Why Both Conservative and Liberal Churches are Decreasing

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Rachel Held Evans

Author and speaker Rachel Held Evans has become an important voice for the many post-evangelical millennials in the US who long for a church with more Jesus and less Republican prejudice. In an interview a few years ago, Evans names progressive values along with sacramental church life as being the reason she joined the Episcopalian church. She was asked to comment the fact that Episcopalianism is rapidly losing church attendees, to which she responds:

Just about every denomination in the American church — including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates… Lately I’ve been wondering if a little death and resurrection is exactly what the American church needs… A church might produce thousands of attendees without producing any disciples.

This is quite remarkable, since the point of one of Evans’ most famous articles on CNN’s Belief Blog is that evangelical churches must become more liberal to stop millenials from leaving them. This is a similar argument to John Shelby Spong‘s famous thesis that Christianity must change or die. A former bishop in Evans’ new church, Spong argued that this change includes stop believing in theism, stop beliving in the supernatural, stop believing that prayer is useful and stop believing in physical resurrection. Pretty ridiculous. Evans is far from this extreme, but her reasoning in the CNN article was similar: liberal Christianity is necessary for church growth. Continue reading Why Both Conservative and Liberal Churches are Decreasing

How Needy is ‘Needy’? Some Early Church Views

Basil of Caesarea  (330-379) was a highly influential leader in the Early Church, who laboured and wrote extensively for the rights of the poor. His stance on wealth and poverty is blunt and uncompromising. It is also very relevant to today, where consumerism has achieved almost god-like status.

This piece shows that Basil was also a keen and unflinching observer of human nature – and human excuses. The writer identifies ‘the human tendency to adjust the definition of “need” to fit one’s current level of income.’

Basil was on to this 1600 years ago. His homily (practical sermon) on the man in Jesus’ parable, I Will Tear Down My Barns [and Build Bigger Ones], treats the barns not so much as symbols of wealth but rather as representing our definition of needs based on our circumstances.

‘In effect’, continues the article, ‘Basil says that if we never have any extra to share, this is due to the fact that whenever we find ourselves in possession of a surplus, we immediately adjust our definition of need to fit the new situation.’ Continue reading How Needy is ‘Needy’? Some Early Church Views

“Acts 2 is the Solution”

Erika Akimana from Kigali, Rwanda, has been living in the New Humanity Mission Community since 1997, founded just a few years after the genocide. I interviewed her on what made her make such a commitment, and what a central African Christian community is like.

IMG_20170320_130731 (1).JPGWhat is your community like?

We are 16 adults and 16 children. Half of the adults live with me and my husband Rukundo in Kigali, while the others live in a community house on the countryside. We come from both middle class and poorer class backgrounds, sharing all possessions and praying together every evening. Since 2013 we have a business, selling porridge, which some members from the Jesus Fellowship recently helped us with.

Why do you live like this?

I personally grew up in a divorced family and was very unhappy, I wondered why there were so many problems in the world. People are selfish, some are rich and others poor, there are orphans and divorce. I wanted to stop these problems, but I didn’t know how. Continue reading “Acts 2 is the Solution”

Our Muslim Neighbors

by Rachel Stella. Originally published in Mennonite World Review, republished with permission.

When we talk about living in peace with Muslims, some Christians become uneasy. They reason that because Islam and Christianity have such differences, true peace isn’t possible.

Yet a call to live in peace is not the same as a call to harmonize the two faiths. Indeed, it would be impossible to harmonize them without fundamentally changing one or both. Although they share a few beliefs in common, Islam and Christianity have major theological differences that are irreconcilable.

It is still entirely possible to live well with Muslim neighbors in our communities. Sure, you and your Muslim friend might enjoy a theological debate once in a while. (Depending on one’s personality, such an activity might or might not seem like a good time.) But it doesn’t have to keep us from getting along with each other as neighbors. Continue reading Our Muslim Neighbors

Spirit-Baptized Creation

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn. Part 3 of 4. Read the whole article as a PDF here.

My third and last step is the thought of Aaron Jason Swoboda,[1] North-American Pentecostal theologian. He begins to notice the fact that Pentecostal academy, churches and publications have been “Eco-theologically quiet”.[2] However, he finds that there are four major strands that have contributed to a social Pentecostal theology: charismatic social theology, liberation theologies, eschatological social justice and African creation spiritualties. As we have chosen liberation theologies as a source, we will continue with the concept from which Swoboda has articulated his Pentecostal Eco theology: Spirit-baptized creation.

Swoboda’s account is relevant for us in two senses. First, he maintains the idea of creation—earth—as the residence of the Spirit, as the Spirit “fills all things” (Eph. 4:10). Second, he maintains the idea that a person baptized in the Holy Spirit is empowered to “care for, protect and defend the earth” (p. 285). In his perspective, as in the beginning, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a way for bringing peace among all races, according to the view of black leader of Azusa Street revival William Seymour: the core of the action of the Spirit is love. Being so, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and an understanding of creation as a sacred work of God, would bring out a love for creation, and consequently, an ecological ethic. Continue reading Spirit-Baptized Creation

“Make Disciples of All Nations” – and Then the Nations Came to Us!

As Jesus was preparing to leave the earth and ascend to heaven, He gave his disciples a few instructions called the Great Commission. Jesus directed his remaining followers to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching and baptizing them in the way of the Lord. For the last 2000 years or so, that is just what the church has done (albeit imperfectly and not always contextually). Since Pentecost, ministers of the gospel have gone out to other places in the world to preach and teach the Word of God, and have led billions upon billions to faith in Jesus Christ. Amazing, right!

Over the last few hundred years, however, this cross-cultural ministry has primarily been led by American and European missionaries. Out of a desire to win the lost in exotic, third world nations (and sometimes out of a desire to colonize those nations, let’s just be honest) they have crossed land and sea, spending their entire lifetime discipling people in the way of the Lord. Yet, as a result of immigration and other global trends/ situations, something quite fascinating has taken place.

Now people of other nations and ethnicities are coming to America, looking for opportunities to start over, raise their family, receive education or just live to see another day. This has wonderful implications on the gospel and missions efforts, because now the very people that we’ve been trying to reach are our neighbors. But instead of reaching out to them, inviting them into our churches, our homes, our lives, many Christians and churches are pushing them away. Continue reading “Make Disciples of All Nations” – and Then the Nations Came to Us!

The Jerusalem Project: Starting a Christian Community from Scratch

The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.

Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!

That’s basically as much authority one can get.

But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them. Continue reading The Jerusalem Project: Starting a Christian Community from Scratch

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice