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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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[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

POWERPOINT

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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