… HELLO PASTOR ONE-ANOTHER

Goodbye Pastor Phil, hello Pastor One-Another (some more thoughts on the function of the pastor)

Considering the prominent place of the Pastor in the makeup of the modern local church scene (though dating back to Constantine), it is surprising how little the New Testament has to say about such an individual. Practically nothing. The word ‘pastor’ is used once and it is in fact almost impossible to find a clear reference in the New Testament to a local church led by one man.

Mind you, it is also hard to find a local church that looks anything like what we’ve come to know as a local church today – a distinctively named assembly (such as Keppel Coast Christian Fellowship) with its own vision, building and man in charge.

Rather what we find are churches that embrace the whole city, with no separately owned ‘church’ buildings and a plural eldership belonging to all.

And a style of pastoring that did not seem to centre around any special individual but was spead out between ‘one-another’.

Not that the early church lacked leaders but there is very little exhortation in any of the epistles for believers go seek out a leader for advise, counselling, healing or encouragement. Rather the exhortation is to practise this stuff on ‘one-another’. Over 60 times this (or a similar) expression is used in the apostolic letters.

Here is an example of the ‘one-anothers’.

  • live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
  • care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
  • speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)
  • submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
  • forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
  • teach one another (Col. 3:16)
  • wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)
  • love one another. (John 13:34)
  • be devoted to one another … Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  • stop passing judgment on one another. (Romans 14:13)
  • instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
  • agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10)
  • be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
  • teach and admonish one another  Colossians 3:16)
  • encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • encourage one another daily, (Hebrews 3:13)
  • consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
  • confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16)
  • offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
  • clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)
  • have fellowship with one another  (1 John 1:7)

Note that the apostles felt that the saints were quite competent to teach and instruct each other, correct each other, hear each other’s confessions, pray for their healing,  encourage each other, build each other up etc etc. They were well equipped to pastor one another.

John, in facts, encouraged them to believe that each of them had ‘an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.’ (1 John 2:20) If this is so and such a hidden and under-used anointing exists in the body of Christ then the task of the ‘fivefold ministries’ is surely to encourage its release.

Considering the huge burn-out rate that exists is in traditional pastoral ministry perhaps those in ministry would do a great service, both to themselves and to the local body they serve, by

  1. encouraging people to believe that they don’t need ‘the Pastor’  as much as they think they do
  2. foster the kind of intimate ekklessia where people can actively practise the ‘one-anothers’.
  3. actively step back from ‘doing the stuff’ themselves and let the Holy Spirit bring out the aforesaid anointing among the saints.

I suspect that the result of this would be to release  leaders to spend more time seeking each other out , seeking the Lord together and exploring ways to advance the Kingdom within the city (Acts13).

In order for that to happen perhaps the great need of the local church is not another Pastor Some-One but the release of Pastor One-Another.

Is ‘two or three gathered’ church? – Frank Viola


Frank Viola on the Postchurch Perspective

Is “where two or more are gathered” a church? (unedited version)
by Frank Viola
Originally published in Christianity Today/Out of Ur in two parts.
There is a growing phenomenon in the body of Christ today. Alongside of the missional church movement, the emerging church movement, and the house church movement, there is a mode of thinking that I call “postchurch Christianity.”
The postchurch brand of Christianity is built on the premise that institutional forms of church are ineffective, unbiblical, unworkable, and in some cases, dangerous. Institutionalization is not compatible with ekklesia. So say postchurch advocates.
But the postchurch view goes further saying, “any semblance of organization whatsoever . . . any semblance of leadership … is wrong and oppressive. Church is simply when two or three believers gather together in any format. Whenever this happens, church occurs.” So the thinking goes.
Here are some examples of what you might hear a postchurch advocate say:
“Sally and I had coffee at Starbucks last week. That was church.”
“I get together with two other men once a month at Sonny’s BBQ. That’s church for us.”
“I travel a great deal and whenever I visit Christians in other cities, we’re having church together.”
“I belong to the same church that every other Christian belongs to. I live in Dallas, TX. Last week, I talked to my friend on the phone for an hour. He lives in Miami, FL. The week before I talked with a friend who lives in Portland, OR. We were having church on the phone. I belong to the same church that they do.”
“I don’t attend any Christian meetings. Not regularly anyway. I have church on the Internet. I belong to several Christian discussion groups and social networks, and that’s church for me.”
“I don’t understand how people can talk about church planting? How can a church be planted when we are already the church? I’m the church. You’re the church. So just be the church. Church happens. “
To my mind, all of the above reflects an entire redefinition of ekklesia as it is found, used, and understood in the New Testament. No first century Christian would have used “church” in this way. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with fellowshipping with Christians at Starbucks, on the phone, or through the Internet, the biblical meaning of ekklesia is something quite different.
In order to understand the Scriptural meaning of “church,” the New Testament must be understood within the framework of the biblical narrative. And it must be read and interpreted in its cultural and chronological context.
The biblical text that postchurch advocates hang a great deal of their doctrine on is Matthew 18:15-20.
Let’s look at this passage in context:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Here, Jesus is speaking of a local ekklesia. He is speaking of a local community of Christ-followers who live in the same locale. (That is what the word ekklesia meant in the New Testament. More on that later.)
The people in this ekklesia know one another. The context makes this clear. This passage has in view an excommunication meeting. Therefore, it’s a horrifying text—a text that no Christian should ever want to use. It has to do with a person who is acting in a wayward manner and refuses to stop.
When this happens, the injured person must go to the offending person in private. If the offending person refuses to reconcile, two or three others from the local ekklesia must talk to the offending person. If the offending person still refuses to stop their wayward conduct, the offending person must be disfellowshipped from the ekklesia.
Note that Jesus says that after two or three have talked with the offending person, and the person still refuses to stop what they are doing, then the news of his unrepentance must be taken “to the church.” Now think: If the two or three people are the church, then this text becomes incoherent. Jesus says that the two or three should “tell it to the church” if the offending person doesn’t repent. Consequently, the two or three cannot be the church. They are simply a part of it.
The two or three at the end of the passage are the same two or three at the beginning of it. The implication is that the two or three who went to the unrepentant person should be praying for him. And the Lord will be with them in a special way as they do. He will stand with them.
This context indicates that the ekklesia is an organic entity where a group of committed believers in a locality “bind and loose,” using the keys of the kingdom that Jesus has given to them.
Consequently, Matthew 18 is not a text where Jesus is trying to define the church for us. It’s rather a text describing the awful process of excommunication.
Having said that, I’m of the opinion that the postchurch viewpoint cannot stand up against the light of the New Testament. Let me unravel that statement and you be the judge.
THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE TEST
New Testament scholarship agrees that the word ekklesia (translated “church”) meant a local community of people who assemble together regularly. The word was used for the Greek assembly whereby those in a city were “called forth” from their homes to meet (assemble) in the town forum to make decisions for the city. Consequently, the word also carries the flavor of every-member participation in decision-making. The Christian ekklesia is a community of people who gather together and possess a shared life in Christ.
As such, the ekklesia as used in the New Testament literature is visible, touchable, locatable, and tangible. You can visit it. You can observe it. And you can live in it.
Biblically speaking, you could not call anything an ekklesia unless it met (assembled) regularly together.
New Testament scholar Robert Banks makes this point loud and clear in his groundbreaking work of biblical scholarship entitled Paul’s Idea of Community.
THE EPISTLE TEST
The word “epistle” means letter. The NT contains twenty-one epistles. And most of them were written to local churches—ekklesias—in various cities.
Now here is a test. Those who belong to a postchurch “church” (which I also call the “phantom church” or the “ghost church”) should ask themselves a question: Can a person write a letter to my church? Can it be received by the church and read together by all of its members at the same time?
Paul of Tarsus wrote such letters to the churches he planted.
He wrote a letter to the church in Corinth, for instance.
There was an actual, physical, locatable, visit-able body of believers that met together in the home of Gaius. Paul could write a letter to that church and everyone read it at the same time.
Paul did the same for the church in Thessalonica, Colosee, Philippi, Laodicea, etc.
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it to be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” (Col. 4:16)
THE VISITATION TEST
Can you visit a postchurch “church”?
If you were living in the first-century, you could literally visit any of the churches that existed.
You could also visit the church in Jerusalem in A.D. 35 and meet Peter, James, John and Mary, the mother of Jesus. These were real people who met together regularly. They were part of the same believing community—the same church.
You could visit the church in Corinth and sit in a living room in Gaius’ home and talk with Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus.
The house of Chloe could visit the church in Corinth and attend its meetings (1 Cor. 1:11).
If you were to visit the church in Rome before Nero annihilated it in A.D. 65, you could sit in the living room of Priscilla and Aquila’s home and meet all the believers who regularly assembled together. (Their names are mentioned in Romans 16.)
Paul could also send Timothy to visit the church in Philippi where Lydia, Euodias, Syntyche, and Clement gathered. He could send Titus to visit the churches on the island of Crete. He could also send Tychicus to visit the church in Ephesus. And on and on.
Question: You who belong to the postchurch “church,” does your church pass the visitation test?
If someone comes to your town, can they locate and visit your church? Can they meet the members and stay in their home for a week?
THE NARRATIVE READING TEST
I would like to challenge you to go through your New Testament very carefully, beginning with the book of Acts, and try to find in the whole sweeping story support for the postchurch “church.” Not by proof-texting verses together, but by looking at the entire first-century narrative in chronological order.
I suggest picking up The Chronological Study Bible or The Narrated Bible and go through the New Testament story in chronological order from Acts to Revelation. And see if the postchurch view can fit into that beautiful saga.
THE CONSISTENCY TEST
Three common critiques that postchurch advocates level against the institutional form of church are:
1) It breeds low commitment.
2) It feeds the consumerist, individualistic Christianity that plagues the Western church today. (In consumer Christianity, religious teachings and experiences are goods that one “buys into” by becoming a subscriber to a particular church that “sells” those goods. Religious professionals produce these religious goods, and consumers pay to keep them in business. Those who consume the same sort of religious goods are no more members of a real community than those who shop at Walmart.)
3) It produces little transformation in the lives of the people who are part of it.
Ironically, these same three critiques can be appropriately leveled at the postchurch “church.”
The postchurch breeds low commitment because there are no regular gatherings nor is there any real community life that’s consistent. (Talking to Christians on the Internent is virtual. It’s not a substitute for authentic Christian community where people’s lives are shared in Christ.)
The postchurch view also reflects the consumerist, individualism that reflects our culture. Why? Because there’s no devotion or commitment to a regular community of believers. It’s church on your own terms. Whenever you feel like it.
The truth is, the postchurch “church” is actually more convenient and easier on the flesh than virtually every other form of church.
THE “ONE-ANOTHERING” TEST
Throughout the New Testament epistles, there are nearly sixty “one another” exhortations given to churches. All of them imply close-knit community, such as “forbear with one another.” Here are some others:
• live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8)
• be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10)
• edify one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thess. 5:11b)
• care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
• serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
• bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
• bear with one another (Eph. 4:2)
• be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
• speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
(Eph. 5:19)
• submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
• forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
• teach one another (Col. 3:16)
• admonish one another (Col. 3:16)
These “one another” imperatives assume ever-deepening relationships and community, not casual and occasional get togethers.
THE PURPOSE OF GOD TEST
In my book, From Eternity to Here, I’ve sought to trace God’s “eternal purpose” from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
The New Testament makes abundantly clear that the eternal purpose of God is intensely corporate. God isn’t after a group of individual living stones, He wants those stones to be “built together” to form a house for His full-dwelling and expression.
You are not the church. And neither am I.
The church is the corporate expression of Christ that is expressed visibly in a locality, where human beings can see, touch, hear, and know one another and live a shared life together in the Lord.
While God never seeks to take away our individuality, He does desire to take our individualism to the cross.
Why? Because the Lord is after a bouquet of flowers, not simply a bunch of individual roses.
Consider the analogy of a father who has seven children. One Christmas day, he gives his oldest son a trumpet. He gives his youngest son a trombone. For his oldest daughter, he gives a violin. He gives another child a drum kit. Another he gives a bass. Another he gives a flute. And another he gives a piano.
Each child learns to play their instrument. The years pass, and each loves playing their individual instruments. It’s a joy to them.
Years pass by and one day the father sits down with all of his children and says, “I am so happy you have mastered your instruments. Each instrument was given to you as a free gift. And I’m glad that you have come to enjoy and treasure your gifts.
But I didn’t give you these instruments to enjoy by yourselves. I’m creating an orchestra that will produce music that this world has never heard. And I’ve invited you to be part of it. That is why I gave you these gifts.”
And so it is with our Lord. The gift of eternal life is not for ourselves. God wants an orchestra in every city. He wants a spiritual building, not a collection of individual living stones. A body, not a collection of individual limbs and appendages. He wants a corporate expression through which to reveal His glorious Son. And this requires the loss of our individualism and independence.
It seems to me that the postchurch view denigrates Christian community (at worst) or deemphasizes and redefines it (at best). For that reason alone, it fails to fulfill God’s ultimate intention and grand mission in the earth.
SUMMARY
In my personal judgment, the postchurch view fails all seven tests.
The postchurch paradigm is rooted in the attempt to practice Christianity without belonging to an identifiable community that regularly meets for worship, prayer, fellowship, mutual edification, and mutual care.
Such a concept is disconnected with what we find in the New Testament.
The first-century churches were locatable, identifiable, visit-able communities that met regularly in a particular locale. They were not amorphous entities. For this reason, Paul could write a letter to these identifiable communities (local churches) with some definite idea of who would be present to hear it (Rom. 16). He would also have a good idea of when they gathered (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14) and the struggles they experienced in their life together (Rom. 12—14; 1 Cor. 1–8). He can visit these churches and/or send others to visit them as well. The same is true for the other apostles.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with fellowshipping with Christians on the Internet, over the phone, or meeting with friends at Starbucks. I personally love doing these things. (And for some folks who have been hurt in their Christian life, this sort of casual fellowship is a good form of temporary “detox.”) But calling these activities “church” or substituting them for ekklesia is misguided in my opinion.
It is my observation that many (not all) who embrace the postchurch viewpoint have been hurt in churches that had organization, so they have concluded that any organization is bad. Consequently, the viewpoint seems to have been born out of personal pain rather than a revelation of Christ and His Body.
To put a finer point on it, the postchurch paradigm appears to be an expression of the contemporary desire for intimacy without commitment. (Commitment and devotion to a body of believers are the same thing.) And commitment/devotion often brings injured feelings. This is especially true in Christian community, where very fallen people are learning Christ together.
So it seems to me anyway.
*For further reading, see Pagan Christianity for a biblical and historical critique on the institutional form of church and Reimagining Church for a presentation of the organic expression of the church.
—Frank Viola is the author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life and church reform, including From Eternity to Here. For more, visit http://www.FrankViola.com.

I’m reprinting the following excellent article by Frank Viola because I hope it’s going to help me get back on track after a slight diversion.

Is “where two or more are gathered” a church? (unedited version) by Frank Viola

Originally published in Christianity Today/Out of Ur in two parts.

coffee_cup_289624aThere is a growing phenomenon in the body of Christ today. Alongside of the missional church movement, the emerging church movement, and the house church movement, there is a mode of thinking that I call “postchurch Christianity.”

The postchurch brand of Christianity is built on the premise that institutional forms of church are ineffective, unbiblical, unworkable, and in some cases, dangerous. Institutionalization is not compatible with ekklesia. So say postchurch advocates.

But the postchurch view goes further saying, “any semblance of organization whatsoever . . . any semblance of leadership … is wrong and oppressive. Church is simply when two or three believers gather together in any format. Whenever this happens, church occurs.” So the thinking goes.

Here are some examples of what you might hear a postchurch advocate say: Continue reading “Is ‘two or three gathered’ church? – Frank Viola”

GOODBYE PASTOR PHIL

Rev Phil badgeWhen I first began as a Prison Fellowship chaplain out at Capricornia Correctional Centre I was issued with a name badge, reading Rev Phil Walters. Being a bit embarrassed by the ‘Rev’ tag – I was neither officially nor in character ‘Reverend’ – I covered it up and ordered a new badge, more appropriately reading ‘Pastor’ Phil Walters. However, having mislaid that badge, I now need to order a new one. Which brings me to a slight dilemma. Because I have come to a stage, with all my recent questionings of modern church practice, where I’m not comfortable with any titles, be they Pope or Pastor.

I must say that I have never really been comfortable being called ‘Pastor’. Perhaps it is because I’ve always struggled with the clergy/laity thing, which is an awful division that developed in the church very early on, creating a false old-covenant style division between the professional ordained elite and all the rest. A hierarchical model of leadership which is foreign to the New Testament.

Jesus made it clear that we are not to get hung up on titles. Surely this was his intention when he said

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. Matthew 23:810

I suspect that he knew very well our propensity to exchange the lower-case ‘function’ for an upper-case ‘office’ complete with title. So that someone who pastors become Pastor Someone. Then Senior Pastor Someone. Or Associate Pastor or Youth Pastor or Worship Pastor etc etc. The church is full of it. Apostle This, Bishop That, Most Reverend The  Other.

Where is such use of titles in the New Testament? Did Apostle Paul write to the Corinthians and tell them he was sending Pastor Timothy and Youth Pastor Titus to catch up with Senior Pastor Aquilla and Associate Pastor Priscilla? It’s a nonsense. And it perpetuates an unhealthy divide. Nowhere in the New Testament are people addressed by their functions in that kind of a way.

Of course the excuse we make is that it is a way of ‘honouring’ our leaders. But if we need a title in order to be honoured surely something is wrong. Should I not be honoured for what I am regardless of title? My son-in-law is a much respected and sort after plumber but we don’t need to call him Plumber Dennis. Why should he not be ‘honoured’ in similar vein to how we ‘honour’ pastors? Is his profession less honourable?

Pastor Only Parking2On the contrary I can hide behind a title, use it as a smoke screen to hide my insecurities or the flaws in my character, even pull the old ” Do not speak against the Man of God” thing.

No, no. The people I serve, in whatever function I have been called, are my friends and my fellow companions in the work of the Kingdom. This was Paul’s attitude to those around him and it should be mine. They knew him simply as Paul (or at the most ‘brother Paul’, a term he uses for Peter as well) and so I should be known simple as Phil.

So goodbye ‘Pastor’ Phil. And hello Phil, a pastor … and a father, husband, lover,  prison chaplain, events person, radio presenter, blogger, brother in Christ and friend of all, etc etc.

(Thank you Jon Zens for the photo, from his latest book A Church Building Every Half Mile)

The Rick Warren Interview

Rick WarrenThe following is from an excellent interview with Rick Warren, ‘Purpose Driven Life ‘ author and pastor of Saddleback Church in California. In the interview, with Paul Bradshaw, Warren touches on the issues of his wife’s cancer and his sudden wealth due to the popularity of the book.


People ask me, What is the purpose of life?

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven. One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body– but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act – the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.

I used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems: If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.’ But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don’t think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit.. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God’s purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better.. God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfil a to-do list. He’s more interested in what I am than what I do.

That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.

John Fischer: Being Around Not-Yet Christians

This is an excellent article by John Fischer which should help us relax and be more confident in our quest to share Jesus.

Coming Alongside

I am normally not a fan of ten steps to this or five ways to do that. But for one of my recent talks I came up with these six things to remember about being around those who may not yet be Christians, and thought some of you might find it useful.

1) Assume everyone is searching for God. Why? Because everyone is. We were created this way. God has purposely frustrated humanity by creating us with eternity in our hearts, yet with an inability to fathom what that is or what it means (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11). He has done this so that we might reach out for him and find him though He is not far from any of us for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:27-28).

2) Come alongside. This is really the crux of it all. Just walk alongside people and enter into their lives. Listen. Talk. Laugh. Cry. Find out where you can contribute and what you can learn. There’s something to give and something to receive in every relationship.

3) Point. You don’t tell someone what the truth is; you point to it. “There it is over there,” or “Here it is in my life.” This is why we need to learn to identify truth in the context of the world around us. Truth isn’t religious. You don’t have to get into a certain posture to see it. It’s not something that hasn’t been there all along.

4) Find out what people already know before you set out to tell them anything. Don’t ever think you have to clear the table and start over. This is why it’s so important to listen first. Find out what’s already on the table that you can use.

5) You don’t have to tell everything you know. Just the next thing.

6) You don’t have to correct everything someone says that is wrong. You are not the protector and defender of truth. You don’t have to decide where to draw the line. You don’t even have to be concerned if someone may be walking away with the wrong idea. You are not that smart anyway because you don’t know what’s in someone’s head. As long as they have something to think about, that’s a good thing.

And now here’s the one final thing that makes all this possible. It is the most important of all. (This is the one thing that makes all six of these make sense.) We don’t save anybody, convince anybody, “win” anybody to Christ or close the deal. All that is God’s business. The Holy Spirit is doing this all on His own terms and timetable. We are not salesmen, marketing reps, counselors or prosecutors. We are just friends who come alongside.

John’s Fischtank is found here.

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2

Continuing Maurice Smith’s great article – this is the encouraging part.

Maurice Smith

 

The Collapse of Evangelicalism

Part 2: Evangelicalism in Transition

Now I want to offer several observations regarding what I see as the outcome of that collapse.

Evangelicalism will look more like the church of the first century, and less like the church of the last (i.e., 20th)  century. I’m tempted to simply allow that statement to stand without comment – forcing you to simply digest it without elaboration . . . . but what fun would that be?!  When David Lehman in “The Answering Stranger” declared, “The Twentieth Century is the name of a train that no longer runs”, he could easily have been referring to the Evangelical Church. The Church of the 20th Century witnessed the rise and fall of the temperance movement in the first half of the century(culminating in the 18th amendment), and the rise of the pro-abortion movement (culminating in Roe v. Wade) in the last half of the century. The Evangelical Church has witnessed Billy Graham filling Times Square (September 2, 1957), and “gay pride” marches filling those same streets. The Evangelical Church has witnessed the rise of the mega-church and the precipitous decline in the impact of the church on American culture. We began the 20th Century with a world wide awakening of historic proportions, and we ended the century with . . . . nothing of note. I believe God is done with the Church of the 20th Century, and He is taking us back to the Church of the 1st Century.

Evangelicalism will be vastly smaller, but vastly more effective.  Let’s face it. In traditional Western Christianity of the 20th Century, “success” is measured by size: the size of your congregation, the size of your budget, the size of your facility, the size of your staff, etc.  Size matters . . . except in the Kingdom of God.  But the day of “size matters” is quickly Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2”