Archives For Christianity Today

Rick Warren was interviewed a couple of months ago by Christianity Today 57/3 (April 2013). I especially appreciated his response to two questions.

More resources are expended on evangelism in America than in almost any other nation. Yet surveys say the country is becoming less Christian. What’s your take?

Cultural Christianity is dying. Genuine Christianity is not. The number of cultural Christians is going down because they never really were Christian in the first place. They don’t have to pretend by going to church anymore.

I don’t trust all the surveys out there. Newsweek did a cover on the decline of Christian America based on a Pew survey that said the number of Protestants has dropped precipitously. That’s an old term. It’s like saying I’m a Pilgrim. Nobody calls themselves a Pilgrim or a Puritan anymore. So the number of Pilgrims and the number of Puritans have dropped precipitously in America! That’s a straw man.

Of course Protestantism has dropped. The only people who might still call themselves Protestants are the liberal Protestant churches—the ones that have died the most.

Pastors across the board seem much less influential in the larger culture than they were a generation ago. What happened?

My generation fell in love with the parachurch. My generation and the generation before me built all the great parachurch organizations: Focus on the Family, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Wycliffe, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, Young Life, Youth for Christ, and so on.

The reason why the church doesn’t have greater impact is because the smartest brains and the most money have gone outside the church. If you go to a missions conference at any Christian college, go out and look. There won’t be a single local church organization. It will all be parachurch—100 percent.

In his response to the claim that Christianity is declining, he appropriately distinguishes between cultural Christianity and genuine Christianity. The former is dying, notes Warren, but not the latter. Warren addresses the fact that we live in a post-Christian day. One of the implications is that those who are genuine Christians will be more easily discerned. Christianity is not something one can simply slip into culturally. This creates wonderful opportunities for ministries of the gospel.

Warren also makes a strong statement about the parachurch and how his and the previous generation were enamored with it at the expense of the church. It is not that he concludes the parachurch is bad or wrong. But when it became the primary focus in parallel, or even in opposition to the church, it was not only deleterious to the church, it was unbiblical and contrary to God’s plan for the redeemed. Those ministries are para, they are to come alongside and support the primary ministry of the church. It is the church that the Lord Jesus Christ has promised to build (Matt. 16:18). I am encouraged by the younger generation’s commitment to life and ministry in and through the local church.

Discussing Warren and his ministry often result in varied responses. Though I may not agree with all he says or does (neither would I expect him to agree with me on everything either, or that anyone else would agree with me on everything, for that matter), Warren has been faithful to the Lord and been used by the Lord. He has been committed to the Scriptures, to the church, and to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through outreach and evangelism. Those are good things!

God at the Center of Our Lives

Greg Strand – July 15, 2013 Leave a comment

I appreciated the quote Marguerite Shuster, “The Mystery of Original Sin,” Global Gospel Project, Christianity Today 57/3 (April 2013), included by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She writes of creation the fall and why God placed the tree at the center of the Garden of Eden. It is the place where God belongs in our lives!

God is not a boundary around the edges of our lives, a limit to our abilities that we are always striving to surpass. Nor, we might add, is he the keeper of a boundary imposed by legalists who think we can be changed through an ever more encompassing set of rules. He belongs in the center. Were God merely an outer boundary, we would be left with an inner boundlessness, an emptiness at the heart of things—left, that is, without any true organizing center for our lives. It is only when our relationship of glad obedience to God governs everything that we will be truly free. Then we will find no need for a boundary at all. The more we find ourselves needing to shore up boundaries, or feeling driven to escape them, the surer we may be that something is wrong at the center.

Books are one of the primary tools of the pastor and leader. We are people of one Book, the Bible, it is true. And that one Book must not be assumed. But in addition to the Bible, we also are readers, digesters and responders to other books.

The 2012 Leadership Book Awards,” Leadership Journal (Winter 2013), was recently published.

Under the category “The Leader’s Inner Life,” the book recognized as the “Best of the Best” was Lee Eclov’s, Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Chicago: Moody, 2012). Eclov has been a part of the EFCA literally from birth! He has faithfully served as a pastor in the EFCA for many years, presently serving as Sr. Pastor at Village Church of Lincolnshire, Lake Forest IL.

Of this book Mark Galli writes, “Oh, my, a book on the pastorate that is about, well, pastoring, shepherding! It’s a rare breed in our ambitious and managerial age. But it’s a biblical breed who knows that the minister is, from first to last, a minister of God’s grace.”

In the category of “The Leader’s Outer Life,” the book that received the “Best of The Best” nod was Tim Keller’s, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).

David Fitch summarizes this book as follows: “This book is thorough in providing an overview of the issues faced by the mission-focused church. It covers all the challenges yet does so in a way quickly grasped and applied.”