The End of Evangelicalism 5

The End of Evangelicalism 5 May 16, 2011

David Fitch contends the ideology of evangelicalism is rooted in three major “master-signifiers”: the Inerrant Bible, Decision for personal salvation, and the Christian Nation. But he contends this ideological set of factors is losing ground because the antagonisms in culture no longer support the ideas, and furthermore the last fifty years have gradually eroded the “politic” that is needed for the church to be what God wants it to be in America. Obviously, these are strong and bold claims … we’ve looked at the Inerrant Bible idea, so today we turn to Decision. All of this is from David’s new book, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology (Theopolitical Visions).

Fitch’s big claim is this: the obsession in evangelicalism with making The Decision has cut off Christians from the necessity of personal transformation and from ecclesial robustness. In other words, as long as you’ve had the experience you don’t really have to change and you don’t really have to see your life in the context of a church life.

What happens to evangelism when the gospel message transcends personal transaction and becomes a holistic entrance into the mission of God in this world? [If you examine evangelistic plans, you will see they are shaped by a theology and a salvation theory and an atonement theory and almost never are they sufficiently robust when it comes to calling people to the kind of life the gospel actually calls us to.]

Here Fitch draws on four scholars: Tom Wright’s understanding that justification is more than personal transfer of sins and righteousness because the theme of justification is also about God’s making things right in the world (and not just with me, but surely including me). Second, he examines Michael Gorman’s idea of theosis and shows that justification entails dying to self and being raised to new life personally and corporately — all of which reforms “desire” (David doesn’t develop this much but it’s at work in this chp). We are living out then the new politic of death and resurrection together.

Then he turns to John Millbank’s idea that “gift” entails a life of reciprocity. We are caught up in the Trinitarian life of reciprocity once we are “in Christ.”

All of this leads to this very important claim by David Fitch:

“The call for conversion, however, is no longer ‘Have you made the decision to receive Christ as your personal Savior?’ It is, ‘Have you entered into the salvation begun in Jesus Christ that God is working for the sake of the whole world?'” (150). So the offer is an invitation to enter into the kingdom vision of Jesus, and I’d like (shamelessly) to mention here my newest book: One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, and I’m encouraged by how many students and campuses are now reading this book.

Finally, he appeals to Dallas Willard’s emphasis on kingdom living that leads to transformation into the mission of God in this world

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  • What happens to evangelism when the gospel message transcends personal transaction and becomes a holistic entrance into the mission of God in this world?

    Well, it becomes harder to count conversions! Instead of counting personal decisions and baptisms (which we will still do…) we start watching for you attends a Bible study AND our community service projects. We look for who invites a friend to church AND helps that friend when they become homeless. We look for those who faithfully worship each Sunday AND are willing to get professional counseling to deal with the crap in their life. We look for those who give financially to missionaries overseas AND local non-profits at work in our neighborhood.

  • rjs

    The offer is a call to enter into the kingdom vision … to join the community of God’s people, the church .. to be transformed into participants in the mission of God in this world.

    The decision isn’t a decision for personal salvation but a decision to follow come whatever may.

  • Rick

    Tim #1-

    I can’t help but think of Skye Jethani’s recent concern about such expectations:

    “…we have pushed the Holy Spirit out of the picture and instead taken it upon ourselves to tell people what they should be doing for God, or at the very least what they ought to do if they want their lives to really matter…Paul, like the later leaders of the Reformation, did not measure maturity or commitment to Christ based on how “radical” a life appeared on the outside, or the visible impact a person made either missionally or socially. These activities are good and important, don’t misunderstand me, but they are not the center of the Christian life. Rather maturity was seen by the depth of a person’s union with Christ. The truly radical life is the one intimately rooted in communion with God, through Christ, in the Spirit, and that responds obediently to his call–whatever it may be…So I’ve come to embrace the reality that my place as a church leader is not to get people to do more for God. Rather, I believe my responsibility is to give others a ravishing vision, rooted in Scripture and modeled by my own example, of a life lived it communion with God. And there, as they abide in him, calling will happen. The Lord of the harvest will call and send workers.”

  • DRT

    I’ll tell you what happens. Churches like the one I used to go to will have to start giving people opportunity to function in a kingdom way through kingdom work instead of just MTD.

  • rjs

    Tim,

    I agree – sort of – with your The people need to be kingdom focused – but the statement attends a bible study and OUR community service projects … this is a significant concern. Would you judge by whether the person attends YOUR bible study or is a bible study or any bible study an indication of commitment?

    Can people really be judged inadequate if they feel called to support, oh say World Vision, to an extent that any involvement with a local nonprofit is minimal?

    Are people called to join your kingdom vision or to enter into the kingdom vision of Jesus? I don’t bring this up to snipe, but because this measure of commitment becomes a pride and ambition issue for a church (like counting decisions and baptisms) and because it requires people to leave their natural sphere of involvement and influence to follow their leaders.

    Everything you list is good – but total commitment to the kingdom vision of Jesus is more, and not measured easily in this way.

  • rjs

    Rick,

    Interesting quote. But I don’t think the job of church leaders is simply to “give others a ravishing vision, rooted in Scripture and modeled by my own example, of a life lived it communion with God.

    The job of church leaders is to give others this vision along with the clear message that nothing less than total commitment is acceptable to God. This does not mean total commitment to a leader’s vision – but total surrender to God’s calling.

  • Rick #3: I think Skye has a point, but it’s “too spiritual.” I don’t think Jesus’ kingdom vision leaned towards the “too spiritual” side of things. Real people got healed and fed and forgiven because of Jesus’ kingdom vision. My post wasn’t an exhaustive list of “actions”, and they certainly don’t preclude the role of the Holy Spirit. Why think that my list isn’t an expression of blossoming Christian maturity?

  • Rick

    RJS-

    “but total surrender to God’s calling”.

    But Tim is defining what that calling is for everyone- how well they are doing.

    Skye, in the same post, says:

    “What I had neglected for too long, and what I feel is absent in many parts of the church today, is Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7. The believers in Corinth wanted to know what kind of life most honored God; what conditions and circumstances made a Christian life significant. Was it best to be married or unmarried? Circumcised or uncircumcised? Paul’s answer, which he calls his “rule in all the churches” and repeats three times, is for everyone to remain where they are “with God” (1 Cor. 7:24). That’s a message we don’t hear often at missions (or missional) conferences…Paul wanted to draw the Corinthians’ attention away from their circumstances and emphasize that the full Christian life could be lived anywhere by anyone if lived in deep communion with God. Do we really believe that? Really? Os Guinness reminds us that, “First and foremost we are called to Someone, not to something or to somewhere.” …If our lives are rooted in a continual communion with God, then every person’s life, no matter how mundane, is elevated to sacred heights–including a suburban mom’s, the office worker’s, and the EPA attorney’s. And it’s not just radical when they behave like a missionary or social activist in their free time. Even working the assembly line becomes a holy activity when done “with God.”

  • I wonder if this is a conversation we could have in the UK? Probably not. Our ‘Christian nation’ is a shadow of Christendom. Our Evangelicalism shares a general Christian marginality. That kind of ‘decision for Christ’ language is dying. At least, it’s dead to me. One of the most interesting discussions to be had in UK Christianity is linked to ‘Fresh Expressions of Church’. I interepret ‘conversion’ in this setting to mean an ongoing two-sided conversation. As regards the shifting understanding of evangelism, I’ve been blogging on the same thing fairly recently: http://radref.blogspot.com/2011/02/post-modern-post-christendom-post.html

  • rjs #5

    My examples attempt to reveal actions that point both inward AND outward.

    Bible studies are important, but faith without works is dead – so I want to see those people involved in the community.
    We want to invite friends to church – not because we value church attendance, but because of the community-aspect of being part of church. Thus, the friend you invite to church – the one with a messy life – will also be able to get help from you when they need it. This rarely ever gets emphasized in church growth literature! It’s all about making the invite!
    And if someone would listen to a sermon every Sunday, what do you want the resulting action to be? For most people I meet who go to church, they need some sort of professional counseling. Getting healing will help them be much more helpful to others… get healing in the name of Jesus.
    And finally, in my experience, it’s too easy to send money overseas and less interesting to invest in your local neighborhood; the kingdom for Christians ought to be just as much local as it is global. Bob Roberts calls it “glocal.” I like that.

    Again, my list isn’t exhaustive, just trying to give what I think are “kingdomy” actions to traditional church activities. Our church has a very relaxed atmosphere, we’re not a hard driving congregation. Definitely not legalistic. Just trying to highlight specific actions that we think lead to a faithful living out of the Way of Jesus in our neighborhoods and world.

    And, rjs, “you” should have been “who” sorry for any confusion there about people attending a Bible study.

  • Phil, there are a lot of British evangelicals who don’t feel evangelicalism “shares a Christian marginality”, and who find “fresh expressions” a bit faddish – even though they/we agree with Scot (and presumably you) about how unhelpful it is to replace discipleship language with decision language, and have no illusions about still living in Christendom. Just a clarification!

  • Rick

    Tim-

    “Why think that my list isn’t an expression of blossoming Christian maturity?”

    It may be, but the theme is about “entrance”. Are you saying we should not be looking at the beginning of the journey, but simply focus on the goal? (I am not specially arguing that point, just trying to understand your position).

  • Wbere in evangelicalism have we seen a call for decision without also a call for discipleship; or a call for conversion without also a call for community and involvement in the mission of the Church?

    It is fair game to ask how well a Christian is living the initial “decision” out in discipleship and I see evangelicalism addressing that question.

    Ironically, in another thread, it is apparently not okay to look past Obama’s decision to become a Christian to ask what his discipleship is. Pushback on how Graham is doing in his discipleship is acceptable, but pushback on Obama’s is not.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    I don’t think the point here is judging who is a “true” Christian. Nor is the point the method of entry.

    I see the point as a clarification of the call. The call is not to a “personal decision for Christ” the call is to a total commitment to the kingdom of God. This means a commitment to follow the kingdom mission of Jesus.

    While we seldom, if ever, have seen a call for personal conversion without a call to also “join a church” we have often and repeatedly seen a call for personal decision without a call for kingdom vision.

  • Adam

    Jeff @14

    I think the answer to your question is that Evangelical theology is divorced from reality. When I talk with evangelicals on street corners or from my home town, their gospel is merely “accepting Jesus as savior will get you to heaven”. But having grown up in an evangelical I know there is an expectation for people to participate, but this expectation is unspoken.

    There’s an unresolved tension in that theology. Evangelicals are unwilling to say you get “saved by works” and to them all of Christianity is about “getting saved”. So, if you’re already “saved by faith” what leverage do I have to get you to live out your salvation?

    I think a better theology is to say “A new life has come” and invite people to it. And to realize that all of us are continuously and progressively relinquishing control of our own lives. It’s not a “in” vs “out” scenario but a progression.

  • Rick

    RJS-

    “The call is not to a “personal decision for Christ” the call is to a total commitment to the kingdom of God.”

    I disagree, as quoted earlier, Os Guinness states:

    “First and foremost we are called to Someone, not to something or to somewhere.”

    I think he is right. That call to Someone leads to the kingdom, but it is not the initial calling.

  • Yes, RJS #14, I get it. It is about much more than initial entry for Christ, but about a full life commitment to Christ and His kingdom. My point is that evangelicals do not leave the matter at initial decision. However well various evangelical groups might define the “kingdom” thing, or whether they speak in terms of “kingdom,” they understand that we are all called to a life of 24/7 obedience to Christ and involvement of what He is doing in the world.

    Adam #15, I too grew up evangelical, and in all my experience with evangelical groups, I have never seen any who taught that it was all about getting to heaven or who did not teach the important of discipleship. So I do not agree that evangelical theology is divorced from reality. Nor do I see an unresolved tension about “salvation by works.” It is not a part of evangelical theology as it is not part of the Bible. We do not enter into the community of faith by our own good works but by faith in Christ and the work of the cross. Good works are not the basis of salvation but the result, living out the life of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • T

    I really like Fitch’s rearticulation of the gospel invitation.

    Jeff, on the one hand, I agree that few churches give the gospel and just leave it at that. That said, growing up it was clear enough to me that getting forgiven, surviving judgment in a 4 Spiritual Laws kind of way, was what it was all about. The idea seemed to be that it was really, really important to reduce the gospel to this essense when presenting it. I remember hearing more than once in fact (and still do occasionally!) that it was heretical, a false gospel!, to give the idea that the gospel was much beyond this: Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved (from hell). In that context, I think Dave’s effort is a worthwhile and overdue adjustment. There’s more to the good news than that, as good as that is.

  • DRT

    Is it possible, in the evangelical world, for someone to be a Christian when they doubt the divinity of Jesus but think he is someone who really “gets it” and follows the kingdom vision anyway?

  • Rick #12

    Good question.

    I am not making a big distinction between the entrance and the goal.

    I’ve found that for many of the people who have become Christians, they can’t point back to “one decision” where they “crossed the line of faith.” Rather, they look back over many decisions and many actions and conclude that, yes indeed, they are now a Christian, that they do trust Christ for salvation – and that this salvation is both here and there, now and not yet.

    So, for many people, they don’t know when they “entered”, but upon looking back over their life, they realize that they did “enter.” They’ve been working and looking forward, their imagination and heart captured in one way or the other by Jesus and His Way – and in following that, found that they had entered. Does that make sense? I’m just relating what I’m observing in ministry.

  • John W Frye

    Jeff, I echo T (#18). In my stream of evangelicalism decisional regeneration was THE point, the GIFT was given–eternal life. Everything else was wrapping paper. Many evangelical pastors got so frustrated with this reduced gospel because the assumption on the part of the “saved” was: “I already saved. I may not live a dedicated Christian life; I may not even want to, but I’m “in” even though ‘saved as by fire’. I might not get a big reward like Billy Graham, but I’ll have my little mansion just over the hill top. I’ve been absolutely assured of this future.” We have to declare Christianity as a Way of life, not a decision (see Scot’s book *Jesus Calls, We Follow*). We must do a much better job up front explaining what the decision signs one up for. This is not a “false gospel” or “adding to” the Gospel as some have argued. It is simply a truthful presentation of the whole Gospel.

  • This discussion reminds me of the Willard clip Scot linked to a few days ago where Dallas essentially said: The emphasis of the Gospel of Jesus is not on how get into heaven after you die but how to enter heaven (KoG) now, while you are still alive.

  • I have been in a wide variety of evangelical situations, involved with evangelical churches and ministries, and I have never seen one where the only important thing was a ticket to heaven or “fire insurance,” or where discipleship was presented as anything like “wrapping paper.” Over the years, I’ve seen many different ideas about what discipleship is and what it should look like, but I have never seen it treated as “wrapping paper.” I’m not saying that evangelicals have it nailed down or that there is not much, much more to learn. I think we have a looong way to go. But I do not think we get there by ignoring or downplaying the importance evangelicalism does place on discipleship.

  • I’m consistently struck by how often what the church chooses to do is given value *only* if it leads to the conversion of individuals.

    I was listening to one well know pastor’s podcast and he said that giving clean water to those without it is not love unless it is paired with a message of salvation.

    This is a major reason the american evangelical church has very little credibility (and is routinely mocked) in the eyes of secular america. We have spent the majority of our resources and efforts seeking to produce a crop without caring at all for the soil, nor the fruit our crop ultimately bears. It seems many think fields of small, fruitless trees make God smile.

  • John W Frye

    Jeff (#23),
    You are a fortunate person, then, if you’ve not experienced discipleshipless USAmerican evangelicalism. No one is saying that discipleship is not discussed in the decisional regeneration ranks. Discipleship is an “add on” to the gospel. You “get saved.” That’s the *big* deal. Whether you grow or even want to grow is an accessory to the crucial event–the decision. It’s like getting a passport to heaven. And you get to heaven after you die. You cannot deny that was the reduced gospel. Yet, the gospel is a passport into the kingdom of God *here and now.* You don’t get to live as self-absorbed comfortable American in the kingdom of God. The authentic gospel gives you the passport, for sure, but it also takes you across the border and you *must* now learn to live the way people live in the kingdom of God. The upside down Way. All of this is gospel, not just getting the passport. Just getting the passport, but not actually living in the new country was buttressed by the old systematic categories of “justification”–that non-experienced transaction where sins and righteousness were transferred–your sins to Jesus; Jesus’ righteousness to you. Irrevocable. You’re in *forever.* Then, and only then, came sanctification. Now the faith is a cooperative with God. But on a sliding scale. That is, you’re as dedicated or committed as you want to be. Saved, but no commitment–saved as though by fire. Little or no rewards. But you are saved. Justification by faith? Done. Sanctification by faith? Minimal to dedicated. Glorification? Absolutely assured. I am not making this up. I’ve been a pastor for almost forty years and I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

  • As one who grew up in an evangelical culture, attended an evangelical seminary, I’ve come to see that evangelicalism is not an historically transcendent expression of the Gospel, but rather very much a Rationalist/Enlightenment expression of the Gospel. It scientifically reduces the Gospel to lower order moments of decision, rather than higher order transformations of one’s whole life. Just like much of the Progressive movement is there is much of its system of belief that is logically incoherent. These 19th century ideologies are closed systems of belief that are idealistic and utopian at heart.
    I don’t think either Jesus or Paul were Utopian Idealists. They were rooted in real life, seeing people along a continuum of growth of understanding and faith. As a result, those expressions of the pure faith whether evangelical or progressive are set up to fail because when ideology and reality collide, reality usually wins.
    I look forward to reading Fitch’s book.

  • John #23, I don’t think my experience with evangelicism is exceptional. It is not just a narrow slice I’ve witnessed, so I don’t think it can be written off so easily. Evangelicalism does not teach discipleship as an “add on” to the gospel. The initial decision/conversion experiences is just that, initial. It is the first step into discipleship. Baptism is the beginning, out of which the new believer learns to live in the world as a follower of Christ. So I reject the attempt to belittle evangelicalism. There are simply too many faithful evangelicals Christians to treat their theology so glibly.

  • John W Frye

    Jeff (#27),
    Then let’s see where the prevailing theology of the gospel of the last 30 years led. You’ve heard of Barna and his numerous analyses of evangelical living. As a pastor I can confirm that Barna’s findings that the demonstrable lifestyle of evangelical Christians was no different than their unsaved neighbors. For all our gospelizing and dicipling, the church absorbed the prevailing culture as a sponge absorbs water. I am convinced that deplorable state was tracable to the horribly reduced gospel of evangelicalism. I am not treating glibly popular evangelical theology. I am lamenting it.

  • pds

    Scot,

    I find the title “The End of Evangelicalism” very annoying. It sounds like you and Fitch are cheering for it to end. If you want to make things “better,” I think a better title would be useful. How about “Resurgent Liberalism”? That is much more positive.

    The criticisms only describe a segment of Evangelicalism. Why don’t we compare the overall fruit of Evangelicalism over the last 50 years, with the overall fruit of Mainline Liberalism?

    “Christian Nation” as a key marker of “Evangelical”? That is simply ridiculous.

  • I agree, a Christian Nation was never Christ’s calling to us as believers. We are evangelicals if we share the gospel, the hope of Christ and His story which connects to me. The word itself stems from the Latin “evangel” or the Greek “euangelos” which means, bringing the good news.

    Many evangelicals live in non-Christian nations around the world. As Jesus said, ““It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Matthew 9:12

  • Dana Ames

    Ed @26, well said.

    As to the question Scot posed, what happens is that you begin to have some truly good news to share, news that is not based on fear or utopianism or our need to be right (even with the best of intentions), but rather news that is based in the goodness and love of the Trinitarian Godhead.

    Dana

  • Nathan C

    Adam #15, someone ‘saved by faith’ might live out his or her salvation for a number of reasons.

    Love of God, simple gratitude, compassion towards one’s neighbors, hope for a better future, an earnest desire to be like Christ, etc.

    These are right and good and joyful things. There are many ways to encourage others to continue onward to perfection without resorting to threats and fear.

  • Rick

    DRT #19-

    Doubt, or deny?

    Tim #20-

    That does make sense. Thanks for clarifying.

  • John W Frye #28,

    Barna’s research does not show that evangelical churches are treating discipleship as option, an add on or unnecessary.

    Are you the pastor of an evangelical church, the demonstrable lifestyle of whose members are no better than their unsaved neighbors? If so, are you teaching them that discipleship is merely an optional extra? As an evangelical pastor, are you horribly reducing the gospel?

  • pds #29

    What if the end of Evangelicalism brings about something better than modern Evangelicalism?

    Also: There’s not much point in comparing Evangelicalism to Mainline Liberalism, since the measure of success for each is so different. And if both ships are sinking, what’s the value in insisting that our boat is better?

  • John W Frye

    Jeff (#34),
    You caught me. I thought I’d never be found out. I do preach a horribly reduced gospel (accept Jesus so you can go to heaven when you die), I only offer discipleship as an add on to the already recieved in full “eternal life” and you couldn’t tell my church from the corner bar and strip joint.

  • John W Frye #36,

    Well, of course, my point is that you do no such a thing. So how are the people in your evangelical congregation doing. Do they all have lifestyles that are very different from and better than those of their neighbors?

  • pds

    Tim,

    “something better” What? If you can’t articulate it, I don’t think you should not call for the end of what I consider a very good thing.

    The definitions of “Evangelical” are unfair and simplistic, which makes me think the author simply doesn’t like Evangelicalism. He should just say “I don’t want to be an Evangelical anymore” and move on to something else.

    Mainline liberalism has been sinking for a long time. Evangelicalism has exploded from the margins to being mainstream in the last 70 years. It is doing just fine and I don’t see any end in sight. Its “end” seems to be just wishful thinking by some who simply don’t like it very much.

  • pds

    John #28,

    Have you read Brad Wright’s critique of Barna? Scot endorsed that book too. I can’t take much of Barna very seriously after that. Very selective use of data.

  • pds #38

    So you’re telling me that Evangelicalism as it exists now is the best it can become? It’s crested? It’s at the pinnacle? Then that means it’s decline is soon to come. That’s just how movements work. If Evangelicalism isn’t at it’s best yet, then that means there’s plenty to critique.

    And, I think that comparing Evangelicalism to the core of Jesus’ Gospel will always cause us to pine for something better. And that criticism is good. Evangelicalism is a way to do Christianity. We on the inside prefer it. But then we’re on the inside and see the ugly sides of it too, and thus pine for something even better. What’s wrong with that?

  • DRT

    I think I would pay for the Jeff vs. John ringside seats.

    Seriously though, I think you two are on to somehthing in this thread and appreciate being able to spectate.

  • DRT

    I have to tell someone, and you people are it, Glenn Beck just announced his next rally, in Jerusalem, and said “maybe for the first time, god will take note of what we did”. Oh no.

  • pds

    Tim #40,

    I agree that Evangelicalism can do better (and I think it is doing better). But then why talk about it ending?

  • rjs

    pds,

    This is simply the title question in Fitch’s book … don’t read so much into the title of the series or the book.

  • pds

    Hi RJS,

    It is not a question in the title of Scot’s posts. I am just commenting on what it sounds like to me. It does not sound like they are optimistic about the future of Evangelicalism. If you read it differently, so be it.

  • John W Frye

    Jeff (#37),
    I guessed that was your point, but had fun entering into your questions. I simply think that evangelicalism needs a major overhaul with its emphasis on decisional regeneration. I think that compartmentalizing what is a dynamic Spirit-initiated whole has been very detrimental to the Christian formation process. “Get saved and be discipled” should simply be “Get into and stay in the disciple-of-Jesus life.” Become not a Jesus-believer, but a Jesus-follower. You may not agree with this and think evangelicalism is OK as it. I don’t see it that way. Blessings!

  • Randy Gabrielse

    (HUMOR ALERT) On the night before my wedding more than ten years ago, I developed a new (as far as I knew) term for what happens in this decision-based evangelicalism: “Woosh,” Wooshed” or “Wooshing” refers to the moment when one makes the decision and is drawn into the list of the saved.

    Such is what my best man and It talked about all those years ago.

    Peace,
    Randy G.

  • John #46,

    I didn’t say evangelicalism is okay as it is. As I said in #23, “I’m not saying that evangelicals have it nailed down or that there is not much, much more to learn. I think we have a looong way to go. But I do not think we get there by ignoring or downplaying the importance evangelicalism does place on discipleship.”

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    Do you think much of evangelicalism really places emphasis on discipleship? It seems to me that much (but not all) of the so-called discipleship in our church is more akin to the religion of the pharisees than the teachings of Jesus.

    Consider the emphasis on purity, holiness, study of scripture, separation, … this is all closer to the behavior of those Jesus admonishes than those he disciples.

    So evangelicalism isn’t characterized by fire-insurance personal decision followed by free-living, but it isn’t characterized by a life of total commitment lived for the kingdom vision of Jesus either.

  • I think we need to get away from the idea that evangelicalism is all one way or the other ~ all good or all bad. Its a mixed bag, and as I have said twice now in this thread and will say for a third time, we have a looong way to go. But I don’t think it is fair to characterize evangelicalism as closer to Pharisaism than to Jesus.

    Someone in another thread here today cited Godwin’s Law, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” I think the same thing often happens in discussions among Christians, replacing Nazis with Pharisees.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    You didn’t deal with the essence of my comment. I was talking about the call for discipleship. And my reference to the pharisees wasn’t a slam – it was a serious thought that has come out of much reading and thinking over the last several years

    What do you think characterizes discipleship in many evangelical churches?

    Isn’t it things like purity, separation, knowledge of scripture, giving to the church, being involved in church activities?

    How is this different from the kind of religious commitment the pharisees were pursuing?

  • Since I am currently in the migration process of transferring my ordination from the evangelical world to the ELCA, I find this post encouraging. The baptismal covenant of the ELCA exemplifies this idea of salvation. At the font, and at confirmation, and, hopefully every day, the follower of Jesus promises to, by the grace of God, live among God’s faithful people, hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, proclaim the Good News of Jesus through word and deed, serve others following Jesus’ example, and strive for justice and peace in the world. That sounds like Kingdom living to me!

  • RJS, I see evangelical churches and ministries discipling people in worship, in prayer, in the Word, in the family (what it means to be good parents, good husbands and fathers, good wives and mothers), in community involvement (mercy ministries and helping projects for those in need in the community), in non-local missions and mercy projects, in the arts, in Christ-honoring business, in giving (to the church and to others), in evangelism and sharing the faith with others. If you think any of that is pharisaical, I will let you explain why.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    None of those things alone are of course – and some of them distinctly are not.

    But some of them can be … and this is the emphasis I have seen in too much of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

    For example, discipling in worship, prayer, the word, and the family … this was a cornerstone of the kind of religious life Jesus speaks against. The pharisees did this to a T, were proud of it, and were spreading it through the Jewish community. This was not wrong per se, but without love, without grounding in the heart, it is nothing.

    Now – when you get to community involvement and such it can reach another level coming much closer to the kind of discipleship we are called to. Some groups do this well, some do not. But that is part of the point of the argument I think.

    This isn’t an indictment against all of evangelicalism as much as it is a call to a biblical discipleship rooted in the gospels. Our call as Christians isn’t to study the bible and pray more – our call is to put every last part of our life and being on the alter to follow the kingdom way of God. Our call is to view every single person on earth as a “neighbor” created in the image of God. How do we orient our lives around that call?

  • RJS, Jesus did not speak against worship, prayer, the Word or the family. Those things are not pharisaical. Yes, of course love is required and must be grounded in the heart, with the whole heart. So by listing these things that pharisees might have done without love, that simply does not equate or transfer to how evangelicalism has incorporated them in discipleship. You have charged evangelicalism with being pharisaical in discipleship, but you have offered no evidence of such because you have not demonstrated that evangelicals leave out the love element in discipleship.

    Certainly there are levels of discipleship beyond worship, prayer, the Word and family, and indeed we are called to go beyond that. But we are called to ALL of that. So, to say that community involvement is “much closer to the kind of discipleship we are called to” — if by that you mean that the other things pale in significance, it wrong because it is incomplete. It is ALL part of, and important to, our discipleship. It is no more proper to leave the former out than to leave the latter. But your words seem to belittle the former (as pharisaical!) in comparison to the latter.

    I agree that discipleship needs to be rooted in the Gospels — but also in the Epistles as well, for they have many important things to teach us. Evangelicalism honors them both together and seeks to live out of both of them, not pitting one against the other or considering one as lesser than other. The “black letters” of God’s Word are as important as the so-called “red letters.”

  • pds

    RJS #49,

    You said,

    “It seems to me that much (but not all) of the so-called discipleship in our church is more akin to the religion of the pharisees than the teachings of Jesus.

    Consider the emphasis on purity, holiness, study of scripture, separation, … this is all closer to the behavior of those Jesus admonishes than those he disciples.”

    I think this is stunningly wrong. Jesus clearly supported purity, holiness and the study of scripture. Do you need citations? How can you say this?

  • Rick

    RJS-

    I agree with Jeff and pds on this one. You were off on that comment.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    I could quote the epistles here as well. Especially Paul and James. It is not just the red letters – and it is not social action that I am talking about.

    Look, you can all stand against me this is something I have struggled on long and hard.

    Bible study, worship, prayer and purity without love is nothing… and too much of evangelicalism has emphasized discipleship as bible study, worship, prayer, and purity, neglecting and even dismissing as untenable the entire life reorientation demanded by scripture – gospels and epistles. Discipleship is this entire life reorientation.

    If your brother has something against you – go first and be reconciled. In so much as possible be at peace with everyone. Faith without works is dead. Do not put the rich man first …

  • RJS,

    Who is advocating for Bible study, worship, prayer and purity apart from love? Who is dismissing as untenable the orientation of one’s entire life according to Scripture? That is certainly NOT what evangelicalism is about. Now, nobody is doing it all perfectly, and nobody claims to be faultless in any of these things. But it is what evangelicals strive after, and it is why the authority of the Word is important to evangelicals, because we are to live our whole lives by it.

    Do you feel like those who disagree with your presentation here should cut you a break because you have “struggled on long and hard” about this? As if those who disagree with you have not also considered these things very deeply?

  • rjs

    Rick,

    What makes a “good Christian”? How is this conveyed to a congregation – both implicitly and explicitly?

  • pds

    RJS #54,

    “Our call as Christians isn’t to study the bible and pray more – our call is to put every last part of our life and being on the alter to follow the kingdom way of God.”

    Jesus would say “both… and…” Mt 23:23 Jesus says you do one thing, but not another. Do both.

    You seem to saying do one thing and don’t worry so much about the other. Kind of like what the Pharisees were doing.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    No don’t cut me a break – but also don’t dismiss the point I am trying to make without engaging seriously.

    I am not trying to be antagonistic – this is a serious problem I think we have in our churches. So prove to me why it isn’t a problem.

    I won’t be back online for an hour or so – but there is much more to be said here.

  • rjs

    pds,

    No – I am not saying do one and don’t worry so much about the other.

  • RJS,

    I’ve already stated a number of times that evangelicalism has much, more more to learn and a long way to go. I don’t think anyone else here disagrees with that. IOW, everyone agrees that there are problems. But let us not cast out and belittle the many good things that evangelicalism values in discipleship. Let us not cast out and belittle worship, prayer,the Word and purity. Let us not treat them so dismissively and miss the point that they are as important to our discipleship as involvement in the larger community. It is ALL important, and we do not strengthen any part of it by weakening another part.

  • pds

    RJS #63,

    “No – I am not saying do one and don’t worry so much about the other.”

    Right, what you said was actually even stronger than that:

    “Our call as Christians isn’t to study the bible and pray more . . .”

  • Adam

    PDS,

    You quoted Matthew 23:23 above.

    Matthew 23:23 (The Message)

    23-24″You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?”

    This is the point RJS is making. Evangelicalism is teaching that kind of nit-picking. Bible study, worship, prayer, and purity are the little things. “Love your enemy” is the meat of things.

    I know you guys believe that, but is it being lived? I think the facts of the world around us say that the command to love is not being lived out. And yet, lots of bible study, praying, worshiping and purity is happening.

    Let’s look at more from Matthew 23

    1-3 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.”

    And this is the point. We have to face that we are not living what we say we believe, ergo we do not believe what we say we believe. We are very good at teaching it. We are oh, so good, at teaching it. But we don’t know the first thing about living it.

  • I think we all agree that EVERYTHING is to be done in love. Can we all agree that worship, prayer, understanding the Scriptures, living as the people of God (which is what holiness and purity are about), showing the love of Christ in the community in practical ways are all important?

    Is everybody living it all out as we should? Of course not, and nobody here has suggested that anything close to that is happening. But there are too many evangelicals who pursuing that with all their hearts, showing the love of God in various ways and to various degrees, for evangelicalism to be treated so dismissively as it has been here.

    So, it is called discipleship for a reason ~ it is a PROCESS of learning. Which means that Christians are going to at various points of learning in that process. Some are doing better than others. Some not so well. But we do not move on to improvement by dismissing the many good things that are being done.

  • rjs

    pds,

    Please don’t “quote mine.” If you are going to quote something I said, keep it in context. The point is that our call is much greater than “read your bible and pray.” Reading the bible and praying is meaningless in the absence of that something greater, it is of value only as it contributes to and results in that something greater.

    I think bible reading and prayer are a means to an end – not the end in themselves. We need to really focus on what that end is and should be.

  • RJS, Bible reading and prayer are indeed a means to an end. And whoever said otherwise. The end can be summed up in what Jesus said is the greatest commandment ~ to love God with everything in you. The second, He said, is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else ~ the Law and the Prophets, worship, prayer, understanding the Scriptures, hangs on those two. If we are not loving God and loving our neighbor, all the worship, prayer and Scripture reading is meaningless. So, I think we agree that we must go beyond those activities to the purpose of loving God and neighbor. Can we also agree that those things are important means to that end, and that to teach them as an important part of discipleship is not pharisaical?

  • MatthewS

    Discipleship that involves transformation needs to address the emotional component of people as well:

    “Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. When you understand this, you will walk through a door in your spiritual journey. Few ever return to a tip-of-the-iceberg discipleship that overemphasizes activity but does not deeply transform from the inside out.” – Peter Scazzero “The Emotionally Healthy Church”

  • pds

    RJS #68,

    I was not quoting out of context or misrepresenting your words. The full context is right there for anyone to see. I was highlighting the very strong statement you made.

    I disagree that Scripture takes a utilitarian view on prayer and Bible reading. I think much prayer is an end in itself.

    It is interesting to see your view of the inherent value (or lack) of prayer.

  • Adam

    Jeff,

    My experience is that they’ve been taught as a end unto themselves and this is the prevailing message inside evangelicalism. Many people on this thread have said the same things.

    It seems that you have had a vastly different experience than I have. I know many people who won’t go to my part of town because it’s “the wrong part of town”. And at the same time, they pat themselves on the back because of all the bible studies they attend.

    For my city, segregation is a real issue and the churches in this area have no pressing need to deal with it. They’re doing just fine with their worship, study, and praying. And all that worship, study, and praying isn’t pushing them to help their very own neighbors. But that’s ok because they are worshiping, studying, and praying.

    Do you see what’s going on here? It’s a loop that is feeding itself.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    What do you think was the error of the Pharisees? The one that Jesus spoke against?

    What does Pharisaical mean to you?

    I ask because I think this may be the root of the disagreement.

    Certainly they read and knew the Hebrew scripture backwards and forwards.

    The prayed, they gave alms, they did everything the law of God required.

    They remained separate to stay clean and pure.

    Some of them sought Jesus as a teacher.

    And yet something was missing wasn’t it?

  • pds

    Adam #66,

    “The Message” is not Scripture, it is a paraphrase/commentary. Why not quote a good translation?

    “We are very good at teaching it. We are oh, so good, at teaching it. But we don’t know the first thing about living it.”

    Do you mean “we” or do you really mean “you (segment of Evangelicalism I don’t like very much)”?

    Who do you think is doing a better job than Evangelicals of teaching it and living it? Liberals? Catholics? African American churches? Orthodox? Episcopalians? You and your tribe or sub-tribe? Why don’t you give each group a score of 1 to 10 so we have a standard for judging Evangelicals.

  • pds

    Adam #72,

    >>I know many people who won’t go to my part of town because it’s “the wrong part of town”. And at the same time, they pat themselves on the back because of all the bible studies they attend.<<

    So you know for sure that all those people are doing absolutely nothing to help the poor? To show mercy to their neighbors? They are hypocrites like the Pharisees and you know this for a fact? Could it be that they do care about the weightier matters of the law, but they have different ideas about how best to address them?

  • Adam #72,

    As an evangelical, I’ve always been taught that prayer is a communication with God, as is the prayerful or meditative reading of His Word (I find this also in all the evangelical teaching material I’ve ever seen). As such, it is part of loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. If God is removed from the equation, then we are not talking about prayer and Bible reading in an evangelical way.

    It is love for God and fellowship with Him, of which worship and prayer and Bible reading are a part, that leads us into proper, loving engagement with our neighbor.

    I don’t know what part of town you are on, or who you think is supposed to be coming there, or what the person you think should be coming is actually supposed to be doing ~ I’m not the logistical manager of who is supposed to be where. But if our worship, prayer and Bible reading is not leading us into some form of outward engagement, the problem is not worship, prayer or Bible reading itself that is the problem; the problem is that the one doing those things is not engaging with God.

  • RJS #73,

    Well, of course there was something missing with the Pharisees. But you cannot make the equation that, because the Pharisees were doing some of the same activities that evangelicals do (and as, indeed, Christians have been doing from the beginning) that evangelicals therefore lack whatever it was the Pharisees were lacking.

    Now, as I have stated repeatedly in this thread, none of these things is to be done apart from love ~ love for God and love for others. Worship and prayer and Bible reading and giving of alms, if they are apart from the love of God and neighbor, are NOT what evangelicalism is about.

    See #76, my post to Adam.

  • Rick

    RJS #60-

    I was trying to find a short way to phrase what “makes a good Christian” (I am not real comfortable with that phrase, but I get what you mean), but in the meantime Jeff wrote:

    “It is love for God and fellowship with Him, of which worship and prayer and Bible reading are a part, that leads us into proper, loving engagement with our neighbor.”

    I think that sums it up well (John 15). I would add something about the sacraments, and the importance of both private and corporate elements of spiritual formation, but he stated it well.

  • Thanks Rick #78,

    I did have the sacraments in mind, particularly the Table of the Lord, as part of worship. But I did not want to mention it specifically because I did not want to see it abused here as the notion of prayer and Bible reading and worship in general have been. At the Table, I not only learn to love my neighbor but I find the love with which to do it. Though I may have many failings, and a long way to go in my discipleship, I would hate think of where I would be without the fellowship I find with God in worship, prayer, the Table and the Scriptures ~ mine would be a very poor discipleship indeed.

  • rjs

    Jeff,

    I don’t think all Pharisees lacked the qualities that Jesus was trying to emphasize. Some of them came to him and were taught by him.

    But I do think we would do well to look at this and note that the very qualities and practices that are emphasized in some, perhaps much, evangelical discipleship are the qualities and practices that were valued by the Pharisees.

    These things are not bad – Jesus never said don’t pray, don’t fast, don’t give, don’t go to the temple, don’t study scripture. He extended the significance of these to the very center of one’s being. (On the other hand he did not seem to endorse the purity codes that caused people to hurt other people, outsiders.)

    Like many here I grew up with the evangelical subculture and still consider myself evangelical. I am not looking for the end of evangelicalism. You say that these religious practices “apart from the love of God and neighbor, are NOT what evangelicalism is about.” We agree here, it is not what evangelicalism should be about.

    It seems to me though that much of evangelical discipleship emphasizes these religious practices, along with a separation to remain “pure” and stops there. This is the point I was trying to make in my comment #49. I think that we, and this includes me, need to read the gospels (and the epistles) with the perspective that we are quite likely sitting on the wrong side of Jesus and need to take his admonitions as admonitions to us.

  • Adam

    Jeff,

    Would you allow that “proper, loving engagement with our neighbor” leads us into “love for God and fellowship with Him”? Basically, that it can happen the other way around too? Ideas like “whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me”. Ideas like, caring for your neighbor is an act of pursuing God.

    I think the biggest discrepancy here is our differing views of what evangelicalism is. From the very beginning of this post:

    “David Fitch contends the ideology of evangelicalism is rooted in three major “master-signifiers”: the Inerrant Bible, Decision for personal salvation, and the Christian Nation.”

    What Fitch is saying is not what you are saying, Jeff. Just to make things absurd, I might say you’re not really an evangelical, but who am I to determine the meaning of that word.

    Another part from the post and this is what I have experienced in evangelicalism:

    “Fitch’s big claim is this: the obsession in evangelicalism with making The Decision has cut off Christians from the necessity of personal transformation and from ecclesial robustness.”

    And a comment from Scot,

    “If you examine evangelistic plans, you will see they are shaped by a theology and a salvation theory and an atonement theory and almost never are they sufficiently robust when it comes to calling people to the kind of life the gospel actually calls us to.”

  • rjs

    Rick and Jeff,

    I think we agree more than disagree on most of this – but it is an important topic.

    My intent was not to abuse bible reading, prayer, worship, or even more significantly sacrament. But doing these is not discipleship – doing these should lead us into true discipleship.

  • Adam #81, I think that the kind of love Jesus calls us to have for our neighbor comes from God. And the kind of love He calls us to have for God also comes from God, not from our neighbor. Inasmuch as Jesus called loving God with everything in us the first and greatest commandment, and called loving your neighbor as yourself the second, I believe He was giving us the proper order. Proper love for and engagement with God leads us into proper love for and engagement with our neighbor. IOW, we cannot do the former apart from the latter. But I do not think we can do the latter apart from the former, either.

    I guess I disagree with David Fitch about the “master-signifiers.” He is not the arbiter of evangelicalism. Nor am I, for that matter. I can only speak of what I have experienced and seen for myself of evangelicalism, and I do not think my experience is narrow or brief. I’ve been around many and various manifestations of it for many years.

  • RJS # 82,

    By continually making worship and prayer and Bible reading a point of comparison between Pharisees and evangelicals and then on that basis charging evangelicals with the failings of the Pharisees, you were abusing worship and prayer and Bible reading.

    Are they are part of discipleship, or do they merely lead to discipleship? I say they are part of discipleship, part of the training of our discipleship, part of the process of our discipleship. Jesus taught the disciples to pray (see The Lord’s Prayer). Discipleship is not an end in itself, but the means to an end, the same end I described earlier in regard to worship, prayer and Bible reading ~ loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Learning to worship and pray is part of that discipleship, but worship and prayer are also expressions of our love and fellowship with God. And indeed, loving our neighbor also becomes an expression of our love and fellowship with God.

  • DRT

    I would like to make this subject much more concrete. For example, the evangelical church that is near me does virtually nothing for helping others, while another one that is much more conservative does a great deal (they have a used clothing outlet, they have active programs for the disabled, and lots more).

    The big difference is not dollars spent (though it might be), but the proportion of extra-sunday service spent feeding one owns spirit versus the bodily needs of others. People need to be actually doing something for others rather than talking about how they need to respect and accept others.

  • DRT

    In other words, I don’t think the issue is the amount of prayer, bible study and the like, I think it is the relative amount of that compared with actually helping people. Or, the absolute amount of actually helping people.

  • Adam

    I don’t really disagree with you but I think there are some preconceptions going on here.

    How exactly do you love God? I firmly believe that an act of loving our neighbors is an act of loving God. Again, the least of these.

    Above you mentioned “It is ALL part of, and important to, our discipleship” and much more along the same theme. But does it really play out?

    In simple terms, would you put serving the least of these as equal to studying the bible? Would you consider working in a soup kitchen on Sunday morning equivalent to attending a church service?

    What does it mean for our interaction with God to cause us to heal on the sabbath?

  • Adam, speaking of preconceptions, if there is a true act of loving your neighbor, where do you suppose that love comes from? Does in not come from God? And if it comes from God, will it not flow better if my heart is aligned with love for God, the source of love for my neighbor?

    A don’t have a time sheet. I’m not the logistics manager for who is supposed to what, where and when. God is the one who does the choreography. He is just as present in the soup kitchen as in the church service (ask Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, in his little book, The Practice of the Presence of God).

    There is a time for the soup kitchen, there is a time for the church service, there is a time for reading the Bible. That schedule may work out differently for different people according to their gifts and callings. I cannot tell you or anyone else what that is supposed to be. My job is be attentive to the voice of God about where He wants me to be, and when and doing what.

    In Acts 6, the apostles chose deacons to minister the soup kitchen to the Hellenists. “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).

    Which is more important ~ serving tables or reading the Word? Whichever one God has called you to at the time. The apostles were called to serve the Word; the deacons were called to serve the tables. Was one lesser than the other? I don’t think so.

  • Adam

    See, you are saying something EXTREMELY different from what I grew up with. I agree with you. I do not attribute those ideas to evangelicalism. But you do.

    I think we need a lot more Brother Lawrence and deacon type people. The environment that we exist in now strongly emphasizes the apostle type to the exclusion of the others. I even think the apostle type can learn from the deacon type.

  • DRT

    Jeff, I fully welcome your feedback, but want to give you some so you know what I am thinking.

    Your method of engagement most assuredly reminds me of people who are trying to dodge a central tenant to justify going off and doing what they please.

    Specifically, your invocation of god in your first paragraph of #88 smacks strongly of someone hiding behind a “god moved me to do it” mentality that does not sit well with me. I don’t know if others feel the same way, but I considering your good nature in engaging here I thought you should know since it is quite glaring to me, at least.

    Frankly the whole of #88 seems like a lawyer (no offense to the lawyers here) trying a case on the grounds of some technicality rather than the substance of what is going on. You may want to consider changing your style.

  • DRT #90, it has to do with having a personal relationship with God (another value of evangelicalism). There is a two-way communication. We fellowship together. Much of that happens, corporately as well as individually, in worship, in prayer, at the Table of the Lord, in reading His Word ~ the kinds of things that have been so belittled here at Jesus Creed of late. So God does speak to me, in many different ways, and I see my job, my discipleship, as learning to discern His voice and do what He says.

    There are many, many, many good things that one can do in the world. Many places to go, many places to give. And many people would have me do many things ~ they thing they hear for me what I am supposed to do. But I cannot do it all; I cannot even do a majority of it. So I must listen for the voice of God about where he wants me to be, what He wants me to do, when and how He wants me to do it.

    I am not called to be everywhere, but I am called to be somewhere. I am not called to do everything, but I am called to do something. I am not called to go to everyone, but I am called to go to someone. So, I listen for what that call is.

    The Bible speaks of a variety of gifts and callings. Not everyone has the same gift(s) or the same call. Its up to God. To I listen for God’s voice, and He speaks to me, because we have a personal relationship.

    It has taken me a number of years to understand in what way God has gifted me and what He has called me to do. Do I do what I please? Sure. I delight myself in God (that prayer and worship thing again) and do what He shows me to do. And it really bugs some people when I do this instead of that or go here instead of there ~ that I do what God wants me to instead of what they want me to do.

    I’m not sure what “central tenant” you think I’m trying to dodge or what you think I am hiding from. Frankly, I don’t care. God has not showed me what you are supposed to be doing, and I don’t think He has showed you what I am supposed to be doing. And I don’t think you know what all I am doing in regard to any of this anyway.

    So, I will keep listening for the voice of God and doing whatever He shows me to do. I don’t think I have made a case based on “some technicality.” I’m simply trying to study the Scriptures to see what they say.

    I have been on blogs and forums and the old BBS (Bulletin Board System ~ anybody remember those?) for about 20 years now. I have tried to discuss things peacefully, logically and Scripturally, without undue emotion. I have taken 2 Timothy 2:24 as my watchword: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient.” I think I have done a pretty fair job at it. But you remind me that one can’t please everybody. So, if you don’t like my style …

  • pds

    Jeff #88 and DRT #90,

    I think Jeff’s style is just fine. I don’t see what DRT sees at all.

    Jeff, keep up the good work. And keep up your holistic commitment to discipleship!

  • pds

    BTW, praying for or with someone or helping them develop personal discipline with teaching from the Word of God can be far more effective in helping their physical needs as giving them a bowl of soup.

    Give them a fish and they eat for a day.
    Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.

    Prayer and the Word of God can transform someone’s life by giving them the personal discipline and power for holiness that can help them kick a drug habit and hold down a steady job. That is real love.

    The Assemblies of God have been lifting people out of poverty for a long time.

  • DRT

    Jeff, (and pds), thanks for the feedback that you don’t see an issue. I don’t want to make you paranoid, but I also don’t think you are one to get paranoid by such a comment. It was meant with good honest intentions and it seems that is how you took it, thanks!

  • Adam

    Jeff,

    What you described in #91 is entirely personal. Where’s the corporate aspect? A major part of christianity is that we are apart of a single body, not a bunch of individual bodies. How we live, as a collective, also matters. That is where my city example really plays out. Individually, I help you and you help me. But together we are neglecting someone else. And I’m not speaking metaphorically here. This is exactly what happens in my city.

    You say you are actively listening for the voice of God, does that include the voices of other people as well? This is another aspect of a more corporate christianity. The people around us have an influence on what we hear from God.

  • Adam, if you reread that first paragraph of #91, you will find that I mention the corporate aspect of part of the two-way communication with God that I describe. It is not entirely personal, as you have supposed. I often hear God speaking to me through the community activity of worshiping together, praying together, receiving the preaching of the Word together, giving together. Yes, I do hear the voice of God in the voice of others, not only at church service, but in some of the things I read and in various conversations I have been a part of, and sometimes even on Facebook. I’m not a “lone ranger,” nor do I advocate it. I am part of a body, a fellowship of Jesus believers.

    Regarding the dilemma you describe: If I help someone over here, I am not helping someone over there. At the corporate level, if my church is help some people over here, they are not over there helping someone else. It’s a very real problem, corporately as well as individually. Should I/we drop what I/we are doing over here to help someon in order to go help someone over there? We each have to go help the ones God shows us to help and leave the others in His hands, or else we will be trying to be everywhere at once. Here is a good reason why we need to pray, and I mean pray continually. Intercessory prayers, for example.