Last summer, I had the privilege of hearing noted author Brian McLaren speak several times at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. During one of the Q&A sessions, I asked him a question which had been rolling around in my mind for quite some time. “What is the difference between patriotism and nationalism?”
During the month of October, Christians all over the world will be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and reflecting on the impact of Martin Luther’s life and legacy. Whether you realize it or not, your spiritual life has been somehow touched by Luther’s hymns, writings, theology and courageous challenge to a powerful Church desperately in need of renewal.
Bitterness seems to be the occupational hazard of church people, including clergy. Because we are socially conditioned to be nice, we often swallow our rage when something irritating or hurtful happens to us, all in the name of keeping the peace and taking the high road. The problem comes when we neglect to deal with the anger, either because we dislike confrontation or because life simply moves us on to the next unpleasantness.
Evangelism isn’t what it used to be. But then, it never has been. Culture shifts have always required new approaches in sharing the Good News. In this third and final column of this series, I invite our churches to do an evangelism upgrade.
In the previous column, I noted evangelism is alive and well even though it may not look like “old-fashioned soul-winning.” Instead, the 21st century approach is imbedded in the church’s ongoing service, morphing into new shapes which are culture-sensitive.
But moderate Baptist churches also need to ask the hard question: Is that enough?
Whatever happened to evangelism? It’s a fair question. It’s a good question. But it’s one which needs unpacking. Asking whatever happened to evangelism is not the same as asking, “Why don’t we have revival meetings anymore?”
Regarding the discipline of practicing Sabbath (Jews prefer the Hebrew word “Shabbat”), I have read and written many sermons and articles. But nothing brings this floating, vague theological notion down out of the clouds like spending time with real, living, breathing Orthodox Jews who lovingly practice their faith.
There is an axiom among those who study world religions: In exploring other faiths, we see our own with fresh eyes. I recently returned from a pilgrimage to Israel. In a very real way, my trip enabled me to see the oddness of us, the Jesus followers — not oddness in a bad way, but rather oddness in a way that is strange to outsiders.
Our oldest child had a birthday recently. She is now grown and married, with children of her own. But you just never forget the birth of your first child. I was a pastor, so can you guess where we were when my wife went into labor? At a Wednesday night church fellowship supper! If I had been paying attention, I would have realized that this event was a portent. Our children’s lives would be forever impacted — for good or ill — by the church.