Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolute Action

In the swarm of a million possible self-help New Year’s resolutions I have tried to boil things down to just one that will make a difference in this world. A 20 minute extended baptism – also known as drowning – would have sent me straight to heaven and solved many of life’s problems, but there must be a reason that God wanted me to hang around this earth a few more years. The reason to stay is not to eat less, lose weight, make more, acquire more stuff, run faster, live longer, etc.

The goal is to reach people. My last post was a link to a Youtube video about why we should witness, and it was presented by an atheist. Since then I have continued our outreach activities but with a renewed urgency because I cannot escape the seriousness of Jesus’ command to make disciples.

I am a very shy person when it comes to witnessing, and that is because I don’t really like confrontation. However, this year I am resolute about one thing. I will confront many with whom I have been building friendships. I will do this in love, and some if not all will initially be offended or think I am a nut. There is no way around this though. I will just have to do it. If I don’t do this certain people might never be saved, but if I do it some and maybe many will be saved.

In order to accomplish this one thing I will also have to eat less, lose weight, make more, give more, have more strength, pray more, study God’s word more, be a better husband and dad, etc. This is a life built around a purpose, and that purpose is the advancement of God’s kingdom.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.

Prov 11:30

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Rebuke from the Lost

I am rarely as moved as I was when I listened to the Youtube link on Ed Stetzer’s blog site. It is a video clip from Penn who is one half of the magic-comedy duo Penn & Teller.

Penn is a rather strong atheist to say the least, but he has some rather surprising things to say about the heart of an evangelist. He actually appreciates it, and the words of an atheist in this case contain much valuable instruction.

In other news President-elect Obama has selected Rick Warren to lead the convocation at his inauguration. Liberals are shocked, and I think a few conservatives are as well. Why would Obama make such a move? Is it simply political? I think one reason is that honor begets honor. Rick held a very balanced civil forum between the two candidates at his church, so Obama might have just picked him for being a nice Christian.

See what Penn has to say about nice Christians in Ed’s Post: Prophetic Words from Penn

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Applied Theology

Some things in life are both funny and convey wisdom at the same time, and by nature they are usually the best examples to help us remember simple truths. One regularly scheduled event in my college days was the Friday colloquium where different scientists would present to the department a lecture about their research.

I could only understand a fraction of what was being said, but we never forgot the beginning. It was a running joke that the difference between a theoretical scientist and an applied scientist is that the applied scientist could turn on the overhead projector. Everyday in a laboratory the applied scientist was testing theories by tinkering with many stubborn machines that often had a mind of their own. A projector was easy to conquer.

The theoretical guy rarely came out of the office where he worked with pen, paper & computer. It was all math, and the secrets of the universe were waiting behind every equation - Greek I might add - for this guy.

Well, up steped the professor while fumbling pieces of paper and transparencies as the audience awaited the revelation of one particular cosmic truth. "Can this guy find the 'on' switch?" After a few walking orbits around this complex optical device – the projector – an applied scientist stepped up to help the theoretical guy find the switch while the rest of us chuckled.

This story can also describe the oftentimes gap between the accumulation of theological knowledge and the application of this knowledge. I personally love the study of theology, but these days I focus on the application of truth first in my own life, then I try to help others with their walk with God and finally I try to reach others.

In the classic movie
Glory with Mathew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington there is a scene where one young soldier is showing his skill as a marksman at target practice. The colonel notices this skill and steps up to ask him about where he learned it to which the soldier replies, “Hunting squirrel.” The colonel then pulls a revolver and begins to fire it near the soldier’s head while yelling at him to reload and fire.

The young man’s skill fails him as the simulated stress of battle adds a variable that he had not yet anticipated. In battle you have to shoot well while someone is shooting at you. In applied ministry we have an adversary and a world that does not particularly want to be taken for Jesus, and there are many unanticipated trials that test what we think we really know.

God’s word contains all that we need for the goal of personal growth and kingdom advancement, but even though serious study and academics are involved the fullness of God’s truth is only realized and acquired as we advance, fight and experince God's truth.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16,17

Monday, December 8, 2008

Doobie Brothers & Evangelism

One of the most puzzling questions in my mind has always been, “Where did the attractional model of evangelism come from?” It you are not familiar with this it basically means that a particular church has a particular worship or cultural expression that makes non Christians get up early Sunday morning, drop what they are doing and go to church.

As for me I have always wanted to put nails on the road in front of the church and then offer free tire repair as an attractional method. However, there may be a few ethical problems with this approach.

Of course I am all for churches trying to remove those things that make it unnecessarily unattractive such as archaic styles, but is it reasonable or even biblical to expect that the main method of evangelism is to get people to church?

When I was a new Christian there was a great expectation and hope that if we as a church were to return to our origins as found in the Book of Acts then the world would hear the commotion, come and check us out and then fall to their knees. Revival would then ensue. After all, isn’t that what happened in
Acts 2 when the church was filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time? Many people came as a result of this, Peter preached his famous message and 3000 people were saved that day. Now that is something to write about!

Well, let’s do some math here. There were 120 Christians praying in the upper room of a house, and God showed up in great power. Then we read that this move of God attracted a lot of people, but it is unclear how many people or where they gathered. Next there is a debate among the nonbelievers as to what just happened – how did they get in the upper room? Then Peter makes his move with a powerful message.

I firmly believe that God used Noah to carry pairs and sevens of all animal life on the Ark, but I do not see how the first church fit over 3000 people in the upper room. I don’t even believe that Peter preached from the window. At some moment on this great day I believe that Peter took the discourse to the streets or to the community, and this is where the church often falls short in its understanding of evangelism.

We may indeed experience great moves of God within our insulated Christian communities, but does the result of these experiences ever make it to the streets? I fear that the answer is very seldom.

The real attractional model is to go to where the people are and shine: the streets, the community, the workplace, the university. Don't let the church building become a basket.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matt 5:14-16