Advent Apologetics Day #3 – Helpless Doesn’t Mean Hopeless

12548977_167296426972224_4781146085929304973_nOne of the families we were happy to meet and serve during last year’s Christmas Basket Project in a community where the Gospel was not known. 

“If your apologetic isn’t rooted in hope, then it’s just an argument from malice.”

Advent Apologetics is about hope for the helpless.

 

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said;

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes… and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Advent apologetics doesn’t put winning arguments over winning some. (1 Corinthians 9:22)  It doesn’t assume a posture of defense, but one of discipleship. It doesn’t contend without caring. It doesn’t overstate its case. It’s not the impersonal deliverance of facts meant to convince people of the rationality of Christianity. Advent apologetics “hopes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Advent Apologetics is about being the body of Christ in the midst of people. It’s not about being God’s Truth body-guard. While I respect much of what John Calvin has written, I’d have to take issue with this statement;

“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”

Assuming this sort of posture makes us ready to pounce on others instead of being prepared to listen to them and lift them higher than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3) Quietness in apologetics, the absence of words, can be a powerful alternative. Hope incarnated depends and waits for God. Todays obscure apologetics text is Job 5:13-16;

“He captures the wise by their own shrewdness,
And the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted.

“By day they meet with darkness,
And grope at noon as in the night.

“But He saves from the sword of their mouth,
And the poor from the hand of the mighty.

“So the helpless has hope,
And unrighteousness must shut its mouth.

“Apologetics often attracts people who have been emotionally hurt, and in turn, who use apologetics to hurt other people.” ~ Mark Matlock

Our goal in Advent Apologetics is not to hurt or hate or try to shut other’s mouths, but to recognize the helplessness and be hopeful.  Taking attacks of God’s truth personally might be a signal that you’re not personally hopeful.  Jesus already took it all… ‘personally,’ so you don’t have to.  

We’re leading up to 1 Peter 3:15 on Christmas Eve during advent.  I’d invite you to come back for Day #4 tomorrow. 

For “Giving Tuesday,” consider the following: 

gt2For the past 10 years, we  adventing by providing tons of food to the families in need during the holiday season.  It’s not a fanfare and forget event.  We go back throughout the year and visit with them, pray with them, and give them a message of hope.  

Please consider sponsoring one family this year.  Find out more here.  

 

 

Advent Apologetics Day #2 – Living and Searching Together

imagesEach day, during Advent, I’ll be posting a short article relating two things; Apologetics and Advent.  This is the second part in the series. I’d invite you to read the first part here.

It might seem odd, but I believe Advent and Apologetics do fit well together. Yesterday, I said that I would proceed on the following 2 assumptions in developing this series:

 

1. “Apologetics is not about defending your faith.”

and

2. “Advent is about being hopeful amongst others.”

Os Guinness had this to say regarding apologetics,

“Culturally, one of the best arguments we can make is, wait and see.”

It’s the hopeful attitude of active waiting that captures the imagination of people. Have you ever watched people waiting for something? Have you ever made judgements of their character about how the wait?

Standing around debating theological theory might be intellectually stimulating, but does very little in the way of transformative convincing. Advent is, or should be, about waiting, watching, and our working attitude in our hope.

As I said in the previous post, I hope to develop a new understanding of apologetics as we lead up to the linchpin of apologetic texts (1 Peter 3:15), by using some other obscure and often overlooked passages from the bible.

In our text for today, Paul tells the Colossians…

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth… To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:3-6,27

Again, we see that a hope anticipated, activates the people of God to live amongst the “Gentiles” or unbelievers in such a way as to make known the glory of our hope, Jesus the Christ.

Instead of a combative apologetic that assumes a defense-defense-attack posture, the Advent Apologist seeks to enter into communal vulnerability with the unsure and be hopeful among them.

J.D. Greear, in “Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary,” says;

“In a post-Christian, skeptical age, love on display is the most convincing apologetic.”

An Advent Apologetic is one that does not seek to control others by overwhelming them with information and dominating the conversation, but one that is ready to say “I don’t know, but if you’d like to walk with me for a while we can search together.”

“Apologetics is about persuading people that there is a door to another world—a door that perhaps they never realized existed. Evangelism is about helping people to open that door and enter into the new world that lies beyond.”  ~ Alister E. McGrath

* My name is Miguel Labrador. I am a missionariy in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador. We have been Adventing for the past 10 years by providing food to those in the region that have needed it most during the holiday season. We’d invite you to join us in this. Find out more.

Advent Apologetics Day #1 – What’s it All About?

MagnificatWhat is Advent?
Advent is the four-week period beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) through the following three Sundays. Historians estimate that Advent has been celebrated since the fourth century. The period originally began as a time for converts to Christianity to prepare for baptism, but is now more commonly associated with the anticipation of the traditional anniversary of Christ’s birth on December 25.

The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the one yet to come.

What is Apologetics? 

One of the more standard definitions is as follows;  ‘Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology which attempts to give a rational defense of the Christian faith.’ I take a different approach to apologetics which you can read here.

Christian Apologetics has gotten a bad name, and I believe it’s deserving.  Red-Faced fellows with loud voices speak cleverly crafted words to defend their stances while speaking little of the Savior and the hope of His Gospel.

B. B. Warfield, nicknamed “The Lion of Princeton,” defined apologetics as:

 “The systematically organized vindication of Christianity in all its elements and details, against all opposition.” (Works, 9:5)

Much of modern apologetics remains rooted in this sort of militaristic mind-set, tactics over tactfulness, hype over hope, and debate over discipleship. It might seem odd to throw Advent and Apologetics  into the same arena, but for the coming days, I’ll operate under the following two assumptions;

“Apologetics is not about defending your faith.”

and

“Advent is about being hopeful in the midst of others.”

Advent Apologetics is about being inclined to hope and poised to demonstrate that hope amongst others.  It’s about being a living sacrifice and our reasonable service of worship to God and others. (Romans 12:1)

Over the course of Advent, I hope to lead up to the most well known and most misapplied text of Christian Apologetics, 1 Peter 3:15.  I’ll develop the theme by using some other obscure and often overlooked passages from the bible.

Today’s text is Jeremiah 1:9,10

“Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
 “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
 To pluck up and to break down,
To destroy and to overthrow,
 To build and to plant.”

This passage speaks to the true connection of Apologetics and Advent.  It starts with hope for Jeremiah and the people and ends with the same.  It’s about deconstructing and restructuring unhopeful assumptions, residing in community, and reassuring those who need it most.  It’s about accepting our calling to do God’s will amongst His people in His strength.  It’s about advocating in transforming frontiers. It’s about the reconciliation of the marginalized.   It’s about recognizing our struggles and the struggles of others as we live and move and exist. It’s about alleviating fear which paralyzes hope and remembering God’s promises as we take part in His ADVENTure.

I am a missionary in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador, We have been Adventing for the past 10 years by providing food to those in the region that need it most during the holiday season.  We’d invite you to join us in this. Find out more.

Why ‘Christian Accountability’ Fails to Make Disciples.

letting-go-2‘The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis wrote that the word he detested most was ‘interference.’ “Interference occurs when someone sticks his nose in your business. However, that’s precisely what discipleship is all about. If you want to grow in a meaningful way, you not only must tolerate another person’s intimate knowledge of you, you must also willingly invite that person into your life. Even more startling, you’ll grow to love and depend on the “interference.” *

If you’re like me, this quote might tweak you just a bit. In part, because genuine privacy is becoming elusive, and in part if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t like to be told what to do.  Accountability is touted as the key to effective discipleship, but I have to wonder if that’s true because accountability partners and groups don’t seem to be making any more disciples than those without.

Have you ever heard this?

 “I teach, you watch.  I teach, you help.  You do, I help.  You do, I watch.”  

It’s the last part that, I think, that speaks most to genuine accountability.  While there is, in my opinion, a sliding scale of accountability in the progression above and perhaps even a lot of overlap, one segment generally leads to another. At what point in the discipling process does one move from the assumption that you have the right to ‘teach’ another (interference), to letting them go and doing likewise within their spheres of influence?

Jesus said to “teach them to obey all things I have commanded you,”

(Matthew 28:20)  

He didn’t say “and stick around to make sure they do them.” 

 

Let me share my experiences of accountability.  When I’ve had “accountability partners,” they have usually been a like minded people who, for the most part, have a genuine desire to see me grow in the Lord.  We would get together over a meal or coffee, exchange platitudes, and get to the purpose of our meeting, the confession of our sins and struggles to one another.  The assumption is that this brief time of transparency and openness will motivate us to “do better” next week.  We would pray, read scripture, and encourage one another.  The next week however, and the weeks after, I began to notice that the same struggles and the same sins were being confessed over and over again.  My ‘accountability partners’ had become my handicappers.  While they didn’t outrightly condone my sins and struggles, they rarely called me out on them either.  We were like folks who go to confessional, get our sins absolved, and continue on the same track as before.  Instead of accountability, we were creating an environment of excusability. As Jonathan Dodson once said,

“One surefire way to ruin your accountability relationship is by making it ‘a circle of cheap confession’ by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.”

Have you experienced this?

Some dear friends of mine and well respected ministry colleagues have developed a system called Life Transformation Groups.”  The activities of these very small groups focus on  scripture reading/discussion, prayer, and accountability.  At each gathering, A set of very probing questions is asked by others so that a mutual assessment can be taken on how well we are following Christ.  I have seen these groups used in such a way to impact entire communities.

Accountability can also take on a more institutional form where entire churches or communities monitor the behavior of others and “enforce” compliance.  While this may appear outwardly effective, I think this tends towards creating religious adherents and not disciples of Jesus.  What do you think?

Overall, I think the idea of accountability is captured well by the author of Hebrews when he says; “

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25).

If only accountability were more like this instead of some religious performance to assuage our consciences.  Being considerate, spurring others on toward love and good deeds, ‘meeting together,’ encouraging one another, and preparing one another for what lies ahead is hard and messy work. It is virtually impossible to ‘avoid conflict’ and advance in accountability simultaneously. The Body of Christ, by nature, is interconnected, and we have a duty build one another up.

Finally, and really the driving point behind this post, I’d like to suggest that true accountability should be measured more by the ones we are serving rather than how well the ones ‘leading’ us gauge our obedience.

What other biblical texts speak to you about accountability? 

 I have seen the concept of accountability or “accountability partners” function well, and I have seen it be a detriment to discipleship.  I have some ideas as to why sometimes accountability is fruitful and why sometimes it is not, but I wanted to ask you, the reader, a few questions:

  • What, in your opinion, is a biblical definition of accountability?  Which biblical references would you use to support it?
  • Why do think accountability works in some cases and not in others?
  • Are we, biblically speaking, to be accountable to one another?

  

*Bill Hull. The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ (Kindle Locations 182-185). Kindle Edition

 

Avoiding the Guilt of Non-Discipleship by Ignoring Those Who Do… In Honor of Kevin

kevin“Now, I’m not saying this to seek pity. I actually noticed something else I think is much more significant than being left out.”

These were some of the last words sent to me by my friend Kevin who passed yesterday. Allow me to give a little context and change some names so as not to offend.

“This morning there was a party for my buddy Frank at our prayer house and homeless center because he’s leaving to go to another state. Some of the people who speak at center throughout the week were there, which includes various local pastors, retired pastors, outreach pastors, worship leaders etc. In addition, there were a few other pastors and organizations who support the center financially. Now, John was the leader of one of those organizations. I have known him for over ten years, we took over The center together in 2009 and I have faithfully served the homeless there from the very beginning when it was just me and him. We were there longer than anyone else in the room. Interestingly enough, John called every pastor and every other person who frequently speaks at the center up to the front, individually by name, to pray over Frank and his wife and send them out, with the exception of one person. Me. I know he couldn’t have missed seeing me either, because I was standing right next to his wife, who was one of the first people he called up.

Now, I’m not saying this to seek pity. I actually noticed something else I think is much more significant than being left out.

In addition to not being invited to pray over Frank and send him out with the cool kids club, not a one of them approached me to even say ‘HI’, with the exception of John. But it wasn’t just that. All of these pastors, worship leaders, etc, shook each other’s hands, patted each other on the back and conversed with each other, but not a one of them associated with any of the several homeless people that were there. And, none of the homeless people approached any of them either. On the flip side of that, I was approached by and had conversations with several of the homeless in attendance. At one point, me, Frank, and about four homeless people were standing around talking and I pointed out to Frank what I was observing among the pastors in the room. I told him, “I’m going to really miss you, bro. You and I have a much different perspective on serving the less fortunate in the community. I’m really concerned about who they will get to replace you.” He told me, “I’ve been concerned about that as well. We’ve been doing this for over six years and we are on the same page. I’m not sure you’re going to be able to continue doing this with just anyone.”

What I came to realize is that I don’t fit in AT ALL with the cool kid’s table and they obviously don’t even want me there among them. However, I fit in fine among the disenfranchised and marginalized whom I feel called to serve. All in all, I think I’m alright with that. After all, they are the reason I go down to the center and do what I do anyway. My heart is to serve and disciple the less fortunate in my community, not to seek recognition and accolades from pastors and church leaders in the area. Now, with Frank leaving, I’m just hoping someone doesn’t come along and screw that all up.”

This was Kevin. One of the few ‘prophetic voices’ I respected and a solid friend. When I say ‘prophetic,’ I don’t mean he ran around and got folks riled up with talk of Blood Moons or such nonsense, no. Kevin spoke it as he saw it and ‘called things out’ with a Barnabas-like attitude of consolation (Acts 4:36). Best part, he was always in the mix actually doing the stuff of discipleship even when the mix didn’t want him there.

The scenario played out above is nothing new. I am sure you have seen it, or likely participated in this sort polite insidious excommunication.  I have been guilty of it and have also been on the receiving end. When I initially read this, my heart was broken for Kevin. But, I love the way he repackaged it and wrapped it in hope. That’s what he did all the time. In the face of cancer, with pain, in his relationships with others, and even with me. His quiet persistent faith was evident all the time. The dude did discipleship artfully.

In my years of what I would call ‘Intense Discipleship,’ I too have been rejected, ignored, outcast, and accused of teaching wrong doctrine. My methods have been questioned, and I’ve been called ‘rogue.’ Things is, Kevin and I and another Friend (Gibby) have been chatting via WhatsApp every day for almost two years. We’ve been accountable to each other, we’ve confessed to one another, and we’ve encouraged each other through some very difficult situations.

When I think about how those who are actually Making Disciples are treated by the non-discipling purveyors of Discipleship, it stings a bit. When I think about Kevin’s potential and how that potential might have been limited by guilty pretenders of discipleship, I get angry, sad, and want to strike back.

Kevin wouldn’t want it that way though. He’d cleverly crack a few jokes with a prophetic edge to them, and then grace his way towards more Christlike options.

If you’re one of the ‘pastors’ mentioned above, shame on you. If you’re one of the homeless, then remember Kevin’s words and the actions he backed them up with.

And Kevin… You are now at the coolest table ever. Peace Bro!

The Benjamin Button Church Fallacy

xoxt99tbugrowqbdviocvqogto1There’s a tendency to hold that the early church must have been the most accurate in its doctrines.

That tendency is often matched by the desire to force a pet contemporary theology into the early church framework. I see a couple of problems here, but I’ll ask these question first:

Is the church’s understanding of the truth drifting farther and farther over time, or is it honing in ever closer?

Wasn’t the ‘early church’ in its infancy in the first century? Aren’t infants to mature?

God gave gifts to men so that we could ‘ALL reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:13) It seems to me that there is a God-ordained progression unto maturity for both individuals in Christ during their life-spans and for the Church of Christ as a whole over its life-span.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” said that his short story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end.”

Can the church afford to commit the Benjamin Button Fallacy by imposing our ‘old’ established doctrines on the infant church?  And before you accuse me of some heresy,  I don’t believe the truth of the scripture ever changes, but I do believe that maturity in Christ supplements it.

What say you?

Just for conversation sake consider this question:

Can we know God more intimately than the Apostles did? 

Disembodied Discipleship

imagesDiscipleship demands that Christians reduce the distance between themselves and others and follow the living Jesus of the Gospel narratives into costly solidarity with those whom society oppresses and neglects, with “the outcasts, the suspects … the reviled.

To create a safe distance between yourselves and those you intend to ‘disciple’ is to disembody yourself from them. Jesus, The Pre-Incarnate Logos, ‘became flesh’ (John 1:14) to engage humanity as fully human. We likewise, our ideas, doctrines, theologies, world views, and yes… even our politics, are to become the kind of human that Jesus was. We put flesh to our words.

In discipleship, there is no ‘safe distance.’ Of course, if you’re not discipling others, this is moot.

How can you close the gap between yourself and those you intend to disciple?

God Will Judge America if ‘THAT’ Candidate Wins the Election.

liberty-lightning“God will not hold us guiltless [if THAT Candidate is elected],”

“God will judge America for failing to support ‘THAT’ candidate who will “get us back to the biblical values that founded our nation, a nation that was founded for God.”

“God is using ‘THAT’ candidate to prepare America for Christ’s return.”

If we don’t elect ‘THAT’ candidate, God will punish America.”

Yes, these are all real quotes from influential Christian personalities. I suppose you can figure out which candidates are which in these quotes, but I will not be mentioning any names.  Let me say right off the bat, I believe there is a lot of arrogance in these sorts of quotes. As if the right person in the oval office can correct a nation’s moral compass when less than 3% of believers in that nation said they are actively ‘discipling the nations.’ (Matthew 28:18-20)

While I strongly believe that believers ought to be salt & light in the political process, I also believe that America’s Christians have been sold a bill of goods. In the spiritual realm there’s only the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of his God’s dear Son. ‘Battle Ground States’ are not located geographically, but spiritually. (Colossians 1:13)

If you’re reading this and you believe God will judge or punish America if ‘THAT’ candidate wins, then I ask;

“What biblical basis do you have for saying that?”

 

Are You Unruly?

515400-503292-rape-dna-image“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) NASB

I don’t know about you, but it bristles me to have the word ‘unruly’ tossed at me or others who are not ‘disorderly’ ‘unruleable’ ‘disruptive’ or ‘amenable to discipline or control.’ Granted, I may be that person who, based on the assumptions of others, who “doesn’t follow the rules,” but overall I think accusations like those come from the sort that like to be ‘ruled over’ or those in leadership ‘positions’ who feel they are entitled to the obedience of the ones they ‘rule’ over. I get it, I really do. There are personalities that thrive on order, repetition, and the like, and there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but I’m not one of those people.

I think the NASB translation of the Greek in this particular verse is unfortunate. (I know, of course I do) ‘Unruly’ (unruleable) is a heavily weighted word that, when combined with the urging to admonish those who are unruly, often results is harsh and uninformed judgment.

Let’s unpack the word a bit…

From HELPS Word Studies: ‘Unruly’ – 813 átaktos (an adjective derived from 1 /A “not” and 5021 /tássō, “draw up, arrange”) – properly, out-of-line (“without order,” M. Vincent); (figuratively) out of God’s appointed (proper) order; unruly, refusing to observe God’s guidelines (live in faith). Accordingly, faith (4102 /pístis) and 813 (átaktos) are directly associated (see 1 Tim 5:12-14).

I very much like and appreciate the words “refusing to observe God’s guidelines (live in faith).” in this summary of the definition. I also believe that if that’s being ‘unruly,’ then I would agree. If however, someone, particularly a believer, is not following the form or substance of rule by or from men, then we owe it to ourselves and others to further examine our own lives before any admonishment.

By the way, ‘admonishment’ is also too strong of a word here and it assumes that another has the right to warn, castigate, call to obedience, etc., when the very right itself has not been earned by example or scriptural precedent. Just because one follows the rules of men or a system does not, and I repeat DOES NOT mean that they should warn others who don’t appear to be.

Besides, that’s not what the word means anyway. To admonish another means to:

  1. place the mind, i.e. reasoning with someone by warning (admonishing) them.
  2. appeal to the mind by supplying spiritual content
  3. exert POSITIVE pressure on someone’s logic or reasoning
  4. urge others to choose God’s best.

This is not done via an erroneously crafted hierarchical system or through structured leadership which takes lordship over people. Jesus expressly forbade that kind of leadership. (Matthew 20:25) (Mark 10:42) (Luke 22:25) and via Peter (1 Peter 5:3) No, this is done by being a positive reasonable influence and example. I long to see more of that.

You’ve heard the old adage that Christianity is not about rules, it’s about relationship, but the cliche does little active good and is, unfortunately, often quoted by those who have more regard for the rules of people rather than God. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been on receiving end of the kind of admonishment, ridicule, and marginalization that comes with being a creative and different sort of Christian.

Now, I’ll also admit that my tendency is to write off most ‘church’ rules as religious fabrications of men, but Jesus did say to Make Disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey (not ‘how to obey’) all of his commandments. So, this is where those, like me, who take pleasure in bending and breaking rules need to pause and think about what or whom we are ‘rebelling’ against. Being a rebel is fashionable and often lauded by others. Being disobedient to God has no honor or glory.

Take a look at how many possible interpretations there are for the beginning of this verse.

I like the Aramaic version in Plain English which says “correct wrongdoers” (not admonish right doers who do things differently). Also, there is still quite a bit of ambiguity which needs a little fleshing out, but I’ll leave you to it.

What do you think is the best way to relay the import of the beginning of this verse today?

Lastly, let us not forget that there is a succession of events in this verse. Warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone in the process. I believe that if ‘admonishment’ is not followed, or better yet, enveloped by those other things, then it is not from God.

Are you unruly?

How would you deal with those who are?

How would you respond to those who say that you are unruly?

 

 

 

The Bad News of The Gospel

bad_newsLately, I’ve been initiating gospel conversations with Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  When circumstances permit, and are prudent, I like to ‘field test’ different approaches to relay the gospel to see if perhaps one is more effective than then others.  By ‘effective,’ I mean resulting in the making of a disciple.  No, there are no sinner’s prayers, altar calls, manipulative conversion tactics, bait and switch schemes, or high pressure conviction ploys, just some good ole gospel preaching.  In fact, a longer, more loving, relationship based and robust gospel has been highly effective in bringing people to a knowledge of the truth.

I’ve had lots of discussions with with folks over the years about how they think evangelism is to be done, and have written about it extensively.  One idea keeps resurfacing.  It’s the idea that we’ve got to convince people of the ‘bad news’ before we get to the ‘good news.’  This is usually manifested if showing people that they’ve transgressed the Law of God, are guilty, and are in Jeopardy of spending eternity… well… in not such a good place.

A friend of mine who was a missionary in Uganda for over 20 years said;

“When an “evangelist” gives the audience the choice between the horror of hell or the bliss of heaven, and between a life of abundance and wealth or an existence of trouble and at best survival by show of hands or otherwise, it invariably and unanimously will opt for heaven and abundance. Such is the natural inclination of man.” [1]

He goes on to say that;

“Any evangelist whose expressed objective is to “get his audience to heaven” or who holds out the prospect of proverbial “pot of gold at the end of a Gospel rainbow,” in whatever terminology it is couched, must immediately be viewed with deep suspicion.” [1]

He’s one of the most Godly men I’ve met, and I took those things to heart.  Yes, there’s some pretty bad news out there for those who have rejected or rebelled against God.  No, I don’t want to minimize the gravity of their situation or sugar coat the problem.    But, I still see way too many conversion hunters and very few disciple makers.  In a book I’ve been reading lately, the author says:

“Some people like to start their presentation of the gospel with a happy thought, such as, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” This was not Paul’s method. When he preached to the Gentiles , he always started by teaching that God is the creator (e.g. Acts 14: 15 and 17: 24, Romans 1: 19,20). Next he talked about mankind’s rebellion against God, that is, instead of worshiping our Creator we worshiped the things that he created. Next Paul talked about the judgment of God against those who rebel against God. Only after this bad news did Paul begin to tell the good news of what God has done to reconcile us rebels to himself through a mediator , Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[2]

Whether or not Paul “always” started in a particular way, I’ll leave up to you.  But there seems to be a pattern in the New Testament that approaches the author’s outline:

1.  God

2.  Man’s rebellion against God and it’s consequences. (Bad News)

3.  Jesus (Good News)

So, I suppose I’ll Just throw it out there.  Do we really have to start with the bad news of the gospel before we get to the good news?  

 

[1]  Prof. Dr. Henry Krabbendam Vorlesung am 15. Juni 2002 in Bonn, Sueffertstr. 7 (Christl. Gemeinschaft), 9.00-17.00 Uhr

[2] Crowley, JD (2014-02-23). Commentary on Romans for Cambodia and Asia (ASEAN Bible Commentary Series) (Kindle Locations 340-345). Fount of Wisdom Publishing House, Phnom Penh. Kindle Edition.