Monthly Archives: July 2009

Everyone Proselytizes

man-with-megaphone

While we were in Manhattan, we saw 2 people proselytizing (proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ) using a megaphone in Union Square and another in the Subway.  They were both preaching the warnings of sin and the impending judgment.  It was disappointing that Christ Himself appeared to be less exalted than the sins of man.  At Union Square people were watching, listening, ignoring, but all looked completely uninterested.  In the subway, people just walked on by as if it wasn’t happening.

This is the typical image people have of evangelism, proselytizing the coming judgment of God on people for their sins and it’s typical because most street preachers focus on this.  For most people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ as Lord, this seems ludicrous and most would rather he be silent and simply live out his faith, but I believe the reality is that everyone proselytizes about something, some cause, some event, some show, something.

Amber found this quote from C.S. Lewis that I think outlines perfectly what I’m trying to say:

But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or any thing – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . .

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

          -C.S. Lewis

I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t proselytize, I think the question is now whether the thing you praise is truly worthy of infinite value? If you’re a Christian, you are proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the ultimate value of your life. Is that reflected in what you praise?

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I think I’ll go to Boston…

Tomorrow we leave for Boston for 4 days and then to New York for 3 days. The trip serves multiple purposes. First, we’re going without the boys.  They will be enjoying lots of time with their grandparents here in Austin.  This will be the longest we’ve been away from them so that will be a challenge, but it will also make it a different type of vacation. Vacationing with kids is not a true vacation in terms of rest and relaxation as many of you have discovered, so we’re looking forward to that.  Second, we’re going to Boston to see if it may be a place we would end up living in the future.

[Sidenote: We’re not leaving Austin immediately. When we mention this trip to people, at times they express worrisome thoughts that we would leave Texas immediately. We’re thinking long-term here, not next month. We’re also not saying that the northeast is a done-deal as far as our future. We love being up there and it feels like home when we are there, we love the opportunity for engaging a culture with the gospel in an area that isn’t gospel or church saturated.  But we may end up feeling like it isn’t where God has us or it may be a longer term plan than we think.]

We’ve always had a heart for being a part of establishing a church (church planting) in an area where the gospel is not common, a place of need that has little going on in regards to churches engaging and transforming a culture with the gospel. Austin & the south has a lot of churches, Boston is one of the least reached or least churched cities in America.  The American northeast is home to 4 of the top 10 least religious states.

While we’re there we are meeting up with some current church planters at Reunion Boston and Seven Mile Road and potentially another church in the Allston-Brighton area. We’re also meeting with Ralph Kee from Emmanuel Gospel Center, which is an organization working for the vitality of urban churches through collaborative efforts and research. We’re really looking forward to learning about the demographics of Boston from him.

We’re also just really looking forward to enjoying the city and visiting the different neighborhoods to see different cultures and the rich history of each different neighborhood.  Five of our friends from The Austin Stone Community Church are joining us to see if Boston may be the place where they end up as well. 

On Sunday after church at Seven Mile Road in Malden, MA just north of Boston, we’ll have lunch with their lead pastor and then head to New York for a few days.  There we will get to meet with JR Vassar at Apostles Church, we’re excited about the opportunity to hear about Apostles because Amber interned there before we got married back when it was Manhattan Christian Church.  We’re going to try and get over to the Brooklyn Tabernacle prayer meeting that Tuesday evening.

We’ve visited New York before, but we’re excited about this trip to enjoy the city together and to see some old friends from college and celebrate Amber’s Uncle Gordon’s Birthday while we’re in Manhattan.  Hopefully we’ll get to see more of Amber’s family while we’re there.

It’s going to be an amazing trip and hopefully we’ll be updating you on the trip through this blog, twitter, and facebook.

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my preaching confusion

I recently had the opportunity to preach and was once again reminded that it is hard and difficult and that I know nothing, but it has forced me to wrestle with the purpose of preaching. I know it is a gift to be used to edify the body.  But how does that practically play out?  Is our preaching to transform individual Christians in order that they would look differently which would inadvertently affect the body? Is it primarily preaching to the body as a whole and how the truth affects the way we as a local expression of the body of Christ conduct ourselves? What is the aim or application of our preaching? Is it individual application, community application, a mixture of both, is it for vision casting?

These are the questions I have asked myself often lately and I don’t have the answers.  It appears from the state of our churches that they both despise and breed a consumeristic mentality of shopping for the favorite flavor of preaching that it is about individual Christians.  If this is the case, then it borders on self-help psychology engaging you as an individual to make you a better Christian so everyone reaps the benefit, but the primary focus is the individual believer.  

This doesn’t sit well with me, since individual Christianity is seen nowhere in the Bible. The Bible talks about the fact the Christ came to establish a church, a people who would follow Him. It speaks of the church as His bride, His body, and the means by which he restores and redeems the world.  The gospel calls individually, but it calls into a body, and the epistles (which are most commonly preached) are primarily addressing certain situations within a church body. If the Bible tends to address Christians as a part of a group then our preaching can’t focus solely on the individual.

If it is just about the individual, then why do we need a local body?  I’ll just pop in my favorite podcast if I’m not going to get a contextualized message and in that case, why am I going to church? I know church isn’t primarily preaching, but let’s be honest, it’s the primary focus of our Sundays, let’s not kid ourselves.

It seems to me that our preaching has a 3-fold reach in regards to focus and application. It seems that each message has an individual application in how we view God, a community application that explains to the body how this message affects the local church they sit in and informs the strategy or theology of their vision and then finally how it affects the way Christians live in and engage a secular society that doesn’t agree with them.

These are my thoughts, but I do not feel that this is how it is typically accomplished, which makes me wonder if I’m wrong and if I’ve constructed something out of preaching that should be carried out in other ways in the body.  I don’t have the complete answer, but I want to know the right answer.

In the end, I’m honestly confused and obviously frustrated and so I ask you, what is the purpose of preaching? Who is it for and what is it supposed to do?

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