Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Those involved in the leadership team of the youth outreach ( that is Heidi, Carolyn,Geoff, Nigel, Carlos, Stephen and myself )at the old Fire station on Ladas Drive, East Belfast wish their longest serving member Miss Karen Cuddy a great day on Saturday when she gets married to Mr Mark Hamilton. May God greatly bless them and grant them a lifetime of marital bliss.
Monday, 29 October 2007
You may or may not be familiar with the following letter written some time ago.It was written by a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was later martyred for his faith: Again this will challenge us regarding our passion for God. Are we willing to die for Christ? It was certainly an everyday reality for Christians during the first three centuries. It is still the same for many Christians in many parts of the world today. Click on the Open Doors link on my fav. websites which will tell you how you can become involved with the suffering church.
'I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made—I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits,
or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labour with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must keep going until he comes, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear'
So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?
Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”
If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, can be seen here. Both videos are worth watching in their entirety, but below are few highlights.
In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”
Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”
Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:
Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.
Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.
We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.
In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.
Does this mark the end of Willow’s thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet. From the UR blog of Christianity Today
We are in contact with church and mission agencies all over the world and the one thing they all have in common is that they need workers. Most are even praying for those who will come short-term and help in the task. The bigger demand is for long-term workers of some level of maturity.
We are especially in touch with those working in the 10/40 Window and it is clear that thousands of workers are needed there, including those who will go as tentmakers. Most people expected many more to be there by now. I am sometimes asked the question, “Why are there not more workers, especially among the more unreached peoples?”
As we have attempted to work with people around the world, we have discovered many reasons why we are not seeing more workers, especially long-term workers. In my book Vision, Grace, Action, I speak more extensively about this subject, but I want to briefly list some of the obstacles in this letter. I believe this will help us better to “count the cost” as we are told in Luke 14:25-33, and it will enable us to act and pray more intelligently.
1. Lack of Vision.
Only a few seem to actually have the vision in the first place, both of the need as well as the amazing opportunities. Others don’t have a vision to send out workers, especially from their own church.
2. Lack of Prayer.
Matt. 9:35-38 makes the command about prayer very clear. Despite all the talk and statistics about prayer and some wonderful prayer events and movements, we have to admit that the average church is not a praying church. They may boast of a prayer meeting, but usually only a few people attend and there is often very little prayer for workers and the unreached. It seems that few leaders and believers, and even missionaries, have a disciplined prayer life and ministry. Praise God for every exception and I hope you are one of them, but I am referring to the overall average.
3. Apathy among God’s People.
I think all would agree that this is the overwhelming hindrance to all we want to do for the Kingdom. This is one of the reasons the prayer for revival movements have become such a major emphasis in some places. Some people have wondered why I sometimes get associated with some people or churches, which may seem extreme, and I can only say that I am trying to stay in fellowship with the whole body of Christ. As someone once said (I think it was Brother Andrew), “It’s easier to cool down a fanatic than to warm up a corpse!” Someone trying to bring this into balance however said, “Yes, but at least a corpse will not jump up and stab you in the back.” I must confess I’m thrilled when I hear of people and churches coming alive and only hope and pray that the people will be disciplined and trained so that they go on as real marathon runners for God! I’m still convinced that “The crisis without the process will become an abscess.”
4. Lack of Biblical Generosity.
Everyone knows that the lack of funds is hindering God’s work and certainly hindering the sending out of missionaries. (I have a tape on this subject, if you are interested.) There are powerful exceptions, especially when a local church wants to put up a new building. I know that many generous people are reading this and I thank God for you. I know some people are extreme as I was (some would say I still am), as I want to live on the basic essentials and pour everything into world evangelization. By the way, many people believe that without this “extreme” Operation Mobilization might have died in the first couple of years when so little money was coming in. Who knows? All surveys show that only a tiny percentage of money goes outside one’s own church and then their own nation. There are powerful exceptions, especially for relief and development when there is a huge disaster somewhere. Some even think it is better to send money rather than workers, which again is foolish because it must be both. In the midst of this, let’s stay grace-awakened and realize that the Lord does lead different people in different ways, and let’s beware of legalistic judgmentalism.
God is using His Word and many great books about grace to set people free from this, but it is a long hard road and in many parts of the world, legalism reigns supreme not only in local churches, but in whole denominations. Many feel very threatened by this movement of grace that is taking place. It seems easier to hold God’s people together (and we all need loyalty and unity) by the law and all the added “distinctives” which are often just man-made rules and regulations than by grace, love, reality and the freedom of the Holy Spirit. We are also learning the hard way that grace without discipline can often lead to disgrace. Grace does not lay aside basic biblical commandments, but rather brings them into balance and the right priority.
6. Negative Reports.
In anything as big as the modern missions movement, there will always be lots of bad news. We know that bad news travels faster than good news and we now have the Web to help. Old-fashioned gossip and misinformation still cause more harm than the Web. I personally have failed in this area and in recent decades have tried to put a greater emphasis on Spirit-controlled speech. Some churches, after sending out one worker, sometimes only short-term, have stopped sending people after their worker came back with a bad report or maybe defeated in their own life. It’s clear to me that without discernment, grace and forgiveness, there is no way forward.
7. Biblical Compromise.
I read a powerful book showing the drift even on the part of missionaries and leaders away from some of the basics of God’s Word. Universalism used to be considered part of the package of liberal theologians who did not believe in any case that the Bible was God’s Word. But now in various forms, it seems to have invaded our evangelical and biblical communities. Ignorance of the Bible in general seems to be on the increase and that doesn’t help. That is one of the reasons we know that real unity in the years to come will be in the midst of great diversity.
I hope my words here will drive all of us to our knees. Don’t worry about some little thing I have said that you don’t like or agree with, but rather be pro-active and ask God what He is trying to say to you personally. We especially pray that people who read this will become more active in reaching the world with the gospel as a go-er, a sender, or both. We hope you will link with us in networking with mission mobilizers around the globe.
It is harvest time and more churches and people on the field and home are involved in missions than ever before. Of course, Satan is attacking in vicious ways on every level. More than ever, let’s take the shield of faith and stand against them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Saturday, 27 October 2007
Here's a truly challenging critique on idolatry in Western culture. Paul had also things to say about idolatry- that it was the same as covetousness was certainly one of them. What, surely not? It also includes anything we give more honour to than Christ, be they football teams, musicians (Christian or not), leaders, pet doctrines, our own church –self. The list is endless. Were you convicted? I was for sure.
Listen to George Verwer, truly 'a man with a mission', encourage people to think and act regarding the threat to the unborn. Though not evangelistic this must certainly be regarded as part of the authentic mission of the Church.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
Rick Warren and Karl Barth are going back to jail according to an article posted on September 26, 2007 by Chuck Warnock.
'Okay, so the header is a little bit of a tease. The good news is, according to the NY Times, the federal Bureau of Prisons is returning the books it had banned just this spring. Under a wrong-headed policy called the Standardized Chapel Library Project (yes, they really had a name for censorship), the Bureau of Prisons had instructed all prison chaplains to remove all books from prison chapel libraries that were not included on the BoP’s "approved" list.
Of course, the BoP declined to say how they had compiled the authorized list, and why notable authors such as Karl Barth and Rick Warren were not on it. Now, apparently, the BoP has relented under withering pressure from a lot of different groups, plus the promise of lawsuits and public embarassment. The books are "immediately" being re-shelved in prison libraries.
But, and this is a big but, these books are only being returned until the BoP can come up with a new list. And I quote –
"The bureau has not abandoned the idea of creating such lists, Judi Simon Garrett, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. But rather than packing away everything while those lists were compiled, the religious materials will remain on the shelves, Ms. Garrett explained." — NY Times, 9/26/07
So, we could be right back where we started. Of course by then the spotlight will be off, and the BoP will do whatever they want to, I suppose. Cynical, yes, but also probably realistic. When that happens, hopefully someone will blow yet another whistle to alert us to the unwarranted and arrogant intrusion of government into matters of faith'. — Amicus Dei
Above, Rick Warren's cell mate the eminent theologian Prof. Karl Barth.
This is quite an amazing article posted by Scott Harrop of Just World News.
"Rick Warren should be in jail." So should Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Robert H. Schuller, and perhaps even.... Helena Cobban. :-}
I'm referring, if you haven't guessed, to prison libraries and to the NYTimes report on new Federal Prison guidelines for libraries, specifically their sections on faith.
Kudos to Sojourners and "Sojo mail" for the catchy, if purposeful, headline about Mr. Warren. From their e-mail today:
Imagine walking into your local library, planning to read a theologian such as Reinhold Niebuhr or Karl Barth, or a popular inspirational work, such as Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life or Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
But instead of finding such important and popular titles, you discover that the religion section has been decimated – stripped of any book that did not appear on a government-approved list.
That's exactly what's happening right now to inmates in federal prisons under a Bush Administration policy. As The New York Times put it, "chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries."
Imagine, the Federal Prisons have labored to compile lists of approved books on faith; those not on the list get pulled or blocked. The specific criteria and the actual approved lists are not open for public review; this is, after all, the Bush-Cheney Administration.
So how did the Bush Administration, reputed for faith-based approaches to social problems, come up with this bizarre policy? Maybe it comes from the "Feith-based" neoconservative view of the world -- as in, "it's all about national security." According then to the "Stardardized Chapel Library Project," we prevent prisoners from accessing anything that would “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.” As claimed by the Federal Prisons spokesperson quoted in the Times,
“We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”
Just who, we wonder, determines what religious materials are "reliable teachings?" What's meant by "radicalize," or "discrimination?" Should we prohibit a book that says there's only one way to be accepted by God? Wouldn't that be "discriminating" against others who pointed to another "path?" One would think, this is absurd. Or as the Mark Early of Prison Fellowship puts it,
“It’s swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.... There’s no need to get rid of literally hundreds of thousands of books that are fine simply because you have a problem with an isolated book or piece of literature that presents extremism.”
Meanwhile, back to the front lines in Iraq - and their religious freedoms - consider this allegation that some US soldiers are being compelled to participate in Christian services. Perhaps there's a "devil" or two in the details here, as I find it hard to believe that the Pentagon, much less Secretary Gates, would knowingly mandate the practice of any religion by soldiers.
Yet as we've noted here before, some "dispensationalist" Christian-zionist groups still view Iraq as a "crusade" for the spread of Christianity. It's advance will bring on the rapture, Armageddon, the return & reign of Christ, etc. etc. See, for example, Max Blumenthal's report on "Operation Straight Up" a group that operates with the Pentagon's "blessing" and proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military, including with inflammatory apocalyptic video games.
In the judgment of Mikey Weinstein, a former Reagan Administration White House,
"The constitution has been assaulted and brutalized,... Thanks to the influence of extreme Christian fundamentalism, the wall separating church and state is nothing but smoke and debris. And OSU is the IED that exploded the wall separating church and state in the Pentagon and throughout our military."
Meanwhile, the US State Department recently issued its annual, heavily politicized report on religious freedom around the world.
No doubt the rest of the world wonders:
"What, pray tell, gives you the standing to show us the way?
Monday, 15 October 2007
Saturday, 13 October 2007
Yesterday I led my Iraqi congregation. I could not leave the international zone and go to church; evidently, too many people want to kill me, so I cannot leave the secure area. My congregation had to come to me. This took hours as they were all forced to go through an intense security process. Yet these Christians are the most wonderful people I have ever served. They worship our Lord with great intensity and joy! In the midst of their darkness and fear, Jesus is their joy. When you lose everything, you realise Jesus is all you have.
As I led worship, I saw my congregation place their body armour, rifles and helmets aside and start to praise the living God.
In our Iraqi church, people no longer have food, water or homes. All they have must be provided by the church. Over two thousand Christians (who have been chased from their homes and threatened with death if they return) are now sleeping on church floors in Baghdad. Yet they continue to love Jesus. My work includes not just pastoring churches, but also dealing with religious sectarianism. In essence, I am a tentmaker. It is complex and difficult work. I do not always deal with very nice people. If you are trying to reduce violence, you can only do it by dealing with the people who cause it. Increasingly, these people are religious. In our context, they are Muslims—Shi’ia and Sunni—creating violence in God's name. When religion is at the heart of the cause of terror, you must use religion to deal with it.
I am accepted because I am seen as being a religious figure and one who has been around for nearly a decade—years before the Iraq War began. In my work, I deal with people who are suffering a degree of loss. Although they all want to be given something back, we must first discern what has been lost—property, money, influence? Sadly, governments spend billions of dollars on weapons and military tactics and very little on the process of reconciliation.
Proclaiming the Gospel in Baghdad?
In the midst of this war and trauma, we have a gospel to proclaim, the good news of Jesus. The whole notion of evangelism must be treated totally and utterly different in this context. There is no preaching on the streets or encouraging your congregation to convert the masses. Such activity would result in certain death.
Despite these restrictions, there is ample opportunity to show and share the good news of Jesus. The prime way is through love and prayer. I have seen people come to faith in Jesus. I have baptised people and then sought to find protection for them as the death threats grew. One little girl whose mother became a Christian started telling friends that every night her mother talked to Jesus. It was not long before they also were forced to flee. I have wept when people I have loved had come to faith and then been killed. Here it is a matter of life and death.
Here, it really is a matter of taking up your cross and following Jesus. Shortly after the war began, a large number of missionaries came here. Fortunately, they have all left. It became far too dangerous for them. Very few of those who arrived understood the first thing about the context they were trying to minister in. When foreigners come to Iraq, they often have no understanding of this culture. Often they do not even know of the amazing history of Christianity and continually do things that endanger local Christians.
The whole notion of evangelism must be treated different in this context. There is no preaching on the streets or encouraging your congregation to convert the masses.
Added to this, most of the foreigners and missionaries who came to Baghdad did not speak any Arabic. Their Christian translators were seriously put at risk; most have had to flee the country.
It is important to remember that even what people say and do in their own countries and contexts can have serious consequences for Christians in Iraq. With mass media, what is said in the West can seriously effect what happens here. Radical liberalism may be safe in the West; however, here it simply kills people. Because of this, I have recently become more conservative in my speech. I love my people and they are suffering enough already. I want no further harm to come to them.
Coming Alongside the Church in Baghdad
Despite the difficulties of serving Jesus in Baghdad, there are several things we, as God’s Church, must and can do.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Although it is not easy to love bad people, God can give us the grace to do it. Throughout my life I have listened to countless sermons, telling us we do not have to like our enemies—we just have to love them. Love is reduced to not pursuing the negative of hate.
To this attitude I say nonsense! Love is real. It is difficult, it is costly and it changes lives because it enables people to see Jesus. In our context, it is not some liberal concept of evangelism without risks—even loving these people is taking great risks. Love does and has completely changed people. However, those doing the work of the gospel in the most traumatic of places cannot even talk about the true nature of their work for fear of their lives. Our Embassy here in Baghdad has had to send me home. In the past, I have said too much and the death threats have come in abundance. The truth around here is that we really need to deal with fear; however, perfect love does cast out all fear.
We also need to seriously pray. I have a small group of intercessors who pray and intercede for us in our work. Although I cannot always tell them what is really happening, they often know because God tells them. There have been countless times when our intercessors have told me they have been praying about actual things that happened which I have not told them about. We should expect our Lord to work in supernatural ways when we are dealing with supernatural things.
3. Study Islam and Arabic
Working in an Islamic culture means the need to study both Islam and Arabic. It is essential we know the context we are ministering in. It is necessary we understand how our faith is perceived in the Islamic faith and context. Among Muslims, I have often seen Jesus even more revered than in Christianity. In Islam, there is even the belief in the second coming of Jesus, so even before one starts talking about faith, there is a need to understand how our faith is seen by the other.
4. Seriously Support Local Christians
It is very often the case that those who come to minister in this context have no idea about the local Christians. Here in Iraq, people have followed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for a very long time since a really miserable and reluctant evangelist named Jonah turned up by submarine transportation 2,700 years ago. He was followed seven hundred years later by another miserable person, doubting Thomas, who was on his way to India. He also stopped off in Nineveh and told the people that their Messiah had come one thousand miles down the road in Israel. They believed him, and to this day Nineveh is full of Christians. Many in my church in Baghdad believe in Jesus because of these two miserable people. They were the best evangelists ever.
The Christians here in Iraq are wonderful and have an amazing history. At Christmas their evangelistic activity is to have a party for the locals where they show them love and give them food. Before the event, the Christians seriously pray for the event. If we really support and love the people here, we will provide them with food, water and money so they can continue to show love so that the gospel will be made known.
5. Expect Miracles In such trauma, we must rely on the miraculous more and more. When people are sick, ill and dying, we often have no doctors to take them to. They have either left or been killed. Jesus often comes and heals our sick people. Because of this, people of other faiths see we have a God of miracles and it is not long before they want to come to the Great Physician as well. They want something back in their loss and Jesus alone can give it to them. Even in the midst of this crisis, God is still real and full of love. When people see him, they are drawn to him. And as we continue to serve him, we love, pray, seek to understand our context and the local church and expect miracles.Article written by Rev'd Cannon Andrew White and comes from the Lausanne World Pulse. http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/themedarticles.php/851
—Ravi Zacharias, from "An Ancient Message, through Modern Means, to a Postmodern Mind" in Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns
"The term postmodern ("pomo" for short) is used to denote a 40-year transition from an Information Age to a Bionomic Age that will begin no later than 2020. My generation (the Boomers) and our children (Gen-Xers and Net-Gens) are the transitional generations to this new world. The Net-Gens (those born after 1981) will be the first ones to really live the majority of their time in the new world. We Boomers will make it to the river, but we won't cross over. The crossover to a post-postmodern world will be made by the generations that follow ours."
—Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami
Is Leonard Sweet right? Do you agree with him that those under thirty will all have a postmodern mindset? Will there not be a mixture of modern and post-modern within every generation and for that matter within a single person? What challenge does post-modernism bring to the Church as regards evangelism. More than ever we need to 'double listen' i.e. listen to the people we seek to reach as well as listen to God through His word and the Spirit within.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
In His Kingdom Manifesto of Luke 4 Jesus declared:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour"
Those such as Tony Campolo as in the video above and those involved in Sojourners ministry with Jim Wallis are very much focussed in this area fighting for the rights of the poor and oppressed. website address http://www.sojo.net/
Another area that the church can be salt and light is in
Prophetic involvement: This includes identifying with the weak, oppressed and the poor in society and being concerned for justice and truth in society .
One could also include the ministry of William Wilberforce among others who fought against the slave trade or Martin Luther King who fought for civil rights in the U.S.
Another area which the church is involved is fighting for the unborn child who are Approximately 1,370,000 in the U.S. and about 200,000 abortions occur annually in the U.K.
Sacrificial service : Christians who are involved in social ministry such as caring for the needy often do it at great cost to themselves. e. g Mother Theresa etc. This often makes a great impression on non-Christians. ‘Actions often speak louder than words’ or James as warns us:
'If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.' (James 1.26-27)
The church also gains great credibility in the ministry it does among the poor and needy. Christian Aid and Tear fund among many others are great examples of the Church continuing to do the works of Christ. The Church does not do it to gain credibility, it does it because of what Christ did and it is that Spirit of Christ that gives Christians to love their neighbour.
William Still calls ‘Christian Presence’ ‘basic’ or ‘primary evangelism‘. It is ‘ living the life’ and allowing others to see the life of Christ in us by letting our light shine.
-‘The way to evangelise and build a nation is by Christian character, by the Word , Spirit and prayer, not evangelistic missions. The true witness is not primarily with banners in open airs and vast meetings in overcrowded halls but where you live and work and normally worship.’
There are however some criticisms of this mode -
Is it Evangelism or social action? Can it not be both?
Is there a danger that silence will predominate.
Are we letting the world set the agenda?
Saint Francis once said :
‘Preach the gospel at all times , and , if necessary , use words’
I think what Francis was trying to say here is that actions will speak louder than words and when the words become necessary to explain our actions they will point them to Christ.
In 1 Peter. Peter is speaking to the church while they were undergoing severe persecution. He does not tell them to get out there and go from door to door (but don't think that I'am against it)but he does say :
"In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander".
In other words live for God and by his word, and as we do that, people will ask why we did react or not react in a certain way when a certain things happened or why we were friendly to the friendless. Then we can tell them in a gentle way the reason for the hope that is in us and invite them to do the same or meet your other Christian friends at church or in your house.
Do you know this poem ?
Not only by the words you say,
Not only by our deeds you do, but in the most unconscious way
Is Christ Expressed
Is it a calm seraphic smile,
a holy frown upon your brow?
Oh No, I felt his presence when you laughed just now.
For me, `it was not the truth you taught
To you so clear, to me so dim
But when you came to me
You brought a sense of Him
And from your eyes He beckoned me
And from your heart, His love was shed
Till its no longer you I see , but Christ instead.
Some questions to consider:
Is Presence Evangelism not really PRE EVANGELISM as opposed to Evangelism?
The Lausanne Covenant which we looked in the last post states:
Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand.
c) But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Savior and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God.
Here John Stott notes its importance regarding evangelism but denies it is evangelism per se.
The Strengths of this mode include:
1.Real involvement in society rather than hit and run evangelism: to and fro from our holy huddle.
2.Prepared to listen and understand the context before speaking. The church is prepared to listen to and feel the pain.
3.Having an understanding that society more often wants to see action ( good works will bring glory to God) before they will listen to words.
Andrew Kirk writes:‘what we call social involvement ,they ( the NT Christians ) saw as one strand of evangelism. Without it the gospel could not be fully communicated.’
What are your views of 'Presence evangelism'. Is it not evangelism at all or is it the foundation stone and root from which evangelism must be built upon and grow from?
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
Another aspect of 'Christian Presence' that might be regarded as 'salt and light' in society are that of Loving relationships. In fact 'the mark of the Christian' should be love according to the Bible and the little book by Francis Schaeffer that bears that name.
In response to Jesus’ command to love one another Schaeffer writes: ‘ the point is that it is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, (Love) but if we expect non-Christians to know we are Christians, we must show the mark. This means we must interact with unbelievers and not live in a holy huddle'.
Paul also exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. What a great example, especially today in a fragmented society to see marriages together after many years. It is sad to see however that there are often as many divorces among Christians as among non -Christians. I like to view the family as a mini Church. I also believe that it should have priority over the local church as regards time and energy. I don’t believe it is wise to sit on several Church committees when our marriage and family are falling apart. We should spend time with our family and should and really pray hard each day for our spouses and children as Paul prayed for his spiritual children:
‘I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,’
It would not be the first time that a good Christian has got too involved in church activity or evangelistic activity at the expense of his wife and family. If we have children we are under an obligation to give them the time to allow us be the best father or mother we can be. If we are not prepared to do that and are still single perhaps like Paul we should stay that way. If we have children, it might also be appropriate to forgo a time consuming ministry especially if we hold down a full time job until the children are of an age when they can look after themselves. The example of a good family speaks volumes and ensures our children will not become bitter against God and the church for taking their parents away from them.
O.T.C. level 2 Evangelism Course
In the next lot of posts I will discuss different modes of Evangelism or the different ways that evangelism is thought to be done.
By examining these different modes of evangelism we will begin to build up a picture of what evangelism means today.
The first mode I would like us to look at is Evangelism as 'Christian Presence'.
Whether we agree or not that Christian presence can rightfully be termed evangelism, Christians are present in the world and this will have a direct bearing on how they are perceived by non Christians.
Is the Church of Christ 'Good News' or 'Bad News'to those outside it?
1. Light of the world and salt of the earth.( Matt 5 .13-14)
'You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven'.
Jesus declared that his followers would be both the salt of the earth and light to the world. Here Jesus plainly states that we should be an influence on the world.
What activities might constitute this mode of evangelism?
Attractive lifestyle: Testimony of a changed life,or a holy life. Through two thousand years of the Church history this has been a great witness to the world. Selfish have changed to become unselfish, nasty people have become kind and gentle, thieves now work and give of what they earn to the poor. Think of the likes of Nicky Cruz the one time gang leader or former paramilitaries from the I.R.A. or U.D.A. who have radically been changed by the power of the gospel.
Not only are changed lives impressive but also Christlike lives.
Paul often fills the beginning of his letters with great doctrinal themes as found in Romans and Ephesians then gives them examples of how these lessons can be put into practice in daily living.
Consider the passage below and think whether the world would not be impressed by such a radical lifestyle.
9 'Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. "21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good'.
Look at the first verse ‘Love must be sincere’. Can love be insincere? Not real love: but something that which appears to be love can be, and many people have experienced insincere love. When someone see the genuine article they will be impressed and it could well convict them of their own insincerity and draw them to Christ.
The woman at the well knew love of a kind but the men she knew did not love her for herself but for her body. When she met the Lord she knew he was different. He loved her for herself.
The Great Commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves must be equally obeyed as the Great Commission. Jesus warns us through the parable of the good Samaritan that we can be as pious and religious as we like but if we don’t stop and help the person who is in trouble and in danger, we are disobeying the Great Commandment.
Can we dare to be different and love our enemy and do good to them, by at least praying for them: even though they are out to upset us or give us trouble.
If Stephen had not prayed forgiveness for those who stoned him, the spiritual channel might not have been opened for the Pharisee Saul to become the great Apostle Paul.
If Jesus had not prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him none of us might have been saved. Do not be surprised if you pray for the salvation of a person you are tempted to hate ,that they will soften to the gospel and come to Christ.
Sources O.T.C. level 2 Evangelism
O.T.C. level 2 Evangelism Course