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Why are so many Christians hypocrites if God’s Spirit really lives in them, and why do so many churches struggle with following the Biblical principles they profess? From the Spiritual Q&A Apologetics class at Holy Treasure, Jesus Army Kettering.
I was talking to a church leader the other day about why they quit doing public evangelism, which reached tens of thousands of people and led many to the Lord and made many join the church. The main reason was that they had even higher expectations on the fruits the street evangelism would bring, and there was even a demanding pressure centrally from the denomination that basically was never satisfied. 25 years of this created a weariness and bitterness which in turned spawned a backlash, making the church quit public evangelism altogether.
The church leader said to me that there are people in the congregation who used to be very skilled in leading people to Christ but that now want nothing to do with street evangelism. They’ll still share the Gospel if they get the opportunity, but they hardly ever get the opportunity. Their anxiety caused by not meeting expectations was cured by lowering expectations to almost zero, and so many of them blamed street evangelism for not being fruitful enough while living a life that from an evangelistic standpoint is close to fruitless.
The emotional pain from almost being forced to share the Gospel with promises for a revival that never came is strong, and understandable. But it’s not a reason for letting people go to hell. As strong as our emotional dislike for an action may be, if the Bible commands it we should do it. As we recognise this and pray for strength to do it, God can heal our emotional scars. (more…)
When people think about the Bible they often think about contradictions. But how can we be sure that the Bible really contradicts itself rather than that’s is we who do not fully understand it? This lecture is part of the Spiritual Q&A apologetics series I hold at Holy Treasure in Kettering, UK.
It’s painful to see a church that I love almost completely abandon evangelism, becoming spiritually dry and question the very radicality and community principles that made it so uniquely biblical in the first place. Second and third generation members are the ones that to the largest part try to “reform” the church into a normal, mainline, un-challenging pudding. In fact, I’ve spoken to older church members who were surprised that I was both young and radical – in their context it’s usually either or!
As I’ve spoken to friends about this many have pointed out that this is the usual course of events: revival strikes, people gather around on the blazing cross, a generation passes, their kids think it’s boring, and so revival ceases and has to stir up somewhere else. And yes, I am aware that this is a common pattern. This very thing has happened in the Vineyard, where signs and wonders once used to be normal but nowadays are exotic and sometimes even unwanted. Christy Wimber, the daughter-in-law of Vineyard founder John Wimber, wrote a few years ago:
I have been in service after service throughout the world these past few years where miracles are taking place and the response of the people is one of surprise, not expectation. In fact, I heard a Vineyard pastor say not that long ago that he didn’t really know John, and his model and influence comes from a different Movement. He in fact said he doesn’t particularly like the whole signs and wonders part. And I know this Movement that’s influencing him doesn’t move in the gifts.
That’s fine to me, except it left me wondering as to why he is a pastor and leader in the Vineyard Movement? What is happening now in the Vineyard that he signed up for and bought into?
Are there any reasons to believe that colourful stage lights and fog machines are anything else than the toys of Christian stage technicians and a compensation for lack of Biblical revival? No. The global trend of churches investing billions of dollars in superfluous show equipment has increased dramatically over just the last few decades, but not many have asked themselves why we do it and what happens to church when we do it.
Of course, if someone dares to question this unbiblical practice that person is easily dismissed as someone who doesn’t understand young people or who isn’t into culturally relevant evangelism. So hi, I’m a young evangelist, and I hate stage lights. And fog machines, those horrible, stupid fog machines! How painfully obvious isn’t it that modern, Western churches lack God when they literally try to fabricate something which the Scriptures describes as a manifestation of the Lord’s presence?
As I’ve explained in my God vs Wealth series, Jesus doesn’t want us to be rich but live as simply as possible so that we can give as much to the poor as possible. This applies not just to individual disciples but to churches as well. There are hundreds of millions of Christians around the world living in poverty. If we truly think that they are our brothers and sisters, we can’t ignore their suffering by spending loads of money on superfluities.
As John puts it: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17) (more…)
Usually when churches choose to stop doing Biblical things they don’t want to admit that the reason behind it is laziness, apostasy or sin. Rather, they like to blame the Biblical thing itself for not being “effective” enough, or they might claim that it’s just a calling for some to do on their own, or that say that culture has changed and that modern or young people aren’t interested in these particular Biblical things, so that’s why we shouldn’t do them.
I joked with these three excuses in my recent sketch about why churches don’t evangelise. In this post I would like to focus on the “modern/young people want something different” argument. It’s often used as an evangelistic argument: in order to win or keep people we need to change. Which is why it’s so absurd when it’s arguing against evangelism.
But whatever Biblical thing you argue against, it becomes nonsensical to use this argument. You need to either argue that churches shouldn’t follow the Bible, or that the Bible actually says something different from what it appears to say. What modern or young people think doesn’t matter at all. If doing Biblical things put them off, so be it. We must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29), and the Bible is a better source to what God wants than Millennials. (more…)
Today on the MennoNerd vlog I talk about how awesome it is that the Jesus Army organises their local congregations around their intentional communities, where people live, eat and sleep every day, rather than around unbiblical church buildings that stand empty most of the time:
This is just one of many things that make the Jesus Army different from many other churches. The church owned businesses where everyone receive the same wage, the support for celibates, the emphasis on covenant and unity and the loud and proud emphasis on Jesus is quite extraordinary. Where does this church come from and what does its history look like? Those were the questions me and Sarah brought to Mike Farrant, who lives with me at the Holy Treasure community in Kettering, in a recent episode of our Swedish podcast “Jesus People”:
Mike shared how it all began when an outpouring of the Holy Spirit hit a Baptist chapel in the small town of Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire, which made hundreds of student, hippies, drug addicts, businessmen and many other sorts of people join the church. They soon started to practice community of goods like in the book of Acts and changed name to Jesus Fellowship Church. Mike has been living in community for 41 years and obviously knows a lot about both its advantages and challenges.
With the rise of individualism in the West there has been an increasing trend of “private Christianity” where people believe in Jesus but they never attend any church. Some of them acquire teaching and/or worship songs via the Internet at home, while others just pray sometimes. I encounter several of these “secret Christians” when I’m out evangelising, and most of them seem convinced that church meetings really are unimportant, that it’s perfectly fine to be a Christian alone.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly commands us “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebr 10:25). Even as the early Christians went on missionary trips they weren’t alone. Jesus commanded us to pray “Our Father” in plural, Paul emphasises in 1 Cor 12 that we’re all body parts in one body, dependent on one another.
But let’s face it, Christians who leave church aren’t doing it because they have a special Bible interpretation, but because church has disappointed them. As a house church leader I have seen several people go during the last five years, some of them to other congregations but a substantial number have become private Christians. Some of it is due to mistakes from our parts, other times we have been too radical. (more…)
Today I’m starting a new series on my YouTube channel called Radical Bible which aims to do Bible study in a prophetic, profound and a bit provoking way. The first episode is about people having sex in church pews and what to do when ministry gets messy.
Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre which is an awesome British school, has written an excellent piece on why all Christians should be charismatic and why the risk of “charismania” shouldn’t put us off from seeking the gifts of the Spirit. One of the reasons she gives relates strongly to what I call charismactivism, the fact that Spiritual gifts ought to promote peace, justice and a better world:
I think that most of us feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. It’s enough to deal with our own and our family’s problems let alone terrorism, unemployment, war, addiction, crime, disease, homelessness, abuse, etc. etc. I’m always astonished and deeply moved by how resilient human beings are in the face of horror, and this seems regardless of whether they have a faith or not. Sometimes humans are just extraordinarily strong. All Christians should carry a hope that good will triumph over evil in the end, because that is the promise of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
But charismatics share stories all the time about change here and now, about how when God gets involved, people locked in conflict are able to forgive each other, bodies are healed of life-threatening or debilitating conditions, families are reconciled. Hope stirs. Charismatics expect God to change things around them and through them for the better. Sometimes this takes much longer and is more painful that you would know from what we teach or would wish, but I love the hope of concrete and visible newness that characterizes a charismatic worldview. Hope for restoration, new life, and healing infuses the New Testament and I couldn’t imagine a church that didn’t expect God to be willing and able to change the worst of situations.
I’m currently at one of Sweden’s biggest Christian conferences called Torp where I am co-responsible for evangelism. We’re teaching biblical principles on how to share the faith in the afternoons, and in the evenings we do outreach in the local town of Örebro with the Pancake Church. It’s tiring but awesome!
The other day a group of Muslims came to us and started to ask us questions like how do we know that the miracle claims of the Gospels are true, and how does one know which religion is true. And of course, one of them raised an issue that Muslims are often concerned with: how can you believe that God is three?
The answer I gave him made him say “Now I understand! Now I understand!” Which is great since a common response to Christians explaining the Trinity rather is “Now I’m just more confused”. But he isn’t the first one to appreciate the analogy I often use to portrait how God can be three in one: the human trinity. (more…)
So I’m in a relationship now, which is exciting and overwhelming and horrifying and wonderful. Sarah is a charismactivist with a heart for revival and poverty reduction, a vegan Pentecostal with a global vision for Biblical community-churches that live out the book of Acts. She’s great and I thank God for her every day.
Now, as I’ve written previously I’m really a big fan of celibacy. I have no reason to doubt Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 7:38 about how singleness is “better” than being married. As long as I’ve been a Christian I have found it plausible that a single person can be “undivided” to the Lord in a way that couples can’t (1 Cor 7:33-35).
Now, many would argue that marriage and celibacy are on equal level of both value and sacrifice and that neither is better than the other. I get the impression that this is the official stance of most evangelical and charismatic churches here in Europe at least. Still, in practice, the notion is often that getting a spouse is the priority goal of every Christian’s life and celibacy is the secondary option for those who fail or are uninterested. (more…)
My latest contribution to the MennoNerds vlog concerned the issue of sacraments, where I and my cat friend Kafka argued that they don’t exist:
Now, some of you may get a knee-jerk reaction when you hear that, so let me clarify what I mean. I’m not saying that things like communion, baptism and anointing of the sick don’t exist or that we shouldn’t do those things, there are clear Biblical commands prescribing us to practice that. But the Bible doesn’t call them “sacraments”, and neither should we. In the video, I briefly describe the origin of the term and how the definition of “sacrament”, which in turn decides what should be included in the category, is completely arbitrary and man-made.
Think for yourself: why isn’t helping the poor described as a sacrament? It’s not because Jesus isn’t telling us to help the poor, because He is. It’s not because helping the poor isn’t a visible sign of invisible grace, as the classical sacramental definition goes, because it is. Let’s face it, the reason why baptism and communion are included in a category that historical churches have found very important whereas helping the poor, evangelism and the Lord’s prayer has been excluded from said category, is because the founders of those sacramental categorizations subjectively thought that some Biblical commands were more important than others. I’ve written more about this here. (more…)
A week ago, Catholic Herald reported that a conference hosted by the Vatican on war and peace rejected just war teaching and call upon pope Francis to make nonviolence the official Catholic stance. The conference had been welcomed and blessed by the pope according to the Vatican Radio as he thanked the participants for “revitalizing the tools of non-violence”.
The conference was hosted by pacifist Catholic organization Pax Christi as well as the Pontifical council on justice and peace. In an appeal directed at the pope, the around 80 participants wrote:
“Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a ‘just war’ is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict… We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence. We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.”