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Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism’

I’ve recently finished one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in quite some time. Mark Driscoll’s “Confessions of a Reformission Rev.”is that book. Quite a lot has been said about Driscoll over the last year or so. He is the infamous “cussing pastor” mentioned in the popular and controversial “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. He is closely linked with Doug Padgitt and Brian McLaren as he worked with them earlier in his life before splitting with them over their theological drift. My guess is that Driscoll is one man who many think they know without having heard him speak for himself.

For this reason alone, I decided I needed to find out what he was about: everything I have come into contact with that has to do with him has been compelling, for better or for worse. Say what you want about him, he is never boring, and more than that, his influence is on the rise.

So I read the book. It did not disappoint. I’m reading “The Radical Reformission” right now, but that will have to wait. My reaction was both strong and mixed. Let me explain:

  1. Mark is, I believe, unnecessarily crass… a lot. He does not cuss in the book, but admits that he has struggled with swearing in the past. At the same time he is known for crossing comfort barriers in his preaching. In his book the words are not the issue so much as the phrases. You could call is crass, you could call it coarse, or you could call it frank. To his thinking it is a part of identifying with culture. You may disagree. At times I did.
  2. Mark calls the teachings of Padgitt and McLaren as heretical, yet insists on calling them friends. Go figure.
  3. Mark has a different idea of the church’s purpose than I do. He rejects the attraction-heavy, market-driven approach of Willow Creek, but he does believe that the church must market itself to unbelievers to a lesser degree. He remarks that his church is more for those unsaved people they are trying to reach than for the ones already there. He calls this being “missional.” Many people have now hijacked this term to justify becoming worldly in the name of evangelism. For Mark, being “missional” means having a singular drive to go into culture and see people saved. This is a right pursuit, but I believe that the first purpose is for the equipping of Christians for the work of service (Eph 4:11-13), under which evangelism falls.
  4. Mark goes a little to far in my opinion in accommodating to culture. This is a very touchy issue. He rightly observes that most Christians do not want to accommodate to culture at all; most want to drag converts into their own culture. When living IN the world, there is always the risk of becoming OF the world (1 Cor 5:10, James 4:4). I think Mark crosses this line a bit. I am reading “The Radical Reformission” right now, which addresses this question, so I am withholding judgment for now.
  5. Mark asks us to be more considerate of the cultures of the unsaved (in his case, the unchurched, ultra-liberal, punk rock culture of Seattle) while he mocks other subcultures. He picks on the ultra-conservative a lot. He unintentionally implies that the legalists are less deserving of patience than the heavily tattooed, pot-smoking crowd.

One the other hand:

  1. Mark convinced me that I do not truly love the unsaved like I should. He commended me for loving the people in my church but criticized me for not caring about my neighbor. I would classify this as a life-changing conclusion.
  2. Mark pushed me to re-evaluate the Church’s obligation to it’s community. This conclusion mirrors my personal reflections and extends them to the Church as a whole. He paints churches with too broad brush strokes, but he sums up the basic types of churches relative to their views on evangelism.
  3. Mark helped me rethink my ideas about how to contextualize the gospel to different subcultures. I would say that I have understood that context is important to the gospel (see all of Acts 17) but that I may have been too legalistic in what I expected of converts. In other words, I have expected that they should become like me. Christians and churches can exist inside subcultures rather than having to conform to mine.
  4. Mark has challenged my thinking about what is Christian liberty and what is worldliness. Again, I would say that I have not been a legalist about what passes and Christian liberty, but I have probably been too narrow. He has drawn me to examine exactly why some of my hang-ups exist. Whether I agree with him or not, I understand it better for myself.

The guy who titled a chapter “Jesus, Our Offering Was $137 and I Want To Use it to Buy Bullets” is definitely worth a read. Love him or hate him, he’ll make you think.

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“I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek is a surprisingly easy read given it’s size and attention to detail. Thumbing through the pages and scouting it’s contents, charts, and index, I expected to be hunkering down for some serious digestion. Despite this pleasant surprise, my overall reaction to this work was ambivalence.

On the one hand, Geisler and Turek serve up some incredible encouraging evidences for the Biblical account of creation. I loved boning up on my knowledge of the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the basic laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction and the “excluded middle”. As a Christian, I find these things exciting because science does indeed point to a theistic God, and their defense of Scripture, the person of Christ, and especially the Resurrection are vital to my faith.

On the other hand, it is the application of these evidences by the authors that I can’t agree with. The use of evidences is great for the encouragement of Christians, but I find their belief that evidences (both scientific and philosophical) are crucial to evangelism to be contrary to passages like Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” In the Forward the authors make several bold statements. Acknowledging that “Proof, of course, is no substitute for faith.” (p.7), they go on to say that evidences are instrumental in removing “intellectual obstacles” leaving them “naked to confront their real demons.” In the Preface, the authors jointly state: “We came to believe through evidences.”

In my opinion, Jesus closed the debate on this topic in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. When the rich man asks that Abraham send Lazarus back from his bosom to appear to his own family so that they would repent, Abraham says this: “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:29-31.)

This is very hurtful of the authors’ argument. Though they correctly note that the Resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith, they err in thinking that proving the Resurrection is grounds for belief. the problem faced by the unbeliever is not lack of information or argument, but spiritual death (Eph 2:1-3).

In this, their Arminiansim is evident, particularly in the closing chapter. Failing to see the real obstacle, the solution provided is faulty.

As a side note, I also tire of recounting arguments in which such-and-such the noted expert in his field, was cornered into admitting that his argument was false but still wouldn’t cave. There’s definitely a lot of that here. These two authors are obviously tapped into the debate circuit, and though it is often noteworthy, it gets old.

All that aside, believe it or not, I actually liked this book. The book drives home the point that everyone has faith. the question is, what is the object of your faith. God is rational, His creation is rational, and when we start with the right premise we can reach the correct conclusions. Faith is not blind, it is supremely reasonable. All other beliefs other than Christianity lack sufficient support for their assumptions, Geisler and Turek do a good job of impressing this upon the reader. While I wholeheartedly disagree with the authors’ intent to use the book as a tool for evangelism, it still remains a great tool for encouragement as Christians learn that their faith is valid.

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

In case you want to hear how badly I botched Don Carson’s story, quoted below in “He who makes the game makes the rules.”, follow the link below:

Don Carson – Omaha Bible Church, 2002

It is the third of the three messages, dated 10/4/2002.

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I had the opportunity over the last two weeks to fill in as teacher for our adult’s Sunday school evangelism class. We were discussing the major elements of the gospel, and to my pleasure I saw that the curriculum called for a discussion of the role of creation in the gospel. Creation is a critical element in establishing the context of the gospel, but it is something that is almost always overlooked by everyone. Ask anyone who has shared the gospel with someone recently if they referenced Genesis, and you probably get a look like you just asked them to unscrew their heads.

Why is this? It’s a simple but vitally important connection. A few years ago I heard D.A. Carson (Christian scholar, author and all-around uber-genius) tell a story that I’ll never forget:

The story, as best as I can remember it, involves an Irish (English? whatever) religious-school teacher who gets “stuck” teaching the Bible class to young boys. Seems the teacher was new, and Bible class being considered the most cumbersome to teach and uninteresting to the students, fell to the last in the pecking order. So the teacher begins by having the children all make gingerbread men. Interesting way to start a Bible class, they’re probably thinking. They are told to give the gingerbread man a name. Then they make a world for their gingerbread men to live in (yes, out of order, I know…), and even make rules for their gingerbread society. Finally the teacher asks the students, “Now what would you do if your gingerbread man looked up at you and said ‘You know, I don’t think I’m going to follow your silly rules. And waht’s more, I’m not sure if I even think you exist.” One of the students replies, in his little British accent, “I’d break his legs off!”

“Open your Bibles to Genesis chapter one.” says the school teacher.

Cute? Yes. Profound? Even more so. Even these young boys understood that creation equals authority. You bring this little man made out of cookie dough into the world, and you’ll take him out if you have to. The creator owns what he has created, and out of this springs authority.

God, our Maker, made us. The gospel makes stringent calls on our conduct, calling us to repent and trust in the atoning work of Christ for our salvation. Why does everyone have to be saved this way? Why does everyone even have to answer to this God who makes such specific demands?

Because He created you, He owns you, and you are therefore accountable to Him.

Do not overlook this critical element of context of the gospel. In this post-modern age many people you will talk to lack basic Christian vocabulary. Failing to establish God authority in creation is like getting a call from a total stranger who says you are late for work. Huh? Oh by the way, this is your BOSS! Oh yeah, be right in. Get it?

No you don’t have to read to them from Genesis 1-3, but you do need to be clear that God is calling them (not you) and that he has a rightful claim, not of moral superiority, but of ownership.

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