In This Day and Age, Evangelism Is Spelled: A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S

On Saturday morning I woke up to find God’s Crime Scene ranked as the #1 Best Seller on Amazon’s list of “Evangelism” books. I will admit I was excited and humbled, but truly surprised. Saturday was the first day the book was available to the public, and prior to this publishing date I saw it was doing well in pre-sales in a variety of Amazon classes. God’s Crime Scene had been listed in the #1 “Hot New Release” spot in the Apologetics, Physics, Metaphysics and Philosophy categories at one time or another in the weeks prior to its release. It is, after all, an apologetics book that utilizes scientific and philosophical evidence to make the case for God's existence (from the perspective of a homicide detective), and I was delighted to see it was doing well in those expected categories. But evangelism? I really didn’t anticipate people would see it as an attractive alternative to the many other titles more traditionally written as evangelism books. But the early success of God’s Crime Scene may simply be a reflection of a new and important reality: In this day and age, evangelism is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S.
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Is the Church A Cruise Ship Or A Rescue Boat?

When describing the difficulty in creating a more thoughtful version of Christianity in America, I sometimes describe the Church as a large ocean liner. If we, as Christian Case Makers, hope to have a significant impact on what appears to be a sometimes uninformed (or apathetic) Christian culture, we must turn this large ship one degree at a time. The Church is not a jet ski we can turn on a dime; it is a large, established institution requiring gentle nudging from the tugboats amongst us who want to change its direction. I love the Church. I’ve been a pastor and church leader myself, and I’ve come to respect the role of pastors and shepherds. It’s an incredibly difficult job, requiring special gifts. As Paul says in Ephesians Chapter 4 (verse 11), only some of us have been given by God to be pastors. Most of us are not gifted in this way, and the more I work with local churches, the more I respect those who are in a position of leadership, especially those pastors who recognize the importance of Christian Case Making. As I visit with these pastors around the country, I’ve heard them describe how difficult it is to raise up congregations who are capable and ready to defend what they believe, especially in a hedonistic culture such as ours. When they describe the Church at large, it sounds a lot more like a cruise ship than a rescue boat.

I’m using this analogy to help us think about the nature of the Church in America so we can be more focused in our efforts to make it better. I believe the Church is our best and last hope. It has been the often unrecognized foundation of our culture, the unsung (and maligned) hero responsible for much of what we take for granted as a nation and a people. As skepticism, hedonism and nihilism grow in our country, Christianity has the opportunity to meet the challenge or shrink from the fight. I believe we must renew the life and role of the mind in Christendom if we expect to have a continuing impact on our culture. And that’s where I think my analogy may illustrate the nature of the challenge we face. Let me describe two kinds of ocean vessels and you tell me which one sounds more like the Church today:

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Tips for Studying the Bible

As Christians, we have a lot of questions that we don’t always know how to investigate on our own, and we’re grateful when somebody will come in and give us the quick answer. But if you’ve raised kids, you know that when your kids have a question and ask you to sort something out for them, they come away with one kind of knowledge. When you allow your kids to work through, and find, and research the answer for themselves, they come away with a completely different kind of understanding. I can remember when I first came to Christianity out of atheism, I really needed to examine the issues for myself. And let’s face it, there are lots of times when it’s not so much an understanding of the truth; it’s not so much that the truth is out there and I just can’t grasp it; it’s that I hold some type of prerequisite, presupposition, that prevents me from seeing the truth clearly.
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It’s a Starbucks Sunday: Are you Ready to Order?

Here's a re-post just to remind myself.  

It’s Sunday.

Not only will 11.7 million people visit a Starbucks and ask for something extraordinarily specific like a “non-fat soy sugar-free caramel macchiato with a shot of espresso,” but a whole lot of us will shop for churches with the same self-absorbed specificity.

“I’m looking for a youthful, semi-charismatic service with a hint of reformed theology and a Donald Miller vibe.” 

“Can you help me find a progressive Presbyterian congregation for my mother—one that has a robed choir, snacks between services, and a penchant for homeless missions?

“We’re visiting a new church today. It’s slightly Willow Creek with a touch of old-school Calvary Chapel. It caters to single parents, disenfranchised boomers, and men who don’t want to hold hands. And you gotta love the stadium seating.”

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What's New? The Lausanne Global Analysis Publication

“To deliver strategic and credible information and insight from an international network of evangelical analysts so that Christian leaders will be equipped for the task of world evangelization.”

A new publication was released today from the Lausanne Movement with the underlying purpose of the statement above. Some of the titles found in the first issue include Where Next for the Arab Spring?, People and Their Religions on the Move and Choosing to be Salt & Light: Can the Church in India be a Model in the Fight for Anti-Corruption?

The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released every other month. Publisher of the LGA and Chairman of the Lausanne Movement Doug Birdsall writes that the LGA is the result of a “gap between the massive amount of information that surrounds us 24/7, and the ability to process that information and access credible analysis from an evangelical perspective.” You can read more about Dr. Birdsall’s publisher’s note here.

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Religious Artifacts and and the Twinkie: Why Some Bad Ideas Aren’t Worth Saving

After an acrimonious standoff between Hostess executives and the bakery labor union, our worst apocalyptic fears might be realized: Twinkies might disappear forever. Eighty-three years of children’s lunchboxes and Texas Fair fryers might not be enough to rescue the golden little fella from spongecake oblivion. 

But just because Twinkies have always been around isn’t reason enough to keep them there. Nostalgia shouldn’t hijack common sense. 

The church has had its own share of bad products which, like the the Twinkie, have been unhealthy, strangely enjoyable, and made on the cheap. I say it’s time to retire all those evangelical products that made us so happy at the time. Here’s a start:

  • Children’s flannel boards with all those Caucasian Bible characters
  • Pyramid-shaped photo arrangements of church staff (pastor on top, with his wing men in dark suits in descending order according to seminary degrees and paychecks)
  • Padded, mauve sky-box chairs
  • The badly-proofed collection of typed praise songs with the plastic curlicue binding
  • Round, plasticized communion wafers
  • The dual-handled pouch-bag-offering-thingie (passed down the aisle with choreographed wonder)
  • My Texas pastor’s clear plexiglass pulpit with the laser-cut cross cutout
  • The 3-D silver dove for my bumper
  • Big screens that disappear into the big slit in the ceiling
  • Hand-made banners with silk tassels
  • Powerpoint slideshows (golden wheat stalks blowing? Multi-racial families smiling? Clouds billowing?)
  • Black electric keyboards from Wal-Mart with pre-set beats “for the young people”
  • Four Words: Bob. Tomato. Larry. Cucumber
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Church Is Useless

“Church is useless.”

I might have expected such a comment from my 24-year-old nephew who insists that living with his parents in the room he’s occupied since birth, whose passion is playing FPS (First Person Shooter) games and whose sole means of gainful employment is a part-time job at a local restaurant. But my nephew, as far as I know, has never said that. Though he was “raised in the church,” he doesn’t attend with any regularity. But as far as I know, he’s never said the church is useless.

Instead, the quote came from a 28-year-old—let’s call him Michael—who has a really good job, is married to a very successful marketing executive and who has nothing in common with my nephew except that he was also raised in the church.

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Expanding our Circle of Friends in the Church

The church has become a master at niche marketing.  From the kind of music style you want in your worship service, to whether you prefer a small church or large.  There are also things like Stephen Ministries, a ministry designed to train people to be good “helpers”, for lack of a better word, in coming alongside a person to help them through a period of grief. 

If you want a small group experience there is one for almost any place you are at in your “spiritual journey”.  For instance, some churches have “seeker” small groups, new believer small groups, high school small groups, single adult small groups, men’s groups, women’s group, recovery groups, motor cycle groups, MOPS, and “young at heart” groups.  One of these options is most likely available to you.  If I have left any group out that you attend or know about, I apologize.

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Bell's "Wonder" Misses the Mark

 

This week I caught Rob Bell’s new video titled “Rediscovering Wonder”.  I’ll save you the suspense and let you know there is nothing wonderful about it.  In fact it has left me to wonder if his message is an attack against those in the church who disagreed with his premise in his previous book, Love Wins, when he put forward that God’s love may be so big, he would allow people who are in hell a second chance at salvation, thus adopting the Universalist views on the afterlife.

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Is the Church too focused on the youth? Part 3

To most effectively reach our culture with the truth we must get back to the fact that “true spirituality covers all of reality.” (Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, 19)  Schaeffer explains this well:  “When I say Christianity is true I mean it is true to total reality-the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal infinite God.  Christianity is not just a series of truths, but Truth-Truth about all of reality.” (Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, 19-21)

Sadly many Christians today do not hold this view, but it must be encouraged and taught.  The battle for a biblical worldview is not confined to younger generations.  The evidence is too broad to suggest postmodernism, religious pluralism, or “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” is part of a new generational thing.  Therefore, Christian leaders and pastors must encourage and emphasize how parents need to take greater responsibility for there own spiritual life, and of their families. 

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