Ancient-Future Evangelism

January 28, 2006

ancient-future ev.jpgThis book was a worthwhile read.  It is not so much about evangelism (as the title would indicate) as it is about “Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community” (subtitle).  It is more aboud discipleship (as if evangelism does not include discipleship.  This is not my first Robert Webber book, and it will not be my last.  Dr. Webber is probably around 72 now and he is still using his mind for the glory of God and the betterment of the kingdom.  You will find the “Ancient-Future” theme throughout much of his thought and writing.  Specifically, take a moment to drop by Ancient Future Worship.  There is certainly many articles on the web that are a better introduction to what ancient-future really means (such as the aforementioned site).  I will deliberately be brief in my description.

In this current volume, Dr. Webber responds to the International Consultation on Discipleship and a statement published by them in 1999.  He uses the premise of what evangelism is and what it should be as a means to point us to the past.  The future of discipleship should be a gleaning of the ancient practices.  What is laid out is a possible structure to be used in a church in the process of spiritual formation.  The actual curriculum is not presented as much as recommendations.  The structure can be adapted to each church’s unique situation.

I do not believe that I would be ready to convert entirely to his methodology, but I would consider incorporating many of the ancient traditions as far as they were useful in the context I found myself.  I do not see myself adopting the liturgy of the church calendar; however, I would on occasion use it as a guide.

I would recommend this book to anyone involved in planning a church’s worship or discpleship.  There are many good ideas and tools within this resource.  Furthermore, Dr. Webber (or his editors and research assistants) does a fantastic job in adding charts and conclusions.  One can tell that the author is an experienced teacher and that he wishes to maximize your learning.

Livid with Labels

January 28, 2006

I struggle with labels. I don’t know what label I even want put on me. There are certainly many labels that I would immediately reject, but no label is definitively specific.

In a conversation with some new (Christian) friends, the history of my vocation was discussed in which I told them that I was most recently on staff at a Baptist church. They quickly (without shame) responded to this with, “Oh, you’re one of those.” What was I to do, I was on the defensive now. I did not want to stand in support of what every person who labeled themselves a “Baptist” had done, nor did I want to disregard the many godly, compassionate, freedom-loving Baptists that I have been in fellowship with. Not to mention the fact that I do align most closely with Baptistic theology.
On another post this week, I made reference to “Community” churches and the lottery that is inherent in visiting one of these. You really never know what to expect.

Finally, I have had a few use the term “emergent” when referring to me. This has become a very loose term, and a label I do not currently wish to wear. The positions of those who would consider themselves emergent vary in drastic ways. If I were to be tied to someone in that movement, I would choose Mark Driscoll over Brian McLaren (although Mark probably does not use the emergent term in relation to himself, there are certainly many that have used the term of him.).

All of this thought today was prompted by an excellent and humorous response to McLaren by Driscoll on Christianity Today’s blog. Enjoy.

If you are just joining this discussion, it is imperative that you read the following posts before proceeding here:

Tongue in cheek…or not?

Tongue in cheek…IMB

Tongue in cheek…CMA

To summarize, I am addressing the issue of tongues (the spiritual gift) and its use in modern Christianity. As I understand Scripture, tongues were not intended to remain beyond the apostolic age and the completion (perfection) of the canon of Scripture. I do not, however, attempt dogmatism (at this point in time) in reference to these issues; the last thing I want to do is entirely discredit something that God might be the cause of. Let’s continue.

If you have followed the blog, you will know that my family visited with Lifeland Community Church this past Sunday. Lifeland is somewhat associated (I don’t know exactly how closely) with the Assemblies of God (USA). I am not intending to be polemical against my friends, but I do have some concern with the positions of the AGs.

The AGs are very pro-tongues. They see them as valid for congregational worship and private prayer. Thankfully, they do not say that one must speak in tongues to be saved. However, everyone who is “filled with the Spirit” will evidence speaking in tongues:

There are those who give testimony to a dynamic and life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit who have never spoken in tongues. Nevertheless it cannot be said that they are filled with the Spirit in the New Testament sense of the term. (link)

I suppose I must take this personally. You see, I have never spoken in tongues. I am certainly not the most spiritual person I know, but I would like to think I have reached a greater spiritual maturity than the one who has only come to knowledge of salvation for a few days or hours or minutes. Furthermore, there are farther-reaching ramifications of this statement. If it is true that tongues is a definite evidence of Spirit filling, then Billy Graham, Rick Warren, John Piper [I have since discovered that Piper is a Continuationist], Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and certainly many others have never been filled with the Spirit (I cannot attest that every one of these individuals have not had or did not have such an experience, but to the best of my knowledge, they would have likely chronicled it to some extent).

The AGs do have their own little disclaimer that might explain why the aforementioned (including myself) have never experienced tongues:

The believer must (1) have a clear understanding of the biblical base for promised gifts; (2) be touched in his heart with a desire for the gifts to flow; (3) be willing to submit to the inner sense that the Spirit is seeking expression; and (4) offer to the Holy Spirit his heart, emotions, will, and voice by which those gifts may operate. The key is obedient availability coupled with a sincere desire to please God. (link)

However, does this mean that having a “clear understanding of the gifts” is foundational for being “filled with the Spirit”? I am quite sure that tongues is not mentioned nor implied in the Ephesians 5 reference to being filled with the Spirit. For a reminder:

…be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:18b-20, NIV)

There is a list of other questions that might be asked by the curious on the AG’s website. You can find those here: Other question

Finally, I will still say that tongues are a non-essential; especially if you do not require their practice as evidence of salvation. I can gladly fellowship with my AG brothers and sisters in Christ. I will not appreciate that they might judge me as never having been “filled with the Spirit,” but I would think that many AG believers would recognize the error in being dogmatic in that theology.

I have a few more posts I would like to make on this subject, although I am not sure where I would like to go next.

Should I submit my resume?

January 27, 2006

I came across this link where someone posted an actual job posting (names removed).  For anyone considering ministry, this is an extreme.  Be sure to read the comments: I’m not looking for a job…

Roe v. Wade anniversary

January 24, 2006

It has been 33 years (last Sunday) since the verdict came down in Roe v. Wade. Sunday morning, before church, I was surfing and came across a recommendation by John Piper (via Justin Taylor) to check out Abort73 for some relevant information about the war against abortion. This site is for adults only, viewer discretion is advised. I do not regret looking at the site, but it does have some shock value. Mind you, this is not something that you want to view on a Sunday morning before church, but it awakens you to what is going on out there. I had no idea that abortions in America (alone) number 1.3 million each year.
Watch the opening video and if you can take it, follow it to the “next page” after that. You will see footage from abortions. It is disheartening, disgusting, and even sickening, but it is real. I certainly have not done as much as I could in this cause. How can we let this continue under our watch?

Tongue in cheek…CMA

January 23, 2006

If you haven’t already, read the following posts before preceding through this post:

Tongue in cheek…or not?

Tongue in cheek…IMB

“Seek not, forbid not.” That is how my new friends describe the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s position on tongues (and other sign gifts). In fact, this phrase is the title of one of their pamphlets that is referenced in this document. However, it seems that does not accurately portray their current position. They now describe their stance with the words “Expectation without Agenda.”

The CMAs clearly no longer take a nuetral position with respect to sign gifts. They consider all gifts valid, but they do present tight reins for proper Biblical practice of the gifts.

In other theology, the CMAs remain very conservative and you can find out more by checking out their site.

Tongue in cheek…IMB

January 23, 2006

Read this post first…

For the past 3 years, I have been on staff at a Southern Baptist Church.   The International Mission Board (IMB) is the organization that manages all the SBC missions.  In the blogsphere and in many Southern Baptist circles, there has been much discussion about the recommendation that the IMB is bringing this year to the delegates of the Southern Baptist Convention (for an excellent compilation of blogsphere debate see Provocations and Pantings).  I will summarize as necessary for the purposes at hand.  The IMB already has regulations that will not allow support of missionaries that practice tongues in congregational worship; however, this year they are also eliminating support for any missionionaries that practice a “private prayer language.”

They have every right to do this.  This is only a recommendation, but it is likely to pass on the Convention floor.  It will pass, only if the majority of delegates are in favor of it.  It is money that is supplied from the churches that sent the delegates that goes to support the missionaries.  If those churches don’t want to support missionaries that practice a private prayer language, then so be it.  As much as I would like to sit on the fence, based on the truth as I currently understand it, if forced to take a side, I would vote in favor of the recommendation.

My concern in this matter, is for those missionaries that are already on the field who have been receiving support for numerous years to find the rug pulled out from under them.  Even if I disagree with them theologically, for me it is a non-essential.  I would be in favor of asking them to refrain from teaching this practice, but I would like to see them “grandfathered” under the new recommendation.  If they are humble and respect those who are supporting them, they should have no problem keeping their practice in private.

Am I a hypocrite here?  Am I trying to please everyone?  I hope that you will continue with these posts (more to come) to understand why I straddle.

Tongue in cheek…or not?

January 23, 2006

Ok, the title of this entry has little if anything to do with the actual content. I wanted to take a moment to share some recent thoughts I have had concerning the gift of tongues in modern Christianity.

To begin with, I want to say that I am not in favor of the manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues in modern-day church life. Part of this has to do with my background (Baptist) and part of this has to do with my own personal study. However, I want to be careful. I have been wrong before, and I will certainly be wrong again. I am not quick to attribute the manifestation of tongues to any other force than God. I am not quick to give God the credit either. The point is, if it is something that God is behind (in which case my theology is wrong), then I don’t want to give credit to man or an evil force. Likewise, I cannot attribute it to God, because my theology limits me.

What has brought this up in my mind recently is related to a number of factors. First of all, there is some debate about tongues in relation to some policies of the International Missionary Board of the Southern Baptist Convention on what recommendations they intend to make at this year’s convention. Secondly, I have had recent conversations with some friends that are part of the The Christian and Missionary Alliance over their position with respect to this spiritual gift (and other sign gifts). Thirdly, the church we visited Sunday evening, Lifeland, is somewhat affiliated with the Assemblies of God and therefore welcomes the congregational practice of tongues. Finally, Dr. Sam Storms has recently authored a book titled Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charasmatic Calvinist.

I will address each of these influences in separate subsequent posts so as not to belabor and bore you here.

Amateur Electrician

January 23, 2006

I am by no means a professional electrician; however, in spite of that fact (which will soon become more obvious), I (at my wife’s request) took on the project of switching out our receptacles and light switches on the first level of our house (the upstairs is on a future to-do list).  This job isn’t shouldn’t be all that complicated.  Basically, you begin by shutting the power off to the items you are switching out.  Then, you take off the old making note of what wires went where, and then you add the new.

Our house is slightly over 7 years old, and there was no necessity in changing the pieces we were, except that we had the more traditional beige electic outlets and switches.  Our replacements were the more modern white, square receptacles and rocker-arm switches.

To make a long story short, at about 9:00 on Friday night, there was no power running to the first floor of our house.  Something was wired incorrectly.  Except for the stove light and our bathroom light, there was nothing working.  Basically, except for our bathroom (we have a first floor master) and the kitchen appliances, the rest of the first floor seems to run on just one breaker.  I don’t know what it is like at 9:00pm where you live, but it is dark here…very dark.  To add to my stress, Saturday was our son’s first birthday and my wife’s entire extended family was coming to our house.  A few of those family members were going to be seeing it for the first time.  Now the birthday party was at noon, and we have plenty of windows for light, but it was also predicted to be rather overcast.  Furthermore, I was not sure how keen the guest’s would be to using the guest restroom by candlelight…hey, at least it counteracts any odor….

Well, I took my flashlight to the basement and finally found that catch-all Home Depot book that I got when we were first married.  As I opened it, I heard the spine crack.  I guess I haven’t gotten the use out of this thing that I had hoped for.  I found the electrical section and began to look for things I might have done wrong.  I appeared to have done everything “according to the book.”  To be sure, I began to re-examine every bit of wiring I had accomplished thus far.  My wife, by this point in time, had retired to bedroom.  She couldn’t watch TV, because there was no power to it; so she just went to sleep.

I decided, I would go ahead and replace the last few remaining, and if nothing else, the wall plates would look nice in the sunlight.  During this process, I continued to make numerous trips up and down the basement stairs to the far corner to flip the breaker on, only to come back upstairs to realize it was not working.  Finally the last switch was replaced.  I took one last trip downstairs to turn things back on, and much to my surprise, everthing worked when I got back upstairs.  I can’t explain it.  The pieces that I had replaced since the lights went out, were pieces that had worked previously.  It didn’t make sense, but that didn’t matter.

I took a moment to clean and put the final screws in to mount the plates and finally crawled into bed.  The one highlight came at that moment when I realized I had to set my clock.  The clock was blinking 12:15, because it had been 15 minutes since I had flipped the lights on with success.  I checked my watch for the correct time, and it was 12:15.  I had ironically turned the power back on at midnight.  I went ahead and bumped the time on my alarm clock forward 9 minutes (the length of my snooze), but I did not set the alarm.

I use to criticize “church-hoppers,” and I am still not in favor of those who cannot make a commitment to a local church. I do not want to excuse my current situation, but after spending 6 years in vocational ministry, my family is taking the time to simply visit for a month or two with varied styles of churches to see what they are doing. Today was no different.

This morning, we hit the 10:30 service at North Cincinnati Community Church. Although a “community church” by name, they are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (as opposed to the liberal extreme: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)). They had a nice facility, and the people were very friendly. Overall, it was a good experience. The pastor, Walter Wood, was a little more “dry” than what I am used to. I would liked to have seen more energy in their services. Despite these small criticisms, one cannot deny the church must be doing something right. Not yet into its teenage years (the church is 12 years old), they have grown to likely more than 600 in weekend attendance (this is a guess). They are in process of laying out a vision plan for the coming years, as well. Of course, with my background, I want to examine the musical program, and I was pleased. Despite not having a staff person dedicated to it (although their plan is to add such), the music was very organized, tasteful, and well done. It was a decent blend of modern and ancient in a contemporary style.

At 4:30 today (actually we were about 7 minutes late), we visited with Lifeland Community Church. Although, I intend to use the “community” term if God permits me to plant a church, I will have to admit that you never know what you’re going to get when you walk into a “community church.” Lifeland is pastored by Chad Fagerland. We had dinner with the Fagerlands this past Friday night. Chad is a tremendous and genuine guy, and I really hope God continues to use him at Lifeland. The worship could not have been more different than this morning. Lifeland will celebrate its one-year birthday next weekend, so it is considerably smaller than North Cincinnati (between 30 and 40 in attendance today). They are in a borrowed facility, but they deal with it well. We sat in chairs around square tables that had candles burning in the center. There was some florescent lighting used during the teaching, but the lights were dimmed for the worship response. Incidentally, they begin with a discussion/interaction time, followed by the pastoral teaching on the theme (“character” in the life of Daniel was today’s theme). After the teaching, the community is invited to respond in worship. This worship is accompanied by music, but you are free to go to 3-4 worship alters for prayer and/or communion. It was an experiential time. I was completely comfortable with the entire service, although the worship experience was different than most. In closing, we were led in the Apostle’s Creed and a benediction of blessing spoken over us by the pastor.

It has been a good day, and it has been good to spend these moments with these two churches. I am not sure that I could make either my home. I would certainly differ with North Cincinnati on the issue of baptism. I would hold to a “Believer’s baptism” rather than infant baptism. This, for me, is a non-essential. It would not cause me to break fellowship with them, and I am content to agree to disagree. I don’t consider baptism necessary for salvation, and I can understand their argument. However, their argument lacks significant scriptural support and consistency.

Lifeland is affiliated with Assemblies of God. They would certainly hold to a different teaching on spiritual gifts than I would. Again, I would consider this a non-essential, and I would not break fellowship over it. If, they believe the extreme that the manifestation of tongues is essential for salvation, then it would no longer be a non-essential and would redefine the gospel. I will save more thoughts on this for another post, in another day.