Category Archives: evangelism

Old Faith, New Day

I just received my copy of Don’t Call it a Comeback: An Old Faith for a New Day, edited by Kevin DeYoung. Reading the intro, it is a little different than I expected but I am still liking it. It is geared toward new believers or those just now seeking to learn how to articulate the faith. I was thinking it would be a collection of essays on the importance of being tied to correct, historical theology and the historic church. Granted, I am only one chapter in. DeYoung kicks off the first chapter by discussing how to reach the next generation. He doesn’t offer programs, or styles, but passion.

They [the next generation] will only get serious about the Christian faith if it seems like something seriously worth their time. You can have formal services, so long as you do not have formalism. You can have casual services, so long as you do not approach your faith casually.

I have often heard it said, “A mist in the pulpit is a thick fog in the pew,” meaning if the teacher/preacher doesn’t know what he’s talking about, then the congregation will be even more lost. The same principle applies to zeal. If the preacher/teacher is unmoved and not passionate about the Gospel, he should not be surprised when few in the congregation care—they are only playing follow the leader. I have been apart of both types of churches. Churches where the ministries want nothing to do with other ministries in the church, there is segregation, lack of unity, and lack of passion. However, it is hard to be surprised because it is a trickle down effect from the leadership. I have also been in churches where the staff deeply loves one another, serves one another, encourages/admonishes one another and has deep zeal. The congregation typically follows suit. So, be gripped by the Gospel! Be zealous! We don’t need more visionaries to conjure up new programs, but we need transformed people who are passionate. I leave you with this:

I’m tired of talking about authenticity, as if prattling on about how messed up you are or blogging about your goldfish are signs of spiritual maturity. We need passion, a zeal fueled by knowledge (Rom 10:2) Young people want to see that our faith actually matters to us. They are like Ben Franklin when asked why he was going to hear George Whitefield preach. ‘You don’t even believe what he says,’ people told Franklin. To which he replied, ‘I know. But he does.’ If our evangelical faith is boring to us, it will be boring to others. If the gospel is old news to you, it will be dull news to everyone else.

Medium and Message

I recently came across an article referenced by one of my favorite bloggers, Justin Taylor, who posted a link to an article written by David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary entitled, “Is ‘Holy Hip-Hop’ Holy?“. His basic thesis was questioning the medium and method of Gospel rappers. He didn’t target a specific person or group but the most well known Gospel rap group is 116 Clique, comprised of artists Lecrae, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, Tedashi, and recent addition KB.

He first questions Gospel Rapper’s ability to use hip-hop as a stepping stone to evangelism. He does not deny that some people may come to the Savior through the medium of hip-hop, but he does question the church’s open support of it, using Matthew 7:16-20, “fruits reveal roots” as a segue to the following question:

Are the origins, associations, and present fruits of a musical genre or sub-culture to be seriously considered when deciding whether to incorporate it into the public worship of God?”

In other words, should we think about how hip-hop began before we choose to use it as a medium to communicate God’s message? Murray responds, “[Most] Christians have little idea about the origins, associations, and present fruits of Hip-Hop culture. They see a sanitized version of it on church stages, but know next to nothing about how it began, what it is associated with, and do not have to live with the brutal, terrifying, blood-soaked, and tear-stained fruits of it in the inner cities day after day, and night after night.”

My first problem with this is who Murray credits for the creation of hip-hop. Yes, there were cultural icons that came out and popularized hip-hop and cut the first album. But is that its origin? I think not because

God created rhythm and rhyme.

As Matt Chandler, Pastor of the Village Church says often, “There is no sacred-secular divide. Music cannot be Christian or non-Christian because it doesn’t have a soul.” There are only mediums that can be used for either self-glorification or for the glory of Christ. In this case, hip-hop can serve as a medium to promote yourself, or the goodness and love of the one true God. I do not buy into the belief that the medium is the message. Mediums seem to be amoral, neither good or bad if separated from the message.

Murry offers the example of the Apostle Paul and his method of preaching by correctly stating that it was distinct from that of the Greeks who wanted signs and miracles. However he goes on to say, “He did not use the common Greek Socratic method or the accepted Jewish Rabbinic model. He used God’s method and model of preaching – culturally unacceptable then as now.” I think Murray goes to far because, while Paul was distinct, it was the message that made him distinct, not the medium. Paul quotes Aratus, a Greek poet in Acts 17:28 when he says, “[For] in him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, For we are indeed his offspring.” In this instant Paul has used a common medium, Greek poetry, and applied a distinctly Christian meaning to it. He has no regard for its original meaning, the authors intended audience, or the authors goal. He rips this quotation from its context, exploits it, and applies a Christian meaning to it. This is something that Paul does often. He uses earthy wisdom, poetry, and even idols to present Christ in a manner that his hearers can grasp, which is essentially what groups like 116 Clique are doing with the Gospel and hip-hop.

My point is this, who cares about the roots or origin of a medium? This seems like the same type of logic that fought against allowing pianos in churches because they were also played in bars. God created music, rhythm, and rhyme for his people to use to make much of Him. We have been given a glorious message—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Likewise, we have been given a multitude of mediums by which we share this glorious message. Mediums come, go, and change but the message remains constant,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures [1 Cor 15:3-4].

Evangelism

Before I even begin to talk about Evangelism, I must admit that I could do better in this area. I am not speaking as one who is perfect in this area but as one who desires to understand God’s will for spreading the Gospel to all nations.

I typically share the Gospel from a stage of some sort. This reveals something in my heart that bothers me. Is preaching the Gospel a good thing? Absolutely. Does it always have to be on stage? No. As a matter of fact, I think people who share the Gospel to their co-workers and neighbors see more people come to faith than most preachers/teachers.

Having said that, there is a debate that I hear, usually between college students and twenty-somethings, that talks about the most effective way to share the Gospel. It comes down to the definition of evangelism. St. Francis of Assisi is famous for saying, “Evangelize, Evangelize, Evangelize and when necessary use words.” I understand what our buddy Francis is saying here considering the culture he was operating in. He was encouraging people to live a life that is in line with the Gospel. However, I think we have taken this a little too far. We have this idea that if we just live a good life with joy in the Lord then people are going to ask us why we are different. I have been a Christian for a while and I feel like I did a pretty decent job at living it out in high school. I wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I was an all around good kid. I can say this without hesitation… Never in my life has someone come to faith because of the way I behave.

Another illusion that we operate under is that evangelism is meeting people’s needs. Is “social justice” (to use a buzz word) necessary? Yes! Meeting the physical needs of others is a by product of evangelism. In 2 Timothy 4 Paul instructs Timothy to “Preach the Word.” In this context he tells young Timothy to do the work of the “evangelist” (or εὐαγγελιστής) which literally means “a proclaimer of the good news”

So in essence, what is the Gospel? It is unapologetically, fervently preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. To define it as living the Christian life for all to see or meeting the needs of others is to put the cart before the horse. Should we preach the Gospel without living the Christian life or meeting physical needs? No. However, we should always remember that to evangelize is to proclaim the Gospel and if you are not preaching the Gospel then you are not evangelizing.

God,
I pray for us, your church. That we would fall
so in love with you that we would preach the
Gospel to all people. Make us aware of those
around us who need to hear of Your Son.
Give us the boldness that comes along with
being Your children. It is my hope that we
would walk in a manner worthy of our
calling and that we would meet the needs of
others. But I pray most of all we would
preach the Gospel. Help us love, work, and
teach well. In the name of Jesus Christ, the
one to whom we owe our very lives. Amen.