Last post I looked at evangelism methods commonly used in the last 50 years (in my experience) and some reasons why they may be less effective now and in the future.
So what should churches be doing now?
Evangelical christianity in the 20th century tended to see its main task as making converts for Jesus. Sure, we ran mission hospitals and schools, but doing much of that at home smacked of the “social gospel”, which only ‘liberals’ did. There was little need to care for the environment because this world is only temporary, and Jesus will surely be back soon to take us all somewhere better.
But did God create this vast universe just so earthlings could be “saved”? Do animals not matter? Does God not care about caring for those suffering and justice for the downtrodden?
There is a revolution happening in evangelical christianity, as, belatedly, evangelicals discover God’s bigger picture.
When I was a young christian, most churches were part of a denomination and most people knew what denomination they belonged to, even if they never actually attended. People didn’t switch denominations very often. When they moved house, they would generally find the closest church of their denomination and attend it.
Most new churches began when a new suburb was developed and the denomination would set up a new congregation. There were few independent churches and they were generally quite small.
But it’s all different now. People change denominations easily. There are many independent churches, many of which began as a “church plant” from a larger independent congregation. And increasingly, the denominations are “planting churches” too. But is this a good thing?
A lot of disagreements between christians come down to how we see the Bible. And a lot of how we present the christian faith to outsiders (whether well or badly) is similarly determined by how we see the Bible.
I think there are four basic views, and I thought diagrams might make them clearer.
Most christians in the west come to belief in their teens or early 20s. From there, some stay constant in all their beliefs, some give up belief, and some start on a journey of change and growth.
This post is about people who change (including me).
Martin Luther is examined for heresy.
I remember about 40 years ago coming to the conclusion that the church in the western world was, in the next few decades, going to go through changes as significant as the Reformation. I felt we had got away from the truth in several important areas – introspective & hierarchical churches, dead orthodoxy in many christians’ lives (including me), and failing to heed Jesus’ teachings on non-violence, acceptance and the perils of wealth – and God surely wouldn’t allow this to continue unchecked.
I think we are now in the middle of a new reformation, and here are some of the signs I see.
Last week (Close to understanding Jesus?) I outlined how I came to see that much of the evangelical teaching I had received about Jesus didn’t really explain Jesus and his ministry in accurate terms historically.
It seems that many people are coming to similar conclusions, for example New Testament scholar NT Wright and the philosopher, the late Dallas Willard.
New Testament scholar and theologian, Scot McKnight’s 2011 book, The King Jesus Gospel, takes up the same theme, but from a theological rather than historical perspective. So I guess it is hardly surprising that Wright and Willard both contributed Forewords.
One day, when I was a young christian, I had a surprising thought. As soon as I thought it, I knew it couldn’t be true.
But this untrue thought set me on a path of discovery that I am still on today. This path has enriched my understanding of Jesus and changed the way I live and some substantial things about what I believe.