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Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

The Problem of Christian Eductation

February 21st, 2015 No comments

Ed Stetzer reminds Sunday School teachers to make sure that children know the story instead of just a bunch of Bible stories. He’s right, and that’s something the preacher needs to be concerned about too.

 

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Kirsten Powers’ Conversion Story

November 4th, 2013 No comments

Via Donald Miller, the fascinating story of Kirsten Powers’ conversion to Christianity:

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

Read the whole thing. There’s even a Presbyterian connection.

Please Don’t Tip

December 2nd, 2011 No comments

If you want to stiff your waiter, that’s your business. But please don’t drag God into it:

The idea that Christians are poor tippers apparently has been whispered in service circles for a long time. Many waiters try not work Sunday brunch, so as to avoid notoriously stingy churchgoers, claims Justin Wise, the director of a Lutheran ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.

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What’s the Church For?

October 22nd, 2011 No comments

If a curious stranger asked one of us what it was that Christians believed, some of us would stumble our way through the Apostles’ Creed (“I believe in one God, Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”). Others might think of John 3:16 (“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”). Those are great answers: the Creed lists the major points of belief Christians have affirmed down through the centuries. John 3:16 isn’t as detailed, but it captures the essence of our faith better than perhaps any other Scripture.

But suppose that instead of asking about Christianity, the stranger asked you about church. How would you answer that? John 3:16’s no help: it doesn’t even mention the church. The Apostles’ Creed affirms a belief in the “holy catholic church” it doesn’t explain what that is, or the role it plays in a believer’s life.

In the gospels, Jesus himself barely mentions the church, although the two places he does are pretty important. In Matthew 16:18 he says that not even the gates of Hell will prevail against the church. In Matthew 18:17 he explains how to handle conflict in the church. (According to his command, it’s the only way to deal with conflict, so you might want to check if you’ve been doing it right.)

Jesus says a lot more to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, but the best place to get an understanding of the church is from the early church itself: from its history in Acts, and from the Epistles that Paul and other leaders wrote to the those early churches.

That’s still a lot of reading, though. Suppose your stranger was impatient, and you didn’t have a copy of the New Testament handy. What could you tell them?

When I think what Scripture might serve the same “quick explanation” function for the Church that John 3:16 does for Christianity, what comes to mind for me is this:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.—Acts 2:44-47

That’s a wonderful picture of the church. Theologians sometimes call it “the provisional demonstration of the Kingdom of God.” In other words, it’s not exactly what things will be like in the Resurrection, but it’s as close as anybody will get until then.

Now, we may raise our eyebrows at “having things in common” and “selling possessions” and “distributing to all.” I think most of us tend to read it as “you have to give up your stuff.” But that’s not what it says. It says when there was a need, people were quick to help each other. Don’t confuse the church with redistributionist political schemes.

Have you ever had a “refrigerator friend?” That’s the name Craig Groeschel gives to the kind of friend who can get things out of your refrigerator without asking. You don’t want friends asking, “Is it okay with you if I get some cream to put in my coffee?” If they’re still asking permission, they aren’t refrigerator friends, just acquaintances.

The picture in Acts is a community of refrigerator friends. They worship together (“they spent much time together in the temple”) but they did other things together too (“they broke bread at home”).

Of course, not every church does things as well as they did in Acts 2. In fact, even the early church wasn’t always that kind of church: just a couple of chapters later, we find out the church had to deal with greedy people and squabbling. But the picture in Acts 2 is the ideal. It’s what God wants the church to be like.

How do we compare to that ideal? Has the church helped you find some “refrigerator friends?” What could we do to help people build those kind of relationships? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The Best Apologetic

October 13th, 2010 No comments

Twenty-odd years ago, I became a Christian, and part of the reason was apologetics, or defenses of the faith. God used several books, including C.S. Lewis’ wonderful Mere Christianity, to overcome my objections to the Christian faith.

By the time I got to seminary, however, I was really pretty bored with apologetics. It’s not that I had decided they were unimportant–far from it: as my faith became more important in my life, I realized how important those apologetics had been. But I’d moved on, and they weren’t very helpful to me any more. (Although I do still pick up my copy of Mere Christianity every couple of months and re-read a chapter or two.)

It turns out I’m not alone. In this article, Max Lucado, a best-selling Christian writer, says that the best apologetic is compassion.

Though Christians do need to respond intellectually to explain their faith, the long-time pastor recognized, “When the church argues back with society, I don’t know if we get very far.”

“But if we can say our passion is to help the poor and the forgotten, you cannot argue with that,” he noted. “Nothing convinces people of our Lord better than to live like he lived. We cannot live like he lived without being compassionate.”

That rings true for me. Jim Noble, the pastor who led me to Christ, told me, “Maybe you could believe in God if you saw him at work, and [his church] is a great place to watch.”

He was right. I had some baggage I needed to deal with, and my apologetic reading helped me do that. But it was seeing God at work in and through the community of faith engaged in works of compassion, that enabled me, finally, to put my trust in Christ.

Christianity a ‘Faded Memory’

October 6th, 2010 No comments

The Christian Post reports today that for most young Britons, Christianity is “a faded memory.” This is from a survey of 300 people born after 1982.

Most young people in Britain consider Christianity irrelevant to their lives but they are not as hostile towards religion as their parents’ generation, researchers in the Church of England have found.

That seems like a good thing. The church has historically had to deal with both indifference and hostility, but indifference doesn’t have to work as hard to become curiosity. Especially since Christianity is offering answers to questions that matter:

… while Generation Y is largely unfamiliar with formal religion, it still takes a keen interest in ethical issues.

“The young people drew moral guidance from family as friends, but they also recognized the potential of religion, including Christianity, to provide them with guidelines for living,” she said.

One Hundred Years

September 21st, 2010 No comments

A hundred years ago, leaders of the major Protestant denominations and missionary societies met in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the World Mission Conference. Historians of the church mark this conference as the beginning (or rather, the formal recognition) of the modern ecumenical movement. Churches had come to see that if they could cooperate on the mission field overseas, they should also be able to do so back home.

The theme of the 1910 World Mission Conference was “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation.” Everyone in the world would have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and choose whether to become a follower before that generation had passed away.

Well. Two World Wars later, after a Cold War and a Great Depression, after decolonialization in the developing world and societal upheaval in the developed, that goal may be somewhat closer, but we seem, a hundred years later, to be in no danger of attaining it in a single generation.

One thing has changed for the better. Today, we know who the target is. A hundred years ago, they said “the world” but they meant “distant lands full of heathens.” Today, we know better: Christendom is dead-if it ever existed-and the mission field is just as ripe next door as it is across the planet.

During that same year, 1910, the United Presbyterian Church of North America (a predecessor of our denomination) adopted what it called the Great Ends of the Church:

The great ends of the church are (1) the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; (2) the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; (3) the maintenance of divine worship; (4) the preservation of the truth; (5) the promotion of social righteousness; and (6) the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

It’s not a bad list, but we sure can be selective in advancing those ends. For example, the greatest part of our budget goes to #3: divine worship, led by myself and our choir director. The bulk of your volunteer effort goes to #2: fellowship and congregational care. The 4th and 5th ends — truth and social righteousness — need not be in conflict, but it’s a very rare church (or denomination) that is able to hold the two in balance. Generally, what we do is choose one or the other, and then say bad things about Christians who pick the other one.

And that leads us to #1 and #6. How serious are we about proclaiming the gospel to people who’ve never heard it? How much thought to do we give to exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven to the world?

Especially since we now realize “the world” is next door. It’s across the street and down the block. It’s the grocery store and the gas station. It’s all over. “The world” is everywhere. How well are we doing in evangelizing it? Does it even know we’re here?

Those conferees in Edinburgh a hundred years ago wanted to evangelize the world. They didn’t realize how much of the world needed to be evangelized, but they were willing to try.

Let’s try, too. Let’s not let our church be defined by just one or two of the Great Ends of the Church. Let’s maintain divine worship and nurture the children of God, by all means. But let’s not forget to tell people about Jesus, or to exhibit his Kingdom to them, either.

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Checking Our Heads

July 2nd, 2010 No comments

Yesterday, I enthused about the PC(USA) website’s makeover, and one of my Facebook friends went to see it. He’s a Southern Baptist, and he wasn’t impressed with this quote on the home page:

Check Our Heads!

The pull quote you see here isn’t quite a quote; if you watch the video you’ll see they “punched it up” a bit. What he actually said was,

“It’s a reasoned faith. I don’t believe we should check our heads at the door when we go to church. That’s one of the reasons I’m a Presbyterian, I guess.”

I sighed when I read that, but the way the page looks, you can hope it’s dynamic content and different visitors will see different quotes. But so far, it appears to be stuck on this one. That’s regrettable.

Read more…

Atheist Recommends Christians Convert Muslims?

June 12th, 2010 No comments

MacLeans has an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who was raised as a Muslim but who has become an atheist. In the article, she said Christians should proselytize Muslims, at least in the West: Read more…

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Encountering the Culture

March 1st, 2010 No comments

Then he went about among the villages teaching.
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two.
Mark 6:6-7

In AD 100, the worldwide total number of Christians might have been about 25,000. For the next two centuries, Christianity was an an illegal religion, and endured several waves of violent persecution. It had no trained clergy, nor any church buildings as we know them. But in the early 300’s, when Christianity was finally legalized, the number of Christians was about 20 million.

Read more…

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