Thinking Out Loud

April 24, 2018

Evangelicals: A Guided World Tour

As Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Brian Stiller has a big-picture perspective unlike anyone else on the planet. His two most recent books have confirmed this: Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century (Zondervan, 2015) and An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Baker, 2016). Simply put, Brian Stiller is a walking encyclopedia on all things Evangelical and he gains his information not from typical research but through firsthand, on-the-ground observation and involvement. We’re talking both frequent flyer miles, and the recognition of Christian leaders on every continent.

This time around he’s with InterVarsity Press (IVP) for From Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity (248 pages, paperback).

So…about that title. Brian Stiller argues that if we see Jerusalem as the birthplace, and thereby global center of Christianity, that center point moved up into Europe and then back down and then, around 1970 that center started shifting to the global south. The impact of this is huge; it means that North American and Western Europe are no longer setting the agenda for Christianity. It also means that one particular nation, rocked by the link between Evangelicalism and the election of a particular leader and now trying to consider if it’s time to rename the group entirely, simply cannot be allowed to dictate that change when one considers all that Evangelicals, quite happy with the term, are doing in the rest of the world.

Disclaimer: I am blessed to know Brian personally. His wealth of knowledge impacted me when I sat in the offices of Faith Today magazine, and Brian rhymed off the names of organizations founded in the years immediately following World War II, and then how, as these maverick, dynamic leaders passed the baton to the next generation, these organizations entered a type of maintenance mode, with lessened radical initiative. As Director of Youth for Christ Canada, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (this country’s counterpart to the NAE), President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global World Ambassador for the WEA, he has truly lived four distinct lifetimes.

But that’s not the topic for this book. Rather he looks at five drivers which have characterized the growth of Evangelicalism globally. These are:

  1. An undeniable increase in emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The fruit of years of work by Bible translators.
  3. A shift towards using national (indigenous) workers to lead.
  4. A greater engagement with legislators and governments.
  5. A return to the teachings of Jesus regarding compassion and justice.

Beginning with the first of these, Brian doesn’t hide his own Pentecostal/Charismatic roots, something I haven’t seen as much in his earlier books. A final chapter looks at the influence of prayer movements, the role of women in ministry, the trend in praise and worship music, the challenge of welcoming refugees, and the constant spectre of persecution.

The book compresses decades of modern church history into a concise collection of data and analysis.  It is an answer to the question, “What in the world is God doing?”

I know of no better title on the subject simply because I know of no one more qualified to write it. This is an excellent overview for the person wanting to see the arc of Evangelicalism since its inception or the person who is new to this aspect of faith and wants to catch up on what they’ve missed.

For both types of people, this is a great book to own.

► See the book’s page at the IVP website.

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October 31, 2017

#Reformation500

At the very, very least; acting on his convictions Martin Luther started conversations which reverberate thousands of times each day, got people re-searching the scriptures for themselves, and paved the way for other reformations which would follow. Of greater significance, his bold courage was a challenge to the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Evangelicalism isn’t marked by a single date, though modern Pentecostalism traces back to a specific time and even a location, Azuza Street. The more recent Charismatic movement was well documented by John and Elizabeth Sherril in the book, They Speak With Other Tongues.

But the reformation is marked by a specific date, 500 years ago today, and much will be posted online today on the subject. Basically, Luther followed the money and found the sale of indulgences — certificates of afterlife exemptions — particularly grievous; but in 2017, many preachers continue to offer the faithful a variety of spiritual promises if they will phone in “their best ministry gift;” which usually involves a credit card number. Operators are standing by.

At the History Learning Site there is a version of the 95 Theses posted to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel in modern English by C.N. Trueman. Apparently the original went viral, as only a single-copy document could in a pre-internet age. All surround the single issue of the sale of indulgences. Some include:

1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting
2. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.
3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.
6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.
20. Even the pope – who can offer forgiveness – cannot totally forgive sins held within.
27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.
29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved ?
43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God’s eyes than one who buys ‘forgiveness’.
45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.
46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.
54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.
58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.
60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.
61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.
62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.
77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.
79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.
84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.
86. The pope should re-build St. Peter’s with his own money.
94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.
95. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.

Until today, I had never actually read all 95 and did not realize how they were single-focused. Sometimes it only takes one issue; the proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back.

Luther’s greater contribution was to advance the idea of salvation by grace, not by works; and to offer Germans a Bible translation in their own language. Of his many hymns, the best known is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Far from perfect, his later anti-Semitic writing has been widely condemned. But his written rant on that October day 500 years ago is seen as the Ground Zero in the birth of Protestantism.


Other sources consulted:

November 5, 2016

Circles

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:26 am

“I don’t move in Charismatic circles.”

“I can get you in contact with people who run in Presbyterian circles.”

“You’d need to ask him, he knows people in Baptist circles.”

christian-denominations-8

Every denomination has its own culture. There are things you just won’t get until you’ve spent some time among that church crowd, or made a strong friendship with someone who has and can explain the finer nuances of it to you. This is a microcosm of what happens when the secular press tries to cover religious news. We end up saying that they truly don’t get Evangelicalism, or that a specific reporter obviously didn’t grow up Roman Catholic. But those two distinctions also break down into finer subgroups.

Last week someone asked me to recommend a book, but implicit in the request was that he was looking for a book which would appeal to him, even though it would be given away. I am blessed with both a vocation, and a personal church resumé which allows me to speak many denominational dialects, but that’s no guarantee I’m going to get it right each and every time. But without my recommendation, I know this person would have been searching in a relative vacuum. Online vendors are programmed to recommend either the latest hot thing, or the thing they’re overstocked on and need to get rid of.

So my recommendation might mean something except for the fact that each time I thought about this, I kept coming back to one particular author who it has become very fashionable to bash right now (for reasons that totally escape me.) To complicate matters, the person making the request identifies as one denomination, but has strong allegiances to another very different set of authors, musicians and conferences. He’s really moving in two very different circles which, trust me, do not overlap except for maybe him and six other people in the entire world.

Late yesterday I was looking at a six-week curriculum. I loved the topics. I trust the publisher. The price was reasonable… And then I noticed the author’s name. Hmmm. I’ve just never been comfortable with that person, but then again, I don’t move in those circles. He’s probably someone else’s favorite.

Frankly, I wish this person would just give me their full-out trust. I’d probably pick a newer author. Someone nobody has ever heard of. That way there would be less bias on both our parts.

October 31, 2016

Luther and the Lion – The Totally True Story of Halloween

I know I ran one of Aaron’s posts just 9 days ago, but this one seemed so timely. Click this link to read at source.

It all started almost 500 years ago. Once upon a time there was a little boy named Martin Luther.

wittenberg

Martin was very poor, as were all the boys in his village. They were poor because every year a scary Lion from Rome would visit and take all the village’s money. Lion would go into All Saints’ Church (or All Hallows’ Church), stand at the top of the bell tower, and mightily roar,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your gold! Give me more!
I won’t stop until you do!
You won’t sleep until I’m through!”

This scared Martin and all the children very much. So every year the families would go to All Hallows’ Church one by one and knock on the door. Lion would make them say “Purgatory or treat,” because if the village did not give Lion his treats, he would not give them indulgences.

Martin decided that he had had enough of this. He decided that he would stop Lion. That year, Lion came at the time of the harvest and locked himself in the church and demanded his treats, roaring,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your food! Give me more!
I hold the Keys, I stand on the Rock!
Until you admit it, I won’t stop!”

Martin knew he would need help to stop Lion, so he went to visit his friend Calvin. Calvin was a sad and lonely boy who spent most of his day reading books, but he was very smart and clever.

calvin

Martin knocked on Calvin’s door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever. What shall we do?”

Calvin opened the door and said,
“Silly Martin. You can’t stop Lion.
He’s so very strong, it’s not even worth tryin’.
If God wants to do it then in time He will,
And if He does not then I won’t waste my skill.”
For Calvin was clever and very well read,
But also quite lazy, and left not his bed.

Martin needed someone else to help him to stop Lion, so he went to visit his other friend Wycliffe. Wycliffe was clever but moreover quite active. Wycliffe had learned to speak Lion’s language and secretly shared Lion’s books with the villagers. Surely he would help!

wycliffe

Martin knocked on the door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever and active! What shall we do?”

zwingli

But it was not Wycliffe who came to the door.
“I’m so very sorry, but please stay outside.
I’m sorry to say that my brother has died.
We did not pay Lion so he’ll come for us,
But it was nice to meet you. My name is Jan Hus.”
Wycliffe and Jan – They were both bold and smart.
But sadly for them, Lion’s teeth were too sharp.

Martin started off, but before he could go
Jan Hus said, “There’s one little thing you should know
My brother found out, before he got sick,
The Lion is lying – Purgatory’s a trick!”

Martin was very sad. He simply had to stop Lion but Wycliffe was gone, Jan would be soon, and Calvin was just too lazy. Martin almost gave up but then, on the last day in October, he had a brilliant idea!

“I can’t outsmart Lion. He can’t be out-dared.
But what if, I wonder, he were to be scared?”

So Martin went to visit his last friend, Zwingli. He knocked on the door and said, “Zwingli! I am going to stop Lion and scare him out of our village!”

zwingli-not-hus

Zwingli opened the door and asked, “How?”
Martin explained how they’d chase out the Lion.
Martin would dress up and then terrify him!
They took to the kitchen and chopped up his hair
And made him look sickly, his head’s top was bare.
Lion would run, thinking Martin a nut,
For no one is sane who has that hair cut.
Lion would tremble and Lion would flee
And the people of Wittenberg would then be free!

Dressed up as a complete lunatic,  Martin went to All Hallows’ Church. Lion roared from the tower,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your soul! Give me more!
I don’t care if there’s a recession!
I have apostolic succession!”

luther

Martin knocked on the door, refusing to stop
Until Lion arrived on the 95th knock.
The doors opened wide with an ominous creak.
And Lion growled out, “Purgatory or treat!”
“Trick or treat!” The bald boy said,
Yelling quite loudly and showing his head.
The Lion was frightened, his eyes filled with dread.
“What is wrong with your hair!?” He shouted and fled.

Then Martin called out to the people nearby,
“Good news, everyone! Purgatory’s a lie!
We’re saved from our sins only by grace
And the Righteous, from this day on, shall live by faith!”

The people of Wittenberg shouted and applauded and that winter was the most joyful winter in years! Lion tried to come back every year, but the people of Wittenberg would knock on All Hallows’ Church’s door dressed as monsters to scare Lion away. They named the day “Hollowe’en,” after Lion’s hollow doctrine. In later years, they discovered they could scare Lion using images carved into hollowed-out pumpkins. Calvin always left his house a mess of pumpkin guts, but his brother Jacob was always there to clean up Calvin’s messes.

Wycliffe and Jan were gone, but the village built a library in their honour and filled it with all kinds of books! Martin and Zwingli remained good friends, but occasionally disagreed over the health benefits of juice and crackers.

And for the next 499 years, the village was free and happy and peaceful, apart from the occasional party on Azusa Street which the village was mostly okay with it. And that’s the true story of Halloween.

door

Happy 499th birthday, Protestantism!

 

 

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