Tag Archive: Church

It’s Derby week here in Louisville.  We’re approaching the end of a two-week festival complete with parties, concerts, parades, and invitation-only galas.  The county schools participate in the drama by canceling school on the Friday before Derby Saturday.  Patients cancel appointments.  Roads close.  Attendance at church dips.  A variety of races dot the schedule – a hot air balloon race, running marathons, steamboat races.  And, oh yeah, the actual horse race on Saturday evening.

The Kentucky Derby festivities are…how shall we say it…holy and sacred to many around the city.  The festivities have been consecrated and sanctified by years of pageantry and tradition.

The Kentucky Derby festival is undoubtedly part of the Local Liturgical Calendar (LLC).

Each city has such a calendar.  It includes the events and traditions that give rhythm to the city’s happenings.   The calendar provides an ordering for expectation and planning.  It’s as if the city’s collective mood rises and falls in anticipation and completion of each event.

In addition to the Derby, Louisville’s LLC also includes (among other events): University of Louisville football and basketball in fall and winter, the Kentucky State Fair in August, high school graduations, the St. James Art Fair, days at the Waterfront, and evenings at the Bats games.

While I lived in St. Louis I learned that their LLC centered on the museums, the Arch, and the professional baseball, football, and hockey teams.  In Durham, NC the LLC involved Duke and UNC basketball along with the famous Durham’s Farmer’s Market.  From Charlotte to Greensboro the calendar revolved around professional football, NASCAR, the banking industry events, and concerts.

I was reminded of the hallowed Louisville and Derby events recently when I scheduled a confirmation class retreat.  Without intention I scheduled the overnight retreat on the same day as Thunder over Louisville.  Having been away from the city for a few years my internal attunement to the local calendar was amiss.  Fortunately, those better in sync with the local calendar called to gently remind me that some families would likely have a conflict.  (I should say, they never suggested I cancel or change the retreat (and we didn’t).  They genuinely cared that the children, their families, and I be open to all the happenings and how persons might be affected.)

But herein lies a problem…

Part of the Local Liturgical Calendar problem is churchly and pastoral.  On one bulletin board in my office there is a county school schedule, a minor league baseball schedule, and this coming fall’s UofL football schedule.  To what extent do we, as church leaders, plan around such events?  How do we incorporate the local calendar into the church calendar?  Which calendar takes precedence?

The other dynamic of the Local Liturgical Calendar is personal.  We might ask ourselves, What schedule gives rhythm and meaning to my life?  Do church events earn the same ink or space on my calendar as other local, family, or professional appointments?  After which calendar do I pattern my life?  Does the Church’s liturgical year – that calendar of scripture readings, feast days, and color changes in the sanctuary – matter to me?

Part of the beauty of the church calendar lies in it’s structure and rhythm.  Starting in December it traces the story of God’s activity from Advent to Christmas to Epiphany to Lent to Easter to Pentecost.  Tuning ourselves in to the sacred story provides order in the midst of our frenzied culture.  If it’s chaos we fear, it’s order that the calendar provides. When we participate in the church’s liturgical year we relive for ourselves the sacred story, making it matter here and now.

Is this crazy?  Is it even remotely possible to pattern our lives around a calendar that may seem archaic, distant, or superfluous?  Admittedly, we’ll never “get ahead” in a business sense by attending a bible study instead of a networking seminar.  But it is even a little possible…to make room, to raise the priority level, to create space..for the church’s calendar?

This is not a post to harangue everything Derby.  I ran the mini-marathon.  I watched the fireworks.  I enjoy the Waterfront Chow wagon.  I love the balloon glow.  And, on Saturday, I’ll gather with friends and family to eat, watch the races, and pull the name of a horse out of a hat, hoping that beautiful creature might win the race and earn me a prize.

But then, on Sunday, I’ll go to church…


Lent 4.5 – Energy

How are we using our limited energy resources?  How can we use them more efficiently?

How are we using our personal energy?  Our church energy?  For what purpose?

Are we ultimately following, Christ, the light of the world?

Ever since the first church put a coffee shop in its lobby the debate has brewed on and on (and on).  Should the church entrance, narthex, lobby (or whatever you call it) be a place that hands out bulletins or cups o’ joe?  Is the lobby for merely passing through on one’s way to the sanctuary?  Or is it a place for gathering and sitting together around a tall table and a plate of breakfast goodies?  Is the narthex for ushers ushering or congregants congregating?

I still remember the first time I saw a coffee shop in a church lobby. It’s presence seemed odd and misplaced, yet fresh and intriguing.  You mean I can worship and drink coffee at the same time?  I can sit with friends around a table, seeing their faces worship, instead of looking at the back of the head in front of me in the pew?

Coffee shops in church?  Maybe.

I recently finished Onward, a book by Starbucks ceo (Starbucks company’s spelling and capitalization, or lack thereof) Howard Shultz detailing the company’s journey through recent ups and downs.

In Onward, Schultz speaks of culture’s “places.”  Places, for him, are those locations where people connect with others in a variety of ways.  Shultz’s suggests that home is the “first place” and work is the “second place” of connection.  The coffee shop, he proposes, is a person’s “third place.”  Shultz’s describes the coffee shop (or in his case, Starbucks locations) as “a social yet personal environment between one’s house and job, where people can connect with others and reconnect with themselves.”

He writes: “The next time you walk by a coffee shop, peer inside.  Take in the variety of people in line or seated.  Men and women in business attire.  Parents with strollers.  College students studying.  High school kids joking.  Couples deep in conversation.  Retired folks reading newspaper and talking politics.  Maybe they’re falling in love with the person next to them.  Or making a friend.”

Cultural places.  Home.  Work.  Coffee shops.

What about the Church?  Or the local church?  What is it’s “place” in society?

Now, I don’t mean to say Shultz is wrong to neglect the “place” of the church.  That’s not his focus as ceo or author.  Nor do I want to suggest that the church exists, or should transform to be, like a coffee shop.  But you can’t help (as a pastor or Christian, I suppose), to read Shultz’s words of “places of connection” and not think of the church.

Shouldn’t the church be a place of connection?

A place where people come together to connect with others through worship, study, and fellowship.  A place of reconnecting with ourselves – both the selves we enjoy and the ones we’d rather not spend any quality time examining – through meditation and spiritual disciplines.  In fact, the Church is the place of ultimate connection, a connection with God.  When we come into the sacred pause that is our Sunday morning we come into the full presence of God, hoping, expecting, longing for God’s spirit to and move and inspire.  In fact, it’s God’s grace through the spirit that does the heavy lifting of connecting and reconnecting God’s people.

We might profitably ask of the church the question Shultz asks of coffee shops: What do people see when they peer inside a church?  A sanctuary?  A few coffee tables?  People connecting?

I admit it.  I am guilty of worship snobbery.  I am a selective worshiper.  A worship elitist.  A liturgical snob.  Give me a well-put together service; a theologically sound, intellectually challenging, and enlightening sermon; and a choir second only to the heavenly chorus.  I am a worshiper who dines on what fancies me the most, often leaving the remainder of the worship palate untouched.

Each week I examine the Duke Divinity School worship schedule to see who is preaching, what choir is singing, and what worship tradition is being celebrated at each service.

My favorite professor is preaching on Tuesday, I notice.  I will be sure to be there.

Oh, the contemporary praise and worship team is leading the Wednesday service.  I’ll plan to watch “Glee” on Tuesday night, and skip worship on Wednesday to catch up on reading.

It’s an Anglican service on Thursday.  I don’t have the time to spare.  But I’ve always wanted to hear the preacher.  Perhaps I can eavesdrop when the preacher steps into the pulpit.

I fear that I am not alone.  When I go into different churches the demographics and homogeneity of various worship services are predictable (if not also stereotypical).    Young people congregate with other young folks at “contemporary” praise-and-worships services.  Those who have always worshipped in a traditional manner gather to worship “traditionally.”  Different styles of worship and worshipers rarely mix, even worshipping in separate buildings simultaneously.

In the name of being “selective” or “efficient” we prioritize one worship style over another.  We believe one preacher (the popular one we like) is more likely to speak God’s Word than the less well-known preacher we’re not willing to give a chance.  We cling to old hymns and dismiss the new choruses because surely goodness comes with age.

Why do we do this?

Of course, we have our preferences for worship, but why do we prioritize?  Or is that the right word?  Do we prioritize or idolize?  Idolization might be more accurate.  It seems we lift up one style of worship above the One who is to be worshipped.  We enter into churches, sanctuaries, chapels, or other holy places seeking something that pleases us.  We use worship as a means to satisfy our own desires.

When this happens worship becomes a commodity no different than the millions of other products we consume throughout our lives.  We shop for a worship service that is comfortable and accommodating to our preferences like we hunt down a pair of blue jeans that fits just right.  We profess allegiance to a worship style the same way we commit ourselves to a certain auto manufacturer.  We say, “I am contemporary worshipper” as easily, confidently, and trivially as we say, “I’m a Ford or Chevy person.”

When our allegiance to a particular worship style overshadows our allegiance to the One worshipped we’ve missed the point.  Worship becomes our idol; we bow down to the performance and presentation of the mortal over the immortal.  Our emotional and psychological needs – and not our need to praise and glorify God- take center stage.

Jesus’ urging to Mary and Martha may help.  Jesus said, “Only one thing is needed (Luke 10:38-42).  That one thing says the Psalmist: “To dwell in the house of the Lord…to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4).  We don’t need worship to be many selfish and pleasing things; only one thing is needed.  Worship is not bowing down to our own preferences and losing ourselves in our own worshipful delights.  Rather, true worship is getting lost in wonder, love and praise of the God whom calls and invites us to enter God’s holy and mysterious presence always, everywhere, and in any manner.

Today in the Wall Street Journal Brett McCracken writes an opinion piece on The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity. In the article he chastises pastors and churches who have attempted to make Christianity “cool” in their efforts to attract and keep young believers.  He summarizes, “If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.”

In general, he’s right.  “Cool” Christianity is really no Christianity at all.  Jesus wasn’t “cool” or “hip.”  He hung out on the margins calling people to the radical practices of repentance, forgiveness, love, and grace.  Jesus surely had friends, but not many in the popular and fashionable crowd.

However, I take issue with one area of McCracken’s piece.  He highlights contemporary church leaders’ use of sex as a “hip” selling point for Christianity.  He mention’s Rob Bell’s “Sex God” and Oak Leaf Church’s (Cartersville, GA) website  yourgreatsexlife.com as signs that “sex is a popular shock tactic.”  Many churches, he believes, “are finding creative ways to use sex-themed marketing gimmicks to lure people into church.”

He then lumps Lauren Winner’s “Real Sex” into the cool and gimmicky sex tactics used by Christians to attract new, youngbelievers.

Huh?  Has he read Winner’s book?  If so, did he take the time to digest it?

“Real Sex” is hardly a hipster, young adult-friendly take on sex.  In fact, Lauren calls for something extremely un-hip and un-cool…she argues for chastity!  In “Real Sex” she talks about her sexual adventures during her college years in which she wasn’t a believer (Jewish background).  However, after her conversion she began to see sex/chastity in a new light.  Long story short, she argues in “Real Sex” that chastity for non-married persons is the most faithful Christian view of sex.

Winner’s call for chastity maybe a shocking view, but it’s hardly a hipster, cool take on the subject!

(Full disclosure: Lauren Winner is one of my professors at Duke Divinity School.)

In chapter five the authors investigate how the Church might discard the Christendom mind-set (i.e. the church is not privileged in society today) and become truly apostolic.  How might the Church live “in,” but not “of” the world?  How can the church be sent out on behalf of the reign of God, participating in God’s victory over evil?

The authors first note that the Church must be bicultural.  The Church needs to be “conversant in the language and customs of the surrounding culture and living toward the language and ethics of the gospel” (114).  A nonconformist stance towards the world must be buffeted by conformity with Christ.  The Church is a community shaped by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, living according to the pattern of the resurrected life in the age to come.

In an attempt to capture the political image of the Church, the authors offer the metaphor of the “church as holy nation (117).”  Scripturally, they point to 1 Peter 2.9, Matthew’s interpretation of the kingdom, and Jesus as King of kings.  The Church exists as a “political” ekklesia, an assembly gathered for decision-making.  Even more, Church worship becomes a political act.  Praise, prayer, and Scripture reading/preaching all give light to an alternative community with alternative allegiances.  Worship roots the community in the vocabulary of Jesus (Lord’s Prayer, teachings, etc.), the economics of the early church (Acts 2), and a right understanding of power (Sermon on the Mount).  “The church can make a powerful witness when it chooses to live differently from the dominate society even at just a few key points” (127).  The task of the church is to discern those key points and act!

What does an alternative community look like?  The authors claim that the “total life” of church matters.  The life of the church is not lived in separate church activities done by committees.  Rather, the whole of church life is wrapped up in witness to reign of God.  Also, the knowing (faith) and doing (works) of the gospel is vital.  An alternative community shares in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in word and deed.  Such communities are “willing to trust Jesus’ way, all the way – rather than resorting to some other way (hate, violence, deception, etc) (132).

Alternative communities of Christ also practice preaching, teaching, and healing.  Preaching means announcing the reign of God “beyond the four walls of the church building, out of the safe group of people who know and love each other, into the public square” (137).  Teaching, on the other hand, helps those who respond to the good news gospel grow in discipleship as citizens of the reign of God.  Healing comes through offering love and compassion to others, seeking restoration of mind, body, and soul.

Chapter five was spiritual reading for me.  It caused me to reflect and consider my own understanding of the Church.  What is my theology of preaching and teaching?  What am I trying to “get done” through the Spirit in my sermons and teaching moments?  What “gospel” am I conveying in my words and actions?  Does my life and community resemble an alternative to the world?

I might add this to the authors’ discussion of alternative community: When we (church leaders, theologians, etc.) present the “alternative” nature of the church we must be careful to define “alternative.”  For many, an “alternative community” depicts something different from the normal, strange, or otherworldly.  While these are true of the church in a certain sense, the Christian understanding of “alternative” is not exclusively “non-normal.”  That is to say, for the Christian, this “alternative community” is what we were created for.  God created us for worship and praise.  As children of God we were created such that this “alternative community” is “normal.”  I love what Thomas Merton wrote, “A tree gives glory to God be simply being a tree” (New Seeds of Contemplation).  Like the tree, we give glory to God by simply being whom God created us to be, children of God. For the Christian, the alternative is the normal.

This is the fifth review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.

Denominations…where do we go from here?

After examining the contextual forces at play in North America (chapter two), the writers turn to the unique version of Christendom in North America.  Christendom, they argue, is the relationship that was formed/exists between the church and the broader culture in North America.  As they put it, this relationship has functioned in a variety of ways.  On one hand, the Church has served a guide for the country, responsible for spiritual guidance.  At the same time, the church has acted as a political entity, addressing national policies.  In these ways (and others), the writers suggest that the Church has often found a place of privilege in society.

For some, Christianity’s relationship with the North American culture appears to be a form of Constantinianism (in reference to the legal establishment of the Christian church by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century).  However, the authors argue that over time the North American bent towards Constantinianism (legal establishment of religion) had been replaced with a functional Christendom.  That is, Christianity and the culture maintain a relationship in which both are influenced by the other.  The writers chart the course of Christendom in America this way (time period – cultural influence on Christianity):

  • 17th century – efforts at legal establishment of religion
  • mid-17th century – Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson’s influence
  • mid-18th century through mid 19th century– rise of denominations
  • late 19th through early 20th – immigration of Protestants, Catholics, Jews
  • mid-20th century – wars, civil religion
  • 1960s to today – civil rights, sexual revolution, (Individualization)

The authors argue that today the Church in North America is most influenced by denominations.  The define denominations as the type of church structure that provides “organized life of multiple congregations” (63).  They highlight the trend in denominations that has occurred over the past centuries.  Originally, as new people came to North America in the 17th century they needed a way of relating to one another.  As a result, denominations arose based on ethnicity and geography.  Today, denominations have become corporate organizations that function as rule enforcers or regulators that shape denominational identity.

Near the end of the chapter the authors call for a faithful critique of the existing denominational structures and organization in America.  Though we take denominations for granted, we must also reassess and critique their role.  Are they biblical?  Do they have a role in North America today?  As the authors put it, do denominations represent all that God intends them to be?

I echo this question wholeheartedly.  I wonder, do denominations complicate and divide the Church?  Or do they add a genuine texture of diversity?  It seems the muddling of denominational value has come as a result of a muddling of theological integrity.  Denominational boundaries are drawn not according to theological differences or worship practices, but according to differences in political stances or policy views.  Denominational identity is wrapped up in political allegiances.  How do we recover the various theological traditions that demarcate denominations?  We do so not so that those differences might push us further apart.  But how might we say where we are different in order to see where we agree?  How might a recovery of rich theological traditions within denominations revitalize denominations as instrument of God’s grace and not as institutions focused on building, growth, and strategy?

This is the third review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.

An age of rationality and autonomy

Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" at University of Louisville

In chapter two the writers explore the North American context in which the church finds itself.  The Church’s “context” is both its local community and the larger national culture.  For a missional church to flourish it must intimately know and understand its context.  Churches are challenged to “translate the gospel as good news for the society to which it is sent” (18).  Upon unmasking the philosophical foundations, values, and history of a particular context the Church is more equipped to convey the gospel.  As the authors point out, churches today must be culturally relevant in order to connect with community.

What is the North American context?  The authors argue that three trends that have emerged from modernity are reshaping the North American church context.  First, rationality and reason have become the new mode for discerning and knowing beliefs.  Empirical studies and rational thinking are the avenues for discovering the things that are true.  This represents a shift away from the notion that truth is embedded within tradition or revelation.  Second, the autonomous self has replaced the role of institutions in shaping persons’ attitudes and beliefs.  In medieval Europe, institutions (Church, monarchies, feudal system) shaped persons, and personal interests were subservient to larger corporate interests (23).  In the modern North American context, final authority resides inside the human head (23).  Individuals are free from authoritative institutions and able to discern truth and construct knowledge on their own accord.  Third, the modern context emphasizes the role of the social contract, which submits that individuals will make decisions out of self-interest, but the collective effect will lead to the promotion of the common good.  These principles, when exercised and enjoyed, lead to the realization of the full potential of human life.  The authors suggest that these three trends present the Church with a new “audience.”

Even more, the authors describe North Americans as persons who understand themselves as citizen with rights and freedoms to be exercised at all times and at all costs.  Individuals are also consumers, viewing all of life (including church life) as something to be consumed.  North Americans have also constructed roles and identities (career, job title, political affiliation, etc.) that serve as their primary identity markers.  Finally, modern individuals have become a product of product of technique using science-based technology to manipulate the social and natural world.

One of the major implications of these trends of the “new” individual is that one’s context matters for who one is and how he or she understands him or her self.  Each person brings assumptions to his or her search for truth. Objectivity and facts are always contextual.  For the Church (or church leaders), we must wrestle with the notion that one’s understanding or quest of God/Truth is always an interpretation relative to one’s context and cultural understanding.  We must ask, how can the church address a world in which rational and autonomous individuals are free to make decisions, but they do so without normative content common to all persons?  Even more, what might the growth of a North American pluralist society through immigration, migration, or technology mean as we seek to define context and community?

The authors offer much to digest in chapter two about the new cultural currents the church faces.  However, it is interesting that there is very little mention of race or socio-economic status as factors within the North American context.  It seems these things have played a vital role in the formation of the North American culture, yet the authors do not discuss them as factors to navigate in the current discussion.

I might also add another factor, or characteristic, that seems prominent in the North American context: time and priorities.  In a culture that is constantly moving with more activities demanding more time, the North American “audience” will increasingly be asked to arrange priorities.  How will we spend our time?  What is a faithful use of our time?  What activities consume our hours?  The church will need to discern this “time-crunch” and be prepared to speak into the busy lives of those who may feel too busy to listen to the Church or God.

This is the second review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.

From sending to being sent

The authors of Mission Church begin their exploration of mission and evangelism by stating what has become all too obvious to many Christians around the world.  While Christianity has exploded and grown in many parts of the world, Christianity in North America has experienced a loss of power and influence.  The Church in North America has grown increasingly marginalized.  The authors further point out that North American Christian’s solutions to this problem are too bland.  Often, the typical response to “fix” the Church begins with workshops, seminars, and books.  The writers of Mission Church believe our strategy of analyzing Church problems and searching for solutions misses the crux of the situation.  The answer to the crisis is not the production and enactment of a new method or strategy.  The problems are spiritual and theological; they have more to do with who we are and what we are for as Christians (3).

The opening chapter of Missional Church charts the history of Christian mission throughout the 20th century.  The writers argue that most early theologies of mission that originated in the West we ecclesiocentric.  Western missionaries sought to make churches in other parts of the world in the images of Western Christianity.  Mission as disciple-making was not part of the discussion.

During these times, the assumption was that “mission” was just another program of the church to reach out to pagans.  For many local parishes, mission was often defined as member recruitment.  Many church leaders viewed “mission” as synonymous with church institutional maintenance.  Unfortunately, this attitude persists in many places still today.

However, the writers point to Lesslie Newbigin (writing in the latter part of the 20th century) as one whose contributions to the field of mission shifted the debate.  Newbigin was one of the first to introduce the idea of the missio Dei (“mission of God”).  For Newbigin, the missio Dei was theocentric.  Mission is not merely an activity of the church.  Mission is the result of God’s purpose of healing and restoring all creation.  God is a missionary God and we are a missionary (sent) people. (John 20.21).  The missio Dei is God’s mission of calling and sending the church to be a missionary church in whichever context the church finds itself.

The authors offer the working definition of the Church as “God’s instrument for God’s mission” (9).  More specifically, they argue that a missional ecclesiology is biblical, historical, contextual, eschatological, and practical. I hear the echoes of Lesslie Newbigin’s definition of the Church: “The church is to be “a sign, instrument and foretaste” of the reign of God” (Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble, p. 103).

Finally, the authors touch upon the visibility of the church.  Is the church visible or invisible?  Is the Church a tangible object or an ideal?  The writers conclude that the Church is a real and tangible human community marked and made to be much more than appears on the surface.  It is not just a human institution.  It has been created by the Spirit (13).

When one looks at the nature of the Church one sees a resemblance of the Incarnation.  The Church is divine in purpose and earthy and organic in composition.  The Church exists in and is shaped by a context and culture.  This divine-human-incarnational relationship is the framework for all missions in this dramatic and decisive time for the Church in North America.

I am greatly looking forward to this book.  From the outset, it seems as if it will provide real substance to the study and practice of mission.  Perhaps most importantly, that substance will be thoroughly scriptural and theological.  Specifically, the authors’ location of the substance of mission and evangelism in the Incarnation is magnificent.  If we are called to participate in the greatest mission in history, it only makes sense to found that mission on the greatest moment in history, the moment when God became man!

This is the first review in a ten-part series looking at Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell Guder.

Philosophical, communal, faithful….and needed

Brad Kallenberg’s Live to Tell: Evangelism in a Postmodern Age is a clear, methodical, and enlightening look at evangelism in the 21st century.  While lacking in theological or scriptural substance at times, Kallenberg’s philosophical background clearly creates a compelling image of how the Christian faith may prosper amid changing times.  Kallenberg’s use of analogies, metaphors, and anecdotes presents a systematic approach that most church leaders will enjoy.

Particularly fruitful is Kallenberg’s consistent emphasis on evangelism as a communal practice.  Evangelism is no longer solely the responsibility of individuals.  Rather, evangelism today is the practice of the whole church embodying the life of Christ.  Kallenberg does allow for traditional face-to-face conversations to be part of a church’s evangelistic outreach, but he locates the crux of evangelism in a churches ability to live out its story in line of the gospel story.  Rightly so, Kallenberg argues that this model of evangelism greatly depends upon the church maintaining and fostering a faithful, righteous, and honest character.  He invites churches to ask, “How are we embodying mercy and grace?  How are we living out the call to repentance, forgiveness, and thanksgiving?”

Kallenberg’s emphasis on the role of language is also welcomed.  The Christian faith holds a special language that we are called to invite others to learn.  We evangelize by embodying the church’s language, allowing it to form of lives.  Kallenberg’s love for the Christian language has Stanley Hauerwas’s fingerprints all over it.  I recall listening to a lecture Hauerwas gave at school in which he told us students, “You are here to learn a new language.  Theological education is about learning a new language.”  While not all Christians are called to formal theological education in a seminary, Hauerwas’s point fits all Christians.  All Christians are called to learn the language of God, the Church, and faith.  Evangelistic outreach involves embodying this language, sharing and teaching it to others.

Live to Tell, however, is not without it’s faults.  While Kallenberg wonderfully articulates the postmodern circumstances for conversion, he says very little about what comes next for a convert.  We might say that he adequately gets us to the point of justification, but then sidesteps sanctification.  He does say that close proximity to Christian worship gives someone a vantage point for imaginatively inhabiting the Christian outlook (101).  But he makes few connections between evangelism and involvement in Christian practices (prayer, scripture reading, fasting, etc.).  You may recall that Scott Jones avoid this pitfall by arguing that evangelism aims for more than simply bringing people to the point of accepting God’s claim on their lives.  For Jones, we evangelize people into Christian discipleship.  We evangelize, or invite, people into a full commitment of their heart, mind, soul, and strength in love of Christ.  For Jones, evangelism never ceases, stretching beyond the moment of justification and helping to lead persons in sanctification.

In all, Kallenberg’s work makes a wonderful contribution to today’s discussion of evangelism and mission.  His philosophical and theoretical musings contribute a new voice to the on-going theological, scriptural, and pragmatic discussion currently taking place.

This is the final review in a seven-part series looking at Brad Kallenberg’s Live to Tell: Evangelism for a Postmodern Age

%d bloggers like this: