This is our weekly roundup of posts for 9/24-9/29/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Monday 9/24- Book Reviewed Pastoring the Pastor Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/24/book-review-pastoring-the-pastor/
Tuesday 9/25- Outreach: Does The Inerrancy of the bible matter evangelistically? a guest post by Dave Jenkins over at New Leaf Press http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/25/guest-post-over-at-new-leaf-press-outreach-does-the-inerrancy-of-the-bible-matter-evangelistically/
Wed 9/26- The Decline of Christianity in Europe by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/26/the-decline-of-christianity-in-europe/
Thursday 9/27- The Growth of Christianity in Uganda by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/27/the-growth-of-christianity-in-uganda/
Friday 9/28- Subersive kingdom by Ed Stetzer Critiqued by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/28/subversive-kingdom-by-ed-stetzer-book-critique/
Saturday 9/22- 5 Things Love Isn’t by Dan Darling http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/29/5-things-love-isnt/
Perhaps there is nothing the human heart craves more than true love. We are wired to love and be loved. The problem is that we don’t actually understand what love really is. We get all kinds of definitions from the culture and from our own feelings.
In fact, I think it’s helpful to think a little bit, not about what love is but what love isn’t. So here are five things love isn’t:
1) Love Isn’t Having Someone Fulfill All My Fanciful Dreams
When we think about the love between a husband and wife, we often think of that “soulmate”, that person who just magically fits into all the areas I need and will make my life better. These expectations, which we carry into marriage, do more to derail relationships than anything else.But this is really humanistic thinking. It views the other person as a benefactor that must meet all of my needs. But God didn’t purpose marriage for my own fulfillment, but as an opportunity for me to a) display His glory b) grow in character and grace by adjusting, sacrificing, and loving another and c) fulfill the mandate by establishing another generation of godly offspring. And here’s a secret of marriage that I’m still figuring out after ten years: my dreams are petty compared to God’s dreams for me. When I hold them loosely and allow God to shape them (by giving me a spouse who bumps up against my desires), I discover a joy and fulfillment I would not have found on my own.
2) Love is Loving the Person I Expect Someone to Be
This follows closely on the lie of expectations, that I only experience love when someone is everything I expect them to be. A wife gets married, not to a fallen sinner who needs grace, but to an idea of what she thinks this man might be to her. He’s the composite of all the princess movies, romance novels, and stored up dreams. But after the honeymoon is over, she meets another man, the sloppy guy who leaves his underwear on the floor, stays up too late playing video games, and sometimes buys boats without asking her. A husband gets married to a perfectly shaped beautiful goddess, whose every word is inspiring and motivates him to greater heights, who will satisfy his basic needs in every way. Then he gets home from the honeymoon and finds another woman in his home. This girl has occasional mood swings, yells at him for the smallest things like leaving his underwear on the floor, and she often burns the meatloaf. So then the husband and the wife have a choice. They can manipulate their mates into being what they need them to be, spark a lot of useless arguments and friction, and ultimately choose divorce. Or, they can confess their idolatry, realize their own brokeness, and recognize that love is about loving all the parts of those we are supposed to love, even the areas we really don’t like. It’s loving on those days when you don’t want to and loving the person you see before you, not the person who wish or hope they can be.
3) Love is always saying nice, but meaningless things, to each other.
Love is action as we’ve said. Love is a committment. Which means sometimes we must speak the truth in love. This is not to be confused with tearing down, hurting, destroying someone’s soul for the sake of our own selfish gratification (see 1 and 2 above). This is the love that has the courage to tell someone when they are seriously going down a wrong path. The is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated with his disciples, when he repeatedly corrected their wrong ideas. We have this idea of love that it overlooks sin and that just sort of winks at poor life choices. Ahh, but love is not this way. If you truly love someone, especially someone you are married to your called to care for, you will gently, in the right timing, powered by the Spirit of God, communicate the loving truth. And you will receive correction as an act of love from another. In marriage this means you sometimes hear the hard, but true words of a spouse and take them as God’s loving act of discipline on your soul, shaping you into the character of Christ. I will tell you that this is never my first response to rebuke from Angela. But it should be. And often later the Spirit whispers to my soul, “You know, she’s right and if she didn’t love you, she wouldn’t have said what she said.” Then I have to go back to her and say, “I’m sorry. You’re right. Forgive me. I’ll work on that.” I have to say that after ten years, the person I credit with most of my spiritual growth is my wife. Marriage can and should be a discipleship relationship, provided both are committed to following Christ. As one of my favorite authors, Gary Thomas, says ,”God’s desire in marriage isn’t to make us happy, but to make us holy.”
4) Love Isn’t Conditional On Good Times
Bad times actually test your love, especially in marriage. They reveal our hidden idols. So, for instance, when money gets tight, this is usually a trigger for an epic argument. It’s easy to blame the other person. If she didn’t spend all that money on shoes, we’d be able to pay the electric bill. or If he had a better-paying job, we wouldn’t be in this mess. or If only he’d step up and do the budget, it wouldn’t be so hard on me. or, If she would just be happy with what we have. Or perhaps its trouble with a child. Again, we blame: If he’d get off the iPhone and pay attention, our kid wouldn’t act out so much. or If she’d just loosen up, maybe the kid would respond better. or, If he’d get home at a decent hour. or If she’d stop worrying so much about the house.
You see what happens. Hard times bring all of our hidden anxieties and insecurities to the surface. The idolatry of financial security. To be financially secure is a good and worthy and biblical goal. But hard times come and threaten that. So if financial security is your idol, when it’s ripped away, you’ll kick and scream and do damage to your relationship. The idolatry of a well-adjusted family. Again, well-behaving kids in a safe, harmonious house is a good and worthy and biblical goal. But it’s a poor idol. And when this is ripped away for a season, if this is the altar at which we worship, we’ll kick, scream, and do damage to our relationships.
The point of all this is this: we think love would flourish if only our circumstances were better. If we had a bit more money, if the kids wouldn’t misbehave so much. But the truth is that real love, lasting, deep, abiding love grows during times of duress. But this only happens if you put Christ at your center and give up on the small, petty dreams and realize God is active in the midst of your hardship, to bring about His glory. Trials can be a catalyst for deeper marital love. They have for Angela and I. We wouldn’t want to repeat any of the terrible things we’ve faced, but we can both look back and say this cemented our love and commitment to each other.
5) Love Isn’t Found Elsewhere
When you’re in a bad season of marriage, brought on by strife, difficulty, tragedy, it’s temping to think you’d be happier elsewhere. But real love is only found in renewing your commitment to each other in marriage. Love says, “I’m here for the duration. I’m committed. I’m going no where else.” Love is actually living out what we stood and said on our wedding day: “In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, as long as we both shall live.” Love is not saying, “As long as he has a job. As long as we have a house. As long as she our kids our healthy. As long as she doesn’t get sick.”
And here’s the secret: when you are absolutely, 100% committed to each other, it makes it easier to work out your differences. Why? Because you’re forced to. You’ve got no other option. And so each of you must give, bend, sacrifice. You must commit to grow, change, and serve. Now, to be clear: your willpower and commitment to stay alone won’t give you a great marriage. You need gospel of Christ which initiates the cycle of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. But I would argue that the gospel is the very catalyst that keeps you committed, because you realize you are in marriage for way more than your own expectations and self-fulfillment.
Chapter 1: “Rebelling Against the Rebellion”
Humans are in rebellion against God, against the New Jerusalem, but Christians are citizens of the New Jerusalem. We must rebel against the rebellion through subverting their world by showing Christ’s love where they live. Just as Christ subverted the Devil’s kingdom through serving, Christians must serve others to draw people to the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ into a genuine saving relationship with Him.
Chapter 2: “Secrets of the Kingdom”
Christ came preaching the Kingdom, identifying the Word of God as the Seed of the Kingdom. The Word of God produces growth in us and through us as well. Unfortunately, there are weeds that seek to squelch the growth of this seed, but God’s sovereignty will usher in His final and completed Kingdom, nevertheless. Until He comes, we must subvert the communities God has placed us in with the gospel of Christ and acts of mercy. The joy of Christ is found in this subversive activity.
Chapter 3: “Already, but Not Yet”
While living between the time of the King’s departure and arrival, Christians are considered subversive agents of the Kingdom. We have three objectives: 1) We must share Jesus with a broken world. 2) We must alleviate the needs of our neighbors. 3) We must reach our communities, even to the ends of the Earth. As we wait for God’s inaugurated Kingdom to become God’s consummated Kingdom, we must renovate this Kingdom toward the likeness of the coming Kingdom.
Chapter 4: “Becoming Your Kingdom Self”
If we’re going to be useful agents of gospel change, there are three things we must strive to embrace: 1) Belong to Jesus. He possesses the talents, and gives them to us as stewards. 2) Be different. Use the talents you’ve been given with contentment instead of desiring the talents of others. 3) Be faithful. God expects us to be faithful. The God who entrusts is also the God who expects. Furthermore, Kingdom agents of gospel change need to deploy with an awareness of three critical perspectives: 1) At one point, they were like the unbelievers to whom they’re ministering. 2) Unbelievers are self-aware of their own depravity. Christians, though depraved, have been reconciled to God; thus, they are living hope for the hopeless. 3) There are good reasons why unbelievers feel irreconcilable to God. The truth of Christ, however, will set them free. Kingdom agents must tell the truth in love.
Chapter 5: “Uncommonly Good”
Subversive Kingdom agents must compare themselves to Scripture and to Christ, not to the status quo of “good people” as defined by the world. Furthermore, these kingdom agents must be as radical in their holiness as they are in their subversiveness. Our holiness must be more than a persona; it must be our core, who we are when no one is watching. It’s not something we do on our own—trying harder to be a good person. Our holiness’ source and expression is found in the finished work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through Him we can be uncommonly good, and point a lost and dying world to Him for salvation.
Chapter 6: “Rules of Engagement”
Another important step in constructing our Kingdom selves is relationships. Jesus tells us to respond to mistreatment in a manner that is counter-cultural: 1) Turn the other cheek. This doesn’t mean Christians should never defend themselves. Striking someone on the cheek was an insult in Jesus’ time. We need to learn to diffuse insults, to diffuse insulting situations, instead of escalating them. 2) Give what’s asked for . . . and more. We must be willing to give more if it reconciles us to others. 3) Walk a little father. We should be willing to place the needs of others above our own needs. 4) Show generosity. Christ cared for the poor, so we should care for the poor as well. Furthermore, Christ loves His enemies and commands us to do the same.
Chapter 7: “Idol Elimination”
We either worship God or some other form of ourselves. If Christians are to be subversive agents of the Kingdom, then our idols must be destroyed. We can neither tolerate our own idols nor the idols of others. Whether these idols are sinful in and of themselves or we’re worshiping the blessings of God in place of Him, the result is the same: embracing the rebellion instead of rebelling against the rebellion. In order to choke out the idols, the answer is to fill our hearts with Jesus. As we yield ourselves wholeheartedly to God in worship, our idols will fall away. The overflowing result will be the subversion of the various idols present in our communities as we unite with other Christians as an army of the Kingdom.
Chapter 8: “The King’s Mission”
The church must be on mission for God’s glory. The goal of Christianity is God’s glory. The local church is God’s plan to see that the nations glorify God as well. We display God’s glory to the nations through subversion. God’s plan for overthrowing the Devil’s kingdom is for the church to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in both word and deed.
Chapter 9: “A Sign of Things to Come”
The church’s Kingdom subversion is not merely meant to be encompassed in an occasional gospel presentation and local church ministries. Gospel subversion is a way of life, a 24/7 endeavor. As the world observes God’s Kingdom being displayed in the local church, they see a preview of God’s coming Kingdom. This is extremely attractive! The danger, however, in being attractive is portraying that churches are peddlers of Christian goods and services: good music, funny preaching, children’s programs, etc. On the contrary, the local church is a cell of subversion and transformation. We’re not just a light in the darkness or a candle in the wind, we’re blinding lights in the deepest darkness. Through how we live, we display to a watching world concerning our citizenship of the New Jerusalem.
Chapter 10: “Instrumentality”
God wants His people to be instruments of subversion in His hand. We are not just like a body, we are the body of Christ, united in a kingdom adventure. This adventure is one of disciple-making, since as disciples go out to subvert their communities, they will transform them through further disciple-making. Changes may not occur overnight, and fruit may be scarce, but we can labor with absolute certainty that Christ is working wisely and skillfully to make all things right in the end, according to His good pleasure. “He calls. We go. We declare Him. We display Him.”
Jesus is Lord, and this changes everything. Christian must live for this Lord: 1) We must live in rebellion against the rebellion. The world is in rebellion against God, and we’re in rebellion against the world. 2) We must deconstruct our false view of the kingdom. The Kingdom is more than sitting in a church pew week after week. No more! We must stand and subversively fight. 3) We live as agents and ambassadors of God’s kingdom in small, subversive ways. The point is that we’re involved in subversion, and this begins with the opportunities present in our daily lives, among our neighbors, co-workers, etc. 4) We show and share the love of Christ. These are not two-sides of the same coin, but parts of one mission. 5) We live our lives in a manner directed by (and empowered by) our King. Our ethics are other than the world’s, and must be lived out. 6) We wait for this lost, broken world to be completely fixed and reconciled to God. Even through our best efforts, the Kingdom will not be restored until Christ returns. We subvert, waiting in hope for Christ’s return.
Subversive Kingdom is convicting, in that it points hearers to a genuine Christianity that is all-encompassing. In many ways, evangelical Christianity has two-extremes: we are the church gathered or we are the church scattered. Stetzer says “Yes” to both! He tries to mediate these two extremes by suggesting we are to be subversive Kingdom agents twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. We must seek to subvert the Devil’s kingdom in whatever area of culture we exist, even unto the ends of the Earth. This subversion takes place through the sharing of the gospel and through showing others how we’ve been changed by the gospel. In other words, Christians rebel against this world’s rebellion against God by living like Jesus lived, and taking His name to the ends of the earth.
Some of the illustrations used would have served the author’s specific point(s) better, had they been a one-to-one illustration. For example, after previously arguing the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t prevent Christians from protecting themselves or others, Stetzer uses an illustration of a local church who did not seek the prosecution or arrest of a thief as an example of obedience to Christ’s command, “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (124-127; Matt. 5:40). Granted, this illustration may be an optional example of obedience to this command, but this doesn’t mean if this church chose justice they would have been disobedient to this command. The government exists for administering justice in the “not yet” according to Romans 13:1-7. Also, the thief wasn’t this church’s only neighbor. What about past victims or other potential victims?
Furthermore, I was admittedly uncomfortable the first half of the book due to Stetzer placing sharing the gospel and acts of mercy virtually side-by-side concerning importance. Granted, Stetzer does say God’s Kingdom is a spiritual one (pg.35), but he makes statements about Jesus serving others as if His service was side-by-side or equal to His identification as God the Son, the Messiah, the Savior of sinners. There were times when Jesus didn’t help the poor, sick, hurting, etc. For example, at the pool of Bethesda, out of a multitude of hurting people, Jesus only helped one, even though He had the power and ability to help all of them (John 5:1-12). He must have had a concern that was greater than helping the poor. I’m also reminded of the time Jesus told the disciples they always have the poor with them, but they don’t always have Him (John 12:8). This was said in response to one of them questioning Mary’s act of love in pouring expensive perfume on His feet. Jesus’ work and identification as God the Son, the Messiah, was more important than feeding the poor. The church must follow suit. Our identification of Jesus as God the Son, the only Answer for the Sin problem, is more important than feeding the poor. The best case for this argument is in how the disciples interpreted Jesus’ life example in the rest of Scripture. They didn’t always show acts of kindness and acts of mercy as they preached the gospel, but they always preached the gospel. The two don’t always go hand in hand.
To Stetzer’s credit, he rejects the social gospel and identifies the church’s primary responsibility near the end of the book by arguing, “the kingdom of God will not arise from the social advances of efforts such as these. Jesus will finalize His kingdom whenever he deems the time eternally appropriate, and our chief job in this hour as instruments of his grace is to see that people are saved and disciples are made” (215). However, on pages 57-58 Stetzer argues that alleviating the needs of others is almost inseparable from sharing the gospel. I think he places sharing the gospel and meeting people’s physical needs too close together. If Christ’s Kingdom is primarily a spiritual one, then the primary task of the church is a spiritual one as well: sharing the message of the gospel. We cannot “display the gospel” to others, although we can display the transforming results of the gospel. Yes, Displaying the results of the gospel is important, but it is secondary. The gospel is primarily a message, not a way of life. I think the two should be separated and distinguished more than Stetzer has in this work.
Finally, I gladly recommend this book to all readers. Go buy it now! Stetzer is correct; we evangelical Christians have grown too accustomed to our churchly comforts. We must go outside the walls of our local churches, taking the name of Jesus with us as we go, in both Word of deed, albeit with the Word being primary! Are you ready to be a subversive soldier of the Kingdom? If you’re a Christian, you’re already enlisted! The question is if you’re an obedient solder or a disobedient one. This book will encourage you to bleed and suffer for the sake of your neighbor (the world), just as Christ suffered and bled for His. As we live lives that have been transformed by the gospel, and we share this transforming gospel with others, Christ will subvert through saving the lost!
Biblical Christianity is a living organism that breathes life into the areas where it’s effects are felt. When Biblical Christianity is taught souls are converted, sin is exposed and people who were held in bondage to darkness are brought into the light of God’s presence. When this occurs Churches are birthed and communities are changed as the Word of God is proclaimed and entire societies once bound by sin are changed by God’s grace. While many Western commentators have declared that Christianity is in decline and that it must modernize its beliefs or risk being abandoned by its followers or, even worse, becoming irrelevant altogether; Professor [Philip] Jenkins contends that just the opposite is true: Christianity is on the rise again and leading to a very different religion that barely resembles the Western perception of it. It is a variation of Christianity that most Westerners are not accustomed to seeing.
It was European expansion and conquest in modern times that brought Christianity back to most of the continent of Africa, beginning with the explorers of the 15th century who sailed down the western coast in an attempt to reach the Orient. Today African Christianity coexists to varying degrees with Islam. The first Christian missionaries came from the Anglican Church Missionary Society and arrived in Buganda in 1877. Roman Catholic priests from the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers), a French religious order, arrived two years later. Catholic and Protestant missions competed for converts in southern Uganda and became embroiled in local politics. Christianity grew quickly in Uganda in the nineteenth century by both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. This was due in large part because the missionaries used the native culture to raise up indigenous leaders to lead the churches.
Nearly 200 years after the first wave of missionaries arrived in Africa, Christianity is growing faster here than anywhere else in the world. There are more than 390 million Christians in sub- Saharan Africa today, up from 117 million in 1970, a trend due mostly to evangelism, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in South Hamilton, Mass. There’s a lot in Africans’ circumstances that makes Christianity really resonate with them,” said Jonathan Bonk, the editor of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research in New Haven, Conn. “It’s a faith of hope for poor people.”
“Christianity is at its lowest ebb in Germany,” says Fritz Stenger, who teaches at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi. “In Africa it is on the march.” Stenger has lived on the continent for 30 years. He has already resided in Ethiopia and Zambia, and has lived in Kenya for three years now. And in each country he has made the same discovery: “The incidence of faith increases in direct proportion to the level of poverty. The permanent threat of war, sickness, criminality and political corruption means that the people seek consolation in the church. “No one goes to a political party meeting, but the churches are packed,” says Stenger.
Today, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans are more typical representatives of Christianity than Americans or Europeans. What might it mean for the future of Christianity that its center of gravity continues to move south and east? Three key factors bear watching: (1) whether Southern Christians will challenge Northern Christianity’s 1,000-year dominance in theology and ecclesiology by producing their own reflections and practices, hearkening back to the earliest Christian centuries when they were in the majority; (2) whether the dominant languages of Christianity will continue to shift south (already by 1980, Spanish was the leading language of church membership in the world, and Chinese, Hindi, and Swahili are increasingly important languages of Christianity); and (3) whether the closer geographic proximity between Christians and Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists will on balance result in greater conflict or dialogue. With all three factors, the central question remains: “How well will the new global Christianity navigate its increasingly diverse composition and southern majority?”
Professor Jenkins notes that the character of Global South Christianity is much more “conservative” than its Western counterparts in terms of belief in the supernatural and in the authority of the Bible. At the same time, the Church is more “radical” in being a Spirit movement and a people-movement more than an institutional. I agree with Philip Jenkins that social and religious trends in the Global South are more encouraging than many Christians in the West might have thought. But I would warn against any sense of inevitability about the Next Christendom. There is a battle being fought out here, and we need the prayers, the interest and the support of brothers and sisters in the stable and affluent North. In particular, I am pleased to announce the formation of the Global South Institute for Mission, Leadership and Public Policy at Uganda Christian University, which will be officially launched in mid-2003. It is our hope that this Institute will provide a venue for Christian leaders of Church and society to meet, consult and prepare for their role in the development of the African continent. In particular, the Global South Institute will feature an Anglican Identity and Mission track, which will assist Anglicans from Africa to plot their own course in the new millennium.
Ugandan evangelicals have forged close ties with the powerful evangelical movement in the United States. Backed by American contributions, Ugandan churches play a growing humanitarian role, building schools, health clinics and orphanages, including in the impoverished northern half of the country, which has been wracked by civil war for the past two decades. In the 1990s, Uganda had one of the world’s highest rates of HIV infection, about 15 percent. Churches, backed by the government, launched an innovative program to educate Ugandans about the disease. By 2002 the HIV rate was down to 6 percent. Evangelicals helped shape Uganda’s controversial, U.S.-backed anti-AIDS strategy, which emphasizes abstinence over condom use. As a result, Uganda is one of the biggest recipients of money under President Bush’s global AIDS-relief program — $239 million in the past two years — which earmarks money for abstinence programs. There’s a definite sense that the movement has grown in Uganda,” said Martin Ssempa, the 38-year-old pastor of Makerere Community Church, on the campus of Makerere University. Now, thanks largely to Ssempa’s 8-year-old church, Uganda’s leading university has become a hotbed of Christianity, with more than 50 established prayer groups. My direction is to raise leaders for Christianity,” Ssempa said, “and the best leaders are found on college campuses. The aggressive push by evangelists such as Ssempa to recruit believers doesn’t sit well with leaders of the country’s other major religions — chiefly Islam, which claimed 12 percent of the population in a 2002 census.
Christianity in Uganda is growing not only in numbers but in influence throughout Africa and the world. The characteristic of Ugandan Christianity are a high view of Scripture, Jesus and an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Acts the early Christians were driven by a model of ministry which emphasized the Word and the Spirit. For example in Acts 2 Peter preached and three thousand people were saved. It was not Peter who saved those people but the Holy Spirit used Peter’s preaching to prick the heart of his hearers, and lead them to repentance. It is such preaching that God uses even in this day and age. When the Word of God is honored with integrity God will use the preacher to bring revival to any nation of people.
When the Word of God is preached with clarity and boldness then it will pierce the dark cloud of man’s sin which results in revival both individually and corporately. Anyone who has served as a missionary can appreciate the efforts by local and international ministries to reach out to fellow brothers and sisters in foreign lands. The Lord is at work in Uganda raising up leaders for the fame of Jesus and for the usefulness of His kingdom. The Body of Christ should pray for the Churches in Uganda that they will continue to ground themselves in the Word of God and the mission of Jesus. The American Church has not learned the lesson of falling away from its first love, unlike the in Ugandan counterparts which have not had to learn the lesson of moral failures and corruption that churches in America have today. Christianity is growing in Uganda because the Churches there keep to the first love and are proactively on the mission of Jesus.
Hill, Jonathan, History of Christian Thought. Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.
Johnson, Todd M, “Christianity in Global Context: Trends and Statistics”, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.
Noll, Stephen. “Global South Christendom: Is it Inevitable?”, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.
Shashank Bengali Knight Ridder Newspapers “Uganda is leading Africa’s boom in Christianity“. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). . FindArticles.com. 11 Dec. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060326/ai_n16174855
Thielke, Thilo. “The Growing Continent of Christians: Part 2: Part Two: Will Pentecostals win out in Africa?”, 4 April 2005, accessed 1 December 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,351292-2,00.html
 Jonathan Hill, History of Christian Thought. Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, 324-325.
 Shashank Bengali Knight Ridder Newspapers “Uganda is leading Africa’s boom in Christianity“. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). . FindArticles.com. 11 Dec. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060326/ai_n16174855
 Thilo Thielke. “The Growing Continent of Christians: Part 2: Part Two: Will Pentecostals win out in Africa?”, 4 April 2005, accessed 1 December 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,351292-2,00.html
 Todd M Johnson. “Christianity in Global Context: Trends and Statistics”, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.
 Stephen Noll. “Global South Christendom: Is it Inevitable?”, 23 October 2008, accessed 1 December 2008. http://pewforum.org/events/051805/global-christianity.pdf.
 Shashank Bengali Knight Ridder Newspapers “Uganda is leading Africa’s boom in Christianity“. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). . FindArticles.com. 11 Dec. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060326/ai_n16174855
The twentieth century was a time of great flux and anxiety in Europe as the supremacy of Christianity in Europe was being challenged by the fronts of biblical criticism, and evolution. When people raise the question of the decline of Christianity among nations or a people group one question that normally arises is, “How is this occurring?” The number one reason this occurs is the local church devalues the role of the Bible. This leads to an unhealthy church that doesn’t reach its surrounding area with the Gospel. Understanding, “What is Truth?” is of great importance for by understanding Truth as coming from God’s Word lays the foundation for understanding justice, morality, ethics, and religion.
Dr. Harold J. Berman, professor of law at Harvard University wrote The Interaction of Law and Religion in which he discusses how Western culture has had a massive loss of confidence in law and religion. This has caused a double loss of confidence and a radical separation between the two. Berman concludes that you cannot have workable rules for behavior without religion, because only religion provides an absolute base on which morality and law can be based. He fears that western society is doomed to relativism in law because of the loss of an absolute.
How can moral principles be grounded and social organizations legitimized in the absence of a religiously based culture? Cultures that break away from the idea of an authoritative religion, and even from the concept of God break away from the possibility of absolute truth. The result is that the only remaining resources are existential relativism a slippery, unstable, and every-changing base on which no authoritative system of law or morals can be built. Religonless law can never command authority.
Rationalism of the Enlightenment and idealistic philosophy of the Romanitc era were thus the parents of a criticism that tries to destroy the supernatural nature of the Bible as a revelation that makes the Bible the record of subjective evolution of religion in human consciousness. Higher or historical and literary, criticism has come to be associated with the destructive views of liberalism and is the careful study of the historical background of each book of the Bible; and lower, or textual criticism is the study of the text of the Bible in an attempt to ascertain whether the text that we have is one that came from the hands of the writers. Lower criticism has result in the granting to the text of the Bible a high degree of accuracy so that we can be sure that we have the writings of the original authors of the Bible. Thus no doctrine or ethical teaching of Scripture can be called into question by the most radical criticism. It has been radical higher criticism rather than lower criticism that has destroyed the faith of many persons in the divine revelation in the Bible.
Higher criticism was popularized by Jean Astruct who divided the book of Genesis into two parts. Johann G Eichorn laid down the dictum that the Bible was to be read as a human book and tested by human means. Karl Graf and Julius Wellhausen developed an elaborate system known as the Graf-Wellhausen theory which stated that sections in which the name Jehovah is used constitute the early document, another part by another author is known as E, still another in Deuteronomy as D, and P. In this fashion the unity of the Pentateuch and its Mosaic authorship are denied. Hermann S Reismarus denied the possibility of biblical miracles and advanced that the New Testament writers were frauds. Gotthold Lessing argued that the Scriptures served man as a guide during the primitive phase of his religious development but that reason and duty were sufficient guides in more advanced state of religion. Ferdinand Baur argued that the early church had emphasized the law and Messiah. In the twentieth century men like David Strauss denied both the miracles and integrity of the New Testament as well as the deity of Christ, whom he saw as a man who thought He was the Messiah.
Charles Darwin wrote Origin of Species in 1859. What was new about his theory was his powerful and persuasive explanation of how the process of evolution works the theory of “natural selection.” He pointed out that creatures are similar to their parents but not identical; there is apparently random minor variations in each generation. And he argued that those individuals that happen to be well suited to their environment will survive, prosper and give birth to new individuals sharing their characteristics, while those less suited will die out. So any new characteristic with which an individual is born is likely to be passed on if it is useful. In this way species evolve and develop in a process that is not random, or determined by God, but follows natural laws. At another level, the theory of evolution contradicted fundamental Christian notions about humanity and sin. In 1871 he expanded on his ideas in the Descent of Man, in which he argued that human beings evolved naturally from lower creatures. So not only does life itself follow natural laws but the human mind and soul are not some supernatural element breathed into the body by God. They evolved from nothing. Even more fundamentally, however, Darwin’s theories left a shrinking place for God. In the Enlightenment scientists had described a world that functioned according to laws laid down by God: God had set everything up and then left it to its own devices. This was deism. But now it seemed that the world in its present state was not directly created by God.
The theory of evolution denied the direct creation of man by God and the greatest damage came from the application of that theory to the development of religion. God and the Bible were looked upon as the evolutionary products of man’s religious consciousness, and the books of the Bible were dated accordingly. The biblical eschatology in which perfection would come into this world only by the direct intervention of God through the return of Christ, was replaced by the evolutionary view of a world that was being increasingly improved on by human effort. Because man was not guilty through original sin there was no need of Christ as Savior. Evolution was also used to justify the idea of race superiority because the idea seemed to fit in with Darwin’s concept of the survival of the fittest. It has also been used to justify having no absolute foundation or norm for ethics. Good conduct is merely those actions deemed suitable by each generation for the proper conduct of society. The doctrine of evolution has also been used to glorify war as the survival of the fittest. All these conclusions have been reached by the application of a biological theory to other fields through an unwarranted use of the argument from analogy.
Germany during Hitler’s reign illustrates the lengths to which people will go when they deny God’s revelation in the Bible, and when they replace revelation with reason and science as the authority for thought and action.
In Europe the Roman Catholic Church emerged from World War I with an enhanced prestige and vigor that carried it through the troubled period when much of mankind was despairingly hoping that there would be an introduction to permanent peace but which proved to be a prelude to an even more gigantic war. During and after World War I Benedict XV again and again addressed the world calling to its attention principles for establishing peace and urging the belligerents to compose their differences. He used the facilities of his church to alleviate the sufferings from the war through negotiating the exchange of prisoners and civilians in occupied countries, aiding the sick, furthering the repatriation of prisoners of war and the correspondence of prisoners with their families, and promoting the relief of devastated areas.
The upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century were felt most strongly in Europe. That continent had been the cradle of much of the optimistic philosophy and theology of the nineteenth century. It had dreamt that under its leadership humankind would see a new day. It had convinced itself that its colonial ventures were a vast altruistic enterprise for the good of the world. European Protestantism had been far more involved in this illusion than its Catholic counterpart, for Catholicism during the nineteenth century had reacted to this modern world with wholesale condemnation, while Protestant liberalism had practically capitulated before the new age. Therefore when the two world wars and the events surrounding them gave the lie to the dreams of the nineteenth century, Protestant liberalism was shaken to its very foundation. During the nineteenth century, partially as a result of the failure of Catholicism to respond creatively to the challenges of the modern world, skepticism and secularism had become common in France. In the twentieth century, partially as a result of the failure of Liberalism and its optimistic hopes, those areas where Protestantism had been traditionally strong-Germany, Scandinavia, and Great Britain also witnessed a decided increase in skepticism and secularism. By the middle of the century, it was clear that northern Europe was no longer a stronghold of Protestantism and that other areas of the world had taken the position of leadership in Protestantism that had once belonged to it.
Protestantism was sorely lacking in a theology that could help it understand the events of the times, and respond to them. Liberalism with its optimistic view of human nature and capabilities had no word for the situation. During the previous century, German liberal scholarship had depicted Luther as both the forerunner of liberalism and the embodiment of the German soul. Now other scholars, first in Scandinavia and also in Germany, took a second look at Luther’s theology, and discovered there was much that was not in agreement with the interpretations of the previous century.
Bill Bennett, director of communications for Greater Europe Mission commented in the Christian Post that, “The church to Europeans is seen as an economic and political power representing the religion of the rich world. Europeans have a more formal, ritualistic view of Christianity partially because in its history, a person’s landlord decided whether he would be Catholic or Protestant rather than any personal conviction.”
By understanding the primary objective of missions we can begin to prescribe the change that is necessary to the missionary enterprise in Europe. Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory. Missions begins and ends in worship. Breaking the code requires a belief that there is a code to be broken. Breaking the code means that we have to recognize that there are cultural barriers (in addition to spiritual ones) that blind people from understanding the gospel. Our task is to find the right way to break through those cultural barriers while addressing the spiritual and theological ones a well.
The issue of contextualization focuses on the methods used to reach people for the Gospel while remaining faithful to the Word of God. Before the Apostle Paul began preaching to the Athenians in Acts 17 he went around looking for a starting point from which to preach the Gospel to them. What he found was they were worshipping an unknown god.
When going into a culture to minister to people understanding the values and beliefs of the culture in order to effectively communicate the Gospel to them is vital. This highlights the fact that all people need the message spoken in a way they understand while staying faithful to the text of Scripture. The only way for a culture to be reached is to raise up church leaders who are grounded in the Scriptures but who will love the culture by understanding its values but lovingly confront the culture with the Word of God. By doing this missions will be focused on challenging the cultural values of the people while being faithful to the Word of God. In this way the European people can be faithfully reached for the Gospel and become worshipers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gonzalez, Justo L, The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day, no. 2 (New York: HarperCollins, 1985).
Hill, Jonathan, History of Christian Thought. Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.
LaTourette, Kenneth Scott, A History of Christianity Reformation to Present, no. 2 (Peabody: Prince Press, 2000).
Piper, John, Let The Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 17.
Stetzer, Ed & Putman, David, Breaking the missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 4.
Vu, Michelle. “U.S. Christians Ignorant of Europe’s Spiritual State”, 8 April 2007, accessed 22 November 2008. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070408/u-s-christians-ignorant-of-europe-s-spiritual-state-says-mission-group-spokesman.htm
Here is last guest post in my series on Inerrancy over at New Leaf Press. Here is the first paragraph of the post:
At present some Christians are focusing more on what they think about the Bible rather than what the Bible says about Adam being a historical person. If Adam isn’t a historical person then we will have issues with our understanding of sin, salvation, the Church, and all facets of ministry. Theology has consequences and denying inerrancy whether explicitly or implicitly is one of those issues that while not explicitly a Gospel issue will have devastating effects on our understanding and implementation of the Gospel into every area of our lives and or ministries.
To read the read of the post click here: http://nlpgblogs.com/2012/09/19/outreach-does-the-inerrancy-of-the-bible-matter-evangelistically/
Ministry is hard but necessary work. The Christian lives with the daily tension of being in the world while not being of the world as they are adopted by a King in Jesus whose kingdom is never ending. To help equip the saints for the work of ministry, Pastors are charged with feeding the flock through the preaching of the Word, giving pastoral care and overseeing the flock of God. Young Pastors especially need guidance and mentors to help navigate the many difficult situations that ministry brings not to mention guidance on how to navigate their own lives.
One of the more encouraging themes I’ve noticed in recent books coming out is to help the Pastor with his own spiritual growth. This theme continues in the helpful new book Pastoring the Pastor Emails of a Journey through Ministry by Tim Cooper and Kelvin Gardiner. This book chronicles the journey of Daniel Donford into ministry and his ministry as a Pastor. Daniel as a new pastor is excited filled with bright dreams and a big future for his new church. Discouragement lies just around the corner as opposition and obstacles lay ahead of him threatening to end his journey into pastoral ministry before it has even begun. Thankfully Dan has his Uncle Eldon: a wise, experienced firm, but understanding Pastor. Eldon as an experienced pastor helps Dan to navigate through his trials and disasters. The wisdom Eldon offers through a series of emails help Dan to see himself as he really is, in need of the mercy of God and helps Dan transform into a mature, selfless, loving pastor God wants him to be.
Pastoring the Pastor is a book I whole heartedly recommend. This heart-warming and at times heart-wrenching story of the ups and downs of ministry gives not only a realistic but also all kinds of practical and godly wisdom that will help pastors (and those they shepherd) toward understanding and an appreciation of what really matters as we serve Christ and His people. This would be a good book for the Bible College, or seminary student to read who is thinking and praying hard about entering pastoral ministry as this book will help these students to have realistic expectations about pastoral ministry. This book will help young Pastors also who are facing the same struggles Daniel is facing but with wisdom. Either way this book will help seminary students and young Pastors to begin to learn how to deal with opposition and obstacles in life and ministry.
Author: Tim Cooper and Kelvin Gardiner
Publisher: Christian Focus (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Christian Focus book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 9/16-9/22/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Sunday 9/16- Manifest Thy Healing Power a quote shared by Aaron Armstrong http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/16/manifest-thy-healing-power/
Monday 9/17- Empty Words and Empty Hearts by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/17/empty-words-and-empty-hearts/
Tuesday 9/18- What Pastoring Taught Me About Spiritual Growth by Dan Darling http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/18/what-pastoring-taught-me-about-spiritual-growth/
Wed 9/19- The role of discernment in spiritual growth by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/19/the-role-of-discernment-in-spiritual-growth/
Thursday 9/20- Developing a doctrinal framework for discernment by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/20/developing-a-doctrinal-framework-for-discernment/
Friday 9/21- Developing a personal plan for discernment by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/21/developing-a-personal-plan-for-discernment/
Saturday 9/22- Book Review The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/09/22/book-review-the-gospel-according-to-isaiah-53/
The past decade has seen several attacks from the emerging church, liberals and others on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. During this time there has also been a great increase of interest in biblical theology that is what the Bible teaches about itself and the central place of Christ in the Scriptures. In The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 Encountering The Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology Edited by Darrel L. Bock and Mitch Glaser seek to set forth the theology of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 by answering a number of important questions such as, “What is a Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53?, “What is a Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53?”, “How did the New Testament writers understand Isaiah 53?”, How should forgiveness and salvation be understood in Isaiah 53?”, “How can Isaiah 53 be used in Jewish evangelism?” and finally “How do we preach Isaiah 53?”
This book is written by some of the top evangelical scholars and has a evangelistic and apologetic focus to help Jews and Gentiles to understand Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 is arguably the most powerful biblical tool for Jewish evangelism as it answers many of the issues Jewish people might have regarding Jesus being the promised Messiah. By using Isaiah 53 the Church can demonstrate that the message is Jewish in character because a Jewish prophet wrote the chapter(Isaiah 53) and it is included in the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures.
One of the most significant contributions of this book is the chapter on Jewish evangelism. Isaiah 53 is the clearest, if not the only, Old Testament prophetic passage that describes both the death and resurrection of the Messiah and links it with atonement for sin. Isaiah 53 is one of the great building blocks of our faith in the person and work of the Messiah. Isaiah 53 should be cherished by every individual, whether Jew or Gentile, who has received forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life by receiving Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
Dr. Glaser argues that “Isaiah 53 can be powerful and persuasively used in Jewish evangelism. At this time, many Christians are not familiar with the passage and could not easily explain the passage and its prophetic important to their Jewish friends. This is true in part because most believers do not study the chapter for themselves and do not know what Jewish people think about the passage. However, this book is written to help believers who desperately desire to reach their Jewish friends and family for Jesus in this holy endeavor” (250).
This book will help every Christian to understand the issues surrounding Isaiah 53, how to engage Jews in evangelism and how to apply the precious truth of Isaiah 53 to our lives today. I recommend you read this book to learn how to engage Jews better with the Gospel.
Authors: Edited by Darrell L. bock and Mitch Glaser
Publisher: Kregel (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Kregel book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
As a lifelong Christian, I’ve always known the importance of spiritual growth. But when I became a pastor, suddenly my ideas about this were bigger than simply what was going on in my life. As an undershepherd of God’s people, now the spiritual growth of other people is my concern. You could argue that this should have been my concern all along, since every follower of Jesus is tasked with discipleship. But as a pastor, this is a primary job description.
What surprised me is how much I learned about what growth actually looks like. Here are five ways in which pastoring shaped my views:
1) Everybody doesn’t grow like I grow. Subconsciously, we use our own lives as the template for growth and maturity. I do this because I’m the person I know the most. But I’ve learned that my growth process is unique to me and I shouldn’t force that onto another follower of Christ. God designed each of us uniquely with differing circumstances, gift mixes, talents, and missions. There are basic elements of spirituality that apply to all believers, but they unfold and look different on different people. As a pastor, I can frustrate someone’s walk with God by continually making them try to do like me when their real model should be Christ. Ultimately I should want my people to become the people God wants them to be rather than who I, in my fallen imagination, desire them to be. (By the way, this is essential in parenting.)
2) I can’t actually produce spiritual growth in anyone, including myself. There is a role for a pastor to encourage, provoke, push, love, pray, and teach his people. There is a role for this for every follower of Christ. But the role of a Christian is simply that: to influence. Only the Holy Spirit can produce growth in someone. I can’t do that. I can’t even make myself grow. There is a reason Galatians 5:22 says that the characteristics like love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, etc are “fruits of the Spirit.” The point is that the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and changes a person’s heart. That’s work I can’t do. What I can do is influence, love, encourage, confront, and pray. I can also get in the way of the Spirit. I can frustrate someone because they are not growing according to my timetable or my template for them. I have found that often the best tool I have in “getting someone to change,” is simple prayer. I’ve seen more growth in people when I’ve closed my mouth, stop stressing, and just got on my knees.
3) There are seasons of growth for every person. There are seasons of planting, seasons of tilling the ground, seasons of watering, and seasons of harvest in a person’s soul. There are years of bountiful growth and there are years of famine. Don’t you see this in your own life? I do. This was especially illuminated for my by Mark Buchanan’s excellent book, Spiritual Rhythm. It’s a worthy read if only to make you more aware of the rhythms of spiritual growth. This means that as a pastor, I should know in what season of a person’s life to push and what season to wait for the hard to work fully take root in the soil. And, I must trust the Lord of the Harvest, that his timing is much better than my rushed impatience. Interestingly, I’ve found I’m much more impatient with other’s spiritual growth than mine. All this impatience has down is stunt other’s progression. I don’t want to do that.
4) Spiritual maturity is manifested in ways that are not always visible. Because we are an impatient people, we often create man-made lists for what spiritual growth looks like. The lists look different from church to church or denomination to denomination. It could be the type of haircut or the language someone uses or the types of media they consume. But real fruit, the Scripture says, is internal. Things that can’t be developed in a weekend or at the barber shop. Traits like love, joy, gentleness, goodness, peace, temperance, etc. The best things for us to do as pastors and influencers and disciple-makers is to help someone cultivate their inner life with Christ, not measure someone’s progress by external, extra-biblical checklists.
5) Sometimes I’m not the best person to nurture someone’s spiritual growth. This can be a matter of pride. For me, I wanted to be the one that new Christian pointed to as the key to their spiritual growth. I wanted to have a leading role in the story. But God has the leading role, not me. He’s much better at that role than I am. So my job as pastor is to let go of myself and serve in any way I can. Sometimes that’s active discipleship. Other times I need to point them to a book that can profoundly shape them. Or it could be as simple as pointing them to another person much more suited to their spiritual needs. In other words, I have to admit that there may be a better person or resource for their spiritual growth than me. When I do this, I allow God to do His work and I get out of the way.