Dr. Mohler’s take

Bryan posted a link to this article in his comment to my recent church planting post. And I wanted to make sure everybody saw both Bryan’s comment and the article.

Al Mohler is discussing Fred Barnes’ article in the Wall Street Journal about being a part of a church plant. Dr. Mohler says:

The only strange aspect of this article is the sense that church planting is a new idea. Church planting is indeed a “burgeoning movement,” but it is not new. As a matter of fact, the church planting movement began in the first century — and was central to the New Testament pattern for the church. If this seems new to some, it is only because they are rediscovering a very old idea.

On the other hand, there is something newly energetic about the church planting movement. Younger pastors are increasingly attracted to the vision of starting a new congregation and seeing it established with solid conviction, deep passion, evangelistic commitment, and strategic focus. They see the need and are ready to take up the challenge.

They also understand the New Testament’s impulse toward reproduction. Christians are to reproduce themselves through witness and evangelism, and churches are to reproduce themselves through missions and church planting. Growth leads to growth.

Dr. Mohler goes on to discuss the need to recover existing churches as well and making sure this generation sees the importance of “leading existing congregations into deeper conviction, bolder vision, and greater faithfulness.”

young men adrift

Collin Hansen has a great article in Christianity Today today.

He first states the problem:

You know the guy. He somehow managed to graduate college, but he still lives with his parents. And he doesn’t plan to move out anytime soon. Or maybe he has a decent job. He lives with some buddies in the city. But he blows most of his money on video games and his latest efforts to bring a girl back to his place.
….
“Dating gives way to Facebook and hooking up,” [David] Brooks writes. “Marriage gives way to cohabitation. Church attendance gives way to spiritual longing. Newspaper reading gives way to blogging.” It’s not that young people today just want to slack off and don’t care about each other, Brooks cautions. “It’s a phase in which some social institutions flourish—knitting circles, Teach for America—while others—churches, political parties—have trouble establishing ties.”

He then points out the need for and difficulty with finding a solution:

Certainly this challenge requires a missionary response from our churches. If these men will not come and join our worship services, we must go and seek them. This imperative seems to inspire the current “missional” rage among evangelicals. Evangelistic appeals grounded in felt needs won’t do the trick with these men. What good is this approach when we see no evidence that these young men feel the need to change? And if we adjust our beliefs and behaviors in order to attract these men, we run the risk of peddling the gospel and precluding God-given transformation.

the solution that Collin proposes resonates with me. it is what I was driving at here, here and here, for instance.

here is part of what Collin proposes, but you have to read the rest over at Christianity Today.

No, there must be something different and demanding about the gospel if we expect these men to abandon their self-concerned lives. Thankfully, that’s exactly the gospel we proclaim, Jesus Christ and him crucified. Jesus himself set the standard for discipleship. “If anyone would come after me,” he said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). Jesus calls his followers to entrust their anxieties to him and devote themselves fully to serving God and his kingdom. These are difficult words, but we cannot survive the wrath of God unless we heed them. Seeking first the kingdom means nothing less than abandoning ourselves for the refuge of God’s grace.

so, the exit question for us all is: “is this really the gospel we proclaim?” if not, why not?

laity at work?

John Chandler has a post up with some David Bosch quotes and discussion regarding the importance of regular church attenders (as opposed the role of paid staff) to accomplishing the mission of God. Its a great post and you should go read it.

here is the first Bosch quote:

A missionary encounter with the West will have to be, primarily, a ministry of the laity.

Now, agree or disagree? why or why not? if you agree, then is this how your church fellowship operates? or do you believe this to be true, but attend a church where the staff does most of the work and engages lay people to volunteer to run ministries that the staff thought up?

If you agree, what are some reasons why the staff driven model won’t engage the Western culture we live in?

If you agree, what do we do to get lay people actually engaged in mission rather than sitting around talking about being engaged at some point in the future when we are “trained” or when we are “ready?”

seriously. After wrestling with this problem pretty intensely for over five years, I would really like someone to tell me an answer, an approach, something to try, anything.

excellent Newbigin quote

Todd Hiestand has an excellent quote from Newbigin up this morning.

Here is the second half, but be sure to go read the first half too.

And we can also see that wherever the missionary character of the doctrine of election is forgotten; wherever it is forgotten that we are chosen in order to be sent; wherever the minds of believers are concerned more to probe backwards from their election into the reasons for it in the secret counsel of God than to press forward from their election to the purpose of it, which is that they should be Christ’s ambassadors and witnesses to the ends of the earth; wherever men think that the purpose of election is their own salvation rather than the salvation of the world; then God’s people have betrayed their trust.”

Newbigin in the morning

I have been crashing on Newbigin this morning. Some deep thinking to get my mind going. A bracing shot of metaphorical cold water to the face as a wake up call.

I first re-read his 1985 article/presentation “Can the West be Converted.”. This was one of the things that woke me up back five years or so ago.

Check out this diagnosis of the problem from “Can the West be Converted”:

[in our current world culture which divides facts from values] That human beings exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever is not a fact. It is an opinion held by some people. It belongs to the private sector, not the public. Those who hold it are free to communicate it to their children and church; it has no place in the curriculum of the public schools and universities. And since the publicly accepted definition of a human being excludes any statement of the purpose for which human beings exist, it follows necessarily that (in the ordinary meaning of the word “fact”), no factual statement can be made about what kinds of behavior are good or bad. These can only be private opinions. Pluralism reigns. Here, I submit, is the intellectual core of that culture which, at least from the mid-eighteenth century has been the public culture of Europe, and has – under the name of modernization extended its power into every part of the world. Two hundred years ago it was hailed in Europe as, quite simply, the dawning of light in the darkness: the Enlightenment.

and then look at this framework for the answer from the same article:

Let us attempt something quite different from what Berger proposes. Instead of weighing the Christian religious experience (along with others) in the scale of reason as our culture understands reason, let us suppose that the Gospel is true, that in the story of the Bible and in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus the creator and lord of the universe has actually manifested himself to declare and effect his purpose, and that therefore everything else, including all the axioms and assumptions of our culture have to be assessed and can only be validly assessed in the scales which this revelation provides. What would it mean if, instead of trying to understand the Gospel from the point of view of our culture, we tried to understand our culture from the point of view of the Gospel?

oh yeah! make me stand up and holler! Yes. Yes! YES!. Now, what does that mean for us, practically, here in this world, in this time right now? Newbigin’s 1989 answer from “Our Missionary Responsibility In The Crisis Of Western Culture” (for some reason the article in the bibliography is entitled “Mission and the Crisis of Western Culture: Recent Studies”):

To take this position means, of course, to be a minority in our culture. It means questioning the things that no one ever questions – like the Christian missionary in India questioning the law of karma and samsara. And it means, I believe, being enabled to find a more rational way of understanding and coping with our world than that which is offered in our contemporary culture, a culture which is enormously productive of means but unable to speak about ends, fertile-in finding new ways to do things, but incapable of answering the question: ‘What things are worth doing?’ It is not, let me insist, a matter of appealing to ‘revelation’ against ‘reason’. This absurd opposition is, I am sorry to say, a commonplace in English discussions. Reason is not a separate source of knowledge. It is the power by which we seek coherence in the data of experience and it operates, can only operate, within a complex of language, concepts, symbols, images which make up the ‘fiduciary framework’. No move towards understanding reality is possible except by the use of reason; the question is, ‘Within what “fiduciary framework” is reason operating?’ And when we offer a different fiduciary framework, alternative to the one which is dominant in our culture, we are calling for conversion, for a radical shift in perspective. We need the boldness of the foreign missionary who dares to challenge the accepted framework, even though the words he uses must inevitably sound absurd to those who dwell in that framework. In the contemporary crisis of western culture there is a widespread failure of nerve. There is a widespread tendency to retreat from the whole splendid adventure of western culture and to look elsewhere – especially to the East – for something different. That is a terrible mistake. We cannot run away from our responsibilities. It is we in the West who have developed this culture which is penetrating the whole world under the name of modernization, It is we Christians who have failed to challenge its fundamental assumptions, who have allowed the Gospel to be co-opted into it instead of challenging it. It is upon us that there now rests the formidable responsibility for a task which is both intellectual and practical: to recover a concept of knowledge which will heal the split in our culture between science and faith, between the public world and the private; and to embody in the life of our congregations a style of life which expresses in practice the purpose for which God has created all things: to glorify him and to enjoy him for ever.

emphasis added.

Oh my goodness. as the marxist peasant in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail would say, “that’s what I’m on about.”

The question is, do we have the faith in God, and the courage to evaluate our culture in light of the values framework of the Bible? Do we have the nerve to face up to our responsibilities as ministers of reconciliation? Go read my rock of offense article to see how Jesus showed us the way to speak the truth in love, meeting the woman at the well where she was in her culture and moving her to faith in Himself.

The Call

As believers in Christ, what is our calling? Jesse Phillips is asking a pointed question on the Catablog.

here is the issue and the question:

Some evangelicals believe it’s our duty to fight for righteousness in our nation, creating laws to help non-Christians follow God’s law. Other evangelicals believe that trying to restrain non-Christians or imposing our morals on them will push them further away from salvation.

What do you think?

Go read the rest of Jesse’s post and watch the video he has embedded therein. Here is the comment that I made there:

Excellent question, Jesse. I think the answer is yes. But that the way we fight the nation’s cultural problems is one heart at a time in our churches, neighborhoods and workplaces. The culture and laws have to follow as a result of people coming to Christ and allowing themselves to be changed into proper reflections of God’s glory. 2 Cor. 3:18.

If we go into the world and make disciples teaching them everything that Jesus commanded, then our world will be changed.

The key is making disciples. As an example, if the entire church that already claims to follow Christ would stop paying for pornography, then that industry’s bottom line would be severely adversely impacted.

Comment by Keith Ingram – Aug 06, 2008 @ 07:44 AM

what do you think?

UPDATE

The conversation continues. here is a comment by Ross Middleton to Jesse’s question and the response that I posted over there:

Hey everyone,

Here goes. I am familiar with Lou Engle and The Call and have been for a long time. A good number of people from my church went to the Nashville Call last summer and are going this summer to DC. On the issue of “purifying the culture” its a good question and an interesting way to put it.

My first answer and argument is we already do. We outlaw murder, hate crimes, racism, theft, etc. Those are all biblical commands that I’m sure we would all agree on. The issues listed in the blog were abortion, pornography and gay marriage. Here is the way I see it. There are two things happening at the same time with issues. There is a natural effect and a spiritual effect. If we outlaw abortion (which is my conviction) will abortion in America completely stop? No. there will still be back alley abortions all over the place. But I would say that I am sure we would save millions of lives. If we outlaw homosexual marriage (which is also my conviction), is that going to stop people from living homosexual lifestyles? No. If we outlawed pornography (I’ve never actually thought about that one) would it stop porn from being made? No. So I think some people could look and say why would we do any of it? I think that’s the wrong question/answer. Here’s why.

First of all, as a Christian I believe we have to stand up for injustice, we can go to other countries and its ok to talk about the Sudan or Sierra Leone and see people get killed and all agree thats wrong. But if its in the womb, somehow we feel as if we cannot speak about it. I believe it is a huge injustice and atrocity. Over 50 million babies have been aborted in our nations history. Its our job to say something about that. Secondly, my tax dollars are helping to pay for abortions because the gov. gives money to Planned Parenthood and organizations like it that abort babies. At some level the blood is on my hands also. On a very practical level, thirdly, I also have to pay for it with insurance premiums. Some insurance companies will help pay for your abortion, guess who helps pay for that, we do.

On the homosexuality issue, its the same thing. When we legalize things like that, first of all our government is saying that they have more moral authority than the Bible. When an organization or person moves outside of the delegated authority that God has given them, they instantly lose their authority, that is why its ok sometimes to rebel against corrupt governments. That is how America was born. When the government legalizes things like homosexual marriage, private companies can then be forced by law to cover someone’s homosexual partner with AIDS. how did they get AIDS? By living a homosexual lifestyle.

Lastly, there is a spiritual side of things that never gets brought up in situations like this. Without writing a book on this response, I believe America is at a place where we need all the mercy from God we can get. I believe that there are spiritual consequences for these things. If our government continues to allow abortion & homosexuality, because God has placed then in authority over us, I believe that God will judge our nation at some level based on the laws that are passed. We see it all over scripture, God judging nations, (Sodom & Gomorra) God wiping out other nations that were ungodly. God killing leaders who were ungodly. Now I know that the gov. is by no means solely responsible for this but I do think it makes a difference. I think in Proverbs it says, when the righteous rule, the people rejoice. Study scripture, if there is anything God does not tolerate it is the shedding of innocent blood. Look at Cain and Abel, read through the OT, he hates it and judges nations because of it. I believe the Civil War was part of God’s judgement on our nation for slavery. Biblically, its in Deut. somewhere, I can’t remember but the only answer for the unjust shedding of blood is blood being shed. Now I know people will say well thats what Jesus did on the cross. I agree……but, look at the civil war and tens of thousands of lives that are lost when innocent blood is shed in these other nations. My point is regardless of the covenant we are under its still a scriptural principle.

What Lou Engle is doing in my opinion, is crucial for our nation. Basically, what it is, is a huge prayer meeting, we need to cry out to God for his mercy. Its not an either/or but a both/and situation. We don’t totally ignore politics, that’s not biblical, God calls us to engage the culture. But we don’t put our trust in politics. At the end of the day the local church is the hope of the nation and the world.

To an early commenter, when you study the constitution there is no separation between church and state ever mentioned in the constitution. That phrase was found in a letter Thomas Jefferson (the deist) wrote to a particular Christian denomination saying that they were not going to endorse or make one “Christian denomination” the official one as a state. When you study American history, the buildings in DC used to be used for church services, like the Senate and House chambers. That concept of separation is a result of revisionist history in America. I’m not saying they need to be the same or I’m for some theocracy I’m just saying thats inaccurate history.

In conclusion, yes I do think we should pray and seek out the ending of abortion in America legally. Yes I think we should outlaw homosexual marriage. and I do agree with Read Scott where there is sin and lawlessness, more laws are needed. That is a deeply scriptural principle. Do I think it will fix all our problems? No. Is Jesus the ultimate answer? Yes. Should the church pull out of culture? No. I think we should speak up and address cultural problems? Should we be the tool of the Republican party? No. Should we put our trust in politics or politicians for the advancement of the kingdom in America? Heck no. That are role, but I don’t think we should ignore it either. I’ll shut up now.

Comment by Ross Middleton – Aug 06, 2008 @ 12:00 PM

Ross,

Well said. The only issue I have with what you wrote is making sure that the main thing stays the main thing. The older I get and the more I see, the more I am convinced that our enemy’s best tool is distraction. He distracts christians with busyness with “the good” in order to keep us from being effective at “the best”. “taking back America” is not the main thing.

Saving unborn children is a wonderful thing. What is the best way to do that? Getting a fifth judge on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade? That won’t stop abortion. That will just move the fight to state legislatures. If we then succeed in getting laws restricting abortion passed in 35 or so states, then you are correct that the number of abortions will decrease. That is a very good thing. But would that time and effort have been better spent working with our kids to teach them that God’s way of sexuality is different than the world’s and that God’s way is for their good and for their benefit?

Paul said that since we know what it is to fear God we persuade others. 2 Cor. 5:11. He then begins his discussion of our being new creatures in Christ reconciled to God through Christ. We have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. We are His ambassadors in this world with His message on our lips. 2 Cor. 5:17-21. Paul wasn’t trying to persuade the Roman government to outlaw baby girl abandonment. As worthy and important a goal as that would have been, the goal of Paul’s persuasion effort was much more fundamental and important. “We implore you through Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:20.

My point is that we live in a wonderful country with a wonderful opportunity to have an influence on the laws by which we are governed. I agree with you that we should use that opportunity to push for laws that can teach the culture what morality is. However, we must constantly be on guard against the temptation to spend our resources of time, talent, and treasure on the good to the exclusion of the best.

The best and highest task we have is to be ambassadors for Christ entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation.

Peter said that the end of all things is near, therefore let us love one another earnestly, keep our minds clear and use the gifts God has given us as good stewards of God’s manifold grace. I Peter 4:7-11. Good stewards speak as though they are speaking the oracles of God and serve in the strength that God provides in order that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 4:10-11.

Comment by Keith Ingram – Aug 06, 2008 @ 12:51 PM

The Big Give

here is an idea that a church of any size can do in its community.

We wanted to plan an event that was all about serving our community, so we planned this event where we would give away new backpacks full of school supplies, free back-to-school haircuts, free food, free photos/fingerprinting for the kids, and lots of other fun things (inflatable games, facepainting, cartoons on the big screen, great door prizes, etc…).

Read the rest of Jeff’s post to see his doubts about the event and how it turned out. Inspiring stuff.