles in this series come from James Anderson and William Edgar, read on to find out more and where to buy.


9781781918692

Some people boldly claim, “Christianity is fine for some, but it isn’t for me”. Others feel it is just outdated and irrelevant. For better or worse, everyone in the Western world has come into contact with Christianity: we all have some opinion on it.

James Anderson, with a clear, humorous logic, explores what Christianity really claims, and shows the underlying reason and consistency behind these claims. By the end of Why Should I Believe Christianity?, while you may not agree with the Christian worldview, it is impossible to be left sitting on the fence.

… The Christian ministry, taken as a whole, must be understood as an apologetic calling. This is why books like Why Should I Believe Christianity deserve careful reading by pastors and laypeople alike. In this book, believers will find a compelling defense of the Christian worldview and the resources necessary to stand firm in a faithless age.

R. Albert Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

About the Author:

James Anderson

James N. Anderson specializes in philosophical theology, religious epistemology, and Christian apologetics at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has also had experience serving in churches and is currently active in Ballantyne Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.


9781781917756

Wasn’t the South African Apartheid supported by Christians? Weren’t the Crusades motivated by greed, but advocated by the church? Don’t phoney television preachers manipulate viewers into donating money? William Edgar addresses these and other questions honestly, without attempting to dismiss or explain away their uncomfortable realities. He displays the good aspects of the church even more brilliantly through frankly and Biblically acknowledging the bad. If you have ever asked the question Does Christianity Really Work? this will be an interesting and enlightening read, whatever your prior convictions.

From now on, when skeptics ask, ‘Where in the world has Christianity done any good,’ we have a powerful and convincing reply … Bill debunks myths and blows the dust off of little known historical facts about the impact of the Gospel in a hurting world … a remarkable book

Joni Eareckson Tada, Activist for the disabled and author of Joni, the award-winning Tell Me the Promises, and other classics

About the Author:

William Edgar

William Edgar is Professor of Apologetics at Westminister Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and an accomplished jazz pianist.


Where to Buy:

The Big Ten series is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

9781781917756  Buy Now:

 

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Ulrich Zwingli – The Shepherd Warrior

Our guest post for today comes from William Boekestein, author of one of our latest titles in the popular CF4K Trailblazers series. The Trailblazers series, geared for tweens through to teens, feature some of the great Christian men and women from across history in these exciting biographies. 

9781781918036

In front of me sat a few dozen prisoners including men who were serving life sentences for murder. One of the men in the room was in his seventies. Others were in their twenties. The men had lived hard lives. They had caused deep pain and experienced crushing disappointment.

From a homemade lectern in the front of the room I began to read—a story for children ages 8-14—about a man who lived and died 500 years ago.

Perhaps most of us in that prison room had misgivings when I started to story-tell. But as the chapter came to life the men seemed to lean into the story. Some fought back tears. Others seemed engrossed in thought.

These convicted men grasped that the hero “had the sentence of death” in himself (2 Cor. 1:9). He was heading for war. He had already said tearful goodbyes to his wife and small children. He steeled himself to use courageously what was left of his time on earth. His story touched theirs.

In the end, the protagonist struggled to stay alive amidst “blasting muskets, groaning men, screaming horses, mud-slurping boots tromping through the marsh, pain [and] loss of blood.” After echoing Jesus’ words, “They can kill the body, but not the soul,” he slumped over dead.

The story was over.

I closed the session in prayer, but only after a protracted pause. The only sound came from a few whirring box fans swirling the heavy heat around the room. Perhaps the pause should have been longer. Stories can be like Paul Simon’s visions that are planted in our brains and linger in the sound of silence.

But the story wasn’t really over. William Faulkner said, “The past is never deadIt’s not even past.” Whenever we hear a good story it mingles with our present experience. As the reader revives the story, the story revives the reader. It was for this reason that, when invited to speak to this group of several-dozen convicts, I chose to read a chapter from a juvenile biography. I chose this story because I wrote it. Maybe it is better say, it was a story that I was privileged to put my name on after it came alive to me. It had become a story that I wanted to see reborn into the imaginations of a group of men that needed a story.

The listeners were students in a reformed Bible seminary that holds classes within their penitentiary. While serving long sentences they are trying to live for Jesus and serve as restoring instruments in the hands of their heavenly Father. I was invited to speak to them about the life of reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531). For the first half of the class—before closing with the story—I lectured. I told them facts, hopefully meaningful facts.

As a child, Ulrich Zwingli worked hard to sharpen his mind and fuel his imagination. As a young pastor, he labored tirelessly to promote biblical change in the churches of Switzerland, his beloved homeland. In the pulpit, he opened God’s word, showing Christ’s beauty to everyone who had ears to hear. As a churchman, Zwingli strove to strengthen the ties between reform-minded people, including Martin Luther. In the home, he fervently loved his wife and children. In broader Swiss society, he was both wildly popular and passionately hated. In Zwingli’s world people of unlike faith could not conceive of coexisting peacefully. Switzerland became divided, Catholics against Protestants. By the 1530s, Zwingli’s State of Zurich had become largely isolated from the rest of the mostly Catholic confederacy. In 1531, a sort of cold war flared into a heated civil conflict. Serving as a citizen-chaplain, Zwingli was killed on October 11.

These facts are important. But when facts are woven into a story they stop merely telling and begin showing. They help us feel and dream. They can bolster courage and strengthen hope. Stories can remind us that the strands of our lives are woven into a far grander tapestry than we sometimes realize.

Prisoners serving life sentences need facts. They need to be able to live and die standing on the granite-like facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But even these pivotal facts are told in a story, the greatest story. All redemptive stories are tributaries that swirl us into the roaring river of God’s grand plot.

Prisoners need stories. So do you. Maybe you need this one.

William Boekestein pastors Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His most recent book is Shepherd Warrior, a lively retelling of the life of Ulrich Zwingli.

William Boekestein

Where to Buy:

Ulrich Zwingli: Shepherd Warrior by William Boekestein is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

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New Release – 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 2

9781781917794

 

The following extract is taken from 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 2, out this week at Christian Focus Publications. This 4 volume set from Nick Needham now features a fourth volume covering the 16th-18th Centuries. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in church history.

The Universities and the rise of Scholasticism

The Universities

The 12th and 13th centuries saw a great flowering of knowledge, especially theology and philosophy, in Western Christendom. It reached its high point in the 13th century, which many consider to be the “golden age” of Western Catholic civilisation in the Middle Ages. At the heart of this flowering of knowledge was the university.

The institution of the university came to the West from the Muslim world. The most important Muslim university was al- Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Al-Azhar was founded in 970; it still exists today, one of the world’s oldest centres of learning. These Islamic universities had a strong influence on the development of European education, e.g. in the use of Arabic rather than Roman numbers. However, the greatest impact Islamic universities had on the West was simply the way they acted as channels for the Muslim world’s medical, scientific, mathematical and philosophical knowledge to flow into Western academic institutions. (At that time, the Islamic world far surpassed the West in intellectual achievement.)

Western universities began to appear in the 12th century. They developed out of schools which were attached to cathedral churches and abbeys. … The first universities were those of Bologna (northern Italy) and Paris (northern France). There had been a law school in Bologna since 890; this formed the basis of what became Bologna University, given official recognition by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa (1152-90), in 1155. In Paris, there was a famous school attached to Notre Dame Cathedral, which by 1150-70 had taken on the features of a university.

The other Western universities were modelled on Bologna and Paris. In Bologna, the university was a “corporation” (a sort of trade union) of students; the students controlled the policies of the university, and hired and fired the teachers. In Paris, the university was a corporation of teachers; they controlled policy and set the fees for the students. The name “university” arose out of these methods of organisation. A university organised on the Bologna model was called in Latin a universitas scholarium – “the whole body of students”. A university organised on the Paris model was called a universitas magistrorum – “the whole body of teachers”.

Many universities sprang up in the period 1200-1500. By 1500, there were about 80 universities in Western Europe. Some were celebrated for teaching particular subjects: Paris was famous for theology, Bologna for law, Salerno (southern Italy) for medicine, Oxford (southern England) for science and mathematics. A fully developed university would have four departments or “faculties”, teaching theology, law, medicine, and arts. The ideal was to make the university into a centre for preserving and communicating the sum total of all human knowledge.

The normal age for entering a university was 14 or 15. All a man needed was an education in the Latin language and the ability to pay his fees. Latin was the only language spoken in universities; the Western world considered it the proper language of culture and civilisation. A Latin-speaking student from any country could therefore study in any university in any part of Europe: there were no national language-barriers. However, the student bodies of universities were divided up according to nationality. Each national body of students had its own rules and regulations. It was presided over by a university officer called a proctor. The proctors elected a rector who was head of the university. Each faculty was governed by a dean. Almost all lecturers in all subjects were clergymen, and the few laymen had to be celibate; all students, too, had to be unmarried during their time at university. It was a long academic year: 11 months, with just a few weeks off for Christmas and Easter.

The method of education used in universities was twofold: (i) the lecture; (ii) the disputation.

(i) In the lecture, the teacher would read out a set text to the students (e.g. Peter Lombard’s Sentences – see section 3), and make his own comments on the text. The students were expected to take very full notes of what the teacher said. Books were scarce in the days before printing was invented, so we must not imagine that every student had his own copy of the textbook. Probably the university had only one copy which was kept chained up in the library.

(ii) The disputation was a public event in which a teacher and a student would set out to solve a problem. The problem would be two statements which appeared to contradict each other, but which were both found in authoritative texts. To take a theological example, an early Church father might be quoted as saying, “God cannot die.” But then another Church father might be quoted as saying, “God died on the cross.” The student would have to give all the arguments for and against each statement, by quoting passages from the Bible and great theologians, and offering his own comments on these passages. The teacher would then make remarks on what the student had said, and would offer a solution to the problem. …

When a student had finished his university course, he was awarded the degree of “bachelor”. It normally took five or six years to become a bachelor. To obtain the higher degree of “master” or “doctor”, which entitled its owner to give his own lectures in a university, took much longer – 14 years of study were necessary to become a doctor of theology.

The growth of the universities produced a theological revolution in Western Christendom. Previously, the great monasteries had been the centres of learning; the leading theologians had been monks who studied theology within the setting of monastic life and worship. The universities challenged this. Theology now became an intellectual subject in its own right, and people studied it in the academic context of university life, outside the constraints of monastic discipline. The great theologians were now university professors who earned their living by teaching doctrine. In one way, this had a liberating effect on Western theology, releasing torrents of intellectual energy, debate, and writing, in the stimulating atmosphere of free academic discourse. In another way, though, it introduced a certain element of division between spiritual life on the one hand, and intellectual and theological pursuits on the other. Many have judged this division to be a deeply harmful feature of Western Christianity since the 1100s.

Nick Needham’s volumes on church history explain everything that someone new to the subject might not understand. At the same time, they achieve a depth of detail to interest those who already know something of the subject. We use them as standard texts at LTS and look forward eagerly to forthcoming volumes.

Robert Strivens, Principal, London Theological Seminary, London

Also in the series:

9781781917787

9781781917800

9781781917817

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New Release – 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 1

9781781917787

The following extract is taken from 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power: Volume 1, out this week at Christian Focus Publications. This 4 volume set from Nick Needham now features a fourth volume covering the 16th-18th Centuries. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in church history.

The Jesus Movement

1. Jews and Gentiles in the early Church

We must leave to our New Testament studies an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. What we will be looking at here is the impact which that life and ministry had on men and women in the 1st century AD – the beginnings of Church history. Our primary source is, of course, the book of Acts.

Early Christianity and the early Church were what we could call a Jesus movement. In its first years, this was a religious movement which blossomed exclusively within the confines of Judaism, and revolved around Jerusalem as its spiritual home. The original followers of Jesus were all Jews, and they had no intention of being anything other than faithful and pious Jews. They continued to worship in the Jerusalem temple, to obey the law of Moses, and to have a negative attitude towards Gentiles. The living heart of their faith was not so much the death as the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus was executed, despair had engulfed His followers: they seemed to have a dead leader and a lost cause. It was Jesus’s resurrection from the dead that transformed these broken and despairing people into the fiery apostles and martyrs of a new faith – a faith which, within three centuries, and despite vigorous persecution, would conquer the whole Roman Empire. In the thought and preaching of the early Church, the resurrection was seen as God’s mighty vindication of all Jesus’s claims: He really was the long-promised Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners, the source of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to all who obeyed Him (see, for example, Acts 2:33-36, 4:10-12, 13:30-39, 17:30-32, and Rom.1:3- 4). So whichever period of Church history we are studying, it is always worth pausing and reminding ourselves of this: the entire history of the Christian Church is rooted in one central reality – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If Jesus of Nazareth had not risen, there would be no Church history. The rest of the story told in these pages flows out of the
resurrection.

The early Church, then, started its life as a purely Jewish movement, a sect within Judaism. Yet by the end of the 1st century, events had transplanted the Church from its original Jewish soil into the Gentile world, where it became an almost exclusively Gentile movement. How did this astonishing change take place? We find some clues in Acts.

The process of transition began when tensions arose within the early Christian community in Jerusalem between Palestinian Jews, and Jews from a more Hellenistic background (“Hellenism” means Greek culture – see Chapter 1, section 1, under A common intellectual culture). We find this tension described in Acts 6, where Luke refers to the two parties as, literally, “the Hebrews” and “the Hellenists”. Many Jews, as we saw in Chapter 1, lived outside Palestine in lands where Hellenistic culture was dominant, such as Egypt and Asia Minor. So the “Hellenists” of Acts 6 were Jews who had been born in a Hellenistic country and grown up in a Hellenistic culture, speaking Greek as their first language. They had then either moved into Palestine and settled there, or perhaps were there as pilgrims for the passover feast. The chief language spoken in Palestine was Aramaic, not Greek, and Hellenistic Jews would have known little or no Aramaic. The “Hebrews”, by contrast, were the Jews native to Palestine. They knew some Greek, but Aramaic was their first language, and they had less contact with Hellenistic culture, which some of them despised as Pagan.

This cultural divide between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews would already have produced friction between them before any of them became Christians. The problem was that the Palestinians thought of themselves as the true Jews, born and brought up in the Jewish homeland which God had given to their ancestors, and they looked on Hellenistic Jews as partly foreign, perhaps corrupted by contact with Pagan society. On the other hand, Hellenistic Jews tended to think of themselves as being more cultured and civilised than their Palestinian cousins. They regarded Palestinian Jews as rather narrow-minded, too traditional, not aware enough of the outside world. (This description of Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews applies only in a general way to what most of them tended to be like. There were exceptions. The most notable exception was the apostle Paul, who was brought up in the Hellenistic city of Tarsus in Asia Minor, but surpassed even the Palestinian Jews in his intolerant zeal for traditional Judaism, before his Damascus road experience convinced him that Jesus was the Messiah.)

These existing problems between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews carried over into the Jesus movement. Jesus of Nazareth had followers from both the Hellenistic and Palestinian sections of the Jewish people, and the friction between them continued, despite their common faith in the risen Messiah. Acts 2:44-45 relates how the early Christian community in Jerusalem cared for its poorer members; the provision of food for Christian widows was part of that system of care, since widows were unable to support themselves economically and depended on others. However, the Hellenists felt (rightly or wrongly) that the widows from their section of the community were not getting a fair deal. Luke records in Acts 6 how the Hellenists complained that their widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food. This particular problem was resolved by the appointment of seven deacons whose names are all Greek – an indication that they were elected from the Hellenistic group within the Jesus movement. But the underlying tensions between Palestinian and Hellenistic believers remained … continues.

For many years now I have said: if you want a thorough, learned but accessible and well-written history of the church, read Nick Needham’s 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power. Now, with the fourth volume finally available, Christians have an excellent resource for improving their knowledge of the history of their faith. Highly recommended.

Carl R. Trueman,Westminster Theological Seminary

Also in the series:

978178191779497817819178009781781917817

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New From Mez McConnell: God – Is He Out There?

God-Is He Out There?If God exists, prove it then? If God exists, what does it have to do with me? If all this is true, now what?

This is the first in a series of short workbooks from the 9 Marks Urban series, which are designed to help you think through some of life’s big questions. It all starts with the most important question of all: God-Is He Out There? The questions that follow all hinge on our answer to that question. If we answer that there is a God, then how can we get to know Him and how should we now live?

Praise for God – Is He Out There?:

“A life committed to following Jesus isn’t easy, so we need all the help we can get! I’m thankful, then, for a resource like this. In God: Is He Out There?, Mez McConnell tackles the difficult – yet central – questions of Christian theology in a way that is accessible, practical, and personal.”
-Jared C. Wilson, Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Managing Editor of For The Church, Midwestern’s site for gospel-centered resources.

God – Is He Out There? is such a practical tool for discipling believers in the basics of the Christian faith … My advice: Grab a copy and walk with a few others believers through it.”
-Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor, Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Mez McConnellAbout The Author:
Mez McConnell is the pastor for Niddrie Community Church, near Edinburgh. He is also the Director of 20schemes which is dedicated to revitalising and planting gospel churches in Scotland’s poorest communities. Previously he was a missionary with street kids in Brazil. He is married and has two children.

Additional Resources:

  • Table of Contents: PDF
  • Sample Pages: PDF
  • Press Releases:  PDF

Where to Buy:
God – Is He Out There? is available at any good Christian bookstore. If you don’t have a Christian bookstore near you, you may want to consider purchasing a copy from one of the online book retailers listed below:

God-Is He Out There? Buy Now:

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