Beauty is the hard-to-define Essence that Draws people to the gospel.
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What more, you may ask, do we want?
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into wordsto be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. C. S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"
Posted on February 10, 2009
A small gospel can be a beautiful thing.
Is our gospel too small? From what Jesus says, I think that God likes small. Small and hidden, actually. read more . . .
Posted on December 16, 2008
In the body of Christ, we learn how to be both.
John of Patmos saw a vision of the "New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God," but until that time came, he didn't seem to hold out much hope for the cities of this world. In fact, he was much more likely to compare the Rome of his day to Babylon, or maybe a scarlet beast. The author of Hebrews had a similar perspective on politics, if a bit less apocalyptic. "For here we do not have an enduring city," he tells us. We followers of Christ will always be "aliens and strangers on earth
longing for a better country, a heavenly one," where "God has prepared a city for us" far surpassing the Babylons of this world. Until then, he counseled, we hope for what we "do not see." read more . . .
Posted on November 7, 2008
Emphasizing the big gospel can make it hard to communicate any gospel.
Can the gospel be too big? For some of us in the missional church movement, this question borders on heresy. We regularly caution that the gospel is not only about what Jesus can do for me. It is primarily about the transformation of our very way of life into God's mission for the world. We resist any temptation to turn the gospel into anything that might be too "user friendly." The mission of God (missio Dei), so we proclaim, must be all-encompassing, and we must become participants in it. read more . . .
Posted on August 29, 2008
One church's experiment in living the most arcane book of the Bible.
Mention Leviticus to most people and what comes to mind is that arcane tome of Torah devoted primarily to the proper (and gruesome) management of sin through animal sacrifice. Others may recall mind-numbing instructions on how to rightly handle infectious skin disease and mildew, and a mishmash of other commandments about not mixing fibers and seeds and not sleeping with your stepmother or sister or nephewcommandments deemed either irrelevant or plain common sense. Rarely studied and even more rarely preached, Leviticus often becomes that graveyard where read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans go to die. Skeptics know it as ammunition for homosexual haters or as a target for animal-rights activists. Many Jews regard it as awkward and outmoded. To slog through it can be unbelievably tedious. Which is why most of us don't. read more . . .
Posted on August 5, 2008
James Choung has found a way to tell the old, old story to a new generation.
Can you summarize the "Big Story" that your four-circles diagram is designed to tell? read more . . .
Posted on June 30, 2008
Our gospel may be small because we fail to believe that God animates many social movements.
There are two competing ways of understanding and presenting the Christian gospel in America. They are equally valid and ideally should complement one another, but unfortunately, battle lines have been drawn on both sides. Some Christians emphasize the gospel as purely a matter of individual salvation; others see it essentially in terms of community and of social justice. This problem is partly cultural, but more significantly, it arises from insufficient knowledge of the Scriptures: "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matt. 22:29). read more . . .
Posted on June 2, 2008
The desert fathers and mothers would know instantly why our gospel is too small.
"Is our gospel too small?" Shouldn't the answer be obvious? As an Eastern Orthodox theologian, my first impulse was to point out that a small gospel has never been our problem. The name of the great 7th-century saint Maximus the Confessor symbolizes the maximal gospel proclaimed by him and all the Orthodoxone with cosmic implications that embraces the whole of creation. Proclaiming that kind of gospel has always been the Orthodox way. But then I came down to earth. Though Orthodoxy has a grand vision in principle, it often doesn't make a lot of difference in practice. I believe our theological compass is pointed in the right direction, but when it comes to following through on our not-so-small gospel, we are no better than anyone else. read more . . .
Posted on May 1, 2008
We have to decide whether we have a stingy or a generous God.
Charles Hodge was a severe critic of the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher. A champion of Calvinist orthodoxy at Princeton Seminary in the 19th century, Hodge had witnessed the influence of the German theologian during his own graduate studies in Germany, and was deeply disturbed by what he saw as Schleiermacher's rejection of the Bible as an infallible divine revelation. Schleiermacher's embrace of the rationalist critique of biblical authority, Hodge insisted, undermined the most fundamental tenets of the historic Christian faith. read more . . .
Posted on April 8, 2008
Reviving forgotten chapters in the story of redemption.
Our problems are not small. The most cursory glance at the newspaper will remind us of global crises like AIDS, local catastrophes of senseless violence, family failures, ecological threats, and church skirmishes. These problems resist easy solutions. They are robustpowerful, pervasive, and systemic. read more . . .
Posted on March 5, 2008
The modern world was inclined toward reduction, efficiency, and things you can count.
I had been a disciple of Jesus Christ for less than a year when I first heard "the gospel question." It was May 1988, and I was spending the summer following my freshmen year of college working as a counselor at a Christian sports camp in the Missouri Ozarks. read more . . .
Posted on February 27, 2008
To be saved means more than we might think.
I had a Paul-like conversion.
There were no horses, voices, blindnessno bloody trail at my feet. But it was dramatic. Something like scales fell from my eyes. I stood in the shadow of Christ's cross and in the light of his resurrection. Christ met me, embraced me, forgave me, and gave me himself. I never looked back. read more . . .
Posted on February 7, 2008
The Good News is so much bigger than we make it out to be.
Why does the gospel look to so many like a bowl of lima beans? read more . . .
Posted on January 9, 2008
Song, culture, divine bounty, and issues of harmonization.
An old German proverb runs: "Wer spricht mit mir ist mein Mitmensch; wer singt mit mir ist mein Bruder" (the one who speaks with me is my fellow human; the one who sings with me is my brother). In the world Christian community today, nothing defines "brotherhood" more obviously than singing. As it was in the beginning of the limited Christian pluralism in 16th-century Europe, so it remains in the nearly unbounded Christian pluralism of the 21st century. As soon as there were Protestants to be differentiated from Catholics, Calvinists from Lutherans, Anabaptists from Lutherans and Calvinists, Anglicans from Roman Catholics and other Protestants—so soon did singing become the powerful two-sided reality that it continues to be. read more . . .
Posted on December 5, 2007
How short-term mission is becoming a two-way street.
A few years ago I was in a church service where a team of energetic young adults was reporting on their short-term international mission trip. Like most such groups, this one had plenty of cross-cultural experiences to report. "The food was so spicy," one wide-eyed young woman said, drawing laughter from the congregation. "It was terribly hot and humidwe had such a hard time getting to sleep," another team member said. Amid much hilarity, the team leader described their consternation when they arrived at a remote village only to discover that the Christians there were expecting them to lead a worship serviceon the spot. read more . . .
Posted on December 5, 2007
It's time to return to the priority of evangelism.
The Church is notorious for its course corrections. Toward the end of the 19th century, theological liberals began to emphasize the humanness of Christ. They presented Christ's life as the main focus of the gospel. Evangelicals reacted by emphasizing the atoning work of Christ (especially as explained by Paul), almost to the exclusion of the life of Christ. So liberals concentrated on good deeds and evangelicals on saving souls. read more . . .
Posted on November 5, 2007
When it comes to missions giving, donor dependency may not be the greatest problem.
Few principles have been as central to the modern missions movement as the "three-self paradigm." This seminal framework was popularized in the 19th century by three notable leaders: Henry Venn, Rufus Anderson, and John Nevius. It proposes that truly indigenous churches should be self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting. For 200 years the three-self ideal has been nearly axiomatic. Modern missiologists have placed particular emphasis on the last point, interpreting it to emphasize financial independence and developing a whole stream of thought trumpeting "the dangers of dependency." These missiologists want to prevent the unhealthy dynamics they presume are unavoidable when outside funds are introduced into any newly developing indigenous movement. read more . . .
Posted on October 4, 2007
World Vision India head Jayakumar Christian on how the poor become movers and shakers, and movers and shakers become poor.
Nine years ago, World Vision staff discovered pervasive bonded child labor in the district of Gudiyatham in India: parents indenturing their children to moneylenders, in payment of debts as small as $20. The children rolled cigarettes, tanned hides, or made matches without freedom to go to schooland with little prospect of ever repaying loans made at ruinous interest rates. read more . . .
Posted on September 10, 2007
On March 17, people of Irish descent around the world celebrate "St. Patrick's Day." Nearly a million people stream into Dublin, Ireland, to enjoy the fireworks, concerts, parades, and street theater. St. Patrick's Day parades began in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the colonial British Army marched through the streets of New York City accompanied by Irish music. By the early 20th century, St. Patrick's Day parades in major American cities had become triumphant celebrations of Irish "arrival" in the hallowed halls of city government—victors over the old guard Protestant Yankees. The importance of St. Patrick to growing Irish self-confidence was expressed in 1921 by Seumas MacManus, author of the sentimental favorite Story of the Irish Race: "What Confucius was to the Oriental, Moses to the Israelite, Mohammed to the Arab, Patrick was to the Gaelic race. And the name and power of those other great ones will not outlive the name and the power of our Apostle."1 read more . . .
Posted on August 13, 2007
Theologian and educator Ruth Padilla DeBorst says true Christian mission addresses issues of power and poverty.
Your life has unfolded through a series of moves across cultures. read more . . .
I was born in Colombia to an Ecuadorian father and an American mother, but I grew up in Argentina. When I was in high school and university, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship and U.S. intervention in Latin America was pervasive. There was great anger among my fellow students about how American power was being used in Latin America.
Posted on August 8, 2007