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”

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The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1

nooseThis is a reprint of an excellent article by Maurice Smith of the Parousia Network. It’s a bit of a challenging read but worth it.

The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1: Anatomy of A Collapse 

The English author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once observed regarding the hangman’s noose, “It marvelously concentrates the mind”. Confrontation with our own mortality, whether at the point of a gun or the short end of a noose, tends to do that. There comes a point in every person’s life or the life of a community when, when confronted with the harsh facts of reality, they must decide whether or not “denial” is just a river in Egypt, or whether it represents a condition of the mind which they must overcome and move on if they are to survive. That, I believe, is where Evangelicalism as a biblically based Christian movement is at in the opening decade of the 21st Century. We stand at the short end of a noose. We are in need of a very searching self examination of who and where we are. Why? Because Evangelicalism as an identifiable movement of God’s people gives every evidence of both internal and external collapse; a collapse which will prove fatal to “church as we have known it” and is probably  irreversible apart from a divine intervention unlike anything we have witnessed or experienced in well over 100 years. 

Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 1”

STANDING AMONG THE ASHES

victorian-bushfire

A Salvo House Church is a Centre of Hope After the Fires

The following came from Les Smith, a Salvation Army house church guy that found himself heading up some of the Victorian bushfire relief effort. It’s an encouragement to those of us in house church that you don’t have to be big to be effective. Reprinted from www.oikos.org
 

 

Hey mate,

 

Sorry about my tardiness in getting back to you, been pretty busy here as you would imagine. Although things are still sometimes tough and extremely challenging we feel very much that we are engaged in the work God has for us to do.

 

Early on in the bushfires whilst the Salvation Army was still working out how best to respond, I almost accidentally (although we know it wasn’t really by accident) found myself representing the Salvos at the fire front and found things very tough indeed. It was both physically and emotionally draining and I was not entirely sure I would be able to continue to offer assistance; it was taking a toll on me. My brothers and sisters from house church rallied to support me (and the bushfire survivors) and they were just incredibly amazing.

 

House churches are like that – supportive, caring, flexible and easy to adapt.

 

The fire stopped only 10 minutes up the road from where and I live, one house church family was put on stand by to evacuate, another missed the fires by minutes (wind changed direction) and all of us saw the smoke – not realising just how close it actually was (we thought it was 100s KM away, but it wasn’t).

 

We felt very strongly that we had to make a response.

 

Together we setup a massive warehouse at Whittlesea which has become the main distribution centre for bushfire survivors in Whittlesea, Kinglake, Flowerdale and the surrounding areas. Whilst many other centres have already closed, The Salvation Army is planning to maintain services in this area (through this facility) for at least the next 12 months.

 

God has been good to us,

 

I keep meeting people that I know – affected by the fires – and the stories I have heard (many of us from housechurch have heard) are truly horrifying and impossible to imagine. Whilst the despair of the whole thing hit us in the first week, now we are blessed to be part of the healing and restorative process that has begun, we can see Gods spirit at work in spite of all the tragedy.

 

There is a way to go yet but the support we have received from other housechurches around Australia has been very humbling indeed. Please pass on my thanks to all those involved – I really just can’t express how inspiring and encouraging this support has been.

 

Please keep us in your prayers.

 

Thanks again mate

 

Peace to you

 

Les Smith

Salvo House Church

THE DONKEY by G.K. Chesterton

I found this on a Palm Sunday site. It reminds me of Christ’s humility and also of Paul’s words to the Corinthians; “Not many of you were … noble … but God chose the lowly … the despised … the things that are not … so that no one may boast …” (1 Corinthians 1:26)

THE DONKEY
G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

A MEGA CHANGE

I’ve been struggling to find inspiration or motivation to write something lately but there’s plenty out there to inspire. Such as this Article by John White from www.lk19.com . He writes …

I was delighted this last week to meet Jim Shindler, a LK10 member visiting here in Denver from Dayton, Ohio.  Jim is part of the leadership team of Apex, a mega “church” of 2500, which in the last few years has been moving toward house church as the primary expression of church.  Here are some of the ways that they are moving beyond the “cell church” model.

1.  Their name.  Apex:  A Network of Community Churches.  It’s not Apex Community Church.  Apex is not a church, it’s a network of churches.  See www.apexcommunity.com

2.  Their message.  In the large gathering on Sunday morning the message is:  “This is not church.  Church happens in the small groups scattered throughout the city.  If you have to choose, go to your house church before you come to the large gathering.  The larger gathering serves the smaller gatherings.”

3.  Their connection.   Regional groupings of house churches are connected but autonomous.  Every house church and every regional network must listen to the Lord for direction.  (It doesn’t come down from centralized leadership.)  They are free to separate from Apex and go any direction the Lord leads them.

Jim would be the first to say that they don’t have this all figured out.  At the same time, it’s clear that they are developing an important new prototype for other traditional churches.

Kenneth Hagin’s Forgotten Warning

This article by J. Lee Grady of Charisma Magazine will no doubt be doing the rounds but it is worth reprinting in a day when there is a lot of unquestioned practises around, especially to do with giving.
 
Before he died in 2003, the revered father of the Word-Faith movement corrected his spiritual sons for going to extremes with their message of prosperity.
 
Charismatic Bible teacher Kenneth Hagin Sr. is considered the father of the so-called prosperity gospel. The folksy, self-trained “Dad Hagin” started a grass-roots movement in Oklahoma that produced a Bible college and a crop of famous preachers including Kenneth Copeland, Jerry Savelle, Charles Capps, Jesse DuPlantis, Creflo Dollar and dozens of others—all of whom teach that Christians who give generously should expect financial rewards on this side of heaven.
 
Hagin taught that God was not glorified by poverty and that preachers do not have to be poor. But before he died in 2003 and left his Rhema Bible Training Center in the hands of his son, Kenneth Hagin Jr., he summoned many of his colleagues to Tulsa to rebuke them for distorting his message. He was not happy that some of his followers were manipulating the Bible to support what he viewed as greed and selfish indulgence. Those who were close to Hagin Sr. say he was passionate about correcting these abuses before he died. In fact, he wrote a brutally honest book to address his concerns. The Midas Touch was published in 2000, a year after the infamous Tulsa meeting. 
 
Many Word-Faith ministers ignored the book. But in light of the recent controversy over prosperity doctrines, it might be a good idea to dust it off and read it again.
 
Here are a few of the points Hagin made in The Midas Touch:
 
1. Financial prosperity is not a sign of God’s blessing. Hagin wrote:
“If wealth alone were a sign of spirituality, then drug traffickers and crime bosses would be spiritual giants. Material wealth can be connected to the blessings of God or it can be totally disconnected from the blessings of God.”
 
2. People should never give in order to get. Hagin was critical of those who “try to make the offering plate some kind of heavenly vending machine.” He denounced those who link giving to getting, especially those who give cars to get new cars or who give suits to get new suits. He wrote: “There is no spiritual formula to sow a Ford and reap a Mercedes.”
 
3. It is not biblical to “name your seed” in an offering. Hagin was horrified by this practice, which was popularized in faith conferences during the 1980s. Faith preachers sometimes tell donors that when they give in an offering they should claim a specific benefit to get a blessing in return. Hagin rejected this idea and said that focusing on what you are going to receive “corrupts the very attitude of our giving nature.”
 
4. The “hundredfold return” is not a biblical concept. Hagin did the math and figured out that if this bizarre notion were true, “we would have Christians walking around with not billions or trillions of dollars, but quadrillions of dollars!” He rejected the popular teaching that a believer should claim a specific monetary payback rate.
 
5. Preachers who claim to have a “debt-breaking” anointing should not be trusted. Hagin was perplexed by ministers who promise “supernatural debt cancellation” to those who give in certain offerings. He wrote in The Midas Touch: “There is not one bit of Scripture I know about that validates such a practice. I’m afraid it is simply a scheme to raise money for the preacher, and ultimately it can turn out to be dangerous and destructive for all involved.”
 
(Many evangelists who appear on Christian television today use this bogus claim. Usually they insist that the miraculous debt cancellation will occur only if a person “gives right now,” as if the anointing for this miracle suddenly evaporates after the prime time viewing hour. This manipulative claim is more akin to witchcraft than Christian belief.)
 
Hagin condemned other hairbrained gimmicks designed to trick audiences into emptying their wallets. He was especially incensed when a preacher told his radio listeners that he would take their prayer requests to Jesus’ empty tomb in Jerusalem and pray over them there—if donors included a special love gift. “What that radio preacher really wanted was more people to send in offerings,”
Hagin wrote.
 
Thanks to the recent resurgence in bizarre donation schemes promoted by American charismatics, the prosperity gospel is back under the nation’s microscope. It’s time to revisit Hagin’s concerns and find a biblical balance.
 
Hagin told his followers: “Overemphasizing or adding to what the Bible actually teaches invariably does more harm than good.” If the man who pioneered the modern concept of biblical prosperity blew the whistle on his own movement, wouldn’t it make sense for us to listen to his admonition?
________________________________________________________

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma Magazine.

The Midas Touch is available from Kenneth Hagin Ministries at-  www.rhema.org

SOURCE:  http://www.charismamag.com/fireinmybones/ 

WILLOW CREEK MOVES FROM PROGRAMS TO PRACTISES

I picked the following off Kerry Denten’s site The Wind Farm where it is actually a reprint of a post written by Peter Matthews, the Vicar of St Patrick’s Anglican Church in Lexington, Kentucky, better known as “Guitar Priest“.

Willow Creek Moves from Programs to Practices

Something has happened at Willow Creek Community Church that will shake the Church world. Willow Creek has discovered after 3 years of research that programs do not develop fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.Please Note — I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!Here is what they say:…increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities [church programs] does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.

Chuck Warnock at Confessions of a Small Church Pastor writes:

Here’s the backstory: Greg Hawkins, exec pastor at Willow Creek, surveyed Willow Creek members to determine the effectiveness of WC’s programs — small groups, worship, service groups, etc. Participants had four choices to describe their spiritual lives:

Exploring — not yet Christians, but interested.
Growing — new Christians and growing in faith.
Close to Christ.
Centered in Christ.

The survey results produced what Bill Hybels calls “the wake up call of my adult life” –
Survey Says: After a person left Stages 1 & 2, church programs did not help them love God or love people more. And, to make matters worse, people in Stages 3 & 4 said they wanted to “be fed.” Some even left Willow Creek altogether.

Conclusion: Church programs are helpful initially for new and growing Christians, but as people mature in their faith church programs are inadequate and ineffective. (Watch the videos and look at Willow Creek’s new REVEAL website for their next move.)

Watch the entire 13-minute segment with Greg Hawkins here, and Bill Hybels comments here

You have got to watch these videos.

BTW — the key thing Willow Creek is implementing is personal spiritual plans that help each person identify a set of practices that move them forward in their spiritual lives. Hmm…

Again — I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!

 A Final Note from Kerry:
This is truly one of the single most encouraging stories I have read in the last five years of my journey. Upon watching the full 13 minute version of Greg Hawkins’ presentation, I was moved to tears to think that the very things I have seen in the Spirit and have been believing for God to change in the contemporary church, are finally happening .. and on such a grand scale. Pray for Willow Creek! They’ll need all the help and protection they can get to make this transition complete and intact.