Over my nearly 20 years in pastoral ministry, I fielded many questions about other religions. Generally, I preferred to point people to Jesus rather than discuss what others believe.

Yet the growth of Islam in North America combined with rise of radical Islam in many parts of the world has all of us asking questions about Islam.

The silver dome of Our Lady of the Spasm Armenian Catholic Church and the golden Dome of the Rock rise over the Old City of Jerusalem.

As a consultant for Rose Publishing, I have the opportunity to speak about Christianity and Islam in radio interviews all over the country. I encounter some questions so frequently that it seems nearly all Christians wrestle with them.

Here’s how I respond.

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The standard advice to pastors these days is that they should under no circumstances do pastoral care. That’s been de rigueur in leadership circles since the late ’80s when John Maxwell began telling church growth conferees, “I don’t do hospital calls.”

The theory is that anybody can do pastoral care, so the pastor’s time is better spent energizing the leaders within the congregation. The sooner the pastor hands off hospital calling to small group leaders, the sooner the church will break attendance barriers.

Pastor visiting the hospital

Pastoral ministry doesn’t scale, which is why it’s taboo among pastors who style themselves as (or already are) leaders of a large organization. There’s no way for one person to do all the pastoral care for a congregation of 20,000 people. It’s a black hole that sucks time and energy without adding to attendance, so successful pastors avoid it.

I couldn’t care less.

Ministry of Word and sacrament is the primary task of a pastor. Here’s why every single one of them should be a pastoral care giver.

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Over the 30 years I’ve been writing and editing professionally in the Christian market, I’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of our work. Craftsmanship is improving, and that’s encouraging. Writers and publishers are willing to take on weightier topics and engage them honestly. All of that is good.

Good writing is about the reader, not the writer

However, returning to full-time editorial work last year (after six years in pastoral ministry) was a Rip Van Winkle experience. There have been distinct changes for the better, but familiar problems remain.

Attack these five symptoms, and you will eradicate from your prose the deadliest of all diseases, blogitis.

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Authenticity has been watchword among Christians for a couple of decades, so much so that it’s virtually been added to the catalog of Christian virtues alongside love, joy, peace, and patience.

Man hand writing I Love Me on visual screen. Love, family, internet concept.

But it is not a virtue. I do not seek to be authentic, not in the sense that we usually think of it. I’m interested in a deeper, more powerful experience. I hunger for holiness.

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Christian leaders often lament the rate at which young people are leaving the church, but few seem to have noticed that many of those who do stay have accepted a non-orthodox version of the Christian message.

Man Holding Sign That Says BlessedIn other words, many Christian teens aren’t really Christians. It’s time to face that, and do something about it.

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Yesterday a gunman entered a community college classroom in Oregon, shot and killed the teacher, then told students to stand up, one by one, and state their religion.

To those who said Christian, he replied “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” He killed 10 people.1

Killer With GunAs a minister, as a Christian, as a citizen of the United States, I’m appalled by this senseless act of violence, by the Charleston shooting, by the 262 other mass shootings in our country this year, and by the culture that supports it.

It’s time for change.

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My earliest preaching mentors taught me that every sermon needed four things: a compelling introduction, a body that included two or three points of biblical exegesis, illustrations to make it memorable, and a conclusion that helped people apply the truth to their lives.

Boy were they wrong.

Group of people watching boring movie in cinema

Three points and a poem may have worked at one time; not anymore. Listening habits have changed, listener attitudes have changed, and the environment of the preaching event has changed.

Today, every sermon must do these seven things to capture attention and motivate life change.

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