Thursday, November 28, 2013



How many church sermons have you heard? How many do you remember? Two people sitting in the same church may learn a very different amount.  If you go to church every Sunday, you will probably spend thousands of hours there.  These points will help you benefit more.

1.  TAKE NOTES:  Don't write everything. Write down the following:
- The outline of the sermon (sometimes pastors helpfully project this to a screen). 
- The points that strike you as relevant to apply to your life.
- The scripture references.
- Questions you are uncertain about.
- What you see in the passage in addition to what the pastor is saying.

Why take notes?
- So you can follow the overall logical thread of what is being said.
- To help focus your attention on the sermon.
- So you can review the main points of the sermon in future. 

2.  QUESTIONS: Throughout the sermon, think of questions related to the topic and what the pastor is saying.  Write the more important ones down.  Hopefully, the pastor will answer some of those questions later in the sermon or you will remember some other scripture that answers that question.  That way your mind will be more focused. If by the end of the sermon your question is not answered, then you can discuss your question with the pastor or someone else who knows their Bible after the service or at a home group during the week - and/or you can research the topic in the Bible later.  But if you are continually asking and answering questions then you will be more awake and learn more.  By writing down your questions, you will concentrate better, be more interested and have more chance of persisting until you find answers than if you just keep your question in your head.

3. LOOK UP REFERENCES: Look up the Bible references.  The Bible commends the Berean Jews (Acts 17:11) for looking up what Paul was saying in the scriptures to check whether what Paul was saying was true.  There are three reasons to do this.  Firstly, if the Bible confirms what the pastor is saying then by reading the scripture reference, that point will be more solidly in your mind than if you had only listened to the pastor.  Nevertheless, even the best pastors are fallible.  Listening to a sermon can be compared with eating fish.  You must eat the fish and not the bones.  Checking the scripture references help you sort through whether what points are: i) taught by scripture ii) out of context iii) only said in one Bible translation iv) a speculative interpretation v) only half the story (in which case it needs to be balanced with other points not quoted). If the scripture verse hits you as very helpful to your situation, then try repeat and learn that verse.  Thirdly, if you learn the Bible reference, then you can use that to teach someone else or answer their question in future.

4. TAKE YOUR BIBLE TO CHURCH: Either take a physical Bible or put your Bible on your smartphone or tablet. There are many free Bible applications for cell phones you can download, but the more popular Bible translations you need to pay for in order to read offline.  In my opinion, "Olive Tree" is the best application for the small screen (, and you can also use any resources you buy on your PC.  On an Android phone, select the 'Google Play' application, while connected to Wifi and search for 'Bible' to see a selection to choose from.  (If you are not connected to Wifi, you may use up your data limit very fast downloading Bible resources).

5. STUDY THE BIBLE CHAPTER BEING PREACHED FROM:  When a pastor preaches from a particular chapter of scripture, then read that chapter again and again during the sermon and write down in a separate column what you see in that passage.  Then compare what you see with what your pastor is seeing in the text.  That way, you will get a better understanding of what he is saying and will also get additional bonus insight.  If the sermon is thin on content or not so relevant to your situation, then you will find more truth to supplement.

6.  READ BIBLE BOOK BEFORE: If the pastor is doing a series on a particular book of the Bible, then read that book of the Bible preferably several times during the period of the sermon series.  That way you will understand what he is saying 'in context' and combine what you found in the Bible book with what your pastor found.

7.  FILE NOTES: File the notes either by subject or in the order they appear in scripture so that when you are studying that passage of scripture in your personal Bible study or if you are struggling with an issue in you life that was preached about - then you can use them again.  If the pastor preaches a topical sermon, then probably sometimes it will be more relevant, other times less relevant to your life.  But keeping the notes means you can remind yourself again of the Biblical wisdom at a later date when you may be facing that issue more directly.

8.  DISCUSS THE SERMON: Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to "Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up".  The point is that when you discuss Bible teaching with other people for example over coffee after the sermon or while you are driving home, then: Firstly you will remember more of it and you will also be helping the other people you discuss it with to remember more of it.  Secondly, out of the discussion you may get more insight from that scripture passage than either you or your pastor saw.

9. PREPARE YOUR HEART: If your relationship with God is not right, you will have difficulty receiving benefit from the scripture.  The communion meal challenges us to make right with God through applying the cross: repenting of sin, forgiving others and trusting Jesus for his high priestly cleansing of our sin (Hebrews 10:22).  When communion is offered, that is a reminder to apply the cross. Nevertheless, there is no reason why we should not also do so before the church meeting.  Jesus said that God reveals the scripture to little children (and those with that attitude) but hides it from the 'wise and learned'.  The state of the heart matters more than the intelligence of the listener.

10. RESPOND TO BOTH THE GLORY AND THE APPLICATION: The Word of God works in us in two very different ways: Appreciating God and hearing his instructions to us.  Both are important. Many Bible books (e.g. Romans, Colossians, Ephesians) are divided into two parts: The first part focuses on the glory of God and the second on the practical things we must do.  Other books mix the two.  Seeing the glory of God has a mysterious and powerful effect on us (2 Corinthians 3:18) quite apart from trying to follow practical instructions.  When we see the glory of God revealed in scripture, then we must respond by glorifying God or otherwise we will be judged by God with spiritual blindness (Romans 1:21).  When we respond with thanking God and praising God for the glory we see, then God will reveal more of his glory to us.  Even if we later forget the sermon, the glory of God revealed will have had a powerful effect on our minds and consciences.  When we respond to God's commands with obedience, then he will show us more.  If we respond in disobedience we risk his judgment.  We praise God for his glory and we do what he says.


* NON-CONVERSION: Many people sitting in church Sunday after Sunday are not converted Christians.  They go for a variety of reasons: they go with their family; it is a tradition they enjoy; they like the music; they are looking for friends.  One person who spent decades in church before converting told me he did so with 'cotton wool in his ears'.  Suddenly on his conversion, Bible teaching came alive, because the Holy Spirit was opening it up to him.  A person who is not converted will be very limited in how he benefits from the Bible.  Thus it is important to ensure that you have repented of your sin, made Jesus Lord of your life and believe in him to save you. Likewise those who teach should seek to evangelise the unconverted members of their congregations.

* POST-MODERNISM: Many people going to church, while they may have believed Jesus for salvation use our postmodern culture as a lens to interpret the Bible rather than the Bible as a lens to interpret the culture.  Sadly, probably the majority of middle class youth fit in this category.  Thus they end up filtering the sermon through ideas they have got from the secular media and state schools.  What the Bible teaches is thus not taken as an absolute commands and truth but as inspirational suggestions to pick and choose from.  Such people need to cut down their intake of secular entertainment; increase their intake of Bible; realise there are two opposing ideologies that cannot be reconciled - and choose to renew their minds progressively with the truth of scripture.

* If you are a pastor, consider encouraging your congregation to use these ideas.

Philip Rosenthal

Thursday, August 29, 2013



Overall, the church in South Africa is in a crisis of spiritual decay - and if that decay is to be stopped and reversed, major changes are needed - in repentance and action. That can be proven by the pattern of:
- postmodern doctrinal drift from biblical truth;
- the epidemic of what in previous generations was considered scandalous behaviour - in congregations and leaders;
- the replacement of biblical authority either with individual relativism or the facist authoritarian personalities and their cult followings
- numbers: fewer educated people are attending church at all, and while attendance may be still be good among the poor, pastors are increasingly having their time consumed with HIV related funerals - making one wonder how many of these church goers are truly converted? While sexual sin can often be hidden, the epidemic of divorces and broken families cannot.

Nevertheless, listen to the leaders of just about any church and you will not hear this message. The message and attitude you hear from just about every side, whether a healthy church or not -is that 'Overall, we are doing well, but we have a few problems we are working to sort out.' How this disconnection of facts and most churches self-perception?

First question is when you say 'We are doing well' - 'Who is 'WE' and what is 'WELL'? Who do you include when you say 'WE'? 'We' and 'Well' get redefined. Most people mean either 'Our local church' or 'Our local church' and a few other very similar local churches our church is friends with. The problem comes from two angles:

* Unhealthy backsliding churches are generally in denial about their backsliding and their leaders get very angry if anyone points that out to them. They can usually find something which they are doing well. Maybe their attendance has increased due to some seeker sensitive marketing gimmicks, despite spiritual decline. Maybe finances are doing better? Maybe they have just learned some new truth from the scripture (while neglecting more important issues). So 'Well' gets redefined to exclude central moral behaviour and doctrinal drift. For biblical individuals in these churches, the problem is that 'we' is defined to include all the unbiblical ones as well. So they get defensive and hurt rather than doing something to challenge others. "How dare 'you' criticise 'us'"?

* As individuals, backslidden Christians generally hide their sin or if it becomes unhidable, drift out of the church they were in and stay out of church a while and if they recover - come back to a different church. The old church generally doesn't follow them up let alone discipline them. The new local church, if they know about the sin at all, can always take that this was not 'Us', the backsliding was due to the other church. Not part of 'We'.

* When a church backslides, generally the more godly people get fed up and move to a more healthy biblical church. Then the old church is no longer part of 'We' and is left to backslide further. The former members generally have no interest in the spiritual health of the church they left.

* Leaders of more healthy churches and denominations, unfortunately tend to take 'We' as meaning other healthy churches like theirs. If unhealthy churches lose members to biblical churches, the attitude of most healthy church leaders is 'We win, they lose' - let them decline more and their members can move to us. And the leaders of the healthy churches are completely in denial about the possibility that their church could ever decline like the 'others'.

In the 1980s and 90s, the evangelical mainline denominations such as the Presbyterians, Methodists, Dutch Reformed and Anglicans began to be infiltrated with modernist liberalism. There was an exodus of young people to newer churches, which were mostly Charismatic in their view of the Holy Spirit. Whatever one believes about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Charismatic churches at the time were uncompromising on teaching the authority of the bible for all matters of personal conduct and doctrine. There was no compromise, debate or softened stance on homosexuality, abortion, adultery, public nudity/pornography. The doctrine of the virgin birth, eternal punishment, Jesus as the only way were taken for granted and not questioned. That unfortunately is no longer the case. But the problem was that the healthier new churches saw the mainline denominations as competition rather than as brothers needing help.

Today, most of those same Charismatic denominations founded in the 1980s are in spiritual decline either to postmodernism or facist personality cults or both (although many continue to grow numerically). Out of the mess, new denominations have sprung up, which are often more healthy - but for how long till they follow the same path? The new ones gain members leaving the older declining ones and generally show no interest in helping to arrest their sister churches spiritual decline. They will generally not challenge sin or doctrinal compromise even if they know about it - or try to support those who do.

A development of the new millenium is the rise of the 'new Calvinism', partly Charismatic and partly not, which is experiencing a revival of biblical expository preaching led by men like John Piper and Al Mohler. Nevertheless, the same pattern as with the new Charismatics vs mainline denominations is evident again. Generally, the 'new Calvinist' leaders are unconcerned about their non-Calvinist sister Churches which are in spiritual decline - at best they ignore them and at worst are happy about the decline, because people come over to their churches.

The big picture problem is not about Charismatics vs Cessationist or Mainline vs New Networks or Calvinist vs Arminians or those in between - really these divisions are not central to the gospel. Core doctrinal truths like hell, one way to heaven through Jesus and moral behaviour like sexual purity and the sanctity of life are are central to the gospel.

Right now numerous denominations are teetering on the edge of falling wholesale into liberal postmodernism or facist authoritarianism. Will you pray for them? Will you speak up for truth - to leaders of straying churches - or on doctrinal issues they are struggling with on your blog? Will you support people in those churches who speak up? Will you invite them to your biblical conference? Will you give them biblical books? Will you help answer questions? Will you get involved in the debates around postmoderism and facist authoritarian church governance? Will you help mentor godly leaders? If we don't, your church could be the next one to go into decline in maybe a decade or two - will then anyone help rescue your church?

Please DO care about the church next door. They are not part of 'them' but 'we'. And if you are in a declining unhealthy church the wolves in sheeps clothing who are leading your church astray into postmodernism and Fascist authoritarianism are not part of 'us' and don't get hurt if people challenge them. Be careful who you define as 'Us' and 'Them'. Be careful what you define as 'Doing well'.

Philip Rosenthal

Thursday, July 25, 2013



The past few weeks, evangelicals have faced a series of shocking American evangelical capitulations to homosexual activism:

* The Boy Scouts bowed to pressure to open its doors to homosexuals, while remaining closed to atheists.

* Exodus International, the worlds largest outreach to homosexuals announced that it was closing down. Its leader, Alan Chambers announced he was starting another organisation that would have a different message. That new message seems less offensive to homosexual activists, more muddled and postmodern. Thankfully, Biblical former affilates of Exodus International are regrouping under the banner of Restored Hope Network - many left around two years ago when they realised the organisation was heading in the wrong direction. Chambers confusion is not entirely surprising considering his home church pastor is preaching a 'hyper-grace' message, which omits the need to properly repent of sin. What is tragic is that he has been allowed to destroy the organisation from the top instead of being thrown out when he announced last year that Exodus was changing its message in a more postmodern direction.

* Fuller Seminary, the worlds largest evangelical seminary, has given permission for a homosexual club to operate on its campus, while continuing to say they oppose pre-marital sex and homosexual political advocacy. I would argue that is unacceptable compromise and unrealistic wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the slide in Fuller started decades ago when the founder Charles Fuller's son Daniel went to do a PhD under Neo-Orthodox theologican Karl Barth. Daniel took over the leadership of the Seminary from his father and gradually relaxed its biblical definition. For many years, it grew numerically and institutionally producing many highly respected leaders, while slowly weakening its Biblical faithfulness. It has also become a centre for the promotion of the 'Insider movement' which is weakening missions to the Moslem world.

If you are thinking of studying theology, don't even consider Fuller any more. Books written by Fuller professors can no longer be automatically be considered evangelical before being stocked in Christian bookshops. The contents need to be checked for biblical orthodoxy.
Send your complaint to Fuller Seminary to Fuller Vice President, Fred Messick

For those seeking good biblical rebuttal of 'homosexual theology', Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is emerging as the premier defender of the faith on this issue.


The bottom line is that American evangelicalism and most evangelical movements led from America are in a theological crisis over a set of issues relating to postmodernism: feminism, homosexuality, 'insider movement' missions, the requirement for repentance from sin and many more. The only large grouping holding the line against this capitulation are the Southern Baptists, who had a resurgence of Biblical theology in the 1980s. The liberal denominations capitulated long ago. The seeker sensitive movements are in process of capitulation. The 'Gospel Coalition', which started out well is sending mixed and muddled messages - particularly Tim Keller. A number of smaller seminaries, formed when conservatives withdrew from mainline denominations remain faithful. Sadly, the fundamentalist and Charismatic movements have been fragmenting into smaller groupings centred around personalities rather than agreed truth. Usually after a decade or two, such movements deteriorate into personality cults and when their leaders spiritual life falters, their following tends to go downhill with them. Similar trends are evident in South Africa.

Why does this matter in South Africa? Because currently, most middle class South African churches are looking to American ministries for leadership. That leadership, with a few exceptions noted above is failing drastically. Barring an Ezra type revival, it will probably continue to decline. A century ago, world Christianity looked to England for leadership. No more. Before that there were other centres: Germany, Rome, Greece, Jerusalem. Our centre must be the Bible. Those who rely on the latest pre-packaged church programmes and conference speakers from America are mostly going to be swept up with America's decline and capitulation.

In a previous article, I explained the slippery slope on homosexuality which much of the American and South African church is following. Read this article again.

The lesson coming out of America is that we cannot afford to be soft, patient and quiet any longer. If you see these signs, speak up. We speak up now or we lose our denominations, Bible Colleges and ministries. Once they start on a slide, we don't have long before they are destroyed. The so called 'seeker sensitive' movement is producing a modest short term influx of church members to some churches, but overall it is leading to a gutting of the gospel - and paves the way for liberalism - after which the membership gain is initially muddied with false conversions and eventually lost.

Those who want to retain Biblical Christianity need to count the cost. People are going to get hurt on both sides. Those fighting for truth will get hurt and unavoidably those on the other side or who get caught in the middle will be hurt by any defence that is made - in words or institutional actions.


I have been involved in combatting church and ministry compromise and decline on these issues in South Africa in numerous denominations over the past decade - most of which one cannot publish openly on the internet, as one wishes to maintain trust while negotiating to try to resolve issues with leaders. Please pray for me and consider financial supporting ChristianView Network and take a stand in our own denomination.

* Send your complaint to Fuller Seminary at

On a separate issue, we can thank God that the 'Insider Movement' was resoundingly defeated at a public theological debate in London this month on the issue of mis-translating the 'Son of God' in Bibles aimed at Muslims.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013



The World Evangelical Alliance has just released a report, correcting Wycliffe Bible Translators for mistranslating 'Father' and 'Son' in new Bibles intended for Muslim majority nations. Unfortunately, the WEA report seems to affirm the idea that Muslims may have a legitimate difficulty in understanding the concept of God as 'Father' and 'Son', while I would argue the problem is not understanding, but that Muslims are offended by the Biblical teaching that conflicts with the Qur'an. But overall, it is a victory in the defence of Biblical Truth.

Key WEA recommendations are: "1. The WEA Panel (hereafter referred to as
"Panel") recommends that when the words for "father" and "son" refer to God
the Father and to the Son of God, these words always be translated with the
directly equivalent familial words within the given linguistic and cultural
context of the recipients.....

2. The Panel recognizes that there is significant potential for
misunderstanding of the words for "father" and "son" when applied to God,
and that in languages shaped by Islamic cultures, the potential is
especially acute and the misunderstandings likely to
prove especially harmful to the reader's comprehension of the gospel.
Therefore, in case of difficulties, the Panel recommends that translators
consider the addition of qualifying words and/or phrases (explanatory
adjectives, relative clauses, prepositional
phrases, or similar modifiers) to the directly- translated words for
"father" and "son," in order to avoid misunderstanding. For example, as the
biblical context allows, the word for "father" might be rendered with the
equivalent of "heavenly Father" when referring
to God, and the word for "son" might be rendered with the equivalent of
"divine Son," "eternal Son," or "heavenly Son" when referring to Jesus.

The Panel also encourages translators to use paratextual material to clarify and avoid
misunderstanding in these cases.."

Read the WEA full report at:

Wycliffe says they will implement the panels recommendations: "We’re asking our partners and supporters around the world to pray with us as we submit to the panel’s recommendations and move into the implementation phase." Lets pray for Wycliffe as they ask us to.

But the report by WEA Theologians simply confirms the outcry from thousands of concerned Bible believers around the world - and we need to continue to proclaim the message of faithful translation and teaching of the plain truth of scripture no matter how much it offends the hearers of whatever culture. We need to raise the same concerns with those who mistranslate English scriptures to avoid offending feminists.

Philip Rosenthal