Do You Actually Tell People About Jesus?
As Evangelicals, we like to think we’re all about telling people about Jesus. But I wonder if many people would view Evangelicals as very “active” and not much more. The truth is, we are often very busy. But the real question is, do we actually tell people about the Lord Jesus?
Churches can be very busy places. My Sunday, these days, are pretty busy. Then we have a bunch of stuff on in the week. English Classes, Food Club, Dialogue Evening, Homeless drop-in, Lego club. There’s stuff happening most days at the church building. On top of all that, we are trying to encourage people to be involved in stuff in the community too as well as carving out the time to hang out together and do softer kinds of discipleship.
As you think about your own church, I am sure you can think of various things you are doing too. Some things that aim to build up believers, other things that aim to reach unbelievers. But as you think of all those things, it bears asking a question: do you actually tell people about Jesus? It might sound like a stupid question. Surely, if we’re anything, we’re all about telling people about Jesus, aren’t we? Certainly, that’s what we like to think about ourselves.
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2 Inadequate Narratives: Sovereign Self and OppressionismBy John F. Hanna — 8 months ago
All of history is moving toward that moment when the Son presents to the Father a people who look to him and look like him. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3).
Deeply embedded within our societal conflicts are differing narratives and understandings of the human person. A human is image of God (Gen. 1:26–27, 5:1; 9:6; James 3:9), who degrades that image in sin by turning away from God and is called to restoration and renewal through Jesus Christ.
In those truths we have the narrative for our lives. We have identity, meaning, and morality.
Over time, other narratives of the human person have emerged that conflict with the image-bearing understanding of our humanity. In the story of the Sovereign Self, we escape from transcendent authority to make our own selves and our own meaning, which leaves us empty and can’t hold us together.
This is being replaced by the story of Oppressionism, a powerful individual and communal meaning-making narrative that redefines humanity and reality on authoritarian terms due to its rejection of God-given truth. What we need, both personally and communally, is restoration in the divine image to our God’s true, rightful, and liberating authority.
Story of the Sovereign Self
During the past few centuries, a counternarrative to the image-bearing narrative took hold: Christianity is unreasonable, anti-science, false, uptight, repressive, hypocritical, and a crutch for naive people.
Having discarded the original transcendent authority, modern people make their own meaning and morality. We define ourselves according to our own pleasure and will, as there’s no one we’re accountable to but ourselves. In the story of the Sovereign Self, rules are made to be broken and rule-makers mocked. We all grew up in that world. All of us. There are certain ways in which it’s hard for us to see how much it holds sway.
One of the ironies of the Sovereign Self is that its exalted view of the human person emerges from and depends on them being made in God’s image, which endowed humanity with inherent dignity and worth. A key shift in self-understanding was the conception of the human being as primarily possessing rights. Initially, those rights were recognized as coming from God, as in the American Declaration of Independence. Eventually, the rights-bearing individual replaced the image-bearing person, with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights making no mention of God at all.
The United States Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the right to abortion, articulates the creed of the Sovereign Self: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
This notion of writing your own story, forming your own identity, and making your own meaning and morality is very palpable and powerful among us. Yet it doesn’t really provide cohesion. Doing “whatever” can leave people without sufficient meaning and identity and doesn’t give us a shared morality. It’s too empty and insubstantial, both individually and societally.
Story of Oppressionism
Now, something new has emerged and taken hold.
One commentator, Wesley Yang, calls it the “successor ideology.” It’s not separate from what we all grew up with but is in many ways an extension of it. At the same time, it’s also different. It’s an understanding of the world based on oppression. This narrative claims our entire world is marred, if not created, by oppression.
Where’s oppression? Everywhere. It has tainted every aspect of our lives, including our language. The meaning of your life is to oppose oppression. Morality is how you’re doing at this task. If you’re not actively opposing, you’re failing. “Silence is violence.” “If you’re not actively ‘antiracist,’ you’re racist.”
This is incredibly powerful and compelling. It provides a narrative, meaning, identity, and morality—a reason for living. It seemingly unites people in a shared purpose. It replaces the “whatever” of the Sovereign Self with something meaningful to pursue and dedicate our lives to, both individually and corporately.
And it can resonate not only with our humanity but also specifically with Christianity, which recognizes the pervasiveness of sin and its corrupting effects. In many respects, the human story is marred by oppression, which is all around us.
This perspective does sometimes identify actual oppression. And God hates oppression. He’s the One who sets the captives free. But this oppression view is different. It opposes Christian understanding, redefining humanity, including creation, sin, and redemption, in meaningful ways.
How Facts Cease to be SolidBy Daria Fedotova — 5 months ago
Individuals, corporations, and governments all condense their positions into slogans, preferably the socially acceptable ones. Therefore, the narrative around the facts is formed of the puzzle-like pre-made constructs, further limited by the constant virtue signalling. And if the narrative does not offer enough flexibility, our perception of reality is forced to compensate. In the end, it appears that the facts actually do care about your feelings, or at least about the feelings of the crowd.
Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.
So wrote George Orwell, describing the dystopian system in which there is only one correct opinion, and if reality disagrees with it, then reality is wrong. Fortunately, we do not live in such a world, but the alarming trend is that our agreement over the facts are becoming less and less stable. Every side has its own truth. It may initially seem that this situation is the opposite of Orwell’s, but the current situation is, in fact, nothing but the result of one of the contestants’ victory. The principle is the same: each fact has its certain meaning, and each action speaks of a certain character feature. Everyone should support the current thing, else they are deemed bigots, racists, sexists, and oppressors. Alternatively, they may be named traitors. And should the current thing change, everyone must update their opinions accordingly.
The problem is that the leading narrative can no longer be questioned. There can only be one interpretation of events and only one judgement. Once it is established that a particular event has taken place, the case is all but closed; if a man has killed, he must be a murderer, and nuances do not matter. At the same time, the smallest of details is enough to condemn, regardless of its relevance or importance. This is a simplistic approach of a town square mob conquering governments and courts. Moral outrage replaces debates, and facts are sacrificed to avoid it.
This becomes evident in the controversies such as the teaching of critical race theory or propagation of queerness at schools. While the conservative camp insists that such topics are, at the very least, inappropriate for children, the progressive one often claims no such things take place at all, accusing its opponents of spreading conspiracy theories but somehow being extremely upset when CRT and LGBT propaganda gets banned from the state education.
This is evident in the British Labour Party’s inability to define a woman and their treatment of John Cleese, who dared to utter a great heresy of calling London with its 43.4% of native white British population “not really an English city any more.”
This is evident in the infamous CNN coverage of the Kenosha, Wisconsin riots in 2020 when the correspondent was filmed in front of the burning vehicles, while the banner on the bottom read “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.”
Finally, this progressive hegemony is evident in COVID-19 information policies: whatever the doctors employed by the government said was automatically true, even if their opinions have changed back and forth during the two years of lockdowns.
If the Letter to Laodicea Was Written to UsBy Doug Eaton — 7 months ago
Their spiritual condition was the exact opposite of their physical reality. They were wealthy and admired in terms of money, but they were poor and pitiable spiritually. They had eye salve, but they were blind. They had fine black wool, but they were naked. And the most famous of all, they had hot and cold water, but they were lukewarm, and God was ready to spew them out of his mouth (Revelation 3:15).
“You have access to a world of knowledge on the phone in your pocket, but you have no wisdom.” Would this be something God would say to many of us in the church today if he were to speak to us in the same way he spoke to the church in Laodicea in the book of Revelation?
In showing Laodicea where they fell short, God used prominent features of their culture. He said in essence, “You have all these wonderful things in your cultural experience, but you are wretched and do not even know it.” Some key features of the culture surrounding the church were springs of hot and cold water, extreme wealth and admiration, and the production of fine black wool and eye salve.
These features of the culture are essential to keep in mind when we read the critique of the church. God says, “You say I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Did you catch that? Their spiritual condition was the exact opposite of their physical reality. They were wealthy and admired in terms of money, but they were poor and pitiable spiritually. They had eye salve, but they were blind. They had fine black wool, but they were naked. And the most famous of all, they had hot and cold water, but they were lukewarm, and God was ready to spew them out of his mouth (Revelation 3:15).
Following this pattern of applying the significant features of their culture to point out their spiritual condition, I wonder what God would say to us. Here are a few elements of our culture with possible corresponding critiques.