June 2010

A new kind of Liberalism

A review of ‘A new kind of Christianity’ (HarperCollins 2010) by Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren is an influential Post Modern thinker in Christian circles.  For that reason alone, his latest book A New Kind of Christianity, deserves probing and analysis for its impact on biblical truth and the centrality of Jesus to his arguments.

Brian McLaren has recently published his most definitive work to date in which he comes closer than ever before to clearly stating what he believes.  The book is subtitled, ‘Ten questions that are transforming the faith’ and the book is structured around two sets of five of these questions.  He doesn’t state that the design is intended to contrast with the Ten Commandments, but the connection seems obvious – ten commandments on two tablets versus ten questions in two ‘books’. Brian states that the first book contains the ‘profound and critical questions that are being raised by followers of Christ around the world.’ (Pg. xi). The second set of five are, according to Brian, ‘less profound or theologically radical’ (Pg. xi) and are more practical in nature. I will deal with each of the ten questions, but first a couple of general comments.read more for full review.

Biography – Brian McLaren
Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, pastor and proponent of postmodern thinking in today’s church. Time Magazine listed him as one of the twenty-five most influential Evangelicals in America in 2004.

Brian has written a number of books including The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix, (Zondervan, 1998, rev. ed. 2000) Finding Faith (Zondervan, 1999) and A New Kind of Christian (Jossey-Bass, 2001) which explores issues of Christian faith and postmodernity. His latest book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are transforming the Faith (HarperOne 2010) has drawn considerable response from the Christian community around the world.

For more information go to Brian McLaren’s website at www.brianmclaren.net.

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Ministry of Evangelism

Theme: Evangelistic Outreach
‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.’ Eph 4:11
When I go to a social occasion where I have to mill and mingle, it is not long before someone asks me what I do for a living. If I say I am a pastor then the next two questions are “What denomination?” and “How big is your church?” Just once I would love to say “Well actually I am a Prophet” and wait to see what the next question would be. The job title of ‘Evangelist’ is quite common nowadays because most people are familiar with Reinard Bonke and Billy Graham, not to mention the notorious telly-evangelists… and I mean ‘not to mention’.
So what then does an evangelist do?
Our common answer to this question is determined largely by what we have observed. Most of us have been exposed to the big-stage evangelists who preach to tens of thousands at a time. In terms of this model, an evangelist must be someone who preaches the Gospel of salvation to the masses. I don’t want to sound cynical, but I wonder if, thanks to the well-known Christian TV channels, a lot of unsaved people think that evangelists are professional fund raisers.
Jesus’ master-model for world evangelization was each-one-reach-one-and –teach-one discipleship, so I doubt that Paul had mass evangelistic preaching in mind when he articulated the ‘five-fold’ ministry of Ephesians Four. Actually, he went on to give the job description of the five ministry areas as, ‘ to prepare God’s people for works of service’ (Verse 12). So then, an evangelists main job is to help and equip the members of the church to … make disciples. Now there’s a radical thought!
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Theme: Evangelistic Outreach
‘But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ 1 Peter 3:15-16
There is a saying that has been around for a long time that sounds so right but actually isn’t. It is ‘People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care’. This quote is attributed to John Maxwell. The second part of it is fine. Why should people listen to us unless they believe that we genuinely care for them? Fair enough. It’s the first part I have a problem with; ‘people do not care how much you know…’ In the context of the Christian Gospel, this should read ‘who you know’ not ‘what you know’.
The Christian Faith is not about knowing a lot of biblical doctrine, defences of the Gospel, and arguments against evolution etc. Christianity is about knowing Jesus as saviour and lord. It is an eternal relationship with the living God, not a knowledge-based religious system.
So many people are scared to share their faith in Jesus with others because they feel they do not know enough. This is missing the whole point by a million miles! Consider a court of law. To establish the credibility of evidence led, both prosecution and defence call in witnesses. There are two types of witness, experts and eyewitnesses. When Jesus said “and you will be my witnesses”, (Acts 1:8) He surely had the later sort of witness in mind. Our role is to witness about ‘who’ we know not ‘what’ we know. Leave the expert witness to the theologians and apologists.
You are called to speak about your relationship with Jesus. An expert can be challenged on points of fact but an eyewitness speaks of what she has seen and heard, and, provided it is truthful, this cannot be challenged.
A Christ-like lifestyle begs the question, “Why are you like you are?” The answer is an eyewitness account of your life in relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not hard to witness. It doesn’t require specialist knowledge; it only requires that you know Jesus.
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Life-style and testimony

Theme: Evangelistic Outreach

“let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”. Matt 5:16[/su_note]

“I witness to the unsaved by the way I live, not by what I say.” Have you heard someone say that? Hang it all, have you said that? 
The idea expressed here is that if people can see the Gospel in the way you live then they don’t need to hear it actually articulated. So think a moment. How will anyone know that it’s because of God that you do live the way you do? How do they get to ‘praise your Father in heaven’? Perhaps they will just think that you are a fine fellow and that’s all. Even if they did make a connection between your life-style and your belief in Jesus, how would they know what to do to change their lives? Do we expect people to observe us and then… what? Rush off to church?
Paul had this to say: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:14-15) I am not suggesting that we need to ‘preach’ to people as in lecture them, or subject them to passionate oration. But the principle is clear – how will they know unless someone tells them. And here’s the thing; if your life example has won you the right to speak then only you can do the speaking.
Of course there are too many Christians around who have a lot to say, and spout a ‘gospel’ message to all who will listen, but then live as if they themselves have been untouched by the message they proclaim. This is hypocritical and a terrible witness to the Gospel. But we cannot use this as the reason why we don’t tell others about our relationship with Jesus. The choice isn’t to either walk the talk, or talk the walk – the truth is that we need to both walk and talk the Christian way. Don’t you think so?
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Vuvuzela’s for Jesus

Today is the day! The 2010 world soccer competition starts this afternoon and the whole of South Africa is abuzz.

Christian churches and organizations across the country have mobilized. Some are offering hospitality suits outside the stadiums, others are hosting screenings, while yet others are distributing tracts. Many churches are trying to capitalise on the occasion to reach our soccer-besotted local people. Evangelism! The spiritual vuvuzela blast of the church!

The whole world cup experience has prompted me to think deeply on two issues: the sport -religion of the world, and the church’s conception of evangelism, in the face of such religion.

Sport –  a religion?
A couple of days ago one of the TV channels interviewed a young man who was at the airport for the arrival of one of the teams. Referring to a well-known football star he said, “I managed to touch his hand… and it was like touching the hand of God!”.  About six weeks ago, a political figure stated on national television that soccer will be our ‘saviour’.

The churches response
Is the churches response to the influx of fans what Jesus had in mind when He told us to make disciples of all nations? God is the very epitome of a relational being, the church is relational, and the Gospel is a call to relationship, first with God and then with each other. Yet when we proclaim this Gospel  out of the context of church community we are demonstrating the very opposite of a relational message.

I am not criticising any efforts to proclaim the Gospel to the soccer crowds. The church, of which I am Lead Elder, is joining with other churches in presenting the message of salvation at every screening of each soccer match in the informal settlement of Diepsloot. However, we are involving the local Dieploot churches so that those who respond to the Gospel can be drawn into the church and then properly discipled.

The reason I am writing this is to challenge our thinking on what constitutes biblical evangelism, and what does not

Will people be ‘put off’?
My fear is that a Gospel proclamation out of relational context may well serve as a powerful inoculation to the response to become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.   I am also concerned that the church might be seeing its mission as proclamation of a Gospel message rather than making disciples.  What do you think? Are you involved in an evangelistic activity in the next 5 weeks?

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.