Evangelism in a Day of Revolution

This article is a little lengthy, but WELL worth taking the time to read. It was written by Leighton Ford (Billy Graham’s Associate Evangelist) fifty years ago during the tumultuous 60’s. It is as relevant today as ever.

“The Church stands with all mankind at a crossroad, sharing a common concern: Which way do we go to make a new world? There are some who say, ‘Learn’—education is the way. Some say, ‘Earn’—economic development will solve our problems. Some voices are crying, ‘Burn’—society is so corrupt we must destroy it. There is truth in all of this. But Jesus Christ says, ‘Turn. Be converted. Put your trust in God. Seek first his will. Then you can be part of the new world God is making.’ Most revolutions fail because they are not revolutionary enough. They fail to grasp the fundamental problem, the problem of the human heart.”

Christianity Today, October 24, 1969

The Downside of Christendom

In case you are in the mood for a little theology, here is something I ran across during my reading today that is worth thinking about:

“Certainly the reduction of mission in Western theology has to do with the so-called Christianization of Western cultures. Once the Christian religion had become the only allowed religion within the boundaries of Christendom, mission was not seen as the central task of the church. Rather, her theological definition gradually came to focus on the care and tending of the salvation of her members […] Further, the eschatological shaping of the Gospel, so central to the New Testament, was distorted and reduced. Jesus’ message was the inbreaking reign of God, and the early church confessed him as the one who is and brings that reign into human history. […] That sense of radical and transforming anticipation of living hope that profoundly shapes the ‘now’ of the corporate Christian witness, was gradually reoriented to an individualistic emphasis on the second coming at the end of time with its threatening judgment that determines where each soul will spend eternity. The biblical emphasis on the ‘resurrection of the body’ is replaced by the Hellenistic concept of the immortality of the soul, which changes the nature of Christian eschatology and diminishes the strong biblical emphasis upon the integrated wholeness of the human person as body, spirit, and soul. Life now was understood not so much as faithful witness in hope but as wearisome and often anxious preparation in this vale of tears for what must come hereafter. Salvation is a question of where one spends eternity rather than the larger biblical witness to the restorative and salvific reign of God breaking in now, whose consummation is yet to come. […] The individualism of such a reductionist soteriology has only intensified in the self-centered and consumerist culture of present-day North America. The church’s focus on the tending and maintenance of the ‘saved’ is well attested today in churches that advertise themselves as ‘full-service’ congregations and function as purveyors of the religious programs and products their member-consumers want. The partnership of church and state, has, after the end of Christendom, effectively been replaced with the partnership of church and marketplace.”[1]

Happily, Guder also recounts,

“the wise words of the pastor from Malawi who told my class one day about all the changes the gospel had brought when the missionaries came to his tribe. ‘And,’ he concluded, ‘you must realize that we could always tell the difference between Jesus and the missionaries.’”[2]

Bibliography

Guder, Darrell L. “The Church as Missional Community.” In The Community of the Word : Toward an Evangelical Ecclesiology, edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, 114-28. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2005.


[1] Darrell L. Guder, “The Church as Missional Community,” in The community of the Word : toward an evangelical ecclesiology, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2005), 118-20.

[2] Guder, 120.

A Sobering Thought

In times past, we preached that sinners were wretched and that grace was amazing. Today we tell sinners they are amazing, making grace a needless afterthought.

In times past, we preached a gospel of salvation. Today we preach a gospel of self-improvement.

In times past, we preached death to the flesh, death to self and death to sin, pointing to a brand-new life in and under Jesus. Today, we preach that Jesus came so you could fulfill your dreams, that He came to make you into a bigger and better you.

We used to preach the gospel of self-denial. Today we preach the gospel of self-realization.

And sadly, it is Pentecostals and charismatics who have often led the way in preaching this so-called gospel message.

Michael Brown in Charisma Magazine

 

Scripture and Culture

Here’s a thought-provoking quote from a great article about the interplay between Scripture and culture:

“We are not blank slates. We bring our own theological interpretive grids to the Bible. For example, in John 4, when Jesus tells the Samaritan woman she had five husbands and the man she is with isn’t even her husband, what do we think of the woman? We automatically think she’s an adulteress. She’s a sinner.

But in other cultures, they might interpret the story to mean that she has been abandoned unfairly by five men, one after the other. And she now lives with another man for protection. But this man won’t even honor her by marrying her. She’s been sinned against.

There’s nothing in the text to tell us whether she’s a sinner or sinned against. We come to our interpretations based on the theological systems that we have brought to the text.”

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/june/evangelism-culture-you-cant-just-give-them-gospel.html?share=%2fD%2bnuKyuY4dVGBddICHy9xpc776aShIw

The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes

“This is what we mean when we say that the Bible is good to us. It is not so much that we interpret the Bible, as that the Bible interprets us in a radically new and ultimately affirming way! The Bible tells us no matter how crushed we might be, that we are a royal priesthood! The Bible tells us no matter how rootless and homeless society might make us feel, that we are part of God’s own family, and of the great home that God is building. The Bible tells us, no matter whether we have green cards or not, that we are citizens of the New Jerusalem. Thus, when you see us walking to church early on a Sunday morning, and wonder at the loving tenderness with which we cradle our Bibles in our arms, know that we do this not out of some fanatical bibliolatry, but simply out of love and gratitude, because indeed the Bible has been good to us!”

– from Justo L. Gonzáles in Santa Biblia: The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes

God Knows the Best Way to Touch Us

“God sees according to his wisdom, so he can make an impression on each soul in the best, that is, most effective, way. The methods, occasions, and hours are different for all so that one cannot determine it. The Lord takes hold of one in preaching, another in his house, overcomes a third in the street, another again out in the field, and seizes a fifth in the very act of sinning. Therefore, it is not in accordance with the gospel to lay down fixed rules, or to set forth methods and forms in which souls must first be situated, or to expect a coincident method in the seeking and gathering of souls. One must entrust to the Savior’s free grace and judgment how he can and will reach souls.”

– Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

God and Suffering

If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know.

Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (p. 23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Robust Religious Beliefs Are Increasing Not Diminishing

Religion is not just a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment. Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition. This is a bitter pill for secular, nonreligious people to swallow. Everyone wants to think that they are in the mainstream, that they are not extremists. But robust religious beliefs dominate the world. There is no reason to expect that to change.

from “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” by Timothy Keller

http://a.co/26TpoCi

Christianity and Exclusivity

During my nearly two decades in New York City, I’ve had numerous opportunities to ask people, “What is your biggest problem with Christianity? What troubles you the most about its beliefs or how it is practiced?” One of the most frequent answers I have heard over the years can be summed up in one word: exclusivity.

from “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” by Timothy Keller

http://a.co/jbYbuYq