Friday, 30 November 2007

'Fork Handles' Evangelism

‘Four Candles’ Evangelism
This is a classic sketch from the ‘Two Ronnies’ in which a customer goes into a hardware shop and asks for different items. His request is always ambiguous e.g. he says to the assistant ‘fork handles’ and the assistant goes to get him ‘four candles.’ Sometimes when doing evangelism the evangelist is like the customer in that his message is not clear, literally sending out the wrong message (e.g. ‘are you washed in the blood of the lamb’ or ‘are you saved brother’ which may mean nothing to the hearer.) Likewise if the assistant were the evangelist, rather than assuming what the customer wants he should be trying to really listen to him, engaging him in conversation in order to fully understand what his real needs were. Evangelists often assume that one response or evangelistic script fits all and will not spend the time listening to the felt needs and pains of those they seek to reach. Jesus the Master evangelist on the other hand dealt with the woman at the well in a very different way than he did the Pharisee Nicodemus. Each person was unique; each had a very different set of problems and background and therefore had to be dealt in a unique way.Enjoy!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Chuck Smiths by Mark Driscoll

This is an interesting post taken from Mark Driscoll's Resurgent website.Here he discusses two generations of 'evangelicals', the oldstyle represented by Chuck Snr and the new style ( emerging type) by his son Chuck Jnr.I find myself in disagreement with some of the views Chuck Snr who was dogmatic on some disputable doctrines ( e.g.the Rapture )as well as Chuck Jnr who has certainly less confidence than his Dad on the authority of Scripture. Likewise I am also in agreement with each of them on certain points.They might well be described as a double jeopardy.

You may not agree with all Driscoll's conclusions but it should provide some insight into the way the Church in America appears to be heading.We should also be aware that when America sneezes the UK and Europe often catches the cold.AK

Chuck Smith Sr. (79) is the founder and leader of the Calvary Chapel movement, which is one of the most amazing church planting and evangelism works of God in the history of America. His ministry includes his 15,000-person church, the 1,000 Calvary Churches that look to him for leadership, as well as his many books and radio and television ministries. His son and namesake, Chuck Smith Jr. (55), pastors a church not far from his father's church. Over the years there has been a growing theological rift between the two; it recently spilled over onto page one of the LA Times newspaper. Here's the link to the full story.

Some of the more pertinent quotes are listed below:

Chuck Smith Jr. on his growing lack of certainty on some biblical issues: "Even when I speak, some of what I say is opinion and confusion and error,' says Smith Jr., 55, who wears shorts and flip-flops as he welcomes a visitor to his church. 'I'm more in a place of learning than I am in a place of certainty.'"

Chuck Smith Jr. speaking of his father: "'He wasn't present emotionally, even if he was present physically. To hear him speak, you just get the impression this is such a warm and intimate person, but the closer you got to him, the more you'd realize he really didn't have those intimacy skills.'"

Chuck Smith Jr. on hell: "For years, Smith Jr. said, he had preached about hell uncomfortably, half-apologetically, because he couldn't understand why a loving God would consign his children to eternal flames. It felt like blackmail for a pastor to threaten people with hell-scapes from the Middle Ages to induce piety. Now, he came to believe that the biblical images used to depict hell's torments such as the 'lake of fire' and the 'worm that does not die' were intended to evoke a feeling rather than a literal place."

Chuck Smith Jr. on the Rapture: "He also grew disillusioned with the Rapture, the notion that believers in Jesus will be whisked to God's side during Armageddon. His father had predicted the end of the world would arrive in the 1980s, based on his reading of the Book of Revelation. He has continued, year after year, to announce its imminence with absolute confidence."

Chuck Smith Jr. on homosexuality: "'I met homosexuals who were trying to live celibate lives or be heterosexual, and I heard all about their struggles, and I never wanted to exacerbate that. My heart went out to them. Listening convinced me that homosexual orientation is not something people chose.'"

A comment on masculinity: "There was also, theology aside, the question of the son's temperament. He hardly fit the mold of the Christian soldier championed by his father in his book 'Harvest,' in which he spoke of 'the ideal of a biblical man who is strong and not vacillating or weak' and denounced 'the new touchy/feely men.' Smith Jr. weeps before his congregation, making no secret of his ongoing battle with depression that took him to the brink of suicide after his 1993 divorce. At the time, he stood before his congregation explaining that his wife of 18 years, the mother of his five children, was leaving him despite his effort to save the marriage."

A comment on pagan syncretism with Christianity: "Fundamentalists have also been troubled in recent years by gestures they see as a throwback to paganism, such as Smith Jr. giving the sign of the cross at services and hanging his sanctuary with paintings of Jesus in the iconic Byzantine style. In 2005, to make matters worse, he took several extended retreats to a Catholic monastery in Big Sur."
For those wanting to hear a reading of Chuck Smith Jr.'s written response it can be found on video at his church's website.

There are really two kinds of issues at work here.

First, there are the personal issues between a father and son. I cringed as I read the article because it pained me to see the hurt between a father and son on the front page of the LA Times. We should all be praying that whatever hurt or bitterness might exist between the two Christian men would be taken care of by the atoning death of Jesus so that they might enjoy loving reconciliation in this life.

Second, there are the theological issues, which are incredibly important and really a snapshot of the growing chasm between older evangelicals and the new brand of Emergent-type Christians. I have never met Chuck Smith Sr. though I have great respect for all that God has accomplished through him. I have only met Chuck Smith Jr. on one occasion when we were both teaching at a pastors' conference in California many years ago. He seemed like a very loving and gracious man who was also influenced by writers like Brian McLaren, which leaked through his teaching and is now more clearly identified in the LA Times article. The article noted eight theological issues. I will outline them below, not for the sake of picking on the Smiths, but to use their disagreement as an example of a much broader rift in American Christianity that has only begun:

Creationism. Chuck Smith Sr. holds the conservative position of a young earth while Chuck Smith Jr. holds the apparent position of an old earth. This is an issue where there should be some room for disagreement among even biblical literalists. Why? Because though the Bible is clear that God created the heavens and the earth, it does not tell us the age of the earth. The age of the earth can only be inferred and is therefore not a point on which Christians should divide, though we can certainly debate and disagree about the issue as it relates to the Bible.

Kingdom. The problem with the older generation of strong dispensationally minded evangelicals was that they had an under-realized eschatology. By this, I mean that they saw the kingdom of God as an almost entirely future event. The younger generation of evangelicals are more prone to embrace an over-realized eschatology whereby the kingdom of God is essentially here already, so talking about heaven, hell, and the eternal state is not important. On this point, Smith Jr. echoes a drum regularly beat by McLaren and others affiliated with the Emergent group. The problem is that the kingdom of God is not yet here, but it does break in through the church, the preaching of the gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, a balanced eschatology that holds the "already/not yet" tension of Paul is the only hope for a biblical position on this issue.

Hell. Again echoing McLaren and the Emergent folks, Smith Jr. says in his response video that he does not believe hell should be used for evangelism and such. While this sentiment may sound kind, it is not. Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone in the Bible and any effort to downplay eternal conscious torment of the unrepentant in hell is the first step in promoting false doctrine. Additionally, for those who are dying, the consideration of an eternity in hell is not only an effective means by which to compel them to repent of sin and trust in Jesus, but also a pastorally kind one because if they die apart from Jesus they will spend eternity in a fiery hell. It is more kind to offend them today and spare them that fate than to spare them today and send them to that fate.

Rapture. The rapture, like the age of the earth, is an issue that Christians should discuss and debate, but not divide over. Years ago when I first read Smith Sr.'s book Calvary Chapel Distinctives, I was surprised to see that in addition to the Holy Spirit, Bible, grace, Jesus, and love, which all make sense, the premillenial pretribulational rapture of the church was an essential doctrine. Curiously, the rapture is a doctrine that has existed for less than two hundred years in the church's history. The word itself started at a peculiar and possibly cultic charismatic prayer meeting where a women prophesied that the church would be raptured. From that simple beginning, the doctrine has now become the leading eschatological position in American evangelicalism. For more on this issue, the book The Incredible Cover Up: Exploring the Origins of Rapture Theories by Dave MacPherson is a fascinating historical read. Since the doctrine was not even heard of by men such as Athanasius, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and Wesley, we should not make this doctrine the litmus test of biblical faithfulness, otherwise we are saying there was no faithful eschatology for the first 1,800 years of the church.

Masculinity. There is a trend underfoot to have an effeminate Jesus who never said harsh things, never hurt feelings, and would never have the stones to torment someone in hell. This is the result of an increasingly effeminate culture with men who are not masculine like they should be. There must be a return to a delight in all that it means to be made male and female.

Homosexuality. While Smith Jr. never says homosexuality is permissible, he also seemingly lacks the courage to simply declare that all sex and sexual lust outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful. This issue is a growing rift in the church between an older generation of evangelicals and younger Emergent types who either lack the courage to speak truthfully or do not see homosexuality as a clear sin and therefore dance around the issue as cautiously as possible. On the issue of whether or not homosexuality is a sin, there can be no debate by those who believe the Scriptures. Regarding the best ways to love, evangelize, and minister to people trapped in sexual sin, however, there can and should be much debate so that Christians are most effective in sharing the love of Jesus with all people.

Literalism. The article also raised the issue of biblical literalism. This issue is an old one that dates back to Eden when the Serpent asked, "Did God really say . . . ?" What is curious is that everyone is a biblical literalist, except of course when it is inconvenient. For example, I recently chatted with a homosexual who said that the parts of the Bible telling him to not have sex with men were not to be taken literally. Yet, he wanted me to be very loving in my disagreement with him because he had also chosen to take the parts of the Bible demanding love quite literally. There are, of course, figures of speech in the Bible and we are often clued in to them by the words "like" or "as," which denote that a literal truth is being communicated in a figurative way. Therefore, on the issue of literalism we must take the Bible literally and I mean that literally, of course.

Certainty. Much of Smith Jr.'s confusion and likely Smith Sr.'s frustration stem from their epistemology. In Sr.'s world there is certainty provided by objectivity according to the modern paradigm of knowledge. In Jr.'s world there is uncertainty provided by subjectivity according to the postmodern paradigm of knowledge. This issue is essentially the fault line of the other debates I have mentioned. The result is that objectivists (Smith Sr.) see subjectivists (Smith Jr.) as compromised, while the subjectivists see the objectivists as legalistic, dogmatic, and arrogant.
In conclusion, Christianity is supposed to be a two-handed religion. In the closed hand of unchanging certainty are to be such things as a high view of the Bible and literalism, commitment to the Trinity, belief in original sin, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone, creation by God, literal hermeneutic, heaven and hell, clear gender roles, and loving humility. In the open hand of less certainty are to be issues that are of a secondary nature that we can disagree and debate over without dividing. They would include such things as age of the earth, perspectives on predestination and election, view of the rapture, worship styles, church government forms, and mode of baptism. These secondary matters are not unimportant, but simply less important than the primary matters that belong in the closed hand of certainty.

The Smith's rift is a very painful example of a national trend that shows no sign of slowing. This trend has the potential for one group to push every doctrine into a closed hand of certainty (the error of classic fundamentalism) and for the other group to push every doctrine into an open hand of uncertainty (classic liberalism)

'Hearing the Gospel for the first time' by David Dunbar of Missional Journal

...Jesus' teaching about the kingdom resonated deeply with the hopes and aspirations of his first hearers, while also challenging some of their most cherished assumptions... ......This is what always happens when the gospel confronts specific cultures and people groups: there are elements that attract and elements that repel. The danger in all this is that any culture, including the culture of North America, tends to suppress or distort aspects of the gospel that are incompatible with it. Darrell Guder calls this problem "reductionism."

Missional churches are concerned for both the fruitful reception and faithful communication of the gospel. So the question is, how does the church in America stumble over the good news of the kingdom? Where might reductionism be obscuring or domesticating the strong words of Jesus and the apostles?

In this article and the next I suggest a few places where the kingdom teaching of Jesus confronts deeply ingrained cultural/theological assumptions in the lives of many Christians, including me.

Eschatological reduction

The teaching of Jesus focuses on the present and the future. In many places we find an emphasis on the kingdom as a present reality. It is present in the power of Jesus to heal (Matt. 4:23), and to exorcise demons (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20), and to feed the multitudes. The kingdom is working in the world like seed germinating in a field, or yeast fermenting in bread. It becomes visible in the lives of Jesus' disciples who "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33) and who endure persecution even as they pray for their persecutors (Matt. 5:11, 44).

On the other hand, the fullness of the kingdom awaits the end of the age. Only then will the wicked and the righteous be separated finally and forever (Matt.13:40-43). This is the renewal of all things (Matt. 19:28), when the King gathers with his disciples for the banquet of eternal celebration (Luke 14:15).

What is important for the missional church is balancing these two aspects--present and future. Reductionism occurs when we play one off against the other. If the church focuses too much on the present reality of the kingdom, it runs the risk of slipping into mere religious humanitarianism. This was modeled for us in the last century by Protestant liberalism. This type of reductionism entices us to lose sight of the kingdom as a supernatural reality that remains ever dependant upon the initiating and sustaining grace of God.

But there is also the risk that we will focus too much on the future aspects of the kingdom. This also was modeled in the twentieth century as many streams of fundamentalism reacted to liberalism by cultural withdrawal. Perhaps the most extreme cases were found in churches immersed in Dispensational theology. The older expressions of this theology believed the kingdom was specifically Jewish in its focus and had been "postponed" until the completion of "the times of the Gentiles." Such theology easily leads to a posture of separation and isolation from the surrounding culture--seeking God's kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33) is generally understood as a privatized "getting right with God"--what Dallas Willard aptly calls "the gospel of sin-management."

In contrast, a balanced eschatology is holistic. It understands salvation as a reality that is "already-but-not-yet." It touches all of life--private and public; individual and corporate; local, national, and international. Jesus taught us to pray "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The second clause explains the first: the kingdom comes as God's will is done on earth.

Therefore, missional churches don't just ask, "How can we preach to more people?" or, "How can we grow larger congregations?" They ask, "What would our community (or nation, or world) look like if God's will were done on earth today?" Certainly part of the answer is that people would know and love the one living and true God who has revealed himself in Christ. But wouldn't it also mean that injustice would be righted? That broken marriages would be restored? That abused children would be cared for? The oppressed liberated? The weak, the sick, and the hungry cared for?

Missional churches believe that the gospel addresses all of life and that being God's missionary people means taking this holistic ministry to the world. Scot McKnight recently wrote that the atonement is not just something that God does for us, but rather is what he does in us in such a way that we are called to participate with God in his redemptive work. The church therefore is called to incarnate the principles of a world set right with God and by God. "A thoroughly biblical understanding of atonement, then, is earthy," says McKnight. "It is about restored relations with God and with self, but also with others and with the world--in the here and now." (A Community Called Atonement [Abingdon, 2007], p. 132)

The idea of incarnating the gospel is critical. It reminds us that the mission of the church is patterned on the mission of Jesus. The incarnation of the Son of God was not an abstract metaphysical process for improving the world. It was God taking the form of a specific Jewish male in Palestine during the reign of the first Roman emperor Augustus. Jesus came to a specific people at a specific time and place in history.

Missional churches believe that the gospel still has this aspect of particularity and contextuality. They believe that the Spirit of God will lead them to embody the good news in fresh and distinctive ways for their own communities, and they cultivate a spirit of discernment which allows them to be "laborers together with God" in their specific context.

Friday, 23 November 2007

The Mission:Scene portraying one man's guilt,remorse,self effort,despair,grace,forgiveness,redemption and final restoration.

This clip shows one of my favourite scenes from ‘The Mission’. In it Mendosa (superbly acted by De Niro) is doing penance for the guilt of killing the brother he loved. He would have preferred to die for the killing but was talked out of it by Father Gabriel (Irons). When the native holds the knife to his throat it seems almost a relief to him. He had come to the end of his own self effort to free himself from the guilt but failed. To use the Pauline phrase of Romans 7 he had cried out in his heart: ‘Wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death’. It is then, when he comes to the end of himself, he receives grace and forgiveness when the tribesman cuts lose his burden and lets it fall along with his sins and guilt into the water. Here we see echoes of ‘Christian’ being set free from his burden in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress. He’s finally free at last.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

'The mission' A must DVD gift for Christmas

This film was made over twenty years ago yet even seeing this short trailer above brings back memories of the first time I saw it in Belfast. Emotions of anger, sadness and joy come flooding back as I watch the scenes and listen to the powerful music. It is also inspiring spiritually and also brings into conflict the pietisic,incarnational as well as the 'liberation' approach to mission-I find myself torn between following De Niro and Irons in the latter part of the film.It also reveals the conflict between the mission of organised religion, fraught with politics,greed and self interest and 'authentic mission' based on love,loyalty and self sacrifice. In my opinion one of the best films ever made.AK

A visually stunning epic, THE MISSION recounts the true story of two men--a man of the sword (Robert De Niro) and a man of the cloth (Jeremy Irons)--both Jesuit missionaries who defied the colonial forces of mighty Spain and Portugal to save an Indian tribe from slavery in mid-18th-century South America. Mendoza (De Niro) is a slave trader and colonial imperialist who murdered his own brother (Aidan Quinn) and seeks penance for his sins by becomining a missionary at Father Gabriel's (Irons) mountaintop mission; Gabriel is a devout and idealistic man who extols nonviolence and peaceful interaction with the natives and colonialists. Despite their differences, the two men must unite to save the mission when Spain, Portugal, and the Catholic church begin negotiating their boundaries in the area negotiations that will affect both the freedom of the natives and the well-being of the Jesuit missionaries who have set up safe havens for them. Director Roland Joffe's sweeping masterpiece is a haunting account of the unjust treatment of the Guarani Indians of South America and the men who fought desperately, in very different ways, to save them. The film features a mezmerising musical score by Ennio Morricone that weaves a stunning combination of church choirs and native Indian panpipes into the lush images of the Brazilian rainforest.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Book Review :Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First by Alister McGrath

This is McGrath's third book title borrowed from his atheist bĂȘte noir Richard Dawkins. But don't let the titular borrowings fool you: this is an original and important book. Someone had to imitate the long, popular works of history being written on secular subjects from Lewis & Clark to FDR, and McGrath has the theological and historical expertise necessary to tell a story stretching from the Reformation's origins in the 16th century to today. The dangerous idea was Martin Luther's: that individual believers could and should read the Bible for themselves. The result was occasionally violent (as in the peasants' revolt and the English Civil War), occasionally brilliant (musicians like Bach, theologians like Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, poets like Milton) and certainly world altering (the Calvinist Reformation clearing space for the rise of secular science and capitalism). McGrath concludes not with the faith practices of present-day England or America, but with the increasingly Pentecostal global south. The book occasionally falls into the dry tone of a textbook and assumes points that historians would want to debate, but is still the most readable introduction to the history, theology and present-day practices of Protestantism. (Oct.) From Publishers Weekly

Book Description
The "dangerous idea" lying at the heart of Protestantism is that the interpretation of the Bible is each individual's right and responsibility. The spread of this principle has resulted in five hundred years of remarkable innovation and adaptability, but it has also created cultural incoherence and social instability. Without any overarching authority to rein in "wayward" thought, opposing sides on controversial issues can only appeal to the Bible—yet the Bible is open to many diverse interpretations. Christianity's Dangerous Idea is the first book that attempts to define this core element of Protestantism and the religious and cultural dynamic that this dangerous idea unleashed, culminating in the remarkable new developments of the twentieth century.
At a time when Protestants will soon cease to be the predominant faith tradition in the United States, McGrath's landmark reassessment of the movement and its future is well-timed. Replete with helpful modern-day examples that explain the past, McGrath brings to life the Protestant movements and personalities that shaped history and the central Christian idea that continues to dramatically influence world events today.

For a most interesting interview with Alister McGrath click the link below

Evangelism-Modes of: Persuasion

Presence and proclamation evangelism are often regarded as valid no matter what the response from it.

A negative response may result from:

A poor communication of the message

The unbelief of those who listen

Disobedience to the message

The demands of the message too high.

Some Christians, especially those of a post-modern disposition believe there isn’t a place for persuasion in witnessing or evangelism. They believe that instead our example will draw them to Christ. But as in Fly Fishing it sometimes takes a particular fly to catch a certain fish or else we would only need one fly.It is however true that persuasion alone or aggressive evangelism that encourages antagonism from those the evangelist tries to reach is counterproductive. Some Christians may have also been put off by aggressive or pushy evangelists who force themselves onto unsuspecting unbelievers. This is understandable: we don't want to be pushy when people don't want to know. But if those we seek to reach are prepared to debate or discuss there is certainly a biblical basis for it.

I would not recommend it for young Christians to have regular Biblical discussions with members of the sects such as the Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses, but if our Biblical knowledge is strong and we have a good working knowledge of their teaching AND have a strong sense we are being led by the Holy Spirit a Christian should have no fear in examining the scriptures with them in order to persuade them of the Truth.

As we will see from the following biblical accounts :in the right situation persuasion, reasoning and even using good arguments can be used in evangelism.

Acts 9:22
Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ
29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him

Acts 17:2-4 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

Acts 18:4
Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 19:9
But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Acts 26:28
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Acts 28:23-24
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.

You could make a list of the words and phrases that refer to forms of persuasion.
Persuasion evangelism tries to get the person to respond to the message by way of proving , debating, reasoning, explaining, discussing or convincing the hearer that the message is true and must be acted on.

This type of evangelism as practised today has been criticised because of the dangers of manipulation and pressure tactics to achieve results. One has only to think how we dislike the ‘hard sell’ salesman who tries to sell us something we don’t want to buy or would want more time to consider the purchase, but are not allowed. Compare this with Jesus letting some disciples leave when they could not receive the word or the advice he gave his would be followers to consider the cost before they would follow him.

Results of pressurised results are often seeds sown without much depth of roots and will often vanish with the morning dew. I have been to see certain Ultra-Charismatic preachers who have almost persuaded me of their message by the end of the meeting, but after a good nights sleep and a calm reflection on the subject I have dismissed their claims. Nevertheless Jesus and Paul often would bring the hearer to a point of decision.

Look at 2.Cor.4.2-6
'Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God'

Paul has renounced underhanded methods

Does not deceive or distort the truth of God’s word.

Lets people make their own minds up.

Recognises the spiritual barriers and leaves the result to God.

Persuasion evangelism might be presented through

1)a Testimony which would describe the change in a person’s lifee.g a converted drug addict who has been given power by God to overcome his addiction. Remember the man who had a legion of demons ? He wanted to follow Christ but was told to tell everyone what God had done for him.

2) Apologetics :reasoned presentation of the gospel attempting to remove some of the barriers to faith e.g. C.S.Lewis etc.

3) Warning :Pointing out the dangers of not becoming a Christian and urging them to respond. Have you ever read or sung this verse in church?

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, your Saviour, asks you why.
God, Who did your souls retrieve,
Died Himself, that you might live.
Will you let Him die in vain?
Crucify your Lord again?
Why, you ransomed sinners, why,
Will you slight His grace and die?
Charles Wesley

Evangelism need neither be just Presence evangelism or Proclamation Evangelism or Persuasion Evangelism: each one should build upon the other.

In Presence evangelism those the Church seeks to reach are unaware and ignorant of the gospel and our job is therefore to show them love ( See post on Presence Evangelism)in order to prepare them for the proclamation of the gospel. Having thus prepared them and being now aware of the gospel, in the proclamation of it we explain then what is at stake. It is at this point that we are obliged to persuade them to heed the word in order to make a life changing decision, to turn from their old way of life and follow Christ.

It is also true that we must be sensitive to both those we seek to reach and the Holy Spirit within us.Presence must of course must never be as calculated as described above. People sometimes can come to Christ without 'presence' at all. Nevertheless the Church should not expect results from what I would call 'cheap' evangelism, that is evangelism with just words.

Evangelism is also the most wonderful adventure that any Christian can be involved in. We must be open to the Holy Spirit each day,listening for his voice and direction. The result will beat any excitment on any drama found on T.V.

Evangelism-Modes of : Proclamation

This is the most common form of evangelism and a response to the Great Commission 'Here the focus is declaring, announcing and explaining the gospel in a way people can UNDERSTAND’.

The focus is on the verbal communication of the gospel- God is God who speaks- revealed in Jesus the WORD of God.

The good news declared interprets the 'presence' lived. Some view this mode as the only way for evangelism to be done.This is principally a contribution of the reformed tradition based strongly on Scripture.

Jesus had first of all declared "The time has come, The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
In the Lukan form of the Great Commission Jesus sent his disciples out to preach repentance and forgiveness to all nations (Luke 24.47)
It is clear that Christian Presence is not enough as Paul strongly stated to the Roman Church. (See Rom. 10:14,17) And what is that message. Again we can look at the definition of Lausanne that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.

There are at least three distinguishing marks of effective proclamation
1. Credibility
2. Authenticity
3. Sensitivity

I remember hearing of a certain Christian lived in a small Cul-de- sac who never really had any social intercourse with his neighbours. But being 'a good Bible believing Christian' he brought in an evangelist to preach the gospel for him. He did this by setting up outdoor P.A. equipment in his garden and then letting the preacher loose to preach a ‘Hell fire ‘ sermon. When he had finished preaching he packed up his P.A. equipment and left. The Christian who brought in the evangelist felt that his work had been done as he still never felt constrained to build up any sort of relationship with his neighbours.

It would seem that this sort of proclamation evangelism was neither credible, authentic or sensitive. It more than likely think that he was from some other planet, he did not genuinely care for them as he had never spoken to them before and the way he did it was most insensitive.

In proclaiming the gospel there is also a fine balance between faithfully preaching the unchanging message of the New Testament and interpreting it afresh in the different contexts that it finds itself.

Consider how Jesus and Paul sensitively matched their messages with their audience to provide a bridge or point of contact to enable them to more fully understand it.
Jesus didn't deal with the woman of Samaria the same way he dealt with Zacchaeus. Peter, the rich young ruler, Nicodemus or the Pharisees. Paul did not speak to the Jews in the synagogues as he did with the Greek intellectuals in Athens: each message was tailored for its audience. Remember Paul's momentous declaration to the Corinthians:'I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some'.

Various mediums can also be used such personal conversation, radio, TV, literature, gospel comics , internet etc may also be used in proclaiming the Word.Dialogue and discussions with other Faiths could also possibly be viewed as evangelism though some would call it more pre-evangelism to help prepare people for the gospel.

True dialogue with a man of another faith, requires a concern for the gospel and the other man. Without the first , dialogue becomes a pleasant conversation. Without the second , it becomes irrelevant , unconvincing and arrogant.

Four elements must be present in proclamation.
1. It is the sharing of historical facts not just propositions and doctrines.
2. The person of Jesus Christ is the focus -His life ,death resurrection and ascension and return.
3. The kingdom of God-The message has personal as well as cosmic significance- requires the submission to the person of Christ.
4. An invitation is made that requires a response.

Questions regarding the practice of evangelism and the prophetic role of the Church.
Jim Wallis of sojourners would claim that mass evangelists such as Billy Graham should be more prophetic and be prepared to denounce the evils of our time within the government system.
What issues in your locality or in Northern Ireland if it is to take seriously the demand for 'Prophetic evangelism'.
Sectarianism, Racism, Ageism ? What are your views from the clip from Youtube of Ray Comfort preaching at a Court House?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Character of a Methodist by John Wesley

I came across this passage over twenty years ago and thought that others might be inspired by it. In it John Wesley describes to his readers the character of a Methodist. Though in one sense he was referring to those who belonged to the Methodist grouping of his day he also meant by it : 'Those who live by the methods of the Bible'( As defined in the dictionary he himself wrote). In other words : A Biblical Christian which is also 'the perfect Christian' and the model of which we must aim for.Notice how he integrates so much scripture with his own words, in fact there is actually more scripture than his own.No wonder he once stated 'Let me be homo unios libri [a man of one book]" that he surely was.

A Methodist is one who has "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;" one who "loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!"

He is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy, as having in him "a well of water springing up into everlasting life," and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. "Perfect love" having now "cast out fear," he "rejoices evermore." He "rejoices in the Lord always," even "in God his Saviour;" and in the Father, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he hath now received the atonement." "Having" found "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of his sins," he cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks back on the horrible pit out of which he is delivered; when he sees "all his transgressions blotted out as a cloud, and his iniquities as a thick cloud." He cannot but rejoice, whenever he looks on the state wherein he now is; "being justified freely, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." For "he that believeth, hath the witness" of this "in himself;" being now the son of God by faith. "Because he is a son, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying, Abba, Father!" And "the Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God." He rejoiceth also, whenever he looks forward, "in hope of the glory that shall be revealed;" yea, this his joy is full, and all his bones cry out, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten me again to a living hope -- of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for me!"

And he who hath this hope, thus "full of immortality, in everything giveth thanks;" as knowing that this (whatsoever it is) "is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning him." From him, therefore, he cheerfully receives all, saying, "Good is the will of the Lord;" and whether the Lord giveth or taketh away, equally "blessing the name of the Lord." For he hath "learned, in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content." He knoweth "both how to be abased and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things he is instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need." Whether in ease or pain, whether in sickness or health, whether in life or death, he giveth thanks from the ground of his heart to Him who orders it for good; knowing that as "every good gift cometh from above," so none but good can come from the Father of Lights, into whose hand he has wholly committed his body and soul, as into the hands of a faithful Creator. He is therefore "careful" (anxiously or uneasily) "for nothing;" as having "cast all his care on Him that careth for him," and "in all things" resting on him, after "making his request known to him with thanksgiving."

For indeed he "prays without ceasing." It is given him "always to pray, and not to faint." Not that he is always in the house of prayer; though he neglects no opportunity of being there. Neither is he always on his knees, although he often is, or on his face, before the Lord his God. Nor yet is he always crying aloud to God, or calling upon him in words: For many times "the Spirit maketh intercession for him with groans that cannot be uttered." But at all times the language of his heart is this: "Thou brightness of the eternal glory, unto thee is my heart, though without a voice, and my silence speaketh unto thee." And this is true prayer, and this alone. But his heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing. In retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever with the Lord. Whether he lie down or rise up, God is in all his thoughts; he walks with God continually, having the loving eye of his mind still fixed upon him, and everywhere "seeing Him that is invisible."

And while he thus always exercises his love to God, by praying without ceasing, rejoicing evermore, and in everything giving thanks, this commandment is written in his heart, "That he who loveth God, love his brother also." And he accordingly loves his neighbour as himself; he loves every man as his own soul. His heart is full of love to all mankind, to every child of "the Father of the spirits of all flesh." That a man is not personally known to him, is no bar to his love; no, nor that he is known to be such as he approves not, that he repays hatred for his good-will. For he "loves his enemies;" yea, and the enemies of God, "the evil and the unthankful." And if it be not in his power to "do good to them that hate him," yet he ceases not to pray for them, though they continue to spurn his love, and still "despitefully use him and persecute him."

For he is "pure in heart." The love of God has purified his heart from all revengeful passions, from envy, malice, and wrath, from every unkind temper or malign affection. It hath cleansed him from pride and haughtiness of spirit, whereof alone cometh contention. And he hath now "put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering:" So that he "forbears and forgives, if he had a quarrel against any; even as God in Christ hath forgiven him." And indeed all possible ground for contention, on his part, is utterly cut off. For none can take from him what he desires; seeing he "loves not the world, nor" any of "the things of the world;" being now "crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him;" being dead to all that is in the world, both to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." For "all his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name."

Agreeable to this his one desire, is the one design of his life, namely, "not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him." His one intention at all times and in all things is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He has a single eye. And because "his eye is single, his whole body is full of light." Indeed, where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all, "but the whole is light; as when the bright shining of a candle doth enlighten the house." God then reigns alone. All that is in the soul is holiness to the Lord. There is not a motion in his heart, but is according to his will. Every thought that arises points to Him, and is in obedience to the law of Christ.

And the tree is known by its fruits. For as he loves God, so he keeps his commandments; not only some, or most of them, but all, from the least to the greatest. He is not content to "keep the whole law, and offend in one point;" but has, in all points, "a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man." Whatever God has forbidden, he avoids; whatever God hath enjoined, he doeth; and that whether it be little or great, hard or easy, joyous or grievous to the flesh. He "runs the way of God's commandments," now he hath set his heart at liberty. It is his glory so to do; it is his daily crown of rejoicing, "to do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven;" knowing it is the highest privilege of "the angels of God, of those that excel in strength, to fulfil his commandments, and hearken to the voice of his word."

All the commandments of God he accordingly keeps, and that with all his might. For his obedience is in proportion to his love, the source from whence it flows. And therefore, loving God with all his heart, he serves him with all his strength. He continually presents his soul and body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God; entirely and without reserve devoting himself, all he has, and all he is, to his glory. All the talents he has received, he constantly employs according to his Master's will; every power and faculty of his soul, every member of his body. Once he "yielded" them "unto sin" and the devil, "as instruments of unrighteousness;" but now, "being alive from the dead, he yields" them all "as instruments of righteousness unto God."

By consequence, whatsoever he doeth, it is all to the glory of God. In all his employments of every kind, he not only aims at this, (which is implied in having a single eye,) but actually attains it. His business and refreshments, as well as his prayers, all serve this great end. Whether he sit in his house or walk by the way, whether he lie down or rise up, he is promoting, in all he speaks or does, the one business of his life; whether he put on his apparel, or labour, or eat and drink, or divert himself from too wasting labour, it all tends to advance the glory of God, by peace and good-will among men. His one invariable rule is this, "Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." >

Nor do the customs of the world at all hinder his "running the race that is set before him." He knows that vice does not lose its nature, though it becomes ever so fashionable; and remembers, that "every man is to give an account of himself to God." He cannot, therefore, "follow" even "a multitude to do evil." He cannot "fare sumptuously every day," or "make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof." He cannot "lay up treasures upon earth," any more than he can take fire into his bosom. He cannot "adorn himself," on any pretence, "with gold or costly apparel." He cannot join in or countenance any diversion which has the least tendency to vice of any kind. He cannot "speak evil" of his neighbour, any more than he can lie either for God or man. He cannot utter an unkind word of any one; for love keeps the door of his lips. He cannot speak "idle words;" "no corrupt communication" ever "comes out of his mouth," as is all that "which is" not "good to the use of edifying," not "fit to minister grace to the hearers." But "whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are" justly "of good report," he thinks, and speaks, and acts, "adorning the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things."

Lastly. As he has time, he "does good unto all men;" unto neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies: And that in every possible kind; not only to their bodies, by "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those that are sick or in prison;" but much more does he labour to do good to their souls, as of the ability which God giveth; to awaken those that sleep in death; to bring those who are awakened to the atoning blood, that, "being justified by faith, they may have peace with God;" and to provoke those who have peace with God to abound more in love and in good works. And he is willing to "spend and be spent herein," even "to be offered up on the sacrifice and service of their faith," so they may "all come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

These are the principles and practices of our sect; these are the marks of a true Methodist. By these alone do those who are in derision so called, desire to be distinguished from other men. If any man say, "Why, these are only the common fundamental principles of Christianity!" thou hast said; so I mean; this is the very truth; I know they are no other; and I would to God both thou and all men knew, that I, and all who follow my judgment, do vehemently refuse to be distinguished from other men, by any but the common principles of Christianity, -- the plain, old Christianity that I teach, renouncing and detesting all other marks of distinction. And whosoever is what I preach, (let him be called what he will, for names change not the nature of things,) he is a Christian, not in name only, but in heart and in life. He is inwardly and outwardly conformed to the will of God, as revealed in the written word. He thinks, speaks, and lives, according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ. His soul is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and in all true holiness. And having the mind that was in Christ, he so walks as Christ also walked.

By these marks, by these fruits of a living faith, do we labour to distinguish ourselves from the unbelieving world from all those whose minds or lives are not according to the Gospel of Christ. But from real Christians, of whatsoever denomination they be, we earnestly desire not to be distinguished at all, not from any who sincerely follow after what they know they have not yet attained. No: "Whosoever doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." And I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that we be in no wise divided among ourselves. Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? I ask no farther question. If it be, give me thy hand. For opinions, or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship. If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; let us strive together for the faith of the Gospel; walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; remembering, there is one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called with one hope of our calling; "one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Evangelism Linebacker

I‘m all for different approaches in evangelism. This is one I heard about recently and I wonder what your thoughts are on it? The guy’s passion is certainly not in question but perhaps he could go in for a little more subtlety!