Monday, March 26, 2007

Tuesday morning evangelistic smack-down, #25

The latest Lausanne World Pulse
Some good reading here.

Sober thinking on church planting
Since 1906, and particularly after WWI, new church planting slowed drastically, for a complex variety of reasons. Since 1906 the population has grown roughly 300%, but the number of Protestant churches has grown no more than 35%. This is no more than one new church planted for every 1,000 new residents now. As a result, mainline Protestant churches have had huge declines in membership since the 1960's, and Catholic church attendance has also fallen. If we want to renew our country spiritually, we will have to plant thousands and thousands of new churches annually.

In light of this research, it is clear why America has become decreasingly influenced by a Christian world and life view. It takes new churches to reach new generations, new ethnic groups-and there are far, far fewer churches being planted. Established churches are like "full sponges". The main reason the mainline churches are declining is not bad theology (directly), but the lack of church planting. (The Mormons are not orthodox, but they plant churches like crazy, and thus they are growing.) It should be noted however, that you plant churches because you believe something crucial for others to have…and therefore the culprit is still bad theology in that it produces apathy, and apathy is not exactly great fuel for church planting.

Application to San Francisco
By an approximate count, San Francisco has 300 churches of any potentially Christian stripe. With a population of 760,000, this means there is approximately 1 church for every 2500 residents. (The national average is 12 churches per 10,000 people. San Francisco is at approximately 4 churches per 10,000.) If we wanted to see the number of active Christians in San Francisco double, there is only one way-to get that ratio down to 1 to 1200 or less. That would take at least another 300 churches, this with the assumption that the original 300 were healthy! (City Church/San Francisco website)

Word study: homothymadon (with one mind, of one accord) –

  • Denotes the unity of a group…the thymos may be anger, fear, gratitude or political or, in Judaism, religious. At its best Unanimity is achieved in the magnifying of the one Lord (Rom. 15:16). It is a response to God’s action for the community and the world (cf. Acts 1:4; 4:24). It is thus a gift of God to the praise of God. (TDNT, 1 Vol)
  • “They were characterized by: first, unity of plan to assemble; second, unity of place where physical proximity would lend strength and faith to their vigil; third, unity of purpose which gave direction and focus to their praying; fourth, unity of persistence which afforded drive to their praying; and fifth, unity of prayer which integrated their desires with their objective and thus sealed to them by faith the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to endue them with power from on high.” (The Acts of the Apostles, Carter/Earle)

  • The Greek word itself cannot be said to be a musical term, but the best English word with which to translate it, accord, is decidedly musical. It means, among other things, to agree in pitch and tone. There was no discord.

  • 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 15:28…”Where there is homothumadon among Christians, there the Holy Spirit is present. What men think in the homothumadon way, the Holy Spirit can think with them and inspire their difficult problem solutions. In our first homothumadon reference, Acts 1:14, the Twelve were involved. In the second reference, Acts 2:1, the one hundred and twenty were involved. In the subsequent references, and particularly the last one, the interests of the whole Church are at stake.: (The Acts of the Apostles, Carter/Earle, 26)

Three views of Paul in
John Pollock: Athens had rejected (Paul). He could not know that his speech would go down to posterity. . . as one of the greatest speeches of Athens. He could not know that whole books would be written about it or that in a few hundred years the Parthenon would become a Christian church; and that nineteen centuries on, when Greece after long suppression became once more a sovereign state, the national flag which lies beside the ruins of the Parthenon would be lowered to half-mast each Good Friday and raised on Easter Day in honor of Christ’s resurrection. (John Pollock, Apostle, 155.)

Acts 17:33-34: Although Paul’s message to the university community of his day does not produce massive immediate results, his ministry to the Areopagus is clearly effective. The Areopagus included only those of highest status in this university community, so the conversion of Dionysius is significant. Modern readers who judge Paul’s work in Athens a failure on the basis of 1 Corinthisns 2:1 have missed Luke’s point entirely (the emphasis of Acts is on his success, and the original readers of Acts could not simply turn to 1 Corinthians). (Craig Keener)

Another perspective: “We often quote Paul’s speech at Athens as a model of missionary approach and yet it was one of Paul’s biggest failures. He did not succeed in founding a church there. Mackintosh analyzes his failure thus: ‘The Christian propaganda failed or prospered in proportion as the fresh data for religion present in Jesus were studiously concealed or openly proclaimed. Take Paul’s address at Athens: says some fine things, God’s spirituality, a God not afar off – one in whom we live and move, creation instead of chaos. Providence instead of chance, men of one blood instead of proud distinction between Greek and Barbarian. But at no point is publicity given to the distinctive Christian message. In this studied omission of the cross is the secret of his comparative failure at Athens and his subsequent change at Corinth. He writes penitently, “I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The gospel had lost its saviour when it was merged in Jewish commonplace.’” (The Originality of the Christian Message, Mackintosh) (The Christ of the Indian Road, E. Stanley Jones)

Luke, on “how not to live your life”
Acts 17:21: (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

Cotton Patch Versions of the New Testament On-line
Brilliant stuff. The Great Commission from Matthew 28, for instance:

Jesus came over to them and said, "Every right to rule in both the spiritual and physical realms has been given to me. As you travel, then, make students of all races and initiate them into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to live by all that I outlined for you. And you know, I am right in there with you—all the time— until the last inning."



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