I was looking today at the notes prepared by a church for their Bible study groups, and I had a minor epiphany. Really minor, but I thought worth sharing.
I am currently re-reading Chasing the Dragon, Jackie Pullinger’s remarkable story of “life and death in Kowloon Walled City”. It tells how the lives of thousands of poor and addicted Hong Kong residents were dramatically changed as they were miraculously healed of heroin addiction.
It also speaks to me of how God can use an unusual person who is willing to risk following the way of Jesus.
How do people mature? Does it just happen automatically as we grow, or are there things we can do to aid maturity?
And do christians mature in any different way from other people?
Christianity is all about helping people change their minds and behaviour, right?
We want to see people choosing to follow Jesus, then growing in their understanding of what that means and how they can follow him better. Don’t we?
So why are we still using approaches that have been shown to be very ineffective?
In the discussion on my previous post, Nate has questioned my approach to authority and christian belief. I do not believe the Bible is inerrant, and I said that most christians accept other sources of knowledge also: “reason and evidence, church teaching and tradition, and the Holy Spirit”.
And so he asked: “Why does the New Testament speak so much about false teachers, if it’s perfectly fine to get your beliefs from private revelation?” and “How can there be such a thing as “truth” when each person’s version is just as good as someone else’s?”, and then saw problems “if I took my own random thoughts and feelings as revelation from the supreme creator of the universe”.
These are fair questions, and I think another blog post is better than a long comment to answer them. It also gives me the opportunity to set out how I believe we know truths about God. I hope other readers are interested too, and will also comment.
The church in first world countries, as a whole, is losing ground, neither making converts nor making an impact. There are many ideas, many books, talks and blog posts, outlining the problems and the way forward, as someone sees it.
But I recently came across a brief overview that I think provides a better understanding and suggests a better way forward that most.
For years, more progressive or liberal christians have been saying the churches need to change to meet the challenges of modern (or postmodern) society. More conservative christians have argued that we should remain faithful to traditional understandings and practices.
Both sides can tend to welcome studies and surveys that show their approach is working better. And so we have a new report, that Liberal churches are dying. But conservative churches are thriving.
Depending on your viewpoint, you are probably already keen to read this report or already looking for reasons why it isn’t right. So what is the latest?
I think this post raises a crucially important matter for christians today.
It was mob violence, but at least it didn’t lead to a lynching. Jason and a few friends, converts of the apostle Paul, were dragged before the city officials and angry accusations were made:
“These men [meaning Paul and company] …. are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)
The officials released them on a bond. But, of course, the charges were quite accurate. Jesus is the king.
But it seems many christians no longer believe this …..
We are visiting family in the US right now, and the recent Presidential election is on everyone’s minds here.
Reports are coming in that apparent white supremacists have been attacking, verbally or physically, people who belong to minorities such as blacks, Muslims and Latinos. Right wing christians are expressing relief that Hilary Clinton, who they vehemently oppose because she is seen to be pro-abortion, pro gay marriage, pro political correctness, anti freedom of religion, and dishonest, didn’t get elected.
Meanwhile the people I have moved amongst have the opposite reaction. Shocked by Donald Trump’s victory, critical of his many obvious flaws and failures, concerned for the safety and wellbeing of people from minorities, including women, and feeling let down by the right wing christians overwhelmingly voting for Trump.
The nation is divided, and so is the christian church, though Trump appears to have the majority in each case. How should christians who fear the worst react?