Christianity 201

April 2, 2022

Compassion in a People-First Culture

I wanted to share some of my experience reading the book, A Church Called TOV: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing by Scot McKnight with Laura Barringer (Tyndale House Publishers). The short word tov is a Hebrew word that means good. The second half (two thirds, really) of the book are about creating a culture in the local church that fosters goodness, and having a “people first” culture is the third of seven elements in what the writers call the “circle of TOV.”

A short excerpt follows.

Develop Jesus-Like Eyes for People

How did the Gospel writers and apostles know that Jesus was filled with compassion? There are only three options: he told them, his face showed it, or his tears flowed. Two and three are the most likely. However, Jesus’ emotional response to those in need was not simply to “feel bad” about their circumstances; it was an emotional response that prompted action. Each time the Gospel writers describe the compassion of Jesus, the also tell us what he did: he healed, he cured, he cleansed, he taught, he pastored.

The apostle Paul had a similar heart for people–though many people today get him wrong on this one. They think of Paul as a power-mongering, workaholic, money-grubbing, anti-woman, proslavery authoritarian who gathered together groups of new Christians and set up some rules for them before pushing off for the next shore, and who heard some stories about nonsense in those gatherings and dashed off angry letters telling everyone how to live. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but not by much, if you’ve ever heard the critiques of Christianity offered by some people today. Now read 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 and ask yourself if it lines up with the critical view of Paul mentioned above.

When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.

Here’s a man who had such an intense love for the Corinthians (who, at least in Paul’s mind, lacked that same love for him) and concern for his protege Titus that he stopped in his tracks and couldn’t go on until he saw Titus and heard about the welfare of the Corinthians. Paula Gooder, chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, puts it this way: “Paul–the greatest evangelist of all time–passed up an opportunity to preach the gospel because his friend Titus was not there.” And not just “his friend,” but his “dear brother.” People first.

Notice now the focus of Paul’s mission to the church in Colossae–which was almost entirely a group of people he’d never met. We’ve italicized the people-oriented words:

We tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me. I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.  [Col 1:28-2:2 NLT]

Agonizing, encouraging, knitting together with “strong ties of love.” Paul was nothing if not compassionate and people-first. It was the foundation of his entire ministry.

pp 132-33, A Church Called TOV


The fine print: Usually, buried here at the bottom is the publisher information and the little phrase “used by permission” but Tyndale no longer has a publisher’s representative in the country where we originate, and review copies of their books are now equally elusive, even though our readership is 78% American. So I could have ignored the book altogether, but I really think it’s something that is important reading in this cultural moment. Plus, I wanted to create my own little “culture of goodness” by sharing it. So… excerpt is ©2020 by the authors, and used without permission.

September 4, 2012

A Challenge To Reproduce

Today’s post appears jointly with Thinking Out Loud, where it published as Rejoicing With The Angels.

NIV Luke 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

This is the verse that is indirectly responsible for the phrase:

“All the angels in heaven rejoice when there’s a soul saved.”

That particular phrase does not appear in scripture.

The principle does appear in scripture.

Two recent stories at Christian Post were worthy of more than a simple line and link in the Wednesday Link List.

The first one I saw was a report that 1,251 people were saved at New Spring, Perry Noble’s South Carolina church. I know not everyone reading this (or writing this) is 100% sold on all Noble’s methods, but even if this statistic were exaggerated by a factor of ten, this would still be reason to rejoice.

Meet your new brothers and sisters.

But another story at CP a day earlier reports that 11,000 people — out of a crowd of 650,000 — were saved at a two day Evangelistic rally in Ponta Negra Beach, Amazonas state in the northwest of Brazil, conducted by that country’s well-known televangelist Pastor Silas Malafaia; a name most of us have never heard before. Again, a rather round number; but why doubt that something extraordinary happened.

11,000! The Christian world should stop and party.

To our newest members of the faith family: Welcome!

I once heard someone say that each Christ followers should — at the very, very least — ‘reproduce themselves’ spiritually by leading one person to Christ in their lifetime.

Have you led someone to Christ? I know at this point many will want to cite this verse:

NIV I Cor. 3:6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

This verse is used to justify the idea that some people plant seeds while others are ‘harvesters;’ the people who get down to asking the question that brings someone to a point of decision. But I think this dodges responsibility and makes bringing someone to faith someone else’s job.

If you haven’t had the joy of being in the spiritual delivery room — of witnessing a new birth take place — let me challenge you. Not 11,000 people, not 1,251… one person… and here’s the extra impetus: Before this year is through.

Read more at Passing the Blessing Along

June 13, 2011

Eight Mistakes the American Church Made

The full title of the sermon that J. Lee Grady preached in Nigeria was “Eight Mistakes the American Church Made That I Hope You Don’t Repeat.”  This appeared in the May 2002 issue of Charisma; I tried to find it online, but couldn’t, so the typos are all mine!

  1. We made unbelief a doctrine.  While Christians in China, Latin America and Africa were casting out devils and healing the sick, we were teaching seminary students that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do miracles anymore.  That’s really bad theology.
  2. We tolerated division.  Who needs the devil when Christians are perfectly okay with hating one another in the name of denominational loyalty?  Why should the world listen to us teach about “family values” when the family of God is so fractured?
  3. We cultivated a religious spirit.  We taught converts that Christianity is about daily Bible reading, church attendance and avoiding cigarettes and beer. Genuine faith became drudgery. Christians trapped in dry legalism lost their joy because they though intimacy with God could be achieved by their performance.
  4. We encouraged ‘superstars.’  We elevated ministers to celebrity status and some of them actually believed they deserved the titles, the pedestals, the grand entrances and the first-class seats next to Jesus’ throne.  They stopped modeling servanthood, and has a result the church forgot that Jesus washed feet and rode on a donkey.
  5. We equated money with success.  We taught that biblical prosperity could be obtained by inserting our tithes into a heavenly slot machine.  Lotto fever spread throughout the church, and we found a way to legitimize greed and materialism when we should have been using our wealth to feed the poor, adopt orphans and fund missionary ventures.
  6. We wouldn’t release women in ministry. We let gender prejudice have more control in the church than the Holy Spirit.  He’s ready to send an army of dedicated women to the front lines of spiritual battle — but He’s waiting for us to bury our stinking male pride.
  7. We stayed in the pews and became irrelevant.  We insisted on letting a group of older white men in dark suits represent our faith in the marketplace, and we freaked out when somebody tried to use rap, punk or metal music to reach the younger generations.  Instead of engaging the culture we hid from it.
  8. We taught people to be escapists.  Jesus told us to occupy the planet until He returns. But most of us were reading rapture novels when we should have been praying for our brothers and sisters who were on the verge of martyrdom. They were willing to suffer and die for the cause.  Why can’t we have that kind of faith?

 

May 23, 2010

Gathered In My Name

After attending a service last week just outside of Toronto at The Meeting House, nine campus locations that are part of Canada’s largest church movement; this Sunday we attended a small alternative service at The Third Space, two hours east in Peterborough in which, including all participants, we were part of a group of twenty.

Qualitatively, both weeks hold equal weight.   While there were differences, I am not sure there was a difference.   I see both as equal expressions of the reality of the Body of Christ, that “holy catholic church” spoken of in The Apostles Creed meeting in different places around the world.

Hebrews 10 : 24-25 (Message)Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

Matthew 18 : 20 (Message) “And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”