Category Archives: religion

Halloween Shmalloween

So Halloween has come and gone.  Thank goodness.  I used to love going to Halloween parties, but no more.  I saw one too many scantily-clad ladies at Halloween parties put on by Christian friends.  I might go to a “fall  festival”  or something (my church used to put on one of these for the kids…a delightful time with all the yuck taken out of the holiday), but my past experience has soured my outlook considerably.  Too much drama.  So I abstain.

Facebook and the blogosphere has been ablaze with Christians discussing the question of whether or not believers should be participating in Halloween, and if yes, to what extent.

So: what say you?

PS–let’s get one thing out of the way right now: references to Halloween’s origins are irrelevant when discussing our involvement with how it is celebrated *today* (ghouls, witches, axe-murderers, nurses with a few clothing items missing, Little Red Riding Hood with her hood–and a few other clothing items–missing, etc).  Also: I’m talking about Halloween, not Reformation Day!

Ok, go to.

An Incredible Opportunity

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with a kid who is thinking about quitting his sport.

 

This young man is a devout Christian; he goes to and/or leads several church and youth functions.

 

One of the points I made to him was that his sport is a ministry; it is an incredible sphere of influence.  “Look at your teammates,” I said.  “They are in need of Christ.  Share the gospel with them and talk to them about Jesus!  If you quit, you won’t have that opportunity.  Sport is an incredible platform for the gospel because there’s something about bleeding and sweating with your teammates that bonds you and brings you close.  You can, of course, still share with them if you quit, but you won’t have the same respect and authority.”

 

His eyes kind of lit up when I said that.  I wonder how many times he’s heard that before.  Probably not many.  I haven’t yet heard it in any of the messages that have been given at the one student Christian group I attend.  I’ve heard about “hurting God’s feelings,” but not about talking about Jesus.

 

This reminds me of what commenter Tim said the other day in reaction to one of my posts:

 

I agree that talking to people about salvation through Jesus Christ is important, but do you think you might be working with a narrow definition of evangelism. By calling it ‘evangelism proper’ and referring to this as the act of talking to people about your religious convictions I think you miss the wider meaning of what evangelism is. I think we could agree that the word evangelism comes for the Greek word euangelion or good news. The good news Jesus says he came to proclaim in Luke 4 says nothing about belief or faith or doctrinal convictions. Instead he speaks of release of captives, blind people seeing and the downtrodden freed (sounds a lot like social justice to me).

 

All I’m saying is I think it’s a both/and kind of situation. Unfortunately the majority of traditions have chosen to major in either one or the other and not both.

 

I can certainly agree with Tim in the last paragraph.  It’s a both/and.  That’s what I’ve been arguing a lot lately.  In a certain sense, I can also agree with the first paragraph.  The problem is that in the church’s effort to embrace a wider definition of “missional,” it is very, very easy to leave the “talking about Jesus” part out.  It’s unpopular.  It’s just not sexy.  People will speak ill of you and regard you as slightly annoying.  Many in church leadership, who are trying to bring the Church a little positive PR, might subconsciously drop that and still think, “hey, we are sharing the gospel.”

 

Speaking and proclaiming and dialoguing about our sin problem and *the* solution Jesus offers (the only adequate solution!) is not sufficient…but it is necessary.

 

Yes, in Luke 4 Jesus might focus on the “social gospel” and might speak little or nothing of doctrinal convictions and such and salvation by faith, but both Him and His apostles do elsewhere all over the place.  That needs to be emphasized.

 

My point is not that we should dump the “freeing the downtrodden” part.  My point is that we need to correct the imbalance and emphasize sharing our Savior via proclamation more.  If we don’t, we’ll be missing an incredible opportunity, just like the young man above.

Late Night Tossin’ and Turnin

A post I wrote a while back kicked up some dust on Facebook this week.  A friend linked to it, and the comments came a flyin’ in.

Much of the discussion, unfortunately, revolved around whether I should have made the post in the first place (some thought it was wrong for me to evaluate and critique a sermon publicly.  I stand by my actions), but some of the comments were about the actual content of what I wrote.  Lots of people from both sides chimed in, and this was good to see.  I hope the post made people think.

As I went to bed that night, my mind was busy with intense thought.  This actually kept me up the whole night.  I just couldn’t stop turning the comments over and over in my head!  One of the things that I kept coming back to was this:

So a church says that it wants to see people “come to know Jesus.”  That’s great!  But that begs certain questions, doesn’t it?  First, what does the church mean, exactly, when it says it wants people to “come to know Jesus”?  There are lots of different ways of cashing out that phrase, some of which Jesus wouldn’t affirm.

Another question is: how do they go about bringing people to Christ?  Look around: what does the church actually do?  What is affirmed?  What, if anything, is left out?

Those are all good questions to ask.  Sometimes, what you’ll notice is a great commitment to social gospel things, such as the AIDS walk and Katrina relief.  No on in their right mind would put these down as unnecessary to the “mission” of the church.  But what you might notice is that it’s very easy to leave out something that’s equally necessary: actual evangelism.  It’s not so much that it’s explicitly put down, but just conspicuously missing.  Do the pastors ever actually say, “you know, guys, sometimes you actually need to just go out and…well…talk to folks about Jesus” (the link represents one time I’ve heard that)?  How many, if any, training opportunities are there in evangelism for the members?  How many outreaches are there that actually have evangelism proper (talking to people about Jesus–maybe not necessarily open air or cold turkey.  There is more than one way to skin that cat) as a central focus?  Is there a staff person at the church whose role includes attending to evangelistic concerns?

How much of the church’s finances go towards evangelism?

 

If evangelism is ever talked about in the sermons, what is said?  Does the pastor just mention stereotypes (ie, the guy on the street corner with the bullhorn), only so he can tell you what not to do?  Or, are evangelists ever praised for their boldness?

In a church’s rush to be “missional” and “relevant,” it is very easy to leave out that crucial part because it won’t win you any popularity contests.   But in the whirlwind of all that passes under the rubric of  “outreach,” it’s oh so necessary!

When a church says it’s interested in bringing people to a saving knowledge of Christ, look for the benchmarks above.  That’s not the whole of it, but it is part; a part which is  far too easy to leave out.

A Hole in Our Holism

In an article by that title, Stan Guthrie has some good food for thought for the contemporary American Church:

Right now our passion for social issues of all kinds is ascendant. And indeed, our old, narrow, world-rejecting fundamentalism needed a decent burial.

 

Today, it’s great to see how much easier it is to draw crowds by organizing a conference dealing with race, anti-Semitism, abortion, Darfur, homosexual marriage, sex trafficking, AIDS, or environmental stewardship. Loving our neighbor via these issues is right and good. And our newfound activism also can help make the gospel we preach attractive to outsiders. As Jesus said, “[L]et your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

 

But it seems harder for us to get excited about evangelism. Our holistic mission has a hole in it—not enough evangelism. For instance, while the American population continues growing, our own evangelical numbers barely tread water.

 

Is there a connection between our rediscovered social passion and our growing evangelistic indifference? History certainly provides ample warning, if the Student Volunteer Movement is any guide. Organized in 1888, the SVM boasted a great motto: “The evangelization of the world in this generation.” But according to scholar Paul Pierson, the SVM began stumbling under “a desire to tackle the problems of Western society coupled with doubts about the validity of world evangelization.” By 1940, “It had ceased to be a factor in students’ religious life and in the promotion of mission in the churches.” A greatly diminished SVM was finally disbanded in 1969.

 

…Does our heightened social consciousness—from the Left and the Right—actually drain our evangelistic zeal? It shouldn’t, because we are called to do both.

 

But maybe our preference for social activism reveals a more basic problem: that we don’t really believe our neighbor’s deepest need is to be forgiven by and reconciled to God. We seem to think that if only he or she is fed, or lives in a society brimming with Christian principles, or sees our battles against the world’s many injustices, then we will have discharged our responsibility to Christ.

 

I’m not sure Jesus would agree. “For what does it profit a man,” the Lord asks, “if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” May our concern to make a difference in this world not blind us to our neighbors’ eternal destiny in the next.

 

Read the whole thing

Today’s Ivory Tower Ideas…

Dang!  I’m currently going through a history of philosophy series by R.C Sproul.  Brian, at Apologetics 315, has a few more courses to add.
Lovin it.  I’m a junkie.  Good stuff good stuff!

And in case you think it’s all hot air, remember: ideas have consequences…ideas have consequences.

Today’s ivory tower ideas are tomorrow’s battle cries.

Pop-Spirituality: Empty Calories for the Soul

Sorry for not posting substantive stuff over the past few days…you know…life.  Plus, working on a few other writing projects (!!!).

For now, feast your minds on the following podcast from Dr. John Mark Reynolds and friends:

Oprah-Style Religion: Choosing the Truth over ‘The Secret’

Description:

One of the most popular trends in modern spirituality is the “visualization” approach, which claims that health, wealth, and happiness are only a positive thought away. These principles seem harmless, perhaps even beneficial for everyday life–but are there dangers below the surface? What’s in store for the many who follow these coffee-shop religions?

Listen as Dr. John Mark Reynolds and Dr. Paul Spears, professors at the Torrey Honors Institute, are joined by foremost apologist and Biola University professor Dr. Craig Hazen to discuss pop culture’s attempts at piety, and how Christians can counter the claims of modern spiritual gurus.

Scrumptious.

Proclaiming is an Act!

RockHarbor Church–I belong to it–is such a great church.  I am very blessed to be a part of it.  For instance, it was mentioned in an article I featured a few days back; while the recession has negatively impacted many churches, it positively impacted my church.  RockHarbor actually found a renewed sense of purpose in helping those in need, and it therefore ended the fiscal year with a surplus!

It gives me joy to be part of such a group.

Today, however, as I walked out of church, joy was nowhere in my heart.  Frustration, more like it.  Why?

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