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That Just Seems Crazy To Me

  
  
  

A guest post by Jamal Smith, M.A. '11

Three years ago, a friend, John, and I were having drinks at the pub in Rochester, Old Toad. While we were there, we came across another friend. Dan was a self proclaimed Buddhist-shamanist, a blend of Buddhist philosophy and shaman spirituality. During our conversation, Dan explained to us his belief that it was possible for humans to change shape. He used the example of glass being a liquid caught in solid state, yet still being liquid.

describe the imageWe listened to his beliefs and afterward excused ourselves as we had to leave. While walking back to the car, John finally expressed his opinion of Dan’s religion as crazy. My response was that I agreed with him; shape-changing made as much sense as the idea of someone being raised from the dead.  John was quiet for a moment, and then replied, “I see your point.”

There are certain ideas and beliefs that are common within the Christian community and seem normal.  Most Christians do not think twice about the existence of God and accept the inability to prove it. The resurrection of the dead is as real as death itself. When we hear other religious ideas however, we tend to ridicule them as absurd and illogical.

Rarely is it taken into account that many of the revered articles of the Christian faith seem just as ridiculous to the average secular listener as Dan’s belief of shape-changing seemed to John. Christians want their stories and faith to be heard credibly—we don’t like the idea of having Jesus’ resurrection disregarded or laughed at. 

In Luke 6:37 (NIV), Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”

This is an ideal that needs to be taught regarding other peoples’ beliefs. Condemnation is not the goal. Recall instances when godly people committed “heathen” acts. Judges 11 tells the story of Jepthath, who swore to God to sacrifice the first thing that left his house if he returned victorious from battle. Jepthath had the victory, and what greeted him from his house was his daughter. Though he was grieved, he followed through with his word and sacrificed her. More notably, it is not said that God tried to stop him, nor was the grieved father punished or rebuked.

It seems to me that Christians must also take into account that, perhaps, myths that are ridiculed may somehow have elements of truth. For example, when exploring the risks of sex in space, recent studies from NASA showed that prolonged time in zero G resulted in a decreased sex drive for astronauts.[i],[ii] The connection between Earth and sex was also evident in some early religions—sexual religious practices of the worship of Baal were designed to encourage the god to make the earth fertile, producing crops for the season.[iii]

All this is not to say that all beliefs must be accepted and believed. Rather, in addition to discernment, it is to say that a certain amount of respect when hearing others’ beliefs, regardless of how crazy or illogical it may seem to us, is in order. In a pluralistic world Christians need to exercise this practice or otherwise, to twist the phrase, Judge and you shall be judged. Condemn and you shall be condemned.

 

Jamal Smith, M.A. ‘11, works as a consultant for Sutherland Global Services and is a volunteer member of the Commission of Christian Muslim relations and the Interfaith Forum.

Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional (Part II)

  
  
  

Part II of a series by guest blogger and Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders. Read part I here.

Friendship Evangelism (FE) is a form of Christian mission where a believer purposes to win people to Christ by relating to them in the everyday world of work, neighborliness, hobbies, and other activities that happen with regularity and become a platform for genuine friendship. The Christian is sincere in the expression of friendship, but carries within an additional desire to use the relationship as a bridge to eternal things. As the friendship grows, trust is formed, compassion and concern run deeper, and the opportunity for lasting influence upon one another becomes a reality. When this kind of friendship happens, all manner of God-themed conversations and encounters are possible! Few things in my life and ministry have been as satisfying as witnessing evidences of the Holy Spirit using a friendship of mine for his purposes, opening up their hearts, even moving upon them in dreams in the night or in a sudden moment of conviction and revelation.

When I became a pastor I was thrilled about the idea of equipping people to participate in FE, but soon realized that this method did not quickly translate into new attenders. Our amped-up Sunday programs were attracting new attenders regularly, but nearly all of them were already “churched” people, if even only slightly. Many of the people being reached through FE were not interested in attending church, or even worse, dead-set against it. After a while this missional thrust that I call FE began to take a back seat in my ministry. What a loss that was, and still is, in churches today. The pressure to make church “successful” is sky-high in our culture, and it can seem easier to just rely on church programs and services to attract people. But stark reality is that at least 50 percent of the U.S. population will not set foot in a church, no matter how attractive it is. [1]  The other 50 percent of the population, an ocean of humanity of inestimable worth, can and should be reached by friends. Consider the following suggestions for equipping believers to become one of these invaluable agents of eternal grace:

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1. Prayerfully select the top three non-believing individuals you are most closely connected to at work, in your neighborhood, or through any shared activity or group. Keep these names in your Bible and pray for them regularly, that they would come to Christ and be saved, and eventually be transformed into the fullness of life available in Christ.

2. Become a real friend. Take time out to connect in conversation. Show genuine interest and concern for their life situations. Find out what might be an appropriate leisure activity or shared interest that you can connect in. I recently befriended someone over a shared interest in extreme weather!

3. Bring your Christian spirituality into the friendship. With care and sensitivity, be watchful for prime (and sometimes fleeting) moments when you can offer to pray for your friend, or when they might be open to receiving a Scriptural encouragement. Prepare yourself to be ready to act. Watch for their openness to hearing more about your “life story” or some other way of sharing your testimony. Commit to being bold enough to bring up your faith when the time is right.

4. Have fun! Invite them to relaxed gatherings and parties you or another believing friend is hosting, and let them experience the joy and beauty of Christian community.

 

[1] Dave & Jon Ferguson, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 104. The Ferguson brothers started a highly successful church planting movement based upon networks, but still aimed at establishing corporate-style churches centered in worship facilities and located in more affluent neighborhoods. In their study they acknowledge that half of westerners will not come to any church, and need to be reached by active believers outside of the Church.

 

Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional (Part I)

  
  
  

A guest post by Doctor of Ministry student, Nathan Sanders:

20110616  MG 5221 croppedIn recent years I have started to recognize that modern Protestantism has largely reduced "evangelism" to a narrow aim of winning converts to the faith. But even as those of us in Christian leadership go about the necessary task of re-evaluating the fuller aim of what it means to "evangelize" people, we run the risk of overcomplicating, and possibly even losing hold of, one of the clearest ministry callings from our Savior to bring people to him. [1] Most of us acknowledge that we are to be involved at some level in compelling people, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, to become followers for Christ. [2] How quickly we forget the alternative for those who do not believe! [3] We must endeavor to retain a burning passion to encourage people out from the kingdom of darkness. Most churches are looking to large-scale events (like festivals, concerts, "revivals," etc.) to accomplish this task. This can be a big mistake! The evangelistic mission of the church is best accomplished by believers who are not on the stage, through something often called "Friendship Evangelism" (FE). This method of fulfilling Christian mission is far less expensive, more holistic, and much more fun than traditional approaches to bringing people into the faith. In part II of "Don't Lose the Mission Behind Missional" I will share insights on why FE is often forgotten in churches, as well as practical ways to implement it in everyday life.


Nathan Sanders has been involved in Christian leadership and ministry since 1993 and has served as a university campus evangelism leader, inner-city ministry coordinator, conference speaker, associate pastor, and nearly 8 years as a senior pastor. He is presently teaching New Testament Literature at Elim Bible Institute in Lima, NY. He earned a Ministry Diploma from Elim Bible Institute in 1996, a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Regent University in 2001, and is currently beginning work toward a Doctor of Ministry degree from Northeastern Seminary. Click here to find Nathan on Facebook.

Read part II here.

 

[1] Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and 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.

[2] Acts 16:30-32 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

[3] John 5:28-29 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
Revelation 20:15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

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