It’s a pretty scary thing asking an external body to do some research for you and having absolutely no control over the findings. What if you don’t like what they come back with?!
So it was with some nervousness that we decided at Tearfund to team up with the research firm Barna Group to look into connections between caring for people in poverty and spiritual growth.
In particular, we wanted to look at what we call a ‘whole life response’ to poverty. Tearfund is absolutely committed to helping Christians, in the UK and around the world, respond to poverty in a ‘whole life’ way: through prayer, giving, advocacy, lifestyle, and other actions such as volunteering. We summarise that as Pray, Act, Give.
It seems sometimes that in the national debate about #TakeAKnee the focus has become about “the flag” and “the anthem”, and it is often being forgotten that #TakeAKnee is a protest about the systemic injustices of law enforcement against people of color.
Yet even if that is forgotten in the news and chatter, this is still intensely about race.
The #TakeAKnee protests in the NFL (and spreading across the sports world) are offensive precisely because they began with black athletes.
The offense people are taking as disrespect to the flag, the anthem and to “America” itself comes because these are black athletes protesting.
How dare they interrupt the anthem?
How dare they not salute the flag in the way we want?
How dare they draw any amount of attention to themselves?
How dare they interrupt our holy moment of nationalistic worship?
Tertullian (full name Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born at Carthage in North Africa around AD 155, son of a Roman centurion. He trained as a lawyer and had a razor-sharp mind. Little of his early life is known, but at about 40 he became a Christian. Immediately, he began to write – and Christendom hardly knew what had hit it!
He didn’t ‘do’ much reasoned theology; he confronted. Wrong teachings, sloppy morals, lax leaders, cowardly faith, Tertullian laid into them all. His writing is passionate, with holy sarcasm – and at times still funny even today. You sense a ‘wildness’, a burning heart for integrity and justice, contemptuous of all compromise. Here are some examples:
At a time of fierce persecution, when many favoured fleeing, he wrote: The blood of the martyrs is [the] seed [of the church], adding that once you start fleeing, you will never stop fleeing!
Seeing the growing emphasis on education in church leadership, he cried: What has Athens [headquarters of Greek philosophy] got to do with Jerusalem!”
He took aim at worldly pursuits: All public entertainment damages the spirit.
He castigated the folly of persecutors: If the Tiber rises too high, or the Nile too low, the remedy is always to feed Christians to the lions.
He understood the fleshly human nature that he was confronting: The first reaction to truth is hatred.
Perhaps most biting of all is his judgement on self-centred living: Whoever lives only to benefit himself, benefits the world only when he dies!
We Christians think of a heavenly kingdom; I came to see that God intended an earthly kingdom, or rather, a heavenly kingdom on earth. God’s name was to be hallowed on earth, His kingship seen on earth, His will done on earth. The earth should announce eternity: God on earth.”
In a number of writings, Christoph Blumhardt presented his understanding of the kingdom of God and how it is forever breaking in to life on earth – for that was always God’s intention.
“The angels have God in heaven, I have not – I want to pray down here. I must have God here. The earth is the stage set for the kingdom of God, because the kingship of God is in direct relationship with this earth: the Saviour, down here. God’s intention is the here and now: Jesus challenging poverty, sin and misery on earth.”
When I was a freshman in college, my friends and I were discovering charismatic spirituality together. We often had long prayer sessions, and we always expected to experience and hear God. It was messy, naive, often fueled by fear, but God was somehow in it as we experimented with this bizarre mysticism that was so confident in Christ’s Spirit being within us. Some of us walked through our campus often, quietly praying in tongues, rebuking the spirits among us causing fear, spiritual drought, depression, etc., and declaring a better way for the Church and for the school. We called this spiritual warfare.
I still believe in the power of spiritual warfare, even if much of our demon-hunting was a bit silly. I’d like to think that Holy Spirit interpreted our prayers the way they needed to be interpreted, and maybe we did push the devil out of our campus a bit. Hopefully. But still, before Friends of Jesus retreats, I often try to spend time in intercession, praying for the outpouring of the Spirit and protection from the enemy, who loves to stir up quarreling among believers and quench the Holy Ghost. I’m still a firm believer that Christ handed an authority to the Church to be declare, prophesy, and shake things on this earth, and in the spirit realm, to realize the reign of God among and within us. Continue reading Political Protest is Spiritual Warfare→
Over and over again I see how some fellow Christian activists want to de-emphasize the importance of Heaven. It is often claimed that the reason why traditional evangelical and charismatic churches have not been so involved in promoting peace and justice is because there is too much focus on Heaven, salvation and evangelism – they don’t want to waste their energy and time on politics and activism when they can use it to save souls instead.
To challenge this heresy, some Christian activists go to another extreme. They might argue that giving people eternal life wasn’t Jesus’ main concern, that the Kingdom is mainly here and now and not there and then, that evangelism is not so important, etc. God’s focus is primarily earth, not heaven, and we should mimic that, they claim.
However, Paul wrote:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col 3:1-2)
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:19-21)
My name is Aaron D. Taylor and I’m a charismatic Christian. If you ever see me driving with my glasses on, I may look dignified, but don’t let my appearance fool you. Throughout my life I’ve been slain in the Spirit and drunk in the Holy Ghost on numerous occasions. I’ve felt the anointing, laid hands on the sick, cast out devils, and been prophesied over countless times.
It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my Pentecostal/charismatic skin, but I can honestly say today that I wouldn’t trade my Pentecostal/charismatic heritage for anything. I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I’ve “shaken under the power” or “danced in the Spirit”, but to this day I pray in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and if I ever need to get the devil off my back, I’ll gladly pull out the “Sword of the Spirit” and start quoting Scripture. We Pentecostals and charismatics have a lot to be proud of. We were a miniscule, lower class fringe movement 100 years ago and now there are over 600 million of us around the world!
So why do I wish I were a Mennonite? Yesterday was my 30th birthday and when I think about the past 30 years of history, on nearly every moral issue that speaks to how Christians are supposed to live as a peculiar people surrounded by a godless culture, the Mennonites have been right and we’ve been wrong. While charismatic leaders were “naming and claiming” plush clothing, fancy cars, and million dollar mansions, Mennonites were teaching their children to live simply so that others could simply live. While charismatic leaders were petitioning the government to keep under God in the pledge of allegiance, Mennonites were warning their children about the dangers of nationalism. While charismatic leaders were building “apostolic networks” to win the world for laissez-faire capitalism, Mennonites were sharing possessions, building communities, and identifying with the poor. While charismatic leaders were putting bowling alleys and coffee shops in their multi-million dollar church buildings”, Mennonites were providing a decent living for third world farmers by setting up international co-ops and selling fair trade coffee. Continue reading A Charismatic Christian Wishing He Were a Mennonite→