Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Billy Graham Evangelism Congress

No Sooner did I return from my Calgary junket (Sunday afternoon) than Eva and I started a three-day Evangelism Congress beginning Sunday evening at the Fantasyland Hotel at West Edmonton Mall. One of the featured speakers noted the irony of hosting an event aimed at bringing a Christian revival to our nation in a facility named, "Fantasyland." We who were there, and who have on our hearts the evangelization of our nation, would not consider our aims any kind of fantasy.

The event was completely inspiring, with speakers such as Mark HughesDanielle StricklandCharles Price and Edmonton's own Bob Jones, Senior Pastor at North Pointe Church. The worship band was also from North Pointe and the quality and duration of music was just about exactly perfect. I say duration because I find a 15 to 20 minute worship set to be just about right.

I met many people there who I have previously met in my travels around the province, some of whom recognized me before I recognized them. I also met many people who I hadn't met yet, but whose churches have run Alpha throughout Alberta. I have found that in any such large church gathering, a surprising number of the people I meet, or someone they know, came to faith through Alpha.

I was pleasantly amazed at how much the Billy Graham organization seemed to like Alpha. There were quite a few recommendations of Alpha as an evangelizing tool, even though Alpha wasn't officially involved in the congress. I was so pleased to see in what high regard Alpha is held both by the organization and many of the individual speakers there. Alpha works so well because  it takes into account the very fear and reluctance to evangelize that many of us seem to have. All one has to do is invite someone to, "dinner and a movie," so to speak, to learn a bit about the basics of the Christian faith and discuss some of life's big questions in a relaxed, open and non-threatening environment.

My greatest takeaway from the Congress: "Culture trumps everything." A church may say it wants to evangelize; may say it wants to reach the lost for Christ, wants to grow, but so often the true culture belies their words. They will not make visitors feel truly welcome and comfortable when they come through their doors. They will not honestly examine every aspect of their Sunday morning and ask, "If this were my first time here, would I want to come back?" They will say things like, "I don't really want to get bigger than we are right now. I like my church just the way it is." Mark Hughes put it this way; "Every church, regardless of size, should be growing in numbers."

And of course, we all know the last six words of a dying church; "We've always done it this way!"

Take Care

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Wisdom From Chesterton

"If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments they shall be governed by ten thousand commandments."
Chesterton had a way of putting profound things so simply that the reader would wonder, "Why didn't I think of that." The quote above tells a truth so obvious, when one considers it, yet so missed by so many.

Time was, for instance, when people could seal business deals on a handshake. No longer. It takes a phalanx of lawyers to hammer out what should be even the simplest of transactions. The Bible tells us that we should let our Yes be Yes and our No be No, but even the church has been so infiltrated by the world that many now require such things as signed confidentiality agreements and other contracts.

If we only kept the commandment regarding bearing false witness, or against theft, we could eliminate a myriad of laws. If we lived honest lives, according to our consciences, knowing what is right and holding to it, even though it might be at personal cost, we could eliminate many cases of corruption.

If we didn't cheat on our taxes, or pad our expense reports; if people (and I'm sure there are some) who cheat on Unemployment Insurance or welfare would work and contribute to society instead of taking from it, I'm sure we could do away with a great many regulations. In other words, if we could just trust one another, we would not need the micro management of these, "ten thousand commandments."

Pie in the sky I know, but in a perfect world...

Take Care





Friday, 15 September 2017

Culture and Liberal Christianity


It has been a while since my last post. I'm reading a fascinating book called, "Disappearing Church," by Mark Sayers. In it I find some fascinating insights, including these thoughts on our current culture in light of the advance, some would say the decay, of the liberal church. .
 
"Like a team of suicide bombers who obliterate themselves yet irrevocably change the cultural atmosphere, liberal Christianity has essentially destroyed itself as an ecclesiological, institutional force, yet has won the culture over to its vision of a Christianity reshaped for contemporary tastes.
While cursory glances at our culture’s religious hue can give one the impression of atheism, we will soon see its liberal Christian residue. Following liberal Christianity’s lead, the majority of Westerners hold to a belief in a pleasant afterlife and a benevolent Christian-esque god. However, the doctrines of divine judgment and hell are ditched as repugnantly retrograde. Concepts of personal morality and the pursuit of virtue are replaced by a desire for the common good… 
In this reformulated understanding of sin and evil, salvation is achieved through the gaining of enlightened attitude… Thus those who have gained this enlightened attitude… …form a refashioned concept of the Biblical notion of the elect. This community of the elect has moved beyond the need for concrete forms of church and association, and instead form a culture based on shared opinion manifested in a language based on a correctness of speech, opinion and belief.  Sin is recast as purely unenlightened attitudes. 
Now with the culture reflecting the values of the liberal mainline churches, one simply leaves the church."
In a sense, the author concludes, we see in this adoption of the church by the culture, this, "ghost memory" of Christianity, as Tim Keller has put it, a revival of the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, the belief that we can accomplish our salvation on our own.

We must remember, though, that it is Christ who is building his church, and nothing, even the, "gates of hell" will not prevail against it. "Heaven and earth," and even false beliefs will eventually pass away, but the true body of Christ will last forever.

Take Care

 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Persecution of the Christian Church in Egypt


I'm reading a book. There is a section on the persecution against the Church in Egypt. It speaks of persecution so intense that even the survival of the Church there can only be attributed to the grace of God.

Churches closed - many desecrated, burned, destroyed. Christianity made illegal; clergy especially targeted - beaten, imprisoned, killed. It tells of all Christians suffering for their faith, with no public places left to worship and no clergy left to lead services.

Terrible.

The book is on the life of Athanasius, and this persecution took place between the years 311 and 313.

Two quotes come to mind:

  1. "There is no new news; only old news happening to new people" - Malcolm Muggeridge
  2. "...I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it." - Jesus Christ
Just Sayin'

Take Care


Sunday, 7 May 2017

More of LC17

5562 (Capacity) at Royal Albert Hall
Here are some of them


Self Explanatory

Church at HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton, Anglican, if you were wondering)


Nicky and Pippa Gumbel
Until Next time,

Take Care

Beyond Belief


In London for Alpha's Leadership Conference, Eva and I visited Kew Gardens, Royal 
Botanical Gardens. I was struck by the amazing variety of plants and trees - thousands in fact, in just these acres of gardens, and all so different, from every corner of the world.

I found myself thinking once again about evolution. As difficult as it is to believe something as complicated as animals and humans descended from a common ancestor, this visit made it even more difficult to fathom how anyone could think it made more sense that these all developed by a series of accidental mutations from a single... whatever, than that there is a God who brought them into being.

Of course the atheist has put himself in a position where he cannot consider this because he has rejected the option of there being such a supernatural creative Being. The atheist claims to demand evidence, but then rejects any evidence that is not in keeping with his presuppositions. "Evidence" for God is all around, including the evidence that there is, 'something rather than nothing,' and the extremely complicated variety of everything there is. As difficult as it is to imagine all this happening by accident, the atheist must insist that it did, because his presumptions prevent him from thinking anything else.

Just sayin'.

Take Care

Friday, 3 March 2017

We Have Been Given a Job

The Church has a job. One job above all others.

It is a job given to us by our founder, our head, Jesus Christ. He said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18a-20)
Jesus did not say, "Attract disciples from other churches." He said, "Make disciples..." so how are we doing?

I was reminded today of a church in a city in my province. It is a fairly large church. It is a church that has run Alpha in the past, but not at present. As I say, they have run Alpha but when I spoke to the pastor, I heard that they have trouble getting their people to invite, so now they are running a program purely for their own congregants.

I was talking to another pastor, who knew of this church, and said of them, "They tend to grow when other churches close." That statement was like a flash of light to me. It was a "Wow" moment. It was an insight that I realized is a problem I have seen in other places.

Church organizations do not exist primarily to receive believers from other places. Yes, it's nice to welcome people who may be new to the area, or Christians escaping from churches in denominations that have left the path of truth. But that is not our prime purpose. Our purpose is to make disciples. It is to guide those who have not surrendered their lives to Christ into a relationship with him and help them grow in that relationship.

So, how are we doing? How is your church at welcoming not-yet-believers who may come through our doors? Are we making them feel welcome? Are they making friends among us?  Even more important, most important in my opinion, are we the kind of church that an unchurched, non-Christian coming through our doors for the first time, want to come back to. Are they leaving their first service with us thinking, "I want to come back here."?

And if not, are we willing to change, not our message or doctrine, but our style - the way we present it, for their sake.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Good Night Louise



I was searching my video files for an Alpha video teaser to include with a post on my other blog when I found this, buried in the archives.

Leo Kottke is one of my favourite guitarists, but this song I found especially touching when I first heard it. I think it's partly because I have two daughters of my own whom I loved dearly as they were growing up (still do) and partly because of the women I met when I was coordinating Alpha in the Fort Saskatchewan Provincial Prison.

I now have two granddaughters in or approaching their teen years, and I ache for girls who suffer abuse, or are in unfortunate circumstances because their lives have been shaped by the abuse they have suffered. Sexual abuse, to me, is the worst kind, because in the face of sexual temptation, some men seem to have no conscience, no empathy or sympathy for the girl or woman who I think they must just see merely as a means to satisfy their immediate urges.

And many women seem trapped in the vicious circle of their lifestyle, unable to escape. Perhaps it's all they know and feel lost stepping out of that familiar territory. Perhaps because it's all they know, they literally cannot leave it because there are no other real options. I can remember speaking with female inmates and them telling me their dreams of a normal life upon release, but in some cases I winced, because I was sure their dreams were beyond reality because of the skills they would need, but didn't have, to accomplish them. I recall one particularly poignant episode here.

So goodnight, all you Louises out there.

Peace.

Take Care