Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

The Problem of Christian Eductation

Ed Stetzer reminds Sunday School teachers to make sure that children know the story instead of just a bunch of Bible stories. He’s right, and that’s something the preacher needs to be concerned about too.

 

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Kirsten Powers’ Conversion Story

Via Donald Miller, the fascinating story of Kirsten Powers’ conversion to Christianity:

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

Read the whole thing. There’s even a Presbyterian connection.

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Please Don’t Tip

If you want to stiff your waiter, that’s your business. But please don’t drag God into it:

The idea that Christians are poor tippers apparently has been whispered in service circles for a long time. Many waiters try not work Sunday brunch, so as to avoid notoriously stingy churchgoers, claims Justin Wise, the director of a Lutheran ministry in Des Moines, Iowa.

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The Best Apologetic

Twenty-odd years ago, I became a Christian, and part of the reason was apologetics, or defenses of the faith. God used several books, including C.S. Lewis’ wonderful Mere Christianity, to overcome my objections to the Christian faith.

By the time I got to seminary, however, I was really pretty bored with apologetics. It’s not that I had decided they were unimportant–far from it: as my faith became more important in my life, I realized how important those apologetics had been. But I’d moved on, and they weren’t very helpful to me any more. (Although I do still pick up my copy of Mere Christianity every couple of months and re-read a chapter or two.)

It turns out I’m not alone. In this article, Max Lucado, a best-selling Christian writer, says that the best apologetic is compassion.

Though Christians do need to respond intellectually to explain their faith, the long-time pastor recognized, “When the church argues back with society, I don’t know if we get very far.”

“But if we can say our passion is to help the poor and the forgotten, you cannot argue with that,” he noted. “Nothing convinces people of our Lord better than to live like he lived. We cannot live like he lived without being compassionate.”

That rings true for me. Jim Noble, the pastor who led me to Christ, told me, “Maybe you could believe in God if you saw him at work, and [his church] is a great place to watch.”

He was right. I had some baggage I needed to deal with, and my apologetic reading helped me do that. But it was seeing God at work in and through the community of faith engaged in works of compassion, that enabled me, finally, to put my trust in Christ.

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One Hundred Years

A hundred years ago, leaders of the major Protestant denominations and missionary societies met in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the World Mission Conference. Historians of the church mark this conference as the beginning (or rather, the formal recognition) of the modern ecumenical movement. Churches had come to see that if they could cooperate on the mission field overseas, they should also be able to do so back home.

The theme of the 1910 World Mission Conference was “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation.” Everyone in the world would have the opportunity to learn about Jesus and choose whether to become a follower before that generation had passed away.

Well. Two World Wars later, after a Cold War and a Great Depression, after decolonialization in the developing world and societal upheaval in the developed, that goal may be somewhat closer, but we seem, a hundred years later, to be in no danger of attaining it in a single generation.

One thing has changed for the better. Today, we know who the target is. A hundred years ago, they said “the world” but they meant “distant lands full of heathens.” Today, we know better: Christendom is dead-if it ever existed-and the mission field is just as ripe next door as it is across the planet.

During that same year, 1910, the United Presbyterian Church of North America (a predecessor of our denomination) adopted what it called the Great Ends of the Church:

The great ends of the church are (1) the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; (2) the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; (3) the maintenance of divine worship; (4) the preservation of the truth; (5) the promotion of social righteousness; and (6) the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

It’s not a bad list, but we sure can be selective in advancing those ends. For example, the greatest part of our budget goes to #3: divine worship, led by myself and our choir director. The bulk of your volunteer effort goes to #2: fellowship and congregational care. The 4th and 5th ends — truth and social righteousness — need not be in conflict, but it’s a very rare church (or denomination) that is able to hold the two in balance. Generally, what we do is choose one or the other, and then say bad things about Christians who pick the other one.

And that leads us to #1 and #6. How serious are we about proclaiming the gospel to people who’ve never heard it? How much thought to do we give to exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven to the world?

Especially since we now realize “the world” is next door. It’s across the street and down the block. It’s the grocery store and the gas station. It’s all over. “The world” is everywhere. How well are we doing in evangelizing it? Does it even know we’re here?

Those conferees in Edinburgh a hundred years ago wanted to evangelize the world. They didn’t realize how much of the world needed to be evangelized, but they were willing to try.

Let’s try, too. Let’s not let our church be defined by just one or two of the Great Ends of the Church. Let’s maintain divine worship and nurture the children of God, by all means. But let’s not forget to tell people about Jesus, or to exhibit his Kingdom to them, either.

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Atheist Recommends Christians Convert Muslims?

MacLeans has an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who was raised as a Muslim but who has become an atheist. In the article, she said Christians should proselytize Muslims, at least in the West: Read the rest of this entry »

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Encountering the Culture

Then he went about among the villages teaching.
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two.
Mark 6:6-7

In AD 100, the worldwide total number of Christians might have been about 25,000. For the next two centuries, Christianity was an an illegal religion, and endured several waves of violent persecution. It had no trained clergy, nor any church buildings as we know them. But in the early 300’s, when Christianity was finally legalized, the number of Christians was about 20 million.

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How to Invite People to Church

Jon Acuff hits the nail on the head again, with this post about how to invite people to church. “It’s funny because it’s true.” (Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like is worth bookmarking. I’ve been reading it for about two years, which is almost in dog or internet years. Once, I even quoted from “The Prayer Ninja” in a sermon.)

Why is it we have so much difficulty inviting other people to church? I can think of two reasons. The first is that we really don’t care all that much ourselves. People don’t usually have much trouble expressing their opinions about things they care about, whether they’re books or TV shows or movies or restaurants or politics. Is our problem that we don’t really care anymore?

Look at Timothy. Either he lost his passion, or Paul was concerned he might. It wasn’t a question of faith — Paul wasn’t worried about that. What concerned Paul was passion: “rekindle the gift of God that is within you … for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice.” For another example, look at what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus.

The other thing that might make us hesitate to invite someone is how our church treats visitors. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

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