A new approach to evangelism

prayer-1143598_640The traditional approach to evangelism, according to Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today, has started with presenting the Gospel to unbelievers.  The new approach, he says, starts with getting them involved with the church.  In the course of their relationships in the community of Christians, they will come to believe.

He sums up the two models this way:  Old:  Believe, Become, Belong.  New:  Belong, Believe, Become.

For more details, read the excerpts and the article linked after the jump.

As a Lutheran, I do see that bringing an unbelieving friend to church is a good way to evangelize that person, since a pastor, by virtue of his call, is going to proclaim the Gospel better than I can.  And yet, the church is a community of Christians, not something non-Christians can fully enter into, even if they wanted to, and I’m not sure they do.

And what makes a non-believer into a believer is the Gospel.  Even if the non-believer becomes, to some measure, a part of the  community and comes to have Christian friends who are good influences, at some point that friend–or the pastor, or someone–is going to have to tell the person about Christ.  (Actually, bring the person to the point of repentance through the Law, so as to make the hearer receptive to the Gospel.)  At that point, the “old” model would seem to reassert itself.

Actually, both models seem inadequate.  Baptism is nowhere mentioned.  Nor is Law, which leads to Gospel.  The very breaking down of the process into steps seems to go against the organic, unique, and varied way the Holy Spirit works.

What do you think about these approaches?

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Spiritual anguish

grief-927099_640Contrary to the “prosperity gospel” and other theologies of glory, negative experiences can also have a positive spiritual significance.  Many of us go through depression, blue moods, black moods, and other sufferings, whether physical or emotional.  These are not signs that you have lost your faith or that God has abandoned you.

Luther, who knew these states of mind well, considered them important for the Christian life.  In fact, he considered them necessary for anyone who presumed to be a theologian, the three attributes for that office being meditation, prayer, and tentatio–struggle, trial, assault–the closest he could come in Latin to the untranslatable German word Anfechtung.

In looking for a good description of Anfechtung for that Bach post I wrote recently, I came across “A Primer on Anfechtung” by LCMS pastor Paul R. Harris.  It’s worth looking at for its own sake and for what it discloses about a state of anguish that can seem devastating–especially since Christians seldom talk about it today–but which can draw us closer to Christ. [Read more…]

Have an Epiphany!

Definition of epiphany

  1. capitalized :  January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ

  2.  an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being

  3.   (1) :  a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) :  an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) :  an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure  b :  a revealing scene or moment

Source: Epiphany | Definition of Epiphany by Merriam-Webster

All of these meanings apply to today and to the new season of the church year that we are entering!

The Eighth Day

All_Saints_fontThe Gospel reading for yesterday, commemorating the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, was Luke 2:21, the shortest text in the Lectionary.  (See our recent post on the subject.)  In the course of an excellent sermon that explored the depths of this one verse of the Bible, our pastor cited the significance of “the eighth day.”

God created the universe in six days and on the seventh, He rested.  Then on the eighth day, the creation began to unfold.  Jesus rose from the dead on the day after the Sabbath; that is, the eighth day.  Christians worship on Sunday, the eighth day, which is also the first day of a new week.  With Christ’s resurrection on the eighth day, God has initiated a new creation.  Those with faith in Christ are part of this new creation.  Thus, very early, Baptismal fonts were made in the shape of an octagon, the eight sides symbolizing the eight days.   [Read more…]

Top 5 heresies of 2016

Andy_stanley_2499 years after the Reformation, 1691 years after the Council of Nicaea, theological disputes and charges of heresy are still going strong.  Emily McFarlan Miller of the Religious News Service looks back on the Top 5 Heresies of 2016.

Could you list some more?  Are some brewing that will come to a head in 2017?

After the jump, I’ll list the five.  But go to the link for explanations and details. [Read more…]

The Name of Jesus

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).  So tomorrow, the 8th day after Christmas, which falls on New Year’s Day, the church year commemorates the Circumcision and Name of Jesus.

With the baby’s circumcision, He took upon Himself the burden of the Law, which He fulfilled on our behalf.  And with His naming, His identity and purpose are made clear.  “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves.”  God saves.  His very name proclaims His divinity and His saving work.

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