A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!” (Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (2nd ed.; London: BCA, 1998), p. 1.)
All Christians should be like that little old lady. Not, of course, that we should insist on cosmic turtles. But there’s something that Christians should insist on, constantly, in every situation, to ourselves, and to everyone we see. It’s God’s grace. All the way down. (more…)
Our own experiences often affect how we read the Bible. Take Romans 16:7, for example:
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsfolk and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Rom 16:7)
There’s something in this verse that often catches the eye of the modern reader: a woman, Junia, is said to be “of note among the apostles.” This means that she was either a person of note to the apostles, or that she was herself “among the apostles.” Either way, the Bible seems to be saying that there was a woman who had a ministry role that was important in the early church. Surely then, as many argue, the example of Junia means that women today, too, can and should have significant ministry roles? At this point, our own experiences can play a big part, particularly our experiences of Christian ministry. (more…)
If you insist to a friend that the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ is the birth of Jesus Christ, there are two kinds of response you’re likely to get. (more…)
Much of our Christian life is a process of becoming more and more like God. God is holy, so we are to be holy. We love, because God first loved us. In fact, our English word ‘godliness’ implies that the Christian life is, by definition, ‘God-like-ness’. But sometimes, the opposite is true. Sometimes, ‘godliness’ is about being completely unlike God. Here’s an example:
On my previous article about gospel speech, Craig made some comments and suggestions that I thought were so good they were worth a whole new post.
As a layman, what encourages me in evangelism, more than anything else, is hearing about other laymen doing it. For example, a while ago I heard a mate at church describe how he was planning to witness to the bloke in the next cubicle. That did more to encourage me than 10 sermons on evangelism would have done.
“I can’t do what they’re doing.”
Maybe you’re convinced that gospel-speech is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian. Maybe you’re convinced that the world needs to hear the gospel. But you look around, and you see real live gospel speakers. You watch them closely, and listen to the way they talk. Then you look at yourself, your own speaking abilities, your own background, your own life situation. And you realise, with a mixture of bewilderment, disappointment, and maybe even a twinge of jealousy, that you’re not like those gospel speakers. You don’t have their gift. How could you ever do evangelism like they do it? (more…)
“I’m more comfortable speaking the gospel to insiders rather than outsiders.”
Maybe you think that you’re not the kind of person to speak the gospel to outsiders because you’re more comfortable speaking to insiders. But gospel-speech doesn’t work that way. Gospel-speech breaks through distinctions between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. That’s because the gospel itself is exactly the same message for everybody.
This is a staggering truth. (more…)
“I’m not the mouth in Christ’s body.”
Paul talks about the church as Christ’s body. The body is made up of many members (e.g. 1 Cor 12:12). All of these members are equally important, but they’re not all the same. Some people are feet, others are ears, others are eyes, and noses, and hands (1 Cor 12:15-26). We all do different things, but we all belong to each other. “So,” you might say, “I’m not a mouth. Speaking is not my thing. I have other, equally important, roles in Christ’s body.” That is, maybe you think that you’re not the kind of person to speak the gospel to others because you’re not that kind of body part.
But there’s a problem with this line of reasoning. (more…)
“I can promote the gospel better by my good works.”
Maybe you think that you’re not the kind of person to speak the gospel to others because your particular role in gospel proclamation is to do good works. Why not, you may ask, let other people do the talking? Don’t your works contribute something important to the proclamation of the gospel all by themselves? (more…)
“I’m not really a ‘speaking’ Christian.”
Maybe you think that you’re not the kind of person to speak the gospel to others because you’re not really the kind of Christian who talks about the gospel. You prefer to keep it in your heart.
But salvation isn’t just a matter of the heart. It’s also, fundamentally, a matter of the mouth. (more…)
“I really should be more disciplined…”
How often do you experience that gaping chasm between ‘should be’ and ‘is’ in your regular daily habits? Most of us can think of good habits we’d really like to develop, but somehow have never got around to it. If you’re a Christian, some of those habits you wish to develop possibly include things like regular prayer and Bible reading; intentional care for others; disciplined consumption; not spending too much time online, etc. You may have heard countless times that these things are important; you’ve probably nodded sagely in agreement; you may even have spoken about them many times out loud in sentences that begin, “I really should…”. But you’ve just never got around to turning them into lasting habits. Maybe that’s because your desire to develop these habits has never been anything more than a vague wish. Or maybe you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve tried repeatedly to develop these habits and failed miserably. (more…)
“I’m not gifted enough!”
Maybe you think that you’re not qualified to speak the gospel to people because you’re not gifted enough. But if you’re a Christian, you already have the greatest gift in the world. It’s a gift that makes you talk. (more…)
Maybe you think that you’re not qualified to speak the gospel to people because you’re not godly enough. If you feel this way, then you’re absolutely right and you’re absolutely wrong at the same time. You’re right that you’re not godly enough. And you’re wrong about the gospel. (more…)
Does God command every individual Christian to evangelise? Or is evangelism
just a job for specially gifted individuals?
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, it’s likely that these questions have popped into your head from time to time. You might remember an initial burst of enthusiasm for Jesus at some time in your life. Maybe you remember burning with a passionate desire to tell as many people as you can about the wonderful news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. After all, this news had recently rocked your world and given you hope and life and meaning; why wouldn’t you want others to know it? But by now, maybe, you’re feeling a bit jaded. Of course, you acknowledge that the ‘gospel’, the message about Jesus, is quite important. But you’ve come to realise that you’re not really the kind of person who feels comfortable talking about Jesus to other people. Maybe you just feel ill-equipped. Maybe it’s not your personality type. Maybe evangelism just feels plain weird to you. Maybe you’ve had a few bad evangelistic experiences. Awkward moments. Maybe you’ve lost friends. Maybe you’re getting fed up with that vaguely guilty feeling that nags away at you whenever preachers tell you you’re not doing enough evangelism. And so you might be asking: does God really want me to do this evangelism thing anyway? Does he actually command it anywhere? (more…)
This headline, or something like it, appeared around the globe on news sites last year (e.g. The Telegraph, CNN’s religion blog, and others). The story was also picked up (and embellished) by various blogs. Before you check out the links, let me ask you: What’s your gut reaction when you read a headline like that? Are you annoyed or disgusted that yet another ivory-tower scholar is denying the fundamental truths of the Christian faith? Are you in despair at the relentless attacks of the media on the church? Or maybe you’re pleased that the truth of science and reason is yet again prevailing over the religious dogmas of the past two millenia? (more…)