Five for Friday (8.8.14)

 

 

Here are a few articles to keep you learning through the weekend:

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8 Ways the Enemy Attacks Church – true words of wisdom from Thom Rainer.

Learning From Young Atheists: What Turned Them Off Christianity – great perspective!

Marco Rubio: Intolerance in the Name of Tolerance is Hypocrisy – grateful for a politician to stand up and say this.

Don’t Overthink It: The Power of an Invitation – if we truly ‘got’ this truth, our churches would never be the same!

The Single Man’s Journey to Sexual Happiness – I wish all of our single men could read this!

A Lesson from the Moonies

8.5.13In the 1960s, sociology professor and expert Rodney Stark went to watch the spread of the Moonie cult in San Francisco. From the viewpoint of social science, he wanted to observe how a new and fledgling religion spread in a hostile environment, to better gain an idea about how early Christianity might have spread in the first century Roman world. His findings were startling.

During her first year, Miss Kim (the Moonie missionary to America) tried to spread her message directly through typical outreach events: talks to various groups, press releases, radio spots, and renting facilities for public meetings. These outreach attempts yielded nothing. The Moonies did grow, but it wasn’t through typical outreach methods. It was through their interpersonal relationships. Of all the people whom the Moonies encountered, the only ones who joined were the ones whose interpersonal attachments to members overbalanced their attachments to nonmembers. His conclusion? “Conversion to new, deviant religious groups occurs when, other things being equal, people have or develop stronger attachments to members of the group than they have to nonmembers.” Conversion in practical terms is less about theology and more about personal relationships. Since the 60s there have been dozens of empirical studies conducted that have backed up these findings.

What does that mean for Christianity today? In Stark’s own words, “The basis for successful conversionist movements is growth through social networks, through a structure of direct and intimate interpersonal attachments.” Growth primarily happens through the development of interpersonal relationships, as opposed to structured outreach events. I’ve seen this lived out numerous times, holding a ‘successful’ outreach event, only to not see anyone join the church because of it. On the other hand, when a new prospect came with a friend that was already a member, their chances of plugging in skyrocketed. I’d already sensed this truth. I just didn’t have the social science to back it up.

What’s the danger for churches today? “Most new religious movements fail because they quickly become closed, or semiclosed networks. That is, they fail to keep forming and sustaining attachments to outsiders and thereby lose the capacity to grow.” Am I preaching to the choir yet?

As churches, our potential for growth lies squarely in the ability of our members to maintain open interpersonal relationships with the outside world. If we discourage that or program against that (by filling up calendars with so many activities that Christians have no time to develop authentic relationships outside the church), then a church will slowly stagnate and die. It’s our choice.

* information comes from Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity.

A Lesson from the Moonies

8.5.13In the 1960s, sociology professor and expert Rodney Stark went to watch the spread of the Moonie cult in San Francisco. From the viewpoint of social science, he wanted to observe how a new and fledgling religion spread in a hostile environment, to better gain an idea about how early Christianity might have spread in the first century Roman world. His findings were startling.

During her first year, Miss Kim (the Moonie missionary to America) tried to spread her message directly through typical outreach events: talks to various groups, press releases, radio spots, and renting facilities for public meetings. These outreach attempts yielded nothing. The Moonies did grow, but it wasn’t through typical outreach methods. It was through their interpersonal relationships. Of all the people whom the Moonies encountered, the only ones who joined were the ones whose interpersonal attachments to members overbalanced their attachments to nonmembers. His conclusion? “Conversion to new, deviant religious groups occurs when, other things being equal, people have or develop stronger attachments to members of the group than they have to nonmembers.” Conversion in practical terms is less about theology and more about personal relationships. Since the 60s there have been dozens of empirical studies conducted that have backed up these findings.

What does that mean for Christianity today? In Stark’s own words, “The basis for successful conversionist movements is growth through social networks, through a structure of direct and intimate interpersonal attachments.” Growth primarily happens through the development of interpersonal relationships, as opposed to structured outreach events. I’ve seen this lived out numerous times, holding a ‘successful’ outreach event, only to not see anyone join the church because of it. On the other hand, when a new prospect came with a friend that was already a member, their chances of plugging in skyrocketed. I’d already sensed this truth. I just didn’t have the social science to back it up.

What’s the danger for churches today? “Most new religious movements fail because they quickly become closed, or semiclosed networks. That is, they fail to keep forming and sustaining attachments to outsiders and thereby lose the capacity to grow.” Am I preaching to the choir yet?

As churches, our potential for growth lies squarely in the ability of our members to maintain open interpersonal relationships with the outside world. If we discourage that or program against that (by filling up calendars with so many activities that Christians have no time to develop authentic relationships outside the church), then a church will slowly stagnate and die. It’s our choice.

* information comes from Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity.

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie Davis

12.11.12Kisses from Katie wrecked me. I knew a little bit of her story, so I thought I was prepared to hear her heart-wrenching story of life in a third-world country. I was wrong. If you have a soul inside of you, you cannot encounter stories of poor, neglected and abused children fending for themselves in Uganda and not have your heart ripped out a little bit.

Katie Davis is a 24-year-old who grew up in Brentwood, TN with a life typical of many Christian girls raised in America. Yet she willingly gave up her “good life” to sacrifice herself for the poor and the orphaned living in Jinja, Uganda. Here’s a bit of her story in her own words:

“Slowly but surely I began to realize the truth: I had loved and admired and worshiped Jesus without doing what he said . . . So I quit my life. Originally, my quitting was to be temporary, lasting just one year before I went to college and returned to normal, American teenager life. But after that year, which I spent in Uganda, returning to ‘normal’ wasn’t possible. I had seen what life was about and I could not pretend I didn’t know. So I quit my life again, and for good this time . . . I have a joy and a peace that are unimaginable and can come only from a place better than this earth. I cannot fathom being happier. Jesus wrecked my life, shattered it to pieces, and put it back together more beautifully” (xviii).

This book is her story, her journey from her “normal” American upbringing to moving to Uganda, adopting thirteen precious daughters to raise as her own, and starting a non-profit that is bringing hope and healing to thousands of people. Never intended to be a professionally written narrative or deep theological treatise, Kisses from Katie captures the essence of her journey through story, vignettes of her life that show both the deepest hurts of the human experience and the deepest love of a gracious Heavenly Father.

Through her experiences with third-world disease, poverty, starvation and neglect, the veil of first-world ignorance will be forever ripped from your eyes. In a country (America) where suffering equals only having one fast-food restaurant to choose from, Katie’s real-world experience in Uganda is a sucker punch to the gut. While we’re busy keeping up with the latest elimination from American Idol, millions of precious children are simply fighting to stay alive. Here’s how Katie describes her first conversation with one of her new daughters, five-year-old Joyce, “What struck me most about that first [conversation] with Joyce was what she said to me: ‘Thank you for food, Mommy. Today I am still alive.’ My heart stopped. This little girl, at five years old, is simply thankful to have something to eat so she can stay alive” (87).

Numerous stories like that will rip your heart out with compassion and compel you to do something with the excess that you’ve been blessed with. Through all of the trials that Katie has gone through, she continues to inspire with her unadulterated faith in God: “God teaches me, and Masese (a village she works in) teaches me, this: Resurrection is real. Life is more powerful than death. Light can pierce darkness. I may never see the end of horrendous situations on this earth, so instead of trying to fix the situations here and now, I will focus on helping these people come to heaven with me” (192).

Get this book. Let it inspire you to do something meaningful with your life. To keep up with Katie’s work in real time, check out her blog here.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. Real Christianity is more than just church attendance and another Bible study. The end result of our faith is not another church service or more Bible knowledge. It’s loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Katie Davis is a beautiful picture of what it means to live out your faith in its purest form. More than simply attend more church or read another Christian book, Katie decided to live out her faith. How uncommon, yet how life-changing.

2. If you want to touch God’s heart, work with the poor and abused. If you look throughout the Old and New Testament, God continually shows his heart for the poor and oppressed. He constantly calls us as believers to show love to those he loves. If you want to work with those closest to God’s heart, get out of the finely manicured suburbs and go work with the poor and neglected.

3. I’m thankful for those who sacrifice their resources to make a real difference in the world. Katie’s non-profit ministry, Amazima Ministries, works to provide meals, education and many other needs for those who desperately need it. I’m also extremely thankful to be a sponsor for Children of Hope, a ministry helping Haitian refugee children living in the Dominican Republic get an education and a shot at life.

4. Everyone needs to go on an overseas mission trip. If you’ve never experienced life outside of the United States, then you live in a bubble. There is a tremendous world of need out there. There are millions of American Christians who can be the arms and feet of Jesus to a suffering world. But we’ll never know what’s out there until we go. Find a quality mission-sending organization and go overseas. It changed Katie’s life. It changed my life. It will change your life.

5. I want to be a part of a church that meets the needs of the poor and hurting. Who are the lost, the oppressed, the hurting, the neglected in your town? What is your church doing to love them and share the hope of Christ with them?

6. If you never meet Katie Davis in this life, here’s how you can find her in heaven: look for the really huge mansion up on the hill with the best view. Her rewards will be massive in heaven one day. She deserves it. Look for her on Mother Theresa’s street.

 

Five for Friday

Another great week. A few of these links have been out for awhile, but they’re guaranteed to make you think, give you hope, and probably make you a little mad as well. Have a great weekend!

Couple Sues in “Wrongful Birth” Lawsuit – read only if you have a strong stomach. I feel so sorry for this precious child.

Why I am Grammar Obsessed – Is it importent to write good when u right emails and stuff?

Prominent Atheist Converts to Christianity – If she can convert, there’s hope for everyone.

What is Biblical Justice? – Great article describing biblical justice. May this define us as Christians.

Rural Ministry is Not Second Rate — with so many stories highlighting big churches in large cities, here’s a shout out to the little guys.

The Great Mandate

BIG Idea: Tell your story.

Have you ever wondered what we’re really here to do? Christians, I mean. After we make that fateful decision, while we’re sitting around waiting for heaven, what are we supposed to do here on earth? Just attend church a bunch of times and rack up extra Jesus points? Live it up here on earth while we still can, throwing the occasional “please forgive me” up to heaven? Plug KLove into our ears and drown out the sound of the rest of the world dying? More potlucks, maybe that’s it.

Our mandate is found on a dusty hillside 2000 years ago, where a band of misfits gathered together. They were by no means the best and brightest of the day: illiterate fisherman, social outcasts, former prostitutes. And yet this rag tag group would soon change the world. Their lives started ordinary enough. Some were raised in the monotonous family business of fishing. You got up, you fished, you went to bed. That was life. Some fell victim to the darker side of life early and couldn’t find a way to break out. Others wandered through life, searching for meaning. And then one day they encountered a remarkable man named Jesus of Nazareth.

He changed their existence. He redirected the purpose and passion of their lives, and then he was crucified. When all hope was lost, Jesus proved his power over death and rose from the grave. Truly he was the Son of God. Now risen and victorious, Jesus gathered with his small group of followers and gave them a simple command that changed the course of human history. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

This one sentence changed everything. It would soon topple the greatest empire on the earth. It would direct the course of history for entire continents. And 2000 years later, we would still be implementing this edict. The key this mandate is the word “witnesses.” Christ wants his followers to be witnesses to what they saw, taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. But what does it mean to be a “witness”? How does that translate for a 21st century American Christian today?

Simple. Tell your story. That’s what Christ was telling his followers. Tell the story of what you saw, what you experienced, and what I’ve done in your life. Tell your story to everyone you meet. Take this story to the furthest reaches of the planet. But above all, tell your story.

That’s it. That’s the Great Mandate we’ve received. No commendations for consecutive VBS’s in attendance or number of beautiful Easter dresses. Just a command to tell your story.

So, are you?

QUESTION: What does it mean to tell your story in your everyday world?

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice, by David Teems

William Tyndale is one of the more underrated men in Christian history. Most folks don’t know his name or what he did, but if you speak English, he contributed more to your language than almost any other person, including Shakespeare (who helped the English language flourish on the foundation built by Tyndale).

Tyndale was an Englishman in the 1500s, exiled from his homeland and hunted down for his heretical views. England at the time was in the midst of incredible upheaval. The Catholic Church, which had exercised an iron-fisted rule over the whole of Europe, was beginning to see its authority erode with the effects of the Renaissance and the beginning of Martin Luther’s Reformation. Catholicism reacted to change as you would expect anyone in power for a millennia to react: violent persecution and unequivocal oppression.

The England Tyndale grew up in did not have the Scripture in their own language. English was considered a rough and backward language, far inferior to Latin. Many church officials serving in England would serve out their careers in England, never uttering a word of English. Lost in all of this was the common man, the Englishman who knew only English and could not read the Latin Bible. He had to trust in the Latin priest’s interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. By keeping the Bible out of the hands of the masses, the church exerted an incredible method of control over the population.

William Tyndale was the man who changed all that. As he grew in his knowledge of the Scriptures, he became appalled by the growing inconsistency between the teaching of the church and the truth of the Scripture. His simple yet profound conviction was this: the common man should be able to read God’s Word for himself, in his own language.

For this dangerous and radical idea, Tyndale was forced to flee his homeland and publish the first English translation of the Bible while in exile. The author describes beautifully what Tyndale accomplished, “Tyndale, for the first time in English history, gives God room to be God, and give the Englishman room to imagine God in ways that have been denied him – and with a new English that fuses glory with simplicity” (60).

In today’s age, a new translation of the Bible is nothing to get too concerned with. But in the death throes of medieval Europe, withholding the Scriptures from the people was one of the few remaining mechanisms of control that the Catholic Church retained. So it protected that right to the very death. More than just the translation, Tyndale’s views of God were what proved to be his death sentence.

The author writes, “Tyndale would not ultimately burn for the translation, which was an offense, certainly, but as a heretic whose ideas were too contaminated for him to live. Tyndale’s main injury to God was that he did not think like a Catholic” (238). By challenging the church’s unquestioned authority on all things spiritual, Tyndale condemned himself to death. The church hunted Tyndale relentlessly until he was betrayed and found, given a sham trial and ultimately burned at the stake.

Yet by the time of his death, it was too late. The damage had been done. The Bible for the first time was in the hands of everyday Englishmen, and there would be no going back. The church’s corrupt stranglehold on the people was irrevocably broken.

LESSONS LEARNED

The church has a horrific past of abusing religion for its own selfish ends. I’ve studied much on the history of the church, especially in the Middle Ages. What I read shames me as a Christian. Corrupt and violent men used the vestiges of the church as a medium to control people and enrich themselves. It’s no wonder why Europe has such a skeptical view of the church today. Its track record is horrible.

One man’s courage can change the course of a nation. Tyndale gave validity and a voice to the English language. He helped destroy the corrupt stranglehold the church had on the people. His determination to see the Scripture in the language of the people changed the trajectory for an entire nation. If you don’t think one man can make a difference, look no further than William Tyndale.

Leadership has a price. Tyndale paid a heavy price for his devotion to his cause. He was exiled from his homeland. He was constantly on the run. He did without many of the simple pleasures that we take for granted. After being betrayed, he was imprisoned and ultimately burned at the stake for his beliefs. Knowing all that would happen, Tyndale still embraced the cost as small compared to the good that he would accomplish. He truly was a saint living for another world.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. Tyndale’s impact on Christianity has lasted long after his death. Because he lived not for himself but for others and future generations, we still speak his name. He is a spiritual giant. I am able to preach and teach the word of God in English because of the brave actions of a man who lived 500 years ago.

QUESTION: What are you doing that will survive long after you’ve died?