Tag Archive: Christian

Since California’s Proposition 8 has been in the news (seemingly forever, but only really since the 2010 Election), many friends, neighbors, and church folks have ask my opinion on the subject.  As a pastor, I sense they are trying to discern my “true Christian-ness.”

“What’s your take?  Where do you stand?” they ask.

My response to the most recent person who asked: “I stand with Christ.  I stand on the Christian side.”

“Oh,” he said. “So, you’re against same-sex marriage.”

Uh?  What?  I never said that!

I stand with Christ.  The Christ that welcomed the outcast and marginalized.  The Jesus who ate with the least and the lowly, the unclean and the tax collectors.  The Savior who refused to ignore those deemed unworthy.  The Christ who touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable.

But my friend’s jump to a conclusion was clear: The “Christian” side is the Rick Warren side.  Or the Albert Mohler side.  To stand with Christ is to stand with those who refute the judge’s findings.

Why is it that “standing with Christ” is interpreted as standing on the side of exclusion?  When did this fusion of Christianity and the Right-Wing happen?  Why is is that the “Christian” side is synonymous with the GOP?  Why do we use Christian and Conservative interchangeably?  When was “Christian”translated as hate, prejudice, and discrimination?

I stand with Christ.

I stand with Peter.  I  echo his words to the Gentiles in Acts 10: “I understand that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34).

Where have all the Christians gone?  Where are the voices of compassion, humanity, and tenderness?

I pray for the day when “Christian” becomes  synonymous with love, compassion, inclusion, and grace.  When “standing with Christ” means standing on the side of justice, fairness, and embrace. When being a Christian reveals to the world around us that we truly heed the call of Micah, “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6.8)


Francesco Trevisani (1723)

Why parachurch evangelistic ministries?

In chapter six Jones examines the link between evangelism and the church.  Predictably and rightfully, he says, “persons carrying on the ministry of evangelism must have a close relationship to the church.”  Conversely, any faithful church must be intimately committed to the ministry of evangelism, refusing to become clubs that exist only to serve its members.  In fact, Jones argues that the rise and necessity of mission societies, crusade and revival ministries, denominational boards, and other evangelistic parachurch organizations stems from the failure of local churches to be evangelistic (140).  “To be a Christian disciple is to participate in a Christian congregation” (142).  Jones goes even further to state, “those who call themselves Christian and are able to participate in a congregation but do not, call into question their Christian identity” (142).

Who then is a Christian?  Jones refers back to the seven aspects of Christian discipleship he named earlier (baptism, cognitive commitment, worship, spiritual disciplines, witness, spiritual gifts, and faith-sharing).  These characteristics and practices, Jones argues, build towards spiritual maturity.

What elements do not define a Christian?  Jones first points out that self-identification as a Christian is not sufficient.  Recall the words of Jesus in Matthew 7.21: “”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  Jones also claims that one’s Christian identity is not solidified by one’s sacramental history (has he or she been baptized?), church membership (is his or her name on a church membership roll?), or ethnicity (does he or she simply belong to an ethnic group or does he or she practice the traditions of the group?).

Why does Jones stress the important of distinguishing between Christians and non-Christians?  He seeks to establish the difference between evangelism and proselytism.  Oftentimes, he claims, these two words are incorrectly used synonymously.  Proselytism, he believes, aims to convince a Christian disciple to switch membership from one church to another.  Evangelism, on the other hand, seeks to initiate non-Christians into the Christian community.  Any proselytism in the name of evangelism represents fragmentary competition among Christians and damages Christian unity.

Jones’s thoughts about the intimate relationship of the church, Christians, and evangelism are instructive.  However, at times he holds too dearly to his seven characteristics of discipleship, making them a litmus test for true faithfulness.  There is no need to make these seven aspects doctrinal or dogmatic.  We must allow for contextualization and prayerful discernment and sensitivity when gauging the authenticity of others’ faithfulness and discipleship.  We also cannot assume that evangelism is limited only to non-Christians currently outside the church.  There are many who fill the pews now in need of revitalization and evangelizing.  With Christians and non-Christians and insiders and outsiders, “we need to do two things simultaneously: be clear what the Christian life is all about.  Invite others to join that life” (150).

This is the sixth review in an eight-part series looking at Scott Jones’s Evangelistic Love of God & Neighbor

Evangelism as initiation into Christian discipleship

Jones begins chapter four by making a distinction between mission and evangelism, a distinction he believes is often muddled in theological conversation.  Mission, he claims, is a wider ministry than evangelism. Mission includes all that God expects the church to do.  Evangelism, the sharing of love and the gospel, is only a part of that mission.  This distinction produces the clichéd turn of phrase: All evangelism is mission, but not all mission is evangelism.

Jones then explores whether evangelism, in word and deed, is a process the Church participates in or a product the Church wishes to produce.  Jones defines the “process” of evangelism as an on-going set of activities that foster discipleship.  Jones depicts the “product” model of evangelism as one that attempts to immediately win followers of Christ.  Jones argues for evangelism as process, and describes the problem with evangelizing for product as neglecting God’s sovereign freedom and the liberty of human beings.   Jones argues that evangelism must be conceived as a process that aims at a product.  Christians evangelize through a process of relationships such that persons are initiated and nurtured as Christian disciples.

Jones also examines several common links pastors and churches infer when discussing evangelism and mission in the parish setting.  First, he looks at the connection between evangelism and church growth.  He argues that too often churches associate effective evangelism with growth in church attendance.  The weakness of this attitude, Jones says, is that it causes evangelistic pastors and churches to become more concerned with conversion and less focused on sanctification and discipleship.  While getting people to come to church is great, what we do with them after they are there may be even more important.  Jones asks, “Do we confuse the welfare of the church with the welfare of the reign of God?” (109).

Jones also notes the common link Christians make between evangelism and proclamation.  Many view evangelism primarily as the proclamation or announcement of the Good News.  The shortfall of this outlook, however, is that is places too much emphasis on “proclamation as word” and de-emphasizes “proclamation as deed.”  To say that evangelism is proclamation carries explicit verbal connotations.  “Proclamation” does not cover all the various actions that may lead a person into Christian discipleship such as social action, denouncing injustice, or helping to feed the hungry at a shelter.

Jones concludes chapter four with his full definition of evangelism: “That set of loving, intentional activities governed by the goal of initiating persons into Christian discipleship in response to the reign of God”(114).

I wonder, however, where the Church is in Jones’s definition.  Is “Christian discipleship in response to the reign of God” a solo endeavor?  Are “loving intentional activities” most faithfully and fruitfully carried out by individuals or communities?  Jones’s statement lacks an appropriate emphasis on the Church as an evangelizing entity and the Church as the place into which initiation occurs.  Perhaps we might alter Jones’s statement to read: Evangelism is that set of loving, intentional activities performed by individuals and communities through the Spirit and governed by the goal of initiating persons into Christian discipleship within a community of believers in response to the reign of God.

This is the fourth review in an eight-part series looking at Scott Jones’s Evangelistic Love of God & Neighbor

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