May 16, 2008

Show the difference

Posted in Commentary, Sin and Grace, Theology, Uncategorized at 2:08 pm by Matt Porter

It’s time to wrap up my thoughts on the gospel, at least for the time being. I probably have too much to fit into this post, but I’m going to try to pare it down to something less than novel-length.

So, apparently there are plenty of bad ways to give the gospel. What exactly should we do, then?

Number one: Live honestly. Stop sounding like we totally get this God thing, or like we never have any doubts about it, or like we have the life down pat. Admit that we’re fundamentally broken people, not somehow better people just because we’re saved. Be frank about our failings. And be able, in spite of all that, to express our faith that God is somehow working in us. Because the gospel is less about dramatic outward change than gradual inward change. More »

May 9, 2008

Jesus + A.A. = BFF, howbout u?

Posted in Christian culture, Theology at 1:25 pm by Matt Porter

This post was written just over a week ago, but I’ve been mulling it over ever since, trying to decide how much to say. Originally, it had two sections; but I’ve removed the second half in order to keep this focused on my current theme—how to (or not to) present the gospel. I’ll post what was the second part of this post at some point in the future, never fear.
More »

April 22, 2008

Running, and points, which generally don’t mix well

Posted in Christian culture, Commentary, Theology at 6:54 pm by Matt Porter

My original introduction consisted of some hand-waving and optimistic generalizations about how nice it was to come to the end of this series on presenting the gospel. I should have known that, like all my posts, it would grow into a monster when I attempted to corral it into a text box. I intended to answer two questions about the gospel—What do the lost need? and How do we give it to them?—but I fear I’ve only managed to break the surface of the first one. I think the answers to these questions tell us a lot about not only what we say we believe, but what we actually believe as demonstrated through our actions. I’m going to resist the temptation to stick my toes in to test the water; I’ll just recklessly cannonball in and let the splash go where it may. Rant zone just ahead; you’ve been warned. More »

April 10, 2008

New curriculum for our school

Posted in Humor?, Theology at 3:36 pm by Matt Porter

Teaching school, one often finds that students fail to achieve maximum potential. Whatever the reason, few students actually perform at peak capability. This sub-optimal performance harms the reputation of our school in the community.

After six years of reputation-decreasing mediocrity, I finally broached the subject with my administrator. He was surprisingly open and gave me free rein to explore other curricula which may enhance our school’s reputation by highlighting our educational prowess. More »

March 17, 2008

The Gospel for the Church

Posted in Sin and Grace, The Basics, Theology at 4:49 pm by Matt Porter

ItIsFinished(This is yet another stop along the way to my ideas on gospel presentation.)

Here’s the working definition I’ll be using during the rest of these posts; see my last post for a more detailed approach to it:

gos-pel (n.): God’s plan for the redemption of all creation, especially mankind, accomplished through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ

Does the Church, the Body of Christ, need the gospel? The answer to this question determines how we shape our ministry to each other and how we view our place in God’s plan. More »

March 14, 2008

What is the gospel?

Posted in The Basics, Theology at 6:47 pm by Matt Porter

CrossPage(This is the next stop along the way to my idea of presenting the gospel. It appears to be more related to the topic; never fear, I’m sure we’ll meander a few different directions before we get “there.”)On our path to deciding how to present the gospel, it’s necessary to settle on just what the gospel is. This is not important merely to determine the content of our presentation; it also affects the context and the method of presentation.

There are several competing views of the gospel, with plenty of shades in between. First, the gospel is frequently seen as the message of justification—Christ died so we might be reconciled to God. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some view the gospel as the message that Christ came to make things right, end poverty and injustice and tyranny, or correct other social ills. In the last couple of decades, the New Perspective on Paul has emphasized the social and cultural context of Paul’s proclamation of the gospel, arguing that Paul’s writings on the gospel were intended to announce Christ as Messiah-King and were a direct challenge to the rising emperor-worship flooding the Roman Empire. More »

March 7, 2008

The Church Formerly Known As Yugoslavia

Posted in Christian culture, The Basics, Theology at 9:25 pm by Matt Porter

Yugoslavia(Yesterday, I promised to take a long, winding route to get to my ideas on presenting the gospel. This is our first stop in that journey.)

Remember the country of Yugoslavia? Located north of the Adriatic Sea, this Communist state contained a surprising variety of cultures for its size. After the implosion of the Soviet Union and the weakening of its own totalitarian system, Yugoslavia became engulfed in civil war. Old cultural hatreds which had been suppressed by the sheer weight of the dictatorship exploded into violence, and they repeatedly split and rejoined into anywhere from five to a dozen separate areas. Despite the interference intervention of the United Nations, the underlying conflicts were not resolved, and each micro-nation retains its inherited dislike of the others. Despite their commonalities from fifty years of Communist oppression and thirty years of the preceding monarchy, each culture apparently wanted nothing to do with the others (unless it was to kill them). The region has even been verbed: “balkanize” means to micro-divide into hostile groups. More »

March 6, 2008

Free Gospel for Everyone!*

Posted in The Basics, Theology at 7:29 pm by Matt Porter

*with a $10 purchase. See store for details.

The gospel is the heart of the Christian faith. (I’m not sure if that more of a definition, or a truism.) Few Christians would outright deny the need to spread the gospel, so how should we communicate this central aspect of our faith? There are dozens? hundreds? of different methods. Despite all their differences and similarities, they can all be viewed with one basic contrast in mind: whether the local church or the individual is primarily responsible for the proclamation of the gospel.

Church-centered methods focus on getting people into a church function, typically so they can respond to some type of invitation. There are several flavors of this approach; fundamentalist churches might emphasize preaching to those who are brought in, while more seeker-oriented churches may emphasize making them feel comfortable and welcome. In both, the individual’s responsibility consists of getting people through the doors so the church can do its job. Churches use anything from casual services and heavily marketed programs to bus ministry and promotional “bring-a-friend” days to accomplish this. More »

January 18, 2008

What are they seeing?

Posted in Commentary, Theology tagged at 7:27 pm by Matt Porter

I’ve been thinking about something since the Wednesday evening church service. There were three people in church who had, as far as I know, never attended our services before. From my vantage point on the platform, I often wonder what’s going on in the heads of the congregation as we sing, read, and pray. Wednesday, my thoughts were about our three visitors: “What are they seeing?”

What does the average unchurched person see when they walk into a church? We work hard on our first impressions. We maintain the grounds and the buildings. Helpful, friendly greeters stand at the doors to welcome everyone with a smile. The pastor makes a point to stop by and greet them, and may even welcome them from the pulpit. More »