Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

It is highly likely that most Evangelical Christians have, at some time or another, heard this famous quote (often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi):

Preach the Gospel at all times.  If necessary, use words.

The sentiment behind such statements generally goes something like this: the church too often focuses too much on talking at people (even if it’s about the Gospel) rather than practically loving them, first and foremost.  The underlying conviction is (broadly speaking) that the most important/powerful “witness” Christians have is a lived-life abounding in generous, self-sacrificing love like that exhibited by Jesus during his life on earth.  Furthermore, our role as “verbal” proclaimers of the Gospel is usually relegated to a secondary position, lest our lives not first provide the foundation – indeed, substantiate – the cognitive message we preach.

Helping to bring fresh light to this important issue, Duane Litfin (former president of Wheaton College) has just written a new book, Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance (excerpt).

Eat Like A Christian!

Posted: March 31, 2012 in evangelism, gospel, humility, Jesus, love

From To Jerusalem:

Truly, my experience serving food has uncovered a side of Christianity that is appalling and disheartening. Nowhere have I seen Christians be more un-Christian than when sitting down to eat. In their attitudes and actions I have seen many, many Christians completely ruin their witness toward servers, waiters, and cooks. And I have stories; my word do I have stories.

When I worked catering in college I served the faculty, staff, and students. This was a Christian college—it taught and preached and lived the Bible. Except when it came to food.

When we set up breakfasts for meetings, we would often catch secretaries in the act of dumping whole basketfuls of coffee supplies into their purses, who would then hastily explain their actions by saying they didn’t know the supplies weren’t free for the taking.

I’ve seen professors (on more than one occasion) steal trays of donuts, danishes, and muffins out of meeting rooms for use in their own classes—always with the excuse that the food “wasn’t labeled” and was thus up for grabs.

I have been verbally criticized and belittled by pastors, professors, and Christian leaders for late food, early food, cold food, warm food, too little food, too much food, or food they simply don’t like.

And worst of them all? Christian women’s conferences. In those, if food and drink is not available at all times, in all forms, and modifiable for every preference, we servers became villains. I have seen more hate, anger, selfishness, greed, and jealousy at Christian women’s conferences than all other food service events combined. …

What’s my point, you may be asking?

Simply this: How you behave when you eat in public can be one of the most powerful witnesses you have for your King Jesus. Believe me when I say, you will be a witness. Whether you are a good witness is up to you.

So when you walk into a restaurant after church dressed in your Sunday best, please be polite and smile. Please be gracious and forgiving, and never ask to see the manager with a complaint. When it comes time to pay, always be generous—because a server’s estimation of your character will be based entirely on the tip you leave. The biggest impact you can make for Jesus is simply tipping well.

Trevin Wax recently posted an extremely insightful “critique” (softened through the use of questions) of Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s new book, What is the Mission of the Church.  I think all of his comments are spot on and are an important counter-balance to a Gospel-only missional mindset.

Here are his most compelling questions:

1. Can we reduce “making disciples” and “teaching Christ’s commands” to the delivery of information?

It seems to me that DeYoung and Gilbert tend to reduce “disciple-making” to teaching and then reduce “teaching” to the transferring of information. I agree that teaching is a central part of discipleship (which is one reason I am dedicating the next few years to the development of solid biblical curriculum). At the same time, we need to recognize that teaching also takes place in mentoring, in modeling, and in collaboration with others…

3. Isn’t there a sense in which worship is expressed through our life in the world, not just our corporate worship services?

At the corporate level, it’s clear that worship takes place within the church’s gathering. Yet the biblical story line begins with Adam and Eve worshiping God by obeying His commands in the gardenIt was their cultivation of the garden that reflected their love and praise for their Maker. So when DeYoung and Gilbert claim that worship is integral to the mission of the church and yet want to separate worship from our deeds of justice, I worry that we are failing to remember that our good work in the world is part of our obedient worship to God…

5. Is our representation of Christ not part of the mission?

DeYoung and Gilbert believe we must represent Christ, but it seems like they connect this representation so tightly to verbal proclamation of the gospel that little room is left for representing Christ through love and good deeds…

It is too easy to oversimplify and be reductionistic in our approach to theology.  The Bible is a complex book with a lot of nuanced teaching.  Our calling – as Christians – is multifaceted and can take many shapes.  That’s not to say that the proclamation of the good news about Jesus the Messiah is only one among many “good” objectives the church is called to pursue.

Rather, we need to be reminded to read the Bible carefully, allowing it to speak its message with the force and clarity it seeks to convey.  It is not sufficient for us to proof-text our way into cut-and-dry, black-and-white theological positions.  Clever, quippy theological phrases can be powerful communicators, but they often strip out the nuance of the Bible’s teaching leading to misunderstanding and misapplication.  In relation to the mission of the church, it seems that fear of losing what is central (the Gospel) leads some to deny what is peripheral (good deeds).  Yet, this is not the way the biblical writers talk – you don’t see the stark contrast.

We must remain faithful to the Bible, despite the (very real) danger of losing the center.

The White Horse Inn has posted the audio of a really interesting and helpful interview with Scot McKnight concerning his new book, The King Jesus Gospel.  In the interview, Michael Horton pushes McKnight on a few issues related to McKnight’s definition of “gospel,” but it seems that both men are pretty close in much of their thinking.  At least for these two men, much of the debate seems to be related to how to go about framing the good (and saving) news regarding Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.

As McKnight keeps saying in the interview, the main point of his book is “Christology first, soteriology second.”  He is right when he notes that many Reformed Christians (whom he later terms “covenant soterions”) will find much to commend in his book, despite some points of divergence.

Micahel Horton has published a lengthy review of Scot McKnights new book, The King Jesus Gospel.  Although heartily praising the books many strengths, Horton offers an important critique of McKnights tendency to lay modern caricatures of the Gospel at the feet of the Reformers and their theological descendants.

Here’s a snippet:

From Bavinck to Berkhof, Reformed theologians have lamented the excesses of a pietism and revivalism that threaten to reduce the gospel to a personal decision or crisis experience. So how exactly does the Reformation get saddled once again with a tragic narrowing of the gospel to the “four spiritual laws” with the goal of making mere deciders (converts) who know Jesus as Savior rather than disciples who embrace him as Lord? McKnight acknowledges that there were some flaws in the pre-Reformation “Gospel Culture” (Constantine, the crusades, etc.). He also acknowledges that the Reformers wouldn’t agree with everything that “salvation culture” implies. Yet, much like N. T. Wright, he seems to think that he if we would just go “back to the Bible to find the original gospel” as he has, we’d get it right (24). The history of exegesis is reduced to the categories of “gospel culture” and “salvation culture.” Also as in Professor Wright’s work, The King Jesus Gospel offers sweeping assertions about the Reformation without serious engagement. I can’t imagine that he has explored the commentaries of the Reformers or the history of Reformed biblical theology in any depth. No harm done for having different interests, but one shouldn’t then pile with one more straw-man portrait.

Later he writes,

I worry about forcing a choice between the gospel as the Story of Jesus and the Plan of Salvation (if the latter means justification and new birth, for example). The one is still too broad to specify the saving announcement and the latter is too narrow—indeed, somewhat distorting (understood the way McKnight describes it, as akin to the Four Spiritual Laws). McKnight does a great job with 1 Corinthians 15, but there Paul clearly includes the benefits of Christ’s saving work (forgiveness, justification, resurrection) with Christ’s Story as the gospel. In fact, our story (how he saves us) is bound up with his story in that passage. If 1 Corinthians 15 is a summary of the gospel (and I agree that it is), then wouldn’t it be arbitrary to say that the details about Christ’s death and resurrection are the gospel while the benefits for us, as important as they are, are not the gospel? There are just too many passages, here and elsewhere, that make Christ’s work (living, dying and rising again in history) and its effects for us inseparable aspects of the gospel. “He was crucified for our sins and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). The dramatic story of Christ and the doctrine that interprets its significance for us are inseparable aspects of the same gospel.

Trevin Wax has also written an insightful 2-part review of the book  (Part 1 and Part 2).

In about the first three years of L’Abri all our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Indeed once a whole curtain almost burned up from somebody smoking in our living room. Blacks came to our table. Orientals came to our table. Everybody came to our table. It couldn’t happen any other way. Drugs came to our place. People vomited in our rooms, in the rooms of Chalet Les Melezes which was our home, and now in the rest of the chalets of L’Abri.

How many times has this happened to you? You see, you don’t need a big program. You don’t have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home.

HT: familia Dei

An excellent post from Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary:

Jesus is the Reason for the Season.“  It is evangelicals who have cried out the most against the commercialization of Christmas, but then became co-opted by turning the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” into one of the most commercialized phrases of all time, blazoned across t-shirts, coffee mugs and yes, church signs. They can be purchased at any local Christian book store, 10% off if you pick up a precious memory angel along with it.

Free coffee, everlasting life – yes, membership has its privileges!” or “Walmart is not the only saving place.“  Do you hear what lies behind all of these messages?

Evangelicals have become experts in finding a thousand new ways to ask the same question, “What is the least one has to do to become a Christian.“  That’s our defining question.  We’ve become masters at theological and soteriological minimalism.  We are the ones who have boiled the entire glorious Gospel down to a single phrase, a simple emotive transaction, or some silly slogan.  It is time for a new generation of Christians, committed to apostolic faith, to declare this minimalistic, reductionistic Christianity a failed project!  It is wrong to try to get as many people as possible, to acknowledge as superficially as allowable, a Gospel which is theologically unsustainable…

We have, in effect, been criss-crossing the world telling people to make God a player, even a major player in our drama.  But the Gospel is about being swept up into His great drama. It is about our dying to self, taking up the cross, and being swept up into the great theo-drama of the universe!