theology

How I Got Theology– Part 3

Photo credit: unsplash.com_NCollins American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach out to younger generations over the past couple of decades. It's not gone that well.

Sure, more mega churches dot the landscape, but a great many people, especially younger ones, have left the organized church, or simply left the Christian faith.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, the foundation for faith is often neglected with these efforts.

An assumption

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. This vacuum got filled with philosophy, religion, and cultural trends. Life is cyclical. There is an ebb and flow to everything on earth.

An assumption was made by organized churches in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. It was assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago and it's wrong now.

The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. And, many people want mentoring, but they reject authoritarianism.

[bctt tweet="Many young people seek truth and are open to be mentored" username="tkbeyond"]

A hunger

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources, but ignorance. Why? Much of what is presented and promoted is not processed thoughtfully and spiritually by those who receive it. The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart" username="tkbeyond"]

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 45 years ago. Yep, I'm old. I'm a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called.

I remember hours of shared engagement studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn't get enough. I couldn't get enough.

It wasn't listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible, it was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39 NIV)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. (John 17:17 GW)

A personal encounter

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I've seen many people attend a Bible study, taking in what is said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn't become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge.

Bible knowledge isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't transform a person, it informs them.

[bctt tweet="Bible knowledge doesn't transform a person, it informs them" username="tkbeyond"]

If our study of the Bible isn't a personal encounter with Jesus, but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, "these very Scriptures speak about me!" (John 5:39 GNTD)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your own personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps too obvious, yet so vital it must be mentioned—we need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17)—How can we receive God's revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures—there is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly—a consistent digging into the Scriptures so your faith is founded on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

Need more?

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It's my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you'd like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal, yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus, here in the US and overseas.

Just click on the link below, fill out the short form, then download it.

Click Here to Download the Basic Primer on Inductive Bible Study

How I Got Theology– Part 2

Photo credit: unsplash.com_JErondu Leadership is often described as influence. Several heavyweight leaders say these terms are interchangeable. I don't see it that way.

Yes, leaders can be quite influential in both good and bad ways, but this is not a given. I've seen people in leadership roles with little to no influence. The net effect of their leadership is nil.

On the other hand, I've known and witnessed influential leaders who've had great impact.

Leadership and influence

I ran across an excellent article on the difference between influence and leadership by Steve Graves. He makes a good case for the distinction between leadership and influence.

[bctt tweet="There is a distinction between leadership and influence" username="tkbeyond"]

Plenty of people have been good leaders with good influence, such as, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, and Billy Graham.

Leaders with evil influence? Sadly, it's not a short list, but men like Adolph Hitler come to mind.

Then there are many leaders who have a somewhat sketchy influence. A cursory look at political personalities could produce a lengthy list.

What about spiritual leaders where character and integrity are essential? Among them we can find good, bad, and even sketchy examples.

[bctt tweet="Spiritual leaders can have good, bad or sketchy influence in people's lives" username="tkbeyond"]

Another question

Last week, I answered the first of three questions I posed in a challenge in a previous post.

This week I want to look at the second question and give my personal answer. Here's the question—

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?

Three leaders were influential in the early development of my spiritual life and theology.

Two are now with the Lord, but their leadership and influence are still embedded in my life. One is my age, alive, and still influencing others for good as a leader.

[bctt tweet="Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life and in what way?" username="tkbeyond"]

My first pastor

I came to faith during the Jesus People Movement of the late '60's and early '70's. I mentioned some of this in last week's post.

Ironically, the church I was thrown out of for asking the wrong question is where I got grounded in the truth of God's Word. It's also where I began serving the Lord in full-time ministry under my first pastor, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.

It was under him that I developed an appreciation for the grace of God and studying God's Word. Pastor Chuck was known for these two distinct things, not only in my life, but for thousands of others.

Both the grace of God and God's Word became foundational in my spiritual growth and my theology through his ministry. He was a living example of their importance and value, and a strong pastoral leader with great, enduring influence. Chuck went to be with His Lord in October of 2013.

[bctt tweet="God's grace and Word were foundational in my spiritual growth and theology" username="tkbeyond"]

A sage and a mentor

As my wife and I grew in our spiritual lives, we became more involved at the ground level of ministry while serving at a church and retreat center near Desert Hot Springs, CA.

When we arrived in 1973, it was a small church and retreat ministry in a sparsely settled area of the low desert of southern California. Susan and I learned so much about serving in every way imaginable.

Although it was remote, many significant spiritual leaders of the 1970's visited this little spiritual oasis. One of them was Rev PHP Gutteridge, known to us as "Percy". He was much older than us and also much wiser, a true sage.

Percy's teaching had spiritual depth and often centered on the cross of Christ, and the need for Christian believers to walk the way of the cross. Originally from England, he pastored this church in its infancy. In our time there, he visited on a regular basis, especially when we held large holiday retreats.

After I planted a church in 1978, he would come to preach to our little growing congregation in the upper desert area of Yucca Valley, CA. When he died in October of 1998, we were missionaries in the Philippines.

His life and ministry continue to influence us both to this day. Percy stirred my heart to further plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the essential simplicity of the way of the cross (Matt 16:24).

[bctt tweet="I was stirred to plumb the depths of the Scriptures and the way of the cross" username="tkbeyond"]

My friend and mentor

My involvement in ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa came at the invitation of a young man my age, but with much greater experience.

Bruce's wife, Joni, was pregnant and found it difficult to hold her guitar to lead praise for children's church. I and a couple others jumped in to help and this began a long term friendship in ministry.

Bruce opened the door for me to serve in many ways. When he and his young family moved out to the church and retreat ministry I mentioned earlier, we joined them and the ministry about a year later. We served their for five years, and it was of great value in so many ways.

Through Bruce's pastoral guidance, I learned how to preach, teach, counsel and lead as an assistant pastor. This was the foundation for my stepping out to plant a church and to develop a Bible College in the Philippines. It was practical, hands-on training.

[bctt tweet="I received practical, hands-on training that became a foundation for pastoral ministry" username="tkbeyond"]

But he was more than a pastoral mentor to me, he was a true friend. Bruce has a clear grasp on the immense, far-reaching love of God, which was infectious. His influence continues to reach around the world in a ministry he founded while pastoring in southern California—He Intends Victory.

Who for you?

So, now that you know who were important spiritual influences in my life and theology, how about you?

Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far?

And what is their influence in your life?

How I Got Theology– Part 1

Photo credit: unsplash.com_APokusin The truth of God is not relative. That is, it doesn't change to adapt and conform to changes in the culture and beliefs of people.

Much is made of the idea of relativism and a post-modern mindset. The concept that what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me, isn't truth.

Personal, philosophical beliefs don't become reality just because they're thought out. The natural laws of the earth and universe illustrate and reflect the unchanging nature of God, its creator, and His truth.

Clichés aren't sufficient

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "Got Theology?" The gist of it is that theology can become highly personalized. And yet, the truth of God remains unchanged. It's based on who He is, not opinions or a belief system.

[bctt tweet="God's truth remains is based on who He is, not personal opinions or beliefs " username="tkbeyond"]

Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe. The trite saying—God said it, I believe it, that settles it—isn't sufficient, it's a cliché.

Arriving at why we believe what we do—our theology—can be understood by seeing how we arrive at that belief. I won't backtrack through what is shared in the previous post, but I do want to look at a challenge I posed in that post.

[bctt tweet="Christian believers need to be clear on why they believe what they believe" username="tkbeyond"]

The challenge—3 questions

The challenge involved 3 questions that help determine how our personal theology develops. As an example, I'll answer these questions for my own life. I'll do this over the next three weeks.

Hopefully, this will serve as a guide for you. Here are the 3 questions—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

My learning curve

I'm a visual and kinetic (experiential) learner. I tend to learn best by watching, then doing. I'm also a reader.

My search for truth and faith included the study of various philosophies and eastern religions. I attempted to live these out to a certain extent, as I read about them. Music and hitchhiking were also part of the process.

I also read the Bible each day for at least two years, yet without understanding it. I talk about this in my book, some of it in the first chapter.

My life reflected the times of that search—the mid to late 60's in America. I was immersed in the turbulent counter-culture that marked those years. This carried over to my faith search.

A turning point

I'm a rebel at heart when it comes to learning. I don't just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all. Of course, this doesn't go over well with authoritarian teacher-types. It even got me thrown out of a church when I kept pressing for answers.

[bctt tweet="When learning, I don't just accept things, I question, challenge, then process it all" username="tkbeyond"]

In the midst of my search, I came to a turning point in my life. I went up into the mountains, where I lived at the time, and challenged God to reveal Himself to me in some way. I was expecting something like a sign in the sky, a burning bush, or audible voice, but none of that happened. Discouraged, I headed back to my trailer.

Still wanting to hear from God, I opened my Good News for Modern Man version of the Bible to read. It's then I came across Matthew 7:13-14 and realized I was on the wrong path.

Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it. (Matt 7:13-14 GNT)

I took this as a challenge, but I refused to pray the ("sinners") prayer or write down the date, as the notes in my Bible suggested. Like I said, I don't just accept things without question. I did have an assurance in my heart that my faith search was settled. Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology.

[bctt tweet="Jesus and the Bible were central to my faith, the foundation of my theology" username="tkbeyond"]

What about you?

So, what about you? Have you had a turning point in your life, come to a crossroads, or other cathartic experience that settled your faith and brought assurance?

[bctt tweet="Have you had a turning point in your life that brought assurance of faith?" username="tkbeyond"]

This is an important first step in developing a personal theology. It's called a lot of things—coming to faith, conversion, getting saved. Whatever you call it, it needs to happen. It's the starting point of a settled faith, a personal trust relationship with God.

I'd love to hear from you on this—

What stands out as most important in your life as a believer?

Why is this so important to you?


Next week, I plan to continue this series of posts and look at the influential spiritual leaders in my life.

A Man and His Faith

Ayele_teaching_Omo Last week, I took a quick look at theology—our beliefs about God. We've all got theology, but we all don't believe the same things. By "we," I mean humanity.

Why don't we believe the same things? Because we're all different, with different backgrounds, and different life stories.

This week, I want to look at the intriguing life story of a friend of mine.

My Ethiopian friend

I first met Benjamin (pronounced Beny-a-min) at a church service and liked him immediately. He was the first Ethiopian I met, but not the last. His life story intrigued me, yet it stirred some controversy. He has a common name, but his life story is far from common.

He was born in rural Ethiopia into a muslim family. When he came home from school and saw smoke rising from his home, he was happy. He knew his mother was cooking a special meal for his father, who had other wives than his mother.

He came to faith in Jesus through dreams, as I've heard take place for many of Islamic faith. Because of his choice to follow Jesus, he was ostracized by his family, which sent him on a search.

Benjamin set out to find help to learn about his new faith and was directed to missionaries in Kenya. Along the way, he was captured by Communist soldiers who tortured him for his faith in brutal ways. Eventually, he found the guidance he needed, and came to America for education.

A passion for his people

I met Benjamin as he raised support to work with a mission in Kenya. He became a missionary to Ethiopian refugees gathered in neighboring Somalia. These were his people and he wanted them to know the Lord Jesus.

I had him preach at our church a couple of times in the mid-eighties, so I heard much of his story. We also spent time talking about his mission and passion for reaching his people with the gospel.

I found Benjamin to be a man of great faith and integrity. He was childlike in the ways of American culture and social norms, but well-read and intelligent. I trusted him.

An interrupted testimony

He told me of a time when he shared his testimony at another church. The pastor invited him on the recommendation of someone in his congregation. As he told the story of his conversion from Islam to Christ, the pastor interrupted him and had him sit down.

The pastor told him he didn't believe in such things (the supernatural experiences), and discounted his life story. This stunned my friend Benjamin. It saddened me as he told me of it. Needless to say, this pastor was not one of his supporters.

Here was a man of integrity and without deceit who shared his personal encounter with Jesus, but he was not believed. Why? Because the pastor couldn't get past his own theological filters.

I'm glad for my encounter with Benjamin. His life added more depth and fullness to mine. He was one more encouragement for my own missionary experience. Years later I would visit his homeland (see photo above).

When we moved to the Philippines and he moved to Kenya, we lost contact with each other. But I will never forget Benjamin and his faith.

We're not all the same

Our experiences and encounters in pursuit of the truth shape and impact our faith and understanding of God. Identical experiences don't produce the same results. A simple reading of the gospels reveals this.

All of the apostles were afraid of Jesus as He walked on the water. Only Peter got out of the boat to walk towards Him (Matt 14:22-33). The Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus realized He was innocent, unlike his fellow soldiers (Luke 23:47). After Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19).

Each of us view things differently. We often draw different conclusions with different perspectives from similar experiences. So, how can we possibly have any unity in the Christian faith? Benjamin and I shared the same faith in Jesus, but our life stories were very different.

The Christian faith is a personal faith because it's centered on the person of Jesus. The closer we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more unified we become as a group. This can be seen during a worship service, as the Lord intends (1 Cor 12:12-14, 25).

A question and a challenge

Last week, I mentioned two things I hoped to get more response on, so here it goes again.

Would any of you reading this post be interested in learning more about inductive Bible study? If that sounds interesting, let me know.

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important to your spiritual growth and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What’s been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

I'd love to hear your responses to any of the above. You can post it in the comments for this post, or post it on the Word-Strong Facebook page.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post!

Got Theology?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Theology, gotta have it! Even atheists and agnostics have a form of theology—one doesn't believe God exists and the other is unsure or indifferent. It's still a belief about God.

Many different types of theology exist. Some theology is complex, it requires a PhD to know authoritatively. But most people have a much simpler theology based on their personal experience with spiritual truth.

We all believe something about God, no matter how we define or describe it. 

A (very) basic understanding

Christian theology is categorized in various ways. The most common one is systematic theology. It's a system of beliefs, but often with an embedded view-point.

Systematic theology sets out to be objective, but the starting point can be subjective based on certain beliefs, such as—Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, or Roman Catholic perspectives.

Another major area of Christian theology is Biblical theology. It's based on what is revealed from the written Scriptures, and is, I believe, more likely to bear the original intent of the Holy Spirit's inspiration (2 Tim 3:16).

Of course, Biblical theology can be both objective or subjective depending on how it's approached. If an objective approach to exegesis is applied, even an inductive study, the theology gained should be more objective, systematic and trustworthy.

[bctt tweet=" It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others" username="tkbeyond"]

A cultural theology is also common for many believers. This tends to be highly subjective and personal. In other words, it's distinctively un-objective. One example of an American version of this became known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Gaining a good theology

Unless you're a seminary grad or highly motivated Bible student, most Christians believe what they're told or taught by influential leaders in their lives. These would include pastors, evangelists, and popular speakers and authors.

It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others, unless you develop an objective and systematic approach for studying the Bible.

Paul the apostle's exhortation to the young leader Timothy reflects this—

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

This is the value of an approach like Inductive Bible Study, or IBS. A very basic description of how it's done is expressed in the three primary steps to the IBS approach—observation, interpretation, and application.

Perhaps in the next week or so, I'll talk about this in more detail. If that sounds interesting, let me know!

Belief-based or relationship-based theology

One question I think we all need to answer is this—How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology? A follow-up question is—How have we developed our personal theology?

We've all developed our own theology, whether we're aware of it or not. It develops over time as we learn and internalize truth as we understand it. That's the key thing. How do we understand it?

[bctt tweet="How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology?" username="tkbeyond"]

It comes down to whether we have a belief-based or relationship-based theology. What's the difference? One is grounded in certain beliefs, but often leads to dogmatism. The other is grounded in relationship, but based on the truth revealed by God's Spirit (see John 14:26 and 2 Tim 3:16-17).

When dogmatism becomes the basis of a person's spiritual assurance, a person's faith can be shattered if something undermines their belief. When our theology is relationship-based, it grows out of an abiding, continuing relationship with Jesus and His word abiding in us (John 15:5, 7-8).

A few more thoughts and a caveat

Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment (1 Cor 2:10-14). I know this from experience. As mentioned in my book, I read the Bible every day for about two years before I began to understand it.

My openness to God was the key, not the time I spent reading. When I opened my heart to the Lord, He opened my eyes to understand the truth in His word (the Bible).

But God has shown it to us through his Spirit... Some people don't have the Holy Spirit. They don't accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things like that are foolish to them. They can't understand them. In fact, such things can't be understood without the Spirit's help. 1 Cor 2:10, 14 (NIVR)

[bctt tweet="Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment" username="tkbeyond"]

So, how can we develop a sound theology and a true understanding of God? A rule of thumb that's helped me is found in John's gospel where Jesus rebukes some Jewish religious leaders—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus. If we only gain more biblical knowledge, then we become more like the Pharisees than Jesus' disciples.

[bctt tweet="Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus" username="tkbeyond"]

Finally, everyone needs to be careful about how they interpret the Bible. It isn't just how it suits one person or another, nor how it should be understood from a certain religious viewpoint.

It needs to be consistent and congruent with what the author of the Scriptures intended. The author is God via the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter reminds us—

No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (GW)

A personal challenge

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What's been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

You can respond to this post directly or on the social media where you see this post.

Would you like to know my answers to these questions? Then, let me know!


BTW, the photo for this post was downloaded from unsplash.com and the photographer is Aaron Burden, check out his photos... he's a fellow believer!

Is This the Will of God?

Photo credit: lightstock.com I remember seeing this title—“In Everything Give Thanks?!”—on a pamphlet someone gave to me. I was a young pastor and the author was a popular televangelist in my area (So Cal).

I looked up the Scripture reference and saw that he added his own punctuation to the text.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

His opinion and perception was that the apostle Paul was wrong. His biased view of theology prompted him to reinterpret God's Word.

A wrong view

This man was wrong, flat wrong, for a number of reasons I won't get into now.

What he did is what many of us do when we come to something in the Bible that's hard to understand or accept. We look for a work-around. We try to reframe or interpret a text so it's more to our liking.

When we try to do this, just like this man did, we put ourselves in a precarious position. It's an audacious and presumptuous attitude to question the truth of God's Word, because it doesn't line up with how we think it should read. We read our own meaning into the text when we do so.

An important element of studying the Bible is to understand it within its context. This includes the surrounding text and its historical context.

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) So, we need to be students of all that is in God's Word.

Encouragement from experience

Paul wrote this letter to disciples who endured considerable persecution for their faith, so he wanted to encourage them.

Paul could identify with them. He was persecuted by the same people (see Acts 17). Paul's exhortation was based in truth and experience.

He wanted these believers to know what they were experiencing wasn't unusual or unexpected. He also encouraged them to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing...” (verses 16-17).

These were not empty words, nor a casual comment. He was encouraging them to persevere in their faith.

Genuine gracious faith

True faith sees beyond the circumstances (Hebrews 11:1), and is grounded in relationship with God (Hebrews 11:6). Paul was telling them to be thankful regardless of their circumstances.

This is the response of genuine faith. It isn't overcome by trials, hate, even tragedy. It stirs us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks to the One who is the origin and focus of our faith—Jesus!

How can we be thankful in all circumstances? Here's a few ideas to consider—

  • Consider what the apostle Paul endured in Chapters 16 and 17 in the book of Acts. Can you see how he endured his hardships?
  • Make a point to be thankful to the Lord in the midst of whatever circumstances you experience this week—good or bad.
  • Be thankful for as many things as possible every day for a week. See if your attitude changes and if your week goes better than the previous one.

What are ways you've found to be thankful regardless of your circumstances?


If you liked this post, please share it with others!

You might also like last week's post as well, Dealing with Unmet Expectations

What, or Who, Are You Following?

©Lightstock.com©Lightstock.com The advent of social media brought a new twist on the subject of following. Some make a science out of it. Others obsess about gaining more and more followers. But when it comes to the Christian faith, it should mean one simple thing.

Recently, I read an article by a well-known pastor in a Christian online magazine for leaders. What he says is certainly not heresy, but I do take exception with a couple of things he says. Actually, one thing in particular.

The article

I want to make it clear—this is not a knock against this pastor—otherwise I'd make it more personal and name him. I'm sure he's a fine pastor, and I know he's a sought after speaker.

In fairness to him, I get the point of what he says about how the church is perceived by people in general, especially the unchurched. But even in this, I believe he and many of us are missing the primary issue. Here's the paragraph I take issue with—

“The arrival of Jesus signaled the end of the temple model,” he continued. “The Church really should be … nothing more than a community of people who follow the teaching of a man sent from God to explain God and to clear the path to God. You don’t have to agree but you shouldn’t dislike it unless there’s more to it.”

Well, there is more to it.

The problem

My concern is the sentence, "nothing more than a community of people who follow the teaching of a man sent from God...."

When I became a believer, something I've shared about in my book and in earlier posts, I chose to follow Jesus, not just His teaching. Yes, of course, I study what He taught and am committed to walk in that truth, but I follow Him.

[bctt tweet="I study what Jesus taught and am committed to walk in that truth, but I follow Him"]

Over the centuries, schisms and splits have come because of differences on doctrine and practice, and theological viewpoints. And so, thousands of church denominations and variations of denominations were born. But the identity of the church is not about doctrine or theology, it's about Jesus.

Heidlbg-schlosseDon't get me wrong, doctrine and practice matter, and good theology is to be valued. This is where we and the rest of the world get sidetracked. It's not about religion, but relationship, and that relationship is with Jesus.

I'm reminded of my conversation with our guide at the castle in Heidelberg. He told me that we (American) evangelicals seem to focus on Jesus more than they (European Protestants) do. He's right, but not as right as we'd like to believe.

What matters

Our natural bent as humans drives us to justify ourselves. It started in the garden when Eve, then Adam, made their fateful choice (Gen 3:4-6). Since then, we all try to cover our nakedness with fig leaves of some kind to cover our guilt, shame, inadequacy, or whatever (Gen 3:7).

This effort at self-justification takes on all sorts of forms, and is popularized by the expression, "We're saved by grace, not by works" (Eph 2:8). We can say that, and believe it, but do we live it?

Over the years, I've seen and heard many people conclude one person or another is not "saved" because of what they believe. I've also heard plenty of people claim spiritual rightness based on what they believe.

But the Christian faith is grounded upon relationship with God through Jesus His son. Here are a few of the many places this is made clear—

  • Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23— Jesus calls "whoever" to follow Him
  • John 14:6-11— Jesus makes it clear that He is the only Way to the Father
  • 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17— the apostle Paul makes it clear who he is following to his followers (disciples)
  • Hebrews 8:7-13 (especially verses 10 and 11)— the basis of Christianity—the New Covenant—is relationally-based, not performance-based

[bctt tweet="The Christian faith is grounded upon relationship with God through Jesus His son"]

Does the church need rebranding or revival?

Back to the article's content, the pastor contends the church has become "unnecessarily resistible" and needs rebranding. Is this really our responsibility?

Does the church need rebranding or revival? It seems to me we need revival.

Whenever there's been revival, the church didn't shape itself, it exalted Jesus. The revival was the work of God, not the followers who experienced it. My only experience with revival was during the Jesus Movement.

I suppose you could say the church got rebranded in those days, but it wasn't because a pastor, group of pastors, or churches decided it was needed. The outpouring of God's Spirit into those who became believers brought change because they were changed.

[bctt tweet="Does the church need rebranding or revival? I think we need revival, what about you?"]

Revival is God's work, not ours

We were following Jesus, not a set of teachings or new approaches to doing church. As our lives were transformed, we wanted to go to church, and we came "just as we were." We wanted to hear God's Word taught, and wanted to worship with abandon, and we wanted to tell others about Jesus.

I've been reading a book that challenges the church today about the need for revival. The book is called, "Reborn to Be Wild" by Ed Underwood. In the book he challenges readers to a radical commitment to Jesus.

Revival is God's work, not ours. He brings it about as He changes us from the inside out. The church doesn't need a change of appearance or approach, we need a change of heart. We need to follow Jesus with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength (Mark 12:30).

[bctt tweet="The church doesn't need a change of appearance or approach, but a change of heart"]

Does Anybody Really Understand?

Photo credit: Bing search We live in a specialized world. We are way beyond information overload. It's now over the top.

YouTube videos show you how to do, well... almost anything. News media parade experts on top of experts with conflicting and opposing views, and the amount of websites, blogs, and email traffic number in the billions.

Are you worried about the rising oceans from global warming? Forget about it! We're flooded with a tidal wave of information inundating our lives every day, enshrouded in terminology and acronyms that require an interpreter.

Does anybody really understand what's going on?

It's the language

It would be easy to jump off from here into a discussion on the end of the age, and signs of the Lord's return. Especially with all that's going on in the Mid-East.

But I want to talk about the importance of language. Not the need for becoming bilingual or multi-lingual, although that would be valuable and advisable in our current times.

The language we use in everyday life is what I'm interested in.

Over the past several months, I've had the pleasure of interacting with many people of different backgrounds from mine, in various work environments. I've gained insight into the inner workings of street gangs, and gained some perspective on the current worldview of twenty-somethings.

Working three part-time jobs has given me this opportunity. Each work and social environment has its own collection of terms and catch-phrases. Thankfully, when I ask for explanations and clarification, people are happy to help me. Some also admit their own ignorance of these things at one time.

But there is one field that uses specialized terms and catch-phrases, and over used clichés, where ignorance seems to be bliss. I'm referring to Christianity.

An Illusion

A typical American Christian uses obscure, even archaic, language with the expectation everyone knows what is being said. But this is an illusion.

It may be a self-imposed, although I suspect for most it is unintentional. As a general rule, Christian believers are oblivious to this illusion. Because I'm in contact with non-believers and nominal believers in God, I'm keenly aware of this.

Photo credit: www.briancromer.com

When talking to non-believers I find it necessary to use simple, non-Christian wording to explain spiritual truths and concepts. When I answer a question about why the Bible says this or that, I'm intentional to explain things without the usual Bible terms, common clichés, and phrases Christians often use.

Does it matter? Yes it does...a lot!

An obscure language

I read somewhere this week that an obscure language in a far away land will become extinct soon. Why? Because only a few people know and speak it, and they will die soon.

In a way, this is my hope for Christianese—the general term for all those Bible words and Christian catch-phrases and clichés. I would like to see Christianese become a dead language of sorts.

It's already dead in one sense—only those who speak it know what it means. Even many of those who speak it don't understand it well. It's self-limiting in that way.

Why? Because it closes off understanding for those who don't know anything about God, and confuses those who have a limited knowledge of God.

Is there a solution? Yes!

Christian believers need to use simple and clear words when they share about their faith in Jesus. Even the simplest of words, like faith for instance, need to be explained without quoting Bible verses and or using theological terminology. It's ok to use those terms and biblical wording, just make sure to explain what they mean with simpler words.

So "stay tuned to this station," I'll be coming back to this topic from time to time as I mentioned in a previous post.

In the meantime...

What is your experience with confusing Christian lingo?

I'd love to have you share it in the comments, and maybe I'll write on one of your experiences. ;-)

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post!