The government shall be upon his shoulders?

The first Christmas

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.”

I quoted this passage from Isaiah 9 last Christmas, and I still think it is profound. But what does it say to us today?

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Evangelism in the twenty-first century 1 – the past

Street evangelist

The church I attend has embarked on a strategy of growth by trying to retain more visitors – either those attending weddings and funerals, or people members have invited to attend a church service. The services have been “streamlined”, visitors are welcomed in a systematic way, and the public spaces in the church building have been decorated with signage that tries to express what the church is about.

There’s nothing wrong with being more welcoming, but I think overall this approach is about 30 years out of date and doomed to achieve little.

This post: why is 20th century evangelism now somewhat out of date?
Next post: so what is the good news in 2014, and how should we share it?

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The mission of God

Mission San Juan in San Antonio

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.

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Gender equity?

Girl dancing

Two recent experiences led to this post, which takes up one of the issues I raised in The New Reformation.

Two weeks ago I attended the TEAR Conference in Sydney. TEAR Australia is a movement of Christians responding to the needs of poor communities around the world. One of its major emphases is raising the status and treatment of impoverished and mistreated women and girls around the world.

Then just last night I was speaking to a vibrant young christian woman who is committed to social justice and peace. She was concerned about conservative christian teaching on male headship and the submission of women, and how it might either prevent her marrying or blight a future marriage.

I couldn’t help seeing the connection, and the irony.

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The new Reformation

Martin Luther with iPhone

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.

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Book review: The King Jesus Gospel

Book cover

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.

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