Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 185

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 186

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 187

Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /home/greata7/public_html/aletheiabaptistministries.org/Blog/wp-content/themes/evolve/inc/dynamic-css.php on line 188
Methodology Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

Music and Morals

Music and Morals

by Rick Shrader

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

This is the second book I’ve read by Kimberly Smith on music.  This is forwarded by Frank Garlock and is very much in the mode in which he writes.  I don’t necessarily disagree with these kinds of conclusions.  However, I am a layman in the technical side of music and can’t say whether all the conclusions are completely sound or not.  My disagreement with modern music is in the area of worldliness, so Smith’s (and many other music books on my shelf) conclusions coincide with mine, but from a different angle.  If you have never read anything from this perspective, you ought to.  She writes, “Much of Christian music today is replete with conflicting messages between the lyrics and the music itself.  Our mouths may be praising the Lord and declaring His holiness, but the message conveyed through immoral music techniques far outweighs the message of the lyrics, and we see it manifested in how people react to the music.”  Anyone who has shopped in a store with annoying music knows this is true, at least to some degree.

 

The God Who Speaks

The God Who Speaks

by Rick Shrader

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

             “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” Hebrews 1:1-2

America is quickly leaving a word-based society and becoming an image-based society and so is the church of Jesus Christ. Christians have always been readers and listeners. The invention of radio was a simple diversion where simply sitting and listening began to overtake the struggle of reading. The advent of printed images in magazines increased the ease of perusing through a magazine where one could look at the pictures rather than read the articles. With moving pictures came the theater and the modern wonder of bringing images to life, which was eventually brought into the living room with the television. Few living Americans today have ever experienced a time when these things were not commonplace.

But movies and television are ancient history to today’s young people. They have not known a time without computers and the internet. Many young Christians have never experienced a church service with simple singing, praying, and preaching. Their world is a world wallpapered with images and sounds at home, in the car, at school, in the mall or restaurant, and also at church.

The epitome of image is the commercial—a professional moment created by people who want to make money that invades the world of people who live by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. If one wants to get a true picture of the moral level of a society, he only needs to go as far as the radio, television, or online commercial. Consider the commercial where a product is being sold that supposedly will help you lose weight or increase bodily function of some sort. The pictures shown portray a happy, loving, successful person who is experiencing a perfectly happy moment. But while the pictures are being shown, by law the commercial must audibly say that taking the product may harm you in a number of different ways, actually causing a reaction opposite of what was intended, and in some cases may even cause death. But these ubiquitous commercials obviously work evidently because people watch but do not listen. Of course, the next commercial break will feature a law firm telling you that if you’ve taken the same drug, call because you will be able to sue them for damages and false advertising.

Some feel that our image-based world began in the 1930s in Nuremburg when Adolf Hitler held the first multi-media rallies. Thousands of people crowded shoulder to shoulder watching huge pictures with lights and music. Hitler was spewing the worst audio message imaginable but people were persuaded to follow because of the visual effects. Hitler knew this better than anyone and specifically describes his goal of brainwashing by this image-based methodology, calling it “the magic of influence of what we designate as mass suggestion.”1

Some feel that this all started in 1960 with the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. Nixon had been in the hospital and came to the debate physically weakened and looking emaciated. Kennedy, on the other hand, was young, tanned, and good looking. Those who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy won, but those who listened on radio thought that Nixon won. Image wins in a debate every time. That is why today’s presidential debates are everything to do with image and almost nothing to do with substance.

While attending a pastor’s conference in Denver some years ago I listened to a young pastor explain why we must now fill our preaching and teaching times with multiple visual aids, because today’s youth are now learning from multiple sources that feed all the senses of sight, sound, feel, and even smell. This is how they learn today in school and the church cannot afford to be behind in its pedagogy. Another pastor then asked why the American student ranks almost last in most of the important educational categories world-wide. The leader had no answer.

Ironically we call the historic period of image-based worship the dark ages. Carl Trueman has written, “As regards the cultural trend away from words to images, one could make a case for seeing this as, theologically, an undoing or a reversal of the Reformation and a reversion to aesthetic and sacrament-centered church life of a kind that defined much of medieval Catholicism.”2 He refers to a time when the images filled the beautiful cathedrals and sight and sound became the essence of worship, not the preaching of the Word. God brought Christianity out of this first with a Renaissance of learning, then the invention of the printing press, and finally (and most importantly) a return to the Book in the Reformation. The Reformers believed that God speaks through His Word and therefore the Word must be central in any worship service—sola scriptura!

Much has been written and spoken about the effects of postmodernism on our image-based culture. Authur W. Hunt, III, wrote, “Much of what is going on in our church sanctuaries falls under my definition of postmodernism—that is, a turning from rationality and an embracing of spectacle.”3 Trueman points out that postmodernism has left us with two dangerous results: the death of the author and the medium as the message.4 Postmodernism posits that language changes so quickly that we cannot know the original intent of the author. The author, for all practical purposes, is dead.   Therefore, we have to read all writing, especially old writing, without trying to discover the author’s meaning but rather ask what it means to us right now. In postmodernism this is the only possible knowledge we can gain from writing. No wonder Americans today do not believe we can even discover what the writers of our constitution meant. This is why so many argue for a fluid meaning rather than a historical meaning. Applied to the Bible, however, this means that for all practical purposes God is dead and the only question we can ask is what the Bible means to me, not what the original writers meant. This also means that exposition of a text is largely a waste of time. Emotion and inward searching of the soul become a better hermeneutic.

On the heels of this, the medium virtually becomes the message. How the message is conveyed basically determines what the message is going to be. In this way the hearers (or experiencers) become the final authority. If the author of the text is dead, the hearer becomes his own god by determining what message can fit the medium. Is this a return to medieval Christianity? Have screens and speakers taken the place of icons, altars, incense, and stained glass? Albert Mohler wrote, “Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. Preaching has in large part retreated, and a host of entertaining innovations have taken its place.”5

If God has spoken and speaks today through His Word, the Christian has an imperative that cannot be compromised. The preaching of the Word is God’s ordained means of communication and the exposition of that Word is the most important job of the teacher or preacher. And, we might add, filling of the Spirit Who inspired the sacred text, becomes the most essential methodology in worship. Hebrews 1:1-3 and 2:1-5 make important statements about the God Who speaks.

God spoke in time past

God spoke at sundry (various, NKJV) times and in divers manners. Beginning in Genesis chapter one, we find, “And God said, let there be light” (1:3); “And God called the light Day” (1:5). This pattern continues throughout the six days of creation. In addition, and wonderfully, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speak among themselves (one in essence, manifested in three persons) “Let us make man in our image” (1:26); “Behold, the man is become as one of us” (3:22); and later, “Let us go down and confound their language” (11:7). From the beginning God has been a God who speaks. God spoke unto the fathers by the prophets. From Abraham and the patriarchs to Moses and the prophets, God spoke in various languages, visions, dreams, handwriting, inspiration, and other miraculous means.

When liberalism tried to “demythologize” the Bible, it wasn’t to take myths out, it was to remove any mention of God speaking through these miraculous means. This has been Satan’s method from the beginning, “Yea, hath God said?” But when Eve “saw” the fruit she was more impressed by the visual than by the word. Why will the unbelieving world today not accept creation? Because it was a miracle, and they have long ago decided that the miraculous never happened and that God has not spoken.

God spoke through His Son

Hebrews also makes plain that God spoke in the most unique way, through the incarnation of the Son both personally and prophetically. God spoke through Christ personally because Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19, 2:9). He is called the Word, or Logos (John 1:1) because He conveyed the true message from God’s mind to us.

But God also spoke through His Son prophetically i.e., through the very words that Jesus said. “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34. See also John 6:63; 6:68; 8:26; 12:48-50). This was an historic occurrence that cannot be erased. Our very calendar forever will testify to the fact that God spoke historically through the Son. The gospel is the historical fact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This can never be undone. The preaching of it can fail, the belief of it can wane, but the fact of God speaking through His Son will judge men in the end.

God speaks to us today

Such a statement as this is much used and abused. I hold to cessationism, i.e., that the miraculous sign and revelatory gifts ceased with the apostles and are not operative for today. However, God also did something in the first century through the apostles which was for us today—He gave us His inspired Word, “once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Through the Bible God is still speaking with the same authority with which Jesus spoke. Hebrews 2:1-5 tells us that Jesus spoke to those that heard Him (the apostles) and the apostles’ words were confirmed by their own miracles. Mohler said, “If you do not believe that God now speaks from His Word—the Bible—then what are you doing every Sunday morning? If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.”6

There have been two errors made historically about God giving us His Word. The first is that God never started. These are those who, through their liberal presuppositions, could never accept that God inspired a Bible. To them the Bible is as any other book, a product of good and enlightened men, but not a divine product of the Holy Spirit. The second error is that God never stopped. These are the cults who believe that God is still giving the gift of inspiration to add to the Word of God—Mohammad, Joseph Smith, etc.   But God spoke once through inspiration (of course, 66 times over 1500 years, but “once for all delivered unto the saints”). But every time we read the Word of God, God is speaking through it directly to us. That is why exposition of the Word is vital to worship.

And so . . . .

By leaving a word-based culture and turning to an image-based culture we are forfeiting the very power of God in our worship. It is not that we cannot use pictures, screens, power point and so forth, but these must always be secondary and illustrious to the main thing, the written and spoken Word of God. After all, God gave us two illustrations to use in our preaching: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But the difference in these illustrations and all others is that the very Word which they illustrate commands their use and explanation. An image-based worship is a return to a more ignorant time, not a progression forward. Arthur Hunt wrote, “Paganism never really died in modern western culture; it was only restrained. American Protestantism effectively suppressed many pagan forms up until the twentieth century; but the advent of the image-based media has brought forth a revitalization of the pagan gods in popular culture.”7 One would be hard-pressed to deny that the common scene at a rock concert is a return to paganism. In fact, it is the world’s idolatry. The church should be very careful in copying it.

Carl Trueman also wrote, “What we need to be concerned about is the replacement of preaching and doctrine in many generic evangelical churches with drama, with so-called liturgical dance, with feelings, emotions and mystical experiences, and, sometimes, with elaborate sacramental ceremonies which make the Catholic Church look positively Puritan by comparison. These all speak of the transformation of Protestantism from a word-based movement into something more concerned with aesthetics of one form or another.”8

If these warnings are not sufficient to make us pause, consider the warning in Revelation 13, a scenario which could realistically happen a short three and a half years from now if the Lord were to come today. Here the “beast” or antichrist is “worshiped” by the whole world, empowered directly by Satan. The whole worship scene is enhanced by “another beast” or the false prophet. This beast constructs the final multi-media, image- based worship service before Armageddon happens. He does it with “great wonders” and “miracles” (both from semeia, image, sign). The whole world will be tattooed with a “mark” upon the skin that shows solidarity with the movement. Is the world not conditioning itself for this type of worship?

Perhaps this article ought to be closed with Paul’s admonition to Timothy,

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;   Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.   For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;   And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.        (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

 

Notes:

1. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Houghton & Mifflin, 1971) 479. Interestingly, this comes from a section titled “The Significance of the Spoken Word.”

2. Carl Trueman, The Wages of Spin (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2004) Kindle, 793.

3. Authur W. Hunt, III, The Vanishing Word (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003) 202.

4. Trueman, part 2, “”Short, Sharp Shocks.”

5. Albert Mohler, Jr., He Is Not Silent (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008) Kindle, 260.

6. Mohler, 764.

7. Hunt, 25

8. Trueman, 359

 

 

The Wages of Spin

The Wages of Spin

by Rick Shrader

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

I have read and enjoyed another Carl Trueman book. As a professor at Westminster, Trueman is a Reformed theologian and historian. However, almost all the books I’ve read by him are directed more at cultural issues and only slightly affected by his theology. In this book are two sections examining two Reformed theologians, J. Gresham Machen and Benjamin Warfield, both of which make good reading.

The rest of the book is given to the “spin” going on in contemporary worship. In this Trueman speaks with his usual candor and insight. Here are a few quotations from these sections.

“No one should make the mistake of seeing the move to contemporary praise songs and service as simply a straightforward, value-neutral repackaging or rebranding of a traditional product.”

“This ‘Celtic revival’, while superficially appearing to represent a return to history and tradition, is on the whole simply a theological manifestation of the same phenomenon we see in society around us. It is an eclectic and nostalgic appropriation of a pseudo-history which supplies the church with a specious historical authenticity.”

“Acknowledging that God works in history means that we acknowledge that he has worked in the past; and acknowledging that he has worked in the past means that we acknowledge that we may not ignore that past as if we today had all the answers.”

“We must remember that to reduce Western Christianity’s difficulties to the level of bad technique is to miss the point: the real problem is ultimately one of morality, not methodology. Quite simply, the evangelical church has sold its soul to the values of Western society and prostituted itself before the Golden Calf of materialism.”

 

 

Christianity and Culture

Christianity and Culture

by Rick Shrader

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

On Kindle, when you finish one book by a certain author, it suggests a few others by the same author. Though I have read many by Machen, I had not seen this one. It is especially interesting to read men from a century before and see how they viewed culture (see my reviews on C.S. Lewis or T.S. Eliot). Machen describes three positions that one could take about the culture: “In the first place, Christianity may be subordinated to culture.” “The second solution goes to the opposite extreme. In its effort to give religion a clear field, it seeks to destroy culture.” “A third solution, fortunately, is possible—namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God.”
I am afraid this third approach may be misapplied in our day, when we are so in love with the culture that we can’t tell the difference between it and the world. Machen would have been fairly shocked by the church’s use of culture in worship today. He concluded the book this way, “The church is puzzled by the world’s indifference. She is trying to overcome it by adapting her message to the fashions of the day. But if, instead, before the conflict, she would descend into the secret place of meditation, if by the clear light of the gospel she would seek an answer . . . an age of doubt might be followed by the dawn of an era of faith.”

 

Having Respect of Persons

Having Respect of Persons

by Rick Shrader

In preaching through the second chapter of the book of James, we usually focus on faith and works in the second half of the chapter.  However, the respect of persons which James deals with in the first nine verses is just as needful, and perhaps much more, in our own day.  Faith and works is important, in fact it has been the water shed of differences between denominations and cults.  But James’ pointed words regarding our own reaction to people who come into our church, or you might say, when the world comes to us, is crucial as well.

It is important to define what “respect of persons” means.  We are generally right when we understand that it means we should have no partiality toward people, especially due to their outward appearance.  Even more specifically in this passage, we should not prefer one person as a prospective member of the church over another because of what appears to be a better social or financial status.  James presents the familiar picture of a rich man and a poor man coming into the church service (“Your assembly”) and the rich man receiving better treatment by the saints of God. 

“Respect of persons” comes from a combination of the word for “face” and the word “to receive.”  To respect one person over another is to receive his face above another, or, as A.T. Robertson put it, “to lift up the face on a person.”1  Douglas Moo says that “this word was invented by New Testament writers”2  because it is a rare word.

The word is used only four other places in the New Testament (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25) and in each place it refers to God as being without respect of persons either in salvation or in judgment.  James is the only one to apply it to believers, obviously teaching that we are to be like our heavenly Father in this regard. 

Douglas Moo also noted,

“But the Greek word here is plural—’acts of favoritism’ (NRSV)—and this makes clear that the prohibition has wide-ranging application.  The OT repeatedly stresses that God himself is impartial, looking at the heart rather than at the outside of a person, and God’s people are to imitate him in this respect.”3

Therefore we always translate “respects (plural) of persons” which indeed does widen the meaning of the idea.  There are many ways in which we show favoritism.  We pass by a person without speaking; we look at a person with a suspicious look; we speak but quickly move away  to other people.  But we also laud over an obviously well-to-do person; we follow up more quickly on a large family; we might even change what we do in church to keep someone from not liking us.

Hypocrisy is a kind of respect of persons because in being hypocritical we are changing our own face in sight of someone else for our own gain.  Pragmatism is a kind of respect of persons because we favor some people who can help us accomplish something, the end justifying the means thereby.  So being a respecter of persons is a kind of hypocrisy wedded to pragmatism.  We act in a way we shouldn’t in front of someone, with the purpose of using them for our own ends.  No doubt James saw something like this going on in his own congregation of believers.

Our own history

As fundamental Baptists, we have often had our faults in this matter.  Many of us remember the 60s and 70s when we boasted of the ten largest Sunday Schools in America, or when our churches were among the fastest growing churches in America.  In fact, there was an ongoing contest among the churches to see who would be listed in such reports.  Now, I certainly am not criticizing bigness as such.  There is nothing inherently wrong in a big church or in a little church, just as there is nothing inherently wrong in being rich or poor.  Either could be used for God’s glory and either can be used for selfishness.  But I am remembering, as one who was trained in ministry at that time, that what we really wanted was to grow and we needed people as well as people’s money to do it. Even worse, we may have pushed for altar results simply for the record of it rather than for the rejoicing of sinners being saved. 

I remember being a Bible College student (’68-’72) and fearing that if I left school to start or pastor a church, I might not grow fast enough and would be perceived as a failure by my peers or instructors.  Those were the days of church growth seminars where one could learn the latest method of increasing the attendance and altar result cards.  We all copied Jerry Falwell and Jack Hyles. 

Those days are probably still with us to some degree, but I think we have learned that growth for growth’s sake isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  There is a real hollowness in ministry when things are done by hypocrisy wedded to pragmatism.  People just become numbers or offering envelopes.  And I think our people felt it too.  I believe it is good for us to have dropped off the cutting edge of church growth dynamics.  We may not be in the news as much, but we are shepherding more than herding and I think pleasing God more.

 

The contemporary church

As fundamental churches decreased in numbers, evangelical churches took over.  The 80s and the 90s were given to a seeker sensitive style of ministry where polls were used to find out what would make the world like us.  The churches quickly became what was necessary to draw people.  If they didn’t like church buildings, the look of the building was changed.  If they didn’t like dressing up for church, everyone immediately became casual.  Not just “poor” like the man in James chapter two, but perfectly casual.  Casual with the most expensive casualness.  Ironically, a coat and tie became as nadir as the hobo of the 50s.  If you went like that, you were the one to whom no one spoke. 

The worst show of the respect of persons was the target audience.  Somehow a church determined who should be there and who shouldn’t, or at least whom they really wanted and whom they didn’t.  James would call this a violation of the “royal law” (2:9).  To not “love your neighbor as yourself” is to not love whoever is there, whoever comes in the door.  The word is “kingly.”  A king is supposed to love all of his subjects, and a church is supposed to love whoever comes in. 

I might add to this that there was a certain part of this movement that encouraged churches to push aside (or out) the older people because they would not give a proper impression to the younger generation that the church was trying to attract.  With their removal there was also the removal of their baggage: hymnals, choirs, coats and ties, etc. (and sadly their maturity). 

Was not all of this (like the church-growth movement of the 60s and 70s) truly a way of being a respecter of persons?  I think it was.  Ministry was plastic, a façade, something performed for a certain effect.  And that effect was success.   It’s not that 100% of churches then or now were driven by these motives, but too many of them were.

 

Even newer churches

Somehow I can’t believe that the emergent churches and other new brands of believers are any better in their motives.  Respecting persons is too much a part of human nature.  For the postmodern church to simply criticize the older churches as  being “modern” (i.e. molded by the modern, industrial, cookie-cutter age) and then to drop into the abyss of relativism, having no structure or stable values, is certainly no better.  In fact, it is worse.  The world will never adopt Christian principles on its own and to acquiesce to it in form and structure (or the lack thereof) is to respect the persons (the face) of the world in the worst way.  To say that the postmodern age is better than the modern or pre-modern ages is to become what the world wants you to become for your own gain.  It is to “lift up the face” to them in order to win them over. 

If we simply witness the popular writers of this movement (McLaren, Bell) and what doctrines and interpretations they have adopted in order to draw the postmodern generation, we need look no further.  The Bible is a human story, not an inspired record?  Hell is within each lost person, not a real place to which they go when they die?  To teach these things because the current generation will receive none other is to respect their faces too much.

 

Our culture

I agree with those who say that culture is not morally neutral, and in fact is the incarnation of a person’s (society’s) religion.  A thief steals because he believes it is right for him to do so.  Even if those reasons are nefarious, he was forced into it by circumstances beyond his control.  A liar tells a lie because for the moment it is necessary for him/her to do so.  These things are moral convictions that come from a person’s world view.  This is true for all of us.  If we have a Biblical world view we will talk, think, and do those things that we really believe from the Bible.  If those things are not Biblical, then we are hypocritical to say that we have a Christian world view.  Our culture is the way it is because it is the outgrowth of what society really believes.  Culture then is the incarnation of society’s belief system, good or bad.

It is human nature to respect persons.  A lost person may be made in God’s image, but he/she is fallen, a sinner who does not seek after God by nature.  Therefore, hypocrisy may become necessary for such a person to get ahead in this life.  Pragmatism is a way of life that makes even good things to be mere means to an end.  To respect persons in this manner is a way of life for the sinner, his culture, his real religion.

 

Our country

The respect of persons is seen in political campaigns in an unashamed fashion.  Even as we now try to evaluate why the president won and the challenger lost, the answers from the pundits is that we didn’t “appeal” to certain social groups in the country.  I don’t think there is any doubt that the president’s campaign was based on promising (once again) to give certain people whatever they want if they would vote for him.  Sadly, moral issues and personal failures (especially as the Commander in Chief) don’t seem to matter to people if they get the things they want from the government.  In other words, people are very willing to be the victims of this political respect of persons if it is an advantage to them.  For political parties and candidates to pander to people this way, to study the details of what will persuade them, and then to form a campaign and administration based on that is respect of persons at its worst.

 

Our churches

The most prominent New Testament command from our Lord is to love one another.  But this is like the commands to think right, it is plain but it is easier said than done.  We almost instinctively play favorites with people we know.  We must pray that the Lord will give us a genuine love of the brethren and a genuine interest (if not love) for the lost world around us.  Let us practice the royal law of loving whoever comes in the door.  After all, we spend millions going to all parts of the world, so we ought to be good ambassadors when the world comes to us.

Let’s let the Lord build the church.  I think I say that with the understanding of our great responsibility in the gospel outreach.  I don’t mean that in a cold, uncaring way.  I mean, let’s love all the brethren and let’s love them because they are brethren and not because they are some advantage to us.  Likewise, with those we meet who need Christ. 

At the same time, we must not let the world dictate to us the terms of the gospel.  That would be to respect their person more than to respect God’s own Word.  If that costs us converts, so be it, it didn’t really cost anything because those would have been our own converts, not the Holy Spirit’s.  We must give the gospel to everyone but we will not win every one.  That is Biblical too.

Let’s not trick people into coming to church.  Let the cults tell people one thing and then reveal the reality to them later.  Paul told Philemon that the communication of his faith would become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing that was in him in Christ Jesus (Phile. 6).  Let’s be real.  Say everything we are, do what believers do in church, put our name on the door, and don’t be ashamed or let our faces change because someone who doesn’t have the Spirit may not understand.  Rather, let us begin to show them what the real love of God is.

 

And so . . . .

Perhaps we could say with Isaac Watts of old in Psalm 48,

 

Far as thy name is known,

The world declares thy praise;

Thy saints, O Lord, before thy throne,

Their songs of honour raise.

With joy let Judah stand

On Sion’s chosen hill,

Proclaim the wonders of thy hand,

And counsels of thy will.

Let strangers walk around

The city where we dwell,

Compass and view thine holy ground,

And mark the buildings well;

The orders of thy house,

The worship of thy court,

The cheerful songs, the solemn vows,

And make a fair report.

How decent and how wise!

How glorious to behold!

Beyond the pomp that charms the eyes,

And rites adorn’d with gold.

The God we worship now

Will guide us till we die,

Will be our God while here below,

And ours above the sky.4

 

 

 

Notes:
1. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures  in the New Testament, vol. vi (Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1933) 29.
2. Douglas Moo, The Letter of James (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2000) 102.
3. Moo, 102.
4. The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts (Morgan, PA:  Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1997) 85.

 

How Successful People Think

How Successful People Think

by Rick Shrader

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

 This book was loaned to me by a friend who is a avid reader (along with a number of other things to read).  I’ve not been a big Maxwell fan because I always find him more secular than sacred.  But we probably should read more things like this in our “spare reading time.”  It made me feel more like a CEO than a pastor and I’m sure that such is his primary readership (he is a “New York Times best-selling author” after all).  Nonetheless, I was reminded of many things I ought to know, and many things I could do better.  If nothing else, it is packed full of good quotations from a variety of authors.  The book opened with this statement, “Good thinkers are always in demand.  A person who knows how may always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be his boss.”

 

 

Church Planting is for Wimps

Church Planting is for Wimps

by Rick Shrader

%%tb-image-alt-text%%

This is one in a series called 9Marks books associated with Mark Dever and others.  Though I am interested in church planting, this is not my kind of book.  McKinley writes from a personal, casual style as if you were reading a blog or, worse, a twitter.  The progression of the book is his story of going to the Washington DC area to revitalize an old church.  It only covers the first few years and the author admits the story could change at any time.  There are some good lessons to be learned and common sense things that a church planter or new pastor will experience.  McKinley was sponsored by Mark Dever’s church, Capital Hill Baptist Church.  McKinley often plugs the Sovereign Grace Ministries. His Reformed theology (a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary) is evident in the church polity which he (and Dever) pressed upon the older church.

 

Hiding The Gospel From Faith Alone

Hiding The Gospel From Faith Alone

by Rick Shrader

No thinking person likes it when a salesman beats around the bush before explaining the reason he’s talking with him.  Who likes to get those dinner-time calls asking for someone by name, as if it were an old friend, that turn out to be telemarketers?  Beating around the bush, bait and switch, hawking one’s wares, have always been seen as distasteful measures.  But sometimes I wonder if that isn’t what happens in many of our evangelistic churches.  I grew up in one of those “fastest-growing Sunday schools” in the 50s and 60s.  The pragmatic methodologies were well known for building a large church.  Then, in 1995, when I read and reviewed Rick Warren’s larger book, The Purpose-Driven Church,1 I responded, “what’s new here?  This is the same old philosophy with newer (and I think much more harmful) methods.”

Pragmatism always breeds slowly creeping humanism into churches which eventually acts as the anodyne to compromise.  I remember how, as a teenager in that large church, it angered me to hear the evangelicals criticizing the fundamentalists for their “nickels and noses” methods of building big churches.  But it’s been an interesting phenomenon fifty years later to see the evangelicals, who now have the bigger churches, defending the very things they once criticized.  In fact, they have gone so far beyond what the fundamentalists used to do in methodology that it pales in comparison.

Paul was plain in saying, “For we are not as many, which corrupt [lit. “hawk”] the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:17).  “But we have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully [lit. “adulterating”]; but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2).  To the Thessalonian church he wrote, “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak [lit. “pretext”] of covetousness; God is witness” (1 Thes. 2:5).  Millard Erickson, writing about the dangers of our own postmodern culture concluded, “We should therefore expect to find that we cannot simply make Christianity completely compatible with postmodernism, or completely postmodernize Christianity, without thereby distorting the Christian message to some extent.”2

I’m trying not to write just another article on methodology.  I am trying to make a specific point that I have noticed by watching these changing methodologies:  that perhaps we use these because we really don’t trust the effectiveness of our own faith.  I don’t know anyone who has criticized new methodologies who would say that all human help or persuasion is wrong.  But it seems to me that for various reasons we simply do not trust that the gospel by itself, or the local church by itself, or the Word of God by itself, would be sufficient to win anyone to Christ in our culture.  So we  try to draw them in and keep them by methods that actually do more to hide our faith than to propagate our faith.

It may be that we don’t really like Christianity much in its unvarnished form.  Churches have always gone about dressing up the faith with sights and sounds more pleasing to the natural man.  Perhaps we don’t trust that the gospel itself has enough power to draw people to Christ.  And worse, perhaps we secretly need affirmation from lost people that our faith is OK.  There is a reason John had to warn, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 Jn. 3:13).  I have never seen such a day in which the church doesn’t like church and the brethren do not like brethren.  Today’s average believer goes out of his way NOT to appear as a believer, and the average church goes out of its way NOT to appear to be a church!  And (supposedly) all of this is done for the unbeliever’s benefit.  It’s a good thing we have learned so much about effective evangelism since the apostles’ day!  Today’s preachers make national talk shows famous, the apostles only made prisons famous.

 

We do not draw people to our churches with our faith

By camouflaging the Christian faith from the world (and from ourselves), we actually draw people by some means other than our faith.  By so doing we may actually be presenting a path of non-belief to people of the world.

 1) We design our services for people who don’t believe our faith.  Why do we do this?  I don’t expect the grocery store to try to appear as a car dealership because I like cars.  I don’t want the fast-food place to remove its sign and let me guess which kind of fast-food I would be getting if I went inside.  How do we know that people are coming to us with any gospel interest when we have hidden the gospel from them in order to get them in?

Myron Houghton, in updating Ernest Pickering’s book on Biblical Separation wrote, “Traditional Bible-believing fundamentalists believe that what a church ought to be and how it should function must not be determined by unchurched people or by the prevailing culture.  The separatists who struggle for a pure church will not mix the ideas of unbelievers with the teachings of the New Testament.”3

2) We hide our purpose from people who are looking for our faith.  We should ask ourselves how we would feel if we found ourselves drawn in to some venture under false pretense.  How many of us have accepted a free night in a condo, or a free gift of some sort, only to find out we had to sit through a high-pressure sales pitch?  Do you remember that feeling?  Saying “no” was difficult because you had already accepted something for nothing.  Property may be sold that way but can faith be attained that way?  Testimonies of powerful conversions (Bunyan, Newton, and Spurgeon would suffice) more often show an extended period of wrestling with sin and grace until the time of acceptance.

3) We motivate people with things contrary to our faith.  Most contemporary methodology is geared toward entertaining the lost soul with things it already likes.  How will the Holy Spirit then bring conviction?  This is where the worldling merely signs on for the ride.  “This isn’t so bad,” he figures, “this is the way I’ve always thought Christianity should be.”  Any conviction of sin has to come in spite of that, not because of it.  Somewhere the preacher or teacher is going to have to spring the surprise on the victim that these things aren’t the way Christianity really is.  “We knew you wouldn’t understand the real nature of our faith, so we dressed it up a bit.”  But the real problem comes when no differentiation is made between the world and the faith and it is left to suppose that this is the real faith.

4) We remove the labels (“brands”) that identify our faith.  I have always thought we would regret the day we began dropping our denominational names as well as when we began remodeling our sanctuaries into performance halls.  I doubt that the average church visitor these days has any idea what kind of church he is in.  What is a “Worship Center” or a “Family Life Center” or a “Gathering”?  Is there any difference in their services due to what they believe?  Does the preaching reflect any doctrinal distinctions among them?

Isn’t it most likely, that in almost any kind of “Christian” church, a visitor would find a thirty minute emotional concert, followed by a felt-needs message that could come from almost any motivational speaker?  After years of visiting visitors that come to our church, this has been the most common testimony of what they have seen in churches they have attended.  The invitation plea (if indeed one is given at all) probably has little to do with what the church actually believes.  A lost person wouldn’t know the difference between a cult and a true gospel church.  All truly helpful signs have been covered or removed.

 

We do not retain people in our churches with our faith.

Not only do we hide our faith from visitors coming in the doors, we also camouflage our faith from our own members so they won’t get bored and leave.

1) We continue to motivate people with things other than faith.  It has been said many times, you win them to what you win them with.  Even when we have offered them the bait, we still find it hard to make the switch.  If they were really converted, would they leave if we dropped the carnal motivations and went back to relying solely on the faith for motivation?  Was divine regeneration not enough to also sanctify?  Will the Word and Spirit not be enough to draw the new born child of God to further growth?  Evidently we don’t think so!  Whole industries have been built on using everything except the faith to retain new converts.  Dick Keyes, in a book called Chameleon Christianity, said, “What works in marketing may actually destroy the church and turn it into a lifestyle enclave.”4 How true that has been in our churches.  The lifestyle enclave of the average youth department is proof enough!

2) We continue to reward people for activity rather than faith.  We develop a Sesame Street mentality from childhood.  “Entertain me and I’ll learn.”  “Reward me and I’ll do the work.”  In 1985, Neil Postman wrote, Amusing Ourselves to Death in which he coined the phrase “Sesame Street” generation as applied to education.  “If we are to blame Sesame Street for anything,” he writes, “it is for the pretense that it is an ally of the classroom.”5 Fun ceased to be a by-product and became an end in itself and this has affected nearly every aspect of our growing years.  The corollary is, of course, “Take away the fun and I’m out of here.”  In our lifetime, this wave of “Entertain me and I’ll learn” has rolled through the church from the nursery to the Junior Church to the Awana circle to the youth department to the church auditorium.  Does anyone find the exercise of his own faith to be fun?  Would church attenders remain if we took away the secular motivations next week?

3) We continue to seek growth in numbers rather than in faith.  The major standard of church growth continues to be the size of the audience.  Again, my own memory goes back to my naïve teenage years when our large church had wild-West shootouts in the parking lot, famous athletes giving sports demonstrations on the platform, and Santa Clauses handing out candy on the buses.  Have we grown out of such an entertainment mode?  Just click on the website of any mega church and watch the videos.  Or watch the so-called Christian concerts held around the country by various Christian “artists”  and you will see the same pragmatic mentality.  Can a mega church stop this and still maintain its numeric stature?  Would we even have a mega church movement at all if all we had to offer was the gospel?  If most of the people would actually leave when these things ceased in our churches, how do we know if faith is real or contrived?

 

And So . . . .

We might ask ourselves, what is required of the average church member (or attender) in order to remain in his/her church?  I would venture to say almost nothing!  It would take the most egregious sin for anyone to be removed from a church today.  Rather, the tables have been so completely turned about that today the average attender requires certain things of the church which it had better offer or they will remove themselves from the church!  We have so motivated people with worldly things that faith alone has little or nothing to do with why they attend a church or why they remain in a church.

Methodologies that motivate are not bad in themselves.  But they become harmful when they replace the motivation that can only come from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.  Christianity is a conviction of our own sinfulness and a reception of the righteousness of Christ.  If those things were allowed to happen in a human heart, no other motivation would be needed.

 

New Testament Heralds

New Testament Heralds

by Rick Shrader

This article appeared in the Spring 2003 (Vol 13, No. 1) issue of The Baptist Preacher’s Journal

Introduction

Perhaps the most seldom used title in the Bible for the minister is “Preacher.”  It translates the noun form of the word kerux (kerux) which means “a herald.”  Though the English word “Preacher” appears four times, one time (Rom 10:14) is actually a verb, and another (2 Pet 2:5) refers to Noah, an Old Testament character.  So the title “Preacher,” referring to the New Testament minister is only used by the Apostle Paul to describe himself.  Once in 1 Timothy 2:7 and again in 2 Timothy 1:11, Paul says that God ordained him to be a preacher.

The job of a herald was a duty-oriented job.  He was employed by a king to announce what the king gave him.  He could not alter the announcement to fit his own whims.  It was the message of the king and it must be delivered exactly as it was given.  The herald was not a Groucho Marx who used to say, “Those are my principles!  And if you don’t like them . . . . well, I have others.”  No, these were the king’s principles.

The disciples were often asked to perform tasks like a herald.  All four gospels include the story of the triumphal entry when Jesus commanded two of His disciples to go into Jerusalem and untie someone else’s donkey and bring it to Jesus.  If the owner asked why they were taking his donkey, they were to reply with the exact words of Jesus: ”the Master has need of them.”  Mark records that the two disciples said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go (Mark 11:6).  The king’s words would be the authority for the herald’s words.   Similarly, in Acts chapter nine, Ananias was commanded to go to Saul, put his hands on him, call him “brother,” and say that Jesus had send him.  The words of Jesus would be enough to overcome Ananias’s fear of the former persecutor.  He found it to be so.  Heralds are not merely witnesses who tell what they have seen.  Neither are they instructors who elaborate on the material being presented.  They are more like stewards who are responsible for what has been placed in their hands.

Though the word kerux (kerux) appears only three times as a proper noun (“preacher”), it appears a number of times as the action (”preaching”) and sometimes as the message (“the thing preached”).  Kittel’s Theological dictionary devotes 35 pages to its definition.  There are some clear observations concerning a herald:  1) Every king had one.  It was his ordained means of getting a message to the people.  2) They were untouchable.  If someone attacked the messenger, he would suffer punishment as if he had attacked the king himself.  3) They were sworn to exactness.  Gerhard Friedrich, writing the article in Kittel’s, says, “It is demanded then, that they deliver their message as it is given to them.  The essential point about the report which they give is that it does not originate with them.  Behind it stands a higher power.  The herald does not express his own views.  He is the spokesman for his master.”[i]

According to Kittel’s, the Greeks recognized three heralds:  1) Hermes was the interpreter of the gods.  In Lystra (Acts 14), Paul was called Hermes (Mercurius) because he was the chief speaker (vs 12).  2) Birds were considered messengers of the gods, especially the rooster who announced the new day and various watches of the night.  3) The philosophers were considered heralds and called “messengers” with the word angelos (angelos). This is why the New Testament pastors can be called “angels” and it was understood as heralds.  Paul wrote to the Galatians, you received me as an angel of God (Gal 4:14).  In Revelation 2-3, Christ gives His message to the “angels” of the churches and when they deliver the message, the Holy Spirit applies it to whomever has ears to hear.

In the book of 2 Timothy, Paul uses all three forms of the word “Herald.”  In 1:11 he writes of the kerux (kerux), the preacher, messenger.  In 4:2 he writes of the keruso (kerusso), the preaching, or messages.  Then in 4:17 he talks of the kerygma (kerygma), the thing preached, the subject of the message itself.

 

I. The Preacher (the Messenger)

2 Tim. 1:11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

The apostle Paul tells Timothy that he was “appointed” to this high office by the Lord.  This is the word Jesus used when He said to Paul, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47).  Again, Paul says, But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts (2 Thes 2:4).

First, God’s herald doesn’t have to be a great man, but he does have to be a man of God. Paul again says to Timothy, But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Tim 6:11).  I don’t believe great men ever wanted to be great, they just wanted to be men of God and God used them in great ways.  One problem today in our ministerial schools is that we are teaching young men to want to be great men without first being men of God.  Vance Havner wrote, “What our forefathers were without knowing it, we want to know without being it.”[ii] Savonarola said, “In the primitive church the chalices were of wood and the prelates were of gold; today the prelates are of wood and the chalices are of gold.”[iii]

A tourist group, visiting birth-places of famous people, passed through a European village. One of the tourists asked a local man standing on a corner, “Were there any famous leaders born in this village?”  “No,” the man replied, “Just babies.”  Sometimes young people want the things of greatness without paying the price of greatness.  John Bunyan was born into a tinker’s home—one of the lowest status occupations of the time.  But Bunyan became a man of God and a powerful preacher.  Armitage tells that, “John Owen heard him preach, probably at Zoar Chapel, and when King Charles expressed wonder that a man of his [Owen’s] learning could bear to listen to the ‘prate’ of a tinker, he answered, that he would gladly give all his learning for this tinker’s power.”[iv] Bunyan titled his autobiography, “Grace Abounding To The Chief Of Sinners.”  If more of us would desire to be known as the Chief of Sinners, rather than the Chief Executive Officer, we might have more power with God.

George Whitefield cried, “O, grant I may, like a pure crystal, transmit all the light Thou pourest over me, and never claim as my own what is thy sole property”[v] J. Vernon McGee tells about G.Campbell Morgan’s call to the ministry:

“Dr (G. Campbell) Morgan tells how he wrestled with this problem of calling.  He was a school teacher when he was called as a minister.  It was a very solemn moment for him.  He felt that the Lord was saying to him, ‘You have been set apart definitely for the ministry of the Word.  Now do you want to be a great preacher or do you want to be my servant?’  The first thought that Dr. Morgan had was, ‘I want to be a great preacher.’    That ought to be a wonderful ambition, but after a while the Lord began to press it in upon him, ‘Do you want to be a great preacher, or do you want to be my servant?’  Finally Dr. Morgan came to it.  He saw that he had to make a choice.  Finally he said, ‘Oh blessed Lord, I would rather be Thy servant than anything else.’”[vi]

Second, God’s herald must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of the world. Paul was insistent on this qualification for a minister of Christ.  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7 ) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (2 Cor. 3:5 ) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16)  It was Demas who had the mind of the world.  For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; (2 Tim 4:10).  God’s heralds cannot be as Jannes and Jambres, men of corrupt minds (2 Tim 3:8).  Friedrich says, “Heralds adopt the mind of those who commission them, and act with the plenipotentiary [full power] authority of their masters.  It is with this authority that the kerux (kerux) conducts diplomatic business.”[vii]

Our authority as preachers of the gospel comes from the Spirit of God within us!    That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us (2 Tim 1:14).  R.C. Sproul wrote, “We can be skilled preachers without the Spirit.  We can be theological geniuses after the flesh.  We can be silver-tongued orators apart from grace.  But the only source of the fruit of the Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.”[viii] Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “To me there is nothing more terrible for a preacher than to be in the pulpit alone, without the conscious smile of God.”[ix]

John describes the preacher with the worldly mind contrasted with the preacher with the mind of Christ:  They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.  We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.  Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (1 John 4:5-6).  Too many of God’s ministers are busy winning themselves to the world rather than winning the world to Christ.  It is because they have the mind of the world.

Old A.C. Dixon helped formulate the “Fundamentals” that gave us our name at the turn of the last century.  He had pastured both Spurgeon’s Tabernacle and Moody Memorial Church.  He writes,

“Every preacher is, or ought to be, a prophet of God who preaches as God bids him without regard to results.  When he becomes conscious of the fact that he is a leader in his church or denomination, he has reached a crisis in his ministry.  Shall he be a prophet of God or a leader of men?  If he decides only to be a prophet insofar as he can without losing his leadership, he becomes a diplomat and ceases to be a prophet at all.  If he decides to maintain his leadership at all costs he may easily fall to the level of a politician who pulls the wires to gain or hold a position.  He who would prophesy or speak forth the message of God is careful of none of these things but only that he shall speak the message that God gives him, even though he be in a lonesome minority.”

George Liddell, who helped compile the famous Liddell and Scott Lexicon, wrote,

“Give me a man of God—one man, whose faith is master of his mind, and I will right all wrongs and bless the name of all mankind.

Give me a man of God—one man, whose tongue is touched with heaven’s fire, and I will flame the darkest hearts with high resolve and clean desire.

Give me a man of God—one man, one mighty prophet of the Lord, and I will give you peace on earth, bought with a prayer and not a sword.

Give me a man of God—one man, true to the vision that he sees, and I will build your broken shrines and bring the nations to their knees.”[xi]

 

II. The Preaching (the Messages)

2 Tim. 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

Here Paul exhorts Timothy to action!  Now he is to pay attention to the way in which the message goes forth.  “Herald the Word”  This is the way in which the prophets of old delivered their message.  Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. (Isa 58:1).  Paul wrote, We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; (2 Cor 4:13).  This is one methodology that cannot be changed or amended!

First, the urgency of the situation requires it.  Here our word for “herald” is not only a verb of action, but is in the imperative.  It is a command to preachers of the gospel.  “Be instant” Paul says.  The kerux (kerux) is always ready with the kerusso (kerusso).  Charles Finney was invited to preach for an entire summer at Five Points in Lower Manhattan by Lewis Tappan.  Finney questioned whether they would receive him in such a sinful place.  Tappan replied, “A place admirably located for the destruction of souls is equally well located for conceiving them.”[xii] Finney preached that summer to about 2000 people a night in the Chatham Garden Theater.  Finney describes his method of delivering the message as a herald:

“You breast yourself to the work like a giant.  You open the attack with Jupiter’s thunderbolt.  You take the doctrine for a damning fact—declare you know it—raise your voice—lift high your hand—bend forward your trunk—fasten your staring eyes upon the auditors—declare that they know it to be God’s truth; that they stand upon the brink of hell’s gaping pit of fire and brimstone . . . unless they repent forthwith.”[xiii]

Paul reminded the Corinthians, For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Cor 2:17).

Second, The message of the King guides it.  It must be “the Word” which the herald proclaims.  When we decide to change it to fit the situation, we have betrayed our King.  D.L. Moody said, “When a minister or a messenger of Christ begins to change the message because he thinks it is not exactly what it ought to be, and thinks he is wiser than God, God just dismisses that man.”[xiv]

By now we all recognize that this is a postmodern society.  We are finding it more and more difficult to speak the message of our King in a straightforward manner.  Our audience has a hard time accepting anything without a “hermeneutic of suspicion.”  They can say one thing and do another.  They can say one thing and believe another.  They can even say one thing and intend another, and they believe all of us are using language and media the same way!  Benjamin Woolley, a postmodern writer, said, “Artificial reality is the authentic postmodern condition, and virtual reality its definitive technological expression . . . . The artificial is the authentic.”[xv] Millard Erickson describes our difficulty in this way:

“I have a T-shirt that I bought from the American Philosophical Association, of which I am a member.  On the front is printed the following: ‘The sentence on the back of this shirt is false.’  On the back, however, this appears:  ‘The sentence on the front of this shirt is true.’  Now it may be possible to believe either the front or the back of the shirt, or to believe both, but at different times.  It is not psychologically possible to believe both at the same time, and in the same respect.  It simply cannot be done, while retaining one’s sanity.”[xvi]

As ministers of Christ, and as heralds of the gospel, we must not let our preaching fall to such a low estate.  Paul said, But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay . . . . For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God (2 Cor 1:18, 20).

 

III. The Preached (the Message itself)

2 Tim. 4:16 through 2 Tim. 4:17 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

Here Paul admonishes Timothy to guard the message that is preached.  This form of the word is our English word “kerygma” (kerygma).  Webster’s dictionary to this day still defines this word as “The apostolic preaching that Jesus is the Christ.”  In the great resurrection chapter of First Corinthians 15, Paul uses this form and the verb form:  Now if Christ be preached (kerusso, kerusso) that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching (kerygma, kerygma) vain, and your faith is also vain (1 Cor 15:12-14).  You can have all the action and commotion in the world, but if you’ve lost the content, it is in vain.

Today we play with symbolism over substance to our detriment.  We are worshiping worship as a substitute for a real Holy Spirit experience.  We have faith in faith rather than the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  We have a kerux (kerux) who is busy with the kerusso (kerusso), but we are quickly losing the most important thing—the kerygma (kerygma)!  Two things are certain from this final chapter of Paul’s life.

First, When you stand by the truth, the Lord will stand by youNotwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching (kerygma, kerygma) might be fully known (verse 17).  Though all his friends had forsaken him, Paul was not forsaken.  When Paul stood at Gallio’s Bema seat in Corinth, the Lord appeared and said to him Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee (Acts 18:9-10).  When he stood before Herod’s Bema seat in Caesarea, the Lord appeared and said to him, Be of good cheer Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11).  Now before Caesar’s Bema seat the Lord is there to deliver him from the mouth of the lion.  But Paul was most concerned with appearing before Christ’s Bema seat, Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him (2 Cor 5:9).

Second, When you stand by the truth, the lost will know they should stand by you.  By the faithful proclamation of the truth, the kerygma (kerygma) might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear (verse 17).  There was no “stealth” in Paul’s presentation.  He did not coax them in with one method and then sometime down the road reveal to them what he was really all about!

I hope that at our church we preach the same whether the congregation is full of teens or whether it is full of seniors.  The truth is the most effective tool for them.  Paul wrote to Philemon and wished, That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus (Phile 6).  Paul knew what was effectual in the preaching of the message.  He reminded the Corinthians,  If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth (1 Cor 14:23-25).

The old song goes:  “Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave; Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.  Tell me the story always, if you would really be, in any time of trouble, a comforter to me.”  That is the need of the world!

Third, When you stand by the truth, the Lord will deliver youAnd I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion (vs 18).  The Lord may deliver His saints in the way He chooses.  It may be by life or by death.  Either way, He will not let us be devoured by the Lion.  Once when Vance Havner, nearing 80 years old, was speaking to ministerial students, he described his busy life and schedule.  One student said to him, “Why, if we kept that schedule all of the time it would kill us!”  Havner replied, “Who said you can’t die?”  Is not heaven the greatest deliverance from the Lion?  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  (Phil 1:20).

 

Conclusion

In his book Twice Told Tales[xvii] Nathaniel Hawthorne writes of the Spring of 1689 and the tensions that had developed in the new country over control from England.  It was a time when “the Puritans were all dead, and the Methodists had not been born.”  Sir Edmond Andros, the king’s hand-picked governor marched his troops through the streets of Boston, slowly approaching the colonists who shrunk from the fearsome militia.  The pastors (who were usually singled out for display as examples) stood protected by their congregants and looked piously from behind the cover.

The rightful governor, Simon Bradstreet, stood far away near the court house steps and gave instructions to the people not to provoke the situation.  Many of the older men remembered when they were young and would have taken action themselves, but now they could only stand aside and hope for stronger wills.  Just then, “the figure of an ancient man, with the eye, the face, the attitude of command appeared on the street, dressed in the old Puritan garb” and began approaching the soldier’s line.  “Stand” the older warrior-saint commanded.  “The solemn, yet warlike peal of that voice, fit either to rule a host in the battlefield or be raised to God in prayer, was irresistible.  At the old man’s word and outstretched arm, the roll of the drum was hushed at once, and the advancing line stood still.”  With prophetic accuracy he predicted the deposing of Andros before dark and the turning of the tide of the Glorious Revolution.

“Who was this Gray Champion?”  Hawthorne asked near the end of the story.  “I have heard that whenever the descendents of the Puritans are to show the spirit of their sires, the old man appears again.”

In our Baptist movement, and in our Baptist churches, it is time for the spirit of our sires to show themselves again.  Will Elijah’s mantle fall to the ground?  Will no Timothy’s die at the hands of this world for preaching truth?  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.  Grace be with you. Amen (2 Tim 4:5,22).

 

[i] Gerhard Friedrich, “Kerux” Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol III (Grand Rapids:  Eerdman’s, 1978) 687-688.
[ii] Vance Havner, From a personal collection of quotations.

[iii] Savonarola, “On the degeneration of the church”  Orations: Homer To Mckinley, vol III, Mayo Hazeltine, ed. (New York: P.F. Collier and Son, 1902) 1281.

[iv] Thomas Armitage, Baptist History, vol I, (Watertown: Maranatha Baptist Press, 1976) 479.

[v] Quoted by Harry Stout, The Divine Dramatist (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1994) 58.

[vi] J. Vernon McGee, II Corinthians (Pasadena: Through The Bible Books, 1981) 59.

[vii] Friedrich, 688.

[viii] R.C. Sproul, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1990) 165.

[ix] Quoted by Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994)17.

Quoted by Vance Havner, In Times Like These (Old Tappan:  Fleming H. Revell, 1969) 103.

[xi] Quoted by J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971) 15.

[xii] Quoted by Charles Hambrick-Stowe, Charles G. Finney and the Spirit of American Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eeerdman’s, 1966)135.

[xiii] Hambrick-Stowe, 55.

[xiv] D.L. Moody, Spiritual Power (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997) 14.

[xv] Quoted by Douglas Groothuis, The Soul In CyberSpace (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997) 27.

[xvi] Millard Erickson, The Postmodern World (Wheaton: Crossway books, 2002) 85.

[xvii] Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Gray Champion,” Twice Told Tales (New York: The Modern Library, 2001) 3-10.

 

Merging into the New Century

Merging into the New Century

by Rick Shrader

This article appeared in the Baptist Bible Tribune, January, 1996.

We are ready to pay our last nickel of time to the twentieth century. If the first ninety-five years are indicative of the last five, we had better fasten our seatbelts and prepare for warp drive. Learning to navigate the “information super highway” is not unlike the experience of merging onto I-70 for the first time as a sixteen-year-old student driver. I didn’t know if I would like it but I had no choice. Years later, and a thousand miles from the hills of southern Ohio, I’m thankful for the speed and ease of I-70. But to tell you the truth, I would rather be putting along old Oxford-Milford road on a lazy autumn afternoon with no particular place to go!

The difference between I-70 and the information super highway didn’t begin in this century. It began on May 24, 1844 with an inventor named Samuel Morse who never drove a car nor heard of a computer. With one small impulse through a metal wire, Morse removed space as a barrier to the exchange of information. Immediately, neither the horse nor train (and therefore neither the clock) were necessary to get information from one location to another. The very next day, over the same Washington-to-Baltimore line Morse had constructed, the Baltimore Patriot sent a news story from Congress to its readers on the Oregon issue. The information age had begun! Today we have over 11,520 newspapers in the U.S.; 11,556 periodicals; 27,000 video outlets; over 500 million radios and 100 million computers. Instantly, we can see and hear anything that happens anywhere in the world.

The Christian, perched on the on-ramp to the twenty-first century, is faced with a real dilemma: it’s called change. He will have to accelerate from the avenue speed to the Interstate speed. It’s a dilemma because he knows that most people on this new highway are determined to go as fast as possible, ignoring all restraints until they crash and become a faceless casualty on the side of the road. He also knows that an immutable God has made a world which both changes and remains the same. He agrees with C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape who writes to his nephew Wormwood to explain about God’s wish for man, “He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm.”

A new year has begun which contains new challenges, hopes and fears but it is not really new, it has happened before thousands of times. Springtime will bring new flowers and grass and sap in the trees but it is not new; it is as old as Eden. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “God had infinite time to give us; but how did He give it? In one immense tract of a lazy millennium? No, He cut it up into a neat succession of new mornings, and, with each, therefore, a new idea, new inventions, and new applications.” It is that “rhythm” of change and permanence that brings quality to life. Hunger is a good and enjoyable experience but it is meant to be taken in cycles. To stop eating or to never stop eating takes away from the intended pleasure and creates an abnormality.

It will be our temptation (since we are children of our age) to desire change for change’s sake more than to desire the things that never change. To our generation the perfectly good word “permanent” has become “stagnant.” Early in this century G. K. Chesterton wrote, “It is true that a man (a silly man) might make change itself his object or ideal. But as an ideal, change itself becomes unchangeable. If the change-worshipper wishes to estimate his own progress he must be sternly loyal to the ideal of change; he must not begin to flirt gaily with the ideal of monotony.” Sunrises and sunsets are monotonous because they happen every day and yet because they are each different they create true abundance in life. It is the child full of vitality for life who says, when bounced on daddy’s knee, “Do it again, daddy!” At the close of each day or the end of every season, at the climax of each worship service, we should say as well, “Do it again, Heavenly Father.”

The Christian legacy in this world is the balance between change and permanency. The Christian hates suicide but loves martyrdom because he understands the difference between the two. He is the keenest visionary, understanding the signs of the time, and yet is a lover of tradition in order to give past generations a voice in his affairs (what Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead”). He understands that God, who is the “same yesterday, today and forever” has also said, “My Spirit will not always strive with man.” The cycles of God’s creation are always the same as before but always different, in perfect harmony with His character. In this way God shows the world “His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse.” The Christian has accepted the permanent attributes of God as well as His changing stewardships and has made both a part of his life.

With this balance of things old and things new, believers can present their Savior to a generation who are stuck in either forward or reverse and never able to fully see God’s purpose in life. The Christian who hides in the past and wishes tomorrow would never come as well as the Christian who worships the future and ignores what happened yesterday have both left the front lines of Christian warfare. We are called to confront the emptiness of our time, not desert and run away nor surrender to the other side.

So let’s pull on out onto this new highway, look ahead, find our open space and get up to speed. But let’s not forget to look in both mirrors as we pull out. A good glance back as well as forward will get us an “A” in the class. And when we’ve roared down the highway for a while and covered more ground than any generation of drivers before us, let’s pull off and take the side road a ways so we don’t miss the flowers that are blooming again or this evening’s sunset.

Rick Shrader

Note:  The author regrets that the footnote references were lost due to the article being originally written on an older PC system.