Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Posts Tagged ‘Evangelism

Evangelicals: Now is Not the Time to Spike the Football

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David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO, David Green with Bible in warehouse, Culture Wars, Abortifacients, Obamacare, Affordable Care Act

I was as happy as you were that the Supreme Court upheld the closely held corporation, Hobby Lobby’s, right to not provide coverage for the 4 abortifacients in the Affordable Care Act.  While in no way do I pretend to understand the field of law, the argumentation that closely held corporations appear, function, and act more like individuals than they do corporations made common sense to me – and hence, applying the Constitutional right to dissent to the mandatory coverage of the 4 abortifacients in Affordable Care Act seemed appropriate.

All of that said, now is not the time to spike the football.  Evangelicals cannot rely on the Supreme Court, Congress, the Senate, nor the Executive branches to make America a “Christian nation” once again.  I am pretty confident that I love America as much as you do, but the reality is that we are a post-Christian nation that is growing increasingly undiscerning.  The people/culture(s) of America lack the worldview needed to understand the logical consequences of the breakdown of gender, marriage, and the family (the most fundamental unit of society).  The people/culture(s) of America have created a Swiss cheese patchwork quilt from a variety of different worldviews to piecemeal together sets of ideas that justify their behaviors, lifestyles, sin patterns, and addictions.

In other words, we cannot rely on the federal government to be a positive agent of cultural change in America.  Cultural change happens at a wide variety of levels but politicians and bureaucrats are chameleons which change their skin color based on the popular opinion – this is why politics is more of a reflection of the culture(s) rather than the driver of the culture(s).   Evangelicals have a Herculean task ahead of them to engage the drifting, aimless, and anesthetized conglomeration of sub-cultures that comprise this thing we call the United States of America.

Culture flows out of people’s wants and desires.  People’s wants and desires flow out of their hearts.  If you want cultural change then you have to see changed hearts.  If you want changed hearts then you must see the Holy Spirit remove the heart of stone and replace it with the heart of flesh.  If you want the Spirit to move then you must pray for Him to move and you must be faithful to share the Gospel winsomely, clearly, and boldly.  I am not saying don’t vote, or don’t engage politically; however, we cannot lobby or legislate people into the Kingdom of God.

 

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Diagnosis, Prescription, Smokescreens, and the Gospel

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Prescription Diagnosis Smokescreens and the Gospel-1

I’ve never been to a doctor who has given me a prescription without first taking my vital signs, asking pertinent questions, and then given a specific diagnosis.  I think sometimes we do prescribe the Gospel before we give a more specific diagnosis in our evangelistic efforts and Gospel conversations.

Gospel Dumptrucks and Hand Grenades

When I was a non-believer I had a few conversations where I certainly felt like the person sharing Jesus with me just wanted me to shut up so they could back their Gospel dump truck on me and verbally unload.  Maybe this has been you before – I know I have been on the giving and receiving ends of these conversations.  How do we weave the Gospel into our conversations such that we aren’t backing up the dumptruck or lobbing a Gospel hand grenade and running?  How can we speak more to the root of the unbelief and less in generalities and/or avoid tangential topics.

Smokescreens and Scuba-Diving

Reformed circles are relatively clear with regards to the essentials of the general Gospel prescription (creation, fall, redemption, consummation).  What seems to be unclear is a road-map of how we get to those conversations and how we do winsomely.

The big thing that seems to be missing in all of our evangelistic and/or apologetic dialogue is basic listening and counseling skills.  From my perspective most objections to the Gospel fit very broadly into one of three categories:  head, heart, or hands.  Of the head (intellectual objections), heart (emotive and idol-based objections), and hands (experiential or hypocritical objections) types of objections to the Gospel – so much of our conversations get stuck in head (ie. problem of evil, NT reliability, existence of God…) or hand (ie. ‘Christians are hypocrites’ [duh!], ‘I had a bad experience’, or ‘look at the Crusades’…) type objections to the Gospel.  From my experience most of these objections are mere smokescreens meant to derail or parry the conversation away from the idols of their own heart – the real source of their unbelief.  For people who have honest (head or hand) questions/objections give them, “honest answers,” as Francis Schaeffer said.  To be helpful in our dialogue we must ask questions that get to the heart of the unbelief.

Scuba-diving is the term we use at our church for the art of asking questions that get to the heart and more root level idols.  Here are some helpful scuba-diving questions:

-What are you looking forward to?

-What does that do (the potential surface or root level idol) for you?

-If you didn’t have to work (be a mom, study…) what would you most rather be doing?

These are all variations on the basic question, “what do you want?”  The answer to the “what do you want” question can sometimes be helpful in diagnosing at least surface level idols (sex, money, laziness).   Sometimes you will be able to connect the dots to more root level idols like comfort, escape, power, and control.  Sometimes you hit brick walls because you lack the rapport or relationship needed to ask some of these questions.  There is an art to scuba-diving where you must re-pressurize every so many feet that you dive and you have to know yourself and your relationship well enough to know how deep you can safely dive.

At the core you are trying to get a better picture of what is more beautiful, compelling, or joyful to them than the Gospel?  What is it that they spend their time, money, and thought-life on?  What do they want?  What the heart wants reveals what the heart worships.  The Gospel has so many metaphors, summaries, themes, aspects, touchpoints, and facets.   Different Gospel analogies, themes, or metaphors (truth, security, fidelity, fear, anxiety, addiction, adoption, justice, grace, suffering, power, freedom…) can speak more winsomely to different idols.  When we take a genuine interest in the other person’s soul we are more prone to ask questions and listen.  Questions increase the depth of the scuba-dive.  When we see with more specificity what the lost person’s heart wants, then we can speak the Gospel more directly to the idol(s).

Affirmation and Deconstruction

Once we have taken a look at the wants/idols of the person we have something like a diagnosis.  Typically, idols are disproportionate manifestations of good things – for example the control idol is the good thing, leadership, absolutized.   Before challenging an idol with the sledgehammer of the Gospel consider affirming the elements of it that were once good.  Paul did this in Athens in Acts 17:22-23

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The folks in Athens worshiped the idol of new knowledge.  Paul stroked the idol before he deconstructed the idol.  Earlier in the passage Paul gets chased out of Thessalonica and Berea and heads down to Athens to wait for Silas and Timothy.  While Paul is waiting he goes into diagnosis mode in verse 16:

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

Paul diagnosed the idols of the city before speaking the Gospel at them.  On a more corporate level, this allowed Paul to affirm the Athenians desire for knowledge before he challenged the inadequacy of their gods.  How ineffectual does your pantheon of other gods have to be to have an unnamed god that covers up the weakness and inability of all the others?

One might argue that the Gospel itself already has a diagnosis in it and you would be correct.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  The kind of diagnosis I have in view here is more specific than it is general.  The common state of mankind is helpful to draw out in Gospel conversation and is a necessary component of the Gospel.  What I have in view here is connecting the Gospel with more specificity to the idols of the heart.  Every idol has a short-run payoff but ultimately all idols over-promise and under-deliver.  Good diagnosis allows us to show how the idol will not satisfy in the long-run and show how the Gospel will.

When diagnosis precedes prescription it helps to bring more precise focus and clarity as to how Christ is better than their surrogate god(s).   May Paul’s prayer for clarity be the same as ours:

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. – Col. 4:3-4

Written by Michael Graham

May 27, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Secular Worship Services, Part Two: The Superbowl

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Seattle Seahawks Russell Willson lifts Superbowl Trophy with Confetti

Sorry to all the Denver Broncos fans out there – that was pretty rough.  The Seahawks out executed in every phase of the game.  Hats off to a humble, classy, and non-flashy Russell Wilson for his quiet leadership and on-field play.

There are two very distinct kinds of liturgies at work in the Superbowl:  The Superbowl the Game (and half-time show), and The Superbowl the Commercials.  The game and the commercials overlap at points and in many ways are inextricably linked but also diverge at points as well.  This post will cover the topic of the Superbowl the game and the next post will analyze the Superbowl the commercials.  After analyzing a number of various forms of secular worship we will then discuss what these secular liturgies mean on a cultural level, a religious level, and an individual level. 

The Superbowl the Game

In many ways sports provides for men (and women also) a pressure relief valve on their bottled up, suppressed, repressed, or unexpressed emotions.  Sports can function as a kind of surrogate intimacy to other failed or stunted intimacies – this is why some men who are entirely dispassionate in other spheres (marriage, vocation, parenthood…) all of a sudden come alive in the arena or in front of the flatscreen.

Liturgies follow formats and rhythms of expected time, space, color, and aesthetics.  In many ways, most sports liturgies follow the same liturgy:

The Pregame (Welcome, Greeting, and Sacrament)

The pregame is filled several elements that invite the sports worshiper into the liturgy to follow.  Elements of the pregame involve storylines of the forthcoming game, analysis of the players and teams involved, and perhaps also preliminary indulgence into the sacramental table of the expected food and drink (tailgating, BBQ… etc.).

The Grove at Ole Miss

The Grove at Ole Miss

There are obvious corollaries between the tailgate and the Lord’s Supper (or eucharist); both are inviting the worshiper deeper into the liturgy (game and camaraderie)  to follow as well as serve to unite the participants into community with one another.

National Anthem (Call to Worship)

This is a moment of civil religiosity where we find unity in our commonality as residents (or citizens) of the United States of America.  This can also function as a kind of call to worship for the events that are about to happen on field.  It provides a very least common denominator unity to all in attendance regardless of their team allegiance.

The Game Itself (Worship in Song, Creed Recitation, Iconography, Benediction)

The game itself is participatory in many ways.  Most teams have some sort of team song(s) – this is common also among other sports – particularly college football, soccer, and rugby.  The songs serve to unite, provide camaraderie, and a sense of belonging.  Most teams also have at least one, often more than one creed, chant, or rally cry.  It could be as simple as an idea – Seattle Seahawk’s (aka. TAMU) Twelfth Man or longer form chants or cheers like University of Florida’s We are the Boys from Old FloridaAlabama’s Rammer Jammer Cheer, or Ole Miss’ Hotty Toddy.  Many of these serve to make great the dynasty of one’s own tribe to the detriment of the rivals.  There is also highly developed iconography associated with sport.  The icons serve far more than to merely brand but serve to identify allegiance to the particular tribe.  Most teams will also have some form of a victory cheer or chant as well.  These chants function in many ways similar to a benediction to a worship service (provided your team wins).

Peyton Manning - Sad Face - Superbowl - Denver Broncos

Sports can provide great elation and crushing agony (just ask Peyton Manning).  These ranges of emotions are natural because we worship with the heart – hence, success is met with great joy and defeat brings frustration, anger, and a whole host of other emotions.  We cheer when our team scores a touchdown or wins the big game and we get ticked and want a new coach when our team goes 4-8 (#Muschamp).

Sports as Evangelism (Mission)

Sports fans want other people to be a part of their tribe.  Sports is inherently evangelistic.  It is by nature evangelistic because it is human nature to want other people to enjoy the things that we enjoy.  Hence, there is a significant missional component that is hard wired into sports, particularly the Superbowl in America.

This post is the second in a series of post on Secular Worship Services, the first analyzed The Grammys.  Up next, we will take a look at The Superbowl with respect to the commercials.  

Written by Michael Graham

February 3, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Brit Hume Responds on O’Reilly to People’s Reactions to his Tiger Woods Comments

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This was worth watching.  Hume is correct on hitting a nerve in our culture.  The divisive reaction speaks both to the explosiveness of the culture war in America, as well as, the reality of opposition to the Gospel of Christ.

Update:  Justin Taylor has a few brief insights into Hume’s own conversion to Christianity that are worth reading.

Also, here is an interview with Christianity Today.

Your thoughts?

Written by Michael Graham

January 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

3 Month Introspective

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Introspective

So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

Top ~10 Books by Topic:

Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

Top 10 Devotional Classics

Top 10 Books on the Church

Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

Top 10 Books on Culture

Top 10 Books on Eschatology

Top 5 Books on Worldview

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

Top 10 Books on Church History

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

Top 10 Apologetic Works

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Top 10 Books by John Piper

Top 5 Children’s Books

Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

Top 10 Books by John Piper

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Desiring God by John Piper

This list is what I think are the 10 best books that I have read from John Piper.  I haven’t read some of the more recent ones, but have heard good things about This Momentary Marriage (a book on marriage apparently).

1.  Desiring God [y, l, e, p, s]

This classic is what introduced me to a sovereign God and the doctrines of grace.  It also taught me that my pursuit of joy and my pursuit of God were one and the same pursuit.  If you cannot get through it or are intimidated by its size, try The Dangerous Duty of Delight, he essentially says the same things, just more concisely.

2.  Don’t Waste Your Life [y, l, e, p, s]

Quite simply this book needs to be read (and can be) by everyone.  The title says it all.  His passion for living a worthy life is infectious.

3.  Let the Nations Be Glad [y, l, e, p, s]

This is his book on missions.  It is excellent.  Reading this book is what compelled me to spend time overseas investing the Gospel into people.

4.  Brothers We are NOT Professionals [l, e, p, s]

Just as relevant in 2009 than it was in 2002.  I agree with my friend James W. that this book ought to be read by every seminarian before and after seminary.  Piper takes aim at the professionalization of the ministry.  We are not professionals, we are shepherds.

5.  The 5 Book Biography Set [y, l, e, p, s]

Each book has three or so vignette-length biographies.  They are all good and the link above takes you to DG’s Christmas sale.

6.  Finally Alive [l, e, p, s]

This book may prove to be one of Piper’s most important contributions.  The book concerns the rarely written on, doctrine of regeneration.  Definitely one of the best books of 2009.

7.  Battling Unbelief [y, l, e, p, s]

This book gives you tools to fight for your joy in Christ when you don’t feel it.  Also, I am told that, When I Don’t Desire God, and When the Darkness Will not Lift are both quite good and in the same vein.

8.  The Supremacy of God in Preaching [e, p, s]

One of the best books on preaching.  Period.

9.  Future Grace [l, e, p, s]

The superior pleasure of Christ and the hope of future grace are our tools in fighting against sin.

10.  God’s Passion for His Glory [y, l, e, p, s]

This books is Piper channeling Jonathan Edwards thoughts (which is much of what Piper has done his entire ministry… and that is a good thing).  We would be wise to listen to Edwards and his vision for a God who is passionate for His own glory.

Honorable Mentions:

What’s the Difference – book on Biblical manhood and womanhood.

Counted Righteous in Christ – book defending the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness.  A critical doctrine and a solid book on the matter.

The Justification of God – rock solid exegesis of Romans 9.  If you have ever had questions about Romans 9, this book will answer them.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Top 10 Books on Missions, Evangelism, and Discipleship

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Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper

These books are books that are excellent concerning Missions, Evangelism, or Discipleship.

1.  Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper  [y, l, e, p, s]

This classic elevates worship as the goal of missions.  It is an easy and enjoyable read.

2.  The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman  [y, l, e, p, s]

Coleman takes a thorough look at Jesus’ method of discipleship.  A short and easy must read.

3.  From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya:  A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth Tucker  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Missionary biography is fascinating and oftentimes hilarious.  See my previous write-up here.

4.  Tell the Truth by Will Metzger  [y, l, e, p, s]

Great book on evangelism written from a Reformed perspective.  Metzger challenges people to tell the whole gospel to whole people, causing you to ask the questions, ‘what are the essentials of the Gospel and people?’

5.  Operation World by Johnstone and Johnstone  [y, l, e, p, s]

Operation World is essentially several dossiers on the remaining unreached people groups, giving analysis on how you can pray for them.  Also, Window on the World is like Operation World for kids.

6.  A Faith Worth Sharing by C. John Miller  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Jack Miller lived a pretty crazy life.  These are some of his stories.  It is a short, encouraging, and easy read.  Also, Miller’s, Heart of a Servant Leader is excellent – it consists of letters he has written to various people under his care throughout his ministry.  Really valuable wisdom.

7.  Transforming Mission by David Bosch  [p, s]

This is a deep, dense, and thorough look at missionary paradigms.  It is not an easy read but patience will be rewarded with excellent deep thought.

8.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement by Ralph Winter  [y, l, e, p, s]

This is the classic introduction to the task that lies ahead for the worldwide church.

9.  Breaking the Missional Code:  Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community by Ed Stetzer  [l, e, p, s]

Stetzer is quite knowledgeable on how to create church cultures that have real Gospel impact on their community.  Also, Lesslie Newbigin’s, The Open Secret, and Darell Guder’s (editor), Missional Church are excellent.

10.  Re-Entry by Peter Jordan  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Going from living in one culture back to your culture can really mess you up (just think of the stereotype of the socially awkward and/or out of touch missionary who comes back to give a powerpoint presentation to your church).  Long-term missionaries invariably find themselves in a cultural no-man’s land as they have adopted many of the redeeming aspects of the people they are ministering to, while putting off many of the deplorable or unfortunate aspects of their former culture.  There is also the question of where is home?  The people you are ministering to or the place where you grew up?  Re-Entry is a helpful guide for the returning missionary.

Update:  Highly Recommended

Church Planting Movements by David Garrison

I have heard this book recommended several times (including the comments from this post), so I thought I would put it up here.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

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