Tag Archives: Christians

Evangelism Implosion!

Stop the madness!

“The Church of England is set to signal to members that speaking openly about their faith could do more harm than good when it comes to spreading Christianity,” writes John Bingham in The Telegraph of London.

That makes me think the long-standing work of Evangelism Explosion has been more like an evangelism implosion.

Here’s why, in highlights from Bingham’s article:

“The study, called ‘Talking Jesus’, was commissioned jointly by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and ‘Hope’ an umbrella body which brings local churches together in different areas, in an attempt to arrest the decline in attendances….

“Non-believers were asked if a practising Christian had ever spoken to them about their faith. Of those who said yes, only 19 per cent said it made them want to know more compared with 59 per cent who said the opposite.

“While 23 per cent said it made them feel ‘more positive towards Jesus Christ’, 30 per cent said it left them feeling more negative.”

As church attendance declines in the United Kingdom and the United States, Islam is rapidly catching up with Christianity in terms of numbers, and likely will surpass it globally within the next century. Why? Because, according to the Pew Research Center, Muslims are more likely to have more children—more likely than Christians and much more likely than the average of all non-Muslims.

I can’t imagine Christians out-reproducing Muslims, whether statistically or practically speaking. For Christianity, the war of numbers appears to be lost. For that matter, the war of argument appears to be lost, too. I can’t imagine Christians meaningfully winning debates with the New Atheist folks, either, because like any supernatural religion, Christianity depends upon revelation and tradition as its primary modes of authority, and those two modes can be difficult to challenge with evidence and reason. Impasse. Deadlock. (A few subtle and nuanced thinkers believe they have found their way around it, only to be vilified from all sides.)

Oddly enough, if the so-called New Atheists want to win the world, they might want to stop debating and start procreating. I didn’t say start boinking—my guess is they’re already quite adept. They might need to stop using one of the (very good) things their intellectual forerunners fought to have in Western society: birth control. After all, people tend to stick with the religion in which they were born, sayeth Richard Dawkins. And apparently, more people are being born into Islam.

And, New Atheists, you can’t just shoot for one or two kids. Pew says the average Muslim woman will have 3.1 children. Luckily, those three children will become good people, and only the 0.1 has a chance of becoming a terrorist or joining ISIS. I’m sure that’s similar to the possibility of a kid born into an American Christian family becoming an abortion-clinic bomber. In either case, there are scary outliers wearing popular labels.

Think about it: 3.1 children per Muslim woman. The Christian women aren’t going to beat that birth rate. They’ve been fully appropriated into middle-class American/Western dreams, which get complicated and difficult to achieve with three or more kiddos—with just one kiddo, for that matter.

So, New Atheists, you gotta beat that birth rate.

Procreating is ideological warfare.

If evangelism—whether the religious or the atheistic sort—isn’t likely to change people, then I guess what wins the world is the point of view most commonly held among the biggest families.

A certain religious prohibition against birth control was never strictly moralistic or patriarchal, you sillies; it was global strategy.

Once again, we revert to ancient concerns: How can my tribe survive and thrive?

The Pastor and Priest Fallacy; or, Why Ministries Must Earn Credibility and Trust

I like this guy’s doctrinal beliefs; therefore, he is trustworthy.

Imagine all American Christians understanding why that is a silly way of thinking.

Christian Publishing would collapse, and some ministers would have to do real work for the first time in their lives.

It’s like there’s an assumption running through some preachers’ ministries: “I believe the Bible, and the Bible affirms what I say, so get involved in my ministries, be accountable to my ministries, and give my money to my ministries.”

Because: Jesus.

It’s the magic word that gives narcissists and sociopaths instant power over vulnerable spiritual seekers.

Always, always wait until a supposed leader has earned trust and respect. He must earn it. She must earn it. Do not give any credibility or authority to a person until you’ve seen that person deserve it.

You will lose absolutely nothing by waiting to make a decision to commit yourself to a ministry. God’s got all the time there ever will be.

And He can make more.

I’m not asking for impossible tests for pastors, priests, or other ministers. Clergy can be observably human and humble. They can avoid controlling behaviors and controlling rhetoric. Just be aware. Keep your eyes and ears open. Commit yourself incrementally.

Most importantly, don’t believe a ministry’s hype. Pay attention to its substance — or, more likely, it’s lack of substance.

The story of America is a story of religious entrepreneurship. While I radically support religious liberty and freedom of speech, I know religious entrepreneurship has institutionalized as many dangerous ideas as nonsensical ideas or good ideas.

Read Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. It’s well-worth your time, and you’ll discover some similarities and parallels between some of the Latter Day Saints described in the book and many of America’s unaffiliated, entrepreneurial Protestants.

Look, the megachurches could last well into the future, or they could fizzle, but either way, I don’t need yet another preacher yapping at me from a spectacular stage, especially when I can suffer through the same guy’s sermon on YouTube.

The megachurch sales-and-marketing approach is completely obvious these days. I was in the same relatively small room with the senior pastor of a large church when he said he’s good at convincing people to come to church but not good at maintaining those relationships once they’re coming to church.

It really struck me as a bait-and-switch. You seem like a nice guy! I’ll try out your church! Then, later, I can never seem to have a conversation with that nice guy. Maybe I’ll find a smaller church or just watch Chuck Todd each Sunday morning. 

How bait-and-switch evangelism is a spiritual or even a human way to be, I have no idea.

But it’s also typical. I would generalize that mode like this:

Build the organization. Individuals are simply pawns in building my organization. People are second. I’ll say God is first — my God being my organization. I’ll say I serve the people by building my organization.

With any luck, in time, I’ll build the organization so big, I won’t have to spend any time with any real people. I’ll have secretaries and schedules and an office buried so deep inside an office suite, the mongrel hordes will never find me — and then I’ll escape to my home in a gated community.

You, entrepreneurial preacher, are probably a fraud. You’ll preach about the Holy Spirit without evidence of a single Fruit of the Spirit. You know, those Fruits of the Spirit, the alleged outcome of your alleged faith.

This isn’t important to you, because you’ll push the right emotional buttons next Sunday and keep the climb to fame and fortune alive.

You spiritual and moral fraud.

I wish there was some way other than just academic degrees and resumés and well-marketed books to affirm a person’s reliability and character. Pastor Mark Driscoll is just one example of a widespread problem.

(Driscoll, by the way, once boasted that he could walk from his office to the stage without having to see anyone—an explicit, specific example similar to my above generalized example).

Driscoll is not the only one.

Genuinely. Seriously.

If I really thought the Driscoll-Mars Hill Church disaster was an aberration, I would not have written so many blog posts about it.

I wanted people to learn a methodology from that situation, a way of seeing.

I wanted people to learn a kind of awareness.

I have no real platform to make that happen. I just wanted it to happen, wanted it badly to happen.

I want people to gain a healthy distrust. Don’t trust me, either. Be skeptical. Research and reasoning can prove me a prophet or a clown or something else. This is about you.

Let’s say I’m proven a clown. Throw a party about it. Take a few hours to tell Colin jokes.

Then, afterward, ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used.

Ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used by someone who is demanding your attention, your submission, your time, and your money because he talks about Jesus and your kids like the youth group. This is just a blog post. You can close it at any time. The social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of churches are a bit more tricky. Do you have the confidence and willpower to walk away from your church membership at any time? You need to develop that.

Jesus won’t magically develop it for you.

You’re too weak to navigate unaffiliated, entrepreneurial religion in America.

Most humans are, which is why the predators grow fat.

You don’t necessarily need to burn personal bridges, but you need to have a strong enough sense of who you are and what is right to walk away from a nonsense organization — or an unhealthy organization.

I’m not only focusing on professional clergy. The reality is the Pastor and Priest Fallacy can analyze any politician or community leader. I may really like what someone else says, but that doesn’t mean that person is trustworthy or credible.

People need to learn this, need to “get” it.

Astonishingly ignorant and manipulative people are running American Christianity and American politics.

Jonathan Merritt sees an ideological mode among Reformed Christians

The blogger and author on Twitter:

Do you think he’s right? Why? Or, why not?

(“Xians” is short for Christians.)


Could the evangelical crisis come from misguided outreach?

Note, 5:15 p.m. Eastern, June 12: Please also see my clarification regarding the first version of this post. 

For the most part, evangelicals have demonstrated themselves to be more interested in people who go to sports bars than people who go to museums.

That would probably be great if most evangelicals actually were going to sports bars rather than rapidly proliferating “contemporary worship services” on the pretense that the only thing keeping people from church is public order and pipe organs.

What if evangelicals offered as many soup kitchens as contemporary worship services? That would offer needy people something they actually need, rather than provide middle class families with more entertainment options.

Of course, that’s a bunch of generalization. Keep your contemporary worship service if you like it. But maybe the same energy and effort could answer specific, vital needs.

Leave the PCA, take a beating from oh-so-loving brothers

When Jason Stellman wrote a sincere and respectful letter to the Presbyterian Church in America about his decision to leave that denomination, the arrogant and hateful blowback from some members was so severe that he decided to stop blogging for a while just to keep his Christian composure.

I guess being Truly Reformed means never having to demonstrate the Fruits of the Spirit.

Your election to salvation is irrevocable, so you can act like a total shit.

And everyone else already has been damned or saved, so you don’t have to worry about your Christian witness. Just hold the occasional lecture on sovereignty and anticipate your great reward.

Survey: Most Americans do not believe Japan earthquakes, or other natural disasters, are signs from God

From a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service:

“7-in-10 Americans see God as a person with whom one can have a relationship, and a majority (56%) say God is in control of everything that happens in the world.

“However, less than 4-in-10 (38%) believe earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters are a sign from God; and even fewer (29%) believe that God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some of its citizens. White evangelical Protestants are the exception to this pattern. Among evangelicals, about 6-in-10 (59%) believe natural disasters are a sign from God, and a smaller majority (53%) believe that God judges nations for the sins of some of their citizens. Only one-in-five white mainline Protestants or Catholics believe God punishes nations for the sins of some.

“Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans say that the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of global climate change, compared to 44% who say that the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of what the Bible calls the ‘end times.’

“More than 8-in-10 also say that providing financial assistance to Japan is very important (42%) of somewhat important (41%) despite economic challenges at home. Support is high across political and religious groups.”

Read more of this report.

How to talk about Holy Communion without any reference to Jesus, sacrifice, body, blood, etc.

In this otherwise not-so-bad note, the Rev. Clayton Morris, liturgical officer for The Episcopal Church, mistakenly turns the secondary reasons for Holy Communion into the primary reasons:

Why does the church gather around a table with food and drink in its primary act of worship? Because God calls the church to a ministry of reconciliation. The church is called to restore the dignity of creation. It is all about feeding and being fed. It is all about making certain that all God’s children are safe, whole and nourished. The ritual breaking of bread in the midst of the assembly reminds us of our task while it embodies its reality.