This article makes the argument that while Jesus was controversial, he wasn’t really controversial for the sake of being a stand out due to a conflict. He stood for truth, which would cause controversy no matter where he went.
Here is the really interesting part: when truth comes in, no group of people at any time is left unscathed. As others have observed, since the redemption of Christ is a story for all cultures and all times, then no one culture at any point will encounter the Bible’s message without being challenged by it. If any group of people matched Scripture’s teaching perfectly, their culture wouldn’t need it. In other words, if Christian faith doesn’t produce awkward cultural moments, beware.
Too often we are very strategic in being “controversial.” We calculate carefully when we may get a few jeers, but we also know those will get out-shouted by the cheers we so lovingly crave.
Living in truth is just plain enough controversy.
Living in the power of the Kingdom is far beyond one or two issues, and certainly beyond a symbol I can put on my blog or on my Facebook status.
Kingdom living is power. It will bring LIFE… but it will at times also stir up “controversy.”
It’s tough enough to just live Kingdom, without the headache of calculating when I think I might get enough “likes” over some particular “controversy.”
We must cling to truth, understanding that truth is captivating to every culture. It can be trusted because it does not bend with time and place.
Let’s try the truth of the Kingdom and the power of our King. Let controversy just not be the big deal in our lives.
New statistics are out. We LOVE statistics. And our survey says…
Fewer people are going to church and more people are not “affiliating” with a religion.
We can wring our hands and declare the loss of the culture or the backslidden state of the Church…
OR, we could equip the people we have to live as light in the darkness and be salt in the world.
We could teach them to love other ethnic people in the name of Jesus.
We could equip them with solid teaching on how to develop a biblical worldview.
In other words, you could be a part of our church. It’s how we roll.
We have been decrying the decline of the “liberals.” Alternately, there has been the call for the end of “conservatives.” All in the Church. Not even in politics!
Now, John Ortberg has us wringing our hands about evangelicals again. Not really. I just wanted to be sensational in my headline.
This is a well-thought out column. We need to realize just how divided we are and actually fall to our knees asking the Shepherd of the Church for forgivness. We are so bent on taking each other down, or hoping the “other” goes down, or not caring if the “other” goes down, we’re left with very little as a vibrant witness to a culture that desperately needs salt.
Some of Ortberg’s thoughts:
The social capital of evangelical leadership is getting thinner each year. The desire for a pope might be as misguided as Israel’s desire for a king, but our current strategy of “each did what was right in his own eyes” is not working that hot either. There is an increasing sense of fiefdoms and competing coalitions. There is a certain kind of mindset that almost seems to rejoice in “outing” someone who has questionable evangelical credentials in the eyes of the “outer.” This is not healthy for the evangelical community, and is repellent to those who are truly on the outside.
C.S. Lewis (another well-digger) said that one of his reasons for writing about what he called Mere Christianity (“the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times”) was that when we publicly focus on intra-mural divisions it “has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold.”
We have been blessed with some wonderful voices in our own time—I think of Rich Mouw, Neal Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Scott McKnight, and Dallas Willard. I hope we listen to our best voices, not just the loudest ones.
I hope conviction-filled civility triumphs.
I hope we spend more time digging wells than building fences.
The interview in Christianity Today with Bishop Kallistos Ware is an interesting read. Here is the bishop’s take (in a Q&A format) on the essence of Christianity:
If I were to meet you on a train and ask you, “What is the center of the Christian message?,” how would you succinctly put that?
I would answer, “I believe in a God who loves humankind so intensely, so totally, that he chose himself to become human. Therefore, I believe in Jesus Christ as fully and truly God, but also totally and unreservedly one of us, fully human.” And I would say to you, “The love of God is so great that Christ died for us on the cross. But love is stronger than death, and so the death of Jesus was followed by his resurrection. I am a Christian because I believe in the great love of God that led him to become incarnate, to die, and to rise again.” That’s my faith. All of this is made immediate to us through the continuing action of the Holy Spirit.
I have not been a fan of using church services alone to “evangelize.” A worship service is for…well… worship. It’s FOR Christ. Not us. But that’s just me. Obviously. 😉
This interview with Bishop Kallistos Ware (bishop of the Orthodox Church in England) is a good read. I like this exchange on “evangelism”:
To draw in the unchurched, evangelical churches often strip away things that might be mysterious or strange. But when you invite someone into an Orthodox liturgy, you hit them full-on with strange symbolism and unfamiliar words.
Yes, and let them understand what God gives them to understand. Throw them in at the deep end of the swimming pool and see what happens. That is very much our Orthodox approach. I would not want to offer a watered-down version of Orthodoxy.
The basic rules of Christianity, our relation to Christ, are very simple. Because they are simple they are also often difficult to understand.
On the other hand, we should not be content with a bare minimum. We should offer people the fullness of the faith in all its diversity and depth. I would wish people, when they come to the Orthodox liturgy, not to think that they understand everything the first time. I hope, rather, that they have an experience of mystery, a sense of awe and wonder. If we lose that from our worship, we have lost something very precious.
Carolyn Arends in Christianity Today has a great column on our busyness that really is disguised as sloth. Good thoughts.
In an interview with Billy Graham, they asked if he could go back and do anything over, what would it be? His answer is interesting:
Yes, of course. I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less. I wouldn’t have taken so many speaking engagements, including some of the things I did over the years that I probably didn’t really need to do—weddings and funerals and building dedications, things like that. Whenever I counsel someone who feels called to be an evangelist, I always urge them to guard their time and not feel like they have to do everything.
I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.