Part three of Contend, Contextualize, and Seek Converts.
Part one is here.
Part two is here.
I started this three part series a while ago, and never posted the third part. Well, here goes. If it is true that three of the major functions of the New Testament church art to contend for the gospel, contextualize the message, and seek converts, then I believe it is also true that the three are interdependent upon one another.
So, for instance, it is impossible to contextualize the message of the gospel for contemporary hearers within specific cultures to seek converts unless we know what the faith is “that was once for all delivered to the saints.” It is necessary, then, to contend for the truth of the gospel before we can actually share it contextually. Further, seeking converts to anything other than the orthodox faith offered by Christ would be seeking converts to something other than Christianity.
So, it is proper that Seeking Converts would come last in this series. Not because it is less important than contending and contextualizing, but because we cannot truly seek converts until such time as we have been able to define the faith and communicate it in a way that is understandable to those whom we seek to see converted. However, Contending for the faith and presenting it relevantly is no excuse to ignore evangelism.
Many have, in years past and in the present, fought the fight of faith (not necessarily the good fight) without ever sharing that faith. These are the angry apologists. They will cross the globe to fight over their doctrinal position, but will not cross the street to share their faith.
Others, especially in our present post-modern world, have cried contextualization as the mantra of the day. In their efforts to create contextualization with the Three C’s (stole that one), coffee, candles, and couches, they have forsaken their first love and lost an orthodox grounding in the true gospel. These do not seek converts to Christianity, but rather seek to convert Christianity to accommodate burned-out evangelicals who are tired of doctrine and dogma.
Neither of these positions is acceptable. Instead, we must take seriously the call to missions that resonates throughout Scripture. We must proclaim God’s love in John 3:16 from the rooftops, but we must never forget God’s judgment in John 3:18, ”whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” We seek converts, not to environmentalism, Wednesday night suppers, Calvinism, or a political party. We seek converts to Christ.
A convert is a person who is changed. Scripturally speaking, the change is from death to life. People outside of Christ are dead in their trespasses and sins, but Christ brings life, and even greater, he brings life to the full. This is a great miracle that we have the opportunity to carry to the world. We must never be content to fight for our faith or to be cool coffee sipping Christians without seeking out others to experience the changing power of the gospel.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Part three of Contend, Contextualize, and Seek Converts.
Ed Young is always cutting edge, but with this video blog, there's not cutting edge, he's just honest. Ed talks not only about those people who work to actively split churches, but about the necessity for planting churches in all kinds of places, not just the Palm Beaches of the world. Click here for Ed's video blog on the issue of Church Pirates.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 2:22 PM
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Compact Flourescent Craze is not one that I have jumped on full bore. We do have some CFL's in my house, but I honsetly do not like them. The light they put out is a bit wierd to me, and I am not a fan of waiting for them to warm up (that's just impatience, I know). Anyway, I'm not really qualified to speak on this subject, but I found the following article interesting, maybe you will too.
Gore-Bulbs Rendered Obsolete
Posted by Craig Thompson at 8:30 AM
I read a quote from the Little Rascals this morning,
You only meet your once in a lifetime friend...once in a lifetime.
You know, that is good thinking. You better take those once in a lifetime friendships and make the most of them. Those are the relationships that grow closer with age even sometimes when the physical distance in between seems to grow exponentially. We are all blessed if once in a lifetime we are given the chance to have that once in a lifetime friend.
God has created us as relational beings, that means that friends really are a gift from God, just as are our spouses, parents, and children. Relationships are God's way of keeping us from being alone, but they should also be our way of growing closer in our relationship with him. Relationships make the world go 'round. Make more out of your relationships than business contacts and networking opportunities...make the most out of them. Sure, you might not make your millions this way, but when those millionaires are recounting the friends they've made, destroyed, and lost at age 70, you'll be sitting with your good friends sipping iced tea in a plastic chair, knowing that you are enjoying the good life!
Posted by Craig Thompson at 8:13 AM
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Jim Elliott is one of the most famous missionaries ever to live...and die for the sake of the gospel. No doubt, it is the writing of his loving wife that has allowed Jim to live on far beyond his death in the memories of Christians and others who continue to be influenced by this wise and faithful martyr for the faith.
Today I read a quote from his journal that nearly stopped me in my tracks:
Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.
No doubt that the faith of Jim Elliott is what pushed him forward to being such a strong force for the gospel message. Tertullian once said, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. Tertullian was right, but it is the faith of the living that makes so valuable the blood of the dead. May we all be found to have living faith...faith that will live on beyond us just as the faith of Jim Elliott, and so many other missionaries, lives on in perpetuity.
We serve an extraordinary God who chose to inhabit ordinary flesh and die for ordinary sinners so that we might experience extraordinary life in him. Shouldn't we strive to have extraordinary faith?
Posted by Craig Thompson at 4:09 PM
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I recently heard Albert Mohler say that Modern Art is essentially a rejection of the Christian and classical view of art and aesthetics. Classically, art has been relegated as those things which are good, true, and/or beautiful. A definition of art, then, definitely leads one to think immediately of Lynyrd Skynyrd, right?
Well, not necessarily, but it does give us insight into our culture. What is viewed as art in our postmodern culture seems to be a total rejection of good, true, and beautiful. From music, to cinema, to all kinds of visual and creative arts, much of what passes as art today is hideous, false, and sinful.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, nobel prize winning writer, defined the role of the author or artist as that of truth-teller against lies.
As Christians, are we actively seeking to reform all of our culture with the good news of Christ's resurrection. In the end, God will redeem all things to himself, even the earth. How awesome would it be if we as Christians decided that we were going to work at redeeming our culture now, I believe God would be pleased with that.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:56 PM
A good quick summary of Charles Spurgeon and the application of his life practices to a contemporary ministry situation can be found here, at The Resurgence by Mark Driscoll. Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, has a way of appealing to people from all theological stripes and he is one of my mentors.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 11:46 AM
This is solely for those of you who have not yet been exposed to the fraud that is Todd Bentley. There are many posts worth your while if you are interested in reading about this "faith healer." Baptist Press has an article that you can read here. Russell Moore's article can be read here. And you can find a video summarizing some of Bentley's outrageous claims here, courtesy of Peter Lumpkin.
Suffice it to say that I have often joked about the fact that, if possible, it would be easier to knock the sin out of someone than to preach to them and beg for a response. The emphasis here, of course, is the joke. I cannot believe that "leg dropping" a pastor (as Bentley claims to have done) opens an avenue for the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible cautions us to "test the spirits." Be careful of what you watch on TV!
Posted by Craig Thompson at 8:49 AM
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I do not think that Theologism is a word, but I hope that it captures my thought well. In his new book, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal (which I am enjoying, but have not finished), David Dockery says:
The theological consensus of 1900 had become a pragmatic consensus by the 1950's. This shift brought about a generation of leaders committed to programmatic expansion. The programmatic and pragmatic outlook was central for growing a successful denominiation in the post-World War II era. Orthodoxy was understood in terms of "doing the right program" rather than articulating the right belief system. What resulted was not so much a heterodox people but and "a-theological" generation.
Of course, Dockery is referencing the liberalism that had invaded the SBC in the middle of the Twentieth Century, but that statement really sparked some thoughts that I believe are very relevant to ministry today. Essentially, though I'm sure unintended initially, the pragmattic approach began to border on an "ends justifies the means," mentality.
So, in the case of the SBC, since unity had been maintained up to the 1950's, many believed that the boat should not have been rocked. What we are doing seems to have been working, so let's just continue down the path we are on. Of course, the dangers inherit in neo-orthodox theology and liberal versions of higher criticism were undermining the basic orthodoxy of the convention at the seminary level and had begun to leak out into the broader population through the publication of the Broadman Commentary on Genesis.
Stepping away from that, however, I see many similarities in this argument with felt-needs preaching that prevades today. In many who espouse a "felt-needs" kind of preaching, the theory is that the ends justifies the means (I'm not making this up, I've had the conversation with friends who espouse this theory). In other words, "people show up if as long as I preach on things they want to hear about, sex, money, rock and roll, current movies, etc... If they are showing up, we must be doing something right, so don't argue with it."
The attempt to plant one's feet on the slippery slope of "the end justifies the means," will lead only to a slide away from God-centeredness to people-centeredness in our ministries. God and his glory should always be the focal point of our ministry. God is glorified in the salvation of sinners, but when our ministry focuses more on the sinner than on the God who saves, we have lost focus. When that focus is lost, the decline is quick, and attracting people suddenly becomes priority number one.
Attracting people is the number one priority for a tourist attraction, but not for the church of the Living God. I know some will disagree with me on this issue, but we must work to center our churches on strong orthodox theology before we ever build on pragmatics. The message of the gospel IS more important than the way it is presented. I am thankful for churches large and small that faithfully and contextually proclaim the gospel message with excellence, but a packed house does not necessarily mean that God is glorified.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 11:10 AM
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I've recently been wrestling with the idea that maybe our view of the gospel is too small. In conjuction with that, I was convicted last week while reading from a new preaching textbook from a great preaching professor about my judgemental attituded. Though I have great respect for this man and loved the book, I jumped quickly to some unfair conclusions because he quoted many rather liberal preachers and theologians in his book. It occurred to me, that maybe, I'm so afraid of being a liberal that I may actually miss something good, maybe even something true.
I shared some of this with my favorite liberal preacher in the world (he is also a former roommate and is just as proud of being liberal as I am of being conservative). As we talked, I was shocked to hear that he has been wrestling with some of the same issues as me. He too questions if his view of the gospel is too small. As liberals, he admitted, "we sometimes lose focus of evangelism and the role of the individual in the Christian faith."
We as conservatives are definitely outdoing them in that area, but as conservatives, we have allowed our focus on individual conversions, evangelism, and heaven to eclipse our concern for the poor and oppressed, the alien, the fatherless, and the widow. Jesus came to bring glory to his father by paving the way for us all to inherit eternal life. But, along the way, he also brought healing, cared for the poor, and fed the hungry.
Our gospel is too small. We have become so comfortable being conservative or liberal that we sometimes seem to forget to be Christians. For fear of being liberal, many of us will not even encourage recycling (but, shouldn't we be good stewards of God's creation?). For fear of being labeled conservative or fundamentalist or evangelical, many liberals will not even share the gospel openly and call for response.
Somewhere along the way, our wars have blinded us to many of the basic truths of Christianity. The prophets of old cried for justice here on earth, and yet in the face of evangelism we often do not even speak out against sex-slavery around our world. I've had to repent to God for being so afraid of being liberal that I ignored many godly tasks.
The good news? It seems as though the Holy Spirit may very well be working across denominational bounds to bring glory to himself in a whole new way. This has happened before in events known historically as Great Awakenings. Would that God would pour out his Spirit in a fresh way on our world today. Maybe it will come as we look to God's word for direction before we look to our own conservative or liberal agenda. I wonder what would happen if we were committed to obeying the whole counsel of God before we obeyed the whole counsel of our peers?
Posted by Craig Thompson at 1:17 PM
Monday, July 21, 2008
So, this is old news, but I've been away on vacation and couldn't help but respond to the news article sent to me by a church member (thanks Crystal) documenting the attempt by Bradley LaShawn Fowler, an openly gay Michigan man, to sue Zondervan and Thomas Nelson because the Bible refers to homosexuals as sinners.
Actually, the case is against them because "their versions of the bible" contain that reference. Of course, the reference is not only in "their versions," but also in the original greek (which you can read here.). This is a translation from one language to another, not an opinion of what God should say. The confidence that we have in the Bible is tha it is the word of God, not the word of man. Obviously, any translation involves men doing all they can to extract the original meaning from the original context and communicate it effectively in a different language.
In this case, the translation is pretty straightforward. If Mr. Fowler is seeking a lawsuit, in this instance, it should be taken against God and the Apostle Paul.
You can read the entire article from Newsmax.com here.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 4:47 PM
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The television and radio ministry of Spartanburg First Baptist Church is called, The Encouraging Word. I'll be in Spartanburg tonight at their student facility (The Hangar) speaking to a large group of teenage girls for an FCA Volleyball Camp. The camp is one of the highlights of my summer, I really have a ball, and needless to say, I am incredibly stretched when I step into a room full of teenage girls.
Pray for me tonight! But, back to the issue at hand, how often do we share encouraging words with those around us? I wonder what the Christian church would look like if Christians were more excited to share a word of encouragement than they were to point out fault in another. What if you wrote a note of thanks to your worship leader rather than talked about the note that he missed on Sunday morning. How about patting those high schoolers on the back rather than talking about the shoes they wear.
God the Father was a great encourager. On at least two occasions, we see the Heavenly Father opening heaven and recognizing his Son for all that he was doing and speaking words of encouragment to his life. Apparently, even Jesus was impacted by words of encouragement. Next time you are tempted to criticize, check for the plank in your own eye first (click here for a clear understanding), and then see if there's not a way that you can offer a positive word of encouragement instead. Who knows, you might even receive a blessing from it as well.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 3:10 PM
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Send us affliction and trouble, blight our dearest hopes if need be, that we may learn more fully to depend on thee. --John Broadus
Would that all Christians had faith of John Broadus. In a time where the Christian faith is demeaned to Your Best Life Now, few lay people or even pastors would dare pray or preach a faith that is difficult and that may cause difficulties in your life. TV preachers encourage us to "sow a faith seed" of so many dollars so that we can be blessed with hundreds or thousands of dollars. That's the blessing of Christ? That's it?
John Broadus prayed this prayer and Lottie Moon quoted it. Moon, a missionary who gave up her somewhat aristocratic lifestyle in the United States to share the love of Christ in China, prayed God, teach me to depend on thee...at all costs. This woman would eventually starve herself to death giving away her food to the people around her. Lottie Moon did not have her Best Life Now, no, she suffered through her life here. But, make not mistake about it, because of Lottie Moon, many Chinese experience the best life that Christ has to offer for all of eternity, and Lottie Moon herself, no doubt, received an incredible blessing at her death.
How willing are you to allow God to work in your life? Are you so open to the work of God, that you would gladly invite him to send affliction, if it would draw you closer? How willing are you...how willing am I?
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:12 AM
This is from www.Dennyburk.com I do not know Denny, but his blog is a great one and he has recently been named the Dean of Boyce College. Pastors should read this and lay people should read it and then take it to their pastors!
Per Denny Burk:
When Russell Moore is on, he’s on. His article in the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine sounds a prophetic note that has a wallop for both liberals and conservatives. Here’s an excerpt, but you really should read the whole thing.
‘One does not have to be a political radical to bypass Jesus at church. White, upwardly mobile, pro-America preachers preach liberation theology all the time, with all the fervor of Jeremiah Wright, if not the anger.
‘Just take a look at the best-selling authors in Christian bookstores. Listen for a minute or two to the parade of preachers on Christian television and radio. What are they promising? Your best life now. What are they preaching about? How to be authentic. How to make good career choices. How Hillary Clinton fits into Bible prophecy.
‘How many times have we heard conservative preachers use the Bible in exactly the same way that Jeremiah Wright uses it? Wright uses the Scripture as a background to get to what he thinks is the real issue, psychological or economic or political liberation from American oppression. Others use the Scripture as a background to get to what they think is the real issue, psychological or economic or political liberation through the American Dream.
‘Either way, Jesus is a way to get to what the preacher deems really important, be it national health care or “your best life now.” Either way, the end result is hell for the hearer who accepts this gospel, regardless of whether God damns or blesses America. . .
‘In both cases, the preachers fit Jesus into a preexisting storyline. They did not call upon their hearers to find themselves in the storyline of the crucified, buried, and resurrected Jesus. For them, Jesus is a mascot, just for different agendas, none of which will last a minute past the Judgment Seat.’
If you are not a subscriber to Touchstone, you should be. There is more like this one in every issue.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
It is not surprising to see leaders fall frequently and spectacularly. It is not simply that leaders have greater opportunities to sin; it is that the very nature of leadership will seduce all but the most careful into believing that they are little gods, that they make the rules, and that they can get away with anything. Surround these leaders with crowds of uncritically adoring supporters and you have the perfect storm: self-deception followed by self-destruction are, humanly speaking, almost unavoidable.
The above quote was sent to me by a good friend and comes from Carl Trueman's book, Minority Report. Leaders must always strive to be cognizant of the lascivious lure of leadership that opens so many doors. Leaders be ware, you must never allow your abilities to carry you where your character cannot sustain you. You must also avoid the temptation to allow your followers to carry you where your character cannot sustain you.
Even our Lord was tempted with this. His contemporaries, on at least one occassion, desired to make him their king. Jesus, however, knew that his kingdom was not of this world and his crown would be sustained through death, he would be exalted not on a throne, but on a cross. Christian leaders, are you prepared to be exalted on a cross if God is most glorified in that exaltation rather than the exaltation of public opinion?
Posted by Craig Thompson at 8:12 AM
Monday, July 07, 2008
The cry of liberal theology and postmodern thought is that language is fluid and definitions change. This argument is used to twist the Bible (and as we have seen in recent years, the U.S. Constitution) to fit a person's specific situation supposing that it is a living document that must change with time. Thus, moral issues outlawed in the Bible are overlooked in many mainline churches on the basis of this "living document" theory.
The Bible makes clear that it is living (Hebrews 4:12) and active, but understand, it is living in the sense that it is able to bring about change in the lives of those who read and encounter it's contents. Truth is constant and unchanging, thus, what the Bible meant 2000 or more years ago is the same as it means today. The word of God must be read within its context, but the change in context does not equal a change in truth or definiton.
To propose a "living document" is essentially a reversal of the protestant reformation. The reformers were clear in their assertion that the Bible is the authority of the Christian community and the church is subject to its authority. The church exists under God's authority which is revealed through his word. Truth trumps tradition and ideology.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:32 AM
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
For anyone who struggles with time managment the way I do, read this: Plodding Along
Posted by Craig Thompson at 11:04 PM
I'm not a huge movie buff, but occasionally I do enjoy a good one. However, the majority of my movie watching comes on TV, not at the theater or through rentals. Watching movies on TV means that most of the movies I watch are edited for TV. Because of that, I have been surprised a few times when I saw a movie that I though I knew very well.
I was thinking about that tonight, and I wondered how many people have their "TV edited" lives and their unrated lives. How many people would be surprised to see the unedited version of your life? We need to always strive to present the same front to everyone we encounter, and that front needs to be an outgrowth of Christ in our lives.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 10:50 PM
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Psalm 119:60 says, "The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." Just for good measure, I looked up the word sum in the dictionary, and after passing all of the financial definitions, I discovered that one meaning of the word is the whole amount.
I believe that is what the Psalmist probably had in mind when he authored this passage. The whole amount of God's word is truth. Not just a little of it, not most of it, but all of it. Do we read the Bible, preach the Bible, and believe the Bible according to the claims of the Bible? God proclaims through his word that all of his word is truth.
Not only is it true, it is eternally true. All of God's righteous rules endure forever. God has given us a word that will never fade away and that will never be false. God's word is a treasure that we should never take for granted. Indeed, we are most blessed by the Father because he has given us his word, and the whole amount is truth.
Preach it with confidence, believe it totally, and live it radically. It is truth without error, it is not capable of failing, and it will change your life!
Posted by Craig Thompson at 2:52 PM