Category : Theology: Evangelism & Mission

The Gafcon Chairman Foley Beach’s letter for June 2019

Seeking to be Biblical Christians in a global age, participants in the Global Anglican Future Conference are busy proclaiming Jesus Christ faithfully to the nations by making disciples, evangelizing those who don’t know Jesus, and speaking into corruption, economic injustices, and moral concerns in their local communities. Here are just a few stories from around the world.

Earlier this month, a truly phenomenal gathering took place in Uganda with some two million pilgrims gathering at Namugongo near Kampala where 45 young men, both Anglicans and Roman Catholics, were martyred between 1885-87 for being unwilling to give into the sexually immoral demands of the King and his friends. In recent years, attendance has increased dramatically with many people coming from well beyond Uganda itself. It has become a great festival of worship, teaching, and fellowship demonstrating so wonderfully the vitality of African Christianity.

Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit of Kenya was invited to be the guest preacher at the Anglican Memorial and Archbishop Stanley Ntagali congratulated his fellow Gafcon Primate for his recent announcement that he would not be attending the 2020 Lambeth Conference, saying:

‘The liberals have their money, but we have the true gospel.’

The pilgrims responded with cheering and huge applause because they understood the lesson of the Ugandan martyrs that true discipleship in every generation is sacrificial and marked by the courage to stand firm in the face of ungodly opposition.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, GAFCON, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

[Oxford] Bishop Stephen Croft–Rethinking Evangelism

Over 400 people assembled in the Vatican over three weeks. The initial work of the Synod was to listen to five-minute contributions from every part of the world. There was widespread agreement that we live in a time when the passing on of Christian faith is challenging and difficult everywhere.

There was widespread agreement around two further themes. The first is that the Church therefore needs to reflect more, not less, on the reasons for this and our response. The second is that as a Church we need to begin not with techniques or methods but with Christ: dwelling deeply, seeing the face of Christ afresh, exploring again the joy of the gospel.

There have been very significant shifts in our culture and the place of the church within our culture. We understand them only in part. But I believe more and more of the Church of England recognises now that technical solutions are not the answer. I have found more and more over the last three years that when I speak about church growth and how to do evangelism the energy leaves the room.

If I show even a hint of a downward sloping graph, I lose my audience completely. But when I speak of Christ and the wonder and character of Christ and the need to begin from a place of hope and love and nurture the Church as the Body of Christ in very simple ways, the energy levels rise and there is fresh hope and vision.

This is not because people are unwilling to face reality. I think our congregations and communities understand the reality of our situation very well indeed. I think we recognise together that technique or finance or strategies cannot of themselves “solve” the problem. We need as a Church to gather again around Jesus Christ and his gospel and find there renewal and healing and life for us and for the world. These convictions undergird the vision and call we are exploring in the Diocese of Oxford, to be a more Christ like Church for the sake of God’s world: more contemplative, more compassionate and more courageous.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(CEN) Evangelism to take centre stage at February General Synod meeting

In an unusual move, this month’s General Synod will take the subject of evangelism as its theme.

In particular, Synod members will be asked to urge every diocese to launch new missions and ministries to housing estates up and down the country.

The ‘Estates Evangelism task group’is working on plans to extend the reach of each parish to ‘hard-to-reach’places. The Rev Helen Shannon, who sits on the task group, said that there needed to be changes made to clergy selection, deployment and training to implement a change in thinking.

She said the task group wanted estates ministry to be ‘part of every diocese’s budget’.

She pointed out that while most such parishes were made up of 500 dwellings, they constituted one-fifth of all parishes. “Fifty per cent of the population of England live in these areas,”she said.

A motion on Friday 22 February will hear the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev Philip North, ask the Synod to ‘give thanks’to the Christian leadership offered from such communities. His motion calls for the establishment of a ‘serving, loving and worshipping community in every significant social housing estate in the country.’

But despite declining church numbers nationally, the secretary-general of the Archbishops’Council, William Nye, said the focus on evangelism emerged from a sense of urgency.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(GL) Carrie Boren Headington on Michael Green as a Hero of the Faith

“Excuse me. May I ask you a question? Is that man a preacher?” asked the nurse at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital.

“Yes. Why do you ask?” I said.

“Well, after a long day, when all visitors have left, he gets out of bed and goes from room to room. I think he is preaching and praying with people. Frankly, we cannot keep him in bed at night. We say, ‘Mr. Green, you must rest and get back into bed.’ He did just have a heart attack you know. He politely agrees but in no more than five minutes he is back up with the IV machine in tow going from room to room. We cannot keep him down.”

I knew what compelled him. He had just called me (along with a stream of students) to his bedside, unsure if he would make it out of hospital this time. He said, “Whatever you do with your life Carrie, share the gospel at every turn. Tell everyone. This is the greatest thing you can do with your life. Follow Jesus, love Him and share Him.”

I went home that night and prayed, “Lord, please heal Michael Green. And if possible, may I please learn from him.” I knew I had met a modern-day Paul. I knew right away Michael Green was a man compelled by life in Jesus Christ! Compelled to share! Compelled by joy!

Two weeks later, Michael Green was back at our theological college, Wycliffe Hall, in perfect health. I knocked on his office door and there opened my soon-to-be mentor. Shorter in stature, eyes piercing and electric, smile wide, and palpable energy seeming about to combust. How to even describe this man… feet steady and deeply rooted in faith like a fully leafed live oak tree planted by streams of living water combined with the courageous, nimble posture of a boxer. A soldier with shoulders back, chin up, ready to defend with a low strong voice alongside a warmth, sense of humor, bubbling laugh that reached high pitch, and abounding joy.

He literally bounces when he walks. He is a man on mission.

I asked him if I could learn from him. Thankfully, he agreed and this began a mentorship that changed my life….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(CT’s The Exchange) Preoccupied with Love: Lifting High Evangelism Again–An interview with Bill Hogg

Bill: It’s easy to let evangelism take a back seat. Many churches are content shuffling sheep and luring switchers to their fold rather than catching Jesus’ Luke 15 burden for lost sheep and pursuing and penetrating lostness. On the whole, we have lost the lostness of the lost. Evangelism by and large is not a passion. It is an afterthought or a hiccup rather than the heartbeat of most churches.

We need to be awakened afresh to the beauty, power, and truth of the gospel and invite the Lord to ignite the fires of evangelism.

We need to wake up to the cultural moment we find ourselves in. It can’t be business as usual. James Emory White says, “If you build it, they won’t come!” We are now planting churches and scattering gospel seed in increasingly Post-Christian soil.

With the rise of the Nones and Dones, evangelism must involve gracious and patient explanations and powerful demonstrations of the good news.

Some of our inherited evangelism paradigms don’t serve us well in this moment we find ourselves in. We need to ditch reductionist sales pitch approaches to evangelism.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(CEN) Gafcon names new leadership for movement after Jerusalem meeting

Gafcon announced new officers at its close on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of the Province of Jos Nigeria will immediately assume a transitional post in partnership with the current General Secretary, Archbishop Peter Jensen, whom he will succeed when he retires (for a second time!) on January 1 2019.

Archbishop Foley Beach of ACNA will succeed Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria as chairman of the Primates Council in 2019.

Archbishop Kwashi has been Bishop of Jos for twenty five years. His wife Gloria convenes the new Women’s Network which was formally established with eight others this week.

Together they have provided a home at Bishopscourt for scores of orphaned children. They also keep a pet donkey, a horse, an ostrich, peacocks, goats, cows, pigs and chickens. One night, while home alone, Gloria was badly beaten up and almost lost her sight. On another occasion intruders took Bishop Ben outside and made him kneel down with a gun pointed at his head. While he prayed, for unexplained reasons the intruders went away.

Archbishop Kwashi is on the Board of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry in Ambridge Pennsylvania and is International Chairman of Sharing of Ministries Abroad.

“My goal”, says Archbishop Kwashi,” is to focus on World Evangelisation, taking the gospel not only in words but in deeds, in humility with simplicity and integrity; to take the love and compassion of Jesus genuinely to all, regardless of gender, race, nationality or condition of life. We have a securely bible-based ministry of reconciliation, uncompromisingly Holy Spirit led and missional.”

Read it all.

Posted in GAFCON, Globalization, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

An Important Reread from 1974–John Stott: The Biblical Basis of Evangelism

First, there were the gospel events, primarily the death and resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes the apostles began with a reference to the life and ministry of the man Jesus, and usually they went on to his enthronement as Lord and his return as Judge. But their message focused on his death and resurrection. Nor did they proclaim these (as some say) as non-theological history, just “you killed him, but God raised him.” Already they had a doctrine of both. His death was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), and the Cross on which it took place they deliberately called a “tree” to indicate the divine curse under which he died (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29; Deut. 21:22, 23; Gal. 3:10, 13; 1 Pet. 2:24), while the resurrection was a divine vindication, snatching him from the place of a curse to the place of honor and authority at God’s right hand (e.g., Acts 2:32, 33).

Second, there were the gospel witnesses. That is, the apostles proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus both “according to the Scriptures” (Acts 2:25ff, 3:18, 24; cf. 1 Cor. 15:3, 4) and according to the evidence of their own eyes. “We are witnesses of these things, “they kept saying (e.g., Acts 2:32, 5:32). So we today have no liberty to preach Christ crucified and risen according to our own fancy or even according to our own experience. The only Christ there is to preach is the biblical Christ, the objective historical Jesus attested by the joint witness of the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New (cf. Acts 10:39-43). Our witness is always secondary to theirs.

Third, there were the gospel promises. The apostles did not proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus merely as events, even when enriched by doctrinal significance and biblical witness. For the good news concerns not just the historic but the contemporary Christ, not just what he once did but what he now offers on the basis of what he did. What is this? In Peter’s Pentecost address, the very first Christian sermon ever preached, he was able to promise them with complete assurance that they could receive both “the forgiveness of sins” and “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Salvation is more than this, but it is certainly not less. It includes the remission of past guilt and the gift of an entirely new life through the regenerating and indwelling Holy Spirit.

Fourth, there were the gospel demands, namely repentance and faith….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Evangelicals, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

(MC) Martyn Percy–The Church of England: Mission and Ministry after the Decade of Evangelism

The problem – the legacy of this Decade, in effect – can be simply expressed. The Church of England – or at least its hierarchy – is stuck in broadcast mode. Like the proverbial Englishman abroad, they cannot make themselves understood in a world that increasingly finds the Church incomprehensible, especially in spheres such as sexuality, gender, equality, safeguarding, the
exercise of power, the holding of authority and being open to accountability. But does the Church perceive this? No. It just talks louder, hoping, somehow, it will be heard. It won’t.

In all this, the Church only seeks to make itself more appealing, and attractive to those who might join. Yet it rarely asks the same public why they don’t join. It is like a business doing even more hard selling, with increasing desperation, but unwilling to ask the consumers why they aren’t buying. What is strange about this situation is that the drivers of the agenda are deeply concerned about mission and evangelism. So, they act out of the best of intentions.

But the problem is that the underlying theology of mission and of the Holy Spirit – missiology and pneumatology – is deeply deficient. Expressive evangelistic campaigns tend to achieve very little. Even the Evangelical Alliance admitted in 1994 that the main achievement of the Decade was to establish ‘new levels of co-operation between the Churches’. Hardly a great result but, as other writers in the field of missiology had known for years, what was compelling and credible was an authentic and humble Church. One that listened deeply and lived its faith, faithfully and unassumingly, ratherthan brashly promoting its brand.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Gafcon Chairman’s May 2018 Letter

My dear people of God,

Next month we are expecting almost 2,000 delegates to gather in Jerusalem for our third Global Anglican Future Conference. I know that those working so hard to organise this great undertaking are very much aware that ‘the time is short’, but as the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church, this should always be our perspective. Jerusalem is the place where Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, events which make the promise of his return sure and certain, and we shall gather as those who always live in the expectation of our Lord’s second appearing as King, Judge and Saviour.

To know that ‘the time is short’ helps to keep us from being distracted and to concentrate on what really matters.

Firstly, it means that the gospel is at the heart of all that we do. Our conference theme is ‘Proclaiming Christ Faithfully to the Nations’ and we shall celebrate the gospel in all its richness as the demonstration of the love and saving power of God in Jesus Christ. We shall be reminding one another that the gospel is not a message of merely human wisdom but the ‘gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1) which we have received. It is the work of God’s grace from beginning to end, but he has entrusted that task to us and we must press on to fulfil the apostolic mandate of the risen Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

Secondly, knowing that the time is short keeps us focused on the purpose of the Church. Ecclesiastical institutions must serve the gospel. The gospel is not a brand to be adapted to serve institutions. We will therefore continue to endorse new missionary initiatives and jurisdictions where necessary to take forward the work of the gospel.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ecclesiology, GAFCON, Soteriology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Jared Wilson–Preaching Your People Toward Mission

How do we preach toward good evangelistic engagement? If, as many younger evangelicals of the gospel-centered persuasion believe, we aren’t to turn our Sunday service into a seeker-targeted evangelistic event, in what sense might the sermon time fuel the missional impulse in our churches to reach and serve the lost? Here are some practical ways to serve this end:

1. Put the text in the context of God’s mission.

There is a mega-narrative to the Bible, a grand story of God’s redeeming purposes and spiritual mission in the earth, and many times we miss this in our preaching and teaching. Helping your hearers make the connection between the narrative you are preaching and the big story of God’s mission can help them begin to see their own story in the context of the big story of God’s mission. Making regular, explicit application of biblical texts to their missional contexts or missional implications helps influence hearers, over time, to see and think in missional ways.

2. Make application mission-oriented.

Rather than turning the application time in your preaching into only (or even mostly) individualistic steps to address personal “felt needs,” make the practical admonitions others-directed. Help people see that applying the Scriptures to their everyday life is not mostly about living their best life now but about loving and serving others, especially those they encounter at work, school, and neighborhood “third places.”

Read it all.

Posted in Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(SA) Ruth Lukabyo–Youth Revival: The impact of the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade on young people

Dad was not the only young person whose life was transformed that day. In fact, a statistical analysis of the Sydney Crusade demonstrates that 60% of those who signed the decision card were under the age of 21. The age most highly represented was 12-15 years at 28%, followed by 16-21 years at 19%. Many call the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade a revival, but it was not only a revival, it was a youth revival.

Apart from the work of the Spirit, why did the Crusade have such a marked impact upon youth? Graham’s message was a traditional gospel message of the sinfulness of people and their need for forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was not new.

What was new was the way it was communicated and Graham’s focus on young people. Youth nights were organised which were full of energy and infectious enthusiasm and were perhaps the most fruitful of the Crusade meetings. Associate evangelists spent hours at secondary schools, speaking at assemblies and lunch hour meetings. Graham spoke at Sydney University outside the Great Hall to a crowd of 4,000 students. Even at the main Crusade meetings, Graham would address young people separately and call them to dedicate themselves to Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Church History, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(Atlantic) A New Generation Redefines What It Means to Be a Missionary

Christianity is shrinking and aging in the West, but it’s growing in the Global South, where most Christians are now located. With this demographic shift has come the beginning of another shift, in a practice some Christians from various denominations embrace as a theological requirement. There are hundreds of thousands of missionaries around the world, who believe scripture compels them to spread Christianity to others, but what’s changing is where they’re coming from, where they’re going, and why.

The model of an earlier era more typically involved Christian groups in Western countries sending people to evangelize in Africa or Asia. In the colonial era of the 19th and early 20th centuries in particular, missionaries from numerous countries in Europe, for example, traveled to countries like Congo and India and started to build religious infrastructures of churches, schools, and hospitals. And while many presented their work in humanitarian terms of educating local populations or assisting with disaster relief, in practice it often meant leading people away from their indigenous spiritual practices and facilitating colonial regimes in their takeover of land. Kenya’s first post-colonial president Jomo Kenyatta described the activities of British missionaries in his country this way: “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”

Yet as many states achieved independence from colonial powers following World War II, the numbers of Christian missionaries kept increasing. In 1970, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there were 240,000 foreign Christian missionaries worldwide. In 2000, that number had grown to 440,000. And by 2013, the center was discussing in a report the trend of “reverse mission, where younger churches in the Global South are sending missionaries to Europe,” even as the numbers being sent from the Global North were “declining significantly.” The report noted that nearly half of the top 20 mission-sending countries in 2010 were in the Global South, including Brazil, India, the Philippines, and Mexico.

As the center of gravity of mission work shifts, the profile of a typical Christian missionary is changing—and so is the definition of their mission workwhich historically tended to center on the explicit goal of converting people to Christianity.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Globalization, History, Missions, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(CT) A Billy Graham Sermon–The Sin of Tolerance

One of the pet words of this age is “tolerance.” It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it too often where it does not belong. The word “tolerant” means “liberal,” “broad-minded,” “willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one’s convictions,” and “the allowance of something not wholly approved.”

Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one’s convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over-tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of conviction.

We have become tolerant about divorce; we have become tolerant about the use of alcohol; we have become tolerant about delinquency; we have become tolerant about wickedness in high places; we have become tolerant about immorality; we have become tolerant about crime and we have become tolerant about godlessness. We have become tolerant of unbelief.

In a book recently published on what prominent people believe, 60 out of 100 did not even mention God, and only 11 out of 100 mentioned Jesus. There was a manifest tolerance toward soft character and a broadmindedness about morals, characteristic of our day. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Christology, Evangelicals, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) We can reach millennials and this is how, says Church Army

The Church Army is releasing guidance on how to evangelise millennials in an attempt to reverse a worrying lack of young people in the pews.

Just 0.5 per cent of 18-24 year olds attend an Anglican church, its figures reveal, but research based on 12 case studies is aiming to persuade vicars working with young adults is not as difficult as it seems.

‘The findings are really encouraging in that they suggest that mission with young adults, while challenging, is not as difficult as one might think,’ said Dr Tim Ling, the Church Army’s director of research who headed the project.

The nine-month long scheme was based on 12 different approaches to mission and evangelism around the UK and from a variety of church traditions. Across the projects at least 60 people had become Christians through the churches studied, with a further 48 reporting the case study church had helped them rediscover a lost faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Young Adults

(CT) God, Guns, and Oil A Los Angeles church seeks the good of its neighborhood by confronting crime and environmental distress

For [Richard] Parks, shutting down the oil well is part of a bigger story of how the gospel is transforming the Exposition Park neighborhood. Members of Church of the Redeemer have tied their fate to the fate of the community. They want to see their neighbors flourish.

Shutting down oil wells or nuisance liquor stores, planting trees, tutoring kids, holding neighborhood Bible studies, and making friends with neighbors during a community service project are all part of how a neighborhood is reached with the gospel, Parks says.

“In the context of friendship—there are normal, natural opportunities to talk about our love for Jesus,” he said. “Our church is made up of people that our kids go to school with, our kids play soccer with, neighbors that we clean up trees with. That is how the gospel is going out in our community.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CT) Ravi Zacharias Remembers His Young Protégé, Nabeel Qureshi, RIP

The first time I saw Nabeel Qureshi, he sat at a table across from me, his one leg constantly moving almost subconsciously, warming up for a run. It was a habit of his restless disposition.

That was Nabeel in true expression; he hated sitting still. He was a man with a mission, ready to run. Sadly, for us, he finished his race all too soon and our hearts are broken at the loss of one who ran with spectacular passion to do what filled his soul.

He was a thorough-going evangelical. He held dear the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old and New Testaments and carried the message of salvation. Jesus’ grace for a transformed heart was his message.

For years as a young man, he labored and struggled to gain “righteousness before God” only to find out that righteousness was already met in the cross through Jesus Christ. That was his message in his best-selling book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic….
Read it all.

“Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic…”
Reflecting on @NAQureshi in @CTmagazine: https://t.co/yAhP0ZzDNn

— Ravi Zacharias (@RaviZacharias) September 20, 2017

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(CT) Holly Ordway–Why Evangelism Requires Both Logic and Loveliness

As an apologist, I appreciate the value of the imagination in no small part because of the role it played in helping me come to Christian faith. I was once an atheist, and a hostile one, who agreed with the New Atheists that Christianity was not just false but irrational and harmful.

Although I was not interested in apologetic arguments at the time, I had, without knowing it, been experiencing the work of grace through my imagination. As a child, I fell in love with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. At the time, of course, I didn’t know that I was encountering God’s grace through those books. Years later, as an atheist and graduate student, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on fantasy novels and had J. R. R. Tolkien’s great essay “On Fairy-stories”—with its powerful statement of the evangelium, the Good News—at the heart of it. When I became a college professor, I was deeply moved and intrigued by the writings of Christian poets. In time I realized that the faith of these writers was more complex and more interesting than I had thought, and I decided to learn more.

Like C. S. Lewis, I had a two-step conversion. I came to belief in God but then struggled with the idea of the Incarnation. All the evidence pointed toward the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as historical facts, but I found that I was unable to accept the idea of Jesus as God incarnate. At that point, I turned very deliberately to the Chronicles of Narnia: I went looking for Aslan, the lion who is the great Christ-figure of the Chronicles. Through my experience of those stories, my imagination was able to connect with what my reason already knew, and I was able to grasp as a whole person that God could become incarnate. That imaginative experience removed the last stumbling block for my acceptance of Christ.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelism and Church Growth, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(CBN) Thousands Attend the Largest UK Evangelism Event Since Billy Graham

The UK’s largest evangelism event since Billy Graham’s crusade decades ago hit the heart of Britain today and thousands responded to the Gospel message, putting their faith in Jesus Christ.

“Literally, thousands of people have just come forward to give their lives to Jesus,” said Peter Wooding, London Bureau Chief of the Global News Alliance.

The event should encourage Christians across the United Kingdom to pick up the banner of evangelism and begin sharing the Gospel, one national prayer leader said.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Al Zadiq's recent Sermon at St. Michael's, Charleston–the call to Followship (Matthew 4:18-23)

But notice how Jesus launches:Ӣ Not by big rallies
Ӣ No big Inauguration
Ӣ No bands
Ӣ No fireworks
Ӣ and no protestors..

Jesus begins by calling just a few”¦.into something I never want you to forget.

He calls them into FOLLOW-SHIP.

Read it all or you can listen or download it there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

[First Things] Stott Bowdlerized

By Barton Swain
Recently I bought a copy of John Stott’s brief and famous exposition of the Christian gospel, Basic Christianity, which I intended to give to a friend. The book was first published in 1958 and has sold several million copies. It is at once simple and refined, gentle and uncompromising, and many people in the Anglophone world can trace their conversions to reading Stott’s little masterpiece. If any “spiritual classics” were published during the second half of the twentieth century, Basic Christianity surely is one.
…..
Clearly the editor wanted to introduce a new generation to Stott’s beautiful book; his intentions were noble. But the project was a mistake. The Basic Christianity people are buying and reading today is a bad imitation of the original. The editor and publisher had no right to transform Stott’s book as they did, whether or not the author granted his permission. Good books are precious things that belong as much to their readers as they do to their publishers and even their authors. That is doubly so in the case of Basic Christianity, a work that has engaged its readers at the most intimate levels.

One discerns, too, a basic failure to understand the nature of a book. Except in bizarre circumstances, no book on any subject can come close to its original popularity a half century after it was published. Meddling with its text in an effort to make it popular again””dumbing its language down, making its pronouns gender-neutral””can only rob the book of what power it might still have. Anyone who picks up Basic Christianity today will do so because he wants something altogether different from the products available in his own age. He wants something from the past. What he gets instead sounds almost as if it were composed yesterday: chatty, choppy, bereft of much difficulty, with an improbable hint of political correctness.

In a sense, then, the updated book is a metaphor for the modernizing urge so typical of contemporary religiosity. Nothing achieves irrelevance quite so consistently as the feverish attempt to stay relevant.

Read it all

Posted in Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

[Justin Taylor] Stott on the essence of Evangelicalism

[from 2009 but may be helpful in the current debates]
What is an Evangelical?

For a thoughtful answer””a masterful example of clear thinking and concise expression””I’d recommend listening to this lecture by John Stott. (It’s 47 minutes long; I’m not sure what year it was delivered. If you know the provenance, please let us know in the coments below.)

A few years ago, when Stott was 85, he gave an interview to CT where he was asked to define the essence of evangelicalism. It’s a good summary of his classic lecture:

An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, there are two particular things we like to emphasize: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation on the other.

For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

. . . [W]hat God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax””meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God’s word in Christ, and there is a finality about God’s work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the lecture Stott operates with four main headings:

1.The claim of evangelicalism
2.The distinctives of evangelicalism
3.The concern of evangelicalism
4.The essence of evangelicalism

What follows is a brief summary of what Stott said in his important talk:

Read it all and listen to Stott’s talk if you wish

Posted in Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

(Living Church) George Sumner–Cape Town’s ”˜Yes’ and ”˜No’

What might Anglicans make of these conclusions? Cape Town is in the main consistent with a serious, plain-sense reading of The Catechism of the 1979 prayer book. Our evangelical neighbors show us not the face of “the Other” but rather that of our own forgotten selves. If to some readers Cape Town seems distant, it will be because of our own estrangement or amnesia. Traditional believers within Anglicanism, be they Catholic or evangelical, are not some outdated rump but rather the enfleshed memory of normative, ecumenical, global Christianity.

Here the question of what Cape Town is saying “No” to returns. What makes Cape Town appealing is its address of Christian practice as well as belief. It consciously compares itself to Pauline epistles, which move from proclamation (kerygma) to moral exhortation (paraenesis). Talking the talk must move on quickly to walking the walk. And on this score Cape Town does not let evangelicals off the hook. They have not always proclaimed the whole gospel, nor have they reined in their own leaders, nor consistently addressed the pressing social issues of their day. While the doctrinal part of Cape Town aims at the perennial, the ethical section seeks after pertinence to today’s context.

Here too is a message crucial for Anglicans to hear. Cape Town’s call to action asks: How are we addressing dramatic urbanization and constant migration on the global scene? How are we catechizing our young? How can be minister with honesty and charity to the postmodern era’s commodified and disordered sexuality? Has our theological education retained a heart for evangelism?

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, - Anglican: Analysis, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Scripture

Resolution 2 Passed at the South Carolina Convention Today

This just passed by an overwhelming majority–KSH.

Resolution R-2

Subject: A Resolution on the Uniqueness of Christ

Offered by: the Very Rev. Craige Borrett, the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, Christ Saint Paul’s, Yonges Island

That this Diocesan Convention, while valuing and affirming the importance of cultural and religious diversity, affirms that the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is for all and must be shared with all including people from other faiths or of no faith and that to do anything else would be to fail to love them as our neighbor; and that to this end, this Convention:

(a) recommits itself to living out daily the Baptismal Covenant’s call to “proclaim by word and example the Good news of God in Christ;’’ and

(b) urges all Christians to encourage sensitive and positive sharing of faith with people of all faiths and none whilst being willing to learn from and be enriched by people of other faiths.

Explanation:

In the beginning of the 21st century we live in a global village in which the world is indeed flat and there are many spiritual and religious ideas competing together for people’s attention. It is more important than ever that we as Anglicans affirm, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), the unique claim that Christ and his cross has on the whole world, a claim we have been given by the apostles and by those earlier Christians in history on whose shoulders we now stand.

In their most recent General Synod in February 2009, the Church of England passed a resolution which read:

That this Synod warmly welcome Dr Martin Davie’s background paper ”˜The witness of Scripture, the Fathers and the historic formularies to the uniqueness of Christ’ attached to GS Misc 905B and request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.

This resolution also allows us to support our sisters and brothers in the Church of England who rightly see the importance of “the uniqueness of Christ” in a multi faith world.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Christology, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Religion and Ethics Weekly: South Korean Missionaries

DE SAM LAZARO: He says the Yoido church is adding 10, 000 members every year — this in a country where there were hardly any Christians a century ago. Nowhere, at least in recent history, has Christianity grown so much in such a short period. It may have much to do with Christianity’s place in recent Korean history. Unlike many other countries where Christianity was brought by missionaries, in Korea the church is not part of a colonial legacy. The colonial power here was Japan, and churches were involved very closely with the Korean independence movement. Although some Catholic influences in East Asia date back to the late 1700s, the first missionaries — American Presbyterians — arrived in the late 1800s.

Rev. HA (through translator): The missionaries 120 years ago came and built schools first. They established junior high, college, medical facilities, and they evangelized the noble families. So when we were still under Japanese, those intelligentsia — they linked that believing in Jesus Christ is equal to working for Korea’s liberation movement.

DE SAM LAZARO: And for a country that’s seen unprecedented growth in wealth and prosperity in the past four decades, it’s not hard to believe in miracles. Korea today is considered a developed country with a standard of living equal to some European Union nations.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Outreach Magazine: Church in the City

A wonderfully encouraging article from Outreach Magazine (a sister publication of Christianity Today) about two New York City churches committed to multiplication and seeing the church impact the culture:

For all the wonders of New York City, the South Bronx still has a long way to go. As the country’s poorest congressional district, it is home to gang leaders, pimps and others””like Tyrone””whose main interest is simply finding a way to survive.

As a teenager, Tyrone found his identity in a gang named the Neighborhood Gangsters, and his future, like that of so many of his peers, seemed to be a dead-end street. Then one week, he went with a relative to Friday Night Live, a monthly, large-scale outreach hosted by a new, youth-oriented church named Infinity. Tyrone liked the hip-hop music, even though the words were about God. After the music, the pastor, Dimas Salaberrios””who had grown up a few miles away in Jamaica, Queens””spoke with relevance and passion about Jesus Christ.

Tyrone put his faith in Christ that night, but was still uncertain about his future. Quitting a gang could mean a death sentence, but he didn’t have to explain this to Salaberrios, who already understood the problem. Salaberrios boldly contacted the gang’s leader, asking that Tyrone’s family not be punished because of his decision. Today, Tyrone serves on Infinity’s security team, is discipled through a fellowship group and is being groomed for leadership by Salaberrios.

Tyrone’s story is common for Infinity, which began four years ago through Bible studies and community building, and formally launched in November 2006.

“Our No. 1 goal and priority is to get Christ into kids’ lives,” says Salaberrios. He also believes that God has used Infinity’s presence to reduce the murder rate to almost zero in the Bronx River Projects””a complex of nine high-rise towers which is home to almost 20,000 people as well as the new church.

Infinity’s story of success, however, can’t be told without also telling the story of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, located less than 10 miles away in Manhattan. Launched 18 years ago, Redeemer is now spiritual home to 5,000 of the city’s young professionals. […]

In an overwhelmingly secular community, Redeemer’s unique worship settings””including jazz and classical music””diverse makeup and [Tim] Keller’s intellectual preaching style have all resonated among the area’s mostly non-Christian young professionals. In fact about 15% of attendees in any given year don’t yet identify themselves as followers of Christ.

“Growth in itself though is not a goal for the church””evangelism is,” says Keller. That’s why Redeemer became a multiplying church.

“We know the only way to increase the number and percentage of Christians in a city is to plant thousands of new churches, and the only way to change the culture is to increase the number of churches engaged in it,” Keller explains.

So in 1994, Redeemer planted its first two churches, one in Greenwich Village (lower Manhattan) and another in the suburbs, both affiliated with its Presbyterian Church in America denomination. In the 13 years since, Redeemer has planted more than 100 churches””the majority non-Presbyterian””directly or in partnership with other churches, in New York City and other cities.

Enter Infinity. Thirty-three-year-old Salaberrios had fully committed his life to Christ when he was 21””a year after Redeemer planted its first two churches””and began to hold evangelistic rallies for hundreds of kids through Youth for Christ in New York City (YFC; yfc.net). But he noticed that when young people accepted Christ, local churches didn’t receive them as they were. Street manners, tattoos and baggy clothing were considered unacceptable “Sunday best.”

“I kept thinking to myself, ‘What are we going to do with all these kids who are coming to Christ?’ ” Salaberrios relates. “Romans 2:29 talks about circumcision of the heart. It’s not about changing a dress code, but making church relevant.”

Church, culture, relevancy and contextualization””Salaberrios and Keller were speaking the same language, even though their target groups were unmistakably different.

The full article is here.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelism and Church Growth, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Michael Green: Mission in North America Today

I come now to evangelism within the Episcopal Church. And I have to confess that this part of my presentation is going to be very short. Because it is almost impossible to speak of Evangelism and the Episcopal Church in the same breath in the USA. Practically no evangelism is undertaken by the denomination as a whole, though there are churches which are a glorious exception to this sad state of affairs.

During the Decade of Evangelism the TEC took no part but instead lost scores of thousands of members. Frank Griswold whose erstwhile diocese declined by about 30,000 during his time as PB, bravely spoke of doubling the denomination by 2010, but instead people walk away in their thousands. It is often said that TEC has 2 and a half million members but this is entirely misleading. Not only do a mere 700,000 appear in worship on a given Sunday but when people leave, the churches will not transfer their membership to a non-episcopal church and instead they stay on their lists as inactive members, thus illicitly swelling the numbers reported. The PB is able to maintain that only a small minority of churches have left, though they number in their hundreds. But she does not disclose the fact that not only is there deep unrest in many who remain and feel unable to break away because of emotional links with the past, but when you start assessing the numbers of people who have departed, they are disproportionately large. Flag ship churches are leaving, with their thousands of members. For example, Christ Church Plano, a well known Evangelical Church, has left the denomination and gone to AMiA. It has more members than the whole of the PB’s diocese. And the intentional way that lawsuits are being brought against the two biggest churches in TEC, The Falls Church and Truro in Virginia shows how worrying all this is to the leaders of TEC. Those two churches between them have more than 6000 members, and they and their finances are now lost to TEC.

If we ask why evangelism is at such a discount in TEC, the answer may well be complex. One reason is that evangelism is not and never has been in the DNA of Episcopalians. TEC has been an acknowledged refuge from the enthusiasm of the Baptists! Moreover, the average age of members in the congregations is so high, up into the late 60s across the country, and this of course militates against active evangelism. The future for the denomination in sheer terms of numbers is bleak”¦ the average number in a congregation being about 75. But also there is a theological blockage. On the one hand the belief seems to be that so long as they are baptized people are automatically Christians, irrespective of repentance and faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit ”“whereas in the NT all three elements figure in Christian initiation. The other is that the policies of the TEC are inclusive, which is wonderful, but inclusive without the need for transformation, which is not wonderful. You are welcome just as you are with no need to change. All lifestyles are acceptable.

A State Governor who has had to resign because of his divorce and taking up an active homosexual lifestyle has been accepted for ordination training in TEC. Not only all lilfestyles but all beliefs seem to be acceptable in the Episcopal Church. Only the other day a woman priest who has become a Muslim claimed to belong to both faiths ”“ without any rebuke from her bishop. The influence of Jack Spong is widespread and has never been repudiated by TEC. I find that repentance and faith is rarely mentioned in Episcopal pulpits, and the name of Jesus is scarce. As for the Holy Spirit he is generally associated with the votes of the majority. The church is moving in the direction of an undifferentiated Deism. Belief in the deity of Jesus, an objective atonement and the reality of the resurrection are constantly discounted among influential Episcopalians, while the people in the pew prefer not to enquire too closely. And the PB herself has made it plain that all religions lead to God. No wonder the church leaks!

This is one of the papers presented at the Oxford Consultation. The final section contains some wonderful examples of Anglican evangelistic initiatives in North America.

Read it all here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Conversion: A Dirty Word?

The following is an excerpt from a lengthy article on the 9Marks website, which I can’t recall having visited before, but which has a lot of interesting articles online all focused on helping Christians be better able to defend the Gospel. If you’ve got a few moments, check out what they claim are the 9 Marks of a church that glorifies God. This definitely looks to be a site this elf wants to browse around further. Note, however, that this is an unabashedly evangelical reformed Protestant site. (Predominantly Southern Baptist, it appears.) I for one find the final line of the excerpt below offensive in how it lumps the Vatican and the WCC together. Nonetheless, in this elf’s opinion, this was a worthwhile and thought-provoking read. –elfgirl
————

What’s the point of the story? Conversion is dirty word. It’s scandalous in today’s pluralistic and relativistic world to contend for one religious truth over and against another. It smacks of pride, arrogance, disrespect, perhaps hatred, maybe even violence.

This is the consensus among many of the secular elite. Popular television personality Bill Maher believes Christianity can only be explained as a “neurological disorder.”[1] Only the most unenlightened, uneducated, and uncouth Neanderthal would both believe and contend for a conversion to religious faith, especially Christianity. It’s absolutely what the modern man does not need.

And Maher simply represents what secular humanism as a movement has been saying all along. To quote from their own manifesto, “traditional theism”¦ and salvationism”¦ based on mere affirmation is harmful, diverting people with false hopes of heaven hereafter. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival.”[2] Reasonable minds”¦you can hear the condescension dripping from the pen.

Some go further, of course. They say such attempts at diversion (i.e. conversion) actually breed violence.

[…]

Yet it seems that conversion is even under attack among some professed evangelicals. This ought to strike us as nonsensical. Our English word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word for “good news.” What is this good news? It is that we, who are at enmity with God in our sin, can now be reconciled to him on account of Christ’s death and resurrection, when we repent of our sin and believe upon Christ. Conversion from our former way of life and thinking to Christianity is required. This much should be blatantly obvious.

Nonetheless, Brian MacLaren, perhaps the most prominent leader within the emerging church movement, calls for a reconsideration of conversion, if not an outright rejection of it. He writes in A Generous Orthodoxy,

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (though not all) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts. This will be hard, you say, and I agree. But frankly, it’s not at all easy to be a follower of Jesus in many ‘Christian’ religious contexts, either.[5]

We are told to embrace other faiths “willingly, not begrudgingly.” To be fair, McLaren asserts the uniqueness of Christianity apart from other religions.[6] And yet his belief in “a gospel that is universally efficacious for the whole earth,” his unwillingness to “set limits on the saving power of God” in reference to the unevangelized, and his belief that we must continually expect to “rediscover the gospel” as we encounter other religious traditions, “leading to that new place where none of us has ever been before,” raises significant and serious questions.[7] Frankly, I have difficulty seeing how he is recommending anything Christian, let alone orthodox. In the end, his proposals are eerily similar to those being set forth by the Vatican and the WCC.

The full entry is here. It is really quite comprehensive. The various sections are as follows:
— CONVERSION””A DIRTY WORD?
— CONVERSION””A BIBLICAL IDEA?
— CONVERSION””WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T
— BENEFITS FOR BELIEVERS
— CONCLUSION: ONE OF THOSE CHRISTIANS?

(hat tip: TwoOrThree.Net)

Posted in * Resources & Links, Resources: blogs / websites, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori ponders the Great Commission

Pondering the Great Commission
Baptism not a goal, but a relationship with God
By Katharine Jefferts Schori, July 06, 2007

[Episcopal Life] I met recently with a group of appointed missionaries of the Episcopal Church. They gathered for 10 days in New York for orientation before leaving to do mission. It was an enormous privilege to meet them and see their energy and enthusiasm (which means “filled with God”) for this adventure.

We had an opportunity for conversation, and one young man shared his concern about how to understand the Great Commission, particularly the directive to baptize, especially in a multifaith environment. It was a wonderful question that engages us all at one level or another.

How do we engage in evangelism, and particularly in the specific directives of Matthew 28:19-20? Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This passage marks the end of Matthew’s Gospel, and its explicitly Trinitarian language should make us aware that it probably reflects the practice of early Christian communities, some time after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Yet the question remains: How do we respond to this sending of the disciples, in which we understand all Christians participate, into a multifaith world?

If we believe that Jesus’ saving work is for the whole world, that should relieve some of our immediate anxiety. He is pretty clear that he is not here to judge the world, but to love the world and invite all into relationship with Love itself (John 12:32 — And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself — and John 12:47 — I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world). Judgment comes at the end of time, and until then you and I repeatedly are urged not to judge others.

Yet the ancient question remains: Is baptism necessary for salvation? Theologians have wrestled with this in a number of ways and made some remarkably gracious and open-ended responses. Vatican II affirmed that salvation is possible outside the church, even though some statements by Roman Catholic authorities in years since have sought to retreat from that position.

Karl Rahner spoke about “anonymous Christians,” whose identity is known to God alone. John MacQuarrie recognized the presence of the Logos or Word in other traditions.

But the more interesting question has to do with baptism itself. Like all sacraments, we understand baptism as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace (Catechism, BCP, p. 857). It is an outward recognition of grace that is both given and already present through God’s action.

When we look at some of the lives of holy people who follow other religious traditions, what do we see? Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama both exemplify Christ-like lives. Would we assume that there is no grace present in lives like these? A conclusion of that sort seems to verge on the only unforgivable sin, against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:30-32).

If I believe that God is more than I can imagine, conceptualize or understand, then I must be willing to acknowledge that God may act in ways that are beyond my ken, including in people who do not follow the Judeo-Christian tradition. Note that I include our Jewish brothers and sisters, for Scripture is very clear that God made a covenant with Israel. That covenant was not abrogated in Jesus. Scripture also speaks of a covenant with Abraham that extends to his offspring, including Ishmael. Our Muslim brothers and sisters claim him as their ancestor. In some way, God continues to act in the tradition we call Islam.

Well, if God is already at work in other religious traditions, why would we bother to teach, make disciples or baptize? The focus of our evangelical work can never be imposing our own will (despite the wretched examples of forced conversion in the history of Christianity), but there is a real urgency to sharing the good news.

The full article is here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Christianity Today: Reflections of an African Theologian on Mission

Christianity Today has a really interesting interview with Ugandan theologian Emmanuel Katongole. We found his reflections on the interaction between church and culture particularly interesting in this age of globalisation and important to consider as we reasserting Anglicans form new partnerships with the Global South.
———-

From Tower-Dwellers to Travelers
Ugandan-born theologian Emmanuel Katongole offers a new paradigm for missions.

Interview by Andy Crouch | posted 7/03/2007

Christian leaders from five war-torn countries of East Africa gathered in Kampala, Uganda, last November to strengthen the church’s witness in the midst of conflict. They were convened by Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic priest whose biography embodies both ethnic tension and Christian hope. Katongole was born and raised in Uganda, the son of Rwandan parents. His father embraced Christian faith as an adult, and his joyful seriousness about Christianity shaped Katongole, who joined the priesthood and trained as a philosophical theologian in Belgium. Katongole now teaches at Duke Divinity School, where he is co-director, with Chris Rice, of the Center for Reconciliation. He spoke with Andy Crouch about this year’s big question for the Christian Vision Project: What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God’s mission in the world?

You’ve lived on three continents and in four countries, and your parents were from yet another country, Rwanda. How does your story affect your understanding of God’s mission in the world?

Being an immigrant can be a blessing. God’s mission, as I read it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, is new creation. God is reconciling the world to himself. And there is a sense of journey that is connected with that. When, later on, Paul says that “we are ambassadors of God’s reconciliation, God is appealing through us,” he is inviting us into a journey toward a new kind of community. People looking at Christians should be confused. Who are these people? Are they black? Are they white? Are they Americans? Are they Ugandans? In Revelation, John sees people drawn from all languages and tribes and nations: an unprecedented congregation. Living on three continents has deepened my understanding of the church as such a congregation; at the same time, it has heightened my sense of Christian life as a journey and of what it means to live as a pilgrim, a resident alien.

That is reminiscent of the name Christians gave themselves in Acts, “people of the Way.”

That is, the way of Jesus. I also take that to mean people on the way, on pilgrimage. We have settled too easily. Instead of living out that story of journey toward a new creation, we tend to live out the stories of nationality. And then we forget what it means to journey. It’s not difficult to see why we settle, because our nations or tribes or races try to convince us that life can’t get any better than this. They ask us, “Where would you want to go? Why would you want to leave?” This is not just something that happens in a superpower like America. Even small nations like Rwanda, even small tribes, have an America-sized imagination of themselves!

The challenge that Christianity faces in our time is the challenge of tribalism. There’s a church in Rwanda where the baptismal font still stands. But it bears the scars of being hacked by machetes, and the church was littered with thousands of bones of people who were killed. You couldn’t find a more strange and ironic and tragic image than that: a common baptism surrounded by killing in the name of Hutu and Tutsi.

Many of us feel we are beyond that, but the dynamics of national identity remain””even of ecclesial identity. We can be settled in our Catholic power. We can be settled in our Baptist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, or evangelical identity, and we feel a certain power from that. We think that our mission derives from that power.

The story of the tower of Babel begins with people settled in the land. The tower speaks of strength, power, and stability. It speaks of the ability to stand above the land and survey it. Pilgrims don’t build a tower! In our day, I think what God is doing is exactly what he did for that tower””dispersing people, spreading them out, scattering them. Scattering, the way I read it in Genesis, is a good thing. It is part of God’s purpose for God’s people. It is meant to be good news for both Israel and the nations.

[…]

Are specific places and local identities important in a life of pilgrimage?

Absolutely. Pilgrimage actually makes us more aware of localness, because it brings us into contact with specific places and people. People sometimes ask me how “the church in America” should relate to “the church in Rwanda.” But that level of abstraction grows out of a tower-building mentality. There are only specific Americans from specific places with specific gifts and stories; there are only specific Rwandans.

The language of culture actually prevents us from engaging other people. It leads us to see ourselves as permanently separate from them: We have our culture, and they have theirs. It keeps us from allowing others to radically challenge us””that’s just their culture, you see, and it does not have anything to do with our culture.

What would it mean for Christians to have a certain naiveté about all these things called culture? How do we inhabit what we might call tactics instead of strategies? Strategy is the posture of an army, of a nation state, of a business that is able to conduct surveillance of its territory and all others. Tactics, on the other hand, are weapons of the weak, of those who have no place to call their own, who live in a territory that is surveilled and controlled by others.

Isn’t that a waste of our capacity to think strategically?

There are two dominant models of mission in our time. There is the model of mission as aid, which arises out of the great need we see in the world””famine, AIDS, poverty””and also out of a recognition of how much American Christians have. So American Christians go to Africa to help. This can be criticized as giving a person a fish for a day, but if that person is starving, then this model of mission actually does some good. A lot of people are being helped by this kind of mission. But the problem is that from this mission, Christians return to a tower. Their world remains their world, and Africa’s world remains Africa’s world.

Then there is the model of mission as partnership. It arises out of a sense of mutuality and solidarity between churches in the North and the South. So churches develop sister-parish relationships and so forth. The hope is to teach people how to fish, to equip them to do the fishing.

But as far as I can see, the pond in which they fish is still their pond. Christians in America have their own pond. We are still talking about your pond and our pond!

This model also overlooks the difference in power between America and the rest of the world. One gets an impression that because of the numerical strength of Africa’s church, Africans Christians can be equal partners with their Western counterparts. But we cannot pretend that the power of America does not exist. There is a new desire to learn from one another, but how deep does the learning go?

Read it all here.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Foreign Missionaries Find Fertile Ground in Europe

The “Amens!” flew like popcorn in hot oil as 120 Christian worshipers clapped and danced and praised Jesus as if He’d just walked into the room. In a country where about 2 percent of the population attend church regularly and many churches draw barely enough worshipers to fill a single pew, the Sunday morning service at this old mission hall was one rocking celebration.

In the middle of all the keyboards, drums and hallelujahs, Stendor Johansen, a blond Danish sea captain built like a 180-pound ice cube, sang along and danced, as he said, like a Dane — without moving.

“The Danish church is boring,” said Johansen, 45, who left the state-run Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church three years ago and joined this high-octane interdenominational church run by a missionary pastor from Singapore. “I feel energized when I leave one of these services.”

The International Christian Community (ICC) is one of about 150 churches in Denmark that are run by foreigners, many from Africa, Asia and Latin America, part of a growing trend of preachers from developing nations coming to Western Europe to set up new churches or to try to reinvigorate old ones.

For centuries, when Europe was the global center of Christianity, millions of European missionaries traveled to other continents to spread their faith by establishing schools and churches. Now, with European church attendance at all-time lows and a dearth of preachers in the pulpits, thousands of “reverse missionaries” are flocking back, migrating from poor countries to rich ones to preach the Gospel where it has fallen out of fashion.

The phenomenon signals a fundamental shift in the power, style and geography of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. Most of its more than 2 billion adherents now live in the developing world. And as vast numbers of them migrate to Europe, as well as to the United States, they are filling pews and changing worship styles.

Churches in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Korea and the Philippines have sent thousands of missionaries to Europe to set up churches in homes, office buildings and storefronts. Officials from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Pentecostal church based in Nigeria, said they have 250 churches in Britain now and plan to create 100 more this year. Britain’s largest church, run by a Nigerian pastor in London, attracts up to 12,000 people over three services every Sunday.

Read it all.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Europe, Theology, Theology: Evangelism & Mission