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For many years, Luis Palau has been engaged in the ministry of evangelism, similar to Billy Graham, though on a smaller scale. God has used him significantly and the Holy Spirit has used his preaching in the conversion of many.

In more recent years, Palau’s sons, Kevin and Andrew, have partnered with him in ministry of the Luis Palau Association, and they have expanded their evangelistic ministry to include a festival that culminates in a service in which the gospel is preached evangelistically.  As part of this ministry a new model has been developed in which the Association coordinated a “season of service” with local churches to meet the needs of people in their cities, and the serving of people culminates in an evangelistic festival. What they have done is combine social action, justice and compassion, and evangelism.

The Palaus were recently interviewed about this ministry: “The ‘Delicate Dance’: An Interview with Luis, Kevin, and Andrew Palau,” Leadership Journal (November [Online-Only] 2012).  As stated in the interview, how using social action as part of the larger context in which the gospel was shared was actually prompted by the mayor of their city. There were 1200 single, homeless mothers, and the major knew there were 1200 evangelical churches, so he asked if the Association would coordinate a relationship between a homeless mother and a local church. Though such a ministry has certain needs and appropriate leadership, the Lord, in His grace and mercy, is using it in the lives of people.

In the call to evangelism and social action, there is often a leaning more in one direction than another. With an appropriate call to re-address meeting physical and social needs of people, through compassion and justice, there is a tendency to focus on that at the expense of evangelism. When asked whether the ministry of caring for and meeting needs of people “translate[d] into greater receptivity to the gospel message,” the Palaus responded as follows:

Luis: The pendulum seems to swing between social action and evangelism, and right now I think the pendulum has swung to social action. I worry because right now people almost sneer at the concept of evangelism.

Andrew: Especially proclamation evangelism. They would say relational evangelism is fine, but proclamation evangelism is too much.

Luis: True. But I wonder how much real evangelism goes on in “relational evangelism.” Is having a beer together at a bar and chatting for three hours about culture truly evangelism? When are they going to hear the gospel?

Kevin: I wish I could say, “Oh, my goodness. We held a service festival which fostered a ton of relational evangelism, and the number of people accepting Christ doubled.” But we can’t say that. At times I wonder, Has it taken all of this work just to keep anyone at all interested in hearing the gospel?

Andrew: Looking at the broader perspective, changing people’s general sense of who a follower of Jesus Christ is opens the door for more relational and one-on-one evangelism. And just getting evangelism on the radar of some people inside the church is important. If we can’t even do that because we’re too focused on the festival model, they’re going to keep it at arm’s length. But we want to start breaking down the barriers that have kept people from even thinking about evangelism. At the end of the day, they look at the whole thing and say, “You know, this festival thing really wasn’t that bad. The gospel was proclaimed. I brought my friend, and he came to the Lord. Or maybe he didn’t come to the Lord, but we’re still friends and now we have this new conversation.”

Expounding Article 8 on “Christian Living” in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith in the Evangelical Free Church of America, pp. 199-200, we have stated these joint truths, proclamation of the gospel and propagation of good works through compassion and justice ministries, in this way:

Regarding ministries of compassion and justice, the church has often vacillated between two extremes, either focusing on the physical needs of people while assuming or neglecting the spiritual or seeing people only as “souls to be saved” and disregarding their tangible suffering in this world. The example of the early church in Acts 6 provides a helpful model. In response to the inequitable distribution of food among widows, the apostles saw to it that some were assigned to address that situation. But they did so while maintaining the priority of their ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:2-4). The church today must do the same. Ministries of compassion have been a strong part of our Free Church history, both in America and around the world, through the establishment of orphanages, homes for the elderly and hospitals. We now have a ministry known as TouchGlobal dedicated to this purpose. Certainly, our highest priority must be the proclamation of the gospel, for the gospel alone can address our deepest need, and the church alone can bring this gospel to the world. But while maintaining this priority, we ought not to neglect the very pressing material needs of those around us. Love requires no less.

Please note that while we affirm these are joint truths, we also state unequivocally that “our highest priority must be the proclamation of the gospel.” But making that our highest priority in life and ministry does not mean we “neglect the very pressing material needs of those around us.” We attempted to capture this briefly in a single sentence (EC, p. 200, n. 27): “We believe we ought to seek to alleviate all human suffering, but especially that which is eternal.”

I humbly acknowledge that it is easier to get this right doctrinally in propositional statements than it is to get it right practically in ministry. And yet both orthodoxy and orthopraxy are necessary (the former for the faith that saves [Romans]; the latter for a faith that works [James]) and important.

Most will be familiar with Charles and Andy Stanley, father and son. Charles has served as the senior, preaching pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA, since 1971. He is the founder and president of In Touch Ministries, and he also served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1984-1986). Andy has served as the senior, preaching pastor of North Point Community Church (which now consists of five church sites), Alpharetta, GA, since 1995. Under his leadership, North Point Ministries was also begun. From what it appears, both of these local churches are thriving, mega-church ministries.

What is often not known or remembered is that Andy began ministry at First Baptist with his father with the intention that he would be his father’s successor. Even lesser known are the reasons why. Since it has been many years since this happened, many don’t know how it came to be that these two men were used of God to lead two ministries rather than one.

John Blake has written an interesting and informative story about Charles and Andy Stanley: “Two preaching giants and the ‘betrayal’ that tore them apart,” CNN.com (November 18, 2012).  The Stanleys are both Evangelicals, both committed to the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, and both gifted preachers. Most of us know these facts. There are a few other family matters and interpersonal issues between them that are lesser known, issues that God has healed in recent years.

As fellow Evangelicals and brothers and sisters in the Lord, we ought to rejoice in what God has and continues to do. We ought to thank the Lord for this healing, and pray that to the degree they remain faithful to a ministry of the gospel, their respective ministries, empowered by the Holy Spirit, focused on Christ, to God’s glory, would thrive and flourish.

Christian Scorn

Greg Strand – July 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Timothy Dalrymple, “If You’re Selling Scorn for Conservative Christians, the Market is Hot” (June 11, 2012)

Dalrymple is concerned that young, progressive evangelicals have fallen into the pattern of publicly blaming older, conservative Evangelicals for giving Christianity a bad name and driving people away from the church due to their moral positions and the manner in which they speak to those issues. These younger progressive Evangelicals want to distance themselves from older, conservative Christians (likely considered Fundamentalist), and apologize to the broader culture for their embarrassing older relative. The essence of this was stated by Dalrymple in a post “What if the Culture War Never Happened” (May 31, 2012).

Some of his progressive friends asked for examples, which he did not want to do, but led to this post. The essence of what he intends to say is this:

To be fair, this happens on both sides.  But recently I’ve seen a lot of young, progressive evangelicals denouncing and caricaturing their conservative brethren for their “culture war” concerns.  But by accepting the caricatures coming mostly from secular critics, legitimating and perpetuating them, they themselves — acting out of concern for the damage done to the church and its witness — are doing great harm to the church and its witness.  If we truly care for the public witness of the church, then we (liberal and conservative) need to stop slandering and caricaturing the other half of the church.  Don’t throw your Christian brothers and sisters under the bus.  Even if you disagree with them, you can provide a coherent, charitable explanation for what “those other evangelicals” believe.

Dalrymple listed two examples. The first comes from Missiongathering Christian Church in San Diego. In response to the May 8, 2012 passing of Amendment 1 in North Carolina (65.05% to 38.95%) that limits the types of domestic unions considered valid, viz. husband and wife in marriage, Missiongathering purchased ad space on a billboard alongside Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, NC, and included the following words: “Missiongathering Christian Church IS SORRY for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of THOSE WHO DENIED RIGHTS AND EQUALITY TO SO MANY IN THE NAME OF GOD.” 

After explaining some possible reasons why they made these statements and what they communicated, Dalrymple concludes,

Their intentions are honorable, but undermined by an incoherent strategy and by their deep-seated scorn for conservative Christians.  They’re trying to encourage love — by being hateful (and no, I don’t think that’s too strong a word).  They’re trying to encourage tolerance — but judging everyone who disagrees with them.  They’re trying to improve the witness of the church — by legitimating the stereotype that the conservative half of the church is bigoted and deceitful.  They hold themselves out as a better alternative — by throwing more conservative Christians under the bus.

The second example listed by Dalrymple is the post written by Rachel Held Evans, “How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation,” which I commented on earlier. I will not rehearse that here, and neither will I include what Dalrymple included in his post. Suffice it to say, I am in general agreement with Dalrymple.

It is interesting to me that on many of these moral and cultural issues, the young progressive Christians/Evangelicals have more in common with young, progressive unbelievers than they do with older, conservative believers/Evangelicals. It is important to nuance this a bit, as this is not just a generational matter. There are older progressives who respond in a similar manner, and not all young people are progressives. And I could nuance it even more than this, but I made my point. My conclusion is that something is not quite right with this response.

Dalrymple agrees. Here is his conclusion:

Evans and the Missiongathering church believe that Christians who oppose marriage equality for gays in the name of God are doing a disservice to the God they claim to serve and harming the witness of the church. I get it. But this is not the right way to respond.

This is selling anger, not offering enlightenment.  Anger is not always wrong, but it’s always a dangerous substance to deal with.  In its anger, posts and billboards like these lose the capacity to understand believers who disagree.  They rush to judge our elders and dispense with humility or nuance.  Instead of saying, “No, most conservative Christians are not hateful or deceptive.  Here is where they’re coming from, “but I stand with you” — they say “I am with you” because “I scorn them too.”

Does it happen on both sides?  Absolutely.  I cannot stand the glib, bigoted “ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven” video that’s circulating.  But one would never know, from a post like Evans’, that there are loving and thoughtful and self-sacrificial people on the conservative side of the argument who are genuinely trying to do the right thing for all people.

There is a growing genre — call it Progressive Christian Scorn Literature — about the scorn progressive Christians have for conservative evangelicals.  It seems to be celebrated on the Left as a kind of righteous comeuppance for the Christian Right, and it wins the applause of the Left for the Christian Left.  But it’s wrong and it needs to be called out.  It’s neither winsome, nor loving, nor constructive, nor right.  It will not improve our witness because it’s soaked through with bitterness and rancor.  I hope that people of good heart and mind, like Evans, leave it behind.

We cannot get beyond the culture wars by simply joining one side and lobbing bombs against the other.  We cannot improve the reputation of the church by throwing half of it under the bus.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) released the “Code of Ethics for Pastors.” This document was developed over the past 18 months by a task force that included pastors, ethicists, editors and denominational leaders, including our own President Bill Hamel. After several drafts, on March 8, 2012 the NAE Board of Directors unanimously adopted the “Code of Ethics for Pastors.” Please see a copy of the document in English and in Spanish. (If you are interested in who has signed the Code. If you are interested in signing the Code.)

Luder Whitlock, chair of the task force, was grateful to Leith Anderson, NAE President, and the Board for this important statement: “Thanks to the leadership of Leith Anderson, the board of the NAE has prepared a long overdue Code of Ethics for Pastors. This succinct statement provides guidance for pastors who desire to honor the Lord by their example as well as by what they confess and preach. We expect it will soon become indispensable as a reference for pastoral ethics.”

For Anderson, long-time pastor who recently retired, this is an important document for pastors. He encourages discussion and adoption. Anderson’s ultimate desire is that pastors will live by these standards, not in a legalistic manner but in dependent and joyful reliance on the Holy Spirit, so that their (our!) lives would be lived “above reproach” and that they (we!) would live in a “manner worth of the gospel of Christ.”

This is every pastor’s opportunity to know, commit and tell others about a personal and professional standard of biblical pastoral ethics. I invite every pastor and every church board to put this code of ethics on the agenda for an upcoming meeting. Discuss. Adopt. Live these standards.

I include below the major themes and issues addressed in the “Code of Ethics for Pastors” (please read the whole document, cf. the link above, where this is delineated further).

Code of Ethics for Pastors

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. (2 Corinthians 6:3)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27)

All who are called by God to the ministry of the gospel solemnly commit to a life of joyful obedience and selfless service in order to glorify God and enrich his people. Therefore, a minister will:

Pursue Integrity

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. (1 Chronicles 29:17)

          • in personal character.
          • in personal care.
          • in preaching and teaching.

Be Trustworthy

It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

          • in leadership.
          • with information.
          • with resources.

Seek Purity

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

          • in maintaining sexual purity.
          • in spiritual formation.
          • in theology.
          • in professional practice.

Embrace Accountability

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

          • in finances.
          • in ministry responsibilities.
          • in a denomination or a ministry organization.

Facilitate Fairness

Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. . Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)

          • with staff.
          • with parishioners.
          • with the community.
          • with a prior congregation.

As low-church Evangelicals, we do not follow the lectionary (= a corporate systematic reading through the Bible in a three-year cycle) and minimally recognize and participate in the Christian Year (= the important and most significant seasons of the of the year as determined by the church). The two that Evangelicals will recognize are Christmas and the Passion Week, with the death and burial of Christ (either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday) culminating in Easter Sunday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Most Evangelicals follow the civil, secular calendar much more closely that the Christian Year. For example, let me ask a few questions to determine the accuracy of my statement: 1)How many of the civil/secular holidays do you recognize, such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day (though often with less fanfare than Mother’s Day), 4th of July, Thanksgiving, etc.? 2) Besides Christmas and Easter, how many of the Christian Year celebrations do you recognize? Can you name them? Some of the other Church Year celebrations are Advent, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity.

This past Sunday was Ascension Sunday. It was a wonderful time to remind God’s people of the truth and significance of Jesus’ ascension. Most don’t think about it, and most don’t have a sense of the ongoing significance of Jesus’ ascension, not only for Him and His ministry, but also for us.

To consider the biblical evidence, Jesus looks towards His ascension: Matt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:69; Jn. 3:13; 6:62; 20:17. Luke records the actual historical ascension of Jesus with an accompanying exhortation to the ministry of Christians post-ascension (Acts 1:9-11).  Paul (Eph. 1:20-23; 4:10; 1 Tim. 3:16), Peter (1 Pet. 3:22) and the preacher of Hebrews (Heb. 4:14). The New Testament writers are also clear about the goal of the ascension, or the place where Jesus ends up post-ascension and the theological and practical aspects to Jesus’ ministry: Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand, the place of highest honor and authority, from where He engages in his ongoing ministry of intercession (Rom 8:34; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:3; 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:17-27; 10:12-13; 12:2; 1 Jn. 2:1).

To expand this just a bit beyond the biblical testimony, the ascension was one of the early important truths about the life and ministry of Jesus. For example, in the Apostles’ Creed, it is one of the “steps” in Jesus’ exaltation: “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” The Nicene-Constantinople Creed (381) states the truth this way: “and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” Here is how the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) states the truth and benefits of Christ’s ascension:

Question 49. Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension into heaven?

Answer: First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we “seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth.”

Question 50. Why is it added, “and sitteth at the right hand of God”?

Answer: Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.

Question 51. What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us?

Answer: First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends        and preserves us against all enemies.

So you can prepare, coming up on June 3 is Pentecost Sunday, followed by Trinity Sunday on June 10.

I am not suggesting we either don’t celebrate the civil, secular, nor that we must celebrate the Church Year. My point is that we often take our cue more from the secular culture than we do from the church and our tradition. I understand our concern about tradition. I do not want to put in place the old lectionary so that all of this becomes empty tradition without the Spirit. This was my experience. When I was regenerated, I threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Time and distance have enabled me to grow and mature, and thus exercise more discernment, I trust.

There is both a negative and positive aspect to tradition. Jaroslav Pelikan appropriately recognized this in his statement (The Vindication Of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture In The Humanities), “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”

With God’s inspired, inerrant, sufficient and authoritative Word as our foundation, and with a sense of our great Christian tradition, made up of that great cloud of witnesses, let’s be faithful to profess, live, contend for and teach the faith.

As Paul reminds us in Romans 14:5-9, regardless of how we perceive days, and whether we remember them (by recalling, teaching and celebrating), the bottom line is that we are the Lord’s, i.e. we have been bought with the price of the blood, and therefore we are the Lord’s, and since we have, all we do is unto the Lord and for His honor:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.  The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor the Lord and gives thanks to God.  For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.  So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living.