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Posts Tagged ‘evangelism’

The origins of Halloween lie with the church. This video shows how medieval Christians saw Halloween as “a final fling” for the powers of darkness, safe in the knowledge that the Light  is always stronger. (For more on the thinking behind the video, read this).

And please share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Vast armies undead do tread through the night and
In hordes march towards hapless victims to frighten.
They stumble in step with glass-eyes on the prizes;
Bunched hither, hunched over in monstrous disguises;
In sizes not lofty but numb’ring a throng;
To unleash on their prey the dreaded DING DONG.
Small faces with traces of mother’s eye-liner,
Peer up to the resident candy provider.

And there to intone ancient threats learnt verbatim;
They lisp “TRICK OR TREAT!” Tis their stark ultimatum.
Thus: region by region such legions take plunder.
Does this spector-full spectacle cause you to wonder?
Just how did our fair festive forebears conceive,
Of this primeval practice called All Hallows Eve?
The answer, if anyone cares to research,
Surprises, it rises from old mother church.

On the cusp of the customary All Saints Day
The Christ-i-an kinsfolk made mocking display.
These children of light both to tease and deride;
Don darkness, doll down as the sinister side.
In pre-post-er-ous pageants and dress diabolic,
They hand to the damned just one final frolick.
You see with the light of the dawn on the morrow,
The sunrise will swallow such darkness and sorrow.

The future is futile for forces of evil;
And so they did scorn them in times Medieval.
For this is the nature of shadow and gloom;
In the gleaming of glory there can be no room.
What force is resourced by the echoing black?
When the brightness ignites can the shadow push back?
These ‘powers’ of darkness, if such can be called,
Are banished by brilliance, by blazing enthralled.

So the bible begins with this fore-resolved fight;
For a moment the darkness…. then “Let there be Light!”
First grief in the gloom, then joy from the East.
First valley of shadow, then mountaintop feast.
First wait for Messiah, then long-promised Dawn.
First desolate Friday and then Easter Morn.
The armies of darkness when doing their worst,
Can never extinguish this Dazzling Sunburst.

So… ridicule rogues if you must play a role;
But beware getting lost in that bottomless hole.
The triumph is not with the forces of night.
It dawned with the One who said “I am the Light!”

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Preaching-George-WhitefieldThat was how Wesley and Whitfield would describe their evangelistic efforts.  Sounds so simple: just offer them Christ.

And it’s so joyous too.  Nothing brings home to me the graciousness of my Lord as much as offering Him to others.  The availability of Jesus is so tangible when you just lift Him up before people and say “Want Him?  He’s yours.”

But it’s so easy to fall short of it.

Here’s how:

* We offer them “cool” not Christ

We spend our time reassuring people that they don’t have to be a geek to be a Christian.  Christians can be trendy too.

* We offer them “credibility” not Christ

We spend all our time reassuring people that they don’t need to be brainless to be a Christian.  Christians can be clever too.

* We offer them a creed not Christ.

Creeds are essential, I’m not suggesting we can divorce the personal from the propositional.  But teaching people 6 doctrines is not offering them Christ.

* We offer them a course not Christ.

Courses are brilliant, I’ve seen many people become Christians on things like Christianity Explored.  But offering a course is not offering them Christ.

Now, good evangelism might have all sorts of apt cultural references and thoughtful critiques of modern assumptions. It will certainly convey creedal truths and if it’s followed by courses where Christ is also offered – that is an excellent thing.

But whatever else happens, it ought to offer Christ, oughtn’t it?  Shouldn’t it placard the Person and work of Jesus and ask “Will you receive Him?”

Here’s some reasons I think we don’t.  (And I genuinely say “we” – I fail at this all the time.)

1. We think cool, credibility, creeds and courses are more attractive than Jesus. Of course we’d never say that.  We’d rarely dare to articulate the thought.  But I wonder whether it’s there.

2. We imagine that the gospel is a process rather than a Person. Again, if cornered we’d swear black and blue that faith is an event and the gospel a revelation. But if our evangelism is all processes perhaps we’ve begun to think of the evangel itself as a process.

3. We don’t honestly think people will become Christians. Allied to point number 2, we’ve bought into some social science view of conversion and reckon that “people are much further back these days” and “we just need to bring them on a few steps towards faith.”

4.  We don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. We don’t actually think the power of Almighty God is unleashed when the Word is preached. So instead we trust to the resources of the flesh.

5. We refuse to be as vulnerable as the Lord we proclaim. Paul knew that a foolish message (1 Cor 1:18-25) meant a foolish people (v26-31) and a foolish messenger (2:1-5).  But we don’t want to be cruciform evangelists, opening our arms to a world who will despise and belittle the word of the cross.  We want to show the world how wise and strong we are.

What do you think?

Anything to add?

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Last year I was in a kind of debate with Andrew Copson – Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA). His final line of the evening was a plea for us all to “be good for goodness sakes.”

The line sounds twee but there’s a genuine point that deserves our attention: Goodness for the sake of ‘spiritual reward’ is neither necessary, nor desirable. In fact it’s pretty ugly. If a religious person is motivated towards goodness simply by celestial carrots and sticks (which some are) then you can understand a humanist’s protest. I hear the criticism loud and clear, and I wrote these four posts called “Why be good?” as a response.  Only the gospel saves us from immorality and moralism.

But if you’re unaware of the gospel, then your view of religion will probably sound that of like BHA President Jim Al-Khalili:

I have often felt offended by the misguided notion that people require a religious faith to provide their moral compass in order to lead a good life. Reason, decency, tolerance, empathy and hope are human traits that we should aspire to, not because we seek reward of eternal life or because we fear the punishment of a supernatural being, but because they define our humanity.

We might want to be curious about why such traits define our humanity, and who gets to say, and why the ones mentioned by Al-Khalili are so darned anaemic, and why he didn’t also identify deep-seated characteristics like greed, hypocrisy and violence. We might want to point out that Christian faith brings far more to the table than ‘a moral compass’. Actually it’s a vision for the whole terrain and an accounting for why and where we fit into a moral order that is very old and runs very deep.

But we’re not going to mention those things. We’re just going to point out the terrible danger of moralism here.

Suppose that I’m a humanist who has unplugged the celestial CCTV and now I’m free to be good for goodness sakes. What will that look like? Well I’m still going to get outraged by ‘inhuman’ behaviour – good. But now God isn’t the ultimate court of appeal and dispenser of perfect justice. No, the ‘moral-outrage buck’ stops with me. Since God has been deposed, I’m going to have to mount the highest horse.

And, as far as godless high-horseing goes, get a load of this: [Read from the bottom upwards. RD was responding to this]

DawkinsOutraged

Dawkins has never let ignorance of a topic prevent him from weighing in with the full weight of his moral indignation. But feel the indignation.

When one tweeter asked him whence his moral compass (given Darwinism and all), he responded:

Idiot that I am, I’m mining the quote – but I think it unearths a deep problem for those who let go of “God” but want to be “Good.” The problem is not in acting morally- of course not. The problem comes in adjudicating the morals and in acting The Moral One.  Wonderfully for the Christian, the Father adjudicates and the Son is the Moral One, but what’s the situation for the humanist?

They are above the non-existent ‘God’, they are above the religious who (they claim) are only good for dubious reasons, and they are above nature (‘red in tooth and claw’) and their own selfish genes. They have risen above everything else in all reality… in order to be good.

How does a humanist not avoid hubris at this point? How do they not avoid moralism?

Dostoyevsky famously said “If there is no God, everything is permissible.”  But nihilism isn’t the only danger. Dawkoyevsky’s dilemma is this: “If there is no God, everything is puritanical.”

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If you’re being suitably Christ-centred in your evangelism – and I hope you are – one question bound to arise is this: What about the Old Testament?  If Christ is so important, how come he only showed up 2000 years ago?

As you might imagine, I have some thoughts on the matter…

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LISTEN/DOWNLOAD (15 mins)

[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP014.mp3]

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My Christ in the OT blog series.

 

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A talk given this morning to the Sussex Gospel Partnership:

Adopted into God’s Life-Giving Ministry2 Corinthians

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SCRIPT

AUDIO

[audio http://www.christthetruth.org.uk/Mission2Corinthians.mp3]

CH SPURGEON: Do try, as far as you can, to make the very way in which you speak minister to the great end you have in view. Preach, for instance, as you would plead if you were standing before a judge, and begging for the life of a friend, or as if you were appealing to the Queen herself on behalf of someone very dear to you. Use such a tone in pleading with sinners as you would use if a gibbet were erected in this room, and you were to be hanged on it unless you could persuade the person in authority to release you. That is the sort of earnestness you need in pleading with men as ambassadors for God. (The Soul Winner)

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SalvationWelcomesYouHere are 13 I can think of (with the help of Twitter):

Christianity is only for those (more traditional folk) who find it easy to ‘have faith’

 Faith is a bold leap into the unknown – believing something you don’t think is true

Our (only) warrant for morality is being commanded by a threatening celestial authority

Our motivation to worship is fear of burning if we don’t

We believe God created the world as it appears today (full of deformity, disaster and death)

Science rules out faith

God is a philosophical idea – like the concept of infinity

Jesus is, narrowly, the exclusive dispenser of something else called ‘heaven’

Christians want the world to behave

Christians think of themselves as superior to non-Christians

Christians fear (and kill) joy. They deny themselves now so they’ll get heaven later

Christians are intellectually dim and emotionally shallow

Christians fear sex/sexuality and hate the LGBT community with a knee-jerk ‘yuck’ reaction

(Of course many of these ‘misconceptions’ are completely understandable, given how Christians behave and speak in the world.)

What would you add?

One of these days, I’ll get around to addressing these…

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TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024Brian Cox wants the Large Hadron Collider to show him ‘the face of the cosmos’. But if that’s what you want, there’s a much better scientific method…

Episode 9 of The Evangelist’s Podcast: Science

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A VIDEO of a science talk from last year:

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Evangelicals believe in conversion.  It’s absolutely foundational.  The human race is either in or out.  We’re born out.  We need to come in through Christ.

But then, what are we coming in to?  Because if you only think in terms of “in or out” then it might start to sound like the Christian community is the safe-house and the world is going to hell.  And the church says: “Bring em in, batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.”  It’s us against the world and the godly traffic is all heading towards the safe-house.

This sounds like the conservative Christian picture.  But it’s missing a key element.  God.

You see God is out-going.  The Father is a Sender – of His Son and Spirit.  We need to be in.  But we need to be in on the One who is ever going out.  Therefore, with Christ, the church says: “Get on out there, reach into the world in order to bless.”  It’s us for the world and the godly traffic is all heading towards the outsider.

We must, by all means, believe in conversion.  But let’s understand what we are converted to.  We want people in, but we want them in on radical out-going-ness.

So it’s not so much in or out, it’s in on out.

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Wedding-rings-300x274Here is Andrew Errington’s Same-sex marriage – what is really at issue?

His central point is that there are two visions of marriage going on behind the same-sex marriage debate.  One is set out in the Book of Common Prayer, in which the three purposes of marriage are:

  • the procreation and nurture of children
  • as the only proper place for sexual intimacy; and
  • for the sake of lifelong companionship.

As against this, the modern, romantic view of marriage disregards the first two purposes and is, essentially, two ‘grown-ups’, part-couple-part-sofa, watching boxed sets till they fancy another sofa-mate. (That’s my cynical overstatement, not Errington’s.  But marriage-as-companionship reminds me of Alain de Botton’s comment that love today is about finding someone in particular to save us from people in general).

One implication at the political level is this:

The success of same-sex marriage will not only marginalise the principle that biological parenthood is normal and best. It will mean that the discussion of whether children need their biological mother and father is over for good, because such a claim will be regarded as discriminatory against the necessarily non-biological parent or parents in a same-sex marriage. To be as equally married as anyone else requires that we never again question the various ways children enter these marriages, and whether these means of having children are best for children.

So there are some sobering implications for society at that level.  And if Christians want to exercise their political freedoms in pointing such things out they should be able to do so without being called bigots.  Calling Christians homophobic for having a view on sexuality is like calling Buddhists carnophobes for having a view on meat-eating. Errington’s contribution is a model of clear-thinking Christian engagement at that political level.

On this blog, Paul Blackham has written Legal Recognition of Marriage and the Way of Jesus. Without denying the gravity of the social shift we’re witnessing , Paul’s introduction gives a much needed sense of perspective:

Pagan and non-Christian societies provide legal status and support for the kinds of marriage that express their basic beliefs about humanity, sexuality and marriage.  Pagan societies almost universally see marriage as polygamous [and occasionally polyandrous] with various legal provisions made for concubinage.  Under both communism and fascism, definitions of marriage have been used that were quite alien to the local Christian churches.  Greek and Roman definitions of marriage and sexuality are a well documented point of deep divergence with the local churches of the early centuries.  If Europe returns to its pagan ancestry then, naturally, it will return to those ancient, non-Christian definitions of marriage and sexuality.

Someone asked me, with evident shock, if I could imagine what would happen if the current redefinitions of marriage led to things like polygamy?  It was very sweet really.  Christian churches have often lived under legal systems that recognise polygamy and it has been [and still is] quite a common form of legal marriage around the world. Local churches have lived under legal systems that recognised same-sex partnerships in the ancient world and we are doing so again now.  Yes, it can be a shock to realise that we live in a non-Christian society and we do not have any privileged status or power.  Yet, this has been quite normal for local churches down the ages and it is, in fact, what Jesus told us to expect…

Paul goes on to hold up the local church as the place where the true meaning of marriage needs to be fought for and displayed (read here).

(If the consequences for the Church of England concern you, Jonathan Chaplin offers a solution that works just fine in many other countries – it involves getting out of the registrar business!)

And if all this sounds like a retreat from the public sphere, let me assure you I’m all in favour of preaching the gospel publicly.  Not the fruits of the gospel, mind you.  The gospel.

Here’s an evangelistic talk seeking to make sense of the Christian vision of sex and sexuality (and these are some other posts: here and here).  You’ll notice that integral to these approaches are beliefs about Trinity, creation, fallen-ness and union with Christ.  It seems to me this is the properly Christian footing on which to stand. But these things are not at all obvious to anyone debating at the political level!

So, yes, let’s grieve for a society that has drifted so far from the gospel. Let’s prepare for more of the persecution that is the norm all over the world (not to mention in the Bible). Absolutely, we can be concerned for the freedom of Christian expression – maintaining our right to ‘appeal to Caesar’ as Paul does at points. But let’s not be shocked that new generations, so ignorant of the gospel, find gospel living incomprehensible. Of course they do. And let’s not be under any illusions about how to “fight” this trend.  Let’s look at our own marriages, our own churches.  And let’s get preaching the good news of Jesus.

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On the Evangelist’s Podcast we’re talking about some of the big questions people ask about Christian faith.

Here are the last 3 episodes:

What about other religions?  DOWNLOAD
[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP006.mp3]

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Isn’t it narrow to say only Jesus saves?  DOWNLOAD
[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP007.mp3]

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What about suffering?  DOWNLOAD
[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP008.mp3]

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EvangelismWhat do you associate with the phrase “man-centred evangelism”?  What would self-centred evangelism look like?

I have a tract in front of me. A fairly innocuous cover – it could be about anything.

Open it up and straight away you’re confronted with death and judgement. When we die we will open our eyes either in a state of supreme happiness or unbelievable anguish. There is no annihilation, no re-incarnation, no escape.

The next page tells us How to be sure of heaven. There follow nine numbered points. These include (among other things) ‘repenting’, ‘coming’ to Jesus, ‘trusting in’ Jesus, ‘looking to’ Jesus, ‘receiving’ Jesus, ‘confessing ‘ Jesus, and ‘reading your Bible and praying every day’. These are all separately listed under the heading ‘How to be sure of heaven.’  The work of Jesus is mentioned in the midst of a couple of these points – His death on “Calvary” is instrumental in your forgiveness and something you must realise and trust in.

It concludes with a sinners’ prayer.

Now… let me say I love first contact evangelism, I love tracts.  I use them often. I’ve just been out door-knocking our parish and found it a very fruitful time. I don’t fault anyone for a sense of gospel urgency and a desire to reach out.  So let’s not get hung up on the particular example, but let’s talk about the theology behind it.

The theology fueling this is not confined to tracts. Some folks seem to reverse engineer their gospel from the throne of judgement.  And they bring it all back to here and now and me.  The logic goes like this:

In the future there will be a judgement.

Today you can prepare for that ‘great assize’ by making some changes.

By the way, in the past Jesus did some things that open up the possibility for your salvation today.

But anyway, back to today.  Back to you.  Here are the nine things you need to do

There are numerous problems here, but let me name some of them…

The entire presentation is not an announcement of good news. It is an ultimatum.

It’s not about Christ and what He has done, it’s about you and what you must do.

Your problem, in these presentations, is not really Christlessness.  It’s the future flames which you want to avoid if you know what’s good for you.

God’s solution – salvation – is not knowing God through Jesus (John 17:3), it’s escaping hell. Meaning…

There is no obvious connection between believing in Jesus and being saved (apart from Jesus’ atonement being instrumental somehow).  Therefore…

Trusting Jesus becomes about trusting a mechanism of atonement, not a Mediator who atones.  Furthermore…

Faith in Jesus is blatantly a means to another end: escaping hell.  Which means…

No love for Christ is being encouraged, only love for self.  Thus…

True faith is not being elicited here.  You can tell this because…

Christ in His word is not creating faith (He and His work are barely mentioned), the evangelist is commanding faith.  But…

Faith is not a response to commands, it’s a response to promises.  Similarly…

Faith is not a contribution we make to our salvation (along with 8 other steps we need to take), it is the gift of God that comes as Christ, in His gospel, takes hold of us.

That’s what evangelism is then – placarding Christ.  And yes, talk about judgement – but talk about the condemnation that is our Christlessness, now and eternally (John 3:18). Talk about salvation, but talk about Christ as our salvation.  And talk about repentance and faith, but talk about it in the context of Christ offered to you.  Don’t make it your offering to Him.

If we fail to be thoroughly Christ-centred in evangelism we will be man-centred, no matter how much we quote the King James Bible, no matter how fundamentalist we sound, no matter how proud we are of ‘preaching the hard truths.’  Without Christ it always comes back to me.  Only Christ-centredness is true God-centredness.

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TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024The church has been sent as God’s missionary organisation to the world. What does that mean for church? What does it mean for evangelism?

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New Podcast

TEP-PodcastCover-1024x1024At Revival, where I work, we’ve just started a new podcast called “The Evangelist’s Podcast”.

DOWNLOAD HERE

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Luke 22-23 sermon

Dali CrucifixionIt was a privilege to preach at the Crowded House on Sunday where two folks were baptised.

AUDIO

The sermon begins at about 10 minutes. (If you’ve heard me on Christ’s baptism before, you might want to skip to the 19 minute mark).

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TEXT

Excerpt:

Here we have an artist’s dream. If you’re a film-maker, a writer, a playwright – you would love to depict this scene: Humanity putting its Maker on trial.  What a scenario! All the Gospels tell us about this in some detail – these show trials with trumped up charges. Because the bible makes it clear: the so called judges in these trials are the guilty ones. The one in the dock is the only innocent one. Nonetheless He stoops into the dock, to be tried by His creatures.  This is the Judge of the world, judged.

And what we see in Jesus is the most incredible stillness and poise. He is like a mirror, reflecting back the accusations of His prosecutors. At every stage of His cross-examination, He manages to get confessions out of His prosecutors! Ingenius!

The brilliance of Jesus is to allow their judgements of Him to judge them.  Their accusations only end up accusing them.  This is true any time you try to judge a great one.

If you call Shakespeare hackneyed and cliched, it doesn’t reflect badly on Shakespeare, it reflects badly on you.  If you call the Grand Canyon “a glorified ditch”, or the Great Wall of China “shoddy workmanship”, or Lionel Messi “a Sunday-league amateur” – that tells you nothing about Shakespeare or the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall or Lionel Messi.  It tells you everything about you.  

When we judge the Judge it tells us nothing about Him it tells us everything about ourselves.  Do you want to know what you’re like?  Think about this judgement scene.  The Judge of the world condescends into the dock and submits to these kangaroo courts.  And we – the judges – find Him guilty of a capital offence.  What is His crime?  To be the Son of God.

When our Maker goes on trial we find Him worthy of death?  Why? For being who He is.

In Luke 23 we see everyone making this verdict: the powerful, the weak, the Jews, the non-Jews, the rich, the poor –  everyone deems Him worthy of death.  And what is Jesus’ response?

He goes to the cross.  And as He is hoisted up He prays “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” (v34)

The Judge is judged. He does not protect Himself or justify Himself.  He exposes Himself to every accusation, every insult, every blow – both judicial and physical.  And He retaliates with mercy: “Father, forgive.”  This is the heart of God for you.

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Recently I was asked what I knew about evangelistic treasure hunts. Not much was the answer. I’d read a couple of blogs here and there, but for those completely new to it, here’s a short video of practitioners from the States:

Here’s what I like…

1. They want to “take it to the streets”.

2. They believe in the universal love of God and want to express it.

3. They see people as “treasure.”

4. They want to care for whole people, not just save souls.

5. They want to be sensitive to the Spirit’s work in mission.

I affirm all these values.  But for these very reasons I want to question the practice of treasure hunting- and I mean genuinely to “question” it. I’m a newcomer to this and in no position to dismiss it. But here are some initial thoughts that explore the foundations of the church’s mission.  If this starts a dialogue about it, then good and I’m more than willing to be educated about these things… But I wonder whether treasure hunting in practice ends up undermining all the positives listed above.

1. They want to “take it to the streets”.

I’m all for taking the gospel to the streets (see links at the bottom of this post). But that’s the issue: what exactly are we taking to the streets?  What is the mission of the church?  Put it another way: For what purpose is the church sent into the world?

(Notice that this question is different to “What are all the things the body of Christ gets up to, week by week?” The church is involved in many activities, but asking why it has been sent into the world is a significantly different question.)

My expanded thoughts on the church’s mission can be found here and here but for now let me draw your attention to 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 and especially…

We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Cor 4:5)

Essentially, the mission of the church is not “service” in the abstract, with proclamation fitting underneath (see diagram).  And it’s not “service” on one hand and “proclamation” on the other (the context in 2 Cor. 4-5 makes that clear).  Mission is proclamation – setting forth the truth plainly (v2), with “service” fitting underneath.

Scrivener_what_is_our_mission-pic

Proclamation is the umbrella activity – everything else fits explicitly under the preaching of Christ as Lord.  If this is the case then the footing on which you engage the world matters.  And the footing ought to be proclamation.

In 1 Corinthians 1-2, Paul is adamant that preaching the weak-looking cross is the way forward. He contrasts it with the demands of the Greeks (for wisdom) and the Jews (for miracles) and he insists that preaching is how we engage.

In the past I’ve taken flak when arguing against “wisdom-first” mission (i.e. evidentialist apologetics).  Now, in the interests of offending all people equally, let me argue against “power-first” mission too.  As we’ll see, I’m not against wisdom or power in the cruciform sense – but I think there’s an explicit order and a context for these things…

2. They believe in the universal love of God and want to express it.

This is a brilliant value to hold.  The trouble is the practice of treasure hunting looks like it undermines that value. One of the distinctive features of treasure hunting is going after the few and passing by the many.  The beauty of open air is that it’s the one form of evangelism that seeks to be as indiscriminate as God’s own evangelistic purpose.  He has placed us where we are so that all people might find him (Acts 17:26-27). Therefore a way of evangelism (i.e. open air) that seeks to reach a locality as a locality is a wonderful reflection of God’s universal love.  If you want to reflect God’s universal love, I’d recommend open air over treasure hunting which is unnecessarily particular.

3. They see people as “treasure.”

This is nice, and a great reflection of the true meaning of Matthew 13:44-46 – we are the treasure and we need to be found.  Of course the other word – “hunt” – is not so nice.  But maybe the hunted don’t mind?

My reservation here is something that also applies to open air, but I think the whole set-up of treasure hunts amplifies the danger: non-Christians are not marks to hit, or scalps to win.  We’re not interested in “gaining converts” but in offering Christ.  If you ask me, the writing up of targets sets up the whole enterprise in a questionable way. Far better to speak from a fullness than to need responses.  It’s not about you achieving your witnessing goals, but about you emptying yourself for your hearers.  There seems a very great danger of commodifying your listeners with treasure hunts.

4. They want to care for whole people, not just save souls.

Full disclosure – I’m not from charismatic circles.  The churches I grew up in were as dogmatically anti-charismatic as they were anti-liberal.  For years I thought evangelicals were defined by what we didn’t believe in: we weren’t liberal and we weren’t charo’s. That’s my background.  And yet, very often when I’m doing open air evangelism I’ve ended up praying for someone in need – whether for physical or emotional healing or for God to come through in some situation or other.  I don’t consider myself “gifted” to heal in any charismatic sense, but I’ve prayed for it often enough. Everyone street evangelist I know ends up praying for people – for healings, for “breakthroughs” in personal situations, for whatever. You can’t offer Christ without talking to people in need, and you can’t be a Christian without wanting to help those people.

I love that treasure hunters pray for folks on the streets – I do it too.  But I have great reservations about encountering folk in order to tick off clues, and about leading with ‘power’, when Paul tells me to lead with the word of the cross (see points 1 and 5).

5. They want to be sensitive to the Spirit’s work in mission.

This is wonderful. The prayerful preparation involved in Treasure Hunting is great.  May we all learn from it.  Also cultivating a moment-by-moment dependence on the Spirit’s leading throughout our evangelism is priceless.  “Spirit, help me… Open his/her eyes” is my constant prayer in open air work.  But let’s ask: what is the work of the Spirit?

I fear that too often we make an equation between the Spirit and what Enlightenment people think of as “the supernatural“. Since modern people (Christians included it seems) have booted God “upstairs”, we consider this world as a “natural” realm of cause and effect. But then Christians come along and say “Yes, but there’s also another realm over and above called “the supernatural” and it’s all about un-natural, unexpected stuff happening.”   And so essentially Christians agree with the naturalists about the basic structure of reality, we just insist that cause and effect aint all there is – there’s also freaky stuff.

What will evangelism look like then?  Well, we’ll want to introduce unbelievers to this other realm.  And so “the miraculous” seems a perfectly appropriate way in. Trouble is, the Spirit is not so much the Spirit of “the supernatural”, He’s the Spirit of Christ.  The way the realm of the Spirit breaks into this world is in the Anointed One.  Heaven meets earth in Jesus and every meeting we try to arrange between unbelievers and God needs to reflect that.

In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul has rejected the tactic of giving “Jews” the “miraculous signs” they demand. He thinks that will undermine his message. Nonetheless in chapter 2 he says he wants his evangelism to demonstrate the Spirit’s power (v4).  Ok great. What form will that demonstration take?  It’s not in wise and persuasive words and it’s not in miraculous “powers”. It’s in preaching the cross (2:2).  There the Spirit shines His light with almighty power (1:18). There is the meeting of heaven and earth.  And Paul says, it’s very possible to distract non-Christians from that centre.  It’s very possible to empty the cross of its power (1:17).

Lest we ever do that, let’s determine to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He is the whole focus of the Spirit’s work.  Let us then, as Spirit-filled, Spirit-dependent witnesses, make  Christ and His work our focus.  That is truly Spirit-ual evangelism.

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Here are some older posts on how I try to share Christ publicly…

First Contact Evangelism Seminar

Open Air Preaching with Wesley and Whitefield

Open Air Preaching

Open Air Ideas

Open Air Doesn’t Have To Be Flashy

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Talk Title: Can you find love in sex?talking-about-sex-with-your-kids

AUDIO

Marilyn Monroe: “The sex symbol becomes a thing, I hate being a thing. I’ve never liked sex myself. I don’t think I ever will. It seems just the opposite of love”

Actually Christians disagree. Christians say:

GK Chesterton: “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”

Sex and love belong together, profoundly.

Sex and God belong together, profoundly.

To understand sex we need to understand the Christian view of God, the universe and everything. Then we can see where sex fits…

Luke 3:21-22: Jesus enters our filth to bring us to His Family.

God’s Family (the Trinity) is the origin of gender.

The way into that Family (oneness with Jesus) is the origin of marriage.

Now we can understand the Christian sexual ethic. Gender reflects the difference-in-equality of God. Marriage reflects the saving love of Jesus.

In the Gospels Jesus affirms both of these foundational points in Matthew 19.

Therefore, according to Jesus, sex is God’s way of saying to another human being “I belong to you completely, permanently and exclusively.”  It’s the most romantic view of sex imaginable.

And – more profoundly – it’s a proclamation of the ultimate oneness available in Jesus and the ultimate love He brings us into.

That’s why GK Chesterton was right: everyone knocking on the door of the brothel is looking for God.

But don’t settle for the picture of intimacy and oneness – receive the reality.  Come to Jesus and know the truth of what sex points towards.

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This is different to a version I demonstrated a few months ago.  Back then I drew the world twice – once with Adam taking it down and once with Christ raising it up.  That’s obviously not ideal – Christ saves this world.  So in this version we’ve overcome that problem with the help of a nifty fold – Christ descending onto this world to do Adam’s job right.  I much prefer this version – not least because you get to do a bit of gospel origami!

Learn how to draw 321 for yourself here.

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meatDear Mr Lama, (Reverend Lama?? Your holiness???)

I’m sorry I’m not trying to be rude, I don’t know how to address you, not being Buddhist myself.

I heard your “teaching” (sorry if that sounds patronising, I don’t know what you call it :-?) at a uni thing put on by the Buddhist Society. A friend invited me and tbh I was there for the free lunch. Lol! – no offence.

Anyway.  You’re clearly a good speaker and you seem like a nice guy.  But this is why your teaching is SO INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS.

In the interests of full disclosure, let me tell you that I am A PRACTISING CARNIVORE. And proud of it!  Right now I’m half-way through a cornish pasty and I’m LOVING it.  That probably sounds BLASPHEMOUS to you, but it’s WHO I AM.

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t enjoyed sausages, steaks, fried chicken, you name it.  And I can honestly say it has NEVER done me ANY harm. (Alright, there was that dodgy kebab last week, but you can’t judge a whole food group by one salmonella infection).  You preach about meat but you’ve never had a bacon sandwich yourself, so how on earth can you comment??

Maybe I’ve now committed some “”sin”” by tempting you with the wonders of bacon but, honestly, I think if God – or whoever – exists he wants you to be happy :-)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried your whole Buddhist thing.  Well, I tried giving up meat anyway.  When I was 16 I dated a sweet vegan guy called Chris. He made it all sound so convincing at the time. (Love does strange things to people!)  I gave it my best shot for three long months.  But it REALLY wasn’t for me. I know that in my heart of hearts I have always been – AND I ALWAYS WILL BE – a meat-eater. SORRY!!

In fact, no, NOT SORRY! And this is why I’m writing.  When you told us that your branch of Buddhism denounces meat-eating, my blood  l i t e r a l l y  boiled.  Like literally!  I wonder if you realise just HOW OFFENSIVE that is???  One of my best friends is studying agricultural science and next year he’s returning to manage the family farm. Do you denounce him??  My cousin Joe works in an abattoir, but HE IS THE NICEST, MOST BUDDHISTY GUY YOU COULD EVER MEET. Do you denounce him????

And just now I Googled Buddhism and found out that many branches of your own belief system ALLOW meat-eating. So not only are you out of touch with the real world – YOU ARE DISAGREEING WITH YOUR OWN WIKI PAGE!!

From personal experience, I know how damaging it is to fight your omniverous desires. When my boyfriend pressured me into veganism I felt guilty, repressed and seriously protein-deficient.  Your message is one that makes us hate other people and hate ourselves.  And don’t give me that crap about ‘love the meat-eater, hate the meat-eating’!  That’s just patronising.  In the end it’s just thinly veiled CARNI-PHOBIA.

You gave out your details in case we wanted to find out more about your religion but seriously, NO!  I do NOT want to know anything more about your sick, demeaning life-philosophy.  You said that if we spent time chatting you could make me understand your position on meat.  You said that it fits in with some cosmic understanding of life, the universe, karma, compassion blah, blah, blah.  All I know is that I’m a Meat-Eater and if the universe hates me for that then we’ll have to agree to disagree and go our separate ways.

So no, I’m not getting in touch to find out more. I’m getting in touch to say PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop the hate-mongering!  Meat is food too.  Carnivores are people too.  And now, if you don’t mind (AND EVEN IF YOU DO!) I’m going to finish my pasty, nom nom!

yours respectfully,

Jenny.

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